Friday, 15 November 2013

Musings On Capitalism, etc.

In the old days – before the rampant Capitalism that Thatcherism brought in – a lot of jobs were a family affair. Generation after generation would do the same job. Some people deride this as a lack of a drive to better yourself and pull yourself out of your situation. But if you look at it another way... everything that needed to be done got done, because you knew there were always going to be plumbers. There were always going to be butchers. There were always going to be all of the things that everyone needed for society to run smoothly.

The idea of Capitalism brought with it an ambition among the people to do better. To get more money than your ancestors. Everything is focussed on money. Which means that there are a lot of people who have fought their way out of poverty, and are now living a quality of life that their grandparents never even dreamed of. Well done to them.

But, this has led to a situation in which my generation – the first generation to be raised in the Thatcherist mindset – think that all of those menial jobs are below us. They all want the top jobs as lawyers, or stock brokers. Not builders. But in spite of people’s lack of a desire to do these jobs, they do still need to be done. Without them being done, society would collapse. So the answer is to outsource.
All around the world there are people who are far less fortunate than us, who are seeing that there are jobs available. Jobs that they are willing to do, because they’re willing to do anything to get any money at all. This is why immigration is not only a good thing, but completely necessary to keep the country running. Unfortunately, most of the same people who cheer on the ideals of Capitalism, are also the same kind of people who complain about “foreigners coming over here and taking our jobs!” They just can’t grasp that in order to live to the standard of living that we have become accustomed to in this country, less fortunate people are going to have to prop us up.

Proponents of Capitalism like to talk about how they got where they are with hard work, and anyone can do the same if they put their mind to it, and not only this, if people weren’t so lazy, everyone would be doing it. But this is wrong. Let’s just bypass the sheer amount of luck that you need to have to be able to succeed in a competitive marketplace – you have to have specific skills/products/etc. That there is a enough of a demand for to be able to earn more than your costs, and it’s inevitable that the majority who try are going to fail no matter how hard they work – there’s also the very simple fact that if everyone is a successful businessman/lawyer/stock broker/banker/any other high-flying job, then not only is there no one left for these people to employ, but there’s also going to be a severe lack of poor and desperate people.

For Capitalism to be successful, there has to be poverty and desperation. Otherwise, who is going to do all of the tasks that the more affluent feel are beneath them? Who’s going to police the streets? Who’s going to join the armed forces so that the rich can protect their interests? This is the answer to the question, “why won’t the rich do anything about inequality in the world?” The rich need there to be inequality, otherwise their society would collapse. People like Russell Brand are correct when they say that in order for there to be profit, there needs to be someone else in the world who is losing out.

And we’re all guilty of the exploitation of the poor and desperate, no matter how many “fair trade” products we use in an attempt to feel better about ourselves. If you have money, it’s only because other people don’t. It’s a fact of life.

Is pure Socialism the answer as many – including myself – have sometimes said? Probably not. But the sooner the world realises that borders are imaginary lines, and everyone should have the right to go anywhere, and the sooner something drastic is done to the system so that someone can get into power who isn’t merely a figurehead for corporations who are gaining more and more power in Western politics, despite the will of the people (who politicians in a Democratic society like to claim have the power) the better. Because Brand is right. No matter which party a politician belongs to, it’s not the people who vote them in that will be their priority, but the bank accounts of their friends in business.

The promises of fairness and positive competition when the nation’s energy company’s and rail lines have not been delivered. These are essential services that should not be sold at a profit, but every year prices jump whilst the company’s in charge make some excuse about improvements or “unfair levies”, whilst they proudly announce record profits at the end of the tax year. Renationalisation of these services is essential for anybody who wants to bring positive change. And while they’re at it, they need to get the Royal Mail back before any more damage is done, and do everything in their power to make sure the NHS stays out of corporate hands. The wellbeing of the nation’s people should be a government’s first priority, and these services are all things that they have the moral duty to provide.

All non-essential services however, should be encouraged to make a profit via ethical means. Pay and treat their workers fairly no matter where they are in the world. Profit when it’s made not by exploiting the customers or employees, but rather by doing a good job is a good thing. That’s where I disagree with Brand. Someone has to be making a profit, otherwise where is the money coming from to combat the poverty that most agree needs to be dealt with. Sure, I think the government should provide for its people, but at the end of the day if they are the only people providing for people, it’s completely unsustainable. There needs to be some kind of happy medium between Capitalism and Socialism that works for the benefit of all. And at the same time, we need to accept that the vast majority of people doing the menial tasks *gasp* weren’t born in this country! They’re doing an essential job by keeping this country running. Let them be. It’s ironic that the type of people who welcome immigrants into this country are the type in which we wouldn’t actually need them here so much if they’re Socialist ideals were in place, and those who think we should get rid of them are those whose political ideals absolutely rely on them coming here.

Like Russell Brand - who I agree with largely, but in some ways I disagree with... I tend to agree that voting is largely pointless, especially when constituency boundaries are drawn to ensure one particular party always wins, but for the time being I’d be afraid not to. Even spoiling your ballot paper is a more effective way of making the point that you don’t believe in any of them than just not bothering at all – I have no idea how to implement these ideas. I’m not a politician, and though I might welcome a Revolution (depending entirely on who is revolting and why... and whether or not they are the sort of extreme anti-Capitalists who have contributed millions of dollars to Times Warner by wearing movie merchandise), I certainly don’t have the ideas or the charisma to be the person people rally behind. I just have an idea of how I believe the world should run, which is pretty much exactly the opposite of how it does run.

One thing that does need to happen, is that some serious party’s other than the three major ones by the next election. Basically, if that doesn’t happen the choices will either be Labour (at the moment, my personal choice, but I don’t believe they stand much chance of winning because memories of their final years in government are still fresh), the elitist snobbery of the Conservatives who have gutted the country of its services, gutted the military of resources whilst they were fighting two wars, and whose solution to energy company’s all rising their prices was, “just switch providers”, the Liberal Democrats – the perpetrator of one of the most blatant lies in recent memory when they promised to not vote for student tuition fees and then voted for student tuition fees – and in any case have only ever gotten any semblance of power by selling out their ideals and teaming up with the Conservatives - and a few fringe party’s like the right-wing, Nationalist, racist BNP and UKIP, and the Green Party whose policies on preserving the world are admirable, but who literally have no policies in regards to anything else whatsoever. We need more party’s that represent a far broader range of political ideals than we have now – much as the American system needs... in fact, when reading about how American democracy was rigged on Cracked yesterday, I was struck by how much of it also applied to the UK.

I don’t usually talk about politics as much on here, and I honestly don’t know my point in writing this other than to get some of it out there. This is probably the first of my “Random Rambling” blogs to actually ramble randomly off course at some points. I may be an idealist, but I’ve found that everyone who has ever made any changes has been an idealist, too. Most of their ideals never came to fruition, or if they did they were warped by other people (I’m pretty sure Karl Marx would have been disgusted with Josef Stalin), but they had to ask for the impossible in order to get the parts that were actually possible.

I’ve defended Russell Brand in the last few weeks, even for the things that I disagree with myself, because I can see where he’s coming from. So I guess this was just an opportunity to say what I actually think in a long-winded, meandering way.

Saturday, 19 October 2013

The X-Files: Season 1, Episodes 4-9

Conduit (Season 1, Episode 4)
Written by Alex Gansa and Howard Gordon; Directed by Daniel Sackheim
David Duchovny as Fox Mulder
Gillian Anderson as Dana Scully
Charles Cioffi as Scott Blevins
Carrie Snodgress as Darlene Morris
Joel Palmer as Kevin Morris
Taunya Dee as Ruby Morris
Shelley Owens as Tessa
Don Thompson as Holtzman
Don Gibb as Kipp
Akiko Morison as Leza Atsumi
Conduit returns to the theme of alien abduction with Mulder and Scully travelling to Sioux City in Iowa to investigate the disappearance of a teenage girl.
This further explores the disappearance of Mulder's younger sister, Samantha, with the parallels in the two cases causing Scully to suspect that he has lost his objectivity.
Despite its theme the episode really doesn't add much to the show overall, other than a little bit of extra characterisation for the lead characters. Gillian Anderson's portrayal of Scully trying to help Mulder whilst simultaneously questioning his motives is characteristically excellent, but for the first episode to truly focus on Mulder and his search it's really Duchovny's performance that's the most important, and here he unfortunately fails to deliver. Perhaps this episode came too early in the season, before he'd properly gotten to grips with the character, as he does much better in later episodes.
As a standalone story, there are also problems, with my never being particularly invested in the case or its mysteries (like how a young boy can pick up top secret binary code in a television showing only static).
(6/10 - not a bad episode, by any means, but the first one that is less than great)

The Jersey Devil (Season 1, Episode 5)
Jersey Devil
Written by Chris Carter; Directed by Joe Napolitano
David Duchovny as Fox Mulder
Gillian Anderson as Dana Scully
Wayne Tippit as Detective Thompson
Michael MacRae as Peter Boulle
Gregory Sierra as Dr. Diamond
Claire Stansfield as The Jersey Devi
Jill Teed as Glenna
Tamsin Kelsey as Ellen
Andrew Airlie as Rob
Bill Dow as Dad
Hrothgar Matthews as Jack
Jayme Knox as Mom
For some reason, I always remember this episode coming later in the season. It came as a shock to me reading the episode list to find that it was only the second monster-of-the-week episode. Unfortunately, The Jersey Devil doesn't provide any of the surprises or quality of Tooms.
The general idea is one that The X-Files would return to multiple times throughout its life - take a "real life" urban legend, and reimagine it into the show's timeline. In this case, the titular Jersey Devil is a genetic throwback to the neanderthal era that lives in the woods of New Jersey. Or rather, she's one of a family of genetic throwbacks who is attacking people to protect her young after the death of the male in the family.
Strangely, the New Jersey police department seem to want to keep the whole thing hushed up, and go to extreme lengths to cover it up in order to "keep tourists in the casinos" - a rather unconvincing explanation for some very unconvincing actions by some of the supporting cast. It's probably things like this that cause the episode (though interesting to begin with, with the case officially being considered cannibalism) to go downhill after the first 20 minutes or so. It's never particularly bad, but by the end, I don't particularly care about what happens to the "Devil", either.
(6/10 - an interesting idea which loses steam too quickly)

Shadows (Season 1, Episode 6)
Written by Glen Morgan & James Wong; Directed by Michael Lange
David Duchovny as Fox Mulder
Gillian Anderson as Dana Scully
Barry Primus as Robert Dorlund
Lisa Waltz as Lauren Kyte
Lorena Gale as Ellen Bledsoe
Veena Sood as Miss Saunders
Deryl Hayes as Mr. Webster
Janie-Woods Morris as Miss Lange
Nora McLellan as Jane Morris
Anna Ferguson as Miss Winn
In this episode, people who intend to harm a young secretary at a technology company (Lauren Kyte) have a nasty habit of ending up dead in mysterious circumstances. When a pair of terrorists find themselves with their throats crushed from the inside, Mulder and Scully are called in by a mysterious government agency to assist with the investigation.
What they uncover is that Kyte's boss - Robert Dorlund - is an unscrupulous bastard who may be responsible for the apparent suicide of his business partner, Howard Graves. And that Graves is now a poltergeist dedicated to protecting Lauren.
So far, my opinion on these episodes has generally been in line with public consensus, but here it takes a bit of a turn, as I found this to be a particularly strong episode, mixing up a traditional ghost tale with corporate corruption. It's not one of my favourite episodes, but it's definitely an improvement on the two that came before.
(8/10 - a combination of a traditional ghost/poltergeist story with corporate corruption makes for a compelling episode)

Ghost In The Machine (Season 1, Episode 7)
Written by Alex Gansa & Howard Gordon; Directed by Jerrold Freeman
David Duchovny as Fox Mulder
Gillian Anderson as Dana Scully
Jerry Hardin as Deep Throat
Rob LaBelle as Brad Wilczek
Wayne Duvall as Jerry Lamanda
Blu Mankuma as Claude Peterson
Tom Butler as Benjamin Drake
Gillian Barber as Nancy Spiller
Theodore Thomas as Clyde
A down-on-his-luck friend of Mulder's in the FBI requests Mulder and Scully's assistance in a case relating to the murder of the CEO of a computing company. What follows is - basically - the worst 45 minutes that The X-Files ever gave us.
Even at a time when not many people knew how computers worked, the episode - in which a computer used to control an entire building gains sentience and starts killing people it perceives as a threat - was an insult to anyone's intelligence.
There's no way I could care about any of the guest stars in this episode as none of the characters are remotely believable, the performances are even worse, and every time you're reminded of what the plot is about you're left with a feeling of, "Really? Even for a show like The X-Files this is pushing it!"
I suppose the best thing I can say about this episode is that - as far as I recall, and I'll be severely depressed if I am proved wrong - the show never got this bad ever again. Even in Season 9.
(1/10 - insultingly bad)

Ice (Season 1, Episode 8)
Parasitic ice worms
Written by Glen Morgan & James Wong; Directed by David Nutter
David Duchovny as Fox Mulder
Gillian Anderson as Dana Scully
Xander Berkeley as Dr. Hodge
Felicity Huffman as Dr. Nancy Da Silva
Steve Hytner as Dr. Denny Murphy
Jeff Kober as Bear
Ken Kirzinger as Mr. Richter
Sonny Surowiec as Mr. Campbell
This is much better. Thank you, everyone involved for following one of the worst episodes of the show with one of its best.
Mulder and Scully travel to the ice core project in Alaska to investigate why communication has been lost with one of its teams. Together with helicopter pilot, Bear and two scientists - who would later become 24's George Mason and Desperate Housewives' Lynette Scavo - they find that the entire team have been murdered each other or killed themselves.
It doesn't take long before an angry dog attacks, with examinations revealing that a parasite has infected it causing extreme aggression.
Taking place mostly on one set, this episode is a brilliantly claustrophobic episode, with the minimal cast becoming increasingly paranoid and aggressive towards each other when they realise that any one of them could be infected. It definitely owes more than a little to The Thing, but it remains a high point for Season 1.
The way I see it, by the end of this episode, Mulder and Scully have formed a bond of trust that would only become stronger as the show went on. It was kind of a trial by fire for their partnership, which they managed to pass. After this episode, they definitely seem more at ease with each other.
(9/10 - The X-Files back on top form with this claustrophobic and paranoid ode to The Thing)

Space (Season 1, Episode 9)
Written by Chris Carter; Directed by William Graham
David Duchovny as Fox Mulder
Gillian Anderson as Dana Scully
Ed Lauter as Marcus Aurelius Belt
Susanna Thompson as Michelle Generoo
As great as Ice is, it's made to look even better by the fact that it's bookended by two absolutely terrible episodes. Space doesn't trudge the depths of quality quite as much as Ghost In The Machine did, but it does get fairly close.
A NASA mission to Mars is haunted by something that seems to have some connection to the Face On Mars - otherwise known as just a random rock formation that happens to look a bit like a face from above. It's made clear exactly what it is, or why it wants to sabotage NASA's mission, or... anything, really.
I've praised the fact that some episodes leave the agents just as in the dark as they started, but there's no excuse for never actually giving a point to what is going on. And that's the mistake they made. We're never given even an idea of what is happening, and as a result we don't actually care about it.
(3/10 - not quite as bad as Ghost In The Machine, but still one of the worst episodes the show would ever produce)

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

The X-Files re-viewing project

The X-Files is among my favourite TV shows of all time. If it wasn't for the fact the final season was a huge disappointment, it would have never been usurped by Lost. I strongly believe that almost none of the shows that everyone knows and loves today would have existed if it wasn't for The X-Files providing inspiration, or - in the case of Breaking Bad at least - the launching pad for the careers of people who went on to create their own shows.

Last month, the show celebrated its 20th birthday, which is why I've decided to rewatch the entire show from the beginning and provide a commentary on here as I do so with reviews of each episode viewed through the hindsight of 20 years. If you've managed to go this long without watching this show, firstly, I invite you track it down and watch along with me. And secondly, if you are for some reason unable to do that, and wish to watch it in the future, there will definitely be some major spoilers, especially when it comes to the episodes that explore the shows "mythology" involving alien visitations and a shadowy government conspiracy to cover up their existence.

Pilot (Season 1, Episode 1)

Written by Chris Carter; Directed by Robert Mandel
David Duchovny as Fox Mulder
Gillian Anderson as Dana Scully
William B. Davis as Cigarette Smoking Man
Charles Cioffi as Scott Blevins
Zachary Ansley as Billy Miles
Sarah Koskoff as Theresa Nemman
Cliff DeYoung as Dr. Jay Nemman
Leon Russom as Detective Miles
Stephen E. Miller as Coroner John Truitt
Jim Jansen as Dr. Heitz Werber
Malcolm Stewart as Dr. Glass
Richard Rielle as Shaw
Katya Gardener as Peggy O'Dell

Nobody knew what they were letting themselves in for when they signed up to appear in this pilot episode for a new science fiction TV show influenced by the likes of Kolchak: The Night Stalker, Prime Suspect and Silence Of The Lambs. Gillian Anderson in particular has gone on record as saying she expected that at most it would run for around 12 episodes and boost her profile enough for her to move onto something bigger straight after.
It turned out however, that The X-Files would grow into a cultural phenomenon and the longest running science fiction show in US TV history (until Stargate SG1 and Smallville broke that record at least). And here's where it all started.
Young and promising FBI Agent Dana Scully is given the task of assisting a rogue agent who has become obsessed with so-called X-Files (cases classified as unexplainable and consigned to the FBI's basement where they had been mostly forgotten), and debunking his theories using her knowledge as a scientist and medical doctor.
Fox Mulder was one of the FBI's most promising young agents himself before discovering the X-Files, but now he's gotten a reputation as a paranoid madman, whose singular focus is causing him to waste his obvious brilliance.
The new partners' first case sees them travelling to Bellefleur, Oregon to investigate a series of mysterious deaths of people who were all part of the same graduating class which Mulder is convinced is linked to alien abduction.
It's strange, but when people talk about The X-Files, they always talk about the mythology starting early into the second season, but right from the off you have Mulder talking about how he's been trying to access certain documents that keep on being blocked by people within the government and confessing to Scully that his sister disappeared under mysterious circumstances when she was 8 years old, both of which are major elements of the mythology.
There's also the issue of the Cigarette Smoking Man, debuting here in an unspeaking part in a number of scenes where he leans on things and smokes ominously during meetings. It's always talked about how he was never intended as anything other than an extra, but if he didn't become a major character, it would have been a crime. Sure, he didn't have any lines until Season 2, but he was still a huge part of this episode - especially that final scene which confirms right from the off that the government are hiding something, and the Smoking Man is definitely a big part of it. Things went into a lot more detail later on, obviously, but the groundwork was definitely beginning to be laid right from the beginning.
Now, 20 years on, it's amazing how well the story holds up, Duchovny and Anderson's chemistry with each other leaves you interested right from the start, and eager to learn more about these characters. The deep friendship that would later develop has yet to form, as Mulder is still extremely mistrustful of Scully who he assumes has been sent to spy on him. This being the first episode of a strange new TV show from an untested creator and two unknown leads, it's no surprise that the production values don't hold up as well today as episodes in later seasons, and sometimes it's shocking just how old it looks, but when the rest of the package is this good a few shoddy effects doesn't matter much.

(8/10 - A strong opening episode)

Deep Throat (Season 1, Episode 2)
Written by Chris Carter; Directed by Daniel Sackheim
David Duchovny as Fox Mulder
Gillian Anderson as Dana Scully
Jerry Hardin as Deep Throat
Andrew Johnston as Colonel Robert Budahas
Gabrielle Rose as Anita Budahas
Michael Bryan French as Paul Mossinger
Seth Green as Emil
Lalainia Lindbjerg as Zoe
Vince Metcalfe as Colonel Kissell
Monica Parker as Ladonna
Sheila Moore as Verla McLennan

Mulder and Scully's second case brings them to Idaho to investigate the disappearance of a group of military test pilots at an air force base in which experimental new aircraft are being tested. During their investigation, they are subjected to intimidation from the military, but an undeterred Mulder trespasses on the air force base and is witness to a strange flying object before being kidnapped and having his memory of the event erased.
The overall conspiracy plot thickens a little in this episode, with the introduction of Deep Throat - the first in a series of shadowy informants within the government who intermittently provide Mulder with information or cryptic clues to decipher. His role in this story is not only to do that, but to provide Mulder with the hope he needs to carry on his search with the line, "Mr. Mulder, they've been here for a long, long time".
Another great addition to The X-Files is the idea that not every case will be solved. In a lot of instances, the episode would end with the agents not actually knowing anything more than when they first arrived. It makes a refreshing change for a show to not tie up all the loose ends in a plot, and it's really quite realistic considering the cases which they are investigating.
As well as the advances to the main plot, this episode features a very welcome guest appearance from Seth Green, years before he found fame as Oz in Buffy The Vampire Slayer.

(8/10 - Continues the story in strong fashion, introduces more elements that would become vital to the show as it progressed, and is a strong episode in its own right)

Squeeze (Season 1, Episode 3)
Alt=A man reaching his arm down a chimney, seemingly stretching his arm beyond its normal length
Written by Glen Morgan and James Wong; Directed by Harry Longstreet
David Duchovny as Fox Mulder
Gillian Anderson as Dana Scully
Doug Hutchison as Eugene Victor Tooms
Henry Beckman as Frank Briggs
Kevin McNulty as Agent Fuller
Terence Kelly as George Usher
James Bell as Mr. Johnson
Gary Hetherington as Mr. Kennedy
Rob Morton as Mr. Kramer
Paul Joyce as Mr. Werner

After the last two episodes, the shows writers decided in their wisdom that if the show dealt exclusively with its alien and government conspiracy storyline, it was going to run out of steam very quickly. This decision led to what would become the main bulk of the show - the so-called "monster-of-the-week" episodes which would focus on different creatures or paranormal and supernatural phenomena every week. Sometimes certain characters or creatures would make a return episode, but for the most part these were all standalone stories, with intermittent episodes that furthered the shows overarching plot.
And what a way to introduce the concept of Monster-Of-The-Week episodes to The X-Files. An old friend of Scully's from the academy requests her help in solving the case of a series of murders in which livers have been removed and there appears to be no point of entry to the murder scene. It isn't long before Scully - who has become known as Mrs. Spooky among her fellow agents thanks to her work on The X-Files - and Mulder are uncovering strange elongated fingerprints, and records of similar cases (and identical prints) that date back to murders from 1963, 1933 and 1903.
As the show's first horror episode, it works incredibly well and really began to show the range of cases that were possible thanks to the nature of the show's titular X-Files. It also introduced the world to the genuinely creepy Eugene Victor Tooms (played by the creepy for other reasons lately Doug Hutchison) - a mutant with green eyes and the ability to contort his body in order to fit through extremely tight spaces, though amusingly he can't use this ability to get out of a pair of handcuffs.

(9/10 - The scope of the show expands beyond the realm of aliens and government conspiracies in spectacular style. An early classic episode with a genuinely creepy villain. The best episode of the show so far at this point)

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Amanda Palmer at the Roundhouse (12/07/2013)

I’ve been a supporter of Amanda Palmer’s music for a long time now. Heard a few tracks from the first Dresden Dolls album when it was first released, and really liked them, but it wasn’t until Neil Gaiman – one of my favourite writers of anything ever – started dating her and talking about her on his website that I really looked into her catalogue (she might hate that... I hope not).

Since then, I haven’t been able to shut up about not only how fantastic her music is, but also the way she’s always striving to break new ground when it comes to financing her music and getting out to her fans, actively using social media as often her sole marketing tool (and yet still managing to break into the Billboard Top 10 albums), finding new and fun ways to include her fans in things – even incorporating those who also play an instrument into her show in exchange for “beer and hugs” (and for those opposed to that idea, if these people didn’t think this a good idea, they didn’t have to volunteer), and also her honesty and openness that goes beyond any other musician I’ve ever heard of. Not many of them will be comfortable pouring their heart and soul out to everyone who reads her blog, but that’s what she does all the time.

Of course, not everyone appreciates this kind of thing, and it’s led to seemingly her every action being on the receiving end of abuse from some particularly hateful and nasty users of the internet. People who don’t realise that the person they’re aiming their hatred at is not really a “celebrity”, but a real life person. Of course, it’s easy to say that you shouldn’t pay attention to some of these people, but as someone who has received some of this (nowhere near the scale that she has, obviously... no one knows who I am beyond the few people who follow me on Twitter/contribute to some of the message boards I’ve posted on), I can attest to the fact that sometimes as easy as ignoring them sounds, actually doing it is sometimes far more complicated than that. ‘Bigger On The Inside’ - the first of two new songs that Amanda played on Friday night at Camden’s fantastic Roundhouse - dealt with this and other things that had been happening in her life in the last few months directly, ending the song that she played alone on the ukulele in floods of tears, before moving onto her piano and playing the equally emotional ‘The Bed Song’. In between, she commented on someone who had passed out in the front row, “he had too many feelings”.

That’s not to say that her and her band – The Grand Theft Orchestra – played a depressing, soul-searching show. This is was just a particularly affecting and calm moment in what was an absolute riot of a rock show performed by a group of natural born entertainers. The entertainment began before the doors had even opened with the upbeat almost punky brass band Perhaps Contraption performing outside the venue whilst people were still queuing up before moving onto the floor and continued playing surrounded by the crowd as the Roundhouse began filling up. This is the kind of unorthodox approach to a show that Amanda has been known for since her days as one half of The Dresden Dolls, but this was my first time witnessing it for myself (for a multitude of reasons, including money problems, which even prevented me from being able to contribute to her historic Kickstarter campaign for ‘Theatre Is Evil’ last year).

A little while later, Amanda herself appeared on the balcony to serenade the audience with a ukulele cover of Radiohead’s ‘Creep’ which turned into one of the best mass singalongs I’ve ever been witness to, before the evening turned into a full-on party with a multitude of special guests taking the stage to play a song or two each – Jherek Bischoff of the Grand Theft Orchestra played some of his own songs, before The Simple Pleasure (led by Chad Raines – also a member of the Grand Theft Orchestra) played their brand of strange disco meets T. Rex music (the T. Rex thing may just be because Chad bears a similarity to Marc Bolan... not sure). Other guests included Bitter Ruin (a man, a woman and an acoustic guitar, who sound very nice and timid when they speak, but can bring the roof down with their fantastic voices) singing ‘Trust’, Youtube singer/songwriter Tom Milson singing his song ‘Pipes’, and Desmond O’Connor playing ‘Little Miss Dysmorphia’.

Then it was onto the main event, with the instrumental ‘A Grand Theft Intermission’ leading directly into the raucous ‘Do It With A Rockstar’ – and already, Amanda was in the crowd, singing most of the song amongst her fans whilst the security looked on seemingly terrified that she wouldn’t be coming back. Come back she did however, playing other cuts from ‘Theatre Is Evil’ (‘The Killing Type/’Want It Back’), before heading into a full-band version of the Dresden Dolls fan favourite ‘Missed Me’. A few songs later, she was in the crowd again, this time crowdsurfing a full circuit of the Roundhouse with an absolutely massive trail following her as she sang a note-perfect version of ‘Bottomfeeder’.

One of my highlights of the night came when ‘Delilah’ – another Dresden Dolls song – was performed with fantastic back-up from Bitter Ruin’s Georgia Train. After another, heartwarming duet with Tom Milsom, she broke into ‘Map Of Tasmania’... a hilarious anthem and ode to pubic hair that caused another look of distress on the security guard directly in front of me as he finally started to piece together exactly what she was singing about. It’s a sign of her versatility that this could be followed up by the aforementioned ‘Bigger On The Inside’ which made me wish I could get onstage and give her a massive hug.

Other guest appearances showed up during the set (Kate Miller-Heidke singing her song ‘Are You Fucking Kidding Me?’, and Sxip Shirey and the cast of his music/circus mash-up Limbo providing a preview of what can be expected from his show, and Palmer’s cover of ‘Common People’ marks the first time I’ve ever enjoyed a Pulp song.

What came during the encores has already been doing the rounds on the internet since as soon as the show ended. It was a spectacular take-down of the Daily Mail for their “coverage” of her set at Glastonbury which consisted entirely of talking about what she was wearing and her boob falling out of her bra, which focused on the hypocrisy of talking only about this with female artists, when they actually talk about male artists’ music, and showcased exactly why a picture of her breasts is not nearly as shocking as they think with her performing half of the song completely naked. (See also, the media coverage of a Beyonce performance being on her facial expressions during certain parts of the show). There’s already been more coverage of this than on the entirety of the rest of the show... as it should be, I suppose, but part of the reason I’m writing this is to point out she did a lot more that night than just take her clothes off and call out a tabloid.

The night ended on a blistering performance on another Dresden Dolls fan favourite, the schizophrenic ‘Girl Anachronism’, which had the crowd possibly jumping around even more than they had the rest of the night – and Amanda Palmer fans are one enthusiastic crowd, let me tell you. There’s a lot of genuine love for that woman in that audience, and they hung on her every word... they were even willing to be quiet when she asked them to. I’ve been to a lot of gigs over the years, and suffered a lot of assholes in crowds, but I’m pleased to say that at this show, with one minor exception (a couple complaining that people were too ‘normal’, ‘pretty’ or ‘blonde’ to be real fans, and shouldn’t be there), everyone I saw was extremely nice.

Except apparently that wasn’t the end... both Bitter Ruin and Amanda played “ninja gigs” outside the venue as people were leaving, but we were already on the train home by the time that happened. It’s a shame, but I’m glad that I managed to finally get to see this fantastic lady live. Thanks to Samir Talwar for selling me his tickets as he unfortunately wasn’t able to go. I’m now wishing even more than before that I was able to see her before now.

From Balcony Before Show
Creep (Radiohead cover from ‘Amanda Palmer Performs The Popular Hits Of Radiohead On Her Magical Ukulele’)

Main Set
A Grand Theft Intermission (from ‘Theatre Is Evil’)
Do It With A Rockstar (from ‘Theatre Is Evil’)
The Killing Type (from ‘Theatre Is Evil’)
Want It Back (from ‘Theatre Is Evil’)
Missed Me (The Dresden Dolls song from ‘The Dresden Dolls’)
Oasis (from ‘Who Killed Amanda Palmer’)
Astronaut (from ‘Who Killed Amanda Palmer’)
Bottomfeeder (from ‘Theatre Is Evil’)
Delilah (The Dresden Dolls song from ‘Yes, Virginia...’, featuring Georgia Train from Bitter Ruin)
For The Windows In Paradise, For The Fatherless In Ypsilanti (Sufjan Stevens cover, featuring Tom Milsom)
Map Of Tasmania (from ‘Amanda Palmer Goes Down Under’)
Bigger On The Inside (new song)
The Bed Song (from ‘Theatre Is Evil’)
Are You Fucking Kidding Me? (performed by Kate Miller-Heidke)
Lost (from ‘Theatre Is Evil’)
Common People (Pulp cover)
Leeds United (from ‘Who Killed Amanda Palmer’)

Dear Daily Mail (new song)
Girl Anachronism (The Dresden Dolls song from ‘The Dresden Dolls’)

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Cloud Atlas: Don't Let It Go Unnoticed Again

File:Cloud Atlas Poster.jpg
Written and directed by Lana Wachowski, Tom Tykwer and Andy Wachowski
Based on the novel by David Mitchell

I’m in two minds when it comes to the state of film in 2013. Whereas some of my favourite films have been released in the last few years, it’s also easy to see some pretty disturbing trends, as with the exception of Inception, every one of the biggest movies being released recently have been based on a comic book, a sequel/prequel, the latest adaptation of the latest trendy bit of teenage girl literature, or some combination of all three.

Again, I’m not complaining about the existence of these movies, as films like The Dark Knight Rises pretty much showcase the exact reason I am interested in film, and even the ones I have no interest in, and am irritated by (the Twilight saga for instance) have a right to exist... I’m not a part of that film’s target audience and was never going to be. No point complaining about it. But there’s still a growing longing for something a bit different. Something not afraid to do things that are hardly ever done in movies.

Enter Cloud Atlas sometime last year. An adaptation of the novel by David Mitchell, brought to life by Lana and Andy Wachowski (the masterminds behind The Matrix), and German director Tom Tykwer, known for his work on the bizarre Run Lola Run. It’s a novel that many thought would be impossible to adapt into a movie, and these three directors managed to pull it off with a style that makes it look easy. It is very definitely a movie that was different to anything else released this decade so far... and upon release it was almost completely ignored by the general public.

Next week, Cloud Atlas is being released on Blu-Ray and DVD in the UK (it’s been out in the US for a couple of months already), and I suspect it’s going to be one of those movies that becomes a cult classic with its home release based on word of mouth, so I thought I’d contribute to that word of mouth a little.
So what exactly is Cloud Atlas? And what makes it so different? Well... it’s six movies in one to begin with. Six separate stories set between the 19th and 24th centuries that share themes, a cast (gender and race be damned), references to each other, and a bit of a reincarnation subtext.

In 1849, Adam Ewing (Jim Sturgess) is taken ill aboard a ship on a voyage around the Pacific and whilst being treated by Dr. Henry Goose (Tom Hanks), he keeps a journal, and witnesses the horrors of slavery first hand.

In 1936, a young musician named Robert Frobisher (Ben Whishaw – the new Q, who should also be the new Doctor) escapes his debts to become amanuensis to his idol, the composer Vyvyan Ayrs (Jim Broadbent). In between his duty, he composes his own work – the ‘Cloud Atlas Sextet’ – reads Adam Ewing’s Pacific Journal, and writes letters to his lover, Rufus Sixsmith (James D’Arcy).

In 1973, Luisa Rey (Halle Berry) is a journalist with a disreputable magazine who stumbles upon a scandal after a chance meeting with nuclear physicist Rufus Sixsmith (James D’Arcy again, this time in heavy “old person” make-up). Her subsequent investigation of the new nuclear power station and its owner Lloyd Hooks (Hugh Grant) puts her life in danger from a ruthless assassin called Bill Smoke (Hugo Weaving). During her investigation, she reads Sixsmith’s letters from Frobisher.

In 2012, book publisher Timothy Cavendish (Jim Broadbent) goes on the run some Irish mobsters who want their jailed brother Dermot’s (Tom Hanks) royalties, and ends up trapped in an old folk’s home. This is the most humourous of the six stories in the movie, which sees Cavendish team up with others to stage a jailbreak, but Hugo Weaving in drag as Nurse Noakes still manages to be scary. In his time at the home, Cavendish reads the Luisa Rey story, presented as a mystery novel.

In 2144, Sonmi-451 (Doona Bae) is a “fabricant” designed to serve as a waitress at a Papa Song’s restaurant in a dystopian future worldwide “corpocracy”. Breaking free of her shackles, Sonmi joins Hae-joo Chang and a terrorist group on a mission to free the world. During her adventure, Sonmi watches a movie named ‘The Ghastly Ordeal Of Timothy Cavendish’.

And “106 winters after The Fall”, a world that has regressed to the few surviving humans living in tribes without any technology is soon to be disrupted by the arrival of a “prescient” – basically, a group of humans who have managed to retain their civilisation – played by Halle Berry. Zachry (Tom Hanks) is a member of a tribe that is haunted by raids by the cannibalistic Kona (led by an unrecognisable Hugh Grant), is haunted by his past deeds in the form of a Satan-like creature named Old Georgie (Hugo Weaving), and is given the task of protecting the prescient, despite his distrust of her “smart”. Sonmi-451 has passed into legend as the deity of Tom Hanks’ tribe, with her message treated as a holy text.

The lead character in each story has a birthmark on some part of their body in the shape of a comet which one hint (there are others in there) that this is all one soul travelling through time. A secondary reincarnation plot that I’ve seen mentioned by the directors that doesn’t actually seem to be present in the film is that all of Tom Hanks’ characters also share a soul, and it’s about his journey to heroism. It’s one way to read it, I suppose, but this was a $100 million movie that had to find independent financing, because studio’s didn’t want to touch something so different, so I imagine Tom Hanks’ involvement was emphasised by the directors in order to secure funding.

All in all, though, it’s a movie that shouldn’t work at all, but due to some of the best editing I’ve seen in a long time (with the six stories intersecting with each other, cutting between them more and more frequently as the action picks up, as opposed to the format of the novel which told half of each story moving forward in time, and finished each story moving backwards) it is actually an extremely coherent, inspiring movie that manages to marry each of the different genres it tackles successfully.

In fact, if there are any film nerds out there, the editing kind of reminds me of the 1916 epic ‘Intolerance’ – D.W. Griffiths’ follow-up to his KKK-idolising ‘The Birth Of A Nation’ – which similarly features different stories in different time periods intersecting with increasing regularity, ironically each showcasing kinds of intolerance throughout the ages (though that movie didn’t have the same cast in each story).

Less successful is some of the make-up effects used to change the races of actors – in particular the ones that make the white actors look like Romulans rather than Koreans. Despite the controversy, though, this decision is not in the slightest bit racist, and the film wouldn’t work as well unless they kept the same cast throughout, so this was necessary. There are also Asian and black actors in the film who change races, so it isn’t just a “blackface” situation to avoid casting non-white people in the significant roles.

One of these Asian actors is the fantastic Doona Bae, who as Sonmi-451 left me mesmerised every time she was on-screen. I’m a sci-fi fan anyway, so it was probably inevitable that I was going to gravitate towards that part of the film more than the others, but with Doona Bae in the lead it really was the stand-out for me. And surprisingly, the Robert Frobisher story is also a stand-out portion of the film, with Ben Whishaw’s performance also being fantastic.

Please pick this movie up on DVD/Blu Ray. Obviously, this isn’t a movie that everyone will love, and you might not be able to understand everything in one viewing, but the joy of films being released to watch at home is that you can watch them multiple times, and even if you don’t love it on the first attempt, it can grow on you on repeat viewings. Cloud Atlas never received the credit it deserved in the cinema, and it shouldn’t be overlooked again.

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

How NOT To Act Around Famous People

It would appear that people have no idea how to act around famous people. It’s not exactly a shock to me, but I must say the depths people are capable of sinking to interact with their favourite entertainer is pretty sickening. So I thought I’d put together this helpful guide... and point number one is one that I especially find reprehensible.

It’s quite simple really... do not fuck with people while they’re trying to do their job. Under any circumstances! You see, trying to grab a musician’s instrument when he’s trying to play it for a room full of people is not only annoying to that one person, it is potentially disruptive of the entire show! If you do something like this, you are entirely deserving of being on the receiving end of a Christian Bale-esque expletive-laden rant. And while we’re talking of Christian Bale, yes... distracting an actor in the middle of shooting a scene is also a big no-no.

Now say you’ve managed to make it through an entire show/performance without being an idiot, and it comes the time to try to actually meet said famous person, the most important thing to do here is to not act like a fucking loon. Imagine you’re walking down the street, and you hear someone scream your name and start sprinting towards you. Imagine how fucking terrified you would be. Remember that there have been people who have been murdered by people pretending to be excited fans who end up having a gun or a knife, and imagine what must be going through this person’s mind as you do this exact thing. Making your hero wonder whether they’re going to be getting out of a situation alive when you’re just excited to be meeting him is not the best way to express your gratitude.

And you know what you’d find even scarier? If you’re in a car, and a crowd of people who recognise you immediately start banging on the windows, and pressing their faces to the window while they scream at you to write their name on your stuff. Let’s just assume that if someone is in a car, that they have places to be, shall we? It’s much easier for you, and much less terrifying for them that way.

Now let’s say you’re just calmly waiting around the back of a venue for someone to come out so you can ask them to sign your stuff. Let’s imagine that this person does come out, and he greets a group of people by name and with hugs. Why do you think this is? Do you think that he might know these people? Yes? Fantastic! We’re getting somewhere. So when he invites these people in, let’s just assume that he’s inviting them in, because they are friends of his and it is not in fact a general invitation to every single person who is outside!

And when he’s inside the venue, and talking to these people, do not barge one of these people out of the way in the middle of their conversation, and force yourself into the building that you are not authorised to be in demanding that he sign your shit! And if he is willing to sign something, it’s just rude (not that you haven’t already crossed a boundary) to ask him to sign what looks like you’re entire fucking record collection.
Believe or not, there is a business side to “showbusiness” and some people want to take an active role in it, so if he says that he’s busy with meetings in the dressing room and he doesn’t really have time to cater to everyone, chances are he’s actually busy and it’s not just an excuse. At this point, it’s safe to assume that the only reason he hasn’t told you to fuck off is because he’s too nice. Seriously... some people can do with being assholes more often.

And finally, if you’ve been waiting for hours and he hasn’t managed to sign your stuff, it’s not a “giant fuck you” as some people call it. People have other places to be, and other things to do... it’s physically impossible to please everyone. You buying their stuff or going to see their show, does not entitle you to a monopoly on their time. The fact that they’re willing to speak to and sign stuff for anyone at all is a bonus, as they have no obligation to you. What you get in return for the price of a ticket is a gig. What you get in return for the price of a CD is a CD’s worth of music.

Above all, remember that at the end of the day, these are people we are talking about. So if something isn’t acceptable in your interactions with anyone else, then it’s also not acceptable in your interactions with them. Do you really want them to remember you as the person who fucked up a show, or the person who can’t form a coherent sentence but can run screaming at them, or the person who will barge through their friends in the middle of a conversation just to get to them? Really? Is that how you want your hero to think of you? If you think any of this is acceptable, then allow me to say it for them... fuck you!

And the ironic thing is that when people are calm and respectful, I have actually helped them get their autographs when it looks like they may be missing their chance before. I want to help people like that because I want to prove a point that this is the best way to go about things. And when there are famous musicians or actors who like to avoid any kind of fan interaction, I don’t judge because like I said, they are not obligated to do this, and I’ve seen some pretty awful behaviour from people that is only encouraged when they get their own way.

I’m expecting some people to assume that I’m just posting this to “boast” about knowing someone famous. I’m not. In fact, I try to talk about that as little as possible because the way I see it, I’m not friends with anyone for bragging rights (this is why I've not named anyone here, though you may well know of whom I speak). I just think that this is important, because I’m fed up with some of the shit people pull.

Friday, 5 April 2013

Discussing BioShock Infinite

I had this game on release day, and finished it yesterday. Was holding off on writing anything about it until I'd finished it.

Back in 2007, the original BioShock was released, which at its core was the usual First Person Shooter. You're stuck in a crumbling underwater city and have to fight the deranged survivors of a civil war in order to escape. What made BioShock different from other shooters, though, was the backstory of this city. The city of Rapture is was created by a character named Andrew Ryan, who imagined the city as an Objectivist utopia (similar to Galt's Gulch from Ayn Rand's 'Atlas Shrugged'). Through voice recordings (the collection of which is entirely optional), you piece together how things don't go to plan, as different factions begin to vye for power. Ultimately, Ryan became everything he hated by being forced to implement the restrictions he created Rapture to escape from. There was also a science fiction element, involving the discovery of substances that can grant supernatural powers, and a huge plot twist around two thirds of the way into the game, but it was the picking apart of Objectivist theory in a game that would usually just be about aiming and shooting at things that set it apart. You don't have to learn about the history of Rapture... you can just play it as a shooter, but you get the most out of it if you delve deep.

Last Tuesday brought the long-awaited follow-up to that original game (BioShock 2 was produced by a different company, and whilst fun to play, doesn't really count). And with it came what I hope is the moment that videogames are taken seriously for their potential as a storytelling device. BioShock Infinite draws on not only political ideas (which I will go into soon), but also alternate versions of fairly recent history in order to tell one of the best stories I've seen in any medium.

Bioshock Infinite, Irrational Games, 2K, Booker Dewitt, Box Art, News, Positive Game Reviews
Instead of the silent protagonist you play as in the original game, you are Booker DeWitt... a fully fleshed-out character complete with dialogue, and a troubled past. You're not going to like DeWitt right away... he's a veteran soldier who took part in the Battle Of Wounded Knee - the final battle of the American Indian Wars, which is also known as the Wounded Knee Massacre because of the number of innocent women and children that were murdered by the American soldiers. After leaving the army, he became a member of the Pinkerton Detective Agency who spearheaded many modern detection techniques, but are nowadays best known for being called in to violently end Union strikes. Booker was fired from the Pinkerton's for being too extreme. All of this led to a downward spiral into drink and gambling which left him with crippling debt. And so he finds himself on what is essentially a kidnapping mission to "give us the girl and wipe away the debt". This is where the game starts, with two mysterious people rowing you to a lighthouse off the coast of Maine. The lighthouse is actually a means to reaching the city of Columbia.

Columbia is a city in the clouds first conceptualised at the 1893 Chicago World's Fair (also known as the World's Columbian Exposition). Created by Zachary Hale Comstock, Columbia is touted to the world as a new wonder of the world designed to spread the ideals of American Exceptionalism to the world. However, when a group of Americans were taken hostage in China during the Boxer Rebellion, the full extent of Columbia's ambition was revealed. The city was actually fully armed, and from the clouds brought the uprising to a bloody end. This so outraged President McKinley, that Columbia was disavowed. Comstock spun the story to his people that they had voluntarily seceded from the Union, and used the opportunity to create a cult of personality around himself, and the Founding Fathers of the United States, now referred to by the residents of Columbia as Father's Washington, Franklin and Jefferson. The cult of Columbia is also extremely racist, going so far as to depict Abraham Lincoln as the devil, whilst memorialising John Wilkes Booth as a hero of the people. All of the powerful and affluent people in the city are white, meanwhile Jeremiah Fink (who has a monopoly on all manufacturing on the city) buys Irish and African American "convicts" in order to keep them as slaves.

Racism is depicted very early on in this game in a very blunt manner. Videogames tend to either attempt to avoid the subject entirely, or depict it via allegory (ie: the elves in Dragon Age), and BioShock Infinite should be applauded for daring to go straight for what is usually considered a taboo. For example, the pivotal moment when DeWitt's peaceful stroll around Columbia's streets in which the city has put on a fair celebrating the anniversary of their independence, comes when he forced to enter a raffle which he wins. His prize is the opportunity to take the first throw at an interracial couple who are to be pelted to death with baseballs for their "crime". You can choose to throw it at the announcer (Fink) instead if you wish, but it doesn't make much difference... whoever you choose to throw it at, you are stopped when the police notice the letters "AD" engraved on your hand. This is the mark of the "False Shephard", who Comstock prophecised would appear in Columbia to lead "The Lamb" astray. So it turns out getting that girl isn't going to be so easy.

BioShock Infinite Elizabeth
Once you do reach her though, Elizabeth (or "The Lamb") quickly makes her mark as one of the greatest characters in videogame history. She's been locked away in a tower shaped like the Angel Columbia (who Comstock claims came to him and showed him the future) her entire life with only books and an enormous "protector" named Songbird for company. Turns out, Songbird isn't so much a protector as he is a jailer, and he's going to be a pivotal (if somewhat underused) character in the story to come. Elizabeth will then be with you for the rest of the game as you attempt to escape from the city, begin to unravel the mysteries surrounding the city (and there are many... involving Elizabeth's "miracle" birth, the fate of Lady Comstock, exactly how a city is able to fly, who are the mysterious English twins who keep showing up and who is Daisy Fitzroy and her "terrorist" group, the Vox Populi - a lot of these are discovered via optional voice recordings just like the original game, so if you want any hope of understanding what's going on, get as many of those as possible, but unlike the original in which most of the bad stuff has already happened, turning paradise into hell before you get there, you also get to see a lot of this happen before your eyes). One thing people hate about videogames is when you are given a non player character who either just gets in the way (I'm thinking carefully laying out mines to trap a boss in Resident Evil 5, only for your "helpful" companion, Sheva to go "Hey, I've found a mine!" and throw them all back into your inventory), or are there to be protected at all costs despite having a terrible habit of running directly into danger. Thankfully, Elizabeth is not in danger during combat in this game... she keeps out of the crossfire, and nobody will deliberately aim at her, because they all want her alive. She'll constantly be there providing you with ammo, health or Salts (the equivalent of RPG's "mana" which is used to power the supernatural powers you get from Vigors - in the original game these things were referred to as EVE and Plasmids respectively). She'll also open "tears" in reality in order to bring objects from parallel versions of Columbia into your world for you to make use of. When out of combat, she'll collect money for you, and point out when she sees lockpicks (Elizabeth is a font of knowledge about many subjects thanks to her time spent reading in the tower, and one of these is lockpicking). Because she's such a major part of the game, if any part of Elizabeth failed, then the game would be infinitely worse for it. Thankfully, the development of both hers and DeWitt's characters throughout makes for a believable companionship... and the few times when she is not by your side are some of the most terrifying in the game. Especially at one late point in the game which feels a lot more like the claustrophobic survival horror of the original, which is even more disturbing as you've gotten used to the epic battles in outdoor locations.

Now, if you think the story will all be about the political machinations of Comstock, and the civil war between his founders and Daisy Fitzroy's Vox Populi, you'll really be thrown by what happens at around the halfway point of the game. Suddenly, Elizabeth's powers that until that point had just seemed like a gameplay mechanic suddenly become integral to the entire plot. What proceeds from that point on is either genius, or distracting from part of the plot that you care about depending on your viewpoint. In my view, it's genius, but rest assured that either way, it's a headfuck. When you finish the game, you probably won't know what's just happened. You'll probably have to replay the last moments of the game again and read countless articles around the internet and the BioShock Wikia in order to begin to get your head around it. If you're anything like me, you won't be able to get to sleep because all of the possibilities will be swimming around in your head. It's an ambiguous ending, and contrary to the belief's of the people who like to hate the likes of The Matrix Trilogy and Lost, this is a good thing. The fact that there are already multiple theories flying around is probably exactly what the writers intended. And you'll probably only understand that last sentence once you've seen the ending for yourself.

I haven't gone through any of the gameplay mechanics, mini-bosses, etc. as my reason for playing games is mainly to experience a story (albeit one that I can consume at my own pace, and interact with). Rest assured, if the actual gameplay was broken, I'd hate it even if I love the story. As it is, this is my favourite game that I've ever played. Not as long as Skyrim, nor as complicated as other games, for sure... but that's a plus point as far as I'm concerned. Everything in the game (even the parts that don't seem like it at first) is in service to the story. The way it should be. Don't get me wrong, there have been great game stories in the past... but I do believe that this game will go down in history in videogame storytelling as its renaissance. It's to videogames what Watchmen and The Sandman were to comics... the moment when people should hopefully pay attention and realise that games have grown up and are able to stand alongside literature, movies, music (and comics, obviously) as legitimite ways to tell an infinite number of stories, without the boundaries often associated with them. Sure, there'll always be dumb games, but that doesn't mean there can't be smart, ambitious ones in the mainstream, too... for another analogy, it's Inception to Call Of Duty's Transformers.