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September 07, 2005 - Image 44

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The Michigan Daily, 2005-09-07

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2D - The Michigan Daily - New Student Edition - Fall 2005


OCTOBER 12, 2005
Politiking Hollywood

This year has seen a much-commented-
upon glut of political documentaries.
The John Kerry biopic "Going Upriver,"
a denunciation of FOX News in the form of
director Robert Greenwald's "Outfoxed" and
the conservative Liberty Film Festival which
took place in Hollywood at the beginning of
October were just some of the more prominent
offerings from the last few months. Of course,
the granddaddy of them all was Michael
Moore's polemical take on the Bush admin-
istration, "Fahrenheit 9/11." Moore's block-
buster has even promoted cinematic responses
in the form of the conservative "Celsius 41.11:
The Truth Behind the Lies of Fahrenheit 9/11,"
the title snappily refers to the "temperature at
which the brain begins to die."
For the most part these productions are fee-
ble attempts to influence electoral outcomes
by showcasing the typically tortured political
logic of the documentarian. Their tendentious
tones are a poor substitute for serious political
theorizing and tend to miss the most intrigu-
ing questions of politics: Who wins and why?
In their 1993 classic "The War Room,"
D.A. Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus begin to
answer these questions. D.A. Pennebaker, the
legendary documentarian renowned for his
films on musical legends like Bob Dylan, Jimi
Hendrix and David Bowie, and his longtime
collaborator Chris Hegedus teamed up to cap-
ture the evolution of Arkansas Gov. Bill Clin-
ton's 1992 campaign for the presidency. From
the opening scene in the snows of the New
Hampshire primary campaign to the victori-
ous celebration in Little Rock, the filmmakers
meticulously reveal the arc of the presidential
campaign from a perspective that focuses on
strategies. "The War Room" is an ode to real-
ism - the realism of both cinema verite and
politics. While Moore constructs grandiose
theories and scans the world for footage and
facts that appear to support his ideas, Penne-
baker and Hegedus merely let the tactics and

personalities speak for themselves. While
Moore inserts himself into the narrative with
his pompous philosophizing and wild hijinks,
Pennebaker and Hegedus take the fly on the
wall approach instead.
This signature style allows the film to
inspect the process behind political victory.
Much of the campaign staff's time is spent
on the inanities and inefficiencies of a cam-
paign. One of the most enjoyable moments of
the film shows senior aides squabbling over
whether there should be hand-drawn signs
or printed signs during Clinton's acceptance
speech to the Democratic National Con-
vention. As this argument is taking place,
approximately 40 campaign staffers are
forced to twiddle their thumbs. The film takes
place during the ascendancy of cable news's
importance in political campaigns and much
of "The War Room" is spent watching the
Clinton campaign's attempts toharness this
new form of media to its advantage. Deputy
Campaign Manager George Stephanopoulos
spins television reporters with devastating
skill and campaign staffers delve into oppo-
sition research with merciless glee. This was
the first presidential campaign to be fought
in a rapid-response style with the intention of
controlling the news cycle, and Clinton's staff
spends much- of its time devising creative
means to get its candidate the best coverage
and make both President George H.W. Bush
and Reform Party nominee Ross Perot look
like fools.
To all those who hope to generate political
change through their art: Give up now. You'll
miss out on the better story and probably
become a cheap hack in the process. Instead,
embrace the simple pleasures of political com-
bat and leave the conspiracy theories behind.
- Zac's secretly planning his own political
documentary. Give him a hand by e-mailing
him at zpeskowi@umich.edu.

Courtesy of
Cheadle and
were nomi-
nated for
Awards for
their roles
In "Hotel






By Zach Borden
JANUARY 31, 2005
Daily Staff Writer
In 1994, the civil war in Rwanda reached a climax
when extremist members of the Hutu tribe attempted
to wipe out the entire Tutsi tribe. Nearly one mil-
lion Tutsis were massacred while most of the world

turned a blind eye.
In the midst of all this tur-
moil is Paul Ruseabagina (Don
Cheadle), the talented man-
ager of the lush, four-star Hotel
Milles Collines in Kigali. Paul
knows how to do his job and


Director and co-writer Terry George has done
a superb job with "Hotel Rwanda." He has taken
an ambitious subject and focused it correctly and
made a highly informative film. Unfortunately,
the movie falters when George tacks on moments
clearly meant to manipulate audiences. Despite the
film's efficacious imagery showing just how brutal
the killings of the Tutsi were, there are extrane-
ous moments when the tragedy of the murders is
brought up for the sake of added emotional weight.
Also, Paul's devotion to his wife (Sophie Okonedo,
"Dirty Pretty Things") becomes overemphasized,
and the focus on the Rwandan orphans seems like a
ploy to make watchers feel guilty.
Still, George wisely keeps the focus of this true
story on Paul's evolution as a person, rather than con-
centrating entirely on the genocide. The film is very
much Paul's story, and works incredibly well because
of Cheadle's flawless performance. Moving up from
reliable supporting player, Cheadle proves that he has
what it takes to be an charismatic leading performer.
Cheadle reaches deep as a man who is at first inter-
ested in his family's survival, but soon discovers that

his skill in dealing with people can only go so far.
Cheadle effortlessly conveys Paul's desperation and
quick thinking, as well as his fears, frustration and
growing courage.
Besides Cheadle, the supporting performances
are also impressive. Okonedo holds her own as Paul's
Tutsi wife Tatiana, whose sadness rightfully tugs at
the heart, but whose familial love brings the conflict-
ed manager much inner strength. Nick Nolte plays
up his gruffness, as usual, as a United Nations peace-
keeper who essentially can do nothing, but does his
best to help Paul save the refugees.
"Hotel Rwanda" is a significant film, one that
was clearly made to tell an empowering if less-
familiar story to a wide audience. Despite the
chilling subject matter, the movie perfectly encom-
passes messages of love, survival and compassion.
The story hits all the right emotional chords, and
Cheadle delivers a powerhouse performance.
"Hotel Rwanda" is an astounding reminder of the
cruelty of apathy, the constant existence of incon-
gruous hatred and proof that one man can make an
altruistic difference.

please his guests. Yet when the political situation
becomes much more intense, Paul finds himself tak-
ing in Tutsi refugees at his hotel. As Rwanda faces
total anarchy, he must use his connections, special
resources and bribery to keep them safe. Ultimately,
Paul saved nearly 1,300 lives with his efforts.



By Amanda Andrade
FEBRUARY 4, 2005
Daily Staff Writer

After slumming hard in progres-
sively idiotic summer bombast,
Will Smith has finally succumbed

to the most natural
forum for his ebul-
lient charm - the
romantic comedy.
The vehicle in ques-
tion, "Hitch," would
be a fine showcase

Sony Pictures

for Smith's considerable on-screen
charisma if only it relied on some-
thing - anything - more than its
marquee star to make the movie
The setup is straightforward
enough: Alex "Hitch" Hitch-
ens (Smith) is a date doctor who
teaches fumbling men how to woo
their dream girls. One particularly
desperate client is Albert (Kevin
James, TV's "King of Queens"), a
CPA in love with his classy heiress
client, Allegra. Eva Mendes ("2 Fast
2 Furious") plays the gossip colum-
nist assigned to cover the medica-
tion-monikered celebrity, and turns
out to be the girl Hitch can't seem
to crack. Screenwriter Kevin Bisch
apparently felt the obvious theme of
relationship complexity warranted
two meandering plots in lieu of one
solid story.
Intriguingly, the myriad geeky

Help wanted at the bookstore

men Hitch strives to help are always
after women absurdly out of their
physical-attractiveness league. But,
that's okay, of course, because all of
these men are actually enamored by
their ladies' "personalities" rather
than their supermodel good looks.
Although maybe that's less surpris-
ing considering the New York of
the film is the city in which aver-
age-looking women just don't seem
to exist.
But what the movie misses in
gender sensitivity, it at least partial-
ly recoups in a reluctance to build
on racial stereotypes. It's a noble
effort, especially when so many
scenes between James and Smith
are veritable invitations for the kind
of sophomoric sitcom-level cheap
shots that Smith has built a pretty
tidy career around. It's refresh-
ing to see the gifted comedian rise
above it.
Echoing that decidedly nice-spir-
ited side of the film are the per-
formances from both male actors.
Smith has a breezy, affable, old-
Hollywood charm that resonates in
most of his scenes. James is the real
surprise, holding his own and main-
taining a sympathetic performance.
The actresses in the film, however,
are almost complete blanks. That's
not wholly surprising for a movie
that counts among its many rev-
elations: "Whoa, women are, like,
human beings and stuff." Mendes
and her prescription cohort are
beautiful, sophisticated, supposedly
Continued from page 1D
than channeling the late Alec Guin-
ness, McGregor's Obi-Wan Kenobi
epitomizes the Jedi and provides the
necessary foil for Anakin.
But "Revenge of the Sith" rises
above the poor writing and card-
board performances to deliver hun-
gry thrills and spectacle. Everyone
going to see the movie knows how
it's going to end, but they can still
enjoy the ride. And no film in the
series has been as action-packed as
this one. The special effects have
finally caught up to Lucas's vision,
and the viewer becomes immersed in
dazzling locales and futuristic tech-
nologies. The fiery finale on the lava
planet, an evocative visualization of
hell, perfectly encapsulates "Episode
III" as powerful eye candy.
Constant light-saber battles and
stark visuals should be more than
enough to draw in even the most casu-

intelligent and always impeccably
It's not the fault of the actresses
so much as the script, which gives
the leading ladies little else to do
but look winsome for their oafish or
unstable suitors. Bisch's screenplay
also has occasional trouble relating
the parallel plots, as well as finding
anywhere to take the story. Even-
tually the climax has to rest on a
contrived misunderstanding rather
than anything organic or systemic,
like say, the fact that Hitch's entire
livelihood rests on women sleeping
with men they wouldn't normally
touch - a loveable, harmless GHB
for the well-meaning man.
With little success, "Hitch" tries
to play on issues of insecurity,
interpersonal trust and a slew of
other topics that are beyond the
scope of a formulaic studio come-
dy. By tackling the issues in a half-
hearted, manipulative sort of way,
the film only ends up with a wildly
inconsistent tone. One minute it's
a light-hearted comedy, the next a
preachy meditation on human vul-
The result is a middling star
vehicle, overlong and awkward. It's
pretty reminiscent of a first date,
actually, and those feeling particu-
larly benevolent may assume that's
the point. They may also assume
that Smith is going to personally
refund their nine dollars - it's all
the hope that "Hitch" has left once
the theater lights go up again.
al "Star Wars" fan, yet "Revenge of the
Sith" delivers beyond just those simple
promises. It offers a storyline that's
more complex than the simple black-
and-white, good-versus-evil tale of
the original. While it's not completely
successful in creating a conflicted and
tortured fallen hero, Anakin's descent
into the Dark Side is still difficult to
watch for any ardent fan. Here is a man
who every viewer knows becomes the
embodiment of evil, yet his transfor-
mation creates the tragedy that Lucas
so desperately wanted to display.
And so it ends - at least until the
eventual digitally re-mastered re-
releases of the prequels hit the big
screen. Fans who have stuck with this
disappointing second trilogy will be
rewarded with a film that reminds
them exactly why they fell in love
with "Star Wars" in the first place. If
this is truly where the saga ends, then
"Star Wars" will maintain its place
as a series that transcended its cine-
matic medium to become a part of the
American consciousness.

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