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November 10, 2009 - Image 5

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The Michigan Daily, 2009-11-10

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The Michigan Daily - michigandailycom

Tuesday, November 10, 2009 - 5

Foreign fallacy

Pictures of alien anatomy: guaranteed crowd-pleasers

'V' crashes to Earth

New ABC sci-fi series
can't live up to the drama
of its promo clips
SeniorArts Editor
There's a vendetta to be had against
ABC's new sci-fi drama
"V." Promos promised * *'
intrigue, mystery, sub-
version,. an expert cast, V
stunning visuals and the
epic tale of a stalwart few Tuesdays
rising against the blindly at 8 p.m.
devoted masses. As for ABC
keeping those promises
... well, at least "V' lookedpretty in the
"V" follows the visitors, a race of reptil-
ian aliens who wear the skin of beautiful
people, as they come to aid and/or destroy
humanity. And from the high frequency
of none-too-subtle knowing looks from
visitor High Commander, Anna (Morena
Baccarin, "Firefly"), destroy seems to be
a good bet. Heading the anti-visitor resis-
tance is Georgie Sutton (David Richmond-
Peck, "Robson Arms"), a slightly irritating
little fellow whose picture should appear
next to the dictionary definition of
"snarky." Joining him in the fight are
FBI agent Erica Evans (Elizabeth Mitch-
ell, "Lost") and Father Jack Landry (Joel
Gretsch, "The 4400"). The show is a re-
interpretation of a 1980s show with the

same nane and same aliens, bringing the
story into the 21st century.
The cast is brimming with sci-fi and
supernatural veterans from such TV sta-
ples as "Lost," "The 4400" and "Firefly."
These actors all do a great job with what
they're given, but the writing is often so
stale and predictable that no amount of
acting aptitude could make their roles
truly shine. That said, the veteran actors
do all manage to at least counterbalance
the writing, bringing their scenes to a
moderately happy medium.
But then there are the other cast mem-
bers. Morris Chestnut (Film's "The Perfect
Holiday") hides his character Ryan Nich-
ols's inner struggle about as well as a palm
tree hides an elephant, and his fake smile
is so appalling - as well as legitimately
terrifying in its largeness and whiteness
that it physically hurts the eyes and brain
to behold. Other mediocre-at-best acting
jobs are performed by Logan Huffman
("America"), who plays Erica's son Tyler,
and relative newcomer Jesse Wheeler as
Tyler's best friend Brandon. It shouldn't
be that hard for angsty teens to act like
angsty teens - but apparently it is.
It's bad enough that line delivery from
some cast members sounds straight out of
a first read-through, but the writers had to
make the dialogue exceedingly predictable
as well. It wasn't difficult to predict the
next three lines verbatim in most scenes,
taking away all the impact the more pro-
found statements were intended to have.
And this predictability was not unique
to the lines themselves - it infected the

pilot's plot as well. With perhaps one
exception, there were no major twists or
turns. Considering "V" is a remake, there
must certainly be some adherence to the
framework of the original, but the updated
version has no excuse to lull onward so
formulaically. Many scenes feel far too
drawn out specifically because it's clear
exactly where the intended suspense is
heading. And when you know something
potentially epic is going to happen, you
want the show to hurry up and get there.
So yes, finally it must be noted that some
very epic stuff does happen in "V" Maybe
only half the cast really shines, maybe the
dialogue is stilted and predictable and
maybe the plot follows a well-worn formu-
la - that can all be glanced over (mostly)
when one considers the show's undeniable
cool. The spaceships and other alien tech-
nologies are breathtakingly portrayed,
even on a small screen. The clean, mod-
ern, peaceful-yet-evil vibe of the visitors,
is executed flawlessly; they are every sci-fi
junkie's fantasy. And "V" succeeds where
ABC's other new supernatural endeavor
"FlashForward" has been recently failing:
The epic nature of the visitors' arrival and
impact on humanity is not diminished by
the show's focus on a select few characters.
When a classic sci-fi premise meets
great sci-fi actors, you ought to get a must-
see sci-fi show. Instead, predictable and
stale writing has brought a promising
premise down from orbit and crashed it
into Earth. And while the explosion may
be entertaining for a while, we've all seen
explosions before.

magine, if you will, a multiplex.
You and your friends are scanning
the marquee looking for a good
time. Listed among the films playing
are the historical -
action epic "Hero,"
the vampire fright-
ener "Let the Right
One In" and the"
quirky, unconven-
tional romantic com-
edy "Love Me If You ANDEW
Dare." If you or your L
friends tend to flock
toward any of these genres of movies,
perhaps you'd enjoy trying one of these.
Except the ticket-taker has informed
you that all three movies are "foreign
films," and your first impression of a
"foreign film" is three hours of a Swed-
ish family sitting around a dinner table
talking about their feelings. You decide
to pass on these risky ventures and go
see something mediocre instead. It
may not be the best movie you could've
chosen, but at least everyone talks in
English, right?
There is a continued insistence in the
movie industry to lump all international
movies into a single genre known as
"foreign," and this mindset has got to go.
It's a nonsensical, outdated and in many
ways xenophobic concept, as though a
film not made by Americans isn't wor-
thy of sharing their categorizations.
"Foreign films" can still be dramas,
comedies, fantasies or family-friendly,
but you'd never know because they're all
stuffed into art-house cinemas and the
same corner of the video store.
The word "foreign" in itself is mis-
leading because it implies impenetrabil-
ity; as in, the experience of viewing such
a movie would surely alienate you. But
film is supposed to be a universal lan-
guage, right? You don't need a degree in
Spanish tobe terrified bythe Pale Man
character in "Pan's Labyrinth." Movies
are visual by definition, and our level
of understanding shouldn't depend on
whether or not those visuals were cre-
ated in our country.
But let's assume that "foreign" is an
acceptable way to categorize a film's
genre. Now, what makes a foreign film?
According to the Motion Picture Acad-
emy's rules for eligibility into the Best
Foreign-Language Film Category, over
half of the dialogue must be spoken in a
language other than English. So what of
this summer's "Inglourious Basterds,"
in which more dialogue is spoken in
foreign languages (French, German and
Italian) than in English?
Well, maybe that's OK because the
director, Quentin Tarantino, is Ameri-
can. We wouldn't want to limit the
audience for an American director's
movie just because not every line of dia-
logue is in English ... unless that Ameri-
can director is Julian Schnabel and the
film is the all-French "The Diving Bell
and the Butterfly" - it was classified as
And then there's the strange, sad

case of the Israeli drama "The Band's
Visit," which has the dubious distinc-
tion of being labeled as both "foreign"
and "not foreign enough." The film
has spoken dialogue in English, Arabic
and Hebrew, and was submitted for
consideration in the 2007 Best Foreign-
Language Film category but deemed
ineligible because over half of the
dialogue was spoken in English. But
because it's so hard to tell which tongue
is spoken more in the movie, the Acad-
emy determined this by counting each
individual word. So despite the fact that
the film was made in a different country
by non-Americans, it was separated
from other great, arbitrarily "foreign"
films by a handful of English words.
And as those who have seen "The
Band's Visit" know, the English is
spoken in order to bridge the com-
munication gap between the Egyptian
characters and the Israeli characters.
The film was punished for trying to
impart a message about cross-cultural
Look, it's fine for a movie to embrace
its own cultural heritage. In fact, that
should be encouraged. But it's not fine
for us to define a movie strictly by its cul-
tdral heritage. A kung-fu crowd pleaser
by Yimou Zhang ("House of Flying
Daggers") evokes the legends of ancient
China by design, so we can say it's a Chi-
What's in a
nese film. But we shouldn't file it next to
Roberto Benigni's "Life Is Beautiful" at
Borders and pretend the two are similar
enoughtobe grouped together.
The Ann Arbor District Library has
just about the best filing system I've
seen when it comes to distinguishing
international cinema. It has a "foreign
language" section, but the movies are
grouped according to their country of .
origin. Which makes sense, inasmuch
as those who liked "The Band's Visit"
will be more likely to stumble on the
also-excellent Israeli film "Waltz With
Bashir." But this system is still flawed.
How, for example, could you ever hope
to discover Ousmane Sembene's "Moo-
laad6" unless you were already looking
for a movie from the African nation
Burkina Faso?
There's a new movie called "The
Baader Meinhof Complex" opening at
the Michigan Theater this weekend.
It's a historical political drama about
a'70s-era German terrorist group that
has been getting rave reviews. It's also
spoken in German. I haven't seen it yet,
but I plan to. If you see the movie, don't
think of it as a "foreign film." Think of
it as a film.
Lapin pense que les films Americains
sont tres mauvais. To tell him his French
sucks, e-mail alapincumich.edu.

Listen to Michigan Daily Radio on WCBN-FM-Ann Arbor
88.3 FM Tuesdays and Thursdays 6 to 6:30 p.m.
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Sponsored by the Socialist Equality Party & International Students for Social Equality
One year since
the election of Ui* 0i i

& Reality

In voting for Barack
Obama on November 4,
2008, millions of people
sought a change from the
previous eight years of the
Bush administration. One
year later, a balance sheet
can be drawn.
Far from "change,"
Obama is deepening the
right-wing policies of his
handing out trillions of

dollars to bail out the
banks; expanding war in
Afghanistan and Pakistan,
continuing the occupation
of Iraq and issuing new
threats against Iran; and
pushing through a health
care overhaul aimed at
cutting costs and care for
millions of Americans.
While the bankers who
created the crisis are now
doing better than ever,

the social crisis affecting
masses of people is getting
worse, as unemployment
soars and wages fall.
These public meetings
will present a detailed
analysis of the policies of
the Obama administration
and will explain the
basis for an independent
socialist movement of
the international working

Tuesday, November 10
7 p.m.
Angell Hall G115
University of Michigan
Contact the ISSE at UM:
International Students
I for SocialEquality

Members of the cast and crew of NBC's hit daytime series "Days of our
Lives" will be in Detroit, Michigan to give fans and aspiring actors the
opportunity of a lifetime!
Two prizes will be awarded:
I)AYS biggest fan will win a trip to Hollywood, CA with a visit to the "Days of our Lives" set.
Promising actors will win a role on the award-winning show.

First Round Auditions:
Friday, November 13"', 2009
9:00 AM -7:00 PM

Final Round Auditions:
Saturday, November 14"', 2009
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MGM Grand Detroit, Grand Ballroom, 1777 3" Street, Detroit, MI 48226

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For more information on this
exciting event, aspiring actors
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All participants are encouraged to bring a
canned good or non-perishable item to be
donated to Gleaners. No purchase necessary
to enter the contest.

Thank you to our sponsors:

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