'The Michigan Daily Tuesday, October 23, 1990
Barry 's mo' Baltimore
dir. Barry Levinson
by Mike Wilson
0 t 990 has been the year of good
directors with bad ideas. Spike Lee
(Mo' Better Blues), David Lynch
(Wild at Heart), Lawrence Kasdan (I
Love You to Death) and Philip
Kaufman (Henry & June) have all
created interesting, well-made
movies that were ultimately failures.
Barry Levinson now joins their
fallen ranks. Levinson has barely
made a wrong move with films such
as Diner, The Natural, Tin Men and
Rain Man. His new film, Avalon,
abandons his honest style in favor of
heavy-handed social criticism, un-
dermining the wonderfully simple
moments he can portray so well.
Avalon is Levinson's semi-au-
tobiographical story of the rise and
fall of the Krichinskys, a family
who immigrated to Baltimore in
,1914. Most of the film's action
takes place after World War II, with
the older members of the family
providing flashbacks to their early
days at their first American home,
Avalon. Through discussions within
the family, a wide range of characters
is portrayed and revealed, from
Americanized youths to traditional
grandparents who remember the good
old days of Avalon.
By sticking to the style of his
earlier work, Levinson could have
made a natural, simple film about
family life and the conflict between
generations. Instead, the simplicity
is clouded by Levinson's insistence
that the post-war years represent a
period of family disintegration. For
Gent's color richer
by Jenie Dahlmann
W hy is it that people often assume Shakespeare can only be enjoyed by
the elite? In Shakespeare's day peasants and princes sat in the same
theater watching the Bard's latest spectacle. Shakespeare is produced for
the educated today and the couch potatoes are left on their sofas watching
reruns of the Simpsons. Directors and producers of Shakespearean
productions often seem like they're trying to ostracize the working class
by taking Shakespearean language all too seriously, making it
impossible for the unexposed ear to understand. The Acting Company's
productions of The Two Gentlemen of Verona and Romeo and Juliet,
however, prove that Shakespeare can appeal to the couch potato and
elitist alike. Charles Newell's production of The Two Gents takes high
culture and successfully mixes it with pop culture.
Newell converts Shakespeare's pastoral comedy into the T.V western
genre of the 1950s and '60s. No lute players recline in the background
strumming lyrical odes. Instead they are replaced by a clown-cowboy
chorus equipped with guitars. Our Hero Valentine (Laurence Drozd) wears
white while Proteus (William D. Michie) - the villain - is clad in
black from head to toe. At one point the actors chase each other not on
horses but on little boy's bicycles, scooters and pogo sticks.
After the intermission the audience is treated to a recap of the last
minute before the break. It seems Don Pardo might announce "When we
last left our hero..." What surprises me is how well the language and
storyline of The Two Gents works in this setting. Shakespeare's work'
is proven timeless not only because of its longevity, but also because it
mixes so well with the pop culture of today.
For instance, Valentine sings one of his love speeches about Silvia
(Stephanie Erb) as if it is a country-western ballad. The Southern twang
he uses perfectly underscores the forlornment in Shakespeare's words.
Randy Travis as a Shakespearean actor? Well, maybe not, but it would be
interesting wouldn't it? Mae West makes a cameo appearance - her
image serving as someone for Julia (Diana LaMar) to compare herself to.
Yes, Julia imitates Mae's "Come up and see me sometime" voice to de-
liver some lines. Other hints of pop culture included the Jeopardy
theme used as a timer by Thurio (Andrew Prosky) on Speed (Rainn
Wilson) and the screeching violins and stabbing movement of Psycho
when Speed doesn't get the answer right.
The costumes are cartoonishly colorful often taking the audience into
*a circus world. There are gangster clowns galore and spurs so huge it's a
wonder the men can walk around without killing each other. Julia wears a
See SHAKESPEARE, Page 8_
In one of the overly-nostalgic glory days depicted in Barry Levinson's new film A valon, Sam and Eva Krichinsky
(Armin Mueller-Stahl and Joan Plowright) anxiously await the arrival of Eva's long-lost brother at the Baltimore
the direct cause of this disintegra-
tion, the film points to the rise of
suburbia and television. Family
scenes take on a heavy-handed tone
of tragedy, a tragedy which under-
mines the credibility of the film in
its predictability and melodrama.
Levinson's nostalgia becomes unre-
alistic and fantasy-like, while the
characters themselves fail to evoke
In addition, Levinson lacks sub-
tlety in his theme, continually un-
derscoring what is easily apparent. A
family watching Milton Berle on TV
becomes a universal symbol of the
collapse of the family structure. The
idea is beaten into our head with a
shot of the empty dinner table while
the TV blares in the background.
Randy Newman's annoyingly sappy
piano score continually reminds us
to feel sad. In contrast, the flash-
backs to 1914 present a perfect, in-
nocent world of red, white and blue.
Though pretty to look at, these
scenes are so overdone that they be-
come mere fantasy.
Lost is the natural, realistic tex-
ture of Levinson's first two Balti-
more films, Diner and Tin Men.
Although Diner, like Avalon, was
semi-autobiographical, Diner suc-
ceeded in depicting the '50s, a period
remembered in inflated nostalgia, by
bringing it down to real, unglam-
orous situations. Avalon does just
the opposite, taking Levinson's
See AVALON, Page 8
Neil Young & Crazy
I've always wanted to type "Neil
Young & Crazy Horse" at the top of
one of these record reviews. Once
Neil opened and closed his last
:record, Freedom with an acoustic
and electric version of "Rockin' in
the Free World", a la Rust Never
Sleeps, I hoped we wouldn't have
long to wait for the first full-blown
Neil with Crazy Horse album since
the 1987 LP Life, a collection of
sad, rather sparsely arranged songs.
Ragged Glory, on the other hand,
is a much denser record in terms of
*the guitar stylings, and sounds ex-
actly like you think it would if you
own Rust or Live Rust or American
Stars n Bars. Neil Young is of
course known for his refusal to stick
with one particular musical style,
repeating himself over and over as so
many artists do. In the '80s alone he
has done his take on doo-wop, coun-
try, R&B and techno styles, as well
*as plenty of variations on his
straight-ahead guitar rock. But the
whole time the Classic Rock Con-
spiracy has endlessly re-broadcast his
hits from the early '70s and Crazy
Horse's pair of Rust albums.
This is both good and bad. The
popularity of his back catalog has al-
lowed Neil to da- whatever he wants
in the studio, a luxury not all artists
"'an enjoy. On the down side, the
*closed-mindedness of most Classic
Rock listeners has kept the majority
of his career output relatively un-
Now that Kurt Loder has success-
fully given M-TV a guilt complex
for putting the advertisers ahead of
the art when they initially rejected
his video attack on corporate rock
sponsorship, "Ten Men Workin',"
and Neil's songs will once again fit
*the saying "It doesn't have to be old
to be a classic," it won't surprise me
if Ragged Glory becomes Young's
biggest record in a long time.
And the themes of Ragged Glory
certainly won't surprise his long-
time listeners. "I guess I need that
that city life/ it sure has lots of
style/ but pretty soon it wears me
out/ and I have to think to smile/
I'm thankful for my country home!
*it gives me peace of mind," goes the
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