I’ve got nothing bad to say about 4-day weekends. We had a wonderful time – plenty of quality poolside time, plenty of quality family time, and on Monday, with the kid at day care, the wife and I went to see Baby Driver in the theater.
I’d have to think about it for a little while to come up with a definitive list, but I think I can say that Baby Driver is the most fun I’ve had watching a movie in the theater in many, many years. Now, it’s true that since the kid was born we haven’t been able to go to the movies as much as we used to – especially when we were living in Astoria and could take a nice leisurely stroll to the local cineplex – but that being said, I’d still be hard-pressed to think of another film that was that much fun.
I admit that I’m biased; I’ve been a huge fan of Edgar Wright ever since Spaced and I’ll see anything and everything he’s involved with. But even with these impossibly high expectations, I wasn’t prepared to lose myself so thoroughly inside it. It’s the best movie he’s made, and I sincerely hope that it makes enough money to let him keep making the films he wants to make.
The plot of Baby Driver is paper-thin, and if you think about it for more than 30 seconds you’ll find a whole bunch of nonsense. But that’s not the point. The point of this movie isn’t its story, or even its characters – the point of this movie is the experience that the movie creates for you. It is exciting and moving and spectacular and quiet and every single frame of film serves a purpose – I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a movie with this much self-contained momentum before. (Possibly Mad Max: Fury Road, though that’s a different sort of experience.) This film exists to entertain all the corners of your mind.
Not all nostalgia is created equally. This is especially true when it comes to old video games. Very often the memories we have of something – a game, a book, a film, a friend – obscure the true nature of what those things actually were.
I’ve said here before that I went through two big video game phases in my life; the first was from age 5 to 17, when I was still living at home and had access to my Atari 2600 and my younger brother’s Sega Genesis, and the second was after I’d graduated college and was hanging out at my co-worker’s apartment almost every night after work, getting smashed and playing Oddworld and Crash Bandicoot on his PS1.
The Oddworld remake that came out last year is a wonderful thing. It keeps what made the original game so entertaining – the puzzles, the sound design, the characters – and the graphical improvements simply make the game better. The game still fundamentally works, though, is the key – for a 2.5D platformer/side scroller, it did what it did remarkably well and it still holds up because it’s still a unique experience.
The Crash Bandicoot games? That’s a different story altogether. I loved the experience of playing these games back in 1998-2000, but that could very well have been to the company, the music, and the relative levels of sobriety. I am very grateful to have these remakes back in my life, and I can say that they are… hmm… faithful to the originals, and certainly the graphics are much improved, but… um… I’m not so sure these games are as great as I thought they were. They’re certainly a lot harder than I remember them being; I can barely get through the very first level without wiping out a dozen times. A number of people asked a variation of the same question on Twitter: Were these games always this hard, or do we just suck at playing them now? (As it turns out, it’s a little bit of both.)
Truth be told, the appeal of these games doesn’t really translate as well as I’d hoped. My 4-year-old was excited to try these games out, and I gleefully handed him the controller and watched him die, and die, and die again, and as he got frustrated I’d take over for him and I’d die, and die, and die again, and we both got frustrated and decided to do something else. It’s a bit of a bummer, I’m afraid.