soccer on tv

I've written occasionally about soccer on U.S. television, and how it has changed so much over the years. Television changes too, of course, which leads me to the match I'll be watching today in a little bit.

It's a Champions League match between Chelsea and Sevilla. Chelsea includes American wonderkid Christian Pulisic, who is all of 22 years old now, so I guess he's no longer a kid. He is still a wonder. He is recovering from an injury, and it's not certain he will play.

I am watching it on CBS All Access. It's a premium channel, meaning you pay to watch it. We've subscribed and unsubscribed a few times, because it's the home of Star Trek: Discovery, and my wife is a fan. They also have the U.S. rights to the Champions League in English. Long ago, there was no soccer on American TV other than the weekly Soccer Made in Germany, which ran on PBS for a dozen years. Now, there's no escaping the sport. Today alone, there are eight Champions League matches, one MLS match, six Copa Libertadores matches, a Confederation Cup match from Africa, and two matches in the CONCACAF League. At other times, we can watch the English Championship league, the Mexican league, the Europa League, Serie A, the Bundesliga, La Liga from Spain, and the English Premier League, the English language rights to which are owned by NBC.

Some of the above requires money to watch ... some of it ends up on NBC itself. I can't bring myself to buy one-league packages, although I get most Premier League matches as part of my cable package, as well as most Spanish-language networks. CBS All Access is a little different, though, since it offers more than just soccer, so I'm not just paying to watch Chelsea-Sevilla.

It's impossible to find the time to watch it all ... heck, it's almost impossible to find out where to watch, given the multiple options (for this I rely on LiveSoccer TV). The confusion is felt by non-soccer fans as well, because it's almost impossible to find TV series you want to watch ... you really have to pay attention to know if you are looking for the broadcast networks, the cable channels like FX, premium channels like HBO and Showtime and Starz, or streaming sites like Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, HBO Max, Peacock ... you get the idea. Our choices are overwhelming.

But I really notice when it comes to soccer, because we've gone from an almost complete absence on our TVs to now, when there is barely a match anywhere in the world that isn't being shown in the States.

Meanwhile, here's a video titles "100+ Players Humiliated by Christian Pulisic":


creature feature: the skull (freddie francis, 1965)

Amicus Productions came out of England in 1962, but it was founded by Americans. Their horror films are a lot like Hammer, probably on purpose. The Skull is directed by Hammer stalwart Freddie Francis and stars Peter Cushing and, in a smaller role, Christopher Lee. It is based on a short story by Psycho novelist Robert Bloch, "The Skull of the Marquis de Sade", and the title of that story pretty much explains the plot. After his death, the Marquis' skull is stolen from his grave, and it carries with it an evil that travels across time to the present day (I was surprised when people in The Skull turned on lights and rode in cars ... I didn't realize we'd moved past the 19th-century prologue).

The whole thing is loony nonsense, but Cushing effectively makes us believers, at least for the 83-minute running time. (Even at 83 minutes, The Skull is stretched thin ... there's a lot of filler.) Francis gives us some ingenious looks, in particular some shots from a point-of-view inside the skull. While the effect of the skull floating ominously in space sounds silly, it's actually effectively scary. The music is by Elisabeth Lutyens, an interesting figure of some note. She was a composer of some repute, and the first woman to score a British film.

None of the above raises The Skull much beyond the norm for 60s horror, but it's reasonably entertaining.


martha marcy may marlene (sean durkin, 2011)

This is the sixth film I have watched in "My Letterboxd Season Challenge 2020-21", "A 33 week long challenge where the goal each week is to watch a previously unseen feature length film from a specified category." This is the 6th annual challenge, and my second time participating (last year can be found at "My Letterboxd Season Challenge 2019-20"). Week 6 is called Mumblegore Week:

What we got here is what's known in the business as a sub-genre, a more specific type of film within a specified genre. Here, we can see the horror spinoff of the Mumblecore genre: films characterized by low budgets and a focus on naturalistic acting and dialogue over plot, now stained with fake blood and jump scares. Time to get spooky.

This week's challenge is to watch a previously unseen Mumblegore film.

OK, I've seen a "Mumblegore" film. I'm not sure I understand the genre yet. Martha Marcy May Marlene fits the Mumblecore mode, low budget ($600,000) and the rest. And it has some trigger scenes. But "gore" is the wrong word for this film. The IMDB "Parents Guide" lists 9 items under "Sex and Nudity", and also notes examples of profanity and drinking. But it only lists 4 items under "Violence and Gore". One of those four happens outside of the camera's view, one features "no blood or injury", one is "woman kicks man down the stairs". There is rape in the movie, and it is as upsetting as it should be ... as I say, there are trigger scenes in the movie. But there is little to no fake blood, and jump scares are also at a minimum. What Sean Durkin does is create an ominous tension that never leaves us throughout the movie. It works as a kind of horror movie, but it's really more a character study of disturbed people, more subtle than the "Mumblegore" tag suggests.

For the most part, this is all irrelevant. The movie is effective, whatever genre it is in. It features the breakout performance from Elizabeth Olsen, and excellent supporting jobs by John Hawkes and Sarah Paulson. Durkin relies heavily on Olsen in his first feature as a director, and she's is more than up to it. As Roger Ebert wrote at the time, "Elizabeth Olsen can know that no one will ever ask, 'Which one is she?'" His comment might seem odd, given her eventual fame as Scarlet Witch in the Avengers movies, but in 2011, if she was known at all it was as the younger sister of the Olsen twins.

I feel like I'm mostly talking around the edges of Martha Marcy May Marlene. But there's only so many ways I can say that Elizabeth Olsen is terrific here. #453 on the They Shoot Pictures, Don't They list of the top 1000 films of the 21st century.