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December 07, 2010 - Image 7

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The Michigan Daily, 2010-12-07

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The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

Tuesday, December 7, 2010 - 7

The Michigan Daily - michigandailycom Tuesday, December 7, 2010 - 7

Hollywood's wintry mix

Franco gets Ginsberg
in heavy-handed 'Howl'

ondemned to consistently
late nights in the weeks
leading up to December
exams, I was awarded a small but
valuable gift
for my efforts
last Wednes-
day. At 6:15 in
the morning,
finally set to
sleep, I looked
out the win-
dow to see ANKUR
what I'd been
waiting for: SOHONI
Light, float-
ing snow was slowly falling out-
side the window. As I watched it
S descend below the lights on Pack-
ard Street, I suddenly remem-
bered why I chose to endure
the constant street noise of a
front-facing room in my house.
I had once again discovered the
upside of an Ann Arbor winter. If
it's going to be cold, it better be
Despite my fatigue and inevi-
table sleep deprivation, the snow
got me jumping up and down,
celebrating the moment like a kid
on Christmas morning. With the
visual cue of a snowfall, my inter-
nal calendar turned to the holiday
My love of snow and the
holiday season is largely based
on movie depictions - that kid
rejoicing last Wednesday wasn't
actually me, it was Fuller (Kieran
Culkin) in "Home Alone 2." Film
has historically exploited the sea-
son to the fullest extent, and yet
has perpetuated holiday family
values in direct, easily under-
stood fashion.
Christmas sells big, and film
studios are acutely aware of it.
Kids come home from break,
adults get work off. The peak
of Oscar season is one of the
best times for the blockbuster,
as shown by the mid-December
releases of all three "Lord of the
Rings" films and the box-office
Toruk Makto "Avatar." With
such a huge audience at its dis-
posal, the film industry wastes no
opportunity to cash in on Christ-
November and December are
perennially characterized by
films like "Christmas with the

these f
a terri
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a spreE
film fit
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his far

s" or "Elf." Yes, most of tion by placing him in the holiday
films are pretty terrible. But season.
ble Christmas film is sel- Those who saw the recent
'rribly received. Christmas "Harry Potter and the Deathly
tes the risk of bombing by Hallows: Part 1" may recall a
g your enjoyment directly scene in which Harry (Daniel
d to your holiday season. Radcliffe) and Hermione (Emma
love Christmas, you might Watson) visit Godric's Hollow,
ve "The Santa Clause," but Harry's birthplace, on Christmas
probably enjoy it anyway. Eve. Harry has no family and is
he same time, there are a for all intents and purposes quite
er of films which are simi- alone in his responsibilities. In
eleased, similarly set and that moment, what more pain-
I non-holiday stories. Most ful time is there to visit the place
se fabricate Christmas as a your parents died?
ive tool to support the ten- The point is that the holiday
f the A story. season is prevalent outside of
ven Spielberg's based-on- "Christmas films." It is a creative
-story caper "Catch Me signifier beyond the holidays
Can" shows Frank Aba- themselves.
Jr. (Leonardo DiCaprio) So, when I saw snow, it wasn't
ng around the world on so much that I celebrated snow
e of check fraud and false itself, but the feeling of family,
:ies, somehow coming into warmth and togetherness it sig-
t with an FBI agent (Tom nifies to me. I looked at the side-
) every year on Christmas. walk and imagined a dancing girl
ed in December 2002, the in a white dress more than I wor-
t within the Christmas ried about the next day's cold.
t but its narrative holiday For secular and/or fun-loving
g was more than purely holiday celebrators like me, films
inform - and can themselves
become - holiday tradition. My
int ' f brother, for example, looks for-
Vinter's first ward every year to the almost
S 1 , daily TV presentation of "Home
owfall maKes Alone" in December. On the other
negfe ik hand, as I walk down a snowy
med feel like State Street, I'll hear John Wil-
eran Culkin. iams's "Somewhere in My Mem-
ory" playing in my mind. The
romance of the holiday season,
and thus the weather associated
rmic - it highlighted Abag- with it, has become a part of my
isolation and disconnection perspective.
his family by positioning That's not to say that when I
contrast with the spirit of took the twice-weekly 20-min-
ason. ute walk from South Quad to the
ward Scissorhands" does Argus Building last year, I enjoyed
hing similar, and it's effec- the persistent barrage of cold. But
hough to make me obsess. there's a big difference between
Edward (Johnny Depp) perception and reality, and
ice sculptures and Kim watching from my window on a
'na Ryder) does her ice Wednesdaynight, only one of those
under Danny Elfman's mattered. While the actuality of
it's the most beautiful thing living on a snow-covered college
world. And when suburbia campus brings us brown, slushy
Mr. Scissorhands, it's all streets and uncomfortable walks
ore tragic for it being on to class, film can create a world in
:mas that the neighborhood which the dream of a white Christ-
s him away. mas always comes true.

Poet biopic doesn't
leave much to the
Daily Arts Writer
Young men and women decked
out in Ray Ban glasses, skinny ties
and penny loafers pack the room.
Smoke from
their cigarettes **
twists its way
forward where Howl
it lingers under
a heavy spotlight At the
on stage. One Michigan
young man steps Oscilloscope
into the light,
adjusts his heavy framed glasses
and begins to read: "I saw the best
minds of my generation destroyed
by madness, starving hysterical
With these words, Allen Gins-
berg's immortal poem "Howl"
gave a voice to the Beat Genera-
tion. The film "Howl" tries to cap-
ture the essence of the poem and
examine Ginsberg's (James Fran-
co, "127 Hours") own experiences
- his writing process, the mean-
ing and imagery of the poem, as
well as the obscenity trials that
followed its publication.
Franco may as well be in hip-
ster heaven with his Ginsberg
part. Playing the poet adds just
the right amount of coolness to
any actor's resume. But at first
it seems that his beard isn't wild
enough, he's too handsome, too
suave. Franco just doesn't seem
to be enough of an outsider. He's
more of a Neal Cassady or a Jack
Kerouac type.
However, as soon as he starts
reading the poem, any doubts
about Franco's ability to pull off
the role vanish. "Howl" (the poem)

Look at that fucking hipster.
was written to be read aloud and
Franco is aware of this. He aptly
captures the jazz-inspired rhythm
and manages to insert humor at
exactly the right parts - poems
about "alcohol and cock and end-
less balls" can't possibly be read
with a straight face the whole way
But of course, the problem with
such a convincing performance
is that it becomes a Franco-as-
Ginsberg-fest and "Howl" doesn't
just belong to him. It's not just
his story, but also the story of
the minds of a generation. There
isn't just one way to interpret the
Part of the film's struggle is in
interpreting the poem. As Gins-
berg reads the poem, the black and
white film dissolves into a strung-
out animation. The process of
reading a poem is based on inter-
preting for oneself what things
like "storefront boroughs of tea-
head joyride neon blinking traf-
fic light" actually mean. Instead
of allowing the audience to figure
that out, there's a cartoon about

it. But this is very limiting - the
animation just might not work for
some viewers. While it's perfectly
OK that the animators thought
a particular line would be best
shown as a forest of giant dicks,
that's not necessarilythe only way
to read it. But it still comes across
like that is the message, despite
the movie's best efforts to deal
with and incorporate a variety of
themes ranging from Eastern phi-
losophy to drug-induced hazes.
At any rate, poetry interpreta-
tion is sticky business and perhaps
a difficult pursuit on film. But
what "Howl" provides a context
for the poem through the obsceni-
ty trial without turning the movie
into a biopic or a documentary.
Jon Hamm ("Mad Men") plays the
lawyer defending the poem and,
near the end of the movie, delivers
a strong monologue about free-
dom of speech. From a historical
approach, this is perhaps the most
significant part of the legacy of
"Howl" as a poem - as a reminder
of the American tradition of free-
dom and a celebration of diversity.

sme Alone" and "Home
2" take Kevin McCallister
ulay Culkin) away from
mily, emphasizing his isola-

Sohoni? More like Snow-honi!
To tell him his new nickname rocks,
e-mail asohonidumich.edu.

December 6-10
in the Sophia B. Jones room
of the Michigan Union

"Wait till Uncle Jesse sees me now!"
* More Bob Saget, please

By ALEX RUSS the series premiere, Saget travels
DailyArts Writer around the country with national
bikers club Iron Order, attempting
There are two Bob Sagets in the to earn his right to become a mem-
TV world. One is the family man ber of their brotherhood. He wit-
we all came to know and love on nesses many order events along
"Full House" the way, like a rather unorthodox
and "America's wedding and an emotional memo-
Funniest Home rial for a fallen brother.
Videos." Then, While the show's premise is
there's the other Strange perfectly fine, Saget's presence
Bob Saget: the DayS it feels completely unnecessary.
vicious, foul- B& &wgt Aside from a few wisecracks
mouthed stand- about how the bikers' partying
up comedian Tuesdays "would rage on until dawn, just
who occasion- at 10 p.m. like my bar mitzvah," there isn't
ally pops up on A&E much of anything to make Bob
HBO's "Entou- Saget a more idea host than some
rage." So, when it random guy off the street. Saget is
came time for Bob to host his new a funny man, and while this show
show, "Strange Days with Bob doesn't necessarily need his foul-
Saget," which Bob were we going mouthed side, it could use a little
to see? While it turns out that more spunk from him.
"Strange Days" emphasizes Good Another severe drawback to
Bob, there were very few things this show is its 30-minute time
about this show that could criti- slot. While Saget does have a
cally be considered "good." chance to open up to members
In each episode, Saget follows of the Iron order, much of it
a different group or subculture remains unexplored due to time
for a few days, like a bikers club constraints. A lot more depth
or a group of hunters, and learns could have been explored about
about their thoughts on life and the bikers and even Saget himself
what they do with their time. In if the time allotment had been.

increased to an hour.
Still, the show does an impres-
sive job of debunking stereotypes.
Throughout the episode, it's clear
the Iron Order is just a group of
people who like to have fun. To
put it more bluntly, they rage. A
lot. There were beer showers on
more than one occasion. But it's
also clear that these are kind,
normal, everyday people who just
happen to be massive and have
tattoos covering almost every part
'Strange Days'
needs spunk.
of their bodies. Everyone treats
Saget with respect and could not
be more open or kind toward him.
"Strange Days" does have its
merits, but it underuses its big-
gest asset - Bob Saget himself -
and feels too short for Saget and
his new biker friends to really
have developed any kind of con-
nections. Saget, you're a proven
comedian, stick with what you're
good at.

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