Maestro: Spike Jonze
Known For: darkly comic visually striking independent films about the contents of people's heads.
Influences: of all the directors I've featured, Jonze seems least likely to list other filmmakers as influences and more likely to name songs or literature. And although I've seen no evidence of it anywhere it wouldn't surprise me if he was a fan of, say, Alejandro Jodorowsky
Masterpieces: Being John Malkovich
Better than you remember: The dissenters for Where the Wild Things Are have some good points, but the film is far better than many people think.
Awards: Oscar and DGA nominated for Being John Malkovich. Globe nominated for Adaptation.
Box Office: Over 77 mil for Where the Wild Things Are.
Favorite Actor: Catherine Keener in all three of his films (if you don't count her tiny cameo in Adaptation she still beats out everyone else, provided you don't count Chris Coopers voice work for Wild Things).
There has always been an intersection between feature films and music videos. Since the popularization of music videos, feature directors have been jumping on board to make them. Less clear was whether directors who worked primarily in video could make the leap to feature films. As one of the few directors to gain name recognition from directing videos (thanks to several that became cultural bright spots) Spike Jonze has come to represent a generation of filmmakers who came through music videos or were at least heavily influenced by the endless possibilities the medium offered at a time when mainstream film was bogged down by Hollywood formulas and indie cinema was bogged down by an endless stream of copycats riding the coattails of a few talented artists making films about hitmen and slackers. Spike Jonze's first feature film blew the doors wide open and according to myth was only made after it fell through the cracks (past the eyes of skeptic producers). Having already proven himself a master of the limitless possibilities of the music video medium, Jonze was perfectly paired with Charlie Kaufman (who himself would gain name recognition in a field that usually doesn't) to explore the inside of John Malkovich's head.
What goes on in a child's head.
That movie, Where the Wild Things Are marks Jonze's return to feature film directing after six years. But I don't think we can accuse him of being lazy. In that time he's continued to make short films, music videos and commercials, founded Directors Label DVDs, partook in the Detour-Moleskine project, and acted as creative director for VBS.tv. Recently Jonze purchased the rights to the novel Light Boxes, though is expected to produce. His next directorial project is still unknown, and while it may (hopefully) not take him six more years to get there, whatever it is, it will be highly anticipated as any film should be by a man whose come to represent all the endless possibilities that modern cinema has to offer.