2007 was a good year. I’m still putting together my top ten (there are two films still in theaters that I need to catch up on before I finish), but I can already tell that 2007’s crop has been better than the last few. Particularly exciting is that American films made a fine showing and, in my own opinion, genre films may an admirable comeback. There were luminaries in action, western, musical and comedy and some strong rumbles in sci-fi and horror. We’ll sort through all that later!
Anyway, the holiday found me traveling back home to Kansas to spend time with the family. The relaxation has extended past my return and I’ve been pleasantly immersed in my typical entertainment triforce: books, movies and videogames.
I’ve found that with limited free time, one can only have two obsessive hobbies running in full gear and for me the balance shifts around every few months. This is especially true when a programming project pops into my head and consumes all of my time and attention for several weeks (much to the dismay of Katie). I spent a weekend two weeks back writing a Bayesian spam filter that read movie reviews and DVD descriptions and tells me whether I will like the film. I’m still tweaking the guy a little bit, but I’ll try and write something up on it eventually. I’ve also been sucked into “Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell,” and massive historical-fiction/fantasy novel about a pair of English magicians in Napoleonic era. It won just about universal praise including the Time book-of-the-year in 2004 and the Hugo award. If I can overcome the lack of momentum, I’ll write something for the Book Walrus.
However, my recent dip in movie watching and writing has been primarily due to a wave of videogame playing. If 2007 was a good year for films, it was a stellar year for games and almost every next generation system had some gems. After much deliberation, Katie and I got a Wii this year and we’ve been enjoying light fare like “Elebits,” simulated-surgery via “Trauma Center: Second Opinion” (courtesy of Mad Dog), hardcore puzzle-solving in “Mercury Meltdown Revolution” and the sublimely balanced and innovative platformer “Super Mario Galaxies.” The Xbox 360 and PS3 have seen, arguably, even bigger shares of great releases and I’m actually excited about titles on all the systems, especially “BioShock.”
I’ve also caught up with some slightly older games like “Zelda: Twilight Princess” and “God of War,” both superb games that probably had a wee bit too much hype. After missing the boat by a long shot, I’m now a hardcore acolyte of “Resident Evil 4” from a series that had always felt like a second-fiddle, light-weight “Silent Hill” in the past. I also got a chance to play “Portal” (part of the Orange Box) by Valve. It is puzzle FPS with no real enemies and while it was sadly on the short side, I loved its writing and sense of humor (best end credits song ever).
I’m excited about catching up on games and books so I might forewarn that I don’t intend to update the Film Walrus quite as often for a while. One of my New Years resolutions is to practice writing shorter pieces, which might help me keep up a better rate. I’ve come to realize that being concise is a skill, not a deficiency, and I think my reviews could be more digestible if it didn’t drone on so long. To keep my quill primed, I might do some videogame reviews as I go and you can expect them to land on the Grump Factory.
In closing, I hope everyone had a great Christmas and New Year. I know I did. There is nothing quite so exciting and pleasurable as a masterpiece deluge, and having a surfeit of prospects on three different mediums should continue to happily consume my free time.
To all my regular and semi-regular readers out there, thanks for your support and comments! You’ve helped drive me to work hard on the Film Walrus and I look forward to another year of blogging in 2008. Best wishes!