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Jan 18, 2023

Long Lost Top 10 Films of 2021

Well it only took a year… Yes I never got around to posting my favorite movies of 2021, so ahead of the 2022 list, here they are (with minimal comment) for posterity sake.

10. CODA
CODA is indeed something pretty special. What an incredible ensemble of actors. Not a single performance doesn’t succeed wildly. Hard to see this not becoming a hit.

10. Karmalink
Seek out this Cambodian sci-fi gem from visionary director Jake Wachtel.

8. The Lost Daughter
THE LOST DAUGHTER is a ridiculously assured first feature from Maggie Gyllenhaal. Really challenging material and character work handled with remarkable grace by her and Olivia Colman.

7. Red Rocket
Sean Baker crafts another wonderfully entertaining tale of an oh so flawed character in RED ROCKET. Gorgeously stylized and exaggerated in all the right ways, I love the worlds he creates, but am so glad I don’t live there.

6. The Sparks Brothers
THE SPARKS BROTHERS is pure joy! Even considering I had never previously heard of the band, I was totally enthralled. Director Ed Wright shows some real directing talent; could have a bright future

5. C’mon C’mon
Mike Mills’s C’MON C’MON is a heartfelt meditation on how hard parenting is and how we’re all just trying to figure it out and if we do our best, the kids are gonna be fine and OMG it’s exactly the movie I needed to see right now. It’s also just a brilliantly made film

4. Luzzu
LUZZU is a wonderfully made humanistic look at Maltese culture in the 21st C. with remarkable performances from non-pros. Amazing debut work by director Alex Camilleri. Influence of his mentor/EP Bahrani is very evident. Totally loved this film.

3. The Rescue
THE RESCUE is another tour de force docu from Vasarhelyi & Chin (FREE SOLO). The story of the stranded Thai soccer team is incredible, but it takes a ton of craft to nail the suspense and so intimatelely paint the divers. Hope they have another shelf clear for statues.

2. Licorice Pizza
Paul Thomas Anderson’s period LA tale was just plain delicious.

1. Dune
Bring on part 2.

Just off the list� Nanfu Wang’s covid doc In the Same Breath, the wonderful animated docu Flee, and Todd Stephens’s Swan Song (the one with Udo Kier, not the one with Mahershala Ali).

Posted by enderzero at 6:39pm on Jan. 18, 2023    
Dec 19, 2022

Young Stars of Qatar 2022

Young Stars of Qatar 2022

The 2022 World Cup has drawn to an epic close, and what a tourney it was. To wrap things up, here’s my starting XI of young stars from the Qatar World Cup. What’s young? No hard and fast rule (see GK) but ideally 24 and under. Also I tried to avoid players who have previously broken out or are regular starters on a big Champions League club. Again that’s something I bend a bit, but this is more about the players who made a mark on this Cup that hadn’t alreadyy been pegged as huge stars (sorry Mbappe, sorry �lvarez). This is about the guys who will more than likely be making those big $$ transfers soon.

GK: Dominik Livakovic (Croatia) | Age 27 | Club: Dinamo Zagreb
Well 27 is young for a goal keeper… 3 saves in the shootout with Japan and a man of the match-worthy performance against Brazil, Livakovic was clearly a revelation of this Cup.

D: Jakub Kiwior (Poland) | Age 22 | Club: Spezia
A young talented center back is a hot commodity on the transfer market these days. So it’s no surprise that Kiwior, who started all of Poland’s matches including their 2 clean sheets, has already been linked with Atletico, Juve, AC Milan, Spurs, and West Ham.

D: Jo�ko Gvardiol (Croatia) | Age 20 | Club: RB Leipzig
No brainer here. Gvardiol was one of the breakout stars of the World Cup playing every minute of the entire tourney and even getting a goal in the 3rd place match. He looked a bit behind the pace at times against Argentina, but that shouldn’t affect his surely impending huuuge transfer price to a top squad soon.

D: Ismail Jakobs (Senegal) | Age 23 | Club: Monaco
Jakobs was born in Germany but chose to play senior level for Senegal where he lit up the left side at the tourney, even nabbing an assist against Qatar. Smart decision choosing Senegal as they made it to the Round of 16 when Germany slinked home after the Groups.

M: Azzedine Ounahi (Morocco) | Age 22 | Club: Angers
One of the most confident controlling midfielders in the tourney. His talent doesn’t necessarily show up in the goal stats but with over 80% pass completion rate, Ounahi (along with 26-year old Firoentina midfielder Sofyan Amrabat) was largely responsible for much of Morocco’s success.

M: Aur�lien Tchouam�ni (France) | Age 22 | Club: Real Madrid
So word may have already gotten out about Tchouam�ni with his �100m move from Monaco to Real Madrid last June. But considering he’s yet to find the net for Los Blancos, this tourney announced his arrival on the world stage. His goal against England from outside the box was a thing of beauty. Of course he might most remember the penalty miss in the final shootout.

M: Tyler Adams (USA) | Age 23 | Club: Leeds
I’m not so sure Tyler Adams is going to be making a big money move out of Leeds anytime soon, but the way he controlled the midfield for the USA in the tourney, I feel confident that the USMNT have found our captain for a good while to come.

M: Jude Bellingham (England) | Age 19 | Club: Borussia Dortmund
Okay so if you follow English football you have probably heard of Bellingham. But considering he plays in Germany, maybe you hadn’t seen that much of him. The consensus pick for English player of the tourney, I can’t wait to see him make a move to the Premier League soon (but only if he comes to Liverpool).

M: Enzo Fern�ndez (Argentina) | Age 21 | Club: Benfica
The only attacking player to rack up more minutes for Argentina was Messi and while he just found the net once, Fern�ndez was a big part of the Argentina’s devastating offense (along with Alexis Mac Allister, who at 23 and playing for Brighton, would have been worth a shout on this list too). Having just made a move to Benfica from River last summer, it will be interesting to see if he moves on again soon or sticks around Portugal another year or two.

F: Cody Gakpo (Netherlands) | Age 23 | Club: PSV Eindhoven
With goals in all three matches in the group stage, Gakpo was the first young star of Qatar 2022. Having already been linked with Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal, Newcastle, and pretty much every other club in Europe, expect to see Gakpo make a move right quick. Will the Ten Hag connection at United mean we’ll see him there…?

F: Cho Guesung (S. Korea) | Age 24 | Club: Chonbuk
A hipster’s pick perhaps, but after scoring 2 of S. Korea’s 5 goals at the tourney, Cho has rocketed to stardom at home and already been linked with a move to Celtic. His silky form could lead to Cho becoming the next huge Asian star in Europe.

Bench/Honorable Mentions:
D: Strahinja Pavlovic (Serbia) | Age 21 | Club: Red Bull Salzburg
M: Tim Weah (USA) | Age 22 | Club: Lille
F: Mohammed Kudus (Ghana) | Age 22 | Club: Ajax

Posted by enderzero at 11:25pm on Dec. 19, 2022    
Aug 10, 2021

Torches & Twisties: My Top 10 Takeaways from Tokyo 2020*

*Note: Tokyo 2020 took place in 2021.

With Tokyo 2020’s very Japanese transformer cauldron extinguished once more, it’s time for a quick look back at the games. Like past years, I was pretty thoroughly engrossed in the proceedings for the two week span with plenty of excitement to go around. It’s perhaps slightly melancholic to notice one of my top takeaways from Pyeongchang 2018 was the athletes’ smiles, something we were robbed of this go around due to safety precautions. And while those masks and empty stands will always serve as a time capsule from these games, I’ll do my best to move past them and talk about a few of the other things we’ll remember in years to come. So in no particular order, here are my top ten takeaways from the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

10. Surfing is the Best

Ask me now what I’ll remember most about Tokyo 2020 and I’d have to guess it would be staying up late and watching the totally awesome surfing competitions. I doubted this would work but the head to head format of knockout rounds with 30+ minutes of watching these guys and gals try to catch the right wave, throw the biggest trick, and then block their rivals was somehow both peaceful and exhilarating.

9.Mixing It Up Works

There was a trend this games towards mixed gender competitions and generally I was a big fan. This was particularly the case in the Mixed Relay Triathlon which had two men and two women, each competing in a 300m swim, 6.8km bike, and 2k run. Mixed swimming, table tennis, and archery events were also successful. When the Olympics try new things, they tend to lead to more entertainment, so I say, mix it up even more. This doesn’t apply to just gender. Tweaking the rules of sports to make them slightly different in the Olympics can lead to very fun results as we saw in the track cycling events. I called for it after Rio but the Golf tournament should be altered a bit to make it stand out (match play, stableford, something just a bit different). And there are other events ripe for the mix up as well.

8. Sport Climbing is a Great Spectator Sport

New on the menu at this Olympics was rock, aka “sport” climbing. For its inaugural bow, the main three disciplines were put together into a “combined competition.” Speed had the climbers racing up a pre-set course in 7 or 8 second bursts. Bouldering had them trying to solve difficult but low to the ground climbing puzzles. Lead found them trying to get as far up a course as possible, setting their rope as they went. The scoring system for the final was an awesome ranking system where the climber’s place was multiplied across the three disciplines and the lowest score won. So if a climber finished 2nd in speed and 5th in bouldering, they would be on 10 and their final place would be up in the air until all the climbers had finished the lead, meaning there was all kinds of drama throughout that final. Unfortunately Paris is going to split speed off into its own medal event and bouldering and lead will be combined, which is too bad as it’s fun to have specialists competing in events they aren’t the best at. What will (hopefully) be much better about Paris is the fans. It turns out sport climbing competitions are big parties with a DJ spinning music while the climbers do their things, making for a what looks to be a super fun spectator sport.

7. Not a Good Year for Soccer

Both the Mens and Womens soccer tournaments were pretty uninspiring. It could have been scorching hot humid weather or the empty stands, but it just seemed like very few of the matches ever got out of first gear. That was certainly the case for the USWNT who turned their Rio quarterfinal exit into a Tokyo bronze, but looked downright awful in three of their six matches. As for the men, I don’t think anyone, even the Brazilians, think that this gold medal-winning Brazil wouldn’t get blown off the pitch by the 2016 gold medal-winning Brazil. Blah.

6. A Few Sports are Actually Better in Prepackaged Segments

I know that sounds controversial. Almost all of the events are better when you can watch them as intended and let the drama naturally unfold. This is particularly true with surfing and sport climbing and the cycling events. But it isn’t the case with all Olympic sports and I actually found that NBC did a good job of packaging the swimming and track events for general consumption. Unlike almost every other event, I don’t think I would have gotten more had I just watched the full version of those on the app.

5. Gymnastics = Still Great

Gymnastics is starting to feel like the NFL. You know you aren’t supposed to enjoy it because of the damage it does to the athletes, but it’s just so freaking awesome to watch. Obviously this games’ storyline was dominated by Simone Biles and her twisties, but c’mon how amazing is it that Suni Lee still won Gold? And then MyKala Skinner, who wasn’t even supposed to get a chance at a medal, won the Silver on Vault? And then Suni got another medal?! And then Jade Carey got a freakin Gold on floor?!? and then Simone came back and got a Bronze on beam after all that?!?!?! If that isn’t what the Olympics are all about… man.

4. Athletes as Spectators: a Missed Opportunity

One thing that’s always fun about the Olympics is seeing the big stars at other sports’ events (remember Bubba Watson at Beach Volleyball at Rio?). So it seems like a big opportunity missed that the already in-bubble athletes were only allowed to attend their own sports’ events. Seeing Megan Rapinoe at fiance Sue Bird’s gold medal match, or Shaun White inexplicably at the skateboarding events (assumedly as part of NBC’s team) really pointed that out. Had more athletes been able to attend events more widely, those 98% empty stands could have been just 70% empty which could have made a pretty big difference to both the competitors, and the audience watching at home.

3. The X Games are Now Olympics

The X Games were a major highlight of my summers back in my late teens and early 20s. Thinking about it, I guess it was kind of like how I watch the Olympics now. While I know they’re still happening, I really haven’t paid much attention for the last decade and a half. But it doesn’t matter because the competitions have now just become part of the Olympics. This Olympics saw the first medals handed out for Skate Park, BMX Park, and Skate Street, all mainstays of the old X Games. And there were even a few names from those old days. Take a bow Rune Glifberg and Daniel Dhers. I know the response to Skate Street was a bit tepid, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. The big question now is if we are going to see the vert pipe or big air arrive sometime soon. I wouldn’t be surprised, but I’m okay with leaving the moto events at home.

2. We Should Indeed Talk More About Mental Health

I don’t have anything particularly insightful to say here, but it makes sense to me that if you put a ridiculous amount of pressure on yourself to be the best in the world at something, there will be some pretty nasty side effects. And when the collective pressure of a nation and commercial television and media infrastructure get into the mix, it gets worse. It’s complicated, but we can do a better job.

1. Big Wins by the Women Sealed It

The USA trailed the Chinese in the gold medal count for most of the games — but huge wins by the USA Women’s Basketball, Water Polo, Beach Volleyball, and most notably Volleyball (their first) — as well as a surprise win by Jennifer Valente in the track cycling Omnium event pushed the USA past the Chinese by one single gold. The Olympics are not singularly about getting more gold medals than the Chinese… but that was a pretty awesome comeback.

Posted by enderzero at 3:49pm on Aug. 10, 2021    
Dec 31, 2020

2020’s Top 50 Pieces of Entertainment Content — or ‘What Got Me Through the Pandemic (and a Few Months of Pre-Pandemic)’

I’m going to do things a bit differently this year. For as long as I’ve been doing my end of year Top 50 Films list, I’ve seen the majority of the movies each year at film festivals and end of year awards screenings. Film festivals were quite different in 2020 (save Sundance) and awards screenings were non-existent so I was left with a drastically shorter list of films to choose from. But instead of going back to the tried and true Top 10 list, I’ve decided to expand the criteria.

This year’s list includes TV series, video games, podcast series, and a few other forms of content that I felt could apply. In order to qualify there had to be some sort of connection to 2020. I was pretty liberal here. Did the last episode come out in January? That works! Was a game released for the first time on a new platform? In! Was it released for the first time on Xbox Game Pass? Cool with me. As long as it sort of came out in 2020 and I experienced it this year, then I called it good.

This list is obviously far from exhaustive. So this year more than ever, please let me know what I missed that you totally loved. Say hey in the comments or on twitter @RylandAldrich – but not on Facebook as that platform is pretty much dead to me. Thanks 2020.

50. On the Rocks (Feature – Narrative)
Sofia Coppola’s A24/Apple TV+ outing just barely snuck onto my list as one of the last movies I caught in 2020. While it falls short of her best efforts, the obvious fun had by Bill Murray makes it well worth the watch.

49. Wind of Change (Podcast)
This Crooked Media, Pineapple Street, and Spotify limited series documentary podcast (LSDP) bounces around a fair bit as it looks to uncover the full story of the Scorpions hit song (and if it was actually CIA propaganda). But along the way it delves into some quite fun territory.

48. Win the Wilderness (Series – Reality)
This silly little series on Netflix finds a handful of English couples in the Alaskan wilderness, competing to be the one couple gifted a remote plot of land complete with a self-sustaining cabin, way off the grid. It’s rather enjoyable and adheres to the tenet of all good British reality series that the contestants have to be quite lovely to each other.

47. Belgravia (Series – Narrative)
Julian Fellowes of Downton Abbey fame created this limited series that features some of that show’s same delicious intrigue. It snacky but it is a perfectly watchable soapy period drama.

46. Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets (Feature – Documentary)
This fascinating look at the last day of a Las Vegas dive bar blurs some lines but does so in very interesting and entertaining ways. It’s available to watch on VOD now.

45. Sanditon (Series – Narrative)
I quite enjoyed a lot about the Masterpiece series adapted from a Jane Austen story. Most of it is silly but very enjoyable. In fact, it would have been considerably higher on the list if not for the fact that like the Austen novel, the story is completely unfinished. Unfortunately the show’s writers didn’t bother to come up with their own conclusion for her.

44. Song Without a Name (Feature – Narrative)
This spiritual sibling to Roma was on the festival circuit in 2019 but I totally missed it. Film Movement put it out this year and it was selected to be Peru’s Best International Feature Oscar entry.

43. Beastie Boys Story (Feature – Documentary)
While this Apple TV+ docu is technically directed by Spike Jonze, it’s not exactly an innovative film. It’s just the two surviving members giving an AV presentation and telling their awesome story. But that awesome story of the origin of these wild musicians is too enjoyable not to acknowledge. Anyone who digs their music will get a kick out of the doc.

42. The Alpinist (Feature – Documentary)
We’ve been spoiled for excellent rock climbing docus lately with Free Solo and The Dawn Wall two of the best. Nick Rosen and Peter Mortimer’s story of Marc-Andre Leclerc is right up there. It was supposed to world premiere at SXSW but now is perhaps stuck in covid limbo. Red Bull produced it so they’ll make sure it finds its way to screens soon.

41. Charm City Kings (Feature – Narrative)
If you saw the documentary 12 O’Clock Boys then you know about the dirt bike and 4-wheeler culture on the inner city streets of Baltimore. Angel Manuel Soto’s Sundance premierer is a dramatized version of that subculture and features a particularly strong performance by Meek Mill. It’s available on HBO Max.
CHARM CITY KINGS is a 21st Century Boyz n the Hood. Young star Jahi Di’Allo Winston is fantastic but I was totally blown away by Meek Mill. Director Angel Manuel Soto is the real deal.

40. Possessor (Feature – Narrative)
Brandon Cronenberg’s sophomore follow up to Antiviral is not for the feint of heart — but it’s an incredible movie and points to even more amazing things to come from this young member of genre royalty.

39. Dream Home Makeover (Series – Reality)
I’m guessing the audience crossover between my numbers 40 and 39 is pretty slim. Slot this in the guilty pleasures column but the family of home remodelers/interior designers is just so damned likable and there are plenty of useful tips to glean along the way.

38. Hillbilly Elegy (Feature – Narrative)
It’s been some time since a Ron Howard film cracked my top list, but 2020 almost saw two (his doc Rebuilding Paradise narrowly missed out). It’s awards bait for sure but I enjoyed the JD Vance novel adaptation. Clearly Glenn Close deserves a lot of that credit.

37. Half-Life: Alyx (Video Game – PC VR)
The first game on this year’s list is pretty clearly the best specifically designed for VR game in the medium’s short history. It’s worth the PC upgrade, but it’s still hard for me to get up the energy at game time to go full VR.

36. Citizen Penn (Feature – Documentary)
If you only know Sean Penn as an actor, then this doc will teach you a lot about his impressive humanitarian work in both Haiti more recently during the pandemic. The doc won’t necessarily make you like him more, but you’ll at least be impressed.

35. Cuties (Feature – Narrative)
The “controversy” over this movie is completely ridiculous. It’s actually just a very well made movie and smart commentary on cultural oversexualization of minors. Good on Netflix for pushing back on the dumbness.

34. Get the Hell Out (Feature – Narrative)
No word yet on distro for this Taiwanese horror comedy I caught as part of virtual TIFF. But it’s super wild and wacky so keep an eye out.

33. Enemies of the State (Feature – Documentary)
Also part of virtual-TIFF, Sonia Kennebeck’s stranger than fiction hacker justice doc twists and turns in all the right ways. …or does it? No word on distro yet.

32. The Dissident (Feature – Documentary)
Bryan Fogel’s follow-up to Icarus (2017 #6) is a deep dive into the Jamal Khashoggi case. It’s “in theaters” now so should be available online soon.
Bryan Fogel’s Icarus follow-up THE DISSIDENT is a searing indictment of Saudi Arabia/MBS’s assassination of Khashoggi and continued campaign against dissidents. Expertly crafted balance of focus between characters and issues. Very interested to see who picks this up.

31. Touhou Luna Nights (Video Game – Xbox)
This little Metroidvania adventure has some strange anime storyline that I completely ignored. But the gameplay and time freezing mechanics are pretty cool and made for an enjoyable play through.

30. Beast Beast (Feature – Narrative)
Danny Madden’s Sundance-premiering directorial debut makes me reminiscent for those heady days when covid was only ravaging Wuhan. The story follows a group of high schoolers affected by violence and the filmmaking is top notch. No word yet on distribution.
Loved loved BEAST BEAST! Strikingly authentic performances from the young cast. Tough subject matter handled with astonishing grace. Director Danny Madden is a breakout talent.

29. Love is Blind (Series – Reality)
One of Netflix’s pandemic cultural touchstones, it’s worth remembering that before everyone became less likable and overly dramatic, the first few episodes of the experiment felt pretty damned innovative.

28. Mrs. America (Series – Narrative)
FX’s tale of women’s lib is propelled to greatness by the epic cast that includes Cate Blanchett, Rose Byrne, Uzo Aduba, Elizabeth Banks, Ari Graynor, Melanie Lynskey, John Slattery, Jeanne Tripplehorn, and Tracey Ulman.

27. The Trial of the Chicago Seven (Feature – Narrative)
Aaron Sorkin’s feature debut in the big chair Molly’s Game was #3 back in 2017. But his latest is still very enjoyable with some of the more memorable courtroom scenes of recent years.

26. Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness (Series – Documentary)

25. Slow Burn S04 – David Duke (Podcast)
The latest edition of Slate’s LSDP, this one by Josh Levin, is a great exploration of Klansman/Politician David Duke and all of his assholery. Well worth the listen.

24. Celeste (Video Game – Switch)
This one is the biggest qualifying stretch of the list but it was released on PC in 2020 (though I played it on Switch). But I had too much fun grinding away on this platformer not to include it. It’s really hard to grab some of the bonus strawberries, some of which took me hours. But man is it satisfying when you get one you’ve spent that long on.

23. The Good Place (Season 6) (Series – Narrative)
Some of the earlier seasons might have been in the top 10 had I done those lists this way. The final season was pretty satisfying but perhaps not as transcendent as some of the earlier efforts. Still I’ll miss the show quite a bit.

22. Cheer (Series – Reality)
Greg Whiteley’s docuseries on junior college cheerleading hits all the highs from his junior college football docuseries Last Chance U. That series eventually got a bit stale so we’ll see if this one can live up to the first season’s heights in the season to come.

21. Chameleon: Hollywood Con Queen (Podcast)
Campside Media’s 12-part LSDP series is a pretty fantastic story of a really odd con with twists and turns galore.

20. Ted Lasso (Series – Narrative)
If you’re not charmed by this Jason Sudeikis Apple TV+ series then you have a heart of stone. Bonus points for the subject matter of an English Premier League football manager.

19. My Octopus Teachers (Feature – Documentary)
I had no idea what to expect from this but my dad said he heard it was great. It was indeed great. If you have no idea what it is or have been on the fence, go watch it on Netflix now.

18. The Good Lord Bird (Series – Narrative)
Ethan Hawke wrote and stars in this limited series adaptation of the book by James McBride that comedically tells the story abolitionist John Brown. Along with Hawke and star Joshua Caleb Johnson are such awesome names as Daveed Diggs, Wyatt Russell, Adam Shappy Shaps Shapiro, Maya Hawke, Rafael Casal, Steve Zahn, and Ellar Coltrane.

17. Assassins (Feature – Documentary)
This Sundance-premiering documentary about the murder of Kim Jong-un’s brother truly needs to be seen to be believed. Director Ryan White did a phenomenal job reporting the story. Greenwich has it out “in theaters” so it should be available online soon.
ASSASSINS is an extremely well-made docu and well-reported account of the two young women at the center of the brazen assassination of Kim Jong-un’s half brother in Malaysia. Hard to imagine anyone doing a more definitive job than Ryan White and his team.

16. Sundered Eldritch Edition (Video Game – Xbox)
This rogue-lite adventure was a big hit for me in the first days of the Pandemic when I was justified playing games all day long. The story is super bizarre, game mechanics awesome, but the graphics are some of the coolest and most stylized ever. Big fan.

15. The Fight (Feature – Documentary)
This Sundance-premiering ACLU docu is super inspiring, even if it feels a bit like ancient history now. It’s available to stream now (perhaps free on Hulu).
ACLU docu THE FIGHT is fantastic! The team behind Weiner takes us into the trenches with the ridiculously charismatic lawyers on the front lines of 4 of the biggest Trump-era cases. Tears, cheers, and some of the biggest laughs I’ve had at this year’s #Sundance. Do not miss!

14. The Social Dilemma
(Feature – Documentary)
The top documentary feature on my list is this tale of the evils of social media… more or less. If nothing else, it is an inspiring introduction to Tristan Harris and the Center for Humane Technology which is an incredible organization.
Jeff Orlowski’s (Chasing Ice, Chasing Coral) latest THE SOCIAL DILEMMA about big tech’s influence economy is itself one of the most influential docus I’ve ever seen. So motivating. Irony of tweeting this is not lost on me. Also kudos for artfully filmed talking heads.

13. The Best Is Yet to Come (Feature – Narrative)
This feature debut from Jing Wang, 1st AD of Jia Zhangke (who produced this film) is not just one of the best recent contemporary chinese dramas, but also one of the best journalism films of recent memory. No word yet on US distribution but catch it when you can.

12. The Messenger (Video Game – Xbox)
Another great Metroidvania game, The Messenger takes Ninja Gaiden action and adds some very cool adventure elements plus a really cool play mechanic. It’s also got a fantastic sense of humor that makes it a joy to play.

11. The Queen’s Gambit (Series – Narrative)
Having just finished this series a day ago, it’s hard for me to know if recency bias is putting this so high or if I’ll rue its exclusion from the top 10 in the weeks to come. Regardless I ridiculously enjoyed this Scott Frank series. Pawn to rook 4!!

10. Rabbit Hole (Podcast)
This New York Times LSDP by Kevin Roose is the top podcast on my list. It explores the darker side of the information superhighway including a deep dive on QAnon. If you loved this, be sure to check out episode #166 of Gimlet’s excellent ReplyAll as well.

9. The Crown S04 (Series – Narrative)
This series has consistently been one of the best on “TV” and this season is no different. This is due in a large part to the portrayal of Princess Di by Emma Corrin.

8. Ori and the Will of the Wisps (Video Game – Xbox)
Top spot in the video game column goes to this absolutely gorgeous Metroidvania adventure. It’s easily as good, if not better, than the first with a story that gave me a serious case of the feels. I am looking forward to playing through this one again soon.

7. What We Do in the Shadows S02 (Series – Narrative)
Two words: Jackie Daytona. This show is so consistently hilarious and brilliant. The second season completely builds on the success of the first. I really hope these guys can keep this going.

6. Mank (Feature – Narrative)
David Fincher’s love letter to classic Hollywood is a sumptuous experience. I look forward to someday seeing it at a revival screening in some wonderfully restored Hollywood movie palace.

5. Ben Gibbard: Live from Home (Live Stream)
So this is the only thing like this on my list. Death Cab for Cutie and The Postal Service frontman Ben Gibbard started these hour long sessions at the very start of the pandemic. At first they were every day and eventually became less frequent. But Ben brought us into his home studio where he shared the fears and concerns we were all going through. It was cathartic and communal and really helped. This is what I will remember most about those early days when I look back in years to come. That and drinking many Manhattans.

4. Palm Springs (Feature – Narrative)
Max Barbakow’s directorial debut is such a fun and finely crafted comedy that I wish more than anything it could be a series so we could spend more time with these characters and this world. Someone please make that happen.
Loved PALM SPRINGS! Can we get a series remake so we can go on new adventures in that world every week? So much fun.

3. Hamilton (Recorded Live Performance)
At least the Pandemic brought us one great thing. Originally set to premiere on Disney+ in late 2021, it’s a wonderful thing we can switch on Hamilton and home watch whenever we want. I do it perhaps a bit too often.

2. The Great (Series – Narrative)
This might be a bit of a surprise to some people but this Tony McNamara’s Hulu series starring Elle Fanning and Nicholas Hoult is the best show (and one of the most underrated) of the year. With razor sharp writing, gorgeous production design, and sumptuous cinematography, I feel like this period dramedy is made for me. I can’t wait for season two.

1. Tenet (Feature – Narrative)
Everyone I’ve mentioned this to as my favorite film of the year is shocked. But not a single one of them has seen it either. I didn’t really tune into any negativity around the time of its release but I did go in with tempered expectation. I just let it all wash over me and enjoyed the hell out of the ride. More than anything, Tenet is the big movie experience I was hoping for this year.

All right! Lemme have it.

Posted by enderzero at 3:28pm on Dec. 31, 2020    
Jan 10, 2020

Ryland’s Top 50 Films of 2019

Recency bias is a real thing, but damn it feels like there were a lot of great movies this year. Still I can’t remember a year in recent memory where I had a clearer number 1. It was a bit harder task to rang 2 to 50, but I’ll let the list speak for itself.

Standard Disclaimer: I base my annual list on the films I see during the calendar year that have either world premiered at a festival or been released theatrically/digitally during the year. This is not the best films that played festivals in 2019. Nor is it the best films that came out in theaters or digitally in 2019. These are my favorite films that I saw for the first time in 2019 that either played at festivals or came out in theaters/digitally.

That means you won’t see Biggest Little Farm on this list since it was #5 on last year’s list. It also seems like there are more movies on this year’s list that are yet to be released than is typical. Great, that means you can keep an eye out.

As always, let me know what you think in the comments below or on Twitter at @RylandAldrich.

On to the List!

Posted by enderzero at 1:29pm on Jan. 10, 2020    
Jan 10, 2019

Ryland’s Top 50 Films of 2018

It’s Top 50 films time! As a quick refresher, I base my annual list on the films I see during the calendar year that have either world premiered at a festival or been released theatrically/digitally during the year. This is not the best films that played festivals in 2018. Nor is it the best films that came out in theaters or digitally in 2018. These are my favorite films that I saw for the first time in 2018 that either played at festivals or came out in theaters/digitally.

I’ve endeavored to mention if the film is available or yet to come out. VOD means it’s available for rent across all the normal platforms (Amazon, iTunes, Vudu, etc.) and I’ll try to note if it’s free anywhere yet.

As always, let me know what you think in the comments below or on Twitter at @RylandAldrich.

On to the List!

Posted by enderzero at 5:12pm on Jan. 10, 2019    
Jul 16, 2018

World Cup 2018 Best XI

Vive le France!

Yes, the World Cup has wrapped up its 2018 edition and the tourney was one for the ages. At least in my memory, this has been the best World Cup we’ve ever seen. While it may be fair to say there was no one superstar that took the tournament by the scruff of its neck, that’s likely a factor that lead to the overall quality and drama the prevailed. I’ve put together a Best XI (plus bench/runners up) and some thoughts on why I made the picks I made.

Goalkeeper – While he was one match short of truly glorious, Daniejl Subašić was one of the Croatia’s true heroes with 2 clean sheets, 15 recorded saves, and a whopping 4 saves from the two penalty shootouts with Denmark and Russia.

Center Backs – I really wanted to stick to only three players per team, but I just couldn’t leave Raphael Varane off the list. So France, you get four players (you did win the World Cup after all). It was only right for me to put in a back 3 since that style is so en vogue and it was a pretty easy call to include England’s Harry Maguire whose stock has shot through the roof. Expect a big money transfer away from Leicester in the next few weeks. It was a bit tougher to choose between Colombia’s Yerry Mina and Croatia’s Domagoj Vida. But 3 goals in 4 matches for Mina gives him the nod. Plus, I couldn’t reward Vida’s hairstyle in good conscious (even if rumors of a move to Liverpool end up being true).

Wing BacksKieran Tripier might just about be my biggest surprise of the tournament. He had a beauty of a set piece goal plus an assist and just looked in command running up and down the right wing for England (as well as being in charge of free kicks). It was a bit tougher to pick a left wing back, but I settled on Diego Laxalt for the 3 clean sheets he contributed to for Uruguay as opposed to Marcelo‘s 2 for Brazil.

Midfielders – It’s so unfair to only include N’Golo Kanté on the bench but if I have to chose between him and Paul Pogba and Luka Modrić, what can I do? Modrić’s 2 goals and 1 assist and Pogba’s single goal do not fully record the importance of both players to their teams. When we think back on this World Cup in years to come, it may well be remembered as the showdown of these two brilliant midfielders. Takashi Inui‘s commanding performance for Japan (2 goals, 1 assist) and Denis Cheryshev‘s for Russia (4 goals) helped propel their teams much further than expected and earned them both spots on the bench.

Forwards – Was it the tournament of Kylian Mbappe? At only 19 years old he will surely have many more big stages on which to perform but with 4 goals, the secret is out. Harry Kane took the Golden Boot with 6 goals (3 of them PKs) so he has to be included, even if it was his lack of scoring in those last games that contributed to England’s demise. But all in all, England fans should be proud of Sir Harry of Kane. And I felt justice was served to include Eden Hazard as a starter if for no other reason that his performance might have just about earned him a record-breaking transfer to Real Madrid in the next few weeks (oh and 3 goals and 2 assists is a good reason as well). Interestingly Hazard was the only Belgian to make my squad, perhaps as a sign that Belgium was one of the most “complete teams” with everyone looking good and no one looking far better. My bench includes Uruguay’s Edinson Cavani for his 3 scorching goals along with Brazil’s Coutinho who scored 2 goals and had 2 assists and is just so damn fun to watch.

Yes, it was damn fun to watch, and I hope you enjoyed my power rankings and these thoughts. Drop me a line or leave a comment and let me know if you agree or not.

Posted by enderzero at 7:59pm on Jul. 16, 2018    
Jun 13, 2018

World Cup 2018 Power Rankings [The Last 8]

It’s World Cup time again and it’s pretty hard not to be excited as all get out (no matter how hard the USMNT tried to sabotage that excitement). As I have in tournaments past, I’ll be tossing my ideas up here about what teams are looking good via my Power Rankings. Round by round, this post will be updated with my latest rankings and some thoughts.

Update 4 – 7/3/2018

What a wonderful World Cup this has been! It’s going to be fun to pick a best match when this is all done, but the best of the Round of 16 was likely Belgium vs Japan. Sadly, the tourney had to come to an end for the Japanese. And sadly, the end of the tournament is in sight as well. With only 8 teams left, this will likely be the last power rankings update. I’ll be back when it’s all said and done with some final thoughts and perhaps a Best XI. Enjoy the final rounds!

Power Rankings: Quarter Finals

1. Brazil – – | Form: DWWW – Click, Click, Click. This team is looking good and if they’d just put in Bobby Firmino from the whistle, they might be unstoppable.

2. France 2 | Form: WWDW – MMMMmmmmbappe. It’s a bit of a shame that the France v. Brazil matchup is a likely Semifinal and not final as these two are clearly the top 2 as we hit the Quarters.

3. England 2 | Form: WWLD* – If England looks as good as they did in the first 80 minutes against Colombia, then they should walk to the final on this easy right side of the bracket.

4. Belgium 1 | Form: WWWW – It was a hell of a match against Japan, but some questions need to be asked why they couldn’t get that offense working earlier in the game. Still with two clutch subs, Martinez is earning his pay. Chadli suddenly looking a hot commodity in the EPL with West Brom gone down.

5. Uruguay 4 | Form: WWWW – Another decisive victory for Uruguay over a very good Portugal has setup another ridiculously tough match against France. Oh and they’ll have to likely beat Brazil to get to the final too. If Cavani is fit, it’s not impossible. But yikes.

6. Croatia 1 | Form: WWWD* – The penalties victory over Denmark was anything but convincing. Still Croatia is surely the favorite over Russia.

7. Sweden 5 | Form: WLWW – Sweden got their goal and dispatched Switzerland but just barely. I don’t see them beating England.

8. Russia 8 | Form: WWDD* – If the fairy tale doesn’t end here, some serious questions will need be asked. I’m looking at you, FIFA.

Click to see the earlier updates

Posted by enderzero at 6:40pm on Jun. 13, 2018    
Feb 26, 2018

Top 10 Takeaways from the Pyeongchang 2018 Olympics

Another Olympics has come and gone and is my tradition (see 2016, 2014, 2010) here are some collected thoughts on the games. I’m not going to use one of my ten below to talk about NBC but suffice to say the coverage was generally pretty good and the 2018 iteration of the app is the best yet. But even though Mike Tirico is a generally affable dude, he is no Bob Costas and his light-hearted quips didn’t quite carry the gravity of the man, the myth, the legend. On to the sports!

10. Americans Are Really Good at Snowboarding

Six Freestyle Snowboarding events and Team USA took home 7 medals, winning gold in 4. Red Gerard got things started in the men’s Slopestyle which was followed up by Jamie Anderson in the women’s event. And then things really got crazy with Chloe Kim and Shaun White winning the half pipe events in dramatic fashion. Both were a ton of fun to watch for different reasons. The field has caught up to the now 31 Shaun White but he made it happen when it counted and won one of the most dramatic medals I can remember. Chloe Kim, on the other hand, is just as dominant in the sport as Shaun was when he was her tender age of 17. She really had no competition. It will be awesome to see if that holds true for the next quad.

9. The Russians are Still Russians

Perhaps the lasting effect of the IOC’s toothless punishment of the Russian’s systematic doping program from Sochi by requiring Russians to compete as “Olympic Athletes from Russia” is that now when we see the Olympic flag, we all think “Russians.” Prepare yourself for that joke to live on. But the façade had pretty much been dropped by games end with the OARs being referred to as Russians in the hockey final as if they had a flag on their uniform. It’s a sign of just what a sham it was. And the fact the only doping controversy at the games is surrounding the Bronze-winning Russian curler is all the more poetic. While my idea of having a Russian athlete draft never really picked up steam (wouldn’t it be great to see Alina Zagitova competing for the Costa Ricans?), the IOC needs to figure something out because you gotta be worried about the fact the next Winter games are back in China.

8. Pyeongchang was All Smiles

Was it just me or did it seem like the athletes competing in Pyeongchang had particularly vivacious grins? Perhaps it was the amazing South Korean spectators who seemed to cheer for each and every athlete. Regardless, I’ll remember those pearly whites whenever I think back on the 2018 games.

7. Closing Ceremony Tops the Pair

The Opening Ceremony ran a little long in the tooth, was a bit too filled with pre-taped materials, and featured some head-slapping international insensitivities. So perhaps surprisingly, the Closing Ceremony did not at all disappoint. The projection system on that floor was spectacular in all its psychedelic glory and the music was pretty cool for the most part. A perfect example of what the Closing did better than the Opening is the Intel drone display which was cool but felt so pre-taped (it was) in the Opening. The live movement in the Closing was astounding. This was all the more highlighted by the Beijing Games committee’s awful pre-taped hand off segment which was the Closing’s lowlight.

6. Sliding Sports are Tough

It’s interesting to see the idiosyncrasies of the scoring systems for different sports. Half Pipe is the best single score of three runs, while Big Air is the best two runs out of the three. Well the sliding sports (that’s Luge, Bobsled, Skeleton, etc.) have got to be the most ruthless in their scoring. Four runs over two days, with the total time all counting. Have one bad run out of four and your medal hopes are gone. So it’s all the more impressive that Chris Mazdzer won the USA men’s first ever Luge medal (a silver) and all the crazier that there were ties for gold in 2-man Bobsled and silver in 4-man. A quick word of praise for the Team Relay Luge where men, women, and doubles have to go one after another hitting a trigger at the bottom to launch the luger at the top. The more weird ways we can think of to combine events, the better in my book.

5. Nice That Figure Skating has a Consolation Prize

The Figure Skating Team event is not yet as prestigious as it’s summer counterpart, Gymnastics Team. But it sure is great they have it now as it gave all of the American figure skaters something to brag about after winning the bronze and then going on to stink up the joint in the individual events (save the Shibutani siblings who won an individual bronze as well). I know, I know, figure skating is hard. But it’s so clear that Alina Zagitova and Evgenia Medvedeva are a class above Mirai, Karen, and Bradie. And no matter how media savvy Adam Rippon is, he could never compete with Yuzuru Hanyu on the ice. Perhaps Nathan Chen could, but the pressure definitely got to him on the Pyeongchang ice. The USA needs to step up our game to get back to winning ways in individual Figure Skating.

4. Tough Break for America’s Most Successful* Olympic Alpine Skier

There was a gondola load of pressure on Mikaela Shiffrin to win any or all of the five Alpine events she was planning to compete in at Pyeongchang. She was right alongside Chloe Kim, Shaun White, and Nathan Chen in just about all of NBC’s marketing. But it’s really hard to win multiple ski races and the pressure she was under due to her domination on the World Cup circuit was probably a bit too much. We saw it in her performance at the last few World Cup events leading up to the games where she look tired and wasn’t on her A-game. The fact that the weather caused delays and rescheduled events certainly did not work to her favor. All of this is to say that her gold and silver in GS and Combined respectively should be seen as a big win for Mikaela. Go out and keep dominating and she’ll have more medals in her future no doubt.

*I did the math on this so hear me out. I think it’s important to point out that no American skier has ever won more than two gold medals in Olympic Alpine events. Bode Miller has the most medals total with six, but only one of those is gold. Julia Mancuso has four medals and Lindsay Vonn has three, but only one gold each. There are three US skiers with two gold medals: Mikaela, Andrea Mead-Lawrence (1952) and Ted Ligety. But both Ligety and Mead-Lawrence won no other medals aside from their two golds. Therefore, since Mikaela has a silver to go with her two golds, I think it is only fair to call her America’s most successful Olympic Alpine skier.

3. Excellent Hockey Capped with USA Win

Pyeongchang hosted two very entertaining hockey tournaments. There was a lot of noise made about the lack of NHL players for the men’s side, a fact that surely hurt the USA and Canada more than other countries. But it was still a lot of fun to see the youngsters out there with some veterans and it led to great matches. The USA just barely lost to Slovenia and then had a couple awesome wins over Slovakia. We should have been better against the Czechs but the day less rest took its toll. Clearly the Russians were the class of the men’s tourney but it was so cool to see that crazy charge by the Germans that inspired one of the best Olympics tweets ever. On the women’s side, it might have been destined from the get go that USA would play Canada for the gold. The fact they beat us in group play made that Gold Medal shootout win even sweeter. This is certainly one of the Olympics’ best rivalries.

2. USA Women Win First Ever Cross-Country Medal – and it’s GOLD

On day one or two of the Olympics, Katie Couric did an interview with the USA women’s Cross-Country team. Right away it was clear that Jessie Diggins, Kikkan Randall, and the other ladies of XC had something special. But Cross-Country Skiing is completely dominated by Europeans so it was a big win when Diggins finished 5th in the 10KM Freestyle event, the best ever result for US women. For Diggins and Randall to fight on to win the Team Sprint event a week later was absolutely mind blowing. And to do it in such dramatic fashion. Wow. It’s hard to overstate the feelings of pride for those women.

1. Shuster Magic!

Speaking of pride, that was a quality that was sorely lacking for USA skip John Shuster after his 2-win 9th place finish (of 10) at Sochi and his 2-win last place performance at Vanouver. After those Vancouver games, I called him a “choke artist” and his performance “despicable.” So I was suitably worried when I saw Shuster and his new merry band of outcast curlers win the USA trials last Fall. And the fact he got off to a 2 and 4 start made it seem like those worries were justified. What happened next is the stuff of Olympic storybooks. John Shuster, Tyler George, John Standsteiner, and Matt Hamilton (plus alternate Joe Polo, I guess) went on to win 3 must-win matches against power houses Canada, Switzerland, and Great Britain to make the semi-finals. Another win against Canada meant we were guaranteed a medal. And the hard-fought final against Sweden topped off with the FIVE POINT 8th end meant the USA were Olympic gold medalists. These men are God-damned American heroes. God bless you, John Shuster.

Posted by enderzero at 4:36pm on Feb. 26, 2018    
Jan 14, 2018

Ryland’s Top 50 Films of 2017

2017 was a big year for movies and a big year for me. Two movies I produced, Jeff Grace’s Folk Hero & Funny Guy and Michelle Morgan’s It Happened in L.A. were released in theaters and VOD this year. Obviously those two would be tied for number one if I allowed them on the list, but that’s no fun. So while you get busy adding those to the top of your lists, here is a look at the favorite films I saw in 2017 (that I didn’t produce).

I base my list on the films I see during the calendar year of 2017 that have either world premiered at a festival or been released theatrically/digitally during the year. To be clear, this is not the best films that played festivals in 2017 (though most did) or the best films that came out in theaters/digitally in 2017. These are my favorite films that I saw for the first time in 2017 that either played at festivals or came out in theaters/digitally.

Because of that, some of these movies have not come out yet in the US and therefore don’t qualify for other critics’ lists. Likewise, there are perhaps a few films that have been on other lists that were on my list last year. I’ve endeavored to mention in my comments if a film is coming out soon or awaiting distribution.

Let me know what you think in the comments below or on Twitter at @RylandAldrich.

To the list!

Posted by enderzero at 9:49am on Jan. 14, 2018    
Jan 14, 2017

Ryland’s Top 50 Films of 2016

No need for a ton of preamble here. I’ll just cut and paste what I wrote last year.

I base my list on the films I see during the calendar year of 2016 that have either world premiered at a festival or been released theatrically in the year. To be clear, this is not the best films that played festivals in 2016 (though most did) or the best films that came out in theaters in 2016. This is the best films that either played at festivals or came out in theaters/VOD that I saw for the first time in 2016.

That means some of these movies have not come out yet in the US and therefore don’t qualify for other critics’ lists. Likewise, there are a handful of films that have been on other lists that were on my list last year such as The Brand New Testament, The Witch, and Green Room. I’ve endeavored to mention in my comments if a film is coming out soon or awaiting distribution.

Let me know what you think in the comments below or on Twitter at @RylandAldrich.

To the list!

Posted by enderzero at 3:01pm on Jan. 14, 2017    
Aug 21, 2016

Top 10 Takeaways from the Rio 2016 Olympic Games


The flame has been extinguished (and what a cool flame holder it was) on the XXXI Olympiad and man is my sofa worn out. There were plenty of memorable moments, and some that we’d rather all forget. If watching the Olympics was an Olympic sport, I’d be in the hunt for Gold (see photo at bottom). Let’s just say I watched or fast forwarded through almost every moment of broadcast on NBC, NBCSN, USA, MSNBC, and CNBC over the last two weeks. To put a nice bow on it, I’ve collected my thoughts in these Top 10 Takeaways from these Olympic Games.


10. Goodbye Hope Solo

The US Women’s National Team’s quarterfinal defeat at the hands of eventual Silver-winning Sweden was one of the lowest moments of the games (and biggest upsets as well). That the already controversial goalkeeper Hope Solo immediately called the Swedes “a bunch of cowards” and complained that the best team didn’t win is the worst part of the whole debacle. As if allegedly beating up your family members and picking fights with former USWNT stars wasn’t enough, Solo was booed every single time she touched the ball after posting a photo of herself kitted out in anti-Zika gear before the games. This had to be a distraction for the team. The “Zi-ka!” chant was so popular the Brazilian fans started doing it to other teams and even other sports like beach volleyball.

This is a rebuilding period for the USWNT after many of their stars retired post-World Cup victory last summer. That said, this is still the best team in the game and the new talent coming up is even more exciting than the women who left. One of those new talents must be good at tending goal because it’s time that Hope Solo steps aside as well.


9. Modern Pentathlon is the perfect sport (…for 19th century aristocrats)

So pretend you’re a 19th century sportsman for a moment. Here is your path to victory. This two-day competition starts with 35 fencing matches. The eventual winner, Russia’s Aleksander Lesun went 28 and 7 (an Olympic Record) that netted him 268 points. The worst fencers (there were three) went 9 and 26 and only scored 154 points for it. You then take to the pool for 4 lengths (200m). Britain’s James Cooke won this event with an Olympic Record time of 1:55.60 – good for 354 points. Lesun was in 22nd at 2:05:58. Cuba’s Jose Ricardo Figueroa was slowest at 2:15.39 which still got him 294 points. By contrast, the men’s 200m Free was won in Rio by China’s Sun Yang with a time of 1:44.65. There were only two swimmers that swam their heat times slower than Cooke. The slowest 200m Free swimmer Ahmed Gebrel of Palestine’s 1:59:71 would have put him in 4th in the Modern Pentathlon.

Day two begins with the bonus round of fencing (not sure how this works). Then they move on to horse jumping. Now I’m not usually a big fan of the Olympic equestrian events but here it’s awesome. What good 19th century sportsman can’t jump a horse? Well some of these guys. The best part is when a horse refuses to jump and it derails an entire pentathlon. Four of the 36 riders recorded a zero score because they fell off their horses or the horses just refused to jump. Our pal Figueroa from Cuba made it in under the time limit but scored a measly 233. Six riders scored a perfect 300. Lesun scored 279. Oh and the other great part about the equestrian event is that all the riders wear the traditional uniforms of their home countries. Hungary’s is particularly WWI-esque.

Finally, we end the second day with the main event: combined running and shooting. The points are added up from the previous events and you get a head start based on your time. You start with shooting (it’s a laser pistol, not particularly 19th century, I know). You run a kilometer. Shoot again, run, shoot, and run. 3KM and 3 times at the range. Lesun started first and carried the lead all the way through, proving that he is indeed, the best 19th century sportsman alive in 2016.


8. Neymar is now a God, but it doesn’t erase 7-1

The Men’s Soccer final was undoubtedly the highlight for Brazilian fans. Tied 1-1 through both regular and added time, the match went to a penalty shootout. It came down to the final kick after Germany’s fifth kick was saved by Brazil. It just happens young star and captain Neymar had insisted to go last (not the smartest move but certainly the most dramatic) and he stepped up and buried the shot to win gold. This is great for Brazil but it’s important to remember this was a U23 tournament and while it points to better things in the future for the flailing Brazilian National Team, it doesn’t erase the problems in the senior team best exemplified by two summers ago’s 7-1 World Cup semifinal defeat at the hands of the Germans in Brazil and the two subsequent early exits from the Copa America. Neymar’s great (he scored the goal in the final as well) and the fact they didn’t give up a single goal in the tourney until the final are both good things for Brazil, but it also might be that Brazil was just taking this tournament on home soil way more seriously than everyone else.


7. Boys will be boys

Taken in isolation, everything that dumbass Ryan Lochte did in his drunken vandalism/cover-up was kinda understandable. I mean, idiotic, but understandable. Who hasn’t taken a whiz outside when the bathroom door was locked or done some dumb drunken action they aren’t proud of the next day. Even the initial lie that set this in motion wasn’t that crazy. He did have a gun pulled on him. They did take his money. This whole thing was of course avoidable, but he’s a knucklehead. It just happens he’s a super famous knucklehead and this got so crazy blown out of proportion. Let’s all move on, please.


6. Golf was a hit, even if 4 of the top 5 golfers were bozos for not coming

The Zika excuse was quickly pointed to when Jason Day, Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth, and Rory McIlroy all decided to sit out Golf’s reentry into the Olympics after 100+ years. As it was widely reported, no one even saw mosquitos in Rio! So that flimsy excuse didn’t hold up. What’s much more likely is that they just didn’t want to travel all the way to Brazil for a tournament without a real purse. Too bad because it was quickly evident that the guys who showed up came to play. This was one of the most exciting tournaments of the year with Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson battling it out even rivaling Henrik and Phil Mickelson a few weeks ago at Troon. Regardless, it was super cool to have this game in the Olympics and I think it will be taken much more seriously in Tokyo in 2020. My only advice would be to come up with some sort of matchplay-esque scoring system. It doesn’t have to be a Ryder Cup, but it would be cool if there were some rule changes that made the scoring slightly different than a regular tournament to make it a bit more based on country strength and not just individual skill. Anyway, we have 4 years to figure that out.


5. Interviews with athletes are the worst

Mike Tirico is sitting down with the bronze medalist form the steeple chase? Fast forward! It’s always the same with these athletes. They’re taking it one day/game/year at a time. They are still in shock. They are super thankful that Jesus made this happen to them. At least the “Final Five” gymnasts were entertaining because, Gawd is that how teenage girls talk LOL? But man, by the second week of coverage I really couldn’t stand to watch another random athlete blabber.


4. Equestrian, Synchronized Swimming and Rhythmic Gymnastics needs to go.

The Summer games are way too packed and they just keep adding more sports, so something has got to give. I could probably give the axe to about eight events (see below) but these three are certainly ripest for the pickin. The face that NBC chose to highlight so much Synchronized Swimming and Rhythmic Gymnastics on their network broadcasting is mind boggling. Did anyone watch these?


3. Badminton, Boxing, Flat Water Rowing/Canoeing, Taekwondo and Table Tennis are pretty boring without someone to root for

These were the events I just couldn’t get into unless there was an American in medal position (and that didn’t happen often). However, this is in pretty stark contrast to Archery, Judo, Shooting, Weight Lifting, and the White Water events, all of which are very entertaining regardless of who is competing.


2. Track Cycling is far better than expected

As most people know, I am a huge road cycling fan (listen to episode 38 of the PeloTonOfFun to hear my reaction to the action-packed road events). But I had little experience with the track events. They are great! Keirin involves cyclists following a motorbike and then sprinting for the win. Team Pursuit pits two teams of cyclists against each other on the same track, which is awesome (especially when they catch each other). But the Omnium is where it’s really at.

Think of Omnium as the Modern Pentathlon of cycling. Six events over two days with 18 riders, all from different countries. It starts with a 15km all out race (called the Scratch Race). Next is a 4km Individual Pursuit (like the Team Pursuit but one on one). Then the amazing Elimination Race where every two laps the last place rider is eliminated until it’s down to a winner.

Day two starts with two Time Trial sprint events of a 1km and 250m (with a flying start). It ends with the Points Race which is a 40km race with all of the racers sprinting for 1st (5 points), 2nd (3 points), 3rd (2 points), and 4th (1 point). If you lap the field you get 20 points(!) meaning someone who was way behind from the previous five events still had a chance if they were aggressive in the Points Race.

Though he only took 1st in one event (the Elimination Race), Italy’s (and Team Sky’s) Elia Viviani won Omnium by 13 points over GB’s Mark Cavendish. In turn Cav was only 2 points ahead of London 2012’s winner Lasse Norman Hansen of Denmark who took the Bronze. This was so much fun to watch and I’m sure I’ll be tuning more than just once every four years (especially as more sprinters from the peloton start to jump in).


1. Rugby Sevens is the best

Without a doubt my favorite new sport of the Summer Games is Rugby! I’ve watched a bit here and there but never a full Sevens match. And don’t blink because the games are super short, taking only about 20 minutes for a full match. What other big sport is that quick? It’s action packed and full speed, plus the athletes are big time characters. Not to mention it is ridiculously popular in parts of the world. The entire country of Fiji stopped to watch their men’s team win the country’s first ever medal (had Rugby been in past Olympics, I have a feeling this wouldn’t have been their first). I watched every second of both men’s and women’s Rugby Sevens tourneys and was left just wanting more. The fact that the English Premiership is going to be on NBCSN this year is awesome but these tourneys are the way to go. What’s that you say? The Sevens World Series starts in Dubai this December? Sign. Me. Up.


What’d y’all think? There’s a comments section right down there. Lemme hear ya!

Posted by enderzero at 11:49pm on Aug. 21, 2016    
Jan 17, 2016

Ryland’s Top 50 Films of 2015


Get it done before Sundance. Get it done before Sundance. Phew!

Okay I admit, is a bit of a no man’s land these days. But there is still one annual post that demands a home somewhere. So here it is. My top 50 films of 2015, albeit a few weeks late.

I base my list on the films I see during the calendar year of 2015 that have either world premiered at a festival or been released theatrically in the year. To be clear, this is not the best films that played festivals in 2015 (though most did) or the best films that came out in theaters in 2015. This is the best films that either played at festivals or came out in theaters/VOD that I saw for the first time in 2015.

That means some of these movies have not come out yet in the US and therefore don’t qualify for other critics’ lists. Likewise there are a handful of films that have been on other lists that were on my list last year such as It Follows or The Tribe. I’ve endeavored to mention in my comments if a film is coming out soon or awaiting distribution.

All in all 2015 was an excellent year for cinema. It was tough to narrow down the top 10 but I’m feeling pretty good about the decisions. Let me know if you agree or think I’m out of my mind in the comments below or on Twitter at @RylandAldrich.

To the list!

Posted by enderzero at 9:35am on Jan. 17, 2016    
Jan 10, 2015

Ryland’s Top 50 Films of 2014


2014 has been wrapped up for a few days now, but I’ll be damned if that will stop me from reflecting on my favorite films of the year. As in past years, many of these films have yet to find their ways to general release (I’ve done my best to mention if the film isn’t out yet). But maybe that makes the list all the more relevant. Consider it a preview for 2015 and a chance to go back and scoop up a few titles you might have missed in 2014. Check out the list below and let me know what you think? Which of your faves didn’t make the cut? Or maybe I missed an obvious choice. Let me know in the comments below or on Twitter at @RylandAldrich.

To the list!

Posted by enderzero at 9:10am on Jan. 10, 2015    
Jul 15, 2014

World Cup 2014: Best XI


The 2014 Brazil World Cup will go down as one of the best of all time. It was a pleasure to watch each and every moment. As a way of wrapping it all up, I’ve named my Best XI for the tourney with the restriction of no more than two players from any one squad. There were some tough decisions, but I feel good about the image above. Notable runners up include Messi, Mueller, Neymar, Schuerrle, Alexis Sanchez, Schweinsteiger, Shaqiri, Valbuena, Pogba, De Bruyne, Varane, Rojo, Navas, and Neuer. But hey, you can only pick 11. So… what do you think?

Posted by enderzero at 4:05pm on Jul. 15, 2014    
Jul 3, 2014

World Cup 2014: Final 8 Power Ratings


It was an incredible Round of 16 that saw for the first time, all eight group winners advance. What was most fascinating is that in seven of those eight matches, the underdog looked poised to bite the favorite in the tail, only to see the group winner take the match in the end. Alas, our brave men of the USA fell victim as well. But heads high USMNT fans, it was a hell of a ride.

With only eight teams left, this will be the last Power Rankings of the Cup. It’s also the least confident I’ve been. Two of the four Quarters are a complete toss up, leaving the left side of the brackets as anyone’s game. That’s bound to lead to plenty of intrigue and some very entertaining soccer.

1. Colombia (6) Wait seriously…? Why not? Of the eight Round of 16 matches, it was only Colombia’s defeat of Uruguay that looked decisive. James Rodriguez is a bonafide star. But they’ve got a tough road ahead – and this is far from a confident pick.

2. Argentina (1) It took them 118 minutes to do it, but Argentina was eventually able to dispatch a very difficult Switzerland. Was it a confident victory? Far from it. But this Argentina team has the look of winners, and nothing would make them happier than to do it on Brazilian soil.

3. France (3) While France looked a bit lost for the better part of their match against a resurgent but still inferior Nigeria, they eventually figured it out and took the victory in one of only three matches to finish in 90 minutes. Their next opponents, Germany, will prove a much tougher test.

4. Brazil (2) Brazil can most certainly beat Colombia. They can still win the entire World Cup. But their team is yet to start clicking and they were pretty lucky to take out the ridiculously talented Chile. It’s far from over for Brazil but it’s getting more and more difficult to call them the favorites.

5. Holland (5) With the easiest of the Quarter Finals match ups, the Dutch should be able to take it to the Costa Ricans without much trouble. And if we learned anything from their match with Mexico, it’s that Louis van Gaal is one hell of a tactician (good news for Man Utd fans). A Semi Final showdown with Argentina looks pretty likely on the right side of the bracket.

6. Germany (4) The German defeat of Algeria was again a narrow victory over a very good team (and how I would have loved to see a France vs Algeria Qtr). But don’t count the Germans out. The talent and organization are both there. However a free scoring France will likely have the key to unlock this pretty shaky looking German defense.

7. Belgium (7) No need to dwell on the Belgian defeat of the USA too much, but they should probably look to start Lukaku, the one player on the pitch that seemed to have the extra spark necessary to take ahold of a big game. Unfortunately for the Belgians, they’re headed up against Argentina.

8. Costa Rica (10) They have to fit in somewhere right? Yes they’ve had a great run, but even if they manage to somehow pull off an upset over Holland, Costa Rica will still be the bottom team on my Power Rankings come the next go around (note: this is likely the last go around).

Posted by enderzero at 7:01pm on Jul. 3, 2014    
Jun 30, 2014

World Cup 2014: An Alternate USA Narrative

Ghana v USA: Group G - 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil

A casual observer might notice the general American attitude ahead of USA’s Round of 16 match versus Belgium has seemed a little negative. There’s no doubt the buzz was pretty mixed after the USA vs Portugal and USA vs Germany matches. Yes a bad mistake erased a brilliant chance to defeat Portugal. Yes the match versus Germany was technically a loss. But long time USMNT fans will know that these two matches were in fact huge successes and the great escape our boys pulled off advancing from the ‘Group of Death’ is probably the biggest moment for US soccer since Joe Gaetjens goal versus England in 1950.

So as a little exercise, let’s pretend the USA’s three group stage matches were played in reverse order, with the exact same results. Perhaps it’s a bit silly, but remember, this is the same end result either way, and the narrative is really what people get attached to.
Read on

Posted by enderzero at 5:19pm on Jun. 30, 2014    
Jun 28, 2014

World Cup 2014: Power Rankings – On To the Knockouts!


It’s kind of like that moment on Christmas morning where you look around and find out you’ve opened almost all your presents. Yes, there are still those one or two big ones you’ve been saving for last, but the feeling of the end approaching is starting to creep in.

The World Cup has reached its midpoint with half of the teams now eliminated. But with only 16 matches left to be played, the heartaches are going to come fast and furious. Here’s my take on the chances of the teams that are left in the hunt.

1. Argentina (1) – There was nothing unconvincing about Arg’s 3-2 defeat of Nigeria, even though the Super Eagles looked pretty good. But the Argentina open wheel racer is only in about 2nd gear right now and they’re just starting to push down on the pedal.

2. Brazil (4) – The hosts’ best match so far was their 4-1 defeat of Cameroon, and you want your best match going into the knockouts (sorry USA). Of course that was against a destitute Cameroon — but I think Brazil will beat Chile and that’s going to put them back in the driver’s seat in the top left quadrant.

3. France (2) – While not technically qualified after two matches, Le Bleu’s chances of going through looked pretty assured — and they showed it with a rather uninspired draw with Ecuador. But it was a B-squad and they should be able to turn it around vs Nigeria. But will they have Germany’s number in the Quarters?

4. Germany (6) – I don’t have any trouble picking Germany over Algeria, but I’m having night sweats thinking about how great a France-Germany Quarter could be. The way France is playing, I still give them the slightest of nods.

5. Holland (5) – The Dutch have the relatively easy CONCACAF quadrant with a match against Mexico and then likely Costa Rica. Can they finish off our rivals? Yeah, I think so.

6. Colombia (8) – It might be rather unpopular to put everyone’s favorite dark horses way down in sixth. I like Colombia. I LOVE James “Don’t-Call-Me-James” Rodriguez. But after a likely tough victory over Uruguay, they ain’t gonna like playing Brazil.

7. Belgium (7) – There are huge question marks over this USAvBEL game — but interestingly enough, they aren’t over the USA. I pretty much know how we are going to play. But no one is sure which Belgium team will show up. If Belgium at their best gets off the bus, the USA is in big trouble.

8. USA (9) – We did what we needed to do, now we need to keep on doing what we can. Regardless, this is house money from here on out.

9. Chile (3) – Chile is worse than USA??? No, probably not. But USA’s chances of beating Belgium are better than Chile’s over Brazil.

10. Costa Rica (10) – I’m picking CR to beat Greece, but I have them down in 10 because I still don’t believe.

11. Mexico (12) – Sorry compadres. You’ve had a great tourney, but you aren’t beating the Dutch. We’ll miss you Wet Herrera.

12. Switzerland (13) – You gotta like the creative goal scoring by Schaqiri. But does anyone really think it will be enough to get past Argentina? Although remember, Switzerland upset Spain in the first round of 2010.

13. Algeria (19) – One of the more impressive sides of the B-qualifiers was the athletic showing by the France B-Side of Algeria. But the German train will likely mow them down.

14. Uruguay (11) – How does a team with Edinson Cavani seem so destitute? You’d think they have a shot of beating Colombia – it all depends if they’re hungry enough…

15. Nigeria (21) – France fodder.

16. Greece (23) – Costa Rica is so lucky.

Posted by enderzero at 9:21am on Jun. 28, 2014    
Jun 23, 2014

World Cup 2014: Round 2 Power Rankings


This has been a ridiculously entertaining tournament so far and round 2 of the group stage did NOT disappoint. As I prepare to reveal my power rankings after round 2, it occurs to me how many of the high ranked teams have yet to truly impress. There are 7 teams that have won both of their games. Of those, perhaps the most impressive, France, still has a chance to be knocked out. This could all change a lot in the next few days, but for what it’s worth, here are my thoughts on where teams rank right now. (The numbers in parenthesis this time are my ranking from round 1).

1. Argentina (2) – Are they the most convincing team of the tournament? Probably not — and until that wonder goal by Messi they were dropping way down on this list. Frankly they need to start playing as more of a team. But with 6 points in the bank and the best player in the world heating up, Argentina is now the team to beat.

2. France (5) – France has been perhaps the most convincing team of the tourney with their dismantling of an awful Honduras and a much better Switzerland. While they haven’t technically qualified, they’d need to lose huge to Ecuador in order to be eliminated and with the way Benzema is playing, I don’t think it’s about to happen.

3. Chile (10) – The big mover in the rankings is the rampant Chile who are looking very convincing. Suddenly it isn’t who is going to go through in 2nd of Group B and play Brazil, but who is going to go through from Group A and have to play Chile.

4. Brazil (3) – Convincing? No. But this is still their World Cup to lose and as things get more serious, I have a feeling these guys are going to get busy.

5. Holland(4) – Well Australia is a pretty tough team. Not tough enough to win, but tough enough to expose a few chinks in the orange Dutch armor.

6. Germany (1) – The second half of the Ghana-Germany match was a real cracker and while it ended with a point apiece, Germany still has it in them to go very far at this tournament.

7. Belgium (8) – Yet another victory snatched from the jaws of a draw. No one wants to play this Belgium side who definitely knows how to win. No one except American fans who would be ecstatic to give them a try.

8. Colombia (7) – Colombia dropping a spot isn’t so much a reflection on their performance against a pretty unconvincing Ivory Coast, as it is a comment on the better teams who have slid in above them.

9. USA (13) – A victory versus Ghana and draw versus Portugal? Fuck yeah I’ll take it. But more importantly, USA is playing the most convincing soccer we USA fans have EVER seen. This is a good team and it is an exciting time to be a USMNT fan!

10. Costa Rica (14) – Victories over a Suarez-less Uruguay and Italy are impressive, no doubt, but the USA could still beat them.

11. Uruguay (21) – Right, I can’t put them above a rampant Costa Rica, but would Cost Rica have beat the Suarez-infused Uruguay that beat England? I doubt it. And I doubt many other teams on this list could beat them either.

12. Mexico (15) – Brazil’s bogey man, Mexico likes to give the Brazilians a hard time and look in the driver seat to go through in Group A, perhaps even in first. But is Mexico a team built to go far in the knockout rounds?

More teams with a real chance:
13. Switzerland, 14. Ghana, 15. Croatia, 16. Italy, 17. Ivory Coast,

Unimpressive teams with a small chance:
18. Portugal, 19. Algeria, 20. Russia, 21. Nigeria 22. Ecuador

Just barely in:
23. Greece, 24. Iran, 25. South Korea

Essentially out:
26. Japan, 27. Honduras

Officially out:
28. Bosnia, 29. Spain, 30. England, 31. Australia, 32. Cameroon

Posted by enderzero at 12:38am on Jun. 23, 2014    
Jun 21, 2014

World Cup 2014: All The Permutations for USA’s Match Versus Portugal


After Germany’s draw with Ghana today, many questions are swirling around about if this was really a good result for the USA. The short answer is “maybe.” It’s great if we win tomorrow, okay if we draw, and not very good at all if we lose. I’ve worked out all the permutations (on facebook no less) and reposted them here. Let me know if you have any questions.

+ We go into GER match level on 4 points with them, but they would have a superior goal dif.
+ USA win vs GER and we go through in 1st.
+ USAvGER draw and GER goes through in 1st, we go through in 2nd.
+ Both GHA and POR go into their final match looking to win big enough to overturn their -1 (GHA) and -4 (POR) goal difs and steal the 2nd place spot from us.
+ If we end up tied on goal difference and points with GHA (i.e. we lose to GER by 1 and GHA beats POR by 1) or POR, then it goes to GOALS SCORED. That one is a little hard to calculate because anything can happen tomorrow and in the upcoming matches, but right now we have 2, GHA has 3, and POR has 0 – but to overturn those goal differentials, they would obviously have to score goals.

+ USA beats GER and we advance.
+ USA would advance in 1st with a win over GER unless POR beats GHA and overturns goal dif with USA.
+ USA draws GER and POR draws GHA, USA advances (unless our round 2 loss to POR is by 3 or more goals, then POR advances).
+ USA draws GER and GHA beats POR, USA and GHA are tied on 4 and it goes to goal dif (a 1 goal loss to POR by USA and a 1 goal win by GHA would mean it would go to goals scored, anything else and GHA advances).
+ USA draws GER and POR beats GHA, USA is eliminated (and POR goes through in 1st).
+ USA loses to GER, USA is eliminated

+ USA goes to the Round of 16 muthafuckahs!!!! (and in 1st place with a draw or win vs GER).

Posted by enderzero at 7:53pm on Jun. 21, 2014