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February 16, 1995 - Image 15

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The Michigan Daily, 1995-02-16

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The Michigan Daily - Weekend etc. - Thursday. February 16, 1995 - 5

. Jump
Cut
Scott Plagenhoef
As is the norm around Oscar time,
amidst the traditionally poor crop of
Spring films, studios re-exhibit films
to coincide the critical groundswell of
raise caused by the award seasons.
lthough not nominated Best Picture
as Fine Line studios were hoping it
would be, "Hoop Dreams" is still at-
tempting to capitalize on the public's
investigation of some the previous
year's top films.
"Hoop Dreams' emergence, its
exodus from the art house to the mul-
tiplex, is an extraordinary accomplish-

Popularity
ment for a documentary, one that was
not even matched by such profitable
recent works as "Paris is Burning" or
"Roger & Me."
The magic of the film is that the
characters are so tangible, so inclusive,
so honest. Documentary filmmaking,
although by definition the examina-
tion of reality so often concerns itself
primarily with the bizzarities of life,
investigative work or the past. "Hoop
Dreams" is a film about the future.
A five-year project by filmmak-
ers Peter Gilbert, Frederick Marx
and Steve James, the picture traces
the lives of two Chicago youth,
William Gates and Arthur Agee,
who dream of following former

of 'Hoop Dreams' breaks documentary stigma

Windy City stalwarts such as Isiah
Thomas and Juwan Howard to fame
and fortune. Yet despite the title,
the film is not solely concerned
with athletic aspirations. Instead it
immerses the audience into the lives
of the two boys and their families
with rare complexity and passion.
This cinema veriti explores the
sometimes turbulent family life, sketchy
study habits of the boys and disad-
vantages of inner-city life as much as
the gripping desire to succeed as an
athlete. Unfortunately for Agee, Gates
and too many others, dreaming of a
career in professional sports is not sim-
ply a fantasy but a full-time hobby.
School is simply a necessary stepping

stone. The institution is the means for
competition and exposure on the court,
but the studying and the homework is a
distraction from the important tasks at
hand of improving one's jump shot or
low-post moves.
"Hoop Dreams" is also remarkable
in its rarity of who it chooses to exam-
ine. The lowest economic classes in
our society are a strata left virtually
unexamined by American cinema.
Oftentimes if the poor are featured in a
film they are either the source of ridi-
cule or the inspiration for a overly
dramatic life lessons. When the poorer
members of society are depicted they
are also often completely impover-
ished so that they appear as more

clich6 than character. The Agee and
Gates families are not homeless. They
are honest, hard-working families who
attempt to provide for themselves in
the highest manner possible, yet they
still have to look up the noses of too
many.
Happy endings, the triumph of the
underdog and the resurrection of the
once-thought dead have become over-
used and expected film devices in re-
cent American film. The conditioning
we received as audiences from such
films as "Rocky III," "The Karate
Kid," "Friday the 13th" and even "In-
terview with the Vampire" is that there
is a certain way films are conceived.
Certain characters do not die, adver-

sity is otvercome, the good and the
righteous are rewarded by success.
The beauty of the shower scene in
"Psycho," killing the main character,
lead actress and top-billed star early
in the film is a surprise that is now lost
on modern audiences.
Yet "Hoop Dreams" is not a Hol-
lywood film with a Hollywood end-
ing. "Hoop Dreams" is a reality.
Arthur Agee and William Gates may
survive life in the inner city, over-
come their obstacles and play Divi-
sion I college basketball. They may
turn professional. Their teams may
win the big game on a last-second
shot. Perhaps even Agee or Gates will
be the shooter. They may not.

adimply Saucer
By Matt Carlson
Daily Arts writer
Simply Saucer is not simple at all.
Swirling through countless influences,
including the Velvet Underground,
5 cnd
Spns*
Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd and the
Stooges, Simply Saucer takes
psychedelia and blues and punk rock,
merges them in one glorious harmonic
ecstasy and never makes it past the
Toronto borders.
Is there any point in telling you
*bout the injustice of the music biz
moving countless units of product of
pointless babble while brilliant musi-
cians rot in the back of some moron's
brain who saw a local band once in
'76 and thought they were the best
thing since Jesus? I mean blah hum
crud ramble on and all that blither.
LISTEN: Rock 'n' roll has sunk to a
depressing, disgusting low when this
anadian band from the '70s doesn't
even get an independent reissue in the
United States until 1989. The fact that
during a time of decadent heavy metal
machismo of drooling stuttering lech-
ers like Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath
and the Guess Who, a band like Sim-
ply Saucer existed is reason enough
to place them on the gosh-darned rock
'n' roll throne and submit to their
very whim (which would no doubt
nclude booze, dope and women be-
cause every just rock 'n' roll king
would want these things).
Today we're hearing all about
Sonic Youth's influence and the John
Spencer Blues Explosion's experi-
mental merge of blues and freak-out
jack-off, but if you time-warped Sim-
ply Saucer to the '90s, those bands

'still flies best

would belong in the toilet. It's as if by
some accident, Simply Saucer's "Cy-
borgs Revisited" (reissued on Cargo
Records in '89) were the missing link
between Floyd's "Saucerful of Se-
crets" and Sonic Youth's "Sister,"
transmogrifying the best elements of
the Blues Explosion but adding so
much more like loopy electronic ef-
fects and theramin. Buzzing, hypnotic,.
melodic noise don't come no finer
any more. The Pixies were the last
band who could safely commit such
atrocities and not sound like overly
self-conscious artistes who cared
more about what their album cover
looked like instead of the tunage con-
tained therein.
Psychedelic free-range jams meld
into power chord rants (a la the
Stooges). Migraine-feedback noise
converges into standard blues pro-
gressions. Delicate guitar intricacies
weave into solid bass slides. The
whole album ends on a live version of
Simply Saucer's "Illegal Bodies" that
is dubbed "heavy metalloid music"
by singer Edgar Breau. Then - you
know what happens? - the band
breaks into the closest rip-off riff of
"Born To Be Wild" ever set down on
two-track! If that doesn't seal this
tragic story up in a bloody paper-cut
envelope, nothing else will. They rip
off Steppenwolf, then havethe audacity
to claim it's a song of the future. A pure,
naive, rock 'n' roll shenanigan that
should mean everything to record buy-
ers - not Spike Jonez' latest music
video. "If you don't have ametal body,
they won't let you walk the streets- no
kidding," says Breau. I'd like to see
Jonez come up with something more
brilliant. As the furious, hard-driving,
pierce your booty rant all comes crash-
ing to a close, Breau mumbles "Thank
you, we'll be back in a few minutes."
End of CD. End of Simply Saucer. End
of story.

I

OSCARS
Continued from page 12
On the otherhand, Tom Hanks, perhaps
the whole reason for "Gump's" popu-
larity, was nominated for best actor in
the title role. But following his win last
year as an AIDS victim in "Philadel-
phia," Hanks should not win for the
second consecutive year, despite his
reception of the Golden Globe in Janu-
ary. Academy voters usually prefer
not to vote for an actor in two con-
secutive years.
Consequently, the race for best
actor should be between Paul Newman
(winner of the New York critics'
award) for his uplifting role as a youth-
ful old man in "Nobody's Fool" and
John Travolta (winner of the Los
Angeles critics' prize) for his perfor-
mance in "Pulp." In this case the fa-
vorite must be Newman, who played
the more agreeable character, as op-
posed to Travolta's comic killer part.
Also cited were Morgan Freeman
for "Shawshank" and veteran British
actor Nigel Hawthorne for his criti-

cally-acclaimed role in "George." The
nomination of these two actors is
undoubtedly a pleasant surprise, but it
means the exclusion of other worthy
actors such as Ralph Fiennes as the
despicable Charles Van Doren in "Quiz
Show," British sensation Hugh Grant
from "Four Weddings" and Johnny
Depp in the title role of "Ed Wood."
This race contrasts strongly with
that for best actress in which there are
only two realistic contenders in yet
another year lacking strong female
roles and performances. JessicaLange
and Jodie Foster are the clear front-
runners with their performances in
"Blue Sky" and "Nell," respectively.
Both have received praise for their
roles in these films (as well as other
performances in their long careers),
while Lange won both the Los Ange-
les critics and Golden Globe awards
this year. Nevertheless, Foster should
win due to her film's popularity,
coupled with the academy's tendency
to elect actors who portray sick or
otherwise abnormal characters.
Most appalling is the absence of
Linda Fiorentino, winner of the New

York critics' award for her role in
"The Last Seduction." Widely be-
lieved to have given the best perfor-
mance by an actress this year,
Fiorentino was declared ineligible for
an Oscar because her low-budget, in-
dependent film originally aired on
HBO, as opposed to in the movie
theaters as Academy rules dictate.
Hence, her absence is, unfortunately,
not a surprise.
This case is symbolic of the gen-
eral theme of the Academy Award
nominations of 1994. There were no
exceptionally strong contenders from
major motion picture studios, as inde-
pendent films and the performances
therein were where the strongest pre-
sentations could be found. In fact,
Miramax, the main independent stu-
dio led by "Pulp," "Weddings" and
"George," came away with more
nominations -22-- than any major

Hollywood production company.
Furthermore, the nominations in-
dicate that the 1994 Academy Awards
will be unlike many in years past. It
will be full of few surprises, the rec-
ognition of generally good but not
outstanding motion pictures and per-
formances, and the reminder that there
are plenty of fine independent and
less popular presentations that were
not selected among the best in the
industry.
And ifan average film like "Forrest
Gump" does exit the award show with
a large cache of Oscars (as one should
expect), then that would be"the most
appropriate period at the end of the
sentence that was 1994 - a truly
mediocre and disappointing year in
movies.
The 67th annualAcademy A wards
telecast air March 27 at 9 p.m. on
ABC and will be hosted by David
Letterman.

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