This is going to be a much-quicker post than I typically give this series, for two reasons. The first is that Nathaniel changed the schedule on short notice, pushing the previously-planned [safe] to next Wednesday (which gives you an extra week to check out this remarkable film, won't you join in the fun?). The second is that, quite frankly, I don't have a lot to say about music videos. Despite being born in the MTV age and growing up in an era when the network was only beginning to transition from TRL to trashy reality shows, I never really connected to music videos. To this day, I'm much more likely to discover new music through streaming services and radio than I am through watching the song's video, and the format itself is so riddled with cliches and tropes that many videos are indistinguishable to me.
However, this week's new challenge is to select one of the five nominees for Best Cinematography at this year's MTV Video Music Awards (the full list of nominees you can find here) and pick a shot from that video. Unlike many of the categories at the increasingly-superfluous awards show, Best Cinematography is not voted on by viewers and fans, but rather by a panel of industry professionals, meaning that the winner isn't chosen purely by popularity of the artist. This year's nominees are:
- "Left Hand Free," Alt-J (cinematography by Mike Simpson)
- "Thinking Out Loud," Ed Sheeran (cinematography by Daniel Pearl)
- "Two Weeks," FKA Twigs (cinematography by Justin Brown)
- "Never Catch Me," Flying Lotus feat. Kendrick Lamar (cinematography by Larkin Sieple)
- "Bad Blood," Taylor Swift feat. Kendrick Lamar (cinematography by Christopher Probst)
I chose the "Never Catch Me," if only because it was my personal favorite out of the bunch: "Left Hand Free" too closely resembled a Budweiser ad, "Thinking Out Loud" never really grabbed me and I'm not all that fond of Ed Sheeran (though I like this song), "Two Weeks" is a visually-interesting but mostly-empty moving tableaux, and "Bad Blood," despite a killer remix by Lamar, is just a mess.
"Never Catch Me" is set at the funeral of two young black children, a visual that's made all the more haunting by the recent slayings of young black men in the United States. However, as the ceremony carries on for the adults, the two kids get out of their coffins for an energetic dance routine, eventually making their way out of the church and into a hearse that they drive away in. It's a video that makes the funereal lively, a celebration of the spirit in the face of the death of the body.
And the two kids are just phenomenal. They move with perfect rhythm like a pint-size Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, their choreography matching the driving hip-hop/jazz fusion of Flying Lotus' music and Lamar's spitfire lyrics. The cinematography is sublime, never showy but beautifully lit. But it's the kids who steal the show.
See the video for yourself here.