8 - The Michigan Daily - Tuesday, October 3, 2006
By Imran Syed
Daily Arts Writer
There are really only two types of
movies in the world: The ones where the
ex-champion schools the ** 7k .
rash, unbridled hotshot The
- and then everything
else. Kevin Costner and Guardian
Ashton Kutcher know At the Showcase
this, and "The Guard- and Quality 16
ian" is their melodra- Touchstone
matic attempt to make
sure you do too. After all, surely we've
all wondered: How do you decide who to
As the self-described "motion picture
event of the fall," "The Guardian" is the
story of Ben Randall (Costner, "Messagae
in a Bottle"), the Coast Guard rescue swim-
mer of choice for those lucky enough to
be doing their open-sea drowning up near
Alaska's Bering Strait. Ben's a legend, but
as the gray stubble on his cheeks shows,
he's getting old.
Then one dark and stormy night, a rescue
goes bad and his whole crew dies. Broken,
Ben decides to hang up his flippers and
transfers to the rescue swimmer training
academy to school the young padawans,
There he meets Jake Fischer (Kutcher), a
brash high school swim champ who turned
down scholarships from "every Ivy league
school" to come to pursue his dream of
rescue-swimming. Of course, he's got a
big head and wants nothing but to show
off and instant glory. But when life lessons
rain, they pour, and before you can even get
your mind around the idea of the guy from
"Punk'd" in an Ivy league college, Jake's
already a wise old sage, master of selfless-
ness, courage and humility.
With his huge sunglasses and cold,
suave swagger, Jake easily resembles Tom
Cruise's Maverick in "Top Gun." But Mav-
erick rebelled for a reason; Jake seems to do
it just for the hell of it. His character is hol-
low, crafted for looks alone with outbursts
of melancholy that are difficult not to laugh
at. Kutcher has fashioned his heroic senti-
mentality in the Hayden Christenson circa
the "Star Wars Episode II" mold - in all
tells it 'Plain'
By Abigail B. Colodner
Daily Arts Writer
University of Michigan Muse-
um of Art Off/Site, the exhibition
street level on
South Uni- Mary
versity Ave- Lucier
nue, allows " e a
UMMA a The Plains
spot in the of Sweet
rary art world Through Nov.
while the 19 Guided
main building tours Oct. 12
on State Street and 26 at 7
udros p.m. and Oct.
undergoes 15 and 29
major expan- at 2 p.m.
sion. The AtUMMA
location - no storied architecture,
no climate control to protect the
integrity of painted works - made
UMMA recast itself as a selective
exhibition space purely for pho-
tography, film and video. Upcom-
ing exhibitions this academic year
will run for about a month and
a half each. Expect shows that
explore a range of locations, from
an industrial plant in Dearborn to
landscapes like cemeteries that are
shaped by a human aesthetic.
The current exhibit concerns
itself with recent economic and
population changes in the Great
Plains region. A placard written by
the director of the North Dakota
Museum of Art, which commis-
sioned Lucier's works, attributes
these changes to the emergence
of "agribusiness." That museum's
Out of the Plains;' which includes
Lucier's installation, explores how
these mega-facilities have changed
the lives of local residents and
workers: They threaten to render
the family farm obsolete.
Lucier's videos project onto four
angled walls of a room and run
on a smaller screen in the room's
center. Informed by the placard
and primed for investigation into
the tenuous lives of Great Plains
residents, the viewer enters with
a sense of purpose. As visitors sit
in one of the wooden chairs posi-
tioned around the screen, they
understandably feel as if they've
been prepped to learn something.
But Lucier's videos shy away
from the details that would ground
us in the setting the exhibition aims
to bring to life. Stationary and mov-
ing shots of landscapes appear and
fade on the screens. At one point
all four walls are projected with a
calf's birth. On the middle screen,
wheat waves in the wind.
Gazing at an abandoned farm-
house, you suspect that the person
behind the lens, perhaps Lucier
herself, knows as well as the audi-
ence that nothing is about to hap-
pen. By "capturing" these scenes
on video, Lucier communicates the
lingering hope for renewal felt by
the Great Plains' displaced peo-
ple. It's a sentiment easily felt the
moment visitors enter the exhibit.
Lucier's videos mull over it rather
than draw out what makes this situ-
ation a particular one.
When Lucier gets around to
looking at the agribusinesses them-
selves, she finds visuals ripe for
exploration but again stays away
from analysis. These engaging
shots make the case for Lucier's
use of video, which otherwise
feels a bit strained. Smokestacks
churn up the air with force, wave
upon wave of frothy cloud filling
the sky. In a sustained close-up, a
cow exhales white puffs into the
morning air, chomping its jaw with
factory-inspiring regularity. In
this juxtaposition of two forms of
industry, Lucier's endearing cow at
last directs our sympathies.
The second segment of Lucier's
installation is a repellant slow-
motion sequence of bull-riding
at a rodeo. A schmaltzy, looped
country-western ballad combines
with the faintly ridiculous video to
bewildering effect. Is the viewer
supposed to feel warmly toward
the slow-moving cowboy who
has to be rescued by handlers? Or
do we root for the bull, which is
reduced to a spliced, geometric
mass? The song implies we should
find it hard to tear ourselves away
from this scene, rather let us say
this emblem of the threatened
American spirit, but the view-
er may find he leaves his little
deskchair with no trouble at all.
Your career's been punk'd.
his irritably childish glory. Now, how can
that be a good thing?
And why is Costner suddenly stuck in
brainless roles like this and his last one in
"Rumor Has It"? You'd think stars like him
would know a good screenplay from the
mess "The Guardian" is built upon. But then
again you gotta pay the bills somehow.
Tired and boring though they often are,
you've got to take a minute and admire the
brazen audacity with which some films
seize the vapid and cliched. The sheer fury
with which "The Guardian" propels itself
makes you almost overlook the fact that
everything you see has been done hundreds
of times before. The film, in its overlong,
winding and cluelessly paced narrative has
a lot to do, and as it moves from one appar-
ent climax to the next, you might even be
Courtesy of Touchstone
tempted to put your brain on standby and
enjoy the ride. In fact, that's unavoidable
after about 15 minutes.
"The Guardian" picks you up and shakes
you senseless, so that when you leave the
theater and a friend asks you about the film,
you manage little more than "umm, the
film?" It's a generic adventure story with a
hackneyed turn to sentiment, but it'll make
money as long as the wide base of hydro-
phobic movie watchers aren't too scared.
And while no one should scream, there are
several unintended giggles along the way,
especially as Kutcher does his best Leon-
ardo DiCaprio by solemnly throwing out
the "I'll never let go!" line at the most inop-
portune moment. But through the giggles,
you eventually buy into the insubstantiality
- and are a lesser person for it.
- r~ ii
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