Kevin Lee’s “Who Should Win the 2016 Oscar for Best Picture?” seems like a fairly straightforward and potentially even uninspired videographic essay when you only consider its title. The video is part of a series of that Lee made, detailing his opinions and critiques of the Oscar nominees for a variety of award categories ranging from best cinematography to best actor. Lee’s video defies it generic title and offers up a surprisingly self-reflective and powerful message though. Instead of breaking down the pros and cons of each nominee, and considering their individual merits, Lee focuses on the single film which he believes to be deserving of the best picture award. The film which Lee champions is The Big Short. His reasoning is that The Big Short does an “expectation defying-ly” good job of presenting a complex real-world situation thanks to the fact that the film approaches storytelling in an atypical manner…the same manner as a video essay. With voiceover, 4th wall breaks, rhythmic editing, and other “experimental” filmmaking techniques, The Big Short rejects Hollywood convention to thoughtfully illustrate and discuss the story leading up to the 2007 housing market crash which launched the great recession.
With some of his other videos, like “Transformers: the Premake”, Lee uses unconventional storytelling through the use of precisely executed screen capture to craft a visual narrative. Based on this example alone, it is safe to say that Lee visual style is diverse and experimental. When editing footage from The Big Short for his 2016 Oscar video, it is often tough to tell where Lee’s artistic touch stops, and the Hollywood production’s begins. Even with a less hands-on approach of simply showing the footage in its original aspect ratio with captions overlaid un-distractingly on the black bars, Lee’s manipulation of the footage is frequently blended with the film’s original editing. The effect reinforces his point that The Big Short is an essay film – and argues that techniques and ideas which are foundational in the culture of videographic essays have a place in the mainstream, even if the mainstream is unaware of it.