Impeccable Timing: 5 Classic Films That Contemporary Critics Would Have Hated

Last December, I had the pleasure of watching Christopher Nolan’s The Prestige. Although I didn’t like it quite as much as Memento, I definitely think it’s a great film well worth watching. Unfortunately, critics at the time didn’t agree, for the film’s initial reception was lukewarm. The critics who enjoyed it were in the majority, but the writing was on the wall; it paled in comparison to his earlier efforts. When the decade came to a close, something unexpected happened. Suddenly, this film that currently sits at 76% on Rotten Tomatoes began appearing on various “best of” lists regarding the most exemplary efforts of the 2000s.

Because of this development, one of the greatest weaknesses of aggregate review sites was revealed – it only provides a snapshot as to what critics thought of a film the minute it debuted. If a film is subject to retroactive vindication, the score does not change accordingly. This is also evident in how Charles Laughton’s The Night of the Hunter achieved 100% on the same site despite being so poorly received upon its 1955 release that it completely ruined his chances of ever directing another film.

Seeing these two films got me thinking about how works are received. How many critical darlings are going to stand the test of time? How many masterpieces are the critics of today letting fall by the wayside? Critics have proven over the years to be masters of tooting their own horns, but as the late, great Orson Welles once proposed in his excellent swansong effort, F for Fake, they can be hoodwinked just as easily the audience they look down upon. If critics could make this mistake as recently as 2006 when the rules of the medium had been firmly established, I expect there will be many more instances of such a thing occurring to come.

Even with an educated guess here and there, I don’t have any way of determining what films considered mediocre or even outright bad now will receive their vindication in the future. Therefore, I will instead talk about the opposite phenomenon. As a result of the various think pieces ostensibly professional critics and journalists have written in the past decade, which range anywhere from woefully misbegotten to condescending to their audience, I’ve found them to be increasingly untrustworthy. Consequently, I can believe they would have hated many classic, undeniably good films had they been released today.

Now, to be clear, with this editorial, I’m not talking about films such as D.W. Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation or Leni Riefenstahl’s Triumph of the Will. Though critics continue to praise both works, it’s clear they have nothing to offer most people, promoting obviously outdated values among other problems. Instead, I propose that there are films considered to this very day some of the greatest ever made – but only because the current wave of critics took their predecessors at their word. I feel that if you were to somehow beam present-day critical sensibilities into their predecessors’ collective headspace, they would have dropped certain objectively great films like a hot potato. They fly in the face of present-day critical sensibilities to the extent that they would have lambasted them on principle alone. There are plenty of films I feel fall into this category, but five in particular struck me as the kinds of works contemporary critics would loathe with every fiber of their being.

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[GAME REVIEW] Super Pitfall

Introduction

David Crane’s Pitfall! ended up being one of the most popular games on the Atari 2600, selling over four-million copies when it debuted in 1982. Players assumed the role of an adventurer named Pitfall Harry, who sought to collect all of the treasures in a jungle. It broke the mold for gaming as a whole, codifying many conventions of the side-scrolling platformer genre. Pitfall! was also notable for having been one of the most successful products conceived by a third-party company: Activision. During the first and second console generations, companies didn’t think to credit developers for their work. Some crafty developers would circumvent this by placing Easter eggs in their games, but the behavior was discouraged. This is what caused a collection of developers, including Mr. Crane, to form Activision in the first place. Such was the game’s popularity that despite its sequel, Pitfall II: Lost Caverns, having been released in the wake of the North American industry’s crash, it still managed to become one of the Atari 2600’s most lauded titles.

One year later, the North American gaming industry would regain its footing with a little help from a Japanese company named Nintendo. Following a long, arduous campaign to convince retailers to stock their own gaming console, the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), it proceeded to sell millions of units. Included with the purchase of these systems was a copy of Super Mario Bros. This game could be said to have perfected the side-scrolling platformer formula using the blueprints Pitfall! drafted. While Pitfall! itself was a beloved classic, Super Mario Bros. ascended to a level of fame that left a definable impact on pop culture after it became the greatest-selling game in history at the time.

With many famous games predating the crash such as Pac-Man and Galaga having well-received ports on the NES, it seemed only natural that the Pitfall! series would be represented on the console as well. For this installment, dubbed Super Pitfall, Activision outsourced the job to a Japanese developer named Mirconics. This company was primarily in charge of porting arcade games to the NES, including Elevator Action, Ikari Warriors, and 1942, so Super Pitfall would be their chance to make a good impression with an original work. Were they able to do so?

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[FILM REVIEW] Blinded by the Light (Gurinder Chadha, 2019)

The year is 1987. The protagonist of this story is a teenager living in Luton, England by the name of Javed Khan. His parents, Malik and Noor, emigrated from Pakistan many years ago. Although he has lived most of his life in the United Kingdom to the point where he speaks fluent English, he is still subject to significant racial discrimination due to his Pakistani heritage, which is in turn exacerbated by his poor upbringing. Many of these problems are brought on by highly conservative political climate dominating Western civilization at the time. Javed enjoys contemporary rock music, much to Malik’s annoyance. One day, he meets another South Asian student at his new school named Roops. This student introduces him to a musician known in many circles as “The Boss”.

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[GAME REVIEW] Pokémon Black and White

Introduction

By the time the fourth generation of Pokémon debuted with the Diamond and Pearl versions, Game Freak’s signature franchise gained a new lease on life. Though no longer the pop cultural juggernaut it was in the late 1990s and early 2000s, gaming enthusiasts stopped dismissing the series as a fad from a bygone era, accepting it as a cornerstone of the medium. With Diamond and Pearl outselling the set of games that came before, Nintendo realized the series’ popularity hadn’t waned. In response to the fans’ enthusiasm, they began work on a sequel following the release of HeartGold and SoulSilver – remakes of the second-generation titles.

The fifth-generation games were officially announced in January of 2010. A spokesperson from the Pokémon Company stated that the new set of games were to debut later in the year for the Nintendo DS. Junichi Masuda, who directed Diamond and Pearl, said that several aspects would be revamped for the next generation. In April, the company’s official website was updated with the titles of these versions: Black and White. With the naming convention for the series electing to incorporate valuable metals and gemstones, Black and White sounded incredibly plain. Nonetheless, fans were excited to see what the series now had to offer. His ultimate goal with this project was to appeal to both newcomers and those who had not played the series in quite some time.

Pokémon Black and White were released domestically in September of 2010. International fans wouldn’t have to wait too long, for the games were released in Europe, North America, and Australia in March of 2011. Although the series had little trouble finding an audience, it wasn’t always a critical favorite. The first-generation games were outright dismissed as mediocre efforts by domestic critics, and while subsequent sets would fare slightly better, the fans took it upon themselves to keep the franchise afloat. That all changed when Black and White became the first set of games to garner a rare perfect score from Famitsu magazine. It fared just as well internationally with many critics feeling it to have been the single greatest generation in the franchise’s history thus far. These sentiments were reflected by the enthusiasts; throughout the remainder of the decade, the games sold over fifteen-million copies. Did Black and White move the franchise forward during its second wind?

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A Question for the Readers #17: No Fair Taking Shortcuts!

Whenever a series gains notoriety, you will inevitably hear about it talked about quite a lot whether it’s on the internet or amongst your peers. However, sometimes you just don’t want to get into it. It’s not necessarily because the series is bad; perhaps you’re just too busy with other stuff to check it out. When you finally end up taking the plunge, it may even be after the series has concluded. You’ve effectively done in the span of a month or so what fans had to wait years to see unfold. I myself have done this a few times, and the results have been interesting.

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[GAME REVIEW] Sonic the Fighters

Introduction

In the year 1993, a game named Virtua Fighter debuted in arcades worldwide. Created by Yu Suzuki, a member of Sega’s second arcade game development division (Sega AM2), Virtua Fighter became a gigantic success – both commercially and critically. What particularly stood out was its presentation. Whereas many pioneering fighting games used two-dimensional sprites to depict its characters, Virtua Fighter featured three-dimensional polygon graphics. For braving the world of 3D gaming a before it became the standard and offering a level of complexity few contemporaries possessed, Virtua Fighter continues to be praised to this very day with some calling it one of the most influential titles of all time.

During this time, Sega was experiencing a lot of success in the home console market as well. Their 1991 breakout title, Sonic the Hedgehog, gave them a character capable of standing on even ground with Nintendo’s own mascot Mario. With Sonic as Sega’s mascot, the company sought to give him spinoff titles to demonstrate the character’s versatility as well as capitalize on the character’s popularity. Yu Suzuki once spotted one of his subordinates having created a model of Sonic during the creation of another fighting game entitled Fighting Vipers. This gave Mr. Suzuki the idea for a Sonic the Hedgehog fighting game, which he presented to Hiroshi Kataoka – a fellow head of the division. This, in turn, caused Mr. Kataoka to approach Yuji Naka, the leader of Sonic Team with the idea. Although Mr. Naka expressed concern that Sonic couldn’t fight given his large head and short arms, he was won over by the polygon animations provided by Mr. Suzuki’s team.

With Sonic Team’s approval, Mr. Suzuki and the rest of AM2 began developing a fighting game for Sega’s blue hedgehog. The result, Sonic the Fighters, was released to domestic arcades in June of 1996 before appearing in North America a month later under the name Sonic Championship. However, despite starring a popular character, the game quickly fell into obscurity due to its limited release in the West. It wouldn’t be until 2005 that the game received a greater amount of attention. In that year, Sega released a compilation dubbed Sonic Gems Collection, which most notably included Sonic the Hedgehog CD – a popular game that was highly difficult to find at the time. Sonic the Fighters also featured on that compilation. Between the release of Sonic the Fighters and Sonic Gems Collection, Nintendo, with the help of HAL Laboratory, conceived a fighting game starring their own mascot named Super Smash Bros. With Sonic having a three-year head start over Mario in this genre, was Sega able to successfully explore new ground?

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Real Neat Blogger Award from Frostilyte

I’ve been tagged twice in the same week! This time, the responsible party is Frostilyte, who runs a blog of the same name. It’s really worth checking out, I’d say – especially if you’re into gaming. This time, I’ve been tagged with the Real Neat Blogger Award. For those unfamiliar with it, it’s basically the Sunshine Blogger Award except not. I say that because I was asked seven questions all the same, so let’s jump right in.

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