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November 20, 2006 - Image 8

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The Michigan Daily, 2006-11-20

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8A - Monday, November 20, 2006

The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

Nice shoes.

Vapi dcon
viewer be.
By IMRAN SYED
Daily Arts Writer
A quick search of IMDb.com
shows that few actors have as
much on their -
plates right .*. l
now as Will
Arnett. The Let's Go
rave reviews to Prison
that heralded At the Showcase
"Arrested and Quality 16
Develop- Universal
ment" even
into its premature cancellation
have left the quirky gesture come-
dian (who played the self-pro-
moting magician and perpetual
screw-up Gob Bluth on the show)
in high demand, although most
of his projects so far have failed
to take advantage of his consider-
able comedic instinct. The latest
misstep, "Let's Go to Prison," is
a attempt at satirical humor gone
disastrously awry, despite the
good intentions that seem to have
gone into it.
"Our justice system sucks,"
declares John Lyshitski (Dax
Shepard, "Employee of the
Month"), the protagonist of "Pris-
on" and self-proclaimed victim of
that system. When he was eight,.
John tried tousteal the Publisher's
Clearing House van, mistakenly
thinking there would be money
inside, and ever since his life has
been a virtual carousel in and out
of prison.
Once he's finally out of lock-up,
John looks immediately to taking
revenge on the judge who ruined
his life, Nelson Biederman III. But
when he learns that the old judge
is dead, John focuses his ven-
geance on his bratty son Nelson IV
(Arnett), framinghimfor anarmed
robbery and ensuring himself a
place in Nelson's cell. In prison,
the fresh-faced Nelson gets beat
up, choked, stabbed and otherwise
violated, much to John's delight.
But as Nelson grows accustomed
to prison ways, he makes John
angrier, leading to a final death
match out on the yard.
Despite tasteless trailers and no
screenings for critics, there isn't

riedy puts
hind bars
anything overtly painful about the
film.
Evenwiththe manymiscalculat-
ed gags and totally vapid writing,
the film is not always unwatch-
able, but it fails in its persistent,
desperate attempts at both humor
and sentiment. We're supposed to
sympathize with John, and - con-
sidering that he's been in trouble
with the law since the tender age
of 8 - you'd think that sympathy
would be easily conjured. Instead,
watching him spit in people's cof-
fee and shoot up phone booths
- not to mention con an innocent
man into prison - we're left hat-
ing the supposedly tragic protago-
nist. That's never a good sign.
And Nelson, though his inno-
cence and childish demeanor is
The 'Seinfeld'
curse is poised to
become a plague.
awkwardly out of place for most of
the film, could be a character eas-
ily salvaged if he were just a little
bit funny. Arnett brings his trade-
mark smug vanity to the role, but
in the absence of perceptivs writ-
ing, his antics are forced and lame.
The lesson here is that though
Arnett played one of the funniest
characters in recent TV history,
his humor is a simply a product of
the material at his disposal.
We all know by now of the "Sein-j
feld" curse, whereby the cast mem-
bers who played some of the most
memorable characters ever could
find no success after the show
ended. Arnett's empty schtick in
both "Prison" and his last effort
"RV" indicates that the chances of
a similar "Arrested Development"
curse are strong. It's possible that
in his many upcoming roles, Arnett
will find the writing to take his
routine back into top form, but for
the time being, his failures should
help us appreciate even more the
genius creation "Arrested Devel-
opment" really was.
!E OF ART
YORK . SINGAPORE

Newsome
wows on
second disc
By MATT KIVEL
Daily Arts Writer
After the unexpected success of her 2004
debut, The Milk-eyed Mender, Joanna Newsom
quietly disappeared from the public eye. She
had charmed the entire indie music community
with her unabashedly off-
kilter vocal delivery and ****
idiosyncratic harp play- Joanna
ing, and it seemed that her Newsom
most lucrative opportuni-
ties would lie in rigorous Ys
touring and promotion of Drag City
the debut record. Instead,
Newsom shacked up with Van Dyke Parks and
made a wonderful follow-up album that sounds
more like an epic poem than a traditional song
cycle.
Ys is a focused and expertly crafted musical
statement - its five story-songs cling together,
bound inextricably by Newsom's vivid lyri-
cal motifs. In "Emily," the album's 12-minute
opening vignette, Newsom dances effortlessly
through ancient biblical prophecies, astro-
nomical observations and vivid geographical
portraits: "Though there is nothing would help
me come to grips / with a sky that is gaping and
yawning / there is a song I woke with on my
lips / as you sailed your great ship towards the
morning." The song feels like an ancient fable,
but it remains elusive in its meanings, choos-
ing oblique metaphorical twists instead of
straightforward plot. The string arrangements
by Van Dyke Parks are bold and inventive,
though never overbearing, and his work is qui-
etly respectful of the album's lyrical complex-
ity. The cellos and violins flail and crescendo in
calculated response to her vocal hiccups.
"Monkey and Bear",opens with a tightly
woven four-part harmony and a more expan-
sive orchestra, employing clarinets, flutes
and horns. The arrangements imply a musical
sophistication that's in sharp contrast to the
song's rural and grounded diction: "Now her
coat drags through the water / bagging with a
life's worth of hunger /limitless minnows / in
the magnetic embrace / balletic and glacial / of
bear's insatiable shadow."
The density of the album's compositions is
astonishing, each with a meaning that reveals

courtesy of Drag city

Joanna Newsom, queen of indie - and of the elves.
itself slowly, without fully exposing a charac-
ter's intentions or intimate desires. Newsom
has created a world all her own that exists
firmly in the surreal, but maintains a timeless
All-star contributors
and a personal evolution
yield brilliant results.
quality. "And there was a booming above you
/ that night black airplanes flew over the sea /
and they were lowing and shifting like beached
whales, shelled snails, as you strained and
squinted to see / the retreat of their hairless
and blind cavalry." In one moment she recalls
the poetic prowess of Homer's "Odyssey." In
the next, she harnesses her lyrical pretense and

conjures the earnest simplicity of Uncle Remis
folk tales, never pausing to announce her nar-
rative fluctuations.
An all-star cast of musical minds came
together to shape the overall sound of this
record. Parks brought his Broadway-inflected
take on classicism, while Jim O'Rourke and
Steve Albini molded the album's more subtle
aspects, allowing Newsom to deliver her stories
through a carefully constructed mix of sound.
But it's Newsom herself who deserves the
lion's share of praise for the music's success.
Her growth and maturity as an artist is a rev-
elation, and unique in the current world of pop
music, where most artists tend to remain in
their musical safety zones. The evolution that
took place between her two albums is reminis-
cent of Bob Dylan's growth from Freewheelin'
to Highway 61, the sound of a musician defiant-
ly abandoning the comforts of previous songs
while redefining what the word "song" actu-
ally means.

Union gallery examines regime's effects

By ABIGAIL B. COLODNER
Daily Arts Writer
The subjects of the portraits in
"Year Zero to 2006," a photographic
Phibit in the

exIII InMe
Union's Art
Lounge by two
University stu-
dents, are cap-
tured in quiet
moments, usu-
ally alone in
their homes.
Small boxes
of text under
each image
relate what is

Year Zero
to 2006:
Images and
Histories
from Post-
Khmer
Rouge
Cambodia
All this month
At the Michioan
Unio Art Lounge

it "Year Zero" - thebeginning of a
"clean slate" for the nation.
The regime sought to purge
Cambodia of Western influence
- meaning some modern technol-
ogy, education and religion, such as
Buddhism and Christianity. People
who were suspected 'of being taint-
ed were forced out of cities into
oppressive rural labor or, some-
times, imprisonment and death.
RC junior Emma Nolan-Abraha-
mian, who is a Daily photographer,
and LSA junior Lara Finkbeiner
traveled to Cambodia with grants
from several University programs,
including the Center for Southeast
Asian Studies and the Internation-
al Institute. Under Cambodia's cur-
rent government, a constitutional
monarchy whose leader was him-
self an early Khmer Rouge fighter
before he changed sides, investi-
gations into the regime are at last
underway. Organizations like the
Documentation Center of Cam-
bodia, a Cambodian NGO, helped
guide the students.
Though the regime was over-

only hinted at I '
in the faces of these Cambodians:
the displacement, impoverishment
and loss suffered by each individual
under the oppressive Khmer Rouge
regime in the 1970s.
A detailed placard at the begin-
ning of the exhibit describes the
regime's eventual takeover of the
ruling military government in 1975.
Pol Pot, the coup's leader, declared

turned in 1979, its effects have per- to do, she decided to flee and join
sisted. Nolan-Abrahamian's photos the revolution to fight for her coun-
and Finkbeiner's text document try." Such commentary is difficult
these long-term effects. to take at face value,.and serves as
Nolan-Abrahamian's camera a symptom of the moral complexity
doesn't pry or capture moments inherent in the exhibit.
of extremity. Her subjects seem All the people express awish for
temperate, composed. Most meet Cambodia's future. They reflect on
the camera's gaze with quiet inter- the lasting effects of the regime on
est. In the tight shots of torsos and the country as a whole - the lag in
faces, there's little visual context education,theabandonedbuildings,
the approximately 5 million land-
mines still hidden in the ground -
Photo exhibit and on their personal lives. Nearly
all lost multiple family members.
investigates the Some reveal horrific details, such
as the death of an ill brother when
aftermath of the regime soldiers "treated" him with
a fatal injection, or a son who was
Khmer Rouge. caught stealing rice being tied to an
anthill as punishment.
Although their experiences
beyond the person's immediate were universally extreme and dis-
background - individual touches ruptive, people take very different
are low-key and limited. As the attitudes toward what ought to be
accompanying text reveals, the done. With outreach projects to
plainness of each person's demean- educate youth and an investigation
or belies the extraordinary events aiming to put surviving members
they participated in and were buf- of the Khmer Rouge to trial under-
feted by. According to the text, way, many want the regime's deeds
many were forced to join the Khmer to be exposed to Cambodians and
Rouge when it entered their town. to the rest of the world, especially
Some survived by stayingunder the the youth. Not everyone wants the
radar inside the regime, either as a events of the past to be forgiven;
farmer in forced labor or as a mem- the man who watched the torture
ber of the fighting regime itself. of his son is quoted as wanting
Finkbeiner's text recounts each "blood for blood."
person's experience under the With histories that contain such
regime, how they survived and, depths of violence, the subjects'
often, how their families did not. calm surfaces invite inspection, a
Many were coerced into member- search on the part of the viewer for
ship with the Khmer Rouge when some hint of that history in the sub-
forces disrupted their farming vil- jects' faces.
lages. The text summarizes the Most of their statements end
individuals' accounts of their expe- with wishes like "(the subject)
rience. Without direct quotes, a hopes the United Nations can find
viewer will have trouble determin- truth for the Cambodian people,"
ing whose point of view, exactly, is which for some mean revenge, oth-
coming through. A caption reads ers restraint, and for all a move
"Because she felt like she had little toward the future.
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