She’s looking through the wrong end
She’s looking through the wrong end
She’s looking through the wrong end of the telescope
Turn it around, turn it around
Lucius (Holly Laessig / Jessica Wolfe)
Interstellar cluster fuck in Eclipse
The annual boardgaming retreat is 48 hours with fellow gamers at an off-season rural hotel. This one was my ninth, at a golf and country club near Trosa. I played ten sessions of nine different games. Only the tiny filler Tides of Time was entirely new to me, and all were very enjoyable!
To give you an idea of how popular each game is, I’ve included its current BGG rank in the list below. For instance, Eclipse’s 40 means that right now there are only 39 boardgames that the largely US-based users of Boardgamegeek.com rate more highly. And they have rated tens of thousands of games!
- Above and Below (2015). Ranked 206. Resource management and action point allowance with beautiful art and a story book that the players read bits out of to each other. One of the event’s most-played games this year.
- Eclipse (2011). Ranked 40. A Finnish design: interstellar colonisation and war with a nifty resource management engine.
- Glory to Rome (2005). Ranked 175. Intricate card-based logistics game by Carl Chudyk who later released the excellent Innovation. Good fun, not too long!
- The Quacks of Quedlinburg (2018). Ranked 125. You’re herbalists cooking potions. Like a deck-building game but you draw little tiles from a bag instead. A push-your-luck mechanic keeps you worrying that your cauldron’s contents will explode!
- Scythe (2016). Ranked 10. Intricate cube pusher / worker placement / mini war game in the dieselpunk world of amazing Polish military fantasy painter Jakub Rozalski. Not enough interaction for my taste.
- A Study In Emerald, 2nd ed. (2015). Ranked 1172. Lovecraftian horror meets spy fiction and detective fiction in Victorian Europe in another hit game by the revered Martin Wallace, based on a 2003 story by Neil Gaiman. Combines deck building with various other mechanics in a nice salad. (The 1st edition from 2013 is ranked 710.)
- That’s Pretty Clever (2018). Ranked 154. Like Yahtzee only fun and intricate.
- Tides of Time (2015). Ranked 992. Neat short two-player card game where you play a card, then swap hands with each other, and repeat this until you run out of cards.
- Yellow & Yangtze (2018). Ranked 1206. This is a modified, streamlined and re-skinned version of Reiner Knizia’s classic 1997 Tigris & Euphrates, which is one of my personal favourite games. At rank 74, T&E is the second-most popular 1990s design on BGG. The main difference between the versions is that Y&Y has a hex grid instead of a square grid. Both versions are excellent games but you only need one of them.
I’ve blogged before about the retreats in 2010, 2011, 2012, 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2018.
Give Me Liberty
Being contracted to do translation work during November and December I’m free to set my own work schedule, and so I have set a new record for myself in the number of films I saw at the Stockholm Film Festival this year: twelve feature films and one shorts package. All are from 2019 and had their Swedish premières at the festival. None was bad or boring, and three get my special recommendation:
- Bull. Black rodeo, Oxycontin, rural Southern poverty, teenage anger, absent parents, a tentative replacement dad.
- Give Me Liberty. Young Russian American man drives for a disabled people’s bus service but keeps getting sidetracked by various other needy people. Noisy confusing warm-hearted multicultural story.
- Perdrix / The Bare Necessity. Absurdist rom com with militant nudists, bored policemen, maghrebois WW2 reenactors in the Vosges and a family that is just itching to get disrupted.
And nine features plus the shorts programme were all well worth watching:
- Alice et Le Maire / Alice and the Mayor. Bright young Lit PhD becomes staffer and adviser to troubled Social Democrat mayor of Lyon.
- The Art of Self-Defence. After getting violently mugged, a wimpy guy joins a cult-like karate dojo. Movie has severe tonal issues: not a very funny parody, not a scary horror story, not realistic enough by far to grip you. Lead actor good though.
- Bait. Old-school but not old Cornish fisherman watches the touristification of his village with disgust. Interesting lo-fi b/w cinematography and secondarily applied studio sound.
- Colour Out Of Space. A competent big-budget movie version of the story H.P. Lovecraft considered his best. A meteorite hits a farm, plants and animals mutate, everybody goes nuts, the area is eventually reduced to prismatic ashes.
- Esto no es Berlín / This Is Not Berlin. Teenage boys discover drugs, bisexuality and avant-garde art in 1986 Mexico City. Another nostalgic look back at somebody’s coming of age.
- La femme de mon frère / A Brother’s Love (2019). Neurotic political philosopher finishes her PhD and ends up jobless and sleeping on her brother’s couch in Quebec. He gets involved with the doctor who gives her an abortion and she starts falling apart.
- La Gomera / Whistlers. Romanian-Spanish police thriller about missing drug money. Incomprehensible motivations, gratuitous pornography, gratuitous lessons in the Canary Islanders’ whistling language on location, an oldish charmless male lead.
- Le Miracle du Saint Inconnu / The Unknown Saint. Moroccan robber comes out of jail only to find that a shrine has been built on the rural spot where he buried the loot. Beautiful imagery, quietly funny, pretty slow.
- Tu mérites un amour/ You Deserve A Lover. Young attractive Parisian has complicated love life. No plot. Lots of close-ups of kissing.
I also saw five movies at the 2019 Monsters of Film festival a few weeks ago, and here’s my capsule reviews from the 2018 Stockholm Film Festival.
Fatma Mohamed is marvellous as the eerie fashion shop clerk of In Fabric.
Monsters of Film is an annual genre film festival in Stockholm that started in 2012. I went in 2015, and then managed to come back this year when I’ve found myself with a lot of time on my hands. I saw five feature films and a shorts compilation in less than a week. Unexpectedly, one of the movies went straight into the select list of my all-time favourites!
- In Fabric (2018). About a cursed dress, a depraved fashion store and their victims. Grade: Fucking Amazing! It’s scary, funny, sensual, sexy, surreal and yet relatable. I’m going to seek out more of Peter Strickland’s films!
Three of the feature films and the shorts block were also very good:
- Code 8 (2019). Mutant superheroes are 2nd class citizens in a city with blanket surveillance and militarized policing. Grade: Great! This is the BIG scifi movie of 2019/20!
- Extra Ordinary (2019). Driving school instructor and also exorcist in a small Irish town clashes with aging pop star and also black magician in this horror comedy. Grade: Good!
- Achoura (2018). Morocco’s first big-budget horror film. Four childhood friends reconvene to fight dimly remembered supernatural horror. Good acting, cinematography, found sets, fx; confusing and overpopulated first act, not clear who the main characters are. Grade: Good!
And finally one that is better than expected given the era and genre in which it was made:
- Night of the Demon (1957). American psychologist comes to England for a conference and to help investigate a Satanic cult. His scientific skepticism soon frays. This film is based on a so-so M.R. James story and is referenced in the Rocky Horror Picture Show’s opening song. Grade: OK, would have enjoyed it more without the ridiculously bombastic score.