Sunday, 28 July 2019

I don't want to be rude but you sad losers should go suck somewhere else

We toil away in the social media mines to produce content for corporations to monetise, and we do it for free like the complete suckers we are.  Sometimes that content is a meme, sometimes it's a drawing or a photograph or a video, but if you don't have the skills or creative drive to produce any of those, you can still produce the outrage and attention that can be directed at the latest sacrifice - you can still contribute to the successful implementation of the Dead Cat Strategy meant to distract us from ever holding power to account through any practical means.  We've known for years that Britain operates for-profit concentration camps where guards strip-search young girls and procure sexual favors from rape survivors - but look at what Bojo the clown has done today and Corbyn has only gone and sat on the floor of a train oh my goodness it's like the end of the world!

Friday, 19 July 2019

There's something sweet in there, but it ain't cake

So I watched Million Dollar Baby because it was recommended by the Netflix algorithm after the credits rolled on the by-the-numbers Rocky spin-off Creed 2, the second film in a franchise about a man "forging his own legacy" by becoming famous for doing the same thing his dad did, and while I usually think the Netflix recommendations algorithm might be broken because it rarely recommends films explaining how white people are being replaced with Jews and Muslims like the Youtube algorithm does, with Million Dollar Baby coming hot on the heels of a movie about a black man attaining success and legitimacy, Netflix might finally be catching up with YT in normalising reactionary right-wing responses to minorities.
Don't get me wrong, I was actually quite enjoying Million Dollar Baby... until the comedy hillbillies showed up, grasping for benefits and sneering at the idea of getting a job, but after this it became a bit hard not to attempt a read of the film's politics, especially when not long after that it abandoned its cliched rags-to-riches boxing fable plot arc to become a film with deeply odd opinions about disability and then resolved its hillbilly arc with a scene in which the sneering rednecks fresh from a visit to the sights of Las Vegas attempt to rob a quadriplegic as they lay in their hospital bed.
Leaving its highly conservative class politics aside, instead of a counterpoint to Creed 2, Million Dollar Baby felt a lot like a continuation, as both are predictable movies traveling well-worn paths, it's just that Million Dollar Baby swerves to become a different kind of predictable movie plot in its final third that lets the cast and crew make a grab for some Oscar glory, but up until then it is indistinguishable from countless low-budget "learning to fight and learning to grow" pupil/sensei dramas from the 80s and 90s.  And now I have a hankering to watch American Shaolin again.

Friday, 12 July 2019

I don't kiss, honey, but for another fifty you can spank me

As someone who grew up in a Spurs household, I naturally despise football and all it stands for, so I was delighted to have dedicated a portion of the paltry span of increasingly-cursed days I have left upon this venom-drenched hell-sphere to playing a footy vidyagame for "research", so here I am like a total chump playing FIFA 17, an experience which is slightly - but not predominantly - an affirmation that I wasn't entirely wrong to keep away from sporting games.
Let me briefly sidetrack - don't worry, I'm going somewhere with it - to explain how "trophies" work on a Playstation: within modern games, there are token rewards granted to the player for reaching milestones in the game like driving a total of 5000 miles or shooting 100 enemies with a particular gun or collecting 20 of a particular kind of gem or coin - that kind of thing.  These token rewards are called Trophies on the Playstation family of consoles (and "achievements" on the Xbox series of machines) and they have no actual value, being virtual tokens or medals that grant nothing but bragging rights to prove you've done something in a game (the trophies are displayed on your gaming profile/account and so can be seen by anyone online).  On the list of trophies for each game, right next to each trophy is a little number giving you the percentage of how many of the game's players across the entire globe have won that trophy, and the three rarest trophies in FIFA 17, obtained by less than one percent of the estimated 24 million FIFA 17 players* on the entire planet are gained by "playing a match as a woman's team", "finishing a match as a woman's team", and "playing a tournament as a woman's team", so even before your old buddy Mr B started to play this game, he was getting some serious confirmation bias vibes about the sensibilities of its target audience.
I find this virtual world sexism germane because what interested me about this game is the inclusion of a secondary play mode called "Journey",  which is a story-driven add-on which presents a recreation of the world of a professional footballer in which women are notable only by their absence.  The idea of a story you played through in a game whose only play mechanics are a replication of a sport was intriguing to me, as... well, what exactly is this story going to be about?**  Using your football skills to fight terrorists?  A detective story in which you uncover corruption in monolithic sporting organisations?  Or will it be you playing as a young lad who wants to do football in Wembley Stadium so has to play loads of football games and training minigames and then does football in Wembley?
Go on, have a guess which it turned out to be.

Journey is basically a moron-proof ultra-lite RPG made by someone who played Mass Effect and thought "you know what, this is a bit complicated", and being part of an officially-licensed product with a mandate not to portray the organisation or sport in a bad light, it has little in the way of dramatic bite or gritty realism - for instance there's no struggling with drugs or navigating your character through a Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney-style minigame in a courtroom fending off allegations of sexually assaulting a minor - and instead we get an indulgent football legacy storyline with your fictional character chasing fame while trying to stay true to his fam.  It's very much invested in the romantic notion of football as every young lad's fantasy career and a route for them out of poverty, not that the game goes much into the depiction of poverty.  You accrue followers on social media the better you do in matches, but a nice touch is that you get far more followers if you act like a complete and utter prick, which was of course exactly how I was playing the role, going so far as to choose to play for Chelsea.  At some point I realised, though, that not all footballers are pricks and I was in fact confusing them with Formula 1 drivers, so I started playing the character a little more level-headed to stop the manager riding my ass and keeping me on the benches because I'm acting like a boor - presumably this is a game feature because FIFA is very concerned about the conduct of those of its members in the public eye and want to make sure the game's image is always presented as beyond reproach and spotless and I don't follow football so you'll have to insert your own joke here about whatever a Sepp Blatter is - and for the trouble of winding my neck in got banished to Newcastle.
I mean, I got a choice of clubs to transfer to, but I'd actually heard of Newcastle - the city - and I remain unconvinced that "Norwich" is a real thing.  Anyway
I like how you can change the game camera to something closer to the pitch/players so you can actually line up a tackle (though mostly I just try to hack the legs off opposing players***), and it gets pretty exciting when the camera closes in like it's chasing you when you make a run for the goal, though finding the actual ball on the pitch seems to be an arbitrary experience.  I have some vague recollection of playing soccer games Back In The Day and am used to the whole player-switching thing where you always control the player on your team in possession of the ball, so I was pleasantly surprised to see there's an option to play the entire match as a single player, and while this was good fun and reminiscent of having a kickabout with your mates, rather a lot of it seemed to be a man on the side of the pitch waving a flag at me because I had broken football law.
I'd like it if there was an option to better highlight the ball and your current player more prominently as the current visual cues are pretty weedy and lead to constant confusion as to who I'm currently controlling or where the ball is, but I suppose after two decades of making these things, Electronic Arts know the wants of their audience a bit better than I do.
I have been playing this a lot, so as research projects go it's been pretty enjoyable even with the nagging to sign up for an online account so that EA can nag you into micro-transactions, but I think I can get along just fine without either, thanks.

Good game.  Good game.

* FYI, I - like a fair few other people I imagine - bought this game second hand for the princely sum of one UK pound, so I imagine the actual number of players when you include second hand sales and borrowed copies is far higher than the number of units sold would suggest.

** The fact that there is not an
Escape To Victory videogame is a crime.

*** SURPRISINGLY DIFFICULT to foul other players, at least in the story mode.  I played a woman's match and those bitches are vicious because I got red-carded within five minutes.

Monday, 8 July 2019

When I'm online, I'm looking at sloths

The Star Trek reboot movies engaged in performative stupidity - that is, they pretended to be dumber than they were in order not to frighten anyone away who might have got the impression that Star Trek was a thing that brain scientists watched - but Blood and Treasure is the other kind of stupidity: the kind that's real.  It covers the same ground as a video game series called Uncharted in which a square-jawed white dude travels the world looking  for treasure while things explode and then he has a fight with a rich guy who is also a terrorist who plans to use an ancient McGuffin as a weapon of mass destruction and long story short, this is the setup for Blood and Treasure, only not as well written as a video game whose script is nothing more than a contextualisation for your gunning down literally hundreds of pirates and bandits.
Blood and Treasure - AKA Nathan Drake and Chloe Frazer: The Series - is offensively stupid is what I am saying.
It introduces its main female character by showing her trying to seduce a man in order to rob him, its lead male is a square-jawed white boy fighting Arab terrorists, there's flashbacks to the Nazis, secret conspiracies - you know what, fuck this stupid show, just go on Youtube and watch a movie collection of the story scenes from Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, as at least you'll only have to sit through an hour or two of that.

Monday, 1 July 2019

Normally I don't drink in the afternoon, but it's still morning

Saw Disney's live-action remake of Aladdin, which is terrible because they haven't changed it enough from the original, and Disney's live-action remake of Dumbo which is terrible because they've changed it from the original.
Actually both of these remakes were fine and I don't know what people are complaining about.  I did think that I would have got much more out of Dumbo if I was about 8 years old, though, especially the plot about his mum and the utterly bizarre anti-elephant racist character who just seems really out of place to these adult eyes - how is he even in that circus family?  Danny DeVito at one point says everyone has to wear many hats in the circus to keep it running - the strongman also does the accounts and manages inventory, etc - but elephant racist just hangs about sneering at the elephants and cracking a whip, which somehow seem to be the only two things his job entails.
Aladdin was also fine apart from the bits they changed from the original film, which the fanboys are right about for once, just not for the reasons they claim, as the extra bits don't gel with the rest of the film for reasons other than the fact that they aren't in the original cartoon, ie: Will Smith playing a framing character much as Robin Williams did in the original, but they've changed him from a peddler of wares who just happens to be voiced by the same actor who does the Genie to a new character who is definitely the Genie as a human, and there's an arc in there about how he ends up where he is that isn't hard to follow, but it never pays off.  Likewise the new songs are dreadful - no tunes or hooks, they're just some people saying what they're thinking out loud while being autotuned, the songs about how it's tough to be a girl in a man's world being especially groan-worthy.
Its musical numbers/dance routines are also filmed at a distance that encompass the entire set on which the musical number is being shot, and the effect is like someone has recorded the daily renditions of popular songs from Disney movies that workers perform daily at a theme park - for the life of me, I just can't shake the idea that the intent is to manage expectations of visitors to DisneyWorld, especially when you clap eyes on Will Smith's Genie and the not-very-animated way he "walks" that amounts to just putting a CGI cloud where his legs are.  This is - I note - an effect that could rather easily be replicated by a minimum wage employee wearing a glittery skirt.
Anyway, the interesting thing - to me and absolutely no-one else - is seeing the common flaws in both films: added stuff that wasn't in the original movie that stands out because it doesn't gel with the rest of the remake for various reasons.  There's a lot of this kind of thing going on in Dumbo, and it's hard not to see most of it centering around Eve Green's character being shoehorned into a relationship with Colin Farrel's character which pushes all other character arcs to the side, particularly that of Farrel's kids.
It's often pretty glaring that the kid characters have nothing to do and exercise no agency, so instead there's a sort of "girls do science because that is an empowering thing in this oppressive patriarchal age" arc for the daughter which ignores that female scientists had already been making contributions for hundreds of years, and that the film is set post-war - there is literally an entire subplot about Colin Farrel's PTSD - and there was a perfect opportunity to examine how women had already tasted empowerment in the workplace, and oh yeah she literally lives in a circus where women have responsibilities beyond what might have been expected of the gender apartheid of the time.  The daughter seems to have been shortchanged somewhere in the script revisions and you can still see the shape of an arc about her building a relationship with her father after his absence in the war/the death of her mother, and her reticence to become involved in the circus which means so much to her father and which still seems to culminate in a moment where she mounts Dumbo and rides him around the Big Top as the main event, much as her father had once performed as a rodeo act but now cannot because of his war injuries (he returns from the war as an amputee).
I am probably thinking too much about these films for children, because they are films for children.  There's no reason they can't have depth and content to appeal beyond that demographic, of course, but they kind of don't, so their worth is more as an insight into the thought processes involved in adaptation from one form (animation) to another (live action), and from what I can see the process seems to involve a lot of script revisions until themes and arcs get discarded from one draft to another, but artifacts of earlier drafts somehow still remain in the final shooting scripts.  The makers seem to want to add another 30-40 minutes of material from the original animation's running time but can't quite nail down what should be there so the movies end up with a lot of flab.  Another common element seems to be the casting of actors who can't quite sing to be in musical films - why they don't just get someone else to do the singing bits for the actor I'm not quite sure.
But they were fine and perfectly entertaining films.  Do you think you could sit still for 120 minutes?  If yes, then these movies will not change or enrich you, but they are a competently-made and acceptable waste of two hours of your life.