Videographic Film & Media Studies

FMMC0334 - Fall 2017, MW 8:40-9:55am

Month: October 2017 (page 1 of 3)

The SENSES of an ENDING

 

Catherine Grant’s video The Senses of an Ending focuses on the final scene of the film La Niña Santa. Even before analyzing the video’s content, the title itself foreshadows the video’s central theme: the ending of the film heightens its use of sound to suggest its relationship to the girls. Grant focuses on graphic elements and onscreen text to guide the viewer. Grant does not use any sort of voiceover. In this regard, by minimizing the use of voiceover, she wants the viewer to pay full attention to the sounds of the film. Having more sound to the video would distract the viewer from understanding the sound’s importance to the ending. Even more, Grant uses two scholarly quotes, one from Deborah Martin and another from Sophie Mayer, yet she does not use her own words to explain these quotes. Her motivation to do gives insight on her desire to control how and what the viewer experiences.

Grant is keen on immersing the viewer into the film’s ending. Therefore, she uses graphic elements that will bring the viewer closer not just into her video but into the film as well. In this sense, she uses a similar color design of the film to match the ones found in her video. For instance, the film uses orange and blue as its main color designs, those which can be found in the film’s end credits. She continues this color design when she adds orange-colored subtitles to the film. Evermore, she adds a blue layer to the frame of the screen. In doing so, she wants her video to appear closer to the film. This way the viewer cannot discern if the video essay is a part of the film. This awareness to the details of the graphic elements, the video plays with various levels of sensory experiences. Here, the video uses its graphics to explore how it can further absorb the viewer into the video.

Furthermore, the lack of voiceover creates the appropriate space for the film’s sound to fill. This then further underscores the way the ending heightens sound. For instance, Grant’s first quote by Deborah Martin touches on this idea of the sensory experience provided by the film’s ending. The scene depicts two girls swimming in a pool. Here, the film relies on the sounds of the pool which become contiguous throughout the scene. This contrast between the girls’ body movement and the noise of the water further employ sound as a way to give meaning to the scene. Martin writes that this scene “simultaneously gives visual form to the aesthetic play with surface and depth” where the surface refers to girls’ movement, and the depth refers to the sound. The surface acts as a way in which the viewer visualizes the girls’ movement; the depth of the scene develops a spatial configuration of the environment. The swashes of the water hitting the edges of the pool, then, define the pool’s limits—this will be important in understanding how confinement further veils the scene.

In a sense, the crane shot of the pool shows the viewer its ability to create a confined space. Even more, this confined space reflects cinematic qualities. Grant takes advantage of these qualities by creating a blue frame in the background of the film. This blue frame acts as an extension of the graphic designs. In a similar way, the pool in the scene acts as an extension of the film screen. Mayer emphasizes this point explaining that “the pool remains opaque, impenetrable, and polyvalent.” Its opaqueness refers to how the viewer recognizes the limits of the pool only after the first minute; however, its opaqueness is resolved through the use of sound. Throughout the scene, the sound of water draws attention to the fact that the girls are in a pool, a public sphere. Thus, the pool’s opaqueness, its evasiveness, makes it impenetrable. The viewer cannot enter into the water the way the girls do in the scene. There is a distance that prevents this from happening. This limitation of the pool’s surface can be treated as a cinematic screen. The viewer can neither enter the film nor the pool.

Even though this may be the case of the pool’s surface limitations, the film calls forth the use of the sound of the pool itself and the girls’ movement as a way to allow the viewer to enter this opaque world. In a sense, the ending acts as an extension to the cinematic experience. There will always be certain elements that prevent the viewer from spatially sharing what the subjects in the film experience. In this instance, the viewer cannot experience the water’s depth, but they can listen to its sonorous embodiment of such subjects.

The Museum of Lars Von Trier – Art References

 

 

This video essay looked into the film of Lars Von Trier and his possible inspirations for multiple different shots throughout his videography. Here we can see how our inspirations in paint and other artistic mediums becomes translated into the film medium. There were some painting inspirations that are abstract and to see those translated into film was quite interesting and reminded me to not limit myself in what I as an art maker can show. The paintings that inspire Lars, follow his leaning towards the prolific and controversial. This includes sex, masturbation or darker imagery like self-harm or death. – With recent reports from Bjork regarding sexual assault, I wonder how we can think about the art Lars likes in conjunction with abhorrent behavior.

  This video essay in use of form utilizes multiscreen to show the painting and the scene in a movie that parallels each other. The images are left on the screen for a short amount of time before moving on to the next. With such a large collection of comparisons, this video is not very short and thus allows for the video maker to avoid the use of voice-over or text by simply showing us these comparisons. Show don’t tell if you will. The use of classical music fits the tone of the video given that a large amount of the inspirations would fall in classical or old renaissance like paintings and as such classical music further pushes the tone forward and immerses us into a classically contemporary vision of the art.

 

 

Arrival: A Response To Bad Movies

In the video Arrival: A Response to Bad Movies, Youtube user Nerdwriter1 analyzes three concepts: truth vs. lies, future vs. past, and communication vs. perspective. The film connects these three points with its own non-linear structure. The film Arrival can be viewed and constructed as a call and response. Nerdwriter1 explains that understanding the film through the use of the Kuleshov effect, one can further understand the film’s structure. In the first run of the film, one will be a bit confused as to why the characters respond a certain way or why a plot unfolds as it does. Here, the film posits the viewer to use the Kuleshov as a guide to understanding the film. Instead of using montage editing at the shot level, the film uses this type of editing through the juxtaposition of two scenes. By doing this, the viewer responds to the previous scene with a different reaction. One scene shows the birth and loss of the main character. Another scene shows her going back to work. The viewer can then react to her lack of energy as to the loss of her child. In exploring the three earlier points, such scenes begin to make more sense by the end of the film.

The video communicates this idea of truth and lies through voiceover. The user says a quote about Stephen Fry, stating “a true thing, poorly expressed is a lie.” Here, the video expresses a truth in comparison to the dialogue of the film which states a lie, a lie that the main character tells herself until she can finally accept this truth. This intricate juxtaposition informs the reader the manner in which the film juxtaposes these two ideas of truth and dishonesty. In a way, as the viewer eventually figures out through the film’s ending, the first scene of the baby dying took place in the past. The second scene acts as the true beginning of the film. Therefore, the film’s structuring of its plot hides the truth until the end. The viewer accepts this lie unknowingly and then constructs a perceived response to the juxtaposition of these two scenes. The scene breaks down other scenes and compares them together to expose the hidden truth. One then begins to realize a pattern within the film.

This pattern holds the future and the past as part of its structure. The more one watches the film with attention, the more one realizes how similar events occur in both the future and past. For instance, the video displays two scenes in which two groups at different times are distressed. This further indicates how the film has laid out its language for the viewer to use to understand the structure of the film. The video expresses this point in several ways. Through the dialogue of the film, the video showcases the need for language for humans to understand the arrival of the aliens. In this same way, the reader needs to discover the hidden language of the film’s structure to understand such parallels. The film expresses the necessity for language through the graphics and text. In transition points, the video uses a word and masks it through a character. This manner then suggests the same way that the film masks its language through its future and past.

Moreover, the theme of langue fits into the comparison between communication and perspective. The scenes of the film work this way as well. For instance, the first scene of the baby’s birth and death suggests the way the film tries to communicate to the viewer the scene’s significance later on the story. At the end of the film, a similar shot of the birth of a baby expresses this cyclical approach to the way the film structures itself. It is then at the end of the film that the viewer has this perspective. In watching the film once more, the elements that the film tried to communicate in the first watch appear more obvious. Everything makes more sense. The video echoes this same sentiment of the amount of control the film has over itself. The video uses Andrei Tarkovsky’s quote saying that “no other art form is able to fix time as cinema does” as a means of underscoring the way the film uses time to expand elements within the film. In other words, film as the capacity of expanding time or shortening time; it is only when one becomes aware of this doing that one can understand the underlying motivations.

“Saving Private Ryan: How Spielberg Constructs A Battle Scene”

Using the terminology “chaos through clarity”, thenerdwriter discusses the opening sequence of Stephen Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan and its brilliance in achieving fluidity and comprehension despite the violence and gore that the audience is presented. At the beginning of the video essay, the author utilizes a multi-screen to show how chaotic this scene is as well as to add to it. As he explains the extent to which this scene engages the audience with its intensity, he adds a third and then a fourth screen to his his multiscreen. Another interesting quality of his piece is his use of historical footage, most of which was used by Spielberg himself in preparation for the making of the film, in order to further emphasize how realistic the D-Day Landing, shown through Spielberg’s lens, actually is. Something thenerdwriter points out is that each time an explosion occurs near the camera shakes or shifts, thus creating a feeling of actually being on the battlefield. He compares these moments to the editing from John Ford’s classic The Battle of Midway Island, in which explosions nearby caused the reels to shift. Captioning is also another characteristic of this Video Essay that I found intriguing because he uses it to guide the viewer as he explains the movement of the camera and the types of shots that this allows. He makes note of close-ups, long shots and medium shots with captioning across the shot because they happen so fast. Because the camera isn’t cutting, but rather moving to show different characters or their actions, captioning is the ideal way to show what type of shot the director used.

 

“The Shining- Quietly Going Insane Together” by Michael Tucker

In this Video Essay, Michael Tucker discusses how the screenplay of Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece The Shining not only redefined the potential for horror films to terrify audiences, but also augments the creepiness felt while watching it. The two most fascinating and unique aspects of Tucker’s piece are his personalized tone via voiceover and his stylization of his video to match the film itself. The author introduces the film using first person pronouns, which creates a tone of conversation and lacks assurance, which allows his viewers to interpret some of the points he is making and the sequences he is showing for themselves. Given that The Shining is a film I have seen countless times, I very much appreciated this quality of his commentary. Tucker’s editing exemplifies in many ways how one can effectively give an audience an idea of what a film is like as an experience without making them watch the whole thing. Like the movie, Tucker breaks up each section of his discussion dramatically, ending one thought process at a famous scene, making a black video cut and chapter title synced with the film’s score. One of his main arguments is that the plot, which is broken down into various time frames beginning with “The Interview” and slowly becoming more and more specific using months, days and eventually hours to express the change of time with heightening tension. Through the style of his piece, Tucker follows this aspect of The Shinging by starting with more general ideas about the film which he discusses quickly and then discussing more and more specific aspects of the film deeply.  In this case, however, I feel that having seen the movie is key to understanding the points Tucker is trying to make.

 

KOGONADA “Mirrors of Bergman”

http://kogonada.com/portfolio/mirrors-of-bergman

“The idea of Plath watching and engaging the women of Bergman is almost too much to bear. Who would have more to say about these women than Plath?”

This is a beautiful video essay for the criterion collection that seems like a combination of our supercut and voiceover exercises. Kogonada puts together some very poignant and revealing scenes from Bergman’s films of women looking into mirrors, which feels like a kind of supercut. Then, a woman reads Sylvia Plath’s poem, “The Mirror”, aloud in the background with a Vivaldi classical piece, informing the women as they look at their reflections. The tone of the poem is sad and haunting, which creates a sad yet beautiful tone to the video as well. The images seem to unite together as one, and the poem expresses all of their thoughts harmoniously. They are never looking happily into the mirror and are almost always sad, in fact, one woman even writes on the mirror the word “lonely” in another language (Kogonada wrote text next to it to translate). Kogonada has really hit upon a perfect marriage between these two mediums. I love the way he chooses to begin with the shot of a woman gargling and lets us hear her gargle in front of the mirror, and then show the title, and then the poem starts as she bends down to spit. It is more striking this way. A woman is doing her every day routine in front of the mirror, it’s not pretty, it just is, and it’s also a weird shot to film for a movie anyway, since it seems so inconsequential, like showing a character going to the bathroom – there’s no point – or is there? All of these bathroom scenes in which women are grimacing at themselves or fixing their makeup and hair, serve no classical purpose, such as to advance the plot . The only explanation is to show these women’s mental statuses and their inner thoughts. Even though the camera can depict their images reflected in the mirrors, we have no idea who or what they see, what they’re really thinking, and why they shouldn’t love what is reflected back at them; they are beautiful but they can’t see it. Since Kogonada does not give us any context for the Bergman films, all we see are these short scenes of women of all ages prodding a themselves, full of distaste and curiously, longing to change their images. As the poem says:

A woman bends over me,

Searching my reaches for what she really is.

Then she turns to those liars, the candles or the moon.

I see her back, and reflect it faithfully.

She rewards me with tears and an agitation of hands.

Weeks 7-8 Schedule

October 25 – Share Abstract Trailers

October 30 – Share Remaining Abstract Trailers

  • Upload and discuss remaining Abstract Trailers

November 1 – Workshop Response Videos

Complex Emotions in “Kids” movies

 

This week I watched a video essay looking at the storytelling structure in the movie Inside Out. This Disney Pixar animated film follows an untraditional story arc for a “children’s/family” movie. As this video essay points out, most “children’s” movies focus on happiness and encouraging people to be happy as often as they can. Inside Out goes against this line of thought, showing that people need to embrace all kinds of emotions in order to be healthy and eventually happy.  The video essay looks at how the director and screenwriter of Inside Out struggled to come up with the final story. Both the screenwriter and director went through multiple drafts of the story before finally settling on the final story arc. While this process of rewriting probably happens with almost all films, the screenwriter and director of Inside Out looked at their own experiences (including their struggles with writing the film) in order to better understand themselves and the story they wanted to tell. In fact, this story started with a question that the director had about his own life regarding his daughter’s change in behavior when she turned Eleven. So the process of creating this film reflects the process that the director went through in understanding his own life and children. This filmmaking process seems really valuable. I am used to looking at films as ways of telling stories, but I often forget that making a movie can be a valuable process in understanding the real world. The film creators can simply start with a question that they have about their own lives, and use the process of making that film as their way of answering their own question. The same can be said about creating video essays. A video essay doesn’t need to give definitive answers to anything, but can rather just explore different questions.

This video essay mostly incorporated visuals from the movie Inside Out itself, or pictures of the director and screenwriter with their quotes shown in on-screen text and their audio levels from their interview shown on screen. This video essay also included video of some interviews and other behind the scenes footage with the director, co-director, etc. Most noticeably though this video essay also incorporated stills of concept art from Inside Out. These stills were powerful when they were used because the video essay focused on the development of Inside Out as a movie, and the ways it changed during production. Thus the concept art really contributed to the feeling of development and change in the story, because we could literally see the differences in character design. Besides these stills though, this video essay was pretty “traditional.” It focused mainly on the visuals of the movie, but also incorporated text, voiceover, and stills. What impressed me about the form though, was how seamlessly all of these forms came together to create an engaging video essay. I know that in our class for example, we often set specific parameters for ourselves for projects to help us focus our attention on certain aspects and ultimately create “better” video essays. By incorporating lots of different elements though, it almost seems more challenging to not make a confusing video.

‘Snowpiercer – Left or Right’ Video Commentary

 

This short video essay by Tony Zhou explores the relationship between lateral movement within a frame and the visual construction of choice in film narrative. Zhou argues that in Snowpiercer (Bong Joon-Ho, 2013), movement leftwards and rightwards onscreen is given a powerful symbolic dimension. While lateral movement can impart some unconscious ideas, when contextualized by narrative it can become a compelling force within a film. Snowpiercer takes place on a train, and the goal of the protagonist (played by Chris Evans) is to make his way from the rear of the train to the front. Along his journey—a more dangerous one that that plot summary suggests—he is visually shown to be moving from left to right, even as he is often pulled back towards the left, where live those for whom he is struggling. Zhou notes that this right-left balance—between a goal and the things that anchor and contextualize that goal—allows the director to show Chris Evans making important, irreversible binary choices. These are choices between left and right, and between the different outcomes those directions are made to symbolize through the design of the film. This is a much more effective means of displaying the struggle of a difficult choice than using dialogue alone, both because it draws on film’s particular visual strength, and because it gives the audience a chance to experience the feeling of responsibility and indecision with which a character may be faced.

 

As a piece of videographic criticism, I think this video shows how to effectively use a brief runtime. Its brevity gives it a sense of momentum and focus. The fact that this video isn’t even three minutes means that a substantial majority of it can be filled with exactly the right images—in this case, shots that show the right-left dichotomy Zhou puts under the microscope. It allows this particular visual trick to stand out prominently and engagingly, without having to repeat images or resort to “filler” footage. It also means that Zhou doesn’t have time to use voiceover alone to make his point. He relies on voiceover to shade and focus the audience’s interpretation of his chosen images. This makes the video very focused. This focus makes it memorable and clear—it may lose the ability to look at the issue more deeply or with more substantial sophistication, but that’s an intentional tradeoff, not a weakness.

“Pixar’s Tribute to Cinema”

In Jorge Luengo Ruiz’s “Pixar’s Tribute to Cinema,” he uses a split screen (side by side) comparison of various scenes from various Pixar films and the films that they compare/pay tribute to. Throughout this video essay, the editor does not use any voiceover, and the only text seen on screen he uses is the names of the films, seen below their respective clips. There is one consistent music track played throughout the video and there are some clips (where sound/dialogue is significant in the comparison) where the sound is noticeable, but otherwise the comparisons focus on imagery. While all of the tributes were interesting to watch, I found it a little distracting that the clips from both movies were played at the same time, especially for the clips where the tribute was not blatantly obvious or with clips from movies that I haven’t seen. Looking back and forth between the two made me feel like I was missing whatever was happening on the other side of screen for some of the comparisons. I think the simultaneous action on both sides of the screen works for the clips where the actions/dialogue match up in an obvious way, but for some other scenes, I think it could have worked if one clip played first and then the other side of the screen played after so I wouldn’t have to choose one side to focus on. I also thought the difference in the ratio of the screens was distracting in some of the clips, and how the size of the screen would change when the movie changed. My attention would automatically focus on whichever screen is bigger, and I think this could’ve been better if the clips were similar in height.

Other than the aesthetic aspects of this video, I found it really interesting and entertaining. I had no idea that Pixar had so many tributes to cinema in its films, so I learned a lot and I found the side-by-side comparisons really effective in convincing the viewer of the tributes. I also liked that there was no voiceover or explanatory aspect to the video because the clips speak for themselves, and I think anything in addition to them would be distracting from the point of the video.

Baby Driver | Color Coded Characters

This commentary by Film Radar looks at the costume and production design of the new movie “Baby Driver” directed by Edgar Wright. I haven’t seen this movie yet but have heard a lot of positive reviews especially about it’s use of soundtrack and, as someone who is passionate about music, am putting it at the top of my list. So this video particularly jumped out at me amidst my whirlpool of youtube searches because I find production design to be fascinating and quite often under represented in conversations about filmmaking.

In this video, Film Radar dissects each character is assigned a specific color palate that, once interpreted, gives them extra dimensions to their story, actions, and personality. As Edgar Write puts it, he hopes to “color code the characters.” For example, Film Radar tells us that Baby is typically dressed in black and white which can be seen as a parallel to the two lives that he leads: one of crime and another of domestic tranquility and happiness. It also relates to his old-fashioned romanticized view of the world which contrasts to the violent life he participates in. By  working closely with costume designer Courtney Hoffman to focus on color in costume and set design, Edgar Wright’s characters inhabit a world physically designed to reflect their inner lives, which makes the experience of watching the film as a viewer all the more alive and dynamic.

Film Radar uses voiceover narration, additional graphics, text, and outside recordings from other interviews to create his videographic criticism. Most of the clips run behind his voice silently, although a few do include sound and dialogue to emphasize Film Radar’s point. To me, this video can be described as an elaboration of a specific element of the film. Film Radar chose to analyze the colors and found specific clips to support his point. Which brings me to the main question this video inspired for me in terms of making videographic criticisms: what is the impact of a video criticism when you manipulate it to say something about itself rather than using it to reinforce something you are trying to say?

To clarify, I feel like Film Radar’s video on “Baby Driver” was almost more like a video essay rather than a videographic criticism. Not that his method is incorrect or ineffective but it made me think more about the ways to use a text. As we have seen in class it is possible to make the text speak for itself through particular manipulations – contrast of images, the repetition of patterns, etc – rather than having a narrator speak for it. I could picture another video taking on the same topic of costume and color choices in “Baby Driver” and approaching it in a style that would be less “telling” and more “showing.” With that said, I still really enjoyed watching this video and felt like I gained a lot watching it. Hopefully the same will come out of watching “Baby Driver!”

Supercut- examining one and talking about their importance

As a precursor to actually discussing this “video essay,” I first want to mention that I struggled to actually decide to write my commentary about this video. One thing I have started to learn from this class and discussing video essays, is that video essays don’t need to follow a specific form. People can adapt their own styles and incorporate their own twists. While this supercut is maybe not a full “video essay” I decided to write my weekly commentary about it because it is a video that has stuck with me for years. Similar to some of the examples that Kevin B. Lee gave in his list of his favorite video essays, this videographic criticism is different than what someone might think of as being a typical influential video essay.

Moving on to actually discuss the video essay, this video is simply a supercut of Shia Labeouf in three different movies saying “no.” Particularly though this video focuses on the original transformers movie. In terms of content, this video stood out to me because it tells most of the whole story of Transformers, all through short snippets of Shia Labeouf saying “no.” We don’t get the whole plot, but as a viewer, I still felt like I was able to piece together the story. This was impressive to me because each clip seemed to only encompass Shia Labeouf’s characters actually saying “no,” there was no extra time on either end of the clips showing the rest of what happens in each scene.

Another reason I am intrigued by this video, is that it managed to choose a near perfect topic for a supercut. One aspect of supercuts that we talked about in class, was finding an event in our movie that happens often enough that it is interesting to see, but not so often that the video drags on. While this supercut might not contain every single instance of Labeouf saying “no” in each of these films, this video still struck a nice balance. This video also makes me wonder what words are most often said in certain movies, or by certain actors, and whether it would be worth experimenting in Premiere to find the most common said word in lots of famous films, or the most common words from famous actors and actresses. Essentially this video makes me want to explore more with Premiere to find out what types of themes make for good supercuts.

The NerdWriter’s “How David Fincher Hijacks Your Eyes”

 

I am a huge fan of the nerdwriter. He was the person who introduced me to videoessays and I always find my way back to him, because his videos are always so interesting and so confidently narrated!

But that is not the point of this commentary. This week I watched a couple of video-essays and chose to talk about this one because of 2 main reasons:

  1. The nerdwriter has a background in film, and when he is investigating a movie, he is as good at being abstract and philosophical, as he is at looking and making sense of the formal elements of the movie, which is something that I have not been able to do as well so far. I put a lot of emphasis on the feel that a scene has, or in the connection that I make with a larger and broader societal issue. I have a tendency to politicize the movies that I watch.
  2. He shows engagement in a process of discovery. And I wanted to bring this one up because he does this in a very different way than professor Keathley in his “Pass the Salt” essay.  There is more explanation in this video than in “Pass the Salt” and there is a different tone to the discovery. Keathley’s voice is self assured and confident but it is not imposing in any way. It just says that he believes in what he is doing and he has evidence for it. Evan (the Nerdwriter) on the other hand is really sure of what he is saying. He claims to have discovered what makes David Fincher’s movies so good, so personable intense and his characters so relatable.

What I want to get from watching this video-essay is the idea that I need to challenge myself to pay attention to the formal elements of a movie, not just for the sake of it, but as a way to corroborate the things that I find appealing about a scene.

SICARIO – VFX Making Of – Oblique FX

This video showcasing the visual effects for Denis Villeneuve’s Sicario might not fall under the label of videographic essay in the traditional sense. The primary reason behind this assertion is that while the video does match the stylistic qualities of something like a supercut, it is produced by the company which did all the visual effects work for the film. This fact led me to consider and question the nature of authorship with regards to videographic essays. It is clear that when presented as academic works, videographic essays act as critiques and offer analysis for a larger cultural text (typically a film or T.V. show). Even when viewing “non-academic” videographic essays, this act of assertion regarding the source text is present. For example, even Kevin B. Lee’s “Buzzfeed” style videos (which were structured to maximize views on Facebook where content is auto-played and the viewer is more passive in their desire to consume content) made clear arguments or at least observations regarding a source text. Even in this style of videographic essay deemed to be the most mainstream and “entertainment” driven – they’re designed to maximize views after all – we still see at least a basic level of analysis or contemplation.

I am less certain if this video tries for the same degree of commentary. The company which created the video is the same company that created the visual effects that are on display. While I believe that this video does an excellent job of keying in the viewer to the major role VFX play in the film Sicario, I am less sure what argument or assertion is being made. The video largely functions as a showcase for VFX work done by Oblique FX. This aesthetic of a professional showcase is mirrored in the music that is paired with the VFX work. It can best be described as acoustic rock that is just a little too fast paced for the dentist’s office or elevator music. It is bland and inoffensive – which helps to build the underlying “corporate” tone of the video.

In this regard, I feel that the context of the video causes it to act as a portfolio or resume. If you ignore the fact that this video can be considered a primary text, and that it was made by the group who made what is being showcased, it plays the role of videographic essay perfectly. It not only shows the role which VFX played in Sicario, but it also allowed the viewer to infer how this dependence guided the methods of production for the entire film. Thus, the video’s classification as a piece of videographic criticism is up to debate. For this reason, I would argue that the effect of this video, and whether or not it should be considered videographic criticism is co-dependent upon the acknowledgement of its source on the part of the viewer.

Creating The Ultimate Post-9/11 Allegory: The Dark Night on Risk and Terror

Youtube user Like Stories of Old presents his video Creating The Ultimate Post-9/11 Allegory: The Dark Night on Risk and Terror as a way of suggesting a similarity between  Post-9/11 society and the society of The Dark Knight Rises. The video creates a structure through its use of texts to inform the viewer of the similarities between the way both societies handle risks and terror. Risk, in this sense, refers to the perceived terror a society may have towards the unknown. In the real world, this unknown terror refers to the idea of terrorists attacking the country again. As a means of preemptive protection, society assesses the risks of what could have caused such an event. In doing so a fallacy between risk and catastrophe occurs. The video underscores this fallacy, explaining how such an error does not take into consideration the actual process between risk and terror. The video refers to risk as the anticipation of a catastrophe. Even more, Gotham society further depicts a similar process of a perceived elevated terrorism in Post-9/11 society.

In order to create this parallel, the video constructs the soul of Gotham through the use of various cityscape shots. In doing so, the video wants the viewer to develop a familiarity with the environment. This creates a sense of spatial accessibility. This same structure parallels to the way that the video uses newsreels of 9/11 to depict the type of material that the media and the government use as a means of propagating a sense of elevated terrorism. These institutions use such videos to demonstrate the ultimate terror a society can experience if they do not let such institutions assess these risks. The various newsreels further create a parallel between the terror of Post-9/11 society and to The Joker’s reign of terror on Gotham.

Furthermore, the video focuses on constructing The Joker’s terror. Unlike any criminal The Batman has faced before, The Joker acts with full malicious intent. He does not search for any monetary benefit in terrorizing the city. Rather, he wants to instigate terror on the city to provoke The Batman. In this return, The Batman wants to end his terror. He will take all measures to ensure The Joker’s capture. Thus, he focuses his energy on tracking The Joker’s every move. In this sense, The Batman’s actions parallel the same way the U.S. government handles such perceived terror. Instead of relying on his own abilities, The Batman replaces his instincts and uses technology to spy on Gotham.

Continuing, the video juxtaposes The Batman’s ideology by introducing two other scholars as a means of guiding the viewer through this conflict. The video presents Prof. Ulrich Beck’s theory on modernity. He states that the success of modernity follows its consequences, the evil that has been suppressed. Therefore, in succeeding to eliminate the criminals in Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, then, follows the consequences of the utopian society that The Batman tries to create. The Joker realizes this same fallacy of modernity and uses it to show The Batman’s failure in wanting to create a perfect society. In this, The Joker’s spontaneity disrupts The Batman’s ability to trust his own instincts.

The video continues the juxtaposition of texts on the screen to the shots of chaos by presenting another point: the constant fear of terror forces those in power to assess the risks of catastrophe. Those in power will implement laws and systems that can ‘protect’ society from this perceived threat; however, the simple act of anticipation destroys that which protects the individual. This describes the same way that The Batman tries to take control of the city because he believes they cannot protect themselves from The Joker. At the same time, The Joker’s terror on the city elevates his status to that of a God or demon, an abstract concept that cannot be physically grounded. Thus, those in power—in this case, The Batman—implement their own rules and laws to ground this terror.

When The Batman loses his love interest, The Joker proves his point: in trying to protect the city and his love interest from such terror, The Batman could not realize that he could not play God. His omniscient ways proved him wrong because he focused on everything, yet he lost the only thing that he loved. The video echoes this same point by juxtaposing the scene in which Rachel dies to the ensuing chaos of Harvey Dent’s downfall. In this scenario, the desire to attain perfection through systematic control eventually destroys the individual’s right.

‘Coen Country’ Video Commentary

This video essay by Steven Benedict traces and juxtaposes favored tropes and motifs from the films of Ethan and Joel Coen. His stated purpose—that “the characters talk to one another across the films so we can more clearly hear the Coens’ dominant concerns”—is effectively realized, and without relying on voiceover he makes a lucid and surprisingly sophisticated argument.

 

As a work of film criticism, “Coen Country” economically weaves shots from just about every single Coen film (minus the not-yet-released Hail, Caesar!) together to demonstrate how the concerns of their characters overlap between stories. The three Coen fixations addressed here are identity, miscommunication, and morality. The repetition of related images and the sound of remarkably similar character dialogue shows both the almost universal relevance of these themes throughout the Coen’s catalogue. It also demonstrates that the Coen’s rely heavily on dialogue to present these motifs. Less talented writers might make the mistake of putting the subtext of what the characters say directly into a character’s mouth. This piece shows that the Coens are far too smart for that. It clarifies how they make a statement or convey and idea solely using miscommunication, awkwardness, and misunderstanding. Less flatteringly, it shows that the Coen’s put a big burden on their actors, as using miscommunication within a film to communicate a theme to that film’s audience is a substantial undertaking—and because the film then relies on their success or failure to work. Since the Coens have a remarkably good success rate, it contributes to the popular notion of the Coens as “actor’s directors” who make good use of good actors in good roles. Is it because they attract top talent? Because they have a keen eye for casting? Are they just good at directing actors? Perhaps it’s a combination of all these factors.

 

This short video essay is easy and fun to watch, but also prompts a lot of thought about the Coens’ catalogue. Part of how it achieves this dual effect is with rapid, energetic editing. It also makes great use of dialogue, by layering a voice from one film over the images of another. The characters sound like they’re in dialogue with each other, and the lines, down to the exact delivery, often sound as if they must surely be from the same scene—even though they aren’t. The dialogue Benedict uses is also just well put together. The “voiceover” moves organically from theme to theme, which encourages us to think about how these motifs fit together and reinforce each other. This really reveals the power of deciding against voiceover: by making a video more about experiencing an association of sound and images, Benedict makes it more interpretively dense.

“A Brief Look at Texting and the Internet in Film” Video Commentary

In A Brief Look at Texting and the Internet in Film, Tony Zhou, just like what has been written in the title, approached the idea of the appearance and the representation of Text Messages (I will use the term SMS in my commentary) and of Internet in Film.  In my opinion, this is an interesting video essay which allows us to see SMS and Internet on movies in a different way, and at the same time, raise questions about the “right way” to represent those “modern invention” on screen.

In the specific “Tony Zhou” voice tone, he leads us through five minutes of video essay with full excitement and focus. The video begins with his computer screen, where we can see through the “procedure” of making, or opening, his video-essay: he opens his Itunes program to play the background music, then switches to the Final Cut Pro program to “officially” begins his essay. As soon as that program shows up, his famous salutation “Hi, my name is Tony…” also manifests. This beginning induces audience’s curiosity, makes the video more interesting and also focus audience’s attention. One very fascinating way to begins a video essay.

After that, he approaches the idea of the representation of SMS on movies, and even TV series. It is interesting how Tony uses various types of movies to demonstrate for his arguments: we have, in this essay, Japanese series, teen movies, thriller series, soap opera, South Korea movies. He reveals to us the differences in representing SMS in movies around 2005-ish and movies nowadays: if the old ones are more “ugly” (stick with “bubble texts”), demand a large amount of money and grasp too many screen time, the new ones are more elegant, modern and can even contribute to create “emotions” for the scene. He used lots of movie sources, and the way he focus on Sherlock Holmes and House of Cards (as two bias) also emphasizes those differences.

Then, he starts to talk about the appearance and the representation of Internet on screen. Tony Zhou also used a lot of movie sources to argue for his statement: despite the fact that there is multiple ways to represent SMS in movies, the film (and series) industry is still struggling with finding the best way to present Internet. he shows us various possibilities which are already used in American movies, series and also the Japanese ones. He also has his favorite one, which is “the desktop film”, and, once again, Sherlock Holmes the series. In the end, he states that this is still one problem that movie and series directors need to resolve. With his “fascinating” voice tone and the similar rhythm between scene-switching and phrases-changing, he keeps us going until the last minutes of his video essays.

La Haine- So Far, So Good…

This video graphic essay talks about the French film – La Haine. A film that takes place in France and looks at the lives of different minorities, Jewish, Black, and Arab. The film goes to look at the way our actions or non-actions have effects and our complacency to react to certain stimuli may end in either positive or negative outcome. The video talks about the unique experience and novel narrative structure this movie contains. One of the unique functions present in this movie is the manner in which the director took on a new way of passing time – the inclusion of a clock with a familiar sounding tick of a bomb made for a compelling addition to the film and served as an important motif to understanding the plot and conclusion of the film. The way in which the plot is put on its head with the distancing from the cause-effect plot lone to an effect-cause plotline.

A 14 min discussion of this movie is done longer than any other videographic film essays I have seen before. Voiceover dominates the essay and it is purely explanatory – focusing on the structure of the film. I wonder if longer video essays are inherently explanatory or if there are any experimental or poetic videos that span 10+min.  The video essay uses infographic and texts, however, this is only utilized once in the video. I feel the use of each respective element worked well and no other text/infographic was necessary. This video essay does a very good job of critically thinking about the film and the ways in which the director’s choices created a film with multiple stylistic layers. This videoessay – uses footage from other movies and makes comparisons to strengthen his arguments and to showcase the ways in which this film sets itself apart from others, while still using recognizable shots and styles. The video speaks about the plot, but the essay itself is not a reiteration of the plot, instead, it functions as an explanation of how the elements of the film affect the plot and the ways in which the overall narrative structure of this piece is unique and create a novel experience for the film viewer. This video essay – as a whole, was very in depth and made me interested in the film that then challenges me to see what they saw.

From Script to Screen: The Joker Interrogation Scene in “The Dark Knight”

I stumbled across this video essay by accident. In fact, I’m not even sure it’s meant to be a “video essay,” however, it is. The essay is pretty simple. It utilizes split screen to have a scene from The Dark Knight on top and the film’s screenplay on the bottom. The screenplay scrolls from bottom to top as the scene progresses.

I’m generally not a fan of the split screen video essays, not because I think they do a poor job articulating ideas, but because I often find them confusing and they sometimes make my head hurt. However, I think that stacking the videos on top of one another makes them easier to read and go back and forth.

This essay is incredibly effective in showing the role of a screenplay in film, and how much it changes when it goes from paper to film. It shows how actors will often eliminate certain words or will ignore certain actions. In short, they do what feels right and natural in the scene. For example, in this scene featuring the Joker, the screenplay says that he should laugh at certain parts, however, Heath Ledger chooses not to do so. As you watch the scene unfold and read this in the script, you start to insert that dialogue into the scene and you can feel how awkward an inorganic it feels.

The essay does a wonderful job of illustrating how a screenplay is very much a working document, that changes several times by the time the screenwriter, director, and actor are done with it. It shows how much the three rely on one another, and how actors and directors engage with and will often alter the script. We are able to see how directors are able to use the script as merely a rough outline or guide, and how actors are able to tailor it to fit the scene to their emotions and what flows naturally. In screenwriting classes, we are told that the script is merely just a blueprint. In this essay, we are shown that this is true in a simply, yet incredibly effective way.

“The Dark Knight – Creating the Ultimate Antagonist”

Michael Tucker’s video essay “The Dark Knight – Creating the Ultimate Protagonist” discusses the significance of the Joker (Heath Ledger) with regard to the plot and character development of batman (Christian Bale) in Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight”. By using a combination of voice over and captioning, Tucker successfully transmits an intriguing view of the Joker’s antagonistic perfection. Much like one would while writing a paper, he uses literary evidence as well as examples of footage from “The Dark Knight” as well as other films to highlight his main arguments and ideas. One technique in particular stood out to me, which was his use of inter titles when quoting, both vocally and through captioning, big citations from his literary sources. Instead of pasting these long captions over shots from the film, which could be distracting and make it more difficult to fully grasp the information, he uses an image of the book paralleled with the captioning itself. In this way, he is able to cite his sources, offer important explanations to his argument, and retain the attention of his viewers. On top of that, he adds an effect to the caption, which makes the words appear as he says them, therefore accentuating his ability to teach the audience. Another key aspect of this video essay is the fact that he compares “The Dark Knight” with a film the film “Se7en”. Having seen both films, I was surprised that he chose to compare these two, seemingly different films, however through a use of a multiscreen, he is able to express their similarities. By doing this, he not only teaches us something new about “The Dark Knight” but also about “Se7en”.

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