Friday, September 29, 2017

Northwestern Reduces MAC Team to Subatomic Football Particles

Northwestern faced down a nailbiter against Nevada and suffered a humiliating blowout against their equally historically inept ACC Doppelgangers Duke, and then in the middle of the first quarter the Bowling Green Falcons scored a touchdown, the lights dimmed, the representatives for Viscount Claw's Imitation Imitation Crab Meat Bowl got on the next train to West Lafeyette, and the icy hand of football terror throttled the crowd.

Then Northwestern responded with a bomb to Bennett Skowronek and more or less annihilated Bowling Green from the face of the Earth with a display of football brutality rarely seen except against the FCS teams that don't beat them.  They defeated the Falcons for the first time ever and finally shut up the Bowling Green fans who been assailing Northwestern with signs, parades, and continuous aggressive skywriting to crow about the famous Motor City Bowl upset in 2003 for fourteen years.
One of the many monuments to that famous Motor City Bowl victory 
that dots the Bowling Green campus

In this early going, it remains nearly impossible to tell what kind of team to expect every week.  The Wildcats looked bedraggled and listless in two of their three games.  The bye week has helped give them an opportunity to prepare for upcoming games against juggernauts Wisconsin and Penn State and time to build cornerbacks out of wire and straw after hemorrhaging them in these early weeks.


Every five or six years the Wisconsin badgers send a non-conference cornerback down an elevator shaft in a sweatshirt upon which is written in blood "Now I have a quarterback. Ho ho ho."  Wisconsin doesn't traditionally need a quarterback because the Badgers' preferred method on offense is to assemble a literal ton of offensive linemen and have them carry their opponents around for an hour in their dank armpits.  The Wisconsin quarterback's usual job is to bark incomprehensible football jargon in the huddle, hand it off to the running back, throw it around every once in awhile to make sure everyone's paying attention, and then play for 10-15 years in the NFL as a backup to a hall-of-famer. 

The Badgers may have a more dangerous option under center with a person who is somehow, impossibly named Alex Hornibrook.  Hornibrook has looked great as the Badgers have spent their non-conference schedule on a merciless rampage through the state of Utah.  They too have had a bye week to try to solve Northwestern's confoundingly inconsistent attack and for their linemen to absorb the bodies of lesser linemen.

Wisconsin's passing firepower will test Northwestern's bruised and battered secondary.  In addition to Hornibrook, the Badgers will send out star tight end Troy Fumigali, Jazz Peavy, and freshman running back Jonathan Taylor, who looks terrifyingly capable of zooming all over the field while opposing defenders recover from grisly steamroller injuries.  The Badgers return a typically stout defense; we can all rest easy that they appear to have finally exhausted their supply of Watt brothers, although even as we speak, Wisconsin scientists are somehow hoping to roll out an even larger, stronger Watt with a squarer haircut and a even more monomaniacal devotion to football that will cause him to break out of the research area and go on a horrifying fundamentally-sound tackling spree across the greater Dane County area while he is hunted down by the only people who can stop him: the Watt Brothers but don't worry they are also watching film while they are hunting down their evil clone and carrying tires around with them the whole time because training never stops.
Scientists publicly claim that the Fourth Watt Brother remains theoretical


My favorite moment in Mistaken for Strangers, the 2013 Rock and Roll/Sibling Resentment Documentary is when Tom Berninger, the film's director and The National frontman Matt Berninger's brother who has joined the band's tour as a charmingly incompetent roadie, has evidently misplaced the guest list for an LA show.

It's the presence of the "Lost Cast Members" and Matt Berninger's perfect bug-eyed Looney Tunes take that sells the whole thing to me.  Werner Herzog would later have his revenge on The National by threatening them with elaborate music video setups.  “I want to put the whole band on a live volcano, very close to the lava. I want it to be very dangerous for you, and I want to see you try to play your instruments while the lava  is all around you,” is what Matt Berninger claimed Herzog told him in an interview.
HERZOG: I would like to film the National playing their songs while 
rancid pies fly into their face with expired whipped cream exploding 
into their mouths and nostrils. I would like to see The National run 
through an album while wearing helmet-beakers and trying to fill it 
with fluid from water balloons.  I would like to film the National taking 
on the Aggro Crag.

The story of Mistaken for Strangers is this: Matt (I'd like to think that the Berninger Boys would be ok going through the rest of this review on a first-name basis), invites his brother, an aspiring filmmaker with a back catalog of homicidal maniac movies, to join the band on tour to bond and get him out of his parents' house.  Tom brings a camera and films himself asking band members inane questions ("do you bring your wallet onstage?") and irritating the band's tour manager by filming, pilfering booze, and genially breaking things.

Tom, who has prepared himself for rock and roll debauchery, is stuck with The National, a band whose greatest excesses may involve indulging on designer neckware and who write sad dad songs about how sometimes it is sad to be a dad.

Somehow, this is not the only unconventional documentary about the National, which is good because a normal talking head documentary where, for example, every baby boomer band talks about listening to the Beatles before they cut to that same clip of Ed Sullivan saying Ladies and Gentleman the Beatles like it's enshrined on a fucking code of Hammurabi before spending the rest of the film talking about how they turned all of their money into cocaine and mustaches and then spent the 1980s assembling legal teams to send threats about karate chopping each other until they run out of money and reunite, the National would probably talk about how they fought for months about a mix and also one time Interpol was in their practice space and Spin Magazine took pictures of them in their suits.  A Skin, A Night, Vincent Moon's earlier film about their Boxer album, mainly involves impressionistic slow pans across bus windows, recording equipment, and intense, flaring nostrils and contains zero Lost cast members.

Mistaken for Strangers is not about rock music or touring or hanging out backstage with a group of extremely 2010-era sitcom stars but about aging past creative dreams while your droll, persnickety brother somehow becomes a global rock star.  The film works as an origin story for itself as Tom gradually figures out that this is what is film is and manages to transcend himself while continuing to fall into reliably oafsih fuckups (according to this interview, for example, the first thing Tom did on tour was to ram a truck into an awning in front of an awning store.  This is not in the movie).  The most affecting part of the film, to me, is occurs when the brothers are able to bond over The National's early failure to attract any audience for years.  There's an anecdote that Matt Berninger tells about The National rehearsing in the same building as Interpol watch their neighboring band posing in their sharp suits for Spin while The National remain unable to get a gig.  Berninger has told this story in so many interviews that I have started to think about it like a Charles Atlas cartoon that involves the National getting revenge by walking into a Brooks Brothers.

Last time Northwestern played in Madison resulted in one of the most insane football games I've witnessed.  They played in a the aftermath of a snowstorm, in freezing cold and it ended with the referees taking away a game-winning Badger touchdown in a hail of angry snowballs.  Last year, the Badgers managed their first win at Ryan Field in the twenty-first century despite being favored against Northwestern, I would assume, in literally every single one of those games.  Both teams are entering Big Ten play to resolve questions: Wisconsin on whether Hornibrook will finally be the element to lead them to the Playoff, Northwestern on whether they have managed to overcome another early-season disappointment and find the offense that they managed against a wretched and miserable Bowling Green team far removed from their Motor City Bowl glory days.  The Wildcats face two very good teams and we'll see if they can regain some bowl traction or limp through the season trying to salvage whatever bowl and hat they can muster.

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