Do You Dream?

In a recent journey on Cracked.com (I cannot get enough and I’m at peace with that) I came across an article about “The 5 Weirdest Things That Influence Your Dreams”.

One of the five things on the list is that video gamers are better at controlling their dreams. It’s based on a psychological study and in the roughest of summaries, the basic science is that because of the way gamers interact with their avatar in a virtual “fantasy” world, they are more equipped to deal with the logistics of stopping, starting, and avoiding certain dreams. It also says that gamers statistically endure less nightmares.

If you enjoy a game or two, I’m interested to hear your thoughts or experience in these matters. My personal reaction to the article was something like “BALDERDASH!” because, despite a healthy 20-year run of gaming, I am and always have been plagued by wildly uncontrollable dreams and ‘mares so grand that they are better known as night terrors. But that’s due to this mental thing, so it’s probable that the study didn’t allow for polar extremes, and no amount of gaming will give me the control that a good sedative can. So, with myself out of the way, take a second and let me know what you think!

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Heave-Ho to the Happy Crappy

Alright folks: a new year. Another one. Will this be the year I stop mucking around and set off down a glorious career path? Say “bollocks!” to debt and get my MFA? Give up my hair coloring regiment and let my silver hair be publicly silver even though I’ve got a few more of these new years before I reach 30? Just like any innovative movie or game (see what I did there?) the plot twists remain to be seen! I do know this: the cosmos would have to be very cruel indeed to set a year in motion worst than the last, so with a bout of zealously rare optimism, here’s to throwing out all the moldy remnants of 2012!

For those of you who have been patiently waiting for me to round out that Tomb Raider series, just, uh…hang in there. It’s actually tied into another topic very dear to my heart that will show up soon, but for now I really want to hail the new year with a few topical fun-stuffs.

Titles To Anticipate

Sometimes I can’t think of anything I’d rather do than sit and watch a barrage of movie trailers. Just such a time came up a few days ago. I, by random search, came across this youtube channel devoted to Sci-Fi and Horror movie trailers (it’s all in the name!). Spent a happy hour browsing trailers–old and new–and researching the standouts. Below is a list of the titles I wrote down in my “Watch This Shit!” notebook. (Unless noted with a ” * “, the trailers can be found by following that link to the Sci-Fi & Horror Movie Trailers channel; a few of them were already on the list from other sources.) Without further ado and in no particular order!

2013 Upcoming Releases

  • The Babadook  and These Final Hours (*no trailers yet, but both include David Henshall from The Snowtown Murders and that hooked me. The first appears to be true horror and the second is more a character movie, but I’ll allow the genre slip for Henshall’s mesmerizing acting. And an apocalypse is involved, so, c’mon. That’s scary.)
  • The Host 2 -if you haven’t checked out the first one, mark it ‘high priority
  • Warm Bodies 
  • Dark Skies
  • Star Trek: Into Darkness *Listen, I’ve never been a Trekkie, but the most recent movie was highly entertaining with re-play value to boot and seriously you guys, just watch this trailer, it looks fanta-a-astic….guh!
  • Mama – oh sweet jesus, this looks terrifying. Hooray!

Out Now: Top Titles I’m Tracking Down. Reviews Imminent! 

  • Antiviral (2012) – this has been on my mind since I caught the trailer a long time ago, but I missed it in theatres. My latter portion of 2012 was kind of fucked up.
  • Kill List (2011) – it’s amazing how pivotal movies like this fly over my head. Constantly. Time to rectify.
  • Take Shelter (2011) *
  • Tideland (2005) *
  • Outcast (2010) *
  • Sound of My Voice (2011) *
  • Animal Kingdom (2011) *

The “Watch This Shit!” list is bigger than these highlights assert–it’s obese, honestly–but these are the titles actively tickling my cinema viscera. I welcome any and all suggestions, words of caution, and personal experiences with any of these or others, so please! Speak on up!

Um, and Games, Too?

Of course, games! I’d be pretty daft if I didn’t openly recognize that I represent only a portion of the gaming community solely based on the limited platforms I use. (And I don’t have an iPhone, where so many of the games are at. That’s fine by me.) Still, my PC and PS3 have a few things to look forward to and titles that I missed this year to catch up on:

  • If it’s not clear that I’m eagerly awaiting the Tomb Raider reboot/prequel/whatever then here: I’m so eagerly awaiting the new Tomb Raider game.
  • South Park: The Stick of Truth 
  • Amnesia: A Machine For Pigs – eeeee!
  • Journey (PS)
  • The Elder Scrolls Online -this might be a huge turning point for my gaming life; I am not an MMO gamer. But the design, story, and map looked amazing at E3 and frankly, I just haven’t had enough Elder Scrolls in my life. Yet.
  • BioShock Infinite -it’s about freaking time.
  • The Last of Us -may end up not being my kind of game, but it looks too stunning to dismiss before I try!

Games I’ll probably end up playing anyway? GOW: Ascension, Resident Evil 6, and of course, Minecraft in its various iterations, mods, and deliciously hypnotic repetition. I love you, Minecraft. Please be kinder to my PC.

2013: Predictions? 

In general, I’m trying not to have any major life “predictions” about this year. That tends to go sour, so I’m going with the flow as far as being a person in society is concerned. But for entertainment? Let me scry.

  • Horror Cinema: New French Extremism will continue to innovate, disturb, and delight, but I think this year is going to see Australian cinema making a well-deserved and lasting statement. Particularly in psychological horror and stark character stories. We will have to groan past the umpteenth “reboot” of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre and probably a few others as the gears of our beloved genre find a renewed pitch. Meanwhile, American and Canadian indie crews are going to keep us on edge and talking plenty afterward. Overall, this may not be the year of a booming horror renaissance, but it will do a lot to get us there.
  • Video games:  After 2012, a year with the lowest amount of “great games” according to the powers that be, surely we can look forward to a variety of ass-kicking entertainment to choose from. (Although I don’t foresee anything until 2014 stepping up to equal Telltale Games’ The Walking Dead series from ’12. Just not going to happen this year.) No doubt there will be some wide-spread disappointment surrounding one or two of the bigger anticipated titles, but who’s to say which ones? Honestly? I’m not kidding about spending more lavish quality time with Minecraft, so let that say what it will about my predictions.

Well folks, here’s to you, to me, to the shadows of horror, to the adventure of games; to a new calendar year! Best of luck to us all. Stay tuned!

 

In the Wake of True Horror…

With the shudder of the Connecticut school shooting still shaking the bones of the country, I don’t feel comfortable writing about horror for a little while. I’m going to be true to my word and finish up the vastly overdue third part of my Tomb Raider diatribe, but then I’m going to take a little time to think about the grief clinging to that small town.

If Only You Knew Me…

So I didn’t publish the intro post as a false harbinger of the Tomb Raider finale installment just to be a time troll. I really expected to follow up with the final bit and move on (currently, a sizeable hunk of it sits in my draft tab,) but had cause to put it on hold due to some travel to the homeland. Clearly, I’m able to connect to the internet, but listen: I’m on dial-up in the literal middle of the woods, ya’ll. Beyond the perversely nostalgic robot sing-song that rings in a connection, the happy capabilities are tenuous at best and I don’t want to trust my prose-heavy ramblings to the same phone line that scurries into a virtual locked cellar every time it’s damp out. I’ll be back in the vicinity of wireless wizardry early next week, so keep that anticipation primed!

Tomb Raider Pt. 3 Foreword & Introduction: Some Notes Before the Breach (Please Read First!)

When I look through all my notes about the controversy and follow the spawning tangents…let it stand that I have more to say than can be said in a venue that isn’t a research paper. So, the post imminently following will be the last unprompted one about Tomb Raider until I get to spend some time with the game (which I am looking forward to!)

To Link or Stream-write?

I posted earlier that I’ve been too drained to have any opinions. Seems they’ve returned in a pretty well-ordered rush, which is fabulous because getting a bookend on what I started (silly me) has been an insistent nag (really, so silly). This post will be–100%–personal editorial. Tried to diligently include citations/links in my earlier posts on the subject, and many of the points I want to make in the final installment are reactions stemming from a plethora of cite-able sources. But this isn’t a research paper.

For reasons ranging from continuity to selfishly making sure that what I truly want to say gets a voice I’m not planning to link any further material unless I get a specific request. If you read the posts so far and are interested enough to join me in the finale, I like to think that you’re doing so with your own exposure to previous, external material. Very likely experience of conversations or articles that I haven’t read.

If any point I argue or summarize for sake of context strikes you in some way that makes you want to see the source, please feel welcome to ask. I will do my best to provide. Conversely, feel positively cheered on to link to any material you feel relevant. My stats meter shows a flattering amount of regular visitors but precious few comments. I’d quite like to hear from you on any point you have, even if it’s just to tune me in to a better way of fostering a communicative environment!

Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that the final post won’t have any links. Maybe a quote or two but probably not, once I get rolling. External material sparked the content but–since opinion shapes said content–isn’t the focus for structure. I plan to generalize external arguments ONLY if they’re iterated in more than three major sources (because that’s pretty fair, right?) Holla if you want specifics.

Content Warning; Subject Reassurance

There may be medium to high trigger warnings regarding domestic/sexual abuse (but for my own sake, I’m going to try to corral them to a concentrated portion and then move on quick.) I’ll only include it if it is relevant to my point; nothing gratuitous, self-pitying, or off-topic. 

At the core of this vibrant topic is a void. People on all sides of debate try to cover it with blanket terms like rape, sexual violence, feminism, misogyny,  and so on but the void exists unexplored yet vital to the real-world impact of such an arena discussion. That void is human experience and, since I only have just the one life, I can only light one modest candle in the breach. At the end of it all, this is just a faceless blog in a vast data stream droning on about a video game snit and I have no control over any resulting impact (if any!), but the reality of the issue is so close to home that–for those same reasons, really–I feel compelled to use this space for a hot second to do my droning.

Finally, (yes, finally! Even I am sick of hearing me over-anxiously giving every goddamn thing preface!) I want to assure you that the post will fo’ REALLY relate directly to Tomb Raider and video game’s societal responsibility. I realize that after I’ve dragged you all over the map with this foreward there is room for concern that it’ll end up being a diary piece. No good sirs, madams, and all: look past my dubious over-set up and trust that if you trundle onward, we’ll be talking about Lara, games, and life straight on once more. Okay, before I can stuff in any more words, let’s go!

Introduction: The Identity Problem

Within a living progressive movement such as feminism (in the broadest sense of the term), there are two tiers to consider in defining the stance of critical/emotional evolution and thought, for active participants and neutral parties all. The first, personal identity, is by nature of social issue often swept to shadow by the second, communal identity. I think that’s a major sticking point in debates such as the Tomb Raider one.
When one’s communal affiliation is at work on issues/changes to basic social structure then it’s acceptable to give up the identity of the individual for the general culmination of the group, but when the focus stops on a thing–something inert elevated as a symbol–the generalities (statements of cause-and-effect, arguments, meaning) no longer reasonably acknowledge the individuals of the community and the movement can splinter. Maybe this is just a cosmic fallacy in all instances where the many speak for the solitary on issues whose core importance is inextricable from the near-infinite set of unique individual experience. Maybe I’m just over-thinking an aspect that is both immutable and unimportant.
At any rate, I feel that in this case I’ve become a splinter inside the feminist community. The statements of condemnation for both game developers and games consumers from powerful feminist vocalists, accusing sexism, misogyny, perpetuating rape culture, white knighting etcmade the divide between my identity and that of the tribe an open wound of (what I felt at first) betrayal, even dismissal.
To try and put it simply: this controversy put me at odds with the feminist community over core facets of my personal identity, specifically the ever-raw part of me that is both victim and survivor of domestic/sexual abuse. It stopped me stark, made me doubt then re-evaluate, and now reply even though (as an individual speaking to a community) I still fear being cast out altogether for failing to connect in this minor entreaty.
But most of all and true to my nature, it makes me angry.
That anger defiantly shouts to my own community: STOP SPEAKING FOR ME.
Okay, but why should they? Where does all this quasi-philosophical cork whittle down to “STFU” in conjunction with Tomb Raider? Uh, well, let me see if I can rein myself in and spit it out.                                                  [Cont’d Part 3]

Dark, Ugly, Brilliant: ‘The Snowtown Murders’

When I think about enduring an illness during winter months, I envision a lot of couch-lounging movie marathons. Unfortunately (and this will be the last whaaambulance call about me being sick, promise!) I’ve been so sick that sleep took priority over my inner film freak. I did manage to watch a few, so let me kick off my return with one of the most intense movies I’ve ever seen: Australian director Justin Kurzel‘s debut The Snowtown Murders.

Reviewers say “[a specific disturbing] film made me feel so dirty that I had to shower after watching it”, but I never empathized with the sentiment. My experience with dark and disturbing films is extensive, so does that makes me some kind of insensitive degenerate? Dunno. After watching The Snowtown Murders, I can say that I finally understand what everyone else means about a movie temporarily impacting their moral self-image.

Australian Tragedy Breeds Australian Cinematic Genius

***TRIGGER WARNING: Pedophilia, Homophobia, &  Animal Cruelty***

The Snowtown Murders is a harrowing dramatization of the people and events surrounding Australia’s worst serial killer, John Bunting. In fact, Wikipedia states the details of the case were suppressed to the public until the producers of this film petitioned for them in order to make the film.  In addition to being among the most prolific crime stories of the country, the murders are unique for involving six perpetrators of the serial killings (usually no more than two are involved.)

Kurzel’s film does a masterful job of developing the involved characters. While the film has scenes of nakedly brutal violence and abuse, the choice to focus on the group of personalities successfully brought home the stark horror better than gore-sploitation could ever do. The acting is flawless to the point that these people seem like the real deal.

Our main POV is Jaime (Lucas Pittaway), teenage son of Elizabeth Harvey. Early on in the movie we witness Elizabeth’s boyfriend being sexually inappropriate with Jaime and his two younger brothers in scenes that are not horrifically explicit but are so poignant that they don’t need to be. When police do nothing, the opportunity for John Bunting to melt into and over their lives through mutual friend Barry (a pre-op transexual with a young boyfriend named Robert,) is opened.

Bunting (spectacularly portrayed by Daniel Henshall) is a charismatic, passionate personality known for openly loathing pedophiles (and homosexuals) and talks of taking action. Bunting becomes a father figure to the boys, bonding closely with Jaime. Can’t say enough about the acting; Henshall makes Bunting a truly charming figure, fully realized in his care for the boys just as he is in his twisted fury against pedophiles.

Slowly–this movie is paced with measured cadence–impressionable Jaime is drawn into Bunting’s escalating hatred and violence. We hear a voice mail from Barry stating that he is leaving town while his boyfriend Robert is indoctrinated by Bunting. We see slices of Jaime’s closest friendship with a drug addict named Gavin. We watch the neighborhood through Bunting’s gaze, focused on the wayward and the not-quite-right. We see a boiling danger underneath a mending family finally finding the love and guidance of a dominant male figure.

We don’t see any on screen brutality until two-thirds of the movie has set a scene so gritty and grim, so tense and foreboding that I actually had to press pause a few times to take a cigarette break in another part of my house just to remove myself from the bleak immersion. (That’s not something I’d normally do, you guys. Even now, writing this, I need to listen to some upbeat music.) The details are yours to learn either from the film or the written history; it’s not so much that there are major spoilers, but there is no need for me to give the play-by-play when the events speak for themselves.

What should be noted is the portrayal of Jaime’s unwilling but unavoidable journey into this irredeemable hell. It’s amazing, it’s haunting, and it’s at the heart of “dirty” feeling that settled over me after I finished the film. Watching such a lost, hurt soul in the full revolution of transition isn’t a new story arc but is at its zenith in this film. From innocence taken to influence to systematic mental break down to breaking point to assimilation, Pittaway’s performance as Jaime is so horrifyingly stark (and as far as I can tell, true to history) that it’s harder to deal with in the film’s immersion than Bunting’s ruthless madness. I knew going in that it was based on reality, but goddamnit, it was so mind-blasting realistic that it almost breaks the fourth wall somehow.

If you are planning on watching this movie, I have a specific suggestion to enhance your viewing. Normally I would be wary of this kind of influence but since it made such a difference for me I thought I’d at least put it out into the ether: read about the details of the real murders (not the film!) before you watch the movie. It will help greatly in keeping track of who is connected to who and how in the film since it is a true-to-life dramatization; the cast is relatively small but the accents and frank, open story-telling have a few “wait, who is that?” moments.

It will also elevate the last ten minutes or so of the film from frighteningly foreboding to sickeningly bleak. Why exactly would I want to do that to myself when the rest of the film is so harrowing, hmm? you may be wondering. Well, depending on how much aftermath you are willing to subject yourself to, the real benefit lies with the finality of Jaime’s character development. For me, this is not a film that I’d want to go back and watch again to pick up what I missed, so I’m grateful that I conducted some research beforehand. 

Last Thoughts

I think The Snowtown Murders is a brilliant film. From the cinematography to the impressive acting, Kurzel took prolific Australian history and made an honest masterpiece. It’s also taken the place of the darkest, most disturbing movie I’ve ever seen. (Overtaking Irreversible, Martyrs, Men Behind the Sun, and many Cat III’s.) Do not sit down to watch this on a whim, or if you have any overpowering triggers from pedophilia, homophobia, or raw cruelty. The Snowtown Murders is available streaming on Netflix or DVD if you decide to add this one to your list…just don’t let it be said that I didn’t try to warn you that this one will be with you for a while after the credits roll.

*Quick Note: The majority of professional and amateur reviews put out about this film blithely throw around the term “white trash” when referring to the community at whole portrayed in the film. I wish the folks disposed to use such a term would cut it and shut it ASAP. Calling a demographic of people “trash” is 1.) not justifiable because of the race qualifier, 2.) an inherently violent dismissal of each individual’s self-worth within the group (especially the children, for chrissakes!) and 3.) an act of burying one’s head in the sand about the vulnerability of all communities to dominant personalities by putting oneself’s societal status above those who have proved to be susceptible. I’m sick of seeing the term in film reviews just as I am sick of seeing the term “faggot” march merrily around the gamer lexicon. Struggling lower-class folks aren’t trash; people who do wicked and cruelty to them are the trash. Make the contrast.

Seriously, This Weather, You Guys!

Just coming around to feeling like a human rather than a husk, but I am hoping to have a new review or two posted later today. I know there isn’t a “PART III” to the Tomb Raider op-ed just yet, but I’ve been so ill that I haven’t even managed to have opinions lately. Gross.

Take care of your immune systems, brothers and sisters and everyone, and I’ll see you back here later today!

Tomb Raider Controversy [Part 2 of 3]

Lara Croft & Rape Culture: Some Thoughts

Even limited to this scope, it’s hard to find a place to worm into this subject. It’s worth noting that there is a pervasive and widely (but not entirely) undisputed belief that game companies create and market to a perceived majority of males, all of whom are engaged with nothing but violence and carnality. It’s under that stereotype that debates over Tomb Raider‘s “rape scene” operated: staggering comments in the forums from male gamers openly anticipating the chance to watch Lara Croft be raped vs. wild criticism from feminist activists denouncing any inclusion of sexual assault or rape in story line as solely a vehicle of female degradation.

I am beyond disgusted with the former sentiments (in a perfect world, their shame would be vast,) but I don’t think I need to speak to them because the latter views are the ones that hit home to me as missing a huge point to be made by someone within their own ranks.

The Actual Gameplay?

Since the game is still in pre-order stages, most of us haven’t actually been able to play it. But let it be known that there is NOT an on-screen rape heading our way, regardless of whether or not we play through the quoted quick time event to turn the tables on the scuzzbag who abducts Lara after she is stranded. This IS important to mention, not because brief sexual assault is any less abhorrent than rape, but because the fact refutes anyone arguing that the instance isn’t about Lara’s growth at all and instead is a “fanservice” by the developers to enhance Lara’s sex-objectification. Beyond this, I can say no more on the game until I play it. I intend to revisit once I get the chance.

 

Sexual Violence & a Larger Scope I. Language

As I read through articles and comments then and re-read them now it becomes clear to me that there’s a serious (but curable!) issue underneath the controversy that no one is talking about. That issue is that our society has not yet developed common language about sexual violence. This is especially true for rape, and for continuity/length I am going to use “rape” going forth. 

If you find yourself in a conversation about rape, maybe with a friend or in a class, am I wrong to say that there are only two pockets of language for you to call on? There is the medical language of rape: anatomy, physiology, PTSD, therapy. Then there is a jar of power words, over-charged to the point of existentialism because they are used as a tool of argument: dehumanize, misogyny, control, gender, hate, civil liberty, etc. But no matter the words, rape is a subject that polarizes the majority of conversationalists and fills the room with giant emotions. It is a topic on par with racism; so personal and so multi-faceted that talking about it thoughtfully or with progress in mind is already a minefield of triggers. [Only as far as the facilitation of public talks] racism has become an easier topic to discuss; it has been a societal change in action for a long time, a struggle that reaches every part of our nation not to be ignored. But at some point, talking about racism had its own limited, lurching vocabulary.

Women’s rights have absolutely been at the forefront of public discussion but rape has NOT. The ongoing work of right’s groups to define rape culture is just an example: instead of debating semantics, we are still striving to study our environment. Any actual discourse I have experienced–text or in person–usually leaves me feeling like nothing is getting done because so many voices are missing; because a bulk of the conversation isn’t made up of words or ideas but is dominated by tension, anger, blame, frustration, cringes, and dismissal. Not only is discussion about rape stunted by the inability to emotionally connect, but (on BOTH sides) “valid” participants are still being redefined. Like those who say men have less right to weigh in because they “aren’t the victims” or those who think actual victims “skew the reality of the danger” with their big old emotions. Until everyone can accept that everyone else is invited to the table on a subject that–in so many ways–effects us all, then the language of rape is in its infancy.

2012 in America has been the year of outlandish, hurtful, and inciting public statements regarding sexual violence (noticeably regarding women, not men.) If you followed the infamous senators and governors who made pointed statements about rape alongside the campaign for presidency, then you either know your own reaction, public reaction, or even engaged in the aftermath. (Here comes the tie-in…!) 

After my initial outrage, I got to thinking: how is it that in this day and age, freaking political leaders and executive producers of mega-software entertainment companies can talk about rape so callously? Dismissively? Awkwardly? My hypothesis goes back to language: for every douchehat that really believes awful things about rape, there are ten normal folks who use the term “rape” and try to talk about it without the progressive boundaries of evolved language. Simply put…we want to have a conversation across the  trenches about rape, but we have neither the words or the safety of an arena to do so right now. So some people are going to say really stupid shit; it is up to us to re-evaluate how to react so that we can make some actual damn progress.

That is what we should be focusing on. Dividing our minds, expending emotional energy by recoiling in anger and retaliating with a salvo so fiercely overreaching that intent and perspective of the “inciting” statement is totally lost. What good does it do to take to our blogs ranting and adding Ron Rosenberg’s name to the lexicon of “rape culture”? It’s like putting up one more mugshot on the notice board: alright, we see him…shoot, there are more all the time! Arghhlebarglerage! That’s a dud trip to building up paranoid anger that has nowhere to go.

Instead, wouldn’t it make more sense to allow him–like every other human being who brings up hot-button issues–the context of our current knee-jerk obstacles around this subject? It may not be easier, but wouldn’t it be healthier to the cause of actually eradicating rape to NOT make his words stand for the whole of the gaming industry (then visual entertainment industry then entire social culture?!) I am not excusing what are clearly his personal beliefs on rape and how that fits into his gender views, though I have to admit that “wanting to take care of her” is a better reaction than “she fucking deserved it”.

I am trying to offer this perspective (and so, a summary about rape language): Ron Rosenberg is ONE person; he spoke candidly about HIS perception of Lara Croft’s new “vulnerable” character and he gave a summary of the game’s character development motivation. The term “rape” was mentioned once and was almost immediately corrected by the company, but if it wasn’t clear that we need to focus on facilitating a social communication structure where people don’t go from 0-to-60 when they see the word “rape”, I hope I’ve helped use my opinion to make it at least something to consider. 

 [Coming Soon: Final Tomb Raider post, Part 3 of 3]