Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Best of the Best: 20 Years of Life and Entertainment Pt. 1

So I recently decided to undertake a little project. It started as me doing what I rarely bother doing, which is actually sitting down and thinking about what specifically were my top movie, game, and album of the year. In this case, of course, that year being 2015. But in true Jesse fashion, instead of just doing that, I thought "you know what, fuck it", and instead chose to put myself through the rigorous process of doing that for not just one year, but many. And not just many, but exactly 20 years. I moved at the tender of age of 13 (almost 14), in 1995, to the town I've (for better and then worse) lived in for most of the last twenty years. That was a major new chapter in my life, eventually getting me out from under the iron thumb of the grandmother who raised me, and really kicking off my teen years with much more autonomy (and a ton of other BS that I sadly could not foresee).

I've mentioned here and there before in this blog, but I did not get to go see movies in the theater as a kid, because my grandmother felt it was a "waste", and honestly I think she just didn't like being around people. That all changed in 1995, when I finally got to start seeing movies in theater, and thus perhaps to make up for lost time (but also because there were many good movies back then that I actually wanted to see), I saw them regularly. In fact, from 1996 through 2000 or so, at least, it was not unusual for me to to see an average of one movie per month, sometimes several in a given month depending on what was out. Sufficed to say, from 2001 onward, but especially after 2009, that number dropped drastically. For one, because I hit my adult years and suddenly bills and all sorts of other adult BS you never think about as a kid when you foolishly can't wait to grow up, took root. But also, because over the years, Hollywood has genuinely gotten worse, and less and less worthwhile movies that I actually wanted to see came out over time.

Beyond that "grumpy old man" aside (even though it's honestly true), as my project took shape, I decided I was just going to do 20 full years, picking what I felt (looking back, or that I clearly remember liking above all else) were the best movie, game, album, and for the fun of it, song, of each year. With the song specifically, I allowed myself a bit of leeway. For the most part, for the movie, game and album, I restricted myself to things that actually came out new that year, but for song, I decided to allow myself to pick whatever song, regardless of it's origin date, that I was just really into that given year. I want to tell you, there were years that were easy peasy to make my picks....and then there were other years that were fuckin' rough as hell. In many year's cases, it involved actually going and perusing lists of movie and album releases, even game releases in certain cases. On the one hand, it was fun looking back and remembering what came out when. But on the other hand, it could also be a pain in the ass at times.

So without further setup, here is my look at 20 Years of Jesse's Favorite Shit.

"It Has Begun....."

Year: 1995
Movie: Mortal Kombat
Game: Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3
Album: Burnt Offerings by Iced Earth*
Song: When I Come Around by Green Day

As stated, in the fall of 1995, we moved from the town I had spent many years of my childhood in, to my current town which was about a half an hour away. It was a major turning point in my life. We moved because my grandmother was basically dying of lung cancer, because she had spent most of her life smoking like an oil refinery. She passed away shortly after we moved, in September. So the Fall of 1995, in a very real way to me at the time, could rightly be called my "First Fall of Freedom"...because I was more or less free, after a life of absolute control, to for the first time essentially do whatever the hell I wanted.

But before that, in the late summer of '95, while I had previously gotten to see Power Rangers: The Movie and Batman Forever, the first movies I had been able to see since I was probably about 4 years old, I got to see the first film in theater that would actually "impact" me, on a personal level. And that movie, was Mortal Kombat. As explained in this article, I had in the early 90s loved (to the point of obsession) Street Fighter II, and when the original Mortal Kombat arcade game first debuted, I kind of acted like I hated it, because all the kids flocked to it, and said it was "better" than SFII, because it had "real" graphics, and blood, and silly fatalities, etc. I didn't REALLY hate the game, but I sure as shit loved me some SFII, and would defend it vigorously as being superior. But when MKII came out, that game, with it's mystical "Outworld" setting, started to win me over more. And by the time the movie came out in '95, MKIII was already out, and I got swept up in MK fever. Not that I loved Street Fighter any less.....just that I finally relented and thought MK was also cool.

And when it came to the movie, while I saw many other cool movies in late 95, such as my first ever Jackie Chan film Rumble in the Bronx, as well as the awesome Robin Williams film Jumanji, nothing really "touched" my 13 year old mind, more than MK. It wasn't just that I had come to like the games. It wasn't just that it was a VERY well done and exciting martial arts/action flick (though it was). It was a lot of fun, it felt like an event, and beyond that, it really brought to the fore more than ever, the mythology and backstory of the game. The actors were great in their roles and really brought the characters to life in an organic way. And the themes of honor and fighting to defend life, are what original eastern martial arts are all about. The movie just kind of had everything, and while it certainly affected teenage me far more than it does jaded, grumpy adult me now, I DO still think it's an awesome film (which is amazing because I kind of hate the director).

It's the Ultimate Showdown, of Ultimate Destiny.

As for my favorite game of 1995, well, it wasn't as if I was obsessed with the MK franchise THAT much...but I certainly got swept up in the fever, as I said, and while I thought the original version of MKIII was neat when it came out early that year, it was lacking, especially missing the popular ninja characters. So in the fall, when they released a better "Ultimate" version that returned the ninjas and added cooler backgrounds, I just loved it. Especially because the night it was first put into the mall arcade I would frequent for many years, my friends and I got there right as some guy was playing it, playing one of the "new" characters (the female ninja Jade), and he was somehow awesome at it. A huge crowd gathered around as he beat it on the hardest tier, and proceeded to pick the "Supreme Demonstration" as his reward, which of course shows ALL the finishing moves in the game, for every character. The crowd, my friends and I included, ate it up, and it was just a really fun time, and a good memory.

When it comes to the album, you'll notice there's an asterisk next to it. That's because I actually wasn't yet into "album music" in 1995. I had a few tapes, yes, but for the majority of my childhood any new music I knew was from the radio, or something like MTV or VH1. So I decided to pick that album retroactively, because after looking at albums that came out in 1995, I like that one best, as it really is one of Iced Earth's best. A classic piece of heavy metal. Plus, I mean, it ends with the 16+ minute epic based on Dante's Inferno. And as for the song, well it wasn't a NEW song that year, but "When I Come Around" by Green Day was absolutely my JAM of 1995. I loved that song, it really spoke to me for some reason. Still does.

"Well how many dragons do you know?"

Year: 1996
Movie: Dragonheart
Game: Killer Instinct 2
Album: Load by Metallica
Song: Comedown by Bush

So 1996 was my first full year in my new town, with new friends, and relative teenage autonomy. In some ways, I "went wild", understandably, but I was never a "bad kid", never really got into drugs, or parties, or criminal activity, or any of the stupid shit that I easily could have. Nope....I was still largely into the same things I had been into as a kid: movies, cartoons, games, comics, music etc....just more of it, because I now had more access. When it came to movies, as I said, I saw quite a lot of them at this point. And of those I saw, many were really good, even great. Some of those were fun comedies like Black Sheep and Happy Gilmore, big epics like Independence Day and Escape From LA, and dumbass shit that I for some reason still liked at the time, like Beavis and Butthead Do America.

But the movie that stood head and shoulders above the rest that year, was hands down Dragonheart. Starring Dennis Quaid as the "black knight" Bowen, and the great Sean Connery as the voice of the dragon Draco, it was just a really wonderful film that spoke to me on a lot of levels. It actually had a semi-profound affect on me, just from the perspective of the "Old Code of King Arthur" and the mythology of the dragons and all that. It was just really cool stuff, and I didn't yet recognize it at the time, but I think it spoke to the part of me deep down that was already starting to transition into what would become my rather "pagan" beliefs by my late teens. Plus it was just a lot of fun, the dragon was great SFX for the time, it had a great soundtrack, a good balance of action and humor, etc. Dragonheart would actually remain my top favorite movie for many years afterward.

"Fight On"

So when it came to gaming in 1996, there were certainly a lot to like. I had finally, after many years of wanting one, gotten a Super Nintendo as a hand-me-down from a cousin for Christmas '95, so I finally had access to the 16-bit world in my own home, and so I rented and played various different games. But the game that truly was my "game of 1996", was an arcade game, Killer Instinct 2. In the months that I lived fairly close to the mall in my new town, I spent an awful lot of time there, specifically in the old arcade it used to have, called "Tilt". I was there for a lot of new games arriving, and possibly the biggest, to me personally, was the morning I just happened to stroll in, when no one else was there, and they were setting up KI2. I'm about 95% certain that the cool guy that worked there (there was, naturally, also another guy who was a jerk), put in some free tokens to let me try it out after he finished setting it up. And of course, to a 14 year old boy who loves video games, that was amazing.

The game itself was amazing to me at the time, with prerendered graphics by Rare, the same company that made Donkey Kong Country on SNES, that looked more advanced than anything I had ever seen. The soundtrack was bad ass, and the gameplay, to me, was refined and improved over the original game. I liked KI1, but I fell madly in LOVE with KI2, and my favorite character was easily the werewolf guy you see up there, Sabrewulf. Ironically, my fav. character from KI1 was the girl opposite him in that pic, Black Orchid, though they totally changed her moveset for the sequel, and I didn't like her as much. But Sabrewulf was my "guy", and though I got pretty good with other characters, I more or less mastered him. Though in a twist of irony, when it came to my favorite games of '95 and '96, with UMK3, I was really good at versing other players, and I got a fair share of wins, but that game was a son of a bitch to actually try and beat. Especially because the last boss, Shao Kahn, is a royal motherfucker, the cheapest of the cheap. Whereas with KI2, I actually beat it quite regularly when I would play, and managed to beat it with several characters, but because of the more intricate combo system or whatever it was, I was not nearly as good as versing other players.

As for music? Well, also ironically, my "jam", my favorite song in both '95 and '96, were songs from albums that had originally released in 1994. In this case, it was "Comedown", by Bush, though I also really REALLY liked another song from that album, "Glycerine". But 1996 was also a year in which I first had a CD player, and thus very very slowly started to acquire CD albums. I picked "Load" by Metallica, because while I don't think I actually owned that album yet (I may have, don't quote me), it was certainly, looking back, my favorite album that came out that year.

Karting perfection? Close enough.
Year: 1997
Movie: Conspiracy Theory
Game: Mario Kart 64
Album: ReLoad by Metallica (or The Black Album, by Metallica*)
Song: Good Riddance by Green Day (or The Unforgiven by Metallica*)

Now, by 1997, shit had started to change. I was slowly growing up, one of my new best friends, Brandon, had moved away in December '96, my high school experience was getting gradually worse, and relations with the mother I "had" to live with, were also getting worse. But thankfully, while shit was genuinely getting pretty rough (and would only get worse in the following years) for young Jesse, there was still some pretty great entertainment of various kinds to help distract me somewhat from the pain and crap that real life can (and will) often dole out on you. 1997 was honestly a better year for movies, all around, than 1996 had been, and there were many that I really loved. Some of those were Beverly Hills Ninja starring the late, great Chris Farley, Liar Liar, Austin Powers, The Lost World (Jurassic Park 2), Con Air, the original Men in Black, Contact, Kull the Conqueror, etc.

But when it came down to what I thought the BEST movie of that year was, it was a battle between The Fifth Element, and Conspiracy Theory. While Element was a bizarre, fun ride with some cool mystical (even spiritual) undertones, and I REALLY loved it at the time, looking back now I have to give it to Conspiracy. I mean it's directed by Richard Donner (one of my fav. directors), stars Mel Gibson before he went a little nutso, as well as the gorgeous and classy Julia Roberts. And it was just a really really great film, fantastic story, amazing turn as a sinister as fuck bad guy by Patrick Stewart, you name it.

Now gaming, as you can plainly see by the pic above, 1997 had it's share of really good games too, across many consoles, like SNES, N64, Playstation, and of course arcade. And my friend Harold and I specifically rented a LOT of games on Nintendo 64, some we really wanted to try, and others just because why not. But out of all of them, the two that stood tall above anything else that released that year, to us anyway, were both because of the great N64 4 player multiplayer action. And those were Mario Kart 64, and Goldeneye. But while we played the SHIT out of both on many many nights with our friends, or just against each other, and while the 007 multiplayer was and is still arguably the best multiplayer first person shooter ever made, I had to ultimately give it to Mario Kart. That game is just a blast, whether it's single OR multiplayer. The tracks were awesome, the battle arenas were awesome, it was fully 3D, yet it still had cool looking 2D prerendered sprites for the racers. And it still to this day remains my favorite Mario Kart of all time, arguably my favorite racing game of all time.

So controversial to some, but SUCH a good album.

Now I have to speak about Metallica. When I first moved to my new town in '95, and for probably the next year+ afterwards, my favorite band, so I said, was Green Day. But the truth is, I didn't really HAVE any one band yet that I absolutely loved, and had a huge passion for. Well, that all changed in 1997. I borrowed a copy of "The Black Album" from a friend in high school, and that album in a very real way "changed my life". It sounds hokey sometimes when people say that, but it's the truth. I finally got around to discovering that album at a time in my life when shit was getting worse, and I really needed it. I half-jokingly referred to it as my "Bible", and most of the songs on the album are very deep, and some spoke to me in some very personal ways, that really helped me cope with a lot of the hard shit I was progressively having to deal with. Well, THE song out of the entire album that really really spoke to me, was "The Unforgiven", and I succinctly said then (and I must say, in some respects it's still true), that that song was the "story of my life". I listened to that song on repeat more times than I can tell you. But it really did speak to me, and it really did help me.

So I don't clearly remember whether or not I got "Load" in 1996 when it came out, because I had heard the song "Hero of the Day" on the radio/MTV and really liked it, or if I got it in 1997, but either way, while many people really shit all over that album, I on the other hand REALLY loved it. A lot of old hipsters and metal fans shit all over Metallica in general in the late 90s, which was hard for a young me to deal with as well. It felt somehow shitty and "unfair" that a band I was JUST getting into, and loved SO much, both their old 80s thrash music AND their mellower (but still heavy) 90s output, was getting so much hate from so many people. Like, it literally became the popular opinion to have to say "Metallica sucks", even for people who probably had never really even heard them, old or new. Regardless, fuck everyone else, I loved them, and when ReLoad came out in November of '97, I loved that album too. In fact, I was staying briefly with Harold's family at the time, and it's funny how certain songs or albums you'll associate with other things you experienced while first listening to them sometimes, and for me, that was Duke Nukem 64. Harold had just gotten the game around the same time I got the album. So we would sit in his room, and he would play while I would blast ReLoad, and those were some pretty good times.

BUT, in the midst of all that Metallica love, another great album by my PREVIOUS "favorite" band (and honestly they still are in my like Top 10 or 20), Green Day, also released in '97, the album "Nimrod". And off of that album, one song in particular also spoke to me, and I listened to it countless times on repeat, and that was the song "Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)". Now I picked that as the initial pick for Song of 1997, because it actually came out that year. If we're talking songs that mean more to me overall, all time, I'd probably pick "The Unforgiven". But "Good Riddance" would also be very high on that list, so I'll just say fuck it and pick both.

Such a great movie, such a legendary actor.

Year: 1998
Movie: Patch Adams
Game: The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
Album: Nightfall in Middle Earth by Blind Guardian
Song: Dust in the Wind by Kansas

The first half of 1998 was rough. A horribly shitty time for me, in fact, as issues with my mother and school and everything else all just kind of came to a head, and I was absolutely miserable, to put it mildly. By the summer, however, things took a turn and started to brighten somewhat, as I got to live with someone else, got my first ever official summer job, and headed into my junior year in high school (back in home study by choice) in the fall, with at least for the time being, things seemingly looking up. The summer of '98 especially had many good times, dicking around with friends, etc.

Many great movies, again, came out in 1998. Some of my favorites were The Wedding Singer, Dark City, My Giant, Almost Heroes (Chris Farley's last film), The X-Files movie, Lethal Weapon 4 (my first exposure to the great Jet Li), There's Something About Mary, Ever After, The Avengers (I had never seen the old show, but I loved the movie), Wrongfully Accused (great Leslie Nielsen film), Rush Hour, Pleasantville, and The Waterboy. But the three that stood above and beyond for me, were also films that touched me or spoke to me in some deep way. The first was The Truman Show, which was technically still kind of a comedy, but it was also the first real taste of Jim Carrey's considerable dramatic acting ability. And it spoke to me on the level that, it was honestly a satire on our very society, the way we go about our daily lives, and to my 16 year old mind at the time, it totally made me think "My god, what if I actually live in a little plastic universe too?" Plus it was just damn entertaining. The other two are both Robin Williams films, diving right into his late 90s "touching but serious films" phase. One was What Dreams May Come, which is equal parts heartbreaking and inspiring. Even though by this time in my life I was no longer the Christian I had been raised to be, the movie was very ambiguous and even universal in it's approach to the afterlife and all of that, and it was just a really deep, beautiful film.

But the movie that was the cream of the crop, for me, was Patch Adams, not only because it was a great movie somewhat inspired by a very awesome real life person. But also because, for me, the story and the things it had to say, about people, about life, and about what COULD be, instead of merely what is, really really touched me deeply and spoke to me. I simply cannot do justice with words to how much this movie impressed me. It was flawless, and it's concepts were enormous to my mind, and really got gears turning in my own head, with massive inspiration and ideas. It, of course, has the one major flaw, THAT scene, which some writer came up with, which never actually happened at all in Hunter Adams' life, and was absolutely unnecessary to give the movie a manufactured sense of drama. It already HAD it's own drama and tension, it didn't need that crap. And that kind of thing might bring a lesser movie down...but the rest of the film was SO strong that it thankfully survived that shit (and I really, truly hate that scene, in one of my otherwise favorite movies of all time). It is just a great movie, and in some very powerful ways, it quite literally changed my life, and had a big hand in my own personal evolution.

Da da da DAAAAAA!!

The game of the year, for me, and for many people, was of course Ocarina of Time on N64. There were many other good games in '98, not the least of which was Castlevania: Symphony of the Night on the original Playstation. That game was one of the last great fully 2D games that came along, for years, before the indie scene really popped up within the last decade. And it was just a fantastic action game with a nice rpg-lite type system in place. It heavily "borrowed" elements from the Super Nintendo classic Super Metroid, putting it mildly, but it put those elements to great use, and gave birth to what many gamers now refer to as the "Metroidvania" style of game. But, Zelda was where it was really at.

1998 was also the first year I could afford to buy my own brand new game console and games by myself, and the N64 was the first system I ever bought myself, that summer. And Ocarina quickly became the highlight of my collection when it released. The game has not exactly aged super well, even though it's still great, but at the TIME, let me tell you, it was mind blowing. As much as Mario 64 had been mind blowing in 1996, "Zelda 64" was far more-so in 1998. It had (almost) everything you could want, it was very cinematic, it had a great soundtrack, it was one of the first  games to REALLY do 3D gaming right, because it controlled and played very well (for the most part). There was an epic story going on, and the game was just fun to play. I think the only major complaint I had about it, even at the time when I first got it, was that when they were developing it, they had done a lot of vague talking up, insinuating that the game world was going to be massive, and that you were going to be able to go exploring like in the old Zelda games, and there would be all these villages you could encounter, etc. etc.....and then what it actually was, was a "hub" (Hyrule Field), in which you could go to different levels, basically like Mario 64. But in spite of that limitation, I still poured a ton of hours into this game, and enjoyed it very much (except for that goddamn Water Temple).

SUCH a great album. And just look at that cover art.

1998 also happened to be, thanks in large part to my first ever summer job, the year that I really started both getting more into heavy metal music, but also just getting less into radio, and more into actually buying and owning albums. There were many great bands and albums that I discovered in '98, such as Metallica's "Garage Inc." (an album of cover songs), Megadeth in general but especially their albums "Cryptic Writings" and "Countdown to Extinction", Iced Earth's albums "Burnt Offerings" and "Something Wicked This Way Comes", Testament's "Souls of Black", other classic Metallica albums like "And Justice For All" which would go on to become my favorite of all time, and Rob Zombie's "Hellbilly Deluxe". But when I think back to albums that specifically came out in '98 that I got into, one really stands out the most, and that is Blind Guardian's "Nightfall in Middle-Earth". I can't do the album justice just using words to explain it, but let me just tell you, it's epic, and it's artistic, and it's fucking awesome. The album tells a good half or more of the tales from J.R.R. Tolkien's posthumous Silmarillion, which was something of a history and creation myth of Middle-Earth. I first discovered this band, and album, as I did many bands in 98, on an old site called "MP3.com", which you could listen to many songs for free to sample them. The song that did it for me, for Blind Guardian, among others, was "Nightfall", which tells of the first ever case of murder among the Elves, and their downfall into madness as they pursued the Jewels of Light (The Silmarils) into Middle-Earth. The entire album is just fantastic, playing out something like a metal "opera" of sorts, though not operatic vocally. And I must say, as a personal aside, Brian May of Queen is my favorite guitarist of all time, because the tone and texture of his lead guitar work is SO smooth and lyrical, and the lead work of Blind Guardian's Andre Olbrich is obviously heavily inspired by May, and that is never more evident than on his amazing work on this album. As a further side note, the album was produced by the Danish producer of the great Metallica 80s albums, Flemming Rasmussen, and it shows. If you've never heard it, even if you're not really into metal music, check it out, it's worth it.

BUT, as an odd bonus, my SONG of the year for 1998, was not even from the same decade. For some insane reason, even though I had grown up hearing various classic rock, there were many classic rock bands, and songs, that I just never heard. And as crazy as it seems, among them, was another band that would (along with Metallica and Queen) go on to eventually become one of my top favorite bands of all time, and that was Kansas. And the song, specifically, that won me over, was their biggest hit, "Dust in the Wind". Now, the irony was that I was just having lunch with my uncle one day, and the radio at the restaurant started playing the song, and it caught my ear and sounded amazing, and I asked him "Who's this?", and he replied "I think it's Kansas". It was game over after that, I went to Harold's house sometime later, and while his family stepped out to go get food or whatever, I looked up Kansas, and that song, on his computer. I'm pretty sure I found it on MP3.com or wherever, and started listening to it. And I listened to it on repeat for like, seriously, half an hour. It was that good, and it just hit me like a tidal wave.....it's simplicity, it's enormity, it's beauty and profound message. Plus that fuckin' sweet Robby Steinhardt violin solo. Sufficed to say, it instantly became one of my favorite songs that I had ever heard, and would eventually settle as my TOP favorite song ever made, of all time. That's right, my favorite band ever is Metallica, but my favorite SONG ever is by Kansas.

One of the last great 2D animated theatrical films.

Year: 1999
Movie: The Iron Giant
Game: Wrestlemania 2000
Album: The Distance to Here by Live
Song: Higher by Creed

So 1998 turned into 1999, a new year, the last year of not only a decade, but a century....even a millennium. And I'm sorry to report that while it had it's collection of moments, 1999 was not all that kind to me a lot of times, and it was far from one of my favorite years. But as usual, amidst the drama and bullshit of real life, and having to deal with other human beings (who can of course make your life both a heaven...and a hell), various forms of entertainment were there to help me somewhat sooth my wounds and troubled spirit. To help me find some release and escape. 1999 was certainly not a BAD year for movies, but it was a markedly lesser year compared to '96, '97 or '98, for me. It still had it's fair share of movies I really enjoyed, among them October Sky, Office Space, The Mummy, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Ghost Dog, Big Daddy, Instinct, Detroit Rock City, The Sixth Sense, Man on the Moon, and Bicentennial Man.

There were a couple of candidates I had to consider for "best movie", one of them being Star Wars: The Phantom Menace. I realize, much like Metallica in the late 90s, that it's a popular opinion to have, that the Star Wars prequel trilogy, and that first movie in particular, are "garbage". I would like to point out that I have never felt that way. Were they flawed? Sure. Not AS good or as classic as the original movies? Absolutely. But I still always felt they were good movies, AND good Star Wars movies, even Phantom Menace. I never hated Jar Jar Binks, to me he was always just another goofy character like the robots, or like the Ewoks. I think a lot of people really just need to grow up. The movie itself was fine, and it had a lot of things to like about it, most especially the Jedi master Qui-Gon Jin, and the Sith warrior Darth Maul. And that epic song for their final confrontation, "Duel of the Fates", is still a great piece that I love to this day. The prequel movies are flashy, and they honestly should have used less CGI. But I still like them. However, upon really thinking about it, the movie that stuck with me the most from 1999, was The Iron Giant. It really has that Don Bluth type of vibe to it, even though he was not involved with it, and it was one of the last great traditionally animated theatrical film releases. A fact that makes me, as a huge fan of traditional hand drawn animation, very sad, as I wish it would make a comeback, a REAL comeback, in the United States. But Iron Giant is a really great story, a fun movie, and though many wouldn't know it, one of actor Vin Diesel's first real movie roles, as he did the vocal noises and eventual voice for the robot.

As for game? Well, looking back, '99 was the first year I ran into where it was honestly a little rough trying to pin down a favorite, as there were just less games that year that I really loved, the arcades had less releases, and I didn't own a Playstation or even the debuting Sega Dreamcast. Even though, the game Soul Calibur on Dreamcast WAS a game I immensely enjoyed, as I had very much liked it's arcade predecessor Soul Edge. I got to play it at a friend's house a bit, but not owning a DC myself, it's hard to really say it was my favorite game that year. And then I remembered, that I had gotten the wrestling game Wrestlemania 2000 for the N64 that year, and I DID happen to put a ridiculous amount of time into creating wrestlers and playing the game in general. So kind of by default, it wins game of the year on those merits. It was a decent game, though it doesn't hold up well now, too blocky and slow and clunky, but for it's TIME it was the best wrestling game out there.

SUCH a great album. The band's masterpiece.

When it comes to music, '99 was a weird time. In the late 90s in general, rap and "hip hop" had gradually become more and more mainstream and popular, and at the same time, an often rap-hybrid style of rock called "Nu Metal" (because they couldn't just spell new correctly) also got real popular. And of course pop music, what with Brittany Spears and Christina Aguilera and the Backstreet Boys, etc., was just getting worse. Though I had no way of knowing that shit would be awesome to listen to compared to how much worse pop music would continue to get. But there was certainly still much for me to enjoy as well, as I continued to get more into metal, discovering other bands and albums. One of those that I really got into in '99, was Sevendust, as I discovered their album "Home" by hearing the song "Denial" on VH1 randomly, and then later on the radio, and I really dug it. So I went out, got the album, and eventually wound up really liking it overall. Another big music moment for me also came from VH1 in '99, as they broadcast part of Metallica's amazing "S&M" symphony concert. And let me tell you, that to me was heaven in that moment. My favorite band, along with classical music which I really love, it as like peanut butter and jelly (or chocolate). And to my delight, they later came out with the concert on CD and DVD, which I of course eventually got both of. One of the two new songs they did for that concert, "No Leaf Clover", also wound up becoming one of my favorite Metallica songs, and was a decent candidate for my song of '99.

I also really liked the Creed album "Human Clay". I had gotten into Creed back in '98 actually, in the second half of my shit-tacular sophomore year. Their first album "My Own Prison" also really helped me through those tough times. Creed is of course, ironically, another band that many people shit on, but fuck 'em, I liked the first three albums at least (was not a fan of their recent reunion though). They were, at one point, considered one of my favorite bands, because I really resonated with some of their lyrics (because of the singer Scott Stapp's Christian religion, there were some Christian undertones to some of their songs, but thankfully, most of the time, they were fairly ambiguous, so non-Christians could also really relate). Well, "Human Clay" was one I really had to consider for my "best album" of the year, as I more or less loved the whole album. But really putting it to thought, and trying to "feel" which album meant the most to me, I decided to go with Live's "The Distance to Here" instead. In some sense, both albums held equal sway with me back then, but Distance was just so.....inspiring. Not every song is amazing, but the album as a whole is, and there ARE amazing songs on it, such as "The Dolphins Cry", "They Stood Up For Love" and "Dance With You". So it's my pick for album of
99. I also. however, decided to give it to Creed for my song of the year, with "Higher". It just really spoke to who I was and how I felt about the world back in my late teens (still do to some extent). To some I'm sure they felt the song was talking about the afterlife concept of "Heaven", but to me, it spoke more about dreaming of a better world, here on Earth.

So, with ALL of that said.....it's obvious I wrote a lot, just about the first five years of a twenty year project. I'm not sure I quite conceptualized just how enormous a project this was when I started out, even just making the list, which took me some time. But writing this article especially...I will confess that I often set out sometimes to write "short" articles, and they wind up not so short anyway, just because I have things to say. And as you can tell, especially about these 90s years that were so huge to me, I had quite a lot of shit to say about them. So, spoilers, I was originally convinced I could do this in one extra long article. But honestly.....nope. So I think instead what I'm going to do, is I'm going to split it into four parts, five years apiece, and so this is now Part 1 of 4. It'll be an ongoing thing over the next month then, and I guess that's just fine. Hope you enjoyed the ride so far, and while I might not write QUITE as much about some future years, as my teen years were some shit, plus they just had a lot of things I REALLY loved (entertainment wise) in them, I'll naturally still likely have plenty to say. So for now, I hope you liked that peak into my life and my mind, and I'll see you next time.

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