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January 07, 2010 - Image 5

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The Michigan Daily, 2010-01-07

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The Michigan Daily - michigandailycom

Friday, January 8, 2010 - 5A

Terrible food,
gratifying TV

Q: How many people with hairless legs are in this picture? A: Two.
Cer breks his mold

'Youth in Revolt' offers
Michael Cera a chance to
reinvent himself
Daily Film Editor
As the title suggests, young Michael Cera
("Superbad") is indeed in revolt. 'He's in
revolt against the social order preventing
nice, polite, untoned boys
from dating the smoking-
hot girls of their dreams.
He's in revolt against the Youth in
hypocritical authoritative
figures who have the gall Revolt
to dictate what's right and At Quality 16
wrong without adhering and Showcase
to the conduct themselves.
But mostly, Michael The Weinstein
Cera is rebelling against
the naysayers who dismiss
his "limited" acting ability and range. As
many have noticed, Cera tends to play the
sensitive, slightly awkward teen, with minor
variations, in nearly all of his performances
(see "Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist,"
"Juno" and TV's "Arrested Development").
In "Youth in Revolt," Cera finally breaks
f egfrom his typecast. At the beginning of-
the movie, he is simply Nick Twisp, a hap-

less appreciator of vinyl records whose mom Blart: Mall Cop"), as Nick's equally sex-
gets laid more than he does. But to win over obsessed friend, and Portia Doubleday, per-
Sheeni (newcomer Portia Doubleday), the fectly cast as the ineffably irresistible Sheeni.
girl he loves, Nick adopts an alternate perso- There is a glaring, unforgivable flaw here,
na named Frangois Dillinger - an anarchic, but it's one that's more attributable to the
chain-smoking, mustached Frenchman. failure of the marketing department than
Frangois is perhaps Michael Cera's great- anything else. Many of the most uproari-
est character, precisely because he behaves ous gags and shocking plot twists in "Youth
contrary to all expectations of the actor. in Revolt" are carelessly squandered in its
Frangois is crass, destructive and sexually trailer. True, as a commodity;the production
confident - a complete reversal of the Cera company wants to create a market for their
archetype. Under the instruction of the product, but this is an instance where adver-
sociopathic Frangois, Nick commits delin- tising has compromised the entertainment
quent crimes and engages in nefarious activ- value of a film.
ities to get close to - and win over - Sheeni. Still, "Youth in Revolt" has enough sub-
Yet, no matter how unsettling they may stance and dark, unexpected humor to sur-
be, his actions and possible schizophrenia vive its marketing blunder. There are lots
are always played for laughs. Cera's inherent of subtle shout-outs to cinephiles as well,
innocence and "golden boy" status is embed- who will adore the film's understated ties
ded in the mind, so it's easy to forgive his to French New Wave cinema. Nick Twisp
reprehensible deeds. After all, everything he is essentially a teen sex comedy version of
does is to reach his true love. Michel, the protagonist of Godard's "Breath-
Thankfully, "Youth in Revolt" is not merely less." Once Nick falls under the influence of
a one-joke film of Nick's maniacal alter ego. Frangois, he shows a clear disdain for the
An outstanding cast supports the film, mix- law (and police) as he recklessly continues
ing comedic veterans together with talented his quest for Sheeni's love, even with his face
young actors. In small-but-crucial roles, Zach plastered all over the news.
Galifianakis ("The Hangover") exploits his Michael Cera's legs may be everlast-
derelict visage as the uncouth boyfriend of ingly hairless, but he has successfully
Nick's mom and Fred Willard ("A Mighty silenced all detractors who label him as
Wind") manifests his distinctive lunacy as a one-dimensional actor. Hopefully, this
Nick's insurrectionist neighbor. The film also is the beginning of a new phun. inythe
showcases the skills of Adhir Kalyan ("Paul actor's career.

SeniorArts Editor
There's an abundance of reality
competition shows in which people
compete for the
title of "best" or*
"top" something.
These battles cover Worst Cooks
everything from
modeling to sewing ifl Am1erica
to, of course, cook- Sundays at
ing. Still, there are 10 P.M.
a great many people
who could never Food Network
hope to compete for
these honors; and in all honesty, being
terrible at something makes for better
TV. That's why Food Network's latest
reality competition, "Worst Cooks in
America," stands out amid an other-
wise repetitive line-up.
The premise is simple: Chefs Anne
Burrell and Beau MacMillan set out
to find the worst cooks in America
and attempt to teach them a thing or
two. To raise the stakes, Burrell and
MacMillan break the 12 wannabes
into two teams. Each chef will impart
their knowledge to a team chosen by
the other chef, hoping to prove who's
the better teacher. Contestants will be
eliminated weekly, and the final chef
on each team will prepare a dish for a
food critic who thinks the meal was
actually prepared by Chefs Burrell
and Macmillan.
The biggest problem with "Worst
Cooks" is that the competitive ele-
ment automatically negates the claim
set up in the title. Each week, the chef
who does the worst at the challenge
must leave. The winner will not, in
fact, be the "worst cook" (or even nec-
essarily the "most improved"), and
those who probably need the most
counsel are booted off early. All the
contestants are admittedly awful
cooks, but some are clearly better
than others. It'd be a shame to see the
person who simply adds too much salt
to everything win, rather than watch
the person who thought peanut but-

ter and cod make a good combination
climb to the top.
"Worst Cooks" lacks the biggest
turn-off in most other reality com-
petitions centered around demon-
strating proficiency in a given field:
pretension. The interstitial interviews
during which cocky professionals pro-
claim they're "the best" and the com-
petition "better watch out" are traded
for embarrassed and unconfident
amateurs gushing about how they're
honestly just thrilled to have the
opportunity to learn. The raw desire
for self-betterment shines through,
creating a very honest program.
But this honesty doesn't seem to be
what the judges or producers want.
Reality competitions thrive on rivalry
and the things people will do to win.
In the premiere, when one flustered
contestant struggled to reproduce a
shrimp and clam dish, a fellow "worst
If you' can't stand
the heat, then
this kitchen is
just for you.
chef" came ,to his aid, causing his
own dish to suffer. Rather than hav-
ing their selfless and sacrificial act
admired, they were chastised and
both ended up in the bottom two.
While Food Network wants this to
be a gritty and intense competition
with plenty of fights, it just won't hap-
pen. True, Chefs Burrell and MacMil-
lan exchange loads of banter and are
terrifyingly focused on winning, but
"Worst Cooks" isn't about them. It's
about the poor souls who can't boil
water; they're not going to fight each
other when they've got bigger fish to
fry. "Worst Cooks" should embrace
that which naakes ip different. It's not
about winning, it's about learning.

Aspen'on a downslope

Daily Arts Writer

one is trying to'
One positive
of Aspen," ho

Purposefully. over the top, focuses not on t
"Secrets of Aspen" never pretends girls and their
to be anything instead on the
but what it is - the bitches." W
trash. tion of "Secrets
"Secrets of $ Of centrated on the
Aspen" begins it's refreshing t
with the return Aspen for once perc
of the Colorado than women as
resort town's 10:d0y.at trophies. The
most "contro- 10:30 p.m seem to have n
versial" resi- VH1 aside from how
dent, Laura. of a particular
Within what seems like the first would elevate
five minutes, she and her female hierarchy. The
entourage are already bikini-clad, of "Secrets of
lounging in hot tubs and sipping women raeagir
champagne. Later, they meet to (sometimes quit(
go label shopping, saying things of war over thei
like, "You have, like, the best VH1 molds t
boobs for that dress." trionic atmosph
After the shopping outing, fur- with unabashe
ther plot description of "Secrets "Secrets of As
of Aspen" would require a dia- proverbial bodi
gram with lots of arrows pointing soap." It's bur
every which way, or perhaps just a thing an audie
15-year-old girl. Apparently Laura
was going to set Robin up with
Shay, but then tried to steal him
back on the dance floor by putting
her boobs in his face, until Brooke
got in a fight with Laura, because
Laura thought she and Brooke
were going to get their makeup
done together. Suddenly, Kat is in
the mix along with Ben and Erin
and Star, and then all hell breaks
loose. Basically it's impossible'
to keep up with who's who, and
whether or not they're fighting,
best friends or sleeping together.
Some possible tactics would be to
go by hair color, or by who looks
to have had the most Botox done.
Most conversations in "Secrets
of Aspen," are akin to verbal hair-
pulling. Everyone constantly
makes attacks on each other's
controlling, selfish, manipulative
and needy behavior. Rumors are
spread, concerning whether or not
so-and-so is a hooker, and every- Q: Boobies? A: Yes.

"settle old scores."
aspect of "Secrets
wever, is that it
he drama between
r boyfriends, but
ongoing "battle of
While a large por-
of Aspen" is con-
e great man chase,
o see a show that
eives men rather
s mere objects or
women of Aspen
o interest in men
their acquisition
ly desirable prize
them in the bitch
men are the meat
Aspen" and the
ig lions who are
te literally) in a tug
r hunks of beef.
he tacky and his-
here of the show
d deliberateness.
pen" fills out the
ce of the "reality
sting with every-
oce. who watches

these sorts of things could ask for,
mirroring the freakishly full bras-
sieres of the women who bitch
their way through the half-hour
Ultimately, it's difficult to
decide if "Secrets of Aspen" can
be considered a potential success.
Quality or not, the show is what it
sets out to be, in the most grossly
The 'battle of the
bitches' rages on.
extreme way that it can be. A cer-
tain portion of the public is being
targeted, and those individuals
will indeed want to watch it. The
only questionremainingis wheth-
er that audience will be large
enough to keep the show afloat.
Considering VHC has survived,
on similarly refined and tasteful
shows for over 25 years, longevity
seems likely for "Aspen."

Q: Is this Streep's postcoital face? A: We don't want to know.
Streep and Baldwin get hormonal

By JENNIFER XU being the most frequently nomi-
Daily Arts Writer nated actress in the history of the
Academy Awards. She can trans-
Some movies are so terrible, all form her voice and mannerisms
that's left to enjoy is the acciden- like a chameleon, does a kick-ass
tal campy hilarity of it all. These Polish accent and is funny to boot.
movies include "Plan 9 From "It's Complicated" is the unfor-
Outer Space," tunate marriage of Meyers and
"Attack of the ** Streep. Meyers helms the tale of
Killer Toma- Jane (Streep), a 50-something
toes!" and, more, Its divorcee caught in a love triangle
recently, "2012." with her ex-husband Jake (Alec
And then there's COflPICaed Baldwin, TV's "30 Rock") and her
the rest of the AtQualityl6 architect Adam (Steve Martin,
crap. These and Showcase "The Pink Panther"). Jake, still
movies (often Universal as immature and irresponsible as
romantic come- a newborn babe, is now married
dies) are not bad to a younger woman, and Jane
enough to be laughable, but cer- has become the "other woman."
tainly not good enough to enjoy. Adam, while shy and bumbling,
As it is, they are content to drift offers a more solid future.
lazily along in the sea of medioc- More interesting than the
rity. fights between Jane and Jake is
Nancy Meyers, who . wrote the battle for dominance between
and directed "It's Complicated," Streep and Meyers. It feels like a
is a paragon of said mediocrity. war between Meyers's horrible,
She is consistently contrived and syrupy sweet lines and Streep's
unimaginative. Her dialogue thespian grace.
feels like tooth decay. But she The problem with Meyers isn't
somehow found her target audi- so much that she's portraying
ence among naive middle-aged older people in romantic rela-
housewives. Because of this, she tionships, but that she's depicting
has managed to enjoy a prolific older people acting like hormonal
career directing terrible movies adolescents. She treats the audi-
like "Something's Gotta Give" ence to frequent shots of Streep's
and "The Holiday." contented postcoital face writh-
Meryl Streep ("The Devil ing in ecstasy. It's profoundly
Wears Prada") is arguably the uncomfortable at best. Meyers
best currently working actress, also constantly needs to advertise
and certainly one of the most pro- how technologically relevant she
ductive. She enjoys the honor of is - Jane frequently video chats

with Adam, they text and they
constantly check their Blackber-
The title, presumably taken
at least in part from the phrase
occupying many a Facebook sta-
tus (snaps for you, Nancy Mey-
ers, for being so in-tune with our
youth culture), is just as decep-
tive. In truth, it's not that compli-
cated. In the end, everybody lives
a perfect life and the audience
feels cheated out of something.
There's nothing with which to
identify in these perfect shells of
human beings.
Sweet syrup vs.
thespian grace.
They say you can't make a good
movie out of a terrible script, but
Streep makes "It's Complicated"
a tolerable movie out of a terrible
script. Baldwin and Streep are
each seasoned actors with pleas-
ant, watchable chemistry. As you
wince through the cast's fake,
tinny laughs, look carefully at
Streep's eyes. It's almost as if she is
rolling them at the camera.
Meyers comes out the victor in
the end, butjustbarely. Streep put
up a good fight and, because of her
noble effort, "It's Complicated"
isn't as doomed to mediocrity as

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