Archive for September, 2007

Hairspray (2007)

September 28, 2007

While a musical based on big hair and flamboyant outfits may seem like your general middle-aged woman’s fantasy movie, Hairspray contains greater themes than one might imagine. Behind a façade of sparkling outfits and John Travolta’s five hundred pound woman suit, there lies a poignant social commentary of racism in the 1960s.

The story centers on Tracy Turnblad, a teenage girl who has a passion for dancing and music. Because of her weight, she has to deal with the pain of being different from other kids in school, therefore leading her to the other different people in school—the African American population.

The story speaks on such themes as interracial relationships, media control over race, and many other topics. Many of the lyrics focus on racism, but the writers rely heavily on humor and upbeat, lively tempos to get their points across. The “Corny Collins Show”—which Tracy watches every day—begins every episode with a song “The Nicest Kids in Town,” of course referring to the upper-middle class white teenager. James Marsden sings, “Nice white kids who like to lead the way/And once a month we have our negro day!”

Adding to the amazing lyrics, the music behind it combines the tongue-in-cheek humor with an astounding ensemble of ’60s style music including large brass sections and great beats. It had me dancing out of the theater—literally.

The mix of wit, musical and lyrical talent and an important social point make this movie one of the best I have seen this summer.

-Amy Gardner

imdb

rotten tomatoes

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The Irresistible Revolution (2006)

September 27, 2007

In The Irresistible Revolution, Shane Claiborne combines personal accounts (from his anything-but-normal lifestyle) and scriptural texts of what it means to be a follower of Christ. In a world of megachurches, televangelism and a whole lot of fake Christianity, Shane Claiborne breathes life and hope into what the church was made to look like. He describes the present state of the church as being a fragmented body that has forgotten what it means to love.

Throughout the book, Shane challenges the reader to live an authentic Christian life even if that means giving up everything you have. Shane has served with Mother Theresa in Calcutta, people in Iraq and is now part of a community in Philadelphia called The Simple Way.

The book is a critical look at and questions the comfy lifestyle that most American’s live. Some points may make you uncomfortable, but if that uneasiness leads you to action than Shane will have seen it as accomplishing its goal.
It is a poignant challenge to the church to start living what it is preaching. As Shane describes it, “become an ordinary radical for Jesus Christ.”

– Brandon Baughman

The Simple Way

The Culturally Savvy Christian (2007)

September 27, 2007

Dick Staub chose to subtitle his book, the Culturally Savvy Christian, “a manifesto for deepening faith and enriching popular culture in an age of Christianity-lite.” These are heady claims, to put it mildly. While the idea of judging a book by its cover is universally reviled, it can be healthy to judge books worth by gauging whether the content accomplishes the claims made on the cover.

What Staub does accomplish is laying out what has become the typical critique leveled at contemporary American culture by thoughtful Christians. He accuses it of being shallow, artificial and soulless. His manifesto outlining our response to this shallowness is also less than earth-shattering. He pleads with Christians to create art that is truly art — not just “Christian” art — and advocates relating to culture on a deeper level than merely rejecting or acclaiming a cultural artifact based on external and moralistic criteria like its sexual content or the amount of obscenity it contains.

This framework is appealingly packaged in this volume, and laid out with a clarity and succinctness that makes it an excellent choice for readers unacquainted with the aforementioned ideas and wishing to gain a fuller understanding of how Christians can and should interact with culture.

-Nate Campbell

50 Cent – Curtis (2007)

September 26, 2007

Released with a fanfare of hype and carefully-constructed controversy, 50 Cent’s newest album Curtis is his most insecure album to date. The macho bravado displayed in hip hop has long since been psychoanalyzed as an overcompensation for insecurities resulting from a number of sources (broken homes, impoverished upbringing, lack of male role models, etc.), but 50’s newest release takes these insecurities to a new and structural level. Ironically, the insecurities present themselves in the exact album where humility and intimacy is promised. When an artist lets down this extra defense and names an album (for instance) after their real name, it is assumed that the tracks to follow will allow a newer and deeper insight into the artist than all previous works. This is especially important in a genre like rap, where personal testimonies/narratives construct at least half of all recorded material. It is for this reason that Curtis fails; it promises new depths and delivers with puddle shallowness.

By comparison, Nas’ 2004 album God’s Son (published under his given name, Nasir Jones) is the epitome of this sort of musical intimacy. Recorded shortly after his mother’s death, and including musical accompaniment by his father – an accomplished jazz musician – Nas demonstrates how to get personal in music without losing that rough, masculine edge presupposed by the genre.

Ultimately, it isn’t that the tracks on the album are not still biographical or, at least, semi-biographical, but that 50 includes eight tracks with featured guests — many superstars in the genre (i.e. Eminem, Dr. Dre and Mary J. Blige) — and then does not permit them the room to exercise their talent in any meaningful way. Most alarming is Dr. Dre being reduced to a glorified back-up singer in “Come & Go.” When an artist recruits talent but does not let them be talented, it is only reasonable to question their motives.

Worth listening to (if you haven’t already tired of it on the radio) is “Ayo Technology,” featuring Justin Timberlake and produced by Timbaland, It includes a techno background that is almost a cliché sound for Timberlake/Timbaland songs. It is also enjoyable hearing Robin Thicke rise above the structures 50 placed in his album to keep guest artists down and crone beautifully in a harsh juxtaposition to 50 Cent in “Follow My Lead.”

It doesn’t matter if 50 Cent outsold Kanye West or not; he did not first live up to the implicit promises he made his audience.

–Jeff Schooley

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3:10 to Yuma (2007)

September 26, 2007

Some might claim that the traditional western died at the end of John Wayne’s career in the 70’s. But while it has been on the decline, it is still alive and doing well (See Unforgiven and The Proposition). While 3:10 to Yuma is a remake, it still fits in today by showing the moral dilemma’s that we can face when questions of justice arise.

Ben Wade (Russell Crowe) is the leader of a gang of outlaws and is captured by a small town. Dan Evans (Christian Bale) is a struggling rancher in that town and in need of money agrees to help transport Wade for the 3:10 train to Yuma and, of course, Wade’s gang is not going to see him taken without a fight. But the real story is the struggle of wills as the audience wonders about the moral qualities and fortitude of both men.

The west provides a great setting to have a heightened dialogue about the meaning of justice and moral good. With the absence of modern bureaucracy, the wilderness becomes a place where justice is in the hands of the people, it is no longer an abstraction. So, as always a gunfight must ensue as justice needs to be pursued or destroyed at all cost. The conversations about what is truly good is what makes this film worth watching.

Greg P. Veltman

3:10 to Yuma intentionally blurs the line between the good guys and the bad guys in the telling of what on the surface is a traditional western yarn. Dan Evans (Christian Bale) is the hero, a dirt poor farmer looking to earn the money he needs to keep his farm afloat and support his wife and sickly son. Ben Wade (Russell Crowe) is the villainous mass-murderer whom Evans is hired to transport to the eponymous train. Evans, while acting on noble intentions and exhibiting great courage, is not a typical hero. He is in constant need of rescue by none other than the apparently black-hearted Wade, who goes to great lengths to keep his captor alive. Throwing this quirk into the formula allows the filmmakers to deliver the en vogue message for contemporary westerns: the line between good and evil is far more nebulous than we would care to admit.

-Nate Campbell

imdb
rotten tomatoes

Knocked Up (2007)

September 25, 2007

Judd Apatow has done it againhe’s made a film that is both hilarious and brutally honest, like his previous the 40 Year-Old Virgin. In this case a seemingly simple one-night stand between stoner/regular guy Ben (Seth Rogen) and entertainment reporter Alison (Katherine Heigl) gets very complicated when they find out that they are pregnant. After seeing the beating heart of the child growing inside of her, Alison decides to keep the child and hopes that Ben will help out—and that maybe they can “make love” the long drawn-out emotional way.

The road is bumpy and they have Alison’s married sister Debbie (Leslie Mann) and husband Pete (Paul Rudd) to highlight the highs and lows of being a family. While this is a comedy with many laughs, it is not without its serious and honest conversations. The characters come across as real people, able to laugh at the human condition while avoiding seeing all of life as absurd.

Ultimately, this film is about people being forced to learn what it means to grow up. Ben and Alison have tried to see their lives as without much consequence, which means little responsibilityand they grew to like it that way. The thoughtless choices that they have made now confront them with responsibility and a lifenot just their owndepends on it. The characters contemplate their options and realize that changing isn’t always bad. In fact, it might allow them to be who they really are.

This film is rated R mostly for some graphic scenes of a birth and harsh language, and it should have this rating. I have a hunch that an audience under 18 (although not everyone) might miss the complexity of the story and the messiness of relationships depicted. And despite the fact that we don’t think of people growing up in our culture, Apatow makes a case that there is indeed a time to take up one’s full responsibility in the worldfor yourself and for others.

Greg P. Veltman

imdb

rotten tomatoes 

Lovedrug at Geneva

September 17, 2007

culture. ish. is proud to present:

Lovedrug
(http://www.myspace.com/lovedrug)
with special guests Recession
(http://www.myspace.com/recession)
and twelve.o.one
(http://www.myspace.com/twelveoone)

Friday, September 28, 2007 at 7:30PM.
In the John H. White Chapel in Old Main.

Tickets available AT THE DOOR ONLY:
Geneva students w/ID only $3.00
Everyone else only $6.00

Doors open at 7pm

Don’t forget to invite your friends and join the culture. ish. facebook group:
http://geneva.facebook.com/group.php?gid=3579767162&ref=share

Clicking for the Common Good

September 17, 2007

The Hunger SiteEvery morning an automated e-mail from www.thehungersite.com appears in my inbox. I originally heard about this site in high school, but for the last two years I have been attempting to visit it daily and click for the common good. The Hunger Site is an online activism site that sells advertising space– “the money from these advertisers goes to our charity partners, who fund programs to provide food to the hungry.” Visitors are allowed to click once a day; the advertisers then donate money per click. Visitors are encouraged to buy products of the sponsoring companies, though this is not a requirement.

This site links to other similar sites that raise money for breast cancer research, child health around the world and literacy among others. I recommend signing up and clicking; it’s a daily reminder that our life is good, and that we often take things for granted. Will it single-handedly save the world? Probably not, but it might begin the process of change our habits, thoughts and prayers toward doing good in the world. It is a way for us to get a glimpse of how heaven is being brought down to earth, one mouse click at a time, one person at a time, one small action a day. It has the potential to change us, give us hope, and through us God transforms the world.

greg p. veltman

Mae — Singularity (2007)

September 17, 2007

Two years have passed since Mae has graced us with the presence of a new album. The August release of Singularity should give Mae fans a reason to be excited.For past fans this album portrays much of the same sound that Dave Elkins and the guys have given us in the past. Though in some tracks, the lighter pop alternative sound is few and far between. Sharper chords and rougher rhythms give them a slightly darker sound, but nothing too drastic as to steer long-time Mae fans away.

Their first single, “Sometimes I Can’t Make It Alone,” is one of these particular songs, and deals with the fear of singularity as a theme. The chorus exemplifies this: “I was always floating around/Head in the clouds/Thinking I could make it on my own/Falling down as my back hit the ground.”  

Other songs that contain the newer, rough sound include “Sic Semper Tyrannis” and “Telescopes.” Those who are looking for the old similar Mae sound should check out songs like “On Top,” “Reflection” and “Release Me,” which highlights Rob Sweitzer’s talent on the keyboard.

Mae’s typical harmonies, beats and sound are still intact, and will leave fans pleased with the new songs. I would say that this album brings a new sound in some ways, but Mae makes it relatable enough so that everyone will be happy. The album as a whole is put together well and talks a lot about the theme of singularity and how it affects us both as individuals and as creatures of need.

-Amy Gardner

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Buffalo Tom — Three Easy Pieces (2007)

September 17, 2007

Where have all of the good rock records gone? In a sea of dance pop, sweater rap, country-lite and effeminate sorta-folk, it feels like it’s getting increasingly hard to fish out a fun rock and roll album from all of the new releases. Straight-ahead rock music has been making a comeback of sorts, but Buffalo Tom’s Three Easy Pieces can be used as an audio textbook for how to do it right.

Their first release in nearly a decade, the Boston trio’s seventh long-player illustrates that big changes are sometimes overrated. Their music still sounds like punk through the eyes of the E Street Band, their lyrics are still wistfully easy. But the band–vocalist/guitarist Bill Janovitz, vocalist/bassist Chris Colbourn and drummer Tom Maginnis–sound more comfortable together, and the quality of the music reflects this. Unlike the recent wave of questionable reunions, Buffalo Tom took a break from their 9 to 5 jobs because they enjoy playing together.

Three Easy Pieces isn’t groundbreaking or even ‘album of the year’ material, but it’s the most consistently enjoyable thing I’ve heard this year. It’s an album of all above average songs filled with standout moments: Janovitz’s raspy, soaring tenor punches through the chorus of “September Shirt” in just the right spots; the unexpected Celtic tinge that “Gravity” takes; Colbourn’s lovably happy “Renovating;” and on and on.

Buffalo Tom may have inadvertently spawned the legion of alt.rock clones during the ’90s, but this is no nostalgia act–Three Easy Pieces is the band doing what they do best. And that’s making loud, intelligent rock music.

-jason panella

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