Digital Prospector: Macklemore v. Timberlake, Herzog on texting, SIFFtv's happy hours, Seattle Channel's community tales

Critic Rustin Thompson unearths the best - and worst - of online video.
Crosscut archive image.


Critic Rustin Thompson unearths the best - and worst - of online video.

Crosscut archive image.

“Can’t Hold Us”
This song by Seattle superstars Macklemore and Ryan Lewis recently won Best Hip Hop video of the year at the MTV Video Music awards, which makes it clear that a music video need only look, like, really awesome! It doesn’t have to make sense. The tune, a rather typical white rapper’s assessment of the ambiguities of fame, is awkwardly partnered with epic images of Macklemore wandering through an arctic wasteland, partying on a pirate ship and standing in a mobile, open-air living room pulled as its pulled by a trailer through a country field. What? The duo’s other video win — with the gay marriage hit "Same Love" in the Best Video with a Social Message category — is more successful in its union of image and lyric. A man’s touching life story flickers by as Macklemore and Seattle's outspoken feminist lesbian singer, Mary Lambert, join together in anthemic pleas for tolerance, especially from the notoriously homophobic hip hop world. Macklemore’s ebullient video for his monster hit "Thrift Shop" lost out in the overall Best Video of the Year category to Justin Timberlake’s dreary "Mirrors," a daft trans-generational saga set to Timberlake’s girlish squeal.

Community Stories
The Seattle Channel, a hunchback in the belfry of local television, is actually more beauty than beast. The best way to appreciate it is online, where you can sample its excellent, award-winning series, Community Stories, a superb example of the station’s mandate to “reflect, inform and inspire the community it serves.” You will find in-depth, character-driven profiles of Seattle artists, such as the Cuban-born poet and writer Felicia Gonzalez; eye-opening portraits of hidden Seattle gems, such as Columbia City’s 65-year old Royal Esquire Club and Cappy’s Boxing Gym, a sweat-soaked Central District mainstay; and, my personal favorite, a strikingly shot and edited mini-documentary about the short-lived Othello Market, a neighborhood dream dashed by the Great Recession.

From One Second to the Next
A little kid nicknamed X holds his sister’s hand as the pair crosses the street when — a mere second away from the safety of the curb — a car runs a stop sign and destroys the life X had imagined for himself. The woman driver, late for a meeting, had been texting. Her last message:  “I’m on my way.”  A close-up of X’s sister’s empty hand is the first image in this transfixing 35-minute documentary, directed by Werner Herzog as part of a PSA campaign funded by T-Mobile, Verizon, AT&T and Sprint. The goal is to stop texting while driving, a principal factor in over 100,000 accidents a year. X’s mom speaks with a moving fierceness about the hopes she had for her athletic young son, right before he is wheeled through the door of her home, paralyzed from the chest down and breathing through a respirator. X’s story is one of four Herzog recounts with the spellbinding gaze of a hypnotist. Substituting his customary voice-over narration with interviews of the survivors and the guilty, the film — which should be part of every high school’s Driver’s Ed program — is both entrancing and sad. Memories of the dead and the maimed haunt the film like becalmed ghosts.

SIFFtv Happy Hour
Sort through the SIFF YouTube channel and you’ll find a series of interviews from the Happy Hour conversations conducted during the Seattle International Film Festival. Twenty Feet From Stardom diva, Merry Clayton, makes a great case for my contention that the film, a long-running hit here in Seattle, could have been stronger if it had simply focused on the movie’s two most potent characters: Clayton and the Hall of Fame inductee, Darlene Love. Clayton's voice is a force of nature and she drives this interview, especially when she warns a rude spectator, “You can’t talk when I’m talkin’, baby.” The interviews are crudely staged against a logo-adorned shower curtain. Eastern Washington native Kyle MacLachlan struggles to keep up with his interviewer, who careens from David Lynch to Portlandia to wine tasting as if Happy Hour, at least for this unidentifed host, began a little too early that morning. (See video on the next page).

For more nuggets from the Digital Prospector, go here.


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About the Authors & Contributors

Rustin Thompson

Rustin Thompson

Rustin Thompson is a filmmaker, film critic and indie radio deejay. He enjoys strong coffee, red wine, IPAs and his wife and grown children. He is comfortable with the fact he will never be rich, but grows petulant if he thinks too much about it.