The Atlantic Daily: This Is Heat Season, Not Summer

America is burning up and burning down. This week’s extreme heat is a reminder that climate change is here.

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People board a ferry prior to an evacuation as a wildfire approaches the seaside village of Limni, on the island of Evia, Greece, on August 6, 2021.
NurPhoto / Getty

This week, a damning climate-change report from the United Nations warned of Earth’s catastrophic warming. Temperatures soared in tandem, as if to illustrate the point: Europe experienced maybe its hottest temperature on record, while nearly two-thirds of Americans currently live in places under an excessive-heat advisory. Fire officials in the West worry that high temperatures could add additional blazes to those already burning.

This period of extreme heat is a tangible reminder of what the world is up against. If you live in one of the areas affected, don’t forget that such temperatures can be deadly.

China's artistic swim team poses before their performance at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics on August 7, 2021.
Marko Djurica / Reuters

Explore the week that was. Olympians, elephants, mermaids? Our senior editor Alan Taylor takes a look at some of the week’s best photography.

Read. Not to nag you, but the clock is ticking on summer reading. Here are 28 books worth your time.

Or don’t. This delightful—and surprisingly persuasive—case against reading on the beach might compel you to leave that buzzy novel at home.

Watch. CODA, which charmed viewers—including our critic—at this year’s Sundance, is out in theaters and streaming on Apple+.

Listen. On this week’s episode of The Experiment, we ask whether it’s ethical to continue to watch gymnastics.

Film reel
Mary Evans / New Line Cinema / Ronald Grant / Everett ; The Atlantic

All August, we’re revisiting the films of 2001 with our culture writer David Sims. This week, we asked you to choose between four major franchise movies that came out that year.

Thousands of you voted. Here’s David with the results:

This week’s winner is Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (streaming on HBO Max and available to rent elsewhere), which beat out Ocean’s Eleven, The Fast and the Furious, and Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone in the franchise category.

I grouped these movies together as a reminder that these titles have been lingering in the cultural ether for two decades; The Fast and the Furious produced nine sequels, Ocean’s Eleven was given sequels and eventually rebooted with an all-female cast, and the worlds of Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings are still being mined for new material. One might not remember that Jackson’s film was a risky proposition at the time—despite the enduring fame of J. R. R. Tolkien’s book series, a three-part adaptation of Lord of the Rings was perceived as a financial folly by every major studio, before eventually finding support at the upstart company New Line Cinema.

I still think Fellowship of the Ring is the best of Jackson’s trilogy, and so much of its success rides on its incredible opening act. The film begins with an epic prologue that briskly lays out the complex history of Tolkien’s legendarium, and then switches to the pastoral beauty of Hobbiton, using its New Zealand setting to convey an innocent haven in need of protection. Jackson’s greatest challenge was to get audiences unfamiliar with the books up to speed on their massive lore, and then root them in the more personal stakes of Frodo Baggins (played by Elijah Wood).

I love the scale of Fellowship of the Ring—its battle scenes are perfectly staged, its swooping shots of Middle-earth’s rugged mountains and deep caves are awe-inspiring even on a small screen. But the film’s charming practicality attests to Jackson’s history as a purveyor of cheaper genre movies such as Dead Alive and The Frighteners. Fellowship of the Ring has a heavier reliance on makeup and smaller stunt work than the later, more CGI-laden Lord of the Rings sequels. Here, the director can convey so much fear and wonder with just a shot of black-robed men galloping down a country road. This film launched a multibillion-dollar franchise, and encouraged studios to take bigger risks on more niche properties (including comic books), but some of its best tricks are its simplest ones.

Every weekday evening, our editors guide you through the biggest stories of the day, help you discover new ideas, and surprise you with moments of delight. Subscribe to get this delivered to your inbox.