In the past, Sound & Vision has made an effort to honor film makers who don't often get public pats on the back: those directors who make their careers primarily in the world of pop videos and who have a vision to elevate "commercials for songs" to something resembling an art form. Among those so recognized for excellence thus far: Jean-Baptiste Mondino, Tim Pope, Julien Temple (who has gone on to feature films) and Stephen Johnson.
But just as the same names keep popping up in the director's slot of the best clips, so do certain folks often turn out to be consistently responsible for the dreck that settles like scum on the MTV pond. Pop video is a medium that almost by its very nature seems destined to appeal to the more base instincts, and it takes a special talent to repeatedly go that extra mile and aim for the lowest common denominator of the lowest common denominator.
Thus, the creation of our own Video Hall of Shame.
Plenty of candidates suggest themselves as immediate inductees. But for inaugural honors, we have to go with Marty Callner, a talented technician who uses sex as a weapon in his saucy, teasing clips for Heart, Whitesnake, Kiss, MSG and other teen-oriented outfits. Sex is "what rock 'n' roll is about," Callner told an interviewer recently. "That's what kids relate to. Hopefully, we're not gratuitous about it. . . . I don't want you to think that it's sex for sex's sake--although it is and it isn't, if you know what I mean."
We think we do, Marty, and we hope you know what we mean when we offer you Sound & Vision's very first Video Hall of Shame Award. Be aware, however, that you have a new rival on the scene this month: auteur Cher, who as a first-time director exploits herself perhaps even better than you could and lands herself at the very bottom of our 0-100 scale.
CLIPS PICKED TO CLICK:
Eurythmics' "Beethoven (I Love to Listen To)." (Director: Sophie Muller.) Those lips, those eyes, that diction. Annie Lennox, in a short dramatic tour de force, evokes personalities as disparate as Maggie Smith and Marilyn Monroe as she undergoes two shocking transformations for "Beethoven," the first of several thematically linked clips set to accompany the "Savage" album. At first, nervously cleaning the living room in a plain dress and brown wig, a nearly unrecognizable Lennox plays a housewife mad enough to give even Carrie Snodgress the willies. And what homemaker wouldn't be a little jittery with a menacing little girl and a man in drag hanging around the homestead? In a fit of frustration, Lennox borrows the young girl's blond curls and the man's makeup and transforms herself into a brash blond bombshell (just in time for the sequel, "I Need a Man," where the persona continues). Spooky, unsettling, funny. So when is this woman going to take a major film role? 83
George Harrison's "Got My Mind Set on You." (Director: Gary Weis.) What a fine compromise: George gets to remain the Dignified Beatle and summon up the silly days of old with this clever clip. Harrison retires to a tasteful study to sing a little ditty from his armchair, while everything in the room--furniture, stuffed animal heads, you name it--joins in with the infectious rhythm. Weis' version is the better of two entirely different clips released to go with Harrison's hit. 80
WORTH A LOOK AND A LISTEN:
Buster Poindexter's "Hot, Hot, Hot." (Director: Ken Nahoum.) In the mid-'70s, David Johansen, front-man for the New York Dolls, had a boisterous and trend-setting time taking off from Mick Jagger's outrageous androgynous swagger. In 1987, Johansen has turned himself into hep lounge lizard Buster Poindexter, and guess what? In this romp, at least, he's still parodying Jagger, sort of--albeit the modern, Establishment, cocktail-society Jagger. And these days, just about any parody of Jagger is easier to watch than the real thing. The raucous persona gets a little tiresome in this calypso party anthem, but, as those who saw Poindexter's dazzling Roxy shows recently know, there's more range to his shtick than may meet the eye in this initial clip. 58
The Bangles' "Hazy Shade of Winter." (Director: Jim Shea.) A fine commercial for the much-despised movie version of "Less Than Zero," this visually striking combination of film clips and the Bangles' performance of the Simon & Garfunkel oldie does what a good film trailer is supposed to: It makes you want to go see a movie you really don't want to go see. 55
Heart's "There's the Girl." (Director: Marty Callner.) Ladies, skip the Victoria Principal diet and the Liz Taylor diet; the Ann Wilson diet is so much easier on the physique and the psyche. No calorie-counting required--you simply hire a director familiar with the "squeezing" technique, in which wide-screen footage is squeezed into a smaller, television-sized screen ratio. In fairness, it should be noted that other directors have used the odd-looking "squeezing" process for other pop videos (the Cure's "Just Like Heaven" and George Michael's "Faith" being two recent examples), but it is a wee bit suspicious that Ann Wilson is the only member of Heart to be the beneficiary of this technique in "There's the Girl"--no one is trying to emaciate skinny sister Nancy, who has the requisite amount of cleavage shots. Certainly Wilson has the right to indulge in any kind of visual subterfuge she wishes, but shouldn't someone have told her not to worry--that these days big is in ? 10
Whitesnake's "Is This Love." (Director: Marty Callner.) The Greeks were so confused on this whole issue of love that they had several different definitions for the word, but singer David Coverdale has got it sussed. "Is this love? This must be love" . . . How can you be sure, Dave? . . . " 'Cause it's really got a hold on me." Oh. (Roll over Socrates, tell Plato the news.) Well, something must have a hold on Coverdale, as he is stricken motionless and bedridden for most of the clip by the sight of Tawny Kitaen strutting around the room in a skimpy white dress. But Coverdale is finally spurred to get out of bed when Kitaen gets tired of his sloth and packs and leaves (to walk the streets in that tiny white dress). Saving the day, he surprises Kitaen and wins her back by sticking his tongue in her mouth, while propelling her toward the sports car hood where she spent so much of the last Whitesnake video. Sigh. 2
Cher's "I Found Someone." (Director: Cher.) The Gary Hart syndrome of willful self-embarrassment has spread, virus-like, to the entertainment field. How else to explain why Cher--who is finally getting her due as an actress--would find this such a convenient time to direct herself in one of the most garishly and egotistically bad pop videos ever made? The plot has Cher being dumped by her real-life boyfriend in favor of comely Virginia Madsen. Cher takes the mature route, of course, and tries to make him jealous by doing some dirty dancing with a kid who's a dead ringer for her ex. It works, natch. Withering glances, slapped faces, broken glass and several ghastly see-through dresses inevitably ensue before the big last-second reconciliation (cf. Coverdale and Kitaen). Jealousy, spite, recrimination and revenge--this is the way women in their 40s successfully conduct relationships nowadays? 0