Monday, July 26, 2010

Squaring Off Against a Hater on the Message Boards

I encountered this post on the internet movie database message boards on and decided to take on this guy point-by-point. I won't say he comes off as idiotic and that I wanted to put him in his place. We all have opinions and a message board, as opposed to a blog is a good place to just throw opinions out there without thinking too much about him. Nevertheless, he does present his case as if it were an essay and I found it slightly true in a couple places, but mostly unfounded.

His post is displayed in quotes and my point by point rebuttal has bullet points to it.

"1. You have only to watch a few YouTube videos to find Cruise's personality utterly repulsive."
-Just like anything else, the experience of watching it in a movie theater is superior to Youtube.
-There is a coherent story here
-Also, if Youtube and the film's studio/promotion people were properly doing their job, the film wouldn't (or at least shouldn't) be on Youtube anyway.
"2. Cruise is WAY WAY WAY too old for playing pretty boy action star."
He plays it well. When his hair gets gray, he becomes fatter and forms wrinkles (i.e. Sean Connery in Never Say Never Again or Entrapment), then he's too old for the part but he's clearly capable of being an action star.
-Um, hello? Are you not aware that Cruise does stunts himself. Considering, it's highly publicized that he's literally performing the action, there shouldn't be a question of whether he's believable to pretend to be a character who does action scenes
3. Boring and Forgettable is reserved for DVD.
That's begging the question....we're debating whether the film itself is boring and forgettable, this isn't an argument.

"We are burned out on these boring action thriller buddy/romance shoot em up, car chase, explosion movies. EVERYTHING HAS BEEN DONE...AND DONE BETTER AND MORE ORIGINALLY IN the 1990's when our parents forced us to go to this crap."
-Well, it depends on what you look for. Shakespeare said there are only 12 story lines. If you look for the basics, yes, but this had a whole number of things I'd never seen before. I could go down the list but I found the relationship between kidnapper and kidnapped fairly original, I felt it was a convincing arc with which the two developed a relationship, I've never seen the backwards plotline slowly unravelling about his childhood, etc.. It was a genre film so it followed (or parodied, at certain places) the formula but the film tweaked it when appropriate.

"What does Generation Y like?

Hello? Is anyone paying attention? At all???

What do Vampires, Lord of the Rings, and Avatar have in common?

Not just special effects, fantasy and interesting plotlines (ok, Avatar not so much on the good writing--but MAN! those special effects!)"
-Not really: Star Wars was very story heavy and it failed. Vampires and Lord of the Rings have popular source material in common.
-Avatar, we both agree was weak on story (actually, I don't personally agree because I'm still the only person on the planet not to have seen it) but I know enough about it to argue that from what I've heard it's a weak story but great special effects.
-I think the main trend that you mentioned with the successful stories of the last few years is not so much good storylines but source material. Both Twilight and Lord of the Rings had strong followings because of books and the same formula has worked with Bourne Identity and a number of other works. It's not a new thing either. Wizard of Oz and Gone with the Wind, the first two blockbusters, were books first.

"Here's the BIG ONE that no one seems to be GETTING when they crank out this action thriller crap.

Generation Y HAS MORE RESPECT FOR LIFE. Our heroes are not mindless killers. Our heroes don't shoot entire rooms full of people and call it comedy. Our heroes are conflicted and complicated and introspective. If our heroes have to kill, they feel tortured and have no alternative.

Spraying bullets everywhere is not "cool" to generation Yers. We've gone to school afraid of someone going nuts and spraying bullets everywhere because we've seen it happen."
-That's a very good point and I will give you that. Bourne, X-Men, Spiderman, Iron Man, and Bond have all been pretty critical about life-taking in respect to the heroes and take that old convention of the Clint Eastwood-type figure who shoots a hundreds of people without much thought.
I think that Night and Day as well as a couple others (Jonny English and Get Smart, for example) are not in the mold of Rambo or one of Pierce Brosnam's Bonds. It's clearly tongue-and-cheek and somewhat of a satire of those earlier films. We don't really believe that Tom Cruise killed all those people. It's too absurdist to be taken seriously. It's like Steve Carrell being able to outgun a room full of 12 people or hold his own in hand-to-hand combat against Dwayne Johnson. It's so absurdist, you don't take it at face value.

"Generation Y HAS MORE RESPECT FOR THE PLANET. Our heroes don't blow up cars and helicopters and airplanes and WASTE resources constantly."
-I don't think being green carries over to movie watching. I don't think even Ed Begley Junior or Leonardo DiCaprio are turned off by movie heroes who use up a big carbon footprint.

"Generation Yers are more romantic than gratuitously sexual. We're not into gratuitous sex as much as we are into ideals of loyalty and intimacy and friendship. We are the kids of divorce. We want relationships with substance that last. Complexity is HUGE for Generation Y."
I agree (although that's a little bit of a stretch). But what does that have to do with this film? There was no sex in this movie. The characters didn't consumate their relationship at any point and they didn't do it during the closing credits. There's good reason to believe that possibly in their road trip, they'll do it, but maybe the car will blow up.

"Bottom line--older film makers need to grow up and get smarter if they want to sell movie tickets to the under 30 set."

-No, boys under 14 are as immature and loving of violence as they've always been. In fact, even if American culture has changed and has been affected by Columbine shootings or the Virginia Tech shootings or Orange alerts and Blackwayer or whatever else, the American share of the box office is smaller than the international potential and one of the only things that translates across all markets is audiences like seeing stuff get blown up and they might not have those hang-ups with violence that your specific age group does.

-Also, James Mangold is a good filmmaker and is nothing like what you're talking about. 3:10 to Yuma was a classic character study of a film. Long stretches of the film went by without a single bullet being fired. He also did Walk the Line which has very heeavy characters. Mangold has range.

"Movies like this---that have all the substance and depth of a Marshmellow Peep are obsolete."

Bottom line: I agree that Rambo or Charles Bronson are obsolete, except this movie isn't as bad as you say it is.

World Cup Review Part I: Performances over the past World Cups

*Disclaimer: This post isn't timely, I know. I acknowledge nothing is particularly timely about my blog.

I wrote a couple pieces on the World Cup on my facebook notes section recently and wanted to share them here for posterity's sake.

One of them has little to do with this particular world cup. Rather, the last five World Cups. More to the point, I wanted to find some way to measure overall performance in the last five World Cups. I wanted to show how difficult it was to be consistently good from World Cup.

What inspired me to do this was this article.

In it, Donovan defends his team's World Cup performance saying:
"People assume that there's linear progression from World Cup to World Cup," Donovan said. "It couldn't be further from the truth. France and Italy were in the final four years ago and neither of them got out of their group.

"The fact that we've now qualified for six in a row, and that we've gotten out of our group two out of the last three, I think is a fantastic achievement for our country."

So I decided to try to measure it. I didn't look at World Cup 1990 but, rather 1994. That was the year I personally started watching the World Cup and I really can't imagine that soccer existed before 1994.

Nonetheless, here's my system and I just let the math do the talking. Do comment if you're a soccer fan:
1. Not qualifying for a World Cup -0.5
2. Qualifying for a World Cup but not making it out of the first round +0.25
3. After this, each round you make it to is an added point: 2nd round: 1, Quarters: 2, Semis: 3, Runner-Up: 4, Champion: 5
There are also some stipulations:
4. Winning the 3rd place game is an extra 0.25
5. Winning all games in opening round and getting 9 points is an extra 0.25
6. Winning your group and being a top seed in the second round only to be upset in round 2 merits more credit than just losing in the 2nd round as a bottom seed so US in 2010, Spain and Switzerland in 2006, Mexico and Turkey in 2002 and Nigeria and Romania in 98 get 1.25 instead of 1
7. If your country is not in existence or was newly formed (i.e. anything east of the Iron Curtain in 1994) then you don't get a penalty for failing to qualify for a World Cup
8. Ireland doesn't get -.5 for missing 2010 because they were cheated out of a spot.

So here are the rankings (along with points earned in each of the last 5 Cups):
1. Brazil 18.5 (5 4 5.25 2.25 2)
2. Germany 14.75 (2 2 4 3.5 3.25)
3. Italy 12.75 (4 2 1 5 0.25)
4. Spain 11 (2 0.25 2.25 1.5 5)
5. Holland 9.75 (2 3 -.5 1 4.25)
6. France 9.25 (-.5 5.25 .25 4 .25)
7. Argentina 7.75 (1 2.25 0.25 2 2)
8. England 5.5 (-.5 1 2 2 1)
9. Mexico 5.25 (1 1 1.25 1 1)
10. US 4.75 (1 .25 2 .25 1.25)
South Korea 4.75 (.25 .25 3 .25 1)
12. Sweden 4.5 (3.25 -.5 1.25 1 -.5)
13. Paraguay 2.75 (-0.5 1 1 0.25 2)
14. Portugal 3.5 (-0.5 -0.5 .25 3.25 1)
15. Croatia 3.25 (X 3.25 .25 .25 -0.5)
16. Denmark 2.5 (-.5 2 1.25 -.5 .25)
17. Nigeria 2.25 (1 1.25 .25 -.5 .25)
Japan 2.25 (-.5 .25 1.25 .25 1)
19. Uruguay 1.75 (-.5 -.5 .25 -.5 3)
Bulgaria 1.75 (3 .25 -.5 -.5 -.5)
Romania 1.75 (2 1.25 -.5 -.5 -.5)
22. Ireland 1.5 (1 -.5 1 -.5 X)
Ghana 1.5 (-.5 -.5 -.5 1 2)
Switzerland 1.5 (1 -.5 -.5 1.25 0.25)
25. Saudi Arabia 1.25 (1 .25 .25 .25 -.5)
Turkey 1.25 (-.5 -.5 3.25 -.5 -.5)

Coming Up.............a post on the all-World Cup team.
(I've already written this one as well, but I need to write it up a little more typo-free and correctly punctuated)

Friday, July 23, 2010

How easy it is to be hated as an internet writer

I recently rewrote one of my lower posts and attached it to create an article:

Over the course of the article, I made about 27 allegations/assumptions/opinions:
1. That Tom Cruise used to be popular
2. That most people attribute the decline of Cruise’s career to Oprah-gate and scientology
3. That Cruise’s Tropic Thunder cameo was a positive step for him
That he got by on being on 4) a winning smile 5) being youthful and 6) energetic for 25 years
7. That today’s audiences might see him differently if they had a reminder that he was talented
8-10. That George Chakiris, Roberto Benigni and Cuba Gooding Jr. are all acceptable examples of “duds”
11-13. That Tom Cruise stood an incredibly good chance at winning in all three of his noms
14. That Tom Cruise’s performance was similar to Voight’s for coming home
15. That Tom Cruise’s performance remains one of Olive Stone’s more realized characters
16-17. That the academy implicitly decided that Marlon Brando and Dustin Hoffman weren’t awarded an Oscar because it was too early in their careers
18. That Tom Cruise’s case fits that mold
19. That Jerry Maguire used Cruise’s manic energy to the fullest and that audiences loved it
20. That Cruise’s winning of prizes before the Oscars (some of which were for best actor in a comedy or musical) meant he stood a good chance at an Oscar
21. That Cruise’s performance propelled Jerry MaGuire to a best picture nomination and that the picture wasn’t worthy on its merits alone
22. That Rush’s role in Shine was Oscar-bait
23. That the ceremony wasn’t as memorable because Cruise didn’t win an Oscar
24. That in the 1999-2000 Oscar season, Cruise was up against a weak field
25. That Cruise wasn’t necessarily the best part of Magnolia
26. That Jude Law wasn’t the best part of his own film
27. That Michael Caine’s Oscar was less about his performance in that single film and more about being a consummate and prolific actor in his old age

I'd say if someone disagrees with just a couple of those points, that's pretty good, but people tend to voice all those disagreements quite often.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Return from hiatus: World Cup Controversies and more

Hello, I'm back from hiatus.

I have a lot of material I will gradually put up.

This past month, I wrote approximately 12 articles for helium.

My best read is probably this one about the World Cup controversies:

The United States (where I come from) is currently full of a lot of irate part-time football fans who are upset at being denied a goal in the 85th minute of the Slovenia match by the referee. Goals do get disallowed quite often (see Holland vs Croatia, 98, Italy vs S. Korea 02) but in this case, the referee did not give an explanation and replays do not show much of a foul to begin with. It's speculated that the referee ignored the pleas of players on the field for an explanation because he did not speak English. With the immense pressure that the US holds, FIFA is currently doing a probe on that particular ref and in the meantime, he gets to be the most hated man in America's 24-hour news cycle, because he was unlucky enough to make a bad call against a country that has more people and more media clout than any other country in the World Cup this year.

The Yanks are also complaining of a yellow card being called on a U.S. player who wasn't able to get out of the way of hand ball in time, but it should be noted that Australia lost a man (to a red card) and a goal to Ghana because the same thing happened to him in the penalty area.

At the same time, Mexico got the short end of the stick when a goal was also disallowed on Carlos Vela for being offside and they had to take a tie to South Africa. Even worse, South Africa had to endure a red card to their goalie for making a fairly legitimate tackle dooming the host country to suffer a damning penalty kick with the the backup goalie rushed from the bench into the net without any warm-up in between. Luck has a habit of working both ways like that.
Even as I'm writing this, more news is surfacing that the Brazilian striker Lucio Fabiano admitted that he handballed the second goal in Brazil's 3-1 win over Ivory Coast.

The fact of the matter is that soccer's a sport that's difficult for referees to make the right calls and they mess up a lot. This has never been anything new and although there might be a legitimate reason to reform FIFA's policies with regard to refereeing to ensure more accuracy with calls, nothing will change in the present and the World Cup because that's the way football works.

At the very least, South Africans, Yanks, Mexicans and citizens of the Ivory Coast can take comfort in knowing that they're in the World Cup and don't have it as bad as Ireland. Ireland doesn't even have the opportunity to cheer for their own team at the World Cup. The do-or-die qualifying match which put France through to the World Cup and denied Ireland its spot was the result of a referee failing to call a handball on Thierry Henry as he scored a goal. FIFA said they wouldn't reverse that call even though they acknowledged it was wrong.

Article can be found here

Basketball Player Profiles on OJ Mayo, Gilbert Arenas, and Brandon Jennings.

NBA Draft and High School Players

And lastly, for
How an Oscar for Tom Cruise Could Have Changed it All

Many more posts coming soon