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Posted at 10:57 AM ET, 10/25/2010

Kanye West debuts 'Runaway' movie: We watch and recap

By Liz Kelly

Kanye West debuted his high-concept movie -- he directed and stars in it -- on Saturday on MTV. It was written by Hype Williams and stars supermodel Selita Ebanks as a phoenix/supermodel. You can either watch the slightly NSFW 34 minute "film," below, or read my scene-by-scene recap, which begins beneath the player. Both experiences will, I hope, be transformative:

A phoenix lands in a fiery ball in the midst of a luxury car commercial set to a song from Kanye West's upcoming album, in which he rhymes "Kings of Leon" with "Celine Dion."

The phoenix is -- surprise -- a scantily clad supermodel who wakes up on a Louis XIV settee in Kanye's house. In front of her is a large flat-screen TV tuned in to the news. Kanye, remote in hand, says "First thing you learn in this world, baby -- don't pay attention to anything you see on the news." He then adds the phoenix/model to his private petting zoo, which also includes turkeys, sheep and bunny rabbits.

Next, Kanye uses some kind of mixer to play music while the phoenix/model dances provocatively and a small child in red runs across a field brandishing a can releasing a cloud of red smoke. Suddenly, there are fireworks and what appears to be a marching band composed of beefy Scottish men leading a parade float bearing a large papier mache Michael Jackson head. Obviously, Klan-clad spectators look on.

Then it's time for Diddy's white party -- except it's Kanye's and instead of a Hamptons setting, this party takes place in an abandoned warehouse. Kanye arrives with his pheonix/model, who is now wearing a headdress. In the background, he raps "We ain't married but I need some consummation." Sadly, poor phoenix/model can't drink her soup because of her five-inch talons. No wonder she's so skinny. Another guest asks Kanye if he knows his girlfriend is a bird. Kanye replies (with sarcasm, we assume), "No, I never noticed that." In the background, surly white people in flowing robes serve wine to the guests.

Kanye starts playing a piano and a battalion of ballerinas bursts into the room dressed in black tutus. Kanye bursts into song: "Let's have a toast for the douchebags." Yes, really. The phoenix/model looks on, clearly impressed and touched by Kanye's performance, having never seen a human man sing about douchebags and jerkoffs before.

But major faux pas: A turkey is served for the main dinner course and plopped on the table right in front of the phoenix/model, who jumps up, shows off a 20-foot wingspan and starts shrieking -- sending the other dinner guests running for cover. His dinner party now totally ruined, Kanye grasps his head with both hands.

The phoenix/model is returned to the petting zoo, for the time seemingly banished from the house with the Louis XIV settee and flat-screen TV. Clouds move in overhead.

Suddenly, the phoenix/model and Kanye share a quiet conversation on a hilltop:

Phoenix/model: All the statues that we see, where do you think they came from?

Kanye: I think that artists carved them years and years ago.

Phoenix/model: NO! They are phoenix turned to stone.


The back and forth continues with the phoenix/model explaining that if she doesn't burn she can't go back to her world and will turn into a statue. Kanye, using his diamond-encrusted mouth to talk, says he doesn't want her to go back to her world. Cue the heavily autotuned slow jam, stripper dance, implied consummation and the incineration of the phoenix/model. Kanye awakes alone on his roof, left in his loafers with only his petting zoo, Louis XIV settee and flat-screen TV.

That won't do, so he runs through the forest (the same one where the luxury car earlier sped down a foggy road) looking for his phoenix/model. But, look up in the air, Kanye -- it's a bird, it's a plane -- it's your phoenix/model flying through the air wearing a gold Gaga-esque breastplate.

The end.

By Liz Kelly  | October 25, 2010; 10:57 AM ET
Categories:  Celebrities, Pop Culture, Viral Video  
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I'm not usually high this early in the day. Imma come back and read this tonight.

Posted by: MStreet1 | October 25, 2010 11:30 AM | Report abuse

I saw a few moments of it and asked myself, what the heck is this? Didn't realize it was a full length music video. Doesn't matter because I changed the channel. Although I would never expect YOU guys to review it, it's a nice change of pace.

Posted by: rufpyt66 | October 25, 2010 11:58 AM | Report abuse

The short film was a lot better than the sarcastic summary provided by the descriptively challenged author. The best part of the film was the music as this is what Kanye is known for, I suppose this to was missed by the author. She should stick to her norm and leave the art & music critique to some one with taste.

Posted by: sarah235710 | October 25, 2010 12:03 PM | Report abuse

I like how you put the word 'film' in quotation marks, as though because you did not understand or care for it, that somehow negates it as being a series of moving images displayed on a screen.

Also, I was quite impressed with how you managed to almost completely avoid writing about the music in the film, save for the condescending mentions of a few lines of lyrics.
Truely, excellent work considering the piece is a 35 minutes MUSIC VIDEO.

I think you should apply for a position at a real newspaper some day. No really, I mean it. =)

Posted by: roanoakley | October 25, 2010 12:05 PM | Report abuse

hahahaha re: mstreet1

hi liz - i've watched the video once straight through and a couple of other times just to listen to some of the songs again. the first song in the vid, "Dark Fantasy", is one of the best beats i've ever heard. i am totally blown away.

i just want to give kanye credit (where you haven't)for his genius music. his Good Friday releases this autumn (where he releases a new song every friday night, featuring some of the best artists in the game right now)have been amazing and i would like to commend him on those.

the video is out there, over the top artsy, but heck. the director, hype williams, is always at the cutting edge of visuals and he can add this to his long list of awesome visual credentials.

i'm not really disagreeing with you on your post. i just think that like others in the media, you target and take little jabs at him like he's a no-talent celebrity. kanye is an amazing musician who has had a rocky personal life/career, but his skills and mastery of music should never be overlooked.


p.s - "Next, Kanye uses some kind of mixer to play music..." this "mixer" is an Acai MPC 2000XL, an absolute staple in the music industry for making beats.

p.p.s. - the luxury car he's driving is a MTX Tatra v8, a very very rare Chzech sports car from the 80s and 90s. just a FYI!

Posted by: MidnightMarauder | October 25, 2010 12:12 PM | Report abuse

As I am unable to view the video from here, I am left with only the words, "Liz Kelly, you are making this sh** up."

Posted by: byoolin1 | October 25, 2010 12:14 PM | Report abuse

Well, these, uh, "writers" have only been in business since '06, according to their banner, so what do you expect? I know their recaps of Barbara Streisand and Celine Dion is going to blow us away!

Posted by: ummhuh1 | October 25, 2010 12:36 PM | Report abuse

Well, these, uh, "writers" have only been in business since '06, according to their banner, so what do you expect? I know their recaps of the new Barbara Streisand and Celine Dion is going to blow us away!

Posted by: ummhuh1 | October 25, 2010 12:37 PM | Report abuse

I sense an undertone of sarcasm and jealousy. Continuously referencing the phoenix as "phoenix/model" is really sad. It's clearly conceptual art, and we're all sorry you weren't cast.
Much like most of the music and actions Kanye takes, this was a big risk. It works for some an not others I suppose.

Posted by: thecraigmcrae | October 25, 2010 1:16 PM | Report abuse

Where's the 'Dirty' version? I'm not wasting a half hour of my life without some salty language.

Posted by: yellojkt | October 25, 2010 4:10 PM | Report abuse

I pray that over the coming days & weeks The Washington Post dedicates CONSIDERABLY greater analysis & brainpower to the review of this exemplary form of artwork...much more than the unabashedly lazy, sarcastic, ill-informed, minimalist joke-of-a-"recap" that this "must-bookmark blog" has shoddily produced.

I have been HIGHLY critical of Mr. West's actions & behaviors in the past. This film, however, is genius. It WILL be the "Thriller" of this generation.

The intricate dance sequence choreographed by Czech-born Yemi Akinyemi; the dinner sequences ode to Italian contemporary artist Vanessa Beecroft; the "small child in red [who] runs across a field releasing a cloud of red smoke" whose scene was inspired by Swiss artist Olaf Breuning's "Smoke Bombs" photography; the parallels to Dutch photographer Anton Corbijn's hooded figurines; American photographer Gregory Crewdson's surreal portraits of suburban life & its relation to the "petting zoo" in Kanye's backyard; there is SO much more that can be said....but you know what... as readers, we SHOULD NOT have to do all the heavy research for you...

I am really disgusted by the lack of effort put forth in this piece. But that's fine. As a loyal follower of the Post, this will be the last time that I bother returning to this blog until the Post upgrades to Celebritology "3.0"... with a cast of new bloggers.

Posted by: ThankYou2 | October 26, 2010 1:38 AM | Report abuse

Wow - I'm over 50 and I appreciated the video, even though I really, really can't stand Kanye "I am so much smarter than you" West. Granted, Kanye can't act. That breastplate on the phoenix at the end is ridiculous. The 1960's rant at the very end during the credits is silly. By the time I left Howard in '81 that was old. But as a piece of concept art, the video worked. The photography, the makeup, the cinematography - gorgeous. How you missed that the song with the ballerinas was addressed to the people at the table is stunning. If the review had actually focused on the strengths and shortcomings of the piece, that would have been fine, but this was smarmy from the beginning. I expect better, ladies, I expect better.

Posted by: merzydoats | October 28, 2010 11:22 PM | Report abuse

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