Sunday, September 20, 2015

Week 3 College Football Recap: Rankings, Heisman, Playoff Projections

Ohio State benches their starting QB and almost loses to a MAC team. Alabama was -5 in turnovers home and still had a drive to win in the fourth quarter. Kliff Kingsbury talks smack to Bret Bielema after a win. Just another college football Saturday.
Top 25 Poll
Others receiving votes: Arizona, Boise State, BYU, California, Stanford, Temple, Utah, West Virginia
Dropped from the rankings: West Virginia (18), Arizona (21), Wisconsin (23), BYU (25)

25 (NR). Oklahoma State (3-0) – The Mike Gundy offense is really humming right now. As usual, they are going to be a spoiler in the Big 12.
24 (17). Clemson (3-0) – They nearly lost to Louisville, which would have been a bad loss. I am just not buying into DeShaun Watson.
23 (NR). Texas Tech (3-0) – Kingsbury had some awesome trash talk to the jerk head coach of Arkansas after kicking his ass for four quarters.
22 (22). Florida State (3-0) – The Seminoles are just holding on each week. This team is going to implode if they ever play a decent team.
21 (NR). Miami (3-0) – They blew a 23 point lead at home before surviving in overtime. They are a tough team to read, but Brad Kaaya is the best QB in the ACC by a longshot.
20 (NR). Toledo (2-0) – They had a second straight win over a Power 5 conference team. If they wind up going unbeaten, it is going to be hard to not invite them to the Fiesta Bowl.
19 (20). Kansas State (3-0) – They just keep slugging along under the radar. Bill Snyder seems to love that position.
18 (23). Wisconsin (2-1) – The Badgers didn’t exactly look great against lesser competition, but they were missing their star RB. They are going to be a tough out for anyone.
17 (19). Utah (3-0) – The Utes are one of the biggest surprises for me. The south is so up in the air…Utah is right in the thick of it.
16 (14). Baylor (2-0) – IDLE
15 (8). Georgia Tech (2-1) – I really thought they would be able to run the ball on the Irish, but they proved to be out of sorts as the road favorite. They are still the best team in the ACC.
14 (2). USC (2-1) – Losing to Stanford carries no shame, but losing how they did to a team that looked to have no offense whatsoever is hard to swallow.
13 (13). Oregon (2-1) – The Ducks need to find a defense to have a chance in the Pac-12.
12 (15). LSU (2-0) – Leonard Fournette is a beast. They slaughtered Auburn, who might just be the worst team in the SEC West.
11 (5). Alabama (2-1) – The Tide self-destructed and still should have won. The team is just sloppy, which is uncharacteristic of Nick Saban teams.
10 (12). UCLA (3-0) – They survived a scare against the magical lucky BYU team. Rosen showed his first signs of being a freshman, but they avoided the upset. They can move forward.
9 (11). Northwestern (3-0) – Winning at Duke is a nice win. No one wants to give this team credit, but especially with Stanford’s win, this team is looking great. That defense is relentless.
8 (9). Oklahoma (3-0) – Yeah, they gave up way too many points and yard against Tulsa. That is a veteran offense though. The Sooners should be able to outscore most teams with 2-time walk-on Baker Mayfield at the helm.
7 (7). Texas A&M (3-0) – This team might be the most terrifying team out there. If the eye test mattered, they would be #1.
6 (10). Georgia (3-0) – Georgia is looking better and better. They are still in the national championship picture, but they are flying under the radar.
5 (16). Mississippi (3-0) – There was a fair amount of luck involved in their big win in Tuscaloosa, but Chad Kelly and company can score on anyone.
4 (4). TCU (3-0) – The Frogs are just going to keep rolling along, probably not lose, and then somehow get left out of the playoff.
3 (3). Michigan State (3-0) – They struggled defensively against the triple option attack of Air Force, but their offense really looked sharp.
2 (6). Notre Dame (3-0) – Kizer answered whether losing Zaire would derail their chances. Their win against Georgia Tech, defensively in particular, was mightily impressive.
1 (1). Ohio State (3-0) – They looked sluggish, horrible on offense, shaky on defense, but they won. A lesser team would have folded.

Top 5 Games for Next Weekend
5. BYU at Michigan, 9:00AM – This is more out of curiosity than anything else. Michigan has looked decent, but BYU is almost must-see TV each week.
4. Georgia Tech (#15) at Duke, 9:00AM – Duke is tough at home, and Georgia Tech is coming off a disappointing game. This is a gut check game.
PREDICTION: Georgia Tech 31-24
3. Utah (#17) at Oregon (#13), TBD – The Utes are a team that no one really wants a piece of right now. The Ducks are coming off giving up 4 touchdowns to one of the worst teams in FBS. This is an interesting matchup each year.
PREDICTION: Oregon 42-34
2. UCLA (#10) at Arizona, TBD – Arizona is still just trying to buy time before they get All-American linebacker Scooby Wright back. UCLA is going to need to rebound after a near loss.
PREDICTION: Arizona 27-20
1. TCU (#4) at Texas Tech (#23), 1:45PM FOX – TCU hasn’t really had to deal with a great offense yet. Texas Tech is feeling really good about themselves after whipping an SEC team. Playing in Lubbock is tough.

Heisman Trophy Watch
5. Connor Cook, QB, Michigan State – Sometimes being the most pro ready player in the game makes a difference. If they go undefeated, then he will be invited no matter how unsexy his stats may look.
4. Chad Kelly, QB, Mississippi – He has the flashy offense and has a few Heisman moments already.
3. Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma – He is going to shatter every record in Oklahoma’s history. If they make it out of the Big 12 unbeaten, which is really possible, then he might emerge as the frontrunner.
2. Nick Chubb, RB, Georgia – Chubb is going to be in the running all year. He is the most talented and consistent back in the SEC.
1. Leonard Fournette, RB, LSU – It shouldn’t really matter that he is going to be one game short of everyone else. He is the most feared player in the land.
College Football Playoff Projections
Chik-fil-A Peach Bowl: Oregon over Florida State
Rose Bowl: LSU over UCLA
Fiesta Bowl: TCU over Toledo
Sugar Bowl: Oklahoma over Texas A&M

College Football Playoff Semifinal #1 (Orange Bowl): Michigan State over Mississippi
CFB Playoff Semifinal #2 (Cotton Bowl): Notre Dame over Ohio State
National Championship Game: Michigan State over Notre Dame

Thoughts? Comments? Feel free to vent below.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

2016 Oscar Predictions: September

At last, here are my updated Oscar predictions! A lot has happened since my first predictions in February. Some movies have failed, some have surprised, and some have been pushed to 2016 and out of contention. A few trailers have burst onto the scene and immediately gotten the attention of the major festivals and audiences alike. It will be an interesting Oscar season. I love this time of year!
Notable release date casualties: Silence, Snowden, Knight of Cups, Tulip Fever, Demolition, Midnight Special, Untitled Howard Hughes Project, That’s What I’m Talking About Everybody Wants Some, Triple Nine, Bleed for This

I will also leave out films like Miles Ahead, Icon The Program, and The Light Between Oceans, which look as if they will probably have the same fate as the abovementioned films.

The Predicted Five
1. Steve Jobs – Aaron Sorkin – Sorkin might be the best screenwriter in the world, and his script appears to be furious and relevant. When he decides to write a movie, he gets nominated.
2. Beasts of No Nation – Cary Fukunaga – The movie is one of the frontrunners in several categories, but winning screenplay over some flashier writing might be a bit difficult for the Netflix original movie.
3. Carol – Phyllis Nagy – Todd Haynes didn’t write, so it might be a tougher sell than Far from Heaven, but all early indications are that this is sumptuous and brilliant.
4.  Trumbo – John McNamara – Whenever a film takes aim at Hollywood, it is always a good thing for Oscar contention. Blacklisting has rarely been told well in film, so who better than Jay Roach to bring this lightning screenplay to life?
5. The Danish Girl – Lucina Coxon – The Tom Hooper film is getting raves from everywhere, and with that subject matter, it appears to be the perfect time for it to come out. Coxon is an unproven writer, but that shouldn’t matter for the Oscar juggernaut.
Others in contention
6.  Truth – James Vanderbilt – He only really has one decent screenplay in Zodiac, but this film about Dan Rather appears to have the type of sharp writing to warrant Oscar attention.
7. The Revenant – Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Mark L. Smith – The movie is going to be a big hit, but unless it is unanimous, a nomination in this category will prove difficult.
8. Brooklyn – Nick Hornby – The raves for this movie are coming in. Hornby is always popular, so watch out for this one if it gets enough of an American theatrical run.
9. Our Brand is Crisis – Peter Straughan – The previous nominee has a great political topic to chew on and a cast to take it all the way to the Oscars.
10.  The Secret in Their Eyes – Billy Ray – He is one of the more popular writers out there, and adapting the smash hit foreign Oscar winner seems like a perfect fit.
11. Black Mass – Jez Butterworth, Mark Mallouk – The movie is getting a lot of good word, but other than Depp, this might be the film’s peak. Scott Cooper has yet to validate the talent he showed with Crazy Heart.
12. Concussion – Peter Landesman – Everyone keeps wanting Landesman to become the next big thing, but it isn’t working. The same goes for John Wells. If this movie is good enough, then maybe a screenplay nomination will come his way and finally validate his hype.

The Predicted Five
1. Spotlight - Thomas McCarthy, Josh Singer – McCarthy is one of the most popular filmmakers around, and this is his best shot yet at winning big at the Oscars. His subject matter is controversial and timely, which always helps.
2. Joy – David O. Russell, Annie Mumolo – Maybe Russell will never win, but he will continue stacking up nominations like Billy Wilder. Working with the Oscar-nominated writer of Bridesmaids is intriguing to say the least.
3. The Hateful Eight – Quentin Tarantino – I am pretty confident that he will be nominated, but unless he can once again outdo himself, then he might just be an also-ran.
4. Son of Saul – Laszlo Nemes, Clara Royer – The Holocaust film has garnered wide attention and a scheduled legitimate US release date. This is the foreign film that will sweep everyone off their feet.
5. Inside Out – Pete Docter, Bob Petersen – Pixar has returned to form, and if this movie is not nominated in this category, then I don’t know what is going on. It is as well-written of a film as we have seen in years. It needs a strong video release/streaming campaign.
Others in contention
6. Bridge of Spies – Joel Coen, Ethan Coen, Matt Charman – The film had a popular trailer, but something about it seemed a bit phony to me. The Coens being on the job is cool, but they direct their best scripts.
7. Sicario – Taylor Sheridan – This thriller is getting a lot of run commercially, which is promising. The cast is awesome. These types of movies come out a lot, and since he is a first time writer, I am leaving it just on the outside.
8. The Good Dinosaur – Enrico Casarosa, Bob Petersen – We are not entirely sure about the quality of the film yet, but judging by the trailer, it might even eclipse Inside Out.
9. Youth – Paolo Sorrentino – The Academy loved The Great Beauty, so Sorrentino’s American film needs to be considered as a major contender. It looks quirky, but that works in this category.
10. Burnt – Steven Knight, Michael Kalesniko – Knight is a past nominee, and this film starring Bradley Cooper sounds like the type of redemption story that can easily win over the conservative Oscar voters.
11. Crimson Peak – Guillermo del Toro, Matthew Robinson – Del Toro can complete the Mexican director trifecta if his film wins big, but it is a horror-type film, so that is unlikely. The Pan’s Labyrinth filmmaker still deserves our due attention.
12. Trainwreck – Amy Schumer – The screenplay is brilliant, hip, and current. The Academy loves strong female characters. It is possible, but it needs to regain some steam in the coming months.
13.  Suffragette – Abi Morgan – Morgan is a talented writer, and making a film about the feminist movement is definitely a way to get attention from award circuits.

The Predicted Five
1. Rooney Mara – Carol She won at Cannes, which firmly puts her in competition at the American awards. She does such good work every year. This might be her time.
2. Ellen Page – Freeheld Is it time for a validation nomination for Page? She is clearly playing a role that is personal, so she might be at her best.
3. Helena Bonham Carter – Suffragette She appears to be a standout in the film. I think it will be an actor showcase, so expect a couple of the women to get in.
4. Jennifer Jason Leigh – The Hateful Eight She has embarrassingly never been nominated by the Academy. Playing in a Tarantino film should finally give her that vehicle to put her over the top.
5. Jane Fonda – Youth She hasn’t been nominated since 1986. Playing aside such esteemed veterans as Michael Caine and Harvey Keitel should definitely give her the best role she has had in decades.
Others in contention
6. Kate Winslet – Steve Jobs It is a bit strange to think that the annual nominee hasn’t been invited back in 7 years, but then again she taking other types of roles in that time. It would not surprise me at all if she steals this movie.
7. Julie Walters – Brooklyn She will get a lot of British backing heading up to the announcement of the nominations, but I am almost in a “wait and see” with this movie.
8. Rachel McAdams – Spotlight She has been doing the best work of her career recently, and she kills it in these types of roles. Is this finally her ticket?
9. Helen Mirren – Trumbo She has a juicy role as a gossip columnist in the true story. She is always an Academy favorite.
10. Diane Lane – Trumbo She gets her best role in ages as Dalton Trumbo’s wife. Bryan Cranston will bring out the best in the underrated actress.
11. Diane Ladd – Joy She hasn’t been invited back in 24 years, but then again, she hasn’t really done a whole lot of anything in that time. This would be a cool comeback story, and we all know what the Academy thinks of David O. Russell’s actors.
12. Meryl Streep – Suffragette She is nominated whenever she has a relevant film, and depending on the size of her role, this might be her best shot this year.
13. Melanie Laurent – By the Sea Angelina Jolie’s romantic drama gathered a great cast, and this role might be one of my most anticipated in 2015. Laurent can do wonders with the right direction.
14. Naomi Watts – About Ray She is playing the mother of a girl who wants to become a boy, so we know the emotional scenes we will get to see from Watts.
15. Jessica Chastain – Crimson Peak Chastain has developed a reputation of being one of the most reliable actresses out there, and being in a Guillermo del Toro film has my attention at least.

The Predicted Five
1. Idris Elba – Beasts of No Nation Elba has yet to break through in film, but this role seems to be right in his wheelhouse. It is also one of the frontrunners, so that always helps.
2. Harvey Keitel – Youth He has only been nominated once for Bugsy, so he would be welcomed back. He so rarely gets critical roles like this.
3. Michael Keaton – Spotlight He officially is back. Playing in this movie should easily get him a second consecutive nomination and another shot at taking home gold.
4. Michael Stuhlbarg – Trumbo He is not being hyped by most, but being cast as Edward G. Robinson is as interesting and perfect as any 2015 casting.
5. Samuel L. Jackson – The Hateful Eight I would love if he could finally get back to the Oscars. QT always writes Jackson’s best roles, so we will see how this pans out.
Others in contention
6. Mark Rylance – Bridge of Spies He is playing the antagonist Soviet spy in Spielberg’s drama, which seems as juicy of a role as any. Could he be 2015’s Christoph Waltz?
7. Tom Hardy – The Revenant Hardy has been knocking on Oscar’s door for a few years now, so being in Academy-favorite Inarritu’s film puts him squarely in the race.
8. Seth Rogen – Steve Jobs His part in the trailer was not overly impressive, but he must have blown everyone away to get cast in this crucial role. I am hopeful that he can finally shed his undeserved image of being one-dimensional and secure a nomination.
9. Bradley Cooper – Joy Cooper has been nominated three years in a row, and this could easily make it four, all but one being for Russell.
10. Benicio Del Toro – Sicario Del Toro is one of the best actors in the world, and this kind of role is what he usually owns, but the film is never up to his level. Sicario should be different.
11. Robert De Niro – Joy David O. Russell brought De Niro back, and it probably won’t be all that difficult to keep him here.
12. Michael Shannon – 99 Homes I tried to avoid this movie after overhyping it last year before it got delayed, but this role is just so intriguing. I can’t wait until this actually comes out.
13. Liev Schreiber – Pawn Sacrifice After doing a crash course on Bobby Fischer, I cannot think of a more easy casting decision than Schreiber as his Russian rival.
14. Jason Segel – The End of the Tour Segel certainly has talent. Playing George Foster Wallace is as strange and brilliant of a casting choice as possible. I hope for the best.
15. Jason Mitchell – Straight Outta Compton He received “best in show” reviews as Eazy-E in the monster box office hit. If the film is remembered in December, watch out for this surprise nomination.
16. Jeff Daniels – Steve Jobs Daniels is sensational with Sorkin’s words in The Newsroom, so I expect his part to stand out in Boyle’s film.

The Predicted Five
1. Alicia Vikander – The Danish Girl She has had one unbelievable year. Her performance appears to be beautiful in Tom Hooper’s drama. The Academy loves the female companion roles to the dominant male characters.
2. Cate Blanchett – Carol She easily could take her third Oscar with this film. She will wind up with more Oscars than Katherine Hepburn. Todd Haynes and Cate Blanchett were made for each other.
3. Jennifer Lawrence – Joy She will become the next in line of the perennial nominees, and this is one of those roles that if she kills it, she will coast to an Oscar.
4. Carey Mulligan – Suffragette She has unfortunately only been nominated once, so with this feminist film and her acclaimed work in Far from the Madding Crowd, she should be able to get invited back.
5. Meryl Streep – Ricki and the Flash I had to include her somewhere. She needs to get the Golden Globe nomination first, then this will come.
Others in contention
6. Saoirse Ronan – Brooklyn She has been close to getting her second career nomination for a while, and while this film looks so promising for her, I am not quite ready to put her up with that group just yet.
7. Brie Larson – Room Her performance has gotten raves. She has been doing some tremendous work recently, and this type of motherly emotional role should play well with voters.
8. Lily Tomlin – Grandma These types of road comedies sometimes really work well for the actors. She hasn’t been nominated since 1975.
9. Cate Blanchett – Truth This role has almost no chance at beating out her role in Carol, but it is worth mentioning if they somehow convince the Academy that she is supporting in the Haynes film. She plays opposite Robert Redford, which will be a really interesting battle.
10. Sandra Bullock – Our Brand is Crisis She seemed to really be commanding in the trailer. When she gets a real role, the voters usually flock to her support.
11. Emily Blunt – Sicario She should be a nominee already. These types of badass roles are tough to pull off, and she does it in her sleep. This might be a quality enough movie to finally get her attention for doing it.
12. Marion Cotillard – Macbeth The trailer looked unbelievable. Is there a better choice for Lady Macbeth than Cotillard? I think not. If the movie is distributed enough, it will be hard to not vote for her.
13. Julianne Moore – Freeheld She just won, but she is still one of the most liked actresses out there. She is going to have a host of emotional scenes with Page, so maybe they both get in?
14. Angelina Jolie – By the Sea She isn’t the most popular actress, but this is the first time she is directing herself. She has certainly proved to be talented behind the camera and great with her actors. Can she direct herself to a nomination? It is rare, but it could happen.

The Predicted Five
1. Eddie Redmayne – The Danish Girl Winning two Oscars in a row is really rare, but how can you bet against him? Tom Hooper, transgender, physical transformation, British…check, check, check, check.
2. Michael Fassbender – Steve Jobs Fassbender needs to win one here pretty soon. Maybe his role as Steve Jobs will help him bring it home. He certainly appears to be game by the trailers and early reviews.
3. Bryan Cranston – Trumbo He has been doing some nice film work since he got done with Breaking Bad. The film is one of the ones to beat in the main categories, and from the trailer, he appears to have stepped right out of the 1940s.
4. Leonardo DiCaprio – The Revenant He looks to really be going for it in Inarritu’s film. He will win one eventually, I hope.
5. Bradley Cooper – Burnt He has the redemption role, but first he gets to be a jerk and a drug addict. Sounds like another Cooper nomination to me.
Others in contention
6. Abraham Attah – Beasts of No Nation Children are not nominated in this category very often, but being in the frontrunning film puts him in the race.
7. Robert Redford – Truth He is playing Dan Rather, which sounds like a money role for the underrated actor who hasn’t been nominated in 42 years.
8. Michael Caine – YouthCaine is always in contention when he gets a real role. If he gets nominated here, then that will be six decades in a row with a nom. That has never been done.
9. Tom Hanks – Bridge of Spies Hanks has somewhat lost his luster after being snubbed for Captain Phillips. He seems to be too subtle here for a nomination, but who knows…
10. Johnny Depp – Black Mass Depp is getting raves for his physical transformation and creepy scene in the trailer. I am not ready to anoint this film yet, but I will happily be proven wrong.
11. Mark Ruffalo – Spotlight I am not really sure who is lead or if there is one, but Ruffalo is one of the most popular guys around. If the movie hits big, he will be taking them there.
12. Jake Gyllenhaal – Southpaw He has had an incredible run the past few years, but sadly it seems like he is going to have to keep waiting for his second nomination with Demolition getting pushed to 2016.
13. Will Smith – Concussion Smith is beloved when he has a real role. The film about concussions in professional football seems like a good enough topic, and he is playing with an accent. Is that enough?
14. Brad Pitt – By the Sea Pitt playing opposite Jolie in Jolie’s film? Yes.
15. Michael B. Jordan – Creed Coogler directed Jordan to the best performance of 2013, and the trailer for Creed was incredible. Is it serious enough to get real attention?
16. Joseph Gordon-Levitt – The Walk JGL has put in some nice work in recent years. The movie seems to be a bit too dry compared to the thrill that was Man on Wire, but we will have to wait and see.

The Predicted Five
1. Cary Fukunaga – Beasts of No Nation After True Detective, we all knew that he was riding high. How careful was he with his next feature film? It looks astounding.
2. Tom Hooper – The Danish Girl Hooper just won in 2010, so maybe they will want to wait before giving him another. The film looks gorgeous, though.
3. Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu – The Revenant I really doubt that this film can really win the big awards after Birdman swept last year, but the Academy has always loved him. His new film looks furious and intense.
4. Thomas McCarthy – Spotlight McCarthy has had a few acclaimed films that just missed out on Oscar nominations. This is his most serious film to date and one that needs our attention.
5. Danny Boyle – Steve Jobs Boyle always leaves his mark in his directing jobs, but this appears to be more condensed. It worked for Fincher with The Social Network. He could be the frontrunner if it is as good as it can be.
Others in contention
6. Jay Roach – Trumbo It might be a tough sell for the director of Meet the Parents and Austin Powers to be an Oscar nominee, but he also did Game Change and Recount. The Hollywood subject is perfect for his brand of satire.
7. Quentin Tarantino – The Hateful Eight Tarantino is the ultimate wild card in this category. If his film is good enough, he could win. The Academy loves throwbacks and westerns.
8. David O. Russell – Joy I am going to put him outside the top five just because it gets a little tiresome always putting him in. He is getting nominated, though.
9. Steven Spielberg – Bridge of Spies How much does the Academy still love him? Lincoln seemed like a shoo-in, but he went home empty-handed. He missed out on a Best Director nom for War Horse. Maybe I am underselling the potential of this film, but I just fear that it is going to underwhelm.
10. Todd Haynes – Carol Haynes always is an interesting case. He somehow got snubbed back in 2002 for Far from Heaven. His films are always visually impressive. Maybe he is just too lavish for their taste.
11. Ron Howard – In the Heart of the Sea Howard is always a popular choice when he makes a good film. Putting the film squarely in Oscar season helped the film’s cause and hype.
12. Pete Docter – Inside Out If there is ever an animated film director that gets in, it would be for a movie like this. It won’t happen, but it is worth discussing.
13. Denis Villeneuve – Sicario After Incendies and Prisoners, Villeneuve is riding high. This film is getting the buzz to really take over the race in early October.

The Predicted Ten (I predict 9 will get nominated)
1. Beasts of No Nation (Cary Fukunaga) – Is the Academy ready (or will they ever be ready) to give a Netflix original streaming movie the top prize? We will find out this year…
2. Trumbo (Jay Roach) – If they aren’t then they will likely give it to the film that puts Hollywood in the crosshairs.
3. Steve Jobs (Danny Boyle) – The film seems pretty safe for a nomination, but it needs to really have something bigger to offer to win. I think it might.
4. Spotlight (Thomas McCarthy) – If the Academy wants to go with something really serious and controversial, this is their choice.
5. The Danish Girl (Tom Hooper) – If the Academy is in a more British and character-driven piece, then Hooper’s film will get the votes.
6. The Revenant (Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu) – If the Academy really doesn’t care about awards overkill and really wants to give Leo some love, then The Revenant might have a real chance at winning.
7. The Hateful Eight (Quentin Tarantino) – I can’t actually see this film winning Best Picture, but a nomination seems pretty safe if the movie is up to QT’s standards.
8. Inside Out (Pete Docter) – If the Academy has a heart, then this will be nominated. If they have a brain, they will consider it for the win.
9. Joy (David O. Russell) – If the Academy finally wants to give Russell a win, then this will make the list and get nominated everywhere else.
10. Bridge of Spies (Steven Spielberg) – Who am I kidding, this is totally getting nominated, isn’t it?
Others in contention
11. Carol (Todd Haynes) – This seems like more of a character drama than a Best Picture contender, but they have gotten in before. Haynes has never gotten one of his films this far, however.
12. Our Brand is Crisis (David Gordon Green) – Can David Gordon Green become an Oscar nominee? His films have been good enough on occasion. This is his best shot yet.
13. Sicario (Denis Villeneuve) – If the movie has a big box office and strong reviews, I think that this could be a dark horse all throughout awards season.
14. In the Heart of the Sea (Ron Howard) – Ron Howard films are an easy sell. These types of big action pieces haven’t really been their thing for about a decade, but this could change that.
15. Brooklyn (John Crowley) – Romantic dramas like this aren’t always treated well, but I wouldn’t count out a film with this kind of pedigree.
16. Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens (JJ Abrams) – This is one of the big unknowns in the race. The original was of course nominated everywhere, but all of the other episodes have been overlooked. If it is good enough and explodes at the box office the way we all anticipate, then…maybe? We can only hope.
17. The Good Dinosaur (Peter Sohn) – I am not going to put this completely out of contention, even though it has an uphill climb to even be the best Pixar film in 2015. However, the director of the best animated short I can remember in Partly Cloudy has his debut film coming out. It has to be incredible.
18. Straight Outta Compton (F. Gary Gray) – The box office was greater than anyone could have imagined. The subject is timely and effectively told. The acting is tremendous. Can it snag the final spot? I wouldn’t be entirely surprised, but I would be impressed.

That’s all I got! Surprises? Overlooks? Comments? Let me know. I’d love to discuss.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Week 2 College Football Recap: Rankings, Heisman, Playoff Projections

Week 2 brought us a lot of exciting games, including Auburn being exposed against FCS foe Jacksonville State and Arkansas getting upended at home by Toledo. Oklahoma had a huge comeback on the road. Notre Dame escaped with a win, despite losing Heisman frontrunner Malik Zaire for the season. It’s all happening!
Top 25 Poll
Others receiving votes:  Auburn, Boise State, California, Texas Tech, Toledo, Western Kentucky
Dropped from the rankings: Auburn (18), Boise State (20), Arkansas (21)

25 (25). BYU (2-0) – After a second consecutive miraculous win for the Cougars, they still can’t really rise in the rankings. That type of luck isn’t sustainable.
24 (24). Arizona State(1-1) – They treaded water for four quarters against FCS foe Cal Poly, but they came out on top. The Big Sky is as good as a couple FBS conferences.
23 (NR). Wisconsin (1-1) – The Badgers took out their frustration on Miami Ohio, winning 58-0. They will slowly climb the rankings as the season goes on.
22 (15). Florida State (2-0) – The Seminoles looked really bad against South Florida. Maybe Everett Golson isn’t the right guy under center.
21 (23). Arizona (2-0) – Playing in Nevada seemed like a trap game, but the Wildcats prevailed and really looked a lot better than in week one.
20 (NR). Kansas State (2-0) – K-State has only given up 3 points in the first 2 weeks. Good enough for me…but no one wants to pay attention to Coach Snyder’s squad.
19 (NR). Utah (2-0) – Utah took down in-state foe Utah State in week two. The Utes, unfortunately, are in the best division in college football (5/6 ranked teams).
18 (22). West Virginia (2-0) – The Mountaineers look to have a much better team than their disappointing 2014 campaign. They are going to surprise some teams in the Big 12 with an actual defense to go with the Holgorson offense.
17 (11). Clemson (2-0) – Clemson has been a bit underwhelming early on. They didn’t necessarily do anything to drop in the rankings, but they also didn’t do anything to sustain their spot.
16 (19). Mississippi (2-0) – I am not buying into the Rebels just yet. So what they can score almost 150 points against weak teams…let’s see how they do in Tuscaloosa next week.
15 (17). LSU (1-0) – LSU got a gutsy, close win on the road in their first game of the season. This team could wind up being a playoff contender.
14 (10). Baylor (2-0) – You simply cannot give up 31 points to Lamar.
13 (9). Oregon (1-1) – The Ducks performed admirably in a nearly impossible game to win in East Lansing. I actually have a bit more respect for the Ducks after this game.
12 (12). UCLA (2-0) – I am not going to buy completely into the Bruins like last year until I see them win a big game. They look awfully good so far, though.
11 (16). Northwestern (2-0) – Northwestern followed up their pounding of Stanford with a shutout at home. I might have them a bit high, but that defense is ferocious.
10 (7). Georgia (2-0) – The Bulldogs are going to run the ball on any defense they play, but the defense isn’t quite up to what it needs to be.
9 (13). Oklahoma (2-0) – Coming back from 17 down on the road in a hostile environment was mightily impressive for Baker Mayfield and company. This seems like one of those teams that just will not go away.
8 (14). Georgia Tech (2-0) – The Justin Thomas-led offense is humming like no running attack in years. The Yellow Jackets have got to be the favorite in the ACC, and they have a real shot at the playoffs if they can survive their schedule.
7 (8). Texas A&M (2-0) – The Aggies have a killer offense and a dynamic defensive line. That should be good enough to make real noise in the SEC West.
6 (2). Notre Dame (2-0) – Beating Virginia on the road is ok, but doing it how they did it was a real accomplishment. They lose their starting QB for the season, but their backup comes in and leads the game winning drive with under 30 seconds left. I just can’t see them going unbeaten anymore without Zaire.
5 (5). Alabama (2-0) – Alabama had a sandwich game with Middle Tennessee, and they looked as solid as possible. This team is going to be really tough to beat by anyone.
4 (3). TCU (2-0) – They looked much more potent on offense against an FCS opponent. I am not completely sure what to make of them, but they will get it all working by conference season.
3 (6). Michigan State (2-0) – Sparty had the most impressive win of the season so far, and they made a real case for being the most balanced team out there.
2 (4). USC (2-0) – The Trojans look like world beaters. The defense is playing outstanding, and Cody Kessler is the real deal. Watch out.
1 (1). Ohio State (2-0) – They are the best, scariest team since 2001 Miami. If you vote for anyone else, you are lying.

Top 5 Games for Next Weekend
5. Stanford at USC (#2), 5:00PM ABC – Stanford may look ugly on offense, but the defense is still there. This has become an interesting game year in and year out, no matter what the teams look like.
4. Auburn at LSU (#15), 12:30PM CBS – Yeah, Auburn is the current laughing stock in college football, but never underestimate Gus Malzahn. Remember in their near title run in 2013 they almost lost to Washington State early. They can totally win this game.
3. BYU (#25) at UCLA (#12), 7:30PM FS1 – BYU really put together a schedule that is going to challenge them, and they look really good with a backup QB taking all the snaps. This will be a test for Josh Rosen, true freshman QB for UCLA.
2. Mississippi (#16) at Alabama (#5), 6:15PM ESPN – Ole Miss will not score 73 against Alabama. They do have the type of offense that give the Tide fits, though, and they did beat them last year. Revenge game? Yes.
PREDICTION: Alabama 31-16
1. Georgia Tech (#8) at Notre Dame (#6), 12:30PM NBC – These are two of the early season surprises. The Notre Dame defense is terrifying, as is the Yellow Jacket rushing attack. I love this matchup.
PREDICTION: Georgia Tech 23-21

Heisman Trophy Watch
5. Derrick Henry, RB, Alabama – In that offense, he is going to be able to do whatever he wants. He might be splitting carries, but he is going to have the ball when it matters. Sometimes, that is enough.
4. Justin Thomas, QB, Georgia Tech – He is the leader of that relentless rushing attack, and maybe the best throwing quarterback that Paul Johnson has had. If they come out on top against Notre Dame, then we will hear a lot about him.
3. Cody Kessler, QB, USC – He is the best quarterback in the nation, and it is a quarterback award usually. He could be on his way to being the most efficient quarterback of all time.
2. Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State – I am not sure if it is possible for him to finish with under 100 yards in any game, no matter the number of carries.
1. Nick Chubb, RB, Georgia – He is going to put up insane numbers in that offense. If they can keep winning, this might be an easy vote.

College Football Playoff Projections
Chik-fil-A Peach Bowl: Georgia Tech over Texas A&M
Rose Bowl: Michigan State over UCLA
Fiesta Bowl: TCU over Western Kentucky
Sugar Bowl: Oregon over Mississippi

College Football Playoff Semifinal #1 (Orange Bowl): Ohio State over Oklahoma
CFB Playoff Semifinal #2 (Cotton Bowl): USC over Alabama
National Championship Game: Ohio State over USC

What did you think of this week 2? Who is your Heisman frontrunner? Let me know below!

Monday, September 7, 2015

Phoenix (2015) Review

Directed by
Christian Petzold

            Like the bandages wrapped tightly across the face of its physically and emotionally scarred central character, Christian Petzold’s Phoenix slowly unravels itself in multiple layers.  On the surface, the film is the stuff of hysterical melodrama, replete with mistaken identities, disguises, loved ones miraculously returning from the dead, facial reconstructive surgeries, and an unclaimed monetary inheritance.  But not unlike the best films of Fassbender and Almodovar, Phoenix employs melodrama as the artifice by which to introduce its viewers to deeper and more complex moral questions.  Indeed, the central question raised by the film is essentially the same one historians have asked about the Holocaust for the last seven decades: What leads people to commit evil?
Actually, the more accurate moral question raised in Phoenix has more to do with what must be done with those who survived evil and now must confront its uncertain aftermath – a question faced by both Holocaust victims as well as its perpetrators (or at least the perpetrators fortunate enough to escape punishment).  Other films dealing with the Holocaust have raised this fecund question before, such as Europa, Europa, Lacombe Lucien, and most recently, Lore.  But Phoenix is less concerned with the Holocaust per se as it is with the ways in which war forever imperils marriages and interpersonal relationships, leaving deep and irrevocable emotional and physical wounds.
 As the film opens in the weeks following the collapse of the Third Reich, we are introduced to two characters: The first is Nelly Lenz (Nina Hoss), a former musician who survived the concentration camps, but was been left horribly disfigured, not too unlike Ralph Fiennes in The English Patient.  The other character is Lene (Nina Kunzendorf), Nelly’s friend, who was able to escape to Switzerland and avoid capture by the SS.  As the film opens, Lene is transporting Nelly back to Berlin where she will receive facial reconstruction surgery – something Lene seems much more enthusiastic about than Nelly.  It is perhaps not surprising that Nelly has lost any appetite for life that she once had – not only did the Holocaust strip her of her ambition, career, and identity (physical and otherwise), but her friends, family and husband are now either dead or missing.  Before operating on her face, Nelly’s physician wisely informs her that for many patients, a new face leading to a new identity may not altogether be a bad thing.

As we gradually learn more and more about her, it becomes apparent how paradoxical of a character Nelly really is.  While Jewish in ethnicity, she never really considered herself a Jew, before or after her imprisonment in the camps.  While she is close friends with Lene, she is not so sure about their plans to depart Europe indefinitely for Palestine.  And most distressing of all, she refuses to believe what Lene tells her about her husband, Johnny (Ronald Zehrfeld) – namely, that he was the one responsible for her horrific fate at the hands of the Nazis.  At night, Nelly searches for Johnny on shady street corners and nightclubs.  Eventually, she is able to locate him (this is not as big of a spoiler as it sounds).  The problem is, of course, that due to her reconstructed face, Johnny does not recognize her, having long assumed his wife died in the concentration camps.  But he does acknowledge a striking physical resemblance between Nelly and, well, Nelly, and before long, he has enlisted her in a scheme (stay with me here) to embezzle money from his dead wife’s inheritance by proving that, no, she actually survived the war, and therefore he should be awarded half.
            The situation is contrived to the point of absurdity, but is nonetheless effective in speculating a provocative hypothetical question: If your spouse assumed you were dead, and you could masquerade as an entirely different person who bore some physical similarities to you, how would you behave around your spouse?  Particularly if that spouse unwittingly revealed him or herself to be lecherous to the point of stealing money and deceiving friends and family?  For Johnny, it is a simple question of fairness – Nelly was his wife, after all, and therefore why should he not feel entitled for what he is presumably owed, particularly since no one else is claiming the inheritance.  For Nelly, the situation is far more emotionally complicated.  She still loves Johnny to the point of looking past his ethical blemishes, whether they’re relatively benign (like stealing unclaimed money) or extreme in their malice (like possibly being responsible for surrendering his wife to die).  Perhaps her unflinching love for Johnny is a direct reflection of her experiences in the concentration camps; the hope of being reunited with Johnny was presumably the only thing that kept her going, and now that she is with him (in one form or another), she can resume the idealized life that was so abruptly halted the day she was captured.
            Did situations like this really happen during the Holocaust and its immediate aftermath?  It’s hard to say, and Phoenix does not contend to be an absolutely faithful rendering of historical time and place.  We do know, however, that many ordinary German citizens were complicit with the actions of the Third Reich and chose to turn a blind eye to the numerous horrific events going on around them.  Does this make these individuals any less susceptible to the severe penalties imposed on high-ranking SS officials during the Nuremberg trials?  Johnny does not seem like an evil person and is certainly not an ideologue – perhaps it is most accurate to call him opportunistic at a time when much of Berlin was lawless and destitute.  But then again, we see Johnny through the distorted perspective of the traumatized Nelly.  The question viewers will ask is if Johnny is not evil, what would have ever prompted him to alert Nazi officials of Nelly’s Jewish identity, resulting in her imprisonment and disfigurement?  And if Nelly is aware of this fact, along with Johnny’s harebrained scheming, why does she continue this ridiculous masquerading of her old self?  Is she not guilty of the same hypocrisy, self-denial, and turning of a blind eye as the rest of the complicit German population?  

            These are extremely complex questions that, at a surface level, seem only relevant to Phoenix’s immediate narrative concerns – namely, the whole charade of Nelly pretending to be herself for the purposes of resuscitating her pre-Holocaust identity along with her marriage.  But upon closer examination, the three central characters in Phoenix appear to represent three different strands of Holocaust survivors and their respective attitudes toward a post-war Germany.  Lene represents continental Jews who believe there is no hope in resuming normalcy in Europe, and the only solution is to depart the continent altogether for the hope of refuge in what will ultimately become Israel.  Johnny represents the numerous “good Germans” who may have escaped the sting of Nuremberg, but who now must live with a perpetually guilty conscious for their spineless inactivity and utter lack of conviction during the time when it mattered most. 
            As for Nelly, she most closely represents the identities of Jewish survivors of Auschwitz and other camps – brutally scarred and traumatized, stumbling idly without purpose or direction, unsure of who to believe and what exact identity to inhabit.  The question of how Jews are supposed to reconcile prewar and postwar identities in Germany closely parallels Phoenix’s scenes of Johnny instructing the person he believes to be the false Nelly to behave in a manner more akin to the real, “authentic” Nelly when, of course, it has actually been the same person all along.  But beyond its function as a simple (loose use of the word) fable for contested Jewish identity, Phoenix is most effective as a stark lesson in the devastating psychological effects of brutality and victimhood.  Nelly is not a na├»ve or simplistic character, but one whose extreme psychological and physical damage has rendered her unable to distinguish between good and evil, pain and pleasure, and even love and hate.  The one thing she is left longing for is also the one thing she cannot have – her old identity, one that was blissfully free of the grave consequences which emerge as a byproduct of a rising moral consciousness.    

Rating: 3.5 stars

Friday, September 4, 2015

Top 10 Summer Movies-2015

September has finally cracked our calendars.  That means two things, football season is here, and that the summer movie season is finished.  

This summer, we witnessed a battle of blockbusters.  A director coming full circle, with his fourth film in the franchise he started.  We have seen some remakes, disaster films, biopics, and tearful animation.   

Now I haven't seen every film that came out this summer.  So there might be a few that could of made my Top 10.  

Here's that list: Trainwreck, Mission Impossible Rogue Nation, The Gift, Dope, Me Earl and the Dying Girl, Amy, Mr. Holmes, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Terminator Genisys, and Cop Car

Movies that just miss my list:
Maggie, Spy, Insidious: Chapter 3, No Escape, Slow West, Pitch Perfect 2, Vacation, and Shaun the Sheep

San Andreas
I original thought this movie was going to be awful.  To my surprise, I rather enjoyed seeing Dwayne Johnson battle nature.  It was a fun time to see some disaster.

The Avengers: Age of Ultron
The first blockbuster of the summer, truly flexed it's muscles.  Though there was some disappointment with fans, I was one of them.  That doesn't mean, I didn't have fun.  I still enjoy my heroes!

5 Flights Up
What is this film you ask?  Well, it's a simple story about a couple trying to find a new apartment.  I loved the chemistry between Freeman and Keaton.  Just a sweet film.

Ted 2
I wasn't a huge fan of the first film.  So I was pleasantly surprised by how much I laughed, this time around.  The cameo in the grocery story lol!

A movie that proves Marvel can't do any wrong.  The first 15 minutes or so, I didn't enjoy but it got better.  It was really funny.  I loved what Paul Rudd can bring to this Universe.

This movie has my favorite performance of the year.  Gyllenhaal is just simply amazing.  He is quickly becoming my favorite actor.  

Straight Outta Compton
This was my most anticipated of the summer, and it didn't disappoint me at all.  I had so much fun and enjoyed every minute of it.

Jurassic World
This was the only film this summer that I went to see twice.  This may not be the best film, but I enjoyed going back to the island.  Chris Pratt, is Mr. Summer movie.

Inside Out
Pixar is in the business to make grown men cry.  They succeeded again with this film.  What an emotional journey, that will tug at the heart strings and make you laugh out load!

Mad Max: Fury Road
What a nonstop thrill ride.  This movie grabs ahold of you and never lets go!  Charlize Theron is totally a bad ass.  Tom Hardy continues doing amazing films.  This should get some oscar buzz.  The makeup and special effects should be remembered for a long time!

Well that's my list!  What did I get wrong?  What's your list?
Comment Below

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