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November 03, 2003 - Image 8

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 2003-11-03

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November 3, 2003



Simply touching 'Station Agent'
By Hussain Rahim
Daily Arts Writer

I'm so tired of independent movies
with the same old plot of railroad-lov-
ing dwarves who inherit train depots
in rural New Jersey. Herein lies the
plot of writer/director Thomas
McCarthy's feature debut "The Station
Agent," which arrives straight from
the film festival circuit.
This story is a look at isolation and
the different ways people connect and
disconnect themselves from the world.


By Zach Mabee
Daily Arts Writer

When "Finding Nemo" conquered the seven seas and
became the new benchmark of Disney's big screen suc-
cess, there was little doubt that future efforts would pale
when compared to such an inimitable and beautifully
unique standard. "Brother Bear" is the newest of these
failures, but that's hardly calling it a poor movie. "Bear"
tells the tale of Kenai, a young,
adventurous Native American boy,
who is transformed by sky-dwelling Brother Bear
spirits into his greatest beastly foe: a At Showcase
bear. In animal form, Kenai journeys Disney
the wild, passionately searching for
self and enlightenment. Along the way he befriends a
fellow cub, Kudo, and two aimless moose, Rutt (Rick
Moranis) and Tuke (Dave Thomas). All the while,
Kenai's human brother is hunting him relentlessly, hop-
ing to bag the grizzly he doesn't know to be his brother.
Simply put, "Bear" is standard Disney fare
and doesn't distinguish itself from the com-
pany's myriad other animated releases. It's }
an innocuously encouraging and heartwarm-
ing story of self-realization driven through-
out by a gleeful Phil Collins (and Tina Turner
on several tracks) soundtrack that, depending
on your demeanor, will either brighten your day
or annoy you greatly.
Much of the animation is simplistic, in stark con-
trast to "Nemo"'s surreal, overwhelming visual
onslaught, and at times, it almost seems rudi-
mentary. The landscape art tends to be
underdeveloped; however, in the end, some
majestic shots of the bear haven to which
Kenai and company travel compensate for
any such shortcomings.
Dialogue and comedy also aren't priority
in "Bear" as they tend to be in the majori-
ty of Disney pictures. There are laugh-d
able moments, but they punctuate
longer droughts and aren't nearly as
sharp or allusive as those we saw in
"Nemo" and other animated greats. The

script is definitely family oriented and not intended to be
as referential or corrosive as some of its contemporaries.
It seems, though, that the overarching aim of the
project itself is to be entertaining, wholesome, but
perhaps more sterile than its predecessors. It will keep
children engaged and garner some chuckles and
smiles from complacent adults, but those who've
experienced the purest greatness of animation will
likely leave with a feeling of indifference and yearn-
ing for something better.

It is a rumination
of loneliness -
three different
kinds to be exact
- as well as
friendship. Left
alone by the death
of his only friend,

The Station
At the State Theater

Second star to the left and straight on 'til morning.

Fin (Peter Dinklage) is bequeathed a
small depot and the chance to alienate
himself from the world. With an incred-
ible cast of perfectly portrayed charac-
ters, this movie is an exercise in
naturalism. There is a highly realistic
feel of participation as you watch these
disparate lives collide and then search
for a way to make the pieces fit.
Using the rare directing technique
of subtlety, it feels like McCarthy
consciously steps back to let his char-
acters, as well as the unusual but
effective location of rural New Jersey,
shine. Boy does it work. The location
is tiny so the characters can't help but
constantly interact and develop. New-
foundland, N.J. has a confining nature
to it, where it seems the characters
can't get away from each other no
matter how much effort they put in.

This situation gives a certain charm
and definite humor to the film as
these characters squirm around one
another and search for common
ground. McCarthy utilizes incredible
shots to emphasize the intense soli-
tude and small stature of Fin.
Although his separation from the
world may be a self-exile, it is obvi-
ous that not many people reached out
to him along his route there.
Dinklage gives a beautifully subtle
performance as the taciturn recluse,
who along the way completely
destroys the mystification of the
dwarf and gives a true portrayal of the
reticence someone might have to a
lifetime of ignorant looks and ques-
tions. Patricia Clarkson ("Far From
Heaven") works well as a devastated
maladroit artist struggling for purpose
and connection after losing a young
son. Bobby Cannavale follows suit in

the role of garrulous substitute vendor
searching for friendship and any way
to pass the time. An awkward agree-
ment of friendship arises between the
three of them, with an odd mother/son
undertone between Fin and Olivia.
Upon Fin's arrival in Newfoundland
he is met with hospitality, bordering on
obsession that is inspired by equal parts
genuine kindness and spectacle fascina-
tion. They slowly warm him to the joys
of company. His need for solitude is
slowly mitigated as he grows a unique
connection to Olivia and Joe, which is
then pulled apart with the same difficul-
ty it took to build.
McCarthy's film, the darling of last
year's Sundance, is a touching and often
very humorous film and despite a
slightly stumbled into conclusion, pro-
vides an original look at the laborious
efforts and barriers we encounter and
create when meeting new people.

Curtesy ofMiramax

Woeful'Stain' survives poor casting
By Mary Hillemeier
Daily Arts Writer

Msguided Ryan doesn't make the 'Cut'

By Jennie Adler
Daily Arts Writer

Meg Ryan shocked audiences with
her fake orgasm 14 years ago in
"When Harry Met Sally," and now,
with "In the Cut," she's doing it for
real, and completely bare. An unchar-
acteristic Ryan
takes a break In e
from her usual In the Cut
romantic come- At Quality 16
dies to work with Screen Gems
director and co-
writer Jane Campion ("The Piano")
for this thriller based on the book by
Susanna Moore.
Frannie Avery (Meg Ryan), an Eng-
lish professor surrounded by bad
grammar, is mysterious, lonely and
repressed. She gets her kicks talking
about sex with her half-sister (Jen-
nifer Jason Leigh, "The Hudsucker
Proxy") and by meeting with an over-
ly interested student (Sharrieff Pugh).
When an arm of a "de-articulated"
woman winds up beneath Frannie's
window, she begins her sexually
explosive affair with investigating
Detective Malloy (Mark Ruffalo,
"You Can Count on Me"). As Frannie
becomes more and more obsessed

In comparison, Ryan's acting,
although years better than "Kate and
Leopold," is less than inspired. She
wanders through the film so lost and
dopey, it's a wonder she wasn't the
first murder victim.
"In the Cut" is a chaotic compila-
tion of themes. Numerous detached
motifs of marriage, American flags,
lighthouses and family are easily for-
gotten. With flashbacks of Frannie's
father and supposedly meaningful
subway poetry that doesn't quite stick,
there is too much imagery with too
little relevance.
The mood of the film, however, is
extremely powerful. The dimly lit
sets create a mysterious and sensual
mood that supports Frannie's sexual
enchantment. The cinematography
jumps back and forth between shaky
handheld camera work to scenes as
still as photographs, providing a lur-
ing feeling, almost as if you're
being watched.
With an overall haziness that not
only inhibits Frannie but also makes a
mess of the film's intent, "In the Cut"
relies on the overall aura of passion
and sexuality. An anti-climactic end-
ing to an already dismal effort leaves
one to wonder if the film is the wrong
genre or just another mediocre
remake of a novel.

We all have secrets, but some secrets are so tightly bound
by lies and time that the consequences are irreversible. Cole-
man Silk is a man trapped within his own secrecy. A progres-
sive Jewish classics professor in a sleepy Massachusetts town,
Silk is the pivotal character of "The Human Stain," a notably
faithful screen adaptation of the celebrated novel by Phillip
Roth with an undeniably riveting story that promises to sur-
prise and captivate.
Anthony Hopkins is an interesting choice for Silk, the
dean of a prestigious university, whose closet conceals a
daunting skeleton. Coleman is a compli-
cated and mysterious man, admirable
for his wisdom, self-possession and elo- The Human
quence under pressure. It is debatable Stain
whether Hopkins truly embodies the At Livonia's AMC 20
essence of Roth's finely crafted literary Miramax
character. What one cannot deny is the
seasoned actor's expertise in portraying the weathered and
wise, and his near-regal confidence on screen by no means
hinders the narrative.
When Silk is accused of racism on an unfounded technical-
ity, first his job and then his life break away in a matter of
hours. Outraged and alone, he soon finds a sympathizer and
friend in Nathan Zucherman (Gary Sinise), a reclusive writer
hiding from his past. Coleman then stumbles upon a danger-
ous scandal in an unlikely love affair with Fornia (Nicole Kid-
man), a local janitor who, you guessed it, harbors a
mysterious past of her own.
"Stain" has potential to get bogged down with this abun-
dance of unsolved mysteries and loose ends. Yet the pace
picks up soon after a slightly slow beginning, leaving any
notable narrative hiccups scattered few and far between.
Once free of introductions and formalities, the film gathers
a powerful and suspenseful momentum. The full potential of

Courtesy of Miramax
One should never, ever, Interrupt one's desire to defecate.
the story is stunted by a slightly disjointed narrative scheme
which pays little attention to the restrictions of time. Jumping
first back, then forward, "Stain" reveals its secrets in frustrat-
ingly small portions. Perhaps the resulting confusion is an
inevitable byproduct of cramming an entire novel into several
hours; nevertheless these stylistic choices take their toll.
Kidman seems surprisingly comfortable in her gritty, des-
perate role. Hers was an arguably gutsy casting decision,
considering the intimate nature of her interaction with the
much aged Hopkins. The two are an unlikely fit that some-
how works anyway, due in part to the carefully crafted cir-
cumstances surrounding the affair and the manner with
which it is handled.
Flashbacks to Silk's past showcase Wentworth Miller as
the young Coleman. Miller is a relative newcomer who is
well equipped to handle his role, yet is much too handsome
to be any relative of Anthony Hopkins, much less his
younger counterpart.
Once the story gets underway, the utterly unexpected
twists and turns are sure to quickly balance out any and all
trivial details.


Courtesy of Screen Gems
I am? I am the dog? I am the dog?
with sex and death (the two things
Malloy can give her) she edges her-
self closer to danger.
Although Ruffalo's cop role is very
stereotypical, his acting is on target
and so believable that you sympathize
with his lies, hoping they're the truth.

After popping in Static X's latest
release, Shadow Zone, and opening the
liner notes, the first thought on any-
one's mind would most certainly be
"Gadzooks!! Wayne Static's hair is
karazy!" After the music actually starts,

that thought would undoubtedly change
to "Zoinks! What is this noise coming
out of my speakers?!" Yes, it's true. The
fact of the matter is that Static X's
brand of techno-industrial nu-metal,
with the gruff staccato vocals and
down-tuned buzz saw guitars, is just
not pleasing to the ears. The end result
is a one-dimensional, all-out boring
album. Highlights include the dance-
themed "Shadow Zone" and the driving
"Otsegolectric," but really, you should-
n't waste your time. **
- Glenn Lopez




The Fannie and John
Hertz Foundation
takes great pleasure in
announcing its Fall 2003
Fellowship Awards.
Katie Mitchell-Koch
Department of Chemistry

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