Monday, April 10, 2017

Best of the Best: 2012

Otherwise known as The Borrowers.

Year: 2012
Movie: The Secret World of Arrietty
Game: Skyrim (PS3 version)*
Album: Cascadia by Third Seven*
Song: Destination Now by Third Seven*

I'm just going to start out by saying that especially after looking back at it, I think it's safe to say that, especially entertainment-wise, 2012 was a fairly dead year for me. In my private life, I finally managed to fully conquer the unrighteous and horrendous demon known as "Forced General Education", as I put math I should have never been required to take for an English degree behind me, and finally earned a few college degrees, even if they aren't worth much. My struggles with math, which, again, I should have never been required to take, were epic, even though I was concurrently in the Honors Program and regularly pulling off As and Bs in classes that actually interested me, I struggled in math and a couple math-heavy science classes. None of which applied to my degree. But I digress. That was one minor accomplishment in my life worth noting, finally "graduating" college. I had intended to move on to another university in pursuit of a Humanities/Arts and possibly even Film degree, but got stopped short by financial aid issues that aren't worth going into. Regardless, while having college degrees to my name is neat, it doesn't help me attain what has been my ultimate goal (career-wise) since my late teens: to make a living as a writer. A goal I'm still working towards, and shall continue to do so.

On the movie front, it was basically a few lone oasis' in a vast dessert. Which is unsurprising as that is obviously the direction my views on modern blockbuster films has been heading in this whole time. Getting into the negative at this point would be redundant, but I will mention two films: Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, and The Hobbit (part 1). With Ghost Rider, the original Nick Cage film was, while not perfect, enjoyable, and I had been looking forward to what they might do with a sequel. As it turned out? Wish they hadn't bothered. It was another case of different writer/director, and basically just taking the whole thing to pot. It was legitimately a bad film, which almost entirely ignored the fact that the first film had even happened, and I was really let down. But not nearly as much as I was with Peter Jackson's The Hobbit. To save myself bitching about in more in subsequent years, I will just say that while I really enjoyed his Lord of the Rings films at the time, and Fellowship was my "favorite movie" for a few years there, even looking back on those, I wish they had stuck more to the books, and been done differently in certain key ways. But they're still GREAT compared to what he did with The Hobbit. I won't allow myself to bog this down with another huge rant, but I will just say that I truly will always wish that Guillermo Del Toro had stayed on as director, I feel he almost would HAVE to have done a better job. He only wanted to make ONE movie based on the Hobbit (which was ONE book), and that is precisely what should have been done. Instead, Peter Jackson let Hollywood suits talk him into making ONE book into a fucking trilogy. And the man who I had once felt had been FAIRLY faithful to Middle Earth, a place that had been near and dear to my heart since childhood, went and made films that were, I shit you not, almost 50% completely made up bullshit. The opening like 20 minutes of this first Hobbit film? Pretty solid. The rest of the trilogy? Gets worse as you go. I genuinely hope that someone else comes along years from now and does ONE good Hobbit film. I really do, because it deserves better. For now, the 1977 cartoon is THE way to go, if you want a good (and faithful) adaptation.

The Lorax was okay, but I feel that these CGI Dr. Seuss films are sometimes missing the beat a little bit. There was the Wes Anderson film Moonrise Kingdom, which was in his typical quirky style, and was quite enjoyable. The Avengers also surprised me, and stands out as the only thing Joss Whedon has ever done that I actually like. But the movie that earned my Movie of 2012 praise, and not merely because nothing else really stood out, was Studio Ghibli's Secret World of Arrietty. Based on the Borrowers novels, while not directed by the master Hayao Miyazaki himself, it was still pure Ghibli, and a very, good film that I would recommend to anyone.

Game of the Year?

So, I need to tell a quick story to explain this one. I didn't play it when it released in 2011, even though I own a PS3. In fact I had never previously played any of the Elder Scrolls games, not being a big PC gamer, and never being terribly interested in the previous game Oblivion. When this game came out, I really didn't get the hype, and as is sometimes the case with me, was actually rather annoyed by the hype surrounding it. Oblivion had gotten some attention, but the sheer level of buzz and craze surrounding THIS game was insane, and I just didn't get it. Then came the gaming desert of 2012, wherein, literally, almost nothing that I really wanted to play came out, happened. So at some point around the early summer of 2012, after I had finally conquered "Gen Ed" and "graduated", I just randomly decided to ask my friend Jay if I could borrow his copy, since he had also given the game praise, and wasn't playing it at the moment. Now, while I didn't (and don't) love the forced cinematic opening nonsense you have to go through, once I really started the game, I found myself getting into it. And getting into it led, quite frankly, into a veritable "lost week" in that early summer, wherein I stayed up all night playing Skyrim for hours, slept for awhile, got back up and did it again, for the better part of a week.

So I got into it. That isn't to say I LOVE the game, and I WILL state that the game deserves an asterisk as my Game of 2012, because nothing else really deserved the praise. I DID go out of my way to buy a Wii U on launch day (which saving up for that in itself was an adventure), and I DID like New Super Bros. U. But I chose this because I poured hours into playing this fucking game, for good AND ill, so based just on how much time I sank into/wasted on it, I felt it deserved the title. The game is hardly perfect, in fact it's VERY flawed. I didn't love the stupid civil war storyline, nor did I love more or less being forced to choose a side if you want to get anywhere in it. And the PS3 version is glitchy as hell, with a lot of bugs, a few of which made certain missions unbeatable. And overall I really kept constantly feeling like "okay, why can't I do THIS?", over and over as I played the game. What I came away from the experience with, was a feeling that while Bethesda is NOT a terribly good developer (noone that puts out that buggy a product deserves to be called good), what they crafted with Skyrim was a fairly organic feeling, "living" type of game world, and THAT was why I played it for hours. Not for the often overly long, VERY much the same thing over and over dungeons. Nor for the riveting plot about racist Nords, Asshole Elves, and a World Eating Dragon. But the most fun I had playing Skyrim, was forgetting the game I was supposed to be playing, and just getting lost in the game WORLD, running around, exploring, filling out the map, finding hidden areas, etc. You know, the same basic shit I love about Zelda games. I was left with a feeling that, if they ever finally make an Elder Scrolls 6 for a system I own, that if they could take what they did for Skyrim, but do it a lot BETTER, that is a game I would like to play.

Billy Mickelson

2012 was also a dead year for music. So much so that it isn't even worth going into whatever came out that I didn't like. So I will just instead mention that by pure accidental happenstance, the previous December I had been in an "Intro to Jazz" class, and was supposed to be attending a live Jazz show to write a paper on. And instead, because of a mix-up with signs and days and whatnot, I accidentally went to this little coffee shop type place to see "Third Seven" instead, which is basically a one-man act (though he sometimes has an accompanying musician or two). The one man band is Billy Mickelson, pictured above. He is from Bend, Oregon (I myself being born in Portland), and he is, I don't mind saying, a fairly masterful cello player. The cello also happens to be my favorite classical instrument, and what he does with it is rather remarkable. Especially live, he is literally a one man band, as what he does is he uses looping/mixer peddles, to record and loop music that he plays live, on the fly. So he'll do a simple beat on the body of the cello, for example, and then loop that, then strum a simple tune, loop that, and THEN play mournful cello strains OVER his own loops, and sing. It's very unique, and I was quite taken with his work right way. I got an mix cd of his older music from him that night, and later downloaded (he offers it for free) his 2012 album "Cascadia". I've seen him once when he came back to town since, and though it's been awhile, I eagerly await his next stop. He offers his music for free (though he also sells cds) on his website.

*You can ALSO check out some simple "music videos" I made for several of his songs last year, over on the Retro Revelations Youtube Channel:

As Are We -

Something Oceanic -

Himinn -

Fyrre -

Cleansing Fire -

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