Pursuit of Crappiness podcast Episode 5: Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Check out that spread!
Check out that spread!

Roger Ebert some years ago did a series of reviews of movies he had seen before, but decided to revisit given their general stature or importance to him. He called this series “Great Movies.”

On some subconscious level, I think this was the general area I was trying to slap this particular baseball (my podcast) into … find that sweet spot of the films that matter to people and try to get a solid double out of it. There’s no minimum requirement here in terms of Oscar nods or what have you, but I did want to find the films that people care about … and while doing this, I leave open the possibility that this could well morph into something else. My Ichiro-like metaphor is meant to be “doubly” apt in this way … the sweet spot is subject to change, and therefore so am I.

That said, “Star Wars” is in many ways the perfect fit for The Pursuit of Crappiness, a culturally relevant collection of films with wide critical and public acceptance. Moreover, there’s a lot to digest in these movies and several different directions a conversation can go.

To celebrate the blu ray and digital release of “The Force Awakens,” the seventh film in the series (eighth if you include the somewhat maligned “Clone Wars” animated feature), I got together a bigger group than normal to discuss the film (and eat delicious goodies put together by my wife, Cait). For this episode, I was joined by Twitter personality Alfredo Narvaez, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune reporter Michelle Hunter, and Dash Rip Rock drummer Kyle Melancon — three big fans of the new film and of “Star Wars” in general.

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Pursuit of Crappiness podcast Episode 4: Spotlight

“Spotlight” is an Oscar-winning film about journalism, about spiritualism, about the power of institutions, and about priests molesting children.

That least piece of the equation might be enough to turn people away, but I can tell you two things that might change your mind if you’ve been delaying seeing the movie:

1. This movie doesn’t actually show any of these acts, nor does it very much “hint” at them with visual tricks like closed doors, creepy touches, etc. The victims in the film are largely adults, dealing with the abuse that occurred years prior. In short, the content of the film is itself digestible.

2. The actors (mostly) keep their performances reserved, while the writing and direction are intelligent in their handling of such a sensitive topic. The characters here are not cartoons, nor is the film particularly “preachy” in its intentions. It’s more concerned with telling a story, and doing it respectfully.

That the film succeeds in these matters is to its credit and makes it a worthwhile winner of 2015’s best picture (and a movie I would recommend to anyone).

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Pursuit of Crappiness podcast Episode 3: Mad Max: Fury Road

“Mad Max: Fury Road” is the kind of spectacle that blows up your brain (figuratively) and leaves you an exhausted husk, ready for a nice relaxing stack of tax forms. There’s little patience left for stimuli in the wake of such a film … and this is why it might be easy to dismiss it as a vacuous joyride with little messaging of importance beneath the glossy, absurd exterior.

Indeed, the film is shot gloriously. The visuals are often striking, many times disturbing or graphic, and the pace of the film is completely manic. So it’s a difficult film to process, even on the most basic of “Did I like it?” levels.

On the other hand, I’m not going to sit here and tell you that the environmental messaging is not obvious in retrospect, and I’m likewise not going to tell you that the themes invoking feminism are hidden purposefully. They’re right there, plain as day.  But the visceral thrills certainly distract.

This is a movie that grows in importance the longer you think on it.

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Pursuit of Crappiness podcast Episode 2: Oscars 2016

We take a crack at the 2016 Academy Awards in this week’s podcast on “The Pursuit of Crappiness,” as I’m once again joined by my wife, Cait, and this week we welcome good friend Sherri Tarr.

Buckle up for Episode No. 2, in which we offer differing opinions on the general worthiness of “Mad Max: Fury Road,” the performances of the year which sometimes include Brie Larson and sometimes don’t, Chris Rock’s helming of the spectacle that is an awards show when it is almost entirely white, and our own individual picks for best film of the year (Spoiler: we all liked “Spotlight”).

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Pursuit of Crappiness podcast Episode 1: The Third Man

Today I launch my first ever podcast, “The Pursuit of Crappiness,” a (hopefully weekly) pop culture show focusing on movies in particular. Here you’ll hear fans of movies wax poetic about their favorite films, or just films of general importance, popularity, or critical acclaim.

Or we’ll wing it and depart from that completely. We have the freedom to do what we want, woohoo!

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Some thoughts on movies

With the change in seasons comes the apparent change in priorities, with my precious, few available minutes (or lol hours) being dedicated to something other than sports.  This isn’t always the case in the winter, mind you, but the Pelicans and Kansas State have been highly accommodating by finding special ways to lose at the game of basketball.  There are few things more pathetic than losing basketball, and since I have become an authority on the subject by surviving the Jim Wooldridge/Tom Asbury era at K-State, I already feel fully qualified and don’t need to spend a whole lot more time dedicated to it.

Also, Mardi Gras is over and done with.  So it’s movie time, especially with the Oscars right around the corner.

I thought I’d share some general thoughts about some of the flicks I’ve seen recently, while also teasing that I might be debuting a podcast on the subject in the coming weeks.  It’s something I’ve toyed around with doing for some time, and since I’d like to keep the blog from going completely nihilist thanks to my hatred of basketball mismanagement, I thought, hey, let me produce some content that might actually make me smile, not want to flush my own head down a toilet.

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We’ve got a Top 4 in the Achievement Index

This isn’t officially official per se, since the updated F/+ should impact things slightly, but I wanted to go ahead and release the updated Achievement Index in advance of the CFB Playoff pairings being revealed Sunday.

To cut to the chase, the Top 4 here looks like this: Alabama (1) vs. Stanford (4) and Clemson (2) vs. Michigan State (3).

Yeah, about Oklahoma…

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Achievement Index with one week left: Let’s get weird

Well, it has the benefit of being different.

After 12 weeks, I had become acutely aware that the Achievement Index was doing some things well and some things … less well.  So adjustments have once again been made, and the results are kind of weird.

(This is not all that bad since the original results were kind of weird as well.)

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Iowa, Alabama join the Achievement Index Top 4

Ohio State’s dramatic home loss to Michigan State Saturday night opened the door for any top team not named the Buckeyes so far as a possible playoff berth is concerned (and really, OSU isn’t out of it either).  The Buckeyes had established a stranglehold on a Top 4 spot in the actual CFB Playoff rankings and a similarly firm grip on a first tier ranking in the Achievement Index. A putrid offensive performance, fully taken advantage of by Sparty, resulted in a loss that makes these last couple of weeks so much more interesting.

In this space, Sparty’s upset combined with Oklahoma State’s home loss to Baylor actually opened up two slots in the Top 4.  The primary beneficiaries, at least for this week, were Iowa and Alabama.

The Hawkeyes are now the de facto Big 10 representative by virtue of their undefeated record, but they will of course have to win two more games to make that stick.  Michigan State, Ohio State and Michigan are all lurking about, ready to pounce if Iowa slips, and certainly that is a plausible scenario with the playoff committee, should they decide that the Big 10 winner is a worthy participant in the playoff.  Here it’s not so clear as that, as each team needs help from the teams they’ve already faced.  Can Nebraska boost its own F/+ rating enough to give Sparty a boost as well?  Will Michigan’s Utah loss continue to look acceptable? These are the sorts of questions that won’t be answered until the regular season is complete.

The situation in the SEC, by comparison, is crystal clear.  Alabama is the best team there, but Florida, with one loss, can force its way into the playoff by defeating the Crimson Tide.  That’s a problem, however, as the Gators currently look barely capable of defeating FAU, let alone ‘Bama.  Still, it’s cut and dried: Alabama has by now done enough to overcome its home loss, and Florida’s resume is nearly as impressive and its own path is obvious.

The Big 12 is as insane as one might expect. Oklahoma State has emerged as the best of the bunch, because the Cowboys have the “best” loss of the group, to Baylor (who is well liked by the efficiency rankings).  Common wisdom tells us the Sooners have the best team and the best resume, and well, common wisdom is often pretty useless. So naturally the playoff committee will take it and run with it.

(This is where I roll my eyes.)

Still, the Sooners are under-ranked here … what they need is Texas to transform itself into a middling team, rather than an atrocious one.  Otherwise, I am perfectly fine with them being penalized for that loss.

But anyway, right now I’ve got it Notre Dame (1) vs. Alabama (4), and Clemson (2) vs. Iowa (3).  The Big 12 is left out, the Pac 12 is left out, and Notre Dame is left laughing all the way to the bank,

It’s a happy ending for everyone!

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Achievement Index likes Clemson this week

The College Football Playoff Committee has a Top 4, in order, of Clemson, Alabama, Ohio State and Notre Dame.

The Achievement Index’s Top 4 is Clemson, Ohio State, Notre Dame and Oklahoma State.

That isn’t far off, and we both have rewarded the Tigers for their performance to date.  Where we differ is Alabama vs. Oklahoma State, and well, look at the names on the jerseys to explain that one.

Oh sure, you could argue that Alabama has played a tougher schedule (true) and you could also argue against the Cowboys based on margin of victory/general prettiness (also true).  But I’ve made my own feelings on this clear: The Tide is getting a pass for a home loss to a three-loss team (Ole Miss).  No need to belabor it.  And truth be told, the Tide is surging up my rankings in a major way.  In a couple of weeks, Alabama might actually deserve that Top 4 spot … it’s still hard to project.

Anyway, I can tell you right now who would have the biggest gripe in my system, and it isn’t Alabama…

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