Film

Ten Lessons Learned in Roland Emmerich's '2012'

Two hours and 35 minutes of dour, dark neo-cannibalism and hopelessness along a long “road” leading to nowhere, or 155 entertaining as Hell minutes of CG shit blowing up.


2012

Cast: John Cusack, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Amanda Peet, Thandie Newton, Oliver Platt, Danny Glover
Directors: Pete Docter, Bob Peterson
Rated: PG-13
Studio: Columbia Pictures
Year: 2009
US date: 2009-11-13 (General release)
UK date: 2009-11-13 (General release)
Website
Trailer

Get ready people! In less than 24 hours, Roland Emmerich is going to offer up his latest version of the end of the world as we know it - and you should feel mighty fine about seeing it (especially on a big ole movie screen). Sure, it's silly, stupid, schlocky, clichéd, formulaic, flawed, unintentionally hilarious, and lacking any real artistic merit, but at the end of the day, what do you really want - two hours and thirty-five minutes of dour, dark neo-cannibalism and hopelessness along a long "road" leading to nowhere, or 155 entertaining as Hell minutes of CG shit blowing up! Thought so.

Anyway, before you ramble into your local Cineplex and plop down this month's mortgage payment on amusement and concessions, there are a few preemptive things you need to know about this latest take on the genre. According to the Mayan Calendar, everything ends on 12/21/2012. They foresaw it and forewarned us. For our part, early explorers wiped out their advanced culture. Indeed, perhaps the first thing you need to know is that, once name checked, the ancient civilization responsible for the title is tossed aside like so much stale bread to make room for more and more scenes of LA getting obliterated. In fact, like that equally unapologetically 'so bad, it's brilliant' example of disaster porn - The Core - once we get the premise in place, it’s time to start screwing with the planet.

While there may be some minor Spoilers ahead, don't fret - nothing said here will ruin your fanatical desire to see huge tsunamis break over mountains or aircraft carriers slam into the White House (you have seen the trailers…right?). In fact, the purpose of this little piece is to give you a few insights into what makes Emmerich tick - and why his movie are so mind-bogglingly satisfying...in a wholly guilty kind of way. After all, this is the man who once tried to verify ancient astronauts with Stargate, and who strove to outdo Al Gore in the environmentalist department with The Day After Tomorrow. Clearly, he's not sane, but this is one director who knows how to deliver the ample Armageddon goods. Let's start with the little sun spot rascals who get us into this 'three years and counting' mess:

Neutrinos SUCK!

That's right - according to the film, our galaxy's oversized ball of luminous gas will belch out a massive blast of these radioactive particles, sending them down into the Earth's crust where they will act as microwaves - and for anyone who's tried to bite into a post-nuked Hot Pocket before it's cooled down, the hyper-sizzling results spell doom and gloom for the planet.

Little Kids SUCK!

John Cusack plays a disinterested dad who has two of the most generic children in the history of Central Casting. Not to be outdone, a rich Russian billionaire has two twin terrors who look like transvestite members of the former East German Women's Olympic Team (sans the athletic prowess). Naturally, these bratlings spend inordinate amounts of time whining, crying, and demanding help. Typical. Can't they see that the Earth's crust is cracking and shifting? Always "ME, ME, ME, ME…"

Washington Bureaucrats SUCK!

Oliver Platt plays someone associated with the President who can apparently make any Executive Branch decision imaginable with little or no consultation with his boss, the Congress, or members of Fox News' management. Naturally, he decides to turn the Earth's survival plan into an auction among the Who's Who of international uber-rich riff-raff. And we wonder why nothing ever gets done in D. C.

Conspiracy Theorist Radio Talk Show Hosts are a Wealth of Expositional Information!

Thank god for Woody Harrelson's extended cameo as a wacked out broadcaster who knows just about everything regarding the 2012 apocalypse - who predicted it, why it is happening, how he will deal with it, how Cusack should deal with it, and where the world's government is hiding its secret surplus of rescue "ships". Passengers have to pay $1 billion Euros to gain such informational access. All John Cusack has to do is listen to the wingnut rant for about ten minutes. Who got the better deal?

Vesuvius and Pompeii Ain't Got Nothing on Yellowstone!

About 45 minutes in, we learn that one of our most famous National Parks is actually a dormant volcano waiting to blow - and when it finally does, the unbridled amount of carnage and damage is stunning. Ancient Rome had nothing on the good old U.S. or A. Of course, it figures that when it comes to all out desolation of the world's population, America would be the one to excel.

Even God Has a Sense of Humor!

While he chose to spare Mecca (yep - Emmerich actually thought about leveling Allah's favorite hot spot - and then living Salam Rushdie style - before cooler heads prevailed), St. Peter's Basilica gets demolished - right in the middle of a prayer vigil for the planet. The best moment? Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel ceiling depiction of the Creator and his creation gets split down the middle - right in between the two outreached fingers. Talk about portents of hopelessness. Even the Big Guy is baling on mankind!

Nobody Cares About India - But They Do Care About Art!

Who cares if you make up one-sixth of the world's population (and about 78% of corporate community's IT and customer service and tech support)? If you live anywhere between Kashmir and Tamil Nadu, you're screwed. No one is coming to rescue you, not even if you are instrumental in warning everyone about the impending apocalypse. So just suck it up and drown. Of course, if you are the Mona Lisa or any number of famous canvases and sculptures, you get a one-way first class ticket to rescue ark redemption.

How to Be the World's Best Selling Author? Be the Last One Alive!

John Cusack moonlights as a limo driver because his last novel sold a whopping 400 copies. Yet chief US scientist Chiwetel Ejiofor loves the tome, and brings it along with the rest of his effects once Armageddon comes knocking. The result - Cusack becomes an instant literary hero, and the book's physical presence among the last artifacts of human civilization guarantees him a "bigger than Oprah" push come eventual republication.

Get that Low Cost African Real Estate NOW!

Don't ask, since the remaining continents get swamped by a tidal wave that almost completely covers Mt. Everest. We do eventually learn that this new waterworld's mythic "dry land" is actually the world's second-largest and second most-populous soon to be gated subdivision. While dealing with the less than 400K survivors looking for affordable housing might not be a problem, the indigenous peoples might not be putting out the Welcome Wagon quite so quickly. Something about several hundred years of colonialization and exploitation…

The Apocalypse Cures Bed Wetting!

"No more Pull-ups…", perhaps the greatest last line in an overblown disaster movie…ever! (Oh, and if it is indeed not the last line, it should be.)

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

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Music

The Best Dance Tracks of 2017

Photo: Murielle Victorine Scherre (Courtesy of Big Beat Press)

From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

In June of 2016, prolific producer Diplo lambasted the world of DJ's in an interview with Billboard, stating that EDM was dying. Coincidentally enough, the article's contents went viral and made their way into Vice Media's electronic music and culture channel Thump, which closed its doors after four years this summer amid company-wide layoffs. Months earlier, electronic music giant SFX Entertainment filed bankruptcy and reemerged as Lifestyle, Inc., shunning the term "EDM".

So here we are at the end of 2017, and the internet is still a flurry with articles declaring that Electronic Dance Music is rotting from the inside out and DJ culture is dying on the vine, devoured by corporate greed. That might all well be the case, but electronic music isn't disappearing into the night without a fight as witnessed by the endless parade of emerging artists on the scene, the rise of North America's first Electro Parade in Montréal, and the inaugural Electronic Music Awards in Los Angeles this past September.

For every insipid, automaton disc jockey-producer, there are innovative minds like Anna Lunoe, Four Tet, and the Black Madonna, whose eclectic, infectious sets display impeccable taste, a wealth of knowledge, and boundless creativity. Over the past few years, many underground artists have been thrust into the mainstream spotlight and lost the je ne sais quoi that made them unique. Regardless, there will always be new musicians, producers, singers, and visionaries to replace them, those who bring something novel to the table or tip a hat to their predecessors in a way that steps beyond homage and exhilarates as it did decades before.

As electronic music continues to evolve and its endless sub-genres continue to expand, so do fickle tastes, and preferences become more and more subjective with a seemingly endless list of artists to sift through. With so much music to digest, its no wonder that many artists remain under the radar. This list hopes to remedy that injustice and celebrate tracks both indie and mainstream. From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

10. Moullinex - “Work It Out (feat. Fritz Helder)”

Taken from Portuguese producer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist Luis Clara Gomes' third album Hypersex, "Work It Out" like all of its surrounding companions is a self-proclaimed, "collective love letter to club culture, and a celebration of love, inclusion and difference." Dance music has always seemingly been a safe haven for "misfits" standing on the edge of the mainstream, and while EDM manufactured sheen might have taken the piss out of the scene, Hypersex still revels in that defiant, yet warm and inviting attitude.

Like a cheeky homage to Rick James and the late, great High Priest of Pop, Prince, this delectably filthy, sexually charged track with its nasty, funk-drenched bass line, couldn't have found a more flawless messenger than former Azari & III member Fritz Helder. As the radiant, gender-fluid artist sings, "you better work your shit out", this album highlight becomes an anthem for all those who refuse to bow down to BS. Without any accompanying visuals, the track is electro-funk perfection, but the video, with its ruby-red, penile glitter canon, kicks the whole thing up a notch.

9. Touch Sensitive - “Veronica”

The neon-streaked days of roller rinks and turtlenecks, leg warmers and popped polo collars have come and gone, but you wouldn't think so listening to Michael "Touch Sensitive" Di Francesco's dazzling debut Visions. The Sydney-based DJ/producer's long-awaited LP and its lead single "Lay Down", which shot to the top of the Hype Machine charts, are as retro-gazing as they are distinctly modern, with nods to everything from nu disco to slo-mo house.

Featuring a sample lifted from 90s DJ and producer Paul Johnson's "So Much (So Much Mix)," the New Jack-kissed "Veronica" owns the dance floor. While the conversational interplay between the sexed-up couple is anything but profound, there is no denying its charms, however laughably awkward. While not everything on Visions is as instantly arresting, it is a testament to Di Francesco's talents that everything old sounds so damn fresh again.

8. Gourmet - “Delicious”

Neither Gourmet's defiantly eccentric, nine-track debut Cashmere, nor its subsequent singles, "There You Go" or "Yellow" gave any indication that the South African purveyor of "spaghetti pop" would drop one of the year's sassiest club tracks, but there you have it. The Cape Town-based artist, part of oil-slick, independent label 1991's diminutive roster, flagrantly disregards expectation on his latest outing, channeling the Scissor Sisters at their most gloriously bitchy best, Ratchet-era Shamir, and the shimmering dance-pop of UK singer-producer Joe Flory, aka Amateur Best.

With an amusingly detached delivery that rivals Ben Stein's droning roll call in Ferris Bueller's Day Off , he sings "I just want to dance, and fuck, and fly, and try, and fail, and try again…hold up," against a squelchy bass line and stabbing synths. When the percussive noise of what sounds like a triangle dinner bell appears within the mix, one can't help but think that Gourmet is simply winking at his audience, as if to say, "dinner is served."

7. Pouvoir Magique - “Chalawan”

Like a psychoactive ayahuasca brew, the intoxicating "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique's LP Disparition, is an exhilarating trip into unfamiliar territory. Formed in November of 2011, "Magic Power" is the musical project of Clément Vincent and Bertrand Cerruti, who over the years, have cleverly merged several millennia of songs from around the world with 21st-century beats and widescreen electro textures. Lest ye be worried, this is anything but Deep Forest.

In the spring of 2013, Pouvoir Magique co-founded the "Mawimbi" collective, a project designed to unite African musical heritage with contemporary soundscapes, and released two EPs. Within days of launching their label Musiques de Sphères, the duo's studio was burglarized and a hard drive with six years of painstakingly curated material had vanished. After tracking down demos they shared with friends before their final stages of completion, Clément and Bertrand reconstructed an album of 12 tracks.

Unfinished though they might be, each song is a marvelous thing to behold. Their stunning 2016 single "Eclipse," with its cinematic video, might have been one of the most immediate songs on the record, but it's the pulsing "Chalawan," with its guttural howls, fluttering flute-like passages, and driving, hypnotic beats that truly mesmerizes.

6. Purple Disco Machine - “Body Funk” & “Devil In Me” (TIE)

Whenever a bevy of guest artists appears on a debut record, it's often best to approach the project with caution. 85% of the time, the collaborative partners either overshadow the proceedings or detract from the vision of the musician whose name is emblazoned across the top of the LP. There are, however, pleasant exceptions to the rule and Tino Piontek's Soulmatic is one of the year's most delightfully cohesive offerings. The Dresden-born Deep Funk innovator, aka Purple Disco Machine, has risen to international status since 2009, releasing one spectacular track and remix after another. It should go without saying that this long-awaited collection, featuring everyone from Kool Keith to Faithless and Boris D'lugosch, is ripe with memorable highlights.

The saucy, soaring "Mistress" shines a spotlight on the stellar pipes of "UK soul hurricane" Hannah Williams. While it might be a crowning moment within the set, its the strutting discofied "Body Funk", and the album's first single, "Devil In Me", that linger long after the record has stopped spinning. The former track with its camptastic fusion of '80s Sylvester gone 1940s military march, and the latter anthem, a soulful stunner that samples the 1968 Stax hit "Private Number", and features the vocal talents of Duane Harden and Joe Killington, feels like an unearthed classic. Without a doubt, the German DJ's debut is one of the best dance records of the year.

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