Death in Stockholm

Talk about serendipity – there I was in Stockholm on 14 July, the day that would have been Ingmar Bergman’s 100th birthday, and they were showing The Seventh Seal. What better way to enjoy a hot summer afternoon on vacation than to spend it in the company of a knight undergoing an existential crisis and the Grim Reaper himself?

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What did you do in the war, Dad?

For many people, the 1982 war between the United Kingdom and Argentina over the archipelago known by one side as the Falkland Islands and the other as Islas Malvinas is little more than a historical footnote, or at best a handy conflict used by the leaders of both countries as a means of drumming up nationalist support in the last years of the Cold War. (Well, the original Cold War, not the off-brand sequel that seems to be fomenting these days.) It’s not the thing that comes to most people’s mind with respect to the early 1980s. They remember E.T., Ronald Reagan, Eye of the Tiger and Chariots of Fire, Dallas and Dynasty – but the Falklands War rings very few bells.

Campo Minado / Minefield

This is decidedly not true for the Argentinians – and, more so, for the soldiers who fought during those absurd 74 days. The Falklands War happened almost forty years ago, yet it is still very present.

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They create worlds: Assassin’s Creed Origins

One of the things that video games can do magnificently is create worlds. These posts are an occasional exploration of games that I love because of where they take me.

I have have climbed the cathedral of Acre. I have swum in the canals of Venice. I have prowled the streets, and the roofs, of Renaissance Rome. I have hobnobbed with the Borgias and with Robespierre, I have fought alongside George Washington, plundered with Blackbeard and listened to Charles Dickens tell tales.

And, just lately, I’ve added to my repertoire: I have run away from an angry hippopotamus – straight into the jaws of a Nile crocodile. Oh, and I’ve slid down the Great Pyramid, but it’s the tussle with the crocodile that sticks in my mind, much like I stuck in its teeth.

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They create worlds: Scanner Sombre

One of the things that video games can do magnificently is create worlds. These posts are an occasional exploration of games that I love because of where they take me.

The absence of light is so absolute, it’s as if there’s nothing at all around me. I’m not even sure I’m there myself. The only thing I’m sure of is the scanner in my hand. I pull the trigger, I hear the familiar whine, and the blackness around me is gradually sprinkled with dots. Dot by dot, my surroundings come into existence – a psychedelic, pointillist ghost of a cave.

Scanner Sombre

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Punishment, sadism and open-heart surgery

Even before bad things start to happen, it’s clear that something is seriously off in The Killing of a Sacred Deer. There’s a cringy neediness to teenaged Martin who goes to see cardiologist Steven at the hospital every single day, but it’s more than that: without ever spelling it out, he demands the older man’s attention and care, as if the heart surgeon owed him. As if the young man had something on him. There’s more than a hint of blackmail in the daily visits, the disproportional gifts he gets from Stephen, the teenager’s wheedling but insistent voice – and the complete absence of any resistance on Steven’s part. It’s as if he already fears the punishment that might follow.

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They create worlds: Lone Echo

One of the things that video games can do magnificently is create worlds. These posts are an occasional exploration of games that I love because of where they take me.

To my right is the station, Kronos II, looking decidedly worse for wear. To my left is Saturn, its rings glittering with a stark beauty. I can see the mining asteroids and container fields in the distance – and the inscrutable anomaly, extending tendrils of pure energy in my direction. Everywhere else is the cold infinity of space, beautiful and deadly. There is only one thing to do: I grab hold of the railing and, slowly and methodically, make my way towards my captain and friend, Liv, pulling my weightless body through space inch by inch.

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They create worlds: Prey

One of the things that video games can do magnificently is create worlds. These posts are an occasional exploration of games that I love because of where they take me.

It’s one of the staples of premises in sci-fi games: the abandoned space station where something has gone horribly wrong. Did I say abandoned? Well, not quite… You’re not the only one creeping through the station’s corridors; there are… things barely glimpsed from the corner of your eye, things that are not your friends. So, arm yourself with a trusty wrench, hoard every medkit you can find – and survive. Because there is no escape – other than the cold, empty vacuum of space.

Prey

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All hail the God of Silliness

If you had told me a year ago that a Thor film would be one of my favourite Marvel movies in recent years, I would have looked at you like you were touched in the head, possibly by a mythical hammer. For me, the two first Thor films were firmly at the bottom of the MCU, kept company only by Iron Man 2. In fact, I would have said that the character Thor was my least favourite of all the main characters in Marvel’s cinematic universe (though I am not including the TV series in this reckoning, because, well, Danny Rand). Yes, thanks to The Avengers I could see that the big, blond lug had some potential, but mainly as a supporting character and as the butt of a bunch of jokes.

Thor: Ragnarok

After Thor: Ragnarok, though? Well, let’s put it like this: if you’re looking for story or theme in an MCU film, the latest adventure of the God of Thunder won’t make you a convert. If you’re expecting a plot that is significantly different from, oh, pretty much every single Marvel movie since Iron Man, you’re out of luck. If you want a movie that fully embraces the silliness inherent in this ever-growing comic book universe translated onto the screen, though? Then hell, yeah – Thor: Ragnarok is an embarrassment of riches.

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Is this the real life? Is it just replicants?

Perhaps it doesn’t need to be said – after all, the film is exceedingly well reviewed – but I want to start by saying it anyway: Blade Runner 2049 is a gorgeous piece of visual art. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that Roger Deakins has surpassed himself; his portfolio does include The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, after all. Nevertheless, there are few films this side of the turn of the century, or even this side of the original Blade Runner, that offer as coherent and as gorgeous a window into a world that is at once excitingly different and eerily familiar. And the praise isn’t just Deakins’: the artists that worked on all the individual puzzle pieces that make up the look of Blade Runner 2049 may just deserve most of the awards that exist and some that don’t. I don’t think the film will necessarily become as influential as the original Blade Runner, which pretty much defined what dystopian cityscapes of the near future look like, but aesthetically it manages the almost impossible, reconciling the iconic neo-noir with a more modern, almost anthropological sensitivity and creating something that both recalls the original and adds to it in startlingly original ways.

Blade Runner 2049

Just consider this: after the endless night of the original film, Blade Runner 2049 is largely set in daylight scenarios – and it pulls it off.

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Every inch a King

As this blog as much as the many BILLY shelves in my living room stacked with DVDs and Blu-rays can confirm, these days my main media are probably film and TV. However, when I was young, and well into my 20s, I was very much a librophile first and foremost, which is also what determined much of my education and my early professional path. And while he wasn’t there when I got started on a lifelong love of books pretty much as soon as I learned how to read, Stephen King was probably the first writer I obsessed over.

I don’t know when I last read one of King’s novels, but it’s definitely been at least ten years. I don’t much feel the need to return to his world, to visit our old haunts in Castle Rock and Derry. Although it may sound arrogant or pretentious, I’d say I’ve outgrown him – but, and perhaps more importantly, I’d also say that I grew up as a reader in the company of Stephen King.

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