Film

The Top 10 Movies About Movies of All Time

Ten amazing examples of the insular commentary that can occur when a medium takes a well-aimed artistic look at itself.

We love them. Obsess over them. Rant when they don't work and get even angrier when they insult our intelligence or expectations. From the moment turn of the century audiences cringed at the sight of a locomotive coming straight at them, the movies have meant more to us than, perhaps, any other medium (settle down, TV -- and you too, music). We adopt their dialogue, follow their mandates on fashion and fame. We enjoy the looks into lifestyles we could never envision for ourselves while eagerly tweaking emotions (anger, fear, laughter, sorrow) that we normally try to avoid. So it makes sense that, eventually artists involved in the craft would want to explore the meaning of movies. Take them apart. Reference and homage them. Perhaps, even go so far as add commentary on their creation. This movies about the movies become a Bible of sorts, a window into a world that, without filter, comes to mean so much to us.

Let's clarify the category before we go any further, however. Yes, most of the movies will feature movies in them. Yes, we have also included movies that comment on the movies themselves without going into specific examples. It's a mess, we know. After all, a film like Hitchcock actually tackles some of the issues that came from the making of Psycho. But when viewed within its core intention, it's really an exploration of the Master of Suspense's relationship with his wife Alma. On the other hand, Tropic Thunder may center on the making of a big dumb military drama, but it's really more a comedy of ill-mannered movie stars in over their heads. We've tried to parse through the complicated differences and have come up with a list of 10 that we can be proud of. Sure, there are a few MIA entries (Silent Movie, CQ) that should, perhaps, be included. Overall, however, this list offers up one particular point of view.

 
#10 - Gods and Monsters

Back in 1998, few in film were willing to back a movie which made most of its points off the latent homosexuality of Bride of Frankenstein director James Whale. But Bill Condon bravely stood his ground, giving us a peek at how important gay talent was in the glory days of early cinema. Sir Ian McKellen, long before Lord of the Rings and X-Men, gave a stellar performance as the British auteur who came up from humble beginnings only to struggle with his personal life his whole career. Intercutting reenactments from Bride, we learn how life really does imitates art, and visa versa.

 
#9 - The Purple Rose of Cairo

In one of his rare early films in which he did not appear, American treasure Woody Allen deconstructed film and our fascination with same by telling the tale of a meek housewife (then muse Mia Farrow) who uses cinema as an escape. Once there, she learns that the line between fantasy and reality can be as blurry as an out of focus process shot. Eventually, a rugged actor (Jeff Daniels) literally walks off the screen to make all her dreary dreams come true. What happens next is an inventive free for all that questions the very make-up of movies, as well as our desire to lose ourselves in them.

 
#8 - Forgotten Silver

One of the best mockumentaries of all time, this collaboration between Peter Jackson (yes, THAT Peter Jackson) and Costa Botes purports to tell the story of New Zealand film legend Colin McKenzie and the many accidental innovations he added to the art form. Mixing interview footage with "clips" from said forgotten "films," we get a wonderful, weird glimpse into how artists view their medium, as well as how we re-imagine the past to fit the future. While some may see it as a minor moment in Jackson's career, it explains his love of movies more than any big budget Middle Earth epic.

 
#7 - Shadow of the Vampire

This movie has one of the most original premises of all time: specifically, that when F. W. Murnau (John Malkovich) made Nosferatu in 1921, he used an actual vampire (Willem Dafoe) to bring a sense of real horror to his fright film. Yes, in this fictionalized account of the filming, the director determines that the only way to add authenticity to his craft is to bring a real neckbiter to the ball. While flawed a bit in execution, this fascination film makes the case for what is fact and what it truly fiction. From the audiences perspective, Max Schreck seemed to be a monster. Maybe, he really was.

 
#6 - Ed Wood

Tim Burton has always championed the outsider, and who was more of an outcast in his time than the kooky cross-dressing director of the film's title? Part whimsical revisionism (Wood, as essayed by Johnny Depp, is portrayed as a bumbling dreamer when he was, in actually, a troubled alcoholic), part celebrity portrait (Martin Landau's riveting turns as a dying, drug-addled Bela Lugosi), this amazing monochrome love letter illustrates the cut rate filmmaking that became Wood's signature. It also highlighted the hopes dashed, and the chew 'em up and spit 'em out spirit of '50s era Hollywood.

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The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

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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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