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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