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January 17, 1996 - Image 5

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1996-01-17

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The Hemp Revolution s a fm that tels the story of everyone's favorite
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been so pivotal in the war on drugs. At the Michigan Theater, 9:15 p.m

Page 5
January 17, 1996

Oliver Stone triumphs with' Nixon'

y Neal C. Carruth
Daily Arts Writer
One of the most highly anticipated
films of the holiday season has been
Oliver Stone's "Nixon." As is seldom
the case in this age of hype and hyper-
bole, "Nixon" does not disappoint. In-
deed, it is the most relentlessly fasci-
nating film of 1995.
Stone has crafted an intimate and
* mpathetic portrait of the man who
1aped the polity of the past 25 years
and who informs our current attitudes
toward government. The film encap-
sulates the personal and political
struggles and fiascoes of Richard M.
Nixon, without resorting to undue re-
visionism or crude generalizations.
But it is more than a political biogra-
phy; its perspective on Nixon is pro-
foundly human and manages to dis-
rn the motivating core of his person-
The narrative centers around the- fi-

Directed by Oliver
Stone; with Anthony
Hopkins and Joan Allen
At Showcase and
Ann Arbor I & 2
nal days of the Nixon presidency. The
specter of shame and resignation looms
large over the White House, as Nixon's
closest confidantes and advisers take
the fall for the "old man."
Our first image of Nixon is of a hag-
gard, lonely, haunted man, crumpled in a
chair in the Lincoln bedroom. Light from
the fireplace dances across his creased
face, but he is largely swathed in shadow.
This is an arresting image with which
Stone transfixes us; he assures us that his
goal is to traverse the dark terrain of
Nixon's soul.
At this opening moment, Nixon ob-
sessively examines audio tapes oferiti-
cal, incriminating Oval Office conver-
sations. The film moves back and forth
in time, creating a Byzantine web of
forces, events and personalities that
determined the shape of Nixon's pri-
vate and public life. It charts his life,
from his youth in a strict Quaker fam-
ily in Whittier, Calif. to his ultimate
"Nixon" is emboldened by Anthony
Hopkins' performance, one of the best
of the year. Hopkins, who in actuality
bears little resemblance to the late presi-

dent, manages to slip into Nixon's skin
and offer a completely convincing and
absorbing portrayal.
Hopkins has not only mastered
Nixon's voice and mannerisms, but
more importantly, he conveys the
duplicitous tension at the heart of the
man. His Nixon is an idealist and a
detail-obsessed schemer. He is both
painfully conscious ofhis humble roots
and narcissistically concerned with his
place in history.
Stone, the master of juxtaposition,
manages to sharply capitalize on Rich-
ard Nixon's double nature. He con-
trasts the public Nixon, a man of feigned
confidence and warmth, with the pri-
vate Nixon, a shrewd, sometimes para-
noid man racked by bitterness, insecu-
rity and megalomania.
Stone and Hopkins reveal Nixon's
fears, ambitions, desires and weak-
nesses. It is a balanced account that
seeks to de-vilify the public perception
of Richard Nixon. And despite its psy-
chological insight, the film restrains
itself from vain psychobabble about
Nixon. Admittedly, there are a few
lapses, like Paul Sorvino's Henry
Kissinger croaking,"Can you imagine
if this man had been loved?"
Aside from its strong and persuasive
screenplay, the film's greatest asset is
its acting. We are treated to one of the
finest ensembles in quite some time.
Joan Allen, primarily a stage actress, is
outstanding as the publicly plastic and
privately spiteful Pat Nixon. She con-
veys a tremendous sorrow arid depth of

Anthony Hopkins declares victory in Oliver Stone's new film, "Nixon."

Similarly, James Woods and J.T.
Walsh are excellent as Nixon advisers
H.R. Haldeman and John Ehrlichman,
respectively. In Stone's tale, they are
ultimately political casualties of
Nixon's blind hubris, sort of a white-
collar Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.
Stone, who seems to have found a
comfortable stride with "JFK" and
"Natural Born Killers," is in fine form
with "Nixon." He elicits stirring per-

formances from a large cast. He also
demonstrates his considerable techni-
cal finesse, creating a sometimes fre-
netic pastiche of re-creations, docu-
mentary footage, flashbacks, color and
black and white cinematography, and
startling images.
There is an interesting commonality
between the cinematic sensibility of
Oliver Stone and the personality of
Richard Nixon. Both have an obses-
sive and almost paranoid tendency to

fragment and rehash reality. Evident in
both is a jittery, self-conscious, anti-
establishment bent (i.e. Nixon's sense
of inferiority when dealing with .the
Eastern-educated elite and his musings
about the "system" and its control of
America's fate in Vietnam).
Stone has even confessed in recent
interviews to identifying with Nixon
in some ways. There is no filmmaker
more appropriate than Oliver Stone to
bring Nixon to the screen.

Slatkin to conduct at Hill

'Dracula' is dead on arnival

y Emily Lambert
aily Arts Writer
When conductor Mstislav
Rostropovich announced his retirement
from the National Symphony Orches-
tra, rumor and speculation surrounded
the appointment of the NSO's next
music director. A committee formed to
wbring the most talented and worthy suc-
,cessorto Washington, D.C.'s Kennedy
A few months later in St. Louis,
jeonard Slatkin, arguably today's pre-
eminent American conductor, an-
nounced his retirement from the St.
Louis Symphony Orchestra after a 27-
year affiliation. Logic and deliberation
followed suit, and Slatkin has been
.named the next music director of the
"National Symphony.
"I don't think that any orchestra ex-
pects a n'usic director to stay forever,"
said SLSO Director of Artistic Admin-
'tration and University alumna Carla
Johnson in an interview last week. "This
was a much longer tenure than most,
and Leonard needed to go and do some-
thing different. I think he was the per-
feet choice for the National Symphony."
Slatkin is already a popular icon in
Washington. He has moved to the city
Where: Hill Auditorium
When: Thursday at 8 p.m.
For tickets call the UMS
box office at 764-2538.
7and takes over the National Symphony
next season. Yet St. Louis audiences
ill miss the conductor who has had
rofound influence on the city's prized
orchestra. The status of the SLSO cata-
pulted from good to outstanding under
Slatk'in's directorship. The Washing-
ton Post called Slatkin's contribution
"one of the major musical success sto-
ties of this generation."
Some sound bites of achievements:,
SLSO recordings have been nominated
for Grammy awards every year since

1977, and have earned three Grammys
and 50 nominations.
Since Slatkin took over full conduct-
ing responsibilities in 1979, the SLSO
has become a model of musical creativ-
ity. Slatkin and the SLSO made one of
the most comprehensive classical re-
cording agreements in history with
BMG Classics/RCA Victor Red Seal.
(Slatkin will make future RCA record-
ings with the NSO.)
"He had a driving vision which really
put a very fine orchestra on the national
and international map," Johnson said.
"That's what the music director busi-
ness is about, to provide an ensemble of
musicians with an artistic vision ... so
in terms of the sound of the orchestra
and the music the orchestra plays, that's
Leonard's vision."
The impression Slatkin has made on
the SLSO is not likely to disappear.
With two young American conductors
on staff and an American composer in
residence, the orchestra will remain and
retain its American feel. Although
Johnson cited Vonk's expertise as
lesser-known Dutch and also the stan-
dard "meat and potatoes" repertoire,
Vonk has said he'll preserve the SLSO's
dedication to American composers and
compositions. Yet despite his commit-
ment to furthering Slatkin's Americana
ambitions, Vonk is bound to change the
musical emphasis of the orchestra.
Certain to be preserved is the
orchestra's admirable commitment to
education and community outreach. The
SLSO makes weekly broadcasts on
National Public Radio and tours fre-
Naturally, St. Louis audiences re-
ceive special attention from their resi-
dent orchestra. Through the "Commu-
nity Partnership Program," musicians
teach and play in schools, retirement
homes and other venues around St.
Louis. In this unique agreement be-
tween the management and musicians,
participation in a community project is
required to receive a paycheck.
"It makes music accessible to a num-
ber of populations who have not felt
welcome in (the concert hall) environ-
ment," Johnson said. "It's shown the
musicians as people who are concerned

By Neal C. Carruth
Daily Arts Writer
The movies have long been enam-
ored of the Dracula legend. Now, Mel
Brooks, king of parody and the down-
ward career spiral, brings us Leslie
Nielsen as everyone's favorite blood-
sucking count from Transylvania in
"Dracula: Dead and Loving It."
Brooks returns to the original 1897
novel by Irishman Bram Stoker. Un-
less you have been residing in a cul-
tural vacuum, you are surely familiar
with the details: It is the story of
Jonathan Harker (Steven Weber), en-
gaged to marry the beautiful Mina
Seward (Amy Yasbeck). Mina's fa-
ther, Dr. Seward (Harvey Korman) is
the administrator of an asylum, which
houses a disturbed gentleman named
Renfield (Peter MacNicol). This
Renfield was the lone survivoron board
a mysterious ship, recently arrived in
England. Shortly after the arrival of
the ship, an alluring Eastern European
aristocrat takes up residence in an ab-
bey that adjoins the asylum.
And you know the rest.
Indeed, the central weakness of
"Dracula: Dead and Loving It" is its
reliance on a story with which most
film-goers are acquainted. Instead of
creating a fresh approach to old mate-
rial (as Brooks did in 1974's "Young
Frankenstein"), this movie has the feel
of a prefabricated, film-by-the-num-
bers exercise. Brooks is simply going
through the motions, throwing in some
stale gags along the way.
The essence of comedy is surprise,
but Brooks undermines any opportuni-
ties for surprise by employing an over-
used plot line and jokes that announce

Dracula: Dead
and Loving it
Directed by Mel Brooks
with Leslie Nielsen and
Harvey Korman
At Showcase
themselves well ahead of their arrival.
Brooks' screenplay (co-written with
Rudy De Luca and Steve Haberman)
betrays any imagination and lacks the
verbal and physical wit that distinguishes
his best work ("The Producers" and
"Blazing Saddles"). It is occasionally
painful to sit through what Mel Brooks
considers humorous, such as Dracula
tumbling down a staircase after slipping
on bat guano and Dracularising from his
diurnal slumber to knock his head on a
low-hanging chandelier.
The most crucial and disappointing
performance is that of Leslie Nielsen as
Count Dracula..This character blunders
his way through every scene and never
takes off like the inimitable Frank Drebin
from the "Naked Gun" series. While
Nielsen's deadpan delivery does gener-
ate some humor and the idea of Nielsen
as Dracula is in itself amusing, he is the
wrong comic actor forthe part; he handles
the role like an extended bit of sketch
Behind this morass is Brooks himself,
who also plays Dr. Van Helsing,anoted
vampirologist and the Count's nemesis.
As far as acting is concerned, Brooks is
See DRACULA, Page 9

Leonard Slatkin will conduct the St. Louis
with their community and as people
who are sharing their time and their
Hometown audiences have turned out
in droves this 1995-96 season, the last
of Slatkin's tenure. Though not every-
one shares his love of modern music,
Slatkin has a devoted following in,
around and far from St. Louis.
Thursday night's Ann Arborprogram
reflects the SLSO's contemporary bent.
With Mennin's "Concertato for Orches-

Sympnony urcnestra tomorrow ngnt.
tra, 'Moby Dick"' and McTee's "Cir-
cuits," the program exemplifies
Slatkin's ideas and energies. Soprano
Linda Hohenfeld will solo in
Schwantner's "Evening Land." Also
on the program is "Symphony No. I in
A-flat" by Elgar.
"People who like that combination
will come - because this is it," said
Johnson. "You can buy the records and
listen to the repeats on the radio, but it's'
the end of an era for St. Louis."

It takes a special kind of vision

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American National
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Our success at doing so has made us the mar-
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banks. Today, our challenge is to build upon our
leadership in new markets and to provide the
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To achieve this objective, we recognize the impor-
tance of having the best people, those who want
to make things happen. We look for individuals
who are hardworking entretreneurial and com-

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