Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Would The Top DiCaprio Movies Be Better As Matt Damon Movies?

Say what you want about former ESPN writer Bill Simmons, but, he’s not afraid to make pretty outlandish claims. In a press release to highlight his forthcoming HBO series, Simmons said that, and I quote;

''I believe every DiCaprio movie would be just a little better as a Matt Damon movie.''

That’s a pretty astonishing comment right there, and for many, a little too crazy to even give pause for thought. I however have always enjoyed all three elements of this sentence. He's not everyone's cup of tea, but I'm still a Simmons fan. He's still an entertaining read. DiCaprio and Damon are two of my favorite actors, both definitely top 5, with ease. Therefore, Simmons’s seemingly bonkers suggestion still made me think, ‘Could he be right? Could the movies of Leonardo DiCaprio be better with Matt Damon in the leading role instead?

Well, let’s take DiCaprio’s ten biggest movies and find out! Naturally we’ll then flip it over and partake in the same exercise but with DiCaprio in Damon’s place, but for now, let’s focus on the DiCaprio question.

To the movies!

Number 10 – The Aviator

We’re off to a good start! The Aviator is a movie that you could conceivably argue might be better with Matt Damon in the lead role, instead of wily old Leo DiCaprio. This is by no means a slight in any shape or form on DiCaprio’s at times majestic performance, it’s more of a knock on us, the audience. The Aviator is loved by critics and put forth as a sample of DiCaprio’s greatest work. The audience, by and large, liked it, but didn’t love it. It’s a sweeping epic with great attention to period detail, and sometimes that just doesn’t resonate so well with the average cinema goer. What does Damon bring to a movie? One major element is a kind of lighthearted, guy next door ‘feel’ that in turn lightens the movie a little. The Aviator could have lightened up a little with Damon in the lead role. Again, I’m being careful here as DiCaprio was superb, but for the sake of this overall argument, let’s give this one to Damon on the basis he would have brought some levity to the project.

1-0 Matt Damon.

Number 9 – The Wolf Of Wall Street

Wumph. That’s the sound of Simmons’s hypothesis splatting into the ground from up on high. DiCaprio completely owned this role, and turned it into seventy billion memes that we can never un-see. DiCaprio very much made The Wolf his own, and it is unimaginable to place any other actor at all in this role.

1-1 tied.

Number 8 - Shutter Island

Wait, what? Shutter Island is DiCaprio’s eighth highest grossing movie? Seriously? Yes, it’s true. Hard to believe, indeed, but true. To understand that you just have to know that Shutter was Leo’s second highest grossing opening movie ever, yes, ahead of Titanic and just behind Inception. I think it’s safe to say there was not much going on the weekend Shutter opened, otherwise there’s no way to understand a $41 million opening box office for such a movie. Shutter is entirely joyless. It’s technically brilliant, and quite chilling, but there isn’t a single element of joyful type entertainment to be had within. Again I had to double check in astonishment that this was DiCaprio’s eighth highest all time box office entry. You can probably see where this is going. Damn right Damon might have had some impact towards the positive if magically placed in DiCaprio’s place herein. There’s no reason to say he couldn’t improve a little on the role, and perhaps bring a bit of toothy charm to the lead role. He would definitely have played the shock and surprise as it all unraveled. That’s something he does well. Let’s move on, but let’s all agree, Damon could have done something positive here.

2-1 Damon.

Number 7 – The Departed

Boom! That’s right, Damon as Billy Costigan, DiCaprio as Colin Sullivan. I am going to go ahead and call this one a potential win for Damon straight off the bat. There’s no doubt at all Damon could have pulled off Billy Costigan’s tormented good-guy. Imagine the look of shock on his face as Mark Wahlberg tore into him in Martin Sheen’s office? You would entirely believe Damon as Costigan, a conflicted good-guy undercover, trying to do right, while trying to prove to the bad guys he belonged. On the flip side, you could equally argue DiCaprio would have absolutely torn into the role of Colin Sullivan, and might have brought some extra menace to that character. That I believe is called a win-win situation. In this context, that’s another win for Damon.

3-1 Damon.

Number 6 – The Great Gatsby

There’s a moment in Gatsby where DiCaprio mutters ‘This, this is a terrible mistake’. Well, the critics agreed, and box office aside, Gatsby is viewed as something whilst not completely in the flop category, definitely in that general area. By very definition therefore, Damon might have done something positive here. You can’t argue with that considering the critical panning this flick got. There’s no reason to say Damon might not have put on the tux and brought something extra to Gatsby, elevating it higher than it’s very low current critical rating. Simmons is starting to look like he might have been on to something.

4-1 Damon.

Number 5 – Django Unchained

In short, no. Damon could not have bettered DiCaprio when it comes to Calvin Candie. There’s no argument to be made here, at all. DiCaprio in a landslide.

4-2 Damon

Number 4 – Catch Me If You Can

Central to the success of the brilliant, entertaining and most of all, heart wrenching, Catch Me is the relationship between Tom Hanks and DiCaprio. It matters. It just matters that Hanks both wants to capture DiCaprio and ‘fix’ him. The father figure like status Hanks has over DiCaprio in Catch Me is what makes it such a vital movie, it’s what gives it it’s pulse. Whilst Damon and Hanks could easily cook up some chemistry, as evidenced so easily in Saving Private Ryan, you’d have to go out on a very lengthy limb to suggest it would ultimately better the work that DiCaprio and Hanks did here. Sometimes you just can’t improve on something so fundamentally good.

4-3 Damon

Number 3 – The Revenant

Just, no. No. Not happening. Sure, Damon might have got a few more laughs out of the up-to-that-point terrified audience, but let’s face it, The Revenant is not about laughing or levity in any shape or form. The Revenant is a slap in the face of a movie, and DiCaprio nailed it. The bear incident, the horse incident, the overall struggle, no way in any shape or form Damon improves on DiCaprio’s Oscar winning outing. Looks like it’s going to be a tight finish, for Simmons’ hypothesis.

4-4 tie.

Number 2 – Inception

What did DiCaprio bring to Inception? He exuded this edgy, sweaty, vital tension to the role, pushing and driving to find his way home whilst literally haunted by ghosts and dreams, and indeed dreams of ghosts. It’s a psychologically gifted performance that’s as brilliant as it is unnerving. Damon in that role? Even the biggest Damon fan can’t go there with any authority. Sure, you might have rooted for Dom Cobb a little harder with Damon playing him, but that would have defeated the purpose. DiCaprio’s incarnation was always on the edge, both in the movie and for the audience. Damon in that role? Simply not the same.

5-4 DiCaprio takes a late lead.

Number 1 – Titanic

Ugh. I wonder if, when his God or his Gods come calling, as he passes away peacefully and happily amongst his family and friends, will Leo DiCaprio think to himself ‘I can’t frickin’ believe that was my most popular movie’? Perhaps he embraces it fully, but once you strip everything away, Titanic is a pretty basic movie about a big disaster. Take the big ass sinking ship out of the equation, and you have a pretty vanilla love story. I like Damon as a romantic. He does it well in The Adjustment Bureau with Emily Blunt, and I would suggest Damon could do something different with Jack and add a thing or two here and there to the character. There’s no reason to think this would be beyond his capability, particularly when it’s such a fundamentally threadbare movie.

5-5. A tie.

In summary, does this 5-5 tie come anywhere close to proving Simmons’ somewhat outrageous comment? Not really, no. Not really, for two reasons. First, Damon only barely got the nod for most of his 5 wins. DiCaprio absolutely annihilated the suggestion with most of his 5 wins. For example, going back to The Wolf, there’s no way Damon improves on that performance, in any imaginary scenario possible. So, the 5-5 tie is at best a precarious position for Damon.

The second reason? Simmons’ original hypothesis can only be fully fleshed out be visiting the same topic upon Damon’s movies. Could DiCaprio have made Damon’s top 10 movies ‘better’?

Stay tuned, we’ll find out together.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Sunderland Pull Off Great Escape Version 4.0

It has been an astonishing comeback by Sunderland. I am in the top 5% optimistic people in the World but even I had resigned myself to Sunderland playing in relative anonymity in the Championship next year, and subsequently missing out on next season’s 100 million euro EPL extra payment bonanza.

Kone blasts home from close in to push Sunderland 2-0 up

The beautiful part of the Great Escape Version 4.0 was that it was done in style. Just a few tweaks, and Sunderland are suddenly a decent side again. A feisty, savvy and contextually aware manager in Big Sam. Four or five well judged signings and, everyone buying into the plan together. Manager, players and fans. The way the fans and players bought collectively into this was really uplifting and enjoyable.

Defoe gets all the attention with his incredibly clutch goals, but Kone, Khazri, Kirschoff and indeed Borini were all crucial to the Great Escape, and all look right at home in Sunderland.
Khazri is literally exactly the type of player Sunderland have been crying out for, for seemingly years and years. A playmaker, who can also score goals himself. An added bonus, he likes a tackle! Perfect for the North East.

Two other players in particular deserve a big shout out, first Vito Mannone, who has his reward with a call up to the Italian Euro Championship squad. Mannone was nothing short of superb these last 2 months, and it’s great to see the big man get his dues after patiently working hard in training and waiting for his chance. A big shout out also to DeAndre Yedlin, who has gone from looking lost in January, to being a huge, impact player by May. Once again the future looks bright for that young man.

You could see this escape coming in the last few weeks, as the crowd got more and more behind the players, who responded in kind with better and better outings.

The Great Escape version 4.0 was epitomized, to me, by a simple moment in the Chelsea game. With Sunderland up 3-2 and trying to play out the last 10 minutes, Borini chased down a Chelsea defender in possession, waving his arms to get the crowd loud again. They responded with a massive roar and Sunderland, led by the literally heroic Lee Cattemole, tore into Chelsea for the final ten like their lives depended on it.

Without totally losing my mind I want to suggest that Sunderland stayed up because a group of very well paid young man forgot their egos and wages for a moment and tapped into the incredible energy created by the massive, throbbing, roaring crowds at The Stadium Of Light, and played like their lives depended on it.

That, in this day of mercenary players and million dollar contracts, is pretty fucking cool.

Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Leicester City Cheated

Just so we’re all clear about this, Leicester City cheated to win the Premier League. 

''Think anybody will notice?''

It’s not up for debate either. In full context it’s glaringly obvious what they did. What’s not clear is why only a couple of publications are tackling this. I suspect it’s due to threats of litigation. 

However, yes, Leicester achieved Premier League glory by cheating. What level of cheating are we talking about here?

In short, Leicester are paying their group of players much more than they are bringing in as legitimate revenue. They are hiding this fact behind fake loans, fake sponsorship of advertising space they have already sold and other financial theatricality and deception. 

Again, none of this is up for debate. They aren’t even denying it. These are facts. 

Let this sink in for a second. Leicester flat out cheated to win the league, and basically no one, or at least very few people,  are calling them to task for this.

Digging a little deeper to illustrate, the Foxes shirts are sponsored by their owner's company (don’t you love where this is going already?!), but of course not directly. Instead, that company buys the sponsorship through a marketing company, with the end effect being increasing Leicester's sponsorship income significantly. The point of the Financial Fair Play (FFP) rules are that clubs should not be spending money they are not actually earning or creating themselves. The wheeling and dealing with the sponsorship alone increased Leicester's sponsorship revenues from £5.2 million to £16 million. This money directly built their current squad. 

All of this information is freely available in the public domain. There is nothing convoluted or tweaked to make Leicester look bad. This is what they did, they cheated the game in order to build a squad which could win the Premier League. Sure, they then went out and did the harder part, actually winning the thing, but they flat out cheated to put themselves in position to do same.

The Guardian had covered this extensively in this article however they, nor anyone else, has brought out much on this lately. Again, I would highly suspect this is due to the threat of litigation. Perhaps we’ll see more in the coming weeks, but for now, it is what it is.

The natural reaction to this is 'Well, everyone is doing it', and that's just false. The Premier League is in flux right now, open up to clubs like Leicester winning it, because of the very fact the clubs are adhering to FPP. With the exception of Leicester. Arsenal are a great example of a well run club that only spends what they legitimately bring in. Arsenal could easily manufacture the cash to bring in a couple more players to push them over the edge. However, they don't, and it comes back to bite them when their own fans turn on them. 

Personally I was brought up to root for the Under Dog, and I will do so most of the time. Not, however, when that dog cheats to win its prize. 

Leicester City cheated to win the Premier League.

Irish National baseball team

Irish National baseball team
Team Ireland at the European Championships, Croatia, 2000.

A nice little mention for this blog on Fox Sports

A nice little mention for this blog on Fox Sports


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