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January 06, 2011 - Image 11

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The Michigan Daily, 2011-01-06

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enThe Michigan Daily | michigandaily.com I Thursday, January 6, 2011



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Kanye West naysayers of the past year, it's officially time to get
over yourselves.You can claim he's a douchebag. You can whine about
his embarrassingly rude treatment of Taylor Swift. You can even say
808s & Heartbreak sucked. Fine. But on My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, Mr.
West has resoundingly absolved himself of any and all public besmirching.
Unfailingly complex and as blatantly confident as Yeezy himself, the album is
forever describable: apologetic, honest, chauvinistic, egotistic, ecstatic
ridiculous, catchy, dark, twisted - but most of all, it's beautiful. MBDTF
has the originality of College Dropout, the studio expertise ofLateRegis-
tration, the swagger of Graduation and the emotional airing-out of808s £t
Heartbreak. Of course, West was not alone in creatingthis grandeur - the album
is royally stacked with a barrage of respected guests - with Nicki Minaj,
Jay-Z, Bon Iver and Kid Cudi among the prestigious assortment.
Kanye West wants to be (or already considers himself) "the best rap-
per alive." He may not have officially won the crowning title just yet, but
he did succeed in making the best album of the year - although it seems
unlikely that this will satisfy'Ye for long.
Suburban discontent - it's not exactly glossed over in contemporary art. So how
to give a new take on such a worn-out subject? On The Suburbs, Arcade Fire doesn't
try to create some overcooked raison d'etre for the humdrum childhood wasted just
short of urbanity. Each track provides a window into the ubiquitous 2.5-kids-
and-a-golden-retriever suburban home, but with minimal judgment and irony.
Frontman Win Butler is always either one of "the kids," or a guy looking at =
a faded photograph vaguely remembering when he was. It's because Arcade
Fire doesn't hold up any pretense of "getting" suburbia any better than its
fans do that The Suburbs has sprawled its way to the top. Who hasn't seen
ghostly malls tower above infinite stretches of flat pavement like "Mountains
Beyond Mountains?" And what college kid can't relate to old friends rebelling
and drifting as time passes in "Suburban War?" Itchingguitars and risingmulti-
voice choruses frame Butler and co.'s confused nostalgia for a childhood ill-
spent - one that much of America shares, but that's rarely laid out
so flat. It's not a new concept. But, like the suburbs themselves, we
keep wanting to go back.
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When it comes to towering heartachey melodies, Beach House had everyone else
~ beat this year. Vocalist Victoria Legrand's spectral balancing act between Her-
culean mother and smoky seductress honestly makes 99 percent of indie rock
starlets sound like acid-washed teeny hoppers. And Alex Scally's clean-picked,
merry-go-round guitar parts take the word "catchy," slow it down to half its
tempo and project it onto the folds of your heart tissue (along with mquntains of
nostalgia-oozing reverb). Beach House may have settled into its sound, but the net -
effect feels more like a remedial bowl of time-tested chicken noodle soup than a lazy =
attempt to cash in on a comfortable formula. On Teen Dream, the arrangements
are lusher and swoopier, feeling less conjured by humans than anything off
Devotion. And having leaked over a year ago, the album has already heft-
ily transcended flash-in-the-pan status - this is a record we're going to
be listening to for years to come.
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1. "TOY STORY 3"
Threequels aren't supposed to work. Just ask Francis Ford Cop-
pola, Sam Raimi, Robert Zemeckis, George Lucas or that guy who
made the "Blade" movies. But when you learn that our gold star of the
year has been helmed by the flawless Pixar - who 16 years ago took a
bunch of hard, plastic faces and breathed not just life, but love into
them - the situation changes.
So where did it all go right? Maybe it was during those old film
reels of Andy's jubilant adventures with Sheriff Woody, the evil Dr.
Porkchop and a brigade of swarming monkeys. or maybe it was the
moment when the attic ladder slides shut behind the unmarked bag of toys
beside it, dooming them forever to the incinerator.
"Toy Story 3" transcends the ordinary not just because it's a clever parable
about commercialism, but because it asks genuinely stirring questions about
aging. What happens when those that loved us must let us go? How do we
carry the remnants of our past relationships while preserving our indepen-
dence? Woody and Buzz might not be part of Andy's college life, but they've
certainly found their way into ours.
There's a mesmerizing quality, oh current University students and recently gradu-
ated alums, to watching a movie about the genesis of Facebook. Our generation is as
inexorably tied to its success as is Mark Zuckerberg - if he was the nurturing parent,
we were the Hollywood agent that realized its potential and made it a society-
changing phenomenon.
The release of "The Social Network" in the midst of Facebook's golden __
years made for delicious irony, as thousands updated their statuses to
profess their love for the film - an expected reaction, since the "The
Social Network" was such a supreme amalgamation of expert writing,
directing and acting that not declaring adoration for the film to the world
could result in a minor stroke.
Aaron Sorkin's diabolically good script was consistently laugh-
out-loud funny, nullifying the inherent drabness of lawsuits, ven-
ture capitalism and (shudder) computer programming. Director David
Fincher created each frame with a mama grizzly's care and deserves an Oscar
simply for pulling a tremendous performance out of Justin Timberlake. But
when it came to the stellar cast, Jesse Eisenberg rose above all, playing Zucker-
berg as a geek yearning for acceptance in our increasingly disconnected world.
Wait ... where's the "like" button on this newspaper?
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Christopher Nolan's auteuristic drama-meets-mindfuck thriller cre-
ated a storm of hype in the months before its release, only to be out-
done by the social impact of the film itself. "Inception" cemented
Nolan's dual status as a virtuoso of the smart blockbuster and our
generation's most bankable director. It was start-to-finish captivat-
ing, from the brilliant temporal presentation of the dreamworld to
the engrossing compound action sequence that constituted the sec-
ond half of the film.
The logistics of the film's dream-stealer plot still elude, but figuring it out
is half the experience. Despite Nolan's best efforts to deceive the audience,
those who switch off for a minute and take the film as what it is - a visual
presentation -- will notice that the single moment may be the most B
telling. A widower's ringless hand, the persistent spinning of a =
top - are these keys to the story? Maybe. But if the film left you -
* breathless, you're halfway there.


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