Ryan: This video by Kyle Kallgren blew my mind. Not only because I think that using contemporary examples to talk about film theory and technology helps me understand all films better, but there were just so many disparate trends that all seem to be united by this concept of “bi-lighting.” I tweeted the link to you at the same time I started watching it, because I know of your love for “movies that look like pop tarts.”
Garrett: Ryan, how dare you confine my love of pop-tarts to the movies? My pop-tart love knows no bounds!
To clarify, when I saw Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman’s Nerve, a movie I have genuine affection for, I jokingly referred to it as a pop-tart because the neon aesthetics reminded me of Wildberry Pop-Tarts, a fixture of my youth. And wouldn’t you know it, they’re the purple pop-tarts, something I’m only making the connection to now thanks to this video essay. Once I made the joke, I realized that this attention to neon lighting is something I’ve gravitated to in film for a long time, but I was never able to put a label on it beyond “pop-tarts”.
Ryan: I never thought about it as a look until you mentioned it. Not only Nerve (which is a super fun movie), but also Blade Runner and Tron. I had no idea that those blue and purple lights were sort of a new thing in at the time, and our current nostalgia cycle lining up with new ways to use lighting in digital filmmaking as well as more diversity is what made this video so mind blowing for me. Connecting Janelle Monae to Moonlight to John Wick to Atomic Blonde is certainly a broad trend, and I think this captures a lot of the different reasons we keep seeing blues and purples.
Be right back, buying Wildberry Pop-Tarts now.
Garrett: The trend is definitely real, and what I appreciate about this video so much is the depth with which Kyle hits a variety of angles on what these colors mean and why we’re seeing them so frequently at the moment. I thought he was going to lose me when he started digging into the science of the color spectrum, but I used to do a lot of work in Photoshop for a live show Dan Scully and I used to do for our podcast, and suddenly a bunch of choices I had made unconsciously for designs made a lot of sense. He uses tools I’m familiar with from that work to illustrate how these colors work in tandem with light and technology to not just explain why we’re seeing a rise in them across our movies, but how they relate to the history of racism in Hollywood and representation for bisexuality in art. In doing so, he proves that something becoming a trend doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a new, lazy choice, being recycled over and over again. This is a necessity in the age of digital filmmaking, and one that helps overcome the limitations of that medium practically, but also the medium as a whole socially.
Ryan: Well said. It is easy to forget that all film is a technology-driven medium, and that understanding the technical can give additional context to the artistic choices made in a given film. I think you summed that up perfectly. Any other thoughts before we wrap it up?
Garrett: I would like to congratulate and thank Kyle for using this video essay to express himself like this. The final moments of the video are really touching and in a very real way get at the depth of artistic choices and why they matter. Not only did his essay help explain this phenomenon of pop-tart movies to me, it also helped me key in on why they speak to me so much – I identify as queer and have never said so out loud. This essay has given me the courage to do so here, so thank you Kyle. Your art matters as much as the art you’re exploring in your essay.
Ryan: Dude, that is awesome! I feel really honored that you decided to share that with me (and with our Cinedelphia readers). It isn’t something I’ve experienced personally, so I can only imagine the journey of self-discovery and the bravery needed for you to share like that. But as someone who is also male, feelings and personal details like that are things that I’ve rarely been rewarding for sharing with the world. I’m so happy that we’ve become friends over the last few years, and your perspective on movies is one of my favorites.
So, again, thanks to Kyle for making one of the best film videos I’ve ever seen on YouTube, and thanks to you for sharing your thoughts and feelings with me. We should celebrate by eating Wildberry Pop-Tarts, watching Atomic Blonde and Moonlight, and having a Dirty Computer dance party!
Author: Garrett Smith
Garrett is a writer and podcaster living in Philadelphia that spends too much time debating the difference between kinetic and frenetic filmmaking. He likes cheese, in both food and movies. Check him out on twitter and letterboxd and give his podcast, I Like To Movie Movie, a listen.