Sunday, February 28, 2010

'Couver Town Recaps: And Last But Not Least - Curling

(David Murdoch from Great Britain strikes a pose. There's nothing to it. Curl, curl curl... )

Ahh, Curling. It's only been two weeks of competitive events, but it feels like the curling event started at least 3 and a half months ago, no? Seriously, can you remember a time when NBC was not playing a curling match this winter? I cannot. I watched a lot of curling over the past couple weeks, and I have to say I don't really have a better idea of how it is played or scored than I did before the Games. There's a shuffleboard made out of ice, and heavy discs (simply called stones), and brooms. There's a big green circle and a smaller blue circle. You want the stones to land as close to the inside of the blue circle as possible. If it is, then you get a point. There's a lot of sweeping of the ice to help guide the stone as it goes down the ice. There's also a lot of shouting involved in curling. Oh, the shouting. You can't just let the disc go and then have your teammates guide it down the board. You have to reeeeeally shout at them to get them to do the right thing. It's not an exact science though. You can shout really loud and still lose. Each game has 10 rounds called "ends" which has to be ironic because these matches go on forever.

The special thing about curling during this Olympics is that the crowds collectively lost their MINDS over the sport. It became this amazing event. People were packed in to see the Canadian men defeat Norway, claiming the gold medal with a score of 6-3. There was also an insane interest in the women's gold medal match, which ended with Sweden edging Canada 7-6 in extra ends. That turned out to be one of the few Gold medal matches in which Canada was competing and did not win.

For the past two weeks, the curling stadium has been alive with noise. The problem was that most people in the stands seemed to not understand the rules of curling any better than I did watching at home. They just cheered constantly. It didn't really matter what was going on in the curling match itself. But it certainly mattered to the players. In theory, curling fans follow a cheering code similar to that of golf and tennis, with silence regarded as golden during play.

For instance there was Madeleine Dupont from Denmark, who missed two potential winning shots against Canada in women's play early on in the tournament. Afterward the loss, she tearfully blamed the noise of the crowd on her inability to execute. It's easy to understand her point. Imagine you take part in a sport where no one has bothered to cheer nor heckle you ever before. Now suddenly you're trying to perform in a high-pressure situation, and you have all this extra stimuli you're not accustomed to experiencing. You have to want to just turn to the crowd and say, "Do shut up."

There really isn't a Chair Umpire like there is in tennis to say "thank you." and make the crowd be quiet during a player's serve. The release of the stone in curling is a lot like the tennis serve or a golfer's swing and even if you're rooting against the player who is in the hot seat, you don't shout crazy shit at them at crucial moments. The curling crowds in Vancouver took a long time to come to this understanding.

(If you don't like the pants of the Norwegian team, you and I are no longer friends.)

Still, in its way, I think curling is an essential component of the Winter Olympics. It doesn't get a ton of respect, but I think people have a lot of affection for it. Unlike the aerials or snowboarding, you look at curling and feel like you could competently play that, if someone just explained the damn rules to you. It's one sport in the Winter Games that doesn't feel extreme and that's important and very comforting.

'Couver Town Recaps: The Puck Stops Here

(The Canadian Hockey Place stadium is ready to rock at the start of the men's final. The crowd is nearly 20,000 strong.)

Canada has swept two of the biggest Winter Olympic events - men's and women's ice hockey. They took each title while playing their biggest rivals, the Americans. That brings their total number of gold medals during the Games to 14. That's the most golds by a host country ever for the Winter Olympics. That's also a whole lotta gold for Team Canada, a team that had NEVER won a single gold medal on home soil before the Vancouver Games. Good work, team!

(the Canadian women brought the US team literally to their knees on the way to victory.)

First on the women's side, Canada captured a third consecutive Olympic gold against the US on Thursday. It was an intense championship match and both sides wanted the win so badly. Unfortunately for the US squad, Canada went up 2-0 early in the first period and that was all she wrote for the rest of the game. The American women, two-time reigning world champs going in, had to settle for a silver medal. Finland took bronze with a 3-2 overtime win over Sweden. The Canadians celebrated for a long time on the ice with beer and cigars, which some people didn't like, but I didn't really care. Let 'em have their fun! I recognize medalists do need to be careful about what they're doing while wearing their medals because it's a symbol of the IOC they have certain rules, and it's also something people work very hard to achieve and that should be treated with respect, like a country's flag, so I understand why some people get upset about it. In this instance, it didn't bother me.

Today was the men's hockey final and it was being hyped as the Greatest Hockey Game Ever In The History Of The Universe. I don't think it beats US vs USSR in the Miracle on Ice, but it was a thrilling game.

I'm not a huge hockey fan. I find it hard to follow the puck, the constant fighting bores me, and it always seems like the team I'm rooting for has less players on the ice than the team I'm against. I'm not talking about a power play situation. It seems like there are 18 extra players on the ice for the people I don't like. But this game was really phenomenal. I didn't think that the US was going to tie it up at the end of regulation. Midway through the second period, the US team fell behind 2-0, after having never trailed in the entire tournament. They fought like hell to get back in it and tied things up on Zach Parise’s goal with 24 seconds remaining in the game.

It was unbelievable that they got to overtime, but once there, Canada pretty much regained control. Sidney Crosby, Canada’s superstar, hit a shot past US goalie Ryan Miller and ended the game. I would've loved a US win, but it was also really kinda awesome that Canada got to celebrate their most cherished victory at home and the flag could go up in the stadium and they could all sing the anthem. I liked that. The North American Border War on Ice was a great finale to an exciting Olympics in Vancouver. The US claimed the most overall medals ever. Canada claimed the most golds ever. Everybody in North America should go home happy.

(smiles all around for the winning Canadian men's hockey team. that's what they're talkin' aboot. )

'Couver Town Recaps: When i say "bobsled" you say, "gold!" "bobsled!" "gold!" "BOBSLED!" "GOLD!"

(Spectators and cameramen alike lean out onto the track to greet the USA-1 team as they cross the finish winning gold!)

Congrats to Steven Holcomb who piloted the USA-1 bobsled to winning gold in the four-man competition. It's the first gold medal for the US in the event in 62 YEARS! That's crazy! The medal also holds significance because it ensures that whether the US men’s hockey team wins gold or silver, the US team will still leave the Games with 37 overall medals. That's the most by any country at a single Winter Olympics EVER! Team USA rocks!!!

Holcomb, along with Justin Olsen, Steve Mesler and Curtis Tomasevicz raced their bobsled - aka "The Night Train" - so well over the course of their 4 runs in the final. The funny thing I noticed about bobsled during this Games is that it's very hard for the four-man team to congratulate each other after the run. They're all crammed in so tight that they can't really hug and they can't get up until the bobsled comes to a complete stop. They have to just kinda wave their hands and pat each other on the helmet. It's kind of amusing. Another funny thing I noticed is that bobsled uniforms are kinda weird looking. They almost look painted on. They remind me a little of that large guy in that commercial where he's getting a mud bath in a spa. You know the one? Where he's all in some weird green mud exfoliating? I can't remember what the commercial was for, but that's what the bobsledders kinda looked like in my opinion.

Holcomb came to the Games with an inspiring personal story, having nearly going blind after a battle with keratoconus, which is a degenerative eye disease. Luckily he's fine now and was able to achieve his dream of winning gold for his country at the Olympics. He even has his own victory dance - The Holcy Dance" which looks kinda like the Hokey Pokey set to the tune of the Humpty Dance. It's a little silly, but gold medalists can celebrate pretty much any way they want.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

'Couver Town Recaps: Queen of the Ice Castles

(She can see what's hers now. What's hers is the gold medal and the admiration of her countrymen.)

Avenue Q poses the question, "Ain't if fun to watch figure skaters fallin' on their asses?"

The answer: yes. Often times, it is. And usually the Olympics, over any other international skating competition, seems to produce the most high profile falls and blunders for the top figure skaters in the world. I think it's mostly for two reasons; 1) there is a lot of pressure to be perfect in the Olympics and 2) it's crazy difficult to spin around in the air 3 three times and then land on a thin piece of metal on the bottom of your shoe connecting you with a surface of ice. It's not easy and everyone takes a spill now and then.

This year for the women, it was a different story. The top ladies all had fantastic performances and most scored personal bests of their careers. As much fun as it is to once in a while see someone take a spill, it's much more fun and exciting to see everyone do so well.

The one who did best was South Korea's Kim Yu-Na who delivered a truly exceptional performance that won her the gold by a MILE. Her free-skate score, 150.06, destroyed her previous personal best, which was also the world record by 17 points and gave her a final overall score of 228.56. She has reset the bar for scoring in the sport.

The silver and bronze medalists were also truly impressive. Mao Asada was second, and became the first female to successfully land three triple axels in one competition. Canada's Joannie Rochette came in an inspiring third, as she skated just days after her mother died. It was incredibly emotional watching her on the ice, but she held herself together and did such a great job. It was really an amazing feat.

The American women were not really expected to medal because of their youth and relative inexperience on the world stage, but they skated clean, impressive performances nonetheless. Mirai Nagasu finished fourth, and Rachael Flatt came in seventh. Good job, ladies. Hope to see you both again in Sochi 2014!

All four of the figure skating events featured very strong skating and no gold for the Russians. Both of these things are so rare and are very satisfying. I'm glad all the top skaters did so well. It's so much pressure. In an interview, Kim suggested her home county, South Korea, would turn on her if she had failed to live up to their expectations to win gold (she's probably right too - no pressure though!). It's better to see a winner beat the best at their best, than watching people slipping and sliding and caving to the pressure.

Good job, Kim Yu-Na! Perhaps your win will calm their irrational hatred for Apolo Ohno over in South Korea. Let them focus on the positive! I think they will.

'Couver Town Recaps: Let our Nordic Powers Combine

(The members of the US Olympian Nordic Combined Team. Kicking ass and taking medals.)

I have to give it up one more time for the athletes repping in the US Nordic Combined events. Before this Olympics, the United States had never medaled in a Nordic Combined event. At the end of this Olympics, we walk away with 4 medals in the sport. Job well done to Brett Camerota, Todd Lodwick, Johnny Spillane and Billy Demong (seen standing left to right in the picture above). I really enjoyed watching them race these past two weeks. They were really exicting finishes!

Their success started with Spillane taking silver in the Men's Indiviudal Normal Hill 10 K XC event last weekend. Then all four skiers took home silver in the Team Combined Event earlier this week. Lastly, Demong and Spillane gave the United States the gold and silver medals in the men’s Individual Long-Hill, 10K event a few days later. Their success getting to the podium in a sport where we have no previous Olympic medals, helped this be the most-winning Winter Olympics ever for the United States.

Even though the last race is not necessarily a team event, The United States secured its victory by having its two skiers work together strategically. They made sure to share the lead and not let any of the trailing skiers make it back up to the front group. The members of the team have been fighting the good fight and training unbelievably hard for more than a decade in an attempt to get to the podium. These particular athletes have been to the Games many times before and came away empty-handed. Their success is one of my favorite stories of this Olympics. Spillane managed a silver medal in all three events. An amazing accomplishment!

(there's no "i" in Gold... okay, there is one in silver...)

Extra congrats to Bill Demong, who on top of being the first American to win a gold medal in Nordic combined, and being chosen as the flag bearer for the US Team during the closing ceremony. also got engaged to his long-time girlfriend and former Olympian Katie Koczynski. What a great Olympics that dude is having! Here's to those two having a bunch of kids who wind up being future winter Olympians. The genetics couldn't be better suited for it. Go Team USA: The Next Generation!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

A Winter Olympics Poem

Why I Won't Face Plant Into a Sheet of Ice at 70mph

by Owen Panettieri

i would not bobsled
i would not luge
nor would i skeleton
the risks are huge.

i would not try the Super G
that race would be the death of me.
the downhill scares me. The moguls more.
The slalom shakes me to my core.

The half pipe looks like lots of fun
but just one fall, and I'd be done.
And supercross? You're surely joking.
I think it must be crack you're smoking.

The ski jump looks like suicide
the aerials? i'd run and hide.
Plus add in fog and snow and rain.
I won't take part. I must refrain.

The Summer Games have much less risk
You run a race. You hurl a disc.
You hit a ball, or ride a horse.
You rarely fear death on the course.

In winter, danger's there all through it.
I tip my hat, but leave them to it.
Team USA, you're brave and bold.
I'd just get hurt. You get the Gold.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

'Couver Town Recaps: Hold Me Closer Icy Dancer

(Virtue and Moir look adoringly on each other as they ice dance toward gold. They're a couple in real life, right? Tell me their love is real!)

Against my better judgment, I sorta totally fell in love with Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir as they took home gold for Canada in the Olympic Ice Dancing competition last night. I admit, with two US teams in medal contention, I was hoping the Canadians would make a mistake and land in third. That didn't happen, and as Virtue and Moir were on the ice I hoped for it less and less, until I was actively rooting for them. They really were the best out there and the win was much deserved. They are also probably the most physically adorable pair of skaters I ever did see, You'd have to be a total Malfoy not to want these kids to succeed.

Let's take a moment to break down the different rounds of competition. Ice Dancing has three rounds; Compulsory Dance, Original Dance and Free Dance. Somehow your original dance is still controlled by The Man, but you can really let loose in the Free Dance! Virtue and Moir were in second after the Compulsory Round, trailing the World Champion Russian skaters Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin (boo!). Then Virtue/Moir took the lead after the Original dance when Domnina/Shabalin did this bizarro "aboriginal-inspired" dance that left them in third behind Americans Meryl Davis and Charlie White (yay!). It was really between the top two teams to win gold, and the Canadians scored a whopping 110.42 points in the Free Dance, and their final score of 221.57 secured the win.

(They spun me right round, baby. Right round. Like a record, baby. Right round round round.)

Coming into last night, the Russians or Soviets had won all but two Olympic gold medals in Ice Dancing since its Olympic debut in 1976 and no team from North America had ever won gold before. This year, however, the big question was whether North American teams would sweep the podium! They almost did - Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto, the silver medalists from the Torin Games skating for The US, finished just behind the Russians in fourth. This turn of events means the Russians are one event away from leaving Vancouver without a single gold medal in figure skating! Only the women’s competition remains, and there really isn't a Russian skater in this year's fleid that's thought to be in the race for a medal (no American is either, but the American media is still kinda hoping for a miracle bronze). The last time Russia went without any figure skating gold was 50 years ago. I think that's kinda awesome. It's nice to see other countries having a real competitive chance to win, otherwise it gets boring.

Last night truly belonged to the Canadian pair. They were so beautiful and fluid. There was no doubt in my mind they were the best. As you can imagine, the Canadian crowd absolutely lost their minds when they finished skating the free program. They somehow managed to get even louder when their scores were announced. The medal ceremony was also really sweet with the boisterous rendition of "O Canada!" sung whole-heartedly by Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir atop the podium along with every Canadian in the stadium. What made it kind of hilarious too were Moir's facial expressions during the anthem. Clearly the euphoria of winning was washing over him after years of hard word had brought them to this awesome moment of achievement. Still... I don't think I've ever thought while watching a medal ceremony, "I bet that's what he look like while having sex." Yet, having seen him in the medal ceremony, I suspect those are the kind of faces he makes. He was really into winning the gold. Whatever, it was more goofy charming than uncomfortable. I don't blame him for feeling good. Congrats again to Virtue and Moir on their stunning achievement!

(Whoops! Get a room, you two! Seriously, tell me their love is for real. I need to know.)

Although changes can't be made in time for the women's competition, I call on the IOC to ban certain songs from being used in competition at future Olympic competitions. No more Firebird! I know we're gonna hear it for the fourth time with the ladies. I know it. And this is only in the routines they show on air! You know other skaters are using it too! Also no more Swan Lake, no more Phantom of the Opera and no more Requiem for A Dream, original version or suped up LOTR remix version.) Dance and skate to some less obvious tunes. PLEASE.

(When it comes to lifts in 2010, Scottish sisters are doin' it for themselves.)

Honorable Mention: I can't end this post without acknowledging Sinead and John Kerr, a brother-sister pair from Scotland, repping Great Britain. These two are kind of amazingly weird. If Moir's sex faces during the Canadian anthem didn't make me uncomfortable, these siblings sexy-ice-dancing to the tune of Crawling by Linkin Park certainly did. I'm not against brother sister dance partnerships. I've seen it work fine on So You Think You Can Dance. Hell, I danced the "Merry Christmas Polka" with my sister during my elementary school chorus concert in 4th grade and it was a beautiful experience for all to witness. I'm just saying these two sometimes bring it to a weird place and song selection did not help them last night. Although it should be noted that during their Free Dance, they surprised everyone by pulling off a "reverse lift." Sinead held John by his legs as he was upside down. It's a role reversal that's rare in ice dancing. Picture evidence provided above. Those kids are crazy!

Monday, February 22, 2010

'Couver Town Recaps: Miller Time!

(Bodie Miller zooms down the mountain. He looks focused, but he's exhausted. He can barely see straight and he's just yearning for vacation. He told us this was so right after he'd crossed the finish in first place.)

Congrats to Bodie Miller and his remarkable gold-medal performance in the super combined event on Sunday. He now has three Olympic medals in three races in Vancouver — a feat almost anyone would've thought near impossible coming into the Games.

Miller has now cemented his place among the greatest competitive skiers in history. He already had 32 World Cup victories and has held four world titles in four different events, but up until yesterday he had never won Olympic Gold. He won silver and bronze in Salt Lake City, went without reaching the podium in Torino, and no one really knew what to expect of him here. But now it's obvious to everyone that he showed up in Vancouver to compete and to win.

Bodie is known to be a strange, independeny\t character whose not always easy to read, but he was clearly elated after the race. “The way I executed, the way I skied, is something I’ll be proud of for the rest of my life." he said, "It feels amazing.”

Miller did not look great in the super combined downhill, landing himself in 7th place going into the slalom portion. But in the second half of the event, he went nuts flying down the mountain at an unbelievable pace, managing to win the event by a scant 0.33 seconds.

I have to take a quick minute to point out that NBC's coverage of the Super Combined was really weird. I'm not sure what channel was broadcasting it live, if they were showing it live anywhere. When they aired it in prime time, I found the order of events to be choppy and confusing. It was great to see Bodie win, but my context for what was going on flew out the window. Did I really need 19 hours of uninterrupted curling on Sunday, NBC? Couldn't you have jumped away for a little while to cover skiing? I'm just asking.

But that quibble really isn't the thing to focus on. Instead we should acknowledge that with this win, Bodie becomes the first American Alpine skier to win three medals in one Olympics (following his silver in the Super G and a bronze in the downhill). He has two events left at the Games, but he's noticeably tired and banged up. Asking for more from him seems like a lot, but this likely being his last Games, it seems certain he'll empty whatever is left in the tank on his way out. Good luck, Bodie! Great job!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

'Couver Town Recaps: Lucky Number Se7en

(Apolo Anton Ohno shows off the Speed Skater equivalent of jazz hands as he indicates to the crowd how many medals he has one. Note to Ohno: Don't worry. We've actually been keeping track!)

Apolo Anton Ohno picked up his seventh career Olympic medal in short track skating on Saturday night, making him the most decorated American Winter Olympian ever, and the most decorated short-track speed skater from any country.

It was a very intense night of short track racing in the 1000m event. Both Ohno and American J.R. Celski made it through the quarterfinals to the semis, but there was a bit of a controversy in Celski's semifinal heat. During the race, Francois Hamelin of Canada bumped Celski from behind. Replays showed that the Canadian was manhandling Celski throughout the race, even briefly holding on to him, causing Celski to lose his position in the race. It also resulted in Celski shrugging Hamelin off and knocking him down. Celski then fell out of position and lost. After the race, the judge ruled that Celski knocked the Canadian Hamelin to the ground, which earned the former a disqualification. Also, even though Hamelin wasn't in scoring position when he got knocked down, he was advanced to the final. The ruling doesn't make sense to me, but it's all history now. Five skaters moved on to the final: two from hateful South Korea, Ohno, and the brothers Hamelin from Canada.

I don't know what South Korea's problem is with Ohno. Jealousy, perhaps? I'm told that in South Korea locals call him, "The King of Fouls," and even put his face on toilet paper. No, seriously. They've been sending complaints and death threats by the hundreds to the U.S.O.C. over the fall by Korean skaters in the 1500m earlier this week. I don't know why they are so upset. No one likes to see their athletes fall, but Ohno had nothing to do with Sung Si-Bak and Lee Ho-suk crashing into each other. They were all throwing elbows, you'd think these people didn't realize the race was being recorded and could be reviewed. But apparently, that's not good enough. Gold medal winner in the 1500m, Lee Jung-Su can't accept it. "Ohno didn’t deserve to stand on the same medal platform as me,” he told the Yonhap News Agency after he won. “I was so enraged that it was hard for me to contain myself during the victory ceremony.” Get a grip, Lee Jung-Su. Your teammates took each other out. Stop blaming Ohno for their mistakes!

So fast forward to last night, and you've got a pair of angry South Koreans and a pair of hometown Canadians working as two teams against Ohno. Ohno didn't pay it much mind and looked very relaxed going into the race. At the start, he was content to skate from behind. With just over two laps remaining, Ohno did his custom surge, landing in second place. At this point you can see on the replay that one of the Canadian brothers (take your pick, I can't tell them apart in the speed skating uniforms) totally pushes Ohno on the hip during a turn, slowing him down and knocking him out of the groove. The media is reporting this as a "stumble" but the Canadian totally put his hand on Ohno and pushed off. The result was that the Koreans surged ahead and couldn't be caught, but Ohno fought like hell and wound up passing both Canadians at the last possible second to finish third for the bronze. .

Afterwards, Ohno was a little disappointed not to claim gold, but took the bronze in stride. “It means a lot to me, especially in a sport like this,” Ohno said. “I’m all smiles.”

Ohno has won medals in Salt Lake City, Torino, and now again in Vancouver. His longevity and accomplishment in a sport that is so unpredictable is truly impressive. His seven medals of varying colors might not completely qualify him as achieving the most impressive winter Olympic display ever by an American in the face of Eric Heiden’s tally of five gold medals in one Games or Bonnie Blair’s total of five golds and one silver. It doesn't matter much though, as he's been the face of his sport for over a decade and won consistently during that time. And his legacy isn't over yet! He's got two more events next week before he skates off into the Olympic sunset. Go get 'em. Ohno!

Friday, February 19, 2010

'Couver Town Recaps: Slytherin Takes The Quidditch Cup!

(Evan Lysacek, Head of Slytherin House and rumored parseltongue, took down reigning champion Yevgeny Plushenko - without the use of a Confundus Charm! Above, he shows off his ability to fly sans broom.)

Congrats to Evan Lysacek who won the gold medal in men's figure skating last night. He becomes the first American man to win the gold since Brian Boitano in 1988, and the first reigning world champion to win the gold since Scott Hamilton in 1984.

Also of note in terms of streaks and records, Lysacek's coach, Frank Carroll, has been to 10 Olympics as a coach, but has never had a skater win the gold medal. Michelle Kwan won silvers. and Timothy Goebel won a bronze. Now at 71, Carroll has coached his way to the gold! Good on him!

Lysacek's win also brought him a victory over Yevgeny Plushenko, skatings self-appointed villain. He came back out of retirement just to win this gold medal and repeat his title from Torino in 2006. No man has been able to win back-to-back Olympic golds since Dick Button in 1948 and 1952, but Button continues to stand alone in that regard. (Yeah, Dick Button!) If at 28 in 2014, Lysacek wants to come back to defend his title, he can try to match Button's feat then.

Lysacek skated the short program dressed up in a raven-costume designed by Vera Wang while skating to "The Firebird." I love this song, but it needs to be retired from competition. It's overdone (also the music from Swan Lake needs to be banned for the ladies.Same reason.). Then he skated the long program to "Scheherazade" but I like to think of it as "Severus Snape: Friend or Foe?" because Lysacek once again was decked out in black, but instead of feathers, he had silver snakes wrapped around him. Regardless of the actual theme, he had a remarkable free skate, and finished with a score of 257.67 points overall. Plushenko also skated well landing a quadrupile jump, but his footwork overall was not super-impressive. He wound up with 256.36 points, landing him the silver. Russian skaters had won the gold medal in the men's event at every Olympics since 1992. The streak is over!!

Plushenko was hardly gracious in losing, calling out Lysacek for not attempting a quad jump and pretty much saying that an Olympic Gold Medalist who could not land a quad was not worthy of the title. Now, there are several issues with this. First, it's really a dick thing to do to say the guy who beat you didn't deserve it, just because you did a trick he didn't do. Secondly, Lysacek CAN do a quad and has landed one in competition before, but designed his routines for the Olympics for maximum point totals without it. He found a way to take the point advantage of the quad away from Plushenko. If Plushenko had skated better overall throughout his routine, and planned his routine more strategically, he would've won. However, he didn't, and the best overall skater took home gold. That's how it should be. Plushenko needs to swallow that bitter pill and not try to rain on Lysacek's parade. Just because Plushenko values jumps over everything else doesn't mean that the judges ought to. Japan's four-time national champion, Daisuke Takahashi,won the bronze, after falling on his opening quadruple jump. So quad's aren't everything.

It was very exciting to see an American atop the medal platform again for the men. I'm glad that Lysacek achieved all he set out to do. Unfortunately, his US teammates Johnny Weir and Jeremy Abbot had a harder time in Vancouver. Weir's a three-time United States national champion, and he finished sixth this year. I really feel he was underscored in both events, because he's a polarizing persona off the ice. Jeremy Abbott, the reigning national champion, finished ninth after nerves really hampered his performance in both programs. Hopefully he'll get another chance for gold 4 years from now. Let's keep the streak of Americans winning gold going! Accio, Gold!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

'Couver Town Recaps: Gold, Speedskater. GOLD!

(Look, ma! No shades! Davis is ready to feel those leg muscles burn as he heads into the final 200m)

Last night, Shani Davis repeated his gold medal win in the 1,000 meters speedskating event. In 2006, Davis became the first African-American to win an individual gold medal at the Winter Games.

Chad Hedrick from the US was something of a surprise bronze medalist, Hedrick is an Olympic veteran but this is not his strongest distance. Good on him!!

For Davis, winning helped ease some of the controversy surrounding his decision to bail midway through the 500m event a couple days earlier. He said he wanted to focus his energy on this race where he felt he had the best chance to win. I don't know... it's still a little wonky to me, but I'm glad at least he has something great to show for it.

Davis needed an amazing final 200m to beat Mo Tae-bum, (who btw has my favorite name of this year's Olympics) who won the 500m and got the silver.

Speed skating has been awesome this Olympics and I look forward to more races in the coming week!

'Couver Town Recaps: Half the Pipe, Double The Gold!

(After winning gold. Shaun White gets hugs from teammate Scotty Lago who won the bronze. White described the Olympics as "heavy" and his celebration with Lago as "“Saucy. Keep it weird.” He rules.)

How awesome was Shaun White last night in the Half Pipe? SO AWESOME! Seriously, the dude was unstoppable. On an evening where most boarders couldn't complete both of their runs in the finals, White scored two massive passes. His first run which scored a 46.8 out of 50.0 wound up being enough for gold. White understandably celebrated with his team at the top of the pipe before his second run, when he knew the title was secured. Then the camera and the microphone stayed on him and his coach for a long while as they debated what he should do with the run ahead of him that didn't need to count for anything. It's at this point that I should point out to NBC that if they don't want to apologize for people cursing on air, then they should stop recording their personal conversations. But to sum up, White's coach wanted him to go out there and really impress everyone, even with nothing on the line. White obliged and unleashed his newest and craziest move which is technically called the Double McTwist 1260, but which White likes to think of as the Tomahawk. It involves two flips and like three twists. It's hard to describe and looks physically impossible to complete. You need to see it for yourself. Go to the Olympics website and watch it over and over again. In completing the Double McTwist 1260, White had a run that earned him an even higher winning score than he previously had - 48.4! only 1.6 points away from perfection!

Shaun White has long been the face of Snowboarding and he continues to live up to the hype. The moves he comes up with continue to advance the sport and impressive everyone with his dedication to the sport. These back to back golds in Torin and Vancouver are much deserved. Truly outstanding! Go Team USA!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

'Couver Town Recaps: It's All Downhill From Here

(Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/Agence France-Presse. I don't always bother to credit the photos, but i think this one of Vonn is so awesome I took note of who took it.)

I just want to preface this by saying the Downhill Competition is the event I would least like to find myself involved. Yes, I would rather do half-pipe than downhill. I would rather do moguls than downhill. The thought of speeding down that effing mountain scares the hell out of me. I mean, with all those turns and the airtime off the hills??? No, thanks. These are some fierce women going down that hill, folks. I saw one of them face plant on the ice while going 70 miles an hour downhill. Bloody hell!

So now that that's out of the way, Lindsey Vonn rose to the occasion and met all expectations to become the first US woman to win an Olympic downhill gold medal. In a run where her skill was only matched by her sheer aggression descents in Olympic Vonn effectively dealt with bruised shin, and chased down teammate and rival Julia Mancuso for the win. Vonn’s time of 1 minute and 44.19 seconds on a very bumpy, and dangerous race course at Whistler Mountain was 0.56 seconds better than Mancuso. What's even more amazing is that for most of the run, Vonn favored her right shin, often placing her weight on the inside ski (which you're apparently not supposed to do. i don't know, i'll jus trust the guy who commented on the slo-mo replay) and finishing the race practically balancing on one foot. It's amazing she could maintain so much control like that. Following Vonn and Mancuso on the medal podium was Elisabeth Görgl of Austria with the bronze.

This course was BRUTAL. Six of the 45 skiers did not even make it to the bottom! And they exited the course by flying off of it in the gnarliest of ways. I'm pretty sure another eight experienced falls along the course but picked themselves up and got to the finish line. It makes Vonn's achievement that much more impressive. She skied with absolutely no fear. She just tore right through it. Afterwards, when she saw her time, she roared and collapsed in the snow with delight. She remained emotional over the win for a long time after she secured gold. Both Vonn and Mancuso looked absolutely thrilled to be on the podium. I'm so happy for them that dreams they held since they were 12 years old have finally come true.

Good luck with that bruised shin in the rest of your events, Lindsey!

(Elisabeth Görgl of Austria is on the right, wondering about those crazy Americans she's standing with.)

Monday, February 15, 2010

'Couver Town Recaps: A Title Defended, Snowboard-Style!

(Seth Wescott soars just a little bit higher and a little bit farther past the Olympic Rings than Canadian Mike Robertson as he heads for gold!)

Congrats to Seth Wescott who won the gold medal for the US in Monday's snowboard cross final. Snowboard cross is a crazy downhill race with jumps that can either push you ahead or totally slow you down if you don't land them just right. Plus the racers snowboard simultaneously so they can shove each other out of the way - just like in SSX Tricky! Luckily for Wescott, 33, he landed everything at the end in expert fashion, he didn't get shoved, and he defended the Olympic title he first won in Turin.

Unfazed by a slow start, Wescott passed his opponents one by one. That included his American teammate Nate Holland, who spun out in a turn (and did his share of shoving the Canadian boarder at the beginning. heeheehee!) and ultimately finished fourth. Wescott edged past Canadian Mike Robertson over one of the very last jumps. Then Wescott survived a small bobble on the last landing and crossed the finish line first by about a board length. It was unbelievably close, but USA came out on top. Go Team!!

'Couver Town Recaps: A Lovely Pair Indeed

Hooray! Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo from China finally won their elusive Olympic gold medal they worked towards for so many years! Their final score was 216.57 points - more than three points ahead of teammates Pang Qing and Tong Jian. I'm very happy for the married Shen and Zhao. I think they are lovely. They had one freak little flaw in the long program last night where they kinda fell out of one of the lifts, but they recovered well and had such a lead from the short program, that it didn't wind up costing them anything. These two came out of retirement in 2007 for their last shot at gold. Well worth the effort!
Aliona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy of Germany came in third. Not only is this is the first time since 1960 that a Russian couple didn't win gold, but this time they didn't win a medal at all. Really shocking. But I still remember the time when their was a judging scandal (in Salt Lake, i think?) and the Canadian pair was unfairly robbed of the Gold Medal in favor of the Russians (the IOC eventually awarded the Canadians joint golds with the Russians after the fact), so I don't have a lot of love for the Russians when it comes to pairs skating. They had their time. Their time has passed.

I really am enjoying how so many medal winners this Olympics seem to be veterans who have had disappointments in the past. It's always nice to see young athletes win, but when you see competitors who have tried and come up short and then waited 4 or 8 years years just to get another shot and they get it done? I effing love that. Plus seeing athletes who are older than me winning gold makes me feel like I'm still young.

Enjoy your second retirement, Shen and Zhao! You've earned it!

Against Amazing Odds

Reality TV's Crown Jewel is back! Sunday night's premiere was interesting, if not quite up living up to it's title as "amazing." Looking at the cast, there are a couple of celebrity dumb blondes, including Big Brother 11 Winner Jordan Lloyd and former Miss Teen South Carolina and former youtube sensation Caite Upton (they are not on the same team). These two ladies might surprise you though, as they did pretty well on the first leg of the race. I am pleased that none of the couples on the race started immediately screaming at each other, or stress out unnecessarily, or otherwise seem like hateful people. Each leg might turn out to be a contest of who can make the fewest stupid mistakes, since almost all the teams made some moves that defied logic and clue-reading on their opening trek from LA to Santiago, Chile. They seem very evenly matched, so it's hard to pick a winner. with 10 teams still in the mix (high school sweethearts Dana and Adrian were eliminated first and handled it with a lot of class), I'll give you my picks for who will wind in the top half/bottom half for the season. When I'm done with that, we'll see if I have a pick to take home the million dollars.

Jody and Shannon

Relationship: Grandma/Granddaughter and triathletes to boot!

My Nickname For 'Em: Team Granny Goodness!

What's Their Damage?: I hope I'm wrong about them, because they seem like an awesome team and I'd like to see them stick around. While Granny looks like she's got mad endurance, neither woman seems like they have a ton of upper body strength and I just feel like even if they can run faster than they did in the first leg, there is a roadblock in their future that has their demise written all over it.

Dan and Jordan

Relationship: They are brothers. Jordan is homosexual, and Dan is just kinda gay.

My Nickname For 'Em: Team Gayer By Half

What's Their Damage?: I don't know about these two. I think they will get to about mid-season and then Killer Fatigue will claim them. They already got a time penalty in the first leg and I think the mistakes will only get bigger over time.

Brent and Caite

Relationship: They are "dating models." I feel certain they know each other, but their relationship and profession seem totally made up.

My Nickname For 'Em: Team... Such As

What's Their Damage?: This show has cast far more annoying dating models than these two. I actually kind of like Caite and her ability to absorb her horrible Teen USA speech. They ALMOST did really well, but lack of clue reading dealt them a penalty that bumped them from 2nd to 7th place. With all the teams so close together, giant mistakes like that can really cost them. Also? Brent made absolutely no impression on me. I prefer that over him being a toolish asshole, trust. I just don't think these kids are gonna make it.

Louie and Michael

Relationship: They're both (formerly after this airs) undercover cops.

My Nickname For 'Em: Team 42 Jump Street

What's Their Damage: They don't seem to be in the best shape of their lives. That always becomes a factor a few legs in. They seem like they could easily fall victim to any number of race misfortunes. One of them loses a pack. One of them loses a clue. One of them gets really lost misreading a map. All of these scenarios seem highly likely for these two leading to their philimination.

Jet and Cord

Relationship: rodeo cowboy brothers (they've got baby faces, but they are actually my age!)

My Nickname For 'Em: Team Rodeo Bros.

What's Their Damage: They seem very fish-out-of-water when it comes to international travel. I feel like they will do very well with any physical challenges, puzzles I'm not sure about, but I feel like once they have to drive themselves through a foreign city, it will be the last we see of them. An example of not understanding travel: They exchanged all their money from US dollars to Brazillian money when they were heading to Chile... um....


Carol and Brandy

Relationship: Power lesbians in love!

My Nickname For 'EM: The Evil-Lyns! (but the other racers are content to call them The Lesbians)

Why Their Pedal is to the Metal: I don't know if they will make it too far. I think putting them in the top half over the Rodeo Bros. is me being generous. But they look like they get along well and I believe they could probably read a map better than most of these teams. What they lack in physical strength, they make up in their spell-casting powers, like the ones they used when they commanded technical malfunctions for the plane ahead of them (I'll assume they meant while it was not in the air) so the front teams lost their time advantage. Which is what happened and they did!

Joe and Heidi

Relationship: Married.

My Nickname For 'Em: Team Jodi

Why Their Pedal Is To The Medal: They don't really seem to have an obvious weakness, so they should be level players. Joe seems eager in his interviews to fill the bossy husband archetype, but he seemed nice enough in the first leg. He was making friends and smiling. Maybe he gets cranky on little rest, in which case we'll see that side of him soon enough. Heidi seems nice. I almost called them "Red Team" because I didn't have too much to go on.

Monique and Shawn

Relationship: They are friends, both 39-year-old moms/attorneys.

My Nickname For 'Em: Team Moms-At-Law!

Why Their Pedal Is To The Metal: They seem to be in good shape and eager to race. I predict they will fight and get in over their heads a lot, but there's always one team that is consistently second to last without getting eliminated and i think Moms-At-Law will fit the bill this time.

Steve and Allison

Relationship: Father/Daughter

My Nickname For 'Em: Team Sack Race (it's a reference to the unconventional Father/Daughter Sack Race from Strangers With Candy. Obscure reference, I know.)

Why Their Pedal Is To The Medal: Steve has coached a team to a World Series Championship so obviously he knows a thing or two about winning. With Allison, it look like the apple didn't fall too far from the tree. Also this looks like a team where the parent won't treat the child like they are 4 year's old. It's very refreshing I really think they have a good shot to win. Steve and Allison had what was for me the funniest moment of the premiere when they broke into someone's house and started painting the living room as if it were part of their detour challenge, which also involved painting. Who knew the color would be a perfect match? Anyway, they still managed 4th place with all that wasted effort.

Jordan and Jeff

Relationship: Big Brother Lovebirds/Winners

My Nickname For 'Em: Jeff'n'Jordan

Why Their Pedal Is To The Metal: These two could not face a field of racers more to their favor. By that I mean, no one seems that much physically or mentally stronger than them. They didn't get sick of each other trapped in a house for like 3 months, so I assume they can make it through a couple weeks of running around the globe. You'd think Jordan's repeated inability to differentiate Chile from China would either (a) discredit her as a serious threat or (b) drive Jeff nuts, but neither of those things is true. She already won her first reality show and it wouldn't surprise me if she could win again.

So there you have it. Travel safe, teams! I'll see you at the finish line and snark on you all the way there! I think it's either Sack Race or Jeff'n'Jordan For The Win! How 'bout you?

'Couver Town Recaps: Canadian GOLD!

Canadians let out a triumphant cheer and a huge sigh of relief on Sunday night as the host country captured it's first gold medal ever on home soil. It happened in the men’s moguls event when Alexandre Bilodeau edged out Australian Dale Begg-Smith for the top spot. Bryon Wilson, once considered a long shot even to make the US Squad, had an incredible run to claim the bronze. Begg-Smith actually grew up in Canada, but bailed to to compete for Australia as a teenager. It's a move that didn't really sit well with Canadians, and it was an added boost that Bilodeau claimed the title over him.

It was a very emotional win for Bilodeau not just for what it meant to the country, but also what it meant for his family. His older brother, Frederic, who has cerebral palsy was waiting with his parents near the bottom of the course and I couldn't keep a dry eye watching their reaction to the win. Alexandre had long said he was doing it for Frederic, and that Frederic was his inspiration. The hug they shared after he won gold was a special moment to behold.

I'm so happy that the if/when story surrounding Canada's first Gold Medal at home is finally over. That pressure is now off the shoulders of the entire team and now they can compete without that added pressure mixed in there.

Congrats, Canadians! Your long wait for home gold is over! Good luck in the rest of the Games!

'Couver Town Recaps: No Spills For Spillane

Major congrats to US Olympian Johnny Spillane, who won the silver medal in the Nordic Combined event on Sunday. The Nordic Combined is a combo of ski jump and cross country skiing. Points you accumulate in the ski jump give you a time advantage in the 10K cross country event. It's kinda like how things work going into the Eliminator on American Gladiators. The medal is a huge accomplishment as the US has never medalled in the Nordic Combined since it was introduced at the Games back in 1924. The whole US squad did very well. Todd Lodwick was fourth and Bill Demong had a remarkable comeback - starting the race in 24th place.It was a very tight finish with Spillane leading as they headed into the final straight. It looked for a moment like he might take the gold, but right at the end, Jason Lamy Chappuis of France nosed him out. Only four-tenths of a second separated the two at the finish. So close!

Still it's a great victory for the US to have finished so well. It's been a long determined climb for the Americans. This is the 4th Olympics for both Spillane (age 29), Demong (29). and the fifth for Lodwick (33) That's a lot of dedication to make it to the podium. Congrats, gentlemen!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

'Couver Town Recaps: Canada Denied!

Hannah Kearney won the women's moguls skiing event Saturday night, denying the Canadians of their first gold at a home-soil Olympics for the umpteenth time. It totally sucked for Canada. The heavy favorite, Jennifer Heil, is on their squad and she wound up taking silver. Heil didn't really make any mistakes, it's just that Kearney was just as solid and a little faster through the course. The awesomely pink-haired Shannon Bahrke, repping the USA, took the bronze.

The weather on the hill was once again pretty crappy as a mix of snow and rain came in to match the fog already covering the mountain. Just what I want to face when attempting the mogul course! The skiers didn't complain about it hurting the course, but I was happy to watch from the comfort of my warm and cozy living room. You had to feel bad for the Canadian fans braving the elements in the hopes of seeing their team reach the top of the podium. You know they would've loved to get that monkey off their back early in the competition so they can just sit back and enjoy the rest of the Games without having to think about it. They shouldn't give up hope though! Still a lot of chances left for gold!

Don't feel too bad for Heil, she won gold in the games at Turin in 2006. That time Kearney had a horrible early run and finished 26th. So this is sweet sweet redemption. I'm very happy for her. Go Team USA!

'Couver Town Recaps: Ohno? Oh, yes!

(following a dramatic late crash in the 1500m, US Speed skaters Ohno "256" and Celski "252" maintain their composure and make it to the medal podium.)

I happened to catch this race last night and it was awesome. A perfect example of the unpredictable and delicate nature of short track speed skating. Anything can happen at any second, especially in the 1500m. Just getting through the first two heats to compete in the finals is widely considered a crap shoot. For instance, there were times in the opening heats where much-decorated US Speedskater Apolo Anton Ohno was in last place and had to fight his way back up just to make it to the finals. Then there were times in the Final Heat where he was in the lead, only to find himself stuck in 4th trailing three members of the South Korean team on the final turn.

South Korea's Lee Jung-Su wound up winning the gold medal, but two of his compatriots - Sung Si-Bak and Lee Ho-Suk - who were in line for second and third, toppled over each other with a quarter of a lap left, leaving Americans Ohno and JR Celski to cruise across the finish line and on to the podium. And just like that, South Korea lost its chance to sweep the podium, and Ohno tied Bonnie Blair to be the most decorated Winter Olympics athlete ever from the U.S.! Wepa!

JR Celski, who took home bronze, raced for his first medal last night after suffering a freak leg injury in September. At the time, his blade awkwardly sliced his leg muscle and if it had been only a few inches higher, he'd have bled out in seconds. You might recognize Celski from his appearance on The Biggest Loser last week, when the contestants went to visit Olympic hopefuls at the National Training Center. While there, Celski encouraged the future-former-fatties to never give up on their dreams, no matter what setbacks they face. Now Celski has achieved his dream of being an Olympic medalist. Outstanding!

I wish Ohno and Celski much more success (and also a strong helping of good luck!) in their remaining races.

I can't embed them here, but has a lot of great moments available for replay (including this one) if you missed any great moments you want to see for yourself. Enjoy!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Anna Howard Shaw Day: A Movie Marathon

The title of this blog is a nod to the fantastic 30 Rock episode that aired this week. Thank you Tina Fey for giving Liz Lemon such a horrible Valentine's Day. I know she's not real, but she's real enough for me to feel better about myself and my own situation. Who can ask for anything more?

This year, it really seemed that those of us who were alone on Valentine's Day really wanted to voice our distaste for the holiday with notable intensity. Personally, I felt pretty good this week. Wasn't too bitter. It felt like for the first time in a long time, I was not trying to outrun the feeling of my own loneliness. So how did I treat my newfound sense of inner peace? I decided to watch a string of weepy romantic movies, and see if my mental state could hold up under the pressure! Here's how it all shook out.

The Proposal

Plot: In order to avoid deportation, Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds decide to get sham married in Awesometown, Alaskachusetts. Along the way there are zany misadventures and kooky relatives, and through it all they teach Owen that no matter how many miles he runs, no matter how many pull-ups he does or crunches he crunches he will never looks as good as either Mr. Reynolds or Ms. Bullock.

Why It Gives Good Love: Betty White is on hand in a major way. Reynolds and Bullock have good chemistry and the writing plays to their strengths. They both look good naked and you basically see every inch of them except their naughty bits. The ending is a little wonky, but the original ending is included in the bonus features and trust me, the theatrical ending is MUCH better. I hadn't seen this movie before, but I'm glad I watched it.

Post-Viewing Mental State: Increased desire to have someone sitting next to me, so when they try to talk to me, I tell them to shut up and then start making out with them. This movie on the whole was sweet and fun. My feeling of self worth is sinking however, and my resolve to forge ahead is wavering. I suppress the urge to vomit as I think about the trauma that's on deck...

The Notebook

Plot: Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams conspire to turn their off-screen love into an on-screen chemistry so intense everyone watching wants to die from shame that they will never experience such passionate love in their lives. If that fails, James Gardner and Gena Rowlands are on hand to rip out your heart and serve it back to you on a silver platter. Questions you ponder throughout the film: Who's that guy reading the notebook? Who'd Allie marry? What the fuck is going on here? Will anyone love me like this when I am old? Omigod, why am I SO ALONE???? Tell me, movie! TELL ME!!!

Why It Gives Good Love: Almost-Sex in the run down house! Sex in the Rain! All those sad years of longing in between those two events! Gosling in a cap! Gosling with a beard! McAdams with awesome hair! McAdams with rain-soaked hair! The awesome fight between them outside outside her car where he calls her a pain in the ass. Gena Rowlands making my brain cave in under the immense gravity of her performance.

Post-Viewing Mental State: This is a good movie, but I swear it's intention is to shove your face into the dirt and tell you how you will never experience a love as powerful as the love between and Allie. I'm starting to really feel bad about myself. Mission accomplished, Notebook. I guess the self-loathing wasn't over for me. It still isn't over! (smooch!)

At this point my brain needed a rest. I went to the gym to do some running and then BFF came over for some dinner and Olympics. I had one more movie on the day's roster and I wasn't gonna leave it alone and rejected on V-Day.

The Lake House

Plot: Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves are living in the same Lake House at different times and thanks to unexplained star trek level technology, they can talk to each other through the space time continuum via letters placed in God's Magic Mailbox. The twist is that they have met before they just don't remember the time that a home-grown terrorist placed a bomb on a public bus in Los Angeles. Also they kissed once at a party. These crazy kids made it through that insanity with the bus, and wouldn't you know it? They make it through this second time as well! Death cannot stop true love. All it can do is delay it for a little while.

Why It Gives Good Love: Good use of a Paul McCartney song. Sandra Bullock is in it 100% even if some of the time-bending twists would cross a lesser woman's eyes. The Lake House with all its glass walls is oddly compelling. The supporting cast is great, including Christopher Plummer and Shohreh Aghdashloo. Plus, how can you root against Keanu?

Post-Viewing Mental State: I feel better than I did when I started watching it. The movie is very somber. Keanu and Sandy spend most of it apart and in a state of melancholy. Unlike The Notebook, this movie isn't concerned with you wanting to be like the lovers in this movie. If you walk away from this film thinking, "Gee, I wish I had a magic mailbox that could connect me to a pen pal in the past that i could fall in love with." you've got some problems. As a viewer, you're happy they somehow found each other, but if it takes THAT much effort, maybe living alone really ain't so bad after all.

Final Verdict: I got through it! If not unscathed, than at least still feeling okay. At least I didn't get dental surgery today and then high on anesthetic, start seeing the Ghosts of Girlfriends Past in front of me in my living room. That would've been much worse. Liz Lemon, thank for taking one for the team. Seriously, if you have not seen the episode, watch it now for free at

Happy Valentine's Day, No One!

A Sassy Runway Recap

Hey all. Just wanted to give a shout out to my girl Sassy and her Project Runway Blog on the Huffington Post. For all my pop-culture blah-blah-blah'ing I don't usually talk too much about Runway, mostly because Una (aka Sassy) does it so damn well and I enjoy reading her take on it, more than I would writing my own. Her P.Runway recaps are the thing I rely on to get to the end of work on Friday afternoons.

But this week, I got the unique and delightful opportunity to join in on the snark with her for her recap, as she dealt with work and some amazing fashion week opportunities that made it difficult to complete the recap in a next day turn-around in her own. Our combined efforts for this week's episode are now online, and I'm very pleased with how it worked out. It was so much fun to contribute ths one time. Co-writing with Sassy - another achievement I can now cross off the Bucket List!

You should check out The Sassy Curmudgeon reguarly for hilarious posts about all sorts of topics. It's really a worthwhile read. And you should become a fan of hers on Facebook (please don't act like you ain't on Facebook.) And also follow her on twitter, but I don't actually know how to do that because I'm not on twitter (but I'm sure you are!) Make it work!

Ohh, 'lympics...

Here we are again. Has it really been 4 years? No. It's been only 2. Spare me the argument that it's been four years since the "Winter" Olympics. It's been less than 2 years since the Olympic anthem last came blasting out from my TV for two solid weeks. The exact games being played might differ, but the Olympics itself seems present. There's never enough time to feel like it went away.

With each new Games, I claim to be less interested, but every year I get drawn in. It's not necessarily the events. I think I'm with the majority of people who prefer the Summer Games to the Winter ones. Winter's got Figure Skating, and Speed Skating, Skiing and relative newcomer, Snowboarding. Those can be fun and dramatic. But mostly I respond to the individual stories of the Olympians. So many of them have spent their whole lives training for this moment and even if they never medal, getting there is its own colossal victory. At no time is this feeling more strongly felt than the Opening Ceremonies.

Each time, the host country tries to out do the Open Ceremony that came before it in terms of spectacle. While all that is awesome, I like the parade of the Olympic teams into the stadium best. The athletes all look so thrilled. This is their dream come true. For some countries, there are only have a handful of representatives - some countries only have ONE person. But they wave their flags and are filled with pride and I find it impossible not to be touched by that. In this moment, everyone is celebrating them just for making it this far. Maybe they will hear their anthem played while standing upon the winner's podium, and maybe not. While they take their lap around the stadium, everyone just celebrates the journey that brought them there.

The usual sense of jubilation in this moment is what made the tragedy faced by the team from Georgia yesterday even harder to accept. Earlier in the day Nodar Kumaritashvili, a 21-year-old Georgian luge athlete, was killed when he lost control of his sled while traveling nearly 90 miles/hr during a training run. Not only did this throw the safety of the luge course into doubt, it was also a horrible blow for all the athletes, especially the Georgians who would now have to enter the Stadium without their teammate and friend. The Opening Ceremony was dedicated to Kumaritashvil. Flags were lowered to half staff and the entire stadium fell silent in observance of his memory.

The delegation from Georgia marched into the stadium wearing black arm bands to honor Kumaritashvil. A black ribbon ran across the top of their flag as well. Some of the athletes and coaches fought back tears. As the group marched into the stadium, they received a standing ovation from the crowd.

It's certainly a somber note to start the Olympics and I hope that there are many stirring and uplifting moments that Games are known for to help bolster the spirit of the Georgian Team and the Games in general. Vancouver has had uncharacteristically warm and rainy weather, with a lack of snowfall. Oh, Canada... Climate change, people! It's no joke!

I look forward to rooting for the Americans across the board, hoping that the Canadians can finally win a gold medal in an event while they are the Host Country (it didn't happen in '76 or '88) and having at least one figure skating routine where the skater just cannot stop falling. Hey, I know it's their dream and all, but like I said, it's a dream just to get there. I have dreams too. I want to see a repeat of Laetitia Hubert from France at the 1992 Albertville Games. AMAZING. Now once for good luck, GO TEAM USA!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

And the Nominees Are/Should Be...

So here we go with Oscar Season. The nominations were announced on Tuesday. As per usual there were some obvious nominees, a few surprises, not too many head-scratchers, and a couple of snubs. As of Tuesday, I had seen nine of the ten movies nominated for Best Picture. The one missing from my collection was The Blind Side which I saw (and enjoyed) this Saturday.

All in all, I don't think this is a bad group of films to be nominated for the top prize. It wouldn't be MY top 10 nominees, but to each his own. I've decided to rank the nominees in the order I'd vote for them (most favorite to least favorite and then afterwards, I'll list how my personal top 10 best picture contenders would shake down.

1. Inglorious Basterds

2. Up

3. The Hurt Locker

4. District 9

5. Precious yada yada yada... Sapphire

6. The Blind Side

7. Avatar

8. Up In The Air

9. A Serious Man

10. An Education

A few notes: Inglorious Basterds is definitely my favorite movie of the year and I'm happy that it was nominated for Best Picture. It seems like it doesn't have much of a chance, and that the race is really between Avatar and The Hurt Locker, but Inglorious Basterds would certainly get my top vote. This to me is the best example of all around excellence in film-making. From direction, to screenplay to performances to any technical aspect you can think of, this movie is firing on all cylinders. Avatar came in at #7 on the list, and doesn't make my personal top 10, but I don't hate it. I actually like Avatar just fine, but I was never invested in the movie the way I was in the six films I listed above it. I fault the weak screenplay for this. I won't be upset if it wins Best Picture though. I've disliked other films much more than Avatar that have gotten the top honor. Titanic, Gladiator and A Beautiful Mind all leap to mind.

All the other top 6 movies I think are really strong. Up is totally fantastic. Hurt Locker is incredibly real and utterly suspenseful. The Blind Side is winsome and entertaining. District 9 is original and fascinating. While Precious can be uncomfortable to watch (I don't think it will ever become one of my Weekend Afternoon Go-To Movies), I really appreciate the performances in it and the story it told. So all those movies are worthy of recognition.

I don't particularly care for movies ranked 8, 9, and 10 though. Up In The Air had me for a about 2/3's of the movie, but the twist in the third act just seemed to come out of nowhere and it really lost me. It has great performances from the three main actors - especially George Clooney though. A Serious Man was interesting and I've enjoyed thinking about it in the week's after I've seen it. I just didn't really enjoy watching it. Maybe it went over my head. Also, I think An Education was well-executed for what it was, but I have no idea why critics went so crazy for it. It's this year's Gosford Park.

Do you remember Gosford Park? No? It was this British "murder mystery" film set in the 1930's and had an upstairs/downstairs cast of characters. It got a ton of awards and nominations back in 2002, and won an Oscar for Best Screenplay (2002 was a particularly weak year at the Oscars where Beautiful Mind won Best Picture over the likes of Moulin Rouge!, Fellowship of the Ring, In the Bedroom and Gosford Park.) I was looking forward to seeing it when it got so much critical praise. I found it insufferably boring. So while I thought Carey Mulligan gave a great performance in An Education, in my opinion An Education is definitely this year's Gosford Park.
And now for my personal Best Picture Noms, with little notes about my substitutions:

1. Inglorious Basterds

2. Star Trek - the best and smartest thrill ride of the year. I LOVE this movie, and I was majorly disappointed it didn't make it into the Oscar Top 10. My only quip is that the villains didn't seem like they'd been waiting 25 minutes to get their revenge, let alone 25 years. As a Trek fan it was exhilarating to see the original material reinterpreted so well.

3. Up

4. (500) Days Of Summer - A well-acted lovely to look at movie about relationships that the narrator will tell you "is not a love story." I'm glad I waited to finish my own non-linear script before seeing this, because the screenplay would've intimidated me.

5. A Single Man - Colin Firth got recognized for his really strong work as the lead in this film, but overall I thought it was beautiful and sad and lovely (and also non-linear!) and would much prefer A Single Man to be noticed over the "Serious" one.

6. The Hurt Locker

7. Where The Wild Things Are - Not everyone loved this movie, but I totally dug it. Even if it didn't get noticed for Best Picture, it's an absolute shame it didn't get noticed in the technical categories, because the design and execution of the Wild Things is really an accomplishment worth recognizing.

8. District 9

9. Coraline - I like an animated movie with some teeth! Scare the hell out of the children! That's what I say! The stop motion animation is amazing and the style is both loving and creepy. A great story too - even the plot changes from the original don't bother me (too much).

10. Precious yada yada yada... Sapphire

* - Fantastic Mr. Fox is the only movie I really wanted to see that I never got around to viewing. I'll get to you when you show up on DVD, Mr. Fox. I promise you!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

A Single Oscar Nom

COLIN: Oh, Jules! I'm so upset neither you nor our movie got nominated for Academy Awards! I'm so depressed, I think I might just shoot myself in the head!

JULIANNE: Oh, Colin! DON'T start in with that again! You've got so much to live for! You got a nomination! And well deserved, I might add.

COLIN: But it would have been nothing without you! We were both fucking incredible in A Single Man!

JULIANNE: Well, of course we were. We can't be less than who we are. It would've been nice to be nominated, but it wouldn't have gone anywhere anyway. We all know Mo'Nique is going to win my category. It hardly matters who the other four nominees are. She hasn't lost one race all awards season. Same with Christoph Waltz for Inglorious Basterds. Everyone else might as well stay home.

COLIN: True enough, Jules. But where is our movie in the best picture race? They expand the list to 10 films this year and STILL we don't make the cut? I mean, COME ON!

JULIANNE: I know, that is rather... disturbing. I'm glad we decided to lie down before they announced the awards. I'm feeling a wee bit faint.

COLIN: And we're not the only snub. Where is fucking Star Trek?? I fucking LOVED that movie, Jules! Instead they choose the Blind Side and An Education? It's bollocks! I mean those voters must be fucking MENTAL!

JULIANNE: Now, Colin. Don't upset yourself. Your nomination can represent us all! You can win, and thank us all in a truly riveting acceptance speech! Oh, I can see it now! You look stunning!

COLIN: It'll never happen! Never! Jeff Bridges will win. And good on him. It's a great performance.

JULIANNE: As is yours!

COLIN: Of course it is, Jules. We are fucking incredible. We're both class acts.

JULIANNE: That's right Colin. We don't even need awards! It's silly, really, when you think about it! We'll just keep being brilliant in every role that comes our way. The people love us. The critics adore us. Our peers respect us. What more can we ask for?

COLIN: I just can't help thinking what's the point anymore...

JULIANNE: I know. I'll fix you a drink.

COLIN: Make it strong.

JULIANNE: Absolutely, love. Absolutely...

Monday, February 1, 2010

2010 Grammys: What We Learned

"This is useless." - Anonymous Poster commenting on my Golden Globes Live Blog post.

Ahh, the Grammys. Proof that musicians can put on an even more tedious awards ceremony than their celebrity movie star counterparts. I had no interest in live-blogging this show or commenting on it, but just to stick it to whoever hated my Globes Post, here are some things I learned from watching this year's Grammys.

Lesson #1 - This shit goes on forever. I don't even know if they bothered to establish an end time prior to the start of the event. Perhaps they figured they'd just keep going until everyone involved had lost interest or was totally plastered or both. I would say about an hour in, it felt like there was never a time when I wasn't watching this show and that in would continue to go on for all eternity. I abandoned all hope. It was going to last longer than Doppelganger Week on Facebook. What didn't help matter was how at the commercial breaks the announcer lady would remind viewers at home that the next big act was only 50 MINUTES AWAY. BFF and I were astounded. We finished dinner and dessert long before this thing was half over. And they only presented like 8 awards in the live show. Everything else was just performances "which I'll get to later." The grammys give out awards in roughly 3,000 categories. I know they all can't make it to the main show. But come on. Plus, I love a Colbert win for best comedy album, but you show us 8 awards and one of them is BEST COMEDY ALBUM?? Who the eff cares?

Lesson #2 - Song of the Year? Record of the Year? Album of the Year? Let's call the whole thing off. In case you get confused by some of the similar sounding categories let me and wikipedia break it down for you:

Record of the Year is awarded for a single or for one track from an album. This award goes to the performing artist, the producer, recording engineer, and/or mixer for that song. In this sense, "record" means a recording of one song, not the composition or an album of songs. Often, the nominees and winners of this song represent the most successful songs of the year.

Song of the Year is also awarded for a single or individual track, but the recipient of this award is the songwriter who actually created the song in the first place. Thus, "song" in this context means the song as written, not its recording.

Album of the Year is awarded for a whole album, and the award is presented to the artist, producer, recording engineer, and mastering engineer for that album. So, in this context, "album" means a recorded collection of songs (a multi-track LP, CD, or download package), not the individual songs or their compositions.

Lesson #3 - Not all Grammy performances are created equal. The subsequent lesson is if you front load all the crazy performances at the beginning of your show, the second half looks kinda listless. A quick overview of the performances:

Lady Gaga & Sir Elton John. - This was a good crazy way to start the show. Poker Face is not really my Gaga cup of tea, but once her dancers threw her in an incinerator and she came out playing a double piano with Sir Elton (both covered in chimney swept ash), in a mash-up of her Go-To Ballad "Speechless" and his classic "Your Song," things had gone to a nice place indeed.

Beyonce played Sasha Fierce and delivered a manic rendition of "If I Were A Boy" and a Don't-Forget-The-Lyrics version of "You Oughta Know." Beyonce looked hot whipping her hair around like a crazy woman and she sounded good, but it was all a little too much crazy eyes for my taste. And there was an extended crotch grab moment that I thought lingered in an uncomfortable way.

P!nk went cirque de soleil on all our asses, spinning like an acrobat way up in the air and singing a tune the whole time. She did a similar routine at the VMA's but she looks hotter than ever and gets bonus points for dunking herself in water and then spinning like a helicopter and spraying everyone down below. Gotta love P!nk.

Green Day and Company came out to sing 21 Guns and cross promote American Idiot on Broadway. I really liked the arrangement of the vocals and it made me very excited for the stage show (moreso than the ads for American Idiot that played during the commercial breaks. I thought those sounded a little wonky.)

I don't know who Lady Antebellum is/are. I know that I would prefer their name to be Lady Cerebellum because that's what comes to my mind regardless. Lesson 3.1 should be that if you use a scrim in your act that looks like it's out of a high school musical, don't be surprised when it hits you in the head mid-performance. The falling curtain was then yanked off stage in a not-so-delicate fashion. I have no idea what song these kids were singing.

The Black Eyed Peas showed up to sing that commercial hit that is used in tons of commercials :I Got A Feelin'." They were dressed kinda like Destro and The Baroness and had dancers dressed like Vipers in the background and then later on they had some transformer-ish dudes come out to dance as well. Lesson 3.2 is that 2 of the 4 black eyed peas are totally unnecessary. You've got Fergie and and then those other 2 who stand there and shout. Eh. I wasn't feeling them.

Jamie Foxx tried to cram the stage with some awesome people during his song, but it didn't make any sense. It was a jumble. I am moving on.

Zach Brown Band won best new artist and then came out and sang Best Old Song "America The Beautiful." They have a nice sound.

Bon Jovi showed up to play the Grammys for the first time ever (really? EVER???) and they of course sound great and don't look as old as they have to be at this point. There was some pointless online vote to see if they would perform Livin' On A Prayer, but of course they did and it sounded good, but they might have gotten tired or bored because they only did one verse and then they were done.

Andrea Boccelli and Mary J. Blige came out to sing "Bridge Over Troubled Water" to great effect. There was one point when MJB looked like she might literally explode as the music came forth from her, but she kept it together and the two of them had a very moving duet.

DMB was on the scene and I listened to the song, but I honestly have no memory of what it was or how well they did. If i had to take a guess I'd say it was a very long performance as all the performances tended to last a little longer than necessary.

Maxwell and Roberta Flack sang a duet... I thought Roberta sounded pretty good, though perhaps she looked a little... reanimated. Where is the love? Well, obviously it isn't coming from me.

Jeff Beck paid tribute to deceased Les Paul, alongside Imelda May (I had no idea who it was, I had to look her up) on ''How High the Moon.'' It was a weird kinda vocal performance and I couldn't tell if she was singing live, but JB was cool.

the other acts deserve their own lessons:

Lesson 4: Bitch can't sing live. Taylor Swift won a bunch of grammys including Female Country Album of the Year and (Overall) Album of the Year, but her vocal performance at the Grammys was terrible. She had no breath support and was flat almost the whole time. I've never seen Taylor pull off a live performance. They even brought out Stevie Nicks to try and compensate, but there was nothing she could do. Swift sings all her e vowels through her nose. It does not sound pretty. It in fact sounds really bad. In the plus column, she was wearing one of the only dresses I liked last night, so that's something in her favor.

Lesson 5: Don't ask someone to perform a song if you're going to mute 53% of the performance. Lil Wayne, Eminem and Drake came out to performs some songs, but instead of being able to admire their rapping ability, we were left to wonder what Standards and Practices felt was so inappropriate in the lyrics for entire phrases at a time. It was disconcerting. Plus it was already like 4am by the time they made it on stage and all the young impressionable grammy viewers had gone to bed hours earlier so i'm sure they could've just let us adults hear the lyrics and no damage would've been done.

Lesson 6: If your Grammy telecast has a 3D Michael Jackson sequence planned, maybe you should tell somebody. So, a bunch of times I heard the Grammys were doing a Michael Jackson tribute with a bunch of different singers including Celine Dion, Jennifer Hudson and a couple others. Nowhere had I heard that this thing was going to be in 3D, as if that was somehow standard in awards shows. But then as the awards show gets under way the announcer starts talking about it. Excuse me, who was supposed to supply me this glasses? Even had I stolen a set from Avatar or broke out my Coraline Blu Ray it wouldn’t have helped, because they are new age 3-D glasses and this tribute was filmed in old school red lens blue lens glasses as Beyonce and other audience members demonstrated from their seats in the stadium. I took to the internets to see if I was the only one who somehow missed the memo, but Facebook friends across the country agreed that this was a surprise move and a quite unwelcome one at that. Watching the screen without 3D glasses is rather nauseating. The color is intense and off from what it should be. At times it looks like a glowing moving Magic Eye poster. Does the tribute require soft focus or deep focus? I don’t know, but the whole sequence was wasted on the many of us who didn’t have special 3-D glasses readily handy. Next time give a guy a little notice.

Well, those are the lessons learned from the Grammys this year. I never understand the nominating process for what songs and albums are included. So I learned no lessons in that regard. I know that my favorite album from last year, Kelly Clarkson’s All I Ever Wanted, was sorely overlooked. As was Empire State of Mind. Maybe that one missed the release cut off and will be up for something in next year’s 4 hour saga? I guess I’ll tune in to find out.