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February 22, 2011 - Image 5

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The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

Tuesday, February 22, 2011 - 5

The Michigan Daily - michigandailycom Tuesday, February 22, 2011 - 5

Controlling critics

Easy, breezy, beautiful. Adele.
Adele matures o

On second release,
British singer comes
into her own
Daily Arts Writer
In a music industry haunted by Brit-
ney Spears scandals and gimmicky
Gaga stunts, it's no wonder female
performers get such a
bum rap. Our culture
buzzes with reasons
to dismiss these art- Adele
ists as superficial or
corny - after all, how 21
seriously can you take
someone who sings Columbia
about brushing her
teeth with alcohol?
Don't be fooled by her multiple award
nominations, Grammys and frequent
VHS Radio Countdown appearances:
Adele is more than your average main-
stream artist. With her raw, honest
voice and bluesy style, the 22-year-old
singer-songwriter has usedrthe power
of her music alone to rise to the top of
pop charts. By releasing her second
album, 21, the British star has proven

once again that she has what it takes to
stand out from her peers - without the
aid of reality shows or bubble costumes.
Despite the popularity of sleazy pop
songs and overwhelming dance beats,
21's sincerity is what makes it shine.
Its earnestness is felt in "Don't You
Remember," a simple yet powerful bal-
lad of a relationship gone awry. Though
its topic and lyrics aren't revolution-
ary by any means, Adele's singing style
glosses the song with gusto. Her voice is
tinged with passion and pain, taking on
the qualities of soft and explosive tones
as she pleas for her lost lover to return.
It's a voice that makes even the most
generic "please remember me" lines
moving, resonating with any girl who
has suffered from a broken heart. As
she sings, it's tempting to find the guy
she's singing about on Facebook and
send him a meddling message to bring
the two back together - anything to
console her heartfelt wails.
Though they probably won't bring
listeners to their knees in empathy, 21's
faster tracks are just as authoritative as
"Don't You.Remembern",Numbers like
"Rollingsin=the Deeb" swing with soul
and emotional fury, creating a musi-
cal storm with chorus-style backup
vocals and jazzy instruments. The

lead vocals thunder with confidence as
Adele threatens some scumbag: "You're
gonna wish you had never met me." It's
the kind of track - bold and irresistibly
catchy - that inspires impromptu car
singing sessions, unapologetically fill-
ing the vehicle with bass and girl power.
However, not all of 21 lives up to the
vigor of "Don't You Remember" and
"Rolling in the Deep." Some tracks, like
"Lovesong," sound stale - though not
unpleasant, they just don't create the
same emotional rush as other, funkier
numbers. Still, Adele's radiant vocals
help to salvage even the least exciting
parts of the album, adding personal
touches to otherwise average tales of
There is something to be said for
Adele's modest musical style and the
popularity it's gaining - rivaling artists
with more years of experience, more
album releases and larger wig collec-
tions. 21 is a breath of fresh, natural air
in an industry that quakes with gaudy
personas and tabloid appearances. With
its fiery vocals and punchy instrumen-
tals t.ealbum giveshope to the future.
of mainstream pop: Maybe one day
musicians will be judged solely on their
sound, not their resemblance to a Ring-
ling Brothers act.

i's become common, with a canon
of criticism so popular and abun-
dant, that film goers start to devel-
op loyalties - not so much to the films
themselves, but to the critics who make
a living reviewing
You're out there
- the person who
aligns himself or
herself to a single
critic's picks and
passes as if the
critic's preference ANK'R
is their own. There SOHONI
are also those who
put much in the
critics as a whole - the ones who only
watch the Certified Fresh films on Rot-
ten Tomatoes and would rather read a
film to death than - god forbid - watch
something less than great.
Sarcasm is bitter, but in all serious-
ness, I get quickly sick of the critics.
As art goes, no, there is no rubric for
a "good" film, but critics nonetheless
wield the general stamp of approval.
And as far as my push for independence
from their influence goes, I realize their
hold on me is no weaker than their hold
on much of the film-going world. After
all, most of my articles are reviews.
In some ways, I've become part of the
But I resist. I review movies, but I
love some movies that most, if not all,
critics wouldn't exactly call top-caliber,
and while Ican identify the blocks that
build a "good" movie and judge those
for the world, Ican at the same time
avoid such a utilitarian view when
watching a film for myself. And as far
as understanding the way an artform
functions, it seems that we reviewers
overemphasize to death.
Don't forget standards - but then
again, we lose something in blindly fol-
lowing them. Those who treasure the
film experience - and not simply each
film asa narrative commodity - know
that almost every movie offers some-
thing new. I can't go back in time and
make every film "great," but while I'm
sitting in the theater, I'm not afraid to
appreciate even the mostbasic of inno-
vations - a witty few lines of dialogue
oran impressive camera shot I haven't -
seen before.'
There's a way to see beyond the'ciit-
ics. And the way ISwatch films isn't - or
shouldn't be - unique. (But I see the
irony too - don't always listen to the
film writers you read, including me.)
Popular film criticism, while present-
ed as artistic analysis, in many ways
feeds the economic hierarchy of the

film industry. In conjunction with stu-
dios, critics box in the market structure
of Hollywood, judging each film against
preconceived notions of whatthat film
should be in relationto its place in the
market. Audiences use the critics to find
the films they think best fit their idea of
preference, and then financially reward
critical suggestion. If you're looking
for a screwball comedy, the critics will
tell you which one you'll like. If you're
looking for a character-driven period
piece, the critics will steer you that way.
It sounds somewhat extreme, but we
watch what critics tell us to watch.
The function of critics in our view-
ing choices isn't unexpected or sur-
prising. Hollywood is a machine, and
much like movie marketing, critics
direct viewers. To push against that is,
to some extent, to lose touch with soci-
ety's view of the medium.
Don't always trust
critics - even me.
So, while I like to put the critics
away, there needs to be a more complex
way to manage their influence. While
it's tempting to ignore them, and also
tempting to abuse them, Ioften find it
helpful to have them in the back pocket,
but carry an awareness of an artistic
achievementbeyond them that only I
can define. And I would recommend the
same to anyone. Like any art, film is sig-
nificantly a social medium of exchange,
but is meaningless without the individ-
ual's interaction withthe work.
And that's the most important take-
awaywe can gain from examining the
critics' effect on film-going: We have
our own critical eyes that supersede
those of the critics - all we lack is the
training and the specialization to make
us think and write for others to under-
stand our standards.
We should each have our own
standards of what makes something
"good," or what makes something fit
within our expectations. The critics
know what they like, and they'll tell
you; in the end, avoiding panned films
like "Th'&Roo inmate" will ptobably
save you money and sanity. Buts don't
use critics as your own critical mind.
When it comes to your entertainment,
you know more than them.
Sohoni is expecting your criticism
of his work. To rip him to shreds,
e-mail asohoni@umich.edu.

Fil E
'Big Mommas,' small laughs

Deputy Magazine Editor
The conditions under which a sentient
moviegoer might enjoy John Whitesell's
("Deck the Halls") laughable "Big Mom-
mas: Like Father, Like
Son" are so few - like
if he or she does not
value time, money or Big Mommas:
human achievement
- that humor would Like Father,
be better served Like Son
cuing up 107 minutes
of Lolcats, FACEin- AtQualityl6
HOLE and other and Rave
quickly fossilizing 20th Century Fox
Internet memes.
In this third and
hopefully final installment of the "Big
Momma" tour-de-cinematic foible, FBI
agent Malcolm Turner (Martin Law-
rence, "Death at a Funeral") is caught in
an unfunny pickle after stepson Trent
(Brandon Jackson, "Lottery Ticket") wit-
nesses a murder at a botched sting opera-
tion. As is the obvious witness protection
protocol, the duo does the gender shuf-
fle - Lawrence suiting up as franchise
namesake Big Momma and Jackson as
his (her?) grand-niece, Charmaine - and
relocate to an all-girls art school, where
they snoop around for a piece of evidence
to lock up the murderers from the sting-
gone-bad. Cue an unwanted barrage of
genital jokes, archetypal family bonding
and a regrettable taste in your mouth.
Unsurprisingly, no amount of artifice
is sufficient to mask the story's pain-
ful lack of imagination and effort. The
once-magnetic Lawrence, a la Adam
Sandler and Mike Myers, joins the ranks
of aged funnymen refusing to surren-
der their dulling comedy crowns. The
fresh-faced Jackson gives an equally
dry performance, and even a brief open-
ing cameo from Ken Jeong (Ken Jeong!
Of "The Hangover" and "Community"
fame!) doesn't give the film its badly

Scattered' Fluorescence'

"Simba, all this will be yours someday."
needed comedic zest.
The supporting cast is equally dimen-
sionless, with the film unsuccessfully
relying on stock characters to resusci-
tate a wheezing narrative. These include
brooding-but-bumbling and fashionably
streamlined criminals, a smooth-talking
and lovable janitor and a shallowly pack-
aged female student populace presum-
ably designed to let the leads shine.
If you were going
to see this film,
Chang your mind.
Admittedly, Lawrence's slapstick -
though largely infantile lest you enjoy
gender-confused punchlines - is a
somewhat fresh departure from the bro-
y, Apatowian humor infecting recent
cinema (irreverent cultural references
behind thick wire rims can lose their

zing). However, there are too few oppor-
tunities for Lawrence to salvage the slop-
py semblance of contrived storylines. Not
that Lawrence is a Brando reincarnate
- but half-baked subplots that weakly
broach the crime comedy and young love
genres, paired with the endlessly recy-
cled "he's a she" arc, are too much for Big
Momma's prosthetic shoulders to carry.
Which brings the unavoidable, popu-
lar question for Hollywood bombs: Who
greenlit this film? To be sure, the first
two "Big Momma" flicks both grossed
well over $100 million worldwide, so it's
logical to assume - quality be damned
- that the third effort would be equally
bankable. But at some point the sanc-
tity of a franchise, even if it hinges on
a glistening fat suit, should be halted
in the name of creative integrity. Like
"Little Fockers" and "Saw nth" before
it, "Like Father, Like Son" is another
erosive blow to a slowly dying, margin-
ally amusing franchise. Somewhere, the
rightfully euthanized Mrs. Doubtfire -
though hardly the zeitgeist of cinema -
unsoundly turns over in her grave.

Daily Arts Writer
There's a reason listeners gobble
up Broken Social Scene and its uncon-
ventional fusion of strings and horns,
Grizzly Bear's mys-
tic, dreamlike vocals
and the surprisingly
understated instru- Asobi SekSU
mentals of Volcano
Choir: Experimental Fluorescence
bands keep the music polyvinyl
scene stimulating.
It's easy to be drawn
in by their inventiveness, which chal-
lenges mainstream music with eccentric
sounds and pushes expectations into
new territory. After all, when was the
last time someone listened to Animal
Collective without being hypnotized by
its offbeat melodies and effects?
Some experimental
bands are engaging.
Not this one.
Then there's Asobi Seksu. With
strange, fluttery female vocals and unfo-
cused instrumentals, the band's new
album, Fluorescence, has little in com-,
mon with most of music that pumps
though our speakers - but not necessar-
ily in a positive way.
The album starts promisingly with
"Coming Up" as drum beats and the
light, choppy vocals of Yuki Chikudate
fall gently against a stronger synthe-
sizer line. Guitars and male vocals soon
join, weaving together a diverse, irre-

sistibly upbeat song. It's an intoxicating
crescendo of sounds, trance-like and
delicate while underlined with firmer
electronic melodies.
This, however, is where the dream-
pop magic ends. While the layers of
"Coming Up" float effortlessly, the
rest of Fluorescence isn't as cohesive -
instead, it's clunky, scattered and just
doesn't make sense.
"Trails" is one of many unsuccessful
numbers, as its multiple elements strike
against each other awkwardly for the
length of the four-minute track. Fuzzy
guitars are covered by keyboards and
messy drum crashes, creating a clatter
of sounds instead of the smooth, intri-
cate ones heard at the beginning of the
album. It's an obnoxious, muddled mess
that generates more confusion than
actual enjoyment.
Matters are only made worse when
Chikudate begins to sing. Though she
clearly has a strongvoice, it is too strong
for the already chaotic tracks. She over-
whelms the songs with powerful notes
- both on- and off-key - and fails to
carry an actual melody at any point. As
See SEKSU, Page 6

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