Cubs Cannot Seem to Catch a Break

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Today was Opening Day in Major League Baseball, which means it was the first opportunity for the new instant replay system to be used in season play. The Chicago Cubs became the first to seize that opportunity today after pitcher, Jeff Samardzija, got called out in a bang-bang sequence at first. To the naked eye, and the audience viewing at home, Samardzija appeared to be safe, despite the umpire’s initial call. However, in a turn of events eerily emblematic of the franchise, upon further review the umpire made the right call and the Cubs’ first ever challenge was…..lost :(. Sorry Cubbies, even the new instant replay system cannot reverse your historic losing ways. Maybe fans should take this as an omen and start rooting for the White Sox. Who knows, I mean it can’t get any worse for the Cubs right? Right?

 

Frozen Becomes Highest Grossing Animated Film

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Disney’s latest animated film Frozen has just surpassed a Disney/Pixar title, Toy Story 3, to become the highest grossing animated film of all-time. Frozen’s $1.072 billion box-office total makes it the tenth highest grossing film of all time, of any genre.

Frozen earned $398.4 million domestically, while also earning $674 million internationally thanks to a big showing in Japan where it grossed $50.5 million alone. Benefiting off a late November release, the movie rode the wave of the holiday season and saw a resurgence thanks to an awards season push—Frozen won two Academy Awards for Best Animated Film and Best Original Song. The movie’s hit song “Let it Go,” sung by broadway star Idina Menzel, even got as high as number 5 on the Billboard 100 list, which likely boosted box-office grosses as well.

This was Disney Animation Studios first film to reach the elusive billion-dollar platform. The monetary success of the film couldn’t have come at a better time either as Disney has suffered continuous box-office flops over the past decade. The Alamo, Around the World in 80 Days, Mars Needs Moms, and The Lone Ranger are among this list of failed films. However, John Carter takes the cake as it caused Disney to eat an $84 million dollar operating loss during the second quarter.

Frozen’s turnaround was likely caused by a deviation from the norm: the movie is short, fast-paced and doesn’t try to do too much. Instead it flows along with an amusing script and incredible music, headlined by Idina Menzel’s tour de force with “Let it Go.” Look for Disney to learn from this recent success, and renew commitment towards quality animated films in the future.

A Sport Gone Unnoticed

“Once you’ve wrestled, everything else in life is easy.” 

- Dan Gable 

 

Every wrestler has heard this quote at some point, but, more importantly, they know intimately the truth of its message. Few sports teach such valuable lessons as hard work, accountability, and humility, to name a few, as effectively as wrestling. Certainly not the mainstream sports like football or basketball. Wrestling is not only the ultimate test of physical strength and endurance (sorry football fans, not even in the same league), but it is equally, if not more, taxing on the athletes psyche and mental fortitude.

I am certainly biased, having wrestled the majority of my life and being a Division 1 wrestler. However, wrestling was not the only sport I played, far from it—I was a multi-sport athlete all my life, and still am presently for that matter. The reason I am so convinced that wrestling is a step above most other sports is because I have seen the difference firsthand.There is one preliminary factor that places wrestling above the mainstream sports: it is the ultimate individual sport. And, as anyone who plays an individual sport knows, competing one on one adds a deeper level of difficulty both mentally and physically. From a physical standpoint, there is no one to blame poor performance on and, no one to pick up the slack when you aren’t performing well. From a mental standpoint, a wrestling mat is like a broadway stage—everyone is watching and you are completely naked, with no one to protect you but yourself.

Other sports like tennis, golf, and swimming can appreciate the added difficulty that individual sports apply to an athlete. However, an added caveat that only wrestling provides (and I guess boxing as well), is that being physically dominated raises the level of anxiety exponentially. After being potentially manhandled you are infinitely more exposed than if you just lose a tennis match—there is something about being physically beaten that is a deeper, ad more severe shot at your pride. Anyway, the point of this tangent is, wrestling teaches kids lessons on a more mature level than other sports can and wrestlers become mentally stronger comparatively as a result.

Results have proven the value of wrestling as a tool to prepare young adults for life ahead. Business Insider posted an article two years ago taking notice of the growing number of former wrestlers dominating the finance industry: http://www.businessinsider.com/how-some-wall-streeters-got-their-competitive-edge-through-wrestling-2012-6. The article cites many Wall Street moguls, leaders of firms like Merrill Lynch and Goldman Sachs, that have attributed their professional success to their experience as wrestlers.  The sport breeds responsible, hard working individuals who are prepared for the obstacles life throws at them—the importance of this cannot be overstated.

Another aspect of wrestling that I have found unique is how close its community is. In my personal experience, and I’m sure any wrestler will back this up, if you meet someone new and find out their a wrestler, instantly you have gained a permanent bond. Recently, wrestling was cut from the 2020 and 2024 olympics, and though it was a tragic blow for the sport it was a prime example of the type of community the wrestling world is. After being cut the wrestling community was justified in outrage (wrestling is one of the oldest sports known to man, and is a cornerstone of the Olympics), but, they immediately banded together to save the sport they love. What ended up happening was that wrestling was reinstated over baseball and squash after receiving the majority of votes (49) in a re-vote. IOC President Jacques Rogge said of the outcome, “Wrestling has shown some great passion and resilience in the past few months. They have taken a number of steps to modernize and improve their sport.” Wrestling was originally cut from the program because the IOC felt it was outdated and archaic. However, the reversal of the vote was a direct result of the wrestling community’s efforts to make adjustment to suit their sport to the IOC’s requests.

Wrestling is can have an incredibly positive influence on a young adult’s life, I know it has greatly affected mine. It is a shame because the sport, though it has endured ages with roots to ancient Greece, has become criminally neglected in modern culture. Mostly because of immature reasons like it is “too gay” or taboo. All I would say to parents looking to get their children into sports (that’s right, girls can wrestle as well), is that wrestling is certainly worth strong consideration. If you give it an honest chance I bet you will see how it can be such a powerful influence in someone’s life, as it has been on mine.

 

 

 

Glee

Glee

Glee is one of the most overlooked TV shows on the air. Since its inception in 2009 the show has produced quality television lead by amazing performances from its cast of crooners. The show is religiously followed by its cult of “Gleeks” but has not gotten the respect I think it deserves. Not only does is have a very talented cast, led by Lea Michele (who is nothing short of incredible), but it also attempts to tackle all the complicated, unpopular social issues that dominate high schools. Glee approaches many delicate issues, like teen pregnancy, gay rights, and the influence of religion, carefully and with a positive attitude. The show sets a good example for young adults, and if many kids disregard the stigma that is attached to watching the show, like that its “too gay” or girly, they will most definitely be thoroughly entertained by the cast and performances.

Leonardo O’Toole?

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Recently Leonardo DiCaprio suffered another disappointment at the Academy Awards. He left empty-handed after failing to take home the Leading Actor award, for his electrifying performance as Jordan Belfort in The Wolf of Wall Street. This latest nomination was DiCaprio’s fourth—he was previously nominated for roles in Blood Diamond, The Aviator, and What’s Eating Gilbert Grape. Though only having been nominated four times for an Oscar—a feat envied by many—in my opinion that is not an accurate reflection of DiCaprio’s talents as an actor. DiCaprio has consistently churned out powerful in films he was snubbed for at the Oscars: among this group of films his work in Gangs of New York, Catch Me If You Can, and The Departed stand out to me the most. He most certainly should have been nominated for, at the very least, one of those roles but was not—this is not even considering his work in Django Unchained and Shutter Island, which he was stellar in as well. Back to the point though, Matthew McConaughey was certainly deserving of the Academy Award, nevertheless his win marks another time DiCaprio has failed to take home the award.

When discussing DiCaprio’s latest snub, his career appears eerily similar to that of the recently deceased film legend, Peter O’Toole. O’Toole was nominated a record 8 times without winning for his acting once (he won an Honorary Award for his body of work in 2002). DiCaprio is still young and likely, will continue to produce Oscar-worthy material for the foreseeable future. But, considering he has been snubbed a number of times for Oscar worthy roles, and he hasn’t won yet out of his four nominations, the question needs to be asked: will Leonardo DiCaprio ever win an Academy Award? The popular answer to that question, recently, has been no. However, I firmly believe DiCaprio will grab the coveted golden statuette in the near future. I believe this for three reasons: 1) DiCaprio has lost to outstanding performances that were deserving of the award, 2) the Oscars often makes actors “wait their turn” before they win, and 3) he is too talented to not win at some point.

First, every time Leo has lost he has lost to incredible performances. His first nomination for supporting actor in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape lost too Tommy Lee Jones in The Fugitive. Sure you could make a strong argument Leo’s work was more deserving of the honor than Jones, however, when it comes to the Oscars there are many politics at play. Namely, in that particular situation, it was Leo’s first nomination against Jones’s second, but, Jones had been producing quality work for a long time and the Academy was more prone to award an established industry figure rather than an up-and-comer (also, his work in The Fugitive was outstanding).  He has also lost to Jamie Foxx as Ray Charles and Forrest Whitaker as Idi Amin—both incredibly powerful turns as historical figures, which is something the Academy consistently rewards.

Second, much like his frequent directorial collaborator Martin Scorsese, you get the sense that DiCaprio will eventually be rewarded for his continually excellent work. Scorsese, for whatever reason, was egregiously snubbed time and time again at the Academy Awards for his work directing. Arguably the greatest director of all time, and certainly the greatest living director, was not rewarded for his efforts in crafting an endless string of seminal classics like Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, and Goodfellas. It got to the point where it was the annual “elephant in the room” at the Oscars that Martin Scorsese still has not won. Finally, Scorsese was rewarded for directing The Departed and watching the video you can visibly and audibly feel the weight being lifted off the room after his name was announced. I believe DiCaprio is in a similar boat, though he may not have to wait as grossly long as Scorsese did. Every year there is an instance where a performance wins instead of another, simply because the Academy is honoring an actors body of work over one role. DiCaprio will eventually be rewarded for his.

Third, Peter O’Toole is an outlier. Generally, if you are a talented actor or actress who is consistently being nominated for Oscar after Oscar you will take one home eventually. O’Toole is the recurrent example of the exception to the rule—one of cinema’s greats who never took home it’s most revered award. Glen Close is another example of someone who falls into this category. However, those thesps are two members of an extremely limited group. Sure there are plenty of actors who have been nominated a few times and haven’t won; Brad Pitt, Johnny Depp, and Sigourney Weaver come to mind. But, DiCaprio, like Close and O’Toole, is above that category of actors and as such if he doesn’t win it will be an injustice. However, because of Leo’s persistently great work, drawing on the Academy’s track record, he will win eventually. O’Toole, along with Close, is a rare example of someone who fell through the cracks. Throughout history there have been very few examples of someone who fits the O’Toole mode and it is very unlikely DiCaprio will join this fraternity of snubbed cinema greats. If he does though you can definitely count on an impassioned article from me berating the Academy.

 

 

The McConaissance Is Real

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Much has been made of Matthew McConaughey’s recent career resurgence. In one year the actor has essentially gone from a filler in rom-com throwaway’s to a respected thespian within the industry. His powerful turn as an AIDS riddled cowboy, Ron Woodroof, in Dallas Buyers Club has garnered him an Academy Award, a Golden Globe, and a Screen Actors Guild Award, among others. Furthermore, his transition to the silver screen as Detective Rust Cohle in the hit new series True Detective has him positioned as the frontrunner to win an Emmy for best performance by an actor. Yes, this past year has been an extraordinary one for McConaughey. And with any luck, it will be a sign of continued success for years to come—McConaughey is already set to star in Christopher Nolan’s new film Interstellar. 

I am personally delighted to see this transformation over the past few years—though McConaughey just enjoyed the most success recently, the shift in career direction started in 2011 with his films Killer Joe and The Lincoln Lawyer. Both films showcased a more serious side of the actor known for his easygoing personality and southern charm; which were too easily relied upon in romantic comedies like Fools Gold, Sahara, and Failure to Launch. It was continually disappointing for me to watch those movies because of the talent and charisma that was being under-utilized. Although McConaughey is known for his laissez faire attitude, he was clearly blessed with talent. This was evident in his earlier films like A Time to Kill, where he owned the screen with industry giants like Kevin Spacey and Samuel L. Jackson, and Dazed and Confused—despite the fact that it was a comedy, the film showcased McConaughey’s inherent confidence that oozes out on screen. Very few actors have the type of natural confidence and charm that McConaughey possesses, this was always clear even in his less serious movies. All he needed to do was make an active shift towards seeking more serious roles, where he had a chance to showcase his talent alongside his star persona.

Obviously, he succeeded. Not only was he spectacular in Dallas Buyers Club (and certainly deserving of the Oscar), he was almost equally brilliant in earlier films Mud and Magic Mike. In the former role he was able to embody the enigmatic and self-reliant title character exceedingly well, and managed to carry the movie and keep the audience entertained. Still, I believe the perfect example of the “McConaissance” was his role as Mark Hanna in The Wolf of Wall Street. Although only being on screen for less than 10 minutes, he managed to steal every scene completely—and that’s saying something considering he was working alongside Leonardo DiCaprio, who was nominated for an Oscar for his role as Jordan Belfort in the movie. He is perfect as the savvy, coked-out trader who is the first to show Jordan the “real ropes” of Wall Street (his chest thumping scene even has a remix on YouTube). Bottom line is McConaughey is a very talented actor, who is just as much a star as anyone else in the business, and this career resurgence is anything but unexpected—rather, its been a long time coming.

Bee Story

Bee Story

Bumblebee’s are natures unsung heroes. Annually these seemingly disproportioned, yet fascinating creatures pollinate about 80% of flowering crops—according to the Mother Nature Network. That converts to over 1/3 of America’s crops: strawberries, cucumbers, cabbage, broccoli, asparagus, etcetera. Furthermore, the plant life the bumblebee is sustaining supports wildlife, and the domesticated animals we eat. If the bumblebee were to go extinct—a path they are currently going down—the ensuing effects on the global ecosystem and mankind would be disastrous. I took this picture on vacation in Italy; when I saw this lone bee hard at work pollinating a group of flowers I couldn’t not admire the beauty. Let’s get the word out to preserve the bumblebee and stop killing them off through the use of toxic, yet common, pesticides.