Five Video Essays to Close Out May

For this edition of Hyperallergic’s video essay column, we’re doing something a little different. Rather than the usual list of five recent web videos of note, we’re including one commercially released feature film, as well as a new tool of which essayists can make fun use. Essays on video games, sports, and clothing round out the month’s lineup. Enjoy!

The Interactive Video Grid by Quan Zhang

Inspired by “Paradoxes of Suture,” Shane Denson’s interactive essay analyzing a scene from Don’t Look Now (1973), Zhang has built easy-to-use open-source software. Video essayists can feed in various video clips and the tool will create a grid of them, which can be played or paused at will. One example grid made with the tool replicates a moment from “Paradoxes of Suture” that juxtaposes every individual shot from the Don’t Look Now scene for comparison. Another grid highlights the heightened sound of footsteps in various scenes from Mouchette (1967). Zhang wants to create new possibilities for video editing with nonlinear tools, and I’m keen to see what makers might be able to achieve with this. 

Find it here.

“Why You Can’t Remember the Story of any Videogame” by videogamedunkey

YouTube video

Jason Gastrow, aka videogamedunkey, embeds solid criticism in his humorous posts of himself playing various games. This video is nothing but Gastrow listing and very briefly summarizing games whose stories feature characters with amnesia. The conceit is extremely simple, yet the sheer number of titles he enumerates for more than 10 minutes renders an increasingly damning portrait of mainstream game writing’s lack of creativity. It also gets funnier as it goes along. 

“REFORM!” by Secret Base

YouTube video

The sports and culture channel Secret Base launched its new paid membership program by reviving co-founder Jon Bois’s long-dormant series Pretty Good, his compilation of stories about strange episodes in US history. This three-part documentary (the first part is freely available, while the next two are currently accessible to Secret Base’s Patreon supporters only) looks at the Reform Party and the ever-so-brief moment when there was a viable third-party challenge to the Democrat/Republican dichotomy in the United States. This was ultimately undermined by the party’s leadership of mostly cranks and weirdos — in other words, the perfect Bois subjects. 

“What You ACTUALLY Need to Make Clothes in an Apocalypse” by Bernadette Banner

YouTube video

Dress historian Bernadette Banner turns her attention from the past to the (hypothetical) future in this video. The premise recalls the first episode of James Burke’s seminal BBC science/history series Connections, in which Burke examines how deeply contemporary humanity relies on technology, and how any catastrophic loss of infrastructure would mean a reversion to the use of the plough to survive. As a historian, Banner illuminates the fundamental tools required to make and maintain clothing. What’s fascinating is how simple, and relatively few, these tools are, reminding viewers of how much modern technology has alienated most of us from skills that were once widespread.

Power by Yance Ford

YouTube video

It’s not every day that an essay film is released in multiple theaters before being made available on the world’s most popular streaming platform. Yance Ford’s Power is a critical overview of the history and evolution of policing as an institution in the US. This is a broad topic, but he winnows it down with exacting focus to the fundamental philosophical question of what the police are and what they exist for. The answer is a dark reflection of theorist Stafford Beer’s maxim that “The purpose of a system is what it does.”

Watch it on Netflix.

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