Monday, 17 December 2012

Maxwell Street

Nothing's bitter everything's sweet
Let's take a ride down Maxwell Street.

Take it slow so everybody sees us
The speed limit is 20 with speed bumps
Milk bottles lay vacant by the front door
Laying waiting for the milk float.

The grass is cut and the spring is in bloom
The hayfever makes you sneeze through the roof.
And the sky even though it turns it black
Give it a few minutes for the blue to come back.

Put the car into gear, head down
as the sun shines off of our wet hair
Stop every now and then outside a girl's door
give her a wink so she wants the whole show.

Bands play in their garage
loud enough to be heard
Pass the word around
there's a party going on downtown.
Everyone's invited it's a family affair
just long enough because we care.

But the lonely are the nights
when the street lights are turned on
Its a calling card from democracy
to turn the TV on.
But that won't happen s long as we're here
we're tired of waiting for the coast to be clear.
We've got each other
an equal heartbeat lets take a long drive
down on Maxwell Street.

Venting Post - These Times of Ours

Working in the customer service industry as I do can be somewhat frustrating - the customers are always right they say, even when they are wrong; is the oldest adage in the world, but come on you cannot come to a bar and complain that the beer is too gassy as one customer did the other weekend.  That customer was female which made the complaint both depressing and mortifying at the same time.  Have a wine dear next time.

Yet the other galling thing is having to work with people of very different generations.  You are aware that the generational gap is getting larger, and the gaps more apparent than before.  When I was growing up, my parents were very aware of who was Top of the Pops mainly due to there only being four channels and the more mainstream artists being more clear cut.

Nowadays, tastes and genres change from week to week rather than year to year as it did in the mid 1990s with Britpop.  How long did Britpop last for, it seemed since the release of Oasis' second album (What's The Story) Morning Glory? until the release of their disappointing third album, Be Here Now.

Yet I worry about the youth of today and what they are actually taught in their schools.  Apart from the necessary times table and algebra which is rendered redundant by the time they leave school for the final time.  The lack of mental arithmetic ability is bewildering in the youth, I continue to watch darts not because I think they are great sportsmen, but the numbers game is playing in my head.

Yesterday, I went for lunch at Langan's Brasserie in London, this restaurant was once owned by Michael Caine.  When I told my staff members of this fact, two of them were mute to that nugget of knowledge - the pair of them both under 20 did not know who Sir Michael Caine, one of our finest actors ever who has starred in Zulu, Alfie, The Italian Job and most recently as Batman's butler, Alfred.

This incident reminded me of the time another girl years ago had never heard of Bob Dylan, if Mr.Dylan had kept his birth name of Robert Zimmermann I could understand this oversight, but my God one of the greatest wordsmiths and musicians of the 20th century has been forgotten about by a new generation.  Even I am up to date and able to tell the difference between Labrinth and Tinie Tempah, although I still get Ant and Dec mixed up.

Later that same night the bewilderment rained down, when we watched BBC Sports Personality of the Year, and the vignette for Seb Coe was playing with his IOC colleague The Princess Royal appeared on screen to speak laudly of Lord Coe.  The other worker on this evening said, 'She looks like the Queen'.

I replied, 'That's the Queen's daughter'.

'The Queen has a daughter!'

It quickly came apparent that all of the staff did not know that our Queen of 60 years had been rather busy in the bedroom and had children other than Charles.  They did not even know that she had four children in total, and then the really good question was, 'So who was Diana's Mum?'

So members of the viral generation, thought Diana was born into the royal family, I had to remind them that Diana married into royalty much like Catherine Middleton has done.  Hence why it is called a Cinderella story/romance/plot device.

The fact about the Queen's motherhood was reinforced today when two more members did not know again about her four children, and they could not name either Andrew or Edward when prompted.  Apparently, the lineage of our Queen is not taught in our schools, as is nothing of our domestic history post World War II.  Millions of children are not learning about rationing, the Suez canal crisis, the troubles in Northern Ireland and the Falklands.

More and more of these incidents and accidents, the hints and allegations (sorry I've started quoting Paul Simon's 'You Can Call Me Al' - the beauty of stream of consciousness), will become more and more often so longs as children of this viral mE generation get their head out of the phones and into some more books.

Now if only they did not keep shutting down the libraries we used to know.

Friday, 14 December 2012

Sensational construction

I once wrote a story which was too close to life.
Hidden meanings and readings unconsciously were written down.
It came out in one go a stream of thought
hoping the feelings I want are caught.
Research
Analysis
Read between the lines
Constructive criticism of what goes on in my mind.
Backdating
Updating
Keeping it straight.
Pulling it together to deliberate.
Skipping
Picking
Dipping for words.
Listening intently to what I've just heard.
Magnifying
Typing
What I just wrote
The hidden utopian
Repressions and hopes
Copying
Pasting
All at once on the screen
Avoiding
Plagarisers
Who smell the green.
Taking it slowly
One step at a time
Like a French new wave
Jump-cutting
In my mind.
Piecing a puzzle
which is all my own.
The sensationalised
Fantasised story
of a man homegrown

Time Waits

Time waits for no man
But I wait for it.
No-one knows my plans,
It's a secret.
I am growing tired
Ready for bed.

So take me and lay me,
Let me be
Careless and single
I need a drink
So take me and lay me,
Let me be

My back is aching
I need a rest
My room is tidy
I feel like a mess
My head is full
and my soul is empty

But if you take me as I am
I would happily lie down
If you lay me
by your side.
I'll feel nothing when I touch down.
Just take me and lay me
Let me be.
Careless and single,
attending AA
So lay me and leave me
I'm not worth it.

Blossoms

The blossoms bloom upon the pine
Look out my window at a quarter past five
And I see things that I've never seen before
a flat tyre on a new four by four.
The rain beats down upon the pavement below,
its falling faster harder upon the window.
Almost suddenly the clouds they clear
and the sun appears oh how so rare.
It reminds me of a smile I knew
that disappeared away from view.
And all at once the stress has gone,
it feels wonderful to see the sun
and I feel happy.

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Big East loses Identity

The Big East has suffered recently with long established names such as Syracuse and Pittsburgh leaving for the ACC, following West Virginia's migration to the Big 12 conference this year.  There is also movement of Notre Dame to the ACC in a few years, and Rutgers to the Big 10 in 2014.

The Big East, as a conference is probably more established for its College Basketball programs, but with the departure of Syracuse and Pitt, with the inevitable departure of Louisville and Conneticiut, the Big East is slowly turning into the Big Sleep.  A conference that is losing relevance and is so snatching up schools that will jump at any carrot dangled in front of them.

The news on Tuesday (27th Nov) that they have added Tulane and East Carolina to the football Big East conference, has been met with some guffaws and feint praise. The two schools join in 2014, giving them 13 football members - UConn, Louisville, South Florida, Cincinnati, along with recent additions Temple, Boise State, San Diego State, UCF, Southern Miss, Memphis, Houston, Tulane and East Carolina.

That makes it 9 former Conference USA teams, two former Mountain West teams and a former Mid-American conference (MAC) member.

The Big East should just eat up all of C-USA and call itself that.  The reach of the schools across much of the midwest reaching towards California with San Diego State, makes them the Big Eat - a conference that gorges on other teams.  Boise State were due to be on a larger stage, but to go Eastwards instead of the Pac 12 means that the schools are just as bad as the conferences, taking up whatever money they can.

Most schools in C-USA get $750,000 each with their television deal, the prospective numbers for the Big East make it closer to $8m each; so who is fooling who is leading who here. All these schools are simply moving to the Big East for a bigger cut of the pie, the Big East is negotiating a new television deal and stressing on bigger markets in Philadelphia, Dallas and New Orleans

What is gained and who wins here? Tulane are nothing special, this season in C-USA they ended 2-10 (2-6 C-USA), both wins came against conference opponents vs SMU 27-26 and UAB 55-45, two teams that ended up 0-12 and 3-9 respectively.  Amazingly SMU jumped to the Big East first.

As for East Carolina, they have a better football program and are only joining for football in 2014; finishing 8-4 and 7-1 in conference, there only loss coming to UCF Knights who will play Tulsa in the C-USA championship on Saturday.  There pedigree is reads much better and will certainly improve with the added income, which is what such re-alignment is for.  However, conferences must always carry deadwood in certain sports.

Conference re-alignment is an understatement, surely conference rebranding is a better turn of phrase for the comings and goings of universities and schools moving from one conference to another under the pretence of joining a bigger and better conference.

Check out my writing at www.1amsports.com
Follow me on twitter @JamieGarwood

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Thoughts on Mark Hughes

When you have two teams in early November who have not yet won a League game play each other, you think one side will take the bull by the horns and win the game given the opposition is as bad as you have been.

Watching the QPR game on Sunday afternoon however, you had two sides who have forgotten how to win a game.  Not without trying though, Reading were given a 4 goal head start against Arsenal during a League Cup tie and yet they failed to see the game out losing 7-5 in extra time.

Yet Reading have played some good stuff, they are full of tenacious individuals who you feel would throw themselves under the bus for Brian McDermott, who is not in a position of untenable pressure.  The expectations at Reading are more realistic than the tenants of Loftus Road.

For some reason, the owner of QPR, Tony Fernandes believes that the Hoops can be the next big noise in London and on a European stage.  Yet this is a side who four years ago were in the Championship - sacking managers left right and centre and until Neil Warnock was employed did the side get the much needed stability and eventual Championship title triumph resulting in a return to the Premier League.

In the first season back QPR suffered with these expectations, Warnock was deemed to be surplus to requirements.  Adel Taarabt who was talismanic during the the title campaign, was found out by Premier League's better defences and his own attitude problems did not help.

Now QPR have had a revolving door policy to talent, if we can find someone who is available and on paper you will be replaced.  Robert Green left West Ham hoping for a more lucrative contract, which he was given, yet is now warming the bench due to the signing of Julio Cesar from Inter Milan.  Tough choice to pick between a Champions League winner or an England international flop, although Cesar has been anything but solid lately, twice flapping at crosses/shots that led to conceding crucial goals.

However, for me the problem stems with the management.  Mark Hughes is the atypical mercenary manager, he has never stuck out a job.  His longest job was his first, when he managed Wales during 1999-2004 and nearly led them to qualifying for a major tournament for the first time since 1958 when he managed such talent as Ryan Giggs, Craig Bellamy, Robbie Savage yet he did not see them through.

Next was Blackburn Rovers where he led them to their best Premier League finish of 7th in 2007-08 (a position they have never returned to), and yet here was the first inklings of people's impression of Hughes changing. Every season he was in charge at Ewood Park, Rovers finished bottom of the fair play league.  A position QPR are sitting in now, as they have a player sent off every other game.  The red card away at Arsenal cost them a point, although Hughes is always quick to blame the referee.  When neutral observers would state that when you are bottom the rub of the green is never there for you.

Hughes left Blackburn for Manchester City during the summer of 2008 and was in charge until December 2009, when he was sacked for Roberto Mancini.  Hughes was in place when the money from the Saudis arrived and he signed players who are very much the spine of Mancini's side - Gareth Barry, Carlos Tevez, Joleon Lescott and he made the decision to start Joe Hart over Shay Given.  So perhaps the most influence Hughes has had is over another side to this day.

Next he joined Fulham in July 2010 after seven months of unemployment, he left Fulham after just one season although he gained them European qualification saying he wanted to further his experience. This upset Mohammed Al-Fayed, who judged Hughes to be a flop and a strange man.

The judgement of Hughes' managerial style is the same accusation that was levelled at Glenn Hoddle, a brilliantly gifted footballing individual capable of anything on the football field in terms of skill and invention; yet he is unable to shepherd similar youthful talent.  Remember QPR were very nearly relegated at the end of last season, even though they were sitting somewhat comfortably when Hughes replaced Warnock in January of this year.

The inability to communicate with players leads to a manager signing too many players, unable to get consistency in terms of selection and performance from his side.  You can imagine Hughes becoming bullish and frustrated with his players who are unable to fulfil the simplest tasks, remember the stories of Hoddle showing off his ability to pinpoint passes of 60 yards onto someone's toe or scoring ridiculous free-kicks.

Hughes own personal ability and ambition has never been in doubt, yet his unique way of communicating or lack thereof renders his head definitely on the block and probably two or three games away from the billionaire owner losing his patience and getting a better, more high profile manager in.  Hughes joined QPR because the money was good, and the players would sign for big pay cheques.  Maybe he is learning that it is hard to motivate lesser than good players who are being paid handsomely.

Thursday, 1 November 2012

A Tale of Two Refs

On Sunday, in the world of sport, the image of impartial refereeing took quite a hit on both sides of the Atlantic.

Almost immediately, after the live coverage of the game between Chelsea and Manchester United ended on Super Sunday, the accusations started flying in the direction of referee Mark Clattenburg who was said to have used 'inappropriate language' towards two different Chelsea players.  The fact that the complaint by Chelsea was done so quickly after the game to the match delegate is quite startling.  Nevermind, the controversy already caused by Clattenburg's decision to send off a second Chelsea player - Fernando Torres - for a contentious second caution, for simulation.  Also, Manchester United's third and winning goal scored by Javier Hernandez was scored from an offside position.

Chelsea, did well to get back from a 2-0 deficit to gain parity with the Red Devils, yet Branislav Ivanovic was sent off for a professional foul on Ashley Young when denying a clear goal-scoring opportunity.  Not much complaint with that one, but then soon after the game descended into chaos following the Torres' dismissal just five minutes after the first one.

The complaint aimed at Clattenburg insinuates he called Jon Obi Mikel a monkey and he also called Spanish international, Juan Mata, a 'Spanish t**t'.  The latter complaint has since been dropped, with Chelsea focusing on the racism charge.

What makes the matter murky is the act of Chelsea bringing independent lawyers to state their case leaves them exposed to a libel suit if the evidence proves unfounded.  The only people who know what was said are the three assistants to Clattenburg - Simon Long, Michael McDonough, Mike Jones - who are all wired up to converse to each other throughout the game; yet these conversations are not recorded.

The failure to be transparent - unlike say rugby union, rugby league and American football - which has miked up officials whose comments to and with players are broadcast to main television rights holder, is a mistake by the English Premier League, which remains a global brand and highly representative sport not just for the sport but for our nation.  As a man in black myself at weekends, I would welcome the need for the conversations to be recorded, why have something like that in the first place if it cannot be a black box like equipment, but the need to broadcast to the spectators is something that is not manageable in this day and age, the pace of the game is too fast to slow it down by having the match referee explain himself.

Take a look at Lee Mason in Wednesday night's League Cup match between Chelsea and Manchester United - he had two penalties, one penalty appeal not given, and a yellow card for a foul that looked like it denied a clear goal-scoring opportunity.  Would Mr. Mason (who was brilliant by the way) have to explain only the decisions given and not the ones he does not - that is why the non-verbal signals are utilised and have been for over 100 years.

Then you look at the NFL on Sunday when the Pittsburgh Steelers defeated the Washington Redskins, a Redskins defender DeAngelo Hall was ejected from the game for getting into the face of a head linesman Dana McKenzie, whom Hall thought should have thrown a flag for a personal foul on Hall by Emanuel Sanders of the Steelers.

Visually what the people saw was Hall totally losing his cool screaming in the face of McKenzie, prompting the ejection.  This is a worry for the Redskins defence as the threat is that an additional suspension may be served by Hall of one game, yet Hall has come out fighting stating that McKenzie baited Hall by talking smack or jawing off himself prompting Hall's reaction.  Hall is looking for video evidence to back up his statement, and says respect is a two way street.

In this instance, much like Clattenburg, it is hard to believe an experienced proven match official would say anything derogatory or profane in the direction of the player.  The beauty of the NFL is that players play in helmets, so their body language speaks volumes on the field of play, the mistake Hall did was take the helmet off when arguing.  In this combat sport, like in hockey when players throw down their gloves, the helmet removal can be construed as 'Let's go punk!' Hall just did not have the presence of mind to realise he was facing an official, you expect more of a defensive leader and a 29 year old man.

Now a porous Redskins defence must do without one of their better defensive players.  Another question can be where were Hall's team-mates to drag him from this provocative scene, look at the fellow referees of McKenzie's crew who back him swiftly.

It may appear on face value to have been a bad week PR-wise for match officials of two different sports, but under the helmet and off the field of play.  Yet what it occurs to be is two situations when heavily paid professional athletes crying wolf the minute the boot is on the other foot.

That last sentence is not condoning the use of the word 'monkey' towards a black player by Mr.Clattenburg is found to be true, yet it appears to be the height of hyprocrisy from Hall if he takes offence from an official when professional players call the referee all manner of things and said officials must then remain tight-lipped and endure the ordeal of doing something they love.

Follow me on twitter @JamieGarwood

Lonely at the Top

Highly respected French football journalist, Philippe Auclair who wrote the regarded autobiography of Eric Cantona, The Rebel Who Would Be King - returns with another tome on another French footballer who split opinion with his genius and gifts. Auclair this time focuses on Thierry Henry, the most prolific goalscorer in Arsenal football history.

From the front cover you get a close-up portrait of Mr.Henry which like the photo of Andre Agassi on his award-winning biography Open is very non-commital like the Mona Lisa - is Henry smiling or is he a little bit put out by doing this photo shoot?

Auclair takes as his thrust a way to dissect the inner psyche of a wounded genius; liking Henry to an artist who thought too much for his art and was never really understood.  This goes in contrast to the public image of Henry, especially during his glory years of Arsenal, when he bestrode many Premier League pitches as a master of his craft.  Henry shared with Cantona, that outward French arrogance of knowing he was really really good - Auclair has a great memory, this reviewer had forgotten the free-kick Henry had scored at Wigan when he scored looked at the referee - who had asked for a retake of the previous goal-bound effort - and asked, 'Is that good enough?' - a mixture of superiority and theatricality.  For fans of Arsenal, reading this book will be like recalling all your favourite Christmases.

Tellingly, too often in this day and age the stars of today are just that.  Fans of football only care about the here and now, fans are unaware of a player's route to glory, the hard road travelled.  Too often it is a matter of what are you doing for me now.  Just look at Chelsea, Didier Drogba has left and the fans have replaced him in their hearts with Eden Hazard and/or Oscar; the revolving door of football celebrity endorses this.

Henry is rightfully acclaimed as one of Arsenal's great players; he was the great goalscorer that came after Ian Wright.  He replaced Nicolas Anelka who left Arsenal fans heartbroken having won the double, yet he straddled two great sides.  Henry led the line of the side defended by the famous back five of Seaman, Dixon, Bould/Keown, Adams and Winterburn; and then was the fulcrum of the Invincibles in the 2003/04 season who won the league without losing a game, a first for the Premier League.

Auclair shows you all of Henry's stories, his father's journey from the West Indies (this reviewer presumed Henry's genetics laid in Northern Africa), the gift that was apparent in youth football, winning the World Cup in 1998 as a teenager and then the dismal World Cup showings in 2002 in Korea/Japan and ending on a sour note in South Africa 2010.

The only gripe of this book is the general tone of a genius misunderstood, Thierry Henry is one of those rare players who was highly respected from all corners of the globe, beloved by fans of the game so to set him out as woe is me individual who is misrepresented by his on pitch persona, marks him out as something akin to a Hollywood star or Broadway thespian, is it any surprise that Henry's career is ending in the bright lights of New York City where he is undoubtedly the star of the MLS show.

Henry's need to be the best does not make him a misunderstood soul, it makes him much like any naturally gifted athlete a man whose ego needs massaging.  Thierry Henry won every domestic and international competition during his playing career along with personal awards, yet to paint him as an unfulfilled participant in the world's most popular sport is somewhat bittersweet.

Lonely at the Top is published by Macmillan in hardback on 8th November for £17.99RRP
Philippe Auclair has been France Football's and RMC Radio's UK football correspondent for over a decade and is a prolific freelance journalist.  He is also a regular contributor to The Blizzard and Champions magazine.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Film Africa 2012 preview

Film Africa 2012 is the UK's largest annual festival of African cinema and culture, stemming from all four corners of the huge continent.  Covering all walks of life and interests such as Wrestling Grounds (Cheikh Ndiaye, Senegal) about a teenager seduced by the world of wrestlers and The Beautiful Game (Victor Buhler, UK) which is a documentary on the transcendent power of football in Africa.

The festival takes place from November 1st to 11th and features 27 premieres at 7 different venues (Hackney Picturehouse, The Ritzy, Rich Mix, BFI Southbank, South London Gallery, Screen on the Green, Picha House) from across the continent highlighting themes of elections, democracy as in An African Election which is Jarreth Merz's stirring documentary about the 2008 Ghanian electoral race, the first one in a democratic era. (Sun 4 Nov, 18.00, Hackney)

Many of the films have won awards at festivals around the world such as Grey Matter (Kivu Ruhorahoza, Rwanda) about the shadow of Rwandan genocide and others have already received cinema releases which happened to Town of Runners (Jerry Rothwell, UK/Ethiopia) which told the story of a small town of Bekoji which is renowned for nuturing many long-distance world champions (Wed 7 Nov,18.30, Ritzy Cinema)

The most acclaimed film to come out of Africa in some time; Life, Above All which won Un Certain Regard at Cannes 2010 told the tale of a twelve year old Chanda who has to fight the prejudice of HIV infection (Sun 4 Nov, 15.50, Hackney)

Personally, it is pleasing to see a screening of Material on the opening night to the public, 2nd Nov at Hackney Picturehouse, this film has garnered great acclaim at the London Film Festival last week and features a great cast, one of which Vincent Ebrahim (The Kumars at No.42) will be in attendance for a Q&A after the film which starts at 18.15.  Material is one of the funniest cross-generational, cross-cultural films produced in some time, in fact it is one of the funniest films made in some time putting most American specialists to shame.

Do take the opportunity to go and see some of the most thought-provoking films made in recent years, there is something for everyone in a very mixed bag.

For more information log on at www.filmafrica.org.uk and follow on twitter @FilmAfrica #FilmAfrica2012.

LFF 2012: Material

Craig Freimond's second feature length production Material stars Riaad Moosa and Vincent Ebrahim in the cross-generational story of a young man, Cassim (Moosa) who does not want to follow in the footsteps of his father, Ebrahim (Ebrahim) in their fabric shop in Fordsburg, Johannesburg and instead take on the career option of stand up comedy.

Freimond comes from a theatrical background and this in unison with Moosa's autobiographical tale of leaving his medical career for the same stand-up pathway, provides the foundation for the screenplay of this South African production.

The tone of the film is handled expertly between the dramatic conflict of a son refusing to follow in the tradition of his father and instead strike off for independence; and the laugh-out loud content of Cassim's set which takes the mickey out of his culture and religion ('When Europe had a swine flu scare, they all avoided pigs. We've been avoiding pigs for years!') and yet coming up with a catchphrase for all Indian people who are arriving late - 'Where are you?' 'I'm fifteen minutes away bra!'

At the start, Cassim seems happy but slowly and surely we see more and more of his nocturnal life, as if he is living a double life away from the prison of the Islamic household.  We also learn more of Ebrahim's history and why he comes across as so tyrannical, stemming from a long argument with his more affluent and successful brother who owns a fabric shop in the more prosperous Oriental Plaza a stone's throw from Ebrahim's shopping precinct.

Cassim also has a cousin Yusuf (Joey Rasdien) a typical comic supporting character - overweight, a bit thick but who has a quick put down similar to McLovin in Superbad; if you were to paint his silhouette you would remember him.  The dialogue between Rasdien and Moosa is at time so funny, it puts Hollywood bromances to shame with its intellect and quick wit.

The film even allows itself a romantic sub-plot when Cassim gets the thunderbolt (like Al Pacino in The Godfather) for Zulfa (Carishma Basday) a beautiful woman who has blossomed from the ugly duckling into quite the swan for Cassim to dote over.

The film's script which was partly improvised by the cast is dealt with admirably and goes against the grain on  occasion, such as when Ebrahim witnesses Cassim's first set at The Attic comedy club.  In Hollywood, this scene would have been handled differently, for example Cassim would have seen his father and frozen on stage (this does happen though later), instead Ebrahim has to feel the shame of (in his eyes) the blasphemous content whilst the arc of Cassim's development and growth as a comedian is seen for all its glory.  He gets laughs from all creeds and colours, showing the universal appeal of his material.

Keen eyed observers will feel the film is reminiscent of the notable British film East is East from 1999, however, whereas that film had a much darker subtext of domestic abuse this film is more focused on the generational battle and the rebuilding of burnt down bridges, as enforced by the matriarchal grandmother.

Like most dramedies the film's final act is prone to the sentimental finale, yet the joy of the characters and the conviction of the actor's performances allow us to become misty eyed for a good reason.  The ending does not feel forced, nor inevitable due to the universal pull of the story - the scene where Ebrahim's wife and Cassim's mother Fatima (Denise Newman) walks out of the fabric shop shortly after Cassim has, is quite moving in its less is more execution.  A plea for acceptance, a denial and then a walk out is evokes an amazing amount of emotion from such a small scene.

Material has enjoyed an amazing box-office run in its homeland of South Africa, and with the quality of the comedy being so good, the film should do well in foreign territories starting here in the UK where a large audience awaits it.

It received its UK premiere at the recent London Film Festival, and will be screening at Film Africa 2012 (@FilmAfrica #FilmAfrica2012) on Friday 2nd November at the Hackney Picturehouse followed by a Q&A with the star Vincent Ebrahim.

Let Fury Have The Hour

Antonio D'Ambrosio's social documentary borrows its title from a famous Clash lyric 'Let fury have the hour, anger can be power. You know that we can use it'

That group's leader, Joe Strummer, was a very vocal orator of social problems before his untimely death.  Strummer would approve of this new documentary by the American director.  Let Fury Have The Hour is a 90 minute film that chronicles the a generation of artists from across all spectrums (directors, musicians, comedians) and how the content of their material has altered and shifted in reaction to the politics within their subsequent cultures.

The film starts with Margaret Thatcher giving a speech to her fellow Tories at conference, and then is quickly followed by her ally Ronald Reagan doing likewise to his convention.  You fear that the film may be a little bit one-eyed but then the mixture of voices and people who either talk or shout at the camera are so vast, it feels as if you are being pummelled by various opinions all at once.  The point being that in the film, each person of the 50 or so individuals each believe we can change the world we live in if we live by what they claim to be the solution.

There in lies the problem with the film, once everyone has had their two cents of material, the film does not know in which direction it is meant to turn - should remain objective and let the comments hang in the air, or should it be like Michael Moore/Morgan Spurlock and have a message and conclusion to support the time invested in the running time by the audience.

Featuring a stirring soundtrack by those musicians who speak - Tom Morello, Chuck D of Public Enemy, Billy Bragg, Gogol Bordello, MC5 and DJ Spooky to mention a few.

Let Fury Have The Hour is having its UK premiere this Thursday 25th October at the Riverside Studios, Hammersmith at 7.30pm (£7/£5 concessions) with a live Q&A with the director Antonio D'Ambrosio to follow after the film via Skype.

www.riversidestudios.co.uk @RiversideLondon

Follow In the DocHouse on twitter @InTheDocHouse

Monday, 22 October 2012

NFL Week 7 review

Week 7 was as ever full of surprises, full of dead certs that never came off.  Its Monday morning after a NFL Sunday and twitter has blown up over Robert Griffin III's performance on the road against the New York Giants.

In a sign of things to come over the next few years in the NFC East, a rivalry has been planted between two of the most durable quarterbacks in Eli Manning and RG3.  RG3 kept the Redskins in the game, and gave them a 23-20 lead when he hooked up with Santana Moss for a 30 yard touchdown after scrambling what seemed like an eternity.  You saw the best of him when he evaded two pass rushers out of the pocket on 4th and 10, yet somehow found Logan Paulson for 19 yards which led to the Moss TD a few plays later.  RG3 was ready to celebrate his first statement win.

Yet he - and we for two minutes - forgot that he was facing two-time Superbowl winner Eli Manning who is renowned for running the two minute drill as well as anybody.  And whilst RG3 is a dynamic individual who can pretty much do anything with his offense.  RG3 cannot play defense.  Manning was able to connect with Victor Cruz for the go-ahead TD that ended the scoring at 27-23.

The Redskins might have lost the game yet they remain potentially in a wildcard race from the NFC East and right now they have the second best QB in the NFC East.  The Giants are the cream of this Eastern crop, with Manning again winning, last season they would have lost this game at home.

Time to Buc up
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers conspired to lose a game they should have won.  At home to the New Orleans Saints, the Bucs took a 21-7 point lead thanks to some great passing by Josh Freeman (who seems to get big numbers v the Saints D, then yet again who doesnt) who ended up with a career-high 420 yards and three touchdowns.  Attempting to engineer a game-tying TD drive in the dying seconds, Freeman did connect with Mike Williams to send the home fans into a frenzy, yet Williams had already stepped out of bounds and so by rule cannot be the first receiver to touch the ball.  The penalty resulted in a 35-28 victory for the now 2-4 Saints, who have won two in a row and still have something to play for.

My problem here is that the Bucs had seemed to turn the page in the summer.  They hired a new coach in Greg Schiano, who would plug a leaky defense; they made moves in the off season to get a name receiver in Vincent Jackson who had a 200+ receiving game and one TD.  Jackson should have had two, yet in a 95 yard play was tackled at the one.

The Saints then had a big goal-line stand as the Bucs went for it on fourth and goal, yet it was the play-calling that was mystifying as three times they lined up pack horse, LaGarrett Blount in the backfield and three times they handed it to him.  The Bucs were woefully guilty of naivety here, where was the invention, where was the pick and roll, where were targets Doug Martin and Jackson who went awol.

Instead of being 3-3, the Bucs are now 2-4 along with the Saints, both teams are four behind the Falcons who were on a bye and now need three more wins to tie up the division.  Admittedly, both teams have to face the Falcons twice yet the chance of gaining a wildcard is slipping away due to the impressive starts by teams in the NFC West and North.

Cameron lets down Rice
The Baltimore Ravens are seemingly a different side away from home to the team at M&T Stadium.  The Ravens went to face the only other AFC team with a winning record in the Houston Texans, who were swept aside by a rampant Aaron Rodgers last Sunday night as he threw for 6 TDs in the Texans' first game without Brian Cushing who tore his ACL.

Cam Cameron must have hit upon the idea to try and outshoot the Texans, yet in an advert for selling yourself wrongly, Joe Flacco and the Baltimore offense forgot what it was that made them good, two words: Ray Rice.  Rice was neglected in terms of momentum and usage.  During the first half, Rice had only six carries, whilst Flacco had 20 attempted throws, completing 7 and one pick six.which led to a 29-7 half-time deficit from which they could not recover.

All in all, the Texans outgunned the Ravens by 244 yards in total offense, Rice ended up with 42 yards from just 9 carries.  The Ravens are better engineering plays for Rice from the backfield - screens, tosses, runs - here they thought they could out throw the Texans.  The Texans stuck with a mix of air and rush, Arian Foster had 19 carries for 98 yards and 2 TDs.  Schaub threw 37 times. Flacco threw 43 times.

This was a bad weekend for Baltimore as the Steelers won on the road at the Bengals. Even though they were without two running backs, they stuck to their gameplan and got yardage from Dwyer (17car, 122 yards) and Big Ben threw for 278 yards.  Pittsburgh got the job done, and with the Ravens suffering terrible season-ending injuries to Ray Lewis and DeMarcius Webb, they may have got Terrell Suggs back but morle must be low at the moment.

The Pats almost sent packing
Will the real New England Patriots please stand up, as the reigning AFC champions are struggling with continuity and a lack of finesse on both sides of the ball.  The good defensive work in the first few weeks of the season is being undone by injuries to the worrying secondary, too many long balls are being executed, too many plays of 20+ yards given to receivers.

The offense are thinking they can get by on reputation alone, both tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez are not fully fit, Wes Welker is still get good yards but Brandon Lloyd is letting down his expectation levels, dropping too many passes that a man of his talent has.

Thanks to some dumb play-calling from the New York Jets offense, the defense came up with a recovered fumble to end the game and put a stake in the heart of the Jets.  The Pats sit atop the AFC East at 4-3, and own a tiebreaker over the Jets.  The Bills lost at home to the Titans, and the Dolphins had a bye.

In hindsight, this week will be a good one, yet it could have been far worse for Tom Brady and the Patriots.  Instead of packing their up their hopes of title aspirations, they pack their bags ready to travel to the United Kingdom to face the St.Louis Rams at Wembley Stadium. The Rams lost to the Green Bay Packers at home 20-30.  The Patriots may return to Boston 5-3 and feeling a lot better about themselves.

Follow me on twitter @JamieGarwood

Thursday, 18 October 2012

In Praise of...Americarnage

Americarnage is one of the most entertaining podcasts across the world wide web, a show that covers all of the American sports - NFL, NBA, College Football, NHL - and also films, politics and all things American in a show that runs for approximately one hour recorded on a weekly basis.

Starring experienced broadcasters Nat Coombs (host of C4's NFL coverage) as the anchor of the piece, with help from Mike Carlson, ubiquitous American sports specialist, with the laughs coming from 'Hollywood' Dan Louw, a stand-up comedian and produced by Harry Holgate, one of the best dial twisters in the world of audio recording.  I was granted the opportunity to sit in on a recording of the latest episode this past Tuesday (16th October) before it is uploaded onto the Americarnage website on Wednesday (www.americarnage.co.uk).

I arrive at the Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB) recording studio in Camden Town on a mild Tuesday early evening, where I meet producer, Harry Holgate, who tells me I am the first to arrive of the cast.  After offering me a coffee, Harry shows me a tour through the seven studio layout where.Americarnage will be recorded.  The show pay studio rates for the studio time, it is a freelance production under the umbrella of Nat Coombs' MeMo Interactive, with sponsorship from popular American BBQ restaurant, where customers can email the show weekly with many answered on the show.

My first question is how did the podcast originate, 'It was really an idea of Dan's to do a show about American sports, and he wanted to do a project with Nat for sometime having worked together on Channel 5 some years before.  I had gone to university with Dan, so I came on board and Nat bought Carlson to the party.  We did a pilot in December 2010, which was good and after a few weeks we started recording weekly in January 2011 and bar a few weeks off here and there for one reason or another we have done an episode every week.'

Do you have a big following? 'We are helped by Carlson having a significant amount of followers due to his work, and people like our NFL coverage which is the big draw.  We do better when the NFL season is on.' When listening the feel is very independent and off the cuff, 'And that was something we strife for, in fact ESPN America wanted to buy us out but we felt that our content would be impeded and we like the feel of our identity.'

The quality of the show is undisputable, it was nominated for Best Sports Podcast in the 2011 Podcast Awards and require more nominations for this year's awards.  Whilst they do not have the money or reach of any ESPN podcasts (Football Today, Fantasy Football), the quality and knowledge expressed in the show in regards to the sports is as good.

Yet the quality of the show are the slight imperfections on display; the on the hoof feel gives the sense that it is done in one take (which it is - with Harry editing out swear words and any sensitive material when listening back) and the fact that the host is an experienced television/radio broadcaster allows him to handle any hot topics or the possibility of Hollywood making him corpse.  Louw has quite a wit, which is sometimes lost on Carlson on numerous episodes.

With Carlson off this week, the guest is David Whitney (stand-up comedian) whose knowledge of NFL is as strong as any die hard fan, and in spite of his absence Carlson has still produced a 60 second NFL round-up of the week's action - an example of how much the show means to him. In an email I ask Carlson about the show, 'the biggest problem is reach, on C4 we can reach a hundred thousand people, many of whom aren't fans. We're always looking for ways to reach potential audience; we're better on sports than any humour site, and funnier than most sports sites.'

The strength is in the NFL coverage, where the three guys note how poor the AFC is whilst also reminding us how old Brandon Weeden is - this chemistry between seriousness and light heartedness is another facet of the show's popularity.  Instead of a strict by the book professionalism in ESPN shows, this laugh at each other, laugh at yourself mentality and the wonderful air of self-deprecation about such topics ranging from the pronunciation of croissants, Jimmy Saville and antique cottages.  It is an intelligent type of comedy where like Family Guy has a scattergun approach to humour - in this week's episode Louw/Whitney gained three minutes of material from the premise of new movie Looper.

If you have not listened to the show please attempt to do so at www.americarnage.co.uk and follow the show and stars on twitter: @Americarnage @NatCoombs @DanLouw

David Whitney's homepage is www.davidwhitney.org and his twitter handle is @dwhitters

NFL 2012 - Week 7 picks

After a brutal Pigskin Pick'em for me last week, where I scored a record low of 5 picks. I am looking to come back fighting this week - this time I am going to take note of trends such as teams returning off the bye, getting of the Arizona bus and selling the Steelers on the road.

On a bye this week: Atlanta, Denver, Miami, Kansas City, Philadelphia, San Diego

Week 7 picks
Seattle @ San Francisco - 49ers win
The 49ers will be amped for this game, and wanting to put the record straight after the flat-out embarrassing beat down laid on to them by the Giants where they lost 27-3, after having recording 600 yards the previous week.  They scored single digits last week, in a week the Raiders went to the undefeated Falcons and the Browns won their first game. Yes Seattle have been gritty at home, but in this hostile environment expect the 49ers to take care of business.

Tennessee @ Buffalo - Bills win
The Bills somehow are 3-3, and tied for first place with everyone else in the AFC East.  The Titans are a weird team, they have QB problems based around Jake Locker's injury although back-up Matt Hasselbeck had a good game versus Steelers and they got decent yardage from Chris Johnson.  If CJ wakes up expect a tight contest, although I believe the Bills have more dynamic weapons and are at home.

Cleveland @ Indianapolis - Browns win
Cleveland have their first victory, and the Colts looked really bad at home to the Jets when they gave up 161 rushing yards to Shaun Greene where he virtually walked through the D-line of the Colts at times.  Expect a better back in Trent Richardson to have some fun this week, as an improving D takes care of Luck. The emotion for the Colts in the wake of Pagano's illness was good for one game, now they are what they are, a team with a rookie QB with few other weapons at his disposal apart from Reggie Wayne.

Green Bay @ St. Louis - Packers win
Aaron Rodgers was the proverbial sleeping giant that woke up last week at Houston on Sunday night, 6 touchdowns tied a franchise record (with Matt Flynn- remember him) for 338 yards.  The Texans were due a loss and the Packers were due a statement win.  The Rams are the team with the bullseye on their chest.

Arizona @ Minnesota - Vikings win
The wheels have come off the Cardinals bandwagon with two losses in a row, last week the lose at home to Buffalo was hard to take in a game that neither team dominated.  Minnesota have been good to see as the surprise package, and with Adrian Petersen looking to eat up this failing Arizona D, this is my pick of the week, and lock.

Washington @ New York Giants - Giants win
RG3 was phenomenal considering the hit he took in Week 5, yet the Giants D-line are slowly waking up following some tentative games.  Eli Manning is quietly going about his business and getting returns from Nicks and Cruz, as well as Bradshaw.  This would be a big test for the Redskins' credentials, yet the Giants are always able to eke out these tight divisional encounters.

New Orleans @ Tampa Bay - Saints win
The Saints come off their bye week after gaining their first win of the season as Drew Brees set a new record of 48 consecutive games with a thrown TD. Expect him to continue that record this week, as a fresh Saints side go to division rivals Tampa, who are hot and cold and indicative of an inconsistent week.  The key is Josh Freeman who threw for 328 yards last week, but rarely does he follow it up with another big week.

Dallas @ Carolina - Panthers win
The Panthers are also coming off a bye week, whilst the Cowboys again snapped defeat from the jaws of victory versus the Ravens.  Dallas have also an injury worry over DeMarco Murray who gained 93yds on Sunday, this is a big loss for the Cowboys as Tony Romo still makes mistakes.  Carolina meanwhile will feel refreshed after the week off, especially Cam Newton who will be eager to make a better first impression for this season.

Baltimore @ Houston - Texans win
The only two teams in the AFC with winning records face each other in a great match-up.  The Texans will be seeking to bounce back and this is a bigger game for the Ravens, as with all the injuries sustained to Ray Lewis and Ladarius Webb is just bad luck, especially to face an offensive juggernaut like the Texans with Foster, Johnson, Daniel at Matt Schaub's disposal.

Jacksonville @ Oakland - Raiders win
Jacksonville are coming off a bye but are still bad, Oakland ran the undefeated Falcons pretty close causing Ice Ryan to melt under pressure and Darren McFadden is creating great productivity.  The Jags have to travel cross-country and the Raiders will be wanting to close a game out.

New York Jets @ New England - Patriots win
The game of the week because Rex Ryan says it is, this should be a classic.  The Jets are seemingly clicking, getting the best out of Tebow in wildcat/trick plays; yet if it becomes a shoot-out between Sanchez and Brady, expect the former to have more mistakes and succumb to pressure from Chandler Jones up the gut, who is having a great rookie season.

Pittsburgh @ Cincinnati - Bengals win
This is a tough one to call and I am sure the NFL wish they could flex the schedule as on paper this looks an awful contest.  The Steelers are 0-3 on the road, the Bengals are 3-3 and need to win these big divisional games to be considered a play-off team and with the Ravens being rattled by injuries, one of these times need to step up.  The Steelers have doubts from their running backs, and not getting much from their receiving core.  This is the Bengals time.

Detroit @ Chicago - Bears win
Monday Night Football is a beauty, and a chance for the Bears to flex their offensive muscles.  The Lions were fortuitous to defeat a wayward Eagles, the Bears had their feet up for two weeks.  Their defence is riding high at the moment, forcing turnovers and scoring touchdowns from offense, defence and Devon Hestor has not scored a return TD yet, could this be the evening. The Bears will win and stay one ahead of the Pack(ers)

Follow me on twitter @JamieGarwood for NFL updates




DundeeNFL Dynasty League review

In mid-August I was given a tweet by my friend, Dan Ferdinand (@danferdinand) who asked if I was up to joining an NFL fantasy league.  I had experienced Fantasy football for the first time proper last season on the nfl.com website, I enjoyed some success winning the Plate final, but for a first year rookie I was chuffed.

Joining a Fantasy football league changes your entire outlook on the viewing experience of the NFL. Instead of focusing solely on one team and division, for me the New England Patriots and AFC East; you change into this sponge of information and knowledge.  Your depth and recognition of names and statistics become huge; you watch injury reports, waiver wires.

For the first time this season, I pay attention to the inactives report on Sunday afternoon, for example, if Greg Jennings is out for the Green Bay Packers (which is becoming as frequent as Darren Anderton on the treatment table) then you know a different Packer WR/TE will get more targets.  You also pay attention to who scores which teams touchdowns, for instance Ben-Jarvus Green-Ellis does the horse cart work for the Cincinnati Bengals yet does not get the touchdown figures.

The league Dan asked me join was the Dundeenfl Dynasty league, set up by four gents from Dundee, Scotland (Ian, John, Russell, Martin) along with some other friends and wives.  Dan also asked if my brother, Sean would want to join.  Sean is always game for a challenge but more on that later.

For the first time I had to do my pre-draft rankings, ranking the top 200 players in my opinion based on total points expected for the season.  This may seem a trivial and silly matter based on us being unable to see injuries and momentum shifts.  For example, who knew that the Colts coach would be diagnosed with leukeamia or that Ray Lewis would injury his triceps and ruin his season.

It becomes more prevalent when the draft order comes out, of which I was ranked #1 overall.  This is a blessing and a curse, and led to much debate between myself and Dan about who should I take first - Tom Brady (my golden boy) or Aaron Rodgers (the reigning MVP).  Being 1st overall, means you are last in the 2nd round, so you get picks 1, 20, 21, 40, 41. The draft is electrifying and a brilliant night as you pick things on the fly, as people are swiped from you.  Twice I break Dan's heart by stealing the aforementioned BJGE Law Firm and Rashard Mendenhall (Pittsburgh) for two of my RBs along with rookie Doug Martin of Tampa Bay.

As for my brother, I sat with him when he did his rankings, I laughed as he picked the Patriots defence in the top 50. And other names like Randy Moss, Dennis Pitta, Reggie Bush all appeared in his top 100.  These names would be lower on people's boards, and to make the draft night funnier, Sean was out on the night so his draft was automatic and yet he ended up getting those he wanted - Tom Brady fell to him 4th overall, he got Moss, Pitta, Bush and a steal in Jamal Charles (Chiefs).  Sean sits 4-2 after six games.  I sit 1-5, with my tail somewhat between my leagues although the figures show I have been unlucky.  Here are the facts:

Week 1 - Team Garwood 111.12 (0-1) lost to Forrester's Flayers (Martin) 122.56 (1-0)
Usually if you score close to 90 points you are good for a win, so imagine how I feel.  I have Rodgers(22.82) who lost to the 49ers, yet Martin has two high scorers in Matt Ryan (32.46) a great pick after 6 weeks obviously.  I get some good production but seem to get less TD scores from my receivers, and my pick of Greg Jennings (3.40) and his persistent injuries will be a show of things to come.

Week 2 - Team Garwood 63.96 (0-2) lost to Gronk if your horny (Ian) 111.54 (2-0)
My second consecutive Dundee opponent, and I get my arse handed to me.  Rodgers (10.16) loses to RG3 (30.44) in a huge mismatch.  Rodgers played the Bears and was intercepted, you need to have a QB who can avoid turnovers, maybe I should have checked the schedule better for Rodgers.  RG3 is a fantasy monster, 200+ yards passing and 80+ yards rushing and a rushing TD. My receiving core again fails me, not helped by the injury sustained by Aaron Hernandez (0.00) before he can register a reception, and Robert Meachem (0.00) getting nothing.  No-one on my bench would have saved me.  Ian also had Marshawn Lynch (18.20) and Reggie Wayne (13.10)

Week 3 - Team Garwood 91.72 (0-3) lost to Mistake on the lake (Simon) 109.22 (2-1)
Rodgers is getting on my tits, 10.62 versus the Seahawks in that infamous replacement ref game.  I lose to Andrew Luck (23.52) who is having a great first year.  My highest scorer is the Bears Defence (23.00) who beat the Giants D (16.00), but the receiving core curse continues.  Greg Jennings (3.5) and Jacob Tamme (3.1) are low scorers and the loss of Hernandez for a few weeks will be massive.  Yet Santonio Holmes (14.7) is good, but no TD costs me a victory.

Week 4 - Team Garwood 90.96 (0-4) lost to Gants Hill Raiders (Dan) 112.92 (4-0)
In a clash of Hogan v the Rock, undefeated beats unwinnable.  I face the man who brought me to the party. and despite Rodgers (28.06) winning the QB showdown versus Peyton Manning (25.47), Rodgers is guilty of one turnover that costs me points that could have won the game.  Dan gets great numbers from Brandon Lloyd (11), AJ Green (17.7) and Gronkowski (14.4). Something is wrong when my second highest scorer is my D (24.00) and my third highest is my kicker Matt Prater (15.00).  I am still scoring high though and I am competing, I need injuries to go my way and good things can happen.

Week 5 - Team Garwood 92.10 (0-5) lost to Brown Bears 109.34 (Holly) (5-0)
Excuses are for losers, but at 0-5 the excuses are the only things to have.  Santonio Holmes has gone on the IR with a Lisfranc injury and I lose to a girl, who forgets to fill two bye players and she still beats me.  Rodgers (25.10) outscores her QB Cam Newton (7.84) easily, yet unlike me she gains valuable points from her receivers, Marques Colston (31.10 - 131 yards, 3 TDs) and Victor Cruz (23.00, 50 yards, 3TDs).  My highest receiver is Jacob Tamme (5.00, 50 yards). At least Mendenhall is back, and the Bears defence keep scoring pick 6s which help me to 28.00, yet they are having a bye next week.

Week 6 - Team Garwood (70.54) (1-5) beat Team Epping FC 54.00 (4-2)
Break out the bubbly, I win a game.  Yet how do I win without a defence, and by dropping my quarterback Aaron Rodgers.  I dropped him as I thought against the Texans he might suffer, yet 6 TDs later teach me a lesson.  I picked Philip Rivers who scored 5.64 with 4 INTs and two fumbles.  Finally though I gain numbers from receivers, Jeremy Maclin (19.00), promoted Denarius Moore (16.40) and Doug Martin (13.10), whilst my brother got my curse with only one player in double digits, Brady (19.80), his next highest scorer is Reggie Bush and he gets no receiving/rushing TD from his team.

How I won, I do not know. But its my first and like Cleveland Browns I can smell a sea change and division title coming.  How I won, scoring my second lowest point total is bizarre.  Yet like the NFL for real, parity is here to stay and consistency is so inconsistent.

Check back with me over the next few weeks for fantasy updates.
Follow me on twitter @JamieGarwood for all NFL updates.
Follow @DundeeNFL and visit their website www.dundeeNFL.com where you can read about them and also listen to their excellent 4th & Out podcast which is both funny and enlightening.

Thursday, 11 October 2012

England v San Marino Preview

Roy Hodgson is at the start of his first tournament qualification experience with England.  Having experienced a tournament proper without the burden of slugging through deepest darkest away days, he is sampling over the next five days the best and worst of international football.

On Friday night in front of a full house Wembley Stadium, Hodgson will be sending his team out to score goals goals goals against the feeble San Marino, who have not scored in four years and not won since their only international victory against Liechenstein in 2004.  Along with Bhutan and the Turks & Caicos Islands, San Marino are the lowliest ranked country under the umbrella of FIFA.

Hodgson must send out a team who firstly will find the game a test and be motivated to compete against semi-professional footballers.  Hopefully the home crowd can help suck the ball into the net.  However, like any England manager, Hodgson has to contend with selection headaches.  Already deprived of Steven Gerrard and Glen Johnson through suspension; you can now add Frank Lampard (knee) and Ryan Bertrand (throat) to that list, as well as the ongoing furore surrounding Ashley Cole's supposed punishment for his tweeting against the FA last week.

Hodgson also lost captain John Terry to international retirement yet has gained newly installed captain, Wayne Rooney to the side after he missed the Macedonia/Ukraine games owing to the large gash he suffered on his left leg.

So what should Hodgson do with his formation?  The loss of both Gerrard and Lampard has deprived Hodgson a chance to look at one without the other following on from another dismal performance together at home to Ukraine.  This may give Tom Cleverley a chance to cement a position in the side, or alternatively allow Rooney himself to play off a front man such as Welbeck where he can gather the ball from clubmate Cleverley or Carrick and dictate play with his enthusiasm and zeal.

Who should play up front with Rooney, or in front of him?  Club mate Danny Welbeck has a good partnership with Rooney as the start of last season showed, yet the purchase of Robin Van Persie at Old Trafford has meant less starts for Welbeck who often plays on the wing coming into play rather than an out and out forward meaning a dip in form.  Perhaps Andy Carroll is the answer, returning from a hamstring injury, a 60 minute burst against the minnows of Marino where his height and strength will be overbearing may be the right result.  Then just when they have seen the back of that man mountain on comes the wily Jermain Defoe who is scoring consistently for Tottenham, and is known for scoring late junk goals in one-sided defeats against tired defenders.

But what of the wings, should he play both Alex Oxlaide-Chamberlain and Theo Walcott from the start to bomb down both wings and offer support alongside Welbeck/Carroll with Rooney sitting deeper.  Personally, the sight of Carroll nodding headers down for free runners will be a good one and a certain amount of variety to proceedings.

As for the defence it picks itself right now owing to Terry's withdrawal, yet I would be prone to rest Ashley Cole and play the more in form, Leighton Baines of Everton who is in a rich vein of form and offers quality from set pieces and can get forward when necessary.  As does his right back counterpart Kyle Walker who is full of attacking threat but does not refuse to defend, unlike Johnson.

Suggested starting XI: Hart - Walker, Lescott, Jagielka, Baines - Carrick, Cleverley, Rooney - Walcott, Carroll, Oxlaide-Chamberlain

Follow me on twitter: @JamieGarwood

Monday, 8 October 2012

LFF 2012: Keep the Lights On




Ira Sachs directs and co-wrote the screenplay for this semi-autobiographical tale about a destructive same-sex relationship set in the 1990s of New York city.

When we first meet Sachs' surrogate Erik (played tenderly by Thure Lindhardt) he is on a party-line hoping to hook up with random strangers in the city.  Erik encounters Paul (Zachary Booth) on one of these nights and there is an instant connection between the two; Paul however is a closeted homosexual and with his girlfriend.  Erik persists though and slowly the intense bond between the two leads to Paul's coming out , however, Paul has a strong drug habit that descends into addiction.

Erik also has his personal problems, he is a documentary filmmaker who is struggling to get funding and will not use his family's money to help cultivate his work, instead focus on outside funding.  Cleverly, Sachs chose to depict himself as a foriegner, to give that added dimension of foreignness as otherness.  Erik is the extreme outsider in New York - gay, foreign and out of work, but Lindhardt's performance full of doe-eyed innocence is a pleasing one, he is a soul in search of love, yet ignorant of the hurt he has to go through to get it.

At times the relationship is depicted with raw intensity that can be unsettling.  Paul's habit to disappear due to his drug habit culminates in the highlight of his downfall when he ends up in a plush Manhattan hotel during a cocaine binge.  Erik visits hoping to persuade Paul to come back to their house; yet Paul is too far gone and we witness Paul sleep with a rent boy whilst Erik is in the next room, Erik even goes to the length of watching as if to comfort Paul during his waywardness.

These moments albeit expertly performed by the actors, left this reviewer at times cold and numb from the lack of awareness in Paul's character in his own plight and the harm he causes Erik.  Erik wins a prestigious documentary award, yet he does not seem to make another film whilst is in the relationship, therefore the choice that Erik has to make should be easy and yet the sense of frustration in this depiction is palpable.

Thumbs up for the acting and bravery of depicting a passionate relationship helped by an evocative soundtrack by late New York composer Arthur Russell, but thumbs down for making Erik seem like such a fool in love.

Keep the Lights On is released from Peccadillo Pictures - which released Weekend from the 2011 London Film festival - on DVD today January 28th

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Berberian Sound Studio

Peter Strickland turned many heads in 2008 with his debut feature, Kaitlin Varga, a film that premiered at the Berlinale and was memorable for the bold use of naturalistic lighting throughout the production of a film that was in essence a rape revenge thriller.

Strickland has comeback to the fold with an even bolder and more ambitious project, but this time produced at Three Mill Studios in West London.  Strickland was teaching English as a foreign language in Hungary, and found money for his first feature by using his family's inheritance.  This time he has found backing through the UK Film Council and Film4 for this his second feature.

Strickland has written a piece about Gilderoy (Toby Jones - in a rare leading role) an English foley artist, who has been transported to somewhere in Italy to work on post-production of a giallo horror picture directed by Santini (Antonio Mancino) where he works under the watchful eye of producer Francisco (Cosimo Fusco) a man who would love to be in charge but does not have the vision.

From the off, Gilderoy is on the back foot.  An Englishman in a foreign land without a grasp of the native language, he is told to be more polite and courteous to his hosts.  Santini is affronted by the notion of Gilderoy stating the generic context of the film, 'Never call my picture a horror picture.  It is a Santini picture.' as he angles for authorial residency alongside Dario Argento to whom this is an audiovisual love letter.

Strickland does wonderful things with his script, we never get to see any of the actual filmed footage of The Equestrian Vortex ('I thought it was about horses?') instead we are treated to actors screaming on cue adding additional dialogue to the scenes, seeing in their eyes the colours as they watch the footage back.  Strickland also employs two mute technicians as the worker bees who do all the destruction and damage to create the bludgeonings, stabbings and burnings that occur in the studio.

Slowly however, the wheels start to come off the post-production process as the director Santini attempts to bed an actress, Silvia (Fatma Mohamed) which ends in sabotage.  This leads to them re-hiring and again messing up the process, apparently it was hard to find a solid screamer in mid-1970s Italy.

Gilderoy also slowly descends into a period of depression and alienation prompted by the letters sent to him by his Mother in regard to some birds in his garden shed.  Gilderoy usually works alone in said shed, so working in a much bigger studio is a big deal for his career, yet he is one of these humdrum button-downed Englishmen who are scared to spread his wings himself, much like the baby birds his mother has found in his garden.

Whilst the film is expertly produced in terms of sound design, and visually stunning thanks to the work of Nick Knowland cinematography; yet there are at times lots of ideas in the film that are never fully pursued.  The motif of a spider in Gilderoy's apartment leads him to look at something from his window, something which we never see; the repeated pictures of rotting fruit lead to nothing in general apart from fresher fruit being added to the pile and Gilderoy's numerous attempts to gain reimbursement for his flight is somewhat shot down by the insinuation that the flight never existed - why is this, does this make our Englishman a liar, or worse a madman who is not who he says he is.

A lot of these narrative threads are either tossed aside too quickly or rashly dealt with to maintain a short running time - itself a mystery as the first hour does seem to drag in spite of the evocative beauty of the piece in general.  The third act which brings us Gilderoy being dubbed in Italian and with the film breaking into a piece about Surrey fields, is somewhat unwanted and distracting.

This is a shame as the film is masterly put together by Strickland with a lot of faithfulness and respect to the slowly forgotten art of sound editing and design.  Yet the ending comes somewhat abruptly with Gilderoy staring at nothing in particular, meaning that the sound editor is probably just as blind as all.

Berberian Sound Studio is out now on limited release from Artificial Eye

Monday, 24 September 2012

Casa de Lava

The erstwhile Portugese director, Pedro Costa's second feature length film Casa de Lava is released by Second Run DVD today.

Marianna (Ines de Medeiros) is a nurse who escorts a comatose Leao (Isaach de Bankole) from Portugal to his homeland of the Cape Verde Islands.  When they arrive, she is practically dumped by the helicopter pilots who leave her to return to an undisclosed war.  They eventually get moved to a hospital, but no-one will claim Leao stating that no-one knows him.  

While Leao lays asleep Marianna wanders around the volcanic island, slowly becoming mesmerised by the people and the sights.  Most notably she revels at an all-night party, yet moments of fear remain from the presence of rabid dogs.

This film is still expressive of a director finding his feet and attempting to make his voice heard above the crowd.  Like most European auteurs, Costa has an observant camera that allows action to take place in the frame and not pursuing a reaction although his films do sometimes harness documentary sensibilities in their overall outcome.

Costa was abandoned himself as a child, so the yearning for a nuclear family is apparent in the traits of his characters, who he uses as versions of himself - they are searching for a home or a settled place.  Marianna is a lost soul, lost in the sense that she is far from home and in a strange land; Leao is also lost in the sense that he has not been found by anyone who can claim him, and so both are of no fixed abode or location - Costa would return to these traits of loneliness and alienation in his masterpiece Colassal Youth (2006)

Marianna is another of the strong female characters who are independent in spirit and conviction.  As a nurse, she knows nothing about the people she treats, the week on the Casa de Lava allows her eyes to be opened.  Her independent spirit is helped by having her wear this red vibrant dress signifying both fire and warmth - these little touches by Costa marks him out as a keen observer of people, much like his fellow countryman Manuel de Oliveria.

There are moments of melodrama you would anticipate in European auteur cinema, yet this is not over-reached due to the placing of Marianna/Leao in a strange land.  By stumbling into a place of purgatory, people are most scared of dying and the unknown hence the tentative treatment towards strangers yet the natives are seemingly accepting of their lot in life.

The use of landscape and environment is so richly established it becomes a character in its own right as well as a notable narrative device; the human characters act like they do because of the location and vice versa.

Casa de Lava (1994) is released on DVD by Second Run Films today, Monday 24th September and on the disc there are many features; a new HD master of the film especially for this release; an interview with the director discussing the film; an interview with cinematographer Emmanuel Machuel and a new essay by renowned film critic Jonathan Rosenbaum.

www.secondrundvd.com

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Inside Out: Anton Corbijn

Out on DVD from Momentum Pictures, directed by Dutch director Klaartje Quirijns, Inside Out is a documentary about one of the most visionary and influential photographers of the late 20th century, fellow Nederlander Anton Corbijn.

Corbijn's name is one of those rare artists whose name is known the world over across many cultural forms - art, photography, cinema, music and video.  Corbijn came to prominence in the late 1970s for his photography work with Joy Division and most importantly, the fatal Ian Curtis.  Corbijn's shots of them on a snow covered bridge in Manchester helped the band migrate across the atlantic before the untimely suicide of Curtis in 1980.  Corbijn's first feature-length film in 2007 would be Control, the story of Ian Curtis and Joy Division.

Corbijn's inspiring work would continue through the 1980s with his seminal work for U2 (the War album in 1982) and Depeche Mode in 1987 culminating with his work with Kurt Cobain and Nirvana in the early 1990s.  One fact I was unaware of was that he directed the video for Nirvana's Heart Shaped Box.

Corbijn remains the go to guy for album covers and sleeve photography, as the film shows him interacting with Arcade Fire and the most recent collaboration between Metallica and Lou Reed.

Director Quirijns does not force the glamour of these rock superstars down our throat, Bono is first seen hiding behind a blacked out passenger window of a car; but what is paramount is that all these superstars treat him as an equal because his style has helped them become the stars they are.

Yet Quirijns makes clear that Corbijn is at times a loner, and through his love of music he found a place in the world - he learnt English from listening to albums, yet he is drawn to these lost souls (Curtis, Cobain) as he is one himself.  One startling moment comes when Corbijn is lying in his Dutch apartment, his amplifier is broken so he cannot listen to any music, he is lost without his music.

The director cleverly shoots the film with Corbijn never centre of the frame, he is just off centre mostly as if he is a subject in his own work.

We meet his colleagues and work associates who worry for his stamina, his workaholic ethic is putting a lot of strain on him - gallery exhibitions, meetings, album shoots, film direction - how can one man sustain himself for this level of quality.  Perhaps the need to be globally accepted and regarded comes from the lack of love he got from his father, something we are alluded to when Corbijn goes to meet his mother who tells him she did not love his father.

Insightful, entertaining and eye-opening to a world of glamour and celebrity, Inside Out is a telling document on one of the world's most revered artists whose work will be remembered for many years.

Anton Corbijn: Inside Out is released on DVD from Momentum Pictures on Monday 17th September at £12.99RRP featuring scene select with English subtitles.

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Les Enfants du Paradis

Originally released in 1945 at the tail end of the Second World War whilst Paris was still burning, Marcel Carne's film Les Enfants du Paradis is considered one of the greatest if not the most notable French film of all time, in the same vein and scale as Hollywood's Gone With The Wind from six years previously.

It is a rare slice of art house cinema from the French 1940s and tells the story of Parisian courtesan Garance (Arletty) and the four men who are in love with her - an aristocrat, a thief, an actor and a mime - based upon actual larger than life people from the 1820s and 1830s, where the film is based.

Carne originally released the film into two parts - beating Harry Potter and Twilight by 70 years - Boulevard du Crime and L'Homme Blanc.  As Paris was still under Nazi occupation, Carne attempted to get past censors by splitting the film in two, and then restore the film to its original length once the war was over.

It is important to understand and appreciate the lengths Carne went to in his production.  The sheer scale of the film in terms of extras, production, costume and art direction is immense and to consider that this film was done under enormous levels of oppression is all the more staggering when you see the final results.

The script written by Carne and in collaboration with Jacques Prevert, a surrealist poet is indicative of the input.  The film feels like one long poem visually and sonically due to the sumptuous score by Joseph Korma.  Carne's vision of Paris is a romantic notion of fonder times and persuasions.  The fact that the film was made shows the defiant French backbone which withstood the Nazi invasion.

Whilst the film is at times a bum-numbing 190 minutes, it does suffer from a pacing issue after all the main male characters are introduced; but the richness of the production wins out in the end, rewarding those who do stick it out.

Carne mixes all form of cinema and artistry; great soundtrack, wonderful acting with piercing dialogue and even mime performed by Baptiste (Jean-Louis Barrault), especially in one of the opening scenes when he performs a sequence to save Garance from a wrongful accusation of theft by a buffoon.  The scene is not rushed and allowed to gestate, to the benefit of all in view. We watch the mime, the audience in the square watch him, all are transfixed.

Carne would continue directing into the 1980s absorbing the bashing of La Nouvelle Vague, yet he would never hit the same heights of Les Enfants du Paradis - a wonderful and breathless love letter to Paris and France, when it most needed it.

Les Enfants du Paradis is released on two-disc DVD or Blu-ray by Second Sight Films on Monday 17th September.
My thanks to Aim Publicity for the check disc.

Sunday, 9 September 2012

NFL 2012 Week 1 picks

Okay another season, another chance to remove egg from your face and give you my picks for the first Sunday of the NFL season.

This season promises to be good with all teams enjoying a full off-season with no CBA strike and bargaining occuring.  The players asked for less physical practices, yet injuries are still happening.  Some teams have been affected by such injuries such as Minnesota Vikings with Adrian Petersen; yet some teams like Kansas City have those returning like Jamal Charles who will change the balance of a side.

Some teams have been affected by contract hold outs like Maurice Jones-Drew of Jacksonville; or a new star on a new team; Peyton Manning starts for Denver, whilst the man he replaced Tim Tebow lines up in a supposed wildcat offence with the New York Jets.

All in all though I cannot wait for the season to start, and having wrongly predicted a New York Giants victory on opening night, I hope my picks are a bit better this weekend

Week 1, Sunday 9th September
Colts @ BEARS - a baptism of fire for the new star rookie QB Andrew Luck facing a tenacious defence of Chicago even without the questionable Brian Urlacher.  Jay Cutler rekindles his partnership with Brandon Marshall and Matt Forte with his new contract will want to get off to a winning start.  Double digit victory, though Luck should still throw 2 TDs

EAGLES @ Browns - Michael Vick v Brandon Weedon; like John Wayne v Randolph Scott. Who you going to pick? But Eagles have too many other weapons, and Andy Reid has won 63% of his road trips, too much experience for the Browns, though will be good to see how Trent Richardson's knee holds up

Rams @ LIONS - personally I like the Rams and think they will improve to maybe 6-10 this season, although on Detroit's home turf it is asking a lot.  Although Jeff Fisher v Megatron will be good; how will the League combat the best receiver in football. Double digit victory.

PATRIOTS @ Titans - the reigning AFC Champions return with more weapons against a quietly rebuilt Titans with Jake Locker at the helm.  Might be closer than people may think, but on paper the quality shines through.

Falcons @ CHIEFS - this is a great opening match-up; Atlanta are one of the better regular season teams yet have no play-off win yet for Matt Ryan. The Chiefs have rallied for Romeo Crennel, and with a 1-2 punch of Charles and Peyton Hillis at running back, and Dwayne Bowe still at wideout, expect an upset in Kansas.

Jaguars @ VIKINGS - not the most mouth watering of encounters but in terms of quarterback play, Christian Ponder is better than Blaine Gabbert right now, and the Viking will win if Petersen starts.

Redskins @ SAINTS - following the news that Johnathn Vilma and Will Smith will be eligible to play this season, this will give the Saints extra motivation to get off to a winning start.  They may not have Sean Payton, but Drew Brees is this team's true leader.  RG3 debuts and expectations are high.

Bills @ JETS - this one has flipped and flopped for weeks, but I nudge it to the Jets as they have the Tebow option for short yardage and wildcat.  Ryan Fitzpatrick is okay but the Jets sometimes know how to win and have not shown us their full hand yet.

Dolphins @ TEXANS - Ryan Tannehill goes on the road for his rookie start at AFC South favourites Houston.  Houston have weapons on offence, yet in spite of losing defensive options will still have too much for a team very much in transition.

49ers @ PACKERS - what a great game for the first week,the two best regular season teams from NFC face off.  The 49ers are better with more weapons at receiver and added Brandon Jacobs, yet this is still Aaron Rodgers at Lambeau, home field advantage still counts for a lot nowadays.

SEAHAWKS @ Cardinals - Russell Wilson is an explosive QB, he will excite people and Pete Carroll has put his neck on the line; Arizona have one of the best receivers in football in Larry Fitzgerald yet they still cannot find a man good enough to throw to him, they have chosen John Skelton.

Panthers @ BUCCANEERS - the Bucs have changed coach, they traded well getting Vincent Jackson from San Diego, drafted well in getting Doug Martin and have a decent QB in Josh Freeman.  The Panthers do have Cam Newton, but again the home team for me on this occasion. The momentum is in Tampa Bay.

Steelers @ BRONCOS - a great contest with Rothliesberger v Peyton Manning in his regular season debut for Denver.  I fancy Manning to come out of the gate here, throwing to numerous and unheralded receivers (hello Eric Decker) who will become household names.

Bengals @ RAVENS - a tasty divisional rivalry match up for Monday Night Football's opener; expect the Ravens and their new no-huddle offence to create even more points and targets for Ray Rice, under the leadership of Joe Flacco.

CHARGERS @ Raiders - whilst the nudge for the AFC West has been given to the Broncos and Chiefs; the Chargers have flown under the radar whilst the Raiders are in turmoil.  If the Chargers can halt Darren McFadden they win the game.


Monday, 3 September 2012

Lamenting Liverpool

Liverpool FC are supposedly in crisis, they have one point from there first 3 games. They have failed to score in two of those games, they gifted the one point to their opponent in the other.  They have just offloaded a certain striker.  Yet this is Liverpool, they play to full houses, they still have quality in the squad yet this is a crisis.

You may detect a whiff of sarcasm in that opening paragraph, mainly because this is not a crisis.  This is a team in transition.  Over the summer, the decision was made to inject fresh blood into brand Liverpool by the Fenway Sports Group (FSG) led by John Henry, who owns the Boston Red Sox.

They sacked legend Kenny Dalglish and hired Brendan Rodgers from Swansea City, who elevated the southern Wales team from the Championship to the Premier League; leapfrogging Cardiff and playing football that was both beautiful and profitable.  Rodgers employed the tactic of tika-taka football like Barcelona, using a lot of possession to frustrate opponents yet being clinical with finishing; in their first season in the Premier League, they were safe with something to spare winning many friends and respect from fans.

Rodgers needed to get some talent in, yet for some reason the funds that were available to King Kenny - who bought Carroll, Downing, Henderson, Adam - were seemingly this time unavailable to Rodgers.  Rodgers did manage to bring one stalwart of his Swansea side, Joe Allen with him; and they were able to swat away admirers of Martin Skrtel, Daniel Agger and Luis Suarez to remain at the club.

Now Rodgers has a side with general quality, but no impact players apart from Andy Carroll on the bench, then Liverpool made the costly decision of letting him go to West Ham on loan for the season.  Carroll's debut for the Hammers on Saturday for an hour before an untimely hamstring injury, showed him at his best. A fearsome aerial target who brought fear to the Fulham defence, his mere presence led to two goals coming from set pieces as West Ham maintained a 100% home record.

Liverpool on the same weekend at home to Arsenal looked toothless and lifeless in attack.  Rodgers system of 4-2-3-1 is all well and good for keeping possession and soaking up pressure but if you do not have the right people doing the right jobs it will come with no end result.

The problem for Rodgers and most importantly Liverpool is that they have a personnel issue.  The players there are not the right ones for the job.  At Swansea, he had men like Neil Taylor, Leon Britton, Gylfi Sigurdsson who could do a job in linking up with Nathan Dyer and Wayne Routledge whose pace was second to none, whilst Danny Graham would be that goal poacher up front.

Liverpool unfortunately have a midfield general in Steven Gerrard who has always been more combative than  creative; he is good in a fight but he has never had a good touch and his wayward pass led to Arsenal's first breakaway goal.  That goal was also helped by a wayward defensive display by Glen Johnson at right back. Whilst Rodgers must like the idea of having Johnson bombing forward, he must not neglect his defensive duties that left Messrs Skrtel and Agger exposed as Lukas Podolski scored his and Arsenal's first goal of the season.

Also, Pepe Reina is having a bad time or crisis in confidence.  In midweek he dropped a shot from a Hearts player into the net, adding to the number of goalkeeper errors occurring so far this season; but he was to blame for allowing Santi Carzola to seal the game on 68 minutes as he was down too slowly and it ricocheted into his net.

Rodgers would be better served, using Martin Kelly when available at right back and morph Johnson into a right winger like Gareth Bale did for Tottenham in those nights against Inter Milan. With Johnson and Stirling down two wings you have the pace of Dyer and Routledge replicated.  It does bear a question as to why they did not pursue Scott Sinclair who has been sold to Manchester City, when he clearly wanted away.  Whilst Allen is a good player, he will not win you matches like Sinclair possibly can.

So is Rodgers to blame for raiding his former club for the wrong players?  Liverpool are not in crisis, they just maybe put themselves in that position.

College Football Week 1 review

Week 1 in College football seems odd.  You had a game taking place in Dublin for the Fighting Irish, you had games on Thursday night for South Carolina, with the superstitious Steve Spurrier (say that fast 5 times) enjoying a tough road trip to Vanderbilt, but winning nonetheless.

The other mystifying occurence is the use of pre-season rankings before anyone has played a down.  So you had USC ranked #1 when they have not played yet, and having to back up all this potential.  The ranking works in two ways, they stay atop of them until they lose or play an absolute stinker in victory.  USC made short work of Hawaii, with Heisman trophy favourite and senior Matt Barkley throwing for 372 yards and four TDs; helped by wide receiver Marqise Lee who caught 10 passes for 197 yards and returned a punt 100 yards for a TD.  USC had so much on offence but the defence will face sterner tests throughout the year, most notably from Oregon, #5, who scored heavily as always 57-34 at home to Arkansas State.

The most impressive performance however was Alabama, the National Champions, who having lost a lot of defensive starters did maintain the offensive line and have a good QB in AJ McCarron.  In a tough opener at Cowboys Stadium against the respected Michigan Wolverines of the Big Ten, led by senior Denard Robinson, the Crimson Tide were never threatened scoring three 1st quarter TDs in a 41-14 victory.

The team they beat in New Orleans in January, LSU also won 41-14 but against lesser opposition in North Texas; at the moment though for LSU following the Tyrann Mathieu suspension, they need to go about their business and yet the Tide and Trojans enjoy the spotlight.

What did come to the fore however, is the gulf between the SEC and other conferences.  The depth of talent in the SEC is significant with victories for Georgia (#6, 45-23 v Buffalo), Arkansas (#10, 49-24 v Jacksonville St), Clemson (#14, 26-19 v Auburn; a real barn-burner to start the season) and Florida (#23, 27-14 v Bowling Green).

The best individual performance that put down a marker for the season was by Geno Smith, quarterback for the West Virginia Mountaineers, who in their first game in a new conference having moved from the Big East to the Big 12 defeated Marshall 69-34. Smith completed 32 of 36 attempted passes for 323 yards and four touchdowns, one rushing TD with no interceptions.

The Big 12 have some ground to make up on the dominant SEC but with the WVU high powered offence joining the powerhouses of Texas, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State expect West Virginia and Smith to be making some notable headlines this season.

What to look forward to?
In Week 2, a lot of programs have picked winnable games for home openers (South Carolina play East Carolina); but you still have some interesting contests.  The LSU Tigers host Washington, Missouri new to the SEC from the Big 12 host #6 Georgia.  However, the game of the weekend could be Nebraska visiting UCLA; as below the Bruins have a high powered offence led by QB Brett Hundley and RB Johnathan Franklin, they can score heavily unlike some of the Big 10 teams did over the weekend.

Notable performances
UCLA's Johnathan Franklin rushed for 214yds on 15 carries and 3 TDs against Rice in their season opener with a long of 78 and a 74 yarder. Not to be out done his QB Brett Hundley ran for a 72yd TD.  This was not a career night for Franklin, who ran for 216 in 2010 v Washington State.

Utah may be a sleeper in the Pac12 and opened with a 41-0 shutout over Northern Colorado; Jordan Wynn threw for 2 TDs (19-27, 200) and John White ran for 119yds in a one-sided contest.

Monday, 27 August 2012

Premier League Week 2 review

The one thing I hate most about the Premier League and the 24 hour sponsored Sky Sports News coverage, is the need for status and position amongst fans.  After one game, we have to suffer the Premier League table with teams on top based on the fact they scored more goals than other victorious sides.  My belief is that the relegation zone should not be thrust into our screens until the start of December, when the games come thick and fast which can influence the position based on injuries and colder weather.

After the first week, though those happiest with there work obviously were the teams who won, some more convincingly than others; Swansea, Fulham, Everton, West Brom and Chelsea were over the moon; whilst Man City were lucky to get past newly promoted Southampton, with a 3-2 victory but the loss of Sergio Aguero for a suspected month due to a knee injury.

So week 2 is not really week 2 for Chelsea, who played there third weekend game at home to Reading early due to their involvement in the European Super Cup in Monaco on Friday.  After an initial scare and blunder by Petr Cech, Chelsea came back from 2-1 down to win 4-2.

So what else happened this weekend?

1. Chelsea lay down a marker
Okay, Newcastle had less than 48 hours to prepare for this game due to their own European travels.  Yet they came up against a confident Chelsea side, thanks in part due to the creative invention of Eden Hazard who is making everyone look better around him.  Fernando Torres is looking hungry, due to him being top dog and not having to compete with Didier Drogba.  Juan Mata is being given creative licence without doing much with it due to Hazard's great first week in England.  Defensive solidity remains in the form of Gary Cahill in spite of John Terry's neck injury which ruled him out.  Three wins from three is nothing ominous, but is still a good start.

2. Is Rooney's injury a blessing in disguise?
Wayne Rooney suffered a severe gash on his inner right thigh above the knee due to an errant stud by Hugo Rodallega in injury time during Man United's 3-2 win over Fulham.  Rooney started on the bench, as Ferguson granted Robin Van Persie a start on his home debut.  Rooney is set to miss a month of action, including both of England's World Cup qualifiers in September.  Yet for Ferguson, this could be a god send to a side to integrate a new style of forward into the United way without the trouble of rotating and worrying if they can co-exist.  RVP can go about his business, and build up some good links between himself, Ashley Young, Nani and the impressive Shinji Kagawa.

3. Teams refuse to be beaten
West Bromich Albion will consider the first week a great one. Steve Clarke's side followed up their home victory on opening day versus Liverpool with a point at Tottenham thanks to a last minute equaliser by James Morrison that prompted an 11 man bundle in the centre circle, a sign of Baggie resilience and togetherness.  In spite of a torrent of Tottenham attacks from Gareth Bale and Jermain Defoe, Spurs could not get the second goal. Clarke threw on Romelu Lukaku whose size and power worried Vertonghen in defence.  This resilience must be instilled by Clarke, a defender himself who refused to be beaten himself as a player, in contrast to Mark Hughes at QPR who has chosen to build his side from the front rather than shore up his leaky, creaky defence.

4. Arsenal are nearly in crisis
Okay, two games and two points would be fine.  You have not lost a game yet, but you have not won a game either.  You seem to be difficult to break down in defence, yet you have not scored a goal either.  The departure of Van Persie was expected, and the tight wad Wenger did spend money on Lukas Podolski and Oliver Giroud as suitable replacements; yet Arsenal seem to miss that creative impetus in their midfield with the continued absence of Jack Wilshere.  Alex Oxlaide-Chamberlain is coming on, yet the enigmatic Theo Walcott is again awol without warning.  Due to recent history, a point at Stoke is not bad considering no players were injured, but the lack of goal threat less than last week versus Sunderland will be a worry.  But only a worry if they go to Liverpool and fail to score next week.

5. Liverpool still can self-destruct
Last season, Liverpool endured a terrible season yet they somehow still won a trophy.  The omens are better for this season, Brendan Rodgers has entered hoping to instil the Swansea ethic to Anfield and bringing Joe Allen with him will be a good move.  Rodgers started in coaching with youth, so Raheem Stirling will prosper under him.  Yet Liverpool with all the belief in them in front of the home faithful played very well against the Champions Man City in a 2-2 draw, yet somehow conspired to throw away victory.  A fumble off of Martin Kelly fell to the feet of Yaya Toure to poke home the first equaliser.  Then having regained the lead thanks to Luis Suarez's beautiful free-kick, goalscorer Martin Skrtel played a blind backpass aiming for Pepe Reina which was both soft and off target, except straight to Carlos Tevez's feet who easily rounded the stranded keeper for his 100th PL goal.

6. Laudrup > Rodgers
Michael Laudrup must think this PL lark is easy, considering he has been at the helm for two games, eight goals and none conceded.  Like Rodgers, Swansea keep the ball in possession making it difficult to win the ball of them, then soak up any pressure thrown their way followed by a brisk counter-attack and ruthlessness in front of goal.  Swansea punched above their weight last season, getting goals from many people but in new signing Michu they have a goal-snatcher in the Lineker vein; who can sniff up mistakes or score crackers as well.  The 3-0 victory at home to West Ham was helped by two defensive lapses, yet the dominance was not something you would have seen from Rodgers' side last season.