Artists of the Year

Iraq. SARS. Jay Leno, Still on television practically every night. Yeah, 2003 was about as much fun as a social disease.

Murray aired the secret of his astonishing ability in 1998's Rushmore and has since made bold, intelligent choices. In Jim Jarmusch's Coffee and Cigarettes, due this spring, he fervently gulps a cup of joe while members of the Wu-Tang Clan discuss clean living. But it is as aging star Bob Harris in Sofia Coppola's Lost in Translation that the depth of Murray's talent emerges.

When Humphrey Bogart slumped over a cocktail and muttered, "Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world..." we knew that, even in our loneliest hour, Bogie understood. His sentimental cynicism made us realize that everyone feels brash and scared, indifferent and lonely.

And so it is with Murray. While posing for a group photo, Bob watches the elevator close in front of his departing companion Charlotte (played by Scarlett Johansson). Lost in her fleeting form, he forgets to look at the camera. After each snap, he turns to offer a halfhearted yet poignant smile. He's in pain, but he still tries to fulfill this silly obligation. His drooping eyes and weary jowls reveal that Murray, too, understands the crushing, profound power of connection within a sea of banality.

Aaron Horkey

One night, after stumbling around Tokyo, tired, drunk, and exhilarated, Bob, Charlotte, and a loose group of friends sing karaoke. Wearing a ridiculous getup, absurdly out of place, yet comfortable in his own pockmarked skin, Bob reveals his sadness and love of life. Defeated and triumphant, he croons, "More than this/There is nothing..." And that is more than enough.

Emily Condon is program director at Minnesota Film Arts.

 

Kevin Garnett
BY BRITT ROBSON

Watching Kevin Garnett play basketball is like hearing Sonny Rollins blow a calypso on his tenor sax. His agility is uncanny, his gusto profound, his passions palpable and contagious. The most complete performance artists keep the yin and yang of their creative process in balance, honing their God-given talent with both unwavering discipline and unfettered imagination, coiling themselves for the moments when they can ignite in a blaze of improvisation. KG is the most complete athletic artist in team sports today. Fred Hoiberg, a conscientious veteran new to the Timberwolves this season, was stunned at the intensity Garnett brings to practice, and at his mastery of the game's nuances. His unselfish style elevates the play of his teammates, who risk embarrassment if they don't try to conform to his high standards.

The National Basketball Association has what is known as an efficiency rating, which essentially subtracts all the bad things a player does (turnovers, missed shots, etc.) from all the productive things to arrive at an aggregate total. A week before Christmas, KG's 32.57 efficiency was 25 percent better than anyone else's (Tim Duncan was second at 26.68). Even that measure doesn't do him justice, because efficiency doesn't rate a player's defensive prowess and Garnett is one of the two or three best defenders in the game. Last year, the Wolves were breaking in a new point guard, so Garnett stepped up and averaged six assists per game, better than every non-point guard (and the majority of point guards) in the league. This year, injuries have cost Minnesota their top two centers, so Garnett has responded by leading the league in rebounding and ranking fourth in blocked shots.

But real artistry can't be calibrated on paper. Watch Garnett in action and decide for yourself whether he has earned his reputation as one of the four or five most exciting players in the game today. Consider that he is one of the league's most durable superstars, and that no player of his caliber in the modern era has remained so loyal to his team under such trying circumstances. Watch him make eye contact with his teammates and point to his chest when he bears responsibility for the slightest mishap on the court. And note that less than 24 hours after scoring 27 points, grabbing 13 rebounds, and blocking six shots in a win over Houston in mid-December, he was out in the community, helping to paint the walls of the Greater Minneapolis Crisis Nursery.

Britt Robson is a senior editor at City Pages.

 

Sam Farha
BY PAUL DEMKO

Ihsan "Houston Sam" Farha is bored. Seated at the final table of the World Series of Poker at Binion's Horseshoe in May, with $2.5 million in prize money splayed on the table in front of him, Farha can hardly disguise his disdain for the proceedings. Occasionally he closes his eyes and sleeps.

Across the table from him is a beefy frat boy from Tennessee wearing a baseball cap and wraparound shades named Chris Moneymaker. He has never played in a live poker tournament before in his life. Moneymaker's chosen manner to celebrate the winning of a hand is to pump his fists in the air and grunt at the audience.

Farha does not engage in such buffoonery. He's about as emotive as a poker chip. Even the unlit cigarette that's permanently perched between his lips never quavers. Hunched over the green felt table, pristine white cuffs peeking out from his black blazer, the Lebanese-born card sharp looks like a refugee from Reservoir Dogs.

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