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December 14, 2009 - Image 5

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The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

Monday, December 14, 2009 -5A

A great victory, an
underwhelming film
By NICK COSTON been excused under the tenets of
Daily Arts Writer suspending disbelief for presenting
the entirety of Mandela's presiden-
Nelson Mandela overcame inhu- cy through rugby.
main oppression in Instead, Mandela's bodyguards
his 27-year jour- ***I find him collapsed from exhaus-
ney from prison tion in his driveway before his
to the presidency iWictus morning jog. He excuses himself
of South Africa. AtQualityl from an economic lecture in Tai-
The country's wan to check the score of a Spring-
80-percent black and Showcase boks game. We see him in passing
population faced Warner Bros. on a television screen delivering a
similar hardships speech to the United States Con-
at the hands of its minority white gress. Without wasting time, East-
oppressors, even when Mandela wood encapsulates the breadth of
took office. Mandela's duties. If nothing else,
You wouldn't really know this, "Invictus" is a clinic on precision
though, from watching Clint East- and editing.
wood's new film "Invictus." An That is, until the slow motion
otherwise beautiful, well-acted and kicks in and refuses to go away.
triumphant film, "Invictus" pres- Whether it's a boon to the drama
cuts few obstacles to its belabored and emotion of a scene or just a
heroes in their march to real-life molasses-paced nuisance, it's dif-
glory, which tempers the victory ficult to defend 10 continuous min-
that Eastwood otherwise flawlessly utes of ultra-slow movement and
presents. muted sound. We get it, Clint. Big
Tine true story concerns the moment ahoy.
months preceding the 1995 Rugby Among the traditional Eastwood
World Cup held in South Africa. qualities in "Invictus" is the over-
Nelson Mandela, played with whelming manliness of its rugby
stately grace by Morgan Freeman scenes. Though some games, like
("The Dark Knight"), has won the South Africa's quarterfinal win
first presidential election since over France in the rain and mud,
could be more extensively shown,
Eastwood thankfully eschews
by s d shaky, unfocused chaos for clean,
How rugby saved sweeping imagery of the pitch. He is
South Africa. deft in his camera placement, often
S cramming the camera into the mid-
dle of a violent serum for the ball
without ever disorienting the view-
the dissolution of the racist apart- er, making for many truly exciting
4 heid regime. Soccer's World Cup is moments. One would be remiss not
less than a year away and the host to mention the scene immediately
nation's team promises to disap- preceding the final match between
point. Mandela sees in the divisive South Africa and New Zealand, in
Springboks rugby team - spe- which New Zealand's All Blacks
cifically, in the Afrikaner captain perform their famous tribal Haka.
Francois Pienaar (Matt Damon, If you follow rugby to any degree,
"The Informant!") - a chance to your jaw will drop at the awesome-
reconcile whites and blacks and ness of seeingthe Haka shot on film
take the first step to greater racial and performed on a big screen.
harmony. An important distinction is that
Perhaps the lone but substantial "Invictus" is not a bad film, but
fault of the film is the absence of merely an underwhelming one. If
opposition to that harmony. Pien- this film had anyone else's name on
air's ft ther svatches Mandela on it, we mightcelebrate itasthesplen-
television and curses the downfall 'did introduction of a young and
of his once-pure nation, yet hap- bold new filmmaker. But it isn't -
pilytakes his black house servant to it's simply another entrant into-the
tie stadium when Francois brings catalogue of Clint Eastwood, one of
]home an extra ticket. Mandela's the most talented pictorial crafts-
black bodyguards bristle when men in the history of the medium.
their request for more men yields And since the lead actors happen
a cold, all-white roster of agents. to be Morgan Freeman and Matt
Still, as the film progresses, the Damon, it would border on insult-
two factions form a predictable and ing to expect anything less than
trite bond. Pienaar's teammates one of the finest films of the closing
blanch at the prospect of holding year. This is a film with more than a
rugby clinics in shantytowns across dozen Oscar nominations between
the country, yet when they arrive, its three principal engineers.
they smile and happily play with So you won't find fault in the
the black children. workmanship of "Invictus." It's a
Mandela's nscreen obsession beautiful film with superb actors
with the Springboks' progress is and a heroic story which, unbe-
but one of many aspects of "Invic- lievably, is also true. Instead,
tus" that yield continued awe and blame Eastwood, Damon and
respect for Eastwood's mastery. Freeman for being so good at their
The director of Oscar Best Motion jobs that anything short of perfec-
Picture winners "Unforgiven" and tion leaves you with a sense of mild
"Million Dollar Baby" would've disappointment.

"Look at me! I'm a jazzier Mary Tyler Moore!

Disney's reawakening

'The Princess and the Frog'
sidesteps racial issues but
retains some Disney magic
By JENNIFER XU
Daily Arts Writer
It's always difficult to gauge the quality of
Disney movies, just because
they're so intricately tied to
our childhoods. They're the
films we watched over and TkPrncess
over again as youngsters, the
ones with songs we memo- and the Frog
rized and the characters we At Quality 16
dressed up as for Hallow- and Showcase
een. That's why appraising Disney
every scene of "The Princess
and the Frog" with a critical
hawk's eye just doesn't seem right. It's practi-
cally like deconstructing Dr. Seuss.
"The Princess and the Frog" has made a
small splash for two reasons that have been
more hyped up than they should be. First,
Disney has returned to 2-D hand-drawn
animation for the first time since 2004's
box-office flop "Home on the Range," and
second, it's the first Disney film to feature a
black princess.
Anika Noni Rose ("Dreamgirls") voices
young Tiana, a waitress from New Orleans
with big dreams. One day, she encounters
frog prince Naveen (Bruce Campo, TV's "Nip/

Tuck") and gets cajoled into kissing hin, only
to be turned into a frog as well. As they embark
on a journey littered with voodoo magic, the
two amphibians encounter a jazz-playing croc-
odile, a snaggletoothed firefly and a wishing
star named Evangeline. In the end, Tiana and
the prince succumb to - surprise, surprise --
true love.
Over the years, Disney has managed to
hold an interesting place in audiences' hearts.
Rather than introducing revolutionary, adult-
centric ideas to the children's fold like its occa-
sional collaborator Pixar, Disney's priority has
always been to tell a treasured fairy tale with
finesse and creativity.
There is no place where sheer beauty is more
valued than at Disney, and for "The Princess,
and the Frog," it's no different. Jazz-Age New
Orleans pulsates and blooms on the screen in a
parade of earthy greens and acid purples, rev-
eling in a culture teeming inside the swamps. A
nearby bayou unfolds to expose frogs croaking
away glitzy melodies with bellies full of soul-
pumping gumbo. It's a fairyland come to life.
But for all its captivating magic, sometimes
the film's scenes are too familiar. Maybe it's
because Disney is out of practice, or maybe it's
just the cynical, jaded adult in me speaking,
but going back in time seems kind of been-
there-done-that - trite, even. Whether it's
witchcraft and transformations (see "The
Little Mermaid," "Aladdin") or a frog with a
comical accent ("The Swan Princess"), these
overused tropes of animation quickly trans-
form the film into less of an exciting new

fusion and more of a recycling bin of charac-
ters and ideas.
As for the race issue, Disney manages to
sustain its reputation for being a company still
woefully behind the times, despite all of its
efforts to combat this image. For one, accord-
ing to the film, it's inconceivable for a black girl
to be an actual princess, so of course she has to
be a poor waitress first. For another, the young
Tiana spends an aw ful lot of time in amphibian
form, as if Disney isn't quite comfortable with
having a fully black princess strut around the
screen for longer than a few moments.
Since "Steamboat Willie" in 1929, Disney
has -been accused of perpetuating racial ste-
reotypes, from the jive-talking Uncle Remus
in "Song of the South" to the "What Makes the
Red Man Red?" song in "Peter Pan." If they
can't even show a girl in all of her African-
American glory for more than a few spunky
minutes, it doesn't seem like Disney is quite
ready to embrace the new, Obama and Oprah-
fueled millennium.
Yet for all of its derivations and tentative
race-assuaging political correctness, "Prin-
cess" still remains a genuinely heartwarming
movie. If the purpose of going back to old-
school animation was to recreate the magic
Disney has been lacking since 1999's 'Tar-
zan," it has succeeded. The kids in the theater
laughed; they cried; they were silent at all the
right parts. Despite its faults, "The Princess
and the Frog" remains a throwback to what
Disney was founded on - a fairy tale rooted in
fantasy, tradition and simplicity.

Boring life on TV is still boring

eAlicia Keys: Lovely
classy and timid
By JASMINE ZHU fans might wish Keys would've
Daily Arts Writer been much bolder - sassier, even
- on her latest album, The Element
Alicia Keys is, in a word, lovely. ofFreedom.
She maintains This isn't to say Keys's latest
a grace and *** isn't a decent album. It is. But com-
sense of deco- ing from a woman who astounded
rum that often Alicia Keys listeners with her incredibly poi-
eludes other gnant debut track ("Fallen"), the
wildly success- of Freedom album as a whole doesn't exactly
fhl R&B song- impress. Keys's gritty authenticity
stresses - Keys, i has mostly dissipated, only to be
for instance, will replaced with an expected brand
never be found guilty of a hysteri- of polished prettiness. On The Ele-
cal diva meltdown or embarrassing ment ofFreedom Keys sounds very
public panty-flash. But while her sweet and lovely, but by this point
personal life is all fine and dandy, See KEYS, Page 7A
CHECK ONLINE ALL WEEK
FOR MORE FILM AND
MUSIC REVIEWS.

By ANT MITCHELL
Daily Arts Writer
Midlife crises have been th
subject of lots of surprisingl
strong comedy over the year
But watching
TNT's "Men
of a Certain
Age" ultimately Men of a
feels more like C .
experiencing a cetinA
midlife crisis Mondaysat
than observ- 10 p.m.
ing one. In fact, TNT
with three
loathsomely
unlovable characters, it feels a i
like having multiple midlife cr
ses simultaneously.
"Men of a Certain Age" fo
lows the incredibly average an
entirely commonplace lives of Jo
(Ray Romano, "Everybody Love
Raymond"), Owen (Andre
Braugher, "The Mist") and
Terry (Scott Bakula, "The
Informant"). Owen, a dia-
betic car salesman with no
motivation, struggles with
his daddy issues through
much of the show and
whines constantly. Terry is
an ex-actor who never made
it big and is currently work-
ing as a temp in z nonde-
script office. He shoves his
work off onto others, takes
advantage of their admi-
ration in truly nauseating
ways and flirts with a bar-
rista young enough to be his
daughter.
Finally, Joe, the most
hateful of the trio, refuses
to accept his divorce, denies
his gambling problem and
has long conversations
about - and constantly
stares at - his crush's "big
boobs." Moreover, it's just
hard to feel bad for all his
little problems when watch-

ing him be a dick to all of the drama. S
employees who work in his chain are imupo
store all day. more tha
me It's difficult to tell if the audi- pathy the
ly ence is supposed to be enter- the give-
s. tained by Joe's managerial style humor is
and unusual way of using his ulous cm
young employee to deliver pay- friends -
ments to his bookie. It's not
exactly endearing to watch him
be a skeevy eye-groping man- The'L
ager one moment, then give his T
children a horrifically embar- bou
rassing version of "the talk" the
next. Hasn't that plot been used
enough by people trying to be
funny? largely sa
ot The lack of sympathy the show usually b
i- fosters with its characters leads like, "I sa
to yet more infuriating flaws. the other,
1- "Men of a Certain Age" makes Dreadf
d an attempt to combine come-
ie dic banter and situational
es humor with moments of
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adly, if the characters show uses a run-over possum as
issible to care about possibly the most obnoxious sym-
n the extras, the sym- bolic representation of the accep-
y draw is fairly low on tance of divorce ever created. Not
a-shit scale. Plus, the only is the possum scene com-
found mostly in ridic- pletely unnecessary, but it leaves
onversations between us wondering if there's any extra
conversations that are buckshot left in that gun for a sec-
oad mercy killing.
There is a special circle in TV
e i a hell for writers who make their
e writers are protagonists too everyday."
nd for hell Nothing distinguishes the main
characters of "Men of a Certain
Age" as people you'd want to get
to know, let alone watch on TV.
ad and despicable, and It's not a difficult distinction to
egin with statements make, and those responsible for
w my ass in the mirror "Men of a Certain Age" should
day." get their souls ready for a one-
ul dialogue aside, the way trip to a fiery punishment.

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