Welcome to my new and improved blog, Biggie’s Place. The name is a reference to the oft-used nickname of the apartment in Natick, Mass that my friends and I lived in from September ’05 to October ’06 when I left for L.A. In an effort to make my Facebook page less cluttered with my random and frequent opinions, and because I’ve had a lot of various topics on my mind recently, I felt it was time to bring back my semi-regular column, Large with Extra Cheese. I’ll also be going back to the more random, any topic any time blog entries that were a staple of my writing for several years, most of which was done on the blog section of my MySpace page. I hadn’t logged on to MySpace in literally months, and when I did a couple of weeks ago, the site looked completely different, and they’ve made the blog section a very small part of what you can do on the site, so as if there were any doubt before, I’m officially done writing on my old MySpace blog. I’ll have to dig through the impossible-to-navigate blog section to find the old posts that I’m particularly proud of before deleting my MySpace page entirely, but that will take a while. I absolutely hate what it looks like now, and I couldn’t even figure out how to edit the blog layout, so yeah…MySpace is dead to me, but I had fun writing on there for almost 4 years, and I think some of my best stuff was in some of those posts.
I’ve been working on this WordPress page on and off for about a year now, and since I was inspired to start writing again recently, I spent a good 3-4 hours last night getting the layout to the way I want it. Although it’s not perfect and there are surely modifications to come, this is basically what you’ll be seeing going forward, and I’m glad to say I now have my own site. You can bookmark it if you like, subscribe, “Like” it (though I wish I could figure out how to integrate the Like to Facebook link), anyone can add comments, and it even has the Facebook/email/etc. share buttons. So spread the word if you like or agree with what I have to say. Or even if you don’t. Some of the best debate stems from people who vehemently disagree. And I finally have my tags, which is something I’d been praying MySpace would integrate for years. AND…I can write the entries in Word and upload them directly to WordPress with formatting intact, which is awesome good times. So welcome, and without further ado, here’s what’s been grinding my gears this week.
“The Red Sox are now the Yankees.” No, they’re not.
In the past week, the Red Sox have spent close to $300 million on contracts for two players, Adrian Gonzalez (a reported 7-year, $154 million extension on top of his $6.5 million 2011 salary, and a 7-year, $142 million deal for free agent Carl Crawford), reminding many of the 2009 offseason, when the Yankees spent more than $400 million on contracts for CC Sabathia ($161 million), Mark Teixeira ($180 million) and A.J. Burnett ($85 million). This has prompted many critics, both in and outside of Boston, to proclaim that the Red Sox can no longer complain about the Yankees’ spending, and that any World Series the Red Sox win are just as “bought” as the Yanks’ 2009 championship.
As happy as I am at my team acquiring two excellent players who are both still in their prime, I admit I’m conflicted on what I think of all this spending. Crawford and Gonzalez should both be earning their megasalaries until at least 2015, and I actually think Gonzalez will earn his for the entirety of his deal, based on his position and skill set. However, I’ve said for years that if I were a Yankee fan, I’d be ashamed at what my team had to spend to win division titles and 1 World Series, regardless of whether or not they were turning a profit as an organization. Do I feel that way now as a Red Sox fan? Do I feel bad for the majority of MLB teams who can’t spend anything near what the AL East powerhouses do? Yes and no. No, because like other sports, some teams will never sign big name free agents, whether there’s a salary cap in place or not. For example, the Buffalo Bills have no better chance of getting a blue chip free agent in his prime than the Pittsburgh Pirates do, even if they could match the offers of a team from Boston, New York, L.A. or Miami. At the same time, I don’t like that every free agent in baseball is presumed to be going to the Red Sox or Yankees. There IS something wrong with that, and as a Red Sox fan I do feel a little guilty, but still not as guilty as I believe Yankees fans should.
Do I like how much money the Red Sox have spent recently, despite the talent we’ve gotten and how potent our 2011 lineup should be? No, but a lot of it, unfortunately is a necessity, and a lot of that necessity is based on what the Yankees are doing and can do, which apparently makes the Sox guilty by association. I think the Yankees would have a $200 million payroll no matter what division they were in, and the Red Sox would not spend $150 million+ if the Yanks were not in their division. I hate that we’re paying John Lackey $18 million a year, and the Josh Beckett extension looks pretty foolish at the moment. I’m concerned that we’ll be paying Carl Crawford, whose most valuable asset is his legs, $20.2 million at age 34, 35 and 36 when he probably can’t steal 40+ bases anymore and still won’t have big money power numbers. But unfortunately, the Sox have to add those extra couple of unreasonable years, because if they don’t, the Yankees will. That’s a fact. And now the list of big spenders extends to the Phillies, Angels, Cubs and Mets as well. Bad contracts are not exclusive to baseball, but the numbers are the biggest in baseball, so these huge deals get put under a bigger microscope.
Now, let’s do some more payroll math. This offseason, the Red Sox had almost $40 million come OFF the books before these signings (Mike Lowell‘s $12 million, Adrian Beltre’s $9 million, Victor Martinez‘ $7.5 milion and the last year of paying off Julio Lugo‘s horrible deal). In 2011 they will still be under the luxury tax, and will still spend almost $40 million less in payroll than the Yankees. They may have their highest payroll ever, but we won’t be spending anywhere near $200 million anytime soon. And keep in mind that in 2012, we’ll have David Ortiz, J.D. Drew, Jason Varitek and probably Tim Wakefield saying goodbye to Boston, which will free up about $35 million more, or in Yankee terms, just a little more than 1 year of A-Rod money. This year, the Yankees MIGHT lose Andy Pettitte, and will make Derek Jeter take a $4 or 5 million pay cut. If they add Cliff Lee (whose offers, if they’re to be believed, are approaching $25 million a year), their payroll will easily exceed what it was in 2010. Look, I’m not making excuses. The Red Sox are spending obscene amounts of money, and I wish they didn’t have to. That said, I refuse to accept the premise that we’re the “same” as the Yankees. That’s simple-minded and ignorant.
Speaking of wild spending, watching the Yankees pursue Cliff Lee has been nothing short of hilarious, because it clearly demonstrates that Lee does not want to go there. Ironically, the Red Sox signings have actually increased the Yanks’ desire to get him (really, they NEED him to help combat a Sox lineup that now has 5 lefties or switch hitters), which makes life good for Lee as they continue upping their offers. If you’re a Yankees fan, how does it feel to know that your team has to grossly overspend to get the players they want? They’re having to offer Lee 7 years to have a chance at him (in a rational world, he’d only get 4 or 5), which means they’ll be paying him more than $20 million at age 39. And because they have a reputation for overspending, they can’t get anybody for reasonable money, even if that player would accept reasonable money to go somewhere else. Cliff Lee does not want to be a Yankee and be in New York for the next 6 or 7 years, but if the Yankees end up offering, 10, 20, 30 million more than the Rangers are willing to go, at a certain point you can’t turn that down if you have any common sense. Then again, he’ll lose that extra money to New York’s absurd, myriad state taxes, which I’m hearing is something the Rangers are trying to get through to him. A wise move by Nolan Ryan and his team. This was supposedly exactly what happened with CC Sabathia, who only agreed to become a Yankee after they offered him the biggest contract ever for a pitcher. Now Sabathia is trying to woo Lee to New York, but mostly because they’ve been close friends since their Cleveland days. Sabathia may like it there now (his paycheck and the World Series ring will have that effect), but he wasn’t thrilled about it at the time, and no one else was offering anything close to what New York did. Cliff Lee is from Arkansas and still lives there full time. All things being equal, he’d rather stay with the Rangers. (He seemed to brush if off at the time, but one wonders if Yankees fans SPITTING ON HIS WIFE would affect his decision in any way.) But again, it’s a matter of how high the Yankees will go, and at a certain point it may become irresistible. If they get him, like all their other mercenary free agents, they’ll do a press conference and Lee will say how proud he is to be a Yankee, how much he’s always respected and admired the organization, yadda yadda crapola, and it’ll all be bullshit. You think A.J. Burnett wants to be in New York? No, but the idiots offered him $85 million.
On the flipside, the Sox’s biggest acquisition, Adrian Gonzalez, has repeatedly and credibly said that he’s been a fan of the Red Sox since he was a kid, and that if he couldn’t stay with the Padres, Boston was his preferred destination. The Red Sox have to overpay some guys simply because they’re competing with the Yankees. Does any of this matter when both teams are paying more than one player above $20 million a year? Maybe not, but I’m making the case there is STILL a difference between the Red Sox spending and the Yankees’ spending.
-I was browsing one of my favorite blog sites Friday, The Daily Beast, when I came across THIS article, by one Ben Crair, who uses the release of The Fighter as a basis to proclaim there have been too many “Boston movies” recently. Needless to say, that set me off instantly. Basically, he says he’s tired of seeing the same kind of people with the same accents, from the same neighborhoods, Fenway Park/Red Sox references, etc. He even vaguely tried to pull the “Boston is racist” card. I considered writing a lengthy response to him, but there’s no point trying to educate that kind of ignorance. My counter is this; so we should go back to the 80’s and 90’s when 95% of the movies out of Hollywood take place in Los Angeles and New York? I don’t fucking think so. Now, I’ve been saying for years that I want more movies set in and around Boston, but that I also wanted them to take place outside of South Boston, and that they didn’t need to prominently feature Irish Catholic characters. Those of us from the area know just how diverse it is now, and you could realistically set almost any kind of story there. I’ve also been saying that it’s okay to shoot a movie in Boston and not have all your actors use Boston accents. In these senses, Mr. Crair and I agree. And no, you don’t have to have characters talking about the Sawx or Fenway Park, but anyone from Massachusetts will tell you that conversations about our sports teams find their way into everyday conversation no matter what’s going on around us, and seeing people in the backgrounds of Boston-set movies wearing jersey t-shirts is accurate to the area, not just shameless promotion. I could list dozens of clichés that relate to L.A. and NYC-based films, but that doesn’t mean you can’t continue shooting good movies there.
The primary reason more movies have been set in Boston over the past few years is because of the tax incentives Massachusetts recently passed. This is the same reason a lot of films are being shot in New Mexico, Louisiana and Pennsylvania. I don’t even know where I’m going with this except to say it’s a GOOD thing some of Hollywood’s best movies are being shot outside of the L.A./NYC. I love that M. Night Shyamalan shot his movies in and around Philadelphia, that Robert Rodriguez does all his stuff in Austin, Texas. I love that The Next Three Days took place in Pittsburgh. I love that Christopher Nolan shoots his Batmovies in Chicago. A variety of scenery, locations, and culture is a good thing in art, and definitely in visual arts like cinema. I suppose it’s no coincidence that Crair is from New York. His whole argument just sounds bitter. He whines about seeing Boston too much, but admits that Good Will Hunting, The Departed, Mystic River, The Town and The Fighter are all very good movies. But like I said, I’m also getting tired of some Boston clichés, but that doesn’t mean other kinds of stories can’t be shot in the city. That’s precisely what I hope to do as a filmmaker.
-The Red Sox get an A for the Adrian Gonzalez trade-and-sign, and a B for the Carl Crawford deal. Points off for Crawford because 7 years is too long, and he is not a $20 million player. But you give them some benefit of the doubt because they simply weren’t gonna get him for a reasonable price.
Since I post my movie reviews straight to Facebook through the Flixster Movies app, here are a few music suggestions for ya…
–Kanye West‘s new album, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, is really damn good. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, though West is a complete douchebag, he is also a true artist. And he’s one of the few mainstream rappers who can ably rap about real issues and not just party song after club song after party song. An excellent example of this on the new album is my favorite song off it, “So Appalled” which is truly exceptional. It’s got one of those dark, pounding, moody beats that I prefer in rap, no real hook, and 5 verses (each by a different artist) , which reminded me a lot of old school Wu Tang (which is perfect given that RZA is one of the guest artists). There’s even a Dark Knight reference in Jay-Z‘s verse! A perfect example of what I referred to earlier comes from Kanye’s verse, where he goes;
“Niggas be writin bullshit like they gotta work/ Niggas goin through real shit, man they outta work/ That’s why another goddamn dance track gotta hurt/ That’s why I’d rather spit somethin that got a purp”
Just a great fuckin track, easily one of the best rap songs of the year. Other highlights from the album include “Power”, “Runaway”, “Monster” and “Blame Game.”
I’m also going through the new albums from N.E.R.D., the omnipresent Nicki Minaj (the track “Roman’s Revenge” with Eminem is awesome), and Kings of Leon, but I have to listen to em more than once before giving a general opinion. As always I welcome your music suggestions, particularly for indie stuff I’m not normally exposed to in my cave here in Myrtle Beach. I haven’t heard the entire new T.I. album (No Mercy), but the song “That’s All She Wrote”, also with Eminem, is excellent. It’s been a damn good comeback year for Mr. Marshall Mathers.
-While we’re on the topic of music suggestions, Chris, one of my friends in L.A., recently suggested I check out a band called Austrian Death Machine, which makes songs based off of Arnold Schwarzenegger one-liners. LOL, you read that right. Some of the names of their songs include “Get to the Choppa”, “Who Is Your Daddy, and What Does He Do?” and “I Need Your Clothes, Your Boots, And Your Motorcycle.” I checked them out, and…they’re damn good! Not only is it hilarious listening to a guy rage scream “It’s not a tumor!” in a heavy metal song, but the songs are actually pretty damn good (and feature some sick guitar solos). Check it;
– Remaining 2010 movies I MUST see before putting together the Biggie nominations; Alice in Wonderland, The Fighter, 127 Hours, Black Swan, Fair Game, The King’s Speech, The Company Men, The Way Back, Buried, Winter’s Bone, Blue Valentine, Never Let Me Go, True Grit, Tron Legacy. Unfortunately, I’m gonna have to wait for a few of these to come out on Netflix, since some have already come and gone or definitely won’t open here. Grrr. I give the Myrtle Beach area’s ability to acquire smaller movies a D.
-I was flipping through HBO channels one day last week and happened upon It’s Complicated, the Nancy Meyers-directed romcom from last year with Meryl Streep, Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin. I didn’t see it in theaters and was curious about it, so I watched about 45 minutes before I had to leave for work. I tried to follow the story, but I couldn’t stop thinking about how annoyingly pretentious it all was. There was absolutely NOTHING I could relate to in the film. I’m not sure there was a single non-white person in the entire movie (there may have been one black guy picking cotton serving drinks in the background of a scene at some fancy restaurant). This is the epitome of hypocritical Hollywood elitism. The title of this movie should be It’s Awesome to Be Rich and White in California. I mean holy shit. The whole movie is just a bunch of well-off white people having relationship issues while doing things rich white people do. Oh whoa is them! Should Alec Baldwin fuck his hot, 20-something trophy wife, or go back to his rich, older ex-wife?
I wondered who the audience was for this movie, but it somehow grossed more than $120 million in the U.S. And then I read that the damn thing cost $85 million to make. WHY?! I give writer-director Nancy Meyers‘ grip on reality an F. Meyers is considered one of Hollywood’s elite female directors, yet given her resume (The Holiday, Something’s Gotta Give, What [White] Women Want, The Parent Trap), it seems she’s never seen a black, Asian or Latino person, despite living in Southern California. But, I guess you gotta write what you know, and she knows a lot of rich white people. Good for her. I guess.
And now comes a report that another whitewashed romantic comedy, James L. Brooks‘ How Do You Know, had a $120 million production budget. WHAT!?! How the fuck does a romantic comedy cost $120 million? To put that in perspective, Gladiator cost $105 million. A Reese Witherspoon, Paul Rudd, Owen Wilson, Jack Nicholson romantic comedy cost more than Saving Private Ryan. Holy shit. You’d think for all that money they could afford a better title.
THIS cost $120 million. There better be an alien invasion in the middle of this movie.
-Finally, switching gears a little bit, I’d like to give an A+ to girls who know how to look good when the weather turns cold. Seriously, in my view, girls who can rock the tight pants and boots combo are just as attractive as a girl in short shorts and a tanktop during the summer. But that’s me. Ladies, you’re killin it this winter. Keep up the good work.
-I’m late to the Olivia Wilde bandwagon, but she was finally in something I’ve seen (The Next Three Days), and she wears a superhot little outfit in Tron Legacy, so…OH HAI, Olivia Wilde;
She’s moderately talented, too. So there’s that.
I label attractive women under one of three primary categories; beautiful, hot, or cute. One is not necessarily better than another, but there are differences. Olivia is just plain beautiful.
-And because it’s been awhile, here’s another pic of my current It Girl, Katy Perry. Damn you, Russell Brand.
She wears latex like I eat cheese; as if our lives depended on it.
Katy Perry…is hot. But because of her persona, she’s got some cute sprinkled in there, too. Probably 80% hot, 20% cute.
Quote of the Week
“Whether by the sword or the slow decay of time, Aragorn will die. And there will be no comfort for you, no comfort to ease the pain of his passing. He will come to death an image of the splendor of the kings of men, in glory, undimmed before the breaking of the world. But you, my daughter, you will linger on in darkness and in doubt, as nightfall in winter that comes without a star. Here you will dwell, bound to your grief under the fading trees, until all the world has changed and the long years of your life are utterly spent.” – Hugo Weaving as Elrond in The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
I know it’s random, but I was listening to some of Howard Shore‘s Lord of the Rings score this week (the Complete Recordings versions, which are a must have for fans), and you can’t help but picture scenes from the movies while listening to the music, and I was thinking about this scene in particular from The Two Towers, and about how much I love that Elrond speech. Long story short, the quality of the language in the specific line I bolded is stunning. Whenever I’m writing, and I think of how something could or should be better, and whether or not I’m capable of truly great writing, I often instinctively think of that line, as if saying to myself, Remember, THIS is what you’re aspiring to accomplish. THIS is great writing. In fact, it may be the single most beautifully written sentence I’ve ever heard (and I say heard because of how amazingly Weaving delivers it). If you can’t place the quote in context, just watch this clip on the Tube [Arwen’s Fate, “Evenstar”]. There are no perfect films, but that is a perfect scene, and it’s as good as it gets with regards to dialogue.