Wednesday, March 7

On Sabbaticals

Fearless reader (the one I know of), the set schedule this blog kept to for at least several days was rendered moot in the wake of vacation and general laziness. Rather than become burned out writing about topics in which there’s only a vague interest, I will be taking a sabbatical. It won’t be long, but with March Madness on the horizon, and my brain not functioning at its highest capacity, it’s necessary. 

I promise to come back better and stronger since I’ve begun to feel as if the posts are rushed and not up to the quality I’ve set for myself. 

What You Should’ve Watched will return sometime during the week of the 19th, most likely Tuesday with a continuation of the Simpsons countdown. 

Thank you for your patience.

Thursday, March 1

Sports Stuff – Embracing The Beautiful Game

3-2 and 21-14, the immense differences in these two scores are not numerical, but cultural. Americans distrust soccer because it goes against that most American of traditions, minimum reward for maximum effort. Yet, they represent the same exact thing, three to two, it’s simply the ratio that’s been altered. 

Boring. It’s the tombstone epithet placed upon the graves most Americans dug for the sport the first times they laid eyes on it. To the uninitiated, it is ninety minutes of players kicking a ball back and forth, back and forth, until somebody scores a goal at some point. Or they don’t. Ties have earned scorn from the American public over the years, even going as far as to comparing them to a kiss from a female family member. From a society weaned on the glory of winning, failing to achieve victory is an awful fate. The draw feels empty. Nothing gained, nothing lost. A game ending with no winner might as well have taken place in the vacuum of space-time, forever going on until the death of the universe, the numbers themselves ‘0-0’, a crude representation of infinity.

Flopping deserves its own place in sports hell, an act worthy of the French who perfectly practice it, true surrender from the battle, cowardice instead of conquest. The soccer phenomenon of pretending to be hit in order to benefit from the referee’s whistle has reached the shores of America. 

At least when a footballer flops, it’s after physical contact. Chris Bosh looks like a sniper took him out from the upper deck in that clip. 

These are the reasons you hate soccer, it’s a low-scoring, boring affair usually ended in a tie, filled with timid cheaters who’d rather writhe in pain on the ground as they beg for a call then get their ass up and win the damn game. We want destinations, not journeys. Football (our version) rewards determination, defiance, disparity, eleven men marching in unison towards the same goal, a game invented by 1920s Catholics. Soccer rewards innovation, intuition, less tangible things, dreamers like Andrea Pirlo concocting new ways to place a ball at the tip of a teammate’s foot or Lionel Messi finding a gap the size of an atom between two defenders, and burying a ball in the back of a net or that perfect cross finding a head at the back post in the 90’ minute. Dreamers play soccer. Embrace the game, it’s beautiful. 

Tuesday, February 28

16 Greatest Episodes of The Simpsons - #5

#5 – You Only Move Twice

“You Only Move Twice” isn’t a testament to the inherent brilliance of The Simpsons. It is not the show’s magnum opus (as opposed to the #1 episode on this list). An episode focused on a goofy concept like “nice-guy corporate owner is really a James Bond villain” doesn’t need the jokes coaxed out of it. Scenes featuring a suave, British secret agent named Mister Bont, Scorpio threatening the U.N. that he’ll blow up the 59th Street Bridge (which he does), and the U.S. Government invading corporate headquarters arise from the implausibility of the episode’s premise. The jokes were easy, infusing the episode with a truly meaningful examination of the sacrifice required to be part of a family was the hard part.

The entire family packs up and leaves Springfield when Homer is offered a better job with Hank Scorpio’s corporation (I hate myself, but I can’t remember the name of the company), convincing the family of the benefits of their potential new home. Visions of that idyllic lifestyle soon turn nightmarish. Marge finds herself bored out of her mind, Lisa suffers from crippling allergies, and Bart is placed in a class for “special children”. Through it all, the family maintains, willing to suppress their unhappiness for the sake of their father and husband. Yet, Homer notices the depression his family has sunk into, and realizing their happiness is more important than his own, decides to move back to Springfield. Love can be a funny thing, simultaneously fulfilling and empty, a constant back-and-forth where you must behave unselfishly. Human beings are selfish creatures, it goes against every instinct to say “I don’t want to do this, but I will, because you want to.” In that act of love, Homer Simpsons teaches a generation of children what it means to truly love someone else without resorting to a long-winded, overly sensitive speech (Shit!). It’s a touching moment in an otherwise ridiculous episode.

But, let’s be honest with each other. You aren’t here for the critical breakdown of Simpsons episodes. You’re here for clips, sweet, succulent clips. 

(The shame is that these clips don't come close to matching Scorpio's brilliance.)

Monday, February 27

On Last Night's Oscars

In honor of The Artist winning Best Picture last night, the following post will not contain any words...

(Frantic gesturing)

(An expression of surprise)

Not working for you? That’s shocking because The Artist, a silent film in the fucking 21st Century, took home Best Picture (full disclosure: I haven’t seen The Artist). The theme of the night centered on the principle of nostalgia, that the old days were better than the present. Billy Crystal was the host, current stars talked about the movies they loved way back when, and a film about making movies the way they used to be made won the top prize. An air of desperation permeated the entire event, as if Hollywood was begging viewers to remember a time when studios turned out thought-provoking pieces featuring celebrated performers in addition to manipulative bullshit that made money instead of just the latter.

This is not a new trend. Last year, the Academy had to choose between an excellent film about the man who created a generation-defining product and a stuttering English King from World War 2. They, of course, decided The King’s Speech was better (I really, really enjoyed The King’s Speech), but the salient point of the vote is that the aesthetics of a movie is paramount to its impact. Criteria are subjective, the Academy decides what constitutes a ‘good film’ and judges prospective winners based on those criterion. As an aside, the average age of the Academy members is sixty or so. I’m guessing most of the members didn’t know Facebook existed, let alone what it was or what it means to society (scratch the guessing part from that previous sentence).

Films take various shapes, from hard-hitting dramas about sensitive subjects to Scary Movie and any variation thereof. Certain movies appeal to certain people. If you enter the Oscars expecting period pieces, films with broad, obvious messages (Crash), and self-absorbed stories about making movies to do well, you won’t be disappointed. On occasion, the Academy wises up. Victories by The Hurt Locker in 2009, A Beautiful Mind in 2001, and Rocky in 1976 are proof. The fact is the Academy Awards because it’s recognition of a filmmaker, actor, etc. reaching the pinnacle of their craft. When I finally get around to watching The Artist, I’ll probably enjoy it. A brief period of contentment isn’t enough to merit a film as a life-changing experience. I saw The Hurt Locker for the first time in my living room on a regular-sized television. For the next two hours, bombs exploded underneath the carpet, explosions tore through the cheap glass window panes, the screams of Iraqi children echoed through the house. When it ended, nothing needed to be said. It was an experience, a testament to the power of a film when a viewer can’t escape the intense gravitational pull of a movie.

That’s what I need from a Best Picture. The Academy needs something different. And that’s okay.

(Billy Crystal, on the other hand, needs to go away. His shtick was tired a decade ago. Chris Rock had two lines and got more laughs than Crystal did all night. Seriously, a Sammy Davis Junior impersonation? A Mister Ed reference? This isn’t the God damn 1980s anymore Billy. I beg the Academy to consider a modern, stand-up comedian who has starred in movies to host next year’s ceremony. Hell, I’d take Adam Sandler over Billy Crystal, and after the stink bombs Sandler has put up the past five years or so, that’s saying something.)

Wednesday, February 22

Heroes Season 2, Episode 1 – Arrivals

These "episodes" will be done in the style of a Wikipedia entry, poorly written with a synopsis of only the episodes's major events. 1,000 words or less people.

Hiro Nakamura awakens in feudal Japan, surrounded by samurai with their swords drawn. A masked warrior approaches Hiro and introduces himself as the legendary Takezo Kensei. Takezo studies Hiro before calling off the rest of his group. Takezo and Hiro ride on horseback through the countryside to Kensei’s village. Kensei mentions to Hiro, “I’m sure you’ve had quite the journey.”

Claire Bennet takes notes while in a Math class. Suddenly, Sylar casually strolls through the door and utters, “Hello, Claire it’s been a while.” Claire screams, startling the rest of her class. It’s clear she was dreaming. Claire goes to the bathroom and washes her face. She sees Sylar in the mirror and turns around to find nothing. 

Matt Parkman struggles to walk with the aid of crutches, still recovering from the gunshot wound suffered in the battle with Sylar. Observing him are Mohinder and Molly, the little girl urging Matt not to give up and that she’ll need him to protect her from “the bad man”. Mohinder comments that he knows somebody who might be able to help. Noah Bennet with The Haitian in tow are shown watching Parkman through binoculars. Bennet comments The Company may need The Haitian’s services as Parkman is too dangerous to be left to his own devices. Mohinder leaves and Parkman crawls over to Molly. He asks her to find Peter Petrelli. Molly replies that she can’t.

Angela Petrelli meets with an unidentified man at The Company’s headquarters. She informs him that her sons are both still missing after the incident at the plaza. The man asks if Bennet is keeping tabs on Parkman. Angela asks what’s so important about Matt Parkman. The man laughs. We see Angela grab a pencil off her desk and point it directly at her eye. She begs the man to stop. Just as the pencil is about the dig into her eyeball, Angela drops it. The man coldly says, “Now you know.” Angela leaves the office and begins to cry outside wishing for “it all to be over.” 

We see Hiro and Takezo Kensei sipping tea in Kensei’s home. Hiro gets up the courage and tells Kensei that he inspired Hiro to do great things and that Kensei is Hiro’s...hero. Takezo seems shocked his legend reached all the way to Hiro’s home and that things must turn out all right in the future. Hiro regales Kensei with exactly what happened in Season 1 and what the world is like in the 21st century. Kenzei removes his mask, revealing a highly scarred visage. Hiro, shocked by his idol’s appearance, asks what happened. Kenzei draws his sword and points it at Hiro’s throat. He orders Hiro to take him to the 21st century. Hiro grabs Kenzei by the arm and teleports away. 

Claire walks home from school, clearly addled by the day’s events. As she’s about to enter her front door, a bullet passes through her head. Two men in black masks rush out of a nearby van, grab her body, and throw it inside. They speed off as Noah opens the door to find nothing.
Angela Petrelli walks into a dimly lit bar. Only one person is there, a bearded man whose face the audience can’t see. He takes a sip of beer and then a shot. Angela says, “Hello son.”

Mohinder introduces Matt and Molly to his friend, Sheamus O’Reilly, a renowned physical therapist. Matt is pessimistic about Sheamus’ ability, but Molly seems overjoyed. All the sudden, Molly goes catatonic and seizes up. The three huddle around until she eventually comes to. She whispers, “He’s here.”

Tuesday, February 21

16 Best Episodes of The Simpsons - #6

#6 – Homer’s Enemy

Certain Simpsons episodes have taken on a life of their own. “Homer’s Enemy”, better known as the episode with Frank Grimes, is one of these. Lines from this episode have made their way into my everyday vocabulary (“People make mistakes. That’s why they have erasers on pencils.”) There’s one piece of dialogue exemplifying exactly what this episode is about. Grimes visits Homer’s home and is taken aback by the size of Homer’s house, the lobsters in the oven, etc. Grimes asks him, “How can you afford all this?” Homer responds, “Don’t ask me how the economy works.” 
(it's this same clip over and over for 10 minutes)

No, the underlying text of this episode isn’t about the upper class versus the lower class since both men can’t be considered wealthy by any stretch of the imagination. It’s about fate, or to be more precise, an existence where some are kissed by Lady Luck and some are slapped. Despite his oafish ineptitude, Homer always seems to land of his feet. Frank Grimes suffers through misfortune after misfortune (introduced at the very beginning of the episode through a news segment entitled ‘Kent’s People’), but catches a break when he’s hired by Mister Burns to be his new Executive Vice President. Burns, of course, quickly forgets about Grimes, shuffling him off to work side-by-side with Homer. 

It’s a cruel destiny for Grimes as the smart, dedicated man is driven to insanity (and death) by the dimwitted Homer. He becomes obsessed with proving Homer’s idiocy to his friends and co-workers. But, why? Ask any person who has a co-worker or friend or family member who is a total screw-up, yet somehow manages to receive every stroke of luck. It’s maddening to feel as if control of your life has been ripped from your grasp because it seems no matter how hard you work, how good you are at what you do, someone else gets the girl, the job, the whatever, despite not deserving it. 

Homer is a good-natured buffoon, his qualities make him endearing, not the subject of scorn, because those surrounding him are similar people. Frank Grimes hates Homer Simpson because Homer has the life Frank wants, but never had to struggle to achieve those goals. To Frank, it’s a joke, God ridiculing Grimey (as Homer affectionately called him) from afar. Frank’s suicide at the end is the punchline. Nas (yes, the rapper) had a hit song entitled “Life’s A Bitch”; the chorus went like this...

Life’s a bitch and then you die.
That’s why we get high, cause you never know when you gonna go.

Somewhere in cartoon heaven, Frank Grimes is nodding his head along as the song plays over and over again.

(Yes, I used Nas in a blog post in about The Simpsons. Only I can do that. Also, here are some more clips.)