Lost in the Movies (formerly The Dancing Image): NOT JUST O.J.: 7 Subjects in O.J.: Made in America (video essay)

Sunday, February 26, 2017

NOT JUST O.J.: 7 Subjects in O.J.: Made in America (video essay)


My first video essay of 2017 is finally available and it took a while to put together. As part of "Oscars on Fandor Month" it celebrates Ezra Edelman's 8-hour documentary O.J.: Made in America, which is nominated for Best Documentary in tonight's ceremony.



In order to analyze this film, I "cheated" and took two different approaches. The two-and-half minute introduction compares Made in America to its coincidental 2016 companion, the dramatized miniseries The People v. O.J. Simpson. Then, I move on to the primary approach: delineating seven subjects the film deals with besides O.J. Simpson, although they all involve him of course.

Here is my introduction to the video:



There are so many different paths to follow into Ezra Edelman’s documentary O.J.: Made in America that one almost doesn’t know where to start. For the introduction to Not Just O.J., my contribution to this month’s “Oscars on Fandor” theme, I decided to begin with Made in America’s sister film – The People v. O.J. Simpson, also presented as a TV miniseries, also released in 2016, and also, of course, covering the criminal trial of athlete/actor O.J. Simpson in 1995. The differences are revelatory: People hones in exclusively on the trial, and while it presents us with intimate moments a documentary couldn’t, its narrow scope naturally excludes a much broader historical context. Made in America, on the other hand, not only stretches back to Simpson’s early days (and his later fall) but is also just as much about America, about pop culture, about the history of the LAPD and the African-American community, as it is about Simpson.

For the bulk of this video essay, I’ve isolated seven subjects masterfully explored by this film: sports, media, Los Angeles, class, abuse, police, and race. Isolating each in turn, while also examining how they intersect, I’ve attempted to pay critical justice to Edelman’s thematic ambition. With this work, he’s arguably created the Great American Documentary, a film that’s not just masterful in its own right, but an awesome evocation of American society in all its grandeur and horror – leading right up to our own tumultuous time. Not Just O.J. is a tribute to and analysis of Edelman’s unique accomplishment in crafting a film that – despite its length and televisual origin – managed to earn a Best Documentary nomination from the Academy Awards and is a favorite to win on Sunday. Truthfully, however, Made in America deserved to take home the Best Picture, not just the Documentary, prize – I can’t imagine a movie that better captures the state of our nation through such a sharp lens.
This was a busy week on the video front. I uploaded ten older videos to my YouTube channel for the first time: Learning to Look (eye contact in Satyajit Ray's The Big City), 4 Times Back to the Future: Welcome to Hill Valley, The Passion of Anna Karina, Manufacturing Dreams: The Quay Brothers' STREET OF CROCODILES, Come, Sweet Death (The Phantom Carriage/Wild Strawberries), The Medium & The Message: 7 Forms of Filmmaking in Lynne Sachs' STATES OF UNBELONGING, The Colors of DAISIES, Meshes of Lynch (Maya Deren & David Lynch), 6 Years in America: Louis Malle's GOD'S COUNTRY, and Mirrors of Kane ch. 1: Meeting Kane.

I also discovered that Learning to Look and 6 Years in America had been restored to Fandor's Vimeo channel after disappearing in January. And finally, I am happy to announce that yesterday 7 Facts About Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, already by far my most popular work in any medium, crossed over the 100,000-view mark, a major milestone for me personally. That video, by the way, was very much a template for Not Just O.J. (and both share their "7 Things About" structure with the Lynne Sachs video). I'm particularly proud that its march to that number was so steady and consistent - rather than rely on one single rush of traffic, it keeps attracting viewers day after day. Thanks to everyone who watched and shared that video over the past couple years.

Update 2018: The video is now on my YouTube channel as well:


Here are some images from Not Just O.J.:


















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