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February 03, 2009 - Image 5

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The Michigan Daily, 2009-02-03

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The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

Tuesday, February 3, 2009 - 5

Making the
Oscars matter

Ben Kweller: one classy son of a bitch.

Pop rock on

Reti
Be
his
Ch
Meet
faced,
writer
one of
guys in
he has
fair sha
big-thin
over th
three s
es. WI
not he
up to hi
matter
The
for the
artist,

urning to Texas, and fortune are simply not realis-
tic. Kweller understands this truth
n Kweller finds and has never let itbring him down.
He makes music for all the right
country roots on reasons, and his cheery songs are a
shining testament to the joy that he
langing Horses brings to anyone who will listen.
Changing Horses maintains
By DAVID RIVA the optimistic perspective of past
DailyArtsWriter Kweller albums, but musically it
provides quite a shock. In Horses,
Ben Kweller. The baby- Kweller deserts his bubblegum-
mop-headed singer-song- pop and rock'n'roll guises in favor
is consistently regarded as of a country-western persona. This
the nicest deliberate shift in style can be par-
music, and tially credited to his re-location
earned his *.* to his childhood home of Austin,
re of next- Texas. In asense, Kwellerhasgrown
tg buzz Ben Kweller up by getting back to his roots. The
e course of ease with which he performs on
olo releas- Changing Horses signals a maturing artistry
hether or Horses free from the chaotic atmosphere
has lived ATO of Brooklyn, his former home.
s hype is a Opener "Gypsy Rose" shows off
of opinion. Kweller's knack for writing breezy
21st century is a tough time country tunes. In the song, his soul-
undistinguished pop-rock ful voice is matched by an easy,
and aspirations for fame walking bass-line and dobro com-

menta
troubl(
a class
where
sits in
dying
weeds
The
hand,
ing al
Truck.
theme
called
Kwelle
cliches
separa
Garth
The a
lar mu
Pedal
Kwelle
intens
out th
like "I
every
/Well
/ and
some

therange
ry. And the careful tempo and hinge on the novelty of the country
e-free tone of "Gypsy" evokes genre, but are too clever to fall into
ic image of the old southwest its potential pitfalls.
a man with a 10-gallon hat "Hurtin' You" is a gem that bal-
a rocking chair with his old ances the urgency of the pedal steel
dog as he watches tumble- with stunning Fleetwood Mac-like
roll in the distance. harmonies. On "Things I Like to
upbeat "Fight," on the other Do," Kweller toes the line of child-
calls to mind a trucker roll- ish nonsense but never crosses it.
ong an interstate highway. He sings lyrics like "I like listen-
er life and desert ranches are ing to my favorite music / when I'm
s often touched on in the so- on the bus" (what North Campus
Walmart country genre, but freshman can't relate to that?) and
er craftily avoid pop-country "I like walking into public places /
s in Horses. How does he strumming this guitar." The lines
te himself from the likes of capture Kweller's aptitude for
Brooks and Tobey Keith? making mundane routines stimu-
nswer is simple: with stel- lating and playing music passion-
usicianship and witty lyrics. ately without regard for audience
steel guitar playfully echoes or venue.
er's voice and a blissfully Will any tracks off Changing
e piano is sprinkled through- Horses get serious radio play? No.
te album. Thoughtful lines Will most Kweller fans enjoy the
'm like my grandma / playing album? Probably. Will it provide a
single card that's dealt to me nice new musical palette to choose
you know some days are aces from for a rockin' live show? Yes. In
some days are faces / Well the world of Ben Kweller, that's the
days are twos and threes" very definition of success.

et's talk about the Acad-
emy Awards. Yes, the
awards show that I still
believe is a useful public service
announce- _
ment about
classic films
for mass
consumption.
The Academy
has awarded
"The Godfa-
ther," "Life BLAKE
is Beautiful," GOBLE
"The Apart-
ment," "All Quiet on the West-
ern Front" and a bevy of other
historic films that most people
would never see had the Oscar
not stepped in. Nah, popcorn art
like "Fight Club" will never win
Oscars, but did it stay with you the
way "The Departed" has?
2009's nominations came
out last month, and despite the
snubs and seriousness, I'm still
looking forward to seeing how
this year's awards are a little bit
worse than the last. I love the
Oscars.
Somebody recently asked me,
"Why care about something that
recognized 'The Reader'?" Fair
enough. Yes, we're also going to
have to look at Brad Pitt's pen-
sive face for five hours. And yes,
"Wall-E" didn't get a best picture
nod (I kinda hated it anyway).
And even with the "Dark Knight"
being looked down upon, Harvey
Weinstein playing linebacker and
"Let the Right One In" not getting
tapped for best foreign film, I'm
still stoked. Why? I love to com-
plain, and I love the Academy.
Obscene celebrities, fashion,
gossip, speeches and, above all,
the awards themselves make it
worthwhile. As screenwriting
nominee Simon Beaufoy ("Slum-
dog Millionaire") said, everyone
secretly wants to win an Oscar.
It's worth a damn. It's just that the
broadcast has been getting lousier
each year for a number of reasons.
Length, self-gratifyingstars, bad
writing and award-hog films like
"The Return of the King" all add
to the problem.
That's why the Academy is in
dire need of a tune-up. If it doesn't
want to get edged out by the Inde-
pendent Spirit Awards, People's
Choice or some other kiddy-sized
gala, things have to change. Now.
There's nothing we can do about
this year's nominations; we'll just
have to respect that "Milk" and
"The Dark Knight" pulled out
eight each, which is pretty awe-
some. ButI have demands.
First: a good host. In the last
decade, we've seen everyone
from Whoopi Goldberg to Conan
O'Brien to Jon Stewart host the
Awards, and the same thing was
said of each MC: "Good, but not
great."
No real standout could be found
amongrecenthosts. Billy Crystal?
He's too corny to be a great host.
That's why we need another John-
ny Carson - a man or woman
who could host the show enough
times to be well recognized for it.
With Hugh Jackman ("X-Men")
hosting, this could be the Oscar's
chance. With Jackman's stage
skills, leading presence and goof-
ball Aussie humor, he might be the
surprise the event is looking for.

If not, let's re-animate Carson
next year.
Next, more booze. Love 'em or
hate 'em, the 66th Annual Golden
Globes this year were prime blog
real estate. Why? Everyone was
loaded. And we all heard about it.
Now, that's not meant to condone
hard swigging to produce stream-
of-consciousness speeches (see:
Colin Farrell). But it did make the
proceedings ashell of a lot more
interesting.
Between David Duchovny
being morbid, Tracy Jordan get-
ting ripped and Darren Aranofksy
flipping the bird, it was a really
great yet weird Globes show this
year. So bring all that Cristal to
the Kodak Theater. Imagine Jack
Nicholson making out with any-
one or Mickey Rourke thanking
his dogs for five minutes. Or better
yet, think of what might happen
to the angry director who doesn't
win! Gossip gold, I tell ya!
After everyone's sufficiently
sloshed, shorten the broadcast.
I'm pretty sure last year's broad-
castwas 17 hours. Atthat rate,
they'll be on PBS offering umbrel-
las next year.
And please, get some bet-
ter writers. One more crappy
bit of innuendo about not being
nominated, how everyone's "doing
tonight" or how the presenters'
The Academy
Awards really
just need
more alcohol.
new movies are coming out, and
we'll have to tar and feather Bruce
Vilanch's typewriter just to get
the point across. Hire the cast of
"SNL." Bring back Buck Henry. Or
just get previous screenplay writ-
ers to actually bring the goods.
The biggest problem with
this year's awards is "The Dark
Knight." The whole elitist notion-
of Oscar-bait films needsoto go.
Who actually liked "Benjamin But-
ton" or the "The Reader?" Their
well-financed marketing depart-
ments sure did. The brilliant "Dirk
Knight" wasn't so lucky.
Granted, indie crowd-pleasers
like "Slumdog Millionaire" and
"Milk" deserve their nominations,
even if few people have seen them.
But put one popular piece like
"Dark Knight" up each year, and
let people think it hasa chance
of winning. Same with films like
"Superbad" or "Gran Torino."
This can help the Oscar find an
audience again. It sure as hell
worked for "Titanic."
Granted, these are just a
couple of ideas. Anyway, I look
forward to Feb. 22. Maybe
"Slumdog" will sweep. Maybe
Mickey Rourke will fix his burnt
bridges. Maybe the Oscars will
suck like every year, but at least
they could be interesting.
Goble also thinks that
"Superbad" is an homage to "The
Godfather." Tell him why he's
wrong at bgoblue@umich.edu

' Ground control to Tel Aviv

By JEFF SANFORD
Daily Arts Writer
Telefon Tel Aviv's work has
always been cinematic. The group's
previous albums
sound as if they
were the sound-
tracks to some Telefon
visually stunning
art film - the Tel Aviv
scenes and over- Immolate
all plot play out Yourself
in your head and tyitch Control
are constantly
informed by the
dense electronic soundscapes com-
ing from the headphones. In this

respect, TTV's releases have been
perfect for pure mental transport,
sweeping mind from body and giv-
ing it wings. This, however, made
casual listening difficult and may
have turned off more than a few
wary listeners unwilling to part
with their brains.
With Immolate Yourself the New
Orleans duo (Charles Cooper and
Joshua Eustis) has focused less on
crafting complex sonic backdrops
and more on building songs that
stand by themselves. These songs
actually differentiate between
verse and chorus (in their loosest
definitions), and - here's the kick-
er - they distinguish themselves

markedly from each other.
Where, in the past, tracks blend-
ed into each other and fed off their
fellows to create one encompassing
mood, the songs here establish indi-
vidual personalities. Opener "The
Birds" recalls the old Telefon: ethe-
real swells float by innocently until a
pulsing bass drum propels the song
into an explosion of ambient bliss.
Like before, the beauty is in the sub-
tleties - the endlessly complex beat
tics, the finely chopped-and-pasted
vocals and all the little undefined
noises that come together beauti-
fully to shake up the senses.
But the pair doesn't ride that
train for long. "The Birds" evapo-
rates into the shrapnel beat of
"Your Mouth," a track dominated
by a razor-sharp organ synthesizer
and vaguely robotic vocals. Unlike.
"The Birds," it's hardly subtle, and
it's the first inclination that TTV
is really mixing it up this time
around, "Your Mouth" is just one of
the songs on Immolate Yourselfthat
focuses heavily on vocals, which is
a relatively groundbreaking move
for the group.
"Helen of Troy," probably TTV's
biggest leap of faith, wouldn't
sound out of place on an '80s New
Wave mix. Its straightforward
danceability is almost as surpris-
ing as the "oooh-ahh" hook in the
chorus. Still, it's a revitalizing
shock for the group and proves
that, in addition to its mastery of
atmosphere, the duo has a solid
grasp on pop structures.
Even though Immolate Your-
self demonstrates TTV's ability

to reshape its sound from track to
track, the collective sum of the
duo's skills still pales in comparison
to other well-established electroni-
ca acts like Aphex Twin and Boards
of Canada. The transition from the
trancey and 'emotional "Made a
Tree on the Wold" to the disjointed
"Your Every Idol" is rather bumpy
and unfulfilling. It's a reminder
that TTV hasn't finished rounding
off its sound just yet.
Through the sparkling interplay
between lead and rhythm guitar on
"You Are the Worst Thing in the

An album that ARTS IN BRIEF

works on its own

I? Stoles

and oint to TV Review
n Off-color comedy at its best
a rich future.

World" and the soaring optimism of
album finale "Immolate Yourself,"
it's easy to hear Telefon Tel Aviv
sharpening its tools for the future.
Immolate Yourself is the sound of
the first stages of a metamorpho-
sis - perhaps the cocoon-building
phase - providing a foundation
for greater changes to come. But
far from being simply a stepping
stone to something bigger, the
album stands remarkably tall on its
own. It's an album that delights in
the present and anticipates a very
promising future.

"The Whitest Kids U'Know" Season Three
Tuesdays at 10 p.m.
IFC
Where's the humor in bestiality, anti-Semitism and pedophilia? It's
in "The Whitest Kids U'Know," ashow which has been satisfying man's
desire for crude and unusual comedy since its debut on FUSE in 2007.
Two years later, "Whitest Kids" is in its third season and still supplying
laughs, though this time on a new network.
"Whitest Kids" is a comedy sketch show performed by five men who
push the limits of inappropriate humor. Past skits have involved every-
thing, including people doing drugs with raptors, a homophobic doctor
examining a man for testicular cancer and Adolf Hitler starting a rap
career. It may be distasteful, but it's awfully funny.
New episodes of "Whitest Kids" are now being shown uncensored
and commercial-free on the Independent Film Channel. It's not really
clear how the uncensored programming label will affect the content of
the third season. Previous seasons often included topless women for
the sole purpose of boosting uncensored DVD sales. So it's likely that
the troupe won't hesitate to take advantage of its new home.
The most significant change to "Whitest Kids" this time around
is its new format. The third season will consist of more episodes, but
each episode will have a running time of only 15 minutes. This brief
length could perform better with online audiences than with TV
viewers. The third season of "The Whitest Kids U'Know" will have
to keep producing excellent sketches to keep viewers interested in its
unusual take on humor.
CAROLYN KLARECKI

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