ENJOY THE SHOW
"So much of what makes Ghibli, Ghibli comes down to the way their films wriggle into the space between cultures… they feel both familiar and strange." It's always a good time to revisit Studio Ghibli films. Film journalist/critic Robbie Collin has put together a short video essay discussing the aesthetic of Ghibli films - focusing on how they mix east and west style to create something completely unique (and wonderful). I'm always up for watching anyone praise Ghibli films and analyzing what makes them so magical, and Robbie looks back at their origins to figure out where it all came from. Worth a watch. This just makes me want to settle in and spend all weekend rewatching Ghibli films, and catching up on a few of the classics I haven't seen yet - like the cool 1968 animated film The Little Norse Prince Valiant referenced in here. Watch below.
Need to add some books to your summer reading list? Looking for some good reading recommendations you haven't already heard about? Start here. You'll find plenty of great inspiration. Fellow cinephile and friend of the site H Nelson Tracey, who also writes for the site Cinemacy, has created another new video essay breaking down and examining all of the books shown and objects and films referenced in a film. This time he profiles David Fincher's Zodiac, praised by many critics as Fincher's best film. This extensive featurette examines and features each & every book and magazine shown in Zodiac, you'll find plenty that catches your eye when you watch. Nelson also made one of these videos for Matt Ross' Captain Fantastic last year, and this one is another fascinating literary breakdown following his excellent work last year. Watch in full below.
"For millennia, we'd never seen anything like film cuts. How do we process them so easily?" When you watch a movie nowadays, unless you're trained in the art of editing or filmmaking, you probably don't even notice most of the cuts. If the movie's editing is top notch, the cuts are designed to work in a way where you don't really sense them, so that you can still easily follow the action and dialogue in a scene. This video essay from Adam D'Arpino attempts to explain, scientifically, how our brains have adapted to film cuts so quickly. The full title of the video is - Strange Continuity: Why Our Brains Don't Explode at Film Cuts. It's a fascinating visual examination for movie nerds and science nerds alike, getting into the technical aspects of filmmaking that help our eyes, as well as the anthropological details that make it all work harmoniously.
The latest film made by auteur filmmaker Darren Aronofsky, titled Mother!, is now playing in theaters eveywhere. Aronofsky is a remarkably unique filmmaker, who tells very emotional, visceral stories through intimate filmmaking. Back in 2008 and 2010, Aronofsky made two of his best films - The Wrestler and Black Swan. Both films received many awards, including Venice's Golden Lion for The Wrestler, and the Best Actress Oscar for Natalie Portman in Black Swan. Editor H. Nelson Tracy (who also made the Captain Fantastic book video) has put together a new video essay examining how these two films are very similar, essentially companion pieces, looking at aspects including structure, style and story. This is worth a watch.
One of my favorite films of 2016 was Matt Ross' Captain Fantastic, starring Viggo Mortensen. It's the kind of film I can put on any day and it makes me happy, I adore it, and I was so happy to see Viggo get an Oscar nomination for his performance. Not only is a great film, but it has so much to teach us about raising kids, keeping an open mind, learning more about the way we interact in this world, and fighting against a capitalistic society. Fellow cinephile H Nelson Tracey, who writes for the site Cinemacy, has created a video essay breaking down and examining all of the books shown and literature referenced in the film. There's quite a few books referenced in this film, and if you're looking for some extra summer reading, this is a very good place to start. As I'm a very big fan of this film, I couldn't help sharing this video. Check it out.
"One of the great artists of the film is the focus puller." Time for a lesson in filmmaking. As the introduction for this video explains, "moviegoers see focus racks all the time" but "they probably don’t even notice most of them." This video essay, created by Philip Brubaker for Fandor, titled simply The Art of the Focus Pull examines the cinematography technique of "focus pulling" - or changing the focus in the middle of a shot. There's different ways to achieve this, and the video covers a few of them, and shows plenty of examples. It also counts down three of the best focus pull shots in films, and each one of them is most certainly striking.
Time for some film education and film appreciation in the form of a video essay from "The Royal Ocean Film Society". The video essay is titled "In Praise of 16mm" and it is exactly that - filmmaker/cinephile Andrew Saladino examines the use of 16mm film (as opposed to the standard 35mm or larger 65mm) for making movies. For those wondering how often 16mm gets used, some filmmakers do still use it every so often. Here are some recent films that were shot on 16mm: Carol, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Fruitvale Station, The Squid and the Whale, The Hurt Locker, Moonrise Kingdom, Black Swan, Happy Christmas, Primer, Listen Up Philip, and others. Watch below to learn more about the aesthetic and what makes 16mm "so darn cool."
Even though the first color movies were made over 100 years ago, black & white lived on in Hollywood until the 1960s. The Academy Awards even had a category from 1939 to 1967 under Best Cinematography for black & white films, splitting the section in two. Even now, black & white is still a strong aesthetic / visual choice and some filmmakers use it effectively to tell stories. Some of my favorite recent black & white films are: Frances Ha, Ida, The Artist, Pi, Sin City, The Turin Horse, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, A Field in England, Escape from Tomorrow and Computer Chess. This new video essay from Jack Nugent looks back at film noir in the 40s & 50s to make the case for black and white, even today. It's worth a watch.
Perfectly timed with release of latest religious epic directed by Martin Scorsese, titled Silence, which is slowly expanding to more theaters this month, is a video essay on religious themes in Scorsese's films. Titled "God's Point of View", the video proposes the simple question: "Is God watching in all Marty's films?" There is no narration, instead the video uses footage from almost every single Scorsese film to present the possibility that Scorsese always includes scenes in his film from the point-of-view of God. But how? And why? His focus is on the choice to shoot some scenes looking straight down at characters in times of their greatest struggle, accompanied by the music of Max Richter. A must watch for fans of Scorsese and cinema.
"We want tons of good ideas! And we've got, you know, 80 minutes here to knock everybody out." This is a fantastic new video essay examining the animated movies and storytelling techniques of filmmaker Brad Bird, who is currently working on making The Incredibles 2 at Pixar. Created by veteran editor Kees van Dijkhuizen Jr. (who retired in 2012, but is seemingly back now with more work) the video features audio clips of Brad Bird discussing his ideas and mentality, spliced with clips from his movies showing exactly what he's talking about. The opening quote is from the documentary about the making of The Iron Giant, released on the new Blu-ray this year. I've watched this video at least 5 times already, it's that good. Enjoy.
There are many different techniques that filmmakers can use to enhance their storytelling, add or alter our emotions, or convey a message without dialogue. One of those techniques is the use of silence, or obstructed dialogue, or putting music or sound over talking to convey a feeling. Editor David Verdeure made an outstanding video essay for Fandor called "When Words Fail" looking at this technique, and providing a number of different examples. "The reasons for the use of this stylistic stratagem are diverse—they range from comedic to horrific, from wistful to suspenseful." The video tries to give some potential explanation for each scene, but it's also cool to see these moments and make whatever you want of them in your own mind.
"We have no control of time. Except, of course, you're a filmmaker." There's an excellent new video essay made by Julian Palmer to check out, this one all about the use of slow motion. The video examines the slow motion work in films ranging from Ingmar Bergman's Wild Strawberries (1957) to many of Scorsese's films including Mean Streets (1973) and Taxi Driver (1976) to recent films like Zack Snyder's Watchmen (2009), Kathryn Bigelow's The Hurt Locker (2008), Nicolas Winding Refn's Drive (2011) and Pete Travis' Dredd (2012), which had a crazy cool slo-mo storyline. Of course there's the scene in The Matrix, because it's so iconic. There's plenty to admire and plenty to learn in this video essay on slow motion, so check it out.