Although it is true that I review CDs on this site, and although it is true that the focus is on independent and electronic music, this release by Palm Pictures (only the first of several) is so cool that I had to break stride to cover it. With the release of this DVD collection (and others from Chris Cunningham and Michael Gondry), Palm Pictures has done what I'd hoped would be done for a long time, which is honor the work of music video directors who have broke down the walls of what is expected of the genre and done things completely outside the boundaries.
If you're anything like me, you remember a time when MTV actually played music videos, and during that time you more than likely saw videos that made you go 'ooh' and 'aah' with amazement. Sometimes this was due to an extraordinary amount of detail packed into such a compact frame, and yet at other times you were blown away by a conceptual idea, be it clever, stupid or both. Although he has done videos of every such variety, it is the conceptual video that Spike Jonze excels at. Some of his best work has the look of being filmed in the course of one day with everyone involved having a blast, and it's that kind of loose energy that made him such a standout in a world filled with directors trying to cram the most amount of bling into 4 minutes as humanly possible.
If you've watched a station that plays music videos over the course of the past 10 years, you've most likely seen a video by Jonze, and they're all on this release. Classics like "Sabotage" by the Beastie Boys (the spoof of a 70s cop show), "Praise You" by Fatboy Slim (in which a hilariously-choreographed community dance group performs outside a mall to the disbelief of those standing in line), and "It's Oh So Quiet" by Björk (a great send-up musical in which everyone and everything (including a mailbox) come to life and sing and dance along) make up the first disc (along with 13 others) along with commentary by everyone from Christopher Walken to Daft Punk to Weezer. Although there are a few less-than-stellar videos (The Breeders' "Cannonball" is pretty typical), the great videos more than make up for things (and as mentioned above, some are absolute classics).
The second side of the disc includes short films, documentaries, and other little gems that even the most fanatic of Jonze fans probably won't have seen. The hilarious Fatlip (former member of The Pharcyde) warrants his own short documentary as Jonze works with him to film the super-goofy "What's Up Fatlip?" video while two short films with Mark Gonzalez, a spoof documentary on the Torrence Community Dance Group, and other short films comprise the rest of the side. The best of the group is the half-hour long documentary "Amarillo By Morning" that follows a group of surburban kids from Texas as they try to live out their rodeo dreams. Despite his sometimes absurb sense of humor (as is evident in videos like Daft Punk's "Da Funk"), Jonze is also quite adept at putting together something serious and even touching at times (something he's also done at times in both of his full-length films Being John Malcovich and Adaptation)
This is just Volume 1 in a series of Directors Label releases that Palm Pictures is putting out, and if this is any indication of the quality, I'll be lined up to check most everything else out. In addition to the absolute wealth of material on the 2-sided disc (which most likely comprises a good percentage of work that Jonze has done to date), the package comes with a fancy 52-page booklet of sketches, notes, and photos by Jonze. Even if you're not a music video nut (I know I'm not), it's packages like this that make me wish for the days in which I could actually turn on the TV and watch a video (knowing that I wouldn't have to sift through 95% crap to catch a gem). So much fun.