Welcome back to our monthly roundup of new and noteworthy video essays. The lineup this time around features videos on criticism, artificial intelligence, social media, and more.
As always, if you have a recommendation for an essay to feature in this series, or want to submit your own video for consideration, reach out to email@example.com.
“Are Film Critics a Dying Breed?” by Broey Deschanel
This video tackles a subject that’s familiar to me as a critic, but it’s also a great introduction for people who are less acquainted with the conversation around the seeming irrelevance of film criticism today. Essayist Maia Wyman, whose YouTube channel uses the name Broey Deschanel, goes into the history of the relationships between film critics, the public, and the film industry, how the changing structures of media and art have continually rebalanced these relations, and how many of these issues are symptomatic of broader problems in journalism.
“When the LAPD Blows Up Your Neighborhood” by Nathan Truesdell
This short made the film festival rounds last year, and was made available on Vimeo just recently, offering a much larger audience an opportunity to discover it. Truesdell pulls together various news reports and publicly posted videos about an incident of supreme incompetence by the Los Angeles Police Department in the summer of 2021. After the detonation of confiscated fireworks wrecked a neighborhood and possibly caused several deaths, dueling media narratives emerged — captured vividly and succinctly by Truesdell’s montage.
“chaste/unchaste” by Maryam Takafory
Maryam Takafory is one of the most rigorous video essayists working today. She makes films that demand attention. Here, she scrutinizes the false dichotomy of chaste and unchaste dress and behavior in Iranian film — a standard dictated by the country’s legal morality codes and censorship. A series of mirrored images from a wide selection of movies play out in juxtaposition. Which of these women are being properly chase, and which aren’t? Takafory invites the viewer’s judgment; grappling with the question reveals its fundamental absurdity.
“Here’s What Ethical AI Really Means” by Philosophy Tube
In her explorations of different philosophical subjects, Abigail Thorn specializes in cutting through the professed tenets of certain individuals and organizations to analyze what they actually want. For example, this video recognizes that many ethical issues in artificial intelligence are less about abstract notions of digital personhood than concrete matters of human labor. As is typical of Thorn’s work, viewers will come away from her cited sources with a lot of intriguing materials to read.
“TikTok has a Phrenology Problem” by Noah Samsen
I wasn’t familiar with Samsen’s work before this video crossed my feed, but its highly informal “riffing to the camera” style works perfectly for his examination of a perturbing social media trend. If you use TikTok, you’ve surely seen videos about how to “fix” some “flaw” in your face. Samsen wryly deconstructs the ridiculous notions undergirding these trends, mainly through the “canthal tilt” genre of video, in which influencers insist that everyone is secretly judging the angles between your eyes.