An academic and argumentative model has exploded in recognition throughout video platforms over the previous few years, a part of the broader wave of explainer-based content material in social media. It’s gotten to the purpose the place the shape now constitutes an especially extensive tent masking an extremely deep effectively of works — or, within the parlance of 1 subgenre, a gargantuan iceberg. We now see all the pieces from wordless enhancing experiments to vlogs with occasional picture wallpapering referred to as “video essays.” (It’s gotten to the purpose the place considered one of my favourite movies launched final yr waded into these definitional weeds, to thought-provoking outcomes.)
This development makes rounding up a mere 10 exemplary movies an even bigger problem annually. My guiding rules when formulating this listing weren’t simply depth of perception, originality, and variety of material and creators, but in addition looking for video essays that really profit from each components of that title — which demand visible consideration and engagement. The essays are listed so as of launch date.
Local weather Fictions, Dystopias and Human Futures by Julia Leyda and Kathleen Loock
Because the prognosis round international warming will get extra pressing, popular culture has been taking discover, and “cli-fi” has emerged as its personal storytelling style. Leyd and Loock use the latest Don’t Look Up as a place to begin, questioning what function — if any — movies like these can hope to have in affecting precise activism and reform on local weather change. How sturdy is the connection between artwork’s energy to maneuver us and tangible motion?
Captain Ahab: The Story of Dave Stieb by Secret Base
Nobody is making documentary content material fairly like Jon Bois, Alex Rubenstein, and the remainder of the crew at Dorktown. Bois is an artist who paints with information factors and historic detritus, enhancing all this materials collectively in a approach that feels extra forward-thinking than nearly anybody else making movies right now — whether or not for the web, tv, or theaters. An epic four-part collection on Dave Stieb, an also-also-also-ran of baseball historical past, sounds ridiculous. And but Dorktown turns him into one of the vital compelling characters of the yr.
[Ed. note: Secret Base is part of SB Nation, which along with Polygon is part of Vox Media. This played no part in including the video.]
Deconstructing the Bridge by Whole Refusal
That is maybe the least “essay-like” video on this listing. It’s extra of a university-level lecture, however set within the least tutorial discussion board conceivable: a session of Battlefield 5. Such uncommon ventures are the modus operandi of Whole Refusal, a “pseudo-Marxist media guerrilla” which has used The Division to elucidate city design, Crimson Lifeless Redemption 2 to elucidate class, and rather more. Inside the Battlefield 5 map is a re-creation of Dutch metropolis of Nijmegen, the location of a decisive battle throughout World Struggle II. Whole Refusal takes viewers on a survey of the realm in a digital type, and within the course of they delve not simply into the historical past concerned but in addition your complete idea of struggle tourism and re-creations, questioning how tradition remembers these occasions.
Why Panzer Dragoon Saga Is the Biggest RPG No person Performed by Michael Saba
If this doesn’t ship the 1998 Sega Saturn recreation Panzer Dragoon Saga to the highest of your must-play listing, then I don’t know what to let you know. Greater than an intriguing have a look at a recreation that was extremely forward of its time and took years to search out its viewers, this video is a treatise on a urgent subject inside gaming. See, if you wish to play Panzer Dragoon Saga, you’ll nearly definitely should pirate it, which could stir moral qualms in some. Saba mounts an impassioned protection of piracy as a type of archival follow and recreation preservation. Even in the event you disagree with such a conclusion, the issues he highlights throughout the trade can’t be denied.
Good White Academics, Dangerous Brown Colleges: Hollywood’s Pedagogy on City Schooling by Yhara Zayd
Yhara Zayd makes her third consecutive look on our annual video essay listing, and for good purpose. Not content material to retread floor lined by different popular culture video creators, she finds each novel topics and attention-grabbing lenses on them. Right here she scrutinizes the “inspirational” story trope of well-intentioned white academics making a distinction in city environments, seen within the likes of Harmful Minds and The Ron Clark Story. Most incisively, she contrasts the conventions of this style with the stark realities and lived historical past of precise outsider intervention in nonwhite schooling.
Intimate Thresholds by Desiree Garcia
Lower than 4 minutes lengthy, this essay is nonetheless entrancing, due to Garcia’s regularly ingenious enhancing. As a substitute of a drawn-out exploration of the theme of feminine inventive competitors in movie, she contrasts two examples by way of visceral juxtaposition: 1940’s Dance, Lady, Dance and 2010’s Black Swan. With break up screens, hazy picture-in-picture, exact cuts, and a few exceptional use of captions, the essay makes its concepts intuitively felt fairly than explaining itself by way of lecture.
Instagram Hates Its Customers by Jarvis Johnson
The lengthy story made brief is that Instagram has regularly sabotaged any precise enjoyment of utilizing its app by way of making an attempt to mimic no matter new development has come down the cultural pipeline. However the lengthy story, as relayed by Johnson, is a lot extra entertaining. We regularly neglect the direct relationship between interface design and person expertise, however this can be a terrific deep dive into how that course of works, pinned to an easy-to-grasp timeline of Instagram’s calamitous historical past.
Fixing My Mind With Automated Remedy by Jacob Geller
Jacob Geller is exceptionally good at drawing in an internet of disparate sources to debate concepts you may not have even considered earlier than. Right here, the story of “the primary chat bot,” the 2019 visible novel Eliza, and the app-based 2021 recreation UnearthU are used to discover using synthetic intelligence in trendy remedy. However because the title suggests, Geller goes one step additional, testing out a number of completely different remedy apps that purport that will help you enhance your psychological well being with out the necessity of any human therapists. His outcomes, and what they recommend in regards to the true intention behind these apps and the best way remedy is included into modern society, are… effectively, disquieting.
Parking tons are in all places and nowhere by What’s So Nice About That?
The idea of “liminal house” is at present standard in on-line tradition discourse. However Grace Lee seldom tackles a subject from the identical angle as everybody else. With reference factors as wide-ranging as Seinfeld, Joni Mitchell’s “Large Yellow Taxi,” and the work of artist Guillaume Lachapelle, she discusses how parking tons seem in media, and in a wider view how they and comparable urban-industrial areas determine into our on a regular basis lives. Lee’s essays demand your consideration like few others; look away and also you’re liable to overlook an awesome little visible gag. Due to this, regardless of her movies seldom going longer than 15-20 minutes, they usually pack in a lot, rather more info than you’ll count on.
How Degrowth Can Save the World by Andrewism
Andrew Sage describes himself not simply as an anarchist however as “solarpunk” — centered on options for a sustainable future for humanity. On this video he elucidates one of many key options of the damaging capitalist establishment: the concept of limitless financial and industrial development. Insistence of “degrowth” practices can usually elicit fears of some obscure loss in a single’s lifestyle. However Sage debunks this and lots of different arguments towards degrowth, whereas constructing a extra inspiring and hopeful imaginative and prescient for an environmentally sound, egalitarian existence.