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January 19, 2005 - Image 10

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 2005-01-19

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The Michigan Daily - Wednesday January 19, 2005 - 10



By Amanda Andrade
Daily Arts Writer

The little prince of rap

K anye West.
Last year at the State The-
ater in Detroit you kept the
crowd waiting for more than two
hours before you decided to stumble
on stage and slur your way through
your equally rank album. Even
when you traipsed across stage you
couldn't silence the pockets of fed-up
and frustrated fans shouting, "Fuck
Kanye! Fuck Kanye!"
Now I know I'm pretty much alone
in slandering your art, your perfor-
mances and your general ethos. The
College Dropout has become the
year-end object of worship for seem-
ingly everyone from The New Yorker
to record shop owners in Bed-Stuy.
You've taken credit for bringing the
following things "back into hip hop":
introspection, collared shirts, humor,
intelligence, cleverness and Jesus.
With a chip roughly the size of K2
lodged firmly on your shoulder, you
refuse to praise other producers and
have drunkenly proclaimed yourself
"the biggest producer in the game."
Remember that? It was right before
you started performing a song, forgot
the words and demanded that we, the
audience, sing it in your stead.
For the record, Kanye, your sole
production trick, speeding up vocal
tracks until the vocals sound like
helium-fed chipmunks, is a pithy rip
off of DJ Premier's scratching tech-
nique and Just Blaze's furious loops
of sound.
Okay, so "Stand Up" and "Guess
Who's Back" buoyed Ludacris's and
Scarface's albums respectively. Good
job, you made a hit song. That's your
job. In terms of sales performance.
and diversity of work, I'd place you
somewhere behind Timbaland, the
Neptunes, Dr.Dre, Swizz Beatz, Just
Blaze, Hi-Tej, Lil' Jon, Red Spyda
and Irv Gotti. It's been easy for you
to get on the charts; you've worked
with Jay-Z and other Roc-A-Fella
stars for most of your career. Bad
things generally happen when you
stray from your comfort zone. That
song you did with Brandy for her lat-
est album, "Talk About Our Love,"
how long did that stay in rotation?
About three weeks? Thought so.
Behind the boards your reputation
is a bit inflated. But the cruelest chat-
ter flowing through the hip-hop world
started up when you made the worst
move of your young career: You
started rapping. Honestly, it's not fair
to completely ravage your flow. Not
all of us are blessed with a Method
Man or MF Doom caliber voice. But
really Kanye, most of the time we
can hear you gasping for air in the
middle of your 16 bars. Common and
Talib blew you out of the water on
your album and your take on reality
involves folding shirts at the Gap and
bitching about how you had to go to

God has always been at the fore-
front of rap. When B.I.G. raged
against the mindless drug hustling
who was he demanding answers
from? When Scarface and Bush-
wick Bill were burdened with guilt
and remorse, from whom did they
seek solace? You aren't the first art-
ist to rap about God. You're the first
artist to yell his name 20 times in a
song and call it innovation. Some ill-
advised mix-tape appearances later
and your complete lack of breath
control, horrible syntax and childish
self-involvement doomed the album
before it even dropped.
In truth, you got lucky. The blue
chip magazines (Time, Entertain-
ment Weekly, etc ...) piled on the rap
bandwagon, and Dizzee Rascal and
50 Cent found themselves getting
shout outs in The New Yorker. Your
album was released on third base and
you think you hit a triple. If anyone
had made an album as middle-brow,
pseudo intellectual and self-congrat-
ulatory as yours, they probably would
have reaped the lion's share of the
praise. Instead, most critics seemed
content to overlook Ghostface and
MF Doom and gush over a young
black man who was so daring to talk
about college.
And that, Kanye, is your most
frustrating sin. In inane skits and the
loose "concept" of College Dropout,
the recurring characters are gar-
ish stereotypes of college-age black
youth. You claim that you are just
making sure that colleges don' t'"use"~
black students, but what do you mean?
You claim that college doesn't really
improve the socio-economic status of
young men and women but what do
you know about practical knowledge?
You're the spoiled son of a university
professor mother and college edu-
cated-father who used his free ride
to college to study piano. You're a
hypocrite and fraud who claims that
a wardrobe of Ralph Lauren sweaters
and deluxe leather backpacks makes
you less materialistic than the Rolex
flaunting men at Cash Money. You
misrepresent your generation, your
peer group and you presume to give
life lessons that you yourself have yet
to learn.
You may fool the public, but history
and art are not so easily swayed. The
sand foundation of stolen ideas and
limp rap ability on which you have
built your home will collapse and
then Kanye, you will be as stranded
and forgotten as the fans you neglect
at each show.
Evan secretly wishes that he were
a tenth of the rapper Kanye West is.
Exchange fetish pieces from your
Kanye shrines with him by e-mailing

Any Jennifer Garner fan still harboring hopes
for the artistic success of "Elektra" are, well,
probably the same ones __________
who swear she's still dating Elektra
Michael Vartan and preg-
nant with his charming little At the Showcase
French babies. The movie is and Quality 16
a muddle, full of strands that 20th Century Fox
go nowhere and a plot that
builds to absolutely nothing.
Still, the flick is mercifully short, and Garner
rocks her red corset like she's putting Adriana
Lima out of business.
"Elektra" opens with a prologue that sets up
the movie's fatal characteristic - a laughably
somber tone that it will bear through its entirety.
There's nothing inherently wrong with a movie
that takes itself seriously, but when the central
premise is a hot babe with shampoo commercial-
grade hair who fights the forces of evil in skin-
tight leather, the aggressive moodiness is totally
uncalled for.
The prologue also reveals that there are some
ninja bad guys (the Hand) who want the Treasure,
which will be protected by Garner's superheroine
Elektra. She's a humorless, ass-kicking assassin
whose powers include bursts of super speed, the
ability to see about 20 seconds into the future
and the power to recreate every bad comic book
cliche imaginable. Elektra falls for a charming
widower ("ER" star Goran Visnjic), whose young
daughter aspires to be just like her.

"Quick Vaughn, the F-150!"

The film's strength is undoubtedly its visual
style. Apart from boasting a good-looking cast,
the sets are gorgeous and often inspire more
interest than the story. Additionally, the light-
ing and composition of the shots are unconven-
tional enough to lend the film a highly cinematic
feel, even though that style gets old pretty fast.
Apparently there's a threshold for how many half-
lit close-ups of Garner's well-shadowed cat eyes
a person can take before getting either bored or
angry. "Elektra" crosses that line with belligerent
Luckily for the action film, the fight scenes
are excellent, possessing both jazzy effects and
prudently short running times. If the villains are
never more than one-dimensional baddies with
ambiguous motives and origins, one of whom
bares a striking resemblance to kitsch queen Elvi-
ra, it's some comfort to know that at least they
never hang around too long.
Far more troubling is the film's young pro-
tagonist, Abby (Kirsten Prout). Not only is the
character cliched and irritating, but Prout is com-

pletely unappealing and unlikable in the pivotal
role. Her screen father, Visnjic, at least appears
to have some charisma, although this quality
may simply be an illusion created by lack of
screen time. But for better or worse, it's Garner's
film. She's a peach, but she's saddled with some
of the most derivative, cheeseball dialogue of
any film this year. Worse yet, she plays the role
completely straight.
A great deal of emphasis is placed on Elek-
tra's past, her obsessive-compulsive behavior
and her burgeoning maternal instincts. She
fights battle after battle to protect Abby and her
father, while presumably tangoing with her own
inner demons. Does this culminate in any grand
battle? Anything to tie all the various episodic
threads together? Not really. The film just passes
out with a little whimper, inoffensive and thor-
oughly painless.
While it's unlikely anyone will clamor for a
sequel, "Elektra" isn't a bad way to spend an
hour and a half of one's life. Think of it as a
super-sized "Alias."

Tepid thriller continues downward spiral

By Nick Kochmanski
Daily Arts Writer

Although M. Night Shyamalan's
latest thriller "The Village" is not
his best, it is still an adequate film
- providing thrills, chills and a
sweeping story. The movie cen-
ters around an
old settlement
nestled in a The Village
forest clear-
ing. According Buena Vista
to village lore,
the surrounding
woods are filled
with ancient creatures that devour
any citizen that dares to leave the
safety of the village and venture
into the forbidden forest. After an
accident in the settlement, however,
a young girl must venture through
the woods, driven by love, to save
her husband-to-be.
Though the plot may be strained,
the visual aspects of "The Village"
showcase Shyamalan's natural gift
for capturing beauty onscreen. His
mixing of color and light, espe-
cially in the evening scenes where
the only source of illumination is
a small lantern or torch, is majes-
tic. The visual splendor of the film
shines on this crisp and clear DVD.
The picture leaps off your television
screen; graphically, "The Village"
In terms of storytelling, however,
Shyamalan shows less flair than he
does for camera work. At times his
tale of love and courage can be plod-
ding and boring. There is the occa-
sional thrill, but they are broken up
by long, stiff speeches from many
of the characters. Often the movie
seems to take itself too seriously,
and sacrifices some of its charm and
spookiness for long bouts of socio-


Courtesy of Buena Vista

"Why Grandma, what big teeth you have!"


logical drivel. In the end, these thin-
ly veiled lessons harm the delivery
of the now-standard twist. The once
grand thrill is reduced to a mere
parlor trick.
If taken as a showcase for what a
talented young director can do visu-
ally, "The Village" presents itself
well. Compared to his earlier films,
this latest effort displays artistic
growth behind the camera. How-
ever, on a plot level, "The Village"
falls far behind even "Unbreakable";
this proves to be Shyamalan's weak-
est script yet.
To add to the frustration and
anguish watchers may feel, the
DVD's special features fail on their
promise to shed light on the mystery
surrounding "The Village." While
there are a few interesting tidbits,
most of the features are disap-
pointing. The additional scenes, for
instance, were deleted for a reason,
and watching these Shyamalan out-
takes is underwhelming. One excit-
ing little nugget on the DVD is the
director's trademark home video

from his youth. Seeing a young
director posing as Indiana Jones in
his parents' backyard is a hilarious
addition and a welcome breath of
self-effacing humor to the DVD.
Released alongside the Buena
Vista summer spectacle was a fea-
ture-length documentary on all
things Shyamalan, produced by the
Sci-Fi channel. This same documen-
tary has now been brought to DVD
for a simultaneous release with
"The Village." The documentary
is essentially a plug for the film. It
contains false intrigues and mysti-
cisms about the director, including a
hilarious Ouija board scene. As the
documentary progresses, it becomes
clear that this is all part of master
plan - to promote himself into
stardom. The makers of the docu-
mentary at one point try to draw a
comparison between the young boy
in "The Sixth Sense" and Shyama-
lan himself. Utterly baffling.
While the special features aren't
completely disappointing, both

movies are bland and mediocre. For
a filmmaker who's made a career
based off paralyzing the audience
with suspense, the special features
are lukewarm at best. The docu-
mentary fails to reveal anything
substantial about Shyamalan, except
maybe his sense of humor and lust
for personal mystique. "The Sixth
Sense" and all of its unparalleled
success seems to have burndened
Shyamalan sadly, he seems to be
suffering under the expectations.
The same visuals that anchored us to
the suburban gothic beauty of "The
Sixth Sense" echo here, but perhaps
Shyamalan has run out of plot tricks
to pull of out his hat. With such a
pedigree of suspense and the burden
of expectations, "The Village" fails
to live up to the three high-profile
films preceding it.


Film: **,I
Picture Quality: ****
Special Features: ***



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