YouTopia: The only man who could make Walken dance

Between directing groundbreaking films like Being John Malkovich and Adaptation, backing well-known skate vids like Video Days and Yeah Right, and co-creating MTV’s Jackass, Spike Jonze has produced a few era-defining music videos in his time. This time on Youtopia, we’ll check them some out.

Born Adam Spiegal, Jonze has been making videos since he was 23 and has helmed about 49 projects since 1992 (including 12 videos in 1994 alone). His best work blends wit, spectacle, and thematic ingenuity into one sublime package, often transcending genre convention in the process. Jonze’s list of collaborators is ample evidence of his appeal: the Beastie Boys, Weezer, Daft Punk, Notorious B.I.G., and more.

Here’s a few of my favorite Spike Jonze projects:

Sabotage – Beastie Boys – 1994
“Sabotage”, like “Buddy Holly” below, functions as a rehash of ‘70s television, this time spoofing hammy detective shows Hawaii Five-O and Starsky and Hutch. The brilliance of “Sabotage” is its ability to maintain kinesis without any actual storyline –-a testament to Jonze’s frenetic editing. The Beastie Boy’s fake mustaches don’t hurt either. (Fun fact: Jonze’s one-time lady friend, Sophia Coppola, conducted the fake interview at the beginning of the video).Buddy Holly – Weezer – 1994Watch

Paying homage to Happy Days and 1950s rock, the video for “Buddy Holly” took Rivers Cuomo’s power pop classic to its obvious extreme. Jonze blended old clips from the popular ‘70s show with new footage of the band, including an introduction from cast member Al Molinaro–the owner of Arnold’s Drive-In Diner. Highlights include Pat Wilson’s hair and an excellent dance solo by the Fonz.

Elektrobank – Chemical Brothers – 1997
It may just be Olympic fever, but there’s something about “Electrobank” that makes gymnastics seem fascinating. Perhaps it’s the impressive flips, storyline, or throwback coach that make the video so immediate. Or maybe the cinematography (see: 2:39-2:43) does the trick. Okay, I lied–it’s the ribbon wand.
Notorious B.I.G. ft. 112 – Sky’s the Limit – 1997Of the Spike Jonze video’s that feature children (including “Ricky’s Theme” by the Beastie Boys and “Y Control” by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs), “Sky’s the Limit” does the best job of parodying its respective genre. “Parody” may be a strong word given that Bad Boy Entertainment contracted Jonze to make the video after Notorious B.I.G.’s death in early ’97, but the music video still draws attention to the childish nature of hip-hop materialism and showmanship. Then again, the piece also invokes Biggie Small’s loss of innocence (he raps: “I mean loyalty, niggaz bought me milks at lunch/The milks was chocolate, the cookies, buttercrunch/In here, eyes crossed from blue and white dust/Pass the blunt”) and recalls a time when he had less money and, yes, less problems.Weapon of Choice – Fatboy Slim – 2000WatchLet me know when you convince Christopher Walken to tap dance for your video. Then we’ll talk.

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