Thanks but no thanks, 'Dad'
There I was, standing in the street
minding my own business, when a
baseball came flying out of nowhere
and smacked me right in the back of
"Oh, God," I cried, lying stunned
on the. ground.
"Think quick," laughed a man
coming over to help me up. He was
wearing a baseball glove.
"Who are you?" I asked.
The man was offended. "Why,
don't you recognize me?" He put
his hands on my shoulders. "I'm
Robben Fleming - your n e w
father. I thought we'd get to know
one another. You know, make up
for lost time."
I was dazed.
"You've never taken me out to
any ballgames." I asserted. "You
never come and hold my hand when
I go to CRISP."
"Come on, Son. I'm trying to
make it up to you now. Merry
Christmas," he said pointing over
to where the ball had come to a
"I'm sorry I couldn't get this to
you sooner, but I'm giving it to
you right now."
After I picked the ball up, he
reached into his coat pocket and
pulled out a series of papers. "Oh,
by the way, this is for you, too."
Critically acclaimed director discusses
stigmas, improvisation, and working with
Robin.Williams in 'Good Morning Vietnam'
Baltimore-born Barry Levinson has emerged from the Hollywood
scene as a film-maker who possesses a thoroughly unique and
individualistic approach to film-making. Ile has been nominated twice
for an Academy Award (in 1979 for ...And Justice for All' and in 1983
for the critically acclaimed 'Diner'). Levinson was in San Francisco
last week promoting his new film, 'Good Morning Vietnam,' starring
Robin Williams. WEEKEND Film Editor John Shea spoke with
Levinson at a press conference.
Daily: Some people look at your body of work and say you're a
"man's director." What do you think of that?
Levinson: It's just in terms of what the story you're getting involved
with is all about. If you look at Tin Men and Diner, which are the two
I wrote, what it's all about is really the dilemma of a man and a
woman, so I've been dealing with male- female relationships. I've been
dealing with the male side of the coin so I can understand people
saying, "Oh, he can only do this..." Any time you do something,
you're going to get categorized. It comes with the territory. You're
doing all comedy, they're going to say, "Oh, he can only do comedies."
We all go through this. I kind of think it's funny.
D: What type of conversations went on between you and Robin, before
shooting began, about the dramatic aspects of the film?
L: We didn't have a lot of conversations about it. I kind of like to let it
be as loose and spontaneous as anything can be. The only thing we
rtalked about was to be as honest in those dramatic scenes as possible,
as opposed to slanting them, because we don't have a satirical film.
This conceptual thing of doing straight drama is what we talked about.
D: What's it like directing an actor like Robin Williams who's
uncontrollable, a force all by himself.
L: Well, that's the easiest thing you can have. An actor who gives you
a lot is ultimately easy because you're getting a lot. It's the actor that's
not doing anything that you've got some serious problems with. If you
have to say, "No, no, no, let's do a little less here," then you're able to
shape something. If someone's not doing anything, it's very hard to get
a grip on how to handle that person in a scene. So that's easy as
opposed to difficult.
D: Did you have any problems like that with Diner where you had to
really move people?
L: Just in the respect that you're orchestrating that it doesn't become
chaos because I write dialogue so it's almost on top of each other, and
often so it's not in response to something. Most dialogue is not. It
goes sideways, it's oyer here, it's backed up, it's redundant, so you're
trying to shape it.
D: Did you consider anyone else for Robin Williams' role?
See INTERVIEW, Page 9
He handed them to me.
I started to read "Discriminatory
Acts on the Part of Students."
"Oh, I can't take this," I gushed.
"No, no," the man said. "I
"To eliminate discrimination on
campus, we have to have students
held strictly accountable for things
they write or say."
"Are faculty and administration
held accountable too?"
"We're working on that."
Tossing the ball from one hand to
another, I thought about whathe
was saying. I looked around this
City of Glass that is Ann Arbor and
decided that if I were ever to play
catch with anyone, I better be
damned careful where I throw the
Turn around and look about.
What do you see? Racism in one
direction, sexism in another, and
anti-gay bigotry in yet a third. It
seems that every utterance, every
letter to the Daily, and every
message on MTS can be interpreted
as one of these things.
"What will you consider
'discriminatory'?" I wondered.
"Well," he recited the proposal off
the top of his head. "'Harassment of
anyone through word or deed, or any
other behavior which discriminates
on the basis of inappropriate
"Isn't that a violation of my First
Amendment rights?" I interrupted.
"Not if they complicate
enforcement of our rules," he
So what happens if the
administration interprets as
"discriminatory" something like
"Funky Black Bitch" or a protest of
CIA recruitment on campus? The
offender gets a call to a dean's
office, and if he or she leaves
without agreeing to apologize, it
means the remainder of the term
spent on probation. Do it again, and
summer vacation comes in January.
I thought about this and started to
get scared. Real scared. Even though
I already have parents - albeit
1000 miles away - who have
spent half their life instilling values
in me as they saw fit, thishtotal
stranger was trying to dictate how I
See SHEA, Page 9
OFF THE WALL
Rhythmless White Bitch
QUICK SOMEONE CALL
It is customary at the beginning
of a new year for film critics to whip
out their hankies and bemoan last
year's films. But the truth of the
matter is 1987 was an average year-
If you looked hard enough, y ou
would have found some gems amidst
the usual array of turkeys. Here are
some of the gems Daily film staffers
"The Signifier of the Year" award
goes to Laika, the Soviet space dog,
who found posthumous notoriety as
a metaphor for social alienation in
two films last year. The impish boy
in Lasse Hollstrom's My Life As a
Dog (Sweden) connected Laika with
the experiences of himself and his
own pet Sickan: all three were.
victims of an aggressive, deceptive,
adult world. In Dogs in Space
(Australia), Richard Lowenstein
employed Laika as a media-inspired
mascot for the rundown halfway
house occupied by a young rock star
and his hip, hopped-up friends and
groupies - kind of Father Knows
Best with Jello Biafra as Dad. It's
1977 and Skylab is falling from the
sky, but a big chunk has to land on
their heads before the outside world
creeps into their acid 'n' anomie
ghetto. At one point they set fire to
a television set and watch it burn.
At least they were more articulate
than the comfortably dumb teenagers
in The River's Edge (USA), Tim
Hunter's savage anthem of
contemporary youth. One critic
dismissed Neal Jimenez's screenplay
as "amateurish," but it's pretty toned
and limber for a project that began in
film school. A group of high school
students face a dilemma between
loyalty and justice when they
discover that a classmate has
murdered his girlfriend. Their
response is shockingly stoic; these
kids could have been extras for
Invasion of the Body Snatchers
Bring your senior yearbook.
Arnold Schwarzenegger beat up
Paul Verhoeven's Robocop at the
box office, but the android blew
away Mr. Universe with some well-
placed irony, some of it uttered by
Entertainment Tonight 's Leeza
Gibbons, which added another level
By now it's become
commonplace to say that the first
forty-five minutes of Stanley
Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket are
perfect, but the rest stinks. I admit to
initial disappointment, but I really
didn't understand what Kubrick was
trying tosdo until other people
bounced some ideas off me. It's
about the creation of the military
mind, of course, but it's rich enough
for some detailed analysis. A
feminist critic in the Village Voice
even saw the sniper scene as a
meditation of the Freudian sadistic-
anal stage. At any rate, I suspect this
film's reputation will grow with age.
And the first forty-five minutes are
Also noteworthy: Woody
Allen's Radio Days , Patricia
Rozema's I've Heard the Mermaids
Singing , Susan Seidelman's
Making Mr. Right , David Leland's
Wish You Were Here , Juzo Itami's
Tampopo , George Miller's The
Witches of Eastwick .
Odds and Ends: My favorite
response to a review of mine came
from two animal rights activists who
thought I didn't give the chimps in
Project X a fair shake. If I hear one
more sorority fake gush on about
Swimming to Cambodia , I'll never
stop throwing up. The Tom Jones
Memorial Erotic Dining Prize goes
to the yolk-suckers in Tampopo .
The Much Ado About Nothing
Award goes to John Boorman's Hope
and Glory . The best hormones
belonged to Diane Keaton in Baby
Boom. Michael Douglas flashed the
best shit-eating grin as Gordon
Gekko in Wall Street . Broadcast
News provided Jack Nicholson the
best cameo and Albert Brooks the
best alliteration. And finally, the
crudest metaphor was supplied by
Dennis Hopper (who else?) in The
River's Edge , who as an aging biker
reminisces about his wild youth: "I
ate so much pussy in those days my
beard looked like a glazed doughnut."
These are my "tops" of '87 -
love 'em or leave 'em:
-Full Metal Jacket
-No Way Out
'Swimming to Cambodia
-Evil Dead II
-Wish You Were Here
10 Best of 1987:
-My Life as a Dog
-Jean de Florette
-Empire of the Sun
'-Prick Up Your Ears
-Full Metal Jacket
-Swimming to Cambodia'
-Hope and Glory
There are two little voices tha
whisper inside my head whenever I'm
unsure about how to go about
something, like year-end lists.
"Come on," says the voice of
logic. "There must have been at least
200 movies released this year. Are
you going to tell me you've seen
"Uh...uh...no," I tell Logic.
"Then you're not qualified tc
make any kind of a list."
I nod my head.
Then I hear another voice, the
voice of fun: "Oh, so he missed all
the sequels to Hardbo dies and
Leonard Part 6."
Fun tells Logic, "Big deal."
"Yeah," I say, "Big deal."
-Jean de Florette from rul
-The Untouchables gardener
Some odds and ends: David Roxa
Mamet's House of Games, currently underest
in limited release around the country, film of 1
operates in a subtle slight-of-hand is as al
fashion which keeps you thinking all should 1
the time, and you still can't see this rev
what's coming. Lindsay Crouse stars Bergera
as a psychiatrist who gets tangled up comedy
with a con man (Joe Mantegna) in ultimat
this engrossing character study with rememt
mind games galore. It is a film that movie f
demands to be seen twice: the first Noti
time as unsuspecting viewer and the Woody
second time as some one "in' on follow-c
what's happening. , which
Full Metal Jacket. Stanley success
It's racism running rampant again.
IT'S NOT RACISM - IT SAYS
"WHITE" NOT "BLACK" -
THAT'S AFFIRMATIVE ACTION!
So what does that mean?
IT MEANS THAT ALL THOSE
BLEEDING HEART LIBERALS AT
THE DAILY CAN GO TO HELL.
What do you mean? This is hell.
Fleming can take his code and shove
it up his ass!
The ever-morally despicable Danny DeVito can't believe our reviewers liked
A ll) .
"Blasphemy," cries Logic. "How
can you put a numerical value on art,
especially when the films are so
varied in style and content!"
"Yes!" I say.
"But a list would be Fun," said
"Yes!!" I say.
"But how can you -"
"Oh, shut up," I tell Logic.
The ten best films of 1987 are:
-House of Games
-The Last Emperor
-Full Metal Jacket
-The Princess Bride
Kubrick is the only director I know have se
who can make violence seem like a - forg
ballet. Exciting action sequences and that mi
the curious non-presence of Matthew Allen c
Modine as Private Joker makes and tou
audiences momentarily forget this but eac
came off the heels of Platoon. Jacket, heavy
could have been a strong Oscar betwec
contender had it not been for the unbear
sagging second segment of the minute
movie, which drifts as aimlessly as see it e
the Vietnam war itself. Wh
The Last Emperor. This movie Ishtar?
was made with the gold statuette in that ki
mind, but unlike most epics with the wasn't
pretension of being important, this When
one actually is. Director Bernardo Leavir
Bertolucci mixes history and Will"
entertainment quite well as he tells celebrn
the story of Pu Yi, China's last you 'at
Emperor and how his life progresses
This is my last
semester, and I'm
O * *
PAGE 8 WEEKEND/JANUARY 15, 1988
WEEKEND/JANUARY 15, 1988