Schu Strings: Cats on a roll

There are those who say Arizona just strung together the best three-game run in recent memory. Indeed, it appears the UA has kicked it into gear. That said, the next two weeks could play a major role in determining how much of a factor Arizona will be.

And to think, just four games ago we were shaking our heads, frustrated by recurring themes that came to a head in the 99-90 loss at USC. Lack of a physical presence, highlighted by a need for greater aggressiveness on the part of Channing Frye, the continued "as Salim Stoudamire goes, so goes Arizona" issue, a non-Lute Olson-like defensive effort and the inability to put teams away.

Thank you USC for the much needed wake-up call. And thank you UCLA, Oregon State and Oregon for providing Arizona with the opportunity to build upon those issues of concern.

But there's a lot of season to go, and Arizona still must answer some questions. Indeed, by the time the rematch with Stanford occurs, we could discover just how real the UA is.

First things first. Among Arizona's problems this season has been the tendency to lag against lesser competition. The UA appeared to put that issue to rest with the Oregon State rout, but games at Washington and Washington State will test that concern. Along with the Sports Arena, Arizona's performances in Seattle have often been less than inspiring, and Washington, while not adept in the win column, certainly has athletes that can make the task more difficult than one might think.

Then comes Washington State. The UA has the Pac-10's longest-running win streak against Wazzu, but new coach Dick Bennett plays the type of sloth style that has on occasion been frustrating. Arizona will have to show the ability to show great patience in the halfcourt set, as it did against Oregon. If that happens, it's an indication of growth, and that's good news indeed.

At California, Arizona will play a team in search of retribution, and in need of a win to try to place itself in that coveted, and jumbled, third-place spot in the Pac-10. The Stanford rematch needs no hype, and given the UA's success of late at Maple's Pavilion, a win to snap the Cardinal's unbeaten record would not come as a surprise to anybody.

By virtue of Arizona's three-game run of domination, it's almost as if the light was finally flicked on. The UA seems to get it, and given this team's natural athleticism, that's not exactly a thrilling prospect to the rest of college basketball. If the light burns bright the next two weeks, it could go a long way toward answering a lot of the issues that still loom. And if those are answered with positive fluorescence, the UA could be a real force to reckon with after all…

…Moving on…

…The Oscar nominations were announced, and not surprisingly, it seemed the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (the Sciences part always entertained me. Somehow, I guess, that's supposed to make things sound more legitimate) had a hard time finding enough movies to nominate for Best Picture.

Allow me to give you two examples: Master and Commander and Lost in Translation. Now if there's ever been an Oscar event that's a foregone conclusion, it's this one. Return of the King won the Best Picture award the second Lord of the Rings was nominated two years ago. It's a sort of pay your dues kind of thing in anticipation all three efforts of the trilogy would hold up. So really, much of this is moot.

That said, Mystic River belongs, as does Seabiscuit, as the Sixth Sense/Big Fat Greek Wedding fifth spot fill, that nice, happy movie that made a surprising amount of coin. But Master and Commander? If you're talking in terms of effects, of sound, of visuals (you know, the "sciences" part of movie making), then absolutely. In all of those regards, it is outstanding, and in terms of sound should probably win. It is a fabulous atmospheric film with no regard to the simple premise of character development. To me, few movies were as frustrating as Master and Commander, because if it had spent 10 minutes at the onset building the relationship between the two main characters, as is done in the book, it had the potential to be a modern classic. Instead, it comes off like a 100-million dollar History Channel expose on the rigors of life at sea.

Lost in Translation is just as mystifying. Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson are superb in this autumn/spring relationship tale, and this is the first movie in quite some time that only suggests a sexual tension, but after the comedy fades in the first half hour, it turns into lots of time-fill. The Murray nomination doesn't bother me at all, but while he got all kinds of pub for his strong performance, fellow comedian Eugene Levy got no credit whatsoever in Mighty Wind. Should you decide to rent that film at some point, pay attention to the relationship between he and Catherine O'Hara. It has every bit the chemistry as Murray/Johansson, and the movie's funnier.

On one final note, is including "Monster" in the title of a film the sure connection toward giving an actress with marginal dramatic role success credibility en route to the big statue? Halle Berry got the gold with Monster's Ball, and now comes Charlize Theron, who has constantly amazed me by continuing to work despite not starring in a single film that ever made a dime. The DeNiro weight gain routine is about to change that, and playing a multiple killer probably doesn't hurt either. Next: Monster Mash, starring Rebecca Romain-Stamos.

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