Paparazzi (2004)

Stephen Haag

Bo stalks the paparazzi with an obsessiveness that trumps their stalking of him -- but it's okay, because he's defending his family.


Director: Paul Abascal
Cast: Cole Hauser, Robin Tunney, Tom Sizemore, Dennis Farina, Daniel Baldwin, Tom Hollander, Kevin Gage, Blake Bryan
MPAA rating: PG-13
Studio: 20th Century Fox
First date: 2004
US DVD Release Date: 2005-01-11
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Life is tough for newly-minted Hollywood action star Bo Laramie (Cole Hauser). Sure, he's got a box office hit (Adrenaline Force), a beautiful wife named Abby (Robin Tunney, slumming), and a tow-headed son, Zach (Blake Bryan). But he's also got a quartet of sleazy paparazzi -- Rex Harper, Wendell Stokes, Kevin Rosner, and Leonard Clark (Tom Sizemore, Daniel Baldwin, Kevin Gage and Tom Hollander) hounding him 24/7, taking pictures of Abby and Zach and selling the pix to the tabloid rag that bears this film's title: Paparazzi.

Bo is willing to put himself in front of the shutterbugs' lenses, but he can't abide the intrusion into his family. So when Rex crawls out from the shadows to snap a few pix of Zach at a youth soccer game, Bo asks Rex to stop, and when he doesn't, Bo punches him in front of a van full of Rex's cronies, who capture the exchange on film. Bo's unwillingness to allow his family to be dragged into the celebrity game -- "You're somebody now. Get used to it," Rex snarls at him between camera flashes -- fuels his rage. In the film's logic, it also makes it okay for Bo to pound the hell out of fellow human beings. What could have been an isolated incident escalates when Rex sees Bo on TV discussing the dust-up and yells at the screen, "I'm gonna destroy your life and eat your soul, and I can't wait to do it."

Bo is always front cover fodder for Paparazzi, and the paparazzi's desire to learn his comings and goings never wanes -- but it's never clear why. As played by Hauser, Bo is any old blandly handsome direct-to-video B-movie action star. Hollywood hair stylist/first-time director Paul Abascal and screenwriter Forrest Smith could have parlayed the tabloid-reading public's thirst into clever satire, but they play it straight. In fact, Abascal's notion of comedy, as he shares on the DVD's commentary track, is adding scenes where Bo repeatedly punches Rex in the face. Hardee-har-har.

Bo snaps when the paparazzi chase the Laramies in their SUV, flashbulbs popping, causing a gruesome collision between Bo's family and a random motorist. Rather than help the injured family -- the crash lands Zach in a coma -- the photogs shoot a few pix of the wrecked car and its passengers then scurry off. (As Abascal notes, "These paparazzi are very sleazy guys." Kudos to makeup department head Scott Eddo for showing some restraint and not asking the paparazzi guys to grow Snidely Whiplash moustaches.)

For the remainder of the movie, Bo stalks the paparazzi with an obsessiveness that trumps their stalking of him -- but it's okay, because he's defending his family. The film doesn't explore the thin psychological line separating the two camps, at least not in any way comparable to, say, Straw Dogs. Bo gets down in the muck with the bad guys, and the audience is supposed to root for him. Period.

He finds time between anger management classes and hours on the set of Adrenaline Force 2 to pick the paparazzi off, one by one. He nudges one off a cliff (in a scene Abascal introduces by saying, "This is a funny moment here") and plants a gun on another, causing police officers to shoot him, "suicide-by-cop"-style, when he inadvertently brandishes it at a traffic stop. It sickens me to say there's a Rube Goldbergian kickiness to these murders, but they're downright clever when compared to the baseball bat-beating Bo administers to Wendell Stokes. The assault takes place off-screen; Abascal admits that test-screening audiences found an onscreen beating made Bo less sympathetic, as if not actually seeing Bo club a man to death makes it okay.

Meanwhile, Detective Burton (Dennis Farina), originally assigned to investigate the Laramies' car crash, can't help but notice that the paparazzi involved in the accident keep turning up in the morgue. Burton's onto Bo, piecing together clues, but he lets the actor seek revenge. Bo completes his revenge by beating the hell out of Rex when the latter comes to kill him, because (all together now) the guy's defending his family. And Rex gets his ironic comeuppance when police lead him out of the Laramie home in handcuffs and a swarm of paparazzi descend upon him, inundating him with questions and flashbulb pops. Meanwhile, in what may be one of cinema's smallest character arcs (even for an action film), Bo attends the premiere of Adrenaline Force 2 and, having been purged of his paparazzi-fueled rage, trades good-natured barbs with a smart-aleck photographer.

At its core, Paparazzi shows an alarming lack of nuance. Bo's behavior is never questioned (three people are dead by his hand, fer chrissakes!) and the sleazy cameramen are exhibit one-dimension: evil. Paparazzi could have tackled any number of interesting questions: Aren't there paparazzi with wives and kids to house, clothe and feed? What is the public's role in consuming celebrity culture? Why is Bo apparently "famous for being famous"? If being a family man is so important to Bo, why doesn't he ditch the movie career and take Abby and Zach back to Montana? But Abascal and Smith blink, as if blinded by flashbulbs, and treat the audience to more footage of Tom Sizemore getting punched in the face.

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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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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