Reviews

The Kennedy Assassination: 24 Hours After

The documentary avoids a dry recounting of people and events, but over-compensates with assumed psychological insights.


The Kennedy Assassination: 24 Hours After

Director: Anthony Giacchino
Cast: n/a
Distributor: A&E; Home Video
Network: History Channel
Release Date: 2010-01-26
Amazon

John Kennedy was shot down in Dallas a very long 46 years ago, and it remains a controversial event in American history. The Kennedy Assassination: 24 Hours After does not broach the controversy, at least not the one most people recognize. The documentary reports the official Warren Commission version of the shooting as fact, albeit within a narrative more concerned with the presidential transfer of power that day than the mechanics of what transpired as the shots rang out. The lead character in this story is not JFK, but Lyndon Johnson.

The Kennedy Assassination: 24 Hours After (appearing in conjunction with Stephen M. Gillon's book of the same title) utilizes recently released interview transcripts compiled by William Manchester for his 1967 book The Death of a President. These recollections, from people directly involved in the transpiring events, add verisimilitude to a linear narrative which follows the presidential party as it travels from Love Field through Dallas to Parkland Hospital, and then back to Air Force One and on to Washington. Gillon and several other narrators, mostly academic historians, avoid a dry recounting of people and events, but over-compensate in presenting a rather curious mix of breathless contemporizing, pop psychology and tenuous dissentions.

The narration too often purports psychological insight to response and motivation, assumptions which may or may not be accurate. This is particularly acute during several possibly exaggerated episodes played as high drama, even as the film provides information to undercut the contention. Much is made, for example, of Lyndon Johnson being kept out of the loop as to the extent of Kennedy's injuries, despite being informed within moments of arrival at Parkland Hospital that the situation was grave.

Johnson's "paranoia" over being "kept in the dark" leads to his insistence that he be informed of Kennedy's death directly from JFK's chief of staff. The time this takes becomes, in the film, an exposure to serious vulnerability for a United States without an official "Commander-In-Chief". Stock footage of a ranting Castro and marching Soviet troops fill the screen, although in actuality the military was quickly on high alert and there were no adversarial movements of note.

A dispute between Johnson and Robert Kennedy over the oath of office achieves epic stature -- was RFK plotting to deny LBJ the presidency? -- before, late in the film, it's agreed it was more likely a misunderstanding. The procedures for presidential succession are very clear, so how or why either of these senior officials would entertain an alternate notion is not broached by the historical experts (as far as we know there was not an 'Alexander Haig moment' that day).

Similarly, Robert Kennedy's rushing to his brother's casket after Air Force One touched down in Washington -- and either not seeing or not acknowledging Johnson -- gets played as a major snub, a willful refusal "that just drove Johnson nuts". But we had also been informed that Johnson overruled the Kennedy family's wishes and okayed the presence of live television cameras at the airport, and so RFK's motivations may have been more concerned with family dignity than political machinations. I don't really know one way or the other, but neither, probably, do the on-camera experts, although this doesn't stop one from opining "It was really the Kennedy people who were putting personal motives above what might be the good of the nation".

This narration integrates with an edit alternating newsreel footage with cutaways of fragmented recreations and point-of-view location footage, punctuated by simple visual motifs: blood-stained white glove on a hospital gurney, simple metal chair outside of trauma room, bronze casket, and so on. The Kennedy Assassination: 24 Hours After is effective in establishing a you-are-there framework, placing the viewer in the midst of events at once dramatic, traumatic, and of conscious historic import. The film moves at a steady pace, balanced by appropriate time-outs to linger on a poignant moment or a brief contextualization. The hyperbole over the (non)contentious episodes always serves to heighten the drama, which makes decent television if flawed historic analysis.

The filmmakers, then, are not naïve, but seem to have hatched a deliberately unsophisticated approach to events based on potentially misguided psychological assumptions, thereby reducing complex political intersections to petty personality conflicts. Lyndon Johnson, on the eve of the Texas trip, is described as facing a political career that was effectively "finished". This is attributed to animosity between himself and the Kennedys, and their attempts to neuter the effectiveness of his office.

While those points are true, it could also be pointed out that Johnson's political career was in serious trouble because a high-level Senate investigation was implicating close associates of his in a major corruption scandal (the investigation was suspended after the assassination and not picked up again until 1969). The Kennedy Assassination: 24 Hours After foregrounds the supposed ego conflicts, and leaves out the political conflicts grinding away at a more material level.

Also left out of The Kennedy Assassination: 24 Hours After is that the perpetrator(s) of the assassination itself remains highly controversial. Lone gunmen advocates can point to Vincent Bugliosi’s recent and massive Reclaiming History as the latest final word in defense of the Warren Commission. Critics of the official version can in turn offer James DiEugenio’s detailed critique/rebuttal to Bugliosi’s book, or ambitious revisionist histories like James Douglass' JFK And the Unspeakable. The many questions surrounding the homicide investigation and autopsy, and numerous other issues, ensure the debate as to who did it and why will continue for the foreseeable future.

The DVD is packaged as a simple presentation of the original History Channel broadcast, with a menu selection of 12 chapters.

5

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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