Rome, Open City (1945)

This marks the first film we’ve watched by legendary Italian director Roberto Rossellini and part of his so-called Neorealist Trilogy, so named because they most use non-professional actors. While it is solid work, I didn’t find it particularly noteworthy because we’ve seen so much like it already. What is remarkable is that this film was made just one year after the real events it depicts about a Rome under German occupation, and hence the difficult conditions and crude production quality were due to the very limited resources available to the filmmakers.

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Under Heaven

This is another novel that I wouldn’t ordinarily have read in the course of my usual explorations. It was a recommendation on Broken Forum and though it has some fantasy, it is seen as closer to being a mainstream novel than a genre one. This one is by Guy Gavriel Kay, a Canadian writer who has made a name from writing alternative history with some fantastical elements. This one in particular is a fictionalized version of the An Shi Rebellion during the Tang Dynasty and it really surprised me how much I liked it.

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Murder on the Orient Express (1974)

The release of a new adaptation of this famous story a couple of years ago reminded me that I had yet to view any version of it. Yet after some research the best version seems to be this one directed by Sidney Lumet who have come to be one of my favorite directors of the era. Naturally it also features a star-studded cast for its many characters, led by Sean Connery and including Ingrid Bergman is a small supporting role.

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An American Pickle (2020)

I am not generally a big fan of Seth Rogen’s brand of humor but this title in particular was noted by a number of critics and the premise sounded. I suspected almost immediately that this was a mistake once I heard the faux accent Rogen adopts as an Eastern European of the early 20th century. It’s a sign that the film isn’t just not taking the subject matter seriously, it’s actively trying to mock and belittle everything. Sure enough this film turned out to be pretty much trash.

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Late Spring (1949)

This film was the first of the director’s collaborations with actress Setsuko Hara and forms part of his so-called Noriko Trilogy. In all three films of the trilogy, Nara plays an unmarried woman named Noriko though they are all of course different characters. I feel that this is actually the most sophisticated and avant-garde of the director’s films that I have seen so far as the themes here go beyond the traditional ones of wholesome family values to venture into darker territory.

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Pathfinder: Kingmaker

This game sucked up way too much of my life recently, taking far more time to complete than I expected and completely messing up my schedule. This is of course the famous videogame adaptation of the Pathfinder rules, itself descended from the old Dungeons & Dragons rules. Like everyone else in my generation, one of my fondest gaming memories were about playing the Baldur’s Gate series so of course I wanted more of that gaming magic made to modern standards. Even better, it now officially supports turn-based combat so I can take my time micro-managing every action for maximum optimization.

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The Invisible Man (2020)

Here is Elizabeth Moss again in another film which can be characterized as being about the kind of shit women have to put up with. In keeping with the source material by H.G. Wells. all good treatments of the story have focused on the inherently horrifying aspect of the premise. What this adaptation brings is that it is from the perspective of the victim and is perhaps the most extreme form of gaslighting anyone has ever imagined. Unfortunately the plot tries to be just a little too clever and the film could probably benefit from being shorter.

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The unexamined life is a life not worth living