Saturday, December 31, 2016

SNL 42.7 Review - Kristen Wiig, The XX

Original Airdate - 11/19/2016

It is always a welcome trip down memory lane when a former castmember comes back to host an episode of Saturday Night Live.  This was Kristen Wiig's second hosting return to the SNL stage.  Her first return was an emotional nostalgia moment for Wiig, who owes her entire career to SNL.  This episode felt like she settled in a little more to her new role at 30 Rock.

Cold Opening
Now that Donald Trump is the President-Elect, the SNL group has decided to be completely ruthless in its critique of the unconventional Commander in Chief.  It seems Alec Baldwin is way too eager for his next opportunity to attack Trump through his spot-on impression.  This Cold Open looks at the fact that Trump might be in a little over his head as he prepares to be president.  Even Jason Sudeikis returns to reprise his Mitt Romney impression to show just how unprepared Trump is.  The satire is very direct and pointed.  It is definitely a sign of things to come.

In Kristen Wiig's second time around as host, she chooses to go the song route again.  This time, it is actually pretty funny as she tells the story of Thanksgiving ... well, at least that is what she claims.  Throw in a couple big cameos from Steve Martin and Will Forte, and the show is off to a great start.

Best Sketch
As liberally biased SNL tends to be, the two sketches I picked as the best display the show's attempt to be equally offensive.  First, you have a commercial making light of the liberal progressives that voted for Hillary that preach tolerance of everyone except for anyone that thinks differently than them.  It is a beautiful commentary on pop culture and political correctness.
The second sketch attacks the spin cycle that is the national news media.  Sometimes, it feels like the media just keeps saying the same thing over and over again.  Well, that might be because they do.  The twist at the end makes it all the more perfect.

Weekend Update
When Jost and Che have something really good to rant about, they are so much fun to listen to.  There were two visitors to the Update desk.  First, you had the resident young person Pete Davidson on his reaction to the election.  Next, if you need someone to make you feel better about your life, look no further than Michael Che's neighbor Willie.

Worst Sketch
It had been awhile since I could look at a sketch and say it was truly painful.  This sketch was painful.  Wiig and Cecily Strong play neighbors both auditioning for a show on QVC.  It basically just turns out to be a shouting match between the two as they are both completely crazy.  This is the type of sketch that usually keeps going until one of the cracks and starts laughing, but neither cracked the whole time.  It was as if they knew it wasn't funny also.

Dark Horse Sketch
One interesting thing about Kristen Wiig's hosting gig is she seemed to be opposed to reprising her former recurring characters.  This sketch was one of only two that brought back an old favorite, and it was hilarious.  It's a surprise homecoming, but Wiig's character is so excited and nervous she doesn't know if she can take it.


There were some truly funny parts of this episode, but there were also some real duds too.  A nice thing about bringing back a former castmember is they can jump in and be just another player in the group.  The problem with that is sometimes, that makes nothing special about the episode.  That is what I felt happened this time.  It was good, but not special.  They tried with cameos and such, but it could have been much better.


SNL 42.6 Review - Dave Chappelle, A Tribe Called Quest

Original Airdate - 11/12/2016

There were several things that made this episode notable.  First, it was the long-awaited debut of Dave Chappelle on the Saturday Night Live stage.  Having a claim to fame be a sketch comedy like Chappelle's Show, it felt long overdue for this to happen.  The second thing that made this episode notable was the fact that it was the first episode after Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton in the US presidential election.  This would be a common theme throughout the episode.

Cold Opening
This is one of my favorite Cold Openings of all time.  The previous episodes made it no secret that the SNL writers and cast were rooting for Hillary Clinton in the election.  I was very curious to see how they were going to react to such a surprising and, for them, disappointing result.  This Cold Opening was the reaction, as they produced not only a simple and pointed moment featuring Kate McKinnon in her Hillary costume, but it also served as a touching tribute to the recently departed Leonard Cohen.  It is one of those moments you remember.

I have always said the best monologues are the ones by someone used to having a stage to themselves.  Dave Chappelle is an amazing stand-up comic.  Combine that with the recent election results and you have a reflective, poignant, and funny rant on our world.  Television has missed Dave Chappelle, and this sketch proves it.

Best Sketch
The commentary on the election was not limited to the Cold Opening and the Monologue.  This hilarious sketch actually provides an interesting critique on all the people that felt Clinton's win was a foregone conclusion.  Leave it to Chappelle, with the help of Chris Rock, to see this side of the coin.
An honorable mention is this sketch, which I would have found much funnier if I watched The Walking Dead or ever watched Chappelle's Show.  It was worth mentioning for anyone that has watched one or both of these.

Weekend Update
Weekend Update seems to be the one of the places they are going to really be critical of the political environment.  In the hands of Jost and Che, this is comedy gold.  The one guest to the desk this episode was Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg via Kate McKinnon.  Maybe she can wait 4 more years before she retires.

Worst Sketch
Not everything could be about the election.  This sketch was purposefully bad.  It took a little while to figure out exactly what was going on, and once you did, the payoff wasn't really worth it.  It was a very creative sketch though as we watched the post-sketch press conference after a rough performance.

Dark Horse Sketch
The definition of a Dark Horse Sketch is something featuring Kyle Mooney's strange brand of comedy.  This was the first time Kyle was allowed to be Kyle this season as it is revealed that he and Leslie Jones are dating.  Let the awkward hilarity ensue.


Why did it take so long for Chappelle to make his debut on SNL?  They pretty much had to pull him out of retirement to get him to host this episode.  However, it really felt like the right host at the right time.  A comedian like Chappelle knows how to put things into perspective, which was desperately needed after the controversial election.  It led to possibly the best episode of the season so far.


Wednesday, December 21, 2016

SNL 42.5 Review - Benedict Cumberbatch, Solange

Original Airdate - 11/5/16

One of the biggest rising stars over the last bunch of years has been Benedict Cumberbatch.  It only made sense that he would find his way to the Saturday Night Live stage eventually.  His hosting debut, as well as the fact that this was the last episode before the election, made this an episode to pay attention to.

Cold Opening
This was the last Cold Open before the election.  The typical Trump vs. Hillary fights took an interesting detour here.  The sketch started as you would expect with the caricatures (sometimes appearing more lifelike than the real thing) continuing to hurl insults at each other.  Eventually, Alec Baldwin breaks character to stop the insults.  Instead, the two go out into Times Square and spread the love instead of the hate they had been doing.  It all ends with an urge to get out and vote.  It was a touching way to end such a divisive and bitter election season.

Anything that was touching and inspiring ended when the monologue started.  I'm not saying it was bad.  It was just back to SNL as usual.  The key to a successful hosting gig for such a serious man as Benedict Cumberbatch is to refuse to take yourself seriously.  This started in the monologue as he provides a song, complete with dancing girls, about who he is and why he is important.  It was one of the more refreshing monologues of the season to date.

Best Sketch
Continuing in the vein of making fun of the host and his vanity, we have a new game show.  The premise is Beck Bennett convinced several of his cast mates to join him for a mystery game show they would come to find out was entitled, "Why Is Benedict Cumberbatch Hot?"  One of the contestants was Cumberbatch himself who seemed to be just as confused about the fact as Beck.  The best part is the girls really don't have an answer other than the fact that they swoon every time they see him.
An honorable mention here is the World Champion Chicago Cubs showing up at a Bachelorette Party.  Good times...

Weekend Update
If you are going to have World Series Champions show up, you might as well use them over and over.  It makes it easier when the Cubs' biggest fan is a former castmember.  Insert three Cubs and Bill Murray singing the Cubs Song live from New York.  This is the most memorable Weekend Update guest to date this season.

Dark Horse Sketch
There is something about Brits that make them appear to be criminal masterminds.  The show takes advantage of this, using their host as a criminal genius that works through riddles.  However, what happens when the good guys figure out every riddle?  Comedy, that's what happens.

It is always refreshing to see a big star like Benedict Cumberbatch not take himself too seriously.  This was shown over and over again throughout this episode, as he constantly was willing to be the butt of so many jokes.  This led to many really strong sketches and very few that could be considered disappointing.  Add to the episode the fact that it was the show's last chance to put its stamp on the election, and you ended up with a very strong show.


SNL 42.4 Review - Tom Hanks, Lady Gaga

Original Airdate - 10/22/16

There are a few episodes every season that are set up to be power shows.  Tom Hanks is a member of the 5-Timers Club, and one of the most beloved actors around.  Although he shows up quite often on the SNL stage, it had been 10 years since he had hosted last.  With a musical guest like Lady Gaga (making back-to-back episodes with former hosts as musical guests), and you have a recipe for one of the top episodes of the season.  However, did it work out that way?

Cold Opening
Once again, the Cold Open is focused on the presidential debate.  Once again, the writers try to be impartial, but it's hard when one side seems to make all the mistakes and blunders.  Also, you know you have a heavy hitter as a host when they make an appearance in the Cold Open.

The monologue for Tom Hanks's 9th hosting gig made light of Hanks's reputation of being "America's Dad."  So he sat the country down for a heart-to-heart.  It was cute and somewhat effective, but the real fun was still to come.

Best Sketch
There were a lot of solid sketches in this episode, however two of them might go down as top 10 sketches of the season.  First, we have the latest installment of Black Jeopardy.  In the past, this sketch has been used to make light of the fact that white people can't relate to black culture.  However, this time around the "fish out of water" is a southern redneck.  The joke comes in that they aren't as different as some may think.
The second sketch is one of the strangest yet funniest sketches in recent memory.  A couple enters a Halloween-themed 100 Stories of Fright ride.  The first couple floors bring them some good scares.  Then they run into David Pumpkins and his dancing skeletons, which just leaves them confused.  The longer the sketch goes, the stranger it gets, and the more you realize that it is ridiculously hilarious.

Weekend Update
There were two guests to the Update desk this episode.  First, you had the incomparable Leslie Jones, who addressed recent reports that her private photos had been hacked in a way only Leslie Jones can.  Next, you have one of the better repeat characters in The Girl You Wished You Hadn't Started a Conversation With at a Party.  It's always good to see Cecily get a chance to return back to the Update desk.

Dark Horse Sketch
You can't pass up an opportunity like this.  Alec Baldwin is hanging around after playing Trump, and you have Hanks as host.  They are two of the greatest hosts in SNL history.  So why not put them in a sketch together!  In this one, Hanks is playing Sully while Baldwin shares the cockpit with him.  The sketch isn't really anything special, but it is neat to see the two of them share the stage.

This was by far the best episode of the season so far.  It wasn't perfect, but it was decently close.  There are reasons hosts like Tom Hanks are brought back so often.  They are good!  Now, let's not make it another 10 years before he runs an episode again.


Passengers (2016) Review

Directed by
Morten Tyldum

Some films set themselves up well to be a huge success.  This could be due to the cast, director, story, release date, and a variety of other factors.  Every now and then, this perfect storm comes together in one film to possibly spell a huge blockbuster success that could compete for some awards.  There is usually at least one of these films every year.  One of these films in 2016 is definitely Passengers, a futuristic space thriller starring two of the biggest stars in Hollywood right now and directed by Morten Tyldum, the acclaimed director coming off a huge success in The Imitation Game.  Add in the Christmas release date, and you have a film that could be huge.  However, all this is just hype until the film is seen.  You just hope it can live up to some of the expectations that have been placed on it.

The starship Avalon has embarked on a journey to colonize a new planet that has been discovered called Homestead II.  This journey takes 120 years so the 5000 passengers and 285 crew members are placed in sleep chambers for almost the entire journey (they wake up for the last 4 months) so they can wake up upon arrival not aging a day.  When the ship travels through an asteroid field, a malfunction leads to the premature awakening of two passengers (Chris Pratt, Jennifer Lawrence) 90 years early.  Now Jim and Aurora, two complete strangers, are forced to get to know each other as they are alone on this ship and destined to die long before anyone else wakes up.  Being two young, attractive people with no one else to talk to (besides the robot bartender Arthur), they begin to fall in love.

First, the film is beautiful to watch.  Half the time, I feel like I should be listening to Neil deGrasse Tyson narrating my space documentary instead of watching Pratt and Lawrence run around a spaceship.  The two lead actors are exactly what they need to be as well.  They aren't award-worthy performances, however they are strong nonetheless.  It's hard to be the only two people in a film and pull it off.  Michael Sheen as Arthur the robot bartender is a scene-stealer every time he shows up.  The first half of this film is fascinating as it takes the huge scope and scale and turns it into an intimate love story with a huge secret hanging over their heads.  If it had stayed there, it would have been a much better film.

Once the big secret comes out (which isn't a secret at all for the audience), the story starts to tumble out of control.  In the aftermath of the big reveal, the ship starts to have serious malfunctions that threaten the lives of everyone on board.  Now Jim and Aurora, with no training, have to save the passengers they will never meet.

This film had a lot of good things going for it, but I had a lot of issues with it as well.  First, there are parts of the premise that don't quite work.  How does this Homestead company work?  They fire people out into space on a ship that takes 250 years to travel round trip?  They do not really explain how exactly this works.  The round trip would take longer than the USA has currently been in existence!  Second, there is a huge issue that is never mentioned.  If these two people are awake this whole time, how will there be any food left for the rest of the passengers once they wake up?

There are two bigger issues I have with the film.  First, it oversimplifies what is going on.  The great space films don't dumb down what is going on with the science of the plot.  This film never really explains anything.  Either it assumes its audience won't understand or the writers didn't bother putting in the details.  It doesn't matter why they did it, but it is definitely a turn-off.  My second big issue with the film is how it spirals into something it didn't need to do with the apocalyptic, end of the world plot "twist."  Then it uses that to tie the whole thing up into a nice, neat, little bow at the end.  It really cops out to get there as well.

I am a huge fan of space films.  My favorite film of all time is Apollo 13, and I was a huge fan of Gravity as well a few years ago.  I have very high standards when it comes to films in space.  This is not a space film.  It is a thriller that happens to take place in space.  That made it a slight disappointment.  With all that said, I really enjoyed about the first half to two-thirds of the film.  I was willing to forgive some of these oversights when the film was going well.  However, once you see how the last third of the film is developing, you know exactly how it is all going to end as it takes no risks.  Once that happens, all the flaws start to matter more and more.  I expected more of a space film, and I expected more of Tyldum's follow-up to The Imitation Game.  I really wanted to love this film.  I liked it, but it could have been so much more.

2.5 stars

Friday, December 16, 2016

SNL 42.3 Review - Emily Blunt, Bruno Mars

Original Airdate - 10/15/16

Two things shocked me about this episode.  First, how is this the first time Emily Blunt has hosted Saturday Night Live?  Second, how is Emily Blunt the first member of her family to host Saturday Night Live (she is married to John Krasinski)?  Krasinski is perfect for SNL!  Make this happen!  Anyways, here's the episode for his better half.

Cold Opening
Once again, the focus of the Cold Open is a debate.  This time, we are back to the presidential candidates.  They really try to take shots at both sides, but when Trump makes it so easy for a comedy show to attack him, it begins to look a little heavy on one side.  The biggest challenge is finding comedy beyond just reporting the actual Trump stories.

With all the negative news reports spreading around with the presidential election, Emily Blunt tried to cheer up everyone with a rendition of "Get Happy."  It wasn't anything special, but it got the show kicked off.

Best Sketch
There were many sketches in this episode that were pretty funny, however this may be the best.  This sketch showed that Emily Blunt actually has a talent for physical comedy.  She and Mikey Day play robot prototypes that start to malfunction while handing out snacks.  This one really gets a good laugh.

Weekend Update
Weekend Update is always funnier when Kate McKinnon brings a character to the desk.  This time, it is her stereotypical Russian woman Olya.  The other guest is another of my favorite, the hilarious and slightly disturbing child reporter Laura Parsons.  Both were as funny as always.

Dark Horse Sketch
There were several sketches I found pretty funny for a Dark Horse Sketch, including the one and only appearance by musical guest and former host Bruno Mars (disappointing he wasn't used more).  However, the definition of a Dark Horse Sketch is one that is funny because it is a little bizarre.  This sketch about a short film and how seriously the filmmakers take their art form really fits the bill.  Anyone who follows film closely will appreciate the satire this sketch provides on how silly this art sometimes appears.

Emily Blunt, while maybe being the second funniest person in her own home, turned out to be a pretty successful host.  She seamlessly slid in to the sketches as if she was just another member of the cast.  I don't think there was anything that will be remembered for seasons to come in this episode, but for the most part, all the sketches were effective and funny in their own way.  I would consider that a pretty successful broadcast.


SNL 42.2 Review - Lin-Manuel Miranda, Twenty One Pilots

Original Airdate - 10/8/16

Over the last year or so, Lin-Manuel Miranda has become a household name for writing the Broadway phenomenon Hamilton.  His talents are perfect for a show like SNL.  Although the episode wasn't great, he definitely showed who he is and how talented he is throughout the episode.

Cold Opening
In an election season, it's likely that the Cold Open is going to be political in nature.  When that election season involves Donald Trump, it's a guarantee.  Alec Baldwin might as well just be a cast member this season.  This Cold Open starts with the Vice Presidential debate and then jumps into Donald Trump news.  The headline of the week this week was the Access Hollywood bus.  It's rare for SNL to not pull any punches, however they are brutal in their satire of the political scene right now.

This is one of my all time favorite monologues.  When you have a veteran of stage that is a writer himself as a host, just let him do his thing.  It's not surprising that Miranda did a song from Hamilton, but he turned his song "My Shot" into an amazing rap about how great it is to be hosting the show.  Just sit back and enjoy.

Best Sketch
Two trends continued with this sketch.  First, there was the satire of the election season and its candidates.  Second, you have yet another pre-recorded sketch.  This one features Kate McKinnon as Kellyanne Conway, Donald Trump's campaign manager, as she tries to take a day off.  However, Trump's antics refuse to let her enjoy that day.

Weekend Update
As the anchors continue to get better and better, there is less and less time for guests to the Update desk.  First, we have Pete Davidson in another one of his hilarious rants.  Next, we have a treat as two former Update anchors, Jimmy Fallon and Tina Fey, arrive in a not very well rehearsed bit.  It really didn't matter though.  Seeing them back at the desk made it all worth it.

Dark Horse Sketch
There have been several sketches over the last few years with this setup.  A substitute teacher comes into a class and hilarity ensues.  However, this one takes on a different turn.  Lin-Manuel Miranda is the sub trying to take advantage of his reputation after Hamilton by teaching historical events through hip hop.  However, the kids aren't having anything of it.

Outside of the first 10 minutes, there really wasn't anything memorable.  There wasn't really bad, but it was mostly forgettable.  I wish it had been a little stronger of an overall episode with Miranda hosting.  With all that said, the host hopefully earned a future return to the SNL stage.


Friday, December 9, 2016

SNL 42.1 Review - Margot Robbie, The Weeknd

Original Airdate - 10/1/16

A busy fall did not keep me from watching SNL.  However, it has kept me from writing my reviews.  Here is my effort at catching up with some quick snippets from the first few months of Season 42, which has definitely been memorable.

Margot Robbie has quickly become the "it" girl in Hollywood.  The Aussie bombshell seems to be everywhere, including the SNL stage.  Here is how her first turn as host went.

Everyone knew this season of SNL had a potential of being legendary with a presidential election dominating every news outlet, especially such an unconventional and divisive election.  Once it was announced that Alec Baldwin would be portraying Donald Trump, the excitement grew even more.  This Cold Open was our first look into SNL's take of the election cycle.  After seeing the first one, you couldn't wait till the next week for the next one.  It became one of the best things to come out of this crazy election.

Margot Robbie is a great actress and absolutely gorgeous.  However, comedy is not a natural talent of hers, especially stand-up comedy.  Her monologue was adequate, but nothing special.

Best Sketch
There were some pretty solid sketches, including the always entertaining Family Feud.  However, the best sketches played off of Robbie's best attribute: her beauty.  This sketch was a live report of a local news station.  Quickly, the story shifted from the tragedy to wondering how the average-looking guy ended up married to the blonde bombshell.  The new kid playing the husband was perfect in his debut (I'll be honest ... I have trouble telling the two new guys apart...).

Weekend Update
Weekend Update has become my favorite part of every show.  Jost and Che have the best chemistry at that desk since Fey and Fallon.  There were two guests to the Update desk this week.  First was Cecily Strong's undecided voter.  Cecily is great on SNL, however these characters she does are just not funny.  The other guest was Kenan's David Ortiz.  This impression sounds nothing like Big Papi, but I can't stop laughing every time I see it.

Dark Horse Sketch
SNL has shifted a lot this season to more and more pre-recorded content.  This is probably the influence of the new head writers.  This first one was about a group of high school kids fantasizing about the hot librarian.  However, the fantasy does not go the way they anticipated.  Again, Robbie's beauty is used in a perfect comedic way.  It also showed she really doesn't take herself seriously.

This was a strong start to a season that needed a strong start.  With the election, it had a potential to be an all-time great season.  However, losing both Taran Killam and Jay Pharaoh, two of the most popular castmembers, over the summer to the world beyond 30 Rock, this season could have gone a different way.  This episode showed that SNL is looking more toward being an all-time great than the other way.


Sunday, December 4, 2016

What If...: 8 Team Playoff

Over the years I have written several articles speculating ways the NCAA can improve how it treats college football's highest level.  I have looked at 16 team playoffs, Super Conferences, and creating a new division for the Power 5 conferences.  I even wrote an article simply giving the NCAA 5 ideas how they can fix everything.  Over the last 3 years, an attempt has been made to fix many of the issues with the start of the College Football Playoff.  However, there are still many more things they can do to perfect the system, including expand the playoff.

First, everyone looks at strength of schedule in the college football resumes.  Some schools schedule FCS cakewalks, and some schools refuse to play road games (Bama, I'm looking at you), and some schools schedule a tough group of games and get penalized for extra losses at the end of the season.  I mentioned this in my previous article, and I think it is still needed.  The NCAA needs to set rules on schedules.  Here are a couple rules that would help level the playing field.

1.  FCS schools can be scheduled as preseason games only.

I understand the concept of scheduling FCS schools.  I understand that some of the FCS programs rely on the dues they are paid to play these games.  They can no longer count as a part of the regular schedule.  Schedule them as preseason games in August.  Everyone would love this!  It would allow college football to be relevant much earlier, everyone would get a preview of what their team looks like, and the teams would get a chance to have a true game before they counted.

2.  Regulate what the non-conference schedule has to be.

Along with no more FCS schools, there needs to be regulations on what the non-conference schedule must be.  Power 5 schools play 9 conference games and 3 non-conference games.  Of those 3 non-conference games, two of them must be against Power 5 opponents, and one of them against a Group of 5 opponent.  One of the Power 5 games is at home, while one is away.  The Group of 5 games alternate year to year between home and away.  Neutral site non-conference games will alternate as counting as a home or away game.  This will level out the playing field with every team being forced to have the same non-conference schedule.  Washington was held back this year by their weak non-conference schedule (even though they played a Power 5 school ... okay, it was Rutgers ... but Rutgers is in the same division as Michigan, Penn St., and Ohio St.).  On the other side, Alabama hasn't played a true road non-conference game since 2011.  That would no longer be allowed either.

3.  The non-conference schedule must be completed before conference games start.

The SEC has been notorious for manipulating their schedule to make it as easy as possible.  For example, I'm going to pick on Alabama once again.  The reason is because they make it so easy.  Every season since 2008, Alabama has scheduled an FCS opponent as their second-to-last game before the Iron Bowl.  Most of the other conferences start their season with their entire non-conference schedule, and then only play conference games the rest of the way.  Not only should it be regulated who you play in non-conference, but it should be regulated when you play your non-conference.  All non-conference games should be played before conference play starts.

Those are my rule proposals to help level the playing field when it comes to schedule.  Now let's talk about this playoff.  I was a big supporter of a 16 team playoff for awhile.  However, once the 6 BCS conference shrunk to the Power 5, and once the College Football Playoff was established, my opinion was adapted.  Although the current CFP is a step in the right direction, there is still much more that can be done, and 2016 is the perfect example to prove me right.  Here are the main flaws with the current system and why an 8 team playoff would be better.

1.  The math doesn't add up.

How can the NCAA claim to have a "Power 5" conference division and yet only allow four teams into the playoff.  In the 3 years of the CFP, the Big 12 has been left out twice, while the Pac 12 was left out last year.  If you have 5 conferences, you should have at least 5 playoff spots.  Either that, or keep the 4 team playoff and make it a Power 4 conferences.

2.  It's hard to win a conference, and it should be rewarded.

This is the first year a team made the CFP without winning their conference championship.  Now, with Ohio St.'s play and resume, I doubt anyone would have much of an argument that they don't belong.  However, this means that for the first time, two conference champions were left out.  I don't think the NCAA and the CFP truly appreciate how hard it is to emerge out of a conference as the champion.  Regardless how strong your conference is, the natural rivalries that develop when you play a team every season make anything possible during conference play.  Washington almost lost to Arizona, Clemson almost lost to NC State, Michigan lost to Iowa.  All three of those are considered inferior opponents this season.  In fact, only two Power 5 schools this season were able to navigate their conference schedule unblemished: Alabama and Oklahoma.  Penn St. and Oklahoma deserve a shot at the championship simply because they won their conference.

3.  Half of the FBS schools have no chance of winning the National Championship.

This was my main argument for a 16 team playoff.  How can you claim to have an FBS division when half of your teams have no shot to win the championship.  Western Michigan did everything they were supposed to do this season.  They scheduled a tough non-conference with two Big 10 teams.  Then they ran the table, finishing 13-0 with a conference championship.  Their final ranking by the CFP committee was 15th.  The CFP made a step in the right direction by guaranteeing a spot in a New Years 6 bowl game for the best Group of 5 team, but they deserve a shot at the whole thing.  When you have a subjective judging method, there will always be bias involved towards the big brands and away from those not traditionally elite.  Many analysts were even saying Washington's spot in the playoff would be nowhere near as disputed as it was if it had been a school like USC fighting for that spot with the same resume.  There needs to be a little more objectivity in the system.

Let's talk about how an 8 team playoff would work and why it would be better.  First, it would truly reward a great season no matter who were.  Power 5 conference champions would be guaranteed a spot.  There would also be a guaranteed spot for the best of the Group of 5.  Many people claim that expanding it to 8 would make the regular season less exciting.  Well, those same people said the same thing about expanding it to 4.  The reality is it is more exciting when more teams are in contention.  This year, Bedlem decided a conference champion.  What if it was for a guaranteed playoff birth?  Few were paying attention to Florida winning their division in the SEC.  What if that win got them into a play-in game for the playoff?  It wouldn't lessen the excitement of the regular season.  It would make it more exciting simply because more games would matter.

Let's talk logistics.  The system would not have to change much.  The playoff would start two weeks after the conference championships (when the bowl season starts).  The first round of the playoffs would take place at the home of the higher ranked team.  There would be 4 of the New Years 6 bowl games set aside.  Two of these games would act as semifinals like they do now.  The other two bowl games would include the losers from the first round of the playoff.  This way everyone still gets the bowl game experience, as well as having two weeks to prepare.  The 8 team field would include the Power 5 conference champions, the best of the Group of 5, and two Wild Cards.  The job of the committee would then be to choose the two Wild Card teams and seed the 8 teams.  Here is how it would look this year, and I dare you to tell me this wouldn't be more exciting than what we have.  Talk about a quadruple header!

# 8 Western Michigan at # 1 Alabama

The Broncos deserve a shot.  They wouldn't have much of a shot, but let them play Bama and see if they belong.

# 5 Penn St. at # 4 Washington

Do you want to know which one belongs in the Top 4?  Let them play and find out!

# 7 Oklahoma at # 2 Clemson

Most people would claim that these are the two worst conferences in the Power 5 right now.  This would be a fascinating matchup that I would love to see.

# 6 Michigan at # 3 Ohio St.

You would almost want to have a rule saying no inter-conference games in the quarterfinals, but would anyone argue with a rematch of the best game this season?

All of that in one Saturday.  How exciting would that be!  If these truly are the best four teams, then they would prove it by winning.  In the past, I have called it Holiday Madness because it would recreate some of the magic basketball finds in March.  What makes 2016 the best year so far to do something like this is there are truly 7 teams (8 if you include Western Michigan) that have a legitimate claim to one of the four spots.  So let's make enough spots for them all!

Thursday, December 1, 2016

2017 Golden Globes Preview and Predictions

The Golden Globes are a bit ridiculous from time to time, but I love it. It is a great way to kick off the rest of awards season, and it is the one circuit that actually recognizes achievement in comedy. Box office hits are theoretically more in play, but that rarely actually happens. They love foreign films, movie stars, and TV shows in their first season. Check out what the Hollywood Foreign Press Association’s nomination list could look like when they are announced on December 12th.

1. Millie Bobby Brown – Stranger Things
Image result for millie bobby brown stranger things
2. Maura Tierney – The Affair
3. Constance Zimmer – UnREAL
4. Emilia Clarke – Game of Thrones
5. Lena Headey – Game of Thrones

1. Louie Anderson – Baskets
Image result for louie anderson baskets
2. Sterling K. Brown – The People vs. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story
3. Kit Harrington – Game of Thrones
4. John Lithgow – The Crown
5. Hugh Laurie – The Night Manager

1. Sarah Paulson – The People vs. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story
Image result for sarah paulson people vs oj simpson
2. Kerry Washington – Confirmation
3. Felicity Huffman – American Crime
4. Riley Keough – The Girlfriend Experience
5. Shirley MacLaine – Wild Oats

1. Courtney B. Vance - The People vs. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story
Image result for courtney b vance people vs oj simpson
2. Riz Ahmed – The Night Of
3. Tom Hiddleston – The Night Manager
4. Bryan Cranston – All the Way
5. James Franco – 12.22.63

1. The People vs. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story
Image result for people vs oj simpson
2. The Night Of
3. The Night Manager
4. All the Way
5. American Crime

1. Sarah Jessica Parker – Divorce
Image result for sarah jessica parker divorce hbo
2. Issa Rae – Insecure
3. Julia Louis-Dreyfus – Veep
4. Ellie Kemper – Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
5. Kristen Bell – The Good Place

1. Donald Glover – Atlanta
Image result for donald glover atlanta
2. Jeffrey Tambor – Transparent
3. Anthony Anderson – Black-ish
4. Gael Garcia Bernal – Mozart in the Jungle
5. Thomas Haden Church – Divorce

1. Atlanta
Image result for atlanta tv
2. Divorce
3. Veep
4. Mozart in the Jungle
5. Silicon Valley

1. Evan Rachel Wood – Westworld
Image result for evan rachel wood westworld
2. Winona Ryder – Stranger Things
3. Claire Foy – The Crown
4. Robin Wright – House of Cards
5. Viola Davis – How to Get Away with Murder

1. Rami Malek – Mr. Robot
Image result for rami malek mr robot season 2
2. Kiefer Sutherland – Designated Survivor
3. Wagner Moura – Narcos
4. Paul Giamatti – Billions
5. Kevin Spacey – House of Cards

1. Stranger Things
Image result for stranger things
2. Game of Thrones
3. House of Cards
4. The Crown
5. Westworld

The only ones of the TV nominations that I am really confident in are the People vs. O.J. Simpson noms in all relevant categories and Paul Giamatti for Billions. I mean, Giamatti won for freaking Barney’s Version and got an inexplicable nod for Too Big to Fail. He has his own TV show now…lock! Anyway, on to the predictions I actually stand a chance at getting right…

1. Moana
Image result for moana
2. Kubo and the Two Strings
3. Sing
4. Zootopia
5. Finding Dory
Explanation: There aren’t too many options in this category. The foreign animated films are not as high profile as they typically are, and these big budget studio animated movies have all been very well received. They are gaga for Disney and Pixar.

1. Elle
Image result for elle movie
2. Toni Erdmann
3. Neruda
4. Julieta
5. The Salesman
Explanation: The foreign film category at the Globes usually looks nothing like the Academy’s picks. A movie like Elle is much more likely to score points with the HFPA than bring home Oscar gold. They also cannot resist the big name foreign directors, so Pedro Almodovar should have no problem securing at least a nomination for Julieta.

1. “Can’t Stop the Feeling” – Trolls
Image result for trolls can't stop the feeling
2. “Audition (The Fools Who Dream” – La La Land
3. “A Letter to the Free” – 13th
4.  “The Great Beyond” – Sausage Party
5. “City of Stars” – La La Land
Explanation: The precedent really hasn’t been set this year for which songs will be heralded by all of the awards circuits, but predicting animated films, a musical, and a documentary are about as solid of choices as any. The Trolls song will of course award Justin Timberlake, which I’m not sure the Globes can resist.

1. The Light Between Oceans – Alexandre Desplat
Image result for the light between oceans
2. The BFG – John Williams
3. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story – Michael Giacchino
4. Arrival – Johann Johansson
5. Finding Dory – Thomas Newman
Explanation: The Globes are a little weird with their original scores. They love nominating the biggest names in the business, but they somehow end up giving the award to movies like All Is Lost or The Painted Veil, which have no chance at Oscar noms. The Light Between Oceans, which isn’t even necessarily Desplat’s most popular score of the year (Florence Foster Jenkins), seems like the kind of eventual winner that we could end up with.

1. La La Land – Damien Chazelle
Image result for la la land
2. Manchester by the Sea – Kenneth Lonergan
3. Moonlight – Barry Jenkins, Tarell McCraney
4. Nocturnal Animals – Tom Ford
5. Loving – Jeff Nichols
Explanation: You would think with only one screenplay category that these would pretty much be the favorites to win the Best Picture categories, but that is not always the case. However, this year the favorites happen to be really creative and original scripts, so this category could prove to be more traditional. Watch out for some surprise here. They have no shame in nominating an out-of-nowhere comedy in this category, such as The American President and It’s Complicated.

1. Martin Scorsese – Silence
Image result for scorsese 2016
2. Damien Chazelle – La La Land
3. Denzel Washington – Fences
4. Denis Villeneuve – Arrival
5. Kenneth Longergan – Manchester by the Sea
Explanation: The HFPA cannot resist Scorsese. Even his lesser work shows up at the Globes in a big way. Denzel Washington getting nominated in this distinguished group of directors might raise eyebrows, but they love actors directing movies as well. Angelina Jolie’s debut film In the Land of Blood and Honey was even nominated for Best Foreign Film, and Washington’s The Great Debaters scored a Best Picture nom.
The HFPA Dream Lineup:
Ben Affleck – Live By Night
Woody Allen – Café Society
Clint Eastwood – Sully
Mel Gibson – Hacksaw Ridge
Martin Scorsese – Silence

1. Viola Davis – Fences
Image result for viola davis fences
2. Michelle Williams – Manchester by the Sea
3. Nicole Kidman – Lion
4. Shailene Woodley – Snowden
5. Lupita Nyong’o – Queen of Katwe
Explanation: The supporting categories have yielded some interesting nominations over the years. One year sticks out where Sarah Jessica Parker and Shirley MacLaine were nominated for the scarcely seen The Family Stone and In Her Shoes. However, this year there are heavyweights like Nicole Kidman and Viola Davis in the running. I suspect that Davis won’t win for her TV show, so they will award her here instead and start her eventual Oscar run. Woodley would be a little oddball, but she has been nominated here in the past, and Oliver Stone movies are typically well received by the HFPA.
The HFPA Dream Lineup:
Nicole Kidman – Lion
Helen Mirren – Eye in the Sky
Kristen Stewart – Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk
Kate Winslet – Collateral Beauty
Shailene Woodley – Snowden

1. Jeff Bridges – Hell or High Water
Image result for jeff bridges hell or high water
2. Liam Neeson – Silence
3. Aaron Eckhart – Sully
4. Michael Shannon – Nocturnal Animals
5. Mahershala Ali – Moonlight
Explanation: This was a tough category to predict. There are usually some strange choices, but the big stars have memorable roles, so it might look a bit more like the Academy’s lineup than we have come accustomed to. Bridges is the frontrunner after taking the National Board of Review. It is classic Bridges and a shoo-in Oscar nominee. Eckhart is sort of a stab; I feel like that movie probably played well with this voting body. It is going to be between Bridges and Neeson. It all depends on how many people see Silence before the voting window ends.
The HFPA Dream Lineup:
George Clooney – Hail, Caesar!
Robert De Niro – Hands of Stone
Chris Pratt – The Magnificent Seven
Channing Tatum – Hail, Caesar!
Vince Vaughn – Hacksaw Ridge

1. Meryl Streep – Florence Foster Jenkins
Image result for meryl streep florence foster jenkins
2. Emma Stone – La La Land
3. Annette Bening – 20th Century Women
4. Sally Field – Hello, My Name Is Doris
5. Hailee Steinfeld – The Edge of Seventeen
Explanation: This is a really powerful group of actresses. It would only be fitting for Stone to be in the same category as Steinfeld, when one of the closest relatives to The Edge of Seventeen was the Golden Globe nominated Easy A. Streep always wins at the Globes, especially in this category.
The HFPA Dream Lineup:
Tina Fey – Whiskey Tango Foxtrot
Melissa McCarthy - Ghostbusters
Kristen Stewart – Café Society
Meryl Streep – Florence Foster Jenkins
Renee Zellweger – Bridget Jones’s Baby

1. Ryan Gosling – La La Land
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2. Colin Farrell – The Lobster
3. Warren Beatty – Rules Don’t Apply
4. Robert De Niro – The Comedian
5. Viggo Mortensen – Captain Fantastic
Explanation: Mortensen has had success with the HFPA in the past. The rest of this category seems pretty straightforward for the Globes. I was tempted to double nom Ryan Gosling with The Nice Guys sliding in there, but I just couldn’t justify taking one of these beloved superstars out of it. If The Nice Guys does make an appearance, I suspect it will pull an In Bruges and get both actors in.
The HFPA Dream Lineup:
Russell Crowe – The Nice Guys
Ryan Gosling – The Nice Guys
Jonah Hill – War Dogs
Michael Keaton – The Founder
Ryan Reynolds – Deadpool

1. La La Land
Image result for la la land wallpaper
2. 20th Century Women
3. Hail, Caesar!
4. Florence Foster Jenkins
5. Sing Street
Explanation: There are a lot of serious contenders for 2nd place in this category. Some that were not mentioned include The Nice Guys, The Founder, Café Society, Everybody Wants Some!!, and even something off-the-wall like Elvis & Nixon. Nothing is beating La La Land, though. It is musical nostalgia with star power. It is a bigger favorite than Lamar Jackson is for the Heisman.
The HFPA Dream Lineup:
Café Society
Hail, Caesar!
La La Land

1. Natalie Portman – Jackie
Image result for natalie portman jackie
2. Ruth Negga – Loving
3. Amy Adams – Arrival
4. Isabelle Huppert – Elle
5. Jennifer Lawrence – Passengers
Explanation: This is an interesting category. There are a host of contenders on the outside who can sneak in there over any of the five. Those include Emily Blunt for The Girl on the Train, Jessica Chastain for Miss Sloane, and dark horse Rebecca Hall for Christine. Natalie Portman seems like a typical winner for this category. Adams will get nominated for Arrival or Nocturnal Animals (or both?). We’ll see how much the awards really love J-Law this awards season. If she gets nominated for that movie, then she really is the next Streep.
The HFPA Dream Lineup:
Amy Adams – Arrival
Marion Cotillard – Allied
Taraji P. Henson – Hidden Figures
Jennifer Lawrence – Passengers
Natalie Portman – Jane Got a Gun

1. Casey Affleck – Manchester by the Sea
Image result for casey affleck manchester by the sea
2. Denzel Washington – Fences
3. Will Smith – Collateral Beauty
4. Andrew Garfield – Hacksaw Ridge
5. Joel Edgerton – Loving
Explanation: This could be an absolutely star-studded category if it holds to form. Maybe I am being facetious to suggest that Garfield could get nominated for Hacksaw Ridge over Silence, but if not for a relatively weak year in 2006, that would have definitely been the case for Leo (which was only reaffirmed by the Oscars). Affleck is this year’s Bree Larson, it appears. He should sweep his way all the way to the Academy Awards.
The HFPA Dream Lineup:
Tom Hanks – Sully
Matthew McConaughey – Gold
Brad Pitt – Allied
Chris Pratt – Passengers
Will Smith – Collateral Beauty

1. Silence
Image result for silence film
2. Manchester by the Sea
3. Moonlight
4. Nocturnal Animals
5. Arrival
Explanation: Scorsese will likely reign again at the Globes. This category is never as easy as expected. There’s always an Eastern Promises or an About Schmidt in the mix. Nocturnal Animals could be that Cronenberg-style inclusion. The rest seem like safe bets, combining great indie cinema and an intelligent box office hit. We’ll see how this shapes up. Rarely are the contenders not eventual Oscar Best Picture nominees.
The HFPA Dream Lineup:
The Birth of a Nation
Collateral Beauty
Hacksaw Ridge
Patriots Day

 Image result for golden globe trophy
So, there are my illustrious (and likely largely incorrect) Golden Globes predictions! Let me know if I had any serious omissions in the comments.