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November 21, 2005 - Image 8

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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 2005-11-21

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Monday
November 21, 2005
arts. michigandaily.com
artspage@michigandaily.com

RTSe idigan ltil

8A

Magic for Muggles

hile most books happily
settle for overlooked exis-
tences - lazing snugly on
their shelves, wrapped up in their cozy
little dust jackets - six whimsical tales
of a bespectacled magical orphan have
recently opted for a slightly more glam-
orous life.
Indeed, the "Harry
Potter" series is now a
bestseller that has nearly
outgrown its very medium,
with the sixth book gross-
ing more money when it
debuted in July than the
top movie at the box office.
And it's not just for kids
anymore either. Grandpar-
ents, doctors, businessmen
in suits - these days, AM
everybody does "Potter." AN
Nor does it end with
the books. Series author J.K. Rowling,
famously wealthier than the Queen
of England, has made a fortune in the
licensing and merchandising of her
creation. Apart from three of the top-
grossing films of all time (the fourth
of which, in case you've been frying
in the Fishbowl too long, opened this
weekend to predictably gargantuan
numbers), the "Potter" logo is stamped
on everything from beach towels to
jelly beans.
But while nobody's arguing that
"Harry Potter" isn't getting the rec-
ognition it deserves, some might be
wondering what it is exactly about the
boy wizard that has the whole world
so enthralled. At its heart, each "Pot-
ter" book is just a fancifully-written
story with vividly realized characters,
climactic battles at the end of every
academic calendar and far too many
subplots. But are these really the awe-
some foundations for a multimedia
empire?
Well, the books are good. In fact,
they're very good. "Harry Potter" has
the merits of being eminently read-
able and universally accessible. But so
also was the other literary behemoth
of the past few years: Dan Brown's
"The Da Vinci Code," a travel guide
turned movie script with characters cut
out of a Hollywood manual and word
scramblers thrown in for the easily
bored. While fans of the book would
be quick and accurate to point out that
a re-evaluation of the misogynistic his-
tory of the early church is timely and
important, they'd probably be standing
pretty much alone.
Because the point is that Brown's
page-turner (when every other page
begins or ends a chapter, you do get
Phoenix
shines m
new Cash
biopic
By Imran Syed
Daily 4rts Writer
On Aug. 16, 1977, a life of prescrip-
tion-drug abuse and exhaustive concert
tours claimed the life of an American

A
DI

through them pretty quickly), while
proving immensely popular, has failed
to make it into the everyday life of
Americana. Perhaps a synergistic
swell of enthusiasm upon the release
of the forthcoming movie adapta-
tion will push it all the way. For now
though, "Potter" remains the book of
our times.
And "Potter" popularity
is due in large part to pre-
cisely that popularity itself.
It's normally just called
hype, but it's not always as
hollow as it sounds. Enthu-
siasm for the movie breeds
enthusiasm for the books
breeds enthusiasm for, say,
a Lego Hogwarts and a
NDA stuffed Hedwig. But for
RADE "Potter" and a few other
franchises like "Spider-
man" and "Star Wars," the hype starts
in the consumer rather than the market-
ing firm. The fever becomes cyclical;
it's a well-known phenomenon that
helps explain why Natalie Portman has
persistently appeared in your Happy
Meal these past few years.
Most significantly, however, there's
been a breakthrough in the ultimate
information medium that has enabled
millions more to fuel the "Potter"
frenzy. While 10 years ago the Internet
might have been a tool for tech geeks
with a modem, it's now pretty much an
assumed amenity of daily American
life. The advent of blogging and fan-
site-ing have made feeding your obses-
sion - or even mild interest - as easy
as typing "Harry Potter" into Google.
The days are over when, to be a
Trekkie, you had to live in the base-
ment lovingly crafting the canonically
correct Klingon suit. Being a geeky fan
today is none of the effort and half the
stigma, which means there's a whole
lot more of them out there. And with
these interactive resources so easily at
hand, "Harry Potter" has become just
one more avenue for people to experi-
ence collective euphoria - that feeling
of basking in the glory of something
bigger than yourself, the feeling of
sharing your own excitement with the
swarming midnight crowds of red-and-
gold-bedecked Potterphiles on opening
night. Think of it as the self-feed-
ing hysteria of a football crowd, only
where the yard lines are chapters and
the players aren't legal yet.,
-Andrade, at age 21, is still
prey to the magical spell of Harry
Potter. Jolly good. E-mail her
at aandrade@umich.edu.

"Cut your bloody hair or I'll rip it out of your heads with a spell."

SOMETHING ABOUT 'HARRY'
BOY WIZARD'S LATEST SOARS TO NEW CINEMATIC HEIGHTS

By Amanda Andrade
Daily Arts Writer

Muggles, rejoice.
Just four months after the release of the long-
awaited sixth installment of the behemoth book

series, "Harry Potter" fans
can now savor two-and-a-
half hours of pure visceral
enjoyment with the boy
wizard's brilliant fourth
cinematic outing.
Following Harry (Dan-
iel Radcliffe), Ron (Rupert
Grint) and Hermione
(Emma Watson) on their
adventures around Hog-
warts School of Witchcraft

Harry Potter
and the
Goblet
of Fire
At the Showcase
and Quality 16
Warner Bros.
and Wizardry for

pages, that efficiency comes at a cost that may
offend "Potter" purists. Gone are Hermione's
passion for house elf liberation and Ludo Bag-
man's goblin gambling debts. Director Mike
Newell ("Donnie Brasco") and screenwriter
Steve Kloves ("Wonder Boys") ruthlessly tear
through the novel, cutting and rearranging
with stunning disregard for authentic repro-
duction.
What they get instead of a mere cinema ver-
sion is a movie that stands on its own. After
director Alfonso Cuaron's renegade take on
"Prisoner of Azkaban" garnered the best
reviews of the series, Newell follows with a film
that owes much of its free spirit and panache to
the stylish, sophisticated "Prisoner."
Although "Goblet" lacks the strong narrative
cohesiveness of its predecessor, the indepen-
dent energy of the film is again what allows for
the emotional immediacy largely lacking from
the first two installments.
Newell, incidentally the first British direc-
tor to seize the rein-s, is to be congratulated
on tackling a project that many preemptively
calle.impossibl;,,
Rumors abounded in pre-production that the
highly episodic text would need to be turned
into a two-film undertaking. Yet the movie,
with its veritable parade of supporting char-

acters and at least five major subplots, holds.
together in a perfectly unified whole. Magical,'
really.
Visually, too, this "Potter" is the strongest.
The whimsical cinematography that so strong-
ly stylizes the films is still here, but the soar-
ing wide shots linger longer, the sets are more
lavish and the CGI effects are among the most
impressive ever realized on film.
The young actors at the heart of these mas4
sive movies are also at their finest this time,
out, inhabiting their characters more fully
than ever before. Radcliffe, who's been stilted
in the past, seems to have finally come into his
own. He's finally stopped trying to perform
Harry Potter and simply is Harry Potter. All
around, the actors are refreshingly natural and
unstudied.
And though all good fans will miss their
favorite scenes - or characters, as Draco Mal-
foy becomes a footnote - the tradeoff is a truly
great movie. Whether you're being dragged
along by little siblings or you've already got
a favorite ship ;(don't ask, really), the film is
Hollyod's rare holiday treat. Neither.frivo-
lous nor ponderous, and serving up entertain-
ment without the condescension, "Goblet" is a
warm mug of butterbeer in these cold days of
schlocky wannabes.

6

another year, this film takes the franchise in
an unmistakably darker direction as spells turn
morbid and death takes the forefront.
Those who still abstain from the literary
"Haxry"_w w4Lbe entertaine .Irdue Potter-
heads are due to appreciate the allusions and
complexities layered into an outstandingly effi-
cient running time.
Given that the source novel is an epic 734

'Project' succeeds amid controversy

legend. The King
of Rock was dead.
But Johnny Cash
could easily have
been the one to die
instead of Elvis
Presley. It's by
luck alone that he

Walk the
Line
At the Showcase
and Quality 16
20th Century Fox

Courtesy of 20th Century Fox

endured and eventually overcame his
self-destructive lifestyle. Cash's story,
as played out in "Walk the Line," is
inspiring for that reason alone - it's a
story of perseverance, of admitting and
overcoming faults.
"Walk the Line" opens on a cliff-
hanger, a turning point for the newly
recuperated Johnny Cash (Joaquin
Phoenix, "Gladiator"). The film then
drops back, starting with Cash's child-
hood in Alabama cotton fields and his
brother's tragic death. It progresses to
where he inks a record deal to become
the legendary "Man in Black," tour-
ing with musical icons like Pres-
ley and Carl Perkins. But with fame
comes trials: drug abuse, divorce and,
finally, one last shot at redemption in
his resilient future wife, June Carter
(Reese Witherspoon).
C^ C"1 A ITT

"I'm a Phoenix, bitch."
Life is a series of ups and downs,
and, unfortunately, so are biopics.
"Walk the Line" is no different, suffer-
ing from discontinuity and a swerving
storyline. Yet it remains entertaining
and even touching, thanks to brilliant
performances from its stars. By the
end, the film manages to pull all the
disparate threads together, leaving
audiences satisfied.
Phoenix's portrayal of Cash is
impeccable, possibly better than Jamie
Foxx's lauded turn in 2004's "Ray." He
has Cash's legendary deep tones and
undeniable folk charm. It would be
too much to ask of anyone to live up
to Cash's vocal prowess, but Phoenix
does an admirable job singing all of
Cash's vocals.
But Phoenix still doesn't outshine
his co-star. Thankfully removed from
the irritating peppiness of "Legally
Blonde," Witherspoon sparkles as the
unshakable Southern belle responsible
for getting Cash's life back together.
to LSA Dean Terrence McDonald when

Perhaps inspired by her own roots in
Nashville, she shows incredible musi-
cal talent; she also sings all of her
songs in the movie.
By the time we get back to the open-
ing scene of Cash standing alone in
Folsom Prison opposite a saw like the
one that gored his brother, he is about
to give the most memorable perfor-
mance of his life and announce his
return. Here the obstacles he's over-
come and what he is destined to be is
finally clear.
All of us desire to become legends,
but few ever achieve the immortality
of Johnny Cash. Yet there's a profound
price to pay for this greatness. For
Cash, music was always easy, while
everything else was a challenge. It's
thus fitting that the film closes not to
a song, but instead to a fulfilled Cash
spending a quiet afternoon with his
family, removed from the guitar and
stardom that won him so much but
nearly cost him everything.
to two media. When you think about

By David R. Eicke
Daily Arts Writer
With so much focus on Fred Phelps and his supporters
and the tumult on the sidewalks outside
the Michigan League's Lydia Mendels- The Laramie
sohn Theater, many University students Project
seemed to forget about the cause of it
- the actual performance going on At the
inside. "The Laramie Project," based Menderhn
on the murder of Matthew Shepherd,
came to Ann Arbor this past weekend.
The production has a unique form; it is a play about the
writing of itself. The "Project" is an enormous set of real
interviews done by a group of writers in the small town of
Laramie, Wyo., where the tragedy took place. Shepard, a
gay student at the University of Wyoming, had been brutally
beaten and left for dead on the outskirts of town.
The play was written directly from these genuine inter-
views, and in keeping with reality, simply reproduces
them for the audience in a form closely resembling docu-
mentary. Reproduction of the actual events is kept to a
minimum, reserving flashback dramatizations for only
the most powerful scenes. Most of the play explores indi-
vidual memories of the citizens and students in Laramie,
their reactions to the murder and reflections on how it has
changed their small town and its reputation.
So solidly founded in the real world, the show pos-
sesses an ineluctable force. One cannot dismiss it, cannot
brush it away with "that would never happen" or "peo-
ple don't behave like that." Engineering senior Harpreet
Rai, who attended Thursday's performance said that he
could "easily hear other students around (him) crying,"
especially during the scene where Shepard's father was
speaking. The script is also occasionally infused with
some humorous lines, especially in local bumpkin/wise-
man Doc O'Connor's running commentary.
That said, the play, running nearly two-and-a-half
hours, is about 30 minutes too long for many sleep-
deprived college students accustomed to the flashbulb
editing of "MTV Cribs." A few students grew weary and
began to fidget after the second act.
Still, students from the University's Department of
Musical Theater gave stellar performances this weekend,
many of them playing several different parts. James Wolk

A

FOREST CASEY/Daily
The cast of 'The Laramie Project' rehearses.
played everything from simple sage to orange-clad con-
vict, while Sari Goldberg was everything from a dogmat-
ic, bespectacled old lady to a fiery young lesbian leader
protesting against Fred Phelps (whose character was also
in the play). Edmund Jones, last year's raucous Mercutio
in "Romeo and Juliet," played some of the most somber
and emotional parts. All performances were very strong,
and the actors' versatility was impressive.
Staging was also well done, with the lighting greatly
effective. The props were minimal, and the actors were
spread out and used the entire stage, allowing for a very
modern feel to everything, especially with the eight nar-
rators sleekly clad in black.
Despite the brouhaha surrounding it, the play accom-
plished its goal of enlightenment, and told a true story,
not just about Matthew Shepard, but the wake his death
left to rush over Laramie's heart.

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brought a number of changes to the cur-

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