Thursday, August 19, 2010

I Was SUCH a Paragon: The Scott Pilgrim Experience

Time to put a bow on Scott Pilgrim week here at Shake Well Before Enjoying. I've been following Scott Pilgrim since shortly after book four came out. Before there was any talk of a movie (at least that I was aware of), before I knew many other people were aware. A few people on a web forum I frequent mentioned it, this weird indie comic about slackers and indie rock and videogames. Sounded like something right up my alley, so I did what any good twenty-something slacker would do, I rushed out to my local comic shop (managed by a very old friend of mine) and picked up the first two volumes.

I was hooked. Honestly, Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little Life didn't grab me, it was Scott Pilgrim vs. the World that really hooked me. I like it because, at it's heart, it's a story I relate to (except the fighting seven evil exes thing), and, well, for the same reason I loved No More Heroes. It was clearly created by someone who loves a whole bunch of the same things I do, and isn't afraid to say so.

I said yesterday that the movie will be a generational touchstone for a certain type of person. It's more than that, the whole... thing, the whole milieu, the whole Scott Pilgrim experience, if you will, will be a touchstone for that kind of person. I just so happen to be one such person. This is a work that touched me in a pretty personal way, not that it's a unique work in that respect, but it really hit home in many ways, and it was funny, which is important.

The thing I find oddest about Scott Pilgrim is, at least talking to (mostly internet) people I know, I find that they're fixated on the videogame references. They are plentiful, make no mistake about that, but this isn't a story about videogames. It's as much about videogames as it is about indie rock and a local music scene. The pop culture references are in no short supply here, and I guess I find it kind of funny that so many people have hooked on to just the game references.

I go to a lot of shows (and used to go to more) in dive venues that are run down and hold maybe 200 people, max. The parts of the story with the shows, and eating at greasy spoons and pizza joints at 2am are parts that rang just as clear with me as "No, I don't remember the cheat code to Sonic 2!" It's just part of the greater cultural pastiche that Bryan Lee O'Malley created with this work.

I kind of feel like I'm rambling right now, so I'll cut this short, but what I'm trying to say is that this is something that belongs to our generation, and if you haven't read/played/seen/heard/felt Scott Pilgrim yet, if you're between the ages of 16 and 30, do yourself a favor and experience it.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

I Never Go Anywhere Without My Stunt Team: Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

Ok, I know I promised this on Saturday and it's Wednesday, but I've honestly had a really hard time putting into words exactly how I feel about this film. In short, I love it. Of course, I'd like to articulate more than that, and that's what I was having problems with.

The movie is all at once about being in your twenties, videogames, being in love, indie rock, fighting for what you believe in and growing up. Yeah, that's a lot of stuff. It's also a slapstick comedy, so that's cool, too. It's really ambitious, and while some fans of the books will gripe that there's missing stuff, that's the reality of adapation. Deal with it. You don't expect the next Batman movie to have every Batman villian, secondary character, and minor story arc ever to be in it, do you? No.

On the flip side, there are some people not familiar with the book who say the movie is too ADD, too wrought with videogame references, too blah, blah, blah. These people are sort of sadly out of touch. This work does not pivot on it's videogame references. I went with at least one person who's not exactly the most videogame savvy out there, and she loved it.

Ultimately, the movie worked for me on every level. As a fan of the original, as an indie rocker, as someone who's had to deal with their significant other's past, as a gamer, and on and on. It is, to me, a charming and hilarious story that has a lot of nice cultural references (much more than gaming). Edgar Wright is in top form as a director, having found a great cast (Kieran Culkin as Wallace was my favorite), he makes this story work.

The box office is a thing that's been coming up. In case you didn't know, the movie came in fifth at the box office it's opening weekend, finishing behind Inception, which has been out for over a month. Really, I'm not sure why anyone cares where it finishes. I don't really care if Universal makes their money back, Bryan Lee O'Malley and Edgar Wright have already been paid, and will do other projects. The only thing I kind of understand is someone said they thought it would make it difficult for other films in this vein to get made again. I can see that, but they'll pop up. They always do.

Which brings me to the legacy I think this movie will leave. I know we're only in the first week of release, but I think I've already got it pegged. This is a lifestyle movie. Pardon the cliche, but it's a generational touchstone. I'm sure there are people in their forties who loved it (in fact, I know at least one), and I'm sure people who are in kindergarten now will discover it in their teens or twenties, but really, this is our movie. Just like Fast Times at Ridgemont High was one of my dad's movies. I also love the movie, but I don't watch it with the same eyes he does. I can't, he lived through that time, I didn't.

It'll find its life on DVD and at midnight showings, like all the weirdness that's come before it. Like the Donnie Darkos and the Surf Nazis Must Dies, it'll be there. It'll be well liked and spoke of with fondness by its fans. And that's more than Eat Pray Love will get, I'm sure of that.

Friday, August 13, 2010

I Kicked Him So Hard He Saw the Curvature of the Earth: Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: The Videogame

Based on my experience with the six Scott Pilgrim graphic novels, I think it's safe to say Bryan Lee O'Malley loves River City Ransom. It may well be his favorite NES game. Many games get referenced or namechecked in Scott Pilgrim; Ninja Gaiden, Clash at Demonhead and Shatterhand, to name a few, but none seem to get as many references. The entire flashback scene involving Scott's high school band, Sonic & Knuckles, his meeting Lisa Miller, his introduction to Kim P., all of that pivots on a big reference to RCR. The fact that when he beats someone they turn into coins references RCR. In fact, even rival band, Crash & the Boys is a reference to another game in the same series as RCR.

This being the case, it makes sense that Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: The Videogame is essentially a big, fat homage not only to the beat-'em-up genre in general, but River City Ransom in specific. There isn't a contiguous world, as in River City, but it does have an overworld map. It also has shops where food, items and new techniques can be purchased. In fact, much like Ransom, there's a hidden shop in a tunnel that features crazy expensive items that superpower your character. In fact, the Grand Slam technique from River City Ransom even shows up at later levels.

However, there's more references than just that. There are really great references to Clash at Demonhead (check out the crowd at Julie's constume party), Zelda II: The Adventure of Link (look for a hidden shop) and myraid others. Not to mention a smattering of movie, TV and music references.

"But Joe," you say, "is it any good?"

Well, funny you should ask. It is good. It's best played multiplayer, of course, and this shows the game's biggest weakness: a lack of online multiplayer. I haven't heard a reason for this, and I'm not sure there is a good one. Castle Crashers had wonky online, but at least it was there.

Overall, though, it's a ten buck game, and I'm not going to kvetch too much about that. I can always round up my roommate for some co-op, if I need help. It's got a levelling system, tons of moves, weapons, and enough little easter eggs (have you found Knives dad yet?) to keep you busy for a while. Overall, it's a very competent game in a rare genre. Plus, it's got plenty of Scott Pilgrim fanservice!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

We are Sex Bob-Omb! We're Here to Make You Think About Death and Get Sad and Stuff: The Scott Pilgrim Movie Soundtrack

It's Scott Pilgrim week on Shake Well Before Enjoying! I'll be talking about the soundtrack, the videogame, the movie and my feelings about the whole Scott Pilgrim phenomenon today through Sunday! Why not a day for the comics? I guess I just feel like they've been covered pretty well. Most everyone who wants to read them has read them, and I'm not sure I have a lot to add to that conversation. It would, of course, be hard to talk about all this stuff without mentioning them, but I'm not setting aside a full post just about the books.

So, today... the soundtrack. The soundtrack came out earlier this week, and I've given it about three spins as of this writing. Some things to get out of the way; if you don't like either a) indie rock, especially of the Canadian variety or b) Beck, you're probably better off taking a pass on this one. There are a couple of old rock 'n' roll standards ("Under My Thumb" by the Rolling Stones and "Teenage Dream" by T-Rex), but mostly this is late '90s to current indie rock and new Beck songs.

That being said, if you like either of those things, or especially if you like both, this is a disc (or a download, I guess, if you're one of those people) that's well worth your money. The new Beck songs are separated as ones by Sex Bob-Omb! (Scott's fictional band) and those that are just performed by Beck himself. I honestly like the Sex Bob-Omb tracks better, but that has a lot to do with the fuzzed out garage rock style that they possess. Beck and Edgar Wright really seemed to hit on what, at least in my mind, Sex Bob-Omb's sound would be. Also, the fact that the actors actually perform those tracks is pretty awesome.

In addition to those, Broken Social Scene teamed with the actor who plays Crash to provide two Crash & the Boys tracks (but no The Boys & Crash tracks). One of which is "I Am So Sad, So Very, Very Sad," which is done pretty much exactly as it was in the comics. The second is "We Hate You, Please Die," which, despite not containing a dedication to Scott's roommate, is still a pretty rockin' tune.

As for songs by "real" bands, Metric contributes a new song, the Plumtree song which is the protagonist's namesake makes an appearance and the inimitable Frank Black (of the Pixies, natch) shows up with "I Heard Ramona Sing." The whole thing plays like a really great garage/indie mixtape. It even throws in a random chiptune version of one of the Sex Bob-Omb songs! There are only a few weak points, and it mostly revolves around the one or two bands I didn't really like before anyways. (Sorry, Beachwood Sparks, you kind of bore me!)

The only other minor gripes I have revolve around things I would have liked to see, being a fan of the comic. I was hoping for "Launchpad McQuack" and "LAST SONG KILLS AUDIENCE," in terms of songs from the fictional bands. As for "real" bands, in one of the books, Bryan Lee O'Malley talks about the music he listens to while drawing/writing, and he states that he always felt the Replacements were Ramona's favorite band. There are no Replacements tracks on this soundtrack, but, hey, that's being nitpicky. Not to mention, I haven't seen the movie yet, and it's very possible that there are songs in the movie that just aren't on the disc.

So, yeah, overall, aside from a few minor gripes, a great soundtrack. I really recommend it.