Walk as an Egyptian

Video games are great at allowing you to walk in the footsteps of any- and everyone. Want to be a burly, 100-foot creature destroying a metropolis? Play Rampage and you’re even given a choice of monster. Want to be H.R. Giger’s indelible toothsome ray of sunshine? Various generations of Aliens vs Predator games let you get in touch with your inner secondary jaw. There’s many games that let you slip into the physique of lithe, scantily-clad warriorettes, and I won’t even try to count all the titles that put you in the futuristic boots of space marines.

Yet there are some identities we’re very rarely asked to assume – so it’s nice when a game actually gives you such an opportunity.

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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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When has a stitch ever saved anyone?

Phantom Thread one of the best-looking movies this season. Since it’s set in the 1950s British fashion scene, it’s certainly the best-dressed movie, without flaunting its lavishness. The dresses, often also the people and the atmosphere of the movie, have a kind of gorgeousness about them. The film feels like it was made decades ago, but it is far from dated. There is a love story at the core of the film, between a high-end middle-aged fashion designer called Reynolds Woodcock and a clumsy French-speaking waitress named Alma Elson. Reynolds is immediately smitten with Alma; while most other men would want to undress her, he is thinking about dressing her up, already sketching clothes for her in his mind. Continue reading

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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A Damn Fine Cup of Culture Podcast #6: The Last Jedi

d1ad56da-abce-4afe-9f45-79294aede9e3Tune in for episode 6 of A Damn Fine Cup of Culture podcast, which returns us to a long time ago¬†(all together now!) in a galaxy far, far away: what did we think of The Last Jedi? What role did that mega-franchise play in our childhood? And has Rian Johnson ruined or renewed Star Wars? Also, some thoughts on The Leftovers – the novel, not the series – and on Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Killing of a Sacred Deer.

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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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God drives a Cadillac

If you’ll allow me to be crude for a moment: more often than not, gods are dicks. They’re narcissists and sociopaths. They crave your worship and don’t think twice of smiting you if you displease them the teensiest bit. They like a spot of sacrifice, ideally of the human kind – the bloodier the better. Whoever thought it was a good idea to give such hypersensitive, overpowered egomaniacs with the maturity of toddlers even the slightest bit of power?

What’s that you say? We did it? By believing in them, we invested them with power?

… literal theocracy sucks.

American Gods

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