Film Essays

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.

Hollywood Went to the Moon First

Hollywood Went to the Moon First

Roughly 50 years ago, NASA landed the first humans ever on the moon. But prior to the 1969 Apollo 11 mission, Hollywood took us there thanks to a heaping helping of creativity and movie magic. The Royal Ocean Film Society looks back at some of these early science fiction films.

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Destroying Wacker Drive

Destroying Wacker Drive

The area along Wacker Drive near State Street is one of Chicago’s most architecturally significant and iconic locales. Perhaps that’s why Hollywood loves to destroy it over and over again. The A.V. Club looks at some of the many movies which made a mess of the place.

Gene Wilder: Master of Pauses

Gene Wilder: Master of Pauses

Gene Wilder was one of the best comedic actors of all time. With performances in films like Blazing Saddles, Young Frankenstein, and The Producers, his timing and pacing of his speech are still unequaled. Editor Rishi Kaneria and Raging Cinema Extras present some of those perfect moments, minus Willy Wonka.

Hayao Miyazaki’s Airships

Hayao Miyazaki’s Airships

There’s a whole lot to love about the visuals and storytelling in Hayao Miyazaki’s films. Among his regular subjects are flying machines, and The Royal Ocean Film Society takes to the skies to find out why they’re a recurring theme, and why aircraft are so important to this master of anime.

A History of The Joker

A History of The Joker

While audiences are abuzz about Joaquin Phoenix’s take on The Joker’s origin story, The Take looks back at some of the many versions of the Clown Prince of Crime over the years. Each interpretation may be very different, but they all share a love of anarchy, a warped sense of humor, and a terrifying grin.

The Kubrick Close-Up

The Kubrick Close-Up

(PG-13) Film essayist The Discarded Image explores one of director Stanley Kubrick’s many techniques – the strategic use of tight shots to accentuate a character or story’s most pivotal moments. While most directors use close-ups, Kubrick was a true master of this primitive filmmaker’s tool.

The Weird Wisdom of Beetlejuice

The Weird Wisdom of Beetlejuice

If you can believe it, it’s been 30 years since Beetlejuice first came out. ScreenPrism looks back at one of Tim Burton’s most memorable films, and how it defied genres like horror, comedy, and teen films to go its own way, leaving a long-lasting impact.

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.

Every 1999 Movie Is the Same

Every 1999 Movie Is the Same

Film essayist Now You See It looks back at the end of the 20th century, and how many of the movies of 1999 seemed to have a consistent theme running through many of them. He dubbed it “The Year of the Cubicle Movie,” with films like Office Space, Fight Club, and The Matrix leading up his theory.

Rango: A Bizarre Masterpiece

Rango: A Bizarre Masterpiece

(Spoilers) If you’ve never seen Rango, drop what you’re doing and stream it now. It’s honestly one of our favorite animated movies ever. Film essayist Josh Keefe looks at Gore Verbinski and Johnny Depp’s underappreciated western, and how its genre-bending and aesthetic imperfections helped make it so damned great.

Sound Design: Lying to Your Ears

Sound Design: Lying to Your Ears

Now You See It points out how great sound design in movies doesn’t just mean creating realistic or believable sounds. The right sound reflects or amplifies a character, the emotion behind a scene, and even the theme of the movie itself.

Minority Report: Dismantling Precrime

Minority Report: Dismantling Precrime

Lessons from the Screenplay points out the strengths of Minority Report. The film makes exposition dramatic by adding conflict, makes the sci-fi parts believable by adding a personal stake, and makes the world more than just a setting by making it the antagonist.

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Unnecessary Movie Gimmicks

Unnecessary Movie Gimmicks

We prefer seeing movies in their purest form, without 3D, meal service, or other distractions. But over the years, movie studios and theaters have attempted other gimmicks to draw viewers in. The Royal Ocean Film Society explores a some silly and superfluous movie add-ons, including Smell-O-Vision and the terrifying EMERGO!

Richard Williams: Animating Movement

Richard Williams: Animating Movement

The Royal Ocean Film Society spends some time looking at the works of Richard Williams, one of the last of his breed of hand animators – a man known for his fluid and dynamic style, and ability to create worlds with a tremendous sense of depth and perspective.

GoT: Daenerys & Cersei

GoT: Daenerys & Cersei

(SPOILERS) ScreenPrism shows how Game of Thrones’ Daenerys Targaryen and Cersei Lannister mirror each other. They started at opposite trajectories, responded differently to similar experiences, and ultimately share the lust for power.

The Matrix: A Different Perspective

The Matrix: A Different Perspective

“…it wasn’t so much a death, as it was a discovery.” The The Matrix trilogy, particularly its first movie, can be interpreted in so many ways. Now You See It offers that it can also be read as the expression of the Wachowskis’ desire to come out and be true to themselves.

Spider-Man: Homecoming’s Car Ride

Spider-Man: Homecoming’s Car Ride

Lessons from the Screenplay joins YouTube creators in doing breakdowns of Marvel movie scenes. His pick is the wonderfully intense car ride scene from Spider-Man: Homecoming, in which Adrian discovers Peter’s secret.

Why Superbad Is a Masterpiece

Why Superbad Is a Masterpiece

(PG-13: Language) We’ve seen Superbad at least a dozen times, and it doesn’t get old. The Cosmonaut Variety Hour provides his take on why he thinks the 2007 film is the greatest teen comedy of all time. It’s a great coming-of-age story disguised as a horny teen sex comedy.

Adapting Adaptation

Adapting Adaptation

Lessons from the Screenplay breaks down Spike Jonze’s meta movie Adaptation by mimicking the movie’s structure itself. It’s both a film essay and a comedic behind-the-scenes look at the channel’s production process, complete with YouTube cameos.

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Brilliant Movie Production Designs

Brilliant Movie Production Designs

CineFix presents its picks for the best production design in movies, from the flashy and stylized like Wes Anderson’s Grand Budapest Hotel, to the understated and naturalistic like Mike Mills’ Beginners, as well as standout picks from various movie genres.

How the Internet Changed Storytelling

How the Internet Changed Storytelling

…more specifically, non-fiction content, and to an extent, documentaries and news. Now You See It looks at how vlogs, podcasts and commentary channels thrive online thanks to being “authentic”, conversational, participatory and lengthy.

Richard Linklater on Patience

Richard Linklater on Patience

The Royal Ocean Film Society animated part of Richard Linklater’s commentary from his very first film, which is included in the Criterion release of Slacker. In it, the director talks about having patience in developing his career, and the importance of the mundane.

How Memes Transformed Hollywood

How Memes Transformed Hollywood

Before the Internet, movie fans were mostly passive audiences. But as Wisecrack points out, making online jokes and memes about pop culture has become so influential that it’s shaping how movies, TV shows, and their stars are perceived, marketed, and cast.

Writing Women’s Characters

Writing Women’s Characters

“You are infuriating. I’m not yelling. Oh, it’s perfect!” Now You See It explores the various effective ways that female characters can be written in movies, using Alien, The Silence of the Lambs, Kill Bill and Ladybird as examples.

The Silence of the Lambs: Scene

The Silence of the Lambs: Scene

Lessons from the Screenplay points out how, ideally, a movie scene should be a story on its own. He uses the third interaction between Clarice Starling and Dr. Hannibal Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs as a shining example.

Searching: Reformatting a Thriller

Searching: Reformatting a Thriller

(SPOILERS) In the thriller Searching, a desperate father searches his missing daughter’s laptop for clues. The movie consists only of shots of device screens. Lessons from the Screenplay shows how the filmmakers adapted to and embraced this perspective.

Alfonso Cuaron’s One-shots

Alfonso Cuaron’s One-shots

Director Alfonso Cuaron is a master of the “oner,” those lengthy tracking shots which immerse you right in the heart of the action. From Y Tu Mamá También to Children of Men to Gravity to Roma, The Royal Ocean Film Society looks back at the evolution of his technique.

Bird Box, A Quiet Place & Parenting

Bird Box, A Quiet Place & Parenting

(SPOILERS) “Life is more than just what is. It’s what could be. What you could make it.” ScreenPrism points out that Bird Box and A Quiet Place don’t just have similar sci-fi plots. They also both reflect what it’s like to be a parent in modern times.

Groundhog Day: An Inescapable Premise

Groundhog Day: An Inescapable Premise

Lessons from the Screenplay explores the legendary February movie Groundhog Day. Instead of adding twists or a deus ex machina, the movie fully explores its premise – what if someone had all the time in the world? – without being boring or predictable.

The Fascism of You’ve Got Mail

The Fascism of You’ve Got Mail

Nora Ephron’s 1998 film You’ve Got Mail is regarded as one of the best romantic comedies of the ’90s. But as Wisecrack points out, there’s more to the Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan flick than meets the eye, and it has more in common with Orwell’s 1984 than you’d think.

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