Most people today tend to know Spike Jonze as the director of critically-acclaimed films such as Being John Malkovitch, Where the Wild Things Are, and Her; however, before his foray into feature films, Jonze was one of the most sought after music video directors of the ‘90s, working with everyone from the Beastie Boys to Bjork. With this in mind, here’s a look back to some of his greatest videos.
Weezer – “Buddy Holly” (1994)
In 1994, grunge’s old guard was beginning to self-destruct. Kurt Cobain’s suicide had shook the music world to its very foundations, Pearl Jam was at war with Ticketmaster, and Alice and Chains were beginning to fade from the limelight. Then along came this funny little band from Los Angeles called Weezer. Instead of the sludgy guitars and sludgier vocals prevalent in grunge, Weezer opted for cute power pop hooks and delightfully cheesy lyrics. Nothing captures the early Weezer aesthetic like the video for “Buddy Holly,” which places the band among their spiritual—if not literal—predecessors, the cast of Happy Days. Milking wholesome ‘50s nostalgia for all it’s worth, the video taps into a sense of innocence that was hard to come by in ’94. Plus those Fonz dance moves are the best.
Beastie Boys – “Sabotage” (2009)
Similarly to “Buddy Holly,” Jonze makes adept use of nostalgia in the video for “Sabotage.” This time he takes aim at ’70s buddy cop procedurals to create a hilarious satire. Mike D, MCA, and Ad-Rock portray moustachioed caricatures of cops who chase perps through seedy motels, engage in knife fights and roll around town in vintage American muscle cars. You can practically see the creators of Reno 911! and Super Troopers taking notes.
LCD Soundsystem – “Drunk Girls” (2010)
Though Jonze has focused largely on feature films in the last decade, he still makes the odd music video every once in awhile, and if “Drunk Girls” is any example, he’s still got it. The video consists of one continuous shot of band members James Murphy, Nancy Whang, and Pat Mahoney being harassed by men in panda masks. The pandas get more and more violent as the video goes on, coating the band in raw eggs, glitter, and lipstick, before shaking their microphones while they try to perform. By the end of the video, the band are duct taped together on the floor while the panda party descends into complete anarchy. It’s surreal, delirious, debauched fun. Don’t act like you wouldn’t want to be one of the pandas.
Daft Punk – “Da Funk” (2009)
Poor Charles. “Da Funk” depicts the loneliness of life in the big city better than any other music video: An impressive feat considering its protagonist is an anthropomorphic dog. As Charles the dog limps around New York accompanied only by his boombox, it’s easy to feel sorry for him. He’s berated by local kids for his broken leg and misses a connection with a friend due to a “no radio” policy on the bus. Ironically, there’s something so human about Charles despite, well, him being a dog. The video highlights the difficulty of achieving human connection in the bustling urban jungle.
Fatboy Slim – “Weapon of Choice” (2010)
Sometimes the best music video ideas are the simplest. Christopher Walken, alone in a hotel, begins to dance. That’s it. He just dances. Oh wait, he also starts flying at some point. Walken—who trained as a dancer for musical theatre prior to becoming a film star and contributed to the choreography—absolutely crushes it. There are so many great moments: The little kick spin move he does at 0:48; the step back bell ring at 1:04; and the elevator routine beginning at 2:36, are some personal favourites. It’s effortless, playful fun—just like the best dance music should be.