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October 24, 2005 - Image 5

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 2005-10-24

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October 24, 2005
artspage@michigandaily. com

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1 A starlet for sale

"Dear Diary: Today that rat bastard Clooney stole the last ham sandwich from the craft-services table."

S o media darling Katie Holmes
is still pregnant (about to bear
Scientology's messiah would be
my guess), Bennifer II should be ready to
deliver any day now and Paris Hilton is
dating Mary-Kate Olsen's ex-boyfriend
just weeks after breaking her engage-
ment to that other Paris. In
one of his less successful
ventures, Woody Allen
quipped, "You can learn a
lot about a society by who it
chooses to celebrate."
Imagine the anthropolo-
gists of the future.
Now imagine the anthro-
pologists of the present. We
live in an enduringly fasci-
nating culture that chooses AMA
to revere J.Lo's booty above
international conflict and AND
domestic economic policy.
No well-informed Republican, no matter
how passionately partisan, can argue the
war in Iraq was ultimately well planned
and expertly run, but nearly everyone can
agree George W. Bush would be a nice
guest at a barbeque.
From where exactly - in our genome
or in our society - this obsession with
personality derives, I couldn't begin to
guess. At some point, perhaps, we all tac-
itly accept that keeping pace with politics
is just much harder than keeping up with
the weekend box office. As a pop-culture
columnist, how could I argue?
No, the real problem isn't that we as a
society choose to celebrate entertainment
culture, it's that we as the media are get-
ting so inept at feeding the frenzy. Per-
haps it's precisely because of this absurd
focus on entertainment, but someone
must have decided Americans are mind-
less and spread the memo.
Consequently, the pop-culture media
has become less a mirror for America's
guilty pleasure obsessions and more a
sales pitch for party girls and simpering.
starlets. It's harder to blame the tabloids.
Few people care about Mischa Barton's
breakup or Lindsay Lohan's car crash,
but tabloids are obligated to run the most
salacious rumors available. And as I
think the defense secretary once said, you
go to the press with pictures of the club-
hopping celebrities you have, not the ones
you want. No one can force Tom Hanks
to table dance.
But giving the too-often-maligned
tabloids a break this time doesn't excuse
a recent flurry of media attention related
to hot starlet-for-sale Keira Knightley.
The worst offender might come from The
New York Times, who ran a splendidly
poetic ode to Knightley's face. Here's a


taste: "The camera follows her around
like a besotted puppy. It flings itself out of
windows and over furniture and through
walls just to be close to her," and "when
it finally gets her on the sofa or backs her
into a corner, it just licks her all over, in
an ecstasy of devotion."
This is hardly the only
instance, but I have to believe
it's the most eloquently writ-
ten. If you trust the press,
Knightley is a magnanimous
creature of spectacular,
incomparable beauty and
unaffected sincerity. The
problem is, it seems few peo-
ple trust the press anymore.
Sure, Knightley is beauti-
NDA ful and talented for her age.
Her star will continue to rise
RADE because Hollywood and the
media have decided she's
"It." But apparently no one has considered
the ticket-buying American public in this
calculation. By my egregiously unscien-
tific survey of about a dozen non-newspa-
per-affiliated movie fans, there were none
who had positive things to say about the
starlet. "She's not that pretty, I don't see
the big deal" was the No. 1 response.
The big deal is that the media thinks
you should adore her. And we're con-
fused that the promise of seeing her
naked and kicking ass in "Domino" was
so completely unappealing that the film
opened in seventh place, just below the
second weekend gross for a Matthew
McConaughey vehicle.
And how many times have we been
through this with Jude Law now? He's a
wonderful actor, a handsome man, maga-
zines and film critics adore him - gush
over every suit and scarf he's ever worn,
praise every witty quote and sharp dia-
logue delivery he's ever given - and
America shrugs. You won't pay to see his
movies, but we swear, we promise, we
demand that he's a star.
Knightley's being touted for Oscar this
year, and Law's been to the ceremonies
twice now. With a gold statue in her hands,
she might be a more credible celebrity, but
the box office ultimately has the last word.
That indicts plenty of other actors as well;
recent "Elizabethtown" stars Orlando
Bloom and Kirsten Dunst come to mind.
But to name every star solely famous for
hype would take an entire column unto
itself. Until then, we'll sit here perplexed
as you display far more autonomy than the
media think you have any right to.
- Andrade could write pages about why
we shouldn't care about Keira Knightley.
Get the full story at aandrade@umich.edu.

By Kristin MacDonald
Daily Arts Writer

Don't let the Brylcreem fool you - George
Clooney's "Good Night, and Good Luck" is a thor-
oughly modern piece of movie-making, and an
excellent one at that. Welcome
to his beautifully stark, black-
and-white world of TV journal- Good Night,
ism, complete with thoughtfully and Good
smoked pipes, horn-rimmed Luck
glasses and cigarettes so ubiqui- At the Showcase
tous that a primetime newsman and State Theater
could puff away on air without
any fear of FCC retribution. Independent
For all its period style,
"Good Night" chronicles a
chapter of history specifically relevant to our
own current TV-news climate, though it takes
place long before cable's buffet of political pun-
dits gained their 24=hour soapbox. Celebrated
old-time newsman Edward R. Murrow (por-
trayed with cold, noble compassion by an excel-
lent David Strathairn, "L.A. Confidential")
questions where exactly he can draw the line

between fact and opinion in making his bold
public criticism of Sen. Joe McCarthy's anti-
Communist witchhunt.
Clooney's tightly constructed script doesn't
lose focus and barely even shifts it with the film's
action kept almost exclusively in the CBS news-
room. These newsmen might politely inquire
about each other's wives, but as far as the film
is concerned, their lives are at the office. It's a
serious newsroom atmosphere, with all the sharp
quick-quip banter and camaraderie that that
implies. "You always were yellow," says Mur-
row to his nervous producer Fred Friendly (Cloo-
ney) before a particularly provoking broadcast.
Friendly's reply: "Better than red."
There are plenty of lighter moments as well -
one memorable scene has Murrow interviewing the
famously flamboyant Liberace about, of all things,
marriage (Liberace, in archival footage, gamely
confesses that he's simply looking for the perfect
"mate"). And a subplot involving the clandestine
marriage of two CBS reporters (Robert Downey Jr.,
"Wonder Boys," and Patricia Clarkson, "Dogville")
proves especially winsome. Company policy for-
bids marriage between employees. They're relegat-
ed to either talking shop or exchanging long looks,
which Clooney effectively captures with impressive

minimalism - this is a couple accustomed to talk-
ing with eyes alone.
Clooney has made a remarkable sophomore
directorial effort after 2002's vastly underrated
"Confessions of a Dangerous Mind." He moves
at a brisk clip, demonstrating an ear for lively
dialogue and elegant dramatic timing. A jazz
singer performing in a nearby studio provides
period-music scene breaks, and though the real-
ist camera's constant motion is a somewhat mod-
ern style, the black-and-white coloration keeps
the story appropriately dated nonetheless. And
perhaps the wisest decision Clooney makes is the
length: At 93 minutes, the film's fight-the-good-
fight-rhetoric doesn't wear out its welcome.
Beware - "Good Night, and Good Luck" has
a healthy dose of saintly, heroic speechifying.
It happily avoids cheesiness, however, by not
portraying McCarthy as an unrealistic villain.
McCarthy, in fact, portrays himself, as the film
relies on an unusually hefty selection of archi-
val footage rather than acting. It's a crafty move,
justifying Murrow's fight as a noble necessity
by presenting McCarthy in all his real-life irra-
tionality. More than just a movie with meaning,
what Clooney has actually fashioned is a civics
lesson with style.

Su Friedrich discusses women and film

By Mary Kate Varnau
Daily Arts Writer

"Don't worry, you can always go to the salon tomorrow."
Oscar buzz for Theron

Su Friedrich has tackled extremely personal
issues in her films since she began working in the
medium in 1978: "The Ties that Bind" focused on
her mother, while "Sink or Swim" explored her
relationship with her father; another featured a
fictionalized breakup. But "The Odds of Recov-
ery," screened last Thursday as part of the Screen
Arts and Cultures Department's Woman Film-
maker Series, has exposed her in a way that none
of the others did.
"It was very hard to make," Friedrich said, ciga-
rette in hand outside the Modern Languages Bulid-
ing. "I guess for most of my filmmaking career, I
have been determined not to use myself so directly
- not to use my voice, not to be on camera - and
there was no way around it with this film. So I sud-
denly had to get around that hurtle."
In "The Odds of Recovery," Friedrich takes cen-
ter stage and documents her recent spate of a num-
ber of health problems. Over the years, she's tallied
many surgeries and treatments, including a hormonal
imbalance affecting her sex drive that leads to the
deterioration of a long-term relationship.
The film, which was made without an actual crew,
tags along to a mammogram, examinations and
appointments with breast-cancer specialists. Set on
the counter, the camera almost becomes another char-
acter in the film - an impartial viewer who records

her frustrations with everything from her treatment
to the way that the surgical gown ties up.
At first, Friedrich felt uncomfortable avith how
much "The Odds of Recovery" revealed as the
movie speaks openly about her health issues and
sexual problems, even exposing her physically
But that's the point, she says. "If I am willing to do
it in a public venue, then I feel like I can give other
people the opportunity to think about themselves."
Friedrich hopes that the film will encourage
women to think about their health and speak out
about problems that people tend to keep private.
"One of the big issues running through the film
is this hormone imbalance I've had. It devastated
me for a number of years. But after a new drug
became available and I was able to deal with it, I
realized that this is not a commonly known medi-
cal issue. Part of making the film is thinking, 'If
I show this a lot and women see it who have the
problem, they'll learn something from it and be
able to help themselves.' "
Women's issues are a central concern in Fried-
rich's films, which have recently been digitally
remastered and released in a five-volume collection.
But she doesn't want to be defined by her gender in
her professional life. "I wouldn't mind being called
a 'woman filmmaker' if every male filmmaker was
called a 'man filmmaker.' Women have been trail-
blazing in so many parts of film history," she said.
"But the risk is that we keep being ghettoized.

By Andrew Bielak
Daily Arts Writer

Fresh from her Best Actress-win-
ning performance in the 2003 thriller
"Monster," Charlize Theron appears to
be taking another
shot at Oscar gold. North
"North Country," Country
based on a real-life
story, reinforces At the Showcase
Theron's ability and Quality 16
to play the suffer- Warner Bros.
ing, downtrodden
woman as she battles her way through
the working-class abyss with an unre-
lenting "stick-it-to-the-man" attitude.
Fortunately, unlike her serial-killing
prostitute in "Monster," Theron's char-
acter doesn't seem to take the notion of
"sticking-it-to-the-man" literally, prefer-
ring to challenge the powers that be with
a stringent lawsuit and steel resolve.
Mobilizing her best '80s haircut and
rural Minnesota accent, Theron stars as
Josey Walls, a hardworking mother of two

resentment from the male miners who
see female co-workers as a threat to their
masculinity and their livelihood. Indeed,
Josey's initiation into the job is supple-
mented with a continuing cycle of sexual
come-ons, vulgar practical jokes and
physical intimidation. The scenes within
the mining factory are both intense and
realistic, capturing the brutal, physical
nature of Walls's work and the sexual
humiliation that often accompanies it.
Faced with increasing hostility from
her co-workers and the callous indiffer-
ence of company bigwigs, Walls's enlists a
sympathetic lawyer (Woody Harrelson) to
challenge the mine in a sexual harassment
lawsuit. Unfortunately, the legal battle
itself, presented as the elemental struggle
of the film, fails to captivate on a basic
level. In lieu of actual realism, the trial is
a reiteration of a cinematic clich6, com-
plete with dramatic lawyerly posturing,
witnesses breaking down and the whole
courtroom occasionally freaking out.
Despite its weak third act, "North
Country" elicits our affection and sym-
pathy. Theron is at the top of her game,
instilling Walls with a rare combination

Su Friedrich spoke at the MLB on Thursday.
Men get treated like the norm and women or film-
makers of other ethnicities get treated like the
other. The same holds true for being called a 'les-
bian filmmaker.' On some level, I think that all of
these categories don't really make sense."

The Blind Pig hosts teen
faves The Honorry Title
By Jake Montie
For the Daily

Thursday night saw Brooklyn's own The Honorary Title make a stop at
The Blind Pig, and despite the youthfulness of the crowd in attendance,
they put on an impressive performance.
Along for the ride were a trio of bands that complemented the night well.
Texas natives Cruiserweight opened with 30 minutes
of femme-punk-meets-'70s-studio rock. New York The Honorary
City's post-emo crooner band, Nightmare of You, Title

Hnnrav Title frnntman JarrdrnAnhgiIperforme~, dtThe Blind Pik Thursdav.b

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