AF Diary #8
So, this happened. Brian Hates-Liverpool minding their own business at Juventus. Suddenly offered triple the wages to come to Barca and win some shit. Who am I to reject that kind of money?
Honestly lads, it’s been a wild ride.
I spent a significant amount of my Saturday bedding in to two new managerial jobs (why do I feel the need to have two managers? It started because I just hated managing Liverpool) and winning the Copa America. I thought Copa America would be quite tricky but Brazil managed to get knocked out in the groups. Which is even more ridiculous when you consider two of the three best placed third place teams qualify for the QFs. Absolute bottle job. Then Colombia went out to the hosts Chile. That left Uruguay and Paraguay. Uruguay were dispatched 4-0 in the QFs and Paraguay awaited in the finals and lost 3-1. Honestly, this was one the easiest International tournaments I’ve ever played in.
The Olympics? With Team USA? Not so good.
Remind me to fire Josh Wolff. “Excellent effort” he says as we lose 7-1 in the very first game of the Olympics. I was so ashamed I quit. Luckily Spain was available so Jimmy Football has moved on to his third International job, all while Brian Hates-Liverpool remains at Argentina.
I’ve been flying through the 2032-33 season and the league form of Barcelona and Borussia Dortmund has been decent. Barca had a five point lead after ten games played and Dortmund were in the chasing pack behind surprise leaders Wolfsburg. The big one for me this year was having a team, in Barca, that might actually win the Champion’s League. So how’s that going?
Oh, just fucking fantastic. Thanks for asking.
I played through into March 2033 and Barcelona are now fine. Better than fine, actually. 11 points clear in La Liga, still in Europe and in the final of the Spanish Cup. There’s a possibility of an illusive treble there! I’ve made the decision that if Barca win the Champion’s League I’m going to hang around so I can fight for the World Club Championship and knock another one off the list. If they don’t, and I end up with the double, I’ll be moving on. Although the temptation to stay just to watch Barca decimate teams week in, week out, is tempting.
At Dortmund, it’s going ok. The board don’t expect Dortmund to beat Bayern just yet and making it into the Champion’s League will be key to adding quality to the line up. Although I’ve already blown a staggering amount of cash on players. A rebuild was required! Despite all the money Bayern still lead by 14 points. They’ve won every league title since the game began and I’m starting to think I may have to come back to Germany at some point as Bayern to actually win the damn thing. The yellow backdrop on Dortmund’s menus is a delight btw and if I could just manage teams that play in yellow I probably would.
Unlike last week I’ve not just sat here playing Football Manager. I have actually seen a few films. Here are some reviews….
Pixar is a special company. They seem to have a knack for finding the heart of the matter, which isn’t easy. If it was easy everyone would do it. Not everything Pixar has done has clicked but going back to Toy Story the history of Pixar is a tale of quality animation combined with emotional, character driven plots. Sometimes that works better than others. The critic in Ratatouille being taken back to his youth, the devastating opening 15 minutes of Up, WALL-E’s dancing in the stars and “to infinity and beyond” are all moments where it worked.
Onward is another in a long string of Pixar success stories. Set in a D&D style fantasy-verse it quickly establishes the universe and the building of it is basic but successful and never overwhelming. We don’t need descriptions of every race and mythical creature involved here because it doesn’t matter that the brothers Barley and Ian are elves. It matters that they’re brothers. It doesn’t matter that their father believed in magic. It matters that he was their father. That said Onward is a magical quest of a movie. Trying to find the good in your life through extreme circumstances. Finding your happiness, your home, your place the universe.
As per usual I found Pixar’s craft hit me hard in the finale. I’m not ashamed to admit that they got me again. Was it quite the same punch as Up? Or Coco? Not quite but it was certainly high in the list of emotional connections that I’ve had watching Pixar films. This was a joy to sit through and the myriad treasures of the Manticore’s Tavern, the pawn shop and Guinevere mean there will be joy in the rewatches too. ****
THE RANKING: PIXAR.
- Up *****
- Toy Story 3 *****
- Toy Story 2 *****
- WALL-E *****
- Coco *****
- Toy Story *****
- Ratatouille ****1/2
- Finding Nemo ****1/2
- The Incredibles *****1/2
- The Incredibles 2 ****1/2
- Onward ****
- Inside Out ****
- Monsters Inc ****
- Toy Story 4 ****
- A Bugs Life ***1/2
- Cars ***1/2
- Finding Dory ***1/2
- Monsters University ***1/2
- Brave ***
- The Good Dinosaur ***
- Cars 3 ***
- Cars 2 **
It’s astonishing that Pixar have had six films that I think are near enough flawless. Not only that all six of those films have hit me square in the feels. I have felt a strong emotional attachment to all those top six. Everything down to #14 is pretty great. The rest are good, bar Cars 2 which is the only time it felt like a cold, calculated cash-grab with no real story to tell. Even Cars 3 felt like a decent film. I’m sure some will disagree but this is my list.
In the midst of WW1, bogged down in trenches and covered in blood two young British soldiers have to carry a message to the front lines to prevent the deaths of many men, including the brother of one of the messengers. George MacKay and Dean-Charles Chapman are the two messengers in question and 1917 follows them from trenches to No Mans Land and beyond. There’s no doubting that 1917 is a technical wonder. I found myself marveling at the smooth transitions from a camera that appeared to be on a track, but couldn’t have been, to one that is blatantly on a dolly but from an almost impossible angle. At times the technical quality of 1917 almost threatened to overwhelm me.
Where 1917 is truly successful is by creating the constant sense of danger that can only truly exist in the middle of a war. You feel the intensity of the situation and the urgency of the mission. This wouldn’t really work without the personal attachment of the one man and yet the sense of camaraderie is the backbone of why anyone does anything in 1917. The urge to win a war has faded badly after three years battling over inches of land, knee deep in mud and being constantly shelled.
1917 is almost a bit too slick for its own good and could have benefitted from getting as dirty as the troops in the trenches. However some of the shots are so breathtaking its hard to get upset with Mendes for wanting to present them and show us a world his grandfather suffered through. “Unmissable” screams the DVD case. I can’t argue with that. ****1/2
BAD BOYS FOR LIFE
While I never really liked Michael Bay, or his style, Bad Boys (1995) was a prime example of high-octane, thrill a minute, fast-talking 90s action. It was stylish but just grounded enough in reality to be thrilling with it. Bad Boys II (2003) was an over indulgent mess. Admittedly I’ve not seen it since 2003 but I didn’t enjoy it and the retroactive love the indulgence has received hasn’t connected with me at all. I was not in line wanting a third Bad Boys film.
With Bad Boys For Life the Simpson-Bruckheimer production returns to familiar 90s styles with a pepped up modern script and littered with exciting action sequences. Is the script a little on the shallow side? Yeah, it is, but Will Smith and Martin Lawrence seem to be having a nice time and the frenetic energy of Belgian co-directors Adil & Bilall is enough to keep Bad Boys III above water.
Maybe it goes further than that. Ideally, I should have revisited the first two films before watching this but according the “Metascore” over at Metacritic this is the best of the three films, scoring a 59. The original Bad Boys could only boast a 41 and Bad Boys II was even lower. Does Bad Boys III benefit from crafting a hip Fast & Furious style ‘crew’ around the two central characters? I believe it does. After all, how much mileage would there have been in re-treading the same buddy cop tropes from the first two films.
The film does suffer from daft action sequences (the motorbike/sidecar chase is ridiculous). It also doesn’t bother paying any attention to its own narrative. Lawrence’s Marcus vows to never bring violence into the world at one point and later he’s wielding machine guns and popping a shotty. The plot is drivel, based around a Mexican cartel wife hell-bent on revenge, and the assemblage of Nu-Cops like Vanessa Hudgens, Alexander Ludwig and Charles Melton never quite clicks. In spite of all this Bad Boys For Life is a decent watch. It’s just bizarre that I’m praising the Fast & Furious franchise years after decrying the original as a rip off while the original Bad Boys felt fresh and exciting at the time. Time changes everything, I guess. ***
I’ve been quiet on this lately and it’s hard to know where to start. Simply put; my passion for wrestling is gone. It may return. It’s happened before. From 2010-2013 I wasn’t watching any wrestling at all, apart from older shows for books. I can’t say I really missed it. Part of my genetic makeup is that I get obsessed with things and go in 100%. Everything that I’m currently interested in has me 100%. I can’t say that about wrestling. I love all the people I’ve met through wrestling and I’ll see you all again I’m sure. I’m glad some of the people I’ve championed over the past 7 years have improved and been given opportunities to showcase themselves in front of the world and I’m sad I’ll miss seeing you do even better for yourselves.
This is not the end. Of that I’m certain. I may randomly check in from time and time with a DDT show or something of that nature. The standard of wrestling is still excellent but wrestling will disappoint you. I’m not just talking about WWE. I’m talking about the business and what it does to people. It’s no surprise that there’s a history of abuse associated with pro wrestling. Whether it’s trainees being bullied, fans being sexually assaulted or wrestlers flat out abusing themselves with alcohol and drugs. There’s something about professional wrestling that brings all that evil into one place and gives it room to breathe. Gives it “heels” so people can be mean and get away with it. Encourages abuse in the name of entertainment.
You’ll notice I’m not suggesting any fixes here because I don’t think there are any. Scumbags are naturally drawn to the environment and some of them have learned to camouflage themselves to fit in with the insecure so they can subtly prey on them. Lions disguised as lambs. Claiming innocence when confronted. Blaming lies, ignorance, stupidity and everything but their own evil for the acts they commit. It’s become increasingly harder to cheer any of this, or support it. I’ve tried but it feels like the boys will always sweep the offences of their mates under the carpet for fear of being different, for being bullied themselves, for losing bookings.
And I should always remember that wrestling is a business and it’s run by despicable arseholes. Vince McMahon is an unbelievable piece of shit. He’s the role model for all these other promoters who are only interested in stealing a living. The people who run training schools seem to be routinely irresponsible and incapable of behaving like grown-ups. A lot of the boys are part of the bigger cultural problem that surrounds abusing positions of power for their own benefit. There are good people in wrestling but I fear they’re in the minority and it’s hard to know who to trust anymore. If I can trust anyone at all.
On a personal note as a ‘journalist’ I tried to hold people accountable. This includes FCP and I emailed Martin Zaki in 2019 asking for answers to questions I had about the company both financially and creatively. He didn’t reply and when I asked about it in person he said “some of those questions” and pulled a face. Questions like this…
“There’s a strong drinking culture associated with FCP. Has that sometimes overwhelmed the product or is a benefit for the promotion?”
Recently I asked the new people behind Progress Wrestling if they’d be willing to answer a few questions. Again, I emailed them with a lot of questions regarding their new setup and have heard nothing back. New boss, same as the old boss.
So, I tried people. I really tried. I’d like to thank wXw Wrestling for inviting me to Germany and making me realise I should hold UK promotions accountable. It’s a pity I wasn’t able to do this but at least I felt I could make a difference. I’d like to thank everyone for their kind words about my writing over the years. I’m always moved when I’m told someone found comfort in my words or it helped them in difficult times.
This isn’t it. I’m not disappearing. I just can’t find the passion for wrestling anymore. The diary will continue and will probably meander between video games, movies and sport until something shiny distracts me.