Also known as the one in which Red Metal’s computer finally goes kaput, causing the last review of the month to be delayed. Well, it was bound to happen sooner or later. I had been considering getting a new one for a long time, but I hesitated until this development forced my hand (which isn’t the first time something like this happened, to be honest).
Films watched in February 2020:
- Portrait of a Lady on Fire (Céline Sciamma, 2019)
- Marriage Story (Noah Baumbach, 2019)
- A Taxi Driver (Jang Hoon, 2017)
- The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (John Ford, 1962)
- Bonnie and Clyde (Arthur Penn, 1967)
- Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters (Paul Schader, 1985)
“February is such an amazing time for films!” said no one – ever.
Anyway, you’d think the success of Parasite would inspire wider releases of international films. You’d be wrong. Again, the gaming industry, for all its faults, has no trouble acknowledging efforts from abroad. Why can’t film distributors be that progressive? I had to look several times to see if Portrait of a Lady on Fire was playing, and when I did, I took that opportunity. It’s definitely a slow-paced arthouse film, but I did find it interesting. In a lot of ways, it’s the film The Favourite tried, but ultimately failed to be, so if you didn’t like the latter, I think you’ll find this one a better watch.
But, of course, seeing as how it was February, most of my film-watching experiences ended up being at home. I started off by seeing Marriage Story to give myself complete Oscar coverage. I considered it one of the weaker nominees, but in this year, “weaker nominees” translates to “still good – just not as good as the other entries”. Amanda Hurych of The Below Average Blog considered it a film that only needs to be seen once, and I get the feeling I would’ve agreed with that even if I gave it an extra point or two.
After Parasite won, I was inspired to see A Taxi Driver (not to be confused with the Scorsese film). It’s difficult to fathom these days given how much the country has improved, but back in the 1970s and 1980s, South Korea was a dictatorship just as bad as North Korea. How the government treated protesters and their abject rejection of communism brings to mind the famous “He who fights monsters” quote of Friedrich Nietzsche’s. The reason I chose to mention this is because A Taxi Driver is an excellent drama based on a true story of an ordinary man who accepts a high-paying job only to become a hero fighting for his country’s future. South Korea has really stepped up their game as of late when it comes to films, so this effort deserves your attention as well.
Next, I ended up seeing The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. Despite John Ford being a prolific filmmaker, I must admit this is only the first film of his I’ve seen. For that matter, it’s the only John Wayne film I’ve seen thus far as well. Regardless, it is an undeniable classic that really shows how much you can play with your audience’s expectations when you feed them a key piece of information.
The following day, I saw Bonnie and Clyde. I had mentioned it numerous times over the years (usually when making a case that today’s film critics are gutless lightweights), so I felt it would be remiss for me to continue to assume it’s a masterpiece when I didn’t really know for myself. In the end, I felt it to be merely good. It is a fascinating real-life story, and the film was remarkably transgressive for its time. On the other hand, I kind of think of Bonnie and Clyde as the film equivalent of Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare in that it was a good work that had a negative impact on the medium. No, my assessment has nothing to do with the violence. Instead, I propose there’s a very good chance we have this film to blame for Hollywood’s present-day tendencies to bury any inconvenient details that messes with their often-romanticized narratives in the name of providing entertainment (or a message in other cases).
The following week was when my computer died, so with nothing else to do, I decided to watch Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters. I would’ve assumed that if, as Paul Schrader said, audiences were better back in the 1970s, then enough of them would’ve been around to have his back when he released Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters in 1985. But nope, those so-called better audiences completely dropped the ball back then too. It made $500,000 on a five-million-dollar budget. Totally doesn’t make Schrader’s assessment come across as sour grapes or anything.
Unlike First Reformed, it actually was a shame Mishima didn’t do so well because it was so much more ambitious and creative, it’s hard to believe the same person directed both films. At first, I thought maybe Mr. Schrader was one of those types who makes for a better screenwriter than a director, but this too was inaccurate; he was just very, very hit-or-miss – even back in his heyday. This is not your average biopic; the author’s work bleeds into his life, and in the end it serves as a cautionary tale as to what happens when you’re not careful with your idealism.
Films reviewed, but not watched in February 2020:
Parasite (Bong Joon-ho, 2019)
Winner winner chicken dinner! When reading certain op-eds, you’d think that Green Book winning “Best Picture” last year was an insult to the art of filmmaking. Therefore, you would think Parasite winning this year would have them over the moon.
Modern-day critics have a treasure trove of problems, and while I have to admit I’ve flipped-flopped as to what their biggest issue is in the past, I would have to propose it’s their inability to drum up enthusiasm for good art. Paul Schrader could’ve been correct in his assessment that there is a greater number of talented filmmakers working today than back in the 1970s, but you would never know it because, for whatever reason, modern-day critics just can’t sell people on what they love – a severe passion deficit, as it were.
Don’t get me wrong; Green Book was assuredly a mediocre film, but mediocre films winning is nothing new – Around the World in 80 Days somehow managed to beat Giant at the 1957 ceremony and How Green Was My Valley, though not bad by any means, infamously triumphed over the far more ambitious Citizen Kane back in 1942. I’m sure I could dig up many more examples if you gave me enough time. Sometimes, a good work doesn’t click until you either see it again or let it settle in the back of your mind. There’s nothing wrong with that; hindsight is 20/20, after all.
However, Parasite is not one of those cases. It stunned everyone, and I mean everyone, when it became a sleeper hit. My own audience was A) a packed house and B) completely engaged, so it wasn’t like Hereditary in how only half the many people who saw it liked it. Seriously, I hadn’t seen an audience that lively since Avengers: Endgame – and this was for an arthouse satirical film. This is why I think the success of Parasite rendered the various op-eds penned by angry critics (or comments made by their devoted fans) about how audiences have no taste completely and utterly worthless; it turns out, audiences like good films too. Who’da thought? I can only wonder how said critics reconcile this development (assuming they don’t just flat-out ignore the facts).
Games reviewed in February 2020:
Hey, I actually remembered to be a game critic this month! I wanted to get this decade off on the right foot when it came to this medium, so I decided that the first grade I awarded a game in the 2020s should be a 10/10. Not only that, but the first game review I wrote this decade ended up being over 10,000 words long. With that being said, I have to admit it may be the last time you see me award a 10/10 for a while. It is a grade I use very sparingly, with Dark Souls only being the seventh game to get it. Discounting me rewriting an older review, if you do see me award the grade any time after this point, it means one of two things. It either means I haven’t played/finished it yet, or I’m only deciding sometime after this post that the game in question is worthy of the grade. Regardless, I felt it would be for the best for me to reveal all the 10/10s so I wouldn’t leave you in suspense.
In an era when games were following the Hollywood formula, Dark Souls charged onto the scene and gave the medium a much-needed shot in the arm. I think it really says something that, despite not quite having the same level of commercial success, it had a profound influence on both the mainstream and indies. One of my readers, rendermonkee, also pointed out that its impact on the medium was greater than that of anything Naughty Dog made in the past decade, and I’d be inclined to agree. While Uncharted 2 is hailed by critics and fans alike as one of the all-time greats, it didn’t really seem to inspire people to follow in its footsteps despite its two-year head start (alternatively, they did, but they weren’t as successful). When Dark Souls came out, however, it seemed as though everyone wanted to imitate it. I think that’s how you can pinpoint a work with staying power – when it’s the artists who end up appreciating it the most. In that regard, it could be to video games what the Velvet Underground was to rock music.
Still, Dark Souls is interesting in that, while it is rightly considered one of the best games ever made, I can’t help but feel that critics and journalists resent it. Many of them allege that because Dark Souls encouraged developers to make their games more difficult, it encouraged a subset of gamers to gatekeep, thus causing a divide between them and those less versed in the medium. I can’t deny there is a ring of truth to that, but if you’re going to hold any work accountable for its annoying fanbase, why bother liking anything? If I did that, I wouldn’t be able to enjoy any critically acclaimed film that came out within the past few years. A mark of a maturity is to acknowledge that bad people can enjoy what you enjoy. It also goes back to my assessment of Joker in that critics talk a big game when it comes to demanding challenging fare, but back down once artists begin directly challenging their sensibilities. Granted, I still say game critics aren’t as bad as film critics, but they could stand to improve themselves – or step up their game, if you will.
Mega Man 3
Well, this review is an interesting milestone in that Capcom can claim to be the only company besides Nintendo to have received a passing grade from me across four different decades’ worth of games. Granted, Mega Man 3 isn’t the best game in the series, but this is, surprisingly, the first 1990s Capcom game to get a passing grade.
Have you ever seen a film that had a litany of flaws that were easy to overlook, yet once someone pointed them out, you couldn’t unsee them? I think Mega Man 3 offers that exact kind of experience – especially when you learn of the story of its creation. Granted, it ends up in a better spot than most because “half-finished Mega Man game with a lot of great ideas” still translates to a passing grade in my book, though the possibility exists that I could change my mind somewhere down the line.
Interestingly, I actually used to think it was a better game than Mega Man 2 back when I played it for the first time. That was before the 2010s gave us several bloated titles that took forever to complete, so I was under the impression that “more = better”. Like the original Mega Man, I think I can attribute my change in opinion of Mega Man 3 to the one-two punch of Mega Man 9 and Mega Man 10 – both of which managed to deliver experiences with far more polish. Mega Man 3 does remain one of the better games in the series, but it’s a bit of a shame because it could’ve been so much more.
Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom
(Yes, I am counting this as a February review. Normally, I wouldn’t, but I call force majeure on this one.)
For those keeping score at home, this is my seventh review to exceed 10,000 words! For that matter, I think this is the first European game to have received a passing grade. The day would come sooner or later; Europe has really kicked things into high gear between stuff like this, The Witcher, and Divinity.
I can envision those who enjoyed the Wonder Boy series back in the day didn’t even know this game existed until word-of-mouth spread to their neck of the woods. As mentioned before, much like Dark Souls, Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom simply wasn’t the kind of experience critics praised in the 2010s, though it was more a victim of apathy rather than antipathy. In some respects, that’s actually worse though, because at least when journalists blow their stack over a quality work they don’t like, it has a good chance of getting attention. It’s when journalists fail to give a well-made passion project the spotlight that the creative arts truly suffer. In this case, any mainstream release not made by Nintendo that offered an experience with a heavy emphasis on gameplay was doomed to get anything other than a slight nod here and there.
The Wonder Boy series wasn’t as consistently good as the given Nintendo franchise of your choice, but it showcased a lot of ambition that, even today, can be appreciated. What other series can you name that, at different points in its existence, gave us platformers, shoot ‘em ups, action RPGs, and Metroidvanias? Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom is very much the kind of game I think Westone would have made if they kept the series going a little bit longer. Fortunately, unlike most cases of an underappreciated artist fading away into obscurity, this story did have a happy ending when Ryuichi Nishizawa, the creator of the series, teamed up with Fabien Demeulenaere and Game Atelier to make this game. It may have to settle for being an underrated gem, but it has a lot to offer those willing to give it a chance.
Deep reads #2.3: The power of love (Disgaea 1) – You gotta love a series that owns its wackiness. AK does just that when continuing his run of articles about Disgaea. Now, I must set aside the time to play it myself…
Demon’s Souls Review – I have to admit when I tried Demon’s Souls, it didn’t really grab me. I do kind of get the sense from various sources, including Scott’s review of it, that it was the blueprint upon which Dark Souls was built.
Dragon Inn – Some time back, I ended up seeing King Hu’s Dragon Inn. It was a good film – especially for its time and reading ManInBlack’s review of it really highlighted everything I liked about it.
Ospreyshire Origins: Of Laurels, Weapons, and Bird Icons – You know, for a group who likes to consider themselves progressive, Hollywood and the Western creators whose works they like to adapt for the silver screen sure does like to rip off international efforts and not give them credit. It is indeed possible that Hunger Games wasn’t a carbon copy of Battle Royale, but Suzanne Collins doesn’t help her case by refusing to acknowledge the similarities. Ospreyshire’s take on the situation is equal parts informative and funny.
I’M ALIVE – After several months away, Neppy of Nep’s Gaming Paradise has returned. Welcome back!
State of the Blog: Where have I been? – Angie of Backlog Crusader has also been away for some time. In her case, she has been posting her artwork on Instagram. They are definitely worth checking out.
War & Hate Through the Eyes of a Child – Jojo Rabbit was one of the few comedy-dramas I’ve seen to have blended the two concepts skillfully. It’s a shame more critics didn’t like it because it definitely deserved its “Best Picture” nomination. bookbeachbunny goes into what makes it such a standout effort.
Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite Love Stories – For one of her Top Ten lists, Sarah picks her favorite love stories. And before you ask, yes, they’re all better than Twilight, which is a conclusion obvious to anyone who doesn’t suffer from hybristophilia.
The Cars – The Cars’ debut album is one of those records that managed to spawn a radio hit with half of its tracks. Matt’s take on the album sums up what makes it one of the best debut albums of all time.
The Ashes Everglowing – Impressions on the Cindered Shadows DLC from Fire Emblem Three Houses – Fire Emblem: Three Houses seems to have succeeded in bringing even more people into the Fire Emblem franchise, which is something I can get behind. Reading The3rdPlayer’s take on the game really makes me want to get into it.
One Year Anniversary! – Getting to even one year of blogging is quite the accomplishment – one the Gaming Omnivore has just reached. Here’s hoping many more good articles follow!
Kingdom Hearts III & Final Fantasy XV: My Disappointment in These Long-Developed Games – Kingdom Hearts III is an inaccurate title and Final Fantasy XV seemed to come and go without leaving much of an impact at all. Square is far from the juggernaut they were in the 1990s, though not in as bad of a way as they were at the beginning of the 2010s. Still, reading Ryan Cheddi’s take made for a somewhat bittersweet read, knowing they can be better than this.
Ni No Kuni II – Ni no Kuni is one of those games I checked out briefly, only for it to not quite click (kind of like Demon’s Souls, to be honest). I’ve heard good things about both it and its sequel, so I really should look into them in the future. A review of the latter provided by hobbitsofhyrule made for a great read.
Call of Duty: Black Ops II—Daft FPS Thing With Guns – In this article, Mr. Wapojif reviews a mindless Call of Duty game, which is to say a Call of Duty game. It’s a good article, though I’m a little disappointed he didn’t call it Blops II like a normal person.
Still to come:
After writing two 10,000-word reviews in February, I’m going to take it a bit easier and, for the first few weeks, review games I know won’t take me too long to parse. This time, I will review Tacoma and Mega Man 4. Hopefully, I’ll finally get around to rounding out the Pokémon series by reviewing Sun and Moon (I haven’t played Sword and Shield yet). Otherwise, I’m going to be playing this month by ear.
Links to my articles: