Here are three new videos that challenge the concept of sexuality in the format. Audiences are used to dancers, models, and objects of affection in clips; what happens when these sex objects are taken out of their element?
Brenmar – Taking It Down
The video for Brenmar’s “Taking It Down” flips the concept of the lap dance: the dancer keeps her clothes on as she takes off Brenmar’s… hair. Intercut with scenes from a dreamlike, after-hours rave in the barber shop, the clip complements the Marques Houston-sampling slice of rhythm and bass. Who knew a straight razor shave could be so sexy?
The Weeknd – The Morning
From the High 5 Collective comes another unofficial – yet slickly produced – video for a song by the Weeknd. Like the clip for “What You Need,” this one for “The Morning” features semi-dressed club girls during the morning after. But as these four wander home from partying in the desert, things take a turn for the weird. Models, cocaine, the Devil – what doesn’t this video have?
Odd Future has come a long way from lo-fi skate videos. The clip for Tyler’s “She” actually has a narrative, albeit an OFWGKTA-approved one about stalking and violence. Tyler (who also directed) appears as the ski-mask and Supreme clad Goblin, stalking Frank Ocean’s girlfriend. The twisted tale of high school devotion ends with Tyler smiling and practically winking at the camera, acknowledging that the video – and the Odd Future MO – are both fantasies.
Happy Memorial Day. Let me begin by asking, why are you reading blogs? Get outside, fire up the BBQ, pour some drinks (may I suggest Trailer Park Punch? 1 part Jack Daniels, 1 part lemonade), and get the party started. For some inspiration, here are three videos that represented the height of partying for my preteen self.
Ghost Town DJs – My Boo
The song may be timeless, but the video is more a time capsule. “My Boo” is like a spring break edition of The Grind: it’s all hard-bodies chilling at the pool, playing beach volleyball, and (inexplicably) washing cars. Fun fact: watch for a cameo by Jermaine Dupri, who released “My Boo” on his label’s seminal booty bass compilation So So Def Bass All-Stars.
2Pac – I Get Around
2Pac was the rare rapper who could bounce from party rap to gangsta rap without seeming inauthentic. “I Get Around” is an example of the former, and the video is practically a parody of hip hop extravagance. Nearly two decades later, the bikini-clad party girls seem almost modest, the poolside flirting quaint. Fun fact: the song features Shock G and Money-B of Digital Underground, the group that gave 2Pac his first break.
Smashing Pumpkins – 1979
One of the most famous videos of the grunge era, “1979” is a tribute to high school hijinks: the kind of boredom-induced fun that includes trashing convenience stores and throwing house parties. Fun fact: for years, I assumed the pool make-out scene was blurring out nudity, but wistful thinking aside, it appears to be water on the lens.
Billing Bridesmaids as the female version of The Hangover only gets it half right. Sure, there is vulgar, gross-out comedy and a quirky cast (a she wolf pack?), but Bridesmaids is sweeter and more realistic than The Hangover. Broadening the film’s appeal is an undercurrent of romantic comedy that offers some laughs, too.
Bridesmaids stars Kristen Wiig, who co-wrote the film with Annie Mumolo (who appears in the film as the woman who loses it on an airplane). Between that and the female-focused plot, the film is being held up as proof that women can do comedy, a plainly sexist argument that I don’t give much credence to. Wiig’s ability to carry the film shouldn’t be surprising: apart from Saturday Night Live, she’s contributed hilarity and heart to films like Paul and Whip It. With this film, she joins Tina Fey and Amy Poehler as comedians whose blockbusting talent wasn’t fully realized until they left SNL (where jokes have gone to die for the last decade).
Wiig’s Annie is a mess, financially, romantically, and socially. Her business (and passion) were swept away in the recession, and her love life is defined by her impossibly boorish fuck-buddy Ted (Jon Hamm, playing up the comedic chops that he’s shown on SNL, coincidentally). When her best friend Lillian (Maya Rudolph) gets engaged and makes her maid-of-honor, the happy moment is a panic-inducing spotlight on her disappointing life.
The rest of the film chronicles the disastrous run-up to Lillian’s wedding. The same unlucky streak that dominates Annie’s life befalls her best laid (but on a budget) plans at every turn. Making matters worse is Lillian’s newest friend, Stepford Wife Helen (Rose Byrne), who is determined to undermine Annie and dominate the proceedings. She’s cold and bitchy, with the Botoxed smile and passive aggressive nature of a Stepford Wife; Byrne handles it well, but the character is pretty two-dimensional.
The rest of the bridal party provides most of the film’s laughs, albeit unevenly. Becca (Ellie Kemper, from The Office) and Rita (Reno 911’s Wendi McLendon-Covey) provide both sides of the marriage coin: cheerful newlywed and beaten-down mother of boys, respectively. Their contrasting comedic styles are mined for a 7-and-7 soaked scene, but not much else. The highlight of the supporting cast is Melissa McCarthy’s Guy Fieri-channeling performance as Megan. To re-visit the Hangover analogy, McCarthy is Bridesmaid‘s Zach Galifianakis, stealing every scene she’s in with her over the top antics.
Along with her maid-of-honor duties, Annie begins a flirtation with Officer Nathan Rhodes (Chris O’Dowd of The IT Crowd), who is both inexplicably Irish and inexplicably the only cop in Milwaukee. This plot line plays out predictably, but O’Dowd infuses the character with equal parts awkward goofball and grounded nice guy.
The script is very funny, and apart from a battle with food poisoning and an aggressive tennis match (wherein “tennis ball to the boob” is the new “football in the groin”), the jokes have an improvisational feel. Not everything works, though. Annie’s horrible roommates are too odd-ball for the rest of the film. Gratuitous aerial shots of Milwaukee makes pauses in the action feel like a tourism advertisement; if looking to edit some time off the two plus hours, I’d have started there. A scene that tries to make the unbearable Helen sympathetic doesn’t ring true, but is thankfully saved from schmaltz at the last second.
If you want the outrageous comedy of The Hangover, forget the regrettable (but inevitable) sequel. Bridesmaids is the right mix of tender and hilarious, like a tennis ball to the boob.
Here are a trio of videos that start to fill in the blanks around buzzworthy – yet mysterious – artists.
With only one official release to their name (“Days”), it was difficult to pinpoint the sound of CREEP; it takes more than a single point to define an artist. But with the release of the video for “You,” the points are beginning to form a line.
The video for “You” is a study in duality, in the same way that the’s goth-tinged R&B balances light and dark. The stark, black and white clip intersperses images of both duos responsible for the song – CREEP and twin sister vocalists Nina Sky. CREEP is mostly shown in silhouette or out-of-focus, practically stalking Nina Sky down an otherworldy hallway. There is a sensuality to the clip that matches its eeriness; what’s with the stigmata imagery?
Somehow, the video for James Blake‘s “Lindisfarne” is creepier than Creep’s offering. The mellow, finger-picked song is accompanied by an uneasy, almost cultish video. Who are these misfit toys, with their strange rituals, both corporeal and metaphorical? I’m guessing most viewers will find the literal spit swapping gross, not nostalgic; this generation didn’t have the liberty of becoming blood brothers, or using any other bodily-fluid-swapping bonding. Still, the feelings of abuse and loss in a clip that – at first glance – could be out of a British coming of age film, are quite surprising.
Nothing about Frank Ocean or his associates in Odd Future is predictable, so when he released “Acura Integurl” as the lead video for Nostalgia, Ultra (instead of “Novacane”), no one should have been surprised. Despite not appearing on the mixtape version of the album, the piano ballad is quickly becoming a fan favorite.
The impossibly lush video features Ocean, lovelorn and driving an Acura down the highway. The video effects that obscure the rising heartthrob serve only to increase the mystery and allure that surround him. Nostalgia, Ultra is set to be re-released on May 31, after which he should be able to buy the video’s sports car.
Nearly a decade has passed since practically no one saw Wet Hot American Summer in theaters. Thankfully, the film lives on, having achieved cult status with the “drunk and/or high college kid” market. Wet Hot is an absurd, twisted look at summer camp in the 80s, written by comedians David Wain and Michael Showalter (of underground favorites The State and Stella Comedy); Wain also directed. Hilariously over the top and eminently quotable, the film’s biggest strength is its cast. But while the credits read like an all-star cast now, it wasn’t that way back in 2001. Here’s a breakdown of the ensemble into a few, uh, camps.
Janeane Garofalo: A star of stand-up, TV and film since the mid-90s, Garofalo was no stranger to audiences as camp director Beth.
David Hyde Pierce: Pierce had logged nearly 200 episodes of Frasier when he took the role of Henry, the nebbish professor who helps save the day.
Molly Shannon: Shannon was already a Superstar, having dominated SNL during its late 90s resurgence before playing the weepy Gail.
Christopher Meloni: While not as well known by name when WHAS was released, Meloni had been a standout on HBO’s groundbreaking Oz and had just began his run as Elliot Stabler on Law & Order: SVU. With roles as a bisexual, sociopathic killer and a tough-as-nails sex crimes investigator, Meloni isn’t known for his comedic timing, which is a shame.
Paul Rudd: The Ageless Wonder had achieved some level of success before WHAS, including roles in Clueless and The Cider House Rules, but was still a few years from emerging as part of the Judd Apatow Frat Pack with scene-stealing roles in Anchorman, The 40-Year Old Virgin, and Forgetting Sarah Marshall. He was reunited with director David Wain in Role Models.
Amy Poehler: Like Rudd, Poehler had been around (as part of sketch show Upright Citizens Brigade), but her role in WHAS predates her SNL breakthrough and headlining gig on Parks and Recreation.
Bradley Cooper: Cooper is a relatively minor character in WHAS (his major appearance a hilariously tender gay sex scene with Michael Ian Black). Like Rudd, a supporting role in a Frat Pack film (the yuppie mook Sack in Wedding Crashers) would lead to starring roles in The Hangover and The A-Team.
Elizabeth Banks: Banks put the “wet hot” in the movie’s title, spending most of her screen time in a bikini and making out with Paul Rudd. Since then, Banks has played major baby mama roles on Scrubs and 30 Rock, in addition to starring in Kevin Smith’s Zack and Miri Make a Porno.
Members of “The State”
Michael Ian Black: Arguably the most famous member of MTV’s classic sketch comedy show, Michael Ian Black is a television mainstay thanks to Ed, various VH1 specials, and Sierra Mist commercials.
Michael Showalter: The third member of Stella, Showalter collaborated with MIB on the short-lived Michael and Michael Have Issues; his film The Baxter is an underrated romantic comedy.
AD Miles: Miles shows up on screen occasionally (as in Dog Bites Man), but he’s making a name for himself as the head writer on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.
Ken Marino: Marino has done a ton of television, all of it funny. Notable roles include Vinnie Van Lowe on Veronica Mars and Ron Donald on Party Down.
Joe LoTruglio: One of the lesser known State members, LoTruglio is also a Frat Packer, appearing in Superbad, Pineapple Express, Role Models, and Paul.
H. Jon Benjamin: Known for his voice work on Archer, Home Movies, and Bob’s Burgers, Benjamin delivers his finest line of dialogue as the can of vegetables: “Look, Gene, I’ve never told anyone this before, but I can suck my own dick, and I do it a lot.”
Judan Friedlander: Stand-up comedian / 30 Rock‘s Frank shows up for one scene as Gail’s deadbeat husband, Ron von Kleinenstein.
While some of the creative team behind Wet Hot American Summer has (jokingly) mentioned doing a prequel or sequel, this is really a once-in-a-lifetime cast. Unless everyone involved is willing to work for scale, fans are probably left with the fake “ten years later” scene from after the credits.
During the 90s, the music video reached its pinnacle as an art form. Directors like Mark Romanek, Spike Jonze, Michel Gondry and Chris Cunningham established distinct visual styles, thanks to big budgets and bigger ideas. A successful career in music videos could even launch a film career, as it did for Jonze and Gondry; it was a great time to be a music video director! Inevitably, the bottom fell out: between MTV’s dwindling music video airtime and record company budget cutting, music videos went back underground.
Thankfully, the medium is too rich for something like “music industry collapse” to kill it. Just look at Barcelona’s CANADA: a trio of directors (Luis Cerveró, Nicolás Méndez & Lope Serrano) who are making some of the most innovative – and provocative – videos in over a decade.
Last year, the video for Spanish exotica artist El Guincho’s “Bombay” (directed by Méndez and produced by the collective) was a surprise hit. With El Guincho as Carl Sagan, the clip is a journey through the cosmos. A collage of found footage and surreal images, “Bombay” is teeming with sexual energy. While fleeting glimpses of breasts dominate the video (either painted, with sparklers, or au naturel), it’s more titillating than pornographic.
The brand new video for “Ice Cream” by math rockers Battles has the same vibrant style (on first viewing, I immediately thought of “Bombay”). Once again, CANADA goes for sexy, opening with a nude girl eating ice cream in a bath tub and including shots of girls licking things like pine cones. And don’t forget the climatic, ladies-only paint fight. The real fun in “Ice Cream” is found in CANADA’s playful use of double exposure. Watch out for a man cliff diving into a woman’s bikini, or a brilliantly choreographed sequence where a woman dances with herself.
CANADA is saving the music video, one clip at a time. Check out their gallery for more, but here is their effort for Scissor Sisters’ “Invisible Light:” another NSFW mind trip!
Here are a trio of videos that have caught my eye, presented in order from most cinematic to least.
Lykke Li accompanied the video release for dream pop ballad “Sadness is a Blessing” with a poem, a brief message that the clip illustrates beautifully.
I know I Broke
Your heart, it was never
My intention, all I
Ever wanted was to
Former graffiti artist Tarik Saleh, who also directed “I Follow Rivers,” brings the same Nordic restraint to this video. Stellan Skarsgård stands in for Lykke’s father; a bit of Swedish casting by number. Lykke is as charismatic as she is on the record, drinking vodka and finding her muse in a staid restaurant.
Buraka Som Sistema is back with babytalk kuduro banger “Hangover (BaBaBa).” The video features animation reminiscent of M.I.A.’s GIF-shifting promos for MAYA, matching the song’s jacked up energy factor with frenetic visuals. Throw in some daggering and hypercolored graphics and you’ve got yourself a video.
Saving the most disturbing for last, Salem returns with “Sick,” a video for one of the finest examples of goth trap house on King Night. A YouTube collage of gang fights, bedroom freaks, BMX riders, and the band’s own performances, the video doesn’t have the intensity of “Skullcrush.” Still, it keeps Salem knee deep in “some evil shit,” as the detuned rap by Jack Donoghue promises.
The Beastie Boys are masters of reinvention. They started as a NYC hardcore band in 1979 (!) before breaking through as party-starting rap rockers in the mid 80s. Since then, they’ve matured musically, and more significantly, personally. There isn’t a bigger 180 than trying to name your album Don’t Be a Faggot and then spearheading the free Tibet movement. Accordingly, the Beastie Boys have done everything they can (including publicly apologizing) to move beyond their early years.
Finally embracing their “Hooligans of Hip Hop” stage, the Beastie Boys have struck comedic gold with the surreal short-film Fight for Your Right Revisted. Written and directed by Adam Yauch (the thankfully cancer-free MCA), the film picks up where 1986’s “Fight for Your Right” video left off. For reference, the original clip is required viewing. The MTV Era classic was loaded with cameos (Tabitha Soren, Rick Rubin, LL Cool J) and references (George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead).
Crawling out of that debauchery are the Beastie Boys, played by Seth Rogen, Danny McBride, and Elijah Wood. The lithe Wood is the only passable imitator, but that’s hardly the point. This cast was assembled for maximum hilarity; the dialogue has an ad-libbed feel, which isn’t tough to imagine, considering the comedic talents that took part. It’s a Who’s Who of blink-and-miss-it cameos, everyone film pros like Susan Sarandon to hipster favorites like Jason Schwartzman. It feels like a friends and family production that must have been a blast to produce.
The video is set to music from their eagerly awaited album Hot Sauce Committee, Pt. 2. “Make Some Noise” and “Say It” are spun, rewound, sped up, slowed down to match the video’s increasingly twisted antics. After doing whip-its and acid with switchblade-wielding metal chicks (played by Chloe Sevigny, Kirsten Dunst, and Maya Rudolph), the Beasties are met by a DeLorean from – where else? – the future.
Cue big reveal: the Future Beastie Boys, played by Will Ferrell, John C. Reilly, and Jack Black. To settle this time traveling identity crisis, a b-boy competition (conflict resolution, 1986 style) is proposed. The climactic battle turns into a pissing contest – literally. The Beastie Boys’ opinions on this era of their history are less than subtle. After a bit of slow motion water sports, the cops (played by the real-life Beasties) shut it all down.
The self-referential, meta fest goes far beyond the Beastie Boys vs. Beastie Boys set-up. Will Ferrell, before showing up as a future Beastie, references his most famous SNL skit, cowbell in hand. David Cross appears as Nathanial Hörnblowér, Yauch’s lederhosened alter ego, and Will Arnett delivers a GOB-like “come on!” (while wearing what’s possibly a $5,000 suit). Like Arrested Development, the film rewards repeat viewings.
Fight for Your Right Revisited is fan service at its finest, answering the eternal question: who are the real Beastie Boys?
That’s the advice Joe Bradley of the Black Lips offers early on in New Garage Explosion: In Love With These Times, a documentary by Aaron Brown and Joseph Patel about the last decade’s garage rock scene (Ed. note: quote originally incorrectly attributed to Cole Alexander). Those four words manage to sum up the scene (and film) better than I could, but I’ll give it a shot.
The garage rock profiled in New Garage Explosion harks back to punk’s origins, not the hardcore punk of blackshirt mosh pits. It’s punk filtered through 50s rock’n’roll, 60s bubblegum pop, and 70s psychedelia. It’s also very much a regional movement: cities like San Francisco, Brooklyn, Memphis, Detroit, and Atlanta have their own scenes, bands, and sounds, but are all united by a brash, punk attitude and a DIY spirit.
New Garage Explosion documents the pillars of garage: the influences, the lo-fi recording process, the financial realities and the lifestyle. The film is interspersed with performances, rarely showing too many talking heads before getting back to its core: the visceral live performance of garage rock. Missing is the narrative of great documentaries: the audience is following one band’s experience, but rather the entire experience. It’s a cut-and-paste, film-as-zine approach that suits the topic.
Fans of any of the bands shown (Black Lips, Magic Kids, Vivian Girls, Smith Westerns, Davila 666, to name a few), will probably discover a new band, classic record, or groundbreaking record label from watching New Garage Explosion. Like the characters in High Fidelity, the interviewees relish the chance to list favorite obscurities. There is a record-store-nerd current throughout the film that anyone who has spent time in a cultural/musical underground will appreciate.
Sadly, the specter of Jay Reatard looms over the film. The film’s first case study died after an accidental overdose at just 29. On stage and off, Reatard was antagonistic and self destructive, but with a self-awareness evident in his interviews. Chillingly, he remembers punk rock records made by “dudes that kinda did make it… and then they fucking threw it all away and made these amazing albums on their downward spirals.” As he trails off, he references his prophetically titled Watch Me Fall. Unfortunately, understanding history did not prevent Reatard from repeating it.
New Garage Explosion is a brief (only 75 minutes long) introduction to a scene that is very much alive. The film features a brief section on the cycle of buzz band hype, asking “What does it take for a band to have lasting power?” Maybe that means taking Joe Bradley’s advice.
In what might become a regular feature on Postcultural, I present my first Video Rundown. Nothing too complicated here, just a few new clips that are worth watching.
Cubic Zirconia have a knack for crafting pitch-perfect videos for their songs. The clip for “Night or Day” is no different. As she is on stage, Tiombe Lockhart is the focal point. The video is all close-ups and tantalizing glimpses of the beautiful artist, set to the hypnotic house vibes of the song’s club remix. If this is a typical night and day in New York, sign me up.
Toddla T’s latest video has a similar verite feel. The black and white clip for “Take It Back” does just what the title says, returning to an age of pirate radio and underground raves. The Dillon Francis moombahton remix of the song may be the hottest track in the world, but the original (and the video) are straight up old school. (Ed. note: video now available on Youtube)
Katey Red has run New Orleans’ sissy bounce scene for over a decade, so it’s certainly surprising that her first video is just being released now. The community-funded clip for “Where Da Melph At” is all booty, all the time. The highlight has to be the well-dressed supper club crowd getting in on the fun.