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  • Issue of
  • Dec 26, 2007 - Jan 1, 2008
  • Vol. 28, No. 11

News & Views

Arts & Culture

  • The Scene
  • The Savages

    The plot is simple: A father who never took care of his children forces them to find a way to take care of him … and, ultimately, themselves. Sibling would-be writers, University of Buffalo theater professor Jon Savage (Hoffman) and failed Manhattan playwright Wendy Savage (Linney) are suddenly called to retrieve their long estranged father, Lenny, (the terrific Philip Bosco) after his longtime girlfriend dies. Traveling from wintry New York to warm Sun City, Ariz., they find him in hospital restraints, suffering from dementia and Parkinson’s. With few options, they decide to bring the old man home and check him into a nearby nursing home. To help with the transition, Wendy decides to spend the holidays on her brother’s couch and a lifetime of guilt, disappointment and hard truths rears its ugly head. It’s also a minor-key comedy with dark humor, as well as a crumpled portrait of neurotic middle age introspection, brittle relationships and human dignity. Linney and Hoffman bring the kind of understated, lived-in, textured performances that turn genre into real life, never once manipulating our emotions.
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  • The Scene
  • Starting Out in the Evening

    Frank Langella is Leonard Schiller, a New York novelist whose work has fallen out of print while he’s spent the last decade trying to finish his latest and probably last book. Leonard’s dedicated and serious; he dons a jacket and tie before sitting down at his typewriter. His routine is as regimented as it is uncompromising, dampening his relationship with his daughter Ariel (the luminous Lili Taylor) and cutting him off from much of the world outside his modest apartment. Enter Heather (Lauren Ambrose), an admiring grad student who proposes to save Leonard’s career by writing her thesis about him. An adoring and fiercely ambitious twentysomething, Heather’s literary and personal motives become hard to separate as she thaws Leonard’s guarded nature, earns his friendship then pushes things into a calamitously strange romance.
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  • The Scene
  • The Kite Runner

    Marc Forster is a glossy filmmaker who carefully chooses his images, hits all the right emotional buttons and rarely achieves a moment of authenticity. Simultaneously conventional and lofty, The Kite Runner suffers from a distinctly outsider view of Afghan culture. Forster and screenwriter David Benioff (Troy) force a Western perspective on Khaled Hosseini’s lauded novel, and divide it into three unequal parts. The first segment (nearly an hour) is the most engaging, following wealthy Amir (Zekeria Ebrahimi) and his best friend Hassan (Ahmad Khan Mahmidzada) growing up in Kabul in 1978. Children of different classes, they share an unconditional love for competitive kite flying and each other, until Hassan is brutally assaulted by teenage boys and Amir does nothing to intervene. After escaping the Soviet invasion by fleeing to America with his father, Amir (Khalid Abdalla), now a young man, struggles to become a writer while living in San Francisco until a phone call gives Amir the unexpected chance to make amends with Hassan’s family, sending him on a dangerous personal mission into Taliban-occupied Kabul.
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  • The Scene
  • P.S. I Love You

    Her husband may be gone, but for neurotic New Yorker Holly Kennedy (Hilary Swank), the charismatic Irishman lingers like a haunting refrain. Gerry seems charming and feckless in life, as seen in extensive flashbacks and the film’s opening scene, a drawn-out argument with dialogue ripped from Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus. Yet, after he dies from a brain tumor (which happens off-screen), a very different Gerry emerges, one who effectively micromanages his flighty wife’s life for the next year via the letters and a trip to his hometown in Ireland, where they met nearly a decade before. All of this is meant to be immensely romantic, but comes off as domineering and slightly creepy. Swank is in nearly every frame of this overlong film, and the usually tough-as-nails actress is feminized, but the result is a dolled-up Swank whose weepy, passive performance is devoid of her past powerful screen presence.
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  • The Scene
  • Juno

    It is possible not to be charmed by Juno McDuff. The motor-mouthed 16-year-old martyr and the new movie that bears her name both take aim at some sacred cows of American culture: Teen sex, abortionists, suburban class warfare. To her credit, the actress playing this rebel dork is talented enough to make her character’s contradictions almost make sense. As played by Ellen Page, the defiantly pregnant Juno is a headstrong mix of know-it-all arrogance and hedonistic pride. She’s the type of kid you could see having sex for fun, regardless of the emotional consequences. But, for a film that claims to worship at the altar of ’70s punk — specifically Iggy Pop, Patti Smith and the Runaways — Juno sure as hell doesn’t rock. Reitman chooses instead to borrow more than a few tricks from the Wes Anderson Academy of Twee: hand-illustrated title cards marking off the four seasons, jokey cutaway scenes, and a wall-to-wall soundtrack of acoustic guitar with deliberately off-key vocals. (You’d think he’d avoid going so far as to include tracks by Anderson faves like the Kinks and the Velvet Underground, but perhaps imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.) All of which runs contrary to what Juno herself would drop onto her turntable: “When you’re used to listening to the raw power of Iggy and the Stooges, everything else just sounds kind of precious by comparison,” she says. If you’re accustomed to smart, truly acerbic teen flicks like Ghost World, Election, Rushmore or even Clueless, you could say the same thing about Juno.
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Food & Drink

  • Table and Bar
  • True tacos

    Southwest Detroit's Taquería La Tapatia serves a variety of tacos prepared in the traditional manner: two soft and warm house-made corn tortillas topped with a choice of meat and garnished with fresh cilantro and onion. Choose among five tacos all priced at one dollar, containing not ground beef but carne asada (thin cuts of skirt or flank steak marinated then grilled and chopped) or al pastor (pork marinated in a blend of spices and then slowly cooked on a vertical rotisserie). For the ultimate pork fat taco, try seasoned and deep-fried pork skin, chicharrón, which makes a tender taco filling that is almost shamefully delicious.
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