Friday, April 27, 2007

Making Movies

There is a new Ludacris video for the track “Slap” directed by Philip Andelman where Luda plays the Travis Bickle role from Taxi Driver. Now that is a weird and inspired choice (though not quite as weird as that Three Six Malkovich clip from a few months back). As I was starting to write about the Luda video I saw that the gloriously “elbow-patched corduroy jacket of videos” that is Obtusity had already gone through all the layers of meaning behind the choice of Taxi Driver as the motif for the new Ludacris video.

Obtusity does a great job at examining what the clip means. Read the post, he is way deeper than me. But the key reason directors pick feature film ideas for the videos is not because of the psychologial weight of the film they are homaging, not just because the video directors are lazy, and not just because the idea appeals to the bloated ego of the artist (though that helps) – but because the label and artist will know (or think they know) what they are gonna get when the director pitches them the idea. Nothing fancy, the “video as movie” style’s main strength is that it books jobs for the director because there is a pre-laid structure (and implied success in the marketplace) to appeal to the people writing the check.

This job obtaining strategy seems especially effective in hip-hop clips from Nas starring in Casino to Young Jeezy biting the urban classic Paid in Full to Busta Rhymes acting out his Mr. & Mrs. Smith swordfight fantasies with Gabrielle Union. Though rock acts do it as well, like Tom Petty getting his Mad Max on to Pat Benatar and the rest of the Dirty Dozen.

Benny Boom is a director who definitely knows what will sell to artists and labels – and everyone loves a good movie. Plus, it seems that Boom provides the voice of the couple's counselor in the Busta clip. Note that guns are verboten on music television so that explains Busta’s sword as well as Luda’s self-destructive finger pointing.

The number of movies that became clips is huge (somewhere on Antville there must be a list of music videos with plots taken from films but I couldn’t find it). Number one on that list (of course) would have to be Scarface – the film that has launched a thousand videos. I don’t have the energy to go into how many times Tony Montana has showed up in music video or dissect why rappers looove them the drug-addicted incesting Italo-Cubano psychopath. (Okay, quick theory – rapper’s DVDs never play all the way to the end so they don’t know Pacino dies, or rappers have even more suicidal thoughts than dentists).

The phrase “mini movie” is job-booking gold. Trust me. “Mini movie,” the labels will eat it up.

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