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Sound and Vision

New Videos Offer Variations on a Silly Dream

July 31, 1988|CHRIS WILLMAN

There are reasons why it's easier for women to figure out men than vice versa. For one thing, guys have a tendency to splash their innermost fantasies all over TV and movie screens for the whole world to see. The wonderful world of rock videos is also the door to the innermost, embarrassing sanctum of the male mind.

Listen up, women. Here's Favorite Male Fantasy No. 32:

You're a guy and you're depressed and lonely. You go into a bar, knowing that you won't meet the girl of your dreams there, but a man's gotta do what a man's gotta do, and above all, a man's gotta drink. Suddenly, much to your surprise, the girl of your dreams is there! Much to your surprise, she turns and looks you straight in the eye. This shining, psychic madonna recognizes you as an alien presence in this sea of human sleaze, and doesn't even need to ask what a guy like you is doing in a dump like this. . . .

Richard Marx's "Endless Summer Nights" and, more recently, Rod Stewart's "Lost in You" have both offered variations on this silly little dream.

Compare such silliness with the way real adults are seen actually relating in a mature way in "My Secret Place," a duet between Joni Mitchell and Peter Gabriel--if you have the chance to make the comparison, that is. The sumptuous Mitchell video is in the nether world of "light rotation" on the few TV outlets bothering to air it at all, unlike the steamier Stewart and Marx clips, which are readily viewed every day.

It just goes to show you that there's no justice--though Sound & Vision tries to impart at least a little of same by subjecting current video clips to the old 0-100 scale.

VID CLIPS PICKED TO CLICK:

Joni Mitchell's "My Secret Place." (Director: Anton Corbijn.) Mitchell and Gabriel both have somewhat distant star auras. To see them casually chatting, smiling and laughing across a dinner table is a bit startling; that the song they sing to each other is a touching one about friendship, vulnerability and intimacy is doubly heartwarming. The symbolic path they take across a desert to Mitchell's innermost "secret place" is rendered with austere simplicity in grainy black and white. Few videos have ever been this moving with so little sentimentalized effort. Good luck finding it. 93

"Weird" Al Yankovic's "Fat." (D: Jay Levy.) Two jokes unveil simultaneously here, and both are fairly hilarious: There's the non-stop fat gags of the song lyric itself, and the appropriately miraculous/monstrous obesity makeup job on Yankovic; then there's the visual parody of Michael Jackson's "Bad" dance shtick, which couldn't be funnier or more on-target if it were unauthorized. (Presumably, Yankovic got the reclusive star's permission for the ruse, as he always does.) Hugely funny. 80

Earth Wind & Fire's "Evil Roy." (D: Sean Naughton.) Message videos tend to be as crass as exploitation videos and twice as dull, with "Just Say No" clips the worst offenders. "Evil Roy" is a welcome exception: The crude, colorful animation that's inserted into the obligatory street scenes nicely reinforces the message that drugs plus humans equals death, physical, emotional and otherwise. 65

Steve Winwood's "Roll With It." (D: David Finchman.) This isn't much less of a fantasy than the one presented in the Stewart and Marx clips, but at least it's a less embarrassing one. "Roll" gives us a sweaty, sepia-toned, racially integrated roadhouse dive where whites and blacks get together and line-dance to the slick soul sounds of Stevie Winwood. Though it's never claustrophobic, the camera spends most of its time in close-ups of hands and feet--a coin being nervously flipped, a finger inside a glass, a wallet being opened, a button popping off a shirt, and, of course, nimble fingers on a '60s-ish organ. 63

GAMMA RAY ROT:

Rick Astley's "Together Forever." (D: Mike Brady.) There are deeply disturbing sights on television every day: bloody bodies in Beirut . . . drive-by massacres in L.A. . . . sneering psychopaths . . . starving children . . . numeral-spouting film critics. But is there any sight on television nowadays more disturbing than the sight of a deep, disco-singing baritone voice coming out of the mouth of Howdy Doody? 38

Debbie Gibson's "Foolish Beat." (D: Nick Willing.) There's nothing funnier than a pretty teen-ager sobbing that she loves the guy who broke up with her so much that she'll never, ever fall in love again as long as she lives. So, you can count on big, campy yuks when the lovely (and, yes, talented) Gibson, now all of 17, is seen actually shedding crocodile tears on stage while grinding her hips to the foolish beat of a ballad about a perfect teen love that can never be surpassed. It's her fortune, and she can cry if she wants to. 20

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