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March 31, 2009 - Image 5

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The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.cgm

Tuesday, March 31 2009 - 5

The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.cm Tuesday, March 31, 2009 - 5

The neuroses of
mix-making

What is it about making
mixes that's such a
kick in a glass? Sure,
there's the whole
look-how-much-
obscure-music-
I-knnw dynamic,
but that's only
Pfraction of it.
As fun as it is to
assert your hip-
ster status via a JOSH
bomb-ass party BAYER
playlist, the plea-
sures of mix-making far transcend
the social sphere.
There's something immensely
gratifying about compiling a list of
songs you absolutely love and hav-
ing them flow seamlessly together
asa unit. When you christen a list
of five-star tracks under a snappy
title like "Romantic Cynicism"
and listen to your masterwork on
a long car ride, it's hard not to feel
like you wrote the music yourself.
It's the same kind of rush us music
bastards get from meticulously
culling our top-five favorite albums
of all time. While we may not have
personally composed the songs
or records, there's an inexplicable
satisfaction in knowing that these
* are "our" picks, "our" essentials.
Mixes are just another way for us to
jerk off our self-righteousness. Or,
in slightly less cynical terms, they
help usnto therapeutically solidify
our identity.
Whenever I come home ripped
after a party, I'll make a beeline
straight for my iPod and immedi-
ately begin crafting an On-The-Go
playlist (despite the fact I'm going
absolutely nowhere, other than to
bed). I'll spend 20 to30 minutes
under the covers, gleefully skim-
ming my thumb over the dial, plow-
ing through my entire library to
hunt down songs "I absolutely need
to hear right now." Then I'll spend
an additional 15 to 20 minutes chis-
eling down my list to 15 s ongslyes,
I'm compulsive about this number)
that "work" together.
:Bythe time I'm donewiththis'
procedure, my high will have always
completely worn off and I'll listen
to approximately one song and pass
out, wondering why I didn't just
listen to Radiohead. This scenario
repeats itself almost every weekend.
I love mix-making so much that I
make mixes I never even listen to.
But as much asI gush over the
art of mix-making, I must admit
that - as with everything in my
life - the process comes equipped
with its fair share of neuroses. For
instance, I'll survey my collection of
playlists on my iPod and worry I'm
reusing the same bands too often.
Should I really havea Broken Social
Scene song on every single one of
my playlists? Doesn't that make
me look like too much of an "indie
kid"? Shouldn't I throw in at least
one song that wasn't released in the
last 10 years? Shouldn't I be draw-
ing upon my seasoned knowledge of
music instead of predictably slop-
ping down tracks by the same 20 or
so bands (the ones on my Facebook
"favorites")? It doesn't matter that

I'm making these mixes for my
own enjoyment; I am perpetu-
ally plagued by an elitist Jiminy
Cricket.
And these self-induced pres-
sures are magnified 10-fold when
I'm making a mix for someone else:
What if the person already has this
song? Then the person will just skip
over it every time he or she listens
to my mix; that's a waste of a song.
That's awaste of one-fifteenth of
my mix. Maybe I should put on a
more obscure song - something
by Sonic Youth. But this one hasa
noise intro and the intended recipi-
ent will probably get bored and just
skip to the next song anyway. And
so on.
Then there's the type of mix-
making that's both the most nerve-
racking and the most exhilarating:
The kind where you craft a mix to
try to get someone to fall in love
with you. These mixes are incred-
Stroking my
musical ego.
ibly tricky; you have to make the
mix romantic enough so that the
seed is planted, but not so sappy it's
overkill. Although it's technically
not you singing the lyrics in the
songs you compile, you're making
a statement by selecting these par-
ticular tracks.
Hiring Ira Kaplan of Yo La
Tengo to croon "We're on our way
to falling in love" to someone you
haven't even French-kissed yet
can be risky business. Sometimes
the best tactic isnto balance out the
mushy songs with a few "fun" songs
that let the recipient of your mix
know you're not about to propose.
Or you could always just play the
hopeless romantic card and throw
in a handful of jaded "love" songs
ala Elliott Smith. Lyrics like "The
moon is a sickle cell / It will kill
you in time"are sure to reveal your
sensitive side without laying on the
schmaltz.
Some people don't take mix-
making all that seriously, however,
I once received a mix on which
roughly a third of the songs were
by John Mayer (as far as I'm con-
cerned, featuring the same artist
more than once on a mix is strictly
forbidden - unless, of course,
you use the artist to bookend the
compilation). But in this postmod-
ern world, when it can be argued
that true innovation is practically
extinct, the painstakingcollag-
ing of other people's work can be
employed asa pseudo-legitimate
art form (just ask Girl Talk orJohn
Cusack in "High Fidelity"). Hell,
if Andy Warhol can make a Camp-
bell's Soup Box and call it art, then
what's to stop my 15-track playlist
from making me feel like a badass?
Bayer wants to know what
you would put on a love mix for
him. E-mail him your selections
at jrbayer@umich.edu

"Whatever you do, don't pee in the suit."

Attack of the clones

Amy Adams stars in a -
disappointing doppelganger
of 'Little Miss Sunshine'
By ANNIE LEVENE
Daily Arts Writer
"Sunshine Cleaning" is the kind of movie
that screams "Sundance Film Festival." With
a hipster soundtrack, com-
plicated family relation- **
ships and offbeat plot, it's a
film begging to be deemed Sunshine
endearing, screaming "I aeaning
.couldn't find a distributor,
but love me anyway." "Sun- At the State
shine Cleaning" technically and Quality 16
has all the components that Overture
add up to sleeper success, but
only because everything in it has been done
before in a better film.
That better movie is "Little Miss Sunshine,"
2006's quirky-little-film-that-could. Similari-
ties between the "Sunshine" flicks are numer-
ous. Both contain a beat-up Volkswagen bus"
and a precocious youngster who functions as
the film's idealistic voice. But where 2006's
"Little Miss" had heart, this movie has pre-
dictability.
ARTS IN BRIEF
Film

It may be oversimplification to pick at the
subtle difference in atmosphere between the
two films or the differences between the two
casts - although Alan Arkin ("Rendition")
plays virtually the same wizened curmudgeon
grandfather in both films. But objectively, the
casting of the leads makes all the difference.
The movie loses touch with reality when
it places unrealistically beautiful women -
Emily Blunt ("Charlie Wilson's War") and
Amy Adams ("Doubt") - in such desperate
states. While it's unfair to say that beautiful
people don't have problems, the movie gives
no reasons behind these women's situations. It
simply offers the audience sad people and asks
viewers to feel bad for them.
Set in the dry and appropriately depress-
ing landscape of New Mexico - yes, just like
"Little Miss Sunshine" - "Sunshine Clean-.
ing" focuses on two sisters: Rose (Adams) is
a single mother stuck in a demeaning job and
an affair with her married high school ex-boy-
friend (Steve Zahn, "Rescue Dawn"). Younger
sister Norah (Blunt) is seemingly stuck in her-
self. Her thick make-up and dark clothing says
"I'm angry," but her dead eyes say "I'm lost."
In ' a ind' fr' fianc1ial support, and it
search of emotional worth; the sisters open
a 'cleaning service that caters specifically to
crimte scenes.
Audiences won't be able to miss the irony

of the sisters' new occupations, because the
film won't let it come gracefully. Indeed, these
women can't pick up their own messes, so they
settle for the satisfaction of cleaning the mess-
es of others.
Despite the lack of character development
- like the missing background explanation for
Rose's son - Adams and Blunt do an admira-
ble job with their characters. They make con-
vincing sisters, and they are both best when
playing off each other.
Alone, however, each struggles to make
her character relatable. It's more a problem
of writing than performance, but it's a weak
link nonetheless. Arkin, of course, is lovely as
always as the rough-edged-but-softhearted
support system. His scenes with Jason Spe-
vack ("Hollywoodland"), who plays Rose's son
Oscar, exemplify the honest love of a patriarch
who wants to give his family everything it
needs but can't.
The greatest disappointment of "Sunshine
Cleaning" is the ending. Some characters are
given uncertain futures and others find their
new life handed to them wrapped in a shiny
bow. It's this uncertainty that makes the film
seem prepackaged for indie street cred. When
it's all said and done, "Sunshine" is not the uni-
versally loved hidden gem ofa film it wants to be,
but a glossed-over and' scrubbed-clean version
of what it potentially could have been.

Nicholas Cage continues to make bad
career decisions with 'Knowing,'
another generic apocalypse movie
"Knowing"
Summit
At the Quality 16 and Showcase
Nicolas Cage's ticking time bomb of a career inches closer to total
irrelevancy with "Knowing," what seems to be his 4,000th schlocky
action/suspense hybrid in a row. It's hard to believe that the serious
actor who once wowed his audience with raw talent in "Leaving Las
Vegas" has subjected today's theaters to a line of dreck that includes
"The Wicker Man," "Bangkok Dangerous," "Next" and now "Know-
ing.".Surely this guy knows - pardon the pun - by now that he's
better than this.
This predicting-the-Apocalypse tale is so generic there's a sense
of futility surrounding it. Cage plays a learned astronomer at M.I.T.
(Walt Whitman would be proud) who becomes obsessed with a
series of numbers on a paper found inside a time capsule at his son's
elementary school. The numbers seem to predict the exact date and
location of every disaster in the world, and Cage races to stop the
ones that haven't happened yet.
Explosions, mysterious hooded figures and creepy "The Shining"
kids abound, and by the end director Alex Proyas ("I, Robot") ditch-
es the numbers game in favor of a bunch of extraterrestrial hoo-
hah. The mass carnage scenes'are fun in a sadistic way, although the
PG-13 restrictions are laughable when a rail-jumping subway train
mows over dozens of people without spilling any blood.
Here's a fun game to play while watching "Knowing": Write
down all the coded numbers that appear on screen. They will reveal
the exact date and time when Cage stopped caring.
ANDREW LAPIN

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