Spike was, obviously, my first choice. So I phoned him up, and he said, "I'm doing films now, I'm not doing pop videos any more, y'know. If I'm ever sort of between films, or something, maybe, but, y'know, at the moment, feature films is my main priority." So I said "Okay, fine."

And then he just sent me this fax one day, saying, "I was talking to Christopher Walken last night, and aparently he trained to be a dancer before he became a psychopathic film actor, and he said to me, 'I'd like to get my dancing down on tape while I can still do it'." Then he said, "And I just thought of you.

"Imagine Christopher Walken tap-dancing to one of your songs! What do you think?"

Norman Cook (Fatboy Slim), commentary, Weapon of Choice video

The Work of Director Spike Jonze is the first volume in The Directors Label DVD Series. Compiled and directed by Jonze, this DVD contains a broad selection of his best (short) works. Among other rarities and strange things, it includes 16 music videos, several short films, documentaries, making-ofs, interviews with musicians he's worked with, and lots of commentary tracks. It comes with a 52-page colour booklet with sketches and drawings by Jonze, and extra interviews not included on the actual DVD.

If you like music videos or short films or the whole MTV aesthetic, or if you're interested in the work of young talented directors, then you'll dig this DVD, and the others in the series, by Chris Cunningham and Michel Gondry.

Jonze put onto this DVD what he thought was his best work. For someone of Jonze's calibre, that is an impressive list indeed: it includes the Beastie Boys' Sabotage (1994), which he made to look like the opening credits of an imaginary 70's cop show, and which won him a swag of awards; Weezer's Buddy Holly (1994), starring the band playing on the set of Al's Drive-In, the diner from Happy Days, and skillfully cut into scenes from the original TV series; Björk's It's Oh So Quiet (1995), a musical song-and-dance inspired by Busby Berkeley; Wax's California (1995), a memorable 12-second slo-mo shot of a burning man running down the street, with cameo apearances from Axl Rose and Sofia Coppola's niece, Gia; Daft Punk's Da Funk (1996), in the form of a slightly surreal short film starring a dog (a common theme in Jonze's work) called Charles walking around New York City with a boombox; Fatboy Slim's Praise You (1998), starring the Torrance Community Dance Group, which was voted the best video of all time by MTV watchers; and Weapon of Choice (2000), also by Fatboy Slim, and starring the utterly terrifying Christopher Walken daintily tap-dancing around a Los Angeles hotel.

Also a noted documentary filmmaker, Jonze has included 3 of his documentaries. The first, What's Up Fatlip?, is a candid look at Derrick "Fatlip" Stewart, a former member of The Pharcyde, the LA hip-hop outfit best known for their 1996 single Drop (the video is, of course, directed by Jonze and included on this DVD), and is, frankly, not interesting for most viewers, although it's quite funny. The second documentary, Amarillo By Morning, a day-in-the-life style look at a group of young suburban cowboys, is a fascinating and funny look at the fresh generation of a gently fading American tradition.

The last documentary, though, is by far the cream of the crop. The 34-minute long Torrance Rises follows the Torrance Community Dance Group as they prepare for, rehearse for, travel to, and finally, receive a standing ovation at the MTV Video Music Awards in 1999. Nobody (except for my heartless bastard flatmate) can watch this film without falling completely in love with Richard Koufey and the rest of these innocent, unself-conscious amateur dancers who were half pushed and half lept onto the world's TVs and VCRs. In my opinion, it is worth the price of the DVD just for this.

The DVD also includes five 'Rarities'. The first of these are two short films, Mark Paints (1995) and How They Get There (1996), both starring Jonze's friend Mark Gonzales, an artist best known for his work on skateboard decks. Mark Paints is a short, quirky look at the artistic process and the small problems that can interfere. How They Get There is an enormously funny and original piece, excecuted with Jonze's inimitable finess.

The Oasis Video That Never Happened (1997) is a reel that Jonze put together when Brit rock band Oasis asked Jonze to do the video to Stand By Me. When he showed them his favourite ideas, the band aparently "wasn't feeling it," and Jonze was fired. He went ahead and put together the best ideas and shots he'd collected in his preparations, and they became this six-minute long piece reminiscent of the video for Cake's Short Skirt, Long Jacket (which was directed by the band themselves by sending a couple of friends out with a video camera and a discman). This one will leave you grinning.

Also included are Richard Koufey's audition tape for Fatboy Slim, recorded to Rockafella Skank (1998), a must-see for anyone who enjoyed Praise You, and The Woods, a fairly ordinary excerpt from a skate film Jonze worked on called Mouse, presumably also featuring the ubiquitous Mark Gonzales. There are interviews with some of the musicians featured on the disc, a very interesting making-of of the extremely technical video for The Pharcyde's Drop, and the Beastie Boys's (very funny) running commentary on a selection of the featured music videos. There are also four easter eggs hidden around the menus - I won't spoil the surprise, but they're definately worth looking for.

Additional note: Looking up How They Get There on IMDb (http://amazon.imdb.com/title/tt0351080/*ASIN=B0000AZT2X) revealed an amazing (and touching) story about a fellow independant film-maker whose creativity was destroyed and reborn because of this brilliant short film.

kthejoker pointed out: Since Spike Jonze is married to Sofia Coppola, isn't that also his own niece in the Wax video?

The Work of Director Spike Jonze (2003)
Released: October 28, 2003
Format: Colour, Double-sided multi-layer DVD. Available for Regions 1 (NTSC), 2 (PAL-UK)

Side A - Music Videos


Side B - Rarities and Other Stuff

Rarities: Documentaries:
  • What's Up Fatlip (the documentary) (1999) - Extended interview with Fatlip, former member of The Pharcyde. 31 minutes.
  • Amarillo By Morning (1997) - Follows a group of young cowboy kids living in Houston, Texas. 29 minutes.
  • Torrance Rises (1999) - Documents the preparation for, journey to, and resounding success of the Torrance Community Dance Group at The MTV Video Music Awards. 34 minutes.

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