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February 20, 1990 - Image 5

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The Michigan Daily, 1990-02-20

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ARTS

The Michigan Daily

Tuesday, February 20, 1990

Page 5

Extensions grows
from tradition
BY ASHA BRANDSTEIN
AH, to extend tradition. Something James Duderstadt can only hope to
do. Try as he might, all he can come up with is something called
"Diversity." But School of Music doctoral students Bill Banfield and
Stephen Newby have, for the second year in a row, compiled something
above and beyond Duderstadt's wildest dreams. Extensions of the
Tradition is a collection of works that seeks to explore a wide variety of
compositions focusing on African-American culture.
At last year's concert, Banfield and Newby established the "Traditions
Manifesto" in which they communicated their goal to maintain a cultural
approach to educating society. Banfield and Newby recognize the "dual.
agenda" that challenges all minorities within institutions like the
University, and their concert seeks to acknowledge the paradox created by
administrations not really designed (although they may think they are) for
diversity. Minorities on this campus, says Banfield, must learn to "jump
through hoops in order to get their degrees," yet, more importantly, they
must also "dedicate themselves to a tradition within their history in order
to propagate a sense of culture." The Extensions performance is the result
of both a fine education in the arts and a long, richly varying history of
personal culture.
Banfield and Newby began the annual event with the hope that their
concert would one day evolve into a festival celebrating African-American
heritage through the arts, highlighting the diversity of the culture. This
year's event is well on its way to reaching such a goal, utilizing a wide
array of media within the genre: two collections of spirituals; a piece for
violin and electronic instruments; the second act of the opera Momma
Why; the Straight Ahead jazz string quartet; a chorus and jazz ensemble;
a brass septet; and a finale which incorporates dance, poetry, singing and
sculpture. Banfield said these media serve as vehicles to communicate the
sense of urgency needed to cultivate tradition in order to avoid "deception
and entrapment."
EXTENSIONS OF THE TRADITION takes place tonight in the School of
Music recital hall. Admission is free.

TV

stars aspire to the big time

Madhouse
dir. Tom Ropelewski
BY WENDY SHANKER
There's no law that says every
movie made has to be a masterpiece.
After all, without the really abhor-
rent films, would the great ones be
as great? And there are plenty of the
"Oh no, what else could possibly go
wrong" genre of movies that are
truly memorable. Think of After
Hours, or The Money Pit.
However, Madhouse doesn't
quite make it into that category. Not
that you should check this one off
on the Fresh Horses/what a horren-
dous movie list. After all, Kirstie
Alley emits the same believable
warmth and humor that she does on
Cheers and in Look Who's Talking,
this time as a news broadcaster and
wife who falters in the domestic
realm. And Night Court's John Laro-
quetteadoesadeserve the audience's
sympathy, as the frustrated hubby
who just wants some peace, quiet,
and good sex. The members of the
supporting cast (mostly drawn from
prime-time TV) provide caricatures
of people that each of us has known
at some point in our lives. The
stunts and ensuing destruction are
relatively original. Yet there is
something intangible missing from
Madhouse, preventing it from being
a worthwhile comedy.
The movie begins with brilliant
animated credits and a funky theme
song that wiped away many of my
miserable preconceptions regarding
the film's content. Mark (Laroquette)
and Jessie (Alley) Bannister, an up-
wardly mobile couple living in their
first California beach home, decently

John Larroquette and Kirstie Alley are here frightened by the sheer size of their apparitions on the big screen,
as they're used to TV's smaller dimensions.

I

i

allow Mark's cousin Fred, and his
wife Bernice, to stay with them. So
Freddie and Bernice forget to men-
tion that pseudo-child Scruffy the cat
would be coming too. The catch?
Fred and Bernice are from New Jer-
sey, the Garden State.
Well, Claudia (Allison LaPlaca),
Jessie's sister, moves in next. She's
the kind of woman that looks at a
pet snake and says, "Waste of a good
belt." Claudia's son moves in. The
next door neighbor moves in -
with his two obnoxious kids. The
elephant moves in. Basically, these
annoying factors cause Jessie and
Mark's lives to go down the toilet

(which, by the way, will not stop
running unless they jiggle the han-
dle). What else could possibly go
wrong?
So what's a clich6... or two... or
three... or four. Madhouse does have
its creative moments, like a black
and white sequence in which Mark
dreams that zombies from Night of
the Living Dead attack, and they all
want to move in. Or Jessie's on-air
nervous breakdown where she fo-
cuses on methods of murder that do
or do not work effectively.
Hard as they try, the husband and
wife team of director Tom Ro-
pelewski and producer Leslie Dixon,

who wrote the script based on their
real-life experiences with house-
guests, get lost in this Madhouse.
They take the easy way out, relying
too much on what has been seen be-
fore. It's difficult to sympathize with
a couple when you know that in the
end things will be better than they
were at the beginning. That's the
way it is with the Bannister's. Un-
fortunately it works oppositely with
the audience. Alhough Madhouse
starts out movin', by the end, you
just want to move out.

Mimi and

Rudy

sing well, but
forget to act

MADHOUSE is playing
case.

at Show-

BY MARY BETH BARBER
'W HILE the music of the New
York City Opera National Com-
pany's La Boheme was almost flaw-
less, there was a dramatic element
missing in the production. The
opera, like many these days, seemed
to concentrate on the singing and not
the acting, and many scenes that
could have been incredibly moving
lost their emotion as a result.
The production as a whole was
almost perfect. The sets and cos-
tumes were gorgeous, the orchestra
'played beautifully, and the chorus
was boisterous, just as Giacomo
Keith Levene
Violent Opposition
Taang!
Keith Levene, formerly of
*Johnny Lydon's outfit Public Image
Limited, exclaims that he's looking
"-for something... and he doesn't
know what it is. Perhaps Ex-Lax is
the magic word. Seriously though,
Levene works with an outstandig
'group of musicians for this record,
to help carry his vision with fine re-
sults. "Looking For Something" is a
bop-type rocker with a pleasingly
sparse form. Flea doesn't twang as
'much as he just tnumps, and the
foursome plays just one notch out of
the ordinary, two notches from out-
standing - remaining in a wonder-
"fully obscure notch of mediocrity, of
all things. "Taang Ting!" is yet an-
other off-color piece of reggatta de
blanc with distorted saxophone cour-
tesy of Spyder Mittleman, formerly

Puccini would have expected from
his masterpiece about young artists
living on the edge of poverty.
Martin Thompson, who, in the
evening performances, played
Rodolfo, the poet whose jealously
drives away his love Mimi, had the
gestures and expressions needed to
turn the character into something
more than a singer. Jose Medina,
Rodolfo at the Sunday matinee, did
not. His performance, as with those
of the women who played Mimi,
Geraldine McMillian (evenings) and
Michele Boucher (matinee), seemed
dry and unmoving. They seemed to
have forgotten that they are stage
performers, not just vocal artists.
But the rest of the cast didn't

have these flaws. Jeffrey Blaine
Kneebone (evenings) and James
Busterud (matinee) were jealous,
spirited and passionate as the painter
Marcello, and Joan Gibbons
(evenings) and Jamie Baer (matinee)
were arrogant, beautiful flirts as
Marcello's lover, Musetta. The fast-
paced comic scenes came off much
more stronger than the melodious
passionate ones; perhaps the latter
are more difficult to perform, but
with the rest of the opera perfect,
flaws stand out, especially when
they occur with the two main leads.
Supertitles - translations of the
original Italian suspended above the
stage - are a must for this opera.
Small details, like the fact that the
four bohemians were trying to get
their landlord drunk because they
were behind in the rent, would have
been lost without the translations,

even by those familiar with the
story. And by no means should this
opera be translated; it is perfect in its
original form. Confusion did arise
during argument scenes when a
number of people were singing at
once - only one voice can be trans-
lated at a time - but the benefits
outweigh this minor flaw, and what
the others were singing could be
easily assumed.
The NYC Opera National Com-
pany brought to Ann Arbor some of
the great music that can often only
be seen in much larger cities. With
the addition of supertitles opera
could become much more popular,
but not until the singers add the ges-
tures and expressions to turn a good
performance into a movingly perfect
one. Otherwise, audiences might as
well buy a recording of the perfor-
mance rather than see it.

of Captain Beefheart's Magic Band.
The tune holds a subtle ease in caus-
ing the listener to inexorably "zone"
out.
"If 6 Was 9" features vocals by
Norwood Fishbone and guitar by the
dearly departed Red Hot Chili Pepper
Hillel Slovak. The drums snap and
crackle with unquestionable in-
tegrity; this is an incredibly straight
cover. Slovak builds on Levene's
sturdy bass bottom with vivid nu-
ances but never wanders into
psychedelic no-man's land. Dense,
furrowed sound levels add to the
depth of the tune; the eerie mysti-
cism conveyed by Slovak's presence
adds to this extremely justifiable
piece. "Double Barrel" moves more
effectively than its fellow track,
"Taang." In contrast, "Fast Brass
Slam" piledrives a constant, blatant
drum machine-and-sequencer rhythm
into your skull, then plays off of it
with intrusive, clumsy synth waves

Tapeheads.
dir. Bill Fishman
It's often the case that something
great isn't recognized for a while:
Van Gogh, Bakelite, Citizen Kane,
the proverbial "Pink Cadillac," Blind
Lemon Pie, pineapple pizza, the
Chevrolet Corvair, Bela Lugosi (just
to name eight). Tapeheads doesn't
quite fall into the category, but it is
a recent sleeper that deserved more
financial and critical sucess than it
received. The fact that it's not genius
material doesn't stop it from being
one of the most underappreciated
(and underseen) films of the last
couple of years. Produced by
Michael Nesmith (the brainchild be-
hind MTV whose mother invented
Liquid Paper) and written/directed by
video director Bill Fishman, the film
tells the semi-autobigraphical rise of
two guys in the surreal, cruel, and
insensitive world of MTvideography.
Entrepreneur Ivan Alexeev (John
Cusak) and his creative, but hope-
lessly insecure childhood friend Josh
Tager (Tim Robbins) decide to quite
their jobs as night watchmen and
start their own video business. They
are hampered by various incidents
(dying clients, plotting politicians,
greedy rock reporters, Menudo) in
their ultimate - yet expected - rise
to fame, fortune, and happiness. Ba-
sically.
Ultimately what this was de-
signed to be, and what it is, is a
spoof of the Hollywood and MTV
scene by its progeny. With Don
Cornelius (of Soul Train fame and
fortune) as a sleezy record exec and
Jello Biafra (of Dead Kennedys in-
fame and misfortune) as an FBI guy,
the film makes its statement by just
being. Fortunately, that's not all
that there is; the new twists on old
jokes and new twists on new jokes
keeping your attention while getting
the (rather simple) message across:
that everyone in the business is an
asshole. Unfortunately, we already
knew this, but it doesn't hurt to hear
it again. Besides, where else can you
see Fishbone as a Country Western
band?
-Mike Kuniavsky
Subway
dir. Luc Besson
"To be is to do."

very chic thief who is hiding out in
the Metro along with a whole
colony of chic Parisian deviants, in-
cluding a muscleman who works out
with train parts and a rollerskating
purse snatcher and a drummer. Fred's
big problem is that he's fallen in
love with his latest victim, this very
chic high society princess named He-
lena, played by Isabelle Adjani, and
she kind of likes him, too, only she
won't admit it. And to make matters
worse, the subway security force, led
by two very un-chic guys named
Batman and Robin (I'm not kidding)
is after him. So he decides to put to-
gether a band. The film is dubbed,
but it's still very cool, and it really
says quite a lot about life, love, and
social misfits.
-Mark Bielli
Absolute Beginners
dir. Julien Temple
You know Patsy Kensit as the
blond South African woman from
Lethal Weapon 2. Before she was
Mel Gibson's main squeeze, Abso-
lute Beginners made her famous in
England.
With music from David Bowie, to
Style Council, Absolute Beginners
is a celebration of love, song and
capitalism in mid-'60s England.
Kensit plays Crepes Suzette, too
dazzled by the people she meets and
the parties she attends to let herself
fall in love with her boyfriend. Be-
ginners is like an updated Gene
Kelly movie, following in the tradi-
tion of great film musicals.
Bowie is a tough but encouraging
businessman who sings the title
track and "That's Motivation." Sade
makes a cameo as a nightclub singer
with a cropped coiffure singing,
"Killer Blow." Even Kensit gets
into the musical mode with "Having
it All," played by Eighth Wonder.
A fun flick to rent when you
can't decide between Witchboard and
Attack of the Amazon Bimbos, Ab-
solute Beginners explodes with great
costumes and characters, and a few
toe-tappin' tunes.
-Wendy Shanker
N TE SPOTLIGHT
Come listen to the poet who's
book of poems, Twelve Moons,

Keith Levene is trying to improve his image, but our ruthless cropping is
getting in the way. Sorry, Keith.
and lines. the archetypal "new jack," hoping t
A cut entitled "Back Too Black" ride in on the flood caused when th
is ironically frustrating because it levee broke and spirituality/poetr
stands so far apart from the others becane a standard in rap. Just a Po4
with its basslinear exertions, and is with Soul - could anything be mor
actually an exception here, among pretentious? Jef sounds like
the plastic beat loops from hell, off- chump, whether he's telling som
beat sound FX and creepy-crawly babe to just "Give it Here," (hoN
fuzz growths. Violent Opposition is sensitive) or exclaims that he "b
an experience in the inverted sense; dropping rhymes on drums." Clich6
it obviously provided Levene a vocal enunciations, beats and idea
splendid opportunity to compile add to a desktop or lapful of you
some of his favorite experiments own saliva. In "dope" terms, thi
without compromise, but his "great could be considered nail polish r
spirit" is inexplicably obscure. One mover for crackheads, or, to puti
man's acid dream may be another's bluntly, just not good enough.
nightmare. Which is not to put him Which brings me to Jeff an
down. Violent Opposition is a su- Prince. Needless to say, this is a del
perb effort, perfect for those days inite move to go Pop if ever ther
when you're asked "what's wrong?" was one. Jazzy Jeff is easily onec
and can only reply, "what's right?" the most accomplished turntabl
-Forrest Green III technicians around... but the deftnes

Write to us!.
(please)
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work in a vacuum, smugly praising

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Def Jef
Just a Poet with Soul

4Wi1111VAGAAAO 4ll Vlilll... V 1VL1 41..
ends there. The vacuum-packed
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