Continuing its Filmmaker in Focus series, 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.
Organized by Joshua Siegel, Associate Curator, Department of Film.