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January 20, 1994 - Image 13

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The Michigan Daily, 1994-01-20

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The Michigan Daily - Weekend etc. - Thursday, January 20, 1994 - 5

'Dogflight' matches Phoenix with Taylor, roughness with sincerity

By JOHANNA FLIES
"Dogfight" is not a typical love
story. Not by Hollywood's terms any-
way: the woman is not beautiful, the
man does not ride a white stallion, the
vorld is not a utopia. It is this separa-
tion from the typical, however, that

makes this film so satisfying, so beau-
tiful and so perfect that doing it jus-
tice on paper becomes impossible.
November 21, 1963 is the last day
stateside for four marines in San Fran-
cisco. For their last big blast, they
organize a dogfight, a party in which
She guy with the ugliest date wins a
pile of money.
Corporal Eddie Birdlace (River
Phoenix) brings Rose (Lili Taylor), a
chubby, pale, aspiring folk singer
whom he sweet talks in her mom's
cafe. When Rose discovers the real
reason for the date, the supposed timid
homebody slugs Eddie and tells him
pointedly that he and his pals are cruel
nd vicious creeps. Rose's naivet6,
Iisgust and pain touch Eddie, a man
who apologizes to none, to ask her
forgiveness. They spend the rest of
the night together and Eddie ships out
the next day.
Though it is never mentioned in
any of his filmographies, this movie
showcases one of Phoenix's stron-
gest performances. The same mixture
of vulnerability and tough-guy
#rusqueness that garnered him praise
in "Stand By Me" fuels this character.
Eddie first comes across as an asshole,

but the kind of asshole everyone wants
in their corner. He and his friends are
not evil; they are just boys who under-
stand that the world is steeped in
bullshit, they are in it up to their eyes
and the only way to survive is to dish
it out as fast as it comes in. Eddie
wants honesty and goodness and
connects to Rose's sincerity. She
can protect him from the "fucked up
place" in which he lives.
Phoenix's gentle approach to this
character flushes out every nuance
ofpain, fear and confusion in Eddie's
life. Even at the cruelest moments,
Phoenix acts with a complexity of
emotion that is humanizing and
sometimes overwhelming.
Taylor, best known for more
flamboyant roles in "Mystic Pizza"
The perfection of this
film comes from its
quiet understanding of
awkwardness and
truthfulness and the
complexity of
personality. Nancy
Savoca guides the cast
In presenting
characters who, no
matter the size of their
role, are distinct In
their situation ...
and "Say Anything," gives Rose a
strength to which Eddie and the audi-
ence are drawn. Even after her hu-
miliation at the party, she does not
kowtow gratefully to Eddie's apol-
ogy, nor does she let his bullshit go
unchecked. She knows she is notbeau-
tiful, but in Eddie's last night at home

Eddie (River Phoenix) does his best to impress Rose (Lili Taylor), but he finds that it will take more than superficial charm and a buzz cut to win her over.

she realizes the importance of her
sincerity.
Eddie and Rose meet on the day
before his tour to Vietnam - also the
day before JFK's assassination. Their
brief relationship marks the end of the
veil of youth - a veil that protected
them from an ugliness that no one
would escort to a party, no matter

how much money was at stake. Eddie
knows he cannot carry Rose's
strength or sincerity to war and does
not try. The circumstances of their
separation make the emotion of Rose
and Eddie's reunion three years later
so obvious and simple that no dia-
logue is needed.
The perfection of this film comes

froin its quiet understanding of awk-,
wardness and truthfulness and the
complexity of personality. Nancy
Savoca guides the cast in presenting
characters who, no matter the size of
their role, are distinct in their situa-
tion; however, the director's pres-
ence is never overtly felt. Each per-
formance is natural, cutting away the

actor's persona. The satisfaction and
comfort "Dogfight" provides is di-
minished only by the realizations that
so few people have seen this film and
that such a complete, drawing perfor-
mance by Phoenix will never be re-
peated.
DOGFIGHT is available at Liberty
Street Video.

Independent record label strives to heighten 'Aware'ness of local bands

By TOM ERLEWINE
Every regional music scene has its
*wn figurehead, a person that gets all
of the local bands together, usually in
the form of a record label or bar. All
of the great independent record labels
in rock 'n' roll history have repre-
sented a specific scene and sound -
Sun recorded Memphis-based
rockabilly, blues and country, Sub
Pop gathered together the brightest of

the collegiate guitar-rock scene. With
their records, these labels brought re-
gional music to national attention. In
many ways, Michigan State Univer-
sity graduate and Madaket Records
founder Greg Latterman is like Sun's
Sam Phillips or Atlantic's Ahmet
Ertegun, with one important differ-
ence: Instead of attempting to docu-
ment one particular region, Latterman
is tryingto represent an entire musi-

cal movement with his label's first
release.
Madaket's first release is "Aware
- The Compilation," a 15-track col-
lection featuring 10 different bands
from across the country. While all of
the bands could conceivably be pi-
geonholed into the Boulder, Colo-
rado nuevo-hippie movement, that
would do a disservice to both the
music and to Latterman himself.

Losing faith in Government Surveys

I was reading my history
coursepack when the phone rang. I
didn't really have any interest in read-
ing my history coursepack; I could
have in fact come up with about 172
things I'd rather have been doing, so

picked up the phone, if only for a.
rief respite.
"Hello," I said encouragingly.
"I'm calling from the Department
of Health and Human Services. I'm
doing a survey. I'd like to speak to the
member of your household who is
over 18 and has the nearest birthday,"
the woman said encouragingly.
Well my birthday had come and
gone; I knew that I should rightfully
~igure out who in my household was
about to turn another year older and
pass the phone onto her, but my his-
tory coursepack lay menacingly next
to the phone, and something inside
me snapped. I told the government
my first lie. "That would be me," I
said.
"I am going to ask you a series of
questions about drugs," she said. "You
should answer them as honestly a4
possible," she said. "This is an anony-
mous survey," she said.
A drug survey. "How did you get
my number?" I asked. She explained
the random dialer on her computer. It
sounded plausible; I let down my
guard.

oughly processed product of Nancy
Reagan's War on Drugs, I could only
interpret that yes, alcohol was a drug.
"Yes, alcohol is a drug," I said em-
phatically. "100 percentof the house-
hqlds in my neighborhood abuse
drugs," I said emphatically. "But wait,
I live in a college town. I'm going to
throw off your survey terribly," I
warned her. She did not seem con-
cerned. "Can't you make a note that I
live in a college town?" I pleaded, the
weight of skewing the accuracy of a
Government Survey bearing down
upon me. She could not. I sucked in
my breath, and we proceeded.
"Of the households in your neigh-
borhood, what percentage would you
say attempt to curtail drug abuse in
the area?" she asked.
Someone had stolen the keg tap at
my last party; could this have been a
low-key attempt to abridge drinking?
Perhaps. "One percent," I told her
after a quick calculation.
The questions soon became more
personal. "In the past year, how many
times have you used marijuana, also
called weed, pot, reefer or ha-shish?"
she asked, slaughtering the pronun-
The questions soon
became more personal.
"In the past year, how
many times have you
used marijuana, also
called weed, pot,
reefer or ha-shish?"
ciation of the last.
"Actually," I offered, "It's pro-
nounced hashish." She thanked me. I
could sense that we were becoming
friends.

tell, and I didn't want to let her down
when we were only now getting to
know each other. "No," I sputtered,
my palms starting to sweat.
"How many people live in your
household?" she asked.
"Seven," I replied with a clear
conscience.
"Is your combined yearly income
below $14,000, between $14,000 and
$17,500, between $17,500 and
$25,000, between $25,000 and
$50,000, or above $50,000?" she
asked.
"Below $14,000," I replied miser-
ably, trying to calculate the number of
half-truths I had told along with the
amount of misleading information I
had given. The figure was astronomi-
cal. "But we're all students, can't you
please note that somewhere?" I
begged, guilt-stricken. She could not.
We soon hung up, with no men-
tion of her calling me back to help
with later surveys or even just to let
me know how this one turned out. I
tried not to feel bad- I wouldn't call
back such a survey-destroyer as my-
self either - and I resumed my his-
tory reading, praying that the Depart-
ment of Health and Human services
would cite a large margin of error in
their 1994 Drug Abuse Survey. Maybe
they would even name that margin
after me. The June Margin, it would
say.

Granted, most of the bands featured
on "Aware" are more acoustic and
groove-oriented than the great major-
ity of today's contemporary scene,
but it would be foolish to say they
were all cut from the same cloth.
Some of the bands do sound a bit like
the Samples or Big Head Todd & The
Monsters, yet none of the tracks sound
like washed-out carbon copies of the
originals; surprisingly, each band
sounds unique.
Featuring area favorites like
Jackopierce and Acoustic Junction to
bands that haven't had proper expo-
sure in this area (like The Grapes and
The Thugs, who feature a guest ap-
pearanceby The Samples' keyboardist
on their track), "Aware" is surpris-
ingly consistent and enjoyable. In
addition to these four bands, Jupiter
Coyote, The Winebottles, Mango Jam,
Beanland, Everything and Roshambo
also turn in first-rate performances.
Credit Latterman for the musical con-
sistency of "Aware," for he is the
mastermind behind the entire project.
"Aware" grew out of Latterman's
habit of making mix tapes for his
friends. Latterman would frequently
compile home-recorded tapes from
his own albums, drawing on his large
collection of both familiar and ob-
scure records. Often, the tapeswould
feature bands that he had heard in
local clubs. When his friends listened
to the tapes, they would ask where
they could get their hands on these
great bands that they had never heard
before. Sensing an opportunity,
Latterman decided to bravely plunge
into the treacherous waters of the
music industry and construct the
"Aware" compilation. Latterman con-
tacted all of the artists himself; some

acts signed immediately, others
needed persuading.
As Latterman conceived it,
"Aware" is a way of introducing a
number of struggling young bands
not only to the record-buying public,
but to the industry as well. Within the
liner notes of the disc are small, self-
penned biographies of all the groups
Featuring area
favorites like
Jackopierce and
Acoustic Junction to
bands that haven't had
proper exposure in this
area, "Aware" is
surprisingly consistent
and enjoyable.
featured on the compilation; included
are telephone numbers and addresses
of the bands where you can call either
to purchase a full CD by one of the
artists or to book them at a local
venue. At the time of compilation,
none of the 10 bands on the disc were
signed to a major label; all of them
were traveling across the country, try-
ing to get their music heard. Thanks
to "Aware," their job is a little easier
now. As of late 1993, about half of the
states in the country had record stores
carrying the CD, including several
major retail outlets; locally, Tower
Records and Wherehouse Records
both stock the compilation. "Aware"
has also brought major-label atten-
tion to some of the bands, including a
contract for one lucky artist (although

we're not at liberty to say which one).
Not only are gigs and sales picking up
for the featured bands, but their audi-
ences are expanding across the coun-
try.
Evidently, "Aware" is beginning
to accomplish its purpose. Naturally,
some of the bands are faring better
than others. As mentioned before, one
of the bands has signed to a major-
label, one has broken up (after
Beanland's keyboardist split to join
Widespread Panic, the group fell
apart) and the restare steadily gaining
support.
Because his first release has been
so successful, Latterman is planning
to release other discs on Madaket
Records. On the back of "Aware" is
an address where prospective bands
can send albums or demo tapes to be
considered for inclusion on the next
"Aware" compilation. Latterman
wants to branch out into other kinds
of music, including reggae and ska,
for his next effort, so all kinds of tapes
in any format (CD, DAT or cassette)
are welcome.
"Aware" is also available in local
record stores. If you're interested in
relaxing, fun music, give it a chance.
You'll be supporting a number of
deserving young bands in the pro-
cess.
Please send any submissions to:
Madaket Records, 1025 Roxburgh,
East Lansing, MI 48823; you may
also call 1-800-333-1245. "Aware
- The Compilation" can be
ordered by calling the toll-free
telephone number or writing to the
above address (checks and money
orders in the amount of $14, made
out to Madaket Records are
accepted).

Are you... O "n gwd,.* ~ t.0,t".UW
...tired of the cold? -L 4,
...anxiously awaiting the return of warm weather?;a
Why not have even more to look forward to...
...a Spring or Summer Abroad!
Come to the SPRING and SUMMER Programs
+x11 MFD A1".CA/D1 .

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