As with “A Matter of Trust,” this one’s just fun in a campy way with a simple premise. Paul Simon just wants to sing his song but Chevy Chase shows up and upstages him, calling attention to their height differences. And they do a nice synchronized dance with the trumpet and sax. There isn’t much to this one, but it’s certainly memorable and brings a smile to your face. My only criticism is I never cared for the song’s silly title. Why not call it “Bodyguard” which is what I always called it anyway?
Now we’re getting into the really good stuff. From here on in, pretty much every video is a masterpiece. From the future director of THE HUNGER GAMES films, here is a cinematically-shot epic filled with incredible sets, costumes, fantasy, dance moves, and a sense of wonder. Every shot looks meticulously-planned. What does it mean? Why does she have the big eyes? Is this some science fiction/alien world? There’s even a bit of homage to “Vogue.” There’s a reason this is often cited as one of the best videos of the 2000’s. Oh, and the song is also fucking great!
From the director who would later give us “Party In the USA,” here is another epic that feels larger than life. It starts a little slow but once the first refrain comes in and the water and silver imagery starts it really takes off. Rhianna somehow manages to make dancing with an umbrella sexy. For an updated version of SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN, this video pulls all the stops.
There are many great videos that never feature the musician, but here’s one that pulls the rug out from under you, casting Robert Downey, Jr in the very spot that should go to the performer. This video is sad and heartfelt, and best summed up by Sir Elton himself: “I wanted to do a video that was mature. And Sam Taylor-Wood said, ‘I’ve got an idea of just doing it very simply, one person, not you, lip-syncing to the song. An actor, maybe.’ I came up with the idea of Robert. I thought, ‘God, the lyrics are very close to home. I wonder if he’ll do it’ He was very interested. It all came together in five or six days. We sent him the album, and he said, ‘Yes.’ I’m thrilled with it…. I love the fact that it is a one-shot video. He did 16 takes. They used the very last take because he was completely relaxed by then.”
This is the absolute best thing that Bay has ever directed! Part over-the-top action spectacle, part LA BELLE ET LA BETE and PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, this video succeeds as being just as bombastic as any of Jim Steinman songs or the iconic BAT OUT OF HELL albums. If you’re a Meat Loaf fan, you know his songs all create an atmosphere. This music video is a beautiful fairy tale on a motorcycle! It even has a bit of a RETURN TO OZ vibe!
When Kanye jumped on stage and called this one of the greatest videos of all time, we all flocked to see just what the heck he was talking about. And many of us had to admit that Kanye was right. You will watch this video over and over again, looking for the cuts. The grace, the sass, and the cinematography are all top notch. As with “Bad Romance,” you can see that every single moment has been meticulously planned, and because the lighting and background keeps changing, we lose our sense of dimensions and spatial awareness. Not to mention it helps to have a dance sequence that the entire world was soon imitating. However, I’ve never understood why she has that robotic hand.
Long before Anne Hathaway won an Oscar for singing an entire sad song in closeup in one take, Sinead did it first. This is a beautiful haunting song, made even more so by her heartfelt eyes and expressions. Sadness, anger, anguish, an occasional fade, but the central emotion conveyed is loneliness and a feeling of abandonment. With very few tools, this video is able to express its melancholic atmosphere. Sinead is a weeping angel and it’s a shame that the mainstream media has mostly forgotten her! She needs to brought back into the limelight.
One of the most controversial videos of all time, this creepy, disturbing look at a night of clubbing in London, told from a POV perspective, and engaging in acts of assault, drug-use, robbery, vomiting, and aggressive sexuality before we come to its infamous twist ending…is one very effective music video. Once again, you can make a great video without the musicians ever appearing. This one puts its focus on a different protagonist, and the results may shock you, but it’s also some powerful filmmaking, showing you another side of life, the kind your parents don’t teach you about.
This one came close to being my #1. Dangerously close. As with “Somebody That I Used To Know” and “Single Ladies,” this is one that you appreciate more if you are a filmmaker. You watch it once and marvel, then watch it a second and third time looking for tricks. How did they do it? Look at all the details in the background. Look at how well timed to the music every single rotation is. It even ends on just the right note, ready to continue into the next infinite loop. This is the work of a master filmmaker. Everything that made ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND exactly what it was can be viewed right here. This is just a perfect music video and sums up what the medium is all about.
As I said, this one came really close to being my #1, but then I rewatched an old classic:
I was initially going to list this one lower, maybe around #8. But after rewatching it, I have to admit that all its hype is justified: incredible imagery, controversial content, and a sexualization of religion, stigmata, and racism. The song is powerful, still Madonna’s best, all these years later. People freaked out over this video back in 1989, calling it offensive and thought it was about a black Jesus (wrong. That’s supposed to be Martin de Porres, the patron saint of mixed-races). There have been many scholarly analyses of the video over the years, claiming it being about everything from Madonna’s fascination with Spanish culture to the general failure of religion. This starts out as a simple video, but by the time it ends, a curtain must come down and the cast must do a curtain call, taking its focus away from Madonna the Character and onto Madonna the Singer, making her the heroine of the artificial narrative she’s created. The video has grown so big that it has no choice but the break the fourth wall.
And that’s my list! Join in the coming weeks as I count down the best films of 2014!