Items tagged “movies&rdquo
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maura @ 10:37 pm
Not too long ago for family movie night we watched Wreck-It Ralph again (we’d seen it in the theater last xmas). It’s a surprisingly good movie for a Disney not Pixar outing: contemporary enough for today’s videogame kids to find it fun and funny, with lots of nice touches for us old people who actually used to play games in arcades, too. Plus the extended meditation on homonyms duty and doody — what 11 year old (and his parents) wouldn’t find that hilarious?
Ever since then I’ve been thinking about one of the central features of the movie, in which the heroine, Vanellope van Schweetz, spends most of the movie as a “glitch” — a character who is literally unhooked from the main codebase of the game and hops around in the gamespace every time she glitches. Not to give too much away (spoiler alert!), but in the end she triumphs and regains her status as a fully-enmeshed game character (in fact she turns out to be the main character of her game, Sugar Rush). But she also decides to retain her glitch, pointing out that her glitch gives her power that the other characters don’t have, power she can use to her advantage as she races in the game.
I’m sure there are
millions dozens of academic papers being written on Wreck-It Ralph as we speak — it really was a fascinating movie on lots of levels, plus fun to watch. What I’ve found myself chewing over since we watched it again is this idea of the existence of a “glitch” in videogames. I hear Gus and his friends talk about glitches and glitching all the time, and the fact that Disney included the concept of glitch so prominently in a major movie suggests that videogame enthusiasts likely all know and understand the term.
What does a glitch mean to gamers? Usually when I hear Gus and pals discuss glitches they’re annoyed or even angry: something in the game hasn’t gone as they expected so they exclaim “ah, the game glitched!” In my observation the “glitch” is used to characterize both unexpected game behavior and the occasional player mistake — sometimes “it glitched!” really translates to “I didn’t mean to do that!” I’ve come to wonder whether the existence of glitches in videogames isn’t a bit like saying you didn’t get the email. It’s 2013 — really, most of the time the email goes through, I’d wager only a very small number of emails truly get lost in the ether.
The temptation to blame player error on glitching is strong, I know. Jonathan, my brother and I play Carcassonne on our phones, and of course you sometimes make a move you didn’t plan to, or forget to put a meeple on your tile before ending your turn. It’s easy to get distracted with a turn-based internet game played on a phone in the odd moments of the day, easy for a finger to slip or for the best place for a tile to elude you until it’s too late. Sometimes I too curse “glitch, glitch!”
I’ve been wondering whether the existence (and prominence) of glitch is a way for players to reconcile themselves with the distance between the player and the gamespace required of videogames. With a board, card, or other analog game it’s not only obvious to the other players when there’s a player error, it’s also recoverable: if all players agree to it, the error can be erased and the player can have a do-over. In turn-based multiplayer videogames a do-over is usually not possible, and it’s sometimes not possible in single-player games either (though you could consider the opportunity to play the game repeatedly as a do-over of sorts). The only do-over in a multiplayer videogame is a complete restart, which the other player(s) might not be willing to agree to. The barrier for do-overs is much lower in meatspace — there’s (potentially) not as much impact on the other players.
So maybe that’s the ultimate role of the glitch: a way for players to save face when they make a mistake in a game that they cannot correct or undo, to give themselves agency in the face of aspects of the game they can’t control?
maura @ 8:00 pm
After a morning that included not only a metric ton of laundry but also me watching the Hunger Games trailer a couple of times (and unsuccessfully looking around online to see if another trailer had been released yet, which it hasn’t), it’s only fitting that we should go to the movies this afternoon.
The movies! We don’t see many movies in the theater these days though suddenly there are tons to see, many of them kid-friendly: the Muppets and there’s a Studio Ghibli retrospective coming up at the IFC soon, to name a few. The possibility of seeing so many Miyazaki movies on the big screen makes me giddy, though I think we’ll restrict ourselves to 2 or 3.
Today, however, we saw Hugo, the movie based on the the Caldecott-winning book from a few years ago called The Invention of Hugo Cabret. It was fantastic — beautifully filmed and fairly true to the story. Which is good cos it’s a great story: a mystery about an orphaned boy, an automaton, and the (real) history of filmmaker Georges Méliès. The book caused a bit of a stir when it won the Caldecott because that’s an award for picture books, and while it is a story told in words and drawings it clocks (ha!) in at 500+ pages. But I think the award was well-deserved.
The movie had lots of snow which made us feel cold, and steam and secret passageways which made us feel warm. Hugo is a clockworker and machines, gears, clocks, and mechanical things figure prominently. There were lovely fantastic touches, too — it had the feel of a Stephen Millhauser children’s movie, in many ways, which I guess it sort of is: magical realism for kids. Go see it if you can — I highly recommend it.
maura @ 11:44 am
I don’t know how we made it this far without Gus seeing Pinocchio, but last night when the video went on he was rapt. It’s been ages since I’ve seen that movie and I’d forgotten how weird it is. IMDB tells me that the movie came out in 1940 which seems about right. The blue fairy has that old-fashioned animated look the way the earlier Disney movies all do.
The plot is just, well, bizarre to today’s kids. I’ve not read the fairy tale in ages so not sure how much of the movie is artistic license. But Pleasure Island? So random! All were aghast at the kids smoking cigars. But Gus wondered what was bad, exactly, about playing pool? He’s been to a few birthday parties at a videogames + billiards place in our neighborhood. And the peals, absolute peals of laughter when the boys get turned into jackasses, and on hearing the word jackass repeated several times. Hilarity for the 9 year old set, for sure (though the 3 1/2 yr old was a bit confused).
Gus was adamant that he would never go to Pleasure Island, no matter how much free root beer was promised. But I wonder whether the moral of the story is even understandable to kids today under all of last century’s trappings. If you skip school you’ll have to sing and dance at the theater and then sleep in a cage? If you get on the boat with the creepy old men and go to the island where you can act naughty all day you’ll turn into a donkey and go work in the salt mines? “Don’t they get salt from the ocean?” asks Gus.
But I guess it *is* handy to know that you can light a fire to escape from a whale’s belly.
maura @ 10:54 pm
Not too long ago we started to wonder whether Gus is old enough to see Raiders of the Lost Ark. I have to say that even though I loved it, the ending of the movie scared the crap out of me when I saw it in the theater lo those many summers ago. I was 12 and Gus is 9 1/2, but everything’s scarier in movie theaters at night, right? And it’s only rated PG, for goodness sake! (Though I bet it would be PG-13 now, easy.)
The other thing is that he’s apparently already seen at least part of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Which I think is perfectly appropriate even with its PG-13 rating, though I was somewhat dismayed to hear that he’d seen it at school. Sometimes they show movies during recess when it’s raining too hard to go outside, and I’m not sure that’s such a great flick for littler kids. I didn’t believe Gus at first when he told us he’d seen it, but then he said: “Yes I have! There was a huge explosion and a man inside a refrigerator.” So there you have it.
In the midst of thinking about all of this we thought, say, what about Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom? Neither of us remembered much about the movie other than it was vastly inferior to #1 and #3 (and #4, too, frankly). But there’s no melty face ending, and since we have the DVDs of 1-3 we decided to fire it up one night and take a look.
O. M. G. You know, I think this is actually the worst movie ever made. For complete serious! It’s both racist (the Chinese! the Indians!) AND sexist (you just want to smack the whiny Kate Capshaw pretty much constantly). The plot jumps around and is ridiculously stupid. And, here’s the kicker: it’s not actually about archaeology at all. There’s no archaeology in it! At the beginning Indy’s in China delivering some relic to a gangster, and then he ends up in India saving people from some sort of ritual death. No. Archaeology. Anywhere.
We still haven’t decided whether to show Gus Raiders, but suffice it to say we will be skipping right over Temple of Doom. The worst case scenario, of course, is that he would actually *like* it. Just ask any 40-ish yr old Star Wars fan with young kids about Jar-Jar and watch for the sad face.
maura @ 8:53 am
We finally (finally!) saw Tron Legacy last weekend. Xmas prep, Disneyworld, and illness had delayed it for so long I was worried that it wouldn’t be in the theater anymore by the time we had time. But it was, yay! Plus, coffee truck outside of the theater = coffee during the movie, which is totally the way to do a matinee, word.
The movie’s gotten such bad reviews (including this hilarious one from game scholar Ian Bogost’s 8 yr old daughter) that I went in with pretty low expectations. So I’m a bit surprised to report that I sincerely and megadorkily enjoyed the whole dang thing.
First the easy stuff: yes, it was beautiful. And the soundtrack by Daft Punk is fantastic — it took about 48 hrs from the time we exited the movie theater for us to buy it. Good thing, too, as I was in dire need of some new electronica for background noise while I write.
And the easy stuff on the other side: it was definitely too long. The plot was so thin at points as to be transparent, and sometimes the dialogue was beyond cheesy. The nod to open source software at the beginning was HI-larious given Disney’s particular stance on copyright. Gus went through a phase of loving the first Tron* when he was maybe 5 or 6, but he was frankly bored by much of the new movie. Which was kind of a drag.
* Which we actually own, on VHS, because one of the other perks when working for the Mouse was the opportunity to buy Disney stuff at a discount. I immediately bought Tron and the original Freaky Friday, with Jodie Foster, which ROCKS. Though I do love the remake too.
But I still really, really liked it. I’ve been trying to pull it apart in my head ever since. J said “there were the bones of a good story in there,” and I agree. Though if I’m honest it’s probably less the story than the whole package — I am squarely in the demographic of people programmed (ha!) to like the movie. I had just turned 13 when the first Tron movie was released along with its companion videogame. The movie was visually stunning (for the time), and the game, while kind of lame, was fun enough that I fed it many quarters. I don’t remember much from junior high other than being the typical miserable early teen, but I have vivid memories of the videogame arcade: the layout of the machines, the noise, even the smell. To this day I can tell you that the Tron game (not Deadly Discs, the other one) was in the second room against the wall on the right.
So yes, I fell into the giant nostalgia trap set by Tron Legacy. Really once Sam walked into his dad’s old arcade and turned on all of the machines (ack! Journey!) there was no hope for me. Save yourselves!
P.S. Also the stick that turns into a light cycle or jet was awesome.
maura @ 8:32 pm
Well hello internets! Yes, I crapped out on 2 days of blagging. Once you fall off that wagon, it’s so easy to do it again. I meant to blag, really I did, but we’ve been busy and also spent the past 2 nights watching Shutter Island. Which was decent, but not amazing. And really *really* long. Boy howdy, whose idea was it to make a 2.5 hr long movie? So not necessary. I don’t know, Leonardo DiCaprio kind of bugs me lately. Though I did love Inception. On the other hand, Michelle Williams was awesome. So crazy!
Boy, I gots nothing tonight, either. Still haven’t taken any photos of the new art near work. Maybe I will do that tomorrow. The bathroom renovation is completely finished and the associated mess cleaned up. I continue to be stressed out by Xmas music/decorations before it’s even Thanksgiving. Thanks to the giving it’s a meeting-light week at work so I’ve been possessed by the completely unrealistic notion that tomorrow I will finish a whole slew of tasks that have been hanging out on my to do list for way too long. Maybe I’ll even bring the rest of my stuff over from the old cubicle to the new office. Big Wednesday plans, indeed.
maura @ 10:52 pm
Gus wanted to have movie night tonight, and really wanted to watch something sci-fi. Scrolling through Netflix watch instantly we came across Contact, and that’s what he chose. I think it’s PG? Maybe PG-13 — there’s a bit of language (“Mom, why did he say ‘son of a b…”), but nothing he doesn’t hear on the schoolbus every damn day, and a smidge of kissing (“Ewww!”), but otherwise it’s harmless.
Except that it’s kind of a grownup movie. We haven’t seen it in a while, and I’d forgotten about the religious discussions and the father dying and the bombing. And lots of talk talk talking. It’s kind of intense, and Gus was a bit confused sometimes.
But it’s also such a great movie and he really does seem to be into it. Who can resist Arecibo and the Very Large Array? And Jodie Foster is just so fabulous, always. The whole package makes me want to be an astronomer. Yay SETI!
maura @ 2:42 pm
So even after all that blaggy bluster about whitewashing, we went to see The Last Airbender. In the end we just couldn’t resist, plus it was a nice confluence of kid through teen through adult love of the show (we went with Jonathan’s aunt, uncle and teenage cousins). Of course it wasn’t as good as the TV show, but how could it be? But, you know, I so wanted it to be good that even though I’ve seen the bad reviews I couldn’t make myself entirely believe it wouldn’t be good.
I get that it’s hard to adapt a 20-episode TV show into a 2 hour movie, really I do. There’s lots of character development that needs to get shortened, and some stuff needs to be left out. But as someone said (can’t remember who) it was like M. Night Shyamalan had never actually *seen* the show. There didn’t seem to be any attempt at all to distinguish between the important and unimportant bits, and the movie felt kind of slapped together willy nilly. I can’t imagine how it would feel to someone who’d never watched the show before, but my guess is that they’d be completely lost.
That was the biggie. Two minor, nitpicky points:
1. For an expensive movie, the effects were just not all that special.
2. And for heavens sake, WHY did they change the pronunciation of several of the main characters’ names?! This isn’t like when you see a movie based on a book and think, “oh, I didn’t realize his name was pronounced like that.” This film is based on a TV show! With audio! So very annoying, and seemed like it was especially designed to get under the skin of hardcore fans.
That’s about all I have to say, but these funny/sad fan reviews are pretty hilarious, if you’re interested.
And in *good* movie news, last night Jonathan and I watched the Swedish version of “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.” Which was a GREAT example of how to take something very very long (600+ pages) and make it into a 2 hour(-ish) movie. I’ve read all 3 of the books so of course my brain filled in the missing bits and added story around the characters, so it was difficult for me to tell if the movie was hard to follow. The whole way through I kept asking Jonathan, who’s read none of the books, whether there was stuff that he didn’t understand or jumpiness or things that didn’t connect, but there wasn’t. Maybe M. Night should contact the screenwriter for some tips?
I don’t think I’ll want to see the American version of the movie, the Swedish version did a great job. But that doesn’t prevent me from having a pretty strong opinion about who should play Lisbeth: Natalie Portman (obvs!).
maura @ 10:04 pm
I did not sleep well last night. It was hot, yes, but that wasn’t really the problem. (All hail ceiling fans!)
Last night we finished up watching 2102. It was my pick, and I’m not going to apologize for it: I like a good big budget special effects apocalyptic flick every so often. Yes, at 2 hrs 38 mins it was a good hour too long, full of lame end-of-the-world conversations that could’ve been left on the cutting room floor. But the actiony parts were pretty sweet. Giant fissures opening up in the earth! California literally sliding into the ocean! Supervolcano exploding under Yosemite! Planes flying through Las Vegas skyscrapers as they collapsed! Good times. And it’s always nice to see John Cusack getting work.
So the big giant ending of the movie (SPOILER ALERT) is that the things referred to as arks that save the human race (plus a few giraffes and elephants) that we *thought* were spaceships throughout most of the movie are *actually* boats! (really submarines, absolutely enormous submarines.) So the ultimate Earth-ending climax is a series of gigantic tsunamis that overrun practically the entire landmass of the planet. Again, the effects were nice. Well worth the Netflixing.
(More spoilers: John Cusack does not die, just in case you were worried.)
But I think my brain was working overtime as I slept, because I awoke with a lingering weird feeling about water. Maybe it’s the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, which is such a huge bummer that I can’t read anything more about it. Also, once we lived in an apartment that had a roof that leaked insanely when it rained. Seriously, water used to drip from the light fixtures, and our landlords regularly failed to see that as a problem.
Continuing the watery theme, in the early morning hours it rained torrentially. We listen to white noise when we sleep that just happens to be the sounds of rainfall, so despite the thunder it took us a while to wake up. But I realized that the rain was louder than usual at 5:12am and spent the next 10 minutes stumbling around the apartment closing windows and drying off windowsills. Happy Monday! I was kind of tired today, natch.
All of this means that I’ve had the “Rain Rain Rain Came Down Down Down” song from the old Disney cartoon for Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day running through my head all day. I tried to find it for you on YouTube, but I could only find it in Swedish and Finnish. Here’s the Swedish version — enjoy!
maura @ 9:52 pm
We are finally getting around to watching Julie & Julia. With the debt that we owe the late Mrs. Child (for me it’s mostly a caloric debt, but still), what the heck took us so long? Well, we tend not to squander sitter time on movies since it is possible to watch movies at home, and prefer to save it up for museums or dinners that don’t involve chicken nuggets or pizza. Of course, now that we’re watching it we see that we totally could have dragged Gus to see it,* though he probably would have been bored.
* We don’t tend to take him to any even remotely scandalous movies, though that streak may change tomorrow when we all go to see Avatar. But friends of his have seen it, prompting this hilarious summary: “There were these blue guys. They were the avatars. And they had a tree. And they really loved their tree. Then there was a fight.” So we feel like it’s probably going to be okay.
So far I totally agree with what everyone said: the Julia parts are wonderful, and the Julie bits fall flat. I kind of feel bad for Amy Adams: she’s a good actress, but who could compete with Meryl Streep in that towering role? It’s such a sweet movie, too, and Stanley Tucci is fantastic. I think I’ll have to read the book now (which, of course, we already own).
We didn’t get to finish it last night because Gus woke up twice and then it was suddenly after midnight and I have just been too tired lately to be staying up like a teenager. We paused shortly after Julia and Paul were packing up their Paris kitchen and I thought: “Hey, Jonathan has an orange Le Creuset pot just like that! Except his is oval and hers was circular.” I’m sure there are actual chef-y names for them like “stockpot” and “casserole” but I’ll never find out unless we finish that dang movie so bye!