Friday, February 25, 2011

Friday Fantastic Four - Best High School Movies

As we continue the run up to the Oscars, our movie-themed Friday Fantastic Fours roll on.  There aren't many more fertile grounds for Hollywood than high school.  Pretty young people, teenage angst, fast cars crazy parents and teachers are all excellent grist for the movie making mills.

What are the four best high school movies of all time?

  1. The Breakfast Club - the best of John Houston's 1980s high school movies.  The excellent cast can't even be hurt by the inclusion of Judd Nelson.  An inspired concept, great sound track, romance and laughs all in one great film.
  2. Dead Poet's Society - a tear jerker that reminds us just how hard it is to be a teenager.  Robin Williams is spectacular in this beautifully filmed, but sad story set a private boys school.
  3. 10 Things I Hate About You - Edgy Heath Ledger and super cute Julia Stiles are supported by a hilarious cast in this film shot at an actual Tacoma, WA high school
  4. Ferris Bueller's Day Off - Someone should have shot Matthew Broderick right after he did this movie.  He was perfect.  Mia Sara, Alan Ruck, Ben Stein, Jennifer Gray and Charlie Sheen all fill in around the antics.  The most fun movie of this genre.

I really could have done another whole list on great high school sports movies, but I stayed away.  This week.

Everyone have a great weekend!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

On Spring Training and Tug McGraw

7841369 As the temperatures here in the Northeast drop back into the 40s today and wind sweeps the remaining fall leaves across the yard, baseball teams are stretching and throwing under cloudless blue skies in Florida.  While I would love to make the trek down to see the Boys of Summer getting ready to come North, such a trip is just not in the budget this year.

last week, to try to get ready for baseball season, I picked up Tug McGraw's 2004 memoir "Ya Gotta Believe!"  "The Tugger" was a larger than life figure in Philadelphia during my childhood.  The screwball pitcher who saved the final game of the Phillies 1980 World Series victory by striking out Willie Wilson, McGraw was known as a funny guy and the life of the party. 

About this time of the year in 2003,Tug McGraw was diagnosed with brain cancer.  He died just before the book was published.

I met "The Tugger" a few times in the late 1990s.  I was living back in Delco -- in Media, PA -- at the time and had a post office box at a store at the end of the street.  Tug somehow knew the older Irish gent that owned the store and I talked with him a few times over the years.  He was just what he appeared to be, funny, friendly and never at a loss for words.

But the wide smile hid some personal demons.  A brother who was a convicted murderer, a disastrous personal financial situation, a serious of painful personal relationships.  At that time he had finally accepted country music superstar Tim McGraw as his son, but had spent nearly two decades denying paternity.

Still, you could not help but love the guy.

So I was looking forward to the book arriving and spending a few days reading old stories about being a ball player in the wild and crazy 70s, maybe getting some inside dirt on that 1980 Phillies championship team or some insights on moving up though the Mets organization.  But the book doesn't start there.

The book starts at the end.  With Tim McGraw telling us that Tugger didn't pull this one out.  With the diagnosis and the cancer and the sadness.  I knew Tug had died, but I really wanted to celebrate his life, not re-live the loss.

And so I put the book back on the shelf.  I'm not going to finish it right now.

I've lost three grandparents to cancer.  My brother is a survivor.  Its marks are all over my life and my past and there is nothing funny about it.

As much as I wanted to read Tug's life story, the shadow of his death was too much for me.  Maybe another time.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Friday Fantastic Four - The Best Character Actors

It's award show season.  Every Sunday night from here to baseball season will have some award show filled with B list celebrities on the way up, A list celebs on the way down and a pile of Kardashians trying to explain show why they are relevant.

We will have red carpets, Joan Rivers, the thanking of god, buddah, mom and that high school teacher who 'really knew there was talent in there somewhere.'  There will be inexplicable hosts, boring hosts, edgy hosts and has-been hosts.  and there will be a billion categories we don't care about.  Celebrity will be celebrated for celebrity's sake and darn near everyone will be over-exposed.

But there is one group of actors that I think don't get the credit they are due.  The character actors.  The folks who are so well-known for playing small, carefully developed roles that you know just the person they will be playing when you see them on screen for their first scene in a movie.  Often, they make the movie.

Who are your four favorite character actors?

  1. Christopher Walken - I am not sure if he is acting or if he really is certifiable, but he's pretty darn amazing to see on screen. 
  2. Phillip Seymour Hoffman - is you are looking for a guy who has problems, but is still sympathetic, you can't go wrong with PSH
  3. Kathy Bates - has ANYONE every topped her in the 'middle aged, cranky but longing for a new life' category
  4. Alan Rickman - what a great thinking man's bad guy.  from Die Hard to the Harry Potter series to Sweeney Todd, we is reasonable and thoughtful and scary as shit.

So who's your top four?  Have a great weekend and enjoy the red carpet!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Alumni Game 2011 Is In the Books

5453607267_3311e51efc This past Saturday, my son John and I made the trek back to Delco for the annual Cabrini Basketball Alumni Game and a full day of hoops on the hardwood in the Nerney Fieldhouse at the Dixon Center.

The women's basketball alumni tipped the day off at 11 with a run down memory lane.  While I was not able to attend due to fathering duties at home, I understand the attendance for their first alumni game was soild and there are plans to contiune the tradition next year.

The current version of the women's team kept things rolling along with a 74-45 thrashing of College of Notre Dame.  Freshman Annie Rivituso helped the team to its 10th win with her first career double-double.

The men's team continued its dominance of the CSAC with a 90-76 drubbing of Marywood University.  Senior Dom Farrello had a career game in front of the alumni, pouring in 33 points as the Cavs played every man on the roster and nailed down a top seed in the CSAC tournament next week.

The hospitality room had the usual array of goodies and gave Coach Dzik a place to hold forth.  Coaches Joe Kelly, Mike Keeley, Gabby Hartnett and Bob McTamney also stopped in to grab a few bites to eat in between games.  Superfans Mike Fallon, Paul Engle and Darnell Engle also were in the house (as usual).  The best managers any program ever had, Jim Iacovino, Phyllis Cohen, Kelly Gallagher and Andrea Kelliher also made appearances.

The men's alumni game featured 21 players from the past, some of whom looked like they could have suited up for current Cavs coach Marcus Kahn and some of whom looked as if they needed to mix in a few salads. I can't name everyone, but it's safe to say that guys going as far back as "Sticks" Bennett and as recent as Jim Good and company represented every eara of Cabrnin basketball. Former head coach John Dzik took to the mic and called the game.  I coached called timeouts for the blue team and Mike Keeley took the gray squad.  AD Joe Guinta threw in some great prizes and we were honored by the presence of several members of the current Cavs squad, the coaching staff and Cabrini President Dr. Marie George.

The blue squad sprinted out to a 15 point lead, helped a great deal by Laval Pickney's 0-for the half from the charity stripe.  Ultimately youth won over experience, and my blue team succumbed to the gray team by 15 points.  It was good to see so many guys in the house and really wonderful to see the families and friends come back from over the years.

Cabrini basketball is a family and our family is thankful to have the strong support of the current administration and athletics leadership.  They do a great job making sure we feel welcome and putting on a great event.  As I have said before and continue to believe, Marcus Kahn understands the college and D3 basketball and has done a great job restoring the program over the last three years.  Finally, special thanks to John Mack for all he does for the basketball alumni and everything he did to make Saturday successful!

Photos from the day are up on my Flickr site.  If you have some to share, please post the link in the comments section.  Thanks again to everyone who made my son and I feel so good on Saturday and GO CAVS!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Friday Fantastic Four

History is happening right now in Egypt as a popular uprising appears to have toppled the Mubarek government.  It's live on CNN and across the internet on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

Which got me to thinking of all the history I have seen in my life. Thus, the Friday Fantastic Four is BACK, baby and back in a BIG way!

What are the four most historic events you witnessed or have lived though?

  1. The Fall of the Berlin Wall - Nov 9, 1989.  This was arguably the biggest historical event in my life.  The Cold War came to an end, Millions tasted freedom for the first time and communism's stranglehold on Eastern Europe was broken
  2. 9/11 - I was in New Hampshire and I drove home listening to NPR, marveling that our nation was so fragile.
  3. The Challenger Disaster - January 26th, 1986 - I was in biology class when spaceflight was shown to be anything but routine and seven Americans lost their lives.
  4. Barack Obama elected - November 4, 2008 - Our country did what many thought might never happen and looked beyond race to elect the first non-white president in our history.

How about you?  What are your top four?  There is certainly room for debate for folks of my generation.  The older set has some other amazing stuff to choose from.  What do you think?

Monday, February 07, 2011

The Super Bowl Commercials - My Take

I enjoyed watching the Super Bowl last night.  It was a great game interrupted by an visually brilliant and tonally terrifying halftime show, spiced up by the best TV commercials Madison Avenue has to offer.

We can talk about the gritty determination of the Packers' defense, how turnovers ALWAYS have a huge impact in the Super Bowl, what drug the producer who though Fergie singing Guns and Roses was on, or we can talk about the commercials.  Everyone else is, so why not Another Delco Guy?

USA Today says the top 2 commericals tied for popularity were the Bud Light Dog Party spot and the Doritos 'Pug' clip.  I honestly didn't think the Doritos spot was even the best from its brand brands, let alone the best of the night.  (The best Doritos spot to me was the odd, stomach-turning one with the finger licker in it.  Are you really going to forget that one any time soon?)

My top two were both funny spots this year.  There were some good serious spots, including the epic Chrysler commercial 'Imported From Detroit,' that definitely deserve a look, but the Super Bowl is an international party, so I tend to lead to the funny spots.

My Numero Uno for the night was Best Buy's "What's a Bieber" starring the ancient former rocker turned former reality TV star Ozzy Osbourne and upstart, oddly androgynous pop sensation Justin Bieber.  I don't know what made me laugh so hard about this spot, but it topped out for me.


My second fave from Super Bowl XLVXBXLVVII was the Pepsi Max commercial about about first date thoughts.  Corny, yes!  But it was the commercial that had men laughing and women shaking their heads across the world last night.  Ya gotta love that!

Overall, I thought the quality of the offerings was down a notch or two from yeas past.  Clearly there was no Coke 'Mean Joe Green'  or Apple '1984' instant classic spot, but two trend really struck me.  First, the movie promos were uniformly blah.  I could care less about seeing any of those movies after those promos.  Second, the internet website commercial may have run its course.  I usually love the E-trade baby, but last night's spot was awful.  There were at least three ads from websites i have never heard of and have forgotten in 12 hours.  And I am reasonably certain 90% of the world has no idea who Danica Patrick is, let alone why she is shilling for GoDaddy.

Summing it up, for once the game was the biggest reason to watch.  The commercials were down, but they had a strong lead over what might have been the worst halftime show in history.  One week until pitchers and catchers folks!