A Question for the Readers #7: Fashionably Late

With the last question I proposed about a month ago, we discussed the times in which we got into a work long after its release date. As I said at in that post, the phrase “You had to be there” exists for a reason. Sometimes what made a work so special at the time is difficult to appreciate even just a few years later. Avatar may have been quite the spectacle when it was released, but as time marched on and the only way to watch it was in one’s living room on a smaller screen, people began judging it on the merits of its storytelling. The result? The film that grossed over two billion dollars in the box office left almost no impact on pop culture, demonstrating its lack of staying power. Not helping matters was the release of films such as Blade Runner 2049 that could easy match or surpass Avatar in terms of visuals in addition to providing a lot more substance.

This time, we will be discussing a similar, yet distinct topic. Getting into works late is inevitable whether it’s because one slipped past our radars, we were indifferent at the time, or the work in question was made before we were born. As discussed previously, that can be to our detriment. However, that’s not always the case. Sometimes we don’t get into a work until after years or even decades of hearing critics and fans alike raving about it. Out of curiosity, we finally decide to see what the fuss is about only to start praising the work ourselves when all is said and done.

It’s safe to say that a majority of the best films ever made were released before I was born. Therefore, there is only one I could mention that would even begin to do the question justice: Citizen Kane. Anyone even remotely interested in films knows of the immeasurable praise Orson Welles’s classic film enjoys to this very day. It’s to the point where “[Insert work here] is the Citizen Kane of [Insert genre/medium/scene here]!” has become a tired cliché.

After watching it last January, I’m not convinced that 99% of the people who use that cliché have actually seen the film or realize that even when the work in question is good, it’s a poor analogy. It would probably be best to use in an instance in which a work flops only to receive vindication years later. It also doesn’t make sense to draw such a comparison whenever a work is by-the-numbers for its time, as what made Citizen Kane stand out stemmed from Mr. Welles’s lack of knowledge regarding Hollywood production standards, allowing him to use methods everyone else had long since overlooked. I think the phrase is just used because it’s an instantly recognizable case of a work receiving critical attention that it can reach the greatest number of readers with the smallest amount of effort.

More importantly, after watching it, I decided it is a great film worthy of the praise people have given it over the years.

[Insert obligatory joke here]

It may not be my absolute favorite, but I was very impressed. Even all of these years later, I could tell why the few people who saw it at the time thought so highly of it. I’ve heard a lot of contemporary cinephiles express that because so many filmmakers have taken cues from it over the years, it’s difficult to appreciate what it does. I would argue the opposite is true; it’s because it’s so forward looking that it has stood the test of time, making it easy to appreciate even now. Part of what makes Citizen Kane so intriguing is how difficult it is to pigeonhole it into a single genre. Is it a mockumentary? Is it a mystery-drama? Is it a tragic romance story? The answer is that it’s kind of all of those things at once, and for those skeptical on whether or not it will live up to the hype, I say it’s well worth a watch.

Similar to how a majority of the best films out there were made before I was born, it’s pretty obvious that most good music was also made before I was born – even if you’re only counting the modern variety. As such, like films, there is no shortage of answers I could choose. Most Beatles albums qualify, for they were one of the few artists in any medium to hit that perfect sweet spot between being genuinely innovative while also successfully selling those ideas to a large audience. If I had to pick a single album for the purposes of answering this question, on the other hand, the first one that springs to mind is Spirit of Eden by Talk Talk.

Released in 1988, this experimental album was quite a departure from the pop-oriented fare that comprised Talk Talk’s discography up until this point. Despite being a commercial disappointment, it was well received by critics, and is now considered a classic. Admittedly, it took me a few tries to fully appreciate this album, but once I did, it became one of my favorites as well. With its minimalistic approach and masterful use of crescendos, Spirit of Eden is said to have helped pave the way for post-rock. Try it out for yourself and see what you think of it.

One lament I’ve heard countless times in the gaming sphere concerns being unable to play certain games as a kid. While one doubtlessly has more free time on their hands as a kid, there are plenty of games I’m glad I did not play until after I grew up, as there was little chance I would have appreciated them back when they were released. Case in point – Planescape: Torment was released in 1999, yet I did not discover it until 2010, and I think that was for the best. What I was treated to stands to this day as one of the greatest story-driven experiences in the medium. It along with Half-Life taught me that good story-driven games need to take full advantage of the medium in substantial ways rather than taking cues from films.

Granted, one could consider Planescape: Torment more of an interactive novel than a game in the classical sense of the term. In that case, it really demonstrates the level of talent required to pull off such a game. Whenever a AAA title received praise for its writing in the 2010s, I could tell in most cases that creators settled for being only slightly better than their peers rather than striving to be genuinely great. While those stories were helped by that “it’s good for a game” connotation, Planescape: Torment manages to trounce many published novels and films in terms of writing. This is why I can say it not only stands as the best game of the nineties, but also one of the finest works of the decade as well.

Now it’s your turn.

What works were you able to enjoy regardless of how late you were in discovering them for yourself?

19 thoughts on “A Question for the Readers #7: Fashionably Late

  1. Well I was born in ’01 — so I’m pretty late to most things. I think metal music in general was the big one, but also, as someone who grew up on “current bands” like RHCP and Foo Fighters, I only got into the classics; Beatles, Hendrix, Sabbath, Zeppelin, Floyd (many others) until the last few years. Nice question!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Those classic artists were doing their thing long before I was born, though I can say I learned to appreciate them regardless (Led Zeppelin especially). Metal was interesting in that a lot of people say the eighties was its best decade, but I would have to say it was no slouch in the nineties either. It may not have been as mainstream during that time, but there was plenty of innovative stuff if you knew where to look (i.e. Cynic, Sepultura, and Dream Theater). Either way, I’m glad you enjoyed this question!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. For me it was Suikoden II. People always said it’s a great game. I started with Suikoden V, so I was pretty late. I got so addicted to the series I went back and played all the earlier games. It was so fun recruiting the characters. They all have interesting personality.

    I want to play Suikoden Tierkreis but I don’t have a DS, unfortunately.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I heard that game boasts a gigantic cast of some 108 characters. That number was chosen because it’s a significant number in Buddhism. Anyway, I’m not sure if the Suikoden series is available for a digital download, but if it is, I might end up checking it out.


      • Yes 108 characters. Not all can join battle tho. I had to use a guide to find some of them.

        I hope there is a digital download for the game. If you do get a chance to play it, I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. A didn’t join World of Warcraft until about a year after it had started (not late as such, but being as it’s an MMO it could be considered late) thanks to some friends convincing me. It then consumed my life for the next 18 months…

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Great question!

    When it comes to games, I would go for Psychonauts. I got to play it far after its release, and loved it. When it comes to albums, I think that question applies to most of what I listen to, but I will nominate The Clash’s London Calling because that was an album I got back when I was 12 and it was what got me into older bands. As for movies, I could also mention a bunch of them, but I am going with one I watched fairly recently: Dr. Strangelove. It was incredibly enjoyable! I can’t nominate Citizen Kane because I still have to watch it.

    Oh, and I would like to take advantage of your mentioning of Blade Runner 2049 to say that’s, in my book, one of the greatest movies of all time. It blows my mind how criminally underrated it is to the general public; maybe a much deserved Oscar nomination for Best Picture would have helped in that regard. However, given the status of the prequel, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised by that.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve heard a lot of great things about Psychonauts – it’s the best game nobody played according to some sources.

      London Calling is one of those albums I admired as soon as I listened to it myself. It really has an incredible amount of ambition to it, blending punk rock with just about any other genre out there at the time.

      I’ve only seen one Stanley Kubrick film – that would be Full Metal Jacket, and I thought it was excellent. I am interested in checking out Dr. Strangelove somewhere down the line, though. Hope you like Citizen Kane when you get around to it.

      Ah, good. I’m glad I’m not the only one who thought Blade Runner 2049 was great. I have to admit my perspective is a bit different than the fans’ because I watched the original a mere week before the release of 2049, but I really enjoyed both films.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Psychonauts is fantastic. There are a few rough edges here and there, but it does plenty of creative and sometimes insane things that end up working.

        London Calling is indeed great! It blew the doors to a whole new world open to me.

        I like Dr. Strangelove better than Full Metal Jacket, even if they are both great movies. I struggle a bit with the second half of Full Metal Jacket; the first part of the film is pure brilliancy, though!

        I did the same. I knew 2049 was coming so I grabbed the opportunity to watch the original for the first time right before watching it. It was a great choice, I must say!

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Tons of them. Probably the best example I can think of is the visual novel series, Higurashi. I didn’t get into it until like 15 years after it started, after it already completely released the first time in English, had a well known manga and anime series based on it that had been around long enough to be considered a classic by many, and was in the midst of its second re-release in English. And yet I fell right into it. I got absorbed, and I saw every bit of how good it was to build up as much as it did.

    Or film wise, James Bond. Straight up. I’m a big Bond fan, and much of the series best and formative works were released long before I was born. et again, the films do really draw me in and fill an interest in me as if they were new now.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I haven’t played though that many visual novels, but this is how I felt about the Ace Attorney series. I didn’t get into it until 2012, but it quickly became a firm favorite. For that matter, I didn’t consider playing Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors until after I played Virtue’s Last Reward. In an ironic twist, I actually ended up enjoying the former more. At some point, I really need to give Higurashi a try.

      Weirdly, I’ve only ever seen two Bond films: Goldeneye and Skyfall. Which ones are your favorites?

      Liked by 1 person

      • From Russia With Love is my top choice, hits it right of the back. Licence to Kill isn’t the most popular one, but it’s one of my favorites in the series. And honestly, Skyfall is one of the best ones as well. Definitely the best it’s put out since the turn of the millenium, I think.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. I am surprised that after taking an advanced film theory class in college (because I needed a theory class to graduate and it was the only section open at the time I could go), I fell in love with old black & white movies and foreign flicks made long before I was born. Obviously, they don’t move as quickly, nor are they as exciting as today’s blockbusters, but there is a special quality to them that makes their plots and characters stick with you for at least a few hours after you’ve finished watching them. They often have the ability to change you or your viewpoint which I think is an admirable thing for a film or a novel to do. If you haven’t seen it, ‘The Bicycle Thief ‘is one of the best of them, but ‘Cinema Paradiso’ is also delightful, and ‘African Queen’ and ‘How Green Was My Valley’ never fail to make me laugh and cry.
    I realize I’m a lot older than most of your readers, but I felt I wanted to leave a comment from the ‘classic’ era.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I can definitely vouch for that. I think what helps is that the screenwriters and directors back then were way more talented than the current wave. I think it helps that there’s a sense of earnestness you just don’t get with today’s films. I always wondered why so many “Greatest of All Time” lists failed to acknowledge anything made past 1995 or so, but after doing a deep dive, I totally get it. That’s not to say that there aren’t talented artists now; they’re just not making films necessarily. I think filmmakers fell behind other mediums in either the 1980s or the 1990s, and have spent the last two decades trying (and failing) to play catch-up. I think the problem is that they got complacent being at the top of the world, so when others surpassed them, they didn’t have a way to step up their game.

      I haven’t seen Bicycle Thieves, Cinema Paradiso, or How Green Was My Valley, but they all seem interesting. Plus, I have seen The African Queen, so I can vouch for that.


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