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October 07, 2005 - Image 8

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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 2005-10-07

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Friday
October 7, 2005
arts.rmichigandaily.com
artspage@michigandaily.com

eTSigan Bailq

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8

'All G' back in da
house on new DVD
By Adam Rottenberg
Daily Arts Editor
D RV

Political satirist
humorist? British
comedian Sacha
Baron Cohen,
the mastermind
behind the three
faces of "Da Ali
G Show," can be
labeled as both.
And with the
release of the sec-
ond hilarious sea-

or raunchy toilet
Da AlliG
Show: Da
Compleet
Second
Seazon
HBO

son on DVD, you can be the judge.
Ali G became a cultural icon in the
U.K. His BBC show took off, and his
absurd yet pointed humor appealed to
someone over at HBO. Each episode of
the show consists of Cohen perform-
ing as one of three characters - Ali G,
Borat or Bruno - and interacting with
real people. Unlike similar bits on,
say, "The Tom Green Show," Cohen's
barbed attacks on Americana have
some cultural relevance.
Cohen seems most at home under
the guise of Ali G, the wannabe-rap-
per from middle-class Staines who
speaks an almost incomprehensible
rapper dialect. The beauty of the char-
acter lies in how well he's deployed to
humiliate prominent media figures like
Pat Buchanan and Gore Vidal. The
man-on-the-street bits featuring Ali G,
however, don't fare quite as well as his
embarrassing interview segments.
But the Bruno persona didn't click
at all in the first HBO season. Bruno
is an Austrian fashion reporter, and,
most importantly, he's flamboyantly
gay. In nearly all of his segments, he
surprises unsuspecting victims into
thinking they are involved in stan-
dard fashion features, only to reveal an
incredibly perverse twist. The bit wears
thin quickly and becomes more irritat-
ing than funny. Yet, it's still a marked
improvement over the previous year's
Bruno segments.
In spite of the shortcomings of these
two characters, Cohen's Borat is come-
dic gold. He's a Kazakh reporter; Borat
interviews regular Americans about a
variety of banal activities. What sepa-
rates Borat from the other personas is
that he comes across as naive and inno-
cent. He can make racist or anti-Semit-
ic remarks and get away with it because
he seems to be nothing more than a
friendly, curious foreigner. Through
Borat, the subjects' interviews often
Attell and
friends
bomb in
special
By Imran Syed
Daily Arts Writer

0

reveal their true prejudices, producing
both hilarious and downright depress-
ing results.
One of these awkward confronta-
tions culminates with an episode so
outrageous it entered mainstream
news outlets. In the season's highlight,
Borat sings a song he wrote, entitled
"In My Country There Is Problem,"
to a packed country-Western bar. The
problem he sings about? As Borat so
plainly puts it, "the Jews." While the
audience initially reacts with an appro-
priately disgusted response, they soon
begin to sing along with the catchy
tune and even pantomime along with
their Kazakh friend.
The season two DVD itself is pretty
bare when it comes to special features.
It contains an in-character commence-
ment address at Harvard by Ali G, as
well as a few deleted bits. Regardless,
fans aren't looking to "Da Ali G Show"
for extensive making-of featurettes or
commentaries; rather the episodes
themselves, as well as and their irrev-
erent ability to strike a nerve appeal to
viewers.
Cohen subverts standard societal
behavior and elicits results that reveal
many Americans' true nature. Unfor-
tunately, he too often leans toward the
lowest common denominator in his
humor - choosing to make scatologi-
cal and sexual jokes instead of riff-
ing on the ignorance and prejudices
of American society. Nevertheless,
when "Da Ali G: Da Compleet Sec-
ond Seazon" is at its best, it captures a
comedian and concept in peak form.
Series: ***-A
Picture/Sound: ***
Features: **

Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics

"Freud would have a field day with my case."

'THUMBS' DOWN
ADOLESCENT ANGST COMEDY LIVES UP TO ITS NAME

By Kristin MacDonald
Daily Arts Writer
Just when you think Hollywood's obsession

with teenage angst has final-
ly exhausted itself, the indie-
film community finds a new,
infantile direction to sulk off
into. "Thumbsucker" follows
a 17-year-old with a difficult-
to-relate-to problem: He~still

Thumbsucker
At the
Michigan Theater
Sony Pictures Classics

sucks his thumb. His parents won't sympathize,
and his girlfriend can't, so he mopes alone in
his room with his poor, oversucked thumb as his
only consolation.
It's just hard to care. Justin (newcomer Lou
Taylor Pucci) might be a lonely kid, but that's no
excuse to make him boring as well. He concurs
with his debate team opponents, gets pushed
around by his one-dimensional, anal-retentive
girlfriend (a totally bland Kelli Garner, "The
Aviator") and sports a long shag of greasy, face-
obscuring hair to boot. Poor Justin's most inter-
esting trait is the student-mentor relationship he
cultivates with, of all people, his orthodontist
(Keanu Reeves).
But enough about Justin - it's the film's

uncommonly lively adult cast that proves wor-
thy of note. Take the orthodontist. In a casting
decision that has cheerfully stretched believ-
ability to the very limit, Reeves sets up shop as
Justin's new-agey, shaggy-haired practitioner in
that most despised of medical fields. He's a man
of unorthodox methods, to be sure - his best
suggestion for overcoming the mental demons
behind thumb-sucking is calling upon the spirit
of a "power animal" (Justin, in typical fash-
ion, can conjure no creature more fierce than a
fawn). Granted, Reeves wades through the role
using his usual monotone performance, but at
the very least, he's entertaining.
Ditto for Vince Vaughn as Justin's bespec-
tacled, sweater vest-clad debate coach. He
plays it charismatically during his all-too-brief
appearances. Simply witness Vaughn, with his
hulking, six-foot-plus frame, delicately apply-
ing mascara to one of the debate team's girls
before a big match. He's just as sweetly ner-
vous as they are.
Justin's parents (Vincent D'Onofrio, TV's
"Law & Order: Criminal Intent" and Tilda
Swinton, "Broken Flowers"), though, steal the
film; they're the most realistic depictions of
parents to grace a teen angst-themed movie in
years. They're young and uncertain - she still
harbors crushes on movie stars, and he still fan-

tasizes about his football days. The couple even
insists that Justin call them by their first names
because labels like "Mom" and "Dad" make
them feel too old. But ultimately, their hearts
are in the right places, and it's difficult to com-
prehend what Justin holds against them so vehe-
mently. When D'Onofrio gingerly checks his
son's thumb for saliva, he's hopeful that Justin
has matured out of the habit rather than disap-
pointed that he hasn't.
But after all, Justin's self-righteous conviction
that parents just don't understand is only one of
the time-honored plot points sacrosanct to the
high-school dramedy. There's also his ridicu-
lously simplistic college application process (for
which he must send the big app to that one dream
school, wondering all the while if the screenwrit-
er will let him get in), and the film even features
the nervous confrontation with the stereotype
of the Hollywood stoner (always ambitionless,
sexually experimental and dedicated to wearing
only black).
"Thumbsucker" might cover teenage basics
as Justin turns from pills to girls to get rid of
his thumbsucking, but its techniques are never
convincing in the least. After a while, viewers
can't help but wonder why the poor kid doesn't
simply give up on the drama and invest in a
lollipop.

Legendary rocker Neil Young
reflects on his youth on latest LP

I

By Joey Lipps
For the Daily
During the early '70s in the golden age of Neil Young's
career, he released albums like Harvest and After the

.i \W LM

Gold Rush that came to define his
trademark sound. He laid the frame-
work for grunge and released socially
conscious songs like "Southern Man"
that became the "Strange Fruit" of
his generation. While Young's new
album, Prairie Wind, is a retreat to

Neil Young
Prairie Wind
Reprise

There was a time when only good
comedians got their. own specials on
TV; many acts were passed up because
networks felt com-
pelled to branch out
and show something Dave Attell's
other than random Insomniac
guys screaming Tour
their heads off. But Saturday at 1 a.m.
in a time when any
worthless hack can Comedy Central
get his own spe-
cial, "Dave Attell's
Insomniac Tour with Sean Rouse, Greg
Giraldo and Dane Cook" looks pretty
decent, despite the fact that it has only two
or three legitimately funny jokes.
The show begins with the four come-
dians coming to Las Vegas to put on a
comedy special, which will be hosted
by Attell. He introduces each comedian
and does his bits for about three minutes
before each introduction. Throughout
each comedian's set, clips of the guys
playing casino games and making sense-

Courtesy of Comedy Central

"Hey, there goes my career."

less conversation have been inserted.
Apparently, we're supposed to give a
damn about what these guys do on their
downtime.
Sure, "Dave Attel's Insomniac Tour"
is on Comedy Central late at night - the
show should tackle controversial issues in
an unabashed style, with plenty of profan-
ity along for the ride. But the show is so
abhorrently tactless and downright point-
less that even the performers' most ardent
fans will be hard-pressed to stick around
until the end. Don't misunderstand this
argument; obscene language doesn't have
to be pathetic or pointless - but when you
have five or six bleeped words in a row the
way these guys do, it's tough for audiences
to follow along.
But this show does not even attempt rel-
evance. Perhaps it's because the comedi-
ans are performing in front of the largest,

drunkest crowd in the world (it's Vegas,
after all), and they trot out one lewd, lack-
luster "zinger" after another.
The sad part is that some of these guys
are actually very funny. Giraldo and Cook
both show flashes of comedic skill, but in
their unfortunate attempt to appear rogu-
ish, much of their talent fades into the
background. Cook, in particular, has some
very funny sets. Rouse has to be the worst
of the group. He resembles that peculiar
high-school loner you swear makes "to-
kill" lists when he's not firing off his petty
and tasteless jabs.
So if, late on a Friday night, you wonder
what goes through a boozer's mind as he
gazes deep into the toilet bowl he has just
puked into, be sure to tune into Comedy
Central - Dane Cook just might enlight-
en you. If, however, you are sober by any
degree, consider yourself excused.

the sound that made him one of the most influential
rock artists of all time, the content is that of an old and
tired man. In "It's A Dream," he sings," I try to ignore
what the paper says / And try not to read all the news."
His priorities on the songs off Prairie Wind are what
you'd expect of a man who recently recovered from a
brain aneurism: family and childhood memories.
Neil Young touchingly writes in the liner notes that his
album is "For Daddy;" this childlike yearning pervades
the album. On title track "Prairie Wind," Young sings,
"Trying to remember what my Daddy said / Before too
much time took away his head / He said we're goin' back
and I'll show you what I'm talking about / Going back to
Cypress River, Back to the old farm house." The combi-
nation of Young's classic moaning guitar and harmonica
with the lonesome sound of the steel guitar gives the
songs an emotional twang that allows one to see inside
Young's exposed soul.
One treat on this album is the touching backup vocals
of folk legend Emmylou Harris. The addition of a female
voice alongside a string section pleasantly complements
the high strains of Young's voice and gives a beautiful

0

background to his laments.
When Young sang, "I'm getting old" 33 years ago on
Harvest's "Heart of Gold," it was a far cry from the
now more relevant realization that "We're losing time"
on Prairie Wind. While Young may seem drained, his
musicianship hasn't declined. He still sings with the
same vigor and emotion that gave him the title of "god-
father of grunge" decades ago. Prairie Wind is a pleasant
reminder of a wonderful era to the old fans those who
grew up listening to Neil Young. While he appealed to
the concerns of this generation years ago, he now allows
his loyal fanbase to appreciate the time they have and
cherish their memories.

Michigan Chamber Players welcome students onstage

By Shubra Ohri
Daily Arts Writer
Thic CSunday musc lovers will find an hon-

Ditties for Narrator, Trumpet and Piano. The
pieces that are selected for
the MCP's concerts are
those with which the pro- Michigan
fessors feel a personal con- Chamber
nection. With musicians ----

feature (elements) that may not normally be
featured."
Porter is filling in as MCP's program coor-
dinator while Music Prof. Andrew Jennings
is on sabbatical. She is using this opportunity
to implement her novel ideas about classical

Helton.
The intimate nature of traditional cham-
ber music has been adopted by the Players.
Every musician takes the advantage of the
opportunity to play music they love with their
respected colleagues and talented students.

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