BUY IT AT AMAZON: CLICK HERE!
RUNNING TIME: N/A
• Multiple Commentaries for each video
• Three Documentaries
A music video is essentially an extension of a song. It’s supposed to give the viewer an extra insight into what a certain song represents, or shed some light on intended symbolism that isn’t necessarily apparent in the lyrics. However, with the almost schizophrenic style of video making prevalent on the various MTVs, the medium is oft-times cheapened and watered down, making the video a mere commercial for the song. So when a video comes along that’s visual and artistic, choosing to take the extension route over the commercial, it makes you sit up and say “wow.” There are only a handful of “Wow” directors out there…is Mark Romanek one of them?
The Work of Director Mark Romanek contains 25 videos, in chronological order, starting with the most recent. I debated with myself on whether to review each video independently, or to go with a more general approach. In the end, Romanek’s resume contains a lot of clips that are important to me, and the one’s that aren’t as important to me are probably important to you guys reading. So, in the interest of completion and mostly out of respect for the massive amount of goodness contained on this little plastic disc, I decided to take the scenic route. So buckle up kids, this might take a minute.
Jay-Z – 99 Problems Jay-Z is one of the more talented MCs holding a mic right now. Sure he does use utilize some of the generic rap devices, but even when he’s rapping about pimps, hos or anything else, there’s a level of intelligence to his lyrics that you don’t see that often. 99 Problems is no different and is probably one of my favorite rap tracks of all time. The video takes place in Brooklyn, in and around the Marcy Projects (where Jay grew up). You can tell this is Jay’s tribute to where he came from, and Mark did it justice. When you think “The Projects,” it’s real easy to fall into the trap of the negative stereotypes, but Mark really showcases a talent for bringing out the positive in a potentially negative setting. Shot in black and white, there’s a respectful, artistic feel to the clip that really pulls you in and gives humanity to an environment that gets portrayed as anything but humane. Even if you weren’t a fan of hip-hop, I’m sure you could appreciate this video. It also needs to be mentioned that this video had the dubious distinction of getting the dreaded “MTV Disclaimer” on it’s World Premiere, due to the “violent” finale. However, if you couldn’t see the symbolism in the finale, you probably couldn’t see the broadside of a barn, so I’m not sure how necessary the disclaimer was.
Wear it wirh pride Jay – Yankees take it all in ’05!
Linkin Park – Faint So, Linkin Park is one of those bands I could take or leave. I don’t hate them, but I aint buying their albums. Faint, however, is one of their songs that I actually like. Now, at first glance, this is just another “Performance Video.” Unless the band has an awesome stage show, the Performance Video is just the easy way out. Unless you’re Mark Romanek. It’s with this video that we see the proficiency he has for lighting. The lighting in this video is simply breathtaking, and is almost the star of the video. However, the distinction doesn’t stop there. The cinematography in this clip is almost inspired. The band is shot entirely in silhouette, and the camera stays behind the band on stage. There’s something like a bazillion kids in the audience here and their energy is off the charts. The “Behind the Band” shot composition actually takes you out of your living room and makes you feel like you’re on stage with the band with this insanely large crowd of kids losing their minds. It’s an awesome feeling. But then something happens – after the bridge, the setting changes and we’re looking at the band, from the front, in full light playing in front of some graffiti covered wall. It’s like what the hell happened? It really pulls you out of the moment and does not work as it’s intended. In the end, I don’t feel like it ruins the efforts made in the first half, but it damn sure hurts them.
Red Hot Chili Peppers – Can’t Stop The Peppers, in my life, haven’t been relevant since Blood Sugar Sex Magik. I’ve always appreciated their performances and personalities on and off stage, but I lost interest in their music, until Can’t Stop hit the radio. It didn’t get me back in the fan club, but it came damn close. The video for this song IS the Chili Peppers. I’ve seen Higher Ground, and I’ve seen Give It Away and all the others, but, in my opinion, none of their other videos capture the essence of what that band is better than this clip. Inspired by the “One Minute Sculptures” of Erwin Wurm, the video is just shot after shot of the band goofing off, playing with little props, making living sculptures out of each other. To quote Mark, “being goofy is an art,” and nobody does it like the Peppers. Whether you like their music or not, this is such a fun, lively video and I can’t imagine anyone not enjoying it.
Johnny Cash – Hurt Okay, I’ll say it. I don’t like this song. I didn’t then and I don’t now. Hurt is one of those songs that shouldn’t be a single. It’s not meant to be successful as a single. I know this because I’ve seen the video. This song is meant to be experienced with this video and that’s the only way to truly appreciate it. The lyrics, the vocal performance, they’re so painful, so personal, but there’s no story behind it because Johnny didn’t write the song. Without the images and the footage in the video there’s nothing to accompany it, nothing to explain why this song is so sad. It almost seems like playing this song without showing the video is, in a way, exploitive. But, when accompanied with the visuals, that emotion becomes more than just auditory. You see an old, weathered man looking back on his life. A life filled with more successes than most ever dream of and he’s saying it’s left him empty. You see man who means so much to so many people, asking himself “what have I become?” It’s hard to watch and the personal introspectiveness of it makes it feel really voyeuristic, but not intrusive. When I remember Johnny Cash I remember Ring of Fire and Folsom Prison Blues, and with this video and it’s remorseful sense of dissatisfaction, it’s hard to tell if this is a fitting tribute, or just the last video he made before he died. I prefer to believe the latter, as I assume a lot of Cash’s fans do, as well.
Insert "Oversized Orifice Joke" here – but remove Anthony first! *rimshot*
Audioslave – Cochise When former members of two of the biggest bands of the 90s decide to start a new band, their debut needs to be tremendous. Not only do you have to cater to fans of the original bands, you have the added pressure of catering to fans of Soundgarden and Rage Against the Machine – two bands whose sounds were as different as they get. Well, if a tremendous debut is what they needed, Cochise was that and more. It’s already one of my favorite songs of all time and after I first heard it I was anxiously awaiting the video. The first time I saw it I was blown the fuck away. This video is gorgeous. Breathtakingly gorgeous. Again, like with Faint, it is technically a Performance Video. Again, Mark Romanek shows a proficiency for lighting his subjects, and again the lighting takes center stage. But what makes this video stand out from all the rest is that the lighting is comprised of fireworks. Nothing but fireworks. There’s no digital enhancements, no post-production clean-up, nothing but fucking fireworks. And I don’t mean the local 4th of July Fireworks display at the local high school football stadium. Nearby residents actually called the police because they thought a war was going on. Seriously, words can’t do this thing justice. How many ways can you say “a lot of fireworks?” If you haven’t seen it then find it. Catch it online or request it on one of the video channels. This video is amazing, and it would probably be just as beautiful without sound as it is with it. The editing, cinematography, everything here is sublime. This is a flawless video. Oh, and in case you couldn’t tell, it wins the My Favorite Video on the Disc Award.
No Doubt – Hella Good No Doubt is another band like the RHCP. I liked their early stuff then lost interest. However, unlike Can’t Stop, Hella Good didn’t do anything to reform me. If anything it annoyed the “Hella” out of me. The video is set in this almost post-apocalyptic punk-rock waterworld, and didn’t really do anything to serve the song. It’s a good example of the video being a commercial for the song rather than an extension of it. However, in Mark’s defense, when you’re dealing with a commercially mainstream song like Hella Good, there’s not much to extend upon. “You got me feelin’ hella good so I’m gonna keep on dancin’.” Sorry, there’s no symbolic meaning in those lyrics. So, looking at this video for what it is, it’s not bad. The production values are excellent and Romanek did a good job of capturing this little world he envisioned. This is another black & white video and has this gritty, documentary feel to it that fits with the grungy punk world we’re looking into. And yeah, Gwen looks sexy, but that’s not hard to do – she’s sexy anyway. There’s really not much else to say about this one so we’ll move on.
You’re looking at one of the last remaining True Guitar Heroes – respect it, bitches!!
Mick Jagger – God Gave Me Everything So, here it is: I hate this song. You know what else? I hate this video. I wasn’t the biggest fan of the Stones to begin with (although Angie is another one of my favorite songs), and I damn sure didn’t follow Mick’s solo career. But even though I didn’t like the song, I was still looking forward to the video. I mean I didn’t like Hella Good but the video was at least decent, so this should be too, right? Wrong. You know those body rig cameras? They strap them onto the actor so no matter which direction he/she moves, they’re always in the dead center of the frame? It gives this cool little effect of the background moving while the subject stays still. Well, it’s cool the first few times you see it, but now it’s everywhere. Fear Factor uses them, car commercials use them, it has really become an overused trick. So I was kinda aggravated to see it used yet again in the start of this video…and in the middle of this video…and in the end of this video. Practically every frame used in this video was shot with a body rig. And if that wasn’t bad enough, Romanek decided it would be cool if these people moved as much as possible. It gave me a headache, and I’ll probably never play it again.
Janet Jackson – Got ‘til It’s Gone So, two duds in a row, maybe this disc isn’t as good as I had originally thought. Wrong again, as it picks back up with this little gem. I will say I probably wouldn’t buy this song off iTunes, as I prefer That’s the Way Love Goes. It’s a similar sounding song but has a much better groove to it – plus, any song featuring Q-Tip loses cool points with me. That dude just isn’t good. Anyway, have you ever met a girl who was semi-attractive physically, but had this beautiful, sparkling personality that actually made her look prettier than she would if you didn’t know her? Well, this song is that girl and this video is that personality. This would classify as a party video and typically, when you think of a black artist putting out a party video, you’d automatically think of something like Nelly’s Hot in Herre. But that’s not what this is. This video shines a light on the African culture as opposed to the African-American culture – there is a difference. There’s no flashy lights, no make up and no overt sexuality. Nobody’s throwing 100 dollar bills at the camera, nobody’s holding their wrists up so the light can reflect off of the diamonds. I’m not taking anything away from that branch of the culture, as I’m a fan of it too, but this is something totally different. It’s a side of that race that doesn’t get a lot of attention nowadays and that’s a shame because it’s a good look at what the modern day African-American culture is rooted in. I don’t want to go off on a political rant here, so I’ll say that this is a rich, beautiful video that does a lot to serve a song that I wouldn’t have paid attention to otherwise. Oh, and again I’ll make a point to mention that even with the tarantula hair and no make-up, Janet Jackson’s still as sexy as hell.
"Can Ryan Seacrest do THIS!?"
Fiona Apple – Criminal This probably wins the award for Favorite Song on the Disc and is easily the one video I’ve watched more than any other. Criminal is one of those songs that’s sexy as hell without being too “in your face.” It has this bluesy-jazz feel to it and the lyrics can make you take a breath. “I’ve been a bad, bad girl. I’ve been careless with a delicate man.” When a song opens with a line like that it makes you pay attention. But as sexy as the song is, the video trumps it on every level. This is probably where Mark’s propensity for directing talent really shines. The video plays out like the end of the party you never got invited to in high school. Well…that I never got invited to. Bodies are everywhere in various stages of dress and here’s Fiona in the middle of it all talking about how naughty she’s been. But the real sexuality comes into play with the way Apple interacts with the camera. I know it’s a cliché line, but she really does “make love to the camera.” Certain looks she gives, or certain ways she tilts her head…my wife told me to stop staring if that says anything. But when something as simple as a look can have that type of effect, it really says a lot about how Romanek knows his subjects and how he can get exactly what he wants. In the hands of a lot of other directors, this would have ended up as nothing more than censored smut (which I’m a fan of as well), but there’s so much depth and emotion and heart in this clip that it’s an experience to watch. This was Fiona’s first video but you’d never be able to tell.
Nine Inch Nails – Perfect Drug I’ve never liked Nine Inch Nails. Which, in essence, is saying I’ve never liked Trent Reznor (as a musician), because he IS Nine Inch Nails. I’ve only ever liked one of his songs (guess which one) and this ain’t it. Although I do take solace in the fact that he doesn’t like it either, which means the man has taste. But again I look to Mark Romanek to take a song I don’t care for and give me a video that I enjoy. And, for the most part, he succeeded. What we have here is what would essentially be the inner workings of an absinthe trip. The imagery and sets are dark and beautiful and lighting is perfectly toned. Basically, everything looks…polished…polished and generic. There’s nothing that stands out here. Reznor does a good job performance-wise as he brings a lot of energy to this character, but at the end of the day it’s rather forgettable and not particularly re-watchable, even though I did enjoy it the first time around.
Beck – Devil’s Haricut This is one of those songs that I don’t get. But more importantly, I don’t care that I don’t get it because it fuckin rocks. I love this song and I don’t care what the lyrics mean. I think Mark had the same idea because I have no clue what Midnight Cowboy has to do with any of this. See, the video is an homage to Midnight Cowboy. You got Beck in the cowboy hat and boots, walking around carrying the boom box just being an all-around badass. Well, until he gets run over by the car but that’s another story. This is one of those videos that doesn’t have a meaning and doesn’t necessarily extend upon the song (or maybe it did – like I said I didn’t get the song anyway), but it’s cool regardless. You got a cool song that makes no sense and a cool video that apparently has nothing to do with the song it represents. I wouldn’t expect anything else from a Beck video. Quality wise the shots in this thing are super-simple but effective. What really makes this clip stand out is the freeze-frame zoom they do after each set piece. It’s such a simple technique but it’s really effective. I wish I had something deep or important to say about this but I don’t – it’s fun, it’s goofy and I enjoyed the hell out of it.
Weezer – El Scorcho Weezer is one of those bands that, no matter how big they become, still feels like the guys next door. Guys that still play in their garage…or in the case of this video – their living room. The video plays out like a basic jam session, but, again, Mark’s inclination towards lighting comes into play and he takes basic light fixtures (lamps, Christmas lights, etc.) and programs this elaborate stage light show that gives it this wonderful, cozy rock show feel to it. Again, the video doesn’t have a lot to do with the song, as the purpose, in my opinion, is to show that these are just your average guys, despite the fact that they’re millionaire rock stars. However, the real story here is a wonderful little behind the scenes tale that’s discussed in great detail in Mark’s commentary. The story does even more to add to the “regular joe” image the video gives to the band. I won’t go into detail on it as I’m already re-writing the encyclopedia here, but I will say that the term “Director’s Cut” takes on a little different meaning with this video.
The new ad campaign for Lemonheads Candy didn’t go over quite as well as they had hoped.
Eels – Novocaine for the Soul This is the first (and only) band on the list that I’ve never even heard of. Honestly, my first introduction to this band was watching this disc. I gotta say I wasn’t totally impressed, but not totally put off either. The song is kinda snappy, but ultimately forgettable. The video is kinda cool, with the band floating in and around what looks like NYC. The wire work is well done and the band’s performance while strapped into the wires was pretty impressive. The cinematography is very nice with Mark getting all the angles even with certain members of the band floating 60 feet in the air (!). This is probably one of the least impressive entries here, as it doesn’t make me react one way or the other. The word “meh” may be lazy, but it wouldn’t be that out of place here.
And here we are at the halfway point. Grab a soda, hit the bathroom – I’ll be here when you get back.
Ready? Ok, here we go…
Sonic Youth – Little Trouble Girl I’d heard of Sonic Youth a long time ago, but for some reason I always (mistakenly) grouped them in with the Nirvana/Seattle scene. I’m not entirely sure why – maybe I heard about them when that scene blew up. Either way, I’d never been introduced to their music until now. Little Trouble Girl is a song from a daughter to her mother, basically saying “I’ve tried to be everything you want but I’m not so deal with it.” The choruses are melodic and haunting, but the spoken word verses just grated on my nerves, it was a chore to sit through this song. The video, on the other hand, was interesting. This is an “Icon Video,” where one central character takes up the brunt of the screen time, kinda like the Bee Girl, or the Hugging Guy. Romanek’s Freaky-Fingered Alien Girl spends the video wandering around an empty office building. The Girl is supposed to represent a free spirited girl in an environment in which she would be considered “alien.” The song and the video has a resonant 50’s vibe, and back then there were no women in board rooms, or anywhere else besides the front desk, so that’s where the “alien” aspect fits in. I could actually spend a lot more time on this as this video made me think a lot more than the rest of them. Tricky thing is, I’ve watched it several times and I still can’t decide whether or not I like it. It’s probably that pesky song getting in the way.
Michael and Janet Jackson – Scream I remember when the Scream video came out. I remember that a lot of people made a lot of hype about it, but I never understood why. I was like 15 when it dropped and the only thing that struck me in the video was when Janet grabbed her breasts in this “Fuck yeah” kinda way. When you’re a 15-year old boy that’s gonna stick with you. However, watching it now, knowing what I know about the Jacksons and the history and everything, this video takes on a whole new light. I don’t really need to say a lot about this video – if you haven’t seen it (or don’t know the current climate in the Jacksons’ world) then you’ve been living under a rock, but what I will say is this video seems extremely relevant now with their current situation. And from what I remember, Michael wasn’t feeling this much heat back in 1995, so this video looks to have been a little ahead of its time. Take that as you will.
Madonna – Bedtime Story So, I only like two Madonnas: Material Girl Madonna and Like A Prayer Madonna. I only like those Madonnas because those are the only two sexy Madonnas. Musically? Nah. Never liked her music. Probably never will and Bedtime Story is no exception. It’s got this techno-house vibe going on, the lyrics are repetitive, it really seems like a lazy song with a glossy sheen applied. So when the video first starts and I see this brightly (and beautifully) lit futuristic sleep research center type of place, I’m not expecting much. But once again, Mr. Romanek pulls a fast one on me and makes me like a video for a song that I can’t stand. The first minute or so matches up with the song perfectly. There’s a futuristic techno visual style that annoys me as much as the song does. But then we’re taken into what’s supposed to be Madonna’s dream world. It’s kinda like The Cell, but with an actual Pop Legend, instead of a Husband-Hopper with a big ass (who wishes she was a Pop legend). The visuals in the rest of the video aren’t at all what you’d expect from Madonna. It’s dark and sometimes a little creepy, and while I don’t find Madonna very sexy in the video, I do find the video sexy. What’s really interesting about this video is that the imagery was inspired by artwork that Madonna herself collected. So this may be a decently accurate depiction of what Ms. Guy Ritchie is actually like. If it is, then she gets a few more cool points from me.
"So Doc, I watched this video and now every time I walk by a garden I get the wood. Is that normal?"
R.E.M. – Strange Currencies I like R.E.M. okay. I enjoyed quite a few of their songs, but I can’t go out on a limb and say that I’m a fan. This song, by the way, isn’t one of those songs. It reminds me of Everybody Hurts and it’s hard to get that song out of my head once this one starts playing. Worst part is, this video does nothing for me either. It’s extremely generic, nothing stands out and makes me say “wow” and the concept is less than inspired. The band drives around looking for a girl with a police light attached to their car. The light is supposed to help provide some cool lighting effects (and sometimes it does) but in the end this whole thing just falls flat. Which really doesn’t bother me anyway, I’ve never liked Michael Stipe so I couldn’t care less if his video is good or not. Moving on…
G. Love & Special Sauce – Cold Beverage Another band that I’d only heard of, never heard. Which is a shame because if the rest of their stuff is as fun and loose as this I’ve been missing out. Cold Beverage is a song about, you guessed it, a cold beverage. No innuendo here. No hidden agenda or fancy songwriter’s backwards talk. This man is singing about a cold beverage and I think that’s great (no sarcasm, seriously). Sometimes the best things are simple, and this video is no exception. Like I said earlier, a video should extend upon a song, and this one does that perfectly. The band is set up outside a small general store and sings about cold drinks while the patrons rock out and drink up. It is technically a performance video, but again, with the black and white and the film grain, it feels pretty natural. To tell you the truth, it’s almost like you can feel this place. When the camera’s outside you almost feel hot, when it’s focused on that icy bottle of root beer, you can almost feel the chill coming off of it. The camera work is masterful and it all comes off natural and you can tell there’s no direction here. No dramatization. Just point the camera and push record. So, with that being said, the editing plays a big part in why this video is as good as it is. But, the biggest contributor is the fact that these guys didn’t want to lip synch. They performed live, and it was recorded live on a little 8 track. So not only do we have this natural, gritty look, we have this natural, gritty sound to accompany it. It was a great touch and I’m not sure if the video would have been as good if they overlaid the usual studio cut.
Nine Inch Nails – Closer So, remember earlier, in the Perfect Drug rant, I told you I only liked one NiN song? Well this is it. I love this song and have loved it since the first time I heard it. And no – not because of the subtle sexual undertones of the chorus (although it is fun to sing), but because all the other NiN songs are these super heavy industrial scream fests. Closer is such a contradictory song in that it has this polished, mainstream pop-ish sound with dramatically anti-pop lyrics. This is truly a great song. I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who didn’t like it, regardless of how they felt about the rest of NiN’s work. So, when you hear a song like Closer you automatically have to see the video. What could be in it? Will there be boobies? (again, I was 14 – I liked the boobies) Well, it was awhile before I got to see the video in any form (this disc was my first look at the uncut version and eureka – there ARE boobies!), and I’m actually kinda torn on it. It’s a beautiful video, the images are incredible (the beating heart at the beginning is my personal favorite) and it’s extremely well produced. But, for some strange reason it doesn’t really fit with the song. I can’t explain why, but it just looks like Trent Reznor singing a song in a house full of weird shit. I don’t like the idea of the little girl in the video, I don’t get why the Monkey’s there, I don’t understand how any of it has anything to do with the song at all, however I like it, I like it alot…and that’s my final answer.
David Bowie – Jump They Say David Bowie’s had more images than Madonna. I’m not sure what that has to do with anything other than the fact that in this video he’s wearing a suit and tie. First of all the song is kinda catchy, but it sucks at the same time. It’s like you gotta give it a verse or two before you realize that it sucks. Now, in regards to the video, it takes place in what looks like the Clamp Building before the Gremlins took shit over. Or maybe Cyberdyne Systems before they fucked shit up. This video gives me the most trouble because Mark says in the commentary that the reason he used the office building theme is because David Bowie told him “I wanna wear a suit and tie.” So it seems kinda flighty to base the entire premise on the wardrobe choice of the star. I think what bothers me the most is that this video could have possibly been much better if the director didn’t have to work within those confines. Kind of the “What Might Have Been” Situation. Oh well, I’ll get over it. Let’s move on.
Madonna – Rain So, another Madonna video. The song may not remain the same, but the opinions do…sorta. See, I didn’t like Bedtime Story as a song, but I really got into the video. Rain I enjoyed slightly more as a song but I didn’t like the video. Kinda funny how that works, huh? The song isn’t something I would put on my iPod rotation, but I probably wouldn’t change the station if it came on. The video? Not good. Totally uninspired. “Let’s make a video about…wait for it…making a video!” The set pieces are beautiful, again the lighting is a masterstroke. But it’s shallow, it’s empty and I don’t feel any sense of creativity coming from it at all. With the other videos I didn’t like I at least had something to dig through with the imagery, but this is just an episode of Making the Video. Granted, it’s a well-produced episode, but you get the idea.
Lenny Kravitz – Are You Gonna Go My Way Another performance video. But, as with all Mark Romanek Performance Videos, that’s not a bad thing. Remember when I said that this set is chronological from newest to oldest? Well it’s with this video that the world first saw Mark Romanek’s love affair with lights. And love the lights he does. The lightshow on display in this video is nothing short of brilliant. Lenny’s performance is rockin’ from start to finish…this is another example of how a great video can take a song you only sorta like and make you love it. I do have a question though? Where do these directors find these kids? Everytime you see a video with an audience full of kids, their energy is almost a character itself. This video is no exception. These guys weren’t quite as rabid is the Linkin Park kids, but I’m always blown away to see how hard these guys rock out in these videos. Here’s to you, Video Kids. Keep rockin’ out with your…well…ya know.
Keith Richards – Wicked As It Seems Apparently Mick aint the only Stone looking for some solo love. Now, like I said, earlier, I don’t really follow the Stones (or their solo careers) but it seems to me that Keith Richards is known for only 3 things: playing guitar, smoking and being older than dirt. So, Wicked as It Seems starts playing…and what’s this? It aint bad! The first thing I notice is a really obvious similarity to the Stones’ When Love Is Strong. But once you get past that (or maybe even because of that) this is a decent song. Sadly, this video seems like another example of trying to sell the song, rather than the idea. But, don’t forget we’re here at the very beginning of Mark’s career now, so he hadn’t honed his craft yet. Although that argument does wear kind of thin when you notice who this video is sandwiched between. I mean that Lenny Kravitz video was the good, and the one before this one?
En Vogue – Free Your Mind Yeah, I’m a white guy from Texas. Ya know what? I love En Vogue. I haven’t heard one of their songs that I didn’t like and Free Your Mind is no exception. The lyrics are pretty self explanatory so the director doesn’t have to worry about things like symbolism or hidden imagery and the like. So a good director would let these ladies do what they do best: sing like crazy and be sexy as hell. As it turns out, Mark Romanek is a good director. What we have here is a model for what every fashion show should be. This video has been around long enough that most have you have already seen it – several times. I won’t go into a whole expository rave about it, I’ll just say that it was fun to revisit this little gem as I haven’t seen it in awhile.
kd lang – Constant Craving While this is the last (and oldest) clip on the disc, it isn’t his first as one would believe. According to Mark, he considers anything earlier than this video “embarrassing.” I find that hard to believe as this is a fine video and still does a wonderful job of showcasing mark’s imagination and flair for imagery. Now, the song itself, while being a solid piece of Adult Contemporary Popness, isn’t one that I would listen to on any sort of regular basis. The video is loosely based on what the opening night would have been like for Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot (and I am not ashamed to admit that I only know that because of the commentary). The problem with that is, your standard video watcher isn’t going to pick up on that reference. It’s a little too obscure and thereby doesn’t have the same resonance that it should. You know the old saying, “Once you explain the joke it’s no longer funny.” Well, that kind of applies here. At first glance I thought it was just some random Vaudeville or Circus Sideshow Performance and there’s kd backstage, singing. So I’m like “Ok, what does this have to do with anything?” However, with that said, again I like the video. It’s really well made and even though it doesn’t fit the song, the two do sort of go together in a weird stream-of-consciousness sort of way. See I don’t even know what I’m saying anymore.
So there you have it. There seems to be a running theme of Mark directing videos for artists bigger hits. Kd lang, NiN, Fiona Apple, Lenny Kravitz and many others got career jumpstarts from his videos. He is truly a masterful director and completely deserving of this release. He’s one of the only directors I know of that can take a song that you hate and, through the video, make you like it. In a world where most directors care only about hitting the number one spot on TRL, Mark is one of the few directors who has the balls to stand up and say “Fuck MTV, this video suits this song and if they don’t wanna play it then fuck em.” The only reason this set didn’t get a 10 was because of the 1 or 2 videos that just left me cold, and the fact that I would have much rather the set started with kd lang and ended with Jay-Z, so you could see his skill progress with each video. The final verdict: If you’re a fan of anything in this medium; camerawork, lighting, directing, editing, acting or just a fan of music itself this set is a must have.
9.0 out of 10
If any part of you ever wanted to be a rockstar, this shot should make you giddy.
There’s surprisingly a pretty healthy mix of full-screen to wide-screen videos here, with most of the wide-screens showing up at the beginning of the disc. The transfers are gorgeous, but that’s not really a surprise – any anomaly is probably going to be intended. The videos that are gonna make you love your HD tv are the performance videos, when Mark’s innate talent for lighting is really going to shine (rimshot). It’s a beautiful set, but I can’t give it a 10 – after all, it’s no Finding Nemo.
9.0 out of 10
Again, nothing surprising here – the audio is flawless, as most music videos use studio cuts anyway, so it stands to reason you get studio-quality sound (although the inclusion of the Dolby Track is nice). The only one that doesn’t is Cold Beverage, but that video is all the better for it.
9.0 out of 10
So there’s at least one commentary (Romanek’s) accompanying each video, most have two (Mark and the artist) and some even have three! So I knew we just took this long journey over 25 music videos, but now we have twice as many commentaries to go through, so get settled. I’m kidding! *ducks* You’re definitely guaranteed a good listen with Mark’s Commentary (especially on the Weezer video), the artist’s commentaries range from insightful, to the Memory Lane track (“Oh, I remember this shot – it was really hard”) and everything in between. I think the only useless commentary was Joni Mitchell’s on Janet’s Got ‘til It’s Gone. These are really worth the time to listen to. One of the things you gather from all of these commentaries is that Romanek is apparently a tyrant on the set. You’ll hear a lot of people talk about him being a perfectionist and just going off on PA’s, but apparently they respect it – so more power to him
So, in addition to the commentaries, there’s three documentaries:
The Making of 99 Problems: This is almost a useless documentary insofar as 95% of the information in the documentary was used in the commentaries. The information is interesting and it’s not fluff, but if you hear the commentaries you’ve seen the documentary (or vice verse).
The Work of Director Mark Romanek: Well, it looks like the recycling of information is a running theme with these documentaries. While there is a lot of new information, I’d say over half of the information found in this documentary is going to be found over the course of the several commentaries.
Romanekian: Ben Stiller, Chris Rock and Robin Williams sit around talking about their favorite Romanek videos. It’s not a serious documentary, but it’s not funny either (although that was the intended purpose).
Inside the case is a 56-page interview book that includes snapshots from the sets and an interview between mark and Spike Jonze. It’s a great read and a great addition to the set.
The set of extras is probably the most disappointing aspect of this disc. Even though there is a wealth of great information, the recycling between documentaries and commentaries kind of cheapens it.
8.0 out of 10
The case art is a still from the Devil’s Haircut video with the now signature Director’s Label Black Box Overlay. It’s sleek and sexy, but if I were to make one change, I think I would have used the Sunflower Shot in Madonna’s Bedtime Story. But yeah, this works.
8.5 out of 10
Little known trivia about Lenny Kravitz: His mother was on The Jeffersons and his father was The Predator!