The Michigan Daily - Wednesday, February 16, 1994 - 9
away from real issues
By SCOTT PLAGENHOEF
This Winter, Hollywood was praised for releasing feature films about the
somber, yet necessary, subjects of the Holocaust ("Schindler's List") and
AIDS ("Philadelphia"). They succeeded with the former in creating a film of
almost unparalleled vitality. The failed in the latter.
"Philadelphia" is not a film about AIDS. "Philadelphia" is a courtroom
drama about aman who has the disease. Even in Hollywood's shining moment
in which they showered themselves with accolades and gave us advanced
promises of integrity, they felt so strikingly the need to turn a profit rather than
take chances, that they anesthetized the audience's emotions about homosexu-
ality by creating a lead character, Andrew Beckett, who is sympathetic because
he has been fired from his job because he has AIDS. If he were simply a
homosexual with AIDS would America give a damn?
"Philadelphia" is a good film, one which should be seen, and deserves to
be praised as a positive step for Hollywood into the pool of the meaningful,
which it hasn't consistently swam in 20 years. The majority of the film's
praises have been directed toward Tom Hanks' performance as Andrew
Beckett. Yet, the film's many poignant and ironic moments, whether they be
blatant (the false assumption that Beckett's lawyer is also gay) or quite subtle
(the homophobic lawyer tucking a female doll into bed next to his newborn
daughter) have nothing to do with Hanks, but rather the exceptional job done
by director Jonathan Demme ("Silence of the Lambs,").
The casting of Hanks, in fact, is the best indication that the film's producers
had no intentions on disrupting a safe trip to the bank. His finest attribute is that
he is probably the most likable actor in the business. Hanks' boyish charm and
relaxed screen persona have made him a frequent box-office draw and an actor
who appeals to all people. Attempting to get audiences to attend a film about
AIDS, particularly when the afflicted is homosexual, demands not the best
actor possible, but the safest.
Imagine the audience's reaction if more qualified actors had the part:
Daniel Day-Lewis: Millions of women are crushed that the dreamboat
from 'Last of the Mohicans' is portraying a gay guy.
Denzel Washington, Laurence Fishburne, etc: He's gay and black and
white America is expected to go see it?
Liam Neeson, Tim Roth, Gabriel Byrne, Etc.: (conversation to be read in
best David Letterman dumb-guy voice)
-"Dat guy who made that 'Silence of the Lambs' has a new movie comin'
out, but its about gays."
-"Whose in it?"
-"I dunnaknow, let's go see 'Ace Ventura' instead."
-"Yeah, the way that guy can, like, move and contort his face and body.
It's real funny. Makes me laugh. Bet that guy is gonna be around a long time."
The film's refusal to take a stance on issues of homosexuality is an obvious
safety valve to ensure that the box-office receipts keep coming in after the
initial word of mouth. Andrew Beckett is dying of AIDS and Miguel, his
partner for at least 10 years, shows his concern by recording his doctor'visits,
monitoring his health in the courtroom and staying in the hospital to see how
he is. The guy could have been a nurse rather than a lover. It is true that
passionate physical contact may have been both disrupting to the pace of the
film considering Andrew's condition and would reinforce the stereotype that
all homosexuals are interested in is sexual pleasure. Yet, this man is dying of
AIDS and his longtime partner cannot question "why us?," or even say "I love
you?" No way, bigots and holy rollers buy movie tickets too.
In the past the films which have dealt with AIDS have been few and far-
between. The first which can be recalled is 1986's "Parting Glances." The film
was directed by Bill Sherwood, who died of AIDS in 1990 (at this time it took
a person afflicted to give the issue cultural voice). "Glances" is an affecting,
very low-budget, picture about two friends dealing with the death of another
from the disease. It features a fine performance by character actor extraordinaire
Steve Buscemi ("Reservoir Dogs"' Mr. Pink).
The first fairly mainstream and still finest AIDS film is 1990's "Longtime
M Companion." The picture begins on July 3, 1981 with a group of vacationing,
homosexual friends discovering an article on the 20th page of the front section
of the "New York Times" abouta new cancer which has claimed the lives of
41 homosexual males. The group spends the remainder of the decade tracing
the progress of both the disease and each other's health. "Companion" remains
honest about the lifestyles of the men without being distracting and stands as
the best fictional film about the disease. Director Norman Rene balances the
characters in the excellent ensemble cast with such efficiency that he does not
allow their individual plights to eclipse the scope of the disease and uses the
two in combination to create one of the most surprising and effective ends to
a film in recent years. "Longtime Companion" is a film that Hollywood is
apparently not yet ready to make.
So Hollywood, you've tricked us into believing that you had some daring
in you. You promised us something different and instead we got a film whose
plot line rose and fell based on whether or not a man receives monetary
compensation. Thank the director and actors for saving the script and your
payrolls. In the future, please try to wipe the dollar signs from your eyes long
enough to seek new ground.
nIversity Lutheran C el
Feb.16 at 7p.m.
Worship to include "Imposition of Ashes"
Pastor Ed Krauss 1511 Washtenaw, near Hi/l Street
Continued from page 5
With the overwhelming presence
of dub and reggae experiments, this
collection will naturally appeal pri-
marily to hard-core Clash collectors,
but even those who know the band
only from "Rock the Casbah" and
"Should I Stay or Should I Go" will
find much to treasure here. Rock 'n'
roll seldom got better than "Pressure
Drop," "City of the Dead," "The Pris-
oner," "1-2 Crush On You," "Groovy
Times" and "Gates of the West" -
and those were just B-sides!
The simple fact that the Clash
could throw away such scintillating
music on the flip sides of singles
proves that they were indeed, for a
time, "the only band that matters."
And the remarkable thing is, nearly
10 years after their breakup, they still
matter and "Super Black Market
Clash" is more relevant than most
current music. Essential for any rock
'n' roll fan.
- Tom Erlewine
Four Calendar Cafe
If you're a long-time Cocteau
Twins fan hoping that "Four Calen-
darCafe" might be the albummin which
the Cocteau Twins return to the lush
glory of their earlier efforts, "Four
Calendar Cafe" may fall a bit short.
Despite being somewhat moodier than
its uncharacteristically cheerful pre-
decessor, "Heaven Or Las Vegas,"
"Cafe," for the most part, fails to
recall the dark, emotional textures of
their pre-"Vegas" work.
On the other hand, there are also
those who thought "Vegas" was the
Twins best effort yet and these fans
will not be disappointed by the
album's slicker, more detailed pro-
duction and progression towards ac-
cessible pop sensibilities. Tracks such
as "Bluebeard," with its beautifully
textured slide guitar and "Squeeze-
Wax," with vocalist Liz Frasier per-
fectly complementing Robin
Guthrie's simple guitar lines, are the
full pop realizations of earlier tracks
such as "Heaven Or Las Vegas" and
"Iceblink Luck." Other tracks, such
as "Theft, And Wandering Around
Lost" use heavily reverbed acoustic
guitars to create a sound that is some-
what reminiscent of their 1986 effort,
The big story for long-time fans,
however, is that it is actually possible
to understand some of Frasier's lyr-
ics. Those who enjoyed "Vegas" will
find this to be a welcome element in
their new direction, while others will
feel as if an integral part of the Twins'
mysteriousness has been left behind.
The lyrics are nothing spectacular;
lines such as "Are you the right man
for me/Or are you toxic for me" from
"Bluebeard" fit nicely within the over-
all mood of the song but are some-
what anticlimactic after so many years
of mystery in this area.
"Four Calendar Cafe" realizes the
pure, mellow-pop sound that the
Cocteau Twins had begun to hint at
on "Blue Bell Knoll." While "Cafe"
is certainly an enjoyable, consistent
effort, there can be no doubt that the
Twins have abandoned a large part of
the sound that many of their fans
found so endearing and powerful.
- Andy Dolan
Stone Free: A Tribute to Jimi
It seems like a band has one of two
general options if they're trying to
cover another artist and make it worth
the effort - bands can either play the
featured artist's songs very much like
they were originally written and add
their own special something to it or
they can disseminate it and challenge
the character of the song. "StoneFree"
does a little of both. It is an eclectic
collection of Jimi Hendrix classics;
some of the featured bands pay him
homage, but others give pretty lack-
luster renditions of Jimi's classic
scorching guitar classics.
Among the most desirable tracks,
or at least the most intriguing, 'is the
Cure's version of "Purple Haze"
which is very reminiscent of their
original murky, dark sound. Buddy
Guy would have made Jimi proud
with his flaming rendition of "Red
House." Seal and Jeff Beck get to-
gether to play "Manic Depression;"
as the song reflects, it was a great
combo. Pat Metheny gives a particu-
larly sly, funky edge to "Third Stone
From The Sun."
And now some of the bad news.
Eric Clapton adds a disappointingly
unenthusiastic version of "Stone
Free." If you want to hear "Spanish
Castle Magic," don't bother with the
Spin Doctors version - it's hardly
any different from the original and
Chris Barron's vocals are crap. And
Body Count's remake of "Hey Joe" is
a tad on the boring side, to say the
A mixed bag for sure. If you're a
die-hard Hendrix addict, find another
bootleg instead. If you've got them all
anyway and you have some money
burning a hole in your pocket, it might
be worth a look.
- Josh Herrington
The Cocteau Twins continue exploring pop sounds on "Four Calendar Cafe."
Big Red Letter Day
Buffalo Tom are among the many
artists of late who have had difficulty
living up to the standards of their
prior landmark work.
While "Big Red Letter Day," their
fourth album, is adequate, chock-filled
with the Tom's big, rocking power-
pop anthems and acoustic ballads,
virtually nothing here is as ear-catch-
ing as 1992's unanimously "Let Me
Come Over;" the layers of sonic
subtleties and intricate wordplay are
reduced, and the album sounds flat
and brassy. This may have to do with
''he glossy pro'duction, vliih figits
against the band's endearingly rough
Beyond the initial disappointment
of the album, however, are a few
quintessential Buffalo Tom tracks:
the propulsive single "Sodajerk," the
poignant albumcloser "Anything That
Way" and one of the finest songs that
bassist Chris Colbourn has ever writ-
ten, "My Responsibility."
In fact, the growth of Colbourn as
a songwriter and singer is one of the
highlights ofthe album. On the whole,
"Big Red Letter Day" is not exactly
cause for celebration, but pleasant
- Heather Phares
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