Sunday, January 18, 2015

NFL Playoffs: Championship Round

Ballgate UPDATE: "Eleven of the Patriots' 12 game balls were inflated by 2 pounds per square inch below what's required by NFL regulations during the AFC Championship Game against the Colts, according to league sources."

Seattle Seahawks  28 : 22  Green Bay Packers
Russell Wilson hit Jermaine Kearse for a 35-yard touchdown 3:19 into overtime to lift the Seattle Seahawks to an improbable 28-22 victory over Green Bay in the NFC championship game. The Seahawks became the first defending champion to make the Super Bowl in 10 years, and will play the winner of the AFC title game between Indianapolis and New England. Outplayed much of Sunday and plagued by five turnovers, the Seahawks (14-4) trailed 16-7 with 2:09 remaining. That's when Wilson ran 1 yard for a TD. Seattle recovered a bobbled onside kick at the 50, and Marshawn Lynch sped and powered his way to a 24-yard TD run. Wilson's desperate 2-point conversion pass was hauled in by Luke Willson to make it 22-19. But Aaron Rodgers led the Packers (13-5) to Mason Crosby's fifth field goal, from 48 yards with 14 seconds to go. Then Wilson and Kearse struck.







New England Patriots  45 : 7  Indianapolis Colts
Tom Brady threw for three touchdowns and LeGarrette Blount ran in three more on Sunday to lead the New England Patriots into the Super Bowl with a 45-7 victory over the Indianapolis Colts. The Patriots won their eighth AFC championship - their sixth under Brady and coach Bill Belichick. They will play the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl in Glendale, Arizona, on Feb. 1. New England (14-4) opened a 14-point lead in the first half and then broke it open in a driving rain with three third-quarter touchdowns and another to start the fourth. That made it the second-most lopsided game in AFC championship history.





Saturday, January 17, 2015

My Favorite Films


The Godfather (1972)
Director: Francis Ford Coppola
Budget: $6M
Box Office: $133.7M
Popularly viewed as one of the best American films ever made, the multi-generational crime saga The Godfather is a touchstone of cinema: one of the most widely imitated, quoted, and lampooned movies of all time. Marlon Brando and Al Pacino star as Vito Corleone and his youngest son, Michael, respectively. It is the late 1940s in New York and Corleone is, in the parlance of organized crime, a "godfather" or "don," the head of a Mafia family. Michael, a free thinker who defied his father by enlisting in the Marines to fight in World War II, has returned a captain and a war hero. Having long ago rejected the family business, Michael shows up at the wedding of his sister, Connie (Talia Shire), with his non-Italian girlfriend, Kay (Diane Keaton), who learns for the first time about the family "business." Nominated for 11 Academy Awards and winning for Best Picture, Best Actor (Marlon Brando), and Best Adapted Screenplay, The Godfather was followed by a pair of sequels.

Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)
Director: Terry Jones, Terry Gilliam
Budget: $400,000
Box Office: $3.4M
From its opening multi-language titles (that sure looks like Swedish) to the closing arrest of the entire Dark Ages cast by modern-day bobbies, Monty Python and the Holy Grail helped to define "irreverence" and became an instant cult classic. This time the Pythonites savage the legend of King Arthur, juxtaposing some excellently selected exterior locations with an unending stream of anachronistic one-liners, non sequiturs, and slapstick set pieces. The Knights of the Round Table set off in search of the Holy Grail on foot, as their lackeys make clippety-clop sounds with coconut shells. Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, and Michael Palin collaborated on the script and assumed most of the onscreen roles, while Gilliam and Jones served as co-directors.

Caddyshack (1980)
Director: Harold Ramis
Budget: $6M
Box Office: $39.8M
An elite country club has to deal with a brash new member and a gopher intent on destroying their beloved golf course.

Airplane! (1980)
Director: Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, Jerry Zucker
Budget: $3.5M
Box Office: $83.5M
This spoof of the Airport series of disaster movies relies on ridiculous sight gags, groan-inducing dialogue, and deadpan acting -- a comedy style that would be imitated for the next 20 years. Airplane! pulls out all the clich├ęs as alcoholic pilot Ted Striker (Robert Hays), who's developed a fear of flying due to wartime trauma, boards a jumbo jet in an attempt to woo back his stewardess girlfriend (Julie Hagerty). Leslie Nielsen portrays the plane's doctor, launching a new phase of the actor's career that carried him through the next two decades in several similarly comedic roles. The trio of directors Jim Abrahams, Jerry Zucker, and David Zucker responsible for the film would eventually go on to solo careers, but not before making Top Secret! and Ruthless People.

Return of the Jedi (1983)
Director: Richard Marquand
Budget: $32.5M
Box Office: $252.6M
In the epic conclusion of the saga, the Empire prepares to crush the Rebellion with a more powerful Death Star while the Rebel fleet mounts a massive attack on the space station. Luke Skywalker confronts his father Darth Vader in a final climactic duel before the evil Emperor. In the last second, Vader makes a momentous choice: he destroys the Emperor and saves his son. The Empire is finally defeated, the Sith are destroyed, and Anakin Skywalker is thus redeemed. At long last, freedom is restored to the galaxy.

Back to the Future (1985)
Director: Robert Zemeckis
Budget: $19M
Box Office: $210.6M
Beyond its dazzling special effects, the best element of Back to the Future is the performance of Michael J. Fox, who finds himself in the quagmire of surviving the white-bread 1950s with a hip 1980s mindset. Back to the Future cemented the box-office bankability of both Fox and the film's director, Robert Zemeckis, who went on to helm two equally exhilarating sequels.

Contact (1997)
Director: Robert Zemeckis
Budget: $90M
Box Office: $100.9M
She's known it since she was a young girl, when she would magically connect with distant voices on her father's shortwave radio. She's known it since college, when she chose the search for intelligent extraterrestrial messages as her discipline. She's known it since she bargained for just hours a week of satellite time to sweep the heavens for evidence. And she knows it every time she stares at the countless stars dappling the infinite night sky... Something is out there.

The Truman Show (1998)
Director: Peter Weir
Budget: $60M
Box Office: $125.6M
Jim Carrey gives a remarkable performance as a man learning that his entire life in a storybook coastal village has been the subject of a live, 24-hour-a-day womb-to-tomb television drama.

The Matrix (1999)
Director: The Wachowski Brothers
Budget: $63M
Box Office: $171.5M
It's the year 1999, and computer jockey Thomas Anderson (hacker alias: Neo) works in a cubicle, manning a computer and doing a little hacking on the side. It's through this latter activity that Thomas makes the acquaintance of Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne), who has some interesting news for Mr. Anderson -- none of what's going on around him is real. The year is actually closer to 2199, and it seems Thomas, like most people, is a victim of The Matrix, a massive artificial intelligence system that has tapped into people's minds and created the illusion of a real world, while using their brains and bodies for energy, tossing them away like spent batteries when they're through.

Gladiator (2000)
Director: Ridley Scott
Budget: $103M
Box Office: $187.7M
A man robbed of his name and his dignity strives to win them back, and gain the freedom of his people, in this epic historical drama. In the year 180, the death of emperor Marcus Aurelius (Richard Harris) throws the Roman Empire into chaos. Determined to avenge himself against the man who took away his freedom and laid waste to his family, Maximus believes that he can use his fame and skill in the ring to avenge the loss of his family and former glory.

Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (2004)
Director: Adam McKay
Budget: $26M
Box Office: $85.3M
Marking the directorial debut of Adam McKay, former head writer for Saturday Night Live and founder of the Upright Citizen's Brigade, Anchorman is set during the 1970s and stars Will Ferrell as Ron Burgundy, San Diego's top-rated news anchorman. The arrival of Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate), an aspiring newswoman, is, in Ron's eyes, not the studio's most welcome addition. Anchorman was co-written by Ferrell, and features supporting performances from David Koechner, Steve Carrell, Paul Rudd, Tara Subkoff, and Maya Rudolph.

The Dark Knight (2008)
Director: Christopher Nolan
Budget: $185M
Box Office: $533.3M
The sequel to Batman Begins finds the titular superhero coming face to face with his greatest nemesis -- the dreaded Joker. Christian Bale returns to the role of Batman, Maggie Gyllenhaal takes over the role of Rachel Dawes (played by Katie Holmes in Batman Begins), and Brokeback Mountain star Heath Ledger dons the ghoulishly gleeful Joker makeup previously worn by Jack Nicholson and Cesar Romero. Just as it begins to appear as if Batman, Lt. James Gordon (Gary Oldman), and District Attorney Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart) are making headway in their tireless battle against the criminal element, a maniacal, wisecracking fiend plunges the streets of Gotham City into complete chaos.

Friday, January 16, 2015

My Favorite TV Shows


Seinfeld (1989-1998)
Creators: Larry David, Jerry Seinfeld
A critical favorite, the show led the Nielsen ratings in seasons six and nine, and finished among the top two (with NBC's ER) every year from 1994 to 1998. In 2002, TV Guide named Seinfeld the greatest television program of all time. In 1997, the episodes "The Boyfriend" and "The Parking Garage" were respectively ranked numbers 4 and 33 on TV Guide's 100 Greatest Episodes of All Time, and in 2009, "The Contest" was ranked #1 on the same magazine's list of TV's Top 100 Episodes of All Time. E! named it the "number 1 reason the '90s ruled." In 2013, the Writers Guild of America named Seinfeld the No. 2 Best Written TV Series of All Time (second to The Sopranos). That same year, Entertainment Weekly named it the No. 3 best TV series of all time.


The Larry Sanders Show (1992-1998)
Creators: Garry Shandling, Dennis Klein
The show has its roots in Shandling's stand-up comedy background, his experience as a guest host on The Tonight Show and his earlier sitcom It's Garry Shandling's Show. It has had a marked and long-lasting influence on HBO as well as on television shows in America and Britain. Shandling's performance is a precursor to Larry David's in Curb Your Enthusiasm and even more directly to Ricky Gervais (The Office, Extras) as David Brent. Gervais said in Variety that he was heavily influenced by the show and that "It taught me that flawed characters can be compulsive viewing — seeing them squirm and get their comeuppance".

The show won 24 major awards, including three Primetime Emmy Awards, five CableACE Awards, four American Comedy Awards, two British Comedy Awards, two Peabody Awards, a BAFTA Award and a Satellite Award. It also received 86 nominations, including 56 Primetime Emmy Awards nominations, five Directors Guild of America nominations, six Writers' Guild of America nominations, six American Comedy Awards nominations, three Golden Globe nominations, three Satellite Awards nominations and a GLAAD Award nomination.


All That (1994-2005)
Creators: Brian Robbins, Mike Tollin
Chappelle’s show co-creator Neal Brennan and SNL’s Taran Killam were both writers. TLC performed the original theme song. Notable cast members include Kenan Thompson, Kel Mitchell, Amanda Bynes and Nick Cannon. The show could have been called SNL For Kids, in that it had a musical guest, reoccurring characters, and a celebrated sketch that was turned into a movie, Good Burger. Early episodes were taped at Nickelodeon Studios at Universal Orlando, but then moved to Hollywood at the Nickelodeon On Sunset theatre (formerly the Earl Carrol Theatre), where shows like The Amanda Show, Kenan & Kel, and Drake & Josh were also filmed.


The Daily Show with Jon Stewart (1999-present)
Creators: Madeleine Smithberg, Lizz Winstead
Jon Stewart took over as host in January 1999, making the show more strongly focused on politics and the national media, in contrast with the pop culture focus during Craig Kilborn's tenure. Stewart's version is currently the second longest-running program on Comedy Central after South Park. It has received two Peabody Awards for its coverage of the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections. Between 2001 and 2012, it has been awarded 18 Primetime Emmy Awards in the categories of Outstanding Variety, Music, or Comedy Series (winner for 10 consecutive years from 2003 to 2012) and Outstanding Writing for a Variety, Music, or Comedy Program, and a further seven nominations. The show has also been honored by GLAAD, the Television Critics Association, and the Satellite Awards.

The Colbert Report, a spin-off of The Daily Show starring former correspondent Stephen Colbert premiered on October 17, 2005 and ended on December 18, 2014. Another spin-off series hosted by contributor Larry Wilmore entitled The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore premiered on January 19, 2015, replacing The Colbert Report. The Daily Show also helped lead to Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, an HBO series hosted by former correspondent John Oliver, who had previously guest hosted The Daily Show throughout the summer before its debut.


The Wire (2002-2008)
Creator: David Simon
Each season of The Wire introduces a different institution in the city of Baltimore. In chronological order they are: the illegal drug trade, the seaport system, the city government and bureaucracy, the school system, and the print news media. The large cast consists mainly of character actors who are little known for their other roles, as well as numerous guest and recurring appearances by real-life Baltimore and Maryland figures. Simon has said that despite its presentation as a crime drama, the show is "really about the American city, and about how we live together. It's about how institutions have an effect on individuals. Whether one is a cop, a longshoreman, a drug dealer, a politician, a judge or a lawyer, all are ultimately compromised and must contend with whatever institution to which they are committed."

Despite receiving only average ratings and never winning major television awards, The Wire has been described by many critics as one of the greatest TV dramas of all time.


Chappelle's Show (2003-2006)
Creators: Dave Chappelle, Neal Brennan
After numerous delays, production of the third season of the show was abruptly ended when Dave Chappelle left the show. Three episodes were compiled from the completed work and these episodes aired from July 9 to July 23, 2006. Re-runs have frequently aired on Comedy Central and around the world, with episodes airing on MTV in Germany, Comedy Central in Brazil, MuchMusic in Canada, The Comedy Channel and 7mate in Australia, and FX in the United Kingdom. TV Guide ranked it #31 on their list of "TV's Top 100 Shows".

In May 2005, Time magazine announced that one of their reporters, Christopher John Farley, had interviewed Chappelle in South Africa, and that no psychiatric treatments were occurring or necessary. Chappelle returned shortly thereafter and quelled rumors of psychiatric or substance abuse problems, and emphasized that his trip was a "spiritual retreat" intended to keep his sense of reality outside the bubble of intense pressure and fame and to keep his humor fresh.


Arrested Development (2003-2006, 2013)
Creator: Mitchell Hurwitz
Since its debut in 2003, the series has received widespread critical acclaim, six Primetime Emmy Awards, and one Golden Globe Award, and has attracted a cult following, including several fan-based websites. In 2007, Time listed it among the magazine's "All-TIME 100 TV Shows". In 2008, the show was ranked 16th on Entertainment Weekly '​s "New TV Classics" list. In 2011, IGN named Arrested Development the "funniest show of all time". The script of an Arrested Development film has also been in development, with the main cast purported to reprise their original roles.


Game of Thrones (2011-present)
Creators: David Benioff, D. B. Weiss
Game of Thrones has attracted record numbers of viewers on HBO and obtained an exceptionally broad and active international fan base. It received widespread acclaim by critics, although its frequent use of nudity, violence and sexual violence has attracted criticism. The series has won numerous awards and nominations, including a Primetime Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Drama Series for its first four seasons, a Golden Globe Award nomination for Best Television Series – Drama, a Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation in both Long Form and Short Form, and a Peabody Award. Among the ensemble cast, Peter Dinklage won the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series and the Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor – Series, Miniseries or Television Film for his role as Tyrion Lannister.

It is an adaptation of A Song of Ice and Fire, George R. R. Martin's series of fantasy novels, the first of which is titled A Game of Thrones. Filmed in a Belfast studio and on location elsewhere in Northern Ireland, Malta, Scotland, Croatia, Iceland, the United States, Spain and Morocco, it premiered on HBO in the United States on April 17, 2011. Two days after the fourth season premiered in April 2014, HBO renewed Game of Thrones for a fifth and sixth season. The fifth season is scheduled to premiere on April 12, 2015.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Ohio State are National Champs After Crying About VA Tech

CSN:
The Ohio State Buckeyes are the 2014 National Champions after their win 42-20 win Monday night over the Oregon Ducks. Ezekiel Elliott set National Championship game records for rushes (36), rush yards (246) and rushing touchdowns (4).

It’s amazing to think about how close the Buckeyes were to not making the playoff at all.

Ohio State needed an impressive victory in the Big Ten Championship Game to sneak into the top four because they were not undefeated; they finished the season 12-1 thanks to a Virginia Tech loss that haunted them all season long until the moment they were announced as No. 4 in the final College Football Playoff rankings.

Virginia Tech’s win remains the most improbable win of the college football season made all the more inexplicable by Monday's outcome. Ohio State gave up 20 points to Oregon and 35 to Virginia Tech. Their 21 points against the Hokies were a season low. Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott ran wild over Oregon for 246 yards and four touchdowns. Against the Hokies, he managed only 32 rushing yards.



For a team that is used to the type of success Virginia Tech has had in the past, it is hard to glean many positives from a 7-6 season. A win over the now National Champions in the Horseshoe, however, is one.

Virginia Tech will open the 2015 season against Ohio State at home. It will be the third time in program history that the Hokies open their season against the defending national champions. For Ohio State, the game will be one of revenge, for the Hokies, redemption.


More information:
» Washington Post: OSU Had Never Seen Bud Foster's "Bear Double Eagle" Package
» Roanoke Times: It was more than just Tech's defense that beat OSU

Sunday, January 11, 2015

NFL Playoffs: Divisional Round


Denver Broncos  13 : 24  Indianapolis Colts
Andrew Luck threw two touchdown passes and the Indianapolis Colts upset Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos 24-13 Sunday in the AFC playoffs. Manning, who joined the Broncos in 2012 after his release from Indy, has gone one-and-done in the playoffs a record nine times in his otherwise stellar career. That includes twice in Denver, where he's 38-10 in the regular season but just 2-4 in the playoffs.





Green Bay Packers   26 : 21  Dallas Cowboys
Green Bay rallied from an 11-point deficit as Aaron Rodgers threw for two fourth-quarter touchdowns to beat Dallas 26-21 Sunday in an NFC divisional-round playoff. Dez Bryant's leaping catch at the Packers 1 on fourth-and-2 was reversed by referee Gene Steratore after Green Bay challenged. The Cowboys' first postseason trip to Green Bay since the 1967 Ice Bowl for the NFL championship was their first road defeat of the season after eight victories.





Seattle Seahawks  31 : 17  Carolina Panthers
Russell Wilson threw three touchdown passes, Kam Chancellor returned an interception 90 yards for a touchdown, and the Seattle Seahawks beat the Carolina Panthers 31-17 on Saturday night in the NFC divisional playoff game. The Seahawks never trailed and became the first defending Super Bowl champion to win a playoff game the following season since New England in January 2006.





New England Patriots  35 : 31  Baltimore Ravens
Other teams don't have a quarterback like Tom Brady, who can recover from a miserable interception, to throw a magnificent 23-yard touchdown pass in the back left corner to Brandon LaFell to give New England its first lead of the AFC Divisional game over the Ravens with just 5:13 remaining. Other teams don't intercept Joe Flacco in the playoffs -- at least not any other team since 2011 -- until the Patriots did it twice, including on the pass that all but ended the game, when Duron Harmon picked him off in the end zone.



Saturday, January 10, 2015

Shabazz Palaces - "Forerunner Foray" (2014)


Paste:
Shabazz Palaces have premiered the early front-runner for music video of the year in “Forerunner Foray” (via Gorilla vs. Bear). The animated fever dream of a video is directed by the talented Chad VanGaalen and accompanies one of the best tracks from one of the best albums of 2014, Lese Majesty. “Forerunner Foray” sees the avant-garde hip-hop duo of Ishmael Butler and Tendai Maraire bring the earthly and celestial together with a pounding beat and fluttering synthesizers, a hard-to-pin-down track even in terms of the already hard-to-pin-down group.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Redskins Finalize Deal with New GM Scot McCloughan

NFL:
Washington has taken a progressive step forward in upgrading their personnel department.

Scot McCloughan and the Redskins finalized a deal Wednesday to make him the team's new general manager, per NFL Media's Albert Breer. The former 49ers general manager and Seahawks personnel executive will report to team president Bruce Allen and will have final say over the 53-man roster in D.C.

McCloughan also held discussions with the Jets and Raiders, per Breer. Breer added the Redskins satisfied the Rooney Rule on Monday by interviewing Jets executive and former Cardinals GM Rod Graves, per two sources.

McCloughan was named San Francisco's vice president of player personnel in 2005, then was promoted to general manager in '08. He left the team shortly before the 2010 draft for personal reasons. He then served as John Schneider's assistant in Seattle until leaving shortly before last spring's draft. He also served as the Seahawks' director of college scouting from 2000 to '05. McCloughan admitted to Seth Wickersham in an ESPN The Magazine profile that he battled alcohol issues.

"I had a drinking problem," he told Wickersham. "I'm a good person. And I know how to run a team."

McCloughan is known in league circles as one of the most naturally gifted scouts in football. Though he was let go from the 49ers, he will be remembered for stockpiling one of the league's most talented rosters for Jim Harbaugh to inherit. His work with the Seahawks, whose late-round gems over the past four years built the foundation for a Super Bowl championship, was also heralded by executives around the league.

Washington has been desperate to improve their personnel department over the past few seasons and should do well to add someone with a true scouting background.

In his year away from football, McCloughan maintained a private scouting service, so he should be able to immediately contribute to Washington's draft class in 2015.

Bleacher Report:
Following a 4-12 season in which the team allowed 438 points, Washington and defensive coordinator Jim Haslett have agreed to go their separate ways.

Defensively, the Redskins have given up more points than 27 other NFL teams this season. In their four previous seasons under defensive coordinator Jim Haslett, the Redskins have ranked tied for 31st (2013), 22nd (2012), 21st (2011) and T-21st (2010) in points against per game.

Haslett has been with Washington since 2010. During that time, the franchise has made the postseason once and only finished in the top 20 of total defense twice. A deeper dive into the numbers, via Rob Carlin of Comcast SportsNet Washington, shows the problems on defense were vast: 'Under Jim Haslett, #Redskins have allowed 2nd most pts.. 4th most total yds.. 2nd most pass yds.'"

More information:
» Bleacher Report: Top 4 Replacements for Jim Haslett
» ESPN The Magazine: "Football savant Scot McCloughan"