The Ides of March (Film Review)

The Ides of March (Film Review)

Watching the political drama, The Ides of March, one thing continued to strike me.

George Clooney should probably be President.

The film about a young, determined, and excellent campaign manager, played by Ryan Gosling, takes us into the back rooms of the Ohio democratic primary, as the character played by Clooney makes his charge towards the Presidency.

As with most political dramas, we are provided with some insight into the backroom dealings that gets somebody their name on the ticket to become the leader of the free world. This film is very well written, tremendously acted, and has enough intrigue to make it a very enjoyable and exciting view.

ides2A strong cast is led by Gosling, who absolutely nails his role as the true political up-and-comer. Someone who is very good at their jobs, but still has the innocence and beliefs that things can be changed for the better. He plays this perfectly. He is calm and suave, yet can still step his way through the constant political minefields that arise on the trail of the campaign. As the story progresses, he come to a choice, where he must either step up to be brutal, or continue on his more righteous path towards the improvement of America. This may be his best acting performance yet, and he really sells his character as someone good, and someone that we, as the audience, should root for, in the dirty world of American politics.

There are other very strong characters with smaller roles, as well. Clooney, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Evan Rachel Wood, Marisa Tomei, Paul Giamatti…they are all very good, and very believable with the smaller roles they are provided with. This realism provides us with a better view into the politics, and they sell the story that Clooney (who is also the director) places for us. His commentary is clear because he has such strong people laying down his ideas.

As for Clooney himself, he has been an outspoken actor in real life, with strong political views. It was perhaps inevitable that he made a film focusing on the state of US politics, and he does a fantastic job. As for directing himself as an actor, he also does a great job. We see him as the perfect Presidential candidate, able to be intelligent, give empowering and charismatic speeches, and engaging in strong debates with the regular folks of the country. It makes us wonder…wouldn’t he actually be a very strong politician in the real world?

Seriously, wouldn't he be an awesome President?
Seriously, wouldn’t he be an awesome President?

The Ides of March is a very strong movie. Buoyed by the acting, it provides us with a great story, one of hope and values, before turning ugly. It is fun to watch throughout, and although it is not terribly different from other political films (especially ones that focus on the campaign part of an election…several parts of the film reminded me of The Killing, and the race for mayor in the first season), it does a good job of showing the seedy underbelly of something that can look so squeaky clean and good.

Well worth a watch.

The King Returns: A Fringe NBA Fan’s View

The King Returns: A Fringe NBA Fan’s View

I am not a very big basketball fan, to say the least. I find it difficult to watch games on TV, as, like many people, I find they drag on in the waning minutes of each game, where each team seemingly has an endless supply of timeouts, and a final minute can take a half hour to play out. I have been to a couple of NBA games, and find the in-person experience much more entertaining. I follow who the stars are, and can tell you who won the championships in each year, but that might be it.

For me, like millions of people, the heyday of the league was during the days of Michael Jordan and the reign of the Chicago Bulls, when every kid with a basketball hoop on their driveway was a Jordan fan. For me, those days are long gone.

But I have been trying to pay more attention to basketball over the past couple of years, even engaging in a fantasy league that I inexplicably won (I had Kevin Durant, and I’m pretty sure that’s what did it for me).

Like the rest of the sporting world, I have been following the LeBron James Decision 2.0, and have opinions, just like any other fan of sports.

Back where he belongs.
Back where he belongs.

Today, James announced that he would be leaving the Miami Heat for his former, and hometown, team, the Cleveland Cavaliers.

And this is great news. For a few reasons.

Like many people, I had been trained to hate the Heat after they created the Big 3. Cheering for them would be like cheering for the New York Yankees, a team that simply buys themselves a championship, and seems to be devoid of a soul. We all knew what Miami fans were. Fringe fans, who would only go see a winner. Their attendance records over the years definitely reflect this. They didn’t seem like a city worthy of having such a dynastic team. And the Heat did well, the experiment worked. They went to four straight finals, and won two of them. Sure, they probably should have won all four to make themselves legends, but that is still a pretty impressive record, leaving the rest of the Eastern Conference chasing them since the day James told us he was taking his talents to South Beach.

With his return to Cleveland, James is coming home. He is from Akron, was drafted by the Cavs, and spend the formative years of his career there. They even went to the finals once, getting rightfully whipped by the Lakers when they got there.

But now, the Cavs are a team on the rise, and having the best player in the world rejoin them makes them an immediate contender. They are a young team, and in a couple of years, if they are able to keep it all together, they have the look of a team that can win year after year, giving the downtrodden fans of Cleveland something to cheer for in their title-less town.

James will join a plethora of young talent, and a group of fellow #1 picks. Kyle Irving, Anthony Bennett, and Andrew Wiggins (unless he is traded for Kevin Love) will be a part of the future that will soon dominate the league. This is to go along with Tristan Thompson and Dion Waiters as well. Seems like a pretty good group. If they can grow together, they will truly be a force to be reckoned with, and the Cleveland championship drought should end at some point. They are good side pieces to the best player in the game, which, let’s be honest, is important in basketball, where having one great player is enough to make you a good, contending team.

I believe that LeBron made the right choice by going home. He should probably have never left Cleveland in the first place, as it made him look like a mercenary. He was the best player in the league, and should have convinced others to join him in Cleveland, instead of him packing up and moving somewhere else to chase a title. It made him look less great than he really was, like he was the piece, instead of the centerpiece. If, and more likely when, he wins in Cleveland, he will be a legend. Going back to a small market makes him look like a better person. Trying to win for his home makes him look like someone who truly cares about Ohio. And this is good for him.

With one choice, James has, in my mind, gone from being one of the greatest villains in the NBA, to one of the good guys. He is already cleaning up his image by making this choice. It will be easier to cheer for him now that is a Cav again. In the same way that it was always easy to cheer for Jordan, even though it is in our nature to hate the greatest player and the greatest team.

In another way, this is a cool thing for the Canadian basketball fan. The Canadian Cavaliers, with three Canucks on their roster, were already on their way to becoming Canada’s Team (except for those few people outside of Toronto that actually cheer for the Raptors). Now, it is much easier to cheer for them, because we know that they will be good. It is nice to watch our homegrown talent play at the highest level, it is even better to watch them when they aren’t completely terrible.

In my opinion, the Return of the King is nothing but good things. It brings a star back to where he belongs, it ruins a troublesome partnership in a city that is tough to cheer for, and it turns a villain into a returning hero.

Great choice by LeBron, and it will be interesting over the next few years to see how well the Canada Cavaliers are able to do. I may still be a fringe fan, but this one move is something that could help draw my interest back to the NBA.

Ohio State, I’ve Always Hated You

Being a massive fan of US College Football, I have cheered for the same group of teams for the majority of my life. Since I was a little kid, I’ve loved the Miami Hurricanes. Everything about them. The dominance of their national championship years, the often garishness of their orange and green uniforms, and especially the iconic white helmet with the simple “U” on the side. It was easy to cheer for them over the years, because they were such a successful program. Lately, it has been tougher, since they have definitely fallen on tough times, but it was great to see them rise into the Top 10 again this year, if it only lasted a little while before they imploded after getting whipped by Florida State.

One team that has always been the focus of my undivided derision, however, has been the Ohio State Buckeyes.

I hate their bland grey and red uniforms. I hate their lame pride stickers. I don’t like their coach, or any OSU players that have moved on to the NFL. I cheered their NCAA sanctions, and laughed when they picked the wrong year to take their bowl bans. I hate the way their fans and players call it THE Ohio State University. Like it’s being mixed up with another Ohio State University? And I hate that they are currently #2 in the BCS. I don’t want to see them in a National Championship game ever again.

I especially hate that they beat my Hurricanes in one of the most exciting championship games in recent memory, especially since they were given new life on, in my opinion, a blown call. That interrupted what was a great ‘Canes dynasty, with a plethora of NFL stars on the roster. That game still makes me mad.

To me, a one-loss SEC team should be in the NCG over the Buckeyes. And yes, this all comes down to their soft conference, and non-conference, schedule this year. If Auburn wins the SEC, they should play FSU. Heck, if Auburn loses, I think they should put Alabama back in the big game. It is no secret that they are a dominant team, and they are one fluke play away from being undefeated yet again. I think if the Crimson Tide were to play OSU, it would be an absolute decimation in favor of ‘Bama. They would shred them like they did Notre Dame last year. Not even close. I don’t think the Big 10 can roll with the SEC.

So it pisses me off that it will probably be the Buckeyes in another National Championship Game, another chance for them to be embarrassed nationally when they get whipped by a superior program. I will like that, but as a fan of the game whose team is not in it, I will feel ripped off because there are more deserving teams out there, that should be there before the Buckeyes are.

Or maybe it’s just me. I like seeing the SEC dominate. Because, let’s be honest, they are the dominant conference. I want to see the best teams in the best game, and I honestly don’t think we’ll get that with Ohio State this year. I’m sure that part of that is because of my eternal hatred for the team, but the more realistic part of me knows that because there are better teams out there that will provide a more entertaining game, and a better challenge to Florida State. I don’t think many people outside of Ohio would argue that an Alabama-FSU matchup would be more entertaining.

All I can do at this point it cross my fingers and hope that Michigan State can pull off a huge upset and send the Buckeyes packing to some random other bowl game (probably still a BCS bowl, but it seems many of those have lost their value to me…maybe that will be a post for another day).