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A Gallery of Good Works: The Best Films of 2007

From Julian Schnabel's artsy The Diving Bell and the Butterfly to the legendary Coen Brothers splendid adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's No Country for Old Men, PopMatters counts down the 30 best films of 2007.

Director: Julian Schnabel Film: The Diving Bell and the Butterfly Studio: Mirimax Cast: Mathieu Amalric, Emmanuelle Seigner, Marie-Josée Croze, Emma de Caunes, Max Von Sydow, Isaach De Bankolé, Patrick Chesnais MPAA rating: PG-13 First date: 2007 US Release Date: 2007-11-30 (Limited release) UK Release Date: 2008-02-08 (General release) Image: http://images.popmatters.com/film_art/d/diving-bell.jpg

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List number: 30

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

Julian Schnabel

At first, one is concerned that director Julian Schnabel is going to tell the entire story of paralyzed (and "locked in") former editor of Elle Jean-Dominique Bauby, from an awkward, slightly artsy first person POV perspective. Indeed, during the first few minutes, all we see are blurred images of hospital staff and medical professionals. But then the filmmaker opens up his creative campus to take in Bauby's fantasies and flashbacks. Within moments, the movie is alive with narrative possibilities. As uncomfortable as it is uplifting, this unusual biopic doesn't rely on the stereotypical genre's tenets to draw us in. After our initial apprehension, we're glad it avoids such clichés. Bill Gibron

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

Director: Bong Joon-ho Film: The Host (Gwoemul) Studio: Magnolia Pictures Cast: Song Kang-ho, Byun Hie-bong, Park Hae-il, Bae Doo-na, Ah-sung Ko Website: http://www.hostmovie.com/ MPAA rating: R Trailer: http://www.apple.com/trailers/magnolia/thehost/ First date: 2006 US Release Date: 2007-03-09 (Limited release) UK Release Date: 2006-11-10 (Limited release) Image: http://images.popmatters.com/film_art/h/host-poster.jpg

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List number: 29

The Host

Bong Joon-ho

Most foreign monster movies come with at least some degree of kitsch built in, and with that comes a distance that keeps audiences from ever being fully involved in the story. With The Host, South Korean director Joon-ho Bong annihilates that boundary. Yes, there is a slurpy, slobbery sea creature -- created by pollution and questionable U.S. foreign policy -- that delivers more than its share of suspenseful thrills and delightful large-scale destruction. Yet at the center at the mayhem, Bong chooses to focus on a single struggling family, grounding the story in a way that‘s not just more down-to-Earth, it‘s infinitely more relatable (and, at times, pretty hilarious). If you ever thought you couldn’t get choked up at a monster movie, think again. Marisa LaScala

The Host (Gwoemul)

Director: Jason Reitman Film: Juno Studio: Fox Searchlight Cast: Ellen Page, Michael Cera, Jennifer Garner, Jason Bateman, Allison Janney, J.K. Simmons Website: http://www.foxsearchlight.com/juno/ MPAA rating: PG-13 Trailer: http://www.movieweb.com/movies/film/34/5234/videos/?s=trailers First date: 2007 Distributor: Fox US Release Date: 2007-12-05 (Limited release) UK Release Date: 2008-02-01 (General release) Image: http://images.popmatters.com/film_art/j/juno-poster.jpg

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List number: 28

Juno

Jason Reitman

It shouldn't be a shock to see a film saying teen pregnancy isn't actually a moral apocalypse, but nevertheless the equally tart-tongued and sweet-hearted Juno manages to do just that without for a second seeming to be sending a message. Like the smart-assed but fundamentally decent Midwestern family at its core, the film takes on a situation considered catastrophic and just deals with it. Jason Reitman's direction is a model of comic timing, the cast perfection, and the smart cultural references (it's the only movie this year or any other to name-check McSweeney's) thick enough to drive a minivan over. Chris Barsanti

Juno

Director: Satoshi Kon Film: Paprika Studio: Sony Cast: Megumi Hayashibarar, Tory Furuya, Koichi Yamadera, Toru Emori, Akio Otsuka MPAA rating: R First date: 2006 Distributor: Sony Image: http://images.popmatters.com/film_art/p/paprika.jpg

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List number: 27

Paprika

Satoshi Kon

In Paprika, Satoshi Kon’s animated sci-fi mystery about a machine that allows therapists to view the dreams of their patients, dreams are compared to eclectic movie genres, artsy film shorts, and the internet. The film is cluttered, frantic, and chaotic, and at the root of Paprika is the dream-like, fragmented state of modern consciousness. The film appropriates the dream-logic of a commodity-based world, as much to celebrate the surrealism of contemporary life as to critique it. The whole thing is tied together by an enormous parade, the haunting march of commodity fetishism in all its massive, relentless glory, musically scored by Hirasawa Susumu. Brian Bethel

Paprika

Director: Paul Verhoeven Film: Black Book (Zwartboek) Studio: Sony Pictures Classics Cast: Carice van Houten, Thom Hoffman, Halina Reijn, Sebastian Koch, Christian Berkel, Waldemar Kobus, Michiel Huisman, Derek de Lint, Peter Blok Website: http://www.sonyclassics.com/blackbook/ MPAA rating: R Trailer: http://www.movieweb.com/movies/film/01/4101/video.php First date: 2006 Distributor: Sony US Release Date: 2007-04-04 (Limited release) UK Release Date: 2007-01-19 (Limited release) Image: http://images.popmatters.com/film_art/b/black-book-2007-poster.jpg

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List number: 26

Black Book

Paul Verhoven

John and Yoko famously asserted that war is over if we want it. Paul Verhoeven would beg to differ. This is a history of violence brutally transcribed in the present tense insofar as -- Verhoeven unsubtly implies -- mankind is mostly a bunch of fuck-ups and liars who can't ever figure out how to play nice. The moral of this morally skewed story is that we don't learn from our mistakes, so, naturally, we're bound to repeat them, with only the specifics varying from war to war and atrocity to atrocity.The triumph here is that -- unlike, say, Hollow Man or Starship Troopers, both certifiably underrated -- Verhoeven has produced a film that even his fiercest critics can't easily dismiss or ignore, and, more importantly, he managed to do so without remotely softening his caustically perverse sensibility. Josh Timmerman

Black Book (Zwartboek)

Director: Paul Greengrass Film: The Bourne Ultimatum Studio: Universal Pictures Cast: Matt Damon, Joan Allen, Paddy Considine, Julia Stiles, David Strathairn Website: http://www.thebourneultimatum.com/ MPAA rating: PG-13 First date: 2007 Distributor: Universal US Release Date: 2007-08-03 (General release) Image: http://images.popmatters.com/film_art/b/bourne-ultimatum-poster.jpg

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List number: 25

The Bourne Ultimatum

Paul Greengrass

On one level The Bourne Ultimatum is one of the most visceral, thrilling action movies ever made, thanks to the immediacy of Paul Greengrass's you-are-there camerawork. And on another level, it's a subversive look at American arrogance gone out of control. Granted, its politics aren't particularly deep, but how many summer blockbusters even have real character development much less a political point of view? And the movie's bitter final plot twist -- Bourne discovers he wasn't brainwashed but volunteered to become an unquestioning killer and must accept the consequences of his actions as his own doing -- is a sobering reflection on responsibility. By the end of his journey across the globe, Jason Bourne has revealed himself as a hero for our times: what makes him truly dangerous isn't his fighting skills or the number of languages he speaks, but the ability to think for himself and challenge authority. Jack Patrick Rodgers

The Bourne Ultimatum

Director: Sidney Lumet Film: Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead Studio: ThinkFilm Cast: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Ethan Hawke, Albert Finney, Marisa Tomei, Rosemary Harris Website: http://www.7h58cesamedila-lefilm.com/ MPAA rating: R Trailer: http://www.movieweb.com/movies/film/55/5155/videos/?s=trailers First date: 2007 Distributor: ThinkFilm US Release Date: 2007-10-26 (Limited release) Image: http://images.popmatters.com/film_art/b/before-the-devil-knows-youre-dead-poster.jpg

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List number: 24

Before the Devil Knows You're Dead

Sidney Lumet

Justly hailed as director Sidney Lumet’s (Serpico,Dog Day Afternoon) return to form after a series of misfires in the ‘90s, Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead is at once a taut heist flick and a devastating family drama. As he follows cash-strapped brothers who decide to knock over their parents’ jewelry store, Lumet conjures a sickening aura of dread, desperation, and regret. Kelly Masterson’s humane screenplay deftly weaves between past and present as it charts the circumstances leading to the brothers’ treacherous decision. Ethan Hawke is terrific as twitchy, whimpering Hank; Philip Seymour Hoffman dazzles as Andy, a schemer attempting to outrun debt collectors, IRS auditors, and addiction. Although the film explodes in shocking acts of physical violence, its depiction of everyday brutality (the insults, slights, and deceptions) is what continues to resonate long after the credits roll. Marisa Carroll

Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead

Director: Todd Haynes Film: I'm Not There Studio: Weinstein Company Cast: Cate Blanchett, Richard Gere, Heath Ledger, Christian Bale, Michelle Williams, Julianne Moore, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Ben Whishaw, Marcus Carl Franklin, David Cross, Bruce Greenwood Website: http://www.ioncinema.com/movie.php?id=2334 MPAA rating: R Trailer: http://www.movieweb.com/movies/film/40/4740/videos/?s=trailers First date: 2007 US Release Date: 2007-11-21 (Limited release) UK Release Date: 2007-12-21 (Limited release) Image: http://images.popmatters.com/film_art/i/im-not-there-poster.jpg

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List number: 23

I'm Not There

Todd Haynes

Todd Haynes’s faux-Bob Dylan biopic examines not so much the factual life of the singer-songwriter as the myriad of contradicting selves embodied within a single American generation. Each of the six Dylans in the movie (all with different names) struggle to uphold the burden of embodying the voice of their respective eras, much as Dylan himself did. A great deal of I’m Not There is devoted to Dylan’s downfall in the eyes of the public, and enjoyment of the film requires the understanding that the seeming failure the film so extensively documents is less about Bob Dylan’s career than the shifting tides of 20th century American belief and culture. Above all though, one must, like Dylan himself, have a sense of humor. Brian Bethel

I'm Not There

Display Artist: Vincent Paronnaud, Marjane Satrapi Director: Vincent Paronnaud Director: Marjane Satrapi Film: Persepolis Studio: Sony Pictures Classics Cast: Chiara Mastroianni, Catherine Deneuve, Danielle Darrieux, Simon Abkarian, François Jerosme Website: http://www.sonypictures.com/classics/persepolis/ MPAA rating: PG-13 Trailer: http://www.movieweb.com/movies/film/30/4130/videos/?s=trailers First date: 2007 Distributor: Sony US Release Date: 2007-12-25 (Limited release) UK Release Date: 2008-04-11 (General release) Image: http://images.popmatters.com/events_art/p/persepolis-poster.jpg

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List number: 22

Persepolis

Vincent Paronnaud, Marjane Satrapi

Written and directed by Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud, Persepolis is the breathtaking adaptation of Satrapi’s graphic-novel memoirs. Unfolding in Iran during the Islamic Revolution and subsequent war with Iraq, the story follows Marjane’s cherished childhood in Tehran and lonely adolescence abroad. As spirited and imaginative as its young heroine, Persepolis is by turns funny, stirring, and terrifying. Truly wondrous, though, is how the film's weighty themes (like personal turmoil, political upheaval, and brutal warfare) are captured so effectively through black-and-white animation. Although the palette is distinctive in its simplicity, every image is rich with drama and embellished by curlicues that seem to cascade from the screen. Persepolis is easily one of the most emotionally and visually stunning movies of this year. Marisa Carroll

Persepolis

Director: Andrew Dominik Film: The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford Studio: Warner Brothers Cast: Brad Pitt, Casey Affleck, Sam Shepard, Paul Schneider, Sam Rockwell, Jeremy Renner, Mary-Louise Parker, Zooey Deschanel Website: http://jessejamesmovie.warnerbros.com/ MPAA rating: N/A First date: 2007 US Release Date: 2007-09-21 (Limited release) UK Release Date: 2007-11-30 (General release) Image: http://images.popmatters.com/film_art/a/assassination-of-jesse-james-poster.jpg

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List number: 21

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

Andrew Dominik

Much fuss is made when two world-class actors square off against each other in a film, and this year was chock full of those mash-ups: think American Gangster, 3:10 to Yuma, Before the Devil Knows You‘re Dead, and even The Savages. Rather than trying to top each other with showiness, the two leads in Jesse James seem to be pushing each other to do the most with the least. Brad Pitt and Casey Affleck both give quiet, obsessive, breathtaking performances: Pitt as the charismatic-but-paranoid celebrity outlaw, and Affleck as his profound wannabe. Director Andrew Dominik places these actors in a film that matches their muted intensity, and ends up with a portrait more suspenseful than any wild-west shoot-out could ever be. Marisa LaScala

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford







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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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