The opening scene in “Beasts of the Southern Wild” begins with great promise. We’re introduced to an enchanting seven-year-old girl, played to perfection by newcomer Quvenzhane Wallis. She takes us by the hand on what will be a narrative adventure into her unseen world — the murky backwaters of the Louisiana Bayou. As starting credits rolled, I thought to myself that I was about to experience one of the best films of the year.
Instead, an hour later, I was standing out in the lobby following a walkout.
So — what happened?
Critics have fallen all over themselves in reviews of this film. It’s received almost universal praise – for cinematography, story, performances, and originality.
It’s easy to see why the reviews have been so positive. Indeed, the film is original. It’s emotional. It’s a tremendous cinematic achievement, especially given its low budget ($1.8 million, paltry by Hollywood standards). Filming in a swamp, which is the setting for the entire film, must have been a daunting challenge. Moreover, for a film with no known actors, the performances prove to be not only realistic, but perhaps too convincing for conventional tastes.
There was some encouraging news last week. A series of polls was conducted in several nations. The polls intended to measure religious faith and atheism. The findings were published last Friday.
The bottom line is — religion is on the decline. Or, as I prefer to think of it — enlightenment is on the rise.
That’s positive news to those of us fatigued by the insufferable influences of religion on politics and society. How refreshing to learn that increasing numbers of people everywhere are rebuffing the archaic superstition of some giant “sky daddy,” rejecting the whimsy of a paternal heavenly dictator who sees and knows all.
If the poll numbers are to be believed, the shifts in faith (and lack thereof) are stunning. Globally, belief in religion declined 9 percent since a similar poll was taken back in 2005. That’s just eight years ago. This number is based on 50,000 people who were polled in 57 different countries.
In the United States, the number of religious followers declined by 13 percent. But that number pales in comparison to Ireland, where religiosity declined by a whopping 22 percent. To be fair, the weakening of Irish faith may have a lot to do with recent scandals that have plagued the Catholic Church, which remains the dominant faith in Ireland.
In 2001, I spent the entire summer creating my halftime betting angles, which could be applied across the board to all NFL regular season and playoff games.
I released these betting angles at a major sports betting information website. The angles were later re-printed numerous times in several other betting forums and publications.
These seven betting angles hit in the 53-60 percent rate over two decades. They actually performed even better after their public release — hitting around 62 percent in both 2001 and 2002. There were about 4 to 5 plays per week, so not only were these angles extremely profitable, they also produced a fair amount of volume. Best of all, these was absolutely no handicapping involved.
The downside to releasing and popularizing these halftime betting angles is many football bettors gradually caught on to them. They began to lose value as heavy money poured in every time there was a play. Opening halftime lines began changing. Totals moved by a point, or move. For instance, we never used to see anything below a 17 as a second-half total. Now, 16s are commonplace.
Over the course of the next few seasons (2003 and beyond), the sportsbooks/oddsmakers caught on to these angles and began adjusting their numbers so much that betting these angles blindly was no longer profitable.
Moreover, two trends in recent years have severely hurt the angles. First, NFL rule changes tend to favor offenses which creates more scoring. Second, NFL quarterback play is now at its all-time historic pinnacle, which kills opportunities to bet second-half UNDERS.
Unlike what I first released ten years ago, I do not have confidence that all of these angles will produce a profit. However, I am posting them here for consideration if anyone wants to tinker with them, try and refine them, or run the W-L results since 2005. Some bettors have told me that some of these angles (mostly the OVERS) are still profitable. But I have not run the actual the data. So, tread with caution.
You will please forgive one disclaimer. I put in a massive number of hours doing research coming up with these angles. Over the years, many writers and fellow football handicappers have purged them without proper attribution. All I ask is to be credited with doing the research. I think that’s fair.
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED — MAY BE REPRINTED ONLY IF AUTHOR IS CREDITED
PART 1: GENERAL THOUGHTS
Just as there are “key” numbers is side betting and game totals, there are also key numbers in second-half totals. The key numbers are as follows: 17, 20, and 24.
Leave it to three casino industry tycoons to display the most brazen acts of hypocrisy in recent memory.
What would you call someone who repeatedly blasts our president for his “socialist-style economy,” while raking in billions in profits during the time frame the president has been in office?
What would you call someone who refers to our leader “the greatest wet blanket to business,” yet managed to double the size of his casino empire and increase his net personal worth by $200 million during the president’s first term?
What would you call someone who declared bankruptcy four years ago (at the end of the previous administration), and then preposterously claimed his net worth is several billion today?
If you’re having trouble coming up with the right words, let me help you.
It’s impossible to imagine three more hypocritical blowhards than casino moguls Sheldon Adelson, Steve Wynn, and Donald Trump. Their political posturing would be side-splitting if it were not so downright shameful.
The three current and former casino owner-executives have repeatedly blasted President Obama since he took office in early 2009. They are certainly entitled to their opinions — outlandish as they may be. But the facts clearly reveal, like the rest of the top one-percent of wealthiest Americans, they have enriched themselves handsomely under the current administration.
But that doesn’t stop the posturing nor the hyperbole. Never let the facts get in the way of creative sound bites. President Obama is anti-business, they say. President Obama is bad for the economy, they say. President Obama is a Socialist, they say. Yada. Yada. Yada.
One would think the three musketeers of malaise have suffered while President Obama’s been residing at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. One would be led to believe their businesses have lost money or that they suffered personal financial setbacks. But a look at the facts reveals quite the opposite. In fact, these three hypocrites have – by any measure – made astronomical profits since President Obama took office.
A French movie with English subtitles enters the finicky American movie market with two strikes against it.
It’s French — strike one.
It has subtitles — strike two.
Which is a crying shame, because one of the year’s most enjoyable and uplifting films has pretty much come and vanished from theaters, unable to garner much attention during another summer filled with mindless action adventure “thrillers” and sleep-inducing “comedies.”
The Intouchables is a marvelous film. Carried by two outstanding lead performances by Francois Cluzet (who bears an uncanny resemblance to Dustin Hoffman) and Omar Cy (who deserves an Oscar nomination for a movie-stealing performance), this film has wit, candor, humor, sadness, and ultimately great inspiration. The film’s credibility is boosted by it being based on a true story.
Cluzet plays a quadriplegic, which means he is confined to a wheelchair unable to feel any sensation below his neck. If there’s any upside, it’s that he’s also very wealthy, giving him considerable options that would not otherwise be available to a person of lesser means.
Cluzet is utterly bored with his life, not the least of which has anything to do with his physical impairment. One senses that even if he were not parked in a wheelchair, he would still need something more. A great deal more, in fact. What Cluzet needs is stimulation, excitement, and most of all – someone he can call a friend.
He finds all of this in the unlikeliest of places.