Sunday, February 27, 2011

K-State Unrelated #1: Best Picture Winners

In honor of the Academy Awards tonight, I'm doing my first non-K-State sports post. The topic: Winners of the Academy Award for Best Picture. Since around two years ago, I've been working my way through all of them and up till now I've seen every Best Picture Winner since 1939 (winner- You Can't Take It With You). I'm not exactly proud of this, as it means I've wasted A LOT of my time watching movies, but it makes for an interesting blog post nonetheless. Following is my top 10 winners of Best Picture. Remember, this is NOT my top 10 movies of all time. It is my top 10 OF MOVIES WHO HAVE WON BEST PICTURE. So here goes.

1. Gladiator (2001)
This movie has everything. Incredible acting from Russel Crowe, Joakin Phoenix, and practically everyone else. Moving, original music. Sweet battle scenes. Themes, motifs, history, and just an overall epic story. Not only is this my favorite best picture-winner, it's my favorite movie of all time.

2. Forrest Gump (1995)
Witty, smart, charming, hilariously funny. Watching this movie I feel like I can quote every single line and still laugh till I cry. Tom Hanks is perfect, the story is moving, and I just can't get enough.

3. Slumdog Millionaire (2009)
Call me a sap, but I love this movie. Anything that has to do with fate, I usually fall for, and this story told in a unique fashion about love in the slums of India takes the cake. It is written.

4. Crash (2006)
Many people criticize this movie for being too cynical, not offering ways to fix racism, only bringing our attention to it. But anyone that believes racism is dead should watch this movie, because it shows very clearly how it is not. Combine that with an interweaving story, beautiful scenes and depictions, and some great cinematography, and you've got a fantastic movie that makes me cry every single time I watch it.

5. Rain Man (1989)
Two epic performances from Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman fuel this beautiful, funny, moving movie that I just love. Quotable throughout and a story that instantly grips you, I once watched this movie three times in one day.

6. Titanic (1998)
I know, I know. But sappy romance movie aside, this movie is just plain epic. The graphics (for the day), the cinematography, the story, and the music (my God, the MUSIC!) make this movie one of the best ever. Any time it's on TV (and that's plenty), I can't miss it.

7. The Sound of Music (1966)
Julie Andrews at her greatest. Rogers and Hammerstein at their best. Those two statements alone make this movie one of the greatest. I sing along, enjoy every second, and feel so much better after listening to "Climb Every Mountain" among all the amazing others.

8. Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (2004)
Even though it was only the third movie in this trilogy that won, everyone knew it was for the series as a whole, and really it's probably the greatest trilogy of all time. (And yes, I love Star Wars too). Peter Jackson created these epic masterpieces of Middle Earth just as I believe Tolkein would have done himself. The acting is impeccable, the music great, and the cinematography and scenes will make you desperately want to visit Middle Earth (or is it New Zealand?)

9. Casablanca (1944)
Even if you've never seen it, you'll feel like you've heard every line from this movie. And you probably have. But that's what makes it so epic. Almost every movie made after this took something from this masterpiece of black-and-white film-making. Innovative, beautiful, and once again some great acting make it another great one.

10. Gone With the Wind (1940)
Yes, it's four hours. But it's four hours of gloriousness. Not only is the music awesome, the acting incredible, and the story just plain epic, IT'S IN AMAZINGLY BEAUTIFUL TECHNICOLOR. In 1940. I was blown away by the cinematography. Nothing like it was seen for at least another twenty years. And if that isn't enough to convince you well, frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn. ;)

So there you have it. My top 10 best pictures. I'd appreciate any comments on agree/disagree.

And if you want a prediction for tonight here's a quick one: Best Picture is, I believe, between The Social Network and The King's Speech. The Social Network has the contemporary commentary that the Academy loves, but The King's Speech has the acting, cinematography, story-telling, and pretty much everything else. I'm thinking King's Speech.


Monday, February 7, 2011

Meet Brian Smoller

Ok K-State fans, time for another article on things you never knew about K-State sports. Well, maybe you did know some of this stuff, but hopefully it'll be enjoyable anyway.

I want to start with a brief history of K-State sportscasters. Not the most interesting topic, I know, but stay with me.

It essentially started with Mitch Holthus (above) in 1983, a Kansas State University graduate who was absolutely fantastic and just another memorable piece of Bill Snyder's greatest turnaround in college football history. He worked as the main play-by-play man for K-State men's basketball and football all the way up until 1996. That meant he was there for the key building years of Snyder's reign, including the first-ever K-State bowl victory in the 1993 Copper Bowl and another in the 1995 Holiday Bowl. He used a signature phrase, repeating "big, big, big, big" anytime something important happened for K-State. Holthus was amazing and may have even stayed at K-State forever if the Kansas City Chiefs hadn't come calling. Holthus has worked for them ever since, using a new catch phrase that I'm sure everyone knows. "Good for and a Kansas City Chiefs TOUCHDOOOOOOOOOWN!!!"

Replacing Holthus was another Kansas State graduate in Greg Sharpe (above). Sharpe was intelligent, easily likable, and great to listen to. Plus, he was a K-State guy, and that made it all the more fun. Sharpe was there through the real glory years: the win against Nebraska in 1998, the #1 ranking that same year, two 11-1 seasons in '97 and '99 and three other eleven-win seasons in '98, 2000, and 2002. Unfortunately Sharpe had a falling out with K-State when a new contract was formed because of a new radio service provider for K-State sports and Sharpe was left out. He continued working for WIBW in Topeka until just recently accepting a job with the Nebraska Cornhuskers as play-by-play man. The very fact that Nebraska was willing to hire someone from K-State should speak volumes for how good he really is.

Finally, in 2003, Wyatt Thompson (above right) took over as play-by-play man for Kansas State and is still in that role today. A native Kansan and former play-by-play man for Colorado State, Thompson is one of the friendliest people you'll ever meet, does a tremendous job with interviews and public relations events, and has a voice that is really very soothing. Unfortunately Thompson can be hard to follow at times. He doesn't very often say the score, what yard line the play is on, or how much time is left - all things essential for someone wanting to know the situation of the game. He knows the players and plays well and is certainly buoyed by his color man Stan Weber (above left), former quarterback at Kansas State, all of which make him acceptable for the time being.

So why do I bring this all up, you ask? Well, it is obvious that Thompson doesn't exactly stack up to K-State's former radio announcers. He's not much fun to listen to, as Holthus was, and he doesn't have quite the insight that came with Sharpe. So is there someone that might be better? I say there is, and you don't have to go far to find him.

Meet Brian Smoller (above), play-by-play man for K-State women's basketball, volleyball and part-time baseball for at least the last five years. If you've never heard him, click on the link below and listen to the enthusiasm in his voice as he calls plays for his beloved wildcats.

Do you year the enthusiasm? The clarity? The intelligence? The love for all things K-State? I sure do. And I love every second of it.

I've never heard Smoller call football, but he definitely knows basketball as good as if not better than Thompson. As far as accolades are concerned, both Smoller and Thompson have been awarded Kansas Sportscaster of the Year awards - Thompson in 1983 and Smoller in 2003. A bit of a difference, yes? Smoller undoubtedly has more enthusiasm than Thompson and really gets me going any time I listen to a K-State game (though it doesn't really take much), much like Thompson's predecessors. Smoller has more of the qualities of Sharpe and Holthus than Thompson does, and it becomes more and more apparent every year. Smoller also has more ties to K-State. His brother manages and his wife is in charge of K-State Athletic Department's Marketing. Quite the K-State family indeed. I'm not exactly saying that he should go ahead and replace Thompson, but I do know one thing for sure: at this moment, at K-State, the best sportscaster's name is Brian Smoller.