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October 06, 2009 - Image 8

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8 - Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

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The Middle'
is a house of
hopelessness

Sex with the lights on: the horrible aftermath.

Making p

'Bright Star' embraces love to become a
uniquely successful period piece
By Jennifer Xu ( For the Daily

As steeped in the seasons as
nature itself, Jane Campion's
"Bright Star" swirls lyrical poetry
about its body
like a fine cloak. ****
Sixteen years
have passed Bright Star
since Campion's At Showcase
globally praised a
film "The Piano" and the State
achieved Oscar Apparition
glory, and she
has grown up in the intervening
years. While "Bright Star" shares
the free spirit and raw passion of
its predecessor, "Star" is softer,
livelier and infinitely more daz-
zling.
Combining period film with a
pinch of biopic, "Bright Star" tells
the tale of poet John Keats's (Ben
Whishaw, "Brideshead Revisited")
three-year romance with fashion
seamstress Fanny Brawne E(Abbie
Cornish, "Stop-Loss") until his
untimely death at 25.

With prim, sexless demeanors,
period films have a tendency to
distance audiences. But the great
thing about "Bright Star" is that
it's relatable. The relationship
between Keats and Brawne could
have been pulled out of the pages
of any college romance. It's full of
awkwardness, mixed signals and
anxiety. Sex is portrayed straight-
forwardly, not as taboo. Normally,
a huge scandal erupts ifa charac-
ter even deigns to kiss the other,
but a scene where Fanny offers
herself to Keats proves shock-
ingly sensational for the film's PG
rating.
Campion has made a living
exploring feminist motivations in
her films, and "Bright Star" con-
tinues this trend. But beneath its
wild core, the film evokes a certain
tenderness. Fanny is undoubtedly
a strong individual who speaks her
mind and does whatever she wants,
but she's also a human being with

the capacity to feel, love and give.
"Bright Star" is a film as atten-
tive to appearance as it is to narra-
tive. Campion seamlessly strings
together a lush orchestral score,
shimmering cinematography and
stunning costume design to bring
19th-century England to life. But-
terflies illuminate the bedroom,
flowers wreath the reclined bod-
ies and kisses melt on top of each
other. The frocks have flounce
and ruffles and bright overlays.
Delicate choir strains ornament
the expressive poetry of Keats. It
looks, feels and breathes romanti-
cism.
As far as acting goes, Cornish
proves that she is more than the
homewrecker who broke apart
the marriage of Ryan Phillipe and
Reese Witherspoon. She plays
Fanny Brawne to understated
precision, her vain and flirtacious
nature evolving into something
deeper as the film goes on. In a
scene near the film's end, her per-
fectly coiffed restraint is punc-
tured by the suddenness of Keats's
death. She begins to ascend the
stairs, then halts. Her hands start
trembling - she can't control them

as she breaks out into broken sobs.
She sinks to the floor, hands still
in disarray, and lets out a raw cry:
"Mama, I can't breathet" It's a pic-
ture of sublime emotion.
While the film is really all about
Fanny, Whishaw provides an
able supporting role as the sickly,
moody John Keats, struggling not
only to find inspiration for his
poens, but also to dig up the finan-
cial means to support Fanny. It's
difficult to play a dying character
without coming off as contrived,
but Whishaw displays just the
right amount of patheticism and
pitifulness to pull it off. The chem-
istry between these two is undeni-
able, and, despite the confines of
society at the time, a surprisingly
sizzling romance develops.
"Bright Star" is a heartbreak-
ing love story of magnetic pro-
portions, just barely letting go of
the reigns of starched decency to
create one of the freshest explora-
tions of female sexuality in a long
time. It is a film about living, lov-
ing and breathing in beauty - a
splendor that is experienced with
all five senses, embracing the spirit
of Keats's sensuous poetry.

By CHRISTINA ANGER
For the Daily
The dysfunctional family is the
backbone of many a TV series, and
rightfully so, as it's all too easy to
relate to. ABC's
"The Middle" *
looks at a some-
what average The Middle
family, attempt-
ing to highlight Wednesdays
the poignant at 8:30 p.m.
intricacies of ABC
daily life - awk-
ward and lazy kids, dead-end jobs
and that lovingly parental feeling
of "where did my life go?" In an
effort to create a show somewhere
between dysfunctional and highly
situational, "The Middle" lands
dryly and appropriately in the mid-
dle. And, for the record, the show is
not even as clever as that last obser-
vation. Sad.
Patricia Heaton ("Everybody
Loves Raymond") is Frankie, a
mother of three who is slowly real-
izing her outlook on life is lack-
luster and jaded. As a used car
saleswoman who hasn't yet sold a
car, the unoriginal pathetic vibe
resonates from Heaton through the
entire pilot episode. There isn't one
strong character who stands out
from the rest - they are all quite
run-of-the-mill. Frankie's husband
Mike Heck (Neil Flynn, "Scrubs")
is the ditzy dad who hasn't a clue,
and even Chris Kattan ("Saturday
Night Live") plays a shallowly aloof
role as one of Frankie's friends.
With these actors, there is plenty
of opportunity to display life's real
pitiable moments, but it's going to
take something more substantial
than Frankie and Mike forgetting
to pick up the kids or the fact that
their only daughter Sue (Eden Sher,
"Sons and Daughters") is awkward
and awful at anything she tries. It's
really more depressing than funny.
The show makes use of"Malcolm
in The Middle"-style directingwith
quick cuts and clumsy angles, and
scenes are full of blaring vibrant
colors. From Frankie's repulsion at

her new driver's license picture to
her perplexity at her youngest son's
best friend also being his backpack,
each familiar scene bleeds blurrily
into the next. Unlike "Malcolm,"
there isn't a sense of hopelessness
easily mended by in-your-face per-
sonalities. Instead, Frankie comes
to a cutesy moral at the end of the
first episode: Her family is uncan-
ny, but she loves them all the same.
TV shows quickto push morals that
tie pretty bows around issues like
the monotony of life never have as
much depth as they should, and
"The Middle" is no different.
Heaton's role as narrator and
overwhelmed hapless mom pales
when compared to her strong, kick-
Regular day-to-
day life is
actually boring.
Who knew?
ass personality beside the Ray-
mond everybody loved. She used to
spit sarcastic fire and managed to
juggle three kids, life and a raging
mother-in-law. In "The Middle,"
she has some shining moments that
accurately depict an overworked
mom, but the overworked moms of
the world don't necessarily want to
watch a self-portrayal. "The Mid-
dle" offers no escape for its demo-
graphic nor for its main character.
The show needs to decide what
it's trying to do - hail to its moral
and magnify the beauty in day-to-
day family life (please, no) or kick
its cast into gear and try to scratch
decent. Hopefully the writers can
use the show's title as an irony
of sorts and dig deeper into the
faults of the average family, ris-
ing above that dangerous median
line. Making something average
enthralling isn't an easy job, but
that doesn't excuse "The Middle"
for not doing it.

Brand New and totally not improved

By KEVIN MEYER
For the Daily
It's only natural for a healthy band to trans-
form over the course of its long and often
twisted career path, explor-
ing new sounds or diverging *
into parallel genres. Long
Island-based alt-rockers Brand New
Brand New are no exception.
Led by lyrical prodigy and Daisy
guitarist Jesse Lacey, Brand Insterscope
New has risen to popularity
since it signed with Triple
Crown Records in 2001. Since this transition
to a major label, the group has shed its initial
association with cliche, eyeliner-ridden rock-
ers like Taking Back Sunday and Senses Fail,
plumbing psychological depths untouched by
modern "scream-o."
The group culminated this raw makeover
with 2006's profoundly surprising release
of Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me. The
album marked a drastic shift in theme and
mood, channeling Lacey's personal depres-
sion into a dark, guttural release. On Daisy,
Brand New attempts to continue this trend,

but ultimately fails, overreaching with 45
minutes of desperation atop obnoxiously dis-
torted guitar tracks.
Most of Daisy shows a clear departure from
the band's previous formula, which consisted
of Lacey's better-than-average voice pelting
the listener with clever lyrics over aching, bass-
driven tracks. Daisy opts instead for a fury of,
well, loudness. To call the album dissonant is
an understatement. The opening track "Vices"
is the most obvious example, sounding more
like an extended yell than any sort of song.
One need only look at the track list to notice
the distinct difference in intention. Brand
New used to come up with engaging titles like
"Jude Law and a Semester Abroad" or "The
Boy Who Blocked His Own Shot," but now
hands out loathing, one-word monikers like
"Sink" and "Gasoline." The titles are evidence
of the transition from wit and finesse to brute,
musical force.
With Brand New's overblown attempt at
amped-up instrumentation, the band loses the
opportunity to capitalize on its greatest talent:
lyricism. Most of the album is wasted on seeth-
ing guitars and mutant yelling, foregoing any
development of compelling lyrics. The only

two exceptions are the title track in which the
group circles around the issue of male insecu-
rity and the memorable track "At the Bottom"
Daisy fails to capitalize on Lacey's obvi-
ously profuse emotional burden like Devil and
God did. Where Brand New's previous releas-
es used witty lyrics and guitar-centric melo-
dies to convey an often-jilted view of love,
the band instead covers up its insecurities
Loud, bland and
too aggressive.
with loudness. Daisy provides an image of an
abrasive, nervous band, a stark contrast from
the self-assuring, dynamic band shown in the
past. Where the Ilbum strives to feel multidi-
mensional, the blandness of its single-stroke
over-aggressive structure actually results in
something very one-dimensional. The bands
attempt at greatness ends up in nothing but
mediocrity, and is capable of inciting in fans
a brand new aggravation for Brand New's risk
taking.

I

4

4

Seeing your career hit a dead end can be hard to swallow,

4

Trying too hard to be legendary on 'Shawarma'

By SHARON JACOBS
For theDaily
Legend of the Black Shawarma,
the newest release by Israeli trance
duo Infected Mushroom, is sure
to solidify the
group's status -
as a love-it-or-
be-annoyed-by- InfeCted
it cult icon. This M ho
time around,
IM's love of Legend of the
metal takes cen- Black Shawarma
ter stage, mak- Perfecto
ing for an even
more eclectic
mix than usual. It's a big step away
from the duo's signature psyche-
delic trance, clouding the usual del-
icate bells and beeps with distorted
guitar riffs. Legend is probably too
intense for crossover appeal, but
fans should be intrigued by the
group's sonic evolution.
Infected Mushroom hails from
Haifa, Israel. Members Erez
Eisen and Amit Duvdevani are
both classically trained musicians
who found electronic music at a

young age. IM has found success
in many parts of the world but
is practically unheard of outside
electronic music circles, despite
its genre-bending tendencies.
Legend of the Black Shawarma is
the outfit's seventh full-length
album; named after a traditional
Middle Eastern dish, it was origi-
nally meant to include a track for
each of Eisen and Duvdevani's
favorite restaurants.
Some of the songs on Legend
really do sound legendary. The
excellent "Poquito Mas" opens the
album with a delicate Middle East-
ern guitar melody before settling
into gritty metal-flavored elec-
tronica. The exotic Middle East-
ern motif comes in and out, adding
a sense of chaos from all the genre
mashing. But Duvdevani's heavy
Israeli accent, present here as on
many of the tracks, helps to keep
the music grounded.
The album's first single
"Smashing the Opponent" fea-
tures Korn's Jonathan Davis, who
crafts it into another standout.
Davis's smooth yet strained voice

easily rises above the pared-down eral of the songs are full of build-
instrumentals,consummatingthe ups that don't go anywhere. The
album's attempt at metal-trance polyrhythmic section of "Project
fusion. It's also one of the dark- 100" is striking at first for its sim-
er-sounding songs on the album, plicity, but it fades away without
already IM's heaviest. developing into more. And "Kill-
The title track sounds like a ing Time," featuring Perry Farrell
return to the second side of Con- of Jane's Addiction, truly lives up
verting Vegetarians, IM's epic to its name.
attempt to make trance music Infected Mushroom is often
that could stand apart from hailed as a primer band for trance
trance culture. It takes three music, a genre that gets slack
minutes to get to the meat, but for being repetitive and boring.
the buildup holds the listener's While some of Legend falls into
that trap, the more concise songs
retain the ever-shifting melo-
Really boring dies and uncommon sounds that
held listeners' interest in earlier
'shrooms. singles like "Converting Vegetar-
ians" and "Becoming Insane."
The album clocks in at 77 min-
interest by constantly adding new utes - not at all unheard of for
layers of sound - a sort of musical Infected Mushroom - but it still
shawarma. The middle section is feels too long. Fans will likely be
a nice opportunity for Eisen and pleased with the new direction,
Duvdevani to showcase their but those new to trance or to
classical skills with some pretty the specific stylings of Infected
piano arpeggios. Mushroom would be better off
Unfortunately, much of Legend simply downloading a few of the
is self-glorifying rambling. Sev- shorter songs.

A FINE ARTS WRITER
BY ANY OTHER NAME
WOULD SMELL
AS SWEET.
BUT HONESTLY WHY ARE
YOU SNIFFING PEOPLE?
WRITE FOR FINE ARTS

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