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Ten of the best from 2014

December 22, 2014

I wrote more in 2014 than I have done for a while. Right at the end of 2013 I left my job at Future Publishing and it drew into sharp focus something that had been true for a while: I don’t write for a living. I produce videos.

This made the writing that I choose to do feel much more like my responsibility. I don’t need to do it – so why should I do anything I’m not proud of? Why should any of it be bad?

And the answer is because writing is hard, and sometimes it goes wrong. But the point stands – for the first time in years, I set out to write more, and much better. I read more and I thought harder, and I’m happy with at least some of the results. And, because every now and then we should give ourselves a fucking break already, I decided to collect together ten of the pieces I’m happiest with as a way of saying “Well done, Nathan, that wasn’t shit.”

I’m also doing it because my wife, Sarah, told me to. She’s done a post like this as well, here. A sensible person would read it.

Here are mine

“One Chants Out Between Two Worlds…” – Twin Peaks, cinema and television

the quote in the headline above, from Twin Peaks’ sinister poem recited by Mike the One-Armed Man, catches something of Lynch himself, and his career-long oscillation between cinema and television. I thought of how Blue Velvet pre-figured Twin Peaks, how Mulholland Dr was planned as another ABC series and then warped and wrangled into a prismatic self-contained cinematic whole.

About David Lynch, the textures of different mediums, and the importance of ideas.

Edge Of Tomorrow and the growing overlap between cinema and video games

….the film itself is still not directly analogous to games, although perhaps the act of filmmaking is. Film production is an imperfect stop-start process in which certain moments – certain scenes – are repeated until they’re successfully completed. Few people remember the existential cul-de-sacs of failed gameplay – instead our minds, like a film’s editor, cut together a continuous experience from the loose reels.

Can films absorb the grammar, as well as the langauge, of games?

Avant Garde Dogs

BAFTA’s meeting with Naughty Dog is an encounter of two curious parties at the border of interrelated worlds. BAFTA is the film body with a growing interest in interactive experiences. Naughty Dog reaches out from the other direction, a games studio that has studied the story craft of Hollywood closely and adapted it with great success.

How Naughty Dog patrols the border between cinema and games.

Left Behind: The different futures games imagine for our sons and daughters

My son was being told, is told every day, that he can join the ranks of the elite athlete superstars we have elevated to the highest strata of the cultural firmament; that he can earn the instant adoration of thousands with a sharp turn and a kick of the ball. That he can win the World Cup. My daughter was being told that, if she got her eyeliner just so, and matched her clutch bag flawlessly with her earrings, she could fulfill her own potential by becoming an accessory in turn for the protagonist of a different story.

And, well, fuck that idea.

Why skewed representation in games is a stupid, bad thing.

Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost

Here are some recent thoughts of mine: I am playing too much Destiny. Also, games might be an expression of the futility of the human condition.

Something to do with grinding, checkpoints, and the progress of human civilisation.

Monty Python – A Night at The Circus

I had forgotten. I’d forgotten not just that I know the words to everything, as became clear during the opening Four Yorkshiremen sketch, but that I know the rhythms and variations of the old Drury Lane, Hollywood Bowl and Secret Policeman’s Ball performances that I used to fall asleep listening to during what was quite obviously an utterly sexless adolescence.

On seeing Monty Python, and in defence of the joy of enjoying.

A short stride and a head turn ago

I’m regularly surprised by how much I’ve forgotten, how much I missed, and how differently the other mes, drifting behind somewhere unreachable but still connected by a thin cord of remembering and responsibility, thought about everything. The idiots.

A family visit to my early childhood home in London, some play with thoughts and memories.

Going back to Chinatown – the nea-noir classic at 40

What the film is about – what Gittes becomes obsessively drawn to – is something deeper than sleaze or scandal, which are after all part of the accepted language of Hollywood. The film, and the abusive incestuous secret it conceals, capture something about perversity and its relationship to power, and the entitlement of the powerful to abuse and exploit.

How Roman Polanki’s noir captured the abusive soul of Hollywood that would lead to his own prosecution for rape.

Guardians Of The Galaxy – So Serene On The Screen

…it strikes at how ideas work, circling and charming before manifesting in ways sometimes the thinker doesn’t see, and because it acknowledges how ideas also have to be reconciled to a system of production and an industry, and how the two often invisibly together to make things.

On Guardians Of The Galaxy, Serenity, and the perseverance of ideas.

Remembering Bob Hoskins

Bob Hoskins was already a person before he became an actor. It’s one of those facts that makes a revelatory sense when you hear it – that by the time he won his first part at the Unity Theatre in 1969 (accidentally, while waiting for a friend at the bar) he was 27, and had worked as a lorry driver, a window cleaner and a market trader. In other words, he had lived, and in doing so had gained a gift for the kind of effortless un-performance that defines his now closed career.

I try to nail the bruising warmth of a brilliant performer.

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