Blasts & Duds from the Oscars

February 25, 2009
It is time to bring back the popular column of Blasts & Duds from the
Grenade.  Today, it is all about the 81st Academy Awards.  The
Oscars have always been good for some great Blasts & Duds over the
years.  Let’s see how this year stacks up:

BLASTS

1.  The Academy Selections – I wrote my 2009
Oscar picks
a couple of weeks ago, and many of picks came true. 
The Academy did not really have a surprise in the bunch.  Penelope Cruz
winning for Best Supporting Actress may have been the only winner that could
be classified as a surprise, but not a real big one in my eyes. 

2.  Kate Winslet  – Boy, she made up from her
"so surprised to have won" routine at the Golden Globes.  You
are a great actress, Kate, it’s ok, it is not a surprise anymore.  I
thought she gave a very good speech, and was classy throughout.  Brava! 

3. The Presentation of the Acting Awards – Great call by
the Academy to bring back 5 winners from each acting category to present the
awards.  You can’t beat seeing people like Robert DeNiro, Sophia Loren,
Anthony Hopkins, Ben Kingsley, and so many others was a true tribute to
the screen.  I liked how they were able to talk a little about each
performance and it did not feel rushed. 

4. India – The Slumdog from Mumbai, became a Hollywood
millionaire on Oscar night.  Nominated for 10 Oscars, they took home 8. 
And since, there were two nominees for Best Song, they went 8 for 9. 
Danny Boyle took home Best Director and Christian Colson sealed the night
with the Best Picture Oscar.  Indian music was rewarded with A. R.
Rahman winning for Best Musical Score and Best Song.  Slumdog
Millionaire had a fairy tale finish not only on the screen, but on Oscar
night. 

5. Jerry Lewis – The Academy rightfully bestowed their
Humanitarian Award for him.  While his health may not be at its finest,
his spirit felt strong.  I am very glad that they finally got around to
doing this, while this legend of a person is still with us.  I only
wish he was able to speak longer. 

6. Hugh Jackman  – I know people have gone back and
forth on this.  I liked how his opening act was not political, but
reached out to just about everyone.  While, he certainly was not
as good as Billy Crystal hosting, he did not take away from the awards. 
Hugh is an Australian gem.  He can host this show anytime, as far
as I am concerned.

7.  The Camera Crew & The Stage – Alright, I
won’t be shy, I loved that the camera crew panned to Angelina Jolie &
Brad Pitt while Jennifer Aniston and Jack Black were presenting for
Best Animated Feature.  +1 to the camera crew and directors from ABC. 
The Stage looked amazing, with that Swarovski crystal curtain.  Well
done.  

8. – Dustin Lance Black – A well deserved Oscar that was
followed up by a very inspirational speech.  It was heartfelt and real. 
You could tell he was very nervous, but it was something he needed to get
off his chest.  It must have been quite an honor for him to have won
this award for Milk, and to see how Harvey Milk’s story inspired his
own life is very impressive and memorable. 

9. – No Music Cut-offs – It was nice that people who won their
awards were not cutoff after 15 seconds of talking by the band.  
There should be a time limit, but at least give them a minute or so, to
thank and describe their feelings on one of the biggest nights of their
careers.  

DUDS

1. Sean Penn – Ok, ok, we get it, you are America’s
Douchebag.  If I ever met Sean Penn, I’d probably shake his hand with
my right hand and want to knock him out with my left hand. He is a
tremendous actor, and while I thought he would finish 2nd for Best Actor; I
was not upset that he was the winner.  But, dude, can you leave
political crap at home.  It has no place at the Awards. 
Republicans are not the devil, and not everything you think is right,
actually is.  You could taken a page from your screenwriter, Dustin
Lance Black, on how to give a speech that gives thanks and sends a message
with pride and dignity.  Oh, and when you get a chance, could you
remember to thank Harvey Milk, he might have played a part in your victory. 
That reminded me of Julia Roberts thanking 4 million people and not even
mentioning Erin Brockovich’s name in her speech.

2 – The Great Unknown – The question we all are left
with in our minds; what if Mickey Rourke had won?  No one has any idea
what he would have done had he won Best Actor.  We can only guess and
say what is on our minds, but it will always be one of the most unknown
questions in Oscar history. 

3. – Ben Stiller – It does not help that I am not really
a big fan of his to begin with, but I did not really think his Joaquin
Phoenix impression was funny.

4.  Anne Hathaway – Should be more like Anne
Go-away.  First, she is not pretty.  Maybe, I am in the minority
here, but I know I am not alone.  She has eyebrows reminiscent of Bert
from Sesame Street, a big beak for a nose, and when I see those teeth, I
want to re-do the Go-go’s classic hit, "We’ve Got the Beat," to
"She’s Got Big Teeth."   Second, I do not really think
she is that talented as an actress, either. 

5.  Eddie Murphy – He was not given the easiest
task, but he seemed to have some difficulty reading off the monitors. 
I am hoping he is not into any drugs or something else.  

6.  Beyonce & Queen Latifah – I like both of
them.  I just thought their choice of song were questionable.  In
the movie Dreamgirls, Jamie Foxx’s character says to Beyonce’s
character, Deena, "You know why I chose you to sing lead? Because your
voice… has no personality. No depth. Except for what I put in there." 
While it was just a movie line, there is some truth in it.  Beyonce
could not resist throwing in a snip of "At Last".  Please,
just leave that to Etta James.  As for the Queen, a lovely voice, and
one with depth, but "I’ll Be Seeing You" just did not seem to fit
her, in my opinion.  

7.  Bill Maher – Straight from the Sean Penn school
of Douchebagness, Bill decided to put a smarmy little comment about his
documentary not being nominated and that people who believe in God are
responsible for the world’s ills.  Sorry, Bill, but about 95% of the
people do believe in some form of a God around the world.  We all DO
NOT think like you, so please, do not act like we do.  I am sure
Bill was so upset that later that night he smoked 3 bowls worth of pot and
had 2 escorts to carry him through his lack of winning an Oscar. 

8.  In Memoriam Montage – We always like to see and
remember who passed away in the past year in film.  The one problem was
that the way it was filmed by the cameras, you could not see some of the
people who died due to bad angles and long distance shots by the cameras. 

My overall grade for the 81st Academy Awards is a B-plus.  It was
more of a blast than a dud, and it did justice to a very good year in
movies.  The ratings were up 13 per cent over last year. 

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Blasts and Duds from Super Bowl XLIII

February 2, 2009

I have come up with a new concept here at the Grenade, it will be called Blasts & Duds.  I give you my version of the best and the not-so-good parts of Super Bowl XLIII.

BLASTS

1.  The Game – A terrific game, and you could not ask for much more.  As I said in my Super Bowl column, the NFL has found a way to make these games exciting like at the end, like the NBA.  We have been spoiled over the past few years, and while I would not say this game topped last year’s or any other great Super Bowl, it will go right up there with those great games.  I saw it as a Pittsburgh semi-blowout, I was right for about 52 minutes, and I was very happy to be wrong.

2.  Ben Roethlisberger – Boy, did he make up from his record-setting lousy performance in Super Bowl XL.  From the start of the game until the very end, he was in rhythm.  His escapability is remarkable.  Just when you think you have him, he manages to use his strength to get away and make a play.   It is not Montana or Elway, but he doesn’t have to be.  Big Ben gets it done his way.  He was intercepted once on a tipped ball.  But, it was the final drive for the ages, and his TD pass to Santonio Holmes was picture perfect.

3. Kurt Warner – If anyone had any questions on whether he is a Hall of Famer, he answered it.  There is an open invitation for you to come to Canton, Kurt.  For the third time in his career, he led his down the field to tie or take the lead in a Superbowl with under 5 minutes to play.  He passed Joe Montana in total passing yards in Superbowl history.  Montana did it in 4 games, Warner only needed 3.  Kurt did make some mistakes, the biggest being a very costly interception at the end of the first half that was a 14 point swing, and really the play of the game, he also tripped over his center’s feet a couple times, and had a fumble on the handoff to James early in the game that Arizona recovered.  But, he made the plays he needed to make, and finally found Larry Fitzgerald when he had to most.

4. Santonio Holmes – I can’t rank him any higher, because I had him in my fantasy league and it was nice of him to give his best game at the Super Bowl.  He was great, and deserved the MVP.  But, where the heck was this performance in the regular season?  His best game was 5 catches, for 94 yards in week 2!  His TD catch was as pretty as you will ever see to win a football game.

5. The Combination of Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin, and Steve Breaston – The three who should have a nickname were all very good.  They combined for 21 catches, 282 yards, and 2 touchdowns. Angry Anquan before the game came up with a nice effort, and had the big 45 yard play to set up Arizona’s first touchdown. Anquan went 8 for 84.  Breaston went 6 for 71 and was the wild card that the Steelers had to pay attention to and that freed up things finally for the most talented player on the field late in the game.  Larry Fitzgerald did not catch a pass until there was under a minute left in the first half.  He didn’t catch his second pass until the fourth quarter.  But, Fitzgerald proved the old adage that great players aren’t always great, they’re just great when they have to be.  Fitzgerald caught 4 passes on the Cardinals second scoring drive, including the 1 yard TD pass where he made a sensational catch despite being mugged by Ike Taylor, who did not get a penalty for pass interference.  That was just the appetizer.  With 2:47 to go in the game, Fitzgerald caught a 15 yard slant and go route, and he was gone for 64 yards giving the Cardinals their first lead.  Larry would finish the game with 7 catches for 127, and 2 touchdowns and nearly stole the MVP away.

5. Darnell Dockett & Karlos Dansby – Dockett absolutely ate up his counterpart Darnell, the Steelers’ Darnell Stapleton.  Dockett had 6 tackles and 2 sacks.  Dansby had the interception that would have been huge had Arizona not given the turnover back on Harrison’s interception for a touchdown.  Both players gave great efforts, and will be rewarded when free agency comes to them.

6. James Harrison – Like John Matusak, he was a One Man Force.  The Cardinals left Mike Gandy by himself to block him, and he held on for dear life.  They flagged Gandy three times for holding, it probably could have been 10.  The Cardinals needed to give him help and did not.  All three drives that had Gandy’s holding penalties led to punts for Arizona.  Who would have thought that the longest play in Super Bowl history would come from a 6 foot, 250 pound outside linebacker.  A great read on the interception and an amazing 100 yard return!  Great blocking downfield was key, and James used every ounce of himself to find the end zone.  He could have been MVP until about 8 minutes to go in the game. He roughed up a Cardinal player and was not flagged for it, and was lucky to not be disciplined for a dirty play.

7.  Al Michaels & John Madden – Like I said last week, I think Al is the best in the business and he was terrific on Super Bowl Sunday.  He didn’t try to exaggerate how great the game was, he let it play out and just announce the action. I’m not a huge Madden fan, but this game fit him perfectly.  It was a time when Madden’s simple comments were effective.

8. – Joe Willie Namath – Did Broadway Joe look great or what?  I haven’t seen him look that good since Super Bowl III.  He really should bring in the Lombardi trophy every year from now on.  I don’t think he wanted to give it away.  He wanted to keep it and maybe impress a certain Suzy.

DUDS

1. The Officiating – How there was not a formal review on the second to last play is beyond belief.  While, it did look like a fumble by Warner, there could have also been a way to call it a tuck, which would have meant an incomplete pass.  I do not see why the league couldn’t have spent the 2 minutes to fully review the play to see if the call on the field was correct.   Terry McAulay looks very good on TV, he looks and speaks professionally, but is not a great referee. He did not do that great of a job in Super Bowl XXXIX, and should not have been awarded another Super Bowl that quickly.  The roughing-the-passer penalty on Karlos Dansby in the 3rd quarter gave me flashbacks of Sugar Bear Hamilton on Ken Stabler in the 1976 AFC Playoffs.  I thought he missed an intentional grounding on Roethlisberger as well.  There were a lot of penalties and many of them were justified.  The holding in the end zone, and the running over the holder, were excellent calls.  How James Harrison was not flagged for giving someone the business was beyond me.  I disagreed with Madden, on saying he should have been ejected.  A Personal Foul would have been fine there.  No call was inexcusable.  Santonio Holmes should have been given a personal foul for using the ball as a prop on the game winning TD.  Look, I am no fan on the rule; and I love celebrations, but that is a rule and it should have been a penalty, which would have meant the Steelers would kickoff from the 15, instead of the 30.  The Cardinals probably would have been in better field position on the final drive.  All in all, I do not believe the result changes because of the officiating, but their performance was mediocre at best.  But, officiating is the last the NFL wants to hear about the day after the Super Bowl, it certainly wasn’t the talk of the office after last year’s game.

2 – Arizona’s Secondary – With Hines Ward not 100%, this should have made the Cardinals secondary’s task a little easier. But, this bumbling unit proved to be the downfall of Super Bowl XLIII as it could not cover the one man it had to stop in Santonio Holmes.  How he was still able to catch that touchdown with 3 defenders in the area is unforgivable.  Holmes should have been mugged and 5 penalty flags should have been on the field before he could be allowed to catch anything in the end zone that late in the game.  Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie made a nice play on a bomb to Nate Washington early in the game, but was beat routinely by Santonio Holmes and had a facemask penalty on Pittsburgh’s first drive of the second half.  Antrel Rolle only had a couple of tackles and did not do much else.  Adrian Wilson had 7 tackles, but had a silly Personal Foul penalty on the Steelers field goal attempt as he ran over the Steelers holder.  Lucky for Wilson, the Cardinals still kept the Steelers out of the end zone. Aaron Francisco was completely lost and fell down on the 40 yard pass to Holmes on the final drive allowing him to reach the 6.

3. Mike Tomlin – I know some say the decision to kick the field goal was a good one, but I disagree.  You need less than a yard; I would have gone for it and used Big Ben on a QB sneak and take my chances.  At the worst, Arizona has their first possession of the game at their own 1.  But, I would have felt confident that the game would have started 7-0.  The Steelers have a 20-7 lead in the 4th quarter, they are the best defense in the league, and he has the safeties playing in what looks like St. Pete.  They are at least 25 yards off the ball.  It was only a matter of time before Larry Fitzgerald made his mark on this game when you leave the middle that open.  A great defense does not give up 14 points in 5 minutes of the 4th quarter of a game that it is winning by double figures.  Had the Steelers not come back to win this game, Mike Tomlin would have had been wearing huge goat ears this morning.

4. Troy Polamalu – He played in the game, yes?  I know I saw his hair.  He was practically invisible.  Two assisted tackles, no solo tackles, and at least half a dozen whines to the officials.  I thought Hines Ward was the one who Whines Hard?  I think we have a new candidate for that award.

5.  Bruce Springsteen – Somebody’s getting older, and unlike Brenda Warner and Joe Willie, he isn’t getting better with age.  He tried to bring the emotion of his concerts to halftime, and I like it at the beginning, with the whole “Put down the guacamole,” bit.  But, it was the crotch slide that ended up tea bagging the camera operator that made the most headlines.  I think NBC would have rather seen Janet Jackson’s floppy boob come out again than a 59 year old man’s crotch come flying through their new HDTV.  Was it me or did it look like Bruce couldn’t remember his lyrics?

6.  Roger Goodell – My goodness, what a horrific public speaker.  First, his award presentation to Kurt Warner on the Walter Payton, NFL Man of the Year Award was something out of the Oscars.  Roger, “And the winner is Kurt Warner.”  That’s all you have to say?  How about a sentence or two about the man and what he represents to the league, or even commenting on and thanking the other players nominated.  Second, when you give out a championship trophy, it is okay to say a couple sentences about the game and to thank both teams’ owners, players and fans.  He said one sentence comparing this game to last year’s game, which was ridiculous.  Let this game be the new chapter in NFL History, there is no need to talk about one game being better than the other.  Every NFL fan is biased and will form their own opinions.  I give more of a speech when one of my players wins a Fantasy sports title, for goodness sake.  Goodell makes Belichick look like a distinguished speaker.  Goodell would be Bush at a press conference, and Belichick would be Obama.

7.  NBC – Were 725 analysts really necessary?  Maybe this why GE’s stock is ready to hit single digits?  Why on God’s green Earth was Matt Millen brought in?  What insight could he possibly have?  Um, I ran a team completely into the ground and have put my former organization farther away from this stage than Neptune is to Earth, so I guess I am qualified.  Next on CNBC, Bernie Madoff to discuss sound investing in troubled times!  One player I thought I would not be talking about was Rodney Harrison.  But, NBC with its earnest payroll hired him too for analysis.  Now, you know, I love the Patriots, and Rodney is a favorite of mine, but man did he come off like an ass last night. How they dropped the audio on Matt Lauer’s interview with President Obama was inexcusable.