Monday, 25 April 2016

Top 20 Oancitizen Videos

-sition. Ah, Oancitizen. For all his pretences of avoiding… well, pretence, some of his works concerning Shakespeare adaptations do carry faint whiffs of such in the guy’s wording. Not only that, he is one in a long list of people that should probably not have a Twitter account, as the guy is growing a certain notoriety for his long pity parties for one and his in-fighting with certain producers. And he’s also my absolute favourite reviewer. In fact, I’ve taken to calling this guy my ‘guru’ with how much I actively want to convey even a tenth of the wisdom and humour that Kyle Kallgren manages in the majority of his videos. Let it be known that the following Top 20 videos list is centred on a guy who is one of the few people that I honestly look up to as an influence, even with how much time has passed. And with that, before my inner fanboy gets into any more embarrassing territory, here are my picks for the Top 20 best Oancitizen videos.

Special Mention: 9 Songs

This only gets a special mention, rather than a place on the list proper, because the best part about it is its introduction. That said, the intro to this video contains some of the most nimble blue humour of anything I’ve ever seen and, given how I’m supposed to showing off this guy’s abilities with this list, it wouldn’t be right if I didn’t give some credit to one of his funniest moments.

#20: Eraserhead

Yet another April Fool’s Day gag review, this shows a venue for April foolery that isn’t used nearly enough. Basically, he creates his own lo-fi production about a pencil trying to make it in the big city and passes that off as the David Lynch classic. It genuinely reaches Adult Swim Infomercial levels of surreal hilarity, particularly when the pencil’s best friend, a chicken nugget, turns on him.

#19: Between The Lines: The Beatles

An easy excuse for Kyle to showcase his more-than-capable singing voice is great on its own, but the fact that he is able to break down the finer points of poetry in such an easily digestible way is what puts this video where it is on the list. This notion of highlighting the artistry that goes into elements of popular culture is one of the big reasons I like this guy so much; he doesn’t so much highlight arthouse media as much as he often highlights popular media as being more artsy than people may think.

#18: Ghost Dog: The Way Of The Samurai

The meeting point between arthouse cerebral drama and hip-hop flavoured gangster flicks, this collaboration with the Rap Critic is another occasion that seems to bring the best out of both of them. Kyle delves into the film’s cinematic sensibilities, courtesy of indie favourite Jim Jarmusch, while RC discusses its importance within the realms of music, given its place in history as one of the defining moments when the hip-hop aesthetic officially broke through into the realms of cinema. Or, as Kyle himself puts it, where the old gangster meets the new gangsta. It concludes with Kyle rapping, of course, and while his flow and cadence needs some serious work if he ever wants to attempt this sort of thing again, it holds up lyrically and condenses a lot of the reviewer’s larger details down to a single freestyle over Wu-Tang Clan’s C.R.E.A.M. Much like the film itself, this video shows a great intersection between the two cultures.

#17: Exterminating Angels

One of Kyle’s greatest strengths as a critic is how much he focuses on the theory behind the film as opposed to just taking the film at face value, always keeping its relevant context at the forefront. This sometimes leads to him enhancing the film by bolstering its dramatic or socio-political weight, as you’ll see further on down the list. But sometimes, it results in exposing the director of the subject as the sexist piece of garbage that he is, as is the case here. Based on a true story that you’d think would want to be kept under wraps, he tries to give credit where it’s due in the film’s purpose as a means for the director to examine his past actions, but through some extremely back-handed execution, he only ends up making himself look even worse, making for some great comedic fodder for the show.

#16: The Brown Bunny

The vanity project to end all vanity projects, complete with the director literally being fellated on camera by his co-star, this is more a showcasing for Kyle’s underappreciated skill at riffing. From his jokes about the director/star’s somewhat unnerving visage, to the mocking of the disjointed plot elements, to his brilliant reaction to the big twist at the end that puts the film’s sole memorable moment into question, Kyle may be at his most enthralling when he’s flexing intellectual muscle… but that doesn’t mean that he isn’t fantastic when he’s trying to be out-and-out funny either.

#15: The Idiots

This is a film about a group of people who pretend to be mentally handicapped in public for the perks(?) It’s like shooting ableist fish in a barrel, but trust Kyle to give this display of misanthropic dickery an unprecedented amount of pathos. Directed by the show’s resident punching bag Lars Von Trier, whose work will appear again later on down the list, he pushes past the extremely unseemly surface and grabs at the film’s emotional core for all to see. It takes a lot of work to make a film like this seem worth watching, and even more so without it coming across as facetious nonsense, but here’s the guy who pulled it off.

#14: The Lion King, Or The History Of King Simba I

He concluded his previous iteration of Shakespeare Month on a note of what Shakespeare means to people. This time around, one year later, he goes into a more cerebral conclusion by looking at what is Shakespeare by delving into what is widely considered to be one of the more popular ‘inspired by Shakespeare’ films with Disney’s The Lion King. Starting out by completely heading off the obvious Hamlet comparisons off at the pass, he instead goes into comparing it different stories. Starting off with King Henry I, then ancient African folk stories, then to every other Shakespearean play that it shares similarities with, he ultimately reaches a conclusion that, for a guy who discusses the Bard as much as he does, is at once surprising and affecting: Maybe it just doesn’t matter.

#13: Tromeo & Juliet

Admittedly, this crossover is a little depressing in retrospect given how these two aren’t exactly on speaking terms at the moment, but that still isn’t enough to detract from how well Kyle and the Cinema Snob work off of each other. From the plethora of Shakespeare jokes from Oancitizen (his rattling off of different porn parody names is hilarious, to the point where even Brad cracks up a bit on camera) to the finely-honed riffing skills of the Snob, they’re a perfect match for this weird mash-up of Shakespearean text and Troma-style B-movie antics. Fun fact: The writer of T&J was also behind the Guardians Of The Galaxy movie.

#12: Häxan

In keeping with the structure of the film itself (a silent film), Oancitizen goes full gimmick and does the review in the style of a silent film, complete with gloriously over-the-top acting. Marrying a suitable gimmick to a subject is one thing, but all the points go to how well it is executed here, never feeling bogged down due to its lack of dialogue (or, in Kyle’s case, monologue) as he looks at one of the most surprisingly influential films you have likely never heard of.

#11: Gerry REDUX

If you’re going to commit to a do-over of a previous review, there needs to be some damn good reasoning for doing so. This time around, involving easily one of the slowest crawls of a film to ever be released, it comes down to four simple words: Inspired by Tomb Raider. Taking that slice of newly-found info and morphing it into probably one of the best responses to GamerGate ever conceived (all without even bringing up the debate itself at any point), Kyle looks at the relationship between video games and films and how much the two borrow from each other. This results in him bringing a surprising amount of sense to the impossibly sluggish pacing of the film itself which, while interesting, still isn’t quite enough to forgive the film’s overall issues.

#10: How To Speak Movie

Probably the most straight-up lecture-y of his entire videography, this 3-part series is meant to serve as a small phrasebook for filmmaking techniques involving camerawork, mise en scene (what is shown on camera) and editing. What makes it work so well is that not only are the examples he uses pitch perfect for each technique, but his way of depicting each aspect as a form of literacy (words, tone and sentence structure) makes it amazingly easy to digest. I freely admit that I regularly come back to these videos for quick tune-ups every now and then, and this is probably the most obvious example of me having gaining a better appreciation and understanding for film after watching it.

#9: Between The Lines: Inception

What begins as a look into the film’s ‘surrealism’ credibility, comparing it to works by Satoshi Kon and David Lynch, turns into an interpretation of the film as a metaphor for filmmaking. As Kyle twists and turns through the comparisons and the analysis of the film’s dream logic, which seems to put far emphasis on the logic than the dream, he reaches a conclusion that, in lesser hands, would come across as astoundingly pretentious. However, between the lead-up and the genuine thought and care put into the words and perspectives given on the film as a whole, it is legitimately one of those mind-blowing moments that only ever get joked about happening.

#8: Angels In America

I feel bad that even one review on this list made it purely because of the subject matter, given Kyle’s talent at warping the films he reviews into discussion on a wide variety of topics, but if I had to pick one it couldn’t be any other than this. Looking into the still criminally underrated HBO miniseries, he does his usual contextual wizardry that puts the already amazing material on a grander pedestal, all the while making it just about the perfect subject matter for a review as part of the Red Ribbon Reviewers project. His closing words still send shivers down my spine every time I hear them, both his own and the quote from the play itself.

#7: Blue

How does a person realistically justify a film that only shows a single shade of blue, accompanied with voice-over narration, for its entire running time? Quite easily, it turns out, as Kyle delves into the confinements of the cinematic medium and the background of the film’s production that, when combined, lead to a remarkably potent realization that this film might indeed be a genuine work of art. Yeah, ignore my earlier pokes at his more pretentious side; when he makes statements like this, he makes damn sure that they are backed up.

#6: Vase De Noces

Before clicking on the above video (if you decide to do so), please be advised that this film is better known in film circles as “The Pig Fucking Movie”. While fighting the urge to burn things, Kyle goes into the many ways that this film uses its… questionable subject matter to confounding effects, including some of the most bizarre music choices of any film he’s reviewed. And then we get to the ending skit with Phelous and Brad Jones, where he brings up an interesting point about how bad movies are regarded in the realms of Internet critiquing, reaching some rather nuanced points about the medium.

#5: A Serbian Film

Sometimes, attempting to look for a deeper meaning behind a film pales in comparison to the sheer hatred felt towards said film. There is no better example of this than A Serbian Film, one of the few films I can honestly see being remembered by the general public decades from now… for all the wrong reasons. He actively tries to hold back his contempt for the film as he goes over Serbian history and the film’s attempt at political satire, before just self-destructing and taking the idea of critical rage to its furthest logical point: By calling in a nuclear strike on Serbia. Yeah, it’s dark shit, but his and Ed Glaser’s banter helps keep the ridiculous over-reaction within its boundaries.

#4: Beauty And The Beast

Kyle’s crossover persona usually involves increasing the snooty levels ten-fold, and while that has led to some impressive results with the right team-up (set against Obscurus Lupa’s simplicity, Film Brain’s analytical nature, etc.) but this is easily the best use of his Crossover!Oancitizen personality. The entire review, which is a musical by the way with some damn funny numbers, is a duel between Oancitizen’s love for more European-tinted cinema of Cocteau’s Beauty And The Beast and A Jerk With A Camera’s appreciation for the populist take of the Disney version. Rather than pushing one point of view over another, both are presented for their respective positives and negatives and how they always end up balancing each other out by the end. Also, best Twilight reference ever given how it leads to a moment that you literally couldn’t make up if you tried.

#3: Anonymous

As you can probably tell from the majority of this list, the guy has a real Shakespeare fixation on his main show Brows Held High. So it should come as no surprise that this review would show the pinnacle of that ilk, where Kyle not only slashes through every bit of historical inaccuracy contained within (which is quite a lot, given this is Roland Emmerich we’re talking about here) but also taking a certain prideful joy in tearing apart the Anti-Stratfordian theory that fuels not only the film’s core story but the mindset that created it in the first place. Putting the audience, himself and even Emmerich into the context of the theory itself, he shows a breadth of knowledge and respect for the auteur that even his past work wasn’t able to reach.

#2: This Is Not A Film

While the review itself may start out on too upbeat of a note (which, admittedly, is warranted as Kyle goes on to explain), that’s not nearly enough to detract from how well he places the film in question in its appropriate cultural context. As a result, through just talking about a man who literally isn’t allowed to make films anymore, he creates a video that is absolutely inspiring to watch with how it portrays the film’s existence as one of the more surprisingly badass notions possible: Filmmaking itself as a means of political rebellion. The way he goes into the director’s backstory involving cinema as well as Iranian cinematic culture (leading to easily the best music gag I’ve ever heard when discussing the Iranian New Wave that you might actually miss if you aren’t looking out for it), it imbues the film (and the review itself) with this insatiable air of inspiration that almost demands the creative process to grow within a human being. Needless to say, whenever I feel myself getting burnt out and/or lacking drive when writing a review, this is my go-to video.

#1: Melancholia

I wrestled with myself on what would ultimately take the top spot on the list. What ended up tipping the scale in this review’s favour is that while the TINAF review is downright inspiring, this review is emotionally affecting on so many other levels. While delving into this weirdly fantastical and very downbeat depiction of depression, Kyle delves into his own depressed state and showcases the kind of “it’s kind of creepy how accurate this is” emotive writing that rarely if ever gets to be seen. I made brief mention of it before back when I reviewed Inside Out, but I do suffer from clinical depression myself and… I don’t even think I have the words to express how much it means to me that an Internet reviewer, a creator in a medium that I regularly make use of to get through some pretty dark times, is able to articulate the more finite points of this very harrowing experience this fucking precisely. It also helps that, much like Inside Out, the darker points are balanced out by some damn good jokes, particularly with the Muppets comparison that is confounding in how much sense it makes. I’ve used this phrase before with other reviewers, but I have never meant it more than I do now: Un. Dying. Loyalty.

Much as how I believe myself to be heavily influenced by the reviewer I have just spent nearly 3000 words talking about, he himself was no doubt influenced by others. Specifically, as he explained in his Melancholia review funnily enough, the critic I’ll be highlighting next time who started out as a makeshift clone of yet another popular critic, and then morphed into something else entirely.

No comments:

Post a Comment