Tuesday, March 24, 2009


I got off work at 11:00 PM central standard time. I really can't ever sleep after I get out of there, so I ate Taco Bell (which I love) and watched Weeds (which I love) with Kimmy (who I really really love) whilst drinking some delicious Leinenkugel's (which I love). A couple of hours later, here I am, full of beer and Bell, listening to Mastodon's newest thunderfuck Crack the Skye (which I love). I'm trying to avoid reviewing it right now because I'm terribly afraid the influence of some alcohol will tamper with my objectivity and lead me in the direction of the extensive hyperbole. But I'm seriously getting my skin rocked off, one filthy riff after another, and I'm not quite sure what to do about it. This music makes me want to grow a bigger beard, crush a dragon's head with my bare hands, and learn how to really play guitar. MASTODON. Aw, shit. Here comes "The Last Baron." I may review this thing anyway, distorted perspective or not. After all, what album is worth its weight in anything if isn't God-like under the influence of booze? Stay tuned, everybody.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Healthy People Eat Dirt

On Sunday, Kimmy and I (accompanied by her mom and sister) went to Mama Jean's natural market on the south side of our very own Springfield, Missouri. We like to cook here and there (well, I mainly stand in the kitchen and talk), so we figured we would acquire and try some new spices and such. We didn't.

Mama Jean's turned out to be one of those places. People wearing deliberately strange clothes wandered the aisles plucking obscure oils and roots off shelves so they could make sure that only natural things straight from God's teat entered their mouths. Grown adults were picking up cereals with names a seven year-old would mock. Hell, there was even this teenage kid wearing all black to counteract his washed out blonde hair who was waving his arms about in time with a Pet Shop Boys song. When they were done, they all marched in lockstep to their gigantic gas-guzzling SUVs and hopped in, ready to really give it to the very earth they claim to dedicate their lives to. Fuck them. Anyway, you get the point. You can see it. So here are a few products I managed to take pictures of, along with a quick synopsis of each. Needless to say, I didn't buy any of this shit.

Don't you just hate it when you get up to eat breakfast in the morning and your waffles and pancakes taste good? Guess what, everyone! Mama Jean's has the answer to your conundrum! It's Organic Buckwheat Waffle and Pancake Mix! No longer will you have to endure another morning of honest-to-God "delicious" waffles or pancakes, because this product will ensure that anything you make tastes like chalk and has a nice, turdy aftertaste. Thanks, Mama Jean! You're the best!

Is your baby putting his mouth on everything to try and cut his burgeoning teeth? Well have we got a solution for you! It's Earth's Best Barley Teething Biscuits! After lil' Bobby puts his budding chompers on this, he'll never have the desire to chew on anything ever again (assuming he lives)!

Whoa! Straight from Barbara's, the makers of Shit Loops, comes Organic Wild Puffs, the tastiest thing to ever grace your spoon in the morning! I mean, just look at that crazy-ass bird on the front of the box! His beak didn't turn unnatural, harmful colors on its own! Go get your own box

Long day at the office? Need a snack? Also need to make sure your movements are regular? Bobo's Coconut Oat Bars are sure to take on all your daily hunger and poo managing needs! Just down one in a hurry (you don't want to actually taste it), and you won't drop a number two for months, maybe even years!

Have you ever wondered why there are so few reported murders in France? Have you also felt the deep yearning your tummy has for a delicious dessert snack? Kill two birds (or ladies, wink wink) with one cookie by buying French Lady Fingers! Made with real French lady fingers,
French Lady Fingers are sure to stave off hunger and fulfill that cannibalism fantasy you've always had but never admitted. So head on down to Mama Jean's and bite the hand that feeds!

Poor hermits. They're so reclusive. Not! You just never see them because you're too busy fucking eating them, asshole!

Do you ever finding yourself wishing you had a delicious breakfast cereal that smelled strongly of throw up and birdseed? And don't you wish that once you had such a cereal you could share it with a 42 year-old mother of three that fantasizes about Pat Sajak and a 56 year-old Asian man who's been to jail a couple of times on misdemeanor charges? From the same minds that brought you Honey Nut Nuts 'n' Blood comes Good Friends, the cereal that delivers on that pungent order you so desire, AND lets you stare at those aforementioned citizens you so badly wish you knew. It's a win-win!

Shudder. My solution to all of you savvy shoppers out there? Don't spend big bucks on Mama Jean's overpriced "gourmet products. Ask yourself: what would Clint Eastwood consume? I know I did, and the answer is below. For those playing at home, I give you Spaghettios and beer. Everyone enjoy your Tuesday.

It's Spring and I'm Thirsty

Hi. I've got something to review. Oh, and before I forget, my review of The Wrestler has been fixed where you can now actually read it. I'm not sure what happened there. Anyway, eat up!

Gran Torino (2008)
Starring: Clint Eastwood, Bee Vang, Ahney Her
Directed By: Clint Eastwood
Rating: 8.0 (out of 10)

Clint Eastwood is such a man. Everything he does exudes blatant manliness, and his angry Walt Kowalski in Gran Torino is no exception. Kowalski hates everyone. He doesn't like his neighbors, he doesn't like his priest, and he doesn't like his own family. He feels like his sons are good for nothing, his grandchildren are good for less than that, and that his best friends in the world are his dog and his never ending supply of Pabst Blue Ribbon. The only thing constantly by his side is his shotgun.

As the movie opens, we learn that Kowalski's wife has just passed away, leaving him all alone in a world he very much dislikes. In a few early scenes, we quickly see that Walt doesn't want anything to do with anyone he doesn't respect (everyone). His sons are ready to take off as soon as they can after the funeral, his granddaughter spends her time "mourning" over text messages, and his priest just wants him to come to confession. Walt can't be bothered with anyone of this, and he also can't be bothered in any capacity by his Hmong neighbors, who he resents simply because they aren't white and he doesn't understand them.

Eastwood comes up with racial epithets for his character I swear I've never heard at all in Torino. It's downright over-the-top how frequently Walt tries to insult his Asian neighbors, even if there appears to be no reason at all to do so. Left alone in the wake of his wife's death, Kowalski begins to interact with these neighbors, and takes a legitimate liking to Sue (Ahney Her). He sees her as spunky, intelligent, and interesting. Gradually he also sees the good in her quiet younger brother Thao (Bee Vang), who winds up working for Walt after being forced by his gang-dwelling cousin to try and steal Walt's most prized possession, a 1972 Gran Torino.

The quick, somewhat surprising ending is sort of appropriate. I'm obviously not going to flatly say what it is, but it's sad and faintly disappointing. But it also makes sense, and there's sort of a build up to it once you recap what you've seen in your head. I mean, was there another way?

It's rather obvious that Gran Torino's intention is to show that we're all on this earth together, and that we all need to get along. Racism is stupid, petty, and ignorant, and if a guy like Walt can get past it, can't we all? The film adeptly follows Walt and Thao's simultaneous transformations. Walt becomes the loving, tolerant man he has always been capable of being. Thao becomes the confident, sharp kid that has always been bubbling beneath the surface. The key is, they really need each other to make this happen, and their journey is an inspired one. Gran Torino is emotionally involving, and all of the principal actors turn in satisfactory performances, even if this isn't anywhere near Eastwood's best work. After all, he can play a mean-ass son of a bitch in his sleep. While Gran Torino is a bit formulaic and preachy, it's also a very good film that is enjoyable to watch and know how to manipulate the audience's emotions. It also really drives home the notion that anyone is capable of what they allow themselves to become, for better or worse.

So I totally used to write tiny lil' review nuggets on MySpace every time I saw a movie. I've decided I might as well throw those up here, along with adjusted ratings for the new system. Here you go, salt shakers.

Black Snake Moan (2007) Rating: 6.5 (out of 10)

I sort of liked this movie. It should've felt a lot more ridiculous than it did. I'll explain why. Left to deal with her past demons alone after her boyfriend Ronnie (Justin Timberlake, who actually does a passable job) heads off to the army, Rae (Christina Ricci) falls back into a life of semi-prostitution and pill popping. One night, at a huge outdoor party, Rae gets quite messed up thanks to some OxyContin pills, and winds up lying in a field half-naked, unconscious and confused. Things get worse from here, though, as she is sexually and physically abused, and when she turns down the advances of one of Ronnie's friends, he beats her near death and leaves her by the side of the road to die. That's where Lazarus (Samuel L. Jackson), a former blues guitarist, comes in. Lazarus hasn't been doing well, either. His wife Rose has just left him for his brother, and he's having a lot of trouble coping with the fallout. Lazarus happens to stumble upon Rae, and decides to take her back to his house and nurse her back to health.

This isn't an easy task, though, as he learns Rae couldn't possibly be much more damaged psychologically. To keep her from leaving and continuing about her sleazy ways, Lazarus chains her to his water heater. Yes. He seriously does. One has to wonder if Lazarus also really just likes having company. The two learn a few things from each other, as Rae tries to fix what's broken and Lazrus tries to let everything out the way he used to: through his guitar and voice. Both lead actors do well for themselves, and their interaction with each other completely makes this movie. All in all, this feels like a really bizarre, dirty-ass movie with a really big heart. I'm not sure why it earned so much criticism from the masses.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Hard Candy (2006) Rating: 7.0 (out of 10)

I'm starting to think Ellen Page is well on her way to being a historically excellent actress. Recently praised for her work as the title character in Juno, Page is probably more impressive in Hard Candy, a movie in which she plays Haley Stark a 14 year-old girl who is being seduced online by a 32 year-old photographer named Jeff Kohlver (Patrick Wilson). Haley meets Jeff at a coffee shop, where after some conversation, she convinces him to take her back to her apartment to listen to music and have some drinks. What Jeff doesn't know is that Haley has no intention of being his prey, but instead wants to achieve the opposite. Haley fixes Jeff's drink for him, adding in some medication that knocks him out. When Jeff wakes up, he's tied up and sitting in a swivel chair. From here on out, Hard Candy ups the ante, as Haley tries to unearth secrets about Jeff and Jeff tries to bargain his way out of the situation he's in. Both actors are great in their respective roles, and that's a big reason the characters resonate so well and the tension feels so thick. Another interesting aspect of the film is Haley's revenge: is her joy over torturing Jeff, which is seemingly just below the surface, something that should be condoned given Jeff's crimes? Is this something the movie implies? Additionally, there are some strange, somewhat unexplained holes in the plot. They aren't huge, however, and they don't take much away from what amounts to a compelling work featuring a truly great performance by Ellen Page.

American Psycho (2000) Rating: 8.5 (out of 10)

This is Christian Bale week on my MySpace blog. I'm wasting my life. Anyway, American Psycho is based on Bret Easton Ellis's novel of the same title, and much like the book, the movie doesn't pull a lot of punches. Patrick Bateman (Bale) works on Wall Street, is engaged to his longtime girlfriend (Reese Witherspoon), and resides in an expensive apartment full of expensive things. He also enjoys killing people, and he simply can't hold back his blood lust. As he says near the film's beginning, he has skin and flesh, but he is "simply not there." Bateman also admits to feeling only two emotions, greed and disgust. All of this becomes increasingly evident, as Bateman is driven to kill over things as trivial as business cards. Much as he always does, Christian Bale steals the show with ease, making Bateman delightfully over-the-top and truly believable as a closet psychopath. At times, Bale makes Bateman seem genuinely terrifying, and other times he makes him coy and funny. In other words, Christian Bale transforms his character into one that truly does appear to be insane to the core. American Psycho's ending is also great, bringing to light a lot of things and clarifying the movie's underlying ideas. All in all, this is a memorable experience.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Cloverfield (2008) Rating: 6.0 (out of 10)

Buried in thick layers of hype, the J.J. Abrams-produced Cloverfield seemed a little weaker than it probably was. As all of you who have or haven't seen the movie know, this thing's all about a monster that attacks New York City, and the event is documented on a handheld camera. A few problems present themselves quickly. First off, the camera work is relentlessly shaky, even when it seems irrelevant. This I can forgive, because the approach in and of itself (not the exagerration of it) is part of what makes this movie unique and worth seeing. Second, I dare anyone who has seen this to honestly say he or she wasn't disappointed with the monster coming into full view near the movie's end. Having the monster appear only in glimpses created the aura of some unknown terror and made the middle section of the movie much more effective. And finally, the characters were all mostly boring, feeling like pretty cardboard cutouts. While I appreciate the attempt to really humanize them (most horror-esque movies don't bother), the writing doesn't warrant it. As you can see, each of these complaints are sort of met with compliments. In the end, Cloverfield just sort of feels like a missed opportunity. It's worth seeing, but damn it, it could've been such a cooler monster movie.

The Princess Bride (1987) Rating: 8.5 (out of 10)

It's funny, but I remember seeing this movie when I was a child and finding it interesting and kind of suspenseful. I mean, I was probably six or seven years old, so my opinion didn't really matter, but it sort of serves to make a point. The Princess Bride flawlessly works on different levels. To a kid, it's a grandfather (Peter Falk) telling his grandson (Fred Savage) the story of a girl (Robin Wright) who believes her true lover (Cary Elwes) is dead, and in turn is later (as the law in her land constitutes) forced to marry a king who she really doesn't love. But what she doesn't know is that her lover is still alive, and is on his way back to her. To an adult, the plot remains the same, but wry humor is interspersed throughout. The Princess Bride certainly isn't meant to be taken dead seriously, and its witty dialogue allows for a seemingly ordinary plot to transcend into a terrifc and engaging film.

The Machinist (2004) Rating: 6.5 (out of 10)

Perhaps the most widely-known fact about The Machinist is that Christian Bale dropped about 60 pounds to take on his role as Trevor Reznik, a beleaguered factory worker who can't stop losing weight and hasn't gotten real sleep in a year. Strange events start plaguing Reznik. First, a mysterious man who he hasn't ever seen before begins working alongside him, claiming that he's been there all along. Then a terrible accident happens on Reznik's watch, causing him to question the motives of everyone around him, becoming frighteningly paranoid. All of this leads to a solid ending that for the most part avoids a really obvious path and seeks somewhat new ground. Bale uses his emaciated appearance to make Reznik appear truly disturbed, truly haunted. In short, Bale's performance makes this movie much more succesful than it would've been otherwise, which doesn't really come as much of a surprise when considering his filmography.

Monday, January 14, 2008

The Pursuit Of Happyness (2006) Rating: 5.5 (out of 10)

I remember this movie being heralded by family-friendly critics over a year ago, and I just now got around to watching it. While Happyness has its plusses, it probably has more minuses. On the plus side, Will Smith continues to show that he can act, as he does a fine job portraying Chris Gardner, a down-on-his-luck father whose wife (Linda, as played by Thandie Newton) leaves him due to financial stress. On the minus end of things, Linda comes across as an unsympathetic cunt, probably more than she was supposed to. She also initially voices concerns about the couple's son (Christopher, played by Smith's real-life son Jaden), but then has no trouble never seeing him again from the time she leaves her family until the end of the film. By movie's end, it really is easier to feel good for the Gardners, but for God's sake, the amount of shit endured is a bit drastic. The overall result? Eh.

Deja Vu (2006) Rating: 5.5 (out of 10)

So many times an interesting concept gets thrown away on contrived plot twists and idiotic endings. Deja Vu is really no exception, as it remains interesting and fun for a good while before devolving into an ending I just don't like. Denzel Washington does his usual sort of crime-thriller work here as Doug Carlin, a cop who is supposed to investigate a ferry explosion that killed a great number of people. Carlin impresses an FBI agent with his analysis of the crime scene and winds up a member of a special task force with unique technology. The result involves the ever-intriguing concepts of time travel and changing the past. While this is all well and good, things spin a bit out of control in Carlin's attempts to discover who is responsible for the lives of the ferry passengers and also an innocent woman who is found murdered near the movie's beginning.

Happiness (1998) Rating: 7.0 (out of 10)

Happiness isn't like many movies I've seen. At the center of the story are three sisters, one a traditionally happy housewife, one a wealthy author, and the other an aspiring musician who has yet to reach success. Around these three women revolve a cast of characters with plenty of inner demons. The most prominent of these characters aree the sex-obsessed, socially inept Allen (Philip Seymour Hoffman), and the seemingly normal psychologist Bill (Dylan Baker), who actually turns out to be a pedophile. Throughout Happiness's two hours, these disturbed characters are thoroughly evaluated, letting the audience really see who they are, even beyond the initial labels that might seem evident. By film's end, it's evident that director Todd Solondz definitely doesn't intend his title to be taken literally. Happiness is at times disturbing, surprising, and saddening, and it's worth watching for anyone who doesn't have a problem with subjective material and won't mind feeling weird for a little while after watching it.

3:10 To Yuma (2007) Rating: 7.0 (out of 10)

A remake of a 1957 western, 3:10 To Yuma is captivating for a good while. The story centers around ultra bad guy Ben Wade (Russell Crowe), who has done a whole lot of robbing and killing, and rancher Dan Evans (Christian Bale), a mild-mannered fellow dedicated to doing the right thing. After Wade is caught, Evans offers to help transport Wade to a train that will take the villain to Yuma, where he is to be imprisoned. After all, Evans needs the money he'd receive for doing this to help out his family. The journey is an eventful one, with Wade doing anything and everything to settle scores and regain his freedom with the help of his gang. This is an excellent modern western, right up until an improbably eyebrow-raising ending. Though I don't necessarily like the ending, it doesn't derail the entire movie, and 3:10 To Yuma stands as a solid effort.

Juno (2007) Rating: 8.5 (out of 10)

Hey, it's a good teenage comedy! Ellen Page does a tremendous job playing the sarcastic Juno MacGuff, a 16 year-old girl who becomes impregnated by her best friend, Paulie Bleeker (Michael Cera). Juno decides not to abort the baby, but to find a worthy couple for adoption. Finally settling on Mark and Vanessa Loring (Jason Bateman and Jennifer Garner), Juno seems to have found a win-win solution. And of course, things get complicated. The most important elements of Juno are the smart script and the excellent acting. Every single actor in a major role does a commendable job, and the script ensures that all of the characters come across as real, interesting people. It's just really cool to watch a movie about teenage pregnancy where characters react to things in a reasonable manner, and even cooler to watch a comedy that doesn't shoot for bullshit "outrageous" humor, but rather humor of the intelligent, verbal variety. I wish people who wanted to laugh would see things like this instead of witnessing Dane Cook try to act or Adam Sandler regurgitate the same old stuff. I've heard a lot of talk about Juno garnering some Oscar respect much as Little Miss Sunshine did a year ago, and that would be nice. It's great to occasionally see good, less flashy movies get a chance at a really long and mostly pointless awards ceremony.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Sleepers (1996) Rating: 6.5 (out of 10)

Sleepers is a very solid, somewhat lengthy account of four boys growing up in New York that make a huge mistake and wind up in a correctional school where they endure unthinkable abuse. The movie then shifts to the boys later in life, as adults, as they try to fix what became broken within them. The movie moves at sort of a Goodfellas pace, spanning a number of years and readily showing ways of life in different places, whether it be Hell's Kitchen or the correctional school. None of the performers really stand out, but that may be because everyone involved is well-known (Robert DeNiro, Brad Pitt, Kevin Bacon, Dustin Hoffman, Jason Patric) and does a capable job.

Wonder Boys (2001) Rating: 6.5 (out of 10)

A lot of really traditional things happen here, and certainly no new ground is broken, but Wonder Boys is enjoyable, fairly funny, and well-performed. Michael Douglas plays a college English professor and successful but aging writer who takes a gifted student named James Leer (Tobey Maguire) under his wing. Both have a great deal of personal problems, and even create more for themselves in the process of trying to make things better. The general idea of the movie is certainly a bit regurgitated, but the execution is very good.

1408 (2007) Rating: 5.0 (out of 10)

The good news is that John Cusack and Sam Jackson are present, and that the idea of, as Jackson calls it, "an evil fucking room" is intriguing. Aside from that, things don't really get as exciting or intense as I would've preferred. While miles ahead of most recent releases in the horror genre, 1408 does at least manage to stay relatively smart, even if things don't get all that unique or, well, scary. Maybe I was just expecting too much.

Mr. Brooks (2007) Rating: 6.0 (out of 10)

I really hate Kevin Costner, maybe even to an irrational degree, and the idea of him being a serial killer is fairly laughable. That said, Mr. Brooks is actually kind of fun, even if it's a bit silly sometimes. While the movie was curiosity-inducing and well-paced, there are some really odd casting choices, maybe even more bizarre than that of Costner as a successful businessman/murderer. Demi Moore plays a cop, and, for some reason, Dane Cook (douchebag, can't act) has a role as a witness to one of Mr. Brooks's murders. I wish I was allowed to directly ask for this to be redone with a better cast (William Hurt was fine but barely present), but I'll take what I can get, which was a pretty entertaining movie.

No Country For Old Men (2007) Rating: 9.5 (out of 10)

This has got to be the best thing released in 2007. It's the Coen brothers bringing their weirdness to what amounts to a surprising meshing of several genres. No Country blends crime drama, thriller, action, western, and a little bit of comedy, and the results are amazing. the movie tells the story of Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin), who accidentally stumbles upon the remains of a drug deal that went wrong, and as a result, finds $2 million. Several storylines weave in and out of each other, with the primary conflict centering around criminal/killer Anton Chigurh's (Javier Bardem) pursuit of Moss and his money. And may I say, Bardem's Chigurh is one evil, terrifying villain. He carries some sort of compressed air gun, sports a sweet shaggy bowl cut, doesn't really care if he's hurt, and according to one character, kills "with principle." Evil nature is certainly a big theme here among many interesting ones. No Country For Old Men works on every level, and should really be seen by everyone.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Major League Baseball Season Preview

For a while now, I've been working on a season preview for each of baseball's 30 teams. Since this has left Illogical Compulsion in an update-less spiral, I've decided to post portions of this preview each day so that my legions of fans will have something to read. (My eyes are shifting back and forth as if to signify that I've said something preposterous.) Plus, this way I can circumvent unnecessary rumors that I've abandoned this forum as I have others in the past. Abandon I shall not! Today I'll share my preseason predictions. I intended to also add my first team preview, but blogspot won't let me copy and paste my Word document on here. Tips, anyone? Anyway, now you'll have something to hold me to if I ever start bullshitting in September about how I totally knew the Orioles were going to win 97 games. Here are my projected standings based on my unquestionable wisdom. Go ahead, try to question it. It won't answer. I've taken the liberty of italicizing the wild card winners for you. I know that's how you like it.


1. New York Yankees
2. Boston Red Sox
3. Tampa Bay Rays
4. Toronto Blue Jays
5. Baltimore Orioles

1. Chicago White Sox
2. Minnesota Twins
3. Kansas City Royals
4. Cleveland Indians
5. Detroit Tigers

1. Oakland Athletics
2. Los Angeles Angels
3. Texas Rangers
4. Seattle Mariners


1. New York Mets
2. Philadelphia Phillies
3. Atlanta Braves
4. Florida Marlins
5. Washington Terrible

1. Chicago Cubs
2. St. Louis Cardinals
3. Milwaukee Brewers
4. Cincinnati Reds
5. Houston Astros
6. Pittsburgh Pirates

1. Los Angeles Dodgers
2. Arizona Diamondbacks
3. San Francisco Giants
4. Colorado Rockies
5. San Diego Padres

Go ahead, readers! Comment away! I would very much enjoy to hear what others think. It's very possible someone might think I have a Missouri bias, but I have my reasons which I'll get into in each team's individual preview. Oh, and the Angels were the most fake 100 win team ever last year, and that was with a couple of months of Mark Teixeira. So the A's taking over shouldn't really surprise anyone. Who wants to see predicted individual award winners? I do! I do!


MVP: Mark Teixeira
He's long been a very good player, and this is the year he gets recognition for being something more, even if maybe he isn't. Teixeira will hit like he always does, and he'll play very good defense at first base. The difference is that he'll be playing in New York for what I think will be a playoff team, and he'll probably drive in more runs with Alex Rodriguez in front of him (well, here in several weeks). Hell, if he'd been an Angel for all of last year, MVP voters would've had a much tougher time casting their ballots in the name of lil' Dustin Pedroia (who did have a fantastic season).

Cy Young: Francisco Liriano
Fuck it. I took the longest making this pick, and I decided to go completely rogue and pick Liriano, who very well could flame out with more health problems before he gets a chance to be the dominant force he started to be two seasons back. I'm going to put my eggs in his basket (not a euphemism) and say he stays healthy, wins 18 games or so, and strikes out the earth. I very nearly took the easy way out and selected C.C. Sabathia. I also almost took Zack Greinke. Only time will tell whether this decision will be a good one.

Rookie of the Year: Matt Wieters
This may have been the easiest pick of the lot. Wieters is almost senselessly talented and advanced for his age. He has power, patience, and a great glove at baseball's most difficult position (catcher). Assuming Wieters is given a chance, he'll prove himself a star very quickly. And if I'm wrong? Hey, you couldn't really blame me in believing in a guy who hit .365/.460/.625 in Double A during his first year as a pro.


MVP: Albert Pujols
I mean, really, who did you think I was going to pick? Pujols is a perennial candidate, and he's the best hitter in the game without much room for dispute. He's also an outstanding defender at first, 29 years old, and apparently healthy. Albert could take home the award every season and no one could reasonably complain. Expect another season right in line with his stellar career rates from the best hitter of this era. If the Cardinals get a little better, that will only help his cause. And if Pujols gets any better, then God help the National League.

NL Cy Young: Rich Harden
Look at that disgusting strikeout rate from a year ago! Look at the disgusting numbers that have been the story of Harden's career! Well, they would be the story, but Harden gets hurt all the time. I'm going to gamble and say he stays intact for 2009, and that he'll fend off fine efforts from the usual suspects (Johan Santana, Tim Lincecum, Zach Duke) to take home the hardware.

NL Rookie of the Year: Cameron Maybin
This one is tough. Unlike the American League version of this award, there is certainly no go-to guy. I selected Maybin because, well, he projects to be very good one day. I don't see him having an earth shattering year in 2009, but there's no reason he can't go 15-15 and win an award for it as a result of besting the competition.

As for the managers of the year, who really gives a shit? I sure don't. Later, kids.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The Ides of March

I'm so full of shit. It isn't the ides of March at all. It's March 4th. No need to beware anything. I watched The Reader. Here's what I thought:

The Reader (2008)
Starring: Kate Winslet, Ralph Fiennes, David Kross
Directed By: Stephen Daldry
Rating: 6.5 (out of 10)

I'll confess to being fairly ignorant in regards to what The Reader was about prior to viewing it. All I really knew was that a very young boy does nasty, nasty things with a much older woman. Seriously. That's all I knew. Why? Because that's the sort of thing that people remember a movie by, so that's the way it was described to me (thanks, Andrew). While this is certainly true, there is a lot more to this movie in terms of plot.

The Reader functions by darting back and forth between various years in the past and 1995. After beginning in 1995 by seeing mudnane moments in the life of adult Michael Berg (Ralph Fiennes), we flash back to 1958, where Berg is 15 years old and played adeptly by David Kross. (It should be noted that David Kross has much more hair than David Cross does, and that he is significantly less funny. Anyway, I'm getting sidetracked.) On his way home from school, Berg is stricken with illness (scarlet fever, as it turns out) and is helped out by a woman in her thirties who stumbles upon him. The woman (Hanna Schmitz as played by Kate Winslet) helps nurse Michael back to health and he returns back home to his family.

Michael fondly remembers Hanna, though, and upon recovering his health three months later, he returns to thank her. His "thank you" turns into a torrid affair between the two, and Hanna becomes Michael's first lover despite being twice his age. Winslet wisely makes sure that we see Hanna as strange and a little bit harsh. She has a bit of a temper, maintains strict rules about most things, and often asks Michael to read to her from his school books if he wants to have sex with her again. The two grow to really care about each other, but one day Hanna disappears from Michael's life, perhaps out of guilt, or perhaps to spare Michael the inevitable end to what they were doing. He doesn't see her again until eight years later, when she is on trial for terrible crimes she committed earlier in life as a guard at Auschwitz.

From here on out, the movie focuses on Hanna's trial, her attempts to deal with what has happened, and Michael's attempts as a young man to sort things out for himself. It's obvious to us that Hanna has done some awful things, and that by comparison of her negligence at Auschwitz, her relations with Michael are a secondary offense. It can also be seen that Hanna has a lack of real world understanding and education that wasn't fully revealed to us at the outset. Looking back, though, Winslet's performance subtly hints at it. It makes sense for a woman like Hanna to be prone to giving in to impulses, and it makes sense that she has repressed her wrongdoings until she is brought face-to-face with them.

This is all difficult for Michael, as well. While it's easy to look at Michael and Hanna's relationship as dirty and wrong, Michael doesn't see it that way at all. He never did, and you can tell that he never will. In some way, he loved Hanna. She was the first female he ever felt anything for and who had ever felt anything for him. This makes it extremely hard for him to know how he's supposed to feel as he learns of her past. A scene near the film's conclusion between adult Michael and a holocaust survivor's daughter brings front and center Michael's conflicted feelings, even all these years later.

The Reader is certainly worth seeing, but it isn't as good as Oscar built it up to be. It's solid, well made, and well acted, but it doesn't represent anything earth shattering. What we have here is an intelligently crafted drama built around a peculiar relationship and set against a historical backdrop. I guess what I'm trying to say is, The Reader is good, but it doesn't by any means transcend good into great.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Breaking News!

This may not constitute me making another post mere minutes after making my last one, but it appears Jim Bowden has resigned as general manager of the Washington Nationals. Thank God! Now the franchise that formally called itself the Expos has a chance to at some point contend! Bowden has made a career of paying ridiculous amounts of money for players who really never deserved it. He's taken a double fist-pump shit all over the Washington franchise, and it's good to see our nation's capital get another chance as a result of his departure. If he finds employment with another Major League team, I'll be surprised. Things in baseball are gradually getting more progressive, and there just isn't a place for someone with Bowden's complete lack of savvy. More than likely, we'll see Bowden go the route of Steve Phillips and find work as an ESPN "baseball expert." Bowden, like Phillips, flopped miserably as a general manager and has no real qualifications suggesting he's an expert on anything regarding baseball.

Before I go, here's an awesome quote from Washington's newly departed GM: "I have become a distraction. Unless you are Manny Ramirez, there is no place for distraction in baseball."

Well, Jim, I think I know why things have worked out better for Manny. Manny Ramirez is good at baseball. You aren't.

A quick mathematical equation: Manny Ramirez>Jim Bowden.

Wait, here are some more:

Brian Vaughan>Jim Bowden
Desi Relaford>Jim Bowden
Fingernail clippings>Jim Bowden
Bat urea>Jim Bowden
Richard Gere< Jim Bowden


Journey To The Center Of The Truth

In light of my most recent post, Kimmy and I started thinking about a movie-related project we could embark upon for both our own pleasure and the pleasure of this site's reader(s). Okay, it was mainy for our own pleasure. But, still. Anyway, we have decided to take a look at the Oscar race for Best Picture during the course of our collective lifetime (we were both born in September of 1984). This means that we're going to watch, or in some cases re-watch, all five best picture contenders from each year and weigh in with which film should have taken home the prize. We'll of course include information on which movie actually won, which films perhaps should have been nominated but weren't, and how fluffy Billy Crystal's hair was for each year we analyze. The first year we'll tackle will be 2009 and then we will work backward from there.

You probably already know this, but here are the first five movies you'll see us give "the treatment" to:


Slumdog Millionaire
The Reader
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Since I'm here, and since I'm talking about movies, why not review one? I saw The Wrestler. Here's what I thought. Oh, wait! Before I start, I'll explain my rating system. After all, I've made a little revision to what I normally do. I used to simply steal Pitchfork's rating system (1-10 with every decimal in play), but I've decided to change course. Sort of. From now on, things will still be given a rating between one and ten, but there won't be any more crazy decimals, with the exception of half points. Basically what I'm trying to tell you is that the only possible ratings now are whole numbers (i.e. 5.0) and half numbers (i.e. 5.5). No crazy '5.7' shit.

Why the change? I feel like my ratings before were a little half-assed, like I was merely assigning a rating that felt right. I think this will help me to truly assess the value of what I'm reviewing. After I've written my review, I can reflect on the subject of my writing and ask myself, "does this deserve an 8.0 or an 8.5?" This just seems more practical than trying to decide between 8.0, 8.1, 8.2,8.3, 8.4, 8.5, or jumping a few points below or above either end of the spectrum. This puts pressure on me to really
decide if what I'm reviewing transcends a certain level into the next realm. I've rambled enough.

The Wrestler (2008)
Starring: Mickey Rourke, Marisa Tomei, Evan Rachel Wood
Director: Darren Aronofsky

Darren Aronofsky knows the human experience very well. His excellent Requiem for a Dream detailed the lives of drug addicts, showing us their day to day lives, their relationships, and their feelings. By the end of the movie, we find ourselves really understanding and caring for people we might be likely to look down our nose at in the real world. In a way, what Aronofsky accomplishes with The Wrestler is quite similar. Randy "The Ram" Robinson (Mickey Rourke) isn't someone we would likely befriend on normal terms. He's a professional wrestler
whose heyday is two decades expired. He sports nappy, bleached blonde hair, wears flannel jackets and sweat pants, and can frequently be seen at strip clubs. He's reliant on steroids and growth hormone to keep his career alive. He's been a terrible father to his daughter (Evan Rachel Wood) and he doesn't shy away from cocaine and strange women. In other words, if you saw him on the street, your first impression wouldn't be a postive one.

By the time The Wrestler's end credits roll, though, you will absolutely feel for Randy. Mickey Rourke does a fantastic job portraying a man who was once king of his domain and has since fallen from grace. The intricacies of his performance here are stunning. His facial expressions of heartbreak when he's disappointed, his headbanging when he hears an '80s hair metal song that reminds him of his peak in life, his smile during his last-ditch attempts to save his relationship with his daughter: these things all feel effortlessly real.

The Wrestler documents Randy 20 years after his brush with greatness. Where is he now? He wrestles on a much smaller
scale for much less money, works part-time in a grocery store, and spends his free time visiting Cassidy (Marisa Tomei), a stripper who he has gradually fallen in love with despite her obvious reluctance to fully embrace him. Randy's life is a shadow of what it once was, and Rourke makes sure you can always see that on Randy's face.

With too much of his money going toward various drugs and lapdances, Randy is unable to pay his rent and has to spend a night in his van. This prompts him to look for better paying wrestling gigs on the weekends and ask for more hours during the week at the grocery store. All of it leads to him taking a job in a hardcore wrestling match that has dire consequences and forces Randy to rethink his life.

The thing is, no matter how bad Randy's choices are, we're still rooting for him. We see him as a legitimately decent person, but one who almost always does the wrong thing. We know that his love for both Cassidy and his daughter are real, but we also completely understand that his daughter's revulsion toward him is deserved. It's truly a credit to this film, its makers, and its lead actor that we can feel so attached to this man.

It's really not hard to see how Mickey Rourke received an Oscar nod for his turn as Randy "The Ram" Robinson in The Wrestler. His work here is astoundingly real, and it hooked me in from the very first scene. The real tragedy is that a film of emotional heft, of this power, was ignored by the academy in favor of much inferior work. The Wrestler is easily among 2008's very best, and it isn't the type of thing you're likely to forget anytime soon.