Thursday, March 15, 2012

Reflecting Back on the Nintendo Wii

It was Christmas 2006 when I unwrapped my Nintendo Wii. The tag on the paper informed me that "Santa" was the one who purchased me this gift. Although I was in my 20s, this still seemed more believable to me than my mother actually finding one during the holiday rush.

I had read all the launch reviews, I had studied all the media reactions to the console, and I knew that it was near impossible to get one by Christmas. I didn't expect to be able to get my hands on a Wii until the following spring, which only hyped the system that much more for me.

My only real experience with motion controlled gaming came from light gun based games, or arcade machines that used plastic motorcycles as a controller. Honestly, I wasn't completely sure what to expect from the Wii motion controls at first. I had seen the commercials of kids diving behind their couches to duck from enemy fire...did I have enough space in my bedroom to play the Wii?

My adventure on the Wii began with Legend of Zelda: The Twilight Princess. It was without a doubt the launch title that received the most praise, and after a few hours of playing, I completely understood why. I was in the zone when I played Twilight Princess. I was on my feet the entire time I played, slashing at enemies in an overzealous manner. I was a master of the bow and arrow, holding my arms out as if I were firing the real thing.

While I wasn't as involved in the motion controls as the gamers in television ads, I was still letting my imagination run wild. I enjoyed the Nintendo Wii experience immensely; it certainly lived up to the hype for me in every way during our initial romance.

Little did I know that somewhere along the way that romance would sour. At some point in the future the love I had for the Nintendo Wii would fade, and my love for other game consoles would resurface.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Act of Valor : Propaganda on the Big Screen

"To drive its themes home, the film closes by flashing the names of dead soldiers on the screen. We're made to believe they all died in service; they all died believing in the patriotic rhetoric. Their individual voice is taken away from them forever, and they have all become a tool to help glorify death in the military."

There is a world where villains have scarred faces and are motivated by pure evil. With only a desire to cause chaos, they disguise themselves as ice cream truck drivers and heartlessly murder a schoolyard full of children. These are the terrorists of the world, or at least the terrorists featured in the film Act of Valor. While I am confident that these types of people don't prominently exist in reality, this is undoubtedly how war advocates would like us to see America's "enemies". In short, Act of Valor is nothing more than patriotic propaganda with a huge budget, and to treat it like anything else would be totally disingenuous. 

With a cast that features real active duty Navy SEALs, this fact should have been a dead giveaway. Yet, it seems so weird to see this kind of nonsense coming from Hollywood as opposed to the talking heads in Washington, that it completely took me by surprise. Without taking a moment to pause and analyze the complexities of war, this film simply regurgitates all the talking points used by those who benefit from the military-industrial complex: the terrorists just hate freedom, and they desire only to see Americans suffer. If not for the United States military we would likely all be dead, or at least be living in service to Allah. We owe our brave men and women thanks for all their sacrifice, etc., etc. It's almost as if the movie was written by the public relations wing at the pentagon. Check your brain at the door if you're going to watch this one -- thinking for yourself will absolutely not be tolerated.

The Huffington Post reported that the active duty Navy SEALs in the cast were required by the military to participate in the film, meaning military brass actually had a direct hand in its creation. If anything ever fit the definition of propaganda completely, it's Act of Valor. This is the kind of propaganda not seen from American cinema since World War II, where many Hollywood films existed only to help sell war bonds. 

Act of Valor's primary purpose is, undoubtedly, to raise the popularity rating for a war that Americans seem tired of and recruit new soldiers if possible. The movie's plot feels more like a political platform than a genuine narrative. Somehow the film actually has the nerve to mold not only the war on drugs and terrorism together, but it throws in the war on immigration just for good measure.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Behind the Scenes of "Kid Julius"


I ran across these photos from an outdoor shoot we did for "Kid Julius".

None of this would be possible without Kevin Hershner. Follow that guy on Twitter (@KevinRVA).