Monday, November 24, 2008

The Red Box Menace

This should come as no surprise to anybody, but I'm a nerd. A tremendous nerd - like, just short of comic-book nerd, but way beyond hipster-geek (also note that the very fact I can use these mile markers for different genres of 'nerd' is pretty fucking lame). One area in which I'm consistently dissatisfied with my own nerddom, though, is in film - I love movies. Seriously, I'm semi-hard at a great red-band trailer, and think that the movie is really the last form of transcendent art . . . plus, I laugh at farts, so that's cool too. However, I see far fewer movies than I really should - whether it's due to work, drinking too much, women, or simple laziness (or, likely, all of the above in some combination), I simply do not make the movies as much as I'd like.

Enter: Red Box. First, full disclosure: I'm fucking pissed I didn't think of this idea myself. That's really it - the best ideas are the simplest, and every redneck on EARTH will plop down $1 at the grocery store or McDonald's to see the latest regurgitated bit of shit that Hollywood has steamed onto their chests. Unreal. However, at the same time, the convenience and affordability really represent a new media era, especially as Sony and MS race to get streaming content from Netflix onto their respective platforms - movies are proliferating. This is a good thing - unless you're an idiot like me.

See, the Red Box Era creates a problem - the simplicity means that I can't justify not renting a movie when I have a free evening. After all, I need to catch up on all the shit I've missed, and it's a fucking dollar. However, the Red Box is generally picked over and has shitty selection to start - so we wind up with my last two rentals, which may be the two worst movies that have ever existed in any form anywhere. This is not exaggeration.

(WARNING: Fuck you. Obviously there will be 'spoilers' for the next few paragraphs as I purge my soul of the two films - it will not matter, as they are seriously that bad. I'd rather watch Holocaust footage on loop for days at the National Holocaust Museum than re-watch this garbage. So yeah.)

Flashbacks of a Fool: The Only Fool Was Me

Another confession, while I'm getting all Chris Carraba on your asses: there is a significant part of me that thinks Daniel Craig is the best James Bond, and by a good margin. This is even after the mediocrity of QoS - Casino Royale was actually that good. The brooding, complicated mess of the Craig Bond seriously tops the playboy perfection of Connery, at least in a theoretical sense in my mind - obviously there's no longevity yet, but I'm just laying it out there.

So yeah - the promise of Craig playing a disturbed, fucked-up washout actor with a 'seedy secret' prompted me to think, "Hey, self - this seems like a proven winning formula, there's no chance that a character-driven movie could write itself into oblivion, right?" Yeah. Whoops.

To make a long story short: NOTHING. FUCKING. HAPPENS. EVER. Short of some epic MILF boobs while Young Lead Character goes on a romp with the horny mom next door, absolutely nothing happens. Then, when the "dark secret" is revealed, it's not only a total and complete accident that Craig's character can't possibly consider to be his fault . . . but it involves a naval mine. Like, a mine that you would use to blow up ships. Like this:

Fuck my life. I actually laughed out loud at the denouement - I mean, a ship mine? Plus, this supposedly takes place in some ambiguous seaside village circa 1975-1980 (there is a complete anachronism dealing with timeframe for the flashback - whether this is intentional is completely up for grabs, but surprisingly, this is like the 30th worst part of the movie), and where in the hell would a naval mine from like WWII wind up but on a remote English seaside? Obviously. It's the worst Deus Ex Machina since the Tuck Rule Game against Oakland.

Finally, the movie (mercifully) just ends. I mean that literally - all the sudden, it's back to modern day, and the movie is over. We have no idea if the characters involved learned anything, or whether anything even really happened. We have no real reason to tie the (fucking terrible) plot twist to any sort of realization or character arc. It just . . . stops. It's just Daniel Craig and Eve the Rapper (with her tiger-paw boobie tattoos unfortunately hidden away) driving down the Santa Monica Freeway while I sat slack-jawed and tried to choke myself to death with my bare hands. Holy shit.

88 Minutes That Was More Like 130 That I'd Like Back

I don't even have a cute lead-in story for this one - I'd read the horrific reviews of this movie, but it was literally the only thing on the entire Red Box that I found remotely interesting that night, since I wasn't feeling Ed Norton as the Hulk (note: I'm an idiot). How bad could Pacino really be?

Answer: UNREAL.

Seriously - Pacino's limp-dick 'psychiatric profiler' performance is so badly mailed in that I'd almost have preferred Frank Caliendo doing his caricature of Pacino. The story is so fatally flawed that I wanted to punch myself in the penis during at least seven key points. The transparent attempts to connect the plot holes to Pacino's doting top student (whose unrequited love is so out-of-place, I kept waiting for the 'reveal' to be that she's a Mormon on Rumspringa and can bang with impunity) fall amazingly flat, as you know it's the weird-looking chick who sucks in everything as soon as she makes the crack about the "Law school" in the first 10 minutes. Even worse, the flashback scene unfolds so slowly and lamely that it actually began to make me upset - like "FUCK YOU, just stop with the slow-wipe camera work and the half-diffused look, we know they were drinking, GOD".

Add to this the fact that somehow, Pacino is tabbed as the "prime suspect" in the murders, yet convinces cops to just let him run free for no reason no fewer than FOUR TIMES (including one at gunpoint), and that the movie tries so hard to hide the ending that it becomes convoluted to the point of absurdity, and I can't even explain to you my utter disappointment. It might be the worst movie I've ever seen. Honestly, I can't even go into any more detail, other than to say that an Al Pacino movie was actually worse than a movie whose crux involved a fucking naval mine. Should this keep up, Pacino will rocket toward the early rounds in my death pool rankings for this year - fuck, I might just kill him myself, to preserve his legacy.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

On the NL Cy Young Award -

As first reported by my inexplicably Mormon-loving compatriot (via Facebook, your outlet to the WORLD!), the NL voters definitely got the Cy Young right, ignoring Won/Loss records (somewhat) and going with Tim Lincecum, the only professional athlete whose ass I could probably kick. Now, the strikeouts (A SHITLOAD) sell themselves, as does the sterling ERA, but there's more to the story, as Baseball Prospectus shows us below (click to see the full stats):

SNLVAR is shorthand for, essentially, support-neutral wins above replacement - i.e. how many more wins Lincecum provided his team in an environment devoid of the Pol Pot-level frightening run support Tiny Tim received from the Giants this year. The Giants, remember started a SS opening day that had never put up an OPS above .660 . . . in AA ball. This would be the equivalent of me subbing for a chess Grand Master in a tournament, or me getting Matt Jarmon to take the LSAT for me. LOVE YOU MATTY!

Anyway, the important things to note are that, by really any objective measurement from RA+ (64% above average for Lincecum, 60% for Santana) to SNLVAR, Lincecum put up better numbers while facing approximately equivalent competition (if you haven't yet, click on the image above, and check out Opponent's OPS - now check out the guys in the AL East . . . wow). The NL East simply wasn't good enough to make up the difference in either raw or adjusted numbers between Lincecum and anybody else, but especially not Santana.

Check out Cliff Lee's numbers, though - he's the odds-on favorite to win, and rightfully so . . . hopefully, in a similar season to the NL (where the top teams' top pitchers were markedly worse than the absolute cream of the crop), Lee can pull it out in the AL, and we'll feel all giddy and progressive, like the reverse Bradley Effect from a few days ago. Not that there's anything wrong with that. Just don't yell at C - he's sensitive, you know.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Post-election, pre-change: The Thoughts of a Hopeful Republican

I waited to comment on the election, in the hope that the time would allow me to comment intelligently. As a huge Presidential/political dork, I hoped that I would be able to say something thought-provoking or interesting about the election. Additionally, I got involved in a moot court competition (which I did pretty well in) and school stuff, which distracted me. If the following sounds more like the rambling thoughts of an over-worked law student, and less like the intelligent thoughts of a guy with a history degree, well, you've been warned.

As most of the people who read this blog probably know, I'm a Republican. So, this election was a bit of a disappointment for me, albeit a disappointment that wasn't completely unexpected. President-Elect Obama had momentum coming out of the primaries, ran a solid campaign, and never really allowed the momentum to slip. McCain made small gains at certain points throughout the summer and fall, but as anyone who has followed the polls can attest, he never really became a real threat, and the election was all but assured for Obama.

I went through the election with some conflicting thoughts. First, I'm a huge Romney backer, a fact that should be known to most of the readers of this blog. I'm not going to go into the reasons, but, needless to say, I was extremely disappointed when he lost in the primaries. So, after researching all candidates extensively, including Bob Barr, I supported the McCain campaign. Obama is a brilliant guy, with quite the impressive resume, but after doing research, I realized that I couldn't back him with my vote.

As the campaign progressed, I became less hopeful about the direction of the election. When it became apparent that McCain was going to select a woman as his running mate, I thought that Texas Congresswoman Kay Hutchison would be a wise choice. She's smart, has a ton of experience, and could have helped to sway independents. She held a number of conservative beliefs, and was someone I could readily support. However, she is also pro-choice, and while I hope that didn't disqualify her, I understand that the far-right portion of the base couldn't support her. As we all know, McCain chose Palin, and the rest is history.

Somehow, some way, a significant portion of my fellow party members have become anti-intellectual. What began as a way to criticize Obama (essentially, the "pointy-headed liberal" argument used since the Nixon campaigns) became an attack on all intellectuals. To listen to the talk-show hosts and some of the people during the Convention (Mike Huckabee, I'm looking at you), being educated was somehow a drawback. Being educated meant that you couldn't understand middle-class and lower-class America, that you couldn't be a part of the solution, that you were part of the problem.

My biggest fear coming out of this election is that the anti-intellectual portion of my party will only grow in the next four years. That shouldn't happen. Just as the smartest guy (or woman) in the room isn't always the best candidate, the smartest guy (or woman) in the room shouldn't be automatically disqualified. The party should be embracing the intellectual conservatives. We have brilliant conservatives like Romney, Jindal, and others, who could give us a real chance at taking back the White House in 2012.

I believe in the party, I believe in economic conservatism, and I believe that we could have found a way to be more competitive in this election. I just hope the party makes the correct decisions over the next four years, so that we can be in a good position (if not by the mid-term elections) by 2012.