NCAA tournament picks from the National Institutes of Health, 2012

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Awaiting the grades on its renewal application, here’s the second annual prediction of how the NCAA men’s tournament promises to unfold, based on total NIH funding awarded to each college in 2011. Last year this prediction method got almost nothing right except that #11 Marquette would win two games, but second time’s the charm.

Excerpt displayed; click the image or click here for the full bracket.

Notes:

  • Methodology is similar to that used last year. This year it was easier because the NIH now includes all awards for a given fiscal year in a sortable table embedded in its Awards by Location and Organization page. I sorted by “Summary by Organization” and used the value listed for each school [and its associated medical center / medical school, public health school, if those are located in the same city as the undergraduate institution]. Next to each team is the amount of NIH funding [in thousands].
  • As in 2011, the communistic organization of Texas’s research institutions hurts the standing of UT[-Austin], and hurts Baylor even more. Over $200 million to Baylor Medical School in Houston, and another $11M to Baylor Research Institute in Dallas, but the youngsters up in Waco end up going out in the first round to the Jackrabbits from Brookings.
  • The Final Four looks like it’ll be 75% different from last year’s. Two of 2011’s NIH semifinalists aren’t even in the tournament this year, and one [Vanderbilt] is going to lose in an epic 12-5 upset.
  • That 12 seed would win in my bracket easily if half of the funding attributed to Massachusetts General Hospital, Brigham & Women’s Hospital, and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center were attibuted to the local university instead. But based strictly on the numbers next to “Harvard University”, “Harvard University Medical School”, and “Harvard University Sch of Public Hlth”, they have to sweat out wins against both the Commodores and the Badgers before breezing through the rest of the East regional.
  • In 2011 these figures predicted that VCU would lose the play-in game to USC despite having over $82 million of NIH funding. VCU ended up in the Final Four, so that bodes well for South Florida.
  • Last year there were a couple upstarts in the Sweet Sixteen, with Marquette and BYU making it despite less than $4 million. This year the organizers spaced out the talent better, and only Kansas State [$9.2 million] makes it that far with less than $30M.
  • Four of last year’s last-place finishers return to once again be humbled. UNC-Asheville, Belmont, and Xavier bring the same $0 they brought last year, but Gonzaga now has a nonzero tally thanks to Dr. Jennifer Shepherd‘s research on anaerobic energy metabolism in Rhodospirillum rubrum.

The Simultage

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In Limitless [Neil Burger, 2011], there’s a technique which I believe is used three times. It’s like a montage, showing all the things Bradley Cooper’s character can accomplish in his pharmaceutically enhanced state. But a montage is normally a quick way of condensing time and space, melding together representative moments spanning a certain period of time. It includes moments from different locations and different steps in the fighter’s training regimen (or whatever else a montage can be used for, if in theory it were used for something other than a fighter’s training regimen). Nowadays we think of a montage as being a quick-cut together one after another, though earlier in cinema history it was normal to fade from one short shot to another, or use split-screen to condense information even more compactly.

Limitless‘s technique recalls the time when a montage could incorporate one shot overlaid on another. It doesn’t aim to represent a huge amount of time, just a couple of hours in a few seconds. What happens is, when Bradley Cooper’s character Eddie is “in the zone” and operating at maximum mental capacity, we see multiple Eddies at once, each being productive [or charming] in his own way. Either a single room has one Eddie superimposed on another, one taking out the trash while the other moves furniture, or the camera pans across a large scene as we see him first in one place, then in another, then in another. No obvious cuts.

Instead of emphasizing how much time is passing while the story advances, this type of montage emphasizes how little time this character needs in order to advance his story. The crucial element is that in what seems to be a single continuous shot, we repeatedly see more than one copy of a certain character [I suppose it could be more than one character] simultaneously. I propose a new word to describe this technique, in recognition of the modern trickery needed to pull this off seamlessly [Sure, Méliès could have done it, but only with a stationary camera!]. I propose that this word be “simultage”, in recognition of there being only three Google results for that word, none of which use it in a sentence.

Where else has the simultage been used?

One other note on Limitless: Abbie Cornish must have been cast / made up / directed to resemble Scarlett Johansson’s character in In Good Company [Paul Weitz, 2004]. The same character, slightly older and established in her career. Right? I was reminded of Johansson time and again, and Abbie Cornish doesn’t normally induce that response.

Scarlett Johansson in IN GOOD COMPANY; Abbie Cornish in LIMITLESS; Abbie Cornish in STOP-LOSS and in SUCKERPUNCH.

 

The archetypal noir conversation

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Four minutes into Suspense [Frank Tuttle, 1946]. A tough guy has just charged upstairs through a crowd of chorus-girls and busted into an office he’s never seen before, ignoring the guard.

Thuggish lackey: Don’t you believe in knocking?
Tough guy: [pause] Leonard?
Boss: [wearing bow tie, starched collar, casual blazer, pencil moustache, smoking meerschaum pipe, holding black cat] Speaking.
Tough guy: I’m Joe Morgan. Max from the shootin’ gallery across the street said you could use me.
Boss: We can always use a good man.
Tough guy: What do I do?
Boss: What can you do?
Tough guy: Anything.
Boss: Could be. [significant glances with lackey]
Tough guy: Meanin’ what?
Boss: You’re hired.

* * *

Cinematography by Karl Struss. Set decoration by George James Hopkins. Bursting through a paper skull, about to toe-loop through a ring of knives: Belita.

The job in question … turns out to be as a peanut vendor at an ice-dancing arena. This is a movie whose first shot is of a bleached-blonde woman, stone-faced, aiming a pistol while flanked by two tough guys in hats. It then cuts to a smaller man looking very nervous. It cuts back to the woman, who unloads the weapon into … a fairground shooting gallery.

You hope it’s going to be a whole 100 minutes of fakeouts, perpetually just about to become a noir of great grit and seediness. But it settles into a stock story of the ambitious interloper, somehow fascinating through being both distant and hotheaded, who tries to steal his boss’s wife, leading to the boss going mad with jealousy, leading to the boss trying to kill the interloper and then vanishing, leading to the interloper taking over the wife and the business empire [in this case an empire of ice-dancing arenas], leading to the new power couple going mad with guilt. The script is by Philip Yordan, who wrote several comparatively sordid movies around the same time [The Chase; Whistle Stop; Dillinger for which he was Oscar-nominated].

* * *

A film called Suspense, whose entire TCM program-guide listing consists of “Barry Sullivan stops at nothing on his rise to the top”. It sounded too generic to be real, so I had to check it out. The ice-dancing elements are not exactly downplayed — top-billed as the boss’s wife/star attraction is Belita “Belita” Jepson-Turner, ex-Olympic skater and presumptive heir to Sonja Henie’s fame. A brilliant, potentially deadly ice-dancing move plays a critical role in our antihero’s rise as well as his fall.

So why the anodyne synopsis? It must be the aura of Barry Sullivan. He’s quite a forceful presence, eclipsing Belita, Bonita Granville [his underwritten ex-flame who keeps pesterering him], and particularly Albert Dekker as the impresario. Many actors of the late ’40s brought charisma to the role of the not-so-masculine powerful man whose wife is destined for our antihero. Dekker doesn’t have the deliberate cool of Zachary Scott in Whiplash, or the insouciance of George Macready in Gilda, or the pathetic cheeriness of Cecil Kellaway in The Postman Always Rings Twice. The cat, the pipe, the moustache, all the props distract only momentarily from his blandness.

Not much distinguishes Sullivan from other tall humorless actors who look good in a fedora, but he’s clearly the star here. Just like in Cause for Alarm! he’s convincing as a man who starts out likeable [albeit jealous] and becomes a villain as soon as it’s narratively plausible. Scenes alternate between him being cruel and ruthless now that he’s the boss, and him being haunted by the ghost [or is it?] of the husband. Interestingly there’s little suggestion that the guilt has driven him mad — he’d be a moody bastard no matter what had happened, and now he’s a moody bastard bedeviled by shadows.

Go to DVDBeaver to get the background behind Suspense, and see more great stills. Mark at Where Danger Lives enjoyed it as well.