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Pleasures of spending

Recently Steven Soderburgh tried releasing a movie simultaneously on DVD and in theaters. This treatens the existing business model for fils, which require a window of time when theaters have a monopoly on access to a film and thus can guarantee the proceeds earned from those who can exhibit no patience and must see a movie right away, when its buzz is most intense. Of course this assumes that theaters add no value, they only capitalize on a rigged system -- in othe words, no one who could choose where to see a film would pick a movie theater; they would pick theior couch and big flat-screen TV. Considering how movie theaters have become these awful warehouses of surly teenagers where you can be assured someone will be talking on the phone during a movie, despite its being amplified to jet engine decibel levels, it's a fair assumption. But when I see "reperatory cinema" at theaters like Film Forum and Anthology in New York, I get something more out of the experience than I would get sitting at home with a Criterion Collection DVD. Part of that is probably the ability to enjoy some nostalgic anachronism, to get to pretend I'm living in a time when films are necessarily social experiences, and one's experience of Godard, say, was necessarily shaped by the people there in the theater with you, their reactions and their laughter and the discussions overheard afterword. The church-like communal experience of watching a film like Au hazard Balthazar seems like a part of what the film is supposed to be about, the movies as a spiritual ritual, a purification of everyday life to its essence and a common recognition of those verities revealed. And in going to Film Forum, I'm nicely reminded that I'm not alone with my nonmainstream tastes; I see just how many people share my biases.

In this recent Slate column Daniel Gross writes, "Today, too many media executives regard their businesses as zero-sum games. And in their worldview, every person who watches a new movie on television for free is one less person who won't pay $9.50 to see it in a theater. But that's clearly not the case. As with many other productsairline flights, clothes, hotelsёdifferent consumers seeking different experiences will come in at different price points. Just because content is available for free doesn't mean somebody won't pay for it." He stresses the idea that consumers sometimes like paying extra for something, since it gratifies their egos or their sense of justice or because they believe their money is getting them something extra (as in my Film Forum experiences). Often simply spending money forces the spender to be more focused and more engaged with what he has spent it on -- in trying to get one's money's worth, one works harder at getting more from the experience purchased. This demonstrates Marx's contention about the nature of money, which begins as a place holder for other values, but soon seems to embody value itself. Then we need to spend it to lend its supposedly inherent value to the social experiences from which its illusory value is actually derived. Value independent of money becomes impossible to imagine; we demand that we spend money in order to authenticate our pleasures.

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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Electronic music is one of the broadest-reaching genres by design, and 2017 highlights that as well as any other year on record. These are the 20 best albums.


20. Vitalic - Voyager (Citizen)

Pascal Arbez-Nicolas (a.k.a. Vitalic) made waves in the French Touch electro-house scene with his 2005 debut, OK Cowboy, which had a hard-hitting maximalist sound, but several albums later, Voyager finds him launching into realms beyond at his own speed. The quirky, wallflower vocals and guitar snippets employed throughout Voyager drop a funk that brings to mind WhoMadeWho or Matthew Dear if they had disco-pop injected between their toes. "Levitation" is as pure a slice of dance floor motivation as theoretically possible, a sci-fi gunfight with a cracking house beat sure to please his oldest fans, yet the album-as-form is equally effective in its more contemplative moments, like when Miss Kitten's vocals bring an ethereal dispassion to "Hans Is Driving" to balance out its somber vocoder or the heartfelt cover of "Don't Leave Me Now" by Supertramp. Voyager may infect you with a futuristic form of Saturday Night Fever, but afterwards, it gives you a hearty dose of aural acetaminophen to break it. - Alan Ranta


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Film

Hitchcock, 'Psycho', and '78/52: Hitchcock's Shower Scene'

Alfred Hitchock and Janet Leigh on the set of Psycho (courtesy of Dogwoof)

"... [Psycho] broke every taboo you could possibly think of, it reinvented the language of film and revolutionised what you could do with a story on a very precise level. It also fundamentally and profoundly changed the ritual of movie going," says 78/52 director, Alexandre O. Philippe.

The title of Alexandre O. Philippe's 78/52: Hitchcock's Shower Scene (2017) denotes the 78 set-ups and the 52 cuts across a full week of shooting for Psycho's (1960) famous shower scene. Known for The People vs. George Lucas (2010), The Life and Times of Paul the Psychic Octopus (2012) and Doc of the Dead (2014), Philippe's exploration of a singular moment is a conversational one, featuring interviews with Walter Murch, Peter Bogdanovich, Guillermo del Toro, Jamie Lee Curtis, Osgood Perkins, Danny Elfman, Eli Roth, Elijah Wood, Bret Easton Ellis, Karyn Kusama, Neil Marshall, Richard Stanley and Marli Renfro, body double for Janet Leigh.

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Those who regard the reclusive Argerich as one of the world's two or three greatest living pianists—classical or otherwise—would not have left the concert hall disillusioned.

In a staid city like Washington, D.C., too many concert programs still stick to the basics. An endless litany of Rachmaninoff and Tchaikovsky concerti clog the schedules and parades of overeager virtuosi seem unwilling to vary their repertoire for blasé D.C. concertgoers. But occasionally you encounter a concert that refreshes your perspective of the familiar. The works presented at The Kennedy Center on 25 October 2017 might be stalwarts of 20th century repertoire, but guest conductor Antonio Pappano, leading the Orchestra dell'Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, reminded us how galvanizing the canonical can still be. Though grandiose executions of Respighi's The Fountains of Rome and The Pines of Rome were the main event, the sold-out crowd gathered to see Martha Argerich perform one of her showpieces, Prokofiev's Third Piano Concerto. Those who regard the reclusive Argerich as one of the world's two or three greatest living pianists—classical or otherwise—would not have left the concert hall disillusioned.

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Rather than once again exploring the all-too-familiar territory of Dickens' A Christmas Carol, Samantha Silva's debut novel contextualizes the work's origins and gets inside the mind of its creator.


Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol has been told and retold so many times over the years that, by this point, one might be hard-pressed to find a single soul evenly glancingly familiar with western culture who isn't at least tangentially acquainted with the holiday classic. This is, of course, a bit of holiday-themed hyperbole, but the fact remains that the basic premise of A Christmas Carol has become so engrained in our culture that it would seem near impossible to imagine a time prior to its existence. It's universally-relatable themes of the power of kindness, redemption and forgiveness speaks to the heart of the Christmas season – at least as it has been presented in the 174 years since it was first published in 19 December 1843 -- just in time for Christmas.

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