Archive for June, 2007

27
Jun
07

No Apologies

My spirit went through a range of emotions (as I’m sure they did most wrestling fans today), as far as my thoughts about the events surrounding the death of Chris Benoit, his wife and his poor son. My job is pretty demanding, so it doesn’t really afford me the opportunity to peek my head up and take a look at what’s going on in the world until about mid day. My boss is a wrestling fan (or at least he was part of the period of time between the mid 80s – late 90s when everybody was a wrestling fan.) In making conversation with him, I asked, “Hey, I know you don’t really watch anymore, but do you know who Benoit is?” His response kinda threw me a bit. “Man, I don’t really believe he did what they said he did.” What they said he did?? (At this point I was still living under the assumption that the family died of carbon monoxide ingestion or something else — no less tragic, but certainly more digestable.) At his response to my question, I was immediately prompted to check out the wrestling sheets — but clearly I didn’t even need to go that far. When my homepage went to cnn.com, there it was: “Wrestler Chris Benoit kills wife, son and then, self.” I just sat and stared for a few minutes. But one thing I certainly didn’t do was let my emotions turn to hate.

I’ve always been a proponent of keeping a respectable distance between those who we call our “heroes” and subsequently have never even met, least of all had the opportunity to share a relationship with. If God taught me anything by allowing me to meet Bob Backlund after a childhood of idolizing him (no disrespect, Mr. Backlund) it’s that you can rely on someone for inspiration, but don’t cross the line of believing that you actually know the person. I would have never thought that someone who I cheered as much as the Ultimate Warrior could have been such a judgmental spirit in the form of his real self, Jim Helwig. It all basically goes back to the thing that I said about Michael Richards — you can be dissapointed by what he said and how he reacted, but certainly that doesn’t change the fact that what he did entertained you. Same wth Elvis. Same with Isaiah Washington. Who knows how anybody truly carries themselves when nobody’s looking? The answer is simple — we don’t. Continue reading ‘No Apologies’

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25
Jun
07

Chris Benoit

Life is such a precious gift.  Sometimes we don’t even realize it.  Today I come home, all pumped up about the fact that there are only a few days left until the launch of the iPhone.  I also gave some thought to the Vince McMahon piece that I finished last night.  As hard as I was on Vince, I think given the situation it was an appropriate commentary.  One of the things that I talked about what what we do in the event of a real untimely death.

Tragically tonight as I came home to just turn on Raw to see how horribly they would continue this whole “McMahon death” angle, I had the TV on mute.  As I turned it on, I was kinda sickened to see John Cena crying.  “How far are you going to carry this stupid angle?” I thought.  “Now you’ve got Cena crying….and you must have really pushed him hard, because the guy is really balling.”  As I watched the rest of the promo with my arms folded, I heard Cena say, “We love you Chris.”  Chris?  Chris??  As I rewound the Tivo recording, I saw the footage of knife-edge chops — in reverse — and my heart sank.

For one, I have to commend Vince.  For all the dirt I kicked on him just one post away, he did the right thing.  He came out from under this stupid angle and was the first face that we saw.  Total kayfabe.  Totally appropriate.  Classy.  In some ways it’s what he had to do, but he could have very well had someone else speak on behalf of the WWE.  Jim Ross could have kicked off the show.  But Vince, you did what was right and let’s hope this represents a change.  He didn’t even have a show.  The arena is empty and they are doing the right thing in paying tribute.

As for Chris, I still don’t understand what happened.  The news report on WWE.com says that investigators are looking into the cause of death.  Carbon monoxide?  Who knows.  Who cares at this point.  Tragically, one of the most enthusiastic and energy packed wrestlers is no longer among the living here on Earth.

I feel bad talking about the wrestler Chris Benoit because there’s a bigger problem here.  Chris didn’t die alone.  His wife — someone who fans well knew as “Woman” died as well.  Nancy was known to wrestling fans since the 80s and I’m sure Kevin Sullivan is somewhere crying as well (despite what folks may think of his management skills).

And worst of all is the loss of his son Daniel.  I just don’t know what to say.

I remember before I had even seen Chris Benoit, I heard all of this hoopla and wondered who the hell he was.  When this guy came from behind the curtain not even my height, I had to wonder if I was looking at the right guy.  It wasn’t long until I saw him kick with such intensity that I was definitely looking at the right guy.  The biggest thing about him that impressed me is that as much as he was fun to watch in the U.S., watching his tapes from his New Japan Pro Wrestling career as Wild Pegasus was such a drastic change.  To watch him adapt like a chameleon — equally as entertaining and equally as intense but just completely different in terms of the style — was so impressive.

I realize that this isn’t anyone’s fault and that if the Lord calls you home, then it was definitely your time (and I honestly believe that), but I just don’t know if I can write another one of these posts.  I can’t bear to turn on Raw and see a still shot with someone’s birth and death year separated by a hyphen.  Guerrero was enough.  Owen was shocking.  Curt Hennig was devastating.  Sherri the other day was depressing.  It’s just getting old.  You pray that for these folks to spend their lives entertaining us and falling on their back and bruising their bodies every week that hopefully they would get the chance to spend quality retirement time with their families someday.  I pray that God would receive Chris and his family and comfort all of those who actually knew him — especially those outside of wrestling —

24
Jun
07

McMahon: Now You’ve Gone Too Far

Vincent Kennedy McMahon — the man who’s most responsible for the shape that professional wrestling has taken over the past twenty-five years. He’s done it with hard work and sweat. It wasn’t easy going to his dad and offering to take over the company in his thirtysomething years — an incredibly ballsy move that would prove to be the single biggest event that changed the industry. Gone was the gentleman’s agreement between territories that talent be shared between them and that clear and respected boundary lines be drawn. (“This is the ‘New York’ territory — that over there’s the Georgia territory”) Vince had visions of turning this whole thing from an industry of separated territories into one large media enterprise.

Getting to that place where the WWE has become one of the most recognized forms of entertainment in the world hasn’t been easy. And with all of the criticism that Vince has received over the years, most of the time I’ve been behind him. I’ve told folks to just “look the other way”. ‘Hey, it’s just wrestling. It’s entertainment. See? It’s right there in the name….World Wrestling Entertainment‘. So when he made the decision to trick Bret Hart and insult the audience by having Bret falsely lose hit title onscreen, I was behind him. (“Vince is right — Bret should have done the ‘time-honored tradition’). And when Vince teased a Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. Mike Tyson fight for Wrestlemania, again, I looked away. Not to mention the decision to continue the pay per view despite Owen Hart losing his life needlessly doing a stupid entrance as a gimmick character. Then there was the Steve Austin vs. Brian Pillman ‘gun incident’. More recently we had the Vince McMahon starting his own religion “McMahonism”. Putting Eddie Guerrero’s wife in an angle only months after her husband’s death. Grandstanding Melanie Pillman in front of a national television audience only hours after learning that her husband and father of her children had suddenly died. And then there was the Billy and Chuck ‘gay marriage’ thing. The fake suicide scenes of WWE referee Tim White only a few weeks after Eddie Guerrero’s death. Destroying the legacy of ECW. Letting Shane McMahon wrestle. I can go on….

…and most of this was done for the sake of keeping our attention and keeping the spotlight on the WWE. In a word, ratings. And lately for me, wrestling isn’t quite what it once was. There was a time when I wouldn’t miss Raw. Now I just fast-forward through the matches to see the finishes and get to a sense of the angles and the storylines to see what’s going on. It’s just not interesting anymore. No big powerhouse names — no Austin, no Rock, no HHH….no damn reason to watch the show. Well, there are a few bright spots. But by and large things have been pretty stale. I had absolutely no urge to watch Wrestlemania this year. I’m sure I’m not alone. Their receipts and revenue has to be suffering a bit….maybe. And so it’s at times like these when we get to see some of our most outlandish and ridiculous ‘must see T.V.’ events that have contributed to people likening Vince to a modern day P.T. Barnum….drawing us into the tent to see the bearded lady for our own eyes.

But there are times when the boundaries of taste are completely disregarded. And this is certainly one of those times. Continue reading ‘McMahon: Now You’ve Gone Too Far’

24
Jun
07

Hot Fuzz: Review

Since first watching Shaun of the Dead and enjoying it thoroughly, the biggest question left in my mind after that film’s release was whether it was just incredible luck or if this kind of enjoyable filmmaking was a sign of things to come. After watching Hot Fuzz, I’m happy to say that the latter is certainly true.

Hot Fuzz is directed by Edgar Wright and stars Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. If this group of names sounds familiar together, they should. These are the same folks who brought us Shaun of the Dead. Where SOTD was a comedy homage to the George Romero zombie films, this film is certainly an homage to the police/cop films that have come out since the mid-late 70’s right up through the mid 90s.

Pegg’s role is that of Sergeant Nicholas Angel — an up and coming rookie in the London police academy who gets shipped off to a seemingly quiet and quaint town (where he can’t show up his London counterparts). To give any further details of the story would be…uh…. ‘criminal’ ….(sorry for that….when you watch films by Brits, it’s just infectious…. you start wanting to use puns and the like. Would love to visit someday.) Anyhow, it’s the details of the story that make this movie lots of fun. Normally comedies don’t really hold my attention, but the great thing about the team of Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg (both of who wrote the film) is that they make movies for people who love movies. You’ll see a ton of homages to different films — some obvious and a few that are a bit obscure.

There’s some great comedy here. Pegg and Frost are sure to be compared to the likes of Laurel and Hardy or more recently Jay and Silent Bob. But the great thing about three of these teams is that none is like the other or even trying to copy the other. Each team has their own hooks and their own chemistry that make them unique. For Pegg and Frost, it’s sort of like the brains and braun in one guy and the dumb lovable guy who admires and tags along.

If there was one small criticism it’s that the film gets a little crazy in parts. But honestly, this is what makes the experience fun. It’s got about as much action as I’ve seen in a film of it’s type. Lots of car chases and cool cop moves. Not enough can be said about Simon Pegg — he’s coming into his own as a really good actor. (At least when it comes to this genre). His timing is great. He’s showing a bit of range, as in Shaun he was a hero, but more of an unlikely and clumsy hero. Here, he’s the new recruit fresh out of the academy with an incorruptible desire to uphold the law. As cheesy as it sounds, it just works. And it works in a large part because he makes it work. I was also pleasantly surprised to see a few other faces from the past, as Martin Freeman and Stephen Merchant (from the real The Office series) and Timothy Dalton make appearances.

Succinctly put, Hot Fuzz is a lot of fun. If you dug Shaun of the Dead, then undoubtedly you’ll love this one. (And if you haven’t seen Shaun of the Dead, well, what the hell are you waiting for??!!) Certainly this type of humor is meant to be enjoyed by a certain type of audience. If you grew up on Schwarzenegger films in the 80s and dig watching a “cop film” every now and again, you’ll be loving it. If you sit up a bit too straight in your seat at the theater and find yourself wondering what everyone’s laughing at during the silly bits, then perhaps you should sit this one out. It’s a crime if you can’t enjoy the comedy that a film like this presents. Here’s hoping that future releases from this team will be as enjoyable. Good stuff.

12
Jun
07

Keep Breathing – Ingrid Michaelson

Like so many others, that Grey’s Anatomy season finale is still with me. What an incredible way to end the season. As much as the events that happened (or, depending on how you think about it, didn’t happen) in those last eight minutes were powerful enough, the soundtrack really went perfectly with the emotion. Independent artist Ingrid Michaelson’s song that accompanied the show’s epilogue is such a beautiful and powerful song.

Apart from Grey’s, the song is incredible. Amidst all of the really bad music that we have surfacing to the top of radio station’s commercialized playlists these days, it’s great to see independent artists like Ingrid and Regina Spektor making the kind of unique music that we’re hearing more and more of. It’s refreshing and hopefully a trend that others will follow (or hopefully not follow. Make your own music.)

When I think of the lyrics of this song, it almost makes me feel the same way I felt after watching An Inconvenient Truth. You reflect on all that you could be doing to change the world. You pass homeless people and wonder if a dollar was really all that you could have done. You watch the news and wonder how you could have become so complacent — the news of soldiers dying in the war barely gets you to look up from the magazine anymore. You reflect on all that you could be doing. And then you realize that you’re going overboard a bit. You’ll change the world yet….you just need to wait until the right moment. Your moment. And until then, “all you can do is keep breathing.”

(Above is a live version of the song. You can hear a clean version over at her myspace page (http://www.myspace.com/ingridmichaelson). Sadly, she can’t really capitalize from the success of the song now — she has to wait until the corporate execs at ABC say it’s time to release the song — in September. (Really smart business, folks.) Anyhow, let’s be sure to support her when the song releases then. Don’t forget — she’s an independent artist.

Keep Breathing by Ingrid Michaelson

The storm is coming,

But i don’t mind.
People are dying,

I close my blinds.
All that I know is I’m breathing…now.

I want to change the world,

Instead, I sleep.
I want to believe

In more than you and me.

But all that I know is I’m…breathing
All I can do is keep…breathing.
All we can do is keep breathing…now.
All that I know is I’m breathing,
All I can do is keep breathing,
All we can do is keep breathing……

11
Jun
07

Sopranos: Made in America – Review (And An Analysis of the Ending Moments)

If you’ve been watching the Sopranos since the first episode aired and you were looking for some sort of closure, well, you might have been better off stopping at the season finale from last year. (That would be the episode that ended Season 6 Part 1 where everyone is gathered around a Christmas tree in a nice family gathering.)

Initially after the episode was over, I was a mildly disappointed. After having consumed myself with so-called “spoilers” for the past week, I was hoping for an explosive episode that would take the show out with a bang. Actually, most of the supposed spoilers turned out to be nothing more than “fan fiction” — and in some ways I wish those rumors were true. I heard rumors (and even speculated a few myself in the previous post) that Anthony Jr. would be “made” and follow in his father’s footsteps – hence, the show’s title, ‘Made in America’. There were also rumors of everything from Tony going to the feds and becoming an informant to Carmella and Meadow dying in a car bombing. But none of those rumors turned out to be true. (I guess I found out what A.J. was looking at.) The truth was much less dramatic.

But when you take the time to truly reflect upon the series and where it has taken us over the eight years that it’s held our attention (some seasons more than others) the signature style of the Sopranos (and now after having seen the finale, what I believe to be the theme of the show) has been the amazing degree of stability that such a violent life can maintain. For every monumental death that has taken place — whether that be Big Pussy, Johnny Sack, Jackie Aprile, Tony Blundetto, Jackie Jr., Adrianna — or even Phil Leotardo tonight — it is always followed by a period of almost unbelievable stability. Nobody freaks out. Families grieve, but maintain their daily routine. And even the grieving widows have a moment of mourning — but only a moment, as their facial expression seems to come a few frames short of them turning to the camera and saying that they knew this could happen — it’s the consequence of such a risky business.

As I sat down and watched Tony take that last ride into New Jersey through the Lincoln Tunnel, I was really happy when I saw the credits at the beginning of the episode indicate that David Chase — the series’ creator — was both the writer and director of this episode. Watching the series over the past few years, I’ve always thought that if Chase had directed each of the episodes that we might have had a bit more consistency. And I still believe that. But at least with this final episode, we would be getting the vision for how the show ends from the guy who started it all. And as much as I held a bit of disappointment in my heart for the way that the show’s final seconds played with our emotions, I feel like the hints that came during the episode before that weird scene in the diner were much more revealing about how the father of the series feels about his characters. As much as he respects them, it’s my strong opinion that he also loathes them. He thinks them petty. More than anything, he thinks of them as walking contradictions. Continue reading ‘Sopranos: Made in America – Review (And An Analysis of the Ending Moments)’

10
Jun
07

Anxiety Sets In….

Some would say it’s strange to feel this anxious for fictional television characters, but I can’t help it. This is a series finale that has been eight years in the making and will spend fifty-something minutes trying to resolve all that we who watch the show have invested in it. And I’m anxious. (Writing usually helps me ease that anxiety.) The worry on my mind comes from this photo below….

What could AJ be looking at? Is this the image of a boy watching his mother and sister consumed by the flames caused by a car bomb? Or more likely is this this image of a boy after his first kill — the boss of New York City, no less — leading to him being….”Made in America”? (The final show’s title, for those who didn’t know.) Hopefully it’s not the former, because, in my humble opinion, Carmela….for all her contradictory faults…. doesn’t deserve this ending.

I guess the real question that remains for everyone is whether Tony will live. Tony is probably one of my all time favorite TV characters. It’s funny — going back and watching the first few Sopranos episodes reminds me of watching the first few Simpsons episodes. The voice of Homer wasn’t quite fleshed-out. Same with Tony. He seemed like a completely different character. Or maybe he was a completely different character. The deaths of those that have fallen since the curtain went up in 1999 have been enough to change anybody. And with that all having been said, I just don’t want the curtain to go down with Anthony Soprano lying in a pool of his own blood.

This is the most anticipated series finale in all my TV watching years. Let’s hope all that we’ve invested in the show can give us a sense of completion. Redemption. Peace. But somehow, with the image of AJ above affixed into my brain…..”peace” is the farthest thing from what we’ll see.

And so we wait…