Celebrating 80(?!) Years Of Spike Jonze At New York’s Museum Of Modern Art

Filmmaker Spike Jonze has always flirted around at the outskirts of the mainstream. Ehhhh… maybe more like the mainstream’s suburbs. He made an effortless transition from music videos — including Beastie Boys’ “Sabotage” and Weezer’s “Buddy Holly” — to Hollywood features like “Being John Malkovich” and “Adaptation.” He was also a writer and producer on the “Jackass” TV series and subsequent movies. For all of that, Jonze has never quite breached into “household name” territory.

This fall’s re-envisioning of Maurice Sendak’s classic children’s book “Where the Wild Things Are” could very well change all of that. That’s probably why Jonze will be honored by New York City’s Museum of Modern Art in a 10 day career retrospective, ending just two days after “Wild Things” hits theaters. The exhibit will showcase “Malkovich,” “Adaptation,” “Jackass: The Movie,” the documentary “Heavy Metal in Baghdad” and a range of music videos and short films. Check out the press release after the jump or head over to MoMA.org for the full schedule. Click the image below for our own little Jonze retrospective, presented in pictures.


Jonze Presents His Recent Film Collaborations with Maurice Sendak on Opening Night, Made during the Production of His Upcoming Feature Where the Wild Things Are

Spike Jonze: The First 80 Years
October 8–18, 2009
The Roy and Niuta Titus Theaters

NEW YORK, August 18, 2009—As part of its ongoing Filmmaker in Focus series, MoMA presents the first-ever exhibition to focus on Spike Jonze (American, b. 1969), celebrating his work as a director, producer, cinematographer, writer, actor, choreographer, and sometime stuntman. Spike Jonze: The First 80 Years is organized by Joshua Siegel, Associate Curator, Department of Film, The Museum of Modern Art. This early mid-career retrospective—which inspired Jonze to come up with the exhibition’s wry title—runs October 8 through 18, 2009, in The Roy and Niuta Titus Theaters.

The exhibition covers Jonze’s entire filmmaking and television career. Included are Jonze’s first two feature films, Being John Malkovich (1999), for which he received an Academy Award nomination for Best Director, and Adaptation (2002), as well as two films that he co-produced: Jackass: The Movie (2002), based on the popular MTV show he helped create, and the documentary Heavy Metal in Baghdad (2008).

Also presented are Jonze’s celebrated music videos for Björk, Fatboy Slim, Weezer, Beastie Boys, Wax, The Notorious B.I.G., and many others, as well as his award-winning commercials. Among his short films are How They Get There (1997); his recent collaboration with Kanye West, We Were Once A Fairytale (2009); and his documentary portraits of Al Gore, the musician Fatlip, and a posse of Texas Panhandle rodeo boys (Amarillo by Morning, 1997).

The exhibition opens on October 8 with In Cahoots: Maurice Sendak and Spike Jonze, an evening of short films that Jonze made about, and with, Maurice Sendak during the production of his forthcoming feature Where the Wild Things Are (opening October 16, 2009)—followed by a conversation between Jonze and MoMA curator Joshua Siegel. In conjunction with the exhibition, on October 15, a PopRally event with photographer and producer Patrick O’Dell features a screening of influential skateboard videos from the 1980s to today, including Jonze’s own contributions to the genre. The videos are followed by a panel discussion with notable skateboarders and filmmakers including Jonze, and a live performance by the band No Age.

A newly struck 35mm print of Carroll Ballard’s 1979 film The Black Stallion is included in the exhibition. The film was a major influence on Jonze and co-screenwriter Dave Eggers during the making of Where the Wild Things Are.

The mind games of Jonze’s films—their existential puzzlements and feats of narrative deconstruction—are dazzling, to be sure, but so is their exuberant physicality, 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; and the Björk, Pharcyde, and Fatboy Slim videos that pay homage to Hollywood’s golden age of musicals); to the anarchical (Jackass: The Movie, and 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).

Other directors who have been featured in MoMA’s Filmmaker in Focus series include Rahmin Bahrani, Ferzan Ozpetek, and Carlos Reygadas.