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CABARET, directed by Bob Fosse
I can see why people who saw this before Chicago are underwhelmed with the new movie. Fosse's film is a movie first and a musical second; you know, it's got depth and character development and ambiguity and shit like that. But yet even though it's not the movie's fault, modern eyes will have a hard time getting past the fact that Liza Minnelli is the star of the show -- I mean, she's in a whole hell of a lot of it; you can't get away from her. The tone and subject matter are dark and sophisticated -- Chicago is just one glorious highlight reel in comparison -- but the story itself is a little simplistic, its romantic triangle a little too convenient. And these sorts of quibbles mean a lot more when you're trying to make serious art than when you're just giving 'em the old razzle-dazzle. A-

NOWHERE IN AFRICA, directed by Caroline Link
Seeing this the night before the Oscars, I knew I was watching the soon-to-be Best Foreign Language Film winner. Looking around the almost-full art house theater, I watched as older men and women sat back and let the tasteful art flow through them. It's another true-life Holocaust flick with the twist that the family escapes Germany and goes all the way to Africa to start their lives from scratch. From moment to moment, it's well acted and plotted -- nothing ever feels wrong or out of place. But it never fires you up one way or the other, either. Here's a family that survived the Nazis and was changed along the way -- and? Could there be a better companion piece to The Pianist? B

Every year, The Village Voice's annual "Pazz & Jop" music poll gives me a chance to argue, celebrate, and play catch-up. And, sure enough, this indie band is just as good as advertised. And, how about this, they're college-educated white guys who actually know how to dance, funk, rock -- you know, their music moves and rolls and messes around. No emo in them, they enjoy tones, moods, textures, and actual hooks. The Pavement comparison doesn't quite fit, except that both bands can quietly stun you when they're not just having one hell of a smart-ass good time. A-

The White Stripes "ELEPHANT"
Their sound now a gimmick, they survive because Jack White doesn't seem aware of the formula he's fallen into: blues rocker, piano rocker, rocker rocker. We don't need any movements or revivals -- that's for bored rock critics to get all misty over -- we just need good bands. Count on these guys to blow the cobwebs out of your ears, and you'll be happily surprised. Expect the Second Coming, and you're in for a huge disappointment -- these minimalists don't have the worldview or ambition to resurrect anything. But they are branching out: Where Jack used to unearth an old blues gem to get his rocks off, now he just writes his own. Plus, great kitsch cover. And, proving it was no live fluke, he's out to become your next guitar hero. A-

Idlewild, live at the El Rey, April 3
On album, they're explosive, filled with promise and easy-to-spot influences. (It warms the heart to know that U2 and R.E.M. are still inspiring young bands.) On stage, they're still not all there, though. Roddy Woomble's voice doesn't have the anger and command it does on "100 Broken Windows" and this year's "The Remote Part." But this Scottish group has deservedly made their mark in the UK, and here's hoping that a distinct identity will soon follow their already-established guitars and energy. B+
There are several official band sites worth your obsessive time, but none revel in the singular stupidity of its subject more than this one. Not only do you get almost daily news on these nu-metal morons, Fred Durst himself delivers it. What results is a series of grammar-deficient, typo-heavy genius. From the looks of things, Durst is single, working on the album, and enjoying "some other phat ass riff come barreling out of our amps." Forget what he's gonna name the new album -- "Fetus More" for now, but maybe he'll change his mind again! Between his stream-of-conscious postings and his public appearances, the man's making a serious push for a reality show. That is, of course, if the VP position doesn't work out. A-

FUTURAMA, Sundays on Fox
The recent episodes were completed before they knew they were getting axed, and yet since the news the show has become riskier, more clever, and, most importantly, really funny. The series' main weakness will forever be its lack of great breakaway side characters -- there's no Disco Stu, no Comic Book Guy, not even a Carl and Lenny -- but Fry, Leela, and Bender's evolving, forever-juvenile relationship was just starting to become as meaningful as the guys' on Frasier. It never reached The Simpsons' peak, but its animation and sci-fi in-jokes are for the ages. A-




CITY OF GOD, directed by Fernando Meirelles
Again proving that other countries make better Tarantino movies than we do. Like Amores Perros, this is a violent, hyperbolic film that doesn't feel sensational or exploitative. And forget all of that Goodfellas talk. This film has a dynamic main character. This film has unforgettable set pieces that actually build to something. Plus, this film's emotionally involving and deeply moral. Another reason to hate how the Academy allows foreign films to get nominated. A

Justin Timberlake "Rock Your Body"
With his singles, he's done funky, then heartbroken. So, with all the hard work over, he relaxes. Gets cocky. Shows you a good time. Isn't smug about it. In other words, anybody unafraid to enjoy a heterosexual male dancing with a falsetto will be instantly pleasured by this. It sounds like the Saturday night of your dreams. Every girl in the place wants you. But you ain't sweatin' it. Because it's all a game, it's all in fun. And like last year's Single of the Year, even its appearance in a Bally's commercial doesn't kill the buzz. A

The Folk Implosion "Pearl"
Most of you are over Lou Barlow, let alone Sebadoh and the Folk Implosion. And the new album won't convince you otherwise if you've already made up your mind. But this great song might. Acoustic and direct, Barlow assumes narrative distance for a relationship crashing into flames beautifully, tragically, hauntingly. Our anti-hero could be a close cousin of Dylan in his spurned "Don't Think Twice, It's Alright," except there's something more ordinary and scared and therefore recognizable in this guy. Beware the beautiful melody that doesn't let go. And even as the romance fails, this song convinces you that love is the only thing worth fighting for -- precisely because it's usually not meant to last. A



Fox News
Bush vs. Saddam spun as if it were NFC Conference Championship. Only upside: No Jimmy Kimmel. D

Michael Moore
"One of the mosquito-bite irritations of being son the left is
finding your ideals represented in public by Michael Moore," opened a critic's review of Bowling for Columbine so many months ago. How right he was. "Isn't life great? The more you protest, the more popular Bush becomes. Keep up the good work," a snide letter to the editor chortled last month. How right that guy was, too. It's possible that liberals need their own loudmouths to counteract the loudmouths on the right. But wouldn't it be better if Moore was more interested in promoting the Constitution and not just his new movie, book and ballcap? C-

Counting Crows "Big Yellow Taxi"
The mistaken impression revisionists make about Joni Mitchell was that she was just one more wimpy, lite-rockin' folkie. But anybody paying attention back then knows that wasn't true -- take "Big Yellow Taxi," a great tune at the service of a pointed commentary on ecology and social involvement. You can't blame Adam Duritz for not knowing better -- or even caring. They've been out the game so long, nobody remembers them. (Wait, they did … that song about being Bob Dylan? "Mr. Something-or-Other"?) And so now they're desperate and willing to take everybody down with them. Don't buy any more Counting Crows albums. Get "Ladies of the Canyon" instead. And if it grabs you, rejoice: You've got some great Mitchell albums ahead of you. C





Tim Grierson is an editor of The Simon, a weekly online publication of culture, politics, and humor.