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Aug 21, 2016

Top 10 Takeaways from the Rio 2016 Olympic Games

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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

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

Okay I admit, enderzero.net 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

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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

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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

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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!

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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

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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

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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.

RAMIFICATIONS OF A USAvPOR DRAW TOMORROW:
+ 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.

RAMIFICATIONS OF A USA LOSS TO POR TOMORROW:
+ 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

RAMIFICATIONS OF A USA VICTORY OVER POR TOMORROW:
+ 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    
Jun 17, 2014

World Cup 2014: Round 1 Power Rankings & Top 5 Fixtures of Round 2

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It’s become a bit of a tradition for me to order the teams at major soccer tournaments with my Power Rankings. Now that we are one round into the Group Stages of the Brazil World Cup, it seems a good time to give it another go. These completely subjective rankings are based mostly on performance in the first match and to a lesser degree on group difficulty/chances of advancing. Numbers in parenthesis are the FIFA World Rankings from before the tourney.

1. Germany (2) – The team that topped my list after one round in 2010 makes it back to the top to start things out in 2014 after their handy 4-nil dismantling of a FIFA 4th ranked Portugal team. Even with their only true striker being the unfielded Klose, the potent midfield play and attacking threat of Mueller, Ozil, and Gotze look like they will prove more than a match for any of the less-than-impressive defenses we’ve seen on display so far.

2. Argentina (5) – In a tournament with way more goals than we’ve seen in past years, it might make sense to tip the squad with the most attacking threat to go the furthest. In that case, you’d be hard pressed not to bet on Messi, Aguero, Di Maria and co., even if they did only score 2 against a pretty decent Bosnian squad. If it comes down to a shootout, it’s hard not to see this team going home the victors.

3. Brazil (3) – While Oscar has looked fantastic and Neymar quite dangerous, the vaunted “most expensive center-back pairing ever” of David Luiz and Thiago Silva have been less than convincing. Still, this is a strong Brazil playing at the Brazil World Cup and you have to think if they start firing on all cylinders, they’re going to be very hard to stop.

4. Holland (15) – The shocker of the tourney so far was the 5-1 thrashing The Netherlands put down on cup-holders Spain. But let’s be honest, many predicted a Spain-in-decline at this World Cup – they just perhaps didn’t think it would be such a complete collapse. There is no doubt that the Dutch have a great squad buoyed by a young back line that mostly plays together in Holland and the potent tandem of Robben and van Persie up front, but it remains to be seen if this team with a long history of falling apart on the big stage can keep it together down the road.

5. France (17) – Quite possibly the most surprised I’ve been by the form of any of the big teams was the all-around play of France in their 3-0 defeat of Honduras. Granted Honduras is one of the worst teams of the tourney and came out with the perceived game plan of just kicking France until they give up. Nonetheless, Benzema is looking like a would-be Golden Boot wearer and France has a tendency to win big when they play well.

6. Italy (9) – The Azzurri’s talisman Andrea Pirlo might be getting a bit slow at age 35, but their new look with the young 21-year-old Marco Verratti at his side proved a great decision and propelled Italy to a narrow victory over a talented England side.

7. Colombia (8) – No Falcao, no problem. A rampant Colombia made short order of Greece with dominant forward play from Teo Gutierrez and J.Rod. A relatively easy group should see them advance in first where they’ll likely come up against England or Uruguay in the Round of 16.

8. Belgium (11) – While their performance in the first hour of play versus Algeria was less than impressive, the Belgian team figured it out with a few key substitutes and were able to find 3 points. This squad has so much talent that as they continue to play together, they should continue to improve, and could be a force to be reckoned with in the knockout stages.

9. Switzerland (6) – Spots 9 and 10 were a bit of a toss up for me but I give the slight edge to the Swiss who are my pick to come out in the second spot of Group E. Based on Honduras’s performance against the French, the Swiss should make short work of them in their final match (though I think they’ll fall short when up against France). The fact they’ll likely play Argentina in the first knockout round is probably bad news, however.

10. Chile (14) – Chile are a good team, no doubt, but the 3-1 score line over Australia makes the game sound a bit more one-sided than it actually was. It seems Chile’s hopes to advance really come down to tomorrow’s match versus Spain, the winner of which will likely get the second spot in Group B and the prize of facing Brazil.

11. England (10) – The first team without points to make the list, the England squad showed plenty of talent in the first hour of the match before turning to jello in the Manaus heat. Hodgson still seems to be doing some experimenting with his mostly Liverpool side, but there was nothing I saw versus Italy that made me think they couldn’t handily beat Uruguay and Costa Rica.

12. Spain (1) – The reigning World Cup and Euro Cup champs looked like shit for all but the first 30 minutes or so of their embarrassment against Holland. Their back line is in shambles and they simply don’t have the scoring threat that made them so unstoppable in tournaments past. Spain fans will remind you that they lost their first match in South Africa to Switzerland (and we know how that ended), and perhaps the big loss will snap them out of their malaise. But if I was a betting man (and I am), I would not be putting money on Spain to advance.

13. USA (13) – Coincidentally matching their FIFA world rank, I’ve put USA at 13 because there is still a very tough road ahead and frankly, we are a bit beat up. But the emotion involved in yesterday’s win versus Ghana might just be enough to carry us to a result against a very questionable Portugal side. I doubt many USA fans look at our Round of 16 run in South Africa as anything but a success. That was a much easier group, but the emotion of the Algeria match made it seem all the more epic. Getting out of this year’s group of death would be an incredible feat by any standards and big improvement on four years ago.

14. Costa Rica (28) – Punching well above their weight, Costa Rica looked very good against a Suarez-less Uruguay. They’ve got a couple big matches coming versus Italy and England, but if their form keeps up, who knows what might happen.

15. Mexico (20) – Pundits seemed to make a lot about the 1-0 win versus Cameroon, but I wasn’t too impressed. Still, Miguel Herrera has no doubt turned El Tri around and they certainly have a shot at advancing if they can get a result in their last match versus Croatia.

16. Ivory Coast (23) – What a difference a Drogba can make. Even though he wasn’t directly involved in the goals, Drogba’s presence on the pitch in the 60th minute seemed to simultaneously vitalize Cote d’Ivoire and terrify Japan whose 1-0 victory turned to a 2-1 defeat in 100 seconds. A result against Greece and it should be enough to see Ivory Coast finally make the knockout stage of the World Cup.

17. Bosnia (21) – While Dzeko failed to make much of an impact, Bosnia put up a respectable fight against Argentina in their 2-1 defeat. Given they only have Iran and Nigeria to deal with in Group F, they should be in decent shape to advance in their first ever World Cup.

18. Portugal (4) – Yikes. Portugal’s performance versus Germany was pretty much the worst case scenario for the Iberians save a CR7 injury. The Pepe red card was idiotic and injuries to Coentrao and Almeida are very bad news for the squad’s chance to advance. Still, Portugal is ranked 4 by FIFA for a reason and if Ronaldo turns it on in Manaus, the USA could still be in plenty of trouble.

19. Russia (19) – They couldn’t quite get firing on all cylinders versus S. Korea, but there is talent on Russia no doubt, as evidenced by the quick answering goal by Kherzikov. But the silly mistake by goalkeeper Akinfeev means there is plenty of growing to do in the team as they look towards hosting the Cup in 2018.

20. Croatia (18) – Like their brothers in Bosnia, the Croatians also took a loss to a tourney fave in Brazil. Unlike the Bosnians, Croatia has a tougher final game in Mexico. With no points in the bank yet, it’s hard to get too excited about their chances.

21. Uruguay (7) – This could prove to be a very silly decision to put Uruguay all the way down at 21 if Luis Suarez comes back and starts burying goals like when he wears red. But based on the gutless performance versus Costa Rica, there is nothing to be optimistic about for Uruguay fans if that doesn’t happen.

22. Algeria (22) – I was actually pretty impressed by the Algeria team in their match versus Belgium. Some have called them the France B-team and they showed speed and ingenuity on the pitch. That said, I still haven’t seen enough of their play to tell if they have a chance to advance. A big win against Korea could see them shoot up in the Power Rankings.

23. Ecuador (26) – It certainly isn’t over for Ecuador, but the common reprise that Ecuador only wins at elevation seems to hold some water as the loss to Switzerland with France still to play could mean their time in Brazil will be rather short lived.

24. Japan (46) – The Japanese team looked pretty good for the first hour of the match versus Ivory Coast. But the squad just ran out of ideas and certainly couldn’t come back once they went down to the far more physical Elephants. Might they find some points against Greece? Sure. But chances of doing the same against Colombia are far less likely.

25. Ghana (37) – Just like the USA, Ghana had to win their first match in order to have any hope of advance. Well… they didn’t. Heh.

26. South Korea (57) – Korea might have managed to get a point out of their match with Russia, but I think it’s going to be their only point of the tourney with a talented Algeria next and Belgium to follow.

27. Australia (62) – There is a whole World Cup worth of teams that didn’t make the World Cup ranked higher than Australia in the FIFA world rankings but the Socceroos looked pretty decent against Chile. Do they have a chance of advancing from Group B which also includes Holland and Spain? Frankly, no.

28. Greece (12) – FIFA’s ranking of Greece as 12 seems like the most egregious error of the table after watching their anemic performance versus Colombia.

29. Iran (43) – While they looked rather athletic running around out there, the Iranians are just not in the same league as the rest of the teams in Brazil (and obviously neither are the Nigerians).

30. Cameroon (56) – Perhaps I’m being a bit harsh on Cameroon but it’s pretty clear that Eto’o is old and this team looks like they are going nowhere in the very tough Group A.

31. Nigeria (44) – While Klinsmann scheduled the USA’s final warm up match versus Nigeria because of their similar style to Ghana, it was very clear from the match against Iran that Nigeria is no Ghana.

32. Honduras (33) – Somehow over the years, Honduras has become the CONCACAF team it is okay for USA fans to like. Well sorry Honduras, but you looked like amateurs against France and I don’t really like you that much.

My 2nd Round Top 5 Matches:
5. Colombia vs. Ivory Coast (Thurs.)
4. Spain vs. Chile (Weds.)
3. Italy vs. Costa Rica (Fri.) or Uruguay vs. England (Thurs.)
2. Switzerland vs France (Fri.)
1. USA vs. Portugal (Sun.)

I’ll try to follow up with more power ranking in a few days after the second round has wrapped up.

Posted by enderzero at 6:15pm on Jun. 17, 2014    
Feb 23, 2014

Top 10 Highs & Lows from Sochi 2014

sochi2014collage-close

The last two weeks have absolutely flown by (hmm, that might be an exaggeration) but the Sochi 2014 flame has been extinguished and all eyes now turn to Rio 2016 and the next Summer Games. Before we get ahead of ourselves, here is a look back at my Top 10 moments of the Sochi Winter Games — both the hits and the misses.

See the list

Posted by enderzero at 5:58pm on Feb. 23, 2014    
Feb 7, 2014

Sochi 2014 Olympics – Ryland’s TV & Streaming Highlights

sochi2014collage

It’s Winter Olympics time again and anyone who was around four years ago will remember just how damned excited I get for the Games. USA won the total medal count last games with 37 with host country Canada winning the most Golds (14 to USA’s 9). Russia finished way back in the pack with only 3 gold medals and 15 medals total. That was good enough for sixth place (behind Austria). You can bet the Ruskies are going to be looking for some redemption.

UPDATE: I’ve created a Public Google Calendar with all of the event discussed in this post. See the Calendar below.

Click here for all the fun

Posted by enderzero at 7:03pm on Feb. 7, 2014    
Dec 30, 2013

Ryland’s Top 50 Films of 2013 (+ 3 Most Overrated)

Another year of great cinema is coming to an end. Many have called it the best year in some time. I’m not so sure I agree. But there were some fantastic films and I saw a whopping 192 that qualified for my list. I’ve narrowed it down to a mere 50 for you to peruse, plus I’ve added three films to the bottom whose critical support made me all angry. For most films, I’ve included my reaction tweet to give you a bit of insight as to what I was thinking the moment I walked out of the theater. Check out the list and let me know where you think I dropped the ball.

See the full list

Posted by enderzero at 4:16pm on Dec. 30, 2013    
Jul 5, 2013

Producing Reel

Here is the one-link-stop for the public videos for both features produced by Ryland Aldrich:

SNAP (Teaser trailer)
Directed by Youssef Delara & Victor Teran
Produced by Ryland Aldrich, Amir Delara, Youssef Delara, and Victor Teran

A stylish psychological thriller set against the underground dub step DJ scene that takes the audience on a dark and terrifying journey into the depths of the psychopathic mind as it threatens to explode into horrific violence.

SNAP premiered at SXSW 2013. It will make its international debut in London at Film4 FrightFest on August 23, 2013. SNAP will be released theatrically in the US in 2014.
@SnapMovie on Twitter | SNAP on Facebook

 

DO YOU DREAM IN COLOR? (Fundraising promo)
Directed by Sarah Ivy Dickerson & Abigail Fuller
Produced by Ryland Aldrich, Sarah Ivy Dickerson, Abigail Fuller, and Regina Saldivar

Do You Dream in Color? is a feature documentary that follows four blind high school students as they pursue
their unique dreams over the course of a year. Although separated geographically, the teens are connected by
their shared experiences and determination. The film brings the audience inside the lives of the teens and gives
us a deeper understanding of how the blind perceive the world via animated interpretations of sleeping dreams
and the subjects’ life experiences.

DO YOU DREAM IN COLOR? is currently in the final stages of post production and looking towards a 2014 festival debut.
DoYouDreamInColor.org

Posted by enderzero at 2:03pm on Jul. 5, 2013    
Apr 22, 2013

Found Media

foundmedia4

While doing some cleaning up of old boxes of media, I found a few piles of disks and discs worth documenting here for posterity’s sake before sending them to the city media recycler.

Check out the full images after the break (click for larger). If you can see the product ids, you can have em.

Check out the shareware disc Absolute Mahem with such awesome DOS titles as:

Doom- Knee Deep In The Dead
Corridor 7- Special Edition
Depth Dwellers- The Quest
Terminator Rampage- Special Edition
Shadowcaster- Special Edition
Megatron
Catacomb Abyss
Nightmare 3-D
Raptor- Call Of The Shadows
Blake Stone- Aliens Of Gold
Wolfenstein 3-D
Spear Of Destiny.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted by enderzero at 7:29pm on Apr. 22, 2013    
Apr 5, 2013

Nutrition Tips with a Fuckin Atitiude

thugkitchen_avocado_600

I’m cracking up over the site ThugKitchen.

Here are a couple more:

thugkitchen_dickcancer_600

thugkitchen_fujamba_jamba

Plenty more at ThugKitchen.com.

Thanks Dan!

Posted by enderzero at 1:52pm on Apr. 5, 2013    
Feb 18, 2013

First Korean Pull Quote for Stoker

stokerkoreanquote_sm

There’s a first time for everything, I suppose the saying goes. This clipping was just sent to me from Twitch South Korean correspondent Pierce Conran who spotted the advertisement for Park Chan-wook’s Stoker. The translation is something along the lines of “Director Park Chan-wook shows his best direction,” which was taken as a translation of sorts from the sentiment in my Sundance First Impression piece STOKER Delivers on Director Park’s Brand. As is often the case, the quote is attributed to the site only. Too bad, as it would have been fun to see my name translated phonetically into Korean.

Posted by enderzero at 1:10pm on Feb. 18, 2013    
Feb 3, 2013

Manchester City v. Liverpool (2/3/2012) – 3 Quick Thoughts

city-v-liverpool

Billed by Fox as the GB4G (Game Before the Game), it’s going to be hard for this afternoon’s big handegg competition to match the athleticism on display in this morning’s Manchester City versus Liverpool Premier League match. Here are my three quick thoughts from the match:

Let them play – Referee Anthony Taylor issued six yellow cards in the match. Fouls by Henderson and Carragher, in particular, were in the run of a fast paced game that were arguable fouls and definitely not dangerous enough to see yellow cards. It’s the pace of the English game that makes it so enjoyable and breaking it up with questionable stoppages is a frustrating exercise.

Steven Gerrard’s goal was brilliant, but he’s looking old – Yes, Stevie G’s strike from 30 yards out was a beaut, but it was his only impressive moment of the match. Questionable passes and a lack of pace make Gerrard look like he’s playing in a different era. With the form of Jordan Henderson and Joe Allen waiting in the wings, might we soon see Gerrard starting more matches from the bench?

Glen Johnson is phenomenal – While he has long been a great example of the modern attacking defender, Glen Johnson has developed into one of the most formidable defenders, period. His sense of right-place, right-time was the very best on the pitch whether in an offensive or defensive capacity. With his incredible skills in the air and on the ground on their best display, I’m considering Johnson my man of the match.

Posted by enderzero at 12:02pm on Feb. 3, 2013    
Jan 13, 2013

Ryland’s Top 50 Films of 2012 (+ 5 Most Overrated)

top10of12

Oh boy! It’s end of the year reflection time once again. 2012 was another great year on the festival beat with trips to Sundance, SXSW, Cannes, LA Film Fest, Toronto International Film Fest, Fantastic Fest, AFI Fest, and the Amazonas Film Fest making for plenty of hot butt-on-theater-seat action. When it was all said and done (and assuming I kept my records straight), 178 movies qualified for my 2012 list. Each of these films either played at a festival or in theatrical release in 2012, but did not qualify for last year’s list. That’s why some movies that showed up on many critics’ 2012 list, such as Joachim Trier’s Oslo August, 31st, won’t be found here. That film was on my 2011 list (at #3, no less).

Still, there were plenty of potential chart middlers that I was unable to get to. Some popular titles that have made their way to other lists include Amour, Life of Pi, Wreck-it-Ralph, Tabu, Polisse,This is Not a Film, and Total Recall. Sorry — can’t see em all.

As like past lists, I’ve included my original tweet (sometimes a couple) that usually serves as my initial reaction to the film. I’ve also included a link if I reviewed the film on Twitch. This year I’ve also endeavored to include the distribution status for each film so you can know where to find it. Please take the time to drop me a note and let me know your thoughts.

On to the list!

Posted by enderzero at 9:26am on Jan. 13, 2013    
Jan 3, 2013

Unapologetic Top 10 Albums of 2012

top10albumsof2012

Let me start things off with an apology.

I have done a pretty awful job of staying up to date on new music throughout 2012. I believe I gave a somewhat similar disclaimer in 2011, but this year I’ve been even less diligent. So here are the albums that found their way to me throughout the year (or that I scrambled to listen to and love in the last few weeks of 2012).

10. Beach House – Bloom
This is actually the fourth album from the Baltimore-based “dream pop” (according to Wikipedia) duo who pretty much burst onto my radar with 2010’s Sub Pop debut Teen Dream. Their latest brings more, umm, dreamy vocals and synthesizer to the otherwise indie-sounding riffs. It may be more of the same, but if you liked Teen Dream, you’ll like this one too.

9. Japandroids – Celebration Rock
Though this Vancouver rock-duo’s 2009 debut Post-Nothing didn’t quite make my list that year, I have enjoyed it quite a bit since and the band’s follow-up is more of the same fun-loving, energetic, indie-thrash. These guys may not be the kind of band you yearn to listen to on repeat, but they’ve got a cool sound and should continue to put out solid albums.

8. Sigur Ros – Valtari
Winning the award for 2012’s best album to go to sleep to (a coveted award in my book), the latest aural sensory experience from the prolific Icelandic band is another journey over craggy glaciers and volcanoes in a high speed helicopter. I want to drift off to dreamland just thinking about it.

7. Passion Pit – Gossamer
While I recognize their stuff isn’t for everyone (I like dudes with high voices, okay?), anyone who was into their first album (#6 on my 2009 Top 10) will have to admit they’ve produced a pretty decent sophomore follow-up. Oddly, their single “Take A Walk” is the least like the first album, but the rest of the album delivers the same dancey-indie rock found on Manner.

6. Soundgarden – King Animal
Soundgarden releasing a new studio album this year is a pretty big fucking deal! So why isn’t it higher on my list? Frankly it just came out too late. I haven’t got to spend enough time with it yet to really determine where it ranks in the discography of my all-time favorite band. I can say it sure doesn’t sound like the Seattle rockers took over 15 years between Down on the Upside and King Animal with songs like “A Thousand Days Before” sounding straight out of the 90s. They haven’t missed a step on stage either (as I was lucky enough to learn twice in 2011). Next up for me is King Animal Tour at the Wiltern in February. I better get to listenin’ before then.

5. Bloc Party – Four
It has been a steep downward slide for these Brit rockers since their 2005 Silent Alarm topped many best-of lists (it’s still in my regular rotation). Their next couple albums were disappointments which lead to a four-year hiatus. But 2012 has found a rejuvenated Bloc Party and a much improved (albeit unimaginatively named) fourth album on a new label and produced by Alex Newport who made his name producing At The Drive-In and The Mars Volta. What resulted might not have quite the raw energy of Silent Alarm, but it’s certainly got the mature licks of a band that’s telling the world they aren’t about to just fade away forever.

4. Metric – Synthetica
It’s been a good year for Toronto-rockers Metric with the release of their fifth album and a partnership with David Cronenberg and Howard Shore that saw the band record a number of songs for the film Cosmopolis. Synthetica picks up where Fantasies (#7 on my 2009 Top 10) left off, with the same single-style driving electro-rock hits. The A-side is a bit stronger than the B with tracks “Speed The Collapse” and “Breathing Underwater” showcasing the band at their best.

3. Tame Impala – Lonerism
It was only last year (well, 2011) at Coachella that I discovered this Perth band and I’ve listened to the shit out of their 2010 psychedelic-rock release Innerspeaker since. So it’s no surprise that their much praised follow-up makes it to a prime spot on my list. I’m happy to say they’ve only improved live since 2011 with their November Fonda Theater show at the very top of the best shows I saw in 2012. Don’t miss them if you get the chance.

2. John Mayer – Born and Raised
Okay, now you see why I said unapologetic up top. Fuck it. I like John Mayer. And frankly his albums have pretty much always been great examples of contemporary guitar-based rock and roll (okay, I didn’t love 2009’s Battle Studies, but Continuum was a masterpiece). Yes, his celebrity will probably always overshadow his musical notoriety, but that aside, the man is a brilliant song writer and Born and Raised barely puts a note down wrong.

1. Hot Chip – In Our Heads
I don’t know if you could have two albums more different than my number one and two picks, but in the end I had to go with Brit-electro-rockers Hot Chip’s latest because of how excellently it represents music in 2012. These guys have picked up LCD Soundsystem‘s flag and are running with it full speed (oh and Cut Copy didn’t put out an album this year). Hot Chip’s music is just so much fun — and that’s what gets me to keeping going back and playing the album over and over. It is frankly impossible to listen to the retro-inspired dance/electro/pop/rock anthem “Motion Sickness” and not dance along. Don’t believe me? Go try it right now. I’ll see you next year.

Honorable mentions go to Frank Ocean‘s channel ORANGE (well “Pyramids” at least), Grizzly Bear‘s Shields, and Keane‘s Strangeland, which, like their last album, had two amazingly good songs (“You Are Young” and “Sovereign Light Cafe”) and a whole bunch of mediocre ones.

Aight folks. Your turn. What’d I miss?

Posted by enderzero at 6:39pm on Jan. 3, 2013