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Archive for the ‘Sports besides Tennis’

In Southpaw, Jake Gyllenhaal punches his way out of a bag of cliches

July 26, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Movies, Sports besides Tennis 1 Comment →

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Jake Gyllenhaal is so good in Southpaw, so terrifyingly committed to the role, that we were prepared to overlook the deficiencies and absurdities of the movie. We were so impressed at his physical transformation (after the skeletal Nightcrawler), his movement, the way he spoke like a guy who’s been hit on the head constantly since childhood, that we went along with what is essentially a retread of the greatest hits of boxing movies. His character can take an inhuman amount of punishment, like Jake LaMotta in Raging Bull! He’s fighting for his kid, like all the incarnations of The Champ! He’s the underdog, like Rocky Balboa in Rocky! He’s really after redemption, like every boxing hero in every boxing movie we can think of!

Then came what should’ve been the most exciting shot in the movie, the one that we expected to bring the audience to their feet screaming, “Kill him, Jake!” We nearly got up, alright, to scream, “Cheeeeeap!” !@#$%^& ang baduy.

Three things should’ve warned us that this would happen. First, the movie is directed by Antoine Fuqua, who accidentally directed Denzel Washington to an Oscar in Training Day. Second, the character is named Billy Hope, as in “The Great White Hope”, the white boxer who is supposed to take boxing back from the blacks, Latinos and Filipinos who have dominated it. Third, we learn that the movie is called Southpaw because Billy learns to punch with his left hand. Duh!

And when we saw that shot, everything we chose to ignore because we were rooting for Jake paraded before us like lewd boxing round girls. Billy Hope became the light heavyweight champion of the world with no discernible technique other than to absorb punches until he got so pissed off he fought like a wounded bear? With no notion of defense?? How can he even see through the rivers of blood pouring down his face? (Apparently he sheds several liters of blood in each bout.)

Tragedy strikes, and in a matter of weeks Billy loses everything? Not even a downward spiral, but a full-on splat. He loses wife, child, mansion, cars, all his possessions, his entourage (a tiny fraction of Manny Pacquiao’s—someone take Pac-Man to see this), and goes straight to the flophouse and cleaning toilets in a boxing gym? (As Noel pointed out, he couldn’t rent a smaller house first?) Of course the gym is run by Forrest Whitaker, who becomes his trainer and teaches him strategy—it’s that kind of movie.

Then in a matter of weeks he fights an exhibition match that gets the attention of his scuzzy ex-promoter (50 “Maybe I’m not really bankrupt” Cent) who says he can get his boxing suspension lifted early so that in six weeks he can get a shot at the title against the boxer who caused the tragedy that led directly to his downfall. In case that’s not enough emotion to fuel Billy’s comeback, something bad happens off-screen that is mentioned so casually it might not have happened at all. Cheeeaap.

Naturally we get a training montage featuring a new song by Eminem (the movie was supposed to have been an Eminem project) in which Eminem explains everything to the audience in case they were punch-drunk from being smacked in the face with so many clichés.

At which point we realize that Jake is acting in a vacuum. This movie is completely unworthy of him, or Rachel McAdams who turns in possibly her strongest performance since Mean Girls, or Forest Whitaker whose presence makes up for the clichés he must recite, or Naomie Harris as a child services rep who apparently has only one charge. Jake has brought a bazooka where a flyswatter would’ve been sufficient. All the stuff we see him doing—yelling into a pillow while bleeding, sweating, pouring snot and drooling—is just Acting. Akting na akting.

Of course we are very fond of Jake whom we tend to think of as Heath’s widow. Since Prince of Persia, the franchise that was supposed to make him a box-office star but didn’t, he has been on a roll: Source Code, End of Watch, Enemy, Nightcrawler. Great things are in store for Jake Gyllenhaal, just not Southpaw. Forget it, Jake, it’s Hollywood.

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This is how to make a training montage.

Money, morals and Mayweather

May 19, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Current Events, Sports besides Tennis 1 Comment →

Anyone who cares about boxing knows that a number of its participants have criminal pasts—and, for that matter, criminal presents and criminal futures. In Mayweather’s case, the news of his latest assault and concomitant jail sentence was sometimes treated as yet one more episode in a colorful life. A few months after the sentence came down, HBO called Mayweather “one of boxing’s most intriguing and controversial figures” and broadcast “Floyd Mayweather: Speaking Out,” an interview conducted by Michael Eric Dyson, the scholar known for his analysis of African-American culture and politics.

“I’m pretty sure Martin Luther King been in jail,” Mayweather said, rather nonsensically. “I’m pretty sure Malcolm X been in jail.”

At one point, Dyson suggested that Mayweather’s critics were jealous and possibly racist. He asked, “Do you think people have a real resentment of your success as a black man who’s flashy, making it rain, and they look at their own lives and see that they’re not doing nearly as well as you?”

What should we do with athletes like Mayweather, who commit particularly disturbing crimes? In boxing, the answer, traditionally, has been: as long as they are not currently incarcerated, let them fight.

Read The Best Defense by Kelefa Sanneh in the New Yorker.

Mazel tov, Your Highness

May 02, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Current Events, Sports besides Tennis 2 Comments →

The second we checked into Budapest, the BBC reported that England’s new royal baby has arrived and she’s a girl. Mazel tov! Given the timing of the birth–breaking into the latest non-news on the upcoming Pacquiao-Mayweather match–and given that Manny Pacquiao named his daughter “Queen Elizabeth”, Kate and Wills should call their baby “Dionesia”.

Little Azkals movie showing in cinemas on October 25-26

October 22, 2014 By: jessicazafra Category: Movies, Sports besides Tennis No Comments →

Directed by Baby Ruth Villarama. Opening on 25-26 October, 2014 at selected SM Cinemas.

Venganza! On Oberyn Martell, the World Cup, and Jose Rizal’s library

June 19, 2014 By: jessicazafra Category: Books, History, Sports besides Tennis 1 Comment →

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We know nothing about the teams battling it out in the football World Cup (except that the Italian, Spanish and Croatian teams look fabulous). But when we heard that Spain, which had lost to the Netherlands 1-5 (Was Iker asleep?), was up against Chile, we decided we were rooting for Chile. Because Pedro Pascal who played the Red Viper Oberyn Martell of Dorne is Chilean! And used his father’s accent in the role (He himself has lived in New York for ages). The Red Viper did not make much of an impression on us when we read A Song of Ice and Fire, but with Pascal in the role (and Benioff-Weiss speeding up the story), whoa!

And Chile kicked defending champion Spain out of the World Cup, 2-0. As Butch texted: Spain eliminated on Rizal’s birthday. Venganza!

Which reminded us that today is Jose Rizal’s birthday. Yikes, we had forgotten. Why is it that we mark his death rather than his birth?

What do the Red Viper and our national hero have in common? Venganza! Oberyn Martell did it through mortal combat with The Mountain (Finish him off now! Get away from that–oh yucch), Rizal’s mysterious Simoun planned to do it with some nitroglycerine in a lamp shaped like a pomegranate.

This being Jose Rizal’s birthday, we looked up the list of the books he owned in Under Three Flags: Anarchism and the Colonial Imagination by Benedict Anderson. The library that Rizal brought back from Europe included books by the following authors.

French:
Francois-Rene de Chateaubriand (Was the steak named after him?)
Alphonse Daudet
Alexandre Dumas pere (5) – Of course, El Filibusterismo being heavily inspired by the revenge classic The Count of Monte Cristo.
Victor Hugo – Everyone read Les Miserables; today everyone sings the songs.
Alain-Rene Lesage
Eugene Sue (10), author of sensational novels that dealt with social ills
Voltaire
Emile Zola (4)

English:
Edward Bulwer-Lytton of “It was a dark and stormy night” infamy
Daniel Defoe – Robinson Crusoe?
Charles Dickens – Of course, but which one.
William Makepeace Thackeray – Vanity Fair, we suppose.

German:
Goethe
E.T.A. Hoffman – Fantasy and horror author

Italian:
Alessandro Manzoni – I promessi sposi

Dutch:
Douwes Dekker

Spanish:
Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra – Don Quixote, we presume.

Anderson points out that these authors had been mentioned in Rizal’s letters: (Hans Christian) Andersen, (Honore de) Balzac, Johann Peter Hebel, and (Jonathan) Swift. Rizal also had access to the library of Trinidad Pardo de Tavera, in whose house in Paris he had been a guest for several months.

This week, Michael Christian Martinez was tougher than the PBA.

February 16, 2014 By: jessicazafra Category: Current Events, Sports besides Tennis, Television No Comments →

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Read our column at InterAksyon.

Bonus: At our sister’s insistence, Conan’s interview with the Sochi PR rep.