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March 21, 2005 - Image 8

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 2005-03-21

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March 21, 2005
arts. michigandaily.com

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"No Aidan! For the last time: Conditioner is better!"

Horror sequel brings
new scares and chills

By Jeffrey Bloomer
Daily Arts Writer

In the course ofjust two films, Samara
Morgan (Daveigh Chase), the tortured,
fearsome villain of "The Ring," has
become the stuff of dreams (or night-
mares) for adolescent American horror
fans. Samara is a sort of postmodern
Freddy Kruger whose mere screen pres-
ence elicits overjoyed shrieks from audi-
ences, and her freaky exploits continue
in "The Ring Two," a surprisingly com-
petent sequel to the 2002 hit that is just
about as entertaining as it is forgettable.
This time around, overworked
Seattle reporter Rachel (Naomi Watts,
"21 Grams") and her aloof son Aidan
(David Dorfman, "The Texas Chain-

saw Massacre")
relocate to a quiet,
coastal Oregon
town. They hope
to start their lives
over after their first
encounter with
Samara, the little

The Ring Two
At the Showcase
and Quality 16

creepy-little-kid factor tenfold.
Like the first film, itself a remake
of the 1998 Japanese horror phenom-
enon "Ringu," "The Ring Two's" big-
gest strength lies in its accomplished
production work. Propelled by strong
performances from its leads, a moody,
mesmerizing soundtrack and superior
photography, it is among the more skill-
fully stylized and executed instances of
gothic horror in recent years. The movie
also follows an increasingatrend in Hol-
lywood, as it is not only a remake of a
foreign horror flick but also retains the
director of the Japanese original, Hideo
Nakata ("The Grudge"), a wise move
that brings a nuanced visual flair to an
already stylistically impressive film.
As with the first film, however, the
feeble-minded screenplay by Ehren
Kruger ("Scream 3") strains much of
the movie's technical credibility. Far
more disturbing than any of its horror
elements, the film manipulates each of
its mother-child relationships into mur-
derous lunacy before completely shift-
ing gears in the denouement in favor
of superficial closure. And while "The
Ring" largely suffered from its tireless
25th-hour plot explanations and revela-
tions, "The Ring Two" is a more unre-
alized narrative that leaves many of its
story aspects conspicuously unresolved,
such as: Is Samara really the result of
some kind of satanic virgin birth?
Though these questions and others
linger when the credits begin to roll,
"The Ring Two" is a sufficiently sat-
isfying sequel that is probably more
spooky than it is actually frightening
but nevertheless functions precisely as it
was intended with only minimal snags
along the way. That said, an aspect of the
series that is commonly left unexplored
is that of the horrific, deadly VHS tape
emerging conveniently in 1998 - on the
brink of DVD's emergence in popular
culture. A silly observation, perhaps, but
it wouldn't be the first time the horror
genre was used as social allegory. And
now that home video is all but dead,
maybe in "The Ring Three" Samara will
finally find it prudent to release a round
of her death tapes on DVD.

It is more than a little unfair attempting to sum up
a week's worth of frenetic film-going in a single short
recap. The 43rd annual Ann Arbor Film Festival that.
took over the Michigan Theater for the past six days
presented hundreds of films and panel discussions in its
continuing endeavor to showcase the latest and greatest
of independent and experimental cinema.
Who needs Sundance to feel a part of the indie-hip-
ster scene? Saturday night found the Michigan The-
ater's decked-out lobby abounding in leather jackets
and silvered, slicked-back hair, with a live music trio
in one corner and a complimentary Starbucks table in
the other. Add the eager whispers buzzing about the
presence of indie actor Crispin Glover ("Back to the
Future"), and the night was ripe for some experimental
film-going in the singular, keyed-up vibe of a festival.
The Festival carried an especially homey feel, as its
one-venue format contributed to a cohesive atmosphere
that larger festivals lose with multi-theater sprawl. Each
screening was personally introduced by the festival
producer, and the audience itself maintained an ener-
getic buzz far more animated than that of a typical fri-
day-night movie crowd - the exact mood for which

By Kristin MacDonald
Daily Arts Writer

every festival aims.
The Saturday night sampling of short films
offered a taste of the different styles featured at the
festival, ranging from documentary to animation
to media manipulation. Off-beat subject material
proved to be their only similarity: One documentary
short highlighted the abnormally thick toenails of a
long time hitchhiker, while another piece, entitled
"Big Schtick," delved into the male fascination with,
well, precisely that. By cross-cutting a selection of
pop culture images - everything from Alec Gui-
ness with his light saber to Clark Gable with his cane
to Kubrick's "2001" monkey-men with their bones
- filmmaker Courtney Egan achieved the rare cin-
ematic feat of making Arnold Schwarzenegger's
Terminator appear to ruthlessly mow down a tap-
dancing Bing Crosby.
Due to the brevity of these films, a piece's acclaim
often came on the merit of its sheer visual originality.
One short in particular, detailing three true stories of
animal attack, utilized an incredible display of stop-
motion camera work, freezing a horse in mid-kick
while circling its outstretched hind legs in 90 degrees.
And the playful scratch-animation style of the screen-
ing's opening short gave the cartoon an audience-win-
ning whimsy. A sweetly humored tale of love among

LEFT: Decorations for the 43rd Ann Arbor Film Festival adorn the Michigan Theater lobby. RIGHT: The marquee over Liberty Street.

music players, "Hello" featured a creaky old gramo-
phone schooling a lonesome tape-player in the art of
wooing his mp3-player neighbor.
The winningly individual pieces, which made up
the majority of the night, happily escaped the overly-
experimental reputation that often plagues arts festi-
vals, though the tag "independent film" often conjures
such images as the "American Beauty" guy who found
profundity in videotaping windswept plastic bags. Of
all 10 pieces featured in the shorts screening, only one
or two fell under the category of criminally artsy and,
at the very least, they were short.
Perhaps the best indication of the Ann Arbor Film
Festival's multilevel appeal came with its own cinemat-
ic vignette shown prior to all screenings. Featuring a
man lovingly stroking his film camera to the oldies tune
"Dream Lover," the clip spoke to many casual audience
members merely of a filmmaker's love for his medium.
But to the true cinephiles of the indie-film community,
the clip also c ried a special reference by cle rly allud-
ing to "Kustom Kar Kommandoes," a 1965 short knowij.
well but not widely. That the festival clip could cater so
easily to both audiences is an appropriate introduction,
forthe festival itself, which cdfftnues to entertain and
inspire the general public while staying true to the indie
roots from which the whole event sprung.

girl from the first film who was left in a
well by her stepmother and whose vid-
eotape mysteriously kills viewers seven
days after watching it. But it's not long
before she finds them again, apparently
pissed off that Rachel has destroyed one
of her now infamous death tapes.
From there, the story goes in a mark-
edly different direction than that of the
first film, moving into a bizarre tale of
possession that takes heavy cues from
"The Exorcist." Namely, it seems that
Samara no longer wants to kill Aidan,
but rather become him. It's easy to iden-
tify the scenes where she has possessed
him because of the film's clever play
on words: Aidan refers to his mother as
"Rachel," and so when he starts calling
her "mommy," you know that shit's about
to hit the fan. The bulk of the remaining
plot is spent on dead-end subplots involv-
ing Samara's ever-expanding history and
the often unintentionally funny misad-
ventures of a demonic Aidan, whose
wide-eyed glances alone elevate the

Accdaimed Ish fluist
plays classics at Hill

By Jessica Koch
Daily Arts Writer

A hush descended upon the audi-
ence at Hill Auditorium as the
stage doors swung open Saturday

night, revealing
a knight with
his shining flute
in hand. World-
renowned artist,
Sir James Gal-
way, was, to say

Sir James
Hill Auditorium

the least, comfortable on stage Sat-
urday night- something expected
from a man who has performed for
such notables as President Clinton,
Queen Elizabeth II, Princess Diana
and Pope John Paul II.
Galway, a multi-platinum selling
flutist, began the evening with Fran-
cis Poulenc's Sonata for Flute and
Piano, which Galway likened to "a
stay in a hotel"; the fast paced, high-
pitched melody created the bustling,
overwhelmed atmosphere. The open-
ing melody of the Allegro Malinco-
nico was analogous to the familiar
"Hello, how are you?" catchphrase of
hotel employees. The sonata contin-
ued with abrupt shifts of both rhythm

and mood, including a cheery "walk
in F major" melody appearing in a
later movement.
The performance continued with
a selection of Claude Debussy com-
positions. Galway captured the true
essence of the French composer's style,
attaching vivid romantic imagery to
the melodious arrangement. One of
Debussy's most famous works, Clair
de Lune, was of special significance to
Galway. "It was one of the first pieces I
learned to play," he said.
As the evening continued, Gal-
way went to "fetch her Ladyship,"
his wife, Lady Jeanne Galway. Then
with a formal bow to one another, the
pair began the Hungarian Fantasy
for Two Flutes and Piano, Op. 35.
The duet featured a bouncing melo-
dy with rhythmic runs that switched
between them as though the two
were dancing rather than playing.
Upon the completion of the per-
formance, Galway returned to the
stage with three popular encore
performances. With the aid of his
wife, Galway performed the famous
Mozart duet, Rondo Alla Turca,
which he cleverly mentioned "was
originally commissioned for two
flutes and a piano." Galway, born
in Belfast, proudly displayed his


Sir James Galway and his magical flute.

Irish roots with the famous hymnal
"Danny Boy," bringing tears to eyes
of many audience members with his
serene tone. The atmosphere was
drastically brightened, however,.
with "58 seconds in A minor," more
readily known as the delightful

Flight of the Bumblebee, which Gal-
way added winged imagery to with
the use of his flutter tongue.
With Galway's complete mastery
of classical flute and its repertoire,
audience members were truly treat-
ed by a musical knight.

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