Reviews

'Hondo': A Man, A Woman, and The West

Hondo has everything a classic Western needs, and nothing to threaten the conventions of the genre.


Hondo

Director: John Farrow
Cast: John Wayne, Geraldine Page, James Arness, Ward Bond
Distributor: Paramount
Studio: Warner Bros.
Release date: 2012-06-05

There's nothing particularly surprising or unique about Hondo, except perhaps its reputation as the best John Ford movie John Ford never made (in fact, an uncredited Ford did direct a few sequences). Instead, it's worth watching because it represents the quintessence of a genre—in this case, the Hollywood western—and provides all the necessary ingredients, at a high level of quality, to fulfill genre expectations without attempting to do anything new or different with them. If you like classic Westerns, it's a good Saturday night watch, but not the sort of thing likely to impress your film-snob friends.

Hondo is based on the Louis L'Amour short story "The Gift of Cochise", as adapted by James Edward Grant, John Wayne's favorite screenwriter. The lead role is tailor-made for Wayne—Hondo Lane is a crack gunfighter who mysteriously arrives in an isolated settlement (a homestead in the Arizona desert, surrounded by Apaches), sets a few things to rights, and is precisely as tough as he needs to be while also observing the social niceties that would cause any schoolmarm to smile. He travels with a dog that's as independent as he is, and which displays the same level of reserve unless you crowd him too much, because that's what the mythical West was all about—space enough to be your own man (or dog) if you were self-sufficient enough to survive out there.

The homestead in question is run by Angie Lowe (Geraldine Page, a stage actress who brings real character to the role, and is handsome rather than conventionally beautiful in the Hollywood sense) in the absence of her no-good husband, who she unconvincingly tells Wayne will be returning any minute. She lives with her son Johnny (Lee Aaker), whose adorable blondness and general fixation on the big mysterious stranger had me expecting him to cry "Shane! Come back!" at some point. Their little homestead is threatened by the Apache—while Angie insists she is on good terms with them, Wayne advises her that they're angry about broken promises from other white people, and besides, a lady can't really run a homestead by herself, can she?

If she could survive without a man, then Hondo would be quite an innovative Western, but she can't and it's not. Instead, we get treated to displays of Angie's incompetence with the manly arts, as well as her inability to carry out necessary manual tasks to keep the homestead running smoothly, so conventional gender roles are not threatened, no doubt pleasing the original 1953 audience for this film. She can raise a son, and nurse a man back to health, however, and keep a civilized household as well, so she's a success in her own sphere of influence. Can you guess what's likely to happen between her and the mysterious stranger?

On the plus side, the Apache are more humanized in Hondo than they are in many Westerns of the period. Their Chief, Vittorio (Michael Pate, in a performance you have to accept in the context of '50s Hollywood conventions about ethnicity) makes Johnny his blood brother and advises Angie to take an Apache husband—not out of spite or lust, but because he rightly observes that her man is gone, and she can't work the homestead by herself. Some other Apache are less admirable, including a sneaky, cowardly fellow named Silva (played by the Mexican actor Rodolfo Acosta).

The cavalry also makes an appearance, and there's a real bang-up fight and an even better Indian attack sequence near the end, the latter of a variety that only occurred on film and in Wild West shows. Like I said, this film has everyone a standard Western should have, and nothing genre-bending enough to upset the conventional viewer.

Hondo was shot in 3-D, but hardly anyone saw it that way, and it looks perfectly fine in 2-D. Only a few sequences were obviously staged for 3-D (is that a knife I see plunging towards me?), and they're not long enough to disturb your enjoyment of the film. The cinematography by Robert Burks and Archie Stout is one of the best things about this film (of course—it's a classic Western!), and the widescreen (1:85 : 1) ratio shows off the locations to great effect.

The extras package on Hondo is well above average. First of all, there's a commentary track by Leonard Maltin, Lee Aaker, and Western historian Frank Thompson. There's also a series of short features rather clumsily strung together with Maltin intros, but the features themselves are insightful, covering the making of the film, the careers of writer James Edward Grant and actor Ward Bond, Wayne's production company Batjac, and a historical and cultural overview of the Apache. Finally, you get the theatrical trailer, and a photo gallery.

7

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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