Sunday, March 06, 2016

But That's Not What We Do

I've never punched anyone in the face. I have likewise never been punched in the face. At nearly thirty-eight years old, I hope both are trends which continue.

I did, however, after many months and repeated efforts, beat Mike Tyson in the titular Mike Tyson's Punch-Out! for the Nintendo Entertainment System when I was ten years old. That game is hard, but never underestimate the tenacity of a video-game-addicted kid. I had fast fingers back then. And a lot of NES-controller-caused calluses. Price you pay to be the champ, man.

I don't even like boxing, but there's something about video game boxing that I enjoy. Perhaps it's the fulfillment of punching something incorporeal and not getting punched back, passively satisfying a more primal urge while ensuring bodily safety.

And that extends to other aspects of gaming, including shooting people, jumping on the heads of anthropomorphic mushrooms, and taking pills to chase away the ghosts that are haunting-hunting me.

It's all just a fantasy. And it's fun. Challenging and fun.

In 2001 I was living in Sinchon, Seoul. On Sunday afternoons, I sometimes ventured into the myriad coin-op video game arcades sprinkled within the neighborhood. Most of them had old, sit-down games like 1941, Tetris, Puzzle Bobble, and the like, which I had a lot of fun playing, but some of the larger arcades had more advanced (and more expensive) coin-op games.

One such game that I was particularly fond of, despite all the 500 won coins it took from me, was a motion-sensor game called Police 911. You had to duck and shit! I wasn't into Dance Dance Revolution, but being a Tokyo cop shooting at and ducking from Yakuza gunfire? Sign me up!

Motion-sensor technology has come a long way, I'm sure, since 2001. Comparing the Nintendo Wii remote to the sensing technology of Police 911 is maybe analogous to comparing a fire-breathing dragon to a skink. And the hardest thing to determine while playing a video game that you want to beat is whether the game is good but you're not good at it, or whether the game isn't very good and that's why you're not good at it.

After a particularly vexing game of Police 911, I took two steps over to a boxing game. After years of searching, I still haven't been able to remember the title, because every Google search of "Japanese arcade boxing game" results in those arcade cushion hardest-punch games or the one where cushions come at you from the side.

This game was motion-sensor. It had two "boxing gloves," connected to the machine, that the player wore which more resembled today's UFC fighting gloves. The opponents weren't memorable, or at least not as memorable as Bald Bull, Glass Joe, or Super Macho Man.

But you still had to duck and move. I played Mike Tyson's Punch-Out! a lot as a kid because, no matter how many times I was defeated, I could always -- often blowing on the cartridge -- start a new game. An arcade is different. Maybe other people want to play. Other people are watching you.

I beat the first two opponents. Then the game got much harder. I was ducking and weaving, trying to save my video game life. I won the third bout, but I was gassed in the next one. I was a lot stronger back then, but my ass was tired.

Instead of throwing in the towel, I started rotating my wrists rapidly with the gloves on. I'm sure motion-sensor technology has found ways to stop such a cheat, but not then. That was a lot less exhausting than punching at a pretend pugilist.

I beat the game, although not in a traditional manner. I cheated, yes, by exploiting a flaw in the system.

I won. EAF.

Patch it later. Or never. Like I fucking care.

Tuesday, March 01, 2016

Fast Friends (The Intouchables)

A few years ago, my wife and I were browsing titles in a DVD-comic book shop (yes, some still exist, this particular one being on the ground floor of the building we lived in at the time).

Because I tend to consume most media via non-traditional means (shakes fist at archaic international distribution methods and stodgy rights holders), I had already seen -- months, and in some cases years, prior -- most of the titles available. But I noticed The Intouchables, a French film that was on my cinephile periphery because it had a high score on IMDB and I'd read a few ephemeral Internet comments praising the film.

We decided to rent the movie, but unfortunately the only subtitles were in Korean. My wife can get by with English subtitles for an entire film, but I alas cannot (although I managed the Korean subtitles for the French and German of Inglourious Basterds when we saw it in the theater, so sticker?).

Around a year or so later, the movie was available for streaming on Cartoon HD, an app that sneaked its way into the App Store for like twelve minutes and which I was fortunate enough to download within that time window. But when I tried to watch it, it was only in French with no English subtitles. Sacre bleu.

Early last month, I learned that Netflix had opened service in Korea. I signed up. Their library so far is embarrassingly bare (and, frustratingly, their Korean content doesn't include English subtitles), but I  was able to download a beta-stage VPN that allows access to Netflix worldwide. The Internet always finds a way.

This afternoon, the Independence Movement Day holiday here, I found The Intouchables available on Netflix Canada via the aforementioned  beta-stage VPN.

And I watched it.

And I loved it.

The premise sounds cliched and cloying. A rich, white quadriplegic hires a black ex-convict as his caregiver. They bond and do stuff, each person learning from the other. If someone described the movie that exact way, I'd take a pass. And if I'd read Roger Ebert's review prior to watching it, I'd similarly be turned off:

A stuffy rich employer finds his life enriched by a wise black man from the Paris ghettos

Ebert was wrong there. Philippe isn't "stuffy" at all (there's no conflict between the two; they become friends almost instantly), and neither is Driss "wise." The film does have cliches, and it certainly qualifies for entrance into the ongoing regrettable list of Magical Negroes in cinema* for having Driss shake up the lives of the people in Philippe's manse, however twee the results are.

But it also contains one of the greatest friendships -- if not the greatest -- I've ever seen in movies. Phillipe and Driss are great friends. Those are two dudes I want to hang out with. Unless I missed something, race is never mentioned in the film, so the rich -white-poor-black dichotomy is carried over from the viewer rather than anything shown explicitly in the film.

The film is also rated R. I'd say that's a shame, because it's a movie young people would enjoy, but I'm not that dumb to know that young people will seek out and enjoy anything they want.

The Intouchables is a great movie.

(and Fran├žois Cluzet totes looks like Dustin Hoffman, right?)

* Red in The Shawshank Redemption is, confusingly, on Wikipedia's list, to which I demand an explanation. And no, his reputation as a "man who can get things" doesn't make him a Magical Negro. He got Andy a rock hammer, not fucking Mjolnir!