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February 15, 2005 - Image 5

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 2005-02-15

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February 15, 2005
arts. michigandaily.com



By Jacob Nathan
Daily Arts Writer
It is undeniable: Sage Francis thinks that he's a
prophet. There is a gap, however, between what he
thinks of himself and how that image comes through
on A Healthy Distrust. On his fourth album, he
simply cannot escape the fact _
that he is a white rapper from Sag Fr
Rhode Island. Expounding ge ranis
important views on politics, A Healthy
drug use and problems with Distrust
the music business, Francis Epitaph
pokes holes in right-wing logic
with intelligent execution.
However, he lacks originality both in approach and
delivery. His undeniable sense of self-importance
and unfocused messages are what cost him points
in the prophet department. He struggles and ulti-
mately fails to overcome his novelty act status. On
A Healthy Distrust Francis spins his lines over cal-
culatedly gritty beats, but even the strongest tracks
don't make up for the album's lack of direction.
For all his wit, Francis occasionally explores cli-
ched territory throughout Distrust. The track "Prod-
uct Placement" offers an all too standard view into the
world of drug use. Francis's slowly building narrative
is interesting enough, but he still comes off sounding
disingenuous and fraudulent when he quietly raps,
"There's a huge rock hurling through space / Won't
you help me light it?" It's hard to imagine that, even
with help, he'd be lighting up any rocks. The song's
problems arise when Francis doesn't sound as though
he raps from experience. The song's descriptions are
distant, and he is overly preachy.
A strangely disturbing part of the album is the
bizarre "Voice-Mail-Bomb-Threat." It is unclear
whether or not this was actually left on Francis's
voicemail, but in any event, the anonymous individual


Cupid and the theater

Sage Francis performs at the Blind Pig last spring as part of the "Fuck Clear Channel Tour."

leaving the message doesn't appreciate Francis' sact.
The caller threatens Francis's life with surprisingly
harsh tones and even harsher language. The track is
the closest Francis comes to a skit, and its appeal dis-
appears after the first listen.
Even when he can get his rhymes out smoothly,
they often do little but showcase his considerable ego.
At the end of the obnoxiously catchy "Dance Mon-
key," Francis repeats "When the bomb hits / Whose
music will you look to for shelter?"
Despite the self-indulgent moments, Francis defi-
nitely succeeds on many important levels. His contro-
versial political outlook, not surprising for someone
who sponsored the aptly named "Fuck Clear Chan-
nel Tour," elevates the album above its weaker points.
When Francis goes after the current political climate,
his criticisms are clean and sharp as he tackles big
business and foreign policy with studied daggers and
genuine irony.
On the opener, "The Buzz Kill," Francis sets the
tone for the album as he raps the lines, "I freedom
kiss the French for their dissent," and closing the song
with, "The U.S.A has cracked." Francis successfully
appropriates the attitudes of those feeling politically
abandoned after Nov. 2. He channels this frustration
on the track "Slow Down Gandhi" by referencing
Kent State, challenging health care and promising to
have Ted Nugent's head up on his wall. At his most
searing, he assails the American public's complacen-

cy with the lines, "You support the troops by wearing
yellow ribbons / Just bring home my motherfucking
brothers and sisters." These heavy statements are
almost comforting in the hands of Sage Francis; his
bluntness is refreshing.
The album's closer, a small, simple song called
"Jah Didn't Kill Johnny," plays as a tribute to a friend
that Francis lost. Only at the end of the song does it
reveal itself as a requiem to Johnny Cash. The song
stands out as one of the most successfully realized
on the album, and Francis manages to strip away his
whole persona for this heavy-hearted tribute. He sets
himself apart from his peers, as this track honors an
incredibly unlikely - although not entirely surpris-
ing - icon.
With A Healthy Distrust, Sage Francis has craft-
ed a wholly cantankerous and politically informed
rap album. Although there are many intelligent
ideas explored, his missteps are at times sizable.
The methods he employs in challenging the war in
Iraq are admirable, and his more general criticisms
of the American political scene are presented in
a straightforward way. When Francis abandons
hip-hop conventions and seeks to develop his more
distinctive qualities, Distrust is powerful. His
voice is exciting, albeit a little rough around the
edges. His unique brand of social commentary is
both troubling and reassuring, making Distrust a
worthwhile listen.

Yesterday was the day of
Cupid, hearts coupling and
passion. One would think
these ingredients make for the per-
fect excuse to see a play or a concert.
I could think of a million produc-
tions that deal with the theme of love
- a million concerts that could and
should have run.
But surprisingly, I couldn't find a
single play or concert that ran on Val-
entine's Day. This is huge because we
hail from the University of Michigan,
a university touting an impressive
music school and an abundance of
fine arts events. Every day there are
productions, from Basement Arts to
the University Musical Society.
Realizing the news of this sud-
den shortage of plays and concerts, I
have to admit I was mad. For once, I
actually had a boyfriend to share this
decidedly Hallmark day with, and
it was my honest and pure intent to
culturalize him - whether he liked
it or not. *
And so now I make my plea. For
one day a year, women - and I'm
sorry to make the generalization
for all females, but honestly when
was the last time you heard your
boyfriend beg you to see "Romeo
and Juliet" or "Midsummer's Night
Dream" - get to drag our significant
others to something we want to see.
Oh, I've sat through "Scarface" a
couple times, but on Valentine's Day,
I am endowed with the power of Hall-
mark to drag his ass off the futon and
to the theater.
But alas, cruel fate, here is where
we meet our match. The Kryptonite
to our newly polished Supergirlfriend
alter egos, this year there was nothing
- not one play, one musical or one
opera that ran on the celebrated holi-
day. Ughh. I guess I could just bitch,
but instead I want to know why. I
know it was Monday, and, believe me,

I've had a case of the Mondays more
than once. But, come on, couldn't
there have been even one exception,
If Hallmark can make millions of
dollars from this commercialized
holiday, I feel as if the fine arts world
can cash in as well - and I'm more,
than happy to help them out.
Maybe more than just a reflec-
tion of the holiday, this could be a
farfetched reflection on society in
general. I know I'm jumping to con-
clusions here, and I am admittedly'
a tad out there, so bear with me
Maybe we're so set in our ways -
so set in our mindset that Mondays
are immediately equated with work
- and in general, just sucking, that;
no matter what, the fine arts world
feels that it could never lure people
in on such a cursed day of the week:
- even if such a day happens to start;
with a "V."
I don't know about you, but this'
could have been one Monday when:
a smile would have graced my face.
One Monday, where, after the tedi
um involved in school and all that it,
entails, I could have looked forward
to cuddling up with my boy and being
swept away by the magic enacted in
front of me on a stage.
This could have been a Monday not
cursed with a red stapler but blessed,
with a red curtain. And for all that
this Valentine's Day could have been,
and, for what it stopped short of, I
urge those inv olved in performances{
to widen their tunnel vision.
Yeah, Mondays are prone to suck,
but when the Monday is correlated
with a day meant just for lovers, then
they need to run performances.
- Are you a guy who doesn't like
all this Fine Arts stuff on Valentine's
Day? E-mail Victoria with your com-
plaints about the lack of football cov-
erage at victoros@umich.edu.

. film flies
past failure
By Adam Rottenberg
Daily Arts Editor



Filmmaking is too often con-
cerned solely with the bottom line.
Kerry Conran's "Sky Captain and the
World of Tomor-_
row" reinvigo-
a rates a sense of Sky Captain
wonderment and and the
adventure into World of
a medium that Tomorrow
would rather play Paramount
it safe than chal- _
And though "Sky Captain" proved to
be a failure at the box office, its charm
and wit endures on DVD.
Borrowing heavily from the adven-
ture serials of the 1930s, "Sky Cap-
tain" transports viewers to a world
reminiscent of the Max Fleisher
"Superman" cartoons - filled with
art-deco skyscrapers and old-fash-
ioned robots. These visuals are what
separate Conran's adventure film from
the rest of the pack. With a washed
out color palate that emulates the
Technicolor of a bygone era, the blue-
screen actioner looks just as good on
DVD as it did in theaters.
Jude Law stars as Joe "Sky Cap-
tain" Sullivan, a virtual superhero in
the art-deco world. Called into action
whenever there is trouble, Joe flies

Courtesy of Paramount

"I'm sorry Gwyneth, but I must Elimidate you."

his plane into battle to fight giant
robots and save the planet from an
evil genius. Aided in his journey by
precocious reporter and former lover
Polly Perkins - Gwyneth Paltrow in
a pitch-perfect performance - Joe
traverses across the world to stop the
madman. Joe and Polly's chemistry
and quarrelling carry much of the
film, but Angelina Jolie nearly steals
the show. Though Jolie appears only
briefly as an old-flame who leads a
military outfit, she makes the most
of her screen time in a commanding
role filled with plenty of spunk and
The unique filmmaking process
- the entire movie was shot on blue-
screen with no locations or elaborate
sets - is captured in great detail on
the DVD's features. The two commen-
tary tracks - one with Conran and
the cast and another with Conran and
the technical crew - offer insights
into the vastly different experiences
from the shoot to post production. The

bluescreen-enabled Conran to shoot
the movie on a shoestring budget (for
an action film) and the documentaries
depict the almost indie atmosphere of
the production process.
But the most satisfying extra is the
inclusion of a short film version of the
opening minutes of "Sky Captain"
made by Conran a few years before
the big-screen effort. The surprisingly
well made film utilizes the same blue=
screen techniques that the director
would later refine in the full-length
version to great effect.
Not since "Raiders of the Lost
Ark" has a film so effortlessly brought
excitement back into theaters. Unfor-
tunately, most people missed out on
this remarkable movie the first time
around. With its release on DVD,
hopefully "Sky Captain" will finally
find the audience it deserves.

Ayacucho & Lima

This is B.U.

Film: ****
Picture/Sound: ****
Features: ***,

This could be you.

C..but can't get out? 0




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