It’s that time of the year again, an opportunity to look back on the previous twelve months and reflect on the significant changes that have touched each of our lives.
The Sadly Departed
Much like any other film enthusiasts, the news of Philip Seymour Hoffman’s sudden death felt like a sucker punch in the stomach. I had followed Hoffman’s career emphatically ever since I saw him as an obnoxious and slippery turncoat in the excellent Al Pacino vehicle Scent of a Woman. It wasn’t until he teamed up with auteur Paul Thomas Anderson that I recognised the full potential of the great artist’s ability as an actor wearing a variety of masks in Hard Eight, Boogie Nights, Magnolia, Punch-Drunk Love and The Master.
Seemingly no limit to his abilities, Hoffman could play comedy (The Big Lebowski) as effortlessly as he could action (Mission: Impossible III) or drama (Doubt). It was his turn as Truman Capote in the self-titled film Capote that got the attention of the Academy Board and earned him his first Oscar gong for Best Actor in a Lead Role but to my mind he lit up the screen in everything he appeared in, whether an odious playboy in The Talented Mr Ripley, a political heavyweight in The Ides of March or loveable nerd in Almost Famous.
In the same year, Hollywood also lost another giant of the silver screen, the late Robin Williams. I will confess to not being the biggest fan of Williams work as a comedian, but as a dramatic actor, I felt he turned in some fantastic performances in some truly exceptional films, none less so than the quite superb, coming-of-age, flick Good Will Hunting. There is also much to admire in an impressive body of work including The Fisher King, Dead Poet’s Society, Insomnia and One-Hour Photo.
The most disheartening aspect of this tragic loss is the horrible circumstances in which these great icons deprived us of their remarkable talent, serving as a timely reminder to each of us that even the most seemingly successful of individuals are dealing with their own private tortures.
2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil
As an impassioned and lifelong football fan, this was a no-brainer. For me, the greatest World Cups tournaments remain 1970 in Mexico and Italia 90 but the Brazilian hosts still managed to conjure up all the usual promise that a World Cup tournament earlier this year wasn’t short on all of the usual magic that a World Cup tournament promises to deliver: drama, surprise, tears, excitement and joy.
Highlights from the tournament include: that Van Persie header against the World Champions, Spain; the 2014 FIFA Puskás Award winning goal scored by James Rodriguez for Colombia against Uruguay; the Germans rampant 7-1 thumping of Brazil on home soil, a result that broke the heart of an entire nation; the hilarious international reaction to the Luis Suarez bite on Chiellini and Miroslav Klose breaking the all-time World Cup finals goalscoring record on the road to earning his first World Cup winners medal.
Britain remains Britain
In the end, no one quite knew which way the Scottish people would swing on independence from the United Kingdom but on 19 September 2014 the results from all 32 council areas were in. Britain was to remain as a union.
Prior to the vote, passions ran high but the referendum was carried out, decided and accepted in upstanding fashion by the British people. It was reported that just six arrests across the country were made for minor offences, quite remarkable considering what was at stake for supporters on both sides of the fence and a fantastic advert around the world for democracy.
The global protest against the illegal ivory trade
Following my piece about the London Declaration in February 2014, an international agreement to tackle the illegal poaching trade, I was pleased to see the Global March for Elephants and Rhinos take place on 4 October 2014.
The event was the biggest ever global wildlife demonstration with activists taking to the streets of over 130 cities around the world on World Animal Day to demand that more is done to protect elephants and rhinos from the brink of extinction.
In South Africa, a country struggling to stem a rhino poaching crisis, one protester remarked, “We are protesting against the political leaders of the world, who do not have the guts and political will to make changes in their laws,” and quite right too.
The 25th anniversary of the Berlin Wall
On 9, November 2014 the German people celebrated the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, arguably one of the country’s most significant events in their recent history.
To commemorate the occasion, white balloons were released into the skies above Berlin in remembrance of the successful and peaceful revolution of 1989 from the Brandenburg Gate to the strains of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. A fitting tribute to a landmark in modern liberty.
A subdued Lionel Messi breaks all kinds of records
It was a strange year for the greatest footballer of all time. Football fans have recognised a dip in Messi’s performance in recent years as Ronaldo has stepped out of the Argentinian wizards shadow and started to pinch some of his awards. Of course, an off-colour Messi is still one of the greatest footballers on the planet so whilst he still manages to weave magic on the pitch, there is definitely something about his game that has erased the sparkle.
Odd then, that 2014 was the year that Messi won the Golden Ball in recognition of him being the best player at the World Cup in Brazil. It was also the year that Messi broke Lionel Messi overtook Raúl González to become the top scorer in UEFA Champions League history with a hat-trick in FC Barcelona’s game at APOEL FC. In the same month of November, another hat-trick against Sevilla earned Messi the title of all-time top La Liga goalscorer with a remarkable 253 strikes in 289 games surpassing Telmo Zarra’s record.
So a record-breaking year of honours for Messi that deserves all of the plaudits and praise, yet may be remembered by the man himself as the year the light went out of his game, a setback costing him a World Cup winners medal as a lacklustre performance ended in defeat against the Germans in the final.