November 7, 2005
arts. michigandaily. com
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' Hollywood Ever After
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"If you look close enough, you can see where I left my dignity. It's somewhere around 'Cheaper by the Dozen.' "
DANES AND MARTIN SHINE IN STELLAR ADAPTATION
very young girl knew she'd end
up dating the captain of the
football team. We sighed and
giggled. We had board games dedi-
cated to the perfect outfit. At six, we
wanted to be astronauts and pop stars.
Adolescence was hard as we learned to
accept that our dreams were on a dead
connection to reality.
A sick part of our psyche
must have stowed away the
narrative fantasy, because
we still dream: the 180
LSAT and cute frat boy who
calls. Urban legends, right?
Still, there's something per-
vasive about hope. Who's to
blame for that?
Well, parents, friends and
ourselves. But the media AMA
doesn't get off easy on this AND
one. Hollywood has taught
us that being a princess with a pencil-thin
waist should be a girl's ultimate goal.
Even if you've gotten over the Cinderella
complex (and by age 18, I'd certainly
hope so), the idea persists that marriage
and a family are integral parts of life.
That's because affluent American
women today are promised everything.
It's possible, they say, to have a functional
domestic life and a high-powered job
with extra time to vacation in Aruba and
your Tuscan villa. "Saved by the Bell"
may have taught us that high school is a
wacky dating game, but the entire media
culture has pushed us toward post-feminist
perfection. Men may have gone from gods
of the universe to convenient accessories,
but don't believe for a minute that you can
walk down the street without one.
If you missed the memo, check out any
romantic comedy. You're the beautiful,
successful, mildly neurotic girl with won-
derful friends and a fabulous apartment.
Your life is great. It's not until you meet
your soulmate - the ruggedly handsome
cad (Matthew McConaughey, probably)
who pines for you - that you realize
how empty your life was before. Even
"Sex and the City," after years of pushing
female autonomy and sexual indepen-
dence, chose the Disney wrap-up.
A friend of mine recently embarked
on a relationship with someone she'd
known since her first day of college: the
guy who'd been there through all the
bad-news boys and breakups, who'd stal-
wartly stood behind her through all the
tough decisions and hopeless moments.
And the first thing people say? Oh, I'm so
glad you're in a healthy relationship, I'm
glad you're happy? No.
"Oooh, it's just like a movie."
We don't believe it; we're too smart to
honestly believe movies and the media are
an acceptable mirror of real-
ity. The rise of tabloid jour-
nalism has helped: flickering
shadows of dolled-up celebri-
ties may live happily ever
after - but real ones don't.
In fact, brief celebrity mar-
riage is one of our culture's
fondest jokes. Take Brad &
Jen. The golden couple comi-
cally fused into the explo-
NDA sively well-inked Brangelina
RADE and, ahem, Vaughniston
(Vince Vaughn and Jennifer
Aniston, for those not up to date). It's far
more entertaining than tragic.
Witness the funniest fairy tale gone
wrong in Britney Spears and Kevin Fed-
erline. Just weeks after the birth of their
little prince, the K-Fed is rumored to be
busier partying than parenting. Britney's
in a hormonal rage, and Kevin's reaction
is to release an abysmal rap single. I've
got the fairy tales burned into my cortex;
I'm pretty sure the talentless prince never
rode the fair maiden's coattails.
So what happened to these purveyors
of deceit that made them buy their own
lies? Despite VHl's assertion that celeb-
rities can shoot laser beams from their
eyes, the probable truth is that they're
human. They grew up in the same cul-
ture, complete with the same drive to
sum up life in a coherent storybook.
We mock them, but we bought into it
too. "Lies," we may whisper at rom-coms
and insipid pop songs, but we hope we're
wrong. Life would be easier as a movie
- the witty banter, the token best friend,
the endless mugs of gingerbread latte.
But we're brilliant, and we know better.
Twenty-first century women shouldn't
cling to life goals that went out with feu-
dalism. So we build new ones. We study
for our LSATs, scour the Tuscan hills and
wait by the phone for our football player.
- Amanda wants to organize a Mall
Madness slumber party. Join her by
By Zach Borden
Daily Arts Writer
Steve Martin, that "wild and crazy guy" from SNL's
heyday, truly has had one of the most eclectic careers in
Hollywood. It's always interest- _
ing to see how Martin, who has Shopgirl
dabbled in many artistic medi-
ums, can jump from a big-studio At the Showcase
comedy to a movie that's more and Quality 16
serious without much industry Touchstone
backlash. Martin, who stars and
wrote the screenplay based on his novella, returns to
finer form in "Shopgirl." The film is a mature, percep-
tive piece of work that should ring true for anyone who
recognizes the complexities of relationships and that
there are many grey zones one must wade through.
Martin's story focuses on Mirabelle Butterfield
(Claire Danes, "Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines"),
an artist who works behind the glove counter at Saks
Fifth Avenue in Los Angeles. Broke and yearning
to feel a connection, Mirabelle meets Jeremy (Jason
Schwartzman, "Bewitched"), an aimless "stenciler"
whom she dates briefly. But then the wealthy Ray
Porter (Martin) spots her at work and invites her to
dinner. The film chronicles the ups and downs of their
courtship - one that seems doomed from its incep-
tion; Mirabelle desires a tender, long-standing love,
while Ray wants something casual.
What makes "Shopgirl" admirable is that it
explores relationships the way most movie romances
won't: Its characters and situations are treated realis-
tically. Martin understands that people tend to hold
back in relationships and that even when certain
emotional needs are defined, their interpretation can
be an entirely different matter. "Shopgirl" could have
been reduced into a showcase for a love triangle, but
Martin knows better - it's several highly personal
and intertwining character studies.
Director Anand Tucker captures the tone of Martin's
script with a somberness and attenuated symbolism,
but at times the mood is somewhat magical.
The movie is not without its flaws. Martin does
several voice-over narrations, and though they're
well written, they spell out too much of the movie
for the audience. Also distracting is one of Mira-
belle's more sexually active co-workers (Bridgette
Wilson-Sampras, "The Wedding Planner"); Martin
may be making a point about one-sided relation-
ships with her character, but her stereotypical pres-
ence is pointless in the story.
The movie's trio of performances are well cast.
Danes is perfect, even though she doesn't really do
much other than wallow and act pained. That's OK,
though, because her frumpiness and occasional lumi-
nous flash make her relatable and sympathetic. Martin,
probably playing himself to a degree, is wonderfully
subtle, showing that there's more to his character than
he lets on. Schwartzman is also charming, but only in
a goofy and immature manner.
There are humorous moments in "Shopgirl," but
the movie is essentially a drama that knows what
love is about; that for all its joys and disappoint-
ments, it's often a bittersweet experience that can
come to an untimely end. For once, it's nice to see
a screen romance that isn't overtaken by fluff and
doesn't have a neat and tidy ending.
Sky falls on Disney's CG animation
By Imran Syed
Daily Arts WriterX.O.
Remember the days when Disney's
animated films were really magi-
cal? Perhaps you
laughed at the quips
in "Aladdin," were
swept away by the
grandeur and senti-
ment of "The Lion
King" or sang along
with "Colors of the
and Quality 16
Wind" in "Pocahontas" (OK, you real-
ly shouldn't have done that last one).
Those days seem lost; rarely has Disney
of late been able to conjure animation
near the level of the aforementioned
favorites. Its latest attempt, "Chicken
Little," is no exception.
It was with "Toy Story" that the trou-
ble began; while that was a strong, even
groundbreaking film, it set an unfortunate
precedent. Since the advent of computer-
generated animation, too much attention
is paid to creating technical marvels and
too little to creating compelling storylines.
Certainly there have been good CG films
("Finding Nemo,""Shrek"), but too often,
such films have lacked a plot with even
a hint of intelligence (see "Madagascar"
or "Robots"). This is the problem with
"Chicken Little," Disney's first attempt at
CG animation without help from Pixar,
the masters behind the magic achieved in
Courtesy of Disney
Who knew that a Coke bottle would make such a fetching backpack?
"Toy Story" and "Finding Nemo."
"Chicken Little" is loosely based on
the fable of the chicken who thought the
sky was falling; here, the chicken is a
tiny ball of feathers voiced by Zach Braff
("Garden State"). But the movie goes
off in ill-advised directions, employing
tired themes involving alien invasions,
mean classmates and, of course, the
hero's plea of "Dad, you gotta believe
me!" Though the pretty colors and cute
characters keep audiences interested for
a while, the lack of originality quickly
brings on boredom.
Aside from the tepid storyline, "Chick-
en Little" suffers from a lack of all-star
power that's the norm of even lackluster
animated films. Even those that are pres-
ent (Braff, Joan Cusack, Steve Zahn)
turn in uninspired performances. What's
more, the songs are drawn out and lack the
significance, beauty or even catchiness of
old-school Disney tunes. Even the anima-
tion - despite all the talk about Disney's
big debut into the world of CGI - lacks
that sure-handed touch. Besides, back-
grounds can only be amazing if they're
the backdrop to a compelling plot and not
the focal point of attention.
It sometimes seems as if "Chicken Lit-
tle" wants to be a laugh-out-loud spoof
like "Shrek." Then you're dragged into
deep family issues and personal insecu-
rities of characters and think maybe it
will be profound like "The Lion King."
Then this abrupt transition happens
about 20 times in the first half of the film
and you realize it's going nowhere and
wonder why you didn't see "Wallace and
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