Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Oscar Film Journal: Ford v Ferrari (2019)

Dear Oscar Film Journal, 

It is time for me to write in you again.



Today's film is one of last year's Best Picture nominees, the historical car racing drama Ford v Ferrari, starring Matt Damon and Christian Bale, and directed by James Mangold.  FvF chronicles the saga of a heated rivalry between two egomaniacs, one a true artist in the realm of automobile design, the other a journeyman whose business philosophy is about quantity at all costs until sales begin to slump.  Henry Ford II, grandson of the company's legendary founder, desperate for new ideas, gets talked into buying out the bankrupt Ferrari, but its owner Enzo Ferrari instead sells to Fiat and hurls insults at Ford via the aborted deal's broker, Lee Iacocca.  Ford is so enraged he vows to design a race car that can break Ferrari's winning streak at the 24 Hours of Le Mans annual race.  This fit of hubris sets the film's story in motion, as its two main characters, former racer Carroll Shelby and current track wiz Ken Miles are assigned to the case.  Shelby (Matt Damon, channeling Tommy Lee Jones's down-home frankness) owns a car design company and oversees the project, falling back on his raw salesmanship and chutzpah to up-manage the corporate swine above him.  Ken Miles is an uncompromising expert racer and mechanic seemingly possessing of a symbiosis with cars; he can innately feel when to speed up, when to shift gears, when to lay off, etc.  His lack of people skills however are a turnoff for Ford's top brass, and the company's senior VP Leo Beebe (a smarmy-as-ever Josh Lucas) is always maneuvering to get him ousted from the team.  But Shelby goes to bat for Miles, who proves his virtuosity at the 24 Hours of Daytona with a stunning come-from-behind win.  All roads lead to Le Mans, and the epic showdown between the two auto titans.

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

NJPW Sakura Genesis 2021 Preview & Predictions, Thoughts on the New IWGP Title Belt

This Sunday is NJPW Sakura Genesis, the first edition in three years, and,'s a show.

What we've got here is, failure to stack a PPV.  Aside from what should be a fabulous main event and a pretty excellent tag title match, the rest of this lineup looks entirely skippable, which is pretty inexcusable for the company's third-biggest show of the year.  What are you doing, New Japan?  Sadly, the combination of lackluster booking and COVID fallout has taken a big toll on NJPW's attendance figures; apparently the Korakuen Hall show on this current tour only drew 388 fans.  Ouch.  Compounding the issues with this company is their decision to merge the IWGP Heavyweight and Intercontinental Titles into a brand new IWGP World Championship with a new lineage.  Ummm, why?  Why are you a) scrapping 49 years of your top belt's history, b) scrapping the second-most important championship that was so prestigious it could main event a PPV, and c) replacing the absolutely gorgeous Heavyweight belt with something that looks like the old WWE Divas belt?  Have you seen this thing?  Who barfed up this monstrosity?  

Actually "monstrosity" implies that it's a giant, unwieldy title.  It's not, it's friggin' tiny like the original WWE Undisputed belt was before they enlarged it, or like when they merged the spinner belt and the Big Gold belt into the glorified MLB ring design.  What is the deal with wrestling companies merging their two biggest championships and replacing them with a belt that's smaller than either one?  Dude, this belt sucks.  NJPW should've hired whoever designs Ring of Honor's belts - that designer is fucking FIRE, and should basically be designing every wrestling belt on the planet.  It's pretty sad that a company in such cosmic shambles as ROH now has the best-looking championships in the industry.

There are few things in wrestling as frustrating as a company proven capable of true greatness making illogically bad decisions.  Why do you think I'm so hard on WWE all the time?

But this is neither here nor there - let's look at Sunday's lineup....

Zack Sabre Jr., Taichi & Douki vs. Guerrillas of Destiny & Jado

This is obviously just to set up another GoD vs. Dangerous Tekkers match.  Not much else to this.  I guess Zack and friends win?

Pick: SZGN

Kazuchika Okada, Tomohiro Ishii, Hirooki Goto, Toru Yano & Yoshi-Hashi vs. Evil, Kenta, Taiji Ishimori, Yujiro Takahashi & Dick Togo

Ten-man tags can be fun and this one has a crapload of talent.  But it's also on second out of six and thus probably won't get a ton of time.  Okada needs some direction, it just seems wrong that the greatest wrestler in the world is treading water.

Pick: Bullet Club I guess?

Oscar Film Journal: All About Eve (1950)

And we're back with another review for the Oscar Film Journal!

Today's subject is the 1950s drama All About Eve, which garnered a staggering 14 Oscar nominations (a record it still co-holds along with Titanic and La La Land) and is widely considered Bette Davis's definitive screen role.  Written and directed by Joseph Mankiewicz, All About Eve is the story of an aging Broadway actress who finds both her personal life and career threatened by an adoring fan.  The titular Eve, a seemingly doe-eyed girl next door charms the actress, Margo, and her inner circle of friends, and swiftly becomes Margo's personal assistant and confidant.  But Eve becomes so good and so thorough at her job she begins to wield power over Margo, who grows to resent her and tries in vain to get her reassigned to the office of her producer.  Eve gets herself hired instead as Margo's understudy, and when Margo's friend Karen causes her to miss a performance, Eve finally gets her shot on stage and is an instant sensation.  Thus begins Eve's Broadway rise and the fading of Margo's star.

Monday, March 29, 2021

Oscar Film Journal: Dangerous Liaisons (1988)

Welcome to yet another entry in the Oscar Film Journal, here at!

Traveling back to the 1980s, today I'll be talking about a lurid period piece directed by Stephen Frears, based on a play, which was in turn based on a 1782 French novel, Dangerous Liaisons.  Starring Glenn Close, John Malkovich, Michelle Pfeiffer, and two young up-and-comers named Uma Thurman and Keanu Reeves, Dangerous Liaisons is the tale of a former couple whose only pleasure in life is derived from sleeping around and destroying lives.  Glenn Close's character the Marquise de Merteuil is out for revenge against her ex, who left her for a young virgin he intends to marry (Thurman).  She enlists Vicomte de Valmont (Malkovich) to seduce the young girl and ruin the reputations of both her and her fiance.  But Valmont has designs on someone else, Marie de Tourvel, the devoutly religious wife of a member of Parliament; to him the young virgin isn't a challenge, but a chaste married woman is a worthy conquest.  The two schemers enter into an arrangement - if Valmont can produce written proof that he's seduced Marie, the Marquise will agree to sleep with him.  Thus begins this saga of malevolence and deception, as Valmont seduces not only Madame de Tourvel, but also the young virgin, while the Marquise gets her claws into the virgin's young lover, Le Chevalier Danceny (Reeves).  The philandering and strumpetry are on full display from these two awful people.

Friday, March 26, 2021

Parents' Night In #54: Rear Window (1954), Alfred Hitchcock's Masterpiece

Kelly & Justin are back after a little hiatus to talk about our favorite Hitchcock film, Rear Window, starring James Stewart as a photographer stuck in his apartment with a broken leg, who may or may not have witnessed a murder across the courtyard of his apartment building, and Grace Kelly as his glamorous girlfriend.  Shot entirely on a single soundstage, Rear Window is full of little subplots involving the neighbors, while building suspense around whether or not Lars Thorwald (Raymond Burr) has murdered and dismembered his wife.

We'll talk about the film and why it's our favorite of Hitchcock's, our love of Jimmy Stewart, who's hotter - Grace Kelly or Donna Reed, and whether or not we pronounce the "th" in the word "clothes."

Join us for some fun!

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Alfred Hitchcock Presents snippets from​

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Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Oscar Film Journal: An American in Paris (1951)

Time for another entry in the ol' Oscar Film Journal!

We're going back to the 1950s today to talk about the delightful musical romp featuring Gene Kelly, An American in Paris.  The Best Picture winner for 1951 (one of several awards the film took home) tells the story of three friends - a struggling painter (Kelly) who catches the eye of a wealthy socialite, both for his art and his good looks; a struggling pianist (Oscar Levant) who's given up on love, throwing himself into writing the great piano concerto; and a famous singer (Georges Guetary), who's just begun a relationship with a sweet French girl he intends to marry.  Things get complicated though when the Gene Kelly character spots this very French girl in a nightclub and falls instantly in love with her.  He pursues her relentlessly, and while she strongly rebuffs him at first, he manages to charm her and they begin a secret affair.  But she hides her relationship with the singer from him, and he begins to suspect something is amiss.  At the same time the painter is torn between the young girl and the older wealthy art collector, who promises to advance his art career.  This love quadrangle forms the basis of the shoestring plot, more an exercise in style than storytelling.   

Monday, March 22, 2021

Movie Review: Zack Snyder's Justice League

Well, color me surprised, in bleak, muted, desaturated tones.  Zack Snyder somehow managed to snatch an epic four-hour win from the jaws of studio-bungled disaster.  Where Joss Whedon's ill-conceived retooling was stuffed with embarrassing humor, oversaturated colors, cheap-looking costumes, and Henry Cavill's infamous fake upper lip, Zack's mostly original vision is finally here in all its overindulgent glory, a film boasting a surprising amount of heart and goodwill, where we're actually invested in the characters and thus the over-the-top battle scenes feel earned.

Before I get into the details, let me just say that I do not consider myself a Zack Snyder fan.  I liked and respected 300, I loved Watchmen, but I absolutely despised Man of Steel and found Batman v Superman just a clusterfuck of obtuse unpleasantness.  So I'm a control in this experiment.  I'm a skeptic with no dog in this race.  I thought the DCEU was a terrible idea from the start, and the execution entirely backwards; how can you rush to a team-up movie without first establishing the characters you're teaming up?  Why does everything need a shared universe just because it worked for Marvel?  So yeah, I went into this with no emotional investment whatsoever.  

WWE Fastlane 2021: Daniel Bryan's Going to WrestleMania

WWE Fastlane 2021 ended up a better show than it really had any right to be, thanks to three strong matches and a welcome change of direction in the main event.  With one screwy finish, suddenly I give a shit about this year's WrestleMania.  So I'm gonna go pretty easy on what was a mediocre PPV.

The show opened with the Women's Tag Title match, which sadly did not live up to the previous outing these two teams had.  The upshot, as expected, was that Sasha and Bianca had a falling out after once again not winning the straps.  The idea of a pair of future WrestleMania opponents teaming up beforehand to go after a secondary title is pretty goofy, but whatever.  Sasha had Shayna locked in the Bank Statement when Nia knocked Bianca on top of her, and the two got into an argument.  Sasha pushed Bianca but then got rolled up by Baszler for the pin.  Sasha then slapped Bianca to complete the dissolution of their friendship.  So now they'll be enemies going into Mania, which makes more sense.  Not much to this match though.  **

Next up was the Intercontinental Title, with Big E and Apollo Crews, which was way too short to amount to anything.  They had an ok showing with some big moves, that ended suddenly at the five-minute mark with a messy-as-fuck small package reversal so confusing there wasn't even an announcement about who won.  Crews rolled up Big E, Big E reversed but not really, and then Crews attacked him after the match.  Does that mean Crews is getting yet another title shot in three weeks, despite losing, what, three times now?  *1/2

The scheduled Braun Strowman-Shane McMahon match didn't happen, as Shane got pretend-injured while training and sent Elias in his place.  So we're still stuck with this stupid feud at Mania.  This match was a squash.  Braun beat the crap out of Elias and finished him with a powerslam.  *

Thursday, March 18, 2021

Oscar Film Journal: The Piano (1993)

Welcome to another Oscar Film Journal entry, here at!

Today we travel back to that grand ol' decade known as the 90s, for a film so Oscar-baity it could very well be the poster child for what general audiences think of overly artsy art films.  I'm talking about Jane Campion's 1993 opus The Piano, starring Holly Hunter, Harvey Keitel, Anna Paquin, and Sam Neill.  Set in the 1800s, The Piano is about a mute woman, Ada, whose father sells her into marriage, transplanting her and her young daughter Flora from Scotland to New Zealand so she can be the wife of a settler.  Played by Sam Neill, the husband Alisdair is cold and unsympathetic, expecting Ada will eventually come around to loving him.  But aside from sign language, Ada's only true means of communication is through her piano playing, and despite having transported her instrument all the way from Scotland, the husband tells her he has no room for it.  Instead his neighbor George (Harvey Keitel) acquires it in exchange for some land, and asks Alisdair that Ada visit him once a day to teach him to play it.  What follows from George and Ada's association is an awkward, unlikely romance, wherein George offers to sell the piano back to her one key at a time for daily moments of affection.  But after a few weeks he realizes he has genuine romantic feelings for her and can't continue the arrangement.  Upon being cut off from George, Ada in turn realizes she also has feelings for him.  The rest of the story plays out as a love triangle of sorts, with Alisdair continually trying to connect with Ada to no avail, as Ada's daughter begins throwing wrenches in her relationship with George.

WWE Fastlane 2021 Preview & Predictions

Welcome to another round of WWE Predictions here at!

This Sunday is the final PPV stop on the road to WrestleMania, Fastlane!  As per usual these days, the company didn't bother to assemble a full lineup with only days to go, so I'll give you predictions on what I have.  Four of these matches should actually be good, the other two are stupid.

Drew McIntyre vs. Sheamus

These two had a pretty brutal No DQ match on RAW a few weeks back, so of course the follow-up is a regular match.  Uhhh, ok.  Anyway, this should be stiff and gritty, and will be Drew's last roadblock on his way to challenging Bobby Lashley for the WWE Title.  

Pick: Drew, obviously

Intercontinental Championship: Big E vs. Apollo Crews

This should also be a solid outing.  Both guys are powerhouses with tremendous agility.  It's nice that Crews is finally doing something after all these years.  I'm picking E to retain though.

Pick: Big E retains

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Oscar Film Journal: Sound of Metal (2020)

Welcome to another Oscar Film Journal entry, here at!

Today I'll be talking about one of this year's Best Picture nominees (Hey look at that, I'm topical for once!), the intimate, poignant drama Sound of Metal, starring Riz Ahmed as a drummer who loses his hearing and has to essentially start his life over.  Directed by Darius Marder in his feature film debut, Sound of Metal opens on Ruben, the drummer of a metal duo called Blackgammon.  His girlfriend Lou is the band's singer/guitarist, and the pair lives in a mobile home, touring the country from club to club.  Blackgammon seems to be gaining traction, as we see them on the cover of numerous metal magazines and their trailer is full of expensive recording equipment.  But then one day Ruben's hearing suddenly becomes a garbled hum and he can't make out people's words or hear music properly.  After some tests, a doctor informs him he's lost 70-80% of his hearing and it will quickly get worse.  His options are to quit music altogether and try to preserve what's left, or have cochlear implants put in, a surgery that will cost anywhere from $40-80k.  Lou, fearing the former heroin addict Ruben will relapse, convinces him to check into a halfway house for the hearing impaired.  It's here that the bulk of the film takes place, as Ruben learns how to live with his deafness and connects with the other members of his new community.  

Along with its central performances, Sound of Metal is an exercise in restraint.  This material could've easily lent itself to melodramatic After-School Special excess but Marder wisely keeps things understated and internalized.  Riz Ahmed does so much acting with his eyes I think each of them should've earned their own Oscar nod.  His performance is tragic but not in the way you'd expect; Ruben hides behind a wall of metal guy machismo (As a metal musician myself I can relate), working hard to convince everyone around him he's got this, as if to convince himself.  In the film's third act he's faced with an austere, disheartening finality, and again Ahmed conveys most of Ruben's regret non-verbally.  This is sure to be his starmaking performance.  

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Oscar Film Journal: The Aviator (2004)

Welcome to another Oscar Film Journal entry, here at!  Oscar season is in full swing, so stay tuned for this year's predictions with my colleague Mike Drinan, who usually kicks my ass at prognostication....

Today's entry is a relatively recent one, and by recent I mean it was released this century (The fact that 2004 was already 17 years ago makes me feel old AF).  It's Martin Scorsese's epic biopic The Aviator, starring Leonardo DiCaprio as eccentric billionaire/filmmaker/aviation engineer Howard Hughes.  The second of five (so far) Scorsese/DiCaprio collaborations, The Aviator chronicles Hughes' rise to worldwide fame and the beginning/middle of his descent into OCD-triggered paranoia and reclusion.  Hughes took Hollywood by storm in the late 20s/early 30s with films like his World War I epic Hell's Angels (at that point the most expensive film ever made due to both its spectacular flight sequences and the fact that he reshot much of it when talkies burst on the scene), and Scarface (considered incredibly violent for 1932 and the inspiration for the 1983 Pacino film).  His perfectionism and penchant for overspending on his projects made him both the talk of the town and the scourge of both major industries in which he worked.  After becoming a successful director-producer he leaned more into aviation, designing and building planes for private companies and the US government, and eventually buying TWA.  In the 30s and 40s he ran afoul of Juan Trippe (Alec Baldwin), president of PanAm Airlines with designs on monopolizing international air travel, to the point that he'd purchased a US Senator, Maine Republican Owen Brewster (a slimy Alan Alda).  Brewster's strategy for ruining Hughes was to publicly accuse him of war profiteering and hope that the bad press would bankrupt TWA and clear the road for Trippe, but of course things didn't go Brewster's way.

Monday, March 15, 2021

Oscar Film Journal: High Noon (1952)

Welcome back to the Oscar Film Journal here at, where I review an old Best Picture nominee through my 2021 lens.

Today I'll be talking about the 1952 classic Western, High Noon, starring Gary Cooper and Grace Kelly.  Very unconventional for its time, High Noon is a simple tale about a retiring town Marshal who must singlehandedly protect his town from a dangerous outlaw returning from prison.  The newly married Marshal Kane, who planned to hang up his gun and badge, learns on his wedding day that Frank Miller (wait, the comic book writer??), a savage murderer he sent to prison, is returning via the noon train and rightly assumes Miller's gang will try to take revenge on him and his new bride.  Rather than have the bad guys follow him to his new home, Kane opts to remain a Marshal for one more day and deal with Miller's gang before going off to start his new life.  After his deputy Harvey Pell walks off the job due to resentment over not being named Kane's successor, Kane attempts to deputize numerous townspeople to help him fend off the coming attack.  

The film plays out in real time, Miller's imminent arrival hanging over the film like a death shroud as Kane scrambles to come up with a plan, while his new wife, a pacifist Quaker, refuses to stay.  Cooper plays Kane as an deeply uncertain lawman, knowing he's doing the right thing but often ineffectual in his execution.  Kane is unable to convince the townspeople to stand up to the outlaws; most of them just want him to leave so Miller's gang will spare the town.  A few men offer to help, but one is missing an eye and is far too old to be of use, another is a young teenager, and the one able-bodied adult who stands by Kane balks upon learning he's the only volunteer.  Everyone else tries to talk Kane out of his impending showdown, and the film becomes something of a parable about a respected leader struggling to find a balance between what is right and what is popular, the old mob mentality issue.  

Thursday, March 11, 2021

AEW Dynamite 3.10.21 - MJFTR

Man, did AEW redeem themselves with this Dynamite episode or what?  Say what you will about the Revolution PPV; some people loved it, many, including myself, were disappointed.  But this company proved in spades that it knows how to get back on track, with a fantastic followup that not only set up months of feuds and angles while delivering two incredible free television bouts, but steered into the Revolution criticism by offering a perfect storyline explanation for its technical issues.  AEW's creative team is truly that - CREATIVE.

The show opened with a blistering Matt Jackson-Fenix match, giving us a preview of the upcoming Bucks-Fenix/Pac match.  I assume that will take place on Dynamite and not at Double or Nothing, one of the drawbacks of only doing four PPVs a year.  But regardless when it happens, it's going to be a blockbuster of a match.  

Following the opener we got a pre-taped promo from Eddie Kingston and Jon Moxley, part one of the Revolution damage control.  Kingston explained that his prison time left him with PTSD, and when he saw his friend about to be blown up he had a full-on panic attack, hence why he dove on top of Moxley and didn't move.  Both guys talked about how incompetent Omega was for building such a dud of a bomb, throwing a dig at Impact Wrestling by saying they must've designed it.  This was effective at telling the babyfaces' side of the story but it wouldn't be the last we'd hear about Sunday's events.

Cody Rhodes had a squash match next, but his subsequent promo was interrupted by Penta, who ran Cody down leading to a brawl.  This set up a match for next week, which should be excellent.  I wonder if Penta and Fenix end up on different sides of the aisle, so to speak, as Fenix is still basically a babyface.  

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Oscar Film Journal: Moonstruck (1987)

Welcome to another entry in the Oscar Film Journal, here at!  Only about six weeks till this year's awards, I better pick up the pace....

Today we take a trip to the 1980s for Norman Jewison's critically acclaimed romantic comedy Moonstruck, starring Cher, Nicolas Cage, Olympia Dukakis, Vincent Gardenia and Danny Aiello.  This ensemble piece takes place primarily in an Italian-American Brooklyn neighborhood, over the course of a few days.  Cher plays Loretta Castorini, a widow whose current beau Johnny (Danny Aiello) has just proposed to her before flying to Sicily to tend to his dying mother.  Johnny asks Loretta to seek out his estranged brother Ronny and convince him to attend their wedding, but Loretta and Ronny are instantly and passionately attracted to each other, beginning a torrid affair.  Loretta isn't the only one in her family engaging in extracurricular activities however; her father Cosmo has a girlfriend, something her mother has long suspected.  The film weaves in and out of these main romantic threads but also depicts Loretta's aunt and uncle as an elderly couple who still burn for each other, as well as teasing a romance for Loretta's mother Rose when she meets a middle aged college professor (John Mahoney) who can't help chasing after his female students.

I must say given the universal praise this movie garnered (plus six Oscar nods, all of them major) I was a little underwhelmed by it.  The highlights for me were Cher's performance as Loretta, reluctant to ever fall in love again after losing her first husband, yet subconsciously yearning for real passion, something Johnny doesn't provide; and Olympia Dukakis as Rose, certain her husband is cheating but incapable of doing the same to him, or of even leaving him.  Her immediate response upon learning of Loretta's engagement is "Do you love him?"  "No."  "Good.  When you love them they drive you crazy because they know they can."  That line reveals much more about Rose than we realize at first; being in love with another person on some level makes you powerless over them.  

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

AEW Revolution 2021: Is Anticlimactic the Right Word?

Well, that was a thing.  Exploding barbwire apparently just means sparklers and little smoke bombs.  Maybe skip that stuff next time....

So yeah, AEW Revolution 2021 under-delivered big in some areas.  It was a solid show that fell short of unnecessarily high expectations.  The company made the classic mistake of over-promising on a lot of things.  You never wanna do that.  When people are expecting epic and you only deliver solid, it feels like a big letdown.  The biggest issue with the show of course occurred in the final moments, when the company promised a huge explosion and we got a watered down version of Bill Goldberg's pyro.  And as Vince Russo once said, "All anyone remembers is the last five minutes."  Is that fair?  No.  But to a certain extent it's true.  Never end your show in a way where people will dismiss it as a complete failure, just because the ending sucked.  It's a shame, because there was a lot of good stuff on this show.  Let's take a look....

After a very enjoyable pre-show tag match pitting Britt Baker and the debuting Maki Itoh against Riho and Thunder Rosa (I give the match ***1/2 and I'm looking forward to these four pairing off into singles feuds), we got a pretty great World Tag Title match, as the Young Bucks exacted some revenge on MJF and Chris Jericho.  This wasn't on the level of Bucks-FTR or Bucks-Omega/Page, but it was a really strong old-school kinda tag match, with the classic hot start, heel-controlled middle, and big comeback.  My favorite visual was the Bucks taking turns superkicking MJF to the point that drool was flying out of his mouth.  After incapacitating MJF, the Bucks, following several stymied attempts, finally hit the Meltzer Driver on Jericho to get the pin and retain.  Damn good match, and given my traditionalist leanings the best thing on the show.  ****1/4

Say what you will about AEW, they know how to put on a fun Battle Royal-type match.  This Casino Tag Battle Royale was incredibly entertaining, and though a little long, was full of innovative spots while getting over its winners and a couple runners-up.  I was pleasantly surprised to see Pac and Fenix win the whole thing, as their eventual match against The Bucks should be phenomenal.  But maybe even more satisfying than that was Jungle Boy lasting until the very end, outmaneuvering Pac to let him eliminate himself, before a final showdown with Fenix.  Jurassic Express needs a big push soon; think how big a pop they'll get if they win the tag belts - this team is a quintessential babyface misfit tandem and I could watch them all day.  Anyway, this match illustrated how incredibly deep this tag division is, and I hope AEW gets another TNT show soon so more of these guys can be spotlighted.  Varsity Blonds, Bear Country, Santana & Ortiz, Private Party, the numerous Dark Order teams...  There are so many good tandems in this company, they just need more TV time to get them all established.  This Rumble was a lot of fun.  ***3/4

Thursday, March 4, 2021

Oscar Film Journal: Rebecca (1940)

Welcome to another entry in the Oscar Film Journal!  We're about a month and a half out from the 93rd Academy Awards and I'm attempting to watch as many Best Picture nominees of years past as I can before then....

Today I'll be talking about Alfred Hitchcock's first US-produced film, the psychological thriller/gothic romance known as Rebecca, starring Laurence Olivier, Joan Fontaine and Judith Anderson.  Released in 1940 and based on the best-selling novel, Rebecca is about a young woman who marries an affluent widower after a whirlwind romance and moves into his palatial estate, only to find that she has trouble filling the shoes of his apparently beloved first wife, the titular Rebecca.  The Second Mrs. de Winter, as she's known in the story, comes from modest means and finds herself unable to adjust to this lavish new lifestyle, further exacerbated by a menacing housekeeper named Mrs. Danvers, who remains dutifully loyal to Rebecca and thus resents this new bride trying to replace her.  As the story progresses we learn that things are not quite as they seem - Mr. de Winter is very secretive about his past life, and new information about Rebecca's death threatens to fling the newly married couple's lives into disarray.

Rebecca marked the first and only time Hitchcock worked with famed producer David O. Selznick, a partnership marred by intense creative strife between the two strong-headed film auteurs.  Hitchcock wrote the first draft of the screenplay, changing much of the story details from the novel, believing that a film director should take liberal artistic license in adapting a previous work.  Selznick refused to make any major changes, insisting that audiences would want to see the popular novel faithfully translated to the screen.  In the end Selznick got his way, and the film was a major commercial and critical success, garnering an astonishing eleven Oscar nominations and winning Best Picture and Best Black & White Cinematography.  

AEW Revolution 2021 Preview & Predictions

AEW has a big PPV coming up this Sunday, with some huge title matches and a couple surprises in store, so let's make some predictions!

Revolution is upon us once again.  If you've been reading my stuff here at, you know I consider Revolution 2020 to be AEW's best PPV offering so far.  On paper I don't see this show quite living up to that standard, but there's potential here for a pretty great PPV.  Two multi-man schmozzes on one PPV is a little much, but aside from that we have three potentially great championship bouts, some big appearances by old timers that won't get in the way of the young stars, one surprise debut, and a big announcement about another.  Let's get to it.

Pre-Show Match: Riho & Thunder Rosa vs. Britt Baker & Rebel

I was a little disappointed that neither Riho nor Britt Baker ended up winning the women's Eliminator tournament.  I thought either of them could've been a huge opponent for Hikaru Shida and was frankly baffled that Nyla Rose beat both of them since we'd already seen Shida vs. Rose twice.  That said, Rose fell in the finals to Ryo Mizunami anyway, so it's all good I guess.  All of this to say, Riho is a former champion who's actually better now than when she held the title, and Baker is absolutely a future champion.  Turning heel absolutely made her - she has it.  And let's not overlook the tremendously talented Thunder Rosa, who should also be in line for a title run.  This match could actually be quite good given the talent involved.  It's a shame it's only on the pre-show.  There's speculation about Rebel not being cleared, in which case maybe there will be a last-minute substitution.  No idea who wins this but I'll go with the babyfaces getting the pin on Rebel (or her surrogate).

Pick: Riho & Rosa

Casino Tag Team Battle Royale

I won't go through all the participants here but this company does fun battle royals, so it should be enjoyable.  There are some great teams, some not-so-great teams, and a TBA that I'm assuming is Jurassic Express?  FTR is curiously absent as well.  But let's narrow it down to which teams could possibly earn a Tag Title match at this point.  Alex Reynolds & John Silver, Santana & Ortiz, Butcher & Blade, Private Party, Top Flight, Death Triangle, and TBA.  I'd say always bet on the TBA, but barring that being a compelling entrant I'll go with Top Flight I guess.

Pick: TBA, unless TBA sucks in which case Top Flight

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Oscar Film Journal: Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958)

Welcome back to the Oscar Film Journal, here at, where I review an old Best Picture nominee in preparation for this year's delayed ceremony!

Today's entry is another Tennessee Williams adaptation, the classic 1958 family drama Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, starring Elizabeth Taylor, Paul Newman and Burl Ives.  Directed by Richard Brooks from a screenplay by Brooks and James Poe, the film version of COAHTR was met with disappointment from its stage creator, after revisions made necessary by the oppressive Hays Code whitewashed some of Williams' themes.  In the play version the Paul Newman character Brick had a close friendship with a male friend named Skipper that veered into romantic attachment, and Skipper committed suicide after Brick rebuffed his sexual advances.  In the film this was reduced to a vague, euphemistic exchange where Skipper was simply depressed and reached out to Brick for help, but Brick turned his back on him.  

Regardless of ill-conceived 1950s forms of censorship though, COAHTR is an emotionally intense, superbly acted drama depicting a family implosion.  The setting is a large southern plantation house owned by Harvey "Big Daddy" Pollitt (a gruff, foul-mouthed, self-important Burl Ives in a major departure from Sam the Snowman, the only role I'd previously seen of his).  Big Daddy is home from the hospital after being tested for cancer, apparently having been given a clean bill of health (later revealed to be a lie).  But during his absence his son Gooper and daughter-in-law Mae have been planning to cut out of the eventual inheritance his other son Brick, a former football star turned drunk, whose estranged wife Maggie sees through Gooper and Mae's machinations.  Throughout the film we learn of the strained relationships between all the characters.  Brick believes Maggie cheated on him with his best friend Skipper, but has agreed to stay in a loveless marriage with her out of convenience.  Maggie is more attracted to Brick than ever but he refuses to show her any affection.  Gooper and Mae resent Brick for being Big Daddy's favorite son.  Big Daddy hasn't been in love with his wife Ida in decades.  All of this comes boiling to the surface over the course of an evening, with potent results.

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Oscar Film Journal: The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938)

Welcome to another entry in the Oscar Film Journal, here at

Today's installment is the first color film I've reviewed for this series, the 1938 swashbuckler starring Errol Flynn in his most famous role, The Adventures of Robin Hood.  Produced by Warner Brothers for an at-the-time staggering $2 million as their first big Technicolor film, Robin Hood is the most influential of all the legend's adaptations.  From Looney Tunes to Disney to Mel Brooks, this film and its visual aesthetic has been imitated and parodied countless times over the decades, and it stands as a delightful, stirring romp of an adventure film.

Flynn was actually the studio's second choice to play the character for which he'd become a household name; the part was originally slated for James Cagney (almost impossible to imagine now), but Cagney inexplicably walked off the project.  Starring alongside Flynn were Olivia de Havilland as Maid Marian, who slowly devlops feelings for Robin Hood despite him being "the enemy," Basil Rathbone as the overbearing Guy of Gisbourne, and Claude Rains as the cowardly Prince John.

Monday, March 1, 2021

The History of WCW SuperBrawl (1994)

The final SuperBrawl before the Bischoff Era.  Was it any good?  Let's find out...

SuperBrawl IV - Albany Civic Center - 2.20.94

I went into this show expecting to like it pretty well.  But I didn't really.  WCW's booking under Flair felt very disorganized, like they were trying to adhere to the tropes that had worked for them in the past, but weren't fully committed to the idea.  So it became an awkward hybrid of 1991 WCW and 1991 WWF almost.  And neither company at that time was producing very good results.  Sadly this was the beginning of the end for WCW as we knew it; the roster would very soon resemble the late 80s WWF and the company would hit its creative nadir.

The show began with the introductions for the scheduled opener, Johnny B. Badd vs. Michael Hayes, only for Hayes to roll out in a wheelchair and claim he was too injured to compete.  Commissioner Nick Bockwinkel then announced that Jimmy Garvin would take Hayes' place, but not until later.  So they used up ten minutes on this foolishness.

The actual opener was Harlem Heat vs. Thunder & Lightning, in a pretty well-worked tag bout.  Both teams looked good here and it made me wonder what became of Thunder & Lightning after this (Just looked this up - Lightning was Jeff Farmer, or the future nWo Sting, while Thunder went on to own NWA Ohio).  The ending was a little weak, as Stevie Ray took advantage of a distracted referee to kick one of the babyfaces in the ear, which was somehow enough for the win.  But not a bad way to kick things off.

Next up was a laughably bad match between The Equalizer (later repackaged as Kevin Sullivan's simpleton brother Dave), and, get this, "Jungle" Jim Steele.  Jungle Jim.  Get it?  Jim was more or less a discount store Ultimate Warrior ripoff, with vaguely similar ring gear, a comparable build, and a few of the same mannerisms.  But yeah, this was terrible.  Tony Schiavone actually went on about the great opening matches we'd seen at previous SuperBrawls, as if to say, "...and now we get crap like this."

Jeezus, did Page EAT his future self?
Clearly DDP Yoga wasn't around yet.

Two rather dull matches followed, the first of which pitted a pretty portly Diamond Dallas Page against Terry Taylor.  This started out fairly strong, as Taylor was always a good worker and DDP seemed determined to prove he was more than just a gimmick.  But the bout dragged on several minutes longer than it probably should have.  Taylor won with a quick rollup after nearly 12 minutes.  Heenan's commentary kept this entertaining....

...And saved this next match, Johnny B. Badd vs. Jimmy Garvin.  Badd looked, well, good here, using some solid grappling moves.  Garvin had returned after a two-year layoff and looked like someone's dad in wrestling tights.  This match was a glorified squash that lasted 10:48.  Garvin hardly showed any offense until after the match when he attacked Badd and hit him with the 9-1-1, or as it would later be known, the Stone Cold Stunner.  Not much to this one.

The TV Title was on the line next, as Lord Steven Regal defended against the returning Arn Anderson (who'd missed a few months after the hotel stabbing incident with Sid Vicious) in a special 30-minute time limit match.  Yeah, that time extension was a mistake; this match was incredibly dull for nearly the entire duration.  Neither guy seemed to know what to do to fill thirty minutes (29:54 to be exact), nor was there any urgency to anything they did do.  Aside from a few near-falls toward the end it didn't feel like Anderson was really trying to win the match; at one point with less than a minute to go he broke out a side headlock before remembering this was supposed to be the climax.  What a disappointment.  How much better would a fast-paced fifteen-minute bout have been here?

Ladies and gentlemen, the first fifteen minutes....

The surprise hit of the night was a chaotic Tag Team Title match pitting The Nasty Boys against Cactus Jack & Maxx Payne.  Payne broke out several suplexes early on (and one botched belly-to-belly at the end that nearly crippled Brian Knobbs), and Cactus did his usual cringe-worthy spots, like taking a back bump off the apron to the unprotected concrete.  This certainly wasn't pretty but it also wasn't boring.  The finish stunk though - Saggs broke a guitar over Payne's head to draw a DQ.  But shockingly this was the best match on the show so far.