Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Colonel Mortimer's NFL Rankings Week Four: Quest for Peace

Announcement the First: This week I probably saw a grand total of 90 minutes of NFL football (plus highlights), instead choosing to go to a friend’s party where I stubbed my toe playing kickball, so my opinion is slightly less learned than the usually poorly learned opinions I offer. Also, after limping about for the last 48 hours, I promise to never laugh at football players with turf toe injuries from here on out.

Announcement the Second: I will be on vacation in the Arizona-New Mexico area for the next two weeks, where my internet access will be limited and I will probably not be able to catch any games, so this column will go on temporary hiatus for that period and resume upon my return. In the meantime, please feel free to play the official Colonel Mortimer’s NFL ranking home game. Seriously, don’t play the bootleg versions, I get no compensation.

Shrek the Third: Looked stupid and pointless. Plus I never saw part 2 so I’d miss a lot of references.

And now the rankings:

1. New York Giants (3-0) (2): I broke a promise and angered the football gods and the New York-French consulate so in repentance I return the Giants to their rightful place at the top of the rankings. I also vow to join the Promise Keepers and partake in multiple screenings of the Kirk Cameron film Fireproof.

2. Tennessee Titans (4-0) (4): With Kerry Collins, Vince Young, Albert Haynesworth and LenDale White all on the same squad, the Titans must have the highest physciatrist’s bill in the NFL. But at 4-0 it seems worth it for Sigmund Freud’s favorite team.

3. Buffalo Bills (4-0) (6): After consecutive close wins to the lowly Rams and Raiders, I am a little shaky pushing the Bills up this far, but after seeing the Broncos destroyed by the Chiefs, you remember that there are no easy wins in football, save playing the 49ers in 2004.

4. Dallas Cowboys (3-1) (1): T.O. complains about not getting enough touches after a loss. In other late-breaking news: the sun rose in the East, Sarah Palin is woefully unqualified to be Vice President and James Brown is a sex machine (a dead sex machine, but still…)

5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-1) (12): Raise your hand if you thought Derrick Brooks had retired…like three years ago.

6. Washington Redskins (3-1) (13): Daniel Snyder’s successful decision to fire the established coaching staff of Joe Gibbs for the new blood and ideas of Jim Zorn will be hopefully reflected in American voters’ decision of who should lead Washington’s political team in November.

7. Pittsburgh Steelers (3-1) (-): Ben Roethlisberger was only sacked three times this week, an improvement from the Eagles game because with Willie Parker injured and backup running back Rashard Mendenhall out for the year, Big Ben will need to be upright to keep their playoff goal a reality.

8. Philadelphia Eagles (2-2) (3): You can't blame him for being a little apprehensive with the last couple of seasons ending in an early exit at the expense of an injury, but if the Eagles offense is going to operate to the best of it’s ability, Donovan McNabb is going to need to make some plays with his feet.

9. San Diego Chargers (2-2) (10): Norv Turner to Lane Kiffin after the game: “Trust me, it’s for the best”

10. New England Patriots (2-1) (9): The team of the 00’s goes to San Francisco to play the team of the 80’s, which got me thinking why haven’t more coaches been plucked from the Patriots squad in the past few seasons? All the 49ers had to do in the 80’s and 90’s was make a playoff appearance and they’d lose one of their coordinators. In fact, since Bellicheck took over as coach of the Pats in 2000, they have posted a 93-38 record and lost three staff members to other coaching jobs (Eric Mangini, Romeo Crennel, Charlie Weiss) while the Niners went 55-77 in that time but lost four coordinators (Marty Mornhinweg, Jim Mora, Mike McCarthy, Norv Turner), to quote one of our great American philosophers, Jerry Seinfeld, “what’s the deal with that?”

11. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-2) (14): Their come from behind victories have been fun to watch, but if they are going to be a playoff contender, a nice easy victory would sure ease the fanbase.

12. Indianapolis Colts (1-2) (11): Something is obviously amiss in Indy, without the last decade of success and an inkling they’ll recover, the Colts would be a lot lower.

13. Carolina Panthers (3-1) (15): For the first time since 2005, the Panthers finally have another receiver to compliment Steve Smith, ironically its Mushin Mohammed whom they let go in free agency after the 2005 season.

14. Green Bay Packers (2-2) (5): The nightmare scenario for Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay front office played out Sunday as Rodgers looked ineffective and missed parts of the game in Tampa while Favre was having a career touchdown day in New York, er, Jersey.

15. Denver Broncos (3-1) (5): Per ranking manual code 11022.040, any team that loses to a Chiefs team that looked anemic against both the Falcons and the Raiders, and who owe one victory to a favorable referee call and one to a missed Martin Gramitica field goal, shall fall 10 spots in the rankings. Strangely enough, the 1988 Phoenix Cardinals also fell victim to these rules.

16. New Orleans Saints (2-2) (-): Deuce McCallister and the defense made their first appearance this week, both will be necessary for this team to compete in what looks to be a difficult division.

17. Chicago Bears (2-2) (20): The defense is allowing more points per game then usually, but now that the offense is capable of putting up 20 plus points a game, the difference may not ultimately mean all that much.

18. Baltimore Ravens (2-1) (19): After an impressive effort in a close loss at Pittsburgh (rookie QB Joe Flacco's first away game) the Ravens are recipients of the rare move up in the rankings despite a loss.

19. New York Jets (2-2) (22): Man I don't know what to think of this team anymore, after three blah offensive efforts they put up 56? Tip to fantasy owners: Whenever Brett Favre is questionable and a game time decision, start him, he always seems to put up monster numbers in those situations.

20. Minnesota Vikings (1-2) (17): Look up "one dimensional" in the dictionary, and you'll get a picture of, well either the 2000 Baltimore Ravens or Michael Bay's directorial ouevre, but perhaps a sidebar or footnote would mention the Viking's offense thus far.

21. Arizona Cardinals (2-2) (15): Ladies and gentlemen this is perhaps the best team in the NFC West!

22. San Francisco 49ers (2-2) (21): Um, two INTs in the end zone, perhaps JT O'Sullivan isn't quite the second coming of Joe Montana that the 49ers fan desperately wanted him to be after the last two games.

In the 52 games that Mike Nolan has coached, he has managed one 3 game win streak. Obviously it's hard to compete for a playoff spot without accomplishing that, although if the rest of the teams in the division play as well as they have thus far, the division title is still within reach, hey the Rams are only 2 games out!

So with the other bay area team finally dismissing its coach this week, I ask you to predict who will be the head coach of the 49ers in 2009

a.) Mike Martz--Was this game just a hiccup, or more indicative of their true selves, offense wise? The Niners will want to maintain Martz who will be a hot commodity if he continues turning the team around after the lousy 2007 campaign. They can maintain stability by promoting him to the head spot. That said, I am not personally crazy about Martz as a head coach, least we forgot some of his shenanigans and poor sportsmanship during his St. Louis reign.
b.) Pete Carroll--In 2005, John York tried to get Carroll, who has served as a defensive coordinator for San Francisco in the past, to become the head coach, offering him complete control. Carroll turned them down. He seems pretty comfortable at USC, but he's always willing to listen to NFL offers, feeling he got a raw deal after being fired from the Patriots after they posted a 8-8 record.

c.) Jim Schwartz--The Titans defensive coordinator should be very popular at the end of the season, he was interviewed for the 49er position back in '05.

d.) Josh McDaniels--Up at the Patriots entry I pondered why there has only been three coordinators snatched from the team despite their success, part of that is the impatience of owners who will not wait until the playoffs are over to interview candidates, thus with their post-season success, New England coaches are at a disadvantage. But if the Pats fail to make the playoffs or get eliminated early this year sans Brady, you have to think the guy who oversaw the record breaking 2007 offense should get some league consideration.

e.) Steve Mariucci--The last coach to take the 49ers to the playoffs, for which he was rewarded with a pink slip (Dennis Erickson pretty much took the same team from a 10-6 record to 7-9 in one year), Mariucci, who is still rather young, was also the last coach to take a losing team (the 99-00 squad) and transform them into a playoff team. This could be a way of York offering a mea culpa.

f.) Mike Holmgren--He's set to retire after this season, but perhaps the chance to coach his hometown team, and the organization that started his career, can get him to change his mind.

g.) Mike Nolan--Hell, we are only in year 4 of his 12 year improvement plan.

h.) Post your suggestion in the comment section

23. Seattle Seahawks (1-2) (-): They finally may have some players to catch the ball this week, but the schedule doesn't offer any solace, they're at the Giants, host Green Bay, then at Tampa Bay.

24. Cleveland Browns (1-3) (26): Has there ever been such a precipitous drop between seasons than Derek Anderson meteoric rise from benchwarmer to All Star to bum in the span of a year? He barely outplayed Ryan Fitzspatrick this week.

25. Miami Dolphins (1-2) (-): The confused surviving members of the 1972 Miami Dolphins squad that went undefeated popped champagne after last week's victory over the Patriots.

26. Atlanta Falcons (2-2) (24): After seeing a potential tough game against the Packers on the schedule, Falcons owner Arthur Blank calls the NFL to complain about the break in the Mediocre Team-Quality Team-Mediocre Team makeup of the team's schedule.

27. Houston Texans (0-3) (-): After looking competitive for the first time thus far, the Texans will finally get their first home game of the season.

28. Kansas City Chiefs (1-3) (31): After their first victory since October 2007, Chiefs fans triumphantly announce "Watch out for us in September 2009!"

29. Oakland Raiders (1-3) (28): Perhaps if the Raiders had pulled a victory in one of the last two close games...Lane Kiffin would be fired next week.

30. Cincinnati Bengals (0-4) (29): After a bad performance by backup quarterback Ryan Fitzspatrick, Marvin Lewis calls Jesse Palmer to try to get him on the team so he that has three QBs on the squad with the last name Palmer. Asked why, Lewis replied "I'm outta here after this season. Now it's all about shits and giggles, man. Shits. And giggles."

31. Detroit Lions (0-4) (30): Matt Millen is gone. For Lions fans, that's analogous to winning the Super Bowl.

32. St. Louis Rams (0-4) (-): The Rams and the Raiders both fired their head coach after 4 games, Los Angeles reassures the NFL, "yeah, we're good without a team"

See you in a couple of weeks, suckas!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Paul Newman 1925-2008

One of the last of his generation of which really only Clint Eastwood is still around and active (Redford is a good 11 years younger), Paul Newman was able to find the rare combination of cool dignity and emotional vulnerability within his characters. His portrayal of the self-destructive pool hustler "Fast" Eddie Felson in The Hustler is one of the most powerful performances in cinematic history.

Of late he had pretty much retired from acting, choosing instead to focus on philanthropist work, race car promoting and his very successful line of food products.

Its a real shame that he and frequent co-star Robert Redford were not able to get that final collaboration they had discussed for several years off the ground.

Below are the posters for several of my favorite Newman starring films. If you haven't seen any, I recommend to watch one or all to get a full sense of the range of his talent.

Thursday, September 25, 2008


Following in the footsteps of Quentin Tarantino, Edgar Wright, Joe Dante, Diablo Cody, Eli Roth and Seth Green, actor and awesome stand-up comic Patton Oswalt (the voice of the culinary inclined rat Remy in Ratoutille) will curate the programming at my favorite theatre, The New Beverly Cinema for two weeks. Sadly, I will be in Arizona and New Mexico on my one-year marriage anniversary trip and will miss it completely. Doubly disappointing as Oswalt's picks are second only to Tarantino's and Dante's selections, as far as eclecticism and personal interest goes (no disparage meant to others).

Here's the flyer as well as some notes about the picks from Mr. Oswalt himself, and of course if you are in Los Angeles between October 3rd and 16th, I implore you to check it out! The Mattheau, the Noir and the concluding horror double bills being of most intrigue.

The Taking of Pelham 123 and Charley Varrick

Was there ever a more unlikely – or more perfect – “action hero” than Walter Matthau? This double feature showcases Matthau pitting his slouch, jowls and world-weariness against two of the iciest villains in screen history. In Pelham, Matthau is the rumpled, cranky Lt. Garber, facing down subway hijacker Robert Shaw and his color-coded band of machine gun-wielding criminals. A gritty, chaotic love letter to an early 70’s New York in decay, complete with an ineffective mayor, whining hostages, and a sardonic Jerry Stiller. Gesundheit. Charley Varrick is Don Siegel’s follow-up to Dirty Harry, with Matthau roaming the badlands of New Mexico. This time he’s on the other side of the law, as bank robber Varrick, who unwittingly rips off nearly a million dollars of mob money. The cops and mob are soon in pursuit – including an oily John Vernon, Norman Fell in a bulletproof vest and, worst of all, Joe Don Baker as Mr. Molly, described by screenwriter Barry Gifford as a “…flesh and blood Terminator…every day he’s around is Friday the 13th.” Whores are insulted, the hills are filled with explosions, and a pipe cleaning knife is…misused. Plus, John Vernon muses about pliers and blowtorches. Can Matthau prevail?

The Lineup and Blast of Silence

15 years before Charley Varrick, Don Siegel directed this lean, brutal crime flick with Eli Wallach as a desperate bag man trying to talk his way out of an execution. There’s unfinished highways, a steam room snuff, and a frightening meeting with “The Man” in a roller rink. A favorite of James Ellroy’s – and the inspiration for a Bob Dylan song. How can you allow yourself to miss it? Blast of Silence is a no-budget, black-and-white rough draft for Taxi Driver, and – until its recent prestige release by Criterion – the Holy Grail of noir enthusiasts. Writer/director/star Allen Baron is “Baby Boy” Frankie Bono, an Ohio hitman visiting Manhattan at Christmastime to work his work – and wrestle with his past. “You’re cold now.”

American Movie and Cars III

Chris Smith brought America the purest portrait of hope in the face of oblivion with his documentary American Movie. Recounting the massive failures and small victories of Wisconsin filmmaker Mark Borchardt, I must have seen this in the theaters five times. “I’m thirty years old, and I’m about to clean up someone else’s shit.” This is Ed Wood in a world of strip malls, child support and credit card debts. Also…it’s weirdly inspiring. Cars III is having its world premiere at The New Beverly on Wednesday, October 8th. Portland-based no-budget filmmaker Bobby Hacker’s been steadily building a love/hate cult following on YouTube. This is his first feature – a cautionary tale of a used car salesman who rolls the dice with damnation to sell one more car. Here, check out the short film (which Bobby made to test his homemade green screen) that inspired the feature: *Joe: Here’s where you insert the following YouTube video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LaAZKtoAFgc (Note: Bobby Hacker will be in attendance for the Wednesday night premiere. *Special thanks to Bobby for letting me premiere his film)

Nighthawks and Commando

All y’all haters need to avert your gaze and bow down at the altar of 80’s manliness that was the Austrian/Italian alliance of Stallone/Schwarzenegger. Here’s my detailed synopsis of each movie: (Explosion sound and then guitar riff from anything by Judas Priest). See you there!

The Foot Fist Way and Tsui Hark’s The Blade

The Foot Fist Way was the criminally under-appreciated best comedy to be released this year, and the funniest film I’ve seen in a long time. Danny McBride is Fred Simmons, a short-sighted tae kwon do instructor in a North Carolina mini-mall. The self-proclaimed “Master of the Demo”, his life begins to fall apart, no matter how many boards he breaks or bricks he shatters. “Your weakness is disgusting to me.” Tsui Hark’s The Blade features revenge, love, violence and redemption cranked up to feverish levels. Man Cheuk Ciu is the sardonic, one-armed chain-sword outcast, seeking revenge for the death of his father. Xin Xin Xiong is the scary, tattoed Fei Lung, a shrieking, wild-eyed psycho-killer. The fight sequences give new meaning to the term “ground shaking”. Don’t be a pussy, show up. (*Special thanks to Quentin Tarantino for loaning me his print of The Blade)

Curse of the Demon and F.W. Murnau’s Faust

My festival ends as the days grow darker and Halloween approaches with two of my favorite, moodiest horror flicks. First up is Jacques Tourneur’s much-debated Curse of the Demon. This is the movie that cinephiles always point to in the ongoing “show or don’t show” argument about movie monsters. Which way is scarier? Whatever side you fall on, Curse of the Demon has plenty of weird, eerie atmosphere, as nearly every scene crawls with menace just out of the frame. Dana Andrews is the skeptical American with a case of -- as the theme for The Rocky Horror Picture Show declared -- the “runes”. F.W. Murnau (Nosferatu) directed this dark-yet-epic adaptation of Goethe’s immortal novel right before he made Sunrise. But whereas Sunrise was an intimate, touching portrait of love’s struggle in the modern world, Faust is evil and temptation writ large. God and the Devil wager the fate of the world on one disillusioned German doctor, with Emil Jannings having a ball as Mephisto, the Devil’s agent of corruption. No matter how much CGI or Steadi-Cam footage you’ve seen, the shot of Satan enveloping the world in his cape is guaranteed to give you the heebie-jeebies.

Protect What's Yours

Death Sentence (2007, James Wan)

In my review of the first Death Wish I mentioned that Brian Garfield, the author of the book that inspired the 1973 film, was so upset about its pro-vigilantist interpretation of the source material that he wrote a follow-up in response, Death Sentence. Upon remarking that Saw and Dead Silence director James Wan helmed an adaptation of that novel, I made a dismissive statement of his skill at depicting a subtle ambiguous treaty on the act of vengeance. Well, I was right, there's nothing subtle or ambiguous in Wan's film, but that does not necessarily mean it is without worth.

Both aesthetically and thematically, Saw is anathema to my cinematic predilections. It struck me as the work of an ADD sufferer with a need to prove their "extreme" bonafides, the work of someone who had the plot and moral quandaries of Seven explained to him but never got around to actually watching David Fincher's film past the opening credits montage. Thankfully, much of Wan's stylistic flourishes are toned down in his third film. No strobing editing display, no speeding up the film during the "boring" scenes (although Wan does prove incompetant at expressing seriousness, represented here repeatedly with slow-motion and a bland Coldplay wannabe with a female vocalist ballad on the soundtrack), and I only remembered one time where the film spins around a character's head, and even those were slower paced spins. There's even a nice, dare I say unique, touch here and there, most notably in the action sequences which emphasizes a sloppiness in fighting by Kevin Bacon's vigilante seeking suburban dad which is appreciated since usually these films start with the character transforming instantly from a strict pacifist to an awesomely adept ass kicker.

The action sequences are the highlight of the film, but as I envisioned, and similar to Death Wish director Michael Winner, Wan is woeful at expressing the basic tenant of Garfield's argument, simply put: "an eye for an eye will make us all blind". It appears he is attempting to present an even keeled dichotomy between Bacon and the leader of the gang that is responsible for the death of his son, killed in a hazing ritual. The multicultured gang that lives in dilapidated warehouses is one of those "only exists in movies" types. Had Wan displayed a more realistic poor financial upbringing that pretty much every person who joins gangs originates from or perhaps if the instigating murder was accidental rather than ritualistic, then he could have created a more balanced contrast between the two men. After the first act, Wan does cut between Bacon and the gang leader (Garrett Hedlund) whose brother killed Bacon's son and who subsequently is killed by Bacon after he lies in a disposition and sees the killer go off scott free. Unfortunately, save for Hedlund's relationship to John Goodman's character, his ineffectual father, who has no interest in going to one son's funeral and sells Bacon the guns that he will use to kill his other son-in fairness he does tell Bacon that he will not give him his son's address, so he's not all that bad (side note: a fun game to play while watching the film is to imagine that Goodman's character is actually Walter Sobchak from The Big Lebowski 17 years later)-Wan and screenwriter Ian Jeffers never shade the two characters as anything other than diametrically representing good or evil.

Much like Garfield was upset at Michael Winner and Bronson for misinterpreting his novel to create a pro-vigilante and subsequently anti-poverty message, I imagine he would be less than enthusiastic that Wan never truly dwells on the ultimate irony of the situation, that had Bacon's character accepted a jail sentence for the gang member who killed his son, no matter how small it may seem to him (he was the only eyewitness), instead of letting him go to enact street justice, the situation would never of escalated and (spoiler) it would not have cost him more loved ones and ultimately his own life.

As far as replacing Bronson as a modern vigilante goes, Bacon is ultimately too self aware of an actor to ever wear his (blood stained) shoes.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Colonel Mortimer's NFL Rankings Week Three: The Dream Warriors

I promise this won't turn into a purely football blog. I have some things planned, but for now, the rankings:

1. Dallas Cowboys (3-0) (2): Remember when I said I’d keep the Giants number one until they lost. Well, I lied. After the Giants needed overtime to beat the NFL equivalent of Troy and the Cowboys' second consecutive win against one of the better teams in the leagues (the Packers and Eagles), it'd be unfair not to award them top honors.

2. New York Giants (3-0) (1): see above. I continue to be impressed with Eli’s clutch performances since mid-season last year, especially considering how he was one of the least clutch QBs in his first three seasons.

3. Philadelphia Eagles (2-1) (6): It seems pretty evident which division is the class of the league right now.

4. Tennessee Titans (3-0) (7): You have to be impressed with Fisher and co.; they have a strategy that plays to their personnel’s strengths, adhere to it, and win, no matter how unsexy it may be.

5. Denver Broncos (3-0) (9): I am little reluctant giving them such a boost, they are a blown Ed Hocculi call and a missed Martin Gramatica field goal away from a 1-2 start, but Cutler & Brandon Marshall are playing out of their gourds (Autumn seasonal reference!)

6. Buffalo Bills (3-0) (11): It wasn’t as planned, and it made myself and and I am sure other Survivor league pickers uneasy, but their win against Oakland on Sunday was the type of game they historically lose (last year’s Monday night game against Dallas, the Music City Miracle game, Super Bowl XXV), obviously this was a little less meaningful then those last two, but you get the drift.

7. Pittsburgh Steelers (2-1) (3): Ben Roethlisberger was sacked so many time he left a permanent indentation in the field at Lincoln Financial Stadium.

8. Green Bay Packers (2-1) (5): Look on the bright side Rodgers, Brett never beat the Cowboys either.

9. New England Patriots (2-1) (4): Is Sunday’s embarrassing loss to the Dolphins evidence that the rest of the league is ready to enact revenge on Bellicheck's team for their success and scoring run-ups the last few years now that Brady is out for the year? They have a bye week and then play the Niners, the result of that game will probably be revelatory.

10. San Diego Chargers (1-2) (12): The positive of the Chargers bad start and LT’s injuries is that it has given Phillip Rivers the ability to develop into one of the league’s better passers. When LT comes back full strength and they take advantage of 4 games against Oakland and Kansas City, the 0-2 start will be long forgotten.

11. Indianapolis Colts (1-2) (8): It’s hard to fathom that one of the best prepared teams of the last decade are a Minnesota drive ending in a touchdown instead of a field goal away from an 0-3 start.

12. Tampa Buccaneers (2-1) (16): Antonio Bryant bests Brandon Lloyd in the battle of disposed 49ers receivers with improbable 100 yards receiving games.

13. Washington Redskins (2-1) (18): After their first week loss, a near shut out against the Giants, I pondered how long it would take Jason Campbell and the offense to effectively run Jim Zorn’s schemes. One week, I guess.

14. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-2) (17): The Jags finally get their vaunted running game in motion and not so coincidentally it results in their first win.

15. Arizona Cardinals (2-1) (10): With games at New York (Jets) followed by the undefeated Bills and Cowboys, we will see if the Cardinals hot start was for real.

16. New Orleans Saints (1-2) (13): Good offense, porous defense. Third verse, same as the first.

17. Minnesota Vikings (1-2) (18): Gus Frerotte joined Kerry Collins and Brian Griese in the ranks of journeymen quarterbacks who lead their team to a victory filling in for the opening day starter in week three.

18. Carolina Panthers (2-1) (15): Since their appearance in the Super Bowl, John Fox’s team has consistently been the most inconsistent team in football able to beat or lose to any given team on any given day.

19. Baltimore Ravens (2-0) (24): Hard to judge if this start is for real, their victories so far have been at home against two winless teams, but the defense seems back to it’s vintage stinginess.

20. Chicago Bears (1-2) (19): Wasn’t defense supposed to be their strength? 407 passing yards by Brian Griese!

21. San Francisco 49ers (2-1) (22): Grounded optimism is what I am sensing with Niner fans. Sunday’s game represented the largest margin of victory (18 points) in the Mike Nolan era and the first time the team has scored 30+ points in consecutive weeks since Jeff Garcia and Terrell Owens donned the red and gold. But, and it needs to be reiterated, we beat the lowly Lions. A better judge of our improvement will be in the next two weeks, at New Orleans, a team that is defensively lacking, but has decimated SF the last two years and the defending AFC Champions New England Patriots who will come in with two weeks to prepare (they have a bye this week) after their humiliating loss to Miami.

Question. If the 49ers continue to show promise and end up with a .500 or above record, or even (gasp!) an improbable trip to the playoffs, what happens in the off-season? I think Mike Martz’s success could possibly lead to Mike Nolan’s dismissal. If the team continues to impress, do the Niners want to risk losing their offensive coordinator for the sixth consecutive year? Leading the Niners from one of the worst statistical offensive years in league history to a winning squad will get Martz some serious head coach looks, and after feeling unfairly let go after the 2005 season with the Rams, it’s safe to say that he would consider them. I see the Raiders, who will want an experienced coach after Lane Kiffin, being prime candidates for hiring Martz, especially when you consider how Al Davis loves high octane scoring attacks. So…do the Niners risk losing him? Or fire Nolan and promote Martz to insure his stay?

Food for thought.

22. New York Jets (1-2) (14): The Jets are starting to look like a team who went 4-12 last season that are lead by a 39 year old quarterback.

23. Seattle Seahawks (1-2) (25): Julius Jones has been a pleasant surprise, and it appears some of their receivers are returning shortly. Things could turn around for them, in the meantime, the Rams did just fine for self image improvements

24. Atlanta Falcons (2-1) (27): Last year they were the team that made mediocre squads feel better about themselves by beating them, this year they are the mediocre squad capable of beating bottom feeders. Hey, it’s a start

25. Miami Dolphins (1-2) (28): After quarterback after quarterback changes the last three years, it appears that their best option the whole time was Ronnie Brown.

Between November 19th, 2006 and today, the Patriots have only lost two regular season games. Both to the Dolphins.

26. Cleveland Browns (0-3) (21): Derek Anderson’s carriage is quickly turning into a pumpkin, appropriate since like a pumpkin on November 1st, the Browns playoff hopes have been squashed.

27. Houston Texans (0-2) (23): Matt Schaub is starting to look a lot like his predecessor, David Carr.

28. Oakland Raiders (1-2) (26): While you have to feel bad for Lane Kiffin, a part of me secretly wishes that Al Davis has something spectacular planned for when he does eventually fire the coach. Perhaps a Goodyear Blimp flying above during the first quarter of this game with an attached sign reading: “Okay, now you’re fired, Lane. Just Kidding. Haha. I was kidding about the just kidding part. Seriously get the hell off the field”

29. Cincinnati Bengals (0-3) (-): After being on hiatus the first two weeks, the Bengals offense makes a cameo appearance in an overtime loss to the Giants. Will they be back…tune into this week’s exciting cliffhanger.

30. Detroit Lions (0-3) (-): Hey they’re improving, after starting the first two games in a 21-0 hole, they start week three in a 21-3 hole.

31. Kansas City Chiefs (0-3) (-): Remember a time when a Herm Edwards coached team “played to win the game”?

32. St. Louis Rams (0-3) (-): In 1999, his first year with the St. Louis Rams, Trent Green suffered a season ending injury from a Rodney Harrison hit, ending what would have been his first year as a starting quarterback in the pros. An obscure backup named Kurt Warner filled in and lead the team to a Super Bowl victory. Several years later, after an injury filled season and a handful of ineffective starts, Kurt Warner is replaced by an obscure backup named Marc Bulger, who leads them to a couple of playoff appearance before himself becoming injury plagued and ineffective, in 2008, nearly a decade later, he is replaced by Trent Green in his second stint with the Rams. Things came full circle, although probably not for Green’s best interests.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Colonel Mortimer's NFL Rankings and Tea Party-Week Two

What happened to the practice of networks taking viewers away from blow-outs featuring non-local teams to closer games? I remember growing up this was routine. But this weekend, for the local-teamless Los Angeles viewer, we were stuck watching Oakland who went 4-12 last year running out the clock for the last ten minutes with a 15 point lead over Kansas City who went 4-12 last year and were playing their third string quarterback, meanwhile, two CBS sanctioned games: the Bills versus the Jaguars and the Colts v. the Vikings featured come-from-behind wins and teams that qualified for the playoffs last year. Over on FOX, we got to watch every fascinating second of the Super Bowl Champions Giants as they pummeled the helpless (and 3-13 last season) Rams while close games were occurring both in Carolina (Bears v. Panthers, final score 20-17) and Washington (Saints v. Redskins, final score 29-25). Is the NFL just getting too cocky? Are they essentially telling us: you will take these crappy games and like it fools and oh yeah, buy an Escalade while you’re at it?

Here’s the list (second parenthesis = change in spots)

1. New York Giants (2-0) (-): Sign of a winning team: the Rams close in to within a 20-13 score, the Giants methodically move down the field, score a touchdown, and never look back.

2. Dallas Cowboys (2-0) (-): I am not condoning any cheap shots that will lead to a long term injury or anything, but I really don’t want to see Terrell Owens pass Jerry Rice’s touchdown record.

3. Pittsburgh Steelers (2-0) (-): After lighting up the scoreboard in week one, they play the grind-it-out style that they patented for a week two win. Unless Ben Roethlisberger’s injury is severe, the Browns quickly turn it around or the Ravens are vastly improved with coach Harbaugh and rookie QB Flacco, the Steelers can clinch the division around the ninth week.

4. New England Patriots (2-0) (-): It’s not like the Pats haven’t gone to the Super Bowl with a second string quarterback before.

5. Green Bay Packers (2-0) (+1): Knowing then what we know now, do you think if John York had to do it all over again, he chooses Mike McCarthy (the 49ers offensive coordinator in 2005) as head coach and Aaron Rodgers with the first pick in 2005? Judging by his decision making history, probably not.

6. Philadelphia Eagles (1-1) (-1): Hard to fault them too much with the effort they put up in the Monday night loss in Dallas, but two thoughts: 1.) If they don’t fumble on the McNabb-Westbrook exchange, they probably march down the field for a time killing and decisive score 2.) Why didn’t Andy Reid once go for a two point conversion after continually scoring TDs that put them up by only 6 points. If they convert, they only need to kick a field goal game at the end to send it to overtime, and if they miss the conversion, no difference, they're down by 5 instead of 4 and would still need a touchdown on that last drive.

7. Tennessee Titans (2-0) (+3): All the off week issues with Vince Young didn’t stop the Titans from winning convincingly. That’s because they were prepared, and that’s why Jeff Fisher is the longest tenured coach in the NFL.

8. Indianapolis Colts (1-1) (-): Before the second half of Sunday’s game, I kind of thought that in January Peyton and Eli messed around in a laboratory and found themselves switching bodies a la Freaky Friday, Vice Versa, et cetera.

9. Denver Broncos (2-0) (+6): Nice assist from the officials, still you got to hand it to Shanahan, he’s got a pair.

10. Arizona Cardinals (2-0) (+3): The Cardinals start 2-0 for the first time since 1991, hopefully for them that's the only thing they share in common with the '91 team which finished 4-12.

11. Buffalo Bills (2-0) (+3): Promising sign: the Bills opened their season 2-0 with both victories coming against teams that made the playoffs last year. In 2007, the Bills were 7-9 overall, but 1-8 against teams with a winning record.

12. San Diego Chargers (0-2) (-5): Yes, they got hosed, and yes, they started poorly last year, but with Denver’s improvement, they can’t count on bouncing back and winning the AFC West easily like they did last year.

13. New Orleans Saints (1-1) (-4): A lot of money was spent in the off-season improving the defense, so far, they're not looking all that improved.

14. New York Jets (1-1) (-2): Perhaps Mangini is not used to coaching a great red zone quarterback, that’s the only excuse for running the ball three consecutive times from the two yard line with Brett Favre playing quarterback.

15. Carolina Panthers (2-0) (+4): After constant underachieving the last few seasons, I am treading cautiously with the Panthers here, but they’ve beaten two quality teams without Steve Smith. He returns Sunday.

16. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-1) (+1): I guess Jon Gruden is basing his quarterback starting decisions on lesson learned from Al Davis’ coaching decision practices.

17. Jacksonville Jaguars (0-2) (-6): Three of their next four opponents: Colts, Steelers and Broncos. Things are not looking good for Del Rio and crew.

18. Washington Redskins (1-1) (+4): Hard to judge: Did their offense look bad in week one because they were playing a strong Giants defense? Or did they look good in week two because they were playing a weak Saints defense? I am guessing the truth lies somewhere in between.

19. Chicago Bears (1-1) (-3): Another schizophrenic team that’s its too early to judge entirely. The possible loss of Devin Hester will hurt them more than the loss of a special teams specialist has ever hurt a NFL team before.

20. Minnesota Vikings (0-2) (-2): While Ryan Longwell fantasy owners rejoiced, the Vikings have to realize if they are going to be a winning franchise, they cannot settle for field goals five times in a row.

21. Cleveland Browns (0-2) (-1): A tough schedule to open the season, playing two Super Bowl contenders, the Steelers and Cowboys, but, both of these games were in Cleveland, and if the Browns have any hope of making the playoffs, they need to beat teams of this caliber once in a while.

22. San Francisco 49ers (1-1) (+6): Like I was saying last week, Alex Smith was the only factor holding the 49ers back the last three years….

I kid, I kid. Seriously though, I think this game, victory that it was, proves some of my points that this team is suffering larger obstacles that they are just now learning to overcome. Again, the 49ers came out of the gate looking bad, a Nolan speciality, and found themselves in a 14-0 deficit. If this had happened against the Seahawks team of the last four or five years, the 49ers would not have won the game. Also, JT O’Sullivan won’t last the season if he’s routinely getting sacked 8 times. Yes, Seattle has a good defense, but either the line needs to improve rapidly or O’Sullivan needs to hold on to the ball less. Also, what happened to our run defense? Wasn’t that supposed to be our strong suit with Patrick Willis leading the linebackers? Julius Jones, and last week, Edgerrin James, neither of them exactly studs at this point in their careers, have racked up 100 yard games against them. Apparently, thinking that Seattle’s fourth and fifth wide receiver options would tear us apart, Nolan never made adjustments to the ground attack, lack of game time adjustments being another particular weakness of the coach (although in fairness, the emphasis on the pass, led to two interceptions-one a TD return). Without a few bad decisions (settling for a field goal at the end (Nedney’s miss at the end of regulation) without once trying for the end zone, poor red zone play in general, leaving enough time on the clock to allow the Seahawks to kick a field goal at the end of the half) this could have been an easier win.

Still it’s a quality win on the road in a tough atmosphere. JT (and Martz) brought the sexy back to the QB position, posting the first 300 yard plus effort in the Nolan era. Knowing that Martz will probably have some tricks up his sleeves against the Lions, the team that fired him last season, a win and they’re 2-1 and will have some confidence heading into a tough stretch of four games (@ New Orleans, New England, Philadelphia, @ New York Giants).

23. Houston Texans (0-1) (-): Due to Hurricane Ike, the Texans will not have their first home game until week five. Obviously, it’s not the top priority in Houston right now, but will Reliant Stadium be ready by then?

24. Baltimore Ravens (1-0) (-): The unplanned early bye week means they have 15 consecutive games in a row, but it may have bought a week for running back Willis Maghee to get healthier and ready to play full-time.

25. Seattle Seahawks (0-2) (-4): Mike Holmgren: “Well Jim, this team is all yours after I leave at the end of the season” Jim Mora Jr: “Uh, thanks a lot, big guy”

26. Oakland Raiders (1-1) (+5): Al Davis puts the “fun” and “Al” in dysfunctional owner-coach relationships. If Lane Kiffin is fired before season’s end, he can take some comfort in the fact that his early career is mirroring Mike Shanahan’s.

27. Atlanta Falcons (1-1) (-2): Matt Ryan learns a valuable lesson, you don’t get to play the Detriot Lions every week.

28. Miami Dolphins (0-2) (-2): They looked pretty good last week versus the Jets, this week, they looked very similar to the team that went 1-15 last year.

29. Cincinnati Bengals (0-2) (-): Wasn’t this supposed to be a powerhouse offense?

30. Detroit Lions (0-2) (-): Hard to win when you are spotting teams 21-0 leads in the first quarter each week.

31. Kansas City Chiefs (0-2) (-4): What’s a Tyler Thigpen? If Tampa Bay is offering, and the Chiefs are interested in trying to salvage this season, they should make a play for Jeff Garcia, here are the last six quarterbacks that lead the Chiefs to the playoffs: Trent Green (’03, ’06): drafted by Chargers, came to Chiefs in his fifth season in the league; Elvis Grbac (’00): drafted by 49ers, KC in fourth season; Steve Bono (’95): drafted by Minnesota, KC in ninth season; Joe Montana (’93, ’94): drafted by SF, KC in 14th season; Dave Kreig (’92), drafted by Seattle, KC in 13th season; Steve DeBerg (’90, .91) drafted by Dallas, came to KC in 11th season. Not exactly a quarterback making factory in Kansas.

32. St. Louis Rams (0-2) (-): A bad divorce for both sides thus far: since firing Mike Martz: the Rams are 11-23; teams with Martz as an offensive coordinator are 11-23.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Putting Lipstick on a Pig, et cetera et cetera

I don't usually write about politics, nor do I have any plans to do so in the future, mainly because the state of our union and political discourse makes me either depressed or angry. And you wouldn't like me when I am angry, I start making cliched pop culture references. But seeing how this is nominally film related, here is film critic Roger Ebert's take on Republican Vice Presidential nominee What's Her Face (seriously my meteoric response from not knowing who she is to being sick of her to the point of having a Pavlovian convulsion at the mere mention of her name is unrivaled) where he compares the Palin fade to that of America's fascination with reality programming:

I think I might be able to explain some of Sarah Palin's appeal. She's the "American Idol" candidate. Consider. What defines an "American Idol" finalist? They're good-looking, work well on television, have a sunny personality, are fierce competitors, and so talented, why, they're darned near the real thing. There's a reason "American Idol" gets such high ratings. People identify with the contestants. They think, Hey, that could be me up there on that show!

My problem is, I don't want to be up there. I don't want a vice president who is darned near good enough. I want a vice president who is better, wiser, well-traveled, has met world leaders, who three months ago had an opinion on Iraq. Someone who doesn't repeat bald- faced lies about earmarks and the Bridge to Nowhere. Someone who doesn't appoint Alaskan politicians to "study" global warming, because, hello! It has been studied. The returns are convincing enough that John McCain and Barack Obama are darned near in agreement.

Read the rest here.

Continue to fight the good fight, Rog.

I despise (most) reality programs, but they are easily avoided, and ultimately voting for who will sing the next over-produced pop song that will greet me whenever I walk into a mall or which celebrity is more deft at dancing the Lambada is a little more jejune than picking the person who will be second in command of the United States. I would hope we as a nation hold our politician to a higher standard.

And while I am ranting here, I am beginning to truly believe that Idiocracy wasn't satire, it was a documentary! How is scoffing at Barack Obama's "community service" at the RNC any different than a judicial system where being labeled "hella gay" is evidence enough of conviction?

Well, I am going to get working on that script for Ass.

Camacho for President!

Oh and happy Rudy Guilliani Day everyone, remember every time you exploit a national tragedy for professional gain, you owe Rudy a $25 royalty check.

Final Words on Alex Smith

Alex Smith was put on the IR yesterday, ending his season and effectively his career with the 49ers. I think I've spoken my peace on the matter, I agree that he hasn't shown the promise of a number one draft pick, but think a lot of that is due to being put in a bad situation (poor offensive line play, lack of quality receivers, annual offensive coordinator shifting) with a horrible owner and a questionable head coach and then made the scapegoat by many Niner fans for not working miracles.

Mike Sando of ESPN agrees with my thesis, here's his piece on their website, Alex Smith never had much of a shot. Ann Killion of the San Jose Mercury News, agrees as well.

So good luck, Alex, I think a good career path is to follow Steve Young and serve as a number two to a quality quarterback on a playoff team, the obvious place being your home town team, the San Diego Chargers, where you'd reunite with the one coordinator that you showed potential under, Norv Turner (of course that's assuming he's not fired) and then looking for a starting job elsewhere after two seasons.

Like I said in my last article, I wasn't able to watch Sunday's game, I pretty much paid attention via NFL.com play-by-play coverage, so of course I missed some of the intricacies of the game, focusing on the hardline stats, once again Mike Sando of ESPN makes a case for JT O'Sullivan showing promise in his 49ers debut. So JT, you have my support, but again, I never thought anything particularly negative about him, just the franchise's infrastructure.

And everybody realizes that had we drafted Aaron Rodgers in 2005 we'd be having the same conversation, right?

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Colonel Mortimer's NFL Power Rankings-Week One

Who loves lists?

Everybody, that’s whom! Newspapers, the American Film Institute, Oskar Schindler, everybody.

So I thought it would be fun to take a break from the film writing and do a weekly NFL Power ranking, because why let the actual players determine the true hierarchy of the league when a writer whose never played the game beyond backyard competitions in his youth can make assumptions based on conjecture!

What’s the over/under bet on how long I will keep this up? My bet is two weeks.

Here we go:

1. New York Giants (1-0): I have a simple theory: in a thousand years, mastodons will replace humans as the dominant species on earth. I have another theory, one that relates to football: the team that wins the Super Bowl should be ranked first in these things until they lose. For one half, the Giants looked very much the team that had the improbable run to the championship. Eli Manning looked strong and the defense held up without Strahan and Umenyiora. In the second half, however, Manning looked like the 2004-November 2007 model.

2. Dallas Cowboys (1-0): I don’t know what it is, but as a 49er fan, I don’t find this Cowboy squad nearly as hateable as I did in the 90’s, despite a roster that feature T.O, Tank Johnson, and Q-Bert Jones. Maybe that's due to the fact the Niners suck, but I also think it’s Wade Phillips, he’s like your thrice divorced, alcoholic recovering uncle, you kind of want him to succeed for once.

3. Pittsburgh Steelers (1-0): Two of last year’s AFC division winners lost their first games; the other lost their franchise quarterback for the year. It’s early, but it looks like everything’s coming up Steelers!

4. New England Patriots (1-0): Tom Brady's injury may be considered a bit of schadenfreude for Pat haters, but pour one out for the people truly affected by this loss, Brady's fantasy owners, of which I was one. This team is too talented not to at least challenge for a wild-card, but a lot depends on a quarterback who has not started a game on any level since 1999. I wonder if Drew Bledsoe’s waiting by his phone.

5. Philadelphia Eagles (1-0): After an 8-8 year, the Eagles look to be back in playoff form, however, let's hold on until we see them take on stiffer competition than the St. Louis Rams. The Eagles have made a routine of improving their self-image by beating up on lower competition, the Rams this week, the Lions last year, the Niners a few years ago. Monday's night game versus Dallas should be a true sign of their progress (or lack there of).

6. Green Bay Packers (1-0): Brett who?

7. San Diego Chargers (0-1): While they did lose a game at home to a team they were heavily favored to beat, the silver lining is the quarterback of the team that eliminated them from the playoffs the last two years will not do it to them again (somebody else will have to do it).

8. Indianapolis Colts (0-1): They looked stiff and were outplayed, let’s chalk that up this week to Manning not being in training camp or playing at all in pre-season due to an injury. Although I am sure it didn't keep Manning from his busy commercial shooting schedule.

9. New Orleans Saints (1-0): They showed flourishes of the 2006 offense, but to match that season's run, they will need to be a little more consistent.

10. Tennessee Titans (1-0): Running and defense, it ain’t pretty, but it’s been winning games for the Titans the last few years. Vince Young who continually wins while being criticized for not being the type of quarterback he clearly never was, will be out for 2-4 weeks.

11. Jacksonville Jaguars (0-1): Many people’s dark-horse Super Bowl pick (including your humble author) has lost one starting offensive lineman to a shooting incident, another is out for the year with an injury and yet another is out for 6-8 weeks. Not promising for a team whose strongest offense weapon is its ground attack

12. New York Jets (1-0): With one or two exceptions, Favre didn’t look as impressive as the highlights would lead you to believe, but considering he will only become more comfortable during the season, and of course Brady’s injury, the AFC East title is a real possibility.

13. Arizona Cardinals (1-0): The Cardinals have not had a winning season or made the playoffs since the 1998 season. Things looking the way they do now, they can accomplish the latter by winning the NFC West without having to accomplish the former.

14. Buffalo Bills (1-0): The Bills looked impressive in all three aspects of the game on Sunday and might be able to make the playoffs for the first time since 1999, failing that, seeing how they are playing some games in Toronto now, they may qualify for the CFL playoffs. Hope they’ve been practicing their la rouges!

15. Denver Broncos (1-0): True they looked great on Monday, but a.) it was against the Raiders and b.) really, the Raiders looked truly awful.

16. Chicago Bears (1-0): You think Kyle Orton may have come into Lovie Smith’s office after the Sunday Night victory against the Colts and passive aggressively remarked: “You know, I had a funny thought, perhaps if I wasn’t the third string quarterback in 2007, behind Rex Grossman and Brian Griese, maybe we would have, you know, won the Super Bowl. Like I said, just a funny thought.”

17. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-1): Like Peyton Manning, Jeff Garcia looked a little rusty after missing the entire pre-season and now may miss a few games with an injury. Fortunately, Coach Jon Gruden kept 27 quarterbacks on the roster.

18. Minnesota Vikings (0-1): If the Vikes want to accomplish their goal of winning the division Tarvaris Jackson (or someone else) will need to improve the quarterback play, or teams will continually put eight in the box to stifle Adrian Peterson and the running attack

19. Carolina Panthers (1-0): After proving their adeptness at beating each other up, the Panthers beat the Chargers in San Diego with a last second touchdown toss, of course, if they scored touchdowns when they got in San Diego territory more, instead of settling for 4 John Kasay field goals, the ending heroics would not have been necessary.

20. Cleveland Browns (0-1): You kind of got the feeling that the Browns would fall short of the playoff prognosis predicted following last year’s surprising 10-6 season, seeing how they are the Cleveland Browns and all.

21. Seattle Seahawks (0-1): Your leading rusher is injured, four of your receivers are injured, your quarterback is suffering back spasms...good thing you came back for one more year, Mike Holmgren

22. Washington Redskins (0-1): The Jim Zorn era gets off to an inauspicious start. On the bright side, the Redskins kept the Giants scoreless for the second half, the down side, they didn’t score in the second half either.

23. Houston Texans (0-1): Happily I never wrote a NFL season prediction list, or else I’d have to justify picking the Texans as a wild-card team.

24. Baltimore Ravens (1-0): Both quarterbacks picked in the first round of this year's draft started and won their debut games. Of course, that’s tempered a bit by the fact the teams they beat were the Lions and Bengals.

25. Atlanta Falcons (1-0): If Matt Ryan can be consistent and tone down inevitable rookie mistakes, the Falcons can surprise, remember that during the Mike Vick years the Falcons succeeded by having the game’s best running attack, judging from one game, albeit versus the Lions, Michael Turner and Jarious Norwood can form a tandem similar to Warrick Dunn and TJ Duckett.

26. Miami Dolphins (0-1): While he looked really bad in the first half, Chad Pennington slowly gained confidence in his young receivers and the Dolphins were in the game until the last minute. In the bad luck department, consider this, if Jets' kicker Mike Nugent is not injured, the Jets don’t go for it on fourth and fifteen and don’t get their second touchdown, instead settling for a field goal attempt. Then the Dolphins who drove to the Jets red zone in their last series, only need to kick a field goal to tie the game and send it to overtime.

27. Kansas City Chiefs (0-1): The Fantasy drafters of America have a few choice words for you Mr. Pollard

28. San Francisco 49ers (0-1): Okay, this will take a while, if you don’t care for the 49ers (congratulations to you), please skip down.

For all you fans who would like to place the blame primarily on Alex Smith for the 49ers woes the last couple of years, let’s do a little comparison between Smith and JT O’Sullivan’s opening day numbers versus the Cardinals this year and last year:

J.T. O’Sullivan (08) 14-20, 195 yards, 0 Touchdowns, 1 Interception, Sacked 4 times, 2 rushes for 1 yard, 2 fumbles, the 49ers lose 23-13

Alex Smith (07—and might I add with a less talented offensive supporting cast and coordinator) 15-31, 126 yards, 0 Touchdowns, Sacked 3 times, 3 rushes for 36 yards, 1 fumble, the 49ers win 20-17.

Now, both of them statistically look below average, and I am not blind to the fact that thus far Smith has been a bit of a disappointment, but let’s not make him the sole scapegoat, the problem is much more systematic. From the moment he was drafted, he was put in a position to fail, so why fault him when he doesn't succeed? The real problem begins at the top with an owner who has no idea how to run a franchise, who put a coach with no head coaching experience in charge and gave him general managers duties on top of that. A coach who has a petty vindictive side dumping players (Tim Rattay, Jamie Winborn, Kevan Barlow, et cetera) mid-season who rub him the wrong way no matter whether they could contribute to the team in backup roles or not and ultimately called out his quarterback who was recovering from a severe shoulder injury.

There were five turnovers in Sunday's game, that’s speaks ill of the players true, but turnovers have been an issue throughout the Nolan era, the coach should teach basic discipline like ball control. Apparently (the game was thankfully not aired in Los Angeles) the Cardinals pooched kicked once which lead to a fumble recovery, and repeated it resulting in another fumble, again that lack of discipline starts with the coach, not the quarterback.

Okay, to further my point, one more comparison, here are Alex Smith’s numbers for his career with the 49ers:

435-800, 4679 yards, 19 touchdowns, 31 interceptions, 11-19 record as a starter

Now, here is a quarterback whom we are all familiar with early career numbers:

267-501, 3217 yards, 11 touchdowns, 21 interceptions, 3-16 as a starter

Any guesses who posted those awful numbers above? Why, those are Steve Young’s stats from his two seasons with Tampa Bay in 1985-86. I am not trying to imply that Smith is anywhere near the player Young was, but the point is that if Steve Young stayed in Tampa, which was at the time an awful franchise mired in losing, he never becomes a Hall-of-Famer. Again, that’s not to say Smith is a Hall-of-Famer in the waiting, but he showed steady (if slow in developing) improvement the one season that the offense was catered to him (2006). It wasn’t Alex Smith who failed the 49ers, it was the 49ers who failed Alex Smith. And depressing as it may be to consider, the John York ran 49ers of the 2000's are the modern day equivalent of the Tampa Bay Bucs of the 1980’s. I know it's simpler to place the blame on Smith, the number one draft pick of 2005/promised franchise savior, but it's time to face facts Niner fans, until either the franchise is sold or a better, more experienced coach is put in charge and teamed with a smart general manager, the rebuilding process we be going on for decades.

Obviously, as a fan I want to see JT O’Sullivan lead us to an improbable playoff season, but the cynic in me knows that the system is broken beyond repair at this point. On the positive side, Frank Gore looked good and we were in the game for about three quarters!

29. Cincinati Bengals (0-1): Chad Ocho Cinco's team looks like it could go cero dieciseis.

30. Detroit Lions (0-1): In Matt Millen’s seven seasons as GM, the Lions have not once finished above 500 and their only season with less than 10 loses was last year. While this doesn’t explain why Millen is still running the team, his experience and results do explain why John McCain vetted him as a possible Vice Presidential candidate.

31. Oakland Raiders (0-1): It appeared that the Raiders would be improved this year with JaMarcus Russell and Darren McFadden, but then you remember the off-season where Lane Kiffin wanted to fire defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, which lead Al Davis to ask Kiffin to resign, to which Kiffin replied, “fire me, bitch” to which Davis reneged, to which now you have a team with an owner who doesn't want the coach there and a coach who doesn't want his defensive coordinator there. I know it’s only been one game, but the off-season trade for cornerback DeAngelo Hall, who was torched by Eddie Royal, an undersized rookie, looks like another in the long line of Raiders acquisitions busts. I do give the team and Kiffin credit for going for it on fourth down when in scoring position while trailing by thirty plus points, unlike the….

32. St. Louis Rams (0-1): Seriously, kicking a field goal while down 38 points? Did Scott Linehan think there was a 34 point spread he needed to cover?

Monday, September 8, 2008

Trailer of the Week: The Return of Jonathan Demme?

With the exceptions of Martin Scorsese, David Lynch and surely somebody who I am forgetting as of this writing (chime in at the comment section with your selection), no American director was able to maintain a personal idiosyncratic voice while making Hollywood produced narrative films in the Reagan-Bush I years (1980-92) as Jonathan Demme. Starting with 1980's Melvin and Howard and culminating in 1991 with his Academy Award winning direction of The Silence of the Lambs, Demme made films that could maintain both humor and violence(Something Wild and Married to the Mob being the prime examples) while balancing the correct tone and featured such personal flourishes as always finding a role for favorite performers like Charles Napier and Roger Corman (for whom he started his career directing woman in prison films) as well as inserting his musical favorites either onto the soundtrack or into the films themselves (the Talking Heads concert film Stop Making Sense, the Feelies as the high school reunion band in Something Wild). The only bummer in that period was his first shot at a truly mainstream picture, the Goldie Hawn vehicle Swing Shift. Demme and Hawn clashed throughout the production and Hawn, being the more established player, won out and had the film editted to her whims, reshaping it from an ensemble piece to a star vehicle and removing its integrity in the process. You can read more about the Demme/Hawn feud here, I still haven't seen Swing Shift nor do I have any intentions to until Demme's director's cut is either released on DVD or I find a bootleg copy.

Unfortunately after the Oscar win, Demme's career, at least narrative wise, has been indistinctive, and frankly, uninteresting. He followed up Lambs with Philadelphia, a well meaning if chaste look at the devastation of AIDS. The film, which some say was Demme's mea culpa to the gay community for their furor over Lambs' serial killer Buffalo Bill's portrayal, is run of the mill Hollywood Award machinery whose main focus is not as much provocative visual storytelling as it is sending important messages while trying to get (and achieving) a big star, Tom Hanks, an Oscar. Demme followed it with the Oprah Winfrey vanity project, Beloved, a film I still have not seen. This decade, he's only directed two narrative features, both subpar remakes of 1960's thrillers (The Manchurian Candidate and the Charade reboot, The Truth About Charlie) whose only inventiveness is to recast African American actors in roles once played by caucasians.

That's not to say Demme hasn't made some personal films in the last fifteen plus years, they've just have been solely in the documentary field, Neil Young: Heart of Gold in particular is a beautiful elegiac piece, and I've missed his deft hand at narrative filmmaking. However the news out of the Toronto film festival is that Demme has triumphantly returned with the comedy-drama Rachel Getting Married (for a rave from The AV Club, click here) centering around a rehab prone woman (Anne Hathaway) returning home for her sister's wedding. I'll be honest to being a little nonplussed with what little of Hathaway's career I have seen, I found her the weakest link out of the four leads in Brokeback Mountain. Demme is a great director of women, and has helmed career highlight performances from the likes of Mary Steenburgen, Michelle Pfeiffer, Melanie Griffith and Jodie Foster, leading me to believe that if anyone can give her career a boost, it is he.

Here's the trailer:

Rachel Getting Married co-stars Debra Winger (a hearty welcome back for her as well) and TV on the Radio member Tunde Adebimpe and opens in limited release on October 3rd.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

YouTube Find of the Week: There's Gremlins in your DVD!

Gremlins, which combined director Joe Dante’s love of 1950’s monster movies with a subversive take on the small-town kid comes in contact with an otherworldly creature plot mechanics of Steven Spielberg’s E.T. (Spielberg probably wasn’t too bothered, he was an executive producer of the film) became along with Ghostbusters, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and Karate Kid, one of the big financial successes of the 1984 summer movie season aka the best summer ever to be an eight year old filmgoer. Naturally, Warner Brothers was desperate for a sequel. So desperate in fact that it eventually gave Dante free reign to create whatever he fancied just to continue the franchise.

The resulting film, Gremlins 2: The New Batch was an anarchistic, satirically comedic riff on the first film focusing more on the increasingly Looney Tunes inspired antics of the ever evolving Gremlins over both the human characters and the loveable (and more marketable) Mogwai, Gizmo. The studio was, of course, stunned. They enacted revenge upon the director by giving the sequel a kamikaze release date in the summer of 1990 opposite that year’s big tentpole release, Dick Tracy, sacrificing its earning potential to insure that the Warren Beatty project failed to have an opening weekend exceeding that of the Warner Brothers’ produced blockbuster of 1989, Batman.

For the few that actually saw and enjoyed The New Batch theatrically (I proudly count myself in that camp) one of the highlights was when the film “burns out” mid-scene. The film appears to bubble and burn and after a few moments of a blank white screen (apparently this prompted enough people to leave the theatre in complaint that many exhibitors gave viewers advanced warning), silhouetted Gremlins take command of the film creating hand puppets and various other havoc until urged to return the movie back to it’s normal state by none other than Hulk Hogan! For home video viewers, Dante recreated the scene with VHS fuzz and a warning from a dubbed John Wayne. On the DVD release, the theatrical version is featured with the VHS version included as a special feature.

Some clever person on YouTube has updated the gag, but for the DVD age. The maker of the video, Sacha Feiner, displays a creativity that Dante himself could appreciate, inserting Gremlins into movies including Batman, The Exorcist and Raiders of the Lost Ark. The video does go on a little too long (I haven’t performed an exact comparison, but it feels twice as long as the official gags) and it’s restricted by not having the actual puppets thus forcing the filmmaker to mash up footage from the two films. But the right spirit is there.


A week ago I commented that I have become hardened by the remake-mania proliferating Hollywood to the point of indifference. But I have to admit when the inevitable Gremlins remake using all CGI creatures and told straight-faced comes out, I will feel mighty depressed.

Monday, September 1, 2008

More Blogs About Buildings and Food (sans the Buildings Part)

This is a continuation from this post...

Again, I apologize in advance to any sensitive vegetarian/vegan readers...

Brisket and Sauteed Spinach

This takes about three hours to cook! Recommended only when cold outside (since your oven's on for the entire time) and you have little plans for the day other than reading the paper or watching movies and football.

Salmon with Tomatoes and Capers, Asparagus and Risotto

Risotto has become one of my favorite things to eat, however, making it is a long, arduous, monotonous and ultimately frustrating experience. In the hour or so it takes to perfect, I find myself running a gamut of emotions from anticipation to impatience to outright anger to acceptance that it won't be that good to ultimately triumph at taming thy beast.

Crepes (two varieties: one with berries, one with lemon juice), Turkey Sausage, and Espresso

Breakfast of Champions!

Well until next time, this is Chef Mortimer wishing you good eating.
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