Saturday, July 08, 2006

1st Movie World Cup – Final & Third-place Results!!!!

A month has gone by. Amazing how time flies by! In the end, soccer and movies turned out to be a great combination. Even though the 2006 World Cup was significantly better than the dull & boring 2002 tournament, it still lacked enough quality football and goals as past tournaments. 2006 started out great with the Germans involved in an entertaining 4-2 win over Costa Rica but after the first round, the games started losing their charm and the goals dried up. And when soccer failed to deliver, the countries movies stepped up and provided moments of magic.

Soccer World Cup match-ups – 3rd place, Germany vs Portugal;
Final, Italy vs France

Movie World Cup match-ups – 3rd place, Korea vs Holland;
Final, Germany vs Brazil

Germany is the only common country in the final 4 of both competitions. Interestingly, the movie world final is what most people had expected of the soccer world cup final – the hosts vs the defending champions, a repeat of the 2002 final.

And the Korea vs Holland game is interesting as well because of the style of play and managers involved. In 2002, Guus Hiddink (a Dutchman) led Korea to the Semi-Finals of the Soccer World Cup. In 2006, another Dutchman, Dick Advocaat, lead Korea to a respectful showing. And after the world cup, a 3rd Dutchman will take over the Korean national team. Safe to say, the Korean play has been fast and at times looks inspired from the Orange land. In terms of cinema, Korea movies have become hot-property over the past 5 years and are clearly superior over Dutch cinema at the moment. Onto the results:

Korea (Lady Vengeance) 5- 2 Holland (Turkish Delight)

Goal scorers, Korea: Story, Acting, Direction, Cinematography, Sound
Goal scorers, Holland: Acting, Direction

This was not a close contest. Director Chan-wook Park's final installment of his revenge trilogy was a fitting entry. I had waited so long to see Lady Vengeance that when I finally attempted to see it a few months ago, I was disappointed; I did not finish watching the movie and turned it off. However, I am glad that I decided to give a second go during this movie world cup because I ended up liking it a lot. Even though the film is not as good as Oldboy which contained a real hammer-blow ending, Lady Vengeance is slightly better (and less graphic) than Mr. Vengeance .

And the final, drum roll……………………

Germany (Signs of Life) 4-4 Brazil (The Middle of the World)

Goal scorers, Germany: Story, Direction, Cinematography, Sound
Goal scorers, Brazil: Story, Acting, Direction, Cinematography

As much as I liked both these movies, there can be only one winner. After a closely fought match, both teams tied 4-4 in regulation. The penalty shoot-out tie-breaker’s category is subjectivity. So I have to pick a movie which won me over emotionally and that is an easy answer -- Brazil . Even though the Brazilian story might have shades of other movies from that country (Central Station comes to mind), it is still an emotionally beautiful movie. A father takes his wife and 4 children on a journey across the torrid Brazilian landscape on bicycles. The destination is Rio and the family tries to gather money by working small jobs on the way to sustain themselves. At no time do the parents resort to stealing money because they are proud of who they are and they acknowledge it is their circumstance that has bestowed poverty on them. Nor will the father resort to just doing anything for money – the work has to be dignified. A journey + coming of age (the eldest son grows up into a man and learns some lessons about life along the way) story strengthened by beautifully shot visuals is what makes this Brazilian movie the winner of the 1st Movie World Cup!!!!!

Brazil failed to win a 6th Soccer World Cup this time around and they only have themselves to blame. Brazil may be the founders of Joga Bonito (Beautiful game) tag but they have let stale tactics ruin their game and have strayed away from playing a beautiful team game. On the flip side, it is refreshing to see Brazilian cinema on the way up – colorful and emotional stories which are made from the heart and not out of corporate greed. Funny, Brazil once played futebol with heart and not for money but that no longer seems to be the case in the global game.

So that's a wrap -- one month of calcio (32 nations) and movie watching (22 countries) has come to an end! Perhaps next year, I might hold another movie world cup because I completely enjoyed the experience of pitting movies against each other. Next time around, I might bring in countries such as India, Taiwan and Hong Kong because they really are churning out some quality talkies!!!

Note: Update July 10, 2006: It is interesting that both the movie and soccer world cup finals went to penalty kicks. Both penalty shoot-outs were emotional -- the movie penalties were about 'subjectivity', meaning emotionally biased, whereas the soccer kicks were about 9 players containing their emotion to convert their kicks. In the end, the final score was a 5-3 Italian victory. Only one French player missed his kick and the Italian keeper Buffon did not even have to make a save.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

1st Movie World Cup – Semi-Final Results!

The Soccer World Cup is finally coming to life -- France beat Brazil (yeah, Henry is better than Ronaldinho anyday!!), and now Italy edged past Germany in a pulsating semi-final. Compared to that, the movie world cup seems pretty tame but it had 2 interesting match-ups nonetheless.

Semi-Final #1 – Germany vs Korea

Germany: Werner Herzog’s Signs of Life
South Korea - Director Chan-wook Park's Lady Vengeance

Two completely different movies with varied presentation styles! The German entry is in beautiful black and white with a narrator describing a character’s descend into insanity, whereas the Korean movie is in stunning color with the actor’s doubling as narrators while leading us through a path of revenge against an insane man. I enjoyed both movies but in the end, I am still a fan of Herzog’s movie which edges into the final.

Final score: Germany 5 – 4 Korea

Goal scorers, Germany: Story, Acting, Direction, Cinematography, Sound
Goal scorers, Korea: Acting, Direction, Cinematography, Sound

Semi-Final #2 – Holland vs Brazil

Holland - Director Paul Verhoeven’s Turkish Delight
Brazil - Director Vicente Amorim's The Middle of the World

Fast and pacy match-up! The Dutch entry takes a traditional love story and livens it up with some brave direction – Verhoeven was liberal with Basic Instinct but in Turkish Delight he has more freedom to shoot whatever he wants and that is what makes the big difference. The Brazilian movie on the other hand is sweet at heart even though the story feels like something seen in other Brazilian movies (poverty + coming of age + journey). A tough-call! Turkish Delight unfolded like a typical Bollywood/Romeo & Juliet story with the parental problems and the tragedy near the end interspliced with liberal sex scenes. However, it has a telling moment when the boy realizes what is wrong with the girl (multiple personalities) even though the audience has been fully aware of what has been going on for a while – the boy’s expressions at the moment of realization are a mixture of pity and desperation. The Middle of the World proudly continues the traditional of beautiful movies from the land of Joga Bonito and wins out with its emotionally complex story.

Final score: Holland 2 – 4 Brazil

Goal scorers, Holland: Acting, Direction
Goal scorers, Brazil: Story, Acting, Cinematography, Sound