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April 05, 2004 - Image 5

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The Michigan Daily, 2004-04-05

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Monday
April 5, 2004
arts.michigandaily. com
artseditor@michigandaily.com

RTS

5A

Grandaddy not too old to rock
By Andrew Horowitz
Daily Arts Writer
COCR RE* E

Grandaddy has never quite played by
the rules. So, when they announced an
odd co-headlining tour with Saves the
Day, guitarist Jim Fairchild stated, "It
was their idea. I think they wanted to
play with a band they normally would-
n't play with." Both bands agreed to the
experiment, which hasn't fared for the
best: "It seemed like a really good idea
at the time, but it's not the best idea for
execution in terms of the audience."
Grandaddy's set began with a com-
puter-generated
video, which has
been a longtime sta- Grandaddy
ple of their shows. Wednesday,
"It really came about Mar.31
because we were At Clutch Cargo's
just fucking boring
to watch. We were really really bashful
performers ... But now, it's actually
become something we're pretty into, and
it's a necessity."
Grandaddy isn't the most ostenta-
tious group, but their music is captivat-
ing. They build a unique tormented
sound that punctuates their recurring
theme of man versus technology. Simi-
lar to 2000's masterwork, The Sopht-
ware Slump, their latest LP, Sumday,
continues with some of the same
themes, yet it's surprisingly different.
Fairchild noted, "It's a lot more concise.
It sounds better because we were able
to buy better equipment for a better
recording this time."
Sumday, according to the band, was
an attempt at optimism. "I think we're
starting to get older and bored of just
being sad pieces of shit," Fairchild

ANDREW HOROWITZ/Daily
And I would have gotten away with it too, if It weren't for you meddling kids.

Oh, I see your headlights are out. You may want to get them fixed.

WALK THIS WAY
THE ROCK LAYS THE SMACK DOWN IN 'TALL

said. "But I don't think it actually
worked, really ... Because (a song like)
'The Warming Sun' just rips your
fucking heart out ... the next record
might even have to be more at least
lyrically optimistic."
Recently, the band has been through
a lot, including the death of one of its
biggest champions, Elliott Smith. "A
few major events have occurred that
have taught us to really be mindful and
appreciative of what's going on in our
lives," Fairchild said. "Maybe the stuff
that was attempted in terms of senti-
ment on Sumday I now actually believe
.. I don't think that we actually were
capable of believing that when the
songs were recorded. Now, I kind of
have to in terms of self-preservation."
On their previous tour with Super
Furry Animals, the band's setlist was
comprised mainly of Sumday material,
but this outing revived old classics.
"(We're) just trying to keep it interesting

to ourselves and our audience so they
don't get bored listening to the same shit
we were playing six months ago."
The set included plenty of Grandaddy
classics. "Hewlett's Daughter" energized
the crowd with its laidback melody, key-
board frenzy and hardcore guitar bursts.
"The Go In the Go-For-It," with bugs
scurrying across the screen, was mes-
merizing. The MTV2-embraced "The
Crystal Lake," introduced by Lytle as a
song "about a public pool with a bunch
of pee in it," had a relaxed energy as
Lytle's fragile vocals contrasted a syn-
thesized keyboard arpeggio.
When asked what's next for Grandad-
dy, Fairchild was honest and eloquent
when he stated, "We definitely haven't
made the best record we can make, and I
don't think Jason (Lytle) has written the
best song he can write. I think the whole
trick to that is to figure out how to
inspire yourself. I think now the band is
more driven than it's ever been."

By Brandon Harg
Daily Arts Writer

There is something compelling about the classic fist-
fight: The forceful nature of two individuals brawling
until one man cannot stand is gripping. In 1973 the
classic "Walking Tall," starring Joe Don Baker as real-
life Tennessee sheriff Buford Pusser, captured the
essence of the two-man, bareknuckled duel. In director
Kevin Bray's updated version of the
film, strongman The Rock fills W
Baker's shoes and lays down the Walking Tall
local law with a 2' x 4'. At Quality 16 and
The Rock stars as Chris Vaughn, Showcase
a retired U.S. Special Forces soldier MGM
who returns home to find that the
place where he was raised is a mere shell of its former-
ly friendly nature. An area once fueled by a flourish-
ing lumber mill, the town is now dependent upon and
run by Jay Hamilton (Neal McDonough) and his pros-
perous casino. When Vaughn uncovers cheating in the
casino and his nephew nearly overdoses on crystal
meth sold by the security guards, he decides that things
have gone too far. Securing the local sheriff position,
Chris makes it his mission to return the town to the
simple mountain refuge it once was.
While known for his abilities as an action-hero,
"Walking Tall" is a venture into drama for The Rock.
Approached with the role on the set of "The Scorpion
King," he and the film's crew always saw the movie as
"not a remake, but an adaptation." Fighting alongside
The Rock as his deputy is "Jackass" Johnny Knoxville as
old friend Ray Templeton. Working with Knoxville, film
producers took advantage of his readiness to perform his
own stunts. The Rock recounted that they would make
such requests as "Hey, jump on that chandelier and see if
it breaks." Knoxville does take a beating in some scenes

Boisterous music can't save 'Camp

The Rock says know your role and shut your mouth.
but, like The Rock, he displays an ability to act and will
use this film as a stepping-stone to future roles. ,
It is, in fact, the rushed nature of the film's storyline
that stands to be its major flaw; several characters sim-
ply fit in conveniently. The Rock's love interest, Deni
(Ashley Scott), has a handful of scenes, his family
even fewer.
While moviegoers may be concerned that "Walking
Tall" is a run-of-the-mill action flick, the chemisty
between The Rock and Knoxville keeps the film from
falling into the traps many action movies have. In fact,
The Rock has the potential to fill the void left by mus-
cle-bound leads like Arnold Schwarzenegger and
Sylvester Stallone. The film focuses completely on
him and, outside of Knoxville, the supporting cast
merely fills holes in.
The Rock sums up the theme to his new film well when
he said that "war and fighting might not be the answer, but
standing up for yourself will always be." "Walking Tall" is a
story of doing just that, a film about one man's choice to
stand up for what he believes in and kick some ass with a
big stick.

By Katie Marie Waes
Daily Arts Writer
"Camp" begins with the deep, soul-
ful voice of Sasha Allen singing "How
shall I see you through my tears," from
the theatrical production "The Gospel
of Colonus." This powerful number is
spliced with
images of a young
man in drag Camp
turned away from MGM
his high school
prom and then attacked and beaten in
the hallway. As the opening credits
roll, the audience has goose bumps and
high hopes for this drama about a
group of outcasts at a summer camp
for singing and acting. However, the
momentum from the first scene is soon
lost to bad acting and a weak story that
amazing vocals cannot save.
.With a cast of unknowns, "Camp"
shines in a few musical numbers but
bombs on the whole because it has
no central conflict to keep the audi-
ence interested. Stories surround a
bitter director (Don Dixon), a young

from dancing and singing practices
and screen tests. While the actors are
excited about the "extremely talented
cast," the featurette shows little acting
rehearsal, leaving one to question if the
cast ran any lines before filming,
"Camp" was invited to the Sundance
Film Festival, where the cast per-
formed the opening number; this live
performance is also included on the
DVD along with a commercial for the
soundtrack. Additionally, there are sev-
eral deleted scenes, most of which are
longer versions of parts of the film.
Sound and picture are good on this
disc with wide-screen format and
Dolby Digital surround sound, but the
juxtaposition of loud musical numbers
and soft conversation makes control-
ling the volume level a challenge.
Though the cast is energetic during
their on-screen curtain call at the end
of the film, the audience is less than
enthused after this two hour comedy.
"Camp" had the potential to be great,
but it simply misses the mark.
Film: **
Picture/Sound: ***4
Features: **

Don Juan (Daniel Letterle) and
rivalry between camp members. The
brief but interesting DVD features
are easily overlooked after the dis-
appointing film.
The 25-minute "Making of" fea-
turette showcases interviews with the
director and cast members, footage

I

'U' alum reflects on marginalized voice in post-Cold War Prague

By Will Dunlap
For the Daily

On his last day in Prague, an unnamed narra-
tor takes time to look back: "Some mornings I
woke up and could actually feel my personality
evaporate into the smog I breathed each day."

For this character, adapting
to a new culture means
almost losing track of him-
self in the process. "How
had I become this robot,
this impersonation of a
man, who breathed, ate,
paid crowns, all without
passion?" It is a sense of
alienation shared by many

The View
From
Stalin's
Head
By Aaron
Hamburger
Random House

War Prague. Many of the characters are Ameri-
can expatriates, eking out an existence teaching
English in a city where beer is cheap and
tourism runs rampant. For these Americans,
many of them gay or Jewish, the sense of for-
eignness is accentuated by conservatism and
prejudice. The Czechs in these stories have their
own reasons to be nervous. Unbalanced by the
split of their country, an influx of foreigners and
a rickety economy, the citizens who work des-
perately to learn English find themselves
strangers in their own land.
Not surprisingly, the expatriate existence led
by many of the characters mirrors the experience
of the author himself. A University alum, Aaron
Hamburger spent time in Prague teaching Eng-
lish. His affinity for the Czech capital and its
environs comes through in the plain but vivid
prose. The fourth story of the collection, "This
Ground You are Standing On," gives an unassum-
ing depiction of Terezin, a former village turned
concentration camp not far from Prague. "The
center of town was surrounded by a ring of
staunch brick walls with weeds running through

the cracks and a moat filled with brown, with-
ered flowers." But while the consistency in
description of setting makes Prague a command-
ing physical presence in every narrative, it is
Hamburger's exploration of Eastern European
cultural mores that is at the heart and soul of his
Czech portrait.
In every one of Hamburger's stories, sexual,
religious and political tensions provide the cata-
lyst for dramatic action and character change. In
"This Ground You Are Standing On," an Ameri-
can Jewish woman chastises the elderly widow
whose room she is renting, believing that the
woman might have aided the Nazis during the
war. In another story, "Exile," a gay American
attends unorthodox religious services in an
attempt to reconcile his sexual preference with
his Jewish faith. In focusing on this often blurry
line between public and private life, Hamburger
makes a point of tackling the religious and sexual
complexities of Czech society.
With a book so intent on examining the cul-
ture and history of a single city, it would be
possible to label "The View From Stalin's

Head" as a political narrative and leave it at
that. It is true that these stories are a history les-
son unto themselves, an experience that can be
occasionally disconcerting. But Hamburger's
agenda is more emotional than political, and
his plots, though sometimes bizarre, are always
heartfelt. In the title story, an aging artist once
persecuted by Communist rule pays a teen to
abuse and belittle him.
For the artist it is a way of reliving the past,
when the heat of persecution had given his life
meaning. Influenced by Christopher Isherwood's
"Goodbye to Berlin," Hamburger brilliantly inter-
twines bitterness and nostalgia, revealing the
fragility that accompanies social upheaval. For
the men and women in Hamburger's stories, such
fragility is the source of unexpected intimacy.
"All fairy tales," Hamburger wrote, "have in
common not 'once upon a time' but an unlikely
pairing of characters who under normal circum-
stances would never have met." It is a credit to
the author's vision that despite their differences,
these characters still have something in common:
In Hamburger's eyes, they are all survivors.

I&
TL

other characters that populate "The View From
Stalin's Head," the compelling first book by
Aaron Hamburger.
All of the stories in Hamburger's collection
revolve in some way around life in post-Cold

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