Saturday, June 19, 2010

Don't Act like I Never Told You.

England 0 - Algeria 0
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Wayne Rooney proved, time and time again, what an overrated ogre he is, nobody of the England XI did anything worth giving a damn, and once again, Capello showed what a genius he was by not starting Crouch. It infuriates me when people disregard Crouchie's terrific scoring record, saying "he only scores against easy teams." Well, you may or may not have noticed, but England didn't score a goal AT ALL last night, so I would say they should welcome all goals, against big teams or small. I mean, starting Heskey above Crouch?!?!?????? I take no pleasure in my country's shortcomings, but judging from that performance and Capello's refusal to do what is right, I'd say we bloody deserved to be out in the group stages.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

5. Brief Encounter (David Lean, 1945)

To most, having to have grit removed from one's eyes is not the best circumstance under which to make an acquaintance. But for Celia Johnson's Laura, this is how, on a railway station, she meets dashing doctor Alec Harvey (Trevor Howard). The two form a friendship that soon becomes more than platonic. Despite their love for each other, their relationship is never consummated. Caught in such a bad romance, they realise that due to social rules and their commitments to their family, the tempting option of running away together is simply impossible.
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Cinematography goes a long way in telling the story. The camera shots are so close-up that they frame just Laura and Alec, suggesting that, for the time being at least, they are in their own perfectly formed world.

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The fact that the title gives away the fact that Laura and Alec's romance is short lived does not detract from the poignancy and power of their brief time spent with each other. Although the two do not sleep together, there is no doubt of their desire to do so, making their restrain even more admirable (the scene in which they are interrupted by a prying friend was extremely frustrating when I first watched the film but now I see that it fits perfectly with the themes of social decorum and doing what is right rather than what we want).
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Many things make Brief Encounter the gem it is, but two things stand out. The first is the usage of Rachmaninov's Second Piano Concerto . There have been films which have been ruined by the terrible music in them, and others wherein the music is either so good or so bombastic that it deflects attention away from the film. In Brief Encounter, the elegaic piano tune complements the film perfectly. Used throughout, it evokes the emotions that Laura is feeling in us. And the second? Why, that would be Celia Johnson's exquisitely beautiful performance as the housewife who looks for an exciting, new thing in her life, only to realise that when all is said and done, however exciting, however much it thrills her, she cannot throw away what she already has. As Alec places his hand over Laura's shoulder as they say their goodbyes, tears never fail to come to my eyes. Brief Encounter is as deep and British a film as they come.

The first proper upset of the tournament so far.

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Spain 0 - Switzerland 1

Football, bloody hell.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Football Crazy.

PhotobucketOut of the eight matches that have gone on so far this tournament, I have, lamentably, only watched five. The first I missed was due to work, but the two others - South Korea v Greece and Argentina v Nigeria, were entirely due to my own folly; of choosing to swan around London on a football Saturday, and then watch SATC2. Tut tut. By all intents and purposes, I was actually abiding by this film poster: -


Anyway, of the five matches I did see, brief thoughts:

Group A
Photobucket Uruguay 0 Photobucket France 0
Uruguay (4-4-2): Muslera; Victorino, Lugano, Godin, A Pereira; M Pereira, Perez  (Eguren 87), Arevalo,
Gonzalez (Lodeiro 63); Forlan, Suarez (Abreu 74)
Booked: Victorino, Lodeiro, Lugano.
Sent off: Lodeiro.
France (4-3-3): Lloris; Sagna, Gallas, Abidal, Evra; Gourcuff (Malouda 75), Toulanan, Diaby; Govou (Gignac 83), Anelka (Henry 71) Ribery.
Booked: Evra, Ribery, Toulalan.
Referee: Yuichi Nishimura (Jpn)
Fighting Talk Going into this game, France had lost in a friendly game to China. That's right, China. As for their qualification at Republic of Ireland's expense, the handiwork of Thierry Henry has now been well-documented, many times over. Uruguay had won none of their previous 12 games in the World Cup with European sides. The statistics regarding both teams hinted at a cagey affair with few goals.
PhotobucketHow it went down There were indeed few goals, if few means "none", and even less flair on show. After a decent first few minutes, the rest of the first half fizzled out into nothingness as neither team found cohesion in attack. Raymond Domenech controversially benched winger Florent Malouda after an alleged bust-up in training, and the wizardry of the Chelsea man is much missed. There were two or three good half-chances in the first 45 minutes but not much else and though the game comes a little more into life when Henry stepped onto the pitch, neither team were able to find the net. Diego Forlan, breaker of Liverpool and Fulham hearts in the Europa Cup, looked particularly forlorn with his non-appearance. Uruguay will probably be more relieved of the two to escape with a point as they finished the match with ten men (Nicolas Lodeiro was sent off for two yellow cards), but the lack of creativity on display from two much-celebrated footballing countries was quite disappointing.
The good Despite the bee-like sound of the vuvulezas all over the pitch, there are still cheers aplenty to be heard; good to see the fans rooting for their countries.
The bad Nicolas Anelka strutted around the pitch looking even more po-faced than usual, very much in the vein of the apathetic Anelka I witnessed when he first joined Chelsea. You've played at countless clubs, you should know by now that rolling your eyes doesn't produce goals, mate.
The ugly After the match, Patrice Evra lambasted the vuvulezas and then the World Cup ball for France's below-par performance. Sigmund Freud might call such behaviour "displacement".
What this means It's all square in Group A, as South Africa, Mexico, Uruguay and France all draw. The World Cup host country will probably be most grateful with their point, but as it stands, there's everything to play for.
And the rest  Chris Toy, of Studs Up fame, said on twitter at half-time, "This game is tight, just how Ribéry likes it." I felt grubby for doing so, but oh, how I laughed.

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Group C
Photobucket England 1 Photobucket USA 1
England (4-4-2): Green; Johnson, King
(Carragher 46min), Terry, A Cole; Lennon, Lampard, Gerrard, Milner (Wright-Phillips 30); Rooney, Heskey (Crouch 79).
Booked: Milner, Carragher, Gerrard.
USA (4-4-2) : Howard; Cherundsolo, DeMerit, Onyewu, Bocanegra; Donovan, Bradley, Clark, Dempsey; Altidore (Holden 86), Findley (Buddle 77). Booked: Cherundolo, DeMerit, Findley
Referee: C Simon (Brazil)
Fighting Talk Dubbed as an American-Anglo clash of international (well, duh) proportions, England fans took to baiting American ones by patronising their lack of knowledge about football, whilst they promised to get at us in the simplest way; by baiting Wayne Rooney. More than two years on from installing Fabio Capello as England manager and having missed out on Euro 2008, this was England's first tournament match since the disastruous 2006 World Cup, and expectations were through the roof.
How it went down England started well when Emile Heskey found newly-appointed England captain Steven Gerrard, who hit the net within four minutes. From there on for the next 20 minutes, England looked confident and capable in attack. America gave as good as they got, Jozy Altidore and Landon Donavon in particular having fun with the England defenders, and on 40 minutes, though England were leading, the game was pretty even. How nice of Rob Green, then, to do his bit for the Americans. With Clint Dempsey's speculative shot heading towards him, he caught the ball, then proceeded to drop it as it bounced behind him and into the net. All that was missing from that scene of vintage England goalkeeping was some clown music going "wah wah wah". Green pulled off a terrific save in the second half that prevented the Americans from going 2-1 up, but let's be honest, all that will be remembered of him from now on no matter what he does is his blunderous "Hand of Clod" moment.
The good Despite all my reservations about starting both Lampard and Gerrard in midfield, for once, both players were a credit to themselves.
The bad It's pointless to dwell on it, but Rob Green's mistake really does need to be seen to be believed.
The ugly Wayne Rooney running with the ball. Wayne Rooney remonstrating with the referee. Wayne Rooney full stop.
What this means USA will be far happier with this result than England will, but a draw is not the end of the world by any means. England's inability to produce a second goal, however, is. For all the plaudits laid upon him, Rooney had a terrible game and another performance like this and I would seriously question his starting place. We won't win games through reputation. Just sayin'.
And the rest Despite their National Team holding their own against the Three Lions, the American media still haven't understood the concept of a draw. Oh dear.

Photobucket Algeria 0 Photobucket Slovenia 1
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Algeria (4-5-1): Faouzi Chaouchi, Madjid Bougherra, Nadir Belhadj, Anther Yahia, Rafik Halliche, Mehdi Lacen, Karim Matmour (Rafik Saifi, 80), Karim Ziani, Hassan Yebda, Foued Kadir (Adlene Guedioura, 82), Rafik Zoheir Djebbour (Abdelkader Ghezzal, 58)
Booked: Ghezzal, Yebda
Sent off: Ghezzal
Slovenia (4-4-2): Samir Handanovic, Miso Brecko, Marko Suler, Bostjan Cesar, Bojan Jokic, Robert Koren, Valter Birsa (Nejc Pecnik, 84), Andraz Kirm, Aleksander Radosavljevic (Andrej Komac, 87), Milivoje Novakovic, Zlatko Dedic (Zlatan Ljubijankic, 53)
Booked: Radosavljevic, Komac
Referee: Carlos Batres (Guatemala)

Fighting Talk With England and USA drawing the night before, there was now more of a chance that the winner of this match - should there be one - could grasp the second place spot.
How it went down For 73 minutes, sod all occurs, except both sides producing what would be a perfect antidote to insomnia. In the 74th minute, the Algeria substitute Ghezzal, already on a yellow for a pointless shirt pull, commits his second stupid foul of the day with a handball, and is given his marching orders.  Not long after, Slovenia capitalise with a goal by Robert Koren, though the shot itself was tame, it was more due to the failings of their goalkeeper Chaouchi, who let it bounce off his shoulder and into the net. Two matches from group C, and two hilarious bouts of goalkeeping.
The good The game ended, didn't it?
The bad The performances from both sides. Though Slovenia came out with the more attacking line-up, such was Algeria's compact midfield that they succeeded in shutting them down for most of it. As such, any creative flair was completely stifled, leading to one of the most boring matches I've watched for quite a while.
The ugly Whilst the quality of the football was low, but was even worse was the commentry supplied by the BBC, who kept arrogantly tempting hubris by asserting "based on this performance, England need not be troubled." It was them, rather than the vuvuleza sounds, that had be scrambling for the mute button.
What this means Slovenia must want the group stages to stay as it is; they sit pretty at the top of Group C, albeit with England ans USA yet to play.
And the rest Alan Hansen, BBC pundit, was particularly mardy during the commentary of this match. He turns 55 today. Unhappy Birthday to him.

Group D
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Photobucket Serbia 0 Photobucket Ghana 1
Fighting Talk The first game of six from Group D, one of the two Groups of Death (the other being Group G). In this group sit Serbia, Ghana, Australia and Germany, all four of which stand a fighting chance of making it into the knockout stages.
How it went down Another tightly contested match with the third red card of the tournament shown, which proceeded to turn the events of the game. Aleksandar Lukovic, receiving a second yellow for hauling down Asamoah Gyan, is given his marching orders around the 70th minute, and moments later Zdravco Kuzmanovic's handball in the penalty box leading to the penalty awarded to Ghana, which (the pre-mentioned) Gyan duly converted. The rest of the match was a mixture of misplaced long balls from Serbia and resiliant Ghanian defending, making Ghana worthy of their win.
The good The Ghana team performance, though lacking in much creative flair, was solid and cohesive, every one on their team had a strong game, particularly captain John Pantsil, Tagoe and Gyan, the latter of whom kept the Serbian defence on their toes throughout.
The bad Kuzmanovic, one of the Serbian substitutes, had barely been on the pitch when he conceded the first penalty of the tournament, and a totally needless one at that. That'll stick with him, for sure.
The ugly Lukovic's first half and second half performances were the very epitome of Jekyll and Hyde. In the first half, he looked composed and in control, but his needless second yellow in the second half meant he was essentially the architect of Serbia's downfall.
What this means At present, Ghana are top of Group D, Serbia bottom.
And the rest Nine of the Serbia starting XI had names ending in -ic.

Photobucket Germany 4 Photobucket Australia 0
Germany Manuel Neuer, Arne Friedrich, Holger Badstuber, Philipp Lahm, Per Mertesacker, Sami Khedira, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Mesut Ozil (Mario Gomez, 74), Lukas Podolski (Marko Marin, 81), Miroslav Klose (Jeronimo Baretto Cacau, 68), Thomas Muller
Booked: Ozil, Cacau
Australia Mark Schwarzer, Lucas Neill, Craig Moore, Tim Cahill, Jason Culina, Brett Emerton (Mile Jedinak, 74), Luke Wilkshire, Scott Chipperfield, Vince Grella (Brett Holman, 46), Carl Valeri, Richard Garcia (Nikita Rukavytsya, 64)
Booked: Moore, Neill, Valeri
Sent off: Cahill
Referee: Marco Rodríguez (Mexico)

Fighting Talk If the previous match between Ghana and Serbia (the former 17 FIFA places below the other) was any indicator, then an upset, with Australia placed 13 places below Germany could well be on the cards. In reality, this was said more in hope than expectation.
How it went down Car analogies were being thrown around our living room and me, having had 20 driving lessons once and gotten nowhere and having no car expertise at all, can only paraphrase what was said by my paterfamilia: that Germany performed like a well oiled, state of the art Mercedes-Benz S-type, and Australia were the 60-year-old Chrysler in need of an engine repair. Harsh, but true; Australia's defence were non-existent on some occasions and by the time Germany hit four, I was torn between awe for one team and pity for the other. Tim Cahill's tackle wasn't great but it certainly didn't merit a straight red and unless FIFA retract it, it means Australia's playmaker misses the next two matches. On the balance of this performance, it could well be Australia's last two in this tournament.
The good Make no mistake, Germany were very, very good. Philipp Lahm, a footballer shorter than most of my gal pals, wore the captains armband, and suitably quelled most of Australia's attack. He was also a persistent threat going forward, and swung in the cross that lead to Germany's second goal. Thomas Muller and Mesut Ozil were also integral components in what was a very well put-together machine. Ruthless and efficient will be two adjectives that will be churned out many a time when talking about Germany, but on their performance today, it's justified.
The bad It gives me no pleasure to say it, but Australia disappointed. Hardly anyone on their team shone, but Craig Moore and Vince Grella in particular had shockers. And the prospect of no more Timmy Cahill makes me very sad indeed.
The ugly The referee. Cahill's sending off was just one of the many bizarre calls he had. Australia lost the match on their own shortcomings, but the referee most certainly did not help things. Referees had been doing ok so far this tournament, getting most of the big decisions right (for example, refusing to award France penalties, and rightfully sending players off on 50/50 calls), but Marco Rodriguez let the side down.
What this means Germany have played one, won one, with a handsome goal difference of +4. Despite the one-sidedness, it proved a scintillating game and the only one so far (aside from the England, but I have a vested interest in that game, naturally) that genuinely thrilled me.
And the rest Both captains missing from teams at the top of Group D have first names Michael and play for Chelsea. (lol, I ran out of exciting facts so you'll have to make do with that one)

That's that from that. I work during the week, so I'll miss all the 12:30 and 3:00 kick-offs, though I'll watch the 7:30 ones. This does mean I missing the likes of Denmark vs The Netherlands and Ivory Coast vs Portugal. This makes me sad. But ahhh, that's what highlights are for!

If we make it there, we can make it anywhere that's what they say.

In between watching copious amounts of football this Summer, the rest of my free time will be spent at the cinema, enjoying the luxury seats and watching the new releases. Here are my thoughts on the last two films I watched, and the cinemas I watched them in.

Streetdance 3D (Max Giwa& Dania Pasquini, 2010)
A group of inner-city youths in London, part of the dance troup Jay 2.0, are told at the start of the film that they have gotten to the streetdance finals, where if they win that, they will get to go to New York and a promising future of dance. However, immediately after this, the leader, Jay, announces he wants to take time out from dance, leaving his estranged girlfriend Carly in dhance. She is a skilled fancer but lacks the natural leadership Jay possesses, and her initial attempts at holding rehearsals go awry, especially when they lose their regular training space and can't find a suitable replacement. However, after a serendipitous encounter with eccentric ballet teacher Helena, who is impressed by Carly's vibrancy and liveliness, leads to an interesting proposal - she can train with her group in the ballet halls, if she can incooporate the ballerinas in the streetdance performance.

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The mismatch between the snooty ballet performers and the earthy streetdancers is that of chalk and cheese, but that is one of the biggest charms about the film; the initial anomisity guraduates into acceptance before finally a fusion of ideas - it's like the Romeo and Juliet of dance, but with a happy ending.

The cast, needless to say, are not going to trouble the Oscar board any time soon, though they're not aided by a script that churns out a whole range of cliches that someone who's never set food in London might expect them to say. But lead Nichola Burley holds her own as the heroine well enough, and shines in all the dance montages. Charlotte Rampling has given plenty of performances 10 times the calibre of the one she gives here, but such is the strength of her acting that even in autopilot, she's nothing less than thoroughly watchable.
Of course, the reason performances and script matter so little in StreetDance 3D is due to the dancing, and oh, what dancing. Set to a killer soundtrack of familiar urban bands and artists (including "We Dance On" by N-Dubz, a song written specially for the film) and the dancing is beautiful, tidy, slick and very entertaining. Diversity, Flawless and George Sampson, all of Britain's Got Talent fame feature, and their acts are a treat. But it's the dancing from the spirited streetdance/ballet amalgamation that befounds the most. What seems like polar opposites and shouldn't go at all instead does, and so well. This is a film about dance, and the dancing makes this film. Thoroughly recommended.

I watched this film in Islington Vue, N1 with my brother Tom. The chairs were very comfy and we got great seats. The choice of trailers was a joy - watching Nike's Write The Future advert on the big-screen was as cinematic an experience as you could ask for and unlike other films I've watched in 3D, the 3Dness suited a film like StreetDance 3D. There's also a Sainsbury's and a Waitrose just outside the cinema, so me and Tom went to the former to stock up on cinema snacks at proper prices, rather than get bankrupt in the actual cinema.

Sex and the City 2 (Michael Patrick King, 2010)
When Alicia Keys' soulful vocals on Empire State of Mind played and diamonds sparkled over the credits, my spine tingled and I felt tears well up in my eyes. It was a strange moment, but considering SATC is my favourite TV programme and that I've watched every episode countless times, perhaps my emotional reaction was justified. And the film got off to an interesting start as Stamford Blatch and Anthony Marantino, Carrie's best gay friend and Charlotte's best gay friend respectively, got hitched. Their wedding ceremony is an appropriately lavish affair. But for all the diamonds, I couldn't help feeling that the natural sparkle of the show had gone, the banter wasn't half as witty and even the interaction between the four women - a bond I'd always believed to be truer than true - felt somewhat forced.

Indeed, the lack of sparkle, as commented on by Carrie, is pervading its want into her and Big's marriage. Choosing not to have kids, the two know they are on their own from there on in, and the fact that they are ordering takeout two nights in a row raises alarm bells in her mind.

As Carrie and Samantha in particular of the four frequently live the high life (they are celebrities in a sense, Carrie, a writer, and Sam, a famous PR), it's a little difficult to sympathise with Carrie's so-called plight, particularly, as she herself admits, she'd spent so long running around New York trying to get Big to love her, and now that he does and they are comfortably settled, she feels ennui towards the mundane. Charlotte's story in the film, that she is finding it hard to cope with motherhood but doesn't want to voice her displeasure, is more human and believable.

The majority of the film takes place not in the Big Apple but in the glittering Abu Dhabi, wherein the women are treated to an all-expenses paid holiday. The loose racism is hard to ignore, and to be honest, it jarred rather a lot. But there's fun to be had in British actor Raza Jaffrey's endearing turn as Carrie's humble yet dashing butler, and Samantha's refusal to conform to social customs - Middle East or no Middle East - is so very Samantha.

It was around the moment Big gives Carrie a nice black diamond ring as "punishment" for her kissing Aiden (oh yeah, he pops up) that I wondered just how low Michael Patrick King had sunk. What used to be such a groundbreaking show full of loveable characters growing up and learning from their mistakes now just seemed like an 150-minute long platform for them to make new mistakes in. Had this been any other film, any other four women, I'd happily be laying into it. But, my loyalty to the SATC franchise means I'm still going to give it a semi-decent review. By all means, there are laughs to be had in many of the one-liners (most of them uttered by Kim Catrall), and Miranda and Charlotte have a great scene where they drink cocktails and share maternal woes. As for the clothes and accessories, goddamn. Between Sam's obvious yet terrific YSL earrings and Carrie's beaded bhurka, my eyes were dazzled by the sheer opulence on parade. SATC2 might now have much to say about marriage, sex or the city, but the shoe most certainly still fits.

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I watched this film in Vue West End, W1. The tickets were mighty expensive, but, as this area is the cinema central in London, that was expected. I shelled out a further five quid at the Ben and Jerry's stand next to the box office, for three measley scoops of ice cream. But I was hungry, and eating overrpriced Ben and Jerry's heighted my enjoyment of the film, so, there you go.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

It's not easy being Green, and it's not easy being Bung.

I feel like a dick whining about my life, as in many ways, I have it pretty good. I live in the suburbs of London, away from the constant babble of noise and action that living in the capital can bring, but close enough to Central London that 15 minutes on the train can bring me to it should I so fancy it. Today, I did fancy it, as my best friend Anna was in London for a fashion shoot, so I thought I'd chill with her beforehand.  In between giggling and bantering, I was able to bask in the busy hubbub and cosmopolitan vibe of London, which is what I love about this city so damn much, as well as enjoy some of the World Cup advertisments littered around tube stations, such as these ones:
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After that, Anna headed to her photoshoot and I hit the cinema to see the second film of my favourite TV show, Sex and the City 2. As reviews had warned me, it was, indeed, mighty disappointing. The script had none of the wit of the show, and whereas in the past, the repartee betwen Carrie, Sam, Miranda and Charlotte felt natural and smart, here, some of the dialogue left me physically cringing. Throw in some very dubious morals on the sanctity of marriage, crude racial stereotyping and even the cast looking like they couldn't be bothered, and I was left wondering why I'm still such a devoted SATC fan. But somehow, I still thoroughly enjoyed the film. The costumes were as stunning as you'd expect -the costume designer clearly had a good time enjoying the middle eastern theme and the four leads are kitted out beautifully throughout and despite the stupid things that they do (especially Carrie), I can't help but love them. So, all in all, a good day out for me.

However, all this meant that I missed both South Korea vs. Greece and Argentina vs. Nigeria, which I'm pretty upset about. After all, I'd spent so long getting excited about the World Cup, and, now that it's here, I don't watch the matches? That's just not on. I'm particularly sad I missed the former, as Park Ji-Sung scored. Despite him playing for my most loathed team Manchester United (I'm a Chelsea fan), I love Park a lot, for his work-rate and just how well he carries himself in a game full to the brim of dickish starlets. But whether or not I watched it, I'm delighted he scored.

There were less delights, unfortunately, in the one game I did watch, in which my country participated; England vs USA. This game had been painted as quite the grudge match of late, with even politicans coming out to voice their patriotic support, and plenty of trash-talk occuring beforehand. One of my favourites was the front page of today's The Sun, which poked fun at the way Americans spoke. However, that jokey joke was one of the few things that could be enjoyed about the match. England went off to a great start - Heskey set up Steven Gerrard, who scored neatly and precisely within 4 minutes. The ITV commentators could barely hold in their excitement, "This could be fun!" they said with glee. I was more cautious, more wary. And lo and behold, my pessimism was rightly placed. With American slowly forcing their way back in the game, on 40 minutes, Fulham's Clint Dempsey fired in a speculative shot towards goal. Rob Green caught it. That he did. What he also did was drop it, as the ball bounced behind him and into the goal farcically, leaving him, and England, reeling.

The knee-jerk reaction would be to holler "GREEN OUT!", "ENGLAND FAIL" and various other trite phrases and, whilst his gaffe was unforgiveable, I'd like to make a small case for his defense. The man is young, not terribly experienced on the International scene, and, most importantly, the ball is apparantly a nightmare. This is the consensus amongst all the footballers in the World Cup, goalkeeper, forward, tall or short. Whilst I think that Joe Hart is a better goalkeeper than Green, I don't think benching Green is the solution to all of England's problems.

For one thing, whilst our midfield looked better than I'd feared (both Lampard and Gerrard showed promise and Aaron Lennon had bundles of energy), our defense is still crocked. John Terry cannot be trusted with Wayne Bridge's (not even all that hot) ex-girlfriend, let alone the defensive duties of his country, and despite all the shots we had, precious little of them had any chance of going in. Emile Heskey doesn't seem to know where the goal is, and Wayne Rooney still remains worrying volative. Little went his way today, and he seemed to think it was valid compensation to instead run around and look red-faced; his best Alex Ferguson impression.

Oh, and another thing: Crouchie should've started. Had he started, England would have won. He didn't, and we didn't.

Friday, June 11, 2010

WAKA WAKA.

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Although it was two days ago when I watched it, I hadn't gotten round to penning my thoughts on the Glee finale. And my thoughts are, chiefly, that it was lovely. I thought the past couple of episodes (the Lady Gaga one and the Funk one) were both disappointingly flat, so I'm glad the writers picked up for the ending. One thing I really like about Glee is how they paint Sue Sylvester as a cold-hearted bitch 99% of the time, but instead of making her 2D, they do occasionally show her redemptive qualities, and her putting New Directions #1 was so poignant; I wa surprised how much that moved me. The scene with Quinn giving birth was also very well done, could Dianna Agron be any more perfect? I always get emotional after giving birth scenes, but that one rivaled Juno in terms of sweetness of teenages having baby stakes. And the music, as ever was perfect - Mr. Schue singing and playing the ukulele to "Somewhere over the Rainbow" was the icing on a very sweet cake. And whilst the message Mr. Schue gave them - that it's not the destination, but the journey - sounds like something picked right out of a Joe McEldry song, you only need look at the friendships and life lessons formed from Glee club to see that he's right. Of course the show's not perfect - gaping plot-holes surround almost every scene (picking the setlist a week before regionals, really?) and the offbeat feal sometimes renders the whole thing a little hard to believe, but I'm willing to overlook the majority of the flaws, because Glee has had me beaming more than most TV shows have for a long, long time.

Top 10 Glee Song Covers
01. Defying Gravity - combined Lea Michele & Chris Colfer version
02. Don't Stop Believing - performance given in regionals (with the key change, goddamn)
03. Dream On - Matthew Morrison & Neil Patrick Harris
04. I Dreamed a Dream - Idina Menzel & Lea Michele
05. 4 Minutes - Amber Riley & Chris Colfer
06. True Colours - whole cast
07. Take a Bow - Lea Michele (the video was cringetastic but I think this song features Michele's best vocal work)
08. Somewhere Over the Rainbow - Matthew Morrison
09. Walking on Sunshine/Halo - the girls
10. Goldigger - whole cast

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And in case you'd somehow missed it (due to living under a rock, and all), the World Cup began today! I wasn't able to watch the opening ceremony or South Africa vs Mexico, but it sounds like both were brilliant. I was able to watch France vs. Uruguay. Now, I can't speak French, but I was hoping the funking football would do the talking, talking. That it didn't - the match was completely and utterly dire, so boring that me and my brother resorted to making off-colour jokes to pass the time. Hopefully tomorrow - which features my country, England - will bring more thrills.

A few photos from today's opening ceremony and thereabouts:
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And finally, I think Cheryl may find she has competition in my heart as the prettiest wag. I've discovered Zaira Nara, Uruguayian footballer Diego Forlan's wag. And she is stunning!

Today's the Day...

...and even google is joining in the jubilation.
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To try and tide over my bursting anticiption, I'm watching on BBC iPlayer. It's a terrific blend of factual and comedy, and my beloved Crouchibung's on it!

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A couple of things I want to see this World Cup:
- Chelsea players hugging each other throughout (whether they're playing for the same team or not.)
- Gareth Southgate smiling when he does his "punditry" (which I shan't listen to)
- Peter Crouch scoring a goal
- The BBC using Kanye West, Rihanna or Lady Gaga in their musical montages
- One game where there are a tonne of bookings and sendings off a la Netherlands-Portugal in 2006
- One goal scored from the opposition's one half
- One goal that is built up from 15+ successive passes.
- Referees doing silly things (though not against England)
- Crazy goal celebrations

Happy to say, I'll get most of those things ;D

Thursday, June 10, 2010

South Africa: a jungle where dreams are made of.

So, the World Cup arrives tomorrow, and I would be lying if I were to say the anticipation wasn't making me a little light-headed. For the past few weeks, since the premiership season ended, nay, before the premiership ended, I've been thinking about precious little else other than how the Drogbas of the world will fare, who will dazzle in South Africa and who will flop, and whether or not England will, once again, crash out on penalties. As a fan of football living in England, I'm lucky in that I can actually attend matches, not to mention watch them on Sky Sports, where the attention and time put on our country's biggest sport is nothing if not meticulous. But there is something even tastier about the World Cup. Partly due, perhaps, to the fact that it only comes once every four years, or maybe that the sweltering heat in the long hot Summer (for some, not Brits, lamentably) brings out a feistier side to us all. The High School Musical factor also plays a part, ie - we all feel "united" in the mutual supporting of our country, whether we're fans of Tottenham or Tranmere Rovers. It's a combination of all these things, and many more, that makes me feel very, very happy, that starting from tomorrow, I shall be treated to a month of non-stop football.

I was out shopping a couple of weeks ago, in New Look, when I spotted these bikinis with the England flag drapped across where the tit would be. The whole thing looked horribly cheap and tacky. Similarly, England flags have infiltrated our roads via car windows and windshields, our clothes via socks, pants and god knows what else, and just about anything you can name: it's been sold with an England flag draped across it. It's embarrassingly crass, but at the same time, I wouldn't have it any other way; the anticipation and influx of marketing is what makes the World Cup what is is. Whilst the hope us England fans have in our National Team can border on delusion, it's also a credit to our passion for the game that England fans love their NT so much despite coming face to face with disappointment so much in the past. This year, there's been a noticeably more subded edge to our predictions; the majority of England fans have ditched the crowing (our below par performances in the previous World Cup and not even being able to qualify for Euro 2008 has put us in our place at long last) and decided, instead, to hope, rather than expect.
The multi-national quality of the World Cup also means that, whether intentionally or inadvertantly, I always come out of it a little more educated about the World and current affairs. I've found out more about the state of the government in North Korea this week alone than I had previously in my sad 20 years of existence. It just completes the experience of the game, I feel, to learn a little more about the players' upbringings and backgrounds. In the same vein, I generally escape the World Cup with a whole new arsenal of foreign words. I did Spanish up to AS-level and got an A, and my decision to drop it for the more Sciencey subjects still jars, even three years on. Xavi, Iker Casillas and Cesc Fabregas will have to refresh my memory with their post-match interviews, which I'm sure will be fine (in more ways than one.)
If experience has taught Bung anything, it is that she is a shit football predictor. After all, my pessimism this season led me to thinking that my beloved Chelseabung would finish third (though I was never so happy to be proved wrong.) The only thing I've ever been remotely good at predicting were the Oscars, and that's because pre-cursors were there to guide me. Nonetheless, I shall try my hand at predicting how this year's tournament will go (of course, now that I've written it out, none of this will happen):

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Golden Boot: David Villa
Best Player: Xavi
Most Bookings: Wayne Rooney or John Terry (heh)

From the musical montages set to Duran Duran songs that I know the BBC will put together, to the prospect of seeing players from the same teams come ~head to head~ when representing their countries, to the naff punditry (Gareth Southgate talks football as well as he takes penalties, yet I still find him so utterly hot and would be his Loleeeeeetah any day of the week) and puns galore (The Sun writers, now's your time)... I simply cannot wait for the World Cup.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Popcorn (Ben Elton), The Virgin and the Gypsy (DH Lawrence) and Murder in Mesopotamia (Agatha Christie), amongst others.

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Thanks to a lengthy commuting time to and from work everyday, I've read a fair few books this Summer already. And, as a lot of these books have been wonderful, my thirst for reading has been re-ignited. Thus, if you have recommendations for reading material of any kind, hit me up!

Popcorn (Ben Elton)
Well, well, well. I'd thought Ben Elton had nailed down social satire in his book Past-Mortem, but it turns out he'd done an even better job of it 8 years earlier. Bruce Delamitri is a trendy film director who has just won an Oscar for his ultra-violent film Ordinary Americans, a film which he claims represents America in its brutal, bloody-thirsty state, but others have condemned for influencing America's violent condition. With an Oscar under his belt, Delamitri is highly sure of himself, spouting various tidbits of pseudo-philosophy and expecting people to lap up his every word. However, he really learns the meaning of the word hubris when two white trash serial killers hold him hostage on the very night he wins his Oscar. As with Dead Famous, this is deliciously dark stuff, some of the funniest moments being at things the reader really should not have found amusing. The epilogue was pithy and the fact that there were no really likeable characters meant that, amidst the horror, the reader derived a twisted sense of glee from everything that occured. Full of characters you can see in celebrities today and short, staccato chapters, this is as good a condemnation of the pliability of the masses as you'll ever find, I can't recommend this enough.

The Virgin and the Gypsy (DH Lawrence)
Despite usage of the word "insinuate" that definitely veers on the repetitive side, DH Lawrence's novella proved to be a brilliant read nonetheless. It tells the story of two vicar's daughters, Lucille and Yvette. When the daughters were little girls the vicar's wife had run off with another more virile man, and this hangs over him in all the puritanical things he does. That, along with the somewhat-deranged nan who lives with the girls, has affected them and their thinking in different ways, Lucille is more conservative but Yvette, free-spirited, finds herself drawn towards a local gypsy, who's sexual attraction (and interest in her) cannot be masked. Despite being warned off him, that only serves to make her more and more beguiled by him, and their relationship, though not high on the verbal interchanges, is compelling as it is beautiful. I won't lie, I was a tiny bit disappointed at the lack of a deflowering scene of any kind, but there was a metaphorical orgasm, when he was drying her off. Evocatively written and with an oddly banal ending, I was far more taken with this than Lady Chatterlay's Lover.

10 Reasons Not to Fall in Love (Linda Green)
This novel is, as the fluffy title would betray, a romantic comedy chicklit, but it was surprisingly, deeper than just that. It tells the story of a woman living up North (she resides in the Yorkshire area but works as a part-time news reporter in the Lancashire area) who has a two-year-old kid, Alfie, who's dad walked out on them on Alfie's first birthday. She's recently gone back to work as a reporter, wherein he's been promoted to her boss. Somewhat awkward. Not surprisingly, she hates men. Until this super-sweet, hot guy called Dan walks into her life. So far, very Sophie Kinsella. But it managed to balance the sweet with a surprisingly sour bit about Dan's backstory, wherein his dad got drunk and hit his mum (hence causing him to be somewhat of a closed book). The depiction of domestic violence was actually pretty disturbing in the book, especially how it escalated from verbal abuse to the odd slap to life-threatening amounts of violence. I found myself shedding tears at the most unexpected of moments during this book, and, surprisingly for a chicklit, there was football banter! At first I thought the author was a closet Kopite when she made Richard (the bastard ex) a Man Utd fan and hot Dan a Scouser, but then the narrator was a City fan so I don't know frankly. Anyway, I really liked the narrator's writing style, a fine balance between colloquial and intellectual. And I love how it demonstrated that amidst all the shit life throws up, we can eventually get our happy ending, if we're not afraid to try. Recommended.

The Big Four / Murder in Mesopotamia (Agatha Christie)
Not, as I'd blithely wondered, about the "big four" teams in the Premiership, but instead about a cartel of mastermind criminals who collude to bring down entire empires. There was a bit too much bluffing and double-bluffing regarding whether or not a pretty integral character was alive or dead in The Big Four to render it believable, plus it focussed more on the espionage side of things, when I prefer the murder mystery. But Agatha Christie showed just why Hercule Poirot remains one of the most beguiling, ingenious men in literature.

Murder in Mesopotamia, I was less taken with, just because I got rather confused when more and more and more characters got introduced (lol, I'm so clever NAT), but the plot twist was as audacious as I'd expect from Christie, and I'm glad the cold-hearted bitch at the centre of it all got what she deserved.

Tales From a Hen Weekend (Olivia Ryan)
Katie Halliday, a vivacious, happy 30something who believes in true love, is on the brink of getting married to Matt, the man she believes to be the love of her life. As he jets off for a weekend in Prague, she's off to Dublin with her friends, aunt and mother, but over the course of that holiday, home truths and murky secrets are revealed left, right and centre. This was a rather more predictable chicklit, and although the characters were all sweet enough (although I found it hard to warm to the protagonist because she seemed to have the gift of being loved universally, which I found hard to believe), the book itself had nothing new to contribute to the genre. A fun enough read, just massively forgettable.

Dead Lovely (Helen Fitzgerald)
Oooh er. Whatever I was expecting from Fitzgerald's novel, which revolves around a claustraphobic set-up of married couple Sarah and Kyle and their best friend's Krissie's camping holiday in the Scottish highlands, it wasn't this. Krissie, you see, is a free-spirited woman who likes the length of her sexual conquests to be inversely proportional of the willy size of the men inside her who has recently given birth to Robbie following a one-night stand in a public toilet whilst on holiday, and Sarah, despite being married to Kyle and copulating in cycles, can't conceieve for love nor money. Add into this equation the fact that Kyle finds himself increasingly attracted to Sarah and it doesn't take Stephen Hawking to work out that this seedy threesome is just an accident waiting to happen. And, sure enough, there's murders, failed murders, attempted murders, and finally, a plot twist so dark that I was surprised such a thing got published. But credit to Fitzgerald for her accomplished fusion of sex, murder and human relationships, as well as the way she evoked laughter even at the most dastardly of actions.

Not a bad bunch, on the whole!

Somedays I'm sweet, and somedays I'm sour.

In this very brief (but still in many ways far too long) clip of me singing and dancing drunkenly to Cheryl Cole's Happy Hour, I would most certainly say I were sour. I dunno why I'm bunging it on my blog, aside from to share the cringe factor? :3



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How dance should be done:
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Saturday, June 05, 2010

10 Players I'm Really Looking Forward to Watching in the 2010 World Cup.

Under a week until the World Cup, and I can literally not take the excitement. In the pre-World Cup build-up we've already had heartbreak and disappointment, what with some key players getting injured in the friendlies and warm ups, whilst others have failed to been selected by their country's managers. Of the players that are going, here are the 10 that I'm most excited about seeing in action.

10. Salomon Kalou (Ivory Coast, Chelsea)
Now that Drogba's out of the World Cup (weep), Salomon Kalou could well find himself acting as the key striker for the Ivory Coast. This will be a slight change from his role at Chelsea, where, although he has been deployed as a forward, he has had more experience playing on the wing. Furthermore, whilst the Ivory Coast does still feature some premiership names (Arsenal's Eboue, and Man City's Kolo Toure, their captain in the abscence of Drogba), Kalou is one of the IC's more prominent players, unlike at Chelsea, and it will be interesting to see how he copes with this higher level of responsibility. Many Chelsea fans frequently find themselves banging their heads against the wall when watching Kalou; for all his pace and troubling defenders, some of his crosses leave a lot to be desired, and his finishing fluctuant. But I bloody love him. As you'll discover (to a point ad nauseum), I love footballers who try, and Kalou does just that. Plus I find it totally adorable and refreshing how in this day and age, when many players utter a couple of expletetives when they miss the goal, Kalou just grins sheepishly, and carrys on. It's that kind of cute, angel-faced school prefect behaviour that makes me just want to mother him.

09. Tim Cahill (Australia, Everton)
Arguably one of the best premier league players not playing for a top four side, Tim Cahill has been on the English football scene for 12 years now, six of those with Millwall and six with Everton. On more than one occasion he has been the saviour for Australia in internationals, as he has done with Everton - witness the way he skipped merrily around Man City's defenders in the match this season as if they simply weren't there.  The pacey, energetic way at which he bounds around the pitch is, in itself, not dissimilar to that of a kangaroos. It will be exciting to see how he runs circles around Germany, Ghana and Serbia in the so-called "group of death" (vol1). There's a vol 2 later. :p

08. Park Ji-Sung (South Korea, Manchester United)
I find Park Ji-Sung massively underrated. Whilst I know his erratic performances in front of goal have led to many Manchester United fans to want to punch him, I personally love him for his work ethic and energy. I'm a huge softie for football players who, although not the best, always give 110%, and nobody exemplifies that better than Park. As captain of South Korea, he is the one in the squad with the most experience of football at its highest level (the only other premiership player in the squad is Bolton's Lee Chung-Yong), and the big-game mentality that he has acquired from representing Manchester United in Europe shall surely come in handy when South Korea find themselves face to face with Argentina in the group stages. Also, he's Asian, as am I, so automatic brownie points for that.

07. Ashley Cole (England, Chelsea)
You've got to hand it to Ashley Cole. Quite possibly the most reviled man in England, every football ground he visits is met with animosity at his every touch of the ball, and banter in the form of his ex-wife's song lyrics (Stoke fans sang "We've got to file file file file file for divorce" to him as Chelsea rogered Stoke 7-0 at Stamford Bridge). But with his philandering and being detested, Ashley Cole has also acquired a mighty thick skin. In a season where he started so promisingly, Ashley Cole picked up an ankle injury at Everton in February, around the time when Chelsea needed him the most. He returned towards the end of the season and his four great performances in the remaining matches helped win the league and the FA Cup - but there was a faint trace of regret interwoven with my pride when Chelsea paraded those two trophies around West London. What if, I wondered, Ashley Cole had been fit for those two integral games against Inter in the CL? Could, perhaps, it have been the treble we'd been sporting - and finally have the CL trophy to Chelseabung's name. Anyway, thinking over scenarios that never happened is just a waste of time. Ashley Cole hadn't been fit, and we didn't beat Inter. But, for all his questionble morals "as a person", Ashley Cole is a dynamite of a left-back; both at attacking and defending. Whilst England's right-back, Glen Johnson, has a tendency to dose off - something Aaron Lennon must atone for in midfield if it happens, Ashley Cole barely has that problem. Alert, agile (even at 29) and consistently a threat, it will be terrific fun to see him dancing with the ball with Chelsea team-mate Joe Cole down the left. England don't need a parachute, if we've got him.

06. Wesley Sneijder (Netherlands, Inter Milan)
Sold to Inter from Real for around 15million euros with the money Inter got for their "Ibrahimovic sale", Sneijder made a splash straight away, adapting to Italian football brilliantly and greatly enjoying the role Jose Mourinho gave him as a trequartista behind Eto'o and Milito. It is this attacking trio, along with goals from all over the pitch and Jose Mourinho's machiavellian know-how that guided Inter Milan to the treble, and after all that, one could hardly blame Sneijder for feeling a little... fatigued. But no, the 25-year-old, balding, thrice-divorced Dutchie is having none of that. Having gotten his hands on three major trophies already, he's got his eye on a fourth.

05. Kaká (Brazil, Real Madrid)
It would not be unfair to say that on the whole, Ricky Kaká has had a bit of an underwhelming season for Real Madrid. A lot of this is not the poor boy's fault; unlike at Brazil and AC Milan, where the team was built around him, Kaká found himself having to adapt to a different style of play in Spain, and he has struggled with form-dipping injury throughout the season. Plus, with the hefty price tag burdered on him, anyone would feel a bit nervous. Nonetheless, he will not feel content with how the past season has gone - especially when compared to Cristiano Ronaldo, Real Madrid's other multi-million Euro signing - and will take it upon himself to find redemption in South Africa. Interestingly enough, Kaká and Ronaldo will find themselves face to face in the Group Stages, as Portugal, Brazil, Ivory Coast and North Korea form Group G, the "Group of Death" (vol2). If things don't go as planned, Kaká may find himself talking to god on more than one occasion...

04. Philipp Lahm (Germany, Bayern München)
When Chelsea's Michael Ballack was ruled out of the World Cup with an ankle injury, it added to Germany's already growing injury list of first-team players, what with their first choice goalie Rene Adler nursing a rib injury. Speculation also arose as to who would wear the captain's armband. The smart money was on Stuttgart's Sami Khedira, though Klose, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Lukas Podolski also in for a shout. But in the end, Germany manager Joachim Löw gave the position to pint-sized Philipp Lahm, one of the most baby faced players in the World Cup. A right-footed left-back, he was doing the "playing inside out" thing long before Ashley Young, Craig Bellamy and Damien Duff cottoned onto it, and whilst his minute height occasionally leads to gaps in his defensive game, he usually takes it upon himself to compensate - it was Lahm who scored the equaliser for Germany in their 3-1 friendly victory over Bosnia when he was at fault for the one goal Bosnia conceded. A key stalwart for Germany in their past few tournaments, it will be interesting to see how he fares in South Africa, carrying the weight of representing his country, defending and now captaining on his 5'7" shoulders.

03. Xavi (Spain, Barcelona)
In May, reports broke out that Cesc Fàbregas, the 23-year-old captain of Arsenal, wanted to re-join Barcelona, the club he started at. Whilst his desire to do so is partially justified; as a Spaniard, who can fault him for wanting to go back to his homeland, and season upon season of disappointment with Arsenal can only push him so far, the best argument for Cesc not going to Barca and staying exactly where he is is in the form of Xavi Hernandez, Spain team-mate. They play in similar roles for their teams and with Xavi still at the peak of his powers, I feel that were Fàbregas to be Cataluña-bound, he would be forever playing second fiddle to the man seven years his senior. At 30, Xavi is at the age when footballers are supposed to be declining in physical fitness, but the past season he has had with Barcelona completely counters that. Arguably the best playmaker in the world, his passing is second to none, his link-up play with Barca and Spain team-mate Andrés Iniesta is borderline telepathic, and, for all the plaudits Lionel Messi has won for his many match-winning goals, there is a monster in midfield behind him, quietly doing the integral cogwork.

02. Frank Lampard (England, Chelsea)
Lampard has just had a sensational season with Chelseabung, wherein he has topped his own scoring record with 21 league goals and more assists than any other player. That his reputation as a World class footballer is in refute is just a joke. But anyway. For those of us with eyes and can see how immense Mr. Lampard is, the desire to see him play for England is also intermingled with trepidation for how Capello will handle the Lampard/Gerrard conundrum, something he still hasn't sorted. I have my own ideas but I'm no football manager, so I shall hold my own counsel over the matter (for once). But I do hope Lampard isn't the casualty, because he is an absolute diamond of a footballer. Two years ago, his mother passed away, and six days on from the tragedy he chose to go back to his job as a 'player and play in the crucial CL tie between Chelsea and Liverpool at Stamford Bridge. With the game tied at 1-1, 2-2 on aggregate, a penalty was awarded to Chelsea. Many people could barely watch as Lampard prised the ball away from team-mate Ballack to take the spot-kick. His heart and head must have been all over the place and had he missed, it would have hurt a lot more than any other penalty. But the way he scored the penalty - essentially securing a victory for Chelsea, was transcendent in that, in its own way, also represented a victory for life over death. Tears streaming down his face as he looked upwards to the sky, Lampard won, the haters lost and for me, he is King.

01. Peter Crouch (England, Tottenham Hotspur)
No surprise, really. Peter Crouch turned my head in the 2006 World Cup and worringly, 4 years on, the obsession still hasn't desisted. Between those four years, he has played for three different teams, had good spells and bad but never failed to entertain me. Whilst not the most fashionable of footballers, Crouchie nonetheless epitomizes everything I love about the beautiful game: determination, team spirit and a simple thirst to play football. Some may argue that he's a flat-track bully at international level, but this argument is circular; Crouchie is hardly ever selected to play against the more "difficult" nations and when he does, it is for 4 minutes as a substitute- hardly a reasonable length of time to score in. When given the chance to shine, oh, how he soars; back in 2007 he scored a hattrick against Arsenal (the only other player to achieve such a feat in recent years is Leo Messi), and what a hattrick it was, scored with his left foot, right foot and head. Capello would do well to start Crouch alongside Rooney; Crouchie has a knack of getting himself in the right place at exactly the right time (Manchester City conceding the goal from him that put Spurs in the CL at their expense will attest to that) and his international goal-scoring rate (21 in 38 games) speaks for itself. As an England fan, I'm always wary of over-optimism, but I can't help thinking that with Crouchie as our #9, there could just be a few treats in store for England this Summer.

And players who will be sorely missed...
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From top left then clockwise: Didier Drogba, Ivory Coast and Petr Cech, Czech Republic (both Chelsea, Drogba due to injury and Cech due to failing to qualify), Michael Ballack, Germany and Michael Essien, Ghana (both Chelsea, both got injured), Adam Johnson, England (Man City, was selected for the privisional 30-man squad but failed to make it into the 23), Luka Modric and Niko Kranjcar, both Croatia (Tottenham, Croatia failed to qualify) and Shay Given and Richard Dunne, both R.O.I (Man City, Aston Villa, Ireland missed quliaification by an arm)