Saturday, May 29, 2010

This film will never play in a theater near you

Film Comment recently published a poll listing the Best Avant-Garde films and video from 2000-2009. Out of the 48 films in the list, the two most accessible films are Apichatpong Weerasethakul's 17 minute short A Letter to Uncle Boonmee and Guy Maddin's The Heart of the World. Joe's film is available to view via the website formerly known as the Auteurs and Maddin's film is available on DVD. The rest of the films are not available on DVD and there is a 100% certainty that some of them will never be on DVD. But if these Avant-Garde films are not going to be on DVD then how are most cinephiles going to see them? Now some critics & directors argue that these Avant-Garde films are meant to be seen only on the big screen. Ok. Fine. I will listen to that argument. But how can most people who don't live in the few chosen North American cities see these films on the big screen? I know this may be a big shocking statement but there are cinephiles in North America who don't live in New York or L.A. I know. That is a pretty loaded statement. So I will let it sink in a few seconds.....before I reveal....

there are cinephiles in Canada. I know. Too much to take. And...gasp, there are Canadian cinephiles who don't live in Toronto or Vancouver.

Film Festivals would be a logical answer to see these films but some of the smaller film festivals can't afford to bring these movies in. And not all cities have cinematheques/art house/indie theaters to showcase the films.

The other argument I have heard is that if people want to see famous art pieces, they have to go to a museum, which is usually far off. So if people are willing to travel to Paris, Amsterdam, Berlin or New York to see art pieces, why should some films be forced to show at smaller venues across the world? But the problem with this argument is that museums don't change all their art exhibits on a weekly basis. The Louvre does not keep sending their works to Berlin, London, New York after showing them on display for a few days. Sure there are some exhibits that travel but even then these exhibits stay in a designated spot for atleast a week. Whereas, there are some films that only show once or twice at a famous film festival before disappearing for a few months.

So what's the solution to prevent these films from being out of most people's reach? Apparently, none.

I don't think producers or directors should give these movies for free to smaller festivals or venues but is it reasonable to expect smaller cities to pay the same amount as a New York festival? And even if a smaller venue offers the same money as NY, there is no guarantee that all producers or directors will allow their film to go to an unknown film festival.

So is there a solution? Nope!

Some form of cinema is apparently only for a select few. But film-makers who don't want their films to be seen by most people should not then complain about the trashy cinema that is mass produced and widely available nor should they complain about audience tastes. Audience have to be first given real cinematic choices, otherwise they will continue to consume substandard fare. This does not mean if given a choice, most people will opt to see different cinema nor does this mean that all Avant-Garde cinema is superior to conventional cinema. But people should atleast be given the choice.

I should clarify that I don't know of a single example from the above list where a film-maker has refused their film to be shown at a smaller venue. Some of the film-makers in the list probably are open to the idea of showing their films in smaller cities. In other cases, maybe the problem is that not all festivals or art house theaters have made the effort to get some of these films booked. My words have to do with the lack of DVD availability of these films. For me, accessibility to a film is more important that arguing if one format for seeing the film is more important than the other. I will gladly watch a film in any format provided I have the option to see the film.

On another note...

I wouldn't be surprized if Canada has more film lovers per capita than the US because it snows (or rains if you are in Vancouver) all the time so most people might spend more time indoors. I am not kidding about the snow all the time though. It is May 29th and it is still snowing outside my to prove my own words wrong, I will be out of the house all day today and not see a single movie :)

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

2011 Copa America Film & Book Festival

The 2011 Copa America tournament is more than a year away but I have to start preparations for a personal tie-in competition this summer because unlike the 2007 film edition, I plan to have a literature category as well. So that means I will pick a film and a book from all the nations taking part in the 2011 tournament.

Also, unlike 2007, I will not draw the books and films into groups as per the soccer tournament. Instead, I will pick an outright winner from all the books and films.


The main criteria for a book's selection is that the author must be born in the appropriate South American country. If that criteria cannot be met, then it is acceptable to choose a book from a foreign born author whose origins can be traced back to the South American country in question.

Argentina: Hopscotch by Julio Cortázar
Brazil: Philosopher or Dog by Machado de Assis
Bolivia: The Fat man from La Paz by Rosario Santos
Chile: 2666 by Roberto Bolaño
Colombia: Rosario Tijeras by Jorge Franco
Ecuador: Huasipungo by Jorge Icaza
Paraguay: I, The Supreme by Augusto Roa Bastos
Peru: Conversations in the Cathedral by Mario Vargas Llosa
Uruguay: Open Veins of Latin America by Eduardo Galeano
Venezuela: Chronicles of a Nomad by A.A. Alvarez


The selected film must either be a country's production or co-production. If a co-production cannot be found, then it is acceptable to pick a film made by a director originating from the appropriate South American country.

So far, these are the only selections, with remaining titles to be added in upcoming months.

Argentina: The Secret in Their Eyes (Juan José Campanella)
Chile: Tony Manero (Pablo Larraín)
Colombia: Crab Trap (Oscar Ruiz Navia)
Peru: Milk of Sorrow (Claudia Llosa)

10 or 12

Currently, Mexico and Japan are also invited to the Copa America. However, it is unclear if the two will eventually take part or not. If both nations are allowed to compete, then I will add in a film and book to represent the two countries.


All the book reading and film viewing will start after the conclusion of this summer's World Cup.

[Update: July 5, 2010]

Some of the books have changed with the following entries replacing the ones mentioned above:

Brazil: Zero by Ignácio de Loyola Brandão
Bolivia: Aurora by Giancarla de Quiroga
Chile: The Secret Holy War of Santiago De Chile by Marco Antonio de la Parra
Colombia: The Armies by Evelio Rosero

The Uruguayan entry will most likely change as well with the new novel being either a work from Martinez Moreno or Juan Carlos Onetti.

[Update: Aug 23, 2010]

One selection change and two more film entries selected.

Argentina: Pablo Trapero's first feature Crane World (1999) replaces The Secret in Their Eyes as the Argentine entry.

Brazil: Black God White Devil (1964, Glauber Rocha)

Uruguay: A Useful Life (2010, Federico Veiroj)
[Update: Nov 15, 2010]

The draw for the 2011 Copa America has been made and both Japan and Mexico will indeed take part.

Group A: Argentina, Colombia, Japan, Bolivia
Group B: Brazil, Paraguay, Ecuador, Venezuela
Group C: Uruguay, Chile, Mexico, Peru

Thankfully there are no shortage of books and films to choose from both Japan and Mexico but the following two books make the cut:

Mexico: The Underdogs by Mariano Azuela
Japan: Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami

Films selected so far..

Argentina: Crane World (1999, Pablo Trapero)
Bolivia: Cocalero (2007, Alejandro Landes)
Brazil: Black God White Devil (1964, Glauber Rocha)
Chile: Tony Manero (2008, Pablo Larraín)
Colombia: Crab Trap (2009, Oscar Ruiz Navia)
Peru: Milk of Sorrow (2009, Claudia Llosa)
Uruguay: A Useful Life (2010, Federico Veiroj)
Venezuela: El Don (2006, José Ramón Novoa)

Monday, May 24, 2010

Copa America 2007 Film Festival Revisited

1) Rules and Film picks.

I managed to get films from 11 out of the 12 countries taking part. The only missing entry was from Paraguay. Back in 2007, I failed to track down Paraguayan Hammock, a film that I finally managed to acquire for the 2010 Movie World Cup.

2) Group A results.


Uruguay: Whisky (2004, Juan Pablo Rebella/Pablo Stoll)
Peru: Dias de Santiago (2004, Josue Mendez)
Bolivia: Dependencia sexual (2003, Rodrigo Bellott)
Venezuela: Oriana (1985, Fina Torres)

3) Group B results.


Brazil: The Man Who Copied (2003, Jorge Furtado)
Mexico: El Compadre Mendoza (1934, Juan Bustillo Oro/Fernando de Fuentes)
Chile: Coronacion (2000, Silvio Caiozzi)
Ecuador: Como voy a olvidarte? (2004, Edgardo Viereck)

4) Group C results.


USA: North by Northwest (1959, Alfred Hitchcock)
Argentina: The Official Story (1985, Luis Puenzo)
Colombia: Los Ninos Invisibles (2001, Lisandro Duque Naranjo)
Paraguay: none

5) Final First round group standings.

6) Quarter Finals.

Quarter Final 1: Uruguay (Whisky) 5-0 Colombia (Los niños invisibles)
Quarter Final 2: Mexico (El compadre Mendoza) 3-3 Bolivia (Dependencia sexual)
** Mexico win on penalties
Quarter Final 3: Brazil (The Man Who Copied) 2-3 Argentina (The Official Story)
Quarter Final 4: USA (North by Northwest) 5-2 Peru (Días de Santiago)

7) Semi Finals.

Semi-Final 1: Uruguay (Whisky) 5-1 Mexico (El compadre Mendoza)
Semi-Final 2: Argentina (The Official Story) 2-4 USA (North by Northwest)

8) Final and third place.

Third place: Mexico (El compadre Mendoza) 3-3 Argentina (The Official Story)
Mexico wins its second penalty shoot-out to take third.

Final: Uruguay (Whisky) 3-2 USA (North by Northwest)
The wonderful Uruguayan feature Whisky (Juan Pablo Rebella/Pablo Stoll) wins top prize.

2006 Movie World Cup Revisited

I wanted to gather the 2006 Movie World Cup results in one location. The 2006 Movie World Cup was a unique experiment that proved to be such a success that I followed it up with three further soccer movie tournaments -- 2007 Copa America, Euro 2008 and the upcoming 2010 Movie World Cup.

1) Rules and kick-off notes.

I could only manage to track down films from 22 of the 32 countries taking part. Although it was impossible to get films from all 32 countries back in 2006 as Saudi Arabia only made its first feature back in 2006, a title that I have still not come across. The good thing was that I able to have 2 films from each of the 8 groups so atleast a fair tournament was possible.

2) 1st round results.

3) 2nd Round. Also known as the Round of 16.

4) Quarter Finals.

5) Semi-Finals.

The final four films were:
South Korea: Lady Vengeance (Park Chan-wook)
Holland: Turkish Delight (Paul Verhoeven)
Brazil: The Middle of the World (Vicente Amorim)
Germany: Signs of Life (Werner Herzog)

6) Final and 3rd place.

The Brazilian film edged out the German entry narrowly on an emotional penalty shoot out to claim top prize.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Joe to the rescue

Given Apichatpong Weerasethakul's track record for making beautiful films, I am not surprized at reading some of the glowing words and ratings that are pouring out from the screening of his new feature Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives. Here's hoping that his film does pick up an award later tonight at the closing ceremonies.

The pure joy from watching Joe's films is to witness the perfect marriage between beautiful hypnotic images and calm serene (or eerie) sounds. The following two pictures from his short film A Letter to Uncle Boonmee don't have the same impact without listening to the sound of the winds rustling through the trees.

And at night time, when all is quiet and still, does the haunting start.

A sighting of the mysterious creature in the poster of Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives is first seen near the end of the short film A Letter to Uncle Boonmee. The creature is seen slowing making its way through the woods before the camera fades to black.

Yet, the darkness lingers on. The haunting sounds echo far longer than the running time of the 17 minute short film. Will the feature quieten those sounds?
[Update, May 24, 2010]

Joe does indeed win the Palme d'Or!!!!!!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

The rain in Spain falls mainly on English plains

The stories about Cesc refuse to go away. So looking into the crystal ball, here are some notes about future, 2011 and beyond, English and Spanish league title battles.

This Cesc saga is like Cristiano Ronaldo, part II. That means Cesc will leave the Gunners in 2011 after helping Arsenal to an impressive 2nd place finish next season. 2nd place will double the expectations of 4th place, thereby exceeding the Arsenal board's goals significantly. But Cesc won't go alone to Barca. Wenger will follow him there next year allowing Guardiola to move in the other direction to Arsenal. Guardiola will immediately try to target titles but that will not go down well with the Arsenal board who would prefer Pep merely give the illusion of challenging for the title rather than win it.

Man Utd will continue to push Pep's Arsenal and [revolving foreign manager]'s Chelsea for the title despite Man Utd being 3 trillion dollars in debt. Some will eagerly await Man Utd's demise but England will declare Man Utd too big to fail and use government money to prop the team up, ensuring that no matter how much debt Man Utd have, they never go a single season without challenging for a trophy, even if that trophy is the meaningless Tesco Cup (formerly known as the Carling Cup).

Over in Spain...after Jose takes over at Madrid, Wenger would be forced to chase 2nd spot at Barca. Wenger never managed to get the winning goal over the bus parked in front of Jose's Chelsea so the same pattern would repeat when Jose's Madrid takes on Wenger's Barca. Also, in typical Jose fashion, the bus will be designed to look like an airplane. But in Madrid, Jose would need to play free flowing football as the fans there are likely to boo a dull 1-0 win. And if Jose complains about booing fans, well, he would be out the door.

Meanwhile, Rafa Benitez will take over at Valencia again and spend 300 million pounds to build a 3rd place team which will finish 34 points behind the champions. Rafa will then demand another 200 million the following summer to make a title charge. But his expenses will force Valencia into administration thereby allowing Ronald Koeman to come in and finish the job of getting Valencia relegated.

On the other hand, Seville will continue winning the Copa Del Rey and flirting with 3rd and 4th spots while getting atleast a home win over the big 2. Atletico Madrid will again fail to win against their rivals Real Madrid in the derby matches despite holding a 3-0 lead with 5 minutes left in a game.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Beauty and the Beast

There is no doubt that Barcelona plays the most beautiful football in the world. Yet, they also exhibit ugliness on and off the field. If one looks carefully, then each Barcelona game will demonstrate a few moments of playacting which occurs in between their artistic moves and passes. Their on-field ugliness is personified best by Sergio Busquets, a player who will dive when given a chance and do his best to get an opponent sent off. Messi and Bojan are also capable of crying foul when there isn't one. Off-field, they are taking a leaf out of Madrid's book in terms of acquiring players negatively. Starting from the mid 1990's, Real Madrid have been famous for unsettling players contracted to other clubs. Since negotiating with a player is considered illegal without a club's permission, Madrid are kings of using other means to let a player know they want him. Madrid often let out via media outlets (paper, radio and internet) that they are interested in a player, thereby making an indirect yet illegal move for the player. The player then becomes unsettled and demands a move. Madrid then walks into the club's offices and offers to take the troubled player off the club's hands.

Madrid hounded Arsenal for Patrick Vieira's signature for years and only failed to land him because Vieira had a change of heart at the last minute. Ronaldo was chased for a few years before Man Utd were forced to cash in on the Portuguese star. Barcelona adopted the same bullying tactics when it came to getting Henry and Hleb from Arsenal. And for the last few years Barcelona have been after Cesc Fabregas. It is entirely understandble that Cesc would want to return to his birth city and play in front of his family and friends. Arsenal took Cesc from Barca's academy but they did that with Barcelona's permission. Barcelona didn't realize the star they had in their hands and let him go. And since Cesc has established himself as a top notch player, Barcelona have been trying every means to get him. If Cesc wanted to go, then that should be between him and Arsenal. For the last few years, he has expressed his loyalty towards Arsenal time and time again. Yet, that does not stop Barcelona from making advances.

This transfer saga will go on for the entire summer, even after the world cup is over.
Rafael Yuste, one of the Catalan club's vice presidents, said bringing Arsenal captain Fabregas back to Barca, where he was a youth player, was "more complicated because lengthy negotiations with his club lie ahead".

Things are complicated because Arsenal do not want to sell. Simple as that.

From a footballing standpoint, Barcelona do not need Cesc as the duo of Xavi and Iniesta are more than enough. But Barcelona like Madrid are notorious for signing players for non footballing reasons. Every time there are presidential elections, Barcelona and Madrid's presidential candidates want to sign a big name player as part of their election campaign. Yet, there are many examples of both team's failed signings. Madrid splashed out tons of money on Ronaldo, Kaka and Benzema and failed to land a single trophy. Prior to that Madrid wasted the talents of Sneijder and Robben, two players who have excelled since they left Madrid. Barcelona brought in Zlatan Ibrahimovic and any fan could have predicted that move was not going to work. On top of that, Barcelona failed to make use of Hleb and Henry. Thierry Henry atleast showed his genius in Barcelona's treble winning season but Hleb was a complete flop.

Barcelona and Madrid would be better off concerned with their own team rather than desiring players who are contracted to other teams. Both team's officials spend more time lusting after other team's players than concerned with the ones they have. Once they land in their cherished player, they then move onto a new desire. Two clubs with such a rich history do not need such ugly transfer tactics, yet not a season goes by without reading about Barca and Madrid's desired wishlist.

Monday, May 17, 2010

25 days until kick-off

The sun is shining and the snow has melted. Dare I say it? Winter might finally be over...for a week atleast. Having seen snow storms in every calendar month in Canada, I am never convinced of the disappearance of that fluffy white stuff. Betting on snow in a Canadian summer might be a safer option that betting on this summer's world cup winner. Maybe age does change one's priorities but I approach this summer's tournament with even less enthusiasm than the 2006 edition. Although I had reason to not care for the 2006 World Cup because the 2002 edition was such an awful joke, with all the tired European league based players not able to muster decent performances and the ones that were able to compete for 90 minutes were thwarted by incompetent decisions by refs and linesmen. Only South Korea, Japan, Senegal and Sweden provided some genuine world cup memories in 2002. 2006 was thankfully much better and it featured a rarity in the semi finals when Italy fielded 3 attackers. Watching an Italian team attack and not defend is an occurrence that is seen less frequently than Halley's comet but the attacking habit paid off as Italy overcame the hosts Germany in brilliant fashion.

The 2006 final was a bet of a let-down but then again most world cup finals hardly ever live up to their reputation. One would have to go back to the 1986 final between Germany (then West) and Argentina as being a worthy duel. The Italia 1990 final was decided by an incorrect penalty decision after an otherwise wretched game, USA 1994 was uneventful but that owed more to the extreme heat the game was played in because the organizers wanted to have the game kicked-off in time for the evening European tv market, France 1998 was completely one-sided because Brazil did not show up and the 2002 final was mostly average.

In a way, the 2010 World Cup has an unknown factor around it because the tournament is held in Africa for the first time. Yet, the ultimate outcome will be decided by how fresh and motivated the European based players are after yet another long season. North Korea will be the exception in this regard as they have only one European based soccer player but then again, no one knows what North Korea can bring to the table. Back in 1966, they were able to spring a surpize because they were an unknown entity. So it is remarkable that 44 years later, the North Korean soccer team still remains largely unknown despite increased soccer coverage from around the world. There are no new tactical formations that have to emerge on the global scene so it would be quite the story if North Korea provided a formation along the lines of 2-3-2-3 or 3-1-2-3-1.

On paper, Brazil's squad looks to be the weakest in decades but that owes more to Dunga's decision to have a more efficient and tactical team that is concerned about winning than style. So Brazil might either be boring and win or they will be plain awful, almost as bad the 1990 Brazilian team which had no flair or style.

Technically, the best players in the world are Messi (Argentina), Ronaldo (Portugal), Xavi, Iniesta, Cesc and David Villa (Spain), Wesley Sneijder, Arjen Robben and Robin Van Persie (Holland). These guys exhibit exquisite ball control, precision passing and are capable of beautiful goals. Yet, injury and fatigue will play a part in whether these players can shine. The Dutch trio will once again have that injury question mark over their heads, while Iniesta and Cesc still have to prove their fitness. Ronaldo will be found doing his step overs and dives but it is hard to see him shine in an otherwise average Portuguese side. Messi will be invisible and that will have more to do with Maradona's bizarre selections and formation than anything.

Drogba, Rooney and Torres have proved time and time again that they are the three best strikers in the English league but out of the trio only Drogba is fit and ready to go. Fernando Torres is still injured but if he recovers then he has the ability to show why he is the most complete striker in the world. The extent of Rooney's injury is a mystery. I believe he may be more injured that what is let out but no matter what his situation, he will still take to the field for England. It is impossible to imagine him not playing for the English.

All the 30 member squads for the 32 teams. The squads will have to be trimmed down to 23 come June 1.

Buried in movies...

Back in December I had fully expected to finish watching all my 32 movies from all the world cup countries before the tournament kicked off on June 11. With under a month to go, I still have 10 movies left to watch. I may still be able to meet my target date but it will be close. Thankfully, there are no interesting movies opening in the local cinemas to tempt me away from these world cup films.