Pixel du Jour

An ongoing expriment in entertainment.
Games. Movies. Music. TV. Fun.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

The Top Two of 2004

It’s December, and that means it’s time for everybody’s top ten list of the year. If you’ll look above, you’ll see that Pixel du Jour is about five different topics. That’s a whole lot of top ten lists to cover. As such, I’ve decided to do a top two list for each of my five topics. What results will be my personal top 10 of 2004.

Games

1. Online games have been around for a long time, but every year they become bigger and bigger. They’re so big that this year my top two games are both heavily focused in their online aspects. World of WarCraft, in particular, has devoured my soul. I’m usually the first to criticize the MMORPG genre for requiring little to no skill to play, but I cannot help but trounce around Azeroth for hours at a time, alone or with friends. I don’t even fully understand the game’s appeal. All I know is that I feel an undying desire to make it to the next level and improve my characters.

2. The other big online title of the year is Halo 2. While the game’s single player campaign may have disappointed many a gamer, the multiplayer aspect delivers in spades. Halo 2 sports unrivaled Xbox Live support. Getting together with your pals and playing a few games of Capture the Flag without having to constantly hunt for a server with enough open spots and a decent ping is a blessing from above. Plus, the game’s system link options make for an excellent time hanging out with the fellas on a Friday night.

Movies

1. Garden State hits me right where I need it. While I’m nowhere near as disillusioned as Zach Braff’s character, I can still connect with him and really feel for him. The story may stick close to the “20 something” indie movie formula, but I love it just the same. Natalie Portman does a very good job in her role, and Peter Sarsgaard has impressed me every time I’ve seen him. He can play a very diverse list of roles, but manages to make them all his own. On top of all that, I’ve always had a soft spot for New Jersey.

2. I’ve honestly never seen a movie as funny and poignant as Sideways. The story takes a groom-to-be and his depressed buddy through the beautiful countryside of the California wine country. While there, they have a lot of fun and manage to learn a good deal about themselves. I felt so bad for Miles (Paul Giamatti) for almost the entire movie, and identify with him completely. Jack (Thomas Haden Church) manages to be a very likeable womanizer. The two are so mismatched in personality but they get along so well. Tying this all up is an open ending that I prefer to interpret as a happy one. This movie also wins for most hilarious golf fight ever (sorry Happy Gilmore).

Music

1. Anybody who knows me won’t find it very surprising that my album of the year is Green Day’s American Idiot. These three punk rockers (and their two backup band-mates) have returned to smack the shit out of me. I liked Warning:, but this album flat out blows my mind. The first and last tracks do an excellent job of book-ending the fantastic rock opera that lies between him. The rest of the album is rife with emotion. Though the story may be slightly generic, the music is intense. It flows from lightning fast punk rock to somber acoustic without any trouble. If you haven’t heard it, do yourself a favor and give it a listen.

2. 2004 has been my year for indie-rock. I never paid almost any attention to this genre in the past, and I was surprised at how much I love it. My number two album of the year is Franz Ferdinand’s self titled debut. It’s an excellent collection of dance-happy rock with a wide variety of emotions strung though it. This Fire burns with intensity while The Dark of the Matinee and Darts of Pleasure are downright seductive. The New Scottish Gentry have proven themselves right out of the gate and I’m looking forward to more from them.

TV

1. What happened to ABC? The formerly mostly family friendly network has burst through this year with Desperate Housewives and my number one pick for television of 2004, LOST. I’m a sucker for highly serialized action-drama, and LOST is one of the best I’ve ever seen. The “plane-crash on mystery island” concept is fantastic and the story is unfolding slowly with just enough in the “big reveal” department at the end of every episode to keep me addicted. The number and variety of the characters is excellent, and the manner in which each is examined is astounding.

2. Thank the heavens that Fox decided to give Arrested Development a second season. I used to think nothing could top HBO’s Curb Your Enthusiasm, but Jason Bateman and company are hilariously dysfunctional. The inclusion of more Jeffery Tambor in the second season is very welcomed by yours truly, and the rest of the cast members play their parts wonderfully. The running jokes and sight gags are continually witty. Plus, who doesn’t love David Cross?

Fun

1. Fun is a pretty abstract category. Personally, the most fun I had this year was partying with the gang. Everyone enjoys a good party. What could possibly be better than the classic trio of wine, women, and song? College has slowly been bringing out the party “animal” in me. This year’s end of the semester / double birthday party was a total blast and better than any party I’ve ever been too before. The spring semester is only two weeks away and I’m already anticipating our “Welcome Back Kegger.” (Bonus points to those of you who catch the classic sit-com reference.)

2. Cooking takes the number two spot on my list of fun for the year. I always say I’m going to cook more, and this year I actually did (even if it wasn’t much more at all). Next year I plan on cooking even more, and I’ve been gorging myself on the Food Network while at home, learning as much as I possibly can before I’m back at school. Watch out kitchen, here I come.

2004 was a great year. I’ve had a grand old time throughout the year. While it may have had it’s down points, overall I couldn’t be much happier with this year. 2005 has a lot to live up to, but I honestly think it can pull it off. Here’s to 2004, you’ve been a blast!

Friday, December 17, 2004

Computer Generated Insanity

The holiday break is giving me lots of time off to catch up with relaxation. At home I have access to a very nice home theatre setup, including a 52" widescreen HDTV and an excellent 5.1 surround sound system. I've taken serious advantage of it, with both games and movies. I brought a good selection of DVDs home, simply to enjoy them in surround sound. Halo 2 has been fantastic on Xbox live, and again the surround sound rocks. It helps me place shots because Bungie was nice enough to remove the damage direction indicator for the sequel.

Today I was watching Terminator 2: Judgment Day. I came to the realization that all this complex CGI that movies use will never be able to surpass model work. CGI is a very useful tool, and works very well in certain situations. T2 is a very good example. The movie only has eleven minutes of CGI, pretty much all of which are T-1000 transformations. Every other effect seen in that movie is a model of some sort, and they are amazing.

A day or two ago I watched The Empire Strikes Back. First off, let me say that the Dolby Digital EX mix on this movie blew my head clean off my shoulders. The Battle of Hoth in particular was amazing. Another amazing aspect of Empire is Yoda. He looks so much more real in his puppet form here than he ever will in the prequels. This is some pretty stale rhetoric, but George Lucas doesn't use CGI as a tool. He uses it at a crutch. Everything has to be digital with this man now, and his movies look so plastic. There are plenty of directors that can use CGI right. I'm talking about guys like Peter Jackson and James Cameron. Directors like these use CGI when it's needed to enhance their story telling. You can't do the T-1000 without CGI. You can't do an army of millions without CGI. Lucas is only using it to cover up his now crummy writing abilities.

So I say, "fuck you," to CGI. I don't want to see any more of your needless face. Model and makeup work will always be better because they are real. I'm going to go watch Back to the Future Part II now.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Spike TV Video Game Awards

Where do I even begin? You know what, I'm not even going too.

Try this instead

Or this.

EA Lays the Smack Down, Midway Returns Fire

Planet GameCube News Article: EA Buys Five Years of Exclusive NFL Rights

EA dropped a major bombshell today. For the next five year at least, EA will be the only company publishing football games with an NFL and NFLPA license. What this means is that you won't see any football games featuring NFL teams, players, or stadium unless they're from EA. This is a pretty amazing deal and I'll bet it cost EA an absolute ton of money (which they should have left over from not paying their employees).

What could possibly be seen by some as even bigger news is that Midway is striking out aganist EA and making a new Blitz game without the NFL and NFLPA licenses. Instead, they have hired the writer of the NFL-hated prime-time sports drama Playmakers. Midway's new Blitz game will have a Playmakers storyline and will feature every aspect explored in the TV show, including drug use and immoral/illegal off-field behavior. This is awesome! Now in between football games I can jack my players up on tons of steroids and have them commit all sorts of crimes.

How about this for an idea. Design the game GTA style, and let me run around as a football player killing people between games. However, I'll have to watch myself because if I catch the eye of the league I could get suspended from play and not earn any money, or possibly end up in jail. Also, I better remember not to miss those games or I could get fired.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

WORK WORK WORK DON'T STOP!

It's that time of the year again. The proverbial "motherload" is hitting as I click these keys. I'm not talking just about school, though I am swamped with finals right now. The real load is being dropped by our good friends in the videogame industry.

In the past month and a half I have had at least 6 videogame cross my desk for review. This is obscene. These companies need to start releasing games all year long instead of during a two month rush. If it weren't for the fact that most of them are freebies I would not be playing most of these games.

On top of all that there was a very happy birthday party held for both myself and my roommate Dan. Good times.

This coming break will be nice. I'll finally be able to relax, reconnect with my hometown friends, and play some games I don't have to play for a change.