The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com
Friday, September 5, 2008 -5A
The Michigan Daily - michigandailycom Friday, September 5, 2008 -5A
Turning brass to gold
By NOAH DEAN STAHL
Daily Arts Writer
I try to like Vin Diesel, though
perhaps against my better judg-
ment. Yes, he's the empty ves-
sel that drove
the, first "Fast
and the Furi-
ous" movie, Babylon
not to mention
* and commer- At Quality16
cial blunder and Showcase
that was "The 20th Century Fox
(2004). But he
also starred in the little recog-
nized 2006 Sidney Lumet picture
"Find Me Guilty," and has writ-
ten and directed several solid
shorts. The sympathetic side of
me wants to think he has been
unfairly molded by the Holly-
wood machine and thus, viewer
expectations of him are slight.
After watching his latest dys-
topian action opus, "Babylon
A.D.," any sympathy I had for
Diesel has disintegrated. Based
on the French sci-fi novel "Baby-
lon Babies," the film muddles
prevailing themes of the dangers
of scientific experimentation
and manipulative power-seekers
beyond recognition. The only
thing remaining is the overdone
high-octane schlock that Diesel
is known for.
In "Babylon A.D.," Diesel stars
as Toorop, a reluctant merce-
nary who is hired- to accompany
a mysterious girl, Aurora (M41a-
nie Thierry, "Chrysalis"), and her
guardian, the religious matriarch
Sister Rebeka (Michelle Yeoh,.
"The Mummy: Tomb of the Drag-
on Emperor"), from Mongolia to
The expository nonsense, com-
plete with generic and unconvinc-
that Aurora is special. Though she
has never left the convent in which
she was raised, she speaks 19 lan-
guages, can operate Russian sub-
marines and even perform minor
surgery. But most importantly, she
can foresee impending disaster, an
ability which comes in handy in
keeping the sluggish story on the
In the midst of their covert
journey acrossthe world, we come
to learn that at least two groups
are after Aurora: a religious sect
known as the Noelites - headed
by Aurora's mother - and a pack
of fringe scientists - headed by
Aurora's father. All throughout
Eastern Europe and Asia, highly
trained, strangely dressed teams
of operatives try to forcibly inter-
cept Aurora. Toorop and Rebeka,
however, team up and fight. Go
figure. It's a given that Toorop.
can throw down against the bad
guys, but who knew a sweet little
nun could do the same?
Aurora, as it turns out, is the
result of extensive genetic trial
and error and was programmed,
if you will, to be pregnant without
having any sexual activity. The
Noelites seek her out as a means
to convert the world to their reli-
gious views, -Aurora being proof
of a deity in her immaculate con-
ception. Unfortunately, there's far
too many lacunae along the way to
make this story plausible.
"Babylon A.D." doesn't even
serve its base purpose of provid-
ing mindless entertainment. The
bad acting and general reliance
upon the weak contrivances of
the action and sci-fi genre dis-
tract too greatly to derive much .
enjoyment at all.
Mathieu Kassovitz, the French
actor ("Munich") who directed
"Babylon A.D." deserves some
admiration for this. But, while he
strives for sci-fi noir, unique styl-
ization and adrenaline-pumping
action, his efforts fall consider-
Professors turn foreign
tradition into popular
artform through exhibit
By PRIYA BALI
In Krofrom, Ghana, a 50-year-old town's ris-
ing brassworking industry begins with threads
of beeswax. And, through
dedication, technical preci-
sion and creative insight by
the town's brass casters, it Tradition
endures. "Casting Tradition:
Contemporary Brasswork- Sept. S,
ing in Ghana," an exhibition 4-6 p.m.
in U-M's Exhibit Museum of Abthe U-M
Natural History, examines ohibit Muaseum
the nature of this 500-year-
old practice and its role in the
modern world. It will run through the end of the
school year. A public reception will be held Fri-
day at the gallery from 4-6 p.m.
Raymond Silverman, a University professor
of Afro-american and African studies and art
history, and Gilbert Amegatcher, a professor of
art and design an Kwame Nkrumah University
of Science and Technology in Ghana, collabo-
rated with each other during the winter of 2007
to curate and plan the exhibit.
The exhibit ends with a reception today from 4-6 p.m.
Objects such as boxes and rings are made every single object that is made from this pro-
through a process known as lost-wax casting. cess is unique because you cannot use the mold
After a wax model is created out of beeswax, it more than once," Silverman said.
is dipped in a charcoal and clay mixture. Once The exhibit is cross-disciplinary as it exam-
this model is heated, the wax vaporizes. And so, ines these objects under artistic, historical and
what was once there is lost. What replaces the anthropological perspectives. Not only are we
wax is molten brass which results in a casting able to view the objects as decorative pieces, we
that becomes an exact replica of the wax model. can understand the context in which they were
"The mold is broken open and invariably See BRASS; Page 8
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