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September 27, 1993 - Image 5

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1993-09-27

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Hollywood dilemmas dispelled


It is, perhaps, inevitable that some Hollywood
a< ors find themselves involved in politics.
Or do they? Philip Kan Gotanda's satiric play
"Yankee Dawg You Die" explores the Asian-
American stereotypes in Hollywood and the di-

Yankee Dawg You Die
Residential College Auditorium
September 24, 1993

lemmas of the actors who play these roles. Al-
though it focuses on only two actors, Gotanda's
script deftly manages to investigate many differ-
ent perspectives on what the actors should do
without placing emphasis on one argument over
Vincent Chang (Steve Sumida) has made a
living out of taking some of the worst roles Hol-
lywood has to offer, stereotypically speaking. By
playing Japanese sergeants in World War II flicks,
or telling self-deprecating jokes to crowds in
Texas, he scratched his way to respectability in
Hollywood, and was given the honor of being the
first Asian-American nominated for an Oscar. He
states his philosophy in an acceptance speech for
an Asian-American acting award, saying, "I am an
actor, not a writer... I am an actor, not a politician

... I have never turned down a role."
This attitude is scorned by Bradley Yamashita
(Tim Chang), one of the "new breed" of Asian-
American actors. He has built his career without
the compromises that were necessary for Vincent,
and cannot conceive of ever stooping to those
roles. Bradley is true to his ideals, as we see
demonstrated early in the play him walk out on a
director who wants him to take a photo, then
giggle. "Japanese men don't giggle," he says.
These men, initially cool towards each other,
develop a working friendship based on a mutual
actor's respect. Nevertheless, they are constantly
taunting each other, with Bradley calling Vincent
"a Chinese step-n-fetch it" after he re-enacts a
death scene with him from a movie in which
Vincent, dying, pleads with a fellow army officer
to "win one for the nipper." These accusations
start to get into Vincent's head, as evidenced in his
dream in which he is thrown under a bright spot-
light in front of a crowd and told by an unseen
voice (Hollywood) that "all we want you to do is
fuck yourself." This shakes up Vincent consider-
ably and makes him reevaluate his philosophy.
Likewise for Bradley, after reading for a soap-
opera role in which he was told to affect an accent,
he queries, "Could I actually do that?" Vincent
comforts him, explaining that when everyone
expects you to do it, "it is so easy to slip into being
the ching-chong Chinaman."

Each actor ends up influencing the other enough
for us to see subtle changes in their perspectives.
This delicate process is well handled by director
Simon Ha, who, even with scaled down resources
because of the new venue, presents the audience
with strong visual images and clearly defined
perspectives for each scene. Gotanda's use of
short vignettes is great in that its many small
points add up to a big statement, but it is often at
the expense of less audience involvement with the
characters. The play hits you more on an intellec-
tual level than emotional level, and is occasion-
ally a bit heavy-handed in its approach (as in the
Godzilla sequence ending Act I). This is normal
for a satire; however, the play was most effective
when, in Act II, it let the scenes run a little longer
and delved more into the personal problems un-
derlying each of the actors' lives.
Steve Sumida, a University English professor,
showed that although he had not acted in while, he
had not forgotten how to do it right. He was quite
effective in bringing out the emotional as well as
the satiric elements in the play. Tim Chang's
Bradley Yamashita was not quite as refined, but
this is hardly surprising, considering that this is
his first role as an actor. Despite a slight lack of
smoothness needed for Bradley, Chang did well
enough to get his points across clearly.
Simon Ha and the actors reward the audience
with a play that is an intellectual treat.

"Yankee Dawg You Die" returned to the RC Auditorium last weekend.

Macauley is back but he's hardly good

Macaulay Culkin smoking a ciga-
rette? Macaulay Culkin saying, "Don't
fuck with me?" This could be
Macaulay Caulkin's funniest movie
since "Home Alone." Hell, it could be

The Good Son
Directed by Joseph Ruben; written by
Ian McEwen; with Macaulay Culkin
and Elijah Wood.
funnier. However, the film is not a
comedy but a psychological thriller.
Unfortunately, any psychology the
film might possess never escapes the
scope of its 12-year old protagonist,
Mark (Elijah Wood).
Following thedeath of his mother,
Mark is sent to live with his aunt and
uncle for two weeks so his father can
fly to Tokyo and seal up a business
deal which will insure thathe'll "never
have to leave Mark again." Amongst
the cousins who Mark goes to live
with is Henry (Macaulay Culkin),
another 12-year old, whom Mark
quickly begins to suspect is evil.
Ostensibly, the filmmakers wanted

to indicate by inculcating an unex-
plainable evil in a young boy, particu-
larly the prince of fabricated cute, that
evil is inherent in all of us. However,
unlike other films with a childhood
vision, such as "The Last Emperor,"
"To Kill a Mockingbird" or "Big," the
film never separates itself from the
intelligence of the young characters.
The film's ideas about death -
particularly the death of family mem-
bers - and evil are presented from
12-year old minds and might affect,
frighten or even interest a 12-year old.
However, for an audience that is of
legal age, the film is a recycled, un-
imaginative, and typical retelling of
the same so-called thrillers which
Hollywood has created over the past
few years. This time around instead of
acop, office tempnanny or new room-
mate who slowly becomes more and
more evil, the villain is a young boy.
Culkin, who does deserve some
credit for attempting to broaden his
range and appeal, does not deliver.
The fault may lie with director Joseph
Ruben ("Sleeping with the Enemy").
His attempt to create a character who
simply embodies evil instead creates
a flat caricature. Everything Henry

does is evil, or at best atypical for a
12-year old boy. Henry's disconcert
for the evil he creates does not come
across as cold-bloodedness or malice
but, due to Culkin's matter-of-fact
approach to playing the role, as sim-
The film's ideas about
death ... and evil are
presented from 12-year
old minds and might
affect, frighten or even
interest a 12-year old.
However, for an audience
that is of legal age, the
film is a recycled,
unimaginative, and
typical retelling of the
same so-called thrillers
which Hollywood has
created over the past
few years.
ply dull.
Culkin isn't even the best child
actor on the screen. Elijah Wood ("Ra-
dio Flyer," "Forever Young") shows

an actor than his more heralded and
well-paid co-star. Wood's wide-eyed
innocence is an effective foil to
Culkin's Henry, no matter how dull.
The range and energy of Wood can-
not, however, save the film.
Ruben, a veteran of many recent
thrillers, does not escape cliche in his
direction. Ruben's use of low-angle
shots to provide the feel of viewing
the film through the eyes of a child
only reinforces the idea that only a
child would be frightened by this pic-
ture. Ruben sinks as low as using
slow-motion to accentuate a few of
Henry's evildoings. Ruben is simply
attempting to masquerade the disabil-
ity of the characters and the screen-
play to create suspense by employing
these cheap tactics.
"The Good Son" is an example of
Hollywood simply reworking old for-
mulas with marketable stars. The
film's saving grace is watching the
fighter of wet bandits being cast
against type. A 12-year old barking at
a dog is campy enough, but Macaulay
Culkin doing it is worth at least a
dollar show.
THE GOODSON is playing at

Singer spurs
memories ofsilk
You always remember your first time. Whether it be your first date, your
first love or your first silk shirt, it is a memory you will carry with you the
rest of your life. On a dreary *Saturday evening, while others were party-
hopping, breaking fasts and curled up with chemistry books, I went to my
first jazz concert.
I was quite unsure of what to
C R Rexpect from Betty Carter. I remem-
Betty Carter ber listening to my grandmother's
Hill Auditorium Ella Fitzgerald records, and I
September 25, 1993 couldn't forget how my mom used
Septmber25. 993to croon along to Lena Homne. But
that wasn't jazz in the '90s. Carter
and her trio (piano, bass and drums) were a pleasant surprise.
Carter's particular vocal style did not appeal to me. It sounded as if she
was singing through a yawn. However, the woman scats as if she were
talking. And she has this remarkable way of "physical izing" her music. The
music comes from her body - her shoulders, her hips, her torso - and the
mouth is merely the vehicle for the emissions that consist of her vocals.
More impressive was Carter's accompaniment, or her "young baby
dolls," as she called them - Cyrus Chestnut (pianist), ChristopherThomas
(bassist) and Alvester Caroll Garnett (drummer). Before Carter's appear-
ance, the trio did a 30-minute set, which was basically a chance for them to
show off their tremendous musical talents. Many passages prompted the
audience to burst into applause mid-music, after especially fast and furious
runs. (Gasp! Could you imagine a theater audience exploding with applause
after a chorus of "Don't Cry For Me Argentina"?)
Carter sang: "Music for the sake of music / Satisfies my hunger ... /
Pacifies my soul." The words of her songs are very simple, and she renders
them in an indescribably unique way (the aforementioned yawn technique),
but her music is what sticks. She was very interactive with her musicians,
and with the audience, bending to them (and us) benevolently and giving her
music to us. What I realized is that she was talking to us with her scatting
- that her music is a form of communication, just as discourse is ours.
What I experienced that night is hard to explain in precise musical
terminology - it was more of a feeling. And I know that years from now
I will be able to close my eyes and hear the brilliant cascade of the Steinway
pianot the lulling hum of the hefty double bass and the gentle throbbing of
the resonant drums, coursing through my veins and "pacifying my soul."
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Macauley Culkin is back in "The Good Son." But don't expect to see his typically cute kid image. Take a hint from this photo.

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