Category Archives: opinion

the nightmare scenario.

Just finished watching all seven seasons of The West Wing, so that’s probably why I’m in a politico state of mind just now. I’m also out canvassing for candidates ahead of the upcoming mid-term elections, so there’s that, too. Yeah, this is the first time I’ve ever actually done any real work on a political campaign.

Anyway, it got me to thinking about the 2020 presidential election. We have no idea who the Democrats will run two years from now, but I’m betting this is the most basic starting point for any deep strategery for either political party.

Screen Shot 2018-09-03 at 10.31.05 PM

It takes 270 electoral votes to win a presidential election. According to this map, 152 are up for grabs. Who decided these 152 are undecided? Me. These are the states where neither candidate received at least 50 percent of the popular vote. We already knew the razor thin margins in upper Midwest states like Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, but they’re hardly alone. And they’re all reason for concern for both Democrats and Republicans heading into 2020.

Nobody has a clue how these states are going to play out in two years. After all, did anyone honestly believe in 2006 that Indiana would turn blue in 2008? A lot can and likely will happen between now and then. If my view of these 152 toss-up electoral votes holds true, there’s one nightmare scenario that could play out on Tuesday, Nov. 3:

Screen Shot 2018-09-03 at 10.16.46 PM

That’s right. A tie. If that happens, The Nightmare Scenario is unlocked and the presidency and vice presidency are both left to Congress to decide the winners. Think about that for a moment.

Sure, it might be a million-to-one shot that the voting plays out this way. But do you really want to leave your vote to chance like this? That’s why it’s important you vote in the upcoming mid-term election on Tuesday, Nov. 6.

Are you registered to vote yet? Click here to find out.

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survivor: ghost island prediction.

Ghost IslandTonight’s season finale of Survivor will bring to a close one of the least interesting seasons of the reality show we’ve had in awhile. Survivor: Ghost Island started off promising enough: 20 castaways, no returning players and a slew of second-chance immunity idols, game advantages and tribal council extra votes. It was billed as a season to wash away past sins. It amounted to a season of predictability, passive game play and an overall convoluted mess of middle-ground personalities seemingly locked into a battle for third place.

Throughout the entire season, players Dominick and Wendell have called virtually all the shots without the slightest challenge and it makes no sense; none at all. It hasn’t been this predictable and this boring since Survivor: Worlds Apart, where selfish weirdo Mike Holloway walked away the winner.

What Went Wrong?
Too many gimmicks, that’s what. Too many diversions and distractions have made the game nearly impossible to play. Sure, one or two immunity idols makes sense. But the inclusion of Ghost Island threw the entire game out of balance. I’m all for the occasional tribe swaps and whatnot, but every week a new twist?

That took away from the game play, if you ask me. I mean, where are the blindsides? Where’s the cutthroat game play? Where are the vicious personal battles? In other words, where’s the game of Survivor? Instead of all the ups, downs, ins and outs that make Survivor fun and interesting, we’re left with six pairs of khaki pants, all vying for your vote as Best Pair of Khakis. I want a do-over, but I won’t get one. So, let’s just get on with it and decide who’s going to take home the million dollars tonight.

The Likely Winner is…
Domenick. He’s been in control since Day One (well, sort of). He’s been conniving, scheming, plotting and planning. He’s been moving all the pieces around the board on his own. And he’s also got himself an immunity idol or two. The fact that he engineered a finale with a bunch of also-rans means he should win. Unless, of course, the also-rans pull off a legitimate blindside.

Finalist with a Chance.
Wendell. He’s smart. He’s likable. He’s athletic. But he’s attached himself to Dominick from the beginning. If he’s in the Final Tribal Council with Domenick, Wendell comes in second. It’s as simple as that.

How the Hell Did You Get Here????
Laurel. She is a promising player who hitched her wagon to Dom and Wendell. At multiple points throughout the season, Laurel had chances to assert herself, take control of the game and eliminate some of her biggest threats. She balked. Every single time, she balked. To make such a move right now would be expected and very nearly pointless.

Could’ve Been
Angela. She was a tough competitor whose back was to the wall from the very start. Seems she could never get a true alliance working. But she’s hung in there…and she ate a shit ton of really gross stuff to win immunity. That, alone, should earn her high marks. But not enough to win.

The Trouble with Donathan
Easily my favorite player in the game from the start because he was the little engine that could. Donathan’s trajectory in Survivor emulates with many viewers who like to root for the misfits and the underdogs. Underneath his wide-eyed, homespun demeanor, though, is a fierce, vicious Survivor contestant. Unfortunately, his strategy is to throw gasoline on the campfire and watch it burn. Still, I like the kid. But he seems to have no winning strategy.

Sebastian: Half Man, Half Alien
Seriously, that dude looks like an alien to me. And how the hell did he last this long. Of all the Top Six, Sebastian seems to be riding coattails. He hasn’t done much to distinguish himself in the game. I guess that’s why he’s still there, right? Nice guy, but not a Survivor champion.

We shall see if I’m correct.

And yes, I still believe i could win this game.

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if i were casting a real oscars ballot…

0305_oscarWhile I fill out a ballot each year to try and predict the winners, I like to keep a side-ballot of the Top Six awards, selecting the nominees I want to win. Here’s a quick rundown of what I’d like to happen vs. what I think will happen.

Best Picture
Call Me by Your Name
Darkest Hour
Dunkirk
Get Out
Lady Bird
Phantom Thread
The Post
The Shape of Water
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

What I want to win: This is a toss-up between Get Out and Three Billboards. They are, hands down, my two favorite nominated films this year. I think I’m going to say Three Billboards. It was truly fantastic.

What I think will win: Three Billboards. I’ve just got a hunch.

Best Director
Christopher Nolan, Dunkirk
Jordan Peele, Get Out
Greta Gerwig, Lady Bird
Paul Thomas Anderson, Phantom Thread
Guillermo del Toro, The Shape of Water

Who I want to win: Jordan Peele, because Get Out was so unique, so layered and so subtle. It is truly a brilliant film that makes viewers think differently by the end of it.

Who I think will win: Guillermo del Toro. In fairness, The Shape of Water is fascinating and enjoyable, but I thought Get Out was better because of the director.

Best Actress in a Leading Role
Sally Hawkins, The Shape of Water
Frances McDormand, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Margot Robbie, I, Tonya
Saoirse Ronan, Lady Bird
Meryl Streep, The Post

Who I want to win: Of the performances I saw, Frances McDormand brought so much into her character that I can’t imagine anyone else playing her role. Sally Hawkins was great, too, evoking so much emotion without using her voice, but I gotta go with Frances.

Who I think will win: Frances McDormand.

Best Actor in a Leading Role
Timothée Chalamet, Call Me By Your Name
Daniel Day-Lewis, Phantom Thread
Daniel Kaluuya, Get Out
Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour
Denzel Washington, Roman J. Israel, Esq.

Who I want to win: This is a tough one. I loved Gary Oldman, but Daniel Kaluuya carried a pretty deep movie with a strong performance of his own.

Who I think will win: Gary Oldman. And he would deserve it.

Best Actress in a Supporting Role
Mary J. Blige, Mudbound
Allison Janney, I, Tonya
Lesley Manville, Phantom Thread
Laurie Metcalf, Lady Bird
Octavia Spencer, The Shape of Water

Who I want to win: Based on the performances I saw, it’s between Lesley Manville and Laurie Metcalf. Both were fantastic, but I’ll go with Metcalf. Her character juggled many emotions throughout Lady Bird and Metcalf played her perfectly.

Who I think will win: Laurie Metcalf. But wouldn’t be surprised to see Lesley Manville win.

Best Actor in a Supporting Role
Willem Dafoe, The Florida Project
Woody Harrelson, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Richard Jenkins, The Shape of Water
Christopher Plummer, All the Money in the World
Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Who I want to win: Richard Jenkins and Woody Harrelson were great. Harrelson might even win it were it not for one problem: Sam Rockwell blew everyone else out of the water. Rockwell gets my vote.

Who I think will win: Sam Rockwell. No question.

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the best picture nominees, ranked.

In order of worst to first, here’s how I’d break down tonight’s Best Picture nominees.

Phantom Thread_Breakfast9. Phantom Thread
This movie sucked and sucked hard. I’m getting kinda tired of Paul Thomas Anderson. You’ve become Jack Horner in the limo, dude! It’s been downhill ever since Boogie Nights. But I do love Daniel Day-Lewis’s hair, so there’s that.

The Post Streep Hanks8. The Post
No, I haven’t seen it, yet. But I’m pretty sure it’s better than Phantom Thread!

Call Me7. Call Me By Your Name
Pleasant, visually breathtaking and well acted.

Darkest Hour_Train6. Darkest Hour
Gary Oldman is spectacular as the iconic Winston Churchill.

HarryStyles-920x5845. Dunkirk
Well-crafted, fast-moving film that sheds light on a major turning point in world history. Should be watched in same sitting with Darkest Hour.

shape_water.04. The Shape of Water
Stunning for its cinematography, story and acting. Michael Shannon was robbed. He should’ve been nominated for Best Supporting Actor.

ladybird23. Lady Bird
Lovely, relatable storytelling that doesn’t beat you over the head to make its point. Ohhhhh…THAT guy actor Bob Stephenson KILLS in one of my favorite scenes in the movie.

GetOutChris.02. Get Out
Arguably the most original nominee this year. It’s as important and relevant as it is entertaining.

billboards1.01. Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri
I love everything about this movie. That’s really all I can say about it.

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for your consideration: three billboards outside ebbing, missouri.

Three BillboardsThree Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017 Fox Searchlight Pictures/Blueprint Pictures/Film4 Productions/Cutting Edge Group)
Starring Frances McDormand, Woody Harrelson, Sam Rockwell, Abbie Cornish, John Hawkes, Peter Dinklage.
Written and Directed by Martin McDonagh.
Producers: Graham Broadbent, Peter Czernin, Martin McDonagh. Music by Carter Burwell. Cinematography by Ben Davis. Edited by Jon Gregory.

A mother personally challenges the local authorities to solve her daughter’s murder when they fail to catch the culprit.

What a fantastic movie. Truly. This is the shortest movie review I’ll probably ever write, but only because I don’t know how else to say it. Three Billboards is a dark movie with enough of salty language to make a sailor blush, but it delivers on every level. The beauty of the performances is they don’t feel over exaggerated. These are everyday people in small town America dealing with a tragic and complex situation. Of course, they make all the worst decisions when they address it, but that’s only where their journeys begin.

Exploring anger, redemption, vengeance and, ultimately, love, Three Billboards takes the audience through a town’s own sins as a grieving mother refuses to let them forget her daughter’s savage death. As Mildred, the grieving mother, Frances McDormand turns in one of the best performances of her career. Sam Rockwell’s been an underrated talent for years. After playing rogue cop, Dixon, in Three Billboards, I don’t think we’ll ever say he’s underrated ever again.

I’ll just leave it at that and say, thus far, Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri is my favorite Best Picture nominee.

STARS: ****1/2 (out of five)

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for your consideration: call me by your name.

Call Me By Your NameCall Me By Your Name (2017 Sony Pictures Classics/Warner Bros. Pictures/Frenesy Film Company/La Cinéfacture/RT Features/M.Y.R.A. Entertainment/Water’s End Productions)
Starring Armie Hammer, Timothée Chalamet, Michael Stuhlbarg, Amira Casar, Esther Garrel, Victoire Du Bois.
Directed by Luca Guadagnino.
Producers: Peter Spears, Luca Gudagnino, Emilie Georges, Rodrigo Teixeira, Marco Morabito, James Ivory, Howard Rosenman. Story by André Aciman. Screenplay by James Ivory. Cinematography by Sayombhu Mukdeeprom. Edited by Walter Fasano.

In 1980s Italy, a romance blossoms between a seventeen year-old student and the older man hired as his father’s research assistant.

A coming-of-age story about a teen boy recognizing his own sexual awakening. I suppose that’s interesting enough as a drama, but aren’t these things often played out as comedies? (American Pie, Porky’s, etc.) I’m joking. Call Me By Your Name reminded me, on some level of Summer of ’42.

Timothée Chalamet was boring as hell in Lady Bird (because his character was slightly vapid), but he was phenomenal as Elio in Call Me By Your Name. Playing the part of the 17-year-old boy who forms a deep crush on his father’s assistant, Oliver (played by Armie Hammer), Chalamet captured the age, the moodiness and the emotion of being a teenager in love.

Understandably, some may question the appropriateness of the relationship between Elio and Oliver. Not because they’re both male, rather, the age disparity. It’s a fair point. Were this a relationship between a 24-year-old man and 17-year-old girl, it would take on a much different tone. But analyzing this relationship in Call Me By Your Name requires the acceptance that Elio is not being preyed upon. He is neither confused nor ashamed of his romantic feelings for Oliver. And Oliver is not predatory toward Elio. Their attraction to one another is genuine and sincere. Sure, Elio may have a bit of infatuation with Oliver, but isn’t that true of any relationship with a bit of an age gap? Others may feel differently and I get it, but I wouldn’t reject this film out of hand over that.

The last thing I’ll say about Call Me By Your Name is Italy was as much a character in this film as the people. The scenes, homes and landscapes were simply breathtaking.

STARS: *** (our of five)

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for your consideration: the shape of water.

The Shape of WaterThe Shape of Water (2017 Fox Searchlight Pictures/TSG Entertainment/Double Dare You Productions)
Starring Sally Hawkins, Michael Shannon, Richard Jenkins, Doug Jones, Michael Stuhlbarg, Octavia Spencer.
Directed by Guillermo del Toro
Producers: Guillermo del Toro, J. Miles Dale. Story by Guillermo del Toro. Screenplay by Guillermo del Toro and Vanessa Taylor. Music by Alexandre Desplat. Cinematography by Dan Laustsen. Edited by Sidney Wolinsky.

At a top secret research facility in the 1960s, a lonely janitor forms a unique relationship with an amphibious creature that is being held in captivity.

One word kept coming back to me as I watched The Shape of Water: fascinating! Everything from the story to the sets to the characters, lighting, etc., it was a truly engrossing experience watching this movie. Sure, it’s sort of a Beauty and the Beast meets Splash, but that’s just the backdrop. The central theme throughout the entire film is simple: loneliness. Everyone is trying to connect to someone…anyone; starting with the lead character, Elisa, portrayed perfectly by Sally Hawkins.

Lacking the ability to speak, Elisa is a bit of a loner, but maintains relationships with her neighbor, Giles (Richard Jenkins) and fellow cleaning lady at the research lab, Zelda (Octavia Spencer). It’s at this lab where Sally encounters a mysterious creature and forms a bond with it. Where the researchers are prodding it and torturing because they fear it, Sally’s inability to speak allows her to communicate with it in unique, gentle ways.

Bring in Michael Shannon as the vicious security director, Strickland, and you’ve got your bad guy you love to hate. Seriously, this guy is like watching David Letterman’s evil clone wreak havoc in other people’s worlds. And it’s AWESOME to watch. Shannon is creepy, funny, disturbing and downright sadistic.

I’m sure there’s a deeper subtext to this story, but even on its surface, The Shape of Water is an accessible, fun film. Guillermo del Toro created a world in The Shape of Water that feels like old-school sci-fi. Cinematographer Dan Laustsen made ample use of green (and a sprinkle of reds) throughout The Shape of Water to create a visually fascinating backdrop. The color green comes up more than once in the plot. What does it mean? Maybe something. Maybe nothing. But its presence is blatant.

The Shape of Water is fun, a little weird and sometimes sad. But its core themes about fear, loneliness and redemption keep the story from being too dark. Maybe a little predictable, but so what? The Shape of Water is captivating from beginning to end.

STARS: **** (out of five)

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