24 Frames

Movies: Past, present and future

Category: Spike Jonze

Super Bowl ads: Why Volkswagen returned to 'Star Wars'

February 1, 2012 |  3:29 am


Few Super Bowl commercials have been as highly anticipated as the "The Dog Strikes Back," the (potentially) "Star Wars"-themed spot for Volkswagen that airs during this weekend's game. Teased in this initial promo that features dogs barking the "Imperial March," the new movie-referencing ad, which you can watch below, sees a suburban dog coming to life when a red Volkswagen passes by. (It wraps up with the motley crew of colorful characters from the franchise's Chalmun's Cantina debating whether the Darth Vader kid from last year was better ... before a surprise guest shows up to settle the matter.)

In the above video, the creators behind this year's spot explain how and why they furthered their "Star Wars"-themed story, dog fat-suits and all. Like last year's commercial, the new ad is directed by Lance Acord, a well-known cinematographer who was nominated for a BAFTA for his work on "Lost in Translation," shot Spike Jonze films such as "Where the Wild Things Are" and "Adaptation" and also produced this year's Sundance hit "Robot and Frank."

And like the competing Ferris Bueller homage for the Honda CRV, his commercial airs during the Patriots-Giants game this Sunday -- and is likely to elicit party chatter along the lines of the debate seen in Mos Eisley's pirate bar.


Super Bowl ads: Ferris Bueller takes day off for Honda

Matthew Broderick on his Ferris Bueller ad: I'm part of a virus

Vidoes: Matthew Broderick and more Super Bowl commercial teasers

-- Steven Zeitchik

A Charlie Kaufman-Spike Jonze reunion brews

December 16, 2010 | 12:51 pm

EXCLUSIVE: It's perhaps the partnership that has produced some of the most unconventional and creative films of recent years. And now Charlie Kaufman and Spike Jonze -- who of course collaborated on "Being John Malkovich' and "Adaptation" -- look to get back together as writer and director, respectively.

The pair are pitching a new movie. While the plot is being kept under tight wraps -- it's a pitch, so a script has yet to be written, and Kaufman movies are famously hard to describe in a few sentences anyway -- two people familiar with the project said it has been making the rounds to independent financiers in recent weeks.

If it moves forward, the film would reunite the pair in the roles that vaulted them to fame for the first time since "Adaptation" in 2002. (Kaufman did not immediately reply to an e-mail seeking comment.)

Kaufman most recently made his directing debut with the 2008 cult hit "Synecdoche, N.Y." (which Jonze was initially set to direct and wound up producing). Jonze, meanwhile, has been working on non-Kaufman films as the director of the children's fantasy "Where the Wild Things Are" and the producer of the recent gross-out hit "Jackass 3D."

Since "Synecdoche" came out two years ago, Kaufman has been writing a script that he has called  "Frank or Francis," according to several people familiar with it. The film, perceived as commercially tricky but also beloved, is a Hollywood satire in the form of a musical (!) and has an art-imitating-life conceit somewhat in the vein of "Adaptation." (The basic premise: a director embraced for broadly commercial hits resents his success and wants to be considered an auteur and artiste; one imagines it as a bizarre-o world version of Kaufman himself, who hasn't made any broadly commercial movies and has in fact been embraced as an auteur and artiste.)

The project had been set up at Sony but does not appear to be moving forward there at the moment, say two people with knowledge of its progress. Jonze, meanwhile, is looking for his next film. If financiers and studios bite, that could well end up being "Malkovich" redux.

--Steven Zeitchik


Photo: 'Being John Malkovich.' Credit: USA Films.

Sundance 2010: Spike Jonze renews his career

January 22, 2010 | 11:56 am


If only Spike Jonze had made "Where the Wild Things Are" with robots instead of animatronically enhanced animals.

The eclectic auteur hasn't been on the minds of many filmgoers or buyers coming into Sundance, maybe because his festival entry was nestled in a shorts program (and debuting opposite the much anticipated, and eventually much maligned, "Howl" on Thursday night), maybe because his most recent effort kind of bungled a children's classic.

But after his extended short "I'm Here" screened first Thursday night and again Friday morning in Park City, all that's changed. We were hardly alone in thinking that, even at this early stage of Sundance, his movie may be among the best pieces of filmmaking that plays the festival this year.

The narrative for "I'm Here," which Jonze wrote and directed, is at once high-concept and difficult to explain. In a world that looks much like our own, robots mingle among the rest of us as vaguely second-class citizens. One robot in particular, a mild-mannered machine named Sheldon (Andrew Garfield) leads a humdrum life, doing little but taking the bus to and from his menial library job and coming home at night to sleep (er, recharge) before starting it all over again the next day. His life changes, however, when he meets a punky young femmebot, and the turns their relationship takes are fresh, funny, soulful, Jonezian (let's just say it involves robot amputation, among other things).

(Side note: Sundance routinely brings in some great emerging filmmakers and plays their shorts in a block. This year organizers brought some great established filmmakers and played their shorts in a block, and the results have been solid. Several of the other movies sharing screen time with Jonze had their virtues -- a stylish if unevenly executed animated critique of consumerist culture called "Logorama," a thoughtful if not entirely surprising border-policy documentary "The Fence" and a pleasantly absurdist Scandinavian effort called "Splitage" -- though none was as strong as "I'm Here.")

Comparisons for the film to "Wall-E," David Cronenberg's "existenZ" and a Jonze-shot Ikea commercial all rolled off festgoers' lips, and the movie evokes all of that, but also something far more original. While it employs the same tech guru who brought the "Wild Things" creatures to life, the film returns the director to his "Being John Malkovich" and "Adaptation" days -- it's bristling with ideas and imagination, but doesn't forget the heart either. And it inadvertently points up the problems with "Wild Things," which short-shrifted most of these elements. It's almost as though with less time and a lower budget (not to mention a lack of studio interference; Absolut financed this movie, and clearly left him alone), Jonze was able to infuse his work with a lot more energy.

For Jonze fans and skeptics, "I'm Here" shows, after the dispiriting example of "Wild Things," that he can skillfully write a movie without Charlie Kaufman. With Jonze still contemplating his next film, one can only hope it's as good as this short -- or, better, that he decides to develop this short into a feature.

--Steven Zeitchik

Photo: Andrew Garfield (Sheldon). Photo Credit: "I'm Here."


Sundance Photo Gallery


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