The Michigan Daily
Monday, October 12, 1992
'Conquest' is foundering
1,492 reasons to not bother watching this epic filn
by John R. Rybock
With this being the quinceuntenial of Christopher
Columbus' landing in the New World, Hollywood was
bound to try and make a buck off of it. The first film,
"Christopher Columbus" died quickly. Now, Ridley
Scott's version "1492: Conquest of Paradise," will
probably follow that same fate.
In elementary school, we all learned that "in 1492,
Columbus sailed the ocean blue." This film expands
on that, beginning with Christopher Columbus'
(Gerard Depardieu) search for financing of his expedi-
tion. Facing opposition from the church (who doesn't
say that the earth is flat, only that the ocean is too big
1492: Conquest of Paradise
Directed by Ridley Scott; written by Roselyne Bosch; with
Gerard Depardieu, Armand Assante, Sigourney Weaver
to cross), Columbus goes to Queen Isabella of Spain.
He finally gets the money to make the trip to China.
Most of the film follows Columbus' quest to create a
civilized paradise in his new land.
"1492" suffers fatally from a weak script by Rose-
lyne Bosch. This is unfortunate, because it is apparent
that all the rest of the people put everything they had
into breathing some life into the film. But all their ef-
fort is for nothing; what appears on the screen is void
of a soul.
Ridley Scott is at his best, taking us into a world
most can only imagine. He did the same things in past
films such as "Blade Runner" with the future, and
"Thelma and Louise" with the New Mexico desert. In
"1492," the New World is full of thick green trees,
waterfalls, and animals. The images he creates are
compelling, and when Columbus describes the land as
being what Eden must have been, the audience can't
help but agree. Scott also tries to create a contrast be-
tween the New World and Spain. It is a shame that he
is too successful. Spain looks gray, drab, and lifeless,
and it is just these periods of lifelessness which bring
the picture down.
Scott and the script take a methodical approach to
the story. The result should not be described as slow,
but rather as a steady walk one takes to the electric
chair. After two and a half hours, all the acting and di-
rection in the world cannot save the audience from
wanting to see the screenwriter executed.
To the actors' credit, they try to bring out as much
character as they can, in spite of the script's anemic
characterizations. Depardieu's Columbus is a visionary
who gets caught up in Spanish greed, and in the end is
unjustly accused (by the ambitious Spanish nobility) of
being brutal with everyone in the New World.
Columbus is often a sympathetic character, though the
script never really stays in one place long enough to
bring him to life. His relation to his sons and wife is
one example where part of the character is shown, but
Corruption comes mostly in the form of Montsega,
Ridley Scott puts on a spectacle with Depardieu in "1492." Too bad he never bumped into a decent screenwriter.
well played by Fernando Rey (even though Montsega
bears an uncanny resemblance to Rey's last role, Guy
Gisborne in "Robin Hood"). He is thoroughly brutal,
thinking of the Indians as "monkeys" and calling for
their mass slaughter. He is meant to be the antithesis of
Columbus's character, and while the script does little
to help that notion, his and Depardieu's performances
struggle to clarify that picture.
The rest of the cast is equally good. Among the
larger roles are Armand Assante as Sanchez, a
Spaniard initially interested in Columbus for the po-
tential wealth he represents, and Sigourney Weaver as
Isabella. Even the smallest of roles received a strong
performance. It should be noted, however, that the cast
does not attempt proper native accents; this may have
been a phobia of looking like Kevin Costner in "Robin
In the end, "1492" can be likened to the Tower of
Pisa. While all the direction and acting is strong, its
foundation, the script, is soft, leaving the finished
1492 is playing at Showcase.
Midori recital brutal, beautiful
* But it's no
by Aaron Hamburger
"Hero" wants to be a biting
satire. It fails in so many ways that
the best thing to do is just to list
1. A good satire should pick a
worthy target. "Network," the movie
closest to what "Hero" would like to
be, hilariously picked apart the way
TV executives obsessed over ratings
and dollars rather than quality and in
the process slammed business as
usual in America in general.
What gripping social dilemma
does "Hero" choose to attack? A
problem I'm sure you're spent many
sleepless nights mulling over: the
way the media creates phony heroes.
Just ask Bill Clinton and Dan Quayle
about how troublesome and common
this hero-creating phenomenon is.
The hero of the title (Dustin
Hoffman) is not a politician but a
scummy crook (then again, what's
the difference?) who rescues over 50
passengers from a burning plane.
Among the passengers is news-
woman Gale Gayley (Geena Davis)
Directed by Stephen Frears; written by
David Webb Peoples; starring Dustin
Hoffman, Geena Davis, and Andy
who thinks she has found her savior
in a noble, Kevin Costner-like tran-
sient, John Bubber, (Andy Garcia)
who does nice stuff like collecting
blankets for the homeless and reviv-
ing kids out of comas.
2. A good satire should have
some connection to reality. In
"Network," the audience went along
by Valerie Shuman
Ever have the feeling you re-
ally screwed up somewhere?
Watching Midori step confidently
out onto the stage last Thursday
evening, resplendent in a full
length black and gold dress (and
gold shoes!), made me really
wonder if I shouldn't maybe have
spent another couple thousand
hours practicing the violin. Of
Hill A uditoriuim
October 8, 1992
she had a consistent, golden round
tone in piano sections, even when
the violin was barely whispering.
This made pieces like Debussy's
"La Fille au Cheveux de Lin" del-
icate delights. The Elgar Sonata in
E minor, a haunting piece of lone-
ly, mist-ridden passages, also
benefited from her sensitive
In the less than perfect first
half of the concert, her treatment
of piano sections was the only
thing which salvaged the
Beethoven Sonata No. 9 in A ma-
jor ("Kreutzer"). It is a turbulent
piece, full of contrast and emotion,
but her performance of it was raw,
and only the gorgeous mellow
parts of it let you forgive her for
her overly brutal, crunching at-
tacks in stormier areas.
The other piece in the first half
was a Mozart sonata (No.4 in E
minor). It too, was not up to her
usual standard. A teacher's stand-
by, the Mozart is overplayed
enough that it is difficult to make
it exceptional, and Midori's per-
formance was somewhat thread-
bare. However, some of the prob-
lem may have been due to the
rainy weather, which dampens the
strings and makes it hard to get a
good sound without cracking.
All of this was obliterated in
the blaze of glory from her final
selection, "Zigeunerweisen" by
Sarasate. "Zigeunerweisen" is in-
credibly difficult, jam-packed with
devilish runs, and culminating in a
succession of passages plucked
with both hands at top speed.
There are also a couple of gutsy
gypsyish arias thrown in for good
luck. I'd been waiting the whole
concert to see what she'd do with
it, and Midori did not disappoint.
Her performance was exhilarating,
and earned her a standing ovation.
Robert MacDonald, her ac-
companist, also did an outstanding
job. He was somewhat overshad-
owed by her playing and her dra-
matic movements on stage, but lie
always kept right along with her,
even in the Sarasate, and provided
polished solos where they were
Both artists returned to play
two encores, "Salut D'Amour" by
Belgar, a fluffy, romantic piece,
and Fritz Kreisler's whimsical
"Syncopation." The Kreisler end-
ed with a perky flourish, a light-
hearted ending that left the audi-
ence laughing. Until we stepped
outside into the thunderstorm ...
John Bubber (Andy Garcia) in a sleeper hold by Gail Gayley (Geena Davis).
course, there is the minor matter
of a little missing talent here and
there as well...
Midori's only 21, but she has
an absolute assurance on stage that
lets you relax in your seat and
never worry that she'll miss a
note, no matter what she's play-
ing. Which is, of course, why she's
a world-acclaimed virtuoso al-
One of the best things about
Midori's style is the beautifully
controlled way she handles quiet
passages. Throughout the recital,
with the ridiculous plot, a conspiracy
to assassinate a talk show host be-
cause of the falling ratings of his
show, because it detailed how such
an assassination would have to take
place, if it could take place.
In "Hero," however, when Gale
Gayley wants to find her reticent
savior, she offers a million dollars
for him to step forward. Frankly, I
find it hard to believe that any news
story is worth one million dollars.
Then we hear that this John Bubber
is such a great guy that the whole
world breathlessly awaits his next
word and buys doll-sized replicas of
him (miraculously manufactured
only days after his identity is discov-
ered). When's the last time you saw
a Ross Perot or Norman Schwarz-
kopf doll at Toys 'R Us?
Another reason why "Network"
seemed plausible is that Paddy
Chayevsky, the screenwriter who of-
ten wrote for TV, clearly knew a lot
about the dynamics of a television
station. However, David Webb
Peoples, the screenwriter for "Hero,"
seems to have done his research by
staying up nights watching "His Girl
Friday" on the late movie. Peoples's
TV men seem more like wisecrack-
ing stowaways from a World War II
Preston Sturges comedy than mod-
ern network execs.
3. A good satire should have
memorable characters, none of
which should ever be too noble.
Who could ever forget Faye Dun-
away's cold calculating professional
in "Network," or William Holden's
alcoholic, philandering character
who only has a few shreds of in-
tegrity left as lie encounters a mid-
life crisis, or Peter Finch's talk show
host, a crazed, burnt-out false Mes-
Compare this trio to the insuffer-
ably bland and decent stars of
See HERO, Page 8
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