Posts Tagged ‘Justin Timberlake’

Videotales – Are Pop Videos Still Relevant?

June 4, 2013

(NB – news article about The Art Of Pop Video, an exhibition at Liverpool’s FACT, which closed on 26/05/2013)

From Dylan waving placards along with ‘Subterranean Homesick Blues’ to Chris Cunningham’s nightmarish animations for Aphex Twin, pop history is full of iconic, innovative videos. And yet, difficult though it may be to comprehend in the age of YouTube, the record industry hasn’t always valued them so highly.

Initially the pop promo was seen by old-skool rockists as commercial fluff, an advert that diverted attention from the more important matter of the music itself. MTV changed all that, as the artistic ambitions that fuelled 1980s chart pop provided a platform for directors to challenge their own colourful imaginations.

A major new exhibition at FACT – Liverpool’s acclaimed media arts centre – investigates the history of the medium, featuring over a hundred video clips ranging from Fred Astaire’s iconic ‘Singin’ In The Rain’ choreography to Spike Jonze’s stylised work for the likes of Björk and Fatboy Slim. According to curator Michael P Aust, the pop video’s “synaesthesia of music and moving pictures” is unique.

“No other art form has this: the moment when we’re moved by a song, but unable to distinguish whether this comes from what we’ve seen, or what we’ve heard,” he says. The Art Of Pop Video exhibition provides a rare chance to properly study this powerful combination. “There are no pop video museums,” says Aust. “Unlike in cinema, no canonized selection of important works has been established yet.”

It’s an apt time to look at this subject, as we may actually be in something of a golden era. Always a way for breaking filmmakers to boost their credentials, videos are currently attracting Hollywood big-hitters. JJ Abrams is directing Empire Of The Sun’s new ones, David Fincher did Justin Timberlake’s comeback vid, while the likes of Tilda Swinton and Shia LeBouef have taken high-profile starring roles recently. Videos are a rare chance to do an arty short film that people will actually see.

Newer acts are fully exploring the medium’s potential. North London troubadour Tom Hickox is the son of a classical composer, Richard Hickox, but takes his visuals as seriously as his songs. He collaborates with a new company called De La Muerte Films, and feels that music videos are more important now than ever.

“People are as likely to hear music on YouTube as anywhere else, so the visual half of that medium needs to be addressed,” he says. “Film is such a potent force, so it needs to be handled with care, but when the marriage of film and music works it elevates the song into a different realm.”

For FACT, the exhibition represents an opportunity to explore pop video in a grander context, posing questions about “what legitimises an art form,” explains programme producer Ana Botella, “and what defines our times – past the age of television into the age of accessible digital tools, the Internet and social networks.”

The technology has certainly improved over the years, but has the overall quality? “There are a hell of a lot of stylish, expensive videos out there which lack any soul or impact,” says Debbie Scanlon of De La Muerte, who’ve also made films for Dog Is Dead and Kyla la Grange. “We have the potential to be more creative now with new tools, but it’s important we still use our brains.”

So is there scope to take more creative risks, in the post-TV age? “It tends to be down to the artist and their team. We probably won’t be allowed to make that big budget elephant sex video we had in mind for One Direction,” she laughs. “But at the same time, if they decide they want to change their image…”

(Originally published by Clash Music, 24/04/2013)

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The Social Network

October 21, 2010

Jesse Eisenberg as Mark Zuckerberg

Facebook: it’s a global phenomenon. You might, if you were so inclined, even call it the apex of online communication media – more instant than email, less cluttered than Myspace and bizarrely addictive without really doing anything much at all. But how interesting can a movie that documents the origins of the site truly be?

Well, pretty darn fascinating, it turns out. Aaron Sorkin’s screenplay was adapted from Ben Mezrich’s book The Accidental Billionaires, which revealed the legal… er, ‘complications’ that occurred during the site’s development, and director David Fincher weaves the resultant mish-mash of intrigue, betrayal and (I’m afraid so) computer jargon into a hugely engrossing picture.

Baby-faced Jesse Eisenberg plays socially inadequate hacker Mark Zuckerberg, who is frustrated by his inability to communicate with people (and one girl in particular) with the same ease that he manipulates algorithms or HTML. So far so Weird Science? Not really. Although things get pretty ridiculous, there are no cyber-babes or mutant bikers to be seen. Instead we get a noteworthy Justin Timberlake, as the cocky-but-paranoid Napster creator Sean Parker, a sterling turn from Andrew Garfield as Mark’s “only friend” Eduardo Saverin, and Armie Hammer playing both of the Winklevoss twins with some degree of panache.

Try as they might, however, none of the above quite manage to steal scenes from the increasingly impressive Eisenberg. Following his two star turns in last year’s Adventureland and Zombieland, you might have been forgiven for thinking the lad had been shoved in a curly wig and told ‘be like Michael Cera’, although frankly this does a disservice to both Cera’s naturalistic instincts and Eisenberg’s natural presence. He spreads out a little here – he does confused and awkward, sure, but then there’s total self-assurance in there too – especially in one particularly rousing speech where he responds to a cross-examination by stating in no uncertain terms why he hasn’t been paying attention. As ever with rising young actors, it’s too early to make grand claims for him just yet, but it’s hard not to imagine that we’re watching a genuine star in the ascendent right now.

It’s not all perfect – the closing scene returns to an idea from the movie’s opening sequence in a way that seems needlessly eliptical, as though it’s just there to tie the movie together rather than with any plot-related justification (apologies for being vague. I’m trying to avoid spoilers). However the non-linear sequencing works a treat, adding to the mystery along with Trent Reznor’s brooding, perfectly apt score.

One common question amongst reviewers has been whether the story is true. Ultimately, the only thing to ask in response is ‘who cares?’ Fincher and Sorkin have managed to make a compelling modern legal drama that’s relatable to life outside the courtroom and somehow hip with it. The Social Network is: well worth your time. Go see it.