I want to watch really calm things.
February 20, 2015 4:40 AM   Subscribe

Give me super placid media to engage with. Relaxing, tranquil, serene. TV, movies, and video games are all fine. Some examples would be Bee and PuppyCat, anything by Studio Ghibli and Knytt respectively. To be clear, however: I don't want stuff I can engage with mindlessly. I want stuff that I can pay attention to and follow along with and are interesting or humorous or even a teeny bit dramatic, but which are pleasurably slow-paced.

Thanks, MeFites!
posted by Quilford to Media & Arts (62 answers total) 91 users marked this as a favorite
 
After Life or any of Hirokazu Koreeda's other films.
posted by aosher at 4:49 AM on February 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


Try almost any movie by Eric Rohmer or by Yasujirō Ozu

Ebert was a big fan of Rohmer and wrote once "It is so good to see a movie where the characters have beliefs, and articulate them, and talk to each other (instead of at each other). It is so good, in fact, that you realize how hungry you've been for this sort of thing."

And about Ozu he wrote "To love movies without loving Ozu is an impossibility. When I see his films, I am struck by his presence behind every line, every gesture. Like Shakespeare, he breathes through his characters, and when you have seen several of his films you feel as if you must have known him"
posted by vacapinta at 4:57 AM on February 20, 2015 [5 favorites]


Don't mock YouTube's "Videos For Your Cat" channel until you have tried it for a while. There is some inner feline wisdom there.
posted by rongorongo at 4:59 AM on February 20, 2015


Tender Mercies (1983 film with Robert Duvall) is fairly slow-paced, but it's an excellent movie. It won two Oscars.
posted by akk2014 at 5:00 AM on February 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


Just to be clear re: cat vids and similar, I do want at least a little bit of plot. Although I am interested to see whether I can get my cats to respond to the cat vids.
posted by Quilford at 5:08 AM on February 20, 2015


King of the Hill, the animated TV show.
posted by breakin' the law at 5:28 AM on February 20, 2015


I find River Cottage or any of the offshoots to be extremely relaxing. Some gardening, some cooking, some fishing, all very chilled.
posted by conifer at 5:35 AM on February 20, 2015 [3 favorites]


Agatha Christie's Poirot is my chill-out show. I'm generally not into mysteries, but Poirot is charming and super relaxing. As a bonus, there are about a million episodes.
posted by Metroid Baby at 5:43 AM on February 20, 2015 [3 favorites]


Enchanted April.

From the imdb summary: This slow-paced gem is about the civilizing influence of Italy on beleaguered Londoners both male and female and has its own civilizing influence on the viewer. It's almost like taking a little mini-trip to Italy, a gorgeously filmed enchantment.
posted by 1066 at 5:46 AM on February 20, 2015


The Vicar of Dibley is exceedingly pleasant and also very funny. It's maybe not the most serene in its specifics but taken as a whole it calms me right down.
posted by Mizu at 5:47 AM on February 20, 2015


You might like some of Max Ophüls' films. I find The Earrings of Madame de and Letter from an Unknown Woman to be gorgeous, slow and soothing.
posted by gorbweaver at 5:47 AM on February 20, 2015


I don't know if this will fit the bill for you, but for games, I discovered HOG (Hidden Object Games) when I was having a bad bout of RSI and needed games that didn't require a lot of fast clicking, fussy manipulation or precision, jumping around, or timed puzzles. Many of these games draw on really cliche (but low-level) horror tropes like ghosts, vampires, etc., but I try to avoid those and look for beautiful scenery / animation adventure style offerings. Most of the ones I've played have been from Big Fish, and the best were "Drawn, the Painted Tower" and its two sequels. Not many are as good as these, and they all get pretty "same-y" (you have a quest to save [world/person/magical artifact so it's not used for Evil, etc., you travel through different worlds or settings on your quest, solving puzzles and hidden object scenes to acquire items that you use to solve other puzzles or manipulate objects, finally defeating the Evil X to save Good Y], but they are also sort of a games version of "comfort food" for the same reasons.

If you do like the ones I mentioned for your calmquest, you should check out other offerings with an eye on the reviews, which usually indicate the atmosphere, quality, etc. I find them very calming and usually play before bed, because there's no problem with losing your place and the pace is very relaxed (the better ones usually have maps to show the different scenes you can or should return to, plus journals to keep track of what you've done, what your objectives are, etc., as well as extra clues if you need them, the option to skip puzzles (I hate sliding puzzles, for example, and love the option to skip them), and choice of difficulty level, so you can pick one that shows more or fewer helpful nudges, depending on what you want).

I play all sorts of different games, but I like these for just zoning out a bit with the pretty visuals and playing a series of usually fun, but not very demanding/frustrating minipuzzles.
posted by taz at 5:50 AM on February 20, 2015


Shaun the Sheep is enjoyable and cheeky but mostly drama/adrenaline free.

I've also really enjoyed The Octonauts for similar reasons. They do good in the ocean! A bit simple, but very laid back and still enjoyable.

Both of these are on Netflix.
posted by bookdragoness at 5:53 AM on February 20, 2015


You might really enjoy Into Great Silence; it's a beautiful documentary about a monastery in the French Alps filmed entirely with natural light, no narration, and if I remember correctly, no dialogue. But close watching is rewarded - a story emerges, and the movie is deeply satisfying in addition to being lovely to watch.
posted by deliriouscool at 5:53 AM on February 20, 2015 [4 favorites]


5 Centimetres Per Second, a 2007 Japanese animated movie directed by Makoto Shinkai.

It's slow, tender, and beautifully depicted. The score is lovely too. It's more or less plotless, comprised of snapshots of the emotional life of the main character, set against exquisitely beautiful and detailed backgrounds of the rural area where he goes to high school and then Tokyo where he lives as an adult.

A highlight for me was the first third of the movie, which is devoted to a train journey he takes to see the girl he loves. It's snowing on the line, he's stressed about missing his connections, and it's all depicted so minutely I felt like I was there with him, stuck on that train, watching the snow falling, feeling every second tick by.

The detail and love devoted to every frame is astonishing. I found myself pausing scenes just to take in all the level of detail.

It's available in its entirety on youtube here.

Obviously if animation or Japanese animation is not your thing, feel free to ignore this suggestion!
posted by Ziggy500 at 5:54 AM on February 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


I second the Eric Rohmer rec - especially his films that take place in the South of France in the summer. There's several - the first one I saw was Pauline at the Beach, which I would definitely recommend.
posted by raisindebt at 5:56 AM on February 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


I really loved Beavers in IMAX for this. Just a quiet little documentary about beavers. I watched it when sleep-deprived with a newborn and was delighted.
posted by SeedStitch at 6:27 AM on February 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


If you're okay with anime then you might like Aria: The Animation. It's pretty tranquil and serene. It also has an amazing soundtrack.

It looks like that's the first season. There's two more on DVD which are still in print.
posted by Gev at 6:36 AM on February 20, 2015


Oh! If you like the idea of nature documentaries, try the Big Cat Diary series and anything with David Attenborough.

Cosmos is also simultaneously soothing and engaging.
posted by Metroid Baby at 6:38 AM on February 20, 2015


Alone in the Wilderness is beautiful and relaxing.
posted by umwhat at 6:39 AM on February 20, 2015


Seconding Ozu and Rohmer.
posted by thegreatfleecircus at 6:55 AM on February 20, 2015


In anime, the term you're looking for is iyashikei. It's a real genre, and it means "healing" and refers to exactly the kind of show you are looking for. The Aria series is a classic example. Another is Someday's Dreamers. There's also Barakamon.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 6:56 AM on February 20, 2015 [11 favorites]


If documentaries work, I love Microcosmos.

Mateusz Skutnik makes lovely, engaging but challenging games. The Submachine series is fantastic.

I also really love all the games from Amanita Design.
posted by Mchelly at 6:56 AM on February 20, 2015 [1 favorite]




Rivers and Tides, the Andy Goldsworthy documentary, is both calm and interesting.
posted by clavicle at 7:00 AM on February 20, 2015 [4 favorites]


Yokohama Shopping Trip is another example of iyashikei.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 7:17 AM on February 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


The whole Tales from the Green Valley and Victorian Farm series. Hours of watching people trying to run a farm with Stuart and Victorian practises. Kept me relaxed and interested for a whole Christmas holiday one year.
posted by clawsoon at 7:20 AM on February 20, 2015 [3 favorites]


The video game Journey, for sure.

Also, strongly recommend the anime series MushiShi.
posted by jbickers at 7:28 AM on February 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


(You should know that Mushishi is horror.)
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 8:04 AM on February 20, 2015


Mushishi seems perfect for this. It's available on Hulu and Crunchyroll - MeMail me if you'd like a guest pass for Crunchyroll so you don't have to do commercials.
posted by maryr at 8:08 AM on February 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


Seconding Mushishi!
posted by Drexen at 8:12 AM on February 20, 2015


Along the lines of Journey, the same game company made Flower and I love them both. Journey is a little more intense and plot-driven (kind of, they're both pretty abstract), but they are both beautiful and, while relaxed-feeling, can be completed in a single sitting. They both have a linear narrative thread that you explore while playing, and I found them both to be very engaging, but Flower is the single most soothing gaming experience I have ever had.

Another great game that I think fits the bill is Gone Home, which tells an emotionally powerful story, but in a quiet, gradual, calm sort of way.
posted by bowtiesarecool at 8:23 AM on February 20, 2015


For games:
Waking Mars is a game I passed on for a long time, but then picked up after realizing some ex-Looking Glass people were involved. It's basically a Martian gardening sim, but with satisfying movement and really surprisingly good plot and characters. Very minor levels of drama.

Proteus is a "walking sim", but one with a really charmingly reactive world. Especially the cute little frog things. And you can "beat it"... it sort of has an objective so it's not totally aimless.

I would second Journey although it does get pretty intense at points. Flower is another good one, same devs/platform, same sort of "bliss" feeling.
posted by selfnoise at 8:28 AM on February 20, 2015


Another great game that I think fits the bill is Gone Home, which tells an emotionally powerful story, but in a quiet, gradual, calm sort of way.

I think it's awesome that some people found Gone Home to be a really calm experience and others found it to be completely terrifying. You're alone in a dark house on a stormy night, so YMMV in terms of whether you find it calming or stressful. It was a little of both for me.
posted by selfnoise at 8:31 AM on February 20, 2015


For video games nothing beats civilization for tranquil and relaxing (I would recommend Civilization 5). Other games I've found to fit your criteria ymmv; Fez, Braid, Cogs, Minecraft, The Long Dark, Sunless Sea, Any game from Spiderweb Software (they make super-retro rpgs, I find the lack of top-flight graphics allow me to connect with the story better and not really feel burnt out after a long play session.) For something completely different try Kentucky Route Zero very bizarre but also deliciously slow-paced and enjoyable.
posted by deadwater at 8:31 AM on February 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


The Italian movie The Great Beauty is really slow and beautiful.
posted by thebazilist at 8:40 AM on February 20, 2015


I love this documentary about The Buddha on PBS. It's so soothing and I love the art in it. I think it's on Netflix too.
posted by dawkins_7 at 8:41 AM on February 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


I add to the chorus recommending Mushishi, the most soothing horror series ever. I also found great comfort in Spice & Wolf and Victorian Romance Emma.
posted by nicebookrack at 8:59 AM on February 20, 2015


Departures (Okuribito) was lovely and meditative and meaningful.
posted by carrioncomfort at 9:01 AM on February 20, 2015


Animal Crossing New Leaf and Tomodachi Life are my two favorite relaxing/casual handheld games, both for 3DS.
posted by Dr-Baa at 9:29 AM on February 20, 2015


If you have Netflix, "The Secret Life of Deer" is very interesting (and mellow). It is mostly about how deer are super adaptable, and lots of neat footage of deers deering around deerily.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 9:34 AM on February 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


Seconding Ozu hard. Start with Floating Weeds about a kabuki troop returning to a town as part of their circuit.
posted by klangklangston at 9:40 AM on February 20, 2015


Anime: Garden of Words
"Takao, who is training to become a shoemaker, skipped school and is sketching shoes in a Japanese-style garden. He meets a mysterious woman, Yukino, who is older than him. Then, without arranging the times, the two start to see each other again and again, but only on rainy days."
posted by carrioncomfort at 9:45 AM on February 20, 2015


These are sort-of kid's shows but also not. I watched a lot of them in my 20s. Home Movies and The Adventures of Pete and Pete. Also, anything Muppets.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 10:25 AM on February 20, 2015


Dalek Relaxation for Humans
posted by flabdablet at 10:28 AM on February 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


For more adult sensibilities how about my favorite director Betrand Tavernier's sedate family films "A Sunday in the Country" and "Daddy Nostalgia."
posted by Potomac Avenue at 10:28 AM on February 20, 2015


A couple of documentaries...

Happy People: A Year in the Taiga
My Life as a Turkey
posted by beccaj at 10:52 AM on February 20, 2015


Games: As mentioned, Gone Home is incredible. The recently released "Life is Strange" is a mostly tranquil (with some light actiony bits) story-based game that would probably fit the bill. There are literally sections in which you can sit down under a tree and think while the sun sets and play absent-mindedly on a guitar.

For a more surreal experience check out "Blueberry Garden," not a plot to speak pf really, but definitely engaging and calming.

Castles in the Sky is a buck fifty and chill as chill can be.

Minecraft can be very calming, no plot that you don't make yourself though.

Music: Check out Tycho, their music is like sitting next to a fire with hot cocoa.

Erik Satie and Chopin have written some supremely relaxing pieces in my opinion. Listen to the "gymnopedies" and Chopin's Nocturnes to see what I'm talking about.
posted by hypercomplexsimplicity at 11:24 AM on February 20, 2015


I really enjoyed Monument Valley.
posted by malocchio at 12:08 PM on February 20, 2015


A Little Snow Fairy Sugar is a kid's show from about ten years ago but it isn't dumbed down and is well worth watching for adults.

The main character is Saga Bergman (11), who lives in the (mythical) German town of Muhlenberg (which is based on the real German town Rothenburg). She lives with her grandmother because her mother was killed in a traffic accident a few years before the show begins.

Saga's mother was an internationally known concert pianist, and Saga herself is extremely talented with the piano.

One day she finds a girl who is about 4 inches tall, exhausted and hungry. Saga shares some of her waffle with the girl, who turns out to be an apprentice snow fairy. All weather is controlled by fairies of various kinds, but before they can become full-fledged they have to come to Earth and spend some time there seeking "kirameki" (twinkles). Thing is, they aren't told what kirameki is; finding that out is part of their quest.

The show runs 24 episodes (plus a 2-ep OVA) and it is partly about Saga and Sugar (the snow fairy) becoming friends and looking for kirameki together, but it's also about Saga finally coming to terms with her mother's death.

If you don't mind torrents, then here. This is classic iyashikei.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 12:10 PM on February 20, 2015


SeedStitch: I really loved Beavers in IMAX for this. Just a quiet little documentary about beavers. I watched it when sleep-deprived with a newborn and was delighted.

As I have related before, not everyone finds this movie relaxing.
posted by wenestvedt at 1:16 PM on February 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


This might sound strange, since it's a spy thriller, but I found the old Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy miniseries (which is excellent) to be a perfect, perfect thing to watch when I wanted to calm down after an overstimulating day at a conference. It's interesting and subtle and lovely, and the whole first scene is just people walking into a room and setting down their tea and not saying a word.

In a very different vein, the How It's Made series is like calm juice.
posted by you're a kitty! at 3:07 PM on February 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


We found Usagi Drop at the library... Super cute mellow anime cartoon about a bachelor who takes in a 6yr old little girl. Sweet everyday plot lines, and a gentle overarching mystery about her parentage.
posted by jrobin276 at 3:22 PM on February 20, 2015


Your Mind is Bigger than All the Supermarkets in the World. Conversations with Buddhist monks in Sri Lanka.
posted by flora at 4:44 PM on February 20, 2015


I'll probs go through and mark things as best answers as I slowly consume them nom nom nom
posted by Quilford at 8:31 PM on February 20, 2015


Climates is a very slow, very sad and very beautiful Turkish movie.
posted by bertran at 9:32 PM on February 20, 2015


The Unfinished Swan is beautiful and a great story about a young boy chasing after a swan that escaped from a painting. I love it a lot.

Thomas Was Alone is relaxing with a British narrator and a nice soundtrack.
posted by SarahElizaP at 10:09 PM on February 20, 2015


This might sound strange, since it's a spy thriller, but I found the old Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy miniseries (which is excellent) to be a perfect, perfect thing to watch when I wanted to calm down after an overstimulating day at a conference. It's interesting and subtle and lovely, and the whole first scene is just people walking into a room and setting down their tea and not saying a word.

Oooh, Sandbaggers is my favorite spy series ever and almost all of it is about trying to navigate bureaucracy in order to avoid confrontations. It's for people who think the problem withe Le Carre isn't mundane enough in his focus and needs to write more scenes about the meat of MI6 — the incredible amount of paperwork generated by covert spycraft. It's the anti-Bond and so good. (Fair warning: It never really resolves as a series because the guy behind it disappeared, maybe on a real spy mission.)
posted by klangklangston at 2:59 AM on February 21, 2015


Some of these have already been mentioned but may I recommend:

I like early nineties-ish Merchant Ivory (and similar) productions (although some may be a bit too sad), including:
A Room with a View
Howard's End
Shadowlands
The Remains of the Day
The Age of Innocence
A River Runs Through It

And:
Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot
Seven Years in Tibet
posted by seesom at 10:13 AM on February 21, 2015


The Makioka Sisters, especially if you love looking at beautiful kimonos.
posted by Deodand at 8:43 PM on February 21, 2015


You might try Baraka and its follow up Samsara. It's been a while, but do note that, as I recall, there are a couple shots of decomposition, and a shot or two of human bodies after death. I don't recall these as being exploitive, and they're certainly not violent.
posted by cnc at 2:04 PM on February 24, 2015


The kid's show Sarah and Duck is the most relaxing kids show ever. No yelly voices, no singing, and the music is mostly strings. Duck does not talk, and mostly just acts like a real duck. The closest the show comes to quirky sidekicks is a group of shallots growing in the garden.
posted by benzenedream at 1:06 AM on February 25, 2015 [2 favorites]


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