NBA Finals Preview

Coming off of their astonishing upset of the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Orlando Magic get to face the Los Angeles Lakers for the NBA title.  The Lakers of course are old hat.  This is the franchise’s 30th trip to the Finals and this bunch was the runner up to my beloved Celtics in the 2008 Finals.  Oh, that never gets old!

Anyway, with Game 1 on us as this is being typed and with the news of Jameer Nelson’s activation, things may have changed a bit.  Nelson is not 100% clearly, but he still averaged 28 points per game against the Lakers – he will help.  Otherwise, a quick breakdown:

CENTER – Dwight Howard vs Andrew Bynum … big edge to Orlando. Howard was magnificent in the last round, Bynum has been inconsistent all playoff long

POWER FORWARD – Rashard Lewis vs Pau Gasol … double sided mismatch.  Lewis will take Gasol way further than he wants to be, shooting threes at an insane clip.  However, Gasol can punish him down low.  Of course, the Lakers often forget to get him the ball, so could go either way.  Small edge Lakers in theory.

SMALL FORWARD – Hedo Turkoglyu vs Trevor Ariza … Ariza is a good complementary piece, but Turkoglu at 6’10” provides interesting matchup problems, he gets the edge

POINT GUARD – Rafer Alston vs Derek Fisher … Fisher has been lousy most of the postseason … Alston is wildly inconsistent, but hey, he has played big … edge to Magic but not by much

SHOOTING GUARD – Courtney Lee vs Kobe Bryant … edge Lakers

BENCH – Magic have gotten more production in the playoffs from Marcin Gortat, Mikael Pietrus and possibly Jameer Nelson.

BOTTOM LINE – the Lakers have some down low edges in depth and with Gasol.  They COULD punish the Magic, and that might be their modus operandi.  The Magic will shot a lot of 3s and if Howard plays well then there will be some openings.  But ultimately the 2-3-2 hurts the Magic.  Their home court edge is contingent upon beating LA three times in a row which is a very tall order against anybody.  Thus they might have to win twice in LA to win the title and that might be too much to ask.

Lakers in 7

Bangkok Joe’s

Well, after a brisk walk from my beloved Arlington, Virginia across the river to Georgetown, I decided to take a gander at the local Thai cuisine.  The trip took me to Bangkok Joe’s Dumpling Bar and Cafe.  Needless to say, the name piqud my interest.  Dumplings are obviously one of the world’s most perfect foods, so a place that makes a specialty of them – let’s say my hopes were raised.  Furthermore, when I went to the restaurant it was during its Thai New Year’s celebration – so more traditional special items.  Hooray!

But alas, the edifice of hope I had built up, the giddy anticipation was crushed in a quick series of blows.  First was the appetizer, Tri-Color Gems, three basic dumplings with minced pork in one, shrimp in the other, crabmeat in the third.  All of the dumplings were tough and sticky.  They all tasted rubbery and sinewy, like a Drunken Noodle Nightmare.  Then came the entree, the Kao Kruk Kapi, a rice dish with pork belly, salted baby shrimp, mango, shallots and egg.  This was better certainly, but the spice was modest compared to other Thai I have experienced, and for the price charged, not nearly enough.  The drink though, the Ginger Lemon Iced Tea, was delicious and refreshing.

The final blow was the bill of $70 for two people without alcohol.  While I cannot say anything too harsh about the restaurant, it was disappointing at any price, and for that price, even moreso.  If you have a car, driving out to Culmore or Rockville is many times more productive.

Machan

It is 2004. A couple of Ceyloni men are discussing the merits of certain good luck charms, and the prospects of forming a better life elsewhere. The conversation is robust, a little vulgar, and very easy going. Needless to say, we like these two men immediately. Soon thereafter, we get glimpses into their very very poor home lives – the money problems, the obligations. We are introduced to the sister of one of the men, who is contemplating a three year tour as a middle easterner’s maid to make some money for her husband and daughter. Everybody is suffering. The urgency to try to find the better life elsewhere has never been higher, but Stanley and Manoj (the latter who looks a bit like a Ceyloni Andy Kaufman), our heroes are thwarted by an immigration policy which desires Sri Lanka’s doctors and nurses, but not it’s weaker huddled masses. But then, while lamenting another failed attempt to get a visa to go to Europe, suddenly the heroes come upon a flyer for a handball tournament in Germany.

Thus is the setup for Italian director’s Uberto Pasolini’s Machan, shown as part of the Washington DC International Film Festival. Based on a true story, Machan is clearly intended as a foreign audience pleaser – trying to catch some of the same good fortune and word of mouth that vaulted movies such as The Full Monty, Tampopo, or Amelie international sensations. In fact, looking at the previous paragraph, if you strip away the cultural details and observations on poverty, what we have is, more or less, the setup for Dodgeball or Lagaan or any number of stories about charming plucky underdogs. If we did head down this direction, we might have had that audience pleasing classic that the filmmakers were targeting. What we are left with instead is a movie of tremendous charm with tremendously likable actors, but a film that strives for too many emotional notes, and is thus more uneven than it needed to be.

What do we mean by “too many emotional notes”? Well, for instance, neither Manoj nor Stanley know the first thing about team handball. So their quest to recruit teammates, find uniforms, come up with a team name, all play as human comedy. The team varies very very widely in age, height … and contain all the usual “types” you see in virtually any sports movie. In these scenes, we see the cheeky Full Monty sort of charm – it is funny stuff. However, juxtaposed with these scenes, we also see their home lives, and the very real stakes that they are playing for. We meet Suresh, Stanley’s brother in law (whose wife is the one looking into becoming a maid) who works in a hotel, and when we see how he reacts to his co-worker being replaced as a bathroom attendant by a hot air dryer, it is hard to watch. The flow between the two tones in uneasy – they almost seem like two different movies.  Another example is the sequence where Manoj makes a key decision about the Germany trip.

Overall, this is a good, but uneven film.  If it chose to stick with a cheekier tone (reminiscent of the comic scenes), Machan might have been a great audience entertainment.  As is, it is entertaining with good performances and a deep knowledge of Sri Lanka.  It was just too weighted down to fly.

Silliness, thy Name is Infomercials

* Well, on a slow work day like this, I could use a good joke – or a bad one for that matter.  Indeed, Roger Ebert and the unusually erudite commenters (if I ever get them, I’d pray they were as good) on his blog supply some levity.

However, for true silliness, where else to go but the land of INFOMERCIALS.  I must confess, I am a true sucker for them, especially on weekend mornings.  30 minute blurbs about products that seem so useful, that it is a miracle the free market has not caught up.  I mean you can just pen away car scratches, or cut through just about anything, or buy super cheap real estate, even make mini hamburgers!  Really, I am lucky I don’t have 100 “As Seen on TV” boxes in my apartment.

Obviously, though the best of all products is the Snuggie – the Blanket with Sleeves.  I admit, I watched the ad and wondered “do people really wear that to the game?”, but then I see that yes, yes they do.  It really is a phenomenon.  But now, you can enjoy your s’mores with them!  (hat tip, JoePos)  When the kids get that excited about the microwave, I don’t know how I can say anything bad about it.

Finally to end this rumination, a few words with Mr. T:

Timothy Bradley Jr vs Kendall Holt – 140 lb Unification and Regret

Well, for people who follow boxing, Ricky Hatton is the only legitimate champion in a very deep 140 lb “junior lightweight division”.  This past Saturday, while my DVR was working, Timothy Bradley and Kendall Holt – each of whom hold an alphabet title of some sort – fought a unification fight.  It is actually an important fight, something Showtime has been telling us for months, kind of tactily admitting how bare their championship boxing schedule actually is.  Both fighters won their straps over fairly significant competition – Bradley beating highly regarded Brit Junior Witter and Kendall Holt beating Ricardo Torres in a pretty eventful 60 seconds of boxing.

Anyway, after a very entertaining undercard fight … hell, how does something with Librado Andrade not be entertaining … we get to the fight from Montral (between a guy from California and one from Jersey – I do not understand this beloved sport sometimes).  And really, Kendall Holt will be talking to himself for the rest of his career, after such a desultory performance.

It is not as if Bradley is great shakes.  Bradley just worked.  The perfect microcosm of the fight took place in Round 1.  After Bradley was sort of plugging away, mixing punches, “boxing” in a classic textbook (albeit kind of plodding) manner.  Then out of nowhere, Holt lands a huge counter and knocks down Bradley.  In 99% of fights, this sort of knockdown – which hurt Bradley – would cause the knocker downer to step his pace up and try to really go after him.  But instead, he just went about his business.  There was a KO to be had, and Holt chose not to chase it.

With this second chance, Bradley just started working, and Holt let him.  It was really weird to see, as round after round was being given away just because Bradley worked harder.  Despite his jab knocking Bradley back every time, despite his power uppercut in the 9th round, Holt never went after him, and he gave rounds away.  At times, I just was not sure how much he wanted to be there – like he had a date he was missing for this.  Even in the 12th, with his corner pleading for Holt to come forward, nothing was going on – except for a flash knockdown in the 12th (actually a knee, really hard to say).  Holt’s lethargy directly led to his defeat, as it should have – Bradley just wanted it more.  The judges had it 114-112, 115-111, 115-111, all for Bradley.  I had it 114-112.

Holt could have had it, but he did not go after it.  And either way, Hatton is still the king.

MLB Preview – NL West

One division to go, click to see AL East, AL Central, AL West, NL East, NL Central

1. Los Angeles Dodgers

Manny helps them hit

Kershaw will rise help them pitch

But no win ninety

2. San Francisco Giants

Lincecum Cain rock

Bursting at seams with youngsters

Good offseason too

3. Arizona Diamondbacks

So much young talent

But has underperformed some

Chris Young must rise up

4. Colorado Rockies

Pennant winner once

Still have Tulo and young arms

Could see them winning

5. San Diego Padres

Huge ballpark effect

But where will runs emerge from

Adrian needs help