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The Work of Director Spike Jonze

When MTV began attaching a director's credit to their music videos sometime in the early 1990's, once-oblivious viewers were suddenly able to place names with the many distinct styles that had, for better or worse, been shaping the collective pop cultural consciousness for over a decade. Some of these directors — e.g. David Fincher, Russell Mulcahy, Phil Joanou — were already known quantities thanks to their well-publicized forays into film. But, at the time, the most interesting work was being done by relative unknowns who were linking up their distinct sensibilities with some of the day's most musically adventuresome artists. Chris Cunningham created indelible, nightmarish landscapes out of Aphex Twin's ambient techno compositions, while Michel Gondry crafted fairy-tale-like flights of fancy to match the unfettered childlike imagination of Icelandic pop genius Bjork. But it was Spike Jonze who would become this movement's dorky, but engagingly impish, superstar through his rambunctious collaborations with hip-hop pioneers The Beastie Boys, two of which are featured on Palm Pictures' The Work of Director Spike Jonze, released under the company's "Directors Label" series. Showcasing 16 of Jonze's more memorable videos, and complemented by enough supplemental material to sate the director's most rabid fans, it's an exceedingly well-selected reflection of a boundless imagination forever in pursuit of new and elaborate ways to simply have fun. Ranging from two of his most notable collaborations with The Beastie Boys — "Sabotage" and "Sure Shot" — to his award-winning videos for Fatboy Slim ("Praise You," "Weapon of Choice"), this is a top-notch collection that easily makes a case for Spike as one of the most uniquely gifted filmmakers of his generation. What impresses most, though, is not his technique so much as his curiosity about human behavior, and, best of all, his predilection for a good practical joke.

*          *          *

Palm Pictures presents The Work of Director Spike Jonze in an outstanding, mostly full-frame (1.33:1) aspect ratio ("Da Funk," "Sky's the Limit," and "It's Oh So Quiet" have been preserved in their original 1.85:1 ratio) with crisp Dolby Digital 2.0 audio. Supplements on the first disc include audio commentaries on most of the videos from the musicians, and, in some instances, the actors too. Best of all (at least for fans) is The Beastie Boys' hilarious running commentary through a number of the videos. There also is an interview segment (13 min.) in which the musicians discuss their working relationship with Spike (why Fatboy Slim was interviewed taking a bubble bath is anyone's guess). Rounding out Side "A" is "The Making of 'Drop'" (6 min.), trailers for the other selections in the Directors Label series and the Adaptation Special Edition DVD, and weblinks to the websites for the various bands featured on the disc. Side "B" first features a collection of five "Rarities" (17 min.). The first of these is "How They Get There," in which "meeting cute" abruptly becomes "meeting windshield." Next is "Mark Paints," featuring artist Mark Gonzales finishing a painting only to have a kid come along and deface it. This is followed by "The Oasis Video That Never Happened," a series of interviews conducted with random British Oasis fans that was supposed to tie into a video for the band until the mercurial Gallagher brothers decided they hated all of the ideas. The groundwork for the "Praise You" video is seen in Spike's one-man performance as Richard Koufey outside of Grauman's Chinese Theater in Los Angeles to Fatboy Slim's "Rockafella Skank." Lastly, there is "The Woods," a short film shot for Girl Skateboards. Next up are the documentaries, which kick off with the uproarious "What's Up Fatlip?," a portrait of emotional desolation that features the rapper, recently ejected from The Pharcyde, walking around in a virtual daze after slamming into the wall of his creative limitations. Fatlip is phenomenally candid, which leads to an incredibly cringeworthy story that he claims he has related to anyone else. Suffice it to say that when Spike asks "Why would they think you were gay?," you'd best buckle up. The second documentary is "Amarillo By Morning," a sterling example of Spike's natural curiosity in which he hangs out with some kids training to one day make the professional bullriding circuit. Finally, there is "Torrance Rises," a very funny record of the "Richard Koufey" practical joke that culminates in the dance group's performance at the MTV Video Music Awards. Dual-DVD keep-case.
—Clarence Beaks

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