Tuesday, July 28, 2009

5 years on...

pic: MikeHewitt/GettyImages, soccernet

If Kolo Toure is indeed on his way out from Arsenal, then that would mean that the last remaining starter of the "invincibles" team would be gone.

The 2003/04 Arsenal team: Lehmann, Lauren, Campbell, Keown, Toure, Cole, Cygan, Parlour, Edu, Vieira, Gilberto, Ljungberg, Pires, Henry, Bergkamp, Reyes, Kanu, Wiltord

Ofcourse, majority of the core 2003/04 team were dispatched in less than 3 years. In the 5 years since 2004, Arsenal have gone from being the best team in Europe to an average team in England. And after Gilberto and Lehmann left in the summer of 2008, Kolo became the sole surviving member from that great team (note: Clichy was a sub in the 03/04 season). Now, admittedly Kolo was not the same player as he once was but there was always the hope that if the going got tough, Kolo could have gathered the young guns around the fire and told them stories about the glory days.

On another note, I started this blog just over 5 years ago, just 5 days before Arsenal achieved history by going through their 38 game season unbeaten. How time flies....

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Martel vs Alonso

The first leg: Los Muertos vs La ciénaga

I first read about a comparison between the two Argentine film-makers Lisandro Alonso and Lucrecia Martel in 2008 when their new works were doing the rounds in the film festival circuit. It seemed that some people preferred the style of one over the other. My only familiarity with either director was restricted to just one film, Alonso’s Los Muertos and Martel’s La ciénaga (The Swamp). One film is not enough to draw a conclusion. But if I had to give a view based on a solitary work, I would easily give the nod to Alonso. Los Muertos was poetry in motion. A beautiful film where the camera had full freedom to roam about and as a result, the audience could breathe and soak in the environment. Whereas, Martel’s The Swamp was cramped up in familial settings and only started to come to life near the end.

Second Leg: The Headless Woman vs Liverpool

So how would the second round fare? The first 10 minutes of Martel’s The Headless Woman are beautiful but that changes shortly because the main character Veronica is not meant to be adored. This is emphasized by Martel's decision to only focus the camera on Veronica’s face most of the time, even when other people are talking. At other times, the camera is focusing on her side profile or is just behind her shoulder giving us her line of sight. This is done on purpose to show that from Veronica's perspective the people around her not worthy of attention

This is a brilliant stroke from Martel as she wants the audience to experience the sense of dizziness and detachment that Veronica undergoes as a result of an accident early on the film. In addition, her film highlights the class difference in Argentine society as Veronica is well off and treats the constant supply of servants and caregivers around her without much thought. On occasions, the camera blurs out the view of these other characters trying to emphasize that these people are invisible to Veronica.

Overall, The Headless Woman is a much more dynamic and large scale work than The Swamp.

Unfortunately, I can't reach a final decision in the Martel vs Alonso match-up because I am still waiting to see Alonso’s Liverpool. Although if his film is as good as Los Muertos, then for me, Alonso would easily be the winner.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Seeking happiness...

The miserable_man_with_a_troubled_life has certainly provided great fodder for cinema over the decades. Yet, most films don’t try to focus too much on the troubled man’s depressive tendencies for it might make for some strained viewing. Usually, directors add a comedic element or even infuse their work with a hopeful feeling to allow the audience to believe that a new dawn will start in the troubled man’s life.

Even though James Gray’s Two Lovers gives some hope that the troubled main character (Leonard played by Joaquin Phoenix) will finally find happiness, he certainly does not cut any corners in illustrating Leonard's inner struggles.

The film starts off on a low point in Leonard's life and very quickly we learn that his life has had many such low moments because of his parent’s constant worry.

His parents want him to be happy, just any parent would. So they try to fix him with up a girl.

As a result of such an arranged dinner meeting, Leonard meets Sandra (Vinessa Shaw), a sweet charming woman. Sandra is the warm hearted compassionate woman that a guy should marry. But the problem is most men think like Leonard and don’t instantly fall for the Sandra types in their life but instead chase the glittering Michelle lookalikes (played by Gwyneth Paltrow). The audience knows immediately which woman is right for Leonard and which isn’t. But we are given a front row seat to the inner turmoil and anguish that Leonard has to undergo before he can finally come to that decision on his own.

Two Lovers has the same dimly lit atmosphere that Gray’s first feature, Little Odessa, had. That grayish atmosphere works quite well here as it mirrors Leonard’s mood which isn’t too uplifting. One can sense the invisible cloud of misery that hangs over his head constantly, even when he puts on a smile. Joaquin Phoenix has done an amazing job in conveying the inner feelings of Leonard via his expressions -- his face speaks volumes and accordingly the film can afford moments of silence to allow those feelings to be sensed. The screenplay also includes many moments of intimate conversations rarely found amid the modern Hollywood noise. For example, the late night conversation Leonard has with Michelle (who is also his neighbour across the apartment complex) via his cell phone is truly refreshing and is light years away from feeling like scripted cinema.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Awards for everyone..

It was only a matter of time. For year's the Academy Awards had been falsely maintaining a perception that it gave awards to relevant films. But deep down, it truly longed to only award films will popular mass appeal; it longed to nominate films which made millions at the box-office. And with the recent decision that 10 films will be up for a best film nomination, the mask of deception can finally be ripped out. This decision will make sure that a popular film such as The Dark Knight will never be left out of the nominations in the future.

The big studios can point out to more people watching the award show when films such as Titanic and Lord of the Rings were nominated and won. Yah. Power to the people!

I can almost certainly bet that even with 10 slots, Wendy and Lucy, the best American film made in 2008, would never get nominated. Why? Because it ain't a big studio blockbuster.

The Academy Awards can now finally take its place alongside the Filmfare Awards in Bollywood as being completely meaningless. In fact, in the future the Academy Awards might go the full way of the Filmfare Awards and start creating new awards every year (best villain, best comedic role, best newcomer) to ensure every single big blockbuster film gets nominated and wins. Atleast the Filmfare Awards didn't disguise the fact that they gave awards to only popular films. This is why they created a category called "Critics award" for best film, best story and best acting, to differentiate the regular best film award which was only meant for the most popular film.

Is making millions every year not enough for the big studios? Apparently not. They need the extra gratification to their egos with an award in their hands. "Vanity is my favourite sin" -- who knew Al Pacino's dialogue from The Devil's Advocate was about the Hollywood studio heads?

Friday, July 10, 2009


Waltz with Bashir, directed by Ari Folman

Bright yellow. Blury, hazy memories yet sharp pictures...

Who pays the ultimate cost of war? Innocents, ofcourse!

Part of paying the cost involves the dreaded march. The cycle of death goes on...somewhere Shiva is dancing away and Kali is not too far behind. The cycle of Kalyug continues to spin along.

"Every bullet fired in war finds its a mother's heart.." -- tagline from Border (1997), a J.P Dutta film.

These words only ring true when a bullet manages to kill a person because no matter who gets killed in a war, somewhere, someone will grieve that person's loss. But the presence of rapid fire guns in modern combat mean that bullets are fired aimlessly and wastefully. Such is the case in Waltz with Bashir where men spray bullets into thin air.

And as the bullets fire away from the automatic (or semi-automatic) weapons, shell casings are ejected out. But what happens to the shell casings that fall on the ground? Who cleans them up? Do they get re-cycled or are they dumped in the landfills? Besides piles of garbage, chemicals and bones, are shell casings tucked away in the ground around this planet?

And finally...

If soldiers can mentally distance themselves from bombings taking place a few hundred meters away, then what of people watching the war via tv sitting comfortably thousands of miles away? Can they ever truly understand?