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October 08, 2008 - Image 5

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The Michigan Daily, 2008-10-08

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The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

Wednesday, October 8, 2008 - 5A

The Michigan Daily - michigandailycom Wednesday, October 8, 2008 - 5A

A disturbing trend

"I'm glad I can now fuck Matt Damon.

Lowbrow gets lower

Silverman retur
more of her un
juvenile humor
new fall sea
Daily Arts Write
"The Sarah Silverman
never claimed to be intel-
lectual, but the new season
takes low-brow humor to
an even lower low. Sil-
verman assumes, as she
always has, that crude and
funny go hand in hand,
but this season is evidence
to the contrary. Each of
the two, episodes debut-
ing this week have at most
two lines that could make
anyone chuckle, let alone
laugh out loud.
"The Sarah Silverman Pr
the fictional life of actress a
Sarah Silverman ("School of
episode she gets into outland

'ns with with her gay friends Brian and Steve, played
by Brian Posehn ("Just Shoot Me!") and
funny Steve Agee ("Stay"). Trying to keep every-
body sane are Sarah's sister Laura Silverman
in lousy ("Half Baked") and her fictional husband
Officer Jay McPherson, played by Jay John-
son ston ("Arrested Development").
In the season premiere, "High, It's Sarah,"
CK Silverman and Brian discover - with a little
zr help from a lot of pot - that a corrupt cor-
poration is selling both snacks that cause
Program" has diarrhea and the medicine to cure it. Sub-
sequently, they decide the only solution is
to take the company down. In the second
episode, "The Mongolian Beef," Sarah gets
The Sah caught up in a legal bind with the Mongolian
Tourism Board after discovering her Russian
Silverman ancestors had been raped by Mongolians cen-
Program turies ago. Both plots are senseless, absurd
and hardly add any humor to the show.
Thursdays at Silverman has always been known for
10:30 p.m. pushing boundaries, but for some reason
Comedy Central she's strayed away from it this season, going
for crude or stupid humor while leaving
many stereotypes unscathed. There's one
racial joke in each of the first two episodes,
ogram" follows and they're the comedic highlights of the
nd comedienne two-night premiere. Silverman is probably
Rock"). In each depending on the sheer absurdity of the sto-
dish adventures rylines to carry the show, but the strange

plot twists she introduces are nothing new
to Comedy Central. The abrupt, senseless
tangents are reminiscent of "South Park,"
but aren't executed as well and aren't nearly
as funny.
While the actors demonstrate good come-
dic timing, a comedy is rarely successful
unless a few of the jokes have some shock
value and genuine creativity. "Sarah Silver-
man" is full of predictable jokes mixed into
a spontaneous plot. Silverman would have
been better off if she switched this around,
making the jokes surprising but the plot pre-
dictable, since the plot has always been an
afterthought anyway.
The few jokes - and there are very few -
that take the viewer completely by surprise
are the redeeming moments of the show. The
previous two seasons had many more shock-
ing jokes, and while it's unclear whether this
change was intentional or accidental, it's
definitely for the worse.
Die-hard fans may still be entertained,
but they will probably feel a little let down.
Previous seasons took jabs at many racial,
religious and social groups, while the new
season's humor is just silliness for the sake of
silliness. You could watch this with your par-
ents without feeling uncomfortable, a sure
sign that Silverman is off her game.

'm tired of subjecting myself
to awful films. But more than
that, I'm tired of subjecting
myself to the increasingly common,
terribly done political-brainwashing
in films.
Case in point: "An American
Carol," which_
I just saw this
weekend. No,
it's not another
leftist "documen-
tary" a la "Sicko." p
Instead, it's a con-
servative satire ~- -
on Michael Moore. BRANDON
and the ultra- 1ON ADIS
liberal sentiments he
Wait...what? A conservative Hol-
lywood satire? Can it be true?
I know, I know. I was shocked too.
But the film really does exist. It's
structured like Charles Dickens's
"A Christmas Carol," having the
Moore-inspired character, Michael
Malone (played by Chris Farley's
younger brother, Kevin), be visited
by three spirits who show him the
errors of his anti-American ways.
All of this, by the way, is completely
It's hard to explain just how
pathetic this film is - and this is
coming from someone who enjoys
pretty much anythingthat makes
fun of the left. I'll even admit that
going into this, I half-expected there
to be some kind of catch. There was
no way, I thought, that a Hollywood
film could beso boldly conservative.
Surely "American Carol" had to have
a more subtle agenda, much like
Trey Parker and Matt Stone's "Team
America: World Police," which, in
between lots of vicious (and hilari-
ous) jokes about liberal Hollywood,
subtly satirized the right's often-
boneheaded patriotism ("America!
Fuck yeah!").
When the film began, I was con-
vinced this was the case. The first
scene is a July 4 barbeque - and
it's like something out of a political
campaign ad. Children are tossing
Frisbees, men and women are cheer-
fully grilling hot dogs and the green
lawns are so green they look radio-
active. Red, white and blue para-
phernalia is displayed triumphantly.
My first thoughtwas that there
was no way this film was taking all
this seriously. The satire, I assumed,
was already coming thick and fast.
"Good," I said, with a sigh of
relief. "This film isn't as stupid as I
An hour later, any semblance
of hope had dissipated. When Bill
O'Reilly showed up as himself for
a five-minute cameo, I knew I'd
been wrong. Not only was this film
stupid, it was brainless. "Ameri-
can Carol" had no intentions of
being subversive or even remotely
thought-provoking; all it was, in
fact, was an extended inside joke
made by conservatives, for con-
servatives. It's no surprise to me,
then, that the film was shown at the

Republican National Convention last
month. I'm sure it brought the house
Propaganda has been a part of
the cinematic lexicon since the early
days of the art form's conception.
Some of the greatest films ever made
are blatant propaganda pieces. But
recently, we've been seeingsome
of the most pitiful excuses for Hol-
lywood indoctrination imaginable
- another case in point beingthis
summer's "Swing Vote," which,
humorously enough, features two
of the cast members of "American
Carol": Eelsey Grammer and Dennis
But whatcreally disturbs me
- besides the fact that this is the
second consecutive column I've
written that has to do with Michael
Moore - is the sheer callousness of
this new trend. "Swing Vote" and
"American Carol" are not works of
art and shouldn't even be mistaken
for them. IScan deal with propagan-
da as long as it's done artfully, but
the makers of the aforementioned
films had no artistic ambitions
whatsoever. These films are not sub-
versive, nor are they radical in any
way. They're comfort food. They're
manufactured with the purpose of
feedinga certain target audience -
in this case, conservatives - and,
yes, making money. This is propa-
ganda of the most cynical kind.
To be fair, what the conservatives
have done with "American Carol"
is no different from what many
liberal filmmakers have been doing
for years - just look at Bill Maher's
"Religulous," a film tailor-made for
pretentious Ann Arbornites to laugh
Right-hand men.
at the human race while sipping
their lattes. And, indeed, "Ameri-
can Carol" is the obvious answer
to Michael Moore's countless cin-
ematic assaults on the right. It's just
too bad the makers of the film don't
understand the craft half as well as
their opponents.
On one hand, I want to commend
the right for at least getting in on the
fight. It's about time self-indulgent
conservative humor was forced
upon a hapless public, just as self-
indulgent liberal humor has been for
the past few decades or so. But, real-
ly, it makes me kind of angry as well.
These preposterous, single-minded
and only faintly intelligent pieces
of cinematic indoctrination belong
under the auspices of the left.
Besides, all it means for us is yet
more disposable films to have to
wade through. Finding good movies
is already hard enough.
Conradis is still waiting on his
DVD copy of "AVPR." Email him at
conrad ismichigandaily.com.

Cleaning up The Streets

Daily Arts Writer
Mike Skinner could prob-
ably be a big-name producer in
the vein of Just Blaze or Kanye
West. And if he were American,
he probably would be. Several
of the tracks
on Everything
is Borrowed -
the fourth and
penultimate The Streets
album under Everything is
Skinner's The Borrowed
Streets moni- Vice
ker - prove
his production
prowess. But for better or worse,
Skinner is an Englishman, and
The Streets could never be a
vehicle for the bravado-filled
rhymes of his American coun-
terparts. Not because of any
sonic discrepancy, but because
it's hard to imagine The Streets
conveying anything but Skin-
ner's own brand of uniquely
British social commentary.
Critics have been comparing
The Streets to the Kinks and the
Jam since OriginalPirateMateri-
al (2002), and Skinner has repaid
this trust by painting a poignant
urban landscape full of drug-fu-
eled clubs, pot-smoking gamers
and drunken louts. This criti-
cal faith in Skinner as a highly
observant Cockney everyman
has prompted two significant
changes in his career.
First, it encouraged him to
devote more attention to his own
story in increasingly personal
terms. So what was only hinted
at in the swooning strings of "It's
Too Late" on the first album,
gave way to the more emotional
storytelling of "Dry Your Eyes"
on the sophomore effort, which
in turn culminated with "Never
Went to Church," the piano-
driven, "Let it Be"-based ode to

his late father a highlight of his
third album. But it also led to the
rest of his disappointing third
effort, The Hardest Way to Make
an Easy Living, which proved to
be as annoying and frustrating
as it was honest in its tales of-
fame and excess.
There is little doubt that
Everything is Borrowed is a
direct response to its predeces-
sor's critical backlash. After
two years, Skinner has matured,
sobered up and suddenly turned
philosophical. He raps about
God (or the lack thereof), loving
life and the importance of his
family. Fans who are still stuck
on the idea of Skinner as a gritty
slacker may find this off-putting,
but it's a welcome change from
the self-centered and spoiled
egomaniac persona on his previ-
ous release.
And besides, Skinner still
finds the time to go over more
familiar terrain. "Never Give In"
is yet another in a long line of
album cuts dealing with roman-
tic rivalries, while "The Sherry
End" uses a relatively traditional
Streets beat to pay homage to
his clubbing buddies. The two
tracks are decent, but they're
largely uneventful compared to
the album's overarching theme
of sunny and honest philosophi-
cal musings. On Everything is
Borrowed, this theme ensures
that sincerity is once again a
part of Skinner's appeal.
As usual, the worst moments
on the album come precisely
when Skinner overindulges in
this sincerity. "The Strongest
Person I Know" is downright
sappy, and the simplistic tale
behind "On the Edge of a Cliff"
will be a tough pill for cynics to
swallow. But for the most part,
Skinner's new tales are engag-
ing, allowing him to flex his for-
midable intellect. (Among other

is Bor
cal pa
the m
that c
ent at
it's th

, he grapples with human fun. How else would "Heaven
ity, fundamentalist Chris- for the Weather," in which he
y and environmentalism.) crafts a feel-good club anthem
this record shouldn't be out of a melody begging to be on
that seriously. Everything Sesame Street, be described?
rowed is still a pop album; More than anything, Every-
er adopts a broad musi- thing is Borrowed gives fans a
Skinner they can once again
empathize with. And if he
occasionally stumbles in his
inner' latest efforts to execute his ambi-
tions, perhaps they should
presses with forgive him for it. Skinner has
ma y said he plans to release just one
is maturity. more album as The Streets, so
Everything is Borrowed could
occupy a pivotal spot in his cat-
alog. Does it help cement the
lette featuring everything act's legacy? Does it prove that
harps to guitars. The funky his career' will be as enduring
es of earlier years are for as it has been pioneering? Hard
ost part replaced by lush to say, but even if it falls short,
mentation and flourishes it restores faith that it's a goal
only truly become appar- well within his reaching? Hard
fter repeated listens. And to say, but even if it falls short,
is sonic diversification that it restores faith that it's a goal
s the whole thing so much well within his reach.


A British sensibility
"How to Lose Friends and Alienate
At Quality 16 and Showcase
As the title forecasts, "How To
Lose Friends & Alienate People"
is a learning experience. And who
better to assume the role of teacher
than eccentric Brit Simon Pegg?
Pegg ("Hot Fuzz") plays Sidney
Young, a magazine writer whose
character is patterned after real-
life oddball Toby Young. The movie
is based on Toby's memoir, which
details his experiences as a writer
for the British magazine Modern
Review and, later, his job failures at
Vanity Fair. Marked by his ridicu-
lous office antics involving strip-
pers and animals, Toby Young easily
makes for a laughable and enjoyable
on-screen character.

The hilarity and overall suc-
cess of the movie is largely contin-
gent upon Pegg: He was made for
this role. In ordering a transsexual
stripper on Bring Your Daughter
To Work Day and reciting quota-
tions from American movies such
as "Troy," Pegg's British wit appro-
priately shines through.
Though the movie is a good
laugh, it goes deeper. Young's em-
ployment requires that he compro-
mise his morals in the name of ce-
lebrity deification. A small fish ina
big sea, it's here that he discovers
the unethical political workings of
media culture.
With Jeff Bridges ("Iron Man"),
Megan 'Fox ("Transformers") and
Kirsten Dunst ("Spider-Man") by
his side, Pegg leads a strong cast in
this comical tale of a celebrity jour-
nalist trying to make it to the top -
even if stunts like hiding the mur-
der of a celebrity's dog and breaking
into a party with a famous pig near-
ly drown him along the way.

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