Sometimes, going through my Netflix queue is like travelling back in time. I usually can’t pinpoint actual events or anything, but I can see clumps of movies I added when I was feeling up, feeling down, feeling unwisely nostalgic, in the mood for challenging things, in the mood for utter trash, times when I was catching up on great 2007 films I missed, and so on. Sometimes, though, I can pinpoint something more specific—I’m obviously getting to a part of my queue built while I was playing Red Dead Redemption, because there is a whole lot of Sergio Leone in the weeks ahead. Right now, though, I’m clearly in the spot made when director David O. Russell was going to be making a movie out of Uncharted, my most treasured of current games. I’d never seen a Russell film, which isn’t too surprising as he hasn’t made many, so I was curious to see what made him the first choice.The first film to arrive was 1999’s Three Kings, which instantly made the case that Russell was perfect to adapt Uncharted, and wholly unsuited to such an endeavor. How so? Let’s see.
Tuesday, November 1, 2011
Friday, October 21, 2011
The danger in sharing an ongoing story is the risk that you’ll have to put an asterisk on your assessments. Most of You’ll Love This covered shows that were done for this reason—they could be definitive, which was reassuring, because invariably quality goes down over time. Settings become strained, stories get repeated, tricks lose their effectiveness, characters wear out their welcome. Right around 4 years, it seems, shows would be well served to start thinking about how to close things out, while the sense of freshness is still a recent memory, before this inevitable entropy infects the shows bones. For a show to enter my favorite phase in its 5th (or, depending, 47th) year? Why only the most remarkable man in the universe could accomplish such a feat!I covered Doctor Who at the end of Series 4, including the specials that completed the journey of the much beloved Tenth Doctor, which seemed like a pretty good point to take stock. Both a new show-runner was being put in charge, and a new actor would assume the role of the Eleventh Doctor—chances were, it’d be a whole new show. Miraculously, it turned from a show I enjoyed into a show I adored. Retro camp got dialed down in favor of something closer to Henson-esque whimsy, serialization increased, plots increasingly became intricate time riddles, character bits and witty jokes abounded. It was a show that featured a more nuanced, interesting and often funny take on the Doctor (who now had an absolutely killer musical cue), accompanied by my absolute favorite companion. With the recent end of series 6, it seems that companion is leaving the stage. If that’s the case, I’m taking the chance to extol the virtues of the Doctor’s greatest companion: the Pond-Williamses. Unfair to call two characters one companion? Too bad!
Friday, September 23, 2011
Some months back, right as I was finishing up Weeds, another tale of middle-class sensibilities colliding with the drug world came across my path: Breaking Bad, which I found so superior to Weeds, I instantly made it the counter-case with only a little more than a season under my belt. Now, with season 4 coming to a head, and a key role Breaking Bad will play in another piece I am preparing, it seemed right to revisit the nausea of Walter White, and give it the full treatment.
Saturday, September 10, 2011
Though the pushback is fierce every time you say so, misogyny in one form or another is deeply ingrained in the culture of nerds, and has been for a long, long time, particularly when it comes to fantasy. This is, of course, rooted deeply in the genre’s origins—not so much the seminal theme-establishing works of Wells, or the refining intricate world-building of Tolkien and Azimov (though certainly you can see forms of misogyny there to). No, I’m talking about the very obvious shapes that came more from the proto-genre’s dark, adolescent id—pulp magazine stories, the best of which survives in the stories of Robert E. Howard, and the art which his creation, Conan the Barbarian, inspired, particularly the dynamic and lurid work of Frank Frazetta. Frazetta’s work is as undeniably great and influential as it is problematic, and as nerds become bigger tent, there’s more and more of a push to get past his diaphanous slave rags and chainmail bikinis, and into things a woman on a battlefield is more likely to wear, found ‘round the internets in places like the Flickr, “Women in Reasonable Armor”. It’s also an undeniably good push, but I wish it felt, to me, an untarnished one, instead of one tinged with different misogynistic undercurrents.
Thursday, July 14, 2011
The latest book club reading was Cormac McCarthy’s The Road—a challenging and unconventional novel to say the least. It had no chapters, little punctuation, and much of the backstory left to intimation and impression, it’s stylistically daring, and fertile for discussion. How does it factor into the survivalist post-apocalypse genre? What is the effect of the spare punctuation? What happened to put the world in its state (for the record, we had three options: nuclear bomb, meteor, and sudden, violent climate change)? It was a robust and lively chat.It occurred to me that anyone presuming to write a serious critical essay detailing how The Road didn’t work because it wasn’t punctuated properly and wasn’t divided into chapters would be roundly laughed off any legit publication. And rightly so—high level criticism isn’t about finding fault, and everyone knows it. Things are different for game people, though. Obviously, most could care less to see any sort of in depth analysis of a game, but there are some who yearn for “serious writing” about games, and I’m one of them. I worry, though, because while these peers demand serious criticism, they don’t seem to know what that actually is.
Monday, June 27, 2011
Wednesday, June 8, 2011
Is the time right for talk about Dragon Age II to begin in earnest? The logical conclusion of the past few years of internet chattery seem to have been reached in this game, which has the rare distinction of having a full blown backlash movement well underway before it had even been released—perhaps the first of its kind. I’m sure someone will point out some earlier case, just like how citing The Ramones as the first punk group invariably draws some wag who will pontificate on the antecedents found in The Velvet Underground, The New York Dolls, or The Stooges. But I dub those proto, as I will dub any cases of pre-backlash proto. Yes, Dragon Age II was a lightning rod, for reasons too legion, exhausting, and often stupid to enumerate. For me, I may not have liked DA2 as much as Bioware’s Mass Effect 2, and, hell, I might not have liked it as much as the original Dragon Age: Origins, but I did like it, and found it a worthy sequel. There are some criticisms I can’t argue with, or don’t particularly care to, but there are other’s I’m more than happy to push back on. Surprise, they mostly center around the story, where DA2 made some controversial choices, and, to my mind, found some fruitful ground. I have often said “If game players want better stories, they need to make themselves better readers.” Nowhere is that more apparent than in Dragon Age II.
Tuesday, March 29, 2011
Some people hate the standard D&D system of alignment—the morality rubric you assign your character. I’m not among them. As a shorthand for the attitude of a character in an epic fantasy game, that nine point grid is pretty effective, giving a general idea of your character’s attitude, and letting you fly from there. It’s not realistic, they say, but whatever, it’s a fictional construct applied to a fictional construct, helping me express how that construct feels about stabbing ogres. They say it’s not nuanced, but we’re talking Epic Fantasy here, with capital letters. Once we start talking about raising armies of the dead and whatnot, doesn’t the grey area go away? It’s a worthy system to quantify a character’s attitude and as such, it’s become its own sort of meme, with people assigning the Lawfuls and Chaotics to beloved casts. Just this past week, I came across two beloved by me, one pretty good, the other problematic, one for Community, and one for The Wire. So why not take a look at both?
Wednesday, March 16, 2011
I envisioned this series some time ago, after writing a separate piece on The Wire, where I felt I was unable to fully pay tribute to the actors, a cadre of artists who never failed to entertain me, move me, or provoke thought. My first choice was Andre Royo as Bubbles, but events compel me to focus on Felicia Pearson, who brought a distinctive and singular presence playing a character based upon herself. Whatever happens next for Miss Pearson, her work as Felicia “Snoop” Pearson will remain. Spoilers for seasons 3 through 5 follow.
Sunday, February 13, 2011
Killzone 2 was a game that never really got a fair shake. It was initially overhyped by Playstation people, accordingly scorned and derided by Xbox people, and the ensuing war between the two spilled over until it was scorned by everyone. And that was before it was even released. Once it was, things got even weirder. Fans attacked negative reviews, and were in turn attacked, making this bizarre pile-up of backlash against backlash against backlash—practically a backlash singularity. The game itself never had a chance to be taken on its own terms.But I quite liked it on its own terms. While no great masterpiece, there are some aspects of KZ2 that do strike me as genius, and with the sequel due out this very month, it seemed like I should go over them. Perhaps I'm over-intellectualizing, but that's my prerogative, isn't it?
Friday, January 28, 2011
Browsing Instant Watch, I’ve found that I have effectively strip-mined the notable works available. I don’t think I could muster much to say about, say, Prison Break, no matter how much Netflix insists, yes, insists it is along the parameters of my test preference paradigm. Along the way of this project, some of my favorites came up. But three shows, three peerless shows, remained unmentioned. Before putting the project behind me, I’d like to discuss these three, shows which, to me, represent the height of the medium, the three to which I aspire in my own writing. The last, the definitive statement on living in urban America in the early days of the 21st century. David Simon and Ed Burns’ The Wire.
Wednesday, January 26, 2011
Browsing Instant Watch, I’ve found that I have effectively strip-mined the notable works available. I don’t think I could muster much to say about, say, The Catherine Tate Show, no matter how much Netflix insists, yes, insists it is along the parameters of my test preference paradigm. Along the way of this project, some of my favorites came up. But three shows, three peerless shows, remained unmentioned. Before putting the project behind me, I’d like to discuss these three, shows which, to me, represent the height of the medium, the three to which I aspire in my own writing. The second, a furious, skeptical tale of Cold War paranoia’s end result that speaks with terrible strength to our modern times. Patrick McGoohan’s The Prisoner.
Monday, January 24, 2011
Browsing Instant Watch, I’ve found that I have effectively strip-mined the notable works available. I don’t think I could muster much to say about, say, Bones, no matter how much Netflix insists, yes, insists it is along the parameters of my test preference paradigm. Along the way, some of my favorites came up. But three shows, three peerless shows, remained unmentioned. Before putting the project behind me, I’d like to discuss these three, shows which, to me, represent the height of the medium, the three to which I aspire in my own writing. The first, a Western so Revisionist the genre needs no more revising. David Milch’s Deadwood.
Thursday, January 20, 2011
Originally, I’d conceived of two Complimentary Cases for Weeds, to reflect its difficulty in balancing its moods—anything-goes hilarity, and cutting satire. My choices were It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia for the former, and The Riches for the latter. But that was before a show rocketed out of the sky like a meteor riding a lightning bolt and struck me dead between the eyes, despite having only watched the first, truncated season and the beginning of the second. It may be obvious, but the reply to Nancy Botwin is Walter White, and the compliment to Weeds can only be Breaking Bad.
Wednesday, January 19, 2011
Thursday, January 13, 2011
It’s sad that Doctor Who feels to special and fresh by doing exactly what sci-fi is supposed to—show us something amazing. But it’s true—space-travelling shows, when they do come around, try to be cool these days. Rip off Starcraft, but only the human backstory. Don’t do anything outlandish, just put the pretty young cast in flight gear for the promo shot. Sends the signal that we’re for grown-ups. But, you know what, I’m a grown-up, and I still want my alien freaks, dammit. I want crazy aliens with blue skin and 8 foot long tongues, but maybe they can be reformed terrorists, or have unreasonable expectations for their estranged, mixed heritage sons. And maybe they can have freaky alien sex. Thank God for Farscape.
Tuesday, January 11, 2011
One of the United Kingdom’s great contributions to pop culture, The Doctor is nothing less than a modern icon. Can this geek ur-text with a 40 year history win me over, or will I be compelled to ex-ter-minate ex-ter-minate EX-TER-MINATE!
Monday, January 10, 2011
A theme has been emerging in preparing this week’s posts of my further descent into bizarre, over-examined geekdom—commitment to an idea. A failure of half-assery is the worst failure of all, and if this page is to be a monument to the hyper-analytical self-aware journey through the pop components of my life, I’d better commit. So, in honor of the hero of this week’s YLT study, I will now pierce the veil of time, gaze back at two weeks ago predict the future. Games are easiest to anticipate--the only movies you hear about a year in advance are giant summer atrocities, TV is mid-season, and there's simply too much literature to worry about what's new or not. What games will I be thinking of when all the big guys are making their lists next year? Maybe I’m still in a list-making mood.
Thursday, January 6, 2011
Aeon Flux was one of the earliest American animated shows to wear its anime influence on its sleeve—fluidity, sexuality, mature themes, cyber-punk, bargain-basement philosophizing. Culture, though, is a two-way street. What does it look like when the Japanese take from us?