Thursday, December 21, 2006

Yet Another Weekend of Watching Sports

This post is a few days late. India has won its first test match in South Africa, and Shane Warne has announced his retirement from international cricket. None of this was in the air as I settled down on Saturday morning, to watch sports on TV.

The day started with Australia batting their way towards winning the third test match, and with it, the Ashes. Unfortunately, I missed most of Adam Gilchrists' scintillating second - fastest hundred in test cricket, but trust Australia to really hammer the nail on the coffin! England really had no chance of recovering from that onslaught, though they fought bravely, through Ian Bell, and Alistair Cook. But any faint hopes of saving the test vanised in the last few minutes of plan on Saturday. Not surprisingly, the bowler to do the damage was Glenn McGrath.

But the real surprise was Indias' performance in the first test match. It started enjoyably, with the lustly blows of VRV Singh. I dozed off to sleep as South Africa started their innings, and when my eyes opened, South Africa were 5 for 3! Amazing. And it only got better! Hats off to the Indian team for engineering a complete turn-around from the dismal performance in the one-day series.

My 2 comments are related to this test match. The first is regarding commentator Wasim Akram. The incident was an appeal for leg before against Jacques Kallis - the bowler being Zaheer Khan. All the initial replays seemed to suggest that the batsman was plumb out. But the umpire, Rudy Koertzen, turned the appeal down. The next ball, Kallis hit a lovely straight driven four. Wasim Akram was extremely vocal in his criticism of the umpire. Then, the super slow motion replay showed that Jacques Kallis actually had nicked the ball on to his pads. It was an excellent decision by the umpire. Instead of admitting his mistake, which would have been the gentlemanly thing to do, Wasim Akram went completely silent. Not a squeak! Come on, Wasim, this was not expected of you.

The second related to Sachin Tendulkars' dismissal in the second innings. Once again, he played on a ball on to his stumps. And once again, he tries to deceive the public into thinking that the ball kept low, by falling on his knees, after the ball has hit the stumps! Replays clearly showed that the ball was not any lower than other deliveries. It was a bad shot by Sachin. Surely, one of the best batsman of our times does not need to resort to this kind of school boyish behaviour!

I also enjoyed the English Premier League matches over the weekend. The Arsenal - Portsmouth clash was a pulsating one, as was the Everton - Chelsea match. Both of them were fast paced, and had some great individual moments of brilliance. I am more convinced that it is only a matter of time, before soccer overtakes cricket in popularity in India.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

The Prestige

I first heard about this movie when I saw the trailer during "Casino Royale". And what made me decide that I had to watch the movie was the name of the director - Christopher Nolan. Mainstream movie goers might recognise him as the director of "Batman Begins", easily the best in the series. But I had heard about him first through a friend who recommended "Memento".

Prior to the movie, I heard good reviews from a couple of sources. And I can honestly say that the film lived up to its expectations. I left the theatre discussing the movie in your head, and continue pondering over it days after. For how many of the movies that you watch can you say this?

I admit, there might be a big audience for whom movie watching is an entertainment. But "The Prestige" is proof that you can be entertained, and provoked, at the same time. And that, to me, is the essence of movies.

For movie reviews, I recommend Rotten Tomatoes.

Monday, December 04, 2006

A weekend of movies - Rang De Basanti, Dhoom 2 and Lage Raho Munnabhai

As I had written earlier, I had watched the first half of RDB a couple of weeks back. I finally watched the remainder of the movie on Friday evening. And no, it did not change my earlier expressed opinion. The movie has played on the emotional angle, but as a movie, I found it woefully ordinary. To begin with, the 'classy' look looked very artificial, and was distracting from the movie. The director seems to have tried to copy the look of Farhan Akhtars' 'Dil Chahta Hai'. But while the look came as a refreshing change at that time, RDB came across as a poor copy.

And I could not agree with the basic theme of the movie. Supposedly educated urban youth taking to crime, and that too, the murder of a supposedly corrupt politician. Please, is this the message we want to send out through films? If the underlying message was to exhort our youth to break free of their inertia and take the lead to 'set the country right', surely it could have been done without unabashedly playing on emotions?

The second movie I watched, this one on the big screen at Cinemax, Eternity Mall, Thane, was the current hit - Dhoom 2. I walked in only expecting mindless entertainment, and I was not disappointed! The script is very weak, songs are jarring, but the star cast redeems the show. While the women rave about Hrithik, I thought Abhishek quite simply stole the show at the end. And for Aishwarya Rais' 'hot' new look, suffice to say that it was all a case of 'The Emperors' New Clothes'. She is just too cold, too calculated, to be 'hot'. Sure, she has a great face, but she would be best advised to leave the 'hot' look to actresses better suited to the role.

Finally, I come to 'Lage Raho Munnabhai'. I was not too keen to watch it, as the India - South Africa cricket match was going on. But my my wife was, and she put it on. I joined her pretty soon, seeing how the cricket was going (for the record, we lost yet again by a humiliating margin). And I got hooked right from the first scene! This is how movies should be made - a simple script, dedicated actors, good music, and a great moral. The director has managed to make the movie touch the audience, without making it melodramatic, which could have been all too easy, given the storyline. This was easily the pick of the three movies I watched over the weekend.

Rediscovering Led Zeppelin

As I was wondering what music to play on Friday evening, my eyes drifted towards my 4 CD set of Led Zeppeling Remastered (by Jimmy Page himself). Being a large boxed set, this one does not fit into my CD Racks. And during the course of regular household cleaning, it had slowly settled into relative obscurity behind my CD stand!

I put in the first CD into my old Philips DVD player, adjusted my Onkyo amplifier, and settled down in front of my entry level Jamo floor standing speakers. The trademark opening notes of "Whole Lotta Love" set the tone for the rest of the hour. Next up was "Heartbreaker", and as the song progressed, I was drifting closer to musical heaven. Has there ever been a more innovative group than the one composed on Robert Plan on vocals, Jimmy Page on guitar, John Paul Jones on bass and John Bonham on the drums? I don't think so. Will there ever be? I don't think so either!