Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Dan's Top 9: Scariest Things in Sports

by Dan Moore


Well sports fans, it’s been a little over three weeks since the Patriots have won a championship and the Boston region is officially in a drought. And this is KILLING me. I haven’t been to a parade celebrating sports greatness in almost a month. Tragic. It’s truly frightening. But not as frightening as these (nailed that segueway).

9. Walking Back to Your Seat Carrying Two Beers, Three Hot Dogs and a Pretzel

Nevermind that you’ve already had a few before the game so you’re wobbling like a drunk penguin. Forget that the steps at Fenway are uneven concrete slabs created in the late Jurassic. The real issue getting back to your seat are the other drunk assholes not paying attention to the roughly $400 dollars’ worth of food and libations in your hands. These jerks don’t care that you just spent a car payment on twenty ounces of beer. They just wanna yell MOOOOOOOOOOKIE and get in your way. Pricks.

Killer Microsoft Paint job there

8. Jeremy Jacobs With a Checkbook. 

Cause you know that cheap fuck is just gonna put it right back in his pocket.

I'd love to punch him

7. Aroldis Chapman’s Fastball

This thing comes flying in at you faster than Maverick buzzing the tower. The Cuban Missile throws the fastest pitch in the history of MLB and I for one would never have the balls to stand in the batter’s box to face him. Nor would I mouth off to him in a garage while he holds a gun. These are good tips for life.

Top Ten Things: 80s Wrestling Matches

Welcome to another edition of Top Ten Things, here at Enuffa.com!  Pretty self-explanatory - ten things at the top of what-have-you.

Today it's the top ten matches from that beloved bygone decade known as the 1980s!  I hopped on the pro wrestling bandwagon in the latter part of the decade and therefore this list skews heavily during that time.  I've seen plenty of the early 80s stuff, but I think most would agree the overall wrestling product in North America was stronger from '86-'89 than it was from '80-'85.  Cases in point are my ten picks.  Granted, my own personal nostalgia for those formative years may have played a part, but what the hell d'ya want from me?

Here we go....

10. Ricky Steamboat vs. Bret Hart - Boston Garden - 3.8.86

This forgotten gem was preserved for us all when Bret Hart included it on his DVD set in 2005, but I'd seen it before then.  Initially this match was to be the prototype for a WrestleMania 2 rematch, before Vince changed his mind and threw Bret and Neidhart in the WWF vs. NFL Battle Royal, and put the rising babyface Steamboat against the larger Hercules.  But this match upstaged literally everything at 'Mania 2, as these two technicians put on a veritable clinic.  This is one of the earliest WWF examples of just how good Bret was as a singles wrestler, and despite the lack of company followup it's easy to see why Bret looks back on this bout fondly.

9. Ric Flair & Barry Windham vs. Midnight Express - Clash of the Champions IV - 12.7.88

The Christmas-themed Season's Beatings edition of Clash of the Champions was headlined by a huge tag match, as NWA Champion Flair and US Champ Windham (the only remaining Four Horsemen after Anderson & Blanchard left for Stamford) faced former NWA Tag Champs the Midnight Express, who'd recently turned babyface before being mauled by the heel Road Warriors for the straps.  This Clash special was mostly centered around hype for the upcoming Starrcade '88 PPV, and all four participants here were pretty well-protected.  Bobby Eaton & Stan Lane dominated much of this fast-paced bout before getting screwed at the last minute when Flair waffled Bobby with JJ Dillon's shoe.  Another forgotten classic, this is easily one of my favorite Clash bouts of all time.

8. Team Demolition vs. Team Powers of Pain - Survivor Series - 11.24.88

Speaking of favorites, this entry is my favorite Survivor Series elimination match, which happens to be from my favorite Survivor Series PPV.  The late 80s tag division in the WWF was the stuff of legend, and this match assembled all nine of the company's regular teams (plus The Conquistadors) for an epic 40-minute war.  WWF newcomers The Powers of Pain captained an absolutely stacked team of the Hart Foundation, British Bulldogs, Rockers, and Young Stallions, against Demolition's squad of Anderson & Blanchard, The Rougeaus, The Bolsheviks, and the aforementioned masked jobbers.  The action in this match was non-stop for almost the entire duration, until late in the bout Demolition's manager Mr. Fuji turned on them and helped the Powers of Pain take the match.  This was in my experience the first-ever double-turn, and it broke my 13-year-old brain.

89th Academy Awards Recap Discussion

Welcome to the Enuffa.com Oscar post-show discussion, with Mike Drinan (@mdrinan380) and myself.  It was a fairly unorthodox presentation, with Jimmy Kimmel's comedic style quite at odds with the usual timbre of the evening, plus that bizarre turn of events at the end of the show.

Mike, your thoughts coming out of Sunday night's unusual awards spectacular?

Mike: First off, congrats on winning our Oscars predictions face off!

The show itself was just alright but it ran on waaaaaay too long. It lagged in a couple of spots but I enjoyed the bits Kimmel had; the constant ribbing of Meryl Streep, and his faux-feud with Matt Damon is something that doesn't get old for me. The tour bus bit was pretty entertaining but went on forever.

No big shocking upsets in the awards. I was surprised that Casey Affleck pulled out the Best Actor award from Denzel since he won the SAG award and for the past 10 years, the winner of the SAG Award for Best Actor has gone on to take home the Oscar as well. I actually watched Fences on Saturday night and considering how stunning his performance was I didn't see any reason why that would change. I don't have a problem with Affleck winning because his work in Manchester By The Sea was fantastic and he totally earned it as well.

I was very happy that Moonlight won Best Picture. It was by far the best film of the year for all kinds of reasons and I'm glad Hollywood proved me wrong in this instance. At first I was pissed when they announced La La Land but when it all got figured out, I was a happy man.

Justin: I liked Kimmel as a host - he was very different for an Oscars ceremony, with a dry, kind of awkward delivery.  Loved the Mean Tweets segment and the Matt Damon stuff.  The tour bus segment was fun but yeah, too long.  Kimmel's self-deprecating humor was all great.

Yeah bitch, 9 for 10!  Goddamn I'm good.

I was very happy to see Affleck win (I haven't seen Fences yet and I'm sure Denzel is fantastic in it) - this was a career performance for him and it was great to see that recognized.

That ending was amazing.  They announced La La Land as the winner and I was tempted to just turn the TV off and go to bed.  Man am I glad I waited it out.  Moonlight deserved this award waaaaaaay more than LLL so I was glad to see my faith rewarded here.  And the inadvertent twist ending will be remembered forever.

I was disappointed that Barry Jenkins was passed over for Best Director though.  Has a black director ever won that award yet?  Seems like every time a black director's film wins Best Picture, the director himself loses.  Steve McQueen not winning it for 12 Years a Slave is one of the most baffling decisions in recent memory.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Awesomely Shitty Movies: Starship Troopers

Welcome to another edition of Awesomely Shitty Movies, here at Enuffa.com, where I'll examine a movie I have mixed feelings about and separate what works from what doesn't.  Today's entry is the monstrously violent political satire from Paul Verhoeven called Starship Troopers!

The 1997 film was based on Robert Heinlein's 1959 militaristic, rather pro-fascist novel about a group of high schoolers who enroll in the military to wage war against an army of alien "bugs."  In the novel the main character Johnny Rico has a fairly triumphant arc, becoming a respected officer and leader as the war wages on.  The film however has a decidedly satirical thrust, mostly poking fun at the very subject matter on which it was based.  On the surface this movie seemed like the usual alien invasion sci-fi/action tripe, but as he did with Robocop, Verhoeven created something much more substantial and sociopolitical.  He got a lot of things right with this film, but while Robocop is basically perfect for what it is, Troopers unfortunately leaves some things to be desired.  So let's take a look at this Awesomely Shitty Movie....

The Awesome


The militaristic tone and pro-meritocracy slant (having to earn full citizens' rights) of the novel are cleverly satirized by director Paul Verhoeven in a way that rides the line between honoring and lampooning Robert Heinlein's work.  In fact Verhoeven found the novel unreadable and still managed to make a capable film adaptation.  The officer uniforms are also clearly inspired by those of Nazi officials, and the propaganda films shown throughout are flagrantly a riff on Nazi indoctrination such as Triumph of the Will.  Structurally this film is strikingly similar to All Quiet on the Western Front, following a group of high school kids (who in this case seem lifted right out of 90210) who get duped into enlisting and have horrible things happen to them.

Who designed these space suits, Michelin?


Like with Robocop, Verhoeven sprinkled (or more accurately slathered) this movie with over-the-top, graphic violence which becomes both disturbing and oddly amusing.  There are countless battle scenes with humans being stabbed through various body parts by the bugs' spear-like legs, and plenty of scenes depicting bugs being inefficiently blown to gooey pieces by the soldiers.  Plus there's the climactic scene where the brain bug sucks Zander Barcalow's brain out through his skull.  It's not for the squeamish, but man is it entertaining for us sick folk (fucks).

Dammit Paul, I wanted to see what happened to the cow!

Friday, February 24, 2017

The 89th Academy Awards Preview & Predictions

Well it's that time again folks.  The 89th Academy Awards are upon us, and that means Mike Drinan (@mdrinan380) and I are back to give you our picks.  It's an eclectic bunch of films this year, and as usual I'm scrambling to catch up and see as many as possible before the ceremony.  Jimmy Kimmel is the host this year - an unusual choice I must say.  Kimmel sort of conveys a dorky everyman quality not normally associated with such an extravagant ceremony.  So this'll be interesting. 

As with last year we'll pick the ten main categories plus an obscure tie breaker so there will be a clear winner.  Drinan killed me in the predictions last year so I'm out for revenge.  So let's get to it....

Best Picture

Hacksaw Ridge
Hell or High Water
Hidden Figures
La La Land
Manchester By the Sea

Justin: Wow, a musical, a sci-fi movie, a western crime drama, a war movie, and five other dramas.  Pretty diverse buncha films up for the big award this year.  I've only seen four of these so far and hope to catch at least two or three more by the 26th.  I loved Arrival, a rare sci-fi alien film that's about real ideas and the human condition moreso than it is about aliens and spaceships.  It was so refreshing to see a movie about this subject matter that was understated and thoughtful.  I also loved Manchester By the Sea, a quietly tragic drama about a lonely man carrying a horrible burden from his past.  Moonlight was a deeply touching, brilliantly acted film that at times reminded me of Boyhood and Brokeback Mountain.  La La Land.....well, if you read our discussion HERE, you know neither Mike nor I was particularly impressed by Hollywood's latest love letter to itself.  I'll be pretty goddamn pissed if LLL wins Best Picture, quite frankly.  As for the other five, I'm very much interested in Hell or High Water, Hacksaw Ridge, Lion, and Fences, and less interested in Hidden Figures.  But I'm sure I'll see all five of them at some point.  But what's important here is which film I think is going to take home the gold.  It's clearly between the dual Golden Globe winners, La La Land and Moonlight.  I could see this going either way actually.  On one hand, LLL is about Hollywood, and Hollywood loves that.  On the other hand, Moonlight has "underdog Oscar winner" written all over it, plus the Academy has taken quite some flak in recent years for only seeming to honor white actors and filmmakers.  So it's really a question of whether the Academy can turn off the "Hollywood is awesome" blinders for a minute and get out of its own way.  I'm going to be optimistic and say yes.

Prediction: Moonlight

Mike: I've slacked this year at getting to the theater and have only seen five of the nominees. Like you, I loved Arrival for the reasons you mentioned. Such an original idea and delivered brilliantly. Hell or High Water I found to be very good as well and at times gave me a No Country For Old Men type feeling...maybe it was the Texas desert, might've been Jeff Bridges. I originally thought this would be a three picture race between La La Land, Moonlight and Manchester By The Sea, however Manchester's stock fell way down in this category as soon as LLL began garnering rave reviews. In the meantime, Moonlight is the brilliant little engine that could and is easily my favorite of the nominees. Such a perfect film with incredible acting from the entire cast. I'm easily rooting for Moonlight to win this, however I think it's La La Land's. LLL is a throwback musical that is heavily saturated with classic MGM musical material. Plus, it's about Hollywood and, as we've all learned when Crash won Best Picture, L.A. is in love with itself. I am not as optimistic as Justin, but I do hope he wins this category.

Prediction: La La Land

Best Director

Denis Villeneuve (Arrival)
Mel Gibson (Hacksaw Ridge)
Damien Chazelle (La La Land)
Kenneth Lonergan (Manchester By the Sea)
Barry Jenkins (Moonlight)

Justin: Well they've taken the most diverse cross-section of Best Pic nominees and included their directors in this category.  Denis Villeneuve lent a quiet, meditative feel to Arrival and I was so impressed with his work here I'm excited to see his previous (and upcoming) films.  Mel Gibson's inclusion here is pretty staggering considering his fall from grace a few years back.  But I'm glad to see that he's put all that behind him and returned to making quality films; say what you will about him personally but I've always considered him a very gifted actor and director.  Chazelle really should've won this award two years ago for Whiplash, but he's got a very real chance to make up for it here.  Lonergan's gift for pacing and emotional weight made Manchester By the Sea a deeply compelling human drama.  Barry Jenkins (like Chazelle) has only directed two feature films and has displayed prodigious skill in doing so.  As with the Best Pic category I see this coming down to two candidates - Chazelle and Jenkins.  In either case we'll be getting a first-time Best Director, so that's historic.  But for me Chazelle failed to capture the magical touch he demonstrated with Whiplash.  La La Land to me barely felt like a musical and lacked the splendor one associates with films like that.  Jenkins on the other hand conveyed a very personal, intimate character arc with real visual flair.  So in a perfect world Jenkins should take this.  But I have a sneaking suspicion the Academy has a full-on boner for Chazelle's work, so I'm gonna pick him.

Prediction: Damien Chazelle

Mike: Denis Villeneuve is a really impressive director. I loved his drug cartel-themed Sicario and Prisoners with Jake Gyllenhaal. His film Enemy also starring Jake Gyllenhaal is currently in my Amazon watchlist queue and I'm very much looking forward to watching. BUT I DIGRESS!!! His film Arrival was another excellent film in his resume and like I said in my Best Picture summary, the delivery of how that story unfolded was brilliant and seamless. I'm also impressed with how Mel Gibson has found his way back in Hollywood's good graces following his controversial behavior. It would make for a nice redemption story if he were able to snag Mr. Oscar on this comeback trail. Kenneth Lonergan did a wonderful job with Manchester By The Sea but you're right, this is between Chazelle and Jenkins. With Moonlight, Barry Jenkins brought forth an exquisite story and was able to get his actors to display such humanity and emotion that it's almost uncanny. However, since he's a relative newcomer I think he also will get passed up for this award in favor of Chazelle. Whiplash was a great movie and he did a spectacular job with it as it won him a ton of industry praise. With La La Land being a musical, I think they will lean in his direction. Once again, I'll be rooting for Barry Jenkins since I feel he deserves it more than Chazelle.

Prediction: Damien Chazelle

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Do’s & Don’ts for the Daytona 500

Last year, The People I Call My Friends and I headed to Daytona for the most storied of NASCAR events, the Daytona 500. I’m not a huge NASCAR aficionado, but it was a bachelor party and our bachelor is a big supporter of going around in circles. I’m a casual fan, in that I’ll watch if nothing’s on and I’ve been to a few events, though moreso for the accepted binge drinking in the stands. Having just NOW recovered from that weekend, here is a list of what you should and shouldn’t do during the grand-daddy of them all in the racing world.
These guys look prepared.....they weren't.

DO: Bring extra underpants…you’re gonna need them.

DON’T: Eat pizza down there. Seriously, they’re clueless on how to make it. It takes them forever to make one pie. And they taste TERRIBLE.  I think ours was Wonder Bread with V8 on it.

DO: Enjoy all the Happy Hour libations. We were drinking pitchers of beer for $5 and Mai Tai’s for $4. Sure, the Mai Tai’s were essentially sour mix and ice, but goddammit WHAT A BARGAIN.

DO: Hang out with Danny Daytona. The man is a pure party animal and everyone wants to be around him. He’s electric. Fun follows that guy around like herpes at the free clinic.

Holy shit, that guy in the middle is cool!

DON’T: Go to the strip clubs. 'Cause they’re not strip clubs at all. The ladies of the night in these venues are quite modest and must, by law, keep their tops on. So if your idea of sexiness is checking out a live episode of Baywatch, have at it.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Top Ten Things: Lady Gaga Songs

Welcome to Enuffa.com, and another edition of Top Ten Things!  I got ten things I wanna talk about.  The TOP ten things.  There's ten of 'em....

Today's topic is the musical stylings of one Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta, better known to the entire world as Lady Gaga.  Gaga began flooding radio stations everywhere in 2008, with her offbeat, anthemic dance-pop tunes and outlandish fashion sense.  Her appearance and songwriting were so bizarre she seemed to have arrived from outer space, and my first impression was "What a weirdo."  But after more of her radio singles emerged I began to realize she was much more than just a gimmick.  It seemed each new song revealed more and more of her unique compositional and vocal ability, and by 2009 I found myself almost reluctantly becoming a fan.  Her second album Born This Way had a decidedly 80s pop feel and showed a more spiritual, sociopolitical side to her music, while her third, Artpop was a rather satirical look at her own megastardom.  In 2016 though, Gaga stripped away most of her eccentric theatricality and released an understated set of 70s-infused pop-rock songs with a more personal flavor.  Joanne was a major departure, and a refreshingly restrained album that demonstrated Gaga's versatility and willingness to reinvent herself.  Stylistically she can go anywhere she wants from here, and I'll be very interested to see where that leads her.

But enough pontificatin'.  Here are my ten favorite Lady Gaga songs....

10. Venus

Our first entry is the midtempo, 70s disco-influenced song that draws parallels between sex, mythology and astronomy.  What could easily have been a silly throwaway track is made fascinating by a fairly dark timbre, playful lyrics, and a wonderfully hooky chorus rife with layered vocal harmonies.  "Venus" helped set the tone for Gaga's third album Artpop by suggesting a self awareness and injecting a bit of pop star satire.

9. A-Yo

Co-written by (and featuring) guitar whiz Mark Ronson, "A-Yo" is one of several songs on Gaga's latest album Joanne that serves as a major stylistic departure for Lady Gaga.  Gone are the over-the-top dance beats and synth trappings; in their place is a pop-rockabilly feel with a Shania Twain swagger and bombastic guitar licks.  "A-Yo" might be the most purely fun song on the album but it also shows a songwriting maturity and eagerness to evolve.

8. Paparazzi

"Paparazzi" was the first Gaga song I begrudgingly liked.  After "Just Dance," "Poker Face," and "Lovegame," (none of which are favorites of mine to this day), "Paparazzi" was the one song that made me go, "Huh...okay, this is pretty good."  This super-hooky midtempo number features vocals reminiscent of Gwen Stefani, and takes a sardonic look at the media's obsession with celebrities.  It also marked the first Gaga video to feature a story (and a pretty messed-up one at that): Gaga is pushed off a balcony by her boyfriend and spends much of the video wheelchair-bound before making a full recovery.  I wouldn't become a real Lady Gaga fan until after "Bad Romance" was released, but this song at least left me open to the idea, and it's still my favorite track from The Fame.

Meryl Streep: Not Overrated, but Over-Nominated

by Michael Drinan

Meryl Streep is one of the greatest actors of all time. She’s right up there with Katherine Hepburn, Marlon Brando, Daniel Day-Lewis, Diane Keaton, Bette Davis, Jack Nicholson and whoever else you want to throw on the Greatest of All Time list. She deserves every accolade thrown her way. Seriously, I don’t have a problem with Meryl Streep, well, except for Mamma Mia! but that’s totally ABBA’s fault (fucking ABBA). However, it’s this love affair The Academy has with Meryl that I have a problem with because they throw an Oscar nomination her way for what seems like every role she takes on, even roles that aren’t Oscar-worthy performances. This practice started out modestly but has gotten worse in recent years and now it’s impossible to ignore.

Listen, we are all used to The Academy handing out bullshit nominations and even getting the winner wrong from time to time, but the fascination with Meryl, the downright idolizing of the actress, has gotten way out of hand. Here are the roles Meryl Streep was nominated for that weren’t Oscar-worthy, in chronological order.

Music Of The Heart (1999)

This Wes Craven film (yes, that Wes Craven), based on a true story, has Streep playing Roberta Guaspari, a violinist who was abandoned by her husband and is struggling with suicidal tendencies before taking on a position as a substitute violin teacher in an inner city school. Yep, one of those movies. She then builds a successful string program and begins to fight the administration when her program faces budget cuts. She stages a fundraising concert at Carnegie Hall (eye roll) in an effort to keep the program running. This film was a great feel-good story, an underdog redemption story that we all loved, especially The Academy. But Oscar-worthy? Not by a long shot, but because Streep takes on an accent all of a sudden it’s mindblowing! Give me a break. There’s nothing about her performance that warrants a nomination here, it’s just a good performance. It’s hardly a role that I remember out of her long career. Streep eventually lost out to Hilary Swank for Boys Don’t Cry. Hard to argue with that one.

The Devil Wears Prada (2006)

This critique of the fashion industry for the longest time was a guilty pleasure of mine, until Meryl was nominated for this role. Her nomination made me not want to watch it again. Streep plays Miranda Priestly, a high-powered fashion magazine editor who just crushes the soul and morale of anyone she comes across. She’s cold, soulless and people find her terrifying. Once again, Streep adopts a peculiar diction and well-defined posture and she does a good job with the character. Since when are we giving out nominations to actors for simply playing a character that’s a merciless hardass? I actually found Anne Hathaway more impressive in this film than Streep. I hate fashion exposés because they try to get me to sympathize with those working in the fashion industry and I just don’t. Anyway, Streep lost to Helen Mirren for The Queen because it was a no-brainer.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Top Ten Things: February PPV Matches

Hello and welcome to another edition of Top Ten Things, here at Enuffa.com, where I make a nerdy, dorky list of the ten best examples of something I like, and you are forced to read it.

Today I'll be talking about the top ten February PPV matches of all time, as decided by me.  February falls smack-dab in the middle of the Road to WrestleMania, and its PPV event is often the forgotten little sibling of 'Mania and the Royal Rumble.  But that doesn't necessarily make it a throwaway event.  Some real gems have occurred in the second month of WWE's PPV calendar (which in some cases have outshone every match at 'Mania itself), and even outside WWE there have been some excellent matches and events held in February (I've included some NWA/WCW and NJPW entries as well).

So let's get to it!

10. Hiromu Takahashi vs. Dragon Lee - NJPW The New Beginning in Osaka - 2.11.17

These two longtime rivals from CMLL continued their feud here, for the IWGP Jr. Heavyweight Championship, in a blistering 18-minute battle of oneupmanship.  The pace started at Balls to the Wall and never seemed to let up, each man introducing new death-defying offense.  Late in the match Takahashi ripped off Lee's mask as a desperation move before nailing him with a Canadian Destroyer and his Time Bomb finisher to retain the belt.  This was one of the best and most intense Jr. Heavyweight matches in years and it managed to steal the show for both 2017 New Beginning cards.

9. Tomohiro Ishii vs. Tomoake Honma - NJPW The New Beginning in Sendai 2.14.15

After defeating Ishii at WrestleKingdom 9 for the NEVER Openweight Championship, Togi Makabe suffered a sudden injury and New Japan vacated the title.  Ishii then faced perennial underdog but huge crowd favorite Honma to crown a new champ.  And the result was a brutally stiff battle full of knifing chops, diving headbutts, and crazy intensity.  Honma ultimately came up short and the "Stone Pitbull" Ishii regained the Title.  This match was highly praised as one of many 2015 Match of the Year candidates on NJPW's calendar, and I can't disagree.

8. Kurt Angle vs. Undertaker - WWE No Way Out 2.19.06

The main event of No Way Out '06 saw World Champion Kurt Angle lock up with a man he considers possibly the greatest wrestler of all time, The Undertaker.  This epic bout was presented as a clash of two babyfaces and ran over 29 minutes, featuring loads of dramatic near-falls and action ranging all around the ringside area.  Finally after his Anklelock was countered into a Triangle Choke, Angle rolled forward to trap Taker underneath him for the pin.  This was WWE's best match of the year.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Top Ten Things: Well-Deserved Oscars

Welcome to another Oscar-related edition of Top Ten Things, here at Enuffa.com!

You might say I've got Oscars on the brain, because today's edition is comprised of occasions when the Academy absolutely got it right, in terms of awarding acting performances.  I've talked before about times Oscar has snubbed a great performance, and about shocking upsets, but there have certainly been times the right person won for the right role.  In fact there have been years when I've decided, "Regardless what wins Best Picture and all the others, as long as this person wins this award I'll be happy."  Below is the list, in chronological order.

1. Robert DeNiro (Raging Bull)

The Academy may have dropped the ball in many other categories from 1980 (Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor), but one award that absolutely went to the right guy was the Best Actor statuette.  Robert DeNiro's tormented, violent turn as middleweight boxer Jake LaMotta remains his most famous performance, and it's also the most noted example of an actor altering his body shape for a film (DeNiro gained about sixty pounds for the later scenes in which LaMotta lets himself go and becomes a seedy nightclub owner).  Had anyone else walked away with this award it would've been a crime.

Key Scene: Probably the most purely visceral scene is the one in which LaMotta goes to prison and throws a self-loathing-induced fit, pounding the crap out of the cement wall and wailing like a madman.  I can't imagine an actor having to endure more than a single take of this scene.

2. Kevin Kline (A Fish Called Wanda)

A rare case of a comedic performance outshining the competition, Kevin Kline's brilliantly hilarious turn as Otto provided dozens of quotable lines and managed to steal the show from comedy legends John Cleese and Michael Palin.  Kline brought to life a dimwitted character in the smartest way possible, with an amazingly nuanced, uproarious delivery.

Key Scene: Probably my favorite moment (and my favorite to quote) is the profanity-laced chain of insults Otto hurls at Archie (Cleese) after catching Archie with Wanda.  Such a magnificent tirade.

3. Kathy Bates (Misery)

Stephen King's thriller about a crazed fan taking her favorite author hostage was skillfully adapted by Rob Reiner in 1990, and the main reason the movie version worked so well was the performance of Kathy Bates.  A relative unknown at the time of her casting, Bates adeptly alternates between matronly warmth and terrifying emotional instability.  She is totally effective as this obsessed manic-depressive, but in a very realistic way, making the whole ordeal that much more harrowing.

Key Scene: Upon learning her guest Paul Sheldon has been out of his room, she ties Paul up and drugs him, and explains both her discovery, and his punishment.  The calmness she conveys as she prepares to hobble him is truly chilling.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Top Ten Things: Stanley Kubrick Films

Welcome to another Top Ten Things here at Enuffa.com!  A couple weeks ago I made a list of Quentin Tarantino's ten best, and thought it might be appropriate to give Stanley Kubrick similar treatment.  

Kubrick was one of the all-time great film auteurs, creating a unique visual style characterized by fluid camera movement, unnervingly symmetrical deep focus photography, and often a cold emotional detachment.  His films often contained deep subtext and were generally much more about the human condition as a whole, than about the fate of the individual characters.  He would build his stories around lofty philosophical concepts and themes, which he hammered home with every sequence.  Kubrick was notorious for being a perfectionist, often asking his onscreen talent for dozens upon dozens of takes before he saw one he liked, and demanding strict continuity on the set.  Considering he was active for over 45 years his filmography was quite sparse, and in later years his filmmaking process was so painstaking it became infamous.  His last film Eyes Wide Shut for example was in production for a staggering 17 months, and he just barely lived long enough to see its completion.

Stanley Kubrick was one of the most controversial, divisive, and thought-provoking filmmakers of all time, and he left behind a stunning body of work containing some of the most amazing visuals ever put to film.  Lending themselves to varied analyses, his films demand repeated viewings and tend to reflect humanity's virtues and (more often) deep-seated flaws.  What a tremendous talent this man was.

Here now is a list of his ten best works.

10. Lolita

This 1962 adaptation of Nabakov's provocative novel was met with vehement scorn from religious groups upon its release, to the point that Kubrick had trouble even getting it distributed.  The story concerns a middle-aged man's love affair with a 12-year-old girl and his subsequent fall from grace.  Kubrick enlisted Nabakov himself to adapt the novel into a screenplay but changed several elements and played up the dark comedic aspects, in particular the supporting character of Clare Quilty (Peter Sellers).  Beholden to the MPAA, Kubrick also had to keep much of the lurid material implied rather than explicit.  The result was a pretty outrageous "dramedy" with strong performances from its lead actors, in particular Sellers and the 16-year-old Sue Lyon, whose turn as the title character is well beyond her years.  I consider Lolita one of Kubrick's lesser efforts, but it's certainly never dull.

9. The Killing

Kubrick's third feature (though only his second "official" release as he pulled his first film Fear & Desire from theaters) is an early example of the heist-gone-wrong story.  Based on the novel Clean Break, The Killing is about an intricate plot to rob a racetrack of $2 million, and the aftermath of the crime which leaves most of the conspirators dead.  The theme of "even the best laid plans..." is prevalent in this film, and the carefully orchestrated robbery ultimately fails due to multiple unforeseen events.  The standout performance belongs to Sterling Hayden, who brings a cynical, grizzled quality to criminal mastermind Johnny Clay.  In assembling the film, Kubrick played around with the timeline, presenting certain events from multiple points of view.  I have to think The Killing had a big influence on Quentin Tarantino when making Reservoir Dogs and Jackie Brown.  The Killing is an early example of Kubrick's considerable intellect as he moves his characters around like chess pieces.

8. Full Metal Jacket

The late 80s saw a bevy of Vietnam-related films, and Kubrick's adaptation of The Short-Timers was one of the most noteworthy.  Though later to the game than he'd hoped, Kubrick nonetheless presented a fascinating take on the evils of war and their effect on the human psyche.  The film is split into two parts, the first (and best) of which depicts Parris Island Marine Corps basic training, where Private Joker (Matthew Modine) witnesses the complete mental breakdown of Private Pyle (Vincent D'Onofrio) at the hands of a brutal drill instructor (R. Lee Ermey, in a brilliantly vulgar performance).  The second half of the film then picks up with Joker's exploits as a war correspondent in Vietnam.  While still atmospheric and beautifully shot, the second half is unfortunately nowhere near as strong as the first, given that it's missing the two best characters in the film.  Still, Full Metal Jacket remains one of the best films made about Vietnam and about the dehumanization of those who lived through it.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Top Ten Things: Oscar Snubs

Hello and welcome to a special Academy Awards edition of Top Ten Things, here at Enuffa.com!

Today I'll be talking about some of the great acting award snubs in Oscar's long and glorious history.  Every year it seems there are at least one or two major films or performances that either go ignored by the Academy or lose to inferior competition.  I can think of several films now heralded as all-time classics that were shown little Oscar love back in the day - Citizen Kane, It's a Wonderful Life, and the original Star Wars for example. 

Then there are the baffling upsets like Shakespeare in Love beating out Saving Private Ryan, Ordinary People being chosen over Raging Bull, Kramer vs. Kramer over Apocalypse Now, and of course Forrest Gump trouncing both Pulp Fiction and The Shawshank Redemption.

Additionally certain universally-acclaimed films over the years have simply been shut out of the proceedings.  Hoop Dreams for Best Documentary in 1994, The Lego Movie for Best Animated Feature in 2015, and for me, Boogie Nights for Best Picture in 1997.

But maybe the most common examples of the Academy failing to recognize deserving achievements fall into the acting categories.  So many great performances have gone unnoticed by the myopic Oscar over the decades.  I can name many more than ten, but this being a Top Ten Things column I've narrowed it down to what I feel are the ten most egregious snubs in Oscar history.

***Note*** Given how difficult it is to rank acting performances I'll be presenting these in chronological order.

1. Miriam Hopkins - Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1931)

As fiery dance hall girl Ivy Pearson, Hopkins delivered a performance on par with her Oscar-winning co-star Frederic March.  Their onscreen chemistry was phenomenal and helped elevate this version of Stevenson's classic novella into much more than a typical 1930s monster movie.  Throughout the film Hopkins' character is horribly victimized by the sadistic, abusive Hyde, and she amazingly conveys Ivy's desperation and hopelessness. 

Key Scene: Ivy visits Dr. Jekyll for help, unaware that he and Hyde are one and the same.  As she implores Jekyll to save her she erupts into tears while he looks on, overwhelmed by guilt at being the cause of her torment.  This is a heartbreaking scene.

2. Jeff Goldblum - The Fly (1986)

Another horror film that didn't require an Oscar-worthy performance per se, David Cronenberg's remake of The Fly is largely remembered for its gross-out makeup effects, as its protagonist Seth Brundle gradually deteriorates into a repulsive larva-man.  But underneath all that disgusting makeup is Jeff Goldblum, who went above and beyond to make Brundle into a three-dimensional character we simultaneously fear and pity.  The film is essentially an AIDS parable; Brundle's condition is presented as a cellular disease that both breaks down his body and strips him of his humanity.

Key Scene: Late in the film Brundle's ex-girlfriend Veronica (Geena Davis) visits his apartment one final time.  By this point Brundle has become a lumpy brown mass with insect mannerisms whose human side has almost totally receded.  He warns her to stay away, delivering a tragic monologue about the brutality of the insect brain.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Movie Review: Hell or High Water (2016)

by Dave Moore

Well the Oscars are only a few weeks away and I'm trying to see as many Best Picture nominees as possible (Sorry La La Land). I have only seen two so far and the one I want to talk about is Hell or High Water. Going into this film was pretty excited. I mean Jeff Bridges is in it. The guy makes everything cool. I was not disappointed with this movie at all.

The movie centers on two brothers, Toby (Chris Pine) and Tanner (Ben Foster). Toby is a straight-living, divorced father just trying to make a better life for his son. Tanner is an ex-con with a short temper and an itchy trigger finger. The brothers are robbing branches of the bank that is foreclosing on the family land and using the banks' own money to pay for the land. They end up running afoul of U.S. Marshall Marcus Hamilton (Jeff Bridges), who is on the verge of retirement but has one hunt left in him. This turns into a cat and mouse game to figure out when the next bank is going to be hit.

The heist scenes themselves aren't trying to top anything that was in Heat. These are done by desperate men, not professionals, men who don't really know what they are doing. Mistakes are made and people pay for them. Watching them pull off one heist after the next you feel that these two men are doing what they think is right, not keeping the money for themselves but simply maintaining way of life.

All three actors do a fantastic job in this film, especially Chris Pine.  Bridges is great in this as usual, earning his 7th acting nomination this year for his supporting role in the film. Foster has been an exciting and intense actor for years, particularly in 3:10 to Yuma. Chris Pine, mostly known for his role as Captain Kirk in the Star Trek reboot series, turns in a more focused, quieter delivery than we are use to seeing from him.  That Pine can hold his own with these two accomplished actors suggests a promising future.

Hell or High Water is also nominated for Best Picture, Best Film Editing and Best Original Screenplay (written by Taylor Sheridan, who also wrote last year's Sicario). I hope it wins the screenplay award, beyond that I think La La Land has everything else locked up.  The film is fantastically written and perfectly executed; for a late August release you can't do much better than Hell or High Water.  Highly recommended.

I give the film *** out of ****.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Top Ten Things: Oscar Upsets

Welcome to another edition of Top Ten Things, here at Enuffa.com!  It's a list of ten things that stand aTOP all other things.  See?

Well we are in the midst of movie awards season, which for me means a mad dash to catch up on all the Oscar bait I haven't seen yet.  Thus when the Golden Globes and Oscars roll around I'll be much more educated and opinionated about the winners and losers.  Over the years we've seen some pretty shocking winners; some pleasant surprises, some bile-churning outrages.  Very often it seems Mr. Oscar suffers from acute myopia, as literally dozens of Best Picture winners fail to make much of a lasting impression on the American lexicon, while many of the losers are universally lauded as masterworks for decades to come.  The same can be said of individual performances and the actors attached to them.  Sometimes an actor or actress can win the gold statue and go on to do literally nothing of note, while perpetually snubbed thespians continue to impress critically and commercially despite the lack of Academy love.

So let's take a look at the ten most noteworthy upsets in Oscar history.  This list includes nominees for Best Picture, Director, and acting awards.

10. Crash over Brokeback Mountain

One of the most infamous recent shockers took place in 2006, as Paul Haggis's ensemble piece about racial tensions in America took home the gold despite the outpouring of support for Ang Lee's touching cowboy love story.  Almost immediately Crash suffered something of a backlash, and few people today recall it as an all-time classic, while Brokeback Mountain helped launch the serious acting careers of Jake Gyllenhaal, Anne Hathaway, and of course the late Heath Ledger.  For the record I enjoyed both films but I didn't consider Crash a multiple-time watch.

9. Gene Hackman (Unforgiven) over Jack Nicholson (A Few Good Men)

The 1993 ceremony saw a battle of heavyweights in the Best Supporting Actor category, as the respective villains of Clint Eastwood's understated Western and Rob Reiner's courtroom drama went head-to-head.  Hackman took the award but it's Nicholson's performance that is much more remembered (and quoted) 20-plus years later, as the iconic Col. Nathan Jessup.  Lines like "You can't handle the truth!" and "Are we clear??" "Crystal." are part of our vernacular, while Hackman's turn as Little Bill Daggett, though certainly skillful, was far less memorable.

8. Bob Fosse (Cabaret) over Francis Ford Coppola (The Godfather)

Speaking of memorable vs. not-so-much, in 1973 choreographer/musical theater director Bob Fosse won the Best Director award for Cabaret, despite Francis Ford Coppola seeming a shoe-in for his masterful work on The Godfather.  The epic mafia drama has since become an essential part of any cinefile's collection, while Cabaret is.....well, not so much.

Monday, February 13, 2017

WWE Elimination Chamber 2017: Smackdown's Best PPV So Far

Well I may not be happy about most of WWE's creative direction heading to WrestleMania 33, but I'll be goddamned if they aren't 2 for 2 thus far in 2017 PPVs.  Last night's Elimination Chamber show featured two really solid women's matches (and a third that was decent), an unexpectedly awesome Randy Orton-Luke Harper match, and one of the best Elimination Chambers the company has ever put together.

As I said, most of the likely matchups penciled in for WrestleMania are uninteresting to me at best, and from what I've read a few of them are downright nonsensical.  But fortunately the talent roster is so good right now they'd be hard-pressed to deliver a bad standalone PPV.

Elimination Chamber opened with a very well-worked Becky Lynch-Mickie James match, featuring some great mat wrestling and a nice "cocky veteran vs. young babyface" story.  I hope this isn't the last of this pairing, because they meshed wonderfully.  Becky unexpectedly got the win with a rollup, and frankly I think she oughta still be the Women's Champ on Smackdown.  This bout was much more compelling to me than the actual Women's Title match.  More on that in a bit.

Next was probably the weakest match on the card, Dolph Ziggler vs. Apollo Crews and Kalisto.  I loved the heel move of taking out Kalisto during entrances, making this a one-on-one match for most of the running time.  The wrestling here was fine but not very memorable and not given much time.  Kalisto finally entered the fray in the last minute or so and Ziggler fell to Crews's spinout powerbomb.  I would've booked Ziggles to get a tainted win, but whatever.  I'm not sure where this double feud goes from here.

The Tag Team Turmoil match was third, and had some nice, furiously-paced action.  With six teams involved this realistically had to go over 20 minutes, and it did.  It was quite clear which teams matter on this roster and which don't.  American Alpha, The Usos and Rhyno & Slater were all booked pretty strong, The Ascension got to almost win the belts thanks to the match structure, and The Vaudvillains and Breezango looked like geeks.  But every segment of this match was at the very least watchable.  I liked AA eliminating The Usos only to later get killed by them, creating suspense as to whether The Ascension might steal the gold here.  The big feud is obviously AA vs. The Usos, which can be saved for another show; this feud's been building since September when The Usos "injured" AA to take them out of the inaugural Title tournament.  The match also made Gable and Jordan look like superheroes when they overcame the Usos' attack to eke out a win against a fresh team.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Brewery Reviewery: Barrel House Z (Weymouth, MA)

Whassup kids?  Welcome to a brand new Enuffa.com Brewery Reviewery!  

Today I'll be talking about a recently opened landmark in the ol' hometown of Weymouth, MA, an establishment that brews small-batch beer and then ages it in liquor barrels, creating complex mashups and some strong-ass libations.  It's called Barrel House Z, and its become quite a Weymouth hotspot in just half a year.  Started by former Harpoon master brewer Russ Heissner, BHZ is all about innovation and adventurousness, creating a new Pilot Pour every week.  He's also got a revolving door or brewers to keep the menu fresh and dynamic.

Barrel House Z
95 Woodrock Rd
Weymouth, MA 02189

My wife and I, and two of our friends, finally made it to the tasting room last week and we were not disappointed.  First off, this place was so hopping on a Saturday evening we had to wait 5-10 minutes just to get in.  Once inside though we loved the atmosphere and look of the place; the walls, outside fences, and the front of the bar are all constructed out of (or adorned with) barrel staves, giving the room a rustic/industrial crossover feel.  Scattered around the room are full-size barrels to be used as lounge tables, with plenty of seating and a full view of the brewery floor.  There was also an acoustic duo supplying some solid background tunes (Side note: I'm available for Saturday evening gigs!) and lending some laid-back ambience.  I could easily see myself making this room a regular haunt (And seriously, I'm totally available to provid some musical entertainment).  Outside there's a patio with a fireplace and ample seating, which I anticipate being pretty crowded in the summer.

How do they remember which tap is which?

But all that would be irrelevant if the beer itself didn't deliver.  Fortunately it did, in spades.  Of the 10-12 available brews, we sampled six.  Here we go.....

My Lil' Helper: American wheat ale aged in Chardonnay barrels.  For me this actually resembles an IPA more than a wheat, but with a very balanced flavor.  The hops are tempered by the sweetness of the wine, making for an extremely refreshing beer that would be clutch on a summer afternoon.

Vorlauf: Imperial Vienna lager aged in Bully Boy Whiskey barrels.  A very complex tasting beer with some sweet and sour notes, and just a hint of the whiskey.  Probably my least favorite but still good.

"Are we done taking pictures, can I drink this now??"

WWE Elimination Chamber 2017 Preview & Predictions

Welcome to another (ANOTHER) round of WWE Predictions here at Enuffa.com!

This Sunday marks the return of the Elimination Chamber!  After being absent from the 2016 calendar, supposedly due to modern arenas no longer being able to support this 80 million ton structure (I believe that's the official weight) hanging from the ceiling, WWE has apparently figured out a workaround.  The Chamber PPV generally has major 'Mania implications and we should see the Smackdown side of The Showcase of the Immortals begin to take shape.  As usual this Smackdown-only PPV is pretty thin on paper, but the blue brand always seems to find a way to deliver an enjoyable show that doesn't overstay its welcome.  So let's get into it....

***I lead Dan for this season's predictions 69/109 to 63/109***

Nikki Bella vs. Natalya

The first of three (THREE!) women's matches on this show (and I'm not complaining) features probably the most heated rivalry in the division right now.  Nattie beat the crap outta Nikki on Talkin' Smack last night to add some fuel to this match.  Should be a fine contest.  I'd like to see Nattie win this, but I don't think it's in the cards.

Justin's pick: Nikki
Dan's pick: Natty

Handicap Match: Dolph Ziggler vs. Apollo Crews & Kalisto

I hate handicap matches.  They do nothing for anyone.  If the two guys beat the one guy they've simply done the obvious, and if the one guy beats the two guys, the two guys look like chumps.  Ziggler really needs a big win to solidify his heel turn but I dunno if I can see them jobbing out both babyfaces here.  Unless maybe Ziggles takes out Crews with a chair before the bell?

Justin's pick: Ziggler wins by cheating
Dan's pick: I concur. Love Ziggles as a heel. Needs a dirty win here.

Becky Lynch vs. Mickie James

This might be the second-best match on the whole show.  James has still got it, and Becky is Becky.  Not much more to say than that - I'm looking forward to this one.

Justin's pick: Mickie wins to continue the feud
Dan's pick: Yup

Luke Harper vs. Randy Orton

Are they finally gonna push Harper in some capacity as a monster babyface?  They should.  But I doubt it.  Harper's just here to keep Orton occupied till his inevitable clash with Bray Wyatt, at which time Orton will be a babyface again (yawn).  This should be a solid outing though.

Justin's pick: RKO
Dan's pick: Viper