...randomness surrounding Guided by Voices, Robert Pollard, and other great indie rock bands; a quasi objective look at "my" sporting teams; the random horror film; plus other crap as we see fit...all with a Pittsburgh based feel.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Bicklebies in the Burgh

Bicks & Gary at PNC
Look how big this kid is.

My 8th Buco's game of the year, got to sit 1 row off the field (thanks to Kathleen!). As much as the Pirates stink, PNC Park never disappoints as far as the fun for the whole fam thing. True, most Pirate fans are pretty pathetic as far as their knowledge of baseball, but PNC is a gorgeous venue.

My only advice for those visiting from out of town, is to avoid at all costs any type of "Bobble Head" or "Fireworks" nights. These special events seem to bring out the yahoo yensers in droves...and there are way too many little kids. I've got zero problem with the kids at games. The problem is their parents, who are more interested in the extra curricular events. For chrissakes...quit doing the f**kin wave and PAY ATTENTION TO THE GAME!!!!!!!! You may...just may...learn something about the game. For instance...you don't "boo" when you're down 3 runs in the bottom of the 9th, and the 3B coach isn't exactly aggressive with scoring that 1st run. If you would quit paying attention to the Pierogi race for just a minute, maybe you could explain to little Johnny that you don't get the 1st run thrown out at home when THAT RUN DOESN'T MEAN ANYTHING!!!! Jerks.

Ok...way too angry part of the post.

The game was a blast. Hard not to have fun with Bicks. Prior to the game, MLB batting leader Freddy Sanchez made his way to the kids (no...not us) to sign some autographs. We were so close to the field, I could've poked Freddy in the ear with a fungo.

It was all fun and games until Bicklebies got a little too rowdy at the end of the game, yelling at the little kids in our section, and throwing his empty beer bottles onto the field. It got so bad, at one point during the 7th inning stretch, the 3rd base umpire had to come over and calm him down. Security was cool, though. I told them he was from outta town and he was just getting used to the eastern standard time difference. In the 8th, Bicks was going to streak onto the field, but I convinced him not to. I was afraid that after our confrontation in the previous inning with security, that they would've figured we were in cahoots and I would've gotten kicked out, too. All was cool in the end, though. Someone from Pirate management actually came down to pay us a visit, and ended up shotgunning a couple beers with us. So it was all good.

If anyone from outta town ever has plans to see the Pirates play...let me rephrase that...see lovely PNC Park, I HIGHLY recommend staying at the Renaissance Hotel directly across the river (building directly above Santos' head, below):

Great accomodations, and a beautiful view:

Saturday, July 15, 2006

'Cache' gets nod for Best Film of 2005

According to me, that is.

Seven months into 2006, I can finally complete my Top 10 Films of 2005 list. After watching Michael Haneke's 'Cache' twice in less than 24 hours, this French thriller goes to the top of the list...nudging down 'The Squid & the Whale' and Woody Allen's 'Match Point' to #2 & #3, respectively (see complete list below).

Now bear in mind, while I call this my "Top 10," I am by no means a film critic...nor do I pretend to be. So this "Top 10" should read more like a "My Personal 10 Favorite Films of '05" List. I know very little of what makes a "good" film. I'm sure some critics may find a few of these films to be "flawed" (that's a nice little critic term for "this is what sucks about this film"). I simply know what I enjoy.

I can't be that far off base with my assessment, however. Seeing that Cache won 14 awards at various film fests, including a Best Director for Michael Haneke at Cannes, it appears that this film is well admired.

Daniel Auteuil (Georges) & Juliette Binoche (Anne) play an educated, well-to-do couple (Georges is a TV show host), who raise their teenage son Pierrot in a somewhat ordinary apartment in an urban French neighborhood. A video tape arrives one day at their door. Much to their confusion, it's a surveillance tape of their home. Who and why, there is no idea. Slowly, Haneke builds the tension and more tapes arrive, as well as some crazy-ass child like drawings. As the suspense builds, more and more of Georges past is brought up. The police can't seem to help, because no real crime has been committed. Albeit, the terror of knowing someone is stalking them forces Georges to investigate matters on his own.

I don't want to spoil anything, so I'll stop. There is a SPOILER at the end of this (as noted in BIG RED letters), so PLEASE do not read the SPOILER ALERT if you plan on watching this. And if you know what's best for you...you will.

Both Auteuil & Binoche are terrific. Haneke's style seems almost too simplistic, but comes off as pure genious. There are no hokie, artsy-fartsy, camera moves. There's no corny score to set the mood of the scenes. As a matter of fact, I don't recall one ounce of music in the entire film. But at the same time, Haneke's script & direction draw you in to Georges & Anne's world of budding tension.


Please only read if you've seen the ending. I wil purposely hide any comments reagrding the ending, but I'm just curious as to others' thoughts on the conclusion. I suspect that the majority of people will be on the outraged side with Jess on this one. Because there's no real closure to the film. You never find out "who dun it?"

I say, on the contrary, a big enthusiastic BRAVO to the conclusion. As a matter of fact, I think a finale in which the culprit is identified would take a way from the whole point of the film. While it is a thriller, filled with suspense from beginning to end, it's not a "good guy finds the bad guy" type of movie. It's not about "who dun it."

This film is about the nature of guilt. It's a psychological thriller surrounding Georges' history, rather than a story of revenge & mystery.

I've heard varying opinions on what people saw in the last long continuous shot in front of Pierrot's school. There is no instant gratification at the end, and that's the way Haneke wants it. It's not a film that could be made in Hollywood, because the typical American viewer wants its movie to fit a certain format:

Good guy meets bad guy. Motive. Crime. Crime solved. Viewer goes home happy.

This isn't one of those films. It may leave you confused. It may leave you feeling uncomfortable. I dunno. I'm nowhere near an expert. Just my take. I loved it.


Gary's Top 10 (or 10 Most Enjoyable if that sounds better) Films of 2005 List:

  1. Cache (Haneke)
  2. The Squid and the Whale (Baumbach)
  3. Match Point (Allen)
  4. Capote (Miller)
  5. Junebug (Morrison)
  6. Me & You & Everyone We Know (July)
  7. Good Night & Good Luck (Clooney)
  8. Last Days (Van Sant)
  9. Brokeback Mountain (Lee)
  10. Keane (Kerrigan)

Honorable Mention (read: got bumped as the year progressed):

A History of Violence, Mysterious Skin, Hustle & Flow, Munich

Not even close, bud:

Crash, Syriana, The Constant Gardner, Sin City, Walk the Line, The New World

Most disappointing:

Palindromes, Broken Flowers

Best performance nobody saw:

Damian Lewis - Keane

Best foreign which didn't make the original Top 10 list:


I Really Thought This Would Suck, But Surprisingly Liked It Award:

Cinderella Man

Best, I mean Favorite Doc:


Sunday, July 09, 2006

Gary Soccer Boy

So I got into this $10 pool for the 2006 World Cup, which I'd deferred my picks to good pal & long time soccer chap, Jim Joll. My only other experience with soccer (or "footie" as I've now heard it called...great term, kudos Ned), was watching the 2002 WC Final, with a few friends at 5:00am one lovely Sunday morning in Chicago. I think it helped matters that we'd gotten shatty and stayed up all night for this festiv occation (it couldn't hurt, right?).

Anyway, it never hurts to have a financial interest on a sporting event to spark some interest. So with pool in hand, I'd decided to give the 2006 World Cup my full attention. Keep in mind that previously I'd been one of those adimant "soccer sucks" type of people.

So I made it through the entire WC, and now I'm soccer crazed. Watched the U.S. take on Italy at a jam packed small bar, appropriately named Small Bar (try the cheese curds!), in Wicker Park at 8:30am one Thursday morning. Found myself at another bar in Pittsburgh watching my Italians beat France in the final game, fist pumping after every Italian PK goal in the shootout.

The passion & heart of soccer fans is incredibly infectious. The athleticism of the players is world class. As a matter of fact, if someone were to tell me these are the greatest athletes in the world, I'd have a difficult time arguing against it. The combination of endurance and skill is unparallel. And there's something refreshing about the goal celebrations. As a good friend of mine said:

"American football is more like 'F*ck You!', while soccer is more like 'F*ck Yeah!'"

I like it.

Speaking of that beautiful day in Chicago, we tried to wake up Pete to enjoy the action and atmosphere at Small Bar, but I don't think he was up for it:

Oh...as far that pool goes. I think I finished at the bottom. Although they weren't my picks.

BTW...Whoever got a kick out of the Zidane head butt of Marco Materazzi in the Championship game (I know this guy did), try the "Zidane Head Butt Game" below courtesy of http://www.addictinggames.com/. It's fun for the whole family here at Empties Crushed. Use your mouse to move Zidane around the field, and headbutt the Materazzi's by left clicking. Beat my high score of 2060 and win a special prize.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Thome's Homies

How closely acquainted does one need to be to be considered an official "homey" (I'll assume this is the singular spelling...I'm not conferring with Jess on this one)? Must you break bread with your homies? OK, perhaps I don't qualify as an official "Thome Homey." But I have personally met JT (see...that's what his close pals call him) on 2 occasions in the past, ah...8 years. So perhaps I'm a quasi-homey, which is good enough for me. But on this day, for a period of about 15 seconds while this picture was taken, that's what we were. Three big bloated stiffs & AL MVP candidate, Jim Thome.

Looking at this picture, and if you didn't know, it may be difficult to pick out Thome's actual homey of the bunch. It's Chris, of course. The guy who's getting buried by Jimmy's lean-in move (note: our actual homey, Jimmy W., who I have broke bread with on many occasions). Since it was "get away day," Thome had to catch a plane back to Chicago so the Sox could pound on the crosstown minor league Cubies the next day. So this, unfortunately, was our only shot for this photo. Sorry, Chris.

To the game of the ages:

With the Sox going into the final game of the series, being in a NL ball park (minus the DH for you baseball dummies) and facing LHP Zach Duke, we knew Jim would be riding the pines to start the game. Our only hope for an AB would be to see a late inning PH appearance. 8th inning, chasing the Pirate's 6-4, with fossil Roberto Hernandez on the hill in relief, Thome came out on deck to PH for Brian Anderson. But after Jose Uribe lead of the inning with a ground out, Ozzie Guillen pulled back Jim, and instead sent former Buco Rob Mackowiak to the dish instead. See...some of yens may think Ozzie's a little insensitive to the whole gay thing...but he knows his frickin baseball. Chasing 2 runs, he wanted Thome up with a chance to tie it. So Mackowiak pinch hits for Anderson, and promptly delivers in a big mo-fo way.

Next up, with a man on first, MLB's HR leader (at that time, at least), Jim Thome. First pitch...GONE. Literally. One hop into the Allegheny River. Easily the biggest ball I have ever witnessed live. (Sorry, no vid. The AB was over before I could even get the cam outta my pocket. DAMN!)

In the 9th, however, all of the White Sox hopes and dreams came crashing down (OK..."hopes and dreams" is probably a little dramatic for a game in June). Freddy Sanchez delivers the walk-off HR, beating the Sox 7-6, snapping a 13 GAME LOSING STREAK for the Bucs. And the crowd went silly:

OK...I feel a little shame seeing that Jim gave us the tickets. I wasn't exactly cheering for the Bucos, but it was an exciting ending. Let the record show, however...I went even more berzerker the inning prior after Thome hit his river bomb.

All jokes aside, Thome is one of the nicest of people you could wish to meet (and I'm not just saying that cause he signed a ball for my little bro that day). The term "good guy" probably gets thrown around too much by some media types, and perhaps sometimes it's BS. Not with Jim...he's as down-to-earth cool as they come. He's just one of those athletes anyone can root for...someone who doesn't seem to forget his friends. Which may explain why he hangs out with Clarke. OK, Chris...just kidding (I still need that picture autographed, please).

Good times for a nice little Thursday afternoon in the Burgh. Tapas & cosmopolitans at Bossa Nova, followed by Jager Bombs at the Walnut Grill in Shadyside. And NOTHING says manly manly man more like a cosmo at happy hour in Pittsburgh.