My Top Five "Heaviest" Movies

Last week we were having a conversation at work about the "heaviest" movies we have seen. These are the sort of movies that I felt were emotionally draining. Perhaps they were movies that were fantastic or perhaps they were mediocre, but you just don't ever want to see them again because they leave you emotionally exhausted. You walk out of a matinee on a sunny afternoon and you can't help but feeling depressed. Warning, there may be spoilers here. 

1. District 9

District 9 is the movie I immediately think of whenever we talk about a movie like this. I was left just completely exhausted and depressed at the end of this movie. It's whole critique on apartheid really hits home with the portrayal of the aliens and the shear brutality upon the refugees and the camp really hit home for me. I had never seen a movie portray the sadness and hopelessness quite like District 9. 

2. We Were Soldiers

It is probably impossible to create a list like this and not include a Vietnam movie in here. There are several excellent and striking Vietnam movies out there, and I wouldn't classify this as the "best" Vietnam movie, but this is the one that stuck with me the most. The cinematography work on the ground really showcased the mayhem that was all around the U.S. soldiers and their landing zone. Watching Mel Gibson's character breaking down and crying at the end was the pivotal, emotional upheaval that put this movie over the top. As a viewer you really get a sense of the weight that his character bears with all of the soldiers who served and died under him. 

3. American Beauty

I chose American Beauty because of the solemnness it leaves you with at the end. This film doesn't quite have the sadness, that some of the others due, despite the tragic ending. Instead it almost felt like a "release" of sorts. Almost as if our main character finally got out of the mundane world. 

4. The Green Mile

If there is going to be a straight up tear jerker in this list, it has to be "The Green Mile". Michael Clarke Duncan puts on an amazing performance playing a death row inmate who I think personifies a sort of messiah type character. The relationships that are developed between his character and all of the guards during the film really turn the final execution scene into a very personal and heart wrenching final moments. 

5. Hotel Rwanda

A movie you have to watch once but don't ever want to watch again. What makes this movie so impactful is knowing that it all actually happened. The defining scene that is etched into my mind is when Don Cheadle's character has to drive down a road strewn with dead bodies. He is forced to drive over those bodies and the movie shows the physical and emotional impact of each bump in the truck as he has to drive over those bodies. 

A Night Out at the Symphony

This past Saturday Megan and I had the opportunity to go out and see the Chicago Symphony Orchestra at Symphony Hall downtown. I never had the opportunity to go see the CSO before. They performed Brahms' Piano Concerto No. 2 and Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 1. Both were quite fantastic. There really is something special about seeing a performance like that live. And more, the Symphony Hall is such an intimate performance center. Our seats had us dead center on the main floor and we couldn't have been more than forty feet away from the Orchestra. 

It was also a wonderful opportunity to get dressed up, which many people don't do too often anymore. Megan received two compliments on her dress within minutes of sitting down for dinner. Speaking of dinner, we ate at Tesori which is located in the symphony building. A nice restaurant that isn't too fancy or expensive. Excellent drinks too. 

We had a fantastic time at the symphony and in short we need to make it a regular thing. It was way too fun. 

SimCity BuildIt is evil, deceptive and surprisingly fun

I don't normally play games on my iPad or iPhone beyond something simple to pass the time while waiting in line. I have always preferred to play games on dedicated gaming devices. Over the Christmas holiday though I downloaded SimCity BuildIt for my iPad. I also made the mistake of introducing my wife to this game. 

SimCity was one of those games that always stuck with me when I was a kid. SimCity 2000 in particular was this perfect mix of resource management and expenditure. The new game, Buildit, which is available on the iPad, takes a lot of its ques from last year's maligned SimCity for the PC. Where that game seemed to fail with gamers the model seems to hit really well on the iPad. Perhaps it is because of the F2P model or the sort of stripped back interface, but this game (which is free) pretty much hits the nail on the head IMO. It nails all of the resource management of the previous games and has the model fit surprisingly well for the sort of "Farmville" model of resource distribution. 

In the original Simcity games your resource restrictions were largely constrained by your tax income. Here that resource constraint is spread out among different building materials. Yes, these have a time factor put onto them, but when you look back at the older games, they really aren't that different from the original concept. Back on those old PC games you were sitting, waiting, gnawing at your fingers waiting for that next chunk of money to come in. The satisfaction and anticipation is all there in this game and I am surprised to say that EA has handled the P2P aspect rather well. I haven't felt the need to buy anything to further my city, which in some ways is too bad. I personally have no qualms about putting in a few dollars to support games I like, but I wish I could put in some money into something besides getting in game cash to speed up builds. Something like a unique tile set of high end buildings would be totally reasonable for me. 

One thing that has really surprised me though is the level of detail going on. Most recently I had to build a hospital for my city and I had several abandoned buildings because of it. After I built the hospital, small ambulances drove out from that hospital and then went to my abandoned buildings. Upon returning to the hospital those buildings began to fill up with people again and my population rose. That was a surprising detail that I thought was really well crafted. I had another similar instance once when I had a building that didn't have garbage service, so you could see bags of garbage being thrown out of the windows into a pile on the side of the building with seagulls circling overhead. 

A surprisingly well crafted game for what it is. 

2015....Keeping it simple

People seem to keep asking me what my goals are for 2015. I guess I don't really have any specific goals laid out for this coming year, but after thinking about it for a while I think i do have a couple of objectives I want to achieve. 

  • Write more
  • Make more music

That's it. Two hobbies I enjoy that I didn't do enough of last year. 

Bringing back the Korg EA-1

This past year was not a super successful one with respect to writing music. I spent a good part of this past year trying to rebuild my hardware setup and thinking about what I wanted to do with my music. I swapped out my Yamaha AN200 for a Waldorf Blofeld and have been pretty happy with that decision. For most of the year I had been writing with only three pieces of kit. 

My Korg EA-1 has been in my line up for as long as I can remember but at the beginning of 2014 I couldn't quite find the sound I wanted out of it. I spent months doing research and trying out other synth boxes to see what could fill that void. I looked at the Dave Smith Evolver and Mopho. I looked at the new Korg Electribes and even the Waldorf Pulse II. In the end though I ended up putting the EA-1 back into my lineup. The EA-1 isn't exactly a powerhouse synth. The engine is simple and fairly sterile sounding and the box only has a lowpass filter on it, but it has always done a pretty good job at basslines and some arp'd leads. The easy and intuitive interface though is really what keeps it around. It is clean and simple with no menus to dive through. All of the parameters can be easily accessed on the front panel and I couldn't find another box that allowed for the timbrality so easily. 

So back it went into the lineup and I decided to pickup a Tech 21 Flyrig 5 guitar pedal to supplement its sound. The combo has worked out surprisingly well and the Flyrig 5 gives the EA-1 that little bit of grit and character that it sometimes needs. The Flyrig also has a buttery smooth sounding delay on it, which I think when partnered with the EA-1's own internal delay can result in some really facintating effects down the road. The EA-1 ended up having a nice place in my most recent song, Lowered Fog and I feel it is going to continue to sit in my line up for years to come.  

I have felt energized the past couple of months and in part that has been to a Facebook Group called the Groovebox Society. So here's hoping to a much more productive music year.