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January 26, 1995 - Image 13

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The Michigan Daily, 1995-01-26

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The Michigan Daily - Weekend etc. - Thursday, January 26, 1995 - 5

Oldman's talent finally gets due recognition

By SCOTT PLAGENHOEF
Gary Oldman has portrayed a ni-
hilistic punk, an infamous assassin, a
drug-dealing pimp, and a gothic vam-
pire. Not exactly a roster of roles
which would necessarily endear the
*man to middle America. Yet with two
films released this week, the adven-
turous, passionate, if at times overly
dramatic actor may play his most un-
likely of roles: movie star.
Gary Oldman's starring role in the
Ludwig Von Beethoven part-biopic,
part-romance "Immortal Beloved"
and particularly his role in the much
more accessible courtroom drama,
"Murder in the First" may finally turn

Oldman into a household name.
Oldman has long shunned the typi-
cal twenty-something, brainless male
roles in films such as "Young Guns,"
and "The Three Musketeers" which
many of his contemporaries have
embraced with body, mind and pock-
etbook. Instead, he, along with other
young Anglo and Irish actors such as
TimRoth andDanielDay-Lewis, have
forged an arthouse, rather than multi-
plex, path to recognition in the states.
Oldman began his cinematic ca-
reer in 1983 in the BBC film, "Mean-
time" but it was his portrayal of Sex
Pistols bassist and headline-maker Sid
Vicious that first drew the attention of

the industry and the public. Oldman's
multi-leveledperformancein the 1986
film "Sid and Nancy" perfectly cap-
tures the combination of disillusion-
ment, nihilism and innocence of the
attention-getting Sex Pistol. Above
all else, Oldman reveals the uncondi-
tional devotion which Vicious had for
his girlfriend, Nancy Spungen.
Following "Sid and Nancy,"
Oldman developed three very differ-
ent roles before finally getting his
first partin a major studio production.
"Prick up Your Ears," the tragic story
of the rise and subsequent murder of
gay playwright Joe Orton is Oldman's
most vulnerable role. "Rosencrantz
and Guildenstern are Dead," an off-
beat comedy featuring "Hamlet"
through the eyes of the two dim-wit-
ted lesser characters marked his ven-
ture into comedy and the Bard. "State
of Grace," the 1990 film in which his
Irish street punk Jackie elevated a
very average film into something
watchable was his first foray into suc-
cessful overacting and maybe his most
impressive personal work altogether.
These three films begat Oldman's
reputation as one of our finest young
actors, but also may have been his
personal apex.
The overacting displayed with
genuine pace and appropriateness in
the character of Jackie Flannery in
"State of Grace" came across as pos-
turing indulgence in films such as
"Bram Stroker's Dracula," "Romeo
is Bleeding" and "The Professional."
None of those three films turned out
to possess the quality they should
have, yet Oldman did little to counter
their lack of success, whereas in his
earlier roles he carried dialogue-heavy

characterization to unbridled success.
Worse still is "Criminal Law."
Oldman co-starred with Kevin Bacon
in another courtroom drama, played
against type, but couldn't elevate the
film from its banality.
In the meantime, Oldman co-
starred in the Oliver Stone conspiracy
drama "JFK" and the urban Bonnie
and Clyde tale, "True Romance."
Oldman's Lee Harvey Oswald marks,
along with Tommy Lee Jones' Clay
Shaw, the peak performance in the
Stone film. Oldman's Oswald bal-
ances the vulnerability of a peripheral
person being exploited by a dispas-
sionate and accusing society (at least
as the film portrays the character)
much in the same way as his Sid
Vicious, Dracula, Guildenstern, and
the Jackie Flannery character did.
The "True Romance" role, one of
his most dramatic and showy, is more
interesting than quality. Yet, the fault
most likely lies in this glossy Holly-
wood adaptation of Quentin
Tarantino's writing than with Oldman
himself.
Regardless, Oldman has now fi-
nally come into his own as a recogniz-
able, yet not yet marketable actor. The
former working-class teenager has
reached the crossroads of his career
while sharing a screen with prepubes-
cent idols Christian Slater and Kevin
Bacon. An actor in considerable prod-
uct, as well as of considerable talent, up
to this point, he may face the decision to
continue the route of Daniel Day-Lewis,
brilliant performances in quality roles,
or, ashemay bepointed, a steady diet of
reading for parts against the likes of
Slater and Bacon. Let's hope he doesn't
stray from his course.

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Gary Olman, here in "Sid and Nancy": Jack of all trades or master of all?

Folk festival has something for everyone and every taste

'FOLK

Continued from page 1
ing and redefining the boundaries of
that instrumentfor23 years. His amaz-
ing finger-picking style is nearly im-
possible to duplicate, blending blue-
grass, classical and blues into a rush of
sounds that blow from his 12-string in
Converging melodies and harmonies.
He wastes no timeon single-note solos,
preferring instead to weave melodies
together up and down the guitar, all ten
fingers in constant motion.
The self-taughtguitaristhasreleased
20 records since his first, "12 String
Blues," in a career that has found him
playing sideman only occasionally and
more often the center of any perfor-
ance. In 1993, he participated in a
uitar Summit Tour in which he per-
formed with jazz guitarist Joe Pass,
flamenco stylist Paco Pena and classi-
cal player Pepe Romero. Kottke's
sound was somehow all of those at
once and something even more dis-
tinctly American. His playing ranges
as freely as jazz, possesses the rhyth-
mic tensions of flamenco and is as
virtuosic as that of any classical mu-
*ician. Tradition is visible within his
playing but it is used as a springboard
for all sorts of flights ofmusical fancy,
as it should be in the best art.
Victoria Williams is as adept at
defying easy categorization. Her mu-
sic roams freely from the whimsical,
horn-laden storytelling pop of 1987's
"Happy Come Home" to the more fo-
cused blend of folk and rock found on
990's "Swing the Statue." Her most
recent release, "Loose," finds her com-
fortably walking the linesbetween folk
andpop, between gentle acoustic num-
bers and harder electric tracks, between
horns and fuzzy guitars. Through it all
runs her distinctive voice and her amaz-
ing gift of optimism in the face of
anything life might throw at her. Her
music is joyful and vibrant, full of
affirmations of life, faith and love.
In 1993,agroupofmusiciansgath-
ered to pay tribute to Williams and
raise money to treat her multiple scle-
rosis. Her songs sounded as wonderful
in the mouths of Soul Asylum, Mat-
thew Sweet, Lucinda Williams, Pearl
Jam, Michelle Shocked and Buffalo
Tom as they did in hers, only confirm-
ing the gifts that Williams has been
given and that she is willing to share
With the world.
At only 23 years of age, Alison
Krauss has already won two Grammys
and been inducted into the Grand Old
Opry. She is a fine fiddler in the best of
bluegrass traditions and also possesses
one of the greatest voices, a pure and

writing andperforming. Herguitarplay-
ing is harsh and raw and her voice can
be tenderorterrifying. Hersongs refuse
to pull any punches, cutting straight to
whatevermatter she wishes to discuss.
Her last record, "Out of Range" has all
of the meat that is expected now of
DiFranco, though perhaps a little less
in-your-face. The strong will, the femi-
nism, the issues are all still there (wit-
ness "If He Tries Anything"), but she is
not afraid to be vulnerable in "You Had
Time," a love song that does not dis-
guise its sadness.
Also on the bill are theDixie Power
Trio, a four-person team that plays
anything fromjazz torock, from Louis
Armstrong to Led Zeppelin and every-
thing in between on tuba, banjo, cornet,
washboard, accordion, harmonica and
drums. Meanwhile, singer-songwriter

Catie Curtis is emerging as one of the
most promising acts on the acoustic
music scene. Betty is a trio, performing
on cello, keyboards and bass. Their
trademark, though, is their unique har-
monies that may twist and turn but
always remain tight. Storyteller LaRon
Williams uses his voice as his instru-
ment, mimicking animal calls, along
with traditional African djembe drums.
Love ofone's own culture is not enough, -
he believes, and through telling each
other stories we can foster a greater
sense of community.
The 18th Ann Arbor Folk Festival
starts at 6:00 p.m. on Saturday,
January 28th, at Hill Auditorium.
Tickets are $22.50 and can be
obtained at Schoolkids Records or
by calling 763-TKTS or 645-6666.

HURRY!
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