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w/e 2023-01-08

I wasn’t sure if this week I was still on holiday or not, and consequently haven’t achieved satisfactory levels of productivity, relaxation, exercise or happiness.

I ground to a halt with The Last of Us Part II about a year ago, having had enough of shooting things and people in a dark and rainy future Seattle. It just wasn’t somewhere I wanted to spend any more time. Since then I’ve only played occasionally, with weeks or months between sessions. This meant that my already hazy grasp of the plot dissipated more each time. Were there two opposing factions or more? Why were they fighting against each other?

So by this week, when I finally reached the end of the game, I didn’t feel very involved. Which is a shame, given that the The Last of Us was the most I’ve ever felt emotionally involved in a game. And it’s not that Part II is bad, just that it required more determination to get through some bits than I had. It is very impressive – there’s so much of it, looking so good – and I enjoyed most of it. It’s almost like I failed the game, rather than vice versa.

After that I had a go at Generation Zero which I think Michael recommended to me ages ago (thanks!). I love the setting – an alternate 1980s Sweden that has been overrun with killer robots – although I was slightly wary it might be a touch too RPG for me, as I could foresse a lot of inventory management, working on skill trees, etc. But I might never find out: within a couple of minutes I had motion sickness and although I ploughed on to the end of the first mission I felt queasy for a few hours afterwards, which doesn’t make me want to go back. I’m guessing it’s the first-person view, rather than the third-person of TLoU, Red Dead Redemption, etc. which makes it so nausea inducing.

So, unless I give it another go (adjusting the field of view setting apparently fixes the motion sickness for some people) I’m wondering what game to start next. Suggestions welcome. (I didn’t like Horizon Zero Dawn‘s setting or aesthetics, I’ve played enough of the Uncharteds, I like nice scenery.)

§ We watched a couple of films this week.

China’s Van Goghs (Yu Haibo, Yu Tianqi Kiki, 2016) was a recommendation from Kottke and it was pretty good. There’s a “village” (massive town) in China in which workshops churn out thousands of replica paintings for sale, and in this documentary a few of the painters go to the Netherlands to see the actual Van Goghs that they’ve been painting from reproductions for years.

It was interesting but I found it grimmer than Jason indicates. My naive image was of a master craftsman alone in a studio, painstakingly doing forgery-level perfect reproductions, and selling them for justifiably high prices. But no, it’s a small two-bedroom apartment full of people standing side-by-side painting thousands of copies, which hang to dry from the ceilings in dense racks. They sleep on the floor and clean their clothes in the bathroom. Spoilers, I guess, in the next paragraph.

Then some of them travel to Europe and realise their work isn’t sold in the exclusive fancy art gallery they imagine, but in a tiny tourist kiosk for ten times the small amount of money they get for painting each one. And we don’t get to see their reaction when setting sight on the original paintings, presumably because filming wasn’t allowed in the museum. So an expected climax never arrives.

But it’s still interesting to watch, and more so if you want to feel slightly even worse about the exploitations of global capitalism.

§ We also watched The Nest (Sean Durkin, 2020) which I enjoyed. I’d watch Carrie Coon in anything and Jude Law was on fine form as Charming Jude Law. The latter is a finance guy who brings his family back over to 1980s London to bullshit his way to a fortune with hilarious conseq… no, not hilarious, but conseq… hmm, now I come to think of it there weren’t that many consequences either.

It was good I just felt it didn’t quite go as far or as deep as it could have. I think of The Father of My Children that I watched a while back – a driven man focusing on work at the expense of his family – which took an unexpected turn and was all the more interesting for it. The trouble with a character like Jude Law’s, who will happily lie about everything for his own gain, is that in a movie he’ll either never suffer (he’ll simply move on to the next self-deceiving lie) or he’ll have an unbelievable moment of transformational enlightenment. Neither of which are very satisfying.

§ 8th January and I’ve already had more than enough of winter. Spring soon?

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