Thursday, 25 October 2007

Downfall - GG

Downfall (SBS Sun 930P) is a German film that focuses on Hitler in his last days, holed up in his bunker as the might of the Russian army draw near. Bruno Ganz gives an extraordinary performance and this film was nominated in the foreign language category at the 2004 Oscars. Not surprisingly this film has attracted a lot of attention because of its subject matter and is noteworthy if for no other reason than because it is one of very, very few German films to deal with the second world war. GG comments, “that this film is one of countless films that that are constantly revealing a new Germany, one embracing tolerance, cultural diversity and calm.”
The Incredible Shrinking Man (2 Sat 2P) is everything you want a movie to be : premise, script, acting. A lot of modern day ‘special effect’ movies give you that and nothing else. This sci fi classic from 1957 does it all right with the hokey 50s special effects thrown in for free.
And, the one you have all been waiting for (even those who do not realise it yet), Shaun of the Dead (10 Sun 1030P), following the ARIAs. Made by the same jokers who put together last year’s Hot Fuzz (Rise Tall : “Best film of the year”) it is a perfectly credible zombie movie that makes the most of its comedic potential.

Monday, 22 October 2007

Seasons change

The pressing of the ‘stop’ button on the stopwatch. A small pump of the fist. Two minutes lying absolutely, physically spent on the grass, under an Elm next to the running track. A time of 16:35 recorded.

My preparation leading up to last Wednesday’s assault on The Tan was about as good as I could have hoped. Short runs on Saturday and Monday, a long one on Sunday with other gym sessions spaced inbetween. Wednesday came and the temperature was pleasant without being overbearing. No breeze to speak of. I spent some time warming up and stretching. I was almost afraid to start. I knew what was going to be asked of my body to record my best time. I also knew that to miss out on a sub-17 minute time (again) was going to leave a bitter disappointment longer lasting than the physical pain of running it.

The first 1 km was about equal with previous weeks, about 4:20. Brisk but not flat out. The run up Anderson Street was also quite strong and judging by my relative placing to others, about the right pace. I passed my first marker a little over and the second marker (12:30) about right. The difference this time was I knew I was running stronger, felt fitter and had a lot to give at the end. At the 3km marker I lifted my intensity to come home. Legs pumping, gut screaming and the same thought at the same corner: "a taxi would be so much easier."

This was my best time by 26 seconds. I was proud of the achievement but without resting on my laurels, the next target is 16:29 (my boss’ best time). He has been on holidays this last two weeks. Hopefully he has drunk beer and eaten chocolates. Somehow I suspect he will come back fitter and faster than ever. Oh well. I’ll be trying.

This week’s GG recommendation is Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter … and Spring (SBS Wed 1030P). A part of SBS’ South Korean festival, this was an art house hit in 2003/04 by director Kim Ki-duk who is also responsible for Time and 3-Iron.

Set in a small Buddhist temple, in the middle of a river, a young monk follows the seasons of his life (hence the allegorical nature of the title). This film is beautfilly shot and is very contemplative in parts. The themes are very accessible even if some of the plot points are a little obvious : from innocence to knowledge to repentance to wisdom.

Thursday, 11 October 2007

Motorcycling Batman - GG

While I love the Lord of the Rings movies, Return of the King (7 Fri 830P) cannot be GG movie of the week as 1) it is four hours filled with advertisements, and 2) it is not the extended edition (which is four hours on its own without the ads). You will need to have had a passing interest LOTR I & II to get the most out of this one.
Batman Begins (9 Sat 930P) has Christian Bale bring a new intensity to the role that Michael Keaton never quite managed to fill and devolved into farce with Val Kilmer and George Clooney. Despite the obligatory “everything blows up in the end” ending, Katie Holmes and the somewhat dubious Liam Neeson character, it is hard and vigourous enough to be worthwhile.
Alternatively The Motorcycle Diaries (SBS Sat 1015P) tracks two friends as they criss-cross South America on a motorcycle. Gael Garcia Bernal rarely turns in a bad performance and is appealing as a young Che Guevara.
And I hope you’ve been taking note of SBS’ South Korean film festival on Wednesday nights. A Good Lawyer’s Wife (SBS Wed 1030P) presents a well acted and racy story of one family where everyone leads an errant lifestyle but the story, under the surface, is serious and nuanced.

Dumb Fifth Graders

Pre-season running
A change in running tactic meant a slower crawl up the Anderson Street hill in last week’s circuit of The Tan that meant, with 1km to go, I was 40 seconds behind my previous time. Not having burnt all of the fuel however meant that after burners could be engaged and I finished strongly, making up 37 of the 40 seconds. This of course still meant that I was slower than last time (with a time of 17:04) and still some way (it would seem) to breaking the “magical” 17:00 barrier. My boss still ran a 16:30 ish sort of time which seems harder to crack every week I try. “Onwards and upwards !” Next week we’ll employ a new tactic, hopefully one that is FASTER.

What I really hate is people who walk slowly, perambulate in front of me and add insult to injury by premeditating my walk-around by drifting from their pre-aligned path into mine. A situation where a laser guided rocket would be a great add-on to completely remove them from ever walking this earth again. By contrast, one thing that I love is breakfast, and in particular, a warm bowl of porridge (call me Goldilocks if you must), sweetened with brown sugar.

Have you seen this latest insult to low brow entertainment, masquerading as “family viewing”, ‘Are You Smarter Than A 5th Grader?’ ? We all accept that a quiz show is what it is and rewards general knowledge. Sale of the Last Century did that better than most for years. People enjoy it. Millionaire plays to the same kind of crowd and at least the questions get harder the longer one contestant plays. We also acknowledge the, ‘it has nothing to do with a quiz show’, versions that are game shows that ask dumb-ass questions to pass the time. The questions asked on the ‘5th Grader’ show are genuinely questions that primary aged kids might be expected to know or answer in a classroom. Now I passed grade 5 some years ago. And grade 6. And grade 7. And so on. {didn’t do so well in some other years but that is not the point – I AM SMARTER THAN A 5TH GRADER}. It seems that the questions asked are not especially difficult, one just has to take care how one answers. Think it through again. There’s no trick. Not like the trick questions we used to ask each other in grade 5, example, “an electric train … how much smoke, etc.” Take an example of a question I heard on Nova this week : which STAR is the closest to planet earth. Hughesy, not thinking, thought PLANET and said, “Mars”. WRONG. The Sun of course is the closest star to planet earth. See, it sounds tricky but its not really. The silly adults that appear on the show really deserve their public humiliation of being stupider than a 5th grader because they don’t know the answers ! “The largest dinosaur was called a T___ Rex.” I mean, Come On ! Get this dross off !