Monday, May 27, 2013

Janet Jackson – “Rhythm Nation”

  We start off in some huge and creepy warehouse, where we don’t really know what’s going on other than someone forgot to put color film in the camera. Everything is all black and white. There’s an ominous elevator coming down from somewhere, water dripping down the walls, and menacing machines all over the place that probably have evil functions that we don’t want to know about.  Janet and her little friends are doing that monotone voiceover, sounding like Franciscan monks practicing for an exorcism. Little Mary Sunshine would hate this place.

  The camera zooms in on a young man huddled in a corner. He appears to be crying, most likely due to all the depressing crap on the set. He turns to look at that arriving elevator, confusion and horror in his eyes, so Rush Limbaugh is probably inside it. But before we can determine if we need to scream and run, we cut to some folks clamoring down a ladder. The camera doesn’t show us their faces, so they might be in the Witness Protection plan after having done something they shouldn’t have at the top of that ladder.

  Cut to a close-up of water dripping into a puddle, which is like watching paint dry, only with better sound effects.

  Suddenly, we’re in a part of the warehouse where it looks like someone has converted a sinister loading dock into a dance floor, which proves to be very helpful, because Janet and her Rhythm County dancers have just arrived. They quickly get into a triangular formation and simultaneously do that little leg-spreading hop that means “we are about to start performing the intense choreography that will make you feel untalented and useless by the end of the video.”

  Close-up of Janet holding up her gloved fingers (what is it with the Jacksons and handwear?) and doing a little countdown for us, then boom, the music kicks in and everybody is bopping all over the stage in perfect synchronization, which means they had to do 300 takes of this bit until everybody popped at the same time, because nobody is that good. The precision-dancing goes on for a while, then we cut to another area with catwalks and lots of unexplained steam.  Some of the back-up backup dancers are over here, undulating on little stages where strippers would normally be if this was a gentleman’s club.

  Janet jumps into view, finally kicking off the vocals. She starts explaining why we are all part of the rhythm nation, but it’s a little hard to pay attention because she’s sporting this ginormous, vaguely-military medal on her chest. (What the hell did she have to do to wing that?) Speaking of military, everybody is dressed in garb that looks like some type of dark-ops cadet corps. We’ve got a serious uniform fetish going on here. But their intimidating boots sound really good when they stomp them on the floor, so it’s all good.

  We get a glimpse of that young man wandering around in the pipes and steam. You’d think he would have high-tailed it out of here once the 4th Battalion started in with the Electric Slide, but we haven’t lived his life so we can’t really judge his personal decisions in a dank warehouse.

  Meanwhile, Janet and her friends are back on the loading dock, doing more gyrations. I notice that Janet’s ponytail is really dramatic, with her copious locks flying about prettily as she whips her head, while the other female dancers have ponytails that have been slicked-up and tightly bound, not moving a millimeter. This seems a little unfair to the non-Janet girls, but maybe this is just something that’s in Janet’s contract. (“I must have the biggest hair or I’m not leaving the dressing room.”)

  I guess it doesn’t really matter, since everyone seems to be having a swell time.  We spend a while on the loading dock, occasionally cutting over to this odd, really long room where Janet and the Janettes march toward the camera in a dominating manner, sort of like the “uh oh, that’s not good” scenes in Night of the Living Dead when the zombies band together and storm the old wooden house. (Maybe if the video producers hadn’t decided to film in black and white, I wouldn’t have gone there, but they did, so I did.)

  We eventually find Janet and a few of her closest backup dancers in yet another part of the warehouse, where they are doing a special routine that mostly involves them striking various poses that require them to hold their fists up in front of their faces. Okay, then, they are prepared to fight. But, um, what are they fighting? The steam?

  We make another visit to the loading dock, because it’s time for another major line dance, this one having something to do with everybody pointing their fingers and thrusting their hips. It’s all very well done, of course, because you don’t get to be in a Janet Jackson video unless you know what the hell you’re doing. The backup dancers are hitting every critical plot point in the choreography as if their lives depended on it. And really, it does. You get your ass kicked off a Jackson shoot, you better have a Plan B for your career choice.

  Another shot of the young man wandering around Area 57 when he should be finding an exit door. Instead of fleeing, he decides to pause and watch Janet and the drill team continue with their exuberant rhythmic moves. I’m not sure why he’s forced to review the dancing from the other side of a chain-link fence (what is that all about?) but it’s a good thing that he decided to stick around, because this is the section where the choreography goes into overdrive, with the dancing folks performing moves that most humans couldn’t accomplish without a personal trainer and lots of free time on their hands.

  This part goes on for a very long time. Not that this is a bad thing, it’s just that the energy unleashed during this segment is enough to power the city of Newark for three years. I was completely exhausted, and all I did was push play. If we could get that kind of power unleashed during election season, the whole country might be in a better place. Food for thought, yes? (Quit eating nachos and watching reruns of Sex in the City, get in the car and go vote.)

  Then we head to what I’m assuming is one of the basement levels of the warehouse. (No one handed me a map, so I’m just guessing here.) In this bit, Janet and a select cadre of dancers are performing an interpretive piece that I believe has something to do with… hell, I don’t know. We have cameo dancers who are very limber and can do the splits. They are very invested in their craft, and they perform some admirable moves, especially the one guy (girl?) with the nunchucks. S/he’s whipping those things around with an intensity that would certainly make me pay attention to whatever cause s/he represents. I’m writing out a donation check right now, you can let me know what I just supported some other time. Please don’t whap me upside the head with something on the end of a chain.

  Next up, we roll into a montage of Janet and the High-Kicking Cadets doing their thing all over the warehouse. Sometimes we have just a few of them doing something intricate in a shadowy hallway, other times we have the entire population of Nevada doing pelvic thrusts in a massive steam-drenched room full of metal walkways that might be a gay bar in SoHo. Eventually we get to the point where Janet and Friends are doing that extended sequence where they keep popping their heads to one side repeatedly, in what looks like a very painful dance move.  Even the Young Man who doesn’t seem to have a purpose other than to run around and try to get out of here pauses in his running with an expression saying “That’s gotta hurt, girl. Why you jackin’ with your neck like that?”

  Janet  doesn’t really have time to answer him, because this is also the part of the video where the camera keeps zooming in for a close-up of Janet and that big-ass key hanging from her right earlobe, whilst she sing-pleads for us to “say it for” all of the oppressed people of the world. This is a very admirable plea, but I’m still not getting the military theme with the outfits. Or the shadowy darkness. Or the still inexplicable steam that keeps billowing like something mechanical is having an orgasm.

  I guess it really doesn’t matter, because we head into the last bit of the story, with Janet and the Janettes doing a final line dance on the loading dock, wherein they seem to be telling the story of what happens when you add sugar to your already-sugared breakfast cereal. These folks are caught up in a synchronized fervor that makes you lose weight from simply watching the video. Seriously, just keep hitting play and you’ll drop a dress size or two. Promise.

  Then the dancers all suddenly hunch over to the right and freeze. End trans.

  Meanwhile, the Young Man who just wants to get the hell out of here and find a place where people aren’t aggressively dancing for inexplicable reasons manages to stumble his way toward that elusive Exit Door. He opens it, and a Jackson family member hands him a glove…

Click Here to Watch this Video on YouTube.

Friday, May 10, 2013

The Script, – “Hall Of Fame”

  We start out with a brief shot of some boxer apparently doing something award worthy at a match, then we cut to a really loud mom waking up her son in their crappy dwelling. Zip over to an image of a really fancy ballerina getting a busload of roses throw at her, then we have a much-quieter dad waking up his daughter in their really fancy digs. Okay, it appears that this video is going to be about the universal theme of parents destroying their children’s dreams, regardless of your socio-economic background. Got it.

  We get a few additional shots to let us know that the young woman is at least somewhat deaf and has to wear a hearing aid, which is no laughing matter so we’ll leave that alone. She gets dressed and then gives her dad a smooch as she heads out the door to do whatever little princesses do when they are mobile and unescorted. Then we’re back at the crappy house, where harridan mom is smoking at the breakfast table, still hollering and being unpleasant and wearing an ugly outfit while the young man prepares to leave for his day. Her parting words are: “Don’t forget the trash!” (How can he? She’s sitting right there and won’t shut up.)

  Now we have some unknown hands playing the opening notes of the song on a piano. It’s very pretty and all, but I hope those hands are actually attached to a person and that this isn’t going to turn into a slasher movie about severed body parts that come alive and prevent you from going to the senior prom. We get a glimpse of Young Man taking out that much-discussed trash (as far as I can tell, Mom’s not in the can) and a shot of Young Woman marching off to some place that requires her to accessorize with a stylish gym bag and a blouse that is so short it might as well be a bra.

  Back to the piano, where we are greatly relieved to discover that the potentially-lethal hands are indeed attached to a human form, with that form being Danny, lead singer for The Script. He’s apparently giving one of those impromptu concerts in an otherwise vacant warehouse, something that only happens in music videos and movies that win the Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival. We get shots of Young Man running along the urban streets of his town (the best way to get away from Hollering Mama, yes?) as he has more visions about being that triumphant boxer. Or getting to wear silky shorts in public. Something about that roped-off square appeals to him.

  Then we’re back in the art-house warehouse, where has wandered in because it’s time for he and Danny to start singing or this will just be an instrumental track. Danny goes first, accentuating his words with some street moves that perhaps he should have practiced a little bit more. does a bit better with the hand choreography during his parts, probably because he’s had so much practice trying to keep Fergie’s breasts from upstaging him during concerts.

  While these two toss the lyrics at one another, we check up on Young Man. It seems he wasn’t paying any attention to where his nimble feet where carrying him, and he’s now on a street  where three shady guys want nothing more than to chase after Young Man, and I doubt if they just want to ask him to join their glee club. We now have a car-chase segment without any cars, as they all race along, rushing past Young Woman, who briefly pauses to review their immaturity, then she and her half-shirt continue to wherever.

  We get another montage, this one of Danny and performing for the audience that doesn’t exist, and the Three Thugs pounding on Young Man behind a dumpster. (We get a shot of someone watching the pounding from a nearby window without bothering to intervene, so we must be in New York City.) Then we have Young Woman arriving at a dance studio, where everyone is really pretty and they all weigh about two pounds each. One of the other dancers (an ice-blonde prototype) makes a face about Young Woman wearing hearing aids, so we instantly hate her and hope she falls down an elevator shaft.

  Next we have Young Man, face bruised and cut after his encounter with the Rethuglicans, arriving at a gym where lots of people are boxing and looking wet. Meanwhile, Young Woman is twirling away over at the studio, full of the spirit. Then I guess the spirit goes on break, because Young Woman does something that she shouldn’t have and falls to the floor, causing Evil Blondie to smirk at her because that’s what bitches do. Young Woman gets back to her feet with determination in her heart, conviction in her soul, and the phone number of a yuppie hit-man in her satchel.

  Back to the warehouse, where and Danny are still doing their thing, which is starting to get a tiny bit boring. They’re singers, and they’re singing. No real surprises here. But at least they’re having a good time, especially Danny, who gets so emotionally-invested during the chorus that he appears to throw a punch at the camera and then does a manly twirl in celebration. (Which, in my book, sort of makes him a suspect in the street-mugging that just went down a few minutes ago, but we’ll let the police handle it.)

  Another montage, this one of Young Man training at the gym while thickly-muscled trainers show him some tough love about learning the dark arts, making us feel like we’re watching a promo for Rocky 17: The Luck of the Irish.  We also have footage of Young Woman, as she works really hard in the studio so she can one day be as good as Jennifer Beals’ body-double in Flashdance. (And yes, Ice Blondie continues to smirk at Young Woman’s efforts, proving that Ann Coulter is not the only one with a massive stick up her ass.)

  The training montage goes on for a long time, with lots of punching and sweating and standing on your toes, reminding us that you have to work really hard to be good at what you do. Unless you’re a Kardashian. Or a Fox News reporter.

  But we know that our young starlets will eventually succeed, especially with Danny and continually reminding us on the soundtrack to “be champy-uns”. Young Man prepares for an important fight, with another Rocky-tribute series of scenes, and Young Woman happily trots off to audition for a dance company, where a stern-faced group of people  on the review panel look like they just got back from the proctologist.

  Of course, we have to have a little bit of drama before they triumph, mainly because there’s still a minute left in the song. Young Man is a little wobbly in his bout at first, so he has to be yelled at by Poppa Bear trainer while a blood-thirsty crowd roars in the background. (I’ve never understood boxing as a spectator sport. You want to pay money to watch people beat the hell out of each other? Really? But at least boxing is better than the WWF, where grown men dry-hump each other while wearing bikini briefs on national television.)

  And Young Woman has her own troubles, with her initially jacking-up her audition and falling down once again. (No reaction shot from Blondie, so maybe she’s at the bottom of that elevator shaft. Or at the proctologist’s office, where both of them are in for a surprise.) Luckily, Young Woman just has to run place her hands on a conveniently-nearby speaker (she can’t hear, remember, you might have forgotten that during the 112 times that Danny or struck another pose) so she can get the rhythm back, and then she’s all good. (This is actually a very nicely done bit, with the song becoming muted while her hand is touching the speaker. I wish I had a button that could mute the world like that.)

  Eventually, Young Man presumably wins his fight, with him (or somebody, might be the dream boxer) hoisting one of those massive title belts. (Where are you actually supposed to wear that thing? At a manhole-cover convention?) And I guess Young Woman triumphs as well, because she gets all smiley. We don’t actually see her getting her own locker or whatever happens when you get accepted by a dance troupe, but we do have another image of the dream dancer being pelted by roses, so I’m taking that as a positive sign.

  The video ends with Danny, all alone again in that warehouse, as he walks toward the camera and our last image is of his darkened crotch. I’m thinking that shot probably should have been in a different type of video, but maybe that’s Danny’s signature sign off, like Carol Burnett with her ear tug…

Click Here to Watch this Video on YouTube.


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