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.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?