I Work At My Own Pace: BEST STUFF OF 2012

When you do a Google image search for "Best of 2012" and this is what shows up. You use it.
When you do a Google image search for “Best of 2012” and this is what shows up. You use it.

So, like the title of this clap-trap implies, I am fully aware that this is not as timely as the universe would like these things to be written. I mean, it’s even at the point where you could argue this is a pointless exercise. Yeah, you’re right, but I don’t care. Look at that crazy dude on fire! Wow! Some people probably saw this on fire dude, marching down the street like some sort of on fire bad ass, and said to themselves “Why?” His response would probably be something like “Help! Help! I’m on fire! Why are you just staring at me?!” Or maybe, “If you have to ask then you just won’t get it…. Also, I’m crazy.” I got to experience a lot of cool “stuff” in 2012, and I never really got to talk about it. Well, as much as typing to myself is “talking.” It’s a pretty one sided affair up front, but you can chime in through comments if you feel so inclined. It’s an option. It’s viable. Well, might as well just start this thing, I guess! These won’t be in any real order, but the closer to the bottom it is means I liked it more. So, that’s how I’m going about this business(Biznass, for people that like to ruin everything. At least you ruin it in a way that I find mildly amusing.).

Cloud-AtlasCloud Atlas is an interesting flick. Not in the way that some folks have been talking it up though. It’s not the “deep” experience that some have purported. It’s “pop philosophical” musing have the superficial elements of depth, but not enough actual conversation with the audience or between the characters to actually be deep. Characters speak in really on the nose dialogue, and basically just lay everything out for you.  The posters tagline pretty much sums up the entire movie. There is definitely beauty to be found in simplicity though, and ultimately that’s why this movie ids on this list. Even having said all that, I still found a totally worth while experience. It’s an achievement it narrative storytelling. It’s vignette structure is used in really interesting ways, and using the same cast through out all the stories helps to drive home the movie’s theme of connectivity, about growing and progressing as people through the generations with the hope that somebody gets it right before it’s too late. If I had seen this when I was fifteen my mind would have been blown. As an adult it may not have been as profound, but it’s still really interesting and entertaining. The effort that was made makes it totally worth checking out.

spec-ops-the-line-logoSpec Ops: The Line is a really interesting experience. It’s also kind of difficult to quantify in terms of a “good or bad” type of opinion. I know that sounds strange, but what do you think when part of the larger point the game is making is how mediocre the game play is? Yeah, weird, right? It works, though, and once you play the game and have context for what I just said it makes total sense. Military shooters have been going in some really disconcerting directions over the past decade. So, it was refreshing to play one that used our preconceptions about the genre to not only make a point about war in general, but also the kind of stuff players are asked to engage in through their virtual avatars in these games. The most ironically surprising thing about this war game is that it shows war for what it is, justified or not, and that is that it’s horrible. No one walks away clean from war. I was impressed to find this in a a mainstream title, and I found it totally refreshing. Now that it’s on the cheaper side, I hope that people go out and give this one a try.

chronicle_m__spanIt’s been pretty awesome to be a fan of the super hero genre for the past few years. Every other month we get another big budget comic flick hit the cinema screens. This is both good and bad, in my opinion. It’s getting dangerously close to being “too much,” but as long as the quality of these movies is slightly above mediocre they’ll probably keep being made. My favorite part of this atmosphere is that other “weird” comic book-like stories are getting out there, and they are not just relegated to the indie spectrum( Special, Super, Defendor). It was cool to be able to go to any old theater and see something like Chronicle. It really was. It’s a small and basic film about how people would act if they had stumbled across “powers” of some sort. What I really loved about it was how it deconstructs the way super hero origin stories are told, and paints a compelling narrative. Even though you can see everything coming( Well, if you are a big comic book/super hero fan.) it still manages to be compelling. The last twenty minutes are pretty incredible as well. It’s a “found footage” style movie, and this may turn some folks off. I’d say that even if that is something you don’t normally care for, still give this one a go.

ss_052d698926073e8d407a864f0e63a486af24ec0d.1920x1080FTL: Faster Than Light is a game that I never would have thought that I’d play, much less enjoy. So, paint me(Not a native american remark) surprised by how addicting I’ve found this gaming experience. This game balances simplicity and complexity is some really astonishing ways. The presentation(As you can see in the above image.) is really simple, but it allows for a lot of game play innovation. If it had been more of a detailed or graphically complex game, it could have just gotten confusing, but when you strip it down to it’s base elements nothing “feels” overwhelming. It’s a ship management game, really. Sound super exciting, I know, but it really actually is. You build up your team and ship, and then explore the galaxy. The learning curve isn’t “intensely” steep, but prepare to play the first third of the game over and over(Weirdly, it always felt fresh.)again to learn some of the intricacies of the system, and basically just how to properly mange your team and ship. The game is a little light on the tutorial side, and seems to subscribe to the “What better way to learn than play” mentality, but it works. One of the most intense and fun games I played all last year. Actually, it’s kind of a simplified version of this next thing…

xcom-eu-wallpaperI put X-Com: Enemy Unknown directly after FTL, because they are kind of similar experiences in some ways. Calling FTL the “indie X-Com” wouldn’t be entirely false. At the end of the day they are management strategy games. This is what FTL would be like if it were made by a larger studio.  This is another game that I did not anticipate enjoying. I was really intimidated by it, because of the legacy of difficulty that the previous X-Com series has. Well, I manged to pick it up on the cheap, and I am so glad that I did. It’s still a difficult game, and you are constantly put in the position where no matter what decision you make something bad is going to happen, but it is such an enjoyable ride and making the tough choices become integral to the fun factor. You get a real sense of accomplishment when the “mission successful” message appears(Regardless of score!). Even on the easier difficulty setting the game still presents a legitimate challenge. Firaxis has made a game that is simultaneously difficult, but fun and accesible. It’s a tough combination. Really, well worth the money and definitely in my top five games of 2012.

cabin-in-the-woods-posterI like movie with “meta-narrative.” I really do. Especially when it deals with well worn tropes and narrative devices. The Cabin in the Woods succeeds not only as a “meta” story about horror movie cliches, but still manages to be a good horror movie. It shouldn’t work as well as it does. It is literally and obviously commenting on horror movie tropes while simultaneously using them to make a movie just like the ones it’s commenting on. Seriously, it’s pretty crazy. I’m not going to say anything else about it. The less you know about it, the better it is. Just go watch it already!

IndieGameTheMovie_filmstill6_TitleScreen_byIndieGameTheMovieI love videogames. I love really well made documentaries. I really liked Indie Game: The Movie. Considering what I just said before, that should be pretty obvious. The debate about whether games should be considered “art”  has been going since games started becoming staples in our homes(Or domiciles, if you’re a weirdo.), and this documentary puts a personal face on a few of the “artists” that are working in the medium. It’s a compelling look into the development of a few games( Fez, Super Meat Boy), and also the personal lives of their creators. It’s a really fascinating movie, and a rare glimpse into the challenges that game creators come up against. The argument for “games as art” has never been presented more effectively than in this movie, and I’d recommend it to people even if you aren’t into games. It’s just a good story. If you like watching people engaging in the creative process, it’s well worth your time.

DishonoredYou know. we’re not even six months into 2013, and I feel like people have already forgotten Dishonored. Unjustly so too. I’m really surprised this game wasn’t more popular. It didn’t show up on many “game of the year” lists and people’s expectations were apparently so high that they couldn’t help but be disappointed. Being a fan of the Thief series, I guess I couldn’t help but like it. The story was a little flat, and the presentation may have been a little lacking, but the mechanics were so fluid and plain old fashioned fun that I don’t understand why it didn’t catch on. I loved the “anything goes” approach to level progression, and I felt like I had real choice in how I navigated each area. This was a must play game of 2012 and if you missed it I bet you could probably nab a copy pretty cheap these days. You should! It’s well worth your time and money.


So, I’m grouping Dredd 3-D and The Raid together. Why? Well, first of all this is my blog, and I’ll do what I please, and second of all is because they are very similar to one another. The basic plot for both movies is bad guy in a “tower”, good guys fight their way up it. Yeah, they fight there way up it to insanely bad ass results. The Raid has some of the most intense and well shot hand to hand fights this side of Jackie Chan. I’m serious. They’re bloody, brutal, and make you go “AHHHHH! God damn’t that look like it hurt a great deal. Yes a GREAT DEAL!” It’s straight forward, and that’s a good thing, but still manages to kick ass all up and down your face. Holy guacamole is all I’m saying. You dig? One of the best action flicks to come down the pike in a long time. It knows your busy, and doesn’t waste your time.

Now, even though Dredd 3-D superficially has a lot in common with The Raid, it definitely still shows up with it’s own agenda. That agenda is to rocket launcher your face off! This movie is a visceral and brutal affair that rarely ever lets up. There’s no time! No time! I think a lot of people, even those that like it, miss a lot of the sub text that’s going on in this film. It actually has a lot to say about the nature of justice, and what kind of mind set one should have when they are charged with that responsibility. Whether you watch it for the light social commentary, or just the visceral bad assery( Seriously, Karl Urban has finally been used appropriately, and validates my feeling of “Hey, I always kind of liked that dude.”), you’re going to get your money’s worth. I assure you!

1339109109-LoneSurvivorI’ve been a fan of survival horror games since I first played Resident Evil  for the Playstation One back in the good old days of the mid-nineties(Needless to say, thing were pretty radical. Well, until the “I’m over everything” movement that was started by EVERY INDIE MOVIE MADE IN THIS DECADE.). Unfortunately, in recent years it seems like no one can get anything from this genre right. The limitations of the older console generations were used to the benefit of the game’s mechanics. Movement was stilted and awkward(Fucking tank controls…). Animations were slow and deliberate. Inventories had a limit as to how man things you could carry, and was used to force you into making hard decisions. Hell, you couldn’t even save wherever you wanted. You had to try to make it to a designated area for that sweet relief. All of these elements were exploited to make the games tense and even sometimes stressful affairs.

Lone Survivor is a 16-bit style survival horror, and it uses all of it’s limitations to it’s advantage to create a tense, and memorable experience. You spend most of the game exploring a ransacked apartment building looking for supplies, avoiding “zombies,” and trying to piece together what it is that exactly happened to the world. There’s a bunch of interesting mechanics that actually force you into a weirdly deliberate feeling rhythm and pace. In the game you get hungry, and need to find food. You get tired, and you need to sleep. You get headaches, so, you need to find some medicine, and you do all this stuff while doing the before mentioned stuff. The story isn’t too shabby either. I mean, it’s not going to “blow your mind” or anything, but it keeps you interested and invested. The real standout element is the sound design though. It uses simple sounds, like static and light strings to create a truly haunting atmosphere. It’s pretty cheap to boot. Seriously, if you are at all interested in survival horror games you owe it to yourself to check this out. Actually, if you are at all interested in just good games you owe it to yourself to check this out! One of my favorites from last year.

Killer-Joe-Movie-Wallpaper-524477Killer Joe is one of the most enjoyable movies I’ve seen in quite awhile. People throw around the term “black comedy” quite a bit these days. It’s a term used to denote “edgy,” or “sardonic,” or “fucked up” basically. Killer Joe is one of those rare times when the term is totally appropriate. It’s the story of white trash idiots, murder, and fried chicken, The less you know the better, but just now it’s crazy, fucked up, and pretty awesome. It has a career best performance by Matthew McConaughey. Seriously, the guy knocks it out of the park, and his Joe will go down as one of the best “psychos” of movie history(Yeah, a bit hyperbolic, but I really believe it.). Hell, even Gina Gershon is pretty great in this flick. Actually, the whole cast is pretty awesome. It’s got a well written, and tight script, great cinematography, and one of the most memorable dinner scenes that I can recall from anything. Check this one out for sure.

journey-game-screenshot-1-bI know, I know, everyone is tired of hearing about how “amazing” Journey is, but honestly, I feel all the praise is pretty well deserved. I mean it’s not the life changing/affirming experience that some people have been saying, but it definitely makes a compelling argument for “games as art.” The title says it all. This isn’t a “game” in the traditional sense, but a journey. A pilgrimage where you meet helpful strangers, flying dragon things, and brutal elements. It’s hard not to get a little choked up at the end. There’s such a joyous spirit pouring forth from the final moments of the game that you can’t help but smile. You feel like you’ve had an ‘experience,” and that’s probably the highest compliment you can give to any game, really.

looper-poster-2Looper is exactly what the science fiction genre needed. Well, at the movies at least. It’s one of the more original movies I’ve seen in awhile, and also manages the difficult task of figuring out a semi-plausible time travel scenario. Okay, maybe that’s not entirely true. On the surface it’s fine, but if you start really thinking hard about it, the same thing that happens to most time travel stories happens. You start to see a plot hole here or there. There’s no way to really reconcile this stuff in any logical way. It’s most likely always going to have some paradoxes when you throw time travel into the mix. It’s the plight of the characters, the excellent core story, the direction, and excellent performances that make this movie work. Seriously, I forgot that Bruce Willis was actually a decent actor until I watched this. It had been a long time since I saw him in something where it looked like he gave a fuck. If you haven’t seen this yet, first off, what’s wrong with you? You a snob? Second off, go see this flick. If you like genre stuff, there hasn’t been anything this good in awhile.

The-Walking-Dead-farmHey look! Another game that has been on every other list you’ve seen. Here’s the thing though. It really does belong there. As interactive fiction goes, you’re going to be hard pressed to find anything better. I’ve been a fan of the comics for awhile now, and I’m somewhere in between thinking it’s okay and total indifference with the show, but this game just gets it right. It’s the best representation of this universe outside the comics. Hands down. It makes you care, and worry. The decisions you make, whether they actually have an effect or not, feel like they carry a real weight to them. The branching story and character dialogue bits are the best I’ve come across in my 26 years as a gamer. I have never been this attached to game characters. Seriously, I would actually feel bad when I was having a disagreement with other members in my party. Really a spectacular work, and I can’t wait for season two!

the-master-turkish-poster2The Master is my favorite movie of 2012. I really can’t stop thinking about it, and I’ve seen it about four times now. It’s a story of fathers, sons, belief, and morality. What’s right? Who gets to decide such things? Is the burden of proof on those that belief, or those that don’t. It’s mostly a character study of two men that seem like they’re different, but in a lot of ways they’re the same. Because all people are kind of the same. No matter how smart, or how stupid. This film is a master class in film making, or maybe just in the creation of a piece of art. It feels like pure expression. The cinematography is truly breathtaking, and the performances…. Joaquin Phoenix is almost unrecognizable in this film. He’s more a force of nature than an actual person, and it’s hard not to be mesmerized by his characterization. Rounding out the cast is Philip Seymor Hoffman, and Amy Adams, and their work in the film is pretty astounding as well. They’re more subtle, and less “showy,” but it doesn’t take away any of the intended impact. It’s one of those movies that deserves every good thing it gets, and probably a little more. The fa ct that it didn’t gather any major Academy Awards is proof that that is an institution that need to just die already.


So, those are some of my favorite things from the past year. I know all games and movies, but whatever, it’s my prerogative. I could sit here and write another 3,500 words, about everything else that I found to be worthy of discussion, but you have to end sooner or later, you know? I know that this seems like an unusual list, and it’s kind of everywhere, but I wanted to include some off kilter stuff that people might not have been aware of. I like showing people new stuff that’s awesome. So sue me!

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