thermalsatsuma: (Default)
I'm not a football fan by any stretch of the imagination.

I've never supported a team, worn a jersey or even watched a whole 90 minute match all the way through. Every Euro tournament or World Cup season is an excuse to stock up with dvds for the duration. So why did I watch a film about the football manager Brian Clough?

Well, regardless of my protestations there is something about the culture of British football from the late 60s to the mid 70s that is engrained in my psyche. The long hair, the mud, the flamboyance and the threat of violence from both players and crowd all strike a chord. The names from that era all stir memories as well - Bremner, Lorrimer, Revie and of course Brian Clough.

The film compares the time that Clough spent as manager of lowly Derby County in 1967 when, aided by his right hand man Peter Taylor, he took them from the bottom of second division all the way to the top of the first division, to the point when he took over from his arch rival Don Revie as manager of Leeds United. It is a largely fictional account, although Clough's ambition and hubris is a matter of record - he once said that he wouldn't call himself the best manager in Britain but he was in the top one.

The football on the pitch is almost incidental to the clash of personalities in the changing rooms and manager's offices of grimy down at heel clubs. Some of the most gripping moments are told through stark score lines or via the roar of the crowd as heard from a deserted board room. The atmosphere of the 1970s is captured perfectly by the cinematography and use of archive footage.

As for the acting, Michael Sheen puts in a thoroughly convincing performance as Clough and Timothy Spall is similarly good with the more understated role of Peter Taylor. Their relationship over the years is the key to the story and the conclusion is very moving.

The coda to the film notes Brian Clough's triumph in leading yet another struggling club - Notts Forest - to two European championships by the end of the 1970s and calls him "the best manager that England never had". I may not know much about football but, to quote Clough himself - "Do I not like that".

Religulous

Nov. 21st, 2009 04:54 pm
thermalsatsuma: (Default)
Religion is inherently ridiculous.

Believing in something with no evidence and making a virtue of credulousness. Dressing up in silly costumes and swanning about in gilded palaces or hi-tech glass cathedrals whilst espousing the moral benefits of poverty. Insisting that the world is only 6000 years old in the face of all the evidence. Spotting holy images in a piece of toast or bird shit on a wing mirror. Strapping on explosives and blowing up a restaurant full of innocent people.

OK, maybe the last one isn't quite so funny, but it's the logical and inevitable conclusion of following the tenets of a religion that values a hypothetical afterlife over the value of life in this existence.

That is Bill Maher's argument in this film and it is one that is difficult to argue with. Maher was born to a Jewish mother and went to a Catholic church with his father until the age of thirteen, and wrestled with the usual questions about life, the universe and everything in his twenties. Now in his forties he sets out from a position of doubt to look at the claims of the three major world religions as well as a couple of minor ones including Mormonism and Scientology, not forgetting a church founded by pot smokers in Amsterdam.

Rather worryingly he finds that very few of the people he talks to know what is the holy books they claim to believe in, and points out the contradictions via handy on-screen subtitles. Even more worryingly he finds a common thread of destructive violence in complete contrast to the protestations of being religions of peace.

His conclusion is a stark one. Unless we abandon these foolish and childish beliefs, then there is a very real possibility of the human race destroying itself in an argument over who has the best imaginary friend.

Oh, and if anyone still thinks that religions are peaceful forces for good, please read this article and tell me if you still think the same.

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