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December 02, 1991 - Image 5

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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1991-12-02

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ARTS
The Michigan Daily Monday, December 2, 1991 Page 5

No encores 4
these Boyz
Midler doesn't entertain troops
For the Boys
dir. Mark Rydell
by Marie Jacobsen
Take two talented actors, a respected director and a meticulously-de-
tailed story that spans five decades. Then add a dash of social commentary
and blend the whole thing together. What do you get? For the Boys, the
new movie starring Bette Midler and James Caan. Now get your grubby
finger out of the batter! Sure, it looks tempting, but too much of it will
spoil your appetite.
Not that the basic story line isn't interesting - it is. Dashing Eddie
Sparks (Caan) is a top-notch USO performer who sings, dances and jokes
his way into the hearts of the armed forces during World War II: he has
them rolling in the trenches. But something is missing. Sparks needs a
female singer to wow the boys and bear the brunt of his one-liners.
Someone sweet, someone demure, someone who won't challenge his reign
in the spotlight.
Enter Dixie Leonard (Midler). Eddie's manager is Dixie's uncle, and
Dixie is just the woman for the job. But Dixie doesn't just sing. She takes
Eddie's USO act by storm, matching him quip for quip, line for line and
laugh for laugh. On-stage, they share a spectacular chemistry. Off-stage,
however, anything is fair in war - and their fight over fame, Dixie's son,
Danny :(Christopher Rydell), and politics spans three wars,
McCarthyism, the sexual revolution, and bell-bottoms.
Sounds good, doesn't it? But unfortunately, Caan's soft-shoe dance
number never becomes anything noteworthy, Midler's singing loses its
edge as time passes and, well, to put it bluntly, you get better comedy
routines every evening on MTV's Half-hour Comedy Hour. (Tragic, but
true.)
In fact, the ever-changing, painstakingly-constructed set is the film's
best asset. Great effort is made to recreate Eddie's and Dixie's world,
whether in WWII, the Korean War, at home during the fifties and sixties
or in Vietnam. The makeup, however, is straight out of Dick Tracy. As
the film and "time" progress, it goes from bad to downright hilarious -
liverspots and wrinkles and sags, oh my!
The plot itself unwinds in the time-wearied tradition of the older per-
son reflecting on various life events to an interested but clueless younger
person. Not a bad idea in the abstract, of course, but whatever momentum
Boys can work up for itself gets lost in the shuffle from past to present
and back again.
Although the applause for Eddie and Dixie for the most part rings
hollow, the film does an excellent job in the Vietnam sequence. With
gritted teeth and fierce determination, it first depicts the soldier's
psychological damage, Eddie's generation-gap/time-warp disillusion-
ment, and a mother's pain and horror as she watches shrapnel rip through
her son's life. Unfortunately, the sequence is too much, too late, and even
this powerful depiction can't save the picture from mediocrity.
Boys is a film about the relationship between two very different per-
formers who at once become best friends and bitter enemies. To be
successful, it needs to establish a viable relationship between Eddie and
Dixie, to strip away the surface glitter and reveal their hopes, needs and

Silent films come
out of the closet

by Scott Maione

C an't get enough of those silent
films after seeing that magnani-
mous rendition of D.W. Griffith's
Intolerance in front of a packed
house of A2 film fans? Well, don't
give up just yet. There's more -
much, much more.
Just ask Art Stephan, founder
and commander of the only silent
film society that he knows of: his
own Ann Arbor Silent Film Soci-
ety. Since 1971, when the 66-year-
old Stephan read an ad for a reel of
silent film excerpts, his relentless

show at the Weber Inn. He now
holds his screenings at the Sheraton
Inn, where films are projected onto
a huge wall in a glorious amphithe-
ater. Because no piano is present,
music is provided by a stereo sound
system, for which Stephan designs
the scores.
From the time of his enlighten-
ment in 1971 to the birth of the So-
ciety in 1981, Stephan watched
enough silent films to keep him in-
doors all the time. "Hey, but that's
OK," exclaims Stephan (looking
like a starry-eyed kid begging to
show off a new toy). "Some of the

Has-been Bette Midler hams it up in the schma
cnmedv ahnut USO entertainers. For the Boys.

Silent films were never really silent anyway,
as they always had music to accompany the
screen images. In fact, music was played
right in the theater on pianos and organs, and
by full orchestras in larger cities. That's what
Stephan always wanted to do. Ever since he
was a kid, growing up in New Jersey, his star-
lit dream was to play the piano and eventually
write scores for cinema. He learned to play
on his own, and even wrote a symphony at 18

passion for this antiquated art form
has never burned out. Actually, it
has only caught fire, yearning for
more black and white flashes to be
thrown to it.
My mistake. Actually, black and
white films were never truly black
and white. Huh? It's true, Stephan
concurs, explaining, "They were ac-
tually tinted." Also, silent films
were not fast and choppy, contrary
to what most people might believe.
They only looked that way because
they were shown on the wrong pro-
jector at the wrong speed. Stephan's
group shows the films on the pro-
jectors on which they should be
shown: silent ones.
Silent films were never really
silent anyway, as they always had
music to accompany the screen im-
ages. In fact, music was played right
in the theater on pianos and organs,
and by full orchestras in larger
cities. That's what Stephan always
wanted to do. Ever since he was a
kid, growing up in New Jersey, his
starlit dream was to play the piano
and eventually write scores for cin-
ema. He learned to play on his own,
and even wrote a symphony at 18.
Stephan wrote and played much
of the music for the films he used to

greatest acting was done in silent
films." It's true. Guys like Buster
Keaton, Charlie Chaplin and Harold
Lloyd dominated their period in the
same way modern film stars do.
"Hey, when are the words 'dar-
ling' and 'love' put together in the
same line in today's movies?"
Stephan asks. This is precisely the
reason that he has such a fascination
for silents. He is a Romantic in the
true sense of the word.
At age 66, a true love for the art
is what keeps Stephan going. He
searches for those unattainable
films (of the 60,000 silents ever
made, only 15% are left) and loves
showing them to new viewers even
more. He even keeps contact with
silent stars such as Lillian Gish, the
centerpiece of many D.W. Griffith
films.
If you want to meet this hidden
legend for yourself, go to the Silent
Film Society's showings, pay three
bucks and experience something le-
gal that'll stimulate your senses.
Who knows? Maybe you'll turn
Stephan on to some some present-
day movies.
Call 761-8286 for more information
about TIIE ANN ARBOR SILENT
FILM SOCIETY.

Has-been James Caan hams it up in the schmaltzy new romantic
comedy about USO entertainers, For the Boys.
fears. But the film never does. Boys pushes all the right buttons, but
misses the spark that could bring it all to life. Sacrificing substance for
style may have worked in Terminator 2: Judgement Day, but it seems
desperately out of place in a film seeking to examine a 50-year
relationship.
FOR THE BOYS is playing at Showcase and Briarwood.

Save the LP!
DAILY ARTS

Generation X:
Tales For An
Accelerated Culture
Douglas Coupland
*St Martins Press/Softcover
"Twenty-something," "Baby-
busters," "Post-baby boomers,"
"Post-Vietnam generation.." The
generation which has followed the
baby-boomers has recently been un-
der increasing speculation. In the
midst of this group's efforts to de-
fine itself comes a book which rep-
rgpents the spirit of its age, Genera-
tion X: Tales For An Accelerated
Culture.
Generation X, a novel by Dou-
glas Coupland, captures the values,
tastes and culture of the group
which was born in the late '50s and
'60s, a group which Coupland aptly
refers to as Generation X.
According to Coupland, Genera-
tion X is fanatically independent,
concerned with the environment and
ambivalent about the future. He sees
this group as one which grew be-
neath the overwhelming shadow of
the baby boomers and now, as
adults, must face harsh economic re-
ality, unsatisfying dead-end jobs and
dominating boomer bosses who
"cling to their jobs solely by virtue
of having won a genetic lottery."
Coupland raises these issues, and
0 many more, in his story of three
friends, Andy, Clair and Dag, who,
dismayed with their jobs and back-
grounds, drift through the Califor-
nia desert in search of change and
CHANNEL Z
EPIC WEEK begins tonight
on TBS with Gone With the Wind
0 (8:05 p.m.), which should get you

meaning which will give their life
definition. Coupland reveals the
personalities of these three distinct
characters as they tell each other
stories about their lives, hopes,
dreams and fears.
Not just a novel, Generation X
is almost a guide book for the mem-
bers of this generation. The margins
of the book contain a lexicon of in-
vented words and concepts which
hilariously clarify many of their
distinct values. The following sam-
ples give an example of Coupland's
intentions, wit and style:
McJob: A low-pay, low-prestige,
low-dignity, low-benefit, no-future
job in the service sector. Fre-
quently considered a satisfying ca-
reer choice by people who have
never held one.
Bleeding Ponytail: An elderly sold-
out baby boomer who pines for
hippie or pre-sellout days. (No
apologies to the present University
faculty.)

Earth Tones: A youthful subgroup
interested in vegetarianism, tie-
dyed outfits, mild recreational
drugs, and good stereo equipment.
Earnest, frequently lacking in hu-
mor.
Option paralysis: The tendency,
when given unlimited choices, to
make none.
Native aping: Pretending to be a
native when visiting a foreign desti-
nation.
101-ism: The tendency to pick
apart, often in minute detail, all as-
pects of life using half-understood
pop psychology as a tool.
Coupland combines the stories
and concepts to create a book which
is truly unique in style and content.
His keen eye and cunning wit are
only surpassed by his sensitivity for
the characters and the generation
they represent. As we follow the
book's narrator in his search for
self-discovery, we can easily feel the
See BOOKS, Page 8

LSA Student Government Presents:
The Sports and Academics Forum:
"Pros and Cons
An evening to ask prominent
personalities anything and everything
about the world of sports and academics.
Columnist Mitch Albom
Channel 4 Sports Anchor Berne Snilovitz
Hockey Coach Red Berenson
Academic Affairs V.P. Dr. Mary Swain
Michigan Basketball Star Sam Mitchell
DECEMBER 4, 1991
RACKHAM AUDITORIUM

Thinking about applying
to Graduate School at
the University of Michigan
School of Education?
If YES, come to a meeting
Wednesday, Dec. 4, 6 p.m.
Room 1322 (Tribute Room)
School of Education Building

Faculty and staff will be available to
e- c v rr- .t i4.. n a La..G nr.r,n nrm

sc O~

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