Predicting the 2016 Emmy Nominees (Part II) – Comedy

The comedy landscape for television has changed immensely in the last year. While longtime running favorites like The Big Bang Theory and Modern Family are still on-air, there was a void left by the NBC triumvirate of Parks and Recreation, 30 Rock and The Office. 

Consider that void filled by HBO and streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime. Netflix has produced binge-worthy hit-after-hit with original programming like Master of None, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and Grace & Frankie while Amazon has made their mark with their award winning shows, Transparent and Mozart in the Jungle. Meanwhile, ABC has stuck to the “comedy about a family” formula with some success, churning out shows like Black-ish, Fresh Off the Boat, and The Goldbergs. 

Predicting comedy categories is tough because comedy is so subjective, but there shouldn’t be too many supporting actor/actress categories filled with players from the same show. There’s plenty of talent out there deserving recognition, and I hope my guesses pan out to show it.

<< Part I – Drama

Outstanding Comedy Series

 

Veep (HBO)

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Coming off 5 big Emmy wins a year ago, Veep is in full stride. It’s a show, while best watched episode by episode, that you can tune in and and enjoy at any point. In a year where politics and the presidential election is topping our headlines, Veep‘s excellent writing and acting has provided much needed relief and satire for it.

Silicon Valley (HBO)

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I personally feel this is the best comedy on television right now. Every episode exudes the genius of Mike Judge (and I’m not one for hyperbole), and every character offers killer punchline after punchline. As good and popular as Veep is, Silicon Valley is as deserving, if not more worthy of a “Best Comedy” win.

Transparent (Amazon)

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Amazon has proved recently to be an excellent source for original comedy. Their tentpole, or at least the starting flag, is definitely Transparent. Where Veep hits the topical political satire, Transparent is at the forefront of representing the LGBT+ community and does so better than anyone else.

Mozart in the Jungle (Amazon)

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I’ll admit, I hadn’t checked out Mozart in the Jungle until after its Golden Globe success this past season. I’m so glad I did though…One of the easiest binge-watches ever with such charming characters and great music. I actually accidentally watched the 2nd season first, because I was new to the Amazon Prime platform, and it was the best mistake I ever made.

Master of None (Netflix)

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Netflix has been producing excellent programming for years now, but Aziz Ansari’s Master of None may have been it’s best true comedy. As funny and well-written as Orange is the New Black is, it’s really a drama. Master of None used an episodic formula that was similar to Louie, but eliminated the standup and awkwardness. Ansari’s storytelling and delivery was very natural and felt real, as were his relationships with characters on the show.

Broad City (Comedy Central)

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Broad City has made waves on Comedy Central for a few years now and the creator/star combo of Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson deserve their recognition now. The Writers Guild gave it a “Best Comedy Series” nomination this year which leads me to believe the Emmys aren’t far from doing the same.

Modern Family (ABC)

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Before last year, this category BELONGED to Modern Family. They won “Best Comedy Series” 5 years in a row and the only show to ever pull that off was Frasier, from 1994-98. I believe new programming and other powerhouses have certainly caught up, in terms of content and creativity, but Modern Family is still good for the multiple belly-laughs each episode.

Also Consider:

 

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt 

It’s a favorite for many and definitely picks up from the middle to end, but I don’t believe the 2nd season grabbed you like the first. 

Black-ish

Black-ish became more than a half-hour family comedy this year, unafraid to tackle difficult issues in “special” episodes that haven’t been pulled off in years. 

Grace and Frankie

Lily Tomlin, Jane Fonda, Martin Sheen and Sam Waterson’s second season of relationship breaking and building was even better than the first. Sam Elliott as a love interest doesn’t hurt either. 

Outstanding Lead Actress

 

Julia Louis-Dreyfus, ‘Veep’ (HBO)

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There’s not much you can say when JLD has won this category four years in a row.

Gina Rodriguez, ‘Jane the Virgin’ (CW)

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Gina Rodriguez wasn’t nominated last year, after winning the Golden Globe for her role in the same same season. Her work on Jane The Virgin brought some serious legitimacy to the CW, and a nomination would right the wrong that was made a year ago for not recognizing it.

Rachel Bloom, ‘Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’ (CW)

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Also giving the CW more credibility is Rachel Bloom, who won the Golden Globe this in the same category. The comedy/musical-hybrid series is much more of a delight than the title suggests and it’s carried by Bloom, whose character is as dynamic as any in the field.

Amy Schumer, ‘Inside Amy Schumer’ (Comedy Central)

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If have no problem saying that Amy Schumer’s brand of sketch comedy is doing laps around Saturday Night Live, and her show continues to do so its 4th season.

Ellie Kemper, ‘Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt’ (Netflix)

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All you need:

Constance Wu, ‘Fresh Off the Boat’ (ABC)

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While I’m still not very keen on the title of this show, Constance Wu is the anchor of this 90’s based comedy from ABC. The sooner she gets the recognition for it, the better.

Also Consider:

 

Lily Tomlin, ‘Grace and Frankie’

It’s very likely Lily Tomlin will taking a spot from anyone above. 

 

Ilana Glazer, ‘Broad City’

Yas…

Abbi Jacobson, ‘Broad City’

…Queen.

Outstanding Lead Actor

 

Jeffery Tambor, ‘Transparent’ (Amazon)

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After winning a year ago, it’s easy to assume Jeffrey Tambor will be nominated again for his lead role in one of the most brilliantly titled programs on Television.

Gael Garcia Bernal, ‘Mozart in the Jungle’ (Amazon)

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Gael Garcia Bernal’s character, Rodrigo, is one of the most fascinating and lovable ones on television. He oozes with a passion and love for his craft and orchestra that almost inspires the viewer…or at least makes you continue binge-watching his show.

Will Forte, ‘The Last Man on Earth’ (FOX)

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Will Forte took a concept that nobody knew could make it past the first pilot, and turned it into an a creative world that nobody expected. Post SNL/MacGruber life has been very good to him.

Aziz Ansari, ‘Master of None’ (Netflix)

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As mentioned before, Aziz’s delivery in Masters of None is incredibly natural and previous Parks and Recreation fans a much chiller side than Tom Haverford ever had.

Thomas Middleditch, ‘Silicon Valley’ (HBO)

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What Rami Malek does for Mr. Robot, Thomas Middleditch sort of does for Silicon Valley. While not needing to carry the show of a great supporting cast, he still nails the introverted mad genius thing. He also handles most social situations like many of us would probably like to admit.

Jim Parsons, ‘The Big Bang Theory’ (CBS)

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Jim Parsons didn’t receive a nomination last year, but won 4 out of the 6 years before. For as long as Big Bang Theory continues to run, Sheldon Cooper remains to be the most interesting part of the show. In this past season, we saw him develop well beyond the way he had before and that should bode well for Parsons come nomination time.

Also Consider:

 

Andy Daly, ‘Review’

Awesome and underrated concept show on Comedy Central, where Andy Daly plays a sweet and lovable character…forced to do horrible things.

Bruce Campbell, ‘Ash vs. Evil’

Fans of the cult classic franchise were not disappointed by the sequel series. Not one bit. 

Billy Eichner, ‘Difficult People’

Because we all want to see Billy Eichner with a chance to win. He’s America’s sweetheart.

Outstanding Supporting Actress

 

Anna Chlumsky, ‘Veep’ (HBO)

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Like Julia Louis-Dreyfus, castmate Ann Chlumsky is regular nominee. Unlike JLD, she hasn’t won yet. It’s a ridiculously tough category, but her performances consistently warrant a win.

Allison Janney, ‘Mom’ (CBS)

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Alison Janney is a TV Powerhouse. She has 6 Emmy wins from 3 different roles (The West Wing, Masters of Sex, and Mom). She’s the reigning champ for now and it will be interesting to see if she can repeat.  

Julie Bowen, ‘Modern Family’ (ABC)

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Julie Bowen has come a long way since Happy Gilmore…Her 2 Emmy wins and nominations for each of the past 6 years is a serious testament to her work and role on Modern Family. 

Sofia Vergara, ‘Modern Family’ (ABC)

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Sofia Vergara hasn’t been nominated since 2013, but she still delivers the biggest punchlines on Modern Family.

Judith Light, ‘Transparent’ (Amazon)

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Tambor and Bradley Whitford won Emmys a year ago and it’s time for Judith Light to join her castmates in nominations, at the very least.

Chelsea Peretti, ‘Brooklyn Nine-Nine’ (FOX)

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Chelsea Peretti is considered more of a darkhorse contender, but she’s a huge reason I tune into Brooklyn Nine-Nine as often as I can. I would also be most interested in hearing an acceptance speech from her than anyone else.

Also Consider:

Kate MicKinnon, ‘Saturday Night Live’

I imagine she’ll be nominated over at least 2 of the above hopefuls, because she’s the best thing Saturday Night Live has going. 

Mayim Bialik, ‘The Big Bang Theory’

Like Sheldon Cooper, you can never count out Amy Farafaler.

Amanda Peete, ‘Togetherness’

Although Togetherness is no longer on the air, Amanda Peete was great on it and needs something better to talk about Late Night talk shows than her husband’s work on Game of Thrones. 

Outstanding Supporting Actor

Tony Hale, ‘Veep’ (HBO)

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Despite never being nominated for his awesome work as Buster Bluth on Arrested Development, Tony Hale has done very well for himself on Veep with 2 wins in the last 3 years. His character, Gary Walsh, is the ultimate kiss-ass and has been key for years of awesome punchlines.

T.J. Miller, ‘Silicon Valley’ (HBO)

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TJ Miller is having a very awesome run of late, scoring big in Deadpool and being casted in Steven Spielberg’s upcoming adaptation of ‘Ready Player One’. As Silicon Valley continues to rack up critical acclaim, it wouldn’t be a shock to hear his name called when nominees are announced. His Erlich Bachman character continues to evolve and surprise audiences, episode to episode.

Louie Anderson, ‘Baskets’ (FX)

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As a former producer who was flaked out on by Louie Anderson for a radio interview, it takes a lot for me to say he was brilliant on Baskets as Zach Galifianakis’ mother…He really was. It would be a great story to recognize the veteran comedian’s comeback too.

Ty Burrell, ‘Modern Family’ (ABC) 

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Ty Burrell has become an institution when it comes to Emmys and Modern Family. From the pilot thru 7 seasons of the ABC comedy, his energy and performance has lasted like the Energizer Bunny. The category would feel a little empty without him.

Andre Braugher, ‘Brooklyn Nine-Nine’ (FOX)

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Nobody does straight-face/deadpan better than Andre Braugher on Brooklyn Nine-Nine.

Malcolm McDowell, ‘Mozart in the Jungle’ (Amazon)

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Whether it’s a Rob Zombie film, a TNT bro comedy (Franklin & Bash) or series about the New York symphony orchestra, Malcom McDowell brings such a fun fascination and elegance to whatever he’s working on. Playing the old maestro trying to finish his masterpiece in Mozart in the Jungle, McDowell is a big reason I couldn’t turn this show off for an entire weekend.

Also Consider:

Titus Burgess, ‘Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt’

Voters love Titus Burgess and with good reason. I have no doubt he’ll replace one of my favorites above.

 

Tim Robbins, ‘The Brink’ 

One of the most underrated performances in the last year. Tim Robbins made The Brink appointment television for me last summer.

Keegan-Michael Key & Jordan Peele, ‘Key and Peele’

These are the funniest people on TV and should great as much credit as possible for the great work they did on their now former sketch show.

Stay Tuned for “Part III – Limited Series” coming soon. Checkout Part I (Drama) here.

Follow for more on Facebook or Twitter. You can subscribe to The Piffcast on iTunes too.

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Exhale Part II: True Detective Season 2 Doesn’t Suck…as bad.

Many of you probably thought about quitting on True Detective Season 2 after the first 3 episodes. There were valid reasons for you to do so, but I also told you that Episode 4 was going to make or break the season…

(This is where I warn you that there are spoilers ahead, but you already knew that.)

TD Gun chase

Thankfully, Season 2 got better. 

We found parallels to Season 1, they cut some of the bullshit that muddied the story, and 3 out of the 4 major characters have developed into people worth investing in (Taylor Kitsch still sucks). There are still slow points and plot detours that will make you pull your hair out, but it’s hard to say the past 3 episodes haven’t redeemed the season at all.

Ray Velcoro and Rust Cohle Would Be Great Partners

There are common trends between Seasons 1 & 2. State government corruption is the overwhelming issue. The detectives have epic falls from from grace, or whatever resembles such a thing for them. There are also mid-season baddies who don’t go out quietly who serve as the “fall guy”, but then set our detectives on the right path.

Reggie Ledoux was the Season 1 “Yellow King”. Rust and Marty’s evidence led them to the meth cook’s compound for an insane confrontation, similar to the one we saw in episode 4 of Season 2 but with far fewer casualties.

Time is a flat cirlce

Of course they DID do it again. The tip that Ani, Paul, and Ray got from Mayor McCheese led them to Ledo Amarilla’s version of Ledoux’s compound, and was likely meant to be a trap for the trio. In Nic Pizzolatto’s own way, he makes Amarilla into the Season 2 Yellow King. “Amarilla” is Spanish for “Yellow” and “Ledo” is 4/6 the spelling of “Ledoux”.

…And explosions.

TD Boom

After Amarilla’s case is closed, there are still 4 more episodes and a bunch of orgy-loving powerful people who need to be taken down. You wonder if Rust’s interrogation skills combined with Ray’s willingness to get dirty would have wrapped this mystery up much sooner. At least Ray is cynical enough to handle Rust’s bleak philosophical soliloquies…and Rust wouldn’t judge Ray’s demons either.

The Story is Better Simplified

One of the things that dragged Season 2 down was the show’s commitment to 4 major characters and trying to unravel them layer by layer. As I mentioned reviewing the first 3 episodes, the multiple subplots associated with too many character were deterring viewers away from what was actually a good mystery. Ray is no longer beating up his kid’s bullies and their bystander dads. Ani isn’t sleeping with other officers in her department, for the time being. Frank is done harkening back to his childhood. And thankfully Paul and his drama have taken a backseat to the team’s investigation.

The simplicity was most evident in Episode 6 “Church in Ruins”. The opening scene between Ray and Frank was as good it gets for this season. They didn’t beat around the bush. Everything was laid out on the table with pistols cocked underneath. Then they walked away with their separate businesses to take care of and nothing to distract them.

The focus on Ani’s preparation to go undercover for the anticipated “party” built up solid suspense for the mess that was bound to happen.

Ani knifing

Who else gave an involuntary fist-pump when she was actually able to apply her knife-fighting practice? That was awesome.

Paul stayed out of everybody’s way and was actually effective when it came to getting the evidence and helping Ani out of the orgy. His redeeming quality is being a good soldier and completing the mission at hand.

With two episodes left, it’s the trio of detectives (and probably Frank) against California’s so-called elite, including Governor candidate Masuka from Dexter. Some of the subplots will likely arise again, especially Paul’s sexuality vs. marrying his baby’s momma, but the focus should be on closing this case.

“We could watch Friends.”

Watching Friends

Ray’s kid is such a Ross. A very ginger pizza-loving Ross.

Ray's stare

Going along the lines of simplicity, Ray cutting the cord from his son and ex-wife puts an end to one of the multiple distracting subplots. What’s interesting about that is the fact he agreed to join the “off the books” squad based on an agreement he could retain custody of his son. Ray seems focused on the task at hand after doing so, but maybe he has sealed his fate as well after doing so. Regardless, the best character on the show only got better because of it.

While in a drug induced trippy state, we learned more about Ani as she recalled a man who abused her in the past. The man looked like someone from her father’s photos and you wonder if he is more connected to the corruption than we already knew. Rescuing her missing person and getting a firsthand look at the kind of evil they are dealing with will probably have Ani sharpening her blade for more in Sunday’s episode.

Then there’s Frank…

Frank Gun

Frank’s story hasn’t felt all that necessary, outside his influence on Ray, up to this point. The more he evolves into being a gangster again, the more entertaining he is…but do you really care what happens to him?

He is, however, acting as much like a detective as Ray, Ani, and Paul while trying to find out who killed Caspere and Stan. Frank has to tie into this thing significantly at some point, and his findings may be the thing that breaks the case wide open. You also anticipate some well deserved revenge on Frank’s 2nd in command, who is obviously undermining him with the trafficking of women.

Most importantly, there’s finally MOMENTUM. The final sequence was exhilarating and gave the viewer something to look forward. You feel better about there being just 8 episodes instead of the typical HBO 10, and that there will be closure to this story sooner than later.

True Detective next episode

I’d like to hear what you think! Do you like Season 2 better now, or does it still suck?

Let me know on Facebook or Twitter and we can talk about it further. 

#TBT Year in Review: 1999

As we waited to see what would happen when Y2K hit…

  • The Sopranos debuted on HBO.
  • President Bill Clinton was acquitted in impeachment proceedings.
  • Sega Dreamcast was released in North America,
  • George Harrison was attacked at his home in Friar Park.
  • Wilt Chamberlain passed away at the age of 63.

CHAMBERLAIN

And here’s what happened in the worlds of Movies, Music, and Sports…

Movies

Comedy

American Pie, Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, 10 Things I Hate About You, Notting Hill, Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo, Being John Malkovich, She’s All That, Big Daddy, Galaxy Quest, South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut, Never Been Kissed, Dogma, Stuart Little, Blue Streak, Analyze This, Jawbreaker, Bowfinger, Dick, Idle Hands, Mystery Men, Life, Drive Me Crazy, EDtv, Detroit Rock City, The Bachelor, Superstar, AND…

Office Space

Action/Thriller

The Sixth Sense, The Matrix, Three Kings, The Boondock Saints, End of Days, Deep Blue Sea, The Insider, Universal Soldier: The Return, A Murder of Crows, 8mm, The Talented Mr. Ripley, Double Jeopardy, Instinct, The Bone Collector, The World is Not Enough, The Ninth Gate, Arlington Road, Chill Factor, True Crime, Payback, Resurrection, Stigmata, The Mod Squad, Entrapment, The Astronaut’s Wife, The Rage: Carrie 2, AND…

Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace

Drama

Fight Club, American Beauty, Eyes Wide Shut, Bicentennial Man, Boys Don’t Cry, Anna and the King, Girl Interrupted, Animal Farm, 200 Cigarettes, The Virgin Suicides, October Sky, Great Expectations, Onegin, Flawless, The Hurricane, Brokedown Palace, Magnolia, Cruel Intentions, Random Hearts, All About My Mother, The Winslow Boy, Varsity Blues, The Cider House Rules, The Deep End of the Ocean, Tuesdays with Morrie, Black and White, AND…

The Green Mile

The 72nd Academy Awards

Best Actor

  • Russell Crowe, The Insider
  • Richard Farnsworth, The Straight Story
  • Sean Penn, Sweet and Lowdown
  • Denzel Washington, The Hurricane
  • Kevin Spacey, American Beauty – Winner

(Spacey’s 2nd Oscar. First was Best Supporting Actor in 1996 for The Usual Suspects)

Best Supporting Actor

  • Michael Clarke Duncan, The Green Mile
  • Jude Law, The Talented Mr. Ripley
  • Haley Joel Osment, The Sixth Sense
  • Tom Cruise, Magnolia
  • Michael Caine, The Cider House Rules – Winner 

(Caine’s 2nd win out of 6 nominations.)

Best Actress

  • Annette Benning, American Beauty
  • Janet McTeer, Tumbleweeds
  • Julianne Moore, The End of the Affair
  • Meryl Streep, Music of the Heart
  • Hilary Swank, Boys Don’t Cry – Winner

(This was Swank’s first of two Oscar nominations and awards.)

Best Supporting Actress

  • Toni Collette, The Sixth Sense
  • Catherine Keener, Being John Malkovich
  • Samantha Morton, Sweet and Lowdown
  • Chloe Sevigny, Boys Don’t Cry
  • Angelina Jolie, Girl Interrupted – Winner

(Jolie has also won the Humanitarian Academy Award in 2014)

Best Picture

  • The Cider House Rules
  • The Green Mile
  • The Insider
  • The Sixth Sense
  • American Beauty – Winner

(American Beauty won 5 of the 8 Oscars it was nominated for.)

Music

Rock Albums

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Hip Hop Albums

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Pop Albums

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Billboard Year-End Top 25

01. “Believe” – Cher

02. “No Scrubs” – TLC

03. “Angel of Mine” – Monica

04. “Heartbreak Hotel” – Whitney Houston featuring Faith Evans and Kelly Price

05. “…Baby One More Time” – Britney Spears

06. “Kiss Me” – Sixpence None the Richer

07. “Genie in a Bottle” – Christina Aguilera

08. “Every Morning” – Sugar Ray

09. “Nobody’s Supposed to Be Here” – Deborah Cox

10. “Livin’ la Vida Loca” – Ricky Martin

11. “Where My Girls At?” – 702

12. “If You Had My Love” – Jennifer Lopez

13. “Slide” – Goo Goo Dolls

14. “Have You Ever?” – Brandy

15. “I Want It That Way” – Backstreet Boys

16. “I’m Your Angel” – Celine Dion and R. Kelly

17. “All Star” – Smash Mouth

18. “Angel” – Sarah McLachlan

19. “Smooth” – Santana featuring Rob Thomas

20. “Unpretty” – TLC

21. “Bills, Bills, Bills” – Destiny’s Child

22. “Save Tonight” – Eagle-Eye Cherry

23. “Last Kiss” – Pearl Jam

24. “Fortunate” – Maxwell

25. “All I Have to Give” – Backstreet Boys

Sports

Baseball

League Leaders:

Offensive

Average: Larry Walker (COL) – .379

Hits: Derek Jeter (NYY) – 219

Home Runs: Mark McGwire (STL) – 65

RBI: Manny Ramirez (CLE) – 165

OPS: Larry Walker (COL) – 1.168

Stolen Bases: Tony Womack (AZ)

Pitching

Wins: Pedro Martinez (BOS) – 23

ERA: Pedro Martinez (BOS) – 2.07

Strikeouts: Randy Johnson (AZ) – 364

Complete Games: Randy Johnson (AZ) – 12

Shutouts: Scott Erickson (BAL) & Andy Ashby (SD) – 3

Saves: Mariano Rivera (NYY) – 45

MVP

AL – Ivan Rodriguez (TEX)

NL – Chipper Jones (ATL)

CY Young

AL – Pedro Martinez (BOS)

NL – Randy Johnson (AZ)

Rookie of the Year

AL – Carlos Beltran (KC)

NL – Scott Williamson (CIN)

World Series

New York Yankees sweep Atlanta Braves (4-0)

Basketball

NCAA

Final Four:

(1) Duke, (1) Michigan State, (4) Ohio State and (1) UConn

National Championship:

(1) UConn over (1) Duke 77-74

NBA

League Leaders

Points Per Game: Allen Iverson (PHI) – 26.8

Rebounds Per Game: Chris Webber (SAC) – 13.0

Assists Per Game: Jason Kidd (PHX) – 10.8

All-NBA Team

Tim Duncan (SA)

Allen Iverson (PHI)

Jason Kidd (PHX)

Karl Malone (UTAH)

Alonzo Mourning (MIA)

MVP – Karl Malone (UTAH)

Rookie of the Year – Vince Carter (TOR)

NBA Finals

San Antonio Spurs over New York Knicks (4-1)

Football

NCAA

Heisman Trophy:

Ron Dayne (Wisconsin)

National Championship

(1) Florida State over (2) Virginia Tech 46-29 in the Sugar Bowl

NFL

League Leaders

Passing Yards: Steve Beuerlein (CAR) – 4,436

Passing Touchdowns: Kurt Warner (STL) – 41

Passer Rating: Kurt Warner (STL) – 109.2

Rushing Yards: Edgerrin James (IND) – 1,553

Rushing Touchdowns: Stephen Davis (WAS) – 17

Receiving Yards: Marvin Harrison (IND) – 1,663

Receiving Touchdowns: Cris Carter (MIN) – 13

Receptions: Jimmy Smith (JAX) – 116

AP MVP: Kurt Warner (STL)

Super Bowl XXXIV

St. Louis Rams over Tennessee Titans 23-16

Hockey

League Leaders

Goals: Teemu Selanne (ANA) – 47

Assists: Jaromir Jagr (PIT) – 83

Points: Jaromir Jagr (PIT) – 127

Hart Memorial Trophy: Jaromir Jagr (PIT)

Stanley Cup

Dallas Stars over Buffalo Sabres (4-2)

Did I miss anything? Let me know on Twitter @Mike_PiFF03.

Also checkout past #TBT Years in Review.

2011

2006

2005

1998

1992

1989

1987

Time To Exhale – Avengers: Age of Ultron

A week after the premiere felt like the proper amount of time to digest Marvel’s “Phase II” epic, Avengers: Age of Ultron and to comprehend what that was I saw in IMAX 3D.

Rather than write a “review” of the movie, I consider this as a collection of thoughts and reaction regarding what I saw on the screen and heard from people after. If you haven’t seen the film, DO NOT READ ANY FURTHER. THERE ARE PROBABLY, MORE THAN LIKELY, SPOILERS! I would recommend going to see it and coming back to this for discussion though.

So let’s begin now…

Avengers: Age of Ultron wasn’t great, but it didn’t have to be…

The movie itself was a blast. The action scenes were incredible and it was cool to see each Avenger have fighting chemistry with their teammates right off the bat as they took on Baron von Strucker’s snow covered Hydra base…most notably the combo uses of Thor’s hammer and Captain America’s shield. The banter and Joss Whedon’s influenced snappy comebacks also kept the mood light…not just with the Avengers while they experienced their own turmoil, but with Ultron himself (which I’ll talk about further on).

However, the editing was choppy and there were some excruciatingly slow moments that took away from the action packed ride. A comment from WGN and Rivet Radio host James VanOsdol stuck out to me on Twitter when he referred to it as “The Age of Dulltron”,  right before I went to see the movie. I really don’t blame him for thinking so, but I also found a lot of the film to be more necessary than anything.

Much of ‘Age of Ultron’ was heavy for character development and plot…especially for what’s to come in “Phase III”. (Here Come Some of Spoilers so it’s on you now if you haven’t seen the movie) 

I’ll begin with the day dreams that Scarlet Witch placed in each of the Avengers’ minds, whom were effected:

Tony Stark: Tony is the first to have a spell casted on, which sparks the creation of Ultron…and his apparent “heel turn“. While getting a good look at von Strucker’s basement weapons of mass scariness, Scarlet Witch casts her spell, which forces Tony to envision his greatest fear…He sees all of his Avengers teammates laid up on meteor-like platform, either dead or dying. It looks like something we’ve seen Thanos standing upon in his collective brief appearances. Tony is the last Avenger standing while Captain America grabs for him, and in his dying breath says “You could have saved us.” And so begins the tension we see between Tony and Cap throughout the film, foreshadowing to the plot of Captain America III: Civil War.

Tony also gets a good look at what appears to be a fleet of aliens on their way to annihilate Earth…So much for Earth’s mightiest heroes. My instant thought was, “Is this a look at the eventual endgame film, Infinity Wars?” This would be a good time to call the Guardians of the Galaxy, right?

Thor: This was the other more significant vision that was casted by Scarlet Witch. During the run-in with Ultron in Wakanda, Scarlet Witch’s purpose is to tear apart the Avengers from within their minds. Thor’s dream involves him seeing Asgard in absolute terror, and a one-on-one battle with Heimdall (played by Idris Elba). Heimdall blamed Thor for what appeared to be war and destruction in his supposed kingdom, which eludes to the next Thor film “Ragnarok”. Ragnarok refers to Asgard’s version of the apocalypse. With Loki on the throne posing as Odin and Thanos in hot pursuit of infinity stones, seems like a recipe for that kind of disaster. Thor’s vision does prompt him to further investigate the significance of the infinity stones and who may be after them, so it all makes sense.

Black Widow: Natasha’s vision seemed more relevant to the present than what could happen in the future. It also gave the audience some insight to how she came to be and how she views herself. I actually correlate it more with the storyline from the ‘Agent Peggy Carter’ series, as we saw Russian girls being trained to become absolute killing machines for presumedly Hydra. I’ll go into Black Widow’s storyline (and apparent backlash) later, but this dream did seem to go on for too long.

Captain America: I don’t think Scarlet Witch’s spell caused conflict for Steve Rogers as much as it helped him overcome a hurdle in his arc. The hopeless romantic in me was excited to see Steve finally getting that dance with Agent Carter, even if it wasn’t real. Captain America’s mindset had been stuck in the past for more than 3 films now and it was about time for him to leave it there. Having the opportunity to start SHIELD back over and run the New Avengers training facility gives him purpose again. Captain America can finally be the new man that came out of the ice…not the one that was frozen there.

I’d be terrified to see what Bruce Banner saw in his vision…

Ultron was SO James Spader…

It was really hard to not picture Red from ‘The Blacklist’ or Robert California whenever Ultron spoke…

Ultron was very much more human than I anticipated. He cared about being compared to Tony Stark. He cared about what he looked like. And he cared about Scarlet Witch…That last part may have surprised me the most.

I liked that about Ultron. He showed some vulnerability throughout the film that you don’t get from robots or computer programs, like Jarvis. That’s what made Vincent D’Onofrio’s adaptation of The Kingpin so good in Daredevil. At times, you found yourself rooting for the villain…until he did something so despicable that it was hard to keep the pom poms up.

I never found myself rooting for Ultron, but I did consider him to be likable. He was very witty, with some Tony Stark influence. A comparison to Loki would be fair, with better one-liners. Ultron didn’t seem to like hurting innocent people, not until the end at least. Even when he cut off the hand of Ulysses Klaue (played by Andy Serkis…yes, the same guy who does the voice of Gollum from Lord of the Rings) in a fit of rage, he felt bad about doing it…at first.

You could try to compartmentalize what Ultron was doing. He was designed by Tony to protect the Earth, not necessarily humans. And although an attempt to eliminate billions of people sounds pretty harsh, he did seem to care for a few…the Inhuman Maximoff twins, that is. But at the end of the day, Ultron wasn’t going to do much past this film and it’s for the better that The Vision took care of that.

The Black Widow thing…

There has been a lot of backlash toward the way Black Widow was depicted and I don’t really get it. Are superhero romances a little weird in movies that are meant to be that action packed? Maybe…But didn’t it make sense? A comparison I liken Natasha and Bruce Banner to is that of another Joss Whedon produced couple…Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel.

Referring to the vision she had under Scarlet Witch’s spell, Natasha explains that she is no less of a monster than Banner is as the Hulk. There’s nothing wrong with sympathizing with two characters you don’t expect to do so with. Like Buffy, Natasha has lived a life of killing and sticking to the mission. Like Angel, Banner has always been the one terrifying EVERYONE. What’s the matter with either of them growing in a way you wouldn’t expect?

Then there is the perception that Black Widow was portrayed as a “damsel in distress.” – You realize that the Avengers wouldn’t have found Ultron if she hadn’t been taken captive and created her own makeshift radio/homing beacon, right?…And continued to kick ass in an almost impossible battle.

Other things…

  • The introduction of Klaue and Wakanda segway to the eventual debut of Black Panther, who was confirmed today to appear in Cap 3: Civil War along with Ant-Man. Since Wakanda is now officially part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, we’ll see more references in Ant-Man this summer or perhaps get the debut of Black Panther/T’Challa
  • The “my girlfriend’s better than your girlfriend” argument Thor and Stark have is adorable, but I wish Jane Foster and Pepper Potts were actually in the movie.
  • When do Agents of SHIELD finally appear in the Marvel films? With Agent Coulson “dying” and igniting the team in the first film, wouldn’t they be thrilled to see him in the second? The Agents would probably have loved dealing with the Maximoff twins as well.
  • I liked the Avengers take on Quicksilver. Obviously with FOX having the rights to X-Men, he had to be very different than the Evan Peters version. Still good, but THIS will forever be one of my favorite superhero movie scenes ever.
  • Hawkeye may have been the funniest character in the whole movie, and having him as a moral compass (kind of like Coulson) was refreshing compared to the first film.
  • The Vision RULES! And that’s all I’ll say about that.
  • With Thanos assumedly jumping into the action, how soon do we see him come face-to-face with an Avenger? My bet is Thor 3: Ragnarok, as he is hunting for the Infinity stones in Asguard’s keeping. Thanos would also bring the type of chaos that Loki would want…and also regret.
  • Anyone else stay ALL THE WAY TILL AFTER THE CREDITS? Of course you did. And you were disappointed when you found nothing, like I did.

Comment here with your own thoughts and reactions. You can also Tweet me @Mike_PiFF03.