Sunday, February 27, 2011

Tonight's Oscar Picks

For the record:  The King's Speech, Fincher, Firth, Portman, Bale, Leo.

Time-Delayed Oscars 007: 1996

You know the old saying: “An awesome, fun vacation with your family will wreak havoc with your schedule for a series of Time-Delayed Oscars blog posts”?

Well, that saying is true.

Anyway, this week brings us to 1996, which I think was a year that actually happened once, though Wikipedia is still asking for a citation to verify this.  Since it’s been a while, here’s a refresher for the groundlings:

Time Delayed Oscars is predicated on the idea that time itself picks the true quality in movies. Each year, we the mass of casual movie watchers, film aficionados, and habitual renters decide which movies will last in the public consciousness; we do this by deciding what we still want to watch, through pop culture references, through pastiche, through homage, and even through which posters we put on our dorm room walls.

Here we go.

"Listen honey, I know you're not a big Monty Python fan, but I've got
to ask: This would be the perfect time to do the whole 'I'm not dead yet'
routine from Grail. Chance of a lifetime. Would you mind?"
All The Movies of 1996

Sometimes These Come Back

Bottle Rocket – This one is special, guys. You know those bullets that make a tiny entrance wound but an exit wound the size of a pie plate?  That’s this movie.  Owen Wilson and Wes Anderson (and yes, OK, Luke Wilson, too) made a tiny little splash in the cinematic ocean with Bottle Rocket, but since then there’s been an explosion underwater somewhere. Without a doubt Anderson’s least polished work, it’s still one of his best. A little classic.

Breaking the Waves – Emily Watson and the rather divisive auteur Lars von Trier first came to the attention of the general U.S. moviegoing public when Watson received a (well-deserved) Oscar nomination for her devastating portrayal of a devout, nearly suicidally-sacrificial young woman (a recurring theme of von Trier’s). The rather controversial ending is still a favorite of mine, as von Trier breaks the naturalistic, gritty formalism of his self-created “Dogma 95” rules in an audacious commentary on the divide between religion and divinity.

The Cable Guy – The first Jim Carrey box office disappointment is also the first Jim Carrey movie to hint at the strains of darkness and complexity that would mark some of Old Rubberface’s more interesting roles.

The English Patient – This is 1996’s Best Picture laureate, which should come as no surprise, since it’s essentially the How To Make A Best Picture template. It’s beautifully shot and gorgeous to look at. It’s well-acted by British people. It’s historical. It’s epic. It’s very tastefully done. It has basically no sharp edges or anything that might be the slightest bit challenging (it completely jettisons the moment in the book when the gentle-nature Sikh sapper Kip explodes in fury at the dropping of atomic bombs in Nagasaki and Hiroshima, which is only one of the two emotional climaxes).  I don’t know if anybody is interested in watching it again, ever, or why they might want to do so, short of curiosity after finishing Michael Ondaatje’s superb novel. It also has Colin Firth in a supporting role, and Colin Firth is the star of a very nicely-acted British historical movie called The King’s Speech.  I don’t know why I brought that up.

Everyone Says I Love You – Am I the only person who thinks this was Woody Allen’s most enjoyable movie –by a mile – of the nineties?  A return to a sort of silly whimsical Woody, and most of the cast doesn’t embarrass themselves with the singing. Also, any movie that has two dozen Groucho Marxes (Grouchoes Marx?) in pith helmets singing “Hooray for Captain Spaulding” in French is going to be Good People in my book.

Fargo – For some reason, Fargo represents the moment when the world at large started paying attention to the Coen Brothers; kind of analogous to the moment when your favorite indie band turns into a rock superpower. I think this is middle-drawer Coens, which is still a very good movie indeed. It’s top of the middle drawer. Maybe bottom of the top drawer. Anyway, people are still watching and quoting and thinking about Fargo, its pregnant no-nonsense sheriff, its wood chipper, its impeccably staged double-murders, and its deadpan aping of Northern Midwest patois, but I remain bemused that this was the breakout album and not (say) Miller’s Crossing or Raising Arizona.

Fear –  I don’t think this is remembered, but I do remember seeing the box in the video store. It was the moment I thought, “Huh. So I guess they’re going to keep letting Marky Mark make movies.”

Flirting With Disaster – David O. Russell’s studio debut (he made an uber indie called Spanking the Monkey) with Daniel Faraday a few years prior. I haven’t seen it. Anybody here still love it?

Hamlet – Man, Kenneth Branagh was on fire with this faithful Shakespeare adaptation. To my tastes, this is 95% the most gorgeously made movie of the year (the other 5%, in particular the ghost scene and some ill-advised stunt casting, went for the gusto and missed), and Branagh gives one of the performances of the decade as the Dane. Strangely, I’m in a minority here; the movie hasn’t had much attention in the last 15 years. I’m including it anyway, because this is THE definitive film Hamlet.

Happy Gilmore – King Adam Sandler ruled for 12 years. This is by consensus his best movie.  Let’s all say it together: “The Price is WRONG, bitch!”

Hard Eight – P.T. Anderson’s debut is a twisty little noir. It’s not much known, but I include it here as a sign of what was to come.

Independence Day – This big stupid summer blockbuster distinguishes itself from the mass of big dumb summer blockbusters that have been completely forgotten for two reasons: First, it’s so committed to its big and its dumb that it achieves a sort of lasting purity, and second, (Bad Boys aside) this was the moment when Will Smith broke loose from the sitcom set and established himself as a Big Damn Star. Welcome to earth, indeed.

The Island of Dr. Moreau – A massive stinkbomb that effectively killed both Val Kilmer and Marlon Brando. A camp classic today.

Jerry Maguire – SHOW ME THE MONEY!  A big hit when it came out, it then surprised everybody (by which I mean me) when it got nominated for a bunch of Oscars, including Picture and Actor. Cuba Gooding Jr.even won for Best Supporting Actor, and immediately parlayed his newfound credibility into forming a production company dedicated to creating genuine artistic expression.  Either that, or he started making movies that required him to bug out his eyes a lot and share the screen with talking dogs. Oy.  Anyway, Maguire remains one of the most-liked movies of this year. And it has a kid with like a 70 lb. head in it.

Kingpin – We all know now that this – and not There’s Something About Mary –  is the best of the Farrelly Brothers’ movies, right? Right?  Good. Let’s move on.

Lone Star – This slow paced, character driven story about a Texas sheriff solving a decades-old crime is the last time that I can remember John Sayles getting widespread critical praise. It was a little movie that few had heard of when it came out, and it remains just that, but when critics talk about the greats of the year (or sometimes even of the entire decade), this one will invariably be on the list.

Mars Attacks! – This completely insane movie is the last Tim Burton film that I actually like without qualifications. You need to surrender to the madness and let go of expectations, though, or you’re in for a rough 90 or so minutes.

Mission: Impossible – Only memorable today for that “lowered by wires” sequence.

The Nutty Professor – The movie that taught Eddie Murphy that putting on multiple fat suits equals bags full of money. For this reason alone, it should be put into a space capsule and fired directly into the sun.

Primal Fear – Ho hum, dumb little Richard Gere thriller.  Oh, here comes Ed Norton, the most talented actor of his generation. Holy crap!

Sling Blade – mmm hmmm, sure do love them French fried per-tay-ters. This movie gave the world Billy Bob Thornton, as well as a bunch of people constantly saying that last sentence. You decide if that’s a good thing.

Swingers – The movie that taught douchebags how to behave! Actually, it’s aware of their character’s flaws, even if many of the film’s fans aren’t, so we won’t blame Jon Favreau and company. Notable for Vince Vaughan’s hilarious portrayal of fast-talking uber-dip Trent “Double Down” Walker, which made him an instant star and created the persona that he’ll never escape.

Tin Cup – The last gasp of Kevin Costner’s career was actually a lot of fun. This is one of the more under-rated sports movies in recent(ish) memory.

Trainspotting – This tale of the rapid disintegration of four junkies and their drunken homicidal cohort introduced us to Ewan MacGregor and director Danny Boyle (if you didn’t see their excellent tiny indie thriller Shallow Grave a year before, that is). It’s still a frenetic good time, until it morphs into a grim psycho-horror. Then a good time again. Then horror. Then . . .

Waiting for Guffman – Christopher Guest’s re-invigoration of the mockumentary is one of the funniest movies of the 90s. If Oscar were a little more friendly to comedies, I’d put it on the nomination list.

"No, he's not Bruce Willis. He's Peter Stomare. He's the IKEA Bruce
Willis, which means that he's Swedish and not 100% properly assembled."
And The Time-Delayed Oscars Go To:

Best Picture:

Real List: The English Patient, Fargo, Jerry Maguire, Secrets & Lies, Shine

Today’s List: The English Patient, Fargo, Jerry Maguire, Lone Star, Trainspotting

My Pick: Hamlet

The Winner: I’ve already detailed the reasons that I think The English Patient would no longer win the big prize. I honestly was expecting to de-nominate it (and I sort of liked it), but in reviewing 1996 I am faced with the fact that it was a really bad year for film. So, Patient is still on the short list, but the race for the TDO is between Fargo and Jerry Maguire.  I’m fairly torn.  Both of them are still well-loved modern classics that have been uploaded into the collective consciousness, but neither of them stands out to me as an obvious choice for a win. Maguire definitely has the edge when it comes to how much of the script has entered our vocabulary (though I’m not sure if that helps or hinders a perception of quality), while the Coen Brothers, outsiders of sorts in 1996, have become Oscar darlings in the last few years. I want to call it a tie, but a man’s got to take a stand eventually.  I think that if the Academy gave out the 1996 do-over awards this year, you’d probably see Fargo take it – and immediately face popular opinion  that Maguire was robbed. 

Here’s an interesting thought that I haven’t encountered until now:  The assumption of Time Delayed Oscars is that it allows a more objective view of a film’s historical significance and staying power, shorn of the hype/money machine that now permeates the Yearly Awards Cycle (which is itself now longer than the NHL season), and might act as a tonic to Oscar’s habit of awarding somebody for a lesser work because of their prodigious body of previously unawarded work (see Scorsese, Martin).  However, it seems possible that a lesser movie may get a boost because of its film-maker’s prodigious collective body of work since then.

Turns out there is nothing that Tom Cruise could be yelling here
funnier than "I LOVE BLACK PEOPLE!!!"
Best Actor:  I don’t think Geoffrey Rush would get the prize for a hammy performance in a  dull movie (Shine) that is now generally recognized as such. Personally, I’d give this prize to Kenneth Branagh for Hamlet, but I know I’m the only person banging that gong. Tom Cruise has really damaged his career lately, but that’s really only taken him from “biggest star in the world who everybody loves” to “one of the ten biggest stars in the world who everybody thinks is weird”, which also describes Johnny Depp.  Jerry Maguire is still beloved, and the whole thing falls apart without the cocky desperation that he invests in his title character (watch that shark’s grin start to glisten with flop sweat as unctuous Jay Mohr fires him).  I don’t think there’s anybody else in 1996 that could have played that part, and Cruise does so to perfection.  If not Cruise, then maybe Woody Harrelson in The People vs. Larry Flynt, but that movie is pretty much dust by now. I say Cruise.

Best Actress: The thing about Francis McDormand’s turn as Sheriff Marge Gunderson is that, while certainly iconic, it was a supporting role (strangely, William H. Macy, the closest thing that Fargo had to a lead role, was nominated in the supporting category). Meanwhile, Emily Watson’s performance in Breaking the Waves remains astonishing (do yourself a favor and check that movie out). I think she gets the golden boy in a fairly weak year. Even though the movie she appeared in is not broadly remembered from a popular standpoint, von Trier is still a relevant director today, and so one of his early and more universally well-regarded entries would still get consideration.

Which is the Best Picture of 1996?  Go vote at FilmChaw!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Survive Donkey Island: My Island Diary 003

I don't consider it a brag to say that Survivor Poker is succeeding beyond my wildest expectations. I say "beyond my wildest expectations" because I figured that it was about 50/50 that it would be a total bust with people confused and disinterested after game one, and then we'd all collectively do what we did after the Black Eyed Peas Superbowl halftime show: pretend it never happened so that we could carry on with our lives and still believe in the possibility of goodness.

I say it's not a brag because I don't really feel ownership. In the first place, I lifted the rules right off of the popular TV game show Jeopardy! (note: check this before posting), and in the second, this is our thing now. The germ of the idea sprouted from my rather large and bulbous head, but now it's out there mixing with your creative energies and becoming whatever it's going to become. I love it. Thank you, everybody who's playing Donkey Island, everybody who's playing the tournies alongside, to Al for swinging some swag our way, and to Buddy Dank and Jo for emceeing and coordinating.

To those of you reading who haven't played yet: Come out! We had 42 in the Mookie on Wednesday and signs are it may be growing. Plus, the stakes here are comically low, so if the serious business of BBT (which I happen to love) turns you off . . . well, believe, me, you won't catch any of us taking this thing seriously.

So get in on one of the most fun poker tournaments to be found in one of the world's best American casino, Canadian casino, or online cardroom (that'd be our good friend Full Tilt Poker).

And listen to Buddy Dank Radio!

OK, on to my totally true and not-at-all made up account of life on Donkey Island. When last we left our intrepid island dwellers, the badly injured Riggstad had just been killed and consumed by his team, The Fish.

The Donkey Island Diary of Julius_Goat

When Jamy Hawk gives you this look, you've probably been
busted paddling the camp canoe.
Day 5: Success has been the failure of our tribe. It's true: when we lost immunity, it brought us together. We all were of one accord: we needed to kill our resident Alpha Wolf, Numb R. Bono. But now, after immunity has been secured, tensions are growing, and cracks are beginning to show in the foundation of our previously equanimimous camaraderie.

Specifically, our architect Jamy Hawk is starting make both Uber Hipster Much Tim and recently-scalped college guy Jordan crazy with her adherence to what she calls "camp rules." These rules include (1) not letting the campfire go closer than 6 inches to our cook pot, (2) erasing with a stick all our footprints and sundry tracks within a 100 yard radius of the dwelling 'in case of baboon attack', and (3) not paddling the camp canoe without signing it out. Jamy may have tended to Jordan carefully in the first days after Numb scalped him, but now the same assiduity has made a rift there. He huddles with Much Tim, making snide comments under his breath as she schoolmarms them about the proper stacking of discarded cans of food.

And here comes paranoia, creeping up my ribs. I fear a Jordan/Much union could spell the end of me unless I can make a few friends around here. And I really doubt I can do that if I can't stop farting so much. And I won't do that, because if I give up my religion just to win, what have I become?

I thought that maybe Samuel would ally with me, but then I realized that Samuel was just a banana tree I'd been sitting under.

Hmm. Yep, I guess I'm crazy again!

Pictured: Mr All-Can Tang and just a few of his many many cookies.
Day 6: Challenge Day is here! Today is a sort of a "Swimming Out to the Raft, Light the Torch, Swim It Back With The Torch in Your Teeth, And Burn Something On Shore With It" kind of thing. It's a race.

The great thing is that one of the Fish, a large fellow with an amazing head of flowing golden hair, has brought treats! The treat-bringer's introduces himself as All-Can Tang, and he speaks in friendly tones with a thick Slavic accent. We all sort of like him immediately, and think what a shame it will be when we eventually have to kill him and eat him.

But never mind such unpleasant thoughts. Mr. Tang has brought us chocolate chip cookies! Wow, there must be like 400 of the things here! We chow down as friends before we race as enemies.

The race is going well. Heff Mike the hick (or "rural American", as I learn from Mike is the proper nomenclature) and I are doing great, at the finish line and well ahead of Mr. Tang (who happens to be the sole remaining Fish), when out of nowhere host Buddy Dank sets me on fire. I jump into the briny sea and Tang comes up to his kindling. Luckily, Heff is a born firebug and lights his pyre first. Victory is ours!

We're all pretty sure that the Fish are going to sacrifice this young girl who didn't even swim, but they rise up as one and attack Mr. Tang, and carry him off shrieking.

Huh. I guess they didn't like the cookies.

Images courtesy of Midday Escapades and Cheesy Supreme.

Take 5 - Week of 2/27

You know the rough part about writing a weekly goof post on the biggest stories in poker for Full Tilt Poker? It's this: when it's sort of a slow week in poker and you can't think of any stories better than Breaking News From Poker Grump: David Benyamine picks a booger the size of a ferret. Luckily, good ol' Al Can't Hang came to the rescue with some choice topic suggestions, and also found a few of my embarrassing typos to boot. That dude has been carrying my water for ages. I should give him a chance to play my silly prop bet game. Or, you know, maybe something better.

And now I'm gonna pass the mic to Yaut!


Yes, another week, another five serious poker items in this week’s news getting torn into silly little ribbons by the logic-shredder that is my brain. Anybody seeking a valid news source from my articles will be prosecuted. Anybody quoting them will be shot. Anybody trusting them is welcome to play me heads up.

5. Racener vs. Mizzi - So there’s been a bit of a kerfuffle starting over on the 2+2 forums regarding some alleged malfeasance. November Niner John Racener has accused BLUFF Magazine player of the year Sorel Mizzi of dealing off the bottom of the deck in Chinese poker. Later, Racener hit the boards to say that his accusation stands, but that he’s dealing with it and considers the matter closed. Now, obviously Racener is a Full Tilt pro, so you maybe be surprised to see this covered right here. Most online sites, they’d clamp down on this sort of thing, asking that there be no commentary made on their official blogs. But Tilt is a classy site, and forthright, and honest, and faces controversy head on, so I’m just going to come out and say the honest truth: I have no idea how to play Chinese poker.

4. WPT Celebrity Invitational 2011 – Though luminaries such as Lou “Diamond” Phillips, Don “Oscar Nominated” Cheadle, and the Fat “Rudy” Hobbit were in attendance, the star-studded final table included Dinara Khaziyeva, Damon Schramm, George Rechnitzer, Dan Heimiller, Davidi Kitai, and Almira Skripchenko. I don’t have a joke here.

3. Vinnie Vinh Wins the LAPC Event #29 – OK, this isn’t huge news except to say that we’re all very happy that Vinnie is still alive and able to finish tournaments without vanishing. One more disappearing act and I would figure him for Keyser Soze.

Read the rest at Poker From The Rail

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Goat Suggests 003: Freakangels

These are the Freakangels.

KK makes things. Helicopters. Gadgets. Bad decisions.

Connor writes things down, trying to make sense of it all.

Karl is the farmer. He grows the only strawberries in the world.

Luke is a creep. He lives on the street. Pants are optional. His mind drifts.

Sirkka runs a house of sexual healing. And gratification. Give her a chance, and you might change your mind about her. If you don't, she might change your mind for you.

Kirk is the sentry. He wants peace, and he doesn't care who he has to kill to get it.

Arkady is the mystic. She's learning what the rest of them can do. She's missing a few cards in her deck, or perhaps they're missing her.

Caz is the engineer. She makes everything that KK doesn't make.

Jack is the scavenger, picking through the bones of a ruined world, bringing back what he can find on his boat.

Miki is the doctor and the conscience. She is usually deeply ambivalent about all of this.

Kait is the cop. She gets turned on by television's Quincy. And by the rules. And by enforcing them. And by fascism.

Mark is the outcast. Mark has decided to start controlling people, you see. He's getting better and better at it, and maybe he can't be stopped . . .


They all have purple hair and eyes.  They all have powers beyond the realm of human understanding. They were all born on the same day in the same place. They can be petty. They can be scary. They can be selfless. They can be kind. They can be monsters.

Six years ago, they destroyed the entire world.

This is what happens next.

And that, basically, is the premise of perhaps the greatest webcomic out there, written by Transmetropolitan's Warren Ellis and illustrated by the literally amazing Paul Duffield.  Every Friday (with occasional exceptions), you'll get six new pages. This story is a masterpiece of character, art, plotting, layout, dialogue, you name it. I'm not going to tell you another thing about it, so there's just one thing left to do.

You really ought to read it.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Your Weekly Dose of Crazy

Hello. Here's Shelley Duvall.

Hello. Here's Shelley Duvall.

Hello. Here's Shelley Duvall.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Survive Donkey Island: My Island Diary 002

It's been a whirlwind time on the island.  Before I get into all that stuff, though, I want to remind you that next Sunday's tournament is planned as a $5 multi-entry, not a $1 rebuy.  Once again, word on the street is that we'll be seeing an extra $100 in the prize pool courtesy of Al Can't Hang and Full Tilt, so be sure to give Al a big slap on the back (watch out for the stab wounds) and a hearty "thanks, Fabio!" next time you see him. He also accepts SoCo.

Event 4 is the MookieDank on Wednesday!

Full Tilt Poker
$10 + $1 NLHE
Wednesday, Feb. 23
password: vegas1

Do it!

OK, no more ado. I'm out of ado.  Here's the diary, picking up right after our ouster of self-proclaimed Alpha Wolf Numb Bono after Event 1. Again, we're one event behind right now, but I will try to catch it up before Wednesday.

The Donkey Island Diary of Julius_Goat

Can you believe we made this from scratch in one day?
Day 003: After last night's butchery and feast, we're all a little bit bloated and tired, but Jamy Hawk rightly doesn't let us laze the cool of the morning away. Given that our sole shelter is a flooded mudhole right now, this task needs to be addressed right away. Tropical storms can come up without warning here in the Pacific.

Jamy's up to the task. It appears that she may have a doctorate in architecture, or maybe she has over twenty-thousand hours logged on Minecraft or something. In any event, our new bamboo stilt house is a thing of beauty, with separate rooms for each of us, a working jacuzzi, and a KISS tribute band playing in the game room. Jamy's a interesting sort. She's sort of tight-lipped, but smart and no-nonsense. She's taken the recently scalped Jordan under her wing, and is trying to help him sew his Alpha-Wolf removed hair back on.

Also with us are:

Brain MC - An aspiring Olympic diver on scholarship from UCLA, in his off hours an underground rapper from the West Coast. Brain MC claims that he tries to "keep it on the positive tip." His lower teeth have been replaced, Kanye West-style by diamondelles. "Diamonds?" I ask. Brain MC shakes his head. "Nope. Diamondelles. They're like diamonds, but better. One, they're cheaper. Two, there's a lot more of them."

Kat Ittude - Our youngest member, Kat is totally mute and is therefore forced to communicates solely by means of interpretive dance. What's weird is that she's probably the most eloquent member of our tribe.

Mike Heff - (he goes by Heff Mike, which is apparently how they do it in West Virginia), a good old boy in overalls and wiry strength. He's an excellent cook. The BBQ sauce he marinated Numb Bono in was fantastic; he whipped it up entirely from island herbs and spices.

Tim Much - a hipster with spacers in his nose piercing and tats covering his entire neck and left arm, all of them bar codes of Chinese characters with ironic translations. Tim decides that he wants to go by "Much Tim" as an ironic commentary on Heff Mike's way of self-identifying. I'm laid back, so "Muchtim" it is.

We retire to our hammocks, listening to the sounds of the jungle at night.

Riggstad, shown here, is not dead yet, but if you wait around for a
minute, he'll be dead very soon.
Day 004:  Here we are at the second challenge. Immediately it is evident that there is something amiss over at Team Fish. One of their players, a helicopter rental salesman named Riggstad, went out in the ocean the first hour of Day 1 and immediately stepped on a poisonous sea urchin. Then he got impaled by a passing swordfish. Then a seagull pooped in his open mouth. Then a hyena bit him (I know, a hyena in the water. It's crazy). He's had some bad luck is what I'm saying, and he hasn't even had a chance to compete in immunity competition.

There appears to be something of a kerfuffle between the members of Team Fish, with some claiming that Riggs, as a non-functioning member, needs to be euthanized, while others advocate just as vociferously for team unity and the short sightedness of eliminating a member who, if healthy, might prove strong. Indeed, it's true that the ailing Fish is a big strong guy, but right now a recovery doesn't seem likely. His skin is gray, his eyes are yellow, and he keeps muttering distractedly about the "Catalina Wine Mixer," whatever that means. He's coughing up blood until a middle aged Fish with a $400 haircut and a $70,000 watch named Joe C. Very hollers at him to stop. "Shut. That coughing. Down. Coughing is for closers only." The weakened Riggstad meekly complies.

In the end, all the bickering is counter-productive, as few of the Fish even begin work on their challenge, a puzzle of interlocking wooden blocks that form host Buddy Dank's face when assembled. Team Donkey cruises to easy victory, and Riggstad is hauled off by the majority who want him for dinner. Later that night, we learn that he was cut into chunks and made into a shepherd's pie.

That's good eating!

Images from Best Green Home Tips and Monty Python.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Take 5 - Week of 2/20

Walt Disney always famously introduced us to the idea, “It’s a Small World After All”, but Walt never had to consider what his opponent’s four-bet range was on an uncoordinated flop, and something like Rush PLO would have melted his face off faster than the lost ark. Let’s face it, the small world is passé: It’s a big world of poker out there.

So what I want to do is this: Each week, I’d like to ruminate (which is legal in my state) on the world of poker, in my utter imitable style, by which I mean I’d like to take real poker things and occasionally make stuff up about them, for the purposes of laughs and mutual enjoyment. Hopefully, we’ll all learn something, or at least I’ll get paid*.

So if you don’t know what happened last week, and (more importantly) you still don’t want to know when you’re done, check out my dumb list.

5. Eastgate Returns. The entire world was stunned when 2008 WSOP Main Event winner Peter Eastgate was walking away from the poker world. Well, OK, not the WHOLE world, but the 2+2 forums started several separate threads, which turned into memes, which turned, like 96% of 2+2 threads, into Photoshopped collages of cookies that look like TJ Cloutier. Where was I? Oh yeah, his retirement ended last week. My guess is that he got drunk and accidentally misclick-blocked himself from his online accounts and was embarrassed to admit it. Or maybe he just remembered that he is really good at poker.

4. High Stakes Poker Shakeup. Word came down that the well-liked host of HSP has been shown the door in favor of professional funnyman and amateur poker player Norm MacDonald, who will be providing commentary over the next season’s action. I have no explanation for this, but my suggestions include:

• HSP producers are looking for somebody who will say “crack whore” at least five times an hour (Kaplan was stuck at a woeful 1.2 CWpH).

• This is all an elaborate set-up for an inevitably underwhelming “Welcome Back Kotter” campaign.

• AJ Benza’s elaborate revenge scheme, step 14 of 86.

*In the interest of full disclosure: I get 50 chicken nuggets for this, still warm.

Read the rest at Poker From the Rail

Friday, February 18, 2011

Survive Donkey Island: My Island Diary 001

OK, before I launch into my diary, a few items of business:

1) Al Can't Hang and Full Tilt Poker have added $100 to the next four Sunday tournaments! This is just $100 straight-up into the prize pool, good for anybody who wants to play, whether Team Donkey, Team Fish, or regular poker-playing fool.

2) Based on feedback from some of you, the rebuy donkament structure was fun but went a little too late. I'm going to change up the structure of the Sunday Game in a variety of ways and we'll see which is more fun for more people. Perhaps it is the variety itself that will be fun.

Anyway, this week is a $1+$1 Rebuy like last week, but the rebuy period should be done after a 1/2 hr. instead of the full hour, which should help those of us with bedtimes.

Survive Donkey Island 003
Full Tilt Poker
$1 + $1 Rebuy
February 20, 2011
9:30 PM EST
password: survive

The following Sunday will not be a rebuy, but rather a $5 + $1 multi-entry tournament. I've gotta think that the multi-entry structure will make a last-longer . . . interesting.

We'll continue the on and off rebuy/multi for a few weeks and see how it goes. If you have suggestions, I am a reasonable Goat. Let me know.

Anyway, here's my island diary. I don't know if many of you know this, but we actually are on a faraway tropical island. This is just a little background behind-the-scenes of Donkey Island from an insider/contestant.

I was a little late getting this post up, so this entry will cover the first two days of play, including the first elimination, but it won't cover the elimination of Riggstad a couple days ago. We'll be on a bit of a lag for a while. Bear with me.

The Donkey Island Diary of Julius_Goat

Our shelter after the end of the day's work. The picture makes it
look nicer than it really was.
Day 001: We just landed via helicopter on the beach. Buddy "Probst" Dank greeted us with a cheesy grin and split us into our teams. I didn't get a very good look at the other team (Team Fish) before we were whisked down the beach to our team camps, but they seem like a motley crew; I reckon the Donkeys are in good shape. Almost immediately, I was accosted by a beefy guy with muttonchops who wanted to talk about our shelter and what he referred to as a 'secret alliance.' Since he was talking about this 'secret' at the top of his lungs in easy earshot of the rest of the team, I steered him toward the topic of the shelter.

Muttonchop's name is Numb Rutherford Bono, and he claims to be an "Alpha Wolf" (his words)and a "shelter building champion." A small lady wearing horn rimmed glasses named Jamy Hawk proposes a hut on stilts using the plentiful bamboo around us, but Bono insists that his way is the best way. I think we're all a little jet-lagged from the trip, so we let him do it his way. This proves a bad choice. Bono digs a large pit and covers it with banana leaves, proclaiming his creation "a mansion away from home." I am skeptical, and I'm not alone. Five of us, including Mrs. Hawk, Jordan, and a hillbilly with five teeth by the name of Heff decide he has to go the first chance we get.

Numb Rutherford Bono took charge from Day 1, but that
didn't help him come vote time.
Day 002: Here we are, the first immunity challenge. The drizzle that began as we walked to the challenge site has turned into a full-on downpour as Buddy explains the rules to us: We're supposed to beat each other over the head with coconuts until only one team is conscious. We are well ahead, 8-3, when suddenly Bono screams "HERE I COME TO SAVE THE DAY", Mighty Mouse style. He then tears open his shirt to reveal an actual Mighty Mouse costume underneath and proceeds to brain us mercilessly until we all collapse in a half-conscious daze. A young guy named Jordan with a full head of curly hair is particularly affected; he gets half scalped, leaving him with an unnatural premature baldness that I hope will grow back in time.

Having subdued his team, Bono looks at me with a friendly wink and says, "Don't worry, Goatboy. I've got a plan, here." I sure hope so, because the rest of us can't even stand, much less compete. Team Fish certainly seems nervous at the raw display of power they have seen, though somewhat encouraged by the turnabout in numbers.

"FREEEEEEEEEEEDOOOOMMM!! screams the muttonchopped Bono, charging across the beach at our adversaries. He brains two of them into a stupor, but in the process drops most of his coconuts. A nearby pack of baboons pick them up and set upon him, leaving him bloodied and weeping. He's quickly dispatched by the only remaining member of Team Fish, and elderly lady named Hoyazo.

When we come home, the rain has flooded out our "shelter", which now reveals itself as nothing but a quickly-dug mudhole. Bono sententiously tries to blame BrainMc, a tall kid with a UCLA diving scholarship, for "not putting the leaves over the hole right", but this holds about as much water as our erstwhile home. We sit in the rain and feel sorry for ourselves.

Later, at Tribal Council, we nurse our poor heads (Jordan is holding his hair in his hands like he just found his favorite dog dead in the street), but our course is clear. Numb R. Bono has to be gotten rid of. We cast our votes almost unanimously, and Bono is beheaded, spitted, and roasted for seven hours. He makes a decent breakfast; a little stringy, perhaps, but after the two days we've all had we can't really complain.

Hope we can win the next one without our most fierce and dangerous warrior.

Images via  TravelPod and Slashgear.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Your Weekly Dose of Awesome

Cross-posted at Coventry.

Listen up and I'll tell a story, about a blogger growing old . . .

So H-Double was posting the other day about Daniel Johnston . . .

Let me back up. H-Double was posting the other day. Can we all agree that this alone is worthy of a weekly dose of awesome? (H-Double is one of the original poker bloggers, and his blog went dark before I even got started, but I read him for years before I started writing here, and I'd have to say that his posts were a partial influence when I decided to do this little project in the first place. Anyway, if you never have, go check him out, including his archives -- he's one of the old school greats, and he walks among us again.)

But I was talking about Daniel Johnston, the disturbed young man/songwriting genius who has spent his life on the fringe of the music scene, inspiring some, pitied by others. He was the subject of the documentary The Devil and Daniel Johnston.

I'll be the first to admit that Johnston probably isn't going to hit everybody the same. Technically he can be amateurish, even childish. His voice is a sort of adenoidal quaver. But he has something about him, something true and utterly compelling

Here's my favorite Johnston tune, simultaneously one of the most uplifting and saddest, one of the simplest and most complex songs I know of.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Your Weekly Dose of Crazy

So listen to this everybody. A very special report on a social problem that affects us all.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Survive Donkey Island: Some Ground Rules

OK, as somebody who has watched about two and a half seasons of Survivor seven years ago, I feel that I am qualified to both mash it into some unholy mixture with poker and to give some silly advice about it.

1) Buddy Dank is in control. I set out the initial plan of purpose. Buddy will be making the adjustments and the final decisions both before and throughout the game, and he neither has sought out nor wants my opinion (which is only right, given that I am playing). He may switch things around on us. He may introduce a new rule or wrinkle to us. He may be able to secure prizes for various side-bet reward challenges. Like it or not, we are all in the Dank Position now. Oh, and speaking of potential rewards and wrinkles . . .

2) Non-contestants should play. I think it is entirely possible (given early talks I had last spring with Buddy when we first started hashing out the idea) that Buddy may find wrinkles that involve non-contestant particpation. I mean, he may not (again, I am not privy to these dealing now), but I'd recommend that you watch for it and listen to Buddy Dank Radio, even if you are not an official Donkey Island player.

3) Trust nobody. Everybody at some point or another is going to want you out of the game, except for you. So when you are making your little plans, remember: you might not be seeing the whole plan. Also, in a corollary to Mike McD's axiom "if you can't spot the fish in the first half hour, you are the fish", if you are going into the event wondering, "who's going to get the boot?", well . . .

4) Trust somebody. You can't play the whole time paranoid or you are going to out-think your own stupid self. Figure out where your interests intersect with the best interests of somebody else. There will be trust there, until there isn't.

5) Don't take votes personally. Every season I watched of Survivor ends the same way. The one smart person and the one useless tag-along sit by the fire while a bunch of self-righteous and angry people tell the smart person what a bad person they are for being smart. Look here: Everybody is trying to be the last person standing. That means that eventually they are going to have to vote you out while not telling you about it. Treat it like the poker tournament, where everybody is trying to bust you and nobody is going to tell you their hole cards until it is time to show.

If somebody votes you out, that doesn't make them a bad person.

6) If you vote me out, you are a bad person. I think this is self-explanatory, right?

Survive Donkey Island 001

Event 1
Full Tilt Poker
$1 + $1 Rebuy
February 13, 2011
9:30 PM EST
password: survive

Event 2
Full Tilt Poker
$10 + $1 NLHE
password: vegas1

See you at the tables on Sunday.

Be excellent to each other.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Best of Formspring 002

Once again, actual questions from actual readers. Ask me one here.

how much room does one need to swing a cat?

That's not really how you should think of it. The real question is, how can we swing more cats with the room we currently have? It's time to find sustainable methods of cat swinging. Schrödinger, for example, can swing 1-0 cats inside a box. May we all follow that example.

It also depends on the length of the tail. I've seen some cats you could only swing inside of Yankee Stadium.

What is the ugliest color in the world?

The ugliest color in the world is a designer color in the David Lynch line of Home Depot interior latex paints. It is called Bloody Stool, and it costs $67.99 a gallon.

There is no known cure to this color. When you stare into this color, this color also stares into you. This color has a smiling mouth full of teeth where its eyes should be.

It is a pretty ugly color, is what I am saying.

Will you be willing to have product placement in your blog?

I Pledge® that I will make it my Target® never have any kind of product placement in my blog, Verizon presents The_Coke_Speaks .

The truth is I am a total shill. Make your offer.

will the cavs win another game this season?

It's not about whether you win or lose. It's how you play the game. Unfortunately, they play the game terribly, just terribly. I think they should focus on just getting the lead for a little while first. You have to walk before you run.

do your eyebrows meet?

They met once. They didn't get along. I'd rather not open old wounds, so I'll leave it at that.

why are you such a dummy you big dummy you?

I stubbed my smart.

what's the donkey tournament ID at pokerstars?

214671640. And it's Full Tilt! Go play!

what is this world coming to?

It's coming to the five and dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean.

Gosh, that's really hard to say, Biff. (You don't mind if I call you Biff, do you Biff?) I reckon the earth is ready for a change. I hear tell it is thinking about kicking this oxygen addiction sometime soon, maybe even in the next 700,000,000 years or so, and switching to an atmosphere of pure molten helium. You know, for the tourism money.

who by fire?

Oh, I dunno. Probably Bob Sagat. Nearly Richard Pryor. Certainly not Leonard Cohen. He by accident, I says.

what can your country do for me?

Don't ask that.

Orange Julius or Julius Caesar?

Orange. Far less stabbing.

have you ever broken the siegfried oath?

No, but I folded it up once, origami style. I turned it into a paper tiger. The tiger then attacked Roy.

It's hard to be Siegfried, yo.

How did your arrest in the 90's for shaving a cactus influence your perception of the yoghurt industry?

Adversely. For one thing, the "h" in yoghurt? Comes right out when the Brits and Canucks aren't looking. Totally two-faced industry, my man. Second of all . . . well, let's just say it's not ALL yoghurt.


With steak? Yes? For breakfast? No. As a weapon of choice? No. As a marital aide? Maybe. But no.

have you no decency?

I know I have some here somewhere. I just need to look for it. It's probably under my self-respect.

Do the worm on Acropolis Slamdance the Cosmopolis? Enlighteen the populace?

You want to Clash with me? Preposterous / You know they ain't no toppin' this / Lyrically no stoppin' it / My rhymes they be poppin' off / The top of this esophagus / With speed that'll be shockin' ya / While all my words be mockin' ya



wanna go south ta hunt some skunk?

Well, you know, you betcha, as the Americans, those true Americans with their hard workin' and their gettin' in there and doin' the hard work and then with the questioning that liberal media Nazi filter, time to kill a moose.

Egyptian protesters have been enduring a 90% unemployment rate, which may explain their anger. If you ran Disney, is there any reason you wouldn't open up Disney Egypt and build a roller-coaster on the pyramids and solve the unemployment problem at the sa

It appears that the Egyptian government (or perhaps the Department of Homeland Security) shut this guy down mid-question. Always be aware, The Man is watching you.

Having said that . . . what do you mean, "if" I ran Disney?

Building Disney Egypt is a fine idea, but a bit of a financial gamble. As a staunch American Conservative, I stick only with common sense propositions. Common sense and a careful review of modern history tells us all that only one thing will help solve Egypt's problems. That solution happens to be the solution to all problems of civil unrest, economic difficulty, agriculture, energy policy, human rights, dental hygiene, spotty water glasses, and most levels of Angry Birds.

Here's the solution to all of Egypt's woes: massive tax cuts for the wealthiest 0.1% of the population. It can't possibly fail! If it does, we just go to Plan B, which is massive tax cuts for the wealthiest 0.1% of the population. If that fails, come find me for Plan C.

do you play the stock make? in what key?

Hey, buddy. I'll tell the silly jokes around here. Also, I'll make the typos.

I play the stock make all the time. How else do you make stocks? The stocks I make in my stock-make are sturdy and strong, and will hold any rapscallions or scalliwags or loose women for the full day of their punishment until they've been thoroughly shamed in the market square.

Some times, the whole day will fly by as I play with my stock make. I'll play it until it starts to seem like work. The day that happens, I'm done forever, and will focus on my other love: Smurf hunting.

if you launched a new fragrance. what are the possible names you'd consider?

This is a very important question, and timely as Tyra Banks has just invited me to develop a line of body odors for her. There are a couple of directions I am currently considering.

For example, I may just go with the simple, elegant name: "Goat Spray". That's high-class. We'd sell it in a cardboard box like fine blended wine.

On the other hand, the more puckish side of me would rather name my body odor "May I Have A Receipt?". This would result in people in department stores and malls across the country going to the counter and saying things like, "I'd like the seven-gallon bottle of May I Have A Receipt?" or "Can I try a sample of May I Have A Receipt?" This will lead to delightful "Who's On First?" style misunderstandings.

Now, pardon me. Tyra just texted me. Something about "STOP calling my fragrances 'body odor'!" Ha! Classic Tyra. She so crazy.

if a tree falls in the forest on a deaf and dumb guy, does it make a sound? does the guy make a sound?

Yes, he'd make a sound. A squishy sound. But nobody would hear it except his best friend, the mime.

how much can you bench press?

All of it.

what's the difference between a billy goat and an andrew goat?

The Billy:Andrew Differential was discovered first in 1967 by Giles G. Boy, and can be expressed as A = G[x(y-B) / q(y-b)], with A representing the Andrew coefficient, G representing the total number of goats in the field, x representing an egg-beaters farmer's omlete, y representing You, B representing the Billy coefficient, and q representing a random number that you select via cootie-catcher.

If you do the math, do you know what you get?

No, really, I'm asking.

Do you know any jokes about skunks?

I know millions of jokes about skunks. But that's not cool. You know what's cool?

BILLIONS of jokes about skunks.

who"s your favorite pharaoh?

I feel about pharaohs the way I feel about my children: I love them all the same.

How much do you love dodgeball?

About 1/10th as much as I love pharaohs.

what makes you tick?

Actually, I tock. Tried ticking; ticking didn't take.

So, what makes me tock? Love. Also, an irrational fear of poodles.

what's the vaguest you've ever been?

Oh, you know, this and that.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Time-Delayed Oscars 006: 1995

I predicted a three-way race in the poll for 1993, and I got a three-way race.  It just wasn’t the race I was expecting. Forrest Gump was left in the dust as Pulp Fiction and The Shawshank Redemption contended with . . . Four Weddings and a Funeral.  Given that The Real Dawn Summers is the first person in 15 years that I have ever heard expressing any sort of enthusiasm for that movie …well, let’s just say I’m skeptical.  Do I suspect her of ballot stuffing? I can't say. But yes.

In all seriousness, I’m having a blast with this, especially when I discover those movies I thought had thought sunk beneath the sand are still alive and well in the hearts of one of you, or maybe more than one.  Speaking of “more than one”, I had better give some love to Quiz Show, a 1994-nominee that was seen as a potential winner that year.  Robert Redford’s historical picture about the quiz show scandals of the 50s is still very much loved by many of you.  I haven’t seen it since it was first out, and though I remember it as being good, I’d heard very little love sent its way over the years and I left it off.  I may have been wrong on that count; certainly a number of you made sure I knew that.

Anyway, let’s not let all this finger-pointing keep us from 1995.

Mel Gibson, in the hot tub, finally getting what he demanded.

And The Keepers:

The American President – Otherwise known as the last Rob Reiner movie worth a damn, one of the few movies that lets Michael Douglas be charming rather than sleazy, the movie with that inspired hit TV shows for supporting actors Michael J. Fox (Spin City) and Martin Sheen (The West Wing), and a damn fine entertainment in the Frank Capra model.

Apollo 13 – Otherwise known as Ron Howard’s best movie to date. Tom Hanks continued his winning streak with the real tale of stranded astronauts, but the role I’ll always remember from this movie is Ed Harris’ mission controller. I think he probably deserved the supporting Oscar in an understated role (Kevin Spacey won this year for what was basically a lead in The Usual Suspects). I really appreciate this movie’s style; quiet and unassuming and straight-foward, much like its subjects.

Babe – Otherwise known as the “that’ll do, pig” movie.  I’m done with this “otherwise known as” theme now.

Bad Boys – The movie that put Michael Bay on the map and established Wil Smith as a credible action hero. Actually a pretty fun action movie, if typically bom-Bay-stic.  See what I did there?

The Basketball Diaries – Marky Mark began his transformation from underwear model/crappy rapper into an occasionally brilliant actor with a supporting role. This movie was also notable for a 3 hour scene [citation needed] in which a strung-out Leonardo DiCaprio howls “MOOOOOOONEEEEEEY” at his mother.

Braveheart – Mel Gibson hasn’t really done himself any favors recently. He was the big Oscar winner in 1995 with this big historical Scottish epic, winning both Best Director and Best Picture. There are still a lot of people – mainly guys – who still consider it one of the greatest movies ever. I saw it after having a) all my wisdom teeth out and b) four Vicodin, so I thought the raining Smurfs during the big climactic shuffleboard game were out of place.  Anyway, after blaming all wars on the Jews, howling death threats and racial slurs at his lady-friend, and starring in an inexplicable movie about a man who talks to a beaver puppet on his own hand . . . let me just say that I actually doubt that it would win.  In fact, I sort of expect it wouldn’t get nominated.  I mean come on.  A movie that spends literally half its running time on a subplot where Abe Vigoda struggles with his diabetic Labradoodle’s infertility?  The Vicodin was good.

Casino – Essentially this is Goodfellas 2. It was still pretty good for a pale substitute. “Charlie M?  You made me pop your eye out of your head for Charlie M??”

Clueless – Don’t know if this one is losing steam or not. It was so much better than I expected an Alicia Silverstone movie to be. I think we're all still surprised.

Dead Man Walking – Good acting, and a surprisingly even-handed look from generally one-sided Tim Robbins on a controversial subject. In most years, I think Sean Penn would have won for his turn here. Not this year, though.

Goldeneye – This is remembered more for the video game than the movie. It’s James Bond. The one where he beat the bad guy. Then he made a quip. It was that one.

Heat – This was recognized as a good movie at the time. Now it’s understood as one of the best crime movies of the nineties. Pacino. DeNiro. They only share one scene together. No matter; the centerpiece bank heist scene is a straight-up marvel. Al Pacino is a ham of the best kind. You know what? I need to watch this again.

Leaving Las Vegas –Nicholas Cage was The Amazing in this one. I’d watch it again to appreciate, but just thinking about this movie has depressed me again.

Othello – I’m cheating on this one. I don’t think many people remember it. But Fishburne as Othello and Branagh as Iago are just great; I can’t simply pass over these performances without mention. Also, how is it that it took us until 1995 to get a black Othello on the screen?

Rob Roy – Gotta say, I preferred this, the other “stalwart Scotsman fights the Evil British for the love of his wo-man’ movie of 1995. There’s just something more believable and earthy about it, and Jessica Lange is dead sexy in it. Liam Neeson and Tim Roth’s swordfight has to be among the most memorable committed to celluloid. No quips, no swashes buckled. Just two guys putting each other in mortal danger with long knives.

Se7en – The greatness of David Fincher begins here. “What’s in the box what in the BOX?” If The Silence of the Lambs started the serial killer genre, Se7evn was the first of its followers to take it in its own direction. I sort of stumbled out of the theater after this one. It was also one of the first movies I went to with the woman who is now my wife.  Not a recommended date movie.

Species – This was 1995’s booby movie. I haven’t seen it, but it still gets referenced in popular culture, so them must have been some nice boobies.

To Die For – The first seriously acclaimed performance from Nicole Kidman, and a very young Joaquin Phoenix.

Tommy Boy – The most beloved comedy of this year, and of most other years. I think I speak for all of us when I say that Chris Farley is missed. Holy Schnikies.

Toy Story – Hold on . . .

Twelve Monkeys – Why isn’t Terry Gilliam more of a legend? Twelve Monkeys is one of my favorites of the year.  It gave Bruce Willis his best role to date (that “Blueberry Hill” scene kills me), Brad Pitt one of his most interesting ones, and 1995 some of its most striking images. Giraffes on the bridge, yo. Watching the time-travel inevitability click into place was perhaps my favorite movie moment of the year.

The Usual Suspects – This one has turned into an all-time mindscrew/modern noir classic. Notable for giving Benicio Del Toro his first major screen role, miraculously featuring Stephen Baldwin without sucking, and giving Kevin Spacey the lead role that made him a mega-star until his K-PAX moment.  It was a lead role, by the way; didn’t keep him from picking up an award for supporting.

Waterworld – Hey,what’s that sinking? Oh, it’s just Kevin Costner’s career. Move along . . . I actually saw this twice. In the theater. On purpose. I didn’t want to see it either time; it just sort of happened. (That’s what SHE said – HEY-O!)

Woody, being an antique toy, was the last to hear the "pull my
finger" joke. He wouldn't stop telling it for days.
And the Time-Delayed Oscars Go To:

Real List:  Apollo 13, Braveheart, Babe, Il Postino, Sense and Sensibility

Today’s List:  Apollo 13, Heat, Se7en, Toy Story, The Usual Suspects

My Pick:  Toy Story

The Winner: I don’t think the Academy knew what to make of Pixar’s blockbuster in 1995, but at this point the studio itself has become a critical darling and a major “star” in its own right.  The annual Pixar film is pretty much the only sure bet each year for both box office success and critical acclaim. And it all started with a sheriff named Woody and a spaceman named Buzz. Not only did Pixar’s debut represent a quantum leap forward in computer animation, it irrevocably changed an entire genre of film. You could argue that it represented the same sort of seismic effect on event movies that Star Wars did a couple decades earlier.  More importantly, it accomplished all this without ever sacrificing spectacle to character and story, and heart.

That’s why, if the Academy were offered a decade of hindsight, they’d rightfully choose to award the Best Picture of 1995 to Toy Story, making it the first animated movie to take the top prize.

(And I really wish that I could say that 12 Monkeys would be even nominated.  It should be, but I don’t think it would be remembered well enough.  Too bad.)

And now, after un-nominating nearly the entire Best Picture slate, I'll keep the status quo.

Best Actor: Nicolas Cage.  Look, Cage used to be one of the most amazing and unpredictable actors of his generations. He deserved his award in a close one vs. Sean Penn. He’d keep it.

Best Actress: Susan Sarandon. Poor best actress. I’m always sick of writing by the time I get here.  Maybe I’ll lead off with it next time.  Anyway, Nicole Kidman would make a run at this (she’d certainly at least be nominated this time), as would the boobies from Species, but Sarandon was due and deserving, and the performance still holds up. She wins.

So what was the Best Picture of 1995?  Vote at FilmChaw!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Survive Donkey Island Sundays!

Get yer poker here! Come on poker! Poke here!

Once again, everybody is welcome, whether you are playing Donkey Island or not.

Come on, it's a friggin one dollar rebuy Donkament! You don't miss the one dollar rebuy donkaments??? Get in there!

Survive Donkey Island 001
Full Tilt Poker
$1 + $1 Rebuy
February 13, 2011
9:30 PM EST
password: survive

Full Tilt Poker
$10 + $1 NLHE
password: vegas1

These are the immunity idols!

Your Weekly Dose Of Awesome

I don't usually post videos with this many views, but I had no choice. If Awesome and Chuck Norris had a baby, this would be that baby.

Stop what you are doing and watch the hell out of this. Right. Now.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Your Weekly Dose Of Crazy

You know, this actually makes sense if you think about it.

Thanks to Karin for the tip!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

In The Cutoff 002

We asked professional artist and amateur poker player Ben Crispen to sketch self-portraits under the influence of 2000 hands in a number of poker variants. What we discovered may shock you.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

The Goat Suggests 002: The Skandies

Mike D'Angelo is my favorite film critic. It's entirely possible you haven't heard of him, though it's certainly possible that you have. Back in the days before there was a poker blogosphere, there was already a thriving movie nerd site-osphere*, and D'Angelo was one of the early adopters; a Blogfather of film criticism, if you like. He's done some writing-for-hire for Entertainment Weekly, and for Esquire, and for Time Out, and he currently pens an invaluable series called Scenic Routes for the AV Club. He manages to find his way to the major film festivals. There's a bunch of people like him; they're out there on Twitter and on blogs, and they're putting out high-quality film criticism.

The reason I'm telling you this is that this group's annual awards, called "The Skandies", are going on right now on D'Angelo's blog; a Top 20 of the year for Best Picture, Director, Actor, Actress, Supp. Actor, Supp. Actress, Screenplay, and Scene, presented in reverse order along with some brief notes on the history of a winner/nominee over the Skandies' now 15-year run. For my money, these are THE film awards of the year, and influence my decision in terms of what I do and do not see far more than your more prominent critic's prizes. These people have exacting taste and quick wits, and the debates that rage (usually friendly) in the comments are worth a look, too.

The Best Scene category is a true gem, by the way. Every year I look forward to seeing what might pop up.

Check Out The Skandies

*I was a tertiary member of that group with the original FilmChaw site - tertiary enough that it is likely that almost none of the people reviewing back in 2001 and 2002 would be aware that I was in existence. These were the days before blogs, which means the days before comments, which means that the only feedback I personally ever received was a very long and angry email from somebody who had taken great offense to my pan of the crappy sequel Matrix: Ridiculous. Nor was I alone; the great majority of (generally) ugly self-created sites were linked to one another, but actual interaction was limited to message boards and other antediluvian methods of communication. Truly, it was a dark age.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Time-Delayed Oscars 005: 1994

"Life is like a feather? But mama always said life was like a box of
choc-o-lates. My whole life has been a lie."

And so it came to pass, that after three years of choosing Best Pictures (Silence of the Lambs, Unforgiven, Schindler’s List) that upon retrospect actually lived up to the name, the Academy finally started (arguably) screwing up again, making this blog series considerably more interesting. Thank you, Academy!

This wasn’t as strong a year for movies as ’92 or ’93, but the strong movies were very strong. Let’s get this out of the way:  1994 in retrospect is a pretty much a discussion about three movies, and those movies are Forrest Gump, Pulp Fiction, and The Shawshank Redemption.  The first two got a little early retrospective ink when the AFI put them on their sorta-famous Top 100 List.  Best Picture winner Gump hit #71, and Oscar runner-up Pulp came in at #95.   Meanwhile, Shawshank, which was nominated but won no Oscars, is a fan favorite that spent a goodly amount of time at #1 on the fan rating of Best Movies of All Time.

That’s pretty canonical.

But let’s not break with tradition.

John Travolta, answering the question "How many more
good movies are you going to be in?"

And Those Not Forgotten:

Ace Ventura, Pet Detective – Yes, it’s a really dumb movie. Nevertheless, it deposited Jim Carrey, a genuine talent, onto the national consciousness, and uploaded a half-dozen or so phrases into the cultural lexicon. It earned its spot.

The Chase – I’m cheating; nobody remembers this ridiculous Charlie Sheen/Kristi Swanson romance/comedy/chase film. But rent it and see if it isn’t a big fun pile of dumb with notable appearances by Red Hot Chili Peppers and Henry Rollins.  Also fun, notice that Sheen realizes he is in a terrible and ridiculous movie and has fun with it, while Swanson apparently seems to think she is in an Important Movie.  This is, of course, the funniest thing about the film.

Clerks – The film that launched Kevin Smith, a million Jay and Silent Bob movies, crashed through at least two or three barriers for ribald language, and looked like it was filmed using the location’s security cameras. Still arguably Smith’s best effort, though that’s been a case of diminishing returns for a while now.

Dumb and Dumber – Wow, Jim Carrey made a lot of movies all at once. He also made The Mask in 1994, which I didn’t list here. I remember Dumb and Dumber best for the moment when Jeff Daniels just BLASTS that lady in the face with a huge iceball. That snow way to treat a lady, Jeff.  (See what I just did there?)

Ed Wood – Will probably be remembered as Tim Burton’s best film. I actually didn’t like it all that much when I saw it back in the day. It probably deserves a revisit, but Burton’s career since at least Sleepy Hollow doesn’t really encourage a retrospective.  I remember thinking that Johnny Depp was pretty good and Martin Landau was over-rated.  I am pretty sure that this was because I wanted Samuel L. Jackson to win for Pulp Fiction, and Landau eventually scooped the Best Supporting trophy. Anyway, Ed Wood still has many admirers. Maybe someday I will be one.

Forrest Gump – This movie was huge in 1994, Jin-Naaay. HUUUUGE! In retrospect it’s still a pretty solid movie, though tonally its all over the place, and at times it feels like a soundtrack first and a movie second. I think Gump has lost the most ground of 1994’s Big Three. It’s so much a paean to the Boomer generation that I wonder if it might not turn into an oddity after a few more decades. Then again, you’ve gotta love that ice-cream linen suit. Did you know Haley Joel Osment plays Forrest’s love child?

Heavenly Creatures – Critics are somewhat divided on Peter Jackson’s enduring mega-hit trilogy, The Lord of the Rings: What Do You Mean, There Are Eagles That Can Just Fly Us Anywhere?  However, they are pretty much in accord on this, the movie that gave New Line the confidence to hand a cubic crap-ton of money over to the unproven director of (up until now) schlock gross-out horror comedies. It’s very likely that if you handed the Oscars over solely to critics groups, Heavenly Creatures would win Best Picture and be in the running for best of the decade. This movies is also notable for giving Kate Winslett her first major role.

Hoop Dreams – This is largely considered to be one of the greatest documentaries of all time, one of the great sports movies, an invaluable social document, and a great story. This movie will run you through the ringer.

Legends of the Fall – And the Reign of King Pitt will last a million years. Lock up your women. Was this movie any good? I never saw it. I understand that Brad is fairly dreamy here.

The Lion King – It’s the ciiiiiiiiiiircle of liiiiiiife! This was actually a fairly artfully made Disney movie, and I think it remains the pinnacle for them in terms of overall success in hand-drawn animation. Hakuna matada, fool. Check yourself before you wreck yourself.

Natural Born Killers – Don’t actually remember how well-remember this movie is. It was a pretty big deal at the time. Might have been Oliver Stone’s last gasp.

Nell – I don't think it is actually still watched, but I keep hearing this movie get referenced, mainly to say that somebody who makes no sense is “like Jodie Foster in Nell.” Did anybody see it?

Nobody’s Fool – Paul Newman is perfection, in general and in this movie. This was his last great role, and this movie is one of the most under-rated of the decade.

PCU – A movie that was trying to be Animal House for the 90s, and you know what? I think it succeeded. I know I’m not the only person to remember it fondly. Early exposure here for Jeremy “Ari” Piven and Jon Favreau.

Pulp Fiction –  Hold on . . .

The Shawshank Redemption – Hold on . . .

Speed – The first big role for Sandra Bullock. The birth of Keanu as a credible action hero (we now understand Point Break to be a comedy). Also, a city bus jumps about 7 city blocks. Big fun.

Three Colors: White – Actually, even among fans of the Three Colors trilogy, White is usually considered the least of the three.  But if I left it out, you’d be all like, “Hey Goat! What is the third color? Huh, Goat?  WHAT IS THE THIRD COLOR???”  So, here it is.

Three Colors: Red – And then we have the movie in the trilogy that is best-remembered. It even got Kieślowski a nomination for Best Director. I know that of the listed movies, the Three Colors films are the ones your average movie fan is least likely to have heard of (though it’s not super-obscure). But you should do yourself a favor and check them out. They are most worthy.

True Lies – If there can be a James Cameron film that is considered “little known” it would probably be this one. A big hit 16 years ago, sort of a footnote today. I have a theory that action movies, while obviously the huge money makers of their times, are tied so closely to the rapidly rising bar of expected spectacle that they start to seem quaint more quickly. Check out The Towering Inferno today, and you may see what I mean. Anyway, I don’t know if anybody will be thinking about True Lies in another ten years.

"Oh man, this feels great. I've been avoiding the shower for 32 years.
You know, because of all the rape."

And the Time-Delayed Oscars Go To . . .

Best Picture

Real List: Forrest Gump, Four Weddings and a Funeral, Pulp Fiction, Quiz Show, The Shawshank Redemption

Today’s List: Heavenly Creatures, Hoop Dreams, Forrest Gump, Pulp Fiction, The Shawshank Redemption

My Pick: Pulp Fiction

The Winner:  Of the 1994 big three, I love Pulp best, and always will. I think it’s the most audacious, the most iconic, the most creative and clever, the best characters, ultimately the most influential.  It’s great.  It’s pretty obviously surpassed Forrest Gump in terms of film history.  But it wouldn’t win Best Picture in a redo.  Another film has leapfrogged it in overall Oscar-winning juice. 

That film is The Shawshank Redemption.  Remember that 1997 AFI list? The one that placed Gump as the 71st best movie of all time?  The one that put Pulp at 95th?  Well, the AFI re-did that list in 2007 (basically the same sort of thing that I’m doing here, except a whole lot more people read it than read this). They cut out around 20 movies. They moved Pulp up a notch, to #94.  They moved Gump down five pegs to #76.  And they installed Shawshank above both of them at #72.

Some movies are the big movie of the moment. Others are iconic, and creative, and audacious. Some are just classics, and classics are a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.

I have a feeling that by 2017, AFI will have realized that Gump isn’t one of the 100 best movies of all time. I expect that Pulp will have moved up the chain a bit, as well. And I have a feeling that Shawshank will have notched just a little bit higher, just a little bit. Slowly working its way up, as patient as a convict chipping away his wall with a tiny rock hammer.

Time to read in my Morgan Freeman voice: Shawshank Redemption was a box-office flop when it first came out, but I could see something in it. A shine, a sort of an easy way of being. Yes, I suppose you could say I liked Shawshank from the first.  I hope it will be waiting for me on AFIs 2017 list. I hope that its still as uplifting as I remember in my dreams. I hope . . .

Best Actor

I’m going to go ahead and say that Forrest Gump wouldn’t have a prayer at respectability if not for Tom Hanks. Without the choices he makes in a fairly limiting role, Gump could have been a total mess.  It’s quite possible he’d still win the do-over. Frankly, I still think Newman is more deserving, and he might edge Hanks, but I don’t notice a whole lot of attention paid to his Donald “Sully” Sullivan these days.  Johnny Depp would be in the hunt. Travolta was really good in Pulp but he’s hurt himself badly since with a raft of truly horrid movies.

Truly, Morgan Freeman is the only credible threat in this year.  I think it would be very close, but it’s probably still Hanks in what remains his most recognizable role.  Who do you think would beat him?

Best Actress

Jessica Lange won for Blue Sky.  If you’re saying to yourself, ‘What on earth is Blue Sky?’, then congratulations! You’re just like everybody in 1994! This was one of the most obscure movies in a long time to pick up a major Oscar, and it hasn’t gained much heat since. Little-known then, not at all known now. There are often very sparse years when it comes to juicy roles for actresses, and I think Lange’s win here probably indicates that 1994 was a particular famine in this way. Lange is a fine actress, and she may well be deserving, but I have a feeling that in a re-do, she’d just be overlooked. Here’s my guess: I think that given how highly regarded Kate Winslett now is, and how critically beloved Heavenly Creatures is, Winslett might just take it for her murderous schoolgirl. I also think that Uma Thurman's Pulp role, though considered "supporting" in 1994, might warrant some consideration; certainly there have been roles with less screen time to win one of the majors. Other left-field options include Jamie Lee Curtis (whose True Lies striptease scene is far and away the most remembered part of that movie), Irène Jacob in Three Colors: Red, and Juliet Lewis in Natural Born Killers, but the first actress is probably not taken all that seriously (even though the movie utterly fails without her), the second one is probably still a bit too arthouse obscure, and the third went batshit crazy about 12 years ago. I think Winslett is my pick.

What was the Best Picture of 1994.  Go vote at FilmChaw!