Friday, January 30, 2009

Off the Button

When the Oscar nominations came out, I was disappointed that The Dark Knight did not come up for Best Picture or Best Director, while The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and Slumdog Millionaire cleaned up by the bushel. I have not seen Benjamin Button so this is a tad unfair on my part, but I felt that the commercial success of TDK was held against it while TCCOBB seemed to have been made with Oscars in mind, and it worked.

This is what Roger Ebert had to say on his blog today about the relative merits of the two movies:
Ebert: (...) And speaking of Oscars, "The Dark Night" was so much a better film than "Benjamin Button."
I may have had differences of opinion with Ebert in the past (notably for The Ghost and the Darkness and My Cousin Vinny) but I have always had immense respect for what he had to say. (Does that make sense?)

In this case, I am inclined to believe him even without watching TCCOBB.

By the way, here are Ebert's reviews of the three movies (highest rating - 4 stars):
The Dark Knight (4 stars)
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2.5 stars)
Slumdog Millionaire (4 stars)

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Random musings - 1 - updated

(In this column of I shall put forward thoughts that course through my mind - too small to be separate blog posts but too long to be passing fancies).

Why was Aamir Khan's character in Ghajini left-handed? Aamir is not left-handed, and there was no earthly reason for the character to be one, was there? (Check out the footage from the 3:51 mark in this video).

My new cricketing hero is MS Dhoni, especially for his play ever since he became the captain of the ODI team. I am losing count of how many times he has taken India to the finish line during a chase. Next season, I am modeling my game on him, right down to the way he stands while surveying the field.

Would Slumdog Millionaire have been nominated for 10 Oscars if everything had been the same except that the director was Indian? I don't think so. It would have been lucky to even sniff the Best Foreign Film category.

Why do Kurt Warner and the Arizona Cardinals remind me of Stan Humphries and the San Diego Chargers of 1995? I hope the fate of the Cardinals in this year's Super Bowl is entirely different from the one that befell the Chargers in SB XXIX.

Am I the only one who still remembers that when Mohammad Azharuddin "retired" from cricket he was the world record holder for most 50's, most runs, most not-outs, and most catches in ODI history? It boggles the mind to think that after his spectacular debut Test series, the analysts begged for him to never be included in the ODI team as they thought that it would "ruin his technique".

With his win against Andy Roddick in the semifinals of the Australian Open, Roger Federer has added to some already gaudy numbers that he possesses. He became the only man to reach the final at all 4 majors (Australian, French, Wimbledon, and US Open) at least three times. (On the distaff side, Steffi Graff is the only person to have won all four majors at least 4 times apiece!). By beating Roddick in straight sets, Federer has now won 152 out of 156 matches (152-4) when he wins the first set in a major. Tennis history's best front-runner on the games biggest stage, by far. (By the way, just for kicks, as of today Rafael Nadal is 76-1 when he wins the first set in a Grand Slam tournament!).

Sunday, January 25, 2009

The best form of flattery

If you get a sense of deja vu while watching The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, you will know why when you see this video!

Writer's blocks

Luckily for us fans of Aakash Chopra, he continues to write on his CricInfo blog. In his latest post, Aakash Chopra describes the hard work that went into writing his first book.
A lot of things also conspired to keep me on my toes: the central contract, Delhi's dream run, my personal form and chances of playing for the country. In any case, I couldn't have written the script better. It was a landmark season with Delhi winning the Ranji Trophy after 16 years, North Zone clinching the Duleep Trophy, and me ending up being the highest run-scorer. We also had the first edition of the IPL in the same season to top it all.

Monday, January 19, 2009

From goodbye to hello

Aakash Chopra's first book on cricket, Beyond the Blues: A Cricket Season Like No Other, has finally been published. Not surprisingly, it is based primarily on his experiences during the recently concluded cricket season. But, if his blogs and articles are anything to go by, it promises to be better than the run-of-the-mill "autobiographies" that get churned out by players, current or former.

The reviews have started to come in and are quite positive. Suresh Menon chips in with his impression.
This must rank as the best book written by an Indian Test cricketer. It is candid and takes you into the mind of the player. Most books by Indian players are ghost-written autobiographies with tedious details of matches played, the odd anecdote, and very few insights into the game in India.

Aakash Chopra has written a book that has both immediacy and perspective. He uses a single incident or personality to comment on a system and the inevitability of it producing the kind of players India produces
My order has been "placed" and the book is on its way to me. I can hardly wait for it...

Movie-wood by any other name

It is not uncommon these days for scenes in Indian movies to be shot abroad. But what if you want to shoot scenes in a foreign locale but did not have the inclination to venture beyond the confines of a movie studio?

Well, if the man cannot get to the mountain, you simply bring the mountain to the man...

With the increasing revenue being generated by Bollywood movies in the west, it was a matter of time before one of them was released by a major studio in the US. The movie that was chosen for this grand release....err....From Chandni Chowk to China.

Here's Roger Ebert's so-so review of the movie. Methinks the review is probably more interesting than the movie. Or is it?

Friday, January 09, 2009

Head rest

Why do people build statues? So birds can have a place to survey the world from while looking for targets to poop on. If all else fails, the statue itself will do! Ah, the indignity of it all.

Girl power

How does Shah Rukh Khan get so many actresses to appear in these songs with him? He had a medley in Om Shanti Om:

And now in his latest movie - Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi - he is at it again!

Some guys have all the luck...

A statistical medley for baseball lovers

Of all the sports that I have followed, the one that keeps the most copious stats for the players is baseball (Major League Baseball). And the record-keeping is so exhaustive that people with a lot of time on their hands can bring up some incredible compilations. Here's Jayson Stark of ESPN with the strange but true occurrings in MLB 2008.

For example:
LOST CONTACT DEPT.: Nationals pitcher Jason Bergmann blew away the two most esoteric records of the year. He made it to the plate 42 times -- and failed to reach base via a hit or walk in ANY of them. He broke two exalted records in the process -- (1) most plate appearances without a hit or walk (previously set by Vicente Palacio, 36, in 1994) and (2) most official walkless and hitless at-bats (previously set by Hackin' Hal Finney, 35, in 1936).

LET'S PLAY 18 DEPT.: Every once in a while, there's a game that seems as if it's played only for the sake of us Strange But True historians. This 18-inning May 25 whopper between the Reds and Padres was one of them. The Reds used FOUR members of their starting rotation just in this game. One of those starters, Aaron Harang, piled up more strikeouts in his four innings out of the 'pen (nine) than he racked up in any of his 29 starts this year. The Reds blew more saves just between the eighth and 11th innings (three) than they'd blown all season before that (two). The Padres had a different pitcher on the mound to start every inning between the sixth and 11th. The Reds managed to do something they hadn't done in almost 60 years -- get 21 hits in one game and lose. (Last time they did that: June 8, 1949.) And just for fun, Adrian Gonzalez ended it all with the National League's first 18th-inning walk-off since 1989.

Last words

2008 is in the books and who better than Sambit Bal to give a comprehensive review of the happenings across the playing fields and beyond. The review is in two pieces - part 1 here, and part 2 here.

Here's his take on MS Dhoni, the golden boy whose captaincy is still in the honeymoon phase. His first hiccup was in not pursuing a 2-0 verdict against England, but that was completely overshadowed by his so-far successful reign as the skipper.
India are lucky to have found Dhoni to take them through a crucial hour of transition. He has shades of Sourav Ganguly's leadership qualities, and on the evidence of his few matches in charge, greater tactical nous. Most of all, he seems immune to the media, which as Rahul Dravid and Anil Kumble found, often poses a much greater challenge to Indian captains than opponents on the field. So far, admittedly, he is yet to taste the kind of press that drove Dravid and Kumble to distraction, and he has maintained an aloof, and in fact slightly amused, air about media criticism.

As captain he doesn't seem burdened by precedents or shackled by the fear of consequences. There is a method to his tactics, but he has allowed himself to be guided by his instincts. In some ways he is an old-school captain, not given to over-theorising or over-reliance on the laptop, and guided instead by a cricketer's reading of situations. As a result, his decision-making has come across as uncomplicated and uncluttered. He also seems to possess that intangible thing that all successful captains need: luck.

There will be days when his plans misfire and luck deserts him. That will be his true test. Last year was one in which he could do no wrong. Still, all signs suggest he will be all right
While on skippers, a man who went from hero to zero (or worse) in the blink of an eye has spent many years on the outside. But, luckily, it appears that the (perceived) sins of the father are not hampering the progress of the sons. Mohammad Azharuddin's older son is being recruited by the IPL. Here's hoping he cares a niche for himself and outdoes his father on the field. Also, the younger son has been spotted, too, and if anything, is a bigger chip off the old block than his elder brother.

Finally, Aakash Chopra was recently shown the door by the BCCI, effectively ending any hope he had of playing for India again. He has gone back to blogging for CricInfo but here and there you can glimpse the pain he feels from not getting a chance to represent the country again.
Now that we're home and with our families, we must make the most of it as we really don't know what the future has in store for us. Though, personally, I wouldn't mind staying away on New Year's Eve with the Indian team once again.
His first book, Beyond the Blues, is releasing this week and I am looking forward to owning a copy soon.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Standing still

When your surroundings are lit up like a Christmas tree, it is not easy to fall asleep because of the glare. Maybe that is why New York city is known as the city that never sleeps.

Exhibit A: Times Square

And with that, my blogging resumes in 2009...