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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.
David Fincher is one of my favorite filmmakers still working today. He's a master of style and storytelling, with ten excellent films under his belt so far. Video editor Jacob Swinney has put together a new video essay taking a closer look at Fincher's extreme close-ups (he's made videos on Tarantino's "ECUs" and PTA's "ECUs", too). Featuring footage from all ten of Fincher's films, from Alien 3 to Se7en to Fight Club to Zodiac to The Social Network to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo to Gone Girl, it shows how Fincher uses these close-ups to add extra context to the stories he's telling and the characters he's following. They're sometimes subtle or they can be quite powerful, focusing on a very important detail at the moment. Take a look below.
"Cinema is a matter of what's in the frame and what's out." If you need to be inspired again about the amazing power of cinema, just watch any of these. There have been some outstanding video essays recently about aspect ratios, a number of them, so I decided to collect all of them together into one place. This way you can get the full dose, over 32 minutes discussing the history of the aspect ratio, the way filmmakers have used it throughout the years, and some recent examples of how it's still possible to push the boundaries of cinema. At the beginning of the year, I wrote a passionate long form piece on Xavier Dolan's Mommy and its brilliant use of aspect ratio. The most recent video profiles Dolan's Mommy and Tom at the Farm. Enjoy.
If you need an inspirational lesson in visual storytelling - start with this video. Lewis Bond has edited and presented an exceptional video essay titled Color in Storytelling (or "Colour" as they spell it) that looks at the various uses of color in cinema. This isn't a 2-minute YouTube mash-up, this is a very well-researched, intensive deep dive look at color, examining its history and first uses in cinema in the early 1900s, all the way to modern techniques with filmmakers like Wes Anderson and Ang Lee and George Lucas. I love how much explanation there is, and how many examples of actual footage he uses, as it really helps explain and connect so much of what he's saying. As usual, watching this makes me want to see every film he references.
Ever wondered why the PG-13 rating is such an annoying middle-ground? Do you know the full history of the PG-13 rating involving Gremlins and Temple of Doom? If not, or maybe if you do already, then dive in and check out this intriguing animated video essay about "[the] Brief History of [the] PG-13 Rating". Made by the folks at The Dissolve, this video explores why and how the rating came about, and how we got to the point today where one "f*ck" is acceptable, but most other language is not, and certain violence sets off red flags and so on. There's also a fun making-of featurette embedded below to go with the video. Enjoy!
Think you know everything about Steven Spielberg's style? Think again. We've already seen and posted a shot-by-shot analysis of Jaws before (view that one here), but this latest one breaks down and analyzes the filmmaking techniques Spielberg used in one particular scene in his shark thriller classic Jaws (released in 1975). Specifically, Julian Palmer takes a look at the early beach attack scene in Jaws, where the young boy gets eaten. It's a detailed analysis (perhaps over-analysis) but includes very intelligent references that will allow anyone to understand how beautifully this scene is crafted, and just how talented Spielberg really is. There's always more to learn about filmmaking techniques from films old and new, so always keep watching.
Filmmakers are very crafty storytellers. The best ones know how to use the visual medium known as cinema to not only tell a story, but make us feel emotions of all kinds, and empathize with characters and people we have never met before. Filmmakers are also adept enough to link themes and patterns in the story through visual cues. In this video essay from Jacob T. Swinney titled First and Final Frames, he shows us how important the opening and closing shots are in every movie. At first you may think they have no connection, but it'll really hit you when you see the Gone Girl moment and it builds from there. This montage of over 50 films, showing the opening/closing shots side-by-side, also features the music "Any Other Name" by Thomas Newman from the American Beauty soundtrack. It's much more mesmerizing than I was expecting.
Last spring Filmmaker IQ took us through the history of movie trailers from all the way back in 1913, but this time it's Steven Benedict giving us a more in-depth look at the evolution of the integral piece of movie marketing. Benedict has put together a video essay called American Trailers, and as you may have guessed, it focuses on just the evolution of trailers in the United States. It's just under 20 minutes, and it examines the function of movie trailers, beyond more than what we already know, and also how they've been used throughout the history of cinema. So if you've got time, take a journey through movie trailer history.