“Maybe it’s O.K. to not want to tell strangers your most intimate sexual desires,” Tanya Bezreh tells her video diary in Coming Out Spanko, a remarkable little (15-minute) visual poem that eschews cleverness for true honesty. Even as the director/star is alone talking to her camera/herself (yes, while later broadcasting to a whole audience of strangers), she makes us fully aware that this is a radical concept in the tell-all Internet age. “I think you can speak abstractly” (in a “sexual desires” group) she muses, coyly avoiding mentioning of the specific kink that has led her to create art from obsession.
Bezreh, a heartwarming and adorable brunette, easily could have been cloying and obnoxious. She prays on camera, yawns and rubs her eyes, mostly in close-up with chop-chop cuts, often with only half her face in the frame (which makes sense since she’s not really a “whole” person, her desire yet to be integrated into her being, still the “other”). Along with her unflinching honesty, her deep critical thinking and her humility are what save her from descending into YouTube narcissism. She’s on a quest for answers and doesn’t pretend to have any. “If all energy goes away from everything else, then what are you left with?” she asks, wondering if kinky obsessions lead people to pursue careers in porn.
Bezreh giggles with delight and embarrassment as a guy behind a screen with a “blue monster” drawn on it gives her an over-the-knee spanking. “When you stick your finger in a taboo, it refracts,” she notes, adding that a kink is not a “monolithic thing.” She prays that she can catch vulnerability on film, then gives thanks for the challenge. (And in doing so touches upon the spiritual aspect of BDSM.) When Bezreh finally gets what she wants sexually she can’t believe it’s so—strange. “To share any true voice inside your body is to have faith,” she tells her diary (and us).
“Will I only be able to date S&M people now?” Bezreh asks near the end of the film, admitting that she feels like she’s leaving this planet for the one “where S&M people live.” It’s a funny line—and a question grappled with by each and every one of us whose desire exists outside the mainstream.
I’m pleased to report that camp is no longer the bastion of gay men (if it ever was), and that the phallic-challenged can camp it up every bit as much as the fags. For proof look no further than Michelle Johnson’s Triple X Selects: The Best of Lezsploitation, a hilarious compilation of Sapphic scenes from over 20 films of the 60s and 70s (featuring Swedish wildcats, Euro vampires, Italian nuns—you get the twisted international picture). Johnson (a.k.a. DJ Triple X) announces her his(her?)torical intentions early with these words on the screen: “To be politically correct we’ll call it ’erotic cinema.’” (I’m always pleased to encounter artists who agree with my contention that “erotica” is simply a word invented by intellectuals to ease the guilt about getting off.) Hail Mary! Lesbian camp is not an oxymoron—dykes do have a sense of humor!
And all at the expense of the male directors, most notably Joe Sarno and Jesús Franco, who created these titillating odes to girl-on-girl action that Johnson remixed. Just listening to the many heavy German accents it’s hard to believe any red-blooded male watching could keep a straight face, let alone a hard-on. But at least in the 60s and 70s the porn starlets made the attempt at acting—which is why the films have aged like fine wine into camp classics. (Nowadays they don’t even bother, which is why porn sucks, pun intended.)
And Johnson, using a soundtrack of 70s-inspired music and a male “P.S.A. voiceover” to explain the “lesbian deviant,” has discovered some inspired doozies. One prison scene, featuring naked women exercising as fully clothed others play ball and race around like kindergarteners, looks like choreography at a nudist camp. Another prison flick, the sole from the 80s, can best be described as “Flashdance gone wild,” with predatory inmates parading around in see-through lingerie—and leg warmers and headbands! And then there’s that dildo strung up to a fishing line between two cells, females furtively trying to shimmy it back and forth between trysts. But my favorite jailhouse scene is one in which the sadistic warden, devouring an undressed ingénue with her eyes, approvingly declares, “I can see you’ve taken good care of yourself,” a precursor to Le Chiffre’s line to James Bond in Casino Royale (need I say any more about Daniel Craig’s James Bond as porn star?)
But if women behind bars isn’t your thing there’s always vampire lesbos—even undead hippie lesbos who emerge creakily from grandfather clocks at the anointed hour. Or how about Peter Woodcock’s Daughters of Lesbos, a B&W, beatnik homage to Godard with a hardboiled Raymond Chandler narrator who solemnly sets the tone over cool jazz? As the lead lesbian drives towards her latest conquest we’re darkly told, “She was always the aggressor—forever the butch.” Then there’s that solemn “public service announcement” voice again, this time hovering above a colorful scene of two women drinking and carousing bawdily. There’s a great comic beat before we hear, “Many lesbians as a rule are heavy drinkers.” With that in mind I toast Michelle Johnson and all the women she selected who “showed so much skin for so little money.”
Viva is an exquisitely designed, lush, 35mm epic mash note to classic 70s exploitation (written, directed, starring, edited, production designed, even animated!) by a one-woman powerhouse named Anna Biller. Ostensibly about a bored sheltered housewife named Barbi (played by Biller with perpetual cocked eyebrow and pouted lips) who transforms into “Viva” upon plunging headfirst into the sexual revolution, the film is equal parts homage and critique as Biller both honors that period through meticulous detail and comments on it with 20/20 hindsight.
But first the production itself—which is a dazzling feast for the eyes with every shade of every color of the rainbow seeming to pop up somewhere. From vintage “Playboy” magazines to chartreuse shag rugs, from checked polyester suits with open shirts to lion’s head medallions, from cologne and cocktails to green Jell-o, “Viva” is nothing less than a treasure chest of nostalgia! And adrift among the hyper-real wreck is Biller’s Barbi who, after her husband Rick leaves her at precisely the same moment her best friend Sheila splits up from her hubby Mark, embarks on an odyssey à la Terry Southern’s camp icon Candy (only with a female empowerment touch, as Barbi desperately attempts to explore her sexuality on her own terms). In other words, Barbi-turned-Viva serves as an unwitting magnet to all the sexual energy of the 70s—and both profit from and suffer as a result. (“There’s nothing I like more than being wet,” Barbi innocently announces early on as she takes a dip in would-be-swingers Sheila and Mark’s pool.)
But beneath all the hippies and hair, makeup and music lies a film bubbling with ridiculous humor and serious heart. After Barbi and Sheila (played by comic vixen Bridget Brno) dress up seductively, they take a trip to an adventurous part of town. As Barbi wonders what to do next the ever-resourceful Sheila points the way. “Let’s stand over there,” Sheila chirps, so they walk to a corner and wait. Of course only mere seconds elapse before a sweet older woman approaches and asks who they work for. When they tell her they’re recently unattached housewives she offers them a way to meet the men of their dreams—and even make money in the process! Cut to a scene of Barbi and Sheila in a red velvet parlor, dressed to the nines in melodramatic bordello outfits straight out of a western. In a rare moment of comprehension Barbi suddenly assesses the situation. “It means we’re going to be prostitutes,” she says wide-eyed. Sighing, Sheila adds, “I always wanted to be a prostitute.”
After deciding to become belles du jour for the sake of excitement (Barbi chooses “Viva” as her hooker name because it means, “To live!”) the two make their separate ways through the world of sex, drugs and rock and roll (or, rather, musical theater. At an audition for an all-nude musical revue the director yells, “Now the pollution number!”) At the “Health Valley Nudist Retreat” (where nudists gather to sing and water plants) Viva meets the hirsute and horny Elmer. When that doesn’t work out she models for the intensely bohemian artist Clyde but refuses to sleep with him. Fed up he finally goes to the kindly madam for advice. “Have you tried drugs?” she offers.
In short, Viva is as addictively campy as the film’s centerpiece costume ball/orgy is outrageous, with African drummers mixing with naked nymphos blending with Mae West wannabes (or rather, one Mae West wannabe—a cameo by Biller’s very own mom). After a sleazebag tells Viva that she turns him on she wearily retorts, “I turn you on, I turn everybody on.” Viva is great camp because it’s so over the top—pushes the envelope in all directions—while remaining dryly and wickedly deadpan. With great “bad” acting by a terrific cast, including Chad England as Rick and Jared Sanford as Mark, every line becomes a morsel of fun. At the end when Barbi (“Viva” no longer) and Sheila are done sowing their wild oats and, like their wayward husbands, have grown enough to return to the marriages stronger and wiser, Rick receives a gift from Mark. “What is it?” he asks, lounging by the pool in domestic repose (albeit with a broken leg). In that moment of male bonding Mark earnestly replies, “An antique wooden duck.” As the slimy theater producer Arthur puts it, “This is going to be the freshest thing since Liberace.” I couldn’t agree more. Viva is the ultimate post-millennial midnight movie.
My heartfelt congratulations to all three filmmakers, Tanya Bezreh who took home the Juried Festival Award’s Best Documentary Short for Coming Out Spanko, Michelle Johnson who garnered an Honorable Mention in the Audience Choice Awards category for Triple X Selects: The Best of Lezsploitation, and Anna Biller whose Viva scooped up the Audience Choice Award for Best Narrative Feature. These women expand and enlighten not just the notion of “kink,” but of filmmaking itself.
Reflections in a Quilt: John McPhee’s The Patch
There’s something uncommonly relaxing about many of McPhee’s patient elaborations of things known and unknown.
“But beyond the flaring headlines of the past year, few are aware of who Richard Burton really is, what he has done, and what he is throwing away by gulping down his past and then smashing the glass.” This is one of those quotes, which, through its sheer heft and style, threatens to turn any accompanying review into a redundancy. To find other lines that meet its towering standard, seek its source: The Patch by John McPhee. There’s no shortage of arresting remarks in this nicely heterogeneous collection of writing. One sinks into the book, riveted, but also races across it as its fascinations multiply.
The first section is called “The Sporting Scene.” Those typically uninterested in sports or sports writing, like myself, shouldn’t be deterred by the title. As I discovered through other recent encounters with McPhee’s ballyhooed writing, the author has a knack for inexorably moving readers beyond their biases. Two-part New Yorker articles like “Oranges,” “The Pine Barrens,” and “Basin and Range,” which were later turned into books, are studious and propulsive. Fine-grained matters of geology or citrus aren’t exactly simplified in these articles, but wading through the density becomes an irresistible prospect thanks to the author’s intelligibility, wit, enthusiasm, and atmospheric touches. For an example of the latter, consider McPhee’s focus on the “unnatural and all but unending silence” of the Floridian orange groves that he visited. What’s more, he often conveys a certain sense of respectful understanding, as when he mentions that he has “yet to meet anyone living in the Pine Barrens who has in any way indicated envy of people who live elsewhere.”
Similar virtues spruce up the “The Sporting Scene.” Its pieces include emphases on fishing, football, golf, and lacrosse. McPhee honors the athletic endeavor by carefully illuminating its particulars. He busily supplies facts, anecdotes, ideas, and biographical details. In “The Orange Trapper,” for instance, he discusses his hunt for errant golf balls. It’s an engaging topic. He has learned, among other things, what occurs when you take a saw to a golf ball. You find the world: “Core, mantle, crust—they are models of the very planet they are filling up at a rate worldwide approaching a billion a year.” Other jolts arrive through the often remarkable conclusions to his paragraphs and pieces. The ending of “The Orange Trapper” is an especial wonder—a thrilling mobilization of words that elicits laughter and awe.
There are also bears: “Direct Eye Contact” is a compact assortment of hopes and advisements concerning bears in New Jersey, and it concludes on a sweetly uxorious note. Indeed, one never knows where any of these pieces are going. In “Pioneer,” meanwhile, McPhee ponders Bill Tierney’s choice to begin coaching the University of Denver men’s lacrosse team. “How could he leave Princeton?” McPhee asks. “It can be done. And Tierney knew what he was doing.” Those lines showcase the occasionally pithy, pleasantly chiseled style of his prose. It’s a considered design that favors clarity, structures hairpin turns toward new discursive trails, and pairs well with punchlines. In “Phi Beta Football,” one of McPhee’s colleagues promises to deliver him “a nice piece of change” if he figures out a suitable title for his book. “I went away thinking,” McPhee tells us, and then adds, “mostly about the piece of change.”
The recounting of sporting events is likewise augmented by the author’s playfulness. “Pioneer” throws us this line: “But Syracuse exploded—one, two, three—and the game went into ‘sudden victory’ overtime, the politically uplifting form of sudden death.” So transporting and genial is McPhee’s writing that the specifics of any given match never weigh down the reading, nor do his more elaborate remarks. “It’s a Brueghelian scene against the North Sea,” he declares in “Linksland and Bottle,” his piece on the 2010 British Open, “with golfers everywhere across the canvas—putting here, driving there, chipping and blasting in syncopation.” What’s even better is his sensitivity, in the same paragraph, to the fine distinctions between the manner of Scottish and Californian galleries as they observe rounds of golf. Suddenly, his words become almost numinous, and no grace is lost.
The second section of The Patch is called “An Album Quilt” and it encompasses a dizzying mixture of short pieces. None are available in any of McPhee’s other books. In an introductory statement, the author compares these pieces to the dissimilar blocks of a quilt. He notes that he “didn’t aim to reprint the whole of anything”; he sought out “blocks to add to the quilt, and not without new touches, internal deletions, or changed tenses.” This section is quite distinct from “The Sporting Scene,” but no less extraordinary in its overall effect. A piece about Cary Grant starts things off. Boyhood encounters with Albert Einstein are up ahead.
There are more standouts than can be briefly mentioned here, including an evocative overview of the craftsmanship that McPhee discovered within the original Hershey’s Chocolate Factory. The author’s clipped expressions of wonder enliven that piece: “Gulfs of chocolate. Chocolate deeps. Mares’ tails on the deeps.” A little later, he mentions “granite millstones arranged in cascading tiers, from which flow falls of dark cordovan liquor.” One can imagine Don Draper reading through this with poignant interest. In another entry, a series of succinct blurbs about tennis luminaries, Rod Laver’s childhood is crisply set against his eventual stardom: “Had to wait his turn while his older brothers played. His turn would come.”
And so one just leaps from piece to piece, and, along the way, discovers scenes from different periods in McPhee’s life and career. An encounter with two New York City policemen—this likely occurred in the ‘60s or early ‘70s, given the “familiar green and black” on the cop car—is particularly memorable. It begins with the author’s recollection of locking his keys inside his car, which, he notes, had been parked “in a moted half-light that swiftly lost what little magic it had had, and turned to condensed gloom.” After that characteristically precise fusion of atmosphere and psychology, he describes scrounging around for wire so as to open the door. The sudden arrival of the policemen created a dilemma: Would they view McPhee, who had been wedging a coat hanger into the car, as a thief or the hapless owner? “The policemen got out of the patrol car,” McPhee tells us, “and one of them asked for the wire.” From there, the situation undulates a couple more times before concluding through a sparkling punchline that’s supplied by one of the officers. The story is over before you know it, but its brisk and detail-oriented pleasures are echoed throughout much of the book.
In the title piece, meanwhile, McPhee movingly writes about his father, but also about fishing a pickerel out of a patch of lily pads. Here and elsewhere, granular descriptions become byways into a range of enthusiasms, histories, and hearts. The author, of course, frequently registers himself through the infinitesimal details, and through the humor that he yokes to affection. “‘Fuck you, coach!’ Quote unquote” is a message that McPhee once emailed to Bill Tierney. Great warmth radiates below the mantle of those words.
This, among sundry other qualities, keeps one reading. There’s also something uncommonly relaxing about many of his patient elaborations of things known and unknown. And there is, both within the book’s individual pieces and across its varied totality, a sense of constant renewal and revelation. As McPhee notes down somewhere amid the blocks of his quilt, “I could suddenly see it, almost get into it—into another dimension of experience that I might otherwise have missed entirely.”
John McPhee’s The Patch is now available from Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
The 10 Most-Read Slant Articles of 2018
Our most-read articles of 2018 comprise pretty much everything we do best.
Like last year, it wasn’t the most highly praised or viciously excoriated film, album, or TV show that garnered the most attention among Slant readers in 2018. It was a so-called “average” star rating of a video game that led to our most-read—or, rather, looked at—article of the year. More predictably, lists proved to be increasingly popular, particularly among cinephiles. Aside from a few pieces that didn’t make the cut—like our career-spanning interview with Jodie Foster and our five-star review of Synapse Films’s Blu-ray restoration of the original Suspiria—this list comprises pretty much everything we do best. Alexa Camp
10. The 50 Greatest Horror Movies of the 21st Century
Into the new millennium, horror films have retained their power to shock and outrage by continuing to plumb our deepest primordial terrors, to incarnate our sickest, most socially unpalatable fantasies. They are, in what amounts to a particularly delicious irony, a “safe space” in which we can explore these otherwise unfathomable facets of our true selves, while yet consoling ourselves with the knowledge that “it’s only a movie.” Budd Wilkins
9. Album Review: Mariah Carey’s Caution
At a mere 10 tracks, Caution is Mariah’s leanest album in 25 years. With the exception of the formulaic “With You,” which sounds like an outtake from E=MC2, the R&B and adult contemporary-style ballads that launched (and re-launched) her career have been largely replaced here by textured, midtempo grooves. Caution feels like the album Mariah has wanted to make all along: one that throws caution to the wind and sees her embracing her inner weirdo. And, ironically, it took her ending up back at Sony Music to do it. Sal Cinquemani
8. Game Review: Far Cry 5
With this entry, the Far Cry series has suddenly decided to crib story ideas from real American nightmares: the Ammon Bundy standoff, Jonestown, the Heaven’s Gate cult, Waco, the Westboro Baptist Church. It indulges a certain level of ejaculatory N.R.A. fantasy about a day when the Second Amendment saves the world, when all those guns hoarded by frightened men, all those survivalist bunkers, all that cynical preparation for the collapse of society proves useful. A regular supply item in this game is called a Prepper Pack. Major secrets are hidden in bunkers filled with canned food and ammo. These little hat tips toward the gun-toting survivalist sect might’ve been worthy of an eye roll had the game come out, say, prior to 2016. But at this particular moment in American life, those tips of the hat feel downright sinister. Justin Clark
7. All 90 Best Picture Oscar Winners Ranked
It’s a rare type of cinephile who wasn’t introduced to the idea of film as more than just idle entertainment by the ritual of the Academy Awards. And it’s an even rarer type of cinephile who didn’t soon thereafter vehemently reject the Oscar as the ultimate barometer of a film’s artistic worth. Those of us who started off with The Godfather, Schindler’s List, All About Eve, or Casablanca all eventually got around to Out of Africa, Around the World in 80 Days, The Greatest Show on Earth, Cimarron, and Cavalcade. First loves being first loves, we still find ourselves regressing if for only one night a year, succumbing to the allure of instant canonization even as it comes in the form of repeated slap-in-the-face reminders of Oscar’s bracing wrongness: Gladiator, Braveheart, Chicago, Crash. In that sense, consider this project part cathartic exorcism and part sheepish capitulation to the role the Oscars have played in our lives. If we had to sit through every one of these movies, the least you can allow us is the chance to show you our scars. Eric Henderson
6. Film Review: Aquaman
The best point of comparison for Aquaman is Black Panther, another superhero movie about a king of a forgotten realm reclaiming his throne. But whereas Ryan Coogler’s surprisingly affecting superhero film restored weight to both the choreography and the drama of the genre, Aquaman remains adrift, so much fantasy flotsam and jetsam floating before our eyes. Pat Brown
5. The 100 Greatest Video Games of All Time
When compiling this list, my colleagues and I elected to consider more than historical context. Greatness, to the individual, isn’t just about impact on some nebulous past. It’s as much about feeling, about the way a video game can capture the imagination regardless of genre or release date or canonical status. The titles on this list come from every corner of the medium—represented for the precision of their control or the beauty of their visuals or the emotion of their story. We’ve chosen to cast a wide net, so as to best represent the individual passions incited by saving planets, stomping on goombas, or simply conversing with vivid characters. Steven Scaife
4. Film Review: Avengers: Infinity War
What is this, a crossover episode? After 18 films, the overlords at Marvel Studios have gathered almost all of their indentured servants, err, star-studded stable together into the ever-crashing, ever-booming, and ever-banging extravaganza Avengers: Infinity War. Whether you look at this whirling dervish and see a gleefully grandiose entertainment or a depressing exemplar of the culturally degraded present moment will depend on your investment—in all senses of that term—in Marvel’s carefully cultivated mythos. Keith Uhlich
3. TV Review: Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan
If Jack Ryan never gets around to offering its audience a definition of a swift transaction, that’s because all that matters to the series is that it’s a tool used by bad guys, whom only Jack Ryan can stop. Despite paying cursory service to humanizing its principal characters, Jack Ryan is mostly interested in a battle between broad notions of good and evil. It thrives on the tension of Jack’s chess match with bin Suleiman, reducing an entire nation’s efforts to combat terror to a personal beef between two archetypes. Michael Haigis
2. Every Pixar Movie Ranked from Worst to Best
If The Incredibles was essentially a superhero riff on male mid-life crisis, Incredibles 2 primarily concerns male anxiety about women taking over traditionally masculine roles. Brad Bird’s film also touches heavily on the uncertainty and doubt that many women feel about pursuing their dreams at the expense of spending time with their families. These are weighty topics to pursue in an animated action-comedy, and Bird, with a light tone and deft touch, manages to give them their due. This is a fleeter, funnier film than the original, and the director gets considerable comedic mileage out of Jack-Jack’s wild capriciousness, as evidenced by Incredibles 2‘s single most hilarious sequence, in which the baby uses its multifarious abilities—fire, lasers, multiplying, turning into a gremlin—to battle a feral raccoon just for the hell of it. On the occasion of the film’s release, join us in revisiting the Pixar canon, ranked from worst to best. Keith Watson
1. Game Review: Red Dead Redemption 2
For all of the significant improvements Red Dead Redemption 2 has made to an open-world template, however, it still maintains Rockstar’s bullish commitment to a clunky control scheme. Across what’s now four games and two console generations, the company’s characters have lumbered along in what’s meant to convey the weight of a real person in contrast to the light, effortless controls of so many other games. But the result is artificial rather than convincing. Studios like Naughty Dog have proven capable of giving characters a consequential sense of weight without making it a challenge to navigate around a table or requiring you to hold down buttons to move at acceptable speeds. Coupled with middling gunplay feedback and a few too many stealth segments, the chunky act of playing Red Dead Redemption 2 doesn’t feel good so much as it feels, eventually at least, tolerable. Scaife
Top 10 Radiohead Music Videos
To celebrate Radiohead’s induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, we take a look back at the group’s best and most innovative music videos.
Twenty-five years ago, the world was introduced to Radiohead by way of their debut single, “Creep.” Thom Yorke and company may have soured to their very first modern rock hit, but as we said in our list of the Best Singles of the 1990s, for which the song ranked at #37, “Creep” is rivaled only by “Every Breath You Take” as the ultimate kind-of-obsessive/kind-of-romantic crush anthem, with guitarist Jonny Greenwood’s perfectly timed blasts of electricity turning it from slightly creepy to threatening. The track peaked on the Billboard pop chart in September of 1993, a full year after its initial release, and Radiohead would go on to become one of the most influential bands in rock history. To celebrate the band’s induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, we take a look back at their best and most innovative music videos.
Editors’ Note: This article was originally published on July 24, 2013.
10. “Burn the Witch” (Dir: David Mould). “Stand in the shadows/To the gallows/This is a round-up,” Thom Yorke cautions at the start of “Burn the Witch,” with all the paranoia and politically shaded intrigue we’ve come to expect from the Radiohead frontman. Directed by Chris Hopewell, the music video for the track depicts a government official sent to inspect the strange goings-on in a small village, where he’s burned alive in a giant wooden statue in a scene reminiscent of the 1973 cult classic The Wicker Man. The clip features stop-motion animation in the style of the 1960s-era U.K. children’s show Trumpton. Sal Cinquemani
9. “Paranoid Android” (Dir: Magnus Carlsson). Radiohead commissioned Swedish animator Magnus Carlsson for this bizarre and somewhat graphic video, which sees the titular protagonist of Carlsson’s series Robin encountering various unsavory or unearthly characters, including a prostitute in a tree, a deranged businessman, and an angel flying a helicopter. Cinquemani
8. “House of Cards” (Dir: James Frost). When the “House of Cards” video came out, it struck me as a tech geek’s gimmick, but in retrospect, its motion-capture technique is used for deeply human ends. First we see two faces in close-up, their physicality rendered as blue-ish data points. Then, indistinct bodies at a party and a whole suburban landscape being wiped away in Etch-A-Sketch fashion. It’s a kind of digitally envisioned nightmare: Every pixel of everything we know, instantly erased. Paul Rice
7. “No Surprises” (Dir: Grant Lee). Lo-fi simplicity tends to work best for Radiohead’s live-action videos. In “No Surprises,” we get to watch Thom Yorke gasp for breath as a water chamber fills and releases around his head. It’s a sly sadomasochistic dream that could be his, or that of plenty of Radiohead haters everywhere. Rice
6. “Daydreaming” (Dir: Paul Thomas Anderson). In this video for 2016’s “Daydreaming,” Paul Thomas Anderson’s camera follows Thom Yorke through numerous locales, from hotel hallways to laundromats. The images, lucid and confrontational, exude an almost gestural quality as they cut from interior and exterior spaces, with Yorke waltzing in a sleep-like torpor toward a hole—or spacious studio igloo?—somewhere on a snow-capped mountain. The world here appears at once real and imagined, and by the time the fire within the hole lights Yorke’s face and the song grinds to a halt, Anderson dramatically reaffirms most of our beliefs about Radiohead’s music as, above all else, the prettiest soundtrack in the world to one man’s devotion to his own alienation. Ed Gonzalez
5. “Just” (Dir: Jamie Thraves). There’s a Kafkaesque absurdity to the simple concept of “Just” that gets and stays under the skin. A man lies down in the middle of a monochromatic city sidewalk. People trip on him and ask how he is and why he’s there. Finally, he tells the crowd (though we never know, since the subtitles cut out), and they all lie with him, presumably in conjoined doom. Rice
4. “Knives Out” (Dir: Michel Gondry). Thematically evocative of the director’s 2004 film Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, the elaborate, seemingly single-take “Knives Out” juxtaposes emotional and physical hardship via Michel Gondry’s signature surreal imagery, including singer Thom Yorke’s head replaced by a giant heart in which he stores a Polaroid photograph of his fiancée, whose critical condition he may very well have been responsible for. Cinquemani
3. “Pyramid Song” (Dir: Shynola). Thom Yorke and company have long been champions of animation, and “Pyramid Song” is their best, most heartfelt work in the form. A man—or a thing (the figure could be human or beast)—dives into a lost civilization, wading through bones to a home where he watches TV. CG allows for meticulous detail, but the gorgeous design by artist collective Shynola is purposely murky, full of unknown layers, and like Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, released the same year, it suggests a ruined past we can never get back. Rice
2. “Fake Plastic Trees” (Dir: Jake Scott). Jake Scott, noted music video director and son of Sir Ridley, has said that his striking clip for Radiohead’s “Fake Plastic Trees,” filmed in an aircraft hangar in Van Nuys, California, is an allegory on death and reincarnation. His claim is borne out by images of colorful characters, old and young, strolling the aisles of a neon-lit supermarket, being watched on surveillance cameras, and eventually carted off to a heavenly looking “exit.” Cinquemani
1. “Karma Police” (Dir: Jonathan Glazer). Director Jonathan Glazer claims that this creepy revenge clip, in which a car slowly follows a man running down a desolate road only to have the tables turned thanks to a chance gasoline leak, was inspired by a bad dream. His remarkable use of point of view implicates the spectator in the video’s action, but it’s the spooky way with which he fashions a Möbius strip from karmic irony that makes “Karma Police” Radiohead’s finest contribution to the music-video medium. Cinquemani