Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Thank You, Gord

Reprinted from May 2016....


It was a rainy Sunday afternoon, both wet and humid enough to irritate the hundreds/thousand-plus people in attendance at the 2014 Field Trip festival since there is precious little tree cover at Fort York.  As much romance as there is in the idea of musical festivals being a muddy nirvana, you never want to actually experience it.  Still, the conditions didn't matter, since the main stage featured none other than the Sadies (a pretty big name in their own right) and Gord Downie, fronting the band for a tour to promote an album collaboration.

The cool thing about solo or side projects for members of major bands is that it usually makes them more accessible.  The Tragically Hip, of course, are probably too big for Field Trip; while they're a pretty old-school touring band that doesn't put on airs, their tours are more apt to take them to the ACC or Downsview whenever they're through Toronto.  (Realistically, the Hip could likely sell out a one-off Rogers Centre show if they wished.)  Downie the solo artist, however, was right there in the muck and the mire of Field Trip with all the other acts on the bill, like he was just another up-and-comer act or mid-tier career musician getting a gig in a fairly anonymous spot on the bill.

The great thing about Downie is that his casual performing style fits right into a laid-back festival atmosphere, yet it was also pretty apparent that he was a major cut above anyone else present.  Some frontmen just have "it."  His showmanship and charisma was off the charts.  Gord's main move that day seemed to be kind of mock rock star moves, like faux-Elvis hip swivels or pointing and smiling at literally everyone within his eye line.  He was both taking it easy and blowing everyone away; even 80% Downie was stealing the show.  I'm unfamiliar with the Sadies' music (both their old stuff and the album being promoted) yet maybe that's the best sign that a live act is really on fire.  It's one thing to win a crowd when it's diehards who know all your standards, yet quite another to win a crowd that's probably mostly comprised of casuals or non-fans like me.

I've never had the pleasure of seeing the Hip live when Downie is at full power, though of course, that may be in question given that Downie is fighting terminal brain cancer.  I have little doubt that Downie wouldn't be planning concerts with the Hip this summer if he didn't think he could perform at full strength, and this is unquestionably going to be an absolute emotional roller-coaster of a tour.  Like virtually every Canadian of my generation, the Hip have been a major part of my musical life.  Downie is widely cited as possibly the best frontman and lyricist in Canadian music history, though I'd go one step further and rank him against the best from any country.  If you have a chance to see the Hip in concert one more time, take that opportunity to experience the best at his best.   

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Random Nonsense

Happy Sudden Departure Day!  (Well, not ‘happy’ if you’re Nora Durst.)


I often post whenever a favourite band of mine releases a new single, though you may notice I didn’t do so when the Killers unleashed “The Man” upon the world.  No big mystery why — it’s a pretty weak song.  Sadly, the rest of their Wonderful Wonderful album is similarly uninteresting.  It’d need to give it a couple more listens to give a truly fair assessment, but for now, I’m not sure there’s even a single track that could track the Killers’ top thirty-seven. 

Unfortunately, the Killers seem to be abandoning their pop hook-laden style in favour of more soundscape-ish type stuff.  “The Man” is the only song on the record with a big fat hook, though since that hook is missing sharpness, perhaps that’s a sign that the band doesn’t have their classic sound in them anymore.  There was a five-year hiatus between albums, so it’s also possible that the Killers as a whole don’t have much oomph as a creative collaboration anymore.  This sounds a bit grim to say that a band is washed up, though given that the Killers’ entire vibe has been “sounds like a semi-washed up lounge band in a mostly-empty Vegas saloon, except they play keyboard rock,” it could be a fitting end?


Imagine going on the Oregon Trail and dying of something other than dysentery.  What a waste.


Since Kumail Nanjiani is hosting SNL this weekend, it seems appropriate to feature his recent “Clueless Gamer” appearance on Conan.  I’ve got to disagree with Conan on this one — the character should have Kumail’s voice.  If you’re going to the trouble to cast a well-known actor to do comedic voice work, it only makes sense to use his actual voice, right?


Two recent SNL observations….

* the papyrus font sketch was nothing special.  Not sure why the internet suddenly fell in love with it

* new cast member Heidi Gardner hasn’t really had a breakout yet (fair enough, it’s only been two episodes) but she did have a weirdly good acting moment.  To recap: the sketch was a spoof of daytime talk shows, with Heidi playing an angry teen, Aidy Bryant playing her distraught mother and Kenan “Fifteen Seasons!” Thompson playing the so-called drill sergeant type of character often see in such shows, brought on to straighten the teen out with some boot camp discipline.  The punch line is that he mentions something about being her daddy, and Heidi and Aidy then wholeheartedly embrace this as a legitimate offer to become the father. 

Pretty thin last-sketch-of-the-night premise, whatever, yet it did contain Heidi’s character talking about how she could now tell people “that’s my dad!”  It was said with such pride in her voice that it added a minor tragic twist to this goofy sketch, as this white-trash character was so desperate for a father figure in her life and she was inevitably going to be let down again when (or if?) this situation was eventually sorted out.  In short, when Heidi Gardner wins an Oscar in 15 years, don’t be surprised.


I’m not going to see The Snowman since it looks either very silly or very generic, so my theory is that the killer is actually a woman.  See, the twist here is that the name is both a reference to their snow-themed killings and the gender.  As in, not pronounced “Snowman” but removing the ‘it’ from “it’s no man.”

Man, I should write horror movies.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Pwnage, Renaissance-Style

Few figures in history have been as hilariously and thoroughly humiliated for all time as Biagio da Cesena, who served as Papal Master Of Ceremonies under four Popes in the 16th century.

A late-night dive down the Wikipedia hole led me to an exploration of classic artwork, and Michelangelo’s The Last Judgement.  This led to my discovery of Biagio Martinelli, the pride (or shame, as it turned out?) of Cesena, whose own Wiki page consists largely of this anecdote.  Imagine having one’s life summed up in so inglorious a fashion…

“After the completion of The Last Judgment da Cesena said of the fresco, "it was mostly disgraceful that in so sacred a place there should have been depicted all those nude figures, exposing themselves so shamefully". Da Cesena went on to say the painting was more suitable "for the public baths and taverns" than a Papal chapel. In response, Michelangelo worked Cesena's face into the scene as Minos, judge of the underworld (far bottom-right corner of the painting) with donkey ears (i.e. indicating foolishness), while his nudity is covered by a coiled snake. It was widely said that when Cesena complained to the Pope, the pontiff joked that his jurisdiction did not extend to hell and the portrait would have to remain.”

The Pope in question was Paul III, by the way.  For someone who didn’t have any say in the fiery pits of hell, Paul III sure knew a thing or two about sick burns.  Still, Paul III couldn’t compare to the all-time funniest Pope, who tops the humour rankings on name alone.

I feel like countless prudish, unctuous and stuck-up characters in literary history — everyone from Red Dwarf’s Arnold Rimmer to Shakespeare’s Malvolio — owe a debt to Biagio da Cesena as their true-life inspiration for perfect comeuppance.  The moral of the story is, don’t mess with Michelangelo.  In fact, the creators of the Ninja Turtles should’ve named Vernon Fenwick (April O’Neil’s obnoxious reporter co-worker) something like “Vernon Biagio” or something as a shoutout to someone else that was often made to look silly by a Michelangelo. 

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Meet Your Second Wife

When it comes to YouTube, SNL only makes some sketches available to international viewers a couple of years after airing.  So now, I am finally able to post the single funniest sketch of the 2015-16 season and one of the funnier sketches of recent memory.  This was absolutely savage, big belly laughs on virtually every fact, it's unfortunate that the title is right there in the video (and atop my post!) since the reveal of the game show's name is one of the very best moments.  It gets even funnier if you imagine Will Arnett just sinking into a couch in a full-body cringe while watching.

Thursday, October 05, 2017

Drunken Master

I recently watched ‘Drunken Master’ and have some thoughts….

* The next time I’m in a “best athlete ever” debate, I’m going to mention Jackie Chan.  I don’t actually believe this (the best athlete ever is Andre “Red Light” Racicot), but man, Chan in his prime was just unreal.  I’d only seen middle-aged Jackie Chan from his North American movies,  so I couldn’t have been more impressed at seeing Vintage Jackie for the first time.

* Do you like action scenes?  There are at least 20 kung fu fights over a 90-minute runtime!  Look no further than Drunken Master for your action movie needs!

* Do you like live-action cartoons?  That’s basically the movie, given Jackie’s comedic fighting style.  At one point he actually farts in an opponent’s face, then tosses him face-first into a pile of feces that just happens to be nearby.  Imagine a violent Adam Sandler…or, wait, I remember the Bob Barker incident.  Okay, a MORE violent Adam Sandler.

* But Jackie is no Bugs Bunny omnipotent type.  He spends a good half of the movie getting thoroughly beaten up and humiliated by any number of opponents, including a) his own aunt, b) the drunken master himself and c) a gang of, I guess, really aggressive waiters and bouncers at a local restaurant?  Some explanation on the latter…Chan tries to scheme his way out of paying for a meal, which leads to at least a half-dozen guys trying to beat him down.  They win via sheer numbers, and punish Jackie by repeatedly punching him in the stomach to make him vomit up the food he stole.  Good lord!  On a related note, this is also how they deal with shoplifters at Arby’s.  The best part is that Jackie is trying to skip out of a meal that costs a grand total of $1.05.  I’m shocked the restaurant owner can afford to hire so many goons with such rock-bottom prices.

* The plot, as it were, is that Jackie is a cocky young martial artist and the son of a great kung fu master.  Despite his skills, Jackie is definitely in need of some humbling, so his father arranges for him to be taught by an eccentric old-timer who is an expert in the art of “drunken fighting,” which is essentially just trying to be as unpredictable and seemingly off-balance as possible (as if you’re drunk) so your opponent can’t predict your next move.  Spoiler alert — things work out for the best for Jackie, though if the father wanted his son to learn truly advanced kung fu from a master, why not just send Jackie to his aunt?  She seems to be at least tied for first place in the ‘biggest badass in the movie’ standings.  Jackie does eventually win the final fight by adopting a so-called “feminine” style, so maybe that’s a nod to Auntie Wong’s mastery.

* In classic Spider-Man fashion, the main villain (Thunderleg) bests Jackie easily in their first meeting.  Jackie is drying his pants off over a fire when they first encounter each other, and after Thunderleg wins the fight, he adds insult to injury by burning Jackie’s pants up in the flames.  Jackie Chan recently received an honorary Oscar for his incredible contributions to international cinema, though I’d argue he should’ve received an actual Oscar for his emotional response to watching his pants get burned.  Who won Best Actor in 1978, Jon Voight?  Please.  Sure, Voight had to capture the physical and emotional pain of a Vietnam veteran, but does that compare to the torment of watching one’s own pants burned in front of one?!  I think not!    

* Thunderleg is the big bad, though there is a very notable minor villain with the name of “Rat, the Iron-Headed Bullet.”  This fellow’s big move is to just lower his (admittedly hard) head and run at people.  It’s a pretty great gimmick for a ‘little bad,’ sort of like how every opponent in Punch-Out has a specific strength that you have to stay away from. 

* I figure this was due to some creative dubbing rather than the original screenplay, but there are some A+ insults in the dialogue.  After the soaking-wet Jackie sasses Thunderleg, the villain responds with “a big mouth on a wet ass.”  I mean, Jackie is indeed drenched and his character is indeed a big-mouth….but geez, Thunderleg, that’s a Tobias Bluth-level example of trash talk.  Later in the film, after Thunderleg insults Jackie’s father, Jackie retorts with “You watch out, or you’ll have a body with no ass.”  Good lord, what kind of martial art is so destructive that it can somehow remove someone’s hindquarters and yet still leave the body functioning?  Or, was Jackie’s point that he’d ‘remove’ the ass in the sense of sticking something where the sun don’t shine?  So many unanswered questions, I may need to watch Drunken Master 2.

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

NHL/NBA Predictions

A new hockey season is upon us, and for the first time in well over a decade, I have expectations.  Could the Maple Leafs actually take another step forward this year, or am I (and Leafs Nation as a whole) setting ourselves up for disappointment?  This is still a young and ostensibly rebuilding team, don't forget.  A step backwards wouldn't be a shock.  To their credit, the Leafs front office didn't go nuts with "win now" signings or anything, since Patrick Marleau isn't exactly the last piece of the puzzle at his advanced age of *checks Wikipedia* 72 years old.

My predictions!

East: Penguins, Capitals, Rangers, Blue Jackets......Canadiens, Lightning, Maple Leafs, Panthers
West: Stars, Predators, Blackhawks, Jets, Wild.....Ducks, Oilers, Sharks

Stanley Cup Finals: Ducks over Rangers


While I'm here, let's get the NBA picks out of the way as well, unless some other major superstars switches teams in the next month.  Also, because it's pretty obvious that Golden State is going to win the title again.

East Conference: Celtics, Wizards, Cavaliers, Bucks, Raptors, Heat, Hawks, Pistons
West Conference: Warriors, Thunder, Rockets, Spurs, Trail Blazers, Clippers, Nuggets, Timberwolves

NBA Finals: Warriors over Celtics

Saturday, September 30, 2017

The Alterna-Emmys

Pretty good regular Emmys this year, with a solid slate of winning shows and performance, plus some long-overlooked actors (Elisabeth Moss, Ann Dowd, Donald Glover) finally getting some Emmy glory.  But still, no matter how good the actual show did, it wasn’t quite up to my sky-high standards!  Behold the alterna-Emmys! 

I realize that my list of the year’s best shows may have spoiled by Best Drama and Best Comedy picks, but whatever.  The Leftovers was just an astonishing season of television, one that will be talked about for years to come, or at least whenever anyone discusses series that were hidden gems.  New Girl just continues to click away on all cylinders year after year in a post-hype classic kind of way.  It may have been responsible for my single-biggest laugh of the entire year, with the revelation of Schmidt’s real name.  It was a joke six years in the making and yet it was both absolutely clever and a semi-twist that nobody saw coming. 

The performances!  You’ll noticed I’ve just gone and mushed the regular series and the limited series together in some lovely melange — it’s all a level playing field here at the alterna-Emmys.

Andre Braugher/Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Tituss Burgess/Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Ty Burrell/Modern Family, Ted Danson/The Good Place, Ken Hall/People Of Earth, Lamorne Morris/New Girl
WINNER: Tituss Burgess

I should point out the nonsensical actual Emmy given to Alec Baldwin in this category, since a) it was based on a single impression and b) he’s not actually in the SNL cast.  I realize that Baldwin is more associated with Saturday Night Live than most full-time cast members in the show’s history, yet it’s still pretty weird that he has an Emmy for his SNL work and nobody else on the show save Kate McKinnon has won.  (Though the concept of SNL players being nominated in the supporting category is still a fairly new one for the Emmys, admittedly.)  That being said, if you can win Emmys for a single SNL character, then Tom Hanks as David S. Pumpkins was completely s. robbed! 

Anyway, whatever, Baldwin’s win was pretty absurd given the much better work done by literally everyone else nominated, not to mention my alterna-picks.  Tituss gets the nod in a close call since, as I said last year, he and Ellie Kemper do such incredibly great work in carrying this show that I feel he has the highest WAR of anyone in the category.  Like, as great as, say, Braugher or Danson are, there are probably a few other actors that could play those roles just as well.  Admittedly this is kind of an unfair standard given that the role of Titus was literally written for Tituss himself, but still, he’s one of a kind.

Donna Lynne Champlin/Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Ana Gasteyer/People Of Earth, Carol Kane/Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Kate McKinnon/Saturday Night Live, Alice Wetterlund/People Of Earth
WINNER: Donna Lynne Champlin

Aside from Darryl and White Josh, there is no relationship on CExG that I’m remotely as invested in as Rebecca and Paula.  It broke my heart to see them at odds even for a few episodes this past season, and between that sorta-feud and Paula’s separation from her husband, DLC had a lot of dramatic beats to work with on top of being hilarious.  As for the other nominees, shoutout to the Kimmy Schmidt writers for finally giving Kane an interesting story to work with!  The show wasn’t entirely an Ellie-and-Tituss two-hander this year! 

Anthony Anderson/Black-ish, Aziz Ansari/Master Of None, Hank Azaria/Brockmire
WINNER: Hank Azaria

Azure has an admittedly large advantage in the category since he has the benefit of “the Brockmire Voice,” which automatically makes anything he says hilarious.  He’s been using this voice dating back to his Simpsons days and the legendary “whitey whackers” scene that is notable in my personal circles for being my friend Sarah’s favourite Simpsons scene ever.  It literally reduces her to laughing tears no matter how many times she sees it.  Black day for baseball!

Rachel Bloom/Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Zooey Deschanel/New Girl, Ellie Kemper/Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Julia Louis-Dreyfus/Veep, Amanda Peet/Brockmire, Tracee Ellis Ross/Black-ish
WINNER: Rachel Bloom

Another loaded category, though not one loaded enough that I feel obligated to omit JLD even though I don’t watch Veep anymore.  That’s right — she’s THAT good that I can still nominate her since I just assume she’s still great.  Legend.  Anyway, Bloom repeats as champion in sort of another Tituss Burgess situation where this is a role specifically tailored for her (by herself!) so it’s a bit unfair, but damn, it’s just too great to overlook.  The fact that CEG also seems to be slowly morphing into a drama gives Bloom even more to work with.  I mean, can Amanda Peet compete with someone who sang a song called “Period Sex”?  I rest my case.

Jonathan Banks/Better Call Saul, Liam Cunningham/Game Of Thrones, Frank Langella/The Americans, Michael McKean/Better Call Saul, Michael Stuhlbarg/Fargo
WINNER: Michael McKean

Better Call Saul saw its share of Emmy recognition in high-profile categories, with the inexplicable exception of McKean not even being nominated.  Do voters still resent him for Laverne & Shirley or what?  It blows my mind that a performance as nuanced as this (a sympathetic character you can’t help but hate or a villain who you can’t help but relate to) didn’t even make the cut.

Danielle Brooks/Orange Is The New Black, Julia Garner/Ozark, Mallory Jansen/Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D., Selenis Leyva/Orange Is The New Black, Thandie Newton/Westworld, Mary Elizabeth Winstead/Fargo, Alfre Woodard/Luke Cage
WINNER: Danielle Brooks

Last year’s alterna-Emmys featured a whopping 15 nominees in this category, so this year’s slate of seven is modest by comparison but still, wow, what a field.  You have Newton and MEW in the “doing their best to carry an annoyingly flawed show” category, Jansen wowing while (essentially) playing four or five different roles as the season’s AoS big bad, and Woodard creating an interesting twist on the “big bad” trope by having the first season be essentially her origin story as Luke Cage’s biggest nemesis.  Julia Garner has one foot in the ‘carry a flawed show’ camp as well, though I was somewhat let down that she didn’t steal the entire series, as I fully expected after Ozark’s mind-boggling second episode.

Picking between all of the OITNB cast is such a tough call, and I went with Leyva and Brooks since their storylines underscored the more dramatic aspects of the season’s prison riot storyline.  Leyva’s character was in such an impossible position where we’re rooting against her for more or less selling out her fellow prisoners but for a justifiable reason.  Brooks is ultimately my winner since, in a season that weirdly undercut the prison riot with a bit too much comic relief (even if the show is a dramedy), you had Brooks turning that idea on its head by making laugh-a-minute Taystee into the voice of reason and change.  Taystee is the one that never stops trying to make the riot mean something, both for Poussey and the rest of the prisoners writ large.  I love that this show’s acting bench is so deep that when these established characters are given a new element, Brooks and Leyva are more than capable of hitting it out of the park.

Jason Bateman/Ozark, Bob Odenkirk/Better Call Saul, Matthew Rhys/The Americans, Justin Theroux/The Leftovers
WINNER: Bob Odenkirk

It’s interesting that three of the four nominees are mostly comic actors doing dramatic roles.  Bateman can’t help but be kind of Michael Bluth-ish which gives Ozark kind of a dark comedy vibe at times, yet he does a great job at creating an actual non-Bluth character as a man capable of being incredibly resourceful despite being, essentially, trapped in an unwinnable situation.  Theroux is, ironically, actually kind of terrible whenever I see him try to be funny, and his true calling is clearly drama.  I’ve spoken before of how absolutely crucial his performance is to Leftovers as a whole, since anything less than total believability causes the whole house of cards to collapse.  While it’s true that the show’s focus shifted onto Nora in the final season, that was more due to Carrie Coon having a pantheon year than it was any reflection on Theroux’s ability to carry the show, since he was more than capable.  No shame in “only” being the Lou Gehrig when you have Babe Ruth in the lineup.

But it’s Odenkirk who wins due to his increasingly fascinating slow transition from Jimmy into Saul.  I should say Saul 2.0, since as much as Better Call Saul adheres (or has to adhere) to Breaking Bad’s chronology, it’s pretty clear that the Saul we’ll get by the end of this series will be developed well beyond the entertaining but somewhat one-dimensional huckster we see dealing with Walt and Jesse.  Looking at the arc of Jimmy McGill over both series, maybe all of Breaking Bad could just be his “dark night of the soul,” with his final redemption coming whenever we fully enter his black-and-white Cinnabon-managing post-BB life.

WINNER: Carrie Coon/The Leftovers

“Hey Mark, where are the other nominees?”  Well, frankly, why bother?  Apologies to Keri Russell, I guess, but Coon was so far beyond the stratosphere that every other performance really just paled in comparison.  Like I said, she’s Babe Ruth — she’s the one outhomering entire teams and changing the game.  You talk about pantheon episodes, how many actors have three all-timers within a seven-episode span?  “Don’t Be Ridiculous” or “The Book Of Nora” alone would’ve clinched her this award, but tossing “G’Day Melbourne” and that insane breakup scene with Kevin in the hotel room?  In the words of Jim Ross, someone stop the damn match!  I’m going to remember quite a few things from this crazy, fantastic show, but tops on that list will be my introduction to one of the best actresses in the world.  What a showcase.  And, not to brag, but…

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Music Video Dance Party!

Since I'm posting a lot of Radiohead and U2 stuff recently, I might as well cover their recent video releases in one fell swoop!

It's not nearly in the lower tier of U2 videos, and I like the subtle pro-immigration message.  But overall, I dunno, I'm just not too fired up by generic "walking around the city" type of music videos.  Given the New York setting, it's like the Saturday Night Live opening credits or something.  I feel like this is an opportunity for U2 to get some viral interest going with a really unique video, something can be appreciated by fans of cool imagery or filmmaking techniques.  There are only so many ways for a musician to get a breakthrough hit in 2017, especially when said musicians are a rock band in their mid-to-late 50's.  On the bright side, I think Larry Mullen smiled once!

For instance, this new Radiohead video (for an old song) is actually funny, which I don't think I've ever said about a Radiohead video before.  Repurposing Thom Yorke as a Buster Keaton-esque straight man observing nonsense is such an obvious idea that I can't believe it hasn't been done before.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Amateur Dream Analysis

DREAM: It’s the series finale of Game Of Thrones.  It’s a special three-hour episode — for all intents and purposes the movie event of the year as well as the TV event of the year.  The first two hours are amazing, all the spectacle and intrigue that you’d expect from the climax of this epic show. 

As the second hour wraps up, we see Theon Greyjoy entering a castle to confront his hated uncle Euron, who has his sister Yara captive.  The scene then shifts to…a modern luxury apartment building.  There we get Alfie Allen, Pilou Asbaek and Gemma Whelan (Theon, Euron and Yara) all in modern street clothes, still in the midst of a confrontation, but they’re all now just angrily sniping at each other passive-aggressively. 

Needless to say, it’s confusing.  The rest of the episode also takes place in modern times, with all of the characters now facing each other in family and business-related squabbles over a “Westeros Corporation.”  It’s basically like Dallas, except with all of the GoT cast in the lead roles.  The episode ends with the head of the company (CEO Cersei Lannister) agreeing to divvy up shares amongst everyone, leading to an uneasy truce that the financial officer for Jon Snow’s bid (Davos Seaworth, who is now a CPA?) predicts things will eventually break down again.

In the final scene of the show, it’s revealed that the entire dragons-and-war framing was actually a bedtime story told by Samwell Tarly to young Sam Jr. as a way of explaining the corporate machinations and why, ultimately, Sam (an employe of one of the companies) lost his job.  As a result of this, Gilly has left Sam for Jaime Lannister.  The last shot is Gilly hopping into Jamie’s convertible while Sam sadly watches from behind the curtain of his modest two-bedroom home.

: The phrase “break the internet” is thrown around quite a bit, but needless to say, this type of ending for Game Of Thrones would literally cause a riot on message boards.  The showrunners for Dexter, the Sopranos, Seinfeld, How I Met Your Mother and any other of the infamous ’ended poorly’ programs over the years would get together and share a toast over being off the hook as the Worst Ending In TV History.

I think we can assume that David Benioff and D.B. Weiss won’t choose to actually end the show this way.  (I’m not sure even the vast fortune they’ve amassed from the show’s success would protect them from the hordes of angry fans that would want to re-enact the Red Wedding in the event of such an ending.)  What my subconscious may have warning me of, however, is that however GoT does conclude, it’s going to be something of a letdown.  Most shows, no matter how good, don’t end on a perfect high note. 

Frankly, subconscious, I’m not really expecting a five-star finish from Game Of Thrones anyway given how the show has become increasingly shaky now that Benioff and Weiss have gone well beyond the books.  The entire seventh season seemed like ten episodes of story crammed into seven episodes, with way too many far-flung plot machinations.  I’m keeping my expectations firmly in check for how things

Ironically, part of my dream actually may have some basis in reality in regards to the actual finale.  No, not Jaime and Gilly hooking up…despite their shared background of incest, that might be a stretch.  It has long been speculated by GoT and A Song Of Ice And Fire fans that Samwell Tarly is essentially George R.R. Martin’s avatar within the series.  With Sam now becoming a maester and (this past season) learning of the importance of chronicling Westerosi history, the theory has been that the story told by ASOIAF and GoT will be “told” within the narrative by Sam himself.  Of course, this doesn’t make total sense given the number of events that Sam wasn’t there to witness, nor the lack of living survivors to many of these events that Sam couldn’t perhaps interview after the fact.  Then again, I guess Bran the three-eyed raven can help Sam will in the blanks.  Framing devices are cool!

The other “some basis in reality” aspect is another fan theory about the show being allegorical.  In this interpretation, the White Walkers actually succeed in conquering Westeros and killing everyone, in the ultimate overturning of fantasy tropes.  In this allegory, the White Walkers represent climate change, and Martin (and the show) are saying that humanity will be doomed unless it puts aside its petty leadership squabbles and unites against a common foe.  This, needless to say, would be a pretty stunning ending, and one I’m not sure the show would have the guts to pull off.  Maybe Sam, Gilly and little Sam escape on a boat to Braavos as the only survivors, and we still get the Narrator Sam ending of his telling the Braavosi about Westeros’ downfall?  I know GoT loves to shock audiences, but having EVERYONE die and the final scene as the Night’s King sitting on the Iron Throne would be something else even for this show.  Still, better that than the Night’s King recast as, like, “King Knight,” a mysterious bidder from up north planning a hostile takeover of CEO Cersei’s corporation.

Also, place your bets now — what are the chances that the Greyjoys all make it to the finale?  10-1?  20-1?  My pal Dave would hope this scenario happens, since Theon (of all people) is his favourite character.  Words fail me.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Bobby Heenan

One of the single funniest TV personalities of all time, Bobby "The Brain" Heenan was the perfect pro wrestling heel.  He was an unabashed jerk who was "officially" hated since he managed bad guys and talked down to the faces, but secretly beloved by fans because he was so outstandingly good in every aspect of performance.

Nobody was better at playing the arrogant heel and, as a crucial by-product, nobody was better at taking comeuppance for his heelish acts.  Heenan was a master at getting one-upped --- whether it was taking an actual beating in the ring, being dealt some humiliation like having water poured on him or being dressed in a weasel costume, or simply getting verbally owned by Gorilla Monsoon, nobody sold comic exasperation like Bobby Heenan.

His commentary job in the 1992 Royal Rumble is often held up as maybe the single best broadcasting work in wrestling history.  Heenan has to carry the story of his man, Ric Flair, being the #3 entry out of 30 wrestlers and lasting all the way to the end.  The Brain goes from being speechless with rage over Flair's unlucky entry number, to desperate over-confidence, to cheering every time Flair gets any sort of advantage in the match, to openly pleading with other wrestlers in the ring to help Flair out (and then hilariously ripping them for attacking Flair), to openly pleading with God himself to let Flair win, and then to final joy when Flair actually wins the match.  This was a full hour of commentary brilliance that added immeasurably to the already-great action in the ring ---- the 1992 Rumble is probably my favourite match ever. 

My favourite Heenan "performance," however, is slightly lesser-known.  It's the underrated storyline when Randy Savage, in need of a tag team partner for a big match against Ric Flair and Razor Ramon, offers the spot to (of all people) Mr. Perfect, Flair's manager/executive consultant.  Over the course of an entire episode of PrimeTime Wrestling, you see the wheels turn as this seemingly ridiculous proposal from the Macho Man starts to be taken seriously by Perfect, much to Heenan's chagrin.  Everyone, it should be noted, plays their parts really well in these segments --- Vince McMahon, Jim Duggan and Hillbilly Jim stirring the pot, Flair being so egomaniacal that he can't see what's happening until it's too late, Razor being the cocky newcomer with no respect for Perfect's past accomplishments, Savage simply laying out the scenario and Perfect himself as the proud athlete who doesn't feel he's washed up.  But I'd say it's the Brain that really drives things, as he's the one who is unwittingly undermining and insulting Perfect while trying to praise him and laugh off Savage's offer.  It's the perfect example of Bobby "the Brain" outsmarting himself while trying to be the smartest guy in the room.  He just says one word too many, and that's what dooms he, Flair and Razor to somehow losing a chief ally over the course of 30 minutes.