I’ve been going into a wormhole of explainer videos lately – video essayists who provide their hot takes on screen culture, tropes and trends that give fresh insights or reveal new facts about the movies or TV shows I’ve been devouring lately. Read on for my recommendations or watch the playlist on YouTube.
Born Sexy Yesterday
While a little old, this video uncovers a persistent trope that I can never unsee now that it has been pointed out to me. Pop Culture Detective has some great explainers about other trends that are so normalised by the dominant ideology that you barely even notice anymore, like “Stalking as Romance”.
White Saviour Trope explained
The Take unpack a range of pop culture phenomena, with an array of examples that are slickly edited to reinforce their point. They don’t just explore tropes either, they explain endings, and the styles and techniques of famous directors.
Untitled Goose Game: Is it Good to be Bad?
How did a goose became an agent of chaos and a leftist icon? Grace Lee deconstructs the allure of being a mischievous goose and the ideas of boundaries, repetition and insurgence and the spirit of revolution inherent in the game. Grace’s channel What’s So Great About That? contains lots of great deep dives into not just videogames but horror, digital culture and animation.
What Portrait of a Lady tells us about “the Gaze”
These excellently researched evocations of film theory and critique make Broey Deschanel a cut above the rest. She uses film and TV examples to illustrate aspects of contemporary theory. Interested in cultural hegemony and late capitalism in Parasite? Or Orientalism in the work of Wes Anderson? Broey’s channel has it all.
Euphoria, Controversy and a Brief History of Teen Drama Conventions
A great Euphoria review that delves into teen drama conventions and turns some of the criticisms levelled at the popular HBO series into reasons why it’s worth watching. Yhara’s video essays are sometimes self-deprecating, but always unique and thought-provoking.
Horror Theory: the uncanny valley
Get ready for an "expectation violation" – so many interesting ideas are explored here that go beyond body horror and the uncanny valley. This is a longer watch, but canvasses the ethics of AI and the robotic body, genetic memory and the power of creepypastas.
Hayao Miyazaki – How Animation Comes to Life
A look at the powerful use of sound in Miyazaki’s most popular films, particularly how atmospheric foley sounds can add texture to animation and increase your comprehension of a scene or the storytelling. Intercut with quotes by Miyazaki and his composer, this video essay highlights the meticulous interplay of sound and animation.
The Most Important Filmmaker You Haven’t Heard Of
A quickfire snapshot of female editors and their impact on famous films. Full of interesting insights that you might not have heard about before.
Speaking of brilliant female editors, check out
Akira Kurosawa – Composing Movement
On noticing movement in film, and a beautiful tribute to the work of Kurosawa. Drew my attention to scenes and sequences that I had seen before but gained new appreciation for after watching this meticulous and measured video essay.
Past Futures: Nostaligia in the Age of Escapism
A really interesting exploration of vicarious memory – and a look at the prevailing interest in nostalgia in the digital age, and temporal preservation in the shadow of a 24hr news cycle.