The Rear-View Mirror: Shadow of the Colossus and Psychonauts (2005)

Each Friday we travel back in time, one year at a time, for a look at some of the cultural goodies that may appear closer than they really are in The Rear-View Mirror. Join us on our weekly journey into the past!

Video games are the cosplayers of modern media. They like to dress up as other media, in particular movies and comic books. Look at the biggest-selling games of almost any year and you’re likely to see games dressed up as Michael Bay movies or as the latest Marvel extravaganza. In some ways early video games had more of a unique voice, not least aesthetically, because when you’ve got pixels the size of pomegranates and harsh bleeps and bloops it’s futile to try and look like a Jerry Bruckheimer action flick. There was an abstraction to the classics, the Space Invaders and Pac-Men of yore, that came with technical limitations. At least since the modern days of real-time 3D graphics, and especially in the last ten years, video games have come to look less and less like abstract art and more like what we see at the cinema, a big bucket of popcorn in our lap.

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The Rear-View Mirror: The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007)

Each Friday we travel back in time, one year at a time, for a look at some of the cultural goodies that may appear closer than they really are in The Rear-View Mirror. Join us on our weekly journey into the past!

“Do you want to be like me? Or do you want to be me?”

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

Jesse James, as played by Brad Pitt, is a canny creature. He observes the nervous, deferential Robert Ford (Casey Affleck) and sees a fanboy, though one whose adoration and longing could easily turn into something else, something darker. If you can’t be your hero, what can you do? You can depose him. You can kill him. Continue reading

The Rear-View Mirror: Revanche (2008)

Each Friday we travel back in time, one year at a time, for a look at some of the cultural goodies that may appear closer than they really are in The Rear-View Mirror. Join us on our weekly journey into the past!

There is that guy, Alex, a gopher and bag man for a pimp called Konecny, somewhere in Vienna. One of Konecny’s girls, Tamara, has a secret affair with Alex. They want to escape while Konecny wants to make a high-end call-girl out of Tamara. Alex has to act if they want to have a future together. He decides to rob a bank. What sounds like a movie of the week is actually the Austrian entry for Best Film of 2009 called Revanche, written and directed by Götz Spielmann. Spielmann has said in an interview that he doesn’t know what his movie is about. I respectfully disagree: he knows exactly what he is doing, and his characters are made of flesh and blood and don’t just hurtle from one plot development to the next. Continue reading

The Rear-View Mirror: Fantastic Mr Fox (2009)

Each Friday we travel back in time, one year at a time, for a look at some of the cultural goodies that may appear closer than they really are in The Rear-View Mirror. Join us on our weekly journey into the past!

My first Wes Anderson movie was The Royal Tenenbaums – and I wasn’t a big fan of it. To some extent that may be because I wasn’t yet used to Anderson’s particular cinematic idiom, but at least as much as that I think it’s that Anderson himself was still looking for that idiom. There’s a lot in the film that looks instantly familiar, but my main problem was the way it tried to blend the arch stylistics and Andersonian characters we’ve become familiar with on the one side and poignant drama on the other. There’s one scene in particular, a suicide attempt late in the film, that felt to me like Anderson was flipping a switch: one moment the film’s characters were cartoons, the next we were supposed to take them seriously as characters with depth and genuine suffering. I sat there seeing what Anderson was aiming at, and the scene is effective in itself – but I wasn’t buying it.

Fantastic Mr. Fox

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The Rear-View Mirror: Rango (2011)

Each Friday we travel back in time, one year at a time, for a look at some of the cultural goodies that may appear closer than they really are in The Rear-View Mirror. Join us on our weekly journey into the past!

Gore Verbinski has a lot to answer for.

Rango

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The Rear-View Mirror: GTA V (2013)

Each Friday we travel back in time, one year at a time, for a look at some of the cultural goodies that may appear closer than they really are in The Rear-View Mirror. Join us on our weekly journey into the past!

If I ever were to write a GTA-themed memoir of a gamer, it’d have to be titled Driving in Cars with Criminals.

GTA V

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The Rear-View Mirror: Halt and Catch Fire (2014)

Each Friday we travel back in time, one year at a time, for a look at some of the cultural goodies that may appear closer than they really are in The Rear-View Mirror. Join us on our weekly journey into the past!

Whenever there is something technical to be done about this site, it’s not me. I don’t have it in me, and I need constant technical advice and supervision. So the joke is probably on me when I tell you that I really like the first season of Halt and Catch Fire, an AMC series that started in 2014 and ended last year with its 4th season. HaCF is about a small Texas computer hardware company called Cardiff Electronics in the 1980s, where three employees go rogue and secretly want to beat giant blue chip IBM in building a better, affordable computer. Continue reading