The Michigan Daily
Sunday, April 7, 1985
seems all too
By Byron L. Bull
BABY IS THE latest film to be released under the
Touchstone banner, the special branch Disney Studios
created for the making and marketing of films more
progressive (that is, more contemporary) than their own
somewhat antiquated policy allows. After a few reasonable
successes, like last year's Splash and Country, along comes
this hopelessly juvenile romantic comedy about a man, a
woman, and their baby brontosaurus that clings with an
almost vengeful tenacity to the old Disney formula to the ex-
tent it pretty much blows Touchstone's minor achievements
Some years ago Disney tried jumping belatedly on the Star
Wars bandwagon with a big, expensive, sloppily concocted
space opera called The Black Hole, and lost a bundle on it. A
few years later they turned down a chance to produce E.T.,
and have no doubt been kicking themseles in the corporate
head ever since. Baby bears an unmistakable resemblance to
E.T., with enough other rampant derivations - from Raiders
of the Lost Ark, Dumbo, Bambi - than you can keep a run-
ning tab of.
The whole movie reads like a carefully planned, hopelessly
misconceived, shot at trying to exploit current filmgoer
taste, and it fails miserably.
Sean Young and William Katt - a prototypically Disney
clean scrubbed, blandly handsome couple - play a young
zoologist and her sportswriter husband who befriend an or-
phaned brontosaurus while trekking through the deeper
forest of Africa. The baby's father has been killed, and its
mother drugged and bound, by a ruthless, opportunistic
paleozoologist (Patrick McGoohan) who will go to any blood-
thirsty lengths to get his hands on the hatchling..
Director B.W.L. Norton (whose work to date has
been mostly television movies and includes the long forgotten
feature, More American Grafitti) drags the film along at a
snail's pace. He contentedly lets the movie wallow in its con-
trived cutesiness, never elevating the romantic chemistry
between Young and Katt above insipid G-rated silliness, and
all the while plays the wide eyed, adorably clumsy baby
bronto - which even looks like E.T. with two extra legs - for
everything he can milk out of it.
There isn't a note of genuine sentiment in the whole ven-
ture, its all strictly by-the-book factory filmmaking, devoid
of any freshness or originality, save for some over played
pathos during the father dinosaur's death scene - it's the
same old Disney safe-as-white-bread outing.
Young and Katt do the best they can with their limited
roles, though their parts are homogenized to the extreme of
lifelessness. Katt, who once played in a fantasy-comedy on
television called The Greatest American Hero shows some
sense of comic timing, and Young, who's never had a decent
role yet in her career - possible excluding her tantalizingly
limited role as Harrison Ford's synthetic lover in Bladerun-
ner - does have an undeniably beguiling presence, but both
are continually frustrated by the omnipresent gimmick of the
Most important flaw: If you're going to do a film about
dinosaurs, you'd damn well better have one convincing
dinosaur. But no ... what we get instead are two men in a
cumbersome dinosaur suit, one that is shockingly crude
compared to what we've seen in other films, like Yoda in the
Star Wars films, or E.T., or even Jim Henson's muppet
creations. Disney, back in the fifties and sixties, had
probably the most resourceful and ingenious of special effec-
ts facilities, but in these post-George-Lucas days, they've
fallen a good decade behind. Which isn't that bad, when you
consider that their story deparment is a good thirty years
George (William Katt) and his wife Susan (Sean Young), begin a danger and tripe-filled trek to reunite a baby bron-
tosaurus with its mother. Hopefully this film won't result in : spin-off T-shirts and other merchandise.
Play exhibits supple strangeness
By Noelle Browner
t FINDtthis play intriguing. The play
I in question is Caryl Churchill's Cloud
9, to be performed April 8-14 in the
Trueblood Theatre by the Michigan En-
semble Theatre. Having only read the
play, I am curious to see the approach
taken to its production -by the very
Usually, it is easy to picture how a
play will appear simply by reading its
text, however, this is not conventional
theatre, at least not in design. Act I
introduces us to a Victorian family
living in British colonial Africa in 1880.
There i.s Clive, the father, who
represents the core of the traditional,
upstanding values of Citorian society,
moved by those who surround him.
Betty, the mother, is played by a man,
Victoria, their daugher, is a rag doll; .
Edward, their nine-year-old hopelessly
gay son, is played by a woman, and
Joshua, their African servant, is played
by a white actor., The other characters
include Ellen; the nanny, and Mrs.
Saunders, a hot widow, both roles
played by the same actress; and Harry,
the great explorer and family friend
who seduces Edward, Betty, and
Act II takes place in London of 1980,
though, for the characters, only twenty-
five years have passed. Some charac-
ters are gone while others have been
added, as well as a grown man por-
traying a monstrous little girl con-
tinuously shooting off her toy gun.
Though the play is highly unconven-
tional, the topics it raises are familiar
themes and ar^ often discussed in
modern society. It is rather the way
Churchill gingerly handles the jux-
to posing of stereotypical sexual roles
with their sexual reality that gives the
play its originality and impact.
On one level Cloud 9 is an acrobatic
exercise in sexual role playing. Sex is
used here as a generic heading under
which Churchill presents to us melded
together situations of adultery, incest,
lesbianism, sodomy, pedestry, mastur-
bation, and, oh yes, good old
heterosexuality. Churchill, wisely
enough, does all of this in a lighthear-
ted, almost farcical manner, thus we
are neither offended nor bored with
bleeding-heart soliloquies about the
problems of gay-dom, unlike many of
the pedantic issue plays coming out of
the gay and feminist theatre of today.
On another, more profound level, this
play does take itself very seriously.
Churchill writes explicitly, almost
shockingly, such as when Clive says to
Mrs. Saunders, "Caroline, if you were
shot with poisoned arrows, do you know
what I'd do? I'd fuck your dead body
and poison myself." Yet, after the
audience accustoms itself to this
vaudevillian banter of sexual arias, an
underlying message appears. In all of
this newly found freedom from Vic-
torian inhibitions, is there anything but
new sexual stereotypes to fill the old
ones and is there anything more to
Churchill answers this question only
vaguely as can be seen in the closing
monologue of the newly liberated Betty.
Churchill seems content to leave us
both amused and disturbed. Evening
performances are at 8 p.m. with a Sun-
doy matinee at 2 p.m.
'Figures' rectifies past, turns show around
By James Mayes
.lESPITE NUMEROUS technical difficulties, Figures
on a Beach went on at the U-Club on schedule
Friday night. This was the band's sixth appearance
in Ann Arbor since their formation in 1981. The only
-time I had seen "Figures" previous to this was when
they opened for The Tubes in Hill Auditorium two
years ago. That night the crowd was highly unrecep-
tive and heckled a great deal, which is just as well
because the band demonstrated no potential.
Last night they opened with "Swimming" (a song
billed in '83 as their best) and followed with two more
mediocre songs all reminiscent of the '83 performan-
ce. The next song, .however, "South of Buena Vista,"
was such a turn around that I started to see Figures
in a new light. "South of Buena Vista" (their most
recent musical endeavor) was a communing of the
entire band. Each instrument had its own role but no
one instrument dominated, though I especially liked
the bass and drum parts (previously there had been a
very heavy keyboard emphasis). Their next song,
"Eternal Repetition," followed the same lines as
"South of Buena Vista" and I could see that this was
going to be a good night after all.
The rest of the night was filled with some great
music, especially "Paradise" and "That's Not the
Way It Should Be." "Paradise" had a provocative
' keyboard, and though the other instruments didn't at-
tain the level of equality as in "South of Buena
Vista," the song seemed none the worse. Figures
seems to be shifting its emphasis from heavily
keyboard to the band as a whole (though the
keyboard retains dominance). This was very ap-
parent in "That's Not the Way It Should Be" where
the band achieved almost total unity, all of the in-
struments meshing as one.
The night's only drawback was due to technical
problems; it was very difficult to make out the lyrics
and at one point lead singer Tony Kaczinski's
microphone went out altogether. This is when the
band demonstrated true professionalism. Instead of
freezing, they went into a good dance beat, and Tony
left the stage to dance among the crowd. When the
mike resumed function, the band restarted the song
and went on. The night ended with a call for an en-
core, but because of time constraints, they couldn't
The band consists of: Tony Kaczinski-vocals,
keyboards; Perry Tell-bass, guitar; Chris
Ewen-keyboards; M. Smith-Drums; and Rick
Ricce-guitar. After the performance, I had a chan-
ce to talk with Kaczinski, and later Ricce joined us.
The first thing on my mind was the name-why
"Figures on a Beach?"
"After joking around with names like 'The Fatal
Lozenge' and 'Toast Like Jim,' " says Kaczinski, "I
was looking throughaebook and one of the pictures
jumped right out at me. It was the Picasso painting
'Figures on a Beach.' Some of the figures resembled
band members and the name just fit."
I was pretty frank about my opinion of the '83 Tubes
opening and asked what was internally different
about the band now?.
"The band has found a rawness it was lacking,"
answers Kaczinski. "Though our basis is keyboard§
that doesn't have to be unpassionate or sterile. I feel
punk music is becoming too sterile." "I think the
band has developed a healthy sense of the absurd,"
he adds. This will probably make it difficult to sell
albums, but we feel better if what we do is real."
The band is very anti-pop and doesn't think much of
Talk Talk and Madonna. .
"We care more about music as an art, not as an in-
dustry," Kaczinski stresses. "There is nothing wrong
with a hit if it's natural. You can't sit down intending
to write a hit-it just has to come."
This sparked some curiosity on my part about the
song "South of Buena Vista" (which really has great
potential, and just happens to be my favorite).
"Buena Vista was written under strange circum-
stances," replies Kaczinski, "We were practicing
and all the fuses blew, so we were left with snare
(drum), guitar and bass. The three started fooling
around and I went into the other room. While I was
there, I wrote 'Beuna Vista' out of nowhere. When I
came back, we put what the bass, guitar and snare
had been doing together with my lyrics. They just
fit-it was magic."
Speaking of the band's influences, Kaczinski says:
"We respect a diversity of American independent
(non-Pop) bands." At this point, Kaczinski and I
were joined by Rick Ricce and Kaczinski went on to
note, "Well there's Rick who has an 'I love Van
Halen' sticker on his guitar."
I ask if Rick idolizes Eddie Van Halen. "Not
idolize, rather I see that Van Halen realizes the pop
industry for what it is-a cartoon. I think they're like
Bugs Bunny with genitals."
I finished the interview by asking about the band's
"Well we have an EP on the way," says Kaczin-
ski," and are going to play in Denver. We even plan
to have a full-fledged road tour."
This is a band to watch for in the future, especially q
if they head in the direction of "South of Buena
Vista"-which they seem to be trying to do. The key
to success or failure for Figures on a Beach will be if
they can keep their music, as Kaczinski stresses
Pictured are the cast of 'Cloud Nine,' a Michigan Ensemble Theatre produc-
tion. The play portrays familiar themes in a soundly unconventional and
lightheartedly farcical manner.
THE ART of FILM
Film, Video, and RC 236 will be taught in Fall 1985
by Professor Hubert Cohen and is being offered on
TUESDAY and THURSDAY, 12:00 -1:30
with Discussion Sections on Friday afternoon.
NO PREREQUISITES. FOUR CRFDIT HOURS.
See LSA Course Guide and updated CRISP listings
for more information.
SADE-Diamond Life (Epic)
Diamondt Life, the debut album from
SADE (pronounced Shar-DAY), is a
spirited, soulful, romantic piece of
work, and is quite polished and
professional-sounding. It is hard to
believe that this is her first project on
vinyl. SADE is from London, where she
studied fashion design before deciding
to try the music profession. She was in
Pride, a group that never recorded,
wherD -hp ram into heir owjn voc~ally
more strong keyboard- and guitar-
oriented instruments, "Hang on to Your
Love" follows in a different-but-similar -
manner to the first two songs. The
remaining songs are just as enjoyable
as these,' using enticing rhythms and
vocals. SADE herself co-wrote every
song on the album, except the 1972
Timmy Thomas hit, "Why Can't We
Live Together?," given a thoughtful
reworking here as the album's closing
The rhythms are latin-based, samba-
this music sounds like is tough, but1
here's an attempt. Put together the
percussion section from Santana, a
bassist who plays like the part in "Billie
Jean," a sax solo like that heard on
Wham's "Careless Whisper," guitar
like Andy Summer's playing in the
background quietly with short, sharp
strokes, with a crisp, clear voice like a
female George Michaels (Wham!) in
the higher parts. The best song to
epitomize her sound is (needless to say)
a lot like "Careless Whisper." It is safe
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the next album can live up to this effort.
al c to this effo
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