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October 10, 2008 - Image 5

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The Michigan Daily, 2008-10-10

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The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com h

Friday, October 10, 2008 -5A

Far, far from good

Daily Arts Writer
new animated series "Star
Clone Wars" explains



"Holy crap - I'm in good movies again!"

An incre.dible Genius'

Greg Kinnear shines
in moving chronicle
of one man's battle
against injustice
Daily Arts Writer
Engineering students, rejoice:
Your movie has finally arrived.
"Flash of
Genius" shows
that Hollywood is
finally able to rec- Flash of
ognize the dra-
matic potential Genius
of this woefully
ignored profes-
sion. It's only and Showcase
fitting that engi- Universal
neers should get
their own inspirational film about
an eccentric genius who takes a
stand against big, faceless corpora-
tions. It's high time for the biopic
treatment - normally reserved for
alcoholic authors - to be given to
a member of the scientific commu-
Bob Kearns (Greg Kinnear,

"Little Miss Sunshine"), the film's
protagonist, certainly is a nerd,
but he's an impassioned nerd. He
could act as a role model for engi-
neers everywhere for nothing else
than the fact that he landed a wife
as gorgeous as Lauren Graham
("Gilmore Girls"), with whom he
has six children.
The Kearns family lives in
Detroit in the 1960s. General
Motors is still the leader of the
automotive world. The movie was
filmed in Canada, which is a reflec-
tion of how little the Detroit of
today resembles its former boom-
town self. Indeed, the film invokes
sad nostalgia for a time when Ford
Motor Company was still consid-
ered a ruthless, filthy-rich auto-
motive giant. When Bob stumbles
onto his million-dollar inven-
tion - an intermittent windshield
wiper - hetakes it to Ford with the
excitement of a kid who found the
rainbow's pot of gold.
Bob is an idealist, and has a sto-
rybook image of how to handle
his invention. He wants to manu-
facture the wipers himself, and
he jovially dubs his family "The
Kearns Corporation," a name he
takes quite seriously. What he

doesn't count on is the fact that
real corporations never play fair.
Bob demonstrates his wipers to
Ford but fails to close a deal right
away. Several months later, he dis-
covers they've played him for a sap
when he's caught in the middle of
a rainstorm and spies cars on the
road using his wipers. Outraged
that he's been cheated, Bob pur-
sues legal action and begins to lose
his grip on reality.
What exactly is Bob fighting
for? He's demanding something so
noble it's almost quaint: credit for
his invention. Any sharp mind that
has ever felt the sting of someone
else stealing their idea can certain-
ly relate to his quest. Yet simulta-
neously, anyone with any insight
into how lawsuits work will be
yelling at the screen: "Don't do it,
Bob! It's not worth the legal fees!
You'll never win!"
It's an amazing feat that the
movie is able to make copyright
infringement the stuff of gripping
human drama. The idea of a pow-
erful corporation screwing over
the little guy is nothing new, but
it feels more painful here because
we get to know Bob so well. A bril-
liant mind with a schoolboy's sense

of right and wrong, Bob spirals out
of control as a result of his ongo-
ing lawsuit. He loses his family, his
friends and his sanity (rendered
even more painful by Kinnear's
tender performance), and repre-
sents himself by the time his trial
finally rolls around.
The climatic courtroom scenes
are incredibly suspenseful, even
more so because they are such
familiar story conventions. This
isn't a movie character we're
watching;he's our next-doorneigh-
bor. He's shy, awkward and clearly
uncomfortable facing his enemies
head-on. Yes, he does deliver an
inspirational monologue, but this
time itactually feltinspiring.When
Bob talks about how all he wants is
for people to see the little badge on
his suit that reads "Inventor," it's
hard not to get choked up.
It's strange that these types of
nonfiction dramas always seem to
increase the importance of what
they're based on. Most people
wouldn't think of Bob Kearns as a
man great enough to warrant his
own movie. But the lasting impact
of"Flash of Genius" is that it makes
us care about an ordinary guy who
fought for recognition.

what happened
between episodes * .
two and three
of the Star Wars Star Wars:
saga: nothing. ConeWars
It's no won-
der that this new Fridays at
series couldn't 9p.m.
get on a more Cartoon Network
prestigious chan-
nel than Cartoon
Network. The show is tedious and,
at least so far, offers no insight into
the mysterious evolution of Anakin
Skywalker. In the first half of the
hour-long premiere, Yoda fights
off a droid army in order to orga-
nize a Republic base to be built on
a crucial moon. In the second half,
Anakin and his apprentice Ahsoka,
a pre-teen Twi'lek, try to recover
survivors of the Empire's new
"secret weapon." Neither episode
is particularly thrilling, especially
Yoda's, which is just a half-hour les-
son on patience and poor sentence
The series, which is supposed to
answer a lot of questions about this
interim period of"Star Wars"histo-
ry, only creates more. Why do only
some of the clones have an Austra-
lian accent? Who gave Anakin the
authority to have an apprentice?
Who thought this series could pos-
sibly be agood idea?
Notonly does the show lack these
explanatory insights, it doesn't even
look good. The animation is three-
dimensional, but very rigid, made
using polygons with very sharp
lines. This odd, linear animation
style works decently for humans
and the more recognizable alien
species, but for less familiar
space creatures, the cartoony
depiction makes it difficult for
the viewer to guess what the alien
would actually look like. The same
goes for new worlds, where the ter-
rain and flora are confusing. For
example, on the moon Yoda investi-
gates, a droid tank crashes head-on
into something that looks like sea-
weed, and up until that point, the
plant didn't seem strong enough to
withstand a crash.
Voice acting for "Star Wars:
Clone Wars" is mostly on par with

the acting from the movie of the
same name. However, as any "Star
Wars" fan knows, this isn't say-
ing much. Tom Kane does a good
job with the voice of Yoda, having
already voiced him in numerous
Star Wars games and spin-offs.
More surprising is Mat Lucas, who
does the voice of Anakin Skywalker
more convincingly than Hayden
Christensen ever did.
One reason it's hard to become
immersed in the plot is that each
episode is introducedby avoiceover
spoken so quickly you can't even
tell if it's English. There's enough
useless content in each episode that
they could have afforded to give
a bit more time to the introduc-
tion. There was also no clear link
between the two episodes of the
premiere event; it wasn't even clear
which one came first chronologi-
cally. Without a cohesive, overarch-
ing story, "Star Wars: Clone Wars"
The Force is not
with this one.
is just a bunch of boring anecdotes.
While there are far greater
shortcomings ofthe series, the most
irritating failure is droid humor.
There's nothing funny about a
robot making a bad pun once, let
alone once every two minutes. The
show needed at least some of the
humor to be entertaining, because
that was its only hope. The action,
drama and suspense could never
have lived up to the movies, and
thanks to some terrible laser jokes,
the humor falls
equally short of
matching the
glory of the
"Star Wars"

Voicing the unspeakable Fim
'Express' fumbles

For the Daily

Body parts are the wagers for the
twisted gambling game that is the
beginning tableau
of "Madmen and Madmen and
Specialists," the
season opener Specialists
for the School of Oct. 9tW19
Music, Theatre
and Dance. This is il e The arre
one of many grue-
some parodies
that inhabit the world of Nobel laure-
ate Wole Soyinka's tragic satire.
Inspired by the events of the Nige-
rian Civil War, the play brings in
aspects of Soyinka's 22-month expe-
rience in detention for antiwar activ-
ity. Directed by Prof. Mbala Nkanga,
"Madmen and Specialists" is an absur-
dist play attacking the abuse of power,
and man's inhumanity. Shocking, pes-
simistic and symbolic, "Madmen and
Specialists" is ultimately a universal
work that reaches beyond its African
setting and 1960s time period.
"When you look at the configura-
tion of the student body in our depart-
ment, sometimes it's very difficult to
stage an African play," Nkanga said. "
'Madmen and Specialists' could easily
be transposed to the American con-
text, in that we can easily use white
students as actors without compro-
mising or affecting the message."
"The fact that it's a color blind cast
makestheideas seemmoreuniversal,"
actor and senior Seth Moore said.
As there are no allusions to Africa
throughout the text, Nkanga chose to
break from the sense of African exoti-
cism that normally infuses the way
people think about African plays. By
tearing it from its setting, he allows
the audience to focus on the play's
message and the issues raised that go
beyond time and place.
"When the audience comes to
see (an African) play, they are more
attracted and sometimes distracted
by the exotic aspect, instead of look-
ingat the content and paying attention
to what the play says," Nkanga said.
But the play retains remnants of its
African origin. The play is full of Yoru-
ba rituals of chants and songs, accom-
panied by African instruments. This

music, when combined with the set
design, makes it hard to forget the con-
textinwhichthe playwaswritten.Plus,
there are little reminders throughout,
like the names and superstitious, ritu-
alistic elements such as references to
the 'evil eye.' But these aspects merely
add an African flavor without detract-
ing from itsoglobal message.
The play focuses on Dr. Bero, who
goes to war with idealist intentions
of helping the wounded. But when
power corrupts, he becomes the
"specialist" of the title - a torturer.
One of the play's "madmen" is his
father, who, in an attempt to show the
military officers the horrific nature
of their actions, tricks them into eat-.
ing the flesh of their victims. But his
experiment fails, as they find they
have developed a taste for it. From
there, the play spirals into a sequence
of bloodcurdling events, where nei-
ther the good nor the evil are spared.
"Madmen and Specialists" is also
extremely symbolic, with a strong
sense of satire, rife with puns and
little parodies of unspeakable crimes.
A gruesome but
moving allegory.
There are scenes making fun of tor-
ture, of the thirst for power; comedy
is often present even when discuss-
ing the darkest of subjects. The play
examines man's destructive nature,
and could be set anywhere and any-
time, even in our own backyard.
"Some of the issues treated in
the play are very close to America
today - when you think about all
the pictures that were posted from
Iraq with the Abu Ghraib prison,
for example. When you think about
all these issues that were discussed
in Congress not long ago about
waterboarding, in terms of torture,"
Nkanga said. "Sometimes we destroy
lives for personal gain, for personal
power, for just personal interest.
And so the play attacks that - how
we become madmen and we become
specialists, not in saving, but in
destroying others."

despite occasional
moments of'
"The Express"
At Showcase and Quality 16
If you don't change the
channel when you see a Nike
commercial appear on your
TV screen, then "The Express"
is the perfect movie for you.
While not the worst movie in
the world, it's still the same
reliable football film that
comes out every fall.
Starring Rob Brown ("Find-
ing Forrester) and Dennis
Quaid ("Vantage Point"), the
movie tells the story of Ernie
Davis, a black football player
at Syracuse in the early '60s
who crosses the color barrier
and goes on to become the first
black player to win the Heis-
for an application.

man Trophy. His dreams of
playing for the NFL, though,
are thwarted by the inevitable
tragedy. Surprised?
The premise of the film is
nothing new, and the evolu-
tion of the theme of racial
acceptance is very similar to
movies such as "Remember
the Titans" and "Glory Road."
The movie is entertaining and
does catch some of the rah-rah
spirit of a football game, but
the problem is that the actors
have far too many motivation-
al speeches to deliver, and this
cuts in to the overall flow of
the film. Brown's depiction of
Davis, as well as Quaid's role
as Ben Schwartzwalder, come
off as rather one-dimensional
- they have no flaws, make no
mistakes and always step in at
just the right moment.
"The Express" does do a
good job of working in the
historical context, and it's
worth it to hear Martin Luther
King Jr.'s actual motivational
speeches in the movie, because
the ones written for the film

A 0

just don't cut it.
"Staged with Stunning 7l 9 4I61l
Passion and Skill."

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