random thoughts to oil the mind

Month: May 2009

At least, so you could be forgiven for believing. Taking photos of buses can get you in some trouble these days. Perhaps now the British government would think twice about stepping in to prevent their own tourists from suffering judicial heavy-handedness. Even snapping a bobby in London could land you up to 10 years, under Section 76 of the Counter-Terrorism Act 2008. You can see how important that “Counter” part in the title was felt to be; if they’d left it out you’d never be quite sure which way to interpret the act. Fortunately there are still some people willing to stand up for common sense. Nevertheless, the UK government policy seems clear. Whilst UK citizens have to accept being the people most spied upon by their government, the latter is taking every advantage to make sure the cameras only point one way. Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

Left 4 Dead Review

Left 4 Dead

Left 4 Dead (PC)

For whatever reason, Valve deemed last weekend to be worthy of celebration, and in addition to offering a welcome discount, offered a free trial for their action-packed zombie fest Left 4 Dead. Never one to pass up on such offers, and having a few friends who’d already bought the game, I spent a fair few hours last weekend testing the game out, enough so to have convinced me to actually buy the thing!

Whilst Left 4 Dead sits firmly in the survival horror genre, it is without a doubt a shooter through and through. Whilst the genre may have its early origins with games like Alone in the Dark, Left 4 Dead is to that what 28 Days Later is to Night of the Living Dead. It’s a high-energy bloodbath, which is well and truly the game’s essence. Forget setting, plot or character development, the game boils down to an assault course for four, through levels strewn with zombies to some method of escape, with occasional safe points along the way.

That might not sound particularly novel, but the game’s central tenet is its co-operative side. Whilst there are plenty of games past that have featured zombies in one way or another, none have quite provided the experiences associated with the stereotypical zombie genre. Left 4 Dead clearly owes a lot to the zombie movie, from the opening intro to the closing credit sequences, and the gaming world has been truly aching for such a game. Mods such as Zombie Panic! or Zombie Master filled a gap, but Left 4 Dead has made full use of the Source engine to create a movie experience built for four.

The Repeatables

This isn’t meant to be a list of classic films. In fact, many classics would find it difficult to creep on to this list. These films don’t have to have bemusing screenplays, flawless acting, blood-pumping soundtracks, or brilliant cinematography. But they are all linked by that special je ne sais quoi which makes me able to watch them time and time again. That isn’t to say there aren’t plenty of great movies that share this rather dubious accolade. I could and would watch many of them again, but the experience is always be somewhat diminished from that initial viewing.

The films on this list, however, have something special that gives them enduring longevity. It’s not the film itself but the film experience that counts. With the intricacies of the plot laid bare, the twists, turns, shocks and surprises all blunted by experience, what’s left is whatever ethos the film can conjure up. Which is precisely what some cult classics manage so successfully. Umberto Eco once wrote that “Casablanca became a cult movie because it is not one movie. It is “movies”.” 1Umberto Eco, Travels in Hyperreality, (London, 1986), p. 208. His point was that the film itself wasn’t any particular gem, but it encapsulated what movie-goers expected to see. The lines were famous before they were spoken, perhaps the most famous line of all being the one that wasn’t even in it (“Play it again, Sam”). But films that are able to do that go on to be remembered long after they’re made, irrespective of their individual merits and the quality of their cinematography, acting or screenplay.

This is simply a list of films that qualify merely on account of springing to mind first when considering what makes a film rewatchable. They’re mostly quite mainstream, with a heavy slant on the action side, no doubt in part because drama is a singularly poor trait for repeat value. But they are foremost a very personal example, and I doubt whether others will share even a portion of their number.

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1. Umberto Eco, Travels in Hyperreality, (London, 1986), p. 208.

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