Entry number 10– this mean’s I’ve officially been writing these logs for 10 weeks. I’ve been really happy with the experience of committing to writing one every week. It’s fairly centering; there are plenty of thoughts that come and go throughout the week, and funnelling the dominant ones here helps to give them some importance and permanence.
This week I finished most of what I was working through. Finally done with Half-Life 2, but I actually really enjoyed some of the later levels. I still think in general it was a little overlong, and BOY did the “story” leave me totally cold. But there were some very engaging gameplay puzzles and difficulty spikes that were quite fun. I also think the world and level design were much more interesting at the end– the driving levels at the beginning are the exact antithesis of what the game delivered at the end.
Also finished The Story Of A New Name this week. Phenomenal. Feels so intimate and large at the same time. I immediately picked up the final two books.
As for the new, I started on Dark Souls 3 finally. I’m already incredibly frustrated and totally obsessed. There’s not much to say about Dark Souls that hasn’t been said before, but suffice it to say I’m glad to have this game to dive into.
I’m picking through Akira Kurosawa’s Autobiography at the moment (Something Like An Autobiography). He’s deliberately not devoting a lot of time to his most visible period, and stopping before he directs Rashomon. I’m not sure whether I’ll find this portrait of young Kurosawa boring or not, but so far it’s actually been filled with really interesting and emotional moments.
I’ve watched two things this week that have made a huge impression on me. First is the end of season three of Halt And Catch Fire. They pull a pretty surprising shift in time with the last two episodes, and I’m amazed at how much it affects the characters. I’ve seen these characters grow and get hurt so much over the series, and it really became obvious how well it’s been done with this season. I even dreamed about the show this week, one of those hazy confused dreams that only includes people; setting and events blurs and only emotions stick around. I’m going to be sad when I finish the show.
And the other was Bo Burnham’s new special: Inside. This is a truly monumental work of art. I was texting people to recommend it before I was even 20 minutes in, and I quickly regretted doing so. Not because I no longer endorsed it, but because it dug in very deep to a very painful personal experience of the pandemic. In the midst of the comedy in the special, we watched somebody’s mental health get worse as it went on. I feel very far from the emotions that are the center of the special; I had a very bad start to the pandemic, but quickly got better. But maybe that distance was what made returning to it so painful. It dredged up a lot for me. I wanted to recommend it all the more, but warn people of what they’re getting into.
I’ve seen a lot of people praise it for its production quality, for the visual caliber of something made by exactly one person, but to be honest, I think the people who focus on those pieces are missing the forest for the trees. It’s really well produced, but I think it could’ve looked like shit and been just as powerful.
It constantly has me returning to the essay film– something I studied a lot in school. I have a lot to say about this, so I will purposefully not say much at all and work to develop this into something more realized. But, in effect, an essay film is a non-fiction film that does not attempt documentary or objectivity of any kind. They consist of a very personal self, put to film in some sort of public context, constantly interrogating themselves and their content, and are usually just the product of one person, or a small team. Chris Marker, Agnes Varda, and Chantal Akerman are all landmark filmmakers of the form.
It’s one of the only forms of film today that you can consider to be a true expression of personal experience. Almost everything else involves industry and communal work towards a product, which is of course no bad thing. But Inside is very purely Bo Burnham, and I think it scratches something very interesting and fantastic.