Thursday, 19 March 2015

Watch the Classics

I would definitely consider myself to be a big film fan. Not a film buff necessarily but a big film fan. I have been ever since I was a teenager. & I've seen a LOT of films!

(A lot more than this picture might suggest haha)

So it comes as a bit of a surprise to myself and maybe to you too, that I've not decided to do this before.

Now for a film fan, I don't actually go to the cinema all that often, but I do watch a lot of films at home. In the last two weeks I have probably spent more time watching documentaries and cartoons (Bojack Horseman) than films but have still managed to watch: Godfather Part II (again), Starred Up, Alter Ego, Locke, American Hustle, Despicable Me 2 (again) and Summer of Sam.

I also write my own films. I have an MA in Scriptwriting and I made my debut short film 'letters' last year. (if you haven't already seen it then do click 'here' to check it out. It's only 8min30sec, well made and the actors are super talented, so what have you got to lose? Then if you like it, be sure to share it with others who might enjoy it too).

So yes, films have and always will play an important role in my life. Knowing this people sometimes ask me for a top five list of the best films or of my favourite films. But I find this to be something almost impossible to do. There are just too many films that I love.

A lot of the films that I like tend to fit into the drama or coming of age category. This list of some of my favourite films might help you to understand my film taste a little better: Stand By Me, 'The Way, Way Back', Submarine, Adventureland, Mean Creak, City of God, This Is England, The Scouting Book for Boys, Son of Rambo, Paper Moon, Goodbye Lenin, Borrowed Time, Moon, Lawn Dogs, Frozen River, Almost Christmas, Nebraska, Half Nelson, The Lifeguard, Breathless, Love Me If You Dare, Blue Valentine, Labor Day, Two Days in Paris, Restless.

Many of those films above could quite possibly make it into a list of my top five or top ten favourite films of all time, but would I say that these films are amongst the best films of all time? No, probably not. I do think that some of them like Stand By Me and Breathless are right up there with the best films in the world and others like Goodbye Lenin or Nebraska will be considered classics one day, if they are not already. But it is sometimes quite hard to declare a new(ish) film to be a classic. That is unless that film is say The Grand Budapest Hotel. One of the very few films that I have seen recently(ish) and thought was an instant classic. In fact one of the extremely few films that I have ever seen and thought "that was a masterpiece!"

But best films of all time? What are the best films of all time? I think that is a pretty impossible thing to decide and also not my place to do so. Well that is all except for what should be at #1 haha. Without a shadow of a doubt, The Godfather is the best film I have ever seen and quite possibly the best film ever made (obviously not having seen all of the films ever made, it is hard to know for sure. However, I think that it is a pretty good shout). The Godfather is a film that quite literally has it all. On top of the fact that the script, direction and acting are all truly amazing, it is one of the most beautifully shot films of all time. It somehow also manages to be exciting, dramatic, gripping, intense, romantic, heartbreaking etc, etc all at the same time. It is 100% definitely a masterpiece in the truest sense of the word!

So The Godfather is the best film that I have seen but I have also seen a lot of other movies that I would suggest should all be termed a classic (some of which could also be called a masterpiece): Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Cool Hand Luke, Midnight Cowboy, Easy Rider, Rebel Without a Cause, Scarface, Taxi Driver, Goodfellas, The Usual Suspects, Vertigo, Dial M for Murder, Marathon Man, The French Connection, Reservoir Dogs, Charley Varrick, Cape Fear, One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest, Trainspotting, The Shining, The Wicker Man, Night of the Living Dead, Pan's Labyrinth, Jaws, Star Wars, The Matrix, Blade Runner, The Big Lebowski, Back to the Future, The Breakfast Club, Home Alone, Cool Runnings, Toy Story, Little Miss Sunshine.

A long list including some very different films that for one reason or another I would term a classic. I have spent way too much time watching films, both good and bad over the years and so that list could easily run on and on. Every one of which I couldn't recommend more!

But as much of a film fan as I claim to be, there are still so many great films that I have yet to see. So in the spirit of the Year31Project and with 'ReadTheClassics' - where I attempted to read the books I thought that I ought to - in mind, I am going to attempt to watch one classic movie - a film that I feel I should watch or that somebody suggests that I should watch - a week for a whole year.

So here it is. The start of the list of films that I intend to watch:

Citizen Kane
It's a Wonderful Life
Laurence of Arabia
The Apartment
Enter the Dragon
Three Colours Blue

But please help me out with your suggestions because that's only the beginning of a list - obvioulsy I need to find 52 films in total! So suggest away and just as long as you genuinely believe that it is a true classic, feel free to suggest any film. All genres welcome. I'm not the biggest fan of Horror or RomCom, but I'll do my best to watch all of the films that you suggest.

ps. as part of this or potentially as something separate, I also intend to watch more foreign language films. So if you have any suggestions for good foreign language films that I might not have seen - I have seen some but not nearly enough - then please send me your suggestions for these too.

Wednesday, 11 March 2015


On Sunday I went to the Copper Box Arena on the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, to watch the London Lions play the Leicester Riders in their British Basketball League Trophy semi final second leg.

If you're wondering why they call it the Copper Box Arena. Here's a picture:

I've never been to see a professional basketball game before and if I'm being honest - which I almost always am. Sometimes a little too honest. - part of me still feels as though I haven't.

My friend Dom got two free tickets and was cool enough to ask me to go. Probably because he thought I had nothing better to do on a Sunday afternoon haha well actually I cancelled climbing to go so there! Because as much as I love climbing and the people I climb with, I made a promise to myself - what feels like a long time ago now - to make every effort to prioritise doing things that I have never done before.

So I make my way to the Olympic Park - a pain in the arse journey which would have been a 20 minute bike ride if my bike wasn't at work with a flat tyre - to see my first ever game and I'm excited. Not a kid seeing a giant lollipop as big as their head at the fairground kind of excited, but excited none the less.

So I find my seat and sit down to watch my first ever professional basketball game.

I'm feeling excited because although I haven't given basketball much thought in recent years, as a teenager I was a big fan. Orlando Magic were my team and Penny Hardaway was my favourite player. I spent so many hours in our back garden in the late 90's, pretending to be Penny Hardaway, Shaquille O' Neal and the likes. Most of the time joined by my younger sister Sam. We had so much fun playing - even if the hoop was too high to ever slam dunk the ball home - for hours and hours, with the added bonus of annoying our older sister Amanda, as we played against the wall below her bedroom. Something we know doubt enjoyed a lot but also wasn't really our fault. 1. That's where the hoop was. 2. She shouldn't have been in bed at 2pm, even if she was a moody teenager and it was the weekend. We would play for hours and hours, go in for tea and come back out and play again until the sun went down and only stop when it really was just too dark to play any longer.

Here is the hoop that we played with as teenagers. That I unfortunately never grew tall enough to slam dunk.

So Sunday's game was the BBL Championship Trophy semi final, second leg between the London Lions and the Leicester Riders. A pretty big deal. The winners going through to meet the Newcastle Eagles in the final in Glasgow. It was a good game. A fairly close contest but in the end the quality of the Leicester Riders shone through as they ran out 91-81 winners.

Now I say it was a big game. However, being there you wouldn't necessarily have known that to be true. There wasn't a great deal to suggest that it was a particularly big game. I certainly didn't feel any of the big game atmosphere. The kind of atmosphere you would expect to find at a Premier League football ground, on the night of a big game.

And before I say anymore, I have to state that I enjoyed the game! It's an end to end, highly skilled, high energy, exciting sport but I was also left feeling a little disappointed. Basketball will never be as big here as it is in the US. For several reasons, including the biggest reason of all, our love of Football! Those are some big shoes to fill. Shoes that even the giants - one of the players was 6ft11 - of basketball world are going to struggle to fill because we really do love our football here. Plus there are so many other popular sports in this country, that basketball finds itself competing with for the publics affection. Motorsport, rugby, tennis, cricket and darts just to name a few. However, like I said, it is a very skilful and exciting game. A game I'm surprised hasn't taken off in the UK more than it has. Now I don't know the exact reasons for this but I did see a few clues on Sunday.

The thing was, it just didn't feel like a professional game bing played in a professional league. Nothing about the event felt particularly professional. Instead of playing in a purpose build arena, somewhere perfect for the sport, the Copper Box Arena was far from ideal. It was like a large school hall with a small court placed uncomfortably at it's centre. The court looked small. Is that how big they are in America? They definitely look bigger on tv. And although we had seats which were really quite close to the action, in general the seats felt too far back from the court. Which was maybe one reason to help explain a real lack of atmosphere. Also the playing surface appeared to be a piece lino on top of the wooden floor? Which felt a bit like expecting a professional football team to play on the local astroturf. Where is the purpose built arena? Where is the scientifically designed playing surface? Well, I suppose that all takes money. Money that the game is currently unable to attract. 

The same could be said about top players. And I don't want to be mean about the players out there. There were some very talented players on show and they were all professional sports men - something I could never be - but I'd be surprised if any of the players showcasing their talents at the Copper Box Arena on Sunday, would be of any interest to a NBA team scout. In fact I had the feeling - and of course I could be completely wrong - that the British league is a place for players who failed to get into the NBA or a larger European League. But of course, without the money to pay them top dollar, why would the top players come and play in the British league?

The arena was only around half full and I got the feeling that a lot of the people there - there were a lot of teenagers sat in the same section as myself and Dom - were there with either free or cheap tickets? I do have to note that Leicester had a large number of noisy and passionate fans. Maybe this has something to do with the fact that they are Britain's oldest professional Basketball club? In contrast however - although there were a small number of passionate home fans - the London Lions simply weren't afforded the same kind of support. Maybe this has something to do with the fact that the team haven't always been known as the London Lions, have been based in several places - including several places outside of London - and have only been based at the Copper Box Arena since August 2013. They will therefore need time to build a following. However, the London Lions are the only professional basketball team in London, a city of over 8 million people and yet at the moment they can't manage to fill a venue with a capacity of just 7,500 people. 

Which does seem quite strange. Especially considering the amount of young men and women in this city that love basketball. So why don't they go along and support their local team? Well unfortunately I don't have the answers to the questions: why they don't go or how do you encourage them to go. I wish I did and I'm really not wanting to sound like I'm slagging off the London Lions, the British Basketball League or anyone else for that matter. However, basketball is not as popular in this country as it really ought to be - an assumption based on my experience in London, maybe it is a more popular spectator sport in other cities? - and I think that one reason for this is the ticket price.

At £0 I thought my experience was worth every penny. However, if I had paid £22, for the pleasure of watching the London Lions being beaten at home by the Leicester Riders, then I would have been a lot less satisfied. I'm sorry, but for what they are offering, I simply think that it is a little too expensive. I can't say it with any real conviction, as it's not my area of expertise but maybe bring the ticket price down to £10-15, spend a bit of money advertising the tickets in the Metro and Bob's your Uncle, more bums on seats? 

Maybe that's the answer? Probably it's not. But whatever the answer and as much as I did actually enjoy the game, I doubt I'll be paying my own, hard earned cash to go and see a London Lions basketball match again soon. Which is a real shame as they and basketball in the UK need all of our support. So if you're a basketball fan living in London, be sure to go and check out the London Lions (or the team local to where you are). My experience wasn't quite positive enough to make me want to get behind my local team - not on a regular basis at least - but maybe your experience will have a different affect on you.

And finally I want to finish on a positive note because it was a positive experience and what it has done for me, is to reignite my love of basketball. When I go home in a couple of weeks, I'll be straight in the garage rummaging around for our old basketball and ringing my lil sis to come around for a game. Also if/when I get the chance to visit the States, I will be sure to take in an NBA game (hopefully involving "my team" the Orlando Magic). 

So thank you London Lions, Leicester Riders, the BBL and Dom Stevenson for inspiring me!

"I wish I was a little bit taller, I wish I was a baller..."