Okay, we’re about a day away from the live broadcast of the 2011 Academy Awards, but I’ve been to the future long enough to get the results and bring them back to you, the good people of today.
All right, so that’s a load of crap. I don’t have a time machine. It’s in the shop. Instead, I’m winging it. Hell, I haven’t even seen all of the movies that have been nominated. It’s safe to say that I’ve seen half of them. Maybe less.
In cases where I haven’t seen the movie, I am using a highly scientific mathematical formula based on a combination of star quality, car chases, and liberal application of the Colonel’s secret herbs and spices to come up with the winner.
Before I get to the picks, though, let me just say this: Dear Academy, what the hell?! Ten best picture nominees? Everyone’s a winner? You’re going to have to show clips from all of them during your already too-long awards show. You may even try to make dance numbers out of them. I cannot wait to see what you come up with for Winter’s Bone – hillbillies bouncing on trampolines around a bubbling meth lab, maybe?
If you’re playing OtherSpace – or just thinking about it – it can be a little daunting.
Assuming the role of a character in an original-theme space opera universe that doesn’t have hundreds of fansites online isn’t always easy. However, making yourself familiar with the genre in general can go a long way toward preparing you for what to expect.
With that in mind, I’ve compiled a list of movies, TV shows, video games, and books that could help get you in the right mood for a successful experience on the MUSH.
If you’ve never seen The Matrix trilogy before, then allow me to recommend TRON Legacy as a healthy alternative: All the shiny special effects and bogus philosophical shenanigans, but in one-third the time!
I didn’t go into this movie with any great love for the original, although the visuals were impressive for their time. I’m not a big fan of Olivia Wilde. I’d never heard of Garrett Hedlund. But, hey, it had Michael Sheen, James Frain, Jeff Bridges, and CGI Jeff Bridges. It seemed like a recipe for moderately cool, man.
But it wasn’t.
Michael Sheen spent his five minutes imitating David Bowie. James Frain was a reject from Heavy Metal. Jeff Bridges’s Kevin Flynn went from ambitious computer designer to goofy zen master – the Virtual Dude. And CGI Jeff Bridges was just creepy.
I saw the show in IMAX, which at least guaranteed that I got my money’s worth from the impressive light cycle, disc battle, and light jet air combat sequences. But the premise of a race of spontaneously generated “programs” within the virtual world (TRON’s version of midichlorians, I suppose) was just preposterous. That foolishness got trumped later when one of the programs made the transition from virtual to real world.
Kevin Flynn doesn’t want to get directly involved in a revolution because his creation, Clu, is after the info disk on his back. A secondary character mentions later that it’s possible to forge those info disks. One would think that Flynn, creator of this world, would know that. So, when he inevitably gets off his zen pillow and jumps into the middle of the action, someone steals the disk off his back. I smugly suggested to my girlfriend that Flynn probably prepared for that contingency by putting a forged disk on his back.
But no. No, he was just an idiot, allowing his disk to fall into the hands of the enemy.
I also found myself hoping that the real world plot, about the machinations within Flynn’s company ENCOM, would somehow get tied into the virtual world plot. But no. The one sighting of the ENCOM board was just to establish with clunky exposition that the company had moved on from Flynn’s altruistic mentality.
And, finally, there’s TRON himself, relegated in this story to the role of junkyard dog who turns against Flynn and serves Clu until the plot contrives for him to change alliances without any decent explanation.
I won’t call this movie an insult. I think an insult would have required more effort. It’s just a shiny bottle of noise and light. Enjoy the visuals, but don’t look for anything meaningful.
I think what I enjoyed most about Christopher Nolan’s spectacular Inception is that it neatly captures the allure – and the peril – of throwing yourself into the imaginative task of building worlds out of the ether.
When Ariadne builds a Paris dreamscape and Tom Cobb helps tweak and change it, I’m reminded of working with my cohorts on OtherSpace as we built a world’s grid, described the rooms, and developed the lore around them.
Similarly, the scenes of the “memory” area in Cobb’s mind, where the ocean of time churns and starts tearing down the monuments of creation, reminds me of all the old unused grid areas on OtherSpace. Some use outdated room code and look broken. Some aren’t even properly attached to anything else on the world grid. Bits and pieces of a lost age.
I went into this movie with expectations below those I had for Gemma Arterton’s last movie, Clash of the Titans. In the case of Titans, I had low expectations and found that movie fell shorter than I’d anticipated. With Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, however, I discovered something that was surprisingly enjoyable, if relatively mindless.
The platformer video game homage action does get a bit tiresome after a while, though. Seeing Jake Gyllenhal bounce from wall to wall or make death-defying leaps across open spaces starts to become like an endless rerun of the last five minutes of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off – complete with a moment where the hero stumbles on a few pretty girls with whom to flirt during the chase.
But it’s a fun movie, Ben Kingsley is wonderfully evil, and I spent a lot of time wondering who the hell played Prince Tus. For much of that time, I thought it was this guy:
However, it turns out that it was THIS guy!
Jeff, from the British TV series Coupling! He was my favorite character on the show.
Anyway, I thought I’d hate Prince of Persia. I didn’t. Go figure!
It would be easy for me to cut Clash of the Titans some slack. It’s a big, noisy, special effects extravaganza that doesn’t pretend to be rocket science. But if I
give it a pass on that alone, then I have to do the same for Transformers. And I didn’t do the same for Transformers – those movies were much less than meets the eye. Sorry!
First, the movie gives us too many brunette women to keep track of. Seriously. When I first saw Io and then they cut to Perseus’ adopted mom, I thought they were the same woman. Then we’re introduced to Andromeda, another pretty brunette.
Second, my admiration for the decision to have Perseus refuse assistance from the gods faded even faster than Draco’s when that choice started getting people killed left and right. I mean, really. You’re fighting gods and you’re offered a tool of the gods: YOU USE IT. Damn your pride! (Especially when there doesn’t seem to be any complaining about the magical coin used to bribe the ferryman.)
Third, I’m guessing the script referred to the Medusa sequence as THE SCENE WHERE ALL EXTRANEOUS CHARACTERS ARE UNCEREMONIOUSLY DISMISSED FROM FURTHER PARTICIPATION IN THE FILM. Not terribly satisfying.
I liked the little nod to the original 1981 movie with the clockwork owl being held up (and then discarded). I enjoyed the combat sequences. I would’ve liked to see more machinations among the gods and goddesses, and less of the crazy half-naked bearded priest in Argos.
It’s big stupid fun, but the emphasis has to be on stupid.
Visually, Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland is a feast. It’s got some neat moments here and there.
Look, it was a mess. A jumbled tale that made a wreck of the lore – and if you didn’t even know the lore, it didn’t always make much sense. The White Queen and Red Queen are sisters, but one has chess pieces for soldiers and the other has playing cards? And the big showcase battle at the end takes place on an overgrown chessboard. And Crispin Glover is supposed to be a menacing villain? Crispin Glover? REALLY?
Also, have to say, this was really Mad Hatter in Wonderland when you get down to it. That little dance number at the end of the fight, Johnny Depp? What were you thinking?
The plot reminded me of some of the most annoying quests that I’ve ever had to run in an MMORPG, back and forth across the map over the same territory, just in the hope of building up to an interesting boss fight at the end. This fight, though, doesn’t deliver. It really needed too, however. When you’re trying to sell me on Alice and the prophecy that she must slay the Jabberwocky, you better close the deal. This Jabberwocky proved to be nothing more than a standard-issue black dragon.
Tim Burton, I beg of you: Go back to making your own stories in your own worlds.
There’s a scene in The Crazies when Tim Olyphant’s sheriff confronts the mayor of Doomsville (or Ogden Marsh) about denying water to the town’s population because it might be carrying a toxic brain-scrambling illness, and the mayor starts going on about how the town lives and dies by its crops, and you need water to keep the crops alive, so the water’s gotta run!
At that moment, I immediately linked this movie in my mind to Steven Spielberg’s classic, Jaws. It put me in mind of Chief Brody’s conversation with Amity’s mayor about shutting down the beaches on 4th of July weekend. That moment, and so many more, really endeared this remake to me.
It’s one of those movies with lots of AHHH! jumpy scary moments, done on a rather modest and intimate scale, with some great comic interaction between Olyphant and Joe Anderson as the town deputy. The scaled-back production for most of the movie really helps the special effects-laden moments pack a serious whallop.
If you’re feeling thirsty, though – don’t drink the water.
When the world thawed out enough after the snowpocalypse for us to take the Juicebox through the slushy wastelands of Cary this past weekend, I finally got to go see The Book of Eli.
I’ve got some things to say about the movie. If you haven’t seen it and don’t want to be spoiled, do not read any further.
Seriously. Turn back.
Turn back NOW.