Film

Ice Princess (2005)

Cynthia Fuchs

Corny as it must be, Ice Princess is substantially bolstered by Trachtenberg's appealing mix of eagerness and grace.


Ice Princess

Director: Tim Fywell
Cast: Michelle Trachtenberg, Joan Cusack, Kim Cattrall, Hayden Panettiere
Distributor: Buena Vista
MPAA rating: G
Studio: Disney
First date: 2005
US Release Date: 2005-03-18

Dear and adorable Dawnie (also known as Michelle Trachtenberg) has apparently regained her sanity. In Ice Princess, she pulls back from the awkwardly over-sexed, unfunny excesses of Eurotrip to her sweet, slightly ornery girlhood. This is a good thing, but the charms that kept her afloat in Sunnydale are now up against a force more sinister than Glory or the Big Bad. In Ice Princess, she battles Disneyfication.

She plays Casey, a sweet and seemingly serene high school physics wiz who, in the course of finding a science project about which she might feel "passionate," devises a physics-based computer program to determine perfect triple lutzes and double axels. The project takes months, during which she not only stays up all hours tick-ticking on her laptop, but also spends hours on end at a local rink, digital-videotaping the practice sessions of aspiring U.S. national champions, all coached by the daunting, demanding former star Tina (Kim Cattrall, not so outright mean as in Crossroads, but working the same menacing mom angle). Though Tina is skeptical of this intruder (even trying to run her off, believing she's a spy for some other wannabe superstar).

But Dawnie works her magic, and soon wins over the tough-as-nails Tina, who is bitter, it will emerge quite unsurprisingly, over a lost opportunity during her past. Casey also earns the appreciation of the girls on the team -- fiercely competitive Nikki, also known as the "Jumping Shrimp" (Kirsten Olson); slightly less competitive Tiffany (Jocelyn Lai); and Gen (Hayden Panettiere, now too mature to be riding zebras, making Racing Stripes seem eons ago), who has her own predictable issues, given that she's Tina's miserably pressured daughter. Specifically, Gen wants to be able to eat hamburgers and French kiss her boyfriend, and Tina chases off the boyfriend and insists she eat carrots. In fact, all the girls' parents are overbearing and difficult, and Ice Princess makes no secret of its judgment of their efforts to live vicariously through their children's successes, pressing them to compete and insisting that it's only because the kids "want" to win.

Casey has parent problems as well, in that her mom, Joan (Joan Cusack), is a puttery English teacher with feminist proclivities who envisions her daughter's future as a scholarship to Harvard and a brilliant academic career. When Joan hears that Casey's been hanging around the rink, where she might be influenced by those girls in "twinkly little outfits," she's loudly unhappy ("There's no shelf life for your mind"). So you can imagine her disapproval when it turns out that Casey is bizarrely gifted on the ice, and so undertakes to pay for lessons by working at the rink's food stand, and actually puts on one of those twinkly outfits (one of Tina's old ones) in order to compete. This means that Casey has to begin lying to her mom as to how she's spending her after-school hours and ineptly cover up her complete exhaustion. Joan does finally notice that Casey's carrying figure skates in her bag, but that only means that a second showdown will be coming, because Casey lies some more.

The child who appears healthiest of all is the lone boy and Zamboni driver at the rink, Teddy (Trevor Blumas). He also happens to be Tina's son, but because he's never been inclined to skate, but only support the girls who surround him in their obsessive efforts, Teddy appears both aware of the costs and distant enough so he can nod approvingly when Casey or Gen achieves a special spin -- abetted, of course, by the computer program Casey has made to pinpoint exactly where they need to put their toes and how much velocity they need to make each leap. Gen helps Casey do her makeup. Casey supports Gen in her (minor but admirable) rebellion.

As Casey explains it to her heartbroken (but valiantly supportive) mom, she feels "beautiful" while she's gliding on the ice. (Harvard scholarship be damned!) By the time the team makes it to the eastern semi-finals, where Michelle Kwan and Brian Boitano provide absolutely awful commentary, you'll be re-appreciating the nasty genius of South Park's musical spoofing.

Corny as it must be, Ice Princess is substantially bolstered by Trachtenberg's appealing mix of eagerness and grace. At the same time, the film she's in is disappointingly regular, given the talent and skewed possibilities involved. Think about it: Joan Cusack plays her mom! You have to think that no one involved fully appreciates the weirdness Cusack can bring to her projects, from Men Don't Leave (1990) to The School of Rock (2003). Cusack unhinges all conventions and even spices up even the most demented roles, and here she is capitulating to her little girl's dreams of basic teen romance and twinkly outfits. The film appears to support a general "message" -- pursue your dreams even if they run up against expectations or recast the very idea of what counts for intelligence. Just so, it might have cut loose, just a little, on the whole "princess" business.

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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