Books

Screen World Volume 60: The Films of 2008 by Barry Monush

Screen World remains the go-to reference book for people in the film industry as well as film critics and fans.


Screen World vol. 60: The Films of 2008

Publisher: Applause Theatre and Cinema Books
Length: 520 pages
Author: Barry Monush
Price: $29.99
Format: Hardcover
Publication date: 2009-10
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Screen World has been published annually since 1949 and remains a vital reference tool for people who work in the movie industry or write about it as well as a great gift for film fans. Volume 60, edited by Barry Monush, covers 2008 and includes listings for every film released in the US that year as well as several special sections covering topics such as top box office films and stars, up-and-coming actors, and the Academy Awards.

But Screen World is no mere compilation of information: each volume also reflects the personal taste of the editor, beginning with the opening dedication (this year it’s to Angela Lansbury) and the editor’s preface in which he sums up the year in film. I like a little fun with my facts and Monush won me over immediately with his preface which begins: “Judging from the robust box office returns, Hollywood did not fail to provide audiences with some of what they were looking for in 2008…” before going on to comment on the state of movie distribution in the US as well as providing a quick summation of most of the major releases for the year.

The heart of each volume of Screen World is the listing of films by US release date for that year. Films are divided into four sections—Domestic A, Domestic B, Foreign A and Foreign B—with the A and B categories referring to the editor’s judgment of each film’s impact or significance. The A films are those which have a major impact and are often distinguished by one or more of the following: wide release, big box office numbers, critical or popular recognition, winning or being nominated for awards, or involvement of major directors, writers or actors. The B films are mainly those which got limited release, often only briefly in a small number of theatres in New York or Los Angeles, and thus had little impact on the US year in film.

Entries for each A film range from half a page to two pages and include the film’s producer, creative team (director, screenwriter, etc.), cast and crew, type of technology (e.g., Dolby, Panavision, Color), MPAA rating, length, US release date, a one-sentence plot summary, and several black and white photos. If the film was nominated for an Academy Award that is noted as is information such as the fact that Steven Soderbergh’s Che (in the Foreign A section, in case you’re interested) was sometimes shown as a single film with an intermission and sometimes as two films with separate admissions. Entries for the B films are similar but shorter, including at most one photograph, and are limited to the distributor, producers and creative team, technical information, length, rating, US release date and an abbreviated listing of the cast and crew.

Because within each section films are arranged by release date browsing through a volume of Screen World is sort of like reliving the year in film, if you live in New York or Los Angeles, anyway. This aspect can be quite useful even if you reside elsewhere because it not only brings you up to date on the films you missed during the year (the photographs are particularly useful for linking actors and roles) but also provides a sense of studio strategy for each film (did the distributor treat it as a summer blockbuster, Oscar bait, or something to be hidden in the doldrums of January?) as well as the competition among new releases in any week. And because American films are screened all over the world and many foreign films are released in the American market, Screen World is also a valuable reference volume for people living and working outside the US.

Sixteen pages of color photos from major films precede the chronological listings, which are great for reminding yourself who played what in which film. An index of titles, names, and organizations is helpful in locating the entry for a particular film since you need to know both the correct section and release date to find it otherwise. It’s also handy for finding all the entries relating to, say, a particular actor or distributor.

A separate section is devoted to the Academy Awards and includes two-page spreads (production and cast and crew information, synopsis and black-and-white photographs) for the Best Picture and Best Animated Feature winners, one page for the Best Feature Documentary, full-page photos for Best Actor, Supporting Actor, Actress and Supporting Actress, and four-to-a-page photos for the nominees in the acting categories. Two other photo sections are also devoted to actors: “Top Box Office Stars of 2008” as chosen by exhibitors and theatre owners (representing in their opinion the stars that drew the largest audiences during the year) and “Promising New Actors” as chosen by the editor. A section for “Top Box Office Films of 2008” lists the 100 top grossing films, from The Dark Knight at #1 with $532,360,000 down to Defiance at #100 with $28,630,000.

Two other reference sections round out Screen World: an alphabetical list of one-line entries (almost 2,500 of them according to the publicity material) for actors by professional name (birth name in parentheses if applicable) with birth date and place and university or actors training school, and an obituary section of film people who died in 2008 with a brief biography for each individual, from historian Forrest J. Ackerman to special effects and makeup artist Stan Winston.

8

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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