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February 07, 1994 - Image 8

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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1994-02-07

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8 - The Michigan Daily - Monday, February 7, 1994

Hitchcock's scary
'Birds' still flying
after three decades
By SCOTT PLAGENHOEF
In this the era of dinosaur parks and liquid metal cyborgs, the special effect,
of "The Birds" may be too outdated to startle, but that's only because they
don't have to - the film has a script. Alfred Hitchcock's classic work, an
apocalyptic metaphor about the uninitiated attack by birds on the quiet, little
town of Bodega Bay, stands near alone
as an intelligent horror film.
The Birds Hitchcock presents the basic plot
Written by Evan Hunter; directed by - birds attack town - amongst an
Wtten byEtaH ute; direted y, odd melodrama in which the confi-
Alfred Hitchcock; with Rod Taylor. dent, yet obnoxiously sassy Melanie
Tippi Hedren and Jessica Tandy. (Tippi Hedren) follows Mitch with a
couple of love birds she bought foAl
him from the city to the coastal town of Bodega Bay where he spends his
weekends with his jealously protective ma (Jessica Tandy) and repulsive little
sister (Veronica Cartwright in an all-time low in child acting).
The effectiveness of the film is the inability for the audience to draw any
positive conclusions about the reasons behind the birds' eerie attack. The
tension between the coyly seductive Melanie, Mitch's former girlfriend,
Mitch's ma, the arrival of the outsider Melanie and her love birds - it is all
scenery offering few plausible answers to the attack. Hitchcock may consider
forces coming down from the sky in an attempt to exterminate a town (this is
1962, the year of the Cuban Missile Crisis) an inevitability which may occut*
without just cause.
Despite all of the deep layered meanings which can be read into it, the film
exists to entertain and stimulate on the surface level as well. The poor quality
of some of the effects and the kitsch of some of the characters add to the charm
of the film rather than debase it.
Melanie hauling ass to Bodega Bay while the love birds lean from side-to-
side, Mel's attempts at remaining covert while she boats over to Mitch's house,
the attack outside the school, the characters in the diner - they're all corny
and they're all fun.
The kitsch and the invasion of nature harks back to the nuclear-induced
attacks by insects in '50s B-films, substantiating that this is all a metaphor fop
the apocalypse with Bodega Bay posing as Armageddon. All the while
Hitchcock plants his tongue firmly in his cheek and has fun with the quirks of
filmmaking and his mythical town. At first he almost begs you not to take his
film too seriously and by the end warns you that you had damn well better.
"The Birds" has even been known to make a few people squeamish or at
least a little wary of feathered creatures. None of the typical horror show
blood-and-guts tactics are used (again this is 1962, no movie ratings yet), but
even if Al could, he probably wouldn't and shouldn't.
The birds are threatening simply by their sheer presence and this makes the
danger accessible. Black birds gathering in an ominous bunch exists every
night on Angell Hall (weather permitting) and other places around the country.
Hitchcock succeeds in translating a common experience and simple behavior
into something eerie and potentially threatening the way only Steven Spielberg
in "Jaws" has bested.
THE BIRDS is playing today and Tuesday at the Michigan Theater.

bA
Robert Duvall and Richard Harris bridge the generation gap with "Wrestling Ernest Hemingway" -- a touching tale of elderly men.

'Heymngway' cossgenera

By SARAH STEWART
There are a slew of films dedi-
cated to the coming of age, but on the
Wrestling Ernest
Hemingway
Directed by Randa Haines; written by
Steve Conrad; with Robert Duvall
and Richard Harris.
other hand, films about old age are
few and far between.
Hopefully, 'a widespread accep-
tance of "Wrestling Ernest
Hemingway," following the comedic
lead of "Grumpy Old Men," will not
only help reverse this trend but will
draw audiences of all ages who as-
sume that old folk do nothing but eat,
sleep and watch "Murder She Wrote."
Admittedly, the two main charac-
ters, Walter (Robert Duvall) and Frank
(Richard Harris) are not turning som-

ersaults around every corner, but they
do a darned good job cultivating their
brand new friendship. Their evolving
relationship, which begins with a
chance meeting on a couple of park
benches, provides the basis for a sur-
prisingly complex film and a realistic
contrast to the well-portrayed loneli-
ness of their lives away from each
other.
Although "Wrestling Ernest
Hemingway" never loses its direc-
tion, the plot's main purpose is to
reveal the intricacies of Walter, a re-
tired Cuban barber, and Frank, a sea-
lovin' sailor.
The viewer expects Walter and
Frank to befriend each other sooner
than they do, but this delay teaches us,
among other things, that Walter has a
boyish crush on his beautiful young
waitress, Elaine (Sandra Bullock), and
that Frank's son cares only enough to
send a "deluxe," double-brimmed
baseball cap for his father's 75th birth-

day.
As the film progresses, the
character's develop a bizarre attrac-
tiveness; Frank becomes sexy in the
same way that E.T. is cute, while it
seems absurd that Elaine does not feel
as strongly about Walter as he does
about her. Similarly, it is impossible
not to admire the energy that allows
the two to travel six miles on a tandem
bicycle to almost reach the long an-
ticipated July 4th fireworks; the vi-
brancy of these characters consistently
follows the trends of the Florida sun
above them.
Duvall and Harris are proof that
the audience's attachment to Walter
and Frank is no accident, as they both
do a superb job in their respective
roles. Although Harris' character is
emphasized somewhat more than
Duvall's and is naturally more of an
attention-getter, it is a tribute to both
actors that he never appears to mo-
nopolize the screen.
Also, Duvall never swerves from
the calm intensity that works to pacify
the hyper-active tendencies of Frank.
In one scene, Walter makes Frank a
"respectable gentleman" by giving-
him a long due haircut and shave; the
result is a touching spectacle that
showcases Duvall and Harris as two
experienced actors who can create a
believable affection between two men.

itionga
On the other side of the gender
line, the women of the film serve as a
necessary diversion to the relation-
ship between Frank and Walter.
Shirley MacLaine gives a steady per-
formance as Frank's landlord and
surrogate "mother," although the
scenes between her and Harris do
tend to drag. It is unusual to see her
characterized as someone who stays
close to the ground as opposed to "out
on a limb," which might account for
the relative flatness of her perfor-
mance.
Bullock, as Elaine, is arguably
more memorable, responding to
Walter's indirect flattery with thecalm
embarrassment one would expect,
while simultaneously demonstrating
a sincere appreciation for his admira-
tion.
But on a different level, tidbits
such as Walter and Frank dancing
with two little girls in the park, make
"Wrestling Ernest Hemingway" a film
that blurs the distinction between
melancholy and glee and easily
bridges the generation gap.
Oh, and as for the meaning of the
title, just think of it as a mystery that
provides extra incentive to see the
movie.
WRESTLiNG ERNEST
HEMINGWAY is playing at the
State.

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DUNHAM
Continued from page 5
pieces of fabric attached to Dunham's
hand.
Take Peanut, a purple, furry, one-
shoed, green-haired "woozle" who,
upon his arrival on stage, declared,
"We're in hell!" The colorful, obnox-
ious creature proceeded to poke fun at
Dunham and members of the audi-
ence alike, screaming in his high
pitched voice to Dunham, "You can't
get a date because, for a living, you
play with dolls!"
Just as the audience grew attached
to Peanut, Dunham introduced Jose, a
Jalapeno pepper on a stick, whose on-
stage banter with Peanut in Spanish
made Dunham, a self-proclaimed non-
Spanish speaker (ha, ha) "feel left
out."
And Dunham introduced his new-
est character, Bubba, to a receptive
audience. Bubba was a white trash
hick from Arkansas who claimed to
have met his wife "at a family re-
union." With his buck teeth, Dumbo

ears, lime green T-shirt and ratty old
baseball hat, Bubba was a huge hit.
The highlight of the evening on*
the crowd monitor was Walter, a bit-
ter, cynical old man who has missed
his daily bran for the past 10 years and
made sure everyone knew it. The au-
dience was given an opportunity to
take advantage of Walter's biting,
sarcastic humor by asking him ques-
tions. One audience member asked,
"Walter, why are there no blue M &
M's?" to which he responded, "It&
would be like eating smurf turds."
The crowd, obviously familiar
with Dunham through appearances
on the TV shows ("Hot Country
Nights" and "The Tonight Show"),
cheered as each dummy made his
appearance. Had I asked, I doubt many
audience members would have be-
lieved that Dunham was doing all the
work. "Those guys were hysterical,",,
remarked one woman as she left the
theater. But this postmodern trip
through a multiple personality disor-
der certainly put a new twist on stand-
up comedy. Seinfeld, there's a blue
light special on puppets. Maybe you
should check it out.

,eken

(set them up in your dorm, apartment, house, car...)

I Do^Ieto"r",nta rlt~i o / aFRFF'7 - m" IU

I

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