Wednesday, November 30, 2011

ATP World Tour Finals: Finale

Roger Federer may not have ended the year as the best player in the world, or even the second best, but like so many times in the past decade he is the last player standing triumphant. For a record 6th time, Federer wins the ATP World Tour Final beating Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 6-3 6-7(6) 6-3 in a thrilling final that electrified those who saw them at the O2 Arena this past weekend. It was Federer's 70th title who was also playing in his 100th career ATP finals.

In an odd way, the match seemed to have recalled many of the matches he played this year where he would play well and rush to an early lead only to falter towards the tail end. Who could forget his brutal loss to Tsonga at Wimbledon after being up two sets to love or to Novak Djokovic at the US Open with two match points on his serve? It seemed this story was going to continue when he was suddenly broken while serving out the match at 6-3 5-4 and ended up losing in the tiebreak after getting to championship point. But this time Federer held on. Never losing his cool, Federer made sure to make his opponent feel as stressed as possible serving second. The pressure got too much for Tsonga in the eight game and Federer was able to break him and then to serve the match out. It was Federer's 17th straight match win after the US Open giving Federer a 64-12 record for the year and four titles.

It was the best possible way for Federer to end his first year since 2002 without winning a Grand Slam by going undefeated in indoors and even comprehensively beating his main rival Rafael Nadal at the World Tour Finals. Turning 30 this year, Federer will have less opportunities to win the big titles and go on undefeated runs, but by winning here against the best players in the world, he shows that he is far from being done. Yes, other players were injured and not at their best, but that speaks more to Federer's work ethic and durability than anything else.

What all of this means for next year is very hazy. Federer also had a great fall season and won at the ATP World Tour Final last year and though he won his first tournament back, the momentum he may have had was halted by the Djokovic Train this year. Like it or not, Federer will need a little help from others such as Djokovic, Nadal, and Andy Murray. If they aren't 100% then Federer can make them pay. If they are healthy and rested, Federer will still have a chance, but it will be that much tougher. Don't forget about Tsonga as well who had a pretty damn great year. I predict he'll have a better year next year. Now it's time for the tennis off-season or what we all like to call a long weekend.

Looking Forward To...

We Need to Talk About Kevin
Release: December 9, 2011
Distributor: Oscilloscope Pictures
Director: Lynne Ramsay
Starring: Ezra Miller, John C. Reilly, Jasper Newell, Alex Manette, and Tilda Swinton

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Spirit Award Nominations

Technically awards season started yesterday with the Gotham Awards giving their Best Feature prize to The Tree of Life and Beginners with the latter also getting Best Ensemble. But it really ramped up this morning with the New York Film Critics Circle being the first critics group to chime in with their winners (more on that later) as well as the finding out the nominations for the Spirit Awards, which are as follows:

Take Shelter
The Artist
The Descendants

It was a big day for Take Shelter and The Artist as they both tied with a leading 5 nominations each. I haven't seen either film, but I only hear good things about them as well as The Descendants. I have seen the other three and I'm glad they're nominated. A bit weird to not see Midnight in Paris here, but I guess they didn't like it too much since they also didn't nominate Woody Allen below.

Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist
Mike Mills, Beginners
Jeff Nichols, Take Shelter
Alexander Payne, The Descendants
Nicolas Winding Refn, Drive

As I said above, Woody Allen was snubbed here, but Cannes winning director Nicolas Winding Refn makes it in which makes me happy. No one knew The Artist was eligible for these awards, but as one of the presumed Oscar frontrunners, it makes sense for its director to be honored here as well.

Another Earth
In The Family
Margin Call
Martha Marcy May Marlene
Natural Selection

I've only seen Martha Macy May Marlene, which I liked more than I expected. Margin Call received the Robert Altman Award from this group which is essentially a Best Ensemble award so it seemed they quite liked the film as well.

Demian Bichir, A Better Life
Jean Dujardin, The Artist
Ryan Gosling, Drive
Woody Harrelson, Rampart
Michael Shannon, Take Shelter

Can't say much since I've only seen Ryan Gosling's amazing performance, but I was expecting to see Joseph Gordon-Levitt for 50/50 and possibly Owen Wilson for Midnight in Paris here. Jean Dujardin and Woody Harrelson look like they can be in the Oscar shortlist.

Lauren Ambrose, Think of Me
Rachael Harris, Natural Selection
Adepero Oduye, Pariah
Elizabeth Olsen, Martha Marcy May Marlene
Michelle Williams, My Week with Marilyn

I'm ecstatic to see Michelle Williams here (and Ryan Gosling up there) since even though she got an Oscar nomination last year, the awards love shown for Blue Valentine wasn't nearly enough. Elizabeth Olsen wins the battle of the newcomers with Felicity Jones in Like Crazy got snubbed. Glenn Closse for Albert Nobbs was also inexplicably snubbed.

Albert Brooks, Drive
John Hawkes, Martha Marcy May Marlene
Christopher Plummer, Beginners
John C. Reilly, Cedar Rapids
Corey Stoll, Midnight in Paris

Shocker: I've seen every single performance in this category! I'm actively rooting for Corey Stoll here since he made the sexiest Ernest Hemingway ever, but I only have good thoughts for the others. Likeliest Oscar shortlister is probably Albert Brooks and Christopher Plummer, right?

Jessica Chastain, Take Shelter
Angelica Huston, 50/50
Janet Mcteer, Albert Nobbs
Harmony Santana, Gun Hill Road
Shailene Woodley, The Descendants

Jessica Chastain is going to rule this category this year isn't she? I mean she has this film as well as her work on The Help and Tree of Life. Pretty funny to see Angelica Huston nominated. It's the only performance here I've seen. She's fine, but I didn't think she was awards-worthy.

A Separation
The Kid With a Bike

Haven't seen any of these, but I'll definitely be there this weekend for the opening of Shame. I've been meaning to see Melancholia as well. I've heard good to great things for both as well as A Separation and Tyrannosaur. Last year, the eventual Oscar Best Picture, The King's Speech, was nominated. Will any of these films repeat that feat?

An African Election
Bill Cunningham New York
The Interrupters
The Redemption of General Butt Naked
We Were Here

Joseph Cedar, Footnote
Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist
Tom McCarthy, Win Win
Mike Mills, Beginners
Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon & Jim Rash, The Descendants

Mike Cahill & Brit Marling, Another Earth
J.C. Chandor, Margin Call
Patrick DeWitt, Terri
Phil Johnston, Cedar Rapids
Will Reiser, 50/50

Good solid list for the screenplay awards, but again an odd snub for Woody Allen who will probably get Oscar nominated. I'm happy for Will Reiser, Mike Mills, and Jim Rash.

Joel Hodge, Bellflower
Benjamin Kasulke, The Off Hours
Darius Khondji, Midnight in Paris
Guillaume Shiffman, The Artist
Jeffrey Waldron, The Dynamiter

Hello Lonesome
The Dynamiter

No other comments, but now I need to know what The Dynamiter is about because how cool is that title?

Now I did say I would talk about the New York Film Critics Circle winners later, but I actually meant to say I'm waiting until we get more critic groups to chime in before doing a postmortem analyses. But if you really want to see who they picked, click here.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Community Voted Fan Favorite

A few weeks ago when NBC released their mid-season schedule and Community was nowhere to be found, the reaction online was widespread and immediate as both TV critics and the show's small, but very loyal fanbase demanded an explanation. NBC for their part confirmed their decision and tried to placate everyone by saying that the show's hiatus was temporary, but didn't really give a timeline for the low-rated show's return.

So I guess it was no surprise to see the show become the second TV Guide Fan Favorite winner (Supernatural won last year) especially with its fans already nervous about the show's seemingly dim future. It beat out shows such as Chuck, Dexter, Game of Thrones, Terra Nova, Person of Interest, and The Walking Dead.

Will these covers help? Probably not especially since NBC must already know the show's support from critics and fans. And they are unfortunately still in charge of running a business and it is the lowest rated sitcom in their roster. The only reason it has lasted so long is because of the network's much publicized and analyzed decline in the past few years making them less picky. I'd like to keep optimistic of its renewal chances. The show is too fun and too unique for it to go away. Six seasons and a movie!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

TV Report: Weekly Rankings

Many TV shows took the week off either because they were pre-empted by live shows or because of the Thanksgiving holiday. Still a few shows got in there with some new episodes with many getting close to go on their usual winter hiatus.

Last week I commented about how the dramas let me down a bit, but this week, the four that had new episodes stepped up to deliver good solid episodes.

1. Suspicion (Revenge) - This crazy show somehow got even crazier this week and I seriously loved it. The biggest surprise of the episode was finding out that Emily is really The Bride from Kill Bill or perhaps Bruce Wayne complete with a Japanese mentor to teach her in the art of revenge. I wanted to laugh and applaud at that little development there. The other big thing that happened, which I suspected would happen as soon as we met her, was that the REAL Emily Thorne now Kara Wilkins had decided to attach herself to Jack making him believe she's Amanda Clarke, his childhood sweetheart. The look of anger, hurt, confusion Emily had when she discovered this was pitch perfect. Tyler, always the schemer, uses Nolan and Ashley to get one up against Daniel while Ashley finally grew a backbone against a Victoria who is finding herself in need of allies at the moment. Game on, everyone!

2. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot (The Good Wife) - Like Revenge, it felt like this episode was all about confrontations. Alicia had to confront Jackie over her overly snooping ways, Diane had to confront Will about his relationship with Alicia, the States Attorney office confronted Diane to get to Will, Eli had to go up against an old ally, and finally the Dana/Kalinda/Cary triangle kept heating up. All of this was foregrounded with a tricky military case of a woman being scapegoated after inadvertently killing a dozen civilians with an errant missile. In any case, at the moment I'm looking for a way for the show to bring it all together. Last week's episode was great, but it's clear it's all building up to something explosive.

3. Kill Shot (Castle) - This was a clear Emmy-submission episode for Stana Katic who impressed as Beckett still not over her shooting from last season's finale. Trying to catch a serial sniper, her issues came to the forefront and she expectantly faltered only to bring herself out from it. The scene with her and Esposito inside the evidence room was particularly affecting as were all the times Castle just let her be to deal with her issues in her own time. My one complaint was that it perhaps crossed the melodramatic line in a few spots and I think they would've been better served pulling it back just a tad.

4. Vs. (Terra Nova) - I have to say that this was a particularly solid episode especially since most of it felt like exposition to the show's bigger mythological questions. We learned about some of the backstory with Taylor and his son, but I wished we had gotten this information a bit more organically. It seemed a little too convenient that Boylan was the one person in Terra Nova to know about the dead body underneath the Pilgrim Tree and the way Taylor just gave all the information to Jim was a bit coming from out of nowhere since it seemed that was more a priority than finding out who the mole was. My theory that didn't pan out (yet) was that Reynolds is the mole.

And now for the comedies...

1. The Rebound Girl (How I Met Your Mother) - I see many people praising the episode for most everything until the very last moment. Before we get to that, the episode overall was pretty great. Ted and Barney's decision to bro-parent was silly, but still believable especially in the situation where they currently find themselves in. I very much enjoyed Robin's freak out about Marshall/Lily's possible move to Long Island and the latter's misconception that their NYC apartment is now too small for them in comparison. Basically, an all-around solid episode with the talented cast. The surprise ending reveal of Robin's pregnancy IS shocking and while many are already complaining about how it's too similar to Friends and how this plot point is completely ruining the Barney/Robin storyline, I'm going to give the show the benefit of the doubt and just savor the shock of it all.

2. Thanksgiving (Suburgatory) - Lots of things to like about this episode, such as Tessa/Dallas working together and bonding, George's resolve to treat Tessa less of an equal, Dalia's vendetta against Yakult, and Lisa's brilliant take-down of her mom's overbearing ways. The latter's conversation with her himbo brother about Eternal Sunshine was also a highlight. What I appreciated also was the continued world building the show did with giving us brief glimpses of previously off-screen family members like Sheila's husband, Noah's wife and kid, etc.

3. Week Off (Up All Night) - This show is really growing on me especially now that Ava seems closer to a real person that earlier on (which was also fine, but it created a schizo tone that the show couldn't handle). Chris' temptation to go back to working worked well with Reagan trying to find ways to occupy her time with a week off from work. I loved that in the end Chris realized that he loved staying at home with Amy, but that Reagan needed to know that he needed to feel in charge there. For her part, her type A personality came out and hilarity ensued.

4. Punkin Chunkin (Modern Family) - I enjoyed this episode, but there was something missing for me. Maybe it was because I expected the show to do more with guest star Josh Gad. The episode revolved around differentiating the realists with the dreamers with the former group containing most obviously all of the adult Pritchetts (and Alex) and I appreciated consistency of the characters in this regard, but it's also nothing new. The end was heartwarming, but they've done better.

5. And the Very Christmas Thanksgiving (2 Broke Girls) - This had the misfortune of coming right after I was still processing the shock ending in HIMYM so I promptly blanked out on the first ten or so minutes. It was an okay episode, mostly because we were back to the two girls with their thing and less about Johnny/Max. I also appreciated Kate Denning's one liners and Beth Behrs acting hopped up on energy drinks. The dual holiday tribute of the episode is a bit annoying because we can't be talking about Christmas already, except everyone totally is so there's that.

6. Full Court Dress (Happy Endings) - A weird episode mostly because you expected a Thanksgiving-centric episode and instead we get one that was pretty scattered by itself. Was it funny? Of course it was since these characters are a damn hoot, but the fact the the story lines didn't really come together made this episode a bit unforgettable. In fact the whole psycho mailman B-plot was actually pretty bad until the very end with the group inadvertently scattering his ashes.

I'm thinking ranking episodes between now and until after the holidays will be tricky with shows going in and out of hiatus so I may discontinue talking about TV this way starting next week. Stay tuned.

ATP World Tour Finals: Semi-Finals

R. Federer d. D. Ferrer 7-5 6-3
J. Tsonga d. T. Berdych 6-3 7-5

No one played flawlessly, but two men played more steadily than their opponents and walked away with straight-set wins and a chance to lift the final trophy of the season.

Federer and Ferrer both played scratchy tennis in the first set with Federer's backhand letting him down and Ferrer's forehand and serve not clicking. After breaking Ferrer at 5-5, Federer went to hold at love to win the first set and then immediately break Ferrer in the first game of the second set. That was all she wrote as Federer kept his unforced errors down and won nearly every point on serve in the second set to notch his 12 straight win over the Spaniard. This win lifted Federer to his 100th ATP final contesting for his 70th career title. It also assured him ending in top 3 in rankings for the ninth consecutive year.

Tsonga's aggressive play and Berdych's forehand errors decided the match. Always under pressure, it was Berdych who blinked first in the opening set giving the one and only break that was needed for Tsonga to win handily. It was a closer affair in the second set with both players trading a single break in the middle of the set. At 5-5 Tsonga was able to break Berdych one last time after the Czech hit a forehand into the net and only had to hold to notch the win. Tsonga reaches the final of the ATP World Tour Finals for the first time and will try to be the first Frenchman to win the title.

Finals Preview
R. Federer [4] v. J. Tsonga [6]

If you've been paying attention to the past few weeks, this match-up is starting to feel like some kind of déjà vu. It's the third straight Sunday these two will meet as they met in the finals of Paris two weeks ago and opened up the World Tour Finals last Sunday. Federer won both matches lifting his H2H record against the Frenchman to 7-3 (5-2 just for 2011).

As I said above, they both have a lot to play for in their 8th meeting this year. If Federer wins, he becomes the only man to win this tournament 6 times breaking off from his tie with Pete Sampras and Ivan Lendl, and will interesting enough also be the oldest player to win the title. For Tsonga, as only the second Frenchman to reach the final, he will try to do one better than his countryman Sebastien Grosjean and be the first Frenchman to win the year-end event.

Federer has the definite momentum and H2H advantage, but underestimate Tsonga if you dare. Do remember that it was Tsonga who beat Federer this year at Wimbledon after the Swiss was up 2-0 sets. That alone proves that anything can happen. Should be an exciting and thrilling match to be sure.

Friday, November 25, 2011

ATP World Tour Finals: Days 5-6

Group A
T. Berdych d. D. Ferrer 3-6 7-5 6-1
J. Tipsarevic d. N. Djokovic 3-6 6-3 6-3

Group B
R. Federer d. M. Fish 6-1 3-6 6-3
J. Tsonga d. R. Nadal 7-6(2) 4-6 6-3

As befitting a year-end tournament with all of the best players in the world duking it out, the last couple of days to qualify for those four semifinal spots were full of matches that went the distance. Federer already qualified for one of those semifinal spots, but he maintained perfection by taking out Fish (0-3 record) in three sets. Tsonga was able to gut out a win over an admittedly uninspired Nadal to join Federer.

In the other group, the underdogs made good. Berdych and Tipsarevic notched wins bettering their lopsided losing records against their respective opponents Ferrer and Djokovic. By virtue of those wins, Berdych and Ferrer move on over the two Serbians meaning Djokovic's amazing year ends with two consecutive losses. No complicated math this year with the four players who won two or more matches move through.

Semifinal Preview

R. Federer [4] v. D. Ferrer [5]
J. Tsonga [6] v. T. Berdych [7]

It's not the dream semifinal lineup that we got last year, but it just goes to show that apart from Federer stepping up his game at the last tournament of the year, nothing in tennis is a sure thing.

Speaking of Federer, he will end the year ranked #4 unless he wins his next match against Ferrer. Ferrer's form has been crazy good so far, but Federer should take some comfort wit his 11-0 H2H record against he Spaniard. The match-up between Berdych and Tsonga will prove to be the more nailbiting one with the Czech getting the only win in the one match they've played previously just last month at Beijing. If Federer does win, apart from ending the year in the top 3, he will contest for his 70th title in his 100th ATP final. But that's putting the cart before the horse, let's see what tomorrow brings first.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Slapsgiving!

See what I got going on here? They're turkeys, but they're also hands. Because later we're gonna eat turkey, and then I'm gonna slap you in your face.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

ATP World Tour Finals: Days 3-4

Group A
D. Ferrer d. N. Djokovic 6-3 6-1
T. Berdych d. J. Tipsarevic 2-6 6-3 7-6(6)

Group B
R. Federer d. R. Nadal 6-3 6-0
J. Tsonga d. M. Fish 7-6(4) 6-1

It's been an odd couple of days at the World Tour Finals. The biggest news is Murray being forced to withdraw due to a groin injury undoubtedly disappointing his hometown crowd yet again. But his withdrawal suddenly became yesterday's news as two match results stunned the tennis world as both Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic went down in two lopsided straight sets to Roger Federer and David Ferrer respectively. Nadal's ownage of Federer is well known, but Federer has dominated their H2H on this surface and especially at this event so the shocking result isn't too impossible. No one really knows what happened with Djokovic to go down so meekly to the gutsy Spaniard. His great year seems to be ending with a whimper.

By virtue of their second straight wins, Federer and Ferrer both qualify for the semifinals no matter what happens in their next round robin matches. Tsonga and Berdych kept their hopes alive by winning their second matches, the latter saving a match point against Tipsarevic (who replaced Murray). The winner of Tsonga-Nadal will join Federer in the semifinals while there are more than a few scenarios to determine whether Djokovic or Berdych will join Ferrer. Good times.

Looking Forward To...

Release: December 2, 2011
Distributor: Fox Searchlight
Director: Steve McQueen
Starring: Michael Fassbender, Carey Mulligan, James Badge Dale, Amy Hargreaves, Nicole Beharie, Alex Manette, and Robert Montano

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Thanksgiving Movie Glut

Fans of sparkly vampires and George Clooney had a field day this past weekend book-ending the top ten box office chart with boffo numbers. But for me, I'm all about this upcoming Thanksgiving weekend where there are no less than seven films being released that I'm interested in watching. I'm pretty sure that's a personal record, but I'd have to do way more research than I have time for to actually confirm that. Still, being interested in seven films coming out at the same time is quite insane, but that's what it has come down to this year.

Of course, it's not that surprising I suppose since studios do love to take advantage of the holiday to not only release their family films, but also those Oscar hopefuls they still have in the pipeline. And those two categories pretty much sum up the seven films I'm dying to see.

The Family Films

At the moment of writing this entry, The Muppets, Arthur Christmas, and Hugo are averaging a 95.6% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and while all three will probably hurt one another this weekend by cannibalizing the audience, all three should play well and long during the upcoming holiday season. Certainly The Muppets will be the highest-grossing new film this week by virtue of the ridiculously massive ad campaign and exposure it has had for the past few months. From their parody posters and commercials to adorable interviews to even an Oscar-hosting viral campaign, it's been a Muppets world and we've all just been living in it. It's also the film with the broadest demographic appealing not only to kids who wants to see Kermit and company, but to older folks as well who'd see the film for nostalgia sake.

That is not to say that Arthur Christmas and Hugo don't have broad appeal or have had substantial marketing campaigns as well. The first is targeting families with younger kids, and I've seen this film advertised in movie theaters since May and not just in front of kiddie films. Plus families will eat this up and as the only overt Christmas flick of the bunch, it should do great through the yuletide season. I'm much more curious how Hugo will fare. It's definitely a family film, but it is also randomly directed by Martin Scorsese. Film buffs, Oscar lovers, and Scorsese enthusiasts are all madly in love with this film already from the looks of recent reactions to some of its early screenings. The question is will the general audience find it and love it as well? Some are even saying it might be an Oscar favorite. Speaking of...

The Oscar Films

While those three films will probably duke it out in the box office alongside those sparkly vampires and shirtless werewolves, these next few films are targeting a more niche audience. Like the family films above, they are all highly rated by critics (so far) and also have big Oscar hopes. My most anticipated film in the bunch is My Week with Marilyn with Michelle Williams playing the iconic blonde bombshell. The stupendous cast and the frothy trailer makes me happy and she's getting real heat for her third Best Actress nomination.

Then there's the Cannes-winning film The Artist which is literally winning audiences (awards) everywhere it plays. Its lead Jean Dujardin is almost a lock for a Best Actor nomination, and the film itself looks to dominate awards season en route to a likely Best Picture nomination. Not too shabby for a black-and-white, silent, French film huh? The other two films are A Dangerous Method and Rampart. The first film teams this year's breakthrough actor Michael Fassbender with Viggo Mortensen and Keira Knightley in a story about Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung. The latter stars Woody Harrelson as a dirty cop. All of the actors I just mentioned are getting varying amounts of Oscar buzz.

Jean, Michael, and Woody

So the question is, which films will I actually end up seeing this weekend? The safest bet will be The Muppets (all my friends want to see it) and My Week with Marilyn (I really want to see it). If I can't fit in another film this busy weekend, I'll try my best to catch up on The Artist and Hugo as soon as I am able. I'll probably wait to see the rest when they come out on DVD or if they are still around, during the doldrums that is January. How about you?

All films are coming out tomorrow, Nov. 23, except for The Artist which comes out on Friday, Nov. 25. However, all of the specialty films (The Artist, My Week with Marilyn, Rampart, and A Dangerous Method) will only be in very limited theaters.

Monday, November 21, 2011

ATP World Tour Finals: Days 1-2

Group A
N. Djokovic d. T. Berdych 3-6 6-3 7-6(3)
D. Ferrer d. A. Murray 6-4 7-5

Group B
R. Nadal d. M. Fish 6-2 3-6 7-6(3)
R. Federer d. J. Tsonga 6-2 2-6 6-4

I read somewhere that said this year's World Tour Finals is probably the most level playing field we've had in years especially with the top players not at 100%. The first matches have confirmed this as three of the four matches have gone the distance with the higher ranked player edging out a win. The lone upset was 5th ranked Ferrer taking out 4th ranked Murray who had a relapse of a groin injury that may signal a premature end to his season.

Speaking of injuries, Djokovic's shoulder seems to be holding up while Nadal's stomach issues were hopefully a one-time deal. Federer and Ferrer currently lead their respective groups, but it can all change in a hurry. Most anticipated match coming up is the rematch of last year's final, Federer vs. Nadal!

TV Report: Weekly Rankings

I've been sick the past week which meant that this is being posted way later than usual and that I saw a lot of these shows all hopped up on meds. So instead of my usual rambly thought, I'm just going to give 1-2 sentence reactions In general though, most of the comedies impressed while the drama shows stalled a bit. So let's start with those first!

1. Wallflower (Fringe) - Didn't really work for me as a fall finale, but on its own I found many to like mostly the scenes Joshua Jackson had with Anna Torv and Seth Gabel. The ending with Nina was spine-chillingly awesome.

2. Unscheduled Departure (Pan Am) - Difference between this episode and the past few was how focused it was as well as more air time for the awesomeness that is Collette. Plot holes abound, but not to detriment of plot.

3. Shut Up and Eat Your Bologna (Ringer) - Very happy that many pieces are finally falling into place (Gemma's whereabouts, Charlie's secrerts, etc.) and I'm finding myself looking forward to more.

4. Death Row Tip (The Good Wife) - Not the worst episode, but it was definitely one of its lesser episodes this season which is odd since Eli's daughter liking Zach, Kalinda kissing Cary (and flirting with Dana), and Jackie overstepping her bounds were great developments.

5. Treachery (Revenge) - This episode felt a bit tame when compared to older ones, maybe because no one died, but it was also the one show I saw while hazy with medicine. Not enough gay and murder, but y'all know this is my favorite new show still.

6. The Price of Gold (Once Upon A Time) - The Cinderella story was shockingly dull even if I still enjoyed the hamminess that is Robert Carlyle's performance as Rumpelstiltskin.

7. Mash Off (Glee) - The scenes Rachel had in the end with Kurt and her mom as well as everything relating to Naya Rivera was great. Unfortunately there were a whole lot of other things I'd rather not talk about.

8. Lonelyhearts (Grimm) - It was a solid case of the week episode, but this show is quickly losing some of the magic that made it a bit interesting in the beginning. It's all starting to feel like another boring procedural.

9. Proof (Terra Nova) - Honestly can't remember much about this episode other than thinking it was a bit of a mess and just a wee bit filler... and something about a stolen identity. Who knows?

10. How to Win Friends and Influence Monsters (Supernatural) - Don't really think it was the worst show of the week, but other than the end with the possible death of Bobby I really have nothing to say about the episode.

Like I said, while I mostly from the dramas lacking this week, most of the comedies were just plain fantastic. In fact I couldn't even decide on my top pick this week so since it's my prerogative, I'm declaring it a tie!

1. Documentary Filmmaking: Redux (Community) - Perfect episode is perfect. Jim Rash and Joel McHale were the MVPs, but everyone involved should be duly proud of yet another brilliant episode this time with Abed filming Dean Pelton directing a commercial to promote the school. Hilarity ensued.

1. Smallest Parks (Parks and Recreation) - Perfect episode is perfect. As a Ben/Leslie shipper I have no choice to fall in love with this episode since they are seemingly back together, but the other subplots were pretty great too (The Ron Swanson Scholarship made me teary).

3. Tick Tick Tick (How I Met Your Mother) - Everything was Barney/Robin and everything hurt. Seriously, can we just take a moment and appreciate Neil Patrick Harris' hurt face? The Ted/Marshall high plot went on too long, but the ending was worth it.

4. The Code War(Happy Endings) - Must be because I was on meds when I saw this episode, but I honestly could not stop laughing at every little thing that happened from Alex's crush on Max to Brad's impromptu "Oh no he didn't!" soliloquy to Dave's Felicity hair to Jane's bad flirting... so great.

5. The Flaming Spittoon Acquisition (Big Bang Theory) - Another Amy-centric episode and another winner this time with Sheldon showing how much he's grown as not only does he get jealous of Stuart going after Amy, but actually asks her to be his girlfriend. Say it with me... aww.

6. Thanksgiving (New Girl) - This was the best episode the show has offered and I don't think it was just because of the delightful guest star Justin Long playing the male Zooey Deschanel. Great group dynamics and a welcome comeback for the douche-bag jar!

7. After the Fire (Modern Family) - A pretty solid episode with the whole family pitching in together to help a neighbor whose house burned down. Not laugh-out-loud funny, but its sweet with some fun character moments (Phil as masseuse, sleep clowning, Alex using sex as a weapon, etc.).

8. Sweet Sixteen (Suburgatory) - I always like the episodes when Tessa gets sucked into the ways of the suburbanites around her so her getting excited about the elaborate sweet sixteen all for her was great. The B-plot of George being imprisoned by Sheila was not so great.

9. And the Really Petty Cash (2 Broke Girls) - I still really liked this episode and its low rank only meant the episodes above it were better. The Max/Johnny storyline is keeping me interested now with added bitchy and manipulative girlfriend in the mix.

10. Gettysburg (The Office) - Neither storyline worked for me and there really was nothing too terribly noteworthy about this episode to hang on to.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

ATP: 2011 World Tour Finals

ATP's year-end championships, the World Tour Finals, begins today (aka Sunday) at London's O2 Arena for the third year running. The world's best players have all made the trip and they all are no doubt playing to win. The top two spots are taken up by this year's Grand Slam champions with slam finalists taking up the next two spots. These top four also managed to win all 9 Masters 1000 tournaments this year which is to say they didn't leave much for the rest of the field.

The elite eight are:

1. Novak Djokovic - The world no. 1 had a historic and amazing year that had some notable, but very few hiccups. Dominating the field this year, he can end the year with another trophy. The extent of his shoulder injury is worrying, but he proved this year that he does not want to lose.

Grand Slam Results: W, SF, W, W
Titles: Wimbledon, US Open, Australian Open, Miami, Indian Wells, Rome, Canada, Madrid, Dubai, Belgrade
Runner-Up: Cincinnati

2. Rafael Nadal - A pretty great year, but admittedly not as great as he had hoped. His inability to beat Djokovic all year and his absence from the game for most of the fall season makes his state questionable. But underestimate this 10-time Grand Slam winner at your peril.

Grand Slam Results: QF, W, F, F
Titles: Roland Garros, Monte Carlo, Barcelona
Runner-Up: Wimbledon, US Open, Miami, Indian Wells, Rome, Madrid, Cincinnati, Tokyo

3. Andy Murray - Still without a Grand Slam to his name, he still has plenty to prove and as one of two in-form players playing in his home country, the question he should be asking himself is not can he win, but can he handle the pressure.

Grand Slam Results: F, SF, SF, SF
Titles: Shanghai, Cincinnati, Tokyo, London, Bangkok
Runner-Up: Australian Open

4. Roger Federer - The defending champion and 5-time champion enters the tournament as both the in-form favorite and an underdog based on his results this year. But he plays to the end and seem to bring his best year-in, year-out at this event.

Grand Slam Results: SF, F, QF, SF
Titles: Paris, Basel, Doha
Runner-Up: Roland Garros, Dubai

5. David Ferrer - You'd be forgiven if you forgot about him or his high ranking, because unlike others he just plays without no flash. As the only #2 of his home country among the elite eight, he'll feel like an underdog, but his will to fight is unending.

Grand Slam Results: SF, 4r, 4r, 4r
Titles: Acapulco, Auckland
Runner-Up: Monte Carlo, Shanghai, Barcelona, Båstad

6. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga - He gave Federer the Swiss' only loss when up by two sets at a Grand Slam during this year's Wimbledon and backed it up with solid results for the rest of the year.

Grand Slam Results: 3r, 3r, SF, QF
Titles: Vienna, Metz
Runner-Up: Paris, London

7. Tomas Berdych - He's not really the same player as the one who made a run to the Wimbledon finals last year beating Federer on his way, but his consistency and great power makes him a constant threat.

Grand Slam Results: QF, 1r, 4r, 3r
Titles: Beijing
Runner-Up: -

8. Mardy Fish - Making his first appearance at the year-end tournament, he has solidified himself as America's top dog. While his results this year aren't phenomenal, making it into the elite 8 was a great accomplishment.

Grand Slam Results: 2r, 3r, QF, 4r
Titles: Atlanta
Runner-Up: Canada, Los Angeles

The best bet for the finals would be Murray and Federer by virtue of their proven skills and their great fall season. It's true that in the bigger stages this season they were outplayed by a few especially the top two ranked Djokovic and Nadal, but those two have been hampered with injuries and other distractions of late so who knows? And you can't really underestimate the other four since they know that this year, it really is anyone's game,

With the top two rankings set, the only movement can happen below them with the most intriguing the fight to end the year at #3 between Murray and Federer.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

2011 ATP World Tour Awards

The stage is set for the ATP's final tournament with the eight best players in the world which begins tomorrow in London. Today, however, the focus is one the winners of this year's ATP World Tour Awards.

As already expected after his insanely amazing year, Novak Djokovic wins the ATP World Tour No. 1 by virtue of him ending the year for the first time at that top spot and confirming his status as the de factor Player of the Year. His incredible year saw him win 10 titles including three Grand Slams and a record five Masters titles. He also has only lost four times this year, but undoubtedly his greatest accomplishment this year was meeting Sarah Michelle Gellar after his US Open win. Bob and Mike Bryan win the ATP World Tour No. 1 Doubles Team after winning eight titles including the Australian Open and Wimbledon. They also are the Fans' Favourite Doubles Team for the seventh consecutive time as voted on by the fans.

Now ranked no. 4, Roger Federer edged out Djokovic and others in two awards he has dominated in the past. He wins the Fans' Favourite Singles Player for the record ninth consecutive times showing just how large and loyal his fanbase is despite having yet another "not so great" year. The other award is the Stefan Edberg Sportsmanship Award voted on by players showing just how admired he is by his peers even if from time to time his words gets the best of him. For his part, Rafael Nadal took home the admirable Arthur Ashe Humanitarian of the Year for his work on his own Rafa Nadal Foundation.

Juan Martin Del Potro takes home the Comeback Player of the Year after he suffered a wrist injury last year that cratered his rankings to nearly outside the top 500 in the world. He has since reached the no. 11 ranking. Canadian sensation Milos Raonic who reached the fourth round of the Australian Open this year as a qualifier receives the Newcomer of the Year while Alex Bogomolov Jr. gets the Most Improved Player of the Year after winning more matches this year than he has in prior seasons in total and reaching the third rounds of Wimbledon and the US Open. Both players will end the year inside the top 35.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Regis Philbin Bids "Live!" Goodbye

After more than 28 years at Live! Regis Philbin had his last day as host today surrounded by loved ones and celebrity friends. As someone who has had school or work for the past two decades, I never really watched the show regularly, but Regis is pretty much a New York institution so it's definitely an end of an era of sorts. His final words:

“I’ll always remember spending these mornings with all of you, so thank you very much for these great years together, god bless you all, and I hope I see you again real soon. Thanks everybody!”

I actually didn't watch his final show save for the last 10 minutes, but that was enough for me to tear up a little during a performance of "Seasons of Love" by the off-Broadway cast of Rent with the lyrics changed to honor Regis' 995,600 minutes on air. See the video below:

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Harry Potter's 10th Year Anniversary

Ten years ago today the first Harry Potter film, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, premiered in the United States, United Kingdom, and a few other countries. It grossed $32 million on its opening day on its way to a $90.3 million opening weekend tally. The first film was the highest-grossing film of the series until the final film of the series Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 overtook it. Adjusted for inflation, however, the first film is still on top. Eight films and ten years later, the film series has amassed a grand total of $7.7 billion worldwide.

It's really no wonder then that Warner Brothers seems to be gearing up for one hell of an awards campaign push for the final film as one last hurrah (or thanks) for a series that has given them so much. It's not like they have to try hard considering the film is also one of the best reviewed film of the year clocking in at 96% and 87% at Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic respectively. For comparison, the first film a decade ago received 80% and 64%.

Quality-wise the series has been a mixed bag to be sure, but it's still no doubt a great feat in movie-making just with the logistics alone of adapting seven books and keeping the same actors and doing all of this in a span of just a decade. Marvelous. And you know what, I'm going to be quite fine if this final film ended up garnering a Best Picture nomination. I mean haven't some people (actors, directors, writers, etc.), even beloved ones, ended up winning an Oscar less for their work and more for their body of work/career honors type thing? Of course I actually don't think an Oscar win is deserved necessarily, but a nomination? Definitely.

But why am I talking about the final film and its Oscar chances during the 10-year anniversary of the first film? Well, because I'm sure Warner Brothers and company are hoping that there's already a nostalgia effect/due factor happening. We won't really know until people start announcing nominations and giving out awards, but if I was a betting man I wouldn't completely underestimate this film series' chances despite the relative lack of love it received in the past.

See the trailer for the first film as well as one of the first awards campaign video Warner Brothers has released for the final film after the cut.

Looking Forward To...

The Artist
Release: November 23, 2011
Distributor: Weinstein Company
Director: Michel Hazanavicius
Starring: James Cromwell, Jean Dujardin, John Goodman, Malcolm McDowell, Penelope Ann Miller, Missi Pyle, Beth Grant, and Bérénice Bejo

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The English Patient Turns 15 & My Cinematic Bucket List

Quick cinematic confession, I haven't seen The English Patient. I've been meaning to, but you know how it is. We all have those films we probably should've seen already, but just haven't. I have several. Even with Netflix at my disposal, it's still tough catching up on that black and white classic everyone constantly brings up in casual conversation or that cult hit from the 80s or early 90s that everyone my age group LOVES or those Oscar-nominated/winning films that every movie addict should've seen by now. In fact I just saw Almost Famous, Annie Hall, and Spirited Away for the first time just in the past couple weeks! And I didn't get to see The Princess Bride, Fight Club, and Clueless until college. See what I mean?

But back to The English Patient, winner of 9 Academy Awards, nominated for 12, and making what would amount to close to $140 million in today's currency, it celebrates its 15th Anniversary today and I really meant to (there it is again) to see it last week and cross it off my cinematic bucket list, but I just plumb forgot. Apparently you'll be able to Watch Instantly "soon" so maybe then I can finally see it.

And so this post isn't just me aimlessly talking to myself, I present to you a quick top ten list of films (not including The English Patient) I probably should've seen by now, but just haven't, or in other words My Cinematic Bucket List (in alphabetical order):
  • All About Eve
  • The Blair Witch Project
  • The Godfather
  • Gone with the Wind
  • The Iron Giant
  • Labyrinth
  • Saving Private Ryan
  • Singin' in the Rain
  • The Sixth Sense
  • Thelma and Louise

All right, not really sure if these are the "top" films I need to see before I die, but those are the ones that I could remember off the top of my head. I'm sure if I think about it more, I'll just feel depressed about all the films I will never get to see.

What are some films in your own cinematic bucket list?

Monday, November 14, 2011

2011 WTA Tour Awards

Today was all about the ladies or at least that's what it felt like today. First there was the seemingly simultaneous release of the trailers for The Iron Lady and The Hunger Games which had the web buzzing. No long-winded comment on either one, but I loved seeing Anthony Stewart Head in the former and I got goosebumps (and tears started welling up) when I saw the latter.

But there was also the announcement of the WTA Tour Awards which signals the official end of the year. Other than my brief post on Roger Federer's 800th win a couple of days ago, I haven't talked about tennis in almost two months so I'd like to take this opportunity to see how the women's tour ended their year.

It's actually not that hard since all we have to really talk about is Petra Kvitova. She won Player of the Year and for good reason. Finishing the year at a career-high ranking of #2, she capped off her great year by demolishing the field at the year-end tournament and then led her Czech team to win Fed Cup. She also won tournaments in the first half as well as the second half, including her first Grand Slam at Wimbledon. She won three other year-end awards including Most Improved Player, Fan Favorite Breakthrough Player, and the Karen Krantzcke Sportsmanship Award.

The other player to have noteworthy post-US Open results was Agnieszka Radwanksa winning the Toray Pan Pacific Open and China Open securing the last spot at the year-end WTA Championships. She was honored as the Fan Favorite Singles Player. Victoria Azarenka & Maria Kirilenko took the Fan Favorite Doubles Team.

Other players honored with WTA Tour Awards include Sabine Lisicki for Comeback Player of the Year, Irina-Camelia Begu for Newcomer of the Year, Kveta Peschke and Katarina Srebotnik for Doubles Team of the Year, and Francesca Schiavone for the Player Service Award. It is also worth noting that while not part of the awards, Caroline Wozniacki ended the year at #1 for two years in a row.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

TV Report: Weekly Drama Rankings

Posting this way later than expected, but Sunday got way busier than usual. In any case, it was an interesting week of TV with a couple of shows I usually love delivering weak episodes while shows I haven't showed much love to in recent weeks stepping up.

1. Executive Order 13224 (The Good Wife) - Who knew a critically-acclaimed drama can be so damn funny? And yet last week's episode did just that. It's even more incredible since the Case of the Week was pretty serious as it involved torture and terrorism. But of course the show was able to mine comedy from all the loopholes and red tape and secrecy that Homeland Security inflicts when it's such a case like this. My favorite were the re-enactments of the blacked-out documents with the people getting bleeped out for every blacked-out word. Also liked Diane and Will arguing whilst Alicia was in the room about what they will or won't do with Alicia in the room. Guest star Carrie Preston also brought the funny representing Alicia against the government. "I. Am. Swamped. Look. At. All. This. Paper." Oh, I laughed so hard. I didn't even mention the hilarious scene with Diane and Kalinda overhearing Alicia's ringtone when they were talking to Will who was supposedly at lunch. Uh-oh. The sexual harassment video to end the episode was the perfect capper.

2. And Those We Left Behind (Fringe) - Another masterful episode slowly unraveling the mystery of Peter's disappearance (and now re-appearance) with a purely cool sci-fi concept of time bubbles and time loops. It's a bit heartbreaking seeing Peter try to deal with a version of Olivia and Walter that doesn't know him and more importantly doesn't trust him and the three actors are impressive in conveying all the emotions that are inherent in this situation. As far the the time bubble storyline, that too was it's own brand of heartbreak as real-life couple Romy Rosemont and Stephen Root played a couple separated by mental illness.

3. Truth or Dare (Pan Am) - This episode had a few moments that reminded me of the show I fell in like week those first few weeks of the fall season. First, Collette was back and actually had more than one line of dialogue which is always a plus. Her face when flying the plane was exquisite. Dean also becomes a somewhat interesting character when she's in proximity. The respective romantic story lines of the two sisters were just a tad melodramatic, but I think all of the actors involved handled themselves well. It was especially great seeing Friday Night Light's Gaius Charles back on my TV screen again.

4. The First Time (Glee) - This was the show's best episode of the season which isn't really saying much, but it IS something. Even with the deliberate focus on the episode on Kurt and Rachel losing their virginities, the show was still able to give plenty of time for the other characters more notably Beiste quest for love (made me cry), Mike's continued disagreements with his dad, and Karofsky's evolution. The latter especially was nice as it gave Chris Colfer and Max Adler a really beautiful scene to re-connect a bit. They even introduced a new character, gay Warbler Sebastian, without making it as forced as last week's. You know what else this episode had going for it? Barely any Shuester and not even a token appearance by Sue. Naya Rivera as per usual musically stole the episode.

5. Snow Falls (Once Upon A Time) - Wasn't a huge fan of the pilot and was only okay with the second episode, but this episode I really, really liked. Maybe it's the hopeless romantic in me, but seeing Snow and James' first meeting in fairy land and seeing them apart in the real world tugged my heart. In essence, this episode finally gave me a reason to care and that's important for any show. Also glad to see David Anders on my TV again. He didn't do much, but I'm hoping for more in future episodes.

6. Nightfall (Terra Nova) - Last week I said I'd give this show one more episode before I fully gave up on it. Well damn, because last week's episode didn't suck. It mostly helped that the show's weakest link, Hunter, was mostly in the background. But by doing so it enabled Skye to be developed as a character in her own right. The Maddie-Mark stuff was just a bit too saccharine, but I also liked that they're developing Maddie a bit. The whole black out stuff had potential and wished they were in more danger than what actually transpired, but it was still one of the more exciting story lines the show has offered in awhile. We finally do meet Taylor's wayward son in the end and I'm hoping we'll get to the Big Picture stuff in the next few episodes.

7. Maybe We Can Get a Dog Instead (Ringer) - Some good developments happened in this episode, but my favorite is the long-time-coming reunion between Malcolm and Bridget. It's also nice that slowly but surely everything is working out for her with Andrew accepting Malcolm, Machado getting tricked yet again, and everyone believing she lost the baby. She's also making Siobhan's life a bit difficult with Tyler thinking Siobhan was lying to him (which she was doing anyways). The student-teacher plot line is worrying and cliche. Make it stop.

8. Balcoin (The Secret Circle) - This show is not afraid to go dark especially with what they are doing with Jane. Yes, it makes Charles look more evil, but he did burn down a house with Cassie's mom in it in the pilot. The questionable loyalties of Jake is less interesting since I've seen it done in many fantasy shows before and the actor is not a good enough actor to convey this ambiguity. The introduction of Holden and learning more about Cassie's dark magick background was good. No new episode until 2012!

9. Beeware (Grimm) - Despite its relatively low ranking this week, it was still a generally solid episode. I just thought it's a bit suspect that they are already branching out with non-Grimm monsters which kind of makes this show indistinguishable from Supernatural. With that said, I did like that we got a brief glimpse of possibly something bigger happening the background. Nick's scenes with Adelaide were particularly riveting.

10. Heartbreak Hotel (Castle) - I love this show, but this episode was a complete filler. Sure Nathan Fillion , Jon Huertas and Seamus Dever looked amazingly hilarious in their Elvis getup but I'd be hard-pressed to remember any other detail about the episode. Oh right, Alexis threw a party while her dad was away while Beckett and Gates sort of bonded. Shrugs.

11. Season Seven, Time for a Wedding! (Supernatural) - I didn't like this episode. I wasn't a fan of super-fan Becky when she was first introduced and I still don't like it. And the whole situation of her essentially almost-raping Sam, even if it never happened, was still too skeevy for me to enjoy the episode. The one great thing about the episode was the all-too-brief return of Crowley. Nice seeing him explain the lack of demons attacking the boys as he wants them to focus on taking out the Leviathan.

TV Report: Weekly Comedy Rankings

A few comedies were pre-empted for country music this week namely Modern Family, Suburgatory, and Happy Endings. But the rest of my usual line-up were all new this week.

1. The Treaty (Parks and Recreation) - As you could tell from my write-up last week, I love this show wholeheartedly, but I seem to love the Ben-Leslie dynamic more than any other element on the show right now so this week's episode was like a love letter to me. Ben and Leslie are both dorks and so them leading a model UN was a great way to show this while also highlighting still the awkwardness of being friends after breaking up. Adam Scott and Amy Poehler were in fine form in this episode. I laughed, I cried, then laughed and cried again.

2. Disaster Averted (How I Met Your Mother) - You can tell that the writers are doing their best to callback to earlier seasons which they've been doing throughout this season. This past episode was full of them from the return of the Slap Bet to the rekindling of the Barney/Robin romance, to HIMYM's usual non-linear multi-layered storytelling. It all added up to an episode that definitely felt vintage and was stronger for it. Also I laughed way too hard whenever Marshall was attached by the bear.

3. Studies in Modern Movement (Community) - Most of the episode dealt with Annie's move from her awful apartment to living with Troy and Abed. I knew the transition wouldn't be so smooth and glad the writers addressed that upfront considering Troy and Abed's affinity to live in their own world. Of course Jim Rash yet again stole the spotlight as he blackmailed Jeff into not only eating lunch with him, but also doing some karaoke which he promptly tweeted for the world to see. Also liked Britta and Shirley picking up a hitchhiker who thinks himself as Jesus Christ. Hilarity ensued.

4. First Night Away (Up All Night) - Not as great as last week's episode, but still the show has been more consistently good than bad now which is saying a lot coming from me. I especially enjoyed Ava babysitting Amy and meeting and connecting with the other father warmly played by Jason Lee. It made her seem much less a caricature (which is bad but didn't fit tonally for this show) and more of an actual human character.

5. Pam's Replacement (The Office) - There was nothing particularly noteworthy about the episode. I tend to like it when Pam and Dwight team up against Jim, but this week's episode painted Pam as too paranoid (I get it, she's pregnant and hormones, but come on). The "Dwight grabbing Jim's crotch" gag was overplayed also. Everything else in the episode was meh especially the whole B-plot with Robert "taking over" the band.

6. The Ornithophobia Diffusion (Big Bang Theory) - Probably one of the weakest episode of the season for this show. For one two of its strongest characters were sidelined either by a really, really stupid plot (Sheldon and his fear of birds) or lack of screen time (Amy). Second, the A-plot focused on the Leonard/Penny relationship which wasn't exactly epic. It also made Leonard more douchey than he usually is and that's just unattractive.

7. And Hoarder Culture (2 Broke Girls) - To be honest, when I saw this episode, while nothing special, I was thinking it'd rank higher this week. Unfortunately for it, most every other show had better episodes and them are the breaks. The hoarder stuff was slightly chuckle worthy and I liked that we got more Max/Johnny development. Though OF COURSE he has a girlfriend. My eye-rolling was epic when we learned of that little factoid.

8. Cece Crashes (New Girl) - A slightly better episode than usual especially since we got more of Cece. Not that I'm annoyed by the other main characters, but for some reason the chemistry that I want from this group of people just isn't there. It all feels a little too forced for me. That said, I DO like Nick/Jess but Jess just seems so socially awkward, in the most unfunny way, that it ruins it for me sometimes.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Birthday Hotties: Ryan Gosling & Anne Hathaway

Ryan Thomas Gosling was born November 12, 1980 in Ontario, Canada. Exactly two years later in Brooklyn, New York, Anne Jacqueline Hathaway was delivered into the world. Both are celebrating their birthdays today, his 31st and her 29th, and so I wish them both a happy birthday.

I've spoken about him plenty of times this past year what with him appearing in three critically-acclaimed films this year and getting some Oscar buzz for no less than two of those. She, on the other hand, had a fairly forgettable year starring in the critically-panned One Day and doing voice work for the animated film Rio. Just as this year was The Year of Gosling, her fans hope that next year will become The Year of Hathaway. It's a definite possibility especially since she's following in her Brokeback Mountain co-star Heath Ledger's footsteps in taking on an iconic Batman character for Christopher Nolan's most-anticipated Dark Knight sequel. She will also headline the popular musical Les Misérables alongside Hugh Jackman and Russell Crowe.

For his part, Gosling isn't resting on his laurels. Following the "if it ain't broke" rule, two of his upcoming films will see him reunite with his Blue Valentine director Derek Cianfrance and his Drive director Nicolas Winding Refn. He is also starring with his Crazy, Stupid, Love onscreen romance Emma Stone for next year's Gangster Squad. Finally, he'll work with Terence Malick on Lawless which also stars Christian Bale, Cate Blanchett, and Rooney Mara.

Oscar-nominated roles: Kym and Dan

As you can see, both are doing just fine professionally. And to think it was just a few years ago she when was in the Princess Diaries and he was in the Mickey Mouse Club. And who could forget her stint in the TV series Get Real and his camptastic performance as Young Hercules? Of course, it is worth noting that they both have been nominated for an Academy Award in roles that actually aren't too dissimilar from each other. Now I'm left wondering what Half Nelson's Dan Dunne would think of Rachel Getting Married's Kym and vice versa.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Roger Federer Notches 800th Win

It's been ages since I last talked about tennis, but had to jump back to congratulate Roger Federer on achieving yet another milestone in his already storied career. Federer notched his 800th career victory after he beat Juan Monaco at the Paris Masters today. He becomes to the 7th man to reach that point joining Jimmy Connors, Ivan Lendl, Guillermo Vilas, John McEnroe, Andre Agassi, and Stefan Edberg in a very exclusive club.

He managed this incredible feat on 11/11/11 so in honor of Federer and 11/11/11, in no particular order, here are 11 of Federer's career stats that are most impressive to me:
  • Ranked #1 for a record 237 consecutive weeks.
  • Won a men's record of 16 Grand Slam titles (on all surface).
  • Reached a record of 23 consecutive Grand Slam semifinals.
  • Reached a record of 30 consecutive Grand Slam quarterfinals (ongoing!).
  • Won five consecutive titles at Wimbledon and the US Open.
  • Named as the Laureus World Sportsman of the Year for four consecutive times.
  • Seeded 1st in 18 consecutive Grand Slam tournaments.
  • Played all four Grand Slam finals ranked as the #1 and #2 ranked player.
  • Won a record 24 straight finals from October 2003 through September 2005.
  • Holds all-time record of winning consecutive matches on grass (65) and hard courts (56).
  • Won all five tournament types in a single season (Slam, Tour Finals, Masters, 500, and 250).

This list is just the top of the iceberg in terms of all the records, awards, and statistics that Federer has amassed in his professional tennis career and here's hoping that there will be many more to come.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Who Should Replace Eddie Murphy as Oscar Host?

I'm a bit late on the whole Brett Ratner Oscar controversy, but chances are if you're reading my blog you've seen it all already on other blogs and news sites. When I first heard about Ratner's homophobic comments on Monday, I was angry of course, but I had already resigned myself for the usual "sincere" apology follow by the slap-in-the-wrist punishment. Even after reading Mark Harris' excellent article calling for Ratner's firing, I was pleased many were strongly making their feelings known, but I still didn't think the Academy would actually do anything.

Fast forward to the next day and suddenly Ratner has resigned as producer. I actually missed the initial reactions to this since I was oddly enough in the midst of watching the Ratner-produced Horrible Bosses (Sidenote: Pretty funny, but I credit the casting director). Then there was the probably expected, but still shocking announcement yesterday that Eddie Murphy was stepping down as Oscar host. All in all, it's been a busy and ugly few days for the Academy and now they have to find a new producer (Brian Grazer!) and a new host (TBD!) ASAP.

Now Grazer has produced a bajillion things, so he's clearly up to the task, but who will he pick to replace Murphy? Maybe not replace him at all as there are already rumors that he might convince his Tower Heist star to stay on or to get co-star Ben Stiller. There's also people saying that he's courting his Apollo 13 star Tom Hanks to do it, but zzzz. He's also worked with Jim Carrey, which would certainly be a fresh choice, but still wouldn't be my own personal pick for the job. So in an effort to help out, below are my top 10 choices for Oscar host (sorry if this list is ridiculous repetitive from all of the other wishlists that have popped up):

1. The Muppets with Jason Segel and Amy Adams -- everyone thinks so #muppetsoscars
2. Neil Patrick Harris with or without Hugh Jackman -- he needs an EGOT in hosting and I want singing!
3. Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy and/or Octavia Spencer -- big year for all of them and also they are very funny
4. Ellen Degeneres -- still remember fondly when she hosted
5. Meryl Streep -- she can do no wrong; in fact she can probably host as Eddie Murphy no problem.
6. Tina Fey, Steve Carrell, and/or Amy Poehler -- as a solo act, as a pair, as a threesome... mix-and-match, it's all good!
7. Justin Timberlake -- no joke; he quite excels at hosting Saturday Night Live
8. Ryan Gosling, Jessica Chastain, or Michael Fassbender -- collectively they're in 90% of films this year... so why not?
9. Alan Rickman or Maggie Smith -- would never happen, but this is one way they can "honor" the Harry Potter series if they want
10. Anne Hathaway and James Franco -- everyone deserves a second chance as long as they rehearse (don't be Ratner!)

As you can tell I'm against the usual template of old white dude. You have to go down to my 6th choice to find the first straight white male and I'm advocating he hosts in tandem with one or two ladies. Then again the chance that one of my picks will actually be chosen is probably slim to none, but I can still dream and make crazy lists! Now it's your turn! Who do you want to host?