Brown Thoughts After Another Brown Year

Today the Cleveland Browns lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers.  It’s a dog bites man story, a result that follows the chalk.  The Browns ended the year 3-13, which is their worst record in a while, and I didn’t watch a game after about week six.  I doubt that I’m alone.

So now we’ll go through what has become an almost annual Browns rite.  Where other teams focus on the playoffs, the Browns undoubtedly will be cleaning house, canning their head coach and probably their GM, too.  I’m sorry Mike Pettine was a bust, but I have to laugh when I remember owner Jimmy Haslam saying how the Browns were “thrilled” to have Pettine when they hired him only two years ago.

1557-mNo doubt the Browns were “thrilled” to hire anyone, because no rational person who wants a future in the NFL would want to be head coach of the Browns.  It’s a death wish writ large, because the Browns have had almost as many head coaches as they have had starting quarterbacks.  Does anybody remember Pat Shurmur?

So the Browns probably will once again hire a nobody, and they’ll get a new GM who will want to remake the team in his own image, and they’ll squander another high draft pick.  We’ll have a wholesale turnover of players, and the new guy will promise that we’ll be “exciting” or “tough” or play nails defense.  It never happens.  The franchise is cursed — cursed with stupidity.  A revolving door of coaches and front-office personnel, an owner who doesn’t know what he is doing and won’t hire somebody who does, and a list of failed first-round draft picks that were complete busts are a recipe for failure for any franchise.  The Browns have made that recipe into an art form.

This year there will be a bunch of really good Ohio State players in the draft.  Joey Bosa.  Ezekiel Elliott.  Normally I’d want them to play for my team — but now when my team is the Browns, because that inevitably means they will be injured or put into a scheme that fails to take advantage of their talents or otherwise converted into marginal players.

What should the Browns do?  I say clean house, top to bottom, and hire Jim Tressel to run the organization.  Why not?  We know he’s competent, he can recognize talent, he’s won at every level he’s tried, and his offensive scheme is pretty close to what the NFL does, anyway.  He knows the Browns tradition of success — unfortunately, only older guys know that anymore — and he resurrected the Buckeye program after the Cooper era.  Browns fans would give him a nice long honeymoon, which means he might actually last longer than the last few Browns coaches, who’ve been there for no more than a cup of coffee.  Maybe he’s not the answer — but does anybody trust this Browns organization to actually find somebody who is?

I say hire Jim Tressel.

Edited to add:  The Browns have, in fact, fired head coach Mike Pettine and GM Ray Farmer.  According to ESPN, they are interviewing former Buffalo coach Doug Marrone and Bears offensive coordinator Adam Gase.  Romeo Crennel, anyone?

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Bad News For A Song Of Ice And Fire Readers

If you are a fan of George R.R. Martin’s A Song Of Ice And Fire series of books, upon which the fine HBO series Game of Thrones is based, you’ve learned to be patient.

776466_510_promo_frames_16_00170187[1].jpgLike me, you’ve read the existing books in the series, reached their end with the epic tale still completely midstream and tantalizing plot threads dangling, did some reading about the pace of Martin’s writing, and realized that the next volume wouldn’t be coming out for years — but the books were so good that you were willing to wait, and wait, and wait, in hopes of seeing where the plot line goes and finding out, at some indeterminate date far, far, far into the future, how the story finally ends.

So when we all heard that the next book in the series, The Winds of Winter, was planned to be released in conjunction with the airing of the next year of Game of Thrones, this coming April, we rejoiced — but many of us also maintained a healthy bit of skepticism and an “I’ll believe it when I see it” attitude.

Now we learn that that skepticism is justified, as Martin has announced that the book isn’t done, it won’t be released by April, and he doesn’t know, in fact, when it will be finished because the writing is going slower than he anticipated — and this is from a writer who took six years to produce A Dance With Dragons, the last book in the series.  It’s disappointing, but I can’t say it’s really surprising.

So this leads to a quandary:  should the fans of the books and the TV series watch the next season of Game of Thrones, when the storyline moves past the end point of the last book?  I can’t speak for everyone, but I’m going to watch, because the TV show has diverged from the book plotting, anyway.  In my view, the world created by Martin’s fertile imagination is sufficiently rich that it can support two alternative approaches to a great story, and I just can’t wait much longer before I learn about what happens to Jon Snow — in the TV universe, at least.

In the meantime, I’ll wish George R.R. Martin a long, long, long (and productive) life.

The Hateful Eight

Pulp Fiction is a great movie.  In my view, so is Reservoir Dogs.  I thought Inglourious Basterds was pretty good, and the Kill Bill duo were interesting and entertaining films, too.  Those movies made many of us willing to go to any Quentin Tarantino movie, just to see what he’s come up with next.

The Hateful Eight isn’t a great movie, however.  It’s not even close.  In fact, I’d be hard-pressed to think of a movie that I found more affirmatively offensive and unpleasant to watch.  And when Kish and I left the theater yesterday, I decided that I’m done with Quentin Tarantino movies.

hateful-eight-tv-spotHe’s still got a huge amount of talent, there’s no doubt about it.  He can bring slow-building, eventually unbearable tension to a scene better than just about any other living director, he’s still got the ability to inject quirky humor into movies in unexpected ways, and the photography and staging of some of the scenes in The Hateful Eight — especially in the first part of the movie, when a stagecoach is moving through snow-bound Wyoming sometime in the 1870s — is terrific.

But Tarantino has, I think, gotten lazy.  He comes up with a good setting and idea — a bounty hunter taking a fugitive to a town to be hung when a blizzard makes him stop at a way station filled with mysterious strangers — and won’t do the heavy lifting to get the idea into a tight, taut script.  So you end up with what The Hateful Eight is:  an exercise in hyperviolent shock theater, where Tarantino seemingly has simply dreamed up new ways to push the boundaries of Hollywood films beyond the breaking point.

(Don’t read this paragraph if you plan on going to The Hateful Eight don’t want to have some of the plotlines spoiled.)  So filmgoers are bludgeoned with constant use of the n-word. They get to see a woman punched out repeatedly.  They have to watch a naked man performing oral sex on a bounty hunter in a snowy Wyoming field.  They see a dead man’s arm chopped off so a woman who is chained to him can make it to a gun.  They witness a woman being hung, kicking and twitching, from the rafters.  And they see just about everyone who appears in the film die a horrible death, some by poison that makes them vomit up enormous gouts of blood but most by just about every type of gunshot wound — including pistol shots that make their heads explode, shotgun blasts that spray red chunks of flesh toward the screen, bullets that blow off their gonads, and every other form of gunplay that a disturbed mind could concoct.  The film ends with the two wounded survivors soaked in gore and surrounded by carcasses — and, for me at least, a sense of immense relief that the killing and racist language and other unrelenting unpleasantness would finally, blessedly, stop.

Maybe there’s an audience for this kind of stuff, and I am sure that some apologists would argue that Tarantino’s staging of death after death after death shows deft camera work or pays tribute to Hitchcock or Sergio Leone or some other famous director, but don’t be fooled.  This is a sick and appalling movie made by someone who’s resting on his laurels and apparently needs a payday.  It’s too bad that a really good cast — including Kurt Russell, one of my favorites — wasted their time on this dismal effort.