Top Things of 2014

Interstellar

Love is the one thing we’re capable of perceiving that transcends time and space.
– Brand

Movie Poster via IMDb
Movie Poster via IMDb


Part of me knew Interstellar would make this list and another part wasn’t quite sure if it should, and that’s an accurate summary of my feelings about the movie.

Hear me out before you move onto the next item, because even though I have issues with Interstellar I recommend it unreservedly. I recommend it because I have issues with it, and it’s likely that you will too. Interstellar forces you to have discussions about what you just witnessed and my favorite part was a two-hour debate about the merits of the ending I had with friends, after leaving the cinema.

If heated discussions that devolve into musings on science, the 5th dimension, religion, and philosophy don’t excite you, fear not. Interstellar’s mind-bending threads are woven into a beautiful visual, and aural, experience. Outer space is big. We only think we understand it, and attempting to digest the scale makes my head hurt. Hans Zimmer’s soundtrack, coupled with the judicious use of silence, evokes the awe and fear that we should feel toward the universe, and that’s worth the trip to the big screen alone.

For more thoughts on Interstellar see my short article at myCravings.ca


The Banner Saga (iOS)

http://stoicstudio.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/strand_final_short.jpg
Photo by Stoicstudio.com

The Banner Saga is a punishing game that doesn’t let you feel like you’re rising above the struggle. It could be that I never fully grasped the mechanics of the turn-based combat but I’d prefer to think that the developers took balanced gameplay and supported it with good storytelling. This maintains tension and pace in a way that feels as if failure is always just around the corner.
The game is fun, and is worth its $10 price on iOS, but I didn’t buy it after reading a good review, though there were many. I bought it after hearing the soundtrack and seeing that art. It’s a beautiful game that shines on newer iPads and is best played with headphones, to better enjoy the haunting score composed by oscar-nominee Austin Wintory.

I still haven’t finished the game but I’ve played to enough to confidently recommend it. If you like Norse mythology, viking beards, and a challenge, then you’ll probably enjoy The Banner Saga.


Calvary

I think there’s too much talk about sins and not enough about virtues.
– Father James

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia
Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

Where do I start with this movie? I could start with Brendan Gleeson’s powerful screen presence, how he’s a big man with a big heart. Or maybe the role the Irish countryside plays in reminding the viewer that there is beauty, and significance, far from the vital centres of Dublin, Montreal, or New York City.

I’ll get back to Gleeson and the beautiful setting, but I’ll start here: you probably haven’t seen it and you may not have even heard of it, but I’ll do my best to convince you to watch it. Spoiler: I think it’s worth it.

Calvary had a limited release, and that’s a shame, but it really doesn’t fit well into any marketing category. The narrative begins with a graphic tale and threat against Gleeson’s character, parish priest Father James, then he does some digging. There’s an element of mystery to the film, but Gleeson’s character suggests that he might know who wants to kill him. The parade of village folk that follows kept me guessing at who the likeliest culprit was but, in the end, I thought it could be any one of them.

In the midst of all the infidelity, nihilism, repressed (and rampant) sexuality, and darkness comes one Father James most memorable lines:
“I think there’s too much talk about sins and not enough about virtues.” “What would be your number one?” “I think forgiveness has been highly underrated.”

It’s a surprising film, and one that manages to be deeply religious but honest at the same time. It’s clear that it’s not in the same vein as God’s Not Dead or Left Behind. Calvary is what a movie about a good priest looks like, without pulling any punches, and that’s what McDonagh was aiming for.

Calvary is set in a beautiful place, full of broken people, suffering from systems that are only beautiful on the outside, and will leave you wondering what real beauty looks like. Go watch it.


Link Roundup:

The Behemoth (Magazine)

Christ and Pop Culture (Website/Magazine)

Serial (Podcast)

This Response to Ferguson/Eric Garner (Song)

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