UniDiction 2011: Week 14 – Eagles vs. Dolphins and Week 13 Round-Up

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I lost; the Eagles lost. It was an ugly game for every possible reason. Let’s just not talk about it.

Week 13 Round-Up

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The Buccaneers wore their Creamsicle throwbacks against the Panthers, which are ugly, but in that “so bad it’s good, but no more than twice a season, please” sort of way.

 

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Red_red_2In less positive news, both the Texans and Cardinals went monochrome in their respective games, navy over navy for the Texans and red over red for the Cardinals. Neither is a good look, but it means that the Cardinals may trot out their rare (though not particularly appealing) white over red combo now that their red pants are available this season.


 

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Finally, for trivia lovers, the Redskins and Jets mixed it up by having the Redskins wear their maroon over white (instead of yellow) combo at home and the Jets in their, again, rare (and, again, unappealing) white over green.

Eagles vs. Dolphins UniDiction

Lots of details in the picture, but the main take-away is that the Dolphins are an “almost always” White at Home team. Every now and then, they pull out their orange alternates for home, night games, but the Eagles announced they’d be in green this week, so the Dolphins are in white. Though not rigidly defined, the Dolphins generally wear white pants with the white jersey for home games and break out aqua pants for away games when they wear White jerseys (meaning: almost any away games).

Check out the Dolphins Uniform history on the Gridiron Uniform Database, and notice the 1997 “tweaking” which changed the shade of Aqua and added the 90s-riffic drop-shadows on the numbers. Generally, their uniforms have been adjusted numerous times (striping and logo tweaks, mainly), but no significant changes since 1966. Pretty impressive for a design to last that long and still look good.

Week14

The Eagles are in their typical home combination, Green over White. I’ll omit the full break-down, but in short, it’s their best combo of the current uniform set, and worth, let’s say, 22 points (generally, the Midnight Green is simply too dark).

Dolphins – 21

Eagles – 22

****½

It’s actually going to be an unexpectedly great uniform match-up. Let’s hope the game is OK, too.

 

 

 

 

UniDiction 2011: Week 13 – Eagles vs. Seahawks and Week 12 Round-Up (new format!)

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Well, I was wrong for last week’s game, too. 3-8. Of course, there was nothing right about the Eagles on-field performance, either.

There’s an all-new format for the UniDiction section which I think you’ll like, so let me know what you think in the comments.

Week 12 Round-Up

The Chargers wore their very nice Powder Blue throwbacks. I think the color’s odd enough that it shouldn’t necessarily be their primary uniform (and the Titans use light Blue, though in a very different way), but the Chargers normal uniforms are among the least notable in the league (neither good nor bad…they just…are), helmet with electricity on the sides notwithstanding, so file the “should the powder blues be the Chargers’ normal uniforms” under “let me think about it.” I covered the Thanksgiving uniform happenings in last week’s article.

Eagles vs Seahawks UniDiction (new format!)

Week13
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No full write-up for the Eagles this week because of the new format, but they’re in White over Midnight Green, and that looks awful and needs to be removed from their locker room. BUT, the Seahawks uniforms are awful.

Seahawks – 12

Eagles – 13 

Some random Seahawks uniform info:

Seahawks helmet logo in image above from Chris Creamer’s SportsLogos.net.

*

An awful uniform match-up this week.

The Muppets

The Muppets have always been a big inspiration to me. I grew up watching reruns of The Muppet Show, the 9 episodes of The Jim Henson Hour that aired before it was cancelled, the movies, Muppet Babies, Fraggle Rock, Sesame Street and countless other productions. Muppet Christmas Carol is one of my favorite movies ever, and a yearly staple, as is the classic “A Christmas Together” album with John Denver.

This special that was made for The Jim Henson hour but didn’t air until much later on Nickelodeon was one of the first “behind-the-scenes” videos (now a ubiquitous DVD feature) of any kind I had ever seen, and I found it endlessly fascinating. I watched it every time that I came across it on TV. I might venture to say that it has had a profound impact on where my life has taken me.

I’ve taken puppeteering and puppet-building classes, walked around the Muppet Studio in L.A., briefly met some of the current puppeteers, and last year got to make a piece of puppet magic myself.

‘The Muppets’ seems to have stolen our puppet mount-cam idea without either us or them knowing it.

But enough about me. The reason that I’m throwing this out there is that there are other people out there like me. I would venture to say that I’m at the tail end of this multi-generational fascination with these characters. The last great piece of entertainment produced with Kermit, Fozzie, etc., was Chrismas Carol in 1992, nearly 20 years ago.

The Muppets have languished in the years since then, through various changes in ownership and stewardship. There have been two mediocre theatrical movies (the last one still a lengthy 12 years ago), a failed TV variety show, a Christmas special that had its moments, another horrific Christmas special, and the terrible Wizard of Oz adaptation.

This lengthy period of brand failure is exactly what the new movie is commenting on, and it does so in such a marvelous way that all cause for concern about how it treats the franchise’s history should be thrown out the window.

Briefly, the movie’s about a two superfans (Jason Segel and Walter, a new muppet performed fantastically by Peter Linz) who travel from Smalltown, USA to L.A. with Segel’s character’s girlfriend (Amy Adams) and visit the Muppet studios, finding it decrepit and more-or-less closed. Walter finds out that an evil corporation has taken control over the studio, theatre and Muppets name and plans to run all of them into the ground. It’s up to the three of them to get everyone back together to save the Muppets legacy. To say that this bears some resemblance to the current state of affairs with the company is quite the understatement.

I watched the original Muppet Movie the night before seeing this, and I’d recommend you do the same. In addition to being able to recognize a few callback references to the original movie, rewatching “The Muppet Movie” puts things in the new film in such an interesting mindset. Kermit was once an idealistic leader, inspiring friends to uproot their lives and travel to Hollywood to become “rich and famous”. Now though, all these years later, Kermit has become sort of an out-of-touch recluse, living in a mansion with only his 1980s robot butler to keep him company. Any object that could remind him of the past, and the never-detailed, but often inferred event that caused them all to split up, is draped off. (As a side note, I would love to see this dark chapter in the Muppets history. It would be the most depressing scene ever — even more than this and the [i'm not kidding] attempted suicide scene that came immediately before it, which I can’t find now — but it would be so compelling. Side side note: this is the world where Kermit was never born.) He’s not cynical or bitter — Kermit could never be that — but he’s deeply saddened by how much he believes he let everyone down, which is a burden he’s put on himself since the first movie. Now, years after the split, he views his life’s work as a failure and sees getting everyone together as a fool’s errand, but is talked into it.

The rest of the movie parallels the original’s structure, in the “getting the band back together” sense, but it’s almost a flipped perspective. Instead of it being about the hope of becoming entertainers and being able to make people happy, it’s about the notion of losing your friends to infighting, and your legacy to years of inactivity and a company bent on ruining your name and replacing you with other people/characters. While Walter brings new energy and hopeful naivety, the rest of the Muppets seem like old souls. They’ve aged in spirit and seem a little weary. Fozzy looks a little grey. Everyone else has moved on with their lives, and it’s quite the effectively sad portion of the movie.

But the movie is greatly funny. The music is mostly fantastic, especially if you like Flight of the Conchords, whose Bret McKenzie wrote four original songs (and a reprise), and served as Music Supervisor. I didn’t really care for the Amy Adams/Miss Piggy splitscreen duet, but the Jason Segel/Walter duet, “Man or Muppet” is both catchy and hilarious. The direction (by “Conchords” TV show co-creator and director) is great, with extremely minimal CG work and many, many “How’d they do that?” moments. Segel and Adams are cute and bring great likeable human energy, even if their story feels a bit too much in the forefront.

The Muppet performers don’t seem to miss a beat at all. Considering the only original performer still involved is Gonzo originator Dave Goelz, it’s amazing that all of these characters can still “live” and “breathe” when being performed by other people. It has taken me a number of years to get used to Steve Whitmire’s slightly higher-pitched Kermit, but the range of emotion he was able to wring out of that puppet was remarkable. Eric Jacobson (Fozzy, Piggy, Animal, Sam Eagle) and Bill Barretta (Rowlf, Dr. Teeth, Bobo, Pepe, Swedish Chef) are incredible apers of the original Frank Oz and Henson voices and master puppeteers to boot. There is really no difference in the Muppet characters noticeable enough to be a distraction, as in some past productions.

The woman sitting in front of me at the screening and her hippie husband left the theatre complaining about the “Disneyfication” of the franchise. Granted, she was also complaining prior to the movie about bottled water being a scam, but she does have a valid point about the movie, to a limited extent. Yes, everything is slick, polished, and sanitized. There are overhead shots of the Muppet Theatre (Disney’s Hollywood Boulevard El Capitan Theatre repurposed for the exteriors) that show a “Cars 2” billboard prominently in the background. The three new principal roles (Segel’s “Gary”, Adams’ “Mary”, and Walter) do get a little bit too much focus.

But here is why all of those complaints are wrong. Every joke or type of joke in this movie that seemed out of place actually had a precedent set for it in some prior movie or project: breaking the fourth wall, presenting a popular song in a ridiculous way (the muppet show did this every week), the over-top bad guy bent on bringing them down (Chris Cooper, doing a great job in limited screentime), even the ridiculous method by which they travel long distances.

No matter what Frank Oz says, I don’t feel that the characters were ever disrespected, with one possible exception, which I’ll get to later. In fact, I’d say the opposite. The newer characters were either never used (Clifford, Johnny Fiama and Sal Manella were completely absent), or, like Pepe, were pushed to the background entirely. Even lesser-known, older characters like Uncle Deadly, and Wayne and Wanda make appearances.

Oz points to the ubiquitous “fart shoes” joke in the ads as something Fozzie would never do, but in the context of the movie, I think it works. The characters are out of touch and desperate to figure out what people want, and I don’t think Fozzie is below pandering for a laugh. I’d say this movie is truer to the characters than the “World Where Kermit was Never Born” business.

Gary, Mary, and Walter serve as an audience proxy for younger people unfamiliar with “The Muppet Show”. And without Segel’s Gary and Walter there is no real impetus for the characters to reconcile at all, in a not-so-subtle parallel to real-life. Walter and Gary’s storylines are also so simple that they work without being too off-putting, and they’ve found great ways to parallel other character’s stories (the two duets for example).

For me though, and this comes as a side-note, and probably just a personal gripe, but considering he’s the only original performer left, Dave Goelz didn’t have much for Gonzo to do.

I know the last movie, way back when, focused on him entirely, but in re-watching material recently, I’ve realized the hidden layer of soul and sadness that Gonzo can bring, that few others have. The emotion that comes across in this song…

… is something that Miss Piggy and Fozzy are never tasked with. Most of the other characters are just one dimensional, though Rowlf has on occasion brought the emotion in his Muppet Show performances. Because of this, Kermit is left to carry that burden, but his sadness comes from his failures to live up to his ridiculously high expectations of himself as the leader and guy who manages these ridiculous personalities. Gonzo’s pathos has always stemmed from not fitting in, being weird, and not knowing exactly what he is.

Since these characteristics are basically the entirety of Walter’s personality, and his character arc, this brooding side of Gonzo gets pushed to the backburner, and even his comical side does as well. I’d be interested to see his number of lines compared to other characters. I get that not everyone can be properly serviced, but as a member of what I consider to be the core four characters, he feels like an afterthought. You can sense the regret in Fozzie and Piggy, but Gonzo has just seemed to move on. And this overlooking of him is even sadder considering Goelz is the longest-tenured performer here.

I have some mixed feelings about the end, but I have to talk about it in vague ideas. Basically, I feel like it glosses over a majorly important plot point, but the way in which it does this seems to render it fairly unimportant in the overall scheme of things. It sort of takes their literal goal and says their figurative one is more important, which is a great idea, but leaves the main plot as almost a side story.

On the whole though, I felt every emotion I was supposed to, including my normal disinterest in Miss Piggy. I welled up a few times, laughed a lot, and left with a smile on my face, and no feelings of contempt in my heart. I never once thought that they ruined a good thing here, and that’s all I could ask for.

The crux of this movie is whether or not The Muppets are a viable entertainment in today’s pop culture landscape, and I’d say that with the right material (and this is great material… mostly fleece and foam… wocka, wocka), they can be. Let’s hope that the kids that are getting their first taste of these characters feel the same way.

****½

UniDiction 2011: Week 9 – Eagles vs. Bears

This was cross-posted on Crossing Broad.

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Well, they may have blasted apart my uniform-generated spread (25-15),  but a win (real life: 34-7) is a win. I’m 3-4, the Eagles are 3-4. Not too shabby after a dicey start for both of us.

We had a surprisingly lively debate in the comments section for a review of the Marlins new logo on Tuesday, and the uniforms will be officially and fully unveiled on Friday 11/11, so check back next weekend for a full review. But, we’re hear to talk about the NFL today, so let’s start this footbal thing by looking at last week’s NFL uniform action with the help of the always-greatGridiron Uniform Database.

For Halloween (?), the Broncos wore their Orange alternates. I’m not a big fan, but they’re going with Orange as their primary color jersey color next year, so get used to it. Of course, the kicker is that they’re rumored to be changing uniforms completely next year with the arrival of the Nike contract, so it’s anyone’s guess what they’ll look like next year. Unfortunately (due to lack of being the home team and general non-funness in the NFL), none of the BengalsDolphins, nor Bears wore their Orange alternates. So close, yet so far.

The Texans wore their rare Red alternate over White pants combo (the Red jerseys are usually seen as part of a “Red Out” with Red pants), which is a great look, even better than their unfairly-overlooked-on-best-of-modern-uniform-lists Blue over White combo.

Sporting their Blue over Yellow throwbacks, the Rams showed that their “heritage” look is as interesting as their current uniform, though had they chosen to wear their standard uniforms, there’s a chance we could’ve seen Gold pants vs. Gold pants, as the Saints showed up in White over Gold (their best White jersey combo).

Rounding out the throwbacks/alternates were the Panthers in their Blue alternates for the second week in a row. The less that’s said about those 90s disasters, the better.

And, finally, in terms of trivia, the Redskins wore their new-for-2010 White jersey over Yellow pants combo against the Bills, creating a bit of an “old school” type match-up.

Writing these articles has shown me that there’s much less diversity in the NFL schedule than I expected, with inexplicable* repeat opponents such as the 49ers, Cardinals, Falcons, and Bears (*note: I am fully aware that NFL scheduling is actually rather scientific, thank you very much, but how often do I really want to write-up the Cardinals uniforms?). Because the Eagles played the Bears last year (though in Chicago), I’ll borrow from the 2010 write-up as needed.

As a quick primer on the Bears uniforms, their standard color jersey combination is Navy over White. For their White jersey, they usually pair it with Navy pants. An Orange alternate appears every now and then (always with White pants). In recent history, they’ve worn White over White (the double set of stripes on each leg is against the uniform rules, so he has probably fined) as well as Navy over Navy as well as a Throwback in 2010 in place of the Orange alternates.

The Bears have one of the classic “This is the NFL”-type uniforms, so let’s find out how they’ll do against the Eagles.

The UniDiction

Either 2, 3, 6, or 7 points awarded for each category (safety, field goal, touchdown, touchdown+point after, of course)

Helmet

Eagles: 7 — Same as always.  Definitely one of the best helmet designs in the league.  I’m a sucker for “functional” helmet designs, and the wings fit the bill.

Bears: 6 — In terms of design details, the wishbone “C” logo has just enough going for it to not look like a plain letter cop-out.  But, they really need something to break up the two halves of the helmet.  Maybe a White or Orange stripe (or a combination of those).  The helmet is just slightly a bit more “old” than “classic.”

Jersey

Eagles: 6 — When fans think of the “post-Cunningham” Eagles, they’re picturing the Midnight Green jerseys.  A unique, bold color, with detailed strokes on the numbers, and nice use of logos on the sleeves and collar. I’ll remove a point due to the use of drop shadows.

Bears: 6 — This is a classic NFL template. No yokes (Titans), framing features (Jaguars, Cardinals), drop-shadows (Eagles). Orange stroke around Navy fill on the typography makes the letters and numbers visually interesting, and the Blue-Orange-Blue stripes on the shoulders keeps them from looking like an unfinished field of White (Colts and Giants, I’m looking at you). Nothing I’d change on these except that Navy Blue looks Black-ish (like the Eagles “Midnight Green”) in poor lighting, such as a night game. Like this week.

Pants + Socks

Eagles: 6 — The White pants provide nice contrast with the solid green of the jersey, and instead of plain white, the thick Black ad Green stripes (with the pencil thin grey stripe) on the side of the pants gives them a slightly modern touch.  Black over White socks also break up the White from the pants. I wouldn’t mind if they swapped the Black socks for Green, though.

Bears: 3 — Again, a classic design with an Orange-White-Orange sandwich stripe and no frills. Here’s what isn’t so clear about the uniform’s details. Why are the stripes spaced on the jersey and socks, but flush on the pants? Also, the Navy and Orange jerseys and Navy socks (which are paired with White pants) use triple stripes of the same color with strokes, while the White jerseys and socks use spaced Navy-Orange-Navy. Consistency people!

Intangibles

Eagles: 6 — Obviously the best combo from the current uniform set. The Green needs to be a few shades lighter (if they wouldn’t do a straight return to Kelly Green) for it to really work in the poor lighting of a night game, though.

Bears: 6 — Well, I normally complain when the Eagles wear Green pants due to how dark they are, so the Bears in Navy pants are definitely not any better here, especially for a night game, even if they have bold, obvious stripes on the side (unlike the Eagles with Graphite and Black). But, Bears fans, these are still nice uniforms. For “classic” uniforms, I prefer the Packers in Green over Yellow, but the Bears in any combo (except Navy over Navy) give them a run for the money. If they show up in White over White (they probably won’t), bump this to a full 7 for outside-the-box thinking.

Final Score

Eagles 25

Bears 21

This will be one of the better-looking Eagles games this year.

****½

 

UniDiction 2011: Week 8 – Eagles vs. Cowboys

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Follow me on twitter (@dancfuller) for uniform updates during Sunday’s games. If you have any questions or want to have a uniform-related argument, whether fact-based or opinion-oriented, just send something @ me. 

OK, let’s all agree that it was good to see the Eagles win one. But can we also agree that the Redskins looked a whole lot better in losing than the Eagles did in winning? I’ll take the UniDiction loss (2-4, same as the Eagles, by the way), but I won’t back down about the Redskins Maroon over Yellow being up there as probably the best combo in the NFL and the Eagles White over Green… just making me mad.

Coming out of the bye week, there are two big weekends of uniform-related happenings to catch-up with. Week 6 saw the Packers in their nerdy “throwing back to a time before NFL uniforms looked like, you know, NFL uniforms” uniforms, the Cowboys in their very rare Blue over (true) Silver combo — yes, I’m proud of the work I put in to this graphic — and leading in to two topics that might shock uniform traditionalists, the Falcons wore their 60’s-inspired throwbacks and the Bengals wore their Orange alternates.  Of course I like the Falcons throwbacks; they have a distinct air of “classic NFL uniform,” but they’re so much better than their standard overly-modern uniforms that if they’re not going to wear the throwbacks full-time, I actually wouldn’t mind them wearing the forgotten Black jersey from the current set instead. Sure, maybe not in Black over Black, but Black over White is a good look. The Bengals paired their Orange jersey with their White pants, and know what? I actually think it’s a good look. I’m not as much of a fan of when they wear the Orange alternate over Black pants, but the goofy details of the White jersey (the inexplicable Orange shoulder yoke) and Black jersey (Orange shoulder highlights) are missing or mitigated on the Orange jersey. Let’s cut-out the White side panel, and it’s actually a pretty nice uniform. Sure, the tiger stripes may be an acquired taste, but it’s a unique feature which makes sense given the team name.

Week 7 saw the Vikings excellent throwbacks (which should be the normal uniforms, of course) and the Panthers in their “I Love the 90s” Electric Blue (er, “Carolina Blue”) alternates. The Panthers are rarely on TV in the Philadelphia era, so my guess is few readers even know those alternates exist, so let me devote an additional sentence to just how unfortunate those jerseys are. The Panthers alternates are woefully ugly. Noted. Moving on. (Sadly, they wore them today against the Vikings, so that’s two weekends in a row).

Against the Cowboys, there aren’t many unknowns going into the game; the Eagles chose not to wear their White jerseys to try to invoke the Cowboys’ “Blue Jersey Curse,” so it’s Green over White vs. White over Silver. As a divisional rival, I’ve already written-up this match-up twice(Cowboys are “White at Home,” so it’s the same uniform match-up whether at Dallas or in Philadelphia — for trivia’s sake, the Cowboys have a rather nice throwback, but it won’t be seen this weekend), so I’ll borrow liberally from my previous efforts.

And, in the interest of completeness, the Cowboys rarely seen (though worn two weeks ago) Blue jerseys are an interesting item, not just a color-swapped version of the White over Silver uniforms. Check out this graphic I made detailing all of the mismatched items. You’d think that in the age of HD the Cowboys would at least address the Silver mismatch issue (at least making the helmets match one of the pants; it’s not like they wear the “true” Silver pants from the Blue jersey set all that often), but I guess it’s not too important down there in Texas. BUT, choosing Navy Blue or Royal Blue would at least be nice.

Comparison
The Cowboys uniforms are a tough nut to crack; as an Eagles fan I feel as if I must hate them, but they’re actually pretty nice. They’re “classic” without looking too plain (Colts and Giants, that’s you) or old-for-old’s-sake (Packers throwbacks).

The (slightly anti-Cowboys biased) UniDiction is after the jump.

The UniDiction

Either 2, 3, 6, or 7 points awarded for each category (safety, field goal, touchdown, touchdown+point after, of course)

Helmet

Eagles: 7 — Same as always.  Definitely one of the best helmet designs in the league.  I’m a sucker for “functional” helmet designs.

Cowboys: 6 — It’s iconic and, oddly, rather understated element considering just how prevalent it is in the US. One point is removed because the shade of Silver doesn’t match the Silver pants… either of them. (note: for color professionals out there, please spare me the “it’s difficult to match colors on different substrates, especially shades of grey or silver when metal fleck is a component.”  I know, but they’ve had 40+ years to get it right!

Jersey

Eagles: 6 — When fans think of the “post-Cunningham” Eagles, they’re picturing the Midnight Green jerseys.  A unique, bold color, with detailed strokes on the numbers, and nice use of logos on the sleeves and collar. I’ll remove a point due to the use of drop shadows.

Cowboys: 3 — There are few things Eagles fans hate more than the sight of a Cowboys jersey, especially if it’s White.  Objectively, it’s a 6 (the shoulder stripes break up the plain-ness of it, though the Black strokes on the sleeve stripes don’t match the stroke-less numbers), but subjectively, we’re giving it a 3, because it’s, you know, the Cowboys.

Pants + Socks

Eagles: 6 — The White pants provide nice contrast with the solid green of the jersey, and instead of plain white, the thick Black ad Green stripes (with the pencil thin grey stripe) on the side of the pants gives them a slightly modern touch.  Black over White socks also break up the White from the pants

Cowboys: 3 — OK, Cowboys.  Get your colors figured out, and we’ll talk.

Intangibles (no Pink adjustment this week – it looks like most teams have really dialed it back this week. It’s still October, so I bet there’s a lot more to this story which will never get reported. Pink was shamelessly poured over everything for the first two weeks of October, and now it’s practically missing. I mean, I’m not missing it, but something’s up. It could be that this is the fifth Sunday in October, and it was designed as a four week marketing program, but, again, that story will likely never be told.)

Eagles: 6 — OK, it’s the best combo of their current uniform set, but it’d be fun to see them wear their White jerseys at home (preferably with White pants… but beggars can’t be choosers), forcing the Cowboys to wear Navy over (true) Silver.

Cowboys: 3 — Out of bringing some professional journalism to this article, I’ll say “these are nice uniforms, here are three points.” Yeah, I feel dirty doing that, but I’m being fair. I may have offered a few more points if they were in their Navy over Silver combination (obscurity=points, people), but the Eagles chose not to force the Cowboys to wear them. Naturally, I’ll blame the Cowboys for that.

Final Score

Eagles 25

Cowboys 15

[rate  4.0]

A pretty good looking game. With the Cowboys in plain colors, a brighter shade of Green (say, Kelly Green) on the Eagles would really stand out…oh, well.

Drive

"Drive" : a new scent for men. From Calvin Klein

How far can you take the idea of creating a nondescript character before you have one that is boring and unlikeable? That’s the argument that’s running through my head as I write about the new Ryan Gosling vehicle (literally), “Drive”.

“Drive” is the story of a mechanic/Hollywood stunt driver/robbery wheelman, who operates under a strict set of rules, like “The Transporter” from “The Transporter”… except without all the parkour/judo/kickboxing, gravity-defying ludicrous automotive action, over-the-top bad music, tied-up Asian people, and shirtless oil wrestling. He shows up someplace at a given time, for five minutes. “If something happens in that five minutes”, he drives them away to safety, if not, he leaves. This is all set up in a pretty brilliant opening, but all of that promise and cool, retro, James Dean withdrawn charisma start to fade away the further we get into the film.

The unnamed driver (more on this later) goes about his business, doing a Hollywood stunt or two, working at Bryan Cranston’s garage, and meeting a doe-eyed neighbor, Carey Mulligan, and her son. He bonds with them, and Cranston tries to get him set up as a racecar driver with a two mob-tied investors (Albert Brooks and Ron Perlman). And through all of this, Gosling’s driver fails to do three things: drive a getaway car in another heist, talk, and show any discernible characteristics aside from being quietly trustworthy (if it were any other guy, I’m sure it would come off as creepy stalking and not stoicism). Yes, the unnamed Driver probably has the least amount of dialogue of any action movie hero I’ve ever seen. But that’s the point. The movie’s overt 80s motifs (most prominently, title font and score) point towards this being a deconstruction of the talky, quippy action movies of that era and their stars (Bruce Willis and Arnold mostly).

But as much as the promotional materials want to portray this as an action movie (to the point where some woman is suing over false impressions from the ad campaign), it is anything but, aside from the beginning and one fantastic sequence in the middle. The movie plays more like a Michael Mann, slow-burn film where the tension comes from characters who have made poor choices facing inescapable decisions that result in violence. Lots of violence.

It’s not that the movie has a crazy-high, cartoonish body count like something like “Commando“; it’s more that the movie goes along with this slow-paced character drama that sporadically erupts into single acts of extreme brutality. We’re talking heads getting smashed, shot, and stabbed, with seemingly unnecessary close-ups and a lot of blood. And that’s just some of it. The thing is, all of these incidents come so abruptly and are so brutal, that after such long periods of quiet they prove to be immensely unsettling. And that’s the point. It’s there to show you that violent action movies SHOULD BE unsettling, and we’ve become so desensitized to that. But does that make for enjoyable entertainment? I don’t know.

It’s the exact same problem I have with the main character. Does a non-character make an interesting “hero”? We’re supposed to root for this driver because he’s in a tough position. Because he makes a choice to help this woman, a choice that ends up not only putting him in a rough position, but is the first human thing he has done in the film, and perhaps in his life. See, he doesn’t have a character name. He doesn’t say anything. He lets other people make decisions for him. He’s just a driver. He has no characteristics that make him appealing as a person. He has no backstory. But then he makes a decision. ONE CHOICE. And, judging by the song that plays over the end credits, this makes him not only a “real hero”, but a “real human being”. Take a listen:

Surprisingly, I think I liked the first-half set-up of the movie more. I was enjoying the change of pace of having this understated, sub-textual relationship-building between the two leads. But once everything starts to fall apart, the driver becomes so hellbent on getting out of the mess he’s in that he basically turns into a psychopath. He’s truly frightening. It becomes like rooting for Michael Myers to just kill everyone, and is that something we really want to do? Not only that, but is this movie saying that transforming yourself from someone who doesn’t care about anything into someone who will brutally hunt down and murder people make you a hero and a human? Or is it again subverting that idea about old-school action movies?

**

“Drive” gets two stars for trying something interesting and different with its characters, having some fantastic acting, and two-to-three great sequences. It also includes a main character that is terribly hard to root for, surprisingly small amounts of action scenes (despite the advertising all but promising us “Fast and Furious 6″), and off-putting bits of hyper-brutality. I’m completely stuck in trying to grade this movie, as I love the guts it has in what it’s trying to do, but I can’t truthfully say I had an enjoyable experience. I guess that was the point?

Kraft Jet-Puffed StackerMallows

In the long-standing tradition of foodstuffs that have been created just so that someone can write “new” on the label, and people can have the illusion of convenience (but in most cases are just pure stupidity), comes Kraft’s new Jet-Puffed Stacker Mallows.

When someone tries to create something new that is designed to have an easier functionality than what is currently available, he must first identify what the problem is with the way that a product or service currently exists or operates. In some cases, where there isn’t much of a problem, but companies are looking to sell something, they can find the tiniest inconveniences and blow them up to ridiculous proportions.

In this particular case, Jet-Puffed has decided that putting marshmallows on a S’more is too difficult a task to accomplish due to the fact that they are ROUND, and stacking a flat object is much much easier. While I can’t argue with this logic, and their attempt to solve this problem is understandable (even though YOUNG KIDS have been able to accomplish S’more making for FOR-EVVV-ERRR), what they’ve come up with is completely underwhelming.

What would you think of if asked to imagine a marshmallow with flat sides? This thing that looks like tofu floating in hot chocolate? This disturbing image? Heck, even the fictional Stay Puft brand actually makes square marshmallows (or at least the omniconsumercorportaion does). Alas, no, THIS is what they came up with.

 

This is what marshmallows look like when stepped on. You want to eat a stepped-on marshmallow?

It’s not that hard to make square marshmallows. And it probably would be easier to make them on an assembly line than round ones anyway: just make a large mallow sheet and have a grid come down to cut it into squares. What Jet-Puffed seems to have effectively done here is take their regular marshmallows and put them through some kind of press, squeezing all of the air out and leaving their product a rubbery tile of something or other. Even worse, the increased surface area to volume ratio means that there is much more of the confectioners sugar-type coating that is aimed to prevent the marshmallow from sticking. This, in turn, dries out your mouth and leaves a gritty residue inside of it. It is not an appealing taste sensation.

But that’s raw. Mallows could also be eaten in a molten state, roasted over a fire or microwaved. How would they fare this way? Well, as far as roasting them goes, it would be nearly impossible to put one of these on a stick and hold it over a fire. The thinness would give them little or no support on the stick and they would fall off, on the dirty ground, leaving your kid in state of sadness worse than this stupid kid or even this. Do you really want to be the guy who makes the mets miss the postseason because of flat marshmallows and dead Santas? I didn’t think so.

But how exactly ARE stackermallows effective? On the back, three “recipes” to make S’mores are listed: Microwave (which this seems to be made exactly for), a toaster oven (which i guess could work)… or wrapping a pre-made s’more in foil and putting it on a grill. How is that last one easier or more fun than this? And even with the microwave or toaster oven option, they’re missing the most important part: regular marshmallows have flat tops and bottoms that allow them to stand on their ends on the s’more as they currently are. They’ve completely made up this stackability problem and are trying to sell you something completely unnecessary, re-inventing the wheel, almost literally.

Basically what I’m saying is that Jet-Puffed ruined my childhood and owes me an apology*.

*not really

Kraft Jet-Puffed Stacker Mallows get 0 stars for basically being flat, rubbery, smushed, airless, grainy tablets trying to pass as marshmallows. Jet-Puffed is trying to sell a fallacy that making S’mores is difficult and their product makes that process simpler, when in reality, it probably is no easier. In addition, they deprive you of one of the biggest joys of eating marshmallows, roasing them over a fire, and then sticking the flaming wad of sugar in your sibling’s face.

UniDiction 2011: Week 1 – Eagles vs. Rams

Uni2011-1

Look for me on Twitter (@dancfuller) where I’ll likely have a few uniform-related updates during today’s games.

And we’re back. After three forays into Phillies throwbacks, we find ourselves back in the UniDiction wheelhouse… football uniforms.

For catching up’s sake, the Eagles had no uniform-related news this off-season. No throwbacks like last year (boo) or 2007 (count your blessings), so it’s likely we’ll see the Black jerseys at some point, likely around Halloween (maybe against the Cowboys on October 30, though they may wear White to invoke the Blue Jersey Curse) or late November. For non-Eagles news, the Bills have an all-new uniform set, getting rid of their CFL/XFL-inspired disasters (quick review: they’re great, but why no Blue pants?), and the Giants supposedly have throwbacks to the 80s era, but they’ve yet to be announced. There have been rumblings about the Giants adopting throwbacks since they eliminated their Red alternates after the 2007 season but still no (official) confirmation in that direction.

The (potentially) big news which will likely amount to very little is that 2011 is the last season of the Reebok uniform contract, and Nike gets the NFL in 2012. And, gosh, if they did this to Oregon, what will they do to my team?! Relax, it’s the NFL, not a bunch of loosely affiliated colleges trying to appeal to 16 and 17 year old recruits. Maybe some of the teams with that dreaded-for-marketing purposes combination of modern-yet-stale designs and recent futility (Broncos, Seahawks – who’ve hinted at re-designs for next year) will go the re-design route. Though there’s always the risk of a team following the 2009 Jaguars and fixing something that wasn’t broken because it will be easier to re-define the corporate brand in terms of PMS numbers and visual identity than actually creating a “tradition of winning”, don’t expect any crazy Nike NCAA silliness like “Stealth Numbers” (hint: I actually like the effect), team-branded glovescamouflage, dye sublimation (think: anything with a gradient), or the like on an NFL team near you, especially not the Eagles, who have well-liked modern uniforms as well as a whole bunch of winning seasons within easy memory.

For uniform enthusiasts, the biggest news is perhaps the “opening” of the Gridiron Uniform Database. A simply amazing website you never knew you were missing until now. If you’ve ever gotten into an argument with someone who SWEARS the Packers had a Yellow alternate (they haven’t worn yellow jerseys since 1954) because he saw them available online (likely from a counterfeiter) or with “that guy,” who says the Saints never wore a Gold jersey in a game (they did, once in 2002), here is your argument ender. “You just got GUD’d!” Hmm, maybe not the next “Let’s Go Eat,” but it’s… something. Prepping for this season, I’m not sure how I did without the GUD last season (answer: with some inaccuracy about obscure combinations for the Falcons and Titans), but expect lots of links to their content . A great, great resource.

Speaking of resources, I’ve put together a publicly accessible image gallery for NFL uniforms, sorted by team. There’s not much metadata other than filenames which include the jersey and pants colors, but if you need to see photographs of the Titans in the rare White over White combo (against the Eagles in 2002, no less), it may be the only place where the pictures are collected as such.

And finally, the UniDictions will be a little different this year. Previously, I churned out the prediction between 11:30AM and game time on game day. Why? Because in the interest of accuracy, I wanted to review what the teams would be actually wearing. Unfortunately, though the Eagles announce their uniform picks the Tuesday before a game, few other teams do this. For teams like the Giants and Cowboys, there’s no mystery as to what they will be wearing (heck, I wrote the December 2010 UniDictions for those games in China. Really!), but teams often have not just multiple jerseys but multiple pants options, too. Even staying within the division, the Redskins have three pants (the new-for-2010 yellow pants are still awesome, don’t worry). So, when the Eagles are home in the latter part of the season and the Green jersey is guaranteed, the Redskins could legitimately show up in one of three different combinations. In the interest of easing my Sunday mornings, this season’s UniDictions will be more general than last year’s, taking into account the opponents’ jersey and pants combinations as a whole.

This brings us to the Rams. The Eagles are visiting and announced they’re in White over Green. It’s unlikely the Rams would waste their throwbacks on the non-divisional-rival Eagles game, so they’ll be in Navy Blue jerseys, but, like the Redskins, they’ve got three pants to choose from. Which will they wear?

The UniDiction

Remember, this is scored like football. 7,6,3,2, or 1 point. And, as we retroactively learned last year, to make sense with UniDiction score, the real-game score wraps back to zero every 28 points, so 59-28 is the same as 3-28. Yeah. It’s scientific.

Helmet

Eagles – 6 points. Metallic “Midnight” Green is second only to Kelly Green in the hearts of Philadelphia football fans, and the wings are the kind of “functional” detail that really adds a lot of character to a helmet, much more than simply dumping the logo up there.

Rams – 7 points. Unfortunately, when one thinks of “functional” helmet designs, the Rams’ horns are thought of, even before the Eagles, so they get the full 7 points, too.

Jersey

Eagles – 3 points. I’ve put a lot of thought into it in the off-season, but while the White jersey might have grown on me, it’s still not the Eagles best look. The trim and logo/wordmark usage is the throat and sleeves is executed just right. It’s appreciated that the only “modern” silliness is a drop-shadow on the numbers instead of useless panels, yokes, and armpit highlighting features, but… White just isn’t one of the Eagles’ colors. Combined with the Green pants, it’s not a good look.

Rams – 3 points. Like the Eagles, the Rams have a “modern-ish” jersey, but they weren’t able to avoid one of the more gimmicky “modern” features: the shoulder hoop. Oddly, this feature is echoed on the White jersey, but it’s used more as a visual break for the contrast-color “sleeves.” Odd and rather bush league (read: CFL) for the White jerseys. Initially, I thought it was meant to evoke their old jerseys where the shoulder/sleeve included the ram horn, but it doesn’t appear that way. The White stroke around the Gold numbers is a nice touch, though. I’ll also point out that their shade of Blue is just that much too dark, and doesn’t pop as much as it should.

Pants and Socks

Eagles – 2 points. In a vacuum where the Eagles pants exist in complete naiveté with respect to the final “look,” the Green pants are harmless. Black/White/Grey stripes all “go” with Midnight Green. Seems like a pretty nice pair of trousers. Until you see them on TV when it’s not a bright day, and they’re just a muddled, dark mess. Dark base material, two of three stripes are dark. No, thank you. This gives me an idea for a future article where I mock up some Midnight Green pants with a wide, White stripe. Don’t worry, I’ll include Black or Dark Grey stripes, too.  I also think the socks should be Green instead of Black. Sue me.

Rams – 6 points. Here’s where it gets tricky. The Rams have 3 different pants they actively wear. Interestingly, they’re not just color swaps of each other. The Gold pants are a solid “field of Gold,” (holy Gold pants overload in that picture) with no stripes, logos, or any type of accents, while the Blue pants and White pants look like simple color swaps, not unlike Mortal Kombat’s Sub-Zero and Scorpion. Oddly, they actually aren’t. The Blue pants’ striping actually goes White-Gold-Blue-Gold-White, and the White pants are a simpler Blue-Gold-Blue. Using a contrasting color for that super-wide stripe, as on the White pants, definitely looks better than hiding the center stripe in the base color of the pants. So, big thumbs-up for the White pants, indifferent but appreciating the use of the color for the Gold pants, and “meh” for the Blue pants.

Intangibles

Eagles – 3 points. At least they still look respectable in a rather unfortunate uniform combination, something some teams can’t say. I’ve moved from “not feeling it” to outright “a little pitchy dog” “I don’t like this” for the White over Green combination, so until/unless the pre-season White over White combination shows up in the regular season (like last year against the Jaguars), the Eagles aren’t going to have a lot of (sartorial) success per my system in their White jersey this season.

Rams – 6 points. If the Rams choose to wear their Blue over Blue clownsuits, I’ll regret granting so many points, but the Rams’ signature look is the unique Blue over Gold, so expect to see that on Sunday afternoon. If they choose the rarer Blue over White, the Eagles are really looking for some hurt, because that is a really, really sharp look. Yes, I realize I sound like a grandmother using that terminology… but I’ll stand by it.

Rams 22

Eagles 14 

…uh-oh

Thanks to The Gridiron Uniform Database, here’s a list of graphics showing all their combinations, year by year.

And in order of preference, some real pictures:

Blue over White

Throwback

Blue over Gold

White over Gold

White over White

White over Blue

Blue over Blue

How to be a Uniform Snob Part 2: Phillies vs. Padres (Throwbacks!)

2003 throwbacks

From 2003 against the Pirates in solid yellow—ladies and gentlemen: your 1970s!

The pictures with formal write-ups of the uniforms in question are from Bill Henderson’s excellent MLB Game Worn Jerseys of the Double-Knit Era. Buy it here. If you’re even remotely interested in the rest of this entry, this will be the best $25 you’ll spend all baseball season. AND, he’s from the Philadelphia/Delaware County area, so his Phillies chapter is made with special care. (That’s actually a joke, I think. Each team gets an amazingly thorough treatment throughout. Yes, even the Diamondbacks.)

Check out Kyle’s throwback-tastic write-up from earlier today for what he considers the Phillies’ best logo. I disagree, but I like his enthusiasm. Also, notice that he’s talking about a specific logo, not the uniforms of the 70s/80s in general.

It’s 80s night at Citizen’s Bank Park tonight, and even though they’ve had “70s night” and “80s night” promotions for the last few years, they’ll actually be trotting out throwbacks for one of the games. For those who were always disappointed that their recent “70s nights” never included the players dressing like the team of the 70s, consider this vindication for those times when you tuned in, only to see a few “retro” graphics on the broadcast but nothing else of note except for the ballgirls wearing something like this

This is the the third Phillies throwback game of the season (the Negro League throwbacks write-up and the write-up for the more-or-less “away” version of tonight’s uniforms). Of course, Uni-Watch has their write-up today (scroll down to the Phillies logo) and they’re so gosh-darn thorough that even if I would’ve come up with these points on my own (I was working on it, I swear!), they pretty much covered everything already. I’ll recap here and add some more sizzle (snark?).

In terms of impressing boring (I wasn’t sure which word to strike-thru) your friends, subtly work these factoids into a response every time someone says, “they should wear these uniforms all the time,” or “it’s so cool they’re wearing the uniforms from the 80s. These should be the new alternates.”

1)      The 1984 uniform (the “target” for this 80s promotion) included a zipper on the front; the change to buttons happened with the 1987 jersey. I’m sure this is just chalked up to Majestic’s current templates not having this feature… and, anyway, as a player, I’d cringe every time I did a head first slide with a zipper all along my torso.

2)      The players won’t “look” like 1984 players because they’ll be wearing the pants at shoe height or lower, the jerseys (and pants) will likely be extra-baggy, and no stirrups will be in sight (some players will actually wear them, but it’s unlikely to catch-on with more than a few guys).

3)      There will probably be a Majestic logo on the uniform somewhere (check the sleeves). The 1984 uniform was made by Wilson. Yep, someone keeps track of this (from the great MLB Game Worn Jerseys of the Double-Knit Era).

4)      New Era might put the “batterman” logo on the back of the hats. Judging by MLB Shop, the “on-field” hats will have it, but the “authentic” MLB Shop product does not always match what the players wear. There was some confusion about the “on-field” vs. MLB Shop hats the Mariners wore a couple of weekends ago. So just because it’s on MLB Shop and “authentic”… your mileage may vary. Also, the “P” logo on the hat is noticeably larger than it actually was on hats from the era.

5)      Will they pay for the correct helmets (see the picture above)? Or will they just don their normal (and clashing bright red against maroon) batting helmets. It’s on the Phillies to pay for these themselves, so let’s see how cheap they are (or hopefully aren’t).

The Padres will be wearing their 1984 uniform which is one of those wonderful “only in the 70s/early 80s” looks. A brown pull-over jersey with yellow and orange highlight details, yellow sanitaries with brown stirrups (though it’s doubtful that the yellow sanitaries, much less brown stirrups will be visible). Of special note is that they wore white pants as part of their road uniform, which isn’t something seen anymore. Teams sometimes wear their normal pants with throwback jerseys (check out the catcher’s pants in this picture), but I’m not sure the Padres normal grey + navy pants will work with the “colors of autumn” palette of the jersey and hat.

Fingers Speaking of the hat, the geometry of the paneling is meant to evoke a church bell. The interesting detail here is that that geometry is rather unique among other teams, so each manufacturer had its own take in the “right” way to make the hat, so you’ll see noticeable variation among time periods and manufacturers (even back when they weren’t throwbacks). Check out fellow uniform-enthusiast Paul Carr’s exhaustive (in a good way) search into tracking down these variations on The Ballcap Blog. Oh yeah, it’s a four part (ongoing?) series. One, two, three, four. (note: Padres fans, I’m not sure if the hat to the right accurately conveys the exact 1984 style — my guess is that it doesn’t)

I’ll give the edge to the Phillies. I like that uniform era, where “racetrack” stripes along the shoulders and up the sides were more common, and even though the powder blues don’t really do much for me, in whole, it’s still a good look. Some people harp on the fact that the Phillies are rather staid in their uniform options – with a simple home/away strategy from 1992–2007, then home/away/alternate since then – and how they need to add a solid red jersey (derisively called “softball tops” by some), but this conservative approach makes these throwback games more notable and really makes the special uniforms stand-out.

For the record, I’m still going to request that the Phillies break out the ’89-91 road grey jersey. It’s got the maroon/burgundy, funky “p,” but ditches the powder blue.

How to Be Uniform Snob: Phillies vs. Braves (1974 Throwbacks)

This is crosspost from Crossing Broad.

Quick note: some of the pictures are from Uniwatch’s write-up of last year’s Phillies-Brewers throwback game as well as the excellent “MLB Game Worn Jerseys of the Double Knit Era” by Bill Henderson.

Well then, other than the fact the Phillies got the “L,” that went pretty well, don’t you think? For the second part of their UniTastic series, both the Braves and the Phillies are throwing back to 1974. That’s right, the Powder Blues and whatever disco-tastic getup the Braves rocked back then.

But, what’s that? These teams already threw back to 1974?! Yep. In 2002. Today’s game will look something like this.

I get a lot of questions like this: “How can I be a uniform snob, too?” Thankfully, “turn back the clock” baseball games really offer the best way to let your snob flag fly.

Let me note that this tongue-in-cheek guide is a bit spoiled by the fact that this combination has been seen before, so there’s a good chance it’ll be a repeat of the 2002 game. Of course, that was nine years ago, so maybe it won’t be so cut-and-dry.

  1. Are the players wearing stirrups? Everyone wore them in 1974, few wear them today (or they just wear solid color socks without the sanitaries showing through.)
  2. Are the players wearing the old uniforms in the new style (the extra baggy, extra long pants look of the last ten years)? Note: the answer to this question is almost always “yes,” so make a comment about it not looking “right,” players’ comfort be damned.
  3. Did the teams spring for matching batting helmets? In 2002 the Phillies did, in 2010 they didn’t.
  4. Do the big details match? Traditional belted pants or Sansabelt? Pullover or buttons? (or for the 70s Phillies, zipper?) Are they wearing their normal pants because they’re “close enough” – see the Braves catcher above in Throwback jersey, normal pants.
  5. Are the little details correct? No Majestic logo on the sleeves? No MLB logo on the back of the hats?
  6. Do the tiny details match? Let me lift this quote from the UniWatch Blog (one of the “weekend writers,” Phil Hecken, analyzing the throwbacks worn last year against the Brewers:
    The Phillies, for the most part, got it right. They went with button-down jerseys (so, 1972-3, if we’re talking the period they were representing), but didn’t spring for the retro helmets. OK, it’s a one-off, no big deal. They wore period-correct caps in dark red (almost burgundy). Well done there. It’s tough to tell, but it appears they went with the closed loop logo on the jerseys, more closely approximating the 1987-1988 jersey. Meh. And they elected to go not only with NOB, but they again went with the 1987-88 radially arched nameplates. OK. Not a big deal, to be sure, but how difficult would it have been to get those details correct.
  7. Finally (and unexpectedly, after all the other analysis), how does the match-up, you know, look?

My quick take: It’ll be a fun match-up to watch. The powder blue Phillies uniforms are seen all-around Citizens Bank Park at each game, and they show up every few years in throwback games (and twice in the last two), so we’re a bit accustomed to them. I like the 89-91 away uniforms more (swap grey for powder blue, and the whole thing immediately looks much less “1970s”), but it seems fans prefer the powder blues.

The Braves 1974 uniforms are actually pretty neat – even more “disco-y” than the Phillies, being that they’re made from a template which is out of use. Raglan sleeves still show up, but not with the sleeves in a different color than the body of the jersey. Funky. So, if yesterday’s uniforms were described as “understated” and “classic,” today’s could be defined as “pass the coke.”

For completeness’ sake, let me point out that the 1974 Braves away jersey was the opposite of the home jersey (White sleeves, Blue body). Ahh, the 1970s.

****

It’s always good to see some uniform variety.

telling you what to think since aught-five.