Spike Jonze; Intergalactic Zeitgeist of our Time

I just finished watching the movie Her, written & directed by Spike Jonze—and it rendered me both speechless *and* ashamed.

Speechless because of how much texture and onion peeled *feel* layers my eyeballs were privy to, and shame for forgetting, nay—obliterating from-memory—what an absolute genius Spike Jonze was/is!?

I grew up on square meals of his incredible music videos, and I thoroughly enjoyed the wacky eccentricity of Being John Malkovich which was Jonze’s first feature film directorial debut. He teamed up again with writer Charlie Kaufman for the film Adaptation which was a visceral delight and so incredibly creative and cerebral.

I recall being super excited about the prospect that Jonze was going to be bringing the ‘adaptation’ of Maurice Sendak’s classic 1963 children’s book, Where the Wild Things Are to the big screen. He also partnered with one of my favorite writers Dave Eggers, to flesh out the script further.

Film Still-Where The Wild Things Are

Film Still-Where The Wild Things Are

That movie felt like it was in production purgatory for a while, and I never got around to seeing it and suppose I fell off his radar shortly before it came out in 2009.

I had forgotten just how much of a creative mastermind Jonze was, someone so ahead of his time—that I’m convinced he’s some sort of time travelling nomad. The only other writer/director that has been remotely similar in terms of risk taking and continuity is Paul Thomas Anderson—someone who also has an incredible knowledge of music in his wake. Anderson had previously directed a couple of ex girlfriend Fiona Apple’s music videos, and he was executive music producer on the soundtracks of Boogie Nights and Magnolia, the latter being one of my all-time favorite soundtracks.

Magnolia Soundtrack. So Dreamy.

Magnolia Soundtrack. So Dreamy.

A lot of contemporary music and art has become utterly lazy in my opinion. The last time that film(s) felt emotionally transformative was during the faze of the Coen Brothers Fargo, Paul Thomas Anderson’s Magnolia, writer/director Todd Solondz’s Happiness and Sam Mendes American Beautywhich incidentally, all came out around the same time.

HER brings all of that back. All of it.

I must also give a generous nod to the quieter genius of Jonze’s ex-wife Sophia Coppola, both have shared cinematographers and posses a similar poetic aesthetic in their works.

Also, it goes without saying that writing/director duo the Coen Brothers are also exceptional in their own rite(s).

but back to *Spikes*

While I could do without the whole Jackass alliance…correct me if I’m wrong—but who in the English speaking hemisphere has consistently captured the Zeitgeist more than Spike Jonze consistently has in the last 15-20 years? No-one…not-a-one. And that includes his entire portfolio of photography, music videos, commercials, film shorts and features.

Did you know that he was also co-editor of the male oriented counter-part to Sassy magazine Dirt? XOJane‘s very own Jane Pratt hand plucked him!

Jonze was the first Hipster, the first Flash Mobber (Bjork’s, It’s Oh So Quiet)— his visual story telling was head and shoulders above what his peers were putting out—far from the overly expensive + flashy Hype Williams et al budgets. His videos always had a low-fi, cutting edge hipness to them, the story or artful thread always being at the forefront.

He is a bona fide futurist like Steven Spielberg, George Lucas and yes, even the great Stephen Hawking. I sincerely hope they all belong to a skulls-like think-tank collective, because whoever they are (aliens, me thinks)—they are light years ahead of all of us. 

Speaking of lights (weak segue I know!) the following are six of my all time favorite Spike Jonze music videos. Watching them with fresh eyes all over again makes me to crawl into his brain & jump around like it were an inflatable bouncy castle.

P.S. I would love nothing more to offer up my thoughts on each video, but I don’t want to be known as the ‘long-read blogger’ (millennial attention spans are hard to come by!) So instead, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section as to which ones are your favorites and why!

Enjoy!

WeezerBuddy Holly’-1994 (* I searched high + low for a Youtube video that they would allow me to embed, but no such luck. Please click on the arrow which will lead you to a link. Must Watch! It’s such a feel-good + clever video)

BJörkIt’s Oh So Quiet’-1995

Daft Punk ‘Da Funk’-1995

The Chemical Brothers ‘Elecktrobank’-1997 (*Starring his then girlfriend Sophia Coppola)

Fatboy Slim Praise You’-1999 (*This multi-award winning video reportedly cost only $800 to produce, with most of that money going towards a replacement boombox and food for the cast and crew. It was also shot in just ONE take. This video is missing the fake dance troupe’s extro where Spike Jonze is in character as choreographer Richard Koufey talking about his ‘inspirations’. Find the longer version online, this is the only one I was able to embed)

Weapon of Choice Fatboy Slim 2001 (*Starring the multi-talented Christopher Walken)

**Honorary mention has to go to Beastie Boys Sabotage – 1994an homage to 1970’s crime drama television series. The visual rhythmic cuts to this song are phenomenal.

***

Jonze’s tour de force Her is nominated for both Best Original Screenplay and Best Picture at the 2014 Oscars on March 2nd. He was left out of the Best Director category—an oddity for someone who is in the running for Best Picture. Let’s hope he takes the Best Original Screenplay! #FingersCrossed!

And remember, it’s my new Glengarry-esque mantra—ABJ Always Be Jonzing!  

XOXO                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        The Pop Culture Rainman™

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