Saturday, February 28, 2009

Final Oscar Reviews

As promised, here are my reviews of the big winners from Oscar night.

Best Picture: Slumdog Millionaire
I can’t complain – Slumdog was a very good picture. I also couldn’t complain if Frost/Nixon had won. I still can’t decide which of the two movies I enjoyed the most, but I was definitely more surprised at how much I liked Frost/Nixon. Maybe the journalism aspect boosted my appreciation for the film in some way, but I thought it portrayed the interviews and post-resignation Nixon in an interesting light. But in the end, Slumdog was deserving of the award. The picture did a good job of bringing humor, emotion, and culture into one film. The storyline was great, and the way they unfolded it was even better. If you haven’t seen either of the two moviesyet, you should make the effort.

Director: Danny Boyle – Slumdog Millionaire
I have no dilemma here; Boyle was the clear-cut winner of this category. As I mentioned before, he was able to bring a lot of aspects into one film, and more importantly, make them work well together. I wasn’t too fond of “Benjamin Button,” but I did think the film was very well constructed and very beautifully shot, so I would probably have had David Fincher as my runner-up for this award. But Fincher, as well as the rest of the nominees, were no where close to Boyle in my opinion. The Academy got this one right.

Actor In A Leading Role: Sean Penn – Milk
I thought “Milk” was a decent film and found it mildly enjoyable, but I did think Penn was very good. He “became” Harvey Milk, and I feel it had an exponential effect on the success of the picture. With that said, I would have given the award to Frank Langella for his depiction of Richard Nixon in “Frost/Nixon.” I felt Langella’s character was a tougher role to play than Penn’s, and I thought Langella did a fantastic job. He was able to capture everything about Richard Nixon, even if we still couldn’t understand everything about Richard Nixon. He made the vilified former President seem both despicable and tortured at the same time; a man that we couldn’t stand but also couldn’t help but feel bad for. I also thought Mickey Rourke and Richard Jenkins were great in their roles, and I would have enjoyed seeing Rourke win – mainly because of the expletive-ridden acceptance speech that was sure to follow. I’d add that I’m glad Brad Pitt didn’t win. I think Pitt is very good actor, but his acting in “Benjamin Button” didn’t live up to the company of performances he was placed in this year.

Actress in a Leading Role: Kate Winslet – The Reader
I still haven’t seen any of the movies that featured the nominated actresses, so I can’t really make a subjective comment on who I thought should have won. However, I don’t like Meryl Streep and I don’t like Angelina Jolie, so I was glad neither of them got the award. I heard Anne Hathaway was fantastic in her role, and I happen to like her as an actress, but I’ve heard only good things about Kate Winslet as well, so I have no complaints here.

Best Supporting Actor: Heath Ledger – The Dark Knight
Heath Ledger’s post-humus award for his portrayal of the Joker was certainly well-deserved, but it would not have been my choice. Ledger’s win was emotional and significant and rewarded a great actor of our generation that died much too soon. But, if I was giving this award to who I believed was the best Supporting Actor, I would choose Robert Downey Jr. for his role in “Tropic Thunder.” Downey was an American actor, playing an Australian actor in the movie, who was playing an African-American actor in the movie’s movie. Anyone that saw the film would most likely attest that Downey was born to play a black man. His language and mannerisms throughout the film were hilarious, as he made a typical comedic film into one of the best pictures of the year. America witnessed the resurgence of Robert Downey Jr. this year, due in part to his redefining of the term “bi-racial”.

Actress in a Supporting Role: Penelope Cruz – Vicky Cristina Barcelona
I did not see this film. I saw Marisa Tomei in “The Wrestler” and Taraji P. Henson in “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.” Out of those two, I would have given the award to Tomei. I thought her role meshed perfectly with the direction of her film. However, seeing as how I didn’t view the other three actress’s performances, I find it very hard to make a judgment on this category. So, uh….basically I’ve been wasting your time.


My reviews of the Academy Awards are officially over. I won't even try to pretend like any of the other awards mattered. I should have a new post up by the middle of next week.

Thanks for reading

Monday, February 23, 2009

Academy Award Running Diary

Well, the Academy Awards have come and gone in a slow, lurching, snail-like, 4 hour blur. I’m sure that the majority of you out there were unable to make it through the full ceremony, and that is completely understandable. However, you are in luck, because I have documented the entire program and recorded it here for your enjoyment. I didn’t want anyone to be out of the Oscar loop, so I figured I would take one for the team and stick with it until the end. You’re welcome, and you all owe me one.

And now, live from the Kodak Theatre at the Hollywood & Highland Center in Los Angeles, California, the 81st Annual Academy Awards:

8:00Fancy graphic, catchy jingle…

8:01 – Tim Gunn on the Red Carpet? I might be hitting the mute button faster than I thought.

8:04 – Tim Gunn drools over Brangelina as they walk by, and the two seem noticeably uninterested. I can’t blame them.

8:11 – Rourke gives an awkward and uncomfortable interview in which he gets emotional about the recent passing of one of his dogs. If this is the biggest scene that Rourke causes all night, Oscar and ABC executives will be on their knees thanking God.

8:13 – Jess Cagle (I’ve never heard of him either) interviews Robert Downey Jr. on the Red Carpet. After just seeing Mickey Rourke mumble through a conversation, Downey Jr. really seems a lot less screwed up and a lot more like a normal person. Odd.

8:15 – How emasculated must Jess Cagle feel by the fact that he’s talking to Miley Cirus, and she’s standing a good two inches taller than him? She’s like 14 or something. Also, Miley comments on how much she loves and admires Angelina Jolie. Every pre-teen and middle school girl out there is just praying that there boyfriends did not hear that.

8:16- Anne Hathaway seems extremely normal, which leads me to believe that she must have some skeletons in her closet that we don’t know about. I’m guessing she either has her own meth-lab or belongs to a terrorist group or something.

8:20 – Umm…Meryl Streep’s daughter is hot, and I’m trying to figure out how this is possible. She even seems really nice and sweet, too. Mr. Streep must be a very kind and pretty man. That’s the only way this makes sense.

8:23 – Jess Cagle talks with Jack Black, and it’s pretty obvious that Black is completely drunk.

8:24 – Tim Gunn interviews Marisa Tomei, who is up for the Best Supporting Actress Award for her role as a stripper in “The Wrestler.” Gunn reports on how Mickey Rourke loved seeing Tomei with her clothes off, but that Gunn personally likes it better seeing Tomei with her clothes on…nope, nope, nevermind. Way too easy. Come on Tim, you have to at least try and make it difficult for me. You can’t just lob them in here like that. Let’s move on.

8:30 – Hugh Jackman is introduced as host. Now, I’ll freely admit that he is a good looking man, but to me, he is much less appealing without a ratty beard and with no metal spikes sticking out of his knuckles.

8:33 – Jackman breaks into a lavish musical number. And yeah, it might be slightly funny, but shame on you Wolverine. Shame on you.

8:41 – Curtain blooper. Someone didn’t open it soon enough. Really? They couldn’t even make it 15 minutes without screwing something up? Isn’t this the Academy Awards?

8:43 – See, they give out an important award at the beginning, like Best Supporting Actress, to keep you interested. That way you won’t notice when they waste the next two hours of your life with commercial breaks and Foreign Film Awards.

8:48 – Penelope Cruz grabs Best Supporting Actress for a movie that roughly 30 people have actually seen, and then makes a speech that roughly 30 people could actually understand.

8:50 – Marisa Tomie just realized that not only did she come out empty-handed in the category she was nominated for, but she still has to sit next to Mickey Rourke for the rest of the show. I can’t begin to imagine how pissed she must be.

8:59 – They announce the Oscar for Best “Adapted” Screenplay directly after they announced the winner for Best “Original” Screenplay. How defeated must the second group of nominees feel for not being original?

9:03 – Update: Jack Black is still completely drunk…

9:04 – I love how they just punched Jennifer Anniston in the stomach while she was presenting an award by cutting to a shot of Angelina Jolie. Nice one ABC.

9:08 – They just cut to Brad and Angelina again while Jen was on stage?!?! They are really milking this thing for everything it’s worth.

9:29Zzzzzzzzzzzzzz…zzzzzzzzzzzzz

9:34 – What are the chances that Joaqiun Phoenix has no idea that Ben Stiller is making fun of him right now? I can totally see Joaquin sitting at home and cracking up, wondering if this is a character from Ben’s next movie.

9:46 – I really like James Franco, but anytime I see him now, I can only picture him sucking face with Sean Penn. Damn you Hollywood.

9:53 – STOP SINGING HUGH!!! PLEASE!!!

9:55 – Oh great, not only is Hugh Jackman singing, but now they have the High School Musical Kids and the dopes from Mama Mia out there, too. Excuse me while I go empty the contents of my stomach.

10:06 – I’m pretty sure Christopher Walken and Kate Winslet had the same hair dresser this year.

10:07 – Heath Ledger wins an emotional and well-deserved Oscar for his portrayal of the Joker in “The Dark Knight.” Heath’s parents and his sister graciously accepted the award on his behalf, and this really seemed to confuse Mickey Rourke.

10:23 – I’m not going to lie; I switched over to HBO to watch “Flight of the Conchords” like 12 minutes ago.

10:26 – I’m back, and just in time to see Will Smith come up through the stage like Michael Jackson on the “Thriller” tour. Unfortunately, his entrance was soiled when he was forced to announce a few pointless awards. Sound Mixing? Really?

10:41 – After “Doctor Doolittle”, “Daddy Day Care” and “Norbit”, I’m surprised they even let Eddie Murphy on stage to present an Academy Award.

11:02Still watching

11:06 – I just made an important life decision. If (when?) my girlfriend dumps me, I am going to find “Slumdog Millionaire” star Freida Pinto and ask her to marry me. That’s my final answer. It is written.

11:11 – What is this?...No, not Queen Latifah…ugh, this is going to be terrible…wait, wait, she better not sing…no, no, NO…oh my God she’s singing…please, someone stop her…this is just awful.

11:19 – Danny Boyle wins the Oscar for Best Director for “Slumdog Millionaire.” Hmm, I wonder who predicted that…ME!!! That’s right, I called it. Oh, and like a million other people did too, but whatever.

11:26 – Well, they are about to present the Oscar for Actress in a Leading Role, and I have yet to see a single one of the movies that feature these actresses. However, I heard Kate Winslet gets naked A LOT in “The Reader”, so I’m betting that will score her enough points to win.

11:31 – “And the Oscar goes to...Kate Winslet!” I just said that would happen, like 5 minutes ago. I’m a freaking genius.

11:43 – Sean Penn wins Best Actor for his role as Harvey Milk in “Milk.” I would have preferred to see Frank Langella or Rourke win, but anytime a heterosexual man is forced to kiss dudes and make it seem as if he enjoys it, he probably does deserve some type of recognition.

11:47 – Sean Penn, still talking…

11:52 – I wonder if Ron Howard tried to wear a hat to the Awards tonight?

11:53 – “Slumdog Millionaire” wins Best Picture, which I think is fantastic, because we get more shots of Freida Pinto. And oh yeah, I’m pretty sure I predicted this one too. Watch your back, Ryan Seacrest. I think E! is calling me about your job right now.

11:56 – And after four hours, the 81st Academy Awards comes to an end, capped off by a butchered cover of Bob Dylan’s “Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat.” Thanks Oscars. You make me sit through four hours of awards and then disgrace a Dylan masterpiece. How dare you? The Academy can sit on it.


There it is, a recap of the entire Academy Awards Ceremony by yours truly. I hope you avoided watching the whole thing and were able to take advantage of my masterful insight. I will most likely give my reviews of the big winners later this week.

Until then, thanks for reading.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Last Minute Predictions

Hey. I've watched a few of the Oscar movies in the past few days, so I have a couple "last minute" predictions to make.

Actor in a Leading Role: I saw all of the actors and their movies. If I had to put money on the pick, I would guess that Sean Penn will win for "Milk." I personally think Frank Langella should win for his role in "Frost/Nixon", and I would also love to see Mickey Rourke win for "The Wrestler." But in the end, I'm assuming it will go to Penn. Also, it is wrong that Brad Pitt is in this category. The movie was decent and he did a good job in it, but he doesn't deserve to be up for this award.

Actor in a Supporting Role: I've seen three of the five nominees - I didn't see Philip Seymour Hoffman in "Doubt" or Michael Shannon in "Revolutionary Road." I predict that Heath Ledger will win for "The Dark Knight", and he was fantastic in it, but I would go with Robert Downey Jr. in "Tropic Thunder." His role made that movie great.

Directing: I didn't see "The Reader", but I saw the other four. Danny Boyle will probably win for "Slumdog Millionaire", and I can't disagree with that.

Best Picture: Again, I saw all the nominations except "The Reader." I would guess that "Slumdog Millionaire" will win, and it was a fantastic movie. However, I can't decide whether I enjoyed "Slumdog" or "Frost/Nixon" the most. I was surprised by how much I liked both of them, and I would be fine with seeing either one of them win.

I will give my full Oscar Review at some point next week...if I can survive the next 10 hours of drivel.

Thanks for reading

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Oscar Preview and Predictions

Well, the Oscars are upon us, so I have to jump in here and make my predictions. This Sunday night (Feb. 22), numerous of you out there will waste a good 9-and-a-half hours of your life watching the Academy Awards Ceremony, while simultaneously trying NOT to throw your shoe at the television as Ryan Seacrest and Joan Rivers babble on about how important they are and interview celebrities that are pretending to be interested in them. However, if you check out my blog, you will receive all the important Oscar information you need - and you’ll only waste about 20 minutes of your life reading this, which is a lot better than 9-and-a-half hours.

Unfortunately, there is one monkey wrench in this whole scheme: I have yet to see the majority of the movies that received Oscar nominations. In fact, I’ve only seen like 2 or 3 of the movies that received Oscar nominations. So, when making my predictions, it would only be fair for me to use the films I’ve seen this year to gather my nominations and pick a winner. This may greatly diminish your desire to read this column, but you will be happy to hear that I will not be predicting the countless awards that are entirely worthless and that no one cares about. Do you really need to know which picture had the Best Costume Design or Film Mixing? Are you dying to find out the best Foreign Language Film or Documentary Short? I didn’t think so. AND, to make up for the awards I’m cutting out...(are you ready?)… I decided to add a few of my own. You’re welcome.

And now, predictions for the 81st Annual Academy Awards…from an unqualified and ill-equipped source that has yet to see basically every Oscar-nominated film and even added a bunch of stupid awards of his own. I bet you are just dripping with excitement.


Actor in a Leading Role
My Nominations: Robert Downey Jr. – Iron Man; Mickey Rourke – The Wrestler; Jason Segel – Forgetting Sarah Marshall; Dev Patel – Slumdog Millionaire; Jim Sturgess – 21

Winner: Robert Downey Jr. – Iron Man

It was a close call between Downey Jr, Rourke, and Patel, but in the end I was most impressed by Downey. The demons and trials of his own life translated perfectly to Tony Stark, and I thought he played the role to perfection.

Actress in a Leading Role
My Nominations: Frances McDormand – Burn After Reading; Freida Pinto – Slumdog Millionaire; Angelina Jolie – The Changeling; Eva – WALL-E

Winner: Freida Pinto – Slumdog Millionaire


I know what you’re thinking, and the answer is yes - this prediction is complete crap. I had a tough time coming up with four ladies for my nominations (I even had to use an animated character that couldn’t talk). I also don’t like Angelina, so I chose Pinto for the award, mainly because she was the only other of my nominations in a legit “Oscar movie” (Slumdog). Plus, she was so pretty it made my teeth hurt. But let’s move on quickly before you fully grasp how poor that prediction really was.

Picture Most Likely to make you Throw-up from Long-Sustained Motion Sickness: Cloverfield

Picture that was Agonizingly Long and is Most Likely to Cause Eye Gouging and Suicide Attempts: The Other Boleyn Girl, Sex and the City, and Australia (take your pick)


Actor in a Supporting Role
My Nominations: Heath Ledger – The Dark Knight; Robert Downey Jr – Tropic Thunder; James Franco – Pineapple Express; Brad Pitt – Burn After Reading; Matthew Fox – Vantage Point

Winner: James Franco – Pineapple Express

Franco showed just how strong of an actor he can be by playing the “stoner/drug dealer” role flawlessly. His burn-out routine really enhanced the transcendence of the film, and showed his versatility as well. How many other actors can play a revenge-minded super-villain (Spiderman), the son of Richard Gere in a chick-flick (Nights in Rodanthe), the homosexual boyfriend of a gay rights activist (Milk), and a pot-head? Well, maybe a lot of actors can, but Franco is the only one to do it to this point, so he deserves the award.


Picture that may have been mediocre at best, but seemed much better because a previous version of the film was grotesquely terrible: The Incredible Hulk

Picture that caused a giant spike in the number of pot-heads and may have been single-handedly responsible for the Michael Phelps incident: Pineapple Express

Picture that was created simply to try and scare the living hell out of high school girls
: Prom Night


Actress in a Supporting Role
My Nominations: Marisa Tomei – The Wrestler; Anne Hathaway – Get Smart; Angelina Jolie – Wanted; Everyone - The Women

Winner: Marisa Tomei – The Wrestler


No, I didn’t see The Women, but it had tons of big-name actresses in it and was a huge chick-flick, so I figured I’d give them all a nice plug by putting them in one group and throwing them in the field of nominations. I truly am an incredibly nice guy. But Tomei definitely deserves this award, and she is actually nominated for this Oscar, which adds some legitimacy to my selection. Her win for My Cousin Vinny was questionable, but if she wins this time, no one should be surprised.

Picture that forced me to kind of, sort of, maybe start to like Tom Cruise…maybe: Tropic Thunder

Picture that was not nearly as funny as I expected but was still relatively good: Burn After Reading

Picture that was much funnier than I expected and also relatively good: Four Christmases

Picture I am most likely to stay up until 4 in the morning watching on cable, despite the fact that it was incredibly stupid and will be a complete waste of my time: Harold and Kumar: Escape from Guantanamo Bay


Animated Feature Film
My Nominations: WALL-E

Winner: WALL-E


A runaway victory for WALL-E in this category, for two reasons: First of all, it was actually a very clever and well-made picture, and it was by far the best animated movie I saw this year. Second of all, it was the only animated movie I saw this year, so even if it sucked, it would still be winning this award. But, what I said about it first is true, and that is the part that really counts.

Worst Picture I have ever watched on an airplane: Fool’s Gold

Picture that entered my top-3 list of “Worst Movies I Have Ever Seen….EVER”: The Strangers

Picture that single handedly tried to ruin a legacy, and I discovered this by watching only 5 minutes of it on TV: Stars Wars: The Clone Wars


Directing
My Nominations: Danny Boyle – Slumdog Millionaire; Christopher Nolan – The Dark Knight; Jon Favreau – Iron Man; Joel and Ethan Coen – Burn After Reading; Andrew Stanton – WALL-E

Winner: Danny Boyle – Slumdog Millionaire

It was a close race between Boyle and Favreau (Iron Man), but in the end I have to give the Oscar nod to Boyle. Slumdog was one of the best films I saw all year, and I was pleasantly surprised that it lived up to the insane amount of hype it has gotten over the past few months. Also, it often seems (to me at least) that so-called “Oscar worthy” films are never as good as everyone pumps them up to be, but I felt like Slumdog avoided this category. The storyline and writing were phenomenal, and the strong acting by complete unknown performers was just the nacho cheese on top (most people say cherry, but I like nacho cheese). Boyle’s genius deserves to be recognized.

Picture that continues to prove that Dane Cook should quit acting and stick to stand-up comedy: My Best Friend’s Girl

Picture that made me want to start gambling impulsively, despite the fact that I would most certainly lose every cent to my name: 21

Picture that I didn’t see because I knew the title was much better than the film could ever end up being: Bangkok Dangerous


Best Picture
My Nominations: Slumdog Millionaire; The Dark Knight; The Wrestler; Iron Man; Tropic Thunder

Winner: The Dark Knight


This was another close race, coming down to The Dark Knight and Slumdog Millionaire. Slumdog is a fantastic movie, and if it wins the actual Oscar for Best Picture, I will not be surprised. But for me, I felt Dark Knight was deserving of the honor. I thought the acting was terrific across the board; Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Michael Cain, Aaron Eckhart, Gary Oldman, and Morgan Freeman were all great, and Maggie Gyllenhaal was even an upgrade over Katie Holmes (in terms of acting, at least). The story was deep, intense, clever, sarcastic, and humorous all at the same time. I also thought it was much better than Nolan’s first installment (Batman Begins), which I felt was good, but sub-par for my “Batman” standards. If Nolan does decide to make another sequel, he will have a tough act to top. But for now, he should enjoy my blessing of the Oscar for Best Picture. I mean, it may not be the real thing, but it can’t be too far behind…can it?



My review of the Oscars Ceremony will be coming at some point next week. Yup, I’m attacking this thing from every angle. Look out Joey Fatone; if I keep it up, your job is mine.

Thanks for reading

Friday, February 13, 2009

Surprised by the Recent Michael Phelps Incident? You Shouldn't Be.

The recent photo of Michael Phelps using a bong has caused a huge uproar in America’s court of public opinion. The millions and millions of people that followed Phelps during his incredible run at the 2008 Summer Olympics are now the same people that are both disappointed and outraged by the sight of Phelps smoking marijuana, and rightfully so. His actions were blatantly wrong and out of line. But Phelps also did a nice job of stating the obvious soon after the photo was released when he said he acted with “behavior which was regrettable and demonstrated bad judgment.” How profound. By the way, Hugh Grant thinks he “demonstrated bad judgment” too with the whole Elizabeth Hurley – Divine Brown “incident.” However, the truth is that Michael Phelps really should not have been forced to state the obvious. He probably should not have been forced to apologize - the stupidity that his picture exposed was more than enough punishment. In fact, the apology was more for our benefit, the “people’s benefit”, than anything else, but I do not think it was entirely necessary. Yes, Michael Phelps did a very dumb thing, and he deserves any criticism or punishment that he gets for it. But if we as a public were surprised by this, and felt that an apology was necessary, then shame on us. We should have known better, and I’ll tell you why.

First, let’s examine just how stupid Phelps’ actions were (as if it isn’t glaring enough already). The initial reason why this action by Phelps is so indefensible is because he was charged with a DWI in late 2004 when he was only 19-years-old. If you agree with the concept that every public figure is allotted at least one mistake, then Phelps made sure to use his up on a doozy. If you believe second chances are one chance too many, then you’ve probably been off the Phelps bandwagon for quite some time now. Either way, Phelps’ error was obtrusive. Drunken driving charges are usually reserved for young B-list actors or pompous NFL stars, so we were shocked to hear when an underage swimming prodigy committed the same blunder. But Phelps quickly owned up to his mistake and apologized vehemently, so we withheld our superior protests and let it slide - to a certain extent. We hoped this was just an example of a young athlete who became a celebrity (almost over night) and handled the fame in the wrong way. We hoped his apology and regret were genuine. We hoped it was a one time deal. Unfortunately, Phelps had us all fooled.

When the “weed picture” surfaced, we all realized how immature and careless Phelps truly is - to put it nicely. Our disappointment and displeasure were overwhelming. The laundry list of things wrong with Phelps’ choice in this situation is longer than the bong he smoked from. And the worst part is that this entire uproar could have easily been avoided. First of all, Phelps could have grown out of his 10th grade phase and not smoked weed. “Blowing Dro” is a pretty stupid decision to begin with, but I just feel that it is exponentially more ridiculous when a 23-year-old, world-class athlete, Olympic record holder, Sportsman of the Year, and American legend is the one smoking weed in the friendly confines of a college dorm room. Is this the most productive thing the owner of 14 Olympic medals can find to do with his time? Maybe we should make those races a little tougher for him. Or maybe Phelps should tone down his “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” act. At some point, you have to grow up, and evidentially Michael has not reached that point yet.

But to be honest, Phelps is not the only 23-year-old out there that is doing dope, so even if he felt compelled to smoke, he could have done so in a much smarter manner. The man makes an estimated $5 million a year in endorsements and is said to be worth up to $100 million all totaled. Don’t you think he can afford to smoke his own weed, out of his own bong, in the comfort of his own home? If he is so set on getting high, wouldn’t you believe that he could fit that activity into his budget and his own personal time? It just seems much more sensible to do something so childish and illegal with a little more discretion, rather than running around like a loon, “Pineapple Express” style. Maybe it’s just me, but I feel like Phelps made his “recreational” selection a lot worse by doing it with his college buddies. And yet, the fact that so many were so appalled by the spread of the infamous photograph is fairly surprising to me. By now, you would have thought that we as sports fans, as fans in general, would have been prepared for something like this. You would have thought we would have seen this coming.

Let’s step back and examine this situation for what it really is: a kid in his early twenties that got busted for smoking marijuana. When you look at it from that angle, the shock value isn’t nearly as high (no pun intended). A kid, who became more rich and famous than he could have ever imagined or prepared himself for, got caught doing something stupid…which actually makes sense. And if you do not agree with that, then think about it from this point of view (By the way, I can’t take credit for this concept – ESPN.com writer Bill Simmons was the first person I heard it from): if someone had followed you around when you were in your late teens and early twenties, how many stupid things would they have busted you doing? How many embarrassing pictures could they have snapped of you? How many times did you do something that, looking back, you realize was so mind-numbingly stupid that it’s a shock you were even allowed to be a part of a civilized society? Hmm…it’s a lot, isn’t it? Just one reason why we shouldn’t be surprised by Phelps. We should be disappointed, but not surprised.

Now, I do believe that Michael Phelps is in an entirely different situation than most everyone else. As someone that has placed himself in such a lofty position in our culture, I strongly believe that he has different standards of which he should live by. Phelps has vaulted himself to an iconic status in our world today; he has become one of the richest and most recognizable athletes on the planet, and whether he likes it or not, he is a role model. Whether he asked for it or not, there are countless amounts of kids that look up to him, countless amounts of men and women that respect him and need him to be a positive example of success and accomplishment in today’s world. Phelps put himself in the position of a superstar and a mentor, a position that he has now abused and disgraced. When he looks in the mirror, he might see just a normal 23-year-old guy, but that is not how everyone else views him. Regardless of how he wants things to be, he’s different, and he has different criteria to live up to. So far, he hasn’t done that, because in the end, he’s still as human as the rest of us. We should be disappointed, but not surprised.

Another reason why we should have seen the “Phelps Phaux-Pas” coming is the impeccable record of idiocy that Phelps’ fellow athletes have laid before us for the past few decades. Those that do not learn from the past are doomed to repeat it, which seems to be the code that athletes live by. No matter how many times we have seen it – over and over again – athletes still continue to get in trouble with the law. Whether it’s the NFL, NBA, MLB, college athletes or Olympic athletes, an infinite amount of competitors have been arrested or involved in controversy over the years. There have been the repeat offenders like Darryl Strawberry, Mike Tyson and Pacman Jones. But, there have also been the supposed “good-guys” that have tripped up once or twice, whether it be Kobe Bryant, Eugene Robinson or Charles Barkley. Why is the Phelps situation so shocking? Why is he different from everyone else? Why did we expect better from him? We should be disappointed, but not surprised.

It would appear as if athletes have perfected the art of getting in trouble, becoming seemingly more and more careless with every new contract, endorsement, or public exposure they receive. This is partly because every little blunder they commit is magnetized, due to their standing in the public light. Now, as athletes, you would expect them to embrace their lifestyle in a positive way, using their fame and fortune to become role models and philanthropists instead of fugitives and criminals. You would expect all of them to be grateful for the blessings that have put them in a position to affect the lives of others. But should we really be so na├»ve to think that they will all be like this? These are the same men and women that whine about their million dollar contracts, and feel it isn’t fair to play on a bad team or have to work so hard for the money they “deserve.” The writing is on the wall, but somehow we fail to see it.

It would be unfair if I didn’t mention that not all athletes are like this. Some athletes do it the right way. In fact, the majority of athletes are great people that give back to their community and make the world a better place. Even a lot of the athletes that do screw up at some point are great people, but we hear so much more about the opposing side. The good is greatly out-shadowed by the bad, because we put these athletes on such a high pedestal. Unfortunately, they don’t always live up to those lofty expectations. Unfortunately, they do make those prominent mistakes.

You can blame Phelps’ actions on numerous things: he hasn’t had a true father figure for a large amount of his life…he became too famous too fast…he’s just a kid. But the truth is that he screwed up, just like we all have at some point in our lives and will at some point again. It shouldn’t be accepted or condoned, but it shouldn’t be mind blowing either. Phelps is among the vast majority of us that have all been humbled before God. We should be disappointed, but not surprised.

Sadly, the Michael Phelps incident is just one of the many ill-fated events to befall the sports figures and celebrities of our world. They are all real people, and they all screw up. They cause scenes at strip clubs, commit domestic violence, get arrested on drug charges and have more DUI’s than speeding tickets. It isn’t right, and it certainly isn’t fair to the fans that look up to them and support them and pay good money to see them do their job. But it is the truth. They are just as human and just as stupid as the rest of us. The sooner we accept it, the less disappointed we will be.

The empty apology that Phelps was forced to give back to us was really unnecessary. Sure, we are the same people that supported him and cheered him on and counted him as one of our own. But he doesn’t know us, has probably never met any of us and he probably never will. So why do we feel like we deserve an apology? I’m sure he is ashamed of himself and ashamed that he set a bad example and let his fans down, but our disdain and desire for an apology just shows that we expect something from him, that we were shocked by his most recent mistake, when we have seen countless examples of this behavior by athletes before. Truthfully, they should be better, and maybe we deserve better. But by now, we should realize the fact that things are what they are. We should accept that no matter how much we root for the contrary, there will always be those careless few that abuse the system, and no single person is exempt from doing so. We should stop expecting something new when we know that, sadly, it will probably never change.

We should be disappointed, but not surprised. At least not anymore.




Agree? Disagree? Want to berate me with insults or shower me with admiration? Leave a comment or email me at jw332307@ohio.edu and let me know what you think.

Thanks for reading

Monday, February 9, 2009

Random Thoughts - Part 2 - "All Television Version"

Part 2 is here! I hope the weekend was long enough for you to digest the pointless blather from Part 1, because I have a whole new batch of drivel for you to waste your time ruminating over, and it’s all about television. If you are wondering why I chose to make an all-TV Random Thoughts post, it’s because television is the doorway to society, the entrance that we all share and that connects each of us to everyone else.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, the Internet is the stairwell to society, and music is the handrail. Umm…ok, enjoy.


I have yet to see a women’s fragrance or perfume commercial that I could even somewhat comprehend. They never make sense. Ever. One of them shows an umbrella just hovering in the air, following around Catherine Zeta Jones. What does that even mean? How is that about perfume? Or what about the one where Charlize Theron is speed walking and throwing all of her jewelry off, or where Keira Knightley is like riding a horse and running through a bunch of flowers? I don’t get it. How is that about perfume? Why should I buy it? Who puts on perfume and then rides horses and runs through a dewy meadow? It’s like these companies are trying to see how much worthless and confusing trash they can throw out there, while still getting you to pay $45 for a 4 oz. bottle of the stuff. We as a race of humans should be ashamed of ourselves.

Another thing I don’t understand is why television stations continue to show movies that are far too vulgar or dirty to put on regular television channels. Basic cable and even non-cable channels have this affinity for showing popular films, even if they are rated R or are unfit to be shown on TV without a ton of editing work. For example, stations are always showing Wedding Crashers, Training Day, and The 40-Year-Old Virgin, despite the fact that all three of those movies are rated R and contain very, VERY mature content. Now, I think all of those movies are great films, but it pains me to watch them on television. Have you ever seen Training Day? They drop the “f-bomb” and the “n-word” about every .07 seconds. Wedding Crashers is littered with half-naked women and random expletives. The 40-Year-Old Virgin is so dirty, it could make George Carlin blush. So why show them on television? I mean, they have to either cut-out, bleep-out, or dub-over so many things (which just sounds and looks so real and natural) that half of the movie is altered before it can be shown. You can’t even understand half the things Denzel Washington says in Training Day, because every other word is getting bleeped-out. He sounds like R2-D2. And Wedding Crashers is like 45-minutes shorter on TV because half the scenes are cut out. They are all fantastic movies, and should be enjoyed by as many age-appropriate people as possible, but watching them on DVD or in the theater is the only way that makes sense. Otherwise, the movie is butchered, and it’s not fair to the film or the viewer. If you’re going to let your 8-year-old son watch an R rated film, either let him see the real deal, or make him wait until he’s old enough to see it on his own. Any other way, and the integrity of the picture just gets destroyed, and that is not what this country stands for.

One thing I do enjoy watching on television is the show Lost. Actually, enjoy is really not the best word. I have to watch Lost. Missing the show is not an option for me, not because it is so great, but because the show is so confusingly addictive, that I have to watch it to keep myself sane. I have been a viewer of the show for five seasons now, and after every episode, I just feel like I got beat in the face with a big sack of stupid for an hour straight. They keep introducing these ridiculous questions and concepts, but they never give any answers. They are constantly digging themselves deeper and deeper into an enchanting, spell-binding and utterly baffling labyrinth and I HAVE to find out what happens in the end. I’m like a crack head, and watching Lost once a week gives me my fix. I don’t want to watch it, but I need to see it in order to keep the bugs from crawling on my skin. I know it sounds messed up, but anybody that watches it understands exactly what I’m saying. I’ve written before that the title "Lost" has nothing to do with being stranded on a strange desert island; it is simply a description of how you feel after you watch it. I waste hours a week on random websites just trying to figure out what is going on in this show. When it ends in a couple years, I just know that I’m going to look back and realize how much of my life I wasted on an insane show that went nowhere. But I can’t stop now. I have to know how it ends. I’m going down with the ship.

A show that I actually enjoy watching is Friday Night Lights, and if you are not watching this show, then you need to start. The show is based on the popular book and subsequent blockbuster movie that follows a high school football team in the heart of Texas, examining the life and struggles of the players and coaches, as well as the life and struggles of their families and the town in which they live, and the role that football plays in all of it. The book was great, the movie was very good, and the show is fantastic. I’ll say it again; you NEED to start watching this show. If you like football, sports, or even just good television, then there is no way you will dislike this show. If you ever played a sport in high school, or even just went to high school, then there is no way you will dislike this show. If you ever lived in a small town, or know anyone that lived in a small town, or read a book about someone that lived in a small town, then there is no way you will dislike this show. So basically, you are going to like it…that’s the point I was trying to get across. It is currently on its third season and is on Friday nights at 9 (e.t.) on NBC. If you go out on Friday or play Mah-Jongg at your local retirement community (like I do) then you can watch the episodes online at NBC.com or Tivo them and watch them later. If you want to get caught up, you can watch the first two seasons at NBC.com or rent or buy the DVD’s. You will be amazed at how fast you will burn through them. The show has something for everyone. The football and the everyday workings of the team are very interesting. The relationships and actions between the characters in the show are unbelievably realistic and genuine; you will be able to identify every character with someone you went to high school with or someone you actually know. It has good-looking people in it, too. There isn’t an ugly actor or actress in the bunch. Minka Kelly (who plays Lyla Garrity) is a knock-out, and Taylor Kitsch (who plays Tim Riggins) is so man-pretty, he could turn Hugh Jackman into Liberace. I can say as a hetero-sexual, semi-manly guy, that Kitsch is one of the best looking men I have ever seen, and I am only mildly embarrassed to admit that. So even if you don’t like good television, you can just mute the sound and check out the good looking people. It will be worth it. I don’t care whether you are male or female, white or black, young or old; you should be watching this show. It is that good. And you can thank me later.

I mentioned Tivo earlier, and I have to say that the “DVR, home-digital recording” concept is becoming very popular. More and more people are starting to get some type of DVR device and using it to watch their favorite TV shows and programs at a time that is most convenient for them. However, people should not get too comfortable with the idea, because the television station Bravo is doing its best to give the DVR a slow and painful death. Bravo, which is a sister station of NBC, specializes in somewhat girly, reality television shows (which is of course, my specialty). However, Bravo has made it a purpose to destroy Tivo and everything it stands for. The station only has about 5 to 10 shows, so it constantly replays them over and over again throughout the week. Accidentally miss Top Chef at 10 on Wednesday? Well, luckily Bravo replays it for the next three hours after the show originally airs. And if you still haven’t seen it, they will show it again in a marathon of the entire season in about a day or two. And during any given week, you can see the entire season of The Real Housewives of Orange County recapped on about 3 or 4 different days. It’s astounding. There is absolutely no excuse for missing a show on Bravo that you want to see (unfortunately for Bravo, WANT is the key word there). Mark my words - in a few years, when Tivo slowly crashes and burns, Bravo will be there, high above the ruins, pointing and laughing. Or something like that. I’m just sure of it.



Seems like a good place to stop and let you collect your thoughts. I’m putting together my view on the recent Michael Phelps-bong outrage, and it should be up in a week or so.

Thanks for reading

Friday, February 6, 2009

Random Thoughts in my Head - Part 1 of 2

It’s been quite some time since my last “Random Thoughts” post, but it’s tough to get access to a computer when you’re in the loony bin. However, for the past couple months, a few arbitrary concepts and questions have been zipping around my skull, and now I finally have the chance to share them with all of you. Yup, that’s just the type of guy I am. And what’s even better is…IT’S ANOTHER TWO PARTER!!! That’s right, two separate blogs about the insane crap that fills my head. How excited are you?

As always, these are my actual thoughts, and I honestly spend way to much time thinking about them. Hopefully, you will now do the same. Enjoy.

At some point, they are going to run out of positive and uplifting sports stories to make into movies. All of these films about the most ground-breaking and touching moments throughout sports history are constantly being eaten up, so eventually the tank is going to run dry. And when this does happen, do you think they will start making movies about all the scandals and failures that occur in sports. Will someone have the guts to make “The Ryan Leaf Story” or “Tanya Harding: The Dark Side of Figure Skating”? Or what about a film that documents the life of Pacman Jones or the tenure of Matt Millen with the Detroit Lions? It might sound foolish now, but before you know it, sports tragedies will redefine the movie business. You heard it here first.

Why does every bank have those pens that are chained down to the counter? Are these pens really that valuable? Are the chains necessary? I mean, they never work anyway, so why even bother? I don’t know too many people that would steal a busted pen.

Singers Akon and Seal both released new albums in the past year, which I feel is an extremely impressive achievement. Why? Because I’m like 87.4% sure that they are the same person. I’ll give you a minute to inquisitively stroke your chin as you check out some pictures here and here. Plus, when do you ever see them hanging out together? Exactly...you don't. See, if you give me a minute to explain, I seem a lot less insane than you initially thought. This proves that my mom is right; I’m not crazy, just special.

Speaking of people that look alike, how about Will Smith? The Will Smith of today looks EXACTLY THE SAME as the Will Smith from 20 years ago when he started The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. He’s like a black, male Diane Lane, or that Richard guy from Lost that always looks the same no matter how old he is. What is in this guy’s food? How is Will doing this?? Is he real, or just some kind of advanced robot that tells jokes and makes $100 million movies??? Someone needs to look into this.

You know when people are arguing or having a conversation and they ask questions, and then answer those questions themselves? What’s the thought process behind this? Does answering your own questions give you some type of confidence? Does it somehow boost your credibility? I am not at all a fan of this technique. If you ask “Is Styx the greatest rock band of all time?” and quickly follow up with “Yes, yes they are,” will rock enthusiasts suddenly go into a trance, throw out the knowledge that Styx totally sucks, and just agree with everything you say? Is that how it works? Either way, it needs to be stopped. I have no problem with rhetorical questions (like the ones I just used) because they actually have a literary and journalistic purpose – they allow the audience to consider the thoughts or questions you are putting forth. But when you answer your own questions, you sound uniformed, desperate, and a little bit like Golum from Lord of the Rings. Does that sound like something you want to be a part of? No, no it doesn’t. (Get it?)



Part two will be up in the next few days, and it’s an “All-Television Random Thoughts” post. Hmm, I wonder how much Gossip Girl I can cram into one blog.

Thanks for reading