Blog

NFL Nostradamus

I am a big NFL fan. I love watching football more than any other sport. Been a fan since The Drive, the 1986 AFC Championship Game when John Elway led my fave team, the Denver Broncos, 98 yards to tie the Cleveland Browns and eventually win in overtime, getting to their first Super Bowl. I suffered through four blowout losses (I was born after Super Bowl XII), celebrating when they won their four.

I play fantasy football, in the same league I began in my seventh grade homeroom class. And every year since 2011, I’ve made NFL predictions. They very rarely come true, but it’s fun to make them.

There’s even more excitement for me, because for the first time since they won Super Bowl 50, Denver is in the conversation for the Super Bowl. Trading for one of the top 5 QBs in the league will do that.

So without further ado, here are my picks for the 2022 NFL Season.

+-Division Champ *-Wild Card Team

AFC East: 1) Buffalo+ 2) Miami* 3) New England 4) NY Jets

AFC North: 1) Baltimore+ 2) Cincinnati 3) Pittsburgh 4) Cleveland

AFC South: 1) Indianapolis* 2) Tennessee 3) Jacksonville 4) Houston

AFC West: 1) LA Chargers* 2) Kansas City* 3) Denver* 4) Las Vegas

NFC East: 1) Philly+ 2) Washington* 3) Dallas 4) NY Giants

NFC North: 1) Minnesota+ 2) Green Bay* 3)Chicago 4) Detroit

NFC South: 1) Tampa Bay+ 2)New Orleans 3) Carolina 4)Atlanta

NFC West: 1) LA Rams+ 2)Arizona* 3) San Francisco 4) Seattle

AFC Wild Card: Baltimore over Miami, Denver over LA, Kansas City over Indy

NFC Wild Card: Tampa Bay over Arizona, Philly over Green Bay, Minnesota over Washington

AFC Divisional: Buffalo over Denver, Kansas City over Baltimore

NFC Divisional: LA Rams over Minnesota, Tampa Bay over Philly

AFC Championship: Buffalo over Kansas City

NFC Championship: Tampa Bay over LA Rams

Super Bowl: Buffalo over Tampa Bay

Notes: I don’t believe Tua in Miami or Jalen Hurts are the long term answers for Miami & Philly, respectively, but the teams around them are good.

As for the AFC South, I think Matt Ryan makes the Colts the most complete team there, but their coach will keep them from going far.

The AFC West could have all four teams make it, as they are by far the best division, with 4 Top-10 QBs.

The NFC is wide open. I think Green Bay takes a step back with fewer weapons, and Washington steps up. But experience and talent win out.

Buffalo will exact revenge over their loss in last year’s wild AFC Divisional Game against KC, and Tampa Bay will do the same against the Rams.

In the Super Bowl, Brady goes out with a loss, as Buffalo finally wins a title and Josh Allen is cemented as the best QB in the game.

I’m excited to see how this plays out and in any event, I will enjoy this season.

And Go Broncos!

What do you think? Let me know in the comments, and if you disagree, I’d love to hear your picks.

Films Better Than The Books?

There’s an old adage that says, when it comes to books and their visual adaptations, the book is better than the movie. I would argue that nine times out of ten, this is correct.

But what about that one time?

In my experience, I have come across a couple of instances where the opposite is true: the film is better than the book.

FORREST GUMP – This is mainly due to the changes to the character of Forrest himself. In the book, he swears a lot and displays characteristics of someone with Autism.

He also doesn’t embark on a career in ping-pong in the book, but rather becomes a chess whiz and astronaut. He heads to space with an Orangutan named Sue.

Finally, the anchoring piece of the film, at least to me, is Forrest’s love for Jenny. We all know what happens in the film. In the book, not only does Jenny live, but she takes Forrest’s son and runs away with another man.

SHREK – Unlike Forrest Gump, the changes here make the story more elaborate. Some of the book’s elements found their way to musical version. For example, the book starts with Shrek getting kicked out of his parents’ house. He meets a witch who gives him a fortune that foretells how the book plays out. He meets the Donkey, who takes him to a princess, they recite poetry and marry.

Most of us have seen the film. airytale characters being rounded up and exiled by Lord Farquaad, who is all set to marry Princess Fiona. She is locked away in a castle, and through a series of hilarious misunderstandings, Shrek and Donkey set off to rescue her. There’s a lovesick dragon, a Gingerbread Man, a curse. And in the end, true love wins, and everyone sings.

I do think that Shrek is worth reading, not only for kids, but for the art. The author-illustrator, William Steig, was remarkably prolific. He created over 1700 pieces of art for the New Yorker, for decades, starting in the 1930s.

Do you have any films or TV shows that are better than the books they’re based on? Let me know in the comments below!

Criticizing Criticism & A Drop

The best critic of all time.

There is a cliche that says “Those that can’t, teach.” I don’t think that applies to creative folks in either the book or film world. Would anyone call James Patterson, Neil Gaiman (teaches Masterclass) or Justina Ireland (Star Wars NYT Best-Selling author who teaches at York College in PA), people who can’t write?

I think that cliche is, in the 21st century, more applicable to critics.

Before I explain, I want to share that Chasing Betty’s e-book is now $2.99! You can get your copy here.

Let’s look at film critic Owen Gleiberman. The dude tries to turn film criticism into a literary exercise. I’ve read his reviews over the years. There are short blurbs, ones only a paragraph long and there are reviews lasting a page.

Now, in fairness, his short reviews have morphed into what reviews should be: do you like the film? Why or why not? If something sticks out, he tells us.

His long reviews, however, are something different altogether. Take a look at this review for Arthur. It has gotten better but he still tries to use words no one’s used in a century at least.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m all four increasing one’s vocabulary, but is a film review the place for it? I don’t think so.

As a both a cinephile and bibliophile,  I often read critic’s thoughts on books and movies. Being an author and filmmaker myself, I enjoy a variety genres, but sometimes if I am on the fence about a book or flick, or haven’t heard much about it, I will check in to see what the critics have to say. This will often decide if I see it in theaters or add it to my Netflix queue or TBR pile.

Reading these criticisms, I feel compelled to ask: why the hell do they think they are major contributors to world literature? Let me give you an example. This review comes to us straight from Joe Morgenstern of The Wall St. Journal: “The screenplay is simply sensational. Feelings flow like molten lava.The dialogue overflows with edgy wit and acidulous arias of imprecation.

WHAT THE FUCK IS THAT???!!! I don’t want to have to browse a dictionary when I read a movie review in the paper. Are you seriously that pompous? Do you feel bad that you are stuck writing movies reviews at a paper as serious as the Wall St. Journal and need to use big words to feel like you fit in? Or is that a requirement perhaps?

Michiko Kakutani, a legendary book critic (the Pauline Kael of literature) was so famous her last name was turned into a verb when she critiqued a work, was not guilty of this. She reviewed Don DeLillo’s novel “Cosmopolis” and called it “a major dud, as lugubrious and heavy-handed as a bad Wim Wenders film, as dated as an old issue of Interview magazine.”

I take umbrage not only with the tact that she purloined a word from the seemingly dark corners of Merriam-Webster, but she insulted Wim Wenders, who has not made a bad film. Can’t you just say you were sad a writer of DeLillo’s talent had a subpar work and why, instead of trying to be haughty-taughty?

You need to realize one thing: YOU ARE CRITICS, NOT PROPOGATORS OF THE DICTIONARY.  No one is coming to you to find ways to say something is good or not, just whether or not it’s worth our time.

You should take some time to read the reviews at Joblo.com, whom I consider the best online critic and second only to Roger Ebert in terms of reviews. Joblo, aka Berge Garabedian, simply gives us background on the film, explain what he likes and/or didn’t like, and rates it from 1 to 10.

So easy, and yet so effective.

Why is that so hard to do? We just want to know whether or not we should see a movie or read a book. We don’t want to hear words that weren’t used after 1783. If you did that, Ms. Kakutani and Misters Morganstern and Gleiberman, maybe you won’t be considered a supercilious parcel of incongruity.

Walking in the Footsteps of My Hero

Those closest to me – and maybe some of you – know how much I love Star Wars. I’ve been a fan since I was 4, and I stood in line for the release of the toys during the prequels. And I was one of those crazy people who paid $4 to just see the prequel trailers (this was in the days of dial-up).

Like many Gen Xers, I identify with Luke. Yes, I want to be a Jedi hero and save the world, but when he’s upset because his Uncle won’t let him go the Academy and he looks out with longing and disappointment at the twin suns of Tatooine, I felt that. My parents were MUCH stricter than most of my friends (and I can understand why now, as a parent myself), so there were many nights I felt the same way. growing up.

When Disney bought Star Wars (during a blizzard in which I lost power for three days and had no idea what my friends meant when they sent me texts about it), I got excited at the prospect of Luke returning. I had read reports before that George Lucas told Mark Hamill that the Original Trilogy was about a son saving his father, and the sequels would be about Luke, a dad, saving HIS son.

Obviously, that didn’t happen, and while the sequel trilogy is polarizing, we’re sure of two things: 1) it was great seeing the original characters we love on the big screen again and 2) the locations were fantastic.

I especially love Ahch-To, where Luke exiled himself between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens. When I saw the location of film, I was in awe and I looked into it.

The location is Skellig Michael, an island 8 miles off the west coast of Ireland. A UNESCO World Heritage site and home to devout monks from the 1st-9th centuries, it’s a beautiful, spiritual place full of beauty and wonder.

The view of Skellig Michael approaching by boat.

The monks who came there built the monastery and steps by themselves, using rocks on the island and stone they brought from shore 8 miles away. In rowboats and seas so rough that trips to the island are routinely cancelled in the 21st century.

When I learned that we earned a trip to Ireland from my company, this was a bucket list stop for me that we HAD to check off.

But when we got to Dublin, we were told this wasn’t possible. Falling rocks two weeks earlier closed it off to tourists. The other big place I wanted to see, the Buchanan Auld House and old Buchanan Castle north of Glasgow, was a no-go because the cruise ship had to cut the trip short three hours due to the tides.

I had accepted the fact that I was not going to be able to go. At the very least, we might be able to take a ship to the island and just sail around it.

But on July 4th, America’s birthday, we learned it was opened back up, and we got tickets to see it.

The climb is no joke. 604 steps straight up, with a piece of chain serving as a railing for 24 of the those steps. And the staff there (all 2 of them) said the mist that often rolls in is more dangerous than steady rain, as it makes the steps very slippery.

There was a little mist that day, but despite not being sunny, the history and natural beauty made up for that. Plus, this is a place where my favorite film series was shot, and it’s absolutely wonderful.

Rey practicing her techniques on Skellig Michael.
Does that rock look familiar?

As we got halfway up, I saw an area with a fence that I knew was familiar. Call it whatever you want – I’m saying it’s the Force, of course – but I found the steps where my hero stood.

Look closely at the pictures – I stood where Luke was!

It is a must see, not only if you’re a big Star Wars fan, like I am, but for lovers of history and natural beauty. I’m so happy I got to see it and step where I saw my favorite fictional hero make his triumphant return to the big screen and films that captured my imagination as a child and still do today.