With every VIFF, it’s a goal of mine to see at least one shorts segment. I had the good fortune of seeing a segment as my first VIFF show. The segment titled Escape Routes consisted of six shorts by Canadian directors. Three of them were filmed in BC. All six were intriguing to watch.
The Subject (dir. Patrick Bouchard): We see a body on the table. We see a spike coming out of a foot at first. Then we see it start to be dissected. What’s happening is a whole lot of imagery happens around his body and coming from out of his body. Then when he’s dissected in his upper chest, we see a steel inside.
What’s happening in this film is the animator dissecting his own body. This film is the animator using self-dissection to show what his works are all about. His emotions, his memories, his fears, all go into his work. A couple of religious entendres may be telling how it plays into his fears. Even the artistic patterns that form around his skin give a picture about what the animator is saying about himself and how it plays into his works.
Girl On A Bus (dir. Matthew B. Schmidt): The film begins with people questioning about a girl who disappeared. Then the film shoots to a scene on a bus. A teenage/young adult female is one of the passengers and she’s just relaxing and looking at Instagram photos. The bus takes a break at a gas station along the highway. She uses the outside bathroom and changes her hair, makeup and clothes to something very different and takes social media pictures. The driver can’t recognize her and thinks a passenger is missing. As police are questioning the ‘missing girl,’ she gets interrogated and gives misleading questions. She mentions she’s running away but doesn’t say why. She leaves the interrogation booth. A picture from a child identifies her as the missing, but she walks away when asked.
At first, it seems like a nonsense film. A girl changes her look but is labeled missing? Then you get the sense of what’s happening. She says she’s running away but gives a vague answer why. When told to stay at the booth as the police leave temporarily, she leaves. When asked if the photo of her on a child’s pad is her, she doesn’t answer and walks away. It makes more sense later on. She comes across as a girl who wants to escape from it all. It’s not apparent exactly the reason or reasons why, but it’s obvious she wants to escape from everything. Only on social media would she want to be around people. I can identify because I had those same feelings when I was her age. A very good short story of a film.
Best Friends Read The Same Books (dir. Matthew Taylor Blais): The film consists of no sound at all, but of images of plants, colors, bushes, parks, coasts, and the director reading a book in various places and various seating positions on a bench. The film ends with a set of colors.
I’ll take it for what it is. This is the director trying to film in an abstract sort of way. The images, around various areas of Greater Vancouver, are meant to tell about his surroundings and reading the same book.
Train Hopper (dir. Amelie Hardy): The film begins with a passage of Allen Ginsberg’s poem America. Then cuts into a video of a young man who’s a customer service agent working at his desk with his headset. Later we catch the young man around trains on the train tracks. Then we see him hopping on the trains between the cars and going along for the ride. We even see his self-recorded videos of him during the trips. Within the second-half of the film and video footage, we hear the man talk about his dreams and his imagination and why he takes these trips, which include trips crossing into the United States. The film ends with audio of Ginsberg’s America.
The film begins with a statement that the Beat Generation is not dead. The whole film is a picturesque reminder that even in this day and age, there are still young people who still dare to dream, who dare to still want to live their dream out. This film shows it with this young man who’s a customer service agent by profession, but dreamer by passion. An excellent cinematic portrait.
Acres (dir. Rebeccah Love): The story begins with a young man working on a farm. Later on, his sister, her husband and a former girlfriend of his join for dinner. They talk about him managing his father’s farm after his death, as well as a dispute over use of the land that will require legal attention. The sister and brother-in-law leave for home but the ex-girlfriend decides to stay overnight. Possibly to help him with his situation. She is a photographer by passion. The two were in love while they were in college. This is happening while they’re talking of a way to properly mark the burial site of his father’s ashes. He had ambitions of becoming a businessman, but passions in his life that involved travelling caused him to leave everyone behind, including the family and even her. She tries to get to the bottom of this. Especially since this caused their break-up. Eventually they do rekindle.
The film is a picturesque way of showing a real-life situation. It’s a quiet situation, but one that needs to be discussed and resolved. The filmmaker does it with good storytelling and honest dialogue.
Biidaaban (dir. Amanda Strong): This is the one short that’s fully animated. There’s one young person of Indigenous decent, Biidaaban, and an older Sasquatch shapeshifter Sabe. They live in the same dwelling. They communicate with what you first think is a smartphone, but is actually a mystic rock that creates images and dialogue. Biidaaban seeks to collect sap from maple trees in a neighborhood. Sabe will assist Biidaaban. As they collect the sap, they are suddenly taken over by spirits and enter into a mystical world.
Upon the film’s Q&A, we learn the film is not just about Indigenous legends and myths. It’s also about gender-fluidity as Biidaaban is a gender-fluid youth. From what I remember about the Q & A, the gender-fluidity does tie in with Indigenous culture. The whole film was very dramatic and very mystical. The genre of animation allows the viewer to feel the imagination of the film and capture the mysticism.
All six shorts were very intriguing to watch. Even with one more thrilling than the other, and one not trying to be thrilling at all, all had something to say. Sometimes you wondered if all six fit the term Escape Routes. Some of the subjects or plots in a film or two didn’t look like physical escapes at all. However many of them turned out to be escapes of the mind. Escaping isn’t just about a road to somewhere.
Escape Routes was an excellent selection of six Canadian shorts. Each were different in their own way. All of them had something to say. And all would come off as an escape from something. You had to see it to know it.
It’s right there on FIFA’s website on how much it took to determine the 32 qualifiers for next year’s World Cup: thirty months, six confederations, 209 teams, 868 matches played, and 2454 goals scored. All 31 available berths up for grabs were decided by November 15th. December 1st was the day to decide the four teams for all eight groups for the World Cup.
Qualifying for the World Cup is already enough of a battle. The respective continent’s confederations contested their matches and conducted their own qualifying format for deciding their qualifiers for the World Cup. There were even two countries that qualified via a ‘wildcard’ berth where they’d have to play a team from another continent twice. The thirty-two qualifying countries were all decided more than two weeks ago. The qualifying rounds made a lot of news for those that qualified, but those that didn’t got a lot of news of their own too. The second-round qualifying matches for the CAF saw two of Africa’s best-ever teams–Nigeria and Cameroon– pitted against each other. Only one can qualify and it ended up being Nigeria. Another surprise was the Ivory Coast being surprised by Morocco and Ghana being overtaken by Egypt. Asia didn’t have many surprises, but Qatar finished last in the Second Round group. Not good since they will be hosting in 2022. The CONMEBOL almost saw the non-qualification of Argentina, but they recovered to win their last game and qualify. Instead the most shocking non-qualifier was 2015 and 2016 Copa America winner Chile which was third the day before the final game for all teams.
The biggest shockers in qualifying came from the CONCACAF and Europe. On the last day of CONCACAF qualifying, all the USA needed to do to qualify was beat Trinidad and Tobago in their last game. It was something they could do as Trinidad would finish last of the Final 6. Instead the USA lost 2-1. That was enough for them to kiss their qualification chances goodbye as Panama beat Costa Rica 2-1 to qualify and Honduras beat Mexico 3-2 to earn a berth in the interconfederation playoff against Australia. Europe had some of the biggest shockers as The Netherlands didn’t even qualify for a UEFA playoff round and Italy thwarted their playoff against Sweden losing 1-0 the first game and a scoreless draw the next. Russia 2018 will be the first World Cup since 1958 in which Italy didn’t qualify and only the third World Cup ever with Italy absent!
Now enough of this World Cup’s also-rans. On with those that qualified. Twenty of the 32 teams for Russia 2018 played in Brazil 2014. Brazil makes it 21 for 21. All former World Cup winners except for Italy will be present. The team with the longest absence making a return to the World Cup stage in 2018 is Peru whose last World Cup appearance was back in 1982. There are only two countries that will make their World Cup debut in Russia: Iceland and Panama. Iceland is especially noteworthy as it has become the first nation with a population of less than 1 million to qualify for a World Cup! Actually there aren’t even half a million people living in the nation of Iceland so that makes it even more remarkable.
Now onto the draw. The draw was held Friday at 18:00 Moscow time at the Kremlin. Legends from all eight countries that have won the World Cup in the past were present: Laurent Blanc, Diego Maradona, Gordon Banks, Cafu, Miroslav Klose, Fabio Cannavaro, Diego Forlan and Carles Puyol. Gary Lineker was host of the event and Russian legend Nikita Simonyan was also part of the event, Vladimir Putin was defintely in attendance, an d the Igor Moiseyev Ballet provided the performance before the draw.
Now onto the actual drawing. In the past, FIFA has organized the pots to give appropriate correlation with continents and availability. FIFA wants the eight groups of four to be a case of no more than two European teams and only one team of the other confederations. There are fourteen European teams (UEFA) including host Russia, five South American teams (CONMEBOL), three teams from North and Central America and the Caribbean (CONCACAF), five African teams (CAF) and five teams from the AFC (Asia and Australia).
FIFA wants to create better parity among the groups for this World Cup. FIFA doesn’t want a case of two or three top-ranked teams in a group as only two can advance past the Group Stage. We all remember the dreaded Group D of 2014 which consisted of three top-ranked teams. This time around FIFA decided to break the draw into four pots of eight. The pots are all based on the teams’ FIFA World Ranking as of October 2017, regardless of continent. The only exception being Russia as the host nation is always automatically in Group A. Here’s how the pots break down with their confederation listed and their ranking in brackets:
- Russia – UEFA (65)
- Germany – UEFA (1)
- Brazil – CONMEBOL (2)
- Portugal – UEFA (3)
- Argentina – CONMEBOL (4)
- Belgium – UEFA (5)
- Poland – UEFA (6)
- France – UEFA (7)
- Spain – UEFA (8)
- Peru – CONMEBOL (10)
- Switzerland – UEFA (11)
- England – UEFA (12)
- Colombia – CONMEBOL (13)
- Mexico – CONCACAF (16)
- Uruguay – CONMEBOL (17)
- Croatia – UEFA (18)
- Denmark – UEFA (19)
- Iceland – UEFA (21)
- Costa Rica – CONCACAF (22)
- Sweden – UEFA (25)
- Tunisia – CAF (28)
- Egypt – CAF (30)
- Senegal – CAF (32)
- Iran – AFC (34)
- Serbia – UEFA (38)
- Nigeria – CAF (41)
- Australia – AFC (43)
- Japan – AFC (44)
- Morocco – CAF (48)
- Panama – CONCACAF (49)
- South Korea – AFC (62)
- Saudi Arabia – AFC (63)
As you can tell by the pot arrangements, they’re trying to make the contest as balanced as possible. In addition, FIFA knows the top seeded teams are Team 1 in each group–host nation being Team A1– but FIFA still wants a drawn ball in all cases to make it official, even drawing the order of the last group team drawn. That explains all those red balls at the beginning of the draw; to make defaults official. Confederation rules still apply as far as maximums per group. Pot 1 had six UEFA teams and Pot 2 had four. It could have been a case where four groups could have reached their maximum two for UEFA teams by the time Pot 2 was all drawn out. Instead it was just two groups with UEFA berths completed. Drawing teams and placing them in the right groups was not as hard and tedious as I had anticipated. In the end, all eight groups had their teams drawn and allotted with only minor complications which were sorted out with ease:
- Saudi Arabia
- Costa Rica
- South Korea
So those are the groups for the 2018 FIFA World Cup. It makes for some interesting analyses. The draw usually tries to make for the host nation to have an easy time qualifying to the knockout phase. Russia has a good group with only Uruguay looking to be a real threat to them. Group B is most interesting not because of the challenge of the teams, but of the geography: Spain, Portugal and Morocco! The draw was aimed so that there could be better parity among ranked teams, but there are possibilities of a ‘Group Of Death’ or two. First bet is Group D; Croatia and Iceland are underdogs that can cause a surprise, and Nigeria meet Argentina for the fifth time out of six World Cups. The second potential Group Of Death could be Group F with Germany and Mexico plus possible upsets coming from either Sweden or South Korea.
And there you go. That’s the Final Draw for the 2018 FIFA World Cup. The teams now have six months to prepare themselves and be among the top two to advance. Lots of excitement guaranteed.
If there is one genre of movie that stands out during the summer movie season, it’s the superhero movies. Every year they win crowds and give them their enjoyment for the most part. For this summary, I will review two such movies: Captain America: Civil War and The Suicide Squad. Both are two different types of superhero movies in the way the people try to be heroes and with the comic franchises: Marvel vs. DC once again.
Captain America: Civil War
While DC Comics has the two biggest superheroes, Marvel’s edge is its multitude of different superheroes: take your pick. This time around in Captain America: Civil War, the focus is on Captain America. Or is it?
Watching the film, I was expecting it to be a story about Captain America. You can imagine my surprise to see all the other Avengers characters. I was cool with it at first. However things started getting uncomfortable for me when I saw them take up so much screen time. They all took up so much time, I even questioned whether Captain America was even the lead role in the film. I even thought if it was to have one hero as the lead role, it should probably be Iron Man.
Nevertheless the film does have a lot of excellent qualities. The first is a story that is thought-provoking. There’s a situation where international rules are imposed on the Avengers. Right when an incident happens, it causes friction within the team and even division. The question remains of what is the right thing to do? The movie attempts to give you the answer. Virtues and morals are an uncompromisable ingredient in superhero movies no matter how much action is involved. Even top directors will say that the values of humanity are necessary for a winning superhero movie. Here we have a movie that gets one questioning what is the right thing to do considering the situation. That adds to the film as it gets the audience thinking.
Of course high-tech special effects and action battles are a must in superhero movies. The crowds come to get blown away. Captain America: Civil War delivers on such action just like most of the Marvel comic movies before it. It has moments that will leave you on the edge of your seat. In addition, it adds some comedy too as it gives us a young Peter Parker, played by Tom Holland, as a preview for the new upcoming Spider-Man installment. Here Peter comes across as your typical young idiotic yuts. Gives anticipation of what to expect when Spider-Man comes out.
The Russo brothers return to direct the movie. They directed the last Captain America movie. They did a very good job of delivering another great superhero movie. Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely return with the Russos to write the latest installment. They did a good job despite the push of some actors to have more screen time. Of course, Robert Downey Jr. stole the movie and Chris Evans appeared to have a supporting role this time. The other actors did their parts well and didn’t appear to get into too much of the mix-up. The special effects delivered and Henry Jackson’s music added to the film.
For all intents and purposes, Captain America: Civil War is an Avengers movie in disguise. Don’t be fooled. However the quality of the story is maintained as it gives a thought-provoking story with the superhero action to deliver.
There’s something about the knack to do an anti-hero movie. We saw that with Marvel when they released Deadpool. Now we see DC Comics making the attempt with the Suicide Squad. Do they succeed?
You’d think after Sausage Party, I’d start again on how this movie of a bad-guy superhero squad is trying to ‘bring back the 90’s’ but you’re wrong. A story where it takes bad guys and makes heroes out of them is actually a very common theme. It’s even been done in film as far back as the 1930’s as I once saw 1939’s Stagecoach take the outcasts of society and turn them into heroes. It’s a theme that has been done decade after decade. We see it done here again with the Suicide Squad. The people recruited to be part of the Squad are criminals and crazies that look like they deserved to be shunned away from society but an intelligence operative sees them as the right people for the job. They even make clear that they’re bad, not evil.
The ‘bad vs. evil’ theme is what makes this movie unique among the superhero movies of this year. Even from Deadpool. While Marvel’s Deadpool is about a selfish man who’s disinterested in being the superhero bestowed upon him, Suicide Squad is about a conscience present in even the baddest of badasses. A reminder that bad and evil are two completely different things. Don’t forget we’re dealing with a world where Superman is deceased, as exhibited in Batman vs. Superman: Dawn Of Justice months earlier.
Now the Suicide Squad is not a team of badass superheroes created in vain after Deadpool: an attempt at having ‘anti-Avengers.’ It’s a team that actually debuted in DC Comics in 1959 in their monthly Brave And The Bold series and made a return in 1987 in their Legends series back then. The comic would be a monthly series that would issue for some months, end temporarily for a year or two and then make a comeback from time to time. Now seems like the right time to bring them to the screen. I must say their craziness and eccentricities were big time scene-stealers. While Deadpool mostly relied on the idiotic actions and lines from its lead characters, the characters of the Suicide Squad were more about their crazy and even eccentric personalities. That was their edge and I’m sure that’s what won the crowds to them this year. It’s no wonder it’s the 4th highest grossing movie of the summer.
This is David Ayer’s first attempt at directing and writing a superhero movie. He has a resume for writing and directing a lot of good police dramas and action movies in the past. However his experience doesn’t completely translate the best. Imperfections are easy to notice and it seems the movie does get a bit disjointed at times. Even in terms of the characters, there’s not that much depth to their roles and it often appears like the actors are trying to play characters more than acting out roles. I’ve noticed that DC Comics movies this year are lacking in terms of writing. It’s noticeable in Batman vs. Superman too.
Nevertheless the actors do deliver on character acting and that’s one quality I feel made the movie. In addition the actors succeeded in making characters you want to hate at first and then surprise you as they become heroes and then return as bad guys. Margot Robbie was the standout as Harley Quinn. Her character was the one that knew how to grab your attention, even upstaging Will Smith. Others standouts include Jared Leto as the Joker, Jay Hernandez as El Diablo and Jai Courtney as Captain Boomerang. Visual effects were top notch and loaded with bright color that’s eye catching and very rare to see in most other movies, especially superhero movies. The mix of music was also an added quality. It seems like after Guardians Of The Galaxy, filmmakers are playing around and even experimenting with use of songs in the movies. Here they mix in music spanning five decades and it produces an entertainingly winning result.
Suicide Squad may be lacking in the script and in the editing but it’s the on-fire character acting, colorful visual effects and the eclectic music track that make the movie entertaining and a winner for the summer.
Sure, I only have two superhero movies in my summary of the genre but both do shed some light on the presence of the superhero movies of the summer and why they continue to win us over. They have spectacular action but they also test our conscience as well. I saw that in Batman vs. Superman earlier in the role of a superhero even after they cause destruction to do good. I see it again in Captain America as the Avengers question whether it’s right to break the law to do what’s right. I also see it in the Suicide Squad as outcasts get a shot at redemption and even remind themselves as well as others that they do possess a conscience and can even do what’s right despite their criminal minds.
Once again, the superhero genre remains one of the most winning movie genres of the summer. Even with the surprise success of Deadpool, families still come to the movies to see the good guys win. Some even like to get their ‘bad boy/bad girl’ kicks. All deliver in terms of action and a message.
Remember Beavis and Butt-Head? Yes, the two stupid teens who somehow could make us laugh. As most of you remember, they had a feature-length film from 1996 entitled Beavis and Butt-Head do America. I had the luck to see it on the big screen in theatres.
The story is about Beavis and Butt-Head first losing their television. With nothing else to do, they go around town searching for it. However they find themselves with a drunken criminal, Muddy Grimes, who had just been done wrong by his girlfriend Dallas and wants revenge. He thinks B&B are the two hired to do the job and sends them to Las Vegas to off her.
While in Vegas, the two first make fools of themselves on the dance floor only to be led to their hotel suite: right next door to Dallas. However Dallas is one step ahead of Muddy and is able to get the two to transport a small electronic capsule which unknowing to them actually contains anthrax.
The FBI learn of B&B having the anthrax capsule and are on pursuit of them. Nevertheless they’re led astray as B&B constantly go off-path to various other areas of the U.S. such as the Hoover Dam, the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone Park and Death Valley. The latter they encounter their long-lost fathers: former Motley Crue roadies.
Things become more bizarre as they meet up with a vengeful Muddy who wants to kill the two only to learn he mistook B&B for his real accomplices. Meanwhile the FBI are after B&B and the capsule and are ready to get them as they near Washington D.C. The ending sets up for what everyone would expect to be the takedown of the two only to have things change by their unwitting and temperamental neighbor. In the end, Beavis and Butt-Head save the day and are rewarded by President Bill Clinton. They return home to find their TV and return to being their stupid selves.
I remember when the project first came out, it was originally thought to be a challenge to have a consistent entertaining feature-length film of Beavis and Butt-Head. Those who remember the TV show from MTV will remember that the show was about the brainless duo going into situations that were both mind-numbing but very entertaining in a stupid kind of way. That and their critiquing of music videos where they came across as your typical teen male bozo horndogs. The series created by Mike Judge and aired on MTV turned out to be just what the young wanted as it charmed crowds from 1993 to its end in 1997.
However the series also freaked parents out and would cause a lot of debate over television ratings and parental friendliness of shows, especially after it made headlines for a lot of young people recreating a lot of destructive incidents of the show: two of which proved to be fatal. Despite the copycat incidents, Mike Judge refused to believe that his show was responsible and would ask where the parents were. The controversy surrounding the show however would be reason why there’s that scene at the end of Bill Clinton rewarding B&B for their ‘service to the country’ and saying: “You exemplify a fine new crop of young Americans who will grow into the leaders of this great country.” Talk about the right shock stuff at the right time. Mind you that’s what 90’s entertainment was all about: entertainment that rattled cages, wreaked havoc, got people’s blood boiling…but came out winners because of it.
Once B&B became a phenomenon in 1993, it paved the way for the chance for a feature-length film. Mind you it would not be easy. It had to be a consistent script that would fit the big-screen right. That would mean an actual story instead of the typical ‘incidents’ as in the series. Plus the flavor of the two characters could not be lost. The two disgustingly charming underachievers had to start that way at the film and stay that way at the end despite whatever happens throughout.
You could imagine Mike Judge and his writing team would have to make a lot of choices and some were noticeable: include Anderson, have a big of Van Driessen, have a surprise for McVicker and everyone, leave out Buzz-Cut, Daria and Stewart, include their long-lost dads, keep out music video critiquing. Yes, it was a challenge. Plus there was having actors for the right fit for the roles like Demi Moore and Bruce Willis, big names at the time, rising star Greg Kinnear, loyal fan David Letterman who gave the two an appearance on his show, and character-actors Robert Stack and Cloris Leachman. In the end, it turned out to be a winning result and it not only charmed fans but received appreciation from critics as well. Watching it in the theatres again this summer got me laughing once again.
However this leads to the big question. Does Beavis and Butt-Head Do America stand the test of time all these years later? I don’t think it does. Firstly today’s young people may not get why B&B was just just what we needed back in the 90’s. Those of us from the 80’s and 90’s remember headbangers at school and teenagers who were idiotic, clueless and even violence-obsessed. Beavis and Butt-Head were the epitome of those teenage male stupids who impulsively loved violence and used their penis instead of their head. Teenagers change over the decades and over the various waves of pop culture and I don’t think today’s teens would get B&B. In fact the show was brought back to MTV a few years ago but it didn’t even last a full season.
Secondly, I feel the biggest reason why B&B don’t stand the test of time too much is because of the shock value and envelope-pushing they did in their time. Look at entertainment nowadays. We have a lot more now than what was around 20 years ago. We have the internet which allows for free speech that’s as unlimited as it gets. We have YouTube where one can post all sorts of videos of all sorts of things. We also have channels strictly devoted to cartoons that pave the way for more adult-oriented cartoon shows than before.
Beavis and Butt-Head came during a time when there were no cartoon channels. Most adult-oriented cartoons would have to soften themselves up if they wanted to be shown on the networks. MTV was the network that dared to show a cartoon as irreverent as Beavis and Butt-Head. B&B hit the airwaves just three years after The Simpsons were rattling cages with Homer’s stupidity and Bart’s sass-mouth and just a year after Ren and Stimpy took cartoon weirdness to new levels. B&B and MTV were the right fit, especially with their music video critiques. They ruled cartoon irreverence during their entirety. However their irreverence would actually pale in comparison to the irreverence of today. In fact it wouldn’t even take a year after the films release for South Park and it’s first season consisting of Stan’s Gay Dog, Cartman dressing up as Hitler and Mr. Hankey The Christmas Poo to outdo all the irreverence and envelope-pushing Beavis and Butt-Head did in their entirety. That’s the fates of entertainment and why Beavis and Butt-Head would now be seen as something to yawn at. Heck, even the whole channel of MTV is struggling right now but that’s another subject.
Beavis and Butt-Head Do America may now lack the the shock value, the envelope-pushing and the irreverent punch it had in its time. Nevertheless it can still entertain loyal fans of the show that still love it after all these years.
Yes, before I can predict for the Women’s World Cup, I should predict for the finals of the Copa America. I’ll admit I haven’t seen any games of the Copa but it’s not easy as the WWC is the prime focus. Nevertheless I do plan to see the final live someplace. Anyways here are my predictions.
Third-Place Match: Peru vs. Paraguay
Of course there should be a prediction for the third-place match. It’s tempting to decide who will end up the bronze-medalists here. Peru has come alive like never before in recent years while Paraguay appears to have regained their prowess. Despite losing to Chile, Peru has been impressive. They may have lost to Brazil but they were able to bring Colombia to a tie. They actually deserve some respect for actually conceding less than what most people thought they would. Paraguay was especially impressive at the beginning of the Copa bringing Argentina to a 2-2 draw and even drawing against both Uruguay and Brazil 1-1. It’s tempting to declare Paraguay’s success at the Copa as flukey especially after their 6-1 loss to Argentina in the semifinals. Nevertheless it is impressive to see Paraguay rebound from finishing last in the World Cup qualifiers two years ago.
I predict Peru will win the bronze medals with a 3-1 win over Paraguay. Like Paraguay, I feel Peru is starting to get its groove back and they’re doing it in impressive style.
FINAL FOR THE COPA: Chile vs. Argentina
CHILE- It’s a surprise how a team with so much World Cup success has never been a Copa America winner. There are a lot of other CONMEBOL teams that have less of a World Cup legacy than Chile but have won the Copa in the past. Chile is going through one of their most impressive eras ever. Some say it may have to do with rebounding after a cheating incident in World Cup qualifying in 1993 that led to their disqualification. If that in fact led to Chile’s improvements, they’re definitely on the right track as they’ve qualified for three World Cups since.
As for the Copa America, this is their fifth time to the final and they’ve done it in very impressive fashion with straight wins over their opponents. Their only draw came in group play against Mexico 3-3. However going against Argentina is a challenge. They’ve played each other eighty-something times in the past with Chile only winning six times. Chile may have one of their best selections ever but it’s going to be a challenge against Argentina with so many top talents.
ARGENTINA- This makes Argentina the country that has hit the Top 2 at the Copa America the most times with 27. Once again, the Albiceleste are sensational. Lionel Messi, Angel Di Maria, Gonzalo Higuain and Sergio Aguero have delivered in this tournament. If Argentina wins, they will tie Uruguay’s 15 wins as the country with the most Copa wins and they sure look poised to do it.
It’s not to say it’s a 100% guarantee. Argentina may have delivered a 6-1 win over Paraguay in the semifinals but team-by-team tells a whole different story. Argentina did draw against Paraguay 2-2 in group play and had a scoreless draw against Colombia in the quarterfinals where it took an intense penalty kick round to decide Argentina the winner. So Argentina does have a vulnerable side. This is something Chile could take advantage of where they could pull a surprise win.
Sure, home turf advantage could give Chile a boost but I think this is where the boost ends. I think Argentina will take it 3-1.
And there you go. My prediction for who will win the Copa. One thing we should take note is whoever wins the Copa here will represent the CONMEBOL at the 2017 Confederations Cup. Will my prediction be right? Find out for yourself July 4th.
Sí, antes de que pueda predecir para la Copa Mundial de la Mujer, que debería prever para la final de la Copa América. Admito que no he visto ningún juego de la Copa, pero no es fácil ya que la WWC es el foco principal. Sin embargo yo no planeo ver el algún lugar vivo final. De todas formas aquí están mis predicciones.
Tercer Lugar Partido: Perú vs Paraguay
Por supuesto debe haber una predicción para el partido del tercer lugar. Es tentador para decidir quién va a terminar los medallistas de bronce-aquí. Perú ha cobrado vida como nunca antes en los últimos años, mientras que Paraguay parece haber recuperado su destreza. A pesar de perder a Chile, Perú ha sido impresionante. Es posible que hayan perdido a Brasil pero eran capaces de traer a Colombia un empate. Ellos realmente se merecen un poco de respeto para encajar en realidad menos de lo que la mayoría de la gente pensaba que lo harían. Paraguay fue especialmente impresionante en el comienzo de la Copa Argentina trayendo a un empate 2-2 e incluso dibujar tanto contra Uruguay y Brasil 1-1. Es tentador para declarar el éxito de Paraguay en la Copa como flukey sobre todo después de su derrota 6-1 ante Argentina en las semifinales. Sin embargo, es impresionante ver Paraguay rebote de terminar último en las eliminatorias de la Copa Mundial de hace dos años.
Predigo Perú va a ganar las medallas de bronce con una victoria por 3-1 sobre Paraguay. Al igual que Paraguay, siento Perú está comenzando a conseguir su ranura espalda y lo están haciendo en el estilo impresionante.
FINAL DE LA COPA: Chile vs Argentina
Desglose del equipo:
CHILE- Es una sorpresa cómo un equipo con éxito tanto la Copa Mundial nunca ha sido un ganador de la Copa América. Hay una gran cantidad de otros equipos de la CONMEBOL que tienen menos de un legado de la Copa Mundial de Chile, pero han ganado la Copa en el pasado. Chile está pasando por uno de sus más impresionantes épocas de la historia. Algunos dicen que puede tener que ver con el rebote después de un incidente de engaño en las eliminatorias mundialistas en 1993 que dio lugar a su descalificación. Si eso, de hecho, llevó a mejoras de Chile, son definitivamente en el camino correcto ya que han calificado para tres Copas del Mundo desde entonces.
En cuanto a la Copa América, esta es su quinta vez en la final y lo han hecho en muy impresionante la manera con victorias consecutivas sobre sus opositores. Su único empate llegó en el juego en grupo frente a México 3-3. Sin embargo va en contra de la Argentina es un desafío. Han jugado unos a otros tiempos de ochenta y tantos en el pasado con Chile solamente ganar seis veces. Chile puede tener una de sus mejores selecciones nunca, pero que va a ser un desafío contra la Argentina con tantos talentos superiores.
ARGENTINA- Esto hace Argentina el país que ha golpeado el Top 2 en la Copa América la mayoría de veces con 27. Una vez más, la Albiceleste son sensacionales. Lionel Messi, Ángel Di María, Gonzalo Higuaín y Sergio Agüero han entregado en este torneo. Si Argentina gana, van a atar 15 victorias de Uruguay como el país con más victorias de Copa y seguro que parecen a punto de hacerlo.
No es para decir que es una garantía del 100%. Argentina pudo haber entregado una victoria por 6-1 sobre Paraguay en las semifinales pero el equipo por equipo cuenta una historia completamente diferente. Argentina tuvo un empate ante Paraguay 2-2 en el juego de grupo y tuvimos un empate sin goles ante Colombia en los cuartos de final, donde se tardó alrededor de una intensa penal para decidir el ganador Argentina. Así que Argentina sí tiene un lado vulnerable. Esto es algo que Chile podría beneficiarse de donde podrían sacar una victoria sorpresa.
Claro, hogar ventaja césped podría dar un impulso Chile, pero creo que aquí es donde termina el impulso. Creo Argentina tardará 3-1.
Y ahí lo tienes. Mi predicción para quién va a ganar la Copa. Una cosa que debemos tener en cuenta es el que gana la Copa aquí representará la CONMEBOL en la Copa Confederaciones 2017. ¿Mi predicción estar en lo cierto? Descúbrelo por ti mismo 4 de julio.
Today’s the day the Copa America opens in Chile. For those of you who didn’t see my reviews of the first two groups, click on the links below:
That now leaves me with one last group to review. Here’s my review of Group C. Once again, thank you Google Translate for the Spanish and Portuguese translations:
-Brazil (5): Okay, we don’t need an explanation. We all know the story of how they all fell apart at the World Cup. What most don’t know is how much Brazil has improved since. After the World Cup, Dunga returned as coach of the national team and it seems like the games since have been a case of Brazil getting its groove back. They’ve won every game since including winning 3-1 against their traditional ‘Achilles heel’ France. They appear in good shape to redeem themselves at this Copa. This will be the first major tournament to redeem themselves. They could win it. However rebuilding a team doesn’t happen overnight. Even if they don’t win, as long as they show the world they’re getting back on track, that should matter.
Ok, nós não precisamos de uma explicação. Nós todos sabemos a história de como todos eles se desfez na Copa do Mundo. O que a maioria não sabe é o quanto o Brasil melhorou desde então. Após a Copa do Mundo, Dunga voltou como treinador da equipe nacional e parece que os jogos desde ter sido um caso do Brasil recebendo de volta seu sulco. Eles ganharam todos os jogos desde incluindo vencer por 3-1 contra a sua tradicional “calcanhar de Aquiles” da França. Eles aparecem em boa forma para redimir-se neste Copa. Este será o primeiro grande torneio de redimir-se. Eles poderiam ganhar. No entanto reconstruir uma equipa não acontecer durante a noite. Mesmo se não ganhar, desde que mostrar ao mundo que eles estão recebendo de volta aos trilhos, que deve importar.
-Colombia (4): This is the time for Colombia’s best era. Even though they only made it to the quarterfinals at the World Cup, they impressed the world with their fair play and immense talent like striker James Rodriguez and Juan Cuadrado who have since gone on to be the hottest new talents of the year.
Since the World Cup, Colombia has only lost to Brazil and have scored key wins against the United States and Costa Rica. They could top Group C but it all depends how well they play against Brazil. They could even win the Copa. It all comes down to playing like a top notch team. They already have an excellent reputation happening and whatever happens in Chile can add to it.
-Venezuela (69): Venezuela is the only CONMEBOL country never to have qualified for a World Cup. Venezuela is possibly the one CONMEBOL country whose favorite sport is not football. They take better to baseball and basketball. However Venezuela has shown improvement in recent years. They finished fourth at the Copa in 2011: the first time they ever made the Top 4 at the Copa. They didn’t qualify for the 2014 World Cup but they did finish sixth in the CONMEBOL playoffs. Venezuela hopes to add to their reputation in Chile but they face a stiff challenge. Their only wins in the past twelve months came to Peru and Honduras. 2015 is another chapter for a team seeking their first breakthrough.
-Peru (63): Some South American teams consistently rank the best in the continent and among the best in the world. And there are some teams that have an ‘up time’ and a ‘down time.’ Peru had their ‘up time’ back in the 1970’s that included two Top 8 finishes at two World Cups and winning the Copa in 1975. They’ve had a down time since with their last World Cup being in 1982. It’s not fair to say Peru is completely down. They did finish third at the last Copa in 2011. However the current lineup lacks players playing in European leagues and they’ve had recent losses to Chile and Paraguay. Nevertheless don’t count Peru out. Like Pele keeps saying: “Football is a box of surprises.”
This will be a tight one between Brazil and Colombia. I think Colombia will top the group with Brazil second and Venezuela third.
And there you have it. My third and last review of the Copa America groups. Tournament begins today and I’m sure it will be exciting. It may compete for attention against the Women’s World Cup but it should have a lot of fanfare nonetheless and a lot of excitement. My next blog on the Copa will come after the quarterfinals. Stay tuned!
Hoy es el día de la Copa América se abre en Chile. Para aquellos de ustedes que no vieron mis opiniones de los dos primeros grupos, haga clic en los siguientes enlaces:
-Brasil (5): Muy bien, no necesitamos una explicación. Todos conocemos la historia de cómo todo se vino abajo en el Mundial. Lo que la mayoría no sabe es cuánto Brasil ha mejorado desde entonces. Después de la Copa del Mundo, Dunga volvió como entrenador de la selección nacional y parece que los partidos desde haber sido un caso de Brasil conseguir su ranura espalda. Han ganado todos los partidos desde incluyendo ganar 3-1 en contra de su tradicional ‘talón de Aquiles’ de Francia. Aparecen en buena forma de redimirse en esta Copa. Este será el primer gran torneo de redimirse. Podrían ganar. Sin embargo la reconstrucción de un equipo no sucede durante la noche. Incluso si no ganan, siempre y cuando muestran el mundo que van a obtener de nuevo en marcha, que debería importar.
-Colombia (4): Este es el momento para la mejor época de Colombia. A pesar de que sólo llegaron a los cuartos de final en la Copa del Mundo, que impresionó al mundo con su juego limpio y el inmenso talento como el delantero James Rodríguez y Juan Cuadrado que han pasado ya a ser los mejores nuevos talentos del año.
Desde el Mundial, Colombia sólo ha perdido ante Brasil y ha anotado victorias clave contra Estados Unidos y Costa Rica. Podrían rematar el Grupo C, pero todo depende de lo bien que juegan contra Brasil. Incluso podrían ganar la Copa. Todo se reduce a jugar como un equipo de primera clase. Ellos ya tienen una excelente reputación sucediendo y lo que sucede en Chile puede agregar a ella.
-Venezuela (69): Venezuela es el único país de la Conmebol que nunca se ha clasificado para una Copa del Mundo. Venezuela es posiblemente el país uno CONMEBOL cuyo deporte favorito no es el fútbol. Toman mejor béisbol y el baloncesto. Sin embargo Venezuela ha mostrado una mejora en los últimos años. Acabaron cuarto en la Copa en 2011: la primera vez que jamás se ha hecho en el Top 4 en la Copa. Ellos no califican para la Copa del Mundo de 2014, pero lo hicieron sexta final en las eliminatorias de la CONMEBOL. Venezuela espera agregar a su reputación en Chile pero que se enfrentan a un duro desafío. Sus únicas victorias en los últimos doce meses llegaron a Perú y Honduras. 2015 es un capítulo más de un equipo en busca de su primer gran avance.
-Perú (63): Algunos equipos sudamericanos clasificar sistemáticamente los mejores del continente y entre los mejores del mundo. Y hay algunos equipos que tienen un “tiempo de” y un “tiempo muerto”. Perú tuvo su “tiempo de atrás en la década de 1970 que incluyeron dos Top 8 acabados en dos Copas del Mundo y ganador de la Copa en 1975. Han tenido un tiempo de inactividad ya que con ser su última Copa del Mundo en 1982. No es justo decir Perú es completamente. Hicieron tercera final en la última Copa en 2011. Sin embargo, la formación actual carece de jugadores que juegan en ligas europeas y han tenido pérdidas recientes a Chile y Paraguay. Sin embargo no cuentan Perú cabo. Al igual que Pelé sigue diciendo: “El fútbol es una caja de sorpresas.”
The Copa is just two days away but the excitement still builds. This group should be especially exciting because there are two World Cup winners here. Hey, the Copa’s any country’s game. So here’s the run-down of Group B:
-Argentina (2): Argentina is one country that keeps on having a stellar reputation and a team full of talent. Argentina is also a team that is known to have legendary misses such as losing in the quarterfinals at the last Copa America in 2011. Even the shots in the World Cup final where they’ve could have won it but missed still linger in the memory of many. Since the World Cup, Argentina has had a mixed bag of results. They got their revenge on Germany in September 4-2 and they’ve have wins Against Croatia, Ecuador and Bolivia. However they’ve also endured losses to Brazil and Portugal. This Copa will be another proving point for Messi and the boys.
-Uruguay (8): Uruguay looks great to repeat as Copa champions. However they still face the difficulty of playing without Luis Suarez as he will be suspended from the tournament because of the biting incident at the 2014 World Cup. Nevertheless we should remember that Uruguay is not just Suarez. It’s Edinson Cavani, Cristian Rodriguez and Maxi Pereira too. They also never official lost a game since the World Cup, only enduring a penalty kick loss to Costa Rica in November. I’m sure football’s ‘little giant’ can surprise us once again.
-Paraguay (81): Paraguay appeared to have a stellar era starting back in the late 1990’s and ending just years ago. That included qualifying for four straight World Cups and even being runners-up at the Copa in 2011. However Paraguay is going through a difficult time now. They finished last in the CONMEBOL qualifiers for the 2014 World Cup. They’ve also only had two wins in the last twelve months: against Cameroon and Peru. Few players on their team play in leagues outside of Paraguay. However this tournament could be one where Paraguay can see it as a stepping stone for a comeback. No matter what they do, they can always grow.
-Jamaica (74): Caribbean teams have been taken more seriously in the last few decades. In fact FIFA is thinking of expanding its World Cup to forty nations in hopes of making it more global and even including Caribbean countries. Jamaica has a big part in it. They played in the 1998 World Cup. Even though they didn’t qualify for the next round, they did win over Japan. Trinidad and Tobago was the next Caribbean team to qualify for the World Cup. However it’s Jamaica that first caught the eyes of FIFA.
Currently their team has five players in England’s Premier League and five in the MLS. Their recent play has not been the most spectacular as they have endured some big losses in friendlies. However they did win against Venezuela and Cuba recently. This tournament will give another sign how the Reggae Boyz are doing.
This is a tough one. Argentina’s the leader but this competition has traditionally been Uruguay’s domain. I’ll pick Argentina to top the group with Uruguay second. Third to Jamaica.
And there you go. My summary of the Group B teams of the Copa. Only one more group to sum up and that’s Thursday.
-Argentina (2): La Argentina es un país que sigue teniendo una reputación estelar y un equipo lleno de talento. Argentina también es un equipo que se sabe que tiene fallos legendarios como de perder en los cuartos de final en la última Copa América en 2011. Incluso los disparos en la final del Mundial donde han podrían haber ganado pero se perdió aún persisten en la memoria de muchos. Desde la Copa del Mundo, Argentina ha tenido una mezcla de resultados. Ellos consiguieron su venganza en Alemania en septiembre 4 a 2 y han tener victorias contra Croacia, Ecuador y Bolivia. Sin embargo, también han soportado pérdidas a Brasil y Portugal. Esta Copa será otro punto de prueba para Messi y los chicos.
-Uruguay (8): Uruguay se ve muy bien para repetir como campeones de Copa. Sin embargo todavía se enfrentan a la dificultad de jugar sin Luis Suárez como será suspendido del torneo debido al incidente de morder en la Copa del Mundo de 2014. Sin embargo, debemos recordar que Uruguay no es sólo Suárez. Es Edinson Cavani, Cristian Rodríguez y Maxi Pereira también. También no oficial perdieron un partido desde la Copa Mundial, sólo soportar una pérdida de tiro penal a Costa Rica en noviembre. Estoy ‘pequeño gigante’ Seguro de fútbol nos puede sorprender una vez más.
-Paraguay (81): Paraguay parecía tener una era estelar empezando de nuevo a finales de 1990 y terminando apenas hace años. Eso incluía clasificación para cuatro rectas Copas del Mundo y aun siendo subcampeón en la Copa en 2011. Sin embargo Paraguay está pasando por un momento difícil ahora. Terminaron última en las eliminatorias de la CONMEBOL para la Copa del Mundo de 2014. Han también sólo tenían dos victorias en los últimos doce meses: contra Camerún y Perú. Pocos jugadores de su equipo juegan en ligas fuera de Paraguay. Sin embargo este torneo podría ser aquella en Paraguay puede verlo como un trampolín para un regreso. No importa lo que hagan, siempre pueden crecer.
-Jamaica (74): Los equipos del Caribe se han tomado más en serio en las últimas décadas. De hecho la FIFA está pensando en ampliar su Copa del Mundo de cuarenta naciones con la esperanza de lo que es más global e incluso incluyendo los países del Caribe. Jamaica tiene un papel importante en ello. Jugaron en el Mundial de 1998. A pesar de que no calificaron para la siguiente ronda, que ganaron sobre Japón. Trinidad y Tobago fue el siguiente equipo caribeño clasificarse para la Copa del Mundo. Sin embargo, es Jamaica, que primero llamó la atención de la FIFA.
Actualmente su equipo tiene cinco jugadores de la Premier League inglesa y cinco en la MLS. Su obra reciente no ha sido el más espectacular, ya que han sufrido algunas grandes pérdidas en los amistosos. Sin embargo ellos ganaron contra Venezuela y Cuba recientemente. Este torneo dará otra señal de cómo los Reggae Boyz están haciendo.
Esta es una pregunta difícil. Argentina es el líder, pero esta competición ha sido tradicionalmente el dominio de Uruguay. Voy a recoger Argentina al principio el grupo con Uruguay segundos. Tercero a Jamaica.
Y ahí lo tienes. Mi resumen de los equipos del Grupo B de la Copa. Sólo un grupo más para resumir y que es jueves.
The biggest football tournament is the FIFA World Cup, right? The second-biggest men’s tournament is UEFA’s Euro, right? What’s the third-biggest? I don’t know either but I think the Copa America should be it. Here, it’s almost like a continental tournament the way the Euro is, adding in two CONCACAF teams. However knowing that the tournament consists mostly of South American teams should draw big football interest. Here we’re talking about a continent that has won nine of twenty FIFA World Cups and continues to show some of the top football prowess in the world today.
The Copa America actually began fourteen years before the World Cup. The first competition was actually called the Campeonato Sudamericano de Football. It was contested in Argentina on July 2 and July 17, contested in two stadiums in Argentina and featured four teams competing: hosts Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Uruguay. The competition was decided strictly on round robin play between the four teams. The game results became that the final match, Argentina vs. Uruguay would be a contest to decide the Championship. Argentina needed a win and nothing less because of winning one game and tying another while Uruguay could afford to draw to win the Championship. A scoreless draw is what happened and Uruguay was the first ever Championship winner.
During that time the president of the Uruguayan Football Federation proposed that a continental federation be founded. On July 9, 1916, Argentinian Independence Day, the CONMEBOL was founded. Funny how while Europe and North America were fighting in World War I, South America made advances for football competitions.
The Championship was actually to be a yearly event and except for 1918 because of a flu epidemic in Brazil, it was an annual event until 1928. More countries would be added including Paraguay, Bolivia and Peru. However because of the creation of the World Cup and a bitter rivalry between Uruguay and Argentina, the Championship was no longer an annual event. It would then take a six-year break between 1929 and 1935 and re-emerge either bi-annually or irregularly such as two competitions in 1959. The inclusion of the Copa Libertadores that year affected how those saw the Championships.
The last Championships were held in 1967 but the idea of returning a continental championships for the CONMEBOL countries was still under consideration at the time. In 1975, the Copa America was born. There was no fixed country as round robin games were contested throughout the continent over a period of five months. Only the ten CONMEBOL countries competed and it consisted of round robins, two semi-finals, two finals and a grand final. The continental champion would earn a berth to the upcoming FIFA World Cup for the first and only time. Since then all previous continental championships have been official recognized as Copa Americas.
The Copa America would have its growing pains over the next two decades. It was originally to be a quadrennial event and the format from the 1975 tournament would continue to be the norm where competitions would be scattered throughout the countries and a grand final held in a country other than the finalists’. In 1987, the Copa would then be contested in a single host country. It was held in Argentina that year consisting of three groups of three. The winners of the three groups would qualify for the semifinals with the defending Copa champions automatically earning a semifinal berth. In 1989, the Copa changed to a bi-annual event and was held in Brazil. The Copa consisted of First Round group play of two groups of five. The Top 2 from each group would move to the Second Round of additional round robin play to decide the Copa winner upon play statistics. That would continue to be the format in 1991.
In 1993, the Copa underwent a new format that currently exists today. The Copa held in Ecuador would be the first ever Copa to include two invitees from the CONCACAF countries of North America, Central America and the Caribbean nations. There would be three groups of four with a maximum of one CONCACAF invitee per group, quarterfinals, a semifinal and a final to decide the Copa winner. The event would continue to be bi-annual until 2001 when the next Copa was played in 2004. It would be tri-annual only temporarily until 2007. Since then, the Copa is slated to be a quadrennial event like the Euro except for a commemorative Copa America to be contested in the United States next year to commemorate the event’s centennial.
Here’s something to take note of. As I’ve said in past blogs, sometimes it’s harder for a team to win a continental championship than it is to win the World Cup. Brazil has won eight Copas but the country that has won the most is Uruguay with a total of 15 including the last Copa America in 2011. Argentina has won fourteen. Countries that have never won the World Cup like Colombia, Bolivia, Paraguay and Peru have won a Copa America. Actually a total of seven countries have won the Copa. No country outside the CONMEBOL has won a Copa but Mexico has been a finalist twice.
Host country Chile has never won the Copa: one of three CONMEBOL countries that have never done so. They’ve been runner-up four times but they’re hoping to win for the first time ever this year. The winner of this year’s Copa America will represent the CONMEBOL at the 2017 Confederations Cup in Russia. So there’s some additional pressure here.
So without further ado, here is my review of the Group A teams. Number in brackets are the FIFA rankings of May 2015:
-Chile (16): Well, Chile is host this year. It’s actually a good time since Chile is experiencing one of its best eras in football. Chile is actually one South American country long overdue for a major international win. It’s been runner-up to the Copa four times: they’re one of only three CONMEBOL countries never to have won the Copa. Its best World Cup finish was third back in 1962 which they hosted. Nevertheless this could be their competition as anything can happen in football. They’ve had some good plays since the World Cup where they were ousted by Brazil once again. They still face a tough rivalry with Brazil as they lost to them in a March friendly 1-0. Other friendly results include ties with Mexico and Bolivia, a 2-1 loss to Uruguay and wins over Peru and Venezuela. But they also include losses to Iran and Uruguay. Nevertheless football is a game of surprises and they could just do it if they play right.
-Mexico (22): Mexico is the sleeping giant of football. A country loaded with talent but still waiting for their big breakthrough. The last World Cup didn’t help because they lost their Round of 16 match against the Netherlands on a controversial note. An interesting note: ever since the Copa America has allowed invitees from the CONCACAF to play starting back in 1993, Mexico has qualified every time. Mexico could pull an upset as the first ever non-CONMEBOL country to win the Copa. They’ve had a great 2015 with wins over Ecuador and Paraguay but they’ve also had a loss to the United States back in April. Mexico could be the big surprise of this Group and possibly the whole tournament.
-Ecuador (34): The 21st century has definitely been good to Ecuador. They never qualified for a World Cup during the 20th century but this century has given Ecuador berths in three of the four World Cups. Copa America success is a different story as they’ve failed to advance past the first round in all four Copas this century. Their best Copa finish ever is fourth-place finishes in 1959 and 1993. The team is full of talent as they have five players playing in Europe and three in Mexico. However they’ve had a rocky 2015 as they’ve lost to Mexico and Argentina. Chile will be another proving point for them.
-Bolivia (92): Bolivia is an on-again off-again team in terms of success. They’ve played in three World Cups: the last being in 1994. They have won the Copa before in 1963 as hosts and was runner-up when they hosted again in 1997. They’ve had greats before like Luis Cristaldo and Erwin ‘Platini’ Sanchez but their team lacks the depth they’ve had. Most of the team plays for Bolivian teams or for lesser celebrated European teams. Whatever the situation, this Copa should be a meet where the Bolivians learn to improve themselves en route to the next World Cup.
My prediction for this group is that Mexico will top it with Chile in second. Third will be Ecuador. Instead of predicting if the third-place team will be the wildcard qualifier, I’ll just leave it with a third-place pick.
That wraps up my first blog of the Copa America. Like the next two, I will just predict group finishes and wait until further into the tournament to predict the eventual Copa winner once each team’s performance give indications which ones have the edge. More on Tuesday.
WIKIPEDIA: Copa America. Wikipedia.com. 2015. Wikimedia Foundation Inc.<Wikipedia: Copa America>
BONUS: Also you’re in for a treat. I have included a Spanish translation of my blog courtesy of Google Translate!
BONUS: También estás de enhorabuena. He incluido una traducción al español de mi blog cortesía de Google Translate!
La Copa América comenzó en realidad catorce años antes de la Copa del Mundo. La primera competición se llamaba en realidad el Campeonato Sudamericano de Fútbol. Se disputó en Argentina el 2 de julio y 17 de julio, impugnada en dos estadios en la Argentina y contó con cuatro equipos que compiten: los ejércitos de Argentina, Brasil, Chile y Uruguay. La competición se decidió estrictamente en juego del round robin entre los cuatro equipos. Los resultados de los juegos se hicieron que el partido final, Argentina vs Uruguay sería un concurso para decidir el campeonato. Argentina necesitaba una victoria y nada menos porque de ganar un partido y empatar otro, mientras que Uruguay podía permitirse el lujo de sacar para ganar el campeonato. Un empate sin goles es lo que pasó y Uruguay fue el primer ganador del campeonato.
Durante ese tiempo el presidente de la Federación Uruguaya de Fútbol propuso que se fundó una federación continental. El 9 de julio de 1916, Día de la Independencia argentina, la CONMEBOL se fundó. Es curioso cómo, mientras que Europa y América del Norte estaban luchando en la Primera Guerra Mundial, América del Sur hizo avances para las competiciones de fútbol.
El campeonato fue en realidad ser un evento anual y con excepción de 1918 a causa de una epidemia de gripe en Brasil, fue un evento anual hasta que se añadirían 1928. Más países incluyendo Paraguay, Bolivia y Perú. Sin embargo, debido a la creación de la Copa del Mundo y una amarga rivalidad entre Uruguay y Argentina, el Campeonato ya no era un evento anual. Luego tomaría un descanso de seis años entre 1929 y 1935 y re-emerger ya sea dos veces al año o irregularmente como dos competiciones en 1959. La inclusión de la Copa Libertadores de ese año afectó cómo los vio a los Campeonatos.
Los últimos Campeonatos se celebraron en 1967, pero la idea de volver a los campeonatos continentales de los países CONMEBOL todavía estaba bajo consideración en el momento. En 1975, la Copa América nació. No había ningún país fija como juegos del round robin fueron impugnadas en todo el continente en un periodo de cinco meses. Sólo los diez países de la CONMEBOL compitieron y consistieron en round robin, dos semifinales, dos finales y un gran final. El campeón continental ganaría un puesto para la próxima Copa Mundial de la FIFA por primera y única vez. Desde entonces todos los campeonatos continentales anteriores han sido reconocidos como oficial de Copa América.
La Copa América tendría sus dolores de crecimiento en los próximos dos decenios. Fue originalmente para ser un evento cuatrienal y el formato del torneo 1975 seguirían siendo la norma en competiciones estarían dispersos por los países y una gran final que tuvo lugar en un país distinto de los finalistas. En 1987, la Copa y luego se disputó en un solo país de acogida. Se llevó a cabo en la Argentina ese año que consiste en tres grupos de tres. Los ganadores de los tres grupos calificarían para las semifinales con los campeones defensores de la Copa ganando automáticamente una plaza en semifinales. En 1989, la Copa cambió a un evento bianual y se llevó a cabo en Brasil. La Copa constaba de Primera Ronda de juego en grupo de dos grupos de cinco. El Top 2 de cada grupo se trasladaría a la Segunda Ronda de juego del round robin adicional para decidir el ganador de la Copa en las estadísticas de juego. Eso seguirá siendo el formato en el 1991.
En 1993, la Copa se sometió a un nuevo formato que actualmente existe en la actualidad. La Copa celebrada en Ecuador sería la primera Copa de incluir dos invitados de los países de la CONCACAF de América del Norte, América Central y los países del Caribe. Habría tres grupos de cuatro, con un máximo de un invitado de la CONCACAF por grupo, cuartos de final, una semifinal y una final para decidir el ganador de la Copa. El evento seguirá siendo semestral hasta el año 2001 cuando la próxima Copa se jugó en 2004. Sería trianual sólo temporalmente hasta 2007. Desde entonces, la Copa está programado para ser un evento cuatrienal como el Euro a excepción de un conmemorativa Copa América que se disputará en Estados Unidos el próximo año, para conmemorar el centenario del evento.
Aquí hay algo para tomar nota. Como he dicho en blogs anteriores, a veces es más difícil para un equipo para ganar un campeonato continental de lo que es ganar la Copa del Mundo. Brasil ha ganado ocho Copas pero el país que ha ganado la mayoría es Uruguay con un total de 15 incluyendo la última Copa América en 2011. Argentina ha ganado catorce. Los países que nunca han ganado la Copa del Mundo como Colombia, Bolivia, Paraguay y Perú han ganado una Copa América. En realidad, un total de siete países han ganado la Copa. Ningún país fuera de la CONMEBOL ha ganado una Copa, pero México ha sido finalista en dos ocasiones.
País anfitrión Chile nunca ha ganado la Copa: uno de los tres países de la CONMEBOL, que nunca lo han hecho. Han sido finalista cuatro veces, pero que están esperando ganar por primera vez en la historia de este año. El ganador de la Copa América de este año representará a la CONMEBOL en la Copa Confederaciones 2017 en Rusia. Así que hay un poco de presión adicional aquí.
Así que sin más preámbulos, aquí está mi crítica de los equipos del Grupo A. Número entre paréntesis son los ranking de la FIFA de mayo 2015:
Chile (16): Bueno, Chile es sede de este año. De hecho, es un buen momento ya que Chile está viviendo uno de sus mejores épocas en el fútbol. Chile es realmente un país de América del Sur desde hace mucho tiempo para una importante victoria internacional. Ha sido finalista de la Copa de cuatro tiempos: son uno de los únicos tres países CONMEBOL nunca han ganado la Copa. Su mejor resultado en la Copa del Mundo fue tercero en 1962 que se organizó. Sin embargo esto podría ser su competencia como cualquier cosa puede suceder en el fútbol. Han tenido algunas buenas jugadas desde la Copa del Mundo donde fueron expulsados por Brasil, una vez más. Ellos todavía se enfrentan a una dura rivalidad con Brasil, ya que perdió a ellos en un amistoso 1-0 de marzo. Otros resultados incluyen amistosas relaciones con México y Bolivia, una derrota por 2-1 a Uruguay y victorias sobre Perú y Venezuela. Pero también incluyen las pérdidas a Irán y Uruguay. Sin embargo el fútbol es un juego de sorpresas y que sólo podría hacerlo si juegan bien.
México (22): México es el gigante dormido del fútbol. Un país lleno de talento, pero a la espera de su gran avance. El último Mundial no ayudó porque perdieron su ronda de 16 partido contra los Países Bajos con una nota polémica. Una nota interesante: desde que la Copa América ha permitido a los invitados de la CONCACAF para jugar a partir en 1993, México ha calificado cada vez. México podría tirar una sorpresa como el primer país no CONMEBOL para ganar la Copa. Han tenido un gran 2015 con triunfos sobre Ecuador y Paraguay, pero también han tenido una pérdida para los Estados Unidos en abril. México podría ser la gran sorpresa de este Grupo y posiblemente todo el torneo.
Ecuador (34): El siglo 21 sin duda ha sido bueno para el Ecuador. Nunca se clasificaron para la Copa del Mundo durante el siglo 20, pero este siglo ha dado literas Ecuador en tres de las cuatro Copas del Mundo. El éxito de la Copa América es una historia diferente, ya que han fallado para avanzar más allá de la primera ronda en las cuatro Copas de este siglo. Su mejor final de Copa siempre es el cuarto lugar acabados en 1959 y 1993. El equipo está lleno de talento, ya que tienen cinco jugadores que juegan en Europa y tres en México. Sin embargo han tenido una rocosa 2015, ya que han perdido a México y Argentina. Chile será otro punto de prueba para ellos.
Bolivia (92): Bolivia es un en-otra vez de nuevo fuera del equipo en términos de éxito. Han jugado en tres Copas del Mundo: la última de ellas en 1994. Ellos han ganado la Copa antes en 1963 como anfitriones y fue subcampeón cuando acogido de nuevo en 1997. Han tenido grandes antes como Luis Cristaldo y Erwin ‘Platini ‘Sánchez, pero su equipo carece de la profundidad que han tenido. La mayoría del equipo juega para los equipos bolivianos o para los equipos europeos célebres menores. Sea cual sea la situación, esta Copa debe ser un encuentro donde los bolivianos aprenden a mejorarse a sí mismos en el camino a la próxima Copa del Mundo.
Mi predicción para este grupo es que México superará con Chile en la segunda. En tercer lugar será Ecuador. En lugar de predecir si el equipo de tercer lugar será el calificador comodín, sólo voy a dejarlo con un tercer puesto de recogida.
Que envuelve mi primer blog de la Copa América. Al igual que los dos siguientes, me limitaré a predecir acabados de grupo y esperar hasta más lejos en el torneo de predecir el eventual ganador de la Copa una vez que el rendimiento de cada equipo da indicaciones cuáles tienen el borde. Más el martes.
Normally I would do single movie reviews. Additionally, I never really had plans to see How To Train Your Dragon 2 or Big Hero 6. When it comes to animated movies, I mostly go to see the one or ones that look like they have the best chances of winning Best Animated Feature. All year I thought I had it all wrapped up when I saw The LEGO Movie and nothing else. Then the Oscar nominations came and The LEGO Movie was inexplicably snubbed out of that category. That led me scramming to see both movies. I saw Dragon 2 on a DVD while I was lucky to see Hero on the big screen. Here are my thoughts:
HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON 2
Making a sequel from a hit movie is always a challenge as commercial pressures will demand it. It’s sink or swim as it can either be a continuation of the original’s charm or simply a flavorless rehash of the original. Yes, the audience will distinguish between tried-and-true and tried-and-tired. We saw how Shrek burst on the scene back in 2001 but its excellence and flavor declined with each subsequent movie. Now How To Train Your Dragon has its sequel out. Will How To Train Your Dragon 2 measure up?
First off, the writers and producers did the right thing by releasing the sequel four years after the original and four years since they first started work on it as opposed to the three years between the Shrek films. For those unfamiliar with work on animated features, it takes four years to create from start to finish. The focus on the story this time is in the Fjords of Norway. The story begins with Hiccup, still awkward but well-respected. It also adds in a story where he experiences friction between his girlfriend and his father as well as an enemy he must fight.
I’m unsure if the story would remain true to what Cressida Cowell wrote in her dragon books but I do feel the story is not ‘spoiled’ as so many sequels as most sequels, both animation and live-action, are prone to do. It will continue to delight fans of the first Dragon movie too. The story was darker this time as this would include the death of Stoick and Toothless is under a spell which causes him to want to attack Hiccup. I believe the story would be more suitable for older children but one thing the story doesn’t do is lose the charm of the original. It also has its fun moments and a happy ending that should make it enjoyable for the whole family.
Now on to the technical bits. Whenever I watch a 3D animated movie, I especially pay attention to the quality of the images and effects. I know that each image has to have 100% detail in order to succeed. Any glitch or inconsistency will hurt the movie. I didn’t notice any glitches in the images. I felt the detail was very accurate from the scales on the dragon to the fire they unleashed. The characters’ mouths were always in sync with the dialogue. The film’s images also continued to give the audience a thrill-ride. Naturally when you have a film of people travelling on dragons, you would expect there to be images of the various flights and even parts in the movie that get the audience feel like they’re flying on their own dragons too. The audience will come expecting that. People come to such movies for the escape and the thrill-ride of it all. It succeeds in doing so and it does a top notch job of doing so.
I’m sure that most of you expected The LEGO Movie to win Best Animated Feature even before the nominations were announced. I did too. An interesting bit of trivia to know is that Dragon 2 actually beat out The LEGO Movie in that category to win major awards like the National Board of Review award, the Annie Award and the Golden Globe. Now with The LEGO Movie snubbed out of that category, it appears safe to assume that Dragon 2 will win the Oscar. However that snub reminds us nothing is a foregone conclusion as it is possible Big Hero 6 or The Tale Of The Princess Kaguya could pull an upset.
How To Train Your Dragon 2 was faced with the common pressures of a movie sequel but was able to overcome them to the point they again deliver a movie that’s entertaining and a thrill-ride and still maintains the charm of the original without appearing to exhaust it or stray too far away from it.
BIG HERO 6
Now moving on from a sequel to an original. And moving from one I saw on DVD to one I was lucky to see on the big screen. This time a Disney film: Big Hero 6.
Big Hero 6 is based off of characters from the Big Hero 6 comic series from Marvel comics that first hit shelves in 1998 and went under the Marvel name in 2008. However the story for the film is nothing like the comic series. In the comic series, the characters were all heroes commissioned and created by the Japanese government. Hiro Takachiho was a 13 year-old whiz kid who became part of the team after his mother was kidnapped and creates a Godzilla-style monster hero off of his deceased father’s brain named Baymax. The comics come with the type of over-the-top violence and imagination that you would come to expect from Japanese comic books. The comics have won a following here in the US.
Here for the film, we have a much different story. Hiro is an orphaned boy who lives with his brother Tadashi in San Fransokyo. Hiro commonly gets himself in trouble as he tries to win bot-fights for money but Tadashi takes him to his polytechnic. Hiro thinks it will be the ‘nerd school’ he thinks it is but is amazed with what he sees created by Tadashis’s friends –including his brother’s creation: Baymax, the inflatable virtual doctor which is kept at home–and tries to win a scholarship in a young innovators contest held by the school. After winning the scholarship, a fire breaks out killing Tadashi and a professor.
Hiro feels alone at first even distancing himself from Tadashi’s friends but Baymax suddenly becomes a friend-like to him despite Hiro being unwelcome at first. Later as Hiro learns more new truths about what really happened at the school that night and how his brother really dies, Hiro gets Baymax and the friends to team up to get his brother’s killer. All of them don costumes in the images of the Big Hero 6 comic book characters except Baymax who has an outfit more like Iron Man.
I don’t think the movie was meant to be a film version of the main comic book characters. Remember writers can adapt stories into whatever they want. It’s obvious Walt Disney Studios wanted to do their own story with the characters and have it as a family-friendly film. It succeeds in doing so as it creates a story that’s thrilling, entertaining and imaginative. The story also has a good message for children too as justice is better than any revenge. It also doesn’t try to be too dark in the situations involving Tadashi’s death and Hiro being an orphan.
Although this is an original film, it’s not to say it was without its pressures. We shouldn’t forget this movie comes a year after Walt Disney released the phenomenon Frozen. It wasn’t simply a hit movie. It became a marketing phenomenon and even spawned a release of a sing-along version. Already you could tell there would be pressure upon the release of their follow-up. Big Hero 6 doesn’t exactly deliver to the dame length Frozen has. It has its charm and is a likable film on its own. Whatever the situation, Big Hero 6 was not hurt at the box office as it has already grossed more than $200 million and has been nominated for Best Animated Feature.
Another thing Big Hero 6 succeeds in doing is it adds to the recent resurgence to the Walt Disney Animation Studios. For decades the studios reigned supreme in the world of animated motion pictures. It had very few challengers save for Spielberg animation in the 80’s but made a comeback in the 90’s with 2D masterpieces like The Little Mermaid, Beauty And The Beast and The Lion King. However the studios knew that the world of 3D animation was coming and it did become the case as soon Disney’s partnership with Pixar would create the 3D revolution in animated features. The flavor of the 2D movies from the main Disney Studios were running thin as they couldn’t compete with the Disney/Pixar movies. Eventually Walt Disney Animation Studios did acquire the skills and know how to create their own successful 3D animated movies starting with 2012’s Wreck-It Ralph which rivaled Pixar’s Brave that year and Frozen from last year. Big Hero 6 succeeds in keeping its comeback alive. The Disney/Pixar partnership is still there but it’s good to see Pixar now has a rival with Walt Disney Animation Studios back on its feet.
Big Hero 6 may not be a phenomenon like Frozen nor is it the best animated feature of the year. Nevertheless it succeeds in being entertaining on its own and is another plus in the comeback of the Walt Disney Animation Studios.
“You have five minutes of stage to prove why you deserve this chance.”
I went to see First Position a week or two back because I wanted to finally make use out of movie tickets for a certain cinema I won during an Oscar party. I’m glad I did. It’s a unique outlook on the art of ballet dancing, the children that aspire to excel, and the Youth America Grand Prix competition which is a potential ticket for many futures in the dance. It left me with a surprising outlook and I now know more.
Before I go into reviewing First Position, I’d like to explain the Youth America Grand Prix (YAGP) competition. The competition was created in 1999 by two former dancers of the Bolshoi Ballet. The competition is not just a top dance competition but a potential ticket to futures in dance. Many dancers are awarded scholarships to various renowned dance academies from around the world. The total value of scholarships are estimated to be $250,000 annually and they range from summer intensives to full-year schooling. Dancing jobs are also offered from renowned ballet ensembles worldwide. Many dance companies have considered this competition a ‘game-changer in dance’ or a ‘dancer’s marketplace’ ever since it began.
As for the YAGP competitions, they consist of semifinals contested in twelve American cities and five foreign cities and the finals in New York. The individual competitions are divided into three age divisions: pre-competitive (11 and under), junior (12-14) and senior (15-19). The junior and senior divisions have Grand Prix awards and the pre-competitive division has a Hope Award. Medals are awarded in each age division with men and women separately. There are also competitions in Pas de Deux and Ensembles with medals awarded. There are also special awards given out at the end.
The YAGP may start with an annual total of 5000 dancers competing in the semifinals and almost 300 dancers in the finals in New York City annually but the movie focuses specifically on six in the 2010 competition:
-Rebecca Houseknecht, 17: The Maryland teen is a self-described ‘princess’ and has an obsession with the color pink. She’s been dancing and competing her whole life. Now that she’s on the verge of graduating high school she wants to dance professionally. Competing at the YAGP could open the door for opportunity. Nevertheless she’s nervous since she knows chances are slim.
-Joan Sebastian Zamora, 16: A Colombian so good at dancing, he had to move to the renowned The Rock Dance Academy in Philadelphia to improve his skills. Ballet is his passion. He receives a lot of support from his family and frequently talks with them from thousands of miles away. He’s hoping to become a professional dancer but is now chasing a scholarship from a top academy.
-Michaela DePrince, 15: A refugee from Sierra Leone who was shunned in an orphanage as the ‘devil’s child’ for vitiligo discoloring her skin. She carried a picture of a ballerina with her during her days in the refugee camp and dreamed of being that woman. Adopted by a white American family at age 4 along with another girl from the refugee camp, she looks back at her past saying: “It’s a miracle I’m even here.” She’s come this far training at a top professional school but wants to take things further.
-Miko Fogarty, 12: The daughter of a Japanese mother and British father, her mother was a dancer in her native Japan and she took to the love of dance instantly. Unlike most children who are either influenced or forced into things by their parents, she shares the same love of dancing as her mother and a special bond with her.
-Aran Bell, 11: A real-life Billy Elliot. It’s a surprise that this ballet prodigy is the only dancer in his family. An American boy living in Naples, Italy where his military father is stationed, Aran trains at a renowned school in Rome. Being 11 doesn’t excuse him from training over 30 hours a week, but Aran loves ballet enough to commit himself to it.
-Jules “J.J.” Fogarty, 10: Miko’s younger brother. He too is very skilled of a dancer but he doesn’t seem to be the dancer type his sister and mother are. He lacks the passion shared by his mother and sister but will he continue on or give out?
Throughout the documentary, there are many factors about the life of a young ballet student. One starts when a judge says “Kids who are pursuing ballet as a career give up their childhood.” Even Michaela will acknowledge: “You’ve been working your body to death since five.” We see the childhoods of all six. All six may train an excruciating number of hours a week but they all have time for fun, even those that are home-schooled or take correspondence learning. Rebecca points out she has fun with friends and a boyfriend: “I feel I lead a pretty normal life”. We see Michaela talking and eating with her friends. We see Aran play catch and skate on his skateboard. He has a BB gun, toy cars and many teddy bears. Miko herself says: “I think I’ve had the right amount of childhood and the right amount of ballet.” Maybe children pursuing dancing do have a childhood. Just a different one than most of us.
Other themes about ballet enter the picture in the film too. One is the importance of the family dynamic in supporting the child chasing their dream of dancing. They may be lucky like Michaela and Rebecca to live near a top notch school or they may be like Joan Sebastian’s family whom Joan only sees a few times out of the year. Nevertheless the support is evident for all in an art that involves a lot of time and a lot of money. Another is the difference between loving dance and liking it. It becomes evident with J.J. as he admits that he likes dancing but doesn’t love it enough to devote the huge number of hours any longer. Viewers may have even sensed that at the beginning. Another element included is race and gender. Michaela talks about the flack she hears like: “blacks lack the grace to excel in ballet.” Joan Sebastian mentions of an African-Cuban ballet dancer as his idol and inspiration. Aran keeps his dancing private from his classmates: “A lot of men think ballet is not what it is.” On the other hand Joan Sebastian’s six year-old little brother wants to be a dancer just like Joan.
As the competition progresses from the semifinals to the finals, we also see other aspects of ballet come to light. One is highlighted in a conversation with Rebecca and her dancing friends about the competitiveness of the dancers. She mentions how when she gives a compliment, many react to her with suspicion. The funny thing is while many people believe ballerinas to have snobby catty personalities, all the dancers profiled in the movie have very likeable personalities. Another aspect is dancers and eating. To the surprise of many, all the dancers featured have big appetites and admit to eating a lot. There’s been a lot of talk about dancers and eating disorders but the dancers’ eating reminds us that a dancer with an eating disorder like anorexia won’t have the energy to train or perform well. So good eating is necessary. Another aspect is dancing injuries. They range from blisters to pulled muscles to inflamed toe joints to popped knees to the unspeakable. It shouldn’t surprise you with training 30 or more hours a week. What would surprise you is that dancers are expected to perform with the injuries and still make it look pretty. That could lead to further aggravation. Many dancing careers have been cut short because of injury. Surprising how watching ballet performances are beautiful but the training part has a lot of ugliness.
Yes, the film shows a lot of themes and aspects of ballet as it goes from showcasing the training to the home life to the competition. Competition has some aspects of its own. First is the semifinals held in the various cities. As I mentioned, a total of 5000 dancers try out in the semis to become amongst the 300 that qualify for the finals in New York. They show all six competing in their own semifinal competitions but the most eye-catching were that of Miko, J.J. and Aran. Miko falls during the first performance in her semifinal. Her mother always blames herself whenever Miko falls. Nevertheless we’re made aware that the judges like a good recovery. Miko performs well during the second performance and she qualifies. J.J. also qualifies as he’s given special consideration for his age. Even though Aran is American, he competes in the European semifinals. We’re also introduced to Aran’s friend from Israel. Her name is Gaya Bommer and she’s a dancer trained by her mother. They form a special friendship even though they’re miles apart and Gaya can’t speak any English.
One thing we should remember is that the semifinals are held anywhere from two to six months before the finals. A lot can happen within that time. That’s the time when J.J. decided to quit ballet. This breaks his mother’s heart as he quits before the finals. Miko and the other dancers continue on. Nevertheless some face their own pressures. Joan Sebastian returns to visit his family in Colombia. It’s a warm homecoming visit. The family is from modest means. They know dancers have a short career life but they encourage Joan to chase his dream. Rebecca still hopes for the YAGP to be her chance for a dancing job with a company but we hear from her mother that many companies have either hired less new dancers or let go of some existing ones. We’re even told by a judge at the beginning that there are many dancers but few will get good work dancing. Then Michaela faces an aggravated foot injury. It’s starting to flare up shortly before the Finals. She’s uncertain if she will perform well.
Then the 2010 YAGP finals take place. There are anywhere from 200 to 300 dancers from around the world competing in both individual and group competitions. The film focuses solely on the individual competitions. Two things the film showcases about the finals outside of the featured dancers’ performances is firstly how international the competition is. There are dancers from a multitude of countries competing here even though most of the semis were held in the US. Another is how even in a tight competition like this, bad steps, stumbles and falls do happen. Reactions from the dancers are not pleasant at all. One teen male was seen backstage walking silently angry over his fall. Another girl’s instructor reacts with frustration after her fall. Another young boy bursts into tears at the end of his performance. We’re also told by one of the dancers that hitting or missing at the YAGP could actually hurt one’s chances of getting their career. A reminder that while the YAGP has become a game-changer as a dancer marketplace, it’s also a game-changer for one’s reputation in the world of dance. Yes, the YAGP is a competition a lot like a sports competition but it included the same cruel unforgiving attitude of showbiz mixed in.
Then it’s time for the featured dancers to perform. Both Aran and Gaya are magnificent. Rebecca also dances well. Joan Sebastian flies brilliantly. However the performances with the biggest interest were Miko and Michaela. Miko displays the confidence and the flawlessness that was missing from the semifinals. And Michaela performs excellently and gracefully as if the injury wasn’t there. After the dancing is over, it’s time to award the prizes and the scholarships. You can find out the results of those over at the YAGP website. I’ll just say some were rewarded with prizes and some were rewarded with scholarships to renowned academies. Those with scholarships looked forward to a new life and for better things to come. Those that won prizes continued on dancing preparing for next year’s competition. J.J. had since been pushed into academics. His mother told him if he won’t shoot high in dancing, he’s left to shoot high in his schooling. As for Rebecca–SPOILER WARNING–she was the only one of the featured dancers who left the competition without a prize, scholarship or a job offer. We learn in the epilogue she was later offered a job at a Washington Dance Ensemble.
One of the best qualities of this documentary is that it doesn’t just simply take you into the lives of the participants but makes you want each of them to achieve. We see in front of our eyes how much dance means to them. It’s a given. If they’re born to do it and they love it enough to work hard at it, it’s natural for one to want them to excel at it. Even though we’re reminded of all the odds, we still want them to succeed in the end because we feel they deserve it. Director Bess Kargman is a former dancer herself so she has first-hand knowledge of all the odds and ends of training and competing in dance. The YAGP started long after her childhood ended but she still knows of all the right elements to place in the movie such as the training, the outside factors, the semifinal highlights, the time in between and the finals.
She succeeded in giving the audience a look at the struggles, the ugliness, the stresses and the triumphs from the dancers’ points of view. It will surely open a lot of people’s eyes about what it’s like to be a young dancer. Also it’s interesting how a lot of moviegoers got a perception of the ballet world after seeing Black Swan. The movie had some truth to it but not all of it is completely true. Even with the dancers shown here, none of them appeared to be as insecure as Nina. They all had their own issued but they were all likeable, confident and exhibited high self esteem. This documentary sure changed what I thought about kids in ballet. The film also got me interested in next year’s YAGP.
Another thing that’s unique about this documentary is that it’s one of few that one can bring their children to see. There were children in the audience when I attended and that’s a good thing. I feel any child who sees this will learn a lot about dance and competing. Most girls dream of being ballerinas. This will show them that to be successful in ballet you not only have to dance as light and pretty as a swan but have a body of steel and a will of iron to make it. Most girls dream of being it. Few are willing to put in the hours and years to achieve it. Also it shows that boys who want to make it not only have to have the same iron will but a thick skin to the common negative stigma associated with boys in ballet not just from other boys but some adults too. It’s the Billy Elliot story all too often. All the boys shown here love it too much to quit over any teasing. The father of The Rock dancer Derek Dunn, who’s a former YAGP winner, said: “I have to say I never expected my son to be a dancer but I couldn’t be prouder.” Here’s to those boys.
First Position is not only an eye-opener of a documentary but it’s engaging to the audience and even exciting especially when the audience shares the same passion as the dancers. Definitely a documentary worth seeing.
Also in case you’re interested in the Youth America Grand Prix itself, the official website is at: http://www.yagp.org/ YAGP 2013 semifinals have already started with the first semis, the South American semis, being held in Santos, Brazil as I speak. Also next year’s finals will be held in NYC on April 12th to 17th. A good chance to catch the future of dance.