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March 22, 2005 - Image 5

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The Michigan Daily, 2005-03-22

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Tuesday
March 22, 2005
arts. michigandaily. com
artspage@michigandaily.com

ART s

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SRI LANKAN MC's DEBUT
A WORK OF VIOLENT GRACE
By Evan McGarvey
Daily Music Editor

Courtesy of Sony
"Please, sir, may I have some more?"
'Steamboy' deflates
under expectations

Out of all the landmark quotations associated with
rap music, the one that continues to resonate - the one
that haunts like a wraith of responsi-
bility - is Chuck D's famous claim
that "rap is the CNN of the streets." M.I.A.
True enough, when Chuck fronted Arular
Public Enemy and released albums XL I
like It Takes A Nation of Millions
To Hold Us Back, scholars treated
"Welcome to the Terrordome" and "Rebel Without
a Pause" as scions of a musical rebellion birthed by
James Brown and Grandmaster Flash.
It's fifteen years later, and captivating political
upheavals and shocking revolutions don't really hap-
pen in America. Instead, members of the most privi-
leged country in the world watch as young radicals
take up the tools of revolution in places like Bosnia,
Sierra Leone, East Timor and Sri Lanka.
Sri Lankan-born, London-bred child of Tamil war-
riors, M.I.A. is, in no uncertain terms, a revolutionary.
She is Huey Newton; she is Michael Collins. And her
debut album, Arular, is a ferocious hour of bhangra
wails scrambled with vintage electronics. In one
fell swoop, she harnesses the palettes of Kraftwerk,
Ice Cube and Gang of Four and uses each of their
strengths to achieve her own gains.
To fully appreciate the power of Arular, some
biography is necessary. M.I.A. (real name Maya
Arulpragasam) is part of Sri Lanka's Tamil
minority. Her father fought as one of the infa-
mous Tamil Tiger insurgents against the Sinha-
lese majority during the Sri Lankan civil war.
After their home was destroyed and assassination
attempts were made on her family's lives, Maya
and the Arulpragasams moved to London in 1986.
Raised in the east London projects, she honed her
English on classic American hip hop. Around the
same time she graduated art school, news of her
cousin's death in the war reached London. Armed
with a camera and Jay-Z CDs, she returned home,
intending to document the disenfranchised Tamil
youth. She ended up shooting an acclaimed film
series as she travelled through villages, sharing
rap music with teenagers who had no real youth
culture of their own.

By Zach Borden
Daily Arts Writer

Seventeen years have gone by since
the release of writer-director Katsuhiro

Otomo's revolu-
tionary anime film
"Akira." The classic
film about violent
teenagers in a futur-
istic Tokyo rebelling
against the govern-,
ment ushered in the

Steamboy
At the State
Theatre
Sony

Courtesy of XL

"I have the fashion sense of a fifth-grader."
A few years later, inspired by this collision of cul-
tures, M.I.A. began mashing up Bollywood sounds
with Jamaican dancehall tracks and adding her own
digital signatures. Frustrated with other female MCs,
she wrote songs for what would become her bootleg,
Piracy Funds Terrorism Vol. 1. Her clever theft of
mainstream rap arrangements, such as Lil Jon's beat
from "Goodies" and the Neptunes' "Clap That Boy,"
meshed well with her English/Tamil raps, creating near
hysterical Internet buzz for Arular. The album doesn't
merely justify the months of slavish anticipation; it's
bold enough and important enough to wipe the pop
music slate almost completely clean.
Take "Bucky Done Gun": What begins as a
hypnotic, silky loop of bleeps and sirens becomes
police-state-dancehall: "They comin' through the
window / They comin' through the door / They
bustin' down the big wall / And soundin' the horn."
For listeners ignorant enough to dismiss her lyrics,
there's a squealing dance track. Those willing to
pick apart M.I.A's accented words (and you'll want
to pay attention) will find a visceral manifesto of life
under violence. Not G-Unit violence - real, Doc-
tors-Without-Borders violence.

M.I.A. is a genius when it comes to juxtaposing
melodies and subject matter. "10 $" could be just
another club-feminism song, but listen again: Behind
the cascading Atari squeals, she's talking about get-
ting out of a war zone any way she can: "Got to
Yorkshire via Bangkok / Needed a visa / Got with a
geezer." After verses that smack away at the hypoc-
risy and uncontrollability of the sex trade, the grand-
standing slips into the chant of the chorus, "What
can I get for a 10 dollar? / Anything you want!"
The 11 songs on Arular never give up the musical
insurrection. Producer Diplo adds wonderful knots
to the pre-existing napalm platters of sound. "Fire
Fire" crackles with gargantuan kick drums and fore-
ground static. Singles "Sunshower" and "Galang"
contain enough whizzing effects to help the vocal
medicine go down smooth.
Arular picks up rap music and wrenches its
focus from the distended, self-indulgent American
scene to a world of young people who have no time
for the club or liberal-guilt coffee shop raps. Rap
is the body politic of the developing world. Rap is
power. Get ready for the revolution. It's been wait-
ing for you.

mainstreaming of Japanese animation
for American audiences.
After spending many years in pro-
duction and enduring several setbacks,
Otomo has completed "Steamboy," the
long-awaited follow-up to "Akira." The
film boasts all the visual splendor that
"Akira" did, but the film struggles with
its simplistic, dense plot and unimpres-
sive protagonists.
In Industrial Revolution-era Eng-
land, teenager Ray Steam (Anna
Paquin, "X2: X-Men United") is an
ambitious inventor, just like his father
Eddie (Alfred Molina, "Spider-Man
2") and grandfather Lloyd (Patrick
Stewart). One day, Ray receives an
invention called the "steam ball,"
which can release steam at high pres-
sures, from his grandfather. Even
though the steam ball is meant for
good, the evil O'Hara Foundation
wants to use it for war and will stop at
nothing to seize control of the contrap-
tion. Ray is eventually torn between
his father and his grandfather, unsure
which one of them is telling the truth
about who they are involved with.
Unfortunately, Otomo seems rusty
in the storytelling department. As
mature and political "Akira" was with
its meaty plotlines, well-developed
characters and social commentary,
Otomo's latest proves to be the com-
plete antithesis. The movie doesn't
offer any absorbing qualities other than
its period setting. Its handling of the
theme - how science should be used
for good - borders on cliche. The plot
of "Steamboy," while usually coherent,
feels loose, taking its terminology too
seriously and lacking any intricacies.
The American version of the movie

also hacks off 20 minutes; this is prob-
ably a blessing, as the inclusion of any-
thing extra would probably just weigh
things down more.
Most of the story's wasted potential
occurs in the development of its char-
acters, who are all given stereotypical
personality traits. While Otomo could
have created a dramatic focus on the
nature of the bonds between fathers and
sons, the director makes it clear that
he doesn't find personal relationships
between characters worth exploring.
Otomo may have also indirectly cre-
ated a new subgenre of Japanese anima-
tion - "Bruckheimer-anime." Besides
the standard characters, thin plot and
clunky dialogue ("Mankind will be
mesmerized by science's awesome
power!"), most of the movie is made
up of chase sequences and bombastic
action that don't add to the film's devel-
opment. The last 40 minutes of "Steam-
boy," during which Victorian London is
on the verge of completely destruction,
offers some promise but lacks tension,
faltering because of the grating, excru-
ciatingly repetitive violence.
The only real saving grace to "Steam-
boy" is its fantastic visuals, which are
presented in overwhelming detail.
While the animation isn't as ground-
breaking or intense as in "Akira," it
flows smoothly and is still a marvel to
look at - particularly in the film's ren-
dition of mid-19th century London.
The voice acting for the English lan-
guage version'isn't anything special.
Molina sleepwalks through his lines,
and even though Paquin successfully
speaks an octave lower to pass as a boy,
she could use more enthusiasm. The
only standout performance is by Stew-
art, who is convincing and passionate
with the readings for his grandfather
character.
"Steamboy" is a purely mechanical
movie: It's functional and is pleasing to
look at but offers no warmth or lasting
value. Those with a desire to see good
anime should rent "Castle In The Sky"
from esteemed director Hayao Miyaza-
ki. Miyazaki's 1986 film also takes place
during the Industrial Revolution, por-
trays robust characters and deals with
generational bonds much more compe-
tently. The biggest difference, though,
is that "Castle" actually has a heart.

'GT4' brings racing
series to a higher level

By Forest Casey
Daily Arts Writer

In the four years that passed since the
release of "Gran Turismo 3 A-Spec" for
Playstation 2, numer-
ous contenders have Gran
sprung up in the racing Turismo 4
game genre, all vying
for the title of best rac- PS2I
ing simulation. Pub- SCEA
lishing giant Electronic
Arts' "Need For Speed Underground 2"
0 has made great strides with intricate tuner
car customization, but it can't keep pace
with Sony's latest masterpiece.
After all, the "Gran Turismo" series
was the title that bucked the trend in '90s
racing games, presenting a racing compe-
tition that was more about actual racing,
not about shortcuts and power-ups. The
PS2 owes much of its success to "GT3."
"Gran Turismo" is a venerable series, but
can this latest iteration possibly live up to
the first three games?
Part of the series' mystique has been
its unforgiving level of difficulty. Before
even getting on a track, players must pass

a series of tests to receive licenses - tests
that required extensive study and a deep
understanding of racing theory and phys-
ics. The tests may seem laborious, but
gamers who get their licenses have learned
a real skill - something that should be
present in more games. This difficulty
is still present in "GT4;" it's just spread
further. Instead of five tests per license,
the game now has seventeen, although
they are much easier to achieve than ever
before - some can be passed in only two
or three tries.
When gamers do finally get to race,
they'll find more than 300 cars, pains-
takingly modeled down to the recorded
howls of each individual engine. The high
quality of detail that the developers put
into the cars and tracks is astounding, but
also functional - gainers can feel the dif-
ference in their vehicles with each tweak
of the limited slip, clutch or flywheel.
The after-market tweaking in "GT4"
makes "NFSU 2" - in which players
can install gullwing doors, sound systems
and neon to boost their car's "style rating"
- look superfluous. All of the upgrades,
just like all of the features in "GT4," are
directly related to racing, and rightfully
so: Even the biggest clump of parsley

Courtesy of SCEA

NASCAR, but without the trailer park.
won't make a bad steak taste any better.
Improvements over the last "Gran Tur-
ismo" - a significant change in roster,
new items to buy and two new modes
that aren't worth mentioning - are much
better than those in an annual "Madden"
upgrade. They might seem like slight
changes, but "GT4" is more than just a
minor improvement. For one thing, the
number and quality of the tracks is much
improved.
The inclusion of Germany's formida-
ble Nurburgring track is worth the price
of admission alone. It's massive, taking

about 10 minutes to complete a single
lap, and perfectly showcases "GT4's" new
speed simulation: At around 200 miles
per hour, the music and engine noise fade
as a huge-sounding rush of wind starts
filling the speakers. It's a crushing, tense
and frightening experience - the most
realistic representation of speed on a video
game to date.
"Gran Turismo" has come to stand for
real, unflinchingly difficult racing. It is a
passionate love letter written to the auto-
mobile, and it still is, without question, the
king of the driving game.

SHORT TIAKES
SOUTH PARK: THE COMPLETE Bin Lade ~ that aired only months after
FiFTuH SEASON the Sept.11 atakande.
PARAMOUNT tian of T welie, a dnig-addicted tewd.
Througout the season, "South Park"
When it first aired, "South Park" man he gahatmadeit s
was viewed as a flash-in-the-pan car. popular while also addressing issue
toon that relied fully on shock value, like sex education,
But nine years later, the show is being T seiial featur, however, are a
hailed for its irreverent takes on soci- disappoint, with nly "ini-com-
ety. "South Park: The Complete Fifth rment iyreatorTrey Paker;and
Season" shows the point at which it Matt Stone. "South Patk: The Com-
stopped being a cartoon filled with pleson"contains a standout
dirty jokes and became a social com- collection ofepisodes that should keep
mentary .with dirty jokes. eished viewers happyadsurpise
The DVD begins with the infamous others with its newfound intelligence.
"FCC" episode in which the word - Punft Mattoo
"shit" was uttered 162 times, mocking
the publicity over the use of the word Movie: ****
in an "NYPD Blue" episode. Other Picture/Sound:***
episodes contain a hunt for Osama Features: *

I 3

Of 'OURSF"R A Rew lTI~e
lounginil freepat ou new infosh p( dAndi e:
locally produoed music art, eand ft
books Ad-Aines neither yet censdred nor banned
organic coffee farmed with pride by Zapatista rebels

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