Top 100 Movie Review: #98 – Unforgiven (1992)

A Ho-Hum Western

The moment you’ve been waiting for finally comes 4/5ths through the movie, but it all seems too late and anti-climatic. 

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Clint Eastwood, Morgan Freeman and Jaimz Woolvett. 

American Film Institutes Ranking: #98/100
Academy Awards: Nominated for several: best picture, actor, screenplay, director, supporting actor. Won for supporting actor (Gene Hackman), Director (Clint Eastwood) and Picture.
My Rating: smooth-starsmooth-star

I’m okay with Westerns. My favorite book of all time happens to be a Western (Lonesome Dove). Older generations who display the red,white and blue at every door and buy cars made only in Detroit view Westerns as a quintessential American representation. The West represents the idyllic egalitarian society with no centralized government and each small community creating their own standards for law and acceptable behavior — no need for big government here!

It all works out for you as long as you are the swashbuckling cowboy and not one of the the characters regelated to the edges such as women, children, seniors, and those not willing to be violent. Unforgiven continues with this deconstruction of the Western narrative, focusing on a protagonist that isn’t glistening with moral righteousness while showing the real toll of vigilante justice. So while Unforgiven is certainly a Western, it tries to butt up against the glorification of the genre.

My problem is that in the process of flipping the script, you lose connection with the characters leaving a resolution that is ultimately unsatisfying.

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Top 100 Movie Review: #17 – The African Queen (1951)

A One-Set Movie Starring Mismatched Lovers

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Rose Sayer, the fastidious and devout saint (played by Katharine Hepburn), Charlie Allnut, the vagabond and loose sailor (Humphrey Bogart), and the main set of the movie, The African Queen.

American Film Institute Ranking: #17/100
Academy Awards: Nominated for four (Best Actor, Actress, Adapted Screenplay and Director) winning Best Actor for Humphrey Bogart (his only Academy Award).
Director: John Houston
My Rating: smooth-starsmooth-starsmooth-star

“How can we put Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn in close proximity for a couple hours and let them work their magic?”

Enter the adapted screenplay by James Agee (who also wrote a top 100 book of all time “A Death in the Family” which I review here). The African Queen is an interesting movie just from the set up alone: about 90% of the movie involves the two main characters floating down a river in a steam boat with the entire focal point on their relationship. There is some window dressing to get them there, but none of it matters. What is important is that Humphrey and Katharine are stuck together and have to work through their differences. This movie explores the classic motif of mismatched lovers using  stereotypical traits that are diametrically opposed (messy vs. clean, prude vs. crude, etc.). Thankfully, we have two power houses of Hollywood that end up pushing this ridiculous script along and somehow make a successful go at it.

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Top 100 NES Review: #80 – The Adventures of Lolo (1989)

A Thinking Man’s Game

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Sydlexia’s Ranking: #80/100
Developer: Hal Laboratory
Rating: smooth-starsmooth-starsmooth-starsmooth-star

I have a soft spot for the puzzle genre in video games. I think it’s video gaming at its best: no story nor plot, just some basic mechanics that completely twist your brain.  I admire people who can turn a few simple rules into extremely engrossing mind riddles while inducing an effort headache as you try and solve them.

This is the Adventures of Lolo in a nutshell: couple of blocks, couple of buttons and couple of enemies, but put all together an extremely enjoyable game. There is a little bit of a backstory, as you play as Lolo trying to save Lala who has been kidnapped by the evil Eggers (view the above image if you need the emotional coloring). Lolo then has to go through 50 rooms of puzzles to save his princess.

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Top 100 SNES Review: #81 – Tiny Toon Adventures: Buster Breaks Loose (1993)

Fun, But Really Short (Like This Review)

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Sydlexia Ranking for top SNES games: #81/100
Developer: Konami
Rating: smooth-starsmooth-starsmooth-star

I was a Tiny Toon fan when I was a child; every day after school it was on, and not until I reached middle school did I make the jump to Dragon Ball Z on Toonami. My favorite episode is easily where they danced to old-school songs for a whole episode. Tiny Toons was always weird, popcultured, and cerebral, taking advantage of breaking the fourth wall to interact in a way different than other cartoons at the time.

So I guess no different than today, it is important to monetize anything we enjoy and video games seem to be an easy way to do that.

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Top 100 SNES Review: #90 – Super Star Wars: Return of the Jedi

Basic Platformer with Star Wars Stuff

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Sydlexia Ranking of Top SNES Games: #90/100
My Rating: smooth-starsmooth-starsmooth-star

This game might be the foundation for my worst video game memory and source of why I sometimes say “Yipchawww” in social settings.  Let me get the former off my chest, and why I retrospectively still take two stars off the rating.

You didn’t always beat the video game you owned in the 90s. With the lack of save features, it was not unusual to have a stack of games you played, owned, and never beat. This wasn’t always because you got bored with it; some games were just impossible to beat or were variable in their rewards. This meant anytime you go to those ending credits, you did something.

I had just defeated the emperor of the empire, and in my triumphant moment, I had 30 extra lives stockpiled. I couldn’t believe I had gotten to the end of the game with this many extra lives. I was on video game accomplishment high.

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Top 100 Book Review: The Heart is a Lonely Hunter – Carson McCullers (1940)

“It was funny, too,how lonesome a person could be in a crowded house.” Mick.
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Rating: smooth-starsmooth-starsmooth-starsmooth-starsmooth-star

It’s always the books about the human spirit that endure. There is no need to worry about setting or plot as the things people dealt with then are the same things we deal with now. It’s like when James Baldwin said “You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read.”

Carson McCuller wrote “The Heart is a Lonely Hunter” at the age of 23. It was an immediate hit and was the first of many of her works to focus on loneliness and isolation. She herself was not in good health and would die at the age of 50 after living a life of strokes and health complications. It’s hard not to think that these personal, life experiences weren’t the catalyst for many of her novels.

This book checks off many of my personal-taste preferences: vignette chapters from each character’s perspective, the setting of a small town  in the rural south and a focus on characters and not necessarily plot. While this might not move the needle for other readers, there is plenty to love about the temporary world McCuller builds in small-town Georgia.

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Top 100 NES Review: #12 – Metroid (1986)

Brutal Exploration

Rating: smooth-starsmooth-star
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The NES is unique in gaming because it was the introduction to so many franchises: Mario, Final Fantasy, Zelda and Metroid. These franchises have now spawned several sequels and spin-offs and have appeared on every platform possible. Metroid is one of those seminal events in gaming where a new concept arose and technology was finally good enough to execute it.

My concern was that I had never played this game before, and returning to a game that was made in 1986 (which almost doesn’t seem possible) after playing all of the newer versions might just magnify the limitations of the original. I also thought of an article on Cracked : games used to be all about fun, unlike today, but truth is when you return to the them, you realize how frustrating they were.

Simply put, the original Metroid can be BRUTAL.

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