The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com
Monday, March 15, 2010 -- 7A
The Michigan Daily - michigandailycom Monday, March 15, 2010 - 7A
A transfixing 'Tank'
The case against
British drama takes
a gritty look at the
plight of urban youth
By EMILY BOUDREAU
Daily Arts Writer
"Fish Tank" isn't a movie a lot of
people have heard about or would
even typically see, but it offers a
gritty portrayal of life that should
not go unnoticed.
Mia (newcomer Kate Jarvis)
is a 15-year-old girl who dreams
of being a hip-
hop dancer, but **
of her everyday Fish Tank
life - getting
kicked out of At the State
school, picking IFC
fights with other
girls and sneak-
ing alcohol - stand in the way.
Her life has deteriorated and she
spends most of her days wandering
around the streets, the hood of her
sweatshirt pulled over her eyes.
Jarvis delivers a searingly real-
istic performance. It's not exactly
a touching or emotional one, and
it's hard to really like her char-
acter, but that's what makes it
powerful. Jarvis makes Mia come
across as an actual person. Per-
haps what makes her character
so distant is that it's hard to know
what's really going on in her mind
or in her world. Yet this is also the
aspect that makes her so captivat-
ing - part of the film's force
lies in making the audience
wait to see what her next move
Life seems to get a bit
brighter for Mia when her
Mom's boyfriend Connor
(Michael Fassbender, "Inglou-
rious Basterds") enters the
picture. He floats through
life easily, makes Mia laugh
and encourages her dancing,
softening the harshness of
her life. At the same time, he
develops a relationship with
Mia that soon causes their
lives and the secrets within
them to unravel.
Fassbender is outstanding
in "Fish Tank." He manages
to combine aspects of both
a father figure and a sexual
predator in his character
flawlessly and believably. It's
difficult to imagine a single
person executing such oppo-
site aspects in a way that's
not overdone. His portrayal of
Connor adds just the right amount
of menace to the story.
The strength of the plot and
characters depends a lot on the
setting of the film. The world they
inhabit is one of shabby, squalid
apartment buildings, graffiti and
men in beer-stained t-shirts with
their stomachs out. Their world is
not a traditionally pretty one, but
there are moments when the cam-
era brings out little details like the
way the birds are circling overhead,
the way light comes through the
car window or the way a balloon
makes its way across the skyline.
It's in moments like these that Mia's
world seems to have the potential
for beauty. But just as quickly as
these images flit across the screen,
that potential is swallowed up.
As a girl who aspires to be a hip-
hop backup dancer, Mia spends
a lot of her time with her head-
phones on, listening to her music.
The music doesn't act as merely a
passive supplement to the film -
it adds a valuable layer. In the last
scene, Mia, her mother and her
little sister are dancing together as
a family. After all they have been
through, it's hard not to find the
scene touching, but then the words
of the song come through: "Life's a
bitch and then you die."
"Fish Tank" doesn't try to have
a large, overbearing message; it,
instead focuses on creating an
authentic story in which nothing
is forced. The film shifts beauti-
fully and believably between both
the light and the dark side of life.
Last Sunday was a big night
at the Oscars for "The Hurt
Locker": Six awards, includ-
ing Best Picture, left champions
of the Iraq
War film with
plenty to cheer
about. And I'm
proud of direc-
Mark Boal, in
an I've-never- ANDREW
kind of way.
Unfortunately, my own enthu-
siasm for the movie's victory was
tainted by the events of the pre-
ceding Wednesday, when real-life
bomb disposal technician Sgt.
Jeffrey Sarver sued the filmmak-
ers for essentially stealing his life.
Yeah, I know, Hollywood's hit with
lawsuits every day from misguided
citizens who think they can wran-
gle big bucks out of a half-assed
claim that their ideas were stolen.
You'd think this one wouldn't be
But it is. See, Sarver actually has
a fairly legitimate leg to stand on,
considering that Boal was embed-
ded with his Iraq unit when doing
research for the original Playboy
Magazine article that inspired the
film. That article, by the way, is a
full-fledged profile on Sarver him-
self, and many key scenes from the
sapposedly fictionalized film were
lifted directly from real life.
Like William James, the charse-
ter played by Jeremy Renner in the
film, Sarver also kept a box of dis-
armed explosives parts under his
bed. And like James, Sarver once
stripped off his bomb suit when
confronted with an unholy amount
of death dynamite. Sounds pretty
damning so far, right?
Except that because he needs
a heart-wrenching, sympathetic
story, Sarver couldn't stop there.
Apparently he also invented the
phrases "the hurt locker" and
"war is a drug." He was somehow
unaware that Boal was nlan-
2010 NISSAN SENTRA S
2010 NN ALTIVA ning to write an article about his
N S Aunit. And he's upset that Jeremy
Renner looks so much like him,
because he believes the producers
deliberately set out to cast a Jef-
frey Sarver lookalike.
It's the kitchen-sink approach
COURTESY OF IFC to the legal system. If you com-
"ZERO DOWNI?!? ARE YOU SEROUS!??!!?" plain about one thing, complain
* */ wMI O
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OW YLOCAL BEER DISTRIBUTOR paid
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LEASE transportation. $8.00 per hour.- days, maybe three. vigilant with your youngsters.
ctorossianlgmail.com. TAtURUS SAGITTARIUS
about everything. The false claims
don't harm the real ones; in fact,
they accentuate the narrative that
Sarver is tryingto present. This is
what happens to anything involving
both Hollywood and the American
legal system, otherwise known as
the two best storytelling organiza-
tions in the country. Each side's job
is to get you to believe its carefully
constructed tale over the other,
whatever it takes.
Not being a law student, I don't
feel qualified to make any state-
ments about the actual validity of
the case. But what I can judge is
the presentation of the arguments.
After all, this is good, old-fashioned
courtroom drama, and it's tailor-
made for the movies, from classics
like "Anatomy of a Murder" to
2008's "Flash of Genius." The side
that wins is the side that can use
the most special effects to distract
from any flaws in the story. Just like
how "Avatar" won the box office.
And the hero of any good story
is the one who convinces you he's
standing up for the little guy. Take
a look at Geoffrey Fieger, the law-
yer representing Sarver. He's a
Michigan grad and a celebrity trial
lawyer, having previously defended
Jack Kevorkian and other high-pro-
file figures. Fieger's firm is based in
Southfield, Mich., and if you grew
up watching Detroit-area TV like
me, then you saw his commercials
all the time.
Making a stage of
This is a guy who's clearly been
studying Hollywood-style storytell-
ing all his life, because his ads are
shamelessly manipulative. You've
got the shots of him deliveringstir-
ring speeches to his boardroom and
the members of his firm gallantly
ascending the courthouse steps on
their way to fight for your rights.
In 2007, when Fieger was in hot
water for alleged illegal campaign
contributions to John Edwards, he
even exploited Martin Niemller's
famous Holocaust quote ("First
they came for the Communists...")
in a TV spot. Why? Because he
needed to construct a narrative that
would position himself in a positive
light. This is show business, kids. It
As consumers of stories, we
always search for the same old
good guy vs. bad guy trappings.
The movies have indoctrinated
usto these kinds of black-and-
white conflicts ever since 1915,
when D.W. Griffith's "Birth of a
Nation" preached the heroism of
the Ku Klux Klan.
The real truth, sadly, is that
there are no good or bad guys
here. Boal and everyone else
responsible for 'The Hurt
Locker" most likely lifted details
directly from Sarver's life to
form a more convincing narra-
tive withoutproperly crediting
their inspiration. Sarver most
likely fabricated large portions
of his claims so that he can more
convincingly play the role of the
veteran who's just standing up
for justice against the Holly-
wood machine. And you better
believe lawyers like Fieger are
going to lie through their teeth
to present the story they want.
Here's what I assume is going
to happen: Atsome point in the
near future when this lawsuit
has been forgotten by the gen-
eral public, the producers of
"The Hurt Locker" will settle
with Sarver out of court. Sarver
will take his money no matter
how small the sum, grateful
that he wrangled anything out
of those sleazy, soulless Holly-
wood types, and then fade into
obscurity with a great story for
his grandkids. And then life in
La La Land will return to nor-
mal, at least until the next high-
Because these are the movies,
after all, and successful formu-
las always repeat themselves.
Lapin is suing 'Avatar' because
he was in 3-D first. To stop him,
for information on applying.
2010 NISSAN MAXIMA
SUMMER CAMP HEALTH Officer
Co-ed residential camp seeks Camp
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THE 2010 CANCER RESEARCH
SUMMER INTERNSHIP PROGRAM
As part of its Cancer Biology Training
Program, the University of Michigan
Comprehensive Cancer Center, in part
with funding from the National Insti-
tutes of Health (NIH) is providing expo-
sure to cancer research for highly moti-
vated and talented college tndergradu-
ates. This program will provide the suc-
cessful applicants on opportunity tt ex-
plore potential careers in the field of
cancer research. In keeping with the
terms of the NIH grant, we especially
encourage applications from individu-
als from populations that are currently
underrepresented in biomedical and be-
havioral research. The program is
aimed at students who are completitg
their sophomore or junior undergradu-
ate year this spring.
Thu progratm will rutt far ten weeks,
June 7th August 13th, 40 ts/ week.
Students selected who do not currently
have U-M mentors will be matched
with an appropriate U-M faculty. Only
U.S. citizens or permanent resident
aliens are eligible to apply. Interts will
be paid $4,500 for the 10 week period.
Your application must be uploaded by
March 31 at the followitg site:
(Questions? Contact Cur Nosel at
WORK ON MACKINAC Island, this
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all areas: Front Desk, Bell Stal, Sales
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Housing, bonus, and discounted meals
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(April 20 to May 20)
A friend might do something that is
bizarre or unorthodox. In any event, oth-
ers will surprise you today. Possibly, you
will meet someone who is a real charac-
ter. (It's not a boring day.)
(May 21 to June 20)
Calculations of bosses, parents, teach-
ers and VIPs are unpredictable today.
Surprising news from on high might
amaze you. Stay tuned.
(June 21to July 22)
Unexpected opportunities to travel, as
well as unexpected opportunities to
explore training or get further education,
tight fall in your lap today. Since your
window of opportunity will be brief, act
(July 23 to Aug. 22)
Unexpected gifts and goodies from
others might come your way today. Be
on the lookout for this. Keep your pock-
ets open. You really can benefit from the
wealth of others today.
(Aug. 23 to Sept. 22)
Partners and close friends will surprise
you in some way today. Perhaps some-
one will demand more freedom. You
might have to deal with a minor rebel-
(Sept. 23 to Oct. 22)
Your workday will be interrupted by
canceled appointments, staff shortages,
computer crashes, power outages or fire
(Nov. 22 to Dec. 21)
Something having to do with your
home routine will be interrupted today.
Unexpected company might drop by.
Small appliances could break down.
Anything can happen.
(Dec. 22 to Jan. 19)
This is an accident-prone day.
Therefore, slow down and take it easy.
Allow extra time for everything. Think
before you act or speak.
(Jan. 20 to Feb. 18)
Keep an eye on your money today,
because you might find money or you
might lose money. Check your bank
account. Protect your possessions
against loss or theft.
(Feb. 19 to March 20)
You feel restless, impulsive and a bit
rebellious today. You don't want others
telling you what to do. You intend to call
the shots. (And no doubt, this is exactly
what you'll do.)
YOU BORN "TODAY You have won-
derful, imaginative ideas, but more than
that, you know how to use them! You're
a marvelous combination of practicality
and whimsy. You like nice things, and
you live the good life. You know how to
take the best ideas and combine them
into something new. Work hard to build
or construct something this year. Your
rewards will soon follow.
Birthdate of: Peaches Geldof,
celebrity; Lauren Graham, actress; Jerry