Archive for the ‘Movies’ Category

Patrick Daughters gets dark with Depeche Mode’s Personal Jesus

May 22nd, 2011

Director and king of the music video treatment, Patrick Daughters, has always had what you could describe as a cute style. Born out of an era when Wes Anderson and Michel Gondry were king, his music videos became known for their in-camera special effects, single continuous shots, playfulness, and a sort of sublime beauty — oftentimes bathed in slow motion.

After an unexpectedly popular video for Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ Maps in 2003, a critically acclaimed suite of videos for Feist (including 1,2,3,4 and I Feel It All), and his quick dissemination as the director of choice for indie bands who could afford to pull off his ideas (Death Cab For Cutie, The Shins, Interpol, Grizzly Bear), you would be forgiven for thinking you could pick out a Patrick Daughters video from a lineup.

However, it seems that the moody reverence most of us born before 1980 hold for Depeche Mode was able to turn even a life is beautiful type like Mr. Daughters towards the dark side.

His two videos for the band, the first accompanying the tune Wrong (2009) and a new one for Personal Jesus [Stargate Remix], have no sense of salvation baked in. Gone are the children, bright colors, and paper cutouts of his previous videos, and in their place we are shown a sort of decontextualized paranoia and an almost poetic sense of vengeance. Though both videos have Daughters-isms — Wrong‘s distinct stylistic realism and metaphorical backwards-moving car, Personal Jesus‘ slow-mo glittery explosion of water — both of these videos seem part of a new body of work. It seems like Mr. Daughters is pushing outside of his and his audiences’ comfort zone. It’s an interesting direction, and I’m curious where Patrick will go with this new found thematic freedom. I look forward to his next batch of music videos, and I’m very curious to hear more about his rumored upcoming feature film debut.

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Joy Division: Documentaries and Record Sleeves

July 22nd, 2010

The documentary, simply titled Joy Division, features the story of the band as told by the members themselves. It’s fairly non-sensationalized, letting the music be the spectacle rather than Curtis’ suicide. Definitely worth a look and certainly worth a listen. See the film here, while it’s still available to watch online.

For you graphic design fans, Peter Saville is also featured in the film. He talks about his work designing the covers for the Unknown Pleasures and Closer with the band. Saville designed nearly all the Joy Division and New Order covers, who would later go on to make classic record covers for David Byrne/Brian Eno and Roxy Music, to name a few.

I especially love his design for New Order’s Power, Corruption, and Lies (below top right). I saw a show at the MCA in Chicago a few years ago called Sympathy For the Devil: Art and Rock & Roll since 1967 that featured a lot of the drawings and collages that Saville made in preparation for this classic cover. It was really interesting to see how he’d devised a color system for codifying the song titles into the design itself.

The show also featured classic photos of Ian Curtis on stage — in addition to non-Joy Division-related work by artists such as Raymond Pettibon, Mike Kelley, Christian Marclay, and Robert Longo. This exhibition, combined with the Kurt Cobain-themed show currently on display at the Seattle Art Museum, forces one to acknowledge at least one of the following two things:

- Pop music is finally being seen as an art form of critical cultural importance now that the Baby-Boomers and their kids are the ones shelling out big dough for contemporary art

- Pop-culture shows are good for ticket sales at museums.

Perhaps it’s a bit of both. That would explain those record sleeve sized picture frames that Urban Outfitters sells.

Art, Design, Movies, Music , , ,

Lady Gaga, Beyonce & Product Placement

March 23rd, 2010

There is a whole lot of product placement going on in the new long-form music video for Telephone from Lady Gaga and Beyonce. Virgin Mobile, Diet Coke, Beats (by Dr. Dre) Headphones, Chanel, Polaroid, Wonder Bread, and Miracle Whip(???) are all featured prominently within the Quentin Tarantino-styled narrative. Oddly enough, most of these product placements make a bizarre sort of sense in an artistically contextual kind of way. Let’s review:

POLAROID – Polaroid has hired Lady Gaga as a Creative Director for the company — so the fact that we are treated to Gaga taking a bunch of tiny instant photos of Beyonce (contractually) follows. However, the appearance of a full-screen Polaroid brand logo on a photobooth outside the diner at the end of the video was less gracefully implemented. As an aside, this partnership has the potential to be rad. Nice one, Polaroid execs!

DIET COKE – This was my favorite brand placement in the video. The appearance of empty cans of Diet Coke as impromptu prison-style hair rollers in Gaga’s hair is one of the most creative and inventive examples of product placement in recent memory. It’s sort of a classically feminine version of a shiv. Since we never explicitly see the Coke logo, I wonder if Gaga got paid for this one – but in a just world, she certainly would have been.

VIRGIN MOBILE – I get that Gaga has (rightfully) built up a cache of credibility in the realm of music videos and concert appearances (if not with her actual music) – but I am impressed that this cache is strong enough that Virgin Mobile would acquiesce to their logo being in the same shot as Gaga stroking the crotch of a butch lesbian in the yard of a prison. My guess is that Richard Branson and his millionaire buddies are just out to prove they’re down to party, after all.

(A side not on this one… ha ha… Virgin Mobile = virgin = ironic = good joke. Too bad that Twilight: New Moon beat them to it. )

CHANEL – Ooh! Lady Gaga is wearing Chanel sunglasses! Meh. The Haus of Gaga-designed actively smoking cigarette glasses were cooler.

WONDER BREAD – This is one of those WTF!? moments in advertising. I get that Wonder Bread is associated with lower income individuals, who are associated loosely with criminal acts, which is associated with whipping up a batch of poison, but I wouldn’t imagine that the Gaga image would do much to sell Wonder Bread, and the brand’s appearance in this video in the same kitchen with food that kills people doesn’t seem like a smart PR move, from where I’m standing.

MIRACLE WHIP – All my misgivings about the appearance of Wonder Bread in this video also apply to Miracle Whip, only double. It just doesn’t make sense. The only saving grace, in my mind, is that Miracle Whip strikes me as a great name for Gaga’s next record. Now that I think about it, maybe I’ll steal it for one of my projects.

BEATS BY DR DRE – Lady Gaga also has a partnership with Beats. She designed her own line of jewel encrusted in-ear ‘phones with them that she can be seen sporting in the kitchen scenes (they just look like triangular earrings). However, the way that the Beats logo is featured in the video, arbitrarily stuck to the back of the guard’s laptop, seems like a little bit of a disconnect. Brand white noise is worth something, though, I suppose.


After beating the viewer over the head with all this product placement, you would think that the project would have lost it’s spark as it tripped over itself to sell out. However, given the many instances of blatant sexuality, ever-present lesbian undertones, gratuitous violence, group homicide, swearing, and near total frontal nudity that are keystones of both the style and narrative of Telephone, the most surprising element of all this is that the brands were willing to be associated with the project at all. In a way, Gaga seems to have subverted the selling-out process. Her popularity has forced corporations to bend to her wonderfully strange, freaky, and dirty vision of the world instead of the other way around. It obviously isn’t for everyone (Kraft, I’m looking at you), but one has to bet on any company that figures out a way to really hang with Gaga – the reigning master of brand ingenuity (sorry Bjork/Barney).

Here’s to the weirding of media!

Advertising, Fashion, Movies, Music , , , , , ,

Oscar Nominated Short: Logorama

February 21st, 2010

The ad man in me can’t resist posting a link to the well-done Oscar-nominated animated short, Logorama. French art/video direction collective H5 made what is essentially a shoot-em-up action sequence set in a world constructed entirely of logos. Watch the whole thing here (until it inevitably gets taken down due to copyright violation).

The film features some amusing dialogue, a lot of clever moments, and a generally irreverent feel — but the best thing about it is that it demonstrates how much of the physical world has been captured into corporate logos. This same line of thinking makes me wonder if one could reconstruct any anecdote, film, or book solely using clips from episodes of Seinfeld — a show that perhaps only came to an end because it had exhausted all the narrative possibilities known to man.

Yeah, I bet a works-of-Shakespeare-as-acted-by-Seinfeld-characters mashup channel would be a hit on YouTube.

Advertising, Design, Movies , , , , ,

Friday Fun: Holiday Road

February 19th, 2010
YouTube Preview Image

I’ve inexplicably had this song, from Chevy Chase’s National Lampoon’s Vacation, stuck in my head all day. Watching this music video totally scratches my itch sonically, but the video itself seems so at odds with the spirit of the song as it is presented in Vacation, that I had to minimize my browser so that the song wouldn’t be spoiled. Nevertheless, enjoy. I hope it inspires a Chase movie marathon.

PS – I never knew Lindsey Buckingham sang this song. That seems weird for some reason.

Movies, Music , , , ,

The Kon-Tiki Effect

February 16th, 2010

An outbreak of personal adventure has recently spread among my friends in the form of a book. Anthropologist and adventurer Thor Heyerdahl’s Kon-Tiki, the true account of his ride across the Pacific on a balsa raft, is a page-turner. This little paperback epic is easy to recommend because the tale seems to speak directly to that innate part of people that secretly (or not so secretly) wants to commune directly with the unknown—and unknowable—forces of nature. Aligning yourself with this wild spirit just feels right.

The story of the journey itself— a tapestry of jungle headhunters, whale sharks, naysayers, miracles, and the sparkling beauty of a perpetual ocean horizon—makes this work a compelling one, for sure; but it is important to understand that Heyerdahl wasn’t just a thrill-seeker. He undertook the whole brine-soaked affair to prove to his colleagues that an anthropological assertion he had made in a paper wasn’t an impossibility. He staked he and his crew’s lives on his belief that the Polynesian Islands had been populated thousands of years prior by ancient peoples from South America. The story of Kon-Tiki is most interesting to me because it is the story of a man’s sense of duty to his ideas.

What Heyerdahl understood is that people must want to be a part of an idea before they will stand behind it. Time after time during the book, people offer their help with the expedition solely because of the “courage and enterprise” of the whole affair. So, what makes people get swept up in an idea? According to a study of the New York Time’s most e-mailed articles, stories which inspired a sense of awe in their readers were among the most viral of any in the paper. Likewise, those individuals most highly regarded in our society are those that seem to actually embody their big ideas; People such as Heyerdahl, Gandhi, Dorothy Parker, or even Prince, are inspirations to many. We reward their commitment with a deeper appreciation of their message. Other idea-men, like Steve Jobs or TV’s Don Draper, are most admired for being able to tell a story like no one else, even if we don’t always like their personality. Either way, the takeaway here is that storytelling, not just story, is king.

May we all make the journey that must be made to support the ideas we believe in, both in our lives and in our work.

For those of you prepared to see how it’s done, watch the Academy Award Winning documentary of Heyerdahl’s journey, made with footage taken on the voyage itself.

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