Bowling with Co-workers and a Review of the 2001 Academy Awards

Not since Kathryn returned to Toronto have I had some time off. I’ve been a busy little beaver, cutting down on the amount of work that’s been heaped on me in the past few weeks and months. So it goes without saying that one can get a little tired.

I had planned to go in this weekend and try to work out more of the reports I’m working on. I came in early Saturday afternoon, and promptly accomplished nothing. Every word I typed, I erased. It was one of those days where nothing made sense, and every sentence only succeeded in detrimenting the entire report. A sure sign of exhaustion. So when Cory (my department head) suggested an evening out to relax, it seemed like a really good idea.

Four of us from Web Development (Cory, Dennis, Shawn, and yours truly) along with one Designer (Neil, who regularly hangs out with Dennis and Shawn) found our way down to Chinook Bowling. Neil drove, which was a little odd, since it was almost impossible to see out Neil’s windows (they were a little foggy and dirty), and he wasn’t entirely sure of where the alley was. He kept saying that it was a bit of an “odd” door, but that he’d recognize it — a key thing because (according to Neil), there was no sign that said “bowling”.

We found the door.

Right under a large red sign that said “bowling”.

We found, a bit to our chagrin, that we’d walked into a five-pin bowlerama, instead of the 10-pin, which I think we’d actually been hoping for. I don’t think we cared too much. Sure, some consider five-pin to be a retarded way to play … but they don’t play it the way we did.

I should quickly detail the setting. Like most mall bowling alleys, it was in a basement. Built in the late 60s, it had received some more recent technology (computerized scoring, new lighting), but it was otherwise unchanged since it opened … including the shoes. (They are, I think, the worst shoes I’ve ever had to use. Which of course makes the experience all that much better.) The alley was packed with people, though I’m pretty sure we were among the oldest there. Certainly we were one of a small handful who had beer.

Only moments after arriving, Cory’s name was called, indicating that a lane was now open. We hurried on with our shoes and headed directly for the awaiting lane. Our names were already entered into the computer system, appearing on the monitor above our lane. The five lonely pins glowed a purply tinge way off in the distance.

Glowed? Oh yeah, missed that detail — it was glow in the dark bowling. Although the only thing that really glowed were the pins. The balls were they typical mottled black spheres. It’s probably a good thing they didn’t glow — if the staff had seen what we were doing with them, we’d have been kicked out before the end of the first game.

I can actually remember the last time I went bowling — 5 December 1999 (see [[How to Throw a Surprise Party]]). My ex’s birthday. I had thrown her a surprise party (which had nearly given me an ulcer from the stress), and it had ultimately ended up in the Commodore Lanes. No glow bowl, though.

I’ve noticed two things about my bowling ability. First, it seems to get better after a beer or two (although more than that has a severely inverse affect). Second, and this is the really bizarre one, I bowl better in the dark. I’ll never figure that one out…

It took only a frame before Neil decided that our names weren’t right. So he took the liberty of changing them, usually when that particular person was up to roll. We went through many name changes, but I cannot really tell you what the final names we ended up with were. Not because I don’t remember (because I do), and not because they used objectionable words (otherwise we certainly would have been kicked out), but because the terms are … well … they carry certain meanings which I’d prefer not to have to explain.

Not to mention that I don’t entirely understand them myself.

My first game was off to a slow start (they usually do). But after a few throws, I began to remember how to throw a five-pin ball, and managed to sneak out in front by the time the round was over. The second game went completely to pot, and everyone but Cory and myself were trying new and unusual (and probably illegal in a few states) throws. For example, both Dennis and Shawn tried to throw the balls like you would in a baseball or softball game, though making sure that the ball didn’t bounce too hard. Dennis’ most profound shot went directly into the gutter, but then ricocheted out, and managed to knock down the right two pins. For a couple of throws, Neil didn’t even get out of his chair, but opted to throw the ball from the bench. His accuracy wasn’t too bad, admittedly. I managed to win that round too, with a pitiful 165.

Cory suggested that we attempt to get serious for our third game, but it’s hard to be serious when you have a hard time walking in a straight line. My game utterly fell apart, and was barely able to cross 100. I might have done better had we not run out of time on the game … and if the lights hadn’t come back on. Once I was able to see where I was throwing, my aim went totally off. Go figure. Cory won with a 188.

Opting to leave the alley (being the only ones left, our rather unusual bowling styles were attracting a lot of attention), we headed over to Kensington for a post-game snack, and to discuss the future of our newly-formed bowling team — The Steamers (and no, I’m not telling you the full name). Neil, Dennis, and I made light of our short journey by singing Wayne Newton’s “Danke Schoen” at the top of our lungs, particularly when we managed to pull up next to Cory’s truck. You can only imagine what it must have been like to have three mildly inebriated 20-somethings (barely) harmonizing:

I recall Central Park in fall,
how you tore your dress,
what a mess,
I confess…

I paid for it the following morning, and most of day. But you’d be surprised how much a good bout of dim sum can take the edge off a hangover (albeit a mild one). Even then, though, I didn’t feel decent until around 6pm that night, when the Academy Awards hit the airwaves.

Yeah, you’re probably wondering what I thought of them. (And even if you’re not, I’m telling you anyway.) This was a tough year for the Academy. Lots of really crappy movies means that only a handful are good enough to even consider, which means that the criteria between all the movies isn’t easy. Okay, so let’s look at the ones I had problems with (you can assume I agreed with the rest):

Best Supporting Actor: Benicio Del Toro (Traffic)
Okay, this isn’t so much a problem as I wanted Willem Dafoe to win for Shadow of the Vampire. Although the movie itself wasn’t worth nominating, his performance saved it from being a waste of celluloid. Were it up to me, I would have picked Dafoe.

Best Actress: Julia Roberts (Erin Brockovich)
Yes, she’s attractive. Yes, she can act a million times better than her brother, Eric. But did she really deserve it? Well, there’s the $30 million dollar question (which is, ironically enough, probably what she’s gonna start asking for). Now, admittedly, I haven’t seen Erin Brockovich, but I’m sure it’s a good movie. (I’ve seen enough clips.) However, this is Julia Roberts we’re talking about. Both Chris and I have extreme reservations when it comes to her winning over performances such as Ellen Burstyn (Requiem For A Dream) who was utterly astounding, or even Bjork (Dancer In The Dark), who wasn’t even nominated for an Oscar! So why did Julia win? It was “her year”. She’s paid her dues, regardless of the talent of others. (Yeah, I sound a little bitter. I’m annoyed that the Academy still seems to work this way.)

Best Actor: Russell Crowe (Gladiator)
Okay, yes, he did an excellent performance, and he is a good actor. But I can’t help but wonder if it was all the lobbying that got him the award. I’ve heard amazing reviews of Ed Harris’ performance in Pollock, which to me looks more worthy. Admittedly, I haven’t seen it, so this is mostly just me wondering about Hollywood. Not so much as with Best Picture, though.

Best Director: Steven Soderbergh (Traffic)
Steve’s a good director, I’ll give him that. And certainly with two nominations, he certainly upped his chances. But when you look at Traffic and compare it with Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (I’m gonna abbreviate it to CTHD, ‘cuz it’s a lot to type), there isn’t much of a contest. The goal of a director is to provide the coordination and overall feeling for the movie. I’m sure Steve had a lot to do with that. But two things: 1) Traffic was based on a British series of the same name, so ol’ Stevie had something existing to work with. 2) When it comes to having to manage sheer complexity, and being an utter nit-pick to get the scene just right, you can’t beat the tenacity that Ang Lee showed. (I know, because I read about it.) So yeah, I don’t agree with this one.

Best Picture: Gladiator
Wow. What a surprise. I think Chris and I both knew that Hollywood still wasn’t quite ready to choose a movie like CTHD as its best of the year. Disappointing in a way — CTHD embodied most of what movie-making has tried to create. That’s not to reduce Gladiator’s success even in the slightest — it, too, did an excellent job. But with both Life Is Beautiful and CTHD being nominated for Best Picture awards, maybe the future holds a more global view than the typical American fare.

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