Recently, I was asked to be a judge at the Sprockets Music Video Festival, which took place over the weekend in Athens, Georgia. I actually meant to tell you about it on Friday or sooner so that you might go and check it out, but I was going through a lot of stuff in my life then and obviously that didn’t happen. Suffice it to say, I am sorry. That said, I have a couple of the finalists embedded here for your viewing pleasure.
After getting an email from the festival director and agreeing to judge, many months later I received a DVD in the mail with all the festival entries on it and a note saying I had a week to watch and pick my favorites. (Incidentally, you can totally skip this paragraph about my boring life if you want to). But basically, I get a ton of DVDs every week, and not only would it be impossible for me to watch all of them and still get any work done, most of them just aren’t that good. So this DVD with a bunch of music videos for songs I’d never heard of became like one of those burdens you have hanging over your head, some thing you know you have to do but you don’t really want to do so you keep putting off over and over again. I don’t know how you all feel about music videos, but every time I hear that some up-and-coming director got tapped for a project on the strength of some music videos (which thankfully doesn’t happen that much anymore) I sort of groan, because what does directing a music video prove? That you know how to work a camera and can edit possibly-random images together? Most music videos consist of A. some sort of loose thematic or formal concept, that B. is then driven into the ground over the course of the the next three or four minutes, usually interspersed with someone singing at you while making overwrought faces. I did not have high hopes.
Once I actually sat down to watch the videos, however, I was surprised to find that it wasn’t just a matter of choosing the least sucky. Some were downright good, and more than just the top three that I had to submit. I had to rewatch about five or six of them another few times to decide which I actually liked best. (FYI, the screencap on the video below is NSFW, so don’t keep scrolling if you don’t want to see that).
“Fear & Delight”, by The Correspondents, directed by Naren Wilks (UK).
This video was the contest winner, and my number two choice. It was actually the third-to-last video of the DVD, and by that point, I had already chosen what I thought would be my favorites and was all set to skip through the rest if they weren’t instantly compelling. So then it starts up and there’s this weird, fancily-dressed British man singing at me like some nouveau “Puttin On The Ritz.” I wanted to shut it off, and I don’t know if it was his stiff-yet-elegant Fred Astaire dance moves or the increasingly intricate Busby Berkeley-style cloning effect, but I was compelled just enough to keep watching. And it just sort of got better and better from there until I was hooked. It’s sort of this one-man “Single Ladies” meets Busby Berkeley meets slim fit tailoring. The style fits the music perfectly and the visual effects are just complicated enough that I wonder how they did it. Though if someone actually tried to explain how they did everything it would probably just make my head hurt, and it’s more fun to just watch the lanky guy skank around the room and go “whoa, trippy.”
So yeah. Whoa, trippy. Cool video, man. By the way, is there a more British-sounding name than “Naren Wilks?”
BELOW VIDEO (NSFW)
“Remélem nincs harag,” by Solidmen, directed by David Merenyi (Hungary).
This one was my favorite of the bunch, and if you watch it you’ll probably quickly see why. I feel like I’ve seen a few “band sells out” narratives in music videos, but never one that made me laugh out loud as much as this one. First it was trading “Art and Science” in for “Tits and Cats” and then it was the Zoolander-style, “Obey my dog!” editing. And of course, you can never overstate the effect of topless women petting a miniature potbellied pig. I have a very specific fetish.
Of course, I don’t speak Hungarian, so I have no idea what the song is about. Making the fact that it’s the funniest damn music video I’ve seen in a long time that much more impressive. Here are the lyrics according to Google Translate, in case you’re interested.
One Friday night, solicited the light
He motioned for me to follow, so why not?
We went down lots of stairs to the nightclub
Lent was beneficial and blessed twilight cacophony
That’s what everyone wants to bleat lots of …
Around me, women, stiletto shoes, overcoats into bite: a world!
The crowd, the noise, light, great mix
You do not need to talk, useless topics, why?
I hope you understand a little resent you if
When the booze lap throwing
I hope no hard feelings if you do not choose form
Do not worry, there will be someone who is waiting for you
Meet people very much like a girl novel?
The books are just books, the romance is just a word
Do you know whether Guetta? Sure. Do you love your pitbull? Certainly.
Yeah, yeah, my favorite, yeah, yeah, day and night
Yeah, yeah, this place is good, yeah, yeah, yeah, that beautiful
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
Well, how the hell not?
I hope you will forgive if they do not see you anymore
That’s just enough out of you
I hope no hard feelings
What a coincidence, “Meet people very much like a girl novel?” is listed as my ideal first date in my Match.com profile.
“Swift Arrows,” by Shelby Earl, directed by Neil Ferron (USA).
This video didn’t win a damn thing and it wasn’t even a finalist, but I liked it a lot. Again, the entirely-in-super-slo-mo style music video has been done (“Black Hole Sun” comes to mind, but I freely admit that that could just be because the last time I watched a lot of music videos was in the 90s), but there are so many little oddball details in this that make it so great – a facial expression here, a bead of sweat there. I even like the song, even though it normally wouldn’t be my cup of tea. Not a great ending (her husband cheats so she pours champagne on herself?), but there are so many great shots in it that I keep wanting to watch it over and over again.
If you enjoyed these, you can see more winners over on the contest page.