Learn the Elements of Cinema: Spielberg’s Long Takes, Scorsese’s Silence & Michael Bay’s Shots

Ever since the advent of YouTube and the release of Thom Andersen’s Los Angeles Plays Itself, the video essay about filmmaking has blossomed on the internet. When these essays are good, they force you to look at movies anew. Kogonada’s brilliant interrogation of Stanley Kubrick’s use of one-point perspective, Matt Zoller Seitz’s dissection of Wes Anderson’s cinematic style and, in a completely different tone, Red Letter Media’s blistering, exhaustive take down of George Lucas’s regrettable Star Wars prequels, all argue convincingly that perhaps the best way to discuss the merits and flaws of a movie or filmmaker is through the medium of film itself.

Add to this list Tony Zhou’s Every Frame a Picture. An editor by trade, Zhou has created a series of videos about how the masters of cinema use the basic elements of cinema – the duration of a shot, the application of sound, the use of a tracking shot. In his elegant videos he makes arguments that are unexpected. Martin Scorsese, for instance, who is famous for his groundbreaking use of music, is just as brilliant with his judicious use of silence. You can watch it above.

And below, Zhou argues that Steven Spielberg, a filmmaker not commonly associated with restraint, is actually a master of the understated long take.

And in this video, he argues that while Michael Bay might make adolescent, over-stuffed, soulless spectacles, he does know how to construct a shot.

You can nerd out and watch even more of Zhou’s films here.

Related Content:
The Perfect Symmetry of Wes Anderson’s Movies

Signature Shots from the Films of Stanley Kubrick: One-Point Perspective

Jonathan Crow is a Los Angeles-based writer and filmmaker whose work has appeared in Yahoo!, The Hollywood Reporter, and other publications. You can follow him at @jonccrow. And check out his blog Veeptopus, featuring pictures of vice presidents with octopuses on their heads.


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