The Michigan Daily - New Student Edition - Fall 2004 - 7D
THERON'S PERFORMANCE SAVES MEDIOCRE FILM
January 21, 2004
Daily Staff Writer
MOVI E REVIEW
There's nothing more annoying than the
drooling adoration critics shower on actresses
who alter their looks for films. Some exam-
ples: Nicole Kidman
for wearing a prosthetic Monster
nose in "The Hours," At the State Theater
Halle Berry for appear- Newmarket
ing sans makeup in
"Monster's Ball" and - most infuriatingly
- Gwyneth Paltrow for donning a fat suit in
Now Charlize Theron ("The Italian
Job"), usually cast as arm-candy for the
leading man, is garnering similar buzz for
her portrayal of real-life serial killer
Aileen Wuornos in Patty Jenkins' "Mon-
ster" - a portrayal that involves fake yel-
lowed teeth, splotchy skin, dry stringy hair
and an extra 25 pounds to her frame.
What separates Theron from the rest of
these actresses, however, is that while audi-
ence members are aware they are watching
Kidman, Barry or Paltrow in their roles, they
cannot even find a trace of Theron in
Wuornos's character. Theron completely
immerses herself in the role, churning out
one of the best performances seen in recent
years and saving "Monster" in the process.
Without a strong female lead, "Monster"
would have fallen flat on its face, lacking a
tight, well-written script with clear motiva-
tions for its characters. The voice-over narra-
tion shamelessly pleads for sympathy for
Wuornos, and on paper the interactions
between Wuornos and her lesbian lover,
Selby (Christina Ricci, "Sleepy Hollow"),
seem cheesy and superficial, consisting of
either adoring compliments (you're-so-beau-
tiful) or naive, foolish promises (I'll-buy-you-
Theron, fortunately, more than compen-
sates for these flaws in the script. The way
she confidently swaggers in order to mask
her vulnerability and the nervousness shown
through her shaky fingers and spastic head
twitch makes her undeniably human. The
way she holds a wounded yet passionate look
in her eyes communicates all the motivation
the audience needs to make her character
believable. The way she seems like she's
improvising rather than reading a script gives
a freshness and sincerity to the otherwise
mediocre dialogue. Theron even manages to
make a first-kiss scene accompanied by Jour-
ney's "Don't Stop Believin' " appear touching
rather than sappy - quite an astonishing feat.
"Monster" does not go deeply into the
events of Wuornos' past that led to prostitu-
tion, though sexual abuse and abandonment
are mentioned. The film chooses instead to
focus on the relationship between Wuornos
and Selby and the murderous streak sparked
when she is raped by one of her customers -
a streak that leaves seven men dead.
The relationship between the two women,
however, is a bit muddled. Theron makes it
clear that when Wuornos meets Selby, she is
so damaged and disillusioned by the treat-
ment she has received from men that she
clings onto Selby out of desperation and hope
for something better.
Ricci, however, never paints a clear picture
of Selby. She can't decide whether she wants
Selby to be naive or incredibly selfish. She
claims to love Wuornos, yet she gets angry
when Wuornos announces she wants to quit
"hookin'." Selby's decision to testify against
Wuornos also remains unexplored, leaving
Selby more an outline than a three-dimen-
sional character. Strangely, the audience
understands the prostitute/serial killer more
than the confused drifter who gets swept into
a relationship with her.
"Monster" may have its flaws, and its
bleak portrayal of humanity can turn off
many, but the gritty honesty and uncompro-
mising passion that Theron brings to the
movie transform it into a captivating drama
and forces us to see Wuornos as more than a
courtes 0 So F Pctune C,<,;
When you're a Jet you're a Jet all the way."
March 9, 2004
By Hussain EWdrm
Daily Staff Writer
In his wonderfully bizarre first feature,
Sylvain Chomet puts together one of the
most unique and oddly engrossing animated
films in recent memory. Although recently
beat out by "Finding Nemo" at the 76th
Awards, "The Triplets
of Belleville" was the
best animated film of
the year as well as one
of the top films of 2003.
The story revolves
around a cheerless
young boy named
At the Michigan
Courtesy of Newmarket
A dab of blush, and she's ready for the Oscars.
INNOCENCE LOST IN
An all-encompassing guide to Ann Arbor's best and worst cinemas
Courtesy or Fox Searchight
Lay off me, I'm starving!
September 22, 2003
By Mary Hi1llomeier
Daily Staff Writer
A brutally honest portrayal of one
seventh grader's fall, "Thirteen" raises
serious issues concerning America's
youth. Laudable for its gritty courage
and sensitivity with painful subjects,
Catherine Hardwicke's film promises
to stay with the audience long after
the credits have
Facing intense Thirteen
peer pressure At the State Theater
armed only with a Fox Searchlight
Tracey (Evan Rachel Wood, "Once and
Again") is doomed the moment she
enters junior high. Wood encapsulates
youthful innocence, enhancing the
impact of the corruption that follows.
In search of acceptance, Tracey
ditches her friends and realigns herself
with the dangerously flirtatious, quin-
tessential popular girl Evie. Expertly
played by newcomer Nikki Reed,
Evie's daring schemes and knack for
never telling the truth successfully
Tracey's mother Mel (the flawless
Holly Hunter) struggles with alcoholism
and discipline issues of her own. This
lax atmosphere gives Tracey and Evie
free reign to indulge in typical teenage
misadventures juxtaposed with swiftly
escalating drug use.
Both Wood and Reed maintain terri-
fying vulnerability throughout the film
that starkly contrasts their lack of respect
for everything, especially themselves.
Although Reed's character is the instiga-
tor, she reveals glimpses of inner strug-
gle, adding dimension to her character.
The semi-autobiographical script, co-
written by the teenage Reed and director
Hardwicke, rings refreshingly true,
adding heartache to Reed's performance
when one considers the reality upon
which it is based.
Hunter's sharp instincts and weath-
ered maturity play well against the rebel-
lious energy of her fresh co-stars,
creating palpable tension from begin-
ning to end - tension that is heightened
by the Los Angeles setting, the perfect
backdrop for Tracey and Evie's unravel-
ing for the sake of shallow beauty and
Simultaneously frightening and riv-
eting, "Thirteen" is a well-crafted
story told with honesty and integrity
that, although at times difficult to
By Niamh Slevin
Now that the Madstone Theater's pro-
jectors have run their last reels, some Ann
Arbor moviegoers wonder where to turn
for comparable variety in their film choic-
es. As luck would have it, Ann Arbor's
streets are filled with a mixture of local
favorites and big chain movie houses. The
Daily offers the newcomer's guide to Ann
Arbor flicks, weighing the pros and cons
of each theater's specialty.
603 E. Liberty St.
Pros: The Michigan Theater screens major
blockbusters *on occasion, but usually its fare
gravitates toward the independent scene.
Some of the best indie films and documen-
taries find audiences here as well as older
mainstream features. The theater's two
screening rooms are lavishly decorated with
velvet curtains, tasteful murals and leaf-gild-
ed hauteur; an organist, perched on a rare
1927 theater pipe organ, entertains the crowd
before the feature presentation Wednesday
through Sunday evenings.
Cons: Because Michigan's main auditori-
um is often used for special performances
and concerts, the number of movies shown
here is somewhat limited.
233 S. State St.
Pros: Just down the street from the Michi-
gan Theater, the State Theater offers largely
the same types of movies. Leaning toward
indie filmmakers, the State is noted for its
unusual selection. Its midnight showings of
films such as "The Big Lebowski" and
"Rocky Horror Picture Show" draw crowds
that could easily wrap around the city block.
Cons: Located above Urban Outfitters, the
State is a small theater space and can feel
cramped. While seating is certainly not limit-
ed most nights, the seats are distinctly less
comfortable than those offered by most big-
budget movie houses. Their rigid frames
offer no wiggle room to restless patrons.
Goodrich Quality Theaters Quality 16
3686 Jackson Rd.
Pros: For mainstream releases, Quality 16
is one of the best choices in town. A pioneer
of optional loveseat-style seating with move-
able armrests, Quality 16 is a popular spot for
couples. With the capacity to air the most in-
demand movies virtually every hour, the the-
ater draws large crowds for releases such as
"The Lord of the Rings." Quality 16 is also
the only chain theater in town that still offers
student discounts, though the discount seems
to shrink with each passing season.
Cons: Unlike the Michigan and State,
Quality 16 is often swarming with pre-teens
and high-schoolers whose boisterous behav-
ior can be rather off-putting for those accus-
tomed to the quiet atmosphere of the campus
theaters. Because Quality 16 is located well
beyond walking distance from campus, it is
also not always the easiest option for stu-
National Amusements Showcase Cinemas
4100 Carpenter Rd.
Pros: Again, this chain theater reg-
ularly shows the biggest block-
busters of the season, and movies
are often allowed longer runs than
in most theaters. Instead of the typi-
cal concession stand, Showcase's
spacious lobby is lined with ven-
dors selling treats like elephant ears,
ice cream and pretzels.
Cons: In terms of movie selection,
Showcase offers the same, blase fare as
every other chain around town, only at a
steeper price. The theater extends no stu-
dent discount, and prices are nearing the
$10 mark for prime-time showings. Locat-
ed several miles from campus, Showcase
is also quite a trek for those without motor
381 Maple Rd.
Pros: Village Theater specializes in
second-run showings, meaning its selec-
tions air only a few weeks before hitting
video stands. However, if you can't wait
just that long, Village Theater is the
place to stop. Tickets run only a couple
of bucks per customer.
Cons: In comparison to the other
four, Village Theater is fairly rough on
the eyes. Most patrons agree that the
theater could use some heavy renova-
tion, which seems unlikely to happen
given its meager revenues.
Champion and his obese dog Bruno who are
taken care of by his loving grandmother,
Madame Souza. Her life's mission seems to
be the search for any conduit of joy for her
grandson. Once she discovers his love of
bicycles, cycling becomes their existence.
Endless training, the passage of time and
French citizenship lead to nowhere else but
the Tour de France. However, during the race,
Champion is kidnapped by French mobsters.
Springing to action, his decrepit grandmoth-
er, Bruno and an aged group of singing
triplets team up in Belleville to come to his
rescue. And from there, the story only gets
Though the plot is fun and enjoyable, the
highlight is the film's exaggerated style.
There is a dark and odd underlying sense of
humor that often comes through as unexpect-
Visually dense, the animation style is
unlike any audiences have previously
seen. The animation works on many lev-
els and is often a send-up of American
and French culture - rampant con-
sumerism and globalization. The images
are complex and demand astute attention,
which more than compensates for the
fact that this is a dialogue-free film.
While this may seem to be anathema to
the modern audience, the film boasts an
incredible soundtrack that guarantees the
audience leaves the theater singing and
unaware of the lack of dialogue.
Although the grandmother's love is the
overarching theme of the film, there is none.
of the fluffiness and overwrought sentimen-
tality that defines American animation. There
are no cute characters with Happy Meal tie-
ins. This is one of those films that acts like it
is not for children and means it. "Belleville"
will scare the hell out of any child.
Chomet's vision is a different kind of
beautiful, as well as a solid sign that ani-;
mation can still be done with a pencil and:
Surviving the dr
January 12, 2004
By Zach Mabee
Attempting to make a movie about the American Dream is, even in
the most skilled hands, almost always a flawed undertaking. The
story of coming to America has been told so many times that nearly
any permutation of it hardly seems innovative
- or even interesting. "In America" fills the
tired tale of immigrant life in America with a In America
previously unseen vigor, a forceful intensity At the State Theater
that, in emphasizing struggle with brutal hon- 20th Century Fox
esty, makes triumph indescribably sweeter.
The story, rooted in Director Jim Sheridan's own immigrant expe-
rience, follows Johnny (Paddy Considine, "24 Hour Party People")
and Sarah (Samantha Morton, "Minority Report"), a young Irish
couple, and their two daughters, Christy (Sara Bolger, "A Love
Divided") and Ariel (Emma Bolger), as they settle in Manhattan, start
their lives anew and try to leave behind the anguish of their past.
Problems abound from day one as Johnny struggles to find work
"eamIn a despondent
as an actor and Sarah earns a meager wage at an ice cream parlor. All
the while, their tenement is barely habitable, and they have virtually
no money. It's only when they befriend a reclusive neighbor that they
discover hope and strength amidst seemingly endless despair.
Both the grief and eventual hope are very tangible emotions, and
they're roused wonderfully through subtle filmmaking. Certainly the
loss of a loved one has its effect on the family, but their struggle and
pain are conveyed most clearly through everyday frustrations. Watch-
ing Johnny cart an air conditioner angrily through the city streets to
help his girls on a summer day or seeing him risk their entire savings
to win Ariel an E.T. doll at the fair proves his unyielding desire to
please his girls.
This meditative style also allows Sheridan to capture the essential
beauty of scenes that can only be appreciated appropriately on film.
From a musically-charged snowball fight in a wintry landscape to a
solemn close-up of a newborn child, "In America" makes great the
most simple, potentially trivial, moments.
It also capitalizes on the most basic, unrefined roles of the film: The best movie about c
those of the two sisters - played by actual sisters - Christy and sanity to their parents
Ariel. They complement each other ideally, as Christy reveals a taci- within and outside t
turn understanding and appreciation for her family's lot, while Ariel coherence to a famil
teems with vigor and innocent curiosity. Indeed, their unity brings never reached its swee
Courtesy of 20th Century Fox
coming to America since ... "Coming to America."
' chaotic lives and buttresses relationships both
he family. As children, they provide crucial
ly that, without it, would have crumbled and