2016 NFL Preview & Prognostications

nflLooking back at last year’s preview I had no idea what the anger I was feeling at the time meant. Less than three months later I would find out, and I ended up spending Thanksgiving, Christmas, & New Year’s in the hospital. Thankfully I am feeling much better now and am very excited to see the dawn of a new football season. Much like the human body the NFL is a delicate ecosystem, wherein a coaching change, an important draft pick or two, suspensions, & injuries can completely alter the destiny of a team. As usual there have been plenty of those things occur in the offseason, and now we must sort thru all of it to calculate what may be in store in the coming months. Each team’s 2015 record is noted in parentheses, followed by what I am predicting they’ll do this season. Enjoy.

 

 

 

 

AFC

East

New England Patriots

(12-4) 11-5

New York Jets

(10-6) 8-8

Miami Dolphins

(6-10) 7-9

Buffalo Bills

(8-8) 6-10

Can you believe a year later we are STILL talking about DeflateGate?? After putting up a valiant yet misguided fight Tom Brady’s four game New_England_Patriots_Helmetsuspension is finally going to happen, but will it have that much of a negative impact?? Sadly I don’t believe it will. The Jets surprised a lot of people with their success last season, but their QB situation is as muddy as ever. The Dolphins have a new head coach, and though the change may pay dividends in the future I don’t think we’ll see an immediate improvement. The Bills finally settled on Tyrod Taylor as their signal caller last year and he’s the man for the foreseeable future. I just don’t happen to think that is a good thing.

 

 

West

Kansas City Chiefs

(11-5) 10-6

Oakland Raiders

(7-9) 9-7

Denver Broncos

(12-4) 9-7

San Diego Chargers

(4-12) 5-11

I wonder if a defending Super Bowl Champion has ever before lost both their starting QB and the backup?? That is exactly what the Broncos are facing kc-chiefs-logowith Peyton Manning’s retirement and Brock Osweiler’s departure in free agency. For awhile it looked like Mark Sanchez would be the man to bridge the gap until 1st Round pick Paxton Lynch becomes acclimated to the NFL, but Sanchez is…well…he’s Mark Sanchez…so he lost the job to unheralded second year man Trevor Siemien. These events have opened the door for the solid yet unspectacular Chiefs and the up n’ coming Raiders to make a playoff run. The Broncos’ defense will still be great, enough to keep them in the post-season conversation until the bitter end. The hapless Chargers did absolutely zero to improve on last year’s catastrophe, which is a shame because Phillip Rivers is a good quarterback and deserves better.

 

 

North

Pittsburgh Steelers

(10-6) 11-5

Cincinnati Bengals

(12-4) 10-6

Baltimore Ravens

(5-11) 8-8

Cleveland Browns

(3-13) 5-11

I’m not nearly as sold as others on the Super Bowl worthiness of my Steelers, but I do believe they’ll win the division. We’ll see if their secondary…an diamond-steelersachille’s heel now for several years…can gel into something good. The Bengals are a solid playoff contender as long as QB Andy Dalton remains healthy. I expect the Ravens to bounce back a bit, but they’re not anywhere near the intimidating force they were a few years ago. The Browns keep trying to turn things arond but just can’t seem to get much right. Can RGIII experience a career renaissance in Cleveland?? Ehhhh…maybe…but I wouldn’t bet on it.

 

 

South

Indianapolis Colts

(8-8) 10-6

Houston Texans

(9-7) 10-6

Jacksonville Jaguars

(5-11) 8-8

Tennessee Titans

(3-13) 7-9

I believe last season to be an anomaly that the Colts won’t repeat, assuming Andrew Luck remains healthy, which of course was the problem in 2015. I Indianapolis_Colts_Helmetlike the acquisitions of QB Brock Osweiler & RB Lamar Miller by the Texans. My only question is the health of all-world defensive end JJ Watt, who underwent offseason back surgery. He is allegedly on track to begin the season in the starting lineup, but who knows what may happen there. The Jags and Titans are improving slowly. As Tennessee QB Marcus Mariota enters his second season he has a solid running game to lean on, but his receiving corps isn’t going to scare anyone. Jacksonville is probably a year or two away from making the necessary leap, but they are showing positive signs.

 

 

Playoff Teams:        New England, Pittsburgh, Kansas City, Indianapolis, Houston, Cincinnati

AFC Championship:           Pittsburgh vs. Kansas City

 

 

 

NFC

East

Washington Redskins

(9-7) 9-7

Dallas Cowboys

(4-12) 8-8

New York Giants

(6-10) 8-8

Philadelphia Eagles

(7-9) 8-8

Tony Romo’s recent injury will likely cost the Cowboys a playoff spot, even if he is only out for half the season. I know everyone has fallen in deep like Washington_Redskins_logowith Dak Prescott, but he is still just a rookie. The Giants finally have a new head coach after Tom Coughlin limped to the finish line, but to me that isn’t as big of an issue as the fact that I just don’t care for QB Eli Manning or their running game. The Eagles also have a new head coach, and their quarterback situation is uninspiring at best, with injury prone Sam Bradford looking to hold off the challenge of rookie Carson Wentz. That leaves the Redskins, who have a solid quarterback surrounded by talented weapons and a decent offensive line. The defense is intriguing as well, with the addition of cornerback Josh Norman.

 

 

West

Arizona Cardinals

(13-3) 11-5

Seattle Seahawks

(10-6) 11-5

San Francisco 49ers

(5-11) 6-10

Los Angeles Rams

(7-9) 3-13

Hey, Chip Kelly is back!! Well okay…I suppose he never really left, he’s just coaching in a different place. I see no reason to expect the Cards or the nflarizonacardinalsSeahawks to decline at all. Oh sure RB Marshawn Lynch is retired, but Seattle still has a couple of good running backs and they drafted a couple of rookies who might show us something. It’ll be a committee approach, but that’s alright unless you’re a fantasy owner. The Rams have made the long awaited move back to Los Angeles, and they begin the new era with #1 overall pick Jared Goff under center. There will be growing pains, and I don’t expect the team to have much success right now, but watch out in a few years. Kelly is now the head coach for the 49ers, but he doesn’t have a great quarterback. Maybe next year.

 

 

North

Green Bay Packers

(10-6) 11-5

Minnesota Vikings

(11-5) 8-8

Chicago Bears

(6-10) 5-11

Detroit Lions

(7-9) 4-12

The Minnesota Vikings were my original choice to take the division, but a season ending knee injury to QB Teddy Bridgewater has changed Green_Bay_Packers_Helmeteverything. It looks like the Packers will be back in the familiar position of cruising into the playoffs. The Lions will have to adjust to life without receiver Calvin Johnson, and the Bears continue to pretend that Jay Cutler is a legitimate NFL quarterback. That spells doom for both teams.

 

 

South

Carolina Panthers

(15-1) 12-4

New Orleans Saints

(7-9) 9-7

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

(6-10) 8-8

Atlanta Falcons

(8-8) 6-10

I am far too lazy to do research and find statistics, but we all know that Super Bowl losers have a pattern of regressing the carolina_panthers_logo-14336following season. I don’t think that’ll happen to Carolina though. Drew Brees has got to be seeing the end of his tremendous career inching closer & closer. I think he’ll have his eye on trying to make the playoffs where anything can happen. I will begrudgingly admit that Jameis Winston had a solid rookie season, meaning the outlook is improving for the Bucs, but I don’t think they’re there just yet. The Falcons look good on paper, but only 18 wins in the past three seasons indicate that appearances can be deceiving.

 

 

Playoff Teams:        Washington, Arizona, Green Bay, Carolina, Seattle, New Orleans

NFC Championship:           Arizona vs. Carolina

 

 

SuperBowl51logo

Arizona Cardinals   38

Kansas City Chiefs 27

 

 

Top 5 Picks in 2017 Draft

1          Los Angeles Rams

2          Detroit Lions

3          Chicago Bears

4          San Diego Chargers

5          Cleveland Browns

2016 Pigskin Picks of Profundity…..Week 1

football-introducing-the-science_1Annnnnnndddd we’re back!! Football has returned, and so have my nephew Zach & myself to prove that we’re just as smart as the talking heads on ESPN & other sports news outlets. The goal is simple for me my friends…to make it thru the season. Last year we didn’t get past Week 10 because I ended up spending the latter half of November, all of December, & the first part of January in the hospital. There are moments in life when one is faced with obstacles and what matters becomes clear. In the grand scheme of things I understand that this blog, these picks, and football games in general don’t mean a whole lot, but I am so blessed & grateful to be able to exercise my creative juices and embrace my love of something as ultimately frivolous as sports. It may seem silly to some, and I have several friends who’ll spend their weekends doing a hundred other things before watching a ballgame even crosses their mind. That’s cool…but I am totally psyched about spending the next five months of weekends engrossed in one of the most awesome forms of entertainment on the planet. If you have entered The Manoverse to check out these picks I assume we’re in agreement on that.

 

As usual college football starts before the NFL, but fortunately the playoff system has forced teams to re-evaluate their schedule strength. Back in theCollege-Football-Map old days (just a few years ago) we’d be lucky to get even a few watchable, competitive games in the first couple weeks of the season. However, now the powers-that-be recognize the importance of coming out of the gate with a bang and grabbing some attention, so there are a plethora of games on tap that are worthy of attention. We’ll settle into our normal routine of picking five games next week, but will get things started with some bonus picks. As always I remind you that we are just fans and claim no intimate insider knowledge. Also, point spreads are included only to add a layer of intrigue & strategery. We are not here to encourage or endorse gambling, although what y’all do with your disposable income is your choice. Enjoy.

 

 

 

 

 

Oklahoma (-10.5)        vs.              Houston

I have the Sooners as my pre-season #2, with Houston also in the Top 10. This game is being played at the home stadium of the NFL’s Houston oklahomaTexans rather than the Cougars’ normal home field, which shouldn’t make a difference one way or another except that there will be 70k in the stands versus 40k. Houston, TX is over 400 miles away from Norman, OK, so I assume there will be a distinct fan partiality for the underdogs. I suppose that there are those who feel like there is a legitimate chance for an upset. I am not one of those people. So then the question becomes whether or not Oklahoma will cover the points. I don’t anticipate that will be an issue. If Houston can stay within three TDs then finish the remainder of the season without another loss they still might be a solid Top 10 team. Zach believes this game will be a blowout win for the Sooners.

My Pick:         Oklahoma

Z’s Pick:         Oklahoma

 

 

 

UCLA                            at                Texas A&M (-3)

texas_am_01The Bruins return QB Josh Rosen from a solid yet underachieving 9-5 team last season. However they lost RB Paul Perkins & ucla_bruins2LB Myles Jack to the NFL. Is Rosen the next Andrew Luck?? Or is he the next Jimmy Clausen?? I’m willing to bet he’s closer to the former than the latter. The bigger concern is UCLA’s defense, which gave up anywhere from 31-56 points in those five losses in 2015. The Aggies have the nominal home field point advantage, but I suspect that in reality the benefit will be greater. A&M’s QB situation has been interesting the past few years. 2015 starter Kyler Murray transferred to Oklahoma and will be the Sooners’ signal caller this season. Kenny Hill, who began 2014 as the top QB in College Station, transferred last year and will be the starter for the TCU Horned Frogs. Last season at A&M Murray lost his job to Kyle Allen, who has now transferred to Houston. So who is starting for A&M behind center?? Well…that’d be Trevor Knight, who was Oklahoma’s starter in 2014 before losing the job last year to Baker Mayfield, who had transferred to Oklahoma from Texas Tech. I think I have all of that straight. I don’t know…my head is spinning a bit. At any rate, I am looking for this to be a high scoring, close game, but I like the Aggies to win & cover. Zach not only doesn’t agree about the outcome, but is oddly unenthusiastic about watching this game.

My Pick:         Texas A&M

Z’s Pick:         UCLA

 

 

 

Georgia (-2.5)              vs.              North Carolina

The Bulldogs have a new head coach for the first time in 15 years. Mark Richt has moved on to Miami, FL, and former Alabama defensive coordinator carolinaKirby Smart takes over the reins in Athens. Georgia is coming off a 10-3 finish last season and RB Nick Chubb returns after missing the latter half of 2015 with a knee injury. I suspect that Smart will have the defense ready to rock & roll, but I have questions about the state of Chubb’s recovery and what else Georgia has on offense if they are unable to completely rely on their star running back. The Tar Heels had a fine 11-3 season last year, but must start anew at the quarterback position. However they do return most of last year’s contributors elsewhere, including WR Ryan Switzer & RB Elijah Hood, who is a 6ft. 220lb. hoss. This is a “neutral” site game at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, meaning it’s not really all that neutral. Despite that fact I’m going to roll the dice and pick the upset. Kirby Smart doesn’t have Nick Saban around anymore, and I think it might take him some time to grow into his new role. Zach thinks special teams will be the key, and he is picking the upset as well.

My Pick:         North Carolina

Z’s Pick:         North Carolina

 

 

 

Notre Dame (-3.5)       at                Texas

Charlie Strong’s critical season begins with a huge game against a tough opponent, but fortunately for the Longhorns the game is in Austin. The Irish TEXAS LONGHORNS.1271817676lost over a dozen players to the NFL. It looks like they’ll be giving time behind center to both QBs DeShone Kizer and Malik Zaire, who missed most of last season with a broken ankle. But who will they be throwing or handing off to, and who’ll be protecting them?? And can the defense find new stars to replace those that have moved on?? Texas is in the third year of the Strong era, and the first two haven’t gone well. 6-7 & 5-7 doesn’t cut it in the Lone Star State folks. But here a fantastic opportunity presents itself…a non-conference game at home against a much heralded team that must replace a huge chunk of their roster and may not be on solid footing early on. Word on the street is that Texas will be starting a hotshot freshman QB. Heck…why not?? Nothing else has worked. This could be considered a must-win for Texas, as the Big 12 (which has ten teams) schedule is usually always tough. It’s probably not the wise choice, but I’m rolling with another upset here. Zach thinks that Notre Dame’s on-field changes & off-field issues will catch up to them and once again is picking the upset.

My Pick:         Texas

Z’s Pick:         Texas

 

 

 

LSU (-10)                     vs.              Wisconsin

Leonard Fournette. Learn it. Love it. You’ll be hearing the name a lot this year. The Tigers’ RB begins the season as the early Heisman favorite after lsu_logo-9547racking up 22 TDs and almost 2000 yards rushing in 2015. Unfortunately three late season losses and a poor showing against Alabama (31 yards, 1 TD) doomed his Heisman chances and his team’s season. The opener is another “neutral” site game that isn’t neutral, as it is being played on the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field in Green Bay. Well okay…I think it’s safe to assume the weather conditions in early September won’t be quite so chilly. At any rate, the Badgers are coming off a solid 10-3 season, and tough opening games aren’t anything new for them. In 2015 they lost to Alabama and in 2014 it was a close loss to…LSU. I don’t think the pattern will be broken this year, and I don’t believe the Bayou Bengals will have any problem covering the points. Zach sees LSU as a serious national title contender.

My Pick:         LSU

Z’s Pick:         LSU

 

 

 

Arizona (-1)                  vs.              BYU

BYU_CougarsThe Wildcats finished 2015 with a mediocre 6-6 record, with a lot of high scoring games for both they & their opponents. The ArizonaWildcatsPac 12 is a brutally tough conference, which makes it essential to win non-conference games. BYU is an independent, and their schedule is probably one of the toughest in the nation. This was the case last season as well and the Cougars finished an impressive 9-4. Three of those losses were by a total of 13 points. They play atleast seven teams who could challenge for a Top 25 ranking, although it looks to be a frontloaded docket, meaning if they can get to November with a decent record they’ll have an opportunity to finish strong. I don’t know enough about either team to intelligently analyze the rosters, so this is a total vibe game, and I’m going with the underdogs. Zach believes in Rich Fraudriguez’s spread offense and looks for the ‘Cats to put up some big passing numbers.

My Pick:         BYU

Z’s Pick:         Arizona

 

 

 

USC                               vs.              Alabama (-10.5)

This is a big one…or atleast it should be. A matchup pitting two of college football’s most decorated programs against each other in Week 1 would have AlabamaCrimsonTide2been unheard of not long ago. Having said that, one must ponder whether Southern Cal can currently claim that elite status. After records of 7-6, 9-4, 9-4, & 7-6 the last few years there is no doubt that the Trojans have been good…but not that good. Meanwhile, as we all know, the Tide has rolled to four national titles in nine seasons in the Nick Saban era. If ‘Bama loses more than one game it is major news. That’s got to end at some point, right?? I don’t know…we’ll see. This is a true neutral site game at the Palace in Dallas, so I’m not sure either team will have a notable crowd advantage. Until I see some significant chinks in the armor I can’t go against Alabama. They’ll have a tough time getting thru a super strong SEC unblemished, but I think they’ll easily win & cover this game. Zach concurs, predicting a 35 point win for ‘Bama.

My Pick:         Alabama

Z’s Pick:         Alabama

80’s Movie Mania…The Sweet Sixteen – Part 2

cinema2I apologize for the delay. I had intended to publish this immediately on the heels of Part 1, but sometimes life gets busy. I’m sure y’all can relate. Anyway, we conclude the Sweet 16 round today and will likely take a little break before resuming the competition. Not only has The Lord been telling me to get some other, more meaningful stuff written, but football season is on the horizon as well. Thankfully I rarely seem to be wanting for content. Enjoy.

 

 

 

 

 

Bodacious

 

 

National Lampoon’s Vacation

Released:     8/29/83

Starring:        Chevy Chase, Beverly D’Angelo, Anthony Michael Hall, Imogene Coca, Randy Quaidvacation3

Director:        Harold Ramis

Awards:        none

Box Office:   $61 million

Rotten Tomatoes:  93% Fresh

Quotes:         “Now, I owe it to myself to tell you that if you’re taking the whole tribe cross-country this is your automobile…the Wagon Queen Family Truckster. You think you hate it now, but wait ’til you drive it.”

“Why aren’t we flying? Because getting there is half the fun. You know that.”

“Excuse me. Could you please tell how to get back on the expressway?” “Man, who do I look like, Christopher Columbo?”

“I’m going steady, and I French kiss.” “So, everybody does that.” “Yeah, but Daddy says I’m the best at it.”

“We can’t leave her on the patio!” “Would you rather I slipped her in the night deposit box at the funeral home?”

“Roy, could you imagine if you had driven all the way to Florida and it was closed?” “Closed? Uh, they don’t close Florida.”

Miscellaneous:        Notable cameos are made by John Candy and model Christie Brinkley. The script was based on a story called Vacation ’58, which was written by John Hughes and published in the September 1979 edition of National Lampoon magazine. Disneyland turned down the opportunity to be the Griswold’s destination, so Walley World was written as a fictional substitute. The original ending of the film had the Griswolds going to Roy Walley’s house and holding him hostage. It turns out that the Ferrari Girl is Walley’s daughter and she gets Clark off the hook with the police. On the plane ride home Clark realizes they’re on the wrong flight and hijacks the airplane. Test audiences didn’t respond well so the ending was changed.

 

vs.

 

 

Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home

Released:     11/26/86

Starring:        William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, Catherine Hickstrek4b

Director:        Leonard Nimoy

Awards:        nominated for 11 Saturn Awards, Oscar nominations for Cinematography, Sound, Sound Effects Editing, & Original Score

Box Office:   $133 million

Rotten Tomatoes:  85% Fresh

Quotes:         “You mean the profanity? That’s simply the way they talk here. Nobody pays any attention to you unless you swear every other word. You’ll find it in all the literature of the period.”

“Computer! Computer? Hello, computer.” “Just use the keyboard.” “Keyboard. How quaint.”

“Don’t tell me! You’re from outer space.” “No, I’m from Iowa. I only work in outer space.”

“My God man, drilling holes in his head is not the answer! The artery must be repaired! Now, put away your butcher’s knives and let me save this patient before it’s too late!”

“Everybody remember where we parked.”

“My God, man. Do you want an acute case on your hands? This woman has immediate postprandial, upper-abdominal distention. Now, out of the way! Get out of the way!” “What did you say she has?” “Cramps.”

“Dialysis? What is this, the Dark Ages?”

Miscellaneous:        The transparent aluminum that Scotty utilizes became reality in 2009 thanks to the physics department at Oxford University. The film was dedicated to the crew of the space shuttle Challenger, which had exploded just 10 months earlier. This was the highest grossing of the six movies featuring the cast of the original series.

 

The Verdict:       Vacation. After eliminating Wrath of Khan earlier in this round I cannot in good conscience allow The Voyage Home to advance further. The same logic applies…Trekkies love it, but it is a limited target audience. Vacation is much more accessible to the masses. Chevy Chase’s career has been hit & miss at best, but he hit a home run with this one, as well as the 1989 sequel Christmas Vacation.

 

 

 

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off       

Released:     6/11/86

Starring:        Matthew Broderick, Alan Ruck, Jennifer Greybueller2

Director:        John Hughes

Awards:        highly regarded on several lists of best comedies and best high school films, Broderick was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Actor in Comedy/Musical

Box Office:   $70 million

Rotten Tomatoes:  81% Fresh

Quotes:         “How could I possibly be expected to handle school on a day like this?”

“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

“Bueller? Bueller? Bueller?”

Miscellaneous:        A spinoff/prequel TV series (with Jennifer Aniston taking over the Jennifer Grey role) aired during the 1990-91 season, but it just couldn’t measure up. The famous parade scene supposedly takes place at Chicago’s Von Steuben Day Parade, which celebrates Baron Friedrich von Steuben, a Prussian military officer who came to America and aided George Washington during the American Revolution. The German-centric event is generally held in September. However the film is supposed to be set in late spring near the end of the school year. Oops.

 

vs.

 

Risky Business

 Released:     8/5/83

Starring:        Tom Cruise, Rebecca DeMornayrb3

Director:        Paul Brickman (Bad News Bears Breaking Training)

Awards:        none

Box Office:   $64 million

Rotten Tomatoes:  96% Fresh

Quotes:         “Every now and then, say ‘What the heck.’ ‘What the heck’ gives you freedom. Freedom brings opportunity, opportunity makes your future.”

Miscellaneous:        Sales of Wayfarer sunglasses rose 2000% after the film’s release. Timothy Hutton, Michael J. Fox, Tom Hanks, John Cusack, & Nicolas Cage were all considered for the role that ultimately went to Cruise. Frank Sinatra & Richard Dreyfus were both up for the role of Guido the pimp.

 

The Verdict:       Ferris Bueller. Critics love Risky Business, and it is a well-written film. However Bueller is equally smart and it is much purer, notably devoid of sex & foul language. Oh sure…ol’ Ferris is a bit of a rascal, but in the grand scheme of life his escapades are mostly harmless, and his advice about taking time to occasionally stop & smell the roses is more profound than what one usually finds in most teen-centric movies.

 

 

 

Tubular

 

The Breakfast Club    

Released:     2/15/85

Starring:        Molly Ringwald, Judd Nelson, Emilio Estevez, Anthony Michael Hall, Ally Sheedybreakclub

Director:        John Hughes

Awards:        2005 Silver Bucket of Excellence Award at the MTV Movie Awards

Box Office:   $52 million

Rotten Tomatoes:  89% Fresh

Quotes:         “We accept the fact that we had to sacrifice a whole Saturday in detention for whatever it was we did wrong. But we think you’re crazy to make us write an essay telling you who we think we are. What do you care? You see us as you want to see us…in the simplest terms, in the most convenient definitions. You see us as a brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess, and a criminal. Correct? That’s the way we saw each other at 7:00 this morning. We were brainwashed.”

“Don’t mess with the bull, young man. You’ll get the horns.”

“Does Barry Manilow know you raid his wardrobe?”

“My God, are we gonna be like our parents?” “It’s unavoidable. It just happens. When you grow up your heart dies.”

“Face it…you’re a neo-maxi-zoom-dweebie.”

Miscellaneous:        Originally there was an idea about doing multiple sequels, occurring every ten years, in which the group would get back together. However Hughes had an unstable working relationship with Nelson, and the director also had a falling out with Ringwald when she decided that she wanted to move on from teen roles, thus the follow-ups never happened. Ringwald & Hall were 16 at the time the film was shot…the others were all in their 20’s.

 

vs.

 

Dirty Dancing

Released:     8/21/87

Starring:        Patrick Swayze, Jennifer GreyDirty_Dancing

Director:        Emile Ardolino

Awards:        won an Oscar for Best Original Song (I’ve Had the Time of My Life) & Grammy for Best Pop Performance by a Duo

Box Office:   $214 million

Rotten Tomatoes:  72% Fresh

Quotes:         “Nobody puts Baby in the corner!”

Miscellaneous:        A prequel/remake/reimagining called Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights was made in 2004. I’ve never seen it and have no interest in ever doing so.

 

The Verdict:       The Breakfast Club. This is a surprisingly easy decision. While Dirty Dancing is a cultural benchmark of the 1980’s there is no doubt that The Breakfast Club is a much better film.

 

 

 

When Harry Met Sally

Released:     7/14/89

Starring:        Billy Crystal, Meg Ryan, Bruno Kirby, Carrie Fisherharry2

Director:        Rob Reiner

Awards:        Oscar nomination for Original Screenplay, Golden Globe nominations for Best Musical/Comedy, Best Screenplay, Best Director, Best Actor (Crystal), Best Actress (Ryan)

Box Office:   $93 million

Rotten Tomatoes:  89% Fresh

Quotes:         “When I buy a new book, I always read the last page first. That way, in case I die before I finish, I know how it ends. That, my friend, is a dark side.”

“Men and women can’t be friends because the sex part always gets in the way. No man can be friends with a woman that he finds attractive. He always wants to have sex with her.”

“There are two kinds of women: high maintenance and low maintenance.” “Which one am I?” “You’re the worst kind…you’re high maintenance but you think you’re low maintenance.”

“I’ll have what she’s having.”

“Oh, but ‘baby fish mouth’ is sweeping the nation?”

“I came here tonight because when you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.”

Miscellaneous:        The infamous quote “I’ll have what she’s having” is delivered by Reiner’s mother Estelle. Harry Connick Jr. is almost as big of a star in the movie as the actors, as he performs the entire soundtrack.

 

vs.

 

 

The Blues Brothers

Released:     6/20/80

Starring:        John Belushi & Dan Aykroydbbros

Director:        John Landis (Animal House, Trading Places, Coming to America)

Awards:        none

Box Office:   $115 million

Rotten Tomatoes:  85% Fresh

Quotes:         “We’re on a mission from God.”

“Are you the police?” “No, ma’am. We’re musicians.”

“Bring me four fried chickens and a Coke.” “And some dry white toast, please.”

“It’s a hundred and six miles to Chicago, we’ve got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it’s dark, and we’re wearing sunglasses.”

“What kind of music do you usually have here?” “Oh, we got both kinds. We got country AND western.”

Miscellaneous:        Over 100 cars were wrecked during filming. The film has a fantastic soundtrack, including songs by Taj Mahal, Steve Winwood, Ray Charles, James Brown, Robert Johnson, Cab Calloway, Sam Cooke, Otis Redding, John Lee Hooker, & Elmore James.

 

The Verdict:       The Blues Brothers. This is a tough call. I adore When Harry Met Sally. However, the cultural impact of The Blues Brothers cannot be ignored. It is such a unique film. Harry/Sally is undoubtedly one of the two or three best romantic comedies ever produced, but the fact is that rom-coms are a dime-a-dozen. One’s preferences can be easily swayed by whomever the lead actors are. I loved pre-Botox Meg Ryan, and I am a huge Billy Crystal fan, yet at the end of the day rom-coms all have the same basic structure. It’s a plug & play deal, with different actors going thru similar scenarios. Harry/Sally is particularly well written & performed, but at it cannot completely escape the familiar commonalities of the genre. The Blues Brothers is lightning in a bottle. A sequel was attempted in 1998, but its failure proves my point.

Passion Diminished

The word passion is derived from the Latin passio and the Greek pathema, both of which mean suffering or enduring. Today this meaning is most closely associated with what Jesus Christ went thru in the last hours of His earthly life.

 

Modern usage of the word passion is more commonly connected to other definitions… ardent affection, a strong liking or desire for or devotion to some activity, object, or concept, and of course sexual desire. It is the first two definitions that have been on my mind lately, especially as they are connected to the Latin & Greek terminology.

 

ponderThe question that I have been pondering is this: Is anyone truly passionate about anything anymore?? It seems to me that most of us have subjects that pique our interest, activities that we enjoy, & stuff that we get involved in for one reason or another…but are we really passionate about any of it?? Nelson Mandela once said that “there is no passion to be found playing small, in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living”, yet that is exactly what most of us do…we play small and settle.

 

This train of thought began, in part, with a conversation I had with The Owl. We were lamenting the lostbowl art of customer service. We are both old enough (especially him) to remember the days when one could go into a clothing, music, shoe, electronics, or any other kind of store and find genuinely helpful salespeople, the kind of folks who had been doing the gig for a long time and really knew their stuff. They were passionate about their work and cared about doing it the right way. Oh sure they wanted to make a sale and earn extra cash, but it seemed to be understood that the two things weren’t mutually exclusive. As a matter of fact, back then it felt like everyone knew that being honest, respectful, knowledgeable, & diligent is what would clinch the sale. I am sure that kind of service is available today, but it is certainly rarer than it used to be. Such jobs are looked down upon now. They are viewed as stepping stones to something better. Few employees are passionate about the products they produce/sell or the companies for which they work. It’s just a job, a necessary evil to be able to pay bills & put food on the table.

 

bbeeBut this lack of passion isn’t just reserved for the 40 hours/week that we are on the job. It permeates almost every aspect of our lives. We are overwhelmed by sensory overload. There are so many choices at our fingertips that we go from one thing to another, like a bumblebee gathering nectar & pollen, darting from flower to flower, never staying in one place or focused on one thing for too long. We are always in a hurry and have such a diminished attention span that we don’t take time to embrace excellence or let our passion ripen. We have developed faster & cheaper ways to do just about everything, but quality suffers because craftsmanship has become all too uncommon.

 

passionWatch a ball game. Go to a concert. Check out a museum. Read a book. Go see a theater production. What do all of those things have in common?? Passion. Excellence. Hard work. Effort. One doesn’t make it to the NFL or NBA, get a book published, become part of an orchestra, or star in a play, movie, or television show without all of those things. Certainly natural talent plays a part, but the finished products that you & I enjoy are the result of a lot of blood, sweat, & tears and countless hours of training & preparation. Yet the people that do those things at a high level make up a fractional percentage of the population. Most of the rest of us just try to get thru our day with as little stress as possible and without putting forth any more effort than necessary. And when we are forced to work hard we usually don’t feel good about it because we really don’t enjoy what we are doing. We feel obligated to serve on the committee. Parents feel like they have to involve their kids in every extracurricular activity available. Folks begrudgingly volunteer for the hot dog sale, book drive, or brainstorming meeting. We show up because we like the people and believe in the organization & its mission, but also because we’ve been taught that it’s the right thing to do, we don’t want anyone to dislike or be disappointed in us, and simply because we don’t know how to say no even when that is exactly what we would prefer to do. I’m not saying these are horrible reasons to be involved in something or that anyone has bad apathyintentions. I am only suggesting that those reasons/excuses don’t mean a person is passionate about their involvement and in the long run it shows. Most everyone has a job and atleast one hobby…but in my experience few people nowadays have a true passion. On the rare occasion that those things intersect it is obvious and the outcome is beautiful. Harriet Tubman observed that “every great dream begins with a dreamer”. Perhaps that is part of the issue. We have become far too pragmatic. We play it safe. We don’t take chances. To call someone a dreamer is at best dismissive and possibly even an insult.

 

lukewarmSadly this issue infiltrates our churches and the spiritual realm. Sunday mornings are oftentimes just a social outing where we get to drink coffee and hang out with friends. That’s not to say that there is anything wrong with good coffee or great fellowship, but how can we say we have a relationship with a God & Savior that we only interact with a couple of hours per week and even that time lacks passion?? The meme you are seeing on the left is something that I ran across a few weeks ago and it’s been gnawing at me ever since. Those words are probably responsible for this discourse as much or more than my conversation with The Owl. None of us want to spend eternity in Hell so we seek salvation, but salvation should be as much about living our earthly lives in relationship with God as it is spending eternity with Him. We rob ourselves of years of joy by continuing to wallow in sin and paying lip service to God, playing “church” on Sunday but doing whatever feels good or seems cool & hip the other 6 ½ days of the week. God tells us in Revelation that “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth.” The third chapter of 2 Timothy talks about “having a form of godliness but denying its power”, which I believe is a perfect definition of religion in America.

 

Part of the reason why we lack devotion is because we prefer to avoid suffering, thus the two meanings of passion concurrently toe-in-the-wateroverlap and diverge. Not only do we not have the dedication to put in the work required to attain excellence, we are uncomfortable with the idea of suffering, whatever that may entail. It is much easier to just dip our toe in the water than to dive in and fully immerse ourselves.

 

I do not say these things to pass judgement. I am as guilty as anyone for lacking passion in my life. Neither do I offer solutions because a) I’m not that smart and b) I’m not sure there is one pithy, one-size-fits-all answer for everyone. These are just things that I have observed, and the first step in solving a problem is admitting that there is one.

80’s Movie Mania…The Sweet Sixteen – Part 1

80sWe began with 84 of the coolest films from the 1980’s and now we have narrowed the field to 16. I feel like I have said everything there is to say about the remaining competitors, from rehashing the plot to giving props to the actors & directors to film reviews to box office grosses. I’ve even thrown in tidbits of interesting trivia. What else is left to say?? The next couple of rounds will be much less…loquacious…because I really don’t want to be monotonous, especially since this is the cream of the crop. These are the films that defined the youth of an entire generation. These are the films that 80’s kids are still watching over & over because they are that entertaining. These are the films that have lasted, that still resonate on some level…whether they make us laugh, think, rock out, or simply remember a simpler time…three decades after their initial run. That doesn’t happen often. I often wonder what kids growing up today will be watching when they are middle-aged. I am sure they have their particular touchstones, yet I can’t help but feel that no group of movie lovers had it better than my generation. I could legitimately end this exercise right now and call it a 16-way tie…but I won’t. Please join me as we move forward.

 

 

Radical

 

dps3

Released:     6/2/89

Starring:        Robin Williams, Ethan Hawke, Josh Charles

Director:        Peter Weir (Witness, The Truman Show)

Awards:        Oscar for Best Original Screenplay, nominations for Best Picture, Best Director, & Best Actor (Robin Williams), nominated for Golden Globes in all the same categories

Box Office:   $236 million

Rotten Tomatoes:  85% Fresh

Quotes:         “We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. Medicine, law, business, engineering…these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love…these are what we stay alive for.”

“They’re not that different from you. Same haircuts. Full of hormones, just like you. Invincible, just like you feel. The world is their oyster. They believe they’re destined for great things, just like many of you. Their eyes are full of hope, just like you. Did they wait until it was too late to make from their lives even one iota of what they were capable? Because, you see gentlemen, these boys are now fertilizing daffodils. But, if you listen real close, you can hear them whisper their legacy to you. Go on, lean in. Listen. You hear it? Carpe – – hear it? – – carpe, carpe diem. Seize the day boys. Make your lives extraordinary.”

Miscellaneous:        The part of John Keating was once intended for Dustin Hoffman. It was also going to be Hoffman’s directorial debut before he withdrew from the film. Robin Williams was in a sober mood during filming, as he was going through a divorce at the time, and there was no joking around between takes.

 

vs.

 

fast3

Released:     8/13/82

Starring:        Sean Penn, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Judge Reinhold, Forest Whitaker, Ray Walston, Phoebe Cates

Director:        Amy Heckerling (National Lampoon’s European Vacation, Clueless)

Awards:        none

Box Office:   $27 million

Rotten Tomatoes:  78% Fresh

Quotes:         “All I need are some tasty waves, a cool buzz, and I’m fine.”

Miscellaneous:        Awesome soundtrack, featuring songs from Sammy Hagar, Jackson Browne, Joe Walsh, The Go-Go’s, Don Henley, Quarterflash, Poco, Donna Summer, Stevie Nicks, Oingo Boingo, & Jimmy Buffett. The screenplay was written by Cameron Crowe, writer/director of hits like Say Anything, Jerry Maguire, & Almost Famous.

 

 

The Verdict:       Dead Poets Society. By any objective measure it is the better film. Fast Times deserves kudos for a cast that went on to have successful careers, a great soundtrack, & generally representing the quintessential 80’s vibe. Those are all good things, but I like Dead Poets Society more.

 

 

 

stap      

Released:     3/2/84

Starring:        Michael McKean, Christopher Guest, Harry Shearer               

Director:        Rob Reiner (Stand By Me, The Princess Bride, When Harry Met Sally, A Few Good Men, The American President)

Awards:        on multiple lists as one of the funniest movies ever made

Box Office:   $5 million

Rotten Tomatoes:  95% Fresh

Quotes:         “I don’t really think that the end can be assessed as of itself as being the end because what does the end feel like? It’s like saying when you try to extrapolate the end of the universe, you say, if the universe is indeed infinite, then how – what does that mean? How far is all the way, and then if it stops, what’s stopping it, and what’s behind what’s stopping it? So, what’s the end, you know, is my question to you.”

“There’s something about this that’s so black, it’s like how much more black could this be? And the answer is none. None more black.”

“We’re very lucky in the band in that we have two visionaries, David and Nigel. They’re like poets, like Shelley and Byron. They’re two distinct types of visionaries. It’s like fire & ice, basically. I feel my role in the band is to be somewhere in the middle of that, kind of like lukewarm water.”

“He died in a bizarre gardening accident.”

“I think that the problem may have been, that there was a Stonehenge monument on the stage that was in danger of being crushed by a dwarf. Alright? That tended to understate the hugeness of the object.”

“It’s one louder, isn’t it? It’s not ten. You see, most blokes, you know, will be playing at ten. You’re on ten here, all the way up, all the way up, all the way up, you’re on ten on your guitar. Where can you go from there? Where? Nowhere. Exactly. What we do is, if we need that extra push over the cliff, you know what we do? Eleven. Exactly. One louder. These go to eleven.”

Miscellaneous:        Not a box office hit, but found great success and a cult following when released on home video.

 

 vs.

et3

Released:     6/11/82          

Starring:        Henry Thomas, Drew Barrymore, Dee Wallace, Peter Coyote

Director:        Steven Spielberg

Awards:        won Oscars for Best Original Score (John Williams), Best Sound, Best Sound Effects Editing, & Best Visual Effects, nominated for Best Picture, won Golden Globes for Best Picture & Best Score, won L.A. Critics Award for Best Picture, won multiple Saturn Awards

Box Office:   $793 million

Rotten Tomatoes:  98% Fresh

Quotes:         “E.T. phone home.”

Miscellaneous:        ET’s face was modeled after poet Carl Sandburg, Albert Einstein, and a pug dog. The filmmakers had wanted M&M’s to be used to lure E.T. instead of Reese’s Pieces, but the Mars Company denied their request so Reese’s Pieces were used instead. As a direct result Reese’s Pieces’ sales skyrocketed. More & more companies then began requesting that their products be used in movies. Thus, product placement was born.

 

The Verdict:       Spinal Tap. I suppose conventional wisdom would call this a pretty big upset. E.T. has the numbers, the accolades, & Spielberg. Spinal Tap has spontaneously combusting drummers, Lick My Love Pump, & Dana Carvey as a mime. Perhaps if I went back and watched E.T. again I’d remember why it was such a big deal and be convinced to make the predictable decision. But the fact is that I haven’t seen it in atleast two decades, and I shouldn’t have to be convinced to love something. I mean no disrespect…it’s just that I’ve seen Spinal Tap multiple times and it always makes me laugh, and in my world that means a lot.

 

 

Gnarly

 

khan

Released:     6/4/82

Starring:        William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, Ricardo Montalban

Director:        Nicholas Meyer (The Day After)

Awards:        none

Box Office:   $97 million

Rotten Tomatoes:  88% Fresh

Quotes:         “I have been . . . and always shall be . . . your friend.”

“He tasks me. He tasks me, and I shall have him. I’ll chase him round the Moons of Nibia and round the Antares Maelstrom and round Perdition’s flames before I give him up!”

Of my friend I can only say this. Of all the souls I have encountered in my travels, his was the most…human.”

“KHHHHAAAAAAAAN!!!”

“From Hell’s heart, I stab at thee. For hate’s sake I spit my last breath at thee.”

Miscellaneous:        The computer simulation of Genesis transforming a dead planet into a habitable one is the first complete computer-generated sequence ever used in a feature film. It is the brainchild of ex-Boeing engineer Loren Carpenter, whom after Boeing went on to join George Lucas Industrial Light and Magic. At Boeing in the late 1970s Carpenter discovered that Mandelbrot fractals could be used to create realistic mountain landscapes for computer animations of new aircraft designs, a previously intractable problem, and started a revolution in computer graphics and simulation. It is a running gag that there is a Federation embargo against Romulan Ale, but this still doesn’t prevent resourceful people like Dr. McCoy from procuring some for Admiral Kirk as a birthday present. It is viewed it as a forbidden status symbol, akin to Cuban cigars in the United States.

 

 vs.

 

airplane2

Released:     8/2/80

Starring:        Leslie Nielsen, Peter Graves, Lloyd Bridges, Robert Stack

Director:        Jim Abrams, David & Jerry Zucker (Ruthless People, The Naked Gun)

Awards:        on multiple lists as one of the funniest movies ever made

Box Office:   $130 million

Rotten Tomatoes:  97%

Quotes:         “Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit sniffing glue!”

“Surely you can’t be serious?”       “I am serious. And don’t call me Shirley.”

“We have clearance, Clarence.”   “Roger, Roger. What’s our vector, Victor?”

Miscellaneous:        The filmmakers chose the lead actors because of their reputation for playing no-nonsense characters. Until this film these actors had not done comedy so their staid personas & line delivery made the satire in the movie even funnier. This is an aspect of the film modern viewers miss out on. Cameos include Ethel Merman, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Barbara Billingsley, Maureen McGovern, & Jimmie Walker. A sequel was made two years later, but it isn’t even in the same league as its predecessor.

 

The Verdict:       Airplane!. As a Trekkie it breaks my heart, but this is a necessary decision. The fact is that no matter how dearly I love it or how much money it has made films like Wrath of Khan appeal to a niche audience. Put 100 people in a room. Maybe 50 of them…if we’re being generous…are Trekkies. Now all of those Trekkies will likely agree that Wrath of Khan is awesome, but we’re still left with 50 people who couldn’t possible care less about Star Trek specifically or sci-fi in general. Conversely, when it comes to Airplane! there will likely be two types…those who have seen it and those who haven’t. Those who have seen it will almost unanimously agree that it’s hilarious, and those who haven’t seen it will quickly join the consensus after they watch. You’d be hard-pressed to find many people who don’t have a positive opinion of Airplane!. Of course none of this would matter if I disliked Airplane!…but I don’t.

 

 

 

footloose

Released:     2/17/84

Starring:        Kevin Bacon, John Lithgow, Lori Singer, Dianne Wiest, Sarah Jessica Parker

Director:        Herbert Ross (Funny Lady, The Goodbye Girl, Steel Magnolias)

Awards:        none

Box Office:   $80 million

Rotten Tomatoes:  54% Rotten

Quotes:         “Ecclesiastes assures us that there is a time for every purpose under heaven. A time to laugh and a time to weep. A time to mourn. And there is a time to dance. And there was a time for this law, but not anymore. See, this is our time to dance. It is our way of celebrating life. It’s the way it was in the beginning. It’s the way it’s always been. It’s the way it should be now.”

Miscellaneous:        Our old pal Ebert didn’t much care for Footloose, calling it “a seriously confused movie that tries to do three things and does all of them badly.” He went on to opine that its efforts to tell a story about conflict, introduce flashy teen characters, & be a “music video” all fall short of the mark. On the bright side, there is a fantastic soundtrack with songs from Kenny Loggins, Mike Reno & Ann Wilson, Deniece Williams, Bonnie Tyler, Shalamar, & Sammy Hagar. Of course I admit that it is a soundtrack that might only be awesome to those of us that were pre-teens or teenagers in 1984.

 

 

vs.

 

buck2

Released:     8/16/89

Starring:        John Candy, MacCaulay Culkin, Amy Madigan

Director:        John Hughes

Awards:        none

Box Office:   $79 million

Rotten Tomatoes:  64% Fresh

Quotes:         “I don’t think I want to know a six-year-old who isn’t a dreamer, or a sillyheart. And I sure don’t want to know one who takes their student career seriously. I don’t have a college degree. I don’t even have a job. But I know a good kid when I see one. Because they’re all good kids until dried-out, brain-dead skags like you drag them down and convince them they’re no good. You so much as scowl at my niece or any other kid in this school and I hear about it, I’m coming looking for you! Take this quarter, go downtown, and have a rat gnaw that thing off your face! Good day to you, madam.”

“I’m on to cigars now. I’m on to a five-year plan. I eliminated cigarettes, then I go to cigars, then I go to pipes, then I go to chewing tobacco, then I’m on to that nicotine gum.”

Miscellaneous:        The scene where Miles interrogates Chanice through the mail slot gave director John Hughes the idea for Home Alone.

 

The Verdict:       Uncle Buck. This result surprises me. Footloose is one of the signature films of the 1980’s. It made Kevin Bacon a huge star. But I cannot in good conscience allow a film with such negative reviews to go further, atleast not against such good competition. While it is true that 80’s Movie Mania is my creation, and without participation from the masses my judgement has played an even larger role than expected, I do respect the greater public perspective. That viewpoint seems to be that Footloose has a good soundtrack and produced a big movie star, but it is largely style over substance. I also feel like Uncle Buck is more…accessible. Footloose is beloved by those of us who were 12-17 years of age in 1984, but I’m not sure anyone much older or younger would appreciate its greatness.

2016 College Football Pre-Season Top 25

cfoot1It’s time!! Glorious football is back!! A bunch of stuffed shirts & bean counters have done their darndest the past several years to ruin the game…conference realignment, draconian rules in the name of “safety”, a long awaited playoff system that is flawed and makes the stark contrast between the haves & have nots even more apparent. Nevertheless, for the next few months weekends will be even sweeter as fans will have several hours of couch potato worthy entertainment available at their fingertips. One positive change that has emerged in the wake of the four team playoff is a focus on strength of schedule, meaning that there are more competitive games in the first few weeks of the season than ever before. Oh sure there are still cupcake games, but their value is so diminished under the playoff system that coaches & athletic directors have been forced to up the ante just a bit. In Week 1 alone I am seeing over a dozen matchups that probably wouldn’t have been on the schedule just a few years ago. And you know who the winners are?? That’s right…you & me…the fans. As far as my methodology in putting together these rankings…well, I really can’t say I have much of a method. I do know a few things. I know that everyone can’t finish undefeated. I know that “power” conference teams cannibalize each other, with big wins sometimes cancelling out big losses…and vice versa. Teams from “lesser” conferences certainly aren’t going to make it to the playoff, and just one or two losses can significantly impact their ranking. I don’t do a ton of research for this because it’s supposed to be fun not work, but I do try to pay attention to things like coaching changes, substantial personnel losses from players moving on to the NFL or simply graduating, and any other turmoil that may have affected a program in the offseason. It is difficult for more than a few teams from a single conference…even the big boys…to end up ranked, so one basically cfoot2must develop a hierarchy. Which teams will be in the hunt for the conference crown and possibly a playoff spot?? Which ones will be good, but lose a couple of games and end up in the lower tier of the poll?? Which teams…despite their talent and vast praise from the talking heads…will finish on the outside looking in?? I’m not an expert so for me it’s just a guessing game based on my vibes & minimal data, but that’s okay. I’d still put my “expertise” up against many members of the sports media who don’t know half as much as they’d like us to believe they do. At any rate, let’s dive in.

 

 

 

 

 

1       Clemson

Last Season:      14-1

Key Games:       9/3 at Auburn, 10/1 vs. Louisville, 10/29 at Florida St.

The Tigers fell just short of winning the national championship last season, but they return QB DeShaun Watson, who looks like the second coming ofclemson Cam Newton. That’s good enough for me to put them in this spot, although they’ll need to overcome a hostile crowd in Tallahassee right before Halloween and take down the Seminoles.

 

 

2       Oklahoma

Last Season:      11-2

Key Games:       9/3 vs. Houston, 9/17 vs. Ohio St., 10/8 vs. Texas, 12/3 vs. Oklahoma St.

I’m predicting that the Big 12 (which has 10 teams) will be a little down this season, leaving the Sooners as the clear favorites. They have tough oklahomanon-conference games against Houston and Ohio State, but both are in the friendly environment of Norman, OK. QB Baker Mayfield & RB Samaje Perine return, and both could be in the Heisman discussion.

 

 

3       Alabama

Last Season:      14-1

Key Games:       9/3 vs. USC, 10/15 at Tennessee, 11/5 at LSU, 11/26 vs. Auburn

Putting The Tide at #1 would be too easy & predictable and that’s not how I roll. The SEC is just too darn tough…I’d AlabamaCrimsonTide2be shocked if anyone came thru it unscathed. The season opener against Southern Cal is a neutral site game at the Palace in Dallas and it won’t be easy. Then ‘Bama has to travel to Knoxville & Baton Rouge. It would surprise me less if this team actually lost 3 or 4 games than it would if they’d go undefeated.

 

 

4       Ohio State

Last Season:      12-1

Key Games:       9/17 at Oklahoma, 11/5 vs. Nebraska, 11/19 at Michigan St., 11/26 vs. Michigan

Remember last year when the Buckeyes had three legit QBs and no one knew how playing time would be distributed?? It’s a way different story this Ohio_State_Buckeyesseason, as both Cardale Jones and Braxton Miller (who switched to WR) are plying their trade in the NFL. That means it’s JT Barrett’s show, and that’s a good thing. Now the question becomes how to replace RB Ezekiel Elliott & defensive standout Joey Bosa. It’s also worth noting that the Big Ten (which has 14 teams) looks like it could be even stronger than usual. I might be ranking this team a little too high given all the obstacles they face, but until someone knocks them off the pedestal I have to give them benefit of the doubt. The opener at Oklahoma will be super tough, but even if Ohio St. loses that game they could still win 10 games and end up in this spot.

 

 

5       LSU

Last Season:      9-3

Key Games:       9/3 vs. Wisconsin, 10/8 at Florida, 11/5 vs. Alabama

We’ve been waiting a few years for the Bayou Bengals to climb back into legit national title contention, and many seem to believe this is the season. lsu_logo-9547RB Leonard Fournette will be in the thick of the Heisman debate. A 31 yard effort against Alabama killed the young man’s momentum last year so it’ll be really interesting to watch that early November contest to see if he can do better.

 

 

6       Florida State

Last Season:      10-3

Key Games:       9/5 at Ole Miss, 10/8 at Miami FL, 10/29 vs. Clemson, 11/26 vs. Florida

The Seminoles have enjoyed a relatively smooth ride thru the ACC over the years, winning 15 conference Florida_State_Seminolestitles since 1992. However, I think things might be a little tougher than usual this season. Clemson visits Tallahassee, so that helps. That game could very well decide not only the conference but also a spot in the national title playoff. I also expect the early October tilt at Miami to be more like it was back in the old days when both teams were elite.

 

 

7       Tennessee

Last Season:      9-4

Key Games:       9/24 vs. Florida, 10/1 at Georgia, 10/15 vs. Alabama

Could this finally be the year that the Volunteers return to national prominence and actually contend for the SEC title?? A lot of people seem to think 10015tenn_vols_w_helmetso. They haven’t won 10 games in a season since 2007 and are on their 3rd head coach since Phillip Fulmer’s departure after the 2008 season. However I think Butch Jones is finally the one. They’ve improved every year under his guidance and if that upward trend continues the Vols might get to 10 wins this year. They host Alabama in Knoxville which is advantageous.

 

 

8       Houston

Last Season:      13-1

Key Games:       9/3 vs. Oklahoma, 11/25 at Memphis

Everyone fawns over the “power” conference darlings, but there are five “other” conferences and someone’s got to win them, right?? The Cougars houstoneasily won the American Athletic Conference last season and upset Florida St. in the Peach Bowl. They finished in this very spot in the final poll despite an inexplicable loss at Connecticut. I don’t believe they’ll beat Oklahoma in the season opener, but if they can atleast keep that game respectable then run the table they will have the opportunity for another big post-season victory and a Top 10 finish.

 

 

9       Iowa

Last Season:      12-2

Key Games:       10/1 vs. Northwestern, 10/22 vs. Wisconsin, 11/12 vs. Michigan, 11/25 vs. Nebraska

Two Big Ten teams finishing in the Top 10 wouldn’t surprise anyone…but which two teams do you prefer?? The Hawkeyes got off to a hot start last iowaseason before ending the year with two losses…a close call against Michigan St. and a beatdown by Stanford in the Rose Bowl. The toughest games on the schedule all happen to be at home this year, so that’s positive. Being overlooked is nothing new for Iowa, but objectively speaking I think another 10 win season is easily within their grasp.

 

 

10     Temple

Last Season:      10-4

Key Games:       9/17 at Penn St., 10/6 at Memphis, 10/29 vs. Cincinnati

I suppose I’m hedging my bets a bit with two AAC teams in the Top 10. That probably won’t happen. Back in the day when my WV Mountaineers templeplayed the Owls annually they were pretty much the doormats of the now defunct Big East and their home games were usually poorly attended snoozefests. But last year something clicked. They beat Penn St. in the opener, lost a close one to Notre Dame, & made it to the conference title game. The Irish aren’t on the schedule this season, so it isn’t unreasonable to think that they could be even more successful, and if they find a way to go into Happy Valley and take down the Nittany Lions again that’d be the cherry on top. Could an AAC title game rematch against Houston actually be a highly anticipated, eminently entertaining contest?? Whoa…that’s crazy talk!!

 

 

11     Michigan

Last Season:      10-3

Key Games:       10/1 vs. Wisconsin, 10/29 at Michigan St., 11/12 at Iowa, 11/26 at Ohio St.

Let’s pump the brakes a bit on the Wolverines, okay?? I just finished reading a rather interesting book called End Zone, about the slow implosion of michthe Michigan athletic department & football team over the past several years. Of course all of those issues seemed to fade away into the ether the minute Jim Harbaugh took over as head coach last season, and now all the talking heads are throwing Michigan out there as a potential playoff contender. Upon his hiring I did say that Harbaugh would have this team in national title contention within three years, and one thing I Iearned from the aforementioned book is that former coach Brady Hoke, while probably not ready for prime time as far as game management goes, was well liked, highly respected, & a good recruiter. Harbaugh took the talent that was already there last season and won ten games, up from five victories in 2014. An impressive turnaround indeed. However I am just not ready to put them in the playoff hunt quite yet. They have to go on the road for their three biggest games, and I think they could lose atleast two of them. Jim Harbaugh will get Michigan into the playoff eventually…but not yet.

 

 

12     Boise State

Last Season:      9-4

Key Games:       10/20 vs. BYU, 11/25 at Air Force

The Broncos did their usual last season…9 wins, an impressive bowl victory…except that they didn’t compete for the conference championship. I thinkboise-state1 they can do better this year. Non-conference games against BYU, Washington St., & Oregon St. are important but not vital. They’ll be out for revenge against Air Force, with the winner of that game likely making it to the Mountain West title game. That’s the goal for Boise, and I think meeting those expectations combined with the attrition of various powerhouses beating each other up might propel the Broncos solidly into the Top 20.

 

 

13     Utah

Last Season:      10-3

Key Games:       9/23 vs. USC, 10/8 vs. Arizona, 11/19 vs. Oregon

The Pac 12 really should end up having a team ranked much higher than this, but it’s a tough conference and I think it’s possible that they all utahcannibalize each other into 9-3 records requiring tiebreakers to see who ends up in the title game. The Utes have their biggest games at home so I’m giving them a slight advantage.

 

 

14     Notre Dame

Last Season:      10-3

Key Games:       9/4 at Texas, 9/17 at Michigan St., 10/15 at Stanford, 11/26 at USC

Looking at the schedule I am not at all sure that the Irish will win enough games to climb this high. It’s going to be really tough. Is Texas back to being NotreDame1Texas?? Can Michigan St. find a new QB?? Is Stanford being overrated by the talking heads or underrated by me?? Is Southern Cal ready to take back the spotlight?? The answers to all of these questions affect Notre Dame. I’d be shocked if they’re anywhere near the playoff conversation, yet they always seem to find a way to be competitive and win big games. And they ended the Michigan rivalry (for now) just in the nick of time.

 

 

15     Oklahoma State

Last Season:      10-3

Key Games:       11/24 at Baylor, 10/1 vs. Texas, 12/3 at Oklahoma

While I think Oklahoma is the clear favorite in the Big 12 (which has ten teams) I am picking their in-state rivals from Stillwater to be a respectable oklahoma_state_cowboys_iphone_wallpaperrunner-up. Texas may or may not be up to par quite yet, and unlike many “experts” I believe too much has transpired at Baylor in the off season for them to be serious contenders. That leaves the Cowboys, who could conceivably come into that first weekend in December undefeated to face the also undefeated Sooners. That really would be Bedlam.

 

 

16     Northern Illinois

Last Season:      8-6

Key Games:       11/9 vs. Toledo

Much like the AAC the MAC gets overlooked in the substantial shadow of the “power” conferences. MAC games get huskiesrelegated to Tuesday or Wednesday nights on ESPN, but that’s just fine with me. I rather enjoy the brand of football their teams play. The Huskies won the conference title in 2014 but fell off just a bit last season, losing their last three games, including a shellacking by Boise St. in the Poinsettia Bowl. I’m venturing out on a limb and predicting that they’ll get back to 10 wins, a feat they achieved five straight seasons before last year.

 

 

17     BYU

Last Season:      9-4

Key Games:       9/3 vs. Arizona, 9/10 vs. Utah, 9/17 vs. UCLA, 10/8 at Michigan St.

The Cougars used to be a mainstay in this pre-season poll, but they kept disappointing me so I left them off the last couple of years. I’m like my father BYU_Cougarsthough…I can’t stay mad at anyone for long. The great & awful thing about BYU being independent is that they have freedom in scheduling. Freedom is cool, but also a little daunting when the powers-that-be fill the calendar with tough games against top flight opponents. They could start the season 3-0…or 0-3. Most likely it’ll be somewhere in the middle. But things don’t get much easier from there, with October games against Michigan St. & Boise St. If I had money on it or a weapon being held in my face I’d say 7-5 would be a solid record for such a difficult schedule. However since I’m just having some fun I’m going to hope for a couple of upsets. 9 wins against this imposing lineup of opponents would be quite impressive.

 

 

18     Louisiana Tech

Last Season:      9-4

Key Games:       9/3 at Arkansas, 9/17 at Texas Tech, 10/6 vs. Western Kentucky

Someone’s going to win C-USA. My heart belongs to the ol’ alma mater…my Marshall Thundering Herd. Nothing would make me happier than to see louisianatechthem end up in this spot, but I’m trying to be objective or something. I don’t know. The season opener against SEC foe Arkansas is a bit daunting, but an upset wouldn’t be shocking. Can the Bulldogs run the table after that even if they don’t get the win in that first game?? It’s possible. I feel like a lot of talking heads and opposing coaches might overlook this team due to RB Kenneth Dixon moving on to the NFL. That might be perfectly valid…or a huge mistake.

 

 

19     USC

Last Season:      8-6

Key Games:       9/3 vs. Alabama, 9/23 at Utah, 11/19 at UCLA, 11/26 vs. Notre Dame

The Trojans have only won 27 games the past three seasons. That would be great for most teams, but this is not most teams. Finishing outside the USC_Trojans2national title conversation and playing in a December bowl game is not good enough for the folks in Southern California. Head coach Clay Helton was given the job last year after the dismissal of Steve Sarkisian, and one must assume that he has a very short leash. Finishing with 8 or 9 wins against a challenging schedule would go a long way toward some job security.

 

 

20     Michigan State

Last Season:      12-2

Key Games:       9/17 at Notre Dame, 9/24 vs. Wisconsin, 10/29 vs. Michigan, 11/19 vs. Ohio St.

The Spartans looked great last season, with only a controversial loss in the waning seconds against Nebraska as a blemish. But then they ran into a michstbuzzsaw in the playoff semifinal, getting rolled by the Tide. Because they have to replace QB Connor Cook and O-Lineman Jack Conklin I foresee just a little dropoff. Not much. They’ll still be a good team…just not winning a conference title or in the playoff conversation.

 

 

21     Texas

Last Season:      5-7

Key Games:       9/4 vs. Notre Dame, 10/1 at Oklahoma St., 10/8 vs Oklahoma, 10/29 vs. Baylor

This is it. In Charlie Strong’s first two seasons as head coach he has an 11-14 record. I think this is a make or break year for him. Either he wins 8+ texasgames or he’s unemployed. The pre-Halloween game against Baylor might be a critical contest. If the Longhorns can’t beat the Bears in Austin after everything that has occurred in Waco the past several months then perhaps Strong deserves to be shown the door.

 

 

22     Arizona

Last Season:      7-6

Key Games:       9/3 vs. BYU, 10/1 at UCLA, 10/8 at Utah

Did I mention that the Pac 12 is a really competitive conference?? I’m kind of sad actually, because my current job entails me leaving for work at about ArizonaWildcats10pm on Saturday nights, which means I will miss out on the pleasure of staying up til 1am watching those last few west coast games that are oftentimes a lot of fun. Ah well…c’est la vie. Anyway, the Wildcats fell off last season after winning 10 games in 2014. Can they get back on track?? Both RB Nick Wilson (725 yards rushing, 8 TDs) and QB Anu Solomon (2600+ yards passing, 20 TDs) return, although the defense must replace linebacker Scooby Wright who has moved on to the NFL. I think improving to 8 or 9 wins in a tough Pac 12 will be good enough to sneak into the rankings.

 

 

23     Miami, FL

Last Season:      8-5

Key Games:       10/8 vs. Florida St., 10/29 at Notre Dame

After being one of the elite teams of the 1980’s & 90’s the Hurricanes have endured some struggles the past decade, not winning 10 games since 2003.miamiu2 But there’s a new sheriff in town. Head coach Mark Richt won 74% of his games in 15 seasons at Georgia, and now he returns to his alma mater to help them achieve the success that eluded the past 2 or 3 coaches. Miami has shown flashes of their former glory the past few years but couldn’t quite get over the hump. I don’t expect them to compete for a conference title, especially with Clemson & Florida St. standing in the way, but 8 or 9 wins doesn’t seem like an unreasonable goal.

 

 

24     Nebraska

Last Season:      6-7

Key Games:       9/17 vs. Oregon, 10/29 at Wisconsin, 11/5 at Ohio St., 11/25 at Iowa

I might regret this pick, but I’m going to take a chance anyway. Back in the day when I was growing up Nebraska was one of the cornerstone programs nebraskaof college football. I don’t know if it is location, bad management, poor coaching, or a move to the Big Ten a few years ago, but the Cornhuskers seem like a forgotten team nowadays. They are 24-15 over the past three seasons, including last year’s disaster under first year coach Mike Riley. They have been completely eclipsed in the news cycle by Ohio St., Michigan, Iowa, Michigan St., and even Wisconsin & Northwestern. If Riley has another subpar season he might be another guy on the chopping block, but if he can guide his team to a couple of upsets and get to that 8/9 win level then he’ll live to coach another season in Lincoln.

 

 

25     Oregon

Last Season:      9-4

Key Games:       9/17 at Nebraska, 11/5 at USC, 11/12 vs. Stanford, 11/19 at Utah

The Ducks have won atleast 9 games in each of the past nine seasons. That’s impressive. I honestly couldn’t name one member of the team without oregonusing Google, but I know that Oregon seems like one of those programs that just reloads instead of rebuilding, and while they certainly won’t be in the national title conversation or probably be a legit threat to win the conference I think it is likely that they win 8 games and score an upset or two along the way.

TAGS Episode Guide: Ranking (Not Quite) Every Episode of One of America’s Most Beloved TV Shows…Part 2

Welcome back!! If you haven’t done so already please go check out Part 1.

 

All caught up?? Good.

 

otisBefore we continue allow me to offer a few random thoughts about TAGS. First of all, amongst widower Andy’s claralady friends during the run of the show my least favorite is the one he ended up marrying…school teacher Helen Crump. I much prefer druggist Ellie Walker, and would have liked to have seen more of nurses Peggy McMillan & Mary Simpson. Secondly, hardcore fans of the show are likely to notice multiple continuity errors (for example Bertha Johnson became Clara Johnson then Clara Edwards for no apparent reason). Back then the powers-that-be had no idea that we’d still be watching the show a half century later and asking silly questions about why certain things make no sense because something different was said a season or two before. They were just trying to make a fun TV show (they succeeded). Amongst prominent supporting characters I rather enjoy The Darlings, don’t much care for darlingsErnest T. Bass, and love almost any episode with andy_girlfriendstown drunk Otis Campbell. I understand that replacement deputy Warren Ferguson wasn’t well-received, but I wish he would have gotten a proper exit and others given a shot to wear the deputy uniform rather than leave Andy without any help for nearly 3 years.

 

Okay okay okay…I’ll stop babbling and get on with the countdown. Enjoy.

 

 

 

 

130   The Lucky Letter       (S5E19)

Barney thinks he is suffering bad luck after throwing away a chain letter instead of forwarding it on. Andy tries to convince him that’s a bunch of tags12poppycock. Barney-centric episodes are almost always solidly funny.

 

 

129   The Great Filling Station Robbery                (S3E22)

Andy & Barney investigate a string of thefts at Wally’s Filling Station to find out whether or not a young employee is responsible. As always Barney is an inept yet comical crime solver, but even Andy doesn’t get the credit for getting to the bottom of this mystery. The accused man himself clears his name. Funny stuff from Barney & Gomer.

 

 

128   Banjo-Playing Deputy                  (S5E32)

The final two episodes of Season 5 take place at a carnival that is visiting Mayberry. Here we see Andy shut down a “risqué” harem dancer show that is tags13part of that carnival. He feels guilty when the show’s inept banjo player is left unemployed and hires the young man to do some stuff around the courthouse. There is some thought given to making him a temporary deputy, but it doesn’t materialize. In reality Jerry Van Dyke was offered a permanent role on TAGS and would have been a worthy replacement for Don Knotts, but he chose a starring role in My Mother the Car, a show that lasted only one season. What a huge missed opportunity for both TAGS and Van Dyke. Imagine the fun he would’ve brought to Mayberry those last few years!! This is also…sadly…the last episode of the show broadcast in black & white, and we all know how I feel about that.

 

 

127   The Farmer Takes a Wife   (S2E13)

A boorish farmer comes to Mayberry looking for a wife. To stop him from obnoxiously hitting on every farmerwoman that walks down the street Andy & Barney decide to help him out by cleaning him up and teaching him some manners. Unfortunately for Barney the farmer takes a shine to Thelma Lou. The farmer is portrayed by Alan Hale Jr., who a couple of years later would go on to star as The Skipper on Gilligan’s Island. He even calls Barney “Little Buddy”.

 

 

126   Prisoner of Love                  (S4E18)

A sexy female jewel thief attempts to seduce Andy & Barney in order to escape from the jail. This is a very sensual prisonerepisode (with the exception of an amusing scene involving the always funny Otis Campbell), and a rarity in that Andy falls under the same spell as Barney instead of being the sensible voice of reason. The actress who portrays the prisoner is probably better known for playing the green skinned Orion slave girl on a classic episode of Star Trek.

 

 

125   Andy Discovers America (S3E23)

Andy’s misinterpreted advice to Opie about the boy’s history homework gets him in hot water with new schoolteacher Helen Crump. Why Andy would find the overly emotional Miss Crump even remotely attractive remains a huge mystery. Good Lord is she terrifying. Most men would have run in the other direction after the initial meeting. Barney’s “explanation” of The Emancipation Proclamation is funny stuff, as is Andy’s folksy reverse psychology on Opie & his classmates about the importance of learning history.

 

 

124   Andy Forecloses       (S1E28)

Andy tries to help a financially challenged family keep their home despite being ordered to give them an eviction notice by their landlord, town malcontent Ben Weaver. This is the same family who Mr. Weaver had thrown in jail on Christmas Eve just a few months earlier, except they’re going by different names. Aunt Bea & Andy organize a rummage sale at the courthouse to raise the money the family owes, but in the end crusty ol’ Ben relents and allows the family to keep their house.

 

 

123   Ellie for Council                   (S1E10)

Ellie starts a battle of the sexes when she decides to run for a seat on the town council. Thru the prism of modern viewership & altered societal norms ellieit is hard to gauge whether this episode reflects the prejudices of an era or is a commentary on old-fashioned ideas during a time of social change. Either way it is reliably amusing, and I always liked Ellie Walker. It’s a shame the character didn’t stick around longer.

 

 

122   A Date for Gomer       (S4E9)

Thelma Lou convinces Barney to get a date for her very shy cousin to the annual Chamber of Commerce gomer2Dance. He gets Gomer to agree to the date, but at the dance Gomer suddenly disappears. It turns out he left to get the young lady a corsage. Barney & Thelma Lou and Andy & Helen find Gomer and his date dancing up a storm back at Thelma Lou’s house. A largely forgettable episode but worth it to see Gomer Pyle dancing. H-I-L-A-R-I-O-U-S.

 

 

121   A Wife for Andy                    (S3E29)

Barney tries to set up Andy with just about every eligible bachelorette in Mayberry, but Andy is sweet on Helen Crump. Of course anytime Barney tries to organize something it’s tremendously amusing. Interesting trivia: one of the single ladies that comes to Andy’s house is portrayed by an actress that had a more longstanding gig…as the voice of Judy Jetson on The Jetsons.

 

 

120   Aunt Bea’s Invisible Beau           (S5E27)

Clara plants the seed in Aunt Bea’s head that her presence is preventing Andy from gettin’ hitched, so Aunt Bea says she is dating the “butter & egg man”…but it turns out that he is married. Andy discovers the ruse and reassures Aunt Bea that she isn’t an unwanted third wheel. The same basic plotline was used a few years earlier during the second season.

 

 

119   Dogs, Dogs, Dogs     (S3E30)

Opie brings a pack of stray dogs into the courthouse just as a state official is visiting. Fortunately the suit is a dog lover. Eventually Barney & Andy find dogshomes for all the dogs, but then their true owner surfaces. All’s well that ends well. I’m a sucker for anything involving dogs, and there is some cute interaction between Opie & Barney.

 

 

118   The County Nurse     (S2E24)

County nurse Mary Simpson enlists Andy’s help in convincing hardheaded farmer Rafe Hollister to get his tetanus vaccination. Mary appeared on TAGS twice played by two different actresses. I prefer the other one. Rafe Hollister makes three appearances in Mayberry and would have been a solid addition to the main cast.

 

 

117   Barney’s Bloodhound                  (S5E6)

Barney attempts to train a stray dog to be a crime fighting bloodhound, and as usual when our favorite deputy is involved things don’t go as planned. When Barney inadvertently gets kidnapped at Meyers Lake by an escaped convict the mutt obeys the criminal more than Barney. Of course Andy saves the day because that’s kind of his thing.

 

 

116/115/114       Barney Mends A Broken Heart (S3E6) – The Fun Girls (S4E27) – The Arrest of the Fun Girls (S5E28)

fungirls1The Fun Girls are Skippy & Daphne, two blonde bimbos from Mount Pilot who like to party. They take a shine to Barney (who Skippy constantly refers to as Bernie) & Andy (who is always greeted by Daphne with a gravelly “Hello Doll”) and wreak havoc on their lives on a few occasions in Seasons 3, 4, & 5. In their first appearance Andy & Peggy have an argument and Barney unsuccessfully tries to fix Andy up with oddball Lydia Crosswaite, who has the personality of a rice cake (strangest line of the entire series: “I hate the outdoors. When I go out into the sun I get the herpes.”). Barney then tricks Andy into heading to a Mt. Pilot hot spot where they meet up with The Fun Girls. Unfortunately Daphne’s old boyfriend shows up and punches Andy in the face. The next day Andy & Peggy make up and all is well. Andy is kind of a jerk in this episode, becoming jealous of Mary’s male friend for no reason. A year later The Fun Girls pass thru Mayberry and hit on Andy & Barney, causing Helen & Thelma Lou to become jealous. This episode is notable for being the first appearance of Goober, and it is the only one with both Goober and Gomer Pyle. A year after that The Fun Girls fungirls2are back in Mayberry and get arrested. Andy & Barney try to hide their presence at the jail from Helen & Thelma Lou…to no avail. I really don’t see anything attractive about The Fun Girls, and there certainly isn’t a whole lot of amusement in the melodramatic distrust of Helen & Thelma Lou, but watching Barney rope Andy into uncomfortable situations and seeing them try to wiggle themselves out of trouble with their girlfriends is comic gold.

 

 

113   The New Doctor                   (S1E24)

Persuaded by Barney just a bit, Andy feels threatened by the new town doctor’s friendship with Ellie…so much so that he proposes. As it turns out the doc is engaged himself. Andy & Ellie mutually agree to take their relationship slow, which is good since a few months later Ellie disappears from Mayberry, never to be heard from again.

 

 

 

112   Opie’s Newspaper    (S5E26)

Opie & one of his buddies decide to publish their own little newspaper…a very enterprising idea for two young boys. Unfortunately they fill the thing opieup with town gossip that they overhear while going around spying on people. Not surprisingly several folks become quite upset and it’s up to Andy to set things straight. There is a bit of unintentional foreshadowing here, as in the 1986 TV reunion movie Return to Mayberry Opie Taylor is indeed the editor of the town newspaper.

 

 

 

111   Mayberry Goes Hollywood                   (S1E13)

Mayberry is chosen as the backdrop for an upcoming movie so the whole town gets carried away with all the glamour. But when the Hollywood producer returns to town with his crew he is horrified at how phony everything & everyone has become, explaining that Mayberry was chosen as a location because of its idyllic charm and simple way of life. This is the first appearance of Howard McNear as Floyd Lawson after the character had been played by a different actor in the previous episode. Here he is referred to as Floyd Colby, though his surname was changed back to Lawson thereafter. This isn’t the only time people in Mayberry get a little goofy & overzealous. Sometimes it’s odd, but on occasion it’s rather funny.

 

 

110   Deputy Otis       (S2E31)

Much to Barney’s chagrin Andy makes Otis a temporary deputy to fool his visiting brother & sister-in-law, who are under the mistaken impression otis2that Otis has been in law enforcement for awhile. As it turns out the brother that Otis wants to impress is also a drunkard. I really enjoy Otis-centric episodes.

 

 

109   Ernest T. Bass Joins the Army            (S4E3)

Ernest T. Bass wants to join the Army simply to get a uniform and impress women, but when he’s rejected (because he’s a nut) he goes on one of his rock throwing rampages. Character actor Allan Melvin, who is probably best known as Sam the butcher on The Brady Bunch, makes one of his eight TAGS appearances, this time as an Army recruiter. Did I mention that I’ve never quite understood the popularity of the Ernest T. Bass character??

 

 

108   Goober and the Art of Love                 (S5E20)

Andy & Barney try to find a girl for Goober so he doesn’t have to tag along on their dates. Unfortunately Goober is even more inept with women than gooberhe is in other aspects of life. Barney tries to be his love guru, but of course that’s the blind leading the blind. This is the second appearance of Thelma Lou’s friend Lydia Crosswaite, an amusing Debbie Downer who Goober is sweet on. One thing I always notice about this episode is how Andy & Barney wear their suits and their girlfriends have on nice dresses…just to go to the movies. Oh how times have changed.

 

 

107   Barney on the Rebound              (S2E5)

Barney is immediately smitten with a beautiful newcomer to Mayberry. After an argument he & a jealous Thelma Lou break up and he gets involved with the new girl. Unfortunately for Deputy Fife things aren’t what they seem. The young lady’s “father” is portrayed by Jackie Coogan, who would begin another gig a few years later…as Uncle Fester on The Addams Family.

 

 

106   The Rehabilitation of Otis (S5E18)

When Otis gets so snockered that he rides a cow thru town believing it to be a horse…twice…Barney tries using pop psychology to rehabilitate him.otis3 Otis gets ticked off and decides he’ll do his drinking & jail time in Mt. Pilot from now on. Andy & Barney go and beg him to come back to Mayberry. I’m not sure there’s a whole lot that makes sense here, but it’s always enjoyable when Otis gets drunk. It’s odd that this is the one & only time that the powers-that-be decided that Otis had a serious problem and tried to help him. If he were on TV today he’d be in a 12 step program by the end of his first appearance.

 

 

105   The Merchant of Mayberry (S2E22)

Bert Miller is a downtrodden traveling salesman who’s tired of traveling, so Andy helps him stay in business by allowing him to set up a temporary storefront in town. Predictably this doesn’t please crusty department store owner Ben Weaver. The actor portraying Bert is better known as the original voice for animated Winnie the Pooh. The cantankerous character of Ben Weaver made a half dozen appearances on TAGS played by three different actors. This is the third & final appearance of the actor who originated the role. He passed on a short time after the episode aired.

 

 

104   Barney’s Replacement       (S2E2)

Barney becomes convinced that an attorney who’s been sent to Mayberry for law enforcement training is there to replace him, so he quits and starts selling vacuum cleaners. Barney resigns his position in a huff multiple times throughout his run, but he always comes back. It is said that after Season 1 Andy Griffith realized that Barney was the real comedic centerpiece of the show and the sheriff should be more of a straight man. This is a great example of that shift.

 

 

103   Irresistible Andy                  (S1E5)

After Andy asks Ellie to the church picnic/dance he overthinks the situation, talking himself into the notion that she is trying to rope him into ellie2marriage. In an effort to divert her attention Andy talks some other men in Mayberry into hitting on Ellie. The plan backfires terribly and Ellie becomes quite upset with Andy before he charms his way out of her doghouse. Anyone who thinks this twosome lacked chemistry…romantic & comedic…is crazy. This episode marks the debut of Barney’s infamous suit…”the ol’ salt & pepper”.

 

 

102   Opie’s Hobo Friend   (S2E6)

After Opie & Andy run onto a friendly drifter while going fishing Barney arrests the man for being a vagrant. hoboAndy’s a nice guy though so he lets the man go, after which he bonds with Opie. Unfortunately he is a bad influence on the boy, making things like ditching school, dodging responsibility, & stealing food seem like fun. Andy has a chat with the man, who manages to make Opie realize that maybe his lifestyle isn’t the best way to get along before catching a train out of town. The drifter is portrayed by Buddy Ebsen, who a year later would begin a decade long run as Jed Clampett on The Beverly Hillbillies. This is a particularly well-written, borderline dramatic episode.

 

 

101   Quiet Sam                   (S1E29)

Barney is suspicious of farmer Sam Becker so he coaxes Andy into checking out the situation. It turns out that Mr. Becker’s wife is very very pregnant and that’s why the man had seemed a bit on edge. Andy gets stuck at the Becker farm during a rainstorm and ends up delivering the baby. Barney’s overactive imagination & misguided reactions to situations are classic bedrock elements of the show.

 

 

 

 

This seems like a good place for another break. Stay tuned.

TAGS Episode Guide: Ranking (Not Quite) Every Episode of One of America’s Most Beloved TV Shows…Part 1

tags2Citizens of The Manoverse may recall that a few years ago I rated The Andy Griffith Show as my 2nd favorite television show of all time. It lost out to Seinfeld by a thread only because Seinfeld actually aired its first run in my lifetime, whereas TAGS was off the air years before I was even born. It was broadcast on CBS from October 1960 to April 1968 on Monday nights on CBS and featured the small town adventures of Sheriff Andy Taylor, his young son Opie, blundering deputy Barney Fife, & Andy’s Aunt Bea, along with various residents of idyllic Mayberry, NC. Though original episodes ended decades ago TAGS has never truly been gone, as it has continuously aired in syndication. And of course nowadays, thru the magic of home video and streaming, it is even more readily available to fans. So awhile back I got an idea.

 

I have decided to rank 159 episodes of TAGS. Now you may saying “Wait…wait…weren’t there 249 episodes over 8 seasons??”, and you’d be right. andygriffithHowever, there is a definitive split in the history of the show. When Don Knotts signed on to play Barney Fife he was told by Andy Griffith that the plan was to do five seasons. After those five years were up Knotts signed a movie deal that he couldn’t get out of when Griffith decided to keep the TV program going for three additional seasons. Therefore, Deputy Fife was quietly written out, taking a “big city” job as a detective in Raleigh. Concurrent with that change the show also switched technology and was produced in color for seasons 6-8 as opposed to black & white. I’m sure back then this was seen as an advancement, but thru the nostalgic prism that we view TAGS today the shift diminishes its quaint charm. New writers were also brought in, and they replaced the comedic genius of Barney Fife with other players, mainly dimwitted mechanic Goober Pyle and uptight, socially inept county clerk Howard Sprague, characters that have never been among my favorites. It’s not that TAGS was a bad show in its final three seasons. I’d choose to watch any of those episodes over 95% of the drivel on television these days. But for the purposes of this exercise I am concentrating on the first five seasons, broadcast in delightful B&W and showcasing the lovely town of Mayberry, a place that I can only assume is a fictionalized representation of Heaven. Enjoy.

 

 

 

 

 

159   A Black Day for Mayberry (S4E7)

$7 million in gold is clandestinely passing thru Mayberry on its way to Fort Knox, but when Barney accidentally spills the beans the whole town barney1eventually finds out and completely overreacts. Seriously…they throw a freakin’ parade for an armored car. I love the idiosyncrasies of small town life and Mayberry usually captures such minutia in an appealing & comical way, but this is just weird. Both Ron Howard’s father Rance and brother Clint appear in the episode. Rance made four TAGS appearances as various characters, and Clint appeared five times as little Leon who never says a word.

 

 

158   Mayberry Goes Bankrupt (S2E4)

Andy is forced to evict an eccentric old man for failing to pay back taxes, but when the man finds a century-old savings bond which has grown to a value of over $300K he appears to have the town over a barrel. This is the kind of story that couldn’t be told nowadays because of course the man would just lawyer up and get his money, but since it was written over fifty years ago the mayor & Andy simply explain that the town doesn’t have the money and the man is forced to accept several people pitching in to fix up his dilapidated house as an adequate substitute. Then right at the end of the episode it is said that the bond may have been issued with Confederate money after North Carolina seceded during The Civil War, making it worthless. The question is never really answered. Very odd entry into the TAGS canon.

 

.

157   Andy the Marriage Counselor    (S1E18)

Andy tries to mediate for a couple who frequently cause calls to the police due to their raucous domestic disputes. As always Sheriff Taylor finds a tags4unique solution to the problem. The episode is notable for a few reasons. First, we get to see Barney practicing judo, which is hilarious. Secondly, the actor portraying one half of the quarreling couple is Jesse White, who would go on to become the lonely Maytag repairman in a series of commercials for over two decades. And finally, one must understand that whenever it looks like its nighttime in Mayberry it’s really not. The show was filmed during the day and a special night filter was utilized on the camera. This is its inaugural use. Unfortunately, while many attitudes & ideals expressed on TAGS make us hearken back to a simpler time and yearn for an America that has slipped into the wistful mist of history, seen thru the prism of modern sensibilities domestic violence is strange fodder for comedy.

 

 

156   Opie Flunks Arithmetic      (S5E30)

When Helen informs Andy that Opie isn’t doing well in math he isn’t overly concerned. But when Barney butts in and gets Aunt Bea all worked up about the boy’s future Andy decides to crack the whip. That approach backfires. This is the final appearance of Barney Fife as a regular cast member, although he does visit a few times in later seasons. It’s funny how things have changed over the decades. Today when a star departs a TV show we know about it well in advance, the exodus is written into the script, and a big deal is made about the whole thing. But when Barney Fife…one of the most beloved characters in television history…left TAGS he was just there one day and gone the next, with nary a mention of where he went.

 

 

155   Floyd the Gay Deceiver    (S3E9)

Floyd has pretended to be a rich entrepreneur in letters to a wealthy widowed pen pal, but when she suddenly decides to visit Mayberry the lonely tags5barber has to live up to the ruse. For some reason Andy, normally a man of steadfast integrity, decides to help in the deception and as usual in these situations things don’t go smoothly. In an interesting twist it turns out that the woman is lying as well. Remember kids…honesty is the best policy.

 

 

154   Goober Takes a Car Apart          (S5E17)

Andy has to go out of town. Barney is out of town as well. Someone has to man the courthouse, and the only person available is Goober, who proceeds to inexplicably dismantle a car and reassemble it inside the building. Goober-centric episodes don’t usually frost my cupcake. There is a reason Gomer got a spinoff and Goober didn’t.

 

 

153   A Medal for Opie        (S2E19)

Opie signs up for the 50 yard dash at the annual Sheriff’s Day event and fantasizes about winning a medal, but when he comes in last he doesn’t take ittags6 well…at all. Opie is usually a cute, easygoing, good kid, but here he morphs into a petulant brat. Of course Andy steps in to teach the lad about good sportsmanship and being an honorable loser. There is some fun interaction between Opie and Barney, who volunteers to be a coach/trainer.

 

 

152   Stranger in Town       (S1E12)

Citizens of Mayberry become suspicious of a new arrival from NY City who seems to know everything about them. It turns out that he had an Army buddy from Mayberry and fell in love with it thru the stories he was told by that friend. When an angry mob confronts the stranger it is Andy who steps in and gives the situation a positive spin. We meet barber Floyd Lawson in this episode, although he is portrayed by a different actor than the one who would become synonymous with the character. It’s funny that even a half-century ago the stranger’s peculiar tactics of ingratiating himself into Mayberry were met with distrust. Heck, nowadays the dude might get beat up or worse.

 

 

151   My Fair Ernest T. Bass                (S4E17)

After wild & crazy Ernest T. Bass causes a disturbance at a social gathering Andy decides to turn him into a sophisticated gentleman and pass him off ernestt1as an out of town relative at the same weekly party he’d interrupted previously. This is where Ernest T. meets his sweet Romeena, the girl he would talk incessantly about in two later TAGS appearances. The episode is just fine, although regular characters like Opie, Aunt Bea, Floyd, Goober, & Otis are MIA. I don’t know…I can’t really articulate a reason, but Ernest T. Bass tends to annoy me rather than make me laugh.

 

 

150   Cousin Virgil     (S2E30)

Barney’s bumbling cousin Virgil from New Jersey visits Mayberry and inadvertently causes havoc at every turn. Of course it’s up to Andy to give a virgilboost to the young man’s confidence, something he does multiple times over the years for Barney. Amusing, yet for some reason I find Virgil to be one of the more annoying guests to ever visit Mayberry. I think it’s his perpetual creepy smile.

 

 

149   The Family Visit                  (S5E3)

Aunt Bea’s sister, obnoxious brother-in-law, & their bratty kids come for a visit. They annoy Andy tremendously until he finds a way to get them to leave. There’s no Barney in this episode, which is a shame. It’s a prime example of how easygoing, friendly, understanding Andy began to become more easily irritated in later seasons.

 

 

148   The Jinx   (S2E17)

Andy tries to help Mayberry resident Henry Bennett end his apparent bad luck and convince him that he is not hexed, as Barney, Floyd, & others jinxbelieve. Unfortunately plans backfire…twice. It’s up to Andy to talk Henry out of leaving town.

 

 

147   Barney Runs for Sheriff     (S5E21)

Andy is pretty sure he’s getting a big city corporate gig so he encourages Barney to file election papers to run for Sheriff while leaving his own name off the ballot. However, Andy’s job falls thru, so everyone agrees to support a write-in campaign for him. The problem is that Barney ends up feeling embarrassed & overlooked. Eventually all’s well that ends well, but for a bit things are a little testy between Andy & Barney, and that’s just not much fun. Politics & TAGS don’t mix well.

 

 

146   The Perfect Female   (S2E8)

Barney & Thelma Lou fix Andy up with Thelma Lou’s visiting cousin from Arkansas. The pair hit it off, but Barney screws things up with his big tags7mouth. The young lady, who unbeknownst to the guys is a champion shooter, decides to use her skills to prove a point to Andy. The rather old-fashioned sentiments espoused by Andy & Barney might come across as a bit misogynistic to modern viewers.

 

 

145   Opie and the Carnival                  (S5E31)

Opie tries to win a birthday present for Andy at a carnival, unaware that the shooting gallery is rigged. Andy figures out the deception and persuades the carnies that it’d be in their best interest if Opie wins the prize he desires. This is the first episode after the departure of Don Knotts as Barney, although his absence is never mentioned.

 

 

144   Guest of Honor                    (S2E21)

A pickpocket is ironically made the random “guest of honor” in Mayberry, a harebrained idea conceived as a way to celebrate Founder’s Day. They even have a parade and give the guy the key to the city. One of the great charms of TAGS is the kindhearted & guileless townsfolk of Mayberry, but sometimes they go a bit overboard and are portrayed as clueless rubes. There is a really funny scene where Barney is “training” a few emergency deputies (including Floyd the Barber). Anytime the word “mollycoddling” makes it into the script it’s a good thing.

 

 

143   Opie Loves Helen      (S5E1)

Unbeknownst to Andy or anyone else Opie develops a crush on Helen. Aunt Bea is nowhere around for some reason. I suppose it isn’t unusual for kidstags8 to crush on an adult. It’s probably even fairly common for students to crush on a teacher. But when that teacher is dating the child’s father and is the boy’s future stepmother it’s a little strange, especially when he gifts her a pair of pantyhose. There are some good interactions between Opie & Andy and Opie & Barney in this episode.

 

 

142   Bargain Day      (S4E24)

Aunt Bea buys a side of beef at a discount market but her back porch freezer is old & shaky. When it breaks down she is hesitant to call a repairman in Mount Pilot, despite repeated pleas from Andy to do so. Aunt Bea eventually has to go to her regular grocery store and sheepishly ask if the owner will store the meat until her freezer is repaired. Of course this being Mayberry the grocer happily helps her out. There’s some funny stuff here from Andy & Gomer.

 

 

141   Guest in the House   (S5E24)    

When a rather attractive family friend comes to visit the Taylors after a recent breakup Helen becomes jealous of the young lady. Andy eventually reunites his friend with her fiancée. Jealousy isn’t a good look for Helen Crump. No Barney in this episode. The actress who plays Gloria (the visiting friend) is absolutely beautiful. I’m surprised she never became a big star.

 

 

140   Opie and the Spoiled Kid  (S3E21)

Opie’s manipulative, spoiled, obnoxious, disrespectful pal Arnold convinces him that he shouldn’t have to work for his allowance. Unfortunately for tags9Opie the tricks Arnold teaches him don’t work at all on Andy.

 

 

139   Aunt Bea’s Romance                   (S5E5)

Aunt Bea rekindles her romance with an insufferable former flame who is passing thru Mayberry. He’s a know-it-all who rogerthinks he’s hilarious when in reality he’s not funny at all. Andy & Opie quickly tire of the dude’s shtick. When he hints that he needs money or else he might just marry Aunt Bea and move in Andy doesn’t fall for it and the guy leaves town. TAGS has a bit of an obsession with the idea of Aunt Bea as an eligible bachelorette just waiting for the right mate to come along, which is odd since she’s a frumpy old maid two or three decades past her prime. And I mean that in the nicest way possible.

 

 

138   The Education of Ernest T. Bass                  (S5E4)

Ernest T. Bass comes back to town seeking an education at the request of his sweet Romeena. Andy talks Helen into letting the crazy mountain man sit in on her classes, but he becomes a major nuisance. After Helen gets angry with him and smacks him with a ruler he falls in love with her…some kind of weird Oedipal thing. Andy devises a way to satisfy Ernest T. by having Helen administer a “test” that he’ll pass and then receive a “diploma”. Barney has some fun moments in this episode.

 

 

137  A Deal Is a Deal                    (S4E26)

Opie & his buddies get involved in a scam selling worthless “miracle” salve. Barney & Gomer head to Mount Pilot to check out the situation at the company that produces the stuff. Hilarity ensues. Barney & Gomer are obviously funny on an individual basis, but the two of them together is classic.

 

 

136    Andy and the Woman Speeder          (S2E3)

Andy gives a woman passing thru Mayberry a ticket for speeding. She refuses to pay the fine and is held in the jail pending trial. Female prisoners are tags10rare in Mayberry, and Andy indicates that by law a female prisoner must have a matron (a plot device used only this one time). Enter Aunt Bea. The episode is amusing, but it’s one that feels antiquated in its views on women.

 

 

135   The Christmas Story          (S1E11)

Storeowner Ben Weaver is the town Scrooge, forcing Andy to arrest Sam Muggins on Christmas Eve for tags11making moonshine. But Andy makes lemonade out of lemons and helps the entire Muggins family have a delightful holiday. Mr. Weaver has a Dickensian change of heart and joins in the merriment. Oddly enough this is the only Christmas themed episode in TAGS’ eight seasons.

 

 

134   Opie’s Ill-Gotten Gain                   (S4E8)

Everyone is pleasantly surprised when Opie gets straight A’s on his report card. Andy & Aunt Bea are beaming with pride and reward the boy with a brand new bicycle. Unfortunately the teacher…Miss Helen Crump…made a mistake when tallying the grades (another reason to dislike Helen). Opie actually earned an F in math!! Rather than disappoint his father the boy runs away from home, but he doesn’t get very far before Andy catches up to him and reassures him that he is proud of him no matter what. There’s a really funny scene where Barney claims to remember the preamble to The Constitution that he learned in grade school, but Andy has to hilariously walk him thru it word-by-word.

 

 

133   The Case of the Punch in the Nose    (S5E25)

While looking at old files Barney comes across an unsolved assault case from two decades earlier involving Floyd and a local grocer. Rather than let the matter rest Barney stirs the pot, causing the situation to escalate into a serious quarrel. Anytime Barney goes overboard…which is often…it’s pretty funny.

 

 

132   Andy and the Gentleman Crook         (S1E21)

An infamous con man being held temporarily in the Mayberry jail charms just about everyone but Andy. They all learn their lesson when the criminal takes advantage of their kindness and tries to escape. There is some fun interaction between Andy & Opie, Barney accidentally fires his gun in the courthouse (a joke repeated multiple times thru the series), & we learn that Barney’s gun usually has no bullets and he carries one single bullet in his shirt pocket.

 

 

131   Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.                  (S4E32)

In this backdoor pilot for a Gomer Pyle spinoff Gomer enlists in the Marines and Andy tags along to boot camp to help the transition go smoothly. It’s gomer1not that there isn’t some funny stuff here, it’s just that it doesn’t really feel like an episode of TAGS.

 

 

 

 

 

I think this might be a good place to pause for now. Stay tuned.

80’s Movie Mania: Bodacious Round 3

Greetings friends and fellow cinephiles. It’s time to put the 3rd Round of 80’s Movie Mania to bed so that we can move on to the Sweet Sixteen. At this point I can’t recall exactly what I’ve said or not said in these little preambles, so please excuse any unfortunate repetitiveness. I do want to remind The Manoverse that I am well aware that I have left many worthy films out of this competition. If you haven’t seen some of your favorite 1980’s classics there are a few possible explanations. This competition is heavily influenced…maybe totally so…by my personal preferences and what I have or haven’t seen. Therefore you won’t find any of the Indiana Jones series (I’ve never watched any of them), no horror films (the only slasher flick I like is Halloween, which was made in 1978), or stuff like Tootsie, Full Metal Jacket, Gremlins, Fatal Attraction, Amadeus, The Color Purple, or The Untouchables…because either I haven’t seen them or have and don’t believe them to be all that remarkable. You may have noticed that Lethal Weapon was included in this competition while Die Hard was not. That was a difficult decision, but I have a little something brewing for Christmas 2017 and didn’t want to be redundant (also the reason cool holiday flicks like A Christmas Story, Christmas Vacation, & Scrooged are not a part of 80’s Movie Mania). You already know that I eliminated trilogies right off the bat, specifically the Star Wars and Back to the Future films, four of which were produced in the 1980’s. There were also a lot of laudable sports films made during the decade, including Hoosiers, Raging Bull, Field of Dreams, Major League, The Karate Kid, Bull Durham, & All the Right Moves, but I’ve already focused on them elsewhere so I decided including them here was unnecessary. Even with these omissions I believe I’ve presented a compelling & provocative tournament, and a fun trip down memory lane. Okay, enough of that. We ride!!

 

 

 

Bodacious 3

 

National Lampoon’s Vacation       vs.     Stand By Me

vacation21983’s Vacation received byes thru the first two rounds. Chevy Chase stars as Clark W. Griswold Jr., a Stand-By-Me-Website-Banner-3-980x363-980x363well-intentioned yet blundering family man who decides to drive his wife & kids from Chicago to California to visit the nation’s preeminent theme park. As usual with road trip flicks there are a plethora of epic fails & hilarious calamities, with the biggest twist coming when the Griswolds finally reach Wally World. This movie has held up remarkably well over the past thirty plus years, with the notable exception that the conclusion would never ever happen in The Internet Age. A few sequels were made with variable results…European Vacation isn’t too bad, Christmas Vacation is awesome, & Vegas Vacation is…well…let’s just forget it ever happened. A reboot/sequel was made last year in which the adult version of Rusty Griswold takes his own family on a cross-country trek. It is…okay. Stand By Me has gotten past K-9 and Weekend at Bernie’s to arrive at this point. It is one of the better film/TV adaptations of Stephen King’s work, right up there with The Shawshank Redemption and Carrie. It has a 91% Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and is nostalgically romanticized by almost everyone who was a young teenager in 1986.

The Verdict:       Vacation. I’m all about nostalgia, but I really can’t fully embrace Stand By Me. I suppose I just don’t relate to the boys in the film. I never had those kinds of relationships or those sorts of adventures as a kid. Objectively speaking it is a great movie, but it’s not one for which I’ve ever had deep affection. Conversely, I’ve seen Vacation countless times in the past three decades. If it’s on television I’m probably going to stop flipping thru the channels and watch. I’ve been known to keep it saved on my DVR for a boring rainy day. There are so many great scenes & quotable lines. It is undoubtedly the zenith of Chevy Chase’s long & prosperous career.

 

 

 

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off        vs.     The Princess Bride

buellerYou were probably wondering about the whereabouts of ol’ Ferris. Well, he had byes thru the first two briderounds but has now arrived. 1986’s Ferris Bueller’s Day Off solidified the star status of Matthew Broderick and tells the story of a scheming yet likeable high schooler, his girlfriend, & their best friend who decide to play hooky for the day and enjoy some of the finer things Chicago has to offer. They visit the Art Institute of Chicago, go to the top of the Sears Tower, eat lunch at a fancy restaurant, take in a Cubs game, & Ferris commandeers the microphone on a parade float belting out fun covers of Danke Schoen and Twist & Shout. In the process Ferris outwits his clueless parents as well as a persistent school principal. It’s all great fun, and we get to vicariously live thru a character who brazenly pulls off what most of us would never have the cahonas to try. The Princess Bride got past Cocktail in Round 2. It didn’t fair that well at the box office in 1987, coming in 41st, behind drivel like Outrageous Fortune, Mannequin, & Adventures in Babysitting. It did better than Ishtar and Superman IV though, so that’s something. Like other “cult classics” The Princess Bride would have to wait for the riches gained from home video to be deemed successful. Actress Robin Wright starred in the film while still doing soap opera Santa Barbara, but of course she has gone on to become one of Hollywood’s best. Rotten Tomatoes rates The Princess Bride as 97% Fresh, and our old pals Siskel & Ebert gave it double Thumbs Up. Ebert said it is “good-hearted fun” and “satire containing true innocence”, while Siskel called it “the weirdest assortment of characters since Star Wars” (which I’m pretty sure he meant as a compliment).

The Verdict:       Ferris Bueller. It’s odd to contemplate how different this competition might look with slightly altered matchups. The Princess Bride probably deserves a better fate, but Ferris Bueller is just so entertaining. And it kind of has a subtle message. We’ll get into that some other time though.

 

 

 

Batman      vs.     Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home

batmansymbolOur favorite Caped Crusader defeated 80’s pop staple Pretty in Pink in the last round. Batman was by far trek4the #1 film at the box office in 1989, and almost three decades later it is still near the Top 50 highest grossing films of all-time when adjusted for inflation. Willem Dafoe, David Bowie, John Lithgow, Tim Curry, Ray Liotta, Robert De Niro, Christopher Walken, Richard Gere, Jeff Goldblum, Robert Englund, & James Woods were among the actors considered for The Joker. Robin Williams thought he had the role after Jack Nicholson initially turned it down, but then Nicholson reconsidered and Williams was dismissed. That angered him so much that he refused an offer to portray The Riddler in the 1995 sequel Batman Forever. Thus we were stuck with Jim Carrey. Director Tim Burton retroactively says of his own film that it was “more of a cultural phenomenon than a great movie”, while Christopher Nolan, who would direct a new Dark Knight trilogy a couple of decades later, called the 1989 film “brilliant, visionary, & extraordinarily idiosyncratic”. The Voyage Home…aka the one with the whales…defeated Eddie & The Cruisers in Round 2. It was the fifth highest grossing film of 1986, behind Top Gun and Platoon but ahead of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Stand By Me, Hoosiers, & Pretty in Pink. It has an 85% Fresh rating at Rotten Tomatoes, with Ebert calling it “easily the most absurd of the Star Trek stories”, but also “the best, the funniest, and the most enjoyable in simple human terms.” I concur.

The Verdict:       The Voyage Home. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I think Burton is onto something, and since he directed the thing he should know…Batman is probably more of a cultural phenomenon than a great movie. I mean I still think of it as a great movie as well, but the competition is stiff. The Voyage Home…in my opinion…is right up there with Wrath of Khan in the Star Trek hierarchy.

 

 

 

Risky Business  vs.     Coming to America

rb2After a first round bye Risky Business took out Iron Eagle in Round 2. It was the 10th highest grossing film of 1983, cta2behind classics like Return of the Jedi & WarGames, but beating out some darn good competition like Scarface, The Big Chill, & A Christmas Story. It has an impressive 96% Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Ebert said Risky Business “is a movie about male adolescent guilt…in other words it’s a comedy”, and also called it “one of the smartest, funniest, most perceptive satires in a long time.” High praise indeed. Coming to America defeated Brat Pack classic St. Elmo’s Fire in Round 2. It was the 3rd highest grossing film of 1988, behind only Rain Man & Who Framed Roger Rabbit, and ahead of great stuff like Die Hard, Beetlejuice, Scrooged, Bull Durham, & The Naked Gun. Its rating on Rotten Tomatoes is 69% Fresh, which is really good but not quite on par with many of the greats in this competition. Judged against other Eddie Murphy films it is easily in his Top 5, but amongst the bigger universe of comedy films I’m not sure it stands out.

The Verdict:       Risky Business. While Coming to America is a solid comedy it doesn’t feel special except when held up alongside the dreck that comprises way too much of Murphy’s overvalued filmography. Conversely Risky Business is an iconic representation of its era.