Saturday, January 4, 2014

Choose To Be Happy 24 Hours A Day

Pharrell Williams recently released 24 Hours of Happy.  The singer-rapper-producer dropped a video for "Happy" that runs 24 hours and features a score of cameos, celebrity and otherwise. The interface for the video, found on the website, sets the clip at a time corresponding to the local time of the viewer, with the ability to fast-forward, rewind and skip around to different times of the day.  Molly of actually watched all 24 hours of the video.  Her 5 Best Things:
  1. Gas Station B-Boy [12:29 AM] - Here a dancer (whose pop n’ lock game is on point) schools the ticking clock in the nuances of his dopeness. Between the Michael Jackson crotch-grab shuffle and dude’s crazy stop-motion robotics, it’s an impressive showcase set against the unassuming backdrop of a Culver City intersection.
  2. Magic Johnson Dancing In His Private Trophy Room [5:36 AM]
  3. Six hours into the video, the camera shifts from some dancing Despicable Me mascots onto a pair of giant white sneakers. An upward pan reveals that the shoes belong to Magic Johnson, who then takes us on a jaunt through his front yard and into his Beverly Hills estate. We pass an archive wall displaying every magazine cover he’s ever been featured on as well as a handful of china cabinets filled with commemorative basketballs and other impressive trappings of accomplishment. We end up in Magic’s private trophy room, where he shimmies joyously in front of five Lakers championship plaques and five golden NBA trophies. He’s wearing an "L.A." t-shirt the entire time.
  4. Jamie Foxx Using His Adorable Daughter as a Prop [5:28 PM]  Shortly after Steve Carell’s 5:08 PM appearance, Jamie Foxx and his two daughters parade down a train track, and all the youngest one can do is throw her hands up victoriously whenever Foxx throws her over his shoulder. It's a simple but poignantly adorable scene, beautifully framed in the waning desert sunlight.
  5. Odd Future’s Dance Routine [1:48 PM]  In their goofy cameo Tyler, The Creator, Earl Sweatshirt, and Jasper do a broadway-dandy dance routine that finds them twirl-jumping into jazz-handed layouts every time they hear the word “Happy”. They share a three-way high-five around 1:49, and leap through intersections before getting low on a sidewalk while swinging their arms and snapping like extras in a Dick Van Dyke musical. They are no match for the actual tuxedo-wearing dandies at 2:20 PM—professionally-trained showmen whose tap-dancing prowess is, I should point out, next-level—but here the perennial oddballs still look more happy-go-lucky than we’ve ever seen.

Pharrell’s Final Cameo (11:00 PM)

See the NY Times article on it:

One afternoon this fall Tyler, the Creator, and his buddies Earl Sweatshirt and Jasper Dolphin, of the rap collective Odd Future, turned up on a street corner in downtown Los Angeles. Their agenda: to shoot a cameo for the music video “Happy,” by Pharrell Williams.  No elaborate instructions were involved. “He hit me up and asked if I wanted to be in it, and I’m a big fan, and I said, ‘Yeah,’ ” Tyler recounted of the texted invitation. He happened to be hanging out with Earl and Jasper when the shoot happened, so they went along. They didn’t discuss what they would do or how they would move. No choreographer or costumer weighed in, and there was no set.  “We got out, they played the song, we walked down the block, five minutes later we’re driving back to our cars, and we left,” Tyler said. “It was sick.”  On screen, the three men, in grins and T-shirts (Tyler’s features a stoned-looking cat), execute jazzy, improbably synchronized dance moves that Tyler said they improvised on the spot. It’s a goofy and joyful off-the-cuff moment that belies the months of work and painstaking production that went into the song and the video, the latest of Mr. Williams’s many genre-defying projects. Unexpectedly, Mr. Williams struggled with it in the studio, even as he also had a hand in two of this year’s biggest songs, Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky” and Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines.”  Those tracks have some night life slink to them. “Happy,” written for the soundtrack of the animated film “Despicable Me 2,” is G rated: a four-minute composition layered over a gospel chord progression and an up-tempo organ thrum that invites listeners to clap along, “if you feel like happiness is a truth.” Its infectiousness was multiplied exponentially in November, when Mr. Williams revealed what he billed as the world’s first 24-hour music video, known online as “24 Hours of Happy.”  An ingenious interactive work, it moves through the day in real time, following a cast of hundreds of quirky people, a few celebrities and Mr. Williams, as they dance through Los Angeles. It quickly became a viral hit, with nearly 5.5 million views on its dedicated site, and a reputation as a surefire mood booster. Giddily addictive, it has already spawned imitators from Paris to Grand Rapids, Mich.  “I’ve never been connected to anything that big in my life,” Mr. Williams, 40, said of the waves of emotion the video has inspired. Two decades into a career as a hit maker for the likes of Jay Z, Britney Spears, Snoop Dogg, No Doubt and many more, he was being modest. This month he was nominated for seven Grammys, including producer of the year, for “Blurred Lines,” “Get Lucky,” “Happy” and others. “Happy” is also on the shortlist to be nominated for an Academy Award in January, for best song.  But it nearly didn’t happen. “This was a hard song for him to nail,” Christopher Meledandri, a producer of “Despicable Me 2,” said.  Trying to highlight a pivotal moment of character development in the movie, Mr. Williams wrote and rejected nine anthems. “I was just coming from a really pure place of, you know, not having any more ideas for it,” he said. “I was backed in the corner. I had nothing left.”  The film’s directors, Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud, pushed him, and he tried to stop thinking through the problem. “Because if I use my mind, then I had all these references, and that’s what the other nine songs were,” he said. “ ‘Happy’ would have had something about a little booty in there somewhere” — some vestige of a club track like Snoop’s “Drop It Like It’s Hot.” Instead, “I was like, what does being happy feel like?” Mr. Williams said at a recent event celebrating the film and the song at the Plaza Hotel in New York.  At the party, he wore a lumpy Margiela sweater and a T-shirt of his own design — fashion and art, two more worlds to conquer — and chatted casually with a couple unfamiliar with his multi-hyphenate artistic background, about growing up in Virginia.  “All of this is new to me,” he said, of his high-profile year. “I’m used to standing beside someone in a video, not standing in front.” In “24 Hours of Happy,” he appears at the top of every hour, nattily dressed and effortlessly shimmying around alleyways and bowling lanes. He shot the four-minute segments over two consecutive days in September, in 24 locations, but the entire filming lasted 11 days.  “It was brutal,” said Mimi Valdés, the creative director of Mr. Williams’s production company. But, she added, the crew members knew that if they could pull it off, “this could be big.”  The video, conceived by the French directing duo known as We Are From L.A., starts to play at a time that corresponds to the clock on viewers’ computers. From there, viewers can watch it chronologically or scroll around a clock face to see, say, a B-boy and modern dancer bouncing off the pumps at a gas station at half-past midnight, or Magic Johnson grooving in his home trophy room at 5:38 a.m. The video was shot in real time, too — there’s Kelly Osbourne, strolling Hollywood Boulevard at 1 a.m. — with the cast of over 360 getting only a single take each.  “It was one of the most surreal five minutes of my life,” said Ms. Osbourne, the TV host and fashion commentator. She had met Mr. Williams around Los Angeles, and he invited her to participate after they happened to vacation in the same spot. But she also didn’t get much background on the project. “I had seven-inch Saint Laurent heels on, not expecting to be dancing down Hollywood Boulevard,” she said. The sound came from a speaker on a wheelchair — “It looked like a homeless person had stolen it from a hospital” — and it was shot guerrilla style, with no streets blocked off. Spectators sometimes wander through a scene, or gawk. (Impromptu, Tyler, the Creator, grabbed a broom to dance with from a store’s display, and the shopkeeper followed him to retrieve it.)  The voice actors from “Despicable Me 2,” like Steve Carell and Miranda Cosgrove, also appear, along with some costumed characters from the movie (Mr. Williams’s idea). Ms. Cosgrove merely walks, slightly bobbing, down the street in her section. “I’m a really bad dancer,” she explained. “That was, like, a lot for me. I feel like I was going all out.” But the freedom to do as she pleased was appealing.  “With other music videos, they’ve been really structured, and you have to worry about the story line, and this was really about having a good time,” said Ms. Cosgrove, an actress and singer. “All the people that were in the crew were dancing on the other side of the camera. It was really fun. I felt like it was like a flash mob or something.”  The video’s directors, Clément Durou and Pierre Dupaquier, didn’t expect audiences to watch the whole thing consecutively. “Even us, we didn’t watch the 24 hours in a row,” Mr. Durou said in a phone interview from Paris. (A few bloggers have done it, though, and Mr. Durou said his mother was making an attempt.) They did hope to disrupt the normally passive act of watching music videos.  “The main point is to create freedom for the viewers and to make actors, and not spectators, in front of the videos,” Mr. Durou said. And they wanted to showcase a canon of movement on screen, “like a dictionary of dance,” Mr. Durou said.  So the marriage of Mr. Williams’s toe-tapping song and their interactive 24-hour concept — which they had had for a while — was creatively fortuitous, they said. The diverse locations and casting, which Mr. Williams insisted on, also fit, Mr. Durou said, to show that whoever, “whenever and wherever you are, you can be happy.”

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