Category: Video Commentaries (Page 3 of 6)

Video Commentaries Instructions

Each week, students should find a video essay published somewhere online and write a commentary on it. Commentaries should be posted before class on Wednesday morning. The commentary should strive to answer two basic questions: what did I learn from this video about the subject matter? and what did I learn from this video about the videographic form? Commentaries should be at least 250 words, but should be as long as necessary to explore the ideas.

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BELLS IN CINEMA

This week’s video looked into the motif of bells in cinema and their relationship with religion, namely Christianity. The subject matter, therefore is not the films or what the films mean, but rather how the character of a bell maneuvers through different films. Bells as an object in movies and in culture – notify a community of people about an event that has happened. The bell does not connote a negative or positive meaning, but one of a need for attention. A Bell is usually situated on top or a tower, in high places in a town – with an omnipresence both visually and audibly. A bell can also not be rung alone; it relies on the action of a human to notify people – it is an echo of a voice unable to be heard – an extension of the way we communicate with others. Bells and the religious connection reflect where we see bells and how they can make a whole community move. Religion and the hold it has on different communities is powerful – it shapes the way people navigate the world and understanding this and how the Bell can be a physical representation of religion is something that can be looked into further –  with regards to power relations, and visibility.

This video essay utilizes text from both academic and biblical references. There is no voice-over in the video – but given the subject matter, there is no need. The bells in the different shots speak about how the bells are utilized perceived, viewed and understood. The text allows for the viewer to gain a larger context of the connection between all the clips presented. This video essay made me think about other possible objects to bring attention to and the ways they are seen in different cultures or religions and their additions to adding depth in different movies and shorts.

‘Lessons from the Films of 2013’ Video Commentary

This video essay by Kevin B. Lee examines how some of the best films of 2013 use cinematic technique to “teach” audiences how to view them. He zeroes in on two scenes in particular, one from Hannah Arendt and another from Springbreakers, both of which focus on scenes of lectures given in an educational setting. Cleverly, he notes that these scenes use the tricks of filmmaking to unconsciously instruct us how to view them; we, as an audience, are also being educated by the film. In the case of the first scene, protagonist Hannah Arendt makes an impassioned defense of her worldview in front of a crowded lecture hall, the thesis of which is that free thinking will be the salvation of mankind. While the sophisticated script wants us to think for ourselves, the filmmaking manipulates us—the camera shows us a sympathetic young woman in the audience who fiercely agrees with Arendt, as well as a skeptical, snooty-looking fellow who seems to doubt her. Of these two characters, the young woman is the one we want to root for, and she is definitely in Arendt’s camp. Lee observes that the script alone is compelling and convincing; we don’t need the film to manipulate us in this manner in order to agree with Arendt. This video very lucidly illustrates how the distinctive elements of film—like cuts and shot composition—can, if used in an unthinking fashion, contradict the performances or script of a movie, or even the ideology of the director.

 

As a video essay, this works very nicely for two reasons. First, it creates a good balance between the two films it analyzes. Both are given roughly equal time structurally, and both are discussed as relevant to Lee’s overall point as well as within their own contexts. At no point does this essay feel like a piece chiefly about either Hannah Arendt or Springbreakers which merely makes reference to the other film. The upshot of this balance is that it strengthens Lee’s overall argument, about how films teach your unconscious how to view them. The second reason this piece is effective is that it urges you to take his argument with a grain of salt. He warns that making video essays has put him in a position of seeing “too much” in film; that analysis of how a movie works can override his enjoyment of it. It’s a plea for a diversity of viewpoints and an urging not to blindly accept what he gives you. In addition to being an interesting argument about the video essay as a critical form, this approach also creates a modest, reasonable tone that makes the video pleasant to watch.

Sounds of Ethnographic Experience

The video Sounds of Ethnographic Experience by Sandra Teixeira focuses on the juxtaposition between animals, machines, and humans. A sonic contrast between animals and that of machines and humans underscores this ethnographic experience that the video explains using the appropriate images of each group. Though the video evinces of this unsettling contrast, the video argues that each of the ethnographic of the two films presented further exemplify an ontological equality. The images and sound of both films suggest this equality. Teixeira structures the video by presenting her argument in the beginning. Here she uses onscreen text. Following this, she shows various images that juxtapose with each other. The presentation of these two videographic elements demonstrates a sense of control of what the video wants the viewer to see.

Furthermore, in showing her argument in the beginning of the video, Teixeira wants the viewer to keep this in mind before viewing the following shots. Here, the video proposes the argument that machines, humans, and animals thrive in the ensuing environments shown in the following shots. Her argument suggests that the clashing of the visual and sonic components of the video create this sort of ontological equality. This, though, becomes more and more confusing to understand through the visual juxtapositions.

For instance, the first shot of the video consists of a snow-covered environment. This desolate place does not show any sort of human interaction. The following shot shows someone or something underwater. Immediately, a high angle shot returns to observing the previous environment. This modulation of environments becomes even more jarring. It is then here what the video dares to exemplify this chaotic environment driven by machine and human. Of course, this underwater chaos only becomes apparent once it is juxtaposed with the peaceful environment.

The following two shots show another kind of contrast. In the first shot, a group of sheep stands still on the snow. Immediately following this shot, a high angle shot shows a man cutting their fur off. This juxtaposition then showcases the first human interaction between humans and animals. Between these two shots, another modulation occurs. The video then creates some sort of pattern: it establishes a perceived tranquility in one shot; in another, it shows some sort of ensuing chaos. When these two kinds of shots are paired, a juxtaposition occurs, further suggesting that through this type of jarring visual modulation and the peaceful sounds that connect to one of the shots, one can understand this ontological equality.

Moreover, it is still not satisfying enough to explain this ontological equality by simply showcasing examples. It would have been easier to follow the video up to now if the video gave some sort of definition of this phrase. This phrase becomes a bit more clear in the following two shots. In the first shot, a group of fisherman use a machete to cut up the fish they catch. Following this shot, the previous high angle shows the sheep being groomed. It is here, then, where this visual modulation stands out in showing such jarring juxtapositions.

The following shots break this pattern described above. The first shot shows a man sleeping next to a tree. The next shot shows a man sitting inside a boat. The latter shot shows the man’s environment, the various food on the table. Here, the video showcases a new type of juxtaposition between human and human; however, each of the man’s environment differs. One suggests a much more calm and peaceful element of nature. The other represents a much more dark and chaotic atmosphere of the boat. It is also difficult to say with certainty that both men differ. In fact, they both sit in some sort of sedentary way.

Moreover, it is in this sedentary way that the video further showcases this ethnographic experience. Here, the two men are shown living within their own space. Their environment then juxtaposes their own idleness. The video then suggests that some sort of equality exists between human and nature, and human and human-made environment. It is interesting that the video showcases these kinds of shots, for it further creates a sense of oddity in a video full of jarring juxtapositions. Their sedentary position could act as a modulation. The previous shot shows the man sleeping; the following shot shows a different man awake. Perhaps, this is the juxtaposition that the video wants to present. Regardless, the video presents such shots to give a range of examples of this ethnographic experience.

“Eyes Wide Shut: The Game” Video Commentary

“Eyes Wide Shut: The Game” by Nerdwriter examines the works of Stanley Kubrick through his final film “Eyes Wide Shut” starring Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman. The author concentrates on the experiential qualities of Kubrick’s films for his audience that are attributed to his cinema-graphic stylization of his characters. While Nerdwriter’s discussion is very fascinating, his own style of videographic criticism complements his points quite nicely. Part of his argumentation includeshis belief that Kubrick’s films are much like virtual reality universes; while they are often set in locations similar to what an audience has experience, the interactions, details, and motion of time are unrealistic, thus making it feel like a video game. In using highly detailed and unique title captions, that appear to be the start screens of old fashioned super nintendo games pasted on top of eerie scenes from “Eyes Wide Shut” and “A Clockwork Orange”, he is able to express his point visually in a way that promotes acceptance of his view by those who are watching his video. Another interesting use of videographic style to complement his argument is the use of multi screen. At one point he indicates how the acting in “Eyes Wide Shut” can seem very real, as the actors appear tired and stressed out, because they actually are. Apparently Kubrick took hundreds of takes for short 4 second shots, thus leaving the actors overworked . He uses a multi-screen split into about 40 different screens with the same shot in this moment to emphasize this point.

The Silence of the Lambs – Who Wins the Scene? by Tony Zhou

In this Every Frame a Painting, Tony Zhou does a very close evaluation of a scene from Silence of the Lamps to address the question “Who Wins the Scene?” The question in itself is an interesting one to throw out while watching a film. What are each character’s goals? How do they challenge one another? And who wins? It sets up a structure of evaluation by putting the attention on the relationship between characters as a source of understanding rather than looking to individual characteristics and features as the main source of information.

In this video Tony Zhou walks us through this question. By looking at the camera’s framing and actor’s positioning, we can evaluate the relationships within the scene as they challenge one another. Zhou breaks apart this particular scene cut by cut, using outside music and voiceover to guide the viewer. The non-diegetic music removes us from the original scene and allows for Zhou to have an effective voiceover that doesn’t get mixed up with the dialogue from the movie. He is able to guide our eye by explaining how the camera angle and the actor’s body language tells us “who’s winning.” I found this video to be wonderfully informative in that it calls attention to a way of seeing that a viewer can use. It is as if Zhou is giving us a new vernacular, or a lens, that we can use to read the relationship between Anthony Hopkins and Jodie Foster’s characters throughout the entire film.

Once again, this videographic criticism has inspired awe in my by the level of detail that goes into cinematography and filmmaking. By taking a short but important scene apart frame by frame and imposing a singular question upon it, Zhou has presented us with a new way of seeing.

 

 

Alfred Hitchcock // Point of View

I’ve watched this video three or four times and I find it absolutely memorizing. I must admit, when we first started watching and crafting video essays, I was skeptical of the split screen as a tactic. It just felt odd to minimize and alter masterpieces and divide our attention. As I said in my last post, they often make my head hurt and I don’t think they’re always the most effective way to get a point across.

However, the more I watch the more I realize I was wrong, and this essay was absolutely the turning point. This essay uses 24 films to examine Hitchcock’s use of eye line matching and point of view shots. It’s one of those shots that’s so common in film we don’t really think about it, however, this video essay illustrates how there is in an art to crafting these types of shots. I think this goes back to video essays being a laboratory, where we are able to take apart films and see what makes them work. Here, we’re able to see Hitchcock, the master craftsman, at work.

This piece of criticism compliments the video essay I watched a few weeks ago , “Eyes of Hitchcock,” in which kogonada brilliant illustrates how essential the human eye is in Hitchcock’s films. In “Alfred Hitchcock//Point of View,” we see many of the same shots kogonada uses, however we get to actually see what the characters are looking at, and shows us how the image of the eyes are only half of their affect. The beautifully framed eyes in Hitchcock’s film lose their affect if we do not have an equally compelling image to match them with.

It seems obvious, but these shots also provide a kind of one, two punch. The best example I found in this essay was the side by side shots of Mrs. Danvers at the end of Rebecca. We see her surrounded by the flames that are rapidly engulfing Manderley. She is running around Rebecca’s room, clearly disoriented by the smoke. We then cut to a point of view shot of the flaming ceiling falling down on her. This allows us to feel her death, and has a tremendous affect. And this is clearly illustrated in this wonderful video essay.

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.

Aronofsky’s Obsessions

 

 

Despite having never seen a film directed by Darren Aronofsky, I really enjoyed this videographic essay…So naturally I wanted to figure out why. The narrator’s voice has a thick, but intelligible British accent that I would describe as pleasant– but not as appealing as the narration work of Tony Zhou (something about that guy’s voice is just captivating in my opinion). The editing is nothing extraordinary from a technical standpoint, so that’s probably not why I can’t let this video go. Even the visuals used in the essay are captivating, but not as stunning as some of the shots used in supercuts I’ve watched this semester. So maybe what stuck with me wasn’t an aesthetic decisions made in the video, but rather its academic argument – so I began to diagram the video’s structure.

The video starts by introducing Aronofsky’s work. It does so by claiming that Aronofsky has reinvented himself stylistically across many of his films. Then, the essay gives the thesis – Aronofsky is obsessive in his work, and obsession is a major theme of his work. This is the end of the “introductory paragraph” and it is marked by a transition sentence: “Often an artist’s first work is his most direct, a pure iteration of what he is.” This line lets the viewer know that the narrator is about to talk about Aronofsky’s first film, Pi, and is likely going to relate the subject matter of the film to the thesis statement that was just put forth. This is in fact, exactly what happens. Close-up shots of numbers and formulas are juxtaposed with acts of physical aggression resulting from frustration and – obsession. All this is simultaneously expressed in the voiceover. The footage of Pi stops though, and is replaced with footage from The Fountain. This shift in source material is also marked by the narrator’s use of a transition sentence: “An obsessive tries to control the uncontrollable.” Which also acts as the topic sentence of the next “paragraph”. This pattern of – topic sentence, evidence from footage and voiceover, transition sentence – is repeated several times, until the narrator has reached the end of his video and is ready for a conclusion.

The conclusion though, is where I think the video stands out. Up to this point, everything that’s been said has followed the format of a regular essay. The visual elements have certainly added to the experience, but honestly I think the narration would hold up just fine if I was given a transcript of it to read instead. To end the video, the narrator states that The Wrestler was a rebirth for Aronofsky. The film was a critical success that redeemed his obsession with perfection in The Fountain which received a lukewarm response. Instead of ending the video after this final point though, there is one final supercut depicting the theme of rebirth and its presence in every film that has just been presented to us in the video essay. This effectively induces the revelation that Aronofsky’s body of work doesn’t only focus on obsession, but the endless pursuit of emotional revelation. The repeated death and rebirth that links all of his films and creates a thematic cycle of attempt after attempt at creating the human condition.

 

The SENSES of an ENDING

 

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

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

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

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

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

The Museum of Lars Von Trier – Art References

 

 

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

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

 

 

Arrival: A Response To Bad Movies

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

KOGONADA “Mirrors of Bergman”

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

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

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

A woman bends over me,

Searching my reaches for what she really is.

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

I see her back, and reflect it faithfully.

She rewards me with tears and an agitation of hands.

Complex Emotions in “Kids” movies

 

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

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

‘Snowpiercer – Left or Right’ Video Commentary

 

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

 

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

“Pixar’s Tribute to Cinema”

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

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

Baby Driver | Color Coded Characters

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

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

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

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

Supercut- examining one and talking about their importance

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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