Get on with your lives, citizens

Tuesday, 1 February 2005 — 11:47pm | Film, Scrabble, Tournament logs

Evidence, as it were, that Toy Story is quotable to the ends of the earth.

You will notice that there has been a marked lack of updates for almost two weeks now in spite of all sorts of dramatic and interesting happenings, from UBC students having the sense to elect Spencer Keys as their new Alma Mater Society President to this year’s round of Oscar nominations.

On the subject of the latter, I do have plenty of analysis on the backburner, but I am holding off on jumping to any conclusions until I have seen Million Dollar Baby, which opened in Edmonton this week. The reason is because there are already plenty of people out there making qualified, statistically-founded inductive judgments on the “will-win” question – Kris and Sasha at OscarWatch, for instance. As much as I feel confident in declaring that nothing can stop The Aviator this year, Tapley figures in his 31 January post that the post-nomination media-killing is setting it up for an upset.

And, well, we all know what media-killing did to my beloved Phantom.

But let’s not make judgments yet. In spite of the nominations being neither insipid enough to denounce or surprising enough to remark upon, there are a number of interesting inclusions and omissions to discuss. That’s where my personal brand of punditry comes in – the “should-win” discussion, you might say. Eastwood’s contender aside, I have caught up with film 2004 to my personal satisfaction. Catching up with writing about it is a different matter, and will probably not happen; paragraph-long capsule summaries will not do justice to the likes of Hero, House of Flying Daggers, Sideways, Finding Neverland and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. They deserve commentary of a more rigorous and piercing character. Thankfully, some of them have been sitting around long enough that there is little for me to add from a discursive standpoint, which means I have less to do.

The 2005 film season begins for real with a foreign release, that being Ong Bak starring Tony Jaa. It opens in Edmonton on 11 February. I am unfamiliar with the distributor, Magnolia Pictures, but I assume the release will be subtitled (which, in an ideal world, should be a given when it comes to any foreign release); if this is not the case, I welcome a correction. For those of you who are unaware, Ong Bak is the first major Muay Thai action picture to find its way here. Speaking as a Muay Thai aficionado of sorts, and one who has made the requisite Bangkok boxing ring pilgrimage that implies, this is a big deal.

With that postponement of any and all discussion of recent film out of the way, let us proceed to what this post is actually about, which is Scrabble.

This weekend was, if anything, a recovery. A 8-6 record in the annual 14-round Winter Tournament in Calgary earned this here writer $40 and a possible trip back into the 1300 zone, ratings-wise. Then there was the $10 for QUASHING (a game-winning 122-point out-play in a spectacularly risky endgame), and the $10 for JAVA (an 88-point TWS with the J on a double and some fortuitous parallels). Jeff Smith took the divisional Bingo Ace prize with twenty-one of the coveted suckers; I fell one short, playing twenty.

Strange things happen when you deal with words, especially when they are flowing out like drops of rain into a paper cup, as a certain famous twentieth-century poet would say. Prior to Round 2 I passed the time by reading the sixth Lemony Snicket, The Ersatz Elevator, which sees the Baudelaire children end up in the custody of Jerome and Esmé Squalor. In the game that followed, Mike Ebanks played SQUALOR on me for 104 points. Well, that hurt. It held up as the High Turn for my division until Al Pitzel slapped me with AZOTISE for 121 a few rounds later. Of course, I gave that record a sound QUASHING.

The QUASHING play – and more importantly, the endgame move leading up to it – was such a convergence of strategy and undeserved luck that to attempt to describe it without a board diagram would be to do it injury. Unfortunately, the same goes for a crazy, stupid, game-losing play in Round 14 that was about as close to ritual suicide as one can possibly get in a game of Scrabble. There are reasons why you should never suddenly lapse into rank amateurism and play off your remaining vowels, in particular the last U, and draw to an all-consonant final rack with a Q on it. (Until the OSPD4 introduces QI*, anyway.) You should especially avoid doing this with a word like PURGE when there is a perfectly good triple word score behind ESTATES on A9 inviting a back-hook on 8A, that being an R. Or a G, but there weren’t any left. Or a T, but I didn’t know that one.

Paying attention to the board and not making stupid endgame plays is usually a good idea. I’m still not over this one. The overwhelming magnitude of self-defeating recklessness exhibited in that single play, PURGE on an enticing triple, defies proper description short of a reconstruction of the board position. I’ll not do that for the time being.

What I will do instead is close this post, one that a frequent reader would not be wrong to classify as a transitional potpourri – the recitative between the arias, you might say – with a mention of today’s Gateway. You might call this one the video game issue. There’s yet another review of Resident Evil 4; regular readers should be aware by now that I see positive exposure of the GameCube as a very good thing. Dan Kaszor warns the general public of the PSP defects – nothing new to anyone who has actually been following the handheld wars, but the same implicit affirmation as before: if you are the type to buy a portable system, buy a Nintendo DS instead. (Once there’s more than a game and a half for it, anyway.)

There’s also a review of Uwe Boll’s film of Alone In The Dark, which employs a bit of a faulty metonym in claiming that “you could say that 32-bit technology just doesn’t translate well to the big screen” when every cited example predates the 32-bit era. The point still holds, though. If you haven’t read The Foywonder’s interview with Uwe Boll, go take a look.

As much as I would like to see video games develop a reputation as being a substantial storytelling medium – a characteristic that finds reflection in adaptability – it really is quite amusing to see Uwe Boll define himself as “a machine that acquires rights to video game properties and converts them to utter dreck.” I am in a position to laugh because from everything I have read about Mr. Boll, his video game tastes – which, by no coincidence, largely revolve around blood, gore and not much else worth mentioning – are so distant from my own that I scarcely need to worry about him ever coming anywhere close to any franchise I actually care about.

But that’s only because I’m a snob, and he’s not. And for a measure of which camp ultimately comes out on top, I remind you that he is the one in B-movie hell.

I should add, though, that I can see why video game publishers are so eager to sell movie rights to this guy. First, he’s willing to buy them. And as in the case of the horrid misunderstanding of The Avengers back in 1998, an atrocious adaptation can draw attention to the superiority of the original material (where applicable). The murder victim in all of this is the viability of anyone in film, producer or consumer, ever taking video game adaptations seriously. But as a game publisher, why would you care?

The last thing I will point to in The Gateway is Ian Keteku’s debut in the Opinion section. While the article itself is not all that remarkable (especially from the point of view borne by this here zealot who thinks true black culture is Scott Joplin, Louis Armstrong, Chuck Berry and Ray Charles, not this overproduced contemporary riffraff), my fellow Churchill alumni are always a welcome sight. The literate ones, at any rate.

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