This past weekend, I revisited the video essays of Tony Zhou. It reminded me that there are still so many classic and contemporary live-action films that I need to still see. The first time I saw his essay on the visual comedy of Edger Wright last year, I had realized I’d yet to see any of Wright’s films outside of 2010’s Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.
And so, with the lessons of Mr. Zhou fresh in mind, I’ve been re-thinkng my viewing of the “Blood and Ice Cream” trilogy, consisting of Shaun of the Dead (2004), Hot Fuzz (2007), and The World’s End (2013).
I enjoyed them in the order they were released, with Shaun being my definite favorite by a longshot, and, enjoying End, but not enough to seek it out again. I found that my reasoning for this solely had to do with the character Simon Pegg played in each, and how much I related to them. Or didn’t. Mostly didn’t.
In terms of visual comedy, dialogue, cinematography, and overall production, they were all on a level playing field. I found myself actually laughing out at funny quips, slapstick, and noise effects, that much more appreciative of them thanks to Tony Zhou.
And that much more disillusioned by American cinema.
But the characters…In End, I despised Pegg’s Gary King with every fiber of my being. I understand that that’s how his character is supposed to be, and that even his friends can barely tolerate him. Hot Fuzz‘s Nicholas Angel’s frustration was palpable to me, but the sheer idiocy surrounding him turned sour to me, to the point where I was more annoyed than humored. Shaun was clearly the most relatable of the three characters in his struggle to be a better version of himself for those around him. It made me wonder that, had Wright’s films not been so visually appealing, if I’d have been able to sit through End. I honestly don’t think so, considering my indifference for the characters. The heightened storytelling also allowed for the absurd premises of the films to be more digestible too. I wonder what came first as Wright refined his arsenal…it would be interesting to see his earlier work, either as a student or making shorts or commercials. Was his style always so outlandish, even with more grounded scenarios, or did his desire to expand outside the norm necessitate his inventiveness? I’ll have to do some digging for a follow-up post!
On top of peaking my interest in discovering and learning from new films, Tony Zhou also makes me want to analyze films more, and better. Way better. He’s such a gem, who must spend hours researching and composing his essays, let alone editing them, and this post was written in a collective 3 hours over 2 months (because I’m a weenie and didn’t finish and post it when I first thought to write about it). I know my writing can’t be as good as Tony Zhou’s video-ing. At least, not any time soon. Which means I need to start now. That is the constant struggle.
I’m glad that watching video essays could spur me into seeing films that, although I never would have sought out, would (and did) thoroughly enjoy experiencing. There are so many more films from Tony’s and other people’s essays (both written and visual essays) that I’ve never even heard of, so I intend for this to become a trend.
Definitely check out the work of Edgar Wright and Tony Zhou!