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~Woody Allen




Smart NCAA Predictions: The 64-Team Nickname Battle

They say this is the year to go crazy with your picks.

Six teams held the No. 1 spot this year, one off the record for most changes in a season. Every time a team seemed poised to make a run, they'd crash and burn in a national TV game, or be upset at home by a no-name school. So everyone keeps guaranteeing that this is the year for true madness, where up is left and down is right and Dick Vitale explodes in a puff of enthusiastic confetti.

Of course, everyone says that, and then they pick maybe a 13-seed in the first round, or a 4-seed beating a 1-seed, then call it a day. Everyone's too scared to really make the leap and pick a truly insane bracket.

Well, maybe not everyone.

This bracket is chosen entirely by a random qualifier: team nickname. With each matchup, I compare the two teams' chosen nicknames* as if they are real entities, decide which one would win in a fight, and advance that team to the next round.

*We're talking about nicknames, not mascots. Could the guy in the Notre Dame costume defeat the sleepy Gonzaga bulldog in a no-holds-barred, death-is-the-only-escape cage match? Let's not pause to imagine it.  

There are worse ways to do this, really. Let's begin.



#1 Kansas Jayhawks over #16 Austin Peay Governors
I was worried that this would immediately lead to insane upsets, but fortunately, some of these low-seeded teams have embarrassingly bad nicknames. Most of the bird-themed teams are going to do poorly in this bracket, because, let's face it, they're birds, but on this one I'm picturing a vicious jayhawk forcing a feeble, egg-faced governor to take cover under an awning, his hands waving in terror in front of his face. 

#8 Colorado Buffalos over #9 UConn Huskies
Look, huskies are good, loyal dogs, but have you seen what happens when you piss off a buffalo?

#12 San Diego State Aztecs over #5 Maryland Terrapins
I'm not gonna spell this one out. It's a vicious, bloodthirsty culture known for their disembowelment rituals versus a pack of turtles. 












Imagine this, but with turtles.

#4 California Golden Bears over #13 Hawaii Rainbow Warriors
Of all the various kinds of warriors, “rainbow” warriors seem pretty close to the least impressive (behind maybe “weekend” warriors). Especially when it turns out to be a fake group, based on a racist attack on Native Americans.

#5 Arizona Wildcats over #11 Wichita State Wheatshockers or  #11 Vanderbilt Commodores

I'm relatively familiar with commodores, and I don't really know what a wheatshocker is (I think it's a way to harvest wheat, or possibly a very dangerous method of creating beer), but I'm pretty sure a wildcat could beat either one of them.

#3 Miami Hurricanes over #14 Buffalo Bulls
Hurricanes are powerful. Cows are dumb. Next.

#7 Iowa Hawkeyes over #10 Temple Owls

I've never been entirely clear – it it just the actual hawk eye that's the mascot? Is their mascot just “good vision?” I guess it doesn't really matter, because they're only up against Hedwig and Pigwidgeon and that dumb know-it-all from Winnie-the-Pooh this round and that's not a tough matchup.

#2 Villanova Wildcats over #15 UNC Asheville Bulldogs
I really don't like how this has been going.












This is starting to make me sad.



#8 Colorado Buffaloes over #1 Kansas Jayhawks

Again, a jayhawk is a bird. I don't care how fierce you paint the logo. It's a bird.

In case it's not obvious from the picture, someone on DeviantArt has a significant amount of time on their hands, by the way.


#4 Cal Golden Bears over #12 San Diego State Aztecs
I would give the edge to the Aztecs, but these aren't just regular bears. They're golden bears. The royalest of bears. If you come for the king, you best not miss. Plus, all of the Aztecs are dead now, and check it: we've still got bears.


#3 Miami Hurricanes over #6 Arizona Wildcats

Massive force of nature that can destroy most of a seaboard versus a mid-sized predatory cat. These are not tough matchups.

#2 Villanova Wildcats over #7 Iowa Hawkeyes

Mid-sized predatory cat versus either a bird or “vision.” The day I see a bird show up and lay a cat at my feet as a present, I might change my mind, but for now: wildcats all the way.



#4 Cal Golden Bears over #8 Colorado Buffaloes
I was trying to figure out the average weights of these two animals, and that's when I discovered: golden bears don't even exist. They're just something that California made up. The only evidence I could discover for them was this.

All I'm saying is, here's just no way a buffalo is beating a mythological bear, even if that bear only seems to exist as a docile pet from a family movie.

#3 Miami Hurricanes over #2 Villanova Wildcats
We just went over this like, a second ago.



#4 Cal Golden Bears over #3 Miami Hurricane
Look, if a hurricane comes, you can board up your windows, store some water, maybe even sandbag your lawn. If a determined, supernatural golden bear comes for you... that's just it, guys. That's the ballgame.



#16 Holy Cross Crusaders or #16 Southern University Jaguars over #1 Oregon Ducks
It doesn't matter if it's the crusaders or the jaguars. Literally anything can beat a duck. It's a duck. They can be beat by these guys:

#9 Cincinnati Bearcats over #8 St. Joe's Hawks

Fun fact: Bearcats do not exist. They're just a sports nickname for a meek-looking mammal known as the binturong.

Not that it matters. The very concept of a bearcat can beat a hawk.

#5 Baylor Bears over #12 Yale Bulldogs

Don't picture it. It'll make you sad.

#4 Duke Blue Devils over #13 UNC Wilmington Seahawks

Now, here's where things get tricky. We don't really know what a “blue devil” is, what it does, what its powers are. We only know that it's mischievous, it travels in disguise, and it sometimes carries a pitchfork.

We always fear what we don't understand.

#11 University of Northern Illinois Panthers over #6 Texas Longhorns

I don't care about the length of their horns, this is still a vicious predator versus a cow. A majestic cow, sure, but a cow.


14 Green Bay University Phoenix over 3 Texas A&M Aggies
“Farmers fiiiiiiiiiighhht! Farmers fight!” Yes, the school whose mascot is agriculture, who is represented by a docile collie who is literally the highest ranking officer on campus, is taking on an invincible bird. You can't destroy a phoenix by fire, but you know what you can destroy? Everything else.

By the way, if you want a flabbergasting read, you can study up on Reveille IX, the revered Texas A&M collie, known as “the first lady of Texas A&M,” who must be addressed as “Miss Rev, ma'am” by freshmen cadets, and who for some reason has her own cell phone.

If you want to know why I mock you sometimes, Aggies, this is why.

10 Virginia Commonwealth Rams over 7 Oregon State Beavers
You can draw the most aggressive version of these that you want, it's still a horned sheep versus a shy marsh creature whose hobby is building wood igloos.

Is it just me, or does that beaver look terrified? Do your job, Oregon State graphic designers! Strike extremely vague fear into the hearts of your opponents!

2 Oklahoma Sooners over 15 Cal State Bakersfield Road Runners

Look, “Sooners” are not impressive. They're just a bunch of people who broke the law in order to steal land during the days of the American land rush. But they're facing a bird under a foot tall, which is the “largest cuckoo in the Americas.”

What's more, in all of recorded history, not a single one of these ever has painted a convincing tunnel onto the side of a concrete wall.



#9 Cincinnati Bearcats over #16 Holy Cross Crusaders or #16 Southern University Jaguars

By the way, the bearcat Wikipedia is fascinating. It probably couldn't beat a real crusader or jaguar, but I'm giving it the point anyway, because I'm entranced by the possibilities of this omnivorous, nocturnal bear-weasel.

How do I get one of these as a pet?

#4 Duke Blue Devils over #5 Baylor Bears

This where things get tricky. As we learned from the Oscars this year, it's awfully hard to beat a bear.

But a blue devil must have powers outside of this world, it can't be defeated by a simple lumbering carnivore. Blue devils are going to keep moving on until I find something that seems its match.

#14 Green Bay University Phoenix over #11 University of Northern Illinois Panthers

Yet again, it's an invincible bird. I once saw it defeat a basilisk in that Harry Potter movie, and basilisks are no joke. No way it loses to a simple panther.


2 Oklahoma Sooners over 10 Virginia Commonwealth Rams
Ruthless, land-stealing frontiersmen versus sheep. It's only a question of how long it is before they eat the sheep.



4 Duke Blue Devils over 9 Cincinnati Bearcats
Look, if a blue devil can beat a bear, it can certainly beat a bear-weasel. Next.

2 Oklahoma Sooners over 14 Green Bay University Phoenix
This one is tougher, but I just think that a group of people who hid in the dirt for a week for the privilege of stealing Oklahoma are going to be determined enough to find a way to defeat a bird, never mind its lack of mortality.


4 Duke Blue Devils over 2 Oklahoma Sooners
That said, they're still not beating whatever a blue devil is.



#16 Florida Gulf Coast Eagles or #16 Farleigh Dickinson Knights over # 1 North Carolina Tar Heels

Either one of these things would beat a tar heel, because a tar heel is – and I mean no disrespect by this – one of the dumbest nicknames in sports. It's supposedly based on North Carolina's proud military history, and the university has a page explaining its possible origins. Both of the theories listed are utter rubbish, but the first one is just an affront to humanity's intellect. “One story hails back to the Revolutionary War and the troops of British General Cornwallis... some say the clever North Carolinians dumped (tar) in the river to slow down the invading army.”


a. No one has ever referred to a group of North Carolinians as “clever.”

b. There's no chance anyone actually did this.

c. Even if they had done it, which they didn't, it absolutely would not have worked.

So, I'm assuming that “tar heel” is actually some racist term that North Carolina is trying to whitewash. For shame, North Carolina. Even South Carolina finally took down that flag.


8 USC Trojans over 9 Providence Friars

Notable warrior friars: Friar Tuck, probably a hedgehog or something from the “Redwall” books that I'm forgetting.

Notable warrior Trojans: all of them.

#12 Chattanooga Mocs over #5 Indiana Hoosiers

The “Moc” was originally for water moccasin, which is terrifying, and one would figure it to be capable of a good Final Four run. However, they've retconned the “Moc” to be based on a mockingbird now, and their mascot is a bird called “Scrappy Moc,” named after “famed” Chattanooga football coach A.C. “Scrappy” Moore, who is definitely a real person and not someone that Chattanooga made up.

All of Chattanooga should be embarrassed by this, and I would send them out in the first round for this ridiculous decision, except that they're matched up against the Hoosiers, whose name means “Indiana resident,” a term that comes from an 1833 poem by John Finley (the least impressive of the John Finleys on Wikipedia) called “The Hoosier's Nest.” That is simultaneously the least-baller and most-Indiana thing ever.

#13 Stony Brook Seawolves over #4 Kentucky Wildcats

Yet another loss by a team of wildcats, as they're defeated by the Stony Brook Seawolves. What's a seawolf? Well, it's unclear. It could be another word for sea lion, which would lose to wildcat. It could also be named after a terrifying, bottom-feeding fish, whose pictures are the stuff of nightmares. 

A battle between that and a wildcat would probably be a tie, since I don't think they could find a neutral field to fight on.

Still, there are some good possibilities: they could be named after a Jack London book (“The Sea-Wolf!”). Or a number of different submarines. Or a whole class of submarines! Or a British naval missle! Or a Charles Bronson movie! Or a 70's arcade game! Or an indie rock band formed a decade after the college re-nicknamed themselves! (this last one is unlikely)

Now, this decision is not without its uncertainties: Does their college sounds like a strict boarding school a young boy would be sent to in a British children's novel? Yes. Is their mascot named “Wolfie the Seawolf?” Sadly, it is. Do they have a terrible fight song? I'm not certain, but it's entitled “We're The Red Hot Seawolves,” so almost unquestionably yes.

There are a few marks against the team, but not anything that's going to hurt them in the opening round. We'll find out how they hold up going forward.


#11 Tulsa Golden Hurricane/#11 Michigan Wolverines over #6 Notre Dame Fighting Irish

Either one of these teams would be a winner over Notre Dame, since their logo is just a pugilistic drunk leprechaun, which scares nobody.

#3 West Virginia Mountaineers over #14 Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks
Oooh, this one is real comparison shopping. Similar identities, but I have to pick the mountaineers, who seem like they might have a more diverse skill set than the lumberjacks. I mean, cutting lumber is just a job, you know? These mountaineers know how to survive.

#10 Pittsburgh Panthers over #7 Wisconsin Badgers
Badgers are tough, but try to imagine a version of The Jungle Book where Mowgli is trained by a watchful badger, instead.  

That tiger would have eaten him so fast.

#2 Xavier Musketeers over #15 Weber State Wildcats
Look, a wildcat is not going to do well against trained swordsmen, especially when they're known for fighting well in groups:

(as well as for turning to television once their film careers flamed out).


#8 USC Trojans over #16 Florida Gulf Coast Eagles or #16 Farleigh Dickinson Knights


Look, even if the Knights were to have won, you'd still pick a bunch of Trojans over them any day, especially since they're from a school called "Farleigh Dickinson." And let's not even talk about what would happen to the eagles. There's been enough bird-slaughter in this column already.

13 Stony Brook Seawolves over 12 Chattanooga Mocs

Two teams with inventive but questionable nicknames. I'm picking the possibly-submarines over the no-longer-poisonous water snakes.


#3 West Virginia Mountaineers over #11 Tulsa Golden Hurricane or #11 Michigan Wolverines

First off, there's no way that a mountaineer can't handle a wolverine. I'm quite certain. What I'm not certain about is what a “golden hurricane” actually is. It sounds filthy, frankly. I won't stand for it.

2 Xavier Musketeers over 10 Pittsburgh Panthers

This is the exact same fight they had in the last round, basically. So now they're armed and experienced. No way the panthers beat them.



#8 USC Trojans over #13 Stony Brook Seawolves
Unless the Seawolves turn out to be actual missles, I'm picking the Trojans all the way. The Trojans were tough,man.

#2 Xavier Musketeers over #3 West Virginia Mountaineers
Mountaineers are tough, but there's no substitute for really good fencing training. I'd be surprised if they even landed a single axe-blow.


Elite Eight

8 USC Trojans over 2 Xavier Musketeers
The musketeers are loyal, brave, and look awfully dashing in their fancy French raiment, but the Trojans had seven different gods on their side, including Ares, the god of war and Artemis, goddess of the hunt. This is the team to beat, right here.



#16 Hampton Pirates over #1 Virginia Cavaliers/Wahoos
Were Virginia to remain the Cavaliers, I might be tempted to pick them over the Hampton Pirates. Yet Virginia has adopted the nickname of “the Wahoos” or even “the Hoos,” which was originally an insult from rival college Washington and Lee (by the way, if Washington and Lee is your “rival,” you're already playing from behind) but which Virginia adopted as a rallying cry, in the same sort of spirit as “Yankee Doodle Dandy,” I think.

If you type “what is a wahoo” into Google, the first result is this remarkable website, created by a sophomore-level web class in 1997 and un-updated since (by the way, there is no better symbol for Virginia than creating a viewpoint at the dawn of a new era and then seeing no need to update it at any point afterwards). In it, the students explain that while logic will tell you that while a Wahoo is a fish that is capable of drinking twice its weight (again, a very fitting symbol for Virginians), a Wahoo is also whatever you want it to be, which is the nonsense college students say when they're trying to pretend that their time-honored traditions are grand and impressive and not laughably simple-minded. This is also how they get students to join fraternities.

By the way, if you have time, that website is fabulous. It explains how to "dress cool," how not being into working out is an unacceptable concept for Virginia students, and how to go streaking. It's like a college guide written by a pack of Keystone Light.


8 Texas Tech Red Raiders over 9 Butler Bulldogs

Again, bulldogs are adorable, and none more so than the ones Butler have. Look at this thing!

He thinks he's people!

Anyway, I don't know what a red raider is, but it sounds savage. Farewell, bulldogs.

#12 University of Arkansas at Little Rock Trojans over #5 Purdue Boilermakers

Once again, the Trojans are one of history's fiercest armies, and boilermakers are literally just people who make boilers. They have a union and everything. When two sides are fighting to the death, don't pick the side that has the union. Possible exception: the American Civil War.

#4 Iowa State Cyclones over #13 Iona University Gaels

What's a gael? I'm glad you asked. I don't know.

The Iona University website is a little vague on the subject, but it seems to refer to someone of Irish descent who is a “spunky character,” which I assume means a drunk. The fact that the school's motto is “fight a good fight,” which I think is also the motto of most of Dublin's pubs, would seem to support my theory.

Anyway, unless you're Bill Paxton in Twister, it's usually pretty easy to avoid a cyclone, but if there's any group I trust not to manage it, it's a group of drunk, belligerent Irishmen.

#6 Seton Hall Pirates over #11 Gonzaga Bulldogs
There are dead dogs everywhere. What have we done?

#3 Utah Utes over #14 Fresno State Bulldogs
Oh, god, they're whimpering in agony. It's like the end of every coming-of-age novel brought to life.

#7 Dayton Flyers over #10 Syracuse Orange
The generic movement wins over the rhymeless color. Not a powerhouse struggle here.


#2 Michigan State Spartans over # 15 Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders
What are “blue” raiders? How are they separate from “red” raiders? Why are there so many color-based teams in this bracket?



#8 Texas Tech Red Raiders over #16 Hampton Pirates
These are similar groups, and I give the red raiders a victory only because of the air of mystery about them. Why are they red? What is their history?

The Wikipedia explaining the name of this mascot is flabbergastingly unhelpful, noting only that in 1925, a writer suggested that Tech should name themselves the “Dogies,” explaining that "a Dogie is a calf whose mother died and is forced to look out for itself" and "If ever anything had to rustle for itself, it was West Texas and Tech College.” I assume the man was then drawn and quartered in the streets for having the dumbest ideas in sports history, at least until Skip Bayless showed up.

#12 Little Rock Trojans over #4 Iowa State Cyclones
Other gods supporting the Trojans include Eris, the goddess of discord and strife. These guys meant business.


I think they can handle a Iowan cyclone.

3 Utah Utes over 6 Seton Hall Pirates
I had assumed that a group of pirates could take down the Utes, as the Native American group is primarily known for establishing early peace treaties with settlers, and still resides in the Colorado-Utah area. But it turns out the Ute warriors were bananas. They would get wildly dehydrated in sweat lodges before battle, paint themselves and their war horses in bright colors, then ride out and perform daring and complicated maneuvers on horseback while using a combination of lances, knives, guns, tomahawks, and clubs. Their women had a celebratory dance called the “Lame Dance” to show how hard it was for them to carry all the loot they were capturing back to camp. This crew was not messing around.

2 Michigan State Spartans over 7 Dayton Flyers
Do I really need to explain why I think a group of elite warriors would be capable of defeating a pack of poorly-constructed airplanes?



12 Little Rock Trojans over 8 Texas Tech Red Raiders

Also on Team Trojan: Scamander, river god and possible Pokemon. These guys are just stacked.

#2 Michigan State Spartans over #3 Utah Utes
We talked about the fight skills of the Utes, but the Spartans are a whole other level. Spartan men would marry at 20 but wouldn't be able to live with their families until they were 30. Their wives would hand them their shields and say “either come back with this, or upon it.” So, these guys took this pretty seriously.



#2 Michigan State Spartans over #12 Little Rock Trojans.
Look, the Trojans were pretty good, but they were fooled by a wooden horse, and that's got to count against you on some level. I mean, they woke up one day, their enemies were gone, and there was a wooden horse sitting out there, and no one asked any questions. This is just bad decision-making on every level.


#4 Duke Blue Devils over #4 California Golden Bears
In the case of the possibly-mystical bears against the oddly-colored devils, you gotta go with the group that has the power of Hell behind it.

#2 Michigan State Spartans over #8 USC Trojans
By the way, the group that left that horse out there to fool the Trojans?

The Spartans. Never forget.



2 Michigan State Spartans over 4 Duke Blue Devils
We're all the way to the championship game, and we still haven't determined the power of the blue devils, and what their skillset is. Meanwhile, I've seen 300 at least twice, so I'm pretty well versed in the abilities of the Spartans. Those guys were game day players, and I trust them when it comes to showing up for this free-for-all.

Congrats, guys.



Gambling On The Oscars (For Free)

Edit: As this post goes along, it becomes an Oscar Night Gambling Post. I thought it might be fun to gamble along with me, so here are the rules:
1. You start with $100,000. You may gamble on as many or as few categories as you like. The only rule is that you have to use the same gambling odds that I did. The object is to end the night with more money than anyone else who tries this.

2. You can enter any way you please: in the comments, in another post, by emailing me, by tweeting me, by texting me, I don't care. If you want in, you're in.

3. I created a couple different parlays during this post (it's explained below). If you'd like to do a parlay as well, you can enter the odds into this parlay calculator in order to figure out what your final bet is. The calculator needs Vegas +/- figures, which just means it needs bets in multiples of a hundred. That is, if the odds are 2-to-1, you would enter in "200" - meaning, you bet $100 to win $200. If the odds are 5/4, you'd enter in "125." No decimals, though, so if the odds are 9/8, you'd enter in "113" rather than "112.50"

4. If that last rule was confusing, ignore it.

5. The contest closes at the start of the Oscars.

6. Anyone who beats me gets a prize.

7. Whoever beats me by the most gets a trophy.

On to the post!


Predicting The Oscars, Again.


I haven't done an Oscar post in a while.


I mean, obviously. I haven't posted in an exceptionally long while, either, so a lack of general content is also going to lead to a lack of Oscar content. That's just simple math.


But of all pieces to come back and do again, this does not seem like the one a sane man would choose. Oscar prediction pieces are mostly dull and all read about the same way. Each year that I do this sort of thing, I try and find a new way to go about it, with varied success. Or lack of success, frankly. Whatever the trick is for writing one of these in a way that leaps off your iPhone screen, I haven't found it.

Early on, my goal was to try to predict the Oscars with near-certainty. A couple years in, I'd succeeded – I was getting 19, 20, 21 out of 24 categories right. I'd miss out on things like Documentary Short and maybe a Supporting Actor, and that would be about it. It turns out, predicting the awards is a fairly simple task. Most of the big awards have already developed frontrunners, and the smaller awards are usually capably broken down by Oscar experts like Mark Harris and Dave Karger, so you can just copy those in. Being right is fun, but it's not that fun, unless you've got cash on the line.


Ooh, actually, that sounds like a fun angle. Let's do it that way.


Gambling On The Oscars! (We'll Make The Rules Up As I Go)

I'm going to pretend I have, say, $100,000 to freely gamble with however I chose (this is quite a leap, obviously, but go with me here). My goal will be to try and make as much money off of the Oscars as possible, by making bets based off of the gambling odds for each.

The problem being, of course, is that gambling sites only do odds for Best Picture, Best Director, and the acting categories. If there's a way to bet on Best Sound Editing or Best Documentary Feature, I don't know it. So I'll just have to invent the gambling odds for everything as I go.

That's a lot more work, but actually, that makes it a lot more fun. Feel free to bet against me! Anyone who manages to beat me at my own game gets a prize of some sort. And a trophy to whoever beats me by the most!


Before I start, I should mention: I have done no Oscar prep this year. I watched the Globes, and I've seen headlines about some of the other award shows, but I didn't read anyone's Oscar column or click through any slideshows. I'm going in blind. Let's see what I've picked up from the ether of the internet.


Category One: Best Picture

The Big Short (4/1)

Bridge of Spies (20/1)

Brooklyn (50/1)

Mad Max: Fury Road (12/1)

The Martian (15/1)

The Revenant (3/2)

Room (50/1)

Spotlight (2/1)


Early on, it looked like Spotlight was gonna run away with this. There simply wasn't a movie that everyone agreed on, so everyone seemed to say “well, I did like Spotlight a lot, so why not?”


But the Oscar season is too long to allow such a cavalier attitude. People get bored with general excellence, they want something fresh and exciting. So all of a sudden, people started talking up the other nominees, and as far as I can tell from my Twitter timeline, The Revenant is now the favorite.


But here's the thing: a lot of people hate The Revenant. They think it's ridiculous how much the filmmakers brag about how hard it was (they're right), and they think that the production mistook danger for excellence (they did, and still do). So I think the smart bet is still Spotlight at my fanciful 2-to-1 odds.


That said, I don't think anyone's that sold on Spotlight, and I'd rather go a little bit further afield. Everybody likes The Big Short, it's got a nice message for this #OscarsSoWhite telecast (this is what it looks like when white men screw everything up), and it has a likability to it that's missing from the other frontrunners. I'm betting on The Big Short, but I'm keeping my wager low: let's say three grand.


Bet: The Big Short. $3,000 at 4/1 to win $12,000


Category Two: Best Director

 Alejandro Iñárritu, The Revenant (3/2)
George Miller,
Mad Max: Fury Road (4/1)
Adam McKay,
The Big Short (5/1)

Lenny Abrahamson, Room (10/1)

Tom McCarthy, Spotlight (5/1)

Here's where all the flaws and frustrations of The Revenant don't hurt it: Best Director. People like Alejandro Iñárritu, his movies are visually incredible and have a strong trademark look to them. Plus, the other directors have serious reasons to knock them out of the race: Tom McCarthy's work was awfully subtle, and he also directed the truly horrific Adam Sandler comedy (I guess we have to call it that) The Cobbler, which is 8% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes right now. Plus, while the creators didn't exactly throw him under the bus, it was revealed that the original pilot for “Game of Thrones,” directed by McCarthy, was so awful that it had to be completely scrapped and re-filmed by another director. Not good vibes for McCarthy. The Big Short feels like a triumph of creativity but not necessarily direction, and there are some awfully dismissive “Lifetime Movie” critiques of Room. That leaves Mad Max, which isn't the sort of film of a traditional Best Director nominee but does hit an interesting voting block: those people about to be cast out of the Oscar voting.

You might have heard that after another year of all-white acting nominations, the Academy changed their voting rules, starting next year. People who have been inactive from movies for a certain period of time drop out of having voting privileges. Those people are, understandably, not happy about this. And who better to vote for then the guy who hasn't directed a live-action movie since 1998's Babe: Pig In The City?


I managed to talk myself out of that narrative as soon as I typed the words “Babe: Pig In The City.” I'm going Iñárritu.


Prediction: Alejandro Iñárritu at 3/2 odds. $6,000 down to win $9,000.



Category Three: Best Actor

Bryan Cranston, Trumbo (50/1)

Matt Damon, The Martian (40/1)

Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant (11/10)

Michael Fassbender, Steve Jobs (25/1)

Eddie Redmayne, The Danish Girl (20/1)

This has been Leo's from the beginning, but aren't you a little tired of the “Leo deserves an Oscar” narrative? I feel like that's been the only story from this Oscars we're going to remember, and at this point, he's a lock. But the major storyline to his campaign has been a) it's time for him to win one of these and b) it was really cold where they were shooting. I think the momentum for this has dried up.


You'd be smart to put all your cash on Leo at 11/10 – it's a mortal lock, you're bound to at least make a little cash out of the deal – but I'll gamble on a long shot just for the fun of it.


Bet: Eddie Redmayne, The Danish Girl - $1,000 at 20-to-1 to win $20,000.


Category Four: Best Actress

 Cate Blanchett, Carol (15/1)

Brie Larson, Room (3/2)

Jennifer Lawrence, Joy (20/1)

Charlotte Rampling, 45 Years (40/1)

Saoirse Ronan, Brooklyn (5/1)

Your best longshot here is Saoirse for her role in Brooklyn, which I believe I am required to refer to as a “luminous turn.” But Larson's been winning all these awards, she's the best young actress we have in Hollywood, and she's essentially impossible to dislike. There's been some Jlaw backlash, and I know people are turned cold by Blanchett in Room (not me, though). Plus, Charlotte Rampling said something racist, so she's out. I'm taking the smart money here.


Bet: Brie Larson, Room. $10,000 at 3/2 to win $15,000.


Category Five: Best Supporting Actor

 Christian Bale, The Big Short (20/1)

Tom Hardy, The Revenant (6/1)

Mark Ruffalo, Spotlight (8/1)

Mark Rylance, Bridge of Spies (3/1)

Sylvester Stallone, Creed (5/4)


There's been too much of a redemption story/give-it-to-the-old-timer narrative that you have to assume it's Sly's award going away. Meanwhile, neither Bale nor Ruffalo are even the best supporting actors in their own movies, and a Revenant sweep is not likely.


I haven't seen Bridge of Spies yet, but Academy voters have, and not everyone wants to fall in line with the going this-is-what-we're-doing-now storyline. I'll take the value bet on Mark Rylance. Why not?


Bet: Mark Rylance, Bridge of Spies. $2,000 at 3-to-1 to win $6,000.


Category Six: Best Supporting Actress

Jennifer Jason Leigh, The Hateful Eight (30/1)

Rooney Mara, Carol (8/1)

Rachel McAdams, Spotlight (15/1)

Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl (5/4)

Kate Winslet, Steve Jobs (2/1)


I saw Winslet win the Golden Globe (not that the Globes matter much), but I know Vikander won the SAG award and maybe another big one, too – Critic's Choice? Vikander's the favorite, Winslet's the underdog, and if Vikander hadn't been nominated for The Danish Girl, she would have been nominated for Ex Machina. So assume she's picking up the trophy.


That said, I'm going way afield for this one. I thought Rooney Mara was positively effervescent in Carol (now there's a luminous turn), and I'm swinging for the fences on this one.


Bet: Rooney Mara, Carol. $3,000 at 8-to-1 to win $24,000.


Okay, so, summing up, that's $25,000 bet so far on the six major categories, for a possible winnings of $86,000. But let's make a little side bet, going the other way.


Let's throw together a parlay* of the major acting categories together: Leo plus Brie plus Sly plus Vikander equals odds just underneath 25/1 (I don't know how to calculate this. I threw it into a parlay calculator online. Don't ask me how we got here). So if I lay $5,000 on all four of those winning together, I stand to win $127,890 off of that. That's obviously outrageously high, which means I've been doing this totally wrong up until now, but I don't care because this is all imaginary anyway.


*a parlay is a collection of bets in which the odds of the bets are multiplied, but all of the bets have to come true to collect. If even one misses, you lose your cash.


Total Bet So Far: $30,000

Remaining Pot: $70,000


Okay, let's hit some of the other categories. Normally I've got more of a read on these than I do this year, since I've read at least one Oscar column at this point. This year, I'm just a babe in the woods, though unlike most babies, one who saw 35 theatrical releases this year.


However, not all of those movies are well represented. One of those movies was Pitch Perfect 2, for example, which I'm mostly sure is not nominated here.


Category Seven: Best Original Screenplay

Matt Charman, the Coen Brothers, Bridge of Spies (3/1)

Alex Garland, Ex Machina (5/1)

Pete Docter, Meg LeFauve, Josh Cooley, and Ronnie del Carmen, Inside Out (3/1)

Tom McCarthy and Josh Singer, Spotlight (2/1)

Jonathan Herman, Andrea Berloff, S. Leigh Savidge, and Alan Wenkus, Straight Outta Compton (2/1)


Tough times on this one. I picked these odds mostly randomly, because none of them really felt like a favorite. Throwing the #OscarsSoWhite problem into the mix: voters want to honor Straight Outta Compton, but they don't want to do it by giving an award to the four white writers who worked on the piece. Plus, lots of writers is always a downside – people like voting for auteurism, as opposed to the Hollywood workshop system. So even though Inside Out is probably the most creative of the pieces, and people value Pixar's creativity, I'm going the other way. I'm gonna say that this will be the consolation prize for Spotlight. But I don't feel good about it.


Bet: Tom McCarthy and Josh Singer, Spotlight. $3,000 at 2-to-1 to win $6,000.


Category Eight: Best Adapted Screenplay

 Adam McKay and Charles Randolph, The Big Short (from “The Big Short” by Michael Lewis) (2/1)

Nick Hornby, Brooklyn (from “Brooklyn” by Colm Tóibín) (10/1)

Phyllis Nagy, Carol (from “The Price of Salt” by Patricia Highsmith) (8/1)

Drew Goddard, The Martian (from “The Martian,” by Andy Weir) (2/1)

Emma Donoghue, Room (from “Room” by Emma Donoghue) (5/1)

I have to figure this comes down to Drew Goddard's engaging adaptation of Andy Weir's novel – it kept a ton of what made the book feel lively and fun, while adding a lot of big-picture stakes to it – versus Adam McKay and Charles Randolph's adaptation of Lewis' nonfiction piece on the collapse of the housing market. And I'm going Big Short all the way here.

I just finished Lewis' book, and while Lewis is as good as anyone at making financial markets make sense to the average reader (I have no head for it at all, but was able to track right alongside him the whole way), the movie bundles all of that into a pack of energetic metaphors that wink at the camera in their oversimplification. See, look how easy all this is, the movie says. But the truth is, it's not easy. Making the average viewer understand what it looks like when Wall Street bankers are making side bets on CDOs means the filmmakers have to move mountains just to get the viewer up to the point of understanding “okay, so what went wrong here?” I know there were people turned off by the theatrical cutaways – Selena Gomez explaining finances at a blackjack table is a perhaps a bit too much of “let me make it easy on you, ol' sport” - but I also know people who couldn't follow everything even with those crutches, so your mileage may vary. 

Ultimately, there are some fantastic bits of screenwriting here that fly by so casually the viewer never notices. In 30 seconds, Ryan Gosling explains the problem with CDOs using a Jenga tower that took Lewis three chapters to explain, and that was with Lewis trying his damnedest to make it easy on us. That The Big Short makes us feel smart - and eventually, righteously angry - in a world designed to make us feel dumb is barely short of a miracle. And so is the fact that I'm predicting the Oscar is going to the writer of Step Brothers, Talledega Nights, Good Cop, Baby Cop, and A Public Statement from Anthony Weiner's Penis.


Bet: Adam McKay and Charles Randolph, The Big Short. $5,000 at 2-to-1 to win $10,000.


Category Nine: Best Animated Feature Film

Anomalisa (4/1)

Boy & The World (10/1)

Inside Out (3/2)

Shaun the Sheep Movie (6/1)

When Marnie Was There (3/1)

This is probably the toughest group Pixar has every faced in this category, so it's lucky that a) Inside Out is one of the best features they've ever made, and b) voters are going to divide up between the other nominees, leading Pixar to come out the victor again. Possible spoiler: When Marnie Was There is the last feature film from Hayao Miyazaki's Studio Ghibli, and there may be some pat-on-the-back-on-the-way-out, thanks-for-old-times to the voting.

Bet: Inside Out. $3,000 at 3-to-2 to win $4,500.




Category Ten: Best Foreign Language Film

Embrace of the Serpent (Columbia) (10/1)

Mustang (France) (4/1)

Son of Saul (Hungary) (5/4)

Theeb (Jordan) (15/1)

A War (Denmark) (8/1)


Apparently this is as good a pack of foreign language films as we've ever had, though I have seen none of them. And, importantly, neither have most of the voters – how many members of the Academy have time to pop in five different foreign films? - which means they're ineligible to vote on them.


Son of Saul is a heavy favorite – it's apparently an exceptionally well-told Holocaust story, and it won the Grand Prix at Cannes, and you never want to bet against either of those things. But I hear rumblings of people wanting to vote for Mustang, a film about five orphaned Turkish sisters, and that they hope it'll sneak out the win. Seems like a good bet to me.


Bet: Mustang (France), $4,000 at 4-to-1 to win $16,000.

Category Eleven: Best Documentary Feature

Amy (2/1)

Cartel Land (4/1)

The Look of Silence (3/1)
What Happened, Miss Simone (3/1)
Winter on Fire: Ukraine's Fight For Freedom (5/1)

I have seen none of these movies, but that is an unhappy looking slate. We have two documentaries about tragic music figures (Amy, about Amy Winehouse, and What Happened, Miss Simone, about Nina Simone), a movie about vigilante groups fighting in the Mexican drug war, a film about the Indonesian killings in the 60's from the same guy who made The Act of Killing, and a movie about Ukranian civil rights protests that might actually be the least depressing of the bunch.


When it comes to documentaries, always bet on music, and Amy had the highest buzz factor of any of these films.

Bet: Amy. $5,000 at 2-to-1 to win $10,000.


Category Twelve: Best Documentary Short

Body Team 12 (5/1)

Chau, Beyond The Lines (5/1)

Claude Lanzmann: Spectres of the Shoah (5/1)

A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness (5/1)

Last Day of Freedom (5/1)


Is it just me, or do all of these seem like the titles you would make up if you were inventing fake documentary shorts for this category? These things are always named something that depresses you before you even hit play, like Lao-Tsu: A Girl In Shadow or Trash: Guatemala's Underground Cities or The Killing Fields: A Trip To The Killing Fields. I have never heard of any of these, am not convinced any of them exist, and have not the slightest clue which will win. Let's do a quick Wikipedia check!


Body Team 12: people collecting dead bodies from the Ebola outbreak. This one seems real.

Chau, beyond the lines: was previously known as War Within The Walls! Another great fake title. It's about a 16-year-old boy disabled by Agent Orange who has become a clothing designer and it took 8 years to film. Too good an idea to fake.

Claude Lanzmann: Spectres of the Shoah: it's a documentary about someone who spent 12 years making a nine-and-a-half hour Holocaust documentary, and apparently it was very hard on him. I'm not convinced that this one is real.

A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness: an 18-year-old girl who survived an honor killing in Pakistan. This sounds like it must be excruciating to watch. I'm probably picking this one.

Last Day of Freedom: a black-and-white animated documentary about racism, mental health, and the death penalty. This is just a big jambalaya of Oscar-winning ideas. It never hurts to be the documentary that's different. This one is probably not a real thing, but I'm picking it anyway.


Bet: Last Day of Freedom. $1,000 at 5-to-1 to win $5,000


Category Thirteen: Best Live Action Short
Ave Maria (5/1)

Day One (5/1)

Everything Will Be Okay (5/1)

Shok (5/1)

Stutterer (5/1)

I have heard nothing about any of these. Let's check the Wikipedia:

Ave Maria: A family of religious Israeli settlers has their car break down in a rural area of the West Bank and they must seek the help of five nuns to get back home. This is the worst movie pitch I have ever heard.

Day One: A woman who is on her first day of working as an interpreter for the United States Army is forced to deliver a baby for the wife of an enemy bomb maker. Okay, I stand corrected.

Everything Will Be Okay: It has no description on Wikipedia. This seems like a bad sign.

Shok: Two boys riding bikes in 1990's Kosovo! It has a nice long description in Wikipedia and is only 21 minutes long. I have a good feeling about this one.

Stutterer: A lonely typographer (are there any other kinds?) struggles to overcome his speech impediment in order to form a romantic relationship. So, exactly what you'd expect from the title.


Bet: Shok. $3,000 at 5-to-1 to win $15,000.


Category Fourteen: Best Animated Short

Bear Story (5/1)

Prologue (5/1)

Sanjay's Super Team (5/1)

We Can't Live Without Cosmos (5/1)

World of Tomorrow (5/1)

I have only seen one of these, Sanjay's Super Team, which played before The Good Dinosaur. I was not wild about it at all.


World of Tomorrow is on Netflix, and I keep hearing good things. I'll bet on it, and if it wins tomorrow, I'll probably watch it.


Bet: World of Tomorrow. $3,000 at 5-to-1 to win $15,000.


Okay, we got through all the tough categories. Let's catch up.


I've now bet $57,000 of the $100,000 pot, leaving me with $43,000 to spend on the last ten categories. I'll probably go small on some categories and big on others, since a few of these should be gimmes, and so the odds that I invent for them will not be great.


Category Fifteen: Best Original Score

Thomas Newman, Bridge of Spies (3/1)

Carter Burwell, Carol (8/1)

Ennio Morricone, The Hateful Eight (3/2)

Jóhann Jóhannsson, Sicario (12/1)

John Williams, Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2/1)


I'm not predicting a large Academy push to honor Star Wars as a sign of returning childhood affection – I think they figure the box office has already done that – so I'll be steering away from any “well, we have to honor Star Wars somewhere” storylines in the voting. Instead, I'll stick with the “returning elder statesman” vote, which I think will be strong in this year's Oscars, and select the 87-year-old Morricone. He's been nominated six times and never won, not even in 1986 for The Mission, which is a travesty I cannot forgive. What was even nominated that year? *checking* Wait, that score lost to Herbie Hancock's score for Round Midnight? That's unforgivable.


He has won an Honorary Oscar, but I think that even helps his case. “You wrote him off as done, and look, here he is, back again, winning the whole thing!”


Bet: Ennio Morricone, The Hateful Eight. $4,000 at 3-to-2 odds to win $6,000.

Category Sixteen: Best Original Song

The Weeknd, “Earned It,” from Fifty Shades of Grey (3/1)

J. Ralph, “Manta Ray,” from Racing Extinction (20/1)

David Lang, “Simple Song #3,” from Youth (10/1)

Lady Gaga and Diane Warren, “Til It Happens To You,” from The Hunting Ground (2/1)

Sam Smith, “Writing's on the Wall,” from Spectre (4/1)


Let's get this out of the way first: it's a federal crime that Wiz Khalifa and his cool pants are not nominated for an Oscar for “See You Again.” I know there may not be a huge Academy desire to honor the Fast and Furious franchise, but that a) that song has become inexorably connected with honoring the late Paul Walker, so not nominating it has felt like a slap in the face in that regard, b) it ended up becoming one of the most played songs of the entire year, finishing at #3 on the Billboard charts and with 1.5 billion views on YouTube, and c) the competition here is not great. “Manta Ray” is some sort of garbage Randy Newman knock-off and David Lang's piece from Youth is utterly unremarkable. Even the competitors would probably be knocked out by Wiz – Adele is the only person to win an Oscar for a James Bond theme, and Sam Smith is no Adele (don't feel bad, Sam, none of us are). That leaves the battle between a song that's mostly a PSA for college rape awareness, and a song from a movie that comes awfully close to equating domestic violence with romance. Seems kinda obvious where the voters will lean.


I don't have a lot of patience for Lady Gaga's schtick, but while “Til It Happens To You,” is an overwrought bit of fake Lana Del Rey-ing, it's also an efffective overwrought bit of fake Lana Del Rey-ing.



Bet: Lady Gaga, “Til It Happens To You.” $6,000 at 2-to-1 to win $12,000.

Categories Seventeen and Eighteen: Best Sound Editing/Mixing


Mad Max: Fury Road (2/1)

The Martian (8/1)

The Revenant (10/1)

Sicario (15/1)

Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2/1)


 Bridge of Spies (20/1)

Mad Max: Fury Road (2/1)

The Martian (8/1)

The Revenant (10/1)

Star Wars: The Force Awakens (3/1)


These categories almost always go together, as editing generally refers to sound creation while mixing focuses on the overall sound mix. That's why, unless there was a big musical (which would end up in the “Mixing” category but not the “Editing” category), you can ignore anyone nominated for just one and not the other.


I'm predicting a broad sweep of these categories by Mad Max, so I'm going to go ahead and parlay these two together. I pop their odds into a parlay machine and, bang, 8-to-1 odds!


Bet: Mad Max for both. $10,000 at 8-to-1 to win $80,000.


Category Nineteen: Best Production Design

Bridge of Spies (3/1)

The Danish Girl (2/1)

Mad Max: Fury Road (3/2)

The Martian (2/1)

The Revenant (4/1)


I'll stick with Mad Max here, but I don't feel great about it. This is one where it's hard to read what people's proclivities for “good” design are.

Bet: Mad Max. $1,000 at 3-to-2 to win $1,500.


Category Twenty: Best Cinematography

Carol (30/1)

The Hateful Eight (5/1)

Mad Max: Fury Road (3/1)

The Revenant (5/4)

Sicario (3/1)


I hate to ever go against Roger Deakins, who I adore and shot the blazes out of Sicario, but you don't go against Emmanuel Lubezki. He's been nominated for eight Oscars, he won last year for Birdman, he won the year before that for Gravity, and he shot The Revenant using all natural light in the about six minutes of daylight per day that they had. No way he loses this.


Bet: The Revenant. $4,000 at 5-to-4 to win $5,000.


Category Twenty-One: Best Makeup and Hairstyling

The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared (5/1)

Mad Max: Fury Road (3/2)

The Revenant (2/1)


I love these three-entry categories. It makes guessing so much easier.


I'm throwing out the random one, which is a 2013 Swedish film of some kind. It's apparently very successful, though I can't tell, offhand, if it's a comedy or a drama. I'm assuming it's nominated because the titular 100-year-old man is not actually a hundred years old.


So really, it's between crazy eye makeup and buzzed heads, and Tom Hardy's weird Revenant scabs. In all Oscar betting, always go for the most rather than the best, so let's say Mad Max.


Bet: Mad Max. $5,000 at 3-to-2 to win $7500.


Category Twenty-Two: Best Costume Design

Carol (3/1)

Cinderella (5/1)

The Danish Girl (3/1)

Mad Max: Fury Road (3/1)

The Revenant (5/1)

Boy, I'd like to give it to Carol here – that whole movie is really about costume design, in a lot of ways – but I have to figure the “lovely clothes!” vote will be split between the first three nominees, leaving Mad Max to sneak in and grab the trophy.

I'm throwing down most of the rest of my cash on this one, because the odds are good and I don't feel great about these last two categories.

Bet: Mad Max. $10,000 at 3-to-1 to win $30,000.


Category Twenty-Three: Best Film Editing

The Big Short (3/1)

Mad Max: Fury Road (3/1)

The Revenant (3/1)

Spotlight (4/1)

Star Wars: The Force Awakens (10/1)

There used to be a direct tie-in between the Editing Oscar and the Best Picture Oscar. The connection between the two is more tenuous now, and The Revenant doesn't have a lot of editing to it, but I'm going to take a stab at it and use this as a backdoor bet for The Revenant for Best Picture.

Bet: The Revenant. $2,000 at 3-to-1 to win $6,000.


Category Twenty-Four: Best Visual Effects

Ex Machina (10/1)

Mad Max: Fury Road (2/1)

The Martian (3/1)

The Revenant (5/1)

Star Wars: The Force Awakens (5/1)


I don't feel good about any of these, but I feel like the battle is between Mad Max's real-life effects versus The Martian's impressive green screen work. I think Hollywood is leaning much more towards the former over the latter.


Bet: Mad Max. $1,000 on 2-to-1 odds to win $2,000.


Okay, that's all $100,000 invested! I'll update this with a rundown of what I made and what I missed sometime after the Oscars.


Enjoy the interminable 4-hour broadcast, everyone! I'll be tweeting from @MoviesWithBen, if you want to join me.




Favorite Albums of 2015

I repeat: it was not a great year for music. Here's songs 8-12 on Billboard's Hot 100 chart for 2015.

With the possible exception of "Can't Feel My Face," don't all those songs seem like gimmicky summer hits that should be down around the 40-60 range? Yet we had nothing else this year. There was a period in time (around August, I think?) where it looked like Skrillex had saved music. These are dark days.

Favorite Albums of 2015:
15. Major Lazer, Peace Is The Mission
14. Slow Meadow, Slow Meadow
13. Good Old War, Broken Into Better Shape
12. Death Cab for Cutie, Kintsugi
11. David Ramirez, Fables
10. Andrew Ripp, Andrew Ripp
9. CHVRCHES, Every Open Eye
8. Ryan Adams, 1989
7. Ben Rector, Brand New
6. Adele, 25
5. Josh Garrels, Home
4. Matthew Perryman Jones, Cold Answer
3. Brandon Flowers, The Desired Effect
2. Grace Potter, Midnight
1. Tyler Lyle, The Native Genius of Desert Plants



My Favorite Television of 2015

We are in what's been called TV's Silver Age (in reference to the supposed Golden Age we are just leaving), and the major story remains that TV shows are coming from everywhere, and there's so much good stuff that you can't possibly watch all of it.

Even my list here has shows I've still got major chunks I've missed, or have yet to finish (in fact, since I finished this list I watched the last couple episodes of "You're The Worst," and frankly that show should move up a couple notches).

I'd highly recommend all these shows, though with the caveat that television is now deeply personal, and what one person loves the other might truly despise. I probably know three people, total, who would love "Documentary Now!", but that doesn't mean it's not awesome at what it does.

Also of note: the decline of broadcast TV entirely. There is only one more broadcast show (there are 2, total, one of which went off the air this year) than there are shows from the Lifetime network, for pity's sake. Broadcast TV is a wasteland.

Favorite TV Shows of 2015:
25. Documentary Now! (IFC)
24. Drunk History (Comedy Central)
23. Brooklyn Nine-Nine (Fox)
22. The Leftovers (HBO)
21. Casual (Hulu)
20. Inside Amy Schumer (Comedy Central)
19. Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp (Netflix)
18. Making A Murderer (Netflix)
17. Project Greenlight (HBO)
16. Master of None (Netflix)
15. Difficult People (Hulu)
14. Jessica Jones (Netflix)
13. Key and Peele (Comedy Central)
12. The Meltdown with Jonah and Kumail (Comedy Central)
11. UnReal (Lifetime)
10. Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO)
9. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (Netflix)
8. Better Call Saul (AMC)
7. Rick and Morty (Adult Swim)
6. You're The Worst (FXX)
5. Silicon Valley (HBO)
4. Veep (HBO)
3. Parks and Recreation (NBC)
2. Game of Thrones (HBO)
1. Mr. Robot (USA)


My Favorite Songs of 2015

2015 was a weird year for music. It was a year where I found myself saying things like, "man, this Justin Bieber album is really, really good," and "look, the fact is that Carly Rae Jepsen doesn't get enough respect."
On a most likely related note: Doesn't it feel like this was a really weak year for music? The most dominant albums were Taylor Swift's (released in 2014) and Adele's (released at the tail-end of 2015). J. Cole is nominated for a Grammy for Best Rap Album. Slipknot is nominated for Best Rock Album. Pop radio was mostly dead.
So it will come as no surprise that this year's list is kind of all over the place, though probably no more than usual.
Favorite Songs of 2015
25. A$AP Rocky feat. Joe Fox, "Holy Ghost," At.Long.Last.A$ap

24. Beka, "Compass," Beka
23. Beach Slang, "Bad Art & Weirdo Ideas," The Things We Do To Find People Who Look Like Us
22. WALK THE MOON, "Shut Up and Dance," Talking Is Hard
21. Good Old War, "Don't Forget," Broken Into Better Shape
20. Caleb Lovely, "Into It," (unreleased)
19. Kendrick Lamar, "Alright," To Pimp A Butterfly
18. Ben Rector, "More Like Love," Brand New
17. Son Lux, "You Don't Know Me," Bones
16. For King & Country, "Long Live," Run Wild. Live Free. Love Strong.
15. Major Lazer feat. Wild Belle, "Be Together," Peace Is The Mission
14. CHVRCHES, "Never Ending Circles," Every Open Eye
13. Andrew Ripp, "Surviving," Andrew Ripp
12. Ryan Adams, "My Wrecking Ball," Live at Carnegie Hall
11. Adele, "When We Were Young," 25
10. Mark Ronson feat. Bruno Mars, "Uptown Funk," Uptown Special
9. Brandon Flowers, "Between Me and You," The Desired Effect
8. Taylor Swift, "Wildest Dreams," 1989
7. David Ramirez, "How Do You Get 'Em Back," Fables
6. Jamie XX, "Good Times," In Colour
5. Matthew Perryman Jones, "Wresting Tigers," Cold Answer

4. Josh Garrels, "Born Again," Home
3. Grace Potter, "Your Girl," Midnight
2. Tyler Lyle, "Somebody's Someone," The Native Genius of Desert Plants
1. Vance Joy, "Georgia," Dream Your Life Away