By Simone Goldstone | Soundcheck Columnist
The 2020 Newport Film Festival includes a showcase collection of music videos that span several genres. Each song is accompanied by a music video that excels in some form of cinematography, storytelling, or creativity. While all the videos are worth a watch, three stand out above the rest.
“North” is an instrumental by JONO, featuring Jonathan (Jono) Bareford, who wrote the music and plays guitar. The premise is intriguing straight off the bat. The video is described as an environmental love letter: “Mother Nature is demonstrated through an abusive relationship, as humans take advantage of all that nature has to offer, forcing Mother Nature to leave her beauty behind.”
The video starts with Bareford dressed in a suede fringe vest (he reminds me of Tim Buckley, with his experimental guitar and distinctive curly hair), standing atop a cliff in what appears to be Big Sur. Followed by drone footage of a car winding through the beauty of the northern Pacific coast and waterfalls, the video is set up to tell the story without any help from lyrics. A nymph-like women is seen hiding behind the trees, while Bareford tries his best to catch her. The pre-Raphaelite girl represents Mother Nature, as she disappears whenever Bareford reaches his hands out to grasp her. Footage pans out of the coastline while the music intensifies.
After a game of cat and mouse, Mother Nature fights back, pushing Bareford down a cliff. This string of events was my favorite of the video, showing that Mother Nature often can’t fight back but when she does, it’s destructive and sometimes deadly in the case of environmental disasters. The effects of the fire flickering against the night sky allude to the fires that plagued the Pacific coast this past year.
The end of the video lets us know that all proceeds from the song will go towards helping the wildfire damage in Washington, Oregon, and Northern California. The views of nature were stunning, and best of all, the video and song are for a noble cause.
“Hope and Safety” is from the Killer’s lead guitarist Dave Keuning’s solo project. The video was ingeniously shot on over 2,000 authentic, individual polaroids from Nasa. The polaroid snapshots instantly created a vintage aesthetic that aided the acoustic guitar. The feelings of nostalgia and awe of successful space missions fills the viewer with a certain kind of pride and hope for our country that adds to the emotional depth of the song.
This video does a great job of enhancing the music with visual effects, and adding to its emotional pull, without taking away from the song or distracting the viewer from the music. It does everything a good music video should. The footage of space is incredible and rare, and a true testament of technological advancement.
My favorite of the collection is Lee Ann Womack’s “Hollywood,” which tells the story of an iconic California road trip through stop-motion dolls and real footage. It’s slightly bizarre, but once you get used to it, you can’t take your eyes off of it. The dolls are almost dystopian and the juxtaposition of the fake, plastic people with real-life images of California are marvelous. It’s both funny and unsettling watching the doll couple grow distant in the miniature motel room. The girl doll has an emotional breakdown in the bathtub- the attention to detail in the set is amazing, down to the miniature tiles and small-scale mirror she gazes into.
The relationship between the dolls continues to deteriorate as they drive in a convertible through the Mojave. The scenery changes from desertscapes to Hollywood hills to deserted rundown liquor stores until the girl is left driving on her own. The doll leans despondently against the gritty neon signs of Hollywood, a child’s toy in a sea of city grime.
Incredibly deep messages can be pulled from the short skit—that life at times can feel like a child playing grownup. Los Angeles is the third character in this film, and the dolls allude to the metaphor of L.A. and its people often being called “plastic or fake.”
Most remarkable of all is the amount of emotion conveyed from the otherwise stoic and inanimate objects. There’s something humorous, disturbing, and hypnotizing watching a Barbie doll stare forlornly at a freight train rumbling by her. A tragic love letter to L.A. told in a way no dolls have told it before.
The Music Videos Collection is part of the 2020 Newport Beach Film Festival, which has gone virtual this year and runs through October 11. For information on viewing this film and other films in the festival, visit www.NewportBeachFilmFest.com.