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September 10, 1992 - Image 11

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ARTS

*The Michigan Daily/New Student Edition

Thursday, September 10, 1992

Page 11

Carl Franklin's
debut is a move in
the right direction

I'mk

by Michael John Wilson
If Jim Thompson were alive to-
day, he might have written One
False Move. Thompson, author of
'50s pulp crime novels like The
Grifters, specialized in a Southern
version of film noir. Instead of ex-
ploring the dark underside of
American cities like Hammett or
Chandler, he focused on the crime
and corruption lurking beneath the
small towns of the south. His charac-
ters are usually white trash criminals
doomed to die a violent death.
One False Move
Directed by Carl Franklin; written by
Billy Bob Thornton and Tom Epperson;
with Bill Paxton, Cynda Williams and
Billy Bob Thornton
One False Move fits the
Thompson mold with its story of
three drug dealers on the run from
the law, destined to meet up with an
Arkansas police chief with a shady
past. What raises One False Move a
level above a B-grade crime flick is
the film's subtle, unconventional
treatment of interracial issues.
It's still a low budget crime
thriller, however, with plenty of B -
movie staples: a cast of unknowns,
relatively one-dimensional charac-
ters, plenty of crime and violence,
and a stupid title that has little to do
with the movie. The film opens with
the brutal murder of six people by a
trio of low-lifes: Ray (Billy Bob
Thornton), a nasty pony-tailed coke-
head; Fantasia (Cynda Williams),
his submissive Black girlfriend; and
Pluto (Michael Beach), a cold-
blooded killer with a 150 I.Q.:
nothing too compelling or original.
At the same time, the film intro-
duces us to another set of clich6d
characters: two jaded L.A. cops (Jim
Metzler and Earl Billings) who in-
vestigate the murders, and a small
town police chief, Hurricane (Bill
Paxton), for whom these murders are
W the biggest event of his dull life.
Screenwriters Billy Bob Thornton
and Tom Epperson can't resist some
easy sitcom-style jokes between the

hick and the city boys. And there's
some all-too-obvious foreshadowing
such as when Hurricane says that
"every time you hear a whippoor-
will, you know someone's going to
die." Sure enough, whippoorwills
are heard constantly throughout.
Though the opening is trite, its
violence is quite jarring - a true ac-
complishment for director Carl
Franklin in the context of current
movie carnage. And as the film goes
on, the characters who once seemed
so simple grow increasingly com-
plex.
Halfway into the film Hurricane
loses his Andy Griffith smile and
becomes darkly introspective, as his
connection to one of the criminals is
revealed. Bill Paxton (Aliens) makes
the most of his role as he slowly
brings out the violent side of this
seemingly harmless fellow. Also of
interest is the conflict between his
TV-inspired dreams of being a big
city police hero and his dedication to
his family. The tension in Hurricane
and the racial issues build grippingly
to a violent climax.
As the film goes on,
the characters who
once seemed so simple
grow increasingly
complex.
Fledgling director Carl Franklin,
who is Black, has worked with B-
movie king Roger Corman, and his
influence is apparent here. One
False Move is no "great film," no
"High Noon for the '90s," as some
overly enthusiastic critics have
wildly declared. It is, however, a
work that shows potential with its
fresh treatment of old formulas.
Franklin, like other Corman prot6g6s
named Scorsese and Coppola, just
might make a great film someday af-
ter all.
ONE FALSE MOVE is playing
tonight only at the Michigan Theater
at 7:15.

Basehead
plays with
boundaries
by Scott Sterling
In the ever-changing world of hip
hop, there's a recurring pattern. One
innovative artist will release a revo-
lutionary record that defines its era,
and influences all of the hip hop na-
tion with countless blatant rip offs
and imitators. Until, of course, the
next innovator comes along. Public
Enemy did it with It Takes A Nation
Of Millions..., De La Soul did it with
Three Feet High And Rising, while
the Beastie Boys made their mark
with Licensed To Ill (Rap purists
may choke on that last one, but I call
'em like I see 'em).
But ever since De La Soul's
daisies died, the rap world has been
starved for some true work of ge-
nius. Instead, it's been plagued with
mediocre gangsta wannabes and pop
crossover boors.
In one fell swoop, 23-year-old
Michael Ivey, under the name
Basehead, has joined that illustrious
list of hip hop innovators.
Play With Toys, the debut album
by Basehead, is an amalgamation of
styles and influences unlike anything
ever to be filed under "rap," if it can
even be called that. One can hear
snatches of early Prince, the Smiths,
the Velvet Underground, Sly Stone
even. Ivey's sleepy-eyed vocals me-
ander over jangly guitars, oddball
samples and mellow, shuffling beats.
Ivey has approached hip hop
from a very unique perspective. The
horrors and realities of inner-city
ghetto life have been repeatedly
documented on rap records. This is
the first real look at life by a middle-
class, college-educated African
American who probably spent as
many nights in a dorm room listen-
ing to The Queen Is Dead as say,
Eric B & Rakim's Follow The
Leader.
"I didn't consciously try to rede-
fine the face of hip hop or anything,
and I really don't see it as hip hop,"
says Ivey from his home base of
Washington, DC.
"It has hip hop elements, because
I like rap a lot, so that comes out.
But if it expands some folks ideas,
See BASEHEAD, Page 12

Basehead chills on a porch creating nouveau hip hop. Where are their favorite beers on this sunny afternoon?

a

A sordid cinematic summer
* Ifyou liked anything other than Clint or Howards End, think again

by Aaron Hamburger
This summer was almost a com-
plete waste of time for moviegoers,
just like last summer, and the sum-
mer before that, and the summer
before that.
But no, really, this summer was
probably one of the worst for movies
in a long time. Unlike past years,
there were no smash debuts, like
Steven Soderbergh's sex, lies, and
videotape, or controversial break-
through films, like Spike Lee's Do
the Right Thing or the Coen broth-
ers' Barton Fink. There were no
must-see roller coaster ride block-
busters like Terminator 2 (come to
think of it, it's the first summer in a

while without Arnie) - only
Aliens3.
There were some, though rela-
tively rare, high points. It's impos-
sible to talk about great films of
1992 without mentioning Howards
End. No film this year can even
come close to this one in terms of
writing, cinematography, class, and
most notably, acting. The perfor-
mances of Vanessa Redgrave,
Anthony Hopkins, Helena Bonham
Carter, and Emma Thompson are
each fierce, intense, and full of life,
as if these actors were actually inter-
ested in what they were doing.
Compare this quartet to Michael
Keaton, who sleepwalks through

Batman Returns. Perhaps the film
would have been more aptly titled,
Tim Burton Returns with Michelle
Pfeiffer This Time. Though the qual-
ity of Batman Returns careens
wildly from brilliant to banal,
Burton achieves memorable images
in frame after frame, such as the
Penguin in his rubber ducky boat, or
Catwoman's vicious Clockwork
Orange-like snarl. Pfeiffer's comic
and original performance as Cat-
woman alone pushes this movie over
the top.
Mainstream Hollywood came up
with a few other winners. There was
the funny and forgettable Sister Act,
and the funny and memorable (only

for Nicholas Cage's manic energy)
Honeymoon in Vegas. Clint East-
wood's Unforgiven entertained,
though thematically, it seems a little
murky - an anti-violence Western
with a slam-bang shoot-em-up ac-
tion finale? And who wrote that
abysmal banjo score? If you were
looking for a good-cry-no-brainer,
then A League of Their Own was the
one for you.
On the down side, Lethal
Weapon 3 and Aliens3 prove that the
third time around may not always be
such a hot idea. Sure, Weapon holds
your attention for two hours, but
See SUMMER, Page 18

Playing in the Dark
by Toni Morrison
Harvard University Press
"For reasons that should not need
explanation here, until very recently,
and regardless of the race of the au-
thor, the readers of virtually all of
American fiction have been posi-
tioned as white. I am interested to
know what that assumption has
meant to the literary imagination,"
writes Toni Morrison in her preface
to Playing in the Dark, a convoluted
essay that explores the "Africanist"
presence which lurks in the literature
of our traditionally racist society.
Morrison describes this presence
as "evil and protective, rebellious
and forgiving, fearful and desirable
- all of the self-contradictory fea-
tures of the self."
And she also raises many com-
pelling questions like "How does lit-
erary utterance arrange itself when it
tries to imagine an Africanist other?"
and "What does the inclusion of
Africans or African-Americans do to
and for the work?"
But only when Morrison uses
specific examples culled from such
beloved icons as Poe, Hemingway
and Twain does her argument - ba-
sically, that American ideals like
freedom appear even more Beautiful
when contrasted with images of an
oppressed "other" - become co-
gent, let alone convincing.
Her refusal to demonize the
White Establishment Canon and to
label anyone as "racist" adds to the
credibility of the book, but 90 pages
isn't nearly spacious enough to ade-
quately cover such an encompassing
topic, forcing Playing in the Dark to
become bogged down with wordy
generalizations.
Ultimately, and quite unfortu-

Jazz
by Toni Morrison
Knopf
The conflict presented in the
opening pages of Toni Morrison's
Jazz is something we can under-
stand; it is simple and recognizable.
Joe Trace has an affair with the
beautiful and saucy Dorcas (a 17-
year-old woman half his age) and a
wedge is driven between he and his
wife, Violet.
Both members of this inner-city,
African-American couple turn to
violence in order to purge a jealousy
spurred by betrayal. But infidelity
and murder alone are nothing new,
nor are jealousy or bitterness.
The novel's real complications
are the culmination of a seemingly
endless chain of events slowly re-
vealed to the reader by an undis-
closed, first person narrator. And the
path to their pasts is as winding and
dizzy as the music that inspired the
novel's title.
The bulk of the story takes place
in Harlem 1926. As the narrator ex-
plains a murder and the subsequent
reactions to it, we randomly flash
forward and back over a period of
generations.
We see a history take shape and,
as we learn the ingredients of Joe
and Violet's characters, we also
learn that their actions arise out of
the attitudes and oppressions insti-
tuted generations ago formed as a re-
sult of slavery.
We would normally assume to
understand a situation moreifully
through detail. Why does Joe kill
Dorcas and why does he go rela-
tively unpunished? Why does Violet
stab Dorcas as she lies in her casket?
We are given a thousand reasons,
but there is no single reason and that

... ::..f k .. .., .. . -. .::7

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