They create worlds: INSIDE

One of the things that video games can do magnificently is create worlds. These posts are an occasional exploration of games that I love because of where they take me.

Dystopias are a dime a dozen these days; dystopias starring children doubly so. INSIDE isn’t the video game version of the latest YA trilogy, though, and its dystopia is decidedly more grim and hopeless even than Katniss’ gladiatorial arena. The game’s world is deadly yet impersonal, its dilapidated rural and industrial backgrounds depict a world that is in its last throes. Yet, strangely, it is also one of the most beautiful video games worlds I’ve ever seen.

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If music be the food of love

I fell in love with John Carney’s Once. That is not a particularly original reaction to the film, but it’s definitely true for me. Once is a beautiful, subtle love story told mostly through music – or is it a music film told through romance? Having recently watched Carney’s follow-ups, Begin Again and Sing Street, those same elements, love and music, are central there too, and with them it’s also impossible to separate the romance and the music.

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She can handle the truth

lafilleinconnue3I like the Dardennes. Their movies have something immediate and unfiltered, something of the here and now. Their realism isn’t intrusive or voyeuristic, it’s simply part of their world without being moralistic or downtrodden. All of their features are set in or around the same area, in Seraing, Belgium, where they are from, a down-on-its-luck area of industrial estates and anonymous apartments. We’re amongst the working class, and things generally look bleak. But the people are real and breathing, and there is no need to zoom in on their weaker moments. Just look at them, and their glow and zeal will reveal itself. Continue reading

Shamisen Hero

“If you must blink, do it now. Pay careful attention to everything you see, no matter how unusual it may seem. If you look away, even for an instant, then our hero will surely perish.”

— Kubo and the Two Strings

Laika Entertainment may just be the most underrated animation studio currently working. Everyone knows Disney and Pixar, you can barely go to the cinema without seeing a DreamWorks trailer, and Studio Ghibli and Aardman Animations deservedly have a large fanbase. Laika’s gorgeous features, from Coraline to ParaNorman, are mentioned much more rarely, though – which is a shame, since their latest, Kubo and the Two Strings, deserves much more of an audience, as it is one of the most beautiful works of animation I’ve seen in a long time.

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Chronicle of a death foretold

Is there an actor better than Brendan Gleeson when it comes to evoking the strange, rare combination of exasperation and sadness? Look at his filmography and you’ll find funny, poignant performances throughout, from The General and The Tailor of Panama via 28 Days Later (he makes it out of the film before the shaky ending, though not before breaking our hearts) to Martin McDonagh’s In Bruges, where he’s the perfect complement to Colin Farrell’s thick, tragicomic protagonist.

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Bittersweet bird of youth

americanhoney3I like drifters. I am fascinated by them because I am not one of them, and never really have been. Story-wise, you never know what’s going to happen to them, or where they will go. Neither do they. Their stories are full of surprises, and screenwriters and directors often use them as the center of a road movie, the kind that doesn’t seem to have a destination. Star, the young heroine in Andrea Arnold’s American Honey, played by newcomer Sasha Lane, is not a drifter in the strictest sense, but she is on the road because she’s had it with her old life: looking after two kids that are not her own, avoiding her lecherous boyfriend, eating out of dumpsters, being broke. Something needs to happen, and soon. Continue reading

The long dark journey through The Night Of

thenightof12I was hypnotized by The Night Of for five or six episodes, which isn’t bad at all considering that it’s an eight-part HBO miniseries. To me, it seemed to scratch the itch that season 2 of True Detective left me with. It’s on the dark side of things: it mostly takes place at night and/or indoors, but even the exterior daylight scenes look sort of gloomy. It’s about crime and punishment, and about the law, about justice and injustice, and about courts and prison. It’s set in New York, but is based on the British TV series Criminal Justice from 2008-09, starring Ben Whishaw. The Night Of, however, has no problem standing on its own. Continue reading