The Roundup: February 10


Ten Films to Watch Before Inherent Vice by Robbie Collin at the Telegraph


Literally every little thing I read about Inherent Vice makes me more eager to see it, no matter how many of my friends and acquaintances come away saying it incoherent (and thus terrible). This list of things that in some way influenced it (or at least, are helpful for understanding it) are mostly things I love. Here’s a tongue-in-cheek look, too, at how the film manages to become one of the most walked-out-of this year.

They’re worth looking up, because if you plan on seeing Inherent Vice, or even if you’ve already seen it, you’ll need all the help you can get. Watching Anderson’s film is a deeply confusing experience – and that’s exactly as it should be, because deep confusion is its subject. In the early Seventies, America was a country of riots, murderous cults, high-profile overdoses, backroom deals and the emerging horror of Vietnam. A tide of “bad craziness”, as Hunter S Thompson called it in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, was washing up the beach.

So when Joaquin Phoenix’s dope-puffing private investigator Doc Sportello can’t make sense of a byzantine case in which one conspiracy seems to bleed into the next, it’s not rank incompetence: it’s just a reflection of the national mood. But if you’re prepared to spend a little time with the rascals, outcasts, babes and bozos below, you might find it easier to find your way around the strange goings-on in Anderson’s film. Not because the solution to Doc’s case is contained within – but because its total lack of one starts to make a bleary kind of sense.

Masters of Screwball, Part 1: Sturges Before Sturges by David Kalat at Movie Morlocks


I love David Kalat’s writing style, and hopefully he keeps going on this screwball comedy series for a long while. I’m not a huge fan of Easy Living, but after glancing through this I definitely want to give it another look.

Problem is, now she’s up a fur coat, a hat, and a ride to work but down a job. That’s because the harridan spinsters (I did mention them, right?) see her richy new wardrobe and assume the only way some strange man would buy her all that nice stuff was if he was getting something (or rather, getting some) in return. And since that kind of behavior isn’t compatible with the moral character of this upstanding Christian magazine, she’s out.

Of course it’s here that everything goes all wonky. Within 48 hours she will be living a life of unimaginable luxury, wealthy and famous, with a loving husband, a powerful benefactor, and everything she’s ever wanted–all because of the same assumptions that led the harridan spinsters to reject her. One by one, everyone she meets draws the same insulting conclusion about what she’s done to get that coat–and then, for their own selfish calculations, proceed to reward her in new ways.

My Darling Clementine(s) by Wade Sheeler at The Black Maria


I just noticed recently that the recent Criterion release of My Darling Clementine includes two versions; here’s a bit more about the differences between the two, as well as a solid appreciation for the film in general.

There’s so much to love about this film that the plot summarization does it absolutely no justice. When you talk about tone, mood, and setting, you’re talking about John Ford. His beautiful use of Monument Valley, later nicknamed “Ford’s Monument Valley,” as the backdrop to this, and many of his westerns, redefined what the American frontier looked like to the country, if not the rest of the world. The skillful performance by Henry Fonda, one of the most subtle of actors from the golden age of cinema, the grit and dirt and dust that Ford is able to somehow transmit through the lens, the spare yet poignant soundtrack, pregnant with powerful silences; these are just some of the riches of My Darling Clementine. […] So it is a deliciously sordid point of contention that 20th Century Fox studio head Darryl F. Zanuck found fault with the film prior to its release.

Sundance Exposes Hollywood’s White-Guy Problem by Kyle Buchanan at Vulture


It’s getting easier in some ways for young directors to jump from indies to big-budget Hollywood films, but does it seem like white male filmmakers get most of those breaks? You’re not wrong.

This pernicious pattern particularly frustrates me every time a studio hands another major film to a white dude who’s never made a movie before, as Disney did by giving Maleficent to longtime production designer Robert Stromberg, and as Universal now will by setting visual-effects supervisor Cedric Nicolas-Troyan at the helm of its Snow White and the Huntsman sequel. If first-timers like them can get a studio come-up — and if a Universal exec can watch a small Aubrey Plaza rom-com and decide that its white male director should be entrusted with the future of Jurassic Park — what reason is there that an experienced talent like Famuyiwa or Headland isn’t meeting to direct the next big Marvel movie?

Horror’s Scariest Trend is the Non-Existent Black Filmmaker by Matt Barone at The Dissolve


Sidenote: I’m really getting curious about this A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night movie. But also, yes, the main point of this article is really interesting.

So where’s the new Tales From The Hood? The better question, though, is where’s the black horror filmmaker who’s able to make it? While women have made tremendous strides in the genre recently, from Ana Lily Amirpour’s vampire Western A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night to Jennifer Kent’s The Babadook, the darkest color in horror right now remains blood-red. The problem is only underlined by Spike Lee’s new film, Da Sweet Blood Of Jesus. He’s an iconic director with a long record of success, but his first foray into horror was only able to happen with Kickstarter’s crowd-funding help.

A Few More…

Not Cinema

Digital Archeology: How Double Fine, Disney, LucasArts and Sony Resurrected Grim Fandango by David Tach at Polygon


I AM SO EXCITED GRIM FANDANGO IS BACK OUT! I’ve been carrying a torch for this game since I played it on CD back in the day. This is a great feature on how the remaster came about, and the difficulties of restoring an older game.

Grim Fandango survived for 15 years on a mess of ancient storage devices that are about as easy to access today as eight-track tapes. The frozen bits and bytes that combined to form the Land of the Dead and populate it with characters like Manuel “Manny” Calavera were released to critical acclaim in 1998, when Grim Fandango arrived in retail stores inside of boxes holding CDs. It was a time before widespread broadband and direct download services made purchases easy and games evergreen. In time, like all retail products, new boxes arrived and demanded shelf space. To those who hadn’t purchased LucasArts’ PC adventure game, Grim Fandango effectively disappeared.

Games Within Games Within Games by Oscar Strik at Evening of Light


The game criticism site Critical Distance has a feature called “Blogs of the Round Table” which basically suggests a topic for other blogs to write about (like a blogathon), and this time the theme was “Games within Games.” This was one of my favorite entries, about the games players create within games – either more challenging modes, like completing a stealth game without ever being seen (much less killing anyone), or role-playing games that stretch what the game is actually designed for. Some other interesting articles included this one on playing Skyrim as a pacifist, and this one on trying (and failing) to play RPGs as an evil character.

The guild had no shortage of other events, which is where the more typical game-within-a-game elements come forth. A guildhall meeting is a subgame of roleplay in itself, but we also took the opportunity to hold events like riddling contests and quizzes, quite in keeping with Tolkienian tradition of the host game, I’d say. The most elaborate subgame I took part in was a swimming contest, which took place in a tributary of the Brandywine River, between The Shire and Bree.* * Of course, I did not have the sound­ness of mind to keep any screen­shots of the event in case I ever wanted to write about it.Anyone who wanted to take part was sorted into a team: each swimmer could have up to two coaches, who would run alongside the course to cheer their swimmer on, and perhaps cast a speed-boosting spell or two. One character blowing a war horn signalled the start of the race, while a referee stood at the finish line. There was even a band of hunters to keep the area clear of wandering goblins: it wouldn’t do to let the host game ruin the party. To hold the swimming contest, the guild carved out a new temporary subgame space, working both with and against the area and the physical rules provided by the host game.

Ten Things People Once Complained Would Ruin the English Language by Lauren Davis at io9


First off, I love the Bayeux Tapestry appropriation. Second off, I love this reminder that people have always wanted those goshdarned youngsters to get off their lawns.

The complaints about the printing press when it was first introduced were numerous and wide-ranging. Johannes Trithemius thought that copying texts by hand built character and that the printing press was a threat to the monastic way of life. Many religious leaders feared its ability to disseminate heretical ideas.

William Caxton, who introduced the printing press to England, had to deal with a very particular problem when it came to printing: there was no one English language. A single word in English might have a dozen radically different spellings and pronunciations, and as soon as he started printing, Caxton received criticisms from people who felt that he wasn’t printing their version of English.

A Dismal Appraisal of Casual Gaming Crap and a Dire Warning by Colin Campbell at Polygon


Casual gaming, especially on mobile platforms, has been far too much about a race to the bottom, and this article does a nice job of pointing out the issues. I admit I’m part of the problem, but I’m definitely starting to get to the point where I’d rather pay a decent price for a game and not have to deal with insidious IAP.

I went to a casual gaming conference last year and, I kid you not, every single talk was about analytics, data, marketing and customer retention. Some speakers tipped their hat towards “product quality,” and “transparency,” but these are not the winning tactics in the brutal world of casual games.

People in the casual sector are starting to get seriously worried. Just take a look at the comments underneath the GamesIndustry story from executives and creators in the casual business, and you’ll see that a lot of people are annoyed.

Video of the Week

Nelson Carvajal puts together a retrospective of black actors’ Oscar-nominated performances. Pretty powerful stuff, and a great reminder that we need more of these guys doing more great roles. I’d love to see a female version of this, too.

Image of the Week

Infographic: Love DNA of Classic Novels. Another monster infographic, but a fun one.