Awesome Film Essays

The Invisible Horror of The Shining

The Invisible Horror of The Shining

After a long hiatus, film essayist Kaptain Kristian is back with a great video about the subtle and not-so-subtle audiovisual tricks that Stanley Kubrick and music editor Gordon Stainforth pulled to intensify the horror and suspense of The Shining. As he mentions, it’s a film that masterfully reveals more with each viewing.

Aspect Ratio: The Changing Shape of Cinema

Aspect Ratio: The Changing Shape of Cinema

For years, 35mm film was the dominant format for big-screen moviemaking. The first movies had a boxy shape but eventually expanded to wider formats. Team 2 Films looks at the history of film shapes, how various aspect ratios have come in and out of favor, and how they affect movie composition.

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Why Opening Title Sequences Matter

Why Opening Title Sequences Matter

Opening title sequences are still common on TV dramas but have fallen out of favor in the cinema. Filmmaker Patrick (H) Willems looks back fondly at the craft of masters like Saul Bass and Maurice Binder and argues that they need to make a comeback on the big screen.

The Art of Weird Internet Videos

The Art of Weird Internet Videos

We’re no strangers to weird internet videos and short films. In this video essay from Now You See It, they explore the visual splendor and surprising depth that comes along with bizarre classics like Don’t Hug Me I’m Scared, Don Hertzfeldt’s Rejected, and the ubiquitous Oogachaka Baby.

Little Horrors: Gremlins

Little Horrors: Gremlins

Joe Dante’s 1984 Gremlins is a classic popcorn flick, packed with offbeat humor, gross-out gags, memorable monsters, and its share of charming moments. But In Praise of Shadows thinks it’s much more, establishing a whole new direction for how little creatures have been treated in horror and fantasy films ever since.

The MCU vs. The DCEU

The MCU vs. The DCEU

There’s little argument that the Marvel Cinematic Universe has crushed it against the DC Extended Universe when it comes to superhero movies and TV shows. Spam591 provides his analysis of what has made Marvel’s consistent, serialized approach work so much better than the competition.

Joe Dante’s Battle with Hollywood

Joe Dante’s Battle with Hollywood

Joe Dante is the moviemaker behind 1980s classics like Innerspace, Gremlins, and The Howling. As Dante delved deeper into the Hollywood system, the battle for creative control escalated. The Royal Ocean Film Society explores the filmmaker’s tumultuous relationship with the studios. Also, go watch Gremlins 2 right now.

The Odd and Curious Life of The Rocketeer

The Odd and Curious Life of The Rocketeer

Joe Johnston has directed hits including Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, Jumanji, and Captain America: The First Avenger. In 1991, he shot The Rocketeer, a retro superhero flick. The Royal Ocean Film Society looks back at the lighthearted adventure, celebrates Johnston’s achievements, and the commonalities in his movies.

Dunkey: PlayTime

Dunkey: PlayTime

“If you show this movie to 1,000 different people, everyone is going to be zoned into a different corner of the action.” videogamedunkey is filmessayistdunkey in this great review of Jacque Tati’s 1967 experimental comedy PlayTime, a nearly wordless film that deserves multiple viewings by every movie buff.

Making Cameras Disappear

Making Cameras Disappear

There are lots of movie scenes that incorporate mirrors or other reflective surfaces, yet we can’t see the camera or the crew in them. Just how does this movie magic work? Film essayist Paul E.T. digs into some of the tricks that filmmakers use to keep equipment and people hidden from shots.

Listening to Toy Story

Listening to Toy Story

For as groundbreaking as the CGI animated visuals were in the original Toy Story, Gary Rydstrom’s sound design was every bit as important in conveying the stories of Woody, Buzz, and company. The Royal Ocean Film Society invites us to listen to some of the sound effects that helped bring the Toy Story universe to life.

Missed Calls: A Eulogy for the Movie Phone Booth

Missed Calls: A Eulogy for the Movie Phone Booth

Before cell phones, phone booths were the best way to get in touch when out and about. Enclosed for privacy, the confined glass spaces served as a useful prop for scenes of secrecy, suspense, revelation, and wonder in movies and TV. Little White Lies pays homage to the once-ubiquitous street fixture in this great video essay.

The Tone and Style of Stranger Things

The Tone and Style of Stranger Things

There’s no question that people love Stranger Things. But what is it about the Netflix series’ mix of sci-fi, horror, and ’80s coming-of-age flicks that make it work so well? Michael Tucker from Lessons from the Screenplay delves into some of the audio and visual tricks the Duffer Brothers have used to create such a magical blend.

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Using Cuts as a Visual Effect

Using Cuts as a Visual Effect

(PG-13: Gore) From greenscreen to miniatures to CGI, there are lots of different ways to produce visual effects. Filmmaker and essayist David F. Sandberg reminds us how simple edits can be one of the most effective ways to create illusions on screen and to integrate disparate elements to create a cohesive effect.

The Three Color Rule

The Three Color Rule

It may seem like a subtle artistic choice at first, but some of the best movie scenes take advantage of a principle known as the “Three Color Rule.” Film essayist wolfcrow explains how this simple color theory can help to set a mood and create focus, and how you can apply it in your cinematic projects.

The Rules (Guidelines) of Adventure

The Rules (Guidelines) of Adventure

The Pirates of the Caribbean movies are packed with adventure and thrills. Lessons from the Screenplay jumps into the ocean with Jack Sparrow and company for a deep dive into what made Curse of the Black Pearl work so exceptionally, both following adventure movie structures and traditions and surprising us at times.

Costume Design 101

Costume Design 101

Film Radar made this great video about wardrobe design in film and TV. Good costume designers inhabit the minds of both the characters and the director. In terms of production, costumes are often custom made, even for extras, and may have multiple replicas.

Animation Is All About The Walk

Animation Is All About The Walk

The Royal Ocean Film Society gathered snippets from animation experts that point out the importance of walking in cartoons. We can learn a lot about a character – even a live one – by their walk, and changing even one element of it can drastically change the character.

The Transformation of Robert De Niro

The Transformation of Robert De Niro

There’s no question that Robert De Niro is one of acting’s all-time greats, having portrayed everyone from the sociopathic Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver to the cat-loving Dad in Meet the Parents over the course of his career. Luís Azevedo put together a great retrospective of his many characters and looks in this clip for Little White Lies.

Moonrise Kingdom vs. Peter Pan

Moonrise Kingdom vs. Peter Pan

There’s no question that filmmakers often reference other films in their works. Film scholar Yaron Baruch demonstrates just how true that is for Wes Anderson in this side-by-side comparison of footage from Moonrise Kingdom and Walt Disney’s animated version of Peter Pan.

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Beware the Fluffy Pen

Beware the Fluffy Pen

(PG-13) We already know how oranges can indicate impending doom in movies, but we had no idea that fluffy pens were so symbolic. Little White Lies and editor Luís Azevedo delve into the ways in which these writing instruments have served to drive home a point for the strong women who use them on screen.

Wes After Animation

Wes After Animation

(PG-13) Wes Anderson has always had a very precise and fastidious aesthetic. But after making Fantastic Mr. Fox, his style changed in ways that made his subsequent movies even more magical. The Discarded Image and Beyond The Frame teamed up to explore how his stop-motion learnings affected even Anderson’s live-action films.

The Life and Death of 3D

The Life and Death of 3D

(PG-13: Language) After a period of popularity in the 1950s, 3D movies all but vanished. Then, the gimmick made a huge comeback in the 2000s, even invading TV sets. Then, as quickly as it peaked, the boom was over. The Royal Ocean Film Society explores the history of 3D cinema, and what causes it to fail every time.

Joker: The References

Joker: The References

We all know that Joker was in many ways inspired by Martin Scorsese’s The King of Comedy. But as Jared of Wisecrack points out, there were many other references to 1970s and 1980s movies woven in. The cynicism of the era served as a perfect source of inspiration for Todd Phillips’ dark masterpiece.

The Troubles with Darkness in Horror

The Troubles with Darkness in Horror

It’s tough to make a really scary movie or TV show without shadows for creepy things to hide in. But as filmmaker David F. Sandberg explains, it’s not always the easiest thing to film dark scenes and have them come off as realistic, while still being visible on everything from projection screens to smartphone displays.

Why Miyazaki’s Animation Feels Alive

Why Miyazaki’s Animation Feels Alive

There’s so much to love about the style, stories, creatures, and characters in Hayao Miyazaki’s catalog of animated films. But what is it about these artful pieces of cinema that make them so dear to us? Kaptain Kristian digs into how Studio Ghibli breathes such life into every frame.

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