My new toy

I made a peculiar purchase today. I am not typically one to dive in for impulse buying, but I have had a bug in me ever since I played Bethesda’s Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim about a year ago. I must admit that by the end of the first decade of this dark century of ours I had completely lost faith in video games. In Blizzard I trust, but the dynamics of an MMORPG are enormously time-consuming as a rule, and in the realm of the single-player there simply weren’t many good options for a long, long time. Suikoden V in 2006 was a breath of fresh air, but as Konami put the nix to the series shortly thereafter I abandoned gaming beyond the Blizzard monolith entirely. It took six years for another game to catch my eye. What I realized while playing Skyrim, aside from the fact that really awesome RPG/adventure games with compelling plots and memorable soundtracks do still exist, is that I am entirely out of touch with gaming in general as it exists today.

I really don’t know what is popular now. I am completely clueless. But I have a sneaking suspicion that what I purchased today is not among your common, mass-marketed fair.

I bought RPG Maker VX Ace. I didn’t plan to. I just stumbled upon it, was shocked that it still exists, and clicked buy. I had last used RPG Maker software at some point back in the 90s, when ASCII was still making it and the best you could do was a fan-translated hack. (Enterbrain makes it now, and I rather doubt companies would still view freely distributed fan hacks as innocent endeavors.) The Dragon Quest JRPG-inspired format of VX Ace, just released in March 2012, might be considered retro at this point, but I have to wonder whether there might not be a serious market demand for that. Wouldn’t it be nice to see some games which, necessarily limited in graphics and sound, had to rely on a compelling plot to the degree of a Final Fantasy VI or a Chrono Trigger? I certainly think so. Not that I possess the capacity to make any myself, but I am beginning to see a vision for my 2013 hobby unfolding: Last year I investigated the history of video game music up until about 1994. If VX Ace holds my interest at least long enough for me to get my $70 worth out of it, I might spend this year looking into the world of indie gaming. If nothing else, I’ll at least make a post or two in the near future showing off my new toy.

Here are the DGA Nominations!

The Director’s Guild of America announced their five nominees for director of the year today.  The DGA is traditionally the last of the precursors to make their opinion known before the actual Oscar nominations are announced.

Traditionally, it seems that four of the DGA nominees are honored with an Oscar nomination while one is usually snubbed.  For instance, last year, all of the self-proclaimed “experts” were all excited when David Fincher was nominated for his shot-for-shot remake of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo but then had their little hearts broken when the Academy declined to nominate either Fincher or his remake.

Who, if anyone, will be snubbed this year?  I’m not even going to venture a guess because, honestly, this year has the potential to be one of the more unpredictable Oscar years.  (Of course, I say that every year and every year, I’m disappointed by how predictable everything eventually turns out to be.)

For now, here are the five directors nominated by the DGA:

Ben Affleck for Argo

Kathryn Bigelow for Zero Dark Thirty

Tom Hooper for Les Miserables

Ang Lee for Life of Pi

Steven Spielberg for Lincoln

Unlike some people, I’m not surprised to see that Quentin Tarantino was snubbed.  Django Unchained might be a difficult sell to the Academy, especially considering that gun control is currently Hollywood’s favorite political cause.  I’m a bit more shocked to see that David O. Russell’s work on Silver Linings Playbook was not nominated.

The Oscar nominations will be announced on Thursday morning.


The Daily Drive-In: The Creature From The Black Lagoon (dir. by Jack Arnold)

As anyone who knows me can tell you, Lisa Marie doesn’t do water.

Seriously, I have a very intense fear of drowning and, while I might enjoy laying out by the pool during the summer, you’re never going to catch me actually going anywhere near the deep end.  I’m the epitome of the girl who loves the beach but hates the ocean.  As a result, I have a hard time with movies the feature swimmers thrashing about in the water or ancient monsters coming up to the surface in search of swimsuit-clad victims.

For lack of a better term, these films freak me out.

Sometimes, however, it’s fun to be freaked out.  Perhaps that’s why I so love the 1954 monster classic, The Creature From The Black Lagoon.

Like all good B-movies from the 1950s, The Creature From The Black Lagoon starts off with a lot of stock footage and a stuffy narrator telling us about how the Earth was created and how mankind originally evolved from a creature that crawled out of the sea.  The narrator manages to cover all the bases by including a few Biblical quotes with his explanation of how evolution works.

From the beginning of mankind, we fast forward to the 1950s.  A fossilized claw has been discovered in the Amazon and a group of scientists think that it could be evidence of the missing link in human evolution.  Mark (Richard Denning), who is kind of a jerk, funds an expedition to the Amazon to search for more evidence.  Accompanying Mark is hunky young scientist David (Richard Carlson) and David’s girlfriend, Kay (Julie Adams).  Traveling on a boat captained by the rather gruff Lucas (Nestor Paiva), they go to the camp where the fossil was originally discovered.  However, once they arrive, they discover that everyone in the camp has been killed.  Lucas suggests that the camp was attacked by a jaguar.

Lucas, needless to say, is totally incorrect.  The film isn’t called The Jaguar From The Black Lagoon.  It’s called The Creature From The Black Lagoon and the creature, also known as the Gill-Man (played by Ben Chapman when on land and by Ricou Browning whenever he’s underwater), is none too happy about these strangers invading his home.  Soon, the Gill-Man is stalking the expedition as they move up and down the Amazon River.

The Creature From The Black Lagoon is probably best known for the dream-like sequence in which Kay, wearing a white bathing suit that is simply to die for, swims in the Amazon River without realizing that the Creature is following just a few feet below her.  This scene (which does little to help with my aquaphobia) is one of the most iconic in the history of monster cinema.  Expertly framed by director Jack Arnold, this scene is distinguished by the graceful movement of both Julie Adams and Ricou Browning.  It’s as close as a monster movie has ever gotten to duplicating ballet.

Ultimately, like all good monster films, the Creature from the Black Lagoon is on the side of the monster.  The members of the expedition are, for the most part, interchangeable and, when the Gill-Man attacks, he’s acting more out of self-defense than out of hostility.  The expedition, after all, has invaded his home.  Like many 50s B-movies, the theme for The Creature From The Black Lagoon is not that people should be careful while investigating mysteries but that most mysteries are best left unsolved.

When you combine one of the genre’s most iconic monsters with Jack Arnold’s atmospheric direction, the end result is one of the best B-movies ever made.