Sand in my pants

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Babel was an appopriate film for the closing gala of the Dubai International Film Festival - both the film and the event meant well, really wanted to impress on the world stage but something was lost in the execution. Which is not to say that Babel is a bad film. But it could have been improved.

This story - of how one woman (Cate Blanchett) getting shot in Morocco has global repercussions - tries it hand at the old trick of running multiple storylines, in this case across multiple countries, and the links between the narratives soon become apparent. That was the problem - the connections between stories were telegraphed too soon which then left the viewer feeling as if they knew it all and were merely left waiting for the resolutions, who was going to live, who was going to die and there were no real twists or surprises. Tarantino has jumped the shark in recent years but Pulp Fiction truly sets the standard for that sort of scripting.

And the Japanese part of the story seemed somewhat beside the point. Despite this, it was an excellently told and shot part of the film. In many ways it was the most creative part of the film because they didn't have the luxury of relying on vast Moroccan landscapes, wide-eyed blonde kids, a trashy but weirdly romantic Mexican wedding, or the shock value of a bloodstained Cate Blanchett and Brad Pitt as her increasingly aggravated husband. But it could have stood alone as a short film or been further developed as a feature film in its own right. It was touching and beautiful but wasted in Babel.

Still, Brad Pitt was excellent as the man who just wants his wife to get medical help amid stupid political wrangling. He is a better actor when he scruffs up, forgets to shave and relies on talent rather than on his dimples, irritating megawatt grin or twinkling, boyish eyes. My taxi companion on the way home was disturbed by a scene where he passionately kisses his wounded wife while helping her do a wee, but on reflection, it was a rather tender scene. Cate Blanchett's role as Pitt's wife could have been played by any actress who is adept at lying around, whimpering and bleeding, and her American accent had the odd lapse back into Australian. Not her best work. She was far better in Little Fish where she played a recovered drug addict trying to sort out her life in probably the worst suburb of Sydney for anyone tempted by illegal substances. And there she could let loose with an accent as broad as the Nullabor Plain.

The kids were excellent too - all of them. The two young actors who played Ahmed and Yussef, Moroccan kids who end up in adult-sized hot water, were brilliant. The all-American blonde kids were great too (and cute kids in films usually bother me no end). The boy in particular was heartbreakngly convincing when he realised he was in a dangerous situation on the US-Mexican border and he cried and cried. The only kid actor I've seen outshine this was the little boy in The Hours who achieved an incredible look of sheer devastation when his mother, played by the fantastic Julianne Moore, drives out of sight.

Babel is by no means a dreadful film and in many ways a worthwhile film but I can't thinking it might have had more impact with a ruthless editor and a sharper scriptwriter.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

In news just at hand, I am pleased to report good things about the Dubai police force. I was attacked and had the added nightmare of being spoken to by a police officer as if I was some sort of slatternly whore when I tried to report the crime. But thanks to friends with contacts a tad higher up in the police force than the bloke who answers the phones, I have actually made some progress, been taken seriously and have reported the incident. I have a very helpful detective on the case, assorted majors and lieutenants who are well-educated have treated me with great respect and not accused me of making it up or implied that by being an unmarried woman walking alone I was in some way asking to be grabbed by a random guy at a bus stop. If you are ever in Dubai and you need to report a crime, do not be afraid to report it but insist that you speak to someone above the phone dude or the front desk dude. Do not try and tell the whole story at the front desk or over the phone. It is also helpful to bring someone with you who has some knowledge of Arabic. It is good to finally feel like my horrible incident is being taken seriously and they are keen to catch this vile man.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Well, I missed the first day of the rugby sevens (allegedly Dubai's biggest social event) because I was at work, was way too messed up on Friday after seeing fit to dance until 4am on a table and yesterday, it was pouring with rain. And this is a city in no way geared towards coping with anything vaguely resembling precipitation. My housemate and I finally decided to head out there around lunchtime after some vino lubrication (which made it seem like a marvellous idea to get cold and wet voluntarily). There was mud to rival the trenches of Ypres, drunk girls wearing minimal clothing (which in plenty of cases was an example of too-much-girl-not-enough-fabric. Shudder.) and the rain pelted down so much that it wasn't so much cats and dogs but panthers and wolves. In the Heineken Tent, the only remotely warm and dry place, stress balls were being thrown around. One hit me in the neck. That improved my demeanour. Then it was off to the BP stand to get even more wet and cold. By this time, Australia had lost to Samoa, the music was excruciating and I realised that watching rugby is an activity best done in a pub, on the couch, at more civilised (and permanent) stadiums or with my dad.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Imagine this scene. A woman has been out one night, nothing too rowdy. It’s time to call it a night. But she can’t find a taxi for love or money so she starts to walk. And walk. And walk. By the time the taxis start appearing, she’s close to home, she’s enjoying the fresh air and figures she may as well walk the rest of the way home. It’s a busy road, a well-lit road. Apart from a dark bus stop.

A man is sitting on the bench and he puts his foot out as if to trip her. She tells him to be careful and walks towards home, perhaps a little faster. He gets up, follows her, catches her, puts an arm around her and over her mouth and tries to force her towards a hedge. She frees her head from his grip and screams and yells. The arm around her is feeling for her breast, the other hand is trying to make its way up her dress, she feels herself falling towards the hedge. She is still making a lot of noise. A swift elbow to his chest makes him lose his grip and she is able to get away. He runs off into the night.

She is a hysterical, teary, freaked-out mess. There is nobody around and the road is eerily quiet. She sends trembling, misspelt texts. Her housemate finds her and helps her home. She is safe but still shaking. She has a shower to wash him away and goes to bed, nursing a twisted ankle, a bleeding scratch on her right breast and another on her leg. The next day, everything is aching and she still feels like crap.

That night she decides to report the incident. After all, the next girl this creep jumps at might not be so lucky. But she gets a blame-the-victim interrogation. She is accused of making it up, the officer demands to know why nobody helped her, he asks her why she didn’t scream even though she made enough noise to wake the dead, the officer tries to confuse her story by suggesting it happened at a different time even though she can, through the evidence of sent and received text messages, pinpoint the exact time of the attack. He grunts derisively when she tells him she is unmarried. By the time the conversation gets too hard, she feels like she has been violated for a second time.

Surely this still doesn’t happen in 2006? Does it?

Sunday, November 19, 2006

I had my first desert driving experience and after clambering up a dune to keep a lookout at one point, I literally did have sand in my pants as per the title of this blog.

In other news, the new James Bond ain't half bad but the girl is bloody annoying, Hostel is a film that proves Tarantino is well past his best and film censorship in this place is getting more and more barmy by the day. The Queen is getting a tougher rating than The Departed and the only way we'll be able to see Borat is on pirated DVD because that has been completely banned here. One of the reasons for the barking mad Borat ban is "lack of storyline" which would eliminate pretty much every crap film that does get released here.

Australia played woefully against Ireland last night. Awful, ugly, unwatchable rugby, apart from the biffo. After planning to have a quiet night in attending to personal grooming issues, I instead went to Aussie Legends (which is nothing like anyone's local back home) with my Irish housemate to watch the game. The butter chicken was yummy, the beer was cold, the Australians played like a pack of bozos, two got sent off, they never once looked like coming close to scoring a try and Ireland thoroughly deserved to win. But I still maintain that the All Blacks will win the 2007 World Cup. After not winning it since 1987 and peaking precisely halfway between World Cups ever since, I think 2007 will be the year that they will do it again. Possibly against Ireland. Almost certainly not against Australia.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Some random thoughts on the Middle East.

• The execution of Saddam Hussein will do nothing towards achieving peace in the Middle East.
• The formation of the state of Israel was a flawed idea from the get-go.
• Women who include their children as part of a human shield are a disgrace.
• Encouraging children to carry "Death to Sharon" and "Go to hell, Sharon" placards after Ariel Sharon collapsed are also a disgrace.
• It is too easy and simplistic to be a smug, cynicalm agnostic Westerner and say they are all just madmen and women fighting over who has the better claim on their imaginary friend. That attitude trivialises faiths and belittles the bigger issues at play.
• It is very important to try and understand the principles of Islam and Judaism if we are to be informed and retain some sense of humanity.
• There will never be lasting, across-the-board peace in the Middle East. Just pockets of peace, such as Dubai and the UAE where I currently live in a shiny bubble of glass, steel, sand and capitalism.


Sunday, November 05, 2006