We’ve established that maybe I watch a bit too much YouTube, right? But hey, at least I’m actually getting a decent amount of education value out of my viewing! Not only am I learning recipes and cooking techniques (an excuse I love for watching Shokugeki no Soma!) but I also really love watching video essays about film.
Sometime at the beginning of high school, I started to watch movies differently. I think this was triggered by 2 things:
- My parents bought a box set of all the Best Picture Oscar winners and we had begun watching them for our weekly family movie nights. I suppose I began trying to see what set these movies apart from the rest.
- I watched a bootleg copy of Joe Wright’s 2005 Pride & Prejudice, which remains one of my favorite movies because of what was interesting about this copy of it. When I turned on subtitles because the audio was a little bit off, I actually ended up with the director’s commentary captioning the movie instead of the audio. The result was that having the curtain pulled back on the director’s choices and intent helped me start looking for these things in other movies.
It’s very easy to critique movies without knowing the language of film; all art is able to be consumed at different levels and therefore to be critiqued at those different levels. I have a parent who works with film so it’s a medium that is near and dear to me, and I have begun to learn how to evaluate films in a different critical way.Here are some videos that I’ve watched lately (although they weren’t all released recently) that are examples of video essays on YouTube that have done a great job at providing some fundamentals of film theory. Although I haven’t really written a movie review in a while (sorry Travis), I still love watching movies and thinking critically about why they are they way they are and if anything could have gone differently.
An always-favorite who has now stepped away from creating these video essays, Tony Zhou at Every Frame a Painting put out really quality videos that helped me understand movies differently. This Jackie Chan one is something I bring up and see mentioned often, because it perfectly captures what makes his Hong Kong films so good.
Among other topics, Evan Puschak at The Nerdwriter puts out really great video essays where he analyzes films, often with a focus on a specific view, like the music, the dialogue, the transitions, etc. He also does covers other art media and even extends his artistic criticism to politics, and he remains one of the YouTube channels I most recommend to people. (I actually have an old blog draft from 4 years ago about YouTube channels that are enjoyable and make you feel a little smarter and his was one of them.)
This is a significantly longer entry on this list, but in light of The Phantom of the Opera being available to watch on YouTube right now (every weekend, one of Andrew Lloyd Weber’s musicals is available for viewing and this is my nostalgic favorite one!), I recently watched Lindsay Ellis cover the 2004 Joel Schumacher movie adaptation. I haven’t seen it before, but I did find myself watching many clips from the film a few weeks ago. Lindsay has a great way of explaining film theory with humor and without condescension towards the viewer. She may be critical of filmmakers and their movies but she backs up her critiques well. In this video, I learned about diagesis (is the singing and dancing actually happening in the universe of the movie or is it not?), which is a core part of musicals, and why movie musicals are so tricky. I may or may not have watched 5 of her videos today.
This video popped up in my suggestions for weeks before I finally relented to click it (partly because I was writing about my qualms about the live-action Disney adaptations), but I’m glad I have now discovered a new source that focuses on the scoring for movies: Sideways. Listening to the score critically is a skill I still have a loooong way to go on, as I’m still very bad at picking up on musical themes and cues consciously. If you’re interested in why music works (or doesn’t work), I recommend setting aside 20 or so minutes to settle in with one of these videos.
Screencrush may be best known for their videos covering Easter eggs in trailers or things you may have missed in TV episodes and movies, but they have also been doing this very cool series of video essays that explains a lot of TV and movies so well to me (while also serving the cool content of pointing out things I missed because I don’t know how to look for and draw these connections yet). I like that they are targeting a slightly different demographic – fans of “nerd” culture and the TV and movies that go with those, as evidenced by their focus on superhero and scifi franchises – but are still serving up film theory so that these nerds can be empowered to critique the media they love better. (Also I am always bewildered with admiration at the kind of knowledge that goes into drawing the connections that they do in their videos.)
I also want to recommend quickly Film School Rejects if you don’t want to go the video route and prefer reading your essays. This is a very cool blog that has a similar goal but, of course, via the medium of a blog versus video essays.
In the past, I eagerly lapped up film theory so that I could be really snobby about movies, but as I’ve matured a bit, film theory has become a tool for me to better appreciate the work that goes into movies instead of to make me appear smarter and more sophisticated than I actually am. Movie magic is no less magical to me now than it was before; in fact, understanding the conscious choices that are made to elicit emotions and feelings make me really appreciate film as an art form and not just as entertainment.
Is there a discussion about a movie that you really love, be it a blog post or a movie? I am really hungry for this type of content (along with the calm foods) so please let me know!