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

Author: Ian Scura

Complex Emotions- Analyzing a video essay about Inside Out

This week I watched a video essay about the Pixar movie Inside Out. It seemed fitting to see someone else’s videographic work on the same film that I worked on for one of my projects. This video essay specifically looked at the history of the “struggle” between reason and emotions, and the actual complexity and nuance of emotions in general. Ultimately this video essay goes on to say that Inside Out shows characters that learn to embrace their emotions as opposed to “master” them like people have done in the past. One interesting thing about this video essay is that it delved into the actual past of emotions and reason, looking at some of the historical relevance of the messages of the movie Inside Out. Another important aspect of this video essay is that it discusses where the movie got its psychological theory from, and why this theory is both effective but also limited. I think that looking into the history of the movie topics is an important aspect of understanding why movies are made. I haven’t used a lot of historical information for any of my video essays so far, and it was really interesting to see it used so effectively. By hearing what theories the movie based its ideas on, I gained a better understanding of why the characters functioned in the way they did, and also why this movie was made when it was. Essentially I understood, that at this time in US culture, there has been a lot more recent talk about emotions, their complexity, and the importance of accepting and experiencing emotions to potentially live a healthier life. Before there was more pressure to suppress and “master” one’s emotions so as to let reason be peoples’ only driving force in life decisions.

Another important element to this video essay, is that the creator clearly targets a larger audience, and asks questions that anyone might have of his videos. The best example from this video essay is the moment where the creator feels the need to specify that Inside Out is a kid’s movie. While kid’s movies can contain complex ideas and teach kids valuable lessons, the creator felt the need to also point out that this movie was also designed to be fun and family friendly. I think that proposing points and questions like this throughout a video essay can actually make arguments ultimately stronger, because acknowledging the extent of an argument shows true understanding.

In terms of craft, I think this video essay included some interesting graphic elements, and a few other sources besides the actual film. There were times when the video essayist would include a colorful Inside Out themed background with either photos of psychologists, or characters from the movie. The video essayist also included images of the brain to help explain emotions and where they actually occur. These images were really useful in helping to explain the actual biology and psychology of emotions in comparison to looking at the representation in Inside Out. I also think that the rest of the graphic elements that were used in this video essay aided each of the points and ultimately contributed to each point.

Wit in Movies

This week I watched a video essay titled “Shane Black’s The Nice Guys (2016): Wit, Done Right.” This video discusses wit in Hollywood movies and brings up the clever use of wit in the movie The Nice Guys, a movie that underperformed according to this video essayist. I think the topic of wit, especially in relation to the movie The Nice Guys is an important topic, because wit is often done poorly in movies, and movies with well crafted wit tend to be overlooked. As this video essay brings up, The Nice Guys nicely balances between using typical tropes and jokes in new and interesting ways, as well as directly criticizing typical jokes in order to be witty. Another important aspect of The Nice Guys is that throughout the whole movie, as the story changes and adapts, so do the characters, style, and jokes of the movie. There is a fairly consistent style throughout, but the jokes evolve as the characters develop and get to know each other. Unlike other movies that might just keep using the same type of witty banter for most scenarios, The Nice Guys builds on its old jokes, even making fun of them. This meant that as a viewer I appreciated the later jokes in the movies just as much as the earlier jokes because I felt like I had grown alongside the main characters.

In terms of this video essay’s form, the video mostly uses video clips, background music, and voiceover. One interesting choice made was that every time the video cuts to a scene with important dialogue, the background music of the video essay cuts out completely. On the one hand I found this technique effective because it caught my attention every time and drew me to pay close attention to the audio of the scene, but I’d almost rather that the video essay have the music fade down but keep playing quietly in the background. I think that changing the volume drastically would still draw viewer’s attention, but keep more of a consistent feel throughout the whole video. Besides these audio interruptions, I think the rest of the video is very effective in keeping a consistent tone with the movie. The author’s voiceover performance is witty and causal enough that it totally fits with the clips from the movie. Also when the video featured text, the font and color of the text felt consistent with the style of the movie as well, meaning that I wasn’t distracted from the argument of the video.

Two Rules Modern filmmakers should learn from Buster Keaton

This week I watched a video about the influence of Buster Keaton called Buster Keaton- The Art of the Gag. This video discusses why Buster Keaton still has lasting influences on movies today, and why Keaton’s style is so impressive and effective. In this video by Tony Zhou, he discusses some rules that Keaton followed while making movies. Two of these rules seem particularly important to look at in contrast to current filmmaking. The first rule I want to address is that in Buster Keaton films, if the camera can’t see something, then the characters can’t see it either. Essentially this creates an almost “flat” world, because if there is an object in the foreground blocking an object in the background that the camera can’t see, then the characters can’t see it either. I don’t think that all movies should suddenly revert back to this technique and start creating “flat” worlds, but it is an interesting strategy that sets up lots of visual jokes, and it is an important example of setting up and keeping a world consistent. I think that especially in action and comedy films, it is important for the movie’s story world to have its own set of rules that lead to special jokes or action sequences later in the movie. An audience should understand the limits of the world and the possible consequences or lack thereof that characters can receive based on their actions. This is one problem that I have with some current action films like Transformers movies, is that the audience doesn’t always understand the world well enough to feel any impact when characters get hurt or are put in danger. A good example though might be the old film Monty Python and the Holy Grail. In this movie there are lots of jokes in the first half of the movie that alert the audience that “this world” actually does have someone working the camera. This sets up the finale of the movie where modern police officers show up to arrest the knights of the round table. This ending “makes sense” because as a viewer we were already alerted to the fact that a “modern society” existed within the world of the movie earlier on. Movies should continue to use this tactic of maintaining a consistent “world,” so that viewers can follow the action and understand the full implications of consequences in the movie.

The second rule that I want to discuss is Buster Keaton’s rule of legitimately performing all of the stunts that he showed on screen. Buster Keaton actually performed all of the stunts in his movies and served as inspiration for other action/visual comedians in the future like Jackie Chan. This is an interesting point to look at in context with modern action films (especially superhero movies) which have so many special effects that it’s hard to know what isn’t digital. Now it isn’t realistic or safe to say that all stunts should be real in Hollywood, but I do think that a lot more stunts should actually be performed. In fact, I think having wider shots that show that an action sequence is “real” helps to add to how “real” the movie feels in general. Essentially I think that action movies, especially ones with lots of special effects, should strive to actually do more of their stunts, because then the stunts will make the rest of the movie feel more real, regardless of how unbelievable or not that movie is. A good example is Tom Holland from the newest installment of Spider Man in Spiderman Homecoming. Tom Holland is the actor of Peter Parker/Spiderman in that movie, and he actually performs many of his own stunts. Seeing the actor actually do backflips and other acrobatics on screen adds to the world of the movie, and helps make it feel more “real” even though it is a superhero movie. This doesn’t mean that all actors and actresses should be going out learning parkour stunts, but rather that action sequences should more generally be designed to have real stunts so that they are generally more believable.

In terms of components and graphic elements, this video essay was pretty “standard.” Tony Zhou simply uses movie clips, music, and voiceover to convey all of his points. In fact, the most complex technique that Zhou uses throughout his whole video essay is split screen. Despite being pretty “traditional” I think that Zhou’s video essay is very engaging. This video essay speaks to the fact that you don’t need fancy cuts or animated graphics to make a good video essay and bring up an important discussion about film. All you need is a compelling topic and lots of interesting examples. One of the reasons I think this video essay works so well is that most of my attention is focused on watching Buster Keaton and all of his amazing stunts. In this sense, this video essay is perfect because it gets its point across by allowing you to just watch lots of clips from Buster Keaton movies. Zhou plays in to the fact that Keaton was such a good filmmaker. That is what can be so great about video essays in contrast to written essays about film, is that no written description can fully convey what a movie actually looks and sounds like. That doesn’t mean one is better or worse, but it just shows that a video essay can be especially valuable in demonstrating the indescribable.

Voiceover Performance in Video Essays

This week I watched a video essay titled Edgar Wright: How to Make a Protagonist. This video essay focuses on Edgar Wright films, and why characters in Edgar Wright films are well developed and interesting. The essayist argues that it is worth studying characters in Edgar Wright Films because they are developed in dynamic and intense scenes where the viewers begin to understand why the protagonist is “misunderstood” by the other characters in the movie. As the viewer we’ve seen and “experienced” the same events as the protagonist so we relate to their feelings of being misunderstood, and connect better with the protagonists. I think that this argument is simplified. While I agree that there tends to be something special about the characters in Edgar Wright films, I don’t think that it is as simple as designing characters that are misunderstood. In fact, I think part of the reason that Edgar Wright films don’t feel boring (at least according to this video essay) isn’t that all of the character development scenes are intense, but rather that Edgar Wright finds ways to make mundane and average scenes interesting. If we look directly at this particular video essay even, the first shot that Karsten Runquist (the video essayist) uses is a dialogue scene from Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. This scene is very “average” if you look at what is actually taking place. Four friends are sitting around a table asking the main character Scott about a girl. There are only two actual actions going on, Scott is drinking coffee, and one of his friends is eating toast. Watching this dialogue scene is far from boring for me however, and I learn a lot about Scott’s character, but not because this is an intense scene that makes me relate to his misunderstanding. Instead this scene uses humor and clever dialogue to transform the “average” into something truly interesting.

 

As a video essay, it it interesting how much the tone of someone’s voice in a voiceover driven video essay, impacts the extent to which I enjoy the video essay itself. In saying this I am not addressing the actual content of the voiceover or the depth of the topics covered, but simply focusing on the delivery of the lines. While Karsten Runquist was fairly interesting, I found myself not as interested in the video as I have been with other creators who focus on voiceover. In particular, I might compare this video essay with Tony Zhou’s video essay on Edgar Wright, How to do Visual Comedy. While there are plenty of other differences between the two videos, focusing strictly on voice I notice that Zhou’s voiceover is more engaging that Runquist’s. Zhou just generally seems more excited in his video than Runquist does it this video essay. It is definitely still worth watching the video essay and engaging with the subject of protagonist development, but I can’t help wonder if a different vocal performance might enhance the video’s overall effect. I mean Runquist starts off the video by mentioning that Edgar Wright is one of his favorite directors, so I think as a viewer I expect more enthusiasm from his voice when he actually talks about him. Overall though this video essay drew my attention even closer to voiceover performance in video essays, and the extent to which video essays are art pieces and performances in themselves, as much as they are also forms of critique.

Fusing Style and Story- Lessons from the Screenplay

 

This video essay uses Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom in order to talk about the synthesis of story and style in movies. Michael (the author of this video essay) argues that Wes Anderson’s story feels “believable” because of how he implements style in the movie. One important aspect that Michael brings up, is that Wes Anderson’s film style directly alerts viewers that they are watching a film. The shots aren’t designed to make viewers forget they are watching a movie. Even the dialogue in Moonrise Kingdom is “unusual” because it is direct and delivered almost emotionlessly. Michael argues though that this fits with the theme of Moonrise Kingdom because the viewer is working to understand the world, just like the two protagonists trying to understand their place in the world as they transition into adulthood.

 

I think that the idea of fitting style to story is really important to consider when making and analyzing movies. While considering these ideas, I think it is also important to know that filmmakers don’t have to follow traditional story telling styles. Wes Anderson is a great example because he purposely breaks lots of film “rules” in order to create a unique style that fits with his stories. Essentially this video essay made me think about film style, and what makes things seem coherent. Films don’t have to be “invisible” in order to be effective. Rather a filmmaker should choose a style that they think fits their film, and then be consistent with that theme throughout the movie. This consistency will allow the viewer to begin to understand the world and how it works, which will help the story to feel believable.

 

In terms of the video essay as a medium, I would consider this video essay pretty “traditional” in most senses (at least for a YouTube style video essay). Michael’s video is designed for a large target audience. There are two specific aspects that stood out to me. Michael’s YouTube channel, “Lessons from the Screenplay,” uses a similar style for all of his videos. Instead of looking just directly at the films themselves, these video essays examine the actual scripts of the movies, using on screen text to display different parts of the script while Michael discusses them. This video had its own unique elements too. Towards the end of the video, while discussing Wes Anderson’s style of alerting the viewer to the film, the video essay uses behind the scene shots from Moonrise Kingdom of people working the cameras. This gives viewers a look at exactly how Wes Anderson creates the unconventional shots that the video is discussing. I think that including behind the scenes footage was really effective for this video in particular because it directly reinforced the argument that Michael was making.

Dialogue in Movies/Written Text in Video Essays

This week I watched a video essay looking at Aaron Sorkin and The Social Network. The video essay focuses on dialogue and the ways in which Sorkin focuses on carefully crafting dialogue that is clever, confusing, and ultimately delivers important information. As an aspiring filmmaker, dialogue can be especially challenging. Watching movies with lots of well written dialogue is impressive and interesting to watch. On the opposite end of the spectrum though, scenes with mediocre dialogue are boring. Finding this balance is especially difficult because a movie balances visual and audial story telling. What I learned from this video essay, is that while crafting dialogue it can be interesting to include written vocal pauses and stutters, or to have characters be talking about different things (not be on the same page). Events like this happen in real life but can be overlooked when writing screenplays. This video essay also focuses on why The Social Network was successful, discussing the fact that Sorkin’s dialogue was combined well with David Fincher’s visual style of story telling. Essentially The video essay points out that while Sorkin is a master at writing “crafty” dialogue, being challenged by another great filmmaker to make changes to the script helped shape The Social Network into the critically acclaimed film that it ended up being.

I have watched a lot of video essays from Michael, creator of Lessons from the Screenplay, and now feel that I have started to develop a deeper familiarity with his style. One thing that is interesting about most of Michael’s work is that like his YouTube channel title suggests, Michael focuses heavily on the screenplays of films as opposed to just the film itself. Michael still shows plenty of clips from the movie to reflect his comments, but he does so while looking at the story through the lens of a script, not necessarily just a film. This is an interesting approach to a video essay because it means that often Michael doesn’t pay particularly close attention to visuals or shot composition. He might still comment on the framing, cutting, lighting, etc. but most of his time is spent analyzing the story/script. Because of this, these video essays contain lots of text on screen. In this video essay about The Social Network the text often displays the script while the characters are saying the dialogue. This is an interesting technique because half of the screen is dedicated to showing the printed version of the dialogue that the viewer is already hearing. I think this technique is effective though because it drew my attention away from the visuals and other audio elements, and helped to isolate the dialogue and script as the elements that were being analyzed.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Commentary on “The Dark Knight- Creating the Ultimate Antagonist”

This week I watched the video essay, The Dark Knight- Creating the Ultimate Antagonist. Michael, the creator of this video essay, structures his video very similarly to some of Tony Zhou’s work, introducing himself and his channel, and then immediately diving into his personal opinions of cinema. After the opening however, this video essay develops its own distinct style, making points based on Robert McKee’s book Story. Each quote that Michael reads from the book leads him into his next point about the antagonist in a story.

Whether or not it should have, by including quotes from a published book about film, the tone of the video felt more academic than other works I have seen. Even though written analysis of film and video essays both contain someone’s opinion, I was more willing to simply accept what I heard in this video essay because of the connection to a published book. These ideas made me think about the factors that influence my reception of different video essays. I think there are lots of factors that contribute to reception, including the platform the video is on, the background of the creator, the tone of any voiceover, who recommended the video, and any additional elements included. One great example I’ve encountered is the video essay Everything Wrong with Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace. Had I not been introduced to this video essay by my own professor (Jason Mittell) and Kevin B. Lee, I might not have considered it a particularly influential piece of work. The tone of the video is casual, with a staged element to the narrator. The author also consistently makes offensive jokes and doesn’t quote any other film critics, making it seem amateur. However, this video essay, along with many others, has gotten enough attention and views that is has inherently influenced the work of other video essayists.

In terms of film as a medium, Michael’s video essay The Dark Knight- Creating the Ultimate Antagonist focused my attention on the crucial elements of character design that are easily overlooked (specifically with villains). It is easy to create a villain that is just mean, destructive, and violent, but it is difficult to construct a villain who’s drive directly conflicts with the protagonist, pushing that main character to change and adapt in order to succeed. Creating these situations and developing good characters with convincing motivations is a crucial part in crafting a good film.

Video Commentary #2, Kogonada’s “Wes Anderson//Centered”

 

Kogonada’s video essay, Wes Anderson//Centered was one of the first video essays I ever watched and has stuck with me more than almost any other video essay I’ve seen. At first glance this video essay simply compiles shots from Wes Anderson movies that are symmetrical, but it is much more significant than that. The reason this video essay strikes me in particular, is that it accessible to anyone while still juxtaposing significant elements of Wes Anderson films. Both film buffs and casual movie watchers can enjoy watching and learn something from this video essay. The aspects of this video essay that particularly intrigue me are kogonada’s use of the dotted line, his match cuts, and his choice of music and other sounds to control the pace of the video.

The dotted line is a graphic element of the video that becomes its own character. The line draws itself, moves up and down with characters, curtains, and doors, and matches up to the music. Even if the title of the video wasn’t “Centered,” the dotted line would immediately inform the viewer the relationship between each shot being showed from the Wes Anderson movies. Also by including the dotted line, it seems more impressive the degree to which so many of Wes Anderson’s shots are symmetrical, because not only does each shot contain symmetry, but each shot has something lined up exactly along the dotted line in the very middle of the frame. Possibly most creative though, is the shot of a waterfall in Fantastic Mr. Fox when the dotted line follows the water in different parts of the frame before finally going back to the actual middle of the frame. This shot demonstrates Kogonada’s playful tone in the video and also gives the dotted line “personality.” The personality of the dotted line is an element of this video essay that I have yet to find anywhere else.

Kogonada’s order of shots in this video essay is another factor as to why this video has left such an impact on me. Kogonada matches tilt ups with tilt downs, shots of people praying with shots of people meditating, shots with fire to other fires, and shots of doors with curtains and gates. The match cuts on all of these actions keeps the pace of the video quick, forcing the viewer to have to “keep up” and continue watching the video until the end. All these match cuts also keep the video easy to follow and understand.

Thirdly, Kogonada’s use of sound and music is effective in this video essay, and demonstrates how music can influence the pace of a video, and make it more exciting to watch. The music Kogonada chose is quick and energetic. Kogonada’s video matches this music, cutting quickly to the beat of the song. Even the dotted line’s movement seems to be matched up to the rhythm of the song, making the piece feel like a coherent whole. What’s also important is that Kogonada changes pace occasionally, cutting into the music with dialogue from one of the films, or simply pausing for a moment to catch the viewer off guard. These interruptions make it so that the video doesn’t feel monotonous.

Finally, this video essay taught me that framing shots in symmetrical or other interesting ways is one method of making a film feel uniform and connected. I also think symmetrical shots add a feeling of structure to the visuals of a movie, while asymmetry can add more confusion. For example with all of these symmetrical shots (especially when a line is placed down the middle) it is easy for a viewer to know where to look in that shot.

 

Post #1: “Edgar Wright”

In this video essay Tony Zhou explores the idea of comedy in films, specifically focusing on Edgar Wright and the unique strategies Wright uses to create jokes. This video essay seems mostly explanatory but uses poetic elements to further illustrate Zhou’s points. If you were to just read the script of Tony Zhou’s voiceover for this video, you would still get a basic understanding of his ideas, but a reader wouldn’t get to experience any of the unique humor Zhou shows. Whether its clips of people in Wright movies leaving the frame in unconventional ways, or Zhou interrupting his own voiceover only to finish his sentence with a line from Scott Pilgrim, this video essay incorporates Edgar Wright style humor directly into it’s argument.

Zhou’s pointed out in this video essay the ways in which traditional American comedies are limited, and the many more inventive ways there are for directors to actually add humor to movies. He points out that standard American comedies focus mostly on dialogue to make jokes. Zhou is even so bold as to say that “These movies aren’t movies, they’re lightly edited improv.” Zhou points this out in order to suggest that filmmakers can use many other devices other than dialogue to deliver jokes. There are lots of different forms of visual humor, “perfectly timed sound effects,” and plenty more. These points made me start to think about what other creative ways a movie could set up a joke. I think the argument for more creativity is what was partly so intriguing to me about this video essay. These ideas really stuck with me because it helped me to realize why certain comedies have stuck with me more than others. For example, certain jokes from Monty Python movies have stuck with me, and I realize now that it is mostly because of the creative use of jokes, like framing, expected distance between characters, etc.

Having watched this and a few other video essays from Tony Zhou, I can see that pace, style, and tone dramatically change the way a video essay will impact its viewers. Zhou’s tone connoted that he was stating facts, not opinions. As a viewer I wanted to believe Zhou because of this assertive tone. Zhou’s tone is also more casual than the tone of more formal, explanatory video essays. The more casual tone of Zhou’s video makes the analysis feel more like a conversation or casual encounter than a lecture or paper. The “script” of the video essay doesn’t actually feel like a script, but seems more like Zhou recorded his dialogue on the spot while making his video. I think this tone is more appealing to casual viewers, drawing in a larger audience than a video that specifically appeals to film scholars. One other unique aspect of Zhou’s video essay, was his use of movie clips to finish his own sentences, or make points. It’s pretty standard to use movie clips as examples for an argument, but Zhou took things a step further and would occasionally just let the movie clips make most of the point for him. This video essay was engaging, creative, and informative, leaving me excited to look for more creative film comedies.

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