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January 19, 2010 - Image 8

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The Michigan Daily, 2010-01-19

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8A - Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

In photography,
architect Payne
sees art in decay


Rve lationa ry

Denzel Washington brings
gravitas and samurai skills
to 'The Book of Eli'
DailyFilm Editor
Ah, post-apocalyptic Earth: a bleak, treach-
erous wasteland of decay and desolation. Given
global warming, nuclear
stockpiling and the predic-
tions of the Mayan calendar,
a barren planet is an all too TheBo
real possibility, and thus, is
rife with cinematic potential. of Eli
"The Book of Eli" fea- At Qualityl6
tures an unsettling depiction and Showcase
of a world recovering from
catastrophe. It's a land of Warner Bros.
crumbling cities and dusty
highways - a place where a tube of ChapStick
is a valuable commodity. Sure, this description
doesn't seem different from similar material
like "The Road," but "The Book of Eli" distin-
guishes itself with unflinching messages of
religion and morality along with the indispens-
able abilities of its star, Denzel Washington
("American Gangster").
Washington plays Eli, a lonesome warrior in
possession of the last remaining copy of histo-
ry's most powerful and influential book - The
Holy Bible. He's the classic man on a mission,
solely devoted to his mysterious goal of taking
the book "west." But Eli isn't a steadfast beacon
of good, as one would expect from this sage-
like persona.
"Stay on the path. It's not your concern," Eli
mutters to himself as he ignores the slaughter
of innocent civilians by highway bandits. Eli
doesn't feel obligated to "do the right thing."
He's not willing to put himself in danger and
possibly compromise his mission, a paradox
that brings about the film's captivating char-
acterization of its protagonist. In his single-

minded mission, Eli ignores the principles
- like helping those in need, for one - of the
very text he so faithfully protects.
In a role seemingly fit for a brawnier star,
Washington excels as Eli, bringing his natu-
ral talent and gravitas to a man who runs his
life on faith but is internally tormented by the
daunting task he faces.
Eli certainly doesn't avoid confrontation.
When provoked, he willingly unleashes his
supreme samurai-like skills, effortlessly slic-
ing and dicing through gangs of cannibalistic
foes with his sizable knife. The film's action
sequences are beautiful to watch, with Eli's
graceful, virtuosic precision.
Many of the goons are sent out by Carnegie,
played by Gary Oldman ("The Dark Knight").
After a period of playing good guys, Oldman
is gleefully resurfacing as a maniacal villain
- the character type that has defined much of
his career (see "The Fifth Element" and "Leon:
The Professional"). Carnegie wants the Bible at
all costs, intending to unite the illiterate mass-
es into a functional community.
Carnegie's motivations raise a profound ques-
tion. His methods may be ruthless and vile, but
he would use the Bible to recreate civilization on
Earth by giving people a reason to live and work.
Does that justify his wicked actions?
It's moral ambiguity like this that sets "The
Book of Eli" apart from typical, mindless
action fare. Yet the film falters with its ach-
ingly sluggish plot, which plods along as slow
as Eli's march across the country. Also tacked
on after the tepid climax is a fairly clever but
ultimately frustrating ending that you'll either
loathe or adore.
With an archaic name following the phrase
"The Book of," the title suggests a chapter of
the Old Testament. In many ways, it's a new
addendum to the Bible - a moral story of a man
who struggles between right and wrong before
truly finding himself and his purpose on Earth.
As a whole, "The Book of Eli" is not as timeless
of a tale, but it should still be remembered for
a long time.

For the Daily
As a trained architect and photog-
rapher, Christopher Payne is known
for his interest
in the unusual.
From behe- Christopher
moth machines Panye: "AsylUm:
in subways to .nsde the aosed
national parks,
Payne explores World of State
unique per- Mental itas
spectives of the M
American land- Thursday, Jan.
scape. 21 at 7p.m.
His interest At UMMA's Helmut
in photography Stern Auditorium
developed as Free
a result of his
work. The images in Payne's first book,
"New York's Forgotten Substations: The
Power Behind the Subway," were born
from researching necessity, not artistic
"My first book ... was originally
envisioned as a book of mostly draw-
ings, based on detailed sketches I was
making of machines in the substations.
I rarely had time to finish sketches on
site, so I took pictures to help me com-
plete them later at home," Payne wrote
in an e-mail interview with The Michi-
gan Daily.
As his research progressed, howev-
er, Payne began to take a more artistic
approach in analyzing his subject.
"Over time, these snapshots became
more complex, requiring better light-
ing, equipment and preparation," Payne
Payne will be giving a lecture at Uni-
versity of Michigan Museum of Art this
Thursday about his new book, "Asylum:
Inside the Closed World of State Mental
Hospitals," which features his six-year
study of deserted state mental institu-
"The main focus of the book and my
photographs is to portray these insti-
tutions in a more objective light, by
making palpable their incredible archi-
tecture, their operation as thriving self
sufficient communities, and the vital
role they once played in American soci-
ety, for better or worse," Payne wrote.
When asked why he chose asylums,
Payne described his exposure to men-
tal institutions as an opportunity that
came by chance.
"A friend, knowing my interest in
abandoned buildings and infrastruc-
ture, suggested mental hospitals,"
Payne wrote. "As fate would have it,
the first one I visited was Pilgrim State
Hospital, one of the largest in the world,
and it made a strong impression on me
that day."
"As methods of treating mental ill-

ness improved and people no longer
required long-term institutionaliza-
tion, the asylums outlived their useful-
ness and were gradually abandoned.
Now they are ... an obsolete typology (of
architecture)," he added.
Though Payne analyzed these aban-
doned buildings from an architectural
point of view, a more personal attach-
ment flourished.
"Over the course of six years, I spent
hundreds of hours working alone and
undisturbed in these buildings, devel-
oping an intimate connection with them
and strong sense of proprietorship, as
perhaps, their final guardian," Payne
"The joy I gained in taking beautiful
pictures was always tempered by a pro-
found sense of loss and sadness, for the
people who lived in the asylums, and for
the buildings that now stand empty and
discarded" he added. "Most of the plac-
es I visited will be demolished."
At the lecture, Payne will discuss the
aspects of asylums that he discovered in
his research.
"My slide lecture will encompass the
rise, fall and ultimate demise of asy-
lums and state hospitals," Payne wrote.
"I will present historical images in the
beginning, to provide context, and then
my contemporary photos, taking the
audience on a journey to show what the
hospitals once were, and what they have
now become."
The beauty and
loss derived in
mental hospitals.
As a testament to the wide-reaching
influence of Payne's research, a diverse
group of University organizations is
sponsoring his visit, includingthe Taub-
man College of Architecture and Urban
Planning, the Department of English
Language and Literature and the Cen-
ter for the History of Medicine.
Branching off of his subject's diversi-
ty is Payne's assertion that mental insti-
tutions have a clouded history of which
not many people are aware.
"In their day, the asylums were the
largest buildings around, and they dom-
inated the American landscape," Payne
wrote. "Before they became objects
of derision, they were sources of great
civic pride, and not many people know
In addition to breaking through the
mystery of asylums, Payne also wants
his lectures to be considered a call to
action, as he believes that these "archi-
tectural treasures" should be saved.

From Page 5A
hard to find boring. As for the
dialogue, well, there's something
called wit, and then there's such a
thing as a kernel of clever dipped
in so much blatant sexism and
macho-esque blabber that it's
hard not to laugh at the sheer
extremity of it.
The football coach (Ed Marino,
"Circus Camp') is a prime exam-
ple of this type of writing. After
listening to quotes like "Some
weak pathetic pussy coined the
phrase 'winning isn't every-
thing' " and "We suck the milk
out of their mothers' tits and use
it as mouthwash! We rip off their
dicks and invite them to an orgy!"
there are two possible reactions.
One is throwing up. The second is
to cock an eyebrow and give in to
low-IQ laughter.
While not exactly grade-A
quality, "trickle down banging"
can be momentarily funny. How-
ever, the portrayal of women is
obnoxiously bitchy, and the heavy
metal music and testosterone-
laden boob parties are such bla-
tant objectifications that it gets to
be rather annoying.
But stereotypes seem to be
the name of the game in "Blue
Mountain State," and those who
somehow see some humor in that
might actually find it amusing.
From Page 5A
appears on the scene that the
movie gets revitalized; she's loud
and affectionate and challenges
Raquel. When Raquel locks her
out of the house, Lucy sunbathes
topless on the front lawn rather
than chase after her angrily.
Despite the dark humor of the
earlier partofthe film, none of the
characters ever laugh - Loyola's
Lucy uncovers the warmth of
"The Maid."
From Page 5A
The angels in the world of
"Bayonetta" aren't so much
pudgy-faced cherubs as giant,
mono-eyed, muscle-bound,
weapon-wielding monsters who
show up in hoards, vying for the
protagonist's blood. With the
help of a short Mafioso caricature
(who sounds suspiciously like
Joe Pesci) and a towering arms
dealer, Bayonetta searches for the
answers behind her mysterious
past, one dead angel-monster at
a time.
But the story of "Bayonetta" is
very, very much beside the point
of the game. Revealed through
grainy footage and a film reel
border, the game's plot is like a
B-movie's: It's cheesy, predictable
and over the top. And it knows it.
The self-conscious awfulness of
the script is one of many aspects
that are so appealing about "Bay-
onetta." The game wants the
player laughing at the absurdity
until they are dead-focused on
the actual gameplay and combat.
And for the most part, it's quite
It's all about the combat. "Bay-
onetta" takes players through 15

levels filled to the brim with bad
guys of all shapes and sizes, from
winged heads to mammoth demi-
gods, and each needs a beating in
its own particular way. The con-
trols are just this side of button-
mashing, with enough nuance to
keep players always reaching for
that perfect combo - that exact
set of moves that will send a given
angel back to its Maker. One
might be able to hack through
the first couple of levels without
much effort, but for the most part
the dozens and dozens of battles
will require full attention and
provide an addicting challenge.
The game is not without its
problems. There are way too
many cut scenes for a plot so ter-
rible, and the outlandishness
starts to wear thin after a while.
And Bayonetta herself will start
to grate almost immediately, with
her smarmy, British sarcasm and
excessively suggestive word-
play. But that shouldn't prevent
you from giving "Bayonetta" a
try. While the rest of the gaming
industry is taking itself a little too
seriously, straining a little under
the weight of achieving the cov-
eted status of "art," it's refreshing
to have some expertly designed, 4
stylish, dumb fun - the stuff
guilty pleasures are made of.




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