Friday, December 31, 2004

2004 idiocy

Yeah, I couldn't do a real "best/worst of" thing even if I wanted to, given how little exposure I ever have to new stuff. Whuddever! I'll just list some random crap in no particular order.

Best album: Nick Cave&the Bad Seeds, Abattoir Blues/The Lyre of Orpheus. Seriously. You don't think there's any way in hell a new Cave album is not going to suck? I didn't either. But believe it, dude. This is not just good; it's the best album he's ever made. Believe it.

Runner-up: Tom Waits, Real Gone. Fuck Q for giving it two stars. It requires stamina, but it is thrilling. Fearless prediction: the next Waits album will consist entirely of howling and pounding sheet metal with rocks. And it will be brilliant.

Worst album: Leonard Cohen, Dear Heather. Of course, worse albums than this undoubtedly came out this year. But, dude, it's Leonard: give me back my broken night, my mirrored room, my secret life, it's lonely here; there's no one left to torture. Give me absolute control over every living soul then lie beside me baby--that's an order! That Leonard. And this is just pathetic. BARF.

Runner-up: Johnny Dowd, Cemetary Shoes. Same disclaimer. Come back to us, Johnny!

Best film: Actually, I'm not at all sure that I actually saw any films released in 2004. No kidding. Oh yeah, Team America. Well, that was fun, although that was probably influenced to a great extent by the people I saw it with. And frankly, the fact that the majority of us American assholes chose to endorse it as a real-world foreign policy makes it seem a lot less amusing in retrospect. So I'm not going to give it the nod. Even though I'm pretty sure it has no actual competition. Instead, movies that must've come out pretty recently that I saw in 2004: The Corporation, which is the most damning indictment of corporate culture you will ever see. It occasionally makes you want to kill yourself, but it's never less than riveting. When the hell is it coming out on DVD?

Runner-up is City of God. Man, I've gotta rewatch this before too long. It's huge and sprawling and epic and cringe-inducingly violent and just fucking fantastic. Yeah!

For worst movie, (note that I haven't actually seen any of these other than the Jesus one) it's gotta be Garfield. But, uh, the previews were plenty. Honorary mentions to The Cat in the Hat, which is shit-encrusted enough to be worth mentioning two years in a row. Also Troy, for its obvious contempt for the source material. And King Arthur for cloaking its idiocy behind a shield of bullshit "historical accuracy." And fucking Eurotrip. And, of course, The Jesus Movie. Ultraviolence was never so boring! Good work desensitizing us all to the death of your god, Mel!

Best book: Yeah, that's a good one. As if I read any books written in the last twenty years. But the best book I read was Mishima's Decay of the Angel. You've really gotta read the entire four-volume Sea of Fertility. Art doesn't get much greater.

runner-up: the ever-popular It's late and I'm tired. Maybe more later, although I would not bet on it.


Anonymous Anonymous pontificated to the effect that...

Further end-of-year fun: if you get a moment sometime today (the 31st), have a look at RPGC's front page. We've seeing off 2004 with a feature commemorating Final Fantasy III.

- SK

1:31 PM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. pontificated to the effect that...

I enjoyed your encomium to the game. You make me want to replay it. It may well indeed be the best game about. Watching my brother, in a fit of nostalgia, replaying FFVII over winter break, and realizing just how incoherent the story really is. You play it and you think hey, this doesn't make sense, but then you go through it and you think, in retrospect, hey, that probably DID make sense, but then if you play it again you realize, hey, no, it really doesn't. Past VI, I have little interest in any game with "Final Fantasy" in it except for Tactics. And only the original. In conclusion, I am a luddite.

5:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous pontificated to the effect that...

I can't agree completely about VII. Parts of the plot were convoluted, particularly those that concerned the "Reunion" - however, the "Reunion" is itself not really a substantial plot point, but more of a McGuffin to get the characters across the continent and have them meet Sephiroth for the big dramatic revelations. I think that the game more than compensates for this by populating the plot with many great characters, even in supporting roles - the Turks, the Shinra executives, Rufus, the AVALANCHE guys, and so forth don't get a lot of "development" per se, but they are all very memorable, distinctive character types, I think. The directing is great too: the game really doesn't just rely solely on the power of good graphics and pretty FMV, it has very good set design, especially in the Midgar environments.

The real problem with VII, I think, that turns lots of folks away from the plot, is the crappy translation. That is definitely a big drawback, no argument there. However, I do find it necessary to note that the PC release of the game (which is the one I own) cleaned it up quite a bit. "Off course" and "This guy are sick," for instance, do not appear in the PC version.

At this point, I'd give VI the edge over VII, but two years from now I'll be glad to compile another tenth-anniversary tribute to VII.

I do agree with you on everything after VII, though.

4:02 PM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. pontificated to the effect that...

Hey, I love "off course." Wouldn't trade it for anything. The biggest problem I had was that Square seemed incapable of keeping straight exactly what past events Cloud had actually experienced, which were false memories, and which he was just making up. I get the impression that they had this idea that they were sort of making up as they went along, and then they never went back and edited it for coherence. Certainly, the Turks were great, as were some of the other secondary characters (even if most of the actual party members aren't terribly interesting). And snowboarding is the best minigame ever. Overall, though, it just doesn't leave me with a very strong emotional attachment. A function of the particular circumstances under which I first played it mingled with unquantifiable psychological things? No doubt, in part. But there it is. As I've mentioned a number of times, though possibly not online, I think it would have been badass if the entire game had been set in Midgar. That part of the game had a very distinct and memorable atmosphere about it. Afterwards, the world became much more RPG standard-issue.

3:41 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous pontificated to the effect that...

Really? I thought that that particular part was pretty internally consistent. Basically, as I recall, the Kalm flashback bit was truthful in everything except Cloud's role - in telling the story, Cloud replaced Zack with himself, whereas in reality Cloud was just one of the regular blue-uniformed privates. Then, when they meet up with Sephiroth at the north pole, Sephiroth explains which parts of the story weren't true; later, when Cloud and Tifa fall into the Lifestream, Cloud's actual role in the story is revealed. And then, if you go to the underground library in Nibelheim on Disc 3, it clears up a bit more about Zack and how Cloud got to Midgar after the debacle in Nibelheim. So Square is pretty solid on that part, at least insofar as the translation didn't totally obscure their meaning.

I don't know...I liked the game very much from the beginning, and I still do. Perhaps I just happened to be receptive to the story when I got the game, and the rest is just nostalgia, but I don't think that that's the case. The characters do really stand out in my mind to this day, the very colourful supporting cast as well as some of the non-Cloud main characters (Barret, Tifa, Aeris, Vincent), and like I said, the directing is used very well to enhance the telling of the story (i.e. how the Vincent/Lucretia bit is told in stills with low-key music and without too much dialogue). I also think that the story is told energetically and maintains a sort of drive throughout the game, unlike, say, VIII, whose story ceases to progress in any cohesive way after the first disc. Overall, I'd say that, good graphics and comparatively modern setting notwithstanding, the game is much closer in spirit to its immediate predecessor than to its successors.

6:38 PM  

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