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February 12, 2013 - Image 6

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The Michigan Daily, 2013-02-12

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6 - Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

6 - Tuesday, February 12, 2013 The Michigan Daily - michigandailycom

Eye-opening short

Sorrow seeps
through Oscar-
nominated films
DailyArts Writer
Albert Einstein, once said,
"Any fool can know. The point is
to understand." Good documen-
taries give us the opportunity to
do just that, experience life from
very different perspectives and
understand the depths of human
strength. As an upper-middle-
class, educated and healthy Uni-
versity student, I know that awful
things occur in the world. But
before watching the 2013 Oscar-
nominated short documentaries,
I never would've known what it's
like to be a homeless teenage art-
ist, an 85-year-old slowly accept-
ing the inevitability of death or
a mother diagnosed with breast
cancer facing the loss of her femi-
ninity and sense of beauty.
Now, I almostrunderstand. This
year the Michigan Theatre is air-
ing the five nominated documen-
taries in two parts, dividing up a
program that would have lasted
almost four hours.
"Part A" began with "Kings
Point," a film that looked at elder-
ly people (mainly former New
Yorkers) who live in a Florida
retirement community, where
they act cranky and play mah-
jong. Although the premise seems
amusing, the film shows the lone-
liness and disconnection that
comes with old age.
This film harshly contradicts
the image of old people living itup
Florida, so often perpetuated in
advertising. (Apparently, retire-
ment ain't one big ol' party, Taco
Bell.) Instead, growing old with-
out your loved ones can be dismal
and lonely. "Kings" eloquently
proves the fine line between inde-
pendence and solitude.
Perhaps in an attempt to emo-
tionally'wttndlt e entire theater,
"Mondays at Racine" followed
"Kings," a look at women with
aggressive cancer as they lose
their hair, and with it some sense

of their own womanhood. It
chroniclesCynthia and Rachel,
sister hairdressers in Long Island,
who reserve one day every month
to give free beauty care to these
cancer sufferers.
Cancer stories are unfortu-
nately common in our society,
but -rarely do we get to see the
real pain and loss cancer suffer-
ers feel - what we get are stoic,
strong individuals heroically ris-
ing above their pain. "Mondays at
Racine" finds tragic beauty in the
real breakdowns of these women,
and its effects strike a cord.
I fortunately am not close
to anyone who has had cancer,
but watching Cambria, a young
mother of two, shave her head
was nothing short of sorrowful.
She isn't defiant. She doesn't tout
the overdone power anthems of
cancer victims. She quietly cries,
accepting her loss in a way that
transcends the "normal" cancer
conventions. This film does just
that, cuts away cancer tropes to
identify the core emotion of these
"Part A" rounded out with "Ino-
cente," an intensely personal and
luminous look at a colorful, radi-
ant young artist (named Inocente),
who also happens to be homeless.
Her story is told through the can-
vasses of her fantastical and incan-
descent paintings.
This underdog tale is told with
careful fragility and weight,
focusing just as much on Ino-
cente's tragic past as her inspiring
future. The visuals are stunning,
contrasting the protagonist's
neon art and bright face with the
decrepit areas in which she is
forced to live. Tears are entirely
justified, as sas the resounding
applause that filled the audience
as Inocente's laughing face faded
from the screen.
"Part B" features two films,
"Redemption" and "Open Heart,"
both of which kept up with the
theme of showcasing the breadth
of human strength.
"Redemption" followed New
Yorkers (both native and immi-
grant) who, because of the econ-
omy and layoffs, are forced to
collect cans from the street in

order to make a living. The film
meanders, not identifying with
the canners until the second half,
when we see them all huddled
together at the redeemingsite - a
sad family of people better than
its current condition.
This film forces you to really
consider the value of money and
the useless things we buy. A two-
dollar cup of tea from Espresso
Royale is a bagful of 40 cans, an
hour of digging through gar-
bage. Though thought provok-
ing, "Redemption" is the bleakest
of the five, as it offers no hope of
improvement or any real redemp-
"Open Heart" seems the most
conventional of documentaries;
it follows Rwandan children as
they travel thousands of miles to
receive necessary heart surgeries.
Keywords: Africa, children, life-
threatening disease. But "Heart"
finds its own heart not in unfor-
tunate backstories, but in the sus-
penseful joy of discovering what
perils and successes follow these
endearing kids.
Thousands of kids in Africa are
diagnosed every year with rheu-
matic heart disease, an illness
that has' been eradicated from
most developed countries. Eight
of those afflicted'children are spe-
cifically chosen to fly 2,500 miles
from their villages in Rwanda to
the Salam Center in Sudan, the
only cardiovascular surgery hos-
pital on the continent.
There they undergo intensive
surgery, get a visit from Suda-
nese president (dictator) Omar
al-Bashir and easily win our
affections. "Open Heart" deftly
shows the pain that comes with
being a sick child and the harder
feelings of inadequacy being a
parent of that child, but it never
loses its hope or its joy.
These films are at times too
powerful; watching five heart-
breaking stories in succession
makes for an emotionally drain-
ing evening. However, they all
have something to say about the
human condition. These short
documentaries tell their messages
with simplicity and passion, so
that everyone can understand.


"She doesn't even go here.'
Foals fails to bring heat
on latest release ' Fire'

Online Arts Editor
When Foals released its 2008
debut, Antidotes, to much fan-
fare, NME's review tested the
Oxford quin-
tet's buzz-wor-
thiness with
four lessons on Holy Fire
"How To Deal Foals
With Hype."
The final les- Transgressive
son went some-
thing like this:
"Make a really good album but
not a great one. Alert everyone
to your potential but don't ful-
fill it." And while Antidotes aced
that test, its 2010 follow-up, Total
Life Forever, ditched the insidi-
ous droning for more compelling
melodies to great effect.
But with its latest release,
Holy Fire, Foals falls short of the
admittedly lofty benchmark set
by its preceding work. Where
Total Life Forever seized the jar-
ring intensity of Antidotes and
harnessed it brilliantly, Holy Fire
is sedated in nearly every aspect.

The encouraging "Prelude" and
"Inhaler" - among the album's
sole highlights - quickly give
way to a convoluted and confused
body of work.
When frontman Yannis
Philippakis mockingly chanted a
Lacoste advertising slogan ("Un
peu d'air sur la terre") on Anti-
dotes opener "The French Open,"
the criticism of commercial
society was evident. He dumbs.
it down on the radio-ready "My
Number," though, delivering
a toothless track that's catchy
but inane. In place of biting and
intelligent social commentary,
Philippakis blandly rambles
about naive love for the better
part of Holy Fire. The uninspired
lyricism on Holy Fire's weakest
moments further manifests itself
through uncharacteristically
lethargic guitar play. The urgen-
cy that once made Foals so capti-
vating is nowhere to be found.
Indeed, Holy Fire contains
far too many insipid moments
to make it a memorable record.
The melancholy introspection
of "Bad Habit" and the chill-


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RELEASE DATE- Tuesday, February 12, 2013

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ing "Late Night," while decent,
amount to little more than poor
imitations of their Total Life For-
ever predecessors. "Everytime"
lacks the unsettling, nervous
tenacity of previous Foals, which,
again, would be fine if it packed
any punch at all.
Perhaps this notable absence
of panache stems from a severely
restricted Jack Bevan, whose
drowsy drumming acts as a poor
replacement for his typically
complex and unrelenting percus-
sion. Instead of thetightly wound
pulsing of Antidotes or the robust
funk of Total Life Forever, we get
a dull and unmotivated collec-
tion of elementary beats. By the
closing track, "Moon," Bevan
is entirely absent. Foals under-
standably would want to tweak
its sound on the third album, but
abandoning perhaps its strongest
quality to date as a focal point is
as incomprehensible as it's inef-
Scottish band
loses emotional
Despite the genuine quality of
"Inhaler" and "Milk & Black Spi-
ders," neither track suffiiently
supports the rest of Holy Fire's
dead weight. The latter pairs
a haunting guitar and Bevan's
(finally!) pounding percussion
with Philippakis's reverberating
vocals to brilliantly capture the
emotive longing Holy Fire all-too-
infrequently taps into. Where the
scintillating "Inhaler" bruises
and bullies, bringing the Foals
way forward with menace, the
band expands laterally on"Milk &
Black Spiders," incorporating an
eerie synth and a distinguishably
darker vibe. Unfortunately, such
lateral growth occurs sparingly, if
at all, across the album.
Holy Fire's fatal problem,
though, is the glaring absence of
any cogent, cohesive identity. It
features unexciting, gushy love
songs with spritely pop-infused
hooks; more sorrowful accounts
of distant and lost love; even
blaring and clumsy grunge with
no intelligible theme. Conclud-
ing with its two softest songs
after its loudest and most clut-
tered merely highlights the
album's thematic, lyrical and
musical disunity throughout.
The single criticism direct-
ed at Foals's angular, bizarre
debut centered on its obdurate
rigidity and its inaccessibility.
The band artfully addressed
these concerns on its follow-up,
exchanging the atonal chant-
ing for a fuller but often more
withdrawn sound. Holy Fire
struggles to strike that balance,
often going for far too much or
far too little. It results in a spo-
radic effort at best, and a con-
fused, defensive step backward,
at worst. With a self-assured
lyrical and vocal composure,
Philippakis dropped the bark
but still maintained the vicious
bite of Foals' debut on Total Life
Forever. Holy Fire hardly even
amounts to a growl.



By Melanie Miler
(c)2013 Tribune Media Services, Inc.


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