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October 25, 2004 - Image 9

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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 2004-10-25

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ARTS
Mediocre 'Grudge' provides meek frights

The Michigan Daily - Monday, October 25, 2004 - 9A

That's for "Gigli," that's for "Jersey Girl," that's for "Pearl Harbor."
'Christmas' implodes
with dreadful plot

HUM, d11 411 V 1d111111211Ul YI'V lCt
in similar genre pictures: "When someone dies in the
grip of a powerful rage, a curse is born." A curse that,
in this case, manifests itself in the form of a little
Japanese boy who makes meowing noises and a CGI
woman who makes more silly sounds while floating,
crawling and just generally acting freaky all across
Tokyo. Enter Sarah Michelle Gellar (TV's "Buffy
the Vampire Slayer"), a gifted actress who frequents
horror flicks (see also: "Scream 2," "I Know What
You Did Last Summer"). With ease, she finds herself
at the center of the fright, as a social work student
living in a haunted house. From there, she and other
characters - most of which are essentially present
to increase the body count - are haunted, chased,
sucked into beds, de-jawed, driven to suicide and
drowned.
Despite its hackneyed setup, "The Grudge" does
take some welcome steps away from the horror con-
ventions it otherwise embraces. Most noticeably, its
events are out of sequence, which works surprisingly
well, as they never become incoherent and they allow
for the creepy history of the curse to play out in full
effect. Also, thanks to producer Sam Raimi (recently

By Ian Dickinson
Daily Arts Writer

Mirror, mirror on the wall, "Is my career over after all?"

known for directing the "Spider-Man" series but who
got his start in horror with the cult favorite "Evil
Dead"), the film retains Takashi Shimizu, the Japa-
nese director of the original "Grudge" franchise. Shi-
mizu is a skilled filmmaker who admirably attempts
to bring his native flavor to the United States. He
keeps the original's Tokyo setting, making liberal use
of disturbing images and often leaving the violence
to the viewer's imagination. His efforts see limited
success because inevitably, domestic audiences crave
blood and guts more than they do substance.
"The Grudge" is appropriately creepy and, helped
in part by Christopher Young's silly but effective

score, achieves an adequately chilling atmosphere.
Still, it doesn't come close to "The Ring" in these
terms; the latter is a far better film both in craft and
use of its cast, setting and villain to spook the audi-
ence. Nonetheless, for what it's worth, the cheaply
jolting delights of "The Grudge" will likely satisfy
the October horror void audiences are always eager
to fill. This time next year though, it will be a chal-
lenge to find anyone who remembers this film as
anything other than "the one where the Japanese girl
goes psycho on Buffy." Alas, that works for general
audiences and so year after year, safe bets like "The
Grudge" will keep getting made.

When a Christmas movie is released
a full two months before the winter holi-
days, there is good reason to worry. "Sav-
ing Christmas," featuring Ben Affleck
and "Sopranos" star James Gandolfini
uses a messy script, an asinine plot and
poor acting to communicate its super-

ficial and cliched
message.
Affleck stars as
a recently dumped
and lonely yup-
pie who pays off a
suburban Chicago
family to take him
in for the holidays

Surviving
Christmas
At Quality 16
and Showcase
Dreamworks

'Hip' offers lackluster history of counterculture

By Julia Suarez
For the Daily

BOOK REV.S.W
What is hip? John Leland begs the
question, but never exactly answers. He
opens with the statement, "... everyone
can name it when they see it." Obvi-

ously not, because
in 400 pages of
sometimes-dry
prose, Leland
outlines cultural
movements and
personages he

Hip: The
History
By John Leland
Harper Collins

mainstream. Hip is a lot of different
things and people. Leland groups the
evolution of hip in terms of six his-
torical eras, discussing enslavement
of blacks, the Lost Generation and the
Harlem Renaissance, the Beat Genera-
tion, punks, hip-hop and the Internet.
Leland definitely knows his history
- some chapters of the book are rich
in information and pleasurable to read
because of their insights into the ori-
gins of American culture.
Yet despite his extensive historical
knowledge, Leland presents the read-
er with a problem that he never fully
resolves. If hip is an ephemeral concept
that's based on self-renewal, then what is
the point of this book? Leland states that
he's trying to capture a "deeper aspect
of hip," one that involves America using
the vehicles of hip (writing, music, film)
to talk about itself. Unfortunately, at

times Leland loses sight of his aim,
dropping many names with little or no
explanation. Though he provides an
in-depth discussion of the evolution of
American music as a response to the
differences between black and white,
many of Leland's other references seem
fleeting at best. Because of name drop-
ping, the deeper aspect of hip becomes
harder to grasp - and the concept of hip
seems more like a laundry list of people
who have left their mark on American
culture, rather than any concise, unify-
ing theme.
Perhaps a nonfiction book isn't the
best way to teach people about hip's
history, though. With only a handful of
black and white pictures, "Hip" is prac-
tically all prose. Some of the music and
literature mentioned would be better lis-
tened to or read than briefly discussed.
It would be more helpful if "Hip" came

with recordings of Charlie Parker, Miles
Davis, Lou Reed and copies of "On the
Road" and "The Confidence-Man" to
make up for the spots where Leland's
powers of description fail. After all, it's
more interesting to read "On the Road"
than to read about it. Realistically, more
photographs would aid Leland in get-
ting some of his points across.
It seems likely that a person who
actually is hip would have problems
picking up, let alone finishing this
book. Even bookworms would be
hardpressed to read every chapter.
Though the discourse on the origins of
the trucker hat and Leland's discussion
of why hip is as cyclical as a woman's
menstrual cycle or a man's ejacula-
tion - and yes, he actually wrote that
- are mildly entertaining, they don't
make up for the dryness that is "Hip:
The History."

and relive his memories of youth. Gan-
dolfini, the gruff working-class patri-
arch, and his wife (Catherine O'Hara,
"A Mighty Wind") reluctantly pretend
that Affleck is their son for the duration
of the Christmas season. The situation is
further complicated by the arrival of the
couple's daughter (Christina Applegate),
who refuses to play along while Affleck
attempts to reconcile with his ex.
The film's low quality is frustrating
because, if nothing else, it's well-casted.
While Affleck's inability to act is well-
known, Gandolfini is perfectly suited for
his role and O'Hara ranks as one of the
great comedic actresses of the last sev-
eral decades. Unfortunately, Gandolfini
and O'Hara are merely complements for
the distinctly unfunny Affleck's slap-
stick gags.
Credited with four writers and direct-
ed by Mike Mitchell, the maker of
"Deuce Bigelow: Male Gigolo," "Sur-
viving Christmas" is understandably a
poorly made film. None of the filmmak-
ers are able to shed light on the charac-
ters' redeeming qualities, as if none exist,

which is especially bizarre for a Christ-
mas film. Affleck exploits a working
family in turmoil, which is apparently
funny because he pays them $250,000
for the privilege.
That the film pretends to claim some
moral imperative is especially insulting
to the audience. While last year's "Bad
Santa" was, in truth, a great Christmas
movie because of an expressed and
consistent nihilism, "Surviving Christ-
mas" director Mitchell tries to have it
both ways. The film's message changes
from the depression of the holidays
to the importance of family and back
again. It's confusing, incoherent and
not at all funny.
The jokes are in especially bad taste
as well, which is normally fine, except
in this case, where the filmmakers seek
some sort of heartwarming legitima-
cy and a "family film" classification.
Everything is recycled. Gandolfini is
the stereotypical working-class brute
with the heart of gold. The characters
are all foi-mulaic, from O'Hara's house-
wife, to her son's (Josh Zuckerman,
"Austin Powers: Goldmember) porn-
addicted teenager. All characteristics
are beat into the ground. This becomes
especially trying for the viewer with the
arrival of "Doo-Da" (Bill Macy, "Ana-
lyze This"), an actor hired by Affleck
to play the grandfather, who introduces
a plethora of unfunny incest jokes into
the mix.
Essentially, "Surviving Christmas"
tries to have it both ways. Under the guise
of a Christmas film, Mitchell attempts to
create a dark comedy and a heart-warm-
ing family film. He fails, miserably, fall-
ing somewhere safe in between the two.
It's not quite offensive, but the comedy
tests the limits of a PG-13 rating. Mitch-
ell fails, Affleck fails and the film fails in
every aspect except in making it difficult
for the viewer to sit through the 90-min-
ute wreck of a film.

sees as pivotal to
the American ideal of hip. To Leland,
hip is romantic: Hip is about the dif-
ferences between races, the intelligent,
the ironic, the gays, the drug abusers,
the misogynists. and the fringes of

8 r- _ -

Michigan Union's Centennial
Silent Auction
How much would you pay?
Chris Perry Signed Football.......$25
UM Alumni Lifetime Membership....$150
20 GB iPOD .............$100
Tom Brady Signed Football.........$35

Come to the Fifth Annual Housing Fair, where hundreds of U-M students will be
searching for off- and on-campus housing options among displays from
private landlords and University Housing. The City of Ann Arbor will have an
informative exhibit and numerous commercial vendors will be promoting their
housing-related goods and services. We encourage you to take advantage of
this opportunity to share experience and information about housing in the
Ann Arbor area.
Monday, October 25, 2004
1:00-5:30pm
Michigan Union Ballroom
There will be refreshments and give-aways, so come enjoy! We look forward to
seeing you at the largest gathering of Ann Arbor's housing market.
University Housing Staff

Suite Seating for

2 for UM Hockey game???

Lunch with VPSA Royster Harper ????
Supporting the Michigan Union's Building and
Scholarship fund....
Priceless!

--?mow

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