Thursday, April 29, 2021

NJPW Wrestling Dontaku Preview & Predictions

It's NJPW Wrestling Dontaku time, and that means two nights of sparsely assembled cards with only a few matches of note each night.  Of course in 2021 that's nearly every NJPW show.  

So yeah, there are essentially three important matches over the two nights, plus a couple bouts related to the Tag Team Titles.  The three big title matches should all be excellent, but I'm longing for the days when New Japan stacked most of their PPV events.  If this year's Dominion isn't a loaded show I'll be very sad.  Let's pick some winners.....

Night 1

Zack Sabre Jr. vs. Tanga Loa

Man, how thin is this division when the same two teams just keep meeting up?  New Japan desperately needs to drop the Jr. Tag and Six-Man Tag belts and just move all the tag teams into a single division.  I will never understand why they got rid of the Intercontinental Title but kept three sets of tag belts.  Anyway, ZSJ vs. Tanga should be fun.  Zack's matches always stand out because his style is so different.  The stip here is that if Zack wins, he and Taichi get another shot, if they lose they don't ever get another shot.  Since there are basically no other teams around I'll pick Zack to win here.

Pick: ZSJ

Iron Finger from Hell Ladder Match: Taichi vs. Tama Tonga

I assume the rules here are that if you climb the ladder and grab the Iron Fingers you get to use them?  That's goofy.  Both guys can work, so hopefully it'll be entertaining.  No idea who wins here but since Iron Fingers are Taichi's thing I'll pick him to win I guess.

Pick: Taichi

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Oscar Film Journal: Driving Miss Daisy (1989)

Welcome to another Oscar Film Journal entry, here at!  This here is the first installment that features a film I'd give a full non-recommendation....

We're heading back to the 80s today, with a movie that heads back to the 40s through the early 70s.  The 1989 Best Picture winner was textbook 80s Oscar bait, a light-footed comedy-drama that kinda sorta tackled the issue of race in mid-century America but in a very safe, innocuous fashion.  I'm talking about Driving Miss Daisy, starring Jessica Tandy and Morgan Freeman, and based on the 1987 stage play by Alfred Uhry.  DMD is about a rich southern widow who takes her car out for a spin one day and learns that at her advanced age she's no longer sound behind the wheel, driving it backwards into her neighbors yard and totaling the vehicle.  Her son (played by Dan Aykroyd) insists that he hire her a chauffer, a prospect she resists kicking and screaming.  But gradually Hoke (Freeman) wins her over with his calm demeanor and uncanny ability to handle her excitable, disagreeable nature.  Over the years Hoke becomes her most trusted companion, gradually helping her understand the ugliness of oppression and bigotry (something that as a Jewish woman in the Jim Crow south she begins to experience firsthand); Daisy exhibits some racist behavior early in the film but by the end actually attends a dinner where Martin Luther King speaks (though she fails to extend Hoke a proper invitation).  The pair age into retirement and are forced to separate, only visiting each other once in a while at Daisy's retirement home.  And, well, that's it.

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Oscar Film Journal: Nomadland (2020)

And now for the second half of today's Oscar Film Journal - I've already talked about the film and performance I think SHOULD have won at the Oscars, here's the movie that DID win.

Based on Jessica Bruder's non-fiction book Nomadland: Surviving America in the 21st Century, director Chloe Zhao's meditative, immersive docudrama stars Frances McDormand as a widow who lost her job at a manufacturing plant, the only major business in her town (which itself shut down once the plant folded), and became a traveling member of the "gig economy."  She takes seasonal work at a nearby Amazon plant and then drives around the country working at various locales such as a Badlands campground, the Wall Drug restaurant, and a sugar beet plant, but spends part of her time in an Arizona community with other nomads who haven't been able to find enough work to keep a permanent residence.  

The film is essentially a series of little episodes and vignettes as Fern (McDormand) develops friendships with her fellow roamers, spends some time with her sister in California, visits another nomad Dave (played by David Strathairn) who's now staying with his family, and just tries to keep her van maintained.  It's more of a non-narrative experience than a traditional film, its uniqueness no doubt the reason it earned so many accolades; Nomadland is about evoking mood and setting, not so much about a story.  

Oscar Film Journal: Promising Young Woman (2020)

The Oscars may be over, but I'm still pluggin' away at the Oscar Film Journal.  Because the Oscars got one award very wrong this year from where I sit....

I'll be reviewing the other side of this particular issue a bit later, but right now I'm focused on what I felt was the best of the Best Picture nominees, Emerald Fennell's explosive directorial debut, Promising Young Woman, starring Carey Mulligan in a career performance that, goddammit, should've won her the Best Actress award.  I've been a low-key fan of Mulligan's for about a decade now, after her dripping-with-sadness turn as Sissy in Steve McQueen's Shame, and again after her venom-spitting supporting role in Inside Llewyn Davis (I still often quote the phrase "Because you are SHIT!").  Mulligan is a veritable chameleon, as evidenced by the fact that until this past week I'd never heard her speak in her native English accent (which is as proper as that of Sherlock Holmes).  But her performance as Cassie in Promising Young Woman is a force of nature; she absolutely commands the screen in every frame, seething with righteous anger beneath a veneer of dark sarcasm.

If you're not familiar with the premise by now, Promising Young Woman is about a former med school student who dropped out after her best friend Nina was sexually assaulted by a classmate, and now roams bars and nightclubs pretending to be fall-down drunk so men will take her home.  But once she gets there she hits them with the truth, hoping to hold a mirror up to their complicity in perpetuating rape culture.  She reconnects with another classmate who seems to actually be a decent fellow, but when he mentions that Nina's rapist is now getting married, she hatches a plan to punish everyone involved.  

Saturday, April 24, 2021

The 93rd Academy Awards Preview & Predictions

Welcome to the 6th Annual Academy Awards Predictions column here at, where my colleague Mike Drinan (@mdrinan380) and I compete for bragging rights, prognosticating the Oscars!

As we all know, 2020 was the weirdest year ever for movies.  Thanks to COVID, very few films were actually released in theaters and the ones that were only saw modest-at-best box office receipts.  Many films were of course pushed back to avoid such financial disappointment, while others were made exclusive to streaming services or simultaneously released in theaters and at home.  The qualifying window was extended for this year's ceremony to include any film released between January 1, 2020 and February 28, 2021.  For the first time since the 1930s the Oscars include films released during two different calendar years.

As of this moment I've only seen four of the Best Pic nominees but I'm hoping to bang through a couple more this weekend before the show.  We shall see.  Mr. Drinan is ahead of me I think, and he's also been trouncing me in the predictions the past few years.  Come on, Ballard, get it together!

Best Picture

The Father
Judas and the Black Messiah
Promising Young Woman
Sound of Metal
The Trial of the Chicago 7

Justin:  Of the eight films this year I've seen Judas, Mank, Sound of Metal, and Chicago 7.  I admired a great deal the performances in Judas, I loved the noir atmosphere and score of Mank, I related to the personal connection to sound and music in Sound of Metal, and I found Chicago 7 yet another gripping screenplay by the master Aaron Sorkin.  Of the four I think Chicago 7 was my favorite in fact, but I know it's not taking home the statue, at least not in this category.  Of the four films I have yet to watch I'm really looking forward to Promising Young Woman, as I've heard glowing things about it.  But my pick for the gold this year is Nomadland, the story of a woman who loses her job and decides to, in the words of Jules Winnfield in Pulp Fiction, "walk the Earth."  I've heard mixed things about this one but it sounds like one of those fascinating character studies that's all about establishing mood and setting.  I think Nomadland will take home the trophy.

Prediction: Nomadland

Mike: I have seen all but Mank, Sound of Metal and The Father. Out of all that I've seen, Promising Young Woman is my favorite and I hope you get to see it this weekend because it's really good. I really enjoyed Chicago 7 and I'm not surprised it got nominated but it felt like an actor's film. You know, not Best Picture worthy but could nab some acting awards. I felt the same about Judas. Really great seeing Sacha Baron Cohen take on a serious role. He was good. Before awards season began, my frontrunner pick for Best Picture was Minari. Such a well-crafted story with a lot of heart and humility to the characters. I loved it. Buuuuut, you have to keep the thunder rolling throughout awards season and right now Nomadland seems to be a freight train that might be unstoppable. I am picking it to win but hoping for Minari with the upset.

Prediction: Nomadland

JB Update: I watched PYW last night and it's superb, I think I agree it's my favorite of the nominees. 

Best Director

Thomas Vinterberg - Another Round
David Fincher - Mank
Lee Isaac Chung - Minari
Chloe Zhao - Nomadland
Emerald Fennell - Promising Young Woman

Justin: Quite a diverse group of directors this year, two of whom are women (which I think is a record for this category), and two of whom are Asian-American (which I'm 99% sure is a record for this category).  Last year of course Bong Joon Ho became the first Asian director to take home the statue.  I think we'll see a streak formed this year, as Chloe Zhao is my pick to win for Nomadland, also making her the first female director since Kathryn Bigelow to win this award.  Side note, it's good to see David Fincher get his third Best Director nomination; hopefully one of these years he'll win one.

Prediction: Chloe Zhao

Mike: Chloe Zhao has been absolutely cleaning up in this category this awards season and I think the Academy will keep it going for her. 

Prediction: Chloe Zhao

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Oscar Film Journal: Fatal Attraction (1987)

Welcome to another Oscar Film Journal entry, here at  The awards are coming up fast....

Today's subject is a lurid piece of rather trashy pulp that not only made a fortune but somehow grabbed the Academy's attention, Fatal Attraction, starring Michael Douglas and Glenn Close.  You all know the story by now - Douglas stars as Danny Gallagher, a high-powered New York lawyer who has a torrid weekend fling with a work associate, who then becomes a maniacal stalker looking to turn the affair into a relationship at all costs.  Played with complexity and legitimately frightening eroticism by Glenn Close, the character of Alex Forrest is one of the legendary cinematic femme fatales, and the role launched Close's career while earning her a well-deserved Oscar nod.  Douglas's performance is quite strong as well; he's made a career of playing very flawed protagonists desperately slipping to the end of their pitiful rope.  The unsung performance in the film (though she did also get a Supporting Actress nomination) is from Anne Archer as Danny's devoted wife, who doesn't suspect a thing until Alex begins to turn the Gallaghers' lives upside down.  Poor Beth Gallagher thinks her marriage is on solid ground until this whackjob boils her daughter's new rabbit (That's just uncalled for, Alex).  

Watching this film for the first time (I had seen bits and pieces and knew the major beats of the plot), I found myself thinking "THIS got a Best Picture nomination??"  It's obviously a well-made erotic thriller with strong performances by all three leads, and Close became something of a pop culture icon in the process, but let's take an honest look at this thing.  Fatal Attraction is an over-the-top film noir crossed with a checkout line romance novel (even the title evokes it).  Had the filmmakers been a little more daring they could've seriously explored the Alex Forrest character and her terrifying psychological issues, instead of just making her a full-on horror film maniac.  We get glimpses of nuance during the second-act fallout of the affair, as Alex manipulates Danny in different ways to get him to stay in her life.  But the producers changed the climax of the movie from a disturbing but believable suicide/murder frame-job ending to something resembling a slasher film denoument, complete with a "killer's not really dead" moment.  I get why they reshot this; it's a crowd-pleasing Hollywood finish, but it lowers the material from a sophisticated grown-up thriller to popcorn schlock.  They weren't even all that imaginative in the execution either; there are shovel-to-the-face obvious suspense tropes, like the killer popping up in the bathroom mirror behind one of the good guys, or a shot of the married couple sleeping and a slow pan over to the phone just before it suddenly rings at 2am, or a water-level shot of the full bathtub just before the killer pops out of the water.  This stuff is B-movie cheeseball, and simply has no place in a supposedly Oscar-worthy film.

Monday, April 12, 2021

WWE WrestleMania 37, Night 2: The Bad Guys Win Everything

WrestleMania 37, Night 2 was a pretty good show overall, by my estimation a small step down from Night 1, but with plenty to enjoy, including another stellar main event.  I will say it was refreshing to have two WrestleMania shows where the main event outshined everything else - that doesn't happen often; it's been six years since the last time.  Maybe the weirdest thing about Night 2 was the fact that of the seven matches, six were won by heels.  What a downer.

WWE got the worst crap out of the way early, with Randy Orton vs. The Fiend as the opening match.  There was a bunch of stupid visual effects-related stuff leading to Bray Wyatt's entrance, including his morphing from the burnt Friday the 13th Part 6 version of The Fiend back to the regular one.  He emerged from a giant jack-in-the-box and hit Orton with a diving clothesline, and we were off (complete with the headache-inducing red lighting that by all rights should've long ago lost someone their job).  These two did a competently worked five-minute match that ended with Wyatt about to hit Sister Abigail on Orton, only to be distracted by Alexa Bliss leaking black ooze all over her face.  Orton took advantage to hit Wyatt with the RKO for the pin, the lights went out, and when they came back up everyone was gone.  Ummm, what?  So Orton burned this guy alive, he disappeared for three months, returned at Fastlane to set up his great revenge at WrestleMania, and lost in five minutes?  Seriously, kill this character off.  He sucks.  Go back to swamp-dwelling Bray Wyatt with the whole world in his hands.  This Fiend shit is early-90s WWF terrible.  Fuck this feud.  *

The second-worst match of the night was next as Shayna Baszler and Nia Jax defended against Tag Team Turmoil winners Natalya and Tamina, and while clunky and sloppy in spots, this was decent.  Shayna and Nattie worked well together, Nia and Tamina did big power moves on each other.  Shayna at one point hit a knee lift that apparently caused Nattie to bite right through her lip - sweet jeezus that had to hurt.  The finish came at 14 minutes when Nattie locked Nia in a sharpshooter, unaware that Nia had blind-tagged Shayna in.  Shayna came up from behind and locked in the kirafuda clutch, causing Nattie to pass out.  This was pretty good but insanely got more time than anything except the main event.  That's fucking mental.  **

WWE WrestleMania 37, Night 1: Sasha & Bianca Deliver Big

WrestleMania 37 is in the books, the first WWE shows in front of a proper audience in 13 months, and the second WrestleMania to be split across two nights.  Overall each night was an enjoyable affair with some good to very good matches, two excellent main events, some questionable booking (par for the course in this company), and the crowning of a couple of new stars.  Night 1 was the more successful show, more consistent and with better time management, but Night 2 was a solid outing in its own right.  But we'll get to that....

Night 1 opened, after a 30-minute rain delay (kinda shocking that this is the first time this has ever happened for an outdoor WrestleMania) during which numerous stars cut actual unscripted promos for the first time in forever, with the WWE Title match.  Bobby Lashley and Drew McIntyre were given 18 minutes and made the most of it, with a hard-hitting hoss battle.  Drew got all of his big moves in and went for the Claymore but MVP pulled Lashley out of the ring to save him.  Drew dove over the ropes onto both guys, broke out a kimura lock (homage to Brock Lesnar?), and eventually set up for the Claymore again, but MVP yelled from ringside to Bobby, which distracted Drew long enough for Bobby to duck the kick and apply the Hurt Lock.  Drew fought it for a while and tried to fall back on top of him for a pin, but Lashley rolled through and held on, pulling Drew to the mat and wrapping his leg over.  The ref checked on Drew and called the match for Lashley due to a pass-out.  This seemed like the wrong finish for the first match in a year in front of fans - if Lashley was going to retain they should've put this match somewhere else on the card.  Just a really odd, decisive finish for the heel champion if McIntyre is getting a rematch later (which I assume he is).  It was almost like The Rock losing to Triple H at WrestleMania 2000.  Plus it made Miz's brief title run utterly pointless.  But anyway the match was very good.  ***3/4

Match #2 was not so good, and it was the Tag Team Turmoil match.  I was fully expecting the surprise return of Becky Lynch with Charlotte Flair as her partner, but that didn't happen so we were stuck with the five announced teams.  Carmella and Billie Kaye beat Naomi and Lana with an assisted rollup, then tried the same tactic on the Riott Squad but the ref broke it up.  Ruby Riott pinned Billie Kay after a senton.  The Riott Squad also beat Mandy Rose and Dana Brooke after a rollup.  Then Tamina and Natalya won the whole match after Tamina hit a Superfly splash off the top rope.  Not much to this.  *1/2

Friday, April 9, 2021

The History of NXT TakeOver: Stand & Deliver Night 2

At the end of my Stand & Deliver Night 1 review I said "Let's see if Night 2 can top it."  And the answer is no.  No it can't.  S&D Night 2 was a pretty good show made to look not so great trying to follow such a fantastic Night 1.  In fact I would say the best match on Night 2 was behind the three or four best matches on Night 1.  Maybe NXT is better reigned in at around two hours.  Maybe Night 1 just had the better roster of talent.  Regardless, I was underwhelmed by Night 2 and in a perfect world I could actually see either night of WrestleMania besting this show.

The show opened with the Cruiserweight Unification match between Santos Escobar and Jordan Devlin.  These two worked pretty hard for the bout's 18 minutes but didn't do anything we haven't seen before in one of these ladder matches (I've said this before but I think it's time for a long moratorium on ladder matches - they just aren't special anymore).  There were plenty of big spots but it's simply not safe to do anything that comes close to the danger of the TLC matches of 20 years ago.  And without that level of danger there's not much point to a ladder match (There was a nice Devlin moonsault off the top of the ladder - pretty spectacular).  What made things worse is the late-match interference of Legado Del Fantasma, who knocked the ladder over as Devlin was climbing, and then just left.  So first off, why did they wait so long to show up, and second, why did they voluntarily leave afterwards?  Their involvement made no sense at all; what is this, RAW?  The finish came when both men were climbing but Escobar pushed Devlin backwards off the ladder, through a ladder propped up against the turnbuckle, before retrieving both belts to become the Undisputed Cruiserweight Champion.  Side note: Vic Joseph needs to stop acknowledging the "This is awesome" chants - he did it twice in this match alone, and his response is always "This is indeed awesome."  Stop it.  This was fine but nothing more.  ***1/4

Next up was a free TV-quality Women's Tag Title match, as Ember Moon and Shotzi Blackheart faced Candice LaRae and Indi Hartwell.  They got ten minutes, which was plenty to do what they needed to do.  The most memorable spot was Shotzi almost killing herself with a tope onto both opponents, who somehow BOTH missed catching her - that's pretty inexcusable.  Fortunately Shotzi hit the dasherboards back-first and seemed to be fine.  And then Ember did a top rope moonsault onto both opponents, who succeeded in catching her.  Back in the ring, Ember hit her Eclipse finisher (still a marvelous-looking move) on both challengers, and Shotzi hit her top rope senton on Indi to retain the belts.  Again, this was fine.  ***

Thursday, April 8, 2021

The History of NXT TakeOver: Stand & Deliver Night 1

Well, Night 1 of NXT TakeOver: Stand & Deliver, um, delivered.  Big time.  Of the five matches, I'd call four pretty great.  And, unlike a lot of WWE-related shows, they were all very different.  Maybe now that NXT is moving to Tuesdays and thus isn't head-to-head with AEW anymore, Vince lost interest and is going to let the one good WWE brand run more or less on its own again.

The show started with a rather short but technically excellent grapple-fest between Pete Dunne and Kushida, which was all about stringing together great chain wrestling sequences.  I love these kinds of matches and in 2021 we don't see enough of them.  From grappling and submissions, the match progressed to striking, before moving on to the big moves.  Kushida nearly had the match won with the Hoverboard Lock but Dunne reached the ropes twice, tweaked Kushida's fingers to the point that Kushida couldn't throw his signature punch without hurting himself, and hit the Bitter End to take the match.  Damn good stuff in the opener.  ****

My least favorite bout, though it was enjoyable, was the Gauntlet Eliminator, basically an Elimination Chamber without the Chamber.  Leon Ruff and Isaiah Scott started things out with fast-paced exchanges before Bronson Reed entered.  Reed dominated both guys, using his superior size and strength.  Next in was Cameron Grimes, who paid Scott to form an alliance, and the two heels double teamed Ruff, resulting in his quick elimination as Dexter Lumis joined the fray.  Lumis hit moves on everyone, looking like a monster.  The final entrant was LA Knight, who cut a promo on everyone and proceeded to hit a bunch of big moves including a Kurt Angle-style superplex after quickly scaling the ropes.  Knight pinned Lumis with a quick cradle but was quickly eliminated by Reed.  Isaiah Scott turned on Grimes, pinning him with a rollup, and Reed and Grimes had a strong final sequence full of high impact offense.  Reed eventually won with his big splash off the top rope to punch his ticket against Johnny Gargano.  Good match but it went kinda long.  ***1/2

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

WWE WrestleMania 37 Preview & Predictions

It's that time of year again, when WWE throws a whole buncha shit at the wall and calls it WrestleMania!

Actually this year's show looks pretty strong overall.  Yes, the buildup has been atrocious as always, which is why I don't watch the weekly shows - imagine how fucked your booking has to be for RAW and Smackdown to make people care LESS about your upcoming PPVs.  But if the company gets out of the way and just lets these people work, WrestleMania 37 might actually be good.  For one thing this will be the first WWE show in front of a live audience in over a year.  That fact alone ought to make for a red-hot crowd; unlike most years the fans will actually seem happy to be there.  Like Mania 36, the theme is pirates and skull flags, and we're also getting two nights of WrestleMania.  Unlike 36, the shows are in a proper stadium with the bells and whistles one associates with the show of shows.  Plus, and this has me pretty stoked, no Triple H and no Undertaker.  It's the first WrestleMania since number 11 with neither guy wrestling on the card.  That's amazing.  In their place though are Edge (absurdly in one of the main events, but at least he hasn't been around every year stealing top spots), and Shane McMahon (zero defense for this, get him off these 'Mania shows).  Oh and Bad Bunny.  Whatever.  Also absent from WrestleMania are Shinsuke Nakamura (inexcusable), Jey Uso (who will probably be in Roman's corner?), Ricochet (why is this guy still in the company at this point?), and a host of other poor saps.  On the bright side though, each night of 'Mania should be well under four hours.  I'm all for that.  The phenomenon of the live crowd being totally burned out by the time the main event arrives got old real fast.

So let's dive in.  We have two nights and 14 matches to cover....

Night 1

Tag Team Turmoil: Lana & Naomi vs. Dana Brooke & Mandy Rose vs. The Riott Squad vs. Natalya & Tamina

The winners of this match get a shot at Nia Jax & Shayna Bazsler on Night 2.  Yeah, I'm thinkin' this can't be it.  There has to be a surprise last-minute team that swoops in and wins this.  I'm thinking probably Charlotte Flair and Bayley, or better yet, Charlotte and the returning Becky Lynch.  Why not?  It's in front of a live crowd, the pop will be huge.  That seems the likely scenario actually; it's a perfect "WrestleMania moment" kinda thing.  If I'm wrong and there's no surprise team, I guess I'll go with The Riott Squad?

Pick: TBA, or Riott Squad

RAW Tag Team Championship: New Day vs. AJ Styles & Omos

Between Kofi, Xavier and AJ this match should be quite good.  Omos is a big 7-foot question mark, but a match like this is ideal to hide his weaknesses.  Hey, remember when Kofi was the WWE Champ?  Good times.  Anyway, I can't see AJ and his monster heel bodyguard losing here.

Pick: AJ/Omos

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

NXT TakeOver: Stand & Deliver Preview & Predictions

Welp, WWE has attempted to corner the market on everyone's television viewing this week, with nine straight days of programming.  Last night it was RAW, tonight it's the Hall of Fame ceremony, and this Wednesday and Thursday it's the first two-night NXT TakeOver special, Stand & Deliver (followed by Smackdown, two nights of 'Mania, RAW and NXT).  

We have ourselves some pretty great-looking matchups on tap for this pair of shows.  I'm not up on all of NXT's goings-on (perhaps I'll watch the weekly show more often now that it will no longer be head-to-head with AEW), but I'll be damned if NXT hasn't put together a pretty stacked lineup.  Let's get started....

Night 1

Pete Dunne vs. Kushida

This might be the one I'm most interested in.  Both guys are fantastic, both guys killed it at the last TakeOver show, both guys deserve to be NXT headliners.  This should be a tremendous, hard-hitting match with lots of grappling as well.

Pick: I think Dunne wins this one.

Gauntlet Match: Leon Ruff vs. Isaiah Scott vs. Bronson Reed vs. Cameron Grimes vs. Dexter Lumis vs. LA Knight

I'm generally not a fan of gauntlet matches; what a stupidly arbitrary way to determine a #1 contender.  They tend to be overly long sequences of overly short singles matches.  Not sure who wins here to challenge Johnny Gargano on Night 2, but I'll pick Dexter Lumis I guess.

Pick: The guy with the nerdiest name

Oscar Film Journal: The Hustler (1961)

Welcome to another Oscar Film Journal review, here at!

Today's subject is the 1961 billiards-related classic, The Hustler, starring Paul Newman, Piper Laurie, George C. Scott and Jackie Gleason.  This gritty saga of gambling, winning and losing, and unlikely romance centers around "Fast" Eddie Felson, a prodigious pool hall hustler who along with his manager Charlie, travels town to town playing for money.  His ultimate quarry is pool legend Minnesota Fats (Gleason), whom he challenges to a series of games.  Eddie dominates most of the 25-hour session but can't bring himself to quit while he's ahead, and Fats cleans him out by the end.  Financially ruined and now "outed" as a hustler, Eddie plans to move on but meets Sarah (Piper Laurie), a part-time college student and full-time alcoholic, at the bus terminal.  The two connect instantly and Eddie moves in with her, breaking his partnership with Charlie.  Facing a choice between resuming his life as a hustler and going all-in with Sarah, Eddie strikes up a business arrangement with Fats' associate Bert (an austere George C. Scott) to get him back in a game against Fats.  Under Bert's cruel tutelage, Eddie learns the true nature of hustling, sacrificing his humanity and more to become a "winner."

Directed by Robert Rossen, a former Communist who sold out over 50 associates during the HUAC hearings in the 1950s, The Hustler is steeped in guilt and regret, now read almost as a parable for Rossen's McCarthy-era betrayals.  The Eddie character doesn't realize his dream of becoming the best pool player until after he's destroyed the two relationships he cared about, first his partnership with Charlie, then his romance with Sarah.  That inner conflict, career ambition at all costs vs. personal happiness, is central to the story, and The Hustler was one of few American films at the time to directly address such a theme.  

Thursday, April 1, 2021

The Great PPVs: WrestleMania X-Seven

Welcome to the sixth edition of The Great PPVs, here at and!  For those of you just joining us, this series takes a closer look at some of the all-time great wrestling shows while evaluating their place in history.

Today I'll be talking about what is widely considered one of the best two or three WrestleManias of all time, WrestleMania X-Seven (Yeah, that name still comes off as goofy and I'm not sure what's wrong with the number 17, or XVII, but whatever).  Emanating from the Reliant Astrodome in Houston, TX on April 1st, 2001, the seventeenth annual WrestleMania is generally accepted as the climax of the wildly successful Attitude Era, when the company showcased all the big stars they'd spent the last four years building, plus an influx of new talent from either WCW or developmental.  It was the perfect storm of new and established talent, and offered a wide variety of matches to enjoy.  'Mania 17 was also the first edition in nine years to be held in a stadium, which added to its splendor, and it was the first in a decade to run a full four hours.

The show was built around the biggest rematch of the era, between the company's two biggest stars.  Two years earlier The Rock and Steve Austin delivered a chaotic main event that served as a perfect illustration of where the WWF was at the time.  Vince Russo's "crash TV" booking was in full force, and the PPV for better or worse reflected the short attention span philosophy of booking, with numerous week-to-week swerves, watered down hardcore wrestling, and an overly storyline-heavy product.  Still the WrestleMania 15 main event was a very entertaining, if underwhelming match between the two mainstream superstars.  Two years later Rock and Austin had the chance to truly tear the house down in front of a rabid Texas crowd, and this match met those expectations and then some.  This brutal, bloody No DQ Title match ran 28 minutes, incorporated spots from other Austin matches, and ended with one of the biggest swerves in history, as Austin's mortal enemy Vince McMahon helped him defeat The Rock for his fifth WWF Title.  Austin had done the unthinkable and turned heel, joining Vince in a move that would drastically alter his onscreen persona.

Sadly this would also hurt the WWF's bottom line, as their biggest star and merch seller was now far less appealing to casual viewers who had no desire to boo him.  Getting the right audience response was an uphill battle that took several weeks and required Austin aligning himself with Triple H and beating up Jim Ross, the Hardy Boyz and Lita.  Still, from a critical standpoint this heel run led to some of Austin's best work, both in-ring and on the mic.  The babyface anti-hero persona had become very stale by 2001 and after his heel turn it was quite evident that Steve Austin was having the time of his life antagonizing both the audience and his fellow wrestlers with his new "What?" gimmick, and exploring more comedic elements of his character.  I personally always found Steve Austin effortlessly funny, and his 2001 Title run turned the volume way up on that aspect.  Regardless, this match was an incredible main event; arguably the best 'Mania headliner up to this point.

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!

You can also listen to a podcast version of this episode at:


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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

Wrestling Do-Overs: WrestleMania IX

Welcome to another edition of Wrestling Do-Overs, where I'll examine a wrestling show or angle and reshape it as I think it should've been (For other examples see my WrestleMania IV and Starrcade '89 editions).  Today I'll be going back and retroactively fixing what is the most widely reviled of all WrestleManias, the ninth edition!

Now let me preface this by saying 'Mania 9 is not my least favorite of them all.  It's certainly not a good show but it had a few decent matches and despite the worst-booked ending ever in the history of wrestling-- nay, entertainment-- nay, humankind, there have been worse installments in WrestleMania history.

But don't think I'm letting this show off the hook.  It was quite clearly a mess and could've been fixed up pretty nicely with only a few adjustments.  So let's first take a look at the lineup and see why it didn't work.

Intercontinental Championship: Shawn Michaels vs. Tatanka - 18:13
The Steiner Brothers vs. The Headshrinkers - 14:22
Doink the Clown vs. Crush - 8:28
Razor Ramon vs. Bob Backlund - 3:45
Tag Team Championship: Money Inc. vs. The Mega-Maniacs - 18:27
Lex Luger vs. Mr. Perfect - 10:56
The Undertaker vs. Giant Gonzalez - 7:33
WWF Championship: Bret Hart vs. Yokozuna - 8:55
WWF Championship: Yokozuna vs. Hulk Hogan - 0:22

Yeesh, that's what passed for a WrestleMania lineup in 1993?  Okay, first let's look at what did work.

To start with, I kinda liked the Roman Colosseum theme - I know, it was corny and led to way too many cheap laughs, but overall I enjoyed the idea of dressing up Caesar's Palace as a Roman arena.  It gave the show a nice sense of pageantry and made it look different from other PPVs and even other WrestleManias.  Could they have left out some of the window dressing, like making the announcers dress up in togas?  Yes.  But overall I didn't have a problem with the theme, and holding the event outside made it feel special.  By the way, the officially announced attendance figure was 16,891.  I call bullshit on that.  Look at this pic below.  No chance in hell did they fit more than 8,000 in that little venue, and that's being generous.

17 thousand people my ass

A few of the matches were good, as I said before.

The opening Shawn Michaels-Tatanka match was solid stuff, and while certainly not one of Shawn's career highlights, was easily the best match Tatanka ever had.  This got a good amount of time (though I would've shortened it to maybe 15 minutes) and Shawn got to steal the show (by default, but still).  The countout ending was weak, but I still like this match.

The Steiners-Headshrinkers bout was another good one.  Rick and Scott had burst on the WWF scene a few months earlier and were way over, and these two teams meshed quite well actually.  I'll never forget the spot where Rick reversed a Doomsday Device-type move by catching Samu in midair and suplexing him off Fatu's shoulders.  Just a sick spot.

This was both craze-balls and amaze-balls

I found Crush vs. Doink inoffensive and mildly entertaining, so I'll leave that one alone.  Doink's psycho clown character was great, and so of course they turned him babyface six months later and he became a throwaway comedy act.  Dipshits.  Anywho, this match can stay just because it furthered a feud.

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

Wrestling Do-Overs: WWF WrestleMania IV

What up fools?  Welcome to Wrestling Do-Overs, where I'll take a famous pro wrestling card or angle and reimagine it the way I would've booked it.

Today I'll be talking about WrestleMania IV, which took place March 27, 1988 at Trump Plaza in Atlantic City.  This show is best remembered for the first-ever WWF Title tournament which saw Randy "Macho Man" Savage win four matches to become the new Champion.  Now all that is great, but the show itself from a wrestling standpoint, well.....kinda sucked.  They tried to cram sixteen matches on a four-hour PPV, only one of which lasted more than twelve minutes (that being a terribly dull fifteen-minute draw in the first round).  There was simply too much going on and not enough time for any of the individual matches to properly deliver.

So I'm going to overhaul the card and present it the way I think it should've gone down.  Before I do though, let's look at the card the way it actually transpired:


20-Man Battle Royal
Honky Tonk Man vs. Brutus Beefcake
Ultimate Warrior vs. Hercules
British Bulldogs/Koko B. Ware vs. Islanders/Bobby Heenan
Strike Force vs. Demolition

See what I mean?  There just wasn't enough good wrestling going on, and even the tournament final/main event was an overbooked nine-minute mess when it should've been a potential Match of the Year.

So first off, let's change the 14-man tournament to an 8-man.  Now I know what you're thinking; but Justin, Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant are supposed to get a bye into the second round!  And they still do; Hogan and Andre are automatically entered into the tournament, whereas the remaining six competitors have to win qualifying matches on WWF Superstars of Wrestling in the weeks leading up to the show. 

Tournament Qualifiers

Ted Dibiase defeats Don Muraco
Jim Duggan defeats One Man Gang
Randy Savage defeats Butch Reed
Ricky Steamboat defeats Greg Valentine
Jake Roberts defeats Dino Bravo
Rick Rude defeats Bam Bam Bigelow

So your first-round bracket looks like this:

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.