Reading things

I noticed recently that I had unconsciously allowed my reading habits to slip, relegating books to subway commutes and the bedside. This had to change. Here’s a quick overview of the notables I’ve picked up since.

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Free-Scenario System

SaGa Frontier is perhaps the most Josh RPG I’ve ever played.

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An ending, indeed

I haven’t been writing much lately – a number of things, including but not limited to the worst instances of insomnia that I’ve experienced in my life yet, have left me frequently feeling just kinda tired and demoralized. But these things have also given me a renewed appreciation for the dumb, mindless escapism of video games, so let’s talk about that.

Specifically, Phantasy Star IV: The End of the Millennium.

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The Leger of Zeldo: Broth of the Wilde

The short answer is that, yeah, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is a great game. But on the question of whether it’s the ultimate Zelda game or the best game ever, or whathaveyou…

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Perchance to dream

Of course, having just described Akira Kurosawa as a great populist filmmaker I immediately turn my attention to one of his movies that very much does not fit that description – Akira Kurosawa’s Dreams, one of the last features he made, and probably the most opaque and esoteric of them. But what can I say? It’s a curiosity that I haven’t seen before.

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Spider’s Web Castle

When I made my most recent top ten movies list, I casually described Akira Kurosawa as the greatest filmmaker who ever lived. Which is ultimately something of a silly title – artists can and do use the medium for a variety of different, incommensurable ends. Even within the sphere of classic Japanese cinema of the 1950s and 60s, Kurosawa and someone like Yasujiro Ozu are so different that attempting to rank them is pointless.

But when it comes to movies as a crowd-pleasing, populist medium, I don’t think anyone did it as well, with as much formal perfection and intelligence, and with as much range as Kurosawa. To the extent that he was influenced by Hollywood, he typically improved upon it, such that it was only natural that Hollywood would then turn towards him for inspiration. Only he could have pulled off a movie like Spider’s Web Castle, better known in the west as Throne of Blood.

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In which I write about something topical and fun for once

Fourteen years later, The Incredibles still feels sui generis amidst the glut of superhero and 3D animated flicks. Its central premise about superheroes trying to live ordinary lives and raise a family would seem like fodder for gimmickry and broad humor, were it not that the family drama and marital strife depicted in it handled with a degree of seriousness and delicacy that still feels unique among popcorn flicks – especially animate ones ostensibly made for kids. That it also functions as a great superhero/spy movie on top of this just makes it better.

The bad news is that Incredibles 2 isn’t interested in expanding upon this in any incisive way; its attitude is one of just hanging out with characters you know and love for another couple of hours. Which isn’t exactly an unwelcome thing, but it does make it feel a tad less essential than the previous movie in its storytelling. This, however, matters a lot less than it seems, as Incredibles 2 is entirely necessary for other reasons.

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Mindless entertainment

Terence Malick may be my favourite American filmmaker. I’ve seen six of his scant eight movies, four of which I consider to be unassailable masterpieces that speak to me very personally, one of which is merely ok, and the last being a solid ?????. It’s a pretty impressive track record.

Anyway, I’m interested in talking about that ????? one, by which I mean 2015’s Knight of Cups. It got a pretty bad critical thrashing upon release, and I’m not yet sure if I’d even say that it’s a good movie. But it is a capital I Interesting movie, the kind where even the ways in which it goes wrong are kinda fascinating.

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Oh hey, this book is about as old as I am

As a kid, I read the first volume of Tad Williams’ Otherland series, and have memories of it being just this massive, epic tome I conquered over a long period of time. I’ve assumed that these memories were, of course, somewhat exaggerated, and that as a more seasoned adult reader, I’d likely find it a little more brisk.

But then I finally got around to reading another one of Williams’ works: The Dragonbone Chair, which is the first volume in his fantasy trilogy, Memory, Sorrow and Thorn (let’s call it MST). It turns out that the man is just in the habit of writing long-winded books.

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Yes, I am doing another top ten movies list

I think a big part of why I like talking about movies so much here is that they’re not related to my academic background, nor do I have any personal stake in them, so there’s a very loose, noncommittal feel to it. Also, while I’m on a steady diet of comics, but my enthusiasm for the medium more easily manifests itself in drawing comics rather than talking about them. Talking about movies right now feels more like a crutch for when inspiration is flagging, but when I still want my hands and mind to be productive.

As is the case right now. Anyway, I needed to figure out how Malick figured into things.

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