Monday, April 16, 2018

The Weekly Stuff Podcast #232 – Persona 5 The Animation, Isao Takahata, and Ranking Spider-Man Games


It’s time for another episode of The Weekly Stuff Podcast with Jonathan Lack & Sean Chapman, a weekly audio show that explores the worlds of film, television, and video games. You can subscribe for free in iTunes by following this link

We have quite the grab bag for you on the show this week, as we discuss topics as wide-ranging as the passing of beloved Japanese director Isao Takahata, a true pioneer of the medium, to something as silly as Sean ranking all the Spider-Mangames he has ever played to celebrate the release date announcement of Insomniac’s Spider-Man PS4 game. Jonathan also talks about his adventures re-watching Yu-Gi-Oh! in Japanese, Sean gives final thoughts on Far Cry 5, and we talk about the first two episodes of Persona 5 The Animation. We even bring Jonathan’s brother Thomas on to talk about Persona 4 Dancing All Night and the upcoming Persona 3 and dancing spin-offs, given that Thomas is currently #1 in the leaderboards on most P4D songs. 

And on a personal note, I (Jonathan) have some big life news to share on the podcast this week. I talk about it more on the show, but in short, I have been accepted to a PhD program in Film Studies at the University of Iowa, and will be moving later this year to attend. No, it does not mean the end of the podcast, though we’ll probably have to do some experimenting to make the transition from ‘two guys in a room with one mic’ to ‘two guys in two different states over the internet.’ Neither Sean nor I are all that worried – plenty of podcasts record this way! – but it will be a bit of a change, and if you’ve got any tips, we’d be happy to hear them! 

Enjoy! 

Time Chart:

Intro: 0:00:00 – 0:09:10
Jonathan’s Yu-Gi-Oh! Adventures: 0:09:10 – 0:23:38
Sean on Far Cry 5: 0:23:38 – 0:49:20
Remembering Isao Takahata: 0:49:20 – 0:59:00
Incredibles 2 Trailer: 0:59:00 – 1:03:25
Spider-Man News & Countdown: 1:03:25 – 1:39:13
Persona 5 The Animation: 1:39:13 – 1:55:00
Persona Dancing Games Chat: 1:55:00 – 2:20:31

Stream The Weekly Stuff Podcast Episode #232







The Weekly Stuff with Jonathan Lack & Sean Chapmanis a weekly audio podcast, and if you subscribe in iTunes, episodes will be delivered automatically and for free as soon as they are released. If you visit www.jonathanlack.com, we also have streaming and downloadable versions of new and archival episodes for your listening pleasure.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

In Honor of the Late, Great Isao Takahata, read "Elegy for a Lost Tomorrow," my Thesis on his Films


There are pieces one hopes never to have to write, even when holding onto that hope is holding out against one of life’s simplest inevitabilities. 

Reporting on the death of Isao Takahata, the Studio Ghibli co-founder and Japanese animation titan who passed away today at 82, is one of those pieces. And that sentiment – of holding onto or coming to terms with the futility of a hope that stands opposed to the simple, forceful transience of all existence – is one of those existential quandaries Takahata explored so beautifully, so insightfully, so painfully, so spiritually, in his extraordinary work. 

Though his lifelong friend, co-worker, and fellow Ghibli founder Hayao Miyazaki is the better known name, with the better known films, I have argued that Isao Takahata and his work are even more important landmarks in the history and development not just of Japanese animation, but world cinema in general. For where Miyazaki is one of the greatest commercial filmmakers the medium has ever known, Takahata is one of the most restlessly innovative, from his younger days as one of the first pioneers of the art we now call ‘anime,’ all the way to his last feature film, The Tale of the Princess Kaguya,ameditation on life, death, and everything between experimentally animated to look like moving sketches, its themes of transience mirrored in its profound aesthetics. I have called his first film – The Great Adventure of Horus, Prince of the Sun– the most important animated film ever made, anywhere in the world, for how boldly it broke with the then-largely-unchallenged Disney models of narrative and aesthetics in animation, and for how eloquently it laid out a future in which commercial animation could be anything it wanted to be, especially at home in Japan. It is an opinion I believe in more strongly the more I study film. This is the man who made animation’s equivalent of Citizen Kane, and neither he nor his work get nearly enough credit for this in the West. 

For my part, Isao Takahata means as much to me as a filmmaker possibly can. I not only love his work dearly, but devoted over a year of my life to researching and writing about them, for my Master’s Thesis at the University of Colorado. The final project, a 200-page tome titled Elegy for a Lost Tomorrow: Representations of Loss in the Works of Isao Takahata, is the work I am proudest of creating, and the one I am closest to, for it was, in essence, a way for me to reconcile the loss of my father and subsequent existential conundrums through a journey with Takahata’s incredible films. I have not done much to share it publicly in the years since it was completed, as I have been working, off and on, with turning it into a book for wider publication. But I want to share with you today a link to download this Thesis, and give everyone interested in this most extraordinary filmmaker a chance to read what is probably one of the longest and most in-depth English-languages assessments of his work that currently exists. I have so much to say about Mr. Takahata, but the most important things have been said here, and I invite you to read it for yourself: 



From the abstract: 

The films of Japanese animation director Isao Takahata are notable for their vivid and complex characters, deep engagement with Japanese history and culture, and for their increasingly bold visual innovation and experimentation over Takahata’s half-century spanning career. Yet these are also films replete with loss, nearly all of Takahata’s theatrical works emotionally and thematically constructed upon foundations of death, transience, and grief. Children dying in the fire-bombings of the Japanese countryside during the Pacific War; a woman reflecting on lost parts of herself as she wanders through distant memories; a celestial daughter born to experience the joy and sorrow of mankind’s transient plane; these are the kinds of stories Takahata tells, and this study is primarily concerned with exploring the heart of absence that exists within each of them. Through close readings of three Takahata features in particular – Grave of the Fireflies (1988), Only Yesterday (1991), and The Tale of the Princess Kaguya (2013)– and other films around the periphery, alongside engagement with texts about Japanese spirituality and broader works about the human experience of loss and wandering, this study aims to both trace the core themes of one filmmaker’s career, and to analyze loss as a dynamic and fluid ethereal force. With the animated canvas of Takahata’s films offering a perfect medium upon which to study loss, its hand-crafted, transient form enhancing and challenging the ways in which loss is cinematically analyzed, this study asks readers to reconsider their relationship not only to the moving image, but also to the emotional forces of absence, wonder, and grief. Guided by a series of short interstitial personal remembrances from the author, this study is as much an exploration of emotion and human processing as it is an examination of film and form, crafted with the implicit goal of demonstrating how closely aligned these typically disparate fields of study are within the human mind and heart.

I am deeply heartbroken by this loss – I must confess that the death of a filmmaker has never hit me so hard as this one has. Takahata was a hero to me, and to so many others. That his spirit, wisdom, and artistry will live on through his work, for as long as we watch and study films, is however a powerful consolation. If you have never seen them, now is the time. 

Monday, April 2, 2018

The Weekly Stuff #231 – Far Cry 5, Ready Player One, and Revisiting Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith


It’s time for another episode of The Weekly Stuff Podcast with Jonathan Lack & Sean Chapman, a weekly audio show that explores the worlds of film, television, and video games. You can subscribe for free in iTunes by following this link

After revisiting the first two Star Wars Prequels earlier this year, we finally reach the third and final film in the controversial trilogy, and once again give it a thorough critical reevaluation. Revenge of the Sith is a great Star Wars movie, a bleak but rousing trilogy capper with a surprising amount of political resonance today, and it gives us a ton to dive into as we complete our project of revisiting the prequels. We also review some new movies – namely Steven Spielberg’s Ready Player One and Wes Anderson’s Isle of Dogs – and talk a bit about this week’s big game release, Far Cry 5, in a fun, busy, jam-packed episode. 

Enjoy! 

Time Chart:

Intro: 0:00:00 – 0:03:06
News: 0:03:06 – 0:09:08
Isle of Dogs Review: 0:09:08 – 0:26:00
Ready Player One Review: 0:26:00 – 0:43:46
Far Cry 5 Review: 0:43:46 – 1:02:12
Misc. (Detective Pikachu, Star Wars Rebels, and more): 1:02:12 – 1:21:08
Revisiting Star Wars Episode III: 1:21:08 – 3:46:33

Stream The Weekly Stuff Podcast Episode #231







The Weekly Stuff with Jonathan Lack & Sean Chapmanis a weekly audio podcast, and if you subscribe in iTunes, episodes will be delivered automatically and for free as soon as they are released. If you visit www.jonathanlack.com, we also have streaming and downloadable versions of new and archival episodes for your listening pleasure.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

The Weekly Stuff Bonus #8 – Doctor Who: Ghost Light (Story 154, 1989)


It’s time for another monthly bonus episode of The Weekly Stuff Podcast with Jonathan Lack & Sean Chapman, where we will be discussing serials from classic Doctor Who history.


This month, our journey through classic Doctor Who reaches a culmination point, as we drop in on the original series’ excellent final creative push, with the run of Sylvester McCoy’s wonderful Seventh Doctor and his delightfully loony antepenultimate story “Ghost Light.” One of the strangest, densest, and most compelling Doctor Who stories ever told, “Ghost Light” sees every member of the creative staff going down swinging in the last season of the original run, particularly showcasing McCoy’s very unique take on the character and Sophie Aldred’s all-time great companion Ace. This is an overlooked classic, and a great way to complete our 8-month-long journey through the show’s original 26-year run.

Stream 'The Weekly Stuff' Bonus #08: 

 





Monday, March 26, 2018

The Weekly Stuff Podcast #230 – Tomb Raider, Dragon Ball Super, X-Files, Kirby, Detective Pikachu & more!


It’s time for another episode of The Weekly Stuff Podcast with Jonathan Lack & Sean Chapman, a weekly audio show that explores the worlds of film, television, and video games. You can subscribe for free in iTunes by following this link.

It’s a loose, fun, freewheelin’ grab-bag style episode on the show this week, as we talk about a whole host of recent movies, games, and TV shows. Jonathan reviews Ava DuVernay’s very good (and very undervalued) A Wrinkle in Time and the mostly disappointing Tomb Raider adaptation, which leads to a great discussion about the 25-year-history of video game adaptations failing spectacularly in Hollywood. Sean reviews the new season of The X-Files after its recent finale and talks about the outstanding final run of Dragon Ball Super. And finally, we review several recent video games, including Sean’s thoughts on Burnout Paradise Remastered and Jonathan’s first impressions of Detective Pikachu and overall thoughts on Kirby Star Allies. It’s a jam-packed episode full of fun topics that was a blast to record, and we think you’ll feel the same.

Enjoy!

Time Chart:

Intro: 0:05:32
(Stupid) News: 0:05:32 – 0:32:08
Movie Stuff (A Wrinkle in Time & Tomb Raider): 0:32:08 – 1:05:50
TV Stuff (X-Files, Dragon Ball Super): 1:05:50 – 1:42:10
Game Stuff (Detective Pikachu, Burnout Paradise, Kirby Star Allies): 1:42:10 – 2:10:30

Stream The Weekly Stuff Podcast Episode #230






The Weekly Stuff with Jonathan Lack & Sean Chapman is a weekly audio podcast, and if you subscribe in iTunes, episodes will be delivered automatically and for free as soon as they are released. If you visit www.jonathanlack.com, we also have streaming and downloadable versions of new and archival episodes for your listening pleasure.

Monday, March 19, 2018

The Weekly Stuff Podcast #229 – Reviewing Alex Garland’s “Annihilation”


It’s time for another episode of The Weekly Stuff Podcast with Jonathan Lack & Sean Chapman, a weekly audio show that explores the worlds of film, television, and video games. You can subscribe for free in iTunes by following this link.

A month after its US release and on the heels of its international debut on Netflix, we finally get around to talking about Alex Garland’s Annihilation, a sci-fi journey that is gorgeously strange, evocative, frustrating, and undeniably fascinating to talk about. This is a prerecorded episode we saved for a rainy day, so we hope you’ll excuse the belated nature of this discussion (we’ll be back next week with a more up-to-date episode!). For now, Annihilation is, warts and all, more than worthy of the full Weekly Stuff discussion treatment, and we hope you’ll enjoy the review.

Stream The Weekly Stuff Podcast Episode #229








The Weekly Stuff with Jonathan Lack & Sean Chapman is a weekly audio podcast, and if you subscribe in iTunes, episodes will be delivered automatically and for free as soon as they are released. If you visit www.jonathanlack.com, we also have streaming and downloadable versions of new and archival episodes for your listening pleasure.

Monday, March 12, 2018

The Weekly Stuff Podcast #228 – Mario Day, Nintendo Direct, Violence in Video Games & More


It’s time for another episode of The Weekly Stuff Podcast with Jonathan Lack & Sean Chapman, a weekly audio show that explores the worlds of film, television, and video games. You can subscribe for free in iTunes by following this link.

It’s a grab-bag style episode this week, as offer topics ranging from serious and topical to silly and only tangentially topical. Sean and Jonathan both talk about great recent indie games, including Into the Breach and Celeste, recap the Oscars and this week’s Nintendo Direct news, and cover some various odds and ends. We then have a serious talk about the absurdity of ‘violence in video games’ still being blamed for school shootings some 20 years after Columbine, in reaction to the nonsensical White House meeting this week, and what a gross function this rhetoric serves in distracting from real solutions. And finally, in honor of March 10 – “Mar10 Day,” or “Mario Day,” as Nintendo has coined (pun intended) – Jonathan ranks, on the fly, every single Super Mario Bros game in one of our sillier and less substantive recent segments.

Enjoy!

Time Chart:

Intro: 0:03:05
Sean Talks Into the Breach: 0:03:05 – 0:09:18
Jonathan Talks Celeste and other stuff: 0:09:18 – 0:31:14
News, including Oscar reactions: 0:31:14 – 1:17:40
Nintendo Direct recap: 1:17:40 – 1:46:42
Violence in Video Games: 1:46:42 – 2:06:09
Mario Day ‘Celebration’: 2:06:09 – 2:41:03

Stream The Weekly Stuff Podcast Episode #228







The Weekly Stuff with Jonathan Lack & Sean Chapman is a weekly audio podcast, and if you subscribe in iTunes, episodes will be delivered automatically and for free as soon as they are released. If you visit www.jonathanlack.com, we also have streaming and downloadable versions of new and archival episodes for your listening pleasure.