Research Blog Antarctica #161 – Quick Before It Melts (the movie)

Film: Delbert Mann: Quick Before It Melts (U.S.A. 1964)

This is the film adaptation of the novel Quick, Before It Melts. It’s a comedy about an American reporter sent to the Antarctic to find stories about oil, gold or Russian perfidy. Much of the story is built around the sexual frustration experienced by the protagonist who’s girlfriend refuses to sleep with him.

While the book is outdated, it had its moments. The movie is stale, although it retains some of the observational detail of the novel. Lots of bearded scientists and gruff military men, and much is made of having women on the ice.

Research Blog Antarctica #160 – Antarctic Edge: 70 South

Documentary: Dena Seidel: Antarctic Edge: 70 South (U.S.A. 2015)

This is a documentary about marine life in the Southern Ocean and the work of scientists on ships and islands on the Antarctic coast. Underlying the narrative is the effect of global warming on all aspects of Antarctic life, from krill to penguins.

It’s a solid, straightforward documentary with lots of good visualizations of climate phenomena and human material about the lives of people who work in Antarctic research. It also demonstrates how the story of Antarctica has shifted during the 10+ years I’ve been interested in the subject. When I read my first Antarctic books, the image of the continent was of unchanging, eternal ice. Now it’s a story of massive transformations caused by humanity.

Research Blog Antarctica #159 – the Icebreaker

Film: Nikolay Khomeriki: The Icebreaker (Russia, 2016)

The Icebreaker is a movie about a Russian ship picking up scientists from Antarctica. As it leaves the continent, it becomes mired in the ice in the Ross Sea. Tensions arise as the captain is replaced by the Soviet government and the crew starts to get restless in the face of dwindling supplies.

It’s interesting to see a movie from the Soviet perspective on Antarctica, even if it deals with Soviet Antarctic programs only peripherally. The main action is with the people on the ship, stuck in Antarctic waters.

The movie is slow in the middle as life on the ship starts to get increasingly difficult, but it still has its interesting parts because of the setting and the time period.

Research Blog Antarctica #155 – The Antarctica Challenge

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Documentary: Mark Terry: The Antarctica Challenge (Canada, 2009)

The Antarctica Challenge is a Canadian documentary about what’s happening in Antarctica in terms of climate change. It explains the effects of the changing temperatures on animal life, glaciers, and the planet as a whole.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about the documentary in terms of how Antarctica is usually represented is that it presents the environment in a state of change. The typical view of Antarctica is eternal, unchanging, but this time there are glaciers falling into the sea, life taking a foothold on previously ice-covered land, melting ice formations and other phenomena of an environment in flux.

The documentary is a good example of how in Antarctica, the issue of climate change becomes much less abstract and much more immediately tangible.

Roleplaying Game Movie Night #25: LARP

I and some friends have a project of trying to watch all movies, tv episodes and other stuff with moving pictures related to roleplaying games ever made. We’re pretty far along on this goal. I’ll write here about old and new things we’ve found and watched.Larp-3

Larp is a Polish short film directed by Kordian Kadziela and released in 2014. It’s the story of a larper guy who lives in the shadow of his boxer brother. He goes to larps, and in one of them, he confronts a bully in-game. The event proves transformative, but the rest of the story is handled surprisingly deftly for a movie based on such broad ideas.

This is definitely a gem among movies about larp. I realize this will set the bar pretty low, but it’s made by people who understand both filmmaking and larp. That’s not always the case…

Here’s the trailer:

2015 in works that made me feel something

In retrospect, one of the best things about being fifteen or sixteen was the way you’d see a movie and your mind would be blown by the sheer awesomeness of it all. You hadn’t seen so many things, so everything appeared new. It was wonderful to experience all these ideas and aesthetics for the first time. I still remember when I saw movies like Lost Highway or Tetsuo II: the Body Hammer at Elokuva-arkisto as a high-school student, and how it felt to emerge onto the street after the movie, full of slack-jawed wonder.

Sometimes it feels like these powerful experiences are a thing of the past, that nowadays intellectual appreciation and being entertained are the best we can hope for.

I went through some of the movies I’d seen and games I’d played in 2015, and I was happy to be reminded of plenty of things that put the lie to that feeling of never seeing anything new.

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Videogame: Zombi (Ubisoft Montpellier)

ZombiU was one of Wii U’s launch games, originally published in 2012 and republished on the Xbox One this fall as Zombi. In technical terms, it’s a pretty rough game, but there’s something in the atmosphere that suddenly makes the tired zombie genre feel relevant again. Zombi is a difficult, uncompromising game where a single mistake can result in a death as a victim of a zombie swarm. Every time you die, you continue with a new character, and at the end, you only get a single try to get to safety. If you fail, you die and the game ends. I failed.

I wrote a review for Tilt, available here in Finnish.

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Videogame: Soma (Frictional Games)

The premise of the Swedish game Soma is very traditional: You’re an average dude who finds himself stranded in a ruined underwater research base. You have to solve simple puzzles and avoid monsters to proceed. The real genius of the game is in its progression of revelations that slowly but steadily increase the existential horror of what’s happening. The action is very concrete, but the questions are philosophical: What’s a human? What does it mean to be an individual? Who am I?

I reviewed the game for Tilt and also selected it as Tilt’s Game of the Year. The review is here in Finnish.

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Movie: Beyond the Hills (Cristian Mungiu)

Beyond the Hills is a Romanian film from 2012, directed by Cristian Mungiu. Its a based-on-a-true-story movie about a small religious community struggling to deal with Alina, a troubled girl who follows her childhood friend there. Considering that this is a story featuring an excorcism, lesbian lovers and brutal convent life, everything is handled with a keen eye to everyday detail and psychological complexity. Alina’s story doesn’t end well, but she’s too good a character to simply fall into the role of a victim. She demands something more than that.

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Movie: The World’s End (Edgar Wright)

The World’s End is a science fiction movie from 2013, but the scifi stuff is almost incidental. It’s really the story of Gary King, who wants to gather together all of his old friends to do a pub crawl like they used to when they were young. All of the friends have moved on in their lives, but Gary hasn’t. Watching this movie felt like one long moment of recognition: I know this guy and I know what he represents. The real kicker comes in the end, where all of Gary’s fantasies come true. Ostensibly, the movie ends on a high note, but the implications of the ending are pretty harsh to contemplate.

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Movie: What We Do in the Shadows (Jemaine Clement & Taika Waititi)

I played and organized a lot of Vampire: the Masquerade larp in my teens and early twenties. What We Do in the Shadows (2012) is a fake documentary about vampires living in New Zealand, and it’s a very funny movie. However, it also manages to depict something that’s very, very true when it comes to Vampire larp, whether intentionally or not. It captures the way those larps used to be at the turn on the millennium, goofy and cool at the same time.

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Movie: Mad Max: Fury Road (George Miller)

The Hollywood media machine seems designed to mold the entertaintment products we consume into bland goo. Seeing the new Mad Max movie Fury Road was a bracing experience: It’s a big-budget action movie but it also has a singular vision. It has power. It has a sense of transgression that makes us feel alive.

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The Duke of Burgundy (Peter Strickland)

The Duke of Burgundy (2014) is a movie about two women playing sadomasochistic games. It has a solid claim on being the best BDSM movie of all time. It looks gorgeous, but most of all, it captures the small dynamics and details of fantasy and reality, desire and everyday life, very well. Its characters are driven by desire and necessity in a way that avoids simple judgements and pointless moral homilies.

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He ovat paenneet (J.-P. Valkeapää)

He ovat paenneet is a Finnish movie about two teenagers who decide to run away. One of them works at a home for delinquents, the other is confined there. Somehow, the movie goes from traditional Finnish kitchen sink realism into subjective fantasy in a way that accurately captures the power and horror of being young. It’s also gorgeously shot, with a jarring style that eschews the more conventional style of most Finnish cinema.

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Dance: Kleine Monster (Jenni Kivelä)

I’ve been a lapsed fan of Jenni Kivelä’s performances: I’ve always liked them, but it’s been years since I saw one. Early this year, I saw an ad for Kleine Monster and remembered how much I liked her work, so I went to see it. And it was very good. It’s a performance about grotesque women, made from the inside: The characters may be monsters, but so are we all.

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Larp: The Zeigarnik Effect (Brody Condon)

I played a lot of larp in 2015, but the most interesting and personally affecting was Brody Condon’s The Zeigarnik Effect. Based on Gestalt therapy, the larp was one part of a work that also included a video art piece that used material shot during the larp. From a technical point of view, the larp was very interesting because of its minimal characters and setting, its present-based interaction and workshopped sense of a very tight ensemble. It’s been one of the larps that I can say changed me.

I wrote more about it here.

Concert: K-X-P

I was at the music festival Flow, and a friend told me I should go to see K-X-P. I knew nothing about the band, but the recommendation was solid. It was the best gig I saw the whole year. The ritual aesthetics and the relentless wall of sound created a transcendental experience. The band is fine on YouTube or listened from the album, but the music really comes to its own through the sheer power of live amplification.

eduskunta-ryhmäteatteri-foto-ilkka-saastamoinen-672x372Eduskunta III (Susanna Kuparinen)

Politically, this has been a miserable year. Racism is on the rise, fascist ideas are normalized and austerity politics drive us deeper into despair, seemingly for no reason at all. Eduskunta III, a play about the Finnish parliament directed by Susanna Kuparinen, is a funny broadside aimed at the rot afflicting all of us. It’s alienating to sit at home and read depressing news, but by the same token, it feels great to laugh at the terrible things going on with hundreds of other people in the theatre.

Research Blog Antarctica #139 – Ice and the Sky

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Documentary: Luc Jacquet: Ice and the Sky (France, 2015)

Luc Jacquet is the director of the movie March of the Penguins, so this is not his first time with an Antarctic subject. Ice and the Sky is a documentary about the career of the French glaciologist Claude Lorius and also an impassioned plea to do something about global warming.

The traditional image of Antarctica is as an eternal realm of ice and cold. Climate developments in recent decades have challenged that idea, and increasingly cast Antarctica more as a melting ice cube. Lorius has been at the center of this change in perception, and you can see that for him, global warming is not abstract at all. In Antarctica, it’s a concrete reality.

The movie starts in 1957 with the beginning of Lorius’ career in Antarctica, and it’s wonderful to see all the old footage from various French and international expeditions. Other classic Antarctic locations are the South Pole and the Russian Vostok base.

Although Ice and the Sky is definitely a “great man” movie, it’s wealth of footage and the scope of its subject make it a first-class Antarctic film. Lorius’ career spans global warming, atmospheric nuclear testing and the insignificance of humanity’s time on Earth, and it’s easy to be swept away with the wonder and the terror.

Roleplaying Game Movie Night #22: The Battle of Orgreave

I and some friends have a project of trying to watch all movies, tv episodes and other stuff with moving pictures related to roleplaying games ever made. We’re pretty far along on this goal. I’ll write here about old and new things we’ve found and watched.

The Battle of Orgreave, a documentary by Mike Figgis, is not strictly speaking about larp, but its themes come so close to many of the ideas explored in Nordic Larp that we felt it had to be included in the program. Indeed, if you’re making a political larp, this is must-see.

The documentary is about a re-enactment of the titular Battle of Orgreave, a key confrontation during the 1984 U.K. miner’s strike, brutally crushed by Margaret Thatcher’s government. The re-enactment was held at the real, historical locations, and many of the participants had personally been part of the actual events. At one point, an old former miner tersely notes that the sound of the policemen’s shields brings back memories.

The documentary explains the re-enactment and contextualizes the strike and its aftermath in interviews. There’s a lot of stuff here: Using re-enactment to situate the strike in the context of British historical battles. Having the actual people the event is about present. The limits and possibilities of re-creating events in a fictional framework.

There’s been a lot of Nordic Larp with a political focus, but none of the games has gotten quite this close with it’s subject matter. There’s a lot to learn here.

The whole movie is on YouTube:

Non-Digital: Real Hamlet

This past weekend, I played in the larp Inside Hamlet, in Denmark. The larp gave the play a Marxist vision of decadent nobles living their last murderous days while the Reds were closing in. In the end, when the rebels finally break down the doors, they find only piles of corpses and cowering survivors.

The game was played at the actual Elsinore castle. That was pretty cool.

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(At the venue, during a break between the acts. My character was a priest.)

The game had the rule “What happens in Elsinore stays in Elsinore”, so I’m not going to go into specifics. Instead, I’ll write about something that occurred to me as I watched the final moments of the dying court. I had already died myself, and was present as a mute ghost.

To prepare for the larp, I watched every Hamlet movie I could get my hands on. The Laurence Olivier Hamlet, the Derek Jacobi Hamlet, the Soviet Hamlet, and so on. Most of them shared a theatrical quality, a feeling of the actors and the director playing with the text and the language. Almost all of the movies were quite good, but they also made it seem as if adapting Hamlet was a bit of a lark.

Or a game of sorts.

When I was in my own version of Hamlet, larping my character, watching Queen Gertrude die of poison, I didn’t feel like we were playing. It felt deadly fucking serious.

The world of Inside Hamlet was grotesque and the characters monsters. It wasn’t played in a realistic style. Yet still, living inside this fictional context gave everything that happened a tragic weight. In the movies, the final duel has been done in many different ways, but only in the larp it felt like it was two people fighting over the deaths of their loved ones.

The movies were a game. The game was not.

Roleplaying Game Movie Night #20: Warhammer 40K

I and some friends have a project of trying to watch all movies, tv episodes and other stuff with moving pictures related to roleplaying games ever made. We’re pretty far along on this goal. I’ll write here about old and new things we’ve found and watched.

Dragonlance is not the only gaming franchise that’s been badly served by adaptations. Another is the Games Workshop juggernaut Warhammer 40K. Its world has been created principally for war games, but there’s a solid line of roleplaying games as well.

There’s an official, animated 40K movie from 2010 called Ultramarines, and a German fan made movie called Damnatus from 2008. Of these two, Damnatus is inarguably the better.

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(Ultramarines)

Ultramarines features a bunch of space marines who go to a planet to investigate a distress call. They battle against their inner demons, but most importantly they seem to walk around a gravel pit for ever and ever.

The gravel pit is a classic location of fan-made and cheap genre movies, but why it was chosen as a location for an animated movie, I have no idea.

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(Damnatus)

Damnatus is a fan movie denied release at the last minute by Games Workshop. Mysteriously, following the ban it leaked into the internet. It’s about a bunch of mercenaries hired by an Inquisitor to investigate strange phenomena in the lower depths of a planet.

Very obviously a fan movie, Damnatus suffers from its lack of actual actors, a solid script or anything resembling interesting characters or dramatic scenes. However, I’d argue it’s still a must-watch for any 40K geek, because it captures the tone and style of the world so perfectly. Unlike in Ultramarines, in Damnatus you know you’re in the far future where there’s only war.

It’s full of fun little detail that only makes sense if you know the world already, like the servo-skull pictured above. It’s in German, and demonstrates that German is the only proper language for 40K.

Roleplaying Game Movie Night #19: Dragonlance

I and some friends have a project of trying to watch all movies, tv episodes and other stuff with moving pictures related to roleplaying games ever made. We’re pretty far along on this goal. I’ll write here about old and new things we’ve found and watched.

When I was twelve, I thought that Dragonlance Chronicles by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman were the best that the fantasy genre had to offer. Sure, I liked Tolkien too, but he had nothing on Dragonlance.

Now that I’m 34, I see no reason to revise this opinion.

It’s a shame that there’s so few adaptations of Dragonlance, good or not. We’ve been able to find two, the animated version of the first book, Dragons of Autumn Twilight, and the Russian musical version of the second trilogy, Legends.

You can watch the musical here, with English subtitles:

The thing about the musical version is that it’s absolutely excellent. You have to know the story, but for an old Dragonlance lover such as myself, this is manna from heaven. According to the YouTube page, it’s actually a promo concert held by the theatre studio Lege Artis at the 8th of February, 2014 in Moscow. It features scenes from a musical called The Last Trial.

Before this, I had never realized how operatic the Legends trilogy was. It’s been distilled into a story about Raistlin, Caramon and Crysania, and the interplay of love and power in Raistlin’s character. The possibly best scene has Raistlin singing a duet with Takhisis the Queen of Darkness about his love affair with Crysania. The YouTube video above features people from three different casts, so don’t be confused if the actor playing Raistlin suddenly changes.

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(A still from the movie Dragonlance: Dragons of Autumn Twilight)

Unfortunately, the animated Dragonlance: Dragons of Autumn Twilight movie fails to live up to the standards set up by Russian musical theatre. It goes through the story of the first Dragonlance book, somehow combining the worst features of both classical Eighties Saturday morning cartoons and modern 3D-animated stuff.

It also remains faithful to some of the dumbest stuff found in the original book, things that any reasonable adaptation would have cut out. It’s a dismal effort.

Vuoden elokuvat 2014

Listalla on elokuvia myös viime vuodelta, mikäli niillä kesti vähän pidempään päästä Suomeen asti.

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Parhaat elokuvat, jotka on tehty aiheista jotka ovat minulle henkilökohtaisia keppihevosia: Antarctica: A Year on Ice, Dark Dungeons & The Gamers: Hands of Fate

Muille: Antarctica on hieno ja kaunis, vaikka ei olisikaan aiheesta harrastunut. Pelielokuvia ei tajua ellei tunne roolipeliskeneä.

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Paras vampyyrielokuva, ei pelkästään tänä vuonna vaan ehkä koskaan: Only Lovers Left Alive

Kaunista, herkkää, seksikästä, omaperäistä, jne. jne.

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Paras elokuva joka on tällä listalla siksi, että se saa presidentin josta en pidä näyttämään pöntöltä: Presidentintekijät

Voi Niinistöä.

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Paras roolipelaamista käsittelevä elokuva, joka kykenee kilpailemaan muuallakin kuin harrastelijasarjassa: Zero Charisma

Toivon kuitenkin, ettei kukaan muodosta mielikuvaansa roolipelaamisesta tämän perusteella.

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Paras tajunnanräjäyttävä spektaakkeli joka käsittelee inhimillisyyden, esiintymisen, viihdeteollisuuden, teknologian ja tietoisuuden tulevaisuutta ja nykytilaa: The Congress

Lajityyppinä animaatio-live-hybridi.

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Paras yritys myydä vanhuksien seksikkyyttä: Gerontophilia

Me kaikki olemme vanhoja joskus.

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Paras Itä-Eurooppalainen elokuva jossa maailma on kauhea ja seksiä ja väkivaltaa riittää: The Tribe

Tällä kertaa Ukrainasta. Jossain vaiheessa Serbia ja Unkari oli hyviä näiden kanssa, mutta nyt tuntuu että enää Romania liputtaa.

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Paras elokuva ohjaajalta, jonka kuvitteli olleen jo uransa ehtoopuolella: La danza de la realidad

Jo varsin iäkäs Alejandro Jodorowsky on hämmästyttävän hyvässä iskussa elokuvassa, joka näyttää erilaiselta kuin mikään muu.

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Paras elokuva jossa on rupihinkkausseksiä: Moebius

Finnkinon levityksessä!

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Paras elokuva jossa Mooses ja Jumala havainnollistavat yksilövetoisen terrorismin ja valtioterrorismin eroja: Exodus: Gods and Kings

Elokuvaa voi haukkua vaikka mistä, mutta Jumalan Egyptiin iskemien vitsausten rinnastaminen siviileihin kohdistuviin terroritekoihin oli inspiroitunutta. Myös hieno opetus siitä, miten keskustelu rajataan: Mooses kannattaa rajoitettuja iskuja siviilejä vastaan, kun taas Jumalalla on enemmän jenkkityylinen kaikki paskaksi -linja.

Roleplaying Game Movie Night #18: Uber Goober & Dark Dungeons

I and some friends have a project of trying to watch all movies, tv episodes and other stuff with moving pictures related to roleplaying games ever made. We’re pretty far along on this goal. I’ll write here about old and new things we’ve found and watched.

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(Uber Goober)

Uber Goober is a case study in how to defend something in such a way as to make it look as bad as possible. It’s a documentary about roleplaying games, larp and other non-digital games and people who play them, but more importantly, it’s a documentary about prejudices against gamers and gamers who have internalized them.

Two of the interviewees appear only in silhouette because they fear repercussions if they’re publicly outed as gamers. In one scene, a man who doesn’t want his face shown sneaks into a children’s playground at night to collect some sand for a structure he’s building for a miniatures game.

It’s true that gamers face a lot of attitude in U.S. society. However, when someone appears in a documentary in silhouette, it makes him look bad, like there’s something shameful to hide. The set up communicates the shame, and reinforces it.

The bad impression is strengthened by the low technical quality of the movie. Because of bad lighting, normal folks look grubby.

The whole thing has a depressing, defensive tone, and many of the interviewees seem desperate to justify gaming. The problem is that when they do this, they, and the makers of this documentary, implicitly accept the premises they try to argue against. In cases like this, you have to change the rules of the discussion, not try to win by arguing that roleplaying is not Satan worship, honest!

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(Dark Dungeons)

Dark Dungeons is a roleplaying pride movie. It’s well made, hilarious, and makes roleplaying look cool. In 1984, Jack T. Chick published a little comic about the Satanic menace of roleplaying games. At that time, the moral panic about roleplaying games and their occult connections was still going on, and the comic tried to dissuade young people from playing. You can read it here, it’s pretty funny stuff.

Dark Dungeons is a movie adaptation of the comic. It’s quite loyal to the source material, often using dialogue word for word. It trusts the sheer weirdness of the original comic to carry the day, to great effect.

Since it needs to sell roleplaying as a dangerous, seductive menace, all the cool bad guys roleplay. Of course we’re meant to take this with a wink and a nudge. It’s a joke. But that doesn’t take away from it’s effectiveness: We see roleplaying that looks fun, the same way sex, drugs and rock’n’roll is fun.

The movie Mazes & Monsters was Dark Dungeons, except they meant it. It was shown on Finnish television in the late Eighties, and essentially started the Finnish larp scene. Many different folks around the country saw it, thought it looked cool, and decided to try to do the same. Dark Dungeons takes this aesthetic of making things seem seductive by advocating against them, and uses it knowingly.

Roleplaying Game Movie Night #16: Shakma, Gamerz & Skullduggery

I and some friends have a project of trying to watch all movies, tv episodes and other stuff with moving pictures related to roleplaying games ever made. We’re pretty far along on this goal. I’ll write here about old and new things we’ve found and watched.

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(Shakma)

Of all the larp movies we’ve seen, Shakma has one of the simplest, yet singular concepts. A group of medical researchers and students lock themselves into a building to play a really crappy-looking larp. A raging baboon kills them one by one.

The best thing about the movie is that the baboon is played by a real baboon, called Typhoon. No special effects bullshit here! Only hardcore baboon action.

The larp seems to be a treasure hunt style thing where players communicate with the game master via walkie talkies. “I’m using one of my keys to open this door.” The game master has a primitive computer simulation of the game, connected to tracking devices each player has.

During the movie, we had a lot of speculation about how it would end. Perhaps the baboon would kill the game master and take his place. Maybe he would rescue the princess and they would live happily ever after. He could kill everyone, and the last shot would be him driving away smoking a cigar.

Unfortunately, none of these things happened in this movie.

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(Gamerz)

We’ve seen a lot of movies about roleplayers or larpers, but most of them have been made in the U.S. A typical feature of these films (Unicorn City, A Game of the Year) has been a depiction of the hobby and the people in it that I can’t recognize from my personal experience.

The 2005 movie Gamerz was made in Scotland. In style it’s a European slightly comedic slice-of-life film, with little of the overly mannered structure or self-hate that characterizes bad American films of this type. Along with Zero Charisma and The Gamers 3, its one of the best movies about roleplayers out there.

The movie is about Ralph, a university student and game master who hijacks the local roleplaying club and starts to run the game himself. He falls in love with the only female player (like almost all roleplaying movies, Gamerz is routinely misogynistic). His local bully wants to join the group. Off-game bullshit creeps into the game.

I spent my high school years roleplaying intensively, and a lot of the people and situations in Gamerz are recognizable from my youth. Some of the people made me go: “I’ve played with that guy!” One of the themes is the responsibility of the game master not to use the game as a vehicle for personal power games.

Unfortunately, the movie doesn’t quite carry to the end. The scene where Ralph goes over to the dark side (so to speak) is too hard for a movie like this.

Despite it’s problems, Gamerz is worth watching. In the opening credits, the letter i looks like a penis. This is not an accident.

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(Skullduggery)

Skullduggery (1983) was described as Mazes & Monsters meets El Topo. This description is accurate. It feels like an Eighties moral panic movie about roleplaying games where the filmmakers have gone native in the weird and occult world of fantasy games.

The movie is about Adam, who works in a costume shop and playes in a game that looks something like early D&D or Talisman. There’s a game master and other players, one of whom does exactly the same sexist jokes as a guy in Gamerz. It was uncanny.

Adam is cursed: one of his ancestors played a game and fell victim to a sorcerer or possibly Satan. The curse manifests through Adam and the game, making him attend strange amateur theatre where immensely talentless people try do do farce and a janitor wanders around with a game of Tic-Tac-Toe on his back.

I don’t mean that negatively. That was all great stuff. For much of the running time, Skullduggery felt like something directed by Jodorowsky.

Unfortunately, by the end Jodorowsky fades away and is replaced by Dario Argento. I suppose one could charitably say that the persistent misogyny of roleplaying movies reached its logical conclusion here in the form of a killing spree.

Skullduggery follows one of the two main cliches of game movies: “The game becomes real”. However, it would be reductionist to think it was nothing more, because this time the cliche was only a starting point in a movie that became something else. By the end, it’s unclear in a metaphysical sense if Adam is still alive or acting from beyond the grave. As his last act, he reaches out to kill his game master.

Sometimes the movie was also pretty funny. There’s a hospital scene where we see the sihouette of a nurse fucking a doctor on a hospital bed. The nurse moans: “You’re the best! In this room. At this time.”

That’s a great line.

The nurse comes out from behind the curtain in her underwear. The doctor sneaks behind her back, and startles her. He’s wearing a gorilla suit.

Because this is Skullduggery.

Roleplaying Game Movie Night #13: Peter Watkins

I and some friends have a project of trying to watch all movies, tv episodes and other stuff with moving pictures related to roleplaying games ever made. We’re pretty far along on this goal. I’ll write here about old and new things we’ve found and watched.

The British director Peter Watkins has made three movies that are quite interesting from a roleplaying perspective, The Battle of Culloden (1964), Gladiatorerna (1969) and La Commune (Paris, 1871) (2000).

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(The Battle of Culloden)

The Battle of Culloden and La Commune (Paris, 1871) are interesting because of the way they were made. Both have historical subjects, and both involved large-scale recreations of the events they documented. The idea was to recreate the battle of Culloden and the Paris Commune in the style of historical re-enactment, and then do a movie about it documentary style.

The only element out of time in each movie is the camera crew, interviewing participants and shooting as events progress. From the way the interviews play out, it really looks like the people participating in the enactment are in fact larping.

Both are also good movies. The Battle of Culloden is one of the most savagely anti-war films I have ever seen, with unrelenting focus on the miseries that followed medieval warfare. La Commune (Paris, 1871) is 345 minutes long, but the duration pays off in its depiction of life in the Commune.

There’s a good documentary about the making of La Commune (Paris, 1871) called The Universal Clock: The Resistance of Peter Watkins.

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(La Commune (Paris, 1871))

The third movie, Gladiatorerna, is a scifi mockumentary set in a fictional future where the great powers of the world have stopped waging war and have instead started organizing games in which teams of combat specialists take on each other.

The way the setup is depicted is very interesting, and there’s a lot of attention being paid to how the whole thing works. We see the game master rooms, how enviromental hazards are activated, and the decisions that go into setting up each game.

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(Gladiatorerna)

The movie would be a solid basis for anything from a milsim to a fullscale larp. Its ideas develop admirably, and its interesting to see its characters both go along with the game, and rebel against it.