Wednesday, June 07, 2006

1st Movie World Cup!!!

Ah the craziness starts again! That insane game of futbol is here again to dominate a month in the lives of calcio fans everywhere. But honestly, this is the first time since 1990 that I am not that excited. A huge reason for my lack of enthusiasm is the dull rigged 2002 World Cup. Back then, most of the top players from the European leagues were exhausted by the time the World Cup started. After all, they only had 2 weeks break between the end of their hectic European season and the start of the tournament. As a result, the big teams went out early and other matches were tainted by inept refereeing. So I am a bit cautious about this year’s tournament which starts on Friday, June 9. In order to enhance my football watching experience, I decided to have my own Movie World Cup as the tournament goes on. The rules are simple:

1) Pick a movie from each of the 32 countries playing in the tournament. The first choice is to pick a feature length film. But if no feature can be found, then a documentary from the country will suffice as well.

2) The movies will be put into groups as per the tournament itself. In the World Cup, 32 teams are divided into 8 groups of 4 teams each. The top 2 teams from each group advance to the round of 16, from where the tournament switches to a knock-out format. Meaning, there will be 8 matches in the round of 16, 8 teams would advance to the quarter-finals, 4 to the semi’s and 2 to the final!

3) Once the top 2 movies advance from each group, the movies will compete in the same format as the world cup knockout stage. For example, the movie from top of Group A will play the 2nd place movie in Group B.

4) In the World Cup, each team plays 3 games in the group stage. However, only one movie will be used for the duration of the tournament.

5) Using the pointing system from the World Cup, each movie can get either 3 points (for a good movie), 1 point (average movie) or 0 points (bad film) for their entry.

6) In cases, where a country has no movie entry, it will be defaulted to 0 points.

7) Since the group stage concludes by June 23, all candidate movies should be viewed by June 24!

Sounds easier than it really is. Out of the 32 countries, it will be hard to track down entries for atleast 11 participants. Nations such as Costa Rica, Ecuador, Paraguay and Saudi Arabia aren’t exactly thriving movie industries. In fact, as per, Saudi Arabia only made its first length feature this year (on top of that, since the movie was shot in Dubai, it was only recently released in the U.A.E. Chances are that movie has no English subtitles and won’t make it to North America). But the key thing is to find atleast movies for 2 of the countries in each of the 8 groups. That way, there is a chance to go ahead with 16 movies in the next round. And even if a group only has 2 movies, it is still important to rate the movies because if a good movies finishes 2nd in its group, it could get knocked out if it meets a stronger movie in the next round. For example, the 2nd place team from Group E meets the Winner of Group F. Group E consists of Italy, Czech Republic, Ghana, USA; Group F has Brazil, Croatia, Japan, Australia. So potentially you could have a second round where an Italian movie takes on a Brazilian movie or a Brazilian movie goes against the US entry.

I still have not selected all the movies, but I will list the groups (as per the World Cup) and some of the movies I have picked so far. Regarding the selections, I didn’t use a pattern to pick films from each country. Meaning I didn’t try to go for big name directors, award winners or any specific genre. I picked the first movie I could find from each country. Ok I admit, in some cases, it was not the first movie. But I only wanted to pick movies I had never seen or in most cases never heard of. Just like there are surprize results in every World Cup, I too wanted to be shocked by some of my picks.

Note: I will also be comparing how my movie world cup results compare to the actual football games results.

Group A – Germany, Costa Rica, Poland, Ecuador

Germany – Director Werner Herzog's Signs of Life . I had to find another movie because my original picked German language movie, Michael Haneke's Funny Games , turned out to be an Austrian movie.

Poland - Director Andrzej Wajda's Kanal

Group B – England, Paraguay, Trinidad & Tobago, Sweden

England -- Director Gary Wicks's Endgame
Sweden -- Director Ingmar Bergman's Persona

Group C – Argentina, Ivory Coast, Holland, Serbia& Montenegro

Argentina – Director Héctor Olivera’s A Shadow you soon will be
Holland – Director Paul Verhoeven’s Turkish Delight
Serbia – Director Srdjan Dragojevic's The Wounds .

Initially, I had come across the Serbian co-production Somebody’s Else America but I never finished watching it, so it would have been unfair to use that. Even though The Wounds is a German movie, it is a Serbian language movie.

Group D – Mexico, Iran, Portugal, Angola

Iran – Director Abbas Kiarostami’s And Life Goes On
Mexico – Director Hugo Rodríguez’s In the Middle of Nowhere
Portugal - Director Manoel de Oliveira's I'm Going Home

Group E – US, Czech Republic, Italy, Ghana

Italy - Director Roberto Benigni's The Tiger and the Snow .
Of all the choices from Italy, this was an unexpected pick. I was debating between Fellini or Antonioni when I came upon this movie and since I had wanted to see this one, chose this instead.

Czech – Director Jaromil Jires’s The Joke
USA - Director David Dobkin's Wedding Crashers.

The most unlikely choice from the total 32 countries but I needed a light hearted brain dead movie to watch in the middle of all the intense soccer games and foreign movies. That being said, it is unfortunate I chose a commerical film from the country with the largest selection of movies around. But even though this selection will limit the USA's progession in the movie world cup, it is a decent selection. The rest depends on the other movies in this group.

Group F – Australia, Japan, Brazil, Croatia

Brazil - Director Vicente Amorim's In the Middle of the World
Japan – Director Masaki Kobayashi’s Kwaidan
Croatia - Director Vinko Bresan's Witnesses .

I am breaking my rule here in that I am dragging a movie which I had seen previously. But this seemed easier than finding another movie from Croatia.

Australia - Director Richard Lowenstein's He died with a Felafel in his hand.

Once again, I am dragging a previously viewed movie into the running.

Group G – South Korea, Togo, France, Switzerland

France – Director Pierre Jolive’s In all Innocence
South Korea - Director Chan-wook Park's Lady Vengeance .

I wanted to go back and finish watching this movie properly and here's my chance.

Switzerland - Director Ulrike Koch's The Saltmen of Tibet .

This documentary is probably the most unlike choice for a Swiss movie but given that I was having a hard time finding Swiss movies, this German/Swiss co-production had to do.

Group H – Spain, Ukraine, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia

Spain -- Director Achero Mañas's El Bola
Tunisia -- Director Raja Amari's Satin Rouge

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