Calm Down & Study with Relaxing Piano, Jazz & Harp Covers of Music from Hayao Miyazaki Films

Calling all pediatric dentists!

Cat Trumpet, aka musician and anime lover Curtis Bonnett, may have inadvertently hit on a genius solution for keeping young patients calm in the chair: relaxing piano covers of familiar tunes from Studio Ghibli’s animated features.

The results fall somewhere between pianist George Winston’s early 80s seasonal solos and Ryuichi Sakamoto’s soundtrack for the film Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence. Let us remember that most of these tunes were fairly easy on the ears to begin with. Composer Joe Hisaishi, who has collaborated with director Hayao Miyazaki on every Studio Ghibli movie save Castle of Cagliostro, isn't exactly a punk rocker.




Many listeners report that the playlist helps them stay focused while studying or doing homework. Others succumb to the emotional riptides of childhood nostalgia.

Tender prenatal and newborn ears might prefer Cat Trumpet’s even gentler harp covers of seven Ghibli tunes, above.

Meawhile, the Japan-based Cafe Music BGM Station provides hours of jazzy, bossa-nova inflected Studio Ghibli covers to hospitals, hair salons, boutiques, and cafes. You can listen to three-and-a-half-hours worth, above. This, too, gets high marks as a homework helper.

 

Cat Trumpet’s Relaxing Piano Studio Ghibli Complete Collection

00:00:03 Spirited Away - Inochi no Namae

00:04:14 Howl's Moving Castle - Merry Go Round of Life

00:07:16 Kiki's Delivery Service - Town With An Ocean View

00:09:31 The Secret World of Arrietty - Arrietty's Song

00:13:29 Laputa Castle In The Sky - Carrying You

00:17:05 Porco Rosso - Theme

00:19:55 Whisper of the Heart - Song of the Baron

00:22:33 Porco Rosso - Marco & Gina's Theme

00:26:19 Only Yesterday - Main Theme

00:29:07 From Up On Poppy Hill - Reminiscence

00:34:12 Spirited Away - Shiroi Ryuu

00:37:06 Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind - Tori no Hito

00:41:14 Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind -  Kaze no Densetsu

00:43:25 My Neighbor Totoro - Kaze no Toori Michi

00:47:48 Castle of Cagliostro - Fire Treasure

00:51:38 Princess Mononoke - Tabidachi nishi e

00:53:07 Tales From Earthsea - Teru's Theme

00:58:17 My Neighbor Totoro - Tonari no Totoro

01:02:35 Whisper of the Heart - Theme

01:06:03 Ponyo - Rondo of the Sunflower House

01:10:34 Howl's Moving Castle - The Promise of the World

 

Cat Trumpet’s Relaxing Harp Studio Ghibli Collection Playlist

00:03 Spirited Away - Inochi no Namae

04:01 Spirited Away - Waltz of Chihiro

06:43 Howls Moving Castle - Merry Go Round of Life

09:45 Howl's Moving Castle - The Promise of the World

13:15 Laputa Castle In The Sky - Main Theme

16:55 Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea - Main Theme

20:15 Tonari no Totoro - Kaze no Toori Michi

 

Cafe Music BGM’s Relaxing Jazz & Bossa Nova Studio Ghibli Cover Playlist (song titles in Japanese)

0:00 海の見える街  〜魔女の宅急便/Kiki's Delivery Service

4:10 もののけ姫  〜もののけ姫/Princess Mononoke

7:28 君をのせて 〜天空の城ラピュタ/Laputa, the Castle of the Sky

11:09 風の通り道 〜となりのトトロ/My Neibour Totoro

16:26 ひこうき雲 〜風立ちぬ/THE WIND RISES〜

19:48 空とぶ宅急便 〜魔女の宅急便/Kiki's Delivery Service

25:05 人生のメリーゴーランド

〜ハウルの動く城/Howl's Moving Castle

28:07 いつも何度でも 〜千と千尋の神隠し/Spirited Away

32:08 となりのトトロ 〜となりのトトロ/My Neibour Totoro

36:40 さんぽ 〜となりのトトロ/My Neibour Totoro

38:40 崖の上のポニョ 〜崖の上のポニョ/Ponyo

42:08 ねこバス 〜となりのトトロ/My Neibour Totoro

46:06 旅路 〜風立ちぬ/THE WIND RISES

49:16 アシタカとサン 〜もののけ姫/Princess Mononoke

53:38 おかあさん 〜となりのトトロ/My Neibour Totoro

58:19 旅立ち 〜魔女の宅急便/Kiki's Delivery Service

1:02:25 風の谷のナウシカ 〜風の谷のナウシカ/Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind

1:06:59 やさしさに包まれたなら 〜魔女の宅急便/Kiki's Delivery Service

 

Tune in to Cat Trumpet’s Spotify channel for his relaxing takes on Disney and anime, as well as Studio Ghibli. They are available for purchase on iTunes and Google Play, or enjoy some free downloads by patronizing his Patreon. He takes requests, too.

Tune in to Cafe Music’s BGM Spotify channel for Studio Ghibli jazz, in addition to some relaxing Hawaiian guitar jazz and a selection of nature-based mellow tunes. They are available for purchase on iTunes.

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Follow her @AyunHalliday.

The Films of Christopher Nolan Explored in a Sweeping 4-Hour Video Essay: Memento, The Dark Knight, Interstellar & More

Cameron Beyl does not play by the rules when it comes to video essays. Instead of short, under-10 minute explorations we’ve come to expect from the ever-increasing coterie of YouTube essayists, Beyl, in his Directors Series on Vimeo, devotes hours to exploring the filmographies of some of cinema’s great auteurs. We’ve already introduced you in previous posts to his extended hagiographies of Stanley Kubrick, the Coen Brothers, David Fincher, and Paul Thomas Anderson.

Now comes his latest work, a multi-part exploration of Christopher Nolan’s oeuvre, covering his hardscrabble years all the way through his Hollywood blockbusters and ending with Interstellar. (This writer, having thought higher of Dunkirk than his previous works, will just have to wait a few years until the next chapter.)




In the video above, Beyl starts off with some prehistory about Christopher and his brother Jonathan, his early years making Super 8 movies, his time spent at University College London, and the very rare first films, “Tarantella” and “Larceny,” the single-gag short “Doodlebug,” and how that crew--including his lead actor Jeremy Theobald and his producer-soon-to-be-wife Emma Thomas--stayed with him through his $6000 debut feature Following and its thematic and stylistic cousin Memento, made for $4.5 million.

Part 2 shows Nolan navigating the studio system. Given a chance by executive producers George Clooney and Steven Soderbergh to remake the Norwegian thriller Insomnia, he indulged in his love of Michael Mann by working with Al Pacino, who plays a character not unlike his role in 1995’s Heat. Then Nolan takes on a moribund comic book franchise and reboots it into Batman Begins, a move that studio execs have since done over and over to rethink various properties with different directors. He ends with a less enthusiastic examination of 2006’s The Prestige.

Part 3 takes on both The Dark Knight and Inception, two huge blockbusters and one that took Nolan into the pantheon of critical and popular acclaim. If undecided on Nolan, Beyl’s obsequious tone might put one off: “Simply put, the late 2000s saw Nolan operating at the height of his powers, locked in sync with the cultural zeitgeist to such a degree that his efforts were actively steering it.” (Please have that debate in the comments.) However, Beyl makes some nice comparisons between The Dark Knight and Heat here.

Part Four shows Nolan concluding his Batman trilogy, failing to top The Dark Knight, but then going all Kubrick with Interstellar. He’s a director who has gladly played with all the toys multi-million dollar Hollywood productions have at their disposal, and he’s never been afraid of being epic. Beyl leaves off, noting that after expanding into the universe with Interstellar, Nolan has nowhere to turn but inward. So far that has resulted in the historical Dunkirk. But whether Nolan can return to more modest work has yet to be seen.

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Ted Mills is a freelance writer on the arts who currently hosts the artist interview-based FunkZone Podcast and is the producer of KCRW's Curious Coast. You can also follow him on Twitter at @tedmills, read his other arts writing at tedmills.com and/or watch his films here.

Ingmar Bergman’s 1950s Soap Commercials Wash Away the Existential Despair

Ingmar Bergman is usually remembered for the intensely serious nature of his films. Death, anguish, the absence of God--his themes can be pretty gloomy. So it might come as a surprise to learn that Bergman once directed a series of rather silly soap commercials.

The year was 1951. Bergman was 33 years old. The Swedish film industry, his main source of income, had just gone on strike to protest high government taxes on entertainment. With two ex-wives, five children, a new wife and a sixth child on the way, Bergman needed to find another way to make money.




A solution presented itself when he was asked to create a series of commercials for a new anti-bacterial soap called Bris ("Breeze," in English). Bergman threw himself into the project. He later recalled:

Originally, I accepted the Bris commercials in order to save the lives of my self and my families. But that was really secondary. The primary reason I wanted to make the commercials was that I was given free rein with money and I could do exactly what I wanted with the product's message. Anyhow, I have always found it difficult to feel resentment when industry comes rushing toward culture, check in hand.

Bergman enlisted his favorite cinematographer at that time, Gunnar Fischer, and together they made nine miniature films, each a little more than one minute long, to be screened in movie theaters over the next three years. Bergman used the opportunity to experiment with visual and narrative form.

Many of the stylistic devices and motifs that would eventually figure into his masterpieces can be spotted in the commercials: mirrors, doubles, the telescoping in or out of a story-within-a-story. You don't need to understand Swedish to recognize the mark of the master.

In the window above we feature Episode 1, "Bris Soap," which is perhaps the most basic of the commercials. They become progressively more imaginative as the series moves along:

  • Episode 2, Tennis Girl: An innocent game of tennis sets the stage for an epic battle between good (Bris soap) and evil (bacteria). Can you guess which side wins?
  • Episode 3, Gustavian: Bad hygiene in the 17th century court of King Gustav III. Plenty of foppishness, but no Bris.
  • Episode 4, Operation: "Perhaps the most intriguing of the commercials," writes Swedish film scholar Fredrik Gustafsson. "In this one Bergman is deconstructing the whole business of filmmaking, using all the tricks of his disposal to trick and treat us."
  • Episode 5, The Magic Show: Another battle between good and evil, this time in miniature.
  • Episode 6, The Inventor: A man heroically invents anti-bacterial soap, only to awaken and realize it was all a dream. (And anyway, the makers of Bris had already done it.)
  • Episode 7, The Rebus: Bergman uses montage to create a game of "rebus," a heraldic riddle (non verbis, sed rebus: "not by words but by things"), to piece together the slogan, "Bris kills the bacteria--no bacteria, no smell."
  • Episode 8, Three-Dimensional: Bergman thought 3-D films were "ridiculously stupid," and in this episode he takes a few playful jabs.
  • Episode 9, The Princess and the Swineherd: In this reinvention of Hans Christian Anderson's "The Swineherd," a 15-year-old Bibi Andersson, who went on to star in many of Bergman's greatest films, makes her screen debut as a beautiful princess who promises a swineherd 100 kisses in exchange for a bar of soap. Not a bad deal for the swineherd.

To learn more about Bergman's soap commercials you can watch a 2009 report by Slate film critic Dana Stevens here. (Note the video requires a flash player.)

Note: This post first appeared on our site in 2011. It's one of our favorites. So we're bringing it back.

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The Art of Hand-Drawn Japanese Anime: A Deep Study of How Katsuhiro Otomo’s Akira Uses Light

Animation before the days of modern computer graphics technology may impress today for the very reason that it had no modern computer graphics technology, or CGI, at its disposal. But if we really think about it — and we really watch the animated masterpieces of those days — we'll realize that much of it should impress us on many more levels than it already does. Take, for instance, Katsuhiro Otomo's 1988 cyberpunk vision Akira, one of the most beloved Japanese animated films of all time and the subject of the Nerdwriter video essay above, "How to Animate Light."

Akira, says Nerdwriter Evan Puschak, "is well known for its painstaking animation. Every frame of the film was composed with the closest attention to detail, and that gives it an unmatched richness and soul."




But he points up one quality of the production in particular: "I see the film's many lights, their different qualities and textures, as a powerful motif and symbol, and a vital element of its genius." But animators, especially animators using traditional hand-painted cels, can't just tell their directors of photography to set up a scene's lighting in a certain way; they've got to render all the different types of light in the world they create by hand, manually creating its play on every face, every object, every surface.

"The lines between shadow and light are distinct and evocative in the same way that film noir lighting is," Puschak elaborates, "and like in film noir, light in Akira is intimately connected to the city at night." In the dystopian "Neo-Tokyo" of 2019, elaborately crafted by Otomo and his collaborators, "authority is as much a blinding spotlight as it is a gun or a badge" and neon "is the bitter but beautiful light that signifies both the colorful radiance and the gaudy consumerism of modernity." And then we have Tetsuo, "at once the protagonist and the antagonist of the film, a boy who gains extraordinary psychic power" that "so often produces a disruption in the light around him." When the end comes, it comes in the form of "a giant ball of light, one single uniform white light that erases the countless artificial lights of the city," and Akira makes us believe in it. Could even the most cutting-edge, spectacularly big-budgeted CGI-age picture do the same?

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Criterion Collection Films 50% Off for the Next 13 Hours: Get Great Films at Half Price

FYI. For the next 13 hours, the Criterion Collection is running a flash sale (click here), giving you a chance to purchase "all in-stock Blu-rays & DVDs at 50% off." Just use the promo code COOP and get classic films by Hitchcock, Lynch, Welles, Kubrick, the Coen Brothers, and many others.

Stephen King’s 22 Favorite Movies: Full of Horror & Suspense

In 1999, Stephen King found himself confined to a hospital room "after a careless driver in a minivan smashed the shit out of me on a country road." There, "roaring with pain from top to bottom, high on painkillers," and surely more than a little bored, he popped a movie into the room's VCR. But it didn't take long before its cinematic power got the better of him: "I asked my son, who was watching with me, to turn the damn thing off. It may be the only time in my life when I quit a horror movie in the middle because I was too scared to go on."

The movie on King's bootleg tape ("How did I get the bootleg? Never mind how I got it") was The Blair Witch Project, Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez's ultra-low-budget horror picture that sent shockwaves through the independent film world at the end of the millennium.




Though nobody seems to talk much about it anymore, let alone watch it, King's appreciation has endured: he wrote the essay about it quoted here in 2010, and you can read it in full at Bloody Disgusting. That same site has also published a list of fifteen horror movies King has personally recommendedBlair Witch and beyond.

The list below combines King's picks at Bloody Disgusting, which lean toward recent films, with a different selection of favorites, with a stronger focus on classics, published just last month at the British Film Institute. "I am especially partial – this will not surprise you – to suspense films," the author of CarrieCujo, and It writes by way of introduction," but "my favorite film of all time – this may surprise you — is Sorcerer, William Friedkin’s remake of the great Henri-Georges Clouzot’s The Wages of Fear. Some may argue that the Clouzot film is better; I beg to disagree."

  • The Autopsy of Jane Doe (André Øvredal, 2016)  "Visceral horror to rival Alien and early Cronenberg"
  • The Blair Witch Project (Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez, 1999)
  • The Changeling (Peter Medak, 1980)
  • Crimson Peak (Guillermo del Toro, 2015)
  • Dawn of the Dead (Zack Snyder, 2004) "Snyder’s zombies are, it seems to me: fast moving terrorists who never quit."
  • Deep Blue Sea (Renny Harlin, 1999)
  • The Descent (Neil Marshall, 2005)
  • Duel (Steven Spielberg, 1971) "His most inventive film, and stripped to the very core."
  • Les Diaboliques (Henri-Georges Clouzot, 1955) "He out-Hitchcocked Hitchcock."
  • Final Destination (James Wong, 2000)
  • Event Horizon (Paul W.S. Anderson, 1997) "Basically a Lovecraftian terror tale in outer space with a The Quatermass Experiment vibe, done by the Brits."
  • The Hitcher (Robert Harmon, 1986 and Dave Meyers, 2007) "Rutger Hauer in the original will never be topped, but this is that rarity, a reimagining that actually works."
  • The Last House on the Left (Dennis Iliadis, 2009)
  • The Mist (Frank Darabont, 2007)
  • Night of the Demon (Jacques Tourneur, 1957) "The horror here is pretty understated, until the very end."
  • The Ruins (Carter Smith, 2008)
  • Sorcerer (William Friedkin, 1977)
  • Stepfather (Joseph Ruben, 1986)
  • Stir of Echoes (David Koepp 1999) "An unsettling exploration of what happens when an ordinary blue-collar guy (Kevin Bacon) starts to see ghosts."
  • The Strangers (Bryan Bertino, 2008)
  • Village of the Damned (Wolf Rilla, 1960) As far as "British horror (wrapped in an SF bow), you can’t do much better."
  • The Witch (Robert Eggers, 2015)

Though clearly a movie fan, King also shows a willingness to advocate where many a cineaste fears to tread, for instance in his selection of not just Sorcerer but several other remakes besides (and in the case of The Hitcher, both the remake and the original). He even chooses the 2004 Dawn of the Dead — directed by no less an object of critical scorn than Zack Snyder — over the 1978 George A. Romero original.

But then, King has always seemed to pride himself in his understanding of and rootedness in unpretentious, working class America, which you can see in his novels, the various film adaptations of his novels that have come out over the years, and the sole movie he wrote and directed himself: 1986's Maximum Overdrive, about machines turning against their human masters at a North Carolina truck stop. King now describes that project as a "moron movie," but as he clearly understands, even a moron movie can make a powerful impact.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Cult Director John Waters Hosts a Summer Camp for Naughty Adult Campers: Enrollment for the 2018 Edition Opens Today

I hated sports at camp, so at this camp I think we should reward every team that loses. This would be the camp where the fat people get picked first in dodge ball. 

- Filmmaker-cum-Camp Director John Waters

I can think of many children who would scramble toward the refuge of the compassionate statement above, but Camp John Waters is a decidedly adult activity.

The Pope of Trash shares actor Bill Murray’s relish for oddball settings in which he can meet the public as something close to a peer. But whereas Murray specializes in surprise drop-in appearances—reciting poetry to construction workers, crashing parties—Waters favors more immersive experiences, such as hitchhiking coast to coast.

His latest stunt brought him and 300 fellow travelers to a rustic Connecticut facility (from Sept 22-24) that normally hosts corporate team building events, family camps, and weekend getaways for playful 20-to-30-somethings keen to make new friends while zip lining, playing pingpong, and partying in the main lodge.

ARTnews pegged the inaugural session thusly:

 The Waters camp combines two of the more absurd developments in contemporary leisure: the celebrity-based getaway (see also: the Gronk Cruise) and a certain recreational aesthetic that seems to advocate for a sort of developmental purgatory.

Here,  there were no reluctant, homesick campers, weeping into their Sloppy Joes. This was a self-selecting bunch, eager to break out their wigs and leopard print, weave enemy bracelets at the arts and crafts station, and bypass anything smacking of official outdoor recreation, save the lake, where inflatable pink flamingos were available for aquatic lollygagging.

“Who really wants to go wall climbing?” the founder himself snorted in his welcoming speech, adding that he would if Joe Dallesandro, the Warhol superstar who according to Waters "forever changed male sexuality in cinema," waited up top.

Naughty references to water sports aside, certain aspects of the camp were downright wholesome. Pine trees and s’mores. Canoes and cabins. Presumably there was a camp nurse. (In Waters' ideal world, this position would be filled by Cry Baby's Traci Lords.)

Waters’ recollections of his own stint at Maryland’s Camp Happy Hollow seem primarily fond. It makes sense. Anyone who truly loathed summer camp would be unlikely to recreate the experience for themselves and their fellow adults.

Camp Waters harkens back to the 1950s transgressions its director merrily fesses up to having participated in: unfiltered cigarettes and short sheeted beds, circle jerks and panty raids. From here on out the subversion will be taking place in the sunlight.

Another special camp memory for Waters is regaling his cabin mates with an original, serialized horror story. He retells it on Celebrity Ghost Stories, above:

At the end there was this hideous gory thing and then all the kids had nightmares and their parents called the camp and complained — and I’m still doing that! It was the beginning of my career…. It was a wonderful lesson for me as a 10-year-old kid that I think helped me become whatever I am today. It gave me the confidence to go ahead, to believe in things, to believe in behavior I couldn’t understand, to be drawn to subject matter I couldn’t understand.

Registration for Camp John Waters 2018 opens today at noon, so grab the bug spray and get ready to sing along:

There is a camp in a place called Kent

It’s name is Camp John Waters

For here we come to spend the night

For we all love to fuck and fight

Camp John Waters - rah rah rah!

Camp John Waters - sisboombah!

Camp John Waters - rah rah rah!

Three cheers for Camp John Waters!

Could Waters’ own contribution to such camp classics as Meatballs, Little Darlings and Wet Hot American Summer be far behind?

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine. She attended Gnawbone Camp in Gnawbone, Indiana, recapturing that happy experience three decades later as the Mail Lady of Beam Camp.  Follow her @AyunHalliday.

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