Florence

I finally played Florence this morning, and yeah, as everyone has been saying, this is such a wonderful little game. It feels more like an interactive story/comic than a game, but whatever you call it, it’s a joy to take in, with superb visuals, storytelling, and music. Certainly one of the best mobile game experiences out there.

Ash vs Evil Dead (Season 2)

I thought the first season was an incredibly fun return to this character and this world, and I was quite looking forward to the second season. It aired a while back, but was just recently added to Netflix, and so far (I’m halfway through) it’s just as fun. It’s kinda insane who much they manage to fit into one episode, and the casting of Lee Majors as Ash’s dad was pretty inspired.

Lost in Space

I watched the first episode of Netflix’s new Lost in Space series, and gotta say I was really impressed. That first episode feels like a movie more than a TV series (in terms of production values), and it sets things up quite nicely for what’s to follow (i.e. I really want to know where this thing is going to go). I was cautiously excited about the series following the first trailers, and I’m glad that it seems to be avoiding the sci-fi curse Netflix has these days (most of its sci-fi productions tend to be disappointing).

Andre the Giant

HBO released a new documentary about Andre the Giant this week, and it’s quite good. I already know Andre’s story — from being a fan of wresting during that era, as well as the great biographical graphic novel  by Box Brown — but this is a nice round-up of his career, and there were bits that were new to me. The part where they talk about his legendary farts had me in stitches. It’s an amazing life, but a sad one as well (because of his condition, and how he decided not to properly deal with it).

Hang ‘Em High

The biggest western (I’d say) from 1968 is Leone’s Once Upon Time in the West, but I watched it a few months ago, and so I’m not including it in my current 1968 movie marathon. I did quite enjoy watching Hang ‘Em High though, which I’d never seen. A classic western, with Eastwood doing what he does so well (even if he’s not as as cool as he is in the “Man with No Name” trilogy). Great flick, and I look forward to watching a few more Eastwood movies from that year.

2001: A Space Odyssey

Well, I watched my last 1987 movie on Friday night, and then on Saturday night I was already kicking off a 1968 run with what is THE movie of that year (and one of THE movies of all time). Watching it again now — it had been quite a while since the last time I saw it — it’s still amazing to see just how well the visuals have aged. I’d say it probably looks better than a lot of sci-fi movies from the 80s and even 90s. Yes, it’s still the mindfuck it’s always been (and the first thing I did when I finished it was to go online to read up again on the various interpretations), and you definitely have to be in the mood to watch something that’s slow-moving like this, but it does indeed deserve all of its acclaim. It’s also so innovative in the way that it presents itself as a linked anthology of 4 parts (early man, discovering the first monolith, Hal’s story, and then arriving near Jupiter). It’s also funny to see a film include a proper intermission in the middle — I wonder when they stopped doing that for long films. As I’ve done for 1967 and 1977, I plan on watching 10 films from this year — I also thought about doing a 1958 run, but there are only a couple of films I’d really like to watch from that year (Vertigo and Jacques Tati’s Mon Oncle).

The Last Emperor

I capped my 1987 movie marathon (of 30 movies) with a film that holds a special place in my heart. I didn’t watch this film when it originally came out, but rather during the summer of 1993.

At the time, I had finished my first two years of university, specializing in Mathematics, and I was feeling lost. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do with my life, but just knew that it didn’t involve Mathematics (or at least, not to have a career based on that). I took the decision that summer that I would leave my program, and instead enroll in a Liberal Arts program. I didn’t know what I wanted to focus on, and so for that first year decided that I would take a big variety of classes, and see what stuck. Around that time, I watched this movie, and was intrigued and fell in love with the world that was presented (even if part of that world was rather harsh). So when it came time to pick classes, they included some language classes (German and Spanish), philosophy classes, and one class on the history of communist China. I never liked history classes in high school — for me, it was just about memorizing dates and names, and I hate anything that involves rote memorization — so I had never had an interest in taking any at a university level, but the topic interested me. That class — given by professor Chungchi Wen — not only led me to discover that a history program was right up my alley (you’d get to sit and hear all these great stories, and the exams where composed of 1 question, to which you would answer in the form of an essay, which is where I developed my love of writing), but it would also mark the first step of my Asian journey. The following year I declared a major in History (and a minor in Mathematics, due to all of the credits I had accumulated), and after that program was finished I moved to Montreal and enrolled in an East-Asian Studies program, which led to an opportunity the following year to go study Chinese at Nankai University in Tianjin, China, which is where I met my wife (who was studying at the same university), who happened to be Japanese, which led me to move to Tokyo, and the rest is, as they say, history.

Sure, all of this is not just because of this movie, but I still can’t help but point to it and see it as a sort of trigger for everything that came after. As for the movie itself, how is it now? I still quite enjoyed watching it, and it’s still a beautiful film to watch, but having everyone speak in English comes off as incredibly unnatural to me (back then, it didn’t take long before I discovered the cinema of Zhang Yimou, with a body of films that further inspired me), and there’s some iffy acting as well. But yes, it’s still a very special movie for me, and I’m thankful for the life choices that came out of it.

Empire of the Sun

I was a big, big fan of this movie back when it originally came out, and re-watching it now, I still think it’s a great movie, especially the amazing performance by a very young Christian Bale. Sure, this being one of Spielberg’s first forays (if not the first) at making a serious drama, he does slip a bit at times (like the scene where Bale finds the old fighter plane and pretends he’s flying it, with his paper model flying around), and I feel like the John Williams score doesn’t work a lot of times (too “movie”), but for the most part it’s a mesmerizing film, and shows a side of WW2 that we didn’t really see elsewhere (the experience of British expats in Shanghai under the Japanese occupation). Still well worth a watch.

Plane, Trains and Automobiles

This is one of those comedy classics that still gets mentioned a lot, and you know what, it’s still a great movie. I tend not to like a movie in which the protagonist is constantly experiencing a barrage of difficulties — which is pretty much what this entire movie is about — but I think the remarkable performance by John Candy makes it all bearable. So many memorable moments, and that happy ending is well deserved. In a way you can see how this is going to lead Hughes into making Home Alone — which is a bit sad, because I would have liked him to do more brat pack movies — but it’s hard to think about comedy movies in the 80s and not include this.