Some of the most intriguing nonfiction film work being done today isn’t coming out in any theater or on a dedicated VOD platform, but on video sharing websites. In this ongoing biweekly column, I’ll be bringing you some of the best recent web documentaries, video essays, how-to shorts, and whatever other cool or interesting work shows up.
“HOW TO SEE — Joan Miró” by MoMA
Joan Miró gets a profile which is brief but nonetheless has enough material to send you on an exhaustive dive into his work. The Museum of Modern Art even has the Spanish Surrealist’s grandson on hand to help interpret some of his pieces.
“The Economics That Made Boeing Build the 737 Max” by Wendover Productions
Wendover Productions is a channel dedicated to logistics — and is much more intriguing than that may sound. Impossibly complicated math undergirds all the ways our world works, and these videos help the layman make sense of it. Here, we get context for the recent grounding of all Boeing 737 MAX planes in the wake of two crashes.
“The Challenge of Cameras” by Game Maker’s Toolkit
Game Maker’s Toolkit offers video game criticism from a developer’s perspective. But his analysis of game cinematography covers not just pragmatic concerns, but aesthetic ones as well. When playing games, it’s easy to take for granted how many conscious decisions are in operation behind elements you might not even think about, such as the layout of a screen interface, but this channel makes you consider them.
“Carla and Molly Try to Make the Perfect Pizza Cheese” by Bon Appétit
This is part of a series in which the Bon Appétit team tackles different components of pizza in an exhaustively in-depth way. All the episodes are worth a watch, but this is by far the most delightful one. Here, our two chefs go so far as to fly to Italy to observe and learn proper mozzarella-making techniques.
“Roseanne of the Conners” by José
Together these two videos run around two hours, but it’s worth the time investment, whether you’re a fan of Roseanne or merely interested in leftist analysis of 1980s and ’90s sitcoms. Roseanne distinguished itself with its outside-the-box approach to issues of class, gender, and family dynamics, and this retrospective of the series highlights how groundbreaking much of the show was.
But the second part truly shines, as it dives into the contentious recent Roseanne revival — set against the backdrop of lead actress Roseanne Barr’s far-right leanings, which were reflected in the title character. In this, the video examines the tension between how the characters acted in the original Roseanne as opposed to the reboot, and how working-class sympathies can curdle into cultural resentment.
“Can You Melt Dragonglass and Cast an Obsidian Axe?” by How To Make Everything
The best thing about Game of Thrones is its art direction, and fans have long been using it as inspiration for their own projects. A major element of the show’s final season are the weapons made of obsidian, which is difficult to melt and cast. But this channel takes difficulty in stride, and manages to replicate an axe seen on the show. I’m biased toward videos which tackle process, but anyone can appreciate the craft and skill on display here.
“Athletics As Art: Stunt Performer Jazzy Ellis” by Deadspin
Most people don’t generally think of Black women as stunt performers, which gives Deadspin’s decision to feature one in its profile on the job a distinctive angle. Stuntwoman Jazzy Ellis talks not just about the cool wire work or fighting scenes, but also the mundane aspects of filing auditions, prejudice in the industry, and safety issues.
“The Cultural Significance of Cyberpunk” by Cuck Philosophy
The ironically titled Cuck Philosophy examines various pop culture phenomena through a theoretical leftist lens. Here, the channel tracks the evolution of cyberpunk from an anti-establishment sci-fi genre to an aesthetic co-opted by many of the institutions it once criticized. If nothing else, it should add a generous number of titles to your reading and watching lists (both in sci-fi and theory).
“Shooting on ‘ones’ vs. ‘twos’ in stop motion animation” by TIFF Originals
“Ones” and “twos” form a very basic element of animation, but it’s the kind of thing that’s easier to understand if you see it, rather than if it’s explained to you. With stop-motion animation specifically as a reference, this video demonstrates how something as seemingly small as frame rates can impact the way a film moves and feels.
If you have a recommendation for a video to feature in this series, or want to submit your own video for consideration, please don’t hesitate to reach out to [email protected]