Taika Waititi’s latest triumph begins with a disaster. The film, Next Goal Wins, tells the true-life tale of American Samoa’s national soccer team, and kicks off with real footage from a World Cup qualifying match played against Australia in 2001. It was a record-setting clash; the most overwhelming victory ever recorded at the sport’s international level — albeit for Australia. For, when the final whistle blew, the score was 31-0 in favour of the Socceroos, and American Samoa’s reaction to the ever-growing goal count makes for painful viewing even today. When they concede their 10th goal, disappointment is etched deep on the side’s faces. When the 20th rolls in, this disappointment turns to despair. And, as the 30th approaches, despair to defeat.
Luckily, as I approach a 30th of my own, I’m feeling a little more optimistic. Because, while early January will see my twenties ease to their end, I consider this past decade to be one largely well-lived. I’ve travelled far, laughed hard, learned much, and carved out a career in an industry I love. Magazines may face an uncertain future in the digital age, but I intend to press on; to flick through the pages of this fresh new decade and see what shakes out. And I can think of no more encouraging, upbeat an issue to positively challenge that trend than the magazine you hold in your hands.
It’s a suitably seasonal edition of SHARP — very, very merry and primed for even the biggest of holiday bashes. We’ve dressed our style section to the nines, brought along bottles of the finest brandies and single malt scotches, and even wrapped up the definitive holiday gift guide, which toasts the best reveals and releases of 2023.
And there’s much to celebrate — which brings me back to my milestone of a birthday. People tell me that I should expect some sort of crisis come the big 3-0, one that may leave me feeling untethered or directionless. However, in yet another stroke of good fortune, SHARP Winter also features its fair share of directors, poised to help steer me back on track. We’ve got Martin Scorsese, a moviemaking major leaguer whose life lessons could teach us all a thing or two. And, of course, Taika Waititi — the most feel-good of filmmakers and the man who, I’m pretty sure, puts the “zeal” in “New Zealander.” If I plan to follow anyone’s example as I tear into my thirties, it’s his. The director’s open-minded and optimistic approach to life is evidenced in this appetizer from our final cover interview of the year: “Distance and time are really good ways of coming to terms with things,” he tells us, “and they help you accept that you made decisions that felt good, proper, and authentic in the moment”.
Wise words, Waititi. See you on the other side.
— Jonathan Wells, Managing Editor