Music Video of the Day: Sometimes by Britney Spears (1999, dir by Nigel Dick)


So, this year, Britney Spear’s debut album, ….Baby One More Time, is 20 years old and good people everywhere are celebrating.  Myself, I’m going to be listening to Britney all week and I’m also going to be singing every single song out loud.  I’ll probably end up annoying a lot of people, as that seems to be what happens whenever I loudly sing Britney.  (My sisters claim that, when it comes to singing, I’m borderline tone deaf but I think that’s going a bit too far.  I will, however, admit that my accent probably never sounds more Texan then when I’m singing.)

Anyway, Val has already taken a look at the video for ….Baby One More Time and, yesterday, I featured the video for (You Drive Me) Crazy.  So, it only seems appropriate that today’s music video of the day should be the video for Sometimes, which was the 2nd single to be released off of ….Baby One More Time.

Sometimes finds Britney on the beach, watching as a male model named Chad Cole runs alongside a dog and then stands around tossing a football up in the air.  (Chad Cole is crazy hot in this video, though I have to admit that I’ve always preferred people who spend their time at the beach writing poems about dead trees and industrial pollution.)  Anyway, when Britney isn’t stalking Chad, she’s performing with her back-up dancers.  Everyone’s wearing white, which is not only designed to play up the video’s pure intentions but also makes it seem like everyone in the video came to the beach straight from a Backstreet Boys theme party.

With this video, you can tell that the main aim was to provide a contrast to the sexualized Britney of the ….Baby One More Time video.  In this one, Britney’s dressed in all white and, instead of asking to be “hit” one more time, she’s instead demurely watching the all-American boy from a proper and chaste distance.  This is the Britney who wouldn’t have been out-of-place in one of those sun-drenched, virginity-celebrating beach films from the early 60s.  “Fear not, moral guardians,” this video announces, “our Britney is a good girl!”

Interestingly enough, the video’s original concept was that Britney would be looking the beach and having flashbacks to a past relationship.  However, in the video that was actually shot, the idea is that Britney is looking to the future, thinking about the perfect relationship that she’ll someday have.

Enjoy!

Music Video of the Day: (You Drive Me) Crazy by Britney Spears (1999, dir by Nigel Dick)


Remember Drive Me Crazy?

Released in 1999, Drive Me Crazy was a little film from the Freddie Prinze, Jr. era of teen romcoms with generic titles.  Of course, Freddie Prinze, Jr. is not actually in Drive Me Crazy.  Instead, the Prinze role was taken by Adrian Grenier, who does a decent impersonation.  In this film, Grenier plays the neighbor of Melissa Joan Hart.  The plot was pretty standard for the films of this era.  Melissa Joan Hart needs to make someone jealous so she pretends to date Adrian Grenier and then they end up falling in love for real.  Along the way, an important lesson is learned about being yourself and not worrying about what cliques think of you.  It’s pretty much a forgotten film, overshadowed by the likes of She’s All That and Get Over It.  (When Adrian Grenier took on the role of “greatest actor of his generation” Vincent Chase on Entourage, it was often said that Chase’s first film role was in a romantic comedy with Mandy Moore.  I assume that was a reference to this film.  Not that I ever watched Entourage….)

(Want to be your super hero …. fallin’ from running horse….)

Originally, Drive Me Crazy was going to be called Next To You, which is perhaps the only possible title that could have been more generic than the one that they went with.  The title changed after the success of Britney Spear’s debut album, …Baby One More Time.  One of the songs from the album, (You Drive Me) Crazy, had been included on the film’s soundtrack and the film’s producers decided to try to capitalize on Britney’s popularity by renaming the film after it.  And so, Next To You became Drive Me Crazy.

This also led to the production of a music video tie-in.  In the video for (You Drive Me) Crazy, Britney plays a dorky waitress who turns out to be a great dancer.  Of course, both Melissa Joan Hart and Adrian Grenier make appearances in the video.  Apparently, Grenier really didn’t want to be in the video and had to be talked into it by the video’s director, Nigel Dick.  Did Grenier think that he was too good to appear in a video with Britney Spears!?  That’s a bold statement from someone who subsequently spent 8 years acting opposite of Jeremy Piven.

Anyway, this is a fun video and, with everything that she’s been through, it’s always kind of nice to see Britney actually enjoying herself.  Filmed years before the marriage to Kevin Federline and all the stuff that followed afterwards, there’s a lot of optimism and hope to be found in this video.

Enjoy!

Film Review: Holmes & Watson (dir by Etan Cohen)


Will Ferrell is Sherlock Holmes!

John C. Reilly is John Watson!

Together, they get really bad reviews!

Well, that and solve crimes and protect royalty.  Holmes & Watson, which came out this previous Christmas, features Sherlock and John attempting to prevent Professor Moriarty (Ralph Fiennes) from assassinating Queen Victoria.  Watson, being the proud Englishman that he is, is an obsessive fan of Queen Victoria.  In fact, he’s such a fan that, upon meeting her, he insists that she pose for a “self-photography” with him and Holmes.  Of course, cameras back then were a lot bigger and more bulkier than cameras today so Watson ends up bashing the Queen in the head.  Watson and Holmes are terrified that they’ve killed the Queen.  But then she wakes up.  That’s the joke.

Holmes & Watson isn’t so much a parody of the original Sherlock Holmes stories as much as it’s a parody of the Guy Ritchie films that almost everyone has already forgotten about.  Of course, it can be argued that the Guy Ritchie films were, themselves, parodies which makes Holmes & Watson a parody of a parody.  (Now, we just need someone to parody Holmes & Watson so that the universe can collapse in on itself.)  As a result, the film opens with a young Sherlock Holmes being tricked into kissing a donkey’s ass and then it progresses to an adult Holmes using his deductive powers to deduce that a man is a compulsive masturbator.  The film never seems to be quite sure if its version of Holmes is meant to be an eccentric genius or an overrated bungler and Will Ferrell’s inconsistent performance doesn’t help matters.  When Holmes starts to incorrectly suspect that Watson has betrayed him, we don’t know if we’re supposed to share Watson’s feeling of betrayal or if this is just another case of Holmes being a brilliant idiot.  The film doesn’t seem to know either.

In the role of Watson, John C. Reilly is expected to do most of the dramatic heavy lifting.  He gets several scenes in which he discusses how difficult it is to always be the sidekick.  It’s a role that Reilly has played in several other films and perhaps that explains why he seems so bored in this movie.  We’re all kind of used to Will Ferrell being an inconsistent performer but it’s far more depressing to see John C. Reilly sleepwalking through a film.

Anyway, Holmes & Watson is not a film that I normally would have wasted my time seeing but, with so many people proclaiming it to be not only the worst film of 2018 but the worst film of all time, I felt that I had a certain obligation to do so.  After all, I’ll be posting my worst of and best of lists over this upcoming week and Holmes & Watson seemed like it would be a legitimate contender for one of those lists.  Having now seen the film, I can say that it’s pretty bad.  Unfortunately, unlike some other bad films, it’s also rather dull and forgettable.  It’s certainly far more dull than any film featuring John C. Reilly, Ralph Fiennes, Rebecca Hall, Hugh Laurie, Steve Coogan, and Kelly MacDonald has any right to be.  It’s a comedy where so many of the jokes fall flat that even the jokes that do work kind of suffer just by association.  Usually, I would have laughed at the film’s Billy Zane cameo but I was still annoyed by the film’s unnecessary musical number so I merely chuckled.

If Holmes & Watson has a saving grace, it is that it’s just a silly comedy.  It’s not really pompous enough to justify the claim that some have made that it’s the worst film of all time.  It’s neither as smug as Vice nor as pretentious as Life Itself.  In fact, it’s not even the worst comedy of the year.  (That honor would belong to The Happytime Murders.)  What Holmes & Watson is, is a huge disappointment.  With all the talent involved, you would hope that the film would be a bit more memorable.

Music Video of the Day: Wake Up Call by Steve Aoki and Sidney Samson (2012, dir by ????)


One of my New Year’s resolutions was to …. *checks notes* …. share more from Steve Aoki on this site so I guess I better get around to honoring that resolution by sharing the oddly disturbing video for Wake Up Call.

“WAKE UP!”

I’ve actually come across some online criticism of Wake Up Call, with the most frequent complaint being that it sounds “messy and confused” but personally, I think that’s kind of the point.  It’s all about the sensation of being jarred awake, of being snapped out of a dream and into the real world.  Everyone wakes up messy.  Everyone wakes up confused.  The messiness is kind of the point here.  Seriously, whenever I wake up, it always takes me a few minutes to realize where I am and then it takes me even longer to get my hair out out of my face.  Sleep is messy, which is why I try to get as little as possible of it.

As for the video …. AGCK!  I mean seriously, what the Hell is going on?  Is Steve Aoki trying to kill Clifton Collins, Jr?  Or is Michelle Rodriguez just dreaming that Aoki is strangling her …. well, I want to say lover but they don’t really appear to be too much in love.  Who is dreaming in this video and who needs to “WAKE UP?”  Personally, I think Michelle Rodriguez may have seen what Clifton Collins, Jr. was dreaming about so she summoned Aoki from her own dreams, specifically so he could be her vessel of vengeance.  To be honest, the whole thing kind of feels like a Jean Rollin vampire film to me.  And yes, yes …. I know that I tend to compare anything that is the least bit surreal to a Jean Rollin vampire film but that doesn’t make the observation any less pertinent.

Of course, it’s also possible that there might not be any definite explanation as to just what exactly is happening.  Perhaps the point.  Like life, the video may mean whatever we want it to mean.

Now, I will admit that I did attempt to search around online and find what other people thought this video was about.  Unfortunately, almost every link that I followed led me to someone talking about the video for Maroon 5’s Wake Up Call.  I’d actually like to see someone remake Begin Again with Steve Aoki in the Adam Levine role.  I think that would be hella interesting.

Anyway, enjoy!

Film Review: Flashdance (dir by Adrian Lyne)


Instead of getting any sleep last night, I decided to stay up and watch the 1983 dance film, Flashdance.  As a result, I’m not only very tired but everyone I see today, I’m just like, “You’re not really a welder, are you?”

In the film, that question is asked by bitchy Katie Hurley (Belinda Bauer) to 18 year-old Alex (Jennifer Beals) and the answer, by the way, is yes.  Alex is a welder.  Judging by the way the film handles the topic, it appears that audiences in 1983 were really stunned that a woman could be a welder.  (I kept expecting to hear someone say, “She’s one of those lady welders, like you read about in the Reader’s Digest.”)  Myself, I’m more amazed that an 18 year-old in Pittsburgh could get a high-paying union job.  Then again, we never really see any evidence that Alex is really doing much as a welder.  We do see her at a construction site holding one of those torch things but that’s pretty much it.  Last night, I started Flashdance with no idea what a welder does and I ended the movie with even less of an idea but then again, the movie really isn’t about welding.

Instead, it’s about dancing!  And love!  And holding onto your dreams!  And living in a big warehouse with a dog and a handsome boyfriend!  As one character puts it, when you give up your dreams, you die.  Of course, most people have multiple dreams so what happens if you only give up one but hold onto the others?  I guess you just lose a toe or something.  But anyway….

Actually,  before we move on, how much money did welders make back in 1983?  Because seriously, Alex lives in a gigantic and very nicely decorated building and her only roommate is a dog.  As Alex explains to her boss and boyfriend, Nick (Michael Nouri), the building was an abandoned warehouse before Alex moved in.  So, does Alex own the building?  Does she just rent it?  It’s a great place and I love what Alex does with it but seriously, it’s hard to believe that any 18 year-old — even one who is working two jobs — could afford it.

Yes, Alex has two jobs.  Such is the price of independence.  When she’s not welding, she’s dancing at a dive bar.  Her routines are amazingly filmed and a lot of fun to watch but they’re also so elaborate it’s hard to believe that they could be performed in such a run-down establishment or that the bar’s blue collar clientele would have much patience for them.  She’s an exotic dancer, which means she doesn’t take off her clothes.  The sleazy owner of local strip club (Lee Ving) keeps trying to encourage Alex and her friend, Jeanie (Sunny Johnson), to come dance at his place but Alex has no interest in that.  Jeanie, on the other hand, accepts the offer.  Fortunately, Alex is there to run into the club and yank her off stage and then yell at her.  Alex spends a lot of time yelling at people.  She also throws a rock through one of Nick’s windows when she sees him talking to his ex-wife.  One could argue that Alex has rage issues but no one in the film seems to take them personally.  How could they?  Alex is pursuing her dreams and the good thing about pursuing a dream is that you can do whatever you want while doing so.

(Interestingly, you can tell that the filmmakers were a little bit concerned that audiences in the early 80s might view Alex as being a bit too independent and confrontational.  In between the scenes of Alex yelling at people and casually reaching underneath her sweatshirt to remove her bra while Nick watches, there are also scenes of Alex going to confession.  It’s as if the film’s saying, “Yes, she welds!  Yes, she has a temper!  Yes, she’s flirty!  But fear not, she’s a good girl!  So, it’s okay for you to be on her side….”)

For a film that was shot on the streets of Pittsburgh, there’s not a gritty moment to be found in Flashdance.  This is the type of film where Alex rides her bicycle across the city and it never once gets stolen, despite the fact that she never actually locks it up.  In the world of Flashdance, all conflicts are easily resolved, all insecurities are ultimately conquered, and all dreams come true.  It’s a world where Alex can become a great dancer despite having never had any formal training just because, as she puts it, she’s “watched TV and read books.”  (My old dance teachers probably hated this movie.)  It’s a fairy tale and, like most fairy tales, it’s deeply silly and yet oddly compelling at the same time.  Never once do you buy that Alex is a welder and it’s pretty obvious, from all the quick cuts and the skewed camera angles, that Jennifer Beals did not do her own dancing.  But it doesn’t matter because it’s hard not to get pulled into the film’s glitzy fantasy.  Flashdance may technically be a bad movie but I dare you not to cry a little when Alex leaves her audition and finds Nick waiting for her.  Not only does Alex achieve her dreams, but she also get a rich, older boyfriend, the type who gives her flowers and puts a bow on her dog.

It’s interesting to note that the two films that practically define the early 80s cinematic aesthetic, Flashdance and Scarface, were both released in 1983.  (Not only was Flashdance initially offered to Scarface director Brian DePalma but Al Pacino was also offered the role of Nick.  Pacino, of course, turned it down and played Tony Montana instead.)  To be honest, I think you can argue that Flashdance and Scarface are essentially the same film.  They’ve both got neon opening credits.  They’ve both got a score from Giorgio Moroder.  They’re both elaborate fantasies about someone who won’t surrender their dream.  Just replace all the cocaine that Tony Montana snorted with Alex’s love of dancing.

Finally, I have to mention Flashdance‘s music.  The score and the song may be totally 80s but it still sounds good in 2019.  The theme song won an Oscar and let me tell you, if you can listen to this song without dancing around your house in your underwear, then you obviously have a lot more self-control than I do.

Music Video of the Day: I’m Glad by Jennifer Lopez (2002, dir by David LaChapelle)


Believe it or not, this is the video that got Jennifer Lopez sued.

That’s right.  Paramount Pictures actually sued Jennifer Lopez and Sony Music over a claim of copyright infringement, saying that they had no right to make a video that was clearly a recreation of the 1980s dance film, Flashdance.  Lopez countered that Flashdance is one of her favorite movies and that the video was meant to be a loving homage.  Personally, I think the video plays more like a satire but regardless, Lopez’s affection for the source material does shine through.

Here’s the thing, though.  Paramount might have had a point about the copyright infringement thing.  But this video introduced a whole new generation of people (like me) to their film.  Would I have ever watched Flashdance if not for this video?  Well, probably.  I have a weakness for 80s dance movies.  But what about people who aren’t attracted to flashy 1983 films like a moth to an open flame?  This video is probably the best advertisement for Flashdance that’s ever been made.

While it’s easy to dismiss Paramount’s lawsuit as a miscalculation, the lawsuit filed by Maureen Marder was  a far more tragic story.  Marder was the dancer whose life story inspired Flashdance.  Marder was paid a flat fee of $2,300 for her story.  Flashdance went on to make 150 million at the U.S. box office.  Basically, a lot of people got rich off of Flashdance but the dancer who inspired the film did not.  Nor did Marder see any money from the subsequent Broadway musical or Lopez’s music video.  Marder, whose career was ended by a spinal injury, sued Lopez for copyright infringement in 2003.  Three years later, Marder’s suit was dismissed.

Anyway, despite all of the legal drama. I like this video.  I like that Lopez dances as if her life depended upon it and I like that she’s unashamedly and unabashedly sexy in the video.  Famously, Lopez was intimately involved in the editing of this video and refused to allow any type of retouching to be done to her famously curvy figure.  This video features her at her most confident and determined, showing off the drive that made her a star.  Say what you will about Jennifer Lopez as an actress, she can dance.

Hopefully, someday, someone will do a music video based on the finale of Dance or Die.  Now, that would be something to see!  Until then, I’m Glad is the perfect 80s homage/satire.

Enjoy!

Music Video of the Day: Block Rockin’ Beats by The Chemical Brothers (1997, dir by Dom & Nic)


Are we in the past, the present, or the future?  It’s an interesting question and one that’s more relevant than you might think.  I may be writing this in my present but you’ll be reading it in the future, which of course means that I’m currently speaking to you from the past.

What does that have to do with today’s music video of the day?  Perhaps nothing, though I do like the way that this video seems to be a perfect illustration of how people in the past once spent their present visualizing the future.  There are oppressive government agents, all wearing suits.  There are people fleeing after committing some sort of vague, possibly criminal act.  There’s the appropriately decadent club where people dance while the world outside descends into stormy chaos.  Today, this video and this song would be considered to be rather retro but, back in 1997, it was all undoubtedly viewed as being quite futuristic.

Needles to say, I like this video.  With all the rain and its neon noir atmosphere, it’s a video that seems almost as if it’s been excerpted out of a larger movie.  One could easily imagine a 90-minute version of this video, one that would undoubtedly feature a lot more time spent in the storm.  It’s a video that does a very good job at suggesting life under a dystopia and while dystopian societies are terrible when it comes to day-to-day living, they have inspired some memorable music videos.

This video is one of the many Chemical Brothers videos to have been directed by Nick Goffey and Dominic Hawley (better known as Dom & Nic).  According to the imdb, the cinematographer was Simon Chaudoir, who is credited with not only several other music videos but also with working on two episodes of the British spy series, Spooks.  Here in the States, Spooks was known as MI-5.  I watched a few episodes when it aired over here.  It was a stylish show but I quickly learned not to get too attached to any of the characters.

Anyway, enjoy!