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December 08, 2009 - Image 5

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The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

Tuesday, December 8, 2009 - 5

The Michigan Daily - michigandailycom Tuesday, Decemher 8, 2009 - 5

Corporate imposters
The Yes Men bring their
social crusade back to the big
screen in 'Fix the World'

The list disease

By Andrew Lapin I Daily Film Editor.
Who are the Yes Men? If you ask them, the
two public hoaxers and pro-
vocateurs with the aliases
of Andy Bichlbaum and
Mike Bonanno will tell you
they're physical manifes- The Yes Men
tations of the conscience Fix the World
the corporate world should
have. Ask anyone else Tonight, at the
and you're just as likely to Michigan
hear they're nothing more Shadow
than barbaric stuntmen
who leave trails of social
destruction in their wake - not unlike the very
corporations they're targeting.
Bichlbaum and Bonanno specialize in imper-
sonating representatives of powerful com-
panies and making fools out of themselves in
public, whether that involves giving erroneous
statements to the press or presenting insane
ideas at shareholder's meetings. They present
their stunts and then gauge the reactions to
them from the corporations, the general public
and the specific subset of the public the corpo-
rations have already damaged through their
own real, non-impersonated actions.
The Yes Men's latest movie, "The Yes Men
Fix the World," plays like a greatest hits collec-
tion of their shenanigans and acts as a sequel
to 2003's "The Yes Men." In the six years since
that first film, the pranksters have grown more
ambitious, so they're now able to blanket their
guerilla satire under the cover of "fixing the
world." Indeed, with all the exposure they're
giving themselves in these movies, not to men-
tion their appearances on countless news chan-
nels, the big unanswered question is 'Why they
haven't been recognized yet.
The movie is technically a documentary,
inasmuch as it's mostly composed of real foot-
age of the Yes Men performing their schemes.
However, Bichlbaum and Bonanno, who co-
direct with Kurt Engfehr (editor of "Fahrenheit
9/11"), mash truth with fiction in a manner that
alternates between admirable and obnoxious.
Because tteir entire goal is to use lies to expose
the truth, in some ways they're justified in only
- electing footage that pertains to their owne
narrative - hence the doctored chronology of
events they rely on. But the enveloping staged
scenes, in which they retreat to their "secret

He thought it was the perfect disguise, until he had to run.
underground lair" and go swimming in their movie. But amazingly, the audience buys into
business suits, are overly twee and patronizing. the idea and asks questions about the phony
Yet it's when the Yes Men are in their ele- device's further applications.
ment, going to any lengths to pull a ruse on Even in noteworthy segments like this, it's
people, even for only a few minutes, that the hard to guess what exactly the Yes Men are
film and the reasons for making it really shine. satirizing. The willingness of rich people to buy
Bichlbaum goes on the BBC on the 20th anni- ridiculous things to ensure their own safety?
versary of a Union Carbide-caused chemical Well, OK ... but making that point doesn't seem
spill in Bhopal, India to announce that Dow worth all of their effort. And that's ultimately
Chemical accepts full responsibility for the what's so hard to stomach about the Yes Men:
incident, forcing Dow to issue a statement say- Even when they succeed, it's difficult to tell,
ing they have no intentions of donating any- what they've accomplished. Some would even
thing to rebuild the city. He also poses as an argue they've harmed the world more than fix-
ExxonMobil spokesperson at an oil conference ing it, when the adverse snowball effects of the
to announce the productioq of candles 'made targeted companies' plummeting stock prices
out of human flesh. are taken into account.
And, in the film's most blisteringly hilari- So the Yes Men's stunts are certainly making
ous segment, the pair debut the."Halliburton the worldtake notice. Maybe once they find a
SurvivaBall" to a roomful of fascinated inves- way to channel all of their audacity and creativ-
tors. The ball, a giant, inflatable insect-like pod, ity into a constructive rather than destructive
appears to be straight out of a Charlie Chaplin project, some fixing could actually begin.

our favorite entertainment
publications have recently
fallen victimto a sweeping
epidemic of "Best-of-the-Decade-
itis." This seemingly harmless
disease deludes
the carrier into
believing that
he or she hears
the voices of the
thousands of
films released
over the last 10
years, all begging ANDREW
to be organized LAPIN
into sequential -
order. "Rank us!" they cry. "Rank
us, Richard Brody of The New
Yorker! Only you have the power to
properly analyze every one of our
benefits and flaws. Only you can
provide the definitive answer to
which of us will thrive in memory
and which of us will languish in
cinematic purgatory."
. The worst part of this disease
is that it's contagious. Once one
newspaper, blog or random guy in
his parent's basement starts doing
it, everyone suddenly realizes how
much they, too, need a list of their
very own. A list to be coddled, cared
for, protected against the harsh
winds of all those other disagree-
able critics who totally got their
own lists wrong. A list that will be
remembered by the adoring public
forever, or at leastuntil the next list
comes out later this afternoon.
The Michigan Daily may very
well have one of these lists within a
month, too. That's still up in the air.
I don't know what having our own
list will get us, exactly. All of your
adoring affection? Or maybe Roger
Ebert will be so impressed with
our pointed film criticism that he'll
invite us to be his escorts at Cannes.
Seems unlikely. .
I've surprised myself with my
own bitterness at all these 2000s-
end lists. Normally I love lists, like
my esteemed colleague, fellow
columnist and sworn enemy Josh
Bayer. All you have to do is prime
me and I'll rattle off my favorite
Spielberg movies, documentaries
and ragtag-sports-team-wins-the-
championship films, just like that.
But it's something about the mass
conglomeration of all these lists,
all at once, being positioned as life-
affirming proclamations of human-
ity's belief in the power of film that
disturbs me just a tad.
Not one "best of the decade"
list is more superb than any other,
though a select few are more inane
than the rest. Entertainment
Weekly, still my favorite magazine
despite their unquenchable "Twi-
light" obsession, recently came
out with their list of the decade's
top 100 ... things. As in, theytook
movies, TV shows, books, fictional
characters and music videos from
the past 10 years and lumped them
all together into a giant stew of
hierarchical madness. Finally we
can determine with absolutely cer-
tainty that, not only was "The Lord
of the Rings" this decade's crown
cinematic achievement, it was
also exactly six slots better than
Beyonc6's "Single Ladies" video.

That's not a list; that's pop-culture
heroin, a giddy sensory overload
that grants a temporary high and a
long-lasting pain.
But even the "serious" lists
are probletm-starters. Even as
they exert their own individual
opinions, the critics who make
them are naturally eager to prove
that they, too, loved universally
acclaimed films like "Children of
Men" and "WALL-E." So when you
read enough of these and see the
same movies over and over, slightly
reordered, your awareness of the
decade in film is actually shrink-
ing, not expanding. You're gradu-
ally, subconsciously honing in your
sights on the repeat customers,
which were most likely the films
you've already seen, thus mak-
ing them easier to debate among
friends and enemies. Look, I know
"Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless
Mind" was awesome. I don't need
The Onion's A.V. Club asserting it
was the most awesome among all
the awesomes for me to know this.
And say you're angry about their
15th favorite film, "Y Tu Mama
Tambien," not being rated higher.
Why, just head on over to Michael
Phillips of "At the Movies," who
The only good
list is a dead list.
rated it fifth on his own authorita-
tive list that's so important it has to
be unveiled week-by-week. Prob-
lem solved. Now, instead of debat-
ing the merits of the film, you're
more than welcome to debate
the merits of the lists. (These are
all critical sources that I greatly
admire, by the way. The list-mak-
ing spirit just boils my blood.)
I will point out that there is a
difference here between the year-
end best-ofs and the decade stuff.
I firmlybelieve in the importance
of year-end celebrations because
they're deliriously in-the-moment.
The movies are still fresh inour
minds and we're just bursting with
the desire to share them with the
world. And no worries, because any
truly great films we leave out will
find a wayback to us eventually.
But the decade list undermines
this system by saying that now that
we've had time to "reflect on the
past years" (i.e. dismiss the 2009
releass as too recent while unfairly
legendizing the 2000 releases), we
can finally name, once and for all,
the only films worth remembering.
And in the process of nitpicking the
truly excellent from the merely very
good, we're forgetting why we love
movies so much in the first place:
the sheer thrill of discovery that
comes from watching something
unfamiliar.
So here's my Best Film of the
Decade: Any movie you haven't
seen yet.
Lapin came in 12th on our best
Arts columinss of the year list.
Console him at alapin@umich.edu.

Old formula, new haircut

By BRIGID KILCOIN
Daily Arts Writer
"Hey, I'm proud to be a fuckin'
guido!" These
immortal words
from cast mem-
ber Mike make
one thing clear: JerSey Shore
If you've been Thursdays
heartbroken at 10 p.m.
since A&E's MTV
"Growing Up
Gotti" went off
the air, MTV's new reality show
"Jersey Shore" will fill that void in
your life.
"Jersey Shore" follows eight
Italian-American 20-somethings
as they spend a summer in Seaside
Heights, New Jersey. It's like "Real
World," but with more hair gel.
"Jersey Shore" begins with the cast
moving into a house that serves as
a monument to New Jersey stereo-
types: Wall decorations include a
giant Cadillac emblem, an over-,
sized painting of the Italian flag
and a Scarface poster. There are
eight cast members, most of whom
come equipped with an absurd
nickname: Angelina (or "Jolie"),
Jenni ("J-WOWW"), Mike ("The
Situation"), Nicole ("Snookie"),
Pauly D ("DJ Pauly D"), Ronnie,
Sammi ("Sweetheart") and last,
but not least, Vinny. The paper-
thin plot in the two-hour premiere
follows the cast as they train to
work in a T-shirt shop on the shore
and gossip about various intra-
house hookups that have occurred.
The cast of "Jersey Shore" is its
primary drawing point: The train
wreck potential is so immense
that it creates wonderfully awful,

infinitely quotable television pep-
pered with use of the word "guido"
and gratuitous profanity. Spoiled
princess Nicole is the center of
many of the episode's funniest
moments: She states that life in
the shore house is "totally weird"
for her because she's used to being
the center of attention. Luckily,
she reclaims some of her lost glory
by climbing into the house's hot
tub clad only in a bra and leopard-
print thong. Angelina is shocked:
"Wear a thong bikini, that's a little
bit more classier if you're going to
wear anything at all!"
Classiness in hot tubs, and lack
thereof, is a major focus of the pre-
miere episode. J-WOWW raises
the question to her housemate DJ
Pauly D, who has brought several
girls over for a late-night hot tub
rendezvous: "How are you goingto
be 29 years old and make out with
three 20-year-olds in a hot tub?"
The Pauly-hot tub dynamic raises
further problems, as Sammi ques-
tions why her male housemates are
bringing "trashy skanks" to her
home.
"Jersey Shore," is unique among
most reality programming because
the producers seem in on the joke.
While the show will undoubt-
edly raise ire from Italian Ameri-
cans who want a more flattering
pop-culture portrayal, the cast
unashamedly, blissfully embraces
the lifestyle expected of them. One
opening montage shows every male
in the hast throwing mountains
of hair gel and protein power into
their suitcases. And multiple peo-
ple discuss their personal tanning
beds. The Jersey shore is presented
as a panacea for the cast members:

Vinny talks about the struggles of centerpiece. Mike's assistance
being underage at the Jersey shore, with the cooking upsets DJ Pauly
stating that it's "21 long years of D: "Girls are supposed to cook, and
anticipation to go to these plac- guys are supposed to eat, you know
what I mean?"
MTV's other reality shows are
Sp u t fairly interchangeable - low-'
"I'm proud to be budget, generic programs - like
a fuckin'guido' "NEXT" and "Parental Control"
a g squeezed in between reruns of
"The Hills" - but "Jersey Shore" is
nothing if not memorable. It's not
es, and once you get there its the high art; it'll never get nominated
sweetest fuckin' place on earth!" for an Emmy or lead to debates
Italian stereotypes also pop up. over different plot layers. But if the
The cast sits down for a family din- ultimate purpose of TV is solely to
ner of Italian sausages and peppers entertain, "Jersey Shore" succeeds
with a Bible serving as the table on multiple levels.

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