The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com
Wednesday, September 22, 2010 - 7A
Bravo's 'Top Chef'
spin-off is sweet ask
the day is long
By BRIANNE JOHNSON
For the Daily
Bravo's "Top Chef: Just Des-
serts" embraces the mantra that
the best is often saved for last. In
its seventh season, the hit show
has whipped up
a little some-
for late-night Top Chef.
serts," a spin- Just Des
off of the "Top Wednesdays
Chef" phenom- at10 p.m.
decadent deli- Bravo
personalities to match.
Hosted by food critic Gail Sim-
mons, "Desserts" follows (maybe
a little predictably) in the flour-
marked footsteps of its prede-
cessors. Like a fraternal twin,
"Desserts" almost exactly mirrors
the organized chaos and enter-
tainment from past seasons, but
distinguishes itself by replacing
the food pyramid with a heaping
mound of pure sugar. The first
episode dives straight into the
fillings of sweet tooths, but the
chef's mouths aren't watering
over the sickly sweet aroma of the
workroom. They're focused on
the immunity. Obtained through
a series of Quick-Fire Challenges,
the pastry chefs stir, whip and
bake their signature desserts into
* the form of a cupcake.
But there's a reason past chefs
avoided desserts - the required
memory involved in preparation is
But who would let any of these
treats - hummus or otherwise
- go to waste? With everything
from genoise and ganache to
whoopie pie and edible "disco
dust," "Desserts" serves to be the
closest thing to scrumptious luxu-
ry one can afford in a dorm room.
A pinch of sugar and a dose of true
artistry, the sweet treats concoct-
ed are a visual pleasure in their
own right. Drizzled in chocolate
and fluffed with frosting, the plat-
ed beauties fulfill any desire for
eye candy in the hour-long show.
While the desserts are exqui-
site, the chefs' charm is the real
treat. As usual, Bravo's stock of
varied personalities does not
disappoint. The contestants
themselves are guaranteed
entertainment, a far cry from the
assembled bores on the Cook-
ing Channel. The contenders are
as colorful as the cupcakes they
create, from Seth, the slightly
arrogant and self-proclaimed
genetic spawn of Marky Mark
(Wahlberg) and Dexter (Michael
C. Hall), to the playfully flam-
boyant and competitive Zac, who
proclaims, "I will cut you - with
But as Zac says, "being a pas-
try chef is not all fine, dine and
frosting." As homegrown bakers
compete with classically trained
pastry chefs, the drama turns
from sweet to sour and will only
mount as the season progresses.
The age-old rule is to abandon
the fridge (and that stock of cook-
ies hidden beneath the bed) once
the clock strikes seven. But "Top
Chef: Just Desserts" proves that
some rules are meant to be bro-
ken. "Desserts" inspires a gnaw-
ing hunger, but still leaves viewers
feeling completely satisfied.
a challenge in itself. Precise mea-
surements and strict techniques
prove to be the real competition
this season. But the contestants
flaunt their talent in the elimina-
tion challenge: a dare to create the
"most luxurious chocolate dessert
imaginable." Master pastry chef
Jacques "Mr. Chocolate" Torres,
editor of New York-based e-mail
newsletter DailyCandy Danielle
Kyrillos and head judge Johnny
Iuzzini dissect each bite as the
chefs quake in their batter-soaked
boots. After around 50 minutes
of tongues fused to the television
screen, the verdict is announced
and contestant Tania Peterson's
"hummus-like" chocolate mousse
is tossed into the trash.
Kartoon Kings' 'Conflict'
Off-camera left: a giant bag of Werther's Originals.
By MIKE KUNTZ Jeff Turmes (bass) and Stephen
Daily Arts Writer Hodges (drums). Also contribut-
ing to the album are alt-country
Chicago is making a comeback. all-stars Kelly Hogan and Pat
Between Obama's presidency, an Sansone (Wilco), providing vocals
annual music and extra instrumentation to the
festival in its sce- carefully laid, sparse mix. Each of
nic Grant Park these players, along with the Ray
and a wealth of Charles-esque howl ofbackground
iconic musicians, vocalist Donny Gerrard, lay the
the Windy City Stes perfect soulful foundation for Sta-
(failed Olympic You Are ples to do her thing. And boy, does
bids aside) has Not Alone she do it - at 71, no less.
become one of Anti- "Creep Along Moses," a tradi-
the country's tional gospel song that her father,
nerve centers for Pops Staples, would play for her
bothmusic and progressive politics. with a bunch of other old 78s, has
So who better to combine the all the bluesy guitar and restraint of
two than Mavis Staples, the young- her best material. Tweedy's tracks,
est and arguably most storied of "You Are Not Alone" and "Only the
the Staples Singers who has been Lord Knows," feature the songwrit-
putting her progressive-minded er athis soulful best, recalling many
gospel growl to tape for more than of his trademark melodic turns that
50 years. Famous for her collabora- here seem perfectly tailored to Sta-
tions with Bob Dylan and The Band ples's classically American sound.
as well as her close involvement With a careful injection of spiritual
with the civil rights movement, Sta- themes and lyrics, Tweedy gives
ples has often been called the voice
of her generation. And while she
reached moderate fame on the back
of singles like "I'll Take You There" M avis Staples
in the '60s, she's never been given -
the venerated status and recogni- agesbea u
tion enjoyed by other elder acts.
Maybe You Are Not Alone is an
attempt to finally cement Staples as each song enough skyward longing
one of the all-time greats - though to match Staples's religious charge.
it seems like everyone who knows "Wrote a Song for Everyone," a
her well has given her that status Fogerty-penned ballad, has a cho-
long ago. Produced by Jeff Tweedy, ral refrain with enough warmth
the principal songwriter behind and fervor to bring the rapture to
Wilco, Staples's new record might any Sunday congregation. Likewise
finally give her the attention and with "In Christ There Is No East
Grammy nods she's long deserved. or West," in which Staples's vocals
Tweedy was so impressed with outshine everything else.
the legendary gospel singer while And it's Staples who deserves
attending the performances that most attention: While Tweedy
would comprise 2008's Hope at The skillfully highlights the singer's
Hideout live record, he figured he'd most valuable asset (her voice), his
be lucky just to meet her. Within production is mostly too careful
months, what started as a friendly and unadventurous. Those looking
conversation between music fans for a Mermaid Avenue-caliber proj-
turned into a symbiotic working ect (Wilco's experimental take on
relationship that produced 13 new unreleased Woody Guthrie songs)
tracks recorded in Tweedy's Wilco mightbe disappointed with the safe
Loft studio. choices on this record - but the
A mix of old spiritual stan- album, after all, is about Staples,
dards, some well chosen covers not Tweedy.
(including tracks by Allen Tous- For as much as this record may
saint, John Fogerty and Randy be glossed over for its lack of inno-
Newman) and a few originals by vation or exploration, it serves as an
Tweedy and Staples, You Are Not important document in the history
Alone captures a group of musi- of Mavis Staples's storied career
cians who just bleed soul. Tweedy and features an inspired collabora-
was keen to keep Staples's touring tion. And if you're amazed at how
band for the record, namely the powerful she stillsounds,you're not
trio of Rick Holmstrom (guitar), alone.
Daily Arts Writer
Christopher Sperandio and Simon Gren-
nan, the artistic duo nicknamed the "Kartoon
Kings," bring a blend of high and low art to
the University with "Con-
flict Theory," an interactive
installation to be construct-
ed with the help of student Sperandi0
interns in North Campus's Tomorrow at
Slusser Gallery. 5:10 p.m.
The pair proposed the
"Conflict Theory" installa- Michigan Theater
tion to the University earlier
this year after hearing good things about Ann
Arbor. Although they didn't know exactly how
it would look, the idea was based on two influ-
Their inspiration came from the group of
sociological theories asserting that conflict
drives human interactions. They also learned
of a game that H.G. Wells, author of "The
War of The Worlds" and noted pacifist, cre-
ated for his children to play. It was a battle
game with tin soldiers and dollhouses that
Wells thought would curb the need to fight
actual war, according to Sperandio, and the
duo wanted to construct a piece around the
Sperandio plans to construct a version
of the same game on a large, low table with
40-inch high replicas of Ann Arbor build-
ings for the houses and 5-inch models based
on Ann Arborites as the soldiers. On the
surrounding walls, he envisions a "mural of
destruction," for which the plan isn't final-
"I imagine it's going to be kind of cartoony
brick walls that are blowing up," Sperandio
said of the mural. "We want a balance between
the thing being fun and taking ideas about war
The installation should be completed by the
third week in October. This week, Sperandio
and a team of about a dozen student interns
from various disciplines will pool their imagi-
nations to begin the design, organization and
creation of the installation. He encourages
students from any background to get involved
- even if they miss the Sept. 24 internship
"I would sort of liken it to a movie produc-
tion," Sperandio said. "I'm the director, but
movies aren't just made by the director ... It's
a big undertaking and everyone who partici-
pates is going to have a role."
Sperandio and Grennan have worked
together for 20 years, making non-traditional
Comic artists bring
H.G. Wells war game
to A2 gallery.
artwork throughout the U.S. and Europe. The
two have done extensive work in comic-book
form, thus the nickname "Kartoon Kings," and
their artwork is often interactive.
"We make things that are strange and don't
fit the traditional boundaries," Sperandio
explained, adding that their work doesn't nor-
mally appear in galleries or museums.
On previous projects, they have worked
with groups of people ranging from factory
workers to retirees, and they always find a
balance of imparting knowledge and learn-
ing along the way. One of their latest projects,
titled "Invisible City," featured comic render-
ings of night workers in Berlin's public transit
rail on 10 commercial billboards throughout
The mural in "Conflict Theory" may draw
from Sperandio's comic-drawing expertise,
but the team will cast plastic army figures
based on Ann Arborites - a sculptural pro-
cess Sperandio has never undertaken in his
"I'm going to be right there learning beside
them," Sperandio said.
Sperandio is in Ann Arbor this semester for
"Conflict Theory" while Grennan is in Britain
working on a separate project, but the two are
used to long-distance collaboration.
"We kind of have an idea about something
and then we just jump in," Sperandio said.
"We're not very cautious."
The game is open to the general public, and
Sperandio hopes to involve the Ann Arbor
community with a Facebook group for "Con-
Sperandio will also give a lecture as part
of the Penny W. Stamps speaker series put on
by the School of Art & Design at the Michigan
Theater this Thursday. He will speak abouthis
and Grennan's previous work and how "Con-
flict Theory" compares. He added that he and
Grennan tend to do extremely diverse projects:
animated films, comic books and even a reality
TV show about arts on Gallery HD, "Artstar."
"This is like all of our other work in that's
its uniquely unlike anything else we've done,"
'Devil' ends M. Night Shyamalan's long losing streak
By BEN VERDI parody of who he used to be.
Daily Arts Writer So if you were one of the people
who booed and hissed when you
There is a dominant opinion saw Shyamalan's name pop up after
toward M. Night Shyamalan that the trailer for "Devil," you weren't
many film lovers wrong for being cynical. You had
hold. They say, "I the right to assume that "Devil"
loved him at first would be just another "Lady in the
when his movies Dvil Water." One more cookie-cutter
were entertain- attempt at "blowing your mind"
ing and intrigu- At Quality16 courtesy of Mr. Shyamalan, the
ing, but he's lost and Rave Notre Dame (all name, no sub-
his touch." Some Universal stance) of directors.
critics think Shy- r However, after seeing "Devil," it
amalan has been becomes clear that no one under-
making the same movie - with a stands the criticisms of M. Night
big twist at the end - for his whole Shyamalan's approach to filmmak-
career. And he doesn't help matters ing better than the man himself.
by arrogantly inserting himself into "Devil" is the best movie con-
his own movies a la Alfred Hitch- ceived by M. Night Shyamalan since
* cock. "The Sixth Sense." And the take-
Time, and a few admittedly bad away lessonof the storyis that Shya-
movies, have allowed this senti- malan is finally learning himself.
ment to seep into the psyche of the The story throws red herrings
general public to the point where it and false clues at us as we try to fig-
seems like Shyamalan has become a ure out which one of the five "bad"
people in a broken elevator is the Erick Dowdle, "Quarantine")
Devil responsible for killing the manages to elegantly contain the
others. But who the Devil is ends up bulk of the story in one broken
not being that important, because elevator while successfully fight-
we see that every character has the ing the urge to cast Shyamalan as
ability to do terrible things. a minor character - two decisions
While this may dash the hopes that limit our distractions and help
of viewers who don't believe people us focus on the story itself and not
are all that bad, it should serve as on its creators.
a hopeful reminder that even the While the film is based on
Shyamalan's idea, someone else
directed it, something we can't say
A e l- o about most films with Shyamalan's
name on them. Brian Nelson ("30
- i Days of Night") is credited as the
"a - screenwriter, which means that
Shyamalan also delegated that cre-
ative influence over his original
worst of us has the potential to take idea to someone else, a multi-lat-
responsibility for our past failures eral approach to filmmaking that,
and overcome our lingering demons. until now, Shyamalan hadn't fully
The film brings the best out of embraced.
its makers because it presents to The idea for "Devil" is like the
them a series of challenges, all of child that a once overbearing Shya-
which are overcome in about 80 malan finally allowed to goout on its
minutes. First, the director (John own (as long as it's home at a reason-
As the evidence clearly shows, she smelt it, therefore she dealt it.
able hour). And because he stopped dle and Brian Nelson wrought this
strangling his ideas to death on his new little jewel: a story about huge
own, hoping for another classic, he's battles happening in very tiny spac-
finally helped make another movie es, and sometimes within a single
that can breathe. person.
It is through honest, humble sac- In that way, the M. Night critic
rifice (of credit and power) that M. might claim, this movie still ended
Night Shyamalan, John Erick Dow- up being all about him.