Friday, March 02, 2007

The year in football, the year in film

It has everything the NFL wants, except a football team

The NFL and Hollywood: Industries with much in common. Both are among America's most popular forms of entertainment. Both are swathed in myth and legend. Both capitalize on the spectacle of violence. Both wrap up each year with an overproduced spectacle in which a 30-second commercial spot costs more than body armor for a brigade of U.S. soldiers. (And yet, curiously, at the intersection of the two lies mostly dreck: The Replacements. Any Given Sunday. Two for the Money. Air Bud: Golden Receiver, featuring Joey Galloway.)

I tend to doubt that there's a whole lot of overlap between those who are passionate about the NFL ("Oh, man, Julius Peppers just buried that guy!") and those who are passionate about the Oscars. ("Oh, man, can you believe that dress Thandie Newton was wearing?"). But if you happened to have watched the end of Super Bowl XLI and the end of the 79th Academy Awards closely, you would have seen that they both concluded in similar fashion. In fact, the entire 2006 season of the NFL closely tracked the year in film. Which movie told the story of your favorite team?

Filled with high-priced, high-profile talent, this film took home the year's top prize. The award was vindication for the guy directing the thing, who had long been shadowed by his inability to win the big one. This year, he finally did it -- though not necessarily with his best work.
The Departed is ... the Indianapolis Colts

A down-on-its-luck group overcomes heartbreak and a string of misfortunes -- up to and including death -- in pursuit of an unlikely title. Though they don't win in the end, and though their circumstances at home remain grim, they learn valuable lessons, do a happy little dance and go out on an uplifting note.
Little Miss Sunshine is ... the New Orleans Saints

You know, just because something worked 15 or 20 years ago, that doesn't mean it's going to work today. If you bring back just one person without bringing back all the other elements that made it a success the first time around, then it's going to be a total, unmitigated disaster. What was provocative and innovative back then is just the same old tired shit today. Without a doubt the worst movie of the year.
Basic Instinct 2 is ... the Oakland Raiders

Though he has been marketed to fans as Superman and sometimes sees himself as just that, the hero struggles with what in reality is a crude skill set. His daredevil exploits produce a lot of media attention but only modest success, and in the end his career is a cycle of mediocrity. Various theories are advanced about the specifics of his demise, but we're left to decide the truth for ourselves.
Hollywoodland is ... the Atlanta Falcons

Violence, avarice and other destructive behaviors weaken a proud people and leave them at the mercy of rapacious outsiders. Off screen, some trouble with drunken driving proved to be quite a distraction.
Mel Gibson's Apocalypto is ... the Cincinnati Bengals

Someone is trying to kill our hero, and now he must keep his adrenaline level high or he will die. That means he must run, run, run, and keep running for the duration of the film. From start to finish, he runs through pain, injury and exhaustion, then he runs some more. At the film's end, he collapses. He may never run again.
Crank is ... the Kansas City Chiefs

Oh, look. It's that one guy who pulls that same stupid shit year in and year out. He just laughs and laughs, perhaps barely aware of the damage he's doing to himself with his asinine stunts and totally oblivious to the pain he's inflicting on his friends and the misery he's visiting on everyone who crosses his path.
Jackass Number Two is ... the Detroit Lions

No matter how good the 2006 edition of this venerable franchise was, fans would always compare it to past versions -- and would always declare that it just didn't measure up. Even when the experts weighed in and said it was really pretty good, that you should just enjoy it for what it is, the public seemed dissatisfied. Every change, every update was cause for scathing and often ridiculous criticism. (I mean, is the star really all that much worse than the guy who had the role in the mid-'80s?) Regardless of how good it was or wasn't, the film enjoyed enormous success, in part because of the weakness of its competition.
Casino Royale is ... the Chicago Bears

On first glance, it looks like it might be quite good, but once the story starts unfolding, it's clear that the whole production is a sloppy, undisciplined mess. A series of false starts introduces the viewer to multiple storylines, some of them "shocking" but none of them interesting. The movie goes nowhere, takes forever to get there, and just when it seems to be over, it goes on for what seems like an extra week.
Babel is ... the New York Giants

A familiar madman toys with another set of human beings, degrading their bodies, crushing their hopes and shattering their spirits -- all the while speaking in maddening riddles and enraged doublespeak. Once he has laid waste to all around him, he moves on in search of new victims and a new house of horrors.
Saw III is ... the Miami Dolphins

Working under a demanding and often tyrannical Type-A "genius" prepares the young main character to follow a similar career trajectory. In the end, when the two cross paths, the former master pretends to not even recognize the former apprentice.
The Devil Wears Prada is ... the New York Jets

One freak occurrence kicks off a chain of events that turns everything upside down.
Poseidon is ... the Pittsburgh Steelers

So fresh and original the first time around. So totally stale the second time through. Getting the gang back together was the easy part. Re-creating the success they enjoyed was going to be impossible.
Clerks 2 is ... the Washington Redskins

When this first came out, people didn't pay much attention; there was no reason to. But later on, as the reviews started coming in, people couldn't stop raving about the star. No, he didn't exactly have a spectacular cast around him, but his performance alone was enough to carry the movie. Because there wasn't anyone else who stood out any more than he did, the star took home a trophy.
The Last King of Scotland is ... the Tennessee Titans

The overarching theme is that fate cannot be changed. The characters thought they had avoided a gruesome demise, but it soon became clear that death was waiting for them in another form. No matter what they did, what they tried, no matter how far they got ahead of the curve, no matter how comfortable they got, events were falling like dominoes, leading them inexorably to their downfall. Every year another sequel comes out, and it's always the same.
Final Destination 3 is ... the Arizona Cardinals

Where the air is hot and filthy, life is miserable. Sure, we could take action and stop the inevitable disaster, but does anyone really think we will?
An Inconvenient Truth is ... the Houston Texans

There is much confusion in the aftermath of a disaster on a boat. Wouldn't it be nice if we could go back in time and keep it from happening? Alas, that sort of stuff only happens in fiction.
Déjà Vu is ... the Minnesota Vikings

Despite their oil-and-water personalities, the couple at the center of the film come together to create something fantastic: a stunning condo with all the latest conveniences. As the couple drift apart, the condo just becomes more and more attractive. Eventually the condo is the only thing keeping these obnoxious people together, but even the best real estate in town can't work miracles. They split up, and the condo likely falls into disrepair as some goofball moves in.
The Break-Up is ... the San Diego Chargers

With many of their uncanny powers neutralized and several of their most important members eliminated, this once-formidable team of heroes suffers a series of crushing defeats, including wholesale devastation in San Francisco. In the end they're still the most powerful group on the West Coast, but only because their archenemies have taken even heavier losses.
X-Men: The Last Stand is ... the Seattle Seahawks

The main character is someone who has been a leader for as long as anyone can remember. Someone struggling both to maintain the trappings of faded glory and to evolve beyond them. Someone to whom millions swear allegiance. Someone who has endured considerable recent tragedy. And someone whose silence at an emotional turning point in history infuriated the once-adoring public.
The Queen is ... the Green Bay Packers

Success in sports is great, but everybody's aware that there's big money to be made in Los Angeles. Getting there won't be easy, however. Maybe you should just stay where you are, or at least find a home somewhere in between.
Cars is ... the Jacksonville Jaguars

In a decaying city on the fringes of civilization, life is nasty, brutish and short. Some are able to escape, but most just disappear. Those who perish with the least suffering are the lucky ones.
Hostel is ... the Buffalo Bills

On their way to the top, a highly talented group is beset by jealousy and discord. Its leader is pushed aside for a prettier replacement and proceeds to sulk as the group's fortunes begin soaring. A high-maintenance character acts out in a self-destructive manner.
Dreamgirls is ... the Dallas Cowboys

Despite extensive turnover in the cast -- or perhaps even because of it -- this franchise is all but guaranteed to enjoy success every time out. Though the 2006 edition wasn't as strong as earlier ones, it did end up as one of the biggest movies of the year. But all anyone's talking about today is the private life of the star, especially after he got his actress companion pregnant.
Mission: Impossible III is ... the New England Patriots

I heard it was really good, but watching it just seemed like work.
Volver is ... the Baltimore Ravens

Most people thought that nothing good would come of having a different guy play the main character, especially when the man who had long held the role was so closely associated with it -- and had long thrilled audiences with his powers. But the new guy did pretty well. We'll just have to see whether he gets another shot.
Superman Returns is ... the Philadelphia Eagles

What a disaster. This rebuilding project could take the better part of a decade.
World Trade Center is ... the Cleveland Browns

The name is the same as the earlier version that achieved so much success, and many of the elements are the same, but it's far inferior. One of the most noteworthy differences is that the protagonist in this version meets his downfall in the Pacific Northwest.
The Wicker Man is ... the St. Louis Rams

When you're living in the shadow of a guy who won four Super Bowls, what's the point of knocking yourself out? Just stay where you are and enjoy yourself.
Failure to Launch is ... the San Francisco 49ers

This has been a buzz title since 2003, and as the movie prepared for its 2006 opening, it seemed like there was no doubt it would finish on top. I mean, everyone was picking it to have a monster year. The cast of characters, the intriguing back story, it was a can't miss! Then it started playing, and while it had some good moments, in the end it was nothing special.
The Da Vinci Code is ... the Carolina Panthers

We see what happens when you become disenchanted with a relationship and make a big change. It's possible your next relationship will be even better, but expect rough going early on.
The Holiday is ... the Denver Broncos
(Alternative: Considering the dreadful events that have befallen the Broncos since the end of the season, perhaps something more hopeful, say, We Are Marshall.)

Forget the movie and focus on the title.
Dead Man's Chest is ... the Tampa Bay Buccaneers