Saturday, January 20, 2018

The Last Jedi and The State of Star Wars

I recently wrote up a piece for Fandom which was actually positive of The Last Jedi. But I kept the scope limited and that was by no means a proper review. I didn't write a proper review because I was more confused than I came off in that piece. I stand by every word, but don't assume that because I liked what director Rian Johnson was going for that he actually succeeded.

The Last Jedi is a strange kind of movie for me. It's easy to praise a great movie and easy to mock a terrible one, it's much harder to review something that's in the middle. All around on an intellectual level I think The Last Jedi was doing the right thing. But in terms of execution? I don't want to watch this movie again.

Now because this is 2017 2018 and the entire universe has gone to shit, The Last Jedi has somehow ended up as yet another front of the endless culture wars that have taken over the entire internet. Men's "rights" "activists" recut the movie without women and random people on Twitter decided to share National Review articles to prove how I was wrong. (And if my take on Star Wars happens to put me on whatever side The National Review is not on, then all the better.) I care deeply about Star Wars but some care a lot more, I guess. It almost makes me want to like The Last Jedi more because a lot of the people who hate it are /r/KotakuInAction scum. But sadly, while those people are wrong, they're less wrong than they usually are. They just hate a mediocre movie for the wrong reasons.

The fact that The Last Jedi blew up into an exhausting GamerGate flamewar exactly the problem. Star Wars isn't fun anymore. It can't be. We won't let it be fun. I said that The Last Jedi might have given the series a chance to live again in my piece. A month later, I think I was wrong. Star Wars is dead and we killed it. Not just the fanboys who can't stand a female Jedi or losing Luke, but you and me. We all killed it. Disney makes The Force Awakens that is pure fanservice from top to bottom. Then we complain that it's too similar to the past. Then they make The Last Jedi which wants to radically remake the formula. Then fans hate it more. Star Wars is an unsolvable problem.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

The Best Movies of 2017

I'm only twenty-seven (as of just this Thursday) and yet I feel like I've already seen everything. Actually I feel like I've seen everything three times. 2017 was the I finally had enough of blockbusters. There was a new Fast and Furious last year, there was a new Transformers, there was a new Pirates of the Caribbean. And I just couldn't. It was not mere dislike, dislike takes emotion and effort. I was done. I had nothing left to give for huge Hollywood franchises. When Justice League came out my disinterest was so severe I skipped an episode of The Drew Reviews, a really great movie podcast produced by two colleagues of mine. I didn't even have morbid curiosity left to give.

Now, in 2017 a lot of good things happened in movies. Horror has never received more prestige. Get Out is going to be nominated for Best Picture. You can't call that movie a "thriller" or "psychological drama" like people did with Silence of the Lambs or Black Swan. Get Out is a dirty horror movie and nothing else. Critics used to be ashamed of horror and that time has passed. Meanwhile people highlight Wonder Woman as this huge progressive moment against the Harvey Weinsteins of the world. But all it showed me is that women can star in movies as bland and pointless as the boys. Yet there were intense, truly unique stories that were written with female protagonists (and often made by female directors) that actually make use of that diversity. Forget Wonder Woman, try The Beguiled or The Shape of Water or Ingrid Goes West or Raw or mother! or Lady Bird. Women have a voice in this industry and it doesn't need to be packaged to appeal to male nerds.

Every year I think I get closer and closer to the pretentious art critic I mocked back in the early years of this blog. The problem isn't that I love artsy movies. As a matter of fact I have a severe upper-limit to how much artsy I can take, thus why I refuse to see A Ghost Story. I like low-brow trashy shit. It's just that the traditional blockbuster has become so stale and repetitive. There was a new Spider-Man this year! Hasn't there been enough fucking Spider-Man already? People complain about too many sequels and lack of ideas in Hollywood, then give mother! an F on Cinemascore. This year, I hope I didn't just talk the talk, I walked the walk. If your movie wasn't special in some way, I couldn't be bothered. So I don't want to see The Post or The Darkest Hour, more boilerplate Oscarbait just as I don't want to see The Mummy or Ghost in the Shell, more bad wanna-be cinematic universes. I didn't see any of those. I saw better movies.

Here are fifteen movies that actually were special in some way:

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

The Best Games of 2017 (That Aren't Super Mario Odyssey)

I'm going to start my discussion of the best games of 2017 by talking about a game that isn't on the list. It's a game that never really got close to being on the list. In fact it's a game I still have not finished despite three or four serious attempts to get invested in it. And that game is Guerilla Games' open world post-apocalyptic robot dinosaur adventure, Horizon Zero Dawn. Horizon Zero Dawn is not a bad game. In other years this completely solid, very competent title easily fits in a top ten. In a bad year, Horizon Zero Dawn might be Game of the Year. But in 2017, Horizon Zero Dawn is mediocre. I love that Horizon Zero Dawn was forgettable this year.

In 2017 real progress happened in the games industry. I don't mean the usual standards of progress such as frame rates or how many triangles an engine can shove into a single frame. 4K doesn't impress me and I don't believe in VR yet. I mean games have never been better than they were in 2017. Most years have maybe four or five truly great video games in them. 2017 had probably close to twenty. A few games disappointed like Star Wars Battlefront II or truly sucked like Sonic Forces. But for the most part last year, every game was good. Look at the disposable drivel that comes to your local movie theater every week. 2017's gaming didn't have its equivalent of Pitch Perfect 3 or that Jumanji sequel that nobody wanted. It only had Baby Driver. Every single day, more Baby Driver. Masterpiece after masterpiece.

I feel bad for 2018. I don't know when I'm ever going to find the time to play "new" games. It will take me a whole year just to catch up with all the great 2017 games I didn't play. Not least of which because I never managed to accrue enough capital to buy a Switch (besides video games 2017 sucked). I still want to play about a dozen games: Resident Evil VII, Gravity Rush 2, Snipperclips, Yakuza 0, Nioh, Hellblade, Mario + Rabbids, Rime... and of course, Super Mario Odyssey. And because Super Mario Odyssey is absent, this list is completely worthless and I don't know why you're reading. Maybe you just like me.

Anyway, here's a meaningless and incomplete list of twelve truly great games from the best year in gaming history:

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Dear Nintendo: Consoles Are Not Nikes

The SNES Classic launch is already a disaster. But you knew that was coming and I knew that was coming and honestly I don't see much reason to get too mad about it. I'm still mad anyway because I've always wanted to play games like "Donkey Kong Country" and "Super Metroid" and this was a fantastic affordable way to play. But I was asleep last night and ate lunch at 1 PM today, so I couldn't order one. My Walmart pre-order was cancelled and Walmart did nothing to give me a chance to order again, I just missed my chance at Amazon at 5 AM this morning.

So in the SNES Classic department: I'm fucked.

I don't see why it has to be like this. I don't get why Nintendo has to be so utterly stupid. At least with companies like Walmart you can see the psychopathic corporate logic at play. Walmart has never pretended to be anything other scumfucking evil since the start and when they actually are scumfucking evil, you can't really blame them for it. Nintendo meanwhile acts like this dumb little puppy that is only peeing on your leg because it loves you that much. I've had quite enough of the family-friendly rounded-corners nostalgia hug routine. There's charmingly foolish and then there's the medieval nightmare that is "Splatoon 2"'s voice chat system. Don't call this anything but what it is: stupidity.

The SNES Classic pre-orders are, to nobody's surprise, hopelessly inadequate for the demand of the console. This is either due to gross incompetence on Nintendo's part or some kind of brilliant scheme to drum up interest by limiting supply as all the armchair economists on /r/nintendo claim. Either way, this is supposed to be a nostalgia piece. Now I don't know about your childhood, but I don't recall mine being filled with frustration, failure, and utter confusion. (Unless we're talking Wet-Dry World in "Mario 64".)

I thought Nintendo was a company for everybody. Instead they're trying to be Nike - badly.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

The Tolerating Intolerance Myth

Since John McCain had to ruin my last post by growing a spine, the Health Care debate is over. The Trump administration has proven itself to be a feeble and utterly useless machine that cannot accomplish any Republican goals. The battle in America isn't in Washington anymore. The battle now is in the streets. Charlottesville this weekend revealed to everybody a lot of ugly things about this country that I've been seeing for a year now. Trump is a failed joke who cannot govern. But as a symbol of the festering evil in this country? Oh, he's a brilliant success.

Donald Trump is not a Nazi. He is however, a source of inspiration to Nazis. He's deeply beloved by Nazis. He hesitates to condemn Nazis when he never hesitates to condemn his own cabinet members. Trump is a willing accomplice to these people and only maintains vague pretenses of plausible deniability. Charlottesville may not be what you thought of when Trump said he would "Make America Great Again", but this is the result. (Trump himself has no idea what MAGA means and never cared to find out.) The president might not believe he is a racist, but his actions, inactions, and statements are a clear message otherwise. There is no political calculus that explains the president's behavior. Also there definitely are no excuses.

The solution for the White Nationalists is not easy. But let's not bog ourselves down in false equivalencies here. Freedom of Speech is a great virtue in this country. However, fantasies about open discourse being the solution to everything have already failed. But while the government can't stop Nazis from speaking, that doesn't mean the rest of us are bound by those same rules. The First Amendment lets you talk. But it doesn't say you're still welcome in society after you've spoken.