Boycotts don’t work, they just don’t. Not on their own, anyways. You want to make a statement - that you do not support the kind of subhuman practices that the host country practices - and that is commendable, really it is. What needs to sink in, frankly, is you can’t make a statement by practicing a strict regimen of targeted apathy. You need to do more.
You don’t like a brand of coffee that pays slave wages to migrant workers? Spend your money on brands that don’t, buy fair trade. You don’t want to fund an oil goliath that laughs all the way to the bank as marine life trudges through petrol sludge? Invest in an alternative energy lifestyle, or even just use the gas station slightly further down the street. Your actions are what prompt reaction. Inaction only prompts your own personal satisfaction, and boy ain’t that worth a whole lot to the rest of us.
So why is it that when Russia’s gay-ablative attitude mars the greatest of games, the most vocal among us call for the masses to bury their head in the sand and wait for it to be over? I’m not proposing we turn the other cheek and let the Sochian scandals simmer in the back of our minds, but there is more that can be done. Done by you, me, and the rest of the tens of thousands of people lumped into “Boycott Sochi 2014” Facebook groups.
Call someone who is involved. Inform people in your circles who are uninformed. Educate yourself on every side of the issue, so you can take the steps towards actually making a difference, even if the difference is minute in the grand scale of things. It is called activism for a reason.
The Olympics will carry on regardless of whether you boycott them or not, as hard as you may find that to believe. As much as it is a venue for the toughest and more talented among us to strut their stuff, it also has the unintended effect of shining a ever-scrutinous light on the country it is held, and history has proven that as soon as the light is gone, people forget.
People forgot about the Greek controversy surrounding Athens’ impossible infrastructure costs and the people who were left in the 2004 games’ wake. People forgot about the human rights’ violations that made Beijing a hot topic only six years ago.
You know what you can do? You can remember. Remember that these problems are still problems long after the games are over, and keep shouting to anyone who will listen until the problems are fixed. People who are disadvantaged overseas do not magically get their rights back when we go back to our daily lives. Remember who they are.
And if you can’t do any of those things, then please stop giving a damn, because it reflects poorly on those who do.
When I was eight I saw 1939’s The Wizard of Oz for the first time. It didn’t change my life or teach me any unique lessons, but it was never boring and it wasn’t afraid to break the mold as far as cinematic standards were concerned. Last week I saw Sam Raimi’s attempt to bring me back to that far-away-from-home fantasyland, but it seemed to be two ruby slippers short of having a pair.
My main criticism of Oz the Great and Powerful is that it was afraid of taking chances. Every scene, line of dialogue and plot ‘twist’ seemed formulaic to almost an insulting degree. This movie wasn’t trying to take me back to Oz, it was taking me on a theme park ride through it, throwing cheap platitudes at me at every turn in an attempt to sell me on a newer, ‘cooler’ Oz that had younger actors and sex appeal.
Speaking of sex appeal, I found it difficult to accept the movie’s version of an ‘ugly’ witch in the form of Mila Kunis. They slapped on some thin green face point, a slightly curved nose and gave her some chin putty. She still could have won Miss Oz ‘13 with the effort they put towards her uglification.
I love James Franco as much as one man could disingenuously love a geographically-distant celebrity entity, but I feel that he only hurt his career by signing on to this emerald cash-in. This isn’t the same James that survived a rock-climbing disaster, fought Spiderman and got high with me. With his younger brother Dave getting his name into some big titles recently, including a short-lived but deserved role in Warm Bodies, it might be the dawning of a new era of Franco.
To put it simply, Oz the Great and Powerful was boring. It didn’t do the universe justice and seemed to exist for the sole purpose of setting up a new merchandise-heavy trilogy. If I had to cite any redeeming factors in the movie, it would have to be Zach Braff’s sarcasm-laden performance as Franco’s CGI helper monkey. I laughed at every other one-liner he sent my way, though the movie never really explained how Franco’s Kansas aide managed to throw his voice all the way to Oz. In that same vein, the movie didn’t explain a whole lot, such as why Michelle Williams’ character was identical to Oz’s real-world sweetheart. And it seemed like Raimi was setting us up for a different kind of “it was a dream all along” ending but chickened out halfway through directing the thing.
Frankly, that would have been better.
A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, a stage was set for what was touted to be the most unforgettable gaming experience of the new decade. Sadly, it fell just short of accomplishing this starry-eyed feat.
From the minds of the universally-respected developer Bioware, Star Wars: The Old Republic (SWTOR) was their first foray into the Massively Multiplayer Online (MMO) gaming market, and a notably ambitious one at that. Sporting the gaming industry’s largest-ever budget, estimated between $150 and $200 million, boasting that it took 12 full-time writers two years to write the game’s dialogue, and even recognized by the people at Guinness as the “Largest Entertainment Voice-Over Project Ever.” Was that enough to create an experience that frequently picky Star Wars fans would approve of?
To reach that conclusion, I should tackle the game’s most prominent selling point: the writing. It is not an exaggeration that the game has over 200,000 lines of voiced dialogue, and I would go so far as to say that nearly all of it is natural, interesting and rarely gave me reason to skip ahead. It was quite a feat for a game to overpower my inherent impatience and get me deeply involved in the character I was playing. That being said, I found a few moments where the voice actors were running out of different ways to stretch and manipulate their voices, breaking the illusion that each entity in this age-old galaxy was a unique and stellar person. Unfortunate, but not enough to take away from the sheer enjoyment of hearing the next perilous plea for my help.
Being a game set in the Star Wars universe, there was no way to get around the core theme of good vs. evil, and that concept was directly built into your character in his or her alignment meter. When you perform a benevolent (or malevolent) deed, your alignment shifts towards the light or dark side, and even begins to change your facial features if you become deeply invested in one direction. I can attest to the strength of this mechanic, as I proudly displayed my avatar’s grossly disfigured veins and face, a reward for my various misdeeds across the core worlds. It didn’t come easy though, as many choices legitimately force you to pause and question the ethics of your decisions, even if they are only numbers in an inconsequential program.
I cannot weigh the value of a game, of course, without also criticizing the gameplay. As great as the literate and emotional aspects of the game were, at its core mechanics it was a poor clone of its predecessors. I found myself pressing the exact same four buttons with the same animations for sixty straight hours and at times questioning why I was subjecting myself to what seemed like a chore. Mechanical tedium aside, I was so heavily invested in seeing my character’s personal story play to the end that I brushed aside the annoyance of actually advancing it. Each of eight unique classes has a personally-tailored story that tackles different galactic issues, such as human trafficking, political scandals, and even world destruction.
It would be fair to say that SWTOR was not so much an exceptional game, but moreso an exceptional interactive movie with bits of gameplay in between the expertly-crafted cinematic moments. One can quickly tell that Bioware has a lot to learn about crafting an inherently fun game, but they are light years ahead in creating an all-engrossing experience for those patient enough to sit through it all.
They called the 2000s the dead decade, dead because over the period of ten years we were embraced by a rapid succession of vapid trends and fleeting revolutions.
It was a decade devoid of a consistent culture, and not as easy to label as the ones that preceded it. We had the Swinging Sixties, the Psychedelic Seventies, the New Wave Eighties and the sometimes-regrettable Boy Band Nineties. With a month left in the first two years since this deceased decade, are we going to be coming out of the same supposed rut in 2020?
This year has been defined by Eastern revolutions and dead dictators, but the same historical enthusiasm has not quite been applied to our cultural sectors. We instead are plagued by our Biebers, Gagas and interrupting Wests. While some cling to their work like personal bibles, those of us left sane after the ‘00s see the many undeserving self-deserved famous as leeches on the leg of culture. For the life of me I still cannot determine why Kim Kardashian has her own show.
Instead, this year has been enveloped by Internet memes and privacy scares. I am not able to tell you what gems of cinema came out this year, but I can whistle the keyboard cat’s tune within a single note’s margin of error. I can thus probably look forward to another eight years of time-wasting trollisms if this is a sign of things to come.
This isn’t a call for a cultural revolution, nor is it a cry for change. I am merely observing the state of things and predicting what we can expect from the rest of the twenty-tens. I don’t mean to undermine the insurmountable odds that underprivileged people have overcome to change their way of life as of late, but it would be difficult to make the case that we are on the verge of a decade-defining cultural trend.
It would not seem as disparaging an omen if so many cultural icons have not passed away in the past year. Huge influences such as Randy “Macho Man” Savage, self-slandering stand-up Patrice O’Neal and even freakin’ Peter Falk, who kept our grandparents busy when he pretended to be Columbo on television. They were names that seemed so eternal that they would follow us to our own graves, but not as much in the cold, bitter reality.
There is reason to believe otherwise, of course. There are artists and producers who try to reinvent themselves on a daily basis, and some who succeed. Memes may dominate our social spheres, but they are not the death of them.
We may not be doomed to be remembered by future generations for being glued to our handheld windows on the idiot-pandering Internet.
Then again, even if you think you’ve encountered the creative gold mine that may salvage our generation’s reputation, it’s probably just Chuck Testa.