March 27, 2006
With the Netflix, you have plenty of time to browse, read reviews, discuss with the wife and throw a bunch of stuff in your queue.
First off, let be be upfront. My name is Gary and I'm a "24" addict. I'm most of the way through season one at this point and I'm kicking myself for not watching this first run. The biggest problem at this point are spoilers and I've come to accept the fact that no character is safe on this show. Any one of them can get killed off if future seasons and many are. So I'm just resigned to that fact. But this doesn't take away from the intensity of the show. I look forward to season two and beyond.
Next up, "Bend It Like Beckham". This was one my wife saw with friends at the theater a while back and she's been bugging me to see it. It's a bit more than your standard sports coming of age story. Yes, you have the teenage girl dealing with parental expectations thing. There's also the Indian v. British cultural clash aspect. But the main thrust of the story is about women who love to play football/soccer trying to make it in a "man's sport". One of things that struck me is that while Europe is often seen in this country as being so "progressive" and culturally "open-minded" the best these girls can aspire to is playing professionally in the U.S. Where are all the European women's sporting leagues? No where to be found, eh?
The United States has the WUSA, the WNBA, the LPGA...even a professional women's American Football league. Now, granted these leagues don't have anywhere near the popularity of the men's pro sports organizations but at least there's the opportunity for women athletes to compete in the sports they excel in, and get paid for it. I guess Europe has a long way to go in this respect.
Anyway, the film is funny and well-done. The lead character is Jess Bhamra, played by Parminder Nagra (who is currently starring in the series "ER"), whose talents with a soccer ball are noticed by Jules Paxton (Keira Knightly). Jules invites Jess to play on a amateur women's team she belongs to. Jess joins the team against the wishes of her parents, who would rather she follow her sister's example and find a nice Indian man to marry. The results are both comical and touching as Jess does her best to manage her family's desires and aspire to her own.
Lastly, I finally got around to seeing "Sideways" and was pleasantly surprised. Miles Raymond (Paul Giamatti) is a middle-aged English teacher and aspiring (but failing) writer who is really in his element when evaluating wines but is a guy who otherwise is not comfortable in his own skin. He heads up to Northern California on a week-long roadtrip with his buddy, Jack, who is getting married the following Saturday. Miles introduces his friend to the joys of wine and wine-tasting (though often a little too much tasting) but Jack is more interested in getting laid before he takes the big plunge.
The story is well-written and we gradually get to understand what makes these guys tick, especially Miles. Both men begin to reevaluate their lives at middle-age and ask the same questions that we all do - who are we and what do we really want out of life. Their exploration of wine-country leads to an exploration of themselves. There is a particularly well-written scene where Miles is discussing wine with Maya, the lead female character (Virginia Madsen), and the wine becomes a metaphor for life itself. I can see where some people might find the ending too ambiguous or open-ended but the key to the conclusion is Miles' personal growth. Where it goes from there, the viewer can fill in the blanks.
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