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December 13, 2010 - Image 5

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The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

Monday, December 13, 2010 - 5A

The Michigan Daily - michigandailycom Monday. December 13, 2010 - 5A

So many awards,
so little meaning

"Johnny, why the fuck would you bench Darren McFadden?"
Po intless Tourist'trap

Del
too
in a

"The
glance
star Jo
and
Jolie. D
played
earthly
since
ingusb
disturb
as Wil
The M;
and Ca
way), a
partial

pp and Jolie are ("Salt," "Wanted," "Beowulf").
And despite all the quirks
special to appear infused by its two unconventional
stars, and its beautiful (though
film this bland aimless) gallivant through about
three-fourths of the European
By IMRAN SYED Union, "The Tourist" turns out to
Daily Arts Writer be allitoo typical - bland, goofy and
unremarkable.
Tourist" looks at first Jolie plays Elise, a beautiful,
to be too normal of a film to mysterious woman being tailed by
hnny Depp secret police agencies throughout
Angelina *-- Europe. We learn that she is tied to
)epp hasn't a financial mastermind who stole
a sober, The Tourist billions of dollars and then van-
character ished into thin air. As police and
2004 (giv- AtQualityl6 mobsters stalk Elise in the hopes
'rilliant and and Rave that she will lead them to him, she
ing turns Columbia develops a sudden friendship with
Lly Wonka, Frank Tupelo (Depp), a clueless
lad Hatter, Sweeney Todd American tourist in Italy. But is
pt. Jack Sparrow along the Frank more than he seems?
nd Jolie has of late been As is to be expected from a trite
only to vain, moody roles Hollywood production dressed up

as classic, old-school noir, there
are plenty of foreign accents, exotic
backdrops and Russian mobsters
here. There's also enough of a fail-
ure to deliver on a decent premise
to drop a line often used in classic
criticism of old-school noir - it's
all cloak and no dagger. The action
starts and stops with no particular
regard for logical transition, and,
for all the theatrics and "twists,"
it's not clear whether anything
turns out differently from what one
would predict in the first five min-
utes of the film.
Depp brings to this role an
interesting willingness to play the
everyman - something that's quite
unexpected from an actor who
built his career playing the eccen-
tric, borderline insane character.
His setup is genuine and amusing
enough, but clashes horribly with
Jolie, who seems intent on taking

the film - and the relationship of
the two characters in the story -
in the complete opposite direction.
Cold, detached and distressingly
formal, Jolie may just be playing
the part as written, but it's a failure
in tone nonetheless.
Reminiscent of "The Ameri-
can," a spy thriller starring George
Clooney that debuted earlier this
fall, "The Tourist" is a fancy shell
with all-too-ordinary a core. The
two films are also similar in hav-
ing accomplished foreign directors
- in this case, Florian Henckel von
Donnersmarck ("The Lives of Oth-
ers") - whose prior successes are
no doubt what attracted such big
Hollywood stars to what turned out
to be just average productions. We
maydeservebetterfromstars of this
caliber, but then again, there's quite
a bustling market for empty produc-
tions with fancy, famous shells.

By DAVID TAO
Daily TV/New Media Editor
It started in November with the
Independent Spirit Award Nomi-
nations, and continued with the
Gotham Awards and the recent
National Board of Review's annual
awards. That's right, kids, it's offi-
cially Oscar season - a time when
directors, producers and stars show
up at parties and press junkets to
promote movies that much of Amer-
ica hasn't had a chance to see, vying
for that holiest of holies: the Acad-
emy Award. Treading water amid
the waves of pretension and elitism
are the industry unions and critics'
circles, which hand out "pre-Oscar"
film awards of relative meaningless-
ness in an attemptto push the Acad-
emy in a certain direction. Here's a
rundown of what these awards real-
ly mean for this year's Oscar bait.
I'll start by simplifying the mess
and grouping our awards into gen-
eral categories. The first category
encompasses national film awards
like the American Film Institute
Awards and the British Academy of
Film and Television Arts Awards.
These are completely irrelevant.
The AFI awards are an unranked
top-10 list of the year's best films.
With such a broad group of hon-
orees and no number-one film to
stand behind, past lists have almost
always coincided with the Acad-
emy's five Best Picture nominees.
But last year, Oscar's Best Picture
nominees were expanded to 10, of
which the AFI correctly predicted
only five. Fail.
The BAFTAs, on the other hand,
are respectfully considered the
British equivalent of the Oscars.
Unfortunately, they're unabash-
edly arthouse, with winners skew-
ing toward smaller features like
"The Full Monty," "Sense and Sen-
sibility" and "The Pianist" over
the blockbuster favorites that won
Best Picture ("Titanic," "Bravehe-
art" and "Chicago," respectively).
They weren't bad decisions - at
the risk of truckloads of hate mail,
I'll say I despised "Titanic." They
just weren't great predictors of who
would eventually win.'
Then there are awards for inde-
pendent cinema, chief among them
the Independent Spirit Awards.
They announce their honorees first
because they have to - if your film
qualifies as independent (meaning
it was made for less than $20 mil-
lion), almost nobody cares about
it. Last year, though "The Hurt
Locker" won Best Picture at the
Academy Awards, its fellow nomi-
nees included six films made for
more than the $20-million ceiling.
Among these were "Avatar" and
"Up," which were made for more
than 10 times the winning film's
miniscule $15 million production
budget.
All publicity is good publicity, so
being mentioned at these awards
is beneficial, particularly if you're
nominated for playing a lead or
supporting role. Recently, acting
accolades issued by the Indepen-
dent Spirit Awards have been sur-
prisingly prescient with cespect to
eventual Oscar nominees. Four out
of the past five years have seen two
or more independent Spirit Award

nominees pick up Oscar nomina-
tions for Best Actor. The films that
got them there, however, don't get
quite as much recognition.
Odds are that many of these
cheaply made, oft-obscure filmswill
get some form of award from at least
one of the nation's critics circles,
particularly the National Society of
Film Critics, which often endorses
underexposed foreign films and
rarely agrees with the Oscars.aThere
are also the New York Film Critics'
Circle and the Los Angeles Film
Critics Association, the other two
major critics' organizations, which
endorse a single winner in all Acad-
emy categories and almost never get
it right. The NYFCC, for example,
has predicted the correct Best Pic-
ture winner just three times in the
past decade. The LAFCA is even
worse, predicting the correct win-
ner just once in the same timeframe.
These critics' awards are all
eclipsed in extravagance, celeb-
rity worship and inaccuracy by the
Golden Globes, awarded by the Hol-
lywood Foreign Press Association.
The 95-member HFPA is an inter-
national coalition of almost-jour-
nalists, who do much of their work
freelance and cling to their jobs for
Suck my Golden
Globes, HFPA.
the parties and the celebrity access.
Throw in their lack of professional-
ism - former HFPA President Phil
Berk was forced to apologize for
groping Brendan Fraser at an HFPA
event - and its surprising they're
even allowed their own televised
ceremony. Oh, and they've only cor-
rectly predicted the winner for Best
Picture once in the past six years.
All of these groups I've men-
tioned so far are either sickeningly
elitist, too small to matter or just
don't get it right. So who really
matters? Look for legitimacy in the
industry unions, which include the
Screen Actor's Guild, the Produc-
ers Guild of America, the Witets
Guild of America and the Directors
Guild of America. These organiza-
tions host low-key ceremonies and
present awards in fewer categories,
with the exception of SAG, whose
BestEnsemble Cast award is seen as
a Best Pictureanalogue. It's impor-
tant to note the incredible predict-
ing power that each set of awards
has in its specialized industry. The
PGA has predicted the Academy's
choice for Best Picture seven years
out of the past 10, while the DGA
has predicted the Oscar-winner for
Best Director 54 times in its 62 year
history.
There's a reason for this. While
anybody can buy the right to vote
for the Independent Spirit Awards
(just $60 for students!) and critics
are never inducted into the Acad-
emy, guild awards are decided by
filmmaking professionals, many of
whom are Academy members who
vote for the Oscars as well. This
year, bet with the guilds' choic-
es for best everything and odds
are you'll look like a genius come
Oscar night.

Lena Dunham's
'Tiny' depression

Legitimizing the
Etch A Sketch

IB
Lena
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film's
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lead
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Aura (I
ate of a
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and her
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film is
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An
at v
al
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and Nad
likeable
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But n
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"Lover

3y PHIL CONKLIN (David Call, "Did You Hear About
Daily Arts Writer the Morgans?"), who works at a
restaurant where Aura gets a job
Dunham is the star of as a hostess. The two are abra-
w in "Tiny Furniture," a sive to the point of being hard
ng, cleverly written entry to watch, and one can't help but
young cringe at Aura's desire to even be
ker's around them.
ning The film presents a cold world.
As the Tiny Furniture Dirty streets lined with unin-
writer, viting, white-walled homes and
r and At the Michigan lonely people fill the screen.
actress, 1FC While this in itself is not neces-
resence sarily negative, the film offers
n every few warm moments to offset the
f this semi-autobiographi- bleakness. The humor is mostly
. "Tiny Furniture" follows disparaging and sarcastic, and the
Dunham), a recent gradu- characters show little compassion
.n Ohio college who, after for one another.
g up with her long-term And it's hard to root for Aura as
nd, moves back in with her a protagonist. She is portrayed as
oisie family in New York an outsider, but the viewer can't
try to figure her life out. relate to her because she is not
over, Aura's sister Nadine depicted in a consistent manner.
a mother, Siri are played by We are meant to believe she's the
m's own mother and sister, victim when Keith takes advan-
Dunham and Laurie Sim- tage of her, but also that she's the
espectively. Basically, this perpetrator when she blows off
very, very personal. And her best college friend Frankie
ience can sense this. The (Meritt Wever, "Into the Wild").
is like an intimate, unin- The film can't seem to decide
whether she's a whiny, entitled
bitch or the victim of a family and
peer group who don't understand
numbly look hr
And, partly due to a flat perfor-
mance from Dunham, Aura ends
ter college. up a pretty insipid character, with
an emotional palette generally
ranging between boredom and
apathy. Indeed, many of the sec-
uk into the private lives of ondary characters are more inter-
acters. esting and energetic than Aura.
's family is one of the best One of these is Charlotte (relative
of "Tiny Furniture," Siri newcomer Jemima Kirke), an old
dine being two of the more friend of Aura's - recently out of
characters in a movie rehab, with a possibly fake British
bly aboundingwithunlike- accent and magnetic spontane-
es. The family's chemistry ity. Her scenes are fun and lively,
; their scenes have an easy her drunken caprices contrasting
rity that lends an effort- nicely with Aura's droll, muted
orgy to their witty repar- sensibility.
t the family dynamic runs Late in"Tiny Furniture,"Aura's
than this. Beneath their mother remarks that she and Aura
g banter the viewer can continually have the same conver-
an underlying current of sation. It feel the same way to the
tent and jealousy, which audience. The film keeps rehash-
o humor in earlier scenes, ing the same situations and con-
plosions of anger and sad- versations. It seems to drag on
the film goes on. much longer than its 98 minutes,
when the film moves away and ends up feeling like a patch-
his domestic setting, it work of scenes that don't quite
loses steam. Aura makes coalesce into a coherent narra-
ignificant male friends tive. Its witty script and interest-
hout the movie, aspiring ing characters ultimately aren't
an Jed (Alex Karpovsky, enough to elevate the film above
s of Hate") and chef Keith mildly diverting entertainment.

By STEPHEN OSTROWSKI
Daily Arts Writer
Traversing the blogosphere
always yields its sensory-over-
loading share of pop culture-
infused irony. A while back I
happened upon an iPad case fash-
ioned in the likeness of the ageless
Etch A Sketch (which actually
retails online for $39 by a compa-
ny called Headcase). Not only did
the idea strike me as an amusing,
culturally aware repurposing of
an iconic product, it also tickled
the heartstrings of this former
Etch A Sketch enthusiast.
I used to belong to an Etch
A Sketch club - not the physi-
cal sort of club that meets in
the rusted bed of your uncle's
jalopy (or my area bookstore,
the former meeting place of
the Animorphs club to which
I briefly belonged as a youth).
Rather, I was the recipient of
occasional newsletters briefing
me on matters pertinent to the
fire engine-red drawing tool.
Recent confession of this mem-
bership elicited amusement at
what one might politely term
There are
dozens of us.
Dozens.
an unconventional pursuit for a
child - a "pursuit" culminating
in a self-compiled album of my
most esteemed sketches (rudi-
mentarily documented via fax
scans).
Admittedly, there are more
eccentric interests one could
highlight in a public forum, like
fire swallowing or snake charm-
ing. But as a fine arts recruit,
I am compelled to defend or,
perhaps more appropriately,
dissect "sketching" as a legiti-
mate art form - not that it isn't
already viewed as such by some.
A simple comb of the Internet
will return a handful of artists
who have received press or been
showcased in galleries for their
etching efforts (search Pauline
Graziano or George Vlosich,
among others, for a bounty of
polished works).
Still, it's difficult to disman-

tle the perception of an Etch A
Sketch as merely a toy, given
that its fundamental purpose is
entertainment. Anything born of
the toy, then, might be perceived
as banal and too accessible. After
all, hasn't the allure and prestige
of high artbeen its manifestation
of a talent wildly unreachable by
the average individual? Yes, but
many heralded artists, ranging
from Picasso to Alex Katz, have
employed an aesthetic that could
be more easily imitated than,
say, hyper-realist Chuck Close
(take for example his eerily life-
like portrait, Mark). Visual vir-
tuosity, or an absence of it, is not
the sole qualifier for an art form.
That nonetheless does not
evade the charge of an Etch A
Sketch as too mundane or even
kitschy. Defending it might be
analogous to championing a
See ETCH A SKETCH, Page 6A

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