Thursday, December 14, 2006

Vox in the Box (11)

Where have I been? Somewhere in my fucking head. And I might tell you a story about why we've been Voxless for almost four months. How untimely deaths and a couple of mind-altering nights made me want to ditch my own skin and become BizarroSam, so that I could live a useless life of pleasure and irresponsibility. But somewhere on I-71, my thoughts went from freedom to guilt, then guilt turned into pure depression. And when I walked into my house after three days on the run, I looked in the mirror and saw someone I hated. If this was Superman III, I could choke the life out of Bad SamVox until he disappeared back into me....and then go save Smallville and the soul of Richard Pryor. But this is RealLife, and SamVox is who we thought he was, and you are standing in the heart of Vox 11. And I don't have the time or resources to reveal my parallel universe on a website. So, no stories...instead you get my posh takes:

Props to Pucky: I wish I would've been able to read It Is Time before the OSU-Michigan game. It pumped me up even after I knew the result. That game was so emotional for so many reasons and, for the first time, I didn't mind that they didn't cover and I lost a lot of jack. And I didn't give a shit, at that moment, about the BCS title game. And I don't even care that Troy Smith was on his way to winning Heisman in a landslide. We won the national championship in my mind that day. Afterwards, I got to breathe that Columbus air, wonder where ten years went and go back to the hotel and fall into the deepest sleep I've ever had, dreaming about a world of soft pretzels and orange juliuses, and all those movies they won't make of me when I'm dead. Starring Ethan Hawke.

Sam's Town: The Killers follow-up to one of the finest rock albums ever, in honor of the nostalgic ghosts who float through that historic casino for locals. Stirs thoughts of Springsteen in his prime, when a fast car and the open road was enough. And Brandon waxes on like Bono on downers, while the band plays fast and loud like their native Vegas: flashy on the surface, corrosive in the details. Man, this was going to be a great record. First, it's the Killers. Second, they named it Sam's Town-- which is a tribute to me and the city I love. Third, they decided to blow off the Cars/Cure/Bowie comparisons from Hot Fuss and steal from U2 and the Boss. This was already my favorite record before I heard it. Then, I heard it, and it ain't my favorite record. Not even close (said Sprinsgteen to the prostitute at the end of Reno).

But it's still four stars...thanks to the title track, the bass line and hook from When You Were Young and the better-with-multiple-listenings-Read My Mind, which definitely sounds like Buddy Holly singing With or Without You. And please check out my favorite track-- Reasons Unknown which has to be Flowers reply to Bruce's Dancing in the Dark. I consider Dancing in the Dark a holy song, but Reasons is better. It tells Bruce what he'll get when he starts a fire without a spark.

I wish I had some raves for Snow Patrol's new disc, but I don't endorse safe and saccharine records that lack originality. Eyes Open is more polished than Final Straw but lacks the grit of it's predecessor. Every review I read for Eyes Open is a love letter to Lightbody and his emotive song writing, but I don't think it was a good idea to leave the guitar amps at home. I thought Snow Patrol was a rock band, not Coldplay-lite.

Obligatory This Guy Can't Coach Take: Pete Carroll is not a good coach. He let an over the hill, pot-bellied Andre Rison own the Pats in the '97 SuperBowl. Last year, he's a repeat champion if he converts a fourth and inches by giving the ball to his Heisman trophy winner. But he hands off to Lindell White. That wasn't funny; just sad. This year he loses to an average UCLA team with a less than average quarterback. He did win a national championship, but it was hard not to win at least one title when you had Matt Leinart cutting up secondaries like me controlling Steve Young on Madden '98.

Sports Guy is God: Another great column by Simmons about the horrible state of television broadcast teams in the NFL. (I'm amazed he was able to be frank about the failings of ESPN's MNF crew.) But I don't feel so fortunate to hear Gus Johnsoooooon every other week. There's a reason they send him to Cleveland. I find his hyper delivery to be grating. Ditto for his act of holding onto to the syllable when he believes a big play is happening. I like the enthusiasm, sure, but I almost prefer the way Al Michaels deadpans his broadcasts nowadays. Despite his right wing beliefs, Michaels is a true pro and I'd probably choose him (or Marv Albert) to call a game over any other sports announcer, including Summerall in his prime. If Michaels sounds bitter, it's because he's paired with the worst analyst in pro sports history. Actually my Monday Night Football dream team would be Reghi or Tom Hamilton on play by play (Did yall hear Ham do Buckeye basketball last week? So smooth, you'd never know that's not his everyday sport), Tom Jackson or Michael Irvin as the analyst and Bill Simmons as the three man...in the Dennis Miller/Tony Kornheiser smart cynic role.

SVAC Corner: 25% of the season down, and the Cavs are who I thought they were. A mid-level team struggling to find an identity and continuity in the face of ridiculous expectations. Unfortunately, I've seen nothing to make me rethink my preseason prediction of 49 Cavalier victories. The East is tougher, but SVAC is no better than last year. David Wesley is a bag of balls, Drew Gooden is the prototype for your average pro player, Hughes, of course, is broken, Amon is Jones again but that was always a bullshit signing, and Z plays like a drunk sailor on his last legs-- headed for a long and lazy retirement under the sun. I like Gibson, but other up-n-coming teams in the Association have plenty of Gibsons- hungry, young players making winning contributions. I'm not sure Ferry has been an astute GM and Coach Brown can't get his combinations right. This is a complacent team taking bad shots in important situations followed by key defensive lapses against speedy guards. Sometimes, Bron is willing to bail us out in the games he thinks we have to have. And sometimes he's willing to let us fail. Everyone knows he's tired. And he should be after 13 hard-fought post-season games, the world championships, edging Letterman in that free-throw contest, gawking at Mariah at the ESPYs, etc. And McShill on play-by-play will lose us three to four games on his own. Will there be a Flip Murray to ignite a run this season?

Still, LeBron, in full, can carry us a long way come May. You may need two superstars to win it all, but one Jesus can come close. (See Jordan willing the Bulls to the ECF in '89 and Iverson leading Philly to the 2001 Finals.) I can live with the Cavs under-achieving in the regular season, because that will make the money line payoffs that much sweeter in the playoffs. I predicted a 1st round post-season collapse, but so did Roger Brown...so I'd like to change my mind. Like Ronnie Duncan, I'm allowed to change my mind. On the other hand, so many local and national media members feel LeBron guarantees us a championship...and that's just irresponsible journalism. I wrote in this space last summer-- don't be surprised if May 2006 was the farthest Bron gets in a Cleveland uniform.

I'm running out of relevant Vox material. I would like to write a bi-weekly column in 2007, but I need some help. Feel free, readers, to start a Simmons-like mailbag and I will make sure Vox answers all questions, no matter how ridiculous. And here we go with another ridiculous Random Top 10. Much like a Mad magazine fold-in, it purports to be something. Then I do my thing with it and it has magically transformed into something else. I did actresses a few Voxes ago, so I guess I'll ring up actors. But my heart's not it tonight-- just feels like The Random Top 10 is wasted potential. So is this column. Then again, so is Toe Nash, Eli Manning, Dan Dickau, brother Ronnie, Lindsay Lohan, Taking Back Sunday, Fergie, the NFL network and Jet Magazine.
Editor's Note: SamVox doesn't know a thing about Jet Magazine, except that sisters prefer Essence and Ebony. But it sure was a nice way to end that sentence.

SamVox's Top 10 Actors:

1. Eric Stoltz
Answer Lance, answer. Stoltz was originally cast to play Marty McFly, but they dumped him for Michael J Fox. Probably a good move; Stoltz would've played it darker, but he still would've nailed it with his with his trademark organic honesty. Even when he's sleazy. Stoltz wins audiences with piercing idealism. His characters, minus Lance, are always saddled with big romantic dreams. I've found those types of roles weigh most actors down, but, in my book, Stoltz is untouchable.
Top 5 Stoltz Films:
Mask
Pulp Fiction
Sleep With Me
Some Kind of Wonderful
Bodies Rest and Motion

2. Leonardo DiCaprio (Did you know he's in the original Poison Ivy?)
It really didn't matter to me what he did after his prodigious turn as Jim Carroll in 1995's Basketball Diaries. He could've starred in a Growing Pains reunion or sold suede jackets with Susan Lucci on the Shopping Channel. After BD, I was in love. Two years later, he'd become the most famous celebrity in the world thanks to that trainwreck called Titanic. Then Leo and I would grow apart after I sat through 9 hours of his duds: Catch Me If You Can, Gangs of New York and The Aviator. I wondered if DiCaps would ever make a good movie again. Thankfully, he did. The Departed is the proof, and it rivals any performance I've ever seen on screen.
Top 5:
Diaries
The Beach
The Departed
Total Eclipse
What's Eating Gilbert Grape

3. Tom Cruise
I don't give a fuck about Scientology or Oprah's couch. Yes, I kind of feel a dirty discomfort when I see him cuddling with Joey Potter, but there's too many people in America that can't separate the art and the artist. The Cruise cannon speaks for its self; loaded with some of the finest transformations in Hollywood history.
Top 5:
Rainman
Born on the 4th of July
Eyes Wide Shut
Interview with the Vampire
Vanilla Sky

4. Ed Norton
What is it with Ed Norton and prison?
Top 5:
Rounders: (Damon picks Worm up from prison at the film's beginning)
25th hour: (Chronicles the day before he starts a 7-year prison term)
American History X: (Racist Derrick Vinyard is bad. Racist Derrick Vinyard goes to prison and miraculously changes because he folds underpants with a black guy. Good Derrick Vinyard is released from prison, turns on Stacy Keach, but can't save Edward Furlong. All the classic elements for a prison movie.)
Primal Fear: (We were dancin' Marty)
The People vs Larry Flynt: (OK, this doesn't fit the prison theme. But as Flynt's lawyer, he works on keeping Flynt out of jail.)

5. Matt Damon
And you'll still be a goddamn Jew. That line trumps even: Well I got her numbah. How do you like them apples? Civilization boats some phenomenal mysteries: Big Foot, Lochness, The Bermuda Triangle. And how is Damon such a great actor when Affleck is so incredibly bad?
Top 5:
Rounders
School Ties
Oceans 11
All the Pretty Horses
Good Will Hunting

6. Ethan Hawke.
Amy didn't like him coz he has fucked up teeth. Funny, the things we remember.
Top 5:
Dead Poets Society
Training Day
Reality Bites
Great Expectations
Gattaca

7. Eddie Murphy
Despite being a product of the 80s, Coming to America ages like wine. I watch it a few times a year and it's the funniest movie ever made. At the time, Prince Akeem was an unusual role for Murphy, who had made his name telling dirty jokes and playing smart-ass cops. C2A shows us Murphy doesn't have to swear to be funny. That shy naivete would later serve him well with the success of the Nutty Professor franchise.
Top 5:
Coming to America
Harlem Nights
Beverly Hills Cop
Boomerang
Trading Places


8. Billy Bob Thornton
Check out Indecent Proposal, an intriguing film that most critics dumped in 93, but it's held up. Anyway, Billy Bob plays a Day Tripper and has like two lines while Woody and Demi watch Redford gamble. He was old then, and still more than a decade away from breaking through. A master of his craft.
Top 5:
Sling Blade
Monsters Ball
Friday Night Lights
Bad News Bears
Bad Santa


9. Mark Wahlberg
Yes, I remember 90s nubes rocking the rink to Good Vibrations at the United Skates of America. And that painful rap by Marky Mark that starts, "Annie was a high-school cheerleader" which sampled Lou Reed's Wild Side. It only makes me more appreciate his cinematic triumphs. Your wife is all over my stick.
Top 5:
Fear
Boogie Nights
Rock Star

Basketball Diaries
Invincible

10. The ten-spot could've gone to Christian Slater, Gene Hackman, Emilio Estevez, Denzel, Matt Dillon or Robert "Now d'ya care?" DeNiro, before he became a clown. But I'm a thirty two year old sentimental fool, still living in the pop-culture heaven that was 1985. My man is Michael J. Fox.
Top 5:
Back to the Future
Teen Wolf
Casualties of War
Secret of My Success
Poison Ivy


You know, the first Vox of '07 will feature my Top 10 Films of 2006. It's always a much-anticipated list, despite another down year for the creatively-challenged movie industry. So what are the odds Rocky VI cracks the list? 12 to 1? 20-1, maybe. Make your bets.

I'm gonna fly now. Take us home, Huey Lewis:

don't take money,
dont take fame,
don't need no credit card to ride this train--
it's strong and sudden
can be cruel sometimes
but it might just save your life

Precisely Marty,
I am Doc Brown in the box.

See you back in the future; parting is inevitable