I was writing a post on my favourite music of 2014(and early 2015), and when I got to my section on Mark Ronson’s newest album, I just kept writing. So, I decided to make it its own thing. The other post will come out, but for now, here’s my take on Uptown Special.
This is going to be a tricky needle to thread. My relationship with Christopher Nolan’s movies has been had its ups and downs, but it has taught me one lesson more than anything else I can think of – The value of expectations. So let’s go back to his last work.
In the lead-up to Inception’s release, I was wildly excited. Memento is one of my favourite movies, and I had baited breath for Nolan to do another one-off mind bending thriller. I went into the theatre to watch Inception more prepared for a movie than I ever have been. I was going to carefully follow everything, make sure to note every detail. As a result, I hated it. I thought Inception was an bland caper movie with paper thin characters wrapped in the cloak of a “Wow, wouldn’t this be cool” idea, an idea that Nolan spends the first 45 minutes of the movie telling us all about – particularly how cool it is. I had paid super close attention, and knowing from Memento that timelines would be good to track, didn’t have issues following what was happening, so it didn’t really “blow my mind”, either.
Inception was a massively popular movie, almost universally loved in spite of its many problems, and I’m convinced this was entirely due to my unreasonably huge expectations walking into the movie. I am sure that most fans of Inception went in with large expectations, but I would SUSPECT that most of those came from the Batman movies, not Nolan’s more complicated plots like The Prestige, Insomnia, or Memento.
One of my favourite documentaries of all time is The Fog of War. In it, Errol Morris uses his clever Interrotron to interview former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara. The movie plays a bit like a monologue; Morris’ voice is hardly present. The movie is structured on MacNamara’s “11 lessons”, which are given to us as he moves us through his wildly fascinating life. Ever present in The Fog of War was the invisible elephant in the room of Iraq. McNamara had, for the vast majority of his life, maintained that former Secretaries of Defense should not criticize current ones. His rhetoric and general message sure seemed pointed towards the Gulf, however, and shortly before he passed away he changed his mind and spoke publicly against the war. This was after he took part in this film, however. Clearly, Morris had something to say about Iraq with the film, though it stands alone as a study of McNamara’s life and times. Continue reading The Unknown Known
Some games have blown my mind with the quality of their storytelling. Braid’s clever use of familiar cliches told us about how perspective changes everything. Red Dead Redemption told us an amazing tale worthy of Leone. Metal Gear Solid 3 made you pull the trigger on Naked Snake’s mentor, the best use of integrating gameplay into storytelling I’ve ever seen. But I’ve never come across anything like Thirty Flights of Loving. To be fair, I’ve never come across anything else labelled a “Video Game Short Story” either, but Thirty Flights of Loving’s storytelling prowess isn’t fundamentally anchored to its gameplay(or lack-thereof) structure. It’s a proof of concept. It’s not hard to imagine adapting the cinematic jump-cut style of storytelling to a game with adventure mechanics, and a creative designer could adapt them elsewhere. TFoL opens with you descending down a staircase into a bar. You are immediately given a taste of Chung’s quirky style of humour; Mecha-Presidente, Prohibition License, and so forth. As a long time Blendo Games fan, I love this quirky stuff. I’d also recommend checking out the turn-based Homeworld-type game “Flotilla” for more of this, along with a a brilliant game.
The music playing sets the mood perfectly. Its tinny nature puts us in the past. This is the kind of bar you are intimately familiar with, despite the fact that you’ve never been in one. You pull a lever disguised as a photo and descend into a hideout. A plethora of cliches assault you. A giant map, boxes of bullets, two compatriots. Interacting with them begins a series of flashes that quickly establishes everything you need to know about the situation. You are part of a crew, these are your partners in crime, they each have specialized roles. But at the end there’s something else. Caterer? Best Man? Whose wedding is this? Was it a job, or something else? Are there social bonds in this crew that go beyond our business? It’s hard to say. You advance to the whimsical aircraft, and are suddenly transported to a room, with your female teammate clicking an empty gun at you, covered in blood, with the game’s title flashed over the screen.
It is impossible, so far as I can tell, to discuss a Wes Anderson movie without discussing Wes Anderson. If he were a car company, he’d be Morgan. Are his movies good, or are they simply charming? Is the depth an illusion? Is it too abstract, too inaccessible? Does it matter? There is a uniqueness to his films that is hard to articulate, but completely recognizable. Yes, there’s the symmetry of the shots, the faded colour palette, the 2 dimensional movement of all of his characters (people move either towards/away from the camera or directly across the camera), the whimsical melancholy… But he’s not reinventing the wheel here. The elements of a Wes Anderson movie can be found elsewhere, and yet you can look at a still of a Wes Anderson film and almost always recognize it as such. What is Anderson’s place in the film world? What does he contribute to the greater medium? How has he influenced other film makers? I have no idea, and I honestly think there is little value to be had in the answers. On to his latest offering, then.
As ever, I endeavor to blog more. I have a few topics rattling around in my head, so I just need to sit down and write.
In the meantime, I’ve been doing freelance work with Metro Calgary. Here’s the work I’ve done so far:
Boards of Canada – Tomorrow’s Harvest
After waiting forever(admittedly, I discovered Boards of Canada after they put out their last material : Trans-Canada Highway) for new Boards of Canada, this album was facing a mountain of expectations. Not unlike their Reclusive-pioneering-european-electronic-duo-who-haven’t-put-out-new-material-for-years-until-this-summer-mates Daft Punk, BoC teased us with snippets of new material here and there, opting for a record store day set of unique records rather than SNL ads. Unlike Daft Punk, they didn’t stray far from what made them who they are.
I am in the midst of a siege of amazing music unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. I used to wonder what it was like for my parents when bands like Led Zeppelin, The Doors, Pink Floyd and The Beatles would release albums within months of each other. Now I know.
DISCLAIMER: I don’t know that much about music proper; I’m writing this more as a fan than a critic.
Ever since it became public a few days ago, I cannot stop watching the trailer for Metal Gear Solid V. Every time, I search for the new clue that will unlock what’s going on. Are the super natural beings helping or hunting Big Boss? The first thing we see out of place in the gameplay trailer is someone who looks suspiciously like Psycho Mantis. Are the super natural things, all of which resemble things from Big Boss’ past, merely the result of Psycho Mantis digging into his subconsciousness? My good friend Nick and I have been discussing this trailer at length, pausing at moments and analyzing what we see. The scarred face man doesn’t have a tattoo on the back on his head, so he likely isn’t Hot Coldman. If Ground Zeroes opens with the infiltration of the Cuban base, and Mother Base gets raided while Big Boss is infiltrating the Cuban Base, then you likely play someone other than Big Boss during Ground Zeroes. I wondered why I couldn’t stop watching this trailer and dissecting it, then I remembered the last time Nick and I did something like this.
Firstly, I’d like to apologize for not blogging more. I believe that I am the only one who reads my blog, but the truth of that aside, to everyone who does, I apologize. After investing money in a domain name and server costs, I had come to think of this as somewhat of a professional portfolio; the first thing to appear when one googles my name. While this may actually be the case for an aspiring journalist, it is also the case that I need to write, and there is not better place to do it than here. Establishing too high a level of quality for this site has meant that thoughts and rants that should’ve been written were not, due to my thinking that they were unfit for such an esteemed wordpress site as this. After realizing that I was thinking this way, I have decided to change it.
Though the new year has long passed us by, I’d like to make a resolution to post here at least once a week. I shall post about things that I care about, no matter the topic. Professional Starcraft, Journalism, Sports, Video Games, Politics, whatever. Should a potential employer be reading this, I would ask that you forgive the potentially low quality of these blog posts, and the sometimes absurdity of their subject matter. While this blog is in fact meant to showcase my writing, it is also meant to be used for practice. So, I shall practice.