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November 03, 2014 - Image 5

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The Michigan Daily, 2014-11-03

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5A - Monday, November 3, 2014

The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

5A - Monday, November 3, 2014The Michigan Daily - michigandailycom

Let's talk about sex

"I'm not wearing hockey pads."
Dark, satirical
'B irdman soars

Wait, Danny, Danny
that doesn't go
On the Oct. 7episode of "The
Mindy Project," Mindy and Danny
did something
they had
never done
before - and
it made televi-
sion history.
As the camera
held its posi-
tion outside ALEC
the bedroom, STERN
Mindy and
Danny's esca-
pade echoed. Danny's response
(and also the title of the episode):
"I slipped."'
It was the "I slipped" heard
'round the world. OK, "The Mindy
Project" remains one of the lowest
rated shows on television, so it was
more like the "I slipped" heard
'round The Michigan Daily Arts
desk. But regardless, Mindy and
Danny did make TV history. Their
sex scene - and the remainder
of the episode, which focused on
the true motive behind said "slip"
- was the first time anal sex had
been so pervasive on an episode of
broadcast television. And just one
week later, another series picked
up where "Mindy" left off. In the
fourthepisode ofABC's"Howto
Get Away with Murder," "Let's
Get to Scooping," a character
proclaims, "He did somethingto
my ass that made my eyes water,"
immediately following a graphic
sex scene.
That's right: in a year that will
already be remembered for the
media's infatuation with rear-
ends (thanks in no small partto
Nicki Minaj, J.Lo and Iggy Aza-
lea), anal sex is becoming one of
fall TV's latest trends. But "The
Mindy Project" and "Murder" are
just two instances of the recent
attemptsto push the boundaries
of what's acceptable on broadcast
To be clear, even the discussion
ofsexofanykind onbroadcast
should already be considered a
decisive victory, especially when
you realizethat Lucille Ball
couldn'teven saythe word "preg-
nant" on "I Love Lucy" in the
1950s - CBS deemed it too vulgar
for the network. And even today,

broadcast television remains one
of the most highly regulated forms
of entertainment, the kind of
regulation thatcontinues to deter
top talent from"The Big Four"
On premium cable networks
like HBO or Showtime, you expect
sex. You pay for it. HBO and
Showtime even still have their
own pornographic programming,
so it'sno surprise when boobs
show up on "Game of Thrones"
or when Joan Cusack and Wil-
liam H. Macy engage in their own
exploration of the derriere on
"Shameless." Broadcast networks
are inherently different. They're
free networks still operating in
the shadow of1950s decency stan-
dards and a history of catering to
the wholesome American family.
"How to Get Away with Murder"
shares a network with "America's
Funniest Home Videos" and just
last week, "Grey's Anatomy" was
preempted in the 8 p.m. hour for
"It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie
Brown," as if the two are inter-
But broadcast television's insis-
tence on pushing the envelope is
a reaction (a desperate reaction?)
to their diminished influence and
viewership. If you ask ten people
to name their favorite show,
it's almost assured that every
response will be a cable series,
which is exactly what happened
when I did - "House of Cards,"
"Mad Men," "The Americans,"
"The Newsroom," "Californica-
tion," etc. (The onlynon-cable
favorite was alone "New Girl.")
There's no way around it: sex sells.
But it's not just sex. Cable affords
viewers the gritty, sexy, violent,
fun escapism they look for. And
because broadcast television is
no longer the omnipresent, only-
option for consumers, isn't it time
we rethink network standards?
Recently, that's exactly what
has happened. In addition to
pushingthe amountof explicit
content in its series - hence, the
anal sex TV movementof2014
- broadcast networks have even
begun to formally change the dia-
logue. In 2013, FOX filed a 42-page
comment atthe FCC urgingthat
the agency "cease attempting to
enforce broadcast indecency lim-
its once and for all." In fact, every

broadcast network has lodged
complaints that the current inde-
cency rules are archaic. "Ameri-
cans today, including children,
spend more time engaged with
non-broadcast channels delivered
by cable and satellitetelevision,
the Internetvideo games and
other mediathan they do with
broadcast media."
Broadcast television's increased
propensity to show sex - all kinds
of sex - is nothing more than a
product of the current television
landscape. But that doesn't dimin-
ish the magnitude of its presence.
On "How to Get Away with Mur-
der" sex is one of the series' defin-
ing characteristics, as prominent
as the law or criminality or Viola
Davis - the pilot episode features
both cunnilingus and not-so-
subtly suggests other similar sex
acts. In a later episode, Davis con-
fronts her cheating husband with
the question, "Why is your penis
on a dead girl's phone?" (Those
#lastninewords were trending the
night the episode premiered) On
the most recentepisode of"Scan-
dal," Olivia dreams of having sex
with both Fitz and Jake in a scene
reminiscent of another explicit
broadcast drama, the artfully
directed double sex scene from
the second season of "Hannibal."
Evenon "Black-ish," aso-called
family comedy, Rainbow points
downward while her husband
asks if she's going to sneak him
in the Underground Railroad.
(Think about it..)
Sex - onanynetwork -=has
undoubtedly become a foundation
of television in the modern age,
and no matter the vice, broadcast
television networks have always
challenged the powers of the FCC.
But we're at a strange point now,
as of the last few weeks, where
you can talk about anal sex - or
strongly suggestit visually - but
you can'tsay the word "asshole"
or "blow job" or "Christ" (as an
expletive). The bottom line: net-
work standards are reaching a
Sex sells, and broadcast televi-
sion is just trying to get in on the
Stern is not an expert on this
subject, he's just writing a column
about it. E-mail alecs@umich.edu.

Iinrritu's black
comic tour de
force never
0 stops moving,
Daily Arts Writer
The camera in Alejandro
Gonzalez Inirritu's "Birdman
or (The Unexpected Virtue of
never stops A
moving, even
to pause on Birdman
the actors,
who, too, are Michigan
restless. They Theater
glide between Fox Searchlight
stage and
dressing room
at such dizzyingspeed that it's
no wonder the line between
fiction and reality eventually'
collapses. At the center of the
cinematic vortex is Riggan
Thomson (Michael Keaton,
"Beetlejuice"), a washed up
star whose better days are
haunting him, literally, in
the form of his bombastic
superhero alter-ego cum
Freudian super-ego, Birdman.
The cinematic tour de force
is generated by Emmanuel
Lubezki's ("Gravity")
exquisite camerawork,
which hovers and breathes
like an extra character. Its
cleverness intrudes a few
times, but for the most part
it adds integral dimension
to an already multilayered
story. "Birdman" attempts to
create a single-take shot (it's
subtly threaded together) and
is mostly confined to the St.
James theater in New York,
creating a claustrophobic,
distinctly play-like
atmosphere: the actors give
monologues dressed up as
aired grievances, the lighting
bleeds from ethereal blue to
angry red, the minimalist
soundtrack releases a pit-pat
of drums and orchestra at
opportune moments, mostly
drawing taut silence. There
is a gun that obeys Chekov's
After all, it's a self-aware
film, equal parts industry-
skewering satire and meta-
drama. "Birdman" follows
Thomson as he attempts to
claim some artistic prestige
by adapting, directing and
starring in Raymond Carver's
"What They Talk About
When They Talk About Love,"
in the recent tradition of
Hollywood stars storming
the Broadway stage. Much
of the movie's momentum is

driven by Carver's short story,
a tale about the delusional
acts people equate with love
and the hazy line between
requited love and self-
identity. Indeed, the cast
of the play is less a unified
system than a frenetic throng
of individual motivations and
egos, concerned more with
good reviews than Raymond's
compact dialogue. Such
is the self-serving nature
of all creative projects,
and "Birdman" offers a
psychological portrait of the
objet d'art.
In the days before opening,
Thomson attempts to fight off
his Hollywood past - replete
with CGI and thunderous
explosions, as well as the
looming reception of the
play, on which his career and
financial stability rest. That
would be too manageable,
though, so his ex-wife,
maybe pregnant girlfriend,
uncooperative lead actor
and recently rehab-released
daughter get crammed
in, in the claustrophobic,
metaphoric way only stage
plays can pull off (though
"Birdman" is the immediate
cinematic exception).
And for all its density, in
the two times I saw it, I was
astonished by the meticulous
way it barrels through and
around itself like a Lynchian
ouroboros - doubling
abounds in the film, on stage,
backstage, with dialogue and
characterization, In one scene
an actor asks Thomson what
he thinks of his overblown
monologue, and in the tail end
of the movie a homeless person
recites the famous sound and
fury "Macbeth" monologue
before asking Thomson for the
same feedback word for word.
Combined with the
telekinetic powers Thomson
may or may not have, as well
as a detour into slick action
genre, makes the viewing a
marvelous puzzle. Notably,
though, its formalist delights
are also fortified with
compelling performances.
Michael Keaton's rendition
as a nervous-wrecked actor
is astounding - watch his
eyes through the film which
mirror the camera's feverish
gaze. Incredibly entertaining
is Edward Norton ("Fight
Club"), who plays the
recalcitrant actor with the
kind of emasculated hyper-
masculinity of his former
imaginary friend Tyler
Durden. Indeed other actors'
characters echo old roles too:
Naomi Watts' ("21 Grams")

Broadway neophyte Lesley is
a slightly grittier version of
her Betty from "Mulholland
Drive." Zach Galifianakis as
the exasperated best friend/
lawyer reminds the viewer he
has serious acting chops.
The least successful acting
is done by Emma Stone ("The
Help"), whose character,
Sam, intentionally or
unintentionally falls prey to
the fragile, damaged ingenue
trope, which is simply dull.
Another character, New
York Times theater critic
Tabitha (Lindsay Duncan,
"Rome") is more satirical than
dynamic, but Duncan's barbed
commitment makes up for it.
Along those lines, despite -
or rather, because of - its dark
subject matter, "Birdman"
is raked with fantastic,
vicious humor. Up until the
syncopated closing credits,
"Birdman" refuses to stay
its furious pace. The movie
is a dizzying force of sharp
writing and even sharper
cinematography and acting.

Call: #734-418-4115
Email: dailydisplay@gmail.com

Los Angel
1 Spillthe beans
5 Hindu deity
9 Spore-producing
14 Subtle emanation
15 Put out
16 How food is often
17 Sheepish smile
182001 Redford/
Gandoltini ilm,
with 'The
20 Rap session?
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23 Cut down
24 PartofQ.E.D.
26 Lers on a
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spy film
34 Charged particle
35 Unable or
unwilling to hear
36 Barcelona's
38 Frameof mind
40 'TheTwilight
Zone" creator
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model series
46 Morethan afew
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produced many
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Murphyfilm, with
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family gatherings
..."and what 18-,
28- avd 50-
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67 Wrist-to-elbow
68 Kitchen atraction
69 Brush" re op
70 Garden area
71 Vamnish
72 Fiddle-playing
73 Postage-paid

les Times Daily Crossword Puzzle
ted by Rich Norris and Joyce Nichols Lewis
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hung overa 45 Canonizedfifth- familiarly
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until 1917 B I R D I E S P O O L C U E
27 Litter yippers
28lconicnews I A T 0 R I R E I N A G A
magazine M I S D E A L S L A T
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