Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas

I believe I have twice on this blog professed my love for Rowlf the Dog and John Denver's rendition of "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas" so I guess this is the third time.

The song got me thinking back to one of my favorite Christmas TV episodes - the X-Files Season Six "How the Ghosts Stole Christmas. Incidentally, I believe this is the first time I've mentioned the X-Files on this blog.
The episode is classic X-Files, a bit lighter than most, especially for this late in the series. It is a great case study of Mulder and Scully (Skulder?). The ghosts are played by Ed Asner (he loves Christmas) and Lily Tomlin. The part I remember most is the super eerie scene when Mulder and Scully shoot each other and are pretty much dying of gunshot wounds with Bing Crosby's classic version of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" playing in the background.
A very well done episode, full of loads dramatic irony, a great ending.
Nothing says Christmas like The X-Files.
If you got time check out the entire episode, I don't think that website will crash your computer, or watch the youtube summary, with the scene I mentioned at the 8 minute mark.

Merry Christmas from Big Dunc, Mulder, and Scully

Monday, December 21, 2009

The End of Christmas?

Christmas has faced many assaults over the years - people not believing, blizzards, Tim Allen, martians, vampires, Muslims, naughty children, the Grinch, Uncle Scrooge, Albert Mouse, commercialism - threatening the very existence of this great holiday. Despite these numerous obstacles, Santa and the Christmas Spirit has always prevailed.
But now Christmas is facing its deadliest potential crisis - GLOBAL WARMING!! Dun-Dun
Yes as you know, Santa is based at the North Pole, and the polar ice caps are melting at an alarmingly high rate. Check out this report And the Arctic ice caps at the North Pole are entirely over the ocean. They have no land mass like the South Pole, thus Santa's workshop and and Christmasland will cease to exist. No more elves, toys, and presents all because our because our massive use of fossil fuels and Chlorofluorocarbons are speeding up the greenhouse effect and depleting the ozone layer. I saw one report that some scientists are predicting the northern ice caps will be completely gone by 2017. Uh-oh. Bye Bye Santa. Bye Bye Christmas.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Best Christmas movies

Time for another guest blogger. I wanted to make a list of the best Christmas movie, but then I realized I really don't like Christmas movies and I was so exhausted after writing my epic movies of the decade post, so I went back to my friend Amy, who has previously graciously supplied us with best horror movies and best vampire movies lists. Here is her list of Best Christmas Movies, and I have to say this is a tough task because there are so many horrible Christmas movies.
Enjoy. (My comments will be in italics)

Ok. So here goes.After much debate with nick I think that I have come up with a list for you.

Honorable Mention:
The Polar Express: The animation irritates me in some parts of the film which is why it's not on the list. It is a good holiday movie. But that hot chocolate song is soooo annoying
Black Christmas: The original mind you, not that shitty remake. It's a creppy horror film. Enough said.
The Santa Claus: Tim Allen is funny. The movie is Funny. The sequels are not
White Christmas: I wanted to put this on the list but the Boyfriend insists that is not a Christmas film. I digress.

10. A Christmas Story: Here is the reason why this one is number 10. OVEREXPOSURE!!! This IS a really great Christmas movie but it is played to death around the week of and on Christmas Day. Leg Lamp

9. Bad Santa: Ok, ok I know that this may not be considered a Christmas movie to some but I think that it is one of the funniest movies out there that happens to be about a Bad Santa (pun intended) who has a heart of gold (well kinda).

8. Muppet Christmas Carol: Muppets + Michael Caine = Holiday classic gold.
I too love the Muppets and enjoy Michael Caine, but I feel the use of Muppets is kinda poor here. They aren't as funny as they could be. For classic Muppets Christmas, look no further than The Muppets and John Denver Christmas Special - the best ones here and here

7. Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer: Based on the popular song, this animated classic from the sixties is an original that has withstood the test of time.
An Elf that wants to be a dentist, Yukon Cornelius, a squirt gun that shoots Jelly, Yeti, I love it

6. Miracle On 34th Street: A little girl is raised to believe there is no Santa Clause. This charming film brings out the child in everyone and makes us believe that maybe there still is a Santa Clause

5. National Lampoons Christmas Vacation: My favorite scene is when they bring back the tree and cut in open and it breaks every freaking window in the living room. Oh and when they turn on the Christmas lights and blind the neighbors. Chevy Chase at the top of his game.
This is probably the only one that is Christmas tradition. It will be watched every year.

4. Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Sold Christmas: No not that crap movie with Jim Carey. I'm talking about the animated one that comes on Cartoon Network every year. What better way to teach us about the real meaning of Christmas then a Dr. Seuss story?

3. Elf: Oh god do I love this movie. Will Ferrell is at his comedic best. Funny, cute, and happy this movie is a must to put you in the holiday spirit.

2. It's a Wonderful Life: Frank Capra and Jimmy Stewart at his best. A film that shows us how important we are to people around us.

1. A Charlie Brown Christmas: What can I say that hasn't already been said about this made for tv classic. With an awesome soundtrack and a great message who doesn't love them some Charlie Brown?

Thanks Amy, quality list. I would definitely include Home Alone, and another family favorite A Garfield Christmas

Friday, December 11, 2009

My Favorite Movies of the Decade

Quite an ambitious post here, but you know, go big or go home.
There have been lots of Best of the Decade lists coming out recently. Check out Time, or SI, or the AV club if you want some. They are pretty fun to look at. This is the first decade that is truly in the Internet Age, so lists like this lend themselves pretty well to blogs and other forms of online media. Also, it was quite a decade for me – last years of high school, college, Philadelphia, Montana, months on a bus.
I decided to compose my own. It is my list of favorite movies of the decade, not necessarily the best movies of the decade. Enjoy.

Purposeful omissions: I wanted to start off with a few movies very high on most people's list, but which will be missing from mine.
25th Hour - I liked it, but didn't love it. Spike Lee too full of himself and his craft
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind - wasn't really blown away by this film, not something I want to see again.
Lost in Translation - I liked this one, but couldn't identify with anyone or anything

Honorable Mention:
A.I. - interesting composition, almost 3 separate movies. Beautiful and thought provoking, though part Kubrick, Spielberg's best work of the decade.
City of God - great, powerful. I know lots of people that love it much more than me.
Requiem for a Dream - Man, depressing, but greatly acted and made, ditto to other people loving it more than me
Return of the King - Loved the Speech by Theoden, amazing special effects, and some awesome parts, but I just didn't like it as much as the other two
Collateral - just a great entertaining movie
Training Day- seems to be a movie people forget about, maybe it loses allure after seeing it the first time, but it holds up for me
Role Models - Hilarious. See it if you haven't already. Better than Knocked up and Superbad, but those and Forgetting Sarah Marshall are great too.
Hustle & Flow - Whomp that Trick!
Love Actually - number one chick flick
The Dark Knight
Spider-Man 2 - This is THE comic book movie. It stays true to the character as well as creating new visual elements. Great special effects, but what makes the movie stand out is the Peter Parker/Spider-Man dynamic

Top 20

20a: Capturing the Friedmans - I don't really want to say that this is one of my favorite movies, but I think it was more captivating than anything else on the list. I could not take my eyes off it.

20. Billy Elliot -
Showing my varied tastes right off the bat here. I remember seeing this movie in high school at the Oriental back when I used to go on dates, so maybe that's why it holds a high place for me. It is a great, fun, uplifting movie. I'm not much for ballet, but I'm not ashamed to have this in my top 20.

19. No Country for Old Men - One of two best picture winners on the list. Quality from start to finish.

18. 21 Grams - I have only seen this movie once, but it was pretty intense. It's weird movies people remember and forget. I feel this movie is awesome and super dramatic and amazingly acted, but it is rarely mentioned when talking about great movies of the decade. Maybe it is over shadowed by other similar intense, lifelike dramas like Mystic River and Traffic and Crash.

17. Spirited Away - This is probably my most pretentious pick on the list, but at least I didn't call it to Chihiro no kamikakushi. Not really my genre, and I'm sure there were things I didn't totally get, but it was pretty addictive.

16. Garden State - Probably the most watched films by me on this list. Some people think it is too clich├ęd and stereotypical, but I love it. I see it as a celebration of life even in the randomness and B.S. it sometimes sends us. Funny too. Love Peter Sarsgaard and the rich friend that inventing silent velcro and the dude from The Big Bang Theory as the Fast Food Knight and the dog scratching its balls. I could go on and on.

15. Spellbound
- Yes, a spelling bee documentary. Love it! You cannot make this shit up. It is hilarious. You got the super hard immigrant parents driving their kids to succeed, the rural shy kid, the black girl from DC, and a few others who are beyond intense about spelling words. A great movie.

14. Lord of the Rings: the Two Towers: Why is this movie better than The Return of the King? Ents. Why is this movie #14? Angry Ents. Lots of great visual elements here - Helm's Deep, the transformation of Theoden, Gollum vs. Smegol, Uruk-hai vs. Orcs, and of course the Storming of Orthanc. Surprisingly, this was the only LOTRs movie I saw in the theater.

13. Casino Royale -
If this isn't the best Bond movie it is sure very close. A great combination of the classic dramatic, spy thriller Bond and the newer special effects, crazy action Bond. This movie is awesome starting from the beginning foot chase scene (I forget what that is called despite Dwight's love for it in The Office) to the meeting of Bond and Eva Green to the Casino scenes (Hold 'em instead of Baccarat) to the epic betrayal ending. Couldn't ask for more from a Bond movie.

12. Kill Bill - Ok this might be cheating, but I'm not choosing between vol 1 or vol 2. If I could choose the second half of vol 1 and the first half of vol 2, that could be a top 5 movie, but as a whole we'll go with 12. Highlights - the cartoon about O-Ren, the wedding flashbacks, Hattori Hanzo, any scene with Michael Madsen (who was also the father in Free Willie and according to IMDB has 26 movies filming, in post-production, or in pre-production. Wow), and the Pei Mai scene. Already planning on my next Halloween Costume to either be Pei Mai or the Shower from Karate Kid

11. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire - This is the movie that made me get into Harry Potter. I was very intrigued by the tournament and the other wizarding schools. My favorite book among the 7 by far and my favorite HP movie. Everything builds upon everything else. The action and mystery builds to a great conclusion. Even the stuff that is not part of the main story line, like Harry trying to get a date for the Ball and Rita Skeeter is excellent. Also, my favorite part of the series may be Dumbledore's speech after Cedric Diggory has been killed.

10. Batman Begins - Might have a little controversy here by having this and not Dark Knight on the list, and though I really like Dark Knight, I like this one a little better. It's a more simple movie. The background with Ra's Al Ghul is incredible. Plus it helps that I love Ra's and Liam Neeson. Katie Holmes is a much better Rachel than Maggie Gllynehaal. The origin is great. I guess I just love all the beginnings of Batman Begins. It stays true to the character, updates the story and makes Dark Knight possible. This movie is more about who is Bruce Wayne than who is Batman.

Bruce: Rachel, all of….All this...It's... It's not me.

Inside, I am...I am more.

Racehl: Bruce......deep down you may still be

that same great kid you used to be.

But it's not who you are underneath...'s what you do that defines you.

9. Little Miss Sunshine - This is probably the most unlikely movie on the list. I think I saw it on HBO randomly. I knew people were touting it as a real good movie, but it didn't really attract me as something I would enjoy. But then I saw it and realized I was wrong. I think it is the amazingly complex, varied characters that make this movie so great. Again, it is like Garden State, making the most of what we are given. The actual premise of the movie is pretty ridiculous, as is the dance scene which most people remember the movie by. But I love the combination of the poignant with the inappropriate, the sad with the funny, much like The World According to Garp, Little Miss Sunshine has lots of that.

8. Gladiator - "My name is Maximus Decimus Meridius, commander of the Armies of the North, General of the Felix Legions, loyal servant to the true emperor, Marcus Aurelius. Father to a murdered son, husband to a murdered wife. And I will have my vengeance, in this life or the next."

I had a friend in high school who would always recite this speech. He continued to do so in college and after. It is a pretty bad ass speech. The entire movie is pretty bad-ass for that matter. Even the beginning war scenes are great, as well as the performance of Richard Harris as Marcus Aurelius. The meat of the movie though is obviously the Coliseum fight scenes, especially the first one with the recreation of the 2nd battle of Carthage. Yes. You got Russell Crowe, Djimon Hounsou, and the big German guy. And Commadus (Joaquin Phoenix) is a pretty great bad guy. He is pretty messed up and you pretty much hate him strongly by the end of the movie. Oh, and the Jay-Z What More Can I Say? sample "Are you not entertained?" gets me going too. One of two Oscar Best Picture winner's on the list.

7. Gangs of New York - Speaking of Best Picture winners, Chicago is better than this movie? Shit. Besides the great acting and directing, this movie has a very cool visual element. Bill the Butcher looks giant and intimidating. The city looks great too. I even wanted to read more about the Five Points, so if a movie makes you want to read, it must be good.

6. King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters - Wow, I really can't impart to you how much I love this movie. Like my other documentaries on the list, this movie shows that truth is much stranger than fiction, that some stuff is so crazy you can't make it up. This movie is about someone trying to break the Donkey Kong record and it is super addictive! I think I watched twice in two days. That is how good it is.

Steve Wiebe vs. Billy Mitchell. Humilty vs. Pride David vs. Goliath Good vs. Evil I feel that these are not hyperbole. Watch the movie and see if you disagree. So much great stuff in this movie. You got the video game dorks that worship Billy Mitchell. You got the video game record establishment that Steve Wiebe is up against. You have the official scorer who insists on wearing a referee jersey to ever event. You have Steve's wife crying because he can never catch a break. You have a video game player with the self proclaimed name of Mr. Awesome. You have Steve's kid literally popping his pants while Steve is breaking the top score. Wow. When I was looking for a picture to include here there was so much I wanted to include. Watch this movie if you have not already seen it!

5. The 40 Year Old Virgin - This is the movie that all comedies since try to emulate. It started an entire genre. I think it is better than the other Apatow movies because the story is better. Despite the subject and sometimes extreme raunchiness, there is a cuteness to the plot. You really want Andy to succeed and in the right way. It is also more simple than the later ones. The dialogue seems much less forced, though it is a bit too much at times. Oh, and you got Steve Carrel, comic genius. Plus Paul Rudd and Seth Rogan, the funny Indian guy and my first introductions to Elizabeth Banks, Jonah Hill, and Jane Lynch.

You know what? I respect women! I love women! I respect them so much that I completely stay away from them!

All you got to do is use your instincts. How do you think a lion knows to tackle a gazelle? It's written, it's a code written in his DNA, says, "Tackle the gazelle." And believe it or not, in every man there's a code written that says, "Tackle drunk bitches."

Oh man, Friday, I really wanted an egg salad sandwich and I was just obsessing about it and I was like, 'Man, I'm gonna make one of those.' So Saturday, I went out and got, like, a dozen eggs and then I boiled them all and I just, I spent, I dunno, probably three hours, like three and a half hours making, you know, the mayonnaise, and the onions and paprika and, you know, the necessary accoutrement. And then, by the time I was done, I didn't really feel like eating it.

Andy Stitzer: Is it true that if you don't *use* it, you *lose* it?
Health Clinic Counselor: Is that a serious question?
Andy Stitzer: No, it wasn't.

[cuts to Andy painting one of his soldier toy figures] Now, I'm going to make your silver pants, blue!

Paula: Andy. Have you ever heard of the term... 'Fuck Buddy?'
Andy Stitzer: No... What's that?
Paula: Well, it's a special... friend... who you fuck.

You know what my problem is? I am not interesting. What am I supposed to say? I went to magic camp? That I'm an accomplished ventriloquist? Oh, I *am* the Seventh Degree Imperial Yo-Yo Master. "Ooh, do me, Yo-Yo Master, I want you to do me cause you're the yo-yo guy!"

I dated this girl for a while. She was really a... nasty freak. She just loved to get down with sex all the time. It was like... anytime of day, she was like, "Yeah, let's go! I'm so nasty!" And I'd be nailing her and she'd be like, "Oh, you're nailing me! Cool!"

Wow. This is graphic.

4. Amelie - Here is my token foreign film, but seriously, I really like this movie. Some may think it is too quirky and too positive and has too neat of an ending, but not me. There are two types of love story movie people - the optimists who identify with Amelie, believing that love on conquer all and the right people will get together in the end and the pessimists - people who identify with Closer, believing that pretty much everyone is selfish and wants to use everything they have against someone else and hurt them as much as possible. I'm definitely glad to be the Amelie type and not the jaded Closer type. I like the humor as well and the great color of the film.

3. Memento - Another one that goes back to high school. This was before the internet days. I think I read about this movie in Entertainment Weekly or something like that and knew I needed to see it. I'm pretty sure it was another of those Oriental or Downer movies, back when it was cool to go to the indie theaters. Quite a novel concept, which isn't just a gage, but a clever story telling device. If it wasn't done well, it would have sucked, but Christopher Nolan makes it work. So much is unveiled in just the right way at just the right time. Great acting. Great ending (or beginning?). Oh, and Guy Pearce's character would actually be my ultimate Halloween costume. I just need to get ripped and find a fake tattoo artist.

Remember Sammy Jankis

2. Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring - Much like the original Star Wars, I like the first movie the best. It just introduces so much - characters, story, magic, motifs, and possibilities. This is why I like Fellowship best out of the three LOTR movies. It opens up an amazing world. This actually the first DVD I ever purchased. Pretty much you need not look past the opening origin of the rings scene when talking about the greatness of this movie. Plus loads of amazing scenes - The Council of Elrond, Gandalf vs. Saruman, the flight to the Ford, the Mines of Moria, Lothlorian, the giant statues on the River, the Final Battle scene, the Death of Boromir, and the amazing Bridge of Khazad-Dum. This one sets up more greatness to come.

Boromir: [holding the ring after Frodo has lost it] It is a strange fate that we should suffer so much fear and doubt over so small a thing. Such a little thing.

I made a promise, Mr Frodo. A promise. "Don't you leave him Samwise Gamgee." And I don't mean to. I don't mean to.

"One Ring to Rule Them All. One Ring to Find Them. One Ring to Bring Them All and In The Darkness Bind Them."

Our people, our people. I would have would have followed you, my brother... my captain... my king

Boromir: What is this new devilry?
Gandalf: A Balrog. A demon of the ancient world. This foe is beyond any of you. Run!

Pity? It was pity that stayed Bilbo's hand. Many that live deserve death. Some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them, Frodo? Do not be too eager to deal out death in judgment. Even the very wise cannot see all ends. My heart tells me that Gollum has some part to play yet, for good or ill before this is over. The pity of Bilbo may rule the fate of many.

They have taken the bridge and the second hall. We have barred the gates but cannot hold them for long. The ground shakes, drums... drums in the deep. We cannot get out. A shadow lurks in the dark. We cannot get out... they are coming

Frodo: I wish the ring had never come to me. I wish none of this had happened.
Gandalf: So do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us. There are other forces at work in this world Frodo, besides the will of evil. Bilbo was meant to find the Ring. In which case, you were also meant to have it. And that is an encouraging thought.

You cannot pass! I am a servant of the Secret Fire, wielder of the Flame of Anor. The dark fire will not avail you, Flame of Udun! Go back to the shadow. You shall not pass!

1. In America - This may be a surprising pick, but it is definitely number one for me. It may not have action like Gladiator, great quotes like The 40 Year Old Virgin, or amaze like Fellowship. What makes it so great for me is that it just feels so real. I don't have kids, I'm not an immigrant, I don't have AIDS, I don't live in Hell's Kitchen, but this movie still really speaks to me. It is about America. It is about making the most of what we have. It's about what pain does to our lives, how it makes us miss out on it. The two girls are great as is my man Djimon Hounsou and a great performance by Paddy Considine. Incidentally, director Jim Sheridan's next movie was Get Rich or Die Tryin'

Pretty much every scene evokes some emotion and empathy for the characters - from the arrival at the border to the air conditioner scene to the ET ball game scene to the Halloween scene to the snowball fight to the final saying goodbye to Frankie. And my favorite is Christy's speech in the hospital.

Maybe a surprise choice for number one, but I find the movie seamless.

Johnny: Are you in love with her?
Mateo: No... I'm in love with you. And I'm in love with your beautiful woman. And I'm in love with your kids. And I'm even in love with your unborn child. I'm even in love with your anger! I'm in love with anything that lives!

Ariel: Cool!
Christy: Cool? Where'd you hear that?
Ariel: I don't know, I just heard it.
Christy: Ugh, you're already American, it's disgusting!

Ariel: What are transvestites?
Christy: A man who dresses up as a woman.
Ariel: For Halloween?
Christy: No, all the time. All the time.
Ariel: Why?
Christy: It's just what they do here, OK?

And here is the scene I mentioned earlier.

Johnny: Are you okay little girl?
Christy: Don't "little girl" me. I've been carrying this family on my back for over a year, ever since Frankie died. He was my brother too. It's not my fault that he's dead. It's not my fault that I'm still alive.
Johnny: Ah, Christy.
Christy: Mom was always crying because he was her son. But he was my brother too. I cried too... when no one was looking. I talked to him every night.
Ariel: She did, Dad.
Christy: I talked to him every night, until...
Johnny: ...until when?
Christy: Until I realized I was talking to myself.

There you go. A pretty nice list if I say so myself.

According to this, my favorite actors (multiple appearances on the list) are everyone from Lord of the Rings, Steve Carell, Liam Neeson, and a bit of a surprise Brendan Gleeson.

Hope you enjoyed. A fun decade. Let me know any picks you got.

Friday, December 4, 2009

2010 World Cup Draw Analysis

2010 World Cup draw

Group A: South Africa, Mexico, Uruguay, France

Group B: Argentina, South Korea, Nigeria, Greece

Group C: England, USA, Algeria, Slovenia

Group D: Germany, Australia, Ghana, Serbia

Group E: Netherlands, Japan, Cameroon, Denmark

Group F: Italy, New Zealand, Paraguay, Slovakia

Group G: Brazil, North Korea, Ivory Cost, Portugal

Group H: Spain, Honduras, Chile, Switzerland

First things first, I love the draw for the US. If I could have hand picked a team from pot 3 it would be Algeria and if I could hand pick a team from pot 4 it would have been Slovenia or Slovakia. Also US/England. Yes! I don't care about the 1950 game, c'mon, who does? But US/England is great. These players know each other. They speak the same language. They play together. Most Americans that watch soccer follow England and the English league. I am very excited, and even better, the media will love this matchup. The common soccer fan will be interested in this matchup. Hot shit.

Nothing really matched up with my mock draw, except the US got Slovenia and Algeria. I actually like my overall mock draw drawing better than the real one.

Ok, lets take a look at the groups. I'll rank them in order of strength from weakest to strongest.

8. Group F
Italy got the hook up here. Paraguay is a quality side, and is one of those teams that performs well, always making the World Cup and even the second round in 98 and 02, but doesn't really scare the big boys. New Zealand is not very good, and Slovakia is one of the worst European sides, and I believe the only World Cup newcomer. Top make it worse, none of these teams really play a exciting style of football. These may be some of the least interesting games in the tournament, but watching the underdog New Zealand will be fun.

Prediction: 1st Italy 2nd Paraguay

7. Group H - Spain has got to be happy here. They are surely already checking out their tough matchup in the 2nd round. Should be a more exciting group, with Honduras and Spain playing attacking football. Switzerland, not giving up a single goal in '06 should go through to the next round. Chile, I don't know much about them

Prediction: 1st Spain 2nd Switzerland

6. Group C - To the non-Anglo world, this could be the worst or second worse group, but I am American, so I like it. Don't really know much about Algeria or Slovenia. Both qualified through playoffs.

Prediction: 1st England 2nd USA

5. Group B - This group I think has the second worst top seed (South Africa the obvious worst) and does not have a clear team that should take second. It gains strength on paper from the Greek win in Euro 2004. I'm interested to see what kind of team Nigeria puts out there. I'm hoping for a fun, attacking squad. One thing is clear, there will be no easy wins in this group.

Prediction: 1st Argentina, Nigeria and South Korea battle it out for 2nd

4. Group A - Wouldn't have expected South Africa's group to be in the top half of quality, but the drawing of France makes it that way. Plus the host host country always gets a huge boost and Mexico, despite their qualifying trouble, is a perennial 2nd round team. Uruguay, with a Fifa ranking of 19 is over-rated.

Prediction - 1st Mexico 2nd France

3. Group E - This is the first group that I consider to be a strong group, one that I am happy the US is not in. Netherlands dominated in qualifying and have a very strong side. Denmark won a tough group in qualifying containing Portugal, Sweden, and Hungary, so they seem to be stronger than ever. Cameroon were The African team in 90s and always do well in the Olympics and U-21 tournaments, but haven't done much on the big stage in a while. Japan are a mid level team. Should be a high level of entertainment in these matches.

Prediction: 1st Netherlands 2nd Denmark edges Cameroon

2. Group D - This group is close to number 1 because there is no inferior team. I believe any of these teams can qualify in first or second. Germany is a great tournament team. Ghana is a team poised for a huge break out after making the 2nd round and outing playing Brazil in their first World Cup Appearance in 2006. Australia is similar, looking to build upon their 06 success. I feel their level of competition (qualifying in Asia instead of Oceania) will help them in this group. No easy games with Serbia winning their group with France in qualifying, but I do see Serbia taking 4th in this group.

Prediction: 1st Germany 2nd Australia edging out Ghana

1. Group G - I really don't see it as a horrible Group of Death as far as groups of death go. Look at 2002's England, Sweden, Argentina, and Nigeria. North Korea is a real outlier. I'm a afraid the people of North Korea may not even know that the World Cup is going on after the government said they would sensor the games, only showing them if North Korea does well. The other three sides are very strong, though. I was worried that the US would get Cote d'Ivoire when they were drawn next, but they went to the next open South American group leader. I expect lots of goals in this group and some beautiful football.

Prediction 1st Brazil 2nd Portugal - I just don't think Ivory Coast has enough depth.

There you go. We still got 6 months! to wait. Boo! So I won't get too deep into my predictions. But I am very pleased with the draw today and excited about lots of matches US/England, Mexico/South Africa, Argentina/Nigeria, Netherlands/Cameroon, Germany/Australia, Australia/Ghana, Brazil/Cote d'Ivoire Portugal/Brazil, Cote D'Ivoire/Portugal.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

World Cup Draw Update

Well, Fifa has finally announced their top seeds and I was pretty on with my analysis from the other day.
Here is a quote from my previous post "with the only possible variables would be the Netherlands or Portugal taking the place of England or France."
And guess what, I was correct. Fifa changed things up from what they usually and took the top 7 countries in the Fifa world rankings and The Netherlands has taken the place of France as the final top seed. Some are conjecturing that this is their response to the Henry handball, but I think it is just response to France playing poorly over the last two years and the Netherlands straight balling in the qualifying round.
One more thing, the US pot consisting of Mexico, Honduras, USA, New Zealand, South Korea, North Korea, Australia, and Japan will be the first pot drawn after the top seeds. I'm cool with that as it will make the draw even more exciting, as every team pick will now matter rather than just the last round.
Perfect scenario for Group A - South Africa, USA, Uruguay, Slovenia

Monday, November 30, 2009

World Cup Mock Draw

Big day this Friday. The 32 nation field will be drawn for next summer's World Cup. Some team's fates will already be decided by about noon central time on Friday. For those of you working, here is the ESPN online link
The draw is obviously huge for all teams, particularly those middle level teams like the USA. The could have a vicious draw and be grouped for example with Spain, the Netherlands, and Nigeria or they could have a great draw and be with South Africa, Slovenia, and Uruguay. So lots is determined by the Friday draw.

There are lots of mock drafts out there for fantasy sports and the NFL and NBA draft, so I decided to go with a Mock Draw. It won't really mean anything, but will be fun and show the indefinite natureof the process.

Here are a few rules to know.
There are 32 teams, but they are not being drawn randomly, but Fifa is not being very forthcoming in how exactly the draw will take place.
Here is what we know for sure.
-The 32 teams will be divided into 4 separate pots.
-Pot 1 will be the top seeded teams in which the host South Africa and reigning champion Italy are guaranteed a spot. The other 6 tops seeds have not yet been announced by Fifa
- Groups will not contain more than two European teams
- Groups will not contain multiple teams from any region other than Europe (i.e. a South American team cannot be drawn with another South American team)
-One pot will contain 8 European teams that are not top seeds
-The remaining two pots will be a mixture of the remaining teams

What is still up in the air:
-the top 8 seeds will most likely be South Africa, Italy, Brazil, Germany, Spain, France, Argentina, and England. Other teams in contention are the Netherlands and Portugal. FIFA uses performance in the last two World Cups and qualification and other Fifa tournaments to determine these top seeds. It seems very unscientific, but I think the way it is above makes it the most uncluttered. Say the Netherlands were one of the Top 8 in place of Argentina, then there would not be an even group of 8 European teams and New Zealand would have to be in with the 7 remaining European teams, which would be totally unfair. Then along with South Africa and Italy I would say Brazil, Argentina, Spain, and Germany are locks, with the only possible variables would be the Netherlands or Portugal taking the place of England or France.
- it is unknown how the 16 remaining non-European teams will be drawn. It usually depends on the host country and who wins the intercontinental playoffs.
It could be the 5 Africans and the 3 North American teams in one and the 4 Asian, 3 South American teams, and the Oceania winner in the other
the 3 North American, 4 Asian, and 1 Oceania in one and the 3 South American and 5 Africans in the other.
It will probably be the latter, as this allows for the neatest draw, as you only need to have sub-pots in one round of the draw, so South Africa, Brazil, and Argentina are not drawn with someone from their continent. But the other way would require sub-pots in two rounds.
As a US fan, I would rather face a South American, Asian, or Oceania team, and Uruguay beating kept that unlikely possibility open. Llately Fifa has been erratic with rules, so you never know.

Ok, I probably confused with too much information there. We'll go with the most likely scenario for the draw.
On with the Draw!

Pot 1 Top Seeds (South Africa, Italy, Brazil, Argentina, Germany, Spain, England, France)

Pot 2 Remaining European Teams (Netherlands, Portugal, Denmark, Slovakia, Serbia, Switzerland, Greece, Slovenia

Pot 3 Africa and remaining South America (Uruguay, Chile, Paraguay, Ghana, Cote d'Ivoire, Cameroon, Nigeria, Algeria)

Pot 4 North America, Asia, Oceania (Mexico, USA, Honduras, Australia, Japan, North Korea, South Korea, New Zealand)

First Draw: This is just to determine the Groups the tops seeds go in
1. South Africa - Group A
2. Argentina - Group B
3. Germany - Group C
4. France - Group D
5. Brazil - Group E
6. Italy - Group F
7. England - Group G
8. Spain - Group H

Second Draw Pot 2: No need for sub-pots here. First team drawn with go in group A, second in group B and so on. Top seeds will definitely want to avoid Netherlands and Portugal and would probably like to see Slovenia and Slovakia

Group A - Greece - South Africa will not mind this
Group B - Slovakia - Argentina will be pleased with this
Group C - Denmark - Potential interesting battle with Germany
Group D - Serbia - Serbia won the group over France in qualification
Group E - Slovenia - No problem for Brazil, Netherlands and Portugal still out there along with Switzerland
Group F - Netherlands - Mouth-watering match up vs. Italy
Group G - Switzerland - England certainly pleased by avoiding Portugal who took them out of World Cup 2006 and Euro 2000 and 2004
Group H - That leaves Portugal - Nice Iberian battle here with Spain

Draw 3 - Pot 3 with African and South American sub-pots. Teams here would want to draw Algeria, Chile, or Uruguay. This years African teams are very strong.

Group A - due to South Africa being in the group, the South America pot will be used, and South Africa draw: Chile Host will be ok with that.
Group B - Africa pot will now be used for Argentina - Cameroon Drawn - historically tough team with World Cup experience, but did not qualify in 2006
Group E - we will stick with the African pot here for Brazil - Algeria drawn - Brazil looking very good here.
The remaining teams - Paraguay, Uruguay, Ghana, Nigeria, and Ivory Coast are now put into a single pot for the rest of the pot 3 draw
Group C - Paraguay - potentially strong group here
Group D - Ghana - things not looking great for France
Group F - Nigeria - potential group of death with Italy, Netherlands, and Nigeria
Group G - Cote d'Ivoire - lots of interesting Premier League matchups here - Terry vs. Drogba, Toure vs. Barry
Group H - only team left are Uruguay - Spain and Portugal have to be happy with that

Draw 4 Pot 4, no sub-pots needed
I'd say teams would want to avoid Mexico and Australia and maybe the US. Teams would love drawing New Zealand and would be happy with North Korea and Honduras as well.
For the USA, I want to avoid Spain/Portugal and Italy/Netherlands/Nigeria groups. Ideal would be South Africa other than that Brazil/Slovenia/Algeria would be the best.

Group A - Honduras - USA doesn't get South Africa, but the host must be hugely pleased with their draw.
Group B - Mexico - interesting group here, with the Mexico/Argentina tie being the most anticipated
Group C - North Korea - rest of group happy with this draw, though N. Korea and Kim Jong-Il huge unknown
Group D - South Korea - pretty solid group here
Group E - USA - great draw for the US. If we get this group I will immediately take celebratory shots and buy a US jersey
Group F - Japan - group of death I would say, especially for Japan
only New Zealand and Australia remain
Group G - Australia - solid group here, nothing easy for England, probably not pleased with the outcome
Group H - last team drawn - New Zealand - Spain and Portugal must be loving their turn of fortune.

Final Results

Group A

Group B

Group C

Group D

South Africa














North Korea

South Korea

Group E

Group F

Group G

Group H











Cote D'Ivoire





New Zealand

There you go. That was fun. I would love this draw in real life. Great for the US. Group F appears to be the "group of death" Loads of interesting match ups, as I'm sure will be the case in real life, so tune in again on Friday for my real World Cup Draw Analysis.