Monday Morning Critic – 3.8.2010 – On tap this week: Final thoughts on Tiger Woods, the wit and wisdom of P.S Hoffman, darkly dreaming Dexter and slightly much more!

On tap this week: Final thoughts on Tiger Woods, the wit and wisdom of P.S Hoffman, darkly dreaming Dexter and slightly much more!

I happen to be a regular reader of ESPN’s Bill Simmons, formerly the Boston Sports Guy, and a short while ago he wrote a really great column that I think touched on something that is getting over-looked because of the context in which he used it in: being a professional athlete in a mainstream sport today is infinitely harder than it ever has been.

One of things that I’ve found amusing on the Tiger Woods “scandal” is the analysis of his big statement, et al, to the point where the Zapruder film looks like it’s been given a once-over. I thought he should’ve gone up to the podium and said “this is between me and my wife and everyone else can suck it as far as I’m concerned” then walked away giving the double bird but that’s just me. I get why he did what he did, but Simmons’ point (and one I think we don’t talk about enough) is just how much harder it is to be a professional athlete nowadays than ever.

With the advent of the web and the news cycle becoming near instantaneous, someone like Lebron James can walk down the street and buy a chili dog and it’s somehow newsworthy. Any time you screw up, no matter how insignificant, is news fodder now, and pro athletes (lest we forget) are in their peak years when they are at their least amount of mental stability (so to speak). Speaking from experience, as I’ve recently rounded out of the “insane male stupidity” age range of 16-29, you don’t make the best of decisions between those ages. I don’t believe in regrets, never have, but of all the things in my life I could change I imagine that when I’m old and on my death bed that 99.9999% of them will be focused between those two ages. At that point in my life I had varying shades of money; the more money involved the more problems you can have. If I had been a millionaire at that point I would’ve made several hundred mistakes then I made with the mere pittance I earned at various life insurance companies and brokerages.

If I had someone in their 40s and 50s had been giving narration on my life at that point, which is essentially what sports-writers and gossip columnists are, they’d have had a field day with the rampant stupidity back then. And that speaks to a higher point; we expect mature adult behavior out of athletes who are barely adults to begin with. It’s why guys like Tom Brady and Peyton Manning are the exception, not the rule; wisdom comes with experience, some of it gained in pain. The screw-ups of our youth mold us into the fully functioning people we are today, so as we see the modern professional athlete develop we see them screw up significantly as well did. Except instead of parents, and maybe the Uncle/Aunt one is close with, you have television networks and pundits debating and discussing every single facet of one’s life.

We shouldn’t be surprised when stuff like this happens because nowadays athletes have it way tougher then guys in the past have. But then again, thoughts like these kept me out of the good colleges.

Random Thoughts of the Week

The beauty of certain actors is that they have great lines that stick with you long after the film in question has lost relevance. No one really cares when Arnold started saying “I’ll be back,” they just like to us it with the awful accent when doing their Schwarzenegger impression. So riffing on movie lines, something any good cinephile does, largely depends on the actor. You really can’t pull the film resume of someone like Channing Tatum and have a lot to quote by. But sometimes, you get an actor that has some wit and wisdom behind them. So, in an effort to find something I can do whenever I have nothing else to write about, I think sometimes you need to find an actor who you can like and has tons of excellent quotes attributed to characters in the past. But in order to really do it, I think you need to do it like you do in any good pick ‘em sort of contest: by a draft.

Every good thing in life has a draft. Or ought to, at least.

Since I have like 10 people on the Inside Pulse Movies Staff, I figure a five round draft with 10 picks per diem ought to be good. And since I’m making all the picks, I’m going to have imaginary teams picking actors & actresses in a totally random order over an indiscriminate amount of time. Why?

Because it’s more fun that way.

I also need a commissioner to preside over the whole draft. Every good draft has a commissioner. Thus it’ll be this guy:

With that said, let the Wit and Wisdom Draft begin.

And with the 8th pick in the first round, the Sacramento Junk Punchers select: Academy Award winner Philip Seymour Hoffman

Charlie Wilson’s War (2007)

Gust Avrakotos: There’s a little boy and on his 14th birthday he gets a horse… and everybody in the village says, “how wonderful. The boy got a horse” And the Zen master says, “we’ll see.” Two years later, the boy falls off the horse, breaks his leg, and everyone in the village says, “How terrible.” And the Zen master says, “We’ll see.” Then, a war breaks out and all the young men have to go off and fight… except the boy can’t cause his legs all messed up. and everybody in the village says, “How wonderful.”
Charlie Wilson: Now the Zen master says, “We’ll see.”

One of the great lessons of life….some things look bad now, but end up being advantageous later on.

Mission: Impossible III (2006)

Owen Davian: You hung me out of a plane. You can tell a lot about a person’s character by how they treat people they don’t have to treat well

A good way to tell a lot about someone’s character in a short amount of time is to see how they treat people like wait staff, et al. Its clichéd and something vapid enough to be on the wall of many a local Jimmy John’s but it’s true. The best way to know if a girl is a keeper is always how she handles herself to waitresses, bartenders and retail clerks. Conversely, the way animals react to someone is a good indicator of their character as well. I’ve found that if a dog does not like someone it’s for a good reason.

Almost Famous (2000)

Lester Bangs: The only true currency in this bankrupt world… is what you share with someone else when you’re uncool.

I’ve always thought the true measure of a friendship is what you tell someone at your moment of weakness.

The Boat That Rocked, also released as Pirate Radio (2009)

The Count: Cuz if you shoot a bullet, someone dies. When you drop a bomb, many die. You hit a woman, love dies. But… if you say the f-word, nothing actually happens.

In the scheme of things, profanity and off-color commentary are just that. Granted I live my life one coarse statement at a time but ultimately it’s the truth. We get too offended by language in this country and not offended enough by other things.

Synecdoche, NY (2008)

Caden Cotard: I will be dying and so will you, and so will everyone here. That’s what I want to explore. We’re all hurtling towards death, yet here we are for the moment, alive. Each of us knowing we’re going to die, each of us secretly believing we won’t.

There’s one commonality to the sum of human existence: it ends. For the awfulness that Synecdoche, NY was, it tapped into one thing: the end of one’s existence. It’s the one thing I thought Kaufman got right with the film; tapping into that commonality of existence.

A Movie A Week – The Challenge

This Week’s DVD – Dexter (Season 3)

I hate episodic television, always have. One of the perks of the DVD era has been aimed squarely at guys like me; I can sit down and crank through a season in an afternoon or a weekend, depending on how much time I have. The downside to it is when I find a show I get into, I end up just destroying any chance of sleeping because I will crank through multiple seasons in a week. Case in point: Dexter.

This had been one of those shows I always heard great things about but never watched because I’ve always been too cheap to get premium cable. I always get basic cable, if only because it gets a discount on the premier internet connection if you time it just right. One of the perks of moving back home is that my dad LOVES his super package with the cable provider. In retirement he has thing he indulges in: his television habits. For sports, and primetime viewing, his massive television and surround sound system make for an awesome viewing experience. Plus HD makes everything better, it seems, as even the awfulness of Chicago sports teams doesn’t seem so bad when it’s in HD. So I was never able to watch Dexter and since I don’t blind buy television shows I chose to just avoid it while everyone kept screaming how excellent it was. Two things happened.

One – I was able to watch the fourth season in the span of an afternoon during a snowstorm stuck inside and watched most of that season on AT&T’s “Video on Demand” feature. And while I was fascinated, there were things and back-story I didn’t quite get and understand (even with the awesomeness that are episode guides on the web).

Two – Black Friday during a recession

With the first three seasons all under 10 bucks I couldn’t say no. Well, I could, but what fun is that? Sometimes you just got to go all in when given a reasonable justification and moderate evidence. Trying to get through the first three seasons was tough, given that life is somewhat busy, but Dexter is a simple television show to get into.

The title character has two lives. By day he’s a blood spatter analyst for the Miami PD. At night he’s the Bay Harbor Butcher, a serial killer who preys on killers and scumbags alike with no mercy and no quarter. Living by the code of the stepfather who saw the signs of his predilections early on, in flashbacks and pseudo-fourth wall moments by James Remar, he maintains a strict moral code while balancing the life of a father and eventual husband.

This season follows him as he takes on an apprentice of sorts as Jimmy Smits came aboard for a run as an assistant district attorney who forms a bond with the serial killer. He’s also balancing life as an expectant father with longtime girlfriend Rita (Julie Benz), as well as tracking down the usual scumbags and low-lives for use on his executioner’s table.

The third season is an oft-maligned one, and for good reason. The first two are insanely brilliant and as such it’s hard to keep up that sort of quality for long. The third season is just good to very good, not very good to a string of profanities before “awesome” so it’s easy to see how some people can think of it as a lesser season. It’s still better then tons of shows out there, still maintaining a great place and developing a lot of the secondary characters with mini-arcs over several episodes, but it doesn’t quite hit the masterpiece levels the first two seasons are. It also has a couple storylines that dovetail nicely into season four, when the series began to hit on all cylinders again.

Medium strength 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

The Green Zone – Jason Bourne, err new Matt Damon character, does something and stuff.

See it – At worst it’s an inoffensive action flick. At best, it’s the fourth film in the Bourne franchise. I can live with that.

Our Family Wedding – Carlos Mencia and Forrest Whitaker our parents of a soon to be interracial couple. Shenanigans ensue.

Skip it – Whitaker isn’t funny, but he has an excuse. Mencia isn’t funny, either.

Remember Me – One of the Twilight kids gets to act, instead of look pretty.

See it – This should be the first true test of the Twilight franchise. Robert Pattinson is a big name because of the franchise. But can he draw outside of being a glittery vampire? The trailer to Eclipse is attached to this, so you could get a Phantom Menace effect to the first week’s receipts on this.

She’s out of My League – Jay Baruchel gets a hot chick. Shenanigans ensue.

See it – A low rent Knocked Up without the kid should still be pretty funny.

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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