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On Fantasy, and why it’s so easy to get hooked onto Hollywood opiate

As of late, it’s been difficult for me to watch any films that take a darker, deeper look at human nature, life, and existence. Normally, I thrive on these themes, and eat them up like pineapple cakes. But lately, I have been too….emotionally  drained to want to entertain them.

In the end, what is it that a majority books, movies, television, and games provide? Outlets for our own fantasies, of course. Where the fantasy space of the viewer is carefully engaged, using the screen material. To quote a friend, “it allows your mind the freedom to wander, to consider what it finds of interest, to float past what it doesn’t.  It allows you to engage a mode of fantasy that draws energy from the story and its characters (though likely not all characters, and different characters for each viewer or reader), but is not equivalent with the story–again, fantasy will touch down on points of interest with the story, but otherwise spends a lot of time elsewhere, playing with some of its ideas, characters or scenarios.” It is a mark of powerful work of art, that is able to transport and immerse the viewer it’s own unique fantasy space. Take Star Wars, Star Trek, or Harry Potter. All of these have fanatical and active fanbases, who are, above all, active in exploring these worlds. Harry potter fanfiction is written and consumed in unfathomably large quantities by fans who love the characters, and love to write about them. There are conventions for both Star Wars and Star Trek, where fans enjoy roleplaying their favorite races.

In the end, I do believe that people have fantasies of two main themes, often intertwined: fantasies of grandeur, and of romance. Hollywood has perfected the formula, the one where a movie, immersive or not, manages to make the audience lose themselves in their own fantasies, more than what’s actually happening on screen. For guys: Fast cars, explosions, wealth, social status, superpowers/amazing physical ability, a sense of purpose, and above all, a sense of specialness, of being chosen. For girls, romance, finding passion/a connection, social status, desirability/likability, and that same sense of specialness. And it all wraps up all tight and neat in 110 minutes. For a movie to have mass appeal, it makes sense to unashamedly throw all these things together in a jumble, which is why chick flicks and action movies are so damn generic.

Art and media is, after all, something to be engaged in, and not just watched. Just like a painting evokes different responses, and is appreciated in different ways by different people. Ideally, one would be fully able to appreciate the complete depth a work of art, all it’s complexities as envisioned by a great mind. But in the end, it doesn’t really matter, as long as you can find even one reason to be entranced.

The greatest works of art…they are not only immersive, taking you into their realm completely, but they explore and expand your own fantasies. They provide a framework that your mind can roost on, an area to entertain and contemplate at your leisure. They make you think, shaping your understanding of the world, and human nature.

I think it’s quite silly how … almost taboo it is to talk about the notion of fantasies, and how absolutely integral they really are to most of us. Far from being something we discard when “growing up,” we keep them with us for life; they shape our dreams and aspirations, our understanding of media and what works of art we enjoy, and ultimately, who we want to be.

 
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Posted by on January 28, 2012 in Editorials

 

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Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson Review

Rating: ★★★★★

As a general rule, I don’t like nonfiction.  Which is strange if you know me, because I’ve always been a history lover, a facts seeker.  But somehow nonfiction books manage to be incredibly boring to me.  It’s dry, it’s filled with facts, which is 100% the point of the book, but where’s the story?  I firmly believe that everybody’s life, any event has a story that needs to be told.  And every story doesn’t only have facts — it has people’s motivations and feelings.  You can tell me how many millions of people died in WWII and the numbers of death camps and Hitler’s words, but what were his motivations?  What where the motivations of the soldiers who ran the camps?

But I digress.  I should also add that I was given an iPad a year ago and bought the iPhone primarily because of its camera capabilities.  Other than that, I have always been strongly against the Apple brand because of its lack of consumer customizability and closed system.  While the biography isn’t a commentary on Apple, Steve Jobs did make all the primary decisions in the path of the company while he was alive, so I believe it’s important to know where I came from when starting the book.

Walter Isaacson does an incredible job with portraying Steve Jobs the tech giant, Steve Jobs the family man, and Steve Jobs the friends.  He spoke to Jobs’ allies and enemies in order to get a more rounded and unbiased view of the mistakes and successes of Jobs’ life.  Isaacson gave the general public a truly great insight into the life and mind of a man that those not directly in contact with him didn’t have.  He provided the motivation and psychology behind Jobs’ actions as well, painting the story of Jobs’ life.  There were times in the book you hated the person that you were getting to know, and times you admired him.  But by the end of the book, I didn’t dislike the Apple brand as much as I did, and I came to understand and respect Steve Jobs for what he tried to accomplish in his life.  I have not enjoyed a biography as much as I did this one in many many years.

 
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Posted by on January 21, 2012 in 5 Stars, Nonfiction

 

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Portal 2

Although I had always heard great things about the portal series, I was just recently drawn into it for the Portal 2 Co-op. Having never played 1, I had no idea what to really expect from the game, even though I had heard about it before.

I have to say that it was definitely one of the most challenging and thought-provoking co-operative puzzle games I’ve ever played. After finishing the tutorial, we immediately skipped to the extra campaign, art therapy. This destroyed the natural learning curve for the game by introducing all the different gameplay elements at once, but at the same time provided for a very challenging experience where you had to not only figure out what these new elements did, but how to use them effectively (the blue gel for example).

After going to the normal levels, we realized how well the game introduced each of the elements. The learning curve was excellent, the gameplay always challenging, and Glados became one of my favorite video game characters, with her sarcastic humor keeping you amused throughout the entire game.

As for environment.. the game was crafted perfectly. You awaken after an unknown period of time, where much of the aperture facility has rusted into disarray. It just really feels as if you have been thrust into an aged robot-run testing center.

Though there are no bogeymans, the game cultivates a surprisingly dark atmosphere, with cynical humor and tongue in cheek thrown throughout, and a distinct sense that it is a libertarian rapture gone wrong. It is outlandish in it’s own way, and the sci-fi themes that it explores are interesting to consider; the game delves into the origins of aperture and GlaDOS.

All in all, a very polished game which I highly recommend for anyone to play, either in single or multiplayer modes.

 
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Posted by on January 20, 2012 in Games, PC

 

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Another’s Genre

Another’s Genre

After a brief one week hiatus, I am catching up on the new anime season. One series airing this season is called Another.  It is a based on a Japanese mystery horror novel by Ayatsuji Yukito, husband of Ghost Hunt and Shiki author Ono Fuyumi.  I haven’t read the novels, and so far only two episodes are out, so I only have conjectures as to the nature of the series.

It is most definitely billed as a horror series.  There are elements so far as well.  The first episode began with the main character narrating a story of a girl in 1972 named Misaki who died mysteriously in the small town of Yomiyama, yet after her death her ghost apparently stayed in her junior high school class, and she appeared in the graduating photo.  Fast forward to the present time, the main character, Sakakibara Koichi moves to Yomiyama and is transferred into the same class Misaki was in.  He begins to notice strange things occurring around him and especially around a mysterious girl with an eyepatch… also named Misaki.  There are currently hints now that if Koichi takes one false step, he could catalyze death and destruction primarily in the class, but also potentially in the whole school.

As it stands right now, this series could go both ways.  Ghosts/spirits on killing sprees is not a new formula to horror.  But probably what draws me so insistently towards believe Another to be a psychological thriller is its fixation with eyes, which we saw in Chaos;Head.  The way in which Koichi’s classmates avoid the topic, and the way they handle this spirit is also increasingly interesting to me.  It has really deepened the mystery for me of what exactly the consequences are, who Misaki is, etc.  There is a certain degree of psychological imbalance outside of the potential spirit… and that’s why I would like to believe this will become a psychological thriller.  The second episode even featured a grandmother, whose eyes you couldn’t see, running a shop with creepy dolls that stare blankly into nothing.  I have high hopes for this series, but I’m aware that at the first sight of cheap screams and thrills, I will probably have to drop it.

 
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Posted by on January 19, 2012 in Another

 

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Horror vs. Psychological Thriller Part 1–A Look At Rebecca

Horror vs. Psychological Thriller Part 1–A Look At Rebecca

I don’t like horror.  When the eerie music and unsettling camera angles start in in a horror movie, I curl up in a ball, plug my ears, and squint my eyes.  Anybody who’s seen any horror knows that when those cues come into place, the movie is building up to a startling cut scene that makes the audience scream from fright.  After all, that is what horror is for – to frighten you in what is probably meant to be a cathartic way.  All it does for me is set me on edge.

On the other hand, I love psychological thrillers.  Several films that I enjoy are Se7en, Black Swan, Gaslight, Donnie Darko, Memento, and Perfect Blue, to name a few.  My favorite of the genre though, are Hitchcock movies, The Shining, and Silence of the Lambs.  I would like to take a little bit of time to talk about each of these to explain my preference for psychological thriller over horror. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on January 18, 2012 in Editorials, Horror, Psychological

 

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Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai Review

Rating: ★

It’s an unfortunate truth, but many romantic comedy anime are harem series.  I recently gave Mayo Chiki! a rather unfavorable review, and in general… yes I strongly disapprove of this subset of anime.  That being said, Tomodachi ga Sukunai did slightly better in my opinion.  Maybe it’s because the anime’s focal point is half romance half slice of life.  Slice of life isn’t quite the right way to describe it, but the premise and most of the show consists of seven mostly high schoolers’ attempts to stop being an outcast and find friends.  As a result, hijinks occur between their clashing personalities, and the evil main female protagonist provides the audience with many laughs due to her love of putting the other members through torture.  It’s a pretty straightforward series so I won’t say much, but there is fan service galore, tastefully done for the most part, hilarious comedic moments, and a few touching dialogues here and there.  Every episode was entertaining, and for some relatively light humor done decently well, I’d recommend this show.

 

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Winter 2011 Tentative Anime Schedule

With the new winter season coming into swing, I figured I’d lay out (mostly for myself) what shows I’ll be trying to keep up with.  It’e a little difficult since I’m travelling every month and busy with work, but I’m going to try to keep on top of things.

I really want to add Amagami SS+ and Zero no Tsukaima F to my list, but due to my two year or so hiatus from anime, I haven’t seen the previous series for both.  Here’s what will tentatively be my list:

  • Mon:  Ano Natsu de Matteru, Another, Danshi Koukousei no Nichijou
  • Tue: Papa no Iu Koto wo Kikinasai
  • Thu: Black Rock Shooter, Recorder to Randoseru, Inu x Boku SS
  • Fri: High School DxD, Senhime Zesshou Symphogear
  • Sat: Area no Kishi, Nisemonogatari, Nouretsu Pirates, Brave10
  • Sun: Rinne no Lagrange, Aquarion Evol

It’s a lot, but hopefully things will be dropping off my list once everything is out and series don’t make my five episode cutoff.

So far, I’m not crazy about Recorder to Randoseru and High School DxD.  High School DxD accomplished more than most ero comedy action animes for me though, given I didn’t shut it off within five minutes.  They have potential to be somewhat watchable though.

I think Senhime Zesshou Symphogear has the potential to be the sleeper hit of the season.

 
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Posted by on January 9, 2012 in Anime

 

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