I loved this documentary. It’s no secret that Evil Dead 2 (and to a lesser extent Army of Darkness) is one of my favorite movies, and so this made for a fun trip back to examine what made it such a classic. It includes interviews with pretty much everyone involved, except for Sam Raimi — plenty of Bruce Campbell definitely compensates for that omission though. If you’re a fan of the original movie, then you’ll surely have a great time watching this.
If you’re at all interested in gaming culture, I can’t recommend enough The Artists: The Pioneers Behind the Pixels, a series of short (about 10-minutes each) documentaries released last year that take a look at various aspects of gaming history, produced by the CBC. There are 10 episodes in all, and you can stream them through the CBC Gem app or web access (a name I really quite dislike and don’t understand). Big thanks to my Ubi colleague Fred for bringing this to my attention.
Being the game history/cultural nerd that I am, I did already know most of these stories (for example, if you enjoy the Doom episode, then you really need to read the fantastic book Masters of Doom), but I did still get a kick out of revisiting all of this, and enjoyed the interviews and presentation (the series is slickly made with a retro aesthetic). It also made me quite nostalgic for the Electronic Arts of old.
For the longest time I really hated Funko — or what I’ve learned, is that I specifically hated Funko Pop figures. I did finally break down and get some earlier this year, when they released a James Bond series — I never see Bond figures, so couldn’t help myself. Since then, I’ve gotten used to seeing them on my desk, and don’t mind the aesthetic as much as I did. What I didn’t know was that Funko started out being inspired by 60s tiki culture and bobble-heads, and that stuff was really cool. I learned this from the documentary about Funko that’s on Netflix, that’s pretty entertaining to watch — just like the Toys That Made Us series, it’s fun to learn how all of these playthings came to be. It’s an impressive rise to see, and the fandom that accompanies it is pretty nuts too. I’m still not a complete convert to the Funko Pop — I am eyeing the Twin Peaks figures now though — but I do quite like all of those original bobble-head figures they used to produce.
I was going to start sharing my GDC thoughts this week, but there’s Japanese gaming in the air. This weekend marks the 6th edition of the BitSummit indie gaming festival in Kyoto, and that’s pretty much all I’m seeing on my timeline right now — people taking in cool indie games, and enjoying (drunk) social outings around town.
I won’t lie, it’s making me pretty fucking homesick right now (when you lived in Japan for over 15 years, it’s hard not to consider it one of your “homes” for the rest of your life).
But on top of BitSummit, this week also marks the release of Ebb and Flow, a fantastic new documentary from the team at Archipel. Archipel, composed of Anne Ferrero and Alex Zabava, is the duo that for the past few years has been producing the Toco Toco series, which I’ve highlighted and recommended on this blog countless times because I think it’s terrific — each episode focuses on a Japanese creator, and although quite a few of the episodes focus on the games industry, they touch on all creative fields. They also produced the excellent documentary Branching Paths, that takes a look at the growing indie gaming scene in Japan.
Archipel as a label was launched fairly recently, and is to be the home for all of the duo’s future videos, including more Toco Toco, and even more excitingly, what looks like more long-form videos.
Ebb and Flow — with the subtitle “Conversations on the recent momentum of Japanese games” — is a great exploration of the recent resurgence in popularity of Japanese games on the world stage (they point to the start of 2016 as a milestone date). It features interviews with the creators of all those games (Nier: Automata, Yakuza, Monster Hunter: World, Rez Infinite, Persona 5, and lots more), and I of course loved seeing my friend John Ricciardi (co-founder of the Tokyo-based game localization company 8-4) be included as well, to offer some context.
It’s easy for me to recommend everything that Archipel produces — every time I talk to Anne, I tell her I’m her biggest fan — but at the very least, if you have an interest in Japanese games, you really need to watch Ebb and Flow (and follow that up with Branching Paths, to see a similar story from an indie perspective).
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).
It’s as if Toco Toco could read my mind. Earlier this year I discovered and fell in absolute love with the music of Soichi Terada (through the music of Shinichiro Yokota) — his Sounds from the Far East compilation is the record I’ve listened to the most this year (and I’m listening to it right now as I write this). Imagine my very pleasant surprise when I find that the latest episode of Toco Toco — my favorite documentary web series — is all about him. Thank you, Anne.
In other Anne Ferrero news, the other video series that she’s involved in, New Territories, released a second episode a few weeks ago, and it’s another visual treat.
Although not part of Anne Ferrero’s Toco Toco series, this wonderful short documentary on Yoshitaka Amano that she helped produce for Mana Books is very much Toco Toco-like, and a great look at the man and what inspires him.
The second great documentary I watched last week (following the Clive Davis one) was the Spielberg documentary that aired on HBO. It’s a really fantastic look at the man’s career, and makes you appreciate even more what he was able to achieve through his life’s work (so far). Unlike the Clive Davis one, I didn’t really learn anything new here, but I quite enjoyed the look back at the films I grew up watching, with interesting comments coming from his collaborators. Well worth watching.