Questions For The Movie Answer Man [Roger Ebert, 1997]

Questions For The Movie Answer Man [Roger Ebert]

Questions For The Movie Answer Man
Author: Roger Ebert
Original Release: June 1997

In my latest trip to the library, I decided to peruse the movie book section. Naturally, being in Chicago, there were a large number of books by Roger Ebert sitting on the shelf. I decided to pick up a couple of them since I have been gaining a larger appreciation for his work as of late. One of these books, Questions For The Movie Answer Man, is a compilation of his newspaper columns in which he would answer questions about movies submitted by his readers.

Since this book was published in 1997, it is obviously rather dated. Ebert frequently brings up CompuServe, VHS tapes, LaserDiscs and other technological mediums that are indicative of the time period. A good portion of the book’s content is based on popular movies during that time as well — there are multiple Q&As about Forrest Gump, Independence Day and Pulp Fiction, just to name a few examples. Some of these references are laughable today, as are many of the questions that readers have sent in. It’s hard to find any utility in this book in this day and age since we now have the ability to use IMDB and Wikipedia to obtain movie information, and even Snopes to learn about urban legends (i.e. the infamous munchkin hanging from Wizard of Oz).

I have no doubts that in 1997 this book would have been a fun, quick read. However, not even Ebert’s quick wit can make this dated publication worth reading today. While I got a chuckle out of a handful of his occasional snarky replies, I can’t help but feel I should have just watched a movie instead of taking the time to read this. Do yourself a favor and go to the cinema instead — I’m sure even Ebert would approve of this behavior.

5/10

1001 Video Games You Must Play Before You Die [2010]

1001 Video Games You Must Play Before You Die

1001 Video Games You Must Play Before You Die
Author: Tony Mott, et al.
Original Release: October 26, 2010

Generally speaking, I am a fan of the “1001 (x) you must do before you die” book series. While none of them can hardly be described as the definitive source on their subjects, they are typically well-written and diverse enough to be good coffee table books. The series’ latest addition, 1001 Video Games You Must Play Before You Die, was awfully intriguing to me. Unfortunately, it has a number of issues that make it the weakest edition I have read yet.

First and foremost, the book caters heavily toward recent games. While there is a surprisingly healthy portion dedicated to early 80’s arcade games, at least half of the book focuses on games from 2000 to present. This is a little ridiculous considering how many great 8 and 16-bit games were omitted from the list. Several lesser-known systems such as the Turbografx-16 were woefully overlooked as well.

Now, onto bitching about games missing and/or included. There are some absolutely painful omissions. Suikoden III is included, but not I or II? Neither of the NES Contra games are listed, or any of the NES Castlevanias for that matter. No Crash Bandicoot games at all? Does every single Grand Theft Auto game (including separate entries for the GTA IV expansions) need to be included? Are four Rock Band and five Guitar Hero games really necessary? There are also far too many subpar 360/PS3 games included, such as Just Cause, Prey, and The Darkness, just to name a few. These could have been fleshed out with actual, genuinely good classics from previous eras.

I feel the overall book could have been edited a bit more. There are a handful of odd little inaccuracies listed, and some of the writeups really don’t say much about the games themselves. Also, I can’t help but mention that Ico is name-checked in the foreword written by Peter Molyneux as one of his favorite games, yet it is not listed in the top 1001. Huh?

Truth be told, although the book has its share of faults, it is still a fairly interesting read and can provoke some interesting discussions amongst gamers, which is exactly what a coffee table book of this sort should do. It’s not a *bad* book by any means, but it’s just disappointing as a whole. If you are a video game fan, give it a look but don’t go into it with high expectations.

6/10

For those curious, someone did post the complete list found in the book @ http://pastebin.com/r7zqbbvu It should be noted, however, that the book lists the games via year rather than ABC order.

Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas [1971]

Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas
Author: Hunter S. Thompson
Original Release: November 1971

“We were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert when the drugs began to take hold.”

This is quite possibly my favorite opening sentence from a novel, and it sets the tone for the drug-addled adventure that is Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas. The story is an exaggerated account of Hunter S. Thompson’s pursuit of the American Dream in Las Vegas. Accompanied by “Dr. Gonzo,” his faithful attorney, Thompson (as Raoul Duke) is initially sent out to Vegas to report on the off road race known as the Mint 400. However, this work is quickly scrapped in favor of just getting blitzed and then becoming involved in random bizarre adventures.

Fear and Loathing is absolutely hilarious, and is certainly one of the funniest books I have ever read. Duke and his attorney find themselves in some very precarious situations. On their ride into Vegas in the “Great Red Shark” (their rented red Chevy convertible), they pick up a hitchhiker who quickly becomes scared shitless by their drug-induced craze. In Vegas, Dr. Gonzo brings a Jesus and Barbara Streisand loving innocent young girl back to their hotel room, where he proceeds to give her acid (when she had never even gotten high before). There is also an extremely amusing encounter with a hotel maid who stumbles into their room when both Duke and his attorney are stark naked. The dialogue is just incredible here, and Thompson’s unique way of writing makes everything even more entertaining.

As mentioned earlier, there is a lot of drug use in this book. The characters are frequently in a state of paranoia because of this, and often see some ridiculous hallucinations (which are brought to life by Ralph Steadman’s amazing illustrations). Just read their drug haul that they brought with them to Vegas:

“We had two bags of grass, seventy-five pellets of mescaline, five sheets of high powered blotter acid, a salt shaker half full of cocaine, and a whole galaxy of multi-colored uppers, downers, screamers, laughers… and also a quart of tequila, a quart of rum, a case of Budweiser, a pint of raw ether and two dozen amyls.

Not that we needed all that for the trip, but once you get locked into a serious drug collection, the tendency is to push it as far as you can.”

If you think that sounds insane, well, you are absolutely right! Some people are turned off from this book because of the drug binges, but if you do so you are missing out on a wildly entertaining and witty novel that also indulges in biting satire. I have lent my copy of this book out to many friends and family members, all of whom have also loved this. Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas is one of my favorite books of all time, a rare novel that I can read over and over again without losing interest. If you are able, pick up the Modern Library version of the book, which also comes with two of Thompson’s short stories. I cannot recommend this book enough!

10/10