There's a reason why you'll rarely read about music videos in this space: most of them are so unimaginative and dull that I can barely stand to look at them.
Having said that, I'll now violate my own pronouncement and tell you about a video promoting "Possum Kingdom," a single from Rubberneck, the newest album by Fort Worth rockers The Toadies. (Yes, regular Street Beat readers, the dreaded Toad virus has spread to the Film section; we love 'em, too.)
Shot in a stretch of woods outside Los Angeles and in a South Dallas airplane hangar by L.A.-based director Thomas Mignone, and conceived by Mignone and the band, the video follows the time-honored performance-as-storytelling structure, cutting between the Toadies onstage at Anyclub, U.S.A., doing a song about a very sinister attempted sed-uction ("Make up your mind / Decide to walk with me / Around the lake tonight") and a narrative in which a man whose face we can't see drags a large object wrapped in burlap and rope through the tangled underbrush of a desolate swamp.
Who is this man? Where is he going? What exactly is that thing he's pulling through the water, anyway? The video waits until its final frames to provide an answer.
The video simultaneously works as an ad for the Toadies' new single and as a mini-movie, telling a spare, spooky, self-contained tale with a witty punchline that I won't reveal here. Which, of course, automatically separates it from the majority of music videos, which offer either mindlessly literal visualizations of song lyrics (i.e., "Make up your mind" paired with a shot of someone looking pensive, "Decide to walk with me" paired with an image of somebody starting to walk, etc.) or assemble a collection of colorful, disconnected, secondhand images that have nothing to do with anything.
"Possum Kingdom" isn't a monumental advancement in music video technique; it's just an amusing shaggy dog story that toys with the expectations of viewers weaned on cheap schlock horror. But on those terms, it's just about perfect. There's not a wasted move anywhere in it: every shot, composition, and cut is geared toward achieving a specific artistic goal. It's this unfussy brand of professionalism that makes the video special. And the band, for that matter.
The video has been accepted by MTV as well as numerous local and regional video shows and is available for screening on request at The Engine Room, 224 East Vickery Boulevard in Fort Worth. Call (817) 335-8205 for more information.
--Matt Zoller Seitz (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Get the Film Club Newsletter
Stay up to date on the best new movies with our critics' latest reviews, interviews and trailers for the films coming to a theater near you each week.