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October 30, 2007 - Image 5

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The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

Tuesday, October 30, 2007 - 5

"Where are you going!?"

Penn's vision
doesn't fit story

By NOAH DEAN STAHL
Daily Arts Writer
By now, the story of
Christopher McCandless -
the Emory
University
graduate ***
from an
upper- Into the
middle- Wild
class
family who At the State
donated Theater
his life's Paramount
savings to a
charityand
set out on a personal expedi-
tion into the Alaskan wil-
derness - is widely known.
Jon Krakauer compiled the
provoking, intimate tale into
the non-fiction book "Into
the Wild," which Sean Penn
had the foresight to adapt to
film.
There is no denying the
basic strength of this story
and the ideas it provokes.
But as Penn's "Into the
Wild" proves, that doesn't
mean its transition to film is
that simple.
The film opens with a
series of montages of the
starkly beautiful Alaskan
wilderness. Accompanied
by music from Eddie Vedder
of Pearl Jam, whose score is
honorably intentioned but
borderline annoying, we see
clips of Chris (Emile Hirsch,
"Alpha Dog"), contemplative
and serene in his natural
environment.
The film characterizes
Chris's relationship with his
parents as tense and adver-
sarial. Upon graduating
from college, his father (Wil-
liam Hurt, "A History of Vio-
lence"), mother (Marcia Gay
Harden, "Mystic River") and
sister (Jena Malone, "Donnie
Darko") come to visit him in
Atlanta, offering to buy him a
new car as a graduation gift.
"Things, things, things!" he
replies incredulously, and
thus begins the journey that
gives the film its title.
Chris burns his Social
Security card and his
remaining money, heading
westward toward Alaska.
One of his first encounters
is a violent flash flood, leav-
ing his old, yellow Datsun
in shambles. Undeterred, he
picks up his backpack and
continues westward, forging
strong bonds with a pair of
hippies who travel by RV, a
mill operator named Wayne
(Vince Vaughn, "The Break-
Up") and an old man named
Ron Franz (Hal Holbrook,
TV's "Evening Shade").

The film's chief strength
is in its actors. Hirsch is an
asset, not only in his perfor-
mance but inbringingstabil-
ity to the jumbled narrative,
which I'll get to in a second.
Vaughn proves his capabili-
ties as an actor beyond the
confines of the buddy com-
edy, easing tangible spirit
and fun to the movie. Hol-
brook brings an emotional
authenticity to the picture's
indistinct later section, and
Hurt and Harden make an
impression in relatively
small roles.
At every stop along his
journey, there are various
displays of human connec-
tion all around Chris. Some-
times you see the fractured
pieces of relationships;
sometimes you see how the
kindred spirit between peo-
ple is essential to life. All of
these important connections
surrounding an emotionally
isolated Chris culminate in
a final awakening late in the
film.
The movie's power is evi-
dent in these simple themat-
ic points,hbut writer-director
Penn's narrative system
needlessly complicates the
story. Jumping back and
forth between Chris's base
camp on an abandoned bus
in Alaska and his journey
toward Alaska, the narrative
burden is shared between
A beautiful tale
needlessly
complicated
as a movie.
his sister (in the form of
a voiceover) and the per-
sonal moments Chris has
with himself that are bet-
ter conveyed on paper than
on screen. In a movie that's
often intensely visual, the
segments that insist on tell-
ing rather than showing feel
out of place.
Deeplyemotional attimes,
the movie could bring the
audience to tears - and had
it been properly executed,
it no doubt would have. The
struggle to escape the mate-
rialism and misguided val-
ues that plague daily life has
the ability to resonate with
any spectator, but "Into the
Wild" never quite captures
the essence of McCandless's
journey.

Lupe Fiasco's upcoming album will challenge the music industry's fixation with money, sex and violence.

ast September, Lupe
Fiasco introduced
music circles to a dis-
tinct mix of skateboarding,
Islam and the gang culture
of Chicago's West Side. His
stunning debut album, Food &
Liquor, showcased exceptional
lyricism and proved that his
"cool nerd" persona was far
from a gimmick.
In drawing on his diverse
points of reference, Lupe was
able to craft a collection of songs
that both raised the bar for the
next generation of rappers and
reaffirmed the importance of
socially conscious music. With
multiple Grammy nominations
and magazine covers, as well as
membership in a supergroup
with Pharrell and Kanye West,
Lupe has reached an enviable
level of mainstream recogni-
tion.
But the past year also saw
the passing of his father and
the long-term incarceration
of a close friend and business
associate. Many rap fans also
have been clamoring over his
unfamiliarity with a certain
golden-age classic and his
alleged inability to skateboard.
Despite these personal obsta-
cles and industry-related pres-
sures, Lupe set about recording
an ambitious follow-up record.
The album, titled The Cool,
is a concept-driven record that
challenges the music industry's
fixation with money, sex and
violence. The album's con-
cept centers on Lupe's theory
of social change, to which he
credits Cornel West.
"You have to make those
things that seem cool uncool,"
he said yesterday before his

performance on the Diag.
"You have to make it hip to be
square, and then you might see,
on some level, small, tiny 180s
start occurring."
The Cool is a continuation
of the story in "The Cool," a
song from Food & Liquor. The
character, also known as "The
Cool," is a deceased street hus-
tler who has risen from the
dead and returned to his old
block. In his appearances on
The Cool, the phantom hustler
is depicted in sharp contrast
with the dope-boy archetype
that is celebrated or champi-
oned in much of today's rap.
Lupe turns the dealer into a
"half-rotten zombie" forced to
reflect on his life as a gangster
and his resulting denial from
heaven.
As the album progresses,
"The Cool" is joined by "The
Game" and "The Streets,"
characters Lupe uses to per-
sonify other negative aspects
of street life.
"They're like these monsters
they developed out into these
real kind of creepy figures," he
said. "'The Game' has dice for
eyes and bullets for teeth, and
'The Streets' has dollar signs
for eyes."
Though the album doesn't
drop until Dec. 18, Lupe seems
to have created a critical opus
in the vein of Masta Ace's
Slaughtahouse and other clas-
sic concept albums.
To effectively carve out the
idiosyncrasies of his charac-
ters, Lupe found inspiration in
a variety of influences. In addi-
tion to the aesthetics of Johnny
Cash and post-rockers Explo-
sions in the Sky, Lupe gravitat-

ed toward the eccentric blues
of Tom Waits.
"Tom Waits was heav-
ily influential on this album,"
he said, "just in the abstract-
ness of his storytelling and his
ability to create the scene. So
I took some of that and put it
into some of the records." Lupe
described the resulting sound
as having a "cinematic, comic-
book appeal."
In a stratified hip-hop
world, where materialistic
mainstream giants are pitted
against righteous underground
rebels, Lupe serves as an alter-
native to both factions. His
unique approach to addressing
this dichotomy is captured in
his latest single, "Superstar."
The song itself is a catchy
meditation on life in the spot-
light, but a closer listen reveals
a subtle political commentary:
"Most of us don't want it to fade
/ We want it tobraid / Meaning
we want it to grow, meaning we
want it to stay / Like the gov-
ernor called-and he told him to
wait / Un-strap him from the
chair and put him back in his
cage."
The video for "Superstar"
again focuses on this juxtapo-
sition. Lupe said he uses the
grandiose direction of Hype
Williams to create a "very
clean, very Hollywood" image
of himself as a rising "super-
star." But the video also reflects
the underlying message of The
Cool, as it features cameos from
"The Streets" and "The Game."
With a focus on bringing his
art to an ever-expanding audi-
ence, Lupe succeeds in provid-
ing fans and peers alike with a
refreshingbrand of hip hop.

A 'Simpsons'
Halloween
hall offame
H alloween is basically a perfect holi-
day. Any event that allows me to
acquire free food, attempt to offend
people with a costume and pass it off asa
joke (FEMA costume: check), take a knife
to a hallowed-out gourd and constantly eat
miniature cones of sugar in the guise of corn
has my support.
But the Halloween tra-
dition most near and dear
to my heart is the annual
"Simpsons: Treehouse of
Horror" episode. Com-
posed of three short seg-
ments apiece, each of the
17 "Treehouse" episodes
has its own merit. Togeth- PSMAN
er, though, they stand as
the greatest collection of Halloween comedy
in existence. Even as the show has declined
over the past 12 years, the "Treehouse" epi-
sodes are still some of the series's best.
There is no quintessential "Treehouse"
episode. "Treehouse of Horror V" is largely
regarded as the best, but a weak final third
holds it back.
I've boldly taken it upon myself to compile
the perfect "Treehouse" collection. There are
a lot of good shorts that didn't make the cut,
and there's always a chance a future episode
will crack the list, but with 17 "Treehouse"
episodes in the bag and an 18th coming Sun-
day, here's the definitive "Treehouse of Hor-
ror" special:
Opening title: Every traditional "Simp-
sons" episode opens with a couch-gag right
before the credits, but the Halloween special
bucked that trend years ago. To kick off the
best of"Treehouse" episode, I'm looking to
"Treehouse of Horror XVI," where "Tree-
house" hallmarks Kang and Kodos lament
over baseball's inherent boredom and having
to wait for the World Series to endbefore the
"Simpsons" Halloween special canbegin.
Eventually they speed up time because,
you know, they're aliens, and they can do
that kind of stuff, though they accidentally
destroy the fabric of the universe in the pro-
cess of kicking things off.
Just so you know, the
real Halloween is on
Sunday this year.
Act 1: The first act in the definitive collec-
tion is borrowed from "Treehouse of Horror
V," and it's my personal favorite. "The Shin-
ning," an obvious parody of "The Shining"
that clones most of Kubrick's trademark
shots, has Homer tryingto kill his family
after losing his mind without entertain-
ment or alcohol. Besides Homer's classic
"No TV and no beer make Homer go crazy"
bit, which is on regular rotation at Joe Louis
Arena and other sports venues, this one gets
bonus points for notable appearances by
Mr. Burns, Groundskeeper Willie and Moe
- three of best peripheral characters on the
show.
Act 2: Here's where it starts to get tough.
"The Shinning" was a shoo-in, but now we're
left with about 10 other worthy shorts that
won't make the list. I'm putting "Attack of
the 50-Ft Eyesores" from "Treehouse of Hor-
ror VI" in the second slot for its celebration
of obnoxious advertising and Paul Anka. In
"Attack," oversized corporate characters
come to life after Homer steals a massive
metal donut from a street-side Lard Lad

Donuts mascot. Eventually, the crisis is
averted when Paul Anka kills the giant mas-
cots via songby instructingthe residents of
Springfield to stop paying attention to the
ads.
Act 3: My initial thought was to put "The
Night of the Dolphin" from "Treehouse of
Horror XI" here, but after goingback and re-
watching the others, "Dial 'Z' for Zombies"
from "Treehouse of Horror III" stole the last
spot. The plot is fairly simple - Bart wakes
the dead while performing spells with the
Thriller album on his head - but the execu-
tion and writing are flawless. Ultimately,
Homer's shotgun rampage takes care of zom-
bie Shakespeare, Einstein and Ned Flanders,
allowing Bart and Lisa to reverse the spell
and send the undead back to their graves
before the entire town is wiped out. We're
left with the family talking abouthow they're
gracious for not turning into zombies, all the
while sitting motionless on the coach in front
of their television.
The end.
It's worth noting that with the exception
of the openingtitles, all of the content comes
from the first half of the show's run. Still,
legions of "Simpsons" fans including myself
are still eager to see Sunday's new "Tree-
house" episode, just as we have for nearly 20
years.
My calendar says Halloween is tomorrow,
but I'm pretty sure it's not till Sunday this
year.
- We English majors can't believe
Passman didn't include the "Raven" bit. E-
mail Passman at mpass@umich.edu.

Tonight, Orthodox music remade for today

By KATIE CAREY
For the Daily
Like students of religion seeking
truth, Russian Patriarchate Choir
founder Anatoly
Grindenko looked
to the east. And like Russian
many 20-year-old PatriarChate
musicians seek- .o
ing inspiration, he
looked to the spirit Tonight at
of rock. 8 P.M.
But unlike most,
Grindenko spent Atthe5
years decoding At then
ancient manuscripts ASt. irCathoi c
of Orthodox Church Churcho
music with his choir.
He searched for a
combination of religion and inspiration
in a time when the Soviet government

strictly banned this type of music.
"Despite our imperfect present-
day view, what emerges is a unique
soundscape that musically expresses a
prayerful and spiritual reality," Vladi-
mir Morosan wrote of the Patriarchate
Choir ina note to the press.
In his search for this reality, Grin-
denko spent the later decades leading
up to the collapse in 1991 uncovering
ancientmanuscripts on liturgical music
that lay dormant for centuries before.
His influence, though, extends beyond
older manuscripts and into to the con-
temporary realm of King Crimson,
Gentle Giant, Pink Floyd, Genesis and
Yes.
Today, Grindenko joins 12 members
of his all-male choir tobring the sounds
that were outlawed in Communist Rus-
sia to the St. Francis of Assisi Catholic
Church in Ann Arbor.

With the eventual demise of the
Soviet Union came the opportunity for
the Russian Patriarchate Choir to bring
its performances to the public, tour-
ing internationally, attracting a grow-
A resurgence of the
buried art of
Orthodox chant.
ing fan base worldwide and creating a
resurgence of the buried art of Russian '
Orthodox chant.
Reviews of past performances sug-
gest audiences do not have to share the
same religious spirit to fall under the
hypnotic spell of the choir's ethereal

voices.
The choir has a variety of ways to
capture its audience. With folk songs,
chants or hymns, the Patriarchate pulls
the listener in with overlapping tones
that bellow from deep within the choir.
The sounds resonate like bells, creating
an unearthly atmosphere.
While the first part of the all-Rus-
sian program will include perfor-
mances from the decoded hymns, there
is a strong representation of Russian
liturgical and folk music by composers
Rachmaninoff, Bortniansky and Gre-
choninov.
Regardless of one's inclinations, the
Patriarchate Choir promises to leave
its audience with small echoes of some-
thing unworldly, the spine-tingling
sense that Grindenko and the Patri-
archate Choir have found and decoded
the truth they were looking for.

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