Wednesday, 31 May 2006

Eight Sleeps

With only 8 sleeps now to the opening game (Germany v Costa Rica) and one practice match under our belts, like the Socceroos we can start fine tuning our training (“tapering” the Olympians call it). This Sunday night, Australia play the Netherlands which has an 11P kick-off, of course on SBS.
In truth I think the Aussies will struggle (the Guus factor notwithstanding). The Netherlands are playing their farewell game that night (as Australia did against Greece) and will want a positive result for their home fans; the Netherlands are playing in the World Cup finals (unlike Greece) and so they have a real reason for playing well (“tapering”); the Netherlands are ranked #3 in the FIFA World Rankings (Australia are #44) which means they can play a bit and “friendly” practice match or no, will shake their Orange booty to demonstrate that. Of course, football is a funny old game and don’t forget Guus.
Every article or column I have read that talks about Australia’s chances at the World Cup scratch around for some positives and then play their one and only big card : Guus. He has a phenomenal record, and the Australian players and officials are very impressed by him so who knows ? Let’s take them on, have a win and play Italy in the second round. Why not ? It might happen.
The following Wednesday night (Thursday morning), Australia play the 124th ranked Liechtenstein, 330A. I deeply suspect that I will be taping this sporting engagement and get up at a World-Cup-Approved-Start-Time (11P, 2A or 5A) to watch a replay of the tape. Those quick on the draw will know that a 330A start game means a 515A finish so it might on this occasion be a 530A start but whatever ! Let’s not get hung up on these sorts of details. I intend to watch. Leave me be. I’ll be “tapering.”
SBS announced on Tuesday that they were now covering the two remaining practice matches live which made me wonder if they either never were or are just re-releasing the information to generate some publicity. It should be noted also that SBS are commencing their broadcasts half an hour before kick-off for each game but I for one will not be getting up extra early just for that honour.

Thursday, 25 May 2006

Go Socceroos !

Really a most quiet and disappointing week for movie lovers on the teev. If you watched (or taped as I did) Sergio Leone’s first foray into westerns last week, A Fistful of Dollars, then you will welcome its sequel, For A Few Dollars More (Sat 7 1130P). “Less stylish than [universally regarded classic] ‘The Good, the Bad and the Ugly’ but a vast improvement on ‘A Fistful of Dollars,’ its heavy on blood and guts with lots of grunting to augment the Morricone score, atmospheric set-ups and grim faces.” Stars of course Clint and Lee Van Cleef.
The only other contribution of note is Val Lewton’s The Seventh Victim (Tue 2 1A) : one of nine psychological horror movies he produced for RKO during the 1940s. Unlike his predecessors who associated horror movies with monsters (like Frankenstein or Kong) Lewton produced films that demonstrated an inner horror : “is it real or am I imagining it ?” While not especially scary by today’s standards, they remain fascinating and atmospheric and are precursors to a lot of modern horror films. The Seventh Victim tells the story of a woman looking for her sister who has belonged to satanic cult but is now on the run for betraying its secrets. “Avoiding explicit shock effects and gore, this is a transcendent journey to the dark side of human endeavour.”
And for those motivated by such things, you hardly need reminding that the Australian Socceroos play Greece tonight (broadcast on SBS) before they head back to Europe for the World Cup finals. Their next practice match is against the Netherlands on Sunday week.

Thursday, 18 May 2006

Classic Line-Up

A feast of older movies to look forward to this week but lets go through, one day at a time.
Kate & Leopold (7 845P) : it stars Meg Ryan so it must be a RomCom and Hugh Jackman. Fun enough : “date movie” of the week.
Swimming Pool (SBS 945P) French thriller directed by Francois Ozon with the (now older) sexy Charlotte Rampling and the (still younger) sexy Ludivine Sagnier. Rampling plays a crime-fiction writer holing up in her publisher’s holiday house while she works on her new novel and is gatecrashed by her publisher’s daughter (Ludivine). The “freewheeling 20-something’s promiscuity and laid-back lifestyle [is] opposite” to the 60 year olds restraint. They initiate a truce and “repressed desires begin to take flight in fiction if not reality and the plot begins to segue into a zone where truth and fiction merge or dissolve. This is an engaging treatise on creative writing. It is also an intriguing study on the power of opposites as they dissipate in the murky (later, crystal clear) waters of the eponymous bathing pool.” This is my movie of the week.
A Fistful of Dollars (7 1205A) Sergio Leone’s debut western stars Eastwood in his first western movie role and it was the making of both of them. Mostly a carbon copy of Kurosawa’s Yojimbo, it spawned a sequel (For a Few Dollars More) and two masterpieces : The Good, The Bad and the Ugly and Once Upon a Time in the West.
The Big Sleep (7 2A) Bogie as private dick Philip Marlowe and Bacall; follows directly on from the western.
Earlier in the day, A Rebel Without a Cause (9 230P) deserves its iconic place in film history starring James Dean “you’re tearing me apart!” – worth it if you haven’t seen it.
Black Sunday (SBS 1030P) 1960 Italian horror classic starring Barbara Steele : “this black-and-white film is stunning to look at and superbly atmospheric.”

Return of the Rant ?

Now there’s no need to ring and tell me that my Nic has announced that she is getting married to that country music wanna-be Keith Urban – I ALREADY KNOW (Uncle J got in first). I’m okay with that. Good luck to them.
Its sad though reading about marriage break-ups that occur all around us – in the news at the moment is the Rex Hunt infidelity and the Greg Norman & Paul McCartney splits (not from each other as it happens). Now I don’t know these people and its only because they’re high profile that they make the news. I know that marriages fall down all the time. Its just a pity that either one person wasn’t faithful, or both weren’t more compassionate, or open to talk more, or whatever the scenario is.
At Small Group on Tuesday night we talked about conflict (ostensibly within the context of a small group however the idea of conflict in relationship is very widely applicable). Conflict itself can be a good thing but it must be done with an air of grace and humility, an underlying motivation to relate and converse, a desire to listen to the other point of view. That’s how relationship flourishes and not flounders. Ultimately that’s what love is, that giving of yourself (not taking what you can get) and it’s a pity that more relationships, both in the newspapers and out, don’t appear to exhibit this.

Rabel Watch - pre-season underway

My World Cup pre-season began on the weekend with the FA Cup final between West Ham and Liverpool – and what a game. I confess I didn’t make it through extra time, let alone the shoot-out, the first 90 minutes was full of great drama and I was content to call it a night at the end of full-time.
The underdog Hammers scored the first two goals in what were fortuitous circumstances – really Liverpool errors. The first was an own goal as the Liverpool defender ran back to protect the net from the ball crossed in and was responsible for putting the ball into the back of his own net. The second, the keeper should have held the ball cleanly but it dribbled through him allowing West Ham to touch the ball across the line.
All this had happened by the 30 minute mark even though the Reds were predominantly the attacking side during the first half.
West Ham had more of the ball in the second half but two great strikes, one just before half time and one after put Liverpool at 2-2.
Of most serious interest to Australian fans was the sight of Harry Kewell, so important to our World Cup aspirations, limping off the park with a reaggrivation of his groin injury.
Konchesky’s attempted cross for West Ham in the 64th minute was one of those astonishing occasions where the ball sailed perfectly over the keepers head but dipped under the cross bar and came to rest in the back corner of the net. 3-2 West Ham. Sadly for the Hammers, and our good friend Mr Rabel, “best centreman in England” Steve Gerrard powered home a goal from mid-range in injury time to take the game into extra time. Ultimately, with no scores made during extra time, the Reds won the penalty shoot-out 3-1 and won the FA Cup.

The pre-season continued in the early hours of this morning when I woke early (up at 5A, yes, I know kick-off was 445A, so I missed a bit) to watch the UEFA Champions League final between Arsenal and Barcelona. Another fantastic game to watch and one that I’m glad I made the effort to see. This on top of going to bed way too late after opting to watch the Green/Mundine fight with the footy club boys last night which was broadcast on Foxtel. The fight itself wasn’t such a great spectacle to be honest with Mundine fighting a better tactical fight, ultimately wearing Green out, and winning on points. I could be a tired boy by this afternoon. Nobody better ring me for anything.
The drama surrounding the Champions League final was the sending off of the Arsenal goalkeeper for a crude trip of Barcelona’s Eto in the 18th minute. The red card was deserved but it consigned Arsenal to 10 men and virtually to failure.
Coming in to the game, Arsenal were regarded as having one of the best defensive units (setting a Champions League record by playing 10 games and not conceding one goal) whereas Barcelona has one of the best attacks on their side, marshalled by FIFA World Player of the Year, Ronaldinho. Reduced by one, Arsenal had countless opportunities to demonstrate their effective defence and time and again brought numbers behind the ball and blocked with a wall in front of goal. With the graceful Henry up forward, Arsenal counterattacked as often as it was able and with a free-kick, Henry placed it perfectly for the Gunners huge centre back, Sol Campbell to head the first goal; Arsenal 1-0.
The constant running by Arsenal as they sought to make a break and then recover to defend began to tell as the second half wore on with finally Barca potting two goals within 6 minutes to take out the Champions League trophy 2-1.

Looking forward to the next engagement, the Socceroos take on Greece at the MCG next Thursday night and this is of course being broadcast on SBS (Thu from 730P). This is one of 3 “friendlies” that the Socceroos are using to fine tune their preparation for the World Cup which starts of course in just 22 more sleeps.

Thursday, 11 May 2006

This Week

The Son’s Room (Fri SBS 11P) is a mature and thoughtful piece from Italian director Nanni Moretti. It is about a close knit family who loses their son in a swimming accident and then deals with their grief when their son’s girlfriend turns up on the doorstep not knowing what has happened.
East of Eden (Sat 9 2P) stars James Dean and is directed by Elia Kazan. This tale of two brothers and their father, told a hundred times, moves predictably but with great performances.
Platoon (Sun 7 1115P) is probably the best of the Vietnam pics, this one directed by controversial director Oliver Stone. Overall I am a fan of Stone’s work and this film is as much a battle between the American soldiers as with their enemy.
Love Actually (Sun 10 830P), if you haven’t seen it, is kind of fun with all actors (Huge Grunt, Alan Rickman, Emma Thompson, Keira Knightley, Colin Firth, Bill Nighy) enjoying their roles. “Date movie” of the week.
And finally, Blackbeard the Pirate (Thu 2 1230A) is likely to be every bit as hammy as you would expect but great fun and if you’re in the mood for a pirate movie, then Aaargh, Blackbeard it be.

Rabel Watch - 29 sleeps to go

With less than 1 month to the sporting contest of the quadrennial, you should be entering serious training. This Saturday night is the FA Cup final out of Millennium Stadium, Cardiff (Wembley is still not built and not likely to be anytime soon with Multiplex in all sorts of bother) between Liverpool and West Ham (Sat SBS 1030P, kick-off midnight). Following on from this is the UEFA Champions League final between Barcelona and Arsenal in Paris (Thu SBS 430A). Its early Thursday morning but don’t think that getting up for World Cup will be any easier or warmer so get training now !

America, F- Yeah !

Team America : World Police is irreverent, funny, crude and as politically incorrect as you can get. Not surprising then that it comes from South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone. The hokey marionette setting (a la Thunderbirds) is a part of the gag of this giant piss-take but (unlike many American comedies) is not dwelt on for a laugh – its allowed just to be as part of the humour. Team America is a collection of trigger happy, gun toting, white skinned secret police financed by the American government to blow up as many terrorists as they can. Never mind that in the process they completely destroy the Eiffel Tower and Louvre in Paris or the pyramids and Sphinx in Cairo.
The soundtrack adds to the humour with many original songs (the Team’s theme song is “America, Fuck Yeah !”) offering up as many laughs as the genre send-ups, filmic send-ups (eg, Han Solo’s bar scene in Star Wars) as well as the gross-out elements for which South Park is famous (the continuous vomit sequence or the karma sutra according to puppets sequence).
The send up of Kim Jong Il is probably the highlight for me and with Parker and Stone doing most of the voices, if you’re familiar with South Park then you will probably sit through this and say, “hey, that’s Cartman’s voice!” While by the last third I had had enough of the low grade aspects this still surpassed my expectations and was very funny in places.

Thursday, 4 May 2006

Gosford Park

Gosford Park, by director Robert Altman, pieces together a period ensemble for which he is famous (think Short Cuts or Pret-a-Porter). This one is set in an English mansion during a shooting weekend in autumn in 1932. Michael Gambon and Kristen Scott Thomas play host to a number of guests that descend on their house for the weekend with their personal maids or valets in tow. This allows us to see life both above and below the stairs as each strata of society within the house abides by its own rules, traditions and formalities.
And if this is all it was then it might be an interesting if somewhat bland historical drama in the style of A Room With a View [which I’m not saying is bland only that it is primarily an historical drama] or some such. It is however just the vehicle for Altman to wickedly hack into the class system and take a few backhanders at Hollywood on the way.
The upstairs group is well serviced by actors such as Jeremy Northam, Maggie Smith and Charles Dance while the servants, cooks and valets are played with a splendid array of equally competing interests and allegiances by Kelly Macdonald, Emily Watson, Clive Owen, Ryan Phillipe, Richard E Grant, Derek Jacobi and Helen Mirren. No one actor hogs the screen and all have a story to tell (you can just see Maggie Smith making the most of every moment and every line she has).
When the head of the house, Gambon, finally ends up with a knife in the chest, the film moves to send up all those manor house detective stories a la Agatha Christie by sending an inept police inspector to investigate, played with just the right level of levity by Stephen Fry.
By leaving the actual story (that of the murder and the reasons why) until well after half-way allows Altman time to develop his characters and gives us time as viewers to understand the routine of the house and the petty jealousies and rivalries that exist between the characters. Gosford Park is in truth far more concerned with the characters and how they fit into their role than it ever is regarding the story line.
Roger Ebert describes Gosford Park as a “joyous and audacious achievement” and is a film that I enjoyed immensely.

Cornucopia n. abundant supply

42nd Street (Fri 7 1250A), made in 1933, the archetype musical from which all others are derived.

Splendor in the Grass (Sat 9 2P) starring Natalie Wood and directed by Elia Kazan (he of the little known On the Waterfront, Streetcar Named Desire, East of Eden). About a young girl in love with Bud who is in love with more than her mind. Social values are challenged until the world around them changes with the market crash of 1929 forcing them to reconsider their choices.

To Be and to Have (Sun SBS 930P) is a French documentary filmed in 2002 and was released on our screens last year. It tells the sweet and endearing story of a provincial school teacher in charge of twelve, 4 to 10 year olds as this seemingly simple doco encompasses themes as broad as the French schooling system and “the enigma of childhood.”

All About My Mother (Wed SBS 10P) {another one for the punters with a role for Pen. Cruz}, this Spanish drama is directed by Pedro Almodovar who most recently has also directed Bad Education and Talk to Her, both of which have hit our screens at least for a short time. Nominated for best director at the Oscars in 2002, Almodovar actually took home the statuette for best original screenplay.
While it would be fair to say Paul Kalina in the Age is no fan of this film or its director, I think it will be worth the effort.

Swordfish (Sat 9 930P) is a pretty stupid movie but it has the most out of place, gratuitous “money shot” with Halle Berry, right in the middle of it. And there’s nothing wrong with that.