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Case Number 03485: Small Claims Court

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The Work Of Director Spike Jonze

Palm Pictures // 2003 // 400 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Adam Arseneau (Retired) // November 4th, 2003

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All Rise...

The Charge

A collection of Music Videos, Short Films, Documentaries, and Rarities

The Case

Find me a person who has yet to see a Spike Jonze project, and I shall give him a dollar. Okay, I won't actually, but the point is, Jonze gets around. If you haven't seen any of his groundbreaking music videos over the years, odds are, you may have heard of that tasteful and respectable show called Jackass he produced, or any of the skateboarding videos he has directed, or perchance, his feature films, Being John Malkovich or Adaptation.

This DVD represents a cross section of the director's past work, containing a bedazzling array of photographs, interviews, music videos with commentary, short films, documentaries, and behind-the-scenes footage. Odds are, you will find something on this disc that tickles your fancy, and if you are a fan of Jonze and his work, you will take this DVD to bed with you and put it under your pillow for safekeeping.

The Work of Director Spike Jonze is the first volume in a three-part "Director's Label" collection. The other two DVDs in the series focus on music video "auteurs" Michel Gondry and Chris Cunningham, who alongside with Jonze, could arguably be the most innovative and original men working in the format over the last ten years.

The DVD is a two-sided affair; the A Side contains a selection of music videos, commentaries, and interviews with musicians. The videos included are:

• "California"—Wax
• "Sure Shot"—Beastie Boys
• "Drop"—The Pharcyde
• "Cannonball"—The Breeders
• "Sabotage"—Beastie Boys
• "Da Funk"—Daft Punk
• "What's Up Fatlip?"—Fatlip
• "Undone (The Sweater Song)"—Weezer
• "Praise You"—Fatboy Slim
• "Feel the Pain"—Dinosaur Jr.
• "If I Only Had A Brain"—MC 900ft Jesus
• "Sky's The Limit"—The Notorious B.I.G.
• "Weapon Of Choice"—Fatboy Slim
• "Buddy Holly"—Weezer
• "Elektrobank"—The Chemical Brothers
• "It's Oh So Quiet"—Björk

Also included on the A Side are both standalone interviews and running commentary tracks on the majority of the music videos, from the likes of Björk, Weezer, Fatboy Slim, The Pharcyde, Daft Punk, The Chemical Brothers, Puff Daddy—even Christopher Walken, which could be the best feature on the entire disc.

The B Side of the disc contains more supplemental material, including a bevy of rarities and documentaries. Two early short films from Jonze's career with Mark Gonzales appear, along with a treatment for an Oasis video that never happened, the audition tapes for Richard Koufey's "Rockafella Skank," as well as a 34-minute documentary about the Torrence Community Dance Group shot prior to the "MTV Video Music Awards," a short skateboarding film from "Mouse, a Girl Skateboards," a documentary entitled "What's Up Fatlip?" chronicling the life of ex-Pharcyde rapper Fatlip and the outrageous rumors floating around about him, and a cowboy documentary entited "Amarillo By Morning" about two suburban teenagers who dream of being cowboys and pro bull riders.

Whew. I need a drink of water.

Suffice to say, there is more than enough content on this disc to keep you enthralled for many an hour. And if that were not enough, also included with the barrage of supplemental interviews, documentaries, and extra footage is a 52-page color booklet featuring photography from Jonze as well as drawings and transcribed interviews with the director. The book is a marvelous addition to a fantastic DVD, and much joy can be had flipping through the stylish and informative handbook whilst one watches the fantastic DVD.

All of the videos look quite fantastic transferred on DVD. Even the footage shot on handheld digital cameras is quite well done, sharp and clear. Of course, footage shot on handheld digital video looks…like footage shot on handheld digital video. With all of the footage and available content on this DVD, the visual quality of the content varies wildly depending on the footage. But the production value on the DVD is quite an excellent one—even the DVD menu features cute hand-drawn animations by Jonze.

In terms of audio, the majority of the disc is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0, which is a modest but functional presentation. Audio is clear, all the songs sound quite excellent, and most of the dialogue is clear and well recorded. There are only two perceivable problems with the sound on this disc. First of all, the quality of some of the audio commentary and recorded interviews varies depending on shooting location, and occasionally, they sound like they have been recorded in the back of a moving car, with crackling audio and muffled thumping of microphones bumping into large objects. The noise can get tiresome. Secondly, all the music videos sound great on this DVD, but it would have been nice to see a video or two presented in surround sound.

But really, the only serious, problematic, irritating, gigantic problem with The Work of Director Spike Jonze is that you want more! With the sheer volume of music videos, commercials, skateboard videos, his stints as editor of Dirt and Grand Royal magazines, producing Jackass, his failed attempt to bring "Harold and the Purple Crayon" to the big screen, et cetera, there is so much more that could be here. More, more!

In fairness, though, this is hardly a failing of this DVD. The disc simply inspires greed—you simply do not want the fun to end. The Work of Director Spike Jonze may cause intense yearning for more content, more videos, more goodies, more anything—but this speaks to the quality of the production. Everything comes out looking top-notch on this DVD, and nobody can blame you for wanting more of the same.

The Work of Director Spike Jonze offers fantastic value, considering its ultra-reasonable price tag. By all indications here, the Director's Label series is something to keep a serious eye on. Both Cunningham and Gondry are fantastically innovative and visionary directors, and if this DVD is any indication of the creativity and quality that goes into their releases, then those discs are serious contenders to having places of high esteem on your DVD shelf.

Jonze, like many others, is an exceptionally creative and talented filmmaker who works within a genre that garnishes little respect; it is a pleasing thing indeed to see him, and others, get their due credit. Even if you have never fancied yourself a Spike Jonze fan, odds are, you are, and just don't know it yet. With the wide range of material included here, there is absolutely no reason not to pick this DVD up.

If you still have any doubts, think about it this way: having a DVD-quality copy of Christopher Walken tap-dancing and flying through the air warrants the purchase of this DVD alone.

Everything else is merely icing on a delicious, tasty cake.

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Scales of Justice

Judgment: 91

Perp Profile

Studio: Palm Pictures
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Subtitles:
• English (only on French version of "Da Funk" by Daft Punk)
Running Time: 400 Minutes
Release Year: 2003
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Genres:
• Concerts and Musicals
• Documentary
• Performance
• Short Films

Distinguishing Marks

• 52-Page Book with Spike Jonze's Photographs, Drawings, and Interviews
• The Interviews -- Musicians Discuss the Music Videos
• Making of "Drop" with The Pharcyde -- Interviews and Behind-the-Scenes
• Audio Commentaries from Fatboy Slim, Weezer, The Pharcyde, Daft Punk, The Chemical Brothers, Björk, Christopher Walken, Puffy, and More
• Beastie Boys Commentary on Selected Music Videos
• Weblinks
• How They Got There -- A Short Film with Mark Gonzales
• Mark Paints -- A Short Film with Mark Gonzales
• The Oasis Video That Never Happened
• Rockafella Skank -- Richard Koufey's Audition Tape for Fatboy Slim
• The Woods -- A Short Film from Mouse, a Girl Skateboards Film
• What's Up Fatlip? -- Documentary about Fatlip After Leaving The Pharcyde (31 min)
• Amarillo By Morning -- Documentary About Two Suburban Teenagers Who Aspire to be Cowboys (29 min)
• Torrance Rises -- Torrance Community Dance Group on the Road to their Grand Performance at the "MTV Video Music Awards" (34 min)








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