In addition to the reviews you read here on the site, I'm always consuming other forms of media. So to catch up on what I didn't feel warranted a full-length piece, I'm dusting off a feature that we used when the site first launched. These days I'm listening to more albums, watching more shows, and playing more games that call for discussion. At the beginning of each month I'll be going back and giving a quick assessment for the things you didn't get to read about.
- Samsara - Like - Inventory Movie of the Month
- Pariah - Like
- Marwencol - Like
- The House I Live In - Like
- Slanted Screen - Like
- Iran: A Cinematographic Revolution - Like
- The Queen of Versailles - Like
- Park Avenue: Money, Power and the American Dream - Indifference
- Light Keeps Me Company - Dislike
Presented in order of quality. Samsara is the follow-up to Baraka, both mood films with no dialogue and a globe-spanning view. There's no shortage of breathtaking imagery in Baraka and Samsara is much the same. The focus on technology and development is still present, culminating in a disturbing sequence of real dolls being assembled in a factory. But there's an air of melancholy that I was not ready for as many of the juxtapositions involve death versus the rituals that we've developed to cope with it.
Pariah came very close to usurping Samsara as the unreviewed film of the month. It's a complicated look at the life of a semi-closeted gay black teenager. The layers on this film are incredible, from the complex family life with various levels of sympathy, to the reality of being young and not in control of all your hormones. Despite the bigotry that's eventually displayed, many of the scenes of Pariah are playful and have fun with the confusion that comes with trying to figure out your sexuality.
The rest of the time I went on a big documentary kick, finally catching up with Marwencol, and the others dealing with various issues of social justice and cinematic representation. I was unhappily surprised with Light Keeps Me Company, a documentary on Sven Nykvist (Ingmar Bergman's chief cinematographer). Part of it had to do with the terrible Netflix transfer that has blocked subtitles and a sub-VHS visual quality, but also because the information itself is very light with most of the run-time given over to praising Nykvist. It was a big disappointment.
- Scooby-Doo! Mystery, Inc. - Like
- Ken Burns Prohibition - Like
- Ken Burns The Dust Bowl - Like
- America In Primetime - Indifference
- Luther - Dislike
I held no love for Scooby-Doo. Something about his adventures always annoyed me and the old show had terribly repetitive humor. So I was surprised when people started praising the new show and I checked it out on a whim. I am incredibly grateful that I did. The new show is hilarious and draws inspiration from a wild array of sources. In one episode the gang is tangled up in a Cuthulu-esque mystery guest-starring Harlan Ellison (voiced by the man himself) while getting guidance from a DJ inspired by The Warriors. Most importantly, it's hilarious, with excellent updates on the characters and a seemingly endless well of creativity.
A bit further down the rungs are two Ken Burns documentaries. I enjoyed Prohibition a bit more than The Dust Bowl but more on a raw information front, especially when it came to the way minorities were treated and used. Less interesting was the documentary series on television, America In Primetime. Really calling it a documentary series is also pushing it because the miniseries was basically short infomercials for each show with many overlapping qualities.
The most disappointing was Luther, starring the amazing Idris Elba. He is spectacular in the show, coming unhinged in the most delightful ways, and he's given an excellent sparring partner to boot. Unfortunately the show deals a bit too much in a dull case of the week with Luther's near-psychic predictions of crime the invention of a writers room instead of real insight. I stuck through it to the end of the second series but despite the third beginning soon that's about all I can handle from the show.
- The Walking Dead
- Spec Ops: The Line
- Sleeping Dogs
- Papers, Please
- Professor Layton and the Last Specter
First thing, unless a game is terrible to the point that I was deluded into buying it, my rating is always going to be Like. This is because I don't have as much time to play games and what I like to play can't be neatly wrapped up in two to three hours like most movies.
That said, I finished two dynamite games in August that erased any doubt that games are finally embracing the ability to tell affecting stories on their own terms. The first was Spec Ops: The Line, which I won't go into too deeply because Jacob and I are planning on doing something tandem for it, but is the first game I've played to meaningfully comment on just what shoot-em-up games are glorifying. The second was The Walking Dead and, as a fan of old school point 'n click adventure games, was a major step forward in terms of presentation and puzzle construction. It is also a devastating, often hilarious story, that had me and Amanda in full-blown sobs by the end.
Of the other games the most interesting is Papers, Please. It's the first paper-shuffling bureaucracy simulator I know of that has you checking passports and supporting documentation before letting people into your fictional Communist country. Papers, Please hits my perfectionist button pushing tendencies like no other, but also has a surprisingly large amount of open-ended decisions to make over the course of the game.
Finally, my love for Professor Layton knows few bounds. Each game is a delightful mix of inventive storytelling and head-scratching puzzles. However the last game, The Last Specter, was a bit too long. The puzzles and plot were great, as always, but there was too much walking around and backtracking to make it appointment playing. It still ended beautifully, and the 3DS sequel The Miracle Mask is shaping up quite well.
If you have any questions or comments on any of these items, please feel free to share below.