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For TBC’s Video Mix series, our team of movie and TV experts makes recommendations so that you’re never stuck with a million streaming services and nothing to watch.
Some actors can't say no to a challenge. Cast as twin gynecologists in Amazon Prime's 2023 reimagining of David Cronenberg's 1988 psychosexual thriller Dead Ringers, Rachel Weisz delivers the performance(s) of the moment with a pair that are as skillful and startling as anything you'll see this year. Better yet, they're free of the gimmicky air that has often hampered actors playing multiple roles. Below are five more examples of actors who transcend the many challenges that come with having yourself as your co-star.
Spike Jonze's ultra-meta comedy could've been a purely cerebral exercise if not for all the emotion Cage invests in his balancing act. While Charlie's heartbreaking vulnerability and insecurity may make him the most obvious object of sympathy (and frustration), Cage never makes Charlie's more confident brother Donald seem like a buffoon. The brothers' need for each other is touching, too.
Where to watch: VOD
Nothing in Alfred Hitchcock's twisted tale of sexual obsession can be taken at face value, least of all the apparent lack of connection between the ill-fated woman that Jimmy Stewart's tortured detective falls for and the one he remakes in his dead lover's image. What's clear as a bell is Kim Novak's finesse as she secures the two highest spots in Hitchcock's fabled gallery of blondes.
Where to watch: VOD
Few actors are as gifted in complicated roles as Tatiana Maslany. She’s an unstoppable force as the many-accented iterations of a cluster of clones in this crafty Canadian science-fiction series. If we had to choose a favorite of the "sisters" (Maslany played 11 in all), we'll go with Alison, always more than your average soccer mom.
Where to watch: Paramount Plus
Hollywood's preeminent nice-guy actor has never seemed more playful than he is when dialing his usual charms up and down as a sadsack longing for a better life who ends up saddled with a clone eager to supplant him. The ingenious choreography of the series' bravura Rudd-on-Rudd fight scene is hard to beat, too.
Where to watch: Netflix
Ex-Machina director Alex Garland devised a striking means of exploring the theme of male toxicity by surrounding his horror drama's heroine (Jessie Buckley) with a wide variety of increasingly sinister men, each of whom is played to extremely creepy effect by Rory Kinnear. What could've been ludicrous unfolds with the eerie logic of a nightmare.
Where to watch: Showtime
In his various roles as a producer, collaborator, theorist, or composer himself over the past 50 years, Brian Eno has enjoyed nothing more than throwing wrenches into musical spanners. Indeed, there may be no fiercer opponent of the tried and true. Back when he was at art school in London in the late ‘60s, the young painter devised a variety of ways of getting himself creatively unstuck. The trick, as he explained it to journalist Glenn O’Brien in 1978, was that in “performing a task that might seem absurd in relation to the picture, one can suddenly come at it from a tangent and possibly reassess it.
”Such tactics proved to be even more useful after his focus shifted from art to the rock world. While recording For Your Pleasure with Roxy Music in 1973, he would put odd little instructions on cards and scatter them to help introduce a random variable to the high pressure and often rigid context of the recording studio. “You tend to proceed in a very linear fashion,” he said. “Now if that line isn’t going in the right direction, no matter how hard you work you’re not going to get anywhere. The function of the cards was to constantly question whether that direction was correct. To say, ‘How about going that way?’
”Full of instructions like “do nothing for as long as possible,” those cards were the basis of Oblique Strategies, a deck that Eno and artist Peter Schmidt published for use by other artists in 1975. The spark of vitality and ingenuity those cards fostered is the quality that most connects a wildly disparate body of work by an artist whose guises and capacities can seem just as varied.
True to his word, Eno has never gotten stuck in one place, swiftly shape-shifting from the feather-clad self-professed “non-musician” of his Roxy Music days and thrilling early solo albums, to the intrepid experimentalist who invented ambient music, to the invaluable creative foil for David Bowie and U2, to the modern multi-tasker whose artistic and technological ventures include 2017’s Reflection, a work that exists as both an album and a generative-music app. And as these playlists demonstrate, those various spheres contain their own multitude of reliably random variables.
Despite his later reputation as rock’s preeminent egghead, Brian Eno clearly delighted in his showman tendencies when he arrived on Roxy Music’s stages looking like a space-age ostrich before smothering the band’s high-concept art-rock rave-ups and decadent ballads with synthesizer whirrs and squeals. Even by the standards of early-‘70s glam, he was wildly flamboyant, so much so that Bryan Ferry grew weary of competing with him for attention from audiences and critics. The tensions prompted Eno to quit the band in 1973.
Starting with the same year’s Here Come the Warm Jets, Eno then released a series of solo albums that were just as packed with wild new ideas as his albums with Roxy Music had been. With the help of friends like Roxy guitarist Phil Manzanera, King Crimson’s Robert Fripp, and Soft Machine’s Robert Wyatt, he would demolish just about every piece of existing rock methodology in songs that turned and twisted while somehow retaining their headlong velocity.
Eno claimed to have invented ambient music while convalescing after a car accident. Immobilized, he was unable to adjust the volume on a recording of classical harp music that was partially drowned out by the sound of rain. From that experience, he got the idea of creating music that was explicated designed to stay in the background, subtly coloring its environment. The notion wasn’t entirely original—French composer Erik Satie developed very similar ideas about “furniture music” back in the 1910s—but Eno most definitely was the one who popularized it as a genre when his first ambient album, Discreet Music, was released in 1975.
Over the next decade, Eno continued to be a crucial nexus point between the rock and experimental music worlds via endeavours like Obscure Records, the label on which he released early works by future avant-classical giants like Gavin Bryars and Michael Nyman. Meanwhile, on his pioneering Ambient series and beyond, he’d develop more elaborate sound worlds, working with such collaborators as Daniel Lanois, Jon Hassell, Laraaji, Harold Budd, and his brother Roger. (His fascination with Germany’s experimental-rock scene would also culminate in several albums with Cluster and Harmonia, as well as the Krautrock-influenced instrumentals on David Bowie’s “Heroes” and Low.) Surely anyone who’s ever blissed out at the end of a yoga class owes him a sizable debt of gratitude.
What can you say? The man’s a people person. Even before his tenure with Roxy Music was done, he was networking with just about every member of the art-rock elite. Dalliances with King Crimson’s Robert Fripp, John Cale, Kevin Ayers, and Nico would lead to his collaboration with David Bowie on his Berlin trilogy. In the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, he’d prove his mettle with rock’s new vanguard as a producer for Ultravox, Talking Heads, and Devo, as well as the no-wavers he included in the No New York compilation.
His work with an ambitious young Irish band is what truly established Eno’s rep as someone who could bring the best out of musicians in a recording studio. Eno and Daniel Lanois’ wide-screen production aesthetic for U2’s The Unforgettable Fire and The Joshua Tree became the gold standard for Important Rock of the 1980s. But rather than apply the same brush to every artist’s music, he’s continued to adapt his methods to whatever the situations require, thereby eliciting extraordinary moments both from blue-chip clients like Coldplay and Damon Albarn and fellow avant-pop artists like Owen Pallett.
Being in such high demand as a producer meant less time for his own musical ventures. As a result, Eno’s releases became more sporadic after the original run of Ambient recordings. Yet the century thus far has been one of his most prolific periods, both in terms of his many musical installation works and the recordings under his own name, and with collaborators such as Leo Abrahams, Jon Hopkins, and Underworld’s Karl Hyde. In fact, his relationship with Warp Records has yielded a run of albums that are as richly enthralling (albeit less frantic) as his first four solo efforts in the 1970s. Not bad for an artist who still doesn’t consider himself a musician.
So how come the greatest R&B girl groups of the 1990s are—to crib the line that En Vogue borrowed from Curtis Mayfield—still giving you something you can feel? That’s because girl groups have always been a high-drama proposition, whether in their original heyday in the early ‘60s or in this second golden age, which roughly spans the period between the launch of En Vogue in 1989 and the first solo Beyoncé single in 2002. (The death of TLC’s Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes the same year may be a more tragic capper.) And that drama has more to do with the nature of these acts’ creation and the contradictions that result than anything in the songs.
Consider the tension that inevitably arises between the typically male Svengalis who often assemble the acts—a lineage that runs from Berry Gordy with the Supremes to Denzil Foster and Thomas McElroy with En Vogue to Simon Cowell with Fifth Harmony—and the women who make them what they are. Though an act may start with all the partners united in the quest for chart domination, the best often achieve greatness because of a messy internal clash of competing imperatives and ambitions. As so the usual prefab male fantasies presenting women as sweet, pliant, and/or sexy get complicated by more strident and authentic expressions of power, autonomy, and the general not-taking-of-shit. In other words, there may be a whole lot going on beneath the slinky surface of even the most buttery ballad by Brownstone or the tastiest jam by Jade.
Then there’s the musical ingenuity that so often came into play as the R&B and gospel elements that had been fundamental to Gordy’s formula for Motown’s girl groups were realigned with the “hip-hop soul” that Sean “Puff Daddy” Combs cooked up with Mary J. Blige at the decade’s dawn. Indeed, cameos by MCs became another staple of the genre, whether it was Jay-Z with Changing Faces, Biggie Smalls with Total, or Missy Elliott with 702 on the mighty “Steelo. ”But like every golden age, the one for R&B girl groups sadly had an expiry date.
Beyoncé and Rihanna gave the solo diva such preeminence in the 21st century that Fifth Harmony’s superb 2016 single “Work From Home” was the first major hit by a girl group in a decade. In honor of greats like TLC, we have ensured that this playlist of essential ‘90s R&B girl-group tracks is entirely scrubs-free.