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November 03, 2009 - Image 7

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The Michigan Daily, 2009-11-03

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The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

Tuesday, November 3, 2009 - 7

The Michigan Daily - michigandailycom Tuesday, Novemher 3, 2009 - 7

'Monica: Still Standing' falls

The big, sad apple

Daily Arts Writer
If you've been aching for origi-
nal BET pro-
gramming *
following the life
of a former R&B Monica: Still
starlet, "Monica: Standing
Still Standing"
will be right up Tuesdays
your alley. Styled at10 p.m.
in the grand tra- BET
dition of Ashlee
Simpson and Keyshia Cole's reality
shows, it follows the singer Mon-
ica, best known for her 1997 duet
with Brandy "The Boy is Mine," in
her quest to reclaim her glory days
of B-list celebrity.
The main problem with "Moni-
ca: Still Standing" is that Monica's
life is not eventful enough to merit
a show. While it seemed impos-
sible for BET to come up with a
reality show less interesting than
"Tiny and Toya" (which followed
the former flames of T.I. and Lil
Wayne around Atlanta), they have
succeeded. The two major plot
points in the premiere episode
are the remodeling of Monica's
house and a conference call with
her label. The conference call gets
canceled and the house goes unfin-
ished. Judging from the previews,
a primary plot point in the future

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a bus trip to Alabama. It's boyfriend gets into the act: "You
t to believe that people who are what we call a triathalon sing-
Monica's immediate family er!" he gushes. "You do it all!"
oy watching this. "Monica" embodies every come-
completely average life is backreality-showcliche,fromsick-
with the general premise eningly heartfelt theme song lyrics
show - that Monica has performed, naturally, by Monica
ed an international media ("I been through the storm, had
:ar and that people have dirt on my name / I'm still holding
ctively awaiting her return on, champion of the game") to the
public eye. One excruciat- faux-philosophic dialogue ("It's all
ong scene shows Monica, happening, or not happening, at
oducer and several of her once." "I'm a person who believes
s-on sitting in the recording that after rain there's a rainbow")
listening to the playback of to a redemptive church scene in
st recent session in abso- which Monica tearfully tells an
phoria. People bounce and audience of large-hatted women
that she wants kids to give life a
chance and "not give up."
c ' i Dozens of sit-down interviews
u can't revive with Monica in which she tears up
.e glory days talking about her past struggles and
restates her emotional strength take
u never had. place in front of oddly colored back-
drops. These actions would be a lit-
tle less offensive if they didn't seem
so horribly insincere, but "Monica"
time to the music and close is superficiality at its best.
yes to more fully appreciate While Monica may be a talented
nius of Monica. Producer performer, this lackluster, cookie-
Michael Cox, (the master- cutter reality show could only hurt
ehind Usher's "Confessions, - her career. "Monica: Still Stand-
cheerleads Monica and her ing" veers dangerously close to
xcessively, coming up with self-parody and seems unlikely to
of overblown adjectives inspire the miraculous comeback
ribe the perfection of her that all of its participants seem to
and voice. Even. Monica's be expecting.

An anthology of
New York society
DailyArts Writer
Near the beginning of "New
York, I Love
You," a woman
amicably chats
with a cab driver NewYork,
about African L
music. Suddenly,
a man slides into At the State
the seat next to Vivendi
her, unaware that
the taxi was occupied. He apolo-
gizes and starts to leave, but she
insists they share the ride together.
He looks at her, she looks at him,
and they seem to want to start
a conversation, but neither
can find anything to say. So,
they resume looking out
their respective windows
in silence for the remain-
der of the journey.
This encounter lasts all
of three minutes, yet it's
a perfect encapsulation of
what it means to live in the
city of strangers. Unfortunate-
ly, this type of scene, with all
of the human awkwardness and
discomfort, doesn't appear nearly
often enough.
Proclaimed to be an anthology
on life, love and the city encircl-
ing it all, "New York, I Love You"
features 11 vignettes individu-
ally directed by heavyweights
(Mira Nair, "Amelia") and begin-
ners (Randall Balsmeyer, "Sesame
Street") alike. For most of the film,
"New York" abandons all human
aspects of a relationship in favor of
a high-gloss imitation of one. As a
result, itbecomes a pretty film that
seems to have a lot to say but ends
up not saying much.
The film manages to capture
the surface-level "essence" of New
York - the feeling portrayed in
the picture-perfect postcards that
tourists send back home. Unde-
niably, "New York" is a gorgeous

movie. In transitions, the camera
roams around the sun-steeped
benches of Central Park down
to the dizzying crowds of Grand
Central Station then across the
grimy filth of Chinatown. Shek-
har Kapur ("Elizabeth") delicately
directs Julie Christie in a gossa-
mer-winged sequence soaked with
fantasy. But it's beauty without
meaning - an artificial gloss try-
ing to transform a frothy confec-
tion into something substantial.
One of the film's more redeem-
ing qualities is the generous watt-
age of star power. Orlando Bloom
(the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy),
Natalie Portman ("V for Ven-
detta"), Ethan Hawke ("Training

"Paris" assumes the humble task
of discretely segmenting each
component of the city, "New York"
tries to join all these segments into
a cohesive narrative. And that's
the problem. For one, it's difficult
to tell when one story ends and
the other starts, and the brain
constantly has to make leaps into
previous memories to remember
who each character is. For another,
these efforts at cohesiveness limit
the individual creative visions of
each director.
The result is a group of largely
homogenized segments, none of
them revealing a true aspect of
New York's underbelly. Thus, it is
the ambition of "New York" that
is ultimately its downfall. "Paris"
achieved cohesionbecause it wasn't
looking for it; "New York" fails to
because it's so contrived.
Still, the benefit of having
11 short segments is that the
film never gets boring. As
with any anthology project,
the bad parts end quickly,
and the good ones end too
soon. Thankfully, the strong
segments still outnumber the
weaker ones. Director Brett Rat-
ner ("X-Men: The Last Stand"),
of all people, gives a surprisingly
funny and touching segment of
a boy taking a paraplegic girl to
prom after his leggy girlfriend
dumps him. Hawke, still charming
at 38, tries to woo a young sophis-
ticate during an intimate cigarette
break. And Portman helms a cute
yet unsubstantial passage about
a little girl and her male nanny in
her directorial debut.
Carefully toeingthe lineofmedi-
ocrity, "New York, I Love You" is a
difficult film to classify - it's not
great, not awful, but at least it's
never boring. For those featured
directors starving for more public
recognition, it's a good jumping-
off point. And for people who come
into the film with no expectations,
a couple segments might just stand
out. In terms of accomplishing its
goal, though, "New York" drasti-
cally fails.

Day"), Julie Christie ("Away From
Her"), Cloris Leachman ("Young
Frankenstein") Rachel Bilson
(TV's "The O.C.") and - with a
rather atrocious Russian accent
that screams anachronism - Shia
LaBeouf ("Transformers") round
out the impressive cast. Yet even
this quality is skin-deep, as it fea-
tures beautiful, white actors play-
ing beautiful, white roles. There
is certainly an attempt at diver-
sity, but it comes off as stereotype
(Indian as diamond peddler, Chi-
nese as herbalist, etc.).
It's impossible to assess the film
without also considering its pre-
decessor, "Paris, je t'aime." While

If only Bubbles was by his side,
A moonwalk to remember

From Page 5
lific recording career.
In addition to showcasing doz-
ens of Jackson's most beloved
musical numbers; "This Is It"
offers a unique image of Jackson
as a knowledgeable studio musi-
cian and a superstar willing to
share the stage. "Make it sim-
mer," he tells his piano player dur-
ing a rehearsal of "Jam." For the
famous guitar solo on "Beat It,"
he offers a center-stage position
to guitarist Orianthi Panagaris,
provided she can hit the highest
possible note on the instrument,
adding the performance will be
her "time to shine" when the con-
certs get underway.
Throughout the film, Jackson is
accompanied onstage by a caval-
cade of young, backflipping back-

up dancers who try to keep up
with Jackson's steps, contorting
their faces into scowls of unbro-
ken concentration. Meanwhile,
a skinny 50-year-old man eight
weeks short of death performs his
signature dance moves in a wind-
breaker and track pants, making
those backup dancers look posi-
tively foolish.
But it's Jackson's nonchalance
which makes "This Is It" so
astounding. Jackson occasion-
ally reminds his director that he
has to preserve his voice for the
sake of clarity, yet ignores his
own advice, delivering a spir-
ited, heartfelt performance of
"I Just Can't Stop Loving You"
after being impressed with his
female counterpart's rendition
of her part. He shouts in excite-
ment when the platform under
his feet lifts him high into the air.
His director begs him to hold on
to the platform's provided hand-

rails; instead Jackson throws
his hands above his head with a
The film closes with Jackson
performing a live sound check of
"Man in the Mirror." As Jackson
energetically belts out his song,
the camera pans left to reveal an
auditorium entirely empty save
for a few stagehands and backup
dancers on their lunch break.
While the film is unremittingly
entertaining, perhaps its finest
impact is that it doesn't leave the
viewer with a sense of loss. The
film is hardly polished, providing
merely a fraction of the product
that would've been delivered had
Jackson lived to perform the can-
celed tour. But it still proves that
Jackson remained as incalculably
talented as he ever was.
"This Is It" might not be the
farewell that Jackson envisioned,
but it is one his fans will surely

HPV Fact:
will get
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'Declaration' of Nordic desolation

From Page 5
Riot on an Empty Street. The acoustic guitar strum-
ming is pleasant, and Oye and Boe's voices effortlessly
blend to form swirling harmonies, but sometimes the
sound is too airy, with nothing there to bring it down
to earth.
Perhaps drums or electric beats could have ground-
ed the music, but Kings go at it alone, with nothing but
acoustic guitars and the occasional violin. The typi-
cally hazy and clich6 lyrics ("Freedom, freedom never
greater than its owner / Freedom is the mastery of the
known") do nothing to help focus the music. While
Oye and Boe's foreignness to English manifests itself
nicely in their clipped, cautious and vaguely accented
delivery, it's hard not to snicker when they tell a girl,
"Ooh, there's a little bit of me in you" on the aptly
titled "Me in You."
Declaration has its moments. With lush violin

accents and thumping, folky guitar chords backing
a concisely no-frills melody, "Boat Behind" is tailor-
made for a sad rainy day, an unpretentious lament
that "Oh, whoa whoa / I can neverbelong to you." And
"Riot on an Empty Street" actually brings to mind a
desolate Nick Drake rumination. "It's a dangerous
game that I'm not sure if I could keep playing for long"
- as Oye and Bee hum the guitar part over a repeated
piano ostinato, listeners are left to wonder: are they
talking about life or music?
Perhaps the most endearing thing about Declara-
tion of Dependence is the raw production. From the
guitar squeaks to the breathing to the soft sound of
0ye and Boe's mouths opening to sing, every detail
of Declaration is here on record. It's a stark contrast
with today's overproduced pop music - a nod to the
past, when artists like Simon & Garfunkel brought
a delicate, acoustic vibe to rock music. True, it's too
placid and chilled-out for today's Top 40. But in the
right situation, Declaration ofDependence provides a
laid-back, dependable sonic environment that won't

There's something you can do.,


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