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January 06, 1995 - Image 8

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1995-01-06

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'I.Q.' has
After a flawless performance in
"The Shawshank Redemption," Tim
Robbins should be one of the most
sought-after actors in Hollywood.
With his tall stature and understated
attractiveness, he exudes intensity,
charm and intelligence even under
the torturous conditions ofShawshank

a heart but no brain

Directed by
Fred Schepisi
with Tim Robbins
and Meg Ryan

Catherine Boyd (Meg Ryan), an el-
egant mathematician, is engaged to
James Morland (Stephen Fry), an anal
behavioral psychologist; Ed Walters
(Tim Robbins), an auto mechanic,
will do anything to get Catherine to
fall in love with him, even if it re-
quires the brain power of Albert
Believe it or not, Einstein is
Catherine's uncle, and he's as eager
as Ed is for Catherine to dump James.
It seems that besides having the great-
est mind in the world, Uncle Albert
also has the greatest heart. And he has
his niece all figured out. As he sees it,
she lacks confidence in her intellec-
tual capabilities and has sacrificed
love for intelligence with her engage-
ment to James.
Ed's the solution to the problem,
but it's not that easy. With Einstein
and his colleagues as cohorts, Ed plays
the part of auto mechanic turned bril-
liant amateur physicist to impress
Catherine, only to become entangled
in a web of lies. As one of the schem-
ers says, "Our little experiment has
just jumped to a higher energy level."
Just when Catherine begins to shift
her affections from James to Ed, "I.Q."
loses its appeal and continues at a
dangerously slow pace. The film is

witty and lighthearted throughout, but
audiences are not likely to be content
with uneventful consistency. Once
the conflict is laid out, the rest of the
film is a series of dissatisfying en-
counters between Catherine and Ed,
all of which have Ed eating away at
Catherine's heart until she is either
forced to succumb to his appeal or
walk away.
Maybe these encounters would be
more effective if Ryan and Robbins
were more convincing as a couple
magnetically attracted to one another.
Both actors' performances are up to
their typically high standard, but be-
cause Ed's love for Catherine is so
instant, "past, present and future all
together," the few sparks that do fly
seem superficial
Ryan is as cute and perky as ever,
but we never get a feel for what
Robbins' character thinks is so right
about Catherine. Einstein's match-
maker efforts are even less convinc-
ing, as he is so quick to accept Ed and
so quick to take on his cause with
complete abandon.
But without Einstein and
Matthau's show-stealing perfor-
mance, there would be no "I.Q."
Matthau perfectly captures the im-
age of Einstein that is ingrained in

prison. Robbins' performance in his
current film, "I.Q.," takes nothing
away from his role in "Shawshank"
- he exudes the same fine qualities
- but the film itself is mediocre in
To its credit, the beginning of
"I.Q." might fool audiences into an-
ticipating more than they expected
and more than they will get. The sun
is shining, the old, 1950's cars are
glistening and the film's simple
premise seems full of potential:

It doesn't take a genius to see that Meg Ryan and Tim Robbins have no on-screen chemistry in "l.Q.," so why is
Albert Einstein even trying? Hell, this movie makes love about as interesting as your average physics lecture.

our minds. Unruly hair, a bushy
mustache and droopy face make for
a striking resemblance, and an ab-
sent-minded, non-pretentious man-
ner give this fictionalized Einstein a
personality that is easily perceived

'Half Asleep' is a rare snoozer from Tom Robbins

For those yet to have the pleasure,
let me introduce you to Rahsaan
Roland Kirk. Along with several other
invaluable friends, I met the
underappreciated jazz great on a page
of a Tom Robbins novel.
And so went my summer with Mr.
Robbins. Starting from his newest
book at the time, and working toward
his beginnings as a novelist, I perused
novel after Robbins novel.
But what began as an interlude
into the world of the countercultural

Half Asleep
in Frog
Tom Robbins

visionary, philosopher, cynic, oracle
- once, he was that artist. Reading a
Robbins novel, the frustrated could
extract themselves from the jungle
they call home.
True, Mr. Robbins has somewhat
elitist tendencies, but it is an elitism
of epiphany. Each philosophy he pre-
sents is an illumination, the turning
on of a lightbulb in that little head of
yours which tells you to free the dogs,
engage in sex and drugs to escape into
the netherworld of the conscious,
strive for immortality, avoid immor-
tality at all costs, and a whole slate of
other tasty paradoxes.
Take, for instance, this delicious
morsel served to the reader in the
novel, "Jitterbug Perfume:" "Bones
are patient. Bones never tire nor do
they run away. When you come upon
a man who has been dead many years,
his bones will still be lying there, in
place, content, patiently waiting, but
his flesh will have gotten up and left
him. Water is like flesh. Water will
not stand still. It is always off to
somewhere else; restless, talkative,
and curious. Even water in a covered
jar will disappear in time. Flesh is
water. Stones are like bones. Satis-
fied. Patient. Dependable. Tell me,
then, in order to achieve immortality,
should you emulate water or stone?
Should you trust your flesh or your
Don't fret, you engineers! This
self-selected passage is merely the
inquisitive Robbins, often overshad-
owed by the brilliant narrator, the
storyteller that leaves you always
wanting more - Robbins is 20 per-
cent thought, 80 percent pure magic.

Yet, this is where the fun ends.
Tom Robbins's newest novel, "Half
Asleep in Frog Pajamas," you see, is
a firecracker without a spark. It seems
like Robbins, it feels like Robbins,
but it just isn't Robbins.
From "Another Roadside Attrac-
tion" to "Skinny Legs and All," you
could not help but love the eclectic
band of Robbins protagonists. There
was a belly dancer, a washed-up De-
ity, a baba ghanouj-loving waitress, a
sensual gypsy, a Timothy Leary take-
off, a loincloth wearing fan of Roland
"Half Asleep in Frog Pajamas"
brings no such beauties. One can find
a young monkey fresh from a career
stealing jewels, now obsessed with
banana popsicles. But in the end, it is
the way Robbins constructs the whole
that matters. And here, the whole is
The main characters are shallow,
condescending and pretentious. In-
stead of taking the reader softly by the
hand and playing tour guide, my old
friend yanks the reader by his ear and
drags him to Conclusion Station. Upon
meeting Larry Diamond, starprotago-
nist, on page 10, the reader can al-
ready guess the conclusion. "He's in
tight but frayed jeans, and you notice
a gold earring in his left lobe, as well
as some sort of tattoo on the back of
his hand." Yeah, yeah, yeah, another
story about the heroic former banker
that transcends materialism to pursue
loftier goals of the mind and the flesh.
Give me a break.
Exhibit #2: Usually, Robbins
goes for the poetic and is greeted
with a resounding standing ovation.

Here, his attempts at fluidity result
in something scripted, forced:
"Timbuktu. A town made of pastry
Instead of taking the
reader softly by the
hand and playing tour
guide, my old friend
yanks the reader by his
ear and drags him to
Conclusion Station.
dough and starlight. A mirage you
can walk around in - if you can
stand the heat. Solitary, sealed and
shuttered, it wears a mask beneath a
mask behind a veil."
The worst aspect, perhaps, of this
novel is the underlying conservatism.
Briefly but importantly, Robbins
delves into the political, and the re-
sulting cynicism and victim-blaming
observations seem not to be thought
through -simple rhetoric, a by-prod-
uct of the times.
Maybe I expected too much.
Somehow I thought selling "Even
Cowgirls Get the Blues" to Holly-
wood was an aberration. Somehow I
thought great wells never run dry.
SoI was wrong. Recently, Robbins
was in Ann Arbor reading from his
new collection. Maybe I simply for-
got about his visit, and that it is why I
didn't attend. Or maybe my subcon-
scious was pleading with me not to.
Regardless, I will always remem-
ber Robbins for the few gems that he
left with us. Anyway, I still have
Roland Kirk.

as realistic. Matthau succeeds in
transforming a potentially absurd
and risky character into a surefire
way of making "I.Q." stand out
amongst the typical romantic com-
Various Artists
Red Hot On Impulse
Stolen Moments
Let's say someone loved'60sjazz.
Let's say someone loved the new jazz
and hip-hop fusion. And then sup-
pose that someone had a dream that
two compilations would come out -
one which brought together great older
jazz musicians, and another which
brought together some of the best
new talents in hip-hop and jazz. OK,
wake up: that dream has come true.
With the "Red Hot On Impulse"
album we begin the name game: Pha-
raoh Sanders, Oliver Nelson, Max
Roach, Charles Mingus, Archie
Shepp, Alice Coltrane and, of course,
her husband John Coltrane. Some of
the best tracks from the Impulse label
are here - Sanders' "The Creator
Has A Master Plan", Mingus' "Hora
Decubitus" and Roach's "Garvey's
Ghost" are some of the ear grabbers.
It also includes tracks which are not
available anywhere but on the origi-
nal wax.
All of the tracks are deeply mov-
ing and innovative. They represent
rebellion, but are rich in tradition and
melody. They are experimental but
almost immediately appealing. Most
of the tracks are introspective and
contemplative, offering explanations
for the players' and composers' com-
plex emotions. There is also a social
consciousness which pervades
throughout, as reflected by the titles
mentioned above.
Before you go out and buy that
one though, check out what the sec-
ond one has in store. Again the names
flow, and this time it is not only the
names but the match-ups which are
important: Donald Byrd (Detroittrum-
peter) with Guru (Gang Starr) and
Ronny Jordan (new jack British gui-
tarist), Digable Planets with Lester
Bowie and Wah Wah Watson,
Me'Shell NdegdOcello featuring
Herbie Hancock, the Roots (a break-
through group from Philly) and Roy
Ayers (top-notch vibes man), MC
Solaar (acclaimed French rapper) and
Ron Carter (one of the bumpinest
acoustic bassists around), United Fu-
ture Organization (Japan's high-pow-
ered leader in innovative Acid Jazz),

novel turned into a roller coaster ride
that left me bitter at commercializa-
tion and worried for the future of the
American artist.
The artist laboriously pieces to-
gether a puzzle. He is an observer; he
snaps still photographs of the world
that surrounds him, and then he orga-
nizes the past and the future.
Tremendous power is inherit in
this ability. Foresight has never been
a mainstay of the human condition, so
when an individual comes along that
can not only open his eyes to the
world around him, but can construct a
vision from these pictures, that is an
individual to be admired.
Tom Robbins, author, cult hero,

Nonetheless, with all its flaws,
even Einstein reincarnated would find
it impossible to make "I.Q." as smart
as its title might suggest.
I.Q. is playing at Briarwood and

and a bonus CD with Branford
Marsalis, Pharaoh Sanders and Alice
Coltrane (doing a track which is on
the other compilation).
As the tracks on the first compila-
tion represent some of the best of the
'60s, these tracks represent the '90s
hip-hop and jazz coalition. The Roots
track and the Solaar track demon-
strate especially how well the two
genres can be integrated. There is
mellow and hyped, and most of the
songs have poignant messages.
Giving the albums a common
theme is their purpose - to convey a
strong social consciousness which is
both anti-establishment and founded
in jazz / African traditions. This is no
coincidence, as the royalties of the@
albums go to an organization called
Red Hot and its "continuing fight
against AIDS / HIV." The liner notes
point out that a number of jazz artists
have died from AIDS. Although HIV
has not directly impacted the rap com-
munity yet, it is surely a matter of
The music on both compilations is
outstanding. But not only does
someone's musical dream come true,
these albums do something positive
for folks in a very real way.
- Dustin Howes
World's Portable
World Domination
Knock knock. (You say) Who's
there? Sonic. (You respond with glee-
ful curiosity, the drool now forming'
at the corners of your lips) Sonic
who? Sonic Youth's elastic coattails,
long enough to provide asylum for ad
infinitum, ad nauseum slack-rock
bands all vying for the mutually
inexclusive titles of the New Velvet
Underground and the Cloyingly
(In)artistic Oh-so-hip, You're-so-
closed-minded If You Don't Dig Our
Feedback-drenched Sloppy Swirl of
Guitar Noise and Off-Key Vocals
Artist of the Year. (And if we don't
keep our ears alert, and our bodies
ready to rumble, people, this may
actually become an actual Grammy
category for '95 - but who the fuck
really cares? The Grammys' preten-
sion of one show encapsulating a year
of the "best" music as judged by some
See RECORDS, Page 9

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