Film

Talk, Talk, Talk: December 2008

Just like the end of an inspiring speech that may or may not succeed in making its point, these final four weeks before 2009 tend to define or defeat the entire awards season purpose.

Just like the end of an inspiring speech that may or may not succeed in making its point, these final four weeks before 2009 tend to define or defeat the entire awards season purpose. Usually reserving the biggest and brightest of its celluloid guns, Tinsel Town takes no prisoners…and provides no answers when their efforts come up substantially short. Be aware that some of these titles may not survive through to New Year's Eve. After all, why push for plausibility now when there's an entire Spring upon which to scatter your liabilities.

Director: Gus Van Sant Film: Milk Studio: Focus Features Cast: Sean Penn, Jamesw Franco, Emile Hirsch, Josh Brolin, Alison Pill, Diego Luna Website: http://filminfocus.com/focus-movies/milk/movie-splash.php MPAA rating: R First date: 2008 US Release Date: 2008-11-26 (Limited release) UK Release Date: 2009-01-16 (General release) Image: http://images.popmatters.com/film_art/m/milk-poster.jpg

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05 December

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Milk

Ever since his untimely death in 1978, there has been talk of Hollywood tackling the story of the famed gay San Francisco City Supervisor. Of course, the controversy surrounding shooter Dan White's trial (and exceedingly lenient sentence) suggested that the '80s was not the proper era to pay tribute to the man. Now, two decades and a long time in development Hell later, Gus Van Sant is bringing his star studded take on the material to the big screen, and early previews suggest something very special indeed. Sean Penn will play the fallen figure, with Josh Brolin essaying the role of political (and personal) assassin. With Van Sant in the director's chair this should be one of 2008's best.

Milk

Director: Ron Howard Film: Frost/Nixon Studio: Universal Pictures Cast: Frank Langella, Michael Sheen, Kevin Bacon, Oliver Platt, Sam Rockwell, Rebecca Hall Website: http://www.frostnixon.net/ MPAA rating: R First date: 2008 US Release Date: 2008-12-05 (Limited release) UK Release Date: 2009-01-23 (General release) Image: http://images.popmatters.com/news_art/f/frost-nixon-official-poster.jpg

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05 December

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Frost/Nixon

Ridicule Ron Howard all you want (and we will, thank you very much) but he does seem to have his pick of high profile projects. Hot off its successful stage run, playwright Peter Morgan (responsible for 2006's stellar The Queen) offers up this cinematic take on the historic sit down between the noted UK journalist and the only sitting President to resign from office. Retaining the original cast from both the London and Broadway runs, Howard stepped in quickly to take control -- and praise the gods, Akiva Goldsman is nowhere in sight. When an international trailer leaked on the web, those old enough to remember the infamous interview were immediately transported back in time. Looks like another strong candidate come end of the year consideration.

Frost/Nixon

Director: Miguel Arteta Film: Youth in Revolt Studio: Lionsgate Cast: Michael Cera, Portia Doubleday, Steve Buscemi, Jean Smart, Ray Liotta MPAA rating: PG-13 First date: 2008 US Release Date: 2008-12-05

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05 December

The Surrounding Din

Youth in Revolt

The legacy of oddball literature litters the off ramps of Hollywood's Boulevard of Broken Dreams. There are still some of us waiting for Tim Burton to man up and revisit his proposed adaptation of Katherine Dunn's Geek Love. Now, Miguel Arteta of Chuck and Buck and The Good Girl fame tackles the absurdist cheek of writer C.D. Payne's famed coming of age series. While some have complained of lead Michael Cera's age gap with the book's protagonist (Nick Twisp is 16, the actor just turned 20), all signs point to something that, if done right, could become a certified nerd gem. Youth in Revolt

Director: Lexi Alexander Film: Punisher: War Zone Studio: Lionsgate Cast: Ray Stevenson, Dominic West, Julie Benz, Wayne Knight, Dash Mihok, Colin Salmon, Doug Hutchison Website: http://www.punishermovie.com/ MPAA rating: R First date: 2008 US Release Date: 2008-12-05 (General release) Image: http://images.popmatters.com/film_art/p/punisherwarzoneteaser.jpg

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05 December

The Surrounding Din

Punisher: War Zone

The behind the scenes drama that occurred while making this pseudo-sequel to the mediocre original from 2004 (it's a self-proclaimed reboot ala The Incredible Hulk) will probably end up being far more interesting than anything onscreen. Script scribe Kurt Sutter asked for his name to be taken off the project, and then Lionsgate wrestled away control from director Lexi Alexander, supposedly to recut the action packed hard-R opus to fit a PG-13 demo-mentality. A guaranteed recipe for box office success, right?

Punisher: War Zone

Director: Scott Derrickson Film: The Day the Earth Stood Still Studio: Fox Cast: Keanu Reeves, Jennifer Connelly, Jaden Smith, Kathy Bates, Jon Hamm, John Cleese Website: http://www.thedaytheearthstoodstillmovie.com/ MPAA rating: PG-13 First date: 2008 US Release Date: 2008-12-12 (General release) UK Release Date: 2008-12-12 (General release) Image: http://images.popmatters.com/film_art/d/day-the-earth-stood-0.jpg

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12 December

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The Day the Earth Stood Still

In the Big Book of Bad Ideas, many would have listed a remake of the Robert Wise sci-fi classic as one of the more obvious catastrophes waiting to happen. Now, 57 years after Klaatu brought his plea for peace to a confrontational Earth, a "reimagining" of the material is preparing to perplex moviegoers. Many in the potential viewership have probably already dismissed the original as an old fashioned black and white oddity, but this update could be equally disconcerting. While the recently released trailer offers lots of F/X flash, the decision to put Hellraiser: Inferno's Scott Derrickson in charge smacks of motion picture illiteracy. Okay, he did also helm The Exorcism of Emily Rose, but does that really make him the best candidate to update a speculative legend? As with any unnecessary revamp, the cons far outweigh the implausible pros.

The Day the Earth Stood Still

Director: John Patrick Shanley Film: Doubt (2008) Studio: Miramax Cast: Meryl Streep, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams, Viola Davis Website: http://www.doubt-themovie.com/ MPAA rating: R First date: 2008 US Release Date: 2008-12-12 Image: http://images.popmatters.com/film_art/d/doubtposter08.jpg

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12 December

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Doubt

Prolific stage scribe John Patrick Shanley has only broached the movies seven previous times, and his track record is rather hit (Moonstruck, Joe vs. the Volcano) and miss (Alive, Congo). But with his latest effort, an adaptation of his own 2005 Pulitzer Prize/Drama Desk/Tony Award winning hit, he seems to have struck cinematic gold. Overloaded with rapid fire dialogue, the four character piece has some solid acting chops behind it. Oscar winners Meryl Streep and Phillip Seymour Hoffman play a nun and priest respectively who square off over the treatment of a black student at their private Brooklyn school. Amy Adams and Viola Davis (herself a Tony triumph) round out the remarkable company. Doubt (2008)

Director: Edward Zwick Film: Defiance Studio: Paramount Vantage Cast: Daniel Craig, Liev Schreiber, Jamie Bell, Alexa Davalos, Iben Hjejle, Mia Wasikowska, George MacKay Website: http://www.defiancemovie.com/ MPAA rating: R First date: 2008 US Release Date: 2008-12-31 (Limited release) UK Release Date: 2009-01-09 (General release) Image: http://images.popmatters.com/film_art/d/defianceposter08.jpg

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12 December

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Defiance

At one time, director Edward Zwick was mostly known for his quirky hour long TV drama thirtysomething. Then he started making movies, and with the success of the sudsy Legends of the Fall, became something of a overripe engineer of ersatz epics. With Courage Under Fire, The Last Samurai, and Blood Diamond now under his belt, Zwick tackles another broad canvas concept. Nechama Tec's book about Bielski partisans (read: Jewish Resistance Fighters) who took on the Nazi's during World War II seems right up his alley, and the choice of leads -- Daniel Craig, Jamie Bell, and Liev Schreiber -- seems absolutely perfect. Depending on how realistic and honest the filmmaker is, this could be a revelation -- or another example of the auteur's ambitious overreaching.

Defiance

Director: David Fincher Film: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button Studio: Paramount Pictures Cast: Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, Taraji P. Henson, Tilda Swinton, Elle Fanning, Julia Ormond, Jason Flemying, Elias Koteas, Jared Harris Website: http://www.benjaminbutton.com/ MPAA rating: PG-13 First date: 2008 US Release Date: 2008-12-25 (General release) UK Release Date: 2009-02-06 (General release) Image: http://images.popmatters.com/film_art/b/benjamin-button-poster.jpg

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19 December

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The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

On paper, this appears like a win/win for Paramount. Fan fetish Fincher is always good for some glowing geek ink, and when he isn't playing tabloid father of the moment, Brad Pitt does maintain that famed leading man juice. Still, the studio has started to show signs that they really aren't happy with the final product. A recent screening of selected scenes had critics scratching their heads, and the notorious prickly director didn't take the out of context complaints lightly. As a matter of fact, he hijacked his update of the animated Heavy Metal franchise and moved it to competing film company. The trailer from a few weeks back continues to argue for the film's flawlessness. We will have to wait to see which side of the consensus reality finally falls.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Director: Peyton Reed Film: Yes Man Studio: Warner Brothers Cast: Jim Carrey, Zooey Deschanel, Bradley Cooper, Rhys Darby, John Michael Higgins, Danny Masterson, Terence Stamp, Fionnula Flanagan Website: http://yesisthenewno.warnerbros.com/ MPAA rating: PG-13 First date: 2008 US Release Date: 2008-12-19 (General release) UK Release Date: 2008-12-26 (General release) Image: http://images.popmatters.com/film_art/y/yesman2008poster.jpg

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19 December

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Yes Man

Wait - didn't Carrey already make this movie? It was called Liar, Liar, and remains one of the former funnyman's biggest hits? No wonder he wants to travel back in talent time. While it's based on a book by Scottish humorist Danny Wallace, expect lots of the standard shtick. After all, Carrey is still reeling from a pair of subpar performers -- Fun with Dick and Jane and The Number 23. Oddly enough, he was so keen to take on this part that he waived his typically inflated upfront fee. Instead, he will take a percentage of the film's box office success. Such a gamble will probably pay off. Even in an Apatow-oriented era, motion picture merriment still pines for the days when Carrey could mug his way to a solid mainstream blockbuster.

Yes Man

Director: Gabriele Muccino Film: Seven Pounds Studio: Columbia Pictures Cast: Will Smith, Rosario Dawson, Woody Harrelson, Barry Pepper, Michael Ealy MPAA rating: PG-13 First date: 2008 US Release Date: 2008-12-19 (General release) UK Release Date: 2009-01-16 (General release) Image: http://images.popmatters.com/columns_art/s/sevenpounds-poster.jpg

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19 December

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Seven Pounds

Will Smith apparently can't let any seminal season of film go by without having a project in contention. Last year, it was I Am Legend. This past July, it was Hancock. Now the mega-million dollar man is back again with a compelling drama about an IRS agent with suicidal tendencies. While the premise appears suspect, Smith is clearly relying on Gabriele Muccino (who guided the actor to an Oscar nom for The Pursuit of Happyness) to deliver some year end artistic thrust. With costars Rosario Dawson and Woody Harrelson along for the ride, Smith should once again see his elephantine fame drive audiences to a story they might not otherwise accept -- or enjoy. Seven Pounds

Display Artist: Sam Fell, Robert Stevenhagen Director: Sam Fell Director: Robert Stevenhagen Film: The Tale of Despereaux Studio: Universal Pictures Cast: Matthew Broderick, Emma Watson, Dustin Hoffman, Ciarán Hinds, Tracey Ullman, Robbie Coltrane, Christopher Lloyd, Kevin Kline Website: http://www.thetaleofdespereauxmovie.com/ MPAA rating: G First date: 2008 US Release Date: 2008-12-19 (General release) UK Release Date: 2008-12-19 (General release) Image: http://images.popmatters.com/film_art/t/tale_of_despereaux.jpg

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19 December

The Surrounding Din

The Tale of Despereaux

When you look at the source material, and the storyline involved, this is the kind of cartoon that cries out for old fashioned hand drawn animation. So naturally, Universal went with the tired CG format. Certainly a tale involving a misfit mouse, a depressed rat, and a clumsy servant girl seems perfect for something more than flavor of the moment treatment. But there is a lot to be said for directors Sam Fell and Robert Stevenhagen's approach. They are at least trying to mimic the classical look with the newfangled technology, and as a recent trailer suggests, they may just have pulled it off.

The Tale of Despereaux

Director: Sam Mendes Film: Revolutionary Road Studio: Paramount Vantage Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet, Kathy Bates, Michael Shannon, David Harbour, Kathryn Hahn MPAA rating: R First date: 2008 US Release Date: 2008-12-26 (Limited release) UK Release Date: 2009-01-30 (General release) Image: http://images.popmatters.com/film_art/r/revolutionary-road-poster.jpg

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26 December

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Revolutionary Road

Much has been written about the long anticipated repairing of Titanic co-stars DiCaprio and Winslet. But this scandalous tale of suburban angst circa the 1950s may not be what the underage Harlequin romance set had in mind. With fellow sinking ship refugee Kathy Bates along for the journey, we enter the typical Ike era enclave, a burg overflowing with adultery, drinking, and untapped secrets/desires. Since winning the Oscar for his first film, American Beauty, director Mendes has made some remarkable movies. So it seems odd to hear people proclaiming that this is some kind of return to prominence. While many have marginalized the filmmaker for his (in their opinion) overrated status, there's no denying his creative contribution to the artform. This film looks to continue that telling trend. Revolutionary Road

Director: Frank Miller Film: The Spirit Studio: Lionsgate Cast: Gabriel Macht, Eva Mendes, Sarah Paulson, Paz Vega, Scarlett Johansson, Dan Lauria, Samuel L. Jackson Website: http://www.mycityscreams.com/ MPAA rating: R First date: 2008 US Release Date: 2008-12-25 (General release) UK Release Date: 2009-01-01 (General release) Image: http://images.popmatters.com/film_art/s/spirit_ver5.jpg

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26 December

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The Spirit

With the proposed sequels to Sin City apparently stalled within Robert Rodriguez's complicated love life, co-director Frank Miller has found someone to bankroll his own vision of the famed '40s crimefighter. Looking like an outtake from the celebrated graphic novels he's known for, the magnified monochrome noir and attention to female detail is giving fanboys fits of tentpole passion. It's important to remember, however, that Miller's current cred comes in combination with other artists, filmmakers who know how to balance his interests with those of the language of film. One hopes he learned a lot from his partners, or this may be the shortest cinematic debut/departure on record.

The Spirit

Director: Bryan Singer Film: Valkyrie Studio: United Artists Cast: Tom Cruise, Kenneth Branagh, Bill Nighy, Tom Wilkinson, Terence Stamp, Carice van Houten, Thomas Kretschmann Website: http://valkyrie.unitedartists.com/ MPAA rating: R First date: 2008 US Release Date: 2008-12-25 (General release) UK Release Date: 2009-01-23 (General release) Image: http://images.popmatters.com/film_art/v/valkyrie-poster.jpg

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26 December

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Valkyrie

For a while, it looked like Tom Cruise had hung his dramatic comeback hopes on the wrong pet project. This tale of the assassination attempt on Adolph Hitler seemed like a slam dunk for the Scientology soiled celeb. But then Bryan Singer brought his usual aesthetic baggage to the film as director, and before you knew it, United Artist was shuffling release dates and prodding publications with poisonous comments about the "un-releasable" results. Oh what a difference a successful screening makes. Apparently, focus groups were so taken by the period thriller (and the star's performance) that the studio had a change of heart. After being exiled to March 2009, Cruise and company are now poised for serious awards consideration.

Valkyrie

Director: Tim Story Film: Hurricane Season Studio: The Weinstein Company Cast: Forest Whitaker, Isaiah Washington, Bow Wow, Lil' Wayne, Taraji P. Henson MPAA rating: N/A First date: 2008 US Release Date: 2008-12-26

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26 December

The Surrounding Din

Hurricane Season

The impact of Katrina is still being felt throughout the Gulf Coast, so it's not hard to understand why filmmakers have been wary of tackling the tripwire subject. So when Tim Story, perhaps best known for his Fantastic Four films, decides to tell the story of a basketball coach (Forest Whitaker) who reassembles his team post-impact, one hopes for the noblest of intentions. Sadly, instead of tackling the real issues left behind in the wake of the devastating storm, we are left with another version of sports overcoming adversity. Yeah. Hurricane Season










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To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.


Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09
Amazon

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

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Very few of their peers surpass Eurythmics in terms of artistic vision, musicianship, songwriting, and creative audacity.

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominating committee's yearly announcement of the latest batch of potential inductees always generates the same reaction: a combination of sputtering outrage by fans of those deserving artists who've been shunned, and jubilation by fans of those who made the cut. The annual debate over the list of nominees is as inevitable as the announcement itself.

The Hall of Fame has been harshly criticized for some of its more inexplicable exclusions and for neglecting certain subgenres of music. Cynicism and negativity over the Hall's selection process and membership is fairly widespread. That said, despite the controversies and legitimate gripes, induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is still widely viewed as a career milestone. The Hall's stature feeds its surrounding controversies: after all, nobody would care to argue so vehemently about the merits of one artist over another if it wasn't important. Very rarely will a newly inducted artist miss the opportunity to appear at the star-studded ceremony to accept their honor.

The criteria for nomination is as follows: "Artists -- a group encompassing performers, composers and/or musicians -- become eligible for induction 25 years after the release of their first commercial recording. Besides demonstrating unquestionable musical excellence and talent, inductees will have had a significant impact on the development, evolution and preservation of rock and roll." Specifically for performers, "This category honors bands or solo artists which demonstrate musical excellence. Such a descriptor includes (but isn't limited to) influence on other performers or genres; length and depth of career and catalog; stylistic innovations; or superior technique and skills."

These standards allow the selection committee wide latitude with their choices, and generating a list that would create zero controversy is an obvious impossibility. As for those deserving artists yet to be included, their time will surely come. There has purportedly been an emphasis on increasing diversity among the nominating committee and voters in recent years, and the list of contenders for the class of 2018 reflects this.

Radiohead, as expected and deserved, are nominated in their first year of eligibility, and there is little doubt they will be inducted. Other nominees include Bon Jovi, Kate Bush, the Cars, Depeche Mode, Dire Straits, Eurythmics, J. Geils Band, Judas Priest, LL Cool J, MC5, the Meters, the Moody Blues, Rage Against the Machine, Nina Simone, Rufus featuring Chaka Khan, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Link Wray and the Zombies. It's a strong and varied group.

Perhaps the most pleasant surprise on the list, however, is the British duo Eurythmics. Even though they've been eligible since 2006, this is their first nomination. Dave Stewart and Annie Lennox certainly deserve recognition for their important contributions to the musical fabric of the last 40 years. While Eurythmics have always been generally respected, they've never been darlings with the critics like some of their contemporaries. It's puzzling as to why. Very few of their peers surpass Eurythmics in terms of artistic vision, musicianship, songwriting and creative audacity. Lennox is second to noone as a vocalist, not just in her lead parts but also in the creative, often rhythmic way she uses her voice as an instrument. This nomination could boost the stature and perception of Eurythmics' body of work immeasurably.

Although Eurythmics are often consigned strictly to the synthpop genre, that designation fits only a portion of their repertoire. Each of their nine studio albums has its own unique vibe while retaining the duo's core identity. Eurythmics never repeat themselves, often taking bold risks and swerving in unexpected directions. Unlike many of their contemporaries, Eurythmics didn't "sell out" or compromise by chasing after obvious Top 40 hits. Even their most popular singles aren't commercial in the traditional sense, and they've always sounded like nobody else on the radio.

Despite the sudden emergence of their 1983 single "Sweet Dreams (are made of this)" as an MTV staple and international smash, Eurythmics are far from an overnight success story. Their story begins in London, 1975, when Stewart fortuitously encountered Lennox at the restaurant where she worked as a waitress. The Scottish singer had recently dropped out of the Royal Academy of Music, which she felt didn't suit her musical interests. Stewart and Lennox strongly connected over their love of music, and they quickly became a couple who were inseparable. Along with singer/ songwriter/ guitarist Peet Coombes, Stewart and Lennox formed a short-lived group the Catch. After one failed single, they added two members and renamed themselves the Tourists.

Coombes was the dominant creative force and primary songwriter behind the Tourists. Lennox and Coombes shared vocals on the band's dour and melancholy power-pop. The Tourists released three albums and managed a handful of chart appearances in the UK. Two of their singles, a peppy cover of Dusty Springfield's "I Only Want to Be With You" and the hard-rocking "So Good T\to Be Back Home Again", made the UK Top 10. The band toured extensively, but their success was fleeting. The Tourists' third album, Luminous Basement (1980), tanked badly despite containing their strongest material yet, and the group dissolved shortly thereafter.

Lennox and Stewart also endured a painful ending to their sometimes tumultuous romance, but they recognized the power of their musical chemistry and decided to continue working together as a duo. They were a pair "who couldn't be together, and who could not be apart", as Lennox reflects many years later in the song "17 Again". History has shown that they made the right decision: Stewart and Lennox compliment each other intuitively through a shared passion for music, the thrill of experimentation, and the need for emotional release that songwriting and performing allows.

The name Eurythmics was derived from a technique used to teach music to children based on sensory and physical methods of learning rhythm. The newly-christened duo signed with RCA Records and in early 1981 headed to Germany to record their debut album with highly-respected krautrock producer Conny Plank.

Plank already had a long string of acclaimed albums to his credit, including collaborations with Neu!, Can, Ultravox, Kraftwerk and Brian Eno among others. The sessions for what would become Eurythmics' debut album, In the Garden, were held at Plank's studio in Cologne. He brought several of his regular collaborators into the proceedings, including bassist Holger Czukay and drummer Jaki Liebezeit of avant-garde rockers Can, Blondie drummer Clem Burke and D.A.F. electronics whiz Robert Görl. Stewart has described the sessions as a learning experience that helped expand his perception of what pop music could be and how it could be created without following any rules, a perspective that served Eurythmics well.

Eurythmics' austere and hypnotic debut single "Never Gonna Cry Again" was released in May 1981. They filmed a low-budget video and landed a couple TV slots to promote the track, but the song's haunted nature did not translate to mainstream success: it barely scraped the lower reaches of the UK singles chart. A second single, the dreamy guitar-rocker "Belinda", followed in August but failed to chart.

In the Garden was finally released in October 1981, but without a hit to generate momentum it was barely noticed. Despite scant sales figures, the album's gloomy psychedelic guitar-pop makes for a rather strong debut. In the Garden exists in late summer shadows, densely atmospheric and shrouded in a veil of dread. Lennox's vocals are understated, subtle and lower in the mix than on subsequent albums. Sound effects, odd vocalizations and bits of sonic experimentation fade in and out like flashes of hazily repressed memory.

RCA wasn't eager to invest in a follow-up to In the Garden after its disappointing reception, so Stewart financed Eurythmics' second album largely through a personal bank loan. Faced with a minuscule budget, they worked in a London warehouse to avoid spending money on studio time. They were able to purchase cheap second-hand equipment for the sessions, including the basic TEAC 8-track on which most of the album was recorded. Adam Williams, former bassist for the ska band the Selectors, helped the duo learn the equipment while co-producing some of their earliest tracks.

The primitive set-up was the ultimate blessing in disguise. Since they were financing the sessions and self-producing, Eurythmics had the freedom to experiment with no oversight. As both Lennox and Stewart were enduring periods of deep personal strife at the time, the sessions evolved into an emotional and creative catharsis that helped shape the mercurial nature of the music. It was out of this environment that a classic was born.

Despite appearing only a few months after their debut album, the first single to emerge from the new sessions proved radically different than any of Eurythmics' prior work. Released in April 1982, "This Is the House" is a flamboyant, horn-driven spectacle on which Lennox belts out a vocal more confident and brash than any of her prior work. The song's odd mix of synthpop, R&B; and latin influences renders it completely unique, but despite its infectious ingenuity and beguiling loopiness (or perhaps because of it), "This Is the House" failed to chart.

The follow-up single that landed two months later is even better. Entrancing and soulful, "The Walk" exudes the anxiety, drama and innovation that became Eurythmics' hallmark. The vocal arrangement is ingenious, and Dick Cuthell (known for his work with Madness, the Specials, Fun Boy Three and others) lets rip a blistering trumpet solo. As in many of their songs, "The Walk" slowly ratchets up the tension through hypnotic repetition and the gradual addition of more layers of sound until it reaches a haywire frenzy. Although a brilliant recording, "The Walk" fared no better than its predecessor.

With the duo's second album Sweet Dreams (are made of this) completed, RCA began a strong promotional push, issuing the opening track "Love Is a Stranger" as a single in November 1982. Lennox's dazzling vocal ranges from icy cool to fiery passion over a relentless electric groove bracketed by sinuous lines of synth. "Love Is a Stranger" rose to #54 in the UK, their highest placement yet, and momentum was finally building for the duo thanks in part to the single's provocative video.

The first significant chapter in a series of visually arresting promotional clips that Eurythmics generated over the span of their career, "Love Is a Stranger" showcases Lennox's dramatic presence and her innate ability to command the viewer's attention. She plays multiple roles, ending the clip with her red hair slicked back and dressed androgynously in a man's suit. Image was quickly becoming an important part of the Eurythmics' equation, with Lennox always compelling no matter which character she inhabits, and Stewart often appearing as her sort of mad-scientist counterpart.

Sweet Dreams (are made of this) hit the shelves on 4 January 1983, along with its title-track, a single that continues to reverberate through pop music nearly 35 years after its release. Suddenly everything changed for Eurythmics. An obscure British duo, barely managing to survive in the music business, soared to the top with one of the more unconventional songs ever to scale those lofty heights.

"Sweet Dreams (are made of this)" has an unusual structure, with no real verses or chorus. Lennox has described it as a mantra, and indeed it is. The lyrics, which Lennox rattled off spontaneously in a matter of minutes, are a simple but profound statement about the human condition: "Everybody's looking for something," the search for meaning and fulfillment, the ephemeral "this" of which sweet dreams are made.

Lennox begins the song with a single line of vocal, then starting with "some of them want to use you" at the 0:24 point it doubles. From there the song gradually builds intensity, with the vocals increasingly layered. A masterful finalé combines all the sonic elements before fading to black, the mantra repeating endlessly, the "this" still stubbornly undefined. The booming minor-key bass riff and the epic string-motif solo starting at 1:31 are played by Lennox on a Roland Juno-6 synthesizer. The main riff (improvised by Lennox while listening to Stewart working on a drum-machine pattern), is a simple two-bar arpeggio that loops throughout most of the song. Two parts were recorded separately and panned on opposite sides of the sound spectrum, creating a richly resonant effect. "Sweet Dreams (are made of this)" is no dated relic from the early days of MTV burdened by the limitations the time. Its massive waves of synth flood out of the speakers with enormous power, as inexorably as the tide.

The music video, which became wildly popular on MTV during its heyday, is forever entwined with the song in listeners' collective consciousness. The iconic image of Lennox in her masculine suit and flaming orange flat-top helps to define the new wave era. Her forceful demeanor, nervy confidence and the subtle nuances of her facial expressions amplify the song's inherent tension. She confronts the viewer directly by pointing right in our faces at the 0:24 mark. At 1:56, she offers a sly half-smile with, "some of them want to abuse you", and at 2:15 she pounds her fist just as the song reaches its dramatic apex. Stewart appears throughout the video stoically pecking away on the drum machine he used in the recording of the song, the Movement MCS Drum Computer MK1 (except for that part where he and the cow have, well, a moment… It's all in the eye contact).

After a slow climb up the US pop chart, "Sweet Dreams (are made of this)" was finally able to derail the Police's "Every Breath You Take" from its seven-week reign at the top during the week of 3 September 1983. It would be Eurythmics' only chart-topping pop hit in America, and it reached #2 in the UK. In the wake of Eurythmics' new-found fame, "Love Is a Stranger" was re-released, this time becoming a major hit on both sides of the Atlantic.

The album's deep cuts are every bit as strange and fascinating as its better-known singles. The ghostly "Jennifer" is a narcotic reverie of keyboard swells and spectral atmospherics. "I've Got an Angel" and "Somebody Told Me" are serrated neurotic fits, swerving dangerously off-the-rails from anything that would normally be considered pop music. A long and mesmerizing exploration of urban isolation, "This City Never Sleeps" is a powerful finalé. Sweet Dreams (are made of this) is an examination of the human psyche fraught with turmoil, a series of jagged recurring nightmares and anxiety attacks set to music that is soulful and experimental, melodic but eccentric, a stark electronic soundscape that bristles with horns and unexpected sonic jolts.

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