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October 10, 2006 - Image 5

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 2006-10-10

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October 10, 2006



Ars politica - or not

f you happen to be one of
the crowd that knows about
Banksy, then maybe you under-
stand my admiration of political art.
Maybe this column is just a continu-
ation of that sentiment, but this time
the context is our University.
The subject of political apathy
among students has
been tossed around the
Daily's Opinion page
often enough, and the
dialogue extends to
The Michigan Review
and beyond. What
hasn't been noticed is a
distinct artistic apathy
regarding politics, and
though this is a more
specific approach
to a larger issue, in ANDREV
a university with as KL
much opportunity for
free expression as ours, it's just as
There are plenty of examples
of this freedom, from Natural
Resources and Environment
students putting up installations
on the Diag and in The Nichols
Arboretum to performances of
Eve Ensler's "The Vagina Mono-
logues" and Moises Kaufman's
"The Laramie Project."
But with the possibility of a few
exceptions, the above examples
represent the extent to which our
University's art scene pushes the
political envelope. The fact remains
that not everyone is (or should be)
politically oriented, nor should
everyone should be held to a stan-
dard of artistic expression. But
students in our School of Art and
Design and School of Music, The-
ater & Dance seem to keep a tight
lid on any overt political leanings
- at least, there's little to no politi-
cal expression to be experienced by
the campus as a whole.
The public forum is inarguably
the most poignant sphere of expres-
sion, British graffiti artists aside.
Sexual organs scribbled on the side
of the University's Museum of Art
would probably attract more atten-
tion from the bulk of the campus
community than any exhibit in the
actual building. The whole cityscape


is a canvas, a stage, a sounding
board for any and all who wish to
see it as such.
And within the University itself
are many avenues to be explored.
The most obvious is theater, with
several venues open to all students.
The Residential College, the Rude
Mechanicals and Base-
ment Arts are all the-
ater groups that accept
submissions from the
studentbody, regardless
of department. Though
space on the Diag can
be tightly regulated,
there are several student
art galleries throughout
campus, such as the
Piano Room on North
SARGUS Campus and the study
EIN lounges in the Union.
The poetry scene is
slightly better off, with a significant
amount of slam poetry readings and
open mics around campus and Ann
Arbor asa whole.
Political activists and political art-
ists need to understand that collabo-
ration will only further their cause
- and in case it isn't clear, I'm
speaking to the political left, where
the bulk of the artistic demographic
lies. By utilizing political art, pro-
tests and demonstrations could be
better publicized, causes expanded
to include more students.
Republicans have a significant
amount of money to push their dubi-
ous, inflated morals on the public,
and while the Democratic Party
might not know exactly where it's
going, it does have the bulk of lib-
eral artists under its wing. We need
to cash in on the resources we have,
and the main asset still sitting on the
backburner is artistic expression.
Enormous amounts of theater and
performance art have been gener-
ated in the wake of Sept. 11, but
little of it seems to trickle down to
our bastion of liberalism.
Artists with a desire to see our
nation finally produce more good
than evil, wake up: Your country
needs you.
- Klein can be reached
at andresar@umich.edu.

takes it all
By Kristin MacDonald
Daily Film Editor
When play gets rough at an urban high school
basketball game, there's only one thing for the
typical movie coach to do
- let the soundtrack swell kk*
self-righteously, furiously
storm the offending ref Half Nelson
and shame him into justice At the Michigan
with some articulate brow- Theater
beating. But when coach ThinkFilm
Dan Dunn (Ryan Gosling,
"The Notebook") explodes at an unfair official,
it's with a rambling string of ineffectual exple-
tives. Promptly ejected, Dunn scowls, stomps
off and allows himself one last pathetic "so
there," weakly chucking a sideline ball at the
ref's turned back.
Dan Dunn is not the saintly inner-city teacher
he'd like to be. He's unconventional, certainly,
slipping street slang into his classroom discus-
sions and joking easily about The Man with his
middle school students. But he's not revolution-
ary - nowhere in "Half Nelson" will you find
any sanctimonious speech-making or falsely
inspirational uplift. When Dunn confronts Frank
(Anthony Mackie, "She Hate Me"), the crack-
dealing family friend of a favorite young student,
even he doesn't know what grounds he has for
accusing the man of being a corrupting influ-
ence. Dan, it turns out, is a frequent customer.
A crack addiction makes for a startling take on
the cliche of the encouraging teacher, and "Half
Nelson" neatly avoids its potential gimmicky
pitfall. The bulk of credit for this surely goes to
Gosling, a thinking person's leading man tal-
ented enough to make something believable even
out of the schmatlzfest that is "The Notebook."
Gosling is the antithesis of the Sean Penn-style
scenery-chewer, forgoing showy dramatics for
focused intensity and a naturalism so convinc-

Courtesy of ThinkFilr

"Tell me honestly. Will I ever be as hot as I was in 'The Notebook'?"

ing that Dunn never comes off as an emotional
Director Ryan Fleck's muted screenplay
assists by skimping on the dialogue. Although
at times the silence seems strained, Fleck's artsy
minimum of communication allows his actors
unusually free rein. Consider the early pivotal
moment when Dunn, holed up in a girl's bath-
room stall for an afterschool fix, is discovered
with pipe in hand by one of his own students,
Drey (admirable newcomer Shareeka Epps). As
crafted by Fleck's jumpy, close-cropped camera-
work, teacher and student share their disappoint-
ment with eyes alone.
Drey is naturally quiet anyway, preferring
a constant Kojak-like lollipop to saying much,
even among her playground friends. With an
absentee father and mother always at work, Drey
has a lot of time on her hands, and though she's
far too reticent to ask anyone for sympathy, she
doesn't mind pressing Dan for an irregular ride
home. He gradually grows protective of the duty,
and the two developa tentative friendship, drawn
together by a shared uncertainty of how else to

occupy their time.
"Half Nelson" works as a twisted riff on late
20s' ennui, contrasting the indecision of a young
adult with that of a just-turned teenager. While
many 20-somethings find themselves saddled
with mere jobs instead of careers, Dunn is stuck
in a more extreme sort of rutresigned to an addic-
tion of which he is as ashamed as he is accept-
ing. Drey, meanwhile, with little else to do, finds
herself obliging Frank's overtures of friendship,
eventually accompanying him on house calls to
serve as a drug-delivery gopher.
The two extracurricular paths of teacher and
student finally meet with wrenching inevitabil-
ity, and the titular wrestling maneuver of "Half
Nelson" - a stranglehold - becomes a deft
description of their respective situations. Dunn
never cries mercy, but he doesn't wriggle out
either. "One thing doesn't make a man," he
sagely tells Drey after she makes an obscure
allusion to his addiction. The platitude is half-
hearted and defensive at best. Dunn neglects
to add how one thing can actually keep a man
from making himself.


Woody's at it again

By Blake Goble
Daily Arts Writer
In the Woody Allen catalogue,
there are three different kinds of
movies. There are the undeniable
classics that we all love ("Annie
Hall," "Sleep-
er"). There Zelig
are the forget- Tonight at
table show- 7 p.m"
ings of old age At the
("Celebrity," Michigan Theater
Else"). And then there are the
underappreciated greats ("Crimes
& Misdemeanors," "Interiors").
"Zelig" fits into the last cat-
egory, as possibly Allen's most
underappreciated work. With his
typically nebbish neuroses pol-
ished for mass appeal, it's top-
notch screwball comedy.
Meet Leonard Zelig, a man
who's not a man, but rather a few
hundredmen.Allow me toexplain.
Zelig has multiple personality

disorder. In a tragically comedic
role, Allen literally becomes other
people in an attempt to blend
in with any group. He can gain
weight immediately to make an
obese man feel better. Then in the
same breath, Zelig is an authentic
black jazz musician. To top it all
off, Zelig is later found under the
influence of Nazis.
The comic invention is all
Allen, but he gets great sup-
port from cinematographer Gor-
don Willis ("The Godfather").
To achieve the look of older
film stock and insert Zelig into
famous historical scenery, Willis
allegedly stomped on the footage
in his bathtub.
Great punchlines, clever sight
gags and historical literacy are
just a few of the appealing come-
dic aspects here, but Allen's
already strong writing and acting
are elevated by his rare attempt
at some technically demanding
camerawork and the hero's ulti-

mate fate as a sad clown.
Zelig is a man with no real
character for himself. He yearns
so desperately to belong to every-
one that he actually belongs to
no one. Allen's self-referential
poignancy achieves a delicate
balancing act, elevating Zelig's
comedy with a glimpse of his
identity trauma.
Like the man himself, "Zelig"
has a little bit for everyone.

What are your rights?
This year the Statement of Student
Rights & Reponsibility will be amended.
What should it say?
Speak Out TODAY at this year's Forum:
Oct 10th, 6:00 - 7:30 PM, MSA Chambers (The Union)
or E-mail c-cab@umich.edu.
Sponsored by the Code of Conduct Advisory Board
and the Office of Student Conflict Resolution.

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