4.11.2019

2019 NBA Playoffs Predictions: A Journey

Below you will witness a journey through every every round of the 2019 NBA Playoffs. The plan is to share my bracket of predictions as it progresses through the various rounds. By the end of this trip I'm sure all realize three things: (1) I'm not qualified to make predictions, (2) I'm too heavily influenced by Bill Simmons' reverse-jinxing negativity surrounding his beloved Celtics, and (3) Giannis is THE face of the NBA.


Conference Finals | May 14, 2019

Never count out Steph and Klay. That's all I have to say.


Conference Semi-Finals | April 27, 2019

I blame Bill Simmons. His season-long, anxiety-laden analysis of the Celtic debacle led me astray as I picked the star-less Pacers to beat them. I still believe in my Brooklyn pick, but the 76ers just had too much talent, and Embiid stayed relatively healthy. In the West, the Thunder's nagging injuries reared their heads, and Paul George's shoulder held this team back from living up to the potential. Things are still looking good for my Bucks/Nugs Finals hopes, but we'll have to wait and see how the conference semi-finals play out! #FearTheDeer


First Round | April 11, 2019

The prospect of a Bucks/Nugs Finals might convince Adam Silver to start fixing games like his predecessor, but I can dream. Boston, Philadelphia, & Golden State all seem to lack the chemistry for a far run this year. My hot take in the West, is that the Houston will do the hard work of beating the Golden State but then LOSE to the Nuggets of Denver as they crash from the euphoria of finally beating those tenacious Warriors. In the East, there isn't much hotness to this take – the Bucks will dominate the East, and Giannis will begin his reign as king of the NBA. #FearTheDeer

3.31.2019

A Year with Stanley, Vol. 3 – Paths of Glory

This is Part 3 of a 12-Part Series called A Year with Stanley. Starting in January and working through December, I will re-watch and reflect on Kubrick's entire filmography, sharing observations and reactions that I have while watching. My companion guide will be The Stanley Kubrick Archives, edited by Alison Castle.


Film

Paths of Glory 1957


The Corruption of War


"Kubrick had made some rather grim movies up to this point. When I asked him if films like Paths of Glory implied that he was a misanthrope with contempt for the human race, Kubrick shot back, 'Oh god, no. One doesn't give up being concerned for mankind because one acknowledges their fundamental absurdities and weaknesses. I still have hope that the human race can continue to progress. As a matter of fact, the epilogue of the movie ends on a note of hope for humanity.'" (p. 150).

Kirk Douglas in Paths of Glory, 1957

Kirk Douglas in Paths of Glory, 1957 

Paths of Glory, 1957

Timothy Carey in Paths of Glory, 1957

Kirk Douglas in Paths of Glory, 1957

Paths of Glory, 1957

Paths of Glory, 1957

2.28.2019

A Year with Stanley, Vol. 2 – The Killing

This is Part 2 of a 12-Part Series called A Year with Stanley. Starting in January and working through December, I will re-watch and reflect on Kubrick's entire filmography, sharing observations and reactions that I have while watching. My companion guide will be The Stanley Kubrick Archives, edited by Alison Castle.


Film

The Killing 1956


The Perfect Plan, The Fallible Man


"[T]he novel touches on a theme that is a frequent preoccupation of Kubrick's films: the presumably perfect plan of action that goes wrong through human fallibility and/or chance" (p. 102).

The above quote is a fitting summation of the theme that shone through my viewing of The Killing. The lead character, Johnny Clay (Sterling Hayden) serves as the metaphorical placeholder for the mastermind director of Kubrick himself, and no matter how well laid a plan is there is always something surprising that awaits you outside of your control. Later in his life, we have the advantage of knowing that Kubrick will gain the reputation of being a controlling perfectionist when it came to the craft and execution of his movies. And there is an interesting irony that so early in his career we see him semi-blatantly grappling with the struggle of working within a studio system. This movie's final scene reminded me of a frustrated man finally giving up and resigning himself to his fate. The despair in Hayden's eyes that Kubrick captures gives us the perfect visual of the despair that most likely motivated Kubrick to eventually position himself as not being under the control of studios. This won't fully come to a head until the end of the production of Spartacus (the tipping point if you will), but in the Killing we're given a perfect metaphor of a man who has an amazingly laid out plan thwarted by outside influences that he couldn't control.

The Killing, 1956

The Killing, 1956

Kola Kwariani in The Killing, 1956

Elisha Cook, Jr. in The Killing, 1956

Sterling Hayden in The Killing, 1956

1.31.2019

A Year with Stanley, Vol. 1 – Early Work & Killer's Kiss

This is Part 1 of a 12-Part Series called A Year with Stanley. Starting in January and working through December, I will re-watch and reflect on Kubrick's entire filmography, sharing observations and reactions that I have while watching. My companion guide will be The Stanley Kubrick Archives, edited by Alison Castle.


Tracking Shots

Stanley Kubrick's first piece of filmmaking was the documentary short Day of the Fight. Made in 1950 when Kubrick was only 22, you can see the young director's early interest in tracking shots. Whether it's following the Cartier brothers saunter down a New York street, panning through an official dining hall of the Seafarerers union, or lazing along a troubled river, in Fear & Desire, it's evident that Kubrick is drawn to this hypnotic form of movement. The tracking shots also provide time for narration and inner-monologue to further reveal information about the characters within. This motif will track alongside Kubrick all the way to his last movie, Eyes Wide Shut, where we find the iconic scene of Dr. Bill Harford (Tom Cruise) angrily ruminating on the revealed fantasy of his wife Alice (Nicole Kidman) as he walks to an appointment with a patient. The tracking shot, as masterfully executed by Kubrick, provides the viewer time to observe the characters within their specific places and moments and provides space for attachments to development.

Day of the Fight, 1950

Seafarers, 1953

Fear & Desire, 1953


Iconic Compositions

Stanley Kubrick is considered one of the great masters of filmmaking because of his effective ability to compose beautiful shots within his movies. This skill-set almost seems innate and it may be, but we do know for certain that his early career as a young photographer provided space early on for him to hone these skills. In Killer's Kiss, we see a young Kubrick already composing his images with a deftness that defies his age and experience. His use of lighting, shadow, and space allows him to capitalize on a scene and create images that leaves a shadow on your memory memory.

Killer's Kiss (1955)

Killer's Kiss (1955)


The Depravity of the Inner Man

Another early theme we see in Kubrick's work is his willingness to explore the dark side of humanity. His fascination with the inner darkness of man is a theme that carries all the way through the first words of Fear & Desire, to tormented wrestling of Dr. Hartford in Eyes Wide Shut. Kubrick's fascination with motive (or lack thereof) leads him down many dark avenues, but avenues that are important for us to explore if we are to retain the light.

Fear & Desire, 1953

1.05.2019

Excellents of Eighteen

This past year may go down as the hardest year for me to craft my top ten list. There are a lot of reasons for this, but the main one is that there wasn't a clear number one movie for me. In year's past there has always been a single cinematic experience movie that jumped out, grabbed me and held on strong as I continued to watch other films. But in 2018, this never happened, and I never had that "singular moment." Despite this, I did force myself to rank my movies, but if I'm being completely honest, depending on my mood or the type of genre I'm looking for, any one of these ten movies could be my number one. There is horror, animation, super-hero, fictional biopic, semi-historical biopic, action, and a new genre I'm calling post-modernist mish-mash where director Steven Spielberg reflects on and actively processes the decades-long oeuvre of Steven Spielberg.


Ranking my favorite TV shows was a much simpler endeavor, mainly due to the fact that I had very clear emotional responses to certain TV shows. These feelings were conveniently elicited in such a way that they were was easily rankable. The year in television (and this has been the case for a while now) was once again the more exciting and interesting venue for compelling visual storytelling. Whether it was Eve Polastri (Sandra Oh) brilliantly bumbling along as she chased a sociopathic assassin or Barry Block (Bill Hader) brilliantly bumbling along as he hid the fact that he was a sociopathic assassin (big year for assassins). Over on FX, Donald Glover continued to push the envelope for the 30-minute format as his Atlanta got weirder and more insightful while Glover continued to explore his voice as one of the most exciting and creative story-tellers working today (Teddy Perkins anyone?). And (unfortunately) it was on the small screen where we found the finest cinematography of any movie or TV show within Sam Esmail's Homecoming (yes even better than the master Alfonso Cuarón's ROMA*). Television continues to take risks with its cameras and its characters that many Hollywood studios are still too scared to take, and it continues to provide to the most rewarding and imaginative viewing experiences on any screen anywhere.


If I step back and quit gushing about television I am able to admit that risk taking and imagination is a theme you will find amongst my top ten movies as well. You had some risky business like Tom Cruise jumping out of an airplane over 100 times to achieve one of the most magical movie moments of the year, and Sony entrusting the creative mad-men, Phil Lord, Christopher Miller, and Rodney Rothman, with one of the most revered (and mishandled) comic book franchises we have – allowing them to imaginatively revitalize a genre that desperately needs direction in this post-MCU world. My top ten list is also the scariest it's ever been, with 3 horror movies making the list. I swear I don't really like horror movies, and they take a lot of "courage mustering" for me to watch, but for whatever reason, some of the most innovative moviemaking is happening in this genre.

The Georgie Banks Honorary Top Ten Movies of 2018

  1. Hereditary
  2. A Star is Born
  3. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
  4. First Man
  5. Mission: Impossible - Fallout
  6. Bohemian Rhapsody
  7. Ready Player One
  8. Suspiria**
  9. Avengers: Infinity War
  10. A Quiet Place

The Jason Mendoza Honorary Top Ten TV Shows of 2018

  1. Killing Eve (S1)
  2. Sharp Objects
  3. Barry (S1)
  4. Better Call Saul (S4)
  5. Hard Knocks: Training Camp with the Cleveland Browns
  6. Atlanta (S2)
  7. Santa Clarita Diet (S2)
  8. Succession (S1)
  9. Homecoming (S1)
  10. Black Mirror: Bandersnatch
Shifting to music, 2018 may go down as the year that contemporary music broke me. By  principle, I'm an advocate of the album. I believe in it conceptually. And I always try to invest the time to not just listen to the singles, but to engage with the songs within the full context of the album. As well, I'm a subscriber to Spotify, so I have access to all the new album releases that come out in a given week. Despite these principles and privileges I found myself lacking any complete albums that I really latched onto. There were a couple, but not enough to create a decent ranking. So instead of sharing a truncated list, I thought I'd turn my back on my reverence for the album and share a 10 song playlist which ranks the tracks that really stood out to me this year. I hope as you read and listen that you'll view this list as an endorsement of the musicians themselves, and take some time to look into their albums as a whole. But between Kanye's label releasing five 7 song albums and Drake releasing one album with 450 songs, it seems that popular music is confused about what an album should be, and that confusion has been hard for me to escape as a listener. I still believe in the "album" as a concept, and I hope popular musicians recover the art of it. But until that day comes, I'm acquiescing to what the culture has given me and giving it right back.

The Rivers Cuomo is a Sell Out Honorary Top Ten Songs of 2018

  1. Gold Rush by Death Cab for Cutie
  2. Shallow by Lady Gaga & Jackson Maine
  3. This is America by Childish Gambino
  4. Shred Cruz - Audiotree Live Version by mom jeans.
  5. King's Dead by Jay Rock, Kendrick Lamar, Future, & James Blake
  6. Ghost Town by Kanye West (feat. PARTYNEXTDOOR)
  7. How Simple by Hop Along
  8. Under the Rainbow by Cursive
  9. Tornado by Tomberlin
  10. In My Feelings by Drake

Don't use Spotify? Click here to listen on YouTube.



* – I wouldn't be able to sleep at night if I didn't acknowledge the fact that ROMA did not make my list. The only person at fault for this is me. ROMA is an objective masterpiece, and another contribution from Cuarón which pushes film culture forward both technologically and in terms of storytelling. But subjectively I wasn't enraptured by the film. It was a story I had a hard time connecting to, and I think Cuarón's intentional objectivity made the film feel too detached at times. I found Cleo to be a riveting character, but the camera work impeded my ability to ever get too close to her and her plight. I also took issue with Netflix's release strategy and I thought it was a disservice to the movie to not give it an exclusive theatrical run before releasing it online. I wish they would've adopted the strategy that Amazon takes of doing a theatrical run and then after several months, releasing it to their online platform. Please don't view my omission as me not being willing to endorse objectively great cinema, but rather it was just a movie that didn't subjectively connect with me, which is a high criteria for my lists. As you can see from my rankings, prestige isn't a major factor in my list.
** – Viewer discretion is advised. Suspiria is a very disturbing movie, and I was reluctant to include it, but out of every movie I saw this year, this was the one I had the hardest time forgetting and the one I still regularly think about. Tilda Swinton's bravado in tackling three divergent roles, the haunting dance choreography, and the uncertain allegories that are uncovered throughout the film all contribute to Suspiria being one of the most compelling movies of the year. All that said, it is NOT easy to watch, and not for the faint of heart. Please tread cautiously if you choose to endeavor towards this film. It is challenging, but I think the questions it leaves you with are worth pondering.
*** – Still Haven't Seen: Burning, If Beale Street Could Talk, Won't You Be My Neighbor

1.04.2019

First Man: Breaking the Atmosphere of Postmodernism

On October 12, filmmaker Damien Chazelle released his third major motion picture release, the intimate space biopic First Man (starring Ryan Gosling as Neil Armstrong and Clare Foy, in another Oscar worthy performance, as Janet Armstrong). With First Man, Chazelle found himself at a crossroads – continue to work with what's working (movies immersed in the culture of music) or to push himself topically and stylistically into uncharted space. He chose the latter, and this departure from the musical realm provides us as viewers with an intimate story about a topics infinitely vast – outer space and the inner life.


During the 141 minute journey to the moon, Chazelle channels Kubrick, Spielberg, Howard, and Malick all in order to paint an unconventional story about a very private and somewhat reclusive American legend. The choice to render a story about space travel so intimately has been the topic of much discussion in analysis of the film. But something I think that has gone unmentioned is that by mixing together a hodge-podge of directorial references, Chazelle magically avoids a voiceless grey and creates something completely new. Something I'm calling Chazelleian. And with First Man Chazelle has firmly planted himself as the first great "post-postmodern director" of our time.

Chazelle is a derivative director. Reading this, you may think I'm insulting the director, because for many, being derivative is anathema, and for many is always a bad thing. This stance, however, is naïve, because it's impossible to not be derivative, because no art is ever created in a vacuum, and all creators, whether unintentional or not are imitating and stealing from the other creative endeavors that whir past our senses. I believe Chazelle has not only realized this but he's embraced the notion that all film makers (past, present, and future) work in the shadows of those that created before them or alongside them. And he doesn't live in fear of it. He acknowledges it, pays homage to it, and somehow creates something totally new and original from source material and ideas that are objectively dated. I think most people would agree, we did not need another movie about space, but by zooming in on Armstrong and his inner-life through this process we were given a totally new movie about space, because it's actually just a movie about a emotionally complicated man.

Watching First Man, I felt hope for the coming generation of young filmmakers that will soon be filling the voids that legends like Scorsese and Spielberg will be leaving behind, because I saw in the movie a 33 year old director rejecting cynicism and embracing sincerity as he told a story about a complicated mission in a complicated country during one of the most tumultuous decades we have in our history. This is why I describe Chazelle as a "post-postmodernist," because, while he gladly references and re-mixes movie-making technologies (mixing super 16mm with IMAX) and story-telling motifs (e.g. all of La La Land) he is not cynical when he does it. And this is nothing short of miraculous, because for many of us in our 30s that are working creatively from the label of "millennial", cynicism has become the de facto millieu from which we work, create, and critique. And Chazelle is 100% earnest and has been since Guy and Madline sat on a park bench.

I think that is where art will need to move as we figure out our approach in this post-post-modern way of thinking. Not that we can't be critical or should embrace being naïve, but cynicism is an exhausting embrace of critical thinking that leaves no room for hope, adaptation, or evolution. Cynicism is exhausting and if we're learning anything from how Twitter suppresses creativity, we will need the young generation of filmmakers to ardently fight against if we're going to continue to see innovation in the field. My hope is that Chazelle and others around him will embrace earnestness in their filmmaking and we could move on from the stifling irony of the first 2 decades of the 20th century.

9.25.2018

W/L Projections: Monsters of the Midway

Thank God for timestamped text messages! I've been lagging a little behind with my NFL predictions this season – mainly because this doesn't pay any bills – if anything I'm probably wasting money in some way by not working a second job. (Don't want to spend too much time on that thought.) 

Regardless of tardiness, I wanted to share my "timestamped" predictions for the Chicago Bears 2018-2019 season. I made these picks on August 2, 2918 at 7:50pm (yes, before pre-season, because I'm a baller like that (and before Kahlil Mack! Double baller status). You can see them below in the picture. For ADA purposes, they're typed out below as well with some brief thoughts on my rationale. I hope you enjoy, and please share your tardy predictions in the comments below.


Chicago Bears 2018-2019 Wins & Losses


Week 1: @ Green Bay Packer – Loss
Week 2: Seattle Seahawks – Win
Week 3: @ Arizona Cardinals – Win
Week 4: Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Win
Week 5: BYE
Week 6: @ Miami Dolphins – Win
Week 7: New England Patriots – Loss
Week 8: New York Jets – Win
Week 9: @ Buffalo Bills – Win
Week 10: Detroit Lions – Win
Week 11: Minnesota Vikings – Loss
Week 12: @ Detroit Lions – Loss
Week 13: @ New York Giants – Loss
Week 14: Los Angeles Rams – Loss
Week 15: Green Bay Packers – Win
Week 16: @ San Francisco 49ers – Win
Week 17: @ Minnesota Vikings – Loss


Final Record: 9-7 (actual: 12-4)


Playoffs: No (actual: Yes)


Here's Why...

I think the Bears are a "tale of two teams." On one side of Halas you have the Defense – Established, consistent, well built. Vic Fangio has been the defensive coordinator since 2015 and has had 3 years to build the team to his specific 3-4 scheme. GM Ryan Pace has been very generous with the defense with regards to both draft picks and free-agent signings. The defense is well-marinated and ready to be thrown on the grill.
While on the other side of Halas you have some fresh meat. From the head coach, offensive coordinator, quarterback, wide receivers, tight ends. Besides many of the O-lineman and the runningbacks, this is a BRAND NEW group. It's going to take time for them to mesh and marinade. So I thikn the offense will have a slow start, but will start to click in the second half. My main hope for 9-7 is built on the offense eventually clicking. I don't think they'll ever match the defense for the next few years, because of the delayed start, but I am optimistic that will develop into a nice complement to a monstrous defensive unit.

9.12.2018

NFL Predictions 2018

If you're a professional sports analyst, you're probably not listening to other sports analysts. And why would you? All the noise would cloud your judgement and cool off your hot takes. Unfortunately, your professional discretion leads to a predictive disadvantage – you're only pulling from one source: yourself. So, professional sports analyst, I thought I'd share the consolidation of the countless of hours of sports talk and analysis that I've pushed through my ears and my eyeballs. You may call my picks crazy, but at least they're semi-informed by you. I appreciate you not reading this and ignoring me on Twitter – I'll continue to pine for your "likes" here from my armchair.


Division Standings Predictions


AFC EAST

1. New England Patriots
2. New York Jets
3. Miami Dolphins
4. Buffalo Bills

The Buffalo Bills made a volitional choice to start Nathan Peterman. This fact alone is reason enough to justify the Pats finishing first in the AFC East again. Miami is a team in transition as the head coach, Adam Gase, tries to re-work the locker room culture, and, even with the "Darnold boost" the Jets still have to deal with an incomplete team and an unproven head coach. Should be easy sailing for TB12 and Bill.

AFC NORTH

1. Pittsburgh Steelers
2. Cincinnati Bengals
3. Cleveland Browns
4. Baltimore Ravens

After watching the excellent season of Hard Knocks, I was quickly tempted to go all in on the Browns. But then they cut Devon Cajuste – I started imagining that in addition to his "positive energy stones" he probably has some "dark energy stones" and will be casting spells on the whole Browns organization. Wizardry aside, the Steelers of Pittsburgh still have Antonio Brown and (maybe) Le'Veon Bell. This tandem, even with a deteriorating Roethlisberger, is more than enough to win the North. If I'm being honest, spots 2-4 feels like a crap shoot. I could easily see any of these teams finishing in any of the 3 spots – my rankings are mostly informed by my proprietary "mitigated Hard Knocks recency bias."

AFC SOUTH

1. Jacksonville Jaguars
2. Houston Texans
3. Tennessee Titans
4. Indianapolis Colts

I'm all in on the Jags as you'll see further below. I can only see this team getting better. Their defense will be better after another year of stability. Fournette will be a year older and will have grown in his conditioning and (I can't believe I'm saying it) Blake Bortles will be better (though we're all wondering who he is throwing to). Defense (and semi-decent QBs) still win championships, and if Fournette can stay healthy I see the Jacksonville D dominating the AFC this year. As for the remaining three, talent will dictate how the pieces fall in to place, and Houston all around is the more talented team of the three. An "Andrew Luck" can cover a multitude of sins, but the Colts have nothing else besides him going for them, and even their sure thing is a glaring question mark.

AFC WEST

1. Kansas City Chiefs
2. Oakland Raiders
3. Los Angeles Chargers
4. Denver Broncos

[Note: I meant to post this before Week 1 happened, so I feel obliged to keep my rankings how they are, even though it's looking like the Raiders are going to be 4 and the Broncos might be 2. You may start thinking to yourself, I should probably close this tab, because this guy has no idea what he's talking about. The only thing I'll say with confidence is Pat Mahomes is going to flourish under the Andy Reid system. Other than KC, this division is a confusing poop show.]

NFC EAST

1. Philadelphia Eagles
2. New York Giants
3. Washington Redskins
4. Dallas Cowboys

This division feels tough to call – especially the middle. The Eagles are Super Bowl champs and only added talent, so there's no reason to think they won't carry over their success, as well the Cowboys have only seemingly gotten weaker as Dak has no one to throw to and not much time to throw these nobodies. Which leaves the Giants and Redskins. I could go either way depending on how Alex Smith performs. I think if Smith and Gruden take to one another, this could be a surprise team of the year, but it's hard to invest in Washington DC – things always seem to go wrong in our capitol.

NFC NORTH

1. Minnesota Vikings
2. Green Bay Packers
3. Chicago Bears
4. Detroit Lions

Despite the doubters, Kirk Cousins is an improvement over Case Keenum and a healthy Dalvin Cook is going to open things up for the entire receiving core. The Vikings have a dominant defense, excellent special teams, and I can see their offense putting up a ton of points. The Packers do have Aaron Rodgers, but their team isn't as complete as their rivals to the west. As for the Lion's, Belichek assistants have a checkered history, so I'm fairly confident that Matt Patricia's team will take a step back and be reacquainted with the bottom. The big question mark of this division is my Beloved Bears. They will most likely have a Top-5 defense, but will their rookie HC and (basically a) rookie QB hold the team back. Time will tell, but the NFC North should be an exciting division.

NFC SOUTH

1. New Orleans Saints
2. Carolina Panthers
3. Atlanta Falcons
4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

[Editor's Note (9/17/18): I never typed anything for this conference, and then FitzMagic happened... So I'm just going to abstain from trying to place myself in the past. Silence is probably my best bet with the NFC South, because this conference is nuts.]

NFC WEST

1. Los Angeles Rams
2. Seattle Seahawks
3. San Francisco 49ers
4. Arizona Cardinals

There seems to be consensus around the Rams this season, but I've been surprised by how quickly people are jumping ship on the Seahawks as they swim towards Jimmy G's triple-decker model-laden yacht. I'm putting the Seahawks ahead of the 49ers because of the system and despite a strong 1/4 of a season last year, Jimmy G is still unproven and his receiving core and running game are big question marks. Arizona is a team in transition, and even with a healthy David Johnson, there is too much up in the air for this team to find stability and success.

Super Bowl LIII Predictions


Matchup

Minnesota Vikings vs. Jacksonville Jaguars

Result

Minnesota defeats Jacksonville in a defensive battle, 13-10.

Both cities were on the edge of making the big game last year, and I see both teams getting better with minimal changes to their systems and structures. As I've said earlier, defense still wins championships in the NFL and both of these teams will be rolling out elite defenses. I see this matchup being a game that rests on who can get the most turnovers and which defense can add some points in support of an offense. It's not going to be a sexy Super Bowl, but it will be smash-mouth.

NFL Honors Predictions


Most Valuable Player

Aaron Rodgers (GB)

If he's healthy, he's the best player in the NFL. If he's not healthy...probably Tom Brady again. Yuck.

Coach of the Year

Doug Marrone (JAX)

He's going to lead the Jags to the glory land! Or at the very least, the Super Bowl. Should've gotten it last year over the wünderkind, Sean McVay – so if the Jags are dominant again, I could see this being the "apology year."

Offensive Player of the Year

Leonard Fournette (JAX)

If he stays healthy, this young man is going to be a workhouse and a key piece of the Jags success. If his hammies hold up, I could see this being a break out year.

Defensive Player of the Year 

Kahlil Mack (CHI)

Being back in Vic Fangio's highly functional 3-4 scheme is going to revitalize his career. "Getting paid" will not lead to him "getting lazy," but will do the opposite and motivate him to show everyone why he is the highest paid defender in the NFL. O-lines beware.

Rookie of the Year Award

Saquon Barkley (NYG)

Offensive Rookie of the Year

Saquon Barkley (NYG)

Defensive Rookie of the Year

Bradley Chubb (DEN)

The only real threat to Saquon Barkley in my book is Sam Darnold and I think it's a lot easier to find elite success your rookie year as a running back as opposed to a quarterback. Saquon is slated to be a once in a generation talent, and, with the threat of OBJ on every play, lanes should be opening up for him.
As for Chubb, his pairing with Von Miller will pave the way for him to not only be mentored by an elite player, but also assisted as he claws his way to quarterbacks. Expect big things for young Chubb.

9.04.2018

NFL Bandwagon Cheat Sheet 2018

Every fan needs a backup plan. Maybe it's mid-May and the ace starting pitcher of your favorite team falls prey to Tommy John surgery. Maybe it's Pre-season week 3, and your favorite wide-out (who also happens to be on your fantasy team) ruptures his achilles on a non-contact play. Or maybe your favorite point guard tears his ACL, right meniscus, and every other knee ligament over the course of 3 seasons. And that's just injuries – we haven't even mentioned incompetent owners, stressed out coaches, and Twitter.


That's why every sports fan needs a backup plan – an order of operations you can follow as your favorite team circles the drain. As fans we place large quantities of hope on very tiny ligaments, so it's only logical to have a Plan B (and C and D and E) just in case the worst happens. Injuries aside, the backup plan comes in extra handy during the playoffs, because you can easily deduce who you're going to cheer for in any playoff matchup.

With all that in mind, as a new season kicks off on September 6th, I wanted to share my backup plan for the National Football League – it's my Bandwagon Cheat Sheet. I rank all 32 teams in order of preference, and no matter what injuries, firings, or locker room implosions I'll have a team to root for. I hope my list can inspire your own list, and I'd love to read them in the comments. Two quick notes: (1) All rankings are subject to change depending on my mood, and (2) all rankings are deeply subjective.

NFL Bandwagon Cheat Sheet 2018

Group A: My Two Favorite Teams
1. Bears
1. Broncos
It's always good to have a favorite team from each conference (AFC/NFC). And ideally two teams with disparate "playoff windows." With the exception of possible Super Bowls, you'll only play this team once every 4 years, which means you'll only feel torn with the same frequency that you feel glee about the Olympics, World Cup, or Presidential Elections so it'll get cancelled out. My top two teams are the Chicago Bears and the Denver Broncos. Da Bears because I was born and raised in the streets of Chicago and was raised to root for the Monsters of the Midway. I cheer for the Broncos, because I jumped on their bandwagon when I was 10 (the year Elway and co. won the franchise's first Super Bowl), and I've felt obligated to stay a fan ever since (even though I'm still salty about Tebow). The best part about liking these two teams – they have similar color schemes. Easy for decorating my man-cave one day!

Group B: Teams I Enjoy Rooting For When the Bears/Broncos Are Bad
3. Bills
As a Cubs fan I can relate to the heartbreak that this franchise has gone through. I also love their uniforms. But most of all I just think Buffalo is a great city that invented the greatest food known to man (buffalo wings (specifically from Duff's)). I'm always happy to root for these underdogs.
4. Jaguars Jason Mendoza. Enough said right? I can elaborate. Team owner Shahid Khan is an alumni from the university I attended, the University of Illinois and he's been a great supporter of this campus. While he doesn't always have the best taste in uniforms, it does seem like he's righted the ship by hiring Tom Coughlin. He's also been a big contributor to my community, and I'm happy to support him and the Jags.
5. Rams 
I'm very recently on the Sean McVay bandwagon. I'm also very happy to root for any team that help contribute to the irrelevance of the Chargers and encourage that franchise back to San Diego (The Chargers have no fans! They're going to become the next Clippers!)
6. Seahawks
This one will annoy many of you, but I don't care. They have a beautiful city, a great ownership group, an amazing stadium, and annoying coach. To top it all of, the starting QB has an amazing first name. AND HUSTLES!
7. Dolphins
Any team that is confident enough to wear teal and bright orange has my support.
8. Raiders
I know they're a division rival, but man this franchise has got the coolest uniforms with a wild history and a legacy of odd-ball owners. I'm very excited for them to move to Vegas and I can't wait to see what it does for their team and the city. (More recently, I'm very thankful for Kahlil Mack.)
9. Saints
It's hard to root against good people like Drew Brees and Sean Payton. Plus Payton has a rich Illinois history – playing for Naperville Central and Eastern Illinois.
10. Vikings
Another division rival (sacrilegious I know) but they still haven't won a Super Bowl, and I'm always down for a team to win their first. 

Group C: The "I Generally Don't Like Them, But I'll Root for Them if They're Playing Against 22-32" Teams
11. Bengals
Their uniforms cover a multitude of sins.
12. Cardinals
Former Chicago franchise, and Larry Fitzgerald is one of the best to play the game.
13. Browns
Official diagnosis: "Hard Knocks recency bias."
14. Texans
Deshaun is such a fun young player, great defense led by Watt, and an amazing response from the whole organization after Hurricane Harvey.
15. Falcons
Any chance I get to watch Matty-Ice and Julio score touchdowns I will take.
16. Titans
Mariota runs fast!
17. Bucs
Jameis runs slow!
18. Panthers
I love watching Cam Newton get rocked when he acts like a running back. Stay in the pocket!!!
19. 49ers
I love the Bay Area, and with the addition of Jimmy G, they are a franchise on the rise. Amazing history and storied franchise. Easy to root for.
20. Steelers
Pittsburgh has some excellent bridges and interesting sandwiches.
21. Patriots ^
Even if I hate the diamond, I can still acknowledge it's brilliance. One of the best coached, managed, quaterbacked, and owned teams in NFL history. Especially for my era.

Group D: Teams I DO NOT Like
22. Lions*
Division rival with no redeeming qualities. Also home of the Red Wings. And the Detroit Tigers (who beat the Cubs in the World Series in '45).
23. Ravens
Just kind of a boring team to me. I have no connection to Baltimore. Not a fan of Ray Lewis.
24. Redskins
25. Eagles
26. Giants
27. Cowboys
The NFC East. I just hate it. Do I need to say more? 
28. Jets
Horrible uniforms, annoying fan-base, and the former home of Rex Ryan and Butt-Fumble.
29. Colts
Beat the Bears in Super Bowl XLI. Never forget.
30. Chargers
This one is tough, because I have a lot of beloved family in San Diego. Unfortunately they did my second city so dirty I had to drop them down to almost the lowest. A purely emotional decision. (Fun fact: I got to witness the last game played in Qualcomm with my father-in-law. Pretty cool.)
31. Chiefs
Division rival. Thought I'm grateful for Andy Reid mentoring and raising up my guy Matt Nagy. Can't wait for him to lead the Bears to a Super Bowl!

Group E: The Packers
32. The Packers
My least favorite team in the whole NFL. Their uniforms hurt my eyeballs, their fanbase annoys the daylights out of me, and the games they play agains the Bears stress me out! Growing up so close to Wisconsin I had plenty of cheesehead friends, and man they get on my nerves. I'm very happy to say the Broncos beat them in Super Bowl XXXII, but sad to say that many times these days they end up beating up on the Bears. I hope the Bears days of dominance will return soon, but until then I'll always have the Seahawks to get my back! 
One redeeming quality: Aaron Rodgers' commercials and dating life.

^ – Bill Belichek is the greatest coach of all time
* – I’d root for them in the Super Bowl, just because I love seeing droughts end, and that means the Bears were already out. Even against the Broncos, because the Broncos have won so many.

2.11.2018

Supremes of Seventeen

This may go down as one of the hardest years for me to rank my top movies of the year. The challenge wasn't that there weren't enough good movies – there were a lot of good movies this year. But there were few that I found to be great, and there wasn't a movie that I felt captured the country's imagination (like La La Land did last year ). All that to say there wasn't a real stand out to me, until I saw the Safdie Brother's Good Time. I wasn't able to see this until recently, and I'm so glad I did before I made my list, because the movie literally took my breath away (I think I breathed a total of 3 times during the whole film).


Good Time wastes very little of your time, as it economically paints a heartbreaking picture of mental illness, criminal recidivism, and the sickeningly clever (and stupid) manipulation tactics that desperate men succumb to as they drag those around them down with them. It's a movie about familial mayhem, the power of influence (both good and bad), and the desperation that lurks in the hallways of mental illness. It won't be a movie for everyone , but it is a movie worthy of a top spot.

The Doug Jones 3 Honorary Top Ten Movies 4
  1. Good Time directed by The Safdie Brothers
  2. Get Out directed by Jordan Peele
  3. Dunkirk directed by Christopher Nolan
  4. Lost City of Z directed by James Gray
  5. Logan directed by James Mangold
  6. Baby Driver directed by Edgar Wright
  7. Darkest Hour directed by Joe Wright
  8. Downsizing directed by Alexander Payne
  9. mother! directed by Darren Aronofsky
  10. Star Wars: The Last Jedi directed by Rian Johnson
The Offred Honorary Top Ten TV Shows
  1. Patriot (S1) 7
  2. The Young Pope 
  3. American Vandal
  4. Black Mirror (S4)
  5. Big Little Lies (S1)
  6. Legion (S1)
  7. The Leftovers (S3)
  8. Stranger Things 2
  9. Top of the Lake - China Girl
  10. Glow (S1)
The Anthony Kiedis Honorary Top Five Albums
  1. DAMN. by Kendrick Lamar
  2. This Old Dog by Mac Demarco
  3. Everything Now by Arcade Fire
  4. Planetarium by Sufjan Stevens, Etc.
  5. Best Buds by Mom Jeans. 8
1 – The best way for me to assess whether or not the country is being held captive by a movie's moment, is if both me and my 65 year old mother keep managing to find ways to talk about it. And I think that's what held back Get Out. It captured the imagination of many of us under the age of 40, but it didn't break into the older market, and that may make sense with an idea as bold and different as Get Out. La La Land tapped into a nostalgia that the older movie-goer could connect to, while telling a story that many millennials could latch onto.
2 – I don't think my mom would like this very much.
3 – My apologies to the fish man for not including The Shape of Water. Probably coming in at 11 or 12.
4 – I give my greatest apologies to Colin Farrell and Nicole Kidman for not including The Killing of a Sacred Deer. I think Kidman is at the top of her game, and her performance in TKOASD was one of my favorites of the year, but I'm not sure how excited I'd be to re-watch that movie, because it's so tragic (in the Greek sense). It was edged out and would probably be close to 12-13.
5 – People may try to tell you this movie is boring, and it may be a little slow at times, but I think it's important to honor ambition and honor story tellers that are resisting CGI and taking people into the jungle to film actual movies in actual places. And I didn't find it boring at all.
6 – I haven't seen The Handmaid's Tale, Mindhunter, or Dark. I imagine these may break in to my list, and push out others
7 – Please see this show. It's been so massively underrated. There's nothing like it on TV or in the cinema. Delightfully strange.
8 – Came out in 2016, but I don't care. I'm getting old and it's hard for me to keep up with new music. So sue me.