Sunday, November 29, 2015

Week 13 College Football Recap: Rankings, Heisman, Playoff Projections

Rivalry week is in the books, and it was just as exciting as could be expected. South Carolina pushed Clemson in the Palmetto Bowl. Auburn forced Alabama to rush Derrick Henry 46 times to win the Iron Bowl. Ohio State romped Michigan in The Game… Next up are the Conference Championships, except, you know, the Big 12, whose makeshift Championship Game was Bedlam, which was not even a contest. Oklahoma clinched with their monster win in Stillwater. Look ahead to the rest of the games next weekend below…
Top 25 Poll
Others receiving votes: Appalachian State, Florida, LSU, Utah, Western Kentucky
Dropped from the rankings: Washington State (15), UCLA (21), Florida (16)

25 (24). Toledo (9-2) – Toledo loses out on their chance at the New Years bowls after dropping their finale to in-state for Ohio and also misses out on the MAC Championship Game. They still have an impressive resume, though.
24 (12). Michigan (9-3) – They got absolutely trashed by the Buckeyes at home. It was the first time all year that Michigan looked like the previous regime.
23 (NR). USC (8-4) – USC beats UCLA for the first time in 4 years, placing a potential Rose on their controversial season.
22 (NR). Mississippi (9-3) – They won the Egg Bowl with ease. Depending on the week, this is either the best team in the nation or not even a top 25 team.
21 (23). Wisconsin (9-3) – The Badgers ended one of the quieter 9 win seasons in recent memory with a victory over their biggest rival Minnesota.
20 (22). BYU (9-3) – The Cougars dismantled up-and-down Utah State. Remember when we thought this was a potential playoff team? They flew under the radar after their couple losses and mounted an impressive 9-win year with a backup QB.
19 (NR). Memphis (9-3) – Memphis proved a point with their demolition of SMU over the weekend. Justin Fuente also got himself a new job by halftime.
18 (11). Navy (10-2) – Navy got taken apart by Houston, ending their chances at appearing in a New Years bowl. It is the best season Navy has had in decades, though.
17 (25). Florida State (10-2) – After shutting out the Gators offense, the Seminoles put themselves in position to snag one of the big bowl game spots away from a more deserving team that actually plays in a quality conference.
16 (18). Oregon (9-3) – They struggled defensively in the Civil War, but they have all year. If Vernon Adams had been healthy, this would be the conference champ and playoff contender.
15 (20). Temple (10-2) – The Owls capped their 10-win season off with a bang, and now get a shot at the AAC title and a potential invite to a major bowl game.
14 (17). Northwestern (10-2) – Even though their two losses were blowouts, this is clearly the 5th best team in the Big Ten, which was a much better conference than anyone gives it credit for.
13 (13). Houston (11-1) – Houston crushed Navy, and they would move up, but their loss is too ugly and everyone else have more impressive closing resumes.
12 (19). TCU (10-2) – TCU beating Baylor was a surprise. This team got way too much credit taken away just for losing with their backup QB.
11 (10). Oklahoma State (10-2) – Getting smacked around at home is bad, but Oklahoma has been doing that to most everyone. They simply ran into a buzz saw on Saturday.
10 (5). Baylor (9-2) – Baylor ends their disappointing season next week against Texas, but losing to TCU the way they did (3rd string QB) doesn’t quite end their chances at a big bowl.
9 (2). Notre Dame (10-2) – Another heartbreaking road loss for Notre Dame almost guarantees a spot for the Irish in one of the New Years games.
8 (9). North Carolina (11-1) – One of the best offenses in the nation took it to archrival NC State. Watch out, Clemson.
7 (14). Stanford (10-2) – Stanford is the most balanced team in the country. They need a bit of luck to get in the playoff, and they need to beat a very talented and dangerous team for a second time this season.
6 (8). Iowa (12-0) – Iowa survived against Nebraska to cap their undefeated regular season. I would say that they are the worst undefeated major conference team I can remember, but then I remember there was 2014 Florida State…
5 (6). Michigan State (11-1) – Sparty took out Penn State to clinch the division and a potential play-in game with Iowa.
4 (7). Ohio State (11-1) – The way Ohio State won really makes you question how they lost to Michigan State. I don’t think there is a single person, Urban Meyer included, who thinks Zeke was wrong in his criticizing of the playcalling.
3 (3). Alabama (11-1) – Alabama looked sluggish in the Iron Bowl, but they got out alive. And they get potentially the worst division champ the SEC has ever had in the title game.
2 (1). Clemson (12-0) – They barely won in against pitiful South Carolina, but they won. They are going to have their hands full against UNC.
1 (4). Oklahoma (11-1) – They are undefeated at home and on the road. They won in Waco and won in Stillwater with style. They lost their biggest rivalry game midseason on a neutral field. This is the best and scariest team out there, and their lack of a conference title game is actually going to help them, not having one last chance at getting upset.

Conference Championship Games
First of all, the Sun Belt is completely screwed up. If you have 11 teams in the conference, you have got to play 10 conference games, not 8. Georgia Southern, Appalachian State, and Arkansas State would likely form a three way tie at the top of the conference, but only one game occurred between the three teams, so the “conference champ” is going to be Arkansas State, barring a disaster against 3-8 Texas State next week. How irresponsible is it to have 11 teams anymore? Ugh. Whatever. That is the only conference without a championship game. Well, that and the Big 12.

8. Mountain West Championship
San Diego State at Air Force, 4:30PM ESPN2 – I just have no interest in this game. The Aztecs didn’t lose in conference, but they didn’t play Boise State or Air Force. They got beat by South Alabama out of conference. Air Force’s only bad loss was losing to rival Navy by 22, but there is honestly no shame in that this season. Screw it, there are always surprises, and it is hard to see one of the military schools being a conference champ.
PREDICTION: San Diego State 21-17
7. Conference USA Championship
Southern Mississippi at Western Kentucky, 9:00AM ESPN2 – Look at Southern Miss’s conference schedule. It is an absolute joke. This will not be close.
PREDICTION: Western Kentucky 34-14
6. MAC Championship
Bowling Green vs Northern Illinois, FRI 5:00PM ESPN2 – Northern Illinois has the higher peaks, but they also have some confusing losses. Bowling Green hasn’t really been there before either. This is a virtual coin flip.
PREDICTION: Bowling Green 45-37
5. SEC Championship
Florida vs Alabama (#3), 1:00PM CBS – I thought that Florida could have a chance in this game, but after their offense got shut out against FSU, I just can’t see them getting on the board against Alabama.
PREDICTION: Alabama 23-0
4. PAC-12 Championship
USC (#23) vs Stanford (#7), 4:45PM ESPN – Stanford was all over USC in LA, but winning a second time is tough. USC has been dynamite recently. Helton is making his case to keep that job. Last time Stanford was in this position, though, it was against UCLA, and they beat them down 2 weeks in a row.
PREDICTION: Stanford 28-20
3. AAC Championship
Temple (#15) at Houston (#13), 9:00AM ABC – It is tremendous that this is the title game in the AAC, since it is one of the matchups between the top 4 teams that hasn’t happened yet. It should be a tough battle.
PREDICTION: Houston 38-27
2. ACC Championship
North Carolina (#8) vs Clemson (#2), 5:00PM ABC – North Carolina is capable of scoring against anyone. They have been playing for style points since their ugly loss to South Carolina to start the year, but this week just proved that Clemson and UNC have Cock struggles in common.
PREDICTION: North Carolina 41-37
1. Big Ten Championship
Iowa (#4) vs Michigan State (#5), 5:00PM FOX – Everyone is all over Michigan State, even though they have struggled with several teams this year. Iowa really hasn’t. Their game control is off the charts. This will be an ugly game offensively, even though both teams have uncommonly put up decent scores recently.
PREDICTION: Iowa 16-13

Head Coaching Vacancy Predictions
I have no sources, this is just speculation, guesses, and best fits…

§  Virginia Tech hires Justin Fuente (HC, Memphis)
§  Memphis hires Brent Venables (DC, Clemson)
§  Georgia hires Les Miles (HC, LSU)
§  LSU hires Jimbo Fisher (HC, Florida State)
§  Florida State hires Chip Kelly (HC, Philadelphia Eagles)
§  Maryland hires Lane Kiffen (OC, Alabama)
§  Miami hires Charlie Strong (HC, Texas)
§  Texas hires Mark Richt (HC, Georgia)
§  Missouri hires Tom Herman (HC, Houston)
§  Houston hires Kendal Briles (OC, Baylor)
§  Louisiana-Monroe hires Major Applewhite (OC, Houston)
§  North Texas hires Doug Meachem (OC, TCU)
§  Rutgers hires Jim Tressel (President, Youngstown State)
§  South Carolina hires Kirby Smart (DC, Alabama)
§  Syracuse hires Ed Orgeron (DL, LSU)
§  Toledo hires Jason Candle (OC, Toledo)
§  Tulane hires Greg Schiano (unemployed)
§  Virginia hires Gene Chizik (DC, North Carolina)
§  UCF hires John Grass (HC, Jacksonville State)
§  USC hires Jeff Fisher (HC, St. Louis Rams)

Heisman Trophy Watch
5. Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State – He won’t win because of his remarks after the Michigan State game, but he has proved that he is that whole offense, and when they utilize him, they are not going to be stopped.
4. Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford – He is approaching the Barry Sanders record for all purpose yards in a season. That should be enough…
3. Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma – When he was out, they nearly lost at home. When he is in, he is one of the most dialed-in and inspired players I have seen since Tim Tebow. He needs to be invited.
2. DeShaun Watson, QB, Clemson – He had another huge game this week, but he drops one spot only because…
1. Derrick Henry, RB, Alabama – 250+ yards and 45+ carries in a rivalry game. Yeah.
College Football Playoff Projections
Chik-fil-A Peach Bowl: Notre Dame over North Carolina
Rose Bowl: Ohio State over Oregon
Fiesta Bowl: Houston over Baylor
Sugar Bowl: Clemson over Mississippi

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

What are your favorite college football rivalries? What do you think will happen in the conference championship games next week? Your top 4? Heisman top 5? Let me know!

Saturday, November 28, 2015

SNL 41.5 Review - Elizabeth Banks, Disclosure

Original Airdate - 11/14/15

After a week of making political statements with Donald Trump taking on hosting duties, Saturday Night Live makes up for it with satisfying a request of many fans of the show.  For many years, Elizabeth Banks has topped many lists of people deserving a shot at hosting the show.  After a headline-making hosting gig that led to a lackluster show, this episode showed what the show is all about.

Cold Opening

Following the tragic events that took place in Paris just days before this episode, SNL used their platform to voice support for those grieving what had happened.  It was simple, but very poignant and effective.  For a second, it doesn't look like Cecily Strong can make it through her brief emotional message.  Part of me wants to see what potential sketch was planned that we missed, but this was such a perfect start to the episode.


Elizabeth Banks is a multi-talented actress.  Not only is she starring in the last Hunger Games movie right now, but she also directed her first movie this year in Pitch Perfect 2.  We have seen enough Hunger Games themed sketches over the years with Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, and Woody Harrelson hosting in the past few years to promote the previous films.  After a short homage to this franchise, they take advantage of the fact that they have a musical director on stage and allow her to direct her own musical number while she performs it.  It was a musical number, which is a typical fallback for monologues, but it felt different as they added that wrinkle to it.  It was definitely fun and enjoyable.

Weekend Update

Jost and Che were on top form once again.  Colin brings punny, ironic jokes a la Seth Meyers, while Michael brings an edge that few have had the guts to bring to the Update desk.  Together, they form quite the odd couple and dynamic team.  The guests to the Update desk were all repeats.  First we had Pete Davidson, almost invisible in the Trump episode, get his opportunity to give his unique perspective on current events.  Then we had Bruce Chandling, the most awkward bad comic ever.  This character keeps getting brought back, and I don't care because it is so different and awkward that it is worth seeing once or twice per season.  Last, we have Kate McKinnon channel her unique skills through her depressed Russian old lady.  It's the same jokes every time, but it's still funny every time.

Best Sketch

A host's skills are tested by how seemlessly they can blend into the rest of the cast.  From the first sketch on, Elizabeth Banks was just another player in the show.  This is always best because it allows the writers to do whatever they want with the sketches.  Of all the quality sketches that came out of this episode, this might have been my favorite.  It is a recurring sketch that takes a natural comic host like Banks for them to pull it out.  This sketch has fallen flat in the past, but this time it was hilarious.

Worst Sketch

This was hard because all the sketches were funny.  However, I will have to go with this one.  The Girls Club has come up with some pretty fun songs and performances in the last few years.  However, the last couple haven't been great, this one included.  It had some laughs in it, but these prerecorded music videos have come to have an expectation of being a highlight of each episode, dating back to the Lonely Island guys.  These last couple have not lived up to the legend.

Dark Horse Sketch

Mike O'Brien has been a writer for the show for quite some time.  He hopped up to the cast for one season when the show was desperate for new blood, but was demoted back to the writing room the next season.  Every now and then, he comes out with a special sketch written for him.  This is his first one in awhile, but it is fun as it talks about the adventures of Uber.

This was, from start to finish, one of the best and most enjoyable episodes of the season so far.  It took way too long for Elizabeth Banks to get a hosting gig, and let's hope her next stop at 30 Rock is not too far out.


View the full episode here:

2016 Golden Globes Preview and Predictions

The Golden Globes might not be the most prestigious of awards, but they are an entertaining circuit and a good early indicator of what Hollywood is really into during awards season. The nominations come out in a couple weeks, so without further ado, here are my annual (slightly sarcastic) predictions for the Hollywood Foreign Press Association’s 73rd Annual Golden Globe Awards…

1. Uzo Aduba – Orange is the New Black
2. Jean Smart – Fargo
3. Catherine Keener – Show Me a Hero
4. Lena Heady – Game of Thrones
5. Regina King – American Crime

1. Hugh Laurie – Veep
2. Christian Slater – Mr. Robot
3. Peter Dinklage – Game of Thrones
4. Damian Lewis – Wolf Hall
5. Jonathan Banks – Better Call Saul

1. Angela Lansbury – Driving Miss Daisy
2. Queen Latifah – Bessie
3. Rachel McAdams – True Detective
4. Nicole Kidman – Grace of Monaco
5. Lady Gaga – American Horror Story: Hotel

1. Oscar Isaac – Show Me a Hero
2. James Earl Jones – Driving Miss Daisy
3. Colin Farrell – True Detective
4. David Oyelowo – Nightingale
5. Patrick Wilson – Fargo

1. Fargo
2. Show Me a Hero
3. Bessie
4. American Crime
5. Wolf Hall

1. Ellie Kemper – Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
2. Julia Louis-Dreyfus – Veep
3. Jane Fonda – Grace and Frankie
4. Lily Tomlin – Grace and Frankie
5. Gina Rodriguez – Jane the Virgin

1. Jeffrey Tambor – Transparent
2. Rob Lowe – The Grinder
3. Anthony Anderson – Black-ish
4. Patrick Stewart – Blunt Talk
5. Matthew Perry – The Odd Couple

1. Transparent
2. Veep
3. Orange is the New Black
4. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
5. The Muppets

1. Taraji P. Henson – Empire
2. Viola Davis – How to Get Away with Murder
3. Tatiana Maslany – Orphan Black
4. Claire Danes – Homeland
5. Melissa Benoist – Supergirl

1. Jon Hamm – Mad Men
2. Rami Malek – Mr. Robot
3. Sam Heughan – Outlander
4. Kevin Spacey – House of Cards
5. Terrance Howard – Empire

1. Game of Thrones
2. Outlander
3. Mr. Robot
4. Empire
5. House of Cards

---Note: I have not seen even half of the TV predictions. A lot of it is Golden Globe trends and shots in the dark. As a rule in TV and movies, the HFPA loves big names and foreign productions.

1. Inside Out
2. Anomalisa
3. The Good Dinosaur
4. When Marnie Was There
5. The Peanuts Movie

Explanation: Pixar is hard to beat in an ordinary year, but they have two films, so it might be even easier for one of their best films ever Inside Out. The Charlie Kaufman-scripted Anomalisa is making waves, but that might be more of a Critics Choice winner than a Golden Globe winner.

1. Son of Saul (Hungary)
2. Mustang (France)
3. Labyrinth of Lies (Germany)
4. Goodnight Mommy (Austria)
5. The Clan (Argentina)

Explanation: There isn’t a whole lot of commentary on this one. Son of Saul has established itself as a Best Picture contender, so its status here is somewhat obvious. The Globes like to shake things up, so a horror film and a film about a family of serial killers seem like solid contenders.

1. “One Kind of Love” – Love and Mercy
2. “Love Me Like You Do” – 50 Shades of Grey
3. “Til It Happens To You” – The Hunting Ground
4. “See You Again” – Furious 7
5. “So Long” – Concussion

Explanation: Giving Lady Gaga a double nomination, as well giving invites to Brian Wilson, Wiz Khalifa, and Elle Goulding seems like a HFPA thing to do.

1. Bridge of Spies – Thomas Newman
2. Inside Out – Michael Giacchino
3. Carol – Carter Burwell
4. Star Wars: The Force Awakens – John Williams
5. The Hateful Eight – Ennio Morricone

Explanation: The Globes love Spielberg and John Williams, of course. It would be a cool inclusion if Morricone got in. I really do not know what to expect here. I haven’t heard enough of the scores to make precise predictions. This is definitely just me projecting and hoping.

1. Spotlight – Thomas McCarthy, Josh Singer
2. Joy – David O. Russell, Annie Mumolo
3. The Hateful Eight – Quentin Tarantino
4. Steve Jobs – Aaron Sorkin
5. The Martian – Drew Goddard

Explanation: These are the highest profile Golden Globes movies this year, and a few of the biggest names in screenwriting. I almost included Brooklyn and/or Carol here, but these seem like as safe of bets as possible for this awards organization. I love that they only have one category. It makes getting nominated even more prestigious, and at times (It’s Complicated, for example) even more strange.

1. Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu – The Revenant
2. Ridley Scott – The Martian
3. Steven Spielberg – Bridge of Spies
4. David O. Russell – Joy
5. Quentin Tarantino – The Hateful Eight

Explanation: The Globes didn’t award Inarritu last year, so they will take it upon themselves to do that this time. The others are just the powerhouse names and movies that would be typical here. Thomas McCarthy should probably be included, but he isn’t quite a household name just yet.
The HFPA Dream Lineup:
JJ Abrams – Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Woody Allen – Irrational Man
Angelina Jolie – By the Sea
Steven Spielberg – Bridge of Spies
Quentin Tarantino – The Hateful Eight

1. Jane Fonda – Youth
2. Elizabeth Banks – Love and Mercy
3. Jennifer Jason Leigh – The Hateful Eight
4. Ellen Page – Freeheld
5. Diane Ladd – Joy

Explanation: Love and Mercy is the closest thing to a musical we have this year, so that will gobble up a few nominations, I suspect. Fonda and Ladd are reflections of the HFPA’s love for older Hollywood actors. This year is unusually stacked for supporting actresses.
The HFPA Dream Lineup:
Maggie Smith – The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
Kristen Stewart – Clouds of Sils Maria
Meryl Streep – Suffragette
Alicia Vikander – Ex Machina
Kate Winslet – Steve Jobs

1. Michael Keaton – Spotlight
2. Sylvester Stallone – Creed
3. Idris Elba – Beasts of No Nation
4. Benicio Del Toro – Sicario
5. Jason Mitchell – Straight Outta Compton

Explanation: This is definitely the category where the HFPA just does whatever they want. The Globes are ok with Netflix, so this will be the start of Elba’s quest for an Oscar nod. Straight Outta Compton is sort of a musical, which will likely garner noms from this group. The HFPA just loves stars. Nominating Stallone here would be like when Michael Douglas got in for Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps.
The HFPA Dream Lineup:
Bradley Cooper – Joy
Robert De Niro – Joy
Harrison Ford – Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Brad Pitt – The Big Short
Seth Rogen – Steve Jobs

1. Jennifer Lawrence – Joy
2. Meryl Streep – Ricki and the Flash
3. Sandra Bullock – Our Brand Is Crisis
4. Lily Tomlin – Grandma
5. Amy Schumer – Trainwreck

Explanation: There really are only like 7 contenders for this category, but these are pretty safe picks. The top 3 are as big of locks as any potential nominees in any category.
The HFPA Dream Lineup:
Sandra Bullock – Our Brand Is Crisis
Tina Fey – Sisters
Melissa McCarthy – Spy
Meryl Streep – Ricki and the Flash
Rebel Wilson – Pitch Perfect 2

1. Matt Damon – The Martian
2. Bradley Cooper – Burnt
3. Joaquin Phoenix – Irrational Man
4. Steve Carell – The Big Short
5. Shameik Moore - Dope

Explanation: It would be an upset if Moore gets in, but he is such a natural and really did give one of the best performances of the year. Remember when Damon was the slam dunk winner in this category for The Informant! but then ended up dropping to Robert Downey Jr. for Sherlock Holmes? I can see something similar happening here, even though Damon is far and away the class of this category.
The HFPA Dream Lineup:
Bradley Cooper – Burnt
Robert De Niro – The Intern
Bill Murray – Rock the Kasbah
Al Pacino – Danny Collins
Paul Rudd – Any-Man

1. The Martian
2. The Big Short
3. Joy
4. Irrational Man
5. Spy

Explanation: The HFPA loves Woody Allen, even his lesser features. The Martian’s inclusion in this category is a bit of a copout because there is no way it loses, unless they just want to shamelessly award as Hollywood of a picture as there is in The Big Short.
The HFPA Dream Lineup:
The Big Short
Irrational Man
The Martian
Pitch Perfect 2
Ricki and the Flash

1. Cate Blanchett – Carol
2. Alicia Vikander – The Danish Girl
3. Rooney Mara – Carol
4. Marion Cotillard – Macbeth
5. Charlotte Rampling – 45 Years

Explanation: This is an interesting category because Vikander and Mara are almost certainly being campaigned as supporting, but the Golden Globes don’t care. They put you where they want to put you. They love international actors in this category, so Vikander and Cotillard should coast to nominations. Rampling would be a bit of a surprise, but that is not out of the realm of possibility in this category. Sometimes this category is predetermined with the Dames, Meryl, and the K(C)ates, but this year is a bit more wide open.
The HFPA Dream Lineup:
Angelina Jolie – By the Sea
Nicole Kidman – Secret in Their Eyes
Helen Mirren – Woman in Gold
Julia Roberts – Secret in Their Eyes
Charlize Theron – Mad Max: Fury Road

1. Leonardo DiCaprio – The Revenant
2. Eddie Redmayne – The Danish Girl
3. Johnny Depp – Black Mass
4. Tom Hanks – Bridge of Spies
5. Will Smith – Concussion

Explanation: Oh, the Globes have got to love the star power in this category! I can’t really come up with anything else. These are all virtual locks.
The HFPA Dream Lineup:
Bryan Cranston – Trumbo
Johnny Depp – Black Mass
Leonardo DiCaprio – The Revenant
Tom Hanks – Bridge of Spies
Will Smith – Concussion

1. The Revenant
2. Spotlight
3. The Hateful Eight
4. Bridge of Spies
5. Carol

Explanation: This was a little difficult. The Globes and the Oscars don’t really match up all that much in their Best Picture categories. I just suspect that The Revenant will be big with this organization, but not necessarily the Oscars and beyond. They gave everything to Linklater last year, so Inarritu will get his this year. The others are just typical GG movies. Tarantino, Spielberg, and one artsy film sprinkled in.
The HFPA Dream Lineup:
By the Sea
In the Heart of the Sea
Mad Max: Fury Road
Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Straight Outta Compton

That’s it! What did you think of my predictions? Stay tuned in the coming weeks for my next Oscar predictions and updates on the Critics Circles after the National Board of Review Awards kick off the season!

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Week 12 College Football Recap: Rankings, Heisman, Playoff Projections

We are down to 2 undefeated teams as Ohio State trips up at home, Oklahoma State gets exposed by Baylor, and Houston loses inexplicably in Connecticut. The Big 12 has killed each other by injuring at least one of each team’s quarterbacks, the Pac-12 has continued to cannibalize itself, and Clemson just continues to roll along as the top team in the nation. It is going to be an exciting final couple weeks of the regular season! Check out Week 12 below…
Top 25 Poll
Others receiving votes: Air Forice, LSU, Mississippi, Utah, Western Kentucky
Dropped from the rankings: USC (19), LSU (21), Utah (22), Memphis (25)

25 (NR). Florida State (9-2) – They beat up on a weak opponent, and they aren’t worthy of this spot, but there just aren’t enough worthy 3-loss teams either.
24 (24). Toledo (9-1) – The problem they are going to run into is the fact that all Northern Illinois has to do is beat Ohio for Toledo to get left out of the MAC Championship Game, which will end their hopes of a New Year’s Six Bowl.
23 (23). Wisconsin (8-3) – The loss to Northwestern had some questionable calls in the end, so they don’t really need to drop.
22 (NR). BYU (8-3) – The Cougars are still plugging away after their ugly couple losses midseason. They are going to be a tough out in a bowl.
21 (NR). UCLA (8-3) – Another impressive win for UCLA puts them back into the rankings. The Bruins are one of those teams that no one really wants a part of, but they underachieve enough to never really be a threat nationally.
20 (NR). Temple (9-2) – South Florida has proved to not be as bad of a loss as we originally thought. Taking out Memphis the way they did has Temple back in the thick of the Group of 5 contenders.
19 (15). TCU (9-2) – With a 2nd and 3rd string quarterback, TCU almost won in Norman. Their defense still hasn’t put together a good game all year, though.
18 (20). Oregon (8-3) – Oregon is rolling now with Vernon Adams healthy. They might end up being the best team to play in the Heart of Dallas Bowl or some pathetic equivalent thanks to the Pac-12 beating each other up.
17 (17). Northwestern (9-2) – The Wildcats still have those two bad losses on their record, but they continue to win and do it on the road.
16 (11). Florida (10-1) – Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina didn’t exactly carry the banner for the SEC with an overtime win against 2-9 Florida Atlantic, a close call against Georgia Southern, and a loss to The Citadel, but Florida only has one loss. Ugh.
15 (14). Washington State (8-3) – They might have lost Luke Falk for a while, but the Cougs have certainly gained the respect of the nation with their recent run.
14 (18). Stanford (9-2) – Stanford had a nice win in their rivalry game against Cal. They play the best football in the conference, but it is going to be an uphill climb for them to get in the playoff.
13 (4). Houston (10-1) – A loss at UConn is strange and uncalled for. They are another team who is out their starting QB, and at a smaller program like Houston, that is much more difficult to recover from.
12 (16). Michigan (9-2) – The Wolverines set up a big matchup with Ohio State next week after surviving against a pesky Penn State squad.
11 (13). Navy (9-1) – Navy might not lose again. This is almost certainly out Group of 5 representative in the big bowls.
10 (7). Oklahoma State (10-1) – Baylor had a 2nd and 3rd string QB, and they still were able to take out the Cowboys. They were always slightly fraudulent, but they have yet to really look unworthy.
9 (10). North Carolina (10-1) – They needed to hang on to beat VT in Beamer’s final home game in Blacksburg, but they still look mighty impressive, even though their opening loss to South Carolina might be the worst single loss among all one-loss teams, including Houston.
8 (9). Iowa (11-0) – They are going to have their hands full in Lincoln. I can’t see them making it past Nebraska and whoever wins the East.
7 (5). Ohio State (10-1) – The playcalling and starting quarterback did Ohio State in on Saturday. Does anyone else still want JT Barrett running that offense? If Cardale Jones starts, they win out and win the national title.
6 (12). Michigan State (10-1) – Sparty had to call upon their 2nd stringer to take out Ohio State in Columbus, maybe the most impressive win of the year.
5 (8). Baylor (9-1) – Baylor moves back up after using a couple inexperienced quarterbacks to still romp all over Oklahoma State’s defense.
4 (6). Oklahoma (10-1) – Oklahoma has a worse loss than Baylor, but the head-to-head puts them one spot ahead. The Sooners also needed their backup QB to hold on against TCU. It is a rash of QB injuries in the Big 12 and beyond.
3 (3). Alabama (10-1) – They rolled all over one of the best FCS teams, so…yeah I don’t know what to really do with them. They stay here.
2 (2). Notre Dame (10-1) – The Irish had to hang on against BC while losing their star RB in the process. This is the most complete team in the country.
1 (1). Clemson (11-0) – I don’t think anyone really believes they are #1, but they beat arguably the best team and are undefeated. That’s good enough.

Top 5 Games for Next Weekend
5. UCLA (#21) at USC, 12:30PM ABC – This has been a fierce rivalry recently. This is going to decide the Pac-12 South and who gets to take a shot at Stanford in the Pac-12 Championship.
4. Navy (#11) at Houston (#13), FRI 9:00AM ABC – This game is going to decide who gets to play in the AAC Championship against Temple. It should be entertaining. I like Houston at home, despite not having Greg Ward playing, but I just feel this Navy team is special.
PREDICTION: Navy 28-23
3. Oklahoma (#4) at Oklahoma State (#10), 5:00PM ABC – Bedlam looks to decide the Big 12 Championship, unless Baylor wins. Oklahoma controls their destiny, however.
PREDICTION: Oklahoma 49-38
2. Notre Dame (#2) at Stanford (#14), 4:30PM FOX – This annual rivalry has more implications than ever before. Both teams need this game and need to look good to stay in the playoff picture.
PREDICTION: Stanford 24-16
1. Ohio State (#7) at Michigan (#12), 9:00AM ABC – Sparty controls their destiny in the division, but should they lose, this game will decide the division (and let’s be honest, Iowa, it decides the conference).
PREDICTION: Ohio State 23-21

Heisman Trophy Watch
5. Keenan Reynolds, QB, Navy – It might be considered a career award, but he is having a marvelous season for the Midshipmen. He deserves to be in NewYork.
4. Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford – He has continued to put up one of the best all around seasons in modern college football. He is what the award is all about.
3. Baker Mayfield, QB, Oklahoma – Even though he got injured against TCU, he made some big plays and showed his true value to the hottest team in the nation.
2. Derrick Henry, RB, Alabama – A game against Charleston Southern isn’t exactly a showcase, but he had great YPC in the game and didn’t do anything to hurt his chances.
1. DeShaun Watson, QB, Clemson – He is somehow a quiet contender, despite being the best dual threat in the country on the nation’s #1 team.

College Football Playoff Projections
Chik-fil-A Peach Bowl: Navy over North Carolina
Rose Bowl: Ohio State over Oregon
Fiesta Bowl: Baylor over Clemson
Sugar Bowl: Notre Dame over Mississippi

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

What did you think of this week? Which rivalry games are you most looking forward to? Let me know!

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Spotlight (2015) Review

Directed by
Thomas McCarthy


Of its many remarkable qualities, perhaps the most impressive aspect of Thomas McCarthy’s Spotlight is its singular persistence of vision.  This is a movie that attempts to juggle so many stories, characters and events (the majority of which either occur offscreen or are apocryphal to begin with) that in the hands of a lesser filmmaker, the result could have easily been a scrambled mess.  Because the movie depicts the unfolding of the Catholic clergy abuse scandal, it could have easily gravitated toward exploitation or melodrama.  Because the movie also depicts the workaday lives of reporters spending every moment of their spare time devoted to uncovering the facts of the case, the film could have become a character study of the obsessive personalities of journalists.
But Spotlight is none of those things.  We do not get the obligatory scenes of a predatory priest inviting a young boy into the back of a giant foreboding Buick, nor do we get the same tired scene of the reporter’s wife crying, throwing a glass on the floor, and shouting no honey, you don’t pay enough attention to me or your family any more.  This is a film where the majority of the action occurs in a small backroom office of the Boston Globe, where the characters don’t talk about Ethics and The American Way, but instead pour through old directories for lists of names and copy them hurriedly on to Excel spreadsheets.  The action which does occur outside the office only relates to the process of the ongoing investigation, meaning that like the reporters, we become familiar with the lecherous priests through name and secondhand description only.  Like many great films, it is tough on its audience.  We don’t get the luxury of flashbacks or subtitles, reinforcing just how vast and expansive the cover-up truly was.
Another unique aspect of Spotlight is that it lacks a true protagonist.  As the film opens in summer of 2001, we are introduced to the titular four-member investigative reporting team at the Globe, led by Walter ‘Robby’ Robinson (Michael Keaton).  The Globe’s new managing editor is an outsider named Marty Baron (Liev Shreiber) whose first directive to the Spotlight crew is to reexamine allegations of sexual abuse in the church that has been peripherally covered by the paper in the last couple of decades.  Baron’s outsider status is significant because, as we soon learn, native Bostonians have (unwittingly or purposefully) become immune and desensitized to individual claims of clergy abuse.  The city’s populace, as well as the Spotlight team, believe that any scandal that exists is confined to a few bad seeds and little more.

But soon, the reporters begin identifying troubling trends.  All of the legal suits against the Catholic Church were settled out-of-court by sleek attorneys such as Eric Macleish (a creepily smug Billy Crudup), with the church conveniently evading criminal penalties and public relations nightmares.  The few victims they are able to track down are unwilling to speak out for fear of retribution or humiliation.  Most disturbing of all, the team finds increasing evidence that pedophilic priests are not statistical outliers, but a symptomatic and systemic problem that the church is acutely aware of.  Worse yet, rather than combat the problem, the church uses its considerable leverage to limit public knowledge of the details of such cases.
The reporters on the Spotlight team are played by Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams and Brian d’Arcy James.  Along with Keaton, the reporters must deal with resistance not only from the church, but from legal, political and even journalistic systems that appear entirely aligned to the corrupt aims of the church.  One of Spotlight’s best exchanges occurs between the reporters and Baron, who is at first reluctant to publish their early interviews with abuse survivors.  The reporters seemed agitated at first, but Baron’s logic is sound – to limit coverage to the individual cases only reinforces the church’s desired narrative, which is that abuse is an abnormality rather than a norm.  To truly expose the perverse depths of the scandal, the Spotlight team must expose how the pernicious institutional structure of the Catholic clergy permits such abuse to continue.  This goes beyond assembling victim testimonies – challenging in its own right – and accessing secret church documentation kept under lock and key.
It is here that a lesser film would have constructed the pursuit of this secret information as the story’s prototypical MacGuffin – the mythical source of all narrative motivation, discovery and catharsis.  But the screenplay, by director McCarthy and Josh Singer, is refreshing in the way that the uncovering of the documents provides only one relatively small facet of the larger story.  Keaton’s character, for example, undergoes a fascinating moral development throughout the course of the film.  At first, Robinson is depicted as a successful editor at the Globe with deep loyalties to Boston, as well as someone with friends in powerful professional circles who also happen to be ardent defenders of the church.  By the end of the film, however, Robinson has severed his loyalties and friendships through his undeterred affiliation with Spotlight’s investigation.  The film does a good job of illustrating how Robinson’s shift illustrates the rift between the personal and professional allegiances of journalists.  This is wisely shown through understated subtlety rather than over-the-top histrionics.

Ruffalo's and McAdams’ characters are fascinating too (so is a wary lawyer for the abuse victims played by Stanley Tucci) but watching Spotlight, I found myself most interested by Schreiber’s character, Marty Baron, the new editor.  He probably has less screen time than any of the other main characters, but in many respects, he is the film’s most enigmatic and complex.  What are his true motivations behind reigniting the Globe’s investigation?  They certainly are not based on personal retributions (he is a Jew from Miami), and one character speculates they may be based on the desire for upward mobility in the newspaper industry.  Schreiber’s performance is so muted, controlled and mannered (he doesn’t even follow baseball, he solemnly tells Keaton) that he is almost impossible to read, yet in his clear discomfort in social situations, he is compulsively watchable.  It is a fascinating and complex performance which, like Keaton’s and Ruffalo’s, unquestionably deserves serious Academy Award consideration.

The events of Spotlight take place over a six month period between 2001 and 2002 (the events of 9/11 make an ominous cameo appearance) and yet it still seems as though public awareness of sex abuse in the Catholic church has only scratched the surface.  At one point in the film, an expert estimates that six percent of all clergy have committed some form of sexual abuse against a minor.  If we are to believe that claim, along with the film’s broader conclusion that the cover-up was sanctioned and institutionalized rather than discrete and extraordinary, then why should we believe that this problem has gone away?  Certainly, the Catholic church’s position has become far more evolved and conciliatory in the 13 years since the events of Spotlight.  Pope Francis enjoys greater popularity among nonadherents than any recent Pope before him.  But as McCarthy’s film shows, the sinful acts of individuals are usually the byproduct of calculation and politicking on the part of the large institutions that protect them.  Or as Tucci’s worn-down lawyer sagely explains, “If it takes a village to raise a child, it also takes a village to abuse one.”


Rating: 4 stars

Monday, November 16, 2015

Star Wars: The Top 10 Moments

As a five year old boy, I would never imagine how much of an impact a simple gift would be.  As I raced off the school bus and ran home to celebrate my birthday, my only thought was what cool toy I would receive.  What I received that day was the original 3 Star Wars films on VHS.  I watched them right after another.  I was hooked.  
Since that day, I started collecting the action figures, trading cards, and books.  With my action figures, I reenacted the films, as well as made some new stories of my own.  

Now, 26 years old, I still have the same excitement as that five year old boy for Star Wars.  Instead of 3 films there are now 6.  I will always cherish A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, and The Return of the Jedi.  Even though I was excited for a new trilogy, I'm not the biggest fan of them.  The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones, and Revenge of the Sith are still entertaining films and are apart of the Star Wars experience.  

Being a month away from The Force Awakens, I figured to do my Top Ten Star Wars moments.  I found that this list was a lot harder then I thought. My criteria however is that I have to use at least one scene/moment from each movie.  So lets let the force guide us.

Here are some Honorable mentions:

                                 The Phantom Menace: 
Podracer race

   Attack of the Clones:
Obi-Wan vs Jango Fett
Revenge of the Sith:
Order 66
A New Hope:
Obi-Wan vs Darth Vader
The Empire Strikes Back:
Asteroid Field Flight
Return of the Jedi:
Speeder Bike Chase

Attack of the Clones
Battle of Geonosis 
Well we start of our list with the fifth film and second in the prequel trilogy.  This battle finally shows us all the Jedi in action at once.  This also shows us the beginning of the clone wars too.

Revenge of the Sith
Obi-Wan vs Anakin Skywalker
The battle that the prequels were leading us up to the whole time.  We finally get to see how Darth Vader becomes more machine than man.

The Phantom Menace
Duel of Fates

This fight was incredible.  Such a fast paced fight that keeps you on your toes.  Darth Maul is awesome.  
A New Hope
Blowing Up Alderan
When I was a kid, I was amazed that the Empire could blow up an entire planet.  It shows you that the Empire will do whatever it takes to get what they want.

The Empire Strikes Back
The Battle of Hoth
The Empire Strikes Back was my least favorite film of the franchise when I was a kid.  As a began to get older I realized how amazing this film is.  This battle is really hectic.

The Return of the Jedi
Battle over Endor
This has to be one of the greatest space battles of all time.  I get chills every time I see the Falcon shoot out of the explosion of the Death Star.  So cool.

The Return of the Jedi
Luke vs. Darth Vader: The Rematch
The fight that ended it all.  The fastest fight of the classic trilogy.  It makes it all the better because the Emperor is watching and tempting Luke.

The Empire Strikes Back
Han Solo's Fate 
The power of the Empire clearly shows in the second installment of the classic trilogy.  Han Solo being frozen in carbonite, left us all wondering what would happen next to the best character in the franchise.

A New Hope
The Opening
The very first shot we get of the Empire.  What a way to start of the film.  That star destroyer seemed like it would go on for ever.

The Empire Strikes Back
No, I am you *Spoiler!
This was a given right??  I mean how couldn't it right??  The greatest plot twist ever!!!

So, that's my list!  What are your favorite moments in the Star Wars universe?  
One More Month!!!!