Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Year in Review: Zach's Top Ten Films of 2014

            2014 began with Jonah Hill being nominated for an Oscar in a Martin Scorsese film and ended with Steve Carell likely being nominated for an Oscar wearing Nicole Kidman’s nose from The Hours, while Seth Rogan and James Franco have become ambassadors to liberty, free speech, and democracy around the world.  Meanwhile, Emma Stone is also an Oscar shoo-in and Don Draper still has unresolved feelings for Lindsay Weir.  The lesson?  Trust Judd Apatow.  Even when he’s not tapping into the great acting talent of the 21st century, he’s producing hit TV shows and routinely becoming one of the most entertaining late night TV guests.  Even his teenage daughter is big.  Let’s face it: Judd Apatow owns Hollywood and most of the non-North Korean planet.  Right now, he is to America what Heisenberg was to the Czech Republic in Season 5 of Breaking Bad.  Let’s just be grateful he was prescient enough to have never cast Bill Cosby in any of his films.  In the words of Walter Cronkite, once you’ve lost Apatow, you’ve lost the American people. 
            Sadly, Judd Apatow did not direct any films in 2014 (although the jury’s out on whether he clandestinely went to France and directed Stranger by the Like), meaning that this year’s top ten list may look a little incomplete.  Fortunately, 2014 boasted some high quality, mature, original films although you would never guess it from looking at the highest-grossing films of the year (in case you’re counting, 12 of the top 16 movies were either sequels or remakes, while three of the other four were meant for children and family audiences).  That doesn’t mean that the future for movies isn’t bleak, as Mark Harris expertly articulated a few weeks ago.  Is it possible that when Newton Minow called television a “vast wasteland” five decades ago, he actually instead meant motion pictures?  And once again, this is where you can insert Apatow into this tragic milieu: Although “mature” may be a bit of a stretch, he undoubtedly makes high quality, original films that aren’t franchises or sequels (sort-of) or meant for kids.  In spite of his seeming ubiquity across multiple entertainment platforms, somehow 2014 still needed Apatow’s personal authorial stamp more than any previous year.
            Anyway, on to the business at hand: The ten best movies of the year.  In a year where going to movie theaters has become so irrelevant that Snowpiercer grossed less money at the American box office than Legend of Lemurs: Madagascar (IMAX) and something called Meet the Mormons, I’m proud to say that nine of these ten films were first seen at a theater.  Yes, the tickets probably cost too much and the people who talk uncannily always found a way to swarm around my seat, but I can’t deny that the experience of going to the movies is still worth it.  That opinion may change in the next few years, but for now I can reflect on the films that give me hope for the future.

Total 2014 films seen: 62
“Thumbs up” percentage: 59.67 percent
Movies I haven’t seen that could potentially make this list: A Most Violent Year, Selma, Inherent Vice, In Bloom, Mommy, Two Days One Night.
Movies I’m proud to say I didn’t see: Transformers 4, Dumb and Dumber To, Into the Woods, all of the freaking Bible movies.
Overrated: The Grand Budapest Hotel, Interstellar, Chef, Dear White People, Godzilla, Gone Girl, PrideBirdman (not bad, just overrated), Under the Skin (the same).
Underrated: Fading Gigolo, If I Stay, Life of Crime, The Unknown Known.  Truthfully, not a lot of underrated movies in 2014.  Can I include Boyhood with only “99% Fresh” on Rotten Tomatoes?
Best Actor: Jake Gyllenhaal, Nightcrawler
Best Actress: Agata Trzebuchowska, Ida
Best Supporting Actor: Ethan Hawke, Boyhood
Best Supporting Actress: Patricia Arquette, Boyhood
Worst Movies of the Year: This is Where I Leave You, Godzilla, The Giver.

Honorable mention: Nymphomaniac Volumes 1 and 2 (Lars von Trier); The Skeleton Twins (Craig Johnson); Belle (Amma Asante); Love is Strange (Ida Sachs); Ida (Paweł Pawlikowski).

10. Whiplash (Damien Chazelle)

This was Full Metal Jacket meets a masochistic version of Mr. Holland’s Opus (with a tiny bit of Black Swan thrown in), and although hopefully few of us have ever encountered a teacher or boss as genuinely sadistic as J.K. Simmons’ Mr. Fletcher, director Chazelle does an incredible job of invoking the fear of public shaming that everyone feels on a daily basis.  Andrew, the talented young drummer played by Miles Teller, feels that fear in the first parts of the film when he’s lambasted by Mr. Fletcher, but soon that fear transitions into the same anger, aggression, and brutality that Fletcher displays in front of his music students.  In a roundabout way, Whiplash is an oddly moral film that asks serious questions about what degrees of sacrifice and personal harm are necessary in order to shape a prodigy.  These aren’t just questions of whether the end justifies the means, but to what degrees professional society permits abhorrent behavior at the expense of collectively turning the other cheek. I especially admired the last scene of the film, which depicts a climatic showdown between the forces of good or evil that isn’t resolved through words or fists, but through music.  Because in the end, that’s all Whiplash is really about, right?

9. A Most Wanted Man (Anton Corbijn)

Like The Lives of Others, this is a film that ostensibly dealt with espionage and police surveillance, but was really about how bureaucracies are not only barriers to human compassion, but forge alienation within even its own top members.  This was also a haunting and brilliant final performance by Philip Seymour Hoffman, playing a German intelligence agent tracking a potentially dangerous terrorist suspect who has recently emigrated from Russia.  Hoffman’s foil is not the terrorist, but two women – one an immigration lawyer (Rachel McAdams) who has come to the aid of the suspect, and the other an American diplomatic attache (Robin Wright) skeptical of Hoffman’s rogue and detached demeanor.  Based on a John le Carré novel, the film deals with one of le Carré’s favorite themes, which is how politics get in the way of good old fashioned spy games.  Unfortunately, this fact is truly detrimental for a character like Hoffman’s – a (perhaps ironically) gruff, chain-smoking, heavy-drinking man whose job demands that he remain deliberately aloof from others, himself, and most tragically, even us viewers. RIP PSH.

8. Force Majeure (Ruben Östlund)

2014’s award for “most divisive film between men and women” shouldn’t go to David Fincher’s overrated Gone Girl (“hysterical” and “outrageous” are adjectives that men and women can agree on), but to this Swedish gem.  It’s the type of film Hollywood studios are probably too afraid to make because there’s not a lot of sex or violence – just dialogue that poses uncomfortably provocative questions about the lengths to which we will go (or not go) to protect those that we love.  It’s also a film about the funny ways that life makes us incapable of forgetting seemingly insignificant things, and as a result, brandishing them to an unforeseen level of importance in our every waking moment.  Is it our job to rehabilitate someone whose gut instinct is to do the wrong thing in a moment of desperation?  Or is the wrong thing to aggrandize that person to the point of extreme guilt and loss of self-worth?  I’ve been intentionally vague about the major plot points of Force Majeure because frankly the plot isn’t the thing that has stuck with me – it’s the questions raised by the plot, and the inevitable personal questioning (“What would I do?”) that make this film unforgettable.

7. Fury (David Ayer)

The previews made it look like another dumb war film not too distant from the likes of Monuments Men, but the truth is David Ayer (whose End of Watch appeared on my 2012 list) has become an intriguing filmmaker who deals with groups of men facing dangerous situations.  This time, it’s the 2nd Armored Division of an Army squadron stationed in western Germany during the final months of World War II, where Staff Sargent Don “Wardaddy” Collier (Brad Pitt) commands a five-man unit aboard a M4 Sherman tank.  No, the movie isn’t too radically different from the 1940s war pictures of John Wayne, but some of those films like Sands of Iwo Jima actually hold up pretty well today, and Fury executes the formula of the classical war picture to perfection.  In the post-modern world of the 21st century, it’s become increasingly difficult to make a movie like this – one that isn’t overwhelmed by nostalgia or simplistic and conservative interpretations of American military interventionism, or where the uncouth demeanor of army units is conveniently pushed under the rug.  Fury is successful because like End of Watch, Ayer is most concerned with complex characters and relationships, and the reasons behind why these men are drawn to the heat of battle.  The standout sequence of the film isn’t the climatic shootout, but an extended scene in the middle of the film when Pitt and Logan Lerman find an abandoned apartment and share a rare moment of peace and relaxation.  Fury is a “war film” inasmuch as that it is set during a war, but it’s much more accurate to bestow it with the more revered title of “character study.”

6. Nightcrawler (Dan Gilroy)

Like Fury, this was a film I didn’t have a lot of high hopes for going into it, but in the end was rather shocked by how good it really was.  There may not have been a better performance in a 2014 film than Jake Gyllenhaal as Norman Bates Lou Bloom, a loser who starts the movie unemployed but finds a passion for shooting videos at crime scenes and selling the footage to local news.  The movie is an entertaining mix of Taxi Driver and Breaking Bad, showing the ways that an anti-social sociopath is able to find a profitable niche, and quickly move up the ranks through coercion, deception, and extremely questionable professional ethics.  It wouldn’t be inaccurate to call Nightcrawler a portrait of modern America where television audiences are addicted to sensationalistic crime from the vantage point of their living rooms (as a TV personality says in the film, “think of our news cast as screaming woman running down the street with her throat cut.”)  But that message alone would make the film passe; Gilroy seems to be more interested in how getting ahead in America has less to do with genuine hard work than with the ability to manipulate on individual and mass levels.  Nightcrawler may bite off more than it can chew, but with a film this enjoyable and unpredictable, who cares?

5. Life Itself (Steve James)

Ever since his death in April 2013, I’ve asked myself the question, “What would Roger Ebert have thought of this film?” (Hold that thought for a second).  So what would Roger have thought about the documentary made about his own life and influence?  OK, OK, I’m sure he’d recuse himself from officially reviewing it, but not without first admiring James’ skill for balancing Ebert’s passion toward film with his complex relationships with friends, family, and certain professional TV colleagues.  There was no way I wasn’t going to love this film, but I was surprised at how little of Life Itself actually dealt with movies (this is also true of Ebert’s autobiography from which much of this film is drawn).  Who cares whether Roger really liked Robert Altman and Mike Leigh but didn’t like David Lynch and Adam Sandler?  Those who are interested can read his archived reviews.  What doesn’t show up in those reviews is a man whose alcoholism nearly led him to a personal and professional collapse; whose personality led to unhealthy competitiveness; and most importantly, how his marriage and his battle with cancer at the end of the life transformed him into a better man.  Sure, he was giving out a ridiculous amount of four star movies toward the end, but that’s because Roger Ebert loved movies and loved life.  If the movies really are a machine that generates empathy, as he beautifully states in the film, there could be no greater empathetic portrait of Roger than this exceptional documentary.

4. The One I Love (Charlie McDowell)

So remember that question I alluded to above, about which 2014 movies Roger Ebert would have liked?  I would make the argument that he would have named The One I Love his #1 film of 2014.  Roger loved movies like this, and it’s easy to see why: Movies that challenge conventional definitions of story and character, and movies that aren’t afraid to be completely daring and experimental even if the result might appear gimmicky at first (let’s remember that Roger’s #1 film of the last decade was Synecdoche, New York).  Earlier on this list, Force Majeure was a film I didn’t want to spoil too much of, and it is the same thing here; all I can say is that The One I Love stars Mark Duplass and Elizabeth Moss as a couple experiencing great difficulties in their marriage, and are recommended by their counselor (Ted Danson) to take a mini-vacation for a weekend to a remote cabin in the country.  That’s all folks, I’m sorry.  Once you see this film, you’ll understand why going into this movie with any partial notion of its story thwarts the total experience that it gives its viewers.  It is funny, sad, unpredictable, moving, frightening, and above all else, completely and utterly original.  I’ll also say that it’s a lot like Force Majeure in the way that it causes you to rethink meaningful personal relationships, and whether putting up with someone’s flaws and blemishes is ever really worth it in the end.  This is also the kind of movie that most American audiences probably won’t like (P.S. That’s probably a good thing). And you probably won't stop thinking about it.

3. Blue Ruin (Jeremy Saulnier)

Inviting comparisons to the Coen Brothers, Brian De Palma, and Abel Ferrara, Blue Ruin began as a Kickstarter campaign, was shot for under $500,000, and grossed under $1 million theatrically.  And as anyone who has seen the movie can attest to, the visuals are on par with any multi-million dollar behemoth manufactured from the Hollywood studio factory output.  Of course, Blue Ruin is more than simply impressive visuals and special effects; the film tells the harrowing story of a vagrant named Dwight (Macon Blair) who is forced to carry out an act of vengeance upon hearing that a murderer has been released from prison.  For much of Blue Ruin, we remain in the dark about Dwight’s real motives, but the movie is so suspenseful, taut, and engaging that the backstory almost takes on secondary importance.  When light is finally shed upon the facts leading up to the film’s startling climax, Blue Ruin reveals itself to be a story that deeply questions the motives behind vigilante justice, and the ripple effects it causes.  There are also moments of very dark humor too, and the movie’s beguiling final line is the dialogue equivalent to the spinning top at the end of Inception.  Jeremy Saulnier and Macon Blair are serious talents on the rise, and movies like Blue Ruin serve as reminders that American independent cinema is not totally dead yet.

2. Citizenfour (Laura Poitras)

The most important movie of 2014, if for no other reason than that it captures history in the making, as it profiles the week leading up to Edward Snowden’s infamous interview and outing as the NSA whistleblower in June 2013.  If Islamic terrorism was the defining issue of the 2000s, than cyber-security and cyber-terrorism are making a strong case as the defining issue of the 2010s, and Poitras’s documentary explores the ways in which it is misunderstood and misrepresented by both governments and mass media.  Although Poitras believes that Snowden’s actions were justified, she is not an apologist and Citizenfour does not necessarily absolve Snowden but rather points to the problematic circumstances that led to Snowden’s release of classified NSA documents.  Like Michael Moore and Barbara Kopple, Poitras is successful at making audiences rethink their unquestioned loyalty to a country that is so hypocritical and corrupt in its policies at the highest levels of governance.  It may go down as “the Edward Snowden documentary,” but the truth is, in wake of The Interview fiasco and looming threats of compromising online security by rogue hackers, Citizenfour is the most unexpectedly relevant and important film of 2014.  It captures not only history in the making, but suggests what kind of future we will see if transparency and public access are discarded for the sake of upholding “national security.”  Snowden and others rightly suggest that what we need security from most is our own government.  Quick, someone call Seth Rogan and James Franco!

1. Boyhood (Richard Linklater)

I don’t want to say what everyone else has already said, so let’s look at what has been overlooked.  First of all, this is an incredibly well-written motion picture, which gets forgotten because much of the dialogue was written on nights prior to shooting, which for some unknown reason makes it less admirable from a critical perspective.  It’s not the type of movie that readily contains inspirational speeches, but Ethan Hawke explaining the Beatles Black Album, Brad Hawkins’ description of his military service in Afghanistan, and Patricia Arquette’s speech at the very end of the movie are three examples of extraordinary dialogue – dialogue unmatched by any other 2014 film. Then there’s Ellar Coltrane, whose performance may be less flashy than Hawke’s and Arquette’s, but is no less astonishing.  Watching this movie, especially in the second half, I couldn’t help but thinking: “There is no way this is acting.  This is the way this kid actually is.”  I love how Coltrane’s character, Mason, is unconventional and doesn’t conform to our normal expectations of what a 21st Century American teenager “should” be.  He has piercings, likes photography, and doesn’t play for the football team.  He drinks and smokes, but is in no way a bad kid.  Boyhood doesn’t show him going to prom or getting his first kiss or getting expelled.  It also doesn’t show weddings or funerals or those other rudimentary markers of significant events in our life.  It shows a father taking his kids to a baseball game, and a mother attending a college class to prepare for a new career.  It shows a son riding a bike and a daughter singing Britney Spears.  It shows a high school graduation party.  The events are of such little significance, and yet we glean so much from observing them. 

Boyhood reminded me of two lines of beautiful dialogue from other movies.  The first is spoken by Wallace Shawn at the end of My Dinner With Andre: “I treated myself to a taxi.  I rode hom through the city streets.  There wasn’t a street, there wasn’t a building, that wasn’t connected to some memory in my mind.  There, I was buying a suit with my father.  There, I was having an ice cream soda after school.”  Boyhood reminds you that it’s the little things we remember so much more than the Important Life Events.  Is it weird that riding my bike to the local lake when I was 10 years old remains a much more vivid memory than my grandfather dying?  Boyhood doesn’t think so.  The second line comes from a much more unlikely source – You’ve Got Mail: "The odd thing about this form of communication is that you're more likely to talk about nothing than something, but I just want to say that all this nothing has meant more to me than so many somethings."  That is the way I feel about Boyhood.  The movie is so profound precisely because it is so mundane.  It does not deviate from that strategy for a moment because it has tremendous self-assurance in its story and characters.  When the movie is over, the cumulative effect is overwhelming.

If movies are indeed machines that generate empathy, like Ebert said, then Boyhood is perhaps the closest experience I have ever had into being transported into the life of another person.  It is almost insulting to think the breadth of that experience can be reduced to a handful of words of a film review, or for that matter a handful of minutes captured by a camera.  All I can really describe is the way I felt watching it, which was profoundly and deeply moved. Not moved to the point of tears, because that is not the intention of Boyhood.  It restrains from manipulating viewer emotions too dramatically.  We feel for Mason, Samantha, and their parents because we feel for the important people in our own lives.  And by the end of this film, they have become precisely those people.  Linklater has said that Boyhood is about the ambiguous time when "growing up" turns into "growing older."  Although you may not see it, every scene in Boyhood is a small component of that larger paradigm shift -- that shift which is so notoriously difficult to pin down in real life, but so much more translatable in great literature and art.  Why is that?  Charles Bukowski said the difference between art and real life is that art is more bearable.  Boyhood blurs those lines with extreme precision and uncanny nuance.

Thoughts?  Disagreements?  Omissions?  Why are you still reading this if you haven't seen Boyhood yet?  Let me know below.

SNL 40.6 Review - Woody Harrelson, Kendrick Lamar

Original Airdate - 11/15/14

How is it possible that this is only Woody Harrelson's second time hosting Saturday Night Live?!?  One of the most talented and diverse actors of the last 25 years, unfortunately known more for his drug use over the years than his immense talent, was finally asked back for the first time since 1989.  This could potentially be due to the amazing year Woody had, with True Detective and the third of four Hunger Games movies coming out this year.  By the end of the episode, I was hoping we wouldn't have to wait another 25 years to see him back again.

Cold Opening

In what was one of the better Cold Openings in awhile, we see what it would look like if President Obama and Senator McConnell had a drink (or five) together at the White House.  Although this sketch once again fell into the Cold Open trend of being a little too topical to really be a memorable highlight of the episode, it was still better than most of what the crew has put together the last few episodes for the start of the show.


In one of the weirder monologues in recent memory, Woody Harrelson came out for his monologue in what appeared to be an obvious drunken stupor.Now if this was just an act or if this is Woody being Woody, I do not know.  Either way, it was awkwardly entertaining at first when he pulled out his guitar to sing his version of Taylor Swift's "1989" since that was the last time he hosted.  After not too long, he was joined by Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth (the only one of the Hunger Games three not to host yet) to try and save him from embarrassing himself too much.  Then when Jennifer Lawrence came on stage, things got really bizarre.  Yes, it was funny when Woody referred to her as Taylor Swift.  However, it was more awkward than comical to watch just how much Jennifer Lawrence was thrown off by Woody getting down on one knee and biting her thigh.  Needless to say, after the Cold Open and Monologue, the jury was definitely still out on what kind of episode this would be.

Weekend Update

With as strong as the Weekend Update co-anchors have been, it takes some strong segments to steal their thunder.  It starts with yet another appearance from Leslie Jones.  The stand-up-esque routines she has been delivering from the Update desk really seem to be her forte as the sketches she has been featured in up to this point have been mediocre.  She shines when she gets to just be her own ridiculous self.  Her banter with Colin Jost also is the closest thing to the report Seth Myers had built up with the many characters that came across the desk while he was host.  The second featured guest to the desk was an inevitable one.  With Woody Harrelson hosting, and the huge success of his HBO show True Detective, the topic had to be addressed.  The only question was if Matthew McConaughey would show up himself, or would bring out another impression.  Jim Carrey hilariously mimicked McConaughey earlier this season, but they also had Taran Killam's impression that debuted last season after the Oscars.  Unfortunately, Matthew did not show up, however we had some hilarious banter with Woody and Taran's McConaughey at the Update desk.  He has his cadence and random ramblings down perfectly.  Although having McConaughey show up himself for this segment would have been better, this was still pretty good.  I guess you are only allowed to bring on cameos from one project at a time on SNL.

Best Sketch

Although Woody got off to an awkward start, the good thing was once he didn't have to be himself anymore, he was able to shine like we have all become accustomed to.  This sketch is a great example of that.  This sketch featured the new dating game "Match'd."  As the title suggests, this is the hip dating show where the horny guys just talk about how they are going to get into the hot girl's pants.  This sounds pretty standard until the twist is revealed that the host, played by Woody, is the girl's father.  All of a sudden, these dirty boasts the boys had been making to turn the girl on turn into respectful complements meant more for the father than the girl.  This sketch is acted perfectly all around.

Worst Sketch

We get it!  You like to play guitar and sing!  Unless the guest host is a musician, there is no reason for two appearances by a guitar and two singing sketches.  It's just too much.  They used it once in the Monologue, but it had to come back for this sketch about the world's worst campfire song.  Although the sketch wasn't terrible, it did feel like wasted time considering the strength of the rest of the episode.

Dark Horse Sketch

This was actually my favorite sketch of the night.  The premise was simple: a group of guys sit around the car reminiscing about the good ol' days of NYC, when there was a hot dog stand on every corner, there wasn't a new frozen yogurt shop popping up everyday, and it was much easier to get crack.  Wait ... what?!?  Throughout the episode, Woody loves to make light of the fact that he spent most of the 90's intoxicated by something.  Here, as everyone remembers things normal people would remember about the past, Woody reminisces about what he would remember: the drugs.  As the sketch continues, it just keeps getting more and more ridiculous as Woody honestly feels his comments are contributing to a completely normal conversation.  Instead, we see just how funny our host can be.

This episode fit its host perfectly.  It was random, obviously under the influence of something, all over the place, yet it worked in almost every way.  Like I said at the beginning, I find it strange that this is only the second time Woody Harrelson has hosted since this show is built for a performer with the range and slight derangement like Woody.  I hope he gets asked back soon, like in the next 25 months instead of 25 years.


View the full episode here:

Monday, December 29, 2014

2014 NFL Recap: Ten Pre-Season Predictions Nobody Made

Another NFL regular season is in the books, and we await another playoff run that looks fairly familiar.  The NFC is led by the Aaron Rodgers's Packers and the defending champion Seahawks.  The AFC is led by Tom Brady and Peyton Manning yet again, which appears destined for yet another AFC Championship showdown in Foxboro.  However, just like every season there were some great surprises throughout the season that no one could see coming.  So here are the ten pre-season predictions that no one made that actually ended up coming true.
10.  Tony Romo would get better in December instead of his usual collapse, leading one of the hottest teams into the playoffs.  Tony Romo has been made famous (or rather infamous) by the media for his epic collapses in the month of December, ruining any chances the Cowboys have at the playoffs every year.  This season the Cowboys started much stronger than usual, highlighted by earning the only win by a road team in Seattle (which happened to be where his late season woes started with a fumbled field goal snap).  However, everyone was waiting for Romo to go through his typical slump in December that could potentially cause the Cowboys their playoff spot again, and potentially cost Jason Garrett his job.  This year was different.  Romo got stronger, and led the team into the playoffs as division champ and many people's favorite pick to take the whole NFC.  Now the Romo collapse still might come in the playoffs, but he has avoided it so far.
9.  A Nebraska alum playing for the Detroit Lions would be suspended for stomping on an opposing player, and his name wouldn't be Ndomukong Suh.  The All Pro defensive tackle has been known as one of the NFL's bad boys ever since he entered the league out of Nebraska.  He has even been suspended in the past for stomping on an opposing player during a game.  So if a Nebraska alum playing for the Lions was going to get suspended for this same act, it would make sense that it would once again be a man named Suh, right?  Enter Dominic Raiola.  Raiola has been the starting center for the Lions for the last decade, and it would be this former Cornhusker that would be penalized for stupidity.  Now this doesn't mean Suh didn't try in the last game against the Packers...
8.  The Buffalo Bills would finish 9-7 led by Kyle Orton.  Last year, EJ Manuel was selected in the first round to be the quarterback of the future for the Buffalo Bills.  If they were going to make any strides in his sophomore year, Manuel was going to be the one leading the charge, right?  Enter Kyle Orton.  Orton was brought in to be a veteran mentor for Manuel, but after another slow start from their future of the franchise, coach Doug Marrone chose to switch gears to Orton.  This may have just been planned to be a short term solution to try and stabilize the offense, but then the team went on a run Buffalo hasn't seen in a decade.  With their two star running backs hurt, Orton led the Bills to their first winning season since 2004.  Although they fell short of the playoffs, the team made great strides forward, and it was Orton, not Manuel, that made it happen.
7.  The Houston Texans and Arizona Cardinals would each play 4 quarterbacks throughout the season and both finish over .500.  Usually instability at the quarterback position leads to struggles as a team.  However, two teams this year defied those odds.  The Texans started the year with the Amish Rifle, Ryan Fitzpatrick.  He got off to a strong start, but was eventually benched for recently acquired Ryan Mallett.  Then Mallett got hurt, and Fitzpatrick came back in.  Then Fitzpatrick got hurt, and rookie Tom Savage was forced into action.  Not wanting to trust their season to a 4th round rookie developmental project, they signed Case Keenum, who unsuccessfully started games for them last year, off the Rams' practice squad.  Still, behind their defense and adequate quarterback play, they were able to finish 9-7 and one win away from the playoffs.
The Cardinals started the year hot with Carson Palmer at quarterback.  The game after he received a big contract extension, he had a season-ending injury.  Drew Stanton, one of the more respected backups in the league, was brought in.  Then he got hurt, which forced rookie Logan Thomas into action.  Not wanting to trust their season to a 4th round rookie developmental project, they signed Ryan Lindley, who unsuccessfully started games for them last year, off the Chargers' practice squad.  Still, behind their defense and adequate quarterback play, they were able to finish 11-5 and earn a Wild Card berth in the playoffs (although no one has much confidence in their chances).  Wow, those stories sound scarily similar.
6.  Super Bowl hero Percy Harvin would be traded away before mid-season, and the Seahawks would still be the #1 seed in the NFC.  In a move that shocked everyone around the league, only a year and a half after acquiring him, the Seahawks traded away the explosive Percy Harvin, citing team chemistry concerns.  Without Percy Harvin, the Seahawks wouldn't be able to repeat the success they had last year, right?  Enter Russell Wilson.  Wilson has continued to develop into a potential MVP candidate this year, leading the Hawks offense to scoring enough points to win with their dominant defense.  And Percy Harvin?  He was traded to the dumpster-fire that is the New York Jets and became what every offensive weapon for the Jets becomes: irrelevant.
5.  Two of the most productive and respected running backs of the last 5 years, Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson, would be suspended for the season for off-the-field issues.  The NFL has a problem with the law.  This is not a new concept, and Commissioner Roger Goddell is doing everything he can to control it.  The problem continued this year, but the surprise was who it involved.  Before this season, Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson were considered by many as two of the league's "nice guys."  No one could have predicted by the end of the season that these two high-character players would be suspended for the season for domestic violence cases.  They went from being the faces of their respective franchises to potentially never playing in the league again.
4.  The Washington Redskins will end the season with Colt McCoy as their most successful quarterback.  There were high expectations coming into the season for the Washington football franchise with offensive mastermind Jay Gruden taking over as coach.  He would be able to get RGIII back on track, right?  Well, after an early-season injury, RGIII was benched for Kirk Cousins, widely thought of as the best backup in the league.  After some struggles and an injury, Coach Gruden turned to all he had left, Colt McCoy.  With McCoy, he finally found some success as the team finally looked to be clicking.  If it wasn't for another injury, he would have been the starter for the rest of the year over his high-profile teammates.  McCoy ended the season with a QB rating 10 points higher than Griffin and Cousins, who both finished with the same rating.  Heading into the offseason, McCoy might be the quarterback most likely to be on the roster next year.
3.  The NFC South would be won with a losing record.  There are many stats with this division that no one could have predicted.  First, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers earn the first pick in the draft with two of the best receivers in the league, a new coach, and a big offseason quarterback signing.  Next, the New Orleans Saints would miss the playoffs losing 5 straight games in the Superdome, thought to be one of the best home-field advantages in the league.  The Atlanta Falcons would finish with a 5-1 record in the division, but miss the playoffs with an overall 6-10 record.  They only won one game outside of their division!  And last, the Carolina Panthers would win the division with a 7-8-1 record, with Cam Newton missing a late season game due to injuries sustained in a mid-day car accident.  The league really has to get rid of the tie...
2.  The rookie quarterback with the most passing yards for the Cleveland Browns would be Connor Shaw.  Coming into this season, one of the biggest stories was the potential impact Johnny Manziel would have on the Cleveland Browns and the league in general.  The first slight surprise of the year was that Brian Hoyer beat out Johnny Football for the starting job in Cleveland.  Manziel would be in eventually though, right?  Well, behind Hoyer the Browns had a decent amount of success with Johnny seeing a couple plays here and there.  Near the end of the year, as the Brady-Backup Magic started to wear off of Hoyer, they decided to give Manziel a chance in Week 16.  In his first career start, Johnny Manziel proved to indeed to be too small for the NFL as he was knocked out of the game in the 2nd quarter.  Then Hoyer was injured later in the game.  Enter undrafted rookie Connor Shaw.  Shaw was signed off the practice squad to start Week 17 for lack of a better option.  Not only are these two rookies now tied in starts made in their career, but the efficient Connor Shaw, in that one game, earned more passing yards than the first rounder Manziel had in the other 15 games combined.  Who knows what the future of Manziel will be past this year, but no one would have thought the Connor Shaw star would shine brighter than the Johnny Football star for the Browns this year.
1.  The Kansas City Chiefs would not throw a touchdown pass to a receiver all season.  This has to be one of the most bizarre stats I have ever seen.  Alex Smith has always been considered a game manager, but the thought that no receiver caught a pass in the end zone all year is just ridiculous.  Now some touchdown passes were thrown to running backs and tight ends, but the only position whose primary job is to catch the ball never reached the end zone.  Maybe even more ridiculous is the fact that entering Week 17, the Chiefs still had an opportunity to make the playoffs.  They did their part, but didn't get the help they needed from other teams.  At one point, with Chase Daniel behind center, I thought the streak would end as Dwayne Bowe dove for the goal line, but he fumbled into the end zone.  With the recovery by Travis Kelce, the Chiefs got the touchdown and kept the streak in tact.  In a league where stat lines are looking more like video game numbers, where passing records seem to be broken every year, you can be sure something like this will not happen again for a long time.  However, I never thought it would happen this year, which is what puts this as the top prediction nobody made.

What do you think?  Any omissions?  Did anybody see any of these things coming?

72 Annual Golden Globe Predictions!!

   72nd Annual Golden Globe Predictions!!!

So it's officially award season, who's excited!  Well the guys over here at almostsideways.com certainly are!!!  With the new year vastly approaching, we were given an early Christmas present, the Golden Globe Nominations!  

So, with that said, lets go over the nominees and who we think will win, and who we might think got snubbed!  Keep in mind, this one little thing,  we haven't seen every movie but we have seen a lot of them.  

Best Motion Picture Drama:
The Imitation Game
The Theory of Everything

Adam:  Boyhood. The shear nostalgia of this film and the feet of filming over several years is amazing.  Hands down, one of the best movies of the year!  Snubbed: Nightcrawler, Gone Girl

Zach: Boyhood

Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture-Drama:
Jennifer Aniston - Cake
Felicity Jones - The Theory of Everything 
Julianne Moore - Still Alice
Rosamund Pike - Gone Girl  
Reese Witherspoon - Wild

Adam:  Rosamund Pike was amazing in Gone Girl.  I feel like she went out of her comfort level for this role and knocked it out of the park.  Though, Felicity Jones was amazing as well.  Snubbed: Shailene Woodley - The Fault in Our Stars

Todd: Julianne Moore. Moore is really set up for a sweep, and she deserves it. It is a shame that she has never won an Oscar or a Globe in the film categories. Why not give her two?

Zach: Julianne Moore

Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture-Drama
Steve Carrel - Foxcatcher
Benedict Cumberbatch - The Imitation Game
Jake Gyllenhall - Nightcrawler
David Oyelowo - Selma
Eddie Redmayne - The Theory of Everything

Adam:  Steve Carrel.  Though I haven't seen Foxcatcher so I believe Jake Gyllenhall is worthy of this award.  He was so creepy and intriguing, that you can't look away.  One of his best roles!!  Snubbed:  Brendan Glesson -Calvary, Andy Serkis - Dawn of the Planet of the Apes 

Todd: Steve Carrel.  Carell is a past winner at the Globes, and his transformative performance seems like a safe bet for the Drama category.

Zach: Jake Gyllenhall

Best Motion Picture - Comedy or Musical
The Grand Budapest Hotel
Into the Woods
St. Vincent

Adam:  Birdman was an amazing movie.  It had amazing performances that stick with you.  The directing was crazy good.  It so enjoyable and I can't wait to watch it again.  Snubbed: Guardians of the Galaxy, Top Five

Todd: Into the Woods.  The Globes love to even out the musicals and comedies, and the musicals almost always win.

Zach: Birdman

Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture - Comedy or Musical
Amy Adams - Big Eyes
Emily Blunt - Into the Woods
Helen Mirren - The Hundred-Foot Journey
Julianne Moore - Maps to the Stars
Qhevenzhane Wallis - Annie

Adam: Emily Blunt. Might be my favorite part of the film.  Snubbed: Rosario Dawson - Top Five

Todd: Julianne Moore. Moore might be set to win two awards, like Kate Winslet was back in 2008, mainly because of the HFPA’s obsession with David Cronenberg.

Zach: Amy Adams

Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture - Comedy or Musical
Ralph Fiennes - The Grand Budapest Hotel
Michael Keaton - Birdman
Bill Murray - St. Vincent
Joaquin Phoniex - Inherent Vice
Christoph Waltz - Big Eyes

Adam: Michael Keaton.  What a brave performance.  He plays an awesome characterized version of himself.  He goes from not acting to acting to acting in a play really well.  Go Keaton!!!  Snubbed: Chris Pratt - Guardians of the Galaxy

Todd: Michael Keaton.

Zach: Michael Keaton

Best Animated Feature Film
Big Hero Six
The Book of Life
The Boxtrolls
How to Train a Dragon 2
The Lego Movie

Adam:  How to Train Your Dragon 2

Todd: Big Hero 6 We all know that the HFPA loves big movies, and even though Lego was star-studded and a box office smash, Big Hero 6 just seems like the type of material (Marvel) that is the flavor of the month. 

Best Foreign Language Film
Force Majeure
Gett: The Trial of Vivianne
Tangerines Mandariinid

Adam: Ida  Snubbed: Big Bad Wolves

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role
Patricia Arqutte - Boyhood
Jessica Chastain - A Most Violent Year
Kiera Knightley - The Imintation Game
Emma Stone - Birdman
Meryl Streep - Into the Woods

Adam: Emma Stone.  Her monologue in Birdman will totally win her the Golden Globe.  It was awesome to see her play a different character then she's use to. Snubbed: Carrie Croon - Gone Girl, Joey King - Wish I Was Here

Todd: Meryl Streep. Seemingly, Streep is nominated whether she has a movie being released or not. 

Zach: Patricia Arqutte

Best Performance by an Actor in Supporting Role
Robert Duvall - The Judge
Ethan Hawke - Boyhood
Edward Norton - Birdman
Mark Ruffalo - Foxcatcher
J.K. Simmons - Whiplash

Adam: J.K. Simmons.  What a performance!  Might be one of my favorite of the year.  What a crazy character that I can't see played by any one else.  Snubbed: Shia LaBeouf - Fury, Chris O'Dowd - Calvary, Robert Pattinson - The Rover

Todd: J.K. Simmons.

Zach: J.K. Simmons

Best Director - Motion Picture
Wes Anderson - The Grand Budapest Hotel
Ava Duvernay - Selma
David Fincher - Gone Girl
Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu - Birdman
Richard Linklater - Boyhood

Adam:  Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu.  He deserves it!  The way it is filmed with one continual shot was such an amazing idea!  Snubbed: David Ayer - Fury

Zach: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu

Best Screenplay Motion Picture
Wes Anderson - The Grand Budapest Hotel
Gillian Flynn - Gone Girl
Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu - Birdman
Richard Linklater - Boyhood
Graham Moore - The Imitation Game

Adam:  Birdman

Todd: Birdman

Zach: The Grand Budapest Hotel

Best Original Score - Motion Picture
Alexander Desplat - The Imitation Game
Johann Johannsoon - The Theory of Everything Game
Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross - Gone Girl
Antonio Sanchez - Birdman
Hans Zimmer - Interstellar

Adam:  Gone Girl. When David Fincher and Trent Reznor team up, it's gold!!  The score was so menacing and set the scope for the whole movie!  Loved it!  Snubbed: Whiplash

Todd: It is hard to ignore the beauty of The Theory of Everything’s music

Zach: Gone Girl

Those are some great categories with some great nominees.  Who do you want to win?? What was snubbed??

Thanks again for reading!  And for all things movies keep it locked on to almostsideways.com!!!


Sunday, December 28, 2014

Year in Review: Adams Top Ten Worst Films of 2014

                                    Worst 2014 Movies!!!
A year of stink.

   The year is finally over and new one is starting.  2014 we will miss you.  The year provided some great films but also a lot of really hard to watch stinkfest caught on film.  So before I write my Top 10 best I wanted to write about the crap we tried to forget we watched.  As I look back on what I watched this year I realized I saw a lot more bad films then I could even remember.  Now my top ten list might have stuff in it that I rated higher then I should have.

  So lets get this over with.

Top Five Good Actors in Bad Movies:
1. Bryan Cranston (Godzilla)
2. Shailene Woodley (Divergent)
3. Paul Bettany (Transcendence)
4. Elizabeth Banks (Walk of Shame)
5. TIE Mark Duplass (Tammy) and Paul Giamatti (Amazing Spider-man 2)

Dis-Honorable Mentions:
Draft Day, Filth, Walk of Shame, Divergent, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1, See No Evil 2, A Million Ways to Die in the West, That Awkward Moment, Noah, Tusk, Godzilla and Deliver us from Evil

10. Blended
Another pairing of Adam Sandler and Drew Berrymore.  This movie doesn't even come close to the magic they shared in the The Wedding Singer or even 50 First Dates.  If it wasn't clear watching this movie Adam Sandler has lost the gift to make us laugh like the good ole Happy Madison days of old.  Hey, but he got some of his friends in this movie, so they could work this year.  I totally felt like the picture above, not that I had high hopes to begin with.

9. Rage
So, I got to watch this gem streaming on Netflix.  As I clicked on the watch button, my only thought was it cant be any worse then The Wicker Man.  So I gave this movie a shot, I really did.  Then I hit the twenty minute mark and I lost hope.  Nic Cage goes around playing Nic Cage playing Nic Cage.  The only reason its not higher is that his overacting freak outs are funny.  Might of laughed more at his freak outs then I did a comedy further up on this list.

8. The Amazing Spider-man 2

When they first announced that they were rebooting the Spider-man franchise, I was one of the few hopeful fans.  The first Amazing Spider-man movie was good, so I became hopeful for a second one.  Ill admit as well this made my Top 10 anticipated movies of 2014 list.  This movie has a lot going for it.  It has an all star cast (Jamie Foxx, Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Paul Giamatti, Dane DeHaan, Felicity Jones, and Sally Field) a new villain, and its not Spider-man 3 (or is it).  The movie is just to long and boring.  

7. The Legend of Hercules

We were given two Hercules movies this year, and only one was enjoyable.  To tell the story of Hercules you need two things, a way better actor then Kellan Lutz and you must be larger than life.  This movie had neither.  I had no idea who this actor was until my wife told me he was in the Twilight movies.  He is so forgettable in this role,  The Dwayne Johnson movie is the far better film.  There were some really laughable scenes, horrible acting as well as c.g.i     

6. Transformers 4: Age of Extinction

Now here is a movie I wanted to be good.  I'm a Mark Wahlberg fan.  But as I was sitting through this movie, which was way to long, I was bored and tired.  I felt like I've already seen this before.  They also hyped up the Dino-bots so much too.  Spoiler alert, they were only in the movie like the last ten minutes or so.  The movie is 2 hrs and 45 minutes of unnecessary explosions, bad dialogue, and characters you just don't care about.  Best part of the movie, other than Stanley Tucci, the credits.

5. Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones

Is it just me, or is the found footage film getting old.  I enjoyed it in the Blair Witch Project, Cloverfield, Chronicle, and the original Paranormal Activity.  But here we are on the fifth one in this series, and there was a reason it wasn't released near Halloween.  It has no scares and nothing really to offer the series or cinema either.  Nothing new or original.  Congrats Paranormal Activity, you are the new SAW series.

4. Transcendence
Another movie I was hopeful for that let me down.  I was really wanting to see what first time director Wally Pfister could do behind the camera.  He however bit off a little more than he could chew.  This A.I. film could of been really good but it was totally unbelievable, that I could only laugh and shake my head.  The acting wasn't even good but sub par at best.  I believe it could be that the actors either didn't understand what was happening in the movie or they didn't believe that they agreed to this movie.  How could a computer regenerate plants??? Scratches head....

3. Tammy
How many times have I said that I feel bad for the actors involved in these movies?  Well heres another crap-fest.  It made me want to put a bag over my head too.  Lets just say that the marketing campaign for this movie sucks.  They put the one maybe funny scene in the trailer, so when they finally show that scene, you don't even laugh.  I was literally like why is she doing that.  It makes no sense.  Melissa McCarthy, I'm sorry but I'm tired of your same old stick.  Your trying to be funny and its not working anymore.  I couldnt believe they got Susan Sarandon, Kathy Bates, Mark Duplass, Toni Collette, and Sandra Oh in this crap.  Least funny comedy this year, hands down.

2. Oculus
Another movie that could of been good.  Only problem is that dumb.  They never explained why or even how this so called evil mirror was doing what it was doing.  It has an interesting concept, that I just couldn't get around.  Maybe I just didn't understand what this movie wanted me to believe or not to.  The only reason that this isn't number one is that there is one really cool scene with a light bulb and that their was a worse film then this. 

1. Leprechaun: Origins

 With a name like that, it was a pretty easy choice for the number one spot.  This movie was made by WWE studios.  The only reason I even watched it was that they had a wrestler in that I thought we would be cool to see in the movie.  I was wrong.  The leprechaun looked horrible, and it had none of what made the original film a cult favorite.  Filled with trying to scare instead of actually doing anything else.  The characters were stupid and generic horror film cliques.  Okay, I know it was a straight to video movie but still its my worst!  Im glad its over!!!  I also want to apologize to my wife for making her sit through this crap!

Wow, that was incredibly painful!  Im glad I got it out the way so I could be uplifted to write the best of 2014 very soon.  I plan on having that out by mid-January.  Got a couple movies I need to see first (Foxcatcher, Selma).

    Heres hoping 2015 will be a good year at the movie!!!  Thank you reading and check out our other articles at almostsideways.com

Adam Daly

Saturday, December 27, 2014

2014 College Football Playoff: A Step, Not a Solution

This year marks a new era in college football as the first College Football Playoff will be played at the highest level of the collegiate sport.  Every other division of football at any level has played a playoff forever, but finally someone convinced the powers that be that they could make even more money if they have a playoff.  I'm not going to lie, I'm excited about the upcoming College Football Playoff, and this is one of the best seasons to start such a system as there are no teams that are the consensus top squads.  However, this is also the best season to show that this is still a work in progress.  This incarnation of the College Football Playoff is definitely a step in the right direction, but not the end-all solution.
Here is my problem with this 4-team playoff system.  There is said to be a "Power 5" conferences in FBS now: Pac-12, Big Ten, Big 12, ACC, and SEC.  The committee is said to value conference champions above almost anything else.  If that is the case, how can you have a playoff system with less than five teams.  A conference champion of a Power 5 conference (actually two since the Big 12 went for the cop out and named co-champions) was left out of the playoff even though they deserved that berth just as much as everyone that made it.  The ACC was the weakest of the five conferences this year, but their champion made it because they were the undefeated team (and defending champion).  So how do you leave out the Big 12 champ(s)?  The answer is you can't and still say there are a Power 5 equal conferences.
For the past few years, I have been writing posts championing what I called the "Holiday Madness Playoff."  This system would establish a 16-team playoff, giving automatic bids to each of the 10 conference champions, as well as six at large bids to the next top six teams.  This would give every team a chance at the top prize and set up a system that could potentially rival the March Madness basketball bracket.  Let's take a look at what the 16 team field this year would look like.

1.  Alabama (SEC Champ)
2.  Oregon (Pac-12 Champ)
3.  Florida St. (ACC Champ)
4.  Ohio St. (B1G Champ)
5.  Baylor (Big 12 Champ)
7.  Mississippi St. (AT LARGE)
8.  Michigan St. (AT LARGE)
9.  Ole Miss (AT LARGE)
10.  Arizona (AT LARGE)
11.  Kansas St. (AT LARGE)
12.  Boise St. (MWC Champ)
13.  Marshall (C-USA Champ)
14.  Northern Illinois (MAC Champ)
15.  Memphis (AAC Champ)
16.  Georgia Southern (Sun Belt Champ)

This would produce some great matchups and great drama, while discovering one true champion.  However, as the college football landscape continues to change the lower conferences, or "Group of 5" as they are called now, are not quite as prevalent and strong as they have been in recent years.  I like the some of the ideas of the new playoff system so I have decided that the two concepts need to combine.  Here is the ideal next step that could be the best system for today's FBS is as follows...

Eight team playoff.  The eight teams would be made up of the conference champs from the Power 5 conferences, the best team in the Group of 5 (much like what is done for the New Year's 6 bowls this year), and two Wild Card bids.  The committee would be charged with selecting the final three bids and seeding the field.  The quarterfinals would be played the week after the awards ceremonies (two weeks after conference championships) at the home stadium of the higher seed.  This also allows for less time between games.  Teams can change in that month between the end of the season and the bowl games.  Momentum is gained or lost, and quite often the results are much different than they would have been if they were played right after the season.  Then the semifinals and finals would be played exactly how they are now.  The losing teams in the quarterfinals would be placed in the New Year's 6 bowl games like they already are now.  This system would allow every one of the Power 5 conferences to truly be treated equally, allow an opportunity for a Group of 5 school to have a shot at the top prize (something they have never had), and still keep basically the same system that has already been set up.  (Like I said, I don't have a problem with the system they have except for the number.)  So here is what the field would look like and how it could play out.

First Four Out

Michigan State Spartans
Michigan St. - If there is a 2-loss team that has a resume that deserves consideration, it's Sparty.  Their two losses came to the Pac-12 champ and the Big Ten champ.  However, some shaky play down the stretch and playing in the dejected Big Ten, left them mostly forgotten about the second half of the season and on the outside looking in.

Ole Miss Rebels
Ole Miss - The Rebels ended up with three losses, but had some definite marquee wins over teams like Boise St. (MWC Champ), Memphis (AAC Champ), Alabama (SEC champ), and Mississippi St.  This got them close, however three losses is hard to overcome, especially a shutout massacre against Arkansas.

Arizona Wildcats
Arizona - Many thought Arizona had a shot at the final four if they were able to defeat Oregon in the Pac-12 Championship game.  However, their poor performance in that game leaves them on the outside looking in.  This brings about one of the few flaws with a system like this.  Whoever loses the conference championship, like Arizona, often ends up below teams that weren't good enough to even make it to conference championships, like Michigan St. and Ole Miss.  If Arizona hadn't gotten beat so bad, they still may have had a shot, but the Heisman Trophy winner kicked them out.

Marshall Thundering Herd
Marshall - If they don't lose that bizarre shootout to Western Kentucky and go undefeated, I think they have to be the top team from the Group of 5.  Undefeated should trump everything (it did this year for Florida St.).


Mississippi State BulldogsAlabama Crimson Tide
# 8 Mississippi St. (or TCU) at # 1 Alabama - In our first quarterfinal, we have a rematch of a late season showdown.  An optional rule that could be instated is outlawing rematches in the quarterfinals if at all possible much like the MLB Playoffs used to do.  This would have Bama playing TCU instead.  However, we will look at the matchup this way.  Mississippi St. looked pretty bad the last month or so of the season, but they still only lost two games to Bama and Ole Miss.  They deserve the shot, even if that shot is going back to Tuscaloosa to do what they already failed once at.  Chances are they fail again as Bama is close to unstoppable at home.  Alabama def. Mississippi St, 31-16

Baylor BearsOhio State Buckeyes
# 5 Baylor at # 4 Ohio St. - Well let's just settle this debate on who deserved that last spot in the playoff once and for all.  The Buckeyes finished hot, even if it was with their third-string QB.  Third string at Ohio St. is better than first string at 75% of the schools in the nation though.  Outside of one random loss in West Virginia, Baylor has been flawless all year.  This would be such a fun game to see.  The difference might be the fact that it would be in Columbus.  I'm still not convinced Ohio St. can keep the momentum up with yet another leader at QB this year.  This is a toss up shootout.  Ohio St. def. Baylor, 47-42

TCU Horned FrogsOregon Ducks
# 7 TCU (or Mississippi St.) at # 2 Oregon - It wouldn't be out of the question to make the statement that either of these teams is the best team in the nation this year.  TCU has been nearly unstoppable outside of a last-second loss to Baylor.  Oregon, now healthy, is the most efficient team in the nation.  TCU going to Eugene would be a difficult game to win.  On the other hand, the Horned Frog defense might be the toughest defense Marcus Mariota would see since Michigan St. (at least the first three quarters of that game).  On the other hand, if TCU struggled this year, it was on the road.  With all these things considered, I'd go with the Ducks.  Oregon def. TCU, 33-27

Boise State BroncosFlorida State Seminoles
# 6 Boise St. at # 3 Florida St. - This would be a fascinating matchup.  First off, I decided to go with the policy that the Group of 5 representative would be slotted in at the 6th seed at the lowest.  This is because they are a conference champion and deserve to get some sort of treatment.  Also, matching them up with the #1 seed in the quarterfinals wouldn't be fair to either team.  Instead, we get a very intriguing matchup here.  Boise St. is a Power 5 team in a Group of 5 jersey.  They are better and more sound than almost any other opponent Florida St. faced this year.  The Seminoles struggled with a lot of mediocre teams this year and were able to sneak out a lot of wins because the mediocre teams couldn't put a consistent four quarters together.  I think the Broncos could.  If there would be an upset in the first round, this might be where you would see it.  With that said, I'd go with Jameis Winston sneaking out another one.  Boise St. is good, but they aren't as good as they have been in the past.  Florida St. def. Boise St., 20-17


Alabama Crimson TideOhio State Buckeyes
Sugar Bowl - # 1 Alabama vs. # 4 Ohio St. - So our final four ends up the same here.  So let's break down these matchups.  Urban Meyer knows what it takes to beat an SEC team.  He made his name doing that.  This year's incarnation of Bama is not what they have been in the past.  Even with a third-string quarterback, I truly think Ohio St. is the more talented team.  On a "neutral" field (as neutral as the Sugar Bowl can be for an SEC team), this looks like a game set up for the Buckeyes to take and bring some respectability back to the Big Ten.  Ohio St. def. Alabama, 38-28

Oregon DucksFlorida State Seminoles
Rose Bowl - # 2 Oregon vs. # 3 Florida St. - This would mark the first time Florida St. would play a team that has a talent level that either equals or exceeds their own.  Oregon is a battle-tested team as the Pac-12 was arguably the best conference in the nation this year.  The Seminoles will get off to their trademark slow start, and Oregon will never look back.  Their defense is good enough to hold off any late charges Jamies Winston tries to put together because the Ducks also get better in the 4th quarter.  This game may not even be close.  Oregon def. Florida St., 45-23

National Championship Game

Oregon DucksOhio State Buckeyes
# 2 Oregon vs. # 4 Ohio St. - For a sport that so many people want to think is run by the south, what a National Championship Game it would be to match up Oregon and Ohio.  This would be a fascinating matchup of two very similar teams in style, pace, and dominance.  I think this is the matchup where the injuries of the Buckeyes finally catches up to them.  It will be a hard fought game, but the Ducks pull it out in the end.  Oregon def. Ohio St., 38-24

The final result of this playoff scenario may not change, but that doesn't mean what we have is the way to go.  I love that we have a College Football Playoff!  However, the NCAA needs to realize that this is a step, not the solution.  This system I am proposing could be the solution.

What do you think?