April 18, 2005
arts. michigandaily. com
Mason Jennings performed at the Blind Pig on Friday.
By Jake Smith
For the Daily
ROCK OF AGES
ONE OF AMERICAS GREATEST COMEDIANS TALKS CAREER PATH
By Jeffrey Bloomer
Daily Arts Writer
As the most lauded and sought-after comedian
today - and according to a recent Entertainment
Weekly cover story, the funniest man in America
- Chris Rock has a confession to make: "I am
not as smart as people think I am." "A lot of times
people come up to me and they start talking really
smart. And I am like, 'Dude, I don't know what
the fuck you are talking about.' I am an intellec-
tual magnet. That happens a lot. I have to go, 'Hey,
just jokes! That's all I know - jokes!'"
Well, Rock also seems to know timing. Hot on
the heels of his recent gig hosting the Academy
Awards, Rock will costar in the Adam Sandler-
led remake "The Longest Yard" this May. Rock,
who plays a prison caretaker in the film, said
it was unclear how he landed the role. "Maybe
(Adam) Sandler wanted Will Smith and he said
'no,' " he said.
All kidding aside, Rock said that fellow Satur-
day Night Live alum Sandler was a central motiva-
tion for his appearance in the film. "I think it was
intended for me. This is what Adam said, so I will
take his word on it," he said, adding that his public
persona also played a role in the casting. "A direc-
tor hires Daniel Day-Lewis to be somebody else.
They hire Bill Murray to be himself ... I am the
guy you hire to be himself."
Still, Rock's role in "The Longest Yard" held
him back from what he is best known for - edgy,
no-holds-barred comedy. "It is hard. They rare-
ly make R rated movies," he said. "You have to
fight for an R-rated movie. You really do. It is
weird ... 'The Longest Yard' (is set in) jail and
it is PG-I3. Maybe (the rating) kind of restricted
me a little, but other than that I had a good time.
I prepared and I think I got a lot of funny out of
the role," he said.
And though Rock and his fans might miss his
signature hardcore wit, he said that he's taking
some time away from his primary outlet for rawer
humor - his stand-up comedy tours. "I wish I
was on tour right now," he said. "I am probably
not going to tour again until ... 2007. When I am
off, I kind of take a rest because you get to the
point where the world is what it is," Rock said.
"It's probably not going to change for awhile. So
right now, I'm on hiatus."
Rock also said that his work as a stand-up come-
dian, along with the work of other African-Ameri-
can comedy stars, is more influential than many
give it credit, especially in comparison to more
drama-oriented films of recent years. "(I) love what
Jamie (Foxx) and Denzel (Washington) have done
but ... you can't compare what they have done to
what Eddie Murphy has done," he said. "As far as
the African-American image on film, especially ...
the early Eddie stuff, I mean, that is comedy and it
reaches a much wider audience than those guys."
Rock added that he will continue to remain
true to his comedic roots. "I have done (drama)
like in 'Nurse Betty' and 'New Jack City.' I just
don't feel like starring in (another) dramatic
movie," he said.
As for his recent stand-up performance - the
Oscars - Rock said the aftermath has been most-
ly positive. "I get feedback on the street. People
seem to like it. As far as the celebrities - (I've
heard) nothing," he said, adding that his playful
jabs at Jude Law and Colin Farrell did not esca-
late into anything more after the show. "I have
no beefs, man. I am not 50. No beefs. The Olsen
twins, ok," Rock joked.
So can we expect him to return to the Academy
Awards next year? "Yes, if they asked me again, I
would do it again," Rock said. "It was the toughest
gig I ever had, but I have received more adulation
from it than anything else I have done, too."
Rock said that despite his time off, he will
return to the stage to continue the quick-witted
political and pop-culture commentary that made
him the celebrated comedian he is today. "You
have to rejuvenate. You don't want to sound stale
with the same old stuff." But no need to worry: "I
will be back guys," he said.
Compared with the energy at the
Blind Pig, the surrounding city streets
seemed unusually quiet and sleepy.
The mass of peo-
ple was eager to
hear the relatively Mason
unknown folk Jennings
Mason Jennings. At the Blind Pig
With a guitar
in hand and har-
monica strapped around his neck,
Jennings's influences were strong and
clear. Growing up in the booming
music scene of Minneapolis, Minn.,
Jennings showed a clear hint of Bob
Dylan's storyteller mentality with his
developing lyrics and vocal talents.
The intimate setting of the Pig
and its impeccable acoustics aided
his songs about his love life, home
and experiences traveling around the
country. "Crown" revved the engine
of the audience with its upbeat, simple
chord progressions and the conversa-
tional style of his vocal delivery.
The number of people who knew
Jennings's material and sang along
with his soulful ballads and bombas-
tic verses made the atmosphere elec-
tric for any newcomer to his music.
His limited choruses and repetitive
verses were hardly noticeable thanks
to the contagious passion fused into
the performance. The masses chimed
in during "Butterfly" when Jennings
questioned, "I don't know why it is I
do things like this / After all that I've
run from / Where the fuck did you
The mood calmed when Jennings
left his guitar to sit down at the key-
board. During "Duluth," the crowd
held up their lighters as he sang of
marriage and unrequited love from
childhood to maturity with melan-
While playing crowd favorites "Big
Sur," "California Part II" and "The
Mountain," his lyrics sparked the audi-
ence to respond to the ideal picture of
California and life he presented. The
roars of the crowd following "The
Mountain" overpowered Jennings and
drowned out all other noise.
Jennings's lifeless cover of Allison
Krauss's "Down to the River to Pray"
from the O, Brother Where Art Thou
Soundtrack, was completely out of
place. The harmonizing demanded by
the song didn't complement Jennings's
When Jennings finished his set
with "Keepin' It Real," from his most
recent album Use Your Voice, chants
of "Mason, Mason," assaulted the
stage. His presence was impressive
as he sang a fair mix of old and new
songs. He responded to the thunder-
ing crowd with a simple statement,
"Thank you for having so much fun."
Simple words from a man reveling in
By Jake Smith
For the Daily
'Rwanda' paralyzes with humanity
By Christopher Lechner
Daily Arts Writer
A brief history lesson: In 1994, the African country of
Rwanda was torn apart by a civil war between two ethnic
groups: the Hutus and the Tutsis.
"Hotel Rwanda" is the true story
of how hotel manager Paul Rusesaba-
gina (Don Cheadle, "Boogie Nights")
saved the lives over 1,200 Tutsi refu-
gees by offering them sanctuary in
Sometimes it's good to hear from an
old girlfriend. However, when she's only
got one thing to say, you get an experi-
ence as unsatisfactory and confusing as
Tweet's new album, Tweet
It's Me Again.
The follow-up to it's Me Again
her heralded 2002 Atlantic
where producing legend Timbaland
gave Tweet the hit single "Oops (Oh
My)" and Missy Elliott took the young
singer under her metaphorical wing,
Tweet returns to the studio with 15
tracks of smooth R&B melodies, seven
of which were produced by Elliott.
Sadly, Elliott's contribution don't go
further than a handful of whiny tracks.
Tweet tries to follow the standard
of R&B singers who mourn their love
life, but somehow she gets lost along
the well beaten path. The album is filled
"Bring me the head of Missy!"
with hackneyed lines: "I'm moving on,
making a new start / I'll make it / I will
live my life and surely it won't be with
you." Tweet covers everything from the
initial spark to breaking up and to the
emotional growth that comes out of it,
with all the Lifetime Channel frills in
One highlight of the album is "Ice-
berg," which begins with a soft Span-
ish guitar scale and melts into a smooth
but simple drum and bass beat. Tweet
cries out her frustration, "Love from
my family / Close without my frees /
They said you were no good for me /
But I didn't listen."
"Things I Don't Mean" features a sad
rap from Elliot, and the male manifesto
"Sports, Sex and Food" features the baf-
flingly blunt hook, "If you gotta know
the way, I'll show you / Pay attention
you need to know how to I Hook up a
meal / Learn a new move / The way to
his heart is sports, sex and food."
The occasional track like "You" and
"Steer" showcases Tweet's strong voice
and impressive vocal range. These feats
alone, however, don't save the album
from the pitfalls of mediocrity, Tweet
still simply sounds like she is whining
about her problems.
"When I Need A Man" is a shame-
less cross-promotion tool to celebrate
USA Network's remake of the 1970's
television show "Kojak." This tacked on
bonus track splits in tone from the rest
of the album and gives Telly Savalas a
reason to roll in his grave.
Though Tweet's talent is shown in bits
and pieces in It's Me Again, she leaves
the album with only a feeble tweet of
her considerable potential.
Filled with apathy, despair and
eventually hope, "Hotel Rwanda" is
an intricately woven biopic that focuses on the life of
Rusesabagina and his family. Rusesabagina is a Hutu,
but his wife Tatiana (Sophie Okonedo, "Dirty Pretty
Things") is a Tutsi. As a relatively wealthy hotel man-
ager, Rusesabagina is able to use bribes and influential
contacts from the hotel to procure safety for himself and
his family. However, his conscience gets the better of
him as he eventually puts his family at risk by sheltering
Tutsis in his hotel.
Don Cheadle turns in a mesmerizing performance as
Rusesabagina. He deftly displays his linguistic skills
again in utilizing an effective African accent, and he
succeeds in capturing the internal struggle of a man torn
between his instincts of self-preservation and his con-
science. Playing Rusesabagina's wife, Tatiana, Oscar-
nominated Okonedo is extremely effective at capturing
the terror created by the ubiquitous threats. In support-
ing parts, Nick Nolte ("The Thin Red Line") plays a
U.N. general and Joaquin Phoenix ("Gladiator") plays
a cameraman bent on showing the world the true nature
of this tragedy. Though the film tackles issues of death
and violence, the film shies away from the more graphic
courtesy of United Artists
Don Cheadle stars in 'Hotel Rwanda.'
Color and sound are crisp and clean on the DVD. Many
of the special features are dedicated to documenting the
actual events that happened during the Rwandan genocide.
Included are interviews with the real Paul Rusesabagina
and other characters depicted in the movie as they return
to Rwanda for the first time since fleeing as refugees. Espe-
cially haunting is their trip to a memorial for the victims of
the war - nearly one million by its end.
In a genre typically characterized by forced pathos,
"Hotel Rwanda" stands apart as a genuine testament to
the compassion of a man compelled to do extraordinary
works in the face of daunting odds. It is an emotion-
ally disturbing film about rampant apathy in the face
of unspeakable atrocities, and yet, for all the suffering
and death, it is ultimately a film that celebrates life and
human kindness. And this, above all, gives cause for
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