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April 01, 2008 - Image 5

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The Michigan Daily - michigandaily~com h

Tuesday, Aprill1, 2008 - 5

The look of a man in need of change.

The third-party
conundrum-

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: "The Betrayal," Larry Flynt and "The Orbits Inside"

A RETURN TOFORM

After two tepid years,
festival concludes with
awards and homegrown,
indie mentality
By JEFFREY BLOOMER
DailyArts Writer
"The Betrayal," a prodigious, decade-
spanning documentary that follows a fami-
ly's immigration from wartime Laos to New
York City, won the Ken Burns Award for
Best of the Festival to conclude the 46th Ann
Arbor Film Festival on Sunday.
The feature-length film, also known as
"Nerakhoon" and directed by the longtime
cinematographer Ellen Kuras ("Eternal Sun-
shine of the Spotless Mind"), won a $3,000
prize supplied by the award's moniker, film-
maker Ken Burns, who is a graduate of Pio-
neer High School in Ann Arbor.
A series of screenings Sunday night show-
cased more than a dozen films selected by the
festival's jury, which included Bill Plympton, a
renowned animator; Michelle Silva, an eclectic
filmmaker and restorationist; and Bill Brown,
an experimental documentarian from Texas.
They recognized a total of 25 films with more
than $18,000 in cash prizes designed to foster
the continuing work from the honored film-
makers.
Among the top winners was "Diente por
Ojo," a lurid, interconnected tale from Spain,
which took the Lawrence Kasdan Award for
Best Narrative Film, and "kids + money," a
winner of the Michael Moore Award for Best
Documentary Film that examines the mate-

rial drives of young people in Los Angeles.
Both films won $1,000.
"The Mermaid," an innovatively animat-
ed tale of a man who lusts after an unlikely
target, and the stop-motion experiment,
"Spontaneous Generation," split the Chris
Frayne Award for Best Animated Film,
which carried a $1,000 prize. "Yours Truly,"
a much-discussed, startling noir short won
the Peter Wilde Award for Most Technically
Innovative Film, good for $500.
Other awards honored filmmakers in
categories like funniest film, best interna-
tional film and, of course, best experimental
film. On the local end, LSA Senior Lecturer
Terri Sarris split the award for best Michi-
gan filmmaker with Dean Denell, and the
announcement of her recognition earned
audible approval from the theater crowd
Sunday night.
After two turbulent but productive years
for the festival that saw a successful anti-
censorship battle with the state of Michigan
(which led to a special presentation Satur-
day night by First Amendment activist and
porn mogul Larry Flynt) and an uphill battle
to secure its $75,000 fundraising goal, the
festival was smooth and continued the tra-
dition that has earned it national acclaim.
As with every year, there were some tech-
nical hiccups, as well as uninitiated audi-
ences who seemed weary of some of the
more venturesome screenings.
One screening Thursday night, called
"Cracking the Space-time Continuum,"
seemed particularly prone to audience disil-
lusionment. Some shorts in the presentation
were singular, like "Black and White Trypps
Number Four," which was constructed out
of footage of a Richard Pryor performance

and looked like a moving Rorschach test.
Others, like "Polar" and "Burren," seemed
distinguishable only in the particular kinds
of wind-tunnel-like, degraded noise and the
size and color of abstract shapes or blurry
clips warming up to a warp-speed slideshow.
Not all viewers were up to the challenge, and
as some began to walk out mid-performance,
an audience member spoke up. "We're all in
this together!" he implored them as they left,
which got a nervous laugh from the crowd.
But even when the films were hit-or-miss,
viewers continued to file into the theaters
abuzz through the weekend, leading to sev-
eral sold-out shows.
This might have been at the behest of the
more hands-on curation the festival fea-
tured this year, which included "themed
competition programs" that organized the
screenings of films into distinct packages
like "All That Is Animated," which pack-
aged the festival's popular animated films,
and "The Orbits Inside," which examined
issues of identity and cultural institutions.
Though some festival-goers said the themes
were not always cohesive or representative,
others said they planned their attendance
around them.
On the final night of the festival, the orga-
nizers seemed at ease, and the audience was
content. It was another successful year for
the festival - a stamp of authenticity for
adventurous moviegoers and a loyal, inde-
pendent champion of film art. Despite the
recent legal battles, it was clear Sunday that
its strong, charmingly seditious identity
remains intact.
- Abigail B. Colodner and Andrew
Sargus Klein contributed to this report.

he list of frivolous things
that have continued to
hold my interest since age
eight is relatively brief: "The Simp-
sons," the Detroit Red Wings and
Nintendo. That's it. Michigan State
basketball (I was brainwashed),
"Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,"
"Home Improvement," Sega Game
Gear - I've
moved on from
these things.
But I've held on
to the others
and likely will
for a long time,
which is why
it's difficult to
admit that one MICHAEL
of my nearly PASSMAN
lifelong inter-
ests has gone
astray. Nintendo, I love you, but
your latest venture just isn't doing
it for me.
I know sales figures and an
informal poll of soccer moms shop-
ping for birthday presents at Best
Buy would suggest otherwise, but
the Nintendo Wii is a failure. Sorry,
but it is. Not in terms of interest
or financial numbers, butthe Wii
has failed to deliver on its intended
purpose. The Wii was supposed to
be the anti-video game video game
console: Graphics and buttons were
out; interactive gameplay was in.
The system hasn't flopped in the
sense that Virtual Boy flopped
- there are legitimately good, bor-
derline-great games available for it
- but the Wii sacrificed HD visu-
als and a consistently competent
controller for one that sometimes
works for certain things. Ninten-
do's jacked-up TV remote was sup-
posed to revolutionize the industry,
but herewe areb16 months after
it launched, and two things are
clear: Third-party developers aren't
interested in learning to develop
for the hardware, and Nintendo is
slowly inching away from it. Thus,
I present to you the case against
Nintendo Wii:
Exhibit A: Third-party sup-
port. Since Nintendo 64 launched
in 1996, Nintendo has had a difficult
time coaxing quality games out of
third-party software manufactur-
ers. Because producing games on
cartridges wasn't economical and
scared developers away, N4's soft-
ware library paled in comparison
to that of the original Sony PlaySta-
tion. A few years later, the Nintendo
GameCube came along. With its
miniature controllers and CDs, it
too failed to draw in many of the
titles that Xbox and PS2 did. But
with the Wi, it seems things have
started to change for the house
that Mario built. The Wi library
is still substantially smaller than
Xbox 360's or PS3's, but Nintendo is
finally regaining support from most
third-party manufacturers. The
problem: The games are not good.
It's that simple.
It was clear at the Wii's launch
that developing games that effec-
tivelycutilized the Wii Remote was
going to be difficult. "Wi Sports"
was the only launch title able to
truly harness Nintendo's new con-
troller, but it was only a collection
of basic mini-games. When the Wii
launched, the consensus was that
though it would take a little while
for developers to figure outcthe new
hardware, eventually non-Nintendo
developers would learn how to use
the console. Unfortunately, this has
not happened. At the moment there
are less than five worthwhile Wi
games that were developed outside

Nintendo's umbrella. "Guitar Hero
III" is solid, but it came with its
own hardware, doesn't offer down-
loadable content and doesn't even
include stereo sound - and it's a
music game. The "Madden" series
has been half-decent, but it's still
not nearly as deep as the PS3 and
Xbox 360 builds. And then there's
- shit, that's about it.
The issue with the other titles is
that it seems developers still don't
know how to use Nintendo's con-

sole. Sports games that should be
using the Wii Remote to provide 1:1
gameplay are instead porting over
GameCube games and swapping
out the A button for a shake of the
controller to make it "interactive."
Shooters, racing games, action
games - nothing has seemed to
work that wasn't birthed by Nin-
tendo.
Exhibit B: Nintendo is inch-
ing away from its controller.
Since the holiday season, Nintendo
has released two major titles that
were both undeniably good."Super
Mario Galaxy" and "Super Smash
Bros. Brawl" are superior to any-
thing a third-party developer has
conjured for the system, and both
validate purchasing a Wii for life-
long Nintendo kids. However, both
of these games could have been just
as good on any other video game
console. What made "Super Mario
Galaxy" great was its innovative
level design, in-game physics and
nostalgic appeal. The Remote was
used to pick up little items and a
few mini-game levels, but it didn't
really enhance the game. "Brawl"
doesn't even use the Wii's motion-
sensing capabilities, but instead
utilizes traditional control schemes,
basically encouraging players to dig
out their GameCube controllers.
And on Apr. 27, when "Mario Kart
Wil" is released, it will let gamers
Nintendo might
want to ditch the
Wii and stick to
software
choose between a movement-based
steering configuration and a Game-
Cube controller. From a consumer's
standpoint, it's positive that Nin-
tendo is offering multiple control-
ler configurations with its new
games, but on some level, it's also
an admission of guilt. The Wi's
controls can be useful with certain
games, but more often than not, the
system ends up holding software
back more than pushing the indus-
try forward.
All of this poses an interesting
question that isn't going to make
a certain crowd happy, but it still
needs to be addressed. Would it be
best for gamers - all things con-
sidered - if Nintendo abandoned
the hardware industry and stuck
to making software? After all, soft-
ware, not hardware, is what the
company has always done right.
I've never met someone who legiti-
mately enjoyed using a GameCube
or Nintendo 64 controller, but any-
one who grew up with a Nintendo
console has some kind of attach-
ment to the franchises the com-
pany has generated over the last 20
years. Almost everyone I know who
has purchased a Wii has done so
because Nintendo's software is con-
sistently good, yet knowing they're
not going to find much else of inter-
est from other developers. And if
"Galaxy" and "Brawl" - and pos-
sibly "Mario Kart Wil" - could be
just as good on, say, Xbox 360, with
the added benefit of HD visuals and
more thorough online infrastruc-
ture, would it be so bad if Nintendo
kids who also like playing other
video games only had to invest in
one system? Considering how well
the Wi has sold, this isn't going to
happen. Still, I'm having a hard time

believingthe current industry setup
- which basically requires gain-
ers to buy a Nintendo system and
a more well-rounded system - is
hurting everyone but Nintendo.
Sega's blue hedgehog has been
floating around other platforms for
years now. Maybe Mario could use
a change of scenery, too.
Passman is actually a
Microsoft operative. E-mail
him at mpass@umich.edu.

Stale just keeps
getting staler
By IMRAN SYED lescent, whose life story is not for
Daily Arts Writer the faint of heart. Jill Johnson
(Sara Paxton, "Aquamarine") is
"Superhero Movie," the lat- the cute, clueless girl-next-door
est in a prolific series of terrible who needs Rick to save her - she
spoofs on clichad film genres just doesn't know it yet. When
("Scary," "Date," "Epic," etc.) Rick gets bit by a mutant drag-
is quite easily one of the year's onfly on a school field trip and
worst films. That said, it's also develops the rare superpower
probably the best film in that that allows him to perform com-
spoof series, which should plicated dance moves on verti-
tell you something about how cal walls - well, it's stroight-up
astoundingly awful these films kismet.
are. Other stuff happens too, of
"Superhero" pokes fun at ele- course - not because it's part
ments from many recent super- of the story, but simply because
hero movies, including "Batman it can be done. Pamela Ander-
Begins" and "X-Men," but its son makes an appearance as
central focus The Invisible Woman ("Fan-
is the film that tastic Four") that isn't invisible
started the cur- enough. Tracy Morgan rolls in
rentresurgence Superhero on a wheelchair as Prof. Charles
of the superhe- Move Xavier ("X-Men") forno apparent
ro genre: Sam reason. Tasteless jokes abound,
Raimi's "Spi- At Quality 16 tackling everything from race
derman." Now, and Showcase to Stephen Hawking's paralysis
rightoffthebat, MGM (Spoiler alert: the wheelchair-
I see a problem. bound man gets hurled from
A spoof of "Spi- a skyscraper at the end). And
derman" already exists - it was what's a "Movie" without hun-
called "Spiderman 3." A film that dreds of fart jokes?
actually attempts to embrace Amazingly there are also
and amplify the genre absurdity jokes here that work. Jeffrey
that finally became undeniable Tambor's (TV's "Arrested Devel-
in that off-kilter finale to the opment) blas6, fatalistic doctor
"Spiderman" series will obvi- character is hilarious, though
ously be a complete disaster. On decidedly out of place in this
that account, "Superhero Movie" mess. The spoof on the prolifer-
doesn't disappoint. ation of iPod-related items hits
Rick Riker (Drake Bell, TV's home, but that's good for only
"Drake & Josh") is a nerdy ado- one of the film's 85 excruciating

Hmm. Where iz pesky ceiling cat?
minutes. And there's also a very comical soul-searching is cer-
funny Tom Cruise parody, but tainly ripe for parody. But unfor-
Tom Cruise parodies are way tunately, "the guys that brought
you 'Scary Movie' " (as if that's
an accomplishment) are simply
W ill a "Movie" not very good at translating ear-
nest oversteps into searing sat-
movie ever ire: They're just good for pitiful
one-liners and busty cameos.
impress? Ultimately, the film has a
beginning and an end, a feat of
coherence unheard of in this
spoof series. That is an achieve-
too easy these days. ment, I suppose, but it doesn't
The recent onslaught of change the fact that "Superhero
superhero movies has left even Movie" is flagrantly abusive to
the most devoted fans reeling. both the subtle art of satire and
This genre, with its often-jingo- to even the unrefined sensibili-
istic gripes and self-righteous, ties of its high school audience.

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