Houston: We Have (Another) Championship

For the second time in three years the Houston Astros will win the World Series.

After falling short of a repeat last year, they will avenge their loss to the Boston Red Sox in seven games in the American League Championship Series and then best the Bryce Harper-less Washington Nationals in six tilts in the Fall Classic.

Other highlights of the 2019 season include the highly anticipated debuts of future phenoms Vladimir Guerrero, Jr., Eloy Jiménez and Fernando Tatís, Jr.; a Game 163 between the Philadelphia Phillies and Atlanta Braves to decide the second National League wild card; and my beloved Brewers once again falling in the NLCS.

Want to know how your favorite squad will fare? Check out my team-by-team predictions and get the first glimpse of an exhilarating 2019 postseason!

As for my Bold Prediction of the Year:

The most overexposed team in professional sports, the Chicago Cubs, will win only 85 games—and finish the season with a new manager as erstwhile skipper Joe Maddon is unceremoniously canned after a sluggish start and a brutal month of June.

As for my Crazy Ridiculous No Way A Mere Mortal Could Predict Such An Incredible Thing With Amazing Specificity:

Both the Baltimore Orioles and Florida Marlins will finish with identically futile 58-104 records.

Last year’s sagacity:

‘For the second straight season no team will finish with an 81-81 record.’

And indeed they did not!

This year I think two squads—the San Diego Padres and Chicago White Sox—will both win as many games as they lose.

And the award(s) goes to . . .

NL MVP: Nolan Arenado, 3B, Colorado Rockies
AL MVP: Mike Trout, CF, California Angels

NL Cy Young: Max Scherzer, Washington Nationals
AL Cy Young: Justin Verlander, Houston Astros

NL Rookie of the Year: Fernando Tatis, Jr., San Diego Padres
AL Rookie of the Year: Vladimir Guerrero, Jr., Toronto Blue Jays

NL Comeback Player of the Year: Jimmy Nelson, Milwaukee Brewers
AL Comeback Player of the Year: Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers

NL Manager of the Year: Craig Counsell, Milwaukee Brewers
AL Manager of the Year: Kevin Cash, Tampa Bay Devil Rays

Advertisements
Posted in Baseball | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Oscar Scorecard

Who needs an Oscar host anyway? For the first time in three decades the Academy Awards went sans un hôte and the result was surprising, speedy and refreshing! (Tina Fey and pals certainly helped in that regard.)

In my beloved (at least to me!) The Year in Movies, I wrote this moments before the 91st Oscars began:

“Happy Oscars! I can’t remember a ceremony with so much uncertainty—from its unprecedented lack of a host to wide-open races in nearly all key categories—and, consequently, so much excitement. I’m stoked!”

And exciting it was! Major upsets in both the lead actress and best picture categories overshadowed the remarkable diversity from both the presenters and, fortuitously, the winners.

The expansion of the Academy—inviting younger, more female and less-white members in and phasing out perpetual non-voters (the majority older and, yes, white)—a few years back has certainly had its intended consequences.

Before we delve any further into the night that was: a breakdown of my selections and the evening’s winners in alphabetical order:

Category Predicted Winner Actual Winner
Adapted Screenplay BlacKkKlansman BlacKkKlansman
Animated Feature Film Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse
Animated Short Film Bao Bao
Best Picture Roma Green Book
Cinematography Roma Roma
Costume Design Black Panther Black Panther
Directing Alfonso Cuarón, Roma Alfonso Cuarón, Roma
Documentary Feature Free Solo Free Solo
Documentary Short Subject Period. End of Sentence. Period. End of Sentence.
Film Editing Bohemian Rhapsody Bohemian Rhapsody
Foreign Language Film Roma (Mexico) Roma (Mexico)
Lead Actor Rami Malek, Bohemian Rhapsody Rami Malek, Bohemian Rhapsody
Lead Actress Glenn Close, The Wife Olivia Coleman, The Favourite
Live-Action Short Film Marguerite Skin
Makeup and Hairstyling Vice Vice
Original Score If Beale Street Could Talk Black Panther
Original Screenplay The Favourite Green Book
Original Song ‘Shallow’, A Star is Born ‘Shallow’, A Star is Born
Production Design The Favourite Black Panther
Sound Editing First Man Bohemian Rhapsody
Sound Mixing Bohemian Rhapsody Bohemian Rhapsody
Supporting Actor Mahershala Ali, Green Book Mahershala Ali, Green Book
Supporting Actress Regina King, If Beale Street Could Talk Regina King, If Beale Street Could Talk
Visual Effects Avengers: Infinity War First Man

I correctly predicted only 16 of 24, surprisingly missing two of the six major awards.

In other years I missed five, eight, six and nine. My finest moment came in 2014 when I accurately predicted a ridiculous 23 of 24 Academy Award winners, missing only . . . costume design.

The dreaded sound editing and mixing categories again became my bugaboo with Bohemian Rhapsody taking both awards when I thought First Man would prevail in the former. Documentaries both short and long caused me no issue but the always confounding live-action short saw favorite Marguerite upended by upstart Skin.

Speaking of The Favourite, I thought its lavish, stately castles would overwhelm voters who were leaning toward the futuristic and fantastic Wakanda. Boy was I wrong! Ditto for thinking that the sonorous score from If Beale Street Could Talk would garner more votes than the ethereal Black Panther.

Those four misses were all 50/50 propositions where I chose poorly. The same sad story concerned visual effects. I switched to Avengers: Infinity War at the last moment, wrongly thinking that the Academy would award that massive, fantastic film with one little Oscar. Instead it rightly went to the extremely underrated First Man.

In the major categories, Green Book beating The Favourite in the original screenplay category was disappointing but not overly surprising.

More shocking—likely the biggest upset since Moonlight topped La La Land for best picture two years ago—was The Favourite’s Olivia Colman besting Glenn Close (The Wife) for lead actress. Wow, wow, wow!

And Green Book winning best picture was stunning, certainly, but more galling than anything. The new academy format which allows films that are more broadly liked than those that are loved passionately clearly led to this result. I’m confident, however, that in the history of cinema Black Panther, Roma and A Star is Born will be much more fondly remembered.

As I said in my last post: “Reshuffling the best picture race I would, without hesitation, zoom A Quiet Place and Disobedience up to third and fifth, respectively, replacing Green Book and The Favourite.”

Amen.

Other highs—and, awkward, awkward, lows—from a jolly good show:

Best Speech: Tie: The pure joy of Spike Lee and the abject shock of Olivia Colman. Both were delightful in every way! (And be sure to check out the reaction of all the other best actress nominees. Priceless!)

Worst Speech: Anything uttered by Green Book director Peter Farrelly. Nickel’s worth of free advice: When you make a movie about a great man—Vale Don Shirley!—especially one now deceased, maybe mention him at least once? And not go all bro-love on a guy that I don’t think was even worthy of a best acting nominee in the first place:

“This doesn’t start, by the way, without Viggo Mortensen. All these awards are because Viggo and Mahershala and Linda, but it started with Viggo.”

Ugh.

Also could the makeup and hairstyle triumvirate really have just been trolling the Academy for proposing their category should be awarded during commercial breaks?

That would be amazing!

Still: Three oddballs awkwardly reading from a loose-leaf sheet of paper on national television before the second biggest television audience of the year = uncomfortable.

Best (electric) Moment: One word: ‘Shallow’. My wife would prefer I don’t write here how many times I’ve watched it. (It’s a lot.)

What stands out most to me—besides the pure and unadulterated electricity between them—is how essential is Bradley Cooper? Two weeks ago at the GRAMMYs, Lady Gaga’s performance of the exact same song started off strong and then went completely off the rails. This performance with him back from the BAFTAs? Perfection!

(Aside: Did they go in cold or have time to secretly warm up? Incredible either way!)

Best (awkward) Moment: Her!

Biggest Upset: Green Book topping Roma, A Star is Born and Black Panther was surprising but Colman besting the quasi-anointed Close? Downright shocking!

Biggest Disappointment: Green Book winning best picture. I had it as my 13th favorite movie and I think that an apt rank.

Posted in Academy Awards, Movies | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Year in Movies

Happy Oscars! I can’t remember a ceremony with so much uncertainty—from its unprecedented lack of a host to wide-open races in nearly all key categories—and, consequently, so much excitement. I’m stoked!

In the previous four iterations of my missive to the Academy I disagreed with seven nominations four years ago, three three years ago, two two years ago and four last year. This year: six.

It’s a stacked category, certainly, but I thought Emily Blunt gave the second best performance by a supporting actress in her husband-helmed A Quiet Place. Ditto for Michael B. Jordan (third) in Black Panther. John David WashingtonBlacKkKlansman—deserved the fifth best actor nod over Viggo Mortensen (Green Book) and I think I made my feelings very clear in my Snubs and Surprises piece about A Star is Born auteur Bradley Cooper.

Reshuffling the best picture race I would, without hesitation, zoom A Quiet Place and Disobedience up to third and fifth, respectively, replacing Green Book and The Favourite.

Here is a category-by-category breakdown of this year’s nominees:

Oscar Nominees: Supporting Actress

Amy Adams, Vice
Emma Stone, The Favourite
Marina de Tavira, Roma
Rachel Weisz, The Favourite
Regina King, If Beale Street Could Talk

Nick Wood’s Top Five

  1. Regina King, If Beale Street Could Talk
  2. Emily Blunt, A Quiet Place
  3. Marina de Tavira, Roma
  4. Amy Adams, Vice
  5. (Tie) Emma Stone, The Favourite

Rachel Weisz, The Favourite

Oscar Nominees: Supporting Actor

Adam Driver, BlacKkKlansman
Mahershala Ali, Green Book
Richard E. Grant, Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Sam Elliott, A Star is Born
Sam Rockwell, Vice 

Nick Wood’s Top Five

  1. Sam Elliott, A Star is Born
  2. Mahershala Ali, Green Book
  3. Michael B. Jordan, Black Panther
  4. Adam Driver, BlacKkKlansman
  5. Richard E. Grant, Can You Ever Forgive Me? 

Oscar Nominees: Lead Actress

Glenn Close, The Wife
Lady Gaga, A Star is Born
Melissa McCarthy, Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Olivia Coleman, The Favourite
Yalitza Aparicio, Roma 

Nick Wood’s Top Five

  1. Lady Gaga, A Star is Born
  2. Glenn Close, The Wife
  3. Yalitza Aparicio, Roma
  4. Olivia Coleman, The Favourite
  5. Melissa McCarthy, Can You Ever Forgive Me? 

Oscar Nominees: Lead Actor

Bradley Cooper, A Star is Born
Christian Bale, Vice
Rami Malek, Bohemian Rhapsody
Viggo Mortensen, Green Book
Willem Dafoe, At Eternity’s Gate 

Nick Wood’s Top Five

  1. Rami Malek, Bohemian Rhapsody
  2. Christian Bale, Vice
  3. Bradley Cooper, A Star is Born
  4. Willem Dafoe, At Eternity’s Gate
  5. John David Washington, BlacKkKlansman

Oscar Nominees: Best Director

Alfonso Cuarón, Roma
Bradley Cooper, A Star is Born
Pawel Pawlikowski, Cold War
Spike Lee, BlacKkKlansman
Yorgos Lanthimos, The Favourite 

Nick Wood’s Top Five

  1. Alfonso Cuarón, Roma
  2. Bradley Cooper, A Star is Born
  3. Spike Lee, BlacKkKlansman
  4. Pawel Pawlikowski, Cold War
  5. Yorgos Lanthimos, The Favourite 

Oscar Nominees: Best Picture 

BlacKkKlansman
Black Panther
Bohemian Rhapsody
The Favourite
Green Book
Roma                                                                                     
A Star is Born
Vice

Nick Wood’s Top Five Eight 

  1. A Star is Born
  2. Roma
  3. A Quiet Place
  4. BlacKkKlansman
  5. Disobedience
  6. Black Panther
  7. Bohemian Rhapsody
  8. Vice

With the top movie of 2018 now whittled down to 11 by my two previous posts let’s finally get to the moment you all have been waiting 364 days for . . .

The Worst Movies of the Year

  1. Rampage
  2. Venom
  3. Skyscraper
  4. You Were Never Really Here
  5. Aquaman

The Best Movies of the Year

11. Widows
10. If Beale Street Could Talk
9.

8.

7. BlacKkKlansman
6. Disobedience
5.

4. Avengers: Infinity War
3. Mission: Impossible—Fallout
2. Roma
1.

Greenbacks

Breaking it down even further:

Best Movie That Made the Most Amount of Money: Avengers: Infinity War ($678,815,482 in domestic earnings)
Best Movie That Made the Least Amount of Money: Disobedience ($3,498,782) 

Worst Movie That Made the Most Amount of Money: Venom ($213,515,506)
Worst Movie That Made the Least Amount of Money: Sorry to Bother You ($17,493,096)

Editor’s note: United States dollar figures courtesy of BoxOfficeMojo and current as of February 24, 2019 

Best Movie I Haven’t Seen (Yet): The Wife
Worst Movie I Will Never See: The Death of a Nation 

Movie Quote(s) of the Year: “I just wanted to take another look at you.” (Bradley Cooper in A Star is Born)

“Maybe we can still heal you.” (Chadwick Boseman in Black Panther)

“Why, so you can just lock me up? No. Just bury me in the ocean with my ancestors that jumped from the ships, because they knew death was better than bondage.” (Michael B. Jordan)

Four categories back by popular demand: 

Very Good Movie That I Thought Would Have Been Worse: Bohemian Rhapsody
Movie That Should Have Been Much (Much) Better: The Front Runner 

Most Overrated Movie of the Year: Sorry to Both You (really really intriguing—until it became so so bizarre!)
Most Underappreciated Movie of the Year: Disobedience

And now some more fun categories: 

Best Book Adaptation: If Beale Street Could Talk
Best Musical: A Star is Born 

Most Romantic: Tie: A Star is Born and Disobedience
Least Romantic: BlacKkKlansman 

Most Exciting Movie: Mission: Impossible—Fallout
Least Exciting Movie: Tie: Venom and Aquaman 

Best Year—Female: Tie: Emily Blunt (A Quiet Place and Mary Poppins Returns) and Rachel Weisz (Disobedience and The Favourite)
Best Year—Male: Bradley Cooper

Crystal Ball

Every year I peer into the future to ascertain this year’s crop of future Hollywood stars. Here are examples of previous predictions:

Actress: Kathryn Newton, Janelle Monáe, Alicia Vikander, Felicity Jones, Shailene Woodley, Imogen Poots, Samantha Barks
Actor: Fionn Whitehead, Mahershala Ali, Emory Cohen, Jack O’Connell, Joel Edgerton, Dane DeHaan, Theo James
Director: Chloé Zhao, Barry Jenkins, Tom McCarthy, Ava DuVernay, Marc Webb, Rian Johnson, Ryan Coogler

Previous highlights include picking a then virtual unknown auteur, Ryan Coogler, as my first future directing star in 2011 and selecting Shailene Woodley and Joel Edgerton as future stars in 2013.

Next ‘It’ Actress: Kiki Layne
Next ‘It’ Actor: John David Washington
Next ‘It’ Director: Bradley Cooper

Secret Weapon

Need last minute help with your Oscar pool? Below is how things will go this evening on the 91st Academy Awards. I’ve amended some of my predicted winners (*) which I previously made before the actual nominations came out:

Animated Short: Bao
Animated Feature: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
*Cinematography: Roma
Documentary Short: Period. End of Sentence.
*Documentary Feature: Free Solo
Live Action Short: Marguerite
Costume Design: Black Panther
Film Editing: Bohemian Rhapsody
Foreign: Roma
Makeup and Hairstyling: Vice
Production Design: The Favourite
Screenplay (adapted): BlacKkKlansman
Screenplay (original): The Favourite
*Score: If Beale Street Could Talk
Song: ‘Shallow’, A Star is Born
Sound Editing: First Man
Sound Mixing: Bohemian Rhapsody
Visual Effects: Avengers: Infinity War

But those are just fillers. Now for what you really care about—the awards that will make-or-break your chances of going home with some booty tonight:

*Supporting Actress: Regina King, If Beale Street Could Talk
*Supporting Actor: Mahershala Ali, Green Book
*Lead Actress: Glenn Close, The Wife
*Lead Actor: Rami Malek, Bohemian Rhapsody
*Director: Alfonso Cuarón, Roma
*Picture: Roma

Posted in Academy Awards, Best Of, Movies | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Penultimate Pictures

Yesterday I made the surprisingly difficult decisions necessary to pare down the 61 movies I saw this past year down to my favorite 33. Some very good and ridiculously entertaining films failed to make the cut. Needless to say winnowing it down further—so now only the top 11 films of 2018 remain—was even more daunting. I guess that is why they pay me the big bucks!

Behold movies 33 to 12 on the annual countdown:

33. Glass
32. A Private War
31. They Shall Not Grow Old
30. Tully
29.

28. Creed II
27. The Favourite
26. Ocean’s 8
25. Mary Poppins Returns
24. Ant-Man and the Wasp
23. 7 Days in Entebbe
22. Beirut
21. Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald
20. The Hate U Give
19. Solo: A Star Wars Story
18. Annihilation
17. Crazy Rich Asians
16. Green Book
15. Cold War
14. Love, Simon
13. Vice
12.

Please remember to check in tomorrow for my favorite post, The Year in the Movies, and last minute help to ensure you take home some booty at your swanky Oscar soirée!

Follow Me!

If you like what you see above, please follow me on Twitter to enjoy my pop culture reviews—including movies, entire TV seasons, books, podcasts, plays and even opera—in real-time (usually).

Posted in Best Of, Movies | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Final Countdown

Following up on last year’s successful run-up to my favorite annual blog post, The Year in Movies, I thought it cool to once again take a trip down memory lane to see how we got to this moment in cinematic history.

Two years ago I saw 62 Oscar eligible films, last year that total dipped to a surprisingly low 37. Happily that number rose substantially to a solid 61—thanks in large part to the once-amazing (but obviously too good to be true) MoviePass and now the fantastic A-List from AMC Cinemas (which, of course, never would have come to fruition if not for the ingenuity of MoviePass in the first place!)

In previous years I have had the wherewithal, fortitude and discipline to tweet about every movie I saw between Oscar telecasts. Sadly not so much this year, for myriad reasons. In lieu of oodles of tweets I instead will countdown from the worst to best movies, culminating in the top 11 films announced on Sunday, the day of the Academy Awards, along with my extremely trustworthy picks for every last Oscar category.

So, without further ado, let the countdown begin:

61. Rampage
60. Venom
59. Skyscraper
58.

57. Aquaman
56. Sorry to Bother You
55. Ready Player One
54. The Commuter
53. The Mule
52. The Mountain Between Us
51. Adrift
50. Mile 22
49. Incredibles 2
48.

47. The Front Runner
46. Tomb Raider
45. Cold Pursuit
44. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom
43. A Simple Favor
42. Papillon
41. On the Basis of Sex
40. Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again
39. Sicario: Day of the Soldado
38. The Girl in the Spider’s Web
37.

36. Tag
35. Juliet, Naked
34. The Equalizer 2

In fairness to three films that I saw on an airplane—The Commuter, Adrift and The Mountain Between Us—their rankings likely would have been higher had I seen them in the theater.

Follow Me!

If you like what you see above, please follow me on Twitter to enjoy my pop culture reviews—including movies, entire TV seasons, books, podcasts, plays and even opera—in real-time (usually).

Posted in Best Of, Movies | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

The Year in Fantasy Football

Happy Super Bowl Sunday!

Last year I wrote these words to begin this beloved annual column:

‘And so ends one of the greatest fantasy football seasons I’ve ever enjoyed. Four titles, one oh-so-close second place finish (damn you Todd Gurley!) and two third place booty earned. I finished in the money in seven of my 11 leagues, making the playoffs in eight. Of the three I missed, two were helmed by Aaron Rodgers and the other I had the fourth most points but seemingly no luck. Plus in two I was the defending champ, which always soothes any lingering pain from a season gone awry.’

Looking back that was a pretty good season: Made the playoffs in eight of 11 leagues and won four of them, finishing with a 85-76 record (.528 winning percentage) in the regular season and a scintillating 15-4 (.789) postseason mark.

And yet . . . it can not hold a candle to the my recently completed campaign, one unprecedented in the fantasy annals.

Consider:

  • I made the playoffs with all 11 teams;
  • My regular season record of 106-61 eclipsed last year’s win total by a remarkable 21 and upped my winning percentage from .528 to an absurd .658;
  • And I was even better in the playoffs, winning 17 and losing only five times (.773);
  • I didn’t finish lower than fourth in total points in any league, topping three in scoring;
  • Only one time (Week 3 when I went 5-7) did I fail to post a winning mark;
  • I went 7-5, 8-4, 5-7, 7-5, 10-2, 9-3, 7-5, 7-5, 10-2, 8-4, 9-3, 8-4, 8-4, 3-2 to finish out the regular season in Week 14 and 2-2 in playoff tilts, then 7-2, 6-1 and 2-0 to dominate the postseason;
  • And to top it all off, I went 6-1 in championship tilts and was one starting tight end decision away from perfection.

Below the beautiful highlights from the year gone by and a sneak peek into the bright future ahead in keeper leagues.

Team(s) of the Year

Fuzzy Dunlop and Unironic Witty Name. Two terrific teams for two different reasons: Fuzzy hadn’t won this amazing two point-per-reception league since 2004 and Unironic triumphed in the second year of my über-awesome two quarterback, 1.5 PPR league.

Fuzzy Dunlop’s dominance was evident from the very beginning . . .

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

. . . buoyed by a fantastic draft . . .

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

. . . and some sage acquisitions. Fuzzy dominated wire-to-wire, outpacing the league by 201 more points than the nearest competitor:

The only terrifying hiccup came in the semifinals when I chose to start the Los Angeles Rams defense at home against the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday Night Football. On my bench sat the Minnesota Vikings D which would have scored me 24 fantasy points and secured entry into the fantasy championship. The Rams scored minus three—a 27-point swing—and only the clever add of

secured my one point win. Despite starting the wrong defense, I did choose the right kicker as Baltimore Ravens Justin Tucker only accounted for eight fantasy points, while Zuerlien posted 12.

Unironic Witty Name meanwhile learned from its third place finish in the inaugural season to draft three excellent quarterbacks—Andrew Luck, Ben Roethlisberger and Philip Rivers—and a fourth signal caller (New York J-E-T-S rookie Sam Darnold) that I ended up moving in a package for Matt Ryan before Week 2:

Likely a finalist for Trade of the Year this deal turned out very well for me:

And a minor transaction closer to the playoffs helped add another WR1 to the mix:

The championship tilt:

A very satisfying season!

Game of the Year

Which of my six titles do I choose from? Actually an easy call:

Not only did I take down my season-long nemesis—with the offensive name and scurrilous charge to boot!—but I did so without second round selection Odell Beckham, Jr. for the entirety of the playoffs. I am going to be relishing this win for a long time!

 (Non-Playoff) Game of the Year

When I discovered I still had a chance to win with the kickoff of Monday Night Football nigh, I picked up Houston Texas kicker Ka’imi Fairbairn who proceed to earn me 12 fantasy points and—combined with wideout Corey Davis’ heroics (22 points!)—a one point win!

This move harkens back to something I wrote about last year:

“Thanks to a rule change allowing players now to be picked up before their individual games—no longer is everyone put on waivers at 1 p.m. Eastern on Sundays—I added Kansas City Chiefs placekicker Harrison Butker literally seconds . . .

. . . before Sunday Night Football kicked off. (Thinking I previously had no chance to win the matchup, I wanted to preserve a coveted roster spot.) All Butker did was put up a ridiculous 21 points to pull out a very unlikely victory:

And just like last season, Brc ended up on top in Title Town:

Most Heartbreaking Loss

Ugh. Still pains me to even think about it. A glimpse into my mindset:

Philadelphia Eagles tight end Zach Ertz is coming off a forgettable (and troubling) seven target, three catch, 22 yards receiving game, the first with Nick Foles back under center. Stocked at my two running back and flex positions—no way I sit Saquon Barkley, Christian McCaffrey or Cleveland Browns rookie running back Nick Chubb—the only way I could get Pittsburgh Steelers starting halfback Jaylen Samuels into my lineup (he of 17.20 fantasy points the week previous) was in the tight end slot.

Playing in New Orleans in what I surmised I would be a shootout (and worried about the Eagles tight end against a stout Texans squad), at the last moment I switched out Ertz for Samuels only to see the former wreak havoc, earning 23 fantasy points by catching 12 of 16 targets for 110 yards and two scores.

Jaylen Samuels held his own, accounting for 64 total yards and a score but the 10.6 point differential was sadly too much to overcome:

Best Draft 

Interestingly, although honestly I guess not too surprising, I find teams win the same awards season-after-season—and for similar reasons. To wit:

‘Have to go with my most important league, Lambeau Field. Hours before the draft began I got back into the first round (after trading my top selection for Rob Gronkowski the previous season) by trading picks two, three and six for first, 15th and 16th round selections. There I very happily selected Cincinnati Bengals rookie running back Joe Mixon. While not great or all that consistent this season, I have high hopes for him going forward. I got another top target, newcomer wideout Corey Davis, in the tenth round and then snagged all-everything New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara in the 15th and Philadelphia Eagles signal caller Carson Wentz with my final selection with the next pick. But it may have been my choice in the 12th round that played the biggest part in vaulting me to my sixth championship in the league’s vaunted 15-year history.

That selection? Tight end Zach Ertz. Not only did it give me great insurance behind Gronk, but he was the key piece (along with the Rams pass-catcher Sammy Watkins) in a deadline-beating trade that acquired Patriots scatback Rex Burkhead (previously taken by me in round 13) and, most importantly for this year and many more, Saints wideout Michael Thomas. Though Burkhead got hurt before the fantasy playoffs began in Week 15, he slotted perfectly as my RB2 in this PPR league. Thomas, meanwhile, allowed me to start four wideouts again (Amari Cooper was unplayable at this point) and guaranteed me—with Kamara—a huge portion of all New Orleans productivity. Also snagged Chris Hogan—love those QB-WR combos, especially in PPR leagues!—in the ninth round.

Of note: The first four rounds are devoted to keepers. My acquisition of Mixon (and the two late round picks below) came from this transaction:

Here is the draft in all its glory:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My machinations in Lambeau Field this year were even bolder:

On 9 August 2018 at 10.47 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time I traded Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski, Amari Cooper and my first, third and fourth round selections for the number one overall pick.

Selections included in the blockbuster ended up being Brady, Gronk, Cooper, Tarik Cohen, Sammy Watkins and Alshon Jeffery for Saquon Barkley. A real humdinger!

My draft picks:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Back-to-back quarterback picks—Carson Wentz and Andrew Luck—were clutch and then adding Calvin Ridley and George Kittle (more on him below) proved crucial. Looking back on it rounds seven through 12 likely made the biggest difference in winning another Lambeau Field crown. 

Worst Draft 

Considering all my 11 teams made the playoffs this is a much tougher task than usual. Still for the second straight season I’d have to go with my team in Aaron Rodgers’ Avenue, a league I’ve won three times, the last in 2016:

Too many Bears: Both Allen Robinson and Trey Burton were huge disappointments. Still I did maximize value with both Aaron Jones and Philip Rivers in the tenth and 11th rounds, respectively.

Best Selection(s)

Saquon Barkley was even better than expected but I have to bestow this prestigious honor on the young quarterback from the Kansas City Chiefs. I drafted Patrick Mahomes in three leagues, all of whom won titles. Brc chose him in the 11th round (127th overall), GBG in the 13th (153) and Fuzzy Dunlop in the 11th (129). Not bad for the top fantasy scorer!

Honorable mention goes to the San Francisco 49ers sublime tight end. I drafted George Kittle in two leagues—in the tenth and 12 rounds, respectively—and in both instances I finished with the most points by a significant margin (201 in FTC2 and 104.22 in Lambeau Field) and won both belts.

Worst Selection

Allen Robinson. First pick in two keeper leagues and even higher (fourth round) in both Aaron Rodgers’ Avenue and AFP All-Stars. Still won two of those leagues but expected much more from the talented free agent.

Best Acquisition

Greg Zuerlien. I learned last year to wait on kickers, often not even drafting one if the league rules don’t forbid it. And yet because he injured his groin in pregame warm-ups before Week 2, causing him to miss five games, I acquired him at no cost in six different leagues, four of which won titles. For the remaining 10 weeks of the season, he averaged a robust 10.8 fantasy points per game.

Props too go to Pittsburgh Steelers running back James Conner. TR’s Peepers acquired him for $11 of his $100 free agent budget in case Le’Veon Bell’s holdout would extend into the regular season and Snuffleupagus sagely snapped him off waivers before Week 1. His untimely injury right before the fantasy playoffs, however, cost both squads any chance at bringing home bling.

Worst Acquisition

No one comes to mind on the free agent front but I’ve certainly done drafting Josh Gordon. No more!

Best Trade

The preseason swap in Lambeau could help me for a decade but in re-draft leagues it was definitely the acquisition of Adams, Mixon and Ryan for Hilton, Darnold and the aforementioned Gordon.

Worst Trade 

Only made the three across my 11 leagues and loved them all!

Biggest Regret

See: ‘Most Heartbreaking Loss’.

Most Valuable Player 

Mahomes. But a resurgent Andrew Luck brought two titles home for me as well!

Least Valuable Player

Jimmy Graham. What is it with underperforming Green Bay Packers tight ends? (Last year in this column see: Bennett, Martellus). Oh how I miss Jermichael Finley!

Five Reasons Why

Before we finish fêting our six champions, a quick look at what went wrong with the other five squads:

  • After starting out the year 0-3 Sterling Sharpe finished the regular season with nine straight wins but lost both Keenan Allen and Aaron Jones to injury in their quarterfinal tilt;
  • Snuffleupagus went 8-6, finishing fourth in the regular season and scoring the second most points in the league but got steamrolled in the quarters by the eventual champ;
  • TR’s Peepers failed to win back-to-back titles mostly due to not having Le’Veon Bell the entire season and losing three starting running backs—Kareem Hunt, James Conner and Matt Breida—plus ODB before the first playoff game;
  • Pangaea rose from the ashes to win its division and is well-poised to win its first title next season;
  • Curly’s Cadre? #regrets #neveragain

Two More Titles

Sixteenth year of Lambeau Field, seventh title (2003, 2004, 2006, 2008, 2013, 2017, 2018) for the Green Bay Gamblers:

Twelfth year of AFP All-Stars, sixth title (2007, 2008, 2009, 2015, 2017, 2018) for the Green Bay Gamblers:

Third time (2008, 2017) that the namesakes have taken the title in the same season.

Looking Ahead 

Three of my 11 leagues are of the keeper variety. Here’s a peek into what 2019 may hold:

Pangaea (four keepers, 2 PPR, eighth overall selection):

Likely Keepers: Green Bay Packers Team Quarterback, Aaron Jones, Christian McCaffrey, Keenan Allen

In the Mix: Phillip Lindsay, Larry Fitzgerald, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Patriots Team Quarterback

TR’s Peepers (three keepers, $200 salary cap minus keeper costs):

Likely Keepers: Le’Veon Bell, James Conner, Odell Beckham, Jr.

In the Mix: Andrew Luck, A.J. Green, Corey Davis, MVS, Jay Ajayi, Mike Williams

Green Bay Gamblers (four keepers, PPR, last pick in snake draft):

Likely Keepers: Alvin Kamara, Michael Thomas, Joe Mixon, Saquon Barkley

In the Mix: Andrew Luck, George Kittle, Calvin Ridley, Carson Wentz

The future is bright!

Enjoy the Super Bowl!

Only 53 sleeps until Opening Day!

Posted in Football, Sports | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Snubs and Surprises: A Breakdown of the Oscar Nominations

Why oh why Oscar voters?

For some reason the best director nominations continue to be the Academy’s bugaboo. Three years ago I wrote this about Ridley Scott, helmer of The Martian:

“That brings us to the directors and yet another case of the Academy not nominating one of the most deserving auteurs.

This troubling trend always bubbles beneath the surface but in 2012 it finally exploded skyward. That year the Academy failed to nominate either Kathryn Bigelow for Zero Dark Thirty or Ben Affleck for Argo. Of course the latter’s exclusion helped win his film Best Picture but it was still a glaring and unforgivable oversight.

Then last year Selma’s Ava DuVernay and Whiplash’s Damien Chazelle failed to secure well-deserved noms.

But this one—given his stature, how well the film was received and how difficult it was to faithfully recreate the (other) world that author-cum-screenwriter Drew Goddard had conjured—is downright dumbfounding.”

Downright dumbfounding is putting it mildly when it comes to my reaction to Bradley Cooper failing to secure a best director nod for A Star is Born.

In his directorial debut, he helmed a critically acclaimed movie that has made over $200 million both domestically and overseas and secured three acting nods, including one for himself. His nomination should have been a no-brainer. But the Academy clearly disagreed.

The other more milder surprise in that vexing category was Peter Farrelly not getting recognized for Green Book. That said I had the other two auteurs—Adam McKay and Pawel Pawlikowski—as my ‘sleeper’ and ‘dark horse’ selections.

But I shouldn’t be too hard on myself as I correctly predicted 20 of the 25 acting Oscar nominees—including nailing all five leading ladies—and sagely identified all eight best picture selections:

Supporting Actress:

Amy Adams, Vice
Emily Blunt, A Quiet Place
Emma Stone, The Favourite
Rachel Weisz, The Favourite
Regina King, If Beale Street Could Talk

Sleeper: Claire Foy, First Man
Dark Horse: Michelle Yeoh, Crazy Rich Asians

Supporting Actor:

Adam Driver, BlacKkKlansman
Mahershala Ali, Green Book
Richard E. Grant, Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Sam Elliott, A Star is Born
Timothée Chalamet, Beautiful Boy

Sleeper: Sam Rockwell, Vice
Dark Horse: Michael B. Jordan, Black Panther

Lead Actress:

Glenn Close, The Wife
Lady Gaga, A Star is Born
Melissa McCarthy, Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Olivia Coleman, The Favourite
Yalitza Aparicio, Roma

Sleeper: Emily Blunt, Mary Poppins Returns
Dark Horse: Viola Davis, Widows

Lead Actor:

Bradley Cooper, A Star is Born
Christian Bale, Vice
John David Washington, BlacKkKlansman
Rami Malek, Bohemian Rhapsody
Viggo Mortensen, Green Book

Sleeper: Ethan Hawke, First Reformed
Dark Horse: Willem Dafoe, At Eternity’s Gate

Best Director:

Alfonso Cuarón, Roma
Bradley Cooper, A Star is Born
Peter Farrelly, Green Book
Spike Lee, BlacKkKlansman
Yorgos Lanthimos, The Favourite

Sleeper: Adam McKay, Vice
Dark Horse: Pawel Pawlikowski, Cold War

Best Picture:

BlackKKlansman
Black Panther
Bohemian Rhapsody
The Favourite
Green Book
If Beale Street Could Talk
A Quiet Place
Roma                                                                                     
A Star is Born
Vice

Once again I thought Oscar voters would go for the full allotment of 10 best picture nominees and was particularly disappointed one of the most revolutionary film in years, John Krasinksi’s A Quiet Place, failed to be recognized. If Beale Street Could Talk obviously could not stop its surprising slide and also missed out on the prestigious honor.

Speaking of that fantastic horror film . . . perhaps buoyed by wishful thinking I was hoping the Academy would recognize Emily Blunt for her incredible year in general (a practically perfect Mary Poppins!) but mostly for this fearless performance in particular. More of a regret, however, was at the last minute switching Michelle Yeoh (Crazy Rich Asians) into my dark horse slot, replacing the eventual fifth nominee, Roma’s Marina de Tavira.

In the best supporting actor category, I thought Sam Rockwell’s spot-on George W. Bush performance would suffer from his limited time on screen. Instead he pulled a Judi Dench to overcome Timothée Chalamet as the Beautiful Boy. Coming off his win last year in this category for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, this continues the Academy’s trend of rewarding their favorite actors often, especially in consecutive years. It also indicates how many voters loved Vice. I had Rockwell as my sleeper pick, just on the outside looking in.

Sticking with the gentlemen, the Oscar voters generally prefer to side less often with terrific young actors than they do their young ingénue counterparts. See: Rockwell over Chalamet and also this year with Willem Dafoe taking John David Washington’s spot in the lead actor category.

Sublime in BlacKkKlansman, I’m confident the scion of Denzel will have many more accolades in the years ahead. And as the Academy has proven year-after-year they love to honor actors portraying artists. So in hindsight Dafoe portraying Vincent van Gogh in At Eternity’s Gate should have been in my top five, instead merely listing him as my dark horse.

Which finally brings us to the leading ladies. Few things in life are more gratifying then perfectly predicting all five acting nominees. So it was for the reveal of Glenn Close (The Wife), Lady Gaga (A Star is Born), Melissa McCarthy (Can You Ever Forgive Me?), Olivia Coleman (The Favourite) and newcomer Yalitza Aparicio for Roma in actresses in a leading role. Very pleased!

In addition to predicting all the major category nominees I also like to give my readers even more by prognosticating winners in eight categories. Surprisingly two of them—cinematography for First Man and the Mr. Rodgers documentary Won’t You Be My Neighbor?—failed to even be nominated. Like Jane left in a similar predicament last year, this was a major head scratcher.

Posted in Academy Awards, Movies | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment