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January 25, 2006 - Image 5

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January 25, 2006
arts. michigandaily.com

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. . ... .......... ...

'U' alum speaks at Sundance

By Amanda Andrade
Daily Arts Writer
Maybe it's the endless (and mindless) media coverage of
the glitzy parties, extravagant gift bags and supple starlets
decked out like ski bunnies, but many critics have accused
the Sundance Film Festival of losing its indie edge.
What began as a project to bring attention to filmmak-
ers outside the mainstream has become, during the past
25 years, a world-famous event for big-studio bidding and
celebrity showcasing.
But this year, Sundance organizers have developed "The
Art House Project," a program intending to spotlight the
work of theaters across the country that exhibit films out-
side the mainstream - the films Sundance was founded to
promote. Ann Arbor's historic Michigan Theater is one of
14 art house theaters chosen to participate, with Executive
Director Russ Collins serving on a panel discussion today
in Park City, Utah.
"(Sundance organizers) see that their 'brand' is of value,"
Collins said, explaining the art-house focus. "They're trying
to think of a way to associate that 'brand' with people who
are in the trenches - the people who aren't in New York and
Los Angeles."
Sundance Programming Director John Cooper agreed. In
a statement, Cooper said, "For 25 years, Sundance has been
committed to building audiences for independent film, and
the art-house cinemas carry on our work day in and day out
at the local level."
For Collins, local is imperative. An Ann Arbor native, he
received both his B.G.S. and a Masters in Arts Administration
from the University. He has served as CEO of the Michigan The-
ater since 1982, and has a clear vision for the theater's purpose.

"We're an organization that has an artistic mission - our
most important role is to make the theater available to the
community," he said.
The Michigan Theater is an independent, nonprofit orga-
nization committed to showcasing specialty films outside
the mainstream. In an essay he wrote for the Sundance Film
Festival Daily Insider, Collins said, "Art house movies tend
to behave as the high-end, prestige wing of the media arts
(such as) the opera or the symphony of the performing arts
because, as well all know, it is television that is the real
mainstream of the media arts."
And it's that continuous struggle to look beyond the main-
stream that Collins shares with the Sundance Film Festival.
He appreciates what the festival has done over the years to
keep its independent spirit and mission, and attributes increas-
ing commercialization to changing perceptions. "What was
an art film last year is mainstream this year. Miramax used to
be the great hero, now they're the evil empire," he said.
But Collins seemed unperturbed by criticisms of Sun-
dance, brushing them off as a natural byproduct of the fes-
tival's success. Indeed, the Michigan Theater itself strives
to find a balance between exhibiting the more mainstream
art-house features - for example, the currently showing
"Brokeback Mountain" - and those films far below the
radar of most casual theater-goers, such as the forthcoming
"Naked in Ashes," a documentary about Indian yogis that
opens this Sunday.
The theater, which sees more than a quarter million patrons
every year, has nothing but a bright future, Collins said. "A
year ago there was an article in the New York Times about
us," he said. "This year we were invited to participate in Sun-
dance. We look to be a world-class institute for the exhibition
and promotion of cinema culture."


"Beat it, beat it, no one wants to be defeated ... "


Dramedy sidesteps tired premise

By Imran Syed
Daily Arts Writer
I E* *
How many shows have come out, this
year alone, set in New York City? Sure,
it's a big city, but it's hard to conceive so

By Imran Syed
Daily Arts Writer
Like everything else Terrence Malick has touched
on film, "The New World" is a uniquely philosophi-

many people living
the same yuppie
lifestyles, having
the same stereotypi-
cal group of friends,
drinking coffee/beer
at the same place

Love Monkey
Tuesdays at
10 p.m.

cal and artistic achievement. But is
that enough to make up for its lack
of the more conventional compo-
nents of a film - plot, dialogue and
action? Against all odds, the answer
is yes. Though it may be lost on the
mainstream theater audience, the
movie is breathtaking and, even in

The New
At the Showcase
and Quality 16
New Line

between every commercial break and fac-
ing the same set of supposedly real-life
problems. The latest show to follow this
wholly worn trend is CBS's "Love Mon-
key," which, despite its lame setup, might
actually turn out to be a great show dis-
guised as run-of-the-mill, network debris.
Tom (Thomas Cavanaugh, "Ed") is in
the music business (nice change here -
fashion, sports and movies have all been
done before, highly original, major props
... ), and apparently has the golden ear. He
discovers a James Franco-lookin' kid who
may be the next John Mayer, but just as he
moves in on a deal, he makes the mistake
of going off on a "School of Rock"-esque
soliloquy about his love for music during
a meeting and finds himself fired by the

"We're like 'Friends.' Just with more guys. And fewer viewers."

big, bad record executive. Jobless and on
the outs with his girlfriend, Tom turns to
his four friends for support, learning that
life goes on, and so must he.
If "Love Monkey" is a comedy, it's not
a very good one because it's just not that
funny. But it does function reasonably
well as something above a sitcom. It has
an undeniably sweet undertow, like Cava-
naugh's "Ed," which renders the show
likable even though its typical plotline is
almost unbearably bland. Another thing
the show has going for it is the absence
of a laugh track, which allows for more
thoughtful dialogue rather than just inane

punchlines. Its hourlong timeslot also
makes it a bit less superficial in execution,
even with its often frivolous narrative.
It's just not easy to pass judgement on a
show like "Love Monkey" without seeing
more of it. Certainly, its pilot wasn't as bot-
tom-feeding as was NBC's "Four Kings,"
a sitcom with a similarly mundane setup.
Still, the possibility of the show deteriorat-
ing into just another "Friends" knockoff
looms large, even after two solid episodes.
Should it remain a semi-drama and not go
too far for laughs, however, "Love Mon-
key" could well evolve into one of the bet-
ter shows to debut this year.

its almost excruciating long-windedness, somehow
manages to transcend its limitations.
"The New World" is actually not a story of new-
found lands, their people or the outside explorers;
rather, it's more an amalgamation of all these told
through the eyes of three historical names: Captain
John Smith, Pocahontas and John Rolfe. The story
should be familiar to audiences - the love of John
Smith (Colin Farrell, "Alexander") and the Native
American princess Pocahontas (newcomer Q'Orianka
Kilcher), having been cinematically explored in detail
before (but no Vanessa Williams vocals this time,
sadly). Through Malick's trademark poetic pacing,
narrative and dreamlike camera movement, we are
told this very human story and made to realize the
tragic implications of its nuances for each of the char-
acters and their people.
Though it has been advertised in trailers as a swash-
buckling adventure tale, "The New World" is a sur-

prisingly (and, at times, annoyingly) calm and stoic
film. Farrell's Smith seems almost tame, only taking
up his sword on rare occasions - he's more of a phi-
losopher than a soldier. Pocahontas too is a deeper
character than we're used to, pondering the signifi-
cance of the Europeans' coming and the dangers of
her love for Smith.
The last person in the love triangle is John Rolfe, a
character often overlooked in the Pocahontas legend,
played masterfully here by Christian Bale ("Batman
Begins"). Bale's remarkable emotional range, from
his sly smile to fatherly grimace, are all put to good
use by Malick, adding an uncommon sensitivity to the
tobacco farmer who eventually marries Pocahontas.
The characters have minimal dialogue, with most of
the story told through action and voiceover narration.
Their ruminations give rare insight into their actions
before and as they happen, giving the viewer the
unique ability to judge the actions in their appropri-
ate context. Though it might seem irrational for Smith
to refuse Pocahontas, the unprecedented insight the
audience has on his thoughts fosters understanding.
Adding to the overall poetic, understated nature of the
film is James Horner's singular score. Unassuming
and at times nonexistent, the music reflects the emo-
tions of the characters with uncanny precision.
"The New World" ends not to the sound of blar-
ing instruments but to the soft chirping of birds and
quiet clashes of waves. It is indeed an odd feeling that
envelops moviegoers as they leave to a completely
silent theater, punctuated only by the muffled shuf-
fling of feet. In this hush too lies a message from
Malick - for all the swords, spears and ships, it's the
birds who have the last say.

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