In Appreciation of… Socrates

September 25, 2009


Football doesn’t have any great characters these days. The increased professionalism of the game, with its emphasis on athleticism over skill and hard running over creative intelligence, has produced a generation of footballers remarkable mostly for their pathological dullness. David Beckham? Steven Gerrard? Useful enough players I guess, but hardly likely to leave you breathless with some mesmerising bit of match day inspiration. It’s even worse when they’re off the pitch. Stick a microphone in front of them and they’ll struggle to articulate a complete sentence, let alone provide a memorable soundbite. An interview with a guy like Michael Owen leaves you with the uneasy question of whether somebody could really be that emotionally detached without being a cyborg or a closet psychopath. That’s modern footballers for you. Good at chasing around after a pig’s bladder and buying sports cars, but as dim as a bowl of porridge and just about as charismatic. The hell with modern football I say. The 70’s and 80’s were where it was at. Back then there were some real renegades. And you had some teams who could play with real style. I’ll take a coke-addled half-bonkers Argentinean midget as the best player in the world over some new fangled pampadoured designer clothes hanger any day of the week. Or how about Socrates, the chain-smokin’, beer swillin’ leftist revolutionary and anti-athlete, who was just about the coolest guy ever to kick a football.

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In Appreciation of… Brad Dourif

September 8, 2009

Dourif Headline Photo

In a new and occasional series, The Grand Inquisitor will profile individuals who’ve made a worthwhile contribution to any particular field of merit in human history. In Appreciation of… will take an in depth look at anybody who is creative, iconic or just plain interesting, especially those individuals who merit acclaim, but somehow always manage to escape under the radar of public attention.

In this first edition, The Grand Inquisitor will examine the career of actor Brad Dourif, pretty much the best performer in Hollywood nobody has ever heard of. While most avid movie goers will recognise the face from any number of bit part character roles, few people can attach a name to it, or fully appreciate the depth and range of Dourif’s talent. The guy does have one of the most distinctive and eccentric faces seen in the movies, which means that he has a tendency to get typecast as mentally disturbed characters, or creepy, quirky outsiders. Well, he is great in that kind of role, but as his four decade career amply demonstrates, Dourif can pretty much handle anything he’s given to do. What makes him such a brilliant actor is his seemingly perennial ability to bring something a little different to a role. Even when he’s cast in a relatively minor, B-level movie (as he frequently is) Dourif’s performance always seems to stand out as something memorable, transcending the limitations of the material. And as a supporting actor, he has an uncanny habit of totally upstaging the more prominently billed stars he’s playing off. Sadly, as is often the case with individuals of genuine talent, Dourif hasn’t received anything like the kind of widespread acclaim his body of work so richly deserves. But the thing is, you never really get the impression that this bothers him all that much. He does his thing and has fun with his roles, and like the class act that he is, largely shuns the trappings of Hollywood fame.

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