Hi everyone. I’m doing this partly to test out titling, and see how well that works, and partly to tell you all about two films I recently watched.

Super Mario Bros. (1993)

For years, Super Mario Bros. has been something of a bad joke, arguably the start of the “video game movie curse” that every video game adaptation has tried to avoid. And even despite gathering a cult following, the virulent distaste towards the movie expressed by stars Bob Hoskins and Dennis Hopper provides ample ammunition for the people who hate this movie, and believe me, people loathe this movie.

What do I think? Honestly… I unironically love this film? I went in thinking that it was going to be so-bad-it’s-good, but after finishing it I was genuinely confused as to why the movie got so much hate when it first came out. Like, sure it’s not the most accurate adaptation of the games, but let’s be honest, the first Mario game with a story deeper than “collect these things” wouldn’t come out for another three years after this movie, and the central conceit of Mario and Luigi being Brooklyn plumbers sent to another dimension was commonly accepted lore at the time. As for Daisy, given how pretty much all her backstory, even to this day, comes from a single Game Boy game, there’s nothing to say that she isn’t a cyberpunk princess in the games. Indeed, I think this is the very first piece of Mario media to establish Luigi and Daisy as love interests, with them being suitably adorable and sweet.

More than that, despite being set in a dark and gritty cyberpunk world, the Mario movie is surprisingly light-hearted. The Mario brothers remain upbeat and cheerful even in the middle of an edgy 90s cityscape, and what’s more, they save the day specifically by being their cheerful, heroic selves, in contrast to the jaded and bitter residents of the movie’s Mushroom Kingdom (there’s even a scene where Luigi gets the brothers out of a jam by inducing the goombas to dance, which is so silly you can’t help but smile).

The only part of the movie that I wasn’t really feeling were the villains. Bob Hoskins’ contempt for the production may occasionally flash through, as he stares into space, drunkenly questioning why he signed up for this. But when he needs to, Hoskins is still professional enough to give the material everything he has. Dennis Hopper though just looks bored in every scene, like he can barely summon any energy. And his two bumbling henchmen are a lot less funny than the writers probably intended.

While Hoskins’ and Hopper’s hostility towards the Mario movie is pretty well-known, when I tracked down what they actually said about the film, a lot of that animosity seems to have stemmed simply from the behavior of the directors, who ended up getting replaced mid-production because of their auteur antics. Honestly, that makes sense, and the best way I can describe Super Mario Bros. is that it’s incongruous, with plucky, charming heroes who don’t really fit in the dark, dystopian world they find themselves in. But the charm manages to shine through the darkness, leaving a movie that is overall just as fun and wacky as any good Mario game.

Also, I got kinda sad when Luigi casually joked “Must notta been a union job.” Ah geez, back when we still had unions. And speaking of hellish working conditions…

Office Space (1999)

In recent years, when I’ve pondered the possibilities (or lack thereof) of such basic things as home ownership or a future, stable career in the hellscape that is late-stage capitalism, I have often looked at 90s media with a mixture of fascination and contempt. The time period is, admittedly, a very personal source of interest, since it’s a time when I was alive but not cognizant. But now that I’m older, I’m amazed at how the life of office cubicles which so much 90s media tries to present as dull, soulless, and unsatisfying looks positively idyllic to my modern eyes. Like, you only need to give 40 hours of your life per week to this job, and your weekends and free time are your own to do with as you please? And you have the income and insurance to actually enjoy that free time? I… don’t see the issue here. If anything, it sounds way better than any job I could get today. As such, whenever I saw clips like this, my reaction to Peter Gibbons’ ennui towards his job was always “Oh boo fucking hoo! Watch Kung Fu on the weekends that you can enjoy with your pre-2008 economic prosperity!”

Upon finally watching the movie though, I can see that I misjudged it. The commentary is actually a lot more nuanced than simply “office life is soulless and boring”, with the focus of the film’s anger mostly being petty bosses who are always looking to exploit their workers. And this exploitation being couched in the language of family and being a team is something that will hit close to home to many of us today. If anything, I’d say Office Space has aged remarkably well, far better than The Matrix at least. And my eye-rolling cries of “Grow up, willya!” ended up being the exact thing Jennifer Aniston tells the protagonist in the climax. So that was cathartic.

I’ll admit, the ending didn’t really land with me, with Peter’s two friends managing to easily find new jobs after getting fired, and Peter finding happiness in manual labor. But I guess that was the 90s economic prosperity for you. Also, yeah, Peter, you do get exercise working construction. But when your joints give out on you in ten years or so, it’s not gonna be so great. Speaking from personal experience, that work wears down your body way more than any desk job could. Still, maybe his union’s good. God, remember when we had those?