As he has since ancient days, this morning, Tsulvoth, The Mighty God of Hollywood, opened his gargantuan throat and vomited the list of nominees for the 2011 Academy Awards. (All hail Tsulvoth!) As usual, this year’s nominees are mostly flicks that are pretty good and made money, spiced up with a few movies that are very good and didn’t.
Other than the surprisingly solid Toy Story 3 tie-in game, none of the movies nominated this year have accompanying video games, but it’s still possible to “play” them, with a little imagination. We got together with our sister blog, Attack of the Blog, and compiled the following list of games that are equivalent to this year’s academy award nominees.
The Fighter: This film tells the story of "Irish" Micky Ward, an amateur boxer from Boston who eventually went pro. Though no game exactly captures Ward's difficult struggle with repeated disappointment and the turmoil caused by his brother's tragic drug addiction, in Punch-Out!! for the Wii, you do get to play as a white guy (Little Mac) who beats up cartoonish characters based on harmful, racist stereotypes. No game is truer to both the spirit of Boston and professional boxing.
The Social Network: You can’t have Facebook without Farmville and Farmville wouldn’t exist without the world’s most popular social networking site. Okay, so maybe there isn’t any requests for bales of hay or whatever annoying invitations that keeps popping up on your Facebook feed in David Fincher’s The Social Network, but Farmville’s ingenious use of social interaction as a part of their gameplay represents everything that Aaron Sorkin wrote about: The dangerous power play between friendship, greed, moving yourself up the social ranks and how all Asian girlfriends turn out crazy. Maybe not that last part.
Winter’s Bone*: This movie-you-haven’t-seen is a depressing slog through harrowing emotional territority, where a daughter searches through bleak, cold locales looking for her meth-dealing father. It’s exactly like Vancouver 2010.
*Heh heh.. I totally said “bone.”
127 Hours: Unfortunately, there’s no way to even introduce this selection without giving away the end of Dead Space: Extraction, so I will simply say that 127 Hours is a brilliantly intense story of hiker Aron Rolston who was forced to amputate his own arm to free himself after being pinned beneath a bolder while hiking in Utah back 2003. Dead Space: Extraction is a brutal on-rails shooter for the Wii and PS3 that uses wand-based motion-controls. You make the connection.
The Black Swan: Ballet, insanity and unsettling, chiaroscuro (look it up) visuals can only be accomplished using two games: Dance Central and Limbo. Play both the Kinect dancing title and the Arcade platformer simultaneously to truly re-create Natalie Portman’s disturbing descent into madness. (If you’re a girl, you should also have sex with Mila Kunis, because why wouldn't you?)
The King's Speech: The King's Speech is a historical drama. Please don't stop reading this; it's way less boring than it sounds. The movie centers around King George VI and his speech therapist as they try to overcome the King's stammer. Speech impediments affect many people, and even more Sims. If you enjoyed The King's Speech you're going to love talking with the Sims of Sims 3. Don't try and understand a single word they say though, the mystery is part of the magic, just like the British.
The Kids Are Alright – The movie is a touching character piece about the nature of family and what commitment really means. As it traffics in subtlety, and is intricately plotted, there is obviously no video game equivalent. Instead, play 80’s classic Burgertime, because, really, who doesn’t like hamburgers?
True Grit – Old West? Yep. Revenge story set mostly in the desert? Yep. Scarred, grizzled character actors that make you wish you lived on the plains? You got it. Red Dead Redemption is a perfect parallel for the Coen Brothers’ version of True Grit. Plus, Rooster Cogburn and John Marsten have pretty much the same attitude, which means you’ll be enjoying salty men of the West for hours on end.
Inception: Honestly, you shouldn’t need any topical tie-in feature to tell you to play Double Fine’s adventure masterpiece Psychonauts, but if this gets just one person to revisit this tragically overlooked platformer, it’ll be worth it. In case you don’t know, Psychonauts, like Christopher Nolan’s mind-f*** of an action flick, lets you freely jump into characters’ minds to help them sort out their twisted and tragic psychological issues. Not only is the primary narrative device (i.e. infiltrating people’s minds) spot on, there’s actually a level in Psychonauts (“The Milkman Conspiracy”) where a street folds upwards around you, ala…well, that scene in the movie where the street folds up towards the sky. For a less cerebral experience, check out the opening snow level of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, which was ripped off rather well for the final level in Inception.