Michael Ragen

Run The Jewels "Close Your Eyes (And Count To F**k)" (AG Rojas, dir.)

Don't call it a comeback, but "Close Your Eyes (And Count To F**k)" marks the music video return of two of my faves: director AG Rojas and Rage Against The Machine frontman Zack De La Rocha. And it's one motherf**k of a return, presenting an epic and exhausting brawl between Cop and Kid that might not detonate on-screen, but could prove explosive as a nationwide conversation about police brutality rages on.

AG Rojas, director: "When Run The Jewels sent me this track, I knew we had the opportunity to create a film that means something. I felt a sense of responsibility to do just that. We had to exploit the lyrics and aggression and emotion of the track, and translate that into a film that would ignite a valuable and productive conversation about racially motivated violence in this country. It's provocative, and we all knew this, so we were tasked with making something that expressed the intensity of senseless violence without eclipsing our humanity. For me, it was important to write a story that didn’t paint a simplistic portrait of the characters of the Cop and Kid. They're not stereotypes. They're people - complex, real people and, as such, the power had to shift between them at certain points throughout the story. The film begins and it feels like they have been fighting for days, they’re exhausted, not a single punch is thrown, their violence is communicated through clumsy, raw emotion. They've already fought their way past their judgments and learned hatred toward one another. Our goal was to highlight the futility of the violence, not celebrate it."

Arctic Monkeys "Snap Out Of It" (Focus Creeps, dir.)

There's not usually a fine line between reality and fantasy in a music video. If anything, most music videos are highly distanced from reality — unless you care to pretend that even the most mid-level artist can like like Hugh Hefner. But things are quite blurry for the lonely woman in this new Arctic Monkeys video, who finds that she's not just passively watching her favorite band on TV, but actually communicating and connecting with them as if they are actually right there with her.

PS: I'd be willing to bet that more people would be into this than 3D TV. 

Spiritualized "I Am What I Am" (AG Rojas, dir.) [viewer discretion]

Director AG Rojas has discovered another America... Focusing on towns and people and situations you'd likely rather ignore, but need to be seen. "I Am What I Am" is set in Taft, CA, which he previously introduced us to via the short film "Cody," coincidentally shot in the immediate wake of a school shooting and concurrently with this piece. 

"I Am What I Am" stars Rory Culkin as a young man very much in need of transcendence. And he eventually achieves liftoff, but I don't know if it leads to a better place.

It's a powerful short film, even if it's likely a tough watch for most people, but one that needed to be seen.

Portugal The Man "Modern Jesus" (AG Rojas, dir.)

Welcome to America. Land of guns, drugs, oil and booty, filled with geniuses, fools, dreamers, gamblers and daredevils of many myriad backgrounds and situations. Where birth and death, destruction and salvation happen every single day.

This epic production features content shot over a 20 day period  spanning 15 states, with a specific focus on the poor places that normally get overlooked when you think of the rich wonders of the U.S.A.

The 1975 "Sex" (Adam Powell, dir.)

The first version of this video had the younger Manchester quartet performing in black-and-white in a poster-and-picture-clad room. This version.... is different. How? It's in color. And it tells a narrative of two young lovers in a cinema-verite style, which doesn't appear to end well. The old cliche "sex, drugs, and rock 'n roll" is certainly apropos here.

Atmosphere "Ain't Nobody" (Carmela Makela, dir.)

Atmosphere - Ain't Nobody

In an ideal world, the two cold vixens in this video would become a new generation's version of the "Addicted To Love" babes. If anything, these ladies seem a lot easier to hang out with than the Palmerettes, happy to lounge and spread their legs while the boys do what boys like to do. Which is much more chaste than it sounds.

Portugal The Man "Evil Friends" (Michael Ragen, dir.)

Portugal.The Man - Evil Friends [Official Music Video]

"Evil Friends" was shot in the pitch-black with only moonlight and infrared lights, which probably made for a very odd shooting experience. Which is only fitting since the content of the clip is always decidedly off-kilter with a night vision camera, a backwards and a mid-song escalation that involves  balaclava-clad villainesses.