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November 02, 1994 - Image 9

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The Michigan Daily, 1994-11-02

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The Michigan Daily - Wednesday, November 2, 1994 - 9

.Documentary 'Queen' is hardly a drag

By SARAH STEWART
With all the drag queens Geraldo
Rivera and friends have hauled up on
stage, you might think that our genera-
tion is the first to witness the phenom-
enon of men impersonating women. In

MAW The Queen
Directed by Frank Simon
with Jack Doroshow,
Harlow and
Crystal.
every show on the subject, an array of
*middle-aged women, visibly appalled
by such behavior, ask over and over
again, "What's the world coming to?"
What they seem to have forgotten is
that long before they were shocked by
the 1993 film, "The Crying Game,"
"The Queen," a 1968 documentary,

was created as proof that whatever the
world is coming to today, it's been a
long time in coming.
"The Queen" revolves around the
Miss All-America Camp Beauty Pag-
eant of 1967- an event that becomes
serious business for the contestants but
never loses its intentional absurdity.
Jack Doroshow (Flawless Sabrina) is
the man in charge, whether he's re-
minding his "boys" of the contest rules
or praising their extraordinary beauty.
In a narrative voice-over, he cites three
difficulties in organizing the contest:
"One, finding a hotel with 28 empty
rooms; two, finding a hotel hip enough
to let our guys in there and, three,
keeping the guys in."
Much of the footage is taken from
inside various hotel rooms with cin-
ema verite shots appropriate to the
guests' lethargic behavior. It is in this
contextthatthecontestants discuss their
experiences with military discrimina-
tion towards homosexuals, the diffi-
culties of coming out to their families

as gay men and even the realistic pos-
sibility of having a sex change. Al-
though there have been significant
strides made in the struggle for gay
rights, the comments that surface are
more rational and calm than one would
expect to hear from the gay community
of 1967; if everyone is telling the truth,
these men have made everyone else
accept theirlifestyles with relative ease.
To its credit, the film doesn't get
caught up in political rhetoric. For the
mostpart, you watch it forthe spectacle
of the drag queens and the surprisingly
complex emotions that result from the
pressures of competition.
Because "The Queen" is only 68
minutes long, its climax comes almost
too soon. This is particularly true after
we have been privileged enough to
witness the elaborate preparation re-
quired of each drag queen-to-be. With
the camera most often angled upwards,
gazing into the fake eyelashes of the
contestants, we watch them go from
non-descript sixties boys to bizarre se-
ductresses. With their high heels, se-
quins, plucked and shaved everything
and as much cleavage as taped skin
allows, it is obvious that they can relate
to the cosmetic woes of women.
Once the show starts, it fairs no
worse than the Miss America or Miss
Universe pageants that it's modeled
after. Some of the "girls" are pretty,
some aren't, but everyone puts on their
biggest, most fake smile, because as
Flawless Sabrina reveals at the begin-
ning of the film, "All a drag queen
wants is love, and they try to get that
love by being sexy and beautiful."
Director Simon couldn't have
asked for a more Hollywood ending to
a non-Hollywood documentary pro-
duction. Controversy strikes and pas-
sions fly when the extravagant Crystal
accuses Sabrina of rigging the contest
so that the "natural beauty wonder,"
Harlow, is victorious. For something
that's billed as "camp," the drag queen
circuit is characterized as a meaningful
outlet for the men that thrive on it.
It even gives Harlow, post-sex
change and post-film, the notoriety
needed to earn a few dates with Warren
Beatty. If you're down with the drag,
"The Queen" might be the "Love Af-
fair" you've been waiting for.

The sublime "MTV Unplugged in New York" captures one of Nirvana's finest - and, sadly, final - moments.
'Unpluged' reaches Nirvrana

By HEATHER PHARES
"We have failed to show the lighter,
more dynamic side of the band," Kurt
Cobain said to writer David Fricke in
the January 1994 issue of Rolling Stone
magazine. Ironically, the theme of the
interview was "Success Doesn't Suck"
and Cobain said he had never felt hap-
pier nor healthier in his life. He ap-

Nirvana
MTV Unplugged
In New York
Geffen

While British royality iU flailing, at least "The Queen" is alive and well.

THE QUEEN is playing at the
Michigan Theater.

o --

i I
peared to have kicked his drug habit
and was enjoying his new role of father
to his daughter Francis Bean. This was
the calm before the storm, before he
passed from this world into (willingly
or not) the realm of rock legends like
Joplin, Hendrix and Morrison that burn
out fast and die young.
Half a year after his death, the re-
lease of "MTV Unplugged In New
York" shows, also ironically, that Nir-
vana was indeed beginning move away
from the "big guitar" sound that Cobain
felt sounded formulaic, towards a mu-
sically more mature direction, which
was to include a project with REM's
Michael Stipe. This album challenges
the preconceptions of what an "Un-
plugged" album means. Or a Nirvana
album, for that matter.
While the "Unplugged" perfor-
mance has become ingrained in the
minds of fans in the wake of last April's
events - thanks to MTV's continuous

airings of the show the weekend fol-
lowing Cobain's death - the recorded
version is perhaps even spookier, since
there are no visuals to accompany
Cobain's stark, spectral vocals. Sparse,
subtle, and haunting, "Unplugged In
New York" points to what might have
been.
The album opens with the warm,
appreciative applause of the studio au-
dience Cobain says dryly, "This is a
song off ofour first album. Mostpeople
don't know it," (his patteron the album
is as essential as the songs, for the wry
comments he makes and the jokes he
cracks as emcee show him as some-
thing else than the "sad, unnappreciative
pisces-jesus man" that he described
himself as in his tragic suicide note) as
the band begins the now ubiquitous but
still hauntingly poignant "About A
Girl." Far from losing something in an
acoustic arrangement, songs such as
"Dumb," "Pennyroyal Tea," "All
Apologies" and "Something In The
Way" appear in their definitive version
on "Unplugged In New York." "Pen-
nyroyal Tea" and "Dumb" especially
find additonal depth and colors not
realized in Steve Albini's destruction
- er, production - of "In Utero."
This album shows, finally,just how
good a songwriter Cobain was. Even
"On A Plain," one of "Nevermind"'s
louder songs, works surprisingly well
in an acoustic format, and "Polly"'s
subversive take on the anti-rape mes-
sage is that much more clear for being
able to hear the lyrics. Stripped of their
noise, Nirvana's tone poems offrustra-
tion and sadness take on a folky cast
and lyrical clarity ideal for an acoustic
setting.

The covers the band does are supe-
rior or equal to the original versions
and also work well acoustically. Nota-
bly, they all concern fame and / or
death. Cobain always revealed too much
ofhimselfinhismusic,and"Unplugged
In New York" is no different. "Jesus
Doesn't Want Me For a Sunbeam,"
originally by the Vaselines, is ironic in
Cobain's hands: "Don't expect me to
cry /For all the reasons you had to die,"
he intones over his guitar playing and
Novoselic's squeeze box.
David Bowie's "The Man Who Sold
The World," one of the best tracks on
the album,is likewise infused with
irony, pitch-black humor and Cobain's
world-weary attitude: "I neverlost con-
trol / You're face to face! With the man
who sold the world," he sighs. It sounds
resigned and deathly tired, though still
beautiful, coming from his mouth.
Nirvana is joined by Cris and Curt
Kirkwood of the Meat Puppets on the
covers of the band's songs "Plateau,"
"Oh Me" (not included in the telecast)
and "Lake of Fire." The songs are
brittle and unsettling, and Cobain's
performanqe is especially intense.
Nirvana's versions of these songs also
highlight the band's able playing, es-
pecially Dave Grohl's restrained but
appropriate drumming and Lori
Goldston's evocative cello playing.
But nowhere is the band's perfor-
mance more riveting than on
Leadbelly's "Where Did You Sleep
Last Night?" The song starts out qui-
etly, building slowly to a spellbinding
climax and ending with Cobain's fa-
mous, painful howl. It's a chillingly
beautiful performance, and a fitting
finaletoapowerful andmoving album.

Halioween Concert is full of good treats

By SANGITA BAXI
It was adark night, and, on the steps
of Hill Auditorium, ghouls and mortals
mingled. Where can this phenomenon

UPO & uso
Halloween Concert
Hill Auditorium
Sunday, October 30, 1994, 8:30 p.m.
of such a melange of individuals be
found? Why, only at the annual Hal-
loween Concert put on by the Univer-
sity Symphony and Philharmonia Or-
hestras.
In a scene straight out of "The Phan-
tom of the Opera", the show truly was
a"Masquerade." From Bill and Hillary

Clinton to the Cat in the Hat, there was
quite an interesting mix of costumes in
the audience. Of course, Queen Eliza-
beth II put in her annual appearance to
start the show on a properly royal note.
Each ofthe skits staged by the mem-
bers of the USO and the UPO was
original and highly amusing-whether
it was the mad scientists trying to create
the perfect instrument or Rocky losing
to Prince Charles in a surprise match.
Beginning with the "Witches' Sab-
bath," an excerpt from "Symphonie
Fantastique" by Hector Berlioz, and
continuing through out the show until
its end with aMarch from "The Love of
the Three Pumpkins" by Sergei
Prokofiev, the USO and the UPO gave
an outstandingperformance. With each
piece, the spirit of Halloween and its
images of darkness were conjured up.
However, the music was lended some

stunning visual interpretation courtesy
of the conductors who were dressed up
as characters befitting each piece.
Out of the entire concert, the most
incredible piece was that of the Percus-
sion Ensemble who performed"Quiet!"
by David McBride. Starting off with
precision and skill, they maintained
both while switching positions and
doing new formations. Even while
changing drums, gathering around one
drum and then returning to their own
drums, thepercussionists held asteadily
driving beat.
The first Halloween Concert, acon-
cept of Gustav Meier, was in 1977, and
since then, it has become an enduring
tradition here. For those of you who did
not attend this year, there is always
next Halloween. And for those of you
who did attend, hope to see you next
year!

'Road to Weliville' is paved with crap

By JOSHUA RICH
Flatulence. Enemas. Bowel move-
ments. Sound interesting? Well ...
*naybe not. Nevertheless, this is the
subject matter of "The Road to
Wellville," the new film directed by
Alan Parker, the man who brought us

The Road to
Weilville
Directed by Alan Parker
with Anthony
Hopkins
such '80s hits as "Fame" and "Missis-
sippi Burning." While it's rich in turn-of-
the-century costumes and sets, as well as
lavishly filmed scenes in Battle Creek,
,4ichigan, this confusing comedy offers
either a laugh nor a comprehensible or
feasible story line.
The film stars Sir Anthony Hopkins,
the recently-knighted Welsh actor, who
looked more appealing in his "Silence of
the Lambs" straight-jacket than in the

Michigan sanitarium searching for a cure
for their eating problems and marital
difficulties. Throw in a disgracefully
dirty Dana Carvey ("Saturday Night
Live") as Kellogg's reclusive, adopted
son, and John Cusack ("Say Anything")
as a slimy entrepreneur looking for the
perfect corn flake and this film becomes
a total mess.
In fact, it is quite hard to find any
Why does it matter
that residents of the
spa are given five
enemas per day?
point to the story at all. Why does it
matter that residents of the spa are given
five enemas per day? Why are there so
many bare breast fantasy scenes in the
film? Why do the men keep getting
erections and telling us about them? And
why is this simply not funny? "The Road
to Wellville" makes no sense, and the
elementary school fart jokes and scenes
of naked fat men line dancing upon
which this film is based will never make
a good comedy.

Which leaves the film's only saving
point - the cinematography and
costume design. Not in recent memory
has a movie set in the lateI9th-century
been so meticulously crafted. At least,
not since "The Age of Innocence." While
beautiful images of lakes and trees and
snow-covered hills drift past the
audience, we are swamped with
memories of men and women examining
stool samples and passing gas.
And that is just how subtle, interest-
ing and amusing "The Road to
Wellville" is - like a fart on a romantic
spring afternoon.
THE ROAD TO WELLVILLE is
playing at Showcase.

So SHAWN COLVIN's latest
album, "Cover Girl," wasn'texactly
earth-shattering in its immediacy and
sheer emotional power. Hey, it's a
record full of covers, y'all. It does,
however, play up this redhead's
greatest asset, her voice: a sweetly
smooth, clear, girlish instrument that
can acquire an angelic throatiness.
Her latest effort offers Colvin's in-
terpretation of songs by everyone
from Bob Dylan to Jimmy Webb to
pal Greg Brown from Iowa. Most
are just nice, some are quite affect-
ing. "Cover Girl" is worth it just to
hear Shawn chirp, "Praise the Lord
and pass the mescaline" on Willis
Alan Ramsey's "Satin Sheets."
Still, for a proper introduction to
her formidable charms, give Colvin's
debut "Steady On" or her award-
winning "Fat City" a listen. If those
hooks you as they should, you're in
luck. The cover girl herself appears
at the Michigan Theater on Wednes-
day, November3 fora concert full of
her twangy, folksy melodies. Doors
open at 7:30 p.m. and tickets are
$18.50 apiece through Ticketmaster.
Call 645-6666.

Hindu Students Council
invites you to
celebrate the
Festival of Lights =
in its second annual
niw~ii . i

Brn g in ten (or more) cans of
food to participating KAPLAN
Centers and save $50 on the
world's best test preparation.

337 East Liberty St.
Ann Arbor, MI 48104
220 M.A.C. Ave.-Ste. 200
East Lansing, MI 48823

Through November 1994, you rossroads Office Centre
have a chance to help others 16250 Northland Dr.-Ste.007.
and a chance to raise your Southfield, MI 48075
score on the big exam. The Westgate Building
Help others and let KAPLAN 3450 West Central Ave.-Ste.102
help you. Be a part of over Toledo, OH 43606
fifty years of test success.
151 South Rose-Ste.304
Kalamazoo, MI 49007

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