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November 11, 2013 - Image 7

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The Michigan Daily, 2013-11-11

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The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

Monday, November 11, 2013 - 7A

The Michigan Daily - michigandailycom Monday, November 11, 2013 - 7A

James Blake talks
Overgrown' tour

Finally, we have a film
like '12 Years a Slave'

English artist the likes of Brian Eno, Justin
Vernon of Bon Iver and Wu-
discusses latest Tang Clan's RZA. In recent
years, especially on Overgrown,
musical ventures he has found the confidence
to thrust his voice toward the
By JOHN LYNCH forefront of his songs, placing
Senior Arts Editor his songwriting on par with his
established level of production.
On the front cover of James "I'm getting more and more
Blake's second album, Over- comfortable with (singing
grown, the English producer live)," Blake said. "I look back
and singer-songwriter stands to shows that we even did six
in the center of a snow-covered months ago and say, 'Oh, I
terrain, surrounded by an oth- could have done that better,'
erworldly, blue mist. Much and everyone wants to improve
like that mist, Blake's music themselves. But I'm trying to
is enveloping and ethereal, an make it natural and also take
inventive mix of synthesizer, out all the things that might
piano and crooning vocals that stop me from being able to be
strikes as poignantly in a live natural and good at the same
setting as it does through a pair time. So, cutting out a few
of headphones. things, like trying not to drink
On Monday, Blake will bring too much and stuff like that,
his North American tour to but still trying to have fun."
Ann Arbor for a performance at With an already diverse cat-
Michigan Theater, which will alog of music to play live, Blake
feature a diverse setlist with continues to explore a vari-
material from Overgrown, as ety of musical styles, and his
well as songs from his self-titled approach to song-making var-
debut album and earlier EPs. ies according to where exactly
in between shows in Los he's recording.
Angeles late last month, Blake "If I'm at home, I'll go in
sat down for a phone interview with some lyrics and try to sing
with The Michigan Daily to them and put some chords to
discuss his recent works and them, wrap them up in a blan-
examine the role that environ- ket of sounds that might make
ment plays in the creation and them seem more interesting,"
consumption of music. Though Blake said. "And when I'm
his music is more commercial- away from home, I mostly start
ly successful in the UK, Blake experimenting with samples
feels that Americans have an and beats, and that's how a lot
apt appreciation of his music of the time I come up with the
and finds great worth in their 'Harmonimix'-type sound or
reception of his work. maybe remixes or things like
"I grew up with American that."
music and, therefore, to come to The live performance that
America and play my music feels Blake will to bring to Ann
culturally important," Blake Arbor looks to balance both of
said. "It makes sense that when these approaches. Differenti-
I go to Atlanta - and I grew up ating his set from any other in
listening to Outkast - it makes music, Blake and his live band
sense that I would want to go shift seamlessly from pound-
and play in that area." ing, EDM-style music to piano
A classically trained pianist, ballads, to layers of peaceful
Blake has covered Joni Mitch- synth.
ell and Feist and worked with "We've got quite a few dif-

ferent moments in our set; it's
not always one thing," Blake
said. "It's not always dance-y,
it's not always sentimental, it's
not always quiet. I think we try
not to push and pull people too
much. We want to give peoplea
while where they can feel like
they're not just surrounded by
bass the whole time.
"If you go to a club tonight,
eventually you will inevitably
get bored of hearing every-
thing building up (to this) ...
tension-and-release thing that
is actually very predictable. If
you really wanted to make the
impact as fresh every time,
then maybe don't do the same
thing over and over again. But
that's the kind of ethos I have
with the show, to try and give
people a certain amount of time
in each space. To me, when I
look out and see people danc-
ing to 'Voyeur' and then stand-
ing still and maybe looking off
in the distance when we play
'Lindisfarne', I love the differ-
ent moods and transitioning
between them."
Nonetheless, Overgrown is
the culmination of all of Blake's
artistic endeavors - a compel-
ling record that manages to
strike a newfound sentimental
chord with songs like "Retro-
grade." It's a surreal collection
of tracks that seemingly tran-
scends space and time while
still feeling undeniably enjoy-
able in any listening setting.
When asked how he would
hypothetically prefer to have a
person listen to Overgrown for
the first time, though, Blake
playfully described an elabo-
rate, English-centric scenario:
"I'd put them at the back of
the N29 bus from Wood Green
to Enfield Town," Blake said,
"and they'd be listening to it on
an iPhone with no headphones,
just through the iPhone speak-
ers. And it'd be a packed bus, so
they'd be obnoxiously playing
my album through it."

No one stood. As the
screen cut to a con-
clusive black and the
credits rolled, we stirred uncom-
fortably in our seats. Our eyes
sank toward

a pair of still
knees, and
though our
breaths were
steady, shak-
ing hands
pressed away
the tears.
The applause
never came.
In those


brief moments of just sitting
there, letting the finality sink
in - in the pause before we'd
get up and walk back into
our lives - no one wanted to
acknowledge what they had
just seen. This wasn't a trip
to the movie theater; it was a
front-row seat to that infamous
break in humanity, smeared in
history, one we've spent cen-
turies trying to forget. It took
a digital projector and a life-
less cinema hall seat to make
us remember, but there was
beauty in that.
The applause never came
because we didn't want to
In the week since "12 Years a
Slave" debuted at the Michigan
Theater, we've all heard the
exclamations of award-worthy
brilliance, decade-defining
cinematic quality and unvary-
ingly stirring acting. Every
review has been a gushing tes-
tament to how director Steve
McQueen's masterpiece per-
fectly gives voice to a forgotten
era. According to any worth-
while Oscar pundit, the race for
the golden statuettes is already
over, the time finally here for
a Black man to be deemed Best
Director by the Academy.
But here's the thing: This
movie is more than just a con-
sequence of the yearly exercise
in picking the best. It's accu-
rate - the most unyielding
depiction of the horrors of
slavery we've seen released
in this medium, and it doesn't
sympathize. It draws a clear
line between right and wrong,
and in doing so, sets itself apart
from many of the other pieces
of cinema that have tried to
tackle the same subject matter.
Most movies that attempt
to categorize race into two
hours do it by exalting white-
ness: A person of color gets into
trouble, usually attributable to
a lack of restraint, and a Cau-

to bail t
dest pa
who sti
ries of 9
dead in
"go bac
- had n
that Af
about p
the Civ
I did
the onl
tion in
the mos
of whit
Blind S
when I
most do
since "J
made it
ple coul
on the c
white o
I did
Not b
films I
of the s
about r
Blind Si
they ca
to the r
enjoys f
"12 Y
you wit
the end
of how
to face(
the con
laid out

male is generous enough dehumanizing them to the
:hem out. Yet the sad- point that they're asked and
rt is how no one notices willing to forget their own
ag is wrong. Even I - an names. Yet the most nuanced
American immigrant verification of the film's bril-
ill has childhood memo- liance is how effectively it not
9-year-olds looking me just enlivens, but anchors that
the eye as they said, viciousness to a particular way
k where you came from" of life. Slaves are displayed
to issue with the fact nude, like furniture for sale in
rican Americans are a homey, white-washed set-
tely forgotten in "Cold ting. Rich, white couples stroll
ain," a film supposedly around casually, leaning in on
ersonal trials caused by occasion to inspect particular
ii War. "specimens," stripped of their
n't shake my head when clothing, that may make worth-
y real source of resolu- while investments.
"The Help" became The film pokes harsh fun at
st beat-down aspects the docility of its predecessors,
e saviorism since "The transitioning fluidly between
ide." I didn't bat an eye that sense of comfortable
watched "Gone with the domesticity to torrents of cru-
showcase slavery in the elty. Minutes after Paul Gia-
cile manner I'd seen matti's character, a slave trader,
rezebel." Both movies finishes showing off his newest
look like the Black peo- "property" arrivals to poten-
ldn't mind toiling away tial buyers, McQueen hits us
cotton fields, waiting for with a violently detailed scene
of approval from their in which amother is yanked
verseers. away, screaming, from her two
children. Before long, we're
listening to someone playing a
hough it's violin and the sense of hysteria
has disappeared. Everything
erved, don't registers because of that cru-
cial transition, the normalcy of
ect applause it all.
The film boasts multiple
it the end. scenes of heartbreaking beauty,
interspersed with wistful
shots of classically Southeast-
ern United States, but the one
n't even notice. that perfectly summarizes its
ecause the last two relevance is of a slave funeral.
just mentioned are con- A man is being buried after
classics and beyond collapsing from overwork in
h, but because so many a cotton field. As his compan-
tories we choose to tell ions gather around and finish
ace marginalize the per- saying their cursory prayers,
es of the colored people one starts singing "Roll Jor-
d. Even "true" stories dan Roll." The weight of the
d in fare such as "The gospel visibly ripples through
ide" and "The Help" are the gathering. People pause,
d to be retold because reflect, but soon they're all
n be shoehorned into singing, praying, leaning on
ing that basic, ugly each other in their pain. It's a
ity of "white people cathartic moment, watching
escue." Why? No one these strangers brought togeth-
feeling needlessly guilty, er through anguish, celebrating
illy at the movies. their own humanity.
ears a Slave" is not an "12 Years a Slave" is a wave
tle movie. It strangles of that humanity. It crushes
h its honesty and, by you. It forces you to look evil
, becomes a brutal test in the face. Don't look away,
able we are, not just as because when the credits roll,
oers, but as Americans, you won't applaud. You'll think
evil truths, festering in about half a century of mis-
fines of history, finally representation. And you'll say
clearly before us. "finally."

Small-town joys in 'Nebraska'

For the Daily
"Nebraska," directed by Alex-
ander Payne ("The Descen-
dants"), feels like coming home.
Among all the chaos within and
around the universe, it seems to
say there will always be the father
and the son, driving along a wide,
open road, side by side watching
the asphalt tip into the horizon.
Payne shrinks
our universe A
to include only
these two and Nebraska
the scruff that
small town At the
America offers, Michigan
but the scenes Paramount
are familiar
to any viewer, Vantage
tinged with
nostalgia the way a fresh apple
pie set on a windowsill is.
Woody Grant (Bruce Dern,
"Django Unchained"), a cantan-,
kerous alcoholic, receives a letter
claiming he's the million-dollar
winner of Mega Sweepstakes
Marketing. He wrangles his sigh-
ing and head-shaking son David
(Will Forte, "Life of Crime")
into a Montana-Nebraska road
trip to collect his winnings, Don
Quixote-style. It's a journey to
top off a life. There's a scene,
right before the trip, where we
see Woody lying in a flea-bitten
couch, every line on his face vis-
ible in the film's monochrome
lensing. He almost becomes the
couch with the way he's sunk into
it, and the audience realizes this
is a man who needs purpose as
his life slowly curtains.
The trip is beautifully shot in
black and white. Their car rattles
along the infinity vistas of the
Midwest - plains stretching left
and right and flat tongues of roads
guiding the way - before making
a pit stop in Woody's hometown
Hawthorne. There, word quickly
spreads of his new affluence. He's
the man of the hour. A little boy
squeaks by on a bike to take his

:e privilege reigns
e. It dictates every little
ment in the plot and
the slaves beneath,

Seth is actually noticing
things. To congratulate him,
e-mail akse@umich.edu.

Back to the Future IV.
picture for the local paper. Every Toward the end, Woody
Hawthorne citizen goes out of his reveals his ultimate motive. With
way to shake his hand, ask how the same vaguely offended tone
he's been, and congratulate him. he uses throughout the movie, at
"What are you going to buy first comical and later tragic, he
with that mill-yun dollars, says to his son David, "I wanted
Woody?" to leave something for you boys."
He's been a piss-poor drunk of a
father, and his son, reflecting on
the fact, only chauffeurs him to
Nebraska to humor his obstinate
gold again w ith will. No one quite takes Woody
seriously - not even the audi-
latest film. ence. Once he springs upon David
this confession, however, the
truck comes into significance.
Out of anything he could buy for
"A new truck," he replies each himself, he only asks for atruck, a
time with a perpetual frown. way to move on his own. The rest
Several family members and of the lottery money, in a feeble
so-called friends also come out of attempt to atone, is for his boys.
the woodwork for their share of Dern's acting is heartbreaking.
the money. The sleazy mooching At once frail and exasperating,
isn't much of a plot, but it bares he creates a character who puts
the heart of small town Ameri- all his faith into righting his path
ca, those places that have been before it runs out. By the end of
reduced to pit stops and memory. the movie, the audience, too, has
These are people descending into put all their faith into the charac-
their proverbial couch, stagnant ter. We're with Woody and David
and dusty. To them, Woody rep- in the car as they pull away from
resents what's beyond the hori- Hawthorne, praying at the edge
zon. They elevate him to a beacon of our seats for those sweepstakes
of hope. His dream becomes their to be genuine. "Nebraska" is an
dream. ode to the windmill dream.

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