November Leftovers

November 30, 2005
A thought by James Berardinelli

I'll end this month by providing follow-ups to a few recent entries I have written that have generated significant e-mail volume. Starting tomorrow, it's time to turn the page on the calendar to December. That means a few columns about King Kong and a discussion of some Christmas movies that are good enough to watch. I'll also look back at 2005 (it got better toward the end) and look ahead to 2006 (the current bleakness of the release schedule makes this year look like a bonanza).

On November 16, I wrote something about the "best" order in which the Star Wars movies should be watched. Unsurprisingly, there's a lot of disagreement. However, for children, who appreciate linearity above all else and won't be as impressed by the "surprise" as we all were in 1980 (after having had three years to ruminate about where the sequel might go), I see no good reason not to show the movies in sequential order. As far as Empire is concerned, yes - you lose the revelation, but you also gain a few things. There will be suspense about whether Vader will tell Luke the truth, and how Luke will react. It adds a lot to the lightsaber battle. And there's no question that Return of the Jedi is a better film when seen sixth, rather than third.

For adults, one can rationalize showing the movies in production order. And, if you have already seen the movies, they can be watched in whatever order seems best at the time. Another proposal was floated by a few e-mails: IV, V, I, II, III, VI. The idea behind this is to watch the first two films in production order, preserving the surprise, then "flash back" to Anakin's story, before showing how everything ends. There's merit to this approach, but only for adult viewers. I don't think it works for kids, who won't want to take a three movie break before finding out how everything works out with Luke and Han.

A couple of days ago, I remarked that I had no interst in seeing Wolf Creek, Dimension's Christmas Day horror release. I received about a dozen e-mails from Australian readers urging me to give the film a chance. So, if the opportunity presents itself, maybe I will. ("Opportunity" in this case means a press screening not in conflict with that for a more prominent film.) According to those who have seen it, Wolf Creek is not a slasher movie, but a creepy, atmospheric thriller. Dimension may be mis-marketing it (no surprise there).

Also, it's beginning to look like I may have a long wait to see The New World, one of my most anticipated movies. There are screenings here tomorrow and Sunday, but I have unavoidable conflicts on both days. To add insult to injury, the film doesn't open locally until January 13, so there may not be another screening until early next year. That effectively knocks The New World out of contention for appearing on my 2005 Top 10. But at least it gives me something to look forward to in the bleak midwinter of January.

Finally, yesterday's column addressed comments made by more than one older critic that computer/video gaming is a waste of time. A couple of readers pointed out that it's an easy enough position to adopt if one considers that the only exposure some of these critics may have had to games is the horrible movie adaptations. Another issue on the table that I didn't address is whether computer games can be considered "art." I'm not ready to tackle that question. I think the medium is in too embryonic a stage to make lofty pronouncements one way or another. Let's wait a decade or two and see what it turns into. I am a believer that we will eventually see a merging of cinema and games (when you consider the quality of the voice work going into current games, the trend is obvious) into something unique. (Although I'm sure movies will continue in their current, one-way narrative form, as well.) Regardless, games have come a long way since Pac Man.

Grumpy tangent... My use of the word "regardless" brings up a pet peeve. "Regardless" and "irrespective" are two legitimate words. "Irregardless" is not one. Please refrain from using it. My impression of someone who uses "irregardless" is that they're trying to sound intelligent but actually betraying ignorance. (Check out the entry for an execllent discussion.) I will now, of course, get a number of e-mails from people using "irregardless" in an attempt to be humorous.