Monday, February 27, 2012

Running Diary of Cultural Significance: All the World's a Stage...

As Channing Tatum’s voiceover explains during the opening scene of The Vow (Yes, I saw it. No, not by choice), our lives are defined by impactful moments…or something like that. Channing seems to classify these moments as the times when everything happens in slow motion. But for me, these moments that define us – that we will always remember – are the moments that are so completely jumbled and scattered that they fly by before we even realize it. Sunday, February 27, 2012, presented an evening with great potential to become one of those signature moments in time.

The 84th Academy Awards, the 61st NBA All-Star game and the Ohio Bobcats vs Akron Zips men’s basketball game were all taking place on the same night at relatively the same time. One is the culmination and crowning moment for the best films and film participants of the past year. One brings together the best players in the world’s best professional basketball league to celebrate the sport. One will be integral to the seeding of the upcoming MAC Tournament and involves my soon-to-be alma mater.

How could we be so lucky – and yet simultaneously, so cursed – to get three events of such valor on one evening? How could you watch them all? How could you not watch them all? And in the end, how would you be able to prevent it from screaming by like a split-second in time?

That’s what I’m here for. Years from now, when the history books tell the tales of this night, I will be the one they turn to. I will make this one moment live on forever in the hearts of many. You’re welcome.

So without further ado, a real-time running diary of an amazing night full of three amazing events: a seminal moment in pop culture, a seminal moment in American sports and the NBA All-Star game…

7:30 – Coming at you live, where the “jump” button on my remote will be getting one hell of a workout. We have the Oscars Red Carpet Live event on ABC, the NBA All-Star game set to tip-off momentarily on TNT, and the conclusion of the Florida State vs Miami game on ESPNU before the OU-Akron game begins. So for those interested, our pre-event entertainment ranged from Nicki Minaj to Tim Gunn to middle-of-the-road ACC basketball. Diversity!

7:33 – Seeing Melissa McCarthy and LeBron James evokes images of the two of them crapping their pants. (Bridesmaids and Cleveland fans laugh simultaneously…)

7:40 – Game we will play throughout the evening: which event is this person at? Our first contestant is film and television star (and short-lived Vice President of Northeast Sales for Dunder Mifflin), Idris Elba.

7:43 – The ball is tipped in Orlando.  Kobe Bryant hits an early jumper, staking his case for Best Actor in a Leading Role.

7:52 – Early observation: Kevin Durant looks absolutely stunning on the hardwood, with a two-toned red and burgundy Adidas uniform complemented by a pair of grey Nike sneakers.

7:55 – Which event is this person at?: Actor and generally homeless looking Zach Galifianakis.

8:01 – Cameron Diaz is wearing Gucci. My roommate commented that he kind of wished she wasn’t, if you know what I mean.

8:04 – Bradley Cooper: “Hopefully we’re going to do Hangover 3.” Speak for yourself, Bradley.

8:06 – The Bobcats and Zips tip-off in the Convocation Center…and we can’t see it, because the FSU-Miami game is running long. They wouldn’t let an episode of Jeopardy run over the start of the Academy Awards, would they? Yeah, I’m just as mad as you are.

8:11 – CLOONEY!!!!! PITT!!!!!! OMG!!!!!

8:15 – Miami upsets Florida State, and we are (finally) sent out to Athens, Ohio.  The Bobcats are up 11-5 early in the half. “Green Fever” is rampant throughout the Convocation Center.

8:25 – My special lady friend (The JudgEmentress) claims that Gwyneth Paltrow, Stacy Keibler and Kate Mara are the best dressed thus far. She clearly hasn’t seen the green shoes sported by Bobcats point guard D.J. Cooper.

8:31 – And now, the 84th Annual Academy Awards, live from Los Angeles, California. Morgan Freeman kicks it off, rocking the Michael Jordan-esque male hoop earrings.

8:37 – For the ninth time, Billy Crystal is our Oscars host. Although he’s about six years from looking exactly like Don Rickles. #ImJustSaying

8:42 – And I already feel too young for this year’s Academy Awards. I assume Crystal is still singing, but I’m afraid to flip back and check.

8:48 – Now Pitbull is singing at halftime of the All-Star game. I didn’t realize how good I had it.

8:53 – “What is my dad watching?” update: the Bobcats game, with the Oscars on picture-in-picture. Sadly, he’s missed out on the countless jokes Billy Crystal made about himself being old…

9:03 – By some divine intervention, all three events are at commercial. I’m going to the bathroom.

9:14 – Octavia Spencer celebrates her win for Best Supporting Actress in The Help by slamming home a sick alley-oop pass from Chris Paul as the Bobcat fans in the OZone go wild…

9:20 – Which event is this person at?: ESPNU color commentator Mark Adams.

9:25 – The only thing saving this Academy Awards telecast so far is the “was-it-or-wasn’t-it” nipple slip by Jennifer Lopez. And the only thing keeping me semi-interested is the off-chance we’ll get glimpse of Ryan Gosling. #ManPretty

9:27 – “Here are the nominees for Achievement in Sound Mixing.” (changes channel…)

9:28 – Kobe Bryant passes Michael Jordan as the all-time leading scorer in NBA All-Star history. He also further cements his spot as all-time leading chucker in NBA All-Star history.

9:35 – Who’s looking good so far? The Western Conference (up 118-105), the Bobcats (up 67-41) and Penelope Cruz (yowza).

9:40 – “What is my dad watching?” update: the Bobcats, while trying not to fall asleep during timeouts.

9:44 – The Bobcats might have as many dunks as both All-Star teams combined. #LOL #SucksToBeAkron

9:50 – Which event is this person at?: P Diddy.

9:52 – Not sure which effort is most deplorable tonight: the All-Star game’s attempt at defense, the Oscar writers’ attempts at humor, or Akron’s attempt at basketball.

9:56 – If any guy under the age of 27 somehow managed to cheat on his girlfriend with Emma Stone, I’m not sure who the girlfriend would actually be jealous of.

10:02 – The Bobcats honor Christopher Plummer for his Best Supporting Actor win by subbing in their bench warmers, including Paul Pierce and Marc Gasol.

10:04 – Ohio smokes Akron, 85-61, completing an 8-0 home record in MAC play. That 24-point blowout has also been the most exciting part of the evening. Although a Gosling sighting still looms as a possibility.

10:05 – Meanwhile, LeBron James and Kevin Durant are battling hard in Orlando. The West leads 146-141 late in the fourth quarter.

10:12 – “What is my dad watching?” update: the inside of his eyelids.

10:18 – Bret from Flight of the Concords wins an Oscar for his song in The Muppets. Awesome.

10:23 – LeBron turns the ball over late to choke away the All-Star game for the East. Hilarious. Predictable, but hilarious. My roommates from Cleveland are pretty pumped.

10:24 – The Western Conference wins, 152-149. Only an hour or so of the Oscars left to suffe..umm…sit through.

10:27 – Dean Pelton (Jim Rash) from Community wins an Oscar for his writing on The Descendents. Again, awesome.

10:33 – Kevin Durant is your MVP. Kobe scowls with contempt and jealousy.

10:34 – Woody Allen wins an Oscar for Midnight in Paris, but not for directing. That’s probably why he decided not to show up.

10:48 – I’ve been folding laundry for about 20 minutes with the Oscars on in the background. The cast of Bridesmaids did something relatively funny. That was about it.

10:54 - Michel Hazanavicius wins Best Director for The Artist. If there was an Oscar for Best Hipster Film, I think The Artist would win that one this year, too. And I would know. I thought The Artist was a great movie way before you did.

11:08 – The annual “memorandum” slide show of those we lost this past year is always a really cool moment. Although I wasn’t expecting them to show pictures of the Akron Zips basketball team. #LOL #LighteningTheMood

11:14 – Natalie Portman. No complaints.

11:18 – The dude from The Artist (Jean Dujardin) wins the Oscar for Best Actor, further enraging The Artist hipsters. However, I have two thoughts: 1) Billy Beane wishes he could be Brad Pitt playing Billy Beane in Moneyball. 2) If George Clooney stars in a critically acclaimed movie in which he plays a husband who gets cheated on by his wife and yet still doesn’t win an award for “acting”, I think we need to re-evaluate the entire system.

11:29 – Meryl Streep wins Best Actress for portraying Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady, upsetting Viola Davis. I’m not a huge fan of the Streeper, but her work in The Devil Wears Prada did inspire this clip.

11:35 – The Artist wins the Academy Award for Best Picture.  I actually haven’t seen this film – and despite the fact that it cleaned up tonight – I probably won’t. I can’t understand French.

The night wasn’t quite as epic as initially hoped, but revisionist history will change all of that. And for those playing along at home, Idris Elba was at the All-Star game, Zack Galifianakis was at the Oscars, ESPNU color commentator Mark Adams was at the OU game, P Diddy was at the Oscars and Ryan Gosling was nowhere to be found (unfortunately). But it’s not all bad, as we still have the YouTube clips of Jimmy Kimmel’s Oscar After-Show to look forward to. Unless he mails it in. Or, as it will be referred to from now on, “pulling an Akron.”

Thanks for reading

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Portents of "The Plastics"

In “The Times They Are A-Changin’” Bob Dylan sang, “And you can’t criticize what you don’t understand.”

(Wait, he started his piece with a Dylan quote? How original! He never does that!)

In many ways, Dylan is correct (as usual). But that doesn’t mean you can’t question that which you do not understand. And in case you haven’t gathered this already, there are a lot of things that fall under this “I don’t understand” banner for me (just ask The JudgEmentress). Some are a tad serious (ex: the current state of the public school system baffles me) while others are legitimately important (ex: why would someone get Oreos if they weren’t “Double Stuf”?) In the end, they all pester my brain to no end, for many various reasons.

Seriously, why would anyone buy or eat Oreos if they weren’t Double Stuf?

Why would someone voluntarily listen to LMFAO?

Why isn’t Mountain Dew Code Red a more popular beverage? No, it’s not nearly as refreshing as original Mountain Dew, but it’s delicious nonetheless.

How can NBC’s The Office be this bad? I understand that Steve Carell (aka Michael Scott) left the show, and I understand how funny and important his character was to the program, but should the drop-off really be this stark? And if so, why isn’t every show producer and movie director on the planet throwing crazy money at Steve Carell to be in their next project?

Why are people so critical of Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook? Yeah, he takes some shots away from Kevin Durant, but he also takes pressure off of him. And yeah he is a tad careless with the ball and forces it on offense at times, but the athleticism and drive and constant effort that he brings night-in and night-out on both ends of the floor far outweigh any negatives that might come with his game. Find me one NBA team that doesn’t want Russell Westbrook on their roster. He’s not perfect, but the dude is a stud.

Why are people so intent on bashing Jersey Shore and the people that watch it? It feels antithetical to me.  We know it’s a terrible show full of completely detestable human beings. Of course we know that. That’s why it’s on TV in the first place. That’s why people are watching it.

How has Nicholas Sparks survived this long without a bunch of dudes just banning together, hunting him down, holding him captive and torturing him until he swears on his life to never write another book, ever again? I in no way support unwarranted violence or cruelty towards another human being…but if I ever ran into that guy on the street somewhere, I’d make sure to do so with my car.

But the one question that has been eating at me more than all others of late involves neither politics nor America’s favorite cookie sandwiches. It has nothing to do with alternate flavors of Mountain Dew or television programming. It is tangentially related to Nicholas Sparks, but not imperatively. It actually involves Amanda Seyfried, and the question of why Hollywood continually tries to force her on the people of this great country. It’s not really offensive or abrasive or even off-putting. It’s just confusing. I just don’t get it.

The utter perplexity spawned by the mainstream media’s determination to make Amanda Seyfried a household name and A-list actress has been ravaging my brain day and night. What is the appeal? What is the motivation behind her path to stardom? What is it that makes her so endearing to those casting blockbuster movies or shooting magazine covers, and why don’t I see it too?

Before I delve further into this subject, let me first make sure that you know who Amanda Seyfried is. After breaking onto the film scene with a supporting role in Mean Girls (great movie), she has since gone on to leading roles in films such as Mamma Mia!, Dear John, In Time and the soon to be released Gone, among others. Secondly, I want to make sure you know that I have no qualms with Amanda Seyfried as a person. I’m not attacking her character or saying she’s ugly or assuming that she smells bad. I just think she’s in way too many freaking movies, on way too many magazines and walking way too many red carpets. Maybe she’s an outstanding individual. Or maybe not, I have no idea. I’m just perplexed by this idea of her as a superstar, and why it’s being forced on me by popular culture.

I don’t think Amanda Seyfried is a great or terrible actress. I don’t think she’s make-your-knees-weak pretty, but she’s clearly a long way from being unattractive. She’s not hilarious or dull, not engrossing or forgettable. She’s always somewhere in between. Always showing potential, but nothing that makes me think I’ll be bouncing my grandkids on my knee and telling them about her someday. She’s had a few bank-breaking box office returns (Mamma Mia!, Dear John) and major flops (Jennifer’s Body, Red Riding Hood). She’s received critical acclaim and widespread pandering, top billed weekends and forgettable openings. But through it all, she’s never struck me as having some unidentifiable magnetism. I think she generally does a good job, but I also think she’s benefitted from strong, big name supporters (Streep, Timberlake, the aforementioned Sparks). I’ve never viewed her as having the ability to draw in viewers, but based on the fact that she keeps getting leading roles in major, wide released films (and in turn popping up all over TV and the newsstands), I feel as if I’m being actively convinced to think otherwise.

For example, I’ll see just about any movie that has Denzel Washington, Ben Affleck, Will Smith, Brad Pitt, George Clooney or Mark Wahlberg. Plot, co-stars, reviews – all of it is basically irrelevant. If any of those guys have a major part in the film, then I’m banking on past experience and personal preference when I assume I’ll enjoy the movie.  The same can be said of women of my mother’s generation when it comes to ladies like Meryl Streep, Jennifer Anniston, Julia Roberts or Sandra Bullock. Even with the younger female generation of today we see a similar impact with people such as Reese Witherspoon and Natalie Portman, and we’re beginning to see the same effects with the likes of Emma Stone, Mila Kunis and Rachel McAdams. But Amanda Seyfried? Eh.

I have no grand point or ultimate observation. I have no vendetta against Seyfried or some larger issue I’m trying to address. I’m merely confounded constantly by this young actress popping up in every other movie; it’s beginning to reach un-ignorable levels. I don’t know how much longer this confusion will last or why I even put this much thought into it in the first place. And yet for right now, the lore surrounding Amanda Seyfried completely and utterly confuses me. I just don’t understand.

Until I realize that if she keeps getting all these movie roles and magazine covers, she must be doing something right. She must be well-liked by those casting her and working with her, and she’s probably on the verge of a major, post-Mamma Mia! breakthrough that just hasn’t quite happened yet.  Judging by her workload, she appears to be awfully dedicated to her craft and career choice.  She’s never done anything particularly stupid or offensive, and to my knowledge, she hasn’t been involved in any major scandals or internet sex videos. She’s probably snickering at those that question her merits as a leading lady, flashing her bank statements and kicking back outside her beachside mansion in Malibu while sipping on some fruity drink with a mini umbrella peaking out the top. And she most certainly couldn’t care less what I think of her, whether I’m criticizing her or not. Heck, as far as I know, she’s always spoken rather highly of me.

On second thought, maybe I do like Amanda Seyfried. Maybe I’m not nearly as confused as I thought I was. Where can I buy some stock in this girl? I'm all in.

I suppose the times truly are a-changin’.

Thanks for reading