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Issue of 1/21/2009


Cover Story:



Grave debate
by Sandra Svoboda
After-death disagreements spread to court

Features:

Art supernova by Makkada B. Selah
Miami Beach: A winter hot spot for Detroit artisans and a discourse on 'blue-chip' artists

Ghosts of forgotten style by Wendy Case
Scarlet Oaks aims to reinvent the long-lost art of true alt-country

Hearts and minds by Sandra Svoboda
Greg Mortensen to speak about building schools in Afghanistan

House of blues by Detroitblogger John
Down-home musician serves up fresh coons and old-time tunes

Talking about his music: Vijay Iyer by W. Kim Heron
Indian music, jazz and pop reconfigured

We got the keys by Michael Jackman
A black politician goes back to the hood to rise to power

Columns:

Comics (Comics)

Couch Trip by Metro Times film writers (Couch Trip)
The power of come, a mulluh money collector and a Li Yang essential

Food Stuff by Metro Times food staff (Food Stuff)
Full plates for local foodies.

Jeffrey Morgan’s Media Blackout by Jeffrey Morgan (Media Blackout)
Where record reviews meet the cryptic crossword

Motor City Cribs by Doug Coombe (Motor City Cribs and Rides)
Carjack, aka Lo-fi Bri, in his secret living space

Call it balance by News Hits staff (News Hits)
New DNA laws to convict the guilty and free the innocent

Inaugural thoughts by News Hits staff (News Hits)
Holding Obama, and the Bushies, accountable

Law and art by News Hits staff (News Hits)
Decision due for Grosse Pointe couple prosecuted for displaying art on property

Night and Day by Megan O'Neil (Night and Day)

On the Download by Chris Handyside (On the Download)
Sssshhh, it's a secret (but send your PayPal info)

I had a dream by Jack Lessenberry (Politics and Prejudices)
What would MLK say on the eve of the Obama inauguration?

Stimulating thoughts by Dan Savage (Savage Love)
Dan gives man an earful for being jealous of his wife's vibrator

Reviews:

Music/Books:

November Birthdays - Lightening Love Reviewed by Laura Witkowski (Record)

Happy in Galoshes Reviewed by Janiss Garza (Record)

Movies:

Chandni Chowk to China Reviewed by Corey Hall (Movie)
Big-time action heartthrob Akshay Kumar — who could be the bastard child of Borat and Jerry Lewis — is Sidhu, a lowly vegetable-chopping street vendor working in the Delhi slum of Chandni Chowk. He’s constantly whining for a better life while praying to a potato that looks like the elephant-headed Hindu god Ganesha. His big break comes when he’s swindled by a con man into playing the patsy in the fight to liberate a Chinese village from vicious thugs. The head crime lord Hojo — who sports a razor-edged hat like Odd Job from Goldfinger — is played with menace by Gordon Liu. The villagers think Sidhu’s their savior reincarnate, even though he’s an imbecile in way over his goofy head. Elsewhere there’s Roger Yuan as an amnesiac inspector and his beautiful, identity-swapping twin daughters, played by stone-cold knockout Deepika Padukone.

Defiance Reviewed by Jeff Meyers (Movie)
This film tells the true-life story of the Bielski partisans, a quartet of Jewish brothers in Belarus who rescued more than a thousand of their people by hiding them in the country’s deep forests. Led by thoughtful Tuvia (Daniel Craig), macho Zus (the excellent Liev Schreiber) and naïve Asael (Jamie Bell), the self-exiled Jews evade Nazi-collaborating Polish police forces, conduct hit-and-run raids, and build an impromptu society that’s forced to wrestle with unique moral and ethical questions. At issue are how to share rations, when to hunt their own, whether infants should be allowed, and even how marriage is defined by a community that might have to drop everything and flee at a moment’s notice. It’s a fascinating footnote in history that could’ve made for some provocative cinema. Instead Zwick gives us Red Dawn by way of Schindler’s List. Instead of putting ideas of gritty survival and complex characters at heart of the story, Zwick and Clayton Frohman’s script punctuates its formulaic combat skirmishes with mawkish emoting and barely rousing speeches.

Last Chance Harvey Reviewed by Jeff Meyers (Movie)
Harvey Shine (Hoffman) is a commercial jingle writer whose career is on the outs. Flying to London to attend his estranged daughter’s wedding he struggles awkwardly to connect with old friends and family but mostly ensures his status as the familial outsider. Not satisfied to let Hoffman convey his character’s unease, writer-director Joel Hopkins punctuates these scenes with poorly conceived shtick involving hotel curtains, clothing security tags and a bed of stones at the rehearsal dinner restaurant. Enter Kate (Thompson), a single, middle-aged airline employee whose mum calls her 50 times a day and who believes her Polish next door neighbor’s a serial killer. Though the film has been cutting away to poor Kate’s loveless life, it’s 30 minutes before she runs into Harvey at an airport bar (he ditched his daughter’s reception). The two strike up an acid-tinged conversation that suggests Hopkin’s film might have some middle-aged bite yet. Unfortunately, it quickly devolves into a sentimental merging of minds (and hearts).

Paul Blart: Mall Cop Reviewed by Corey Hall (Movie)
As Paul Blart, TV star Kevin James plays a dumpy, mustachioed and overweight single dad and state trooper academy reject turned overzealous rent-a-cop, he’s such a needy and feckless sadsack that he’s almost more depressing than funny. Paul’s a “fun facts” windbag who’s ridiculously strict in all matters of Mall Security. He’s also a big open sore of insecurity whose hypoglycemia is a crutch to suck down more pie. His vulnerability borders on creepiness too; watch his awkward courting of a pretty kiosk worker Amy (Jamya Mays), who, by the way, looks like a generic knockoff of the other nerd crush, Anna Ferris.

Let the Right One In Reviewed by Jeff Meyers (Movie)
Living in a drab working-class suburb of Stockholm with his neurotic mother, Oskar (Kare Hedebrant) is a fragile, 12-year-old loner who fantasizes about getting revenge on the cruel bullies who torment him daily at school. One cold snowy night in the courtyard outside his apartment he meets doe-eyed Eli (Lina Leandersson), the strange pallid girl who has moved in next door. She smells funny, her stomach gurgles painfully and she seems immune to cold. Still, Oskar has found a friend, one with the confidence he lacks. Too bad she’s a vampire. Worse, Eli’s a vampire who takes no joy in her need to feed. Aching loneliness and isolation bind the two together as Eli teaches Oskar to defend himself, and Oskar seems to accept Eli for who she is. In the end, each saves the other in acts of shocking and beautiful brutality. Is it true love or an unholy union? The final moments feel hopeful but hint that Oskar may be just be another lonely boy lured into Eli’s ageless fight to survive. Alfredson’s direction is effectively stark and understated, heightening the eeriness. Each act of violence carries with it the jolt of stumbling across it as a helpless bystander.

Che Reviewed by Jeff Meyers (Movie)
Steven Soderbergh’s epic biopic Che, now split into two separate films, is a film that’s easy to respect but very hard to enjoy. Che: Part 1 begins in 1955 with Guevara (Benicio Del Toro) deciding to join Castro’s plan to overthrow Batista, then quickly ping-pongs between his three-year slog (1956-59) through the Cuban jungles and his 1964 appearance at the United Nations. Soderbergh’s wide-frame approach to Che’s guerrilla campaigns are lush and crisp, deftly juxtaposed against grainy, black-and-white New York interludes, where he’s interviewed by a TV reporter, mixes with international elites (never without trademark army fatigues) and addresses the world assembly. It’s an interesting attempt to provide some ideological context to the fighting, and connects Che the soldier to his celebrity status, but, ultimately, is determined to keep us at arm’s length. Soderbergh has crafted an impersonal film that looks at its protagonist from a distance, decentralizing his role in the narrative. Conventional notions of drama are driven to the margins as skirmish after skirmish is rendered without thrill or emotion. It’s a remarkably unglamorous view of warfare that turns combat into an arduous trudge, and all but the most dedicated cineastes will feel like they’ve plodded through every inch of Cuba’s jungles in search of a plot. Che, Part 2, set over the last year of Guevara’s life, unfolds in what seems like real time; which is both compliment and complaint. It’s an endurance test as Soderbergh uses a documentarian’s restraint to capture Che’s ill-fated day-after-day attempt to foment revolution and bring communism to Bolivia. Shot at a tighter, more claustrophobic ratio and with a harsh, hand-held sensibility, the director does something quite unique: creates an immediate feel to someone who seems a thousand miles away.

Restaurants/Places:

Angelina Italian Bistro Reviewed by Jane Slaughter (Restaurant)
Both co-owners had Sicilian grandmothers, and both toiled in other people’s restaurants — for a total of 50 years — before making their dream come true. The experience shows, with Italian food (and some extras) at “prices that reflect the new reality” -- at least when it comes to the entrées and the wines. There are only three pasta dishes (four if you count the potato-and-flour gnocchi) and three pizzas. The sophisticated Italian menu is supplemented by some fabulous cured and smoked fish and meats as antipasti and by a few dishes that would be comfortable on any menu, such as New York strip, salmon and a pork chop. Also consider the fitting accompaniments: a pile of flaked Parmigiano-Reggiano with a bit of balsamic; a mound of watercress with a superior lemony dressing; a little metal cup of assorted olives; a puddle of grainy mustard. It’s all good. See the menu and the drinks list at angelinadetroit.com.

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