Jul 15, 2017

Weekend Reads: Anime’s New Golden Age, Luc Besson’s Valerian, “Post-Horror” Films, the World’s Oldest Websites, Brain-Hacking & more

Also: Facebook’s population, the iPhone’s future, North Korea, Donald Trump’s TV addiction, new movie formats, comic books, and Henry David Thoreau’s video game.

Your Name - Makoto Shinkai
Makoto Shinkai’s Your Name

Due to the success of films like Your Name, anime is entering a new golden age. “Despite being expensive, labour-intensive and notoriously badly paid, the anime industry is booming. According to the Association of Japanese Animations’ 2016 report, it has grown consistently over the past six years, and in every way: revenues are higher than ever, more titles are being released, and overseas markets are growing.” But still the age-old question remains: who will be the next Hayao Miyazaki?

Luc Besson’s Valerian looks like a big budget Hollywood movie, but looks are deceiving. “Besson has made a long career out of quirky, international genre hits full of gun fu and explosions, with actors who often seem to find the scenery too delicious to resist snacking on. Yet, his movies feel like more than just cliché potboilers. When The Fifth Element crops up on cable, as it seems to every six hours or so, you don’t click past it. You watch it until the end — because it’s fun and cool, yes, but also because it’s delightfully un-American.”

Facebook Screenshot

If Facebook were a country, it’d have two billion citizens. “The user base is bigger than the population of any single country, and of six of the seven continents. It represents more than a quarter of the world’s 7.5 billion people.” It’s doubtful that this will raise any more questions about Facebook’s responsibilities to protect its users, or to respect the laws of the various real world countries in which it operates… right?

The iPhone turned ten this year. So what will it, and the world, look like in another ten years? “Nearly everyone in the industry believes that pane of glass in your pocket is here to stay, at least for a while. Something about that in-between, do-everything device just feels so … right… As tech infiltrates every object and surface on the planet, you can imagine not needing a device at all. You’d just walk up to the nearest window or table, log in with facial recognition, and get to work. But people will always want a personal device, Arshad says.”

Get Out - Jordan Peele
Jordan Peele’s Get Out

A new wave of horror movie directors are taking the genre in some new directions. “There will always be a place for movies that reacquaint us with our primal fears and frighten the bejesus out of us. But when it comes to tackling the big, metaphysical questions, the horror framework is in danger of being too rigid to come up with new answers.”

North Korea has one of the world’s most repressive regimes but that hasn’t stopped its citizens from watching banned movies. “Viewing and selling illicit media is still dangerous in North Korea. Under Kim Jong Un, defectors report stricter crackdowns by specialized government units that are much harder to bribe than their predecessors. But it doesn’t seem to deter people from watching in secret.”

Space Jam Website
The Space Jam website, still around and still awesome

These are some of the world’s oldest websites, and they’re still online. Example include the Space Jam website, Netscape’s “Welcome” page (with “font” tags galore), CNN’s O.J. Simpson coverage, a definitive guide to the spork, and a map to Tokyo’s cleanest toilets.

As we find more ways to integrate technology into our bodies — such as interfaces that allow quadriplegics to regain control over their bodies or devices that allow people to communicate brain-to-brain — the question inevitably arises: How do we prevent these technologies from being hacked and abused?

Donald Trump
The TV-Obsessed Narcissist-in-Chief

It’s still up for debate whether TV addiction is real or not, but if it is, Donald Trump might be its poster child. “A thorough Washington Post report about Trump’s viewing habits describes a man never more than a few feet from a TV, whether tuned in to CNN, Fox, Fox Business or MSNBC. Trump has even been known to shush staff and visitors so he can focus on what’s airing, or to yell at screens showing negative coverage of him. The Post estimated that Trump logs more than five hours of TV viewing a day, starting his morning with “Fox & Friends” and ending with marathon sessions in the private residence.”

Martyn Wendell Jones describes the experience of watching a “B” movie in a revolutionary movie format. “Four rows of seats comprise the front section of a Scotiabank Theater room in Toronto outfitted for Barco Escape, the continuous three-screen format making a slow debut in cities around North America. In a time of anxieties about the potential of streaming services to undercut traditional theater patronage, Barco is intended to offer audiences a new movie experience unique to brick-and-mortar cinema.”

Action Comics #1
Action Comics #1

NPR lists 10 comics that changed the medium forever. “We’re not talking about plot twists, here, or we’d include a book like Saga of the Swamp Thing #21, for reasons some of you understand very well. Not that kind of game-changer. No, these comics fundamentally changed something more than a single character or storyline. They changed how the entire medium of comics was perceived.”

We tend to associate video games with action and violence. A video game based on Henry David Thoreau’s Walden encourages reflection. “Fullerton, director of the University of Southern California’s Game Innovation Lab, conceived of the game as an ‘antidote to turbulent times’ and hopes it can help players become ‘conscious of the pace at which we’re living our lives, especially in regards to new technologies and the drive to constantly be ‘upgrading’ our lives.’”

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