Why We Love…Fever Pitch

I first got into Nick Hornby the same way I imagine a lot of people did; through his films. I watched High Fidelity and loved it so I read the book, and then read more of his books. Whilst it’s not hard to argue that he has somewhat lost his way in his later books (he can not write a book with a teenage main character; it always seems like an old person writing as a young person; which it is) there’s no denying that his early books are in a class of their own. He perfectly captures the insecurities and intricacies of the masculine psyche. It attacks masculine frailties with such finesse and skill that you feel like it’s about you personally. It’s like a really good song in that way, despite the fact it was written by someone you’ve never met, in a country you’ve never been to, in a town you couldn’t recognise on a map, when you hear it you feel like the lyrics are torn out of your own brain and put to a melody, it feels personal. It’s also incredibly funny, the humour very British (for obvious reasons).

Now a lot of people will be turned off by this book because they have no interest in football. My suggestion is this; even if you don’t like football it would be a good idea to read this book. You don’t need an expansive knowledge of football to understand and enjoy this book, it pretty much explains the important things for you. This book isn’t even really about football at all; it’s a tale of obsession and life, it’s almost like a philosophy book, albeit an introductory one, disguised as a biography. He discusses his life in relation to important football events, and vice versa, which is natural. When we discuss huge events of historical importance, it always feels more real if we discuss ourselves within the context. It’s why people always talk about where they were when things happened, how they found out, how they reacted etc. They personalise the impersonal to make sense and form an emotional connection. Your viewpoint on an event will be different depending on how you first heard about it and who you were at that point in your life; if you were a young child your view will be different than if you were an adult. My viewpoint on the death of Diana, for example, is probably shaped by who I was when it happened. I had just turned 11 years old and was starting to pay a lot more attention to the outside world, as well as starting to become the cynical asshole that I am today. As such when I think of that event I just feel the reaction to it was all a bit silly, a bit over the top. 9/11 happened when I was 15 whilst I was at school, so my main memory of that is fear. Whereas by the time 7/7 happened I had started to become more interested in statistical analysis and the application of probability, so despite the fact it happened a lot closer (and I was actually supposed to go to London that day as well), I wasn’t fearful. As such my mind views the event itself differently.

It works the other way round too. I distinctly remember the year my nan died Liverpool were set to win the Premier League. She was a Liverpool fan all her life so when it looked like they were going to win it felt good, it was like they were doing it in tribute to her. As such when they slipped up and lost it, it felt like a personal attack, like they had let her down somewhat. I was actually annoyed at them for doing that. I know logically I had no reason to, her death and their football were never linked in reality, but in terms of emotion and my life, they will be forever intertwined. And that’s the beauty of life.

So in summary; a fantastic book, and the film is one of the greatest sports films I’ve ever seen (Not quite as good as The Damned United though, but few films are). A story about how invested people can get in something they have no control over, just simply wonderful. But you still need to read High Fidelity as well.

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How We Got Through….May 2017

Films

Snatched

Not bad, just disappointing. Very bland, the kind of film you see and then immediately forget. Shame as it has some very good moments in it, but some of the jokes fall flat and land not with raucous laughter, but with silence. Same with directing too, a lot of the visual and editing decisions are kind of strange. All in all it seems like every part of it was a first draft, every shot closing not with “perfect, one more for safety” but “that will do for now”. Same with the script, entire scenes seem like bits which should have been taken out in a second draft.

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Joan Cusack is really good in the small amount of scenes she’s in though

Colossal

One of the best films I’ve seen all year. Oh it’s flawed as hell (particularly in terms of time and establishing exactly “when” certain scenes take place in relation to each other) but all those flaws do is take it from a 10/10 to a solid 8. Anne Hathaway gives a performance which equals Rachel Getting Married (which if you haven’t seen, you really should, it’s superb), and Jason Sudeikis is creepier than I ever thought he could be, the kind of performance which makes you think he could easily move into more dramatic roles, or play a serial killer. So well written too, so much so that I immediately looked into the writer and made a note to watch everything he’s done. It’s also extremely unique, I can’t think of a film to compare it too, stands alone in a genre of one, and I can’t see anybody doing it better.

The Promise

A 2 hour film about the Armenian genocide, no, wait, come back, it’s actually REALLY good. Brutal without being exploitative, which is the risk you take when doing a film like this. If you don’t do it right it can come off like you’re exploiting the reality for the sake of drama, you have to stay grounded enough, and honest enough, for the film to work. It also REALLY annoyed a certain group of people, who flooded IMDB with negative reviews of it, calling it propaganda and lies without a hint of truth, saying that the genocide never happed. Most of these “reviews” were posted before the film was even released, so you know they’re definitely trustworthy. Oscar Isaac is REALLY good in this by the way, believable throughout, but special mention has to go to Marwan Kenzari, who plays his character with such conviction, and does such wonderful facial work throughout that it’s one of the most genuine performances of the year. I would highly recommend seeing this, and not just because it annoys genocide deniers (which is always fun)

Sleepless

I’ve seen quite a few bad films at the cinema, but rarely are they as f*cking tedious as this was. You’d think a 90 minute action film set in Las Vegas would be exciting, you’d be wrong. The only reason certain things happen are because characters are idiots, for example at one point the villain points a loaded gun at the main character, now instead of shooting him, he takes a few steps backwards and gets run over a van (which he somehow didn’t hear coming, in an empty parking lot, the emptiness of which I have a problem with also). I’ve seen defences of this say “yeah but as long as you don’t think too hard about it it works. It’s just dumb fun”. And they’re half right, it’s dumb. It’s not nitpicking to point out that someone who has been stabbed (and for whom the wound continues bleeding for 4 hours) should be weakened by that. But nope, the only indication of it is that he occasionally stops and goes “ah”. A stab wound has the same effect as an ice cream headache. It’s a shame as the cast do their job well, it’s just the script is kinda dumb. There’s some odd choices when it comes to directing too. You know that “shakey cam fight scene” that the Bourne movies use? They do that here, only they do it for EVERYTHING in the fight. Someone walks away after the fight; Shakey Bourne Camera, someone gets their phone out to phone someone: Shakey Bourne Camera. It also ends with the most obvious sequel hook in a long time, yet considering everybody in the cinema stood up the very second the credits started, I don’t think it’s going to be looked forward to that much. Maybe I’m spoiled by John Wick, which set my standards unbelievably high, but still, not a great film, it’s not even a good one. In fact, probably one of the worst films I’ve seen this year.

Suburban Gothic

See, now this is dumb fun. Very very fun. I can’t remember who told me to watch this, but whoever it was; thank you very much. Best watched whilst drunk and with other people. It’s on netflix now so if you’ve got that, watch it, and if you don’t, get netflix, watch it, then cancel after the free month.

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TV Shows

The Office (US)

A US remake that is without a doubt superior to the original. I have a major issue with the UK version; the main character starts off disliked, then ends up with all the characters embracing him, without changing anything about his personality. His character does not deserve his happy ending, all he’s done is bitch and moan and be bitter and spiteful, he should not be the good guy and it feels like it’s done mainly because he was played by the writer. The US one handles it differently, because it has more episodes it allows the main character to have more depth and be a fully developed person, so he comes off a lot more likeable. This show is also helped by the fact that Jim and Pam are one of the best relationships I’ve ever seen in television, so often everything about them is said just with a look, or with body language, you could watch it in silence and get a sense of how they respond to each other.

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It also provided me with a lot of good Cover Photos for facebook

Books

1000 Years Of Annoying The French

A book that’s pretty self explanatory, a look at complex history of anglo-french relations. Definitely has an English bias, but never really comes off as hateful and angry. Fascinating read which goes in depth into a lot of historical fallacies, and tries to examine why the two countries occasionally seem like one of those couples who constantly argue and cheat on each other, yet still stay together for some reason.

Cash

Really interesting, but I don’t think you need to read it more than once. Very honest about his own flaws, yet seems to hold back when discussing others. So it’s interesting but kind of frustrating, yet it makes sense, a biography shouldn’t be entirely about settling old scores, and I’ve read many biographies which have been ruined by hot angry and bitter the person has seemed.

The Damned United

Almost exactly as good as the film, and the film was amazing. Possibly the only sports story where the hero comes from ahead and loses.

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Also a reminder of how quotable Brian Clough could be

Death Note

One of the best (read: the only) manga series I’ve read. Fantastic character work, it can be difficult to write genius’s as sometimes writers just research a lot of information and have the characters repeat what they’ve researched, so it comes off kind of sterile and bland. The two main characters in this are obviously incredibly intelligent, but this isn’t shown through facts and figures, it’s shown through logic. They come to nonsensical conclusions, and then explain how it’s not only logical, but the only possible thought you should have (much like the Sherlock series often did). Kind of an intellectual cold war between the two characters, they both KNOW whom the other one is, but need to try to get the other one to drop their guard and reveal more information.

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This quote is life