By Daniel Thompson and Adam Bressler
Starting with the construction of the Rose Bowl Stadium in 1923, post-season college football contests have honored local commodities. The Rose Bowl, the Sugar Bowl, the Cotton Bowl, and the Peach Bowl are legendary names that pay respect to regional tourist festivals. But starting in the 1990s, bowl games began to sell their naming rights to corporate sponsors, either adding a sponsor to the beginning or end of the name (“The Rose Bowl presented by Northwestern Mutual”, “Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic”) or entirely selling out (“Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl”, “Camping World Bowl”, “Cheez-It Bowl”). Here at WCBN, we advocate for the games to return to their traditional naming roots. Below, we made a list of bowls that should be renamed and then proposed some possible titles that could work.
By: Alex Drain
In 12 days, the decade of the 2010s will come to a close. These final two weeks brings with it a cornucopia of lists and rankings of everything from the mainstream lists of the top athletes of the decade to the more obscure lists like the top memes of the decade. Today we will be looking at my picks for the top 40 movies of the decade, chosen by yours truly. Now first there are a few disclaimers here:
With that in mind, let’s talk about the list. There are 40 movies listed, featured in descending order down to #1. The picks from 40-21 are simply listed with no explanation since 1) that would be a ton of work because 2) my explanations/descriptions are VERY thorough. I assume that most people will not read my full explainer for each movie and if you do, congrats, you are a champion. If you would like to know my full thoughts on why a movie is ranked where it is between 40-21, feel free to yell at me on social media. So, without further ado, here we go:
40.) Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), 2014
39.) The Imitation Game, 2014
38.) Joker, 2019
37.) The Farewell, 2019
36.) Interstellar, 2014
35.) La La Land, 2016
34.) The King’s Speech, 2010
33.) Moneyball, 2011
32.) The Grand Budapest Hotel, 2014
31.) Mad Max: Fury Road
30.) Coco, 2017
29.) Inside Out, 2015
28.) Hacksaw Ridge, 2016
27.) The Martian, 2015
26.) Hell or High Water, 2016
25.) Eighth Grade, 2018
24.) Get Out, 2017
23.) Can You Ever Forgive Me?, 2018
22.) Once Upon A Time … in Hollywood, 2019
21.) Moonlight, 2016
20.) The Wolf of Wall Street, 2013
A film about the corruption, immorality, and the excesses of finance, The Wolf of Wall St. is exactly that: excessive, at times to a point, at times to a fault. Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, the movie dives right into the financial world in the late 80s and early 90s and follows the rise and fall of Jordan Belfort and Stratton Oakmont, a brokerage firm that illegally participated in pump-and-dump investment fraud schemes. DiCaprio’s performance is respectable, as he brings a fiery to passion to the character that personifies the energetic and frenetic behavior of the brokers at Stratton Oakmont. The scenes of Dicaprio on the microphone stand out as particularly sharp. Next to him, Jonah Hill plays the quintessential Jonah Hill role: the dopey sidekick who engages in all the same risky behavior yet without the raw independence or charisma of Belfort. Matthew McConaughey is only in the film for about 20 minutes, but his one major scene (teaching Belfort about Wall St. while at lunch) sets the tone for the entire picture and stands out as memorable. Scorsese’s directorial and editing work is strong as always, from good juxtaposition, to a solid soundtrack, to his trademark use of voice overs and freeze frames, in addition to the film’s epic scope, with vibrant images packed in between action and colors amid a gargantuan cast. Upon first watch, I was angered by the length of the movie, clocking in at just under 3 hours and while I still hold that some things could be cut (look, we get it: DiCaprio’s character does a lot of drugs), the film’s excessive length is illustrative of the excessive culture of its subject matter. Still, it’s a fun and freewheeling movie in a way that few other movies about tragic characters are and while its grand celebratory scenes have spawned a legion of GIFs that largely contradict the movie’s purpose (this. movie. should. not. make. you. want. to. be. Belfort), it is a testament to the style of the movie that the main emotion evoked from audiences was fun and lust and for that, I salute The Wolf of Wall St..
19.) Call Me By Your Name, 2017
This is a film that has really grown on me, while I was watching, but also since I’ve seen it. Based around a 17 year-old teenager living in Italy with his academic parents who falls in love with one of his father’s students, Call Me By Your Name is the rare but so desperately needed LGBT coming-of-age movie. Everything starts with the performance of its lead and one of the top young actors in film today: Timothée Chalamet. In a year that included efforts from Gary Oldman and Daniel Day-Lewis, Chalamet had the best singular performance of the year by channeling his emotions to illustrate the inner turmoil of a teen struggling with his sexuality in a far less tolerant time. The passion and emotion oozes out of him and the closing fireplace scene is one of the singular most memorable pieces of acting of the decade and he got my (totally nonexistent) vote for Best Actor in the 2017-18 cycle. While many people focused on Armie Hammer’s performance as the other half of the romantic relationship, I was particularly honed in on Michael Stuhlbarg’s performance as the father, and he frankly deserved more recognition than he got. Additionally, the score for this film was very, very good and the shots of the Italian countryside provide a perfect backdrop for the message that the film is trying to convey, with the serenity and beauty matching the innocent grace of the romance. This continued as the weather changed frequently to match the mood of the scene, which is very well done work by the producers. Graceful and sorrowful, Call Me By Your Name is the unique story that mainstream cinema so frequently snubs and If you can get past the age gap between the two main characters and see it for what it is, a beautiful coming-of-age story of the type that was so badly needed, you will appreciate this movie in profound ways.
18.) Room, 2015
*Spoilers present in this write up*
Room is a movie chronicling what is many people’s worst nightmare: abduction by a stranger and then 7 years of captivity and rape. Following the now early 20s main character played by Brie Larson, who was kidnapped and locked in a shed now living with her son, the product of rape by her captor, it follows their attempts to escape and how they adjust to the real world after it happens. Therefore, there are two acts to this movie, the first section in captivity and the second section dealing with adjustment to the real world. What Room does so well in the first half of the movie is build tension, starting with the sad and solemn bond between a mother and child in the worst of circumstances, before escalating into the escape scene where the tension is palpable. I am very rarely pulled out of my seat during a film but I was completely gripped, on edge for the entire scene. Heart pounding, the whole thing. That is a testament to excellent character construction and empathy for two helpless characters. From there, the emotion shifts to a mix of happiness and sadness, portrayed through the boy and his mother inhabiting the two different emotions. There are some plot holes that are evident and things that could have been worked out, details that could have been added, but overall it is still a triumph of humanity and the bond between a mother and child, the kind of movie that makes us believe in the goodness of the world and that maybe great things can still happen. This is a movie based on the idea of the expansiveness of the world and the optimism of children, packed in by tremendous performances from both Larson (she earned that Oscar) and Tremblay, who is a phenomenal child actor. Room is not a perfect movie but its heart-pounding, brisk take on life makes a movie that is not easy to watch, but is an absolute treat of hope.
17.) The Florida Project, 2017
There are a number of movies about class on the list of the 2010s, but few are as heartbreaking, thought provoking, elegant, agonizing, and beautiful as 2017’s The Florida Project. While many films looking at poverty take distinctly obvious settings and context: cities that are classically seen as run down like Compton or Camden or Flint, The Florida Project centers on Orlando, Florida, with the use of Disney World as a consumerist and glamorous backdrop for a harsh tale of extreme poverty. Following a single mother who works as a prostitute to make ends meet and her adventurous daughter, the story is taught through both lenses. On one hand we get a girl and her mischievous friends. Rude and annoying at times? Yeah. But they’re also intelligent, intentionally harmless, cute, and inquisitive. They relate to all of us, as we were once children. They invoke memories and from looking at that storyline, you’d have no idea that these kids were dirt poor and in terrible living conditions. The second storyline is much more grim and by using the mother’s (Halley) storyline, the audience hates her for ruining her daughter's life, and rightfully so perhaps. We feel bad for her, but also hate her, and it creates an aura of dread about the ultimate conclusion. In the middle we get the great Willem Dafoe (robbed of an Academy Award for BSA), who allows this downtrodden family to “live” in his cheap motel, doing everything he can on his limited budget to help out, and showing the lengths that humans will go to help each other, even in the worst of conditions. Realistic and humanistic, The Florida Project accents this difficult plot with some breathtaking shots and camera work to project on a grand scale a gritty yet tender tale of extreme poverty told through the eyes of a child and her mother.
16.) A Separation, 2011
Often times during the decade there are movies that don’t get the press they deserve because of the American-centric nature of our film media bubble. These are often highly acclaimed international and foreign language films that are snubbed from Best Picture consideration because of the Academy’s long-held phobia of giving foreign language films the top awards. One such example of this is A Separation, which captured the Best Foreign Language Film Award and nothing else in the 2011-12 Academy Awards cycle. But it truly deserves so much more, a masterful picture that encompasses clashes between family, class, and religion. Following a divorcing couple and their 11 year-old daughter in Tehran, Iran, this Persian language film sees the family locked in an ugly conflict over whether the father caused the miscarriage of his housekeeper during a violent dispute about her alleged mistreatment of his alzheimer’s ridden dad. If that sounds like a lot of stuff going on, it is. With a great ensemble cast, a terrific screenplay that can be respected even by non-speakers of Persian, and a storyline tackling so many themes, A Separation aims big and takes a challenging look at how all aspects of life intersect. The acting is stellar in every arena of the movie, but it is the exhilarating and whirring plot that will captivate audiences, with a few twists to keep you guessing until its final, spectacular ending. As a film geek who focuses too much attention on American cinema, it is always refreshing to be reminded by the terrific work being done in other parts of the world, and A Separation is evidence of that: unique, different, and well written and well directed. The pacing never runs dry and at some times it is reminiscent of Hitchcock, but without the violence. Investigative and questioning, A Separation is an intense, introspective look at the human condition and all of our dueling commitments in life.
15.) The Dallas Buyers Club, 2013
The Dallas Buyers Club is a movie carried by its unforgettable leads. This isn’t to say its screenplay is poor, but it pales in comparison to the gargantuan efforts of its actors Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto. Set in the 1980s HIV/AIDS crisis, The Dallas Buyers Club chronicles the efforts of an underground ring of HIV-positive people buying illegal drugs to help with their condition, which is led by a homophobic cowboy and a drug addicted trans woman. A tale of perseverance, unlikely friendship, and living life to the fullest, The Dallas Buyers Club’s historical drama is brought to life by the two co-stars who each netted much deserved Academy Awards for their effort. In McConaughey, we see an actor taking a role essential to his aesthetic and ethos as a person (a Texan cowboy) and knocking it out of the ballpark, a transformation from the hot and fiery anger on diagnosis to a more gentle and compassionate person by the end. He is convincing and confident in that role and it is contrasted by the manner in which Leto sinks into his role as Rayon (a very ill trans woman). The degree of difficulty on the task that Leto is being given is a 10/10 and he executes it with shocking grace, as it is nearly impossible to see that it is him in that role. He completely vanishes into character and the two work side-by-side over a beautiful yet heartbreaking storyline. Gut-wrenching and hopeful, The Dallas Buyers Club is a tour-de-force in acting and a strong plea to open your heart to those who may not be like you at the start.
14.) Roma, 2018
2018 was one of the weakest years of the decade in terms of film, but there was one surefire hit that was tragically snubbed at the Academy Awards: Roma. If we’re going with one word to sum up this movie, it is simply “majestic”, as director Alfonso Cuarón comes back with a new film that sports the same awe-inspiring cinematography and directorial work of his previous movie, Gravity, but this one actually has characters and a plot. Through the prowess of the camera, Cuarón crafts an illustrious world through slow pans and wide shots that he illustrates with immense detail via his slow moving and vividly rich scenes. Roma specifically details the life of an indigenous housekeeper working for a wealthy white Mexican family in 1970s Mexico. It’s a story of personal relationship, adversity, and triumph in the human condition and is absolutely worth the time it takes to see. While it was a Netflix movie and thus was mostly limited in release to viewings on laptops, iPads, and iPhones, the reality is that Roma should be seen on the big screen, because only then do audiences get the opportunity to soak in the total sensory experience that is this movie. A foreign language film, Roma can be seamlessly enjoyed by non-Spanish speakers and I give Cuarón credit for examining a topic that is quite rare in American cinema that views Latin America so monolithically: the intense racial and class divides that exist in Latin America and how those play out amid the backdrop of political instability. In a decade littered with the success of Mexican directors (Alejandro Iñárritu, Guillermo del Toro, Cuarón), Roma was the finest product of them all and deserves its spot inside the top 20.
13.) Her, 2013
Have you ever considered a world where people begin to fall in love with their phones and computers? If yes, then Her is the movie for you. Simultaneously sad and heartwarming, creepy and weird, Her strikes a bizarre chord inside its audiences as its unique subject matter as a sci-fi romantic drama puts it in an unusual position among all films. You can view Her in two ways: as a dystopian look into a future that moves us farther away from human interactions and more into a world where our romantic desires and mental health are reliant on computers who lack that human touch and distant cognition. Or you could look at it as a tale of love, acceptance, and progress, as the computer romances help the main characters get over personal trauma. Starring Joaquin Phoenix who is simply stellar, Her is perhaps made by the singular voice acting of Scarlett Johansson, who plays the voice of the operating system girlfriend “Samantha”. Without her ever having a body or a personification in the movie, we are able to read emotion, hope, fear, and doubt from the quivers in her voice, her tone, her cadence. Eerie and graceful, she constructs an entire character with her voice that conforms to the exact provision it was meant to be in in the script. Amy Adams is also tremendous in her supporting role, and all the characters hold hugely important parts to a strong plot. Her is a brave adventure into themes and storylines rarely examined in other prominent cinema, yet it is so much more than a dystopian relationship between a human and a computer. It is a story of finding love, enjoying life, and finding yourself through the use of others. Layered with commentary and concept and accented with a melancholy score, Her is memorable and genius, willing to step outside the mainstream and it rewards its audiences by being one of the 2010s finest films.
12.) The Irishman, 2019
Throughout the long career of iconic director Martin Scorsese, he has crafted a large number of mob movies. From the legendary Goodfellas to one of his first major pictures, Mean Streets, to Casino, The Departed, and The Gangs of New York. But despite all the healthy competition, The Irishman is one of Scorsese’s best. While it could credibly double as a reunion tour of geriatric male Hollywood legends, The Irishman tells the lucid story of mob hitman Frank Sheeran’s years with the Buffalino crime family and organized labor legend Jimmy Hoffa. It rolls out a star studded cast featuring two of the greatest actors to ever grace the screen of American cinema: Robert De Niro and Al Pacino. With help from Joe Pesci as well, The Irishman feels like a who’s who of movie legends but rather than reveling in the achievement of getting all 3 mob legends on the same screen together, The Irishman tells its own unique plot. At 3.5 hours, The Irishman is incredibly Scorsese’s longest film and it is indeed one of the longer films you will ever see. Yet, there is nothing obviously superfluous and it rarely slows to a lull, mixing hits with plot development in an overall well paced movie. The characters carry the film through some parts, with a polished and sharp screenplay by Steven Zaillain making it a surprisingly funny movie, and the acting from Pacino and Pesci in particular deserve recognition.
What sets The Irishman apart from other mob movies however is its emotional content, one of the most emotionally arousing and tender mob movies in memory, with the final 30 minutes in particular hitting hard. With a true sense of melancholy and reflection, Scorsese achieves a film about death, aging, and regret that feels at times like a reflection of his (and De Niro and Pacino’s) own career. If it is the swan song of all of these film legends’ careers, it was a great one. For a movie that took over a decade to complete and nearly $150 M to make, The Irishman was all worth it, a truly indispensable film of the decade.
(Note: I thought the de-aging technology was okay. Not bad and it helped to make De Niro look 40ish (roughly what he looked like in Goodfellas) but it didn’t do much beyond that. Arguably it did a better job with Pacino, who actually looked like an older Michael Corleone for the first time in a while, erasing decades of cocaine).
11.) Marriage Story, 2019
While we often praise movies that take on topics that are new and brave, like this decade’s multitude of films discussing LGBT relationships and experiences (several on this list), sometimes it is even more daring to try and put an original spin on experiences and institutions as old as sliced bread. This is where Marriage Story comes into play, taking an intense look at divorce and the toll it takes on individuals and families. Written, directed, and produced by Noah Baumbach, Marriage Story stars Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson as a theatrical couple enduring a marriage coming apart at the seams as they try and shield their 8 year-old son from the worst elements of it in a desire to stay amicable. Tender and harsh, Marriage Story is perhaps best defined by its compassionate take on divorce, as it attempts to paint both characters as figures with legitimate complaints about the other, consumed by a legal process that serves to drive increasingly nasty stakes in between the two sides. With stellar acting from both Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson, Marriage Story is fair yet depressing, trying to articulate a simple idea: what happens when two good and decent people need to separate because they simply weren’t fit for each other, not because they did something terribly wrong?
In a graveyard of movies that look at divorce through the grisly realities of alcoholism, domestic abuse, and affairs, Marriage Story is a refreshing take on society’s oldest institution. The screenplay weaves between the different cogs in a marriage, the family dimension, the professional dimension, and then the ruthless injustices of the legal system that prides itself on being as vicious as possible, the latter of which exemplified by a courtroom battle between supporting actors Ray Liotta and Laurie Dern, both of whom were tremendous (the former of which answers the question: does Ray Liotta still have a career?). The movie culminates in an equally passionate scene where Johansson and Driver attempt to talk things out before it falls apart with a striking emotional value and guilt that has viewers torn between who they side with. And that’s the beauty of Marriage Story: there is not one side that we are supposed to affiliate with, as we get an empathetic look at both sides and the havoc created by such a trying time. Graceful and fragile, Marriage Story is simply one of the most well-rounded and honest films of the decade.
10.) Lady Bird, 2017
Serving as Greta Gerwig’s solo directorial debut, Lady Bird is a powerful coming-of-age of drama and yes, I am particularly susceptible to coming-of-age movies in general (see: #1 on this list). But there are many reasons to love Lady Bird despite just its surface-level status as comfortably fitting into a genre. Most notably, it is special because of the sheer number of themes and questions explored, going deeper and beyond the bare qualifications for its genre. At face value, Lady Bird is a coming-of-age movie about a girl who is a senior in HS as she deals with her parents, friends, and future. But there is so much more to dig into. The most pivotal theme is the relationship between the protagonist and her mother, which so perfectly sums up the tough love relationship between many parents and their children. And this aspect of the movie would not be made possible without Saoirse Ronan absolutely killing it in her lead role, and I will go to the grave arguing that Laurie Metcalf deserved the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for the 2017 cycle (sorry, Allison Janney). Beyond that there’s the relationship between the namesake protagonist and her friends, with the high school dilemma of the cool kids vs. the rejects coming into clear focus. That right there, is again, enough to be an entire film but Lady Bird pushes forward. Another is her romantic relationship, with love scenes that anyone who dated as a teen can relate to, the frustration, the limitations, the horniness, etc.. Drilling deeper, there’s religion, homosexuality, income and social status, and college all explored and discussed, draped in the backdrop of teenagehood and growing up. Striking, dramatic, and funny, Lady Bird will fall short to some audiences, but to others it encompasses the complex time of teenagehood and knocks it out of the park.
9.) 12 Years A Slave, 2013
No (decent, moral, humane, ethical human being) one has ever said that they enjoyed watching 12 Years A Slave. It is painful to behold because it achieves what it set out to do so well. Like Schindler’s List placed you in the Holocaust and Saving Private Ryan placed you on Omaha Beach of D-Day, 12 Years A Slave places you in the 1840s southern United States as the institution of slavery was reaching a peak, told through the eyes of a kidnapped free black man who is separated from his family as an adult and sold into slavery. The movie had its sights set on a tall task of recreating and telling the story of America’s most shameful moment and most painful sore. Thankfully, it hit the runway dead on. A less successful version of the movie may have been amusing if it came up to cartoonish in its portrayal of slavery, or perhaps been unwatchable if it were too cold in refusing to coalesce around a plot. Instead 12 Years A Slave finds the medium, with completely believable- and harrowing- depictions of slavery that truly transport the audience to 1840s Louisiana, while also mixing in a compelling storyline and very real characters, brought to life by the exceptional acting of its lead talents Chiwetel Ejiofor, Lupita Nyong’o, and Michael Fassbender. With a superb score from famed composer Hans Zimmer to go along with it, 12 Years A Slave constructs this plausible reality and uses it to tear open a gaping wound in those sores of the American conscience, crafting a 134 minute reconsideration of slavery. If you hadn’t thought about the practice of slavery and its consequences, this movie forces you, through its heartbreaking yet resilient plot. Awe-inspiring and devastating, 12 Years A Slave is no one’s favorite film, or even one they want to watch again, but it is required viewing and a must-see for anyone trying to understand the root of race relations and the evils of slavery in North America. In a decade that saw race re-enter the mainstream of American culture and politics, 12 Years A Slave is a fitting representative in the top 10 for the litany of race-themed movies this decade (some of which also made the top 40) and it was one of the most clear cut, slam dunk best picture winners of the 2010s.
8.) Whiplash, 2014
Some great art is created to make an intentional point, one that is obvious and clear. Other great art is puzzling and complex, making you contemplate and question what the exact message is, lost inside a treasure trove of mixed messages. That is, in my view, Whiplash, a movie that makes you question “the point”. Based around the story of a teenage drummer enrolled in an elite music school being mentored by a domineering teacher, Whiplash is one of the shortest movies on this list but no doubt one of the most memorable. There are some obviously great parts that don't make you consider "the point": the music and sound editing, the choreography and filmmaking prowess out of the hands of a young Damien Chazelle, and the dueling efforts from JK Simmons and Miles Teller. No matter how you interpret the movie, all of those aspects still ring true. But what is “the point”? Whiplash is a hard and deep examination of ambition and mentorship. At its core, that is the theme stretching across the entire picture. A young drummer with endless ambition, one who isn’t satisfied to be good, nor even great, he wants to be legendary. He wants to be remembered. And then there’s the mentor in Simmons’ role, the domineering Terrence Fletcher who is not unlike the drill sergeant from Full Metal Jacket: someone who uses emotional and physical abuse, vulgarity, and emasculating tactics to train and harden their subjects. There is no simplistic, Rocky-esque, reading to this film. It isn’t an obviously inspirational tale of perseverance in the face of trouble, and that’s what makes it so fascinating to watch. It’s a film that should make all of us question how far we are all willing to go for success, to evaluate those figures in our lives who push us to be better, and the lengths we are going to.
Of course, none of this would be possible without the two dazzling efforts from both lead actors, the sound mixing and editing, and the overall filmmaking process. Whether it was the imagery of the blood and the sweat on the drum kit, the brilliant shots leading to the car crash, or the quick toggle between shots of the characters and the crashing cymbals, Whiplash is brilliantly made and a relatable allegory for quests of all kinds, be it in music, sports, or other professions. Whiplash was the movie that announced Chazelle’s arrival onto the film scene and he cemented it with La La Land two years later (see: earlier on the list). There’s a reason that Whiplash is one of the highest rated movies of all-time by IMDb users: it’s confusing but poignant, action-packed yet truly psychological and doesn’t leave a satisfactory taste in your mouth. But frankly, that’s why you remember it.
7.) The Artist, 2011
What did I know coming into watching The Artist? That it’s in black and white and it’s a silent film. That’s about it. My expectations were honestly low despite all of the praise heaped onto it over the years, largely because I don’t have much experience with silent films and didn’t expect to like it. But what I saw was something far more than just that baseline understanding: a deeply moving, beautiful film telling a credible, engaging tale in the right amount of time. Chronicling the fall of the silent movie and the rise of the “talkie” from one aging star of the bygone silent to the upcoming talking hot actress, The Artist’s plot is like if you gave A Star is Born a better ending and fused it with the overarching topic from Singin’ in the Rain. But it cranks the beauty, the empathy, and the raw human emotion to a 100 through the virtuoso acting of Jean Dujardin and Bérénice Bejo, who embody their characters to a tee. It’s truly a crash course in raw acting, without a voice but still conveying the plot entirely, while the score puts the movie into overdrive, and in some cases, is able to produce more emotion than if it weren’t silent. Despite never hearing the characters speak, we become attached and fixated to the protagonists, anchored by our emotion throughout the film’s climax, a testament to the generous creation that The Artist is to 21st century film. If you skipped this movie because you didn’t know if you’d like something as unusual as a black-and-white silent in the 21st century, you made a grave, grave mistake.
6.) Manchester by the Sea, 2016
It’s hard to describe just how brutally painful watching Manchester by the Sea is. A film completely centered around grief, it tells the story of a middle-aged irascible handyman (Casey Affleck) who is asked to become the guardian of his 16 year-old nephew after the death of his brother and in the process it uncovers an unspeakable tragedy that led to a divorce with his ex-wife (Michelle Williams). There are plenty of movies on grief, but Manchester by the Sea looks at a certain type of raw grief for which there is truly no recovery and while the scarring storyline so well crafted by Kenneth Lonergan does a good job getting you there, it is the contrasting efforts of Williams and Affleck that completes the task. On one hand there is the numb and cold Affleck, scarred by his experience in such a profound way that he cannot show real emotion and decides to isolate himself in life, and on the other there is Williams, fragile and constantly on the verge of collapsing, choosing to cope by remaking a new life in society. Illustrating that there is no one real way to grieve, Manchester by the Sea hits you over the head with a story so rough that it is impossible to look around. It’s frankly hard to watch at times but is not a movie you’re going to forget. In a year where La La Land and Moonlight (both on this list) fought for the best picture nomination so controversially, it was Manchester by the Sea that was the true best picture.
5.) The Social Network, 2010
In a decade dominated by the ever expanding influence of social media and Facebook in particular, The Social Network stands out as a particularly important picture, not just because of its popularity at the time, but for the way it has aged. Chronicling the founding of Facebook from 2003-2005 and the associated lawsuits that followed founder Mark Zuckerberg in the company’s early days, The Social Network is bolstered first and foremost by a tremendous screenplay from Aaron Sorkin. Witty and sharp, it adds an edge to all of the characters and portrays Zuckerberg as something deeper than the architect of a billion dollar company, a deeply flawed genius whose lack of social skills and cunning helped catapult Facebook to greater heights but also burning bridges with most of his friends along the way. There is also quality directing from one of the finest active directors out there, David Fincher, a solid score, and strong acting from Jesse Eisenberg, Justin Timberlake, and Andrew Garfield as they plausibly assume the roles of young college kids who got rich too quick and are struggling with the associated emotions and challenges.
But while the performances are above average, it all comes back to the screenplay, which earned the Oscar it received. At the time of the film’s release in the fall of 2010, The Social Network was criticized by some for its scathing take on Zuckerberg and Facebook as a whole but as the years pass, it has proved almost prescient, as the corporate ethos and general approach that the caricature of Zuckerberg in the film exudes has been exemplified in the myriad of problems Facebook created later on in the decade. It’s a film that makes you question your own attachment to social media, and also the humble roots that got us to that point, an early take on a topic that has consumed this decade in history and a movie that may well prove to be synonymous with an era and a movie ahead of its time. Powerful, shocking, and witty, The Social Network is a towering feature of the 2010s.
4.) Parasite, 2019
There are some movies to watch with no expectations coming in. Parasite is one of those movies. Anything more than just a purely superficial plot description (e.g. “it’s about a Korean family”) does not do justice to the manner in which Parasite takes you on a wild ride, zigzagging like a roller coaster in and out of genres at will. As a result, if you have not seen this film, I would recommend not reading this next part. Thus:
*Spoilers present in this write up*
At the outset of the movie, we begin to think this is perhaps a coming of age narrative, or an underdog story, with the downtrodden Ki-Woo taking a modest job as a tutor to get off his feet and then sees the fruits of his labor begin to flourish. From there Parasite lurches into the main narrative, where each member of the Kim family attempts to get a job as a service worker within the gullible and exorbitantly wealthy Park family. There are different moments where it seems destined to jump full on into a romance, as Ki-Woo strikes up a secret flirtation with his student, Da-Hye. But the movie refuses to take this full on. There are other parts that seem like it is truly just a comedy, which indeed it partially is (listed as a dark comedy thriller officially), thanks to a fabulous screenplay from Han Jin-won and Bong Joon-ho, making it one of the funniest films of the decade. But that isn’t quite what Parasite is. Because for the final 40 minutes or so, the movie takes a Hitchcock-like plunge into the thriller genre, mixing in twists, gore, and violence over a jaw-dropping story arc. In this way it becomes almost Tarantino-like, serving up a combination of comedy and violence slathered in cartoonish gore. At its heart however, Parasite is a commentary about class. It is a story about how the poor and rich conflict, how neither are truly heroes and neither are truly villains, one ignorant and the other cunning, and also the manner in which this class conflict pit two sides against themselves (in this case the poor families of the Kims and Moon-gwang/Geun-sae), who probably should be cooperating. It is sewed together by a great score that suits the action and mood at every turn, with stellar editing, and acting to go along with its triumphant screenplay, culminating in a rip-roaring 132 minutes that leave it with a shot to remake American perceptions of Korean cinema. A landmark achievement for the Asian film industry and it has a shot to become the first foreign language Best Picture in the history of the Academy Awards next February. And it should, because Parasite is the best movie of 2019 and one of the greatest of the decade.
3.) Inception, 2010
Few movies have the awe-inspiring scope, the jaw-dropping ambition of Inception, the belief that cinema should be used to stretch your mind to the reaches of what’s possible. That is what Christopher Nolan tried to do with 2010’s Inception, a film with the trippiness and surreality of 2001: A Space Odyssey, but something more encompassing, thrilling, and mind extending. While 2001 is a puzzler of a certain dimension, the type that makes you question the meaning of everything through strange metaphor and symbolism, Inception is a puzzler so layered and dense that it extenuates the brain throughout its entire 140 minutes of plot. Based on the concept of knowledge thieves, that you can plant ideas inside people’s brains or steal it out of them if you penetrate their dreams and through that, their subconscious, Inception is in a genre sense, a sci-fi crime thriller of the heist variety. But it is so much more than that. The now well known idea of “a dream inside a dream inside a dream” has become part of cinematic common knowledge, but it is worth remembering how incredible that concept was when it came out nearly a decade ago.
For a director who made two entire movies that revolved around layered plot tricks to play games with the audience (Memento and The Prestige), Inception is somehow Nolan’s most gargantuan effort and it required complete precision to make it possible. And it happened. With many sci-fi films, a plot too complex or unrealistic falls flat. There needs to be some kind of buy-in. Inception does it through careful character development, slowly chipping away at Dom Cobb’s (Leo DiCaprio) character in pieces and through a captivating and thrilling final hour. While the first hour can drag at moments, once it gets going, Inception never slows down, the kind of movie you cannot pause if you’re watching at home, even if you have trouble wrapping your head around it on the first (or second) watch, as I did. The power of virtuosic direction and cinematography, an expansive ensemble cast banding together (Tom Hardy, Ken Watanabe, Ellen Page), and an original score (and sound mixing and editing) for the ages, it has all the ingredients that captivates viewers, with Nolan and the great Hans Zimmer teaming together to create a sci-fi masterpiece of epic proportions. Does it have depth in terms of total meaning? What is the whole point of Inception? I’m not honestly sure. But it takes a complex concept (dreams and the subconscious) and blows it up on a grand scale, making audiences reach for the stars, or in this case down into dream after dream, and not releasing them until the very end.
2.) Spotlight, 2015
Of all the movies in the top 10 of my rankings, Spotlight is perhaps the most confusing to myself as to why I rate it so highly. Many of the films in the top 10 have obvious parts that stand out: an acting performance, a strong screenplay, great directorial work, etc.. But when I look at Spotlight, it has none of those elements. It’s not particularly ambitious in scope, it doesn’t have breathtaking acting, and there’s nothing terribly memorable about its dialogue. Yet, it is completely enthralling and exhilarating. Telling the story of the Boston Globe’s investigation into, and uncovering of, the Catholic Church’s sexual abuse scandal in the Boston area, it is a triumphant journalistic thriller that feels so fitting in the present decade, as investigative journalist teams at newspapers are being cut by the day. A story about holding power to account and helping to make things right, Spotlight weaves its way in and out of the scandal, following as the team uncovers the story and fights to make it public. Starring Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, and Mark Ruffalo, the movie is a hopeful movie that makes you believe there is still good in the world and does not release the audience until the very last minute.
1.) Boyhood, 2014
I have never related to a movie quite like I related to Boyhood, and while this could theoretically be true for anyone who was ever a child (so uh, everyone), I think this is especially true for a lot of boys born between 1990 and 2000. Written and directed by Richard Linklater, a director known for his unique use of time (see: the Before trilogy), Boyhood was the most ambitious movie project of the decade, and one of the most of all time. Filmed over the course of 12 years, it stars the same protagonist (Ellar Coltrane) as he grows up from age 6 to 18. While it is not based directly on Coltrane’s life (it has an actual plot independent of the actor), it incorporates aspects of childhood that were unforeseen at the time the project began in 2001, and that’s where Boyhood becomes a nostalgia machine for people like me: playing the Wii with friends, being a kid and not really understanding the Iraq War, excitement over the release of the new Harry Potter books, and so many other memory shards are included in this movie, which makes it doubly as significant.
But even if you’re an old fogie this could still be one of the most powerful movies you’ve ever seen because of what it represents in plain terms: the opportunity to watch one person grow up on screen. And accompanying that you get a moving, effective plot that fleshes out so many of the ideas, internal dilemmas, and insecurities that come with childhood into the teenage years and onto adulthood. From the innocence of childhood to the discovery of sexuality to peer pressure to tricky relationships with parents to the looming question that towers over every teenager: the future (college, jobs, etc). On the note of parents, Boyhood also features Patricia Arquette in an award-winning performance as Coltrane’s mother and Ethan Hawke, a Linklater regular, as the father, and both turn in A+ efforts that make the movie possible. All in all you get a 165 minute independent film masterpiece that is the definitive coming of age movie, not just of this decade, but ever. Encapsulating every aspect of childhood to adulthood, Boyhood delivered on a promise 12 years in the making in an unforgettable manner, a rush of emotion and power when you complete it so rarely see in cinema. If I could recommend one movie from the decade, it would be Boyhood. Simply and totally unforgettable. The movie of the 2010s.
1. Chase Young EDGE, OSU
It is clear to anyone who watches that there are few human beings on planet earth built like Chase Young, he just plays football. What’s incredible about Young is that unlike these freaks that have come out before (Garrett, N. Bosa, Clowney), Young has outproduced them by a mile. A legit Heisman contender, he has elite power and special speed. Not just his physical tools, on tape his instincts stick out as much as his physical presence. You don’t always get to have the sacks, but almost every play Chase Young has affected it by blowing up the line in some way.
2. Joe Burrow QB, LSU
There is no denying it anymore, Burrow is the clear-cut QB1. He has great arm talent and exceptional instincts, but what really impresses me is his ability to escape the pocket and extend plays while keeping his eyes down the field. His arm isn’t Wentz’s or Allen’s but I have a higher grade on Burrow than them because he is such a good player. He is not some once in a generation type freak in terms of arm strength, but his decision making, pretty good arm strength and instincts in the pocket along with his usually overrated [in prior drafts] success in college make him a clear can’t miss QB prospect.
3. Jerry Jeudy WR, Alabama
When scouting WRs you rarely find someone with as much upside with the polish of Jerry Jeudy. If Jerry played in the NFL this year he could be one of the 10 best route runners in football. His motions are just too fluid, and his good speed and amazing RAC ability make him a nightmare in college and a special weapon in the pros. Jerry Jeudy will likely receive the highest grade I have ever given a WR, and it will be the highest since his fellow Tide Amari Cooper.
4. Jeffrey Okudah CB, OSU
Last year I went out on a limb and said that Greedy Williams was the best CB since Jalen Ramsey to come out of college. I still stand by that opinion and the jury remains out on that, but there has not been a true shut down clear-cut top 5 pick corner since Ramsey. Okudah might be better. His ELITE speed and quick hips pop on the screen. There is rarely a receiver or route that he is not all over. Ohio State puts him on an island and in a Big 10 where there is amazing receiver play, he is without a doubt the best CB in this class and perhaps the Gold Standard for the position.
5.Derrick Brown DL, Auburn
I thought last year Derrick Brown made a mistake going back to college and not declaring last year. I thought he could only hurt his stock returning for another year. I was wrong, he has shown he can be a mauler as well as a pass rush specialist. You can line up Derrick Brown everywhere and he could be a monster on the line. Derrick Brown is one of those prospects this year I have ZERO questions about.
6. Justin Herbert QB, Oregon
I love Justin Herbert. I think his lower ranking on other boards is another example of the QB loss fallacy. I’m sure some saw the losses to Auburn and ASU as huge problems, but I don’t see why Herbert is to blame for those losses. To me when I look at Herbert I see one of my favorite QBs in the last 5 years. If he had came out last season he would have been the first pick. His ability to throw on the run and off balance is the best in this class and that is what attracts me to him. His mobility and rocket arm makes him my favorite (if not the best) QB in this class.
7. Isiah Simmons LB, Clemson
Although he plays safety in college he will likely play LB in the NFL, and with his size and hitting ability he could be something special. He has an amazing nose for the ball and some elite coverage skills when he guards TE. He is one of the more intriguing prospects and with more time to analyze tape and measure his measurables, he is a guy I have pegged to like more in the process.
8. Tua Tagovailoa QB, Alabama
When talking about Tua Tagovailoa you talk about three things: his touch on the deep ball, his running ability and his injury. His ability to have touch downfield is remarkable and his running ability is really impressive, but the injury is not my only question mark. In fact, I barely factor it in to my assessment. I see Tua sometimes miss the intermediate throws too many times for a guy who might not have the requisite zip I look for. I do question his pure arm strength, and I don’t think it is due to the injury. His accuracy is stellar but his potential is limited because of arm talent but still a future stud QB in the NFL if healthy.
9. Henry Ruggs III WR, Alabama
You wanna talk about a burner? Henry Ruggs may be one of the best straight line speed guys I have seen in a while. His ability to fly by defenders and hit bombs is incredible. And his route running isn’t bad either. He is smoothe on his route running and his size is surprising for a man his speed. I know it says 6 foot but it looks more like 6’2”. I think this guy will be a stud in the NFL.
10. AJ Epenesa EDGE, Iowa
This man is a true EDGE setter. The power he is able to put on a tackle is mind blowing. I watch this guy time and time again do the little things to blow up a play. Whether he puts the O linemen out of position and forces a change of direction to the running back or plowing down blockers to get to the QB. This man is a stud and a near perfect replication of Cameron Jordan.
11. Grant Delpit S, LSU
I am going out on a limb because by all measures Grant Delpit disappointed this season. He was supposed to be a sure fire top 5 players now he is looking like a top 15 player. However, what made him special IS there. I see the amazing coverage skills and athleticism and he is still as great a hitter as ever. I used to believe he had the best instincts in college football now that is his major question mark. He gets burned often because he picks the wrong route to cover and takes too many risks. But you want a S who is willing to take risks, especially as your center fielder. He has superstar potential and that is enough to give him a potential top 10 ranking.
12. Ceedee Lamb WR, Oklahoma
One of the safer prospects in this year’s class and in any other class he would probably be a top 2 receiver. I like to call him baby Jeudy because that is exactly how I see him. He has the same elite route running skills, just not as elite as Jeudy; he has the same elite catching ability, just not as elite as Jeudy; he has the same elite RAC ability, just not as elite as Jeudy; he has elite speed, just not as elite as Ruggs. I think Lamb will be a stud receiver in this league (will be a theme of this class), and whatever team gets him will get their No.1 receiver for many years.
13. CJ Henderson CB, Florida
I have been burned on these calls before (I remember fellow Gator Hargreaves all too well). I tend to like fast corners with great press skills, and that has burned me before. But I like Henderson and his potential. His potential is Okudah level but he could also flame out due to his major flaw. He is bad against the elite route runners in shorter routes. That is where a lot of NFL offenses have their roots. I worry about his instincts, but his ability to stay with receivers and cover is what has me thinking he has sky high potential.
14. Andrew Thomas OT, Georgia
Easily the best in what once seemed to be a generation defining Tackle class. Andrew Thomas has amazing footwork and is rarely beaten by opposing pass rushers. He has necessary measurables outside his height T 6’5”. He has good technical skills and uses his hands quite well. He could be a high floor guy, but my question for him would be is he able to be an elite Tackle in the NFL. He may have been a mauler in college but can he do it against NFL size freaks, that remains to be seen.
15. Tee Higgins WR, Clemoson
Tee Higgins is a factory made stud receiver. His speed and jump ball ability are plain to see to any first time viewers of his tape. What I enjoy is watching him after the ball is in his hands. His patience and use of his many gifts is incredible. He is a quiet RAC machine who can take a slant to the house on any given play coupled with the fact that he is of prototype size should make him an attractive commodity in the draft. If he could smoothe out some stiffness in his route running he could be a top 10 guy in this class.
16. Kenneth Murray LB, Oklahoma
Talk about nose for the ball. There is rarely a play where Murray is not immediately at the point of attack. He is a tackling machine and has the burst to shoot any gap on. Equally as impressive is his ability as a blitzer, when he shoots up a gap he is almost always unguarded (Big 12 Football disclaimer). However, he could improve his coverage instincts. He could be a future leader in the NFL in tackles but he needs to get better in his coverage and if he does he would be something special.
17. Jonathan Taylor RB, Wisconsin
This man is a bowling ball. He bounces off defenders routinely and never goes down of the first hit. His quick first step is also what makes him near impossible to stop. Taylor is a true bell cow back with phenomenal first cut quickness and deceptive speed. Not to mention he is a true pro as a pass catcher. His only knock is tread on his tires. Can he last past his first contract? If he can, he might be a true superstar in the NFL.
18. Tristan Wirfs OT, Iowa
This man is a classic Iowa Tackle. Built to maul and be a road grader. A true anchor on the line in the NFL he is a BIG boy who is especially talented in the run game using his impressive leverage skills. He could be a possible Pro Bowler at either position but his possible better aptitude for RT may propel him down people’s boards.
19. De’Andre Swift RB, Georgia
A true modern day RB. Possesses an amazing scat ability while having the perfect wiggle and speed to be able to score on any play. His ability to run between the tackles is also impressive. He possesses an unreal ability to come out of scrums unscathed. He is almost a carbon copy of the mold his previous Georgia counterparts.
20. Kristian Fulton CB, LSU
Fulton is TOUGH, like really tough. Like the opposite of Greedy last year. Where Greedy was a great tools guy who was elite at coverage skills, Fulton is an amazing press guy who is a great tackler and has amazing instincts. He has played through an injury all year so that may affect the scouts’ opinion of him. However, he is a great CB prospect and will most likely have a full first round grade from me.
21. K’Lavon Chaisson EDGE, LSU
An injury riddled season in 2018 almost made him into a pure projection pick for the 2020 Draft. Arguably THE reason the LSU defense has been unstoppable, Chaison is leading the LSU defense and being nearly unblockable against good SEC opponents. Making life unbearable to Fromm and Thomas against Georgia cemented him in my mind as a First Rounder (barring injury). He is ideal as a 3-4 bender but if he gains a good amount of weight, he could be a beast off the EDGE.
22. Javon Kinlaw DL, South Carolina
I am not well versed in Kinlaw’s tape, a friend turned me on to him and I trust his opinion on these matters. I turned on the Georgia tape and the first thing I noticed was this mammoth in the middle if the Gamecocks defense. If you are wondering why Georgia lost that game, it is because this man plugged every inside rushing lane possible. I still have much more of his tape to watch, but I could see him moving far up in my rankings.
23. Jedrick Wilson Jr. OT, Alabama
This man played blindside tackle for Tua so technically he is a RT, but he is a man who was born to play NFL LT. His technical skills and footwork are exceptional as all Saban Lineman tend to be, but his use of his size to keep would be rushers at bay . One thing I would like to see from him is better use of his hands and possibly more leverage blocking.
24. Laviska Shenault Jr. WR, Colorado
Shenault if you had asked draft experts last year would have been a top 10 player if he was eligible. Yet he wasn’t and his team underperformed this year so he fell down boards. However, I still would have a potential top 15 grade on him. His ability to be a weapon from anywhere on the field is incredible matched up with his 6’2” size. He could be one of those guys down the line that scouts regret ever doubting
25. Travis Etienne RB, Clemson
There is not a single thing that Etienne does not do at an exemplary rate. He can catch, he has great vision, he hits his cuts fast, he can take a hit pretty well, and he has low tread. Sign me up, not much more to say about a guy I love in this class.
26. Tyler Biadasz IOL, Wisconsin
When Wiscosin had that monster O Line last year, there was little doubt that the star of that line was Biadasz. He is a massive man and a great mauler in the middle of a line. He is exceptional in leading the way for Jonathan Taylor and exceptional in picking up interior pressure. Biadasz may just be the best Center I have ever scouted.
27. J.K Dobbins RB, OSU
This man is fast. You don’t make guys with his level of breakaway speed that often. You also rarely see a man who is that fast and good in between the tackles. Over the true meat of OSU’s recent schedule, Dobbins has established himself as a special RB who is able to gash opposing defenses at any given moment.
28. Yetur Gross-Matos EDGE, Penn St.
A true end. This man is a dying breed in the NFL today. A true power edge setter who is able to bull rush the fenders and break the edge rather than finesse his way around it. That is not to mention his amazing moves and flexibility. I question some of his elite measurables as well as his ultimate potential however.
29. Dylan Moses LB, Alabama
Before he tore his ACL, Moses was heading for a top 5 overall place on my big board. He was special, incredibly gifted physically with a true mean streak and amazing instincts. He could have lined up everywhere and be dominate on the front 7. He could be a top EDGE rusher if he wanted but he truly is special as a LB. Even more impressive is his speed in hitting gaps. As a former RB, his speed pops off the tape and his awareness/ nose for the ball is evident on all his tape last season. However his injury for someone so athletic should be worrisome to anyone.
30. Donovan Peoples-Jones WR, Michigan
Perhaps the receiver with the best physical tools in the draft. I watch DPJ play and whenever he touches the ball, his kinesthetic ability to run with the ball in his hands leaps off the screen. He is a threat to take it to the house at any given moment. The moment he hits the combine, he should impress well enough to secure his round 1 spot. However, his lack of production does leave his hands in doubt. This was obviously due to porous QB performance but it is still a question mark. Peoples-Jones is perhaps a projection pick, but I think he could be a surprise steal of this draft.
31. Devonta Smith WR, Alabama
The third Alabama receiver to get a first round grade and he should not be overlooked. This man has the ability to fly by defenders and may perhaps be just as fast as Ruggs, even off a cut. His RAC ability remains my main question mark with him. He could be an amazing burner and has amazing hands, but his slightly average ability to make people miss without burning them is something I would keep my eye on.
32. Najee Harris RB, Alabama
I get the feeling that this guy could be the surprise stud of the class. Najee has sneaky speed and is clearly a physical specimen as a human, so it may be worth taking a closer look at his tape. He does need to drastically improve in the passing game, but he is more physically gifted than Derrick Henry was and was even better at trucking people than Henry as well. With even less tread on the tires, it will take a team to simply fall in love with him to get him to be a star in the NFL.
By Adam Bressler
It’s December, which means we are blessed with peppermint milkshakes at Chick-Fil-A, non-stop Christmas music at department stores, and numerous reruns of Elf on ABC Family. But for NCAA football fans, this time of year means only one thing: postseason bowls. Before we can watch intriguing matchups such as the New Year's Six bowls and College Football Playoff games, we have to sit through an onslaught of tiresome contests. In the ten days leading up to January 1, disappointing 7-5 teams face off against each other in bowls with names that could be ripped out of a Saturday Night Live sketch.
No longer do bowl games pay homage to commodities prominent in the hosting city. Many are designated with abstract ideas, product names or whatever a “Gasparilla” is. Even classic bowls with heritages dating back over a century have taken on corporate sponsors. The Orange Bowl is now known as the Capital One Orange Bowl, while even the famous Rose Bowl is officially branded the Rose Bowl Game presented by Northwestern Mutual. Some names have become so outrageous that they require no such explanation: The Makers Wanted Bahamas Bowl; the FBC Mortgage Cure Bowl; the Tropical Smoothie Cafe Frisco Bowl; and the granddaddy of them all, the Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl.
However, something you may not have considered is who pays to put on these bowls. And who gets to keep any profits that the games generate? It is not the company that pays for the title sponsorship of each game, nor are they operated by the NCAA or any athletic conferences. Many of the older bowls are managed by non-profit entities that are entirely focused on managing the logistics of its respective game. These non-profits were established by local civic organizations, for the purpose of promoting tourism. However, of the 40 FBS bowls, 17 are owned by for-profit companies. The National Championship Game is owned by the College Football Playoff Administration LLC, an entity held by the 10 FBS athletic conferences and Notre Dame. Three bowls (the Pinstripe Bowl, the Quick Lane Bowl, and the Redbox Bowl) are owned and managed by the professional sports team that plays in that stadium (the New York Yankees, Detroit Lions, and San Francisco 49ers, respectively). The remaining 13 for-profit bowls are owned and operated by an obscure subsidiary of ESPN, called ESPN Events.
by Jared Greenspan
1. Michigan (7-1)
It would be near-impossible to script a better start to the Juwan Howard era for the Wolverines. For months, questions swirled about how Michigan would acclimate to life without long-time coach John Beilein and its top-three scorers from a year ago. In the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament, the Wolverines proved doubters wrong, bulldozing perennial powerhouses North Carolina and Gonzaga en route to the tournament title. Michigan picked up its first loss of the year against #1 Louisville on Tuesday, but still stands as the cream of the crop in the nation’s best conference.
2. Ohio State (8-0)
The Buckeyes have built a resume as impressive as any team in the nation, with two 25-point victories over then-top-10 teams in Villanova and North Carolina. Ohio State’s wing players like Duane Washington and Luther Muhammad have an additional year under their belt, making Chris Holtmann’s group equipped with weapons to coincide with one of the nation’s best big men in Kaleb Wesson.
3. Maryland (9-0)
The Terrapins lost Bruno Fernando to the NBA back in June yet haven’t missed a beat thus far in the 2019-2020 campaign. Marc Turgeon has a plethora of weapons and wing players to complement big man Jalen Smith, who looks vastly-improved in his sophomore season. Critics would point out that Maryland, ranked third in the nation, has yet to play a ranked opponent, yet its resume features wins over Notre Dame and Marquette, two teams expected to compete for an NCAA tournament berth.
4. Michigan State (5-3)
The Spartans entered the season with as much national hype as any team in the country, boosted by a solid incoming recruiting class and the return of national player of the year favorite Cassius Winston. Without Josh Langford, who continues to struggle with recurring foot injuries, Michigan State has hit a few bumps in the road, mainly a first-round loss in the Maui Jim Maui Invitational to unranked Virginia Tech. Until Langford returns, the Spartans’ ceiling will be as far as Winston can carry them, which right now isn’t enough to crack the top-three in a top-heavy Big Ten conference.
5. Purdue (5-3)
Purdue basketball underneath Matt Painter is always steady, and there’s no reason this year shouldn’t culminate with another NCAA Tournament appearance for the Boilermakers. Life is different without Carsen Edwards, and a young team has shown struggles against other major-conference opponents, falling to Marquette, Texas and Florida State.Expect this team, though, to only get better as the months move on -- with a resounding victory over defending-champion Virginia in the Big Ten-ACC challenge, the Boilermakers already appear to be making strides,
6. Penn State (7-1)
After years of false temptations, this might finally be the season that the Nittany Lions are relevant on the basketball court. Lamar Stevens is a pure scorer, and Penn State has built a solid early-season resume with wins over Georgetown and Syracuse. We’ll know a lot more about this team after their trip to Ohio State and hosting of Maryland to open the Big Ten slate this upcoming week.
7. Indiana (8-0)
The Hoosiers are receiving far less national attention post-Romeo Langford, and that might be for the better. Entering its Big Ten-ACC matchup against Florida State, the narrative was that Indiana had yet to be tested. Still, it won the games it was meant to win, something that was a downfall of last year’s squad. A dominating victory over the Seminoles, though, puts Archie Miller’s squad back on the map. Indiana has a lot of fresh faces on and it’ll be interesting to see who emerges as the team’s legitimate scoring option with more formidable opponents looming around the corner.
8. Iowa (6-2)
Iowa under Fran McCaffery always seems to be middle-of-the-pack, and it seems as if the Hawkeyes are destined for another one of those years. This isn’t the same Iowa team that was one disastrous collapse against Tennessee away from advancing to the Sweet 16, but it returns potent scorers and outside-shooters. Resounding victory over then 12th ranked Texas Tech and Syracuse in the Carrier Dome seem to subdue apprehensions after a non-competitive home loss to Depaul a few weeks earlier.
9. Wisconsin (4-4)
Life without Ethan Happ has not gone smoothly for the Badgers, who remain a perplexing bunch. Losses to Richmond and New Mexico State look worse than they are at first glance, but these two mid-majors are formidable opponents that will vy for a tournament spot come March. Still, they are games that Wisconsin should win if they plan on remaining relevant in the Big Ten. A convincing win over in-state rival Marquette and a hard-fought loss against St. Marys tell us not to count the Badgers out quite yet, unless offensive struggles continue to persist.
10. Minnesota (4-4)
Richard Pitino’s program was destined to take a step back last year after losing several prominent players from a team that topped Louisville in the NCAA tournament. The only question was how big a step it would be and early results are not encouraging. The Gophers played four major-conference opponents in non conference play and lost all four of them, before breaking that spell with a big win over Clemson on Monday. It’s a team that will likely grow into its own as the season progresses, yet for now remains in the wrong half of the power rankings.
11. Illinois (6-2)
Entering the season, expectations for the Fighting Illini were as high as they’ve been in recent memory. Brad Underwood and company showed tantalizing flashes toward the end of last season, and when fringe first-round pick Ayo Dosunmo returned to school for his sophomore season, the hype only grew. In the Big Ten-ACC challenge on Monday, Illinois failed to show up, trailing by as many as 25 in the first half at home to a subpar Miami squad. Performances like these won’t cut it in a cutthroat Big Ten.
12. Rutgers (6-2)
Oh, Rutgers. At some point, you figure, Steve Pikell will turn Rutgers into a contender. While the Scarlet Knights have gone 6-2 thus far, it seems unlikely that this is the year. The resume, though, does feature a victory over Stephen F Austin, so, by the transitive property, Rutgers would beat Duke…. Enough of that. Back to reality. A team that squeaked past Bryant by two and Drexel by five will remain a bottom-dweller.
13. Northwestern (4-3)
It feels like just the other day that the Wildcats were turning the corner toward prolonged national relevance after finally breaking through and making the tournament in 2017. Instead, Doug Collins’ team, instead of using their NCAA appearance as a springboard, has done the opposite, reverting back to their laughable losing ways. Any optimism for this season was quickly quelled with a season-opening loss to Merrimack -- a team that had yet to win a game at the DI level -- as 18.5 point favorites.
14. Nebraska (4-4)
Fred Hoiberg’s return to college basketball thus far has gone, to put it kindly, poorly. Struggles were expected after the team went through a complete offseason overhaul, losing their four best players in the process. But consecutive home losses to UC Riverside and Southern Utah to open the season, combined with a loss to George Mason a few weeks later, wasn’t something anyone saw coming. Despite rebounding a bit with wins over USF and Washington State, this Cornhusker team remains the least-competitive in the Big Ten until they prove otherwise.
by Jared Greenspan
Michigan basketball entered the Bad Boy Mowers Battle 4 Atlantis tournament as a relative unknown. While its record was unblemished, anxieties still swirled, the departures of John Beilein and last year’s top-three scorers looming over the program like an unrelenting cloud.
Beating up on the likes of Elon and Houston Baptist offered reassuring confidence boosts for Juwan Howard and company, but no true insight into the team’s identity. Whether this team could compete against stiffer competition was unclear.
In the Bahamas, the Wolverines resolutely answered the question. Criminally underrated and unranked, Michigan emerged as one of the best teams in the country.
En route to capturing the tournament championship, the Wolverines defeated a respectable Iowa State team along with two blue bloods: sixth ranked North Carolina and eighth ranked Gonzaga. Even more impressive than the wins themselves was the manner in which they won, running each of their opponents straight out of the Paradise Ballroom.
Michigan’s domination in the Bahamas truly was a team effort.
Over the first four games of the season, the Wolverines heavily relied on senior point guard and leader Zavier Simpson. As Simpson went, so did the offense, for better and for worse. Against talented point guards like Iowa State sophomore Tyrese Haliburton and North Carolina freshman sensation Cole Anthony, it was presumed that Michigan would need peak-Simpson to stand a chance.
In both matchups, the Wolverines got subpar Simpson. He was uncharacteristically sloppy as the court mistro in the opener, committing eight turnovers. A day later, he endured foul trouble and only appeared on the court for 17 minutes, fouling out with five minutes left to play.
And yet, Michigan proved it could manage just fine without Simpson, opening up a 15-point lead on Iowa State despite Simpson’s bout with turnovers and stretching its lead against North Carolina to 24-points as Simpson rode the bench. Such was a far cry from the haplessness that branded the offense whenever Simpson took a breather in games pre-Atlantis.
The emergence of rotational players underneath Juwan Howard’s guidance is a big reason why Michigan was all of a sudden able to navigate the storm without Simpson. Howard’s tendency to go nine and even ten players deep in a game has paid massive dividends, keeping everyone fresh and instilling confidence in their in-game abilities.
David DeJulius is suddenly living up to his preseason hype, playing like a different player than the one we saw in the season-opener against Appalachian State. The sophomore guard dropped 34 points in the three games, showcasing a near-automatic three-point stroke.
Eli Brooks too looks rejuvenated, notching 24 points in 39 minutes against North Carolina, a game in which he embraced his role as the go-to scorer late. Brooks showed a play-making ability with dribble-drives and stellar outside-shooting that rivaled Muhammad Ali-Abdur Rahkman’s.
The narrative of improvement can be extended to every other player on the team. Isaiah Livers appears set to burst onto the scene as one of the premier players in the Big Ten. Franz Wagner flashed his potential after returning from a broken wrist. Colin Castleton seems stronger down low. Jon Teske silenced any doubts that he could keep up with the new frenetic, high-octane offensive system with a resounding 19 point, 15 rebound effort against Gonzaga that earned him MVP honors.
A piece about Michigan proving itself would be remiss if it didn’t mention Juwan Howard himself. Just seven games into his coaching career, Howard has already quieted critics that harped on his lack of coaching experience and estrangement from the college game after out-coaching the likes of Roy Williams and Mark Few. He has shown a masterful ability to handle rotations, get the most out of his players and make in-game adjustments.
Howard has quickly gained the support and adoration of his team — just look at the excitement and jubilation cast upon his players’ faces as he rocked his classic cabbage patch dance following the victory over Gonzaga.
Howard and Michigan want to be more than feel good story — they want to keep this early-season success up. The schedule for the Wolverines offers no easy games. A road trip to Louisville, the nation’s freshly-minted number one team, beckons. Matchups against Iowa and Illinois to start Big Ten play, along with a tough non-conference game against Oregon, loom in the near-future as well.
For now, though, the Wolverines are rolling and have firmly put themselves back onto the basketball map, a map that never should have removed them in the first place.
by Jared Greenspan
By Joshua Tenzer
On the Monday before my very first class of college the experience of a game in the big house still rang in my mind. I remember the energy of the crowd, the mass of students all chanting “go blue” in sync, arms swinging above heads as if controlled by one overwhelming hive mind. The student section was massive and I felt a part of something larger yet somehow still insignificant. In a sea of maize, what is one person, I felt like Pink Floyd had told me what I was: “just another brick in the wall.”
My view of Michigan sports changed on that Monday as I made the long trip down to the University of Michigan Soccer Complex where I watched the Wolverines take on the Cougars from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. I was told that the student fans in the soccer complex were called the Ultras. The crowd was smaller and closer to the field. The Ultras in the back of the section were less than 8 feet from the grass of the pitch. For 90 minutes we stood, looking down at chant sheets for lyrics as we kept up vigor as we watched our team score again and again.
In front of us all, banging on a drum marked with the shield of the Ultras was a man who seemed to control the crowd on a whim. He had a power over us, he was our leader. He taught and lead the chants, he was the one everyone centered around. He was the loudest and proudest in a loud and proud bunch. I found out who this man was: John Bartman. As I went to more games with the Ultras, he was there leading progressively smaller and smaller crowds as the season carried on.
I knew about the Children of Yost: one of the rowdiest and vocal fan sections ever. The Children are the fans of hockey at the University of Michigan. As I went to my first game sitting with the Children, who else was in the front but John Bartman again, so I reached out to him.
Here is my interview with John Bartman of the Ultras and Children of Yost about fan sections, home field advantage, and Michigan sports. Since there is a lot of concern in the political arena of what is verbatim and not, I will come out and say that this is not a word for word transcript of the interview as thinking word such as um and words of agreement like “gotcha” and “absolutely” are cut out.
WCBN: I am here with John Bartman, a senior here at the University of Michigan. John, would you accept the term Michigan Superfan for what you do with the Children of Yost and the Ultras?
John: I think superfan has a negative connotation with it. It is reserved for people who do only sports, they live and breathe Michigan sports, which obviously is part of being high up in the student fan world. But I wouldn’t say I’m a superfan, I follow most of the teams closely and I’m definitely a fan, don’t get me wrong. I think I follow teams but I wouldn’t say that I’m crying over a loss or putting my emotions in the team’s hands. Most of the superfan stuff is for the people who latch onto teams and every part of them is the team and the team is part of them. I wouldn’t say I’m a superfan, I would just say I am someone who is a fan that just enjoys the environment.
WCBN: Do you go to mostly soccer and hockey games or do you get to volleyball and others? I heard you work at the Chrisler Center.
John: I’m actually an intern with the athletics department, that started sophomore year. Freshman year when I was trying to get my footing on campus I went to a soccer game on the Monday before classes started and it was pretty fun. There were a lot of students there being rowdy and I thought ‘Hey this is pretty fun, I might come back.’ Over time I started going to more and more soccer games, both men’s and women’s. I’ve always been a hockey fan so it was only natural for me to get. I realized how energetic non-traditional sports can be. Because when people think of student sections they think football, they think basketball, they think Cameron Crazies at Duke, they think the Izzone, unfortunately, at MSU. Some of these hidden gems are well kept secrets but they’re also wide open and so over time I go to a lot of hockey games. I’ve been to almost every hockey game since this time last year. I miss one or two games a year because of work or family stuff but I try to get to as many games as I can because they’re just fun.
WCBN: The Ultras are known for their noise and rowdiness, most notably their bass drum. You’ve been going to games with the Ultras since you were a freshman, did they have the drum back then?
John: Yeah. I know the Ultras started ten years ago and I think ever since the beginning they had the drum. I know it’s been upgraded, the original one got worn out two or three year ago and the athletic department bought a new one. It was used, but it was new for the Ultras.
WCBN: Would you consider yourself a leader for the Children of Yost and the Ultras?
John: Yeah, I think so. I think that when I started out, I just wanted to be part of the environment, part of the noise, part of the hype. As I progressed throughout freshman, sophomore, and junior year, I realized that a lot of the draw of the events of hockey games aren’t really the game itself, it’s more people wanting to be in a community. There’s a lot of out-of-state students, a lot of people who come to Michigan not really knowing that many people. Everyone loves sports so I think that getting to the games and realizing that there’s a bunch of people who have the same interests as you, but also different interests at the same time, you can really bond over that. Once I got to junior and senior year, it’s more of big-knit community to make sure everyone is involved, make sure everyone enjoys it, listening, giving feedback. That’s kind of what I think my role as a leader is. It kinda came naturally, I wasn’t selected to be a leader, it just kinda happened. I was at the games, I was vocal, people started recognizing me until over time it developed into that. As a leader, I have a duty to make sure everyone is enjoying themselves and making the environment the best it can be.
WCBN: Do you see these home field crowds as important?
John: 100 percent, yeah.
WCBN: So what is the importance of a home field advantage to these teams?
John: I mean, if you look at our hockey record right now, we’re 3-3-2 at home and 0-4 on the road. One of my friends actually told me that last week he saw a stat that the opposing goalies’ goals against average in Yost is about two and a half points higher than it is at other away arenas (stat can not be confirmed). Obviously an environment, especially like Yost, where every single game they turn it up to 11, it definitely gives us an advantage. I think our team builds off of that. Getting in the other team’s heads is part of it and at soccer it’s really easy because you’re quite literally on the field and so if you get a player to think about how to respond to you for a half second, that’s a half second they’re not doing their job on the playing field. If you’re really effective at getting in the other team’s head while supporting your team and giving your team the drive they need that can be the difference between a win and a loss sometimes in a one goal game. We saw that with MSU in soccer a couple of weeks ago. The team was lagging in the first half, we kept the energy up in the second half. Obviously the team improved their play, it’s not all because of us but I think if people would have left at halftime or if we would have stopped cheering then there would have been no shot at us coming back.
WCBN: I think it was one of the Minnesota games or the Michigan State game where the opposing players were interviewed afterwards and said that they wanted to play harder because of the stuff that the Children of Yost had said. Do you think that sometimes there is an opposite effect of what you were just talking about where the other team will get more riled up?
John: The Minnesota goalie, Jack LaFontaine, went to Michigan my freshman and sophomore year so we knew him personally and knew a lot about him. When preparing for the game we were thinking, ‘Well, do we treat him like a friend or do we treat him like a foe?’ We decided to treat him like a foe because that’s what the Children of Yost do. No matter who you are, you’re wearing the other color, you’re in the other team’s net, we’re gonna come after you. That’s all we can control. We can only control what we do and if the other team uses our energy to their advantage, good for them. I don’t think we could do anything different, it’s not like we can score goals or block shots. We can’t kill a penalty. All we can do is make as much noise and be as energetic as we can and however that transpires into the game is not really up to us. Obviously, we’d like to see our team use that more than the other team but props to Minnesota for seeing that as an attack on one of their brothers and stepping up to the plate. That’s not really anything we can control, so.
WCBN: I believe it was the Saturday Minnesota game where it looked like the Children of Yost got censored. Did something go down there?
John: The Children of Yost have always been rowdy, more so over the past handful of years, since we got section 18, the one right behind the opponent’s bench back. When we were meeting with the athletic department we were running over the ground rules of what you can and can’t do behind the bench and the main thing is that you can’t reach over the glass but they said pretty much everything else was up to us, as long as we don’t go over the glass, they don’t care. We tried to make that section, those couple of rows behind the opponent’s bench as rowdy as we could, understanding that as long as we’re not going over the glass, nothing is off limits. Over the past two years, especially from the ushers, we’ve received a lot of warnings for saying, not slurs or anything, but naughty language. We’ve received a lot of backlash for that which I don’t really understand. It’s part of who we are. There are obviously other ways to be rowdy which are not dropping f-bombs or whatever but, occasionally one will slip out and if they’re trying to put a damper on our rowdiness in whatever way, I think that’s going to be harmful in the long run. People will start to wonder in the long-run ‘can I say certain things or should I just be quiet and play it safe?’ We do get complaints before every game. An usher will come up to us and pull a few of us aside and say “Watch your mouth. If you say one f-bomb, you’re out of here.” I know last year we played Ohio State at Yost and that game was nationally televised. A couple of F Ohio chants got started and then grew throughout the stadium and apparently you could hear them on tv really well. The arena management did not enjoy that and since that game they have been putting the clamps on pretty tight in regards to naughty language. That’s why at soccer the ushers are more hands off. You can use that language to your advantage in a smart way.
WCBN: Naturally, refs are supposed to be unbiased but there are a lot of Children of Yost chants specifically attacking the refs. Do you think that those are important cheers to keep in the wheelhouse?
John: I think so. Just like the hockey team, no one is trying to do a bad job, they’re just trying to do the best that they can do, refs and umpires included. I think that that's just part of sports. We don’t take anything personally against the refs. Because of how they schedule the referees, based on location, a lot of the refs are at a lot of the games. I think keeping those is necessary because it is part of the environment. Everyone is mad at the refs and I hope they don’t take it personally. We’ve had a couple of the refs play the game a little bit. Pre-game when we’re telling them to check the net or whatever, they’ll motion that they can’t hear us, play with us a little bit. I think it’s part of the environment and less of a personal attack against referees. Of course, when we think they make a bad call, we’ll let them know. It’s not personal, it’s just part of the environment I’d say.
WCBN: There is a Children of Yost Research Division to find dirt on opposing players before the game. How do you find all of this information on them?
John: Without giving too much away, I think a lot of it is out in the open. We volunteer a lot about ourselves whether it’s social media, or to our friends, or mutual friends, a lot of it out in the open. I mean, it’s not hard to find things about a lot of people. Our phones volunteer basically anything you need to know about someone. A lot of kids played sports in high school with these guys and I know I’ve had a couple friends who we’ve played in other sports, not hockey, so if someone were to come to me and ask if I know anything about this guy or that guy, I wouldn’t tell them their darkest secrets because some things are off-limits but it’s part of the fun. We try to find little bits to make it unique to each game so we don’t just chant “let’s go blue” 50,000 times. It’s something different and mixed up.
WCBN: There’s a good relationship between the Children of Yost and the Hockey Student Band. Do you consider the band part of the experience of the Children of Yost?
John: Absolutely yeah. We can’t do anything without the band. If the band starts something, we’re on board. If we start something, the band is on board. I think communication between us and the band is crucial for our success because the band is vocal, the band has fun, the band is energetic, and if you don’t have them you lose a good chunk of the student section right there. Although they’re playing instruments during the breaks, during the game they’re Children of Yost in my mind. With communication being good and recognizing that sometimes they have to play over us because of some of the rules that Michigan has made and some of the rules that the Big 10 has made, they’re in it as much as we are. They’re into it, they put the time in too, so we’re unopposed. Everyone who wants to have fun should come out and have their fun, that includes the band.
WCBN: Since you go to all of the games and are sitting up front, how do you think that the hockey team is going to do this year?
John: It hasn’t been the season that they have wanted it to be so far. There’s a lot of inconsistencies and the power play isn’t where they want it to be. I believe in the team, I know that they’re a talented group, I know no one is going out there trying to lose, they're a good group of guys trying to put the most in every night. My sophomore year, when they made the frozen four, the year started off pretty rocky but they found their groove late in the season so anything could really happen. College hockey is a wide open landscape. You’ll see teams turn it on at the start of the year and then fall apart. A couple years ago, St. Cloud State was the #1 seed in the tournament, never came close to losing a game the second half of the year, and then got kinda worked by Air force who were the last team in. Anything could happen, the team needs to put their heads down, keep grinding, and believe in each other. Hopefully it all works out.
WCBN: A lot of people who will be reading this are mainly football fans and they go to the football games and sometimes the basketball games. What would you tell them in respect to the non-revenue sports like volleyball, baseball, softball, and soccer.
John: Football is special because it’s 110,000 people, there’s a lot of tradition, there’s a lot of people who have been going to games for years. Obviously the student section is what it is at football. I don’t think you could coordinate students to do the same thing at the same time without the band, which is controlling football especially because they’re really the only ones you could hear from anywhere in the big house. I think that on the flip side, these smaller sports like hockey and volleyball… I mean, you’re right there in the action, you can hear what everyone is saying. It’s high energy, there is nowhere to hide if you’re the other team. I think football has its pros in the size but these other sports have their pros in lack of size. Going to a hockey game may be eye-opening to some people. A lot of people know that Yost is intimidating and loud but until people experience it, I don’t think they know what the magic of having a small turnout is. 5,000 people fit into Yost but having all 5,000 on board, chirping the ref, chirping the other team’s goalie after we score, that’s the magic of it.
WCBN: Any last things you want to say?
John: We’re always open. Children of Yost are always open for new people. As I said, I didn't get into it because I was elected to it or because someone chose me. If you show up to any event and you’re loud and you’re rowdy, and you’re there on a consistent basis, and you’re bought in, it’s really not hard to get noticed. Once you’re in it it’s all to you, there’s no selection process. I know Maize Rage has elections and board meetings and all that, the Ultras and Children of Yost, the two I mostly oversee, I don’t think that’s necessary. I think the people that want to be there will be there. Whichever students may think ‘I don’t know the chants’ or whatever, come try it out. We’ve got chant sheets, no one knows all the chants during their first or even their second game. Come out, we’re all about having fun, that’s the one requirement. You show up, you have fun, win or lose it’s a good time.
If I were to sum up what I took from my conversation with John Bartman in one word, it would be atmosphere. There is no energy like that in the Ultras section during a corner and hell hath no fury like playing against Michigan with the Children of Yost present. I would recommend that everyone makes it to a hockey game as soon as they can and a soccer game next year, they’re free for the students and you’ll never forget it.
University of Michigan
Ann Arbor News
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