Jan 1, 2015

Posted by in Ramblings

14 Things About 2014 That Weren’t Awful

14 Things About 2014 That Weren’t Awful

There’s no getting around it, 2014 was fucking rubbish.

There was Ebola and missing planes and Tony Abbot and George Osborne and Putin and ISIS and GamerGate and Sydney hostages and the Mid Terms and hacking and Israel and Palestine and UKIP and domestic violence and Ferguson and Staten Island and Oscar Pistorius and Benefits Street and Donald Sterling and the losses of Rik Mayall and Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Phil Hughes and Joan Rivers and Robin Williams and and and and and…

And there was all your own personal bullshit as well, of which no doubt there was much.  There was probably economic issues and deaths and health problems and you probably lost your Oyster card and the neighbours kids are shit and the car broken down and and and and…

Just fucking enough already.  2014 was historically awful.  2015 can’t be that bad can it?  Please.

So let’s start 2015 with a list, by me, of 14 things from 2014 that I watched or saw or heard or played or was part of or witnessed that weren’t the worst thing ever.  Hell, they were even good.  Let’s try and be positive.  Somehow.

Oh and before somehow starts 2015 bitching about the list, it’s in no particular order and it’s my opinion only.  And there’ll be, there probably already have been, spelling and grammar errors.

1. Adam Silver does not fuck around.

It’s hardly been a secret that Donald Stirling was an out-dated, racist, rather vile person.  But after recordings emerged earlier this year of him requesting that his mistress not be seen in public with Magic Johnson of all people and also not to bring black people to his arena, things boiled over, finally.  Oh, he also went on to more or less suggest he should get a medal for feeding black people’s families by paying them to play for the basketball team he then owned, the Los Angeles Clippers.  Much legal wrangling would follow but the swift reaction of brand new NBA commissioner Adam Silver was phenomenal. It was his first major act after taking over from David Stern, a man who’d been in the job for thirty years.  There was no politically sensitive language.  He just walked up there and said.  Banned.  For life.  Three words.  It was powerful, it was beautiful.  There were other words, but those three at the top echoed around the world.  You racist fuck, sell your team, leave, never come back.  You are not welcome.  You never will be.  Enough was finally enough.

2. Paddington

Paddington-BearPaddington Bear is a symbol of all that is good, innocent and sweet.  The original stories, stop motion series and so on, all close to perfect.  2014 needed Paddington.  So when the trailers came for the feature film it looked like another thing to add to the list of 2014 atrocities.  It looked to cheapen the legend.  He looked weird.  And it was PG.

The stop motion series of Paddington Bear is one of my favourite things ever.  The books are a delight to me even now.  So it was with much fear that my wife and I, an equal lover of that bear from darkest Peru, that we sat down in a cinema.  90 minutes later we left beaming, delighting and struggling with the dust in the air…

Sweet, funny, loving, well written, directed and acted, superb animation, spot on and two fingers to Farage in the tail.  And you know what?  Over a full film, Paddington himself looked and sounded just right.  As if Peggy Fortnum’s original sketch had truly come to life.  And in Hugh Bonneville there could not have been a better Mr Brown.  Was it perfect?  No.  Was it the best movie of 2014?  No.  Did I enjoy one more?  No sir.  Not even close.  Marmalade sandwiches and buns for everyone.

3. Under the Skin

under-the-skin-scarjoIf Paddington was the film I most enjoyed last year, Under the Skin was the one I thought the best.  A half improvised, low budget, guerrilla shot, arthouse, sci-fi head fuck. Jonathon Glazer hadn’t made a film in about ten years and this is how he returned.  Scarlett Johansson, one of the biggest movie stars in the world headed to a freezing Scotland for a few months in a weird wig to take a lead role with hardly any dialogue and or considerably less pay than she can command.  And with an insane credits list that includes Lost In Translation, Her, Don Jon, Girl With A Pearl Earring, Ghost World and plenty of others, she gave us the performance of her career.

It could’ve turned out to be an artsy fartsy mess and some people thought it was.  But they were wrong because my opinion is right.  An homage to Kubrick in some senses, proof of film as true art in another one. See, even my discussion of it sounds artsy fartsy.  It stuck with me for weeks after seeing it.  It’s haunting on one level, disturbing on many levels, confusing on even more, and brilliant on every single one.  There’s not even a close second on my films of the year list this year and come 2020 there is no doubt this will feature highly on my films of the decade list as well.  It’s not for everything because some people are just terrible and paid legal tender to go see things like Mrs Browns Boys D’Movie.  Or Interstellar…

Other good films this year I liked were The Lego Movie, Boyhood, Edge of Tomorrow, Charlie’s Country, Marvelous, Obvious Child, The One I Love and some others.

4.  Last Week Tonight with John Oliver

On paper, everything about Last Week Tonight with John Oliver doesn’t work.  The week’s news in 30 minutes?  On HBO?  With the guy from The Daily Show and Community and that awesome podcast?  Also, we’re not having famous guests if we have any at all.  It sounded like a glorious failure just waiting for the ‘Not as good as The Daily Show or The Colbert Report’ type headlines.  Or maybe a weird Shaun Micallef esque short lived footnote.  Instead it turned into the best bit of news, satire and comedy on TV this past year.

Yes, it was shaky at first, but it soon hit it’s stride.  Long segments.  15 minutes or more to really get into the issues.  Discuss them at length.  Don’t shy away from making a statement.  An opinion.  And do your research. And don’t forget to be funny.  Really funny.

Maybe it was the Sunday night aspect too.  It was there to be discussed on Monday morning.  Maybe it was that they embraced putting the bulk of the show on YouTube the next day, for free, without any bullshit geoblocks.  Maybe it was because it wasn’t afraid?

Or maybe it was just because it was really, really fucking good.  My show of the year.

Other good shows were Sirens, Upper Middle Bogan, Mr and Mrs Murder, Mad Men, Louie, House of Lies, Comedy Bang Bang and some others too.

5. Lullaby… And the Ceaseless Roar.

I’ve always enjoyed the work of Robert Plant.  Led Zeppelin, Big Log, Alison Krauss, all of it.  But with his new album this year he found yet another gear.  Something new.  Again.  It’s an incredible album and to see it performed live with his band, The Sensational Space Shifters as we were lucky enough to do at The Roundhouse in Camden in November, is another thing entirely.  I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a band enjoy themselves more on stage than I did that night.  To perform was simply a joy.  I enjoyed a lot of music this year but pushed to name my album of the year, this is where I’d settle.  That voice might even be better than ever.

Other good albums out this year I thought were Caustic Love by Paolo Nutini, Black Messiah by D’Angelo, The Merri Soul Sessions by many people, The Endless River by Pink Floyd, Mandatory Fun by Weird Al and some other ones too.

6. Valiant Hearts: The Great War

To my mind, 2014 wasn’t a great year for games.  Nothing really blew me away like The Last of Us did the year before.  Or Gone Home.  Or Mass Effect 3 had before that.  The Last of Us Remastered was good, but an improved game, not a new one.  Same for Far Cry 4 in many respects.  NBA 2K15 was a disaster, likewise many of the other big releases like AC Unity, Watch Dogs and so on.  But then there was Valiant Hearts.  A simple puzzle platformer experience.  valianthearts1-1920x1080-1

It looked beautiful.  The best looking game of the year by far.  It had a gut wrenching and well written story, gorgeous music, plenty of little Easter Eggs and hours of history reading if you wanted.  Less a game than an interactive comic book in some senses, it tried something different with the genre and succeeded on almost every level.  Not for everyone, sure, although when I say that I mainly mean not for twelve year old boys and other morons still shitting on about ‘ethics in games journalism’ but for everyone not a blithering fuckwit, it was a breath of fresh air and another notch in the ‘games as art’ belt.  My game of the year.

7. Monsieur Butterfly

thehornesection27619-1I didn’t see as much live comedy this year as I would usually but what I did see was excellent.  As usual most of what I saw was from the wings whilst running between filming stuff and so saw great snippets of the usual gang of wonderful people like Robin Ince, Stewart Lee, Sara Pascoe, Milton Jones and the like.  From the few times I just sat in the audience I nearly lost consciousness the first time I saw Jo Neary’s Bjork Christmas. (I would see this from the wings around five or six further times later in the year and it was never short of fabulous).  Josie Long’s Cara Josephine might just be her best solo show yet.  My Cosmic Genome co-creator Robin Ince continues to have more excellent ideas that can fit into a two hour set.  And then there was Alex Horne’s Monsieur Butterfly which my wife and I caught in some downtime at Edinburgh.  A delightfully sweet tale on childhood and foolhardy on stage construction.  It defies explanation really but it was without doubt like no comedy show I’ve ever seen before.  I can’t recommend it enough.

8. 20 000 Days on Earth

Saw a lot of documentaries this year.  Lot of good ones.  Whitey.  The Case Against 8.  Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me.  Tim’s Vermeer.  But 20 000 Days on Earth takes the cake.  If you can even call it a documentary. Whatever it was, or is, it’s great.  It’s got Nick Cave and Warren Ellis cooking eels.  It’s got Ray Winstone complaining about fish and chips.  It’s got Nick Cave.  I mean, what more do you need?  Fan or not, it’s a must watch.  We also had the added little bonus of having been at the gig that was especially shot just for this film at Koko in Camden.  I’m not sure if you can see us in the film or not.  We were casually leaning on a pillar by the bar under the VIP area where Cate Blanchett sipped much more expensive things than us.

9. Science on TV in the UK

Obviously the best place, anywhere to watch new science video and films is over at The Incomplete Map of the Cosmic Genome but after you’ve exhausted that you might want to watch something else on telly.  I mean, that’ll take some time because there’s over 40 hours of exclusive content on Cosmic Genome but you take my point.10869682_10152966404234913_2160954671469719117_o

This year saw a boom in great science TV in the UK.  There was series two of Speed with Guy Martin which did another stellar job at combining science and engineering with an entertaining reality style programme with Guy Martin which never hurt.  Jim Al-Khali presented probably the best series on quantum physics I’ve ever seen.  Alice Roberts dug into Frankenstein. Adam Rutherford’s series on art and anatomy was new, fresh and brilliant.  The Sky at Night continued to be excellent as did Stargazing Live.  Tori Herridge took over the TV for a week dissecting a mammoth.  The new Cosmos was great for kids and Americans and then they reran some of the old Sagan ones as well.  Helen Czerski and co spent a series looking at the physics of animal senses.

Then of course there was new Attenborough.  Life Story continued BBC Nature and Sir David’s ability to shoot some of the most incredible nature films ever seen on TV.  It was jaw dropping stuff.

624And of course we can’t forget Brian.  Human Universe was a different sort of show from the Wonders series and it seemed to polarise some people I spoke to.  I for one thought it worked.  It was a different sort of show, deliberately, he went to some lengths to point as much out to me, and it needed to be viewed as such, and on that level it was brilliant.  It was inspiring, it was smart, it was scientific, it was a bit rock and roll and Prof Cox spent a sufficient amount of time grinning and pointing whilst backlit. Job done.  And that bit with the Soyuz landing?  And the kid’s with star lanterns?  Best science telly of the year.

Also, whilst not technically a made for TV special, we landed a science lab on a comet.  It was on telly.  It took pictures of itself whilst it did so.  We, as in humans, landed a thing on a comet.  A fucking comet.  Ill-advised shirt choices aside, a goddamn, motherfucking, going round the sun really, really quick comet.  Stuck a thing on it.  Still there.

10.  This performance of this song.  Fuck you 2014.

11. A walk off three to win the series

I am no real fan of the Portland Trailblazers nor Damien Lillard per say but this served as a reminder why we, why I, love sport at the highest level.  Ice in the veins, skill beyond belief.  Series over.  Job done.

12. Humanity fights back

6a00d8341c630a53ef017ee5de9b93970d-640wiAmongst all the shit there were plenty of moments this year that showed that maybe humanity wasn’t doomed after all.  There was great kindness I saw in my own personal life but then there there were signs, after the bullshit, after the twitterstorms and so on, that maybe people were naturally not all arseholes.

There was #Illridewithyou in Australia.  There was the worldwide ‘Put your bats out’ after Phil Hughes’ death. There was the enshrinement of a bench in Hammersmith after we lost Rik Mayall.  There was huge game sites and developers like Gamespot coming out and slating GamerGate for the misogynistic bullshit that it was/is. There was the overwhelming support outside the Supreme Court in the US for marriage equality.  There was Emma Watson’s speech at the UN.  nba_u_rose1x_600x400There was the usually quiet and unpolitical Derrick Rose turning up to a game in an ‘I Can’t Breathe’ shirt.  There was an incredibly quick slapdown of people who declared that the Ice Bucket Challenge was ‘doing charity wrong’.

Yes, much is fucked.  But there is a groundswell of people at least trying to unfuck it.  And I don’t just mean that Russell Brand wrote a book that makes no sense.

13. Like father like son

Remy+Gardner+MotoGP+Malaysia+Practice+tv3PSXKSM9VlAnyone who knows me knows I like motorcycling racing rather a lot and that growing up, Wayne Gardner was my hero.  So to see Gardner Junior, Remy, in a few wild card races in this year’s world championship, and then to actually take a point in Malaysia was pretty damn special.  The kid’s got talent.  I cannot wait to see how he does with a full season to come in 2015.

14. Being on stage as a part of this

Probably don’t need to say anymore on that one.

So there’s at least 14 things that weren’t totally awful in an otherwise fairly awful year.  Here’s to 2015.  It can’t possibly be worse.

  1. Us at Home says:

    Don’t agree with some but top of the class with most. Very well put together

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