Author: Jane Nguyen

“How to do a plot twist” Video Commentary

 

[Week 9]

This video-essay of Jake Nugent (his Youtube channel is Now You See It) satisfied all my content, methodology and graphic expectations. From the very beginning of his video, Jack’s humor catches viewer’s curiosity and interest with an ending scene of one episode of Scooby-Doo the series – a famous animated “detective” TV series, where a group of kids (with an extremely bizarre dog) go travel, explore and find evidence for mysterious cases. At the first glance, I did not expect Scooby-Doo at all when I clicked on a video-essay which discusses plot twist in movies (I expected Primal Fear right away), so it is fair saying that he got my attention and interest. After his explanation, we can find out that Scooby-Doo is a relevant example for movies with logical but obvious, easy-to-guess plot twist, with those viewers will rarely feel satisfied in the end of the movie. He also hilariously explained why he decided to do this “spoiling” video-essay basing on a scientific article – which I believe, also helps him gain viewers’ attention and convince viewers who did not know the end of three movies (that he was going to spoil) to keep watching his video.

First of all, he criticizes the plot-twist in Now you see me of not following logical arguments, however satisfying. It is funny, but logical, that he used Scooby-Doo‘s logical-but-obvious plot-twists to compare with the one in Now you see me to state for his argument. The way he change scenes between two films make his comparison more relevant and trustworthy (the power of juxtaposition!). Second of all, he then used Prestige as the “norm” of plot-twist: the mid-way between Now you see me and Scooby-Doo: it has a shocking and entertaining, satisfying plot-twist, which also did not mess up the plot’s logic. Third of all, overall, he argues that plot twist needs to be “just enough to coming but not enough to expect it”, and he uses Primal Fear to prove his statement.

It appears that he used those four films as “examples” for his voice-over: the images’ mission is to explain his argument and to emphasize his statement. I believe that he did a great choice not using text-on-screen, which, with a big amount of information that he wants to deliver, would not be a smart strategy. Besides, the way he chose those four films is also interesting: both Now you see me and Prestige are films about magician – which makes his comparison clearer, more relevant and meaningful; Scooby-Doo is an well-known animation with “cheap” plot-twist (it’s a kid’s series, we cannot demand more than that) and Primal Fear is always a great example for films with the most shocking and satisfying plot-twists. Thumbs up!

“How Pixar uses Music to make you Cry” Video Commentary

[Week 8]

It appears, relevantly, that the topic of this video-essay can drag the attention of a big group of audience. Even if one do not know about video-essay and do not usually spend time to watch Youtube video, one can easily be attracted by this theme, since Pixar films are well-known emotionally touching. I “evaluate” this choice as smart but yet risky, since the author can easily get negative comments if he does not satisfy audience.

Familiar with video-essays and Pixar’s film, I think I might have harsh opinions, since the first time I saw this video was a year ago, and I was totally impressed. This time, I do not feel the same way. Overall, I think he did a pretty good job on the second half of the video, but not on the first half.

I agree that, in the beginning, he tried to make viewers doubt their assumptions about music in films, and he did it. It just appears that his “way” of doing it did not meet my expectations. He used a high, funny voice tone, with funny images to keep people up-beat and enjoy his video, since, I think, he fully acknowledge that some people might find his first part boring (which talks about music knowledge in general).  His methodology did keep me on track with his work until the very end. However, I did find his introduction too long and boring (maybe because I cannot understand some symbolic images that he used and I find his joke was not funny – which are totally subjective reasons). It was also discomfort following his voice-over and his text on screen at the same time: he did not do it in every frame, but once he did it, I could not concentrate on neither of them.

The second half, on the other hand, impressed me. I might also be a subjective comment, since I am in love with Pixar’s movies (but I did try my best to objectively criticize his video-essay). He chose two films to explain for his arguments: Monster Inc. and Up – which is a good strategy, especially Up – considered by many people as the saddest American animation that they have ever seen. In each film, he picked up the saddest scene and its music, then analyze the impact of the last one, also how it was used through the whole movie, how it connected with other scenes. He did a detailed analysis which deeply argued for his hypothesis. His text-on-screen, this time, surprisingly worked: even if they also appear with his voice-over, the texts themselves are short enough, and are on-screen long enough to not bother audience’s attention. He also used interviewed documentary of Up‘s makers as an example for his statement – which is, in my opinion, a strong argument.

In the end, he criticizes the lack of music in the saddest part of Big Hero 6 and try to state his argument by putting Nemo’s music on. Ideology, I do not agree with him, but I am impressed by his methodology, which, in social science, is called “method of agreement” (I believe it is, please tell me if you do not agree).  He also surprised viewers by not showing the whole scene to avoid audience’s boredom (but he did put in URL link for people who want to see the whole scene).

Overall, maybe Sideways did not do a really good graphic effects for his video-essay, but I believe that he did have a smart strategy with good argument methodologies.

 

 

“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.

“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.

“Malick // Fire & Water” Video Commentary

This week, I want to talk about one of kogonada’s work: Malick // Fire & Water. This is just a 01:33 video essay, no voice-over (I realized that I really like videos without voice-over, since this is the third one I did), but impressed me with every single frame, and also by the consistency between images and sound.

To begin his video, kogonada showed is one haunting scene of Malick: the boat on fire, surrounded by water. Or in the other words, a tiny fire in the middle of the sea (or lack, I have no idea). This scene, appears with the video’s title, seems like the best way to introduce to main theme, or topic, of the essay. Fire and water are the two principal elements in Malick’s movies, at the same time, two elements chosen by kogonada to describe the differences through time in his masterpieces. This very first appearance gave audience an idea about what the video will talk about. Furthermore, unlike the rest of the video, in this scene kogonada used the movie’s audio, which is might be considered a welcome to Malik’s world.

After that, every frames are divided into two parts, a juxtaposition between scenes with fire (on the left) and scenes with water (on the right). They are all symmetry: not just graphically, but also in the content. It is out of doubt that the way kogonada choose scenes with similar graphic content created a significant consistency in his video. The comparison begins with the scenes of picture burning by fire and man’s face under water: they all focus on the element “face”, even if on the “fire” side it is not a man but a woman picture. Since then, every scenes continually juxtapose one next to other: fire tornado vs water tornado, man’s silhouette in fire scene vs man enjoying his free time in the water, burning house vs house underwater, man burning trees vs man watering trees, or the crowd trying to extinguish fire vs doing rituals welcoming the rising sun. We can easily see that there is a relevant symmetry in his work: close shots go with close shots, nature descriptions go with nature descriptions, men placed next to men, crowds next to crowds, etc. This symmetrical comparison revealed two different themes in Malick’s movie: the “fire” ones vs the “water” ones.

Moreover, through those scenes, kogonada also showed us the symbolic meaning of fire and water in Malick’s movie. It is easy to find out that most of his fire’s scenes are attached to the idea of destruction, of war, of tragedy. Instead of that, the water scenes brought the feelings of calmness, of serenity, of nature appreciation. “Fire” is violence, but “water” is delicacy. At the end of the video, he used a black fading effect, not just as an transition, but also a method to emphasize the opposition of two elements, especially by using scenes with only fire and water, no other elements (such as human or trees like previous scenes).

It would be a regret if we do not mention how kogonada used music for his video. In here, it feels like there is a concrete consistency between sounds and images, since scenes are changed according to music pace (tempo). Furthermore, the music is a little bit dramatic and “nature”, which makes me think of Discovery channel’s videos.

 

“Color Psychology” Video Commentary

In her 03 minutes and 42 seconds video-essay named “Color Psychology”, Lilly Mtz-Seara presents the use of color in different scenes of more than 60 movies. Personally, I found this video-essay impressive because for each color, she used 5-6 scenes from several movies, and they are all significant (“Significant” here means that we can identify immediately the movie just by the chosen scene, of course, as long as we have seen it).  Since movie is a combination of languages: words, sounds and images, it is obvious that the use of color psychology will create an impressive effect on audience.

As a non voice-over video essay, “Color Psychology” is a combination of continuous scenes, each one lasts around two seconds.  The use of various scenes with short duration can be seen as a contribution to audience’s comparative observation and analyze, on the other hand, states and proves for Lilly’s argument. From “Sweetness” to “Fantasy”, she leads us through different color patterns. Each color is the “ambassador” of one emotion, one characteristic, or rather one symbolic state that the scenes intended to imply. Through her super-cut technique, Lily Mrtz-Seara explained color’s employment in movies: Pink is for Sweetness, Femininity, Red for Violence, Passion, Orange for Sociability, Warm, Yellow for Youthfulness, Madness, Insecure, Green for Nature, Immaturity, Destruction, Blue for Calm, Remoteness, and Violet for Fantasy.

However, the most interesting element in this video essay, in my opinion, is that Lilly did not just present color’s meanings in movies: she also pointed out that different tones of one color can bring different meaning and create a new image symbol. For example, to explain psychological symbol of green color, she begins with “nature” – which is a simple, clear green. Then, she continues with “immaturity”, in this case green is usually used with brown and white. After that, green in the psychologically symbolic world became a sign for “destruction” – where it is mostly associated with black (I really like the fact that she took scenes from Maleficent and Harry Potter to state this argument, since in both movies the “evil” usually appears with green fire/light).

I also really appreciate that she took advantage of this element to make transitions between different colors in her video-essay. The last tone of previous color is usually its combination with the next one. For example, the orange color is firstly described as symbol for “sociability”, then “warm” and some first scenes of  “youthfulness” – where we can see a “blend” between orange and yellow, the next color. Or when the color blue is changed from the symbol of “calm” to “remoteness”, the chosen movie scenes are darker, which lead us to the last (and also the darkest color in her video-essay): violet. To emphasize the emotion brought by different colors in movie scenes, Lilly used tense music track, which related to fast-changing images and specialized its effects in the violence scenes (Red color). By that, she also kept her audience on track, focusing on her video until the very end.

« Poetry and Propaganda » Video Commentary

 

This video is published by Filmscalpel on 2015, now can be seen on Filmscalpel website and Vimeo. I was interested, firstly, by the name « Poetry and Propaganda ». Since I am always absorbed by media propaganda, these two terms evoked my curiosity due to their main subject and their contrariety. After seeing it, I am more certain about my choice because, in my opinion, this video essay did not just attend an interesting subject, but also presented it in an video-graphically interesting way.

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