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Archive for February 9th, 2013

1977

by Allan Fish

Best Picture Annie Hall, US (7 votes)

Best Director Woody Allen, Annie Hall (6 votes)

Best Actor John Travolta, Saturday Night Fever (4 votes)

Best Actress Diane Keaton, Annie Hall (9 votes)

Best Supp Actor Peter Firth, Equus (7 votes)

Best Supp Actress Vanessa Redgrave, Julia (13 votes)

Best Cinematography Luciano Tovoli Suspiria (6 votes)

Best Score John Williams, Star Wars (10 votes)

Best Short Powers of Ten, US. Charles Eames, Ray Eames (4 votes)

on to 1978, an even more mediocre year… (more…)

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By Bob Clark

Note: In hindsight I should’ve rerun this last weekend and saved the Picnic at Hanging Rock for now, but I expected to be writing up some noirs playing locally that turned out cancelled due to inclimate weather in the Tri-State region. Whatever– Phil was stuck in Punxatawney for well over a week due in no small part to another blizzard, to say nothing of perfect storms in time and space. So we’ll just go for this for now.

Late in Peter Weir’s underrated Fearless, there’s a scene where Jeff Bridges, newly transformed from a mild-mannered San Francisco architect into a passionate bon vivant by the divine intervention of a catastrophic airline crash, violently unplugs his son’s video-game system (a TurboGrafx-16, if memory serves), protesting the cavalier attitude that the boy’s game (Splatterhouse, I think) puts forward about death. In real life, Bridges insists, there are no such things as “continues” or “extra-lives”– just one great big “game over” for the rest of forever. It’s a funny and meaningful scene for any number of reasons, not the least of which being how Bridges himself played a game designer turned video-warrior in Steven Lisberger’s Tron, but mostly for how it exposes the central fallacy of mainstream gaming in its depiction of life-or-death adventures. Because like it or not, the man is right– in real life, there are no second chances, and not just from the big stuff like death. Indeed, most of us would probably write off the consequences of life’s end if we were given just one opportunity to go back and redo some smaller, more intimate moment of our time on Earth. Whether it’s the girl that got away, that job you never got or even that ball you couldn’t hit like Casey at the bat, there’s no shortage of regrets built up over a lifetime’s worth of pruning at our own personal gardens of decision trees.

The problem with games of any ilk, digital or otherwise, is that you can always find a way to erase your past mistakes in ways that just aren’t possible in life– all you have to do is reload a past quicksave, use that last 1-up, or just call “mulligan”. That’s the problem with games, but that’s also the magic, as well. Some of the best video-games have known how to explore this territory, in their own odd ways. Sometimes they introduce crucial decisions into the matrix that can’t be so easily overwritten during the course of gameplay– whether it’s Solid Snake unable to withstand Revolver Ocelot’s torture and save the captive Meryl or Andrew Ryan’s ill-begotten offspring giving into the temptation of harvesting a Little Sister in the underwater dystopia of Rapture, there are plenty of games whose designers cleverly structure savepoints and moral choices in rather uncomfortable ways, forcing the player to live with their actions rather than going back in time and editing their mistakes, like so many Marty McFlys or Docs Brown. Sometimes, however, we see games that do not so much avoid the fallacy of gaming-revisionism as they do embrace it, making the player’s natural instinct to rewrite the past not just a feature of the game but a central tenant of its design, itself. Probably the best example of this (or at least the most well-known) would be from the experimental Legend of Zelda entry Majora’s Mask, released in 2000, which put Shigeru Miyamoto’s iconic Link on a three-day mission to save a parallel world from impending destruction, in which he must constantly travel back in time and relive the same three days in order to accomplish his quest within the limited time-span. Upon its release (and lukewarm reception), the game was often compared in the gaming press to Groundhog Day, which had only been around for seven years but had already gained a surprising popular embrace from moviegoers, film critics, philosophers and religious leaders around the world for being something more than just a mere comedy. It became one of those rare catchphrase movies were merely stating the title would be enough for people to understand its premise, and more importantly a movie with a premise that was worth embedding into pop-cultural ubiquity to begin with.

(more…)

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