Given this summers’ preponderance of unimaginative, NSFW music videos from artists like Robin Thicke, Justin Timberlake, The-Dream, and others, times are tough for those who prefer their videos more Brando than Brazzers. Paul Thomas Anderson is the latest in a long line of Hollywood directors who have stepped into the quick-cut, booty-shaking world of music video direction and tried to make a statement.
Here are seven more examples of music videos directed by Hollywood heavyweights.
Music videos for songs from movie soundtracks often suffer from the incongruity of movie scenes that interrupt an otherwise coherent video (Jackie Chan martial-arts clips from Rush Hour 2 in the middle of Ludacris’ “Area Codes” come to mind). Antoine Fuqua’s award-winning video for Coolio’s “Gangsta’s Paradise,” which featured in the soundtrack to the movie “Dangerous Minds,” is the rare video that cohesively weaves together original video with movie footage. In this case, Fuqua produces the sort of claustrophobic urban dystopia that he would successfully recreate in films like Training Day.
For those who love Alia Shawkat (Maeby on Arrested Development), Donald Glover (Troy on Community), and dramatic irony, Barrymore’s take on “West Side Story” set to Best Coast’s hazy pop is a dream come true. Sure, she benefits from a young star-studded cast that also includes Tyler Posey, Miranda Cosgrove, and Chloe Grace Moretz, who seems unable to go 30 seconds without making a stank-face. But the story is genuinely well-executed and the denim jackets are abundant, making this video hard not to like.
This gratuitously jiggly (and probably NSFW) video is the first from Wareheim that many of us ever saw, but the “Tim and Eric” co-creator has honed his “Sesame Street”-meets-“Caligula” visual style over years of directing. Definitely don’t attempt any of the whining (the Caribbean dance form featured in the video) moves from after the 3-minute mark at home!
Spike Lee is another director with a strong music video direction pedigree as well as a long history of working with important musicians, most notably jazz trumpeter Terence Blanchard, who has served as musical director on most Spike Lee Joints. There’s a lot going on in the “Official Prison Version” of MJ’s “They Don’t Care About Us” video, from the wholly impractical blue-on-blue prison uniforms, to the odd deification of Franklin D. Roosevelt, to the newsreel montage graphic enough to make a Rage Against the Machine video editor blush. The green-screen hurricane around the 3:00-minute mark is another notable highlight. All you need to know about the second “They Don’t Care About Us” video, shot in Brazil, is that it opens with an aerial shot of Christ the Redeemer. Because of course it does.
Coppola earns a spot on this list simply for casting Scarlett Johansson in the video for Shield’s woozy single. Ok, Johansson’s appearance in this video may be coincidental with her role in Coppola’s “Lost in Translation,” the soundtrack to which featured this song, but she captures in this video the same combination of loneliness and wonder in the face of overwhelming urban stimulus that makes her so great in the film. Coppola seems captivated by the theme of loneliness in her work, and this video is a beautiful summary of themes she explores elsewhere.
Spike Jonze’s proto-flash mob is a perfect encapsulation of the exuberance of Fatboy Slim’s hit. Jonze’s guerrilla approach to the filming and home-video production value carry over the aesthetic of his skateboarding videos. Nothing is more profoundly shocking about this video than seeing a crowd of spectators and not a single smart phone. Imagine how different this video would look in 2013.
This is a list involving music videos, so who but the King of Pop makes sense in the final spot. Admittedly, the jury is still out on whether exceptionally choreographed dance sequences performed in a full leather outfit are sufficient proof of “badness.” The most amazing aspect of this video has nothing to do with MJ’s rollerskating or the ridiculous high-five his teacher gives him in the opening scene. Rather, it’s the fact that his friends’ bemusement at the end is the only realistic moment in the entire video. Also this Michael Jackson Pacino impression: