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

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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