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August 07, 2006 - Image 12

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Michigan Daily Summer Weekly, 2006-08-07

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12 - The Michigan Daily - Monday, August 7, 2006
Allen's odd comedic
style betters 'Scoop'
By Amanda Andrade Peter Lyman (Hugh Jackman, "X-Men"), the son
and Imran Syed of a wealthy English lord, might be the famed
Daily Arts Writers tarot card serial killer. Along the way, Sondra, in
the guise of a wealthy American heiress kicking
_FLM ___EV __EW___ _ k around London for a spree, falls in love with the
chiseled nobleman - looking adoringly beyond
The cheers he won for "Match Point" still his potentially murderous tendencies.
ring dimly in the mezzanine, but Woody Allen At its core, "Scoop" has something very
doesn't play to the Hol- resonant to say about identity, and about
lywood throng. After an what perseveres beneath the disguises for it.
abrupt break with his emi- SCOOp Waterman is too much a magician to stop his
nently famous style for last At the Michigan magic tricks, even repeating his crowd-pleas-
year's thriller, Allen might Showcase and' ing mantra to upper-class guests at an estate
have returned with another Qualitry 16 garden party. Sondra can't let go of her den-
elegantly written drama, Focus tal-hygienist upbringing or the common bear-
or delved even further into ing so transparent beneath her protestations of
uncharted genre-jumping. wealth and privilege. And Joe Strombel, the
Instead, and despite any clear logic, he's cho- dead journalist who periodically checks in on
sen to make a film in precisely the same mold the living world, won't let death silence the
that transformed a gifted director into a walk- journalistic core of his identity, toasted by his
ing self-parody. peers in the film's opening scene.
But watching "Scoop," a light-hearted com- And then there's Peter Lyman's identity.
edy in which death and deceit are the little Is he or isn't he the tarot card killer? But the
foibles of human nature, you can see why. The genre lends itself to ambiguity.
protagonist is Sondra Pransky (Scarlett Johans- Given the critical acclaim of Allen's last
son, "Match Point"), possibly cinema's first film "Match Point," it's impossible for anyone
(and certainly its finest) sexy, sultry neurotic. to conclude that he has simply lost that "it" of
She's an American journalism student living in cinematic mastery that propelled him to 21
London when she meets the Great Splendini, Academy Award nominations over the past 30
alias Sid Waterman (Allen), a magician in the years. Still, critics have derided "Scoop" as
most nostalgic sense of the word. For Allen, an embodiment of what they hate most about
choosing to come in front of the camera again Allen's work - corny jokes, absurd mysteries
is a bold move, considering his trademark stut- and the director as a co-star.
tering and clever asides ("I was born into the But "Scoop" banks on many of the same
Hebrew persuasion, but I converted to narcis- technical and thematic elements those very
sism") can be distracting. But Allen is known detractors adored about "Match Point" - the
to play with the robes of a Shakespearean fool, preciously understated humanity that flowed
and here he does it with every bit the candor through even its vilest villain, the subtle cut-
and unconscious complexity as ever. aways to haunting classical scores, an authen-
As Waterman becomes a father figure to Son- tic environment embodying life and all we
dra, the two Americans investigate the suspicions face within it and how it all came together
surrounding a recently deceased journalist that for an impressive thesis on why we do what

"Scarlett, can I have your autograph?"
we do. Indeed it's hard not to wonder if Allen
intended to explore the exact same life inci-
dences through different lenses - comedic
and dramatic.
Accepting that "Scoop" cuts to the core of per-
sonal motivations and the odd tragedy that is the
life experience as sure-handedly as "Match Point,"
calling it "Woody lite," as some critics have done,
can only mean one thing: It's simply to say that
comedy as a genre cannot accomplish the same
definitive, unequivocal experience that drama can.
And what a hapless slap in the face that is to mas-
ters like Charlie Chaplin, Peter Sellers, Richard
Pryor and, of course, Allen himself.

All of the quintessential maestros of cinema
make great films and films that are compara-
tively bad. And while they may occasionally
miss the mark in narrative or execution, their
concepts, themes and ideas never fail - for
it is these that make them who they are. And
so for Woody Allen - if we admired his self-
deprecating musings in "Annie Hall" 30 years
ago - we will find that he has but built on
them in "Scoop." Perhaps it lacks that com-
plete mastery over its themes that Allen's
greatest successes demonstrated, but for what
it is, it's insightful, well-crafted and entertain-
ing - even as a mere comedy.

THE SUMMER IS ALMOST OVER, BUT STOP WB cartoons hold up on DVD
BY OUR OFFICES AT 413 E. HURON ST. By Chris Gaerig to both of these questions is a shoul- like this that keep the show fresh and
IN THE FALL TO WRITE FOR DAILY ARTS. Associate Arts Editor der shrugging yes" interesting now.
IN H EFAL TOWRIE FR DILYART. Animaniacs" is a show of random, "Pinky and the Brain," on the other

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Many of us grew up watching "Bea-
vis and Butthead." Many were raised
on "Ren and Stimpy." And obviously,
most of us wor-
shiped "The
Simpsons." But
for some (those Animaniacs
parents who and
were too wor- Pinky and
ried about their the Brain
children's inno- Warner Bros.
cence and words
like "butthead,"
"doh" and random acts of violence than
their enjoyment), the release of "Ani-
maniacs" and "Pinky and the Brain" on
DVD are a welcome sight and a delight-
ful look back to their childhood.
In a release that's long past due,
Steven Spielberg's two masterful
animated shows had a lot of expecta-
tions: Are the jokes still funny to an
audience that has since grown out of
childhood cartoons? Are the eccen-
tric characters still as individual and
defined as they were when they were
introduced? Simply put, the answer

unrelated characters, centered on the
Warner brothers, Yakko and Wakko,
and their sister Dot. Their spastic
antics are kept to a minimum by the
studio psychiatrist, Dr. Otto Scratch-
ensniff (who they drive to insanity
by calling him a "P Sychiatrist" and
running amok through the studio).
And while these skits are the founda-
tion for the show, they are often some
of the weakest and most childish
- although they do carry the major-
ity of the adult-themed, pop-culture
references. Complementing the epi-
sodes are skits ranging from Mindy
and Buttons (a young girl who gets
into a mess of trouble and is saved
by her altruistic dog), the high-flying
swagger of the Goodfeathers (a spin
on the mobster film "Goodfellas"
enacted by Hollywood pigeons) and
the "larger-than-life" parties of the
Hip Hippos (upper-class, martini-
drinking safari animals).
Though most probably didn't under-
stand why the line that opens the first
Goodfeathers skit, "Ever since I can
remember, I always wanted to be a
Goodfeather" was funny, it's little bits

hand (a spin-off due to its obvious
superiority over the other sketches
on "Animaniacs"), retains most of its
humor, sophistication and original-
ity. The Brain is a chemically altered
lab rat with aspirations to take over
the world with plans to boot. How
about when he tried to take over the
world by hosting a pancake breakfast
on the hull of a resurrected Titanic
with hypnotic pancakes? Classic.
Unfortunately for the Brain, though,
he's almost always thwarted by his
nitwit partner, Pinky - even though
his own miscalculations sometimes
cause the mishaps. Either way, the
DVD lives up to (for the most part)
its original airing.
Even though your desk was covered
in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle figures
or Barbie dolls, and now, it's littered
with Hemingway and car keys, "Ani-
maniacs" and "Pinky and the Brain"
are still something you can look for-
ward to coming home to after a long
day at school.
Animaniacs: ***
Pinky and the Brain: ****

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