Tag Archives: Spike Jonze

Music video week | Editor’s Top 10 | Ashley Clark

As part of Music Video Week here on PPH, we asked our contributors to nominate their Top 3 music vids of all time along with a few words to explain their choices. Well they’ve all done that, so now it’s my turn. And due to a potent combination of hubris, indecision and the fact that, as editor, I have no-one to answer to, I’ve actually chosen 10. Here they are…

10. ‘Start The Commotion’ – The Wiseguys (Pedro Romanhyi, 1999)

I caught this cleverly edited vid one night on MTV2 and just could not stop laughing; the visual repetition works brilliantly with the nagging catchiness of the song, and creates a cumulatively hilarious effect. It’s a simple concept, perfectly executed. The bespectacled guitarist (who appears to be atop some sort of pivot), and the three clean-cut doo-wop guys, just get me every time.

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9. ‘Coffee and TV’ – Blur (Hammer and Tongs, 1999)

This tender, heartbreaking and ever so slightly silly video for Blur’s ‘Coffee & TV’ tells the story of a plucky, animated milk carton who goes off in search of Blur’s guitarist Graham Coxon, who has apparently run away from home. Across six suspenseful, charming minutes you’ll laugh, be wowed by the animation, and very possibly cry.

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8. ‘Ya Mama’ – Fatboy Slim (Traktor, 2001)

A redneck happens across a cassette tape with magical powers. He decide to exploit it for his own ends. The rest is loose-limbed, explosive bedlam. Uproariously, preposterously funny, and a great concept.

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7. ‘Always Be My Baby’ – Mariah Carey (Mariah Carey, 1996)

This one’s simple, really. I saw it when I was 10, and I immediately fell in love. However, until a very recent Google search, I didn’t know this sweet, nicely composed effort was directed by Carey herself.

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6. ‘Frontier Psychiatrist’ – The Avalanches (Kuntz and Macquire, 2000)

This unforgettable promo is simultaneously fiercely literal (the actions of the cast often correspond to the stream-of-consciousness sampled lyrics) and mind-warpingly surreal (human-sized talking birds, for example). It’s difficult to pick out a single funniest moment, but once you’ve seen a turtle with the head of a confused old man, your life will never be quite the same again. The shabby, retro school play aesthetic haunts, too.

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5. ‘Da Funk’ – Daft Punk (Spike Jonze, 1995)

…in which a sad sack, anthropomorphized dog on crutches attempts to find love on the streets of New York. This genuinely odd piece casts a haunting spell, but don’t go looking too deeply for meaning. Here’s Daft Punk’s Thomas Bangalter: “There’s no story. It is just a man-dog walking with a ghetto-blaster in New York. The rest is not meant to say anything. People are trying to explain it: Is it about human tolerance? Integration? Urbanism? There’s really no message. There will be a sequel someday.” The sequel is yet to arrive, but if it does, let’s hope Spike Jonze is at the helm once again.

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4. ‘Drop’ – Pharcyde (Spike Jonze, 1995)

Back to back Spike Jonze. This mind-warping cut featured the South Central group performing their song backwards (yep, they had to learn their raps backwards!), and then replayed backwards to create the disorienting, WTF?! effect. An outstanding blend of pure inspiration and hard work that’s both surreal and fun. This really cool video explains how the ‘Drop’ was made. You should watch it.

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3. ‘Cry’ – Godley & Creme (Kevin Godley, Lol Creme, 1985)

I first saw this monochromatic classic at the age of about 10, on Dr Fox’s Video Jukebox, a short-lived, late-night ITV show which became defunct almost as soon as it was funct. The promo’s simple but brutally effective idea shows a succession of actors of all shapes and sizes miming the ballad’s plaintive lyrics direct to camera. The twist is that they are morphed into each other using a technique called analogue cross-fading, which creates some really disturbing imagery, and also underscores the universality of the song’s raw emotion. The same idea has been done since with higher budgets and greater slickness (see Michael Jackson’s ‘Black or White’), but never with the same aptness or gravitas.

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2. ‘Just’ – Radiohead (Jamie Thraves, 1995)

A man inexplicably lies down in the middle of London’s financial district. Scores of passers-by surround him to press him for an explanation, while Radiohead jam out their rocky ‘Just’ in an apartment above the city. The man resists, the crowd persists. Finally, the prone protagonist spills. What does he say? We’ll never know, but his whispered truths are so toxic that they cause all of London – in an astonishingly composed overhead tracking shot – to follow suit. The promo’s stark visuals and captivating plot thoroughly complement the dependably threatening obliquity of Yorke’s lyrics, and the end product lingers darkly in the mind like a half-remembered episode of The Twilight Zone.

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1. ‘Sugar Water’ – Cibo Matto (Michel Gondry, 1996)

A clever, intense and quietly disturbing promo from the creative genius that is Michel Gondry. ‘Sugar Water’ is a witty meditation on identity and the time/space continuum, and inspired the famous split-screen sequence from Roger Avary’s massively underrated Bret Easton Ellis adaptation The Rules of Attraction. Once seen, never forgotten, and you’ll want to watch it again and again.

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Want to join the conversation? Find us on Twitter @PPlasticHelmet and use the hashtag #MusicVideoWeek.

Music video week | Contributor Top 3 | Guillaume Gendron

As part of Music Video Week here on PPH, we’ve asked our contributors to nominate their Top 3 music vids of all time along with a few words to explain their choices. Here are contributing editor Guillaume Gendron‘s choices. He can be followed on Twitter at @GGendron20.

3. ‘Flashing Lights’ – Kanye West (Spike Jonze, Kanye West, 2007)

The first of three collaborations between Spike Jonze – one third of the holy trinity of wünder directors that defined the nineties (along with Chris Cunningham and Michel Gondry) – and Kanye West, the past decade’s most disruptive rap star, ‘Flashing Lights’ is also their best. At the time I waxed a little too lyrically about Yeezy reinventing the whole rap aesthetic – in fact he just raised it from bling to haute-couture – but this clip remains flawless. With its post-Lynchian vibe, ‘Flashing Lights’ challenges the rulebook form-wise (the abrupt cut) but also in substance, with the revenge of the video vixen and the end of the traditional notion of the rap star’s invulnerable masculinity.

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2. ‘November Rain’ – Guns n’ Roses (Andrew Morahan, 1992)

Guitar heroes soloing on top of grand pianos, helicopter shots in the desert, people jumping through wedding cakes, an incomprehensible narrative, a millon dollar budget. Quite probably the most overwrought video of all time, ‘November Rain’ remains the exhaustive compilation of cock rock totems. Pretty much an archaeological document, the testimony of the decadent opulence of the MTV era at its peak, prior to the full bloom of  the Nirvana inspired grunge revolution and the music industry’s economic crisis. Its preposterousness still inspires though, from Lady Gaga to Lana Del Rey.

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1. ‘Stress’ – Justice (Romain Gavras, 2009)

The breakthrough moment for French rascal Romain Gavras (the man behind MIA’s ‘Bad Girls‘) – it’s A Clockwork Orange meets La Haine with a slyly subversive sprinkling of Man Bites Dog thrown in for good measure. Following a gang of ghetto kids causing havoc in the bourgeois center of Paris, the notorious video came only a few years after the 2005 urban riots which caused controversy in France and abroad, reigniting the old, rather boring debate on life imitating art and vice versa when it comes to on-screen violence. The video looked very timely once again in the wake of last summer’s British riots. Neither social commentary nor plain glorification of social evils, ‘Stress’ is above all an assured piece of gut-wrenching cinematography.

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[….and because he’s handsome and French, Guillaume gets a bonus]

‘It Was A Good Day’/’Check Yo Self’ – Ice Cube (F. Gary Gray, 1993)

The Chronicles of Compton, Tome I and II. Ice Cube’s diptych defined (or rather refined) the aesthetics of West Coast gangsta rap; influencing the whole perception of the era and the place, from films (Training Day) to video games (Rockstar’s GTA San Andreas) and beyond.

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Want to join the conversation? Find us on Twitter @PPlasticHelmet and use the hashtag #MusicVideoWeek.

Music video week | Contributor Top 3 | Cathy Landicho

As part of Music Video Week here on PPH, we’ve asked our contributors to nominate their Top 3 music vids of all time along with a few words to explain their choices. Here are Cathy Landicho‘s choices. She can be followed on Twitter @ConfusedAmateur.

3. ‘Sabotage’ – The Beastie Boys (Spike Jonze, 1994)

MCA’s pulsing, fuzzy bass line, insistent like a police siren, propels this song’s intensity; combine that with Ad-Rock’s throaty, aggressive vocal delivery, and you get a head-banging tune that could easily soundtrack a retro cop show. Spike Jonze’s stylish, funny, frenetic and affectionate video featuring the Beasties in multiple roles totally complements each beat – from the spinning shots accompanying the record scratches, to the hits timed to drumbeats, to the long fall that accompanies Ad-Rock’s wail of “Whhhhyyyy”. The video helps you mentally strut to the song, and motivates you to try sliding across the hood of the car. (Don’t lie – I know you tried it too.)

In memoriam: MCA (who dressed in lederhosen as his alter ego Nathaniel Hornblower and stormed the stage of the MTV Music Video awards to protest Jonze losing the Best Director award to R.E.M.’s ‘Everybody Hurts’ – not a proud moment, but a memorable one)

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2. ‘Virtual Insanity’ – Jamiroquai (Jonathan Glazer, 1996)

An obvious choice; a totally mesmerizing and unforgettable video. Even though this was on heavy rotation for a good chunk of 1996, I’d never flip the channel because you’d watch it again and again, trying to figure out how the hell it was filmed. Is the floor moving? Or the set? But the couch is moving too… and it looks like there’s so few cuts! And why is Jay Kay wearing that silly hat? It turns out that director Jonathan Glazer came up with the concept and executed it on a manageable budget, securing the camera to a set on wheels, moved by ten dudes’ choreographed pushes. In four shots! But besides all that, the point is that it’s nigh-on impossible to take your eyes off Jay Kay and his dancing. He made it look so damn easy. If you’ve watched the video as much I have, when you dance along to this song, somewhere in the back of your mind you’re imagining the floor moving with you.

Also, check out this interview with Jonathan Glazer explaining the video.

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1. ‘Doo Wop (That Thing)’ – Lauryn Hill (Big TV! 1998)

Jersey girl Lauryn Hill’s massive solo album spawned two great music videos that pay homage to NYC: ‘Everything is Everything’ and ‘Doo Wop’. The former’s concept of Manhattan as a rotating record on a turntable is nifty, but the latter’s thoughtful split screen vision contrasting 1967’s Washington Heights with 1998’s just suits the song perfectly. The London duo Big TV! (Monty Whitbloom and Andy Delaney) manages to join the split screens seamlessly through smart compositional choices, and the symmetry maintained throughout creates an impressive illusion. It’s great fun watching 1967 Lauryn Hill duet with 1998 Lauryn Hill, with competing backup singers (though the Pips-like 1967 ones win, hands down). The old-school-meets-new-school style of the song is served well by the numerous poignant juxtaposed images in the video, showcasing the changing times of black New Yorkers of both genders. But for all its nuanced content and technical achievements, I love this video because it makes me want to hop into the screen to join the block party and get my groove on.

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Want to join the conversation? Find us on Twitter @PPlasticHelmet and use the hashtag #MusicVideoWeek.