Film

Explaining Your Favorite Gifs and Translating Video Games: Web Docs to Watch

Check out video essays and shorts about making terrariums, the history of the Seattle Mariners, and more.

From “What Became of the Jungle“More people than ever are turning to the internet, especially streaming sites, for entertainment and information in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. To help you sort through the myriad options out there, Hyperallergic is resurrecting its column for recommendations on great video essays, YouTube shorts, and other streaming stuff to check out. Happy watching!

“What Isolation Does To Your Brain” by Entertain the Elk

First off, here’s some important scientific context for what a lot of us are currently undergoing in social distancing. It’s vital to contextualize just what loneliness (which is often abstracted as a concept, making it easy to forget it is, in fact, also a concrete experience) is and how it works. This video emphasizes our importance to one another and how we need to maintain social bonds however we can.

“The Life and Death of 3D” by the Royal Ocean Film Society

The Royal Ocean Film Society produces consistently terrific videos on film history, and this is a great recent showcase. Did you know, for example, that the first major 3D film wasn’t made in the 1950s, but rather way back in 1922? This video traces the (frequently troubled) history of the format, and how it’s often been tied to the shifting fortunes of various gimmicks created for the theatrical experience.

“The History of the Seattle Mariners, a Dorktown special” by SB Nation

I have zero allegiance to the Seattle Mariners, and not much more context for the baseball team’s history. This doesn’t matter, because Jon Bois and Alex Rubenstein are here to make that history both riveting and incredibly entertaining. In Bois’s inimitable way, these videos delve into the pure weirdness of both the Mariners’ fortunes and the wider social contexts affecting the team.

Animal Crossing‘s fake language is different in Japan, and here’s why” by Polygon

A lot of us are spending our increased time indoors playing Animal Crossing (*cough*). This video explains how the game’s adorable rendering of its characters’ dialogue as seemingly unintelligible mouth noises does in fact have its own underlying logic. Even more fascinatingly, these vocalizations change from one real-world language to another. This is a great look at the particulars of game localization and translation.

“Artists & Fandoms” by Philosophy Tube

What do creators owe the people who appreciate their work? That’s a difficult question, particularly nowadays, since the internet has blurred the lines between simply liking something and making that approval part of one’s identity — to say nothing of how it’s facilitated greater access to creators. Drawing both on his academic background and his own experiences as a creator, Oliver Thorn sorts through the different issues at play here.

“Fear of Depths” by Jacob Geller

Jacob Geller is one of the smartest people doing video game criticism right now, finding novel approaches almost no one else would consider. In this video, he examines the ways disparate games incorporate ideas around descent, being underground, and being enclosed, and draws connections to broader cultural concepts about underground spaces.

“What Became of the Jungle” by Asu

植物男子 (“Plant Guy”) Asu specializes in creating terrariums that look like miniaturized forests, cliffs, waterfalls, and other natural phenomena. His works are beautiful, and the only thing better than visually appreciating them is watching him go through the process of building them. It’s pure ASMR pleasure. This, his most recent video as of this writing, is as good a place to start with his videos as any.

“The Movies Behind Your Favourite GIFs” by Little White Lies

I have never seen Jeremiah Johnson, but I’ve used the GIF of the slow zoom in on Robert Redford nodding approvingly as a reaction image more times than I can count. This cute video not only sources the lesser-known films behind some very well-known GIFs, but also explores just what it is that causes certain images to resonate with people on such a level.

“How history changed kitchen design in the American South” by Adam Ragusea

Adam Ragusea is a YouTube cook who tries to meet the audience in a more approachable way than many within this genre. His videos often explain simple elements of home cooking. Here, what could be a basic “showing off the new kitchen” video becomes something much more, as he investigates the history of his own house in Macon, Georgia and demonstrates how social factors subtly influence architecture. Namely, his house was once made to accommodate Black house workers, with a kitchen kept out of sight, but now has been updated for a culture in which the kitchen is a central part of family life.

“Creativity is Overrated” by The Art Assignment

Here’s something upbeat to leave you with. Host Sarah Urist Green wants to encourage anyone artistically inclined to follow through on their projects, even in spite of the quarantine. If there’s an idea you’ve been putting off, then this will cut through your every excuse and discouragement. Times are rough, but that’s precisely why we need art.

If you have a recommendation for a video to feature in this series, or want to submit your own video for consideration, please don’t hesitate to reach out to [email protected]

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