Sunday, 26 May 2019

What's so terrible about being beautiful?

Now 20 years old, you likely best know the Matrix as that film made by two trans women about a white male who shuts the heck up for a whole minute and lets a woman and a black man speak to him about their experiences of how the world works and their insights expand the white male's view of his own place in the world and how he has been manipulated by a vast mechanism which profits from his running in place like a hamster in a wheel.  Quite how this got co-opted by a bunch of whiny internet babies to explain why they weren't getting puss because of the shape of black people's skulls is anybody's guess - the internet is weird, you guys.
Did you know the "red pill" in the Matrix is red because estrogen pills were red in 1999?  Taking the red pill is a metaphor for listening to women's experiences, I guess, so now I am very confused what the alt-righters who bang on about feminism going too far are on about.  Agh.  I can't think about this right now, I'll watch the trilogy again and see how it holds up.
Still - 20 years?  Say It Ain't So!

I was also watching The Enemy Within*, a show that clearly has money spent on it but at no point did any of it get spent on an action director and so you have an actual scene where two grown ass men roll about on the floor tugging at each other's jackets while music went DUNDUNDUNDUN and I thought "oh no" but it was okay because after that was over I took a chance on Warrior, a period drama about a Chinese worker doing kung fu on the Irish in the 1870s and billing itself as "based on the writings of Bruce Lee" and it's a HOOT.  Best described as Gangs Of New York, but obviously on a tv budget and with kung fu and loads of swearing and gore and boobies, I'm not so crazy about a show that so willingly embraces anachronism pushing the whole "bisexuality means deviancy" angle, but then I guess you can't have everything.  It's been a while since I watched The Big Boss so can't speak to this being a remake of that, but the trappings seem familiar, and along with Into The Badlands, I'm doing alright for telly that knows how to do a decent action scene, so The Enemy Within ain't as big a drag as it otherwise might be, kind of like how you keep your marriage alive by seeing a 19 year old medical student on the QT.

* Well, I say "watching" but it is more accurate to say "catching up", which of course means I viewed multiple episodes in one sitting, which means okay dammit you have worn me down with your questions questions questions I watched 8 episodes in one go.  I would not recommend the experience.

Wednesday, 22 May 2019

I just said literally when I meant figuratively, like a crazy person

The culture wheel has turned since Runaways first appeared in comics form in 2002 wielding its open disdain for its own genre like an obnoxious teenager devoid of self-awareness in a bit of meta-commentary from creator Bryan K Vaughan that was sadly lost on the title's vocal online fanbase who - despite reading a superhero comic set in a superhero universe about people with superhero names and superpowers who fought supervillains - would regularly insist that "Runaways is not a superhero comic" even when the writer expressly wrote Spider-Man and Wolverine into the stories.  Runaways is a superhero comic, but part of its gag was that the characters didn't consider themselves superheroes despite doing all the things superheroes did, like fighting supervillains and vampires, traveling in time, battling shape-changing aliens, etc, and you would have to take an incredibly shallow surface reading of the material to not see any of this...
Anyway, the second season of Marvel's Runaways is not very good, which is my polite way of saying it is bad.
A below-average teen show with the word "Marvel's" bolted onto it, it's roughly 95% people talking or shouting at each other and then the other 5% is something happening in CGI or slow motion.  The straightforward originating premise of kids discovering their parents are supervillains so they Run Away from home has been convoluted with unnecessary backstories for characters who worked best as archetypes, an approach that just serves to reinforce that there are no new ideas in play*, and somehow, despite the sometimes-laughable lengths that the makers have gone to in order to divorce the show from anything vaguely superhero-y, the characters often just look outright ridiculous in a way they wouldn't if they were dressed in modern superhero outfits.
The superhero genre has been  rehabilitated since the Runaways comics first landed, and not only have all the things that made it unique since become standard, but we've had 7 years of a tv show about Green Arrow, which has spun off four years of the Flash, three years of Legends of Tomorrow, and will shortly be joined by a Batwoman series that will be showing alongside the third season of Supergirl, while in cinemas, Marvel have to date made 22 films and roughly 30 billion dollars, and spun off Agents of Shield, Daredevil, Jessica Jones, The Punisher, Iron Fist, Luke Cage, and Agent Carter tv shows.  This would, by any objective evaluation, be the absolute worst time to base a tv show on the idea that superheroes as a concept are stupid and lame - and yet here Runaways comes anyway, peddling its shame at its own genre like Smallville was still a thing.
And what's with the synthwave OST?

It's a genre utilised in evoking the 1980s, but how does that relate to a television show about the post-millennial generation?  I could postulate about how it might be a means to reference the decade that spawned the media which provided the inspiration for the original comics, or suggest that it's a means to channel the post-internet world where all media is available to be consumed at all times and thus genres become meaningless and children pine for the artifacts of cultures that lived and died before they were born but really, I think we all know that's a stretch and it's far more likely it's just a stylistic choice that has no meaning beyond its current and likely fleeting appeal, which is as goo a paradigm for this show as any.  I am implying that Runaways is bad television.
Let's face it, though: if it was good I wouldn't be watching it because I apparently only like dreadful tv.
It does, however, meet the high standards demanded of 13 year old television viewers - by which I mean characters occasionally say the word "hashtag" and the nerd character says something related to Star Wars - but I admire the show's commitment to the rejection of binaries both in its diverse casting, and in its firmly and oft-affirmed belief that the show doesn't have to suck or blow and can, in fact, do both at once.

* Worse still, existing characters from the comics are expanded upon to become what can only be described as racist stereotypes, with the most obvious example being all the black characters having links to gang culture and crime, or the only Asian characters facing off in a martial arts battle, or the only Latino character defeating an opponent by speaking Spanish - and no, I am not making that up.

Monday, 6 May 2019

You have borne your sorrow well. I will not forget you.

8 Mile is a vehicle for the once-popular pop singer Emineminem, and it reminded me of the denouement of Patrice Lecont's Ridicule in which GrĂ©goire Ponceludon denounces the arrogant presumption of the court of Versailles that they are the heirs of Voltaire, as for all their disdain for the illusion of civility and their use of competing insults in lieu of open violence, they do not possess Voltaire's compassion.  Sickened by the decadence and corruption, Ponceludon takes his leave of the court and it is shortly thereafter destroyed in a popular revolution, and while the opulent trappings of American culture serve as a lure for the fame-hungry Emineminem, ultimately they serve only to obscure that the desperate elevation of caustic repartee is but one of many distractions from the crumbling of an empire, Emineminem's Jimmy T Rabbit finding solace and comfort in neither their pursuit nor their acquisition.
Sexual conquests are meaningless, the defeat of social superiors in battles of wits are hollow no matter how the crowd may chant his name, and in his moment of supposed triumph he renounces his victory and alights into the darkness a lonely man as the actor who portrays him mocks the character's existence with a fictionalised recounting of his own rags-to-riches story set to music, all notions of identity and purpose revealed as constructed, empty theater.
In many ways, the "rap battle" culture of 8 Mile's 1995 Detroit is an analogue of the decline of discourse in the West, made as it was in 2002 and prophesying the humor of Family Guy, Brooklyn 99 or Deadpool in that what the audience has been conditioned to crave and expect is not exquisitely-constructed jokes and their punchline payoffs, but to see which unlikeable character can say the most transgressive thing at any given time, a trend seen as admirable and good in the realm of "old" media, but as somehow terrible in the realms of social media where attention is now acknowledged as the only truly viable currency. Objectively speaking, it cannot be said that this is a culture that seeks or rewards worth but which instead needs immediate gratification, and in 8 Mile, the lead character achieves all of his ambitions and indulges all of his immediate desires and is ultimately left unfulfilled, so it feels like we've had adequate warning from history about spectacle, but now instead of heeding it, we make the warning just another part of the distraction and it washes across us, unheeded, as our societies seek immediate rewards in their entertainments and in their politics seek out similar short-term gratification in acts of self harm like electing a racist president or voting to leave a mostly-beneficial cultural union.
Faced with the life of hollow decadence that is his reward, Eminimemem chooses to walk away.  Would that this were an option for the rest of us.

I also watched Arctic, in which Mads Mikkelson encounters a polar bear but they don't have a fight.  I think my feelings on the matter of not having a fist fight with a polar bear have been adequately established over the years, so I will leave it at that.

Wednesday, 1 May 2019

I don't WANT to go out and have fun

Why yes the flu was terrible and the recovery was somehow even worse, thank you for asking.
Stuffed up in bed unable to put one foot in front of the other for a week or two, I did have time to catch up with my much-neglected gaming habit, however, and in the course of playing Days Gone I sometimes felt that explaining to kids nowadays that we used to have black and white tvs that had screens smaller than the one on their laptop and yet weighed a ton and were huge and bulky and on them we played Jet Set Willy makes us sound like one of the Yorkshiremen from the Monty Python sketch, and yet my takeaway from the underwhelming Days Gone is to think of the technology of the 8-bit era and remember that no matter how laughably clunky and low-resolution it was, you could at least read the flipping text onscreen without a magnifying glass.  TVs have never been bigger and yet somehow onscreen text has never been smaller.

The point I rage-quit this turkey came when I encountered my first "destructible barrier" and how to deal with it was not explained with an in-game tutorial but in tiny, tiny text that flashed onscreen for roughly 3 seconds before disappearing forever, so now I don't know how to deal with that in-game problem unless I load an earlier save, navigate back to that spot, then either sit with my head less than a foot away from my 39 inch smart tv (I usually sit five feet away from it) and hope that this time I can read the instructions when they appear, or I can take a screenshot, quit to the console dashboard, open the capture gallery, look at the screenshot and try to read the instructions there - but even that's not a given method of success because of the PS4's terrible multimedia options that Sony designed it to have on purpose so as to make you use (paid-for) streaming services for media on the console instead of just viewing your existing (already paid-for) media stored on the internal HD, so the PS4's native image viewer doesn't have a zoom function.
And then there's the controls: for some reason you have to hold down buttons instead of just tapping them if you want to do something like pick things up or interact with the environment, which combined with the brief animations results in confusion as to whether or not you've actually done what you wanted to do, which was a feature I didn't like in Assassin's Creed: Odyssey, which changed the way you looted the environment from the previous game - Assassin's Creed: Origins - from simply hitting the triangle button to holding it down for some (but not all) looting interactions.
Buggy, undertested, possessed of story that is so aggressively banal and uninteresting that it may as well be terrible, and undercooked combat mechanics that just draw your attention to the fact that this isn't The Last Of Us, a game that it clearly wants to be yet whose many strengths Days Gone does not seem to be familiar with, primary among them being The Last Of Us' simple and responsive controls transplanted from a combat game to the then-aging survival horror genre still obsessed with the tank control system developed in the 1990s for games with pre-rendered backgrounds and a fixed camera.  But the most disappointing thing the game fails to transplant from The Last Of Us is a laughably overambitious story director who might have made something of the futility at the heart of the main characters of the game, two ex-bikers who cling desperately to outdated notions of masculinity not because it serves them well in a post-apocalyptic world but because the game story just doesn't have any original ideas or interesting ways to execute what it lifts from other sources - it even has your grizzled biker hero rescuing his girl from rapey rednecks in a flashback.  There is plenty of grist for the mill here, but no-one seems interested in exploring it so the cut scenes - which require lengthy loading times, naturally - just drag on forever and never tell you anything important that you can't glean from the slightly messy story/inventory screens.

Aaaaanyway, this rambling review is basically building up to me saying I did not like this game, but on balance, it was mostly more enjoyable then being bed-ridden... up to a point, and then it wasn' I watched Robot Jox on Netflix again instead.