Film

The 10 Classics Left Off the Sight & Sound List

If we had participated in this year's Sight & Sound Best Of listing, here's 10 choices we'd champion.

Truth be told, this is pointless. You can't usurp the powers that be -- even if they are among the members of your own peer group. Last week, the British Film Institute through its seminal magazine, Sight & Sound, unveiled its decennial list of the Best Movies of All Time. A compilation of hundreds of entries from artists, writers, critics, journalists, filmmakers, scholars, and other VIPs, it's become the benchmark for the always questionable discussion of what, exactly if the greatest achievement in the history of the cinematic artform. The news, of course, was not good for those who've championed Orson Welles' Citizen Kane for the last half century. The winner turned out to be Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo, and by a margin wider than one might imagine. One masterpiece beating out another.

Perhaps more disturbing was the lack of variety in the choices. While some favorites fell out completely (Singing in the Rain, Battleship Potemkin), the usual celluloid suspects appear present and accounted for... meaning, aside from the order, it's more or less business as usual. For us, however, there are dozens of movies that deserve to place higher than some of the selections. We love Sunrise, but think there are better examples of the silent film format out there. Man with a Camera might signify the start of the documentary movement, but why not celebrate some true found art? As consolation, we offer up these ten titles, alternates to any of the otherwise unexceptional choices out there and each one, dare we say it, capable of walking toe to toe with said titans. We aren't suggesting that the battle between Kane and Vertigo is void, just that there is something more special than The Searchers.

We aren't slagging off S&S, just letting them know that, in order to be a bit more inclusive, they should broaden their hemmed in horizons. In alphabetical order, here are our suggestions...

 
3 Women

Robert Altman may have made more popular films (M*A*S*H*, The Player) or more critically acclaimed efforts (Nashville, Short Cuts), but if one is looking for something truly special from the amazing movie maverick, this is it. Supposedly arriving via a troubling dream and then fleshed out with the help of his female leads and collaborators, Altman crafted a clever, complicated look at gender, personality, and the acceptance/rejection of both circa the arid deserts of Southern California. Shelly Duval and Sissy Spacek were never better, and as a statement of cinematic purpose, few can argue with its artistry. A honest to goodness masterpiece.

 
Eraserhead

David Lynch came close to making the Top 20 in the S&S list, though it was for his brilliant deconstruction of the Hollywood dream factory, Mulholland Dr. For our money, this is the title to include from one of America's most complicated auteurs. In fact, if the list were to include anything remotely close to experimental, Lynch's loony look at love, marriage, children, and the horrific responsibility that comes with all three would be front and center. Like the best dreams, it's non-linear, allegorical, and insular. Like the list supposedly celebrates, it's visionary.

 
The Exorcist

Horror has been around as long as cinema. As a matter of fact, one of Edison's first experiments with the medium was a take on Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. A Best of List without a fright film is, therefore, incomplete (or at the very least, snobbish). Considering that William Friedkin managed to make William Peter Blatty's novel about demonic possession and into a meaningful metaphor for the growing generation gap argues for its import outside the genre. Even now, some forty years removed, it is a riveting piece of storytelling... and it's still scary as Hell.

 
The General (Sight & Sound entry #34)

In clamoring for some comic recognition, we are going way back to before there was such a thing as an 'old school'. Instead, we will focus on the founders of film funny business, and while Chaplin gets all the glory, we prefer our wit with some wild cinematic invention as well. That's why The General is here. Not only does Keaton excel in the always complicated realm of physical shtick, but he does so within a truly epic dynamic. The train sequence is often viewed as one of the best, most inventive comic action scenes of all time. We agree.

 
Grey Gardens

Again, it's time to champion an underrepresented genre... in this case, the documentary. Sure, Man with a Movie Camera is included, but it's more important as a landmark than an actual entertainment. No, when Albert and David Maysles stumbled upon the story of the fallen relatives of Jackie O, they got the best of all movie worlds. Within the dilapidated East Hampton manor were two classic characters, a marvelous backstory, and reels of fabulous footage. Today, Big Eddie and her similarly named daughter would be relegated to some ridiculous reality TV side show. Here, they shine like the stars they are.

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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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