Fight Night

shutterstock_220973980-0

This weekend I got together with some friends for a house party. The excuse for the gathering was to watch the Sergey Kovalev vs. Andre Ward boxing match, but in reality only handful of guest stuck around to watch the fight (which ended around 1 am). I’m not a boxing fan – I’d never heard of either of these boxers – but I if I am put in a position to watch a match I usually enjoy it. I’m still learning about boxing – understanding the scoring system is a work in progress – and it can be a little brutal to watch, but there is also something a little poetic about boxing. Most of the boxing that I was exposed to when I was younger were Mike Tyson fights, which were often quick knockouts, but as I start watching more evenly booked matches that are won by decision, I’ve found that I like those more (as long as something happens – the Mayweather/Pacquiao fight was a snoozefest).

Since I have boxing on the brain and today is coincidentally the 40th anniversary of Rocky being released in theaters, this seemed like as good a time as any to take a look at some of my favorite boxing movies. Boxing has been a fertile subject for movies and there have been plenty of good ones, even beyond the Rocky franchise.

Creed

creed-jordan-stallone-xlarge

All the Rocky movies are generally enjoyable – though I’ve never seen the much maligned Rocky V – but I think the latest installment may be the best of the bunch. Michael B. Jordan was great as Apollo Creed’s son and Sylvester Stallone did some of the best work of his career in a more supporting role. Creed got my blood pumping and totally reinvigorated a franchise that just refuses to die. This was one of my favorite movies of last year and I look forward to continue collaborations between Jordan and director Ryan Coogler. They bring out the best in each other. My only complaint? It was hard to watch Jordan get hit in his beautiful face; I haven’t seen Jake Gyllenhaal’s Southpaw yet for much the same reason.

 

The Fighter

_TF76229.NEF

_TF76229.NEF

Christian Bale rightfully won the Oscar for his depiction of Dicky Eklund in this movie; he totally steals every scene that he’s in and provides a much needed foil to Mark Wahlberg’s Mickey Ward. This movie is as much about familial relationship as it is about boxing, and provides what I’ve heard is a pretty accurate depiction of Lowell, MA. Amy Adams and Melissa Leo are also great.

The Hurricane

The Hurricane

Obviously there is a lot more going on The Hurricane than your typical boxing movie, but Rubin Carter’s identity as a boxer and the dashing of his dream to win the middleweight boxing title add another layer of tragedy to his false arrest. He “coulda been a contender,” but that was all lost when he was wrongly convicted for a triple murder. Denzel Washington is great as always.

Real Steel

3f5133bf47a56f96310e602616d56991

I am not going to argue that Real Steel is a good movie. It is not. But considering it is a film about robot boxing, it was much better than it had any right to be. I may have set the bar pretty low for this one, but I did enjoy it. I was surprisingly invested in the outcome and since the movie featured robot combatants, I felt less guilty about the inherent violence.

Now it’s your turn – what are your favorite movies about boxing? Sound off in the comments.

Philadelphia Pop Culture

556_i_love_philadelphia

This weekend, after the 4th of July holiday, I’ll be headed to Philadelphia for a few days to attend a concert. I’m very excited – not only to see Jay Z and Beyoncé, but also to get the chance to explore a city that I haven’t had the fortune to spend much time in to date. Though Philly is less than 4 hours from Albany, I’ve only been to the City of Brotherly Love twice – once to see a Phillies game last year and once when I was a kid visiting family in nearby Trenton. I’ve seen Philadelphia from the highway on several road trips to Baltimore or Washington D.C., but sadly have never had time to stop. My two previous visits were fine, but fairly narrow in focus – we went to a museum with my family and I only went to the baseball stadium on my last trip. I haven’t even seem the basics, like the Liberty Bell or Independence Hall which is sacrilege for someone who spent a fair amount of time in graduate school studying and teaching the founding period of our country. This time around, I’ve cleared out some time specifically to see more of the city; since it is the 4th of July weekend and the place will probably be crawling with visitors, I’m opting to mostly skip the major tourist attractions and am focusing more on restaurants and breweries this time around. If I’m only going to be in town for a little over 24 hours, I don’t want to spend most of that waiting in line. But I do plan to check out some of the neighborhoods and better orient myself for future visits. I really need to take advantage of the fact that the city is relatively close by.

Though I may not know much about Philadelphia from personal experience, I certainly know about the city’s many contributions to pop culture. As one of the country’s oldest cities, Philly has long held a place of prominence in the world of arts and entertainment. So it’s not surprising that there are a lot of connections to the city in recent pop culture. A city that gave us the cheesesteak certainly has a lot to offer.

I’m not a local, so I’m sure that I’m missing some major Philadelphia related pop culture – for that I apologize in advance. One thing I do know is that you don’t want the good people of Philadelphia mad at you 🙂 But as a pop culture connoisseur, when I hear Philadelphia, the following things immediately pop to mind:

The Roots

roots

Arguably the greatest house band of all time, I was familiar with The Roots before they teamed up with Jimmy Fallon but there is no doubt that their stints on Late Night and The Tonight Show have opened them up to a wider audience. They are ridiculously talented musically – that was never in doubt – but the real surprise was just how darn funny they can be. My love for Jimmy Fallon is well established, but even I recognize that without The Roots by his side, his show wouldn’t be nearly as good; they provide him a deep bench of talented people that he can draw on for a musical number or a sketch. They are so versatile and can seemingly do anything. The Roots proudly represent their Philly roots (ha!) and often make reference to their hometown. They are great ambassadors, since they are now the first thing I think of when I think of Philadelphia. In fact, I’ll miss the free concert that The Roots organize every 4th of July in Philly, but I’ll get to see them Labor Day weekend in Boston at a music festival.

Rocky

Rocky

I don’t know how it is possible to think of Philadelphia and not think of the Rocky films, since the city was basically a character in so many of the films. While I do plan to skip a lot of the more touristy things that the city has to offer, I think I will make an exception to run (or walk – depends on how humid it is) up the stairs of the Philadelphia Museum of Art and check out the Rocky statue. I may even punch a slab of meat if given the opportunity. Rocky III was probably my first exposure to Philadelphia, so it only seems right that I pay my respects.

 

It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia

itsalwayssunny-cast-outside-lookingup

I mean – Philadelphia is right there in the title! This FX comedy may be about a group of terrible people who are friends, but they do right by the city in which the show is set. There have been several Philly specific storylines over the years, mostly having to do with the local sports teams. The opening credits of the show also highlights the city; it was shot on the cheap using a handheld video camera as they drove around the city and they haven’t’ replaced it since the show has become successful and has a real budget. Rob McElhenney and Kaitlin Olsen even co-own a bar in Philly, though sadly it looks a lot nicer than Paddy’s Pub.

 

Will Smith

images

“In West Philadelphia, born and raised” is more than just lyrics to the theme song for The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air; actor and former rapper Will Smith is from Philadelphia and often pays tribute to his hometown by wearing Philly sports attire or dropping a reference or two in his songs. Of course, the theme song is probably his most notable Philadelphia pop culture reference as he turned life into art by making his fictional character on the show hail from Philly. The great store Pop Culture Lab even has this print for sale, commemorating the epic journey of young Will.

P-FreshPrince_Main_500x669_A_1024x1024

 

Hall & Oates

Photo of Hall & Oates

I have no idea why I know that Hall & Oates hails from Philadelphia, but I do and know you do too. Recently inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (introduced by fellow Philadelphian Questlove), Hall & Oates dominated the airwaves in the 70s and 80s with some of the catchiest tunes of the era. That’s right – I like Hall & Oates, which only furthers my obsession with questionable music. I dare you to listen to “Rich Girl” and not sing along and God help you if you hear “Private Eyes” and don’t clap along. And they seriously had some of the most glorious facial hair in rock and roll. During their induction speech, they lamented the lack of Philadelphia representation in the Hall, an omission that seems ludicrous to me with all the musical talent out of the city.

 

The Philly Phanatic

phanatic

The Phanatic may be the mascot for the Philadelphia Phillies, but he is an institution upon himself. I’m not a huge fan of mascots – blame that on the Yankees not using mascots for most of their existence – but I’ll be damned if the Phanatic hasn’t won me over. He’s probably my favorite sports mascot behind Bernie the Brewer. I have no idea what it is about the Phanatic that appeals to me; he is definitely among the more spirited of the mascots out there and he just looks ridiculous, which perhaps I find charming. Whatever it is, I can’t think of Philadelphia without thinking of this green guy.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg; there’s plenty more Philadelphia inspired or connected pop culture. There’s the Oscar winning film Philadelphia, which was just too depressing to include on the list, as well as Silver Linings Playbook, which uses Philadelphia for its backdrop. I can’t wait to see what else I uncover during my weekend getaway. What’s your favorite Philly pop culture? Sound off in the comments below.

 

Pop Culture Odds and Ends – Condensed Edition

Y’all will unfortunately have to make do with a shorter version of the pop culture roundup this week. It’s still chock full o’ awesome, but between endless meetings and vacation days my week has shaped up to be all sorts of crazy this week. I’m doing lots of cool stuff that I’ll blog about, but right now I am less than 12 hours from a trip to NYC and I have not even begun to plan out my day in the big apple. So while I scour the internet and plan my mass transit route, enjoy the more manageable collection of pop culture stories that you may have missed in the last two weeks.

  • If you live in any of these cities, PLEASE take a picture for me of one of these Breaking Bad inspired car washes. Nothing cool like this ever happens in Albany.
  • Speaking of Jay Z, he made a performance art film of his appearance at the Pace Gallery last month:

 

  • Christian Bale has hung up the Bat Suit; here are six actors that Warner is reportedly considering for the role. May I humbly suggest one actor that they overlooked – Jon Hamm.
  • Billy Bob Thorton will star in the FX adaption of Fargo. Still think this is a bad idea.
  • Watch a Greendale Community College recruitment video:

 

  • Breaking Bad: The Middle School Musical. OUTSTANDING.

 

  • The music video for Mumford & Sons “Hopeless Wanderer” features a lot of familiar faces:

 

  • The O.C. debuted ten years ago this week – Vulture put together a superfan quiz to celebrate. I got a depressing 35 right; I’ll let you decide if I am depressed that I got 35 right or if I’m depressed that I only got 35 correct.
  • Oprah interviewed Lindsay Lohan for a special that will air on August 18th on OWN. Oprah is getting desperate for ratings; that being said, I will probably watch.

 

  • Speaking of Lohan – she guest hosted Chelsea Lately last night:

 

  • Soleil Moon Frye (better known as 80s style icon Punky Brewster) is taking over hosting duties on OWN’s show Home Made Simple.
  • This doesn’t make me happy – Jack White’s ex-wife has filed a restraining order against him and called him an unfit parent.
  • Yo Gabba Gabba is one weird show, but I’ll watch anything with Josh Holloway on it:

 

He can sing too? Swoon.

  • These were the original opening credits for Dexter, which Showtime deemed “too dark” to use:

 

  • Stream the new The Civil Wars album online.
  • If you loved playing Oregon Trail as much as I did back in the day, Mental Floss has a cool story on its history and development.
  • I kind of wish this live action Daria was a real thing (La-la-la):

 

  • Stephen Colbert and Hugh Laurie decided to recite all the vulgar words that you are allowed to say on basic cable:

 

You want trailers? We got trailers.

  • Diana (starring Naomi Watts)

 

  • Enough Said (James Gandolfini’s last role)

 

  • Muppets Most Wanted (wait……was that Diddy?)

 

  • Lone Survivor (Taylor Kitsch and Mark Wahlberg)

 

  • Can’t leave out TV – American Horror Story: Coven

 

  • Sherlock, Season 3

 

  • Ha! The Jimmy Kimmel/Matt Damon war wages on:

 

As always, we conclude with the Mash-ups and Supercuts

  • The new Doctor has been selected – Peter Capaldi will take over the title role after this season. To celebrate, here is a very NSFW mashup of Doctor Who footage and some of Capaldi’s previous roles (which involved frequent use of the F word)

 

  • A guy on reddit created a facial composite of all the actors that have played Superman in the modern age and the results ain’t too shabby:
created by reddit user morphinapg

created by reddit user morphinapg

  • Sesame Street does Sons of Anarchy:

 

  • They were busy over on “the Street;” Cookie Monster found time to cover Icona Pop:

 

  • A supercut of all the Breaking Bad scenes filmed from below:

 

  • Justin Timberlake’s “My Love” performed in 13 different styles:

 

  • Wolverine: A Movie by Woody Allen

 

  • Game of Thrones meets Buffy the Vampire Slayer:

 

  • 177 episodes of House in 7 minutes:

 

  • Star Wars characters dancing to “Blurred Lines”

 

Chewbacca has some sweet moves!

  • And finally…a Weird Al/Breaking Bad mash-up? Makes total sense to me.