The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com
DAny ~ X a s Au a D ,« 1,:.,,. an :. iove wit it ...... oecause tney .--- unes A tnati i's aii
Friday, November 6, 2009 - 5A
By TIMOTHY RABB
Daily Arts Writer
When filmmakers approach projects that are
widely known and have already been explored by
other artists, the most important thing they face is
the question of originality. How will they stay faith-
ful to a timeless story while also creating something
fresh and viewable?
In director Robert Zemeckis's estimation, finding
originality in his retelling of "A Christmas Carol" is
a matter of technical modernity - specifically in his
use of the modern technique called "performance
capture." This process involves the transference of
live motion to 3-D animation, and it has been used
in three of Zemeckis's films ("The Polar Express,"
"Beowulf" and now "A Christmas Carol").
"When I was doing Beowulf, I realized that (per-
formance capture) is a great form to reintroduce
classic stories in a new way, to a new generation of
moviegoers," Zemeckis said.
"This is because you can create a story that's
visually modern. Many of these stories have great
spectacle in them which makes them difficult to do
visually. So in the case of "Christmas Carol," you get
a chance to realize the story in the very spectacular
and real way that Dickens wrote it."
The process itself is long and tedious, but ulti-
mately produces the results Zemeckis wants.
"You walk the actors through performance cap-
ture very thoroughly and very extensively, and you
explain as much as you can. No matter how I explain
to them what the experience is going to be like, it's
impossible to imagine until they do it," he said.
The technical aspect of performance capture does
put additional responsibility on the actors as well.
"The thing that weirds them out the most is hav-
ing to put the leotard on," he said.
"Performance capture is like doing black-box
theater, where you have minimal props, no sets, no
lighting, no costume. The actors immediately fall
in love with it because thiey understand that it's all
Of these actors, Jim Carrey was cast as Ebenezer
Scrooge as well as the Ghost of Christmas Past, Pres-
ent and Future. Though the decision to cast Carrey
in several roles may appear to be the result of con-
venience rather than deliberate intent, the reasons
for this are primarily psychological: Zemeckis says
that since Scrooge's visions are the result of inter-
nal fears, it is only natural that the apparitions that
haunt him be extensions of his alter ego.
According to Zemeckis, Disney's newest render-
ing of "A Christmas Carol" will be carried by both
Carrey's sense of humor as well as his sharp sense
Zemeckis also wishes to educate the public on the
lesser known aspects of "Carol" with his rendition of
the classic tale. Viewers who were treated to a sneak
preview of the film walked away remarking they
Bringing 'A Christmas
Carol' to the big screen.
had never realized certain aspects of the film's plot
existed in Dickens's original creation. Though Zem-
eckis's love of the surreal and the fantastic may be
implied by his involvement in films like "Beowulf"
and this most recent undertaking, his passions for
them are obvious:
"I want people to realize that this is one of the
greatest stories ever written."
Zemeckis believes his rendering of "A Christmas
Carol" will pay homage to Dickens's work by inter-
preting the author's voice through a medium that
was unavailable in Dickens's time - namely the lens
of 3-D cinema. Here's hoping that we aren't wrong
for believing in his artistic vision.
"A Christmas Carol" opens in theaters today.
COURTESY OF TRAVELCHANNEL
I will dissect you with these chopsticks.
star to speak at the
By DAVID WATNICK
Managing Arts Editor
"We should be opening up
and KFCs along
pitch a viable
policy, but that
At the Michigan
starting at $45
Vampires, tweens and Thom
By JASMINE ZHU
Daily Arts Writer
When I first heard that Griz-
zly Bear, St. Vincent and Bon Iver
would be featured on the "Twi-
light: New Moon" soundtrack, I
didn't exactly jump up and down
with joy. Quite the opposite, in
fact. My first instinct was to call
up every plaid-clad hipster I knew
and bitch about the fact that pre-
pubescent girls across America
would now be able to count Thom
Yorke among their favorite artists.
I know, I know - I'm a snob,
right? But the idea of "Twilight"
fans sporting "I Heart Edward
Cullen" T-shirts while grooving
along to Editors did unsettling
things to my stomach.
It's fair to say that good movies
should have good soundtracks. It's
a mutually beneficial relationship
that has worked to enhance many
films ("The Graduate," "Manhat-
tan" and "The Virgin Suicides," to
name a few). But does "Twilight,"
which could shape up to be one of
the worst movie franchises in the
past decade, deserve to be plugged
by such an amazing list of artists?
I cringe when I imagine Beach
House's Victoria Legrand's
unearthly voice providing a back-
drop to Bella Swan swooning in
Edward Cullen's arms, offering
atmosphere for a film that doesn't
deserve it. It seems outrageous
- criminal, even. The relation-
ship between the franchise and its
new soundtrack seems parasitic.
It's like Edward Cullen is liter-
ally leeching off Thom Yorke's
lifeblood while I watch on in a
Then I realized something very
important: I am being overdra-
As much as I love to hate on
the "Twilight" franchise and all
it represents - cultish adoration
of vapid young Hollywood celeb-
middle-aged women living all its emphasis on brooding teen
usly through trashy fiction angst and exaggerated, height-
mpressionable young girls ened passion).
ed with imaginary charac- The soundtrack even features a
it occurred to me that the song by The Killers that I actually
meration of all my favorite enjoy. While I typically can't stand,
irtists under such a recog- Brandon Flowers's empty gran-
brand could only be advan- deur and pomposity, "A White
s. Demon Love Song" highlights his
one, most of the artists I lis- signature drawl while remaining
don't make a lot of money. wonderfully understated (in spite
quently, a lot of my favorite of its colorful title).
have long since faded into But most importantly, the
ity. Granted, Thom Yorke soundtrack gives a lot of people
exactly in dire financial the opportunity to listen to bands
but with "Twilight" having they would probably never lis-
lity to broaden the audience ten to otherwise. I'm also pretty
anything remotely involved excited, because I feel like this
the franchise, it's pretty will allow a lot of people to escape
assured that I'll be able to from the ghastly world of Eva-
nescence and Fall Out Boy. While
I might sound like an asshole, I
truly believe these people will
W h by is good be helped. By dishing up some
J of indie rock's best in one conve-
ausic on the nient serving, the "New Moon"
soundtrack ensures that there
v Twiight will be a cloaked herd of appre-
ciative new listeners. And wide-
oundtrack? spread appreciation of good music
is never a bad thing.
A final confession: I actually
like "Twilight." Up until now,
o Sea Wolf for at least a few I've enjoyed watching it in a rela-
ears to come. The massive tively comfortable secrecy, the
r of "Twilight" fans in exis- way someone trying to quit smok-
practically guarantees this ing might indulge in a cigarette.
ks, Stephenie Meyer! I'd always considered it a secret
hout the "Twilight" fran- source of shame. While I don't
a lot of great new songs own any "Twilight" merchan-
not have come into exis- dise (yet) and haven't committed
Some truly remarkable myself to turning up at the mid-
recorded specifically for the night showing of "New Moon"
ave come out of the "Twi- (so far, anyway), as it turns out,
partnership. "Slow Life" by "Twilight" is a habit I just can't
y Bear, featuring Victoria quit. And now that one of my
id, is one of the best songs favorite guilty pleasures is linked
eard in a long, long time. to some very credible artists, I can
id and Edward Droste's breathe easy with the knowledge
meld together to create a that there are probably people out
ny that is both haunting there listening to the "New Moon"
artbreaking (which I guess soundtrack through their head-
sense for "Twilight," with phones.
stop him from expressing his views
on the matter. Only half-joking, he
believes that fast food is America's
"most destructive export" and
should be used by the CIA to com-
bat insurgents. As he puts it: "Fat-
ten those fuckers up!"
Bourdain is outspoken and
abrasive - he seems to believe bad
tastes can make someone a bad
person. Still, he's often brilliant
and he knows how to eat, travel
and entertain.,AT4, tomorrow,
night at the Michigan Theater, his
firestorm of anecdotes, opinions
and insults is sure to illicit as many
When he's not brainstorming
Trojan-horse strategies for infect-
ing remote war zones with diabe-
tes, Bourdain spends most of his
time filming "No Reservations,"
the wildly popular Travel Channel
show that follows him as he travels
the world sampling local cuisine.
A longtime New York City chef,
Bourdain was able to parlay the
success of his book "Kitchen Con-
fidential" into his own show, "A
Cook's Tour," which ran from 2001
to 2002 on Food Network. In 2005
he jumped to the Travel Channel,
taking his format and attitude with
Bourdain, who just returned
from filming anepisode in Ecuador,
has a TV career that has taken him
to dozens of countries across six
continents. But only a decade ago,
coming off "Kitchen Confidential,"
he was thoroughly unconvinced of
the plausibility of his small-screen
"Two fairly unimpressive guys
walked in the door at my restaurant
- I was still working at the time -
and they said they wanted to make
television," Bourdain recalls.
"A week later they summoned
me to a meeting at Food Network,
which I did not think was going to
go that well, frankly. I remember I
didn't even bother to shave for the
meetings. I thought: 'This ain't
But Food Network saw some-
thing compelling in the brash (and
scruffy) Bourdain and decided
he'd be TV's ideal culinary anti-
hero. Having had rather limited
international travel experience'
up to that point, the straightfor-
wa'rd chef was ready to trot the
Sghbe: At the topl of-his degirhd-
destinations list was Vietnam.
"I grew up reading about it ...
it was a place that I wanted to be.
And, in fact, it turned out even bet-
He's now been to Vietnam mul-
tiple times, and he can't resist
gushing about it. Still, he main-
tains a keen eye for historical
perspective that's illustrative of
his ability to immerse himself in
a far-off location.
"Total war is a business for
them. They understand there's no
halfway war. You invade Vietnam,
they stop farming and they start
killing. As soon as the war's over
it's 'Have a drink. Nothing per-
sonal. This is business, this is what
we do,"' Bourdain said, explaining
why Americans are now received
so hospitably in Vietnam.
"They like Americans. Even
when they were shooting at us I
think they liked us. They saw us
big, goofy, open-hearted people
who like dogs and children."
Though his career may often
seem like one extended all-
expenses-paid vacation, Bourdain
takes immense pride in his work's
mission. In one famous instance,
the Marines evacuated him from
Beiruit when the 2006 war in
Lebanon broke out.
Of course, the experience left
him with an insatiable resolve
to return to the city - a duty he
intends to fulfill for the upcoming
season of "No Reservations."
"We're gonna try to finish the
show we started. It's the great
unfinished business of my life that
we didn't get to show people how
cool Beirut is," he reasons.
Although a tight touring sched-
ule will prevent Bourdain from
appreciating mainstay Ann Arbor
eateries like BTB and Le Dog, he
recognizes another great cultural
contribution of Ann Arbor: The
Bourdain cites The Stooges'
Fun House as his favorite album,
and if he and Iggy Pop have one
thing in common, it's definitely
their lust for life.
ARTS IN BRIEF
Good football inAnnArbor
"NCAA Football 2010" tournament
1 p.m. at Palmer Field
Sports video games are often a common source of
trash talk between players, but fans of the "NCAA
Football" video game series can get a chance to
prove their mettle in person when the EA Sports
NCAA Football Challenge Tour comes to Palmer
The event is sponsored by Sony and EA Sports and
presented by Best Buy, and has toured college cam-
puses since early October. According to Jay Kenne-
dy, the EA spokesperson for the event, it will feature
20 open PlayStation 3 kiosks featuring LCD screens
on which the public can try out "NCAA Football
2010." The event also features several giveaways.
Players can also register to participate in the
NCAA Football Challenge, which pits students
against each other in an "NCAA Football 2010"
tournament. The tournament follows a single-elim-
ination structure, whittling down the competition
until one winner stands above the rest.
The University of Michigan champion will earn
a trip for two to Pasadena, Calif. for the Rose Bowl
and later compete against the finalists from the 13
other schools involved in this year's challenge. Also
going to the winner will be a PlayStation Portable,
which could be worth more to a die-hard Wolverine
than the Rose Bowl trip.
"We have a custom, laser-etched Michigan PSP,"
Kennedy said. "It's the only one on the planet."
The one-of-a-kind PSP is maize and blue and
sports a block 'M' on the back along with the official
The winner of the final tournament earns a
$10,000 prize. According to Kennedy, the competi-
tion in Pasadena should be fierce.
"We've got great winners from each of the cam-
puses we've been to so far," he said.
Registration starts at noon, and the tournament
begins at 1 p.m. There is a limited number of spots
available, and team selection is on a first-come, first-
served basis. Anyone wanting to represent the Wol-
verines this year should be sure to get there early.
JAMIE BLOCK and ERIC CHIU