Two gaming monitors with AMD FreeSync are on sale for less than $300

In the market for a reasonably priced, but still reasonably powerful gaming monitor? Online electronics retailer Monoprice is slashing prices on two excellent monitors by more than $100. Both a curved and a flat-screen model are discounted, bringing each monitor down to $290.

I asked Cameron Faulkner, my colleague from The Verge who knows more about hardware than I do, to provide more details about the tech powering these monitors.

At $290, Monoprice’s 32-inch gaming monitor (available flat or curved) hit a sweet spot in terms of specs and value. Beyond its minimal bezels, it boasts features that usually cost hundreds more — namely its 1440p resolution, and its fast 144Hz refresh rate that allows for super smooth gameplay by way of AMD FreeSync. If you have an Nvidia 10- or 20-series GPU, the latest graphics driver will let you take G-Sync adaptive sync for a spin, too.

Along with impressive specs, both of Monoprice’s 32-inch monitors come with an adjustable swivel base. They’re also VESA-compatible if you prefer to mount your monitor. One reviewer warns that the speakers on the back of the monitor should be facing a wall so that sound bounces back at you. Otherwise “the sound just gets lost.” That shouldn’t be an issue, though, if you plan on using a headset.

Monoprice is known for its direct-to-consumer model, offering generic electronics at a low price by cutting out the middleman, i.e., big box stores. A comparable monitor from LG, for example, is going for almost $400 at Amazon.

Both monitors are available now for $290 at Monoprice. The curved monitor usually goes for $449.99, while the flat-screen is typically $399.99.

Source: Polygon.com

Demon’s Souls Creator Open To Another Studio Doing A Remaster

Demon’s Souls creator Hidetaka Miyazaki says that a remaster of the genre-defining game is possible, but he’s not eager to get started on it himself. In an interview, the director shared some thoughts on his legacy and the changing nature of Souls-likes, including whether Demon’s Souls could get a remaster similar to Dark Souls.

“It’s like when you write–when you’re younger, you look back on [previous work] and you think, ‘Oh, goodness what was I thinking,'” he told Game Informer. “It’s not that I’m embarrassed, I just don’t like to look at my previous works.”

He also said that he could envision another studio handling the port, even if the idea makes him nervous. “If it was a studio that really loved the original work and really put their heart and soul into realizing it again, then that’s something I would enjoy,” he said. “But it’s really complicated because I have these fond memories. Thinking about the idea of a remaster gives me kind of butterflies in my stomach and makes me a little nervous, so it’s complicated. But I understand there are many users and many players and fans out there who really love Demon’s, so if that’s something they could accomplish with a studio that loved the work, then yeah, I’d be okay with that.”

All that said, he also noted that it isn’t entirely up to him. The decision would be up to the game’s publisher, which was Sony.

“That was the first action fantasy game that I created, or I directed,” he said. “I have fond memories of it, but it’s definitely not my place to say they’ll remaster.”

Miyazaki’s next game is Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, which takes the Souls mechanics into 16th century Japan. It certainly carries some familiarity with the existing games, but From Software is rethinking some core elements like boss battles.

Source: GameSpot.com

Someone tried to kill all the Justice League babies in Young Justice: Outsiders

This week’s episodes of Young Justice: Outsiders added more characters to their already impressive roster and had the villains make big steps in their scheming plans. While the first two episodes set up what was to come and explained pertinent information for both the villains and the heroes, the third episode this week not only brought together the Big Bad council of villains for the first time this season — it also tapped into some next generation of DC heroes.

[Ed. note: This post contains spoilers for episodes 7-9 of Young Justice: Outsiders.]

Episode 7 gave an in-depth look at Vandal Savage’s ties to Darkseid juxtaposed with a fun training sequence for Halo, Geo-Force, and Forager. Episode 8 revealed that Batman, Nightwing, Aquaman (Kaldur) and Robin (Tim Drake) are operating separate teams to carry out corresponding missions. The kicker is that the teams themselves aren’t aware that they’re working as part of a grand plan. Though the end result paid off, Wonder Woman is appalled that they would lie to their teams.

“Home Fires,” the ninth episode, begins with villainous group the Light, currently made up of Vandal Savage, Lex Luthor, Queen Bee, Klarion, Deathstroke and Ultra-Humanite. It’s the first time this season that the Light has come together, though we’ve seen some of the individual members putting their plans into place. The Light discusses two concurrent and delicate missions. The first is bounty hunter Lobo, sent to kill Forager during another training session. The second, however, is more discreet and involves a mysterious figure waiting for a gathering of utmost importance.

Namely, the big Justice League playdate.

Yup — all the current (known) children of League heroes, brought either by their super-powered parent or their civilian one, congregate at Iris West-Allen’s place. That means 18 Justice League-adjacent people under one roof.

Let’s count all of them off:

Iris West-Allen, star reporter and wife of the Flash, hosts the gathering at her place, juggling the eventual Tornado Twins Don and Dawn with the help of grandson from the future, Bart Allen, a.k.a. Kid Flash.

First to arrive is the queen of Atlantis herself, Mera, with young Arthur Curry.

Iris West-Allen greets Queen Mera and Artur in Young Justice: Outsiders Warner Bros. Animation/DC Universe

Will Harper shows up with daughter Lian (whose mother the assassin Cheshire appeared in the previous episode) and talks briefly to Lynn Stewart, ex-wife of Black Lightning and sister of Green Lantern, there with daughters Anissa and Jennifer Pierce.

The doorbell rings and Iris is busy corralling the children, so Rocket (Raquel Erwin) and her son, Amistad, answer to greet a pregnant Bumblebee (Karen Beecher).

Rocket and son Amistand greet Bumblee in Young Justice: Outsiders Warner Bros. Animation/DC Universe

Red Tornado — in his John Smith alter ego — and his adopted daughter Traya Sutton, a Bialyan refuge, also arrive and Red Tornado delights the excited children with his powers.

Red Tornado and Traya arrive in Young Justice: Outsiders Warner Bros. Animation/DC Universe

Last to the gathering is the one and only Lois Lane, carrying her son Jonathan (who is clad in a wee little Superman hoodie), who thanks Iris for hosting. It’s nice to be with the only other people who understand the life and their numbers are only growing. Counting Damian Wayne from the show’s sixth episode, that makes ten superhero kiddos, with Karen Beecher’s baby on the way.

the full gathering of superhero children in Young Justice: Outsiders Warner Bros. Animation/DC Universe

With the house full, the mysterious figure across the street readies to take action. The identity of the would-be assassin is revealed to be Orm (it’s a big year for Orm), who wants to wipe out the most important people to the Justice League in one fell swoop. Before he can, Lady Shiva confronts him, saying that this line of action has been previously considered by the Big Bads, but they’ve dubbed it the “nuclear option” — if they chose to enact it, they must be prepared for an equal or greater retaliation. Orm doesn’t care, so Lady Shiva cleanly slices off his head.

Turns out, it wasn’t Orm, but Lady Shiva being tested by the Light. She fulfilled the mission and can now join the Light’s ranks as their new enforcer.

The other mission — bounty hunter Lobo sent to kill Forager — technically failed; though Lobo assumes he succeeded, he’s unaware that Forager faked his own death. But the Light reveals that Forager’s death was not the point of that particular mission: they wanted confirmation that Nightwing assembled a covert ops team.

Two villain missions completed, but the biggest reveal is that Granny Goodness is the newest member of the Light. The founder of the Goode Googles, shown talking about her charitable efforts on television earlier this episode, is actually a super-villain working with Darkseid. While the heroes are pretty on top of the inner workings of the meta-human trafficking ring, considering Nightwing bought Oracle a pair of googles just for funsies in an earlier episode, they might not know the full extent of the Light’s plans.

New episodes — along with the midseason finale — of Young Justice: Outsiders air on DC Universe on Jan. 25.

Source: Polygon.com

World of Warcraft update brings new raid, new dungeon mechanic

World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth had a rough 2018 — one that Blizzard is intent on fixing this year with new content. 2019’s first batch of World of Warcraft content offers a new raid, and some powerful Mythic Keystone changes as well. Both additions that should elongate Battle for Azeroth’s current endgame.

The Battle for Dazar’alor raid has opened in World of Warcraft, and looks to be one of the most unique raids in the game’s long history. Unlike most raid experiences, each faction has their own distinct route through the raid, the Alliance trying to attack the Horde-controlled city, and the Horde trying to defend it.

In order to fully complete the raid, both sides will end up fighting every boss in a “how the other side saw it” kind of flashback. The normal and heroic versions of the raid are available now, with Mythic and the first wing of Looking For Raid becoming available next week.

With all the raid excitement, it’s tempting to look past the Mythic Keystone dungeons. However, in what Blizzard is calling “Season 2,” they’ve added a brand-new affix to the rotation. When a key reaches high levels, it can now come with the Reaping affix. While Reaping is active, all slain enemies will linger in the shadows for a while longer. Occasionally, they’ll all come back to life and swarm players as they try to progress.

Reaping promises to be a real nightmare for players trying to run through dungeons as quickly as they possibly can. However, it’s not as bad as it sounds. The raised enemies only have 50 percent of the health they used to and they spawn at specific times so players can prepare for it — 20, 40, 60, 80, and 100 percent of the progress bar.

The second season of Battle for Azeroth’s player-versus-player offering also arrived today. For the PvP-inclined, there are new rewards — both cosmetic and stat-based — that can be earned through Battlegrounds and War Mode.

Of course none of these activities would be worth a damn without increased rewards. The new raid drops relevant loot, and Mythic Keystone dungeons have had their loot drops increased significantly — with baseline Mythic dropping 370 item level gear. The end-of-week Mythic Keystone chest — rewarded depending on the highest tier of Mythic Keystone you did last week — can now scale all the way up to 410. However, nothing can drop above level 385 until the Mythic raid race starts next week.

All of these changes — including a fifth ring addition to some Azerite armor — comes ahead of the 8.2 patch later this year. What Blizzard detailed at BlizzCon 2018 looked promising, especially after Battle for Azeroth’s initially shaky positioning.

Source: Polygon.com

Pillars Of Eternity II Is Getting A Turn-Based Mode 

Today, Pillars of Eternity II developer Obsidian said that, nine months after its release, Pillars II is getting a turn-based combat mode as part of a free update on Januay 24. Previously, the fantasy RPG’s default mode of combat was real-time, but with the option for players to pause and issue commands to their party members, à la classic Infinity Engine RPGs like Baldur’s Gate.

This optional new mode, according to game director Josh Sawyer, changes things up pretty significantly. “The turn-based mode slows everything down,” he said in a developer update video published on Shacknews. “It’s a very, very tactical mode of play. It highlights some abilities and debuffs and things like that, that aren’t necessarily as highlighted in the real-time with pause combat system. And it’s really a lot of fun.”

When I reviewed Pillars of Eternity II last year, I came away impressed, but found it “too chaotic to be fully satisfying” and a bit easy on regular difficulty. My praise was als odiluted by the fact that I was still pretty fresh off playing PC-RPG-for-the-ages Divinity: Original Sin 2. I wondered what Pillars II might be like if it embraced a more ambitious approach to combat.Now, I’m excited to go back and play turn-based on a higher difficulty—to really chew on some of my mid-fight decisions instead of just gritting my teeth while arrows fly (and occasionally yelling at my party members for being numbskulls whose graveyard worth of tombstones all read “refused to stick to the dang plan”).

However, I’m also wary of an overhaul like this being retrofitted onto a game made up of encounters that were specifically tuned for an entirely different system. Fortunately, Obsidian is launching this mode as a beta and seems committed to taking player feedback and getting it right.

Source: Kotaku.com

Resident Evil 2 add-on content will star three new survivors

Capcom is working on a new game mode for its Resident Evil 2 remake that offers three additional perspectives on the zombie infestation of Raccoon City. That mode, The Ghost Survivors, will be released as a free update to the game, Capcom announced at Resident Evil 2’s launch event in Japan.

The Ghost Survivors will be a side story that focuses on three survivors: Robert Kendo, the firearms dealer who owns Raccoon City’s Kendo Gun Shop; an unnamed member of the Umbrella Security Service; and Raccoon City mayor Michael Warren’s daughter, who meets a tragic fate at the hands of the city’s police chief.

According to a translation of the event from Siliconera, The Ghost Survivors will include randomized scenarios, an enemy unique to the game mode, and a shop where players can purchase items with points they earn in-game. We’ve reached out to Capcom for more details.

In addition to The Ghost Survivors, Capcom has some more free content planned. Low-polygon character model costumes for Leon Kennedy and Claire Redfield, known as ’98 Leon and ’98 Claire, will be released for the game for free in March.

A low-polygon character model for Leon Kennedy stands with his gun drawn in a screenshot from Resident Evil 2.
’98 Leon
Capcom

Resident Evil 2 is coming to PlayStation 4, Windows PC, and Xbox One on Jan. 25. You can read our take on Capcom’s remake of the survival horror classic in Polygon’s review.

Source: Polygon.com

Nintendo Direct-Style Stream For Switch Games Coming Tomorrow

Nintendo UK has announced it is airing a new Switch-focused presentation tomorrow, January 23. The broadcast is scheduled to begin at 6 AM PT / 9 AM ET / 2 PM GMT and will showcase a number of indie games coming to the hybrid console in 2019.

Nintendo UK will stream the presentation on its website, YouTube, and Twitch channels. GameSpot will have an embed of the stream up tomorrow as well, so you can tune in to it right here. We’ll also have a recap of all the biggest news and announcements from the broadcast.

 

Nintendo hasn’t revealed how long the indie highlight stream will be, but the company’s previous indie-focused presentations have typically run for about 20 minutes. Likewise, Nintendo has not discussed which games will be shown off, but we already know of a number of indie games coming to Switch this year, including Windjammers 2 and Inti Creates’ Dragon Marked for Death.

The indie highlights broadcast marks the first presentation Nintendo is airing in 2019. The company typically streams a big Nintendo Direct sometime in January to outline some of its new releases in the first part of the year, but so far no proper Direct presentation has been scheduled for this month.

Source: GameSpot.com

PUBG’s latest map, Vikendi, is now out for the console versions of the game

The newest map for PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, Vikendi, has finally made it to consoles.

The map that’s arriving on consoles is exactly the same as the one that launched on Windows PC last month, but this is the first time that PlayStation 4 and Xbox One players will get to check out the new snow-covered environment. Unlike previous maps for the game, Vikendi is slightly smaller and plays a little bit slower. With its wide-open areas and stark white landscapes, players have to be a little more stealthy and pick their opportunities more carefully on Vikendi than on any other map.

Just like it did for PC players, the console release of Vikendi also signals the opening of the new Vikendi missions. While some of these missions, and their rewards, will be free for all players, most of them will be locked behind the Premium Survivor Pass ($9.99), which gives players extra missions and rewards for completing certain map-specific challenges and missions.

You can check out a trailer for Vikendi from the PC version of PUBG below.

Source: Polygon.com

How Peanuts Used Lucy and Schroeder To Explore Dysfunctional Relationships

Lucy’s relationship to Schroeder was unfulfilling. She craved emotional validation from the one character who was least equipped to provide it. It was both humorous and sad—a contradictory message that Charles Schulz’s Peanuts conveyed so well.

This piece originally appeared 5/2/18.

Lucy debuted as a toddler in 1952. Schulz declined to reprint these early strips for many years, though he relented before his death. Fantagraphics published all of them as part of its The Complete Peanuts anthology in 2004.

Many of these early Lucy strips concerned the self-centered nature of toddlers. Toddlers, as a matter of mental development, don’t place the needs and wants of others over their own. Their selfishness isn’t deliberate or malicious; it’s simply who they are. Thus, the humor of these toddler strips stemmed from attaching adult motivations to Lucy’s babyish actions.

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Over the next two years, Schulz retconned Lucy to be the same age as her counterparts, though she kept her manipulative charm. But without her childish naïveté, her behavior was no longer cute. Lucy’s peers reacted to her boldness with a mixture of surprise and disgust.

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Lucy’s behavior often read as malicious, especially since her younger brother Linus was wiser and more generous than she was. Physically, she had grown, but emotionally, she was stunted. She still craved attention and immediate gratification, and she went about fulfilling these cravings through bullying and disingenuousness.

Lucy developed a crush on Schroeder in May 1953, at the beginning of her post-toddler phase. Unlike her father, who doted upon her, or Linus, who looked up to her in spite of her behavior, Schroeder ignored Lucy entirely. So Lucy imposed herself upon him. She climbed on top of his piano and stared him in the face until she broke his focus.

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A 1955 strip revisited the same themes. Again, Lucy was fascinated by Schroeder’s lack of acknowledgement and felt compelled to intrude upon his space. Everyone else in her social orbit—even Violet and Patty—accommodated or folded to her tantrums. Schroeder didn’t, and that’s exactly what Lucy liked about him.

Schroeder was one of Schulz’s least developed characters, despite his long tenure with the strip. Beethoven and classical music consumed him, taking precedence over his real life friends. This hindered his character development; when the punchline to every Schroeder strip was “Beethoven,” there was little room for Schulz to develop the character’s inner life.

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Over time, as Snoopy rose in prominence and Linus and Sally got older Schroeder became increasingly peripheral to the strip’s world. Meanwhile, Peanuts evolved to be less reliant on the characters’ quirks and more reliant on their chemistry with one another. Through this, Schroeder remained mostly one-dimensional. Lucy interacted with him more than any other character, even though he ignored her. She was the only person who challenged him, albeit for selfish reasons, to do something other than obsess over Beethoven.

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Lucy went about this in different ways. Sometimes she would distract him from his music by presenting herself as a more entertaining alternative. This invariably failed. Other times, she denigrated Beethoven’s importance and minimized Schroeder’s piano playing. This only caused him to dig his heels in deeper.

Lucy would also strategize in the other direction: She’d take an interest in Beethoven by reading up on him and making token, misplaced gestures of support. She’d inform the neighborhood about Beethoven’s birthday, for example, but mistakenly tell everyone his name was Karl instead of Ludwig. Finally, when she had exhausted all options, Lucy would physically destroy her competition, but that didn’t work either. The things she destroyed were symbols of Schroeder’s interests, not his actual interests, and he had plenty of them.

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Despite her relentlessness, Lucy was never going to find the ‘real’ Schroeder beneath his artist persona because, from all indications, Schroeder never developed an identity beyond that persona. To paraphrase Gertrude Stein: when it came to Schroeder, there was no “there” there.

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And thus, Lucy’s fascination with Schroeder became the most interesting thing about him. He could have easily gone the way of Shermy and disappeared from the strip entirely, had Lucy not used him as a sounding board for her own neuroses and insecurities. Many times, Schroeder wouldn’t even speak, or he would sneak out of the room and leave Lucy talking to herself. Their strips became less about Lucy wooing Schroeder and more about Lucy exploring her own emotional landscape.

Over the years, the reader empathized less with Schroeder and more with Lucy, even though she was the initial aggressor in this dysfunctional dynamic. At least she had some skin in the game—she opened herself to rejection every time she leaned on Schroeder’s piano. Schroeder was never open, and at times, he even seemed to take pleasure in his cruel reactions to her flirtations.

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By 1966, Lucy’s relationship with Schroeder bordered on masochistic. She persisted in her efforts to win him over, despite his indifference. During a multi-day, extended storyline during which Lucy and Linus moved away, Schroeder realized he missed her. He couldn’t play his piano without her there. Like Charlie Brown in the storyline, the reader is irritated at Schroeder for his prior callousness and emotional constipation.

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The final line of the above strip is an allusion to the play Pygmalion and its subsequent musical adaption My Fair Lady. In both the play and the musical, an emotionally abusive linguistics professor, Henry Higgins, takes an unrefined flower girl, Eliza Doolittle, under his tutelage. By the end of the play, a newly empowered Eliza declares to Higgins, “I know I’m a common ignorant girl, and you a book-learned gentleman; but I’m not dirt under your feet.”

By casting Schroeder in the role of Higgins, Schulz offers the same cutting critique. Schroeder took Lucy for granted and felt his intellect could absolve him of emotional attachment and wrongdoing. It didn’t, but even after experiencing heartbreak, Schroeder learned nothing. When Lucy moved back home at the end of the storyline, she resumed her place at the foot of his piano. Schroeder didn’t even acknowledge her until, once again, she intruded on his space.

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There was one notable occasion, in 1972, when Lucy found her dignity. The Peanuts gang was playing baseball, and Lucy was next up at bat. Schroeder insulted her by proposing what he considered an impossible bet: He had to kiss her at home plate if she hit a home run. Lo and behold, she did. Schroeder looked devastated. Lucy floated on air as she rounded the bases.

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Lucy saw Schroeder waiting at home plate, lips puckered and eyes closed, clearly hating every moment. She realized that kissing him would be humiliating for her. So she walked right past him instead of giving everyone a show to gawk at or giving Schroeder the opportunity to “BLEAH!” and shame her.

The final line, where Lucy claimed her act as a triumph of women’s liberation, is humorous in its hyperbole. But for Lucy, this was a significant moment of victory and personal growth. For so many years, Lucy idealized a life of domestic bliss with Schroeder. Finally, she realized that it degraded her to cajole a reluctant participant. She deserved an equal partner—far more than than the sort of Higgins/Eliza dynamic that Schroeder would provide. The only way she could win, counterintuitively, was by walking away.

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Lucy evolved. Once, she was an entitled child who felt that the world owed her something. She couldn’t handle rejection and settled for negative attention. Eventually, however, she found the strength to want better for herself.

Schulz rarely gave his characters everything they wanted. But the world of Peanuts was never completely hopeless. There were always small victories and glimmers of hope scattered amongst the setbacks.

Source: Kotaku.com

Um, where is Tom Hardy’s Oscar nomination for Venom?

Eddie Brock and Venom may be losers on their home planets, but Tom Hardy won’t get the chance to be one on ours: On Tuesday, Academy Awards voters overlooked the actor’s antihero performance, leaving him off the list of Oscar nominations for Best Actor.

Hardy wasn’t on the shortlist of likely nominees in the days leading up to the Oscars, nor did he earn any love from either critics groups or the Golden Globes, which had the chance to throw him a Best Actor – Comedy nomination. Hardy’s full-force, full-body zaniness is one of the best performances of the year, and yet, even the most casual awards prognosticator knew full well that the Oscars would never recognize it — but why not?

There’s no scorecard for Academy Award “Best” worthiness, but Hardy’s dual performance as Eddie Brock, a Newh Yawk investigative journalist who now chases stories in San Francisco with the verve of Monster Energy Drink, and Venom, a symbiotic alien who imbues words like “pussy” with Shakespearean gruff, checks some boxes for me, longtime Oscar viewer. The case for Hardy begins with the transformative power of his performance; based on early word from Sony Pictures, longtime Spider-Man producers Avi Arad and Matt Tolmach, and director Ruben Fleischer, Venom was supposed to be a gritty alternative to Peter Parker’s high-flying adventures, similar to the violent mode of The Dark Knight. Hardy had other ideas, mainly that a sentient goo parasite from outer space would stick a symbiotic hand up the rear of its human host and play him like a puppet.

The result is a warped interpretation of a fawned-over comic book character that allows Hardy to star in his own versions of Contagion, Liar Liar, and The Wolfman all at once. The actor throws himself into the performance — and into walls, and into lobster tanks — to sell the crippling effects of living with Venom. The movie can’t keep up, and suffers as corporate demands trudge toward a CG-splattered finale. That doesn’t stop Hardy; like Eddie Brock’s face ripping through the Venom flesh to prove a dichotomous existence, every second of the actor’s performance tears through the superhero movie playbook. (Sony would eventually embrace this relabeling of Venom as a comedy to sell Blu-rays.)

Venom - Eddie Brock being taken over by the symbiote Sony Pictures

A potential Oscar nominee also needs a meta-narrative — and Hardy had that, too. Just before the release of the film, reports broke that Hardy demanded rewrites of the Venom script on the fly so that his dialogue … made sense. Fleischer gave Polygon a more favorable twist on Hardy’s on-set demands, saying that the scene in which Eddie Brock suffers a symbiote-related meltdown in a fancy restaurant, then tears a tank of crustaceans apart with his teeth, was thought up on the fly by the actor. A pain in the ass for the crew members spending their nights making a Venom movie? Almost certainly. Worth the effort? We’ll be repurposing Tom Hardy Venom GIFs until the end of time.

Murmurs from behind-the-scenes suggest that Hardy played a major part in rejiggering Venom’s beats to capitalize on what he knew would be a rowdy, rousing version of the character. When there’s a writer-director in place that can be that flexible with a star on a movie spending millions by the second (see: Christopher McQuarrie on Mission: Impossible – Fallout), a blockbuster redrawn on the fly can form around a well of charisma and bold choices. When it can’t … well, Hardy says the best parts of Venom are on the cutting room floor, so we may not even know what “Oscar-worthy Eddie Brock” looks like.

Hardy’s work in Venom would look odd next to the actual nominees. This year’s contenders include Bradley Cooper, playing an alcoholic, burnt-out country star in his remake of A Star Is Born; Willem Dafoe as tortured artist Vincent van Gogh in Julian Schnabel’s At Eternity’s Gate; Rami Malek impersonating Queen frontman Freddie Mercury in the biopic Bohemian Rhapsody; Viggo Mortensen as toughman driver of a black musician navigating the deep south in Green Book; and perhaps the closest to Hardy’s Venom, Christian Bale, hiding under layers of latex to play former Vice President Dick Cheney in the pompous Vice.

Though a few of the roles dip a toe in the wacky (Green Book’s cartoonish portrayal of Italian-Americans in New York culminates in Mortensen’s Frank “Tony Lip” Vallelonga folding an entire pizza in half before chowing down) and Vice cuts away from Bale’s anchoring performance for cheeky asides, none of the nominees are overtly comedic performances like Hardy in Venom.

You’d be hard-pressed to find any performance of that timbre in the last 20 years of Best Actor nominees: George Clooney’s nominated work in 2009’s Up in the Air and two years later in The Descendants both embrace observational humor, but for melancholic character studies. French actor Jean Dujardin took home the Oscar for his lighthearted performance in 2011’s The Artist, but the pleasures of his role as a silent film star were more about mimicry than calibrated comedy. The only time any lead actor has channeled Hardy’s unhinged Venom mania, and saw awards-season payoff, was Nicolas Cage’s neurotic work in Adaptation, nominated for the 2003 Oscars. Eddie Brock should have been a screenwriter if he wanted that gold!

The Oscars have a notorious comedy problem. Melissa McCarthy earning a Supporting Actress nomination for Bridesmaids, a movie in which she brings the entire house down by pooping in a sink, was seen as a coup. Last year, a hard push for Tiffany Haddish’s worthy performance in Girls Trip petered out with critics awards and landed her some presenting jobs during award season rituals. After stunning work in Ace Ventura, The Mask, Liar Liar, and Dumb and Dumber, Jim Carrey blended his physical comedy skill set with more prestige fare and found awards luck with movies like The Truman Show, Man on the Moon, and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, one of the best damn movies of the new millennium. Still, no Oscar love.

Tom Hardy sitting in a lobster tank for Venom
Tom Hardy sitting in a lobster tank for Venom.
Sony Pictures

There have been dozens of comedic performances nominated for Oscars in the 90-year history of the Academy Awards, but few of them in the 2000s. The evolution of the “Oscar season” — full of campaigns, pundits, and behind-the-scenes narrative-building — might be to blame. The site Gold Derby annually gathers Oscar prognosticators from around the industry and the internet to inform audiences (voters or otherwise) about who stands a shot at the year’s coveted nomination slots. Informed by trends of the past and films that position themselves at festivals to stir up buzz, the voices on Gold Derby issue their first round of predictions in August of a given year. Regularly, the selected movies have yet to debut in any form — they just feel like Oscar movies.

Tom Hardy’s performance in Venom does not feel like the Oscars, nor would it get a push from Sony Pictures in the form of a “For Your Consideration” Oscar campaign. The effort would be paradoxical; there’s no reason to push for Venom because no one would vote for Venom because everyone assumes Venom is not the kind of movie you vote for.

The Academy omission won’t rip off Hardy’s arms, legs, and face and leave him rolling down the street like a turd in the wind; in 2018, Venom surprised the industry by grossing over $855 million worldwide, and earlier this month, word broke that Venom 2 was in active development. The Spider-Man-adjacent franchise — along with Hardy’s blockbuster cred — is intact with or without recognition from the Oscars.

Still, the oversight of Hardy’s bravado feels like complacency at work. The process in which nominees are deemed worthy is a late-stage symptom of an encrusted entertainment industry in need of disruption. Instead, cultural questions are solved with quick solutions — imagine a Most Popular Film award fitting into the current paradigm?

The circumstances of Hardy’s Venom snub — i.e., that his nomination would never have happened in a million years and it’s disingenuous to call it a snub — raises lower-key questions: With another year of all-male director nominations, was Chloé Zhao ever a possibility for her acclaimed film The Rider (which earned her a gig directing Marvel’s The Eternals?) Can a rabble-rouser like Boots Riley get the capital necessary to put Sorry to Bother You in front of a crowd that can gorge on its feast of satirical twists? Why wasn’t there talk of creating an Oscar category specifically for Mandy?

The Oscars will always leave movies, actors, and their admirers behind, but increasingly, the Hollywood politicking that steered the actual nominees toward their predictable conclusions, based on the unspoken definition of “Best,” has wrapped its black liquid tentacles around film culture — and the conversation. Despite what so many fans (and Oscar producers) cry each year, there’s no need to force superhero movies and other populist cinema into the awards conversation if they’re not worthy because, well, some are. They just have to be recognized by the right people, and early.

Black Panther made history this year by nabbing a Best Picture nomination. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse will likely win Best Animated Feature after being underestimated all season against titans like Disney and Pixar. There’s no reason Tom Hardy shouldn’t be squaring off against Vincent van Gogh for Best Actor, except that Oscar soothsayers never had the conversation in August — two months before anyone would see Venom. By that time, Venom’s October weekend competition, A Star Is Born, was the Oscar frontrunner across every category.

When the Oscars roll around in February, just remember: As long as the Oscars, and our own perceptions of Oscar season, cling to a lopsided notion of what is “the best” and what is not, we are ALL the losers, Eddie.

Source: Polygon.com