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Work of Director Spike Jonze, The
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by Charles Tatum

"Keeping up with the Jonze"
4 stars

The "Work of Director Spike Jonze" DVD features many of the music videos and short films done by the notorious young directing legend, who has graduated from music video icon status into feature film stardom with the odd but entertaining "Being John Malkovich" and "Adaptation."

Jonze cut his teeth on such music videos as Fatboy Slim's "Praise You" and the Beastie Boys' "Sabotage", and has managed to notch up some of my all time favorites along the way. Let's take a look at how the Jonze collection stacks up.

Side A of the DVD features the following videos, complete with interviews and audio commentaries on some of the clips:

"California" -Wax
A guy runs to catch a bus in slow motion...and he is on fire. Catchy song with a creepy video. (4/5*)

"Sure Shot"- Beastie Boys
I am 35 years old, and I don't have to like rap music if I don't want to. (1/5*)

"Drop"- The Pharcyde
The camera captured the rap group doing the song backward, then ran the clip forward, resulting in a visually interesting effect on yet another generic rap song. (2/5*)

"Cannonball"- The Breeders
A great song from the early to mid 90's, when alternative music was kicking '80's pop out the door- before falling victim to the hip hop tidal wave. (5/5*)

"Sabotage"- Beastie Boys
This homage to gritty '70's police shows is considered groundbreaking, I found it annoying. (1/5*)

"Da Funk"- Daft Punk
A large talking dog wanders the streets of New York City, playing his radio. I was more interested in the song than the dog. (2/5*)

"What's Up Fatlip"- Fatlip
More rap, a guy in a diaper, it must mean something...(see the documentary on Side B to find out what) (2/5*)

"Undone (The Sweater Song)"- Weezer
A whimsical clip, all done in one shot, as the band plays an equally whimsical song. I never thought much of Weezer until I saw the Jonze videos. (4/5*)

"Praise You"- Fatboy Slim
The now infamous live street performance of the Torrance Community Dance Group, one of the greatest videos ever made. (5/5*)

"Feel the Pain"- Dinosaur Jr.
Another imaginative video, as two band members play golf on the streets of Manhattan. Lovely shots of the World Trade Center, and that distinctive Dinosaur Jr. sound. (5/5*)

"If I Only Had a Brain"- MC 900ft Jesus
If you only had a listenable song. Another rapping white boy in a dumb video, as he mails himself and has various adventures inside the box. Does Eminem really think he was the first one to do this? (1/5*)

"Sky's the Limit"- The Notorious B.I.G.
Jonze redoes another one of those "livin' large" videos, but this time casts kids in the roles of the rapper and his cronies. Inspired by personal fave "Bugsy Malone," too bad someone didn't use whipped cream guns on Tupac and Biggie. Could have shown how stupid these videos eventually became, and yet they are still being made... (2/5*)

"Weapon of Choice"- Fatboy Slim
Christopher Walken tap dances around a hotel to Slim's song. Excellent video, listening to Walken's commentary only adds to the fun. Fatboy Slim is right, the expression on Walken's face during the video makes one think he is "about to pull out a gun and shoot everybody." (5/5*)

"Buddy Holly"- Weezer
Why did we watch "Happy Days" back in the day? "Laverne and Shirley" was funnier. The Weezer guys are put into Arnold's set, and entertain Fonz and the gang. Technically good, but I liked the song, too. (4/5*)

"Elektrobank"- The Chemical Brothers
Future Oscar winner Sofia Coppola (who should be finishing her penance for her performance in "The Godfather Part III" riiight...now!) plays a gymnast with a floor routine. Some of the editing is a bit choppy, but it works overall. (4/5*)

"It's Oh So Quiet"- Bjork
I don't know about you, but Bjork scares me. The song is weird, the old fashioned dance number is kind of fun...but Bjork just plain scares me. (3/5*)


Side B features "rarities" (very short films), and three short documentaries:

Rarities:

"How They Got There"
Answers the age old question of how shoes end up in street gutters. Alternately hilarious and horrifying. (5/5*)

"Mark Paints"
A guy named Mark paints a picture, then a kid paints over it, and then I went on with my life. (3/5*)

"The Oasis Video That Never Happened"
Jonze went to England to do a music video for the Oasis song "Stand by Me." He videotaped ideas from common people in England, and was going to use the best ideas to shoot the video. The band did not like the idea, so Jonze edited together the citizens just talking about the video that never was. Jonze went on to do feature films and earn an Oscar nomination. As for Oasis... (4/5*)

"The Woods"
A guy skateboards in the woods. A perfectly timed piece of fluff. (4/5*)

"Rockafella Skank- Fatboy Slim"
A variation on the music video for "Praise You," has Jonze solo in his Richard Koufey guise, dancing for the unappreciative people of L.A. Still love the song, and Richard dances his little heart out! (5/5*)

Documentaries:

"What's Up Fatlip? (the documentary)"
While shooting the music video, Jonze kept the camera rolling, catching a formally hot rapper down on his luck. This should be required viewing for everyone on the hip hop charts today, and throw in some of those reality show contestants as well. Fatlip's transvestite story had me incredulous, but when he talks about supporting his six kids with a job at Burger King, then admits he does not have six kids, you can see Fatlip is still trying to live the rapper's dream life. Strong, fascinating stuff. (5/5*)

"Amarillo by Morning"
Jonze interviews a group of Texas high schoolers who have big dreams of making it big on the rodeo circuit. Equally interesting and dull, it could be considered Jonze's most normal work on the DVD. (3/5*)

"Torrance Rises"
Jonze returns as Richard Boufey, tracing the Torrance dance troupe's trip to New York City for a live performance at the 1999 Music Video Awards. Funny mockumentary. (4/5*)

In addition to all the above there is a small postcard sized 52 page book interview with Jonze, where he talks about early videos, and meeting directors Michel Gondry and Chris Cunningham, who also happen to have DVD compilations by the same company.

While not all of Jonze's stuff is my cup of tea, I think this DVD compilation is a brilliant idea. It is nice to see uninterrupted music videos. No little screens opening up as some stuttering twink screams shout outs to their peeps, no ticker, no vacuous VJ droning on about Chingy, thinking that makes them hip. MTV and VH1 are shells of their former selves, and today's teen culture will never know the thrill that the videos themselves brought, not a bunch of lame reality shows and stupid endless spring break weekends.

"The Work of Director Spike Jonze" is a worthwhile DVD for fans and aspiring film makers alike. Many will find something here to watch, Jonze cannot be accused of sticking to just one angle or idea, and milking it!

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=10082&reviewer=325
originally posted: 06/10/04 00:03:31
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User Comments

6/10/04 tatum Something for everyone! 4 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  20-Oct-2003 (NR)
  DVD: 28-Oct-2003

UK
  20-Dec-2003

Australia
  20-Dec-2003


Directed by
  Spike Jonze

Written by
  N/A

Cast
  Spike Jonze
  Fatboy Slim
  Bjork
  the Beastie Boys
  Sofia Coppola
  Christopher Walken



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