Wednesday, July 6, 2016

The Top 100: Rent

The Top 100 is a blog series where I rewatch and rerank the movies that were in my Flickchart top 100 at the beginning of the challenge. I'm watching them in a random order to be as unbiased as possible in terms of reranking.

It's been... a long time since I did one of these blogs. Frankly, that was because part of me was worried to rewatch this movie -- my original #44, Rent. I was a devout Rent-head as a late teen, early 20-something, and I still enjoy so much of the music, but in the back of my mind I kind of had an inkling that this was going to fall out of favor on a rewatch. But then I reminded myself that I thought the same thing about Beauty and the Beast and it ended up actually climbing two spots, so who knows?

Rent was the 2005 movie adaptation of one of Broadway's most-loved musicals. Its creator, Jonathan Larson, died tragically from a brain aneurysm on opening night, so he never got to see how much his show meant to so many people. It latched onto something in the culture and put that on stage with music, and it became a massive hit. The movie version came out nine years after the Broadway version hit and, with the exception of Tracie Thoms as Joanne and Rosario Dawson as Mimi, the entire Broadway cast reprised their roles.

It tells the year-long story (or possibly two years, I am always slightly confused by the chronology) of a group of broke friends in New York in 1989-1990. It's an eclectic group: a 19-year-old exotic dancer, a songwriter starved for great ideas, a philosophical hacker and his drag queen lover, an aspiring filmmaker still getting over a breakup, his flighty activist ex, and the down-to-earth woman she left him for. We also see glimpses of their former comrade who has married into money and now is firmly on "the other side," as far as they're concerned. Half the characters have AIDS, two of them are or were drug abusers, all of them have some great songs.

Before we get into the full review, here's my live-blogging take on it. As always, spoilers ahead!

  • Today I'll be watching Rent... seven months after my last Top 100 rewatch. It's time to get this show on the road again!
  • It's been awhile since I watched the movie... I have no idea if it'll grab hold of me the way it has in the past.
  • Turning off the subtitles. I know all the lyrics already and they're actually distracting me.
  • This movie is very visually dark. I can't even tell what's happening in this opening scene with Collins getting beaten up.
  • Wait, that's their only source of heat in NYC in December, and they just throw it out the window? That seems like a bad idea.
  • "Think twice before you pooh-pooh it." One of the most hilariously awful lyrics in all of musical theaterdom.
  • ...Am I at the stage of my life where I sympathize most with Benny?
  • I forgot they use "One Song Glory" to do Roger's back story. I think that works really well, actually.
  • The subtle actions happening throughout "Light My Candle" are almost impossible to distinguish because it's so visually dark. :-/
  • So far I'm not blown away, but my favorite songs are yet to come. We'll see if they rope me in more.
  • Rosario Dawson's "Out Tonight" is one of the highlights so far, for sure. She really captures the restlessness in the whole show.
  • The sound mixing in "Another Day" is weird.
  • I love the harmonies in "I'll Cover You."
  • That's such a touching moment when Roger realizes Mimi has AIDS too.
  • I forgot about the extremely uncomfortable setting for "Take Me Or Leave Me."
  • Whoa, hold up, Mimi and Benny had a thing "two years ago"? So when she was 17 and he was quite a bit more than 17? Not OK, Benny.
  • The movie figured out what to do with "Without You." The most boring song in the show becomes something very lovely.
  • Oh, man, that shot of Angel and Collins in the hospital bed. Heartbreaking.
  • "And sure enough, next year they'd be mass producing them..." But they've known Angel less than a year. This timeline is off.
  • Still think Jesse L. Martin's "I'll Cover You (Reprise)" is stunning. The rest of the movie no longer holds up, but, man, that scene.
  • "I'd be happy to die for a taste of what Angel had" - way to turn someone's tragic death into an opportunity to whine about your love life.
  • LOL, that dude just gave Roger money on the street but he wasn't even playing anything, just looking mopey with a guitar.
  • I forgot that Collins' happy ending is him just blatantly stealing money.

My initial thought was that this wasn't going to have quite the same impact that it did on me 5-10 years ago when I first fell in love with the show and then the movie came out. My initial thought was right. I still think nearly all of these songs are good on their own, and a few of them are even meaningful within the context of the movie, but I found, to my surprise, I didn't connect with any of these characters anymore. Roger is self-righteous and mopey, Mark is constantly indignant about basic adult things like having to pay rent and get a job, and, well, let's not forget that Maureen is the worst person ever and Joanne deserves so much better.

Collins and Angel are easily the most likable characters. Of all the people who could be indignant about the deal life's handed them, they cope with it the best. There's a reason everyone rallies around Angel's funeral toward the end -- Angel was possibly the only one who showed any compassion for anyone else. Everyone else is too wildly self-obsessed, too busy interpreting the line "No day like today" as "I shouldn't have to do anything I don't want to do." If anyone but Angel (and maybe Collins) had died at the end, would anyone have positive things to say about how they had impacted the world around them? No, probably not.

I'm not surprised that this worldview shifted for me. Even back when I loved Rent, I kind of sensed that I might grow out of it eventually. I will say, while the movie (and, I'm sure, the show) doesn't hold as well together narratively as well it used to, I still love the music. These are some incredible songs. And these are good performers performing them. The songs just primarily work best outside of the context of the show, with the exceptions of "I'll Cover You (Reprise)" and "Will I?" and, to a lesser extent, "One Song Glory," all of which actually benefit from the plot in a way most of the others do not.

As a string of interesting songs, huge thumbs up. Everyone should buy the soundtrack. As a whole... not as successful. Certainly not successful enough to stay in my top 100.

So I guess let's kick it out.

vs. Harry and the Hendersons (1987) - An easy first choice. Rent takes this one. "I'll Cover You (Reprise)" is better than anything Harry and the Hendersons has to offer.

vs. The Artist (2011) - The Artist is a bit higher than it really should be. I admired it more than I liked it. It was bold and interesting but failed to really make an impact on me emotionally. While Rent doesn't make quite as big an impact on me as it used it, I still found moments of it very moving. Rent wins.

vs. Garden State (2004) - Another movie that is probably too high. I saw Garden State ages ago and it would probably drop significantly if I rewatched it. Rent is fortunate it ran up against this one. Last time, my third-choice movie was Whiplash, and I don't know if Rent would have won against Whiplash. It does here, though.

vs. Se7en (1995) - All right, here's where it stops. Ten years ago, Rent would win this easily (and clearly did when I began my Flickchart), but now I'd rank it below. The Rent soundtrack still goes above Se7en, but we're not ranking soundtracks versus movies, so Se7en wins and bumps Rent down to #156.

vs. Horrible Bosses (2011) - ...Well, this is kind of awkward. I don't know which to pick. Both have high highs and some pretty draggy lows. I think Rent has fewer draggy lows, thanks to its music, so I guess it goes above Horrible Bosses for now. I'm not sure that's the right choice, but it's where it goes.

vs. The Cabin in the Woods (2012) - One of the most amazingly creative movies I've ever seen. Sorry, Rent, you are going down to #194.

vs. 28 Days Later... (2002) - We're getting quite a lot of horror movies pitted against Rent. I think a lot of 28 Days Later's strength is in its first 20 minutes or so, which are spectacular, but not quite as spectacular as Rent's best moments. Rent wins.

vs. Seven Psychopaths (2012) - I'm one of the few people I know who preferred this to In Bruges. I think it's funnier, more profound, and has better acting. It's also funnier, more profound, and has better acting than Rent, which now drops to #203.

vs. Conspiracy Theory (1997) - This was one of the earliest thrillers I remember watching with my dad when I first started getting seriously into movies, and I still think it's a lot of fun, but I think I have to give the point to Rent here.

vs. Sabrina (1995) - Oh, this is a tough call for me. I love the remake of Sabrina. I haven't seen it in awhile, but I suspect that if I were to rewatch this today, it'd still have the same impact on me, whereas Rent definitely diminished. I think because of that I am going to give Sabrina the point.

This drops Rent from #44 to #205, which feels about right. I can't drop it too far out of the top of my movies. I loved it so much 10 years ago, and even if I don't connect with the characters anymore, there's still the matter of how incredible the music is. Seriously, people. Buy the soundtrack. Buy it now. And then learn all the words to "La Vie Boheme" and feel cool.

It's time to choose my next movie from The Top 100, which I will be writing about definitely no earlier than July 20, but probably significantly later. Did you see how long it took me to do this one? Anyway, next time's Top 100 movie is my original #21, West Side Story (1961). Rewatch it along with me or watch it for the first time and you can chime in with your comments when I finally get around to reviewing it.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

New Year's Resolution: June Check-In

So... I did slightly better than last month. Which is good, because last month was miserable and made me miserable and I was like, "I CAN DO SOMETHING ABOUT THIS, YES, I CAN," so I tried and made a tiny difference. So let's check in.

Blogging Goal: Publish at least one blog (besides this one) in May.
Well, obviously I didn't do that, but I started two of them. I just never finished them. But that is better than I've been doing, so I'm going to give myself 5/10. Writing half a post is half as good as writing and publishing a post, so I WILL TAKE those five points and make the same goal again - one blog besides this one for June. Maybe I'll finish one of those blogs I started writing before.

Health Goal: Get into the habit of taking my depression meds.
I did so much better on this this month than last month. I'd say about 7/10 frequency. Now if I do this for another month they might actually be in my system long enough to make a difference, so I'm going to keep working on taking my meds every day and maybe there'll be a difference in next month's check-in.

Movie Goal: See one movie a week with MoviePass.
Such good intentions, such failure. I only saw one, and, in fact, this was my lowest movie-watching month in a long time. 2.5/10. Let me slightly alter this for next month because this is silly. Watch two movies at the theater in June. There.

God Goal: Daily Bible study and prayer.
I made a little progress in all my other goals, but nothing here. 0/10. Gross. I want to push this one to the top of my priority list because I really do think this is a big deal, so I'm going to yet again, make this my goal for June.

Friends Goal: Send an encouraging message to three faraway friends.
I DID THIS ONE. 10/10 for the first time all year. And I liked this, so I'm keeping it as my goal again this month. Send three faraway friends an encouraging message.

After a score of 9/50 for all of April, May is a bit of a boost. I got 24.5/50. That is almost halfway there. That is a HUGE jump up. That is excellent, but I'm going to keep my goals small this upcoming month so as to not rock the both. I especially want to focus on the God goal, since I've been doing so, so badly on that, and the health goal, since I'm afraid I'll get out of sync and stop taking meds again and undo all the progress.

Let's tackle June and hope it's another step forward.

Friday, May 13, 2016

New Year's Resolution: May Check-In

It’s almost halfway through May and I haven’t written this… partly I just really haven’t wanted to because I failed miserably in April. Let’s look at what my goals were last month, shall we?

Blogging Goal: Publish at least three April blogs.
Nope. Didn’t do this. I suppose technically I posted one at least when I posted my April check in, so I guess I’ll give myself a 3/10, but overall I just did not use my spare time wisely. We’re going to try again. I only have a few weeks left in May, but I’d like to publish at least one blog (besides this one) in May.

Health Goal: Get into the habit of taking my depression meds.
Nope. Didn’t do this. Like, at all. 0/10. And when depression started kicking me in the face this month, all I could think was, “Well, I’m not taking my meds and I’m not scheduling therapist visits, so I guess this is what I deserve,” which is not a particularly helpful method of thinking. So we’re going to adjust that and try again. Start taking my depression meds, dang it. 

Movie Goal: Use my MoviePass to see at least one movie a week.
Nope. I saw one. So… 3/10. And I’m actually watching a decent amount of movies otherwise, so I’m going to try this goal again. Persistence! See one movie a week with MoviePass. I already watched one last week, so that’s one down, three to go!

God Goal: Daily Bible study and prayer.
Wanna guess how this one went? Yeah, nothing. 0/10. This is my goal again. I feel like anything else I work on here is just going to be patching holes unless I can get into a regular God habit again, period.

Friends Goal: Have a one-on-one conversation with five faraway friends.
Yeah, I don’t know how to rank this one. On the plus side, I DID have a few conversations with faraway friends… but that was really only because I got to see them in person. I also had a few weeks where I felt so overwhelmed with loneliness for my faraway friends that I cut all contact off with them entirely because it made me too sad to talk to them. So that’s useful. I almost want to take off points for that because I undid anything I was trying to do. So we’ll compromise and give me a 3/10. I like this goal, though, and I feel it’s achievable, but I’m going to simplify it in case my jerkbrain goes crazy at me again this month. Send an encouraging message to three faraway friends. There. I should be able to do that.

April was rough, folks. 9/10. I seem to be doing worse every month, which is... not helpful, and pretty discouraging. But right now I’m going go to go get started on my blogging goal, because I CAN DO THAT RIGHT NOW RIGHT THIS MINUTE, and I can do medication and Bible study tonight, and I can message someone I care about to let them know I love them, and if I do all that I’ll already be doing better than I did last month. Right now my threshold is so low that I can do just about anything and boost it.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

New Year's Resolutions: April Check-In

Time to check in and see how my goals are doing, as well as make some new ones for the month.

Blogging goal: Get two blog posts written and published during March. I NAILED this one. I had a sudden burst of things to say and managed not three blog posts this month, but five. Whoo! Clear 10/10. I don't want to overextend myself in April, so I'm going to keep a similar goal: publish at least three April blogs.

Health goal: Take care of lingering physical problems. Specifically, arthritis and depression. This is the goal I'm proudest of attaining, since these were both giant things hanging over my head. 10/10. Now, however, while I went to a doctor about depression, I'm having real trouble taking my medication regularly. So my goal for April is simple: get into the habit of taking my depression meds. I'll be setting alarms. I'd also like to gym this month and stay away from fast food but I've got a chunk of time mid-month when I'm going to be out of town, and those other two goals will be tougher to stick to then, so I'm not making them official goals.

Movie goal: Watch Bridge of Spies. Hahaha... Of course, the simplest goal I have was the one I failed most. 0/10. I think rather than just renew that failed goal, I want to return to a more pressing one. I've hardly used my MoviePass at all this past month. So my goal is to use my MoviePass to see at least one movie a week. Simple, and I can do it.

God goal: Daily Bible study and prayer. Wow, why do I suck at this so much? I did this a couple times, so I suppose 1/10, but wow. I need to step it up. This is my goal again because I think it's important and totally achievable.

Friends goal: Contact the ladies on my reconnection list. Yup. A big fat 0/10. Again. I'm not sure why I'm sucking so much at this either. But we're revamping. Since the official ordered plan for reconnecting is not working for me, I'd just like to have a one on one conversation with five far away friends. That is something I know I can do.

The few things I accomplished this month were BIG accomplishments, but they kind of took over my life and I only scored 11/50 which is, I think, my lowest score yet. Gross. The last two items are really where I've consistently failed the most, so I want to focus a bit more this month on getting those done.

Hoping for a healthier, happier month than March was for me.

Monday, March 21, 2016

A Visit to the Doctor

Last week, I did something that I probably should've done a long time ago but didn't feel like I really needed to do until this year: I went to my doctor to talk about depression.

It may have been one of most difficult things I've ever done.

I'm pretty open about my depression here on my blog or on Facebook or in text conversations with friends, but I hadn't considered until this visit how much all that is under my control. I'm able to refine the words, to speak clearly and articulately about my feelings. That is a far cry from the weeping, incoherent mess I was the day I went in.

As soon as the nurse asked me the reason for my visit, I started tearing up. When she told me my blood pressure was a little high, tears starting falling. (We checked it a few minutes later and it had gone back down.) When the doctor came in and asked me gently, "How are you doing?" I started genuinely sobbing and could barely get the words out to explain I was pretty sure I was depressed.

It didn't get better. I knew I needed to be there -- after all, the fact that I was so depressed and anxious about seeing a doctor for depression and anxiety was probably a clue I was doing the right thing -- but as she began asking me how things had been, if there were any emotional triggers I was aware of, how long this had been going on, I could feel myself mentally curling up into a ball, answering the questions as briefly as I could and longing for this awful, uncontrollable vulnerability to just go away so I could go back to feeling like a semi-competent human being.

I knew she'd probably suggest medication, and I knew what I wanted to talk about with her: that I wasn't against depression meds on principle or anything but the thought of having even more meds to keep track of and schedule and worry about side effects for was really overwhelming to me, and I wanted to know if there was any way we could hold off on it until I got fully back on my arthritis medication. Then the moment came, she asked me if I was OK going on medication, and all I could think was I want to be out of here, I want to go home, and saying yes will send me home more quickly, so I said OK and walked out of there with a prescription for Prozac, a referral for a psychiatrist, and a strong sense of self-loathing for being unable to speak up and share my concerns.

(Incidentally, I debated emailing her back and saying, "I couldn't bring myself to talk about it then, but I was wondering..." but ultimately couldn't make myself do that either, at which point I decided maybe that meant I needed the medication pretty badly after all. So we'll be giving that a shot.)

One of the things that makes depression so crappy is how it saps your motivation so the steps you might need to take to feel better seem impossibly difficult. I know that going to see movies by myself is a temporary mood lift that can help refuel me a bit after an especially anxiety-ridden week... but the thought of having to get up and drive to the theater feels somehow worse than the thought of sitting around feeling depressed all day. It's significantly more difficult when your step forward is not "have a beautiful day alone at the movies," but instead "cry in front of people in the hopes they can help you."

That being said... this is a good thing. It is incredibly difficult, and admitting to strangers through tears that I'm depressed makes me feel more genuinely broken than I have in a long time, but I'm doing something about stuff, which has not been my strong suit this year. And so I will take it and claim it as a victory... even if nothing's actually happened yet.

Friday, March 18, 2016

A March Madness Bracket, FSWCCLAB (Part 2)

Yesterday I talked about my picks for the top 64. Today let's rush through the rest of my choices.

Round 2
1. Governors vs. Huskies. If huskies decide to turn on our nation's governors, there's nothing they can really do. The Governors stay in my bracket.
2. Terrapins vs. Rainbow Warriors. The Rainbow Warriors are heavily environmental and would probably refuse to fight the cute little turtles on principle. The turtles have no such principles and could slowly bite the Rainbow Warriors to death.
3. Shockers vs. Bulls. Let's remember that shockers are wheat harvesters. If there's a bull stampede, the wheat cannot save them.
4. Owls vs. Bulldogs. The fact that the owls can fly is going to be a huge advantage to them here. They can swoop down, peck out bulldog eyes, and swoop away.
5. Ducks vs. Hawks. As terrifying as ducks can be, I think the hawks are going to just obliterate them for the same reason the owls are going to get bulldogs. They can fly better.
6. Seahawks vs. Bulldogs. If birds keep fighting these bulldogs, we could end up with a final round of just ALL THE BULLDOGS.
7. Panthers vs. Aggies. Yeah, there's no way agricultural students are making it out alive in a cage match with panthers.
8. Beavers vs. Sooners. Those sooners, rushing in to claim their land... and in the meantime probably destroying the beavers' natural habitat.
9. Tar Heels vs. Friars. North Carolina is a large state. I'm pretty sure they could get rid of the friars just by sheer volume.
10. Mocs vs. Wildcats. Again, whether it's mockingbirds or moccasins, I'm pretty sure they lose to wildcats.
11. Fighting Irish vs. Mountaineers. This is another one where I think the sheer numbers win, as well as the fact that mountaineering seems like more of a defensive maneuver than offensive.
12. Badgers vs. Wildcats. This is a tough one, as I feel like they might be pretty equally matched in viciousness, but wildcats seem spryer. Sorry, badgers.
13. Cavaliers vs. Bulldogs. I suspect these upper-class British Royalists are not going to win a lot of battles against anything that can actually fight.
14. Trojans vs. Gaels. Two entire people groups fighting each other! I guess I'm going to have to say the Trojans would win since almost the only thing I know about them is their fighting prowess.
15. Bulldogs vs. Runnin' Utes. The Utes face off against a different set of bulldogs... and are again chased down.
16. Orange vs. Blue Raiders. The friendly horse eats the orange.

Sweet 16
1. Governors vs. Rainbow Warriors. Well, looks like the governors win here, because it is easier to legislate people away from saving the environment than it is to legislate huskies not to eat you.
2. Shockers vs. Bulldogs. These poor wheat harvesters just keep getting attacked by animals and I just don't feel like they're prepared for that.
3. Ducks vs. Bulldogs. Let's kick the rest of the bulldogs out of the fight because they've completely murdered the ducks.
4. Aggies vs. Beavers. Are agriculture students prepared to fight against the beavers' claws and teeth? I suspect not.
5. Friars vs. Mocs. I suppose the mocs could win this one, but just because I'm having trouble imagining friars taking them down. I don't even know what that would look like.
6. Mountaineers vs. Badgers. The mountaineers attack the badges with their pickaxes and climb away.
7. Cavaliers vs. Gaels. The Gaels must have fought at some point (though, granted, I know very little Gaelic history). The Cavaliers didn't seem to do much from the four seconds I spent in research.
8. Runnin' Utes vs. Orange. The Utes may not be able to outrun a bulldog... but they CAN outrun an orange.

Elite 8
1. Rainbow Warriors vs. Shockers. I think if it came down to it, the shockers would win this one. After losing to so many small animals, I think they'd be full of rage and catch the rainbow warriors off their game.
2. Ducks vs. Aggies. Ducks are small, but they are mean. If they attacked, those poor agricultural students could be in trouble.
3. Friars vs. Badgers. All I can imagine is a friar opening the door of the church, stepping out, and having a badger jump up into his face like an alien face hugger.
4. Cavaliers vs. Orange. As much as I wanted the Cavaliers to stay in the game... they probably managed to eat quite a few oranges in their time, while oranges probably did not eat so many Cavaliers.

Final 4
1. Rainbow Warriors vs. Aggies. I feel like while they're on similar teams, there could be some agricultural students with methods that rub the rainbow warriors the wrong way, and then blood will be spilled.
2. Friars vs. Orange. Finally, one thing the friars can defeat!

...As I sort of thought might be the case, I will be rooting for the Syracuse Orange to win the entire March Madness whatsit. In fact, they might be my favorite basketball team ever. It's difficult to think of something it might hypothetically defeat in the future. A blunt knife?

Thursday, March 17, 2016

A March Madness Bracket, From Someone Who Couldn't Care Less About Basketball

I do not follow any sports of any type, but I frequently find myself around people who ask who I support. My method of choosing sports teams for several years has been thus:

1. Find out the teams' mascots.
2. Imagine a scenario in which one team mascot namesake fought the other. Who would win?
3. Root for the underdog.

For example, this year's Super Bowl featured the Broncos and the Panthers. That seems like a pretty even match, but I think a bronco could defeat a panther, since they're larger and seem like they could wreak more havoc. So I was rooting for the Panthers.

This seems at least as sensible to me as any other reason to root for a team.

So let's look at this year's March Madness line-up and figure out who I think should win each one. The teams in bold are the ones I'm rooting for.

Top 64:

Austin Peay Governors vs Kansas Jayhawks: Well, it turns out a Jayhawk is not a bird as I might have assumed. It is, in fact, a native-born Kansan. There are more of those than there are governors, so if they were rioting against each other, the Kansans would win.

Connecticut Huskies vs. Colorado Buffaloes. Oh, goodness, have you seen a buffalo? They're huge. They'd easily destroy a husky.

Maryland Terrapins vs. South Dakota Jackrabbits. This is an adorable round with tiny turtles and shy rabbits fighting each other. Spring is when jackrabbits are most dominant, though, thanks to mating season, so they could probably take down the turtles.

Hawaii Rainbow Warriors vs. California Golden Bears. So... a quick Wikipedia search tells me that the rainbow warrior is based on Christian propaganda masquerading as a Native American legend about people coming together to save the earth environmentally. Yeah, they wouldn't have a chance against bears.

Wichita State Shockers vs. Arizona Wildcats. Shockers, I have just learned, are not people armed with tasers, but rather wheat harvesters. That is significantly less tough than their name sounds, so I'll be rooting for them. Harvest that wheat, Wichita!

Miami Hurricanes vs. Buffalo Bulls. Well, in The Wizard of Oz, a tornado carries a cow away with it. I would assume a hurricane could also carry away a bull.

Temple Owls vs. Iowa Hawkeyes. Wikipedia says the origin of "Hawkeyes" as a team name is probably rooted in James Fenimore Cooper's The Last of the Mohican. That dude could easily take care of an owl.

UNC Asheville Bulldogs vs. Villanova Wildcats. While both can be vicious, only one has "wild" in their name and is therefore implied to be more vicious.

Holy Cross Crusaders vs. Oregon Ducks. This one made me laugh out loud. Sorry, Ducks, you're definitely getting converted, but I'm going to be rooting for you anyway.

Cincinnati Bearcats vs. Saint Joseph's Hawks. Some research shows me that bearcats eat birds. Maybe not hawks, but they definitely eat birds, so I'll be hoping St. Joseph protects them from becoming prey.

Yale Bulldogs vs. Baylor Bears. Earlier I decided bulldogs couldn't even win against wildcats, there's no way they'd win against bears.

UNC Wilmington Seahawks vs. Duke Blue Devils. The Blue Devils refers to a French World War I infantry battalion, who are probably very capable of killing some seahawks.

Texas Longhorns vs Northern Iowa Panthers. This is similar to the Super Bowl situation this year, and I'm pretty sure the panthers would lose here as well. Longhorns are, as one might assume from their name, very large with large horns.

Green Bay Phoenix vs. Texas A&M Aggies. While agriculture students are important and all, the phoenix is a mythological bird that can regenerate, so it's kind of got the edge here.

VCU Rams vs. Oregon State Beavers. I would not be surprised if it turns out that beavers are much more vicious than I give them credit for, but I'm having trouble imagining them winning if a ram had decided to take them out.

CSU Bakersfield Roadrunners vs. Oklahoma Sooners. I am learning a lot researching these school mascots. A "sooner" is someone who went in and claimed land in Oklahoma before President Grover Cleveland said it was OK and therefore lost their clam to the land. They seemed to be making unwise decisions in their eagerness to take what they wanted, and we all know how that ended for Wile E. Coyote.

FGCU Eagles vs. North Carolina Tar Heels. A tar heel, like a jayhawk, is simple another word for a state's residents (in this case, obviously, North Carolina residents). And I've seen The Birds. Eagles could totally take out a whole state.

USC Trojans vs. Providence Friars. Friars are not renowned for their excellence in fighting.

Indiana Hoosiers vs. Chattanooga Mocs. A hoosier is an Indiana resident, though nobody really knows why. "Moc" is apparently a shortened version of both moccasin and mockingbird, both of which seem like a whole bunch of hoosiers would be able to take care of.

Kentucky Wildcats vs. Stony Brook Seawolves. The first time a wildcat mascot loses! But the top answer for seawolf is a sea lion, and those things are huge and could probably just casually lie on top of a wildcat and smoosh it.

Notre Dame Fighting Irish vs. Michigan Wolverines. "The wolverine," Wikipedia says, "has a reputation for ferocity and strength out of proportion to its size." But then again, that might be true of stereotypical fighting Irish as well. But I like the mascot "Fighting Irish" so much, let's keep them in the game by pretending that the Wolverines also includes Wolverine from X-Men, because then they'd probably win.

West Virginia Mountaineers vs. Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks. Well, this is a macho group. But I'm pretty sure the lumberjacks are better at using an axe, and that's not going to go well for the mountaineers unless they can scale up a nearby mountain.

Wisconsin Badgers vs. Pittsburgh Panthers. Badgers are pretty mean, but panthers are bigger and can probably subdue them.

Xavier Musketeers vs. Weber State Wildcats. More wildcats! I think they're going to lose the battle here, too, as musketeers can just stand far away and pick them off one by one.

Virginia Cavaliers vs. Hampton Pirates. Uh, well, I suspect upper-class Royalist supporters of King Charles I might not be prepared to fight off pirates, though I would 100% watch that movie.

Texas Tech Red Raiders vs. Butler Bulldogs. I am having great difficulty finding out what exactly a "red raider" is, but their mascots look like Zorro and Yosemite Sam, who could probably both beat up bulldogs if they were so inclined.

Purdue Boilermakers vs. UALR Trojans. A boilermaker is someone who makes things from steel. The problem here is that though they might be able to craft great weapons, I'm not sure they'd know how to use them, and saying, "Hold on, Trojans, let me build something out of iron to attack you," is not really going to work.

Iowa State Cyclones vs. Iona Gaels. Sorry, Gaelic people. I'm sure you're tough and all, but cyclones are brutal.

Seton Hall Pirates vs. Gonzaga Bulldogs. More bulldogs! They will lose to pirates, though.

Utah Runnin' Utes vs. Fresno State Bulldogs. Apparently every other basketball team names themselves the bulldogs. I guess the question here is how fast can bulldogs run. Can they run faster than a person from Utah? Turns out a healthy bulldog can run 15 miles an hour, which is on the high end for running sprinters. Sorry, Utes, I think the bulldogs are going to catch you.

Dayton Flyers vs. Syracuse Orange. The flyers are Orville and Wilbur Wright. I'm willing to be at some point they ate an orange, thus defeating this team.

Michigan State Spartans vs. Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders. While a red raider is apparently Yosemite Zorro, a blue raider is... a very friendly-looking horse, according to the mascot photos. The Spartans look WAY tougher here.

All right. That's my take on the top 64, and that's quite enough blogging for today. Tune in tomorrow when many of these teams will have already lost to find out who I've got lined up in the rest of my bracket.