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September 20, 2007 - Image 13

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The Michigan Daily, 2007-09-20

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The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

Thursday, September 20, 2007 - 3B

As ifyou needed
more reading

ecommended reading
lists haven't always had
the best reputation. Har-
bingers in grade school of a swift
truncation of late-summer after-
noons (if your mother was at all
like mine), book lists are now the
brunt of undergrad complaints,
arrivingtoo late for students to
find discounts on Amazon.com (at
least before
* the drop/add
For those
tomed or
to reading BERLY
of pages per CHOU
night, the idea
of shopping the textbook stores
for pleasure may seem beyond
unnecessary. But chances are,
once you learn to "read" the right
way for those scary humanities
classes (we'll have a how-to col-
umn on the subject at some point,
I'm sure), you'll have plenty of
free time, not all of which need be
filled with alcohol-fueled after-
An easy wayto find leisure
reading that will fit your lofty
LSA standards isnto browse the
reservebookshelves at Shaman
Drum, Ulrich's and Michigan
Book and Supply. Professors
include books in their curricula
for obvious reasons, and it's not
always the English and com-
paraiive-literature courses that
suggest the best ones. Reading
"Henry VI" and "The Tempest"
for English 367 will teach you
to read Shakespeare at different
points of his career - and that
"Othello"'s Iago is simply one of
the most fantastic characters ever
created. But reading "Less Than
Zero" predominantly through
the filter of disaffected suburbia,
rather than post-modernism (it's
a text required by Prof. Matthew
Lassiter's History 364: History of
American Suburbia course) forces
you to think in different ways.
Deep, right?
"White Teeth" by Zadie
Kali Israel's course on British
history (History 221: Survey of
British History, winter semester)
J has included among its required
texts the Zadie Smith novel
"White Teeth." The then-23-
year-old writer's debut covers
the intersection of race, class, sex
and history through the lives of
immigrant families in London.
"Oryx and Crake" by Marga-
ret Atwood
History 285/RC Social Science:
Science, Technology and Medi-

tine in Society (winter semester)
will also work literature into its
reading list. One recent inclusion
was Margaret Atwood's "Oryx
and Crake," a science-fiction
novel about a man named Snow-
man who may be the last man on
a savaged future earth.
Cultural Anthropology 101
has a set of de rigeur textbooks,
but each semester features one
or two books that can be read
as contemporary ethnographies
- or just really good non-fiction.
Try "Number Our Days" by Bar-
bara Myerhoff. It's an ethnogra-
phy of older Jews at a Californian
recreation center in the 1970s.
And "The Spirit Catches You and
You Fall Down," Anne Fadiman's
account of a Hmong family's fight
with American health practitio-
ners over its epileptic daughter, is
a journalistic tour de force. It not
only gives the reader a detailed
overview of the Hmong diaspora
and public health in Merced,
Calif., in the 1980s but challenges
Western standards of medicine.
Browsing the
reserve shelf for
good reading.
"Jihad: The Rise of Mili-
tant Islam in Central Asia" by
Ahmed Rashid
"Jihad" possesses a weighti-
ness beyond its 300-odd pages.
Perhaps most famous for his
account of the Taliban regime,
Rashid introduces the his-
tory (and unbelievable corrup-
tion) of the five Central Asian
states. Heavy stuff, but incred-
ibly digestible. Prof. Douglas
Northrop uses it as a text for his
course on Central Asian history,
Asian 289: From Genghis Khan
to the Taliban: Modern Central
Go forth and browse, fellow
student, and borrow. Maybe
college isn't all about the abil-
ity to quote liberally from V.S.
Naipaul's oeuvre, both his fic-
tion and non-fiction, by the time
four years are up. But adding
"A Million Mutinies Now," as
recommended for Prof. Ashutosh
Varshney's Political Science
367: Government and Politics of
India, to your brain bank can't
hurt. (If you hurry, I've hidden a
copy of it in the statistics section
of Michigan Book and Supply.
Don't tell.)
- Tell Chou what you're reading
at kimberch@umich.edu.

Daily Arts Writer
Strobe lights break through the
darkness. You catch a glimpse of a
woman's lips here, a couple's exu-
berant hips there. The bass is so
loud it shakes the floor. Patrons
doingcoke and tequila shots are just
behind closed doors.
But in the middle of the night-
club, a man of uncommon intensity
is on the move. He's the one who
does not turn, who does not smile at
the sight of beautiful women warm-
ing up to each other. He is the hero
of the Michael Mann film.
Mann is the creative force behind
some of modern cinema's most
hardcore urban crime films like
"Collateral," "Miami Vice" and the
greatest cop-vs.-thief opera of the
last quarter-century, "Heat." He's
the talent behind period pieces that
tell of decent, goal-oriented men:
"The Insider," "Last of the Mohi-
cans," "Ali." Maybe his is not as hip
a name to the common film audi-
ence as aSpielberg or Tarantino, but
Mann is the model for the "auteur,"
a filmmaker whose style or tone is
distinct in all his films. This is a man
who writes, directs and produces.
His unmistakable signature is his
excruciating attention to detail and
vibrant, tonallyunlikelyuse oftcolor,
but his techniques never upstage
the film itself, unlike that afore-
mentioned director of such "genre
pieces" as "Kill Bill."
Understanding the sequence
described above - the man who
moves swiftly and unwaveringly
through a club or scene of celebra-
tion, however frivolous - is crucial
to understanding Mann's movies.
The sequence's is a prime motif
in some form in all his movies. In
"Heat," Al Pacino is the classical
badass Vincent Hanna, the tough-
est cop there is, brushing past the
dancers on the floor to meet his
criminal contact. In "Collateral,"
Tom Cruise's amoral contract
killer scans the vibrating crowd
for his next target as he stealthily
avoids the bodyguards and FBI
directly after him, all as the club
rages to Paul Oakenfold's "Ready
Steady Go." Who'd have thought
the all-American face of Holly-
wood could be so ruthless?
The scene plays out elsewhere

in other variations. As hundreds of
children cheer him on, Will Smith's
Muhammad Ali jogs through the
streets of Kinshasa. They are there
in his honor, rejoicinghis presence in
the small African town. Yet Ali, who
never takes his eyes off the horizon,
keeps his mind on the boxing match
ahead. Or even in 2004's "The Avia-
tor," which Mann produced (the
film was directed, expertly, by Mar-
tin Scorsese), when the entire cast
and crew of "Hell's Angels" dances,
drinks and screws the night away,
Howard Hughes scrutinizes "The
Jazz Singer" and prepares himself
for another year of filmmaking to
make his masterpiece epic even
better with sound.
Why is this scene always
there? If Mann is an auteur, he'll
do more than just parallel him-
self in all his projects. His films'
are recognizable because of their
consistent subjects. The' director
chooses movies about men not
swayed despite temptation or
threat. While others may be able
to spend their nights in ecstasy,
Mann's characters are always,
unwaveringly, on a mission.
This tells us about the film-
maker himself. Mann embodies
the characteristics so pervasive
in his films' leading players. Only
one of a handful of students to.
graduate his high school, he pur-
sued a film career with passion
and even traveled to Europe to
learn the craft because he was
unsatisfied with the opportuni-
ties his dwn country had to offer.
To avoid conscription at the
time of the Vietnam War, Mann,
in England, formed a film com-.

Through a
crowd, Mann's
pany and was allowed to stay in
a country where he could create
rather than destroy. He rose in
Hollywood, ultimately capitalizing
not just in narrative film, but also
documentaries and television. (He
did the TV show "Miami Vice," and
you can thank him for the whole

pastel craze.) It takes the same kind
of stubborn ardor to achieve what
Mann did as it does to catch the per-
fect "riminal
Opening next weekend is Peter
Berg's "The Kingdom." Mann pro-
duced the film, and though the
coveted director's credit might not
precede his name, you can be sure
his stylistic and narrative devotion
will be just as clear.
That's not intended to put Berg
down. Mann is a filmmaker whose
talent, and not his ego, outshines
most of his colleagues, even as he
collaborates with them, and that is
his ultimate mark.

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