The hackneyed start for Self-Medicated sets up what's to come.


Director: Monty Lapica
Cast: Diane Venora, Monty Lapica, Greg Germann, Michael Bowen
MPAA rating: R
Studio: ThinkFilm
First date: 2005
US Release Date: 2007-08-31 (Limited release)

Andrew (Monty Lapica) is in trouble. He first appears on screen riding around in a car with his buddies, raising hell on the streets of Vegas. The cameras are careening, the cuts chaotic, and the kids flush-faced with a sudden sense of power, as if they are, in fact, in control of the moment. The thrill is soon gone, of course, as sirens fill the air and cops pull them over. Cut to the next scene, as Drew's mom Louise (Diane Venora) is awakened by a phone call -- it's the middle of the night and her night table is littered with pill bottles. More fatigued than alarmed, she sighs: "I know how to get there."

This hackneyed start for Self-Medicated sets up what's to come. Cast as a standard-issue Exasperated Mom, Louise's solution to her high school senior son's bad behavior suggests her sense of desperation, but it's also all about her failure, in particular, her apparent inability to research a crucial life decision. She calls in a team of hijackers from a teens-gone-bad-detox facility out in the Utah desert, whimpering in the corner as they haul dear Drew from his bed at five in the morning. "Mom! Mom!" he screams out, "Help!" And when she doesn't, he comes up with the next cliché on the list: "You bitch! I hate you!"

Much has been made of the movie's basis in filmmaker and star Lapica's own experiences (and even granting that unoriginal events do occur in life). But its presentation of that emotional reality is glaringly trite, from the "self-medicating" montages to the canted angles indicating upset and disorientation. It's true as other reviewers have pointed out, that the supposedly adolescent patients at Brightway look at least five to 10 years out of high school, and that the dialogue and delivery are frequently stiff. But such budget-related distractions aren't nearly so annoying as the film's assumption, hit again and again, that the young man's difficulties are righteous, owing to his pain over a dead father and a pill-popping mom, as well as the fact that he's smarter than anyone else in sight. "That cynical little brat," declares the shrink who's just tested him, "has the highest IQ of any patient we've ever had."

The wonder of Drew is thus announced to everyone, the exaggerated looks on their faces indicating the levels of threat they feel. Sensitive Counselor Keith (Greg Germann) does his best to "reach out" to his patient, insisting he sees through the cool pose and inviting him to trust in a system that you and Drew both know is flawed. While Keith notes that Drew is a master manipulator of the poor souls who are never as smart as he is, the film is less masterful in its efforts to manage your emotions. To underline that Drew is "troubled," as opposed to "bad," and so deserving of your sympathy, he appears several times (alone) near or actually tearful.

More often, Drew is set against deserving opponents, especially the designated Bully, a supervisor named Dan (Michael Bowen). In front of an audience looking for a champion -- a group session populated by types, including the Sexually Abused Girl, the Sheepish Roommate, the Addled Addict -- Drew acts out so obviously that Dan just looks incompetent when he falls for it. Given the depth of the ignorance around him, Drew's obnoxiously calculated anger and frustration look justified.

All this deck-stacking in favor of Drew works against the film, however. By never questioning his own certainty that he's right and everyone else is wrong, Self-Medicated reduces complex, real-enough dilemmas to narrative banalities. Even his bad behavior looks commendable compared to Dan's power-tripping pronouncements or Louise's poor decision-making. This even though Drew does hurt his one true-blue supporter, Nicole (Kristina Anapau), the Sweet Girl he's known for years but never had the nerve to consider a girlfriend. It's never quite clear why Nicole goes along with Drew's displays of verbal condescension and stunty drunk driving, but eventually even she points out that his self-destructive urges are dangerous.

Still, she's a girl, and Drew's mad at his mom, which means he's incapable of hearing her. He needs a dad, a serious one, to make him pay attention. Thank goodness that Drew embarks on one more drunk driving adventure, in order that he might meet his salvation. It's not enough that Gabe (William Stanford Davis) is a Bible-quoting homeless man. He's also the film's most egregious type, a Magical Negro appearing as if from nowhere just when desperate Drew most needs him. "Why does everything have to be so unfair?" the not-quite-a-boy wonders as they drink beer and look at the stars. "Your daddy was always real proud of you," offers Gabe, "He's watching down over you right now." Ouch.

If the movie meant to undermine its claim to "authenticity" (that claim, again, based in the maker's experiences), it could not have done it more abruptly or more definitively. Gabe does offer something like a refreshing shift in tone, serene and earnest, following all the inept or malicious adults Drew encounters. Even Drew recognizes Gabe's singularity. But Self-Medicated never recovers from it.


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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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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