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November 24, 2004 - Image 5

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 2004-11-24

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November 24, 2004
arts. michigandaily. com



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

Ron Artest's Rap Career - Well, it looks like the basketball thing
isn't happening for him this season, so he may as well focus on pro-
ducing the worst CD this side of K.O.B.E. That fan with the beer sure
looked threatening ...
The Facebook - Maybe it's because students are lusty for friends,
but this thing is awesome. There are so many features to keep even
the most studious kid away from their homework. Check it out at
www.thefacebook.com and be sure to join the David Hasselhoff
Fan Club.


By Zach Borden
Daily Arts Writer

It may seem a little strange at
first that director Oliver Stone chose
to tackle a period epic as his latest
film. Stone, who is one of the most
political filmmakers of all time, is
best known for telling controversial


"Seinfeld" on DVD - It's almost here! It's
almost here! The greatest sitcom of all time
arrives on DVD for the fans who can't survive
just watching the 17 repeats on every night.
Not that there's anything wrong with that ...

stories dealing
with politics,
1960s culture
and Americana
Yet in compar-
ing "Alexander"
to a majority of

At Showcase
and Quality 16
Warner Bros.

"Closer" - We fully expect the Mike Nich-
ols-directed film to be a fine cinematic
achievement, but more importantly, it will {
be the greatest DVD of all time. Why
you ask? A deleted scene featuring a
nude Natalie Portman. Amazon is now
taking pre-orders.

Stone's other work, the story of the
legendary conqueror fits right in: it
examines war, controversy and a tor-
tured protagonist, and the movie is a
heavy-handed biopic. Unfortunately,
Stone's past experiences in crafting
biographies do not serve him as well
as the audience might expect.
"Alexander" portrays the life of
Alexander the Great (Colin Farrell),
the young Macedonian king. Stone's
method for storytelling is nothing
original, and it is particularly hard to
buy into. The movie is told in flash-
back by Ptolemy (Anthony Hopkins),
who accompanied Alexander on his
It's widely known that Stone is a
filmmaker who isn't afraid to cause a
lot of controversy, and he is a master
at articulating debatable topics that

are sure to get the public's attention.
"Alexander" is no exception, particu-
larly regarding sexuality. Alexander
is portrayed as bisexual and while
there is nothing incredibly explicit
between two men, there is a strong
homosexual subtext to the film.
The movie also falls victim to a
reliance on motifs and symbolisms
that lack subtlety, particularly in the
constant appearance of a hawk and
snakes One of the most surprising
aspects of "Alexander" is that the
film only features two legitimate
battle sequences. Stone has appar-
ently fallen in love with slow motion,
as that technique is overused and
barely effective. At times it is hard
to follow the action due to the con-
fusing editing and unstable camera,
but the grandeur of these gigantic
fights work best when Stone uses
wide angles that lend a tremendous
scope to the fighting.
Much of the success of "Alexan-
der" lies upon the shoulders of Colin
Farrell, who does an admirable job
as the protagonist. Farrell's por-
trayal is dynamic, as he makes the
character heroic, believable and even
sympathetic. Val Kilmer is over-the-
top as Alexander's father Philip, and
Angelina Jolie - complete with an
absurd Russian accent - hams it up
as the conqueror's mother Olympia.
Only Farrell and Jared Leto ("Requi-
em for a Dream") as Hephaestion -
who is finely subdued - give decent
Yet even for its prodding nature,

Courtesy of Warner Bros.

"The O.C." - Seth is bumming
on Summer. Ryan is acting like
a nerd. Marissa is freaking out.
Could this show get any better?
Yes, only if Ron Artest decides to
give up rap and join the cast of
FOX's stylish soap. Or at least
until Chrismukkah returns.

We kill our turkeys humanely!
"Alexander" still manages to be
entertaining at times and gives an
intriguing, if atypical look at a his-
torical figure who has become much
more than a legend. The costumes
and detailed sets are beautiful to
behold, and even Vangelis's unique
and fitting score is bearable. Stone
must be given some credit for ven-
turing out into new territory, even if

his overall product is rather flawed.
It is certainly a challenge to con-
dense such a remarkable life, and it's
refreshing to know Stone isn't afraid
of challenging himself as a film-
maker. "Alexander" doesn't come
close to being a great epic, but it is
far from being a complete failure.

Courtesy of FOX

'Want Two' pulls at
the heart of Rufus

Mellow 'Perceive' fails to
advance artist's repertoire

By Evan Mackinder
Daily Arts Writer

By Alexandra Jones
Daily Weekend Editor
Rufus Wainwright is missing some-
thing. The genetically talented, operati-
cally trained (his parents are Canadian
folksingers Loudon Wainwright III and
Kate McGarrigle) and very, very openly
gay male chanteuse has released Want
Two, the second
installment of I
tracks recorded Rufus
concurrently with Wainwright
2003's spectacu- want Two
lar Want One. But
Want Two, the Geffen
darker and more
intense of the two albums, lacks a clear
voice. As a whole, the album's tracks
don't support each other to create any-
thing bigger than the best song, "The
Art Teacher," and only a few individual
tracks stand out from the rest.
Both albums feature Wainwright's
sublime vocals and highly developed
orchestration, but they're maddeningly
different from one another: One's ide-
ology revolves around a sort of sophis-
ticated New York glory, underscored
by sumptuous baroque trimmings, but
Two's ideas are more scattered, mov-
ing from psych plainchant "Agnus Dei,"
to soft piano ballads, "Peach Trees," to
major-keyed, Mozart-inspired technique

pieces like "Little Sister."
Listeners may have expected Two
to follow One's tonal shifts between
poppy exuberance and hyperbolic sen-
sitivity with material that's less clearly
polarized, and that's exactly what Wain-
wright did. However, without these
obvious extremes, Wainwright's over-
arching ideas are lost in the miasma of
styles and characters stuck uncomfort-
ably together on Two.
The more Wainwright-esque tracks
on Want Two, "The One You Love" and
"Peach Trees" recall the great songs
that appear on Want One - love songs
combining piano and a backing band.
But others, like "Hometown Waltz" and
"Memphis Skyline," sound like almost-
there attempts at love songs, not finished
pieces of music. Closing track "Old
Whore's Diet" is a cyclical, rumba-
inspired duet with a vocalist only identi-
fied as "Antony." The track, clocking in
at nearly nine minutes, detracts from the
album's - and Wainwright's - musi-
cal integrity with the near-constant rep-
etition of "An old whore's diet / Gets me
goin' in the morning."
Despite the fact that Wainwright has
linked the dregs of the Want sessions
together so poorly, Want Two contains a
few beautiful tracks that rival any of his
previous work. Penultimate track "Crumb
by Crumb" features a cool, in-motion nar-
rative voice languorously singing "Sud-
denly you are the one / Who opens the


gates to this unruly garden / 'Cause baby
I got to get through / Crumb by crumb in
this big black forest." Want Two doesn't
peak with acoustic ballad "Gay Messiah"
as some listeners may have anticipated,
but the innuendo and metaphor behind
it are both hilarious and ingenious, and
its chorus - "Better pray for your sins
/ 'Cuz the gay messiah's coming" - is
utterly timeless.
Want Two's finest track, "The Art
Teacher," rivals even the gorgeous "Beau-
tiful Child," "Dinner at 8" and "11:11"
from Want One. Wainwright's velvety-
silver voice tells the story of a private
school girl who has a secret crush on her
art teacher over a tense, repetitive piano
ostinato: "He asked us what our favorite
work of art was / But never could I tell
him it was him." Occasional horn leaps
between verses add a rich sadness to the
story. When Wainwright sings "He told
me he liked Turner / And never have

I turned since then / No, never have I
turned to any other man," his voice alone
eclipses the expansive orchestral produc-
tion found on the more indulgent Want
One. The DVD packaged with the album
- a mixture of concert footage from his
show at the Fillmore in San Fransisco and
short episodes of Wainwright hanging
out on the street and visiting his cousin's
new baby - includes a live performance
of "The Art Teacher" that mesmerizes
viewers when coupled with Wainwright's
While the confident, sophisticated
queen leading his audience down Park
Avenue on Want One can make any
listener feel like a diva, the guy behind
Want Two is a "Wizard of Oz" figure, a
man behind the curtain who isn't giving
up any secrets.

Owen is Mike Kinsella, a one man
effort to put you to sleep. Kinsella gave
up his vagrant indie wanderings in
and around Chicago three years ago,
and has since settled into his new per-
sona by the grace of Polyvinyl Records.
Since then, Owen has become a sort of
comfort zone, bor-
dering on sedative
and depressing, Owen
emanating from i Do Perceive
your speakers and Polyvinyl
tugging slightly on
your heart strings
with lyrics like "But you should go -
I'll be OK / I promised myself I'd final-
ly start that book I've been meaning to
read about the French Revolution."
If Owen's latest effort, I Do Perceive,
adds anything to his resume, it's the
expansion from three-to-four minute
lulls to five-to-six minute lulls. Like
all of Owen's albums, he concentrates
on delicate but structured songs built
from a soft acoustic harmony. Think of
Owen's music as a river: Delicate, flow-
ing sounds sweep the listener's atten-
tion in a current of dream-pop sounds
as Kinsella's voice emanates from every
direction, yet never breaches a whisper.
Previous songs like "Accidentally" found
Owen using single hooks to draw sym-

pathetic, vulnerable listeners as Kinsel-
la's instrumentation - multiple guitars,
synthesizers, keyboards - seamlessly
fills through verses, ascending and
descending into simplistic strumming
or cacophonous interludes.
Perceive follows that trend through
its entirety (all eight tracks), the best
examples being "Bed Abuse" and
"Put Your Hands on Me, My Love."
By using only soft, somnific melodies,
Owen finds the perfect echo to his
lovelorn lyrics and, like both of Owen's
previous albums, the topics of Perceive
don't stray from the range of broken
relationships and the placement of his
indictments. I Do Perceive, being the
third album to showcase this same
music, establishes this sound as "typi-
cal Owen."
Throughout his three-album solo
career, Kinsella has chosen not to build
upon or even refine his sound. Owen's
ethereal music, while inviting and easy
to listen to, is so repetitive that not only
could all eight tracks of this album be
one, but his whole career could con-
densed into a single track. While "Bed
Abuse" and "Lights Out" are standout
tracks, his self-titled debut has been his
best album, and Owen might owe this
to the debut of his attractive dream-
pop sound. After three albums, it has
become repetitive. And because Kin-
sella will not leave this comfort zone, it
seems Owen will never be more than a
two-and-a-half-star artist.

Album: ***
DVD: ****

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