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February 16, 2009 - Image 5

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The Michigan Daily, 2009-02-16

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The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

Monday, February 16, 2009 - 5A
Examining ourselves
through self-portraits

The world's most extreme piggy-back ride.


Unnecessary horror est region only to be stalked and killed
by the hulking, deformed killer known
remake fails to break as Jason Voorhees (Derek Mears, "The
Hills Have Eyes II"). Then, in a brilliant
new ground twist, more college students show up and
get killed off by Jason. And that's about it
By BRANDON CONRADIS as far as plot goes.
Senior Arts Editor The film is certainly diverting, but
even judged primarily by its merits as
"Friday the 13th" is part of a string of a slasher film, it feels somewhat tepid.
recent horror movie Jason is menacing, the girls are attrac-
remakes, and out of tive and the woods look suitably spooky.
all of them, this film is But the film just reeks of laziness, as if
perhaps the least war- Friday the filmmakers, knowing full well that
ranted. After all, "Fred- audiences wouldn't care about the plot,
dy vs. Jason" - a stupid the 13th hashed out a script in a matter of days
but memorable contin- At Showcase and started shooting without making any
uation of the original and Quality 16 revisions.
'80s franchise - was Take the narrative structure, for
released just six years r . example. The 20-minute-long pro-
ago. So what's the point logue of the film, which introduces the
in starting the series all over again? audience to the first set of campers, is
Nonetheless, this new effort is mod- so satisfying in its blending of humor,
efately entertaining. It's not great, even atmosphere, tension and shocks that
in the context of the "Friday the 13th" it's impossible for the film to regain its
series, but it's not embarrassing, either. footing when it shifts focus and intro-
Ultimately, it's a film for tried-and-true duces another set of soon-to-be-dead
"Friday thel13th" fans. Everyoneelse will characters. What follows is essentially
probably just shrug and forget about it as the same thing as the prologue, only at a
soon as it ends. much slower pace and with less likable
The plot is simplicity itself. A group of actors. ,
college students hike into a secluded for- It doesn't help that there's nobody to

root for. While not entirely the fault of
the actors (the writers deserve the most
blame), the college students depicted in
this film are perhaps the most pathetic,
unlikable and downright stupid victims
ever to grace a "Friday the 13th" film.
And that's saying a lot.
But the film's biggest fault is its famil-
iarity. At times "Friday the 13th" feels
amusingly postmodern in its attempts to
poke fun at the conventions of the sub-
genre, but most of the time it seems con-
tent to merely tread the same ground as
its predecessors. No one is going to see
a film like this looking for high art, but
even those just seeking a good slasher
film might find this movie redundant and
annoyingly derivative.
Still, "Friday the 13th" is what it is.
Complaining about a film like this for
being derivative is about as pointless as
throwing the same criticism at a James
Bond film. Ultimately, viewers come to
these movies because of their familiarity.
If that's the case, this "Friday" is a minor
winner, as it delivers everything the ear-
lier movies did - mainly boobs and blood
- in spades.
So, while not impressive - even as
a slasher film - this remake is a decent
time-waster, even:if it can't compare to
its brethren from the '80s.

Self-portraiture is usually seen as one
of two things: either a somewhat
narcissistic piece of art made by a
well-known, self-congratulating artist, or
a somewhat narcissistic
MySpace photo taken by a
not-so-well-known, self-
congratulating person.
The idea of self-portrai-
ture has changed over
the years, especially with
the advent of the digital
camera. It has become too WiNY'
easy to make an image POW
of yourself - just point and
click, and there you go; a second later you
have a hazy-eyed picture of yourself that you
can immediately review.
The idea of the narcissistic self-portrait
is different, though, when you consider the
other end of this concept: When you're stuck
in a quiet room with a mirror, your lovely
face and some ink pens. And you sit there
staring at yourself for hours. In that time,
you'll probably be able to produce a few
sketches of differing, flattering-to-unflatter-
ing quality.
I don't think we spend enough time with
our faces. It's the fleetingness of it, really:
We glance at ourselves in mirrors or reflec-
tive coffee shop windows for a few seconds
a few times a day. And similarly, we catch
fleeting glances of ourselves in the digital
photographs that are posted, quantity over
quality, on social networking sites. These
self-portraits are just glimpses, and in the
same way, we flip through these photos after
glancing at each for a second of two at a
time. We don't really look at ourselves.
And glimpsing is different than looking.
Glimpsing means spending as little time as
possible with our faces and their unsightly
bits: zits, moles and floppy chins. Looking,
on the other hand, means staring at these
faults of ours without flinching. We're our
own worst critics, and it really is hard to
look at the things we dislike about ourselves.
It might actually be a good thing that we
aren't able to see ourselves without the aid
of something - a mirror, a camera, the bowl
of a spoon.
With this in mind, self-portraiture can
be self-congratulating, but more often than
not, it's self-critical. It forces artists to stare
at signs of old age and imperfection and
re producethosethings ona canvas, in a
photograph or in a sketch book. Whether or
not these imperfections are re-created in the
image is an entirely different story; the per-
sonma ycdos6f se coverhhem up or display'
them at his orcher own discretion. But the
point is that analog self-portraiture involves
a persistent stare at oneself, one's faults and
one's changing self-understanding.
Chuck Close is a world-renowned Ameri-
can artist primarily known for his photo-
realistic portraits and self-portraits. Much
of his art is painted on larger-than-life
canvases that can be as big as 10 feet by 12
feet. Close's concept of himself as an artist
changed, however, when in 1988 he suddenly
became paralyzed from the neck down.
Although he was able to regain some control
of his body, he had to have paint brushes
attached to his arms in order to paint. He
still continued to work, however, and it is
fascinating to see how his self-portrayal has
changed over the years.

Close's self-portrait titled Big Self-
Portrait, painted from 1967 to 1968 depicts
the skinny, artsy upstart shirtless from
the shoulders up. He has a smoldering
cigarette in his mouth, his eyes are eerily
half-opened and hazy. His head is tipped
upward, cockily daringsomeone to chal-
lenge him. The image appears self-appreci-
ating. It's a glamour portrait that suggests
youth, drugs and sex.
Close produced another self-portrait
called, yes, Self-Portrait in 1977. In this
painting, Close has a full beard, and his hair-
line has receded to the top of his head. The
painting still depicts him from the shoulders
up, although this time he looks directly at
the viewer in his collared, button-up shirt.
His eyes are open, expressive and lucid. His
image suggests his stark reality: he is the
aging painter.
Finally, we'll jump to 2000, 12 years after
he became paralyzed form the neck down.
The portrait is also titled Self-Portrait,
though the painting contains only his head
from the neck up. This reminds us of the fact
that this is the only part of Close's body over
which he has immediate agency. He is com-
pletely bald. His eyes look off the corner of
the picture, evasive, suggestingsomething
that has been closed-off or disconnected.
Perhaps it's meant to remind the viewer that
his paintings are now made with the help of
an assistant, because Close does not paint
these intimate portraits by himself anymore.
Close's self-portrayal changed a great
degree over a period of forty years. And the
way we see ourselves changes over time
as well, for better or for worse; it's paral-
lel to how our looks, our memories and our
relationships change. Who we are is grittier
than what the haphazard glance will reveal,
and a self-portrait contains more than
attractive aesthetics; it contains personal
meaning, the passage of time and details
we might not want people to know or care
about. It's honest, and honesty is not always
Staring at yourself
in the mirror isn't
just narcissistic.
The fact that a self-portrait, by its own
nature, encourages self reflection is unique.
' Byspehding time withour own image;
somethingwe rarely spend more than an
hour a day looking at unadorned, we are
forced to look at ourselves in a way that can't
be replicated with the instantglimpses of
digital cameras and the age of profile pic-
tures. We've begun to take the self-portrait
for granted as something that is effortless to
create, and equally effortless to delete if it
depicts us in an unfavorable light.
A self-portrait is easy to conceive. Mini-
mally, it takes a pen, a napkin, a mirror and
an opened eye. What may be more difficult is
looking at yourself in a way that's more than
just a casual glance.
Pow wants to paint your self-portrait.
Explain to her why that doesn't make
any sense at poww@umich.edu.

An odd couple in advertising

For the Daily
The buddy comedy is a subgenre that
always holds great
potential. From Joe and
Jerry in "Some Like
it Hot" to Harry and Trust Me
Lloyd in "Dumb and
Dumber," it's still sat- Mondays at
isfying to see two best 10 p.m.
friends screw around TNT
and stick together
through thick and thin.
follows the exploits of an odd couple in the
advertising world. Mason (Eric McCor-
mack, "Will and Grace") is the respon-
sible half - a high-strung, hard-working
art director. Connor (Tom Cavanagh,
"Ed") is the goofball - a fast-talking but
laid-back copywriter. The duo works
as a creative team at a fictional Chicago
agency called Rothman, Greene & Mohr,
which also houses some other memora-
ble personalities. There's Monica Potter
(Sarah Krajicek-Hunter, "Boston Legal"),
a talented but neurotic and thin-skinned
newcomer to the office, and the hilarious
team of Tom (Mike Damus, "Numb3rs")
and Hechtor (Geoffrey Arend, "Greek"),
a mischief-making pair who, when their
powers combine, become the agency's
two-headed village idiot.
Indeed, Rothman, Greene & Mohr

proves to be the ideal setting for "Trust
Me." The preposterously pressure-filled
atmosphere of the world of advertising
quickens the pace of the show. In addi-
tion, advertising executives work in pairs
(one art director with one copywriter),
which is perfect for a buddy series. Pre-
dictably, some of the most powerful
scenes in "Trust Me" are those featur-
ing Mason and Connor hard at work in
fierce brainstorming sessions, where
each spews out ideas, both compelling
and awful, for their latest advertising
This competitive environment fre-
quently puts Mason and Connor's rela-
tionship to the test. In the pilot, Mason
and Connor's stressed-out boss kicks the
bucket, and the agency's creative direc-
A well-played
buddy comedy.
tor Tony Mink (Griffin Dunne, "Law &
Order: Criminal Intent") needs to find
a replacement. He chooses Mason to fill
the position. Connor is upset that his
partner chose not to tell him about the
promotion, and their friendship must
survive the added tension. It's clear this
symbiotic relationship will be consis-

tently tested through the rest of the sea-
son with similar plot lines.
Unlike "Mad Men," AMC's popular
drama-heavy series about a New York
City advertising agency in the 1960s,
"Trust Me" finds humor in the stress-
ful world of advertising. During one of
Mason and Connor's brainstorming ses-
sions for a client, Arc-Mobile, a fictional
telephone company, Connor humorously
suggests that a gladiator named "Spar-
text-icus" be the mascot for the brand,
"slaying a lion with one hand and texting

with the other."
Whether they're
getting along or not,
it's McCormack
and Cavanagh that
hold the whole show
together. When they
aren't working on an
ad campaign, they
quibble and squabble
like an old married
couple over anything
and everything. But
it's obvious that, at the
end of the day, they'll
still be pals.
Watching these two
talented actors bicker,
fight andmakeupforan
hour each week prom-
ises, if nothing else, to
be entertaining.


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