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It was a very good year...

By Asides
The first of the cars I got to test drive for FishHead magazine, the $170,000 BMW M3.

The first of the cars I got to test drive for FishHead magazine, the $170,000 BMW M3.

It has been nearly four months since I pos­ted some­thing oth­er than a pod­cast to this site and two years since I pos­ted one of my “Best of the Year” film roundups. I haven’t seen enough this year to jus­ti­fy one of those but, see­ing as the year is reach­ing its con­clu­sion, I feel I ought to prove to myself that I can still pro­duce a few words every now and then.

If all you knew of me was my out­put here at F&S then you could be for­giv­en for think­ing that I had gone off the boil a bit. After all, the site became pop­u­lar for my reg­u­lar film reviews and the audio con­tent that now dom­in­ates was simply an added bonus. I have taken to call­ing 2014 a sab­bat­ic­al year, a pal­ate cleanser, but that means that at some point I need to get back on the horse and start rid­ing. I have every inten­tion of doing that in 2015 but — if it proves any­thing like the last 12 months my wishes might not mat­ter a damn.

So, what have I been up to? How do I jus­ti­fy call­ing 2014 a great year?

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Management consultancy

By Hammers, Literature and Sport

CM3 box (1999)If I could have anoth­er life to live, sim­ul­tan­eous with my own, I would prob­ably spend most of it play­ing Sports Interactive’s Football Manager (aka Championship Manager). While I tend to scoff at those who get excited at Beatles Rock Bands and am baffled but impressed by those who take games ser­i­ously, I can­not deny my achilles heel and so every year I down­load the demo of the latest ver­sion and then force myself to not buy the full game in order to stay sane.

The 2009 ver­sion intro­duced half-time and full-time team talks, allow­ing you to gee-up or dress-down your team depend­ing on your psy­cho­logy, theirs, and the state of the match. Motivational options included “Show your dis­ap­point­ment at the team” or “Tell your play­ers to do this for the sup­port­ers” and you could single play­ers out for cri­ti­cism or praise (“Tell Cole that you are delighted with him”).

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Online reading and listening tips

By Asides

Time to draw your atten­tion to a couple of bits of media that I’ve enjoyed recently, namely an excel­lent art­icle by William Langewiesche in Vanity Fair about Captain “Sully” Sullenberger and the ‘mira­cu­lous’ land­ing on the Hudson River back in January. Langewiesche tells the story of the spe­cif­ic flight adroitly but also man­ages to tie it to mod­ern air­craft man­u­fac­ture, pilot polit­ics and even has a hint of a Right Stuff “what makes a pilot” going on too. Superb and engrossing.

In a dif­fer­ent arena entirely, I can recom­mend you down­load and listen to Elvis Mitchell’s inter­view with Rusell Brand, a fam­ous West Ham fan and some­times annoy­ing pres­ence as an act­or who I had thought was inex­plic­ably pop­u­lar. Well, now, thanks to Elvis, it is explic’d. I get it. In the inter­view Brand is pro­mot­ing the US edi­tion of “My Booky Wook” and he is funny, supremely intel­li­gent, spir­ited and self-aware. And he talks at 100mph. Download the inter­view from the KCRW site here, or down­load to the reg­u­lar pod­cast via iTunes here. Mitchell is a former crit­ic for The New York Times and his pro­gramme The Treatment is the most con­sist­ently intel­li­gent half hour on cinema on the web.

Review: Iron Maiden: Flight 666, X-Men Origins: Wolverine and a few more ...

By Cinema and Reviews

Iron Maiden: Flight 666 posterOne of the first films I reviewed when I star­ted here was an charm­ing doc­u­ment­ary called Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey in which Canadian fans Sam Dunn and Scot McFadyen trav­elled the world talk­ing to oth­er fans (and the stars they wor­ship) about what it is that makes met­al great. In that film they inter­viewed Iron Maiden’s vocal­ist Bruce Dickinson and they must have made a decent impres­sion as Maiden (and EMI) have giv­en them a decent budget and loads of access for them to doc­u­ment their Somewhere Back in Time tour (around the world last year).

And what a wheeze the tour turned out to be. Chartering a 757 from Dickinson’s oth­er employ­er, tak­ing half the seats out so the gear and set could fit, fly­ing the whole show between gigs with Dickinson pilot­ing the whole time – a bunch of pasty middle-aged English lads hav­ing the time of their lives across half the world. The only real drama comes when drum­mer Nicko McBrain gets hit on the wrist by a golf ball, but it doesn’t mat­ter because the joy of see­ing a band really mov­ing audi­ences (in places like Mumbai and Costa Rica) is the reas­on for this film to exist. And this film rises above above oth­er recent great rock movies like U2-3D and Shine a Light – because it’s about the fans as well as the band and it recog­nises the com­plex inter­de­pend­ence of the relationship.

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Review: Young @ Heart, Max Payne, Rise of the Footsoldier, A Journey of Dmitri Shostakovich, Brideshead Revisited and Irina Palm

By Cinema, Conflict of Interest and Reviews

Young at Heart posterThe most purely emo­tion­al exper­i­ence I have had in a cinema this year was watch­ing the delight­ful doc­u­ment­ary Young @ Heart dur­ing the Film Festival. It’s a life-affirming (and by its very nature death-affirming too) por­trait of a group of Massachusetts seni­or cit­izen chor­is­ters who tour the world with a pro­gramme of (often con­sciously iron­ic) rock and pop clas­sics and it starts out like the quirky British tv pro­gramme it was ori­gin­ally inten­ded to be. But then these remark­able, love­able, buoy­ant char­ac­ters take con­trol and by the time they get to Dylan’s Forever Young, I may as well have been a puddle on the floor of the cinema. Young at Heart is so suc­cess­ful I even fell in love with Coldplay for about five minutes. It’s that good.

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