An item of secret desire for geeks like me was to get Spike Jonze’s videos on DVD. In the mid ‘90s, Jonze arguably was THE director to go to if you wanted your MTV submission to be memorable, talked about, and perhaps most importantly, spur record sales. If you remember the wacky video you saw on MTV that one time, chances are Spike directed it. Even after the critical success in Hollywood with an Oscar nomination for directing Being John Malkovich and before working on Adaptation, he…still managed to come back recently and direct a music video with a dancing Christopher Walken, proving he still has the touch.
Palm Pictures recently put together video compilations of several directors who have made an impact in the industry, with Spike’s being the first. The compilation comes as a two-disc set of Spike’s work, not only with videos, but also with some short films and rarities that he has filmed. The music video list, while not complete, is still very comprehensive. Here it is:
Wax “California”Beastie Boys “Sure Shot”The Pharcyde “Drop”The Breeders “Cannonball” (co-directed with Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth)Beastie Boys “Sabotage”Daft Punk “Da Funk”Fatlip “What’s Up Fatlip?”Weezer “Undone (The Sweater Song)”Fatboy Slim “Praise You” (directed by the Torrance Community Dance Group)Dinosaur Jr. “Feel the Pain”MC 900ft Jesus “If I Only Had a Brain”The Notorious B.I.G. “Sky’s the Limit”Fatboy Slim “Weapon of Choice”Weezer “Buddy Holly”The Chemical Brothers “Elektrobank”Bjork “It’s Oh So Quiet”
I should stipulate that it’s not a two-disc set as much as it is a flipper disc of material, but the videos and some rarities take up the first side, while the 2nd part consists of the short films mostly.
All the videos are in Dolby Digital 2.0, and they sound very clear, obviously they have to, considering they’re videos. Everything from the bass in the Fatlip and “Da Funk” songs to the piano/keyboards in “Praise You” sound good here.
Most of the videos here are in full frame, with a couple of widescreen exceptions, from various video sources. Some look grainy, others look fairly clear, and their transfer is OK.
Taking care of the physical extras first, there is a postcard, along with a 50 page booklet that comes with the set. Featuring Walken on the front, the book includes an interview with Jonze, along with photos taken by him and on-set production photos. For disc extras, we get video commentary by almost all of the people involved with the music (except for “Cannonball” and ”If I Only Had a Brain.”) Video shoot information/credits are included with each video also. In some instances, multiple commentary tracks are available. Loomis, one of the Jackass crew and the drummer for Wax, comments on “California.” Afterwards, he shows the camera some of the props used in the shoot, such as the guy’s torched jacket. In a nice touch, if someone is talking during a video, and they’re in mid-thought when the video ends, the picture cuts to them wrapping it up, instead of cutting off the commentary. The Beastie Boys come in with “Sure Shot” and “Sabotage,” and if you’ve listened to the Criterion two-disc set of their work, you know they aren’t big talkers, and that trend continues here. Tre and Fatlip from Pharcyde talk about their videos, and Fatlip (who we see more of on this DVD later) talks about why he likes Spike so much. Brian, Patrick and Rivers from Weezer talk about working with the dogs in “Undone” and just how cool it was doing “Buddy Holly,” even getting interviewed for news stories about using historical footage for current use (this was when Forrest Gump broke out bigtime across the US). Daft Punk shares their thoughts on the video “Da Funk” and in addition, and Tony Maxwell, a.k.a. Charles the dog boy, contributes a separate track to his thoughts on the dog mask, and a somewhat entertaining story on meeting his wife and what her likes were. Maxwell also contributes a separate track to “Buddy Holly” also. On both “Praise You” and “Weapon of Choice,” Fatboy Slim, providing a commentary track in a bubble bath, and sharing his thoughts of Spike, and how “Weapon of Choice” was basically done in the week before Jonze started work on Adaptation. J. Mascis from Dinosaur Jr. remembers Spike during “Feel the Pain,” and Puffy himself provides an alert, energetic commentary for “Sky’s the Limit.” The kids who played Little Biggie and Little Puffy provide separate tracks also. Christopher Walken provides a look at “Weapon of Choice,” and we see his hair afterwards, which is very David Lynch or something, I can’t quite put my finger on it. Wrapping things up, Bjork talks along with her video, and her friendship with Spike, not to mention where they filmed the video: “I think it’s called the Valley?”
In addition to these, the Beastie Boys return for commentaries on “Sure Shot” and “Sabotage” (which are duplicate tracks from the previous commentary section), along with “Da Funk,” “Drop,” “It’s Oh So Quiet,” “California,” “Buddy Holly,” “Cannonball,” “Undone” and “Praise You.” The guys warm up very well in their commentaries, more so than in their Criterion 2-disc set, to the point where they enjoy them more (probably since it wasn’t only their material), and making fun of Spike, seeing if he’s worked with Steven Seagal yet. There’s also the assertion made that Spike either didn’t pay bands (or in The Pharcyde’s case, break them up), but they also talk about how good some videos are, particularly the Bjork one. The session ends with them looking at the snow from the “Blizzard of 2003.” In between the first section and this, most of the commentary material is fun to listen to.
It continues with a series of interviews totaling 13 minutes, containing the commentary participants sharing their thoughts of Spike and working with him. It also includes Tamra Davis, who was a key part in getting Spike discovered, and the conversation with her takes place on an exercise bike with her newborn child strapped to her. It seemed unique enough for me to include here, what can I say? A 6 minute look at the making of “Drop” is here also, and everyone seems to enjoy the work put in on the video, but as this is on-set interviews, no one has seen the finished product yet. Side A’s bonus material concludes with over 2 dozen weblinks, a section entitled From Our Friends, featuring similar video compilations from directors Chris Cunningham and Michel Gondry, as well as a trailer for a Special Edition of Adaptation.
Side B kicks things off with 3 documentaries that are about 4 or 5 years old. The first, Torrance Rises, a 34 minute look at the Torrance Community Dance Group, and there rise from anonymous status to the ranks of the MTV awards through the success of their video “Praise You.” As Fatboy Slim’s song is the inspiration, we see him frequently, and we also see how things come together, from their Torrance rehearsals to Radio City Music Hall. Via handheld camera we also see when the video wins awards as well, and the video from the stage. It’s strange and compelling all at once, and is unique material to be included. The second film, What’s Up Fatlip? Is a look at the departed Pharcyde rapper, and the things he’s done since the band broke up. It’s a very fascinating look, and he shares his thoughts about money, success, the band, drugs, and he mentions an interesting story about a transvestite. I’m not a fan of rap, but I was captivated by what this guy said, it’s worth the time to look at. The last one is Amarillo by Morning, a look at aspiring bullriders in Houston. They’re polite kids who know what they want to do with their lives, and share their thoughts on their future, God, girls and other topics. There is an obligatory mullet shot or two and the subjects are somewhat compelling, but I thought this could be skipped.
The rarities section includes a minute long time-lapse film on a painter named Mark Gonzales, and a film named How They Get There, which is a perfect look at what happens when you don’t pay attention. There is something called The Oasis Video That Never Happened, featuring London natives interviewed by Spike and presenting their ideas to him while they listened to an Oasis song. It’s OK, but considering this is rough product, it wasn’t that enjoyable. The Woods is a short film on a skateboarder, and Spike’s “Praise You” idea was first tried out to the song “Rockafella Skank.” There is no Torrance Community Dance Group here, just Spike dancing for 4 and a half minutes. A rolling credit and thanks page rounds things out.
At $19.99 SRP, you get two discs of material shot by or including Spike Jonze, along with a diverse, somewhat all-encompassing look at his music video work, including some of the most memorable ones aired on MTV. Palm Studio has created a great series of compilations, and I’d be happy to see more aside from what’s come out already. Considering the price, fans of the director should own this one.
Special Features List
- Interview Footage