Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Lavender's Top Ten Halloween Movies

Writer's Note: This was initially the script to an elaborate video I wanted to put together, but recently, the editing program I have just kept corrupting files and just refused to work properly. After three solid attempts, I just gave up on it for now, until I find a better program. So here's the script I wrote out for the segment -- enjoy!

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Mwahahaha! It’s that time of year again! Halloween, or as I like to call it, Goth Christmas, is just around the corner: the one holiday out of the year devoted to embracing and embellishing the very things we otherwise would gladly banish from our minds.

I think it’s pretty safe to say that the ‘70s and ‘80s were the prime of the horror genre, bringing us classics such as Dawn of the Dead, The Last House on the Left, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, the Evil Dead – and of course the king pins: Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm St. Unfortunately, since the mid ‘90s, and especially, I find, into this past decade, the horror genre hasn’t been the same: littered with un-needed remakes, pathetic jump scares, and the PG-13 rating. Though don’t get me wrong, there have been diamonds in the rough.

"Smile for the camera, Hexen Dethshadow!"

Anyway, I thought it would be a great and appropriate opportunity to peg off some of my favourite horror movies, in no particular order. Naturally, there are more than a fistful of fright-filled films out there, and admittedly, I’m not as well versed as other horror movie buffs, so don’t get all nasty on me when movies you hate or like do or don’t appear on this list – that’s the beauty of the internet – if you don’t agree with me, you can make a list of your own.

Well, without further ado, this is my personal top 10 halloween movies.


#10


This one’s for the kiddies. While the title is actually pretty misleading, it’s still one of my favourite Halloween-orientated movies. The movie is based off a novel written by RL Stine, the king of children’s horror literature back in the ‘90s, with book series like Goosebumps and Fear Street.
When Good Ghouls Go Bad is about this kid named Danny, who moves to the sleepy town of Walker Falls, a municipality named after Danny’s namesake lineage. The town hasn’t celebrated Halloween in over twenty years, due to the Curse of Curtis Danko, a kid who was burned alive in the school’s kiln and swore revenge over the town if the holiday was ever celebrated again.

But Danny’s negligent father is obsessed with reopening the family Chocolate factory and using Halloween as a means to do so. Unfortunately, Danny’s grandfather, simply known as “Uncle Fred” and played by Christopher Lloyd, is killed after he is crushed by a mountain of pumpkins.

But Uncle Fred's love for Halloween unleashes a magic that brings him back as a zombie, as well as giving unlife to the entire deceased population of Walker Falls – including the cursed Curtis Danko. Awesome.

While it’s really not scary by any means, it’s a great movie about the importance of family and being true to yourself, all wrapped up in the spirit of Halloween. It’s cheesy and funny, and just a blast to watch. Christopher Lloyd easily steals the show as undead Uncle Fred. Check it out.


#9


All right, so I realize the Grudge movies aren’t really all that great. They jump from story to story too much, they’re incoherent, and overall just confusing – and that partly has to do with the crossing of a Japanese story and film crew working with an American film company and business men who really don’t “get it”. Let me just say that while yes, the theatrical version of The Grudge was total garbage, the extended director’s cut is worth every penny. It’s chilling, it’s well done, and most important, the story makes sense.

But why bother talking about the watered down remake when you can talk about the far superior original? If you’ve seen the original, you’re basically in for the same plot – but conveyed a whole lot better: A mother and her son are brutally murdered by a jealous husband when he discovers his wife may be cheating on him – raising the question if their son is actually his.

In Japan, there’s a legend that states if you are murdered by someone consumed by a blinding rage, you are doomed in the spiritual world to relive the horrific events over and over – affecting those who come into contact in the physical world. So basically – this house where the family died is a death trap for unwitting visitors.

It’s a very suspenseful and effective story-within-a-story, and what makes Ju-On so frightening are the special effects. Most modern J-Horror still relies on organic effects, stuff we used to use prevalently in the ‘80s and ‘90s by such Masters of the Craft as Tom Savini, before the advent of CGI. And what can I say? Ghosts scare the crap out of me -- especially wide-eyed Asian ghosts.

;_;

#8


This is easily the best entry in the Friday series next to the original, but unfortunately gets so overlooked, mashed in between the clashing horns of the abrasive hatred raged into A New Beginning, and the absolute adoration showered upon The New Blood.

Jason Lives is the third in what many fans refer to as “The Tommy Jarvis Trilogy”, offering a fresh look into the Camp Blood experience, providing a dark sense of humour, an awesome ‘80s hair-metal soundtrack -- primarily provided by the man himself, Alice Cooper -- and even changing Camp Crystal Lake’s name to Camp Forest Green for a breath of fresh air.

Tommy Jarvis, the protagonist from The Final Chapter and A New Beginning, digs up Jason’s long-since rotting corpse, and inadvertently brings him back to life when a bolt of lightning strikes in the middle of a rage-ensued beatdown. Now awake as a soldier of the undead, Jason lays waste to anyone in his way back to Camp Blood, now reopened and active for the first time in years.

This movie is balls-to-the-wall. It goes so far and beyond, it even throws out the rules of surviving a horror movie. Even the squeaky-clean virgin who you'd expect to be the Final Girl ends up getting completely massacred!

Jason Lives is fantastic; The characters are great, the twisted one-liners are perfectly timed, the deaths are just complete eye-candy, and seeing Tommy Jarvis make a return as a bit of a bad-ass, instead of a whiny introvert like in A New Beginning, really makes this movie worth while.

Man, It’s totally great to see Jason have an ongoing rivalry with Tommy, much like Michael Myers and Dr. Loomis. It’s a shame they didn’t go any farther with it outside of the sixth installment. Hey, Corey Feldman! If you could do it with Edgar Frog, you can do it with Tommy Jarvis!

#7


Ahh, childhood: Is there any better outlet for nostalgic memories? Awesome cartoons, classic cereal mascots … AND POSSESSED DOLLS THAT FRIGGIN' TRY TO MURDER YOUR ASS! Child’s Play tells the timeless tale of that one creepy-looking stuffed toy or doll you owned as a kid that you were pretty sure was watching you sleep.

It tells the tale of Charles Lee Ray, or Chucky, the notorious “Lakeshore Strangler”. When Chucky is shot during a getaway heist, he uses voodoo magic to transfer his soul into a popular kids toy, a Good Guys doll. He comes to the realization that if his soul remains in the doll for a certain amount of time, the transfer will become permanent, unless he uses a child as a host sacrifice.

Child’s Play is an interesting story of revenge from the Charles Lee Ray character, and the whole “wild imagination” aspect a lot of adults see in kids, which occurs between the various grown-ups in the film, and the child character of Andy Barclay, played by Alex Vincent.

Admittedly, I’m not familiar with the sequels, and I’ve heard mixed things, but as the story goes, the original has always been said to be the best – and to be honest, with the ending of Child’s Play, the topic of a sequel shouldn’t have even been brought up. You just know that the studios were simply pining for more money, as with what happens with most horror movie franchises. I dunno, that's just my opinion.

Interestingly enough, Catherine Hicks, who plays Andy’s mom, appeared in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home – as did Stephen Collins in the original Star Trek movie. Then the both of them wound up in the lead parental roles in the long-running family show, 7th Heaven. I dunno, I just that that was pretty interesting. Anyway, moving on.

#6


What makes a mad man tick? Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, to me, as well as the more recent Mr. Brooks, is the perfect window. The movie is based off of real-life serial killer Henry Lee Lucas – whoa – Charles Lee Ray? Henry Lee Lucas? Coincidence? Maybe. Anyway -- the movie is based around real-life serial killer, Henry Lee Lucas, who made claim to murdering over six hundred people, declaring to have done so roughly once a week, between the years of 1975 and 1983. Truthfully he was only guilty of eleven murders, including twelve-year-old Frieda Powell: Lucas’s lover and niece to crime-partner Ottis Toole.

As with most film biographies, the plot is exaggerated and embellished, but Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer makes interesting use of this by focusing on Lucas’s reported violent fantasies as opposed to the actual crimes he was found guilty of.

An effective, gripping, and most of all, disturbing movie, Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer is definitely one to check out. If you’re into the Horror genre, especially biographies of serial killers, and you haven’t seen Henry, you definitely owe it to yourself.


#5


Next up is The Changeling. No, not that other movie starring Angelina Jolie. I mean the unsung Genie Award-winning Canadian horror classic, starring George C. Scott and Trish Van Devere, his real-life spouse.

The movie is based around events experienced by screenwriter, Russell Hunter, while living at the Henry Treat Rogers Mansion in Denver, Colorado. Simply put, The Changeling is about a university music professor and composer, named Dr. John Russel, who loses his wife and daughter in a tragic car accident. To get away from the probing demons of the past, he moves into this abandoned mansion, which ends up being haunted by the ghost of an invalid boy named Joseph, who just wants the truth of how and why he died to be known.

While the average horror buff may think the movie suffers from taking too long to establish the characters and relying too much on jump scares, I can’t help but think that this is one of the greatest horror movies of all time. The relationship between John and the ghost character are a great contrast, as John wants to help the ghost, so he can finally have closure for the deaths of his wife and daughter, and the ghost simply wants to use John as a means of revenge.

The twist in the plot near the end is just so diabolical and priceless; you seriously want to see the ghost of Joseph get his just deserts. And if you thought kids threw nasty temper tantrums when they were alive, you ain’t seen nothing from the wrath of the afterlife.

#4


-Say what you will about the absolute tripe that the Final Destination franchise has turned out to be, but you can’t argue that most people are afraid of dying – to the point that there are a lot of folks who literally live day-to-day, not thinking about what the future brings, because it scares them so much. What can I say? Death is a scary topic, especially when we don’t know what’s waiting for us in the afterlife. And I think the first Final Destination exploits the fear the best.

There’s no point in summarizing the film outside of what it is, because if you’ve seen 2, 3, and the trailer for 4, you already know what you’re in for -- it’s literally the same basic plot over, and over again but with different characters and more graphic deaths. But if you’ve lived under a rock these past ten years well … a kid dreams people are going to die in some huge accident, warns everyone around him, his dream comes true, and all the survivors are picked off one-by-one by a fate worse than what they would have initially experienced. That's all four movies in a nutshell.

The first movie was interesting, because it delved into a theory no one had ever considered before: Death having a kill pattern. But if the survivors somehow skipped their time to die, they could figure out the loop and keep on living.

Though let’s be honest, how long did the screenwriters think the characters could pull this off for? I mean, who thinks of that idea, anyway? Death having an all-encompassing pattern that just looped until everyone was dead? As a kid, I always thought Death was just this guy with a clock, and when your time was up, that was it, no ifs, ands, or buts – you’re gonna die. Oh well.

#3


Of course. How can you have a Top Ten Halloween Movies without Halloween slated somewhere? But why just pay tribute to the first one, when you can pay tribute to part 2, as well? The first Halloween is absolutely classic, and I go out of my way to watch it every October thirty-first. Seriously, what more can you say about John Carpenter’s Halloween that already hasn’t been said? It’s a complex story of family ties, Satanic power, and best of all, babysitter murders.

While most horror movies now rely on excessive profanity and gore, Halloween is a fine testament that less is more. Seriously, despite all the death and chaos, I can’t recall a single drop of blood ever being spilt. John Carpenter truly made a statement by doing that: You don’t need to be over the top to make an effective cinematic experience.

Halloween II picks up literally just as Halloween ends providing a bit of a recap -- which to me, kind of makes it an obligation to watch both movies in a single sitting – much like Kill Bill. Micheal Myers is back with a vengeance, slaughtering anyone while on the search for Laurie Strode.

The most notable parts of this movie belong to Donald Pleasance as Doctor Loomis, and Charles Cyphers as Sheriff Bracket during their chaotic search for Myers, and uncovering what kind of evil he truly is. Personally, it just feels like The Shape is just killing people just for the sake of racking up the body count. Not only that, but the deaths are all elaborate and bloody, compared to the first film, where people were just strangled to death and stabbed.

I also find the pacing of the film drags a lot compared to the first film, which I find can make watching Halloween II all the way through just a bit of a chore. While not as great and cinematically important as the original Halloween, it’s still worth a watch.

#2


Of all the more recent independent horror movies to actually bring “scary” back into the genre, I think writer-directors Daniel Myrick and Eduardo S├ínchez succeeded with The Blair Witch Project. If you thought Cloverfield had copious amounts of hype and viral marketing surrounding it, 1998 was absolutely bombarded – which would eventually make the film itself one of the most known, as well as one of the most-spoofed horror movies to date.

Taking cues from controversial Itallian horror classic, Cannibal Holocaust, The Blair Witch Project made it seem like the film you were watching could have actually been lost footage found years after the presented events. To further drive the point, a false documentary on The Blair Witch and the missing film students -- which the actual movie focuses around -- was aired before the film’s release. Many people seriously found themselves asking the question, “Is this real? Did this actually happen?”

A lot of criticism that stems from the movie comes from the fact that not a lot actually happens during the film, other than the crumbling sanity and rising mutiny between the three characters as they wander aimlessly through the woods, trying to find their way back to civilization. But the main thing people complain about? The fact that you never see the Blair Witch. But unfortunately, the people who make those claims, while valid, are missing the point of the whole movie: which is that the power of the imagination is much more twisted and frightening than anything that can be shown to you on-screen.

Coupled with the documentary, The Curse of the Blair Witch – which you can easily find on Youtube and come with the DVD release – The Blair Witch Project can prove to be an effectively scary experience that will leave you begging for more.

#1


Whether you’ve seen it or not, whether you’re young or you’re old, everyone’s been exposed to The Exorcist in some way, shape or form. I mean, everybody knows what The Exorcist is! Ask anyone! “Hey, you know The Exorcist?” “Oh yeah, that movie where the girl’s head spins around and she pukes green stuff everywhere, right?” William Friedkin’s adaptation of William Peter Blatty’s The Exorcist is a universal phenomenon, tested by time, infamous as being THE scariest movie of all time.

But what few people come to realize was that there were actually sequels; Exorcist II: Heretic -- which was critically panned and completely destroyed Linda Blair's acting carreer outside of hosting Sci Fi Channel specials and parodies of the very film that made her famous -- and even more obscure, The Exorcist III, directed by the man himself, William Peter Blatty, and adapted from his own novelized sequel, titled Legion.

The Exorcist III, or The Exorcist III: Legion, as I like to call it, takes place fifteen years after the original, and slates the bumbling, yet philosophical Detective Kinderman in the role of protagonist – this time starring George C. Scott, instead of a reprising Lee J. Cobb, who died years after the first film’s release. Detective Kinderman, who still hasn’t come to terms with the death of Fr. Karras, a victim of the first Exorcist, gets thrown into a case involving Satanic murders, and a long-deceased serial killer named The Gemini, a guy who possesses people and goes around decapitating everyone with a huge pair of scissors. It’s great.

It’s a really intense and frightening movie, and I wouldn’t feel right giving anything away, but George C. Scott as Kinderman and Brad Dourif as The Gemini Killer give fantastic performances – and there’s even a great cameo that is overall surprising and satisfying, while helping to tie up the plot. Even William Peter Blatty has been known to say that he’s quite proud of this film, and honestly believes it far surpasses the first Exorcist in both quality and horror. I agree.

...Well, that's it, and ss I said before, there are just way too many great horror movies to just pick ten. And though I’m leaving out quite a few notables, like the Evil Dead Trilogy and the Hellraiser movies, that doesn’t mean I like them any less. There’s a great horror resource site that I frequent at times, called The House of Horrors. It’s a fantastic site run by a truly dedicated fan of the genre. Check it out – and have a happy and safe Halloween, everyone.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Sterilized Dirt

When was the last time I updated this thing? July?

...Uh...

Whoops.

ANYWAY.

I'm pretty excited. I've been working on a website using Wordpress -- and have been pretty amazed with how easy it's been so far. I have a few things up there right now, mostly comprised of videos and select blog entries passed off as "essays" (Hah!).

I'm hoping to update it on a regular basis, as well as this blog, so please take come by and take a look!

www.steriledirt.wordpress.com

Friday, July 3, 2009

Seasons Change, Time Passes As the Weeks Become Months, Become Years.

All right, so I’m not particularly in the mood to write anything deep or exuberant at the moment, but there has been something on my mind for a long while now, that I would like to address. And, as I ponder more and more upon this subject, I can’t help but feel more and more like I am slowly sinking into a pit of some sort, and in no way can claw my way out.

Good sirs and ladies, I am of course talking about something that, like most God-given things, can be our best of friends, or our worst of enemies:

Time.

I often think back to when I was a child, at home on a Saturday. It felt like I had so much time on my hands I had no idea what to do with it. I used to sit around at the kitchen table, drawing comics and writing stories all day, and not even give a care what time in the afternoon it was.

Now as an adult, I don’t even feel like I have enough time to tie my shoe laces. Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating, but a lot of the time it feels like it. I am a naturally slow person; I like to take my time doing things, because if I don’t I will perpetually make mistakes. So why is it that I’m constantly feeling like I’m being rushed?

Well, it’s because I AM constantly being rushed. Rushed inadvertently by my impatient father, rushed by my perpetually-stressed managers (Four of them!), and rushed by fellow drivers, who, instead of acknowledging the Maximum Limit speed signs as, well, the maximum speed, think of them more of suggestions or guidelines.

Hrm ... This seems familiar...

Unfortunately, not many people understand – or appreciate, for that matter – my mantra of stopping to smell the roses. I don’t know what it’s like outside of Ontario other than what I’ve heard and what I’ve seen briefly from week-long vacations, but it seems to me like our little province has more in relation with the USA than it does with the rest of Canada.

As far as I know, the majority of the population is made up of adults. I’m just going to go out there and take that guess. And the reason I am going to make that assumption is because it would explain why the world as I know it has the mentality of “GO GO GO”, and “NICE GUYS FINISH LAST”.

What I mean by the above statement is that it seems to be a general consensus that as you grow older, time fleets by at a gradual, but equally alarming rate. But then again, it could also be because we’re under pressure by not only other people, but by the media, which has taught us to be more greedy/selfish/impatient than we already are, into the mentality of speed over quality.

Speed over quality. Hm. I notice this trait in so many things… movies, video games, construction – and the most obvious – fast food.

Isn’t it a shame that even bare necessities, such as food and shelter, are left overturned and hampered by such a simple thing as time?

Unfortunately, there are so many things in life that are against us, the most evident being our own mortality. And that’s why I think it’s very important for us to stop running so much, and start walking. Yahweh, Allah, Vishnu, Diana, whoever created us all – I don’t think He or She intended for us to go about in our short lives constantly weaving in and out of traffic.

Last I checked, the hare lost the race.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Well That Was Unexpected

So last night I tuned in to one of the most shocking things I have ever heard in my life:

Micheal Jackson died of a heart attack.

And while I wasn't the closest follower of his music, nor did I pay much attention to both his notoriety in the media and the very shameful jokes about him and his personal life, it still sort of sent my head jerking backwards just slightly. Him dying was completely out of left field!

Seriously, who was expecting Micheal Jackson to die? So soon, no less? Sure, you can use the excuse that he was fifty years old, but I really have a hard time swallowing that, if not for the fact that my dad's side of the family comes from a strong line of long-lasting, healthy individuals, not to mention our eighty year old neighbor not only lives on her own but maintains her property on a very regular basis and is pretty active. Fifty years old is freaking young. Fifty is seriously the new twenty. A morbidly obese thirty-five year old has a pretty parallel chance of succumbing to a heart attack.

In any case, it's still a pretty damn huge shock to the world (and pretty sick that people are already making jokes about it. Seriously guys, do you have no shame? Let the man rest). And what really blows me away is that the rumour that death usually occurs in threes seems to be an actual fact. Not only did M.J. kiss the dirt, but so did long-time cancer fighter, Farrah Fawcett of Charlie's Angels fame, and Ed McMahon.

A lot of people (young and old) seem to be kicking the bucket lately. 2009 must be the Chinese year for "celebrity death".

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Stop Calling Me That

I don’t really take offense to a lot, but one thing that absolutely drives me up the wall is when people refer to me as a “dork”, “nerd”, “geek”, “gamer”, or anything else in that respect that may or may not have anything to do with Vulcan hand-shakes and/or what needless story arc some long-running anime is currently leading on hopeless fans by a chain-linked leash and collar – even if said referral is meant to be an affectionate prod.

People consistently call me one or more of these things on a regular basis; at least three times a week. And I don’t, for the life of me, understand why. I’m not even very much in the know about anything that could label me as a member of the nerdcore community. When I write my articles and make my videos, I’m either going by my faded childhood memories, gained experience from observation, my brothers and friends, or Wikipedia.

I guess the reason people point me out to be a nerd or a geek, is because my thought process is so glaringly different from the normal person caught in the bleak crowd of typical humanity. Yeah, well, that’s because I grew up in a family of artists and teachers. That has nothing to do with me being a nerd. It has to do with being taught to think for myself, and outside the box.

Even my brothers think I’m a gigantic nerd (and lazy, for that matter, but what older sibling doesn’t think that of their younger kin?), when in reality, the only reason I know what they’re talking about is because they both were children of the ‘80s, and are themselves nerds and, for the lack of a better term, media snobs. Being the youngest sibling of three, with the older two being boys, I couldn’t help but to be exposed, since they were always stuffing Transformers, Lego, video games, and Star Wars figures into my hands. And unfortunately, talking about nerd-like things is one of the few ways I can relate not only to them, but to my friends as well.

Example, my middle brother, Fanon, is into economics. I know little about economics to the extent he does, other than the fact that North America is financially screwed, and there’s nothing we can do about it unless the people upstairs stop thinking about their own pockets. But we both know and understand web and graphic design. My eldest brother, Squig, works for a racking company and also volunteers for Cub Scouts. I know nothing about racking, other than the fact that I desperately need shelves so I can get crap off my floor and out of my closet. But we both know and understand horror movies.

What happens when you openly wave around a copy of
The Star Wars Holiday Special at a Star Trek convention


Another example: Squig once mentioned how I know Bruce Campbell’s filmography off by heart. I don’t – he does. But he just assumes that I’m instantaneously into everything he’s into, because we get along so well. Natural.

In fact, the last time I watched a Bruce Campbell movie was about six months ago – and before that, almost a year; and both movies were terrible, forgettable titles. At the most, watching them made me feel pity toward Campbell, because it’s so mind-numbingly clear that he’s a talented actor, and he’s pissing all over his resume, just so he can have the title of “King of the B-Movie”. With the age of rampant crapola in the box office, we need someone like him to help rectify the cinematic fecal tornado of the 2000s – not add to it.

“Yeah, but you primarily write about and review old video games! You must be a nerd! Only nerds play games from twenty years ago!”

Correction: It's what I've been exposed to. I have been playing the old-school Nintendo since I was three years old. Not because it’s “cool to play retro games”. Not because I’m goth, and “that’s just what goth kids do”. It’s because growing up, my mom was really strict about what games I could play -- and the fact was, I rarely got a new game outside of Christmas or birthdays, or special occasions.

If I wanted a new game outside of the three aforementioned events, I’d have to save up for it myself, or substantially prove why I should have one. Not only that, but I’m slow to impress or catch up on anything. Not just games, but movies, music, and books. I didn’t even get an original Playstation until Christmas of 2000, and already, the forthcoming Playstation 2 was an impending meteor.

To be bluntly honest, I had no idea there was even a retro movement, up until late 2007, early 2008. No, I’m not living under a rock, but it just shows how disconnected I really am from the nerdcore community. Playing Super Mario Bros. 3 for fifteen years, and then discovering that other people were still playing it as well, only made me go “Oh. Okay. Cool, I guess.” I didn’t really think too much about it, because I assumed what I was doing was the norm. If the games still work and are still fun, why not still play them?

It's not just a hobby ... it's a way of life.

As for current-gen gaming, well, nothing honestly reaches for my attention. Oh sure, there’s Fallout 3 and Portal, which I have played and really enjoyed … but I hardly see the justification in spending money that could be wisely put into my university fund, on two games – not to mention a console that will probably end up being replaced in a few more years. I got fed up with console musical chairs after I bought a Game Cube late in its life cycle, and vowed I would never step into the cycle again. Too many wires, not enough space, and quite frankly, I can’t afford it. Not that I play video games all that much anyway. Just enough to satisfy a short urge, and that’s it. I can easily go for a few months without picking up a controller or my DS. In fact, I talk about video games more than I actually play them.

In short, my eighteen-year-old NES has never failed me, and my sixteen-year-old SNES, though beaten up quite a bit, still sings to the high heavens. I’ve already had to replace my PS2 and Game Cube within a matter of two or three years, and I really don’t want to imagine the horrors I’ll eventually be left with if I go out and buy a 360, which is known for its horrendous amount of troubleshooting. If my games still work, are an absolute blast to play even now, and purchasing “new” titles is relatively in my budget, why shouldn't I keep up with my childhood consoles, instead of constantly doling out fifty to eighty dollars when a new game comes in town? Yeah, the games may be nearly ancient, but if I haven’t gotten around to playing a certain title, it’s still new to me!

Incidentally, nor am I at all tech-savvy – I just know enough to survive. In fact, I hate computers; they leave a glaring bad taste in my mouth. Macs are not better than PC’s. And PC’s are not better than Macs. They both have their pros and cons, and really, the only contrast between the two is that you’re paying for a completely different set of technical problems and errors.

I have no idea what people who are into anime are watching right now. I got out of that scene a good seven years ago. It’s rare that I’ll watch an anime, and the few that I stand by are ones that put a profound dent in my “impressions gauge”. Anime like Lain, which talks about the Internet and technology as an addiction and religion; or basically any anime feature directed by Hayao Miyazaki.

I don’t even read comic books or manga that much. I have a huge pile of them, but only because my brothers needed the extra room in their homes – or thought I’d like to get into them, so they dumped all their extras on me, or gave me some for birthdays. The fact is I don’t have the patience for comic books. I can be a mix between OCD and ADD at times, whereas once I miss an issue (or even an episode of a TV show), I instantly lose interest. The only comic I followed through completely was a Christian manga by Marvel’s Buzz Dixon, called Serenity.

“Yeah, but you read and completely rave about Watchmen!”

Watchmen I read, because I wanted to know what the hype was about. And I like great stories. The fact that Watchmen is a comic book and that the main characters are super heroes is just a matter of circumstance. It could have been a TVO Kids claymation with furry elephants and flying macaroons – It doesn’t mean I’m a nerd. Like most people, I enjoy a good, well-told story; Watchmen is that, and it just to so happens to be told in a graphic novel form.

Speaking of raving, there’s very little that I “joygasm” over. If you’ve met me, you’ll know that when I like something, it’s basically, “Yeah, it was good,” or “I think you’d really enjoy this.” …Not “OH MY GOOD GRAVY, YOU MUST SIMPLY EXPERIENCE THIS. IF NOT YOU’RE DOOMED FOREVER RABBLE RABBLE RABBLE!” – And the same goes for if someone hates on something I do like. Instead of getting all NERD RAGE (see fig.1) and telling the individual they are an “effing moron” and “do not realize that [insert] is the ‘Gone with the Wind’ of its time,” but instead want to know why they didn’t enjoy whatever it was that I did.

Come on, guys. Street Fighter wasn't that bad... :(

For example, there’s a fellow I know who thinks Pulp Fiction is one of the two worst movies he’s ever seen. Though yes, I do think that’s a far fetched and exaggerated statement, I wondered why he’d dislike something as cinematically profound as Pulp Fiction. ...Unfortunately, he never told me.

…But anyway, if there is something I can’t stop talking about, or go into squeals of glee at the mere mention of, or defend it to the death during a slanderous discussion, you know that whatever the thing is, it’s put a serious dent in my aforementioned and nearly impenetrable “impressions gauge”. Things with great stories, like Watchmen, Vandal-Hearts, and The Princess Bride. ...Things that inspire me to become a better writer, like Stephanie Meyer’s sense of fantastical realism, Terry Pratchett’s cinematic description, and Stephen King’s introspective style. ...Things that made an impact on my childhood, like the use of imagination, living in the country surrounded by forestry, and a sense of strong family and religious values.

Though reading back on this article, as well as past things I've written or said, I do understand why people think of me as a member of the nerdcore community. The fact is, that I’m just so exposed to it on a regular basis. My friends are nerds, my brothers are nerds, and I guess some of the things I enjoy can be classified as nerdy, even though most people take part in very similar, if not exactly the same things.

But it’s not just that. Heck, I’ve even been called “creepy” and “stalkerish”, because I can be so quiet and introverted, that when I step into a room and say “Hello,” people jump! I honestly can’t help it when I sneak up on people. I don’t know how not to. Even when I approach facing them, or use a softer tone, I still surprise the non-paying-attention.

But what folks fail to realize is that the world is not so black and white; you can’t take everything at face value. Being exposed to the medium is far different than partaking in it. Unfortunately though, people are too wrapped up in their own lives and self-centredness to tend to the wonders of perception, or to really care.

And in that sense, why do I even care what other people think of me? I know who I am, and shouldn’t that be the only thing that matters? I suppose, but it does truly grow very wearying when I open my mouth to say something, and even the nerdiest of nerds, and the dorkiest of dorks call me a “nerd” and a “dork”.

It's pretty bad when these guys say you're nerdier than they are.

The fact is, it makes steam pour out my ears, because it just shows that people are just too uninterested in really getting to know me, and instead think they can summarize my personality in a faulty point-form check-list and stereotype labeling system and be done with me.

To be honest, I very rarely am able to finish my points or properly explain myself because I’m always interrupted or being selectively heard – so it’s usually assumed that what I’m talking about is so niche. And the only thing I can do about the inaccurate “nerd” label is laugh and say “no I’m not,” and ignore people when they rebut with “yes you are." (trust me this actually happens)

And the reason it makes me so angry is because I go out of my way to be friendly and try to get to know people as best I can. Believe it when I say being outward and boisterous does not come easy for me – and it makes me wonder why I should even bother trying at times, if people won’t give me the same sort of respect and time I offer them.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

A few days late, but whatever.


--David Eddings--
1931-2009


Rest in peace. None shall ever match your wit and ability.


Wednesday, June 10, 2009

E3? More like Zzzzz3

It's amazing. It really is. I remember when I was a kid, and I bought my first issue of Nintendo Power magazine, and it had a full, four-paged article about the Summer C.E.S. '92 expo. Reading about the huge convention really got my blood pumping, and even now, reading it as an adult, I find myself saying "Oh, wow!"

E3 has just finished up for the year, and to be honest, I could have cared less that it was going on. Even as friends and expo-goers gush about the new games and technologies, I find myself yawning or rolling my eyes. I suppose the ill feelings stem from my not really caring about video games now like I did when I was a seventeen year old, let alone a seven year old. That, and just the fact that the video game industry as a whole has changed and grown so vastly (in the wrong direction, in my honest opinion) -- and let's face it, the last two E3 expos were not very good.

...I somehow think their approach to protesting E3's "Booth Babes" is a tiiiiiiiiiiiiiiny bit flawed.

A lot of it has to do with the fact that North America has taken back its "rightful" seat in the monopoly of game-making -- something we haven't seen since the '70s and early '80s. As we all know, Japan's basically held our eggs for us since Nintendo changed the world in '85, and unceremoniously shunted North American and European companies into the minority and PC gaming.

And though this may seem like a really big "OH YEAH!" for primarily the Western developers, I sort of noticed something striking; a parallel if you will, between the industry now, and the industry back then.

To put it short: A lack of creativity and/or originality. How many clones were there of several other games back in the day? A lot. If Atari had a Breakout, Intellivision had a similar type of game, and vica-versa. Basically, most Western developers seem to be in it for the money.

Please don't think this is a post saying "Japanese games are better than Western games", because it's not. There are a lot of really good Western games -- in fact, the Sony Playstation is one of my favourite mediums for Western gaming. I just think that the Japanese (whether they're in it for the money or not), coming from a nation so devoted to the arts, know a thing or two about how to come up with creative concepts a little better than we do.

Yeah, you can say that most everything is a copy of something else, and while that is true, that's where the former part of my point comes in. There's nothing wrong with stemming off of someone else's idea, just be creative about it. I mean, Nintendo is even "guilty" of that. Mario Bros. is a completely blatant clone of Joust -- but instead of being a knight flying around on a giant ostritch, you're a plumber trying to rid Brooklyn's sewers of turtles and crabs!

Heck, I may be totally way off with my opinion on modern gaming. I'm really an outsider looking in, and I only recently bought a 360, so I may be wrong on this, but from a first impression viewpoint, all the Western developers are giving us are primarily the following:

-Free-roaming sandbox
-First person shooter
-Music

Not only that but in most of these games you get:

-Brown, muddy graphics and colour pallettes
-Faceless or voiceless heroes (okay this can be easily argued, since Samus Aran of Metroid fame wears a helmet, and Mario and Link very rarely utter a line of text)
-More attention spent on graphics and gameplay than spent on story and controls

But in all seriousness, how many versions of Guitar Hero are there now? It feels like a hundred. And to think, back in the '90s, people complained about Street Fighter 2's multiple updates. I mean, at least Dance Dance Revolution provided a form of exercise -- if I wanted to play an instrument, I'd learn how to play an instrument.

In the same vein, look at all the World War II titles, most (if not all) being first-person shooters, and developed by Western companies. And there's a TON of them. I'm not one to cudgel the Free Speech act, and I don't want to come across as politically correct -- but I really don't think having so many games related to one of the most traumatizing and totally senseless pages of history is particularly, um, tactful? Is that the word I'm looking for? Wolfenstien 3D was pretty over-the-top, especially for the time it was released -- and to be honest, I really think it should have ended there.

I realize it's a pretty pointed thing to say, and A LOT of people disagree with me, but making a video game based around something like World War II is almost as irreverent as someone thinking it would be a good idea to make video games based around the Old and New Testame--oh wait. They did do that.

Has Western gaming really changed much over the years? I can't really tell,
with all the first-persony, insensitivity-to-history-and-culture stuff.

It's also the fact that developers keep trying to make video games more and more realistic. Last time I checked, the reason I played video games was to escape reality. I was watching a friend play Grand Theft Auto 4, and all he was doing in-game was making calls to people on his cell-phone, and driving his drunk friend around to gay bars.

I'm sorry, but is that supposed to be fun? If I wanted to call people, and drive around getting drunk while being hit on by buff men in speedos and bow-ties, I'd go outside; I don't need a video game to do that. And I know that's not all you do in the game, but even when I tried it out on my own, I found myself bored to death within ten minutes.

I remember when I was a kid, most of the video games I played were fantastical, and had completely unrealistic ideas and gameplay mechanics. Man, back in the day, it was freaking manditory for your main character to be a giant polar bear wearing a chef hat, who drove around on a flying broomstick, chucking exploding date squares at his enemies, all so he could save his girlfriend from the evil, fifty-foot purple dragon named Kraw. But then again, most of the games back then were developed and published in Japan, a country, as I mentioned, pretty devoted to the arts.

The fact is, North America -- The United States specifically, couldn't care less about "artsy-fartsy" things. And unfortunately, Canada seems to be following the same path. Do you know how hard it is to get Canadians to pay attention to almost anything produced and sold directly in their own country? Canadian films 80 to 90% of the time go to the wayside, overshadowed by U.S. releases.

The only known Canadian movie that I know
actually made it big inside AND outside of the country.


The literary industry is even worse. Nobody in the Canadian industry wants anything creative. They want heart-felt (aka long and boring) stories that mostly centre around Canadian history or growing up in Canada. It is positively RARE that a Canadian literary agency or publishing house will accept anything that is creative fiction. I only know of three Canadian genre writers, and I always get the same response when brought up in conversation: "Who?"

If you want the perfect definition of the Canadian literary industry, and how it works, go on Youtube and look up any one interview of Margaret Atwood, Canada's best known current writer, and seriously try to watch the entire thing without either falling asleep or finding something else more stimulating.

But back on topic, I suppose that's partly why I just stopped caring about the gaming industry, and the whole gaming expo ordeal. There are a lot of things I despise about the industry as it is (and you'll probably hear about it), but for me, there's really nothing to look forward to -- and even when there is a rare title that actually is pretty creative and new (Bioshock, Fallout 3 -- and Brutal Legend, coming soon), I literally have to get into the mentality to drag myself over to the console for a try-out.

Microsoft's new mascot; Lothar the Warrior Death-Kitten


It would explain why I hold retro games so close to my heart. You could make the argument that there was an over saturation of platforming games, much like there's an over saturation of FPS and music-related titles now, but ... I don't know. They just give me this feeling of fulfillment and excitement -- a feeling I haven't once yet felt about modern gaming.


Thursday, June 4, 2009

Everything's Eventual

I'm not entirely sure if it has to do with the weight of the recession we're going through, and the fact that my job is basically going to Hell in a hand basket, but I can't seem to find the energy or motivation to do anything anymore.

It's almost energy-draining just to wake up in the morning. I simply don't understand it. I go to bed at a decent time -- around 11:00 pm or 12:00 am, and my alarm goes off for 7:00 am. But for some reason, more often than not, I find myself wandering over to my cell phone, shutting the alarm off, and sleeping for another two to three hours. And when I finally do wake up, I spend another half hour just laying there.

It's pathetic.

And the worst part about it is, sure I've gotten an amazing amount of rest in me, but around midday, I'm freaking exhausted -- and then I start seriously drifting to sleep around 9:00 pm!

When I started my job at a childrens' clothing store back in '07, I was working about forty-hour weeks. I was coming home with like $1,000 paychecks every second week. I was making $8.00 back then. Now I make almost $10.00 an hour, and I'm barely bringing home $100.00 biweekly.

Needless to say I've got a lot of spare time on my hands -- enough to at least go and find a second job, right?

Yeah, I thought so too, early when the year started. When the new year hit, I was all like, "Yeah, I'm gonna make a life for myself. I'm gonna get a second job, I'm gonna apply for college, I'm gonna--wait how is it already June!?"

Out of everything I wanted to do, I was only able to succeed in applying for college -- and I only just did that last week. And friggin' no one is hiring -- or at least, that's what it feels like. No body wants to take a risk, the way things are going. Out of all the people I know who are looking for new jobs, only one or two have landed one. Sure, there are those who claim the recession's getting better, but obviously they don't work in retail.

My dad keeps telling me to relax, and not to worry so much -- that thirty percent of the population in Canada is still at home, or working crappy retail jobs to try and survive. But you know what, it does bother me. It makes me irritable and somewhat emotionally drained.

It's too much of a chore to get up and do anything. I don't even have the motivation to write anything fictional, or make my videos on Youtube anymore. It's sad, I know. I hate it. And you know, I'm not even going through a depression. I'm not even lazy. I'm just freaking lost. I know what I should be doing, but I just can't for the life of me muster up the energy to do it.

And it really frustrates me.

In a way, it's good that I feel this way. It's good that I know things need to change, and that I'm angry about my current situation. But what can I do about it? What can anyone do about it? When I'm actually working, I see people all the time, come into the store and drop off a resume and fill out an application (Haw haw an application? For a childrens' clothing store? For retail, none the less? It's more likely than you think!), and I almost want to say to them, "Don't bother. Despite what my manager says, it's not likely we'll hire you. We're struggling enough with the employees already here."

But at least they're trying. At least they're trying to get out of this dumb rut and try to stay optimistic.

At least they're trying.

The only thing I have to look forward to is the humble thought that the recession is temporary. That it will end and things will go back to normal. Eventually.

I need the motivation and drive that I had when I was a teenager. I need to get it back somehow. I have to stop sitting on the computer all day, just waiting for tomorrow to come, just to do it all over again, because I'm so bored out of my skull.

I gotta make my own motivation and drive. I need to. I can't give up.

I can't.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Uh...

I'm desensitized.

I really am. Which is kind of ironic in a way, as I was pretty sheltered as a kid, and sort of still am to a point. I'm not sure why, but very few things disturb me. While most other people are forced to look away or even block out what is assaulting their senses, just so they don't have to deal with it, I am able to look at the offending source material dead straight in the eyes and analyze what is going on with a level head.

Last night I went through my DVD collection and whipped out Another Day in Paradise: a movie starring Vincent Kartheiser and co-starring James Woods about four people who pretend to be a family of traveling tourists, while in reality, are professional crooks. Hands down, it is a fantastic film, and I recommend it to any one who is into the Indy film scene, or just loves a good criminal romper stomper.

And James Woods.

We like him.

We also like Vincent Kartheiser.

...

A lot.

A great movie.

The movie was directed by one Larry Clark -- a filmmaker I've never heard of before, although on the cover, it stated he directed another movie that I did hear of a long time ago (but knew nothing about), called KIDS. Curious about this, as well as other Larry Clark films, I wandered over to Wikipedia -- which to my dismay (and a good friend confirming it), told me that Clark's other films are pretty messed up. Like, trying-to-push-the-envelope-to-make-us-think-but-instead-making-us-cringe-and-feel-very-uncomfortable messed up.

KIDS is one of these films.

A not so great movie.

In a simple, back-of-the-DVD-case sort of summary, KIDS is a movie about New York teenagers in 1995, and how their already pretty screwed up lives can get worse, and how things can change so easily, and at the same time, stay exactly the same, in a span of twenty-four hours.

Here's the graphic summary.

KIDS is about an irresponsible little toolbox named Telly, who thinks he can escape the rampant fear of AIDS and STDs in general by strictly having sex with virgins. Meanwhile, two equally irresponsible girls head over to the nearest clinic to get the results of their HIV/AIDS test. One girl (played by Rosario Dawson, of Rent and Clerks 2 fame), who's had unprotected sex several times with several different men comes back negative -- while the other girl named Jennie (played by Chloe Sevigny), who's only had sex with one guy -- Telly -- comes back positive.

So basically the entire movie is centered around Telly and his friend Casper getting high with their friends, talking graphically about sex, and wanting to unceremoniously deflower a thirteen year old girl named Darcy, while Jennie wanders around New York trying to find the dumb kid to tell him what he's done to her and stop him before he uncaringly destroys the lives of anyone else in more ways than one.

12/f/ny asl?

Honestly, very few things disturb me.

But I read the plot summary on Wikipedia. And I was disgusted. I didn't want to think about it. Like any decent person, I didn't want anything to do with this movie, let alone Clark's other work outside of Paradise.

I sat through The Passion of the Christ without looking away once. Not because I myself am a devout Catholic, but because I was too busy laughing at Mel Gibson trying to pathetically scare people into their faith and accept Christ as their savior with the use of shock value and emotional abuse/guilt (which actually worked -- well -- until The DaVinci Code came out, anyway) ... Not to mention I thought The Exorcist should have been labeled as "Comedy" instead of "Horror", and whole-heartedly believe Cannibal Holocaust (The most shocking and graphic horror movie to date) is a brilliant and important film.

...But anything that has to do with destroying youth and innocence ... Not to mention that I believe sexuality is sacred between two people (and only two people) and should never be exploited ... That stuff gets under my skin. Especially when the opening scene of a movie is a fifteen year old boy seducing a twelve year old girl for his own benefit, all because he's too lazy/stupid/wigger to go buy condoms and get together with someone his age.

But ... For some reason I caved. After lurking around on Youtube searching for clips and trailers, I came to the conclusion that the film may not as be as bad as people had led on. I put on my Big-Boy pants and got a copy of the movie.

I watched it through its entirety. And yeah, there were a couple parts that bothered me. But I think the film would have had a worse blow to me if the kids portrayed in it didn't walk around like they deserved having a cinder block randomly fall on their heads. And I realize that's an awful thing to say, but ... I really did have a hard time trying to feel sorry for most of these characters. I felt more for the victims (albeit irresponsible victims) of Telly and Casper's chronic retardation than I did for them and their equally moronic druggie friends.

And the scrawny white kids going around in baggy clothes acting and talking like they're black and tough didn't help either (That and the actor who played Telly totally looked out of his element).

Hey guys, does not having HIV mean I get an Oscar?

Not to mention the ending is really depressing/upsetting. Like. You want to smother yourself with a pillow when the credits roll. But then again, it is a pretty accurate depiction of unsupervised, uneducated, bored-out-of-their-minds teenagers.

The explicit sexuality isn't the only big smack to the face, though. Throughout the movie there are several scenes of prolific drug use by kids of all ages (there's a party scene near the end where a group of black kids who look to be around eight or ten sit around sharing a joint while talking about their history of drug use).

I understand what Larry Clark and the screenwriter were trying to do. They were trying to give idiot parents (and I say that lightly) an inside look into the lives of teenagers who were never introduced to the Easy Bake Oven and Super Nintendo, and were instead left with the TV as their baby-sitter. And yeah, while KIDS does its job to educate (and scare), it also slips up and makes the average viewer feel like they need a cold shower and some hard liquor after. And while that may be a good thing, especially since the movie is filmed sort of like a half documentary, I honestly think it could have been done better, and much more effectively.

No, I'm not saying the movie should be sterilized -- I just think it should have gone through a couple more drafts, and I think Clark just could have done a better job directing, among other things that I just can't put my finger on. If the movie was trimmed to seem less raw, it would lose its message of a harsh and truthful and reality. I think KIDS should be shown to every teenager before they decide they want to go out to a party that a "friend of a friend" is having, or decide to have sex of any kind before being exposed to proper education (and moral instillation).

At the same time, I think KIDS should be shown to every parent before they decide maybe it's best if their kids "learn on their own" and completely remove themselves from their lives. Maybe that would keep each coming generation from getting more and more stupid and self-centred.

Regardless of the taboo nature and controversy, the movie does what it's supposed to. And I kind of have to commend Clark for making a movie like this, because you're running the risk of two completely polar reactions: disturbing the audience because they're genuinely affected by the message only to immediately subscribe to eighteen years' worth of Good Parenting Magazine, and disturbing the audience because they're disgusted by the subject matter and think you're a sick psycho for making borderline child pornography.

And in all honesty, KIDS is an important film. It's just not a good film. I realize I haven't gone into too much detail as to why the movie is a train wreck, but as I briefly mentioned, I can't explain why. The only real response I have to that is to rent KIDS and see it for yourself.