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Premier League Darts

2016-02-11 00:00:00 (This report was created at 2016-02-04 14:44:48)

The Premier League Darts starts in Leeds tonight and it is the usual suspects at the top of the betting markets. Michael Van Gerwen, fresh from his Unibet Masters victory last weekend is the 5/4 favourite to win the league, his nemesis, Gary Anderson, is 2nd favourite at 4/1 with the fading power that is Phil Taylor on 7/1.

MVG is the best in the world right now but 5/4 is short enough for a player who is human in big match semis and finals. He won this in 2013 but was beaten in the final in ’14 and ’15. He was fortunate to beat Taylor in last weekend’s semi final and there are still a few players who can rattle his cage.

Anderson won this last year and back in 2011. He save his best for the biggest events, of which this is one. He was underwhelming last week but he is still the World Champion and one of the players that MVG doesn’t fancy playing in a final. He will have his ups and downs but he is a player who can win this and his odds are much more attractive than those on MVG.

2 points Gary Anderson to win the Premier League @ 4/1 with Coral, Betfred

Taylor is a fading force these days, still capable of winning lots of matches but when he is up against the best players, he loses. His loss to MVG in the Masters was a case in point. He should have won that game but he missed crucial darts and he left the door open for MVG and these good players just take their chances so much better than he can these days.

Of the rest we have Adrian Lewis who is always capable doing well but he rarely gets the better of the very top players and despite two World Championships he is a bit of an underachiever. Dave Chisnall did well last year and his game has improved but can you trust a throw like his? Under pressure he gets very yippy. Worth considering for most 180’s in any match but hard to see him ever winning a biggy.

Peter Wright is another nearly man and is yet to prove himself and win a televised event. James Wade is a happier man off the board these days but it hasn’t translated into better results on it. Far too inconsistent to win a marathon such as this. Michael Smith is being touted up as the next big thing, rising up the rankings to 8th but until he starts winning I remain unconvinced. He can be cruising along one minute only to fall to bits after a poor throw. Robert Thornton is in this....why?

Which leave us with Raymond van Barneveld, winning of the 2014 premier league and a player who has reached the last four in this competition in 2011, 2013, 2014 and 2015. That shows a liking for the format which is important as a weekly slog around the country isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. A bit like Taylor, RVB is seen as a fading force but he is still a very capable player. He reached this year’s World Championship semi final and the semi final of the Grand Slam of darts last November so his recent form is pretty good. He has the added bonus of a ‘home’ tie when the Premier League will visit The Netherlands for one round of matches.

I like his record in the unique competition and it is a surprise to see him given dismissive quotes of 28/1. He is better than that and I can see him going far once again.

2 points Raymond van Barneveld to reach the last four at 4/1 with Coral

The Oscars and BAFTAs

2016-02-28 00:00:00 (This report was created at 2016-02-01 13:43:09)

I will confess to this first. I am no movie buff and have made a trip to the cinema twice in the last two years. My biggest observation in that time was, ‘how the hell can they charge THAT MUCH for popcorn?’ However, a limited knowledge of the subject matter has never put me off in the past, so here goes. Think of it as not so much as blogging but more like blagging.

The 88th Academy Awards take place on the 28th of February and this year’s ‘Oscars’ have been the most talked about for many years, for all the wrong reasons. Getting a nomination can be a massive box office boost and it was the lack of any nominations for black actors, directors or writers (for the second year in succession) which has sparked a row. Mr. and Mrs. Will Smith, obviously down to their last $100 million and in need of a box office boost, have been the cheerleaders for a boycott of the ceremony by black members of the industry and the protest even has its own hash tag #OscarsSoWhite. How very modern.

In fairness to the Academy, they have taken the hint that the makeup of the voting panel is too middle aged and white. By 2020 we will see the number of ‘minorities and women’ on the panel doubled in order to be seen to be more ‘diverse’. I have no doubt that, even then, there will still be some new minority which feels excluded and underrepresented but it is important to remember why the trouble started in the first place. The selection panel was not representative of the industry or wider population and is seen as being dominated by rich, white middle-aged men. That does not mean they do not know a good movie when they see it, just that they will gravitate to subjects and people most like them.

When trying to find the winners of any awards that are judged by a ‘panel of experts’, it is crucial to judge the judges every bit as much, if not more than, the subject matter. The winner of this year’s Mercury Music Award was a case in point. The judges wanted to appear achingly cool and their selection was always going to be an obscure artist that few people had ever heard of (or ever will again). The winner was so obscure that I have even forgotten his name... despite tipping him up at 7/1!

The Academy Awards are not quite the same as they are aware that the name of the game is to fill movie theatres rather than promote art house films but the judges will, consciously or sub-consciously, vote for something that reflects well on them. Like most awards, the purpose is not just about industry insiders mutual backslapping, but also to promote the winning product and get more bums on seats. Low brow action films seldom get on the short list, the same can be said about horror films and even comedy films tend to get overlooked in favour of more worthy subjects.

The number of people entitled to vote is estimated to be around 6,000 and in 2012 the Los Angeles Times conducted a study of the demographics of the voting membership and found that 94% were white, 77% were male and 54% were over the age of 60, so we have some idea about the kind of heads we need to get inside.

It is interesting that in this year of public spats about a lack of diversity in terms of colour, the favourites for Best Picture includes a comedy and there were nominations for a sci-fi movie and an action movie so the shortlist is quite diverse in terms of subject matter, just not of ethnicity.

The Best Picture award is the big one and traditionally it has been a market where it pays to follow the money when it comes to finding the winner. Surprises are more the ‘exception that proves the rule’ and this year we have a market with three strong contenders with the other five available at 33/1 or more. I suggest that it is from the top three in the betting were the winner will be found, especially as 33/1 shots, The Martian and Mad Max: Fury Road, are the wrong sort of subject matter for the judges.

The current favourite for Best Picture is The Big Short, a biographical political comedy drama and box office success starring Brad Pitt. The big worry for me is the word comedy. Comedies are normally overlooked as they are seen as too populist and not ‘arty’ enough (genre bias). There have only been six comedies that have won best picture although there have been several other winners that featured a comedic element, including 2014 winner, Birdman.

However, The Big Short is a political comedy drama and that is may be enough to give it the credibility the voter’s desire. It is performing well at the box office but the problem is that the odds are now around the even money mark, which is very short for a comedy, even a quasi-comedy such as this.

The second favourite is Spotlight, a biographical drama, which is a positive when it comes to genre bias, even if it is about a group of reporters rather than one individual. The worry here is that it has been drifting in the market; having been favourite, its odds took a walk south. The subject matter, child abuse in the Catholic Church, may be a bit ‘heavy’ for best picture and I wonder how many of the voters are Catholic/pro church? Best odds of 15/8 last weekend were as short as 8/11 less than a week ago and that is not a great sign. No doubt the fact that it did not win the less prestigious Golden Globe despite rave reviews is the reason for the drift and in a market where it pays to follow the money; a drifter makes no appeal at short odds. Just before posting this, Spotlights odds are now coming back in to 5/4, making it joint favourite with the Big Short.

The last of the likely winners and third favourite is The Revenant, an epic Western adventure. This is good and bad news. The Academy voters do like their epics and it is one of the most successful genres in the Oscars history. The bad news is that Westerns have never done well with just three previous winners being of the Western genre. Of course, Westerns were ubiquitous in the late 1940s and 1950s and not very good, but the epic Dances with Wolves won in 1990 as did Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven in 1992.

The Revenant is a big budget movie with high production values, which appeals to the border church of Academy members. Let’s face it - people in the industry love the big budget epics as it keeps a lot of people in well-paid work (shooting the film took nine months). This is something to be encouraged by industry insiders and I suspect it will pick up plenty of votes as a result.

It is also the most nominated film in this year’s Academy Awards with no less than twelve, which suggests that it will receive votes from right across the spectrum of Academy members. It fits the bill of a Best Picture winner...but there is another fly in the ointment.

The writer/producer/director, Alejandro G. Inarritu, cleaned up at last year’s Oscars, winning best picture, best director and best screenplay for Birdman. Only twice in the previous 87 Academy awards has a director won back to back Oscars for best picture, John Ford in 1940 and 1941 and Joseph Mankiewicz in 1949 and 1950. Will the voters want to share the love and give the gong to someone else this year? Perhaps but Alejandro G. Inarritu has become something of a superstar in the Academy’s eyes in his short career. He has had multiple nominations including best foreign language film for his debut film Amores Perros in 2000. In 2006 his third film Babel received seven nominations including best director and best picture. 2010 saw another best foreign language film nomination for Biutiful before the success of Birdman last year. Clearly he is hugely respected in the industry and he may well become the third director to have back-to-back wins.

Along with trying to judge the judges, we should also pay attention to who funded the film and hence who stands to cash in on a win. The big studios have big budgets and not just for making movies. They have big budgets to hire PR firms to target those on the voting panel and while there have been no ‘cash for votes’ scandals it is clear that big studio-backed movies will be promoted much more vigorously than independent ones. On that score, The Revenant and The Big Short hold an advantage over the lower budget Spotlight.

It is my best guess that the Best Picture award will be between The Big Short and The Revenant. The Revenant has been doing better business at the box office, has the most nominations, is made by the industry’s new superstar director, won the Best Motion Picture at the Golden Globes earlier this month and is the sort of big production epic that Hollywood loves so much and does so well. It fits the bill but the favourite in this market has to be respected and the stakes should be small.

2 points The Revenant to win Best Picture @ 5/1 with Betfred, Unibet

There are plenty of sub-markets on offer and one nailed-on winner would appear to be The Revenant to win Best Cinematography. No expense spared old school cinematography with not even the thought of using CGI which will go down very well with the panel. The best odds are 1/4 so that is for the money buyers only.

You could of course double it up with what looks like another shoe in, Brie Larson to win Best Actress at 2/7. Charlotte Rampling is one of the five nominees but she may have destroyed her very remote chances of winning by claiming that the reason why there were no people of colour on the list of nominees is that their films might just have been not good enough. A fair comment but unwise given the background to the story and the Academy’s awkward hand wringing discomfort over the matter.

The Best Actor will go to Leonardo DiCaprio for his performance in The Revenant, or that is what odds of 1/12 suggest.

Alejandro G. Inarritu is the favourite for best director but there is a school of thought that reckons Australian director George Miller might just get a lot of sympathy votes in recognition of a long and successful career, which has gone largely unrewarded. Mad Max: Fury Road has been very successful and is regarded as one of the best action movies of all time. It can’t win best picture for that reason but Miller has previously had nominations for Babe, Lorenzo’s Oil and Happy Feet and he might get thrown a bone here, especially if Inarritu is overlooked because of winning it last year. I am not backing him but it would not be a huge surprise to see Miller win. Stan James offer 9/2 and there has been some money for Miller who is now generally a 3/1 shot.

Just two weeks before the Oscars, the UK equivalent, the BAFTAs, will be held in London. Many of the nominees are the same as the Oscars and The Revenant is expected to do very well but perhaps there is a chance of a big priced outsider piping DiCaprio for best actor.

Both the Academy Awards and the BAFTAs are ‘luvvie fests’ full of painfully pretentious thespian types saying ‘darling’ a lot. Perhaps the Brits are guiltier of this intensely insincere gushing and overblown self-importance. It is fair to say that the vast majority of the BAFTA members are luvvies. This gives them much more intense feelings about just about everything and a real sense of compassion, so long as it fits in with left of centre politics.

Perhaps the ‘trendiest’ thing in the politically correct UK right now is no longer feminism or gay rights, but the ‘transgender’ issue. It fills hours of TV documentaries, press articles and if you want a grant to do anything, have an L.G.B.T. policy in place or forget it. It was only a matter of time before somebody made a film with transgender reassignment as its subject matter. The Danish Girl stars Eddie Redmayne playing the part of a Danish woman who underwent, and eventually died from, transgender reassignment surgery. The film has not received universal praise but it will appeal to the voting members’ political pretentions, the desire to be seen to support the cause and keep the transgender issue in the headlines.

The Danish Girl has, unsurprisingly, been nominated for various gongs including Best Actor and Best Outstanding British Film. Redmayne is a 14/1 shot to get best actor and the film is 6/4 to win best outstanding British film. Surely we can rely on our luvvies to be seen to do the right thing and show support for L.G.B.T. rights? God...I can hear the winners speeches already!

Perhaps Redmayne to see off DiCaprio is asking too much but the Best Outstanding British Film is a two horse race with only Brooklyn posing a serious threat.

2 points The Danish Girl to win Best Outstanding British Film @ 7/4 with Ladbrokes