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April 11, 2011 - Image 7

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The Michigan Daily, 2011-04-11

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0 7A - Monday, April 11, 2011

The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

7A - Monday, April 11, 2011 The Michigan Daily - michigandailycom

Any art can
bejust fine'
t's a problem that all col- considered pretentious. Within
umnists face when dead- film, there are blockbuster
line nears - what the hell action movies and super avant-
am Igoing to write about this garde films. Within music,
time? This conundrum hit me there are pop albums and indie
like a train to-fi self-releases. There are ele-
two nights ments of fine arts incorporated
ago when I into popular entertainment and
sat down to elements that only exist in clas-
compose my sical concert halls. "Film" and
last fine arts "music" don't have monolithic
column hav- identities - gradation is inher-
ing no idea ent in the terms. The category
what I want- LEAH of fine arts deserves that same
ed to say BURGIN distinction.
as my "last The fine arts really do per-
hurrah." vade our everyday life. They
As I've already written over appear in films like "Indiana
10,000 words on the topic of Jones," "The Royal Tenen-
fine arts since the beginning baums" - remember, Ethel is an
of the school year, I believed I archaeologist - and even "Julie
had sufficiently exhausted my & Julia," as Julie's husband in
soapbox. an editor for Archaeology mag-
Lost, panicked and scram- azine, which is a real magazine
bling for an idea, I turned to my in real life that I subscribe to.
boyfriend (who has read each of No big deal.
my columns semi-voluntarily). And there's more. Every time
He suggested I write about you choose to study in the Law
"Indiana Jones," as we had just Library or the Graduate Library
settled on "The Last Crusade" Reference Room and notice how
as our movie-night pick for that "pretty" it is, you're appreciat-
evening. My first reaction was ing classical architecture and
sighing and thinking, "Thanks, the decorative arts, both fine
but that's not fine arts. I can't arts. Every time you watch
write about it." "America's Next Top Model" or
"Project Runway," you're being
inspired by the world of high
Is 'Julie & Julia' fashion, which is also a fine art.
Every time you pass by the Uni-
one f te fner versity of Michigan's Museum
one of the finer of Art and peer into the window
things in art? at the weird things in the Proj-
ect Gallery or sit in the UMMA
Cafe to work on assignments,
you're interacting with visual
But then it hit me - "Indi- art, an undeniable fine art. And
ana Jones" can be discussed every time you laugh out loud
in terms of fine arts. Because, while watching StarKid's "A
duh, Indiana and his father are Very Potter Musical" or belt
crazy-awesome (if quite unre- along with the soundtrack for
alistic) archaeologists who deal "Wicked," you're being enter-
with ancient objects of fine art tained by the magic of theater,
on, what seems, a daily basis. yet another fine art.
This is, admittedly, only a part I love the theater. I love
of the archaeology spectrum - architecture. I love museums. I
not every find includes ancient love literature. Fashion ... is OK.
" objects of fine art. But, I mean, My guess is that most people
the Holy Grail? That item would who shy away from events
definitely be considered an art labeled as "fine arts" avoid them
object of high craftsmanship precisely because of the con-
and value, perfect for the col- notations that come with the
lection of the University's own label, without considering that
Kelsey Museum of Archaeology. they, like me, probably love a lot
So why was my gut reaction so of things that are fine arts. The
negative? Why did I immedi- fine arts are not just something
ately dismiss one of my favorite for stuffy old people who smell
movies as viable fodder for my weird - they're for everyone.
column? So, if you're devastated
It's because of the connota- because you will no longer be
tions associated with fine arts. able to get a biweekly perspec-
Fine arts. The term reeks of tive on fine arts from yours
pretentiousness. It screams truly, never fear! You can get
exclusivity. It alienates and, in your fine arts fix in so many dif-
the end, fluffs up a confusing ferent ways. One of my favorite
cloud of obscurity around inter- outlets is ArtDaily.org, the self-
ests that are very near and dear proclaimed "first art newspaper
to my heart. I couldn't even on the net." Through ArtDaily,
consider a major motion picture I receive daily e-mails featur-
about archaeology on the same ing 20 topical art-world stories,
level as the fine arts. That's ranging from gallery openings to
how, unfortunately, pervasive what sold for how much at what
this connotation is. auction to news about specific
True - some things under artists and museum profession-
the fine arts umbrella are, als. It's a great (did I mention
inherently, highfalutin. Not free?) way to stay in touch with
everyone appreciates sopranos the fine arts world, no hassle.

screaming in Italian or classical But for those who may find
music that goes on and on for ArtDaily a little to close to the
forever. I certainly can't appre- pretentious end of the fine arts
ciate it, even though I grew up spectrum, all you have to do is
with opera seemingly constantly look around. I'm sure you'll find
in the house (thanks for that the fine arts.
Mom) and took classical piano
lessons for 12 years. Burgin herself is a fine art.
But that doesn't mean the To learn how this is possible,
fine arts, as a whole, have to be e-mail Irburgin@umich.edu.
KICKING ASS AND
TAKING NAMES?
YEAH, THAT'S
BASICALLY DAILY ARTS
REPORTING.
E-mail join.arts@umich.edu for
information on applying.

In remembrance of Lumet

The man behind '12 Angry Men' and
'Network' passed away last weekend
By Imran Syed I Daily Arts Writer

Sidney Lumet's films never
sat right. That's probably why he
never won an Academy Award,
but the world is richer for it. Like
those great artists whose signifi-
cance wasn't fully appreciated
until after their death, Lumet,
who passed away Saturday at the
age of 86, leaves behind a deep,
rich legacy that will resonate for
decades.
Be it classics like "Dog Day
Afternoon" and "Network" or
lesser-known works like "The
Pawnbroker" and the recent
"Before the Devil Knows You're
Dead," Lumet seemingly took
pride in rough edges, spiraling
conflicts and imprecise out-
comes. Few, if any, of his films
felt smooth and complete. A
master artist content to leave
undone those parts of his story
that real life would leave empty
as well, Lumet created a dis-
comfiting brand of drama that
allowed even his fictional works
to resonate as reality.
Three profound cases in point
are "12 Angry Men," "Network"
and "The Verdict." All three may
appear at times contrived and
far-fetched to the casual viewer,
but they were epically prescient.
Practitioners in the legal, jour-
nalism and medical profes-
sions routinely cite those three
films (respectively) as veritably
incisive and influential: U.S.

Supreme Court Justice Sonia
Sotomayor has spoken of being
inspired by "12 Angry Men," and
there's hardly a news anchor or
commentator in America who
hasn't seen and doesn't con-
stantly quote "Network."
Along with Robert Altman,
Lumet was perhaps the greatest
American director to never win
an Academy Award (though he
was awarded an Honorary Oscar
in 2006). Even aside from that, a
comparison to great contempo-
raries like Martin Scorsese, Ste-
ven Spielberg or Woody Allen is
simply going to be off the mark
because Lumet never tried or
wanted to make films that way.
While Spielberg poured hun-
dreds of millions into CGI pro-
ductions and Scorsese and Allen
rehashed their tried-and-true
formulas a million times over,
Lumet was constantly on the
search for new conflicts and sto-
ries to understand, weave and
convey. The result wasn't always
perfect - indeed, there were
several downright bad films -
but it was always a fresh product
and an ambitious production.
While he became known
for his love for the courtroom
drama, no two of Lumet's mov-
ies are even remotely similar in
execution. Thematically, they
may all share his fascination
with human fallacy and hypoc-

MICHEL SPINGLER/AF
Sidney Lumet at a screening of his movie "Before the Devil Knows You're Dead."

risy, but never did Lumet tell
the same story twice. Wheth-
er working from a screenplay
based on real events ("Serpico")
or classic fiction ("Murder on
the Orient Express"), Lumet
brought energy, inspiration and
a willingness to try something
new.
At 83, he made his final film,
released in 2007. In many ways,
"Before the Devil Knows You're
Dead" was also his most com-
plicated film - juggling mul-
tiple viewpoints and timelines
to tell a sickening story of fam-
ily conflict. It was Lumet at his
finest, not only for the themes

explored, but also because he
had found a new challenge and
executed it perfectly, at an age
when most would be content to
sit back and reminisce upon a
remarkable career.
Having left behind at least five
or six films that will be consid-
ered true classics, and a sizable
lifetime canon that speaks to
his commitment to the captur-
ing the changing face of reality,
even in fiction, Lumet's place
among the greatest of all time
is unquestionable. Just watch
"Night Falls on Manhattan" or
"Prince of the City." I'm sure you
will agree.

'Your Highness' is too lowbrow

By STEPHEN OSTROWSKI
Deputy Magazine Editor
Unpleasant to the eye, ear and
stomach, David Gordon Green's
medieval stoner romp, "Your
Highness," is
yet another *
slice of Hol-
lywood his- Your
torical cheese Highness
less aromatic 1
of the cun- At Quality 16
ning "Monty and Rave
Python" fran-
chise and more Universal
so of the Jack
Black/Michael Cera Hindenburg
that was "Year One."
"Pineapple Express" alums
James Franco ("127 Hours") and
Jheri-curled Danny McBride
("Due Date") are brothers Fabious
and Thadeous, respectively, with
Thadeous the fatter, lazier and
perma-stoned-er foil to his brave
and much-adulated older brother.
But, when evil sorcerer Lee-
zar (Justin Theroux, TV's "Parks
and Recreation") kidnaps Fabi-
ous's bride-to-be, Belladonna
(Zooey Deschanel, "(500) Days
of Summer") - subsequently dis-
mantling the ultimate medieval
hipster power couple - Thad-
eous is begrudgingly forced to
team up with big bro on a quest
to retrieve her. Along the way, the
brothers meet Xena-reincarnate
Isabel (Natalie Portman, "Black
Swan") who, sharing similar sor-
cerer-slaying ambitions,joins the
THC-laced ride.
... And those
who can't host
the Oscars,
act.
Disengaging from start to fin-
ish, "Your Highness" is a bum-
bling footrace hampered by flat
acting, an unearthly assault of
masturbation gags (that's so
Chaucer!) and spats of gratuitous
nudity. Despite being visibly
more animated than his mor-
tician-like turn as Oscars host,
Franco's omnipresent sheepish
grin and forced British accent
convey a strained performance
(that, or being supremely elevat-
ed out of one's gourd).
Equally disappointing is the

underuse of Deschanel, whose
minimal screen time is a disser-
vice to the charming actress. And
while Portman does not tank, it is
unfortunate that the regal star-
let would pirouette into a campy
medieval flick. Though their
every film need not be an awards
season darling, one would expect
promising upstarts like Franco
and Portman to more wisely
choose their roles - preferably
not the lowbrow scraps that are
best left unproduced.
Instead it is McBride - whose
grimy Kenny Powers charac-
ter on HBO's "Eastbound and
Down" has usurped Jeff Fox-
worthy and co. as popular cul-
ture's redneck-of-the-moment
- who is left to anchor the film.
To his credit, he nails perfectly
the deadpan, finger-to-the- "Danny, don't do that in public.
world delivery that abrasively
begged laughs in 2006's cultish
"The Foot Fist Way." Compleg
menting McBride's Thadeous $V
is his bowl-cut befitted lackey
Courtney (Rasmus Hardiker, +LSAT
"I Want Candy"), frequently
the subject of his master's well-+ R
timed verbal riffs that help
brew a largely absent comedic +GM AT
chemistry between characters.
But McBride's gross-out A
jokes - physically manifested
by the unsightly Minotaur 800-2Review
penis he wears around his neck
- quickly tire, as does the irony
of juxtaposingF-bombs in anti-
quated medieval tongue. And p
when the lead's comedic vitriol
wears thin, Green's fantasti-
cal oddities are unsuccessfully
left flailing for chuckles: Chief
among these is a pipe-ripping,
"wise wizard" anthropomor-
phic creature who demands,
uh, licentious favors from his 2 9
visitors in a scene more irk-
some than it is amusing. Q}
Cut to its core, "Your High-
ness" is reminiscent of Green's
"Pineapple Express" template 3 1
(misfit characters banding
together to defeat a formidable
power) flimsily disguised in
chainmail - except this peace-
pipe treatment of the Middle 9
Ages grossly misses the mark.
Sure, it's over-quoted and end- -1 8 3
lessly recycled, but the satirical
Terry Gilliam-led "Holy Grail"
crew of the seventies has never
looked so refreshing - "It's
just a flesh wound!" the film's 6 9 8
Black Knight famously claims.
For Franco, McBride and Port-
man, "Your Highness" is a
much deeper gash.

man

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