Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Dream Act fails but "Don't Ask/Don't Tell" is repealed...

It's rare I get political on HYR - it's a review site after all (66% of the time) but I feel that I have to put down my thoughts after reading the news today.  There will inevitably be some soapboxing about issues I do not have the full facts about nor have I followed every piece of news because it doesn't directly impinge on my day to day existence.  What can I say?  I'm an average American.

The Dream Act, which would have given illegal immigrant youth the ability to gain citizenship through either a college education or military service, did not pass in the Senate today.  I had not heard of the DREAM Act before a few days ago but I thought it was a perfectly reasonable idea and when I read about it for the first time I said to myself, "Finally the Government has figured out that what I've been saying for years makes sense.  Good thing I kept that thought recording chip in my head."  I joke but for quite some time I have been soapboxing about how to solve the "illegal immigrant" problem - to paraphrase Starship Troopers "Service Equals Citizenship".  The volunteer American Armed Forces have, over the last decade, have had a difficult time meeting quotas.  Since I am not El Jefe of the United States I cannot incorporate my idea of good old fashioned penal legions (which, historically have been some of the most bad-ass dudes around) but I was -and am - a strong proponent of what would become the Dream Act.  And why not?  Immigrants still believe in the fabled American Dream - a concept a good cross-section of the American population scoff at.  I'm not saying that immigrants are naive and silly for believing in what our country once stood for, I'm saying that immigrants still believe that America is the Land of Opportunity - otherwise why would they risk life and limb and leave their families behind to come here?

FDR's Good Neighbor Policy and the Farm Security Administration (FSA) and the establishment of an immigrant population is a topic I would like to research further because I'd like to understand the impact this New Deal program and FDR's administrations policies have had on current events.  I realize that sounds like a thesis statement and there are probably a pile of research papers and academics texts asshole deep to an adult giraffe but these are important issues to consider.  In reading the news (or admittedly scanning the headlines and reading the news that interests me) it seems that the concept of a Good Neighbor Policy went out the window with the Cold War.  But I digress.

So, the Dream Act.  Give immigrants the opportunity to better themselves and in turn better our nation.  That's the gist of the Act right?  Sounds pretty reasonable to me.  Take care of people and their families, give them a safe port in the storm, honest pay for honest work, and a chance to make better lives for themselves.  Call me naive but isn't that what decent human beings do and by reason (A government by and for the People) their elected officials should strive for?  Isn't common decency towards your fellow man the cornerstone of most major religions?  Aren't the basic Ten Commandments about not being an asshole (okay I have a problem with Thou Shalt Not Worship Any Other God But Me and a couple of others but the basics, Don't kill people, Don't steal, Don't fuck your neighbor's wife...those are pretty solid givens.  Y'know laws and rules are made for a reason and usually because the rule didn't exist before and therefore needed to be implemented.  That being said Old Testament times were batshit crazy)?  Aren't we a Christian nation (more or less - that's what FOX and the 700 Club told me)?

Maybe the Senate Republicans didn't want more gay immigrants in the Armed Forces.  You'd think that some of those Senators didn't know ferocious some of the Latin trannies can be.  I bet some of those Senators have some lady boys set up in apartments in Rosslyn.  The Senators should know those bitches will cut you.  Amusing scenario: Lady Boy on coke vs fundamentalist insurgent - "Bitch I know you dinnit point that AK at me.  Gimme that shit.  Bitch, I will cut you."

God forbid we get some hard ass Latinas in the Armed Forces.  Haven't any of those Senators seen Aliens?  Vasquez has got a bigger set of huevos than I will ever have.  Fuck that - how about some hardcase ladies who like ladies?  I mean paladins for women's rights...with the US military might backing them up.  Female genital mutilation?  Yeah that shit would be over.

A historical point, once upon a time was a waste of semen to be with a woman (I'm talking about Greeks, Romans, and Samurai).  Women were for breeding and taking care of the homestead.  Only non-military men (kids, old folks, pussweeds and shit shovellers) stayed at home to tend the home fires.  Manly men only loved other manly men and after they were doing manly man stuff they had manly man sex.

All joking aside, I view the repeal of DADT as a good thing.  I hadn't realized that it had only been established seventeen years ago.  To me if an American citizen is willing to potentially put their lives on the line, no matter what their race/creed/color/social status/economic bracket, (this goes for police, fire fighters, EMTs, and any civil servant who does their civic duty in a time of crisis as well) then who gives a shit?

My sentiment is that right now, at this juncture of American history, we have the opportunity to elevate ourselves from mundane bullshit like whether or not a person feels emotional and physical feelings towards a member of their same sex (and could get married).   As far as immigrants go I feel that the United States should support and encourage immigration anyway we can.  Education opportunities?  Roles in our military?  Programs that provide living wages and opportunities for personal growth?  Yes to all three.  In some ways it's a starting point to making America great again, being that shining beacon on the hill, and making up for our Cold War policies which have fucked us in the ass over the last decade.

Erotic Grotesque Ultraviolent Japanimation (and a few others): a brief retrospective 1986-1998

These films and hence this retrospective = NSFW.  Additionally, if you dislike movies which might potentially make you physically or mentally ill I suggest avoiding them (except Akira but even that might freak you out).  These movies will warp your fragile little minds.

Once upon a time, before the American manga/anime boom in the early-mid aughts and upswell in wall scroll bedecked millenials clamoring for Avatar, Naruto, Bleach, and One Piece and wretched "emo" Americanized yaoi, and when Japanime was still Japanime, you had hardcore violent, sexual deviant, perverted, bizarre, questionable (by Western standards) morals, BDSM, Nazis, demons, BDSM Nazi Demons, psychotic heroes, psychotic villians, and gore and nudity and gore and tentacles.  This ain't no Miyazaki touchy feely bullshit about earth spirits and healing nature or flying pigs (though Catbus in My Neighbour Totoro is really fuckin creepy).  This was splatterpunk, balls to the wall mental shit, and I loved it.  Here are some my personal favorites, in no particular order from the heyday of animated filth flarn filth.
  • Legend of the Overfiend (1988)  I still remember the first time I saw this in '95(?) at a friend's house.  None of us had seen it before and it had come as a recommendation from a video store clerk.  Let's just put it this way - none of us had seen tentacle rape before or even seen most of what was going on in the movie.  The level of violence and horrific sexual violence is beyond pornographic.  This is things you can't unsee shit.  AND WE LOVED IT.  That night we ended up watching it twice in a row.  I haven't seen it since after I moved to Austin and got obsessed with Japanese cinema and animation but I remember enjoying it but not as much as the first time. 
  • La Blue Girl (1992)  Hentai, plain and simple, with hot chick sex ninja demon hunters who bang demons to death.  Smut, filth, garbage, so awesome. 
  • Battle Angel Alita (1993)  Now Alita is a different story than the previous two entries because there no sex but some brilliant action, plot, setting, and characters.  It's also a very dark and in some respects bleak movie.  Out of this list, this film is the friendliest (non-tentacle rape-y that is) but the level of violence might freak out some faint hearts.
  • Ninja Scroll (1993) I LOVE NINJA SCROLL.  It is certainly in my top three faves on this list.  Ninja Scroll, man talk about a fucking epic classic.  It's got everything.  Ninjas, demons, an immortal bad guy, a snake chick, political intrigue, lots of violence, sex, violence, hordes of ninjas, and now I want to watch it right now.  I can't give away the plot or my favorite parts because if you haven't seen it - go pick up the DVD.
  • Wicked City (1987)  The movie I usually double feature with Ninja Scroll for similar characters and parallel themes.  Wicked City is creepier than Ninja Scroll, with a mean misogynistic lean (almost all of these movies are rife with misogynist themes and tones - except Battle Angel Alita), there's a spider woman with vagina dentata (who is actually frightening and awesome), and some really twisted concepts.  Wicked City is not the action cheerfest that Ninja Scroll is but is well deserving of being on this list.
  • Fist of the North Star (1986) and Doomed Megalopolis (1991) are "classic" anime from this era but I'm not a huge fan.  Initially, when I was building this list, I thought I liked them and then I remembered that I didn't enjoy them.  They are still must-see if you're serious about your Japanimation.
  • Akira (1988) Classic.  The remastered version with a new English dub sucks.  Japanese is the way to go but I recommend finding a copy of the original dub.  The English dub is actually really good.  Akira, yup nothing I can say about it that hasn't already been said.
  • 3x3 Eyes (1991) Demons.  Fan service.  "Yokomo they've got the statue!" 
  • Anything by Go Nagai from Violence Jack (1986) to New Cutey Honey (1994).  Go Nagai, man, there was a time I would watch anything with name Go Nagai slapped on it.  He's the perverted Japanese Russ Meyers.  I prefer Kekko Kamen (legendary panty mask) myself - a superheroine who wears her panties as a mask an stuns Nazis with her vagina.  No seriously, her glowing vagina stuns them and then Kekko Kamen breaks their necks with her thighs.
  • Plastic Little (1994) one of the funnier and more "traditional" space trader adventure with some bouncy bouncy thrown in for good measure.
Now these are just a few of the Japanese animated features I enjoy.  I only really rewatch Ninja Scroll and Wicked City and the films of Satoshi Kon.  My taste in anime shifted as the market shifted - I don't go out of my way to dig through endless episodes of series though I have some on my queue.  I keep my ear to the ground for feature films but haven't hear of anything grand.  Oh well, maybe I can revisit these twisted gems and view them from a new perspective.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Every once in a while...

I try to write to fiction but it always ends up being everything I want to say or am too afraid to say or too afraid of people reading.  And as I suck down another Champagne of Beer and worry my pipe and keep turning up the volume on Dylan my fingers falter, nails two weeks uncut I don't and can't type the way I normally do.

I'm worried that the fiction, the caricature, the lyrics of Mama, You Been on My Mind, the dregs of my last six beers, the failed flirtations with Millienials, and dredging monetary karmic debt...

And I'm amazed it's only 9PM CST.

My nails are too long and I need a haircut though I brushed my hair tonight and I had to smile at the way I looked.  I'm not abhorrent to look at but I couldn't look myself in the eye.

Valhalla Rising (2009) Dir Nicholas Winding Refn

I'm gonna say it and you heard it here first folks!  Vikings are the new pirates.

However Valhalla Rising is not going to be a high water mark on the resurgence of Vikings in pop culture.  Refn's film is too bleak, too dark (literally, the film is very dark and washed out), too slow, and thematically/philosophically/intellectually meandering to really capture mass appeal.  My movie buddy said she felt sick while watching it (not because of violence - she's a gorehound).  Valhalla Rising is an art film and if it weren't for the brilliant action, cinematography (never has Scotland looked colder or wetter than in this movie), pacing (of the first half of the movie), and Mads Mikkelsen's silent protagonist the movie would have been a total snooze-fest.

Mads Mikkelsen and the level of psychotic violence his character can dish out really kept me watching.  In some ways he (and the film) reminded me of some of the chambara films I have seen.  Mikkelsen plays "One-Eye" a country-less, nameless, silent force of violent nature.  In the first half of the movie he is either caged or kept in chains or at the end of a rope, he barely moves or even registers the slightest emotion on his face in his eye.  But when he is pitted against other fighters he's terrifying.  He crushes his opponents - in one case he smashes the brains out of a fallen foe with a rock.  As the film progresses though and One-Eye gains his freedom, Mikkelsen allows some subtle expressions play across his face and it's a true testament to his skill as an actor at he can convey emotion and thought with only one eye (without any need for melodrama or tears or going moon eyed).

If you're a fan of Herzog (especially Aguirre, Wrath of God -1972) or Skandinavian and Japanese slow-paced actioners you might want to check it out.  I'd be interested in your thoughts and responses to Valhalla Rising.

Babysitter Wanted (2008) Dir. Jonas Barnes

I read a review somewhere of Babysitter Wanted though I can't remember where or when.  However I watched it last night and I was actually surprised at how good it was.  That being said it is in no way as good as Ti West's House of the Devil (2009) but they would make for a great double feature.

Babysitter Wanted is a horror movie about you guess it - a babysitter in danger.  What set this one apart from the standard teen scream fare was: the decent writing (though there are some absurd plot holes), the action - while this is a splatter pic, the really hardcore gore is either just out of frame, obscured in shadow, or only heard (which in someways is worse), Bruce Thomas out Bruce Campbells Bruce Campbell as Jim Stanton, Kai Kaster is awesome as the son Sam Stanton, and Sarah Thompson (who played Eve on Angel) was a pretty kick ass heroine (though she's about ten years older than her protagonist is supposed to be).  The movie isn't high art or the best horror movie ever made but it certainly is better than your standard fare these days.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Clive Barker's Lord of Illusions (1995) Dir. Clive Barker

Watched this movie for the first time in a month of Sundays, and truth be told I don't I think I'd ever seen it in it's entirety.  I used to be a huge Clive Barker fan (particularly Everville and Imagica) but over the years I stopped reading his books.  As far as the movies he directed I only really enjoyed Hellraiser and even then I think I'm more of a fan of Hellraiser II.  So I wasn't expecting much at all from Lord of Illusions - in fact I expected it to pretty much suck.  I was mistaken, Lord of Illusions was actually pretty good.  Creepy and gory (borderline ero-guro) in that way only Clive Barker used to be able to do - this mid-90s horror flick is pretty solid.  Sure the CGI effects are pretty dated (not as bad as Altered States but still amazingly crude by today's standards) but the good old fashion gore and splatter is still wince inducing.  The movie is solidly constructed, written, acted (surprisingly Scott Bakula was pretty good), and though Famke Janssen kept her clothes on she was still stunning.

What was kind of funny is the person I watched it with was only familiar with Barker's young adult novel Abarat.  I guess that, for me, Clive Barker was such a well known name - what with Hellraiser being released in 1987, The Books of Blood, Barker's name on Candyman (1992), The Great and Secret Show, Everville, and my favorite dark fantasy epic Imagica.  Hell, Barker was excellent when it came to splatterpunk (one of the best) and I read a shit ton of splatterpunk in its heyday (1987-1995).

I really had a good time watching Lord of Illusions and was pleasantly surprised.  It's not as good as some horror releases from the mid-90s but it's definitely one of the better ones. 

Upcoming reviews from HYR:

Was just trying to organize my netflix queue for instant download since you can now have just a streaming account - about fucking time in my book - for about six bucks a months, unlimited viewing.  In any case I am gonna stack up some gems and hopefully have a good bumper crop of reviews over the holiday break.  Here some highlights and movies I'm looking forward to watching:

  • Blood into Wine a docu about former Tool frontman Maynard opening up his own vineyard.  Potentially pretty good.
  • Valhalla Rising (2009) Mads Mikkelsen stars in this Viking/supernatural/horror/action movie.  Why wouldn't I want to see this?  I really hope this doesn't disappoint.
  • The Good, The Bad, the Weird (2008) a Korean weird Western set in the Manchurian desert.  I'm in for a penny.
  • Whispering Corridors (1998)  I'm looking forward to this late 90s (now classic) Korean murder mystery about a new teacher investigating the "suicides" of students.  At least it won't have most of the tired tropes that ended up plaguing Asian horror cinema of the 00s (hopefully).
  • Sweet Land (2005) A quiet period piece set in the 1920s about Scandinavians in Minnesota.
  • Alix Lambert's The Mark of Cain (2000) a docu about Russian prison tattoos.
There are also a truckload of other movies but nothing really worth writing home about.

Don't tell Mom the baby sitter is a psycho pervert: My favorite evil nanny/babysitter horror movies

Last night I watched the made-for-cable gem The Sitter (2007).  It wasn't particularly great but it wasn't particularly awful either, on a scale of one to ten I'd give it a 5.5 or 6.  The basic premise is - and there are no spoilers because if you've seen one movie like this you've seen them all - lonely psychotic young woman worms her way into a nice upper middle class family's house, psychologically manipulates the family members in an attempt to replace the wife, ends up murdering a bunch of people, ends up dying.  Personally I'd love to see one of these movies where the psycho ends up winning in the end.  But while watching The Sitter I remembered that for a brief period of time there were a rash of evil babysitter/nanny movies so I'd thought I'd try to highlight my favorites or ones that I have always wanted to see.

  1. The best of the bunch is undeniably Curtis Hanson's The Hand That Rocks the Cradle (1992) with Rebecca De Mornay at the height of her hotness and crazy-ness.  Not just at the top of the evil nanny in our midst heap but also one of my favorite early 90s suspense/thrillers (a.k.a. rich white people in danger - if it's poor people it's a horror movie).
  2. The Guardian (1990) dir William Friedkin.  I never got to see this movie which is a shame because I love William Friedkin movies (The Exorcist, Sorcerer, The French Connection, To Live and Die in LA).  Additionally this movie is unavailable on netflix, which is kind of a drag because now I really want to watch it.
  3. Don't Tell Mom the Babysitter is Dead (1991) dir Stephen Herek.  I don't know how this hold up because I have seen it since the 90s.  I really enjoyed the movie but then again it might have just be my love for Christina Applegate.
Huh, this is turning out harder than I thought.  I know there are more evil babysitter movies than this.  I was going to include Poison Ivy but that's just a stranger in our midst movie.  Any of you fine folks remember any gems?

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Citizen Kane (1941) Dir. Orson Welles

Many times I watch a movie and wonder, "Why isn't this a classic?"  Normally the movie in question is an obscure genre piece from the 1970s that most people today have never seen - e.g. Report to the Commissoner (1975).  Sometimes I watch a movie and wonder, "Why is this a classic?" - e.g. Alejandro Jodorowsky's El Topo (1970), Andrey Tarkovsky's Solaris (1972), Akira Kurosawa's Dreams (1990), or It's A Wonderful Life Frank Capra (1946).  Welles' Citizen Kane is a movie I understand and recognize as a very important piece of American cinema but frankly the movie leaves me...shrugging and wanting more and frankly wondering what the big deal is about Orson Welles.

I have to say that I've seen Citizen Kane several times, especially when growing up.  My father took me to a revival theater to see it back in the 1980s.  At the same theater I had seen noir classics served up as double features and had a deep love of Bogie and Bacall, Lorre and the Fat Man, and even loved Widmark though he scared the shit out of me.  Hell, thanks to my father and grandfather I had seen Triumph of the Will (1935) - as a follow up to a UHF airing of World at War.  So when I was a kid I loved Citizen Kane.  I certainly didn't pick up on some of the details that my film professor pointed out but growing up I was a big fan of Welles.

Now, nearly two decades since I had seen Citizen Kane in it's entirety - until today - I must say that I am not impressed.  If I was going to be snarky I would say that Welles was the Tarantino of his day.  A gross sweeping generalization but at the core I think that statement has merit - a subject for another article.  Kane is an amazing piece of American cinema but not because of Welles (certainly the man influenced every aspect of the film) but because of cinematographer Gregg Toland, composer Bernard Herrmann, editor Robert Wise, and Mel Burns' make-up department.  Citizen Kane is brilliantly shot, lit, scored, acted, dressed, recorded, and written.  In some ways I wish that I could have seen a stage production of Kane by these men instead of their movie.  

But I was bored and I'm not sure why I was bored.  Maybe it's the same reason Olivier's Hamlet (1948) makes me want to claw out my eyes or why the majority of Jim Jarmusch movies fill me with an urge to dig for, study, and eat my boogers.  In all honesty, I think Kane is so frightfully dull is because of Welles.  Not as director, writer, or iconoclast but he's kind of a shite actor.  Don't get me wrong, Welles is a brilliant Harry Lime and Hank Quinlan but as Kane he just is...frankly...pretty lacklustre.  Every time Welles was on screen he was outshone by the Mercury Theater cadre.  The search for the truth about Charles Foster Kane is more compelling than anything involving Kane on screen.  In the confrontation with James W. Gettys (Ray Collins) Welles just doesn't deliver the on screen impact that Collins does.  Joseph Cotton is brilliant in his role at C.F. Kane's old friend and Cotton brings out aspects of his character that I had never seen (or been able to understand during previous viewings) before.

However, Welles does have one shining moment as an actor.  The building audio/visual cuts leading up to his bombastic speech and the way he delivers his campaign speech is brilliant.  Maybe it's the remastered cut of Bailey Fesler and James G. Stewart's sound design but Kane's speech has an amazing reverberation and resonance.  During this scene Welles is projecting to the balcony and he sells it.  Fuck, I would have voted for him.

While watching Citizen Kane I kept thinking about Paul Thomas Anderson's There Will Be Blood (2007) and comparing the two.  Lewis' Daniel Plainview is a magnate through strength of will - with a heavy dose of psychosis.  Welles' Kane is a magnate through charisma - with a heavy dose of...I do not know...narcissistic Freudian issues?  Charles Foster Kane is a pathetic creature where as Plainview is simply, and ultimately, a monster.  Perhaps this is what Welles was going for, not an "absolute power corrupts absolutely" but more of a tragic Shakespearean (Lear not Richard III) character.

Interesting that in the course of writing this review I want to watch Citizen Kane again just to make sure I didn't miss anything which, in the end, causes me to dislike the movie.  Unlike There Will Be Blood, Kane  does not grab me by the lapels and shake me but unlike There Will Be Blood I'm not attempting to analyse why I did or did not like the film.

Maybe, and this may sound a bit obtuse, but that's what makes a great piece of cinema (or art or literature).  You might hate it and want to rub the offending object on your nether-regions but what you saw evoked a response, and more importantly and vital, an intellectual exercise.  I know that sounds trite but how many times (or how easy is it) have you or I dismissed things out of hand?  I pissed and bitched and moaned about having to watch Citizen Kane however I feel that I've taken something away from the movie, and, really, when it comes down to it...ain't that what movies are about and the reason we keep watching them?


Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Reviews! Waxwork (1988) and Centurion (2010)

Waxwork (1988) was one of those movies that when I was a kid I saw the box for it at the video store and was fascinated by the cover and tag line, "Stop on by and give the afterlife a try." I finally saw it, probably when I was twelve or so and the movie really creeped me out.  There are a couple of scenes from that movie that have stuck with me since then so when I saw that Waxwork was available for download I knew I had to rewatch it.

This movie is awesome!  It's one of those movies that you watch and think, "Only during the 80s could this movie have been made."  It's nuts and you just have to go along with it, the movie is just too fun and bizarre not to go all out with.  There's gore, weird sexual themes, David Warner, the dude who played James Hurley in Twin Peaks, the dude from Gremlins, nudity, gore, and an ending that has to be seen to be believed.  Now I'm not a fan of camp or most cult movies but Waxwork is just too much fun to ignore.  Hell I might add it to the Saturday afternoon movie roster.

Centurion (2010) is Neil Marshall's (Dog Soldiers, The Descent, Doomsday) newest pulpy actioner with buckets of claret splashed around, Scotland, and squads of grizzled guys doing kick-ass grizzled guy stuff.  It's also my least favorite of Marshall's films.  I still enjoyed it and will probably pick it up if I see it on sale but it really seemed to lack the spark of his other films.  The dynamic of the squad was lacking and kind of poorly developed - especially in comparison to Dog Soldiers or The Descent - which is a shame because I think that's one of Marshall's strengths as a writer.  The action is still solid though, with some wince inducing kills, the writing ain't bad, and when the chips are down Marshall still cranks out a solid action movie even the genre seems to be faltering these days.  Definitely worth seeing but run out and buy ten copies...not so much - though I recommend Dog Soliders as a Christmas gift for anyone who likes action/horror/werewolf movies, it's really the best werewolf movie ever made.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Thoughts after class today, in no particular order:

The lecture I attended today focused on how America and Americans dealt with the Vietnam conflict.  A vast topic that unfortunately was limited by time to one lecture.  I'm going to attempt to put down some thoughts (hopefully I can write a more cohesive article soon for HYR).

  • I was born in 1977 and in a certain respect grew up during the time period when America was trying to come to grips with Vietnam; politically, socially, and culturally.  What's interesting is being able to look back and recognize moments in my early years that, at the time, I had no idea what was going on or if I did I was too young to understand the significance of events.  Some of the important series of events for me were 
    • The bring 'em home movies of the early/mid 1980s - Rambo: First Blood Part II (1985), Missing in Action (1984), 
    • Vietnam vets are nutcases movies, Lethal Weapon (1987), Blind Fury (1989), 
    • Oliver Stone's Vietnam trilogy
    • the building of the Vietnam Memorial (1982)
    • POW/MIA bumper stickers and flags
    • Tour of Duty (1987-1990)
    • an Uncle telling me about his experiences in Vietnam
    • the first time I saw Apocalypse Now
    • Full Metal Jacket (1987)
    • Stanley Karnow's PBS Vietnam series
    • 'Nam - the comic book
    • The CIA is evil movies
    • Air America (1990)
    • growing up with Dad and Grandpa being military history nuts and movie nuts
    • the collapse of the Soviet Union
  • I realize that most of those influences are from Hollywood or TV but then again I think that's the way it was for a lot of my generation (and the generations that follow and maybe Americans in general).  However, Vietnam is shifting into ancient history.  Hell it seems to me that people think anything pre-9/11 is ancient history.
  • In the last decade I have read a fair amount and watched more than a fair amount of documentaries about the Vietnam conflict, Vietnamese culture, and want to learn more about the country's history of invasion and how it dealt with invaders.  That might be key to helping me understand the nature of the conflict and why America was doomed from the start in Indochina.
    • The armchair historian that I will forever be strongly believes that if the United States had supported Ho Chi Minh in 1945 (hell another example of the US training and supplying insurgent forces - in this case by the OSS to combat the Japanese and Vichy in Indochina - and then discarding them  when they were no longer useful and then suffering the consequences) and been able to keep Charles de Gaulle's lunacy in check then the United States could have - in theory - created a bastion of pro-US support in the region.  Thus doing so could have prevented decades of needless chaos and bloodshed (not only in Vietnam but Laos, Cambodia, and Burma).  
      • In January 1944, in a memo to Sec. of State Cordell Hull, FDR wrote "The case of Indo-China is perfectly clear,  France has milked it for one hundred years.  The people of Indo-China are entitled to something better than that."  The Vietnam Declaration of Independence written by Ho Chi Minh (September 1945) cites and extols the virtues of our own United States Constitution.  How different things could have been.
  • Conspiracy theory time!
    • Did JFK step up American involvement in Vietnam because he was was Ngo Dinh Diem?!?  Dun dun dun!  Where's Glenn Beck and his chalk board when we need them?
I think that there might be some coherent points in there some where, though as to which and where I'm not sure.  Maybe I'll just write a massive tome about the history of Quang Ngai province or if I wanted to be a real egghead - the historiography of the Indochina conflicts...but that's probably been done.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Faery - Legends of Avalon (2010) Focus Home Interactive

So it's that time of year when I've played through most of the games I wanted to play and start digging through the catalog of XBOX Live games and DLCs.  Last night I was wading through demos, some good, some not so good but I stumbled across Faery - Legends of Avalon from Parisian indie designer Focus Home Interactive.  I downloaded the demo and I have to admit that I am kind of charmed and impressed at this little release.  It's a well done classic turn based RPG with a 3 member party system, elemental magic, minimal inventory management, and a "get to the root of the problem" story arc filled with step'n'fetch and puzzle quests along the way.  It's not ground-breaking and it's probably not going to wow a lot of fans of shit that blows up or fans of jabbing plastic instruments with their pudge paws but for fans of classic non-JRPG styled games it certainly fits the bill.

The basic premise is Avalon, ruled by Oberon, is fading as modern man forgets and disrespects the magic of the Old Ways.  The player character is awoken from stasis within a crystal to find out if there is anyway to salvage the realm.  The adventure begins.

Four things really work for me while I've been playing Faery:

  1. The art design is brilliant from NPC to level to monsters.  There's a very clever and understated Brian Froud-esque quality to the characters - vaguely menacing and ugly though, in some cases amusingly adorable.  My favorite character so far is Grim who looks like a cross between the Artful Dodger and Jacob Marley.  
  2. This is one of the rare games that I would let children play but I would enjoy playing with them.  Hell I think the text based speech would be fun to read out loud to a kid, especially since each character has their own style of dialogue.
  3. Though the levels initially seem small the ability to fly from the beginning of the game creates an excellent illusion of scale.  The second level (based around Ygdrassil) was a lot of fun simply because of  zooming through the leaves and branches of the tree exploring.  I am currently on the Flying Dutchman but have yet to explore it.
  4. Just because this might be a game I approve for children doesn't mean it's for slack jawed troglodytes.  In fact many of the jokes are only funny if you know anything about mythology and folk tales (no Greco-Roman bullshit either) or 16th-Century French literature (okay I had to wiki one joke in the game to understand it, I think it's a funny joke - now that I get it - but you won't).  It's nice to play something that intellectually amuses as well.
I expect the game to top out at maybe 12-14 hours of gameplay but for the low price point I'm over-joyed at the experience.  Faery is like a meal at a fancy French restaurant.  You may be disappointed by the tiny portions at first but the meal is so delicious and filling and satisfying.

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