If you happen to run into Spike Jonze today, be sure to give him a pat on the back for making a truly stunning film adaptation of “Where the Wild Things Are.” But you can also wish him a happy birthday, as today he turns 40 years old. The man born Adam Spiegel spent his youth as a BMX and skateboard enthusiast and got involved with filmmaking when he started filming his friends doing tricks and stunts. His warped visual style, wide-eyed innocence and sense of adventure have served him well, as he has become one of the most talked-about American film directors. 1999’s “Being John Malkovich” and 2002’s “Adaptation” were both formidable stories told with Jonze’s slick mix of absurdist humor and childlike melancholy, but it’s the recently-released “Where the Wild Things Are” that solidifies Jonze as a true genius.
Of course, the director has had a long history with MTV. He helped create and produce “Jackass” and was also got his first real recognition as a director by crafting music videos for some of the more adventurous artists in rock, dance and hip-hop. There are some absolutely definitive clips on Jonze’s resumé, including Weezer’s “Buddy Holly,” Fatboy Slim’s “Praise You,” the Beastie Boys’ “Sabotage” and Björk‘s “It’s Oh So Quiet.” His most recent music project was a collaboration with Kanye West on the short film “We Were Once a Fairytale,” an 11-minute short that acts as a compendium to West’s track “See You in my Nightmares.” But one of Jonze’s darkest clips was one he shot in 2004 for the Yeah Yeah Yeahs (whose singer, Karen O, was Jonze’s girlfriend for a while; she also created the soundtrack for “Where the Wild Things Are”). “Y Control” stars the band, a bunch of kids, some animal carcasses and a whole lot of wanton violence.