March 2020 in Summary: Silent World

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:

In theaters:

  • <None>

At home:

  • 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:

Tacoma

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.


Featured articles:

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:

Game reviews:

Other posts:

16 thoughts on “March 2020 in Summary: Silent World

  1. Great recap. It certainly feels weird with theaters closing down even though I haven’t been in a theater since 2018. Haha! Not gonna lie, that Dinesh D’Souza joke was hilarious.

    I do hope to see more reviews from you. Even at Iridium Eye, it was strange since I had all of April covered before all the shelter at home regulations. This is going to be weird.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks! And honestly? Given what a terrible year 2018 was for films, I wouldn’t blame you if it made you swear off seeing stuff in theaters. I was originally going to make Seltzerberg the butt of that joke, but I correctly deemed D’Souza a far more deserving target. I may have criticized a lot of left-leaning works on this site – and I don’t indeed to apologize for that any time soon – but at least the directors thereof actually know how to make a film; as dire as they can get, they have nothing on the far-right when it comes to incompetence and creative bankruptcy.

      Yeah, I must admit I haven’t gotten used to writing reviews at home. Before, I would write them at work during lunch breaks. I still intend to find some way to make it work, however.

      Liked by 1 person

      • No problem. I didn’t realize 2018 was a bad year. In case you’re wondering, the last movie I saw in a movie theater was Black Panther and it was only due to an invitation. I have very ambivalent feelings about that movie, but that’s a story for another day even if I referenced a certain scene in my Art Theft songs to prove a point. I guess I have my little indie and international bubble to keep me company. That’s certainly fine when it comes to criticizing overt works of both parties. Both deserve to be called out for their respective reasons.

        I’m starting to get used to it even though my schedule has been getting a lot busier lately with Camp NaNoWriMo and work. Some of my May posts are done and involve countries that haven’t been covered on the blog before. My first April review is something I’m really stoked about since this involves the longest anime series I’ve reviewed at over 70 episodes which is a record on the blog.

        I’m sure you’ll be able to figure something out with your reviews though.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Let’s put it this way; what 2013 was for games 2018 was for films in that I don’t think I’ve encountered a year that contained as many critically acclaimed turkeys for their respective mediums. Fortunately, gaming managed to bounce back in a big way with Undertale two years later. We can only hope films will follow suit at some point.

          Sadly, as flawed as it was, I would still say Black Panther was one of the better films nominated for “Best Picture” in 2018. I ranked it #1, in fact – and it didn’t even make my top ten.

          An anime series, you say? Now, that’s a medium that, even during its slow portions, has innovated far more than films have in the past ten years. I’ll look forward to reading about it.

          Liked by 1 person

          • I lost track of so many modern games, but I’ll take your word for it with 2013 being a dud year for the gaming industry.

            Oh, really? That’s crazy if the bar was set that low in 2018 for movies. There were some good things about Black Panther, but even I wouldn’t call it one of the best movies to come out in 2018 when you stack it with world cinema or indie films.

            That’s right. I’ve noticed that even during my teens when there were so many good series and some movies out there. I’ll give you a hint about this series: it’s a Shonen Jump work, one of the creators made a VERY popular manga/anime series in the 00s, and it involves a game that had never been covered in anime or most other media until it came out.

            Liked by 1 person

    • You’re welcome! I played through Blind Forest recently and enjoyed it. I’m hoping that Will of the Wisps is good as well. A lot of people consider it to be even better than the original.

      Like

  2. Thanks for the shout-out! 😀

    I definitely agree with you about gaming having a more vibrant indie scene than movies. One of the things I love about finally having Xbox Game Pass is there’s an abundance of smaller, non-AAA titles I can choose from that I may not have as aware of. Microsoft and Nintendo are continuing to support indie games whereas Sony, it seems has been a little more complacent as of late.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You’re welcome! And yeah, it’s no contest, really. Game designers aren’t afraid to innovate whereas their filmmaking counterparts are too complacent with making stuff to pander to critics. I do commend Microsoft and Nintendo for supporting indies – especially because the latter gives them a solid portable platform. Here’s hoping Sony follows their lead at some point because the game journalists’ lack of support for the indie scene is appalling; ironically, they have the exact opposite problem that their film-loving counterparts have. The latter camp have a tendency to overhype independent stuff that, more often than not, tends to be aggressively mediocre.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks again for the mention, as always. Sorry for the late response, this pandemic thing has got me – like pretty much everyone – in a bit of a slump. I think March was the first time I didn’t write a single movie review for a whole month since I launched Wizard Dojo. And I barely got one game review out. I guess my video game awards were decently productive, even if most of them are shorter bits of writing. At any rate, I’m hoping to pick up the slack in April, fingers crossed.

    I think “solid” is a good way to describe 2019 in regards to video games. It had some great titles, but didn’t produce the same level of quality as 2018 or 2017 (or 2016, 2015 or 2014, come to think of it, though I hope that doesn’t sound like I’m talking down to the 2019 games I awarded).

    Also, I just realized Ori and the Will of the Wisps is out from this post… That reminds me, I really need to play the first one…

    Great write-up, as always. Stay safe. I hope you have a penny, a chip and a used napkin to keep you company during this quarantine fiasco.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, I’m good for now, but I find it a bit more difficult to write at home; I’m too liable to relax when surrounded by my own furnishings. I still got out stuff in March, but it might be the first time since 2010 in which I didn’t see a single film in theaters. Look forward to seeing what you have to say next month!

      And yeah, that’s the impression I got; it wasn’t quite as good as 2017 or 2018, but 2019 seemed to be a good year with the triumphs getting their dues and the garbage disappearing off the radar screen.

      I enjoyed the first one, so I’m looking forward to seeing what the sequel has to offer when I get around to it. I played Blind Forest on the Switch, and it was surreal seeing the “Microsoft Studios” logo appear before the title screen.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Yeah, it’s been a weird, dry month all around. Which is a shame, I keep hoping for normalcy in some small quantities, but even as the creative media is still there and digital distribution makes everything accessible, it’s still been hard to fit normalcy into the new routines we’re having to fit with. Been a bit harder to get with the content I used to enjoy.

    But hey, glad to see you’re still powering through!

    And it’s kind of funny to see that the indie scene in gaming is this powerful force, small producers can gather huge audiences and successes with the right combination of creativity, skill, and luck, while in films indie still seems largely code for “unfocused”, albeit with many notable exceptions. I’m sure they’ll get there, and that the internet revolution will make that inevitable, but it does make sense that an industry that’s built its traditions over a longer period of time would be slower to react and have fewer ready-made spaces for small producers.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, I know what you mean. Without a normal, day-to-day routine, it’s surprisingly difficult to go through your entertainment options – even though you have all the time in the world to enjoy them.

      Slow to react is right. What makes the indie film scene so tedious is that they are very much stuck in the “egotistical posturing” phase that defined the late-2000s/early-2010s indie scene and before it was rightfully dropped. Granted, this did arguably result in said games receiving less coverage due to the developers staying out of the news, but I’ve found I can learn out about the games easily enough by keeping my eyes peeled. Meanwhile I have trouble determining if such an indie film is quality beforehand because critics seem to grade on a curve when it comes to independent efforts. It’s nice that they want to give voice to auteurs, but as you suggest, indie game developers have managed to surpass AAA efforts on a semi-regular basis in terms of innovation and creativity, making indie filmmakers’ inability to do the same seem even less excusable. I can see them digging themselves out of this rut, but even if they don’t, the medium had a nice run, and creators in other ones can take their place easily enough.

      And I’m glad you’re powering through this as well. Let’s all get through this crisis together!

      Liked by 1 person

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