After the triumph of OK Computer, Radiohead fell into a creative tailspin -- and frontman Thom Yorke into a nervous breakdown. Exhausted from touring, hounded by press, and jaded by copycats, he escaped into the electronica scene pioneered by Kraftwerk and Warp Records -- fertile ground, the band discovered. Trading spacey rock for apocalyptic brooding, they teased their new sound not with singles or music videos but with innovative web streaming and cryptic, dreamlike "blips" -- winterlands, flocks of cubes, eyeballs, bears. After nearly breaking up over tracklist angst, they cut the kid in half. Thus fifteen years ago today, Kid A and (later) Amnesiac debuted, a confounding mix of electronic fugue, whalesong, pulsing IDM, drunken piano, and epic jazz funeral whose insights into anxiety, political dysfunction, and climate crisis would make it one of the most revered albums of the twenty-first century. See the documentary Reflections on Kid A for interviews and live cuts, or look inside for much more. [more inside]
A month after its release, Naughty Dog's sweeping interactive epic The Last of Us is being hailed as one of the best games of all time, with perfect scores even from notoriously demanding critics. Inspired by an eerily beautiful segment from the BBC's Planet Earth, the game portrays an America twenty years after a pandemic of the zombiefying Cordyceps fungus (previously), leaving behind lush wastelands of elegant decay teeming with monsters and beset by vicious bandits, a brutal military, and the revolutionary Fireflies. Into this bleak vision of desperate violence journey Joel, a gruffly stoic Texan with a painful past, and his ward Ellie, a precocious teenager who may hold the key to mankind's future. Boasting tense, immersive gameplay, compelling performances from a diverse cast, a movingly minimalist score from Oscar-winning Gustavo Santaolalla, and an array of influences from Alfonso Cuarón's Children of Men to Cormac McCarthy's The Road, it's already being slotted alongside BioShock Infinite and Half-Life 2 as one of modern gaming's crowning achievements. And while it's hard to disentangle plot from action, you don't have to buy a PS3 to experience it -- YouTube offers many filmic edits of the game, including this three-hour version of all relevant passages. And don't miss the 84-minute documentary exploring every facet of its production. [more inside]
Young Edd Gould always enjoyed drawing comics of himself and his friends. Growing up in the internet age, his doodles evolved into Flash animations of increasing complexity, and in time Edd and pals Tom Ridgewell and Matt Hargreaves teamed up to produce an "Eddsworld" series of online webtoons and comics. At first crude and halting, the group's "eddisodes" progressed from surreal shorts and one-shots into full-fledged productions that pushed the boundaries of amateur web animation, with expressive characters, full soundtracks, complex effects, and a fast-paced, off-kilter sense of humor: MovieMakers - Spares - WTFuture - Rock Bottom - Hammer & Fail (2). At its height, the college co-op was producing shorts for Mitchell & Webb and the UN Climate Change Conference, fielding offers from Paramount and Cartoon Network, and racking up millions of hits on YouTube. Work slowed, however, when Gould was diagnosed with leukemia -- a relatively survivable form, though, and Gould carried on working gamely through his hospital stays. So it came as a shock last week when Matt and Tom announced that Edd had passed away, prompting an outpouring of grief and gratitude from all the fans he'd entertained and inspired in his short 23 years.
As discussed over the weekend, in less than two weeks the millions of videos uploaded to six-year-old erstwhile YouTube competitor Google Video will no longer be viewable. Though a download button has been added to each video page for easy back-up, that will only be available though May 13th, and the company will not be offering transfer service for users with YouTube accounts. The search giant has been slowly winding down the service over the years since their billion-dollar buyout of YouTube, controversially revoking purchased content (with a refund) in 2007 and disabling new uploads in 2009. The shutdown is a big blow to the web video ecosystem, as Google Video was one of the few major services to allow free hosting of long-form video, including the content for many popular MetaFilter posts. But all is not lost! Reddit users have organized a virtual potluck to share the most interesting and unique videos not available anywhere else, and the Archive Team, preserver of doomed web properties like Geocities (previously), is partnering with Archive.org to back up as much content as possible. In that spirit, click inside for a list of some of the most popular Google Video-centric content posted here over the years. [more inside]
Five years ago this week, the BBC started broadcasting one of the most extraordinary documentaries ever to grace television: Planet Earth. The culmination of five years of field work, it employed the most cutting-edge of techniques in order to capture life in all its forms, from sweeping spaceborne vistas to shockingly intimate close-ups -- including many sights rarely glimpsed by human eyes. Visually spectacular, it showcased footage shot in 204 locations in 62 countries, thoroughly documenting every biome from the snowy peaks of the Himalayas to the lifegiving waters of the Okavango Delta, a rich narrative tapestry backed by a stirring orchestral score from the BBC Concert Orchestra. Unfortunately, the series underwent some editorial changes for rebroadcast overseas. But now fans outside the UK can rejoice -- all eleven chapters of this epic story are available on YouTube in their original form: uncut, in glorious 1080p HD, and with the original narration by renowned naturalist Sir David Attenborough. Click inside for the full listing (and kiss the rest of your week goodbye). [more inside]
Canadian horror flick Pontypool (trailer) is a modern zombie tale quite unlike any other. Loosely based on a dense, complicated novel by Tony Burgess and inspired by Orson Welles' War of the Worlds, it tells the story of Grant Mazzy, a grumbling yet likable radio host (played by veteran character actor Stephen McHattie) whose penchant for philosophical ramblings gets him booted from Toronto to the sleepy winter pastures of Pontypool, Ontario. One bleak morning, as the outspoken Mazzy chafes against no-nonsense producer Sydney Briar, disturbing news begins rolling in of a series of bizarre and violent incidents sweeping the town. Trapped in their church basement broadcasting booth, Mazzy, Briar, and intern Laurel-Ann Drummond struggle to understand the odd nature of the crisis and warn the wider world before it's too late. But this is no ordinary virus, and they find their efforts may be causing far more harm than good. You can watch the film on YouTube horror channel Dead By Dawn (1 2 3 4 5 6 7), but if you're pressed for time you can also experience it in its more logical form: as a one-hour BBC radio drama voiced by the original cast. And after the credits, make sure not to miss the film's playful non-sequitur coda.