Thursday, March 25, 2010

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World Teaser Trailer

I'm not the biggest fan of Michael Cera, but I am a huge fan of Edgar Wright. I absolutely loved Shaun of the Dead, and I thoroughly enjoyed Hot Fuzz. Now he's adapting the Scott Pilgrim vs the World graphic novels into a movie, and I couldn't be more excited. The comics are hilarious and have an intrinsic sentimentality for me because they are set in my hometown of Toronto. They also expertly mesh video game iconography, Japanese culture, and romantic sentimentality, all of which I love. All things considered, it's as though the Scott Pilgrim books were designed specifically to my tastes.

All this is to say that I am extremely excited for the movie adaptation, coming out on August 13th. Moreover I was thrilled today to see that the first teaser trailer has been released. Not only does it demonstrate that the film will effectively portray each of my favourite elements from the books (idealistic romance, idiosyncratic humour, cartoonish/video game-esque violence, Toronto busses, etc.), it also shows that Michael Cera will go somewhat out of his comfort zone and actually act for this movie. In this trailer he not only speaks to a girl but actually manages to hit on her, albeit with debatable success. Despite my initial reservation he may actually be suited for this role, and I couldn't be happier.

Expect more on Scott Pilgrim vs. the World as the film's release date approaches. Also I might blog about the graphic novels because they are amazing, and lets face it I have a bit of a thing for dissecting adaptations.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Google Goes Uncensored in China

This is what Google users in China will see right now if they search Tiananmen Square. This morning Google did what they've been saying they would do for months, and went completely uncensored in China. now redirects to, the Google portal for Hong Kong. In the coming hours we will undoubtedly see the Chinese government's response to this direct infringement upon their access to information policies. I will unfortunately be on a place, and so I'm going to miss the showdown. Regardless it will be well documented and discussed for years to come. Today is truly history in the making.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

3D in the Tron Legacy Trailer

I just saw Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland in 3D, and it was negligible. Things happened onscreen, money was exchanged, and Tim Burton should be ashamed of himself. The most positive aspect of the experience was the trailer for Tron Legacy that played beforehand.

The embeded video above contains the footage I saw, but unfortunately I can't share the way it looked. Back in January I wrote about the use of 3D visuals in Avatar, and wondered what could have been had James Cameron chose to use the revolutionary visual technology as a true storytelling device; by matching Jake Sully's entrance into the avatar body with the introduction of 3D the audience could have shared Sully's newfound bodily experience through the style of the film. As with colour in The Wizard of Oz, 3D could have come to us suddenly and in such an arresting way as to capture the imagination of viewers for years to come. That didn't happen, but clearly 3D was a success that is here to stay regardless.

Now, with Tron Legacy, my fantasy of 3D being used as a tool instead of a gimmick has come true, albeit on a much smaller scale.

When you watch the trailer above you will see exactly what I saw in the theatre until about 1:18, when the white light shines into the camera and then the screen goes black. After that you will see the updated visual style of Tron Legacy, but you won't experience it like I did. That's because it isn't in 3D.

It may have only been a trailer, but I can't tell you how startling and pleasant the shift to 3D visuals was. Some may complain that it is jarring, but I felt that it brought the entire fantasy world to life in a whole new way. More so even than with Pandora in Avatar, which I merely saw in a movie that was shown in 3D. Here I felt the difference between my world and the fantastic one of the film, a feeling that is an integral aspect of the story itself, and the transition actually made the whole experience stronger.

I sincerely hope that this is a sign of what we will see when Tron Legacy is released, and of the level of technique that will be used in the approaching flood of 3D films. Avatar has come and gone, was what it was, and it has forever left its mark on cinema; this use of 3D gives me hope that the revolutionary visual technology may have a positive effect, and will be used well in better things to come. After sitting through Alice in Wonderland, I need that.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Blogging, Sexuality, and Journalism

Globe and Mail columnist Margaret Wente recently published an article identifying blogging as a "guy's thing." The negative backlash was such that it inspired the Globe to host a chatroom debate between Wente and readers. Follow the links to read the article and an archive of the chat.

I can't begin to list all the issues I have with Wente's basic argument and rhetoric. As the chatroom quickly points out she's quite simply wrong and failed to sufficiently research her topic; either that or she deliberately chose to ignore examples that didn't adhere to her limited definition of femininity. That's really my core problem here: Wente still couches her argument in such a restrictive binary as to identify entire activities as definitively gender oriented. It's difficult to give her piece even a fair consideration when she espouses such archaic paradigms. That doesn't even touch upon the basic irony of an article expressing the opinion that men blog more predominantly because they have a stronger desire to express their opinions.

The chatroom is way too easy on Wente, much like her editor. The tragedy of modern journalism, in its death throes, is that voices like this come with the intrinsic authority of publication. I can't think of a better nail in the practice's coffin than obsoleteness to the point of irrelevancy.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Fun In The Sun

I'm off to Cuba for a week or two, and as such there wont be any updates till I get back. Enjoy the March weather wherever you are and take care.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Games As Art: More Thoughts on Heavy Rain

I don't want to continue talking about Heavy Rain at length, I feel like I've done so enough, but I do have a few further thoughts I'd like to share before I let the subject rest.

First of all I think Heavy Rain is a game that will continue to amaze and divide people for years to come. The more of it I experience the more I want to talk about how different it is from other games, and how it truly is a stepping-stone title in the history of gaming. It simply feels different to play this game than any other game or movie that has come before. It may not be the future of gaming in the general sense, but it certainly has refined a single genre almost to the point of becoming unrecognizable. Interactive movies will never be the same, and that is a very good thing. From now on they will be viable, both as entertainment and art.

I haven't stressed enough the degree to which your characters' mortality influences the experience of Heavy Rain. Knowing that at any point you can cause the death of a major character and change the story rather than end it gives weight to every decision in a revolutionary way. Never before have you experienced this kind of influences to this degree, not in video games nor in cinema. You become at once the actor, director, writer and witness of the Heavy Rain story. In this sense every playthrough becomes your story, your adventure. I appreciate having the option to go back to any moment in the story and replay it, but frankly it's insufficient since each section is so influenced by your multitude of actions throughout the whole. It truly is an interactive movie that lives and breathes with us, and thereby comes to mean so much more both in terms of individual characters and overal arc.

On the subject of meaningful characters, I want to also mention Heavy Rain's gender politics. They are without a doubt problematic, and not quite as forward looking as I once hoped. The first few minutes of gameplay as the female player-character, Madison, are voyeuristic in the extreme: not only can you have her undress and shower, there is actually a set of available commands that have no effect beyond making her stretch and push out her chest. Nevertheless, the game is still an improvement upon general representations of gender within the video game industry.

Take for example the strip sequence I mentioned in my ramble in October: in the 'Sexy Girl' chapter players are forced (at gun-point) to strip for a sleazy club owner. The sequence not only puts players in the awkward position of identifying with the expressly uncomfortable Madison, it furthermore allows them to control her degradation. If the player is able to completely ignore Madison's personality despite hearing her inner thoughts, then they can choose to prolong the scene in order to see more of her body exposed. Doing so is a conscious choice, however, as the conclusion to the sequence is put within reach early on: if the player decides to have Madison to strip further then they are in effect taking the subject position of the club owner who is forcing her to do so; the controller becomes the gun, and the player becomes the perverted rapist. This is a unique moment in gaming where the voyeuristic act is being called out for what it is in terms of the commodifying nature of single-player virtual portrayals of sex. As in all other facets, the game has its problems but they shy in comparison to the stature of its accomplishments.

Anyway, those are just a few more thoughts I've had about Heavy Rain. It continues to be an incredible experience, more so every time I return to it, and I strongly recommend it to everyone. I'll leave you now with a few other thoughts on the game that I've found interesting:

The Brainy Gamer decries Heavy Rain's half-hearted interactivity, and then opens up the conversation for dissenting viewpoints.

One such dissenting viewpoint is expressed at Pop Matters.

A fantastic Contrarian Corner piece on the game over at IGN. This article really explores the game as an interactive entertainment vehicle, and attacks its gender politics in ways that do not align with my assessment above.

A breakdown of the game's admittedly significant plot holes over at games radar. Spoiler warning. This article is the best proof that Heavy Rain is truly more game than movie, and an experience that must be played in order to be felt.

Lastly, the reviews from Joystiq, Kotaku, and GameTrailers that finally convinced me to buy the game.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Discussion of Race in Video Games at DICE 2010

The video below shows Raven Software's Manveer Heir hosting a panel discussion on the representation of race in video games. It's well worth the time, despite the fact that it's difficult/impossible to see some/many of the charts in the background.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

From Around the Web - 2/3/10

Booze that doesn't give you a hangover? Hmm... Part of me is excited, but another part of me thinks that's taking a lot of the fun out of it... Maybe that means I'm an alcoholic...

Is Suda 51 the Alfred Hitchcock of Video Games? Interesting article given my post the other day about video games and the auteur theory.

Todd McFarlane is still working on Spawn 2. If he promises to bring back John Leguizamo as the creepy clown, Violator, then I'm totally in. Leguizamo makes anything watchable, even Super Mario Bros.