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:
- Licorice Pizza (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2021)
- 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:
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).
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.
- The Portopia Serial Murder Case (4.5/10)