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October 27, 2003 - Image 5

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 2003-10-27

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October 27,2003



By Mary Hillemeer y4 I


Nobel neglects black Africans

Oct. 2, the Nobel Academy
announced that South African
author J.M. Coetzee had won
this year's coveted Nobel Prize in Liter-
ature. According to the BBC, "Coetzee
becomes the fourth African writer
since 1980 to win the prestigious
award." Through a minimal amount of
research, however, I confirmed my
suspicions that Coetzee is only the
third sub-Saharan African but the sec-
ond white South African to have won,
not since 1980 (a completely arbitrary
date for the BBC to have chosen as
Czeslaw Milosz, of Poland and the
U.S.A., took the prize that year), but
since the prize's 1901 inception.
That leaves us with one black
African prizewinner in 102 years, the
Nigerian Wole Soyinka, "who,"
according to the Swedish Academy's
citation, "in a wide cultural perspective
and with poetic overtones fashions the
drama of existence."
The reclusive Coetzee, leading out
self-imposed exile from South Africa
(after a clash with the African Nation-
al Congress over his novel "Disgrace")
as a visiting professor at the Universi-
ty of Chicago, portrays in his literature
(of which the most famous piece is
perhaps "The Life and Times of
Michael K," 1983) a bleak picture of
post-apartheid South Africa that has
been considered to reflect the univer-
sal "human condition."
Of the news of Coetzee's selection,
South African President (and ANC
leader) Thabo Mbeki said, "On behalf
of the South African nation, and indeed
the continent of Africa, we salute our
latest Nobel laureate and bask with
him in the glory radiating from this
recognition." Coetzee's friend, the
other South African Nobel Laureate in
literature, Nadine Gordimer, was quot-
ed in the Guardian as saying, "It's an
honor for the country and of course it
does give some indication of how
South African literature has developed,
particularly under the difficult condi-

tions we have (had)."
South African literature has indeed
developed. But in the post-colonial era,
so too has Kenyan literature, and Sene-
galese literature, and Nigerian literature
and Ghanaian literature ...
Coetzee's corpus represents a major
contribution to world literature, and his
work, in my opinion, is certainly Nobel
worthy - as is the work of any of the
other shortlisted candidates. However,
his award serves as a gentle yet sad
reminder that, while in the west we now
recognize the work of many South
American and Asian writers, we have
yet to give African literature - specifi-
cally the literature of sub-Saharan black
Africans - the recognition that so
much of it deserves.
This year, the most popular piece of
African literature was an account by
Alexandra Fuller of her childhood in a
Zimbabwe that shifted from British
colonialism to African rule before her
(very unwilling) family's eyes. "Let's
Don't Go to the Dog's Tonight: An
African Childhood," like Peter God-
win's "Mukiwa: A White Boy in
Africa," is a remarkable first-hand
account of the end of white-rule in what
was then called Rhodesia. And yet,
Fuller's (beautifully written) novel fits
into our bent paradigm of what, exactly,
is good African literature. It seems that
in the Anglophone west, we, very
regrettably, haven't yet learned to trust
or appreciate the skill of the thousands
of active black African authors.
The white population, of the United
States especially, still seems captivated
by the accounts of other white people's
time in sub-Saharan Africa. In our liter-
ary tastes we behave with the manners
of colonio-imperialists, listening with
wide-eyed zeal to stories of people like
"us"' adventures among people like
"them" If the Nobel Committee has not
yet found real time for the literature of
black Africans, it's time that American
bookstores, bestsellers lists and most
importantly, people, do.

Daily Arts Writer
James Robert Kennedy, nickname Radio, lives a
difficult life. As if growing up in a cozy football-
crazy South Carolina town in 1976 isn't bad enough,
he is also mentally challenged and the son of a sin-
gle working mother. Michael _______
Tollin's new film "Radio" tells Radio
this true story with a heavy
hand that inevitably bogs down Quality16aand
his best of intentions. Madstone
Cuba Gooding Jr. stars as the Columbia
good-hearted town outcast with
a passion for radios, hence the nickname. When
introduced, Radio is shy and confined to high school
laughing stock, watching football practices from
behind the fence. This changes when the highly
esteemed football coach Harold Jones (Ed Harris)
recognizes potential and takes him under his wing.
At first we wonder why Jones is so determined to
help Radio, as his initial presence on the football
field as a sort of cheerleading assistant coach stirs
up controversy. All is later revealed in a tender
moment between father and daughter where Jones
relates his life-long
regret of not helping a
boy similar to Radio.
Harris is the right fit S
for the revered Jones,
who gently spouts wis- TEAR-JERB
dom with a twinkle in
his eye, ultimately man- TOUC
aging to convert the last

Co~urtesby of Cumiak

if I have to ride your ass like Zorro, you're gonna show me the money.

cynic to his side.
Although Harris works well
his character, his performan
recycling as it echoes similar
ers such as "The Truman Sh
As Radio's immersion
increases, thanks to Coach]
does his popularity amon
long he is making announ
speakers in the mornings ar
to read and write.
It is refreshing to see G

within the confines of
ce inevitably borders on
roles in other tear-jerk-
ow" and "Stepmom".
n in the high school
Harold's persistence, so
g the students. Before
cements over the loud-
nd slowly learning how
Jooding. display those

acting skills that have been in hiding since his
breakthrough role in "Jerry Maguire." Although
occasionally hindered by the delicacy of his role,
he is successful in making the character his own
while maintaining moderate humility. Gooding
shines when free from the complications of inter-
acting with other characters and allowed free reign
to dominate the screen with his powerful yet
endearing personality.
"Radio" fails to reach its potential because it falls
prey to the stale tactics of most inspirational sports

stories. All of the stock characters cameo, including
the cruel arrogant jock and the overbearing team
parents, yet they lack any distinctive quirks which
could have given them credibility. Most irritating is a
heavy reliance upon the tired music montage to
develop characters and evoke emotions that the
screenplay should have taken care of.
Perhaps the uncanny feeling that we've heard
these lines before is because we have, well almost.
Writer Mike Rich's credits include "The Rookie,"
another reality-based tale of the good guy's triumph.
And yet another instance where the audience is only
allowed to leave with that feel-good fuzzy feeling
after first paying their dues in tears.
Although predictably portrayed, the story of
Radio's life is unique and worth telling. Tollin
wisely ends with heartbreakingly sweet footage of
the real Radio that successfully shifts the emphasis
from his own flawed work to the real star, its
inspiring namesake.

Dirty little 'Wonderland' full of porn and drugs

By Zach Mabee
Daily Arts Writer

Dressed up'Skin' could
use less sleaze, more class

"Wonderland" is all about a porno
star, his uncontrollable drug use and
his violent transgressions, but not at
all about his
industry. Well, at
least it's not Wonderland
directly about his At Showcase
industry. If Lion's Gate
you're able to
peel back the film's seedy and gory
skin, then you're probably able to see
clearly the great irony of "Wonder-
land." It's very similar to an adult
film itself. The sole motivation and
impetus throughout is to titillate and

attempt to make great tawdry and
distasteful pulp.
The story is told in retrospect, pri-
marily through the eyes of David
Lind (Dylan McDermott), a vagrant
drug dealer. Along with "Johnny
Wadd" Holmes (Val Kilmer), the
infamous porn king, and his business
partner Ron(Josh Lucas, "Sweet
Home Alabama"), Lind violently
robs and beats local drug lord Eddie
Nash (Eric Bogosian) for his stash of
both money and coke.
The hit is successful, but as it is
done with less than perfect precision,
information leaks. Nash vows
revenge, and he gets it on a murder-
ous attack against the crew that
robbed him. Holmes survives and
escapes, and Lind lives to retell the

story, but their accounts conflict and
leave the air clouded with doubt as to
what really happened.
The doubtful ending is especially
unsuitable for this movie, most like-
ly because the plot is so uninterest-
ing and devoid of worth. The story
itself is pure, tabloid-grade trash,
and the drug-related motifs are
hackneyed and, at this point, deserv-
ing of a break.
"Wonderland" is technically a
well-done film, and the editing and
cinematography are the most
remarkable aspects of the movie;
but the romanticized look into the
drug underworld is hardly enough
to satisfy.
Great movies about decadence
always have some significant emo-

tional and personal undertones. They
cannot just survive on atmosphere,
visuals and technical prowess. "Won-
derland" tries to sustain itself on
these merits alone, and it's complete-
ly uninteresting. The characters are
not relatable or sympathetic and the
dialogue becomes cliche quickly.
Even the acidic, rock-based sound-
track and the visually poetic ending
scene of harvested farmland with
Gordon Lightfoot playing softly in
the background are not enough to
uphold this inane story.
Some even remotely significant or
worthwhile underpinnings could
make "Wonderland" a pretty decent
film. Too bad the makers opted for
nothing more than a stylishly beefed-
up attempt at sleaze and tabloid pulp.

By Niamh Slevin
Daily Arts Writer

Jerry Bruckheimer must have
thought he'd found the perfect haven
for his newest exploit, "Skin."
Nowhere else has quite the same pen-
chant for sleaze and cheese as FOX,
and they seem
more than willing Si
to allow Bruck- Si
heimer all the lib- Mondays at 9 p.m.
erties imaginable FOX
in his work.
While the show reaches one goal,
hooking a younger demographic on
that Bruckheimer style, it alienates
more viewers than necessary with its
sub-par actors, underdeveloped plot
and sometimes tastelessly lewd scenes.
"Skin" attempts to create a modern
Romeo and Juliet story with a few
added twists. When Jewel Goldman
(Olivia Wilde) and Adam Roam (D.J.
Cotrona) meet, they know nothing
about each other's families, and as
teenage romance stories would have it,
they instantly fall in love.
However, after Adam's father, the dis-
trict attorney, begins a criminal investi-
gation into the business dealings of
Larry Goldman (Ron Silver, "Time-
cop"), a well-known pornographer,
things get a little more complex for the
lovebirds. Their parents forbid them to
see each other, which only expands the
rift between the young and the old.
The Bruckheimer formula for suc-
cess still can't save this piece of work.
"Skin" has all the flashy lighting and
elaborate camera work of the "CSI"
chain, but it lacks the appearance of
actual thought. Poorly crafted scenes
and, more importantly, poorly acted
scenes are interspliced with the oh-so-

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Romeo and Juliet, if you didn't realize.
cheesy images of Jewel and Adam frol-
icking along a beach and kissing amid
the rippling waves. The Goldman girls
in particular leave much to be desired
with their often monotonous and apa-
thetic-sounding dialogue.
Though the erotic scenes are proba-
bly intended to distract from these other
elements of shoddy craftsmanship, they
seem only to add to the show's overall
contemptible quality. The strip club and
Goldman's business meetings especially
push the envelope, considering this is
still prime-time network television.
Scantily clad women humping the air
don't exactly serve to break "Skin" free
from the infamous FOX reputation.
"Skin" is an interesting concept for
teenage programming, and if done with
a little more style and sophistication, it
could survive as a decent series. Unfor-
tunately, the higher-ups prefer to test
the audience's limits than focus on the
seemingly insignificant issues of weak
plotlines and characters.

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