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October 08, 2014 - Image 7

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The Michigan Daily, 2014-10-08

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The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

Wednesday, October 8, 2014 - 7A

Hip deep in that Pepto.


Childish returns
with new tap e, P


culty gi
an ou
of c
ble i
as a h
his pe
the pa
and ly
net, sp

nald Glover takes he attracts both sides of the spec-
trum: the greatest fans and the
ous turn on 'STN vehement critics. His newest cre-
ation, released unexpectedly last
MTN/Kauai' Thursday, is a very good example
of Gambino's creatively eccentric
ByAMELIA ZAK rap music. Reassuming his Child-
Daily Arts Writer ish Gambino identity, Glover took
some time away from his many
ald Glover must have diffi- other creative engagements -
generating respect from his screenwriter, actor and recent
d peers. Why exactly is he author - to create what he likes
ered to call "the first concept mixtape
tsider? B+ ever." The conceptual uniqueness
by the of the mixtape, especially for this
variety STN MTN/ genre, is undeniable.
reative The mixtape, titled STN MTN/
ses, Kauai, is, according to Gambi-
's dou- Childish Gambino no, "connected" and transitions
dentity into the simultaneously released
ip-hp nd Glassnote extended play, Kauai. Both carry
is tar- Entertainment similarities to his 2013 Because the
; he Internet album, but the mixtape
ly and EP are very conceptually and
Kendrick and Drake regu- sonically different. Named after
he records exclusively on his Georgia suburbhometown, the
labels, etc. Unsurprisingly, Gangsta Grillz mixtape is pretty
rsonal shout-out in Tina great. Eclectic but thoughtful,
award-winning autobiog- Gambino rhymes over samples
or his cameo on Lena Dun- of some ATL-bred hits, including
"Girls" leave much to be "Southern Hospitality," "Move
d in the rap world. In the That Dope" and "Money Baby," as
t of that world, Childish well as Lil Wayne's "Go DJ" and
noisthe annoyingkid atthe Timbaland & Magoo's "All Y'all."
who always whips out his His raps reflect on his youth, like
on the eighth track of the tape,
ver recognizes his status as "U Don't Have. To Call," when he
riah of rap music. The music 'intimately describes his experi-
rics of his 2013 full-length ences with the foster care system.
album, Because the Inter- "Dreams/ Southern Hospitality/
peak intensely, and exces- Partna Dem," the opening track
about the influence of his of the mixtape, describes all the
or "haters." Because of the changes he would hypothetically
nature of Glover's sound, make if he were mayor of Atlanta.

He spends muchofthe tape reiter-
atinghis Southernidentity,alayer
ofGloverthat is usuallyignored or
unseen bymany.
Glover described the second-
ary part of his newest release,
the EP titled Kauai, as a musical
interpretation of him "walking
into a dream." Gambino the rap-
per becomes more a soul singer;
on the opening track, "Sober,"
Gambino's voice is cool, light and
is oddly akin to Michael Jackson.
Lost nights on Hawaiian beaches
is a repeated situationaltheme for
most of the EP, as are the spoken
raps of the Fresh Prince's eldest,
Justin Bieber-approved Jaden
Smith. This addition is radical,
but the spoken poetry isn't half
bad. Childish Gambino's, raps,
once again, are complex and force
his true listener to contemplate or
at least consider their meaning.
He isn't focusing on the aesthet-
ics of some girl at the club or car
door physics. Instead, he issimply
presenting his audience, through
music, with a personal experience
that relates to a larger, more criti-
cal topic.
The differences on this dou-
ble release are stark, with great
variations in locationpssound and
attitude on both. Themixtape
takes you through thesuburbs
of Atlanta and the EP walks on a
the Smith family dynasty. On the
mixtape, the music is angry; on
the EP, it's calm and content. The
two are so clearly juxtaposed, and
so it becomes clear that Gambino
is always better whenhe's madder.

My cinematic Judaism

DailyArts Writer
When I was younger, I never
survive the hellfire of adolescence
and puberty. My parents forced
Judaism upon me. They made me
attend worship services at syna-
gogue, take Hebrew school class-
es, have a bar mitzvah and all the
rest. I hated almost all of it, except
for the bar mitzvah loot, of course.
So, when hair sprouted from my
scrotum and the teenage rebellion
commenced, I tried very hard to
sever ties with Judaism: I refused
to attend services, declared my
atheism and chose not to partici-
pate in many Jewish traditions.
But the rebellion failed. See, my*
rebellion against Judaism focused
almost entirely on religious Juda-
ism; Ifailed to account for Judaism
as a culture, particularly Jewish
cinema. To simplify the story, my
mom was the one trying to raise
me Jewish religiously, whereas my
dad was the one trying to raise me
Jewish cinematically. Of course,
Dad didn't think about it like that,
and consequently neither did I,
which was probably why his way
was more effective; becoming
Jewish through film was cooler,
less "in-your-face" and overall
more enjoyable.
By age seven, Dad had my
younger brother Noah and I
watching Woody Allen's early
comedies - films like "Take the
Money and Run," "Sleeper" and
"Love and Death." There was no
way 7-year-old me understood
the gist of what was happening
in those films - plot-wise and
meaning-wise - but nonetheless
they shaped my development. For
example, in middle school, when I
was neither the most athletic nor

Modern Family.
'Transparent' a study
in indentity, discovery,

Jeffrey Tambor stars
inAmazon Prime
trans-gender drama
DailyArts Writer
In recent years, character
likeability is a debate that's
taken on heated and ethical
from both
magazine Transparent
declared Amazon Prime
this the Streaming
age of the
TV auteur, and to ask for
likeable protagonists seems
akin to asking for laugh tracks
back or no nudity. It signals
you're unsophisticated,
maybe prudish. It's easy
to justify Walter White
because he's so far removed
from an everyday selfish
person. But in Jill Soloway's
"Transparent," the lens is a
little closer to home - which
makes the characters equal
parts heartbreaking and
redeemable, by the skin of
their deft characterization
and acting.
With light-washed
cinematography that casts
the show under its signature
elegiac gaze, we're introduced
to the Pfeffermans, a secular
Los Angeles Jewish family.
At its center is Mort/Maura
(Jeffrey Tambor, "Arrested
Development"), a retired
professor who reveals her
identity as a trans woman in
the stages of single, senior
life. The first episodes of
"Transparent" are tasked with
Maura's (ne Mort's) attempts
to breach the gap between her
identity and the world, which
most substantially consists of
her three children. The gap
between self and world is a
recurring theme that connects
the Pfeffermans: all are
struggling to fit their inward
identities into a jagged,
sometimes uncomprehending
outside. But as wise Maura
notes, part of that is because
they lack the ability to see
beyond themselves.
Together, the Pfeffermans
have rich and warm chemistry.
In a pilot scene that evokes
"Annie Hall" 's Easter dinner,
the camera restlessly circles
around the dining table with
Pfefferman chatter trickling
(actually, flooding might be a
more accurate word) in from
all edges. Soloway, especially
in the family scenes, has a
knack for taking the pulse of
Jewish identity and writing it
in with all its idiosyncrasy. It
also makes for some perfect
comic beats: "We come from
Shtetl people, your Grandma
Rose actually ate lettuce with
her bare hands," Maura says,
a gory slash of barbeque sauce
on her cheek.
For all their loving
familiarity, "Transparent"
's cast is equally self-
centered, though the show

neither moralizes nor

sentimentalizes. Rather,
it watches the characters
under a nonjudgmental gaze,
not unlike Maura's. Her
children are difficult and
good by different notes, and
we come to understand them
through a distinctly parental
survey. There is Sarah (Amy
Lendecker, "A Serious Man"),
a suburban mother whose
self-assured fagade belies a
fundamental uncertainty of
her life; she's married to a
Len (Rob Huebel, "Human
Giant"), whose name explains
everything there is to know
about him. When old college
flame, Tammy (Melora
Hardin, "The Office"),
re-enters ina haze of pantsuit-
rocking, aviator-wearing.
cool with a career as an
interior decorator ("designer,
actually," Tammy interjects),
we practically see a lightbulb
go off above Sarah's head.
Sarah's attraction to Tammy
represents a complex sexual
identity, but also yearning for
Tammy's iron-grip seize on
life. Ina telling scene with
Len,' Sarah asks if Tammy
and her kids can come over
for a play-date. Len responds
with the verbal equivalent of a
shrug at her sexual identity: "I
love lesbians." We learn Sarah
has a habit of harnessingthese
passive discontents until
they tumble into big, abrupt
changes. Almost immediately
as her affair begins with
Tammy, Len is swept out
of the picture. These rapid
narrative beats mirror Sarah's
own sudden decision-making:
she picks up one life and
plunks it into another.
Part of "Transparent"
's strength in capturing
queer identity is that it isn't
attempting to suggest the
universal; it's concerned
with particular character
studies. Sarah and Tammy
in no way' represent the
entire gay community, just as
Maura isn't a spokesperson
for the trans one. Because
of this, "Transparent" gives
the characters room to
breathe outside of impossible
obligations to perfectly define
an entire group.
"Transparent" also takes
the modernviewthatsexuality
is tangled amid gender and
sex, but that doesn't mean
it's all a homogenous knot.
Take the terminally drifting
Ali, played by lovely Gaby
Hoffman ("Girls"), who can't
seem to get unstuck from her
own patterns. Both Hoffman
and Carrie Brownstein
("Portandia"), who plays
her best friend Syd, gained
their acting chops from
playing quirky character
roles, and in "Transparent,"
they flesh those characters
out with adjoining crevices
and shadows. Hoffman
plays Ali with a precocious
intelligence, even as a thirty-
something year-old. In every
scene she's in, Ali imparts
a melancholic quality that
will feel achingly familiar to
every viewer who's dealt with
depression. She is also the

most 'queer' of the Pfefferman

children, in how she moves
between identities freely and
uninhibitedly. Throughout
Ali's various relationships,
'the edge of her undirected
intelligence damages most
often. In one scene, she
swiftly dismantles a sexual
relationship with two male
friends by suggesting they're
gay. She's high, thJ'r high,
it might be true, but we get
the sense that Ali isn't new
to these situations. Her self-
destructiveness is a growth
of her intellect and talent -
her potential nervously hangs
over Ali's constant wheel-
What Ali lacks in self-
awareness, Josh, the sole
brother played by indie
darling Jay Duplass ("The
Mindy Project"), renders with
hyper image-consciousness.
He's the successful kid with a
high-paying job iri n'ii, the
hot band girlfriend (in a band
named Glitterish, go figure)
and tltehouse to go with it.
But healso has the childhood
babysitter with whom he
has a disturbing sexual
relationship that's bred a host
of problems. However, by epd
of season Josh has moved the
most of the children, even
miraculously self-actualized
a little.
Josh's storyline also
serves as one of the many
entrances into the origins
of the Pfefferman family
dysfunction. Through
flashback, we learn Shelly
(Judith Light, "Law and
Order: SVU") and Mort were
too entrenched in marital
problems to be the parents
the Pfeffermans needed. In
present day, Maura's quiet
grace radiates on screen,
and how she tolerates her
children is almost saint-like.
The mostly judicial use of
flashback fills in how her
composure was formed. In a
way, the flashbacks cast the
young parents of the same
type as their present-day
children: richly hewed but
Tambor brings masterful
sophistication to his
portrayal. of Maura. Seeing
her integrate who she always
was into the rest of her life is
educating, never preachy, her
navigation of a world which
prefers to neatly- bifurcate
people, like using the lady's
restroom or bumping into
an old colleague, executed
exquisitely. We never worry
about Maura, and in every
episode we see her come
more into herself. The show
is centered around Maura,
but she acts as a springboard
for the rest of the Pfefferman
family where the real turmoil
lies. "Transparent" takes the
asymmetrical form of many
shows today with its loose
plotting and natural dialogue.
Its quietness doesn't hinder
its power, and watching
the show in its entirety, it's
hard not to feel emotionally
overwhelmed at times. Pace
yourself=ith "Transparent"
and marvel over its detail -

this show stands up to it.


"You looooove mother Russia, don't you?!"

the most confident and was strug-
gling to figure out how to talk to
girls, I fell back on what I learned
from Woody Allen films - how
wit, humor and intellect could be
used flirtatiously. And when those
tactics failed, the leftover wit and
humor could be used as coping
mechanisms. Humor, I would
argue, is the Jewish people's quint-
essential coping mechanism: With
six million of our people dead,hav-
all but necessary for maintaining
sanity. With Hollywood on the
rise, Jewish humor finds an outlet
that's popular and profitable.
In "The Gay Science,"Frederick
Nietzsche famously declared that
God is dead, but that His shad-
ow would continue to flicker on
our cave walls for a while before
finally vanishing. Traditional
forms of religion are dead too, and
Judaism is no exception. Yet the
shadow of religion continues to
flicker on our cave walls. For me,
this flickering is the flickering of
images from the movie projector.
I am not a religious Jew, but Iam,
whether I like it or not, a cultural

Jew. For me, God is dead and so is
religion, but in order to cope with
life, I still need the culture built
around the religion; and so in a
sense I still need religion. While
I still can, I want to bask in the
flicking shadows.
Two things I learned from
this introspection: Covertness
is key to ideological indoctrina-
tion and enjoyment is essential
to ideology. If I had noticed how
enjoying Woody Allen movies
was reinforcing my Jewishness,
my teenage rebellion may have
also included abstaining from
his films. But the fact of the mat-
ter is that I still enjoy "Take the
Money and Run," "Sleeper" and
"Love and Death," and no amount
of critique or analysis will change
that. Likewise, the Jewishness
that Woody Allen, Mel Brooks,
Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David
instilled in me, and continue to
instill in me, will probably never
go away. When I was younger, I
never thought that my Jewish-
ness would survive the hellfire
of puberty and adolescence. But,
thanks to film, it did.



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