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Athens, Ohio, United States
"Art and love are the same thing. It's the process of seeing yourself in things that are not you."

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Awake on an Island

The series premier of "Awake" was last Thursday. Maybe you watched it. But you probably didn't because it was on NBC and created by the same guy who did "Lone Star." I watched it a about a week ago. I'd like to say it was because I'm special got a screener, but in reality it was because NBC discreetly tossed it online weeks ago.

I enjoyed it for the most part, but it left me a little cold for some reason. Then I read the A.V. Club's review which pretty much nailed the problem down. I bolded the end for emphasis.

Todd VanDerWerff: The pilot episode of Awake, airing tonight, is a great piece of televised art. The script is witty, warm, and soulful. The performances—particularly from lead Jason Isaacs—are delicate and almost perfect. David Slade’s direction conveys the emotional world of the show so well that you could watch it on mute and grasp most of what’s going on. In particular, Slade’s use of color—of reds and greens and blues, meant to boil the show’s complicated premise down into a visual aesthetic—is so wonderful that a whole article (or two) could be written about how he suggests places where realities overlap and intertwine, just through placement of a red scarf. At the end of the episode, you’ll leave feeling like you’ve seen something unique and wonderful, something worth watching every week in an increasingly crowded television landscape.
Then, next week, the show turns into a fairly standard cop drama with a twist.

Now obviously, I haven't seen this week's episode but I thought that even the pilot episode was too much of a "fairly standard cop drama with a twist." The concept of waking up in two disparate timelines is a fascinating, if not wholly original concept. But what got me so excited for the show was how deeply the trailer made it appear that the show would probe the emotional impact of this.

The trailer essentially has every emotional highpoint of the first episode cut closely together with a rather lovely song (it's called "To Build a Home," by the Cinematic Orchestra). The ending of the trailer is essentially the ending of the first episode and brings the whole concept of this splintered worlds' emotional impact on Detective Michael Britten's to a wonderful conclusion.

The rest of the episode, however? Pretty much a cop drama.

And this particular shortcoming of "Awake," got me thinking about larger trends in television and other arts…which got me thinking about "Lost," because how couldn't it?

I think "Lost" succeeded where other shows with high supernatural concepts have failed simply because of "Lost's" setting. The Island on "Lost" was crucially important not just to the show's ever-expanding mythology but also to the creative process of the show, itself.

The alien-ness of the tropical locale combined with the Damon Lindelof, J.J. Abrams and later Carlton Cuse's commitment to the weird and supernatural created an almost unique fictional environment. It was the kind of environment in which no cliché or stock shorelines could come readily available to the writer's minds. Sure, "Lost" featured it's share of cliché and stock elements like archetypical characters and the occasional descent into Nikki and Paulo diamond-stealing nonsense, but it was almost never based purely on setting because the writers had almost no other examples of setting to pull from.

If the "Lost" writers were running low on ideas about a show set on a supernatural Island, they had no other tired storylines from other shows about supernatural islands to pull from: no story about the Smoke Monster going through puberty or the polar bear accidentally smothering it's young. The problem with "Awake," however, is that Kyle Killen and his team of writers DO have the ability to pull from other ideas involving police officers floating around in the collective unconscious.

It's highly unlikely then that they will be able to pull off something that is equally satisfying as an exploration of death, apparent supernatural miracles and/or mental ailments while still never succumbing to the police procedural staleness.

Having said all that though…still give "Awake" a shot. The emotional points hinted at in the trailer resound strongly enough in the first episode to guarantee your devoted viewership for at least a few weeks. And if we're really nice to NBC they might let "Community" live to see season four.

Monday, February 27, 2012

The NBA List of Reasonable Point Guard Satisfaction

When I was in middle school, I had my growth spurt when all of the girls did. Aside from bruising my ego a little bit, this meant one thing: I got to play center during basketball. There is almost noting quite like the satisfaction from using one's superior height to throw one's opponents around like children...or Chris Bosh.

Then everyone else caught up. I hung around my 5'10 frame and everyone else started to look like they were on growth hormone. Suddenly 6'4 was the new 5'10 and I went from being Carlos Boozer to Larry Hughes. I was never able to adjust to my role on the court and so I fulfilled my destiny as a hateful fat loser who made fun of LeBron James on twitter instead of actually playing basketball.

But one thing I took away from my experience on the hardwood (aside from the hateful fat loser thing) was a fascination with point guards. When my size forced me to move to the back court, I realized just how difficult a position it was. People take for granted even the ability to competently dribble a basketball without glancing down to look at it every few seconds.

So watching the point guard renaissance this season has been particularly enjoyable for me. And it inspired me to do a little research into just how strong the point guard position in the NBA is. It's easily the nerdiest thing I've done….in the past three days.

I've compiled lists of starters from every position (please note the word "starters," as I have not had time to evaluate the performance of bench players) and have attempted to identify how many teams are at least REASONABLY SATISFIED with the play of the player at that starting position. Then I identified players from those lists who could at least make an argument towards being the best player at that position in the league.

What I concluded is that not only does the point guard position boast the deepest pool of reasonably satisfactory starters, but also has the most candidates for best player at the position.

Check out my wildly unscientific findings and let me know how wrong I am in the comments section.

P.S. I chose the picture at the top because it combines my three favorite things: Kyrie Irving, New Jersey prep schools and not being sued for copyright infringement.

Point Guards

Reasonably Satisfactory
24. D.J. Augustin
23. Jarrett Jack
22. Rodney Stuckey
21. Jason Kidd

Above Average
20. Darren Collison
19. Jose Calderon
18. Mike Conley
17. Ty Lawson

Very Good or Shows Plenty of Potential
16. Tyreke Evans
15. Jrue Holliday
14. Kyle Lowry
13. Brandon Jennings
12. Jeremy Lin

All-Star Level
11. John Wall
10. Ricky Rubio
9. Kyrie Irving
8. Steph Curry

Best in the League Candidate
7. Rajon Rondo
6. Tony Parker
5. Steve Nash
4. Deron Williams
3. Russell Westbrook
2. Chris Paul
1. Derrick Rose

Shooting Guards

Reasonably Satisfactory
15. Marcus Thornton
14. DeMar DeRozan
13. Jason Richardson

Above Average
12. Landry Fields
11. Nick Young
10. Ben Gordon
9. Chauncey Billups
8. Arron Afflalo

Very Good or Shows Plenty of Potential
7. Kevin Martin
6. Paul George
5. Ray Allen

All-Star Level
4. Joe Johnson
3. Monta Ellis

Best in the League Candidate
2. Kobe Bryant
1. Dwyane Wade

Small Forwards

Reasonably Satisfactory
12. Caron Butler
11. Gerald Wallace
10. Shawn Marion

Very Good or Shows Plenty of Potential
9. Danny Granger
8. Luol Deng
7. Andre Igudola
6. Danilo Gallinari
5. Rudy Gay

All-Star Level
4. Paul Pierce
3. Carmelo Anthony

Best in the League Candidate
2. Kevin Durant
1. LeBron James

Power Forwards

Reasonably Satisfactory
20. Kris Humphries
19. Antawn Jamison
18. David West

Above Average
17. Paul Millsap
16. David Lee
15. Serge Ibaka
14. Luis Schola

Very Good or Shows Plenty of Potential
13. Zach Randolph
12. Carlos Boozer
11. Tim Duncan
10. Kevin Garnett

All-Star Level
9. Andrea Bargnani
8. Josh Smith
7. Chris Bosh
6. Amare Stoudemire

Best in the League Candiate
5. Blake Griffin
4. LaMarcus Aldridge
3. Pau Gasol
2. Dirk Nowitzki
1. Kevin Love


Reasonably Satisfactory
16. Emeka Okafor
15. Deandre Jordan
14. Spencer Hawes

Above Average
13. Joakim Noah
12. JaVale McGee
11. Marcin Gortat

Very Good or Shows Plenty of Potential
10. DeMarcus Cousins
9. Greg Monroe
8. Andrew Bogut
7. Anderson Varejao

All-Star Level
6. Tyson Chandler
5. Roy Hibbert
4. Al Jefferson
3. Marc Gasol
2. Andrew Bynum

Best in the League Candidate
1. Dwight Howard