Friday, November 04, 2011

"Around the World" - Daft Punk

Daft Punk’s “Around the World”

Directed by Michel Gondry

March 7, 1997

Daft Punk’s music videos are all gold! I highly recommend checking out videos for songs such as “Technologic,” “Robot Rock,” and really any song you can find if you enjoy this one. I find many of their videos to be oddly hypnotic working alongside the rhythmically repetitive lyrics. This is a music video that has no narrative or superfluous images that detract from the song. Instead, Gondry intends for the video to compliment the song by having the choreography match the instruments.

Watch the video again and notice how the dancers in the center follow the beats of the drums, the skeletons match the guitar, and the tall, weird-looking guys match the bass line. I think Daft Punk videos do a great job in adding imagery to the music without losing its focus.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

She and Him's "Why Do You Let Me Stay Here?"

Why Do You Let Me Stay Here (Version 2)
Directed by Marc Webb, United States, 2009, 4 Minutes.
Source: YouTube

This film is about a man (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) who enters a bank with the intent to rob it. Little does he know, the female bank teller (Zooey Deschanel) behind the counter is bored and looking for a little adventure in her life. In the first few seconds of the video, we are following the man, but the minute he meets the woman, she becomes the dominate character and so does the song, which, if we did not already know, the actress/singer Deschanel sings. The video becomes the dream world of the bank teller, her desire to dance and interact with this mysterious and handsome male customer. In the end, the man leaves with the money, and we are not sure if he has experienced her fantasy too, or if he fears she will confront him and alert the bank of his thievery.

This music video is the second one made for this song, and the higher quality of the two. Directed by Marc Webb, this music video was released to promote his film (500) Days of Summer also starring Deschanel and Gordon-Levitt (G-L)--also, Deschanel wanted to promote her band and their latest song. I like this video because it is whimsical, well-stylized, and a stand-alone yet additive for the feature film. Though the characters are different between music video and feature, they have similar character attributes. For one, Deschanel always wears the color blue in (500) Days and that is carried on to her bank teller who wears blue vintage style clothing. As for G-L, he is able to show off his dance moves in a dream sequence similar to the scene in (500) Days where he dances to Hall and Oats' "You Make My Dreams Come True". This music video short successfully develops Webb's directing style, and She and Him's image. Also, I like that this video compliments the song, and does not do a lyric play-by-play.

G-L's character has so much mystery to him. Why is the man robbing a bank? Does he want to? I pose these questions because I had never seen the first few seconds of the man's development until I found this longer version of the video. Starting the film in a bar and watching the man swig back a little more than a shot appears to me that he is about to do something that he does not enjoy. I love how the bank teller's fantasy is interrupted with reality throughout the video. When she and the man are dancing on top of the desks, they take turns, him first, then her, and while she is dancing, we get a shot of the man checking his watch. We can take this gesture to mean two things: either he is being playful and gesturing that her solo dance is taking too long, or it is his non-fantasy character telling her to hurry with the money and stick it in the bag. Furthermore, fantasies follow a different time pattern than reality. In retrospect, this 4 minute video is really about 3 seconds long--the bank teller's fantasy is occurring while she and the man are looking at each other, and he, now exposed without sunglasses, is discerning whether or not she will tell the rest of the bank about the robbery.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Real Estate

Real Estate- Suburban Dogs (2009)

Dir. Richard Law

Unquestionably one of the slower paced music videos to be posted this week, Real Estate’s video for Suburban Dogs is nonetheless an extremely accurate visual representation of the band’s sound and lyrics and acts as a reminder that music videos serve a purpose other than to create a spectacle.The video is relatively straightforward, a unique product of the internet age that doesn’t seek to dazzle or glamorize, but rather embrace the experience of spending seemingly endless lazy days in suburban New Jersey doing whatever it takes to pass the time.

The strength of ‘Suburban Dogs’ lies in director Richard Law’s focus on atmosphere, which purposefully channels the band’s focus on feeling, mood, and vibe rather than blatant in-your-face emotion. The video is split into two parts: half is clean digital footage of the band performing at a New Jersey real estate office christmas party (see what they did there?); half is a montage of images of the group wandering aimlessly around the backyards and suburbs of the garden state shot with grainy Super 8 film. Aside from a playfully authentic introduction by some heavily-accented office workers at the party, the video is shot like a documentary (or at least an artsy home video) with a focus on capturing office knick knacks, employee mannerisms, and the like. The camera lingers on the tiniest details of the party, capturing the lost moments that create atmosphere such as a slightly tapping foot, the shiny sheen of grease on the buffet, or the loving laughter of women whose hair never really left the 1980s.

A frequently voiced complain about Real Estate is their uninspiring live show. The band’s hazy indie-rock never really leaves the 120 BPM range, and rarely deviates from this practiced formula. However what these critics fail to recognize, and what this music video does best to illustrate is the muted realism that Real Estate very effectively conveys in its music. The reverb-drenched arrangements of twangy guitars and faraway vocals recall a suburban nostalgia illustrated by the vintage-looking Super 8 footage and the attention to detail with digital footage.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

The Carter (2008)

The Carter is a documentary about Dwayne Carter Jr. It is one of the craziest music documentaries I’ve ever watched. Wayne gave full access to cameras and showed them intimate parts of his life. He refused to sit down for interviews for the most part. Although he started with full approval, he was not on board with the project and ended up cutting it short. The documentary is an hour and fifteen minutes long. Lil Wayne is insane, he is really a crazy character, he carries bundles of cash with him, along side porn, and of course Sizzurp. “ Weed and syrup till I die”. I suggest watching the first 10 minutes to get the feel for the film. Wayne basically, tours, drinks syrup, makes music, smokes weed, talks about philosophy, and acts a fool throughout the entire film. Watch it.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Map of Tasmania - Amanda Palmer

This music video is festive mix of outrageous and catchy. Palmer blunty espouses her (hope I don't offend anyone here) pussy pride by turning the usually taboo subject of pubic hair into a fierce and vibrant music video. The visuals pop out at you and are very pretty, serving to contrast with usual perception of pubic hair as ugly and shameful. Shock, splash and empowerment are often themes of Palmers songs or music videos, and this one fits by taking an offshoot of feminist pride and taking away the shame of a certain subject.

While there isn't a strict story in the video there is a sense of narrative. Palmer starts of by singing about censorship and oppression - but we see everyone busting loose and rocking out in resistance. Then we hear her sing about showing off her 'map of tasmania' and slowly but surely all the people shown the video reveal their maps of tasmania and they are liberated. Palmer sings about the horrors of shaving and we keep seeing women revealing their flashy exciting 'maps of tasmania' - swirls of hundred dollar bills, flowers, decks of bards and so on. As the music video goes on all involved become full of pussy pride as well. Stylistically this music video is appealing, colorful and flashy which all serve to contradict the common perception of 'maps of tasmania' as a private shame.

The fact that the subject matter of this music video is so unheard of, if not controversial also adds to its appeal. The shock value inherent in the subject matter serves as a good draw, and then after watching makes one reconsider the subject matter altogether. This makes the message in the video very effective for its audience.

*Ironically (yes real irony) you can see that some of the women in the music video are mostly shaven. Shame Shame.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Michael Jackson's Thriller

Michael Jackson's "Thriller"
Directed by John Landis
December 2nd, 1983
Starring: Michael Jackson, Ola Ray, Vincent Price

Michael Jackson's "Thriller" was a music video that affected not only a generation, but also an entire culture and how music videos were perceived entirely. After selling 9 million units, Guinness World Records listed it as the "most successful music video" in 2006. In 2009, the video became the first music video ever to be admitted into the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress. It received this honor for falling into the "historically, culturally, or aesthetically" significant category. Of course, the "Thriller dance" was instantly a pop culture icon and continues to make it's appearance in the media today.

The narrative of Thriller is truly what sets it apart from the normal music video. The beginning of the video has us spooked when we see Michael Jackson turning into a horrible werewolf right in the middle of his date. However, once it is revealed to only have been a scene from a horror movie that the "real" Michael Jackson is seeing with his date, the viewer takes a sigh of relief. As Michael's date gets scared, the two of them leave the theater and Michael begins to sing the Thriller song while teasing his date. Next, after the two pass a graveyard the voiceover of Vincent Price is heard and we see the graveyard monsters coming to live right before our eyes. With the spooky voice of Price still in the viewer's ears, we see Michael taken over by the zombies and turned into one himself. Alas, the infamous Thriller dance begins with a "human" Michael leading the pack. While they shake and shimmy through the moves we all secretly know by heart, the thrill of the film is kept in tact with a horrified date screaming about her new zombie boyfriend and running off into a haunted house. As the zombies finally are closing in on her she closes her eyes and opens to find herself sitting on Michael's couch back his house. After Michael's sweet smile assures her that it was all a dream and that he will take her home now, we see Michael begin to lead her out only to turn back and flash us his "monster eyes" to finish the film.

It is hard to describe such a cultural revolution when I was not around to experience the full effect of the actual experience. Thriller actually was one of the first music videos I had ever seen growing up which caused me to notice instantly that every music video I saw after that was not the same at all. This video is really almost just another short film and was even released alongside a special theater showing of Disney's Fantasia so that the video could qualify for an Academy Award. When we ask ourselves the question of what makes a short film, how does this video fit into that category? We have the narrative, we have a plot, and we have a genre. While most music videos do not extend the same length that Thriller does, we are still forced to ask ourselves if music videos could themselves be considered short films? I believe that a music video like Thriller is absolutely a short film because it does indeed provide me with a storyline and characters, all while giving me great dance moves to bust out at the next Halloween party I attend.