Month: October 2017 (Page 2 of 3)

Questioning the Human Machine – Allison de Fren

Even though I consider myself a near-expert on this film since I chose it for my exercises, Allison de Fren still teaches me about many new aspects of Ex Machina in her video essay. This new knowledge comes quickly in the form of voiceover – calm and measured, just like the background music. Right away, she hits me with “Most of the dialogue is composed of questions” and  “Every question is a test for the characters but also the audience.” That was crazy for me to hear. I had not thought about it that way before, but it’s true. Before, I just wrote off the questioning style of the dialogue as true to the form of the Touring Test that Caleb, the main character, has to perform on Ava, the AI machine. It’s a test, so naturally, there should be questioning. But she’s right, the questioning goes so far beyond just the Touring Test; it permeates through virtually every conversation between Caleb and Nathan, the mastermind behind Ava, too. The movie is mainly a huge mind game that Nathan is playing on Caleb, but it is also a mind game that the movie is playing on the audience. We only come by crucial bits of information at the same time as Caleb does, with Nathan almost always five steps ahead. We have to ask questions in order to understand the movie at all, or else we would be lost. 

Allison de Fren uses scenes to augment her voiceover, as a kind of explanatory mode. Once she brings up an idea, she explains it through the dialogue between characters; for example, when Nathan explains the Touring Test to Caleb. She tells us the facts first and explains through the scenes after, causing the viewer to glue their eyes to the screen; they don’t want to miss this chance to see Allison’s words proven visually. In this way, the video essay completely assumes the role of a teacher instructing viewers, it feels very explanatory, almost lecture-y, but mesmerizing, not dull. Her voiceover complements the movie so well since her lullingly smooth voice and pacing matches Ava’s robotic yet human voice. This video is so successful, I can’t begin to get into her use of outside sources; it just flows so seamlessly through even though the sources are so different. From connecting Ex Machina to Blade Runner to the Bechdel Test to citing pictures of reclining naked women in artwork throughout history. Adding these extra elements really convinced me of her point, just as if she were writing an essay on paper and gathered pieces of evidence from all over.

Who Should Win the 2016 Oscar for Best Picture?

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.

Pacing in Videographic Criticism- The Spielberg Face by Kevin B. Lee

Now that I have watched a lot of fast-paced video essays from creators like Tony Zhou, watching video essays with a much slower tone is an interesting experience. The Spielberg Face is still a compelling video essay explaining some of the reasons for Steven Spielberg’s massive success as a director, but it doesn’t “feel” like it is trying to hold my attention and keep me from clicking away like some other video essays do. In a way this video essay “feels” more “genuine” than other faster paced video essays I’ve watched, because the video seems designed to talk about a compelling topic, instead of designed to keep a viewer from clicking away until the very end of the video. At the same time though, the argument and examples are interesting enough that I still didn’t want to click away from this video either, despite the comparatively slower nature of this video essay to some others.
Kevin B. Lee’s video essay the Spielberg Face is probably one of the more “conventional” video essays that I have seen from him. In this video essay, Kevin B. Lee uses text on screen (for movie titles and credits), voiceover narration, and various clips from Steven Spielberg’s films. There is an instance where Lee shows most of the instances of Spielberg face from one movie all at once using multiscreen, but other than that, Lee doesn’t manipulate the visuals very much. Because of the topic though, I think that the relative “simplicity” of this video essay lends well to talking about the Spielberg Face because of how entrancing all of the shots are, even if they are all very similar. This meant I was content watching all of these shots from Spielberg films without lots of split screens or fancy transitions or the use of other graphic design elements.
In terms of talking about film making and the actual content of this video essay, the Spielberg face is an interesting type of shot that Spielberg has mastered and used throughout his whole career. The “Spielberg face” as Kevin B. Lee refers to it is a shot of a character looking in awe at something off screen. While this shot was not invented by Spielberg, his films have been built around using these shots to build tension and awe. I think these close ups, and sometimes dolly shots, are effective because they let the viewer fully experience the character’s reaction to something, making the actual thing that the character is looking at seem more impressive once the viewer actually gets to see it. The Spielberg face acts to build up suspense for the actual awe inspiring event, so that when we (as the viewers) finally do see that event, we can’t help but be awe inspired ourselves. The Spielberg face is also powerful because it allows the viewer to spend “intimate” time with the characters and see their reactions to the world around them. While this technique may be overused in Hollywood blockbusters, I think that it makes sense that viewers are drawn to shots like this. As a viewer I am always looking for characters to connect to and understand. That means that for me at least, moments where I can begin to understand a character better simply through watching their facial expressions, are shots that are very effective at connecting the viewers to the characters in the movie.

Week 6 Schedule

October 16 – Share Algorithmic Videos

  • Export algorithmic double feature
  • Come to class prepared to discuss algorithmic videos

October 18 – How to Make a Video Essay?

  • Read Conor Bateman, “11 Ways to Make a Video Essay
  • Read Christian Keathley, “La Caméra-Stylo” [in Classes / Handouts folder]
  • Watch Christian Keathley, “Pass The Salt”

  • Come to class with ideas for Videographic Abstract Trailer

“Recreating History” Video Commentary

In Recreating History, Vugar Efendi opened us the door to memorable historical events which are re-created through movies. Through this no voice-over video essay, we can say that history is an important source for movies, and movies help surviving history.

Overall, Vugar starts his video with some historical events, or moments in the entertainment world. The essay is began with Edith Piaf’s remarkable performance at Olympia in 1961. He kept the low quality and the black and white color of the old sequence as a significant element for proof for the historicity of his source.  Slowly after that, the scene from the movie La vie en rose (2007) appears on the right side of the video. We can easily see that Vugar used multi-screen technique to give us a comparison between historical source and recreated moments in movies. It is necessary to point out that the scene from La vie en rose is bigger, or more specific, wider, than the video of the performance: it has a dimension of cinematographic screens, while the other remains with its old norms. This unequal screen-dividing also keeps appear throughout his video essay. I personally appreciate his choice keeping old video’s frame dimension, because it gives audience the most realistic element to compare two given images.  This sequence is followed by Catch me if you can – recreating a 1977 game show To tell the truth and Damned United – recreating a historical interview with Brian Clough and Don Revie in 1974.

After that, he continues his video by showing historical documentary represented in movies:  JackieJFK, and Silma. They are all related to politicians or historically political event in 20th century. What surprised me is that after three “serious” moments, he leads audience to other entertained events, such as Andy Kaufman on Saturday Night Life (recreated in Man on the moon) or the fight between Micky Ward and Shea Neary (recreated in The Fighter). I am not saying that those events are not important or not “historical” enough, I just feel uneasy seeing there is no logic between his chosen moments (or there is but I did not see it?). Despite that illogical arrangement, he framed each screen perfectly, placed a symmetric juxtaposition which helped each sequence match with other. It is also important that all his last “historical moments” are from photos: the marriage between Stephen and Jane Hawkings, a personal intimate photo of Richard and Mildred Loving, and a self portrait of Christopher McCandless (he starts with videos and ends with photos). And in the last juxtaposition (McCandless’ picture and the scene from Into the Wild), the camera goes from a wide view (like in the photo), to a closer view, which showed us emotions represented through his face. Is it possible to say that movie, in this scene, did an “improvisation” by guessing the main character’s emotion which is clearly cannot be seen through photo – the historical element?

Through his comparison, we can see how movies tried to recreate historical events/moments by letting characters wear same clothes, building same scene, recreating same movements, emotions or even changing film’s color (Jacky used black and white to create an “historical environment”). However, it is easy finding out that in movies, those events are much more colorful, cinematographic and symbolic.

Commentary on “Cats Die Funny, Dogs Die Sad”

In Jacob Swinney’s “Cats Die Funny, Dogs Die Sad” video essay, Swinney uses clips from various films from different genres and time periods that feature the deaths of either dogs or cats, and rates these deaths on a scale from really sad to really funny. The video poses the question of why viewers typically find it funny when cats die and the deaths of cats are often treated as jokes in films, but the death of dogs in films to be one of the saddest things that can happen. While the video does use various clips and the scale of funniness/sadness to assert that typically, it is true that it is funny when cats die and sad when dogs die, Swinney does not really give a reason or answer to the question that he poses.

In Swinney’s video, he uses no voiceover to communicate to viewers but uses a little bit of text on screen at the beginning of the video to reiterate what the question of his video essay is. Text on screen only appears at the beginning of the video, then Swinney transitions into using a scale at the bottom of the screen to rate the clips he shows of examples of sad/funny clips of dogs or cats dying in various films. His method of using a scale was an interesting way to portray his ideas and I think was a good way of communicating with the viewer without using voiceover (which would distract from the clips from the movies that he used), and a good way of not using too much on the screen to distract from his original question. While it may have been his intention, I think his essay would have been more effective if he presented an answer to his question rather than proving that the theory that dogs dying is really sad and cats dying is funny is true, then leaving the video without an answer as to why.

Single Take Horror Film Mutations

This videographic film essay touches on the ways in which films are translated and “mutilated “across nations. In Catherine’s examples, we look at the Uruguayan film – La Casa Muda and its adaptation to U.S cinema, Silent House. The video essay utilizes multiscreen and shows the introduction to each of the respective films. Analysis of the films mise en scene, use of camera angles and methods of storytelling work well because of the ways the viewer can visualize and notice the differences in the manners the directors went to storytelling and the multitudes of direction possible in filmmaking. The text is limited to small phrases and an avoidance of sentence is omnipresent – perhaps to illuminate the low budget film and also emphasize the movies on display as saying more than what a sentence may. La Casa Muda is a unique film in its approach to filmmaking, utilizing a method not many have used before- the single take film. La Casa Muda is also a film that was made on a low budget (6k USD).  Silent House is a much more obvious U.S movie that utilizes the normal progression of film found in most movies in Hollywood and has a much larger budget (2million USD). The sound of the video comes directly from the movies and creates an ominous mood – that can highlight the director’s horror film perspectives and ways in which adaptation of movies creates a new market that piggybanks on the creativity of others for profit. That perhaps is one of the scariest things in the video. In a blog post by Catherine Grant, the author of the video, she touches on this topic – “How did this high-concept film (tagline: “Miedo real en Tiempo real”/“Real fear in real time”) come to be such a desirable property that a licensed U.S. remake was released within a year? And what are the consequences of such a rapid turnover?”

“Drive, The Quadrant System” – Every Frame a Painting

In this short video Tony Zhou looks at a couple shot clips from Nicolas Winding Refn’s “Drive” (2011) to show to composition can tell a story. A lot can be said about the movie’s ability to convey meaning through it’s cinematography, especially if we were to divide the screen into quadrants. As Zhou points out in this video, each quadrant is deliberately framed to tell it’s own story. For example, as Michelle Williams and Ryan Reynolds walk down their hallway and go their respected doors, the right side of the screen focuses primarily on Williams and her downcast pensive expression but ends with Reynolds going to this door and glancing her way before going in. But on the left side of the screen, the shot begins with Reynolds removing his driving coat (haven’t seen the movie, but I’ll be bold and interpret it as a symbol of his dangerous hidden life being a hired driver) and at the end Williams hesitating to enter into her apartment. Each side gives two different stories but come together as one to give the scene an extra layer of vivaciousness, depth, and life. Zhou points out how the quadrant system creates emotion and suspense through it’s method of dividing up space and blocking actors.

I always tend to like Tony Zhou’s videos as a place for inspiration when it comes to videographic criticisms. His casual friendly tone not only makes the content feel approachable but it also draws the viewer in, inviting the listener to see what he sees. In addition to voiceover, he uses a number of effects like super imposed graphics, changes in speed, and fade in and outs to show how the compositional balance of “Drive” works as a tool to make subvert conventional notions of cinematography.

(WEEK 5 RESPONSE)

Passengers, Rearranged by Nerdwriter

This video essay by Nerdwriter1 takes apart the relatively new space action movie “Passengers.” The movie has faced significant criticism form a number of formal and informal reviewers, i.e. film critics and youtube channels, and although objectively not a terrible movie, Passangers arguable could have been a lot better – which is what Nerdwriter1 explores.

I found this videographic criticism fascinating to watch because it discusses the devices used in movies to tell stories. Nerdwriter1 uses  multiscreens and additional diagrams and graphics to outline the original movie into 5 acts with two clear possible endings. The 5 acts follow a trope and certain formats that link the story to a more romanic action drama, where the hero messes up but is forgiven in the end by his lady love and receives absolution for his “sins” (or, as the essay points out, he could die). But this storyline is fairly generic and has been frequently used in blockbuster like movies over the past couple of decades.

Considering that “Passengers” has a pretty creative premise to it, Nerdwriter1 argues that a lot could be done to improve it with what’s already there and uses this video to explore that potential. Inspired by a conversation from another video, Nerdwriter1 rearranges a couple of the major acts, switching the main perspective from the hero, Chris Pratt, to that of the heroine love interest, Jennifer Lawrence. By moving the beginning of the film to the middle of it there arises an entirely different tone, set of motives, and meaning. The movie becomes much spookier and breaks away from the more traditional structure of it’s genre. As Nerdwriter1 points out, this doesn’t solve a lot of the other problems the movie has but it certainly poses an exciting and inspiring new version of it.

In another one of my film classes we were discussing directing and writing and my professor told us that we were creating a story to write and direct it the way we envisioned and then think about 5 other ways to direct and film the same sequence. Stories must be explored from all angles, taken apart and put back together again. I feel like “Passengers, Rearranged” does exactly this by demonstrating how order and editing can so powerfully change the meaning and understanding of a story, and potentially could make it a lot better. This is an exercise I would want to do during each step of production and while watching videos myself – what would happen if we rearranged the story? What becomes of the elements we were relying on?

(WEEK 4 RESPONSE)

‘Linklater // On Cinema & Time’ Video Commentary

This video essay by Kogonada withholds analytical, expository voiceover and onscreen text in favor of foregrounding the sounds and images of Richard Linklater’s Before trilogy, as well as numerous other films which deal with and interrogate the concept of time in cinema. This creates an effective and affecting video, one that delivers far more meaning and invites far more engagement than a less abstract viewing experience might produce. Kogonada in this piece examines not merely how time is treated as a theme in great films, but also how film itself captures and embalms time. He posits the premise that cinema is “the art of time,” and explores how, through that mentality, Linklater and others—most obviously Francois Truffaut in his four Antoine Doinel films—use film to sketch the development of characters across their lives. Time is imagined in these films as a fleeting and insubstantial thing; in Linklater’s vision, we are visitors in the world for the brief period of our lives. This does not result in a nihilistic conception of reality or a pessimistic directorial style however. Rather, it imbues brief and irretrievably passing moments with a deep meaning and profundity. This mentality lies at the heart of Linklater’s best works, and ties his films together—not through a distinctive visual style, idiosyncratic narrative structure, or favored choice of subject matter, but rather through a core cinematic DNA which uses captured and embalmed moments of time to have a filmic conversation about the nature of time.

 

As a work of videographic film criticism, this piece benefits enormously from its more experimental style. Though hardly avant-garde, this video essay has very little direct narration—Kogonada sparingly deploys clips of a phone interview he conducted with Linklater, but these sounds neither distract from the juxtaposition of film visuals nor tell us directly how we should interpret a given work. Instead, Kogonada demands more of his audience. He asks us to draw connections between great films—like Truffaut’s Doinel films and Linklater’s Before trilogy—and, more importantly, probe what in Truffaut’s work inspired Linklater. Kogonada’s interview, as well as generous character voiceover, suggests that it’s the multilayered relationship between film and time which has prompted this imitation. Because Kogonada refrains from spelling out his precise ideas about the subject, he leaves more room for interpretation in the mind of the viewer, allowing them to draw connections to beautiful-but-fleeting moments in their own lives, or perhaps imagining concurrent examples in other films. One clever trick Kogonada uses to encourage this interpretation is to use audio from one Before film—mostly Before Sunrise (1995)—over images taken from the subsequent films in the trilogy. This draws the three films, which were made with nine year gaps in between them, much closer together. Simultaneously, it prompts those who know the films well to consider how the characters changed throughout the series, and why such juxtaposition feels narratively jarring even as it reinforces Kogonada’s thesis.

“How to film a real relationship”

 

Fresh from the epigraph assignment and the multiscreen assignment, and also fresh from a quasi-failed attempt to combine the two, I stumbled upon this video essay by Kevin B. Lee about a specific scene in the movie A Second Time Around. 

One thing about Kevin that is an unlikely thing to admire but that I do, because of how square and geometric and clean and designy I like everything I do to be, is how he handles aesthetics. His use of basic fonts and his video overlaps on multiscreen (which could be a technical necessity rather than an aesthetic choice), the way he uses text connotes casual conversation while still talking about very serious matters. It is so great. One consequence of these choices is that the critical distance of the academic from the studied object is affirmed and maintained. Another one is the demystification of the video-essay itself as a form that isn’t only for professionals who have enormous experience with editing, but for everyone. Kevin has produced more than 300 video-essays. He is no novice to the genre, his style is definitely a choice that he makes.

This video-essay shows such a perfect use of text. I am still trying to figure out myself when text can be best used in videographic essays. I have a slight fear of leaving images to speak for themselves. The PechaKucha exercise made me realize that early on in this class. I had much anxiety about whether the audience would understand the connections that I was making through my editing, and I hated that I was losing important aspects of the movie. To compensate, I wish I used text. The voice-over, but especially the epigraph were great at soothing that side of me that wanted to say more than these silent images conveyed. Another “problem” about my movie is the fact that it is mainly a silent movie. nothing much is said. It is very visual, which is perhaps one of the reasons why I enjoy this movie and formally similar movies, they baffle me at their ability to make meaning without using spoken or written word.

Coming back to Kevin’s essay, the text here is perfect for the pace of the scene, which is a posed conversation and therfore creates space for the audience to juggle with reading and listening and looking at the images. The fact that the conversation is so central to the scene means that Kevin needed to find a way to communicate with the audience without competing with the content of the video itself. He could have paused here and there and spoken in voice-over but that would have been disruptive, not to the dialogue, but to the idea that this is a real conversation, between a real couple and that in real life things just happen and flow and all that we can do really is notice them as they happen.

I thought this essay was great and educative. It does such a great job at pointing out all the aspects of the scene that are relevant to creating a realistic and genuine scene between a couple with the aid of very technical film knowledge.

Thumbs up.

 

American Sniper: Anti-War Misinterpreted

Youtube user Storyteller presents his video American Sniper: Anti-War misinterpreted through a heavy use of visual juxtapositions. He uses an explanatory style to guide the viewers through the various layers he attempts to uncover. It should be noted that this videographic essay uses external sources as a stepping ground that creates a division between what critics believed the film American Sniper stood for and to what Storyteller believes is the true meaning of the film. In the former, Storyteller uses a variety of clips and tweets to form the current argument: people like Noam Chomsky, Howard Green, or even Michael Moore all believed that the film represented a sense of deep nationalism. Someone like Michael Moore would view this film as war propaganda.

Moreover, on the film’s surface, Storyteller agrees with this assumption. Various scenes throughout the film showcase the way war can instill a sense of national pride into a person which in turn leads the person towards risking his life to protect their nation. In contrast, the latter, Storyteller’s opinion, centers around the underlying message of the film: one cannot protect their nation while also wanting to protect their family. The main protagonist, Chris Kyle, believed in this ideology. If he could fight abroad for the freedom of his nation, he would also be protecting his family. Storyteller, then, uses these various clips to create a contrast between the two arguments.

Continuing, the use of graphics throughout the film act as a way for Storyteller to guide the viewers. In one shot, he uses a triangle to form the three points revolving around Chris Kyle’s ideology. This, of course, revolves around his desire to protect his family, to believe in God’s plans for his future, and to never quit these goals. In presenting these three different points, the video follows them with scenes that correspond with each point. One scene shows a younger Chris at church. Here, from a young age, he forms his ideology to follow God’s plans. Such an idea further informs the viewer of why he decides to join the war. In another scene, Chris looks at the news as he learns of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Once again, this traumatic, national event triggers the ideology of religion inculcated in him from a young age. As he watches his nation, an imagined family, under attack, he realizes he must protect his family.

However, in joining the military to protect this imagined family, he leaves his immediate family at home. Here, the video creates a visual juxtaposition between scenes showing Chris fighting in the war while his wife cries for his return. These two scenes act as a turning point in Chris’s ideology. As much as he believes he is protecting both families, he can only choose one. This, in turn, triggers the video’s third point. Part of his ideology impels him never to quit from God’s plan, this plan centered around the protection of his family, his immediate one, and his nation. These two ideas create a sense of conflict for him, a sense of perpetual internal fighting.

The video further indicates this turning point by showing a scene of Chris watching a group of terrorist murder a mother and child who provided him with important information. Here, he must face the reality of this perpetual war. In protecting his own family back home, he must experience the destruction of another family. This juxtaposition further demonstrates the deterioration of his own ideology. In another scene, he shoots a terrorist. After doing so, one would think he would have sensed some sort of relief, yet he is unable to engage with his own feelings. Instead of feeling a sort of happiness, he experiences an anticlimactic event. Here, he realizes he cannot save everyone.

Furthermore, following this scene, Storyteller presents newsreels of President George W. Bush. In using these type of clips, the video wants the viewer to engage with multiple sources. Although a dramatized version of Chris Kyle’s life, the film still portrays the horrors of war. In using these clips, the video wants to remind the viewer of this underlying connection. Because not everyone may understand this connection, it can be easy for many to view this film as war propaganda; however, a closer look further demonstrates the internal conflict that soldiers go through especially once they return home. His death—he is killed by a veteran he worked with—further emphasizes the video’s message of the destruction that such wars cause.

It is interesting to note that the video relies on voiceover as a means of describing the video’s argument. This video would be different if it removed such an element from its style. In one sense, the film’s direction would be lost; however, the video could still use descriptions to guide the viewer. Regardless, the video achieves his goal in presenting its argument alongside the various visual juxtapositions.

“Fear Freezes the Soul”

The video essay “Fear Freezes the Soul” by Filmscalpel is a peculiar, yet perfect representation of what a video essay is, in that it relies entirely on the medium of film in order to achieve its goal. Despite the use of caption at the beginning of the video, which simply shows the title, there is no other form of media used throughout the video besides music and shots and sound from the film being analyzed. The choice of music, which changed over the course of the video, was particularly telling because it often conflicted with the action occurring in the shot. A good number of the shots used, carried with them a motif of stillness and conformity while the music, often a style of dance music, emphasized the exact opposite. This conflict expresses the idea of fear, as it is stated in the title, as a conflict of emotions, which physically freezes the characters shown in most of the shots. This immobility being juxtaposed by fluid music also invokes a sense of insecurity in discomfort within the audience that perpetuates this idea further. Another aspect of this video, which is fascinating is the way the editing builds suspense and discomfort. By utilizing cuts instead of fading or wiping, the strangeness of each shot affects the overall tone of the video. In some cases the author times the change in tempo of the music with a cut, which accentuates the anxiety in the audience.

Fear Freezes the Soul

“Eyes of Hitchcock” – By kogonada

Though this video essay is not even two minutes long, it is full of engaging material and provides great insight not only into the role of the eye in the films of Alfred Hitchcock, but also in how to craft an impactful video essay.

When I first watched this essay, I forgot to turn the sound on. Once I realized my mistake, I turned it on and watched it again. I was disappointed. The sound in the video essay is a just a random creepy song, and detracts from the images on the screen. The sound is meant to mimic that of a Hitchcock film and add suspense to the video essay, however, it comes across as cheesy and forced. When I watched the essay without the sound, I found it to be far more impactful. Without the sound we’re forced the stare directly into the eyes of whichever character is on screen. We feel a deeper connection with them because we’re forced to confront the emotion(s) on their fact, not the emotion the music may be trying to elicit. In Hitchcock’s films, he often uses silence as a way to make his audience feel even more uncomfortable because we expect someone to scream or cry or yell. In a video essay, we expect there to be some kind of sound, whether it’s narration, music, or sound from the film itself. I think this essay would have been more impactful had it not used sound.

One of the things I really enjoyed about the video essay was the way in which it was edited. The film clips are edited in such a way that the eyes of the different figures are all in the same quadrant and general location on the screen. If you make eye contact with the first set of eyes, you don’t have to move your own to make contact with the rest. This allows us to better focus on the eyes themselves, which, of course, is kogonada’s intention. It may seem weird to edit a great work of art, however, it’s essentially because the video essay turns the film into something else, and editing is quite necessary. By taking Hitchcock’s work and editing it to fit the essay, to create a feeling, we are able to derive new meaning from his work.

Commentary on “Gestos do Realismo” by Margarida Leitão

 

Because this week we will be working on a split screen exercise, I thought that I should look for video essays that deal with this formal criterion.

I watched “Gestos do Realismo” by Margarida Leitao, which is an essay that parallels two movies from the realist movement in exactly matching shots and sequences. The result is quite incredible and, I can imagine, quite laborious. This video essay does not tell us much about the movies themselves, does not necessarily or at least not outwardly want to make a point, but definitely, wants to bring our attention to the commonalities of representation within the realist. From this video essay, I am learning that sometimes video essays are better without voice-over or text, especially given the use of multiscreen where the juxtaposition speaks for itself. The movie that I chose as my source material is one that deals with the post-independence idealism and the rejection of the African in favor of the European and colonizer’s lifestyle. It is my belief that this movie is highly political and that it denounces a post-colonial reality but I am so scared of that being lost in my video essays that I believe that it has prevented me from being truly creative with my material and treat it like the piece of art that it is.

Gestos do Realismo exploited commonalities between movies that I will never find between my movie and that of other folks in the class, but it also shows that simplicity can be one of the best ways of communicating meaning, especially if meaning is conveyed in the form of movement, pace, camera angles.

After looking up what realism means in the sphere of film I learned that it is not a movement, it is not a genre but it describes a type of film that tries to, as much as possible, portray the real, as is. That makes the video all the more meaningful to me as both shots were extremely slow paced, with little abbreviating cuts. Interestingly enough it did not seems to me that the acting was very realistic but perceptions on acting change over time and those movies are clearly old, they are black and white classical movies.

Week 5 Schedule

October 9 – Share Multiscreen Videos

  • Export videos to class folder
  • Come to class prepared to discuss role of multiscreen in videographic work

October 11 – Assignment #5 Workshop

  • Do weekly video commentaries
  • Give group feedback on multiscreen videos
  • Read Jason Mittell, “Videographic Criticism as Digital Humanities Method” [in Classes / Handouts folder]
  • Watch deformative experiments discussed in Mittell essay
  • Read Catherine Grant, “Dissolves of Passion: Materially Thinking through Editing in Videographic Compilation” [in Classes / Handouts folder]
  • Watch Catherine Grant, “Dissolves of Passion”

Analyzing a video essay within a video essay

Dan Golding’s A Theory of Film Music is a video essay that talks about another video essay. This other video essay is one from Tony Zhou called The Marvel Symphonic Universe. Now this video essay really added to my understanding of current action music, like the music in Marvel movies. Originally having watched only Tony Zhou’s video I had been under the impression that Marvel music doesn’t leave people with lasting memories of their music because composers “play it safe” and rely too heavily on “temp music” (music that is moderately edited from other sources). Interestingly though, Golding’s video essay points out that using temp tracks is not a recent Hollywood development, and that even famous musical scores like that of Star Wars from John Williams, was an adapted piece. Golding points out that digital music is part of the reason that action/adventure movie music isn’t as memorable anymore. Music influenced from Hans Zimmer focuses on percussion and horns. Most of these recent tracks don’t have a discernable melody. I found this really fascinating because it explained a lot to me about film scores. I now understand that in order for a score to be memorable, it needs to have a discernable melody and effectively combine elements of all different kinds of other musical scores. For example, the score of Star Wars had lots of different influences ranging from different Hollywood film genre classics. Overall there are lots of different factors that impact the effectiveness of a musical score.

In terms of the video essay format, there wasn’t anything particularly new that I saw used in this video, but the way Dan Golding used various elements was particularly effective. One example was Golding’s use of a black screen. I think it is always tough to cut to black within the middle of a video because it might give your viewers the impression that the video is ending, but in the case of the video essay, it is an effective way to really let the viewer focus on any voiceover being said without the “distraction” of the visuals or any other on-screen text. This happens at around 5:40 in the video. I took careful notice of it because before seeing that I had mostly used freeze frame images to make video essays less chaotic, and allow emphasis on text or voiceover, but by cutting to black, Golding added an extra amount of emphasis on the things he said in his voiceover during that part of the video. Overall though the use so many different pieces of source material (screen capture, movie footage, behind the scenes movie footage, interviews, and another video essay) really just astounded me.

Her – Building a Beautiful Future

Kaptiankristian’s video “Her – Building a Beautiful Future”, begins by claiming that “there’s a cynicism that’s seeped its way in to modern science fiction.” He goes on to state that modern sci-fi films are “dystopian, apocalyptic, totalitarian, and not much else…” Kristian does not attempt to prove this as a thesis to his video, but instead provides a counter example to this identified trend that’s dominating the genre. Kristian examines Spike Jonze’s film Her, looking at the film’s aesthetic choices which shape its environment and the ‘reality’ that it is attempting to bring to life. The subject of aesthetics guides more than Kristian’s narration though – it guides the overall look and feel of his video. In the description for his channel, Kristian simply states: “visual love letters”. In doing so, Kristian provides his own definition for the genre of videos he is producing. They are not videographic essays, but rather love letters. They reflect a bond between creator and source, a bond which is quickly apparent in his video “Her – Building a Beautiful Future”. Before he’s even a minute in to the video, Kristian begins to introduce his unique yet inspired visual style. One of the key aspects of Her which Kristian highlights in his video is the idea that the film builds an image of fashion and technology through style elements of the past. The computer monitors resemble wooden frames, while the protagonist’s outfits are simple combinations of cotton and wool in plain earthy tones. Kristian brings this same “material design” aesthetic to his “visual love letter”. Around the 45 second mark of the video, Kristian transitions to an onscreen image of production designer K.K. Barrett. The image of Barrett is quickly “cut-out” so that only the image of the man remains. This “cut-out” of Barrett then “falls” on to red construction paper background that gives off a surprising sense of “tactile-ness”.  The shot pulls out slightly, as titles “fall” onto the construction paper background too. These titles appear to be typed from a typewriter and when they finally settle, create a diagram much like a family tree the viewer might have made in middle school.

In the past class we discussed the importance of font choice in videoessays. Kaptiankristian brings these concepts of style and design to a whole new level. His entire video is based on the approach that he will force the viewer to notice his own aesthetic choices, which in turn will reflect and highlight the style of Her which is the focus of his argument. His video “David Fincher – Invisible Details” operates in a similar manner, and is easily one of the most impressive instances of editing prowess and strong style direction that I have ever seen, not just in the medium of videographic essays. I’m not sure if I necessarily prefer this approach to more understated and poetic approach taken by creators like Kogonada, but I found this creator’s work immensely engaging – especially visually.

Why ALIENS is the Mother of All Action Movies

ALIENS and the way in which this film created a new era for female leads – especially in a male-dominated genre (ACTION) is the thesis of this video essay. To create a female lead that would rival the hyper-macho heroes like Stallone and Schwarzenegger required that this lead be independent, resourceful and to focus on an aspect a hyper-macho man would not be able to- Motherhood. The movie begins with Ripley having a life that is in dismay. From a career that is on the brink, to the loss of her daughter; the film allows for a redemption to be made and Ripley will do whatever it takes to make sure this happens. Ripley is also different than other females in the movie – through contrasting femininity. The final battle is one between two mothers – looking to protect their young and doing whatever it takes. All this said, Ripley is a three-dimensional figure with emotions, drive, and independence. These traits have had an impact on other movies with strong female leads today.

 

This video essay contained no voiceover and instead utilized text sprinkled throughout the essay. The text in the video essay is not extremely academic, yet, even so, it brings about an argument with supporting evidence as to how the protagonist in ALIENS is in the upper echelon of action movies. Split screen is included to showcase juxtapositions between this film and others in similar situations and then goes on to elaborate how ALIENS is different. Split screen is mostly utilized in this video essay to rebut the ways ALIENS does a good job of creating a powerful well-rounded female protagonist in a hyper male-dominated film format. The dynamic of having the text on one side with video supporting the text makes the flow of this piece work well and showcases the ways in which video essay successfully may utilize the medium of film.

“Fear Itself Clip 1” composed & performed by Jeremy Warmsley, from the 2015 horror movie essay film, directed by Charlie Lyne

This horror movie essay felt like a movie in itself, with the beginning creating suspense using visuals and voiceover just like the beginning of most horror movie beginning teasers. Then the title “Fear Itself” appearing in white font camouflaged under a mass of black, smoky nothingness really amplified the horror element and makes the video essay more like a movie itself by following the classic movie sequence. You don’t ever get to read the full title out because of the black covering the words, but you know what it says anyway and this is powerful and keeps the viewer paying attention. I had never thought to structure a video essay like this before. It is intriguing,  suspenseful, and very fitting for its subject matter.

Everyone says it is super important to strike the right tone and personality with voiceover – I think this essay does a great job at that. The voice is female and sounds frail, as if she is about to burst out crying, and her serious, slow tone makes me hold on to every word she says. She talks about the feeling of watching a horror movie, feeling fear, and not knowing where it comes from or when it will set in. Everyone knows horror movies are just constructed sequences to make us cringe or jump out of our seats, but despite this knowledge, we feel fear all the same. The shots in the beginning are of women and men in different horror movies who look afraid, and we align them with the speaker in the voiceover as well as with ourselves and our experience with fear. We don’t hear much in terms of the source film’s audio – except when we need to. For example, the voiceover says “They [horror movies] make you wonder what else is out there, just beyond your grasp, by giving you just enough sound to hear the silence…” as a man shuts a door and then the volume goes up and we hear it creak in a scary way. The visuals connect to the voiceover too, as if they are working together. In the same sequence, the voiceover continues, “… And giving you just enough light to realize how dark it really is,” as the black and white visuals show a bright light appearing in the distance of a dark sky. The essay also does a superb job in actually scaring the viewer just by showing all these clips where scary moments are about to happen, and juxtaposing that with the voiceover’s explanation of how we define fear and what it feels like.

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