I hope you’re all doing well out there in the face of this daunting pandemic. To think that nearly one-hundred years after the infamous influenza outbreak of 1918, we’d have another one our hands. Isolation won’t be easy but doing so will pay off in the long term, so remember to take care of yourself.
Films watched in March 2020:
- The Lives of Others (Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, 2006)
- Nashville (Robert Altman, 1975)
- The Invisible Man (Leigh Whannell, 2020)
- Late Spring (Yasujiro Ozu, 1949)
The Coronavirus – the only thing that can clear out theaters faster than a screening of a Dinesh D’Souza film. Heyo!
I started off this month by watching The Lives of Others. It was one of those films I happened upon by researching what people consider to be the best German films, which is also how I found out about stuff such as M, Wings of Desire, and Aguirre, the Wrath of God. Either way, it really makes for a fascinating, suspenseful watch, which is a given when you’re discussing a story about the extensive surveillance the government of East Germany subjected their own citizens to in the final years of the Cold War.
In a lot of ways, Robert Altman was the Wes Anderson of his day. He really had a quirky style that blended together silliness and seriousness in a way few other artists could. Nashville has had an interesting afterlife in that while it isn’t as well-known as M*A*S*H, those who have seen it consider it Mr. Altman’s magnum opus. I have to admit I didn’t like it quite as much because it’s a little bit more directionless, and certain musical numbers go on for too long. Regardless, it is absolutely worth seeing, and that a majority of the cast wrote and preformed their own music makes it a remarkable achievement.
Before the Coronavirus happened, I had intended to see The Invisible Man. I originally planned to see it at the end of February, but my computer died on me, and I really wanted to get my Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom review finished as soon as I could, so that put the kibosh on those plans. I would finally end up seeing it several weeks later when it moved to Amazon’s on-demand service. I have to admit I would’ve been a little more apprehensive about seeing it had I known who directed it. Leigh Whannell’s previous film, Upgrade, was the single worst film I saw in 2018, which is quite an accomplishment given that he had some tough competition between Hereditary and Vice. Thankfully, The Invisible Man, though a bit tethered to standard horror-film conventions, managed to be a significant improvement. I’m not sure if it really got this decade off to a good start and, in all honesty, the pandemic is probably going to ensure most mediums are hindered for the first part of the decade, but I, at the very least, can say it’s an honorable mention.
Finally, nearing the end of the month, I ended up seeing Yasujiro Ozu’s Late Spring. Mr. Ozu was one of those directors who never really strayed far from what he knew, but if you want a slice-of-life film that incorporates a charismatic, human element missing in many contemporary efforts, he won’t let you down. I must admit I liked An Autumn Afternoon more, but Late Spring is a classic itself that is worth a watch.
Games reviewed in March 2020:
In some respect, I can appreciate what the walking simulator attempted to do. However, it was ultimately a revolution the medium never really needed in the first place. Everything that the walking simulator attempted to do was done better in visual novels and games that put all of their efforts into crafting stories without eschewing the game mechanics entirely such as Undertale or OneShot. It’s not so different from the AAA approach at the time wherein they relied on cinematic cutscenes to convey plots.
Either way, I feel it’s pretty damning that Tacoma managed to showcase far more ambition than Gone Home ever did, even defying the painfully tired science-fiction tropes going on at the time… and it walked away with less critical acclaim for its efforts. The moment gaming journalists reach the point where they’re actively shunning innovation and ambition is the moment that gaming will reach the creatively stagnant position in which films currently wallow. Fortunately, gaming also happens to have a better indie scene, so I’m not terribly worried about the medium falling into a rut.
Mega Man 4
I have to admit I’ve thought better about Mega Man 4 than when I originally played it back in 2006. Nonetheless, I do think that, in 1991, it was indeed the weakest of the games, for this is the moment that series fatigue began setting in. Sure, it has a better arsenal than that of Mega Man 3 while arguably boasting more polish, but the team that made this game clearly had a winning formula by this point, and they didn’t seem to want to do anything to truly mix things up. Worst of all, the most significant innovation only succeeds in defeating the purpose of gaining the Robot Masters’ weapons to begin with. All in all, it’s a mixed bag, but still generally a more worthwhile experience than most games out there.
Ori and the Will of the Wisps – Review: A Near Flawless Masterpiece – Having recently played through Ori and the Blind Forest, I am very much looking forward to getting this decade off to a great start with its sequel, which Stephen Brown the Honest Gamer assures me is, in many ways better than the original. Impressive given what an achievement the original was.
Did He Really Solve Anything? – Rian Johnson is one of those directors who constantly gets in his own way. Whenever he succeeds, it is almost always in spite of his style, and not because of it. With this in mind, reading bookbeachbunny’s take on his latest film, Knives Out, was highly enjoyable.
Uncut Gems: Adam Sandler in Riveting Form – If we’re talking about studios that can’t help but get in their own way, that would be A24. Uncut Gems actually succeeds for many of the same reasons Knives Out does in that happened to be a film that benefitted from A24’s more obnoxious habits. Either way, I agree with Mr. Wapojif in that it really isn’t what I’d call a masterpiece (Good Time was better, for the record). And now critics are complaining that Adam Sandler didn’t get an Oscar nod. How times change.
Crush Pinball Series – An Overview – There aren’t that many quality pinball simulators out there, but Devil’s Crush, as The3rdPlayer showcases, is one of them. It definitely helps when the developers don’t even bother trying to recreate an experience they couldn’t reasonably replicate and do something completely new.
Xeodrifter – The 2010s were a strange decade in that it was a great period for Metroidvanias, but it was a horrible period for both Metroid and Castlevania. Regardless, the indie scene provided us with many quality Metroidvania experiences, though Neppy happened to review one of the lesser efforts in the form of Xeodrifter.
First Impressions – Ori and the Will of the Wisps – More love for Ori and the Will of the Wisps can be read here provided by the Gaming Omnivore. I’m really looking forward to getting into this one.
Twilight Of DC Comics? – Rumors have been going around that DC comics may cease publication. It would be a true end of an era if such a reality came to pass. Or it could just be clickbait fearmongering. Difficult to say at this point, but Starloggers’s take on the situation was interesting to read.
2020 Video Game Awards – I have to admit that I’m not sure how I would parse 2019 as a year for gaming, but reading through Scott’s annual video game awards series of articles would suggest it was a solid period.
The Battlegrounds Right Here: Persona 3 Retrospective, Part 4-Setting – In part four of his Persona 3 retrospective, Aether talks about Tatsumi Port Island – the game’s setting. The game is also notable in that it effectively only has a single dungeon. It’s a lot like a good progressive rock song; sprawling and made up of many disparate parts with a unifying theme.
The law of diminishing returns in the console arms race – The end of console generation number eight is upon us, and The Night Owl wrote a concise article that suggests it is another step to the side. I would be inclined to agree; at this point the only difference between the new consoles that matters are the exclusives, which is becoming a worse idea as time goes on given that it hasn’t really promoted creativity the same way it did in the 1980s and 1990s.
Links to my articles: