Make Us Dream

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Who has been the best midfielder in the history of the Premier League? Man Utd fans will pick Scholes. Chelsea fans will pick Lampard and Liverpool fans will say Steven Gerrard. Neutrals will vary between the three and the argument will go on and on in the pub and between the pundits on TV for years.

As a Liverpool fan I’m going to say Gerrard, of course I am, but I honestly believe there’s no contest.

Don’t take my word for it. Ask Peter Crouch, who's played with just about everyone. Crouchy devotes a whole chapter to Steven Gerrard in his recent book ‘How to be a Footballer’. Here’s what he had to say:

And the skills Gerrard had! People would say to me, Xabi Alonso is the best passer of a football I’ve ever seen. I’d say, yeah, but Stevie is better. They’d tell me that Claude Makélélé was the best tackler. Yeah, but Stevie’s better. Lampard is the best goal-scoring midfielder. Yup, Stevie’s on a par with him. He could play right-back and left-back. He could play centre midfield, he could play off the striker. He could play centre-forward and he could dominate totally from right midfield. It’s only when you train with a player that you realise quite how good they are. On match-day you would see Thierry Henry and Gianfranco Zola producing little miracles. With Gerrard they were a daily occurrence. He was by far the best player in England training, and that includes David Beckham, Wayne Rooney and Michael Owen. I never trained with Paul Scholes; our times in the national set-up did not overlap. But the Chelsea lads would say the same thing: Gerrard is the most naturally gifted player we’ve worked with.

The documentary Make Us Dream (available on Amazon Prime) about Stevie’s career is good, but it doesn’t really cover anything new.

If like me, you’ve read his two autobiographies, watched the documentary about him when he released his first autobiography, and the many since that have been on LFC TV, and also watched countless highlights packages on YouTube put together by fans, you will be familiar with the script.

The standard highlights and lowlights:

  • Banging goals in from 30 yards
  • Tough tackling
  • The great goals against Manchester United
  • That goal against Olympiakos that meant Liverpool qualified out of the group stage of the Champions League (the year they won it)
  • That goal in the Champions League final that inspired the famous comeback
  • Signing for Chelsea, and then not signing for Chelsea
  • The FA Cup Final screamer against West Ham
  • 'We Go Again’ at the end of the game where Liverpool beat Manchester City near the end of the 2013/14 season when we were challenging for the title
  • That slip against Chelsea two games later that led to Liverpool conceding a goal (people forget that Liverpool lost that game 0-2, not 0-1).

What all these compilations of Stevie’s career miss, and what’s hard to purvey unless you’ve sat and watched every game, is the sheer number of games when he carried Liverpool. All those seasons when we just qualified for the Champions League, or managed to win a trophy even though we were nowhere to be seen in the Premier League title race, it was Stevie who made the difference more times than not. He was a playmaker and a match winner. He drove the side forward. He brought the game to life when we were struggling. He kept us in games we seemed destined to lose. Owen, Torres, Suarez - all fantastic strikers during the Gerrard era - and all say that they wouldn’t have scored so many goals without Stevie offering the supply.

We now watch from a distance to see how his new career pans out as a manager at Rangers. Waiting, and hoping, for that day in a few years, after Klopp has finally ended the Premier League drought and built a new dynasty, when Stevie takes the reins as Liverpool manager.

My Favourite Films of 2010

As is customary this time of year, here's a list of some of my favourites films from 2010. There's no doubt going to be other great films that came out in 2010 which aren't listed here simply because I haven't seen them yet, but these are the ones I have seen and enjoyed the most:

1. The Social Network

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My favourite film of the year was easily The Social Network - the movie about the founding of Facebook. The beauty of this film is that you don't need to be a Facebook user or even have ever heard of Facebook to enjoy it. The screenplay is written by Aaron Sorkin who wrote The West Wing - my all-time favourite TV series, so I was very much looking forward to some fast-paced intelligent, witty dialogue. He didn't disappoint. Right from the opening scene where we are introduced to the brilliant, yet flawed genius that is Mark Zuckerberg, we were treated to some trademark Aaron Sorkin writing.

Of course, the film isn't exactly accurate. There are many plot points which are contrary to the evidence provided by articles from the time and comments made by the protagonists themselves, yet this doesn't detract from the substance of the film. Like all good semi-biographical films, history is dramatised to make it more interesting. In an interview with the New York Magazine, Aaron Sorkin freely admits that plot details are fabricated.

You come away from watching The Social Networking thinking that yes, Mark Zuckerberg is a genius, but he's also a bit of a dick. To what extent that is true will only be known by those who know him. But it serves the plot well - focusing on the irony of the world's largest social network being created by someone so lacking in social skills.


2. Inception

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Ok, I admit that like most other people I got a bit lost trying to follow the plot of Inception. Trying to keep track of whose dream the characters were in, or even dream within a dream, was a major task. I've watched this twice now and even on the second viewing I had to stop the film briefly and refer to the IMDB synopsis so I could figure out what was happening.

A film that makes you work in this way might put off some people, but it shouldn't. Even if you don't understand what's going on you can still sit back and enjoy what is a remarkable, truly original cinematic experience. Saying that, I actually think I enjoyed it more the second time round watching it on my TV at home than I did in the cinema. The reason for this is that the music was just too damn loud in the cinema. The score for this film is very heavily lathered on from beginning to end, much like it is in The Dark Knight, also directed by Christopher Nolan. Being able to turn the volume down slightly at home on the second viewing made for a much more enjoyable experience.


3. City Island

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This is listed as a 2009 release on IMDB but it was a 2010 release for us in Australia. Maybe if movies got released around the world at the same time we might not be so inclined to download them free from torrent sites! It's absolutely rideculous that sometimes films aren't released until a full year after the date of release in the US. Anyway...

City Island is very much in the vein of American Beauty, about a dysfunctional family living on City Island - a small island in the New York City borough of the Bronx. This dark comedy starring Andy Garcia is a little gem. I'd never heard of the film before I came across it and had no idea of the plot before watching it. It's really funny and surprising. Definitely worth a watch.


4. The Special Relationship

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The Special Relationship is another one where some facts were glossed over and some events were invented for dramatic effect, as with Peter Morgan's other films about Tony Blair: The Deal and The Queen. I watched this shortly after reading Tony Blair's autobiography so it was interesting watching some of the events that TB described in his book play out on screen. I've never been the biggest TB fan and after watching this and reading his book it's very easy to appreciate his political skills and successes, but there's no doubt he's egotistical and likes to tell a few porkies now and then if he thinks the end justifies the means.


5. The Ghost Writer

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You could say The Ghost Writer is another film about Tony Blair. Robert Harris wrote the screenplay for this film based on his book - The Ghost, and it shows as it pretty much follows the book word for word. Which is a good thing, because the book was very enjoyable. Even so, it's not often that you can say the film was better than the book, but in this case I think it may well be.


Honourable Mentions

A few other films that I enjoyed this year include:

  • Harry Brown. I'm a sucker for a good revenge thriller. Watching a decrepit (Michael Caine) kick the ass of a few hoodies in London makes for 2 very entertaining hours!
  • Easy A. Not normally the type of film I'd bother with but after reading some good reviews I thought I'd give it a shot. I'm glad I did. Emma Stone in this reminded me very much of Carey Mulligan's performance in An Education - one of my favourite films from 2009.
  • Four Lions. A comedy about suicide bombers. That's the way to tackle religious extremists - laugh at their incompetence! Lots of laughs and it was good to see Sheffield and Meadowhall for a bit of nostalgia.
  • Shutter Island. Leonardo Di Caprio makes some really good choices when it comes to scripts. Here he again teams up with Martin Scorsese for another film which makes you work a little to understand what's going on.
  • She's Out Of My League. I watched this on the plane over to LA. This year hasn't been that great for comedies but this was one of the better ones.
  • Grown Ups. This received a lot of bad reviews but I actually enjoyed it. It certainly passed the laugh test for me. You can tell that it was written by Adam Sandler though. Very indulgent of him to cast his character as the funny guy who's also the hero.
  • The American. Not sure if this belongs here because to tell you the truth I found it a bit boring. On purpose this film is very slow and minimalistic. However George Clooney is always good value and in this he plays a character very similar to that he played in Michael Clayton, which I enjoyed immensely. It was watchable but I'm not in a hurry to watch it again.

I'll Never Get Those Two Hours Back Again

Here's a list of some films from 2010 which I assign to the 'what a load of shit' category.

  • From Paris with Love. Far too much style over substance. A disappointing action flick.
  • Cop Out. I don't think I laughed once. Really lame
  • When in Rome. Every now and again I have to do the husbandly duty and sit through a chick flick with Rachelle. Some I don't mind and are actually quite good, such as It's Complicated and Julie & Julia. When in Rome however is absolutely dire.
  • Robin Hood. There's not many Ridley Scott or Russell Crowe films that I don't like. Frankly though, this new incarnation of Robin Hood was just too boring. It took me two sittings to get through it.
  • The A Team. Pure sacrilege to make a crap job of a movie out of my childhood Saturday night viewing. Ridiculous and very forgettable
  • The Expendables. The concept for this film was much better than the execution. What is it with Sylvester Stallone these days that he likes to revel in gore. Much like John Rambo, the violence was way over the top, even for an action film.
  • Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps. The original Wall Street is one of my favourite films. This on the other hand is a snore fest. How very disappointing.

My Favourite Film of 2008

There was only one real contender for my favourite film release of 2008, and that is...

In Bruges

In Bruges was easily the most enjoyable film that I've seen since Last King of Scotland.  The wordplay in particular between Colin Farrell's character - Ray, and Brendan Gleeson's character - Ken, represents a fantastic piece of script writing.

Other honourable mentions go to:

  • Hancock - from what I can gather most people seem to think The Dark Knight was the best superhero movie of 2008, closely followed by Iron Man.  I disagree.  Iron Man was ok but I struggled to stay awake when I went to see The Dark Knight, it was far too long.  Hancock on the other hand was a really fun twist on the genre.  Although I must admit that the first half was better than the second - it went down hill a bit after the twist.
  • Tropic Thunder - if only for Tom Cruise's dancing and profanity.
  • Taken - for some serious kicking arse.
  • Son of Rambow - sweet film, at complete contrast to the sick drivel that is John Rambo, which I wrote about here.
  • Burn After Reading - seen this twice now, yet again the Coen brothers showing that their black comedies can be just as good as their thrillers (i.e. No Country for Old Men).
  • Cloverfield - I usually hate handheld camera scenes but it was put to good use for Cloverfield.

A few others that I enjoyed included In the Valley of Elah, The Bank Job, Vantage Point, and Eagle Eye (even though it was far-fetched nonsense).

The biggest disappointment for me was easily Quantum of Solace, which I wrote about here.

Of course, there are a lot of films released in 2008 that I haven't got around to watching yet.  Some of the ones I'm looking forward to include The Diving Bell and The Butterfly, Man on Wire, Frost/Nixon, and 'W.'.