Monthly Archives: June 2012

Smell Aaron Sorkin’s Farts: ‘The Newsroom’ Reviewed

Allow me, if you will, to begin this review in the lamest way possible; with a disclaimer. I enjoy Aaron Sorkin’s work. I think that A Few Good Men is one of the 15 best movies of all time, I loooooved Sports Night, and I’m one of those rare people who’ll defend Studio 60. That said, it’s clear from watching Sorkin’s latest creation, The Newsroom, that he has been sniffing his own farts for way too long.

I first noted The Newsroom back in April when the first promo appeared, and to be honest the show didn’t look very promising from the beginning. Then the negative reviews started trickling in from various publications that I respect. Still, I though to myself, it couldn’t be that bad. After all, The Newsroom looked awful Sports Night-ish and had Jeff Daniels (who is awesome) and Sam Waterson’s crazy eyebrows, not to mention that guy from Slumdog Millionaire. Unfortunately, The Newsroom, is just indefensibly bad. From what I can tell from the first episode, it’s less a show than an amalgam of all the stupid cliches that have ever been uttered about politics run through the filter of Aaron Sorkin fast-talk to create a product that is simultaneously grating and frustrating, because there’s a great show lying underneath.

The Newsroom opens with our protagonist Will McAvoy (Daniels) sitting on a panel of journalists in a college auditorium right in between two screeching partisans. You see, these people with their unreasonable arguments are petty little creatures, unlike “the great man” McAvoy, who is eminently reasonable. Of course, no one sees what a genius McAvoy is because he’s carefully packaged himself to be the bland “Jay Leno” of news anchors (in the show’s own words). That is, until one silly blond little college student asks the dumbest question of all time, “Why is America the greatest country on Earth?” The other panelists come up with super lame reasons why they believe that America is great, but McAvoy is better than that and it’s time for him to drop some knowledge on these suckers. Deep within his genius brain, he has stored up a vast pool of knowledge about where America ranks in a ton of different categories, he’s like an America ranking Eric Karabell or Matthew Barry. Turns out, America by Mr. McAvoy’s formulation, is not so great. But, we can be numb one, according to him. Also, he’s hallucinating that his ex/ new producer is in the crowd or something.

Of course, this is all a load of BS. The America (and the American press corps) that McAvoy (and by extension the show) envisions, where everyone was totally manly and awesome never actually existed. Anyways, McAvoy’s truth bomb totally shakes things up because everyone thought he was totally lame and Leno-ish, but really he’s this awesome GENIUS and no one is ready for his truth missiles. Did we mention that he’s really smart, but also has real people problems because he is a real person.  Fast talk, fast walk, joke about blogs, joke about twitter, fart, fart, wank motion.

Then McAvoy gets a new staff and they set out to change the face of cable news. If all of this sounds boring that’s because it is. In fact it’s a bunch of yelling and office politics mostly, which most people get enough of Monday – Friday. Add to thins the fact that the show is set in the near past and The Newsroom offers a strange, revisionist history of American media, re-framing the coverage of BP oil spill inaccurately.

There are of course bright moments to the show. The acting is excellent and there is a compelling human story at the heart of the shows plot. Unfortunately, it’s all so deeply buried in a layer of Aaron Sorkin’s farts that it’s hard to see. I guess what I’m trying to say is instead of watching The Newsroom I’ll stick to watching Sports Night on Netflix for the eighth time.

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Forget Boxing Start Watching Mixed Martial Arts

I love boxing, L-O-V-E it. At it’s best, there simply isn’t a sport that compares to the violent beauty of the sweet science. Don’t believe me? Watch this:

That said, after this weekend’s egregious (rigged?) split decision in Pacquiao vs. Bradley, I think it’s time to declare boxing dead. It’s simply not that compelling anymore. There are really only two “must-see” fighters in the sport: Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather Jr — if you’re really stretching things I guess you could add Miguel Cotto and maybe Amir Khan to the list, but have you ever heard anyone say, “Can’t go out tonight, Miguel Cotto is fighting…” ? A fight between the two may be able to revive the sport, but don’t hold your breath for that to happen. Even if the two fighters’ promoters (Top Rank for Pac-Man, Golden Boy for Money) could come to an understanding (unlikely), Pacquiao still has to have a rematch with Bradley before any fight with Mayweather. Furthermore, since Bradley did “officially” beat Pacquiao, Mayweather has a convenient excuse to continue dodging the one man on earth who has a shot at blemishing his record.

Still, if you enjoy a little sanctioned violence (you know you do) there’s no need to despair, there’s another combat sport out there which actually well-run and features compelling cards on a regular basis. Here’s a few reasons that you might want to consider just ditching boxing for mixed martial arts:

1. A wealth of compelling fighters

Unlike boxing, MMA is stocked with compelling and dominating fighters in nearly every weight class. Middleweight Anderson Silva is the current pound for pound king and the Bantamweight, Featherweight, Welterweight, and Light Heavyweight weight classes have their own dominant champs in Dominick Cruz, Jose Aldo, Georges St. Pierre, and Jon Jones, respectively. Also unlike boxing, which has had its Heavyweight division dominated for the past half-decade by the thoroughly uncompelling (if underrated) Wladimir Klitschko, UFC’s heavyweight division is very much up for grabs with the likes of Cain Velasquez and Alistair Overeem looking to challenge current champ Junior Dos Santos, not to mention the possibility of a healthy Shane Carwin creating an extra bit of havoc. Boxing simply can’t compete.

2. A better promotion system

The fact that we haven’t seen a Pacquiao – Mayweather matchup is a real indictment of boxing’s promotion system.No such problems exist in MMA, where the vast majority of the best fighters are under the UFC promotion. I’m far from Dana White’s biggest fan — his personal feud with Fedor Emilianenko denied us the chance to see perhaps the greatest martial artist ever take on the best available competition — but there’s no denying that he’s done an excellent job turning UFC from a sideshow curiosity into a legitimate major sport. Consider this example of how much more efficient UFC’s structure is: when Bantamweight champ Dominick Cruz tore his ACL in training for his UFC 149 title defense against top contender Urijah Faber the promotion  responded quickly by setting an interim title fight between Faber and the weight class’ next best fighter: 28-1 Renan Barao. In boxing, when we don’t get Mayweather v Pacquiao we get stuck with Pacquiao v Bradley and disappointment all around.

3. A simplified weight class structure

An underrated aspect of boxing’s decline has been the addition of the incremental Super- and Junior- weight class designations. While it’s cool to see a guy like Manny Pacquiao constantly change his weight to pick up titles in a host of classes, it would be nice to see him him defend those titles more often. MMA’s simpler weight classes creates more intrigue within the divisions. Familiarity breeds contempt among fighters and MMA has more legitimate rivalries — like Faber and Cruz in the Bantamweight division and Jon Jones and everyone else at 205 lbs — than boxing, where the two biggest “rivals” have never actually fought each other. Furthermore, not having the incremental weight classes creates more intrigue when fighters jump up a class. If and when Jones makes his much-anticipated jump to heavyweight, he’ll be going from 205 lbs to 265 lbs, kind of a big deal.

4. More exciting fights

This one is a bit of a double-edged sword. The grappling aspect of MMA can sometimes turn fights into a soul sucking grind of two sweaty dudes rolling around on the ground. Still, there’s a nuance to wrestling, take-down defense, submissions, and jiu-jitsu that fight fans can grow to appreciate.

Mixed Martial Arts’ lighter gloves and more varied strikes lead to more knockouts, both often and early. While this makes the classic boxing wars of days past (Ward v Gatti, Ali v Frasier) nigh impossible, it does add more unpredictability to the sport. Stuff like this is pretty damn cool (I apologize for the poor video quality):

Additionally, the increased frequency of knockouts (I’ll include submissions here) takes power out of the hands of the scorekeepers which, as we learned from Pacquiao-Bradley, is a good thing.

5. Better fight cards

This might be UFC’s single greatest advantage over boxing. Consider the upcoming UFC 149 which was originally set to feature title defenses from both Cruz and Aldo. Unfortunately, both fighters were injured in training, making the card less compelling, bu the point stands. When was the last time a boxing card featured two of the sport”s five best pound for pound fighters in two separate fights?

For my money there’s still nothing that compares to a great boxing match. For all it’s excitement, MMA can’t match the awesomeness of an all out boxing war. Still, if I’m getting pay-per-view, I’d much rather shell out for a UFC card. That way, I know that I’ll see some intriguing fighters and see some good fights with outcomes that make sense. I wish I could say the same for boxing.