by Eric Spiegelman
Here are ten videos, culled from the neverending stream of Internet things that pass by my face each day, ten videos that will make you feel good about the world. They’re all from this year, a year that I can say confidently had way more suck than it had awesome; but if you take half an hour to ignore all the suck and watch these you will come away thinking, man, people still make some beautiful things, even in the midst of shit raining down, even if only they’re tiny little Internet videos. This was a running list I started in January, a list I only added to when moved to do so. And there was not much paring down that happened when I looked back at the collection this week, which proves I have very high standards — because let me tell you I saw a LOT of cute animal videos this year, and only two made this list. Looking at them all again, it’s clear that I responded to things that were delightful, clever and sometimes poignant.
1) These are in no particular order, but above is clearly the most wonderful video of 2010: “Words,” by Will Hoffman and Daniel Mercadante, produced for WNYC’s Radiolab program to accompany one of its episodes. It probably takes about a minute for you to go, “Oh, I see what they’re doing here,” and then you’ll go back and watch the whole thing again because now you get it. And for anyone who got out a relationship this year, there’s one shot that might just kill you.
2) The music video for “Red Lights” by the band Holy Fuck elevates the genre of Cats Doing People Things to a level not seen since the 1970s. Indeed, this could be the Internet generation’s The Aristocats or The Cat From Outer Space. Re-imagining the most famous scene in Bullitt as a dog chasing a cat is a “how did nobody think of this yet” kind of genius, but it comes with a danger. When dealing with the obvious yet undiscovered, the bar is automatically set really high, because the audience “gets it” before they even see it and thus demands an execution on par with their expectations. The filmmakers here, Brian Borcherdt and Michael LeBlanc, they do not disappoint.
3) A couple filmmakers out of Weehawken, New Jersey wanted to get the attention of HBO, so they made a promo spot for “Boxing After Dark,” totally on spec. HBO, turns out, didn’t give a damn. But a lot of other people did, and Liam O’Neil and Jason Koburov found themselves pursued by a number of top talent management firms in Hollywood, who thought they should be in the feature film business instead of the making commercials for free business. It’s easy to see why, since their video, “I Still Have A Soul,” tells a compelling story in just two minutes.
4) This year’s British elections didn’t quite rouse the spontaneous mass creative impulse that characterized the Obama campaign of 2008, but this video made by “nathankw,” a fan of the Lib Dems, wins out over that sappy Will.I.Am video any day.
5) Creating things for the love of creating things basically defines the Goddamn Cobras Collective, a group of Brooklyn twenty-somethings with day jobs who all get together in their off hours to produce stuff. They have a whole series of local bands doing live covers of popular songs while a bunch of friends sit around and enjoy the performance. This one, “Wakey! Wakey! part 2,” is perhaps the most endearing. It’s a cover of “Ambling Amp” by Yeasayer, all warm and beautifully shot and, damn, I wish I got invited to parties like these. Replacing the synthesizer with a violin was a great idea.
6) Hey, remember the Olympics this year? Probably not. (It was a Winter Olympics. Hmm.) But some people really cared about them. Like this group of musicians dressed in the traditional clothing of ethnic Tatars, playing authentic Tatar instruments, and singing a cover of “We Are The Champions.” In one of the Tatar dialects.
7) Just about everyone on the Internet saw this one, I’m sure, but Patrick Jean’s “Pixels” can be watched again and again without any loss of delight. Classic 8-bit arcade games invade Manhattan. Fantastically clever.
8) “Oops” won this year’s Vimeo award for best experimental video. Chris Beckman took a bunch of footage of people dropping their cameras while shooting with them, then he edited it all together quite seamlessly. Is it a commentary on our perpetually imperfect relationship with technology? Eh, probably not. But it’s damn compelling and more than a little hypnotic.
9) Ok Go could probably have three videos on this list. They “get” the Internet. But I’m going with “White Knuckles,” directed by Trish Sie, as the best of the bunch, because it features the choreography of trained dogs.
10) My sardonic cousin refers to An Inconvenient Truth as the most successful powerpoint deck ever created. That’s the issue with environmentalist message movies, they’re often pretty boring. Or, as in the case of The Day After Tomorrow, just plain stupid. But neither can be said about Ramin Bahrani’s “Plastic Bag,” which follows the journey of a pollutant through the pollutant’s own perspective, humanizing it, making you sympathize with it, until you feel sad for its very existence — not for the sake of the Earth, mind you, but for the sake of the pollutant itself. It’s a new twist on the old message of vampire books and ancient mythology. Being immortal — or, in this case, non-biodegradable — really kind of sucks.
BONUS! Of course you finish up your best of the year list and then something pops up at the last minute and warrants inclusion. So here’s number eleven on my top ten list. “Dueling Cameras” by Adam Lisagor and Noah Kalina, skating in at the end of the year. Adam wrote about the video, “halfway through [production], I realized that it’d been the first time in a long while I’d made something just for the hell of it. And I remembered how good that feels.” That seems like a pretty good place to end. And also a sentiment that sums up the spirit behind everything on this list. Happy New Year, everyone!