Weekend Reads: Studio Ghibli, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Summer Blockbusters, Game of Thrones, Deepfakes

Recommended weekend reading material for May 30, 2020.

Every week, I compile a list of interesting, thought-provoking, and enjoyable articles, blog posts, and reviews. I hope they provide you with some good weekend reading material.

To celebrate the arrival of Studio Ghibli’s films on HBO Max, Aja Romano has written an overview of the anime studio’s origins and legacy that includes a list of “must watch” films to check out.

From the beginning, with Nausicaä and the studio’s first official film Laputa (Castle in the Sky), Ghibli established itself as a studio committed to the meticulous craft needed to make great, emotionally compelling animation. Even now, decades into the age of digital animation, Ghibli continues to utilize hand-drawn animation (alongside occasional computer assistance). Its films often take years to produce and animate because of this commitment, but that also keeps anticipation high.

I’m glad to see that Whisper of the Heart made Romano’s list. It’s one of my favorite Ghibli films but one that often seems overlooked (read my review).

Here’s a list of anime series for people who don’t like anime.

A lot of people love anime... this article isn’t for them. No, it’s specifically for those people in your life who claim to have no interest in anime as a genre. But the thing is, anime isn’t really a genre: It’s an entire medium, full of many genres and specific styles.

Related: I’d be remiss if I didn’t share the anime primer that I published back in 2013.

I recently watched Raiders of the Lost Ark with my son. It’d been years since I’d last seen the movie, but it still totally held up (and of course, my kid loved it). A recent video essay breaks down the movie’s desert chase sequence, one of the great action sequences of all time.

Ultimately, the many techniques utilized in the desert chase scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark creates the impression of active audience participation in the decision-making in the sequence. I couldn’t tell you how many times in recent years I’d seen action scenes that just got increasingly dull as they went on because they had little to no narrative impact. But Spielberg lets the story of Raiders of the Lost Ark unfold alongside the high-impact stunt work and tense action, rather than let one take precedence over another.

Via One Perfect Shot.

Who doesn’t love a good summer blockbuster? To celebrate Jaws’ 45th anniversary, Phil Pirrello has compiled a list of the 15 greatest summer movies of all time.

It’s ironic that, at a time when we could all really use our traditional dose of escapist summer movie fare at the movie theater, we are unable to do so right now. But that doesn’t mean we can’t replicate that experience from the comfort and safety of our own couches. Which, honestly, are infinitely more comfortable than squeaky movie theater seats.

Monty Python and the Holy Grail also turns 45 this year, so Erik Adams writes about the film’s origins and approach to comedy.

Monty Python And The Holy Grail never wastes a joke-telling opportunity. The opening credits are a rolling snowball of jokes. The songs by Python associate (and future Rutle) Neil Innes are whirligigs of funny rhymes and piercing insults. “Camelot Song” is matched to slapstick choreography — and one key cutaway — mounted in the difficultly lit interior of a castle that had to serve as multiple castles due to an uncooperative Scottish government.

Love it or hate it, there’s no denying that HBO’s Game of Thrones left a huge mark on the cultural zeitgeist. So what’s going to be the next Game of Thrones?

The Sisyphean quest to create the “next Game of Thrones” has been ongoing for years, and perhaps has a greater sense of urgency now that Thrones is over and audiences are once again open to a widely shared television experience. But as futile as these efforts have seemed, there have still been a lot of hopeful contenders over the years — shows both currently airing and ones in development have garnered hype as the next big thing.

You might think that, being a big sci-fi/fantasy nerd who’s enjoyed George R.R. Martin’s novels, I would’ve stuck with the series. However, I gave up on Game of Thrones long before it ended.

Rob Toews on the sobering reality of AI-generated “deepfake” videos:

It does not require much imagination to grasp the harm that could be done if entire populations can be shown fabricated videos that they believe are real. Imagine deepfake footage of a politician engaging in bribery or sexual assault right before an election; or of U.S. soldiers committing atrocities against civilians overseas; or of President Trump declaring the launch of nuclear weapons against North Korea. In a world where even some uncertainty exists as to whether such clips are authentic, the consequences could be catastrophic.

It’ll be really interesting — and by “interesting,” I mean “nerve-wracking” — to see if and how deepfakes play a role in the 2020 elections.

Having trouble sleeping these days? Then consider trying some of these albums.

In recent months, that pervasive anxiety seems to have hit new highs amid the coronavirus pandemic. It’s been showing up in our sleep, too. The New York TimesTime, and the Smithsonian Magazine have all published stories about how unrest from being housebound has impacted our dreams. Multiple online repositories are collecting people’s COVID-19 nightmares. And since the second week in March, when Donald Trump declared a national emergency, Google searches for “ambient music” have hit several new spikes. The science about whether or not music or white noise helps you sleep is incredibly mixed, but, as leading researcher and University of Pennsylvania professor Mathias Basner recently put it, “If you try this and it helps you, do it, by all means.”

I’m not surprised that the list includes an album by Steve Roach, one of ambient music’s most prolific artists. I’ve often used Roach’s sublime Structures From Silence as a sleeping aid.

In light of recent events, I really appreciated (and was convicted by) Eric Tonjes’ thoughts on Christianity and racism.

[W]hat do we do as white Christians, especially if we struggle with those discussions of race? The place I’d invite you to start is simply by saying, “This is tragic and hard, and I don’t know all the answers, and I may well need to repent and change.” To do that and then to spend some time reading and listening and praying and wrestling. And to do all of that with a heart willing to embrace the grief of our broken world.

If you’re looking for a thoughtful and haunting sci-fi series, then I highly recommend Amazon’s Tales From the Loop. From my review:

[I]f you come to Tales From the Loop looking for something akin to Stranger Things or The X-Files — i.e., scrappy characters confronting otherworldly phenomena, solving a grand mystery, or unmasking some nefarious conspiracy — you’ll almost certainly be disappointed. There are no action sequences, no climactic confrontations, no great evil or conspiracy to be ultimately vanquished. There’s no ​“mystery box” that will be eventually unwrapped, opened up, and figured out.

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