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April 04, 2006 - Image 8

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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 2006-04-04

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Tuesday
April 4, 2006
arts. michigandaily. com
artspage@michigandaily. com

RTSe Atdiga 1ailu

8

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

The colors of love

ove, I'm told, can endure all
things. It's earthshaking and
eternal, painful and joyous
- a mystery of the heart and a many-
splendored thing. But of the entire cat-
alog of banal cliches our culture has
prescribed to it, perhaps none is more
pervasive than this: Love is blind.
The movie industry might disagree;
love in Hollywood is
nothing if not driven by
markers of external simi-
larity - common features
that might include, for
example, age, physical
attractiveness and race.
Apparently cognizant of
its biases, the film industry
has been doing fairly well
in the game of catch up to
the 21st century. AM
In two of those catego- ANI
ries, anyway.

A
DP

Take, for instance, that revered little
fragment of pop-culture dogma that
says ugly girls don't get good guys.
In the wake of "Sex and the City," in
which smart and capable women strut
around town with men as variable
and eye-catching as their shoes (and
far more disposable), the elements of
make-believe gender relations have
taken small steps toward equality
- forget reciprocity. Unattractive men
with nice personalities have always
been able to snag sympathetic babes.
The same goes for the societal sanc-
tion given to older men and younger
women, though not historically vice
versa ("Harold and Maude" notwith-
standing). But with the rise of Diane
Lane and the resurgence attempt by
Sharon Stone, celluloid women have
proven themselves plenty capable of
exuding sex appeal at any age.
Don't take this as a declaration of
women's liberation. The prevailing
mentalities are still problematic, but
the general outlook at least gazes in
the right direction. So imagine the
scene: Hollywood sits congratulat-
ing itself on accepting the dispari-
ties in beauty and age, all the while
still trying to pretend differences in
race don't exist.
OK, maybe that's not quite right.
After all, interracial dating was a cen-
terpiece of the No. 1 film at the box
office this past weekend. Taking in a
mind-blowing $68 million, the film
featured Ray Romano (TV's "Every-
body Loves Raymond") pining for the
beautiful Queen Latifah ("Last Holi-
day"). It was an astonishing attempt at
acknowledging the love that can flour-
ish between people of different racial
backgrounds.
It was also an animated film in
which both stars played woolly.
mammoths.
"Ice Age: The Meltdown" wasn't
afraid to showcase an interracial

couple, just as long as there was no
visual. "Shark Tale" also played this
game, featuring Will Smith romanc-
ing both Angelina Jolie and Renee
Zellweger in fish form.
And speaking of Smith, for an
actor as easily affable and enthusiasti-
cally charming, he seems to have sold
himself short on the most obviously
lucrative of genres for his
talents: romantic comedy.
Smith, in the entirety
of his career, has made
only one. The problem for
"Hitch," as movie produc-
ers saw it, was who to cast
opposite the black actor. Or
rather, what color to cast.
Regarding the deci-
sion, Smith was quoted
NDA as saying, "There's sort
RADE of an accepted myth that
if you have two black
actors, a male and a female, in the
lead of a romantic comedy, that
people around the world don't want
to see it ... So the idea of a black
actor and a white actress comes up,
and that'll work around the world,
but it's a problem in the U.S."
The solution presented herself in Eva
Mendes, a Cuban-American actress
who would neither alienate white audi-
ences by the implication of an all-black
romance, nor offend fragile conserva-
tives with a black-white pairing.
Two months ago, the industry took
a real stab at tackling interracial rela-
tionships by inverting preconceived
racial stereotypes in the romance
"Something New" In overtly self-
conscious style, the movie plainly
admitted it wasn't a romance between
two people; it was a romance between
two people of different races. Even
the title reads as self-congratulatory
mold breaking.
The irony is that Hollywood genu-
inely seems to want to care. After all,
they awarded the crowning laurel of
this year's best picture to "Crash" over
many more (technically and cinemati-
cally speaking) qualified movies, pre-
sumably because they found its subject
matter so urgent.
Of course it is. Films like "Crash"
and "Something New" are important
today because, in using race as a
defining attribute, they bring attention
and dialogue to a topic often swept
under the rug of American conscious-
ness. It's only lamentable that our cul-
ture cherishes such a racial taboo that
the very fact of a prominent interracial
relationship invariably makes a film
about race.
Unless, perhaps, they're anthropo-
morphic mammoths.
- Andrade wants to play a
saber-tooth tiger. E-mail her
at aandrade@umich.edu.

Courtesy of
Miramax
"Tsotsi,"
winner of
this year's
Oscar
for best
foreign-
language
film, is now
piaying at
the State
Theater.

GRIM BUT UPLIFTING 'TSOTSI' FINDS WARMTH IN TRAGEDY

01

By Andrew Bielak
Daily Arts Writer

Few figures are more feared and reviled
within a developing industrial society than the
modern, urban criminal. Eter-
nally marginalized, hopelessly TsotsI
destitute and morally bank-
rupt, our standard notion of At the State
these nameless thugs tags them - Theater
as forever irredeemable for Miramax
their fundamental discordance
within larger societal norms. But redemption -
specifically in the most tragic of circumstances
- is precisely what director Gavin Hood's mod-
ern adaptation of the 1961 South African novel,
"Tsotsi," hopes to understand. With a strong set
of performances, unapologetic sentimentality
and upbeat urban vibrancy, it would certainly
be hard to argue that it fails.
With a nickname that literally means "thug"
in Zulu, boorish teenager and small-time crimi-
nal Tsotsi (newcomer Presley Chweneyagae) is
alternately brooding and psychotic. While roll-

ing dice or downing beers with his three cohorts
in a dusty slum outside Johannesburg, he's pen-
sive and calculating.
Caught in an uncontrollable moment of pas-
sion, the baby-faced Tsotsi turns sickeningly
violent. When an intra-group conflict leaves
Tsotsi flying solo for an evening, his impulsive
criminality leads him to steal an expensive car
and shoot its owner - only to find, minutes
later, a wailing infant in the back seat.
Driven by a powerfully fervent performance
from Chweneyagae, Tsotsi elicits both our hor-
ror and sympathy in reacting to the circum-
stances before him.
At the moment of his discovery, his look of
shame, fear and confusion suggests a deep desire
to protect the child, but his woefully misguided
attempt at caring for it illuminates his fundamen-
tal irresponsibility and simplicity. Perhaps his
only sensible move regarding the child is to force
a neighbor - and new mother herself (newcomer
Terry Pheto) - to take it under her care.
Although Hood doesn't directly offer an
explanation for Tsotsi's sudden paternalistic
impulses and the consequences of this new role
on his morals, he does place particular empha-

sis on our antihero's anguished upbringing to
explain his current state of mind. Fleeing from
a violent, temperamental father and an AIDS-
afflicted mother, we learn that Tsotsi spent the
majority of his youth living in a cement tube,
alone and unwanted. With the gradual illustra-
tion of this history, we are essentially forced
into feeling a sense of empathy - acquiring an
understanding of the protagonist's actions as an
attempt to reclaim a lost childhood.
One of the greatest strengths of "Tsotsi" is
its depiction of the central characters' color-
ful neighborhood, rendered in a manner that
is simultaneously artful and gritty. Pulsating
to thunderous South African hip hop, the cha-
otic bustle between the slum's dingy tin-roofed
shacks doesn't so much set the scene as it palpa-
bly tells the story itself.
Despite a predictably uplifting conclusion,
the film is an outright triumph because the
force behind its message is so powerful. That's
not to say that "Tsotsi" is not a deeply sadden-
ing piece of work, but for those who prefer their
heartbreak stitched together with a faith in per-
sonal redemption, "Tsotsi" is not simply worth
seeing, but hailing.

Listening to unnecessary release like 'Murder'

By Matt Emery
Daily Arts Writer

Music REvl w . lm A
When My Chemical Romance
released Three
Cheers for Sweet My Chemical
Revenge in 2004, Romance
the New Jersey
quintet leapt Life on the
to instant pop- Murder Scene
punk stardom. Reprise
Appearances on
MTV, AOL Sessions and a tour with

The Used solidified the band's posi-
tion as a commercial angst power-
house. Now, four years later, MCR
returns with an album packed full of
live performances and extras from
their half-decade together.
The problem is, no matter how
many times you repackage shit, it
still smells.
Life on the Murder Scene is
essentially a greatest-hits box set,
encompassing the band's entire
catalog - a whopping two albums'
worth. The record is also packed
with material: More than four hours

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of footage via two DVDs, which
include a video diary, live concert
shots, music videos, the making of
the music videos and special studio
sessions. Also included is a CD with
live tracks from MTV performanc-
es, special demos and a previously
unreleased track.
The disc highlights MCR's tried
and true live acts as well as hit songs
from their first two records. MTV
favorites "Helena" and "I'm Not
Okay (I Promise)" are presented live,
while demos of "I Never Told You
What I Do for a Living" and "Bury
Me in Black" are also included.
The sheer bleakness of the album
is overwhelming. The DVD menu
screens show more death, blood,
morgues and bullets than a studio
horror movie. Even the packaging
creates a game to play with your
friends: Guess- how many ways a
wedding couple can be bloodied
and stained.
The video diary delves deep into
the lives of the group members,
chronicling the early stages of the
group. It reads like a VH1 "Behind
the Music," highlighting frontman
Gerard Way's battle with alcohol
and drugs. The band also discuss-
es their unique sense of fashion,
explaining how they try to go for
the "dead look." They play for cam-
eras while straightening their hair,
blackening their eyes and creat-
ing fake, bloodied wounds before
shows. Look for flak jackets at your
local Hot Topic soon.
The diary also describes the
band's divinity. Numerous fans claim

that MCR has saved their lives. The
bandmates also join the fun, stating
that the group kept them away from
depression and the hateful outside
world. After all, isn't punk rock all
about saving lives?
The second DVD is a two-hour
concoction of live performances,
TV appearances, online sessions
and music videos. But don't expect
to find many new, groundbreaking
performances. "I'm Not Okay (I
Promise)" is the same song whether
it's performed on Conan, on AOL
or in a large concert hall. The lack
of improvisation in their live shows
hurts the cause even more; MCR is
more robotic onstage than Tommy
Lee's drum-riser. You're not OK,
great, we get it.
Life on the Murder Scene feels
like a recap of any failing band's
20-year spiral into hell. My Chemi-
cal Romance makes the journey in
just four dismal years. Maybe they
know their demise is ahead. Hard to
believe, though, when so many more
lives need to be saved.

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