Archive for March 30, 2017

Movies Watched Since Last Post: 

Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation
Dark Harbor
Kedi
I Am Big Bird
Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai
Spotlight
The Gambler
Nintendo Quest

It’s been almost three weeks now, and a rather sad number of movies. Eight in eighteen days is not the kind of run I was hoping for when i started this, especially since the last one, the mind-boggling Nintendo Quest (more on that in a minute) was finished on the 26th of March, and I am now on the 30th.  I will say that I had to study for a certification exam for my actual job, which I ended up barely not passing, which I guess means that I am not qualified for a job that I’ve had for about 18 years, and I’ve just been fooling everyone all this time.

Before I get into the nuances of movie-watching these days, the Brie Larson sighting for this post was in Mark Wahlberg’s The Gambler, It was not horrible, despite Brie having a kind of small role, and Mark Wahlberg being in it. I should have hated it, but something about it was strangely compelling, and not just Brie Larson in glasses:

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Rowr!

So, anyway, a little break was necessary, but also, I am running into my first problem with my quest. That problem is that I am running out of available movies to watch (Remember, these movies have to be ones I have never seen, so part of the problem is I’ve seen a lot.) When you break it down, these are the major platforms I am using: Amazon Prime, Netflix, Xfinity OnDemand and actually going out to the movies (with the occasional DVD thrown in). Weirdly enough, despite the fact that 11 out of 26 movies I have watched have been via Amazon, that may be the worst platform of them all because they have sooooo many bad movies on there, and in the time I have spent sifting through the refuse, I could probably have watched a couple of them. Part of this is on me, I realize, because I simply have no desire to watch Dirty Granpa, I’d feel a little gross watching Chain Gang Women, and I won’t watch anything starring Jason Statham, so that cuts out a good chunk of their library right there.  (Call me a film snob, but…) That’s just for the free movies, of course. You can pay to “rent” them digitally, but the real kick in the nuts about that is that you have 30 days to start it after you pay, but only 24 hours to finish it after you start. So, read the fine print, kids. I paid $3.99 to watch King of Kong, the documentary about the guy who has the highest score ever on Donkey Kong. I got about 40 minutes in and then life happened and I had to wait a couple days, only to realize that my window had closed.  Man, can you imagine if video store employees could come to your house and take back the movie if you started it and didn’t finish within 24 hours? Because that’s what Amazon has digitally done to me.

It’s funny, but I am only just getting used to paying to rent something that you don’t actually possess (and will only have for a day once you start it), and having it just disappear from your “digital library” like it never was. As I said, I worked in a video store for years, and a movie theater before that, so seeing movies for free was a regular occurrence, but that’s not the real hang-up for me. Something about renting it and never holding it in your hand makes you think that you’re just throwing money away (and in the case of King of Kong, I was.)  As a child, I would feed quarter after quarter into video games that seemingly had no point, other than the pleasure of it, but now, as an adult, I won’t spend $.99 on an app for my phone because that just seems like a waste. Is there some psychological theory about touching the things you are using that is lost now, or am I just cheap?

Along those lines, I wanted to talk about Nintendo Quest a little. This documentary (I went a little documentary crazy these last couple weeks) is about a young man, Jay, who loves video games, especially the original Nintendo Entertainment System. He loves it so much that his friend dared him to acquire all 678 games in 30 days, not using the internet for any of the purchases. So, this sounded like a fun little adventure to me. There are apparently some extremely rare games out there, so a big part of the movie was finding someone who had them and bartering with that person, and part of the story thread of the movie (and docs do have stories) is that Jay isn’t very good at bartering, so the point of the quest was really to get him out of his shell a little. Sounds fun, right?

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Not so fast. There were a lot of holes here (and this is where my film school snobbery really comes out). My first big problem was that Day 1 of the quest consisted of him going to his friend’s houses and just taking any games that they own. So, the quest doesn’t actually involve “buying” all the games, as much as “acquiring” them. I guess it’s cheaper this way, but kind of a cop-out. The movie does mention that part of the quest was staying under budget, which I get. These are just a couple dudes, after all, with jobs and bills and stuff (and a sick dog, which even factors into the story). The problem is that they never mention what their budget actually is. They just have a Price is Right-style counter on the side whenever Jay buys a game that tells you how close he is getting to maxing out. The film does sometimes mention that he got a good deal, or that $5 was too much for a certain game, but I don’t know what $5 means to this guy. If his budget was a few hundred dollars,  OK, $5 a game is a lot when you have to buy 678 of them. But if you have thousands, for the sake of the movie, buy the damn thing (They do mention briefly at the end that he “spent his life savings,” which sort of seems like a waste in retrospect.) They also spend a really long portion of the movie showing Jay negotiating a deal with a collector in Florida who wants to sell him Stadium Events, apparently the Holy Grail of Nintendo games, for $4000, which the filmmakers tell us is a good deal. The hang-up is that Jay doesn’t like to fly, and doesn’t have the time (or inclination) to drive to Florida, and the guy doesn’t want to just give him the game without getting paid first. As I’m watching this, I’m thinking that the big finale of the movie is that, for the good of the quest, he gets on a plane and flies down and gets his Holy Grail.

Nope. That deal falls apart, and doesn’t factor into the movie at all after that. In fact, Jay doesn’t actually complete the quest in the allotted 30 days. He actually ends up way off, and Stadium Events was one of the games he missed. He ends up getting it from a different dealer, who is only to happy to part with it. They show Jay buying it, and act like it’s a big deal because he finally got it, but they also tell us that he bought the rest of the ones he needed on eBay, and they show him buying Stadium Events from that guy 8 months later. It’s kind of a nice point to make when he says how it felt impersonal to buy them on eBay (which is kind of what I was saying earlier), because he connected with a lot of people on his way to buying the 678 654 games. But by this point, who cares? The point was to do it in 30 days and not use the internet.

I suppose it’s an interesting case-study of what happens when two guys set out to make a documentary about something, and then that something doesn’t take place. I mean, you’re kind of stuck, amiright? I was trying to put myself in their shoes and think about what I would do. You have to finish it, since you went through all the trouble, but could you lie and leave out the “8 months later” part and just say he did it? Who would know? My theory is that they started it, realized it was impossible, and decided to make it about finding this one game, because they are literally hours away from the deadline and he is still knocking around a store in his hometown, seeing if he could find anything. And they weren’t too concerned about having more than twenty games left to get. I also feel like something personal may have happened that they didn’t want to include (there’s some weird side story about what a dick Jay’s Dad was, and then how bad he felt when he died), but definitely got in the way.

I do remember when I was younger, maybe even a little younger than Jay and his friends, and I wanted to make a doc about my friends’ band. It was only a few months later when the band kind of broke up because that’s what your friends’ bands do. I then thought it would be funny to call the doc “The Band That Never Was,” and just make it about how friends’ bands almost always end (often badly), but realized there’s not much of a movie there. This was, of course, before there was a Youtube or any place where people could ever watch anything online, but if there was, maybe I would have continued and been an internet sensation. As it was, my interest waned, probably the same way that these guys’ interest in Nintendo games should have, maybe 30 years or so ago.

I know I sound kind of cynical, especially when you consider the whole “It’s about the journey” rationale, but something about this film, as annoying as it was at times to my grumpy mind, that struck a chord with me. Here I am, trying to watch as many movies as possible in a year. Will I get bored in June and simply drop it? Will I hate most movies by then? Will I realize it’s all kind of pointless, like “acquiring” every Nintendo game is to most people? Or will Matt Dursin, like Jay, discover something about himself along the way?

We shall see. Until then…

Brie Larson

I may have to watch Scott Pilgrim again. And again.