April 8, 2003
out in 'SARGASM'
RUNNIN' ON EMPTY
SUPPORTING CAST OUTSHINES DIESEL IN MEDIOCRE ACTION FLICK
By Ryan Lewis
Daily Film Editor
FI LM PREVI EW
It might shock you. It might scare
you. It might even confuse the hell out
of you. But that's only if you don't get
the joke. Regardless, "SARGASM,"
created by the
members of the
new campus group
formed by people
looking for an out-
let through video
Thursday at 7 p.m.
At the Michigan
known as anonyMous, is coming to the
Michigan Theater, and you will not be
prepared for its contents.
One part biting social commentary,
one part film preview parody and still
another part gorilla, this entertaining
piece of escapist comedy organizes a
plethora of "SNL"-type skits into a
strangely sensical and unique produc-
tion of surprisingly high quality. Influ-
ences for the group come from obvious
sources, sometimes resembling the
oddball oldies in "Moron Movies" and
always adding a twinge of the inde-
scribable content of British humor.
The members of anonyMous range
from film to biopsychology and
musicology majors, but they all gath-
ered for one common purpose, one
ultimate higher goal: to produce a
funny film for people with little or
no attention span.
First formed in the fall of 2002,
founder Joe Hawley had a vision of
something quite different than the
norm. "Many students on this campus
are chock full of creative energy and tal-
ent but are frustrated because they don't
know where to put it," Hawley said.
When asked to describe his feelings
regarding the project, he replied, "Think
'Saturday Night Live,' only funny."
Tom Liu, a Business School student
and member of the group, voiced his
opinion on the vast potential and hopes
for growth that finishing this introduc-
tory project has kindled. "I think
anonyMous harbors much potential to
grow artistically and professionally. I
see anonyMous stepping out of the
local arena one day and achieving
What makes "SARGASM" so inter-
esting, however, is neither its title nor its
creators; it's the content itself. One of
the mainstays that provides skit-to-skit
transition is a mock commercial that
pokes fun at the recent wave of anti-
campaigns, including an interlude filled
by fish mouthing the word "boobs." But
probably the most humorous skits, and
somehow the most commercially driv-
en, involve the everyday activities of a
man in a gorilla costume.
Characteristic of the program itself,
another member, Brandon Hall, gave
the following advice to those who will
be in attendance at Thursday's screen-
ing: "Remember when you walked in
on your parents having sex? 'SAR-
GASM' is twice as fun." That pretty
much says everything.
Although anonyMous' comedy
might not be for everybody, it does
provide a tremendous opportunity for
students itching to express themselves
and a superb example of the quality
work that can emerge from the vast
and overflowing levels of skill,
knowledge and creativity that exists
on campus. It might be one of the
strangest things you'll ever see, but it
certainly is worth taking a study break
| Courtesy of New Line
Wir sind ein glitch-pop band
Tired humor bogs Griffin
in 'Dysfunktional Family'
By Andrew M. Gaerig
Daily Arts Writer
The Notwist's Markus Acher is having a little trou-
ble concentrating. Talking about his band's first
American show in over two years, he says, "I forgot
some lyrics, and it was a little bit chaotic ... it's hard
to concentrate on the music,
because we've been awake for
so long." It would be hard to The Notwist
blame him for the occasional Wednesday at 9 p.m.
mental lapse - the band's latest At the Magic Stick
album, Neon Golden, hit Euro-
pean shelves in early 2002 to rave reviews, both in
America and overseas. The album eventually saw
domestic release in February, prompting their current
North American jaunt.
One listen to Neon Golden reveals a hodgepodge
of styles: Glitch-techno percussion lays the base for
whip-smart guitar pop augmented by brass and
string sections. The Notwist's formula, however, was
not always so sophisticated. The band - Markus on
guitar and vocals, brother Micha Acher on bass and
drummer Martin Messerschmid - played a self
described "hardcore punk-rock," which was fueled
by typical teenage discontent. "We grew up in a
small town and we always looked for music that
expressed what we felt ... like aliens or outsiders.
This is how it is when you're 15 or 16 years old."
Though Markus and Micha were recruited by their
father to play in his Dixieland ensemble, they drew
their inspiration from a more unconventional source
- American indie rock. "Even though it was from
another part of the world, it totally was our language
... it was something that really expressed our anger
in all that we didn't like about this small town and
very conservative people."
The band released two albums of abrasive punk
music before laptop guru Martin Gretschmann joined
the trio and changed their sound drastically. "(Martin)
has his own style of making electronic music and
electronic sounds, so it was very important to have
someone who concentrates on that part of the music
in our band." Nineteen ninety-five's 12 and 1998's
Shrink are indicative of the band's progress: The
punk's trappings gave way to instrumental variation
and increased songwriting craft, scattered over a bed
electronic hum. Neon Golden makes an unabashed
move towards melody and songwriting.
Despite the shift in styles, Acher warns that fans
might be surprised by their live show. "It's very impor-
tant to remember where we came from and what we
are. We don't want to be a pop band. Some people just
come for the electronic part or think we're an electron-
ic pop band, so they find it very primitive to hear us
playing guitar-based drum songs. "We still like to play
ultra-noisy songs," he says, insisting that the band has-
n't lost its edge. "All these percussion instruments and
piano and brass players ... we could never play it live,
so we cut down and re-arrange most of the songs ...
Courtesy of City Slang
Do you vant to touch our monkeys? Touch zem!
we try to find the energy and intensity."
The Notwist will try to bring that energy and
intensity to Detroit's Magic Stick this Wednesday,
likely playing to a much larger crowd than the 15 to
20 people that came out the last time they appeared.
Acher worries that "for people here it's not so inter-
esting to hear a Bavarian band play American-influ-
enced guitar music, but for us, it's very important."
Despite these reservations, he's not worried about
the reaction. "I think it's always different but most
of the time people get connected." Fans of intelli-
gent, captivating indie rock would be ill advised not
to make such a connection.
By Joseph Litman
Daily Arts Writer
Eddie Griffin has created a distin-
guishable niche in the entertainment
universe with his quick wit and sneer-
ing, small-man machismo - two
qualities that, when working in con-
cert, set him apart from the usually-
cited list of contemporary comedians
like Chris Rock, Bernie Mac and
Cedric the Entertainer. In "Dysfunk-
tional Family," a
movie, Griffin Dysfunktional
rarely uses materi- Family
al that showcases At Showcase and
his comedic Quality 16
strengths and the Miramax
unengaging film is
instead filled with trite routines.
Whether he's illustrating how
uptight white people are, how perse-
cuted black people remain in America
or how flamboyant gay men can seem,
Griffin makes all the stereotypical
jokes, rarely finding anything new to
lampoon. There is some truth behind
a few of his jokes - when discussing
slavery, Griffin notes that Africans
were forced into America while their
European counterparts came by
choice - however, most of the time,
audiences will be bored hearing old
material unimaginatively rehashed.
What does set "Dysfunktional"
apart is its interspliced documentary-
like component that examines Grif-
fin's family in his hometown of
Kansas City, Mo., where the movie's
concert performance was filmed.
Griffin's family - particularly his
mother and uncles - is introduced,
and many of their candid moments
are smartly edited to echo or verify
the comedy routines inspired by Grif-
fin's childhood. Griffin's uncles Cur-
tis and Bucky are distinctly curious,
the former an amateur pornographer
who gleefully displays his collection
and the latter a reformed heroin
junkie who Griffin recalls watching
Griffin cites Bucky as his primary
supporter when the comedian was
considering pursuing a career in show
business. That connection, colored by
the drug history and Bucky's mourn-
ful reflections, is the most interesting
facet of "Dysfunktional."
The film follows Griffin's home-
coming as well, and his most person-
al and revealing episodes occur as he
returns to his old junior high school
and neighborhood. Ironically, the
audience learns much more about
Griffin from the fleeting glimpses
into his life than it does from the hour
of standup comedy.
That hour does have its humorous
and intelligent moments, though they
are few and far between. Particularly
insightful is Griffin's bit about the
United States' persistent willingness
to scapegoat, exemplified by the post-
Sept. 11 racial paranoia that implicat-
ed all Muslims and Griffin claims
made him know what it felt like to be
white. "I never thought I'd be racist,"
remarks Griffin (despite his stereotyp-
ing of whites), yet he poignantly dis-
cusses how even he, a normally
alienated black man, felt enfranchised
by the United States' ersatz time of
cohesion, when blacks, whites, Lati-
nos and Asians united under the ban-
ner of being "American" through a
seeming universal mistrust of Arabs.
Unfortunately, such smart humor is
mostly obscured by the tired comedic
crutches on which Griffin leans for
most of "Dysfunktional." Future
endeavors in the genre would be wise
to incorporate this movie's documen-
tary component and excise the unorig-
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