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November 16, 2004 - Image 8

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The Michigan Daily, 2004-11-16

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0

Tuesday
Novermber 16, 2004
arts. michigandaily. com
artspage@michigandaily.com

Th blr irbItun Jti1g
RTrS

8

.. .. .. .. .. . .. .. ... .. .. .. .. ... . . .. .... ... ............ . ........

ZAC

PESKOWITZ

Is Bob Parr for Bush?

N
'S

( ( he Incredibles" is the most
pleasantly surprising film
of the year. While Pixar has
established a track record of beautifully
animated and nicely scripted produc-
tions, "The Incredibles" goes far beyond
this usual formula. I expected a visually
enticing treat with a few mediocre jokes
worked in to keep the audience interest-
ed, but I found something more signifi-
cant that verges off into a meditation on
the family, the potential for human great-
ness and politics. And while it would be
shocking to find that a film from a studio
owned by Steve Jobs might have a right-
ward bent, the National Review has made
a compelling case that "The Incredibles"
is a conservative film. This isn't the fire-
breathing type of Republicanism that is
prominent in American electoral politics,
but a style of quiet conservatism.
The National Review's interpretation
of the film, which the magazine called
"a superhero action movie about the
sanctity of marriage," hinges on family.
At its core, "The Incredibles" is a story
about a family that is forced to conceal
its special talents so that society will
not have to bear the costs of their great-
ness. Writer-director Brad Bird ("The
Iron Giant") pivots the story around the
workaday struggles of Bob Parr, an ex-
superhero struggling to come to grips
with his displacement to mediocrity in
the suburbs and his family of would-be
superheroes. Their lives are filled with
small insults. Dash, the eldest son of the
Parr clan, is proscribed from joining his
school's athletic teams so that the other
students won't feel bad about their rela-
tive shortcomings. His sister Violet is a
morose teenager who dreams of becom-
ing as average as her peers. In the world
of "The Incredibles" the net effect of this
focus on equality for equality's sake are
stunted and insecure children who inhab-
it a dreary world. An interesting debate is
currently playing itself out on the online
magazine Slate where David Edelstein,
the magazine's film critic, has been pub-
lishing letters from readers arguing over
Branson
one-ups
Trump at
reality
By Abby Stotz
Daily Arts Writer

the film's political orientation. From here
you can make a few observations about
the corrosive effects of liberalism, link
them together in a tenuous argument
about President Bush's re-election and
the return of conservative values to the
center of American life.
This rendering of "The Incredibles"
misses some of the more interesting con-
tradictions in the film. Parr works in a
soul-crushing, spirit-numbing insurance
agency, where he's forced to reject the
legitimate insurance claims of his clients.
In between his unscrupulous endeavors,
Parr is forced to endure the slings and
arrows of his arrogant boss.
The depiction of the suburbs in the
film would be equally unacceptable to
a true believing conservative like David
Brooks of The New York Times. Life
in the expansive suburbs is filled with
conformity and cookie-cutter homes and
the Parrs are forced to hide their talents
from the eyes of prying neighbors. At
times the film channels the final scene in
"Goodfellas" where a discouraged Henry
Hill philosophizes from his subdivision,
"Right after I got here I ordered some
spaghetti with marinara sauce and I got
egg noodles and ketchup. I'm an aver-
age nobody. I get to live the rest of my
life like a schnook." This distaste for the
sprawling exurbs isn't exactly the stuff of
contemporary conservatism.
Of course, these inconsistencies are
unlikely to discourage writers from
appropriating "The Incredibles" to sup-
port their pet causes. The appeal of using
"The Incredibles" lies in its popularity,
and without that enormous box office
gross there'd be little interest in these
interpretations. The desire to twist and
manipulate the message of a film corre-
lates nicely to the success of a film. I'll
continue to wait endlessly for the day
that someone cites "Seed of Chucky" to
defend their beliefs.
- Zac's right, as always. If you
disagree with him, e-mail him at
zpeskowi@umich.edu.

Courtesy of Paramount Classics

Rejects from "The Goonies."

UFTHED UCREEKC
COMING-OF-AGE DRAMA SUCCEEDS WITH NOVICE DIRECTOR

By Jeffrey Bloomer
Daily Arts Writer

MOVIE REVIEW*
As with many films about young people, "Mean
Creek" pivots around a bully and his victim. But
while others in the same genre only artificially con-

sider their characters, "Mean
Creek" is an absorbing chroni-
cle of a group of teenagers that
become involved in a disturb-
ing event that could have eas-
ily occurred in real life. The
resulting film is imperfect in

Mean Creek
At the State
Theatre
Paramount Classics

be slightly disturbed but suffers mostly from lone-
liness. There is also Sam (Rory Culkin, "Signs"),
George's feeble target who turns to his older broth-
er (Trevor Morgan, "Jurassic Park III") and his best
friend (Scott Mechlowicz, "Eurotrip") for help.
Together, they form an ill-fated plan for revenge,
one which goes hugely awry. The beauty of "Mean
Creek," though, is that it is not about what actu-
ally happens, but how the characters react to it.
The scenes that follow the climax skillfully con-
sider each of the youths' emotions, and capture
them masterfully. Instead of veering off into famil-
iar territory by becoming a morality play or an
after-school special (last spring's "Saved!" comes
to mind), the film doesn't waver. It devotes itself
entirely to its characters, as each one of them real-
izes the magnitude of what they have done and the
far-reaching consequences of their actions.
"Mean Creek" marks the feature debut of writer-
director Jacob Aaron Estes, whose skill in surveying
the characters is refreshing and admirable. Still, his
direction is somewhat amateurish; there is an over-

reliance on the banal use of handheld cameras and a
disappointing final sequence that is so shameless in
its emotional aims that it feels contrived and unwor-
thy of what precedes it. Estes's screenplay, on the
other hand, emerges as the film's enduring backbone.
It is remarkable in both its realistic depiction of youth
and its unflinching account of the events that occur.
Besides Estes's screenplay, the other keys to "Mean
Creek's" success are the superb performances of its
many young actors, all of whom completely invest
themselves in their roles. This is a film that totally
commits itself to its characters, and the young cast
succeeds tremendously in bringing them to life.
"Mean Creek" is an emotionally piercing and
affecting drama, an unconventional triumph that
lingers in its audience's mind long after it's over.
It is not flawless, but does something that the teen
genre too rarely attempts: It examines its charac-
ters completely and realistically. Audiences will
scarcely find a film about young people that is this
thoroughly considered, and told with this level of
emotional realism.

many ways, but it is nonetheless a triumph over
standard fare. It is a powerful drama about the pres-
sures of youth and the choices they lead to.
A selection of both the Cannes and Sundance
film festivals earlier this year, "Mean Creek" fol-
lows a somewhat ordinary setup. There is George
(Josh Peck, "Snow Day"), the stock bully who may

Isis follows up breakthrough album,.

By Chris Gaerig
Daily Arts Writer
Music RavnwI* *
From the band's inception in 1997,
Isis have consistently shown their abil-
ity to transform the hardcore sound,
while never forget-_
ting their aggres-
sive, dense and Isis
powerful essence. Panopticon
With every release, Ipecac
Isis become more
artistic and less
brutal. Their last album, 2003's Oce-
anic, was a mixture of classic hardcore
and progressive, instrumental rock. On
Panopticon, Isis's latest release, they
deliver more long, epic songs - all of
the tracks registering at more than six
minutes - indicative of Oceanic. Fol-
lowing such an ambitious and experi-
mental record is a task that Isis perform
with the grace and skill of a veteran
group.
The record's opener, "So Did We,"
begins with enormous guitar riffs, driv-
ing percussion and lead singer Aaron

Turner screaming his lungs out. How-
ever, Isis's experimental side reveals
itself shortly thereafter. With the drums
still present, the band falls into a min-
ute-and-a-half section of clean guitars.
When the band returns to its hardcore
roots, the most obvious change from its
older material becomes present: vocals
sung rather than screamed. Many times
throughout Panopticon, Turner's deci-
sion to sing rather than scream, adds
a new perspective to many of Isis's
songs, but occasionally hurts the band's
power.
The choice to have sung vocals on
Panopticon shows Isis's furthering
of their artistic approach to the hard-
core sound, for better or worse. It adds
a wholly new aspect to the songs, but
Turner has yet to perfect the blending of
the two. Occasionally, his vocals sound
out of place. With the power of the
music, and the essentially lackluster and
weak vocals, Turner is drowned out.
However, he does occasionally suc-
ceed. The untrained croons may be an
attempt to relay a message not gener-
ally perceived on past material, but Isis
sends a powerful message with the liner

notes and cover art.
The second track, "Backlit," is more
of the same stellar immensity. The band
intermittently changes from heavy
guitar riffs to undistorted intertwin-
ing lines. This continues until nearly
the four-minute mark, when the band
begins a three-minute crescendo. Its
ability to layer a new guitar or bass
line and keep the buildup interesting is
astonishing. It culminates with Turner
and his now sonically destructive band
creating an aural onslaught until the end
of the song.
Panopticon's , greatest strength
- and oddly enough, one of its weak-
nesses - is that it simply delivers more
of the same: more powerful epics, more
thrashing guitars and more overbearing
instrumentation. Following an album
like Oceanic can be devastating to a
band's career. Too much change, B-
sides and an enlarged ego are all pos-
sible problems. Isis miraculously avoid
all of these and create new material
while staying true to their newly found,
revolutionary sound. Isis proves with
Panopticon that they have carved their
niche in the musical world.

Gouriesy or ruA

"The Rebel Billionaire" follows the
trend of media moguls using reality
TV as an extended interview. Rich-
ard Branson, the current president of
Virgin Worldwide, is looking for his
replacement in a surprisingly enter-
taining show that
lets him make all
the rules. The Rebel
Sixteen par- Billionaire
ticipants start out Tuesdays at 8 p.m.
vying for the posi- FOX
tion and will be
whittled down one
by one each week. There are group
competitions followed by elimination
competitions - ultimately decided
by Branson. In the first episode alone,
contestants have to cross a plank
between two hot air balloons, stand
on top of the wing of a flying airplane
and have a tea party floating in a hot

Looks like he lost the bet.

air balloon.
For all of these competitions,
Branson flies the contestants to vari-
ous foreign countries. Watching the
awkward American culture clashes
is always funny. The eliminated con-
testants don't find out they're headed
home until Branson tells them on the
tarmac. They then have to watch the
plane take off - this show's version
of the goodbye speech seen during the
credits of so many other reality shows.
Because he controls everything in
"The Rebel Billionaire" universe, the
contestants worship Branson like a
British god of business. One contes-
tant justifies a choice just because "it's
something Richard would do."
The charismatic Branson has a lot
to do with the appeal of "The Rebel

Billionaire." He sits back and smiles,
amused by these people he basically
controls. Branson also makes Trump
look like a slouch, actually getting out
and climbing the sides of hot air bal-
loons and sitting gleefully on the wing
of an airplane. He truly is the Indiana
Jones of corporate moguls.
"The Rebel Billionaire" isn't perfect
- the contestants are hardly original
and there's an excess of voiceovers
during the competitions. The women
start arguing in the first half hour,
and viewers don't need to hear "I'm
really scared" as they watch a woman
trembling on a plank to get the point.
Despite those small flaws, "The Rebel
Billionaire" is remarkably entertain-
ing for a reality show and well worth
watching.

Viewers will 'Hate' Spike TV's latest

By Nick Kochmanski
Daily Arts Writer

DA Ly ARTS. WE JUST BLUE OURSELVES.

Finally, a network has listened to
its fans. Finally, a cable network has
risked it all to please the people. Final-
ly Spike TV has given Rev. Al Sharp-

Make a Statement on campus.
The Michigan Student Assembly (MSA) has proposed 18 amendments to the Statement of Student
Rights and Responsibilities.The Student Relations Advisory Committee (SRAC) reviews the proposals
and advises the President. Representatives from MSA, SRAC, and the Office of Student Conflict
Resolution (OSCRa Unit of the Division of Student Affairs) will be on hand to answer
atn lu t your nuestions about the proposals.

ton his very own TV show.
That's right, Spike TV's latest real-
ity series, "I Hate My Job," is hosted
by none other than the famed human
rights activist and perennial caucus
loser himself. Surprisingly, Sharpton
does an adequate job of controlling
the show and of motivating the con-
testants, but sadly,
lags behind his
noble efforts. I Hate My Job
"I Hate My Tuesdays at 9 p.m.
Job," like many Spike TV
other reality TV
shows these days,
is essentially a makeover show, and a
bad one at that. Essentially, the series
features eight frustrated men who
dream of a better career. Spike TV
thinks Al Sharpton and his mysterious
hottie friend can help make this dream
a reality by forcing the guys to undergo
a series of challenges in an attemnt to

Courtesy or Spike IV
Who needs to be president?

&I

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