Feature film: The Master
There Will Be Blood set the bar somewhere in outer space for Paul Thomas Anderson’s follow-up but The Master delivered with the same kidney-punching thrust of a heavyweight filmmaker growing in confidence with each release.
It’s a punishing watch, with Joaquin Phoenix’s tortured Freddie Quell on a terminal descent into alcoholism before he’s offered something approaching redemption by the charismatic modern day snake oil merchant Lancaster Dodd.
Understandably, a film where the subject is unable to conquer his demons, reaching the credits exactly as broken as where he began left some critics confused and unfulfilled, though I found the unflinching honesty of the screenplay and performances the perfect antidote to the fluffy rehabilitation pieces one comes to expect.
The final scene brought to mind a Fitzgerald novel in its subtlety – a tiny, near-untraceable catastrophe all the more dramatic due to the lightness of touch of its director.
Honourable mentions: Dark Knight Rises, Lawless, Moonrise Kingdom
Documentary: London: Modern Babylon
A mere 12 months on from the London Riots comes this inverted love letter to the capital city – a patchwork of archive footage that takes the viewer from the well-to-do Victorian age right through to 2011’s credit crunched pre-Olympic pressure cooker.
The documentary has no real narrative; its genius is in holding up all of the footage of the plot points of the 20th century in front of the viewer, including immigration, suffragette movement, World Wars and allowing them to fill in the rest.
An eclectic, well-measured soundtrack crackles throughout, dropping mischievous little writs between the footage, leaving the impression you’re watching the world’s best and longest music video.
Perhaps because of this constant shift of emphasis and tone, the lengthy running time is barely noticeable - from one moment to the next you’re transported to another place and time, flung back and forth between eras, themes and events as Julian Temple holds up a mirror to the ages and considers the state of the nation.
I’ve been press ganging everyone I’ve met this year to source a copy to see it for themselves. If you’re bored enough to be reading this, make sure that you do. YOU.
Honourable mentions: Undefeated, Ai Wei Wei: Never Sorry, The Imposter, Soka Afrika
TV Series: Breaking Bad *Spoilers for those not up to date herein*
When we last saw Walter White he was just about ready to walk into the sunset having seen off lung cancer, blown up his nemesis Gus Frings and gotten away scot-free with his million-dollar meth business.
Because of the neat denouement to the last series I was, admittedly, a little cynical as to where the programme had to go with a 13 episode fifth series.
Taking the money for a programme that was finally getting the DVD sales it deserved in ratings or a fitting finale for the smartest, funniest and most morally bankrupt show on TV?
From the moment series five began with a coughing Walt in a rundown diner, shaping his bacon into the number 52 (a clever nod to happier times at home in S1), before taking possession of a sub-machine gun in the back of his car, I’ve been in no doubt that there is a story yet to tell as Vince Gilligan ties up all the loose ends of his Emmy winning series.
Album: Grizzly Bear – Shields
The sound of a band at the peak of their powers producing an assured collection of songs that propelled them to the top table of thinking man’s arena rock.
Engaging arrangements, pitch-perfect production and an unskippable ever-building tracklist to the almost comically epic Sun in Your Eyes made this my most listened to album of 2012, according to Last.fm.
Honourable mentions: Thee Oh Sees, Angel Olsen, Lower Dens
Gig/Performance: Efterklang – Bridgewater Hall, Manchester
One of those bands that have always existed in my aural peripheral vision, Efterklang delivered one of those performances that lingers long after you leave the venue at the back end of October.
Soaring melodies backed by the Northern Symphony Orchestra at a stunning concert hall made for my gig of the year – not at all aided by the out of place bottle of Pepsi Max topped up with Morgan’s Spice that I was supping from.
Honourable mentions: The Walkmen – Pitchfork Festival, Paris, Buke and Gase – ATP Festival, Camber Sands, Mono – Sound Control, Manchester
(New to me) Book: Slaughterhouse 5 – Kurt Vonnegut
True to my inverted hipster tendencies, I’d dodged Vonnegut until my 26th year and just a few pages into his most famous work, I wished I hadn’t.
I haven’t laughed aloud or shrieked in delight at what I was reading since Confederacy of Dunces but this book is equally delicious and depraved.
The exploits of Billy Pilgrim are impossible to resist as he time-travels between the fire bombing of Dresden, his mental breakdown in the winter of his life and, of course, his human zoo in Traflamadore.
Honourable mentions: HHhH - Laurent Binet, Richer than God - David Conn, Blood Meridian - Cormac McCarthy
The year was 2001, I was 15 and plying my trade at Macclesfield Boys under-14s when our new manager, a small-time precursor to Roman Abramovic was made chairman of Macclesfield Town FC. The new boss called me over after at full-time in a match we’d lost just 6-1 with 9 men. I’d earned yet another man of the match award after a string of gravity-defying stops.
“Son, you’re the best keeper in the Mid-Cheshire league, but you’re a fat bastard and I think you know that…”
Still in denial over the “parent’s divorce weight” I’d gained, my pride was momentarily knocked,
“…but I want to put you in for a trial with Macclesfield, subject to you losing a stone in weight by June.”
Macc Boys Under-14s
Flashes of Ryan Price between those famous Moss Rose sticks, Steve Farrelly, Tony Bullock - this was my chance.
Cue the montage.
With a month until June I aquainted myself with salads, went for ruddy-cheeked trundles around West Park, cut out the mid-morning break’s sausage bap at the school canteen.
June came and I’d never been in better shape.
My manager: “You did it, son, the trial’s yours, don’t let me down”
I arrived at the training ground early with my dad, I hadn’t been able to eat, I was starving, but I was ready.
“Eye on the ball, always on the ball”, my dad barked.
Brand new Adidas fingersave gloves, new red predator boots - my dad investing in the dream.
The touchline was flanked by proud parents kicking every ball, a couple of lads from school had come down to support some of the other players I knew from the circuit.
The lads from my school had taken up a position behind my goal.
“Nice new boots, Boothy…”
Ignore them. My eye’s in. Nothing can stop this. Marshalling the defence.
“OUTTTTT” I bellowed.
Behind the goal,
“How did you get a trial, Boothy, you fat bastard?”
Ryan Price, Steve Farrelly, Tony Bullock…
“There’s a Maccy D’s here, Boothy…”
As a reflex I turned around, thrust out a finger, suddenly self-rightous,
“What have you lot ever done? I lost a stone to be here today!” I cried.
As the ball fizzed into the back of my net.
Why did the hipster burn its mouth?
Because he drank his coffee before it was cool.
Hipsters ruined everything. From music to cinema to clothes. These are the be-coiffed bandwagon jumpers whose all-judging eyes run themselves over your CD collections, your DVD collection, your girlfriend and will only sleep soundly in their beds once the very definition of your self, your whole, is imperceptibly altered. They will leave you questioning your taste, your authenticity, your opinions and now they’ve locked their crosshairs on football.
There will be blood.
Football hipsters are a relatively new phenomenon and there are two types that require profiling.
The first type seem harmless enough. The lower league football hipster. They support a team from League 2 down and exist on a diet of crumbling football grounds (note, not stadia).They are down to earth, defined by the authenticity of their support and have grown weary of the commercialisation of the game.
They will say things like, “the game is lost to us now” and will, like Nostradamus and the Mayans before them, gleefully forecast the death of football every season. They will point to the Sky money, foreign ownerships and monopolisation of playing talent to the big clubs as the plagues of this impending apocalypse. I can get along with this type of fan, put a hand over the Manchester City crest on my shirt and nod appreciatively, making sympathetic noises and agreeing up to a point.
Football isn’t broken, despite its high ticket prices, cynical media, disconnected players from fans, foreign ownership, teams in administration, debt, Sky, sexism, racism, lack of video technology, uncompetitive leagues, corrupt governing bodies, decline in International football…
In fact, football is better regulated and of a higher quality than ever, probably owing to the commercialisation of the game. Where twenty years ago we’d have to wait until Barcelona drew an English team in Europe or 60 years ago, for them to tour, we can now watch every game at the click of a button. Standards are higher right across the board. Teams like APOEL Nicosia and BATE Borisov are starting to compete with Europe’s elite in the Champions League. There are no real thrashings in the best competitions, the World Cup or the Champions League. The commercialisation of the game has also brought with it plenty of happy side-effects. Whisper it quietly, but Sepp Blatter’s vow to improve football all around the world hasn’t been a complete case of empty promises and the stuffing of notes into his back pocket.
So that’s the first breed of football hipsters dealt with. Nice, cuddly idealists. The second kind are more dastardly. You might find these on Twitter or running football blogs, these hipsters are the type who ruined your favourite band for you by sneering at your for coming in at the second album stage but get out themselves before the third’s arena tours.
Fernando Llorente: Football Hipster flavour of the month
You suspect that they watch a great deal less football than they claim – their opinions are cherry-picked from Guardian Football Weekly, from scan-read match reports, from broadsheet journalists’ Twitter feeds. Draw them on why they feel Napoli’s front three play so well together, what type of player Javi Martinez is, or ask them to name Bilbao’s last manager and there’s nothing to back it up. You suspect that their Edison Cavani avatar might be derived from assumed knowledge, a YouTube video and two goals against English opposition that prompt the smug “told you Napoli would win” tweets.
They stagger from European club to European club and buy the replica shirt of whoever is in vogue at that moment. The criteria seems to be thus:
Napoli, Atletico Bilbao and Borussia Dortmund are apparently the current hipster teams of choice, but expect those hipsters to jump ship if Napoli progress to even further in the Champions League next year. Then, too many people will be aware of Walter Mazzarri’s charges, rendering the hipster’s alternative support lost among the noise. If they win the thing, they will have “sold out” -like Kings of Leon, their ascent to Europe’s biggest theatres will mean that this assumed affinity will be too commonly shared to survive in the fad-driven hipster micro-climate.
There’s always another band playing the local cess-pit. Until they enjoy any kind of tangible success, that is.
There’s nothing wrong with appreciating the way a football team play but the reactionary nature of this island country is something that pervades in this “hipster culture”. Take last Wednesday’s Champions League match at the Nou Camp as an example. Lionel Messi scoring buckets of goals is something that happens on a weekly basis in La Liga, yet it takes him scoring five on terrestrial television for him to land in the mainstream media. Of course, not everyone has access to Sky to watch their La Liga coverage but anyone with half an inclination to watch Messi play every week knows that where there is a will, and a reliable internet connection, there is a way.
No-one wants to talk about the fact that perhaps three of Messi’s goals against Leverkusen were a result of poor goalkeeping, that he has played many, many better games for the club.
Still, the interminable questions.
Is he the best ever?
Why can’t he do it for Argentina?
Like David Bowie or The Beatles, Messi and Barcelona are undisputedly brilliant. Therefore, the hipsters are still allowed to like them without fear of losing valuable points.
One tweeter who shall remain nameless, qualified his support of Barcelona on Wednesday, as he “supported them before Messi”. Football can live without these qualifications.
Appreciating football teams and supporting them loyally are two separate disciplines, of course. Like everyone else, I appreciate the way in which Napoli spring the trap on their opposition time after time but it’s just one way of playing rather than the way and the same goes for Barcelona’s boa-constrictor possession act.
Surely, if you’re going to support anything, support the game itself without pissing on your territory and without imperialistically planting flags in the centre circle of continental stadiums like a hipster Graeme Souness in a porkpie hat.
You don’t have to read Inverting the Pyramid to be a proper football fan, an appreciation of the game can be on a simplistic level but should never be a case of being seen to be a fan. The joy in football should be the variety, the choices that are available to any given team or individual to interpret moments in matches, to use opposition’s weaknesses against them, to carry a philosophy from the training pitches to the dressing room to the stadium. Teams can rely on physicality to succeed, beauty, craft, a system, organisation, incredible and unique support – there are too many bloggers and tweeters who bought the band t-shirt and not the back catalogue.
You can buy a Sonic Youth t-shirt in Topman now.
Substance always trumps style.