Now Playing: Cimarron (1931)

During the 2017 holiday season, I got a great deal on the Best of Warner Bros. 100 Film Collection. Diane and I haven’t seen most of these movies, but we are committed to watching one a week and writing a short review.


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Next on our list is 1931’s “Cimarron”. Featuring an incredible budget of $1.5 million dollars, “Cimarron” is the first true epic on our list. Spanning 40 years from the late 1800’s to early 1900’s, “Cimarron” follows a family as they move west to help settle the Oklahoma territory.

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“Cimarron”‘s opening land rush sequence is still a wonder to behold and proof that practical effects have a much better chance at standing the test of time.

The family’s patriarch is Yancey Cravat, a white everyman whose resume throughout the movie includes being a settler, a lawyer, a newspaper editor, a lover of Shakespeare, a lover of the Bible, a minister, an adventurer, a soldier, a governor hopeful, and an absentee father. He was beloved by everyone, except the town bully who he shoots in church after sussing out that he was the one who murdered the town’s previous newspaperman. He’s also an incredible shot with a gun, even going as far as to notch a line for each man he has killed in his pistol’s handle (hint: it is more than one).

A movie before its time even as its two hour run time catches up to the then modern day, Yancey is unusually progressive. Diane and I were both happy to be out of New York for a change, but we still expected a pretty racist movie being that it is a Western (you know, the whole genre of film about white people “heroically” being racist). Not only is Yancey Cravat a friend to the Native Americans, but he is a friend to the town’s only Jew, he never talks down to his wife, he never beats his kids, he treats his black servant well, he defends a whore in court who no other lawyer would defend, he allows his only son to marry a Native American, he employs the handicapped, and he saves a bunch of presumably poor white people from an oil rig accident.

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I’d probably go to church too if mine was held at the local Den of Sin (gambling hall) and featured sexy women pictures.

Yancey’s only real failure as a character is his inability to stay put. He walks out on his family for years to go on further adventures which happen offscreen and get next to no attention. On the one occasion, he does stay, he makes a bid for governor but it is implied he lost because before the election he wrote an editorial demanding Native Americans get equal rights, including voting rights, and that the Osage Indians in Oklahoma are being targeted for their oil money. Even when Yancey loses, he wins.

After watching the movie, I read quotes from two modern movie reviews that call out its racism. While there was a particular egregious scene where the black servant that follows Yancey to Oklahoma was being used a ceiling fan, I thought “Cimarron” was pretty watcheable from a modern perspective. Diane pointed out to me that all the minorities in this movie help make Yancey into a sort-of white savior character and I agree, but we also have to remember this movie is from 1931, well before Civil Rights (MLK Jr was only just born in 1929).

And while Yancey is perfect, his wife Sabra is far from it, only “Cimarron” spends enough time on her, with and without Yancey by her side, that she becomes a very powerful female character. Not only does she evolve from a quiet wife that hangs on Yancey’s every word to a single mom who single-handedly continues to run Yancey’s newspaper while he is gone for five years, but even her racism softens. She frequently and unfortunately refers to Native Americans as “savages” and she is deeply distraught when her only son runs off with a Native American. In time, she rises to be the first congresswoman of Oklahoma and in that role she embraces the Osage Indians and her daughter-in-law.

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Here’s a new low for my opinion of white people: if you can’t tell, this white family is using their black servant (a young boy, give or take the mustache) as a ceiling fan. Jesus Christ …

“Cimarron” definitely has a few problems. Beyond its racism by modern day standards, its a lengthy movie and it does meander at times. There’s not much in the way of a central plot. I personally liked that it covered such a large period of time because it helped maintain the central theme of progress, but I can see how some may get bored with it.

“Cimarron” is the first good movie we have watched on this list. The opening scene of settlers racing for their claims is still stunning. There’s a ton of subtext to mine from the movies slow approach to covering a 40 year snapshot of the American West. Despite not having a significant achievement that made it historically important like the previous two entries, “Cimarron” does one better by being an actually good movie.

A Few More Screenshots:

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This is how I would land rush if I could rush land: bicycle! The hell with the horses.

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Seriously, Yancey is perfect.

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The lady on the right has the longest face imaginable.

Random Quotes:

  • Regarding the movie’s opening land rush. “It’s like Black Friday.”
  • “Dear! Richard Dix is in this! He could be Dick Dix!”

Super Mario Odyssey (Switch, 2017)

Before playing Super Mario Odyssey late last year, I would’ve ranked my top 5 Mario games as:

  • Super Mario Bros. 3
  • Super Mario World II: Yoshi’s Island
  • Super Mario 3D Land
  • Super Mario World
  • Super Mario 3D World

And after playing Super Mario Odyssey? My ranking has not changed.

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Super Mario Odyssey is the 2017 Mario main series debut for the Nintendo Switch. It’s a 3D platformer more in the vein of Super Mario 64, with open worlds and a ton of exploration. I personally loved it but I was confused by how it was being treated as the greatest Mario game ever. For me, it just wasn’t.

The game suffers from having too many things to collect. I have never been a Mario completionist and collect-a-thons in general don’t appeal to me. Still, if the gameplay is good, I will at least make an attempt at getting everything. Super Mario Odyssey’s gameplay is fantastic but there was no way I was going to go after 900+ power moons.
That may seem like a petty complaint, especially since I have allowed this one issue to deflate my overall love of Odyssey significantly.. Throughout the game, I felt like I was getting a power moon for everything I did, whether it was challenging or not. Sure, some puzzles and platforming sections were rewarding to compete on their own, but the sheer amount of power moons you can receive in any given world devalued them for me significantly.

Beyond my issues with its gluttony of collectibles and devalued reward system, the rest of Super Mario Odyssey was really good. I am less a fan of Super Mario, the open world adventurer, as I prefer the focus of levels (probably obvious after seeing my top 5 list above). Still, Odyssey is a great iteration of the formula and managed to be fun throughout for me even though it wasn’t my preference.

I do think the game could’ve benefited from proper co-op. I really loved Super Mario 3D World since it had so much replayability with friends. However, I rarely got to play that co-op since it was local only. With Super Mario Odyssey, I had hoped it would bring the co-op back, especially since the console has been touted for its portability. I have a few colleagues in the office with Switches, so I could’ve easily played it with others on my lunch breaks.

Finally, the boss design is terrible. The bunny wedding planners felt like they belonged in a different game (maybe a Wario game). Plus, fighting them all multiple times felt like a cop out for a game that otherwise had so much creativity. I much prefer multiple unique bosses to repeating the same boss with slight variation, especially when I hated that boss’s design the first time I fought them.

Where would I rank Super Mario Odyssey overall? It is easily in the top 10 overall Mario games for me and definitely the best platformer I have played since Super Mario 3D World a few years back. I’d probably play a direct sequel to it, but I won’t be as hyped as I was for Odyssey before I played it. It was fun and exciting, but not the style of Mario game I love most.

A Year+ As a Half-Orc: My First D&D Character

Hadak

One session, I drew scenes on my tablet. This is my rendition of my character breaking a garrote with his bulging, raging neck muscles. I know. I am talented.

Over a year ago, I created my first ever Dungeons & Dragons character, a Half-Orc Barbarian named Hadak. We are nearing the end of our campaign so I wanted to do a retrospective about the experience.

Hadak doesn’t have a complicated backstory. I only chose such a basic character because originally I thought we were only going to play a few sessions. My sister-in-law and her boyfriend are both big fans, and when he wanted to try being a Dungeon Master for the first time, Diane and I volunteered to play. I didn’t realize we were committing to a full campaign or that it would take nearly a year and a half to reach a conclusion.

Playing Hadak has been an experience. Like most Half-Orc Barbarians, he’s not the most intelligent person but he packs a punch. I gave him the Entertainer (Gladiator variant) background, so he does have an ego and charisma. I play him like your typical over-the-top, happy to fight Barbarian, but having an open-minded DM has let me take him down some interesting paths, especially as my interest has waned in being a dumb meat shield.

A few months into playing, Hadak purchased a cursed version of the Headband of Intellect. Rather than automatically setting his intelligence to 19 and making him super smart, the headband would randomize my intellect score each day. I had a ton of fun roleplaying a character who, although typically dumb, could wake up dumber, smarter, or at a genius level. The party Rogue is Hadak’s spokesperson and “manager”, so there were some great interactions when he suddenly knew how to count and manage his own money (including her usually larger cut).

I also used the high intelligence days to try and explore a darker side of the character. Hadak is far from being Good (I tend toward Chaotic Neutral with him), but he prefers challenge and competition over murder and mayhem. Yet, because he is dumb and Half-Orcs aren’t the most popular, intelligent Hadak is aware of others and their opinions of him in a way that his dumber self either fails to understand or can’t be bothered with.

The most obvious example of this is his nakedness. I never let Hadak wear more than a cloak and a thong (lovingly referred to as my ‘dick pocket’ since I somehow store a ton of weapons, potions, provisions, and other items there). On the days he would wake up intelligent, the first thing he wanted to do was cover himself up. Furthermore, whereas regular Hadak was brash, gregarious, and outgoing, intelligent Hadak was reclusive, quiet, and unwilling to trust even his party mates.

Over time, the magic of the cursed headband  fused with Hadak’s psyche. Instead of a random intelligence score each day, if Hadak meditated long enough, his intelligence would go to a set number but he’d revert to being even dumb if he ever raged.

Given the opportunity, this allowed me to roleplay him more as a split-personality character. He began talking to himself more. The way I saw it, both entities now existed separately but are trapped in the same body. I found it challenging to get Hadak to meditate though, so after this change, the whole secondary character faded a way as Hadak spent the majority of his time in rage or just coming out of it.

I had intended to work with the DM to do a slow burn toward the secondary character coming to life and ‘exiting’ from Hadak’s body entirely. I had thought of a background to the item where the mind of a powerful Wizard had actually been trapped, and that it was really this Wizard struggling to reign in the chaotic mind of Hadak and not a different aspect of Hadak at all. This idea got pushed out as we moved in a different direction, but after nearly dying for good in a recent campaign, smarter Hadak has finally returned.

In a previous session, my character was bit by a vampire but showed no reaction. The DM asked me in private if I wanted to be a vampire and I declined at the moment. He pocketed the idea until a near death where he could bring it up again. Upon my resurrection, I returned as a pseudo-vampire. I also asked if I could count my time dead as meditating to which he agreed.

I am now in control of a Half-Orc Barbarian Vampire with incredible strength, dexterity, and intellect. Dropping the Wizard idea altogether, I think it is time for the meaner side of Hadak to run the show for a while. I think from here on, he will be aware that if he loses composure and rages that he may never be in power over his own body again. It’s kind of like a Bruce Banner/Hulk situation, except Bruce Banner is mean and doesn’t care for anyone but himself and the Hulk, well, he’s still a crazy monster but at least he understands loyalty.

We’ll see where it goes from here. I am ready to move onto something new, but I think this is a pretty fitting and interesting end for my first ever character. I will let you know what happens next!

Now Playing: The Broadway Melody (1929)

During the 2017 holiday season, I got a great deal on the Best of Warner Bros. 100 Film Collection. Diane and I haven’t seen most of these movies, but we are committed to watching one a week and writing a short review.


The “Broadway Melody” from 1929 was the first sound film to win an Academy Award for Best Picture. Why, neither Diane nor myself are sure. The story follows the Mahoney Sisters, a singing, dancing sister act as they try to make it big on Broadway with the help of Eddie, an established Broadway performer and the boyfriend of the oldest sister, “Hank”. Continue reading “Now Playing: The Broadway Melody (1929)”

GameSpace: Murf on Slay the Spire

Slay the Spire Has Slain My Free Time

If you didn’t see my previous article on GameSpace reviewing Son of Scoregasm, I don’t blame you. Beyond the great title to that review, it wasn’t exactly my first idea (though I enjoyed the game and you might too).

Slay the Spire, however, is my jam. I am at 80+ hours in this Early Access gem and I am ready to call it my GOTY for 2018 (but it dropped in 2017). I love deck building and card games and roguelikes. Slay the Spire is all of that.

Check out my preview and then the game!

The Last Guardian (PS4, 2016)

The Last Guardian - 3

I have mixed feelings about The Last Guardian. On one hand, it was an incredibly moving experience that leveraged the technology of video games to create a believable, lovable animal co-star. On the other, I often wavered between boredom, frustration, and confusion before the game’s last act. I think it is safe to call it one of the best gaming experiences I had in 2017 though I would hardly call it one of the best games I played.

Continue reading “The Last Guardian (PS4, 2016)”

My Gamespace Debut!

Thanks to some networking with a fellow Murphy, I have made my debut on Gamespace.com with a short review of Son of Scoregasm. Check the link below and let me know what you think, either there or here!

 

GAMESPACE: SON OF SCOREGASM MAY NEVER LET YOU FINISH

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