MoMA Looks Back at Spike Jonze: The First 80 Years


In anticipation of this weekend’s release of Where The Wild Things Are, the Museum of Modern Art in New York has created the first ever retrospective of Spike Jonze’s work. Spike Jonze: The First 80 Years.

MoMA’s Department of Film has a hip series called Filmmakers in Focus, and last week director Spike Jonze attended the opening for his first-ever career retrospective. The October 8 opener included a conversation with Jonze, organized by MoMA’s Associate Curator in their Department of Film, Joshua Siegel. Also present for this discussion was beloved Where The Wild Things Are author Maurice Sendak. This seemingly whimsical opening night featured In Cahoots, a collection of several short films that the two made together during shooting for Where The Wild Things Are. Much of the retrospective centers around Jonze’s influences and bevy of artistic expressions, as well as his big three films: Being John Malkovich (1999), Adaptation (2002), and Where the Wild Things Are (2009).

If you’re a New York City Reject, which many of you are, we encourage you to head down to MoMA between now and October 18th to experience Jonze the way he was meant to be experienced. (We’re assuming you’ll be drunk. Retrospectively).

Things to Do:

  • Wednesday, October 14 at 4:30 EST, MoMA is screening the Jonze-produced film Heavy Metal in Baghdad (84 mins). The movie is documentary of the Iraqi underground metal band Acrassicauda (which is Latin for “black scorpion”). They risk their lives — quite literally — for their passion.
  • Thursday, October 15: A related event by PopRally,with photographer/producer Patrick O’Dell. This event features a screening of influential skateboard videos from the 1980s to present, including Jonze’s own contributions
  • Thursday, October 15: Follow up the PopRally event with a panel discussion, attended by notable skateboarders and filmmakers (including Jonze). Also featured is a live performance by the band No Age.
  • There’s lots more. Check out the full screening schedule over at MoMa.

And, if you’re not in the Big Apple, check out these Spike Jonze-directed music videos:

From MoMA’s release:

MoMA’s Department of Film presents the first-ever retrospective of Spike Jonze (b. 1969, Rockville, Maryland), celebrating his work as a director, producer, cinematographer, writer, actor, choreographer, and sometime stuntman. Few filmmakers can claim to have earned the undying love and respect of skateboarders and rappers, a beloved children’s book author, and scholars of Lacan and Derrida. But Jonze’s reputation as one of the most imaginative, intelligent, and daring filmmakers working today was established early on with his legendary skateboard videos, music videos, and commercials, and has since been cemented by three features: Being John Malkovich (1999), Adaptation (2002), and Where the Wild Things Are (2009).

The mind games in Jonze’s films—the existential puzzlements and feats of narrative deconstruction—are bedazzling, to be sure, but so is the exuberant physicality of his work, from the graceful (the Dance of Despair and Disillusionment in Malkovich, the skateboarding films that recall the gravity-defying acrobatics of Douglas Fairbanks and Harold Lloyd, the Björk, Pharcyde, and Fatboy Slim videos that pay homage to Hollywood’s golden age of musicals); to the anarchical (Jackass: The Movie, Yeah Yeah Yeah’s “Y Control” music video, the Gap “Pardon Our Dust” commercial); to the endearingly awkward (the stylings of the Torrance Community Dance Group and the silent pantomime of Maurice at the World’s Fair).

“Spike’s a meshuggener,” Maurice Sendak observes, “a really crazy kid who is willing to be independent and get his way … kind of goofy, adventurous, whacked-out, but dramatically gifted.” On October 8, Jonze, who came up with the exhibition’s wry title himself, participates in an opening-night discussion with Maurice Sendak and exhibition curator Joshua Siegel.

Bethany writes about sex. Suck it, nerds. Follow her on Twitter:

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