Friday, February 25, 2011

2011 Oscar Predictions From a Guy Who Doesn't Watch Movies: The Golden Globes Strike Back

Before I get started on my third annual attempt at predicting the Oscar winners, let's start with some background information. As I state every year, I don’t watch or rent movies anymore.

I pretty much stopped watching movies and DVD's when Hollywood studios began trying to out “special effect” each other in order to overcompensate for bad writing and a lack of original ideas, a/k/a "the George Lucas syndrome."

My formula for predicting the Academy Award winners despite not ever watching movies is simple. I use a combination of word of mouth, watching movie trailers, reading movie posters, and my own personal analysis of how Hollywood works. Am I ready to give this yet another shot? Yo soy!

The most unique trend at the Oscars this year is that, unlike in the past, most of the films that were nominated did relatively well at the box office. Does this mean that the American public is starting to embrace "art-house" films? Or are the Oscars continuing their transition towards becoming The Golden Globes? With the Academy going with younger, hipper co-hosts in Anne Hathaway and James Franco this year in a clear attempt to boost ratings, I think they have pretty much indirectly given us the answer.

Another Oscar anomaly worth mentioning? Not a single African-American was nominated by the Academy for an Oscar this year. I mean seriously, couldn't they have put Will Smith up for a Lifetime Achievement Award or something? I have a feeling that there's going to be some serious elitist guilt going around Sunday night to overcompensate for an entire race of qualified actors being snubbed at this year's "Albino Awards."

My only question is what topic will generate more references from self righteous actors and actresses as they present and accept their awards? The lack of African-American nominees, or the labor unrest involving public sector unions in Wisconsin? In fact, put this up for debate at your own Oscar party and then put some money on it to make the show interesting.

I'm going on a limb and saying that the labor unrest in Wisconsin will generate more mentions, simply because the Hollywood elitist types like to pretend that they have real jobs by joining cute little clubs like "The Fraternal Order of Actors Local #420" just so they can proclaim that they are part of a real "brotherhood" as they sip on their "Fair Trade" soy lattes at some trendy coffee house.

Allright, it's time to get started. Let's rank the top ten films nominated for Best Picture, as well as the five nominees for Best Actor and Best Actress:

Best Picture:

10. The Social Network: This just as easily could have been a made for TV movie on a cable network like USA starring Anthony Michael Hall. It instead became one of the highest grossing box office films of the year and featured a boy band singer trying his hand at acting. Either way, the medium and casting for this film's premise was not quite Oscar worthy.

9. Toy Story 3: Toy Story 3 is the third installment in a series of animated films. So was Stars Wars: Revenge of the Sith. If Revenge of the Sith couldn't win the Oscar for Best Picture, then neither will Toy Story 3.

8. Inception: A smart movie for stupid people probably is not going to garner too much support from the Academy.

7. 127 Hours: If the producers could have combined 127 Hours with Into the Wild and still called it a non-fiction film then they might have been on to something. I can see the trailer now, "Based on a true story...Tom Cruise is In the Wild for 127 Hours!"

6. True Grit: The Coen brothers definitely have their own niche in Hollywood with their interpretations of classic works. Unfortunately they're just a little too witty for the Golden Globes, and not quite original enough for the Oscars.

5. The Fighter: While the Academy loves themselves some boxing movies, The Fighter is a bio-pic about a white-male boxer. That's just a little too Rocky these days to garner any real Oscar consideration. Now, if you took some liberties with history and made "Irish Mickey" a gutsy Indian fighter, and turned this film a Bollywood musical, then we might be able to talk.

4. The Kids Are All Right: Hmmm...A film about two lesbians adopting a child and dealing with the biological father. Despite the fact that the description of this film screams of a sitcom starring Jason Lee, Katherine Heigl and Ellen DeGeneres, It just might have some promise.

3. Winter's Bone: This sounds like a depressing, low budget, low grossing film. This film would have won the Oscar a few years back before the Academy decided to dumb things down for the American public.

2. Black Swan: Not that the plot was in any way slammed by the critics, but this screenplay just seemed like it was written primarily to highlight its characters rather than really tell a story. And yes, I'm still bitter that Natalie Portman got knocked up by Benajmin Millepied, whom she met as a result of making this movie.

1. The King's Speech: As an indictment as to why The Social Network won't win the Oscar for Best Picture, if this was a contemporary film it would have to do with Prince William fighting his male pattern baldness and convincing his girlfriend that she should still marry him before he takes the Thrown. Instead, just like a fine wine or wheel of cheddar cheese, we have an appropriately aged period piece about a historical figure who overcame a disability...Jesus, just give The King's Speech the damn award!

Best Actor:

5. Jesse Eisenberg - The Social Network: If you get overshadowed by a former boy band member in a film, you don't deserve to win an Oscar.

4. Javier Bardem - Biutiful: When you are the second best actor in your family and your wife is Penelope Cruz, you don't deserve to win an Oscar.

3. Jeff Bridges - True Grit: Winning back to back Best Actor Oscars is kind of like winning the Heisman Trophy as an underclassman...If you don't follow it up with an even better season the next year then you simply aren't winning it again. Trying to do so while reprising the role of a legend (John Wayne won his only Best Actor Oscar for his role in True Grit in 1969) is kind of like dunking from the free throw line at the NBA Slam Dunk Contest...If you can pull it off you get high marks, but that alone isn't going to be enough to win since Dr. J was the one who made it famous. (sorry, I just had to work some sports into this blog post somewhere).

2. James Franco - 127 Hours: Even the writers of Castaway realized that Tom Hanks needed to converse with an inanimate volleyball for some comic relief in order to make that movie tolerable. Assuming that James Franco made a movie about a guy with his arm stuck under a rock for 127 hours watchable, then he must have done something right. Kudos to him, but this just doesn't quite feel like the type of movie that would generate an Oscar for Best Actor.

1. Colin Firth - The King's Speech: Period pieces featuring royalty roles have always done well when it comes to the Best Actor Award, as have roles that deal with people overcoming disabilities. Short of Tom Hanks having played a character who was both mentally retarded and homosexual this year, Firth is a mortal lock for the Best Actor Award.

Best Actress:

5. and 4. Nicole Kidman - Rabbit Hole/Michelle Williams - Blue Valentine: So how pissed do you think Katie Holmes is? Not only is her husband's ex-wife up for a Best Actress nomination, but so is Michelle Williams, who clearly played second fiddle to her when they were both on Dawson's Creek. I think it's pretty safe to say that Katie resents her overbearing husband and the whole Scientology "religion" for keeping her out of the 2011 Best Actress mix when they were responsible for forcing her to turn down the lead role in Sex and the City 2.

3. Jennifer Lawrence - Winter's Bone: A relatively unknown actress in a dark film that didn't make much money...NOW we're talking about a serious Oscar contender!

2. Annette Benning - The Kids Are All Right: This is what happens to good looking actresses when they get old. While they can act better than ever, nobody really cares when they are up against a younger and prettier version who had a breakout performance in a tailor made role (and I'm not saying this just to be sexist, the winners of the Best Actress Oscar are traditionally much younger than their male counterparts, so bring it up with the Academy).

Whether it involves shaving her head, losing weight, getting pregnant while shooting, or putting up with George Lucas, nobody can say that Natalie Portman doesn't completely buy into whatever role she's playing.

1. Natalie Portman - Black Swan: Natalie Portman has been an actress in training for this award. Her entire career has been critically acclaimed (sans any mention of Queen Amidala or pairings with the likes of Ashton Kutcher). Not only did she purportedly push the envelope with a dark role in this film, but she "went DeNiro" and completely transformed her body (which was subsequently defiled by fiance Benajmin Millepied) for her role. Most importantly, Portman is a highly educated, well spoken and glowingly pregnant celebrity that the Academy would love to get all of the video and sound bites in which they otherwise dumbed things down a notch in order to get better ratings.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Pre-Scouting Combine 2011 NFL Mock Draft

Here is my Pre-Scouting Combine Mock Draft. It will be followed by several Post Combine Mock Drafts, as well as a Final Mock before the NFL Draft begins on April 28th.

My mock draft has been linked by The Football Fan Spot, Sports Jabber, DC Pro Sports Report, NFL Draft Dog, Walter Football, FF Toolbox, Hail, The Football ExpertNo Limits Sportsline Fantasy Sports and NFL Draft Today in their Mock Draft Databases. If you're a draftnik like me, be sure to click on their hyperlinks and check out all of their extensive NFL Draft related material.

This is not a mock draft where I attempt play general manager and substitute my own judgment for the 32 NFL teams. I do my best to research what particular players or positions each team may be targeting by searching the internet, listening to Sirius NFL Radio, and watching shows like NFL Total Access/NFL Live for reliable tips from beat writers and NFL insiders. When possible I try to provide links and analysis as to why I think a particular player may end up going to the team that I have him slotted to.

Keep in mind that my Pre-NFL Combine Mock Draft is just a starting point. I will supplement these selections as more accurate insider information becomes available following free agency (pending a new CBA), the NFL Combine, and individual Pro Day workouts.

1. Carolina Panthers – Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn: With Andrew Luck staying in school and no other quarterbacks worthy of the number 1 overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, the Panthers will look to Nick Fairley to take control of the interior of their defensive line as he did at Auburn and Ndamukong Suh did as a rookie for the Detroit Lions last season.

2. Denver Broncos – Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU: Denver had the worst ranked defense in the league last season. Ex-head coach Josh McDaniel and GM Brian Xanders have left this unit nearly deplete of talent. With Pro Bowl cornerback Champ Bailey getting older and looking at free agency, Peterson could step in and anchor the Broncos' secondary.

3. Buffalo Bills – Da'Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson: Depending on what free agent losses they suffer in the secondary and at linebacker, the Bills could need help at just about every position on defense. A solid 5 technique to help rush the passer as the Bills continue their transition to a 3-4 defense is a significant need that must be filled at some point.

4. Cincinnati Bengals – A.J. Green, WR, Georgia: With Carson Palmer threatening to retire if his demand for a trade is not granted, the Bengals suddenly have huge needs to be filled on both sides of the ball. They could easily justify using this pick on a franchise quarterback, running back, wide receiver, defensive end or a defensive tackle. If the Bengals can appease Palmer, a wide receiver to ease the loss of soon to be departed Chad Johnson and Terrell Owens would be a nice start to help rebuild the Bengals offense.

5. Arizona Cardinals – Von Miller, DE/OLB, Texas A&M: Several reports suggest that the Cardinals are not interested in using their first round pick on a quarterback, and will instead try to fill their void at that position either via a trade or through free agency. Von Miller is a versatile pass rusher who is ideally suited to come off the edge in a 3-4 defense like Arizona's.\

6. Cleveland Browns – Robert Quinn, DE, North Carolina: The Browns, who will be going back to a 4-3 defense, are in desperate need of someone who can rush the passer on the defensive line. Wide receiver A.J. Green will also be a strong consideration.

7. San Francisco 49ers – Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri: Don't listen to Jim Harbaugh's references to keeping the door open on bringing Alex Smith, his time in San Francisco is through. Unless San Francisco can make a play for an established veteran like Kevin Kolb (which they won't be able to do until a CBA is reached), the 49ers will have to find their long term answer at quarterback through the draft.

8. Tennessee Titans – Marcell Dareus, DT/DE, Alabama: While I don't see him as a pass rush threat in the NFL as an end in a 4-3 defense like the Titans ran under Jeff Fisher, Dareus will fit well as a run stopping end who can move inside to tackle on pass rushing downs.

9. Dallas Cowboys – Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska: The Cowboys secondary, amongst other positions, greatly underachieved last season. Terence Newman's days in Dallas appear numbered. While Prince Amukamara may not be a lock down cover corner, he has no glaring weaknesses in his game either.

10. Washington Redskins – Cam Newton, QB, Auburn: Rex Grosman clearly is not the answer at quarterback for the 'Skins. Is Cam Newton? While his performance at the NFL Combine might take him out of the mix as a top 3 pick in this year's draft, Washington would still have to consider him at number 10 given their void at the quarterback position assuming they release Donvan McNabb as expected.

11. Houston Texans – Aldon Smith, OLB, Missouri: The Texans would love to land local product Von Miller to provide an edge rush for their new 3-4 defense or a corner like Prince Amukamara from Nebraska. Missour's Aldon Smith will have to suffice as a less hyped consolation prize as a pass rushing linebacker in their new 3-4 scheme under Wade Phillips.;

12. Minnesota Vikings – Ryan Mallett, QB, Arkansas: Minnesota has glaring holes at DT, DE, S and QB. With Rhett Bomar and Joe Webb currently the only options on their roster to take over for Brett Favre, the Vikings may need to use their first round pick on a signal caller.

13. Detroit Lions – Akeem Ayers, OLB, UCLA: With the top two corners off the board do the Lions turn their attention to a desperate need for a playmaker at outside linebacker? The Lions could be in a difficult position in this year's draft if the top cornerbacks are off the board, as the number 13 spot may be too early value wise to draft a 3-4 outside linebacker in this draft. Martin Mahew is definitely not a GM who will reach for a player in the draft just because he fills a position of need. While many experts have the Lions drafting a tackle, I think Detroit might want to give young back-ups Corey Hilliard and Jason Fox another year to develop behind Jeff Backus, who is coming off perhaps his best year. Does that mean we could see the Lions go after yet another WR in the first round? Not only could someone like Julio Jones be the highest rated player on the board when the Lions pick, but he would also fill the role of a much needed deep threat opposite Calvin Johnson with Nate Burleson manning the slot. At least for now the Lions hope that a 3-4 OLB like Akeem Ayers of UCLA performs well enough at the Scouting Combine and his Pro Day workout to prove that he is talented enough to be selected in the top half of the first round.

14. St. Louis Rams – Julio Jones, WR, Alabama: The Rams need to find a legitimate number one target for quarterback Sam Bradford. This pick should be a no-brainer if Jones is still available when St. Louis picks.

15. Miami Dolphins – Mark Ingram, Jr., RB, Alabama: The Dolphins are looking to trade down from number 15 and acquire a second round pick, having given theirs up to Denver in the Brandon Marshall trade last year. Even if they move lower in the first round they could still be in the mix for former Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram, Jr., who would replace the Dolphins aging and injury prone duo at running back in Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown.

16. Jacksonville Jaguars - Adrian Clayborn, DE, Iowa: One of the many reasons why I would not be disappointed if the Jaguars moved out of Jacksonville is the lack of any regular reports about their franchise from the local media. The city of Jacksonville doesn't provide any in depth coverage, and Orlando doesn't even acknowledge that the team exists. That leaves me stuck with Mel Kiper, Jr.'s prediction that the Jaguars will take Iowa DE Adrian Clayborn, who I was not particularly impressed with when I watched him this year. Personally, I think Purdue's Ryan Kerrigan would be a nice understudy and back-up for DE Aaron Kampman, who will be attempting to come back from knee surgery.

17. New England Patriots (from Oakland) – Cameron Jordan, DE/OLB, California: New England always seems to be looking for defensive ends/outside linebackers for their 3-4 defensive scheme. Cameron Jordan of Cal showed his ability to play standing up at the next level at the Senior Bowl.

18. San Diego Chargers – Nate Solder, OT, Colorado: The Chargers had the top offenses and defenses in the league last year, so they can turn their attention adding playmakers and depth to actually make them playoff contenders. Upgrading the right tackle position would help improve the Chargers run game and pass protection, and would become an even bigger position of need in the event that they are unable to re-sign Jeromey Clary.

19. New York Giants – Tyron Smith, OT, USC: Replenishing an aging offensive line has to be a priority for the Giants, as is adding some new blood at linebacker. Tyron Smith of USC lacks ideal size initially as he enters the NFL, but should develop into a solid left tackle as he matures and gains weight.

20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Ryan Kerrigan, DE, Purdue: While the Bucs have the versatility to go for the best available player for the most part, getting a rush end is their biggest priority. Ryan Kerrigan has a relentless motor, and on film he reminds me of Michigan's Brandon Graham from last year's draft.

21. Kansas City Chiefs – Justin Houston, OLB, Georgia: While Mikey Vrable has given the Chiefs more than they could have ever expected as a throw in on the Matt Cassel trade, he probably doesn't have too many productive years left in the tank. Justin Houston would be a nice pick to add to the Chiefs pass rush and serve as Vrabel's eventual replacement.

22. Indianapolis Colts – Anthony Castanzo, OT, Boston College: The Colts survived with a very mediocre offense line for years thanks to Howard Mudd, who may be one of the best line coaches ever in the NFL. When Mudd left last season, the Colts line was exposed as a glaring weakness. It's definitely time that Indianapolis looks for some talent at the the tackle position to help protect Peyton Manning and re-establish some sort of running game.

23. Philadelphia Eagles - Gabe Carimi, OT, Wisconsin: The Eagles offensive line has underachieved in recent years based upon the money they've paid to big name guys. Carimi could start off his NFL career playing right tackle or even guard, which would give the Eagles some depth and versatility on their line.

24. New Orleans Saints – J.J. Watt, DE, Wisconsin: The Saints don't have any glaring needs, but could stand to add to their pass rush, either at DE or OLB.

25. Seattle Seahawks – Jake Locker, QB, Washington: With Matt Hasselbeck indicating that he'd like to re-sign and with the Seahawks having traded for Charlie Whitehurst last year, I'm not sure whether Seattle is in the market for a QB high in this year's draft or not. If they are looking for a quarterback of the future, hometown college star Jake Locker would come into a good situation where he would not be forced to play right away and could work on the accuracy issues that many scouts are bringing up after his senior season.

26. Baltimore Ravens – Torrey Smith, WR, Maryland: While Baltimore improved their depth at wide receiver last season, they were all possession receivers who did little to differentiate from what they already had in Derrick Mason. A burner like Torrey Smith of Maryland to help Joe Flacco and company stretch the field and open up their offense would be ideal.,0,5415627.story?track=rss

27. Atlanta Falcons – Cameron Heyward, DE, Ohio State: Atlanta is still searching for a defensive end to initially compliment, and then replace John Abraham. Cameron Heyward is a hometown kid who could fill that need if one of the top wide receivers is not available to spread the field at the 27th pick.

28. New England Patriots – Mike Pouncey, C/G, Florida: Even if the Patriots are able to franchise tag guard Logan Mankins, don't look for him to stay in New England long term given the rift between the parties this past year over his contract. The Patriots apparently liked Maurkice Pouncey coming out of Florida in last year's draft, and will now have a chance to select his twin brother Mike, who could initially help out at guard before ultimately moving to center.

29. Chicago Bears - Phil Taylor, DT, Baylor: The Bears need help on their interior defensive line. With DT Stephen Paea having been diagnosed with a torn ligament in his knee at the Senior Bowl, Phil Taylor stepped up and showed that he is yet another defensive tackle worthy of a first round pick. Danny Watkins of Baylor could also be an option if the Bears instead elect to upgrade their offensive line.

30. New York Jets – Corey Liuget, DT, Illinois: Nose tackle Kris Jenkins career is in question after multiple serious injuries have cost him the better part of the past two seasons. Corey Liuget appears to be a rising commodity as the NFL draft nears. (see video)

31. Pittsburgh Steelers – Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado: While the Steelers arguably have the best defense in the league, Neither William Gay nor Bryant McFadden are starting caliber NFL cornerbacks. Jimmy Smith is garnering interest as a potential lock down corner, and would be an ideal pick for Pittsburgh this late in the first round.

32. Green Bay Packers – Danny Watkins, G, Penn Baylor: Green Bay won the Super Bowl and will have key players returning from injury last season at tight end, tackle, middle linebacker, outside linebacker, 3-4 defensive end and running back. An bruising guard like Danny Watkins would help solidify a week running game that was without running backs Ryan Grant and James Starks for most of the regular season, thereby making Green Bay's already high powered offense even more frightening for opposing defenses next season than it was this past year.