Why Memphis Will Win the NCAA Tournament

The Memphis Tigers are going to win the 2018 NCAA Basketball Tournament. That’s right, the same Memphis Tigers that got beaten by South Florida and East Carolina, two of the worst teams in the country this year, are not only going to the big dance, but will in fact, win it all. You might think that I’ve lost my mind or am just speaking as a crazed fan, but I know exactly what I’m saying and believe it to wholeheartedly be the truth. It would have been less of a stretch, albeit still very unlikely, had I said it when they were on their four game winning streak at the end of the season, but no, it was the loss to South Florida, the utter beat down on our home court that got set the wheels in motion for the Tigers to win the national championship. How can I be so confident? Because, it’s just too perfect.

Just think about it for a second. Wouldn’t this make the perfect movie? At the end of last year’s disappointing season, the several of the best players on the team transferred to other schools, leaving the Memphis roster pretty bare without much hope for this year. Over the course of the offseason, the coach eventually filled in his roster with players, the majority of whom, he recruited from Junior Colleges. So here you have a rag-tag group of basketball players, the majority of whom weren’t good enough to play division one basketball a couple of years ago, thrust onto the big stage with the high expectations of Memphis basketball fans on their shoulders.

Nobody believed in these kids, nobody but a man named Tubby Smith, a former national championship winning coach who has taken five different teams to the NCAA tournament. The championship he won was twenty years ago and while the narrative is overplayed and outdated, it was still something to hold onto, a little glimmer of hope when the hire was made two years ago, that maybe Tubby would come in and be the great winning coach that he once was, but last year came and went, and that little spark of hope was extinguished. During the later part of this season, talks have picked up about wanting former Memphis Tiger and NBA great, Penny Hardaway to replace Tubby, but through it all, the University has stood by their coach unwavering in their support, until after the bad loss to South Florida at home.

The president of the University, who had been steadfast in his support of the current basketball coach, released a statement regarding Tubby’s future, saying they would reevaluate the situation at the end of the season, which by all indications, means there’s likely to be a coaching change, otherwise he could have just put a stop to that talk like they did all year by voicing support for Tubby, except now it seems like they don’t. After that the Penny rumors were reignited and the way everyone in the media is talking, it’s more likely than not that Penny will be the next head coach at the University of Memphis, so Tubby is as good as gone. Knowing that his tenure as the head basketball coach of the Tigers is coming to a close, then what does he have to play for? His honor of course, which perfectly fits the cliché mold that is so common in sports movies.

The Tigers are going to rally around their coach and play their hearts out and Tubby is going to be moved into getting his old fire back and become once again the great coach that he once was. Throw in the fact that the best player on the team got hurt at the very end of the season, and you have the perfect story for a movie. It’s going to be beautiful and sappy and inspiring and the movie is going to be a huge success, and since I’m the first one to voice the idea and say that a 2018 championship for Memphis is happening, then it’s only fair that I get to write and direct the movie, or at the very least get to play one of the white kids at the end of the bench that never gets to play but is very enthusiastic in support of his team. It’s going to be the Hoosiers of this generation, only it’s not going to be super boring. You heard it here first. Tubby’s Tigers, coming to a theater near you

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Black Panther

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It had been a while since I’d seen a Superhero movie. When I was in high school, I loved that genre and would see all of them when they hit the theaters, sometimes even on the opening night like the genuine nerd that looking back I apparently was. I loved the Christian Bale Batman movies, and the Toby Maguire Spiderman trilogy, and even the first Iron Man, but it seemed like after the success of the Dark Knight, Superhero movies were the new fad, with more and more coming out every year, and that fact along with the remaking of Spiderman only five years after the last one came out and with a completely different cast of characters, I felt that the brand was cheapened, that Superhero movies were the new sellouts, and I wanted no part of it, so for years I avoided them altogether. I’ve never seen any of the Avengers Movies, Captain America, Andrew Garfield’s portrayal of Spiderman, the newest Spiderman once Garfield was canned, or even the Batman sequel that came after the Dark Knight, because I just wasn’t interested in those movies anymore, but today I went to see a Superhero movie, and it was absolutely incredible.

Since Black Panther came out several weeks ago, I’ve really been wanting to go see it because of all the buzz surrounding it and the stellar reviews it’s been getting. I planned to go see it last weekend, but when I showed up at the theater they were sold out and I, along with countless others disappointedly walked back to our cars, which made me want to see it even more. It’s like getting reservations at an exclusive restaurant, the harder it is for you to get in, the more you want to go there, not that I’ve ever tried to get reservations at an exclusive restaurant, but I imagine it would be similar. So when my dad texted me yesterday and asked me if I wanted to go, I of course jumped at the opportunity, and he bought tickets in advance to make sure that when the lights went down in the Cinema Paradiso theater number twelve at 1:30 on Saturday afternoon, that we would be occupying two of those seats.

The movie itself was awesome. I’m not going to go into too much detail in case you haven’t seen it yet, but I thought every aspect of Black Panther was really good. Visually, it was definitely one of the more incredible movies I’ve ever seen, from special effects to the stunning panorama shots of the fictional country of Wakanda. I’m not a huge fan of action movies, but I loved every minute of this one and was completely engaged and entertained during the fight scenes whereas I might normally be rolling my eyes and thinking about how over the top all the fighting is, but that was not the case here. I’ve seen too many movies that try to get by on lots of cool special effects and action and that’s it, but Black Panther has the crucial third element, a compelling story that will hold your interest for the entirety of the film. If you haven’t seen it yet, I would highly recommend it and I liked it so much that Spiderman is going to have to step down, because I have a new favorite Superhero. The only negative I found, was that even with all of the medical advancements in Wakanda, there still wasn’t a cure for Forrest Whitaker’s lazy eye. I kid, I kid. Anyway, go see this movie, and I guarantee you will be Wakanda forever!

The Movie

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There’s this new movie out, maybe you’ve heard about it, called Black Panther. It’s the movie that everybody’s talking about, the one that’s killing it at the box office, and I went to go see it today, or more accurately, I went to the theater where it was playing. It wasn’t a spur of the moment thing, no I made plans to go yesterday, and even checked online to make sure that unlike last week, it wasn’t sold out, and yesterday it wasn’t. I could have gone ahead and bought the tickets online like a responsible movie goer, but the showing we were going to was in the IMAX theater, which is like double the price of a regular movie ticket, and when you buy them online, you’re charged a service fee, and I just didn’t feel right about paying almost twenty dollars for a single ticket, so I opted to wait and buy them at the theater today. Unfortunately, when I arrived twenty minutes before showtime, there were no more tickets to be bought and the next available showings weren’t until hours later, so I’ll have to wait until another day to see Black Panther. Perhaps then I’ll be a little less procrastinatory when it comes to obtaining tickets.

Even though I didn’t get to see the film that I was so looking forward to, I still wanted to watch a movie today because the rainy overcast weather was perfect for such an activity, so I stopped by my local Blockbuster, found out they were closed, then settled for the heartless corporation that put them out of business, Redbox. It’s not that I don’t like Redbox, but they keep raising their prices and I’m still the irresponsible idiot who forgets to take the movie back for days on end, so things aren’t trending my way financially. Standing at the box, I had a burst of inspiration and googled promo codes that I could use for a free rental and to my luck I found a website that informed me such a code could be obtained by texting the word MOVIE to 727-272, which I shamelessly did. The message that came back was not a code, but a link to a website to sign up for some email thing that would get me the code, and it all just sounded like too much work for a buck fifty, so I loosened the death grip on my wallet and decided to live a little.

Scrolling through the selections I realized something about myself, that Redbox has a ton of movies that I have absolutely no interest in watching, but finally a title caught my eye, The Big Sick. Not that any of the producers on The Big Sick phoned me up for my opinion, but I think that’s a terrible name for a movie, but I’d heard really good things about it and it’s up for some big awards, so I decided to check it out. Back at home I drew the blinds to make the living room as dark as possible, attempting, impossibly so, to give my living room a movie theater feel. I popped some popcorn and poured a glass of caffeine free diet soda, really going over the top to recreate the scenario I’d imagined in my head as I left the house an hour previously with the intention of seeing a film at the Paradiso. My popcorn had one hundred percent more kernels in it than theater popcorn, and though it advertised movie theater butter on the box, it was far worse than any overpriced popcorn that I’ve ever bought. I was happy about the soda though, because for the past week or so I’ve been doing a no caffeine thing, and I didn’t know if the movie theater would accommodate my needs in that regard, leaving me worried about having to be the weirdo that washes down his popcorn with a bottled water, but in my apartment, such a horrifying scenario did not occur.

The Big Sick is the story of a Pakistani man living in Chicago who meets and begins dating a white American woman. The only problem is, his mother insists he marry a Muslim woman, and has a different one drop by every time he’s over for dinner at his parent’s house in an attempt to set him up. He keeps his American girlfriend a secret from his parents because he knows the news will devastate him and it could lead to them disowning him as their son altogether. He’s left with the difficult choice of either making his parents happy or doing what makes him happy. Overall it’s a good movie and I did enjoy it, but I did find it to be a little slow in parts and it seemed to drag on a bit. I don’t know if I would give it any awards, but I don’t feel like it was a waste of my time to watch. I started out today wanting to watch a movie, and although I didn’t get to see the one I’d intended to see, I did get to watch a pretty enjoyable movie. Mission accomplished.

The Shocking Truth about Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer

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I know it’s not even December yet, but Thanksgiving is past, so I’m well within my rights to begin observing traditional Christmas practices, one of which, is watching holiday movies. Other than spending time with family, gathered together cozily in a warm living room, laughing together, there is nothing that gets me more in the holiday spirit than watching Christmas movies, which I think is mostly a nostalgia thing, because I re-watch a lot of my favorites from when I was younger, from back when Christmas was still a magical time full of excitement and wonder. Watching Christmas movies is the closest thing I’ve found to recapturing some of those feelings, so last night, a few minutes after eight, I found a classic Christmas movie on YouTube, started streaming it to my TV, and waited for the magic to take me away.

It didn’t exactly go how I’d expected. The movie was Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer, the 1964 animated classic narrated by the snow man voiced by Burl Ives, and apparently it had been a while since I’d seen it, because there obvious flaws throughout the movie that I didn’t remember from previous viewings, like for instance, all of the jerks at the North Pole. When you think about the North Pole, images are conjured up of a magical place, one where elves are happily doing a job that they love and Santa is cheerfully in his office, making his list, checking it twice, and eating plenty of Christmas cookies provided by the lovely Mrs. Clause, but this is not the case in Rudolph’s world. From the very beginning, Mrs. Clause is badgering Santa to eat, not cookies or some other Christmas snack, but a gray, indecipherable, depressing blob on the plate in front of Santa. It looks disgusting, but Mrs. Clause keeps yelling at him to eat, berating her husband for being so skinny, but honestly, if my wife’s cooking looked like that, I would probably be skinny too, because that “food” didn’t even look edible. Believe it or not, Mrs. Clause is one of the nicer characters.

Donner, the reindeer who is the father of Rudolph, is a jerk from the very beginning too, ashamed of his son’s red nose for some reason. He constantly talks about it like it’s a bad thing and tries to cover it up with mud and when that doesn’t work makes him a detachable nose that makes it hard for Rudolph to breathe and makes him talk funny. After Rudolph’s fake nose pops off in front of Santa and his red nose is exposed, Donner, the one who should be supportive and encouraging to his son, basically tells him that he’s ashamed of Rudolph, which causes him to run away from home. Worst father of the year. The head elf is a real jerk too, tasked with supervising the elves as they make the toys in preparation of Christmas, he doesn’t make it the fun filled and cheerful environment that other movies would have you believe. He’s constantly yelling at the elves to hurry up with their work, and criticizing one in particular, calling him a terrible elf and telling him that he doesn’t belong there, causing that elf to jump out the window…and run away from the North Pole as well. Then there’s the Christmas song that the elves performed for Santa and Mrs. Clause, that he, the head elf was conducting. Christmas songs should be fun, cheerful and full of joy, but at the end of the song, he yelled at the elves that they sounded terrible!

Last but certainly not least, is the biggest jerk of all, easily the most surprising, Santa Clause himself. I don’t think in any Christmas movie that I’ve seen, that Santa Clause has been portrayed as such a negative person, let alone, in a kids movie. Santa does his share of hating on Rudolph’s red nose, first when he stops by to see him when he is born and then again when the fake nose pops off, not allowing him to be on the sleigh team, the group of reindeer that pulls his sleigh because of it, despite the fact that Rudolph is one of the best flyers in the class. The icing on the cake comes when the elves are performing their song for Santa, all dancing around and singing about being Santa’s elves and how happy they are in their jobs. During the musical number Santa couldn’t have been more disinterested, slouching in his chair, looking away, and I think even rolling his eyes. When the song was over he got up and made some disparaging remark about it, not giving the elves any credit whatsoever, before abruptly walking out of the room. This is the man that kids are supposed to adore, but watching Rudolph makes me think that I wouldn’t want that jerk anywhere near my home on what is one of the happiest days of the year. It was a real eye opening experience for me, but at least now I know that nobody at the North Pole can be trusted, least of all Santa Clause, the perfect realization to kick off this holiday season!

Flatliners: A Night at the Movies with my Wife and Mimi

IMG_4281The night before last was my mimi’s birthday, so last night, Friday, my wife and I took her to the movies to celebrate. For those of you who don’t know mimi, she loves horror movies, which might be surprising to you if you’ve ever met her, because she is truly one of the sweetest and most mild mannered people in the world, but she absolutely loves everything scary, from the books she reads to her favorite movies, so that is how the three of us ended up at the opening night showing of Flatliners at the Memphis Paradiso theater. We bought our tickets and the obligatory snacks that enhance the movie going experience tenfold, then settled into our seats, smack dab in the middle of the movie fairly empty movie theater. Personally, especially when it comes to scary movies, I prefer to sit in the back of the theater for two reasons, one so nobody sees me jumping out of my seat in fear, because that is very embarrassing, and secondly, to prevent a monster from sneaking up and attacking me from behind, but on this night I decided to put my fears aside to give mimi the ultimate movie viewing experience. The lights went down and the previews started up, me growing more nervous as each one passed, knowing that very soon, I was going to be terrified, which shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone who has read this blog because as you know, I’m scared of just about everything.

If you continue reading there will be spoilers, so proceed at your own risk.

The movie started with a car accident, like the very first scene, which made me think about how if only I’d been in a car accident on the way to the theater, I would have been mercifully spared the horror that was to come. So these doctors that allowed themselves to be killed briefly so they could experience the afterlife, were haunted by people from their past after they were brought back to life, people they were harboring a guilty conscience for, because they felt they had wronged them for one reason or another. Ellen Page, the lead in the movie and the only cast member that I recognized, was killed first by her demon, her little sister that had died in the car accident in that first scene of the movie. The other doctors that had flatlined were haunted by people that they had actually wronged and did terrible things to, so it seemed a little silly that the first and only death in the movie would be that of the character who’s only fault was having a car wreck with her sister in the car. The story was pretty dull but it did deliver a few scares, which I was not too fond of. The thing I hated most about it was the buildup to the scary moments, when fast paced music would play, then everything would go silent, and that is when you knew that something was going to suddenly appear with a loud noise and I would inevitably jump in my seat, despite the fact that I knew it was coming, a monotonous and predictable pattern that the director followed throughout the course of the entire movie.

Out of five, I give Flatliners a two, only because as a horror movie, it did deliver some actual scary moments. For me though, it is the lowest on the totem pole in terms of horror movies, because I really don’t think it’s all that hard to scare an audience when you incorporate loud noises and disfigured faces suddenly appearing, and it’s certainly not the type of horror film that haunts you once you leave the theater. The dialogue was dumb and unconvincing a lot of the time, punctuated by random bursts of laughter throughout the theater during some of these particular moments. Despite it being a bad movie with a bad plot that didn’t make much sense, it was a fun night because of the people I got to spend it with, but I definitely wouldn’t recommend going to see it, not unless your mimi wants to go, because if she’s anything like mine, she will have fun no matter what you’re doing together.

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A Forgotten Song Bringing Up Old Memories

Music has the power to bring back memories that have long been forgotten, taking you back to the exact moment and bringing back feelings in an instant that were first experienced more than a decade before, which is why I found myself about to break down crying when a random song came on my car radio. The other day I was headed to the grocery store with my wife. it was after work and I was feeling good as we cruised down the road listening to the music playing on one of the local alternative stations, and then the song switched, a light strumming of a guitar and a rush of emotion coming back to me. Before any words were even sung I felt my eyes began to tear up. It had been more than ten years since I’d heard this song, but I was immediately taken back to that dark movie theater in Little Rock where I received the bad news. It was a Sunday afternoon and my dad was visiting me from Memphis. I was in the tenth grade, sixteen years old at the time and we were at a movie that I’d already seen, “Stranger than Fiction”, and I had enjoyed it so much the first time that I was more than happy to see it again. Truth be told, it might very well be in my top ten favorite movies of all time, but since that day I think I’ve only watched it on one or two other occasions, unable and unwilling to bring back the sad memories that this particular movie conjures up for me.

There’s a scene in the movie when Will Farrell first kisses Maggie Gyllenhaal on the couch in her apartment, a turning point, the optimistic beginning of a relationship between the lonely IRS agent and the local bakery owner. A song starts playing by Reckless Eric called “Whole Wide World” and it’s a beautiful moment set to the tune of a perfect song. It was in this moment, during the kiss while the song was playing that I felt my cell phone vibrate in my pocket and I pulled it out in the dark movie theater to check the message. It was from my mom and contained some of the most devastating news that I have received to this day; Coach Brady was dead.

Coach Brady was without question one of the greatest teachers that I ever had, teaching me math both my eighth and ninth grade years, a subject that was my least favorite throughout my entire scholarly career, but for those two years it was my favorite class, solely because of the teacher. He had a knack for storytelling and on those lucky days he would breeze through the lessons, imparting the necessary knowledge that the job required then for the rest of the class would tell us stories from his life that would oftentimes make me laugh so hard that it hurt. It didn’t matter what particular story he would tell us, he would make the classroom shake with laughter as naturally as another teacher might assign homework, which is why I relished the fact that I could make him laugh too and would do so as often as I got the chance. Coach Brady was the first teacher that I ever felt really thought I was funny and appreciated that fact, which gave me the confidence and courage to be more outspoken. He made me want to share my sense of humor with others, which is something to this day that I consider one of my best attributes, and for that I will be forever grateful. I wish things would have happened differently, that he would have gotten better and I never would have received that horrible news, but things don’t always turn out the way that we would like. Although I only knew him for a couple of short years, Coach Brady left me something that I will carry with me throughout the rest of my life, and even though he is gone, he will never be forgotten.

4th of July: A Walk in the Park and a Great Movie

IMG_3983It’s the fourth of July, independence day, so it’s pretty common to go watch a fireworks show tonight, but it’s raining, I hate loud noises, and I don’t feel like fighting traffic downtown, so the thunder shaking the walls of my apartment will have to suffice. Growing up I always celebrated this holiday in the same way, having a big cook out at my grandparents house, with burgers, hot dogs, cheese dip, watermelon, and homemade ice cream, but over the past few years those traditions have fallen by the wayside so I really wasn’t sure how I was going to spend my day. Last year was great, my wife and I, along with my brothers, mom and grandmother were all in Minneapolis watching a Twins baseball game, which is really the most American way to celebrate America’s independence, but unfortunately, my vacation was last week so all hopes of starting a new tradition on the 4th, involving going to a baseball game, diminished rather quickly.

I woke up early this morning, about five, and after reading for a little while, decided to go to the park for an early walk before it got unbearably hot outside, as Memphis summers tend to do. It was a beautiful morning, a bright blue sky with the sunlight on my back as I walked along one of the trails at Shelby Farms. It was early enough so it wasn’t very crowded, which was nice, because after having passing just a few people, I was already growing tired of saying “good morning”, an insane ritual of having to speak with a complete stranger just because you are walking past them, but I nodded and mumbled the words anyway, lest I seem like a jerk for not responding. I walked for an hour, but it didn’t seem that long, walking past several lakes surrounded by trees and smelling the fresh honeysuckle along the way, sweeping me up in the spirit of summer.

This afternoon I went to the movies with my dad and watched “Baby Driver” a film I knew nothing about going in, but was a little skeptical of due to what struck me as an odd name. The movie focused on “Baby” a young man indebted to an apparent mobster, although I don’t believe an official organization is mentioned, pays him back by being the getaway driver for various heists and robberies. It’s a very compelling story of someone being forced into a bad situation, and his struggle to get out of it to save himself and the girl that he has fallen in love with. “Baby” has a strong connection to music which is apparent throughout the movie, bringing a completely new perspective to music in film. Overall I really enjoyed the movie, however there were a couple of things toward the end that struck me as pretty unbelievable, the director seeing how far he could stretch the reality to cram even more action into the last few minutes. I’m giving it a 4 out of 5 rating, and I definitely recommend you checking it out, but of course you don’t have to, because we live in America, and you’re independent to do as you please.

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