What’s Joey Been Watching? March 23 – March 29: A Return to (Long) Form

It’s Kubrick week! Except it kinda sorta isn’t, I’m very sorry to say. Due to the ridiculous amount of work McGill loves to subject its students to, I haven’t had much of a chance to watch anything this week. I played a game, I watched a movie for class, then I finally got around to watching my first Kubrick. Since I watched so little, I decided to take it back to the OG I’m Right Reviews days and write a couple longer, more rambling reviews. Also, I’ll be back next week to give you a real Kubrick week. For real this time. I mean it. No more games.

March 26: Telltale’s The Walking Dead: The Final Season: Episode 4: Take Us Back (Steam)

It’s time to say goodbye. It’s so, so hard to, though. Way back in 2012 was the first time the world got to meet Clementine, and for many, it was the first time people got to know Telltale as a developer. As Clementine grew older and we grew closer to her, Telltale failed to grow along with her. At the end of 2018, it looked like Telltale was done for good, and that meant Clementine was as well. Fortunately, Skybound Games salvaged much of the Telltale team, dubbed the “Still Not Bitten” crew, and got to work on completing Clem’s story once and for all.

I know, I know, I’ve told this all before. But I think it’s important for you to know just how much Telltale and Clem mean to me, so you can appreciate my thoughts on the final episode of The Walking Dead, and the dying breath of Telltale Games.

This last season has been magnificent, as I’ve said many times throughout the past few months. All the new characters are wildly likeable, and the idea of the entire season being about shaping Clem’s (unintentionally) adopted kid, AJ, is downright genius. While the previous seasons mostly had you looking out for Clem herself and not worrying as much about how your words can harm those around you, season 4 forces you to be the person you want AJ to grow up to be as well. This culminates in the final episode, with AJ acting upon all the things you taught him throughout his life.

Let’s talk about “my” AJ for a second. The way I play these kinds of games is that I decide with my heart, and I never look back. I don’t explore every route to see what I could have done, instead, I force myself to commit to my decisions, no matter the consequences. If you’ll recall, I was extremely angry at the end of Episode 3 due to a certain character committing unthinkable atrocities on one of my favourite pals. I failed to mention that at the end, I allowed my anger to get the best of me, and made a decision that I regretted greatly in retrospect: I told AJ, a 5 year old child, to shoot the woman I hated so much in the moment. So he did. Over and over again, as if he liked it. In Episode 4, this becomes a major issue, as he causes tension between Clem and other characters due to the fact that he enjoyed killing, and winds up doing it again. This is where a game has the potential to be the most fascinating medium of them all. What’s missing from TV and movies? Consequences for the viewer, and The Walking Dead has always been about forcing you to make the worst possible choices a human being can make, and always  putting the responsibility on you. I hope some developer can pick up where Telltale left off. Dontnod and Supermassive have created similar experiences through Life is Strange and Until Dawn, but neither of those are as powerful as Telltale’s The Walking Dead.

AJ turns a corner in his new home, an abandoned boarding school, and we, the player, come face to face with an epitaph. Lining the walls are the names of every member of the “Still Not Bitten” team, a farewell from and to the developers themselves just minutes before we have to say goodbye to Clem and AJ for good. If I were capable of crying, this is when I would. As emotional as I felt after believing Clem had been killed, nothing got to me more than seeing those names, and knowing for a fact that Telltale is dead. No cutting off legs, no turning into a zombie; Telltale is gone, but not forgotten. The bittersweet end contrasts the almost exclusively bitter ends that other episodes have offered, but represents the silver lining: despite Telltale’s demise, Clem lives on, and their inherently intertwined legacy will live forever.

March 26: The Straight Story (random streaming site)

This is the fourth and final movie that I’ve seen for a class and not exclusively for pleasure. As much as I dislike how infuriatingly pretentious the prof is, I can’t help but acknowledge that I’ve enjoyed every movie a whole bunch.

In a week supposedly defined by my first Kubrick movie, it should not go unnoticed that The Straight Story is my first David Lynch movie. Unlike my initial impressions of Kubrick, though, Lynch has seriously impressed me. The Straight Story is the simple tale of an old man on a journey to visit his brother in another state. He decides that instead of taking a bus or getting someone to drive him, he’s gonna take his lawnmower with a trailer attached to the back. He meets a handful of charming characters along the way, and as it reached its conclusion, The Straight Story did something rare: it tugged at my heartstrings. It takes a lot for a movie to do that to Joey Caplan. Despite being a Disney movie, it wasn’t in any way manipulative or pandering; it instead told a story with so much genuine feeling that I couldn’t help but feel a little bit myself. At some point soon I’ll have to do a Lynch week, because I think I’m gonna like the guy.

March 28: The Shining (Cineplex Store Rental, but then I torrented it because the Cineplex movie player is really, really shitty but I felt justified in torrenting since I’d already bought it)

This is it? This is the movie that’s considered one of the best of all time? Are you kidding me? The Shining is a bunch of half-baked ideas that are never fully developed, complemented by weak characters and glacial pacing.

The Shining features telepathy, clairvoyance, ghosts, time loops, and a haunted hotel. Not a single one of these ideas gets fleshed out, and left me deeply unsatisfied once the last hour became an extremely long chase sequence that pretty much only featured ghosts and Jack Nicholson acting like he’d heard of a crazy person but had never actually seen one in real life. Every once in a while Jack gets to talk to ghosts, and the movie grinds to a halt, reaching Only God Forgives levels of staring without talking.

The first hour or so had me bored but at the very least intrigued. Nothing substantial had happened yet, but I was willing to let it slide since it seemed as though everything was getting set up. Danny having a power called “The Shining” is probably important, I thought. But nah, it comes up remarkably seldom, and is basically just there as a motivation for Jack to try to kill him. Well, it’s the motivation for the ghosts to drive Jack crazy and convince him that he needs to kill his family. Why? Because that’s how the time loop goes every time, I guess.

I don’t think there’s anything more pretentious than the concept of a cycle. Pretentious people adore time loops, and any movie that features a story that is simply one instance of an infinite loop. Exhibit A: Mother! This shitty movie is all a metaphor for the Earth being destroyed by humans and God restarting it over and over with a new Jennifer Lawrence, aka Mother Earth. It sucks, but was divisive when it came out. Some critics and regular moviegoers were fooled into thinking it’s some kind of high art, when it’s really just a clusterfuck of edginess. The Shining doesn’t even take much of a metaphorical approach (unless you are one of those people who believes it’s all in Jack’s head), and has a time loop just for the sake of having a wacky twist at the end. I’ve read all the theories, all the analyses, all the jerking off to symbolism. It’s all bull. People are saying it’s intentionally an incoherent mess to show the degradation of Jack’s mind, and in response to that, I have this to say: Jack and Jill, the Adam Sandler movie, is full of fart jokes and product placement as a way for Adam himself to display his inability to commit to his family. It is a brilliant portrait of a fragmented mind, putting Sandler’s soul into the bodies of Jack and Jill, who are constantly at odds with each other as a metaphor for his indecisive nature. See? You can do it with any movie. Why The Shining? Who knows!

I’ll give you this, Kubrick: you know how to use a camera. The Shining is shot perfectly, and keeps most scenes compelling if not from a plot standpoint, then at the very least visually. Save for a couple quick-zooms that literally made me laugh out loud and killed all tension, I gotta give cinematographer John Alcott the credit he deserves. Other than that, I have a ton of trouble appreciating The Shining. It’s not without merit, but it’s so flawed and long that I can only call it what it is: the most overrated movie of all time.

Again, I apologise for not having more to show for myself this week. Next week is looking free, so I plan on watching a shit-ton of Kubrick. It ain’t looking so good for the dude so far, but we have plenty of movies on the docket that could change my opinion. 2001: A Space Odyssey, Full Metal Jacket, A Clockwork Orange, I’ll be watching them all! Except Eyes Wide Shut, I hear that one kinda sucks. Shoutout to my favourite unknown Florida rapper, Anonymuz, for dropping his new album this week, There Is No Threat! This is an unironic shoutout! Everyone go check him out!

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