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Top 10 Music Videos by Film Makers February 23, 2009

Music video has been a pop culture mainstay since some young guy at Viacom thought launching a 24-hour video channel was a topjonze idea. They’ve evolved into mini-movies, musician’s diaries, confessionals and introduced the world to some of the most creative people making films today. Some might say the the genre has gotten stale – (Yes, Mr. Rapper, I see you have your bitches and hos, along with your souped-up Caddy and that yer trousers don’t fit and you’re acting very naughty in a nightclub. Now do a vid without those things – at a petting zoo or driving a bookmobile or something) – but there will always be someone waiting in the wings with fresh ideas (I want to do a Beastie Boys vid-as-Western, myself) Here’s a list of ones I think make the obvious statement that greater things were going to happen to these people (most of them anyway). Please to enjoy:

Janie’s Got A Gun: Aerosmith – Directed by David Fincher-: Possibly THE most delicate subject matter executed with raw, rough beauty. The ‘noir-ish’ clips combine with performance shots of the band to tell the literal story of the song, a daunting prospect for a director. It’s disturbing but never as depressing as it could be, you’re allowed to enjoy the song. Neither is the violence romanticized and you don’t actually see Janie with a gun. Tyler’s trademark moves seem more empathetic than his usual ‘manic funky’ (which I normally love but…). I also like the fact that Fincher didn’t take the easy route and depict the family as white-trash trailer park hillbillies or something but instead made them an affluent family in a big house, with the Father in an expensive suit and the well coiffed Mother in denial, then shock. (Hey, Aerosmith are the only band still going (almost) four decades with the same line-up! Long live the ‘Smith!)

Jump, They Say: Tin Machine – Directed by Mark Romanek: David Bowie’s expeirement with a bunch of young musicians who couldn’t believe their luck had some good tunes (I like that they used horns in the early 90’s; a time when the sax, trumpet, et al had been reduced to the 80’s bargin bin). Bowie set ‘Tin Machine’ up when he was torn between his ‘businessman’ persona (“Do I sell ‘Rebel, Rebel’ to shill a new orange drink and make a fuckload of easy cash?”) and his more honest, dominant ‘artist’ side (“No”). Reflecting this, Romanek pays tribute to Kafka-like corperate allination, the artist’s survival within that world and Bowie’s dual-coloured eyes (amazingly, he was the first director to really feature this, photographers had been doing it for years but video directors; no.) No shot is wasted, it all means something. Best part is Bowie looks and moves like the Thin White Duke he was – now a sort of ‘Archduke’, if you will. This member of rock royalty won’t jump, no matter how easy they try to make it for him. Take heed, sell-outs, this is why David Bowie will never get old.

Fell In Love With A Girl: The White Stripes – Directed by Michel Gondry: The ‘making of’ this video is about an hour in length; the clip itself runs in at about 1 minute and 53 seconds. Gondry is a child-like genius so it fits like peanut butter and chocolate that he’d make a video almost completely in Lego. Big risk for the band too, since it was their first hit and they were unrecognizable in it but the gamble paid off and people became intrigued with Meg and Jack White. Gondry would use more of his low-tech/high-tech tricks in other videos, and features them in his film ‘Be Kind, Rewind’, which, I hate to say (because I love Michel), is the best thing about that flick but it’s worth the rental price for tips on how to make home movies with a bit of flair.

One Week: Bare Naked Ladies – Directed by McG: He knew that giving face time and ‘roles’ to the other band members (besides just the singer) pays off – this guy studied his Huey Lewis and the News vids in the 80’s. In the 90’s, McG was the king of primary colours, flash cuts, hot girls in bikinis and the ‘fish-eye’ lens which made him a big favourite with rappers but this one incorporates recognizable pop culture elements like ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’, ‘The Dukes of Hazard’ and ‘Starsky and Hutch’ along with this very likeable Canadian band. McG took these normal guys doing an extraordinary job for a living and just made everything surrounding them surreal. The lyrics are so dumb but it’s a boppy, feel good song and the vid takes that spirit and pushes it over the top where it belongs. (‘Fly’ by Sugar Ray almost got this spot but now Mark McGrath is a so-called ‘entertainment reporter’ and that just makes me sad. No, I can’t talk about it, it’s too upsetting) * For some reason this video is not available. Pity. So here’s second place Sugar Ray -

It’s Oh So Quiet: Bjork – Directed by Spike Jones: I know, he did ‘Sabotage’ and the one where him and a bunch of people dance like idiots outside a cinema but I like this Technicolor-style musical. How boring is it to go get your tires changed? Not if you’re Bjork! It’s an all-singin’, all-dancin’ extravaganza! Apparently, Jones called Bjork in the middle of the night all excited to tell her that the guy who plays Ernie on ‘Sesame Street’ agreed to play the dancing mailbox. This is the type of director movies NEED. Make another film soon, Spike. I miss you like when I see an empty chair at the Christmas dinner table.

Subterranian Homesick Blues: Bob Dylan – Directed by Donn Alan “D. A.” Pennebaker: Maybe this is a bit of a cheat but since Pennebaker pretty much invented the modern music video with this piece from his doc ‘Don’t Look Back’, he rightfully gets a mention. One of the most memorable, lasting, copied, parodied 2-mins-plus in music video history; nay, in FILM history, it’s taught people like me that sometimes the best thing you can do as a director is – ta-da! – point the camera and get the hell out of the way. Goes to show that if you have a charismatic singer with a great song, you don’t need much else.

Mama Mia: ABBA – Directed by Lasse Hallström: He came up with the idea of the girls’ counter-balancing their faces – one in profile and one looking straight on. Depending on your point of view, you can either thank him or curse him but no doubt he’s somewhat responsible for the enduring pop-culture phenom known as ABBA. Whatever your opinion, it was a simple, great hook.

Thriller: Michael Jackson – Directed by John Landis: I don’t have to write anything about this one.

Smells Like Teen Spirit: Nirvana – Directed by Samuel Bayer: I’ve had dealings with this guy and he’s 100% ASSHOLE-accept no subtitutes-but I must admit he touched the nerve of a generation and set the stage for Nirvana in a way that couldn’t have been achived with premeditation. Featuring the people that high school is most difficult for – the band geeks, the various outcasts and the janitor – it wasn’t just a theme but a revolution, framed by this dark assembly-turned-mosh-pit. (I would like to point out that Cobain picked him because he didn’t really want to make a video and Bayer’s reel was so bad, Cobain thought the result would be unshowable. My Mum was right; it IS better to be lucky than smart. Damn. Well, his film a couple years ago sucked. Wanker.)

Tonight, Tonight: Smashing Pumpkins – Directed by Valerie Faris and Jonathan Dayton: I didn’t know Corgan had a truely melodic voice til this and the husband-and-wife team of Faris and Dayton take full advantage and make sweet love to the song with their gorgeous photography, camera effects and concept; one never takes away from the other – it’s a perfect balance. Silly but fun, romantic and nostalgic; it’s no surprise they would later make ‘Little Miss Sunshine’. I would like to invite them to a party. I bet they would bring a good bottle of wine. (See? I can be nice too, when it’s deserved)

Honourable mention to Spike Jones’ ‘Sky’s the Limit’ by the Notorious B.I.G. – After Biggie died, there was the problem of releasing this song and having an appropriate video to go along with it. Spike fixes the issue with a classy move –
*NOTE* – This is link is to the ‘unbleeped’ version.

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