Wednesday, January 25, 2012

2011 Movies of the Year

Last year was a nice year for me with regards to movies. I watched 47 films over the course of 2011, some of them fantastic, some of them not so good, but all of them added to my deposit of movie knowledge, and if I'm being honest, that's all I really care about: being able to talk to other people about said movies.

There's no point in delaying or discussing this any longer, so let's just get into the list. Top 5 movies I watched in 2011...go!

5. Your Highness - Danny McBride crested quickly after Pineapple Express, but he seems to have already cooled off. I think he's going to (and in fact probably already does) find himself typecast as bone-headed, foul-mouthed, and arrogant. He does it really well, though. And Your Highness is the best combination of comedy and fantasy since The Princess Bride...which basically means it's better than Black Knight. Regardless, it's a fun film with decent action and some good swears and quotable lines.

4. It's Kind of a Funny Story - I'm not one of these people that goes apeshit for everything that Zach Galifianakis touches. In fact, creepy as this is going to sound, Emma Roberts was more of a draw for me in watching this film. Really though, I've just enjoyed most movies about crazy people: Girl Interrupted, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, The Dream Team, A Beautiful Mind, etc. This movie was a lot cuter than most of those, but I liked it a lot all the same. It was fun, sweet, and warm.

3. No Strings Attached - I'll probably take some flack for this pick, but I can't help it. I saw the movie in the theater (making it one of like four movies I saw in the theater last year), and truthfully, I had to pee like the whole time. But also truthfully, I couldn't bring myself to leave the theater, for fear that I'd miss another great joke. My full review is here, so I'll let that tell the whole story, but I can say without a doubt that I laughed more at No Strings Attached than I did at any other movie in 2011.

2. The Muppets
- I saw this movie late in 2011...like, December 30th. To give you guys a little background, I loved The Muppet Show when I was a kid. We went to Disney World last week, and even though it's pretty tired and a little outdated, I couldn't help but push us towards going to see The Muppets in 3-D for the umpteenth time, because the Muppets are the most nostalgic piece of television from my childhood. The movie itself was good, though the best jokes were those that poked fun at the movie itself. There were good cameos, fun songs, and a triumph of good over evil. But mostly, it was just really nice to sit and watch my favorite characters from my youth again. I'd be lying if I said I didn't get a little misty-eyed at points.

1. About a Boy
- My aunt told me I'd love this movie...about a decade ago. But at that age, I made all sorts of judgments about Hugh Grant, non-action movies, and basically everything on the planet. But after growing up a bit, and after really enjoying some other Nick Hornby works, I decided to give the flick a shot, and it's pretty great. It's not overly negative, but it's realistic, with its fair share of darkness and sorrow. Maybe the most impressive thing about the movie is how genuinely it captures the strange thought processes that a kid can have, especially when presented with trying and serious situations. It's funny in a lot of really great ways, but also boasts a good story. Absolutely deserving of my stamp as Movie of the Year.

Now, as far as 2012 goes. I might have already mentioned this, but I'm not going to review movies as I watch them any longer. I wasn't doing a great job of it as is, and I don't really have enough to say about any particular movie to warrant an entire blog post. I'll still accumulate a list over the year, and I'll start doing this post annually, because it gives me something to do.

And I'll still go to the movies with you. :)

The Year That Will Be...2012

In all likelihood, if you're reading this post, you read my recent post summarizing my 2011. In re-reading it, I noticed that the blog might've come across slightly more negatively than I intended. While 2011 was by no means a rousing success, it certainly had its bright spots. Some I'm happy to talk about, some I'd rather not talk about, and a few I can't really remember. But enough that I should probably look back on the year a little more fondly than I do. And maybe, from a farther vantage point (aka in the future), I will.

But for today, we'll look into the near future, and make plans for 2012. Not concrete plans (though I did cash in on my concrete plans to visit Disney World last week), but a variety of..."intentions." I won't call them resolutions, because I feel like resolutions are either too vague (eat better, exercise more, be less of a racist asshole) or too easily dismissed as impossible after six weeks (see the previous list). I like the word "intentions," because it captures my sentiments. I intend to do these things.

What things, you ask? I'm not telling.

Not now, at least. I have written them down, and I even created a little worksheet for myself to track some of them. But some of them are too personal, and some are irrelevant to most of you. Most of all, though, I've found that I rely far too heavily on other people for my happiness. Involving other people right from the get-go just sets me up for disappointment, when I don't get two dozen emails and comments regarding my list.

But, because I like living in the limelight, I'll give you a little glimpse into my list of intentions. If you're looking for "train a team of guinea pigs to row a tiny boat" though, you may be disappointed.

- I am hoping to get myself back on the fitness train. I had a real nice first half of the year in 2011, but I undid way too much of that good work over the second half. I'm not sure exactly how I'm going to do it, but I'm going to try to find a way to get myself back on that horse.
- Similarly, the first half of last year I spent a lot of time working on creating a board game. I even had a test playthrough of the rough draft. The playthrough was informative, though it ended up with me deciding that the concept had to be split into two different games. My goal this year is to finish one of those games.
- I also want to be more social this year. I have a couple different concepts on how to make that happen which I won't go into, but the general idea is to get out more and do more.

Whether or not I'll be successful at these and my other, private or uninteresting goals remains to be seen, but no matter what, I hope to have an enjoyable and productive 2012, and I wish the same for all of you.

Also I hope the world doesn't end.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Is Jorge Posada a Hall of Famer?

Joe emailed me late Saturday and posed an intriguing question: "Is Jorge Posada a Hall of Famer?"

This is a pretty good question. My initial thought without looking at anything is "No, Posada was a good player on some great teams, but was never Hall of Fame caliber". But since that was just my gut reaction, I took some time and looked into it.

Because the physical demands of the position are orders of magnitude higher than any other position on a baseball field, catchers can really only be compared against themselves. There have been three catchers admitted to the HOF since 1989: Johnny Bench, Carlton Fisk and Gary Carter (not counting the 2006 induction of former Negro Leaguers Biz Mackey and Louis Santop...sorry guys but I've got no point of reference for the Hillsdale Giants in the 1920s). Additionally, there is almost no doubt that Mike Piazza is headed to the Hall of Fame, since his offensive numbers would be good enough to warrant admission regardless of his position (400+ homers and a lifetime .308 batting average) and are better than Bench, Fisk and Carter. So with that in mind, to make Posada's case for the HOF his numbers should be in line with those four guys.

Here are the lifetime stats:

Bench: 389 HR, 1376 RBI, .267/.342/.476 in 8669 PA

Fisk: 376 HR, 1330 RBI, .269/.341/.457 in 9853 PA

Carter: 324 HR, 1225 RBI, .262/.335/.439 in 9019 PA

Piazza: 427 HR, 1335 RBI, .308/.377/.545 in 7745 PA

Posada: 275 HR, 1065 RBI, .273/.374/.474 in 7150 PA

From this comparison, it's easy to see that Posada clearly has the weakest offensive numbers of the bunch. This being a straight up comparison, it doesn't take into account the fact that Posada played in a much more favorable offensive environment (scoring was up approximately half a run per game than when Bench, Fisk and Carter played). By not being able to match the offensive numbers of recent HOF caliber catchers in a much more favorable offensive era, it's really hard to make the case that Posada is in the upper echelon of all time hitting catchers.

Of course as I mentioned at the start, there is more to catching than just hitting. Of the five guys I'm comparing, only Piazza and Posada lack a Gold Glove (Bench has nine, Carter four and Fisk one). While that may be an arbitrary award, it at least gives some idea of whether or not a guy is making a difference in the game defensively, something that can be very difficult to quantify. Something that is less difficult to quantify is career caught stealing percentage where, again, Posada is near the bottom of the list (Bench an unreal 43%, Fisk 34%, Carter 35%, Posada 28% and Piazza 23%). If you want a more "SABRmetric" view of their defensive abilities, only Posada (-2.9) and Piazza (-8.3) have negative lifetime defensive WARs, while Bench (6.5), Fisk (2.6) and Carter (10.0) were all improvements over the "average" defensive catcher. It may not be as clean as the offensive comparison, but by looking at several defensive minded stats and awards we can see that Posada was not a very good defensive catcher and was certainly not in the same class as Bench, Fisk and Carter (and who really cares if Mike Piazza was playing any defense with the way that guy raked).

Jorge Posada had a very good career and was part of four World Series champion teams, but ultimately both offensively and defensively he falls short of the elite receivers of the game. He also doesn't have a pop song named after him (but not at all about him) like Mike Piazza, something I hear the HOF committee puts a premium on.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Movies of the Year - 2011 Eligible List

Back in early 2011, I declared that I'd be reviewing movies for the year, similar to my game reviews. This means that my assessments would be not of movies that were released in 2011, but movies that I saw for the first time in 2011. So while some people's lists will have movies like The Help and X-Men: First Class, my list has Rock Star and Scott Pilgrim vs. The World.

In a week or two, I'll post my top five movies of the year. Look forward to that. I command you.

2011 Eligible Movies
28 Weeks Later
30 Minutes or Less
About a Boy
American Gangster
Any Given Sunday
Battle: Los Angeles
Big Fan
Clash of the Titans (2010)
Dave
Day of the Dead (1985)
Day of the Dead (2008)
Fanboys
For Your Consideration
Gamer
Guess Who's Coming To Dinner
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 2
Highlander
Iron Man 2
It's Kind of a Funny Story
Law Abiding Citizen
No Strings Attached
Paul
Precious
Predator 2
Rampage
Rock Star
Run Ronnie Run!
Safe Men
Scott Pilgrim vs. The World
Super 8
The Book of Eli
The Crazies (1973)
The Crazies (2010)
The Goods
The Grand
The Men Who Stare At Goats
The Perfect Score
The Winning Season
This is Spinal Tap
Twilight
Twilight - Eclipse
Twilight - New Moon
Underworld: Evolution
Vantage Point
Visioneers
We Are Marshall
Your Highness

The Year That Was...2011

So, 2011 is behind us. For some of us, it was a year of rebirth and renewal, excitement and adventure, accomplishment and...well, doesn't matter, wasn't that for me. Aside from a few invaluable new friends and my little weight loss excursion, 2011 was really just another year gone by for me.

Note: This post will only look back on 2011. My intentions for 2012 will be posted in a future blog.

Looking back inside the scope of the blog, I notice a few things. First, I didn't really do much reviewing of books or TV shows. I didn't review much literature because I really only read a half-dozen books last year. And I didn't review TV shows because it's so rare that you watch the entire run of a TV show that you haven't already seen. I think I watched the full series of three shows last year, and only two of which had I seen for the first time: Dead Like Me and Sports Night. The other was Star Trek: The Next Generation, which was obviously fantastic, but I had mostly already seen.

I did review a fair number of movies. Seventeen, if we're being specific...and there's really no reason not to be, when you have the number. There were movies that I liked a lot that I didn't review. Why? I think because reviewing movies doesn't really speak to me. It's a subjective, arbitrary exercise, and it's tough for me to aggressively analyze and judge a movie, when I'm pretty okay with most movies. I like some more than others, of course. But trying to write up a full blog post about my feelings for a movie never felt right. Something to think about going forward.

I did play some games this year, though, I don't know, I feel like I didn't "accomplish" anything with regards to video games. I played a lot of games I'd already played pretty heavily (NHL '09, Mass Effect, Dead Rising 2, League of Legends), and spent a good deal of time on Terraria, which you can't really beat. I enjoyed all of this time, but there's a certain satisfaction that comes from defeating a game that has a definite endpoint.

The weight loss competition between me and Nick was a definite highlight of the year, not just because I was able to lose some weight, but also because it created mandatory parties every month for six months. It seems like people don't throw parties often enough these days, or maybe I'm just hanging out with the wrong crowd, but I do like parties. I order you all to throw more parties, and invite me.

I'll be posting my brand new Top 5 Movies of the Year post sometime soon, and I'll start the process of examining my year in video games, so look for that series of annual posts as well. Finally, I'll be posting a sort of New Year's Resolutions blog this month, a little less public than a lot of people make their resolutions, and some of my intentions will be kept to myself, but I'll share some of my plans with the four of you who happen upon my blog in the next three months. So, look forward to that.

See ya, 2011.

Top 500 Songs - Dave Matthews Band

This was always going to be the hardest of my band lists, because I like so many of DMB's songs, and have liked them so differently over...