Thursday, January 31, 2008

Huggins leaves Cincinnati, Emerges as Mannish Lesbian Stereotype

One half of LTOB really likes Bearcat Basketball. This year, that one half has been treated to a super competitive first half of Big East games. But that is beside the point.

The point is this picture to the right (click on picture to maximize), specifically the man in this picture and, even more specifically, the absurd excuse for an outfit that he is wearing.

There was a time when I was upset that Bob Huggins left the University of Cincinnati. Now that Cincy is winning again (killing Huggins' mountaineers in WV in the process) and Huggins has apparently fallen in a bit too deep with the Golden Lion crowd, I really don't mind seeing him in another team's colors.

**Author's Note: I realize this is not running related in the least, but it sure is funny to look at that picture.


Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Wariner Breaks Heart of Hart's

(That title was so close to making sense. Maybe it actually does. I can't tell. I put it in there anyway.)

So Jeremy Wariner splits with his longtime coach over an alleged contract dispute, not a big deal. For those who wonder why or condemn J-dubs for this move, you have to realize how many Oakleys can be bought with 5% of the over 1 million dollars Wariner is set to make in this Olympic year. Enough to block out all the light on that sunny, mystical fairy land that you live on, that's how many.

As for the rest of us basking in the shade of a little thing called "reality," we realize that this is a perfectly understandable move on the Jub-man's part.

The coach, at least the coach of a professional athlete, is not an employee of the athlete who represents a cog in the production of a commodity. That might be the case in the minds of some delusional athletes and egotistical coaches, but the reality is athletes assume full responsibility for all of the physical labor that produces the performance on race day and race day's repercussions.

The coach is brought in as a consultant. A pretty well paid consultant I must say, as Hart was apparently making around $100,000 annually on J-dawg alone. Not to mention the other athletes he coaches and his Baylor salary. The consultant's duty, usually, is to advise on the best way to use the resources in place (JD's talent, work ethic, etc.) to make the best possible end product (Olympic medals, World Records, etc.). Once the consultant has been around long enough, the company needs less and less consulting.

Hart consulted very well, but just like any company, Daddy Warbucks Inc. decided the advice he had been hearing from his consultant for the past 6 or so years was no longer worth all of those Oakleys (new slang for cash).


Monday, January 28, 2008

Sam Bair: Delaying Inevitable?

Once again, Sam Bair: agonizingly close to breaking 4:00 for the mile. Among his attempts are now a 4:00.16, 4:00.14, 4:00.99, and 4:00.87. But don't despair, Sammy. You're hardly the first person to come achingly close to something. Let's take a look at some other great near misses in history...

Paul Tergat - Sydney 10.000m, 2000. Missed gold by 9 one-hundredths of the second. Looking at it another way, that's .09. Honestly... he couldn't have run even just one stride a little faster?

Steve Prefontaine - Munich 5.000m, 1972. Missed medaling by just .64 seconds. To think... so close to running immortality. Instead, he will be swept aside by history as merely an also-ran.

Dave Moorcroft & Great Britain - Oslo 5.000m, 1953. Clocked 13:00.41, which would stand as his PB and National Record. Think about it: By coming up less than a half-second shy of breaking 13-minutes, Moorcroft disappointed not only himself, but an entire nation, which has, to date, failed to produce anyone capable of running under 13. By comparison, you only let down your Dad.

Boston Red Sox - World Series, 1986. Nice try, Red Sox.

Jonah Freudiger - Nicole Farnsworth's Party, 1991. In an impromptu game of Spin-the-Bottle, the bottle stops just 2 inches short -- 1.2 degrees, by Jonah's rough calculations -- of delivering Jonah's first kiss unto him. To date, Jonah has failed to, well... has failed to date.

So cheer up, Sam. Jonah may never have gotten that first kiss, but the Red Sox eventually won another World Series, Tergat got a world record, and Pre came back to the Olympics in 1976 to rectify the....



Thursday, January 24, 2008

She Was Way better in "Swordfish"

We're a little past the mid-point of January and I'm looking back at the past few weeks. I'm doing a miserable job of editing a running website, and I know it. But you know what else? I'm ever-resolved to continue my month-long boycott of running because what has the sport given me in the past 23 days? A Houston Half-Marathon that did NOT result in a massive American Record. A marathon in Dubai, a place that I'm pretty sure is made up. I mean, have you ever met anyone from Dubai? Do you know anyone who has even visited the United Arab Emirates? Yeah. Me neither. So I remain steadfast.

Oscar nominations were just announced. A fairly amusing undressing of the notion of the Oscar "dis" was blogged over at Yahoo by J. Keith van Straaten, a guy with about two too many parts to his name. Nevertheless, we're half-way through running purgatory and a month out from the awards-show itself, so take a gander at the big-boy nominees, after the jump.

PICTURE: Blood, No Country, Juno, Atonement, Clayton
DIRECTOR: Schnabel, Coens, Paul Thomas Anderson, whoever directed Michael Clayton and Juno
ACTOR: Clooney, Daniel Day-Lewis, Tommy Lee-Jones, Aragorn
ACTRESS: Cate (for Elizabeth), Julie Christie, Marion Cotillard, Laura Linney, Ellen Page, Teresa Faatblotter, my seven-grade Science teacher. See, I slipped it in among those names and you didn't even notice!

Some good stuff there, I suppose. But honestly... were members of the Academy stumbling into dozens of theaters inexplicably screening Pirates of the Caribbean ... and mistaking it for Sweeney Todd? On a nationwide, near epidemic level? Because, I don't think there was a single thing Johnny Depp did in Sweeney Todd that your average black-shirted Manhattan waiter couldn't have done in that role. Since when did the Oscars start handing out nominations for showing up, wearing make-up, and getting your lines right? Is the Academy unaware that in film you get multiple tries to achieve that?

Then again, I guess singing that weakly actually is almost an accomplishment.


And You Wonder Why You Ended Up a Masseuse...

There are some people whose children you just feel compelled to pray for. Then there are those children who you know stand no chance, no matter how direct the line from your red telephone to He Is Who Is. As more news emerges regarding Heath Ledger's death, we learn that any offspring of Diana Wolozin -- better known as The Masseuse -- are surely among those doomed:
Wolozin told police that Ledger was cold to the touch, but that she assumed he was just unconscious. She grabbed his cell phone and called Mary Kate Olsen, whose number was programmed into the phone. Wolozin knew that the "Full House" star and Ledger were friends, and she asked Olsen for advice on what she should do next.
My god. If MK didn't pick up, what was Plan B? Calling Kate Moss for advice? Simply tying her shoelaces must be a daily battle for this woman, without someone there for guidance.


Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Like We're Supposed to Believe THAT!

Paulie Bleeker.... tsk tsk tsk.

Recently, Amby Burfoot blogged about enjoying the running scenes in the movie Juno, a film reviewed rather credibly here. Well, it's taken me a few days to comment on the treatment of high school track in the film, but I must say... running clockwise? In lane 2? In matching outfits at all times? With wristbands? Mr. Bleeker, Daniel Lincoln you are not. I mean, in one of the movie's final scenes, Paulie wins what is clearly a Mid-D or distance race, but when he climbs into the hospital bed with the titular character (no, not that kind of character) [SPOILER ALERT] he is clearly wearing low-rent sprint spikes.

Now THAT was the final straw. Sure, his shorts were accurately short - to the point that during one scene, I'm pretty sure I saw the edge of Michael Cera's scrotum (which is, undoubtedly, the funniest scrotum on Earth - I refuse to hear any debate on the matter). But no one good enough to win a mid-D event at his conference championship - I don't care how small the division remote the county - would have spikes like that. MAYBE the JV race at the conference championships. I'm sorry. Totally ruined the movie for me.

Michael Cera, at life? "A." Juno's Running Consultant? F+.


Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Jeremy: Brown Baggin' It Over to Runnerville

Runnerville is a mystical place.

On the other side of the tracks from loserville and dangerously close to hoboville, Runnerville is the place where all of us runners love to go. Where the streets are paved with soft, golden wood chips and lined by hot chicks with an inclination to emaciation. Its a place where there are mile markers in every direction and wild allegations from anonymous screen names are as credible as the New York Times (er...).

Some say runnerville only exists in dreams and fantasies and Tuesday afternoon LSD trips. Those people are right, of course, but now it exists in the real fake second life that we like to call the internet.

The newest Matt Taylor creation launched today and it looks very promising. Ever since I stole one of my teammate's login information to Chasing Tradition, I knew this Matt Taylor guy had something (don't worry, I bought a subscription eventually, I was going through one of my many hippy phases).

The site looks good so far mainly because all of the distance running media players are in the line-up, including everyone's favorite daywalker, Less Than Our Best's own: Jeremy, who has a great bit on the legitimacy of NCAA cross.

The podcast idea is the main innovation on the site. I like the idea of being able to download something quick (the first one was 16 minutes long) or listen to it while I am working on my computer.

The best part about the podcast is how much is packed into the 16 minutes. It is probably very tempting for Matt to "Flotrack it" and have the Texas state 300 meter champion talk about his summer training for a half an hour, but he gets 7 very credible running authorities and Jeremy to boil it down to 2 good minutes each. Because there is no long wind and because we get an earfull of that booming, yet gentle, Tony Reavis voice at the end, it stays interesting throughout.


Best Movies of 2007: Oh, You Gandered!

Because the month of January sucks at running, I'm boycotting the sport for the coming weeks, and placing my allegiances squarely with Hollywood, for whom January is a font of delicious goodness, like one of those chocolate fountains you'll see at wedding receptions and the occasional Sweet Sixteen. Below I document my journey through the Best Movies of 2007 in preparation for the Oscars...

A macabre, throat-slashing musical. Tim Burton -- the mad-scientist genius (on his good days) who might be most apt to adapt it -- helming, and working with his two primary muses: Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter. Does that result in a perfect storm and a near-perfect movie, or a let-down thanks to expectation? Find out after the jump.

SWEENEY TODD, dir. Tim Burton

Perhaps the only thing worse than a terrible movie, is a movie musical made with no imagination. For a good 30-minute stretch I sat there thinking, My god, they had no plan going into this. They just booked Johnny Depp, grabbed a copy of the stage script and rented a camera. Here is proof positive that movies are boring not because of lacking plot, but because of lacking inspiration. Boo this movie.


If MLK were a runner...

To celebrate this great holiday, a reflection on the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.:

If Martin Luther King had been a runner, I'm pretty sure he would have been like Juma Ikangaa - an eloquent philosopher, all about the distance... endurance... fortitude... And always fighting the label of "second best" (women, of course, perpetually finishing 3rd at "Boston," ("Boston," of course, being a bad metaphor for "social equality") at the time). Except, instead of saying "The will to win means nothing without the will to prepare" MLK would have said "The will to win equal rights means nothing without the will to die for your cause. Man up, Ikangaa."

Then again, MLK was all about going on long walks with his friends and just sitting around at the local diner. Sounds pretty lazy to me.


Thursday, January 17, 2008

Nike Ad

Came across a new(?) Nike ad in which Lance Armstrong does a little dreadmilling. Say what you want about Lance and his alleged drug use, but now that he's run 2:46 (on a slow course!) I think we can officially consider him a runner... sort of.

My personal highlight, though, is the inclusion of Less Than Our Best-favorite, Zach Woods from the NYC-improv group The Stepfathers. I guess a "personal" highlight probably would have been me appearing in the commercial, but having seen Woods at UCB, it's pretty amusing to see him doing his usual shtick on a national stage.

If you're in or around the NY area, you can catch the Stepfathers at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater every Friday night at 10pm.


Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Best Movies of 2007: The Lesser Affleck No Longer

Because the month of January sucks at running, I'm boycotting the sport for the coming weeks, and placing my allegiances squarely with Hollywood, for whom January is a font of delicious goodness, like one of those chocolate fountains you'll see at wedding receptions and the occasional Sweet Sixteen. Below I document my journey through the Best Movies of 2007 in preparation for the Oscars...

BACKTRACKING: The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford While the Weak-Stomached Tom Phillips Averted His Eyes From the Blood, OH the BLOOD is quite the ambitious movie. I mean, what else can you say about a film that tries to get you to say all that each time you want to say anything about it? Imagine: "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford While the Weak-Stomached Tom Phillips Averted His Eyes From the Blood, OH the BLOOD was good." "I liked The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford While the Weak-Stomached Tom Phillips Averted His Eyes From the Blood, OH the BLOOD." "Wait, do you mean you liked the assassination of Jesse James by the coward Robert Ford while the weak-stomached Tom Phillips averted his eyes from the blood, oh, the blood? Or the FILM, "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford While the Weak-Stomached Tom Phillips Avert--" [ puts bullet through nose ]


Hereafter, this film will be referred to as The Ass. of Jesse James because as you probably know, that ass belongs to Mr. Brad Pitt in this film. Yes, the film is long. But whether you call it "deliberate" or "boring" depends on your tastes. The Ass of Jesse James is almost like two movies scotch-taped together at the midpoint. Observe the difference in the musical themes, giving breath to the subject of each half of the film: one inside the outlaw's myth, vibrant and dynamic, one observing the myth, a dreamlike musical box in concert with the surreal cloud images that mark the passing of time.

Why Casey Affleck has been nominated as a supporting role is beyond me. The Ass of Jesse James is a study, but one drawing its gaze not on the outlaw, but on the titular Coward (no, not that kind of Coward), and in that role, Affleck is a revelation (perhaps the first time in history those words have been used in that order). Casey certainly can hold his ground with some of the best currently practicing his craft, and his open face and doleful eyes draw the viewer into Ford's loneliness, and render one unable to turn one's eyes away.

Roger Deakins' cinematography, while only an appetizer to his work in the later-releasd No Country For Old Men, is beautiful, and of a wholly different nature than the Coens' film. Here he alternates between creating pictures fit for a storybook, and eventually washing out all contrast as the myth surrounding James erodes.

In this film, there are both moments and sequences that deserve to be called great. The film might yet be considered the same.


But How Many Texts Does That Include?

An interesting glimpse into Marion Jones' new life, courtesy Athletics in the News [ found through the Track & Field Superblog ]. One thing jumped out at me:
The phone is 300 minutes/months for $69...
That's about what I pay for my cell phone each month! With free nights and weekends! I mean, I know prison isn't guaranteed to be "fair" and is supposed to be a "punishment" and that you "can't come out for dinner" until you've "thought about what you did." But with that $69, she's not even going to get fun downloads like wallpapers and ringtones since those 300 minutes probably come on a LAN line. A freaking LAN line! I didn't know your jail sentence came with a free trip back to the early 1990's.

Let's be reasonable. Marion Jones may be a dirty, dirty liar, but it's not like she killed anyone. You can at least hook a broad up with a little "BeJeweled."


Tuesday, January 15, 2008

LetsRun Poetry

This is, simply put, the best thing ever to grow up out of


Monday, January 14, 2008

Best Movies of 2007: Please, Name Your Kid "HW"

Because the month of January sucks at running, I'm boycotting the sport for the coming weeks, and placing my allegiances squarely with Hollywood, for whom January is a font of delicious goodness, like one of those chocolate fountains you'll see at wedding receptions and the occasional Sweet Sixteen. Below I document my journey through the Best Movies of 2007 in preparation for the Oscars...

Tabbed the top film of the year by the LA Critics association, some are calling There Will Be Blood Paul Thomas Anderson's "near-masterpiece"...

THERE WILL BE BLOOD, dir. Paul Thomas Anderson

OK, just so I'm clear on this: Capitalism is relentless. Capitalism is ruthless. Capitalism will bring family together after keeping it apart, only to turn around and kill it for no good reason, when that family has outlived its usefulness.
Capitalism will orphan children, then adopt them, but send them away when they become weak from damage suffered at capitalism's hands. Capitalism will give religion lip-service to serve its own needs knowing that eventually religion will come crawling back to be humiliated and bludgeoned to death by capitalism in capitalism's private bowling alley. Is that right?

Yawn. Spare me the convoluted, paper-thin metaphors. Next.

(DISCLAIMER: I am aware that the above probably reads Upton Sinclair's source material, "Oil!" a little too heavily into PTA's film. OK, so pull Daniel Plainview (Daniel Day-Lewis in yet another stunning performance) out of the extended-metaphor and allow his greed to function in place of "capitalism." If a movie taking itself so seriously can be distilled thematically into eight words or fewer, it's a snoozer - There Will Be Blood: 'Greed destroys everything it comes in contact with.' While the rest of the critical community was busy sucking this movie off and giving each other reach arounds, Roger Ebert actually tells it like it is. Next.)

TONIGHT: Across the Universe, dir. Julie Taymor


IAAF Hates the Disabled

Is that OK? Can I say "disabled"? Or is it "slightly less-abled, in certain specific ways that are dependent on physical characteristics typically found in a majority of the populace"? The IAAF ruled today that Oscar Pistorius is a persona non grata, as far as its competitions are concerned. The ruling made the frontpage of for a portion of the morning and apparently "hinged" on energy absorption ratios in Pistorius' j-blades versus the human ankle. (Get it? "Hinged?")

What I found FAR more interesting, though, is that the Times built a slideshow comparing the "muscle" systems in Pistorius and those in, shall we say "traditional"? human legs. Without asserting it outright, the captions in the slideshow clearly suggest that someone at the Times thinks Pistorius is actually at a significant disadvantage and is getting screwed. I'm surprised that a major (the major?) paper would give the story such coverage, let alone care enough to position itself on one side of the debate or the other.

Then again, I can see their point: I've used something similar to the j-blade and must admit they didn't make me any faster.


Bekele d. Ritz, some other guys

Bekele squeaked out a win in Edinburgh over defending World Cross champ Tadesse, and Eliud Kipchoge. Ritz was 5th, having gone out with the lead pack, fallen off and then worked his way back into contact before the final bit of racing. Solid result for him: a little over 10 seconds back in a 9300m race... but hardly the kind of race that makes one think he can hang at World Cross when there are full squads from Ethiopia, Kenya, Eritrea, Tanzania, etc, etc. etc. I would love to see him crack the Top 10 on the senior level some day, but more and more I wonder if it will happen, regardless of whether he can stay healthy.

As an aside, Bekele's facade of cross country invincibility has taken a serious blow, of late - even this defeat of top foes lacks the effortless dominance he used to display. Last year he was tops in the same trio here, with a 10-second gap on 2nd place... and Tadesse still took home the serious hardware in March...


Best Movies of 2007: I Hate Posses

Because the month of January sucks at running, I'm boycotting the sport for the coming weeks, and placing my allegiances squarely with Hollywood, for whom January is a font of delicious goodness, like one of those chocolate fountains you'll see at wedding receptions and the occasional Sweet Sixteen. Below I document my journey through the Best Movies of 2007 in preparation for the Oscars...

Backtracking: Saw 3:10 to Yuma some months ago. I know I'm going to give it short shrift after the jump, but that's more because it's been a while than because there isn't much to say about it...

3:10 TO YUMA, dir. James Mangold

Unforgiven has carved out a place for itself in the film pantheon by positioning itself as the anti-western. 3:10 to Yuma may not have been crafted with such lofty ambitions -- to subvert one of film's most classic genres -- but "crafted" and "classic" are two good words for it. 3:10 falls so comfortably in step with classic Westerns that it is nothing but a joy to watch, as it rides crisp plotting and great performances.

I had quite the man-crush on Christian Bale after Batman Begins, and, watching him here, stone-faced yet suggestive, this semi-healthy, mostly-platonic infatuation, sublimates into something more... much more. (I mean.... crap.) One can't keep one's eyes off Ben Foster, as the dandyish Charlie Prince, costumed perfectly in probably the only white coat ever worn in the Wild West, and sporting a healthy man-crush (and more, much more) of his own for most-fearsome outlaw Ben Wade (Russell Crowe).

That Bale's Dan Evans wears a prosthetic is a primary trope for a film that looks at one man's quest to become whole again. Out to prove himself capable of providing for his family, and, simply physically capable, Evans must shepherd Wade to the titular train (no, not that kind of train) which will take the outlaw to the gallows. Along the route, revelations about each character make for a climatic final scene in which motivations are complex and complicated, and set the table for rich post-theater discussion. What makes the movie, however, is the tension in the scenes preceding it, as Evans and Wade sit in a hotelroom waiting for the 3:10 to pull in, with Wade's gang massed ominously outside. In lesser hands, it would have felt like waiting. With Mangold shepherding 3:10, the scene is crafted so well as to be worthy of the tradition laid out by High Noon, Shane, Liberty Valance and the rest of the Western canon.

TONIGHT: There Will Be Blood, dir. Paul Thomas Anderson, starring Daniel Day Lewis.


Sunday, January 13, 2008

Beijing 2008 = Barrel of Laughs

More than a day late, but hardly a dollar, or more appropriately a yuan short...

Man, these Deli-style chips are awesome. I'm never going back to Baked Lays. Hmm, what's this? A press conference announcing the re-branding of a new Chinese sports TV station to broadcast the Beijing Olympics? Hmmmmm.... seems pretty standard. The latest in news ticker technology? Ok, ok, sounds nice... And medal count graphics that "will make your head spin like girl in Exorcist"? Well, I'll take a wait and see approach on that one, but thanks... Wait, who's the chick? Oh, oh my!

Explanation after the jump.

Seems Zhang Bin, a pre-eminent sport broadcasting figure has been dipping his wick in... well, something other than what he's supposed to, and his wife is NOT happy about it. In the clip she has crashed said presser to accuse him of the extramarital affair she discovered just hours prior. But, hey! Great Burberry scarf! Of course, upon realizing what a great platform she had, she launched into an attack on China's human rights record. And, the fact that the portions at their neighborhood's Sizzler have been getting smaller and smaller over the course of the past year, but the prices keep going up! Naturally, to avoid having serious egg on their face, the relevant authorities tried to contain the clip on the Chinese airwaves, but it found its way onto YouTube, and well, the folks at Sizzler are powerful, but they aren't that powerful.

So, to recap: the Games are still over half a year away, and already China has given us promises to
control the weather, an inexplicable on-record prejudice against big booties, and now, public dirty-laundry-airings for one of the faces of their nation. I cannot wait to see what's next.


Friday, January 11, 2008

ESPN Picks Up Story on Pistorius Ruling

Just an AP wire story, but has the pending ruling on Pistorius' Olympic status on its front page in the sidebar. No real news here, but I found it a little surprising that it would make the front page of (arguably) the #1 sports website in the world.


Top Movies of 2007: Your Junk Smells Like Pie

Because the month of January sucks at running, I'm boycotting the sport for the coming weeks, and placing my allegiances squarely with Hollywood, for whom January is a font of delicious goodness, like one of those chocolate fountains you'll see at wedding receptions and the occasional Sweet Sixteen. Below I document my journey through the Best Movies of 2007 in preparation for the Oscars...

I'm taking a brief respite from the movies for the weekend. But first, last night: Juno suffers from having most of its best laughs spoiled in the trailer, but for an off-beat, potentially under-the-radar film, you can't blame the handlers from wanting to make sure folks get to the theater in the first place. What happens therein, after the jump.

JUNO, dir. Jason Reitman

It would be easy to dismiss Juno as Knocked Up 2: Baby in Biology but with fewer laughs than the original. But suggested in Juno is the idea that the aims for this film, were less comedy-driven than the summer's Judd Apatow joint. To be sure, Juno is a movie that's very funny in places, driven most frequently by Ellen Page's sparkling performance as the knocked-up high school junior who speaks in pop culture shorthand and who finds herself increasingly drawn to the adult world due to said knocking-up. But, to wit: the best scenes in the movie are those which delve into the personal struggles of the adoptive parents (Jason Bateman, Jennifer Garner) that Juno found for her fetus. Those moments are raw and much more "real" than the quippy, sometimes too-cute scenes that opened the film.

This is not a perfect movie -- the quirkiness of the characters seems rote in spots, Paulie's (Michael Cera) orange tic-tac addiction more the duty of the spec, small-flick screenwriter than a naturally-occurring character trait, and the soundtrack is a stream of small acoustic indie-style songs, a tack both repetitive and done before and done better. And frankly, that this is Roger Ebert's Top Film of 2007 may be even more of an indication that his brush with death has made him an old softy, than his recent spate of 4-star awards to every film in sight. But Juno's screenplay is genuinely funny and sweet, and the performances charming and well-toned. If I got knocked up and had pushed this movie out through my loins, I would be a proud papa indeed.


Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Top Movies of 2007: How Can I Stab Thee? Let Me Count the Ways

Because the month of January sucks at running, I'm boycotting the sport for the coming weeks, and placing my allegiances squarely with Hollywood, for whom January is a font of delicious goodness, like one of those chocolate fountains you'll see at wedding receptions and the occasional Sweet Sixteen. Below I document my journey through the Best Movies of 2007 in preparation for the Oscars...

Before we begin: a poem, on Eastern Promises...

Shall I stab you in the leg?
Shall I stab you in the head?
Shall I cut you in the arm?
Use a shiv to bring you harm?
Shall I slash you in the neck?
Shall I slash you in the back?
Shall I razorblade your throat?
Throw your body in a moat?
Thank you. (More after the jump.)

EASTERN PROMISES, dir. David Cronenberg

You might remember David Cronenberg's A History of Violence - that 2005 movie best known for hits such as "Viggo Mortensen Graphically Shown Stabbed in the Foot" and "Side of Man's Face Blown Off in Shotgun Blast." Having seen that film, I really shouldn't have been so surprised by the vicious killings which are at the front and center of Promises -- in which the work of Mortensen's London-based, Russian hitman sees him criss-cross into the life of a midwife (Naomi Watts) who delivered a mob-baby orphaned in the delivery room -- nor the brutal and unflinching depiction of those murders. But still, I found myself uniquely unsettled by them.

That the knife is the weapon of choice in Promises -- not the gun of Violence -- chiefly contributes to how directly the moments of violence impact the viewer. Cronenberg has shown a talent for presenting violence in a blunt, "That's the way it is" manner, without wallowing or glorying in the gore. The same largely holds true here (save one shot I found a bit gratuitous) and, with the combat predominantly hand-to-hand in nature, the struggle and the desperation of the Russian mobsters has its personification in a most literal way.

Unfortunately, the script never makes it clear exactly what has been a struggle for these mobsters, despite asserting it in voice-over read for the diary of the orphan's teen-prostitute mother. There is a brief scene recounting the past hardships of the Mortensen character, Nikolai, but they are talked, not shown, and this verbal exposition comes so late in the movie that the viewer is forced to retrace steps to read it into previous scenes, when the movie should instead be extending moments of tension and moving forward toward a climax.

The saving grace of the film, really, would have been a bath-house scene which, unfortunately for Cronenberg, was used to perfection in Borat. The second time around, seeing naked men wrestling around on the ground, just isn't as funny as the first.

And I'm not really sure how all the stabbing in that scene was supposed to help that fact.

TOMORROW: Juno, directed by who knows who, and starring Ellen Page, the delightful Michael Cera, and Jason Bateman.


Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Top Movies of 2007: My Man

Because the month of January sucks at running, I'm boycotting the sport for the coming weeks, and placing my allegiances squarely with Hollywood, for whom January is a font of delicious goodness, like one of those chocolate fountains you'll see at wedding receptions and the occasional Sweet Sixteen. Below I document my journey through the Best Movies of 2007 in preparation for the Oscars...

American Gangster will face stiff competition to take home the Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar, but the screenplay is a beauty, telling the story of gangster Frank Lucas and the narcotics cop, Richie Roberts, who tracks him. I'd even call it "taut." More after the jump.

AMERICAN GANGSTER, dir. Ridley Scott

The gangster movie is an octogenarian, and the crime-drama has enjoyed the limelight ever since Bonnie and Clyde in 1967. In American Gangster, directed by Ridley Scott, we have a movie that knows the history of its genre and, by simply treating its audience like it has a brain, manages to ascend beyond the rote, dispassionate craftsmanship that so easily could be its hallmark. It's almost as if screenwriter Steve Zaillian knows that one or two of his viewers might have seen GoodFellas or The Godfather or Training Day or The Departed. I mean, look at that poster: reminiscent of anything?

True, the movie often keeps you at arms-length from the inner thoughts of it dual protagonists -- the honest cop (Russell Crowe) whose personal life is in a shambles, and the crime lord (Denzel Washington) who has banquet-esque family dinners and a happy marriage -- even while inviting you to witness their most personal failings. But Gangster succeeds by setting up these men's storylines in parallel -- beginning with each's formative experiences as a younger man -- and then unwinding them with near perfect pacing, scored by strong dialogue and nice performances all around. Case in point: where most gangster movies have the requisite scene showing the gangster buying off the cops and politicians, this movie has none. Where most gangster movies show the gangster killing off the competition, this movie skips the montage in favor of one encounter of personal significance to the protagonist. It knows we've seen those movies. It knows we know Frank Lucas must have done these things to climb as high as he has.

This economy of exposition allows for storytelling that engages and clicks along so well that the ultimate collision of our two storylines -- the real, emotional climax of the movie -- is entirely satisfying in and of itself, even while containing nothing more than a good, long look, shared between characters.


MLB Gets Tough on Drugs

Normally we don't approach any and all drug-related news as relevant to professional running, but this bears mentioning: ESPN reported this morning that baseball is cracking down. The whip is being brandished. The Mitchell Report - famous for inducing spontaneous napping nationwide during its press conference - has now induced Major League Baseball to take serious action. Namely, teams will no longer be notified the night prior to drug testing taking place. Players will, however, continue to be issued masking agents in their spring training MLB Welcome Back! Packages.


Monday, January 7, 2008

Top Movies of 2007: How Does it Feel?

Because the month of January sucks at running, I'm boycotting the sport for the coming weeks, and placing my allegiances squarely with Hollywood, for whom January is a font of delicious goodness, like one of those chocolate fountains you'll see at wedding receptions and the occasional Sweet Sixteen. Below I document my journey through the Best Movies of 2007 in preparation for the Oscars...

I juggled things around and, instead of Eastern Promises, saw I'm Not There last night - the Todd Haynes-directed film looking at the many sides of Bob Dylan by using a variety of actors (including Cate Blanchett) to portray him. Thoughts after the jump...

I'M NOT THERE, dir. Todd Haynes

Needed more explosions.


No Month for Running Fans

I wish college cross country had a longer season. Three months is but a cruel joke. I could get through December without it, the month passing amid a warm glow from NCAAs still lingering in fans’ hearts, as the smell from Terre Haute still lingers in the competitors’ skin, hair and clothes. But now, like every year, I’m into the most boring-slash-frustrating time of year for the fan of running: there is absolutely nothing going on in January. It’s as depressing as a group of 23-year-olds hanging out at an Applebee’s in the mall on a Saturday night.

Sure, an indoor-nationals-qualifying performance will pop up here and there. But really, who cares about Indoors anyway? Living a short jog from one of the best indoor facilities would, you’d think, make me look forward to winters, with at least a couple solid performances occurring up at the Armory each week, for my viewing pleasure, should I so desire. In reality, the opposite true. Until you get down to the annual Collegiate Invitational, (which dilutes its best events over two days and charges ridiculously high ticket prices), the meets are impossible to differentiate between, so there’s never a kick in the ass for you to pick one and hop on the train. [More after the jump]

So January is a long and lonely month. For running. Thank GOD for Oscar season. If not for a spate of “smaller” awards shows filling the run-up to the Academy Awards, and Top 10 Lists and Critics’ Superlatives aplenty to peruse, I think I would quit life each January. Nevermind my birthday. It’s one freaking day and they don’t even give you very good gifts after you hit like, fifteen. Thus, to alleviate my running-related boredom this month, I’m endeavoring to comprehensively take in the remaining best movies of 2007 over the next 2 weeks with a new movie every night, and will document the journey here to help you identify what you should be going out to see, and to help you handicap your Oscars-picks Pool at work. Self-indulgent? Yeah, and more than a little. But if the sport of running is going to be selfish and postpone the circus for an entire month, then I'm going to be a little selfish herein. Screw you, sport of running. Screw you.

To kick things off, what ground’s already been covered this year: Zodiac. The Wind That Shakes the Barley. Assassination of Jesse James by the Really Prolix Screenwriter. Knocked Up. Hairspray. Superbad. The Great Debaters. Darjeeling Limited. 3:10 to Yuma. Once. No Country For Old Men. Norbit. I’ll get to these soon. Tonight we’re going to see Eastern Promises, by David Cronenberg, starring Viggo Mortenson and Naomi Watts. Stay tuned.


Wednesday, January 2, 2008

2007: A Look Back

Wowee! What a year! I got a new "real" job, which meant I could finally begin frittering away someone else's time farting around on the Internet. The net result? This blog... the web equivalent of an unprovoked, undeserved punch to the taint. We're sorry, really we are. I don't know why we're allowed to continue to exist.

But since The Google continues to (foolishly) lease us this space for free, let's take a look back (after the jump) at the headlining stories from a wacky, wacky year...

Hall in Houston! Hall in London! Hall in Belgium! Hall in NYC! - Really, 2007 was the year of Ryan Hall. Armed with the Midas touch (get it? Armed?) he obliterated the American Record in the Half-Marathon, the American Debut Best in an audacious rookie appearance in London, the American Olympic Trials Record and the piece de resistance, the longstanding American Mile Record. What a year!

Marion Jones Confesses - I'm not really sure why news outlets reported this story as "Marion Jones: Steroid User!" but neglected to print articles such as "Baseball Went On Strike in 1994!" and "Super Bowl Pits Top AFL and NFL Teams!" While her confession was newsworthy, the information therein was about as enlightening as the Mitchell report.

Lagat and Lagat - A sterling double 1500/5000 victory in Osaka keeps Bernie just slightly arears of rival El Guerrouj with his Olympic double, but, after Osaka, the pair thus remains ever ahead of their middle distance contemporaries. Sadly, as I understand it, only 30% of Lagat's medals counted as American...

Kara Goucher Wins World Champs Bronze - Somehow this made it's way to the top of some "Best of 2007" Lists. Awesome performance, yes, but, c'mon. Nevertheless, that is a nice, nice looking lady.

Walter Dix, Headline Maker - Partly because he dominated NCAA Outdoors. Partly because he has a funny name: "Dix explodes to finish!" "Dix comes from behind for last minute triumph!" "Dix ejaculate all over rump-area of tatooed adult-film starlet!"

McDougal Finally Gets Monkey of Back, Wins NCAA Title - I had said for years that goddamned monkey was slowing him down, but I guess if you look like a smaller, hairier version of a man, who happens to be wearing adorable red overalls, it's easy for people to carried away over you.

World Sheds Tear at the Absence of Thomas Chamney's Trackshark Blog - 2007 was incomplete without it. So was I.

Ugly Disagreement Mars Tasering Incident at Club Nationals - The opposition between opposing sides was vocal. Angry. Diametric, in nature. It really was a shame that such vociferous back-biting and in-fighting within the running message board community would ultimately distract from what could and should have been nothing more than a colorful and somewhat amusing anecdote for us all to remember the 2007 Club Nats by: "Remember how everyone there was holding in the giggles because they were ALL thinking 'Don't tase me, bro!' but no one wanted to piss off the cops?" "Yeah, yeah! And then in the quiet that guy farted and no one could hold it in anymore and everyone just cracked up?" "Man! Good times at the 2007 Cross Country Club Nationals... good times..."

Mottram Announces Size of Balls on National Television - Still awaiting word, however, on the size of his beef bayonet.

Flotrack Videos Everything In Sight - Want to see Hall's aforementioned half-marathon record? Want to see breathless, controversial interviews with running glitterati such as the aforementioned Big Balls? Want to see marginal HS running prospects in some remote county in Idaho wax poetic about how their dietary choices the night before the race led them to their third-place finish? Want to see them relieving themselves of said dietary choices as a Flotrack cameraman follows them into the bushes for their pre-race deuce? It's all here, my friend.

Ted Corbitt - A pioneer passes...

Ryan Shay - And the sadness prevails...