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October 25, 2004 - Image 8

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 2004-10-25

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October 25, 2004
arts. michigandaily. com

RTSWie dilg



'Kansas' exemplifies
..*.. solid political criticism

By Bernie Nguyen
Daily Arts Writer


In this modern political age of ideo-
logical conflict and apathy, conservative
doctrine in the media has reached an
all-time high. Rush Limbaugh shouts,
Bill O'Reilly rampages and Ann Coulter
glares from the frontlines of vituperative
conservative commentary. Surprisingly,
there is a growing popularity of con-
servatism concentrated in the Midwest,
where a large population are blue-collar
workers, the traditional Democratic base.
Thomas Frank charts this phenomenon


Courtesy of Fox
More like
Van Hell-

in his book "What's
the Matter with
Kansas? How Con-
servatives Won the
Heart of America."
"What's the Mat-
ter with Kansas?"
investigates the
strange contradic-

What's the
Matter with
By Thomas Frank
Metropolitan Books


By Marshall W. Lee
Daily Arts Writer
Remember that old philosophical dilemma about
a tree falling in the woods? In the meandering chaos
of writer-director David O. Russell's nutty universe,

the answer is defiant, delirious
and perhaps even brilliant. "I
V Huckabees" is the tree, the
woods and the whole screwy
universe, and it seems at times
as if all that matters to Russell
is that this brain-bending quirk-

I v Huckabees
At Showcase and
State Theater
Fox Searchlight

defies classification with every subversive twist and
turn. It is at once an intellectual slapstick comedy and
a verbose metaphysical mind-trip. Viewed from a dra-
matic perspective, "IV Huckabees" will surely leave
a lot of people scratching their heads. Where viewers
will get into trouble with this film is if they try to buy
into its philosophical diatribe, expecting it to offer in
the end some profound existential truth, in the end.
"I V Huckabees" is first and foremost a satire of cin-
ematic pretentiousness.
The ensemble storyline of "I V Huckabees" whirl-
pools around the interconnected lives of four individu-
als - an angst-ridden environmental activist, Albert
(Jason Schwartzman, "Rushmore"); an oddball fire-
man, Tommy (Mark Wahlberg); a knockout com-
mercial spokesmodel, Dawn (Naomi Watts); and a
smarmy corporate hot-shot, Brad (the ubiquitous Jude
Law in a pitch-perfect role). Taxing every ounce of
main-stream moviegoer patience, all four off-kilter
leads experiment with new age philosophy in a convo-
luted attempt to find meaning in their mixed-up lives.

Throughout the film, much of what appears to be
deeply philosophical is, in fact, satirical. "Huckabees"
does present a pair of competing life views - that
everything is interconnected and meaningful or that
life is a futile chaos and truth is derived only through
pain and isolation - but ultimately the film observes
that, in the case of these characters, neither approach
is more obviously effective. Russell is openly critical
of those self-righteous individuals who believe that
their way is "the" way and instead of espousing the
bizarre existential doctrines of his characters, he ridi-
cules them.
This movie is certainly not for everyone. Casual
filmgoers will be put off early and often by Russell's
singular and somewhat self-important focus, but the
beauty of "1 V Huckabees" is in its blatant disregard
for our affections. Like watching someone else's
crazy, convoluted dream, the film shines and dazzles
from a distance, and audiences who can avoid taking
Russell's jargon too seriously will thoroughly enjoy
this wild comic ride.

tion of blue-collar workers who support
Republicans. Even more interesting is a
tendency of middle class workers to take
strong action against liberals, based on
the angry brand of conservatism that
Frank terms backlash. "The Great Back-
lash," according to the book, "began with
the coming together of two very differ-
ent political factions: traditional busi-
ness Republicans ... and working-class
"Middle Americans." "What's the Matter
with Kansas?" traces the phenomenon
in Kansas, historically a radical hotbed.
Frank asks bewilderedly, "How is it that
the Kansas conservative rebels profess to
hate elites but somehow excuse from their
fury the corporate world, even when it has
so manifestly screwed them?"
Frank's witty style is superbly suited to
the investigation of this political anomaly.
His dry prose and clever description allow
the reader to follow the somewhat com-
plex ideas outlined in the book. Factual
information rides alongside keen analysis
and political insight, cultivated from years

of critical writing and observation. He
also uses, to much effect, his own experi-
ence as a born and raised Kansan.
Frank tells readers what he thinks
are the biggest political problems in
American politics: "One is the culture
wars and totally irreconcilable cultural
conservatism. The other thing is that the
Democrats will not talk to their base
and I think that is a terrible mistake. So
between those two things, you've got a
recipe for disaster, and that disaster's
name is George W. Bush."
Frank makes his opinion on the elec-
tion clear. Bush "took us into a war on
trumped-up facts and that in my opinion
is the worst crime you can do ... people
are dying." However, Frank is not hesitant
about criticizing his own party. "Kerry is
playing this ... the wrong way. "
Well written and researched, "What's
the Matter with Kansas?" is a strong
example of good political writing. It
avoids crudity and brashness and refers
to facts in order to support its arguments.
Frank writes for himself. "I don't have a
target audience. (I) try to bring out ... a
strong voice and strong ideas. That's what
it's all about."

fest and the characters who populate it can hear them-
selves rant, rave and implode.
Much like its abstract and silly subject matter, "I V
Huckabees" is a liberation from conventions - at least
from the commercial conventions that weigh down
most American movies - and the free-wheeling film


'Futures' Overstretches
emo band's adolescence

Sum 41 fail in attempt to fully mature

By Evan Mcarvey
Daily Arts Writer
"Confessional" art first arrived in
post-World War II America as a result of
new psychiatric techniques and a rash of
new pharmaceutical drugs. Intent on tap-

ping the discomfort
within a patient,
the therapist would
encourage them
to vent their frus-
trations into firey,
rage-filled creative
outlets that pro-

Jimmy Eat

Static Prevails, Jimmy Eat World have
been part of emo's ruling class. Lead
singer Jim Adkins has a soaring voice,
and the band's guitars spit out the sub-
stantial riffs the genre usually lacks.
The quality and substance of Futures,
their newest release, falls somewhere
between 1996's overlooked Clairty and
2001's much-hyped but wildly overrated
Bleed American. No matter how they try,
they've always got the scarlet letter of
emo stamped right on their forehead.
And that's what makes Futures so
awfully frustrating. As soon as Adkins
croons, "I was scared but once I thought
about, I let it go / Everything she said to
me I guess I ought to know," so much of
the band's melodic talent gets subsumed
into the horrible demon-beast of blog-
like lyrics.
On first listen, everything is tightly
packed and sung serenely enough to dis-
tract you from the middle-brow, "O.C."
worthy concerns. It's head and shoulders
above acts like Dashboard Confessional,
but it's still in that damn livejournal.com

cesspool. When the yearning, clapping
percussion on "Pain" kicks in, Futures
seems like it might just crack through
that weepy glass ceiling that fetters so
much emo. It never really does, thanks
to it's the album's sticky sweet piano bal-
lads ("Drugs or Me") and the cinematic
mawkishness of the songwriting.
Jimmy Eat World can still construct
a pop-rock hook, something sublime
enough to enchant even the most jaded
indie-rock listener. What this album fails
to do is flex muscles in any new direc-
tions; it's much like that fifth year senior
going to the same old haunts and hang-
outs. Jimmy Eat World knows its terri-
tory and covers it well, but it's time to
pick a major. Futures is pretty fun, but
it's high time to get out of a musical ado-
lescence and go find that future.

vivors for what was
supposed to be an
awareness-raising Sum 41
video. Chuck
This seems sur- Island
prisingly mature
for a group of guys
who claimed "we laugh when old people
fall," and who have remained steadfast on
their party-punk band shenanigans on and
off stage for half a decade. Nevertheless,
their harrowing tale of major-label good
deeds ended abruptly, as they were caught
in the crossfire of the Congolese army and
rebels. They were saved by a dashing U.N.
peacekeeper, Chuck, to whom they owe
their lives, continuing "TRL" status, and,
of course, new album title.
Thus the newest offering from Sum 41,

Chuck, is released with a renewed political
fervor. Rebels and "Jackass" pranks aside,
Chuck is, musically, a surprisingly mature
endeavor for such a pack of Warped Tour
After a monotonously guitar-picked
intro track, Sum 41 launch into a pair
of songs that add them to the bevy of
Canadian rockers who are interestingly
involved with what would appear to
be American politics (Sum 41 are avid
participants in the Rock Against Bush
Campaign). Sparkplug frontman Deryck
Whibley yelps: "Telling lies as alibis /
Selling all the hate that we breed super
size / Our tragedies in the land of the free"
in the well-placed lead single, "We're All
To Blame."
Chuck is filled with bigger-than-life
riffs, taking Sum 41 to a place where they
obviously wanted to be four years ago, cit-
ing "Maiden and Priest" as the rock gods
they praised. Without changing styles, the
band comes closer than it ever has to its
metal-punk persona and departs from its
rebellious, frat-party antics. "The Bitter
End" actually evokes an early Metallica
vibe, with heavy verse riffing and throaty
yelling topped by guitarist Dave Baksh's
searing, '70s-style arena rock solos.

Sum 41 still won't disappoint the
throngs of simple-minded fans looking for
destructive love anthems and lame party
sing-alongs, for the amount of grown-up.
content slightly overweighs the traditional
pop-punk most likely garnered from their
countless tours with cohorts Good Char-
lotte or Simple Plan. "Some Say" pains
the Hot Topic-laden crowd with lonesome
acoustic guitar balladry and a soaring cho-
rus that reminds the downtrodden listener:
"You don't seem to realize / I can do this
on my own / And if I fall I'll take it all."
One can only assume Whibley laments
life as he knows it without feisty, iconic
main squeeze Avril Lavigne.
Regardless of image, album history or
certain current-affair/publicity-gaining
events involving African nations, Chuck
proves to be more mature than and lyri-
cally superior to its predecessors. Still,
Sum 41 have growing to do. Although
they have shed much of their prank-
ster two-minute pop jaunts, they are
still guilty of annoyingly heavy riffing,
obnoxious call and response yelping and
kitschy lovelorn/political rhetoric. Sum
41 needs to do a better job proving they
deserved to be saved from the crossfire of
Congolese rebels.

vided a cathartic voice to the troubled
Unfortunately, the listeners now have
to deal with a glut of recently dumped
boys who've decided on poorly layered
rock songs as their confession of choice.
This occasionally powerful, occasionally
maddening genre is called "emo."
Since the release of their debut album,





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