The more I write about film, the more I find myself challenged. There’s only so much a typical movie review can express. Sometimes, you want to dive deeper, or go beyond what’s “good” and what isn’t. Reviews may be the dominant form of film blogging, but I’ve been looking towards essays and the study of film beyond quality – its critique, interpretation, evaluation, etc. (I love reading reviews, I just don’t feel I add much to the conversation anymore). Some of the best essays on film are actually on YouTube. No, I’m not talking about Cinema Sins.
Yes, my film obsession bleeds over to my viewing habits on YouTube. If I’m not scrolling through the film sites I mentioned, I’m all over these film channels. That is, if I’m not obsessing over trailers, movie interviews, actor & director conversations… Do I ever take a break from movies? It’s best you not know. Video essays have the benefit of showing their analysis by cutting together actual footage of the film and layering their narration on top, whereas I only have narration with idle use of screenshots. An 8-minute video can synthesize an entire discussion. In terms of comprehensive film study, these channels are well worth studying. They’re pretty damn entertaining, too.
I owe Mr. Tony a great deal. Stumbling across his channel was like a renaissance for me. In many ways, my transition from reviewer to essayist was partly because of his microscopic look at film. And to think, I found this channel out of compulsion. One day, I had a sudden desire to watch a Jackie Chan movie. I didn’t have any of his films on me at the time, so I began looking up scenes from Police Story, Drunken Master, Rumble in the Bronx (I go down these film tangents quite often). That was when I came upon How to Do Action Comedy – an analysis of Jackie Chan’s body of work and why his films stand tall as action landmarks. Mr. Tony didn’t renew my love for Jackie Chan. That love was already there. But he articulated why I loved his films, his breathtaking stunts, and his relentless pursuit of perfection (the end credits often show the insane number of takes that went into perfecting these jaw-dropping stunts). Keep in mind, this was just the one video. With analyses on the likes of Spielberg, Scorsese, to contemporaries like David Fincher and Edgar Wright, Mr. Tony’s interests mirrored mine at such a rate that I felt profoundly empty when months had gone by without a new video. The channel has since come to an end, but I will never forget the impression these videos left on me as a writer and what it taught me about the essay format.
Nerdwriter (real name, Evan) filled the void that Tony left behind, and that’s hardly a consolation. Evan’s channel is so stacked with content that I’ve often begun my days to the tune of his videos. Just one and I’m already in the mood to start analyzing anything. To watch any one of his video essays is to behold an idea and watch it take over you. If Tony’s channel was the nudge, Evan’s was the shove off the deep end. I envy the way he views film. It’s where I hope to reach as an essayist myself. For now, I’m fine with rediscovering movies through his lens. It’s often what I like to do, fall in love with movies through someone else’s eyes. Evan takes a movie of the week approach to his channel, indicative of his moment-to-moment obsession. His breakdown of the Helm’s Deep sequence in The Two Towers made me put in the Blu-ray right after. His thesis on Passengers left me in awe of the sheer wonders of a constructive opinion. And his video on Logan validated the beliefs of my own (not that it needed validating, but he secured it all the same). For film obsessives, subscribing to this channel is no-brainer.
Whereas the aforementioned channels focus on film’s merits as a visual medium, Storytellers is all about theme, character, and story. They’ve often left me floored by the symbolism in films that passed right by me. It’s easy to interpret these visuals literally, even though the metaphor might be staring at us directly in the face. This analysis of Prisoners is both infuriating and illuminating – infuriating because of all the literary references self-contained in the film that I somehow missed, and illuminating because of, well, the same reason. It’s a porous overview of what makes film so captivating, the dramatic heft of the story being told through images. Elsewhere, their perspective on Guillermo Del Toro’s storytelling was a fascinating prelude going into The Shape of Water (and a display of how utterly cerebral Del Toro is as a filmmaker). Their own channel name isn’t a reference to themselves, but the filmmakers who inspired these overviews. Because no matter what genre they’re playing in or the era they take place, they’re all doing the same thing: telling a story.
I discovered this channel immediately after my Stranger Things binge. After finally getting around to watching it, I became obsessed. Naturally, I wanted more. This dive into the series’ nostalgic appeal expressed everything and more that I loved, so much so that I re-watched the series a second time, followed by a third. This kind of observational analysis is what I love for. It’s my life substance as a blogger. He, of course, shines a light on effective writing. He’s insanely concise in that regard, diving into exactly what makes these films and shows so gloriously appealing and the lessons we can learn from them (his money segment is titled “What Writers Can Learn From _______”). This breakdown of Fury Road is everything to me, as is his video on Wonder Woman – a lesson in drama that all comic book screenwriters should take to heart. In fact, this is the perfect channel for any aspiring screenwriter. No matter what your intentions, you’ll definitely learn a thing or two.
This channel is so up to date on current films, it’s not even fair. She’s got an essay on Lady Bird AND commentary on Del Toro’s Shape of Water while both are still in theaters! I don’t know if she’s got wildly good memory or takes notes in the theater or lines up to see films many, many times. I am impressed either way, and a little jealous. It takes me a half-dozen home viewings before I’m remotely confident to say something about a movie. She’s prolific and quite lively in her analysis (some of her videos near the 15-minute mark and you won’t even mind). This channel was created out of a genuine appreciation for films and a commitment to curating that love, and you feel that in every case study. Whether it’s Game of Thrones or current awards-favorites, so often the stuff that people deem “overrated” are kind of deserving of all the noise going around. I suppose the irony is that great films and shows get people talking, resulting in a channel like ScreenPrism in particular, and honestly, thank god for that.
This channel is still in the nascent stages, but based on the quality of his video essays so far, I’m confident he’ll ascend to the level of his peers within the year. Maybe sooner. This retrospective on David Fincher’s filmmaking aesthetic is one I can’t get enough of. I consider myself a scholar of Fincher, yet this channel managed to enlighten me on things I wasn’t even aware of. Also, this look at the production design of Spike Jonze’s Her renewed my appreciation for a film that I consider to be one of the greatest of all time. 27 videos in and the guy is teaching me about my own favorite movies (his voice is also quite calming and therapeutic). If other film channels aren’t careful, Kristian might lead the pack one day.
You’ll discover that my secrets, if you will, to writing about film are quite out and open. There’s no trickery involved, no secret sauce. It’s all influence. There’s nothing wrong with a bit of influence (see: literally every worthwhile movie out there). The more you peruse these websites and film channels, you’ll begin to see some overlap. They may reference each other from time to time. It just goes to show how this is one giant community of nerds people who engage in the porous discussion of film. You don’t need a blog or a channel to appreciate a movie. That’s always been the timeless appeal of film since its dawn in the 20th century. Anyone can see a movie. Anyone can appreciate a film. For me, movies aren’t just an escape. They’re where I want to be.