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October 22, 1982 - Image 18

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1982-10-22
This is a tabloid page

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By Malcolm Robinson
My Favorite Year
Starring: Peter O'Toole, Mark Linn-
Baker, and Joseph Bologna
Directed by Richard Benjamin
Playing at the Movies at Briarwood
IT MIGHT SEEM churlish to make
too much of a fuss over the flaws of
My Favorite Year. The film, after all, is
a warm and remarkably affable
comedy that manages to do many
things and also does them well. In fact,
besides The World According to Garp,
it is difficult to think of a recent motion
picture that so consistently cares about
its characters, about what happens to
them and where. Director Richard Ben-
jamin moves his players around what
amounts to an almost miraculous ver-
sion of New York: from Rockefeler
Center to The Stork Club, and from
Brooklyn to Central Park; Central
Park has never looked quite so benign
on the screen.
Oddly enough, then, the film's only
real troubles are those that can be
directly traced back to its plot. Yet
what surrounds its story is often so on
target, it would have been a shame
never to have started the project.
My Favorite Year has at least three
interconnected story ideas running
through it and the most troublesome is
the one that frames the other two. The
year of the title is 1954 and its "my"
refers to one Benjy Stone. Benjy serves
as the focus for the film; it is his point of


By Diane Powlowski
Lovin' Spoonful
330 S. Main
Hours: Noon-10 p.m., Monday-
Thursday, till 11 p.m. Friday-Sunday
JIM HILL remembers his grand-
mother combining either straw-
berries or peaches with cream in a
small ice cream maker to produce the
two flavors of ice cream that cooled
many a sweaty summer day.
Now, Hill dispenses portions of those
memories in the form of homemade ice
cream served up in quarter-pound
scoops at Lovin' Spoonful.
The creamy product works as an
LCD (least common denominator) that
attracts undergrads, grad students,
faculty and staff as well as Ann Arbor
residents. On a cool and damp October
evening, specimens of all of the above
could be found happily in line near the
coolers waiting to buy ice cream.
Others linger around and occasionally
dance to the music of the vintage
Lovin' Spoonful is a quick seven
minute walk from the Michigan Union.
Customers can choose from ap-
proximately 40 flavors of homemade
ice creams and ices, including
blueberry, Oreo, M&M, Mint Oreo,

pralines and cream, rum and raisin, as
well as Bailey's Irish Cream or more
familiar and standard flavors such as
strawberry and chocolate.
In addition, ice cream fanciers can
purchase ice cream cakes topped with
whipped cream. The cakes are
fashioned in the form of The Cookie
Monster, a Hallowe'en pumpkin, or
even Wolverine running back Anthony
Carter. Special order cakes in other
designs are also available.
Plump jars squat on two shelves.
above the Spoonful's newest addition:
an espresso coffeepot. The jars sport
penny store candies such as jelly
Mexican Hats, Squirrels, Jelly Bellies,
caramels, jawbreakers, licorice snaps, .
rock candy and malted milk balls.
Owner Jim Hill feels that the making
of ice cream is a combination of both
science and art.
"Knowing what we want as an end
product and formulating everything is
the science. The art of making ice
cream includes the way we blend the
flavors into the ice cream as well as the
flavors we dream up. We think up many
of the ideas on our own, because we feel
our tastes are average, or at least
representative. That's the human
element," Hill says.
According to Hill, because the Spoon-
ful does make its own ice cream, it is
under many of the same regulations
that a dairy is. Consequently, it is
regularly inspected by both state and
federal agencies.
The ice cream is made from a rich-
over 10%-cream formula that is
specially blended by a dairy so that no
artificial stabilizers are needed. No ar-
tificial ingredients are used, and many
of the base preparation mixtures used

in making the ice cream are mixed
right in the shop. The actual blending of
flavors with the cream is a process that
takes about six minutes per three
gallon tub.
After that, the ice cream undergoes a
careful freezing process. When it is
mixed, it is chilled to 240. It is then flash
frozen at 40* below zero, stored at 150,
and sold at a temperature of 5°.
"I call this a freezing process," Hill
explains. "This process solidified the
ice cream and gives it its creamy tex-
Ideas for new flavors are generated
by the store's staff, many of whom are
University students, as well as by
"We're going to have pumpkin pie ice
cream in about a week, and we are
changing a number of the flavors now
that the seasons are changing," Hill
says. "We've had requests for a num-
ber of flavors. We've been asked to try
Champagne Ice for the Christmas
holidays and I think we can promise
that. We're also coming out with a bit-
tersweet chocolate. We are open to new
ideas. Wewill experiment with new
flavors, if they sound good. In the end,
there may be times when we only make

one tub of a
There are nc
ful for the win
preparing a :
drinks for the
gradually to
noticed a ch,
buying patter
our customers
eat ice cream
this time, but
change. A lo
making one tr
ice cream i
several times
telephone ord
than glad to fil
Although the
since May, Hi
many regula
some who coi
Flint or Chicag
"It's only I
us enormousl
Hey, we have
ice cream," H
Jim, your
proud of you.


Ann Arbor's Newest Korean Restaurant
But Ko Ki Bar-B-Q Sandwich 2.80


My Favorite Year: Rite of passage.
view the film takes most seriously;
these are his memories.
Benjy, apparently based on the young
Mel Brooks, is an aspiring comedy
writer for the most successful comedy
show on television, "The Comedy
Cavalcade." He is aggressive, insecure
and in love with a woman who pays no
attention to him. Benjy is also one of the
most ardent fans of Alan Swann, a
swashbuckling hero of innumerable

Hollywood screen epics.
The basic premise of the film is that
the once great Alan Swann is to make
an appearance on "Comedy
Calvacade" and, just as Mel Brooks
was once given the job of chaperoning
Errol Flynn for "Your Show of Shows,"
Benjy Stone is volunteered for the role
of babysitter for Swann. Will the often
drunk and irresponsible, ever suave
and adventurous Swann survive until
show time? Will he fail horribly on live
television? These are the type of
questions that propel the plot. More im-
portantly, at least for the film, they
give Benjy' the opportunity to be with
his idol and, hence, to learn the ways of
the world from him.
This is certainly what the film does
worst: What is most bothersome about
this portion of My Favorite Year is not
so much that it treats its rite of passage
theme in such a hackneyed fashion or
even that it presents it with such large
doses of sentimentality. No, the
problem here is simply that the film is
unconvincinging in its execution; the
rite of passage is never actually com-
Still, the problem is more one of con-
ception than of casting. Mark Linn-
Baker works hard to make Benjy Stone a
credible character. At least he gets
most of the surface mannerisms
correst for the role-a role that a few
years ago would have been offered to
Richard Dreyfuss. Yet it's an open
question as to whether even Dreyfuss
who was so successful in The Appren-
ticeship of Duddy Kravitz and The
Goodbye Girl could have made this role
work. For no matter all that he gets
correct in the way of period nostalgia,
Director Benjamin just seems to be
without a clue as to why anyone ought
to care about Benjy Stone. He instead
accepts it as a given and starts from
there. But by skimping on this section

of the story, the director and his scrip-
twriters have turned what must be the
backbone of their tale into a relatively
minor subplot.
Luckily, not even as large a mis-step
as this can do great harm to the rest of
the film.
If nothing else, My Favorite Year
demonstrates a love for '50s television
that is gentle and, in many ways,
touching in its understatement. Things
were different then; live did make a dif-
ference; and the entire cast seems to
recognize that fact. Though, again, few
of the actors go beyond the surface
mannerisms of their characters, for the
most part this is more than enough. The
wonderful Adolph Green turns in a fine
performance as the show's oft put upon
producer and Bill Macy is suitably
cynical as the show's obsequious head
writer. Joe Bologna, as King Kaiser,
the star of the TV show, gives a more
than decent impersonation of Sid
Caesar, the head comic in "Your Show
of Shows."
The key to My Favorite Year,
however, is Alan Swann, impeccably
played by Peter O'Toole. Whenever he
is not, the proceedings are a tad duller.
Alan Swann is definitely one of the
warmest and most sympathetic figures
that O'Toole (Lawrence of Arabia, Lord
Jim, The Lion in Winter, etc.) has ever
portrayed on film. His Swann is full of
whimsy, full of grace, truly the swash-
buckler incarnate. Nonetheless, the
performance could easily have turned
bathetic. (Swann, it seems, really does
no believe in himself and, to his deepest
sorrow, has long been separated from
the daughter he loves.) O'Toole tran-
sforms many of these possibly banal,
treacly moments into small and large
epiphanies. In the process, in getting at
the essence of his doomed yet dashing
creation, he illuminates the screen in a
way that few actors are capable.


1133 E. Huron

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Lovin' Spoonful: Banana splits


Peter O'Toole: Swashbuckler


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6 Weekend/October 22, 1982


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