Tuesday, March 17, 2015

2018 World Cup Qualifying: Day 2

Today were the second legs of several home-and-away playoffs between the very lowest ranked teams in the Asian Confederation. The big news is that Bhutan, ranked lowest at 209th according to FIFA, defeated Sri Lanka to advance to Round 2.

India, Timor-Leste, Chinese Taipei, and Cambodia also advanced thus making Mongolia, Nepal, Macau, Brunei, and Sri Lanka the first teams officially eliminated from Russia 2018.

The second leg of the Yemen-Pakistan matchup has been postponed, to be played in a neutral location, following violence in Lahore where the match was to be played today. The first leg was also played in neutral territory due to security concerns in Yemen, who currently lead 3-1.

The six winners will be drawn into 8 groups of 5 teams each for home-and-away group play starting on 11 June.

Next up: CONCACAF begins first round play on 22 March with Barbados at home against U.S. Virgin Islands.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Qualifying for World Cup 2018 Started Today

Over in Asia, the 12 lowest ranked teams (according to the FIFA world rankings) played the first tie in a home-and-away playoff. The second legs will be played on the 17th, thus eliminating the first six teams from WC 2018.

The 12 matchups are:
India - Nepal
Yemen - Pakistan
Timor-Leste - Mongolia
Cambodia - Macau
Chinese Taipei - Brunei
Sri Lanka - Bhutan

Bhutan is the lowest-ranked team in the world at 209 and they defeated Sri Lanka away 1-0 in front of 3,500 stunned fans. 21-year old Tshering Dorji scored in the 84th minute to give his nation their first ever World Cup qualification win.

Macau and Mongolia will have challenging three-goal deficits to overcome in their second legs. The other teams are all still very much alive.

CONCACAF qualifying will begin on 23 March.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

St. Vincent Movie Review

Bill Murray has had a late stage career renaissance playing curmudgeonly irritated men whose bitterness and sarcasm masks some deep loss within. It started with Rushmore and found one of its greatest expressions in Lost in Translation. It reaches a nadir in Theodore Melfi’s St. Vincent which has Murray playing the title character who is anything but a saint.

Vincent is a rude misanthropic angry man with a ramshackle house that’s falling apart, a car that isn’t doing much better, a healthy drinking problem, and a penchant for gambling as a means of increasing his debs and chances of getting broken kneecaps from his loan shark Zucko (Terrence Howard). Oh, and his best friend is Daka, a pregnant prostitute stripper (Naomi Watts, sporting a cartoonish Russian accent) whose employment options are limited to men who find her belly a turn-on.

A Walk Among the Tombstones Movie Review

Played in all earnestness as a tribute to the private investigator sub-genre of crime fiction, Scott Frank’s adaptation (which he also directed) of Lawrence Block’s A Walk Among the Tombstones is about as grim and nihilistic a treatment as you’re likely to see in a mainstream movie. The character Matt Scudder featured in more than a dozen of Block’s books and some of those have been adapted to the screen before. But Frank, who is no stranger to pulp fiction and mystery stories involving a tough PI (Frank wrote the screenplay adaptations of both Get Shorty and Out of Sight), doesn’t bother trying to reinvent the genre or to put a new spin on it. A Walk Among the Tombstones is effective classic mystery storytelling. It’s more hard-edged and just plain evil than any adaptation of Philip Marlowe or Sam Spade ever was, but the hallmarks are there.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Classic Movie Review: Lady and the Tramp

One of the Disney animated classics that I fondly remember from childhood is Lady and the Tramp. It ws re-released to theaters when I was a kid (before widespread home video releases and before Disney put them out on VHS). It felt more monumental to me then than it does now. At only 76 minutes, it is briskly paced and spare. There’s really not much story to tell and the big romance between Lady (voiced by Barbara Luddy) and the street mutt Tramp (Larry Roberts) is developed in one brief sequence when Lady is lost away from home and Tramp saves her from some unsavory dogs and takes her on a date to an Italian restaurant for the iconic spaghetti-eating scene, which is now one of the most indelibly romantic moments in cinema history.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

87th Academy Awards: Oscar Predictions

Here we go with my quick rundown of what I think will win tomorrow night. As usual, I expect to get all 24 categories correct.

A genuinely tough call this year. It's a tight race between Boyhood and Birdman, with American Sniper perhaps a not-too-distant third given its popular success. But really it will be one of the first two. I feel almost like it's a toss-up even as to whether they will split Director and Picture or sweep.

My final answer is...

Birdman. (I actually typed Boyhood first and changed my mind, that's how indecisive I am). Ultimately perhaps it comes down to the fact that Birdman is about a tortured actor who sees himself as a true artist looking for critical approval. And actors make up the largest contingent of the Academy.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Tangerines Movie Review

This film has not yet been released commercially in the United States.

Anti-war movies so often fail at being effectively anti-war because any depiction of fighting, violence, brutality, or death inherently glorifies it by making it sensational. One of the best anti-war movies I can recall is Danis Tanovic’s Oscar-winning No Man’s Land which featured virtually no fighting at all but was about two wounded soldiers from opposing sides in the Bosnian War stuck in the tract of land between the lines. It was about the absurdity and ineffectiveness of war and the need for human understanding in conflict. No Man’s Land was the movie I thought of most often during Tangerines, one of this year’s nominees for the award that Tanovic’s film won.