Movie Musical Bracket

March 24, 2017

My good buddy, Mike Sheehan, and I recently recorded a podcast episode debating our favorite movie musicals since the year 2000. In celebration of March Madness, we used a bracket-style to determine the rankings, match-ups, and eventually the winner. Here is the process that went with figuring out the rankings and at the bottom is the episode. Enjoy!

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This post is to explain how we came up with the movies and the rankings for our Movie Musical Bracket.

First, we needed a topic and both Mike and I love movie musicals, and statistically there weren’t too many of them to choose from. Well, that’s what we thought at first before realizing there are plenty of classic movie musicals, so to stay clear from them we decided to keep the pool of films to more recent memory. We decided to only allow movie musicals since the year 2000 to be in the bracket, but even deciding that would be a lot of work. Luckily, we found a Buzzfeed article where Louis Peitzman ranked his favorite movie musicals that were released after the year 2000.

Perfect! Until Mike realized it omitted one of his favorite movie musicals: Moulin Rouge. So we just decided to throw that film in the mix as well. So we had Moulin Rouge plus 23 of the films Mr. Peitzman had on his list as the pool of films trying so hard to make it into our bracket. Now we needed to decide how to get that list down to 8.

We decided to have an Objective Score and a Subjective Score. The Objective Score was the sum of the film’s IMDB Rating + 10% of its Rotten Tomatoes Score + the films domestic box office gross/10,000,000 (with 10 being the max score). Basically, each category’s max score would be 10, so a film’s perfect score would be 30. And we felt that the mixture of IMDB (fan voting) + Rotten Tomatoes (critic’s gauge) + Box Office (pop culture relevance) was a fair enough system.

But then we had a Subjective Score, which was our separate rankings of our favorite 8 films from the pool. We ranked them 1 through 8 and used a point system: 15 points to the 1st ranked film, 13 points to the 2nd ranked film, 11 points to the 3rd ranked film, etc. Again, the max score for any film would be 30 points.

After combining all of the scores, we had our rankings. But then we discussed our main problem: what if we disagreed with a match-up? What would the tie-breaking mechanism be? We can’t just flip a coin or have the higher seed win. So we decided that since we’re the ones debating, our rankings should matter as the tie-break. Whenever we have a tie, we would look only at the Subjective Totals and the film with the higher Subjective Score would win. If that also resulted in a tie, then the higher seed won.

And there you have it! Here are how the rankings ended up and the first round match-ups:

1. La La Land (47.7 points)
2. Les Miserables (44.5 points)
3. Once (38.6 points)
4. Moulin Rouge (35.9 points)
5. Tangled (33.7 points)
6. Chicago (30.8 points)
7. Sweeney Todd (30.2 points)
8. Sing Street (28.9 points)

1. La La Land vs. 8. Sing Street
2. Les Miserables vs. 7. Sweeney Todd
3. Once vs. 6. Chicago
4. Moulin Rouge vs. 5. Tangled

Enjoy Episode 25 of Popcorn and Pop Culture Podcast:


Movie Review: Drinking Buddies

August 1, 2013

Drinking Buddies (2013)
90 minutes
Directed by Joe Swanberg
Starring: Olivia Wilde, Jake Johnson, Anna Kendrick, Ron Livingston

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Grade: C+

Fun, good-looking characters who drink beer in almost every scene? Count me in!

Have you noticed that what you get from an indie-romcom has become almost as predictable as mainstream romcoms? But sometimes it’s not just about going from point A to point B, it’s how you get there and in Drinking Buddies, there is a lot of potential.

Set in Chicago, Kate (Wilde) and Luke (Johnson) work for a craft brewing company and are the kind of friends who you notice are a bit closer than just friends. They spend their lunch breaks besides one another, laugh a bit harder when one of them makes a joke, and they love to go out drinking together. But both are involved in relationships. Luke is with Jill (Kendrick) and Kate is with Chris (Livingston).

Things drastically change when the two couples decide to take an overnight trip together at Chris’ lakeside cabin. There is drinking, flirting, kissing, and even some nakedness involved, but you might be surprised as to which actually pertains to whom. One thing is for sure, everyone’s relationship changes after the trip. The rest of the movie takes a look into Kate and Luke’s lives and whether they want to take the leap, or if they want to work on what still exists.

Joe Swanberg is a part of the mumblecore movement, which allows the actors an extended time to improvise their scenes for more natural dialogue. While I don’t doubt that these actors would’ve been able to make a well-written script come to life, there are some scenes when the improv got in the way of finishing the scene in a timely fashion. Conversation was just too random at times and often too pointless, which makes a large bulk of the movie seem like filler to the semi-complicated plot. Yes, there were some discussions that real people would have, but that doesn’t make it great dialogue in a movie.

The main cast, especially Wilde and Johnson, did a fine job here at fleshing out the uncomfortable story of friends wanting more with the tension and awkwardness it needs. In the end, though, it’s just another independent film that tries to avoid clichés, but by doing so it becomes one.


Remembering Roger Ebert (1942-2013)

April 5, 2013

On Thursday, April 4, 2013, Roger Ebert passed away at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago. He was 70 years old.

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The Pulitzer Prize winning film critic has left behind an incredible legacy, one that many people have looked up to throughout his decades of work. I, for one, always found myself reading Ebert’s reviews daily because he was one critic that I really felt connected with the readers when criticizing movies. There was no doubt that his knowledge of film was second to none, but what made his writing so successful was how personal it was. More times than not he would explain why he loved a movie, not just why a movie was good or bad. Because after all, films are meant to evoke emotion and that’s why every person is able to love a film that we know isn’t technically great.

A recent example of this is how in 2007 he listed the Top Ten films of the year. Despite writing that No Country for Old Men was “a perfect movie,” he placed it runner-up to the film he called his “true love,” which was Juno. Ebert wasn’t afraid to admit certain things like this, but that never stopped him from expressing exactly what he felt. We would learn more and more about the man through his reviews, and even though I never interacted with him, I felt like he was my friend who simply opened me up to the world of cinema.

I didn’t watch movies seriously until my second semester of college and this also was the first year I actually followed the Academy Awards. I remember how it was 2004-2005 when Brokeback Mountain was supposed to win everything. But Ebert, one of the very few, claimed that Crash would win Best Picture. And as Jack Nicholson let out a shocked, “Whoa!” he announced that Crash did win the big award that night. Even though I understand that predicting the Oscars isn’t all that terribly difficult, I also understand predicting an upset is and I just smiled when I though of how Ebert was grinning from ear-to-ear to correctly predict Crash (arguably one of the biggest upsets in Oscar history).

In keeping with the Oscars, I remember just this past year how Ebert predicted that Argo would win Best Picture before the film was even released to the general public. After the Toronto Film Festival, he felt so confident that he blogged about how the case was closed and Argo would win. As a reminder, this was before Argo started winning all the Guild awards, before the backlash of Zero Dark Thirty, before Lincoln became the critical darling. And as everyone else watched these films fluctuate all up until February, in the end Ebert was right again. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised.

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I do remember watching more than a handful of “At the Movies” with Richard Roeper. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the opportunity to watch Siskel & Ebert though I will be searching for those videos in the near future. But it’s true to say that Roger Ebert had a great influence in my life because of the passion he had for film. It was almost like a cinematic epiphany when I realized how movies are more than just an entertaining two hours and more than just a way to escape from your current life. Because of Ebert I enjoy following multiple layers of plot, analyzing a character’s motivation and his development, concentrating on a director’s intention and the choices he/she made to tell the story, etc. I can truthfully say that I love everything about film and a great part of that is because of Roger Ebert.

Ebert’s reviews were always like he was just talking directly to me, and that is definitely a strength in his writing. After watching Mulholland Drive, I read his review and just smiled because his prose was so spot on with how I felt. He wrote, “The way you know the movie is over is that it ends. And then you tell a friend, ‘I saw the weirdest movie last night.’ Just like you tell them you had the weirdest dream.” That’s exactly what I did and just reading those words put a smile on my face. Of course I continued to torture my friends by forcing them to watch the mind-fuck that is Mulholland Drive, but it’s still one of my favorite movies ever and will remain to be. I was very glad when I learned Ebert included Mulholland Drive into his Great Movies section in November, and even more delighted when it was basically a string of questions as to what exactly goes on in the film. He admits he’s still no closer to figuring it out, but that’s what makes it a great film.

There are plenty of critics out there, but only a rare few write in an honest way that Ebert always did. While I will never achieve the accomplishments that Ebert has (not many will), I still hold dear what was so important to him and the way he conducted his writing every day. He wrote:

“Almost the first day I started writing reviews, I found a sentence in a book by Robert Warshow that I pinned on the wall above my desk. I have quoted it so frequently that some readers must be weary of it, but it helps me stay grounded. It says:

‘A man goes to the movies. A critic must be honest enough to admit he is that man.’

That doesn’t make one person right and another wrong. All it means is that you know how they really felt, not how they thought they should feel.”

If that isn’t the only way to write film criticism, then I don’t know what is. Ebert transcended film criticism and enlightened the world with his reviews. It’s sad to think how there won’t be anymore reviews written by him, but still his legacy will live on.

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These were the final lines of his blog post written the day before he died, “So on this day of reflection I say again, thank you for going on this journey with me. I’ll see you at the movies.”

It’s almost like he knew.


Revolution – Pilot (S01E01)

September 12, 2012

It’s impossible not to take notice when JJ Abrams puts his stamp as executive producer on an upcoming movie or television series. Him and fellow Bad Robot Productions founder, Bryan Burk, are producing a new high-concept series for NBC, Revolution, which debuts on Monday, September 17 at 10 p.m. Eric Kripke (Supernatural) is the creator of the series and Jon Favreau (Iron Man) directed the pilot.

Revolution takes little time to dive into its premise: what would happen if the world lost all of its power? There is no explanation of this, but they hint that certain characters hold the secret to this catastrophe. But the show doesn’t continue right when the world goes dark, instead the show picks up fifteen years later when there are already established means of militia ruling and people are used to their way of living.

This is an interesting choice, since we’re used to seeing the characters deal with the immediate change in their lives and how they struggle with the fact that their former way of living is gone. There is more time for character development in shows like Falling Skies and The Walking Dead, but Revolution seems to be concentrating more on action and story. Aside from personal preference, one isn’t better than the other.

So fifteen years later, we see the family that we were introduced with before the blackout. Charlie (Spiridakos) and Danny (Rogers) are siblings living with their father Ben (Guinee) and his new interest Maggie (Phillips). We find out that Ben’s wife passed away, but the details aren’t revealed in the pilot. This family lives in a village with crops for food and rule peacefully until Captain Neville (Esposito) and his militia arrives.

Chaos breaks loose, Ben is shot and Neville takes Danny as prisoner. Ben’s passing words lead Charlie, Maggie, and friend Aaron to Chicago in search for Ben’s brother, Miles (Burke). The trio doesn’t know why or what’s going to happen next, but under Ben’s direction they travel to Chicago and find Miles, who is less than enthusiastic during the family reunion.

Revolution isn’t a show that many people will immediately become engrossed in. The pilot episode sets up its world, characters and conflicts, but answers few-to-none of the questions it presents. Every network is looking for the next Lost, but time and time again those shows fail. Revolution isn’t the next Lost and if people continually compare the two, then Revolution will be cancelled like the rest of the other ambitious shows. Revolution is an action-adventure series with an upside to inject a level of intelligence because of its premise. But I’m afraid it’s becoming too confusing, too quickly, which will not fair well with the general public.

Performance-wise, it’s nice to see Billy Burke step away from his vampire daughter to become a killing-machine. Giancarlo Esposito does a good job acting the villain as Captain Neville, but the strongest of these unknown actors is Tracy Spiridakos as Charlie. She embodies the strength of a Katniss with the unique situation of growing up in these ruins and not knowing a time of technology. It should be interesting to see how she reacts if she has to work a cell phone in a future episode.

Overall, Revolution’s pilot episode isn’t anything special, but nonetheless has enough qualities to keep the viewer interested throughout. I’m looking forward to see what direction Revolution takes and if it could last longer than the first season. I’m not getting my hopes up because there are many ways Revolution can fail, but I am rooting for it.


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