A Full-Assed Recap of the Lackluster 87th Academy Awards

Birdman wins big, social activism storms the stage, and everybody loves Wes Anderson maybe a little bit more than Neil Patrick Harris.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise this year’s Oscars were just as forgettable as all the other ones. Sure, there were notable moments sporadically dotting the unforgivably long telecast, but they did little to balance out the perpetually underwhelming ceremony where Hollywood cronies get to pat themselves on the back for a job well done.

Neil Patrick Harris hosted this year, only to find himself losing the audience’s support less than halfway through the show. It didn’t help he had almost nothing to work with, aside from the usual cheesy jokes. Take into account his reputation as a quality Broadway performer and host, and seeing him standing mostly in one place was painful on almost a visceral level.

It was drizzling that day in LA, prompting several Brits to joke they had brought the weather with them. That soggy atmosphere crept inside as well, as Jack Black interrupted the opening musical act with a grumpy, quasi-meta reality check about Hollywood’s sad dependence on superhero franchises and reboots, prequels, and sequels.

Spirits stayed relatively muted, as social advocacy became a borderline intrusive theme during the ceremony. Everything from Alzheimer’s to women’s rights was brought up, which mostly felt like inactive activism. One bright note: Best Adapted Screenplay winner Graham Moore (The Imitation Game) revealed to the world he tried to kill himself at age sixteen because he felt weird and different, and pleaded to the teens who currently feel the same way to hold on and stay weird, because they would one day be on the same stage. That was great.

The In Memoriam tribute was visually beautiful, although Joan Rivers was notably absent. Also, Jennifer Hudson’s ensuing performance was bland. It would have been better if Tim McGraw had performed the emotional song “I’m Not Gonna Miss You” in that slot instead.

In terms of the awards, Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) and The Grand Budapest Hotel won the most, with both taking home four awards (albeit, Grand Budapest mostly took home technical awards, like Production Design and Costume Design, while Birdman won Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Cinematography). Whiplash did well, taking home three trophies, including Best Actor in a Supporting Role and Best Film Editing.

Aside from Graham Moore’s speech, the best speeches were probably Eddie Redmayne for Best Actor in a Leading Role (The Theory of Everything) and Pawel Pawlikowski for Best Foreign Language Film (Ida from Poland) – Redmayne for his hilarious attempt to reign in his shock and Pawlikowski for defiantly (in a good-humored way) refusing to let the orchestra play him off the stage.

Quick notes: Wes Anderson was profusely thanked by all the winners from The Grand Budapest Hotel in their speeches. His quirkiness is lovable. Julianne Moore was literally crying the whole show. I’m surprised she had any tears left when she won Best Actress in a Leading Role (Still Alice). I didn’t notice any massive snubs in the nominations, aside from The LEGO Movie for Best Animated Feature and Interstellar for dang near everything.

In show business, being bad is bad, but being forgettable might be the worst thing that can happen. The 87th Academy Awards weren’t good, but they weren’t a disaster either. It was an oatmeal outing, consisting of the same formulaic nonsense that encapsulates every awards broadcast. Combine that with the insane number of commercial breaks, and I’m not sure there’s a person (or duo) out there who could successfully host such a lethargic four hours. Not even Tina Fey and Amy Poehler!

Saul Goodman, Zombies, “True Detective” in Paddy’s Pub, and More TV Happenings

A lot of big TV stuff has happened lately, from Better Call Saul‘s series premiere to It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia‘s transcendent episode, “Charlie Work.” Let’s go through it, one at a time.

Better Call Saul

The highly anticipated spinoff of Breaking Bad premiered last Sunday, followed by another episode the next day. Two things immediately became crystal clear within fifteen minutes: Better Call Saul is no joke. It’s a fresh perspective on the Breaking Bad universe, led by the always charismatic Bob Odenkirk as Jimmy McGill, the attorney who hasn’t realized his inner Saul Goodman yet.

While Better Call Saul is different, there’s no mistaking the shadow of Breaking Bad looming over it. Indeed, there’s something unmistakably familiar about Better Call Saul, from the cinematography (especially unique camera angles, like the second episode beginning with an extremely close shot of red bell peppers being chopped up) to the relentless character development, where every single minute of the show is put to efficient use in furthering the story in some way.

In terms of the future, the question isn’t whether Better Call Saul will be good. The real question is this: will it ever be as good as Breaking Bad?

Who knows. Maybe it will end up being the Frasier to Breaking Bad‘s Cheers.

The Walking Dead

For years, I’ve been one of The Walking Dead‘s biggest critics, citing its poor attempts at character development, befuddling plot sequences, and a general reliance on the gimmick of being a zombie apocalypse show.

After enduring almost three seasons of underachieving television, I finally walked away, satisfied in my assessment that it was the most overrated show in history. Then, after the fourth season started, I heard rumors through the grapevine that the show had inexplicably flipped some kind of switch.

It was smart. It was tense. It was… good. You know what? Those people ended up being right. I started watching the fourth season and immediately noticed how much smarter the characters were, and how their decision usually ended up being the right one – even if it led to seemingly unethical actions.

A show that was only borderline interesting during fight scenes started to balance it out, to the point where the scenes with pure dialogue became just as interesting as seeing zombies get stabbed in the head.

Even Carl became bearable. Speaking of Carl, there’s a moment near the end of the fourth season where he almost gets raped while Rick and Michonne are held at gunpoint and Daryl is getting the shit kicked out of him.

Rick takes matters into his own hands, literally biting the main bad guy’s throat out and savagely stabbing the unsuccessful rapist over and over and over and over and over and over again in the gut while the rest of the group watches with a mixture of absolute horror and justified vindication.

It was disturbing. It was gory. It was… highly satisfying. Watching Rick defend his son with such animalistic and primal instincts was one of the best parts of that season. It was also the defining moment of my transformation from The Walking Dead hater to The Walking Dead advocate.

I mean, don’t you remember the good old days when Carl was an annoying little bitch and you were practically begging a zombie to bite the kid’s carotid? Now I was just as amped up as Rick to see Carl turned over on the grass, helplessly wriggling like a worm cut in half.

I’m currently on season five, episode six, which means I’m a little behind. The second half of the season started last Sunday, and I don’t know how that went. I did hear one of our beloved characters passed away, which is unfortunate.

Here’s to The Walking Dead and a surprise resurrection after three seasons.

P.S. I love you, Maggie. <3<3<3<3<3

It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia

Last week, there was an episode revolving around, um,  cream and pies.

Two weeks ago, there was an episode that transcended anything the Gang has ever done. Did they accidentally fire a nuke at North Korea? Did they finally kill Rickety Cricket? Did Dennis and Dee inexplicably enter an incestuous relationship?

No. No, none of those things happened.

“Charlie Work” was about a surprise health inspection of Paddy’s Pub, with Dennis, Dee, Mac, and Frank brushing off the impending death sentence as nothing while they attempt to pull off a scam involving the contamination of frozen steaks with (living) chickens.

Charlie, on the other hand, is known for doing all the manual labor in the bar. He’s especially adept at killing rats, as we all know. “Charlie Work” is one of those episodes where the token idiot character (well, the Gang as a whole leaves a lot to be desired) suddenly ends up being the smart one.

Here, Charlie seamlessly navigates between assisting the Gang with their heinous plot while overseeing the health inspector’s movements to ensure everything doesn’t come crashing down like the show’s general likeability over the past few seasons.

Whoa, that ambush came out of nowhere! Well let me explain, jeez: It’s Always Sunny is in its tenth season. It’s getting old. Seriously. Sometimes, the Gang acts so dumb, I wince and look away. It’s especially searing when Charlie acts like a moron. I mean, these people are technically adults!

It’s the same kind of vapid energy that sometimes pokes its head out in shows like Fawlty Towers. There’s something sadistic about watching a bunch of people (or just one, in Fawlty Towers‘ case) fail miserably at something, especially if it’s because of a lack of communication and/or a continuous run of bad timing. In It’s Always Sunny, that’s a common occurrence.

For me, that’s why “Charlie Work” was so magnificent. Not only was it a technical marvel (more on that in a second), but it was one of those rare moments where the Gang actually did something right and accomplished their mission.

Perhaps more importantly, the episode was basically one long tracking shot, similar to that one scene from True Detective, or the work done by cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki in films like Children of Men, Gravity, and Birdman. Birdman, of course, is especially notable because it’s an entire movie that is composed of a handful of tracking shots edited to look like one. Just amazing.

Even Dennis and his pathetic Matthew McConaughey impression was great, mostly because it told me the episode was inspired by True Detective, and not Birdman as I had initially thought. Or, just maybe, it was inspired by both.

More TV Happenings

  • Jon Stewart surprised his audience and the nation when he announced his plans to retire from The Daily Show. It has been a while since I’ve watched an episode from beginning to end, but he’ll still be missed because of his humor and his intelligence. Poor Comedy Central. Colbert. John Oliver. Now Stewart.
  • Parks and Recreation‘s final season is steadily marching towards the finish line and the season’s episodes have been gooey in all the right ways. My only regret is joining the bandwagon last year, in the midst of a massive Netflix binge.
  • Nobody cares about the Grammys.

Madden NFL Mobile: EA’s Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Game

Okay, so maybe Madden NFL Mobile isn’t THAT bad. But after seven months of rollercoaster emotions, it’s time to put some thoughts down on digital paper.

NOTE: THIS IS LAST YEAR’S GAME. FOR THIS YEAR’S (2015-2016), CLICK HERE.

This is going to be a series of bullet points showcasing thoughts and observations in some type of vague order (it makes sense if you squint hard enough!). Basically, it’s a lame excuse for me to lazily ignore transition sentences.

  • Sports games are, generally speaking, the most difficult to integrate into mobile devices for a variety of reasons. Think about the controls: how do you include all the possible moves a basketball player, for example, can do on offense (like all the different dribble moves and post moves)? That applies to football as well, and EA made it extremely simple for players, with an analog stick for movement and a do-it-all button that, well, does everything from juking to increasing the probability of an interception if you’re on defense and you swipe upwards when prompted. Great work.
  • While Madden Mobile does utilize the dreaded energy/stamina system, I can’t criticize EA too much for it considering the system is basically the foundation for all mobile games (another notable example is Kim Kardashian: Hollywood). What makes this game special is the Auction House. It’s a lot of fun checking out all the players and collectibles, and it can be fun to take part in some intense bidding wars. Plus, I think the stamina usage is fairly reasonable. I’m maxed out at level 50 and I get thirty stamina points. At this point, that covers six regular season games, or approximately ten mini-games (most mini-games are three or four stamina points). Not bad, considering the aforementioned playability and exploration you can do when you’re waiting for your stamina to recharge.
  • The Auction House is really addicting, especially if you know how to abuse the system – and other Madden Mobile players. The image at the very top is my defensive lineup and you’ll notice some pretty great athletes. 99 Richard Sherman was actually a reward for completing the Domination set (basically the acquisition of twenty collectible cards from the most difficult mini-games). 96 JJ Watt was the ultimate prize from the Halloween set. I bought (and by “bought” I mean Madden coins, not real money; I have not and will not ever spend real money on this game) the rest for below market value. 99 Jack Lambert is currently selling for 500K to four million coins. I got him for 86K bahaha. You get the idea. The key is searching for specific ratings and specific positions at egregiously low prices (warning: this is extremely time-consuming because a lot of people do what I do). Because I’ve played so long, I’m looking for players that are all rated in the high nineties. For the most part, if you buy someone that’s 97-99 for under 300K, that’s a bargain and you can resell that player for at least 400K. Just today, I bought 98 Deion Branch for 285K and resold him for 500K.

 

  • For whatever reason, you can’t call audibles and you can’t scramble with the quarterback. Yet, the computer can (and will) do it whenever it feels like. There are also a disconcerting lack of penalties, with the benefactor always being the computer (of course). A lot of people have been complaining about that and EA hasn’t fixed it. Typical.
  • One of the biggest problems with Madden Mobile is its continuous network/connection conundrum. While I’ve only rarely experienced it, a lot of players have been reporting for the past seven months that they can’t play the game or they’ll get kicked out of the Auction House at the worst time (that, I’ve experienced). Lately, there’s also been some type of delay when a person makes a bid in the Auction House. It doesn’t matter if they win or lose – their coins or player will either never show up or show up after around five minutes. That’s stressful!
  • Unless you’re truly shitty at this game, you’ll be winning Super Bowls with ease. There’s a catch though: your team needs to be rated at least ten points higher than the computer for you to have a chance at winning after the third season. Also, if you reel off a five-game win streak, the next game will literally be impossible to win (in November, my 93 team lost to the 79 Bucs because of that fucking ridiculous quirk). Do you know what that means? You need to strategically pick the games you want to lose. Ideally, you would lose your Week 15 or Week 17 game so you can face the easier computer in the playoffs. Trust me: losing to a vastly inferior opponent will have you cursing up a storm and possibly physically assaulting nearby objects. It fucking sucks.
Just so you know: 99 Richard Sherman gives every player +5 Awareness so some players have better overall ratings here than in reality.

Just so you know: 99 Richard Sherman gives every player +5 Awareness so some players have better overall ratings in my lineups than they do in a vacuum.

  • A lot of people pay real money in this game and I think they might legitimately be mental. Madden Bucks are the “special” currency here and the price is through the freaking roof. You can use them to purchase bundles and packs which is fine and all, but I hope people realize how much money they’re doling out for a mobile game. Right now, most of the packs cost around 2,000 Madden Bucks. That’s $19.99. There was a point when certain packs were at least 7,000 Madden Bucks… and 12,000 Madden Bucks is equivalent to $99.99! I mean, do the math. That’s nucking futs.
  • There are a lot of negatives to this game. There really are. But it also happens to be one of the most enjoyable games out there, with real meat behind it. Like I said before, I’ve been playing this game for seven months. It has real staying power, unlike the vast majority of mobile games out there. You just need to be patient (or rich, if you want to both spend copious amounts of money and feed EA’s evil belly).
Last note: special teams is pretty useless, in terms of kickoff and punt returns. Nobody on your team can block and you're lucky if you return the ball even fifteen yards.

Last note: your players are useless in terms of kickoff and punt returns. Nobody on your team can block and you’re lucky if you return the ball even fifteen yards.

Click here for an update on my roster and more problems with the game!