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March 27, 1995 - Image 5

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The Michigan Daily, 1995-03-27

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Richman, the Roadrunner
Once upon a time, Jonathan Richman was a rocker. With the Modern
Lovers, he captured the spirit of minimalist garage rock. After that, the
endearingly goofy singer/songwriter pioneered new ways to be cute,
releasing a series of low-key, funny records. During this time, he became
one of the most reliable good-time live acts. Catch him tonight at the
Blind Pig. Doors open at 8:30 p.m. and tickets are $8.50 in advance.

Page 5
Monday,
March 27, 1995

'Muriel' weds tragedy and comedy

I

4 Sarah Rogacki
aify Arts Writer
Muriel wants be the Dancing
Queen, the disco bride with a white
satin jumpsuit and a blonde wig. Isn't
that what we all want from life? Well,
maybe not the disco ball and the plat-
form shoes, but a moment in the spot-
light, a time to be beautiful, a feeling
of acceptance, or at least a little re-
venge on all those fluffy girls who
Ortured us all through high school.
In "Muriel's Wedding," Muriel
Heslop gets her revenge and a lesson
in life. Winner of Best Film at the
Australian Academy Awards, P.J.
Hogan's first feature takes the tradi-
tional coming-of-age saga and rein-
vents it amid remnants of ABBA and
post-nuclear pop culture. Set in the
tourist town of Porpoise Spit, we find
uriel living with her Bundy-like
family, still trying to fit in with the
local pep squad of blonde floozies.
After ripping off her father, a
rotten politician who's being au-
dited by the government for dirty
dealings, she escapes to Sydney
with her vivacious friend Rhonda
to start a new life and create a new

image. After losing weight and
buying a hip wardrobe, Muriel
begins fantasizing about wedding
Muriel's
Wedding
Directed by P.J. Hogan
with Toni Collette
and Rachel Griffiths
At Ann Arbor 1 & 2
dresses and starts hanging out at
every bridal boutique in the city.
Muriel ultimately gets her dream
wedding, man and all, at the ex-
pense of her family and friends.
When tragedy strikes, she real-
izes that she's not the Dancing
Queen she always wanted to be,
but a shadow of the caring person
she once was.
A cinematic hybrid which falls
somewhere between comedy, trag-
edy, and the realm of '70s sitcoms,
P.J. Hogan's script successfully
communicates the triumph of the

unlikely heroine with sincerity and
wit. Bringing out the extraordi-
nary in the ordinary, Hogan's slice
of life portrayal is perfect right
down to the beanbags and bar
scenes. Taking a cue from other
unique, feel-good films such as
"Four Weddings and a Funeral"
and "The Adventures of Priscilla,
Queen of the Desert," the
director's work stands out among
the new market of Australian films
being imported to the States, es-
pecially with distributors "will-
ing to take a chance" such as
Miramax. Thank heaven Hogan
won an Australian Academy
Award.
The cast is brilliant, from the
lead performers to bit characters.
Toni Collette's portrayal of the
bumbling Muriel will strike a
chord in everyone, with her un-
stoppable idealism and quirky
gestures. She's perfect and quite
deserving of her award for Best
Actress. Rhonda, played by Rachel
Griffiths, delivers spunky one-lin-
ers that steal the show. Griffiths is
an inspiration, showing her versa-

The awkwardness and desires in 'Muriel's Wedding' speaks to the 'Dancing Queen' in us all.

tility to play both comedic and
tragic scenes. Even Brice, played
by unknown Matt Day, gives a
bittersweet performance as
Muriel's jilted first love in

Sydney.
With a soundtrack made up al-
most entirely of ABBA songs, this
film is more fun than the Nectar-
ine Ballroom on Euro-Beat night.

"Muriel's Wedding" runs away
with the bouquet and the Aussie
Academy Award. Eat your heart
out Richard Linklatter, this film's
a real trip.

'Paper Dolls' smashes

Here we see the cast of 'Major Payne' running away from an angry mob of moviegoers. Hup-two-three-fourl
'Major Payne a real pain in the eyes

Sarah Stewart
*aily Arts Writer
Whoever decided to call Damon
Wayans' (of "In Living Color" fame)
newestfilm "MajorPayne" should have
known better. He or she should have
guessed that"Major Payne," easily one
of the worst films of the year, was
bound to be described as a major pain
- the admittedly bad pun is just too
accurate to resist.
0 "Major Payne" is one of those
films that leaves you stunned, bewil-
dered and embarrassed all at the same
time: stunned that some producer (in
this case Wayans himself) was will-
ing to support such a film, bewildered
because more than two people actu-
ally showed up to watch it and embar-
rassed that you were one of those
people who paid good money to see
ch a bad film. When it comes to
Flms like this, you can only hope the
popcorn's outstanding.
In an effort to make "Major Payne"
sound better than it really is, call it a
comedic character study of Major
Benson Winifred Payne, one mean,
military killing machine who finds him-
self at the helm of Madison Academy's
Junior R.O.T.C. It seems that the mili-
- ry doesn't need his talent for killing
htnow - apparently he's killed all
the enemies - but Madison's Junior
R.O.T.C. has placed last in the Virginia
Junior Military Games for the last eight
years and needs the Major to spruce up

the program.
What the Major doesn't seem to
understand is that boys, even Junior
R.O.T.C. members, don't respond well
to being called turds, ladies or worse,
and they especially don't appreciate
being paraded around campus in pretty
dresses. Unfortunately, the audience

Major Payne
Directed by Nick Castle
with Damon Wayans
At Briarwood
gets almost as little amusement out of
the whole thing, as the Major's tactics
rarely draw more than a brief chuckle.
Dr. Emily Watson (Karyn Parsons), the
school counselor, is there to charm the
Major and supposedly keep his disci-
plinary actions under check, but mostly
she bats her eyes and doles out childish
reprimands for whatever naughty deed
he just completed. Sh'e has more influ-
ence on his desires than on his treatment
of the boys.
Supposedly these young cadets are
classified with special needs, yet this
fact is brushed to the side almost as soon
as their respective problems are identi-
fied. Instead of focusing on the chil-
dren, the Major's problems occupy vir-
tually every moment of the film.

The film's biggest surprise is that
the Major's personality change is so
gradual that it's barely noticeable; you
might expect him to evolve into a lovey-
dovey teddy bear overnight, but this
never happens. The Major's slow de-
velopment might actually be a half-way
realistic portrayal of a life lived mili-
tary-style for way too long, but when
translated onto the screen in the form of
comedy, the perpetual insults and spit-
throwing yells lose their appeal as fast
as Major Payne can say, "give me 25."
There are a few funny scenes, but
none of them involve Major Payne's
interaction with the cadets and none of
them make up for the fact that this is a
truly lousy flick. The Major's dancing
debut-he's a master moonwalker and
breakdancer - is something of a treat
as is the "Apocalypse Now" spoof that
opens the film, but these efforts would
be betteroff isolated and used for sketch
comedy; too bad "In Living Color"
went off the air.
Too bad for Wayans that he wasted
so much effort writing, producing and
starring in a film that should have by-
passed the box office and headed straight
to video. I had a dream last night that
"Major Payne" was only in theaters for
one week. It was a good dream.

By Jenn McKee
For the Daily
Lizzie, one of the main characters
in Elaine Jackson's play "Paper
Dolls," often feels lost and confused
throughout because she perpetually
tries to keep track of topics and opin-
ions. This seems to be a tipoff to the
audience to not be caught up in such
things, since it was through accept-
ing the production's images - re-
gardless of their placement or uncon-
ventionality - that we experienced
both mirth and pain simultaneously.
"Paper Dolls" tells the story of
two former beauty queens who are
asked to return to judge a pageant.
The two African-American women
maintained a friendship for 50
years, stemming from their com-
mon experiences - not only the
pageants, but also broken promises
and failed movie careers. They both
live in their pasts to some degree,
often coloring their memories to be
more glamorous than they actually
were.
Maggie (Nyima Woods) was
particularly consumed by her
memories, playing out her victo-
ries and moments of glory over and
over, refusing to admit to losing
any of her beauty or to growing
older. Lizzie (Dee Dee White) was
the antithesis, as she was obsessed
with death and one's preparation
for it. The pair were engaging to
watch, as one often wondered why
these two people would last 50 years
with each other.
With the exception of a few
botched line cues and a confusing
scene with the waiter (from which, I
must add, Woods and White recov-
ered extremely well), the acting was
generally strong. Both White and
Woods gave outstanding perfor-
mances.
Woods presented her character as
both desperate and dignified. In one
scene where she relives her pageant
victory, she is wheeled across a run-
way on a cart, flowers in hand, smil-
ing, and waving. You pity her, yet
envy her confidence.
Woods portrayed her character
as a down-to-earth dreamer who
wanted to get caught up in Maggie's
world, but who always gets the short
end of the stick. She was always
moaning, "You always get the good

BE SURE TO FILL OUT A
'BEST OF ANN ARBOR' BALLOT
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parts!"
In this way, we see that though
these two beautiful and talented
Black women were full of poten-
tial, they could not- in the 1930s
- get past the black stereotypes
portrayed in art, literature and
film. They were not marketable as
capable, aggressive young women.
As a result, they not only seem to
be hurt, but wasted as well.
The stage was set in a unique way,
with a sort of runway running through
the middle of the floor. With the two
sides of the audience facing each other,
the play already had the feel of a
. PaperDolls I
Arena Theatre
March 25, 1995
beauty pageant before it even began.
This framing of the story was effec-
tive and original, despite a tennis
match feeling while dialogue was
exchanged from opposite ends of the
runway.
At times, the play seemed con-

stereotypes
fusing, but that was only when I
really concentrated on its se-
quence. If you let yourself be led
by it and didn't obsess about its
structure, it worked marvelously.
As a satire, it had many funny
moments, though they were not
without a catch. Every time I
laughed, I felt a twinge of sadness
as well.
The play ended with Woods and
White performing a sort of vaude-
ville, showing them basically sell-
ing themselves and their dignity in
order to get a chance to perform.
They had no choice but to stoop to
hiding their beauty, telling jokes
and singing the stereotypical, "Way
Down Upon the Swanee River" in
order to live out their hopes and
dreams.
"Paper Dolls" is a sad commen-
tary on how stereotypes trap and
condemn people without justifica-
tion. Though one would hope that
the situation is much better today
than it was 50 years ago, I get the
feeling we not nearly there yet.
We've got a long way to go, but
plays like this are a step in the right
direction.

U

We've taken
RECYCLING out
to the Diag!

Due to the approaching end of the academic year,

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