Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Case for some Home Help

When I read the Help a few months ago, I was pleasantly surprised.  The book was written from the perspectives of several women from Jackson, Mississippi set against the backdrop of the American Civil Rights movement, when talking about racial inequalities in a "separate yet equal" society could lead to violent repercussions.

So when I saw that (perhaps unsurprisingly) a movie version had been made, starring the always incredible Emma Stone and featuring such luminous legends as Sissy Spacek, Allison Janney and the hypnotically intense powerhouse that is Viola Davis, I felt the need to go see it.

Two hallmarks of a film as "worthy" as this are that the characters have to be (pardon the pun) pretty black and white morally and that length is seen as a virtue.  At around two and a half hours, I knew going in that as much of the book would be crammed in as possible.  Yet I was still a bit surprised to see some of the alterations to the story, especially in relation to Skeeter (Stone) and the story of her housemaid.  Luckily, the story of Aibileen is kept pretty much as in the book, and Davis portrays the house maid as a woman of solid dignity despite the humiliations she is forced to endure. 

Unfortunately, the movie aims to recreate scenes from the book rather than imbuing any characters with actual life - well, besides the ones the talented cast brings with them.  Dallas Bryce Howard obviously relishes her role as Queen B!tch Hilly, and the aforementioned actresses all do amazing work to bring some depth to what are fairly stereotyped characters.  In the book, the characters were a little greyer (not a huge amount, to be sure), but those blemishes are completely bleached out for the big screen, probably to make it even easier to know who the goodies and the baddies are meant to be.  Skeeter's budding romance is almost pointless (as are all the male characters, really) and the other friends in the Hilly/Skeeter circle are merely beehive hairdos in the 1960s background. 

Removing any development of actual relationships between the characters makes it easier to tell the events, but they are (as mentioned) robbed of a lot of emotion - well, unless you are the hyper talkative, overly emotional (to my way of thinking) women sitting besides me who found every stubbed toe and grazed knee a scene of profound sorrow worthy of loud lamentation and self flagellation. 

In a way, it is kind of a teenage high school film, almost a Bring It On without the pompoms, or Heathers with fewer homicides (less humour, less style, less resonance... and a lacking a lot of other things too - I love Heathers).  There is the in crowd and the out crowd, with Hilly the super cow who leads the popular girls, and Skeeter the fringe-dwelling (yet cool) rebellious one who reaches out to the less popular/less well off ones (Aibileen) and bring them into their own. 

There are a few other story threads in there as well, but they work a bit better in the book where they are given a bit more room to grow.  So really, there is nothing new on celluloid in The Help.  But even with that lack of inspiration, the casting of this film is absolutely incredible, and that alone makes the admission price worthwhile.

Verdict:  The Help takes a good book and makes an uninspired film.  The saving grace is the cast, milking every stereotype for what its worth, and lighting up the screen with amazing individual performances with only the dark voids in between them to show how flat the story really is.  6 housemaids tales out of 10.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Case for the Other World Cup

[An article I'd like to see]

Auckland: Enthusiastic crowds were disappointed last night by the All Black performance last night, as the New Zealand team beat the French convincingly but with a distinct lack of wardrobe malfunctions.

Adidas, supplier of the All Black jersey to the team, have launched into an official enquiry at their Advanced Apparel Research Unit (AAARU) in China, trying to track down the reason why none of their skin-tight tops disintegrated under the harsh lights of the rugby stadium or under the physical stress of the game itself.

"At least one shirt per match is designed to encounter major structural integrity issues, necessitating a mid-match change into a shirt even tighter than the one previously worn", said Lolo Ferari, head of Sports and Strippers Clothing Development (ASSCD).  "With his impressive physique and loyal female following, Sonny Bill Williams was chosen the first All Black to be provided with a rippable shirt, and it failed precisely as and when anticipated."

"The New Zealand game against France was the 100th All Blacks game for the team captain, Richie McCaw, and he also has a large female following.  So we had planned to supply him with a shirt riddled with structural problems that would disintegrate around half time.  However, on the night, it failed to function - or misfunction, as the case may be."

Die hard Richie McCaw fan, Shirley DaLoon, was devastated by the game.

"After Sonny Bill Williams' shirtless moment, I knew that Adidas would supply those shirts to other members of the team too.  I'm sure Dan Carter's will fail at the final, but I was really hoping Richie's would rip on his 100th cap."

Ms DaLoon has not given up hope.  "I have bought tickets to every All Blacks game, and I will be prowling town after every match to see if I can track down Richie.  Perhaps he'll have to change his shirt in the semi-finals."

Adidas' AARU have reassured the company and the broadcasters of the Rugby World Cup games that more All Blacks will be forced to undress on the field during their matches. 

"New Zealand Woman's Monthly sales quadrupled on the back of Sonny Bill Williams' front," said Mr Ferari, "and CLOUD coverage was picked up by every major news network and shown throughout the world.  And the whole stripping incident has become a YouTube sensation.  Needless to say, despite the fact that the failure indicated that our clothes are crap, Adidas stocks have also soared."

The head of Nike Top Research and Development has been forced to resign when her company's own jersey flaws only resulted in the numbers on the back of the shirts falling off. 

Verdict: I am actually quite enjoying watching the Rugby World Cup games at the moment, as long as I can avoid all the marketing and nauseating media coverage outside of the games themselves.  While the hype and hooplah surrounding the Rugby Union has developed from what it was 20 years ago in a way that only seems to cheapen the brand even as it popularises it, even I can't deny that the games themselves are exciting to watch.  And sometimes, there is a half time stripper as well.  Now that is catering to every audience.  14 a side out of 15.


Oh, and something a bit retro: I always loved this Ren and Stimpy clip, though whoever was holding the camera when they copied this should really have just put the thing down:

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Case for a Couple of Wins

You know, after a string of documentaries, superhero flicks, and intense dramae, I had almost forgot what pleasure a straight forward, low key film can provide. 

I am not quite sure what I was expecting from Win Win, starring the hang dog face of lovable quasi loser Paul Giamatti, but what I got was a film that made me smile and kept me entertained despite the chronic plastic bag rustling of the near moronic duo seated behind me.  It was evident from the fairly small crowd at the cinema that this film was fairly low down on most people’s list of films to see, and I can’t say that it would really appeal to a lot of audiences, but I was in just the right mood to lap it all up.

The story is fairly straight forward: struggling guy takes in a wayward youth who turns out to have a talent in one area of the man’s life (in this case, High School wrestling; strange sport that) through which the youth transforms the life of both the man and his family.  Yeah, nothing much new under that sun, though New Providence comes across as perhaps one of the coldest places on earth (Wellington rarely looks it, though it definitely feels it) and it is refreshing to see actual teenagers playing teenagers as opposed to 20 somethings with perfect physiques and blemish-free facial features.  

 And at this point I have to address a comment I made earlier: I called Giamatti’s character, Mike, a quasi loser, and that is probably the intent but not really the reality. Mike, whose law practice is failing, true, has an amazing wife in the freckled face of the awesome Amy Ryan, two gorgeous children, an amazing home, and friends who are slightly unhinged and provide the oddball comic relief, but are still loyal and lovely people if somewhat disturbingly obsessed with teenage boys in sweaty unitards. Seeing a family so ordinary, with people so human, not dealing with extreme evil or struggling with deep psychological trauma but still turning out as interesting characters, was, for me at least, quite a breath of fresh air.  And again, I can’t recall the last time I saw teenagers shown as monosyllabic gawky people, intelligent but only occasionally making eye contact and even then only to stare daggers.  And of course, Melanie Lynskey is in there too, albeit briefly, and she is always a welcome sight in anything. 

The film runs to two hours, which is really pretty long considering the subject matter, but it didn’t seem to drag.  The pace is definitely not fast, but all the cast make the film a very easy watch.  There’s the odd laugh, the well-signposted twists, and lots of people looking very, very cold.  And for all that, I liked it.

Verdict:  Win Win won me over from my initial scepticism.  It feels odd to say there was nothing stand out about the film except the fact that it was an ordinary family in an ordinary family very well rendered.  In the end, despite any economic hardships and some dubious friends (I was half expecting someone to say giggidy giggidy somewhere along the way), I couldn’t help but feel that Paul Giamatti’s character was a very rich man indeed.  7 reverse choke holds out of 10.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

The Case for the Wood for the Trees

I went in to Tree of Life knowing that I was in for something a bit challenging.  When you see reviewers who say that they needed to see the film twice (at least) to get their head around it, it’s a pretty good sign that the film is not going to unwind in a straightforward manner.  And, it has to be said, those warnings (numerous as they were) served me well when I finally came to watch it.

For me, there are three different parts to the film: the deep part, the family part and the woozy drunken part.  I don’t want to ruin the film for anyone going in to see it, but I will try and explain things in a way that I hope won’t give too much away – though a lot of the joy of the film lies in things that need to be seen to really experience.

So, first, the deep part.  For no real reason I could see, a huge swathe of the film has to do with the creation of the universe and, as such, is a pro-evolutionary piece of Darwinian propaganda.  Running over this slowly unfolding tale of fantasy (creationists, be warned) are the odd utterances from the main characters in the film, trying to make sense of it (and “it” being life) all.  The visuals are simply stunning, though they do take what feels like a few Ice Ages (do creationists believe in those?) to pass across the screen.

Eventually, we settle into the life of a fairly ordinary American family in the 1950s (or 1960s; possibly both; possibly neither).  This is not a happy family, for reasons I won’t really go into, but the different philosophies that are introduced at the beginning of the film are played out here, exploring their strengths and their weaknesses.  And this part was definitely my favourite of the film.  It’s filmed in a challenging (again that word) way, but I think that years of “deep and meaningful” and deliberately obscure anime television series had prepared me for the confusing jumble of beautiful yet almost unexplained images and quasi-cryptic utterances.  There are scenes that appear to make no sense that probably are completely integral to the plot in the writer/director’s mind (though the attic scenes seemed taken from the mind of David Lynch), and one could never accuse the story of cutting corners – once the enchanting early childhood life is shown, things slow to a glacial, if still fascinating pace.

Finally (though it actually occurs throughout the film) is the woozy drunken part.  Sean Penn has no difficulty making this section feel like some sort of drug-addled jumble of images and places mixed in with an odd sort of presumed profundity.  While this part is meant to anchor the film to the now, it is also (for me) the most confusing part and, in the final few scenes, also the most boring. 

Throughout though the film is beautifully shot, classical music permeating every scene as it tries to out-space odyssey Kubrik, and the languid pace gave me the chance to appreciate it all, though that same slowness also allowed me to get bored now and then.

So, yes, the Tree of Life really is challenging, one member of our audience so challenged that, uninspired by the ballet of cosmic creation (or possibly mif aed by its Biblical inaccuracy), he left after half an hour never to return.  As the lights came up, everyone seemed to be in a bit of a daze, everyone apparently affected (whether emotionally or in a soporific sense, I couldn’t be sure), but no one really discussing what they had seen. 

It probably does require a bit of reflection and, as aforementioned, a second viewing would probably help see the wood (of the storyline) of the trees (of how it is all put together), but I don’t think I will be rushing back to see it again.  It was good, and some scenes had incredible power to them in their ordinariness and their trying to make sense of the world and the universe.  Visually and musically, the film is amazing, and the acting (Brad Pitt as ordinary Father) is mesmerising.  But it is a lot confusing and really very slow. 

Verdict: Tree of Life is a long and (here’s the word again) challenging piece of cinema.  With the chance to fast forward scenes, I think I would have missed a lot of the beauty and the nuance of this film, but I probably would also have skipped a lot of the tedium too.  Tree of Life was definite worthwhile, but just as definitely not for everyone. 7 branches out of 10.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Case for Hanna Barbaric

I was not altogether convinced by the previews of Hanna that it would be a film for me.  A movie along the times of "innocent looking young girl is actually genetically enhanced killing machine" has been done many times, and I have to say that the actress playing the aforementioned Hanna, Saoirse Ronan, is not one of my favourites.  But then Kate Rodger gave it a thumbs up (more the pounding Chemical Brothers score than for anything else, perhaps) and with Eric Bana as Mr Miyagi, Cate Blanchett as another in her Accent of Evil rogues gallery, and the always wonderful Olivia Williams popping up as well ("Hi Adele!"), there were some definite reasons to go.

And I have to say that, overall, I was impressed.  There was really nothing new whatsoever in the film itself, with a fairly typical cross country chase by people who adamantly refuse to use ranged weapons, and the ending was pretty weak, but the way it was done was really impressive.  The amazing soundtrack definitely added a huge amount to proceedings, and the fact that most of the action happened in smaller, more "realistic" dwellings than usual leant a more British feel to the film, as opposed to more opulent lifestyle of the Americans. 

It was interesting to compare how Hanna turned out to the dire trailer for Abducted that preceded the feature film.  Abducted seems all upper middle class houses, vehicles and motorbikes, everything clean and shiny compared with the worn grime of Hanna, but then it was obvious that Abducted is a star vehicle for Taylor Lautner, showing casing his many talents (martial arts and action) and limits (I doubt he will win an award for acting any time soon).  Should the movie really be as dire as it looked, I am sure the film makers will exploit some of Lautner's more well-known attributes, turning the film more into Abs-ducted, but I digress.

I have already mentioned, while the supporting cast is something of a dream thesp collection of mine, I am not a big fan of Saoirse Ronan as she always seem to be permanently squinting, but her odd (and almost alienating, as opposed to quirky) etherealness kind of works in this film as Hanna is meant to be a bit strange.  Less strange but more irritating is the girl who befriends her, who is I am sure meant to be a comic relief character but ends up, in her very "there are probably tonnes of young girls this irritating" kind of way, to transform almost every scene in which she is allowed to speak from the tense action drama of Hanna to something closer to Sisterhood of the Whinging Travelling British Pants

But, despite these minor niggles, I was pretty engrossed for most of the film, with only a few moments of dullness making me realised that the film was stretching towards a two hour running time.  Hanna really was a whole load of absolute malarkey, but it ended up quite a bit of fun, and with a soundtrack that I am sure for which many action flicks would die at the hands of a genetically modified super soldier.

Verdict: Hanna exceeded my low expectations and proved to be a stylish take on a very well worn genre.  While tense and occasionally violent, the most disturbing shots were of Cate Blanchett's character's dental hygiene regime, but then all the (adult) support cast was superb.  7 CIA underground complexes in Morocco out of 10. 

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Case for Being Senna Cool

I remember way back in the 1980s that Formula One racing was an o for awesome.  The names were familiar to me, the breakneck speeds exciting, and cigarette advertising dominated.  Then, in my ageing world, the 1990s came about, and tennis became the more popular sport.  Motor sport faded as the stars of tennis came out of from behind the exhaust fume clouds. 

One of the names I remember from the motorsport era was Ayerton Senna, though I never really knew that much about him.  The documentary about his Formula One career, Senna, relieved me of that ignorance.

As much as I admired the speed and skills, I never really appreciated the egos and the politics that went on at the time.  Senna opened up a whole world every bit as cut-throat and competitive and professional as modern day Rugby Union, with calls of cheating and bending of rules, personalities clashing, and new technologies arriving and departing. 

And the man himself was undeniably charismatic.  A good looking yet fairly humble man, born to privilege but with a social conscience, the Senna documentary focused on his racing life, how his incredible faith pushed him to becoming one of the greatest drivers ever (though some criticised his overwhelming faith, thinking it made him reckless as he left his fate in God's hands) and how proud he was of his home country of Brazil, a pride that Brazilians themselves reflected back in one of their most famous sons.  Less explored were his playboy lifestyle (though we got to see some his blonde conquests) and his "growing up" origins, but I liked that these were covered only briefly, as the main story was elsewhere.

Senna has no narrator, no talking heads and no modern footage.  The words of the man himself are used to drive a large proportion of the narrative.  Comments from friends and family describe images taken from the time, and the cockpit camera scenes, when shown on the big screen, are completely engrossing and, on occasion, terrifying.

The film is obviously shot from Senna's point of view.  His colleague and nemesis, Alain Prost, makes a wonderful French villain even if he does not have a twirly moustache.  Calculating and arrogant, Prost apparently does everything to ensure his superiority over the younger up and coming Senna, and while they never really clash directly, the body language and politics off the circuit are more vicious than anything seen on that other 80s institution, Dallas.

The movie ends as we know it must.  I had a growing knot in the stomach as I watched Senna's final race from his cockpit camera's perspective.  What I didn't quite understand is why the various crashes and even a fatality that occurred on the same circuit earlier did not get the whole race cancelled: there was evidently something wrong with the cars (stripped of traction control and other recent automotive innovations) and/or the circuit that year, but it seemed everyone thought it would be all right on the day. 

But this is not a movie that tries to assign blame.  It just presents what was, albeit from Senna's perspective.  And what an interesting and occasionally inspirational life it was too.

Verdict: Senna is an amazing film that deserves all the praise and recognition I had heard about it.  Touching, thrilling, straight forward and letting the story tell the story, it was a brilliantly conceived and executed film that I can recommended to anyone - not always something that can be said about documentaries.  9500 rpms out of 10000.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

The Case for Popular 90s Travesties

Rolling Stone has released its (or its readers) list of the worst song of the 90s.

When I forwarded the link, I got a few surprised responses back: 

* Where is the Mr Blobby song?  (That one I think can be explained as this is an American list)

* Where is the Lemon Tree song?  (No idea about that one - I never really liked it, though it is relatively harmless)
* Why no Celine Dion?  (Possibly the song was fine, it was the Singer Sans Soul who is the real reason for revulsion)
* Where are the S-Club 7 entries?  (I think that's another Brit thing)
* And what about B*witched's C'est la Vie (... I have drawn a blank, as I have no idea why that didn't make the list)

But really, there are so many songs from that era (or any era really) that, on reflection (or even at the time) are fairly horrendous.  Perhaps, like songs from the 80s, future generations will look back with a sense of nostalgia for the egocentric lyrics of Vanilla Ice or the Nordic moronic-ness of Aqua.  And, to be honest, while I can appreciate their crapness, the more vapid the song (with no pretence of actual emotional depth), the easier I find it to enjoy the songs deemed to be awful. 

For me, a song truly becomes awful when there it is meant to be deep and meaningful - and when it so obviously and painfully fails. One person mentioned
Mr Big's To Be With You (very early 90s).  One song that drives me bonkers in this way of recent years is One Republic's Apologize.  The song is pretty overwrought, and why oh why in the video does it look like the lead vocalist is being tortured when the actual singing sounds almost restrained while in the background everyone else in the band looks bored to be there?

And what about that other 90s wail fest, Toni Braxton's Unbreak My Heart?  Do you know how hard it is to explain what "unbreak" means to people who don't speak English? 

I am stumped why some of the Big Movie "wail" songs did not make the list.  Bryan Adam's (Everything I Do) I Do It For You must surely have been played at enough weddings so that even those who may have liked it would have joined those who only appreciate the movie for Alan Rickman's Christmas-cancelling performance.  And back to Ms Dion, are there really redeeming qualities whatsoever in My Heart Will Go On (I could not actually bring myself to watch more than a few seconds of the video below due to its incredible pomposity - and that was with the song itself on mute)? 


Of course, thinking songs are rubbish is easy, because there for every person that hates a song, another will step up to defend it (though perhaps not that hard).  And isn't diversity of opinion wonderful, even if the music sometimes is not?

Verdict: Well, this is my courtroom, and so things play by my rules.  I like what I like, though I will admit when what I like is (by some standards) complete nonsense.  But then, like some things, like Rugby (I had to mention it), should never be taken too seriously.  As to the Rolling Stone list, 6 Macarenas out of 10.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Case for Fire Play

I had heard really good things about the Canadian film Incendies, and (to cut to the chase) the film definitely lived up to that hype. 

Sure, my knowledge of French was sorely taxed by some of the quicker Quebecois utterances, and my knowledge of Arabic is non existent, but the subtitles were clear and the dialogue slow enough to allow plenty of time for the slower readers amongst us to be able to grasp what was said as well as enjoying the beautiful cinematography on display.

Being a foreign language film, the session I saw at the Lighthouse in Petone was on the deserted side, with those of the blue-rinse set who did attend having some very loud conversations along the way.  I could understand their need to do so: the film jumps all over the place in time and space, and while the film is incredibly good at taking the audience with it on this time-hopping journey without the need for "time and place stamps" at every shift, there are still moments that take a while to adjust to.  That, plus the fact that there is no real explanation about the motivations and developments in the conflict in the Middle Eastern country (I assumed it was Lebanon due to the Christian/Muslim clashes) in which most of the film is set, means there were a few things that the more ignorant amongst us (myself included) were wanting to find out.

So, what makes the film so awesome?  As mentioned, it is amazingly put together.  There are no big, fancy special effects; there are just large, blood red letters that overpower the screen the tell us where we are and then, in the different time frames, the stories that take place in those locales unfold.

The story is that of Nawal, who left her Middle Eastern home to raise her twins in Canada.  The twins, on her death, realise that they know nothing about their mother's origins.  Incendies then is their voyage of discovery - and a harrowing one it is, to be sure.

Religious intolerance, family pride, war, torture, politics. there are a lot of things that shape Nawal's life and shock the viewer.  The Middle East itself, even when awash with blood or the smoke of burned out buildings, is beautifully stark, from the rock-strewn countryside to the crumbling beige towns.  Oddly, it is the shots of Canada that look less welcoming, the usual images of Mounties and beautiful pristine nature ignored in favour of pot-holed streets and drab inner city apartments.  It is hard to believe a film so cinematic ever started life as a play.

The performances of the actors as well are absolutely incredible, if occasionally incomprehensible (the Canadians speak clearer French when they head to the Middle East, thankfully).  While the aging process for some of the main actors involves makeup that would not go amiss in a Bride of Frankenstein flick, nothing can hide the passion with which they deliver their performance, even if most of that passion is of the depressing variety.

About the only thing I found hard to process with this film was one of the revelations, as I was struggling to do the math as to how this all could have come about, the lack of "signposting" of dates and locations, while awesome in one way, adding to my confusion at this point.  I will say no more about it, should anyone wish to see this film.

Verdict:  Incendies was an amazing movie.  Definitely not a film for everyone, considering its pretty traumatic subject matter coupled with its subtitled nature, but it is a well crafted, multi-cultural and powerful film that Canada/Quebec seems so incredibly capable of doing.  The ending left me a little unsatisfied (having to do math tends to do that to me), but overall, I was really glad I made the effort to see it.  9 cups of tea out of 10.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

The Case for the Cuppy Countdown 2011

Nearly there.

So, Rugby World Cup 2011.

It has been an unbelievably long time coming, and my cupboards are now overflowing with Powerade, Rexona Antipersperant, Up and Go and Daikin heatpumps - well, they would be if I didn't more or less record everything and just skip through the ads.  I have tickets for a grand total of none of the games, though I may watch one or two somewhere along the line.  I do drink a heck of a lot of Coca Cola though.

All the jingoistic playing on patriotism around the Rugby World Cup 2011 has made me feel rather anti, so on my crusade, I decided to look through the supporters jerseys that the various supermarkets had stocked to find a cocky French top.  After the first supermarket failed to have one, I thought perhaps it had sold out.  By about the third unsuccessful attempt, I was suspecting conspiracy. Now, I reckon it is one.  Unless the French team is just ridiculously popular, which may be the case.

I have never really considered buying an All Black one, though it pays to look like a player to wear them these days:

So far, everything seems to be running as expected:
  • This event will run at a loss, and the New Zealand taxpayer will pick up the bill.  The size of the loss will be unknown until the loss is all lost, but it may be exponentially more than the first dart that hit the cost board indicated, if not logarithmically.
  • The major sponsors have proved to be complete draculian (saw that on a blog once, and thought it was such an apt term) d!cks, adidas foremost amongst them for the whole rugby jersey debacle (though apparently it hasn't stop people buying the jersey, just other labelled items)  The completely-unfunny-even-in-the-abstract Telecom celibacy campaign met a premature death, and now, as reported by other bloggers, unsanctioned sponsorship is being surgically removed from strategic points. 
  • Sonny Bill Williams has shown that his loyalty is to his family and their well being, meaning it is to his wallet and his fighting and what he wants to do, meaning it is not to New Zealand rugby.  Who would have guessed that donning the All Black jersey and playing in a World Cup was just a stepping stone to other things?  Well, EVERYBODY!  Well, obviously not everybody, judging by the fan reaction.  But honestly...
 The only real unknown is who will win the actual competition.  A few game-losing jitters over the last few weeks on the part of the All Blacks has caused a bit of concern, but they are still the odds-on favourites.

For my part... well, truth be told, part of me wants to say I don't want them to win (go France!), part of me want them to be victorious, while over those parts is a layer of not really caring.  I may have to go into all those conflicted opinions in a later blog, once the competition is underway.

But I do have to ask: is Rugby going to be the winner on the day?  With all the shinanegans and goings on, the overwhelming advertising and the distancing of the team from the people, is Rugby actually going to be better viewed than it was beforehand?  I suppose that will depend on who wins or not.

Verdict: It's almost here, which means the anticipation is almost over, and soon, so will all the hype.  Blessings all around, no matter what you think of the rugby.  8 days out of a week and a bit to go.