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The Beautiful Game.

And so it ends. After a US loss to Belgium that included a meme-making defense by Tim Howard, and a complete 7-1 evisceration of the host nation by the eventual winners in the Semis, Germany wins the World Cup 1-0 over Argentina, on a beautiful strike by Mario Gotze in extra time. “At some point we’ll stop celebrating, but we’ll still wake up with a smile.”

All in all, a really entertaining World Cup. And perhaps it’s because I reside in DC and spend time on Twitter, two of the most futbol-happy environments around stateside, but this felt like the year soccer might have finally broken through in America for real. Time will tell, I suppose. In the meantime, I should do a better job of supporting the MLS. Valar Futbolis!

Silent, but Active.

“Like many Argentines, Bergoglio ‘remained silent in the face of atrocity,’ but he was determined to thwart the death squads when he could, said Larraquy, who runs investigations for the Argentine newspaper Clarin. ‘He used back channels, did not complain in public and, meanwhile, he was saving people who sought refuge in the Colegio.'”

AP’s Debora Rey delves into the quiet heroism of Pope Francis during Argentina’s Dirty War. “Critics have argued that Bergoglio’s public silence in the face of that repression made him complicit, too…But the chilling accounts of survivors who credit Bergoglio with saving their lives are hard to deny. They say he conspired right under the soldiers’ noses at the theological seminary he directed, providing refuge and safe passage to dozens of priests, seminarians and political dissidents marked for elimination by the 1976-1983 military regime.”

After the Hitler youth of “God’s Rottweiler”, I presumed the worst when I’d originally heard of the new Pope’s silence during the Dirty War. Having come to think much more of him over his first year as head of the Church, I’m glad to read this.

Dirty Henry.

“Kissinger asked how long will it take you (the Argentines) to clean up the problem. Guzzetti replied that it would be done by the end of the year. Kissinger approved. In other words, Ambassador Hill explained, Kissinger gave the Argentines the green light.”

Another file for the war crimes prosecution: New evidence comes to light that Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, among his many other misdeeds, egged on Argentina’s Dirty War. “Kissinger watchers have known for years that he at least implicitly (though privately) endorsed the Argentine dirty war, but this new memo makes clear he was an enabler for an endeavor that entailed the torture, disappearance, and murder of tens of thousands of people.”

Wait ’till 2014.

As everyone already knows, the US bowed out of the World Cup over the weekend — in front of a record American television audience — by losing to Ghana 2-1, the same team that knocked them out in 2006. While I haven’t been posting much on the Cup (or on anything over the past fortnight), I have been watching what I can, and the US looked shaky from the start. Argentina notwithstanding, that Phoenix Suns style of futbol — great on O, very little D to speak of — doesn’t usually work too well at the World Cup level.

Speaking of that record television audience (which has been a pattern of late), the Cup has also been occasion for the usual litany of “Why Soccer Will Soon/Won’t Ever Work in the US” stories in the press. See, for example, Rolling Stone‘s Matt Taibbi bashing on soccer and its fans in his usual fast-and-loose “it goes to 11” -style. (On this and all other issues: less heat and more light, please.)

I dunno. At this point, I feel like I’ve heard variations on this soccer-on-the-cusp argument my entire life. Frankly, it’s gotten to the point where I don’t much care anymore. Does it really matter if the US as a nation fully embraces futbol or not? I enjoy soccer, and so do most people whose company I enjoy. That’s good enough. If you don’t like the game, well, that’s ok too.

Forget It, Jake. It’s Buenos Aires.

This weekend seems to be the last lull before the summer-movie storm begins in earnest with Iron Man 2 next Friday. (I almost talked myself into Samuel Bayer’s Nightmare on Elm Street remake, out of a fondness for the original, before looking at the reviews and deciding that maintaining my perfect record of never throwing money at Michael Bay’s Platinum Dunes was a better way to go.) Nonetheless, if you’re in the mood for some quality cinema, I highly recommend a film I saw last weekend, and the 2010 Best Picture winner, Juan Jose Campanella’s The Secret In Their Eyes (El secreto de sus ojos.)

At once a police procedural, political thriller, chaste love story, and remembrance of days past, Secret is a hard movie to categorize, but Dana Stevens’ concise summary at Slate — “Imagine a really long, really awesome episode of Law & Order set in Buenos Aires” — is a pretty good start. The thing is, Law & Order in Argentina, particularly ’round the time of the Dirty War, isn’t as black and white as it usually is in our 42-minute visits to the island realm of Jack McCoy and Adam Schiff. In Buenos Aires, as in life, everything gets complicated.

So, how to explain Secret? Well, I was reminded occasionally here of David Fincher’s Zodiac, in that the lingering case at the heart of the story drives some of our characters slightly mad. (The difference being, here an eventual resolution brings little comfort — There are still guilt, complicity, and consequences to contend with.) There’s a bravura sequence in a futbol stadium in the middle going which recalls some of the extended-shot marvels of Alfonse Cuaron’s Children of Men. There’s definitely some of The Wire‘s workingman’s blues and gallows humor here, and and as one of my friends noted, there’s also a good bit of The Remains of the Day in this story too. Taken as a whole, Secret moves to its own unique rhythm, and it is a film that’s definitely worth catching.

The tonal ambiguity of Secret is reflected in the opening moments, as we first meet Benjamin Esposito (Ricardo Darin) — a recently retired ex-lawyer now settling into the writing life — going through the author’s quandary of figuring how to start the book on his brain. First we see and hear that tired romantic cliche, a sad parting at a train station, and a lover chasing down the train. Wait, scratch that. Let’s start with a final breakfast together with the lost lover, and all the details — the honey, the fruit, her floral-print dress, her sun-dappled smile — that can now never be forgotten. No, that’s not it either. So Benjamin falls back to the case file and we witness some brief and dreadful moments in a brutal, bloody rape/homicide. Ugh. That’s no way to start this tale.

Still struggling with his opening chapter, Benjamin visits his old friend and colleague Irene (Soledad Villamil), now a judge in Buenos Aires, who is not particularly enthused to hear that he’s decided to reopen old wounds and write about the tumultuous Morales case. Nonetheless, she gives him an old typewriter (with a broken A) and some excellent advice — Start with what you remember best. And so he does. And soon we find ourselves thirty years in the past, in the small, paper-strewn offices of Ben, Irene, and their semi-functioning alcoholic co-worker Sandoval (Guillermo Francella), just before they pulled the case that transformed their lives.

Particularly by L&O standards, the whodunit aspect of the story is not all that baroque (although it does rely on some potentially clever, potentially dubious po-lice work that helps give the film its name. While I’m on the subject, there’s some implausibly successful good-cop, bad-cop interrogating later on that took me out of the film.) Instead, our investigative trio has much more trouble finding, catching, and holding on to their man after they’ve made him. After all, Argentina between 1976 and 1983 is a slippery place — down is up and up is down, and searching for criminals is no longer a very safe pastime once the criminals are in charge…

I said in my review of Jacques Audiard’s A Prophet that “if The Secret in Their Eyes is better, it must be really something.” And, while I think I ever-so-slightly preferred A Prophet in the end — due to the earlier noted implausibilities here, and because this film’s various acts sometimes feel disconnected from each other– my strong advice is: See them both! A Prophet is a young man’s movie, a coming-of-age, learning-the-ropes story of an ascent into power, while Secret is an older man’s tale, a wistful look back at earlier times and the mistakes, regrets, and chance circumstances that haunted a life. And along with Red Riding, Ellsberg, Terribly Happy, and Kick-Ass, they’re both at the top of my 2010 list so far.

Kent Brockman was Right.

“The colony may be the largest of its type ever known for any insect species, and could rival humans in the scale of its world domination.” By way of FmH, scientists discover that Argentine ants seems to have developed a multi-continental mega-colony. “[W]henever ants from the main European and Californian super-colonies and those from the largest colony in Japan came into contact, they acted as if they were old friends…In short, they acted as if they all belonged to the same colony, despite living on different continents separated by vast oceans.” Well, one thing is for certain, there is no stopping them; the ants will soon be here. And I, for one, welcome our new insect overlords.

Dream in Black and White.

“After examining the film the three experts are certain: The find from Buenos Aires is a real treasure, a worldwide sensation. Metropolis, the most important silent film in German history, can from this day on be considered to have been rediscovered.” Ave Maria! The original Ghost in the Machine has been found! Before this and this and this and this and this and just about anything else you can think of in the sci-fi department, there was Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, and it’s been rediscovered in an Argentine film vault. (Tour Lang’s city here.)

This unearthed original print is rumored to be 210 minutes long, a full hour and a half longer than any version seen since 1927. “Among the footage that has now been discovered…there are several scenes which are essential in order to understand the film: The role played by the actor Fritz Rasp in the film for instance, can finally be understood. Other scenes, such as for instance the saving of the children from the worker’s underworld, are considerably more dramatic. In brief: ‘Metropolis, Fritz Lang’s most famous film, can be seen through new eyes.’

Special Agent Bimmler?

The CIA based its decisions about using former SS men or unreconstructed Nazis solely on operational considerations…Hiring these tainted individuals brought little other than operational problems and moral confusion to our government’s intelligence community.” New documents unearthed by UVa historian Timothy Naftali make clear the Cold War-era CIA had no qualms about using former Nazi assets, and even neglected to flush out infamous war criminal Adolf Eichmann from his hiding place in Argentina after being tipped off about his location. For shame.

Empire Falls.

After two previous losses to Puerto Rico and Lithuania, the US Men’s Basketball team are knocked out of gold medal contention by Argentina (and Manu Ginobli.) I saw some of the earlier games, most notably the US-Germany scrimmage which A.I. won on a buzzer-beater 3, and the team definitely seemed confused. I don’t really see this as the death knell of American basketball it’s being made out to be, though. As many others (including Mark Cuban) have noted, the team was just poorly constructed…it needed less All-Stars and more NBA-level role players in the worst way.

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