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Courting the presidency: Obama and Romney face off in 10-sport decathlon

While BuckBokai awaits the season tipoffs in NBA and European basketball, somehow attention has strayed to another great competition, that sport for Americans who don’t like sports: Namely, the 2012 presidential election.

(Apparently the start of the NFL season isn’t enough; or maybe BuckBokai’s just sour-graping thanks to poor week 2 performances by both his New England Patriots and fantasy football team.)

Amidst the hoopla – entirely generated by either the 47% or the 99%, it’s unclear which – some enterprising folks over at The NOC have embarked upon video production of a presidential decathlon, a grueling 10-event competition pitting sitting president Barack Obama against his foot-in-mouth contender-to-the-throne Mitt Romney.

Okay, so this world is sadly not beautiful or poetic enough to play host to such an event, but the candidate lookalikes certainly appear to be taking challenges like handball, thumb war, chicken kissing and street fighting (no, really) seriously.

The trailer for The NOC’s entire “Obama vs. Romney: Presidential FaceOFF” series runs below; following this is the instant-classic PIG shootout during which the fan reactions are completely priceless. How many believed they were actually watching the politicos dueling on the court?

In a better world, we just might decide presidential succession this way. Or at least award a few electors…

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Top Science Fiction Sports movies, no. 29: The Hunger Games

BuckBokai’s rundown of the top 30 science-fiction sports movies continues today with a look at that literary/cinematic phenomenon, The Hunger Games. Warning: Spoilers may appear below.

“The book was better than the movie”: How many times have you heard the line after watching yet another in an endless line of unoriginal work (particularly in the science-fiction/fantasy genres) from Hollywood?

BuckBokai has for years, through previous incarnations as film critic and art lecturer, attempted to eschew this philosophy. In the increasingly less humble opinion of this writer, any movie should be judged on its own merits; surely no one 400 years has left a production of “Othello” muttering unflattering comparison to Cinthio’s short story. No reader ever closed the cover on a biography with a critique of “That was good, but his actual life was better.”

By the same token, any assertion of positivity toward a given film which involves enhancing (i.e. helping one to better understand a half-baked plotline) the viewer’s experience through internet research (e.g. Donnie Darko) or one to several other works (e.g. The Avengers) is bunk. Just imagine audiences of 1942 endorsing the looking-up of Victor Laszlo and Rick Blaine’s backstories (complete with animated shorts and timeline!) so as to increase interest in Casablanca.

The truth is that just one simple question need be answered to determine the quality of any film in any genre:

Is it a good movie?

The Hunger Games is not.

For those not in the know, The Hunger Games tells the story of one Katniss Everdeen, a 14-year-old (played by 20-year-old Jennifer Lawrence) citizen living in a poverty-stricken district of Panem, a totalitarian state founded in the former USA. She is chosen as one of a couple dozen youth to participate in the titular competition, a reality TV/bloodsport hybrid that is equal parts social ritual and entertainment – kinda like Survivor mixed with Super Bowl and a dash of Rollerball.

Oops … a bit of unintentional cheating there; see, the last bit on the Hunger Games’ importance to Panem is straight from Suzanne Collins’ novels. In fact, any sort of exploration of the world outside the post-apocalyptic, Smallville-like teen romance nonsense is utterly non-existent and without any foreknowledge of Suzanne Collins’ trilogy, the massive dumbing down at the expense of plot is in full evidence from the start.

Rather than more firmly grounding both the bigger picture and the individual characters’ stories, so many underdeveloped scenes instead create an effect of surreal messiness. What was that stuff about the rioting? What was the significance of the loaf of bread? What does any conversation between Katniss and EEEEevil President Snow (Donald Sutherland) mean? Why is Katniss’ relationship with Cinna so important? Or is it? With too much to tell, The Hunger Games bogs down early and often in its own shortcuts.

Certain, let’s say, odd directorial choices by Gary Ross (Pleasantville, Seabiscuit) help matters not at all. We all know Gary’s into depression and desensitization already – is this his excuse for not demanding actual emotional range from the Hunger Games cast?

Donald Sutherland is as nicely competent as he’s even been through decades of playing heavies and BuckBokai would never say an unkind word about Jennifer Lawrence – anyone who’s seen Winter’s Bone knows the feeling – but even her thoughtful performance as Katniss can’t drag up the dead weight of her fellow players. While some bit players are passable in their DeMillean closeups, Josh Hutcherson as Peeta rarely conveys, well, anything while Liam Hemsworth as Gale Hawthorne never does. And Stanley Tucci’s Caesar Flickerman comes off as the least relevant sports commentator since the Paul Heyman’s bizarrely bombastic turn in the Rollerball remake – desensitization, nothing: Wouldn’t this guy be infusing a little life into the Panem Bowl broadcast?

And let’s not even started on the costumes. The garish garb of the Panem privileged looks brutally bad against the washed-out look of everything else – it’s as though Ross is seeking to recreate the sole positive of his criminally overrated Pleasantville, namely the juxtaposition of color against black and white. It’s also as though Ross has never seen Heaven’s Gate, one ugly-ass film that proves a muddy pastiche never works.

But it’s the meta aspects that truly drive this viewer crazy. Now that “it wasn’t as good as the book” has been rendered harmless in everyday discourse (Chasing up the dread expression with “but it was still a good movie” is perfectly possible and is just about as commonly heard), we’ll certainly be getting Hunger Games 2 and 3. Amidst the present-day squall of reboots, remakes and franchise adaptations, questions of quality no longer matter as fans line up to see how – rather than how *well* – the book/comic/television program was done.

Because of this immediate rush to the box office, the sequels come despite the bafflement of the uninitiated. Not to mention those interesting in seeing a good film.

This is the depressing future.

And for the record, the book is better than the movie.

Next: Top science-fiction sports movies nos. 26 through 28: Disney tries the subgenre again and again … and again.

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Pirate Bay co-founder Svartholm scuppered by Cambodian authorities

BuckBokai would like to request a moment of silence on the occasion of the incarceration of internet hero Per Gottfrid Svartholm Warg. Don’t know who that is? Svartholm, a.k.a. Anakata, is in fact the co-founder of The Pirate Bay and creator of the open-source software Hypercube.

Svartholm was busted by Swedish authorities back in 2008 on charges of promoting copyright infringement. When sentenced to a fine of at least $1 million/€850,000 and a year in prison in 2009, Svartholm simply skipped town to live in Cambodia.

This weekend has not been a happy one for Svartholm, as Cambodian authorities arrested Wang at his residence there and are expected to extradite him to Sweden. BuckBokai offers sympathies to essentially a present-day genius.

Wire report follows.

Pirate Bay co-founder arrested in Cambodia (via AFP)

A co-founder of top Swedish filesharing site The Pirate Bay, who is on an international wanted list, has been arrested in the Cambodian capital at Stockholm’s request, police said Sunday. Gottfrid Svartholm Warg was handed a one-year prison sentence by a Swedish court in 2009 for promoting copyright…

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Top Science Fiction Sports movies, no. 30: Speed Racer

One of the key scientific theories of the 21st century is certain to be Masahiro Mori’s Bukimi no Tani Genshō, a.k.a. “The Uncanny Valley” Theory. The supposition suggests that as robots or animated objects more closely and closely approach a human form, the more likely there are to cause revulsion in a human observer until a great degree of realism exists.

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The Top 30 Science-Fiction Sports Movies: Honorable mentions

Finally. The beast that BuckBokai has been creating is *alive!* My creation is alive! Today begins a countdown of the Top 30 Science-Fiction Sports movies with lotsa embeds, YouTube willing.

Firstly, though, some criteria. In short, the difficulty level in compiling this list was surprisingly high. By the strictest definition, i.e. a setting firmly within the milieu of a science-fictional sport, BuckBokai counted a mere 11 films – if Rollerball (1975) and its remake (2002) are included as separate works. Clearly, this definition needed expanding.

Indeed, the definition of “science-fiction” itself has been fodder for endless debate since its coining in 1875 or so; clearly technology plays a major role as does a future-dated setting. Many explanations provided in the io9 compendium of quotes on the subject are a good deal too abstract – e.g. “the literature of exploration and change,” “the art of the possible” (that one’s from Ray Bradbury), “an argument with the Universe” – for BuckBokai’s purposes, and so we’ll use the following simple-yet-open guidelines.

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The 2012 Ultimate Archery competition

Amidst the glow of the big games, the Huffington Post declared archery to be “hot at the London Olympics.” The Christian Science Monitor described the sport’s popularity as “surging,” particularly among American youth.

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On selling fencing, archery

BuckBokai will soon have something about the effect of at least three heroic figures in contemporary pop culture – led by the great science-fiction sports hero Katniss Everdeen – on a new wave of popularity affecting the sport of archery, but for today here’s something off the wire about archery and other Olympic sports, particularly fencing. How can these fringe pastimes survive without the multimillion-dollar budgets of major team sports? Read on for more about “inspiring a generation” to fence beyond the 2012 Olympics – and how Mark Zuckerberg is key to the plan…

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Iron Sky: Why it’s the greatest film ever in 100 words or less

Nazis on the moon. That should be enough to sell Iron Sky. But just in case, a few more words.

Cutting humor reminiscent of Starship Troopers! Cleavage! A trash-talking African-American hero! Killer special effects! Awesome but funny commentary on American politics and PR (BuckBokai won’t give any spoilers about the U.S. president, but it’s awesome)! Cleavage sprung forth from black leather! Homages to The Great Dictator, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Dr. Strangelove, That Hitler Meme and just about every German expressionist sci-fi flick! A revenge story! Patriotism (albeit slightly more than tongue-in-cheek)! A mad scientist! Jokes about Finland and North Korea! And did I mention the cleavage?

In short, why is this movie not widely rightfully recognized for what it is, namely the greatest movie ever made? Expounding of this theory will soon be forthcoming on BuckBokai, but the main problem is probably this inexplicability.

Whatever. See this film. Heil Adler!

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Usain Bolt rips through time, destroys 116 years’ worth of Olympians

Usain Bolt’s got everyone thinking his speed on an equivalent level to the Flash, but could he really break the time barrier?

Okay, probably not even the real-life Fastest Man Alive is quite ready to shred the laws of physics, but some folks over at the New York Times have given us the next best thing, bringing together 85 medalists in the 100 meters from Olympics dating back to 1896. In an “interactive” display, the NYT shows us – all things considered equal and with no calculations made for, say, Archie Hahn of 1912 training with modern technology – by how much Bolt would have kicked butt against the likes of Jessie Owens, Carl Lewis and Harrison Dillard.

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Fullback to the Future (or, The greatest Hungarian science-fiction sports movie you’ll probably never see)

A football ascending to the heavens kicks off (snigger) 6:3; a truly appropriate image this is, for 1990s garbageman Tutti (Károly Eperjes) is about to enter a Hungarian sports fan’s heaven. Said Valhalla is actually of no great distance in space, but requires a time-travel voyage some 45 years back to the “Match of the Century” bringing victory Hungary over Team England at Wembley Stadium to snap a 30-year undefeated run. Against the early 1950s’ antediluvian and repressive system, Puskas and his teammates were nothing sort of angels for Tutti.

November 25, 1953 holds extra significance for our hero, doubling as the day of his birth. When he suddenly awakens to find himself miraculously transported to that age of 3-forint beers and communist propaganda, he finds himself torn in priority between meeting the mother he never knew and listening to the game on radio.

Right. So … where’s the damn radio, already?

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Hungary wants to know: Which woman is best for Spiderman?

Felicia Hardy, the Black Cat (©Marvel Comics)From the news portal Index, based in ever-randy Hungary, comes exploration of the question “Melyik nőt döngölje meg Pókember?” which might be translated as, um … well, let’s put it this way. Within the URL link to the story, the webmasters and/or editors have changed the article title to the more, shall we say, family-friendly “Melyik nő illik a legjobban Pokemberhez?” or “Which woman is best suited for Spiderman?”

(While BuckBokai admits this has little to do with sports, hey! Pinup comic babes!)

In light of the Spiderman movie franchise reboot which featured Gwen Stacy replacing more traditional Mary Jane Watson as Peter Parker’s love interest, the author tantalizingly known only as Cinematrix reveals his/her choices for getting with the Spider someday – since “the franchise gets rebooted about every 10 years.”

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Nine super innings: DC Superstars #10

BuckBokai was going to do a full-on review of a highlight in science-fiction sports literary history, namely the lead story of DC Super Stars #10 (1976), but the issue has proved elusive to download and more importantly has been amazingly critically analyzed by Comic Treadmill back in 2005 and recently by Baseball Prospectus, so we’ll refer you to those links.

If you haven’t been lucky enough to experience the life-changing greatest of DC Comics finally living up to their “Strange Sports Stories” franchise in form, this epic is based on an argument between the simply awesome Sportsmaster and the Huntress. This couple makes a bet stemming from a dispute in which the Huntress maintains that the bad guys never win (she must have been hip to the Comics Code Authority of Earth prime, eh?) and thus set up a superheroes vs. supervillians match.

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For the glory of Empire: Reviewing Mike Resnick’s “The Olympians”

With the XXX Olympiad currently in full swing, BuckBokai today pimps a favorite science-fiction sport story, Mike Resnick’s “The Olympians.”

Celebrating its 30th anniversary in 2012, “The Olympians” serves as the seventh chapter in Resnick’s Birthright: The Book of Man. Resnick’s résumé in science-fiction writing and editing is way too long to detail in this space, but BuckBokai lists Birthright alongside the utterly awesome Alternate Presidents (Alternate Anthologies) as among the more treasured sci-fi compendia.

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Dreaming of 1992: An Olympic basketball movie trilogy

In 1992, the landscape of international basketball was changed forever. While most recall the dominance of the USA’s Dream Team – quite probably, BuckBokai asserts, the greatest squad ever assembled in any sport – the hoops in that famed Olympiad of 20 years ago were packed with dozens of compelling backstories, the least two of which were certainly not the silver- and bronze-medal winning Croatia and Lithuania teams.

On the eve of the opening of the XXX Olympiad and with that 20th anniversary observation firmly in mind, BuckBokai recommends a loosely connected trio of films that’ll make for fantastic viewing for the sports history nut. In the virtual screening room, we’ll run this trilogy in order of subject’s finish in the Olympic games.

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What if, Babe? A review of Harry Turtledove’s “The House that George Built”

Nowhere do the seemingly mutually exclusive entertainments of sport and science-fiction come closer than in that simple musing question “what if…?”

In sport, the question is often lamentably formed of second-guessing the decision of manager, general manager, umpire or player. To wit:

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“Lineup for Yesterday” by Ogden Nash

For no good reason other than this stuff should probably be recorded – and it’s public domain – here’s “Lineup for Yesterday,” an abecedarian poem by Ogden Nash written in 1949. Nash celebrates the greats from days of his youth in the clever, easy style that so drove his popularity through to his death in ’72.

You gotta love the lines on Walter Johnson and Bobo Newsom…

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