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November 09, 2009 - Image 8

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The Michigan Daily, 2009-11-09

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8A -- Monday, November 9, 2009

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8A - Monday, November 9, 2009 The Michigan Daily - michigandailycom

Flying the freak-folk flag

I am the Ghost of Christmas . oh, just pooped myself."
A 'Christmas'eer

Even CGI Jim Carrey can't save
this cold Dickens retread
By NICK COSTON
DailyArts Writer
There is a warmth within Charles Dickens's "A
Christmas Carol" that has made it a
beloved holiday story for 166 years. **
Successful adaptations of the book
have tapped into this sincerity and AChristmas
honored Dickens's original work of Caro
spiritual redemption. Unfortunate-
ly, this season's animated theatri- At Quality16
cal spin on "A Christmas Carol" is and Showcase
entirely devoid of the heart present Dsey
in other, better versions of the story.
As a result, its wildly impressive
CGIvisuals and aspirited digitalperformance fromJim
Carrey are powerless to accentuate the narrative.
This version of "Carol" does not diverge from its
traditional plotline. Mean old Ebenezer Scrooge is
haunted by three ghosts of Christmas, who lead him
on a journey through time and space to educate the
covetous old sinner of the Christmas spirit he has sum-
marily humbugged for so many years. Those ghosts,
along with the central role of Scrooge, are the tireless
work of actor Jim Carrey, who portrays all his char-
acters on-screen through the magic of motion-capture
technology. Though Carrey's Scrooge is appropriately
grumpy, his constant screaming in fear of the ghosts'
roller-coaster actions grow rapidly thin.
Carrey's ghosts, meanwhile, introduce a new but
woefully vague twist to the story. Traditionally, a dif-
ferent actor plays each of the three ghosts. If director
Robert Zemeckis ("Forrest Gump") is trying to sug-
gest the ghosts are a manifestation of Scrooge's mind,
or that the true meaning of Christmas has lived inside
of Scrooge all along, Zemeckis needed to take more
action than a mere pre-production casting decision.
Instead, he places Carrey in all four roles, ostensi-
bly for the actor's physical comedy, but doesn't employ
that decision thematically. Each ghost bears an obvi-

ous resemblance to Scrooge, yet the characters address
each other completely ignorant to their similarities.
The audience is left wondering what conclusions are
meant to be drawn from Carrey's quadruple role.
Zemeckis has made emotionally charged films
before; he's clearly capable of delivering a challeng-
ing and heartfelt story, and Dickens's tale of redis-
covering love and familial attachment lends itself to
such a film. But Zemeckis's film is depressingly cold.
It insists upon a bombardment of dazzling visual
spectacles in place of showing the gradual change in
Scrooge's emotional state.
Those visuals are so finely crafted and detailed that
the viewer can't help but acquire unrealistic expecta-
tions for an emotional output from the digital charac-
ters - one that's simply not technologically possible
within the boundaries of the CGI presentation. "A
Christmas Carol" is a dance in premature celebra-
tion of realism, as if Pinocchio never actually became
human but obliviously laughed and cheered as though
he had, and the result is altogether uncomfortable to
watch. We see individual little hairs sprouting out
of the pores on Scrooge's beaky nose, yet his cartoon
eyes are eerily dead even as his heart is supposed to be
breaking for the fate of Tiny Tim. That the audience
cannot discern change in Scrooge's heart is a fatal flaw.
That's not to say the visuals aren't impressive on a
purely aesthetic level. Scrooge's flight though moon-
lit London is spectacular, despite his continuous and
tiresome shrieking. The character animations are
liquid smooth, apart from those of Scrooge, whose
age precludes him from moving with much grace.
And Gary Oldman's brief turn as the remorseful
specter of Scrooge's former partner Jacob Marley is
genuinely spooky.
Robert Zemeckis has proven in the past that he can
compose a film driven by heart. A successful adapta-
tion of Charles Dickens's "A Christmas Carol" requires
such an emotional investment, but sadly, the creepy and
lifeless characters in Zemeckis's version simply don't
achieve the level of sincerity that preceding versions of
the story have. Don't be surprised if you see "A Christ-
mas Carol: The Ride" opening at Disney World some-
time soon.

By SHARON JACOBS
Daily Arts Writer
Devendra Banhart prefers the
term "natural-
ismo" over the *
"freak-folk" label
often attached to D
his music. But his
guitar-anchored Banhart
stoner musings What Wil
really are folky,
and his weirdly We Be
sexual outfits Watter Bros.
and makeup are
definitely freaky, so for now let's
leave the genre's name alone.
Labels aside, it's Banhart's gen-
tly vibrating voice and soothing
melodies that have always made
him stand apart, and What Will
We Be is clearly Devendra being
Devendra. Each release has found
him getting more accessible - no
doubt his relationship with Natalie
Portmangothimsome mainstream
attention - but he's managed to
keep his unique Northern Cali-
fornia hippie-ness intact, and the
result mostly works.
"16th & Valencia Roxy Music"
is the most fun track on What Will
We Be. Above a refreshingly funky
guitar pulse, Devendra sighs "I
don't know where to go / cause
I know where to go / But I know
where not to go / cause I know
where to go." Out of the confusion
comes images of white horses and a
beheaded king, and the self-aware
CHANEL
From Page 5A
this sense, Chanel's story
becomes more relatable to a
female audience, calling heed to
the age-old question of whether
women should put careers over
lovers.
As with any fashion-centric
film, the clothes (designed by
Catherine Leterrier) are striking,
but not striking in the traditional
"Chanel" way. The movie is more
focused on creating a contrast
between Chanel's fondness for
simplicity and the flamboyant
trends of the time, rather than
her amazing design skills in the

line, "I know I look high / but I'm complements his multilingual
just free dancing." It's hippiedom flair - plucky hymn "Walilam-
minus the idealism - peace, love dzi" is written in a dying Native
and happiness for the modern era. American language that adds sig-
This harder, more grounded nificance. Raised partly in Ven-
sensibility shows itself in the driv- ezuela, Devendra's never afraid
ing quality of the music, too. It's to bust out the odd Spanish love
what sets the Devendra of What song - back-to-back tracks
Will We Be apart from the harm- "Brindo" and "Maria Lionza"
less oddball who crooned, "Oh, benefit from the quiet, prettily
Michigan, Michigan state / How foreign sounds, but the songs are
I'd love to live in you / I've never too similar considering the side-
been to Michigan state / Still I'd by-side ordering.
love to live in you," on 2002's oh What Will We Be is hit-or-miss,
Me Oh My. Devendra's lived a bit and the misses are boring and
and learned a bit, and it sounds like meandering at best. "First Song
he's laid off the psychedelic drugs For B" is nothing but an emo whine
over dragging piano chords than
(word of advice to rising musi-
Peace, love and cians: never utter the line "Please
destroy me" - and never, ever
rambling hippies. repeat it four times - if you want
to be taken seriously). "Last Song
For B" is slower and replaces the
just a bit, too, for an overall more piano with guitar, but that's about
down-to-earth effect. the only difference.
Still, Devendra is a free spirit Devendra Banhart gets brownie
at heart. Hinging on epic mood points for having the balls to tack-
swings, two of the songs on What le hippie themes like love, life and
Will We Be completely switch trippy nothings in front of a wid-
directions midway through. On ening audience on his latest album.
"Angelika," a crooning love bal- He's clearly comfortable with him-
lad gets cut off by a colorful Bra- self, and that's fantastic. Most of
zilian piano-and-drams romp, What Will We Be is a lovely drug-
never to return. "Chin Chin & gy frolic, but the overemotional
Muck Muck" starts off as a jazzy, ramblings are what earned him
trumpet-powered tune and is the playground moniker of "folk
interrupted by a two-minute freak" in the first place. So if that
trippy and childlike ditty. This bothers Devendra, then it's time
typical Banhart genre-melding for him to rein it in..

future. As a result, modest-yet-
chic outfits dominate the screen.
The only sort of creativity mani-
fested takes the form of Chanel's
penchant for cutting apart men's
outfits to create a jaunty sort of
menswear, a far cry: from the
trademark clean-cut jackets and
little black dresses that Chanel's
empire is famous for.
Those who come into the film
solely for the renowned Chanel
designs, though, will be left wait-
ing until the end. The finale fea-
tures Chanel's first fashion show,
displaying models in a stream
of dresses cascading down the
stairs. For the first time, Chanel's
personality and personal life
have fused into a palette of fab-
rics and colors, all still contain-

ing her trademark elegance and
simplicity. It's as if the movie is
trying to say that true fashion is
ultimately reached with a com-
plete awareness of yourself. Only
until Chanel has liberated herself
from marriage expectations and
her societal aspirations can she
produce something brilliant.
"Coco Before Chanel" prob-
ably won't be the fashion confec-
tion audiences might expect, but
it's a nice alternative for those
who find period films too stuffy
or slow. More character sketch
than period love story, "Cha-
nel" is a film that marches deci-
sively past biopic conventions to
explore the fascinating woman
behind the brand - absent fash-
ion, absent men.

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