The New Criticism: My 10 Favorite Video Essays of 2016

By  · Published on December 19th, 2016

The best film analyses you should be watching.

As the Video Content Editor here at FSR, I watched literally hundreds of video essays, montages, mash-ups, compilations, and supercuts in 2016, and this year I feel the work turned personal for a lot of essayists, challenged as they were by a host of external factors that included copyright and broadcast issues, an ever-crowding field, and the general cultural, social, and political climates.

As a result we were treated to topical and touching essays like Candice Drouet’s Rainbow Flag of Film: A Tribute to LGBTQ Cinema released mere days after the tragedy at Pulse in Orlando, and Nelson Carvajal’s Wake Up: Spike Lee’s Vital Chi-Raq in which the Chicago native explores the real-world issues at the heart of Lee’s film, as well as its reception by citizens of the Windy City who live the film every day.

Then there were the personalities, the distinct and erudite essayists who aren’t just presenting their ideas but also themselves as brands of cinematic expertise. Among these, the standouts include Lewis Bond of Channel Criswell whose essay Stanley Kubrick – The Cinematic Experience is the definitive on its subject, Michael Tucker of Lessons from the Screenplay who comes at film from the page up in work like The Dark Knight – Creating the Ultimate Antagonist, and Luiza Liz of Art Regard who offers a more aesthetic, artistic kind of insight through essays such as Roman Polanski and Intersubjectivity.

And no list would complete without a good montage or two, that subtle and sublime feat of editing meant to appeal right to our emotions and get us all caught up in the power of filmmaking. For my money, the best of that subset this year was HBO: The Rise of TV as Film by Fernando Andres, which managed to chart the network’s decades-in-the-making ascent using clips from its illustrious history, and Jacob T. Swinney’s Spielberg in 30 Shots, which masterfully distills the essence of one of our greatest directors into a series of iconic shots, one from each of his feature films.

These seven essays and other outstanding work from Rishi Kaneria, Luís Azevedo, and KOJER that are better seen than described all made the list of my favorites for the year, and I present them here – in no order whatsoever – along with links to my original, more in-depth posts.

While I think it’s safe to say we’re no longer in the infancy phase of the video essay, it’s still very much a nascent form, which is exciting because that means it’s yet to be defined, and still ripe for exploration. These are some of the folks and some of the work I think is leading the way.

HBO: The Rise of TV as Film by Fernando Andres

Radiohead: The Secrets of Daydreaming by Rishi Kaneria

The Dark Knight – Creating the Ultimate Antagonist by Michael Tucker’s Lessons from the Screenplay

Tarantino’s Cinematic Universe by Luís Azevedo

Stanley Kubrick – The Cinematic Experience by Lewis Bond’s Channel Criswell

Roman Polanski and Intersubjectivity by Luiza Liz’s Art Regard

Studio Ghibli in Real Life by KOJER

Spielberg in 30 Shots by Jacob T. Swinney

Rainbow Flag of Film: A Tribute to LGBTQ Cinema by Candice Drouet for Fandor

Wake Up: Spike Lee’s Vital Chi-Raq by Nelson Carvajal

Novelist, Screenwriter, Video Essayist