Tuesday, 1 April 2014

2013: Things I Loved PART 2

Continued from yesterday, here is the concluding part of my list of things I loved in 2013:

5. Two Steps From Hell: Orion

It's not that I don't like "Two Steps From Hell", but the tone of Nick Phoenix and Thomas J. Bergenson's music often veers too far into bland and cheesy trailer music territory. A kind of fangless, one-size-fits-all, no-name sound for commercials. Sometimes their work flirts with something interesting, but it's often a reminder to just do this stuff with an in-house composer(why do you think most trailer music today sounds like it was made by Hans Zimmer?).

But then Michal Cielecki(the composer for Bulletstorm) made a short, 5-song album under that banner called "Orion". For once, TSFH music sounds like it could be in a Batman movie, instead of just on a commercial for AMC. I can listen to it for hours. If this is what he can do in five tracks, I can't wait to hear what he does next.


4. Jake Kaufman

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Any video game composer who can take "The Moon" theme from Ducktales, and make it more awesome deserves a blowjob and a medal.

See also: his work on Mighty Switch Force 2 and the Shantae series.


3. Man Of Steel Soundtrack

Hans Zimmer is still pretty much the uncontested king of the Hollywood composing field right now. And it's deserved. If only Man of Steel were a movie that deserved this music. I can't tell you it surpasses John Williams' immortal theme, but it soars to comparable heights. In an unusually good year for music, this left a big impression on me.

Speaking of lame superhero movies, I'm kind of curious to hear what the man and his studio will do with Spider-Man in July.


2. Gone Home

I have not played "Papers, Please". Keep that in mind when I consider this the best game of the year. Clueless developers spend hundreds of millions of dollars trying to be artsy, and beautiful, and important and end up in the shithouse(where they belong). Publishers insist on dumbing down video games to appeal to numbskulls, sexists and racists, because they think that will give them better review scores. Game designers think they have to go to PAX, and support a cartoonishly evil group of people just to get their game noticed.

Gone Home is proof of how pathetic these archaic practices are. I have played a lot of big-budget, AAA games that wanted me to care through spectacle alone. I played Skyrim for 100 hours, and I don't remember one part of it. But a couple of hours just exploring a combat-less home in the Pacific-Northwest, for a story about a young girl in the nineties discovering herself? That meant more to me than all of the days I've wasted playing Halo.

The Fullbright Company has created a game of excruciating honesty. They didn't need online deathmatch multiplayer to make it work, or an absurd budget for particle effects. They simply told a story in a way that invited sympathy, in a way that only video games can. It reminded me of why video games are sometimes a second home to me.



In The Walking Dead comic by Robert Kirkman, Rick talks to his group about The Way Things Are Now. He has a big hissy-fit telling us what we already know: everything sucks and we're all basically on our way to death. It's supposed to be a big reveal, but ultimately comes off looking like Robert Kirkman is nine years old.

In The Walking Dead TV show, Rick talks to his group about The Way Things Are. He's apologetic. He's honest. He shows how hurt he is, and how much damage he's caused just trying to keep things under control. He allows himself to be vulnerable in front of them, because loving others is more important than protecting them.

In the comic, Rick tells his group: "We are the Walking Dead."

In the show, Rick tells his group: "We are the Greater Good."

The world is a zombie apocalypse. It always has been. We struggle to find some safe space to live and breathe, while attacked from both sides. By a never-ending supply of mindless consumers, and selfish single-minded cruelty. This is what George Romero was alluding to when he brought zombies to popular culture. The people we trust are lost, killed or turn on us. The overwhelming apathy and appetite of the world is enough to devour us all, and I am failing to cope with that.

For some reason, I was compelled to watch the Poseidon Adventure again. I've always been enthralled by disaster movies, where colourful personalities are slowly picked off, one by one. In Poseidon, a group of people go against the panic in a sinking, capsized cruise ship and try to escape. By the end, only a handful are alive. It hardly seems worth escaping to the people who lost their families, but they must. They endure only on dwindling faith that "life always matters".

Anyone who has ever been the sole survivor of some awful catastrophe or genocide has had to question if life is worth it. I lost more than I thought I could handle last year. I fear the loss of my best friend more than anything. I don't think I'd want to go on if she weren't in the same world as me. A life without her would be a cruel farce. But I don't think I'd have any choice. Because she, and television like this remind me why "life always matters."

The Walking Dead was my favourite thing from 2013.



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