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October 06, 2008 - Image 5

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The Michigan Daily, 2008-10-06

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The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

Monday, October 6, 2008 -5A

Mining the
Dylan vault

For theDaily
It's been a while since Bob
Dylan threw on a10-gallon hat and
started writing cowboy songs, and
it's no secret his
days of protest
and poetry are
long over. Tell
Tale Signs, the Bob Dylan
eighth release Tell Tale Signs:
in Bob Dylan's the Bootleg
bootleg series, Series Vol 8
is a collection ofSi
songs from the Columbia
last 20 years, a .
period that has seen Dylan's sound
evolve away from Woody Guth-
rie and toward Hank Williams. It
compiles rare and live tracks from
1989 to 2006, taken from the left-
overs of four Dylan albums: Oh
Mercy, World Gone Wrong, Time
Out of Mind and Modern Times.
But for an album that comprises 20
years-worth of material, the lack of
diversity fromtrack to track makes
the collection sound like it hardly
covers a year of output. Dylan
invariably adheres to a standard
blues form, generally accented
with gospel twang and gravelly
Each track seems completely
detached from the current face of
popular music and oblivious to its
rapid evolution. When this detach-
mentworks,the songs feeltimeless.
"32-20 Blues," a B-side from World
Gone Wrong, successfully evokes
the spirit of Robert Johnson and
delivers a powerful, foot-stomping
sound. But when this failure-to-
affiliate attitude backfires, the
album sways between boring and
irrelevant. In "Huck's Tune," an
alternate version of a song from the
soundtrack of the 2007film "Lucky
You," even Dylan seems bored as
he lazily croons over a southern-
influenced church song.

As Tell Tale Signs progresses,
it becomes exceedingly difficult
to distinguish one track from the
rest. Chord progressions echo one
another and lyrics take on identi-
cal themes. But after all, this is still
Bob Dylan. Despite the repetition,
the songwriting is top-notch and
helps provide some much-needed
excitement. "Most of the Time,"
an alternate versionof atrack from
Oh Mercy, captures the enthusiasm
that defined the Dylan of yore.
But the fact remains: Dylan was
in his sixties when he recorded
much of the songs compiled here,
and his advanced age occasion-
ally works against him. His voice
lacks the strength that resounded
through his early work. Often,
especially on "High Water (For
Charley Patton)," Dylan struggles
to stay in command of his own
voice, wavering between a deep
warble and an unnatural gospel
At his peak, Dylan wrote songs
that spoke for an entire genera-
tion. He was the master at tapping
into the fears and hopes of millions
and giving them context. But the
recent work of Dylan doesn't seem
to speak for anyone in particular.
Not at his peak,
but still Dylan.
Instead, it reflects a different time
where people travel by locomotive
and Sundays are spent at church.
pilation is not for the casual Dylan
fan. But for those who can't get
enough, Tell Tale Signs adequately
sums up the last two decades of the
legend's musical canon and offers
a rare glimpse into his recent cre-
ative mindset.

Michael Cera, star of "Superbad," fiddles his own sticks on set of "Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist.'

Hipster's night out
Indie heartthrob propels new romantic comedy
for the awkwardly trendy teen set
By Annie Levene I Daily Arts Writer

r U

een movies of the past decade tended to
parade around Josh
Hartnett and Freddie
Prinze Jr. as the typical "hot
guy." But like those actors' Nick and
current careers, that general Norah's
depiction of the ideal man is
starting to fade away. Hol- Infinite
lywood is trading in quarter-
back jerseys and gelled hair
for thick glasses and skinny At Quality16
jeans. In other words, hipsters and Showcase
are the new heartthrobs and Columbia
their king is Michael Cera.
In his short time as a pro-
fessional actor, Cera has managed to carve out
a pretty deep niche for himself. From his days as
the innocent but mildly offbeat George Michael
on TV's "Arrested Development" to his more
recent roles in "Juno" and "Superbad," Cera is
today's go-to guy for a sensitive and attractive
leading man. Therefore, it's no surprise that
Cera's latest character is yet another everyday
hipster with a heart of gold.
"Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist" - not to
be confused with the infamous Nick and Nora
of Dashiell Hammett's "The Thin Man" - tells

the story of two college-bound seniors, Nick
(Cera) and Norah (Kat Dennings, "The 40 Year
Old Virgin"), on the ever popular questto find an
obscure band playing at a secret location in New
York City. It will surprise no one to discover that
while there are obstacles - attention craving ex-
girlfriends, drunk best friends and so on - at the
end of the night, Nick and Norah have found a
soul mate in each other. Or at least a good hook-
up until the fall when they traipse off to college.
Besides the lack of romantic' suspense,
"Nick and Norah" is actually a decent film.
Cera and Dennings do an excellent job depict-
ing the angst and awkwardness thatgoes along
with discovering you might just be falling for
someone. But even though Cera's character is
engaging, it always seems like he's just play-
ing a version of what can be imagined to be his
real-life self.
The rest of the cast is appropriately entertain-
ing, but the true standout supporting actor is the
city in which the film takes place. Leaving aside
the fact that the characters are able to not only
swiftly navigate New York traffic, but also find
prime parking outside each hot spot visited (any
real New Yorker can tell you this is impossible),
the depiction of a wild night out in the city that

never sleeps is dead on. With its bright lights,
underground music and crowded clubs, the
backdrop never overshadows the action between
the actors. Instead, it simply contributes to the
mood the film wants to convey - cool, but not
too cool.
The one part of the film that nags is a small
issue with Norah. She's witty and sarcastic, she's
got awesome sense for music and she's beauti-
ful; but she spends the entire movie comparing
herself to Nick's tiny and perky ex-girlfriend.
The constant reminders she gets throughout the
movie that she is, in fact, an attractive individu-
al, are intended to illustrate that beauty comes in
different packages, but it just makes Norah seem
kind of pathetic. She's a coolchick, and while she
rightfully wins that blessed hipster guy in the
end, she shouldn't need to snag him to know that
she deserves him.
Ironically, for a movie so devoted to obscure
and trendy music, "Nick and Norah" is more
like a top-40 pop song: generally pleasant but
lacking substance. This isn't to say it's a bad
movie - it's not. It does, however, cement
Cera's status as an alternative hottie, appeasing
Urban Outfitters and Chuck Taylor factories


A focused
Mortensen fuels
tense western
At Quality 16 and Showcase
New Line
While it doesn't stack up to
the year-end, Oscar-season fare
that'll soon flood theaters, "Appa-
loosa" is a good enough film to
make you wish it was better.
Teaming Viggo Mortensen
("Eastern Promises") and Ed
Harris ("Gone Baby Gone"). as
gruff law enforcers in the Old
West (Harris also directs), the
film has a charming boldness

about it and manages never to
get too serious. A classic western
in so many ways, "Appaloosa" is
also strikingly modern, with its
hero Everett Hitch (Mortensen)
contemplating nuanced dilem-
mas old Gary Cooper would have
just shot up. The constant reality
checks the film
through humor-
ous little asides
serve to depres-
surize a tense -
plot involving the
usual themes of
law, order, fortune
and manhood.
Like "3:10 to
Yuma" one year
before it, "Appa-
loosa" is proof that
Westerns can still
be fresh and inno-

vative. That said, the film has
its share of flaws. Winding plot
tributaries, confusing character
motivations and a cold, diminu-
tive leading lady detract from
the genuine thematic chemistry
created by Mortensen and Har-
ris. Another problem is the vil-
lain - a poorly cast Jeremy Irons
("Kingdom of Heaven") - who
sounds a lot like Daniel
Day-Lewis in "There Will
Be Blood," but brings none
of the emotional force or
Still, the film works
for the most part, and
it's worth seeing just
for the masterful
blend of candor and
gravity in Mortens-
en's performance.

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