Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Wow! A Post Comparing One Thing to Another Thing That It's Not Really Like on the Surface!

It's about halfway through the NBA season, so that's probably a good time to start talking about it, right? Last week the fan-voted starting five of the all-star teams for the East and West were unveiled, and it just so happens that the nominees for the Academy Awards were revealed as well. For media junkies, these two events coupled with the Super Bowl make February a pretty highly anticipated yet ultimately disappointing month.

For whatever reason, I still care deeply about both spectacles, even though they're complete shams. The most popular ten guys make the all-star team, no matter how their teams are performing and no matter what their own stats look like. (If you haven't watched the NBA in five years, why would you even bother? I've never understood why those people think they deserve a say.)

The Oscars are equally predictable, with the studios jamming their best product into the fourth quarter of the year and subjecting us to copies of copies of copies. (Actually, not even the studios. Have you noticed that almost all the nominees are from the independent wings of studios? Gotta hide the good stuff.) I'm sounding a little too snarky here, considering that many of my favorite films of the year are nominated and many of the players I voted for are representing their squads. These things are either getting much less cliched, or I'm getting old and out-of-touch enough to actually like the types of movies that win Oscars. But the striking similarities among the players and the movies says everything I'm trying to.

Western Conference

Carmelo Anthony is Juno

You don't believe males should take baths? Honest-to-blog?

One of the most noteworthy angles sportswriters took with the all-star news was, "Finally, Carmelo Anthony is voted in as a starter by the fans. After five years in the league, people are starting to give him his due." Which is eerily similar to the whole Fox Searchlight campaign for this little-teen-pregnancy-comedy-that-could. Man, isn't it refreshing for a tiny feel-good comedy to get a nomination for Best Picture against all those serious-pants movies? Oh, that happens every year? Neither of these selections was the surprise people wanted it to be; in fact, they're so underrated they're overrated. Also, it should be noted that neither Carmelo Anthony nor Juno advocate snitching, so the similarities don't end there.


Yao Ming is Ratatouille

His Chicken Dance must have been legendary.

Just as Yao Ming, despite how well he plays, can count on the population of China for his ballots, Ratatouille can count on the reputations of Pixar and Brad Bird for its nominations. Yao Ming is playing solid ball right now, and Ratatouille was a delightful film, but wouldn't it be interesting to see what would happen if you didn't just assume both of them made it automatically? I have a feeling that people just vote for whichever Pixar film was released without questioning it, and that people punch out Yao's name just because the other Western centers are balls. And I created this blog to write things like, "Pixar is basically China by this point."

Kobe Bryant is Sweeney Todd

Expectations were high for each going into the year based on past greatness, and in each case you can't help but be drawn to the stubborn vision of the presentation, the detailed, grand spectacle that seems to be dripping from both. After a while though, you come to your senses and say, "This is pretty empty and soulless."

Tim Duncan is The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

You stay classy, San Antonio.

People who have superior technical knowledge of how basketball works can explain to you why Tim Duncan is so good, the countless little things he does on the floor that don't show up on the stat-sheet, and cineastes who throw around terms like "halo effect" can go on and on about the innovative editing and cinematography of The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. Everyone else kind of takes their word for it and treats the hardware each has amassed as worthy evidence for their inclusion. And neither one of them is American for whatever that's worth.

Allen Iverson is The Savages

You stay classy...girl in a leopard one-piece.

Emotional, one-dimensional, and kind of self-centered, Allen Iverson and The Savages both took advantage of late pushes to overcome more traditionally popular candidates. (Tracy McGrady, by the way, is so American Gangster. After November they both fell off the map, but, if it's any consolation, Black people still love both of them for no reason.)

Eastern Conference

Dwyane Wade is Atonement

It's kind of a weird year, and both Wade and Atonement are trading on our expectations. If Wade can come back from injury and score a lot of points, we forget that his team has lost sixteen of their last seventeen games. If Atonement is a grand, sweeping World War II-spanning weepy, we won't notice that the romance at the heart of it is kind of incoherent. (Sidebar: I think Keira Knightley is pretty hot, but would it be possible to introduce the term "butterchest" into the American lexicon?)

Jason Kidd is Michael Clayton

But hey?

Don't you love when a boring performance is called "subdued and subtle" and when a slow pace is called "deliberate"? Every expert is shoving George Clooney's politics and Jason Kidd's triple-doubles down my throat (no homo), and I'm just not excited by either (double no homo). Dudes are smug.

Dwight Howard is Into the Wild

Thank God this guy is part of the conversation instead of some old, tired excuse for a nominee (Shaq/The Kite Runner). Although Howard and Into the Wild are inconsistent, they're undeniably powerful and dominating when at their best.

Kevin Garnett is No Country for Old Men

I might need a separate blog just to showcase all these old KG and Steph pictures.

Do you now of anyone who isn't thrilled about this scenario? After years without just desserts and rewards, Coen Brothers fans (who are just a shade less quirky than Minnesotans) and Garnett fans can celebrate a return to form. Both Garnett and No Country for Old Men are quietly powerful and selfless. Just as Garnett doesn't care who gets the credit as long as he wins, No Country for Old Men refuses to favor one performance over another and lets the story run its course without a star.

LeBron James is There Will Be Blood

"I drink your milkshake!"

Both are timing their campaigns perfectly to get momentum to go into the awards/second half. There isn't much of a team to speak of--LeBron looks like Teen Wolf out there, and all of There Will Be Blood rests on Daniel Day-Lewis' able shoulders--but both are my absolute favorites, and I'm happy that people I've been following for a long time are getting their due.

Chris Paul is Superbad

What the hell?

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