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The thriller occupies the same territory as countless science fiction movies about deadly invasions and high-tech conspiracies, but has been made with intelligence and an…

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Planes, Trains and Automobiles

It is perfectly cast and soundly constructed, and all else flows naturally. Steve Martin and John Candy don't play characters; they embody themselves.

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"The Art of the Video Essay," a page by Kevin Lee, grandmaster of the form

By Kevin Lee, Our Far-Flung Correspondent

In the age of YouTube and Vimeo, one of the most exciting developments in film culture are online video essays that explore different aspects of the movies. These videos take footage from films and reconfigure them using editing, text, graphics and voiceover to reveal startling observations and insights, visualizing them in ways that text criticism can't. These videos are typically produced independently by using consumer-level equipment, demonstrating that just about anyone with a computer can be both a filmmaker and a critic. The only limits are those of imagination and intelligence.


Below is a handpicked list of some of the most outstanding and representative works so far among this emerging genre of online videos. All of them feature regular contributors to Roger Ebert's website. Many of these videos and their creators will be featured in a panel presentation at this year's Ebertfest in April.

1. "The Sight and Sound Film Poll: A Tribute to Roger Ebert and His Favorite Films." Produced in anticipation of last year's Sight and Sound International Critics Poll of the greatest films of all time. The video focuses on four of Roger's favorite films of all time, the ones that have been part of his top ten lists for the last 30 years. His writing on those films, as found in an article written in his Video Home Companion from the 1980s, is used as a script and narrated by a chorus of 20 Ebert contributors. Read Roger's response to the video:

The Sight and Sound Film Poll: An International Tribute to Roger Ebert and His Favorite Films from Press Play Video Blog on Vimeo.

2. "The Spielberg Face." By Kevin B. Lee. An exploration of the human face as the visual signature throughout the career of Steven Spielberg.

3. "Falling: The Architecture of Gravity." By Jim Emerson. A video essay comparing how different movies and cinema techniques depict the act of falling. Accompanied by Jim's article on his Scanners blog:

4. "Wes Anderson: The Substance of Style, Part 5." By Matt Zoller Seitz. The prologue to The Royal Tenenbaums is annotated with text and inserts pointing out different stylistic influences of the sequence. The video is the finale of a five-part series of video essays that led to a book project on Wes Anderson, which will be released this year. Originally published on the Moving Image Source:

5. "Constructive Editing in Robert Bresson's Pickpocket." By David Bordwell and Kristin Thompson. Two of cinema's leading scholars explore the art of editing. Part of a series of video essays produced with Criterion as educational supplements for Bordwell and Thompson's legendary textbook Film Art: an Introduction. Featured on their blog Observations on Film Art:


Constructive Editing in Robert Bresson's Pickpocket from David Bordwell on Vimeo.

6. "Low Budget Eye Candy." By Steven Boone. A fierce advocate for DIY indie filmmaking demonstrates how George Lucas was once a truly resourceful low budget filmmaker. Originally featured on the Scanners blog:

LOW BUDGET EYE CANDY #1 from Steven Boone on Vimeo.

7. "Super: A Brief History of Superhero Films." By Michael Mirasol. Featured on Ebert's Far-Flung Correspondents:

SUPER: A Brief History of Superhero Films from Michael Mirasol on Vimeo.

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