Film

Best Supporting Actress: Is It Too Early to Give J-Law Another Oscar?

Jennifer Lawrence walks off with American Hustle. If awards for Best Supporting Actress are made of something different, we don’t know what that is.


American Hustle

Director: David O. Russell
Cast: Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper, Jeremy Renner, Amy Adams, Jennifer Lawrence
Rated: R
Studio: Columbia Pictures
Year: 2013
US date: 2013-12-20 (General release)
Trailer

I attended a packed screening of American Hustle in New York City over the Thanksgiving weekend and after leaving the theater could only think of one thing: Jennifer Lawrence will take over the world. Not only was she queen at the box office for the second week in a row (The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is poised to become 2013’s highest grosser! Which would also be the first time for a female-led film), she was also the clear standout in David O. Russell’s thrilling caper.

Based on the infamous ABSCAM operation in which powerful politicians were convicted for corruption, the film has Christian Bale and Amy Adams play the crooks who team with FBI agent Bradley Cooper, in order to catch these high-rank delinquents. Lawrence plays Bale’s character’s wife Rosalyn, a ditzy blonde who falls asleep under sun lamps, gets off on the smell of her nail polish and accuses her new microwave oven of stealing her food’s nutrients. Delivering the screenplay’s zingers with perfect comedic timing and a touch of sexiness she’d never displayed before, it’s safe to say that she is a scene-stealer. After each and every one of her appearances, the guy sitting next to me kept gasping and saying “god, I love her”, and the room exploded in laughter so loud, that the next lines of dialogue were almost impossible to hear.

If awards for Best Supporting Actress are made of something different, I don’t know what that is. Bringing heightened levity to what already turned out to be a crowd-pleasing motion picture, Lawrence then did the unthinkable and completely wrecked our hearts. There is a key scene in the film -- it will undoubtedly be her Oscar clip -- in which she goes from drunk, to furious, to tender, to threatening, to devastating in a matter of seconds. It was the equivalent of watching a Judy Holliday character turn into Ingrid Bergman in the blink of an eye.

As I wrote this, news came that she’d been selected as this year’s Best Supporting Actress by the New York Film Critics Circle (the film won awards for Best Screenplay and Best Picture as well) which immediately led to an array of shocked remarks about how she’d sneaked in and displaced another season frontrunner. In her defense, not that such a thing is even needed when it comes to something as trivial as movie awards, she falls right into subcategories awards groups have always voted for: long suffering wives, vixens, comedic relief. That she pulled off the three of them is perhaps even more remarkable.

Awards bodies were obsessed over her last year for her performance in Russell’s Silver Linings Playbook, which won her a myriad statuettes including the Academy Award for Best Actress, and as she kept winning it became quite obvious that it wasn’t entirely about the performance (her Tiffany was a remarkable creation though) but about crowning her as the new hot thing in town. Awards after all are nothing but popularity contests and by the time Silver Linings Playbook came out, J.Law had already proved her worth as an actress (Winter’s Bone) and as an action star (The Hunger Games). Her award winning performance last year wasn’t as “important” as the work of Emmanuelle Riva or Jessica Chastain, but it was efficient and touching. Immediately after her win, claims of whether she deserved it or not began popping up and while the whole aspect of “deserving” an award for performing is questionable, to say the least, what can be said if that Hollywood was dying to shower her with awards they might as well have waited for this one.

It also has to be said though, that people seem to forget that besides being the Queen of the internet, a huge box office draw, a victim of Dior, an Entertainment Weekly Entertainer of the Year and a talk-show guest extraordinaire, J.Law is also a terrific actress and what she does with Rosalyn is completely unexpected and might just be her finest achievement to date. It’s strange, but it should be harder to shake off the J.Law-ness from a Jennifer Lawrence performance (given that she’s featured in blogs, magazines and websites all over the world almost daily) yet it’s not. Watching Rosalyn, there is no sign whatsoever of the fun-loving actress who tripped on her way to collect her Best Actress Oscar earlier this year, or even any of the ferocity in the Katniss Everdeen we all saw just a couple of days before. She is the rare actor who, no offense to screenwriters, seems to be creating her own dialogues as she goes along. Her effortlessness is so powerful that it’s easy to forget she’s acting. Her ability to become possessed by her characters is something rare that should be celebrated not questioned. When was the last time we had a bonafide movie star who was also one of our most brilliant thesps?

* * *

American Hustle opens December 13.

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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