Monday, August 27, 2007
The Benefits Of Public Transportation
Ang Lee Won't Be Censored
While we're on the subject of censorship, and the cowardice at its heart (see entry below), let's look at the other end of the spectrum.
The evil, wretched, corrupt and despicable MPAA ratings board has given Ang Lee's new film, "Lust, Caution," an NC-17 rating, meaning that only people age 17 and over can get in. It is, in effect, what used to be called "rated X." Apparently, there's a lot of sex going on, though it isn't base or prurient. Too many pelvic thrusts and that sort of thing. But the rating is more than a simple age limitation. Many (most?) theaters won't screen an NC-17 movie. Many newspapers won't even accept advertisements for them. So it can truly be the kiss of death for a movie.
Normally, an NC-17 rating would mean the studio would edit out the offending material and re-submit the film for an R rating, but I'm extremely pleased to report that Focus Features, which will distribute the movie, has said that there won't be any editing. They'll move forward with the film as-is. Focus Features CEO James Schamus said, "Every moment up on that screen works and is an integral part of the emotional arc of the characters. The MPAA has screened the film now and made its decision, and we're comfortable with that."
That's right. The distributor is on the side of the director, even though the potential revenue loss will be enormous.
"Lust" Begets Caution From The MPAA
Profiles In Cowardice
Shame, shame, shame on the Washington Post and all the other newspapers that chose to censor Berkeley Brethed's "Opus" comic strip this week.
Why'd they do it? Well, it mentions Islam! The last thing we want our newspapers to do is deal with timely and sensitive topics, you know! We all know that newspapers are dying a slow death. Let's hope it's a painful one, too.
I won't ramble on. Below, you'll find a link to Salon's editorial about the matter, as well as a link to the cartoon. I hope I've earned a fatwa for linking to it!
Salon Cries Foul On "Opus" Censorship
Here's The Offensive Cartoon In Question
Wednesday, August 22, 2007
China Forbids Unauthorized Reincarnation
Yes, you read that correctly.
"In one of history's more absurd acts of totalitarianism, China has banned Buddhist monks in Tibet from reincarnating without government permission. According to a statement issued by the State Administration for Religious Affairs, the law, which goes into effect next month and strictly stipulates the procedures by which one is to reincarnate, is 'an important move to institutionalize management of reincarnation.'"
You can't make this shit up, folks.
The offshoot of this madness is that the Chinese government has effectively reserved the right to name its own Dali Lama once the current one dies. I think the government's staunch atheism may make it impossible for them to choose the right one. Hmmm....
Thanks to boingboing for the heads-up on this. Normally, I don't like to overlap my posts with theirs, since educated readers like you should be reading boingboing every day.
China's Totalitarian Freak Show Goes Apeshit
Sunday, August 19, 2007
I Heart Wii
Normally, I'm a graphics snob. I skipped the original Playstation and got a Nintendo 64 instead. I skipped the Playstation 2 in favor of the original XBox. People will say to me "but there are more games available for the [Playstation/Playstation2]! Why would you ever buy a [N64/XBox]?" The answer is obvious: quality trumps quantity. Every great game obviously needs good game play; it has to be fun, regardless of the graphics. But if I only wanted good game play without good graphics, I'd shut off the TV and play cards. A truly legendary game needs to combine an inherently fun game with the best possible graphics. The Playstation and PS2 were always a step behind. If the sheer number of games was important, I'd still have an Atari joystick plugged into my Commodore 64 with a library of 8000 games all priced under $20. But I don't.
The Nintendo 64 had some stunning games, like Super Mario 64, GoldenEye, WaveRace and Mario Kart 64. Sweet God, those games were enormous fun, and the graphics were astounding for their time. I can still remember bringing home the N64 and playing Mario 64 for the first time. It was a revelation. I'd never seen anything like it. Mario Kart is still one of the most hilarious multi player games EVAH! The intensity and detail, along with the perfectly-executed 4-player split-screen, make GoldenEye perhaps the only game-based-on-a-movie that doesn't completely suck. (I'm talking to you, Harry Potter.) WaveRace 64 is one of the all-time great driving games, and it doesn't even involve cars. It's all jet-skis. The game may look a little dated now, but at the time, the water effects and the textures were unmatched.
The XBox was far, far ahead of the PS2. Halo and Halo 2 are examples of first-person-shooter perfection. They're epic stories, perfectly told and fully realized on the screen. They are completely immersive with enormous replay value via the multi player scenarios. Any video game junkie will tell you that Bungie, the company behind Halo, totally redefined the genre, and these games will still be remembered as groundbreaking 20 years from now, when today's consoles are nothing more than quaint relics in the back of the closet. Driving games like Wreckless: The Yakuza Missions and, of course, the Burnout series showed how much fun a car wreck can be.
But, as usual, things are more complicated in the present day. The most powerful system on the market is undoubtedly the PS3, but Sony seems to have truly screwed things up, like they've screwed up most everything they've touched in the last 5 years. (Digital music players that don't play MP3s? The completely unnecessary UMD movie disk? Ugh.) The system is apparently hard to code for, which is leading to delays and frustrations. After paying $600 for a video game system, people expect to have games available to play on it. And those games should be qualitatively better than the games running on less expensive, less advanced systems. So why does Madden NFL 2008 suck compared to the Xbox 360 version? No excuse for it!
I still think that the PS3's better capabilities, along with its Blu-Ray drive, will turn things around in the next 12-18 months. I hope so, anyway. I really want to like this system.
Which brings us to the Xbox 360. While not as capable as the PS3, Microsoft's gambit seems pretty smart these days. The decision to aim slightly lower in the hardware department and come out a year earlier looks pretty good in hindsight. The Xbox has an army of developers that are now comfortable coding for the system, so games coming out for the 360 are optimized, polished and mature. The growing pains are behind it, despite some highly-publicized quality-control issues that have left a bunch of people with expensive doorstops instead of game consoles. Of course, Microsoft is somehow unable to turn a profit on this thing, because the only thing MS does worse than software is hardware.
And then there's the Wii, Nintendo's bizarre little endeavor that throws out most everything we know about designing and using game consoles. The graphics are only marginally better than you'd get from the antiquated PS2, and the controllers are really just motion sensors with some afterthought buttons on them.
About 2 months ago, I started seeing a guy who has a Wii. Two weeks later, i bought one for my nieces. A week after that, I bought one for myself. The thing is genius. Absolutely brilliant. At $250, it's the bargain of the bunch, and the killer app for the system is included for free. It's Wii Sports.
Playing Tennis, especially, is a true joy. You just swing the controller like it's a tennis racket! No frantic taptaptaptap on the z button! No arcane combinations to memorize! It's so intuitive and so obvious, it's like Nintendo has torn the notion of video games down to its foundation and re-built it from the ground up. The graphics are simple and cartoonish, but it doesn't matter at all. In fact, the graphics' simplicity is the ideal aesthetic for the simple game play. Nintendo's game designer savant, Shigeru Miyamoto, clearly designed the game to be fun, and then stopped before it could get cluttered up with extraneous, distracting crap. Playing the Wii for the first time felt a lot like the first time I played Space Invaders some 28 years ago. I knew immediately that the ground had shifted. The curtain of Pong had been lifted, and the logical next step was revealed.
Now, Nintendo has sold nearly as many game systems in 10 months as Microsoft has sold in almost 2 years. Unfortunately, they're having production problems as a result of component shortages, so it may remain hard to get a Wii at your local store until next Spring. Nonetheless, go to eBay right now and find one.
Delicious irony: the Wii can connect to Nintendo's online store, where you can buy old video games to play on your Wii. As a result, I now have Mario Kart 64 on my TV screen again.
Oh, and here's a review of Wii Sports that misses the point 100%. The reviewer actually complains that the Bowling game doesn't let you switch to different ball weights. Sheesh!
A Moron's Review Of Wii Sports
Friday, August 17, 2007
Cool-Looking Movie: Taxidermia
I know a guy who watches movies and really connects with them through the soundtrack. If he enjoys a film, you'll know because he has the soundtrack. When he listens to it, he can sort of "re-watch it" in his head. It's a perfectly valid way to approach a movie, I suppose.
For me, a good movie becomes a great movie when the visuals grab you, surprise you and, naturally, augment the storytelling. I'm especially a fan of the surreal visuals in movies like Fight Club, Being John Malkovich and even the over-hyped Matrix movies.
Foreign films are sometimes the best place to look for bizarre images and extreme camerawork. Half of the jokes in the brilliant Kung Fu Hustle are purely visual, and they serve to create a live-action world with Looney Toon physics. If you've never seen Delicatessen, with its dark, hilarious and painstakingly choreographed sequences, please do so immediately.
Anyway, what I'm actually posting about here is a Hungarian film brought to my attention by the fine folks over at Fortean Times. It's called Taxidermia, and the small trailer they have is very intriguing. I look forward to digging up a copy of it. Click the link to see for yourself.
Taxidermia movie trailer
Thursday, August 16, 2007
After a long absence, during which we toured Central and South America posing as gypsies in order to gather intelligence for counterterrorism operations, we will shortly begin our blogging again!