September 19, 2005
arts. michigandaily. com
Uwee 3ridligan aiyi
In defense of Britney *
Clockwise from left: Guitarist Ray Toro of My Chemical Romance; vocalist Gerard Way of My Chemical Romance; and vocalist/guitarist
Matt Skiba of Alkaline Trio perform on Saturday at the Eastern Michigan University Convocation Center.
POP-PUNKERS ROCK OUT IN YPSILANTI
If there's no experience in a wom-
an's life as sacred, fulfilling and
life-affirming as the profound act
of giving birth, then the ubiquitous
princess of pop should be feeling a
cozy inner glow this week. Britney
Spears, our culture's primary source
of male fantasy, female ado-
ration and preteen anorexia
brought forth a sweet little
new fragrance this past
week. And she popped out
a kid to boot.
On Wednesday after-
noon, US Weekly was"
the first to call the pop
singer's first successful
step toward overpopulat- '
ing the earth (her musical AM
attempts at world destruc- AN
tion now foundering). Her
website boasted an exuberant Spears
kissing a doo-rag-donning Kevin
Federline with baby-blue letters pro-
claiming to the world, "It's a Boy!"
and a statement as touching as it was
grammatically incorrect, "We are
ecstatic to announce the birth of our
son! Everyone is happy, healthy and
It's been a long journey for Spears,
and America has walked every mile
by her side: From media reports of
her dalliance with the family man
Federline, to short-lived outrage at
his desertion of pregnant girlfriend
Shar Jackson, to her over-the-top
wedding (hey, it's her prerogative)
and finally to rabid media reports of
her reported pregnancy. And in the
home stretch, we've seen a photog-
rapher shot at her baby shower and
enough photos of the bikini-clad,
barefoot, baby mama to turn us off
celebrity gazing for a week.
So, Britney, congratulations. We
loved you circa 1999, and we totally
dig that Curious scent. We're just con-
fused at the moment because, for all
the media hype surrounding the birth
of your little progeny, all the continu-
ing speculation about what the Sped-
erline offspring will be christened
(US Weekly's call of PMS Federline
sounds pretty good), no one is entirely
sure why you're still here.
When Spears first hit airwaves
across America, she was decked out
in a naughty schoolgirl uniform with
pink poofs in her plaited hair, a cheer-
leader routine and a somewhat unorth-
odox plea for domestic violence. As
fetish novelty acts go, Britney was a
hit and an overnight superstar. The
moral implications of her image were
discussed ad nauseum, with outraged
soccer moms decrying the singer's coy
and subversive sexuality.
Then came the hits - "Crazy,"
"Oops, I Did it Again," "Stronger"
- and they kept coming. And the
schoolgirl that everyone knew was a
fad became a pop-culture icon, the
definitive face, moniker and, for bet-
ter or for worse, voice of a generation.
She sings, she acts, she peddles per-
fume and an unattainable image of
She even remains famous when all
the substance of her empire has crum-
bled around her. Britney hasn't head-
lined a major hit since "Toxic" and that
was only a punctuation of an even lon-
ger dry spell for the one-time hit facto-
ry. Even her overhyped duet with that
other pop-culture diva, Madonna, did
the scrubbiest, scruffiest,
sketchiest and all-around
skeeziest man you could
imagine into existence.
Kevin Federline, backup
dancer and expectant
father, despite all objec-
tions of morality, sanity
and basic hygiene, won
the heart of America's
most famous pop tart,
and the joyful couple
embarked on a career-
crushing whirlwind of
If that weren't enough, the whole
circus was documented for the spec-
tacularly unsensational UPN reality
show, "Britney & Kevin: Chaotic."
The tedious celebration of love failed
in its debut, and only got worse in
subsequent airings. Combined with
sagging album sales and a nonexistent
film career, Britney's only profitable
venture remains her perfume line -
where, as J.Lo so thoroughly proved,
the famemongers go when they've
only got fame left to sell.
So what exactly happened to Spears
in the past few years to reduce her from
kittenish sex goddess to public punch-
ing bag? A string of bad songs didn't
hurt, and her pregnancy weight suggest-
ed she was preparing to deliver a small
village, or, at the very least, maybe
twins. But above any of this was the
simple fact that the illusion of Britney
Spears has been irrevocably shattered.
The Britney Spears that headlined sold-
out concerts but demurely proclaimed
her virginity; the Britney Spears who
dated Ken-doll-Justin Timberlake and
always had some excuse to show off
those impeccable abs - that Britney is
Today, Britney Spears is the
knocked-up, Southern-fried has-been
who walks into public bathrooms
barefoot and dresses like a 13-year-
old vying for the attention of the
Dairy Queen waiter. And for all this,
and not in spite of it, I have to say: I
Because Spears is unique among
the image-obsessed, fame-hoard-
ing universe of cardboard celebrities.
In a world where Tom Cruise has to
brainwash a cookie-cutter starlet to
pose on his arm and where Brange-
lina play peek-a-boo with the public
to plug their umpteenth bad movie in
the hopes of mutual career salvation,
Britney's personal life is completely,
absolutely her own. No publicist any-
where, in any state of mental distur-
bance, would have suggested this path.
Sure, her new perfume line launched a
day after her son's birth. I'll give her
a pass. That baby and that husband are
ravenous parasites slowly draining her
of every last ounce of goodwill and
fame she's ever accumulated. And as
far as I can tell, she couldn't be hap-
pier about it.
- Andrade has seen "Crossroads"
more than a dozen times. Want to
watch it with her? E-mail her at
little more than make headlines that
nobody read. With album sales down
and her tantalizing little-girl routine
three years past its prime, Spears did
the least logical thing in the world.
She got married. In fact, she wed
her multimedia empire to just about
By Trevor Campbell
Daily Arts Writer
CONCERT R EVIEW
A line of patrons ranging from hardcore
punk-rockers to 13-year-old
girls accompanied by their
parents stretched for several My Chemical
blocks outside the Eastern Romance
Michigan University Con-
vocation Center at Satur- Saturday, Sept. 17
day night's My Chemical Eastern Michigan
Romance concert. The show Convocation enter
culminated only hours after
the Eastern Michigan Eagles
55-0 loss to the Michigan football team, yet the
event brought both schools' students together
with little confrontation.
Metal/pop/electronic/punk-fusion band Reg-
gie and the Full Effect opened the evening. The
crowd, eager to get their live music fix, seemed
excited to see the act tear through their short
set; however, it was difficult to find anyone actu-
ally singing along. Their set ranged their entire
dynamic catalogue, including an electronic-
fueled cover of the Slayer song "Raining Blood,"
which proved to be a crowd favorite and the cli-
max of their set.
Next, punk staple Alkaline Trio rocked a tech-
nically sound set. Although they lacked a strong
stage presence or a visual show, the group is
impressively accurate while performing; they
may be one of the rare bands who actually sound
better live than on their albums. The band stuck
to songs from its more recent releases, which
disappointed some of the more devoted Alka-
line Trio fans. At some points, the crowd seemed
overly subdued - possibly because the average
concertgoer was still in high school and Alka-
line Trio's videos are seldom played on MTV.
Finally, headliner My Chemical Romance
(who were recently shunned at MTV's Video
Music Awards) started their set. The crowd
was frantic, screaming at pitches whose fre-
quencies neared dog-whistle range whenever a
stagehand soundchecked a new instrument. The
rabid fans' eardrum-shattering squeals filled
the venue; it was hard to hear the music when
the band finally hit the stage and began to play.
The stage was built with two projector screens
shaped like Gothic archways that projected
stained-glass windows, so it seemed only fit-
ting that vocalist Gerard Way took the stage
costumed in priest's garb.
The audience was undeniably anxious as they
sang along to the lyrics of each song, and several
young girls waved an "I heart MCR" banner from
the Convocation Center's upper balcony. Mixed
in with the screaming girls was a group of guys
in the middle of the crowd flicking off the band.
Quick on his feet and unfazed by the hecklers,
Way responded, saying, "To the guys giving us
the finger: We can always wait outside for your
girlfriends." The peak of MCR's performance
was an ode to Way's deceased grandmother,
"Helena." The crowd sang along, nearing the
volume of the group of amplified musicians as
they tried to blur the line between being fans and
being part of the band. Guitarists Frank Iero and
Ray Toro added a visual and interactive aspect to
the performance, running around the stage, spin-
ning maniacally and walking out onto the speak-
ers to get close to the crowd.
For crazed teenage girls, My Chemical
Romance's set was bliss. To the average concert-
goer, it was moderately enjoyable. Bright lights,
vivid colors and the Gothic cathedral-style stage
sent out the same familiar vibes as the scenes
depicted in the band's music videos. Apart from
the mind-blowing siren of shrill noise of the
teenage fanbase, the concert was equally plea-
surable to the eye as it was enjoyable to hear.
My Chemical Romance's solid, dynamic stage
presence and creative set design make them an
enjoyably theatrical live act and elevate them a
step above the average band.
By Amanda Andrade
Daily Arts Writer
Indecisive gun-running caper sinks
By Jeffrey Bloomer
Daily Film Editor
Nowhere near celestial, though far from
hellish, "Just Like Heaven" is consistently
Courtesy of DreamWorks
"Why don't you go eat a decroded piece of crap!"
bogged down by a
and genre cliches.
It's so entrenched in
banality that not even
the angelic Reese
capable of lifting it
In Andrew Nichol's black comedy-cum-botched satire
"Lord of War," Nicholas Cage plays Uri Orlov, a gleefully
amoral arms dealer who takes pride in .........
his profession because, basically, it's the Lord of War
only thing he was ever good at. Even
when the consequences of his actions At Showcase
literally come knocking at his door, he and Quality 16
doesn't seem concerned; he's a guns- Lion's Gate
kind of guy who doesn't really care what happens as long
as it doesn't affect his bottom line. "I never sold to Osama
Bin Laden," he tells us. "Not on moral grounds. Back then,
he kept bouncing checks."
Ah, the irony. "Lord of War" has no shortage of it - a
wink-wink witticism here, a biting jab at consumer culture
there - but over time, we find these joke-of-the-day wise-
cracks are about the height of its ambition. The movie can't
Jecide what it wants to say. From the nauseating voiceover,
we learn that Orlov rejects intellectual responsibility for
his actions (think Ray Liotta in "Goodfellas" without the
slam-bang ferocity), but what does the film think? Nichol's
overloaded screenplay offers few clues. The better part of
the movie has a dark, sharply defined sense of humor, but
then it inexplicably develops a guilty conscience, leading
to a puzzling footnote at the end credits that condemns
At the Showcase
and Quality 16
and "Mean Girls," does some good atone-
ment work here. But while "Girls" offered
hilarious, acute insights into a teenage
girl's maliciously sharp mind, "Just Like
Heaven" has nothing to say. Waters moves
the airy story along at a fitting pace, but
he also leans on romantic comedy staples
where ingenuity should prevail.
At least the film isn't saddled with
a hyperactive Dr. Lohan. Fortunately,
"Heaven" gets Witherspoon instead. She
has the hahv cheeks and condescending
serve the story well while never threatening
to divert the spotlight from Witherspoon.
Ruffalo, who cashed in his indie cred to
star opposite Jennifer Garner in the simi-
larly breezy "13 Going on 30," rises to the
lucrative endeavor again, generating some
serious movie-salvaging chemistry with
his ghostly roommate. The much-publi-
cized role for "Napoleon Dynamite" star
Jon Heder, however, is little more than one
funny line that's already in the trailer.
Alas there remains an enormous cen-
The symbolism runs a little thick.
has to play it by the book.
Beyond that, the film has the colossal misfortune of
opening two weeks after "The Constant Gardner," which
also used the exploitation of developing countries as its
backdrop - but actually had something to say about it.
That movie, which is still in theaters, uses a political thrill-
er as its canvas to paint larger and more provocative pic-
tures of the consequences of turning a blind eye. "Lord of
War," meanwhile, takes the region as narrative collateral,
actually expecting it to be funny that Orlov can't have sex
with two African teenagers because he doesn't have a con-
dom. Later, the massacre of an entire village is given less
screen time than the murder of a white character moments
up. The chirpy, talented star finds a good
forum for her perky charms in "Heaven";
unfortunately, the movie as a whole is just
like cinematic purgatory.
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