Monday, November 27, 2006

The Big Game

In important news: Michael Schumacher's approved biography (written by his PR lady, Sabine Kehm) in out, only its in German. Which, you know, I can't read. Guh. No word on translations as yet. The other biography, by Christopher Hilton, is in English. Hopefully I can get my paws on it sooner rather than later.

I know I've titled this post the Big Game, but it could just as easily be called the Beautiful Game. Football is fast filling the void left in my heart by cricket. India's galling performances rankle less and less every day, to the extent I don't care about it anymore except to suggest that maybe they should just stop playing altogether. Or atleast not go to the World Cup next year so as to save some billion Indians from embarrassment. But I suppose no-one cares as long as the BCCI keeps getting richer.

As far away as I want to be from this, I can't help being drawn into the whole Greg Chappelle debate. Which was what led me to make the football comparison: there is NO WAY, and by that I mean a snowball's chance in hell, that Chappelle would still be coach were this a football side. In many situations the disposable nature of the coach is lamentable, because as often as not all the coach needs is time. But if the team in question is one of the giants (i.e. India, here) and the coach has been around for two years with only a steady decline in performance, there is absolutely no doubt that he would've been replaced well before now. I'm even willing to give him the benefit of the doubt and say that he really believes that all the tinkering will eventually come together. But that just means the man has no awareness of whats good and bad in the game of cricket anymore, atleast not beyond his own ego.

Contrast this with two of the most successful current managers in football: Alex Ferguson and Jose Mourinho. Very different men both, and the way their teams are playing is very different as well. A top of the table clash is always exciting, and Chelsea V. Man Utd had all the makings of a classic, thankfully lacking the edge that makes Arsenal - Man Utd games so mean spirited.

And it was a good game. Though it invariably did not quite live up to the hype, you got see United dominate Chelsea in the first half and then vice versa in the second. My concern that United will ultimately lose out to Chelsea because of Chelsea's depth was demonstrated yesterday by that second half performance. Mourinho's bench strength must be the envy of every Premiership manager right now. Hopefully United can set things right in January when the transfer window opens.

As of now: Kudos to both teams, and may the best man, so to speak, win.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

The Great Gig in the Sky, Bar One

Many people have left us this past week, intentionally or not. Great football players, great directors, great swimmers and great economists. I mourn them all.

Ian Thorpe is truly too young to call it a day, but I guess when you've been training your whole life to do this one thing, once you've done it you may want to, well, do something else. Ah, Ian, of the webtastic feet and super-muscley swimmers body, I do hope you wont disappear. 'The Thorpedo' as he was affectionately nicknamed (though of course I can't even think it without sniggering to myself) has 9 Olympic medals and won the 'race of the century' against Pieter Van Hoogenband and Michael Phelps (he of the gigantic neck) in Athens 2004. With his retirement the world of swimming becomes infinitely less drool-worthy, what with Alexander Popov also having retired ages ago. So here's to you, Thorpie, may we see you modelling your underwear soon.

All of the other people who have left us have done so by shaking of this mortal coil and taking their talents to, literally, another realm. Ferenc Puskas, who of course I never had the fortune to see play, was by all accounts a fantastic player. He's been rated the 4th best in the 20th century, behind only Pele, Maradona and Cruyff. His scoring record is ridiculous. 83 goals for Hungary in 84 internationals. 512 goals for Real Madrid in 528 games. Ridiculous is actually an understatement. Puskas once said about football: "I will write my life as a footballer as if it were a love story, for who shall say it is not? It began with my great love of football and it will end the same way."

Another person with almost supernatural talent in his craft, Robert Altman, also died. I am more personally acquainted with Altman's art than Puskas', and so feel his loss more keenly. Even if Altman had done nothing more than making M*A*S*H, he'd be immortalized in movie fans' minds. While the last film I saw directed by him, The Company was hardly vintage Altman (or even a very good film by other standards) the number of cinematic classics that Altman created is spectacular. One of the most inventive and demanding film-makers, there was always something to love about his movies, even in below-standard fare like The Company (which I may be biased against as a matter of protest for the hiring of Neve Campbell). Whether a comment on class relations fashioned as a Agatha Christie-esque mystery (Gosford Park) or The Long Goodbye, a revisionist noir (where Philip Marlowe is played by Elliot Gould, an Altman regular, who some might recognize as Ross and Monica's Dad from Friends), to satirical and brutal comments on the music (Nashville) or Hollywood (The Player) industries, his films were always revelatory, demanded from its audience and rewarded their concentration in spades. So here's to hoping his body of work will serve as an inspiration to young filmmakers, and they will atleast attempt to make films that mean something. The New York Times has described it beautifully:

"Unlike most directors whose flames burned brightest in the early 1970s — and frequently flickered out — Mr. Altman did not come to Hollywood from critical journals and newfangled film schools. He had had a long career in industrial films and television. In an era that celebrated fresh voices steeped in film history — young directors like Francis Ford Coppola, Peter Bogdanovich and Martin Scorsese — Mr. Altman was like their bohemian uncle, matching the young rebels in their skeptical disdain for the staid conventions of mainstream filmmaking and the establishment that supported it...He was often referred to as a cult director, and it rankled him. “What is a cult?” Mr. Altman said. “It just means not enough people to make a minority.”"

The last person I am paying tribute to here is Milton Friedman, a Nobel Prize winner for Economics in 1976. Milton Friedman is a massive figure in the economic arena. He advocated an unfettered free market and liberal economics. Before Friedman, the Great Depression was though to be a direct result of free-market policies. As a result state control of the economy was considered not just unavoidable but also desirable. Friedman rewrote history, for all practical purposes. He identified human individual liberty as the cornerstone for prosperity. Whether one agrees with his philosophy or not, he had a major impact on the American economy and politics and by extension, the world.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Skiving Off and Other Stories

I haven't felt the urge to blog is a while, and even when I have it has been fairly inconsequential ( I am aware I blaspheme), of movies and telly and football. While some of this was down to the emotional exhaustion of Michael Schumacher's retirement (and no one need comment on just how ridiculous that sounds), most of it was due to that basic reason for most things people fail to do, laziness. With its friend, Procastination.In an attempt to set that right (so now you can lay off me, S) I shall recap in probably unwanted detail my weekends past. And the vaguely horrifying thoughts that pass through my head.

I have not yet managed to watch The Departed, what with trying to go on Sunday but not getting tickets. Hopefully this weekend will work out better, but I do have tickets to Casino Royale anyway, so there's definitely one movie off my list. Another grouse to get out of my system is the fact that Volver opens IFFI and Babel closes it, and frakking IFFI has moved to Goa. Grrr.

I have caught up with some films though: watched Don, Kabhie Alvida Na Kehna, Omkara, A Place in the Sun, The Big Sleep and The Philadelphia Story, all of which I hadn't seen before. Some disconnected ramblings:

1. I liked Don. In many ways I detest the 'remake' tag (even though I use it) because it almost automatically reduces a film's worthiness in the eyes of the public, what with yearning for the older versions. The 'homage' tag is somewhat better, because expectations are reduced, but in this case I don't think it was really applicable. However comparing this Don to the Amitabh Bachchan Don is like apples and oranges. The bare outlines of the plot and some songs (which rankled at very many people, for some reason) are the same, but the twist at the end more than makes up for it. Farhan Akhtar is uninterested in exploring the duality of our (anti)hero's character(s) as either 'role' spilling over into what they were before, or even a re-invention. But he provides a film high on style, and it is a sleek, well-made, well-acted Hollywood-type thriller. Even if the exposition fairy visits one time too many (have I mentioned my deep dislike for exposition? But that's for another post). I also loved Boman Irani.

2. Kabhie Alvida Na Kehna or KANK as it is so lovingly known, was not half as bad as I expected. However, I am an unabashed SRK fan, so that is not so surprising. Beneath the helplessly over the top nature of Karan Johar's direction, there are actually some good moments. But for me the most mystifying thing was the Incredible Colours of Rani Mukherjee's Eyeshadows. What was up with that? Truly, truly strange. Oh, right, the good moments. Contrary to what most people had to say, I actually liked SRK's interactions with his screen son. That was how bitter a man he had become - incapable of being kind to someone he clearly loved. It explains his attraction to Rani as well - with her he feels like a better person, like he's someone more than who he is - not just the husband of so-and-so but a person in his own right. Many people told me that they didn't understand why Rani would be attracted to SRK, though. And that is harder to get at. But I think the movie does a pretty good job of outlining her feelings of inferiority and most-importantly her lack of self-worth as a woman. She seems to believe that since she can't have children, there is no reason to have sex. And the fact that she isn't sexually attracted to her husband deepens her insecurity. With SRK, she recognizes that he has so many flaws in himself, that she doesn't have to feel guilty about her own. And ofcourse there is the lure of illicit for them both. I shall stop fanwanking now. Oh, I forgot to mention how hysterical the Sexy Sam stuff was, and not in a good way .

3. Omkara was brilliantly made and brilliantly adapted. I absolutely loved Ajay Devgan and Saif Ali Khan. The music was great. The screenplay was great. Movie nirvana.

4. A Place in the Sun was based on An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser. The experience of having had to read Sister Carrie made me dislike the film before I even saw it, though it raises some interesting moral and ethical issues. They are also not fully explored in the movie, and the central romance so important to the plot feels rushed and not very plausible.

5. The Big Sleep and The Philadelphia Story had fabulous casts, repartee, chemistry between the leads, the bestest leading men..... sigh. No, this was movie nirvana.

In other random news, I have discovered The Clash and they are indeed very good. I'm also very interested in purchasing several things: the TwoP book, the Michael Schumacher Biography, TwoP shirts and most importantly, an illustrated history of rock music. Maybe then I can get all these genres sorted in my head. Not to mention the timelines.

Football is still exciting. The Metropolitan Museum of Art Store opened bizarrely above Mango and has just as bizarrely closed in the wake of sealing. And they had a beautiful Van Gogh reproduction that I was hell-bent on buying.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006


Your Winter Look is Urban

You can't imagine spending your winters any place but the city!

..Or How to Learn Something About Yourself from a Random Test, which Obviously Only Tells You What You Already Knew

Tuesday, November 07, 2006


Forgive me the somewhat arrongant and mostly pretentious indulgence of titling my post untitled, but I figure I can get away with it. Once. Maybe.

Reflecting on the weekend is a curious mixture of the crappy (continuing cold) and the fun (book shopping!). Lets kill the crappy first: I'm still phlegmed.

Also, my friends refused to go watch The Departed or World Trade Center with me. Cretins. (Ack, no I don't really mean it!) However on Saturday I bought many many books, including an early copy of Tennessee Williams' A Streetcar Named Desire which may very well be one of my favourite plays of all time. Also found some Diana Wynne Jones in the new store, Landmark (which is huge!). That was a nice surprise. Another good thing about the weekend was unexpected mother-daughter bonding over Grey's Anatomy. This has resulted in watching atleast 3 episodes a night together, and ruminating over the dreaminess of Dr. McDreamy. While I'm talking about Grey's, I really liked last week's episode. There's just something about this show, it can be a schmaltzy mess sometimes (most times) but its still so sharp and funny and warm. There just is no substitute for good writing.

It was a fabulous weekend for Manchester United. They won, 3-0 from Portsmouth while their two big rivals, Chelsea and Arsenal both lost. Guess Sir Alex will be the one laughing now.

And now to sign off:

Happy Birthday, Soumita!

Friday, November 03, 2006

Time of the Season

... that you get sniffles, apparently. The only thing worse than being sick is being full of phlegm. TMI, I know, but atleast now I'm not suffering alone.

But apparently somebody does listen, because The Departed (and the World Trade Center) have both been released. I'd be over the moon about House of Flying Daggers, if for some very unclear reason PVR hadn't held off from releasing it for well over two years (forcing me to watch a pirated copy). The Departed fills me with joy, though, and I hope to see it at the earliest opportunity. As such this seems a good time for films now, with new releases coming fast, and many many festivals also being organised all over the city. I'm less psyched about World Trade Center which has to do with a number of things ranging from its supposed apolitical-ness (from Oliver Stone! Come on, if Oliver frakking Stone won't make a political film, who will?!) to its middling reviews and the lead being Nicholas Cage. But I will watch it.
The TV season has picked up steam as well. Now most shows are well into their respective runs, and are hitting their stride. Veronica Mars aired its best episode of the season so far, and The Nine is getting more engrossing, as is Heroes. Being ill also gave me the chance to have a 24 marathon, as a result of which I'm only 2 episodes from the end of Season 5. While Season 2 and 3 were disappointing, 4 was a definite improvement, and Keifer is back to his growly best in Day 5. To the extent that I'm actually excited about the premiere in January.

I've been wanting to watch Babel for a really long time. But what really annoys me is the top billing given to Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett. Though I'll be honest and say it only annoys me because it means Gael Garcia Bernal gets less press.

What I have not done in an unconsciably long time is read. I will set that right.

The football season is also picking up steam, with everything from Euro qualifiers, to Champions League knockout stages beckoning. Plus there will the inevitable massive Boxing Day English Premiership clash to look forward to (even if it is more than a month away). In other football news, Kaka continues to set the world alight. Man Utd underachieves. Arsenal does not score and Wenger calls it their most brilliant performance so far. (I don't know, Arsene, I thought the point was to put the round thing in between those two wooden posts with the net in the middle. Silly Me.)

As a pick-me-up for being ill, I reserve the right to post pictures of pretty men. Here is the first.

And here is the next: Marat, love, I know you're pretty, but less photography and more tennis. Please?