Monday Morning Critic 2.22.2010 – The wacky world of Sports nicknames, riffing on The Seventh Seal and the Star Wars / Twilight connection

On tap this week: Sports nicknames, the Twilight / Star Wars connection, tapping the Seventh Seal and slightly much more!

You know what would be awesome? If politicians could have the same awesome nicknames we give athletes. I’d be way more interested in politics if a couple had real bad-ass nicknames you could get behind, instead of having to wade through policy matters and positions.

Listen to me now and believe me later.

One of the reasons why we can get behind athletes, despite not knowing jack and squat about them for the most part, is that a lot have awesome nicknames. Watching the UFC this past weekend, it was amazing to see a bar of people who weren’t really fight fans get behind certain guys because they had awesome nicknames. Vanderlei Silva came out and the Australia audience went nutty, and the bar crowd was kind of quiet until they mentioned his nickname. It’s my favorite nickname of all time, too:

“The Axe Murderer”

How can you not love a guy with a nickname like that? Imagine if politicians had nicknames, good ones. Wouldn’t it make debates and whatnot that much more interesting to watch if you could get like Michael Buffer to do intros with awesome nicknames?

Imagine in 1992, before the first big debate between the three main presidential candidates, introduction went like this:

“On the red podium. He is the Reform Party Candidate in his second campaign for President. Ladies and gentlemen, ROSS … ‘Ears of Steel’ …. PEROT!

At the blue podium. He is the Democratic Candidate for President. He is the reigning Governor of Arkansas. Ladies and gentlemen, William …. ‘The Sexecutioner’ … Clinton!

And at the white podium. He is the Republican candidate for President. He is a two time Vice President of the United States of America. He is the reigning, defending, President of the United States of America. Ladies and gentlemen, he is the George ‘The Texas Pitbull’ Bush.”

Me, I think it’d make politics a lot more fun. Nicknames are a part of the reason why sports can be awesome and perhaps politicians could have more fun with uber-serious jobs with nicknames. But then again, thoughts like these kept me out of the good colleges.

Random Thoughts of the Week

Every now and again I like to grab something quick from a 7/11 for lunch, as sometimes work gets so swamped that I do like to be able to do the whole “working lunch” bit. And while waiting in line, I saw the tabloids up front with the usual sorts of barely news that people consume in bulk. And apparently this week everyone was focusing on the kids from Twilight and their various sexcapades, but one thing stood out most. Instead of seeing them by their names, everyone kept referring to them in reference to their Twilight franchise instead of just merely as actors. It made me think of one thing:

Taylor Lautner, Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson are about to share the same career path as Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford and Carrey Fisher.

The latter three were the main stars of the original Star Wars trilogy and only Ford really escaped the stigma of being associated with that franchise if only because Tom Selleck dropped out of Raiders of the Lost Ark, allowing him another franchise to shine in. Otherwise, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi kind of doomed Hamill and Fisher to lives as being typecast in their biggest of roles. Both never found any other success outside of those roles and it’s possible that Pattinson and Lautner are about to hit that make or break aspect of their careers.

Pattinson is about to star in Remember Me and Lautner has received several other high profile roles. Both are about to hit that Zac Efron level of stardom; can they draw a crowd and carry a film on their own, without playing famous literary characters? Well, calling them literary character is kind of a stretch considering my usual joke about Twilight is that you can score the entire film with the country song “He loves me with his fists” and get the same result but that’s just me.

The interesting thing is that Stewart might be the one of the three that gets out of this with her career intact, as the whole Twilight mess seems to be something she does between indie projects as opposed to her claim to fame. Lautner and Pattinson became famous because of the franchise; Stewart was a bit of a known commodity beforehand in the same way Harrison Ford was known as a good actor because of American Graffiti before becoming Han Solo.

When all is said and done, it’ll be interesting to see if either of those actors can overcome the stigma of being in the Twilight films. Efron seems to be the best possible comparison for these guys right now because he’s coming off a similar situation with the High School Musical franchise. So far it looks like he’ll be able to have a great career without being looked at as merely the song and dance guy from those stupid Disney movies. Whether Pattinson and Lautner can be stars outside of Twilight remains to be seen, though.

The test will be Remember Me, Pattinson’s next film. While it does have the new Eclipse trailer attached to it, whether it becomes a hit or not seems to be the ultimate test of whether or not he has a shot at being known for something besides a sparkly vampire.

A Movie A Week – The Challenge

This Week’s DVD – The Seventh Seal

There’s one commonality to the human existence: it ends. I think it’s why we contemplate it so often in religion and in art. There are no guarantees and all we know is that this is the only life we have to live. Which is why The Seventh Seal is still relevant, and fascinating, many years after release.

Famous for its imagery of a man (Max Van Sydow) playing chess with Death (Bengt Ekerot), and its themes regarding death and the Book of Revelations, the film follows the man (a knight returning from the Crusades) as he tries to stave off Death via a game of skill.

As he plays, and gambles again and again to keep living for as long as possible, the film is an existential look at the concept of mortality. Also focusing on the Knight’s family, and a family of carnies camping out around the local village, the film looks at the whole notion of Death in several different ways.

It’s an interesting film, for sure, and it stands as Ingmar Bergmann’s magnum opus for a reason: because you can’t take your eyes off it. It’s his look at man’s search for meaning in a world that doesn’t provide it, with Death figuratively (and in this case literally) around the corner, and warrants a strong recommendation.

What Looks Good This Weekend, and I Don’t Mean the $2 Pints of Bass Ale and community college co-eds with low standards at the Alumni Club

Cop Out – Bruce Willis and Tracy Morgan are whacky partners trying to solve a case.

See it – Kevin Smith, director for hire? Never thought I’d be writing those words, but this should be interesting because Smith is known for doing the small, personal film so seeing him direct someone else’s script in an action thriller ought to be worth a peek. Considering he’s never had a huge hit, but has never lost money for a studio on his film, this is a big test. He has a genre known for big box office numbers, a number of bankable stars and Warner Bros. behind him.

The Crazies – People go crazy for some stupid reason or another.

See it – George Romero’s original sucked, so it’s not like it could get any worse.

Do you have questions about movies, life, love, or Branigan’s Law? Shoot me an e-mail at and you could be featured in the next “Monday Morning Critic.” Include your name and hometown to improve your odds.

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