Thursday, 29 June 2006

TV Tasty is outraged

TV Tasty KnowsIt is with much soul searching that TV Tasty Knows will not present Part 2 of TV Quiz Shows as intimated last week.
"What", you may ask, "could prompt this departure?" "What, pray tell," I hear you ask annoyingly again, "has appeared in the sights of the metaphoric telescope which has been diligently scanning the TV landscape by TV Tasty Knows?"
Well my immediate response is to say that the expression "pray tell" is pretentious, superfluous, and underused (mostly for the previous two reasons). And furthermore, any use of "metaphoric telescope" is passable - but only just.
More importantly though than these distractions, is a serious aberration which occurred in TV tasting land and TV Tasty Knows.
A golden rule has been broken namely: "If a travel show segment involves snorkeling or similar underwater activity, it shall exclusively be undertaken by the female host/s of that show, including but not limited to, a wide descent shot, with body arch." (The inclusion was an amendment passed in 2002).
This rule, one of many in TV production land, was broken on Monday night, when Cameron "suck-in-that-tum" Daddo was seen resplendent in budgie smugglers and toppling into some azure sea and then struggling down to admire the vegetation / fish / picturesque wreck beneath. Yes, I nearly brought up the days takings as they say, but it was the shock as well as the sight itself. TV Tasty is a Cameron fan (easily the best presenter of the 26 Daddo brothers) but this sort of willy-nilly disregard for long established TV statutes is just plain wrong.
I will return to TV Quiz Shows Part 2 and your correspondence next week where, as they say, "We will return you to normal programming shortly."

TV Tasty Knows Pick of the Week
Dip into "Absolute Power" (Wed ABC 9P)

Shallow week

Shallow Hal (Fri 7 830P) is a Farrelly brothers rom. com. (There’s Something About Mary, Stuck On You) which probably tells you everything you need to know. An impossibly large Gwyneth Paltrow, an un-PC Jack Black, a main-star’s-best-friend Jason Alexander and a nice cameo from TV positive-power Tony Robbins makes this an acceptable date movie of the week.
Shaft (Fri 7 11P) starring Samuel L Jackson and Vanessa Williams. When are they going to show the 1971 original instead of this poor imitation ?
What does this tell you about Saturday nights these days : High School Musical (7 630P), Grease (7 830P), Prince Charming (9 730P) ? As none of us fit the gender or the target age range we can happily leave well enough alone. As to The Rocky Horror Picture Show (7 1045P), it’s a cult classic and to maintain an informed movie perspective then you should watch it at least once but its not a good movie. Tim Curry hams it up the most, almost as much as Michael Keaton in Tim Burton’s Beetle Juice (9 930P).
Pen Cruz’s decision to come to America to make it rich has worked a treat but it is turns like Woman On Top (Sun 7 11P) that make you wish she hadn’t. Her resume up to that point was a very fine collection of films in her native Spanish too. As a side note, isn’t it interesting that films have to justify why their main actor have a non-American accent. In this film, they show PC being tossed out of her Brazilian home has her raison d’etre for coming to America. In the past, Australian actors have had to include some passing comment in their films as to how they “studied in Australia” or “their mother was from Sydney” or whatever.

Wednesday, 28 June 2006

Aussie Aussie Aussie - a footballing rant of regret

I won’t deny that I’m still hurting from the Australia v Italy World Cup knock out game played on Tuesday morning. After I woke up the second time (at 7A to go to work) my wife said, “Well, its only a game.” I replied that in twelve months time it will “only be a game.” Right now I only have murderous and violent thoughts. “We wuz robbed I tells ya.”
(Many thanks to "Rosie the Beautiful" for the picture)
Penalty or no, the truth is Australia should have converted before the 90 minute mark and won the game off their own boot. They were however unable to penetrate a very resolute Italian defence despite controlling play for long periods of time (and having a numerical advantage for most of the second half).
What hurts is that the Italians did not deserve to win either. They displayed a very great unwillingness to try and the wrest the game from the Australians and played a very defensive and negative game plan. To then “steal” a victory with 10 seconds left on the clock through no skill of their own making is shocking.
It is here though that the randomness of the football gods (conspiracy theories aside) demonstrate their fickle natures with neither fear nor favour. The old world footballing nations such as Italy know their gods and know that such things happen in football. It happened to them in South Korea four years ago and this week was payback (again, conspiracy theories aside!).
Australia’s own sense of destiny regarding this World Cup appears to have lodged naively in the public’s consciousness that there was no telling what the Socceroos could accomplish. South Korea made it the final four, four years ago, why not us ? To be shunned so callously has left us hurt and bruised. We will be stronger for the experience however. We have now progressed through adolescence and look forward to young adulthood with optimism – our whole life is ahead of us and anything is possible.
Hiddink has showed us that to play attacking, positive football is appealing to watch and allows a team to create its own luck. This is contrasted with the likes of the old guard who, quite frankly, have been unimpressive in this tournament, albeit that some of them are still alive to talk about it : Netherlands (eliminated), Italy, England to name but three.
This kind of negative thinking meant that all of Australia’s opponents in the group stage and the Netherlands before them underestimated their opponent by dropping back into defensive mode after scoring the first goal. This came unstuck for three of them as Australia either won or drew the game.
The exception of course is Brazil who were still warming up when they defeated the Aussies 2-0 in Munich. Here is a team that attacks positively but defends resolutely. To watch them against a “what have we got to lose?” Ghana on Wednesday morning was to see all of their class and poise. They’re five time world champions so we know they’re good. Let us hope that the Socceroos’s emulate this team of the beautiful game and build from strength to strength and put the disappointment of Kaiserlautern behind them.
The World Cup takes a breather for a couple of days with the quarter finals this Saturday and Sunday mornings : Germany v Argentina and Italy v Ukraine in one half and England v Portugal and Brazil v France in the other. The semi-finals are Wednesday and Thursday mornings next week.

Thursday, 22 June 2006

Tasty TV - Quiz Shows

Quiz shows (Part 1)
(n.) The perennial plant of the TV garden.
Currently dear viewers there are a narrow, but generally high level of quality quiz shows to service our trivial needs.
The king, without doubt, is Sale of the Century (M-F 9 7P) (I know its "Temptation" but who is kidding whom?). TV Tasty still turns on Sale occasionally to fill the 7pm gap and if you can grit your teeth as needed for Ed on occasion, it's still a fine bit of TV crumpet for what it is. And if you're like TV Tasty (well I guess you can dream) you have the nights where you run red hot and think "I should go on this show! Where did I put Skinny Nixon's number? Perhaps John So can text it to me"; and then you have the nights when you think, "Have I developed Alzheimer's?"; and THEN you have the worst nights when you realise, "I am being given a trivia pasting by my Significant Other".
I draw our attention this week however to a newer set of Quiz shows. I speak of the "Einstein Factor" (Sun 2 630P), "Rock Kwiz" and "Spicks and Specks" (Wed 2 830P). TV Tasty says make sure you have a look at any of these three that you haven't yet sampled. There could be a quiz on it next week.

TV Tasty Knows Pick of the Week:
Clearing a swathe through most of the sad offerings, I draw your attention to "West Wing" (Thur 2 830P).
Yes, it is a sugary sweet idealistic soap on one level with dialogue that would never actually happen, let alone in an office or the White House where everyone shares the same brand of dry humour. On another level though it offers some decent brain food, well drawn characters, hypothetical situations that are involving, production values as lush as you'd find and the drama unfolding like a warm blanket. The repeats currently being shown on the ABC are without ad breaks and the 1.5 hours uninterrupted really does justice to the writing, acting and very snappy dialogue. If you can shout yourself the time, you will be rewarded.

Capt'n Jack

Possibly one of the better decisions for fans of either Peter Jackson or King Kong, was the release of Mighty Joe Young (Fri 7 midday) in 1998. Because of this simian release, Jackson’s remake of Kong was shelved and he focussed his attention on Lord of the Rings. The rest as they say is history. Without anywhere near the resources or the profile, let alone the technology, the younger Jackson would not have been able to accomplish the epic he did last year. Mighty Joe Young stars Charlize Theron (a good reason) and Bill Paxton (I would rather sit through a Sally Field-fest) which may be reasons to watch and not watch accordingly.
Roxanne (Sat 10 3P) and Mystery Alaska (Sun 7 1120P) are fun enough, not very recent comedies. The first stars Steve Martin as the rhinitically challenged Cyrano and the second, our Rusty as the ice hockey champ turned chump taking on the New York Rangers.
For all daughters out there, Barbie’s latest animated creation, Barbie Fairytopia – Mermaidia (Sun 7 145P) is a must watch and must tape. Great fun for girls with good songs and exciting stories.
Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (Sun 7 830P) likewise stars Rusty (but don’t hold that against it) in a role that suits him : rugged, physical and as a leader of men who follow him because he appeals with his heart and inspires with his mind. Australian Peter Weir is director and Russell Boyd the cinematographer who won an Oscar for his efforts. Yes it’s a rip roaring sea-faring adventure but where the film adds value for mine is the mateship exhibited between Crowe’s Captain Aubrey and Paul Bettany’s Dr Maturin.

Tuesday, 20 June 2006

Sabotage review

Sabotage, one of Alfred Hitchcock’s earlier movies before his trip across the Atlantic to America to make his more famous explorations into mystery, fear and guilt (such as Psycho, North By Northwest, Dial M for Murder and Rear Window) is a shocking movie by today’s standards. Made in 1936, it is possibly more shocking and appalling in its real life application now than could ever have been conceived at the height of the depression.
A disaffected and struggling cinema operator, Karl Verloc (played by Oskar Homolka), with the promise of fiscal reward, cuts out the power grid in London’s central district. Instead of terrorising the populace however the townsfolk treat it is a lark and enjoy the novelty of lighting candles while they wait for the power to come back on.
The international terrorist group that is supplying Verloc with his orders arrange a more daring mission that will ensure that no one laughs at their expense. It is here that the terror becomes real. With a build up that only Hitchcock and few others can match, we see Verloc’s teenage brother-in-law carry a package on a bus that has inside it a ticking bomb, set to go off at 1:45 PM. The boy, unaware of what is in his package, is held up enroute and fails to deliver it at the appointed place. The boy, the bus and all other passengers are blown to pieces in a devastating explosion. In this post 9-11 world such events like this are all too seared in our consciousness and to try and dissociate such violence on screen is nearly impossible.
While shocking and violent acts on screen are a regular part of a staple movie diet, they almost universally are unreal to our life experience and while grotesque, retain an element of fantasy. I do not fancy that many vets from world war 2 for example would view Saving Private Ryan with quite the same fantasy that I do.
Verloc’s wife (played by Sylvia Sidney), the boy’s brother, upon learning of his death is struck dumb. She does not speak for at least 5 minutes of screen time. Her stunned look conveys anger, sorrow, confusion, disgust and revenge. Verloc stands just as dumbly before her trying to convince her that he had no choice but to send the boy on what was his errand. He seems all to willing to try and forget the matter. This is a typical Hitchcock set-play where he explores the guilt of one of his characters.
In the second shocking denouement Mrs Verloc takes up the carving knife and stabs her husband. He dies but she is now guilty of his murder. The police, who have been trailing him for some time, have not had a chance to prove his guilt.
In a clever Hitchcock sleight of hand, another bomb explodes in the room where the body of Mr Verloc lies (this time killing only one more, one of the “baddies”) thereby absolving Mrs Verloc from prosecution.
Terrifying in a way that Hitchcock could never have envisaged, Sabotage is a well constructed mystery, full of engaging performances by both the main characters and the background city folk and directed by a man coming to the top of his game.

Thursday, 15 June 2006

Royal week

At First Sight (Fri 7 12noon) I doubt that this midday drama is especially worthwhile, usually the domain of B-grade tearies (this one has Val Kilmer playing a blind masseur named Virgil) however if Mira Sorvino is your idea of a good time then put in a tape. I can’t give you any more of a hint than that. Either that or Carla Gugino in She Creature (Sat 9 1230A).
The Poseidon Adventure (Fri 7 11P) More pulp but if you had intended on seeing the remake in the cinema (Rutger Hauer and Adam Baldwin) then you might like to see what you’re letting yourself in for (and saving the price of admission in the process I’ll warrant). Stars Gene Hackman as a priest and Leslie Nielson as ship’s captain (no, this is not a joke).
The Royal Tenenbaums (Sun 7 1115P) is Wes Anderson’s third feature and while I don’t think it hits the high notes with the same consistency as his fourth feature (Life Aquatic) it mixes his trademark “dead pan humour and nonplussed irony [with] genuine pathos.” Using some of his favourite actors, Bill Murray, Angelica Huston, the Owen brothers (Luke and Owen) along with other class stayers, Gene Hackman, Gwyneth Paltrow and Ben Stiller, this is an ensemble cast worthy to note in a film that has a number of fans.
ABC / Hitchcock double act late on Sunday night : Sabotage (1230A) and The 39 Steps (140A). Both cinematic classics and both on my dating schedule with the VCR machine.
In the football (World Cup football of course … is there anything else at the mo. ?) sees Australia take on the mighty Brazil early Monday morning (2A kick-off). I had planned to put in a video tape and watch on a 3 hour delay when I woke up at 5 however Hitchcock may be too good to pass up and I might awaken at that ungodly hour and watch it live. Australia’s third group game is against Croatia at 5A the following Friday morning.
As the third group matches get underway (from Tuesday) you may note that four games are broadcast in succession. Two of them will be live (Australia’s is for example) and the other two will be shown on a two hour delay. This is because FIFA have scheduled the final two games from each group simultaneously to cut-down any likelihood of contrived results.

Jack's Back

Channel 7 are popular rant material (as are the Australian government) because of their ongoing selfish indifference to the wellbeing of the charges they have sworn to serve. Notwithstanding the excellent TV commentary (below), another feature which will appeal to the Good Lady Wife if no other, is the return of Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) in 24 next week (Wed & Thu 7 930P). An early comment I have read regarding this latest series of 24, series 5, is that it is a rehash of series’ 1 to 4 and doesn’t offer anything very new. It seems you just can’t keep a good man down though.
Meanwhile, back at the rant, Channel 7 have decided in their great programming wisdom to fatigue their viewers with two double screenings on sequential nights. Now that just beggars belief. Do they believe that 24 episodes is just to much (stretched over 24 weeks) or doesn’t fit into their ratings periods – couldn’t they have started sooner ?
Or do they believe that regular viewers are just so desperate to find out what happens next that they can’t wait an ordinary week like every other TV drama ? I find that hard to believe. If any punter is bursting with that much energy he should a) go for a run b) get on-line and order it from the US c) go for a run on a Malaysian beach and then purchase a ripped off copy from a street vendor for a whole lot less than US RRP.
Who has two hours, two nights in a row, to watch something that you might otherwise commit to over a season ? Isn’t there a greater chance that viewers who can’t hack the gruelling pace set up ch.7 give up thereby defeating the channel’s purpose of engaging more viewers ? I don’t doubt that there will be special “encore” (read : “repeat”) screenings tucked in over the following weekend to give those who missed a chance to catch up but me thinks they overestimate their capacity to entertain. The first, much hyped season of a series ? Yes possibly it will generate that much interest. The fifth season of a show that has run its course ? Probably not.
One last thing, why, when the (ridiculous) gimmick of 1 minute of show time equates to 1 minute of real time, would two hours of TV show only be scheduled to run for 1 hour 45 minutes ? On both nights, Jack Bauer is programmed from 930P to 1115P. Less advertisement breaks by channel 7 ? Well, maybe to get the punters in but I do find that hard to believe that they wouldn’t be milking one of their marquee shows for all it is worth. Channel 7, get over yourself.

New Segment : TV Tasty Knows

We have a very welcome new entry to Thursday=Green Guide Day blog spot this week. TV highlights are a portion of the market not traditionally covered by your regular correspondent and so I have great pleasure in introducing TV Tasty Knows. - ed. GGBlog


TV Tasty Knows:
As you may have seen mentioned within this pithy tome, the World Cup is upon us. And verily, verily I say unto you, there is no getting around it. And it grows on you (like mould). News reports, radio updates, talk back, discussion at the office printer, (and yes, even blog spots) are humming with talk of Ronaldo this, and off-side that. For late night relief, TV Tasty Knows refers you to the current gems of American Dad, Scrubs (though current series is more forced), and any episode you can find of Arrested Development. Indeed these are among the best of T.V. offerings, and those looking to catch the Cup action would be well served to tickle themselves with these while they're up.

TV Tasty Knows Pick of the Week:
Enough Rope (Mon ABC 930P)
Interview with Peace Activist Ciaron O'Reilly
I heard Ciaron O'Reilly's story told with dry Irish humour and his highly thought-provoking motivations earlier this year and immediately thought, "he should be on Denton." On Monday he is. If he has time to tell the full circumstances of facing ten years gaol for $U.S. 2.5 million criminal damage to a US Navy warplane enroute to invasion of Iraq, you are in for a very well spent hour. His legal reasoning and stance in non-violently (and farcically) challenging our world leaders solutions for peace is highly stimulating and perhaps even inspirational.

Wednesday, 14 June 2006

But this is the World Cup

One of the better post-match articles written by competent Age sports journo Greg Baum, edited here :
Kaiserslautern's streets were overrun with ruddy-faced and jubilant Australians. One among many was Paul Trimboli, many times a Socceroo, now a fan in a fan's shirt, in a beer queue. "How good was that?" he grinned. The same rhetorical refrain was heard over and over, in the stadium, in the streets, on the airwaves, doubtlessly across Australia.
It was noteworthy that the vanquished stayed on, too, the Australians in clusters, the Japanese in couples. They were disappointed, yes, but this was the World Cup, of which US secretary-general Kofi Annan said recently that he wished he could bring people together so effectively and in such good spirit.
Besides, Australia and Japan are both too innocent in soccer terms for hate and segregation to be part of their approach yet.
The Fritz-Walter stadium stood at the top of the hill overlooking the town, where a castle should stand and probably once did. It looked like a castle, too. It added to the feeling that Australia was going this day not just to play a soccer match, but to storm a Bastille, consisting of weight of history, burden of expectation and, oh, Japan, little considered until this moment. It was Sartre who once said: "In football, everything is complicated by the presence of the opposite team."
For a long time, neat and nimble Japan was a severe complication. Mark Schwarzer might or might not have been fouled as Japan scored its goal, but it looked to me as if he went at the ball expecting to be fouled, even hoping for it. The occasion demanded that he make his presence more forcibly felt. But there is no game quite like soccer for instantly turning a man from hero to villain, and back again.
The substitutes were the difference. Between them, they made and scored all the goals. Josh Kennedy was the catalyst, Tim Cahill and John Aloisi the scorers. Cahill is an intriguing figure, slightly built, diffident in public, ethereal on the pitch, sometimes culpably reckless, not even a striker, technically, but always there when goals are to be scored. He cannot explain it, nor can anyone else teach or learn it; it is instinct.
Hiddink's nerve is astonishing. He actually complained that Australia panicked too soon, resorting to speculative long balls when, to his mind, there was still plenty of time left. It was minutes.
Hiddink has chic and aplomb. He can bluff in at least three languages that I have heard, and dead-pan and amuse in them too. Today, he stands vindicated in his boot-camp methods. As the sun beat down in the second half yesterday, the game physically changed — the Japanese contracted before our eyes, and the Australians grew.
Australia needed and had luck, but Hiddink gives you to believe that even luck is part of a grand plan. Like Cahill on the park, he makes things happen.
Now the caravan moves to Munich, lengthening and growing in volume as it goes, for a date with Brazil. Brazil scarcely will be quaking in its boots. But in another sense, this will be Australia's easiest game. No one budgeted on putting one over Brazil anyway, so the Socceroos will feel a freedom they did not against Japan and will not against Croatia. The Allianz stadium will be full, and the goodwill of the nation, even from a distance of 15,000 kilometres, has become a palpable force.
The biggest game in Australian soccer history is over; now for the biggest game in Australian soccer history. That is how it is at the World Cup.

Full article

Thursday, 8 June 2006

One Sleep Before No More Sleep

Clearly spooked by the world wide phenomena of World Cup football, being broadcast in this country on the not-often-looked SBS between the hours of 1030P and 7A, the commercial channels have decided not to run anything worth your effort this week. The only clash that I can see is the likes of the nut-heads (like me) who go to bed earlier mid-week to cater for an early morning clash and full day at work thereby preventing any evening movie watching. At least that explains the canny counter-promotion of Bend it Like Beckham (Fri 7 845P).
The World Cup opening ceremony is midnight Friday with Australia’s first match against Japan, 11P Monday. For the group 1 phase (which lasts 2 weeks) there will be three games per night : 11P, 2A, 5A. As previously noted, I will probably end up watching most of the 5A games – some exceptions to apply of course !
For all of that, David Lean’s 1957 ‘The Bridge on the River Kwai’ (Mon 7 12P) is a great study in English military fortitude (stiff upper lip and all that, played wonderfully by Alec Guinness) set against the brutal Japanese concentration camp in which they serve in Burma – an historic resonance for Australian audiences because of the experiences of our own servicemen at the hands of the Japanese during the second world war. Guinness, as the Colonel of the imprisoned Allied forces, takes charge of building the eponymous bridge, reasoning that it will give his defeated men a sense of purpose and strengthen discipline. Is he complicit in aiding his enemy or does he have no choice ?
The American protagonist, played by William Holden is not so engaging a character however his side story does lead the story to its tragic and inescapable denouement.
I suppose there is James Cameron’s Titanic (Sat 7 840P) also with Leonardo and Kate Winslet but once is plenty for mine.


Pearls Before Swine - freakin' hilarious. Today, a little closer to life.

SBS funding rant

Firstly many thanks to Formal Neil of Ascot Vale for raising this topic by way of ‘rant request’ this week.
Reported recently, SBS (that is, the Soccer Broadcasting Station) “is a step closer to full commercialism, announcing it will insert advertising during programs from January.” Currently SBS is allowed up to five minutes per hour but this has been restricted to bunching the breaks in between programs. If you have to show ads, then show them when I don’t have to look at them. I can handle that. To start placing the advertisements inbetween programs is grievous news indeed.
Not surprisingly SBS experience “massive viewer drop-off” when they show their clumped advertisements inbetween programs and this is something they are keen to rectify. Foisting advertisements on viewers when they are watching something (as happens on commercial channels) should see an increase in advertisement revenue for SBS which hopefully will lead to better programs.
Channel 7 are probably the most cynical when it comes to addressing viewer drop-off by starting shows late (so that you miss the start of something else on another channel) and going straight into the next show without an intervening ad. break to get you hooked. Viewer backlash was fierce last year with the continual late start/late finish of their marquee shows, Lost and Desperate Housewives, that they got around the issue by advertising that their shows would run 840 to 940 thereby still running out of sync. with other channels. This shows the murky path upon which SBS are treading.
Naturally this leads various campaigners, such as Friends of the ABC (whom I support in principle) trotting out the old cliché, “you can’t be a little bit pregnant” which in this case is a ridiculous thing to say. Advertising on SBS (or the ABC for that matter) doesn’t bother me over much. The ABC (both radio and TV) have an enormous amount of advertising on them, more so since the latest head took over from the maligned Jonathan Shier. The advertising in question however is the promotion for their own shows which are just as irritating, invasive, repetitive and boring as an ad. for Toyota Avensis (just a little self-promotion there, too subtle for most) or Libra Fleur with wings.
The real issue is, I believe (winding up for big rant to conclude with) that the ABC and SBS do not get enough government funding, despite many, many submissions from the Boards of these institutions. They try to make their funds stretch across mediums and demographics, first person news and current affairs reporting (and not exclusively relying on the BBC for example) and produce quality Australian drama. Instead these government sponsored stations are left to make ends meet with meagre funding and put out indifferent fare like games shows, one tele-movie a year, a sports segment on the nightly news from Sydney and so forth. The ABC and SBS is left to fight their own battles from any other means such as sales from the SBS shop or on-air advertising.
It would be a pity to have advertising within shows however it continues to demonstrate the parlous state successive Federal Governments have left ABC/SBS funding.

Friday, 2 June 2006

This is what we like to hear

Reported in The Age today, a big amount of back massaging from FIFA World Player of the Year and Australian opponent, Ronaldinho which is what we all like to believe (that Australia has a chance at the World Cup). Naturally we are a very long shot but its nice to read anyway :

"Even though Australia looks a formidable team and they are our key group rivals, I have to admit that I'm fascinated by them from a purely personal point of view. Apart from appointing one of the top four or five coaches in the world, what Australia did when they signed Hiddink was drag world attention onto themselves.

Anyone with an interest in soccer understands that Hiddink is a magnificent achiever and someone whose names stand for perpetual success. So I think that focused people's attention, all around the world, on how Australia might do in qualifying.

Then if you take the drama and the romanticism of the win over Uruguay, it seems to me that Australia has become an easy team for the neutral [supporters] to support. Everyone I speak to seems to have a good word for Australia in a sporting sense and lots of decent judges have identified them as a team which could make a surprising impact in Germany.

"Generally, when the players follow their careers in a very wide geographical spread [like they do in Australia and Brazil], one of the most difficult things to achieve is that 'feeling' between them when they are called together in a squad.

Yet the evidence is that Hiddink has achieved a unified and winning mentality in his team.

That's impressive and it's a little dangerous, too.

He's in demand because he's a coach who achieves massive success, who has won the Champions League and who took Korea to the brink of the World Cup final four years ago.

I hope that when we play Australia, we can break this habit of his and defeat them but both before and after our game in Munich, I'll be watching Hiddink's team with interest to see how they do."

Full article here

Thursday, 1 June 2006

Cannes 2006

Twelve months ago, at Cannes 2005, Tommy Lee Jones’ new film, The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada was very well received (won Best Actor for Tommy and Best Screenplay for Guillermo Arriaga who I will come back to in a moment) and I have been waiting to see it ever since. It is now in Australian cinemas and is on my (very) short list. I just have to shore up a date with Uncle J (whose connection to Melquiades is now more complex than I would ever have realised twelve months ago and not something I will dwell on now).
Mexican screenwriter Guillermo Arriaga has had a long and fruitful partnership with fellow Mexican, director Alejandro Inarritu who are both responsible for Amores Perros and 21 Grams. At Cannes 2006, they have teamed up again with Babel that stars Cate Blanchett, Brad Pitt and Gael Garcia Bernal (Che Guerra from Motorcycle Diaries). 21 Grams I am a huge fan of and Amores Perros is my homework assignment for this weekend and so I am very keen for Babel to be released here which won Inarritu Best Director at Cannes this year and tells three interlocking stories of lives disrupted by borders.
Another Cannes highlight is the promise of Sophia Coppola’s newest film, Marie Antoinette which stars Kirsten Dunst (as Marie) and Jason Schwartzman (as Louis XVI). Roger Ebert describes Marie Antoinette as “an ambitious film, visually splendid, with some of the most elaborate costumes in movie history, and the real Versailles as a location.” Kirsten ‘delivers’ as Coppola’s vision for Marie according to Ebert but doesn’t quite triumph as a film either. Coppola’s previous outings has been The Virgin Suicides (also starring Dunst) and the excellent Lost in Translation.
Spanish director Pedro Almodovar has a Cannes entry, Volver, which has an excellent female cast (they collectively won Best Ensemble) including Pen. Cruz. I am forced to rethink my attitude to Cruz’s contribution to film as her Spanish roles are quite good however I am able to attribute that to talented directors, like Almodovar, and not give her credit where it may be due. Certainly her Cruise/Cruz tabloid exposure did nothing to endear her to me. Volver is a tribute, says Almodovar, to the strong women in his life, notably his mother but all of the village women from when he was growing up. Previous Almodovar (and Cruz too for that matter) films include Tie Me Up, Tie Me Down, All About My Mother, Talk To Her and Bad Education.
This is to say nothing either of actual Palme D’Or winner, The Wind That Shakes The Barley, starring Cillian Murphy and directed by Ken Loach about how the Irish Republican Army waged war against the British and enforced deadly discipline within its own ranks.

Cat People

I’m still not convinced why anyone would call a movie The Banger Sisters but I haven’t seen it so who knows. Maybe its good ? Let me know. Its on, Friday night and stars Goldie Hawn and Susan Sarandon.
Galaxy Quest (Sat 9 730P) has somewhat of a cult following but is a better-than-average comedy I thought. I must confess that I never laughed so hard as when the end credits began to roll and they had the “what happened next” to each of the characters. Almost worth sitting through just for that*. Alan Rickman is a funny, funny man. (*Although I may not find it that funny were I to watch it again now. So, what you going to do ? Sue me ?)
Further to last week’s ‘heads up’ regarding the Val Lewton produced horror films, three are on this week. Possibly the best of the lot Cat People (Tue 2 12A), its sequel Curse of the Cat People (Wed 2 12A) and The Leopard Man (Wed 2 120A). Both Cat People and Leopard Man are directed by French great Jacques Tourneur who teamed up with Lewton three times (the other, I Walked With A Zombie). The iconic images from Cat People is Irena (the eponymous cat person) stalking Alice (the lover’s rival) through the night streets, Alice’s fear in the swimming pool and Irena’s hand reaching into a birdcage. A great review has been written here. It stars Simone Simon as the curvy but cursed cat (we’re talking big wild cat here, not tame pussy cat). I had the surreal experience not long after watching this vibrant 30 year old women on screen to read in the newspaper of her death in 2005, aged 95. I couldn’t reconcile the two ideas. Also stars Tom Conway as a doctor however he is no relation. My sister can breath a sigh of relief.
Curse of the Cat People is likewise excellent but apart from premise, an entirely different movie to its “prequel.” More psychologically rewarding than the others but less supernatural (despite Simone Simon as a ghost … oh well).
Also on Wednesday night, French drama The Piano Teacher (SBS 10P) which stars Isabelle Huppert and is directed by Michael Haneke. The double life of a stern piano teacher who leads a secret life at night when she satisfies her sexual appetite. It is supposed to be excellent and has been described as having a “dark beauty” so I suspect it is not for the faint hearted nor for the good lady wife, perhaps.