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March 30, 1995 - Image 23

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The Michigan Daily, 1995-03-30

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The Michigan Daily - Weekend etc. - Thursday, March 30, 1995 - 9
Another tome from the mind of a mad King

By Joshua Rich
Daily Arts Writer
The world of Stephen King is as
diverse as it is terrifying. When we
think of this modern American guru
of the horror novel, most of us first
remember movie images like that of a
rabid dog terrorizing a trapped family
or a little girl who has the power to set
anything she sees afire. Best known
for his many scary novels, King has
also created a cache of suspense, ac-
tion and drama stories which, through
the years, have become just as popu-
lar as his horror books. And in most
cases, King's work has been trans-
formed into major motion pictures or
made-for-television movies.
So what makes this author popu-
lar enough to have consecutive best
sellers and box office hits? How has
he remained so prolific for almost 20
years? And why do readers and audi-
ences keep buying his books and re-
turning to his movies?
Unlike current popular authors
whose movies have found their way
to the silver screen (John Grisham,
for example), King has constantly
produced stories that are both inter-
esting and original. No two King

books are alike - whereas one may
argue that most of Grisham's novels
are all the same basic plot with differ-
ent characters - and they all explore
different facets of the human psyche.
While the plots of King's stories are
generally complicated, they are usu-
ally told in simple, linear manners
which allow easy transformation into
motion pictures. It is to these movies
that we frequently turn when in need
of an intellectual thrill or an engaging
character study.
The earliest King stories on film
have usually gained him the greatest
critical and popular acclaim. Directed
by Brian de Palma, "Carrie" (1976)
was his first major hit and it began
what would become a long string of
horror flicks. It starred Sissy Spacek
as a repressed teenager who uses her
unique mental skills to take revenge
on her unruly classmates. Following
that came "The Shining" (1980),
which is perhaps one of the most
famous King stories on screen, and
arguably one of the best horror mov-
ies of all time. Stanley Kubrick di-
rected Jack Nicholson as an insane
writer who, along with some bizarre
apparitions, terrorizes his family in

an old, snow-covered hotel.
During the mid-'80s, King's addi-
tions to the Hollywood roster were
usually common horror films. Most
memorable were "Cujo," (1983) in
which a rabid dog terrorizes Dee
Wallace and Danny Pintauro ("Who's
the Boss") trapped in a car,
"Firestarter," (1984) which show-
cased a young Drew Barrymore as a
girl who is capable of starting fires by
pyrokinesis and "Pet Sematary"
(1989) about a family who moves
into a house where the dead may
come back to life.
Though none of these movies came
close to being a cinematic triumph,
they all succeeded in providing view-
ers with thought-provoking, scary
films - as opposed to more mindless
horror flicks like "Friday the 13th" or
"Nightmare on Elm Street."
Recently, however, King's scope
of material has broadened to include
more powerful dramas which, though
still morbid, touch both the minds and
the hearts of his audience. Rob
Reiner's direction of "Misery" (1990)
painted a startling yet psychologi-
cally fascinating portrait of the rela-
tionship between a crippled James

Caan and his loving but psychotic
captor Kathy Bates. "The Stand"
(1994) became one of the most suc-
cessful made-for-TV movies by ex-
amining the ramifications of the Ar-
mageddon. And "Dolores Claiborne"
(in current release) studies the awful
effects of domestic violence on a
mother and her daughter.
Heading any list of King's contri-
butions to motion pictures must be
1994's "The ShawshankRedemption"
which has come to be one of the most
acclaimed King films yet - it is his
first effort to receive a Best Picture
Academy Award nomination. Based
on his short story, "Rita Hayworth
and the Shawshank Redemption," this
movie chronicles the friendship forged
between two prison inmates, the guilty
Morgan Freeman and the innocent
Tim Robbins.
Like many of King's previous
works, this film serves to enlighten its
audience on the one hand and frighten
us on the other. It best summarizes a
career that has spanned two'decades
and provided readers and moviegoers
alike with images of horror and drama
that tickle our nerves and capture our
minds.

Bates is moderately disturbing.

Just because something wins lots of awards doesn't mean.

Im--7-7

.Cut:
C .
1'..cottPbagenhoef
Criticism is never an exact art.
Revisionism is as much apart of criti-
cisn as one's initial reaction to a
work. Contemporary criticism mea-
sures the first reaction to a work,
revisionism is assisted by time. It
gauges a work's ability to withstand
time and still be vital.
Film revisionism continues con-
stently for the most diverse of rea-
ns. "Citizen Kane," long consid-
ered the greatest American film of
all-time, was not even well-received
upon its opening. Some of the criti-
cism can be traced to newspaper mo-
gu William Randolph Hearst who
felt the title character followed too
closely his own life and so Hearst set
out to bury the film in his media
eipire. Yet the poor reception for
(ane" may have had as much to do
with its ground-breaking presentation.
Orson Welles, only 25 when he pro-

duced, directed and starred in "Kane,"
introduced to the film community such
a vastly different type of product it
could scarcely be compared to what
had come before.
The scale of a film also serves to
bias its initial reception. Sprawling
epics, with countless extras, postcard
landscapes, and supposedly larger
than life subject matter are nearly
always overblown in their praise.
"Ben-Hur," one of the most success-
ful films at the box-office until the
advent of the multiplex and the win-
ner of a record 11 Academy Awards,
is usually met with high praise. Its
scope and subject demands it be taken
as a classic, and oftentimes was.
Nowadays "Ben-Hur" is little seen
and less cared about.
Consequently, just as the safe are
often misjudged early, so is the daring
or at least the borderline perverse.
When the dismantling of the film
codes in favor of a ratings system
occurred, subject matter was allowed
to become more lurid. Early work in
this period, such as "A Clockwork
Orange," "Last Tango in Paris" and
the Roman Polanski pair "Repulsion"

and "Cul-de-Sac," each met with as
much critical backlash as praise. Each
has gained much wider recognition as
fine films because of the loosening of
moral standards on art has allowed
viewers to be challenged and pre-
sented with the controversial rather
than simply attempt to escape and
ignore that which is off-center.
Films early in a director's career
are also often initially overlooked.
Francis Coppola's "The Rain People,"
Stanley Kubrick's "The Killing," John
Sayles' "The Return of the Secaucus
Seven" and Jim Jarmusch's "Stranger
than Paradise" each continue to carve
a greater niche in a film canon as their
respective directors have become
more revered. Each film should have
been regarded as vital and original
works in their own time.
Films which concern themselves
with contemporary social problems
run the risk of being little considered
in the future. "Kramer vs. Kramer,"
released in 1979, was hailed as a brave
portrait of the new breed of the bro-
ken family. Audiences across the na-
tion gasped at the disintegration of
the Kramer marriage and the fate of

their young son. A little over a decade
later our society has become so com-
fortable with the notion of divorce
that the comedic escapades of an es-
tranged father trying to communicate
with his children by dressing up as an
elderly British female housekeeper
can become the second highest-gross-
ing comedy ever. The fate of the
Kramer boy and the entire film itself
seems less important.
Unfortunately, the most well-
known measure for films is the Acad-
emy Awards. The Oscars are really
not susceptible to revisionism since
those who do the criticism in retro-
spect are film critics and those who
vote for the awards are industry
people. Revisionism may not as much
reflect time in this case as it does a
general rift in perception of what an
award-winning film is. Critical awards
generally are more daring, more
celebratory of quality, whereas the
Academy is only willing to award the
feel-good, the movies which reflect
good intentions and an often watered-
down accessibility.
In recent years the award process
has gotten worse. Best Picture win-

ners previously hailed as masterpieces
or triumphs of the human spirit as
recent as "Chariots of Fire," "Driving
Miss Daisy" and "Dances with
Wolves" are already buried in the
minds of audiences and virtually dis-
regarded in the film canon.
"Dances with Wolves," the ultra-
PC tale of a white Civil War soldier
mentally undone by the horrors the
white man were inflicting upon each
other yet moved by the harmony of the
Native Americans is"RobinsonCrusoe"
on the prairie. It defeated "Goodfellas"
for the Best Picture Oscar that year, the
second time a Hollywood golden boy
had denied Martin Scorsese an Oscar
for a much superior film. The first was
in 1980, when Robert Redford's "Ordi-
nary People" won over "Raging Bull."
"Raging Bull," a harrowing character
sketch of a man who can only express
himself through violence, contains one
of the greatest acting performances of
all-time with Robert DeNiro as the title
character, the raging bull, boxer Jake
LaMotta. "Bull" went on to be named
the best film of the '80s in virtually
every such poll conducted. "Ordinary
People" went on to be shownyours and

it's good
every other high school and college
psychology class in the nation.
This year, in a comparable selec-
tion, "Forrest Gump" was named Best
Picture over a superior film, "Pulp
Fiction". Revisionism will prove that
"Gump" will be relegated to holiday
viewings on ABC, opposite "Home
Alone," "E.T.: The Extra-terrestrial"
or "The Sound of Music" on the other
three networks.
"Gump" will remain homespun,
cozy, domestic fun. A playful wrapping
to forget your woes and believe "stupid
is as stupid does." Just as the von Trapp
family sings and dances whilst Hitler
ravages Austria on the other side of the
mountain and we cuddle up next to the
television with our pumpkin pie think-
ing nothing of it, we'll ooh, aah and
laugh at Forrest's misadventures val-
iantly fighting a war he shouldn't, his
failure to comprehend racism, sexism,
human tragedy unless it afflicts him
personally, or corruption of power.
"Pulp Fiction" is already a perma-
nently vital film, a potential landmark
in the development of independent
films, small budgets, narrative devel-
opment and audience expectation.

THE UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN-DEARBORN
;: SCIrt " :
SRBO
You Are Cordially Invited
The University of Michigan-Dearborn cordially invites you to be a guest
student for the Spring/Summer semester. We have three terms to
accommodate students who are home for summer vacation.

ththe
The The Hanky Panky"
Songs for the achin heart.
Written by Hnk Williams Sr
Expressed by The The.
"hanky Panky"

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4

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Put your $$ on these...

r N',

mike Wdl}

Korn "Korn" - Described by
the L.A. press as shades of
Rage Against The Machine
meets Pantera meets Tool with
a soul-shaking vengeance.
"korn"

rff
:i

Sponge "Rotting Pinata""...a pas
sionate mix of alluring melodies
and guitar rock. ..laced with
adrenaline and pop invention.."
- LA Times
"rotting pinata"

Spring half term
Spring/Summer term
Summer half term

May 8 - June 30
May 8 -August 29
july 5 -August 29

Mike Watt "Ball-Hog Or Tugboat?
The man behind fREHOSE and
The Minutemen gets in the ring
and wrestles with his friendson
his debut solo album,
"ball-og or tugboat?"

-GoAmp .

3 Pick up a guest application at your Registrar's Office and call the Office of

9WD

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t, xY C o ..S(~

.1 1--l".11,

Aim F' __ d.. i 1w*a r { r c.

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