The Michigan Daily
Thursday, October 27, 1988
and Bird: Tried
BY LIAM FLAHERTY
VOCALIST Betty Carter resides in that jazz
stratosphere where the air is thin and first names are all
that's needed; Billie, Ella, Sarah, Betty.
She is there due to an enormity of skill and range,
and an abundance of experience. But mostly because her
art is the art of improvisation. Her voice is an
instrument that doesn't merely sing or interpret, but
Ron Brooks, bass player and owner of the Bird of
Paradise, where Carter will play this weekend, calls her
a "musician's singer" - meaning she has a suppleness,
intelligence, and spontaneity that those who make their
living from curved metal and ivory keys can appreciate.
Her ability to express a wealth of emotions, create a
mood, tell a story, and combine disparate elements into
a seamless texture is a style Brooks calls "fluid and
inclusive." And she gives back everything she takes in,
drawing the audience to her whether reaching for a high
note or coyly whispering the lowest.
Ron Brooks... calls her a "musician's
singer" - meaning she has a supple-
ness, intelligence, and spontaneity that
those who make their living from curved
metal and ivory keys can appreciate.
The shows at the Bird should be special, for Carter is
returning home. A native of Flint, she studied piano at
the Detroit Conservatory and lived in the city for a
number of years.
Carter debuted, in 1948, with great vibes player and
bandleader Lionel Hampton. Her beginnings were
modern jazz's, and she has played with its seminal
figures, including Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, and
Miles Davis. In 1960, she cut a classic album with Ray
Charles which, until recently reissued, was almost
impossible to find. But no one has had any problem
finding her latest effort, "Look What I've Got" on Verve
- it's reached number one on the Billboard jazz chart.
The musicians Carter brings to the Bird might not
get served. The band's average age is about 21,
consisting of Darrell Grant on piano, Ira Coleman on
bass, and Troy Davis on drums. Working with young
musicians has factored in Carter's continuing evolution,
and her commitment to jazz's. While some in the
business feel the music stopped somewhere in the '60s
(probably in the middle of a John Coltrane solo), Carter
looks only forward.
The Bird of Paradise and Betty Carter is a
combination that has worked before. Now she's
returning with a new band and on top of her game. Lay
down the 15 bucks and see what she's got; she might
touch some places you forgot were there.
BETTY CARTER will perform at the Bird of Paradise
tonight at 9 and 11 p.m, and Friday and Saturday at 8,
10, and 12 midnight. Tonight's 9 p.m. show and the 8
p.m. shows this weekend are all ages. Tickets are $15,
available in advance and at the door.
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BY ANDREA GACKI
The film Clara's Heart, starring Whoopi Goldberg as a Jamaican
maid who acts as the stabilizing agent for an upper-middle class
Baltimore family torn apart by the death of their infant daughter, is a
bit of a disappointment.
On second thought, let's say it's exasperating.
Okay, honestly: it's awful.
How can it be that a movie, when broken down into its various
factors, can appear to have some of the strongest components ever
assembled and can then combine them in such a way as to relegate
itself to utter mediocrity? Clara's Heart squanders virtually every one
of its assets. One travesty is particularly offensive, and that is the
way in which the acting abilities of Whoopi Goldberg are completely
Goldberg's Oscar-nominated film debut as Celie in Steven
Spielberg's The Color Purple was lauded as the coming of the new
Black actress, one that defied the stereotypical barriers implanted by
Hollywood. She followed it with Jumpin" Jack Flash, Burglar, Fatal
Beauty --all sad vehicles for a talented actress. And now, Clara's
Heart. Her performance as Clara Mayfield, a veritable saint with a
horrific past, is actually commendable; her Jamaican accent is superb,
and her comportment betrays the warmth and the supreme depth of
her character. But she is surrounded by pap.
Mark Medoff, the Oscar-nominated screenwriter of his play
Children of a Lesser God, brings a newfound triteness to the words
of Joseph Olshan's novel. Leona and Bill Hart (Kathleen Quinlan and
Michael Ontkean), the parents in the Baltimore family, spout sloppy
sentiment when their marriage falls apart, when they ultimately lose
touch with their only son, when they do anything at all. Director
Robert Mulligan, praised for his deft treatment of youth in such films
as To Kill a Mockingbird and Inside Daisy Clover, presents a stale
imitation of boyhood in David Hart (Neil Patrick Harris). David's
actions are too precocious, and thus one-dimensional, as he deals with
his parents' divorce and as he investigates Clara's mysterious past of
rape and suicide.
This film is all the more detestable because it had the potential to
be good, and this potential was wasted - leaving Clara's Heart
riddled with overt, mind-numbing symbolism and intent upon being
true to a rather superficial style. Whoopi Goldberg deserves better
than this slow cinematic descent. If nothing else, however, regard
Clara's Heart as yet another example of a logical fallacy of division:
an object's worth depends not upon its separate properties but upon
their interrelationship. Hopefully the components of Clara's Heart
will never interact again.
CLARA'S HEART is showing at the State Theater.
BY CHUCK SKARSAUNE
"Tapeheads - a funny movie with
music." So reads the ad copy for
Tapeheads. But you should know by
now not to trust everything you read.
Ivan (John Cusack), a scheming
shyster type, and his buddy Josh
(Tim Robbins), a geeky nerd type
who happens to be a wiz with a
video camera and an editing deck,
decide to combine their talents and
start their own video production
company, the Video Aces, with Ivan
marketing Josh's creativity. They
produce a commercial for a fried
chicken and waffle restaurant, and
several bad videos for an equally bad
Swedish rock group.
But they get their big break when
they accidentally combine the footage
of a funeral with the soundtrack to a
rock video - the result miraculously
turns into a hit and makes them huge
stars overnight. We get to see all
these video pieces in all their glory,
making the first half of the film a
series of bad videos strung together
with little or no rhyme or reason.
Once Ivan and Josh become stars,
they get the bright idea of producing
a video for the Swanky Modes, their
childhood musical heroes (played by
real life soul men Sam Moore and
Junior Walker). On their way to the
The Lords of the New Church share a laugh about how much money they got to appear in
Tapeheads. The film is about two men starting their. own video-production, business -
which, judging from the quality of this movie, might not be a bad. alternative.
top, the Video Aces also un-
knowingly acquire video footage of a
presidential candidate in various
compromising positions. The second
half of the movie is a lame extended
chase scene, with thugs hired by the
candidate trying to kill the Video
Aces and retrieve the offending tape.
This all leads to a comical, yet
definitely unfunny, finish.
The first problem with this film
is its lack of humor. For a film that
claims to be a "funny movie," Tape-
heads is remarkably short on laughs.
The second problem is, yes, the
music. The performances by the
Swanky Modes are good, especially
the ending sequence, since Sam
Moore and Junior Walker are ex-
perienced musical performers. Yet the
rest of the music is somewhere
between blah and bad.
Third problem is the characters.
They are, for the most part, un-
believable and one-dimensional. Tim
Robbins' and John Cusack's talents
are wasted here. Josh goes through a
personality change in the middle of
the movie, but why? There's no
reson given. The characters' mo-
tivations are simplistic or unclear,
making for flat, lifeless acting.
Producer/co-writer Peter Mc-
Carthy, who previously produced
Repo Man and Sid and Nancy, and
'rector/co-writer Bill Fishman, a
veteran video director himself, are
unable to hold the viewers' attention
for the film's 93 minutes. Given the
topic, the actors, and the number of
cameos - by everybody from Tdd
Nugent to Jello Biafra - it seems
they would have had enough strong
material to work with, but the
weakness of their own script does
them in. This movie wouldn't last
five minutes in the cold, harsh world
of television. True video heads, with
the attention span of gnats, would
blip the remote control right quickly.
And in the theater, the absence of a
remote control adds to the dis-
comforting realization that you paid
cold hard cash for this experience.
"Tapeheads - a funny movie with
music." Not guilty on all counts.
TAPEHEADS is showing
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The University of Michigan
Armenian Students Cultural Association
invites undergraduate and graduate
students to a presentation on
SUMMER INTERN PROGRAM
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 28, 1988
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