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February 02, 1995 - Image 16

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1995-02-02

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4 - The Michigan Daily - Weekend etc. - Thursday,_February 2, 1995

Despite their attempts, most 'college' films offer no 'Higher Learning'.

By Sarah Stewart
Daily Arts Writer
Trends in film are easy to spot. In
fact, if you look right now, you'll
see that the film industry has been
busy translating classic literature
from book to screen, in the form of
"Mary Shelley's Frankenstein" and
"Little Women," with a film version
of "The Scarlet Letter" in the works.
On the other hand, although it's not
as obvious, there are a lot of topics
out there that seem ripe for trendiness
but for some reason have failed to
catch on.
The recent release of John
Singleton's "Higher Learning," a film
that depicts a college life that students
of all races will recognize, for the

most part, as realistic, has brought to
attention the fact that surprisingly few
films are about college and its diverse
inhabitants. For some, "the best four
years of my life" accurately describes
their college experience, while others
can't wait to move into the "real
world," but it seems that both ex-
tremes indicate that college comes
with an element of fantasy that seems
appropriate to film. It's really sur-
prising that films about college life
have failed to become fashionable.
Maybe this failure has something
to do with the fact that films set in
college - "Higher Learning" being
the exception - typically exploit col-
lege stereotypes; they give a skewed
perception to those unfamiliar with it


and leave those who have experienced
it appalled by such portrayals. This
assessment might give too much credit
to an industry that, after all, is in it for
the money; nonetheless, it is a satisfy-
ing, optimistic explanation.
Take the spring 1994 release,
"Threesome," an embarrassing tale
of three college roommates who liter-
ally run around chasing each other's
tails: Alex (Lara Flynn Boyle) wants
Eddy (Josh Charles) who wants Stuart
(Stephen Baldwin) who wants Alex.
Besides boasting one of the most con-
trived plots in recent history, "Three-
some" is wrought with bad writing,
caricatures for characters and a mis-
guided look at sexuality. When Eddy
narrates, "At that moment I was in-
deed becoming sexually excited, but
it was not over Alex. It was Stuart I
lusted over," there's nothing to do but
groan and cringe at the unsubtle, in-
sensitive phrasing.
In some sense, "With Honors"
(summer 1994) is even worse than
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"Threesome" because it pretends that
its characters are warm and its mes-
sage meaningful, but ends up as a
meaningless exploration of what's
supposedly a deep relationship be-
tween Monty (Brendan Fraser), a
Harvard senior, and Simon (Joe
Pesci), a self-proclaimed "bum." The
film relies on an implausible premise
- that Simon will gradually pay
Monty with portions of his thesis,
found in the library boiler room, for
shelter and food - and the more
implausible notion that audiences will
be convinced by a relationship that
materializes out of thin air and a col-
lege student that would be content
leaving the only copy of a year's
work under the care of anyone but
If you reduce both of these films
to their most basic elements, strip-
ping away the stereotypes that insist
that college students are either tightly
packed balls of hormones or self-
centered intellectuals, there's noth-

ing about either that makes it neces-
sary for them to have been set on a
college campus. Hypothetically,
"Threesome" could be the story of
three actors in New York, put in the
same awkward rooming situation, and
"With Honors" could accomplish its
same pointlessness from the perspec-"
tive of a thriving business man, who
loses a vital report to the homeless
man living outside his office build-
Fortunately, "Higher Learning"
does almost everything "Threesome"
and "With Honors" neglect to do --it
shows, for good or bad, that college
students are capable of thinking be-
yond the realm of alcohol, sex and
themselves, without pretending that
they don't think of these things. And
even though Fudge's (Ice Cube) de-
scription of the racially divided cliques
of Chinatown, the black hole and
Disneyland are more clever than real-
istic, the portrayal of these groups,
divided as such, are painfully real.

Argua bly the situations in "Higher
Learnin" verge on beine contrived
- espec ially he recruiting of Remy
(Michael Rapaport) by a white su-
premacist group - but the explora-
tion of the characters themselves re-
veal realistic motivations behind their
actions. Whereas the characterization
of Eddy, in "Threesome," explains n
more than the fact that he's gav. Malik
(Omar Epps) in "Higher Learning,"
surfaces as a character with depth that
goes beyond his reputation as a track
star on scholarship. It's believable
that he would act the part of devoted
boyfriend one moment and irate vic-
tim of a skinhead attack the next, but
it's never believable that "With Hon-
ors" Monty, would be sincerely drawn
to Joe Pesci's overly witty character.0
If there is a trend to be set in the
genre of films about college life, it's
good that "With Honors" and "Three-
some" were not the ones to do it.
Audiences can learn a lot more from
a film like "Higher Learning."


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Joe Pesci's "With Honors" has the honor of being one of the worst Hollywood films about college ever made.

The 'Details' on men's

By Kirk Miller
Daily Books Editor
The main difference between
men's and women's magazines is the
lack of clever titles and the horo-
scope. There is no male equivalent of

Studio, 1 and 2 bedroom apartments, swimming
pool, game & exercise rooms, study lounge, laundry
facilities, maid service available

m ~ ~ m -

Tw-o for Tuesday
Buy any footlong Sub and get
your second for
with the purchase of a medium drink
Every Tuesday
in February

"Sassy" and from my knowledge there
are no zodiac charts cluttering the
pages of "Esquire." Except for these,
however, we're looking at a group of
periodicals that are little more than
long ads surrounded by lifestyle tips,
fashion and music advice, and lots of
Color Printing
Color Printing
Color Printing
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Big savings on color printing
for all clubs, businesses, and

odd-looking people in clothes your
sorry-ass finances couldn't afford.
So here's the monthly roundup:
"Details" - The best and one of
the newest, "Details" had the prob-
lem of sucking for the last seven
months. Guess what? New editor-in-
chief Joe Dolce returns the
twentysomething status report to its
former glory, even with the manda-
tory R.E.M. cover. With the best mix
of ads, Anka's sex column (finally a
column on sex for men by a woman)
and occasionally an extremely well-
written life-style piece, "Details" is
the best two bucks you could waste.
"Swing" - Not really a men's
magazine per se, it's sort of the bas-
tard mentally-challenged child of
"Spin" and "GQ" for
twentysomethings. But it's put out by
Ralph Lauren's son, so it technically
falls under the same category. And
boy does it suck. I read the first issue
in under 20 minutes and couldn't re-
member a thing when I was done; if
you want your generation defined by
rich English majors, then this is the
for you.
"Esquire" - A little older, a little
wiser than the rest, this month's issue
gets special notice for its story by
Traverse City native Doug Stanton,
who ditched his wife and kids in search
of wacky road adventures. Recom-
mended (not the wife-ditching part).
"GQ'" - The last place on this
planet that still uses "gentlemen" in
any form, this is the magazine for the

male sophisticate, or at least those
who think they are male sophisti-
cates. Dennis Rodman gets more cov-
erage, Paul Newman makes the covers
and GOP gets lambasted for being
assholes (c'mon, even if you like them
it's true).
"British GQ" - Sort of like "GQ"
but more British (and three dollars
more!) Slightly more sophisticated
fare, if you ignore the Christian Slater
cover. Probably not worth it unless
planning a fashion-themed British
spring break holiday.
"Men's Journal" - I like these
magazines that come right and say it
all in the title. This a journal for men
... therefore, it's "Men's Journal."
It's for those guys who like the rug-
ged outdoors and want the best in
health and fashion. Since I fall under
none of the three, screw this.
"Penthouse" - Again, this takes
the concept of a men's magazine to
the extreme, but there is some inA
depth (no pun intended) reporting
going on between the sheets ... er,
pages. Last month there was the pro-
vocatively titled "Adolf Hitler: Child
Molester?" expose; I had my doubts
about Hitler before, but now I really
don't like him. "Penthouse" is always
the first to crack the friendly facade
people hide behind.
It's tough to be a guy, and there arei
enough periodicals out there to help
us on our journey from scared little
boy to raging Adonis manhood. And
now we can look good while doing it.

._ a

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