As a long time fan of all things film and tv, it was quite the revelation a year ago when I stumbled across the first of several Youtube channels that changed the way I regularly consume and enjoy visual media in a lasting and meaningful way. It is always an amazing and sometimes scary feeling when you encounter something that opens your eyes in a such a platonic way. Every Frame a Painting is the channel that taught me how to look past the shadows on the wall.
A small, under-watched youtube channel created by Tony Zhou, the video essays at EFP are a masterclass in film study. The first video I watched was The Geometry of a Scene. I had randomly arrived at this breakdown of a scene from Akira Kurosawa’s The Bad Sleep Well from a link on a blog that I don’t even remember the name of. Despite the fact that I had not seen the movie before, I was entranced by Zhou’s ability to explain the blocking in a way that I could see it as it unfolded while comparing it to something conventional so I could see the difference between the good and bad. It was both revelatory and traumatic. Revelatory in the sense that I had never realized blocking could add so much to a scene. Traumatic in the sense that I had never thought about or noticed the blocking of most visual media to that point. The feeling that I had been watching everything incorrectly was not a good one at first, but once I realized every new video from EFP makes me feel that way, I learned to cope.
I remember being so stunned after the video was finished that the autoplay on youtube went right into Who Wins the Scene?
After that I was hooked. I watched every video that was up on the channel that night and not a single one failed to absolutely floor me. The only downside of EFP is that he doesn’t post nearly as much as I wish he would, but its a small price to pay for having my mind blown every time he puts a new essay up.
Favorites: Movement and The Oner. Truthfully they are all my favorites, but if I had to pick two these would be it. All of the videos from EFP help you learn to more actively view whatever it is you’re watching, but these are the ones that I notice most when I watch movies now.
Nerdwriter – I actually found the Nerdwriter, aka Evan Puschak, through the Every Frame a Painting “Related Channels”. After getting to the end of Every Frame I was so amped up that I wanted to learn more. I don’t even know what video caught my eye, but I do remember noticing immediately the stylistic similarity in their video essays. Nerdwriter, however, doesn’t limit himself to just movies though. He tackles all manner of art, ranging from poetry to paintings to television and so on. There is even an especially good video on Neil Gaiman’s Sandman. As someone who needs art to beat them over the head with whatever message its trying to send, Nerdwriter explains everything in a way that has helped me to look past the shadows on the wall to the outside of the cave. I think my favorite essay is the one about Christopher Nolan’s The Prestige if for no other reason than despite having watched that movie upwards of fifteen times I had never thought about it in the way that he does in that video.
Cinefix – This channel is kind of like the lighter side of video essays. They are faster paced and less personal as they are clearly worked on by multiple people and they post at a much higher rate than the other two channels as a result. It is still a great channel though that posts everything from reviews to recommendations to top ten lists. My personal favorites are the lists because its there that you get their explanations and insights, albeit brief ones, into why specific movies or scenes are noteworthy.