February 2022 in Summary: Oscar Scramble

Portopia - Ring

Because the nominees for “Best Picture” have been announced, my goal for this month is to see all ten films before the awards ceremony. Now, as a full disclosure, unlike last year, I simply don’t have the time to review all ten films, but I will still write my annual “Worst to Best” list. As such, I’ll save my thoughts for them when I release that list.

Films watched in February 2022:

In theaters:

  • Licorice Pizza (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2021)

At home:

  • One Night in Miami… (Regina King, 2020)
  • Ali: Fear Eats the Soul (Rainer Werner Fassbinder, 1974)
  • Used Cars (Robert Zemeckis, 1980)
  • Space Cowboys (Clint Eastwood, 2000)

I decided to celebrate Black History Month by watching One Night in Miami… It was notably the first film from the 2020s to be entered into The Criterion Collection, and after watching it, I couldn’t help but wonder one thing: “Why wasn’t this film nominated for an Oscar?” Seriously, it beats out every single film nominated in 2020 handily. I guess it was nice to have a woman of color finally win “Best Director”, but the same thing could have been accomplished by giving this film the award. Very disappointing given that they gave the prestige to Moonlight in 2017. What happened to that Oscar committee? Did they lose their courage? When I wrote that “Worst to Best” list, I wasn’t sure if any film got snubbed due to not seeing much outside of the nominees, but now I know for sure at least one did.

Anyway, One Night in Miami… is a film that captures a pivotal point in the Civil Rights Movement by bringing four prominent supporters together and having them talk. Yes, this film is very dialogue heavy (having been adapted from a stage play a la 12 Angry Men), and it is absolutely compelling enough to see through. It’s a great story about how, even when people want the same thing, their differing methods about how to achieve that goal can result in conflict.

After that, I went abroad for the next one and saw Ali: Fear Eats the Soul. The title character is a Moroccan man living in West Germany in the shadow of the infamous Munich Massacre that occurred during the 1972 Summer Olympics in which the Palestinian terrorist group Black September killed eleven members of the Israeli Olympic team after taking nine of them hostage. On top of being in a nation that hadn’t yet gotten over the institutional racism effected by the Nazi regime, living in West Germany is extraordinarily difficult for Ali – particularly once he befriends and later marries an older German woman.

Then, some time after seeing Licorice Pizza, I saw Used Cars. Like I Wanna Hold Your Hand before it, Used Cars had a tepid box-office performance before receiving its dues retroactively. As I’ve said in the past, Robert Zemeckis is a bit unusual compared to most directors in that he was a great director from the word go, but his films always underperformed regardless of their quality. Rather than taking a few tries to get it right, it instead took a few tries before audiences realized, “Hey, maybe we should actually support this clearly talented person instead of letting him fall by the wayside,” and then proceeded to make Romancing the Stone a success.

Used Cars itself is a great, over-the-top black comedy that kind of gives me a Repo Man vibe with its sheer quirkiness and satirical bend. It may seem like an odd one out in Robert Zemeckis’s filmography, which are normally known for their idealistic tone, but you can ultimately tell when watching it that it was made by him, as many scenes, especially nearing the end, foreshadowed the kinds of films he would be famous for making. It’s an often overlooked entry in his body of work that is worth looking into.

And then finally, nearing the end of the month, I saw Space Cowboys. Like Cast Away, this is one of those films I saw brief clips of as a kid, but didn’t see all the way through until now. It’s definitely an enjoyable film, being one of the few good fictional stories about the American space program from around this era. Plus, it really helps that the leads, Clint Eastwood, Tommy Lee Jones, Donald Sutherland, and James Garner play really well off of each other. It’s not usually in any discussion regarding Clint Eastwood’s best directorial effort, but it’s a fun film all the same.

Games reviewed in February 2022:

Portopia - Menu

The Portopia Serial Murder Case

After reviewing this game, I’m convinced that Yuji Horii is the single most influential artist in the history of the medium. To have created one game that codified the Japanese RPG in the form of Dragon Quest III was impressive in of itself, but the fact is that with his debut effort, he reformatted the Western adventure game design as a visual novel. When you think of these genre-defining works, most artists usually only ever make one in their lifetime. Yuji Horii made two.

Yes, The Portopia Serial Murder Case is in the same camp as Metal Gear, Super Mario Bros., and Dragon Quest III in that, if you’re examining the mechanics in a vacuum, it didn’t technically do anything that hadn’t already been done before. After all, Mr. Horii simply took the first-person perspective featured in countless graphic adventure games such as Mystery House and applied it to his own work. If Mystery House told artists what a visual novel is (albeit accidentally as the term didn’t exist until the 2000s), The Portopia Serial Murder Case told artists how they should be made. Indeed, I don’t think it’s a stretch to assume that any significant story-heavy game owes at least part of its existence to The Portopia Serial Murder Case when you consider the sheer dominance of the Japanese gaming industry from around 1985 when the NES debuted in North America to sometime in the 2000s.

[Aside: It’s a bit vague when Western developers managed to make a comeback in the console market, but my guess would either be when the Xbox debuted with Halo in 2001 or in 2005 when the Xbox 360 launched and subsequently became the defining console of the seventh console generation – or at least until the PlayStation 3 caught up with it, but by then, Western developers had enough momentum to port their premier games between the two consoles.]

It may be a difficult sell by today’s standards, but its impact on the medium is undeniable and should be respected universally, and may even be worth a blind playthrough (albeit with a guide handy in case you get stuck).

Featured articles:

Highlights from Steam Next Fest February 2022 – Nepiki, having attended the Steam Next Fest event, takes a look at several promising indie efforts.

Superman Returns (2006) Movie Review – Lashaan Balasingam posting for his new site, Roars and Echoes, finishes the Superman movies with Superman Returns. It appears to be a film of average quality, although enjoyable enough for fans. It’s actually the only film in that series I’ve seen, but I remember it being pretty average myself.

The Elder Scrolls IV Oblivion Review – The Amateur RPG – Alex continues his anachronic Elder Scrolls reviews by taking a look at Oblivion, a glitchy mess of coding (which is to say, a Bethesda game).

Pokémon Legends: Arceus – The Pokémon series was in need of a change, and, if Matt’s review is anything to go by, Pokémon Legends: Arceus may be what the doctor ordered.

A review of Blue Reflection: Second Light (PS4) – AK talks about Blue Reflection: Second Light, an overlooked PS4 RPG with a fairly interesting modern-day/fantasy setting.

OneShot: Darkness, a Cat Thing, and Story-Driven Puzzles – And finally, it appears that Mr. Wapojif took the plunge and looked into OneShot, an indie gem that stands as one of the 2010s’ best storytelling experiences.

Game reviews:

12 thoughts on “February 2022 in Summary: Oscar Scramble

  1. Space Cowboys is one I’d probably like, since I was into all the space program/exploration stuff as a kid. Too bad to hear One Night in Miami was ignored, sounds interesting, and you’d think that Oscars committee would be interested too considering the subject matter. I don’t follow this stuff too much, but I look forward to reading your opinions on the nominees.

    Thanks for the link as well! I hope I can convince someone else to pick up Second Light, though it certainly would never have had anything close to mass appeal with gamers over here.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh, if you were into the space program as a kid, you’ll really get a kick out of Space Cowboys. Those four work really well in tandem. And yeah, granted even in good years like 2019 (for which the ceremony was in 2020), quality films can get snubbed because if a lot of good films came out in a year, eight (or even twelve) nominations isn’t enough to do it justice. Even so, One Night in Miami’s absence was pretty egregious – especially considering what a low-competition year 2020 was.

      You’re welcome! I think as long as enough people give that game it’s dues, we’re good. I find the community itself is good at supporting indies and overlooked gems.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Hey, thanks again for the mention!

    I look forward to hearing what you think on Don’t Look Up when the Oscars best to worst is done. Its a film I thought was funny and edgy (in a good way) to begin with, but overstayed it’s welcome a lot when Leo starts screaming at the camera in every other scene towards the end. Quite conflicted and suprised it was nominated, to be honest.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You’re welcome!

      And I haven’t seen Don’t Look Up yet, but I’m really not looking forward to it. Adam McKay’s last two films that were nominated wound up being the weakest in their respective lineups by a pretty significant margin, and I’m not expecting an effort that left critics divided to be an improvement. His writing has really gotten worse over the years; it’s a real shame watching someone just go like that. Even without seeing it, I have the feeling a more deserving film got snubbed.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Arceus is indeed what the doctor ordered! Thanks for the nod once more.

    I just finished my Oscar scramble a few days back. The last one I watched was Licorice Pizza, which I caught in the movie theater as well. Too bad you won’t be able to write individual reviews, but such is life sometimes. Either way, I will be looking forward to your Worst to Best list to see what we agree and disagree on. I have no idea which movie will end up being your favorite since it is a pretty tight race, I think, but I am pretty confident about which one will end up being listed as the worst. =P

    Liked by 1 person

    • You’re welcome! Now, I’m really interested in trying it out.

      Yeah, I just don’t have the time to review them. It’s nice you caught Licorice Pizza in theaters; I still have a ways to go before I see them all. And who knows? The expected conclusion may not come to pass.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Thanks for the shoutout! I’m working my way through the Best Picture nominees as well, and I have to say that it’s rough… I’m a bit baffled by some of the picks too. So far, as a fan of the novel, the director, and the genre, Dune is unmatched… I look forward to seeing what your favourite of them all will be.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You’re welcome! And yeah, last year’s choices left a lot to be desired. Fortunately, and at the risk of tipping my hand slightly, I will say this batch of nominees is much better. Dune likely won’t top my list, but that’s mostly because I’m a little hesitant to rank it at all given that it’s a two-parter, and the latter half has not yet materialized. That being said, it is the shot in the arm science fiction needed after the genre’s flop era in the 2010s.


  5. Space Cowboys is a fun time, although you’re right – it’s not likely going to show up on anyone’s Top 10 list. The actors do play well off each other, as you said, which is always a treat.

    You’ve given me some new titles to watch for, especially One Night in Miami. Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, it was indeed a fun film, though I think that counts for something. Weirdly, because I saw it and Apollo 13 as a kid, I mistook scenes from one film as having happened in another.

      And One Night in Miami is definitely worth a watch. That’s another one where the actors play very well off of each other (albeit in a more serious context).

      Liked by 1 person

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