The Michigan Daily - Wue4c, e. - Thursday, March 28, 1996- 3B
Despite blood and gore, 'Seven' a polished horror classic
Sound and Fury
This weekend I turned on the TV. First
istake. Then I sat down on the couch.
nd mistake. I was sucked in, stuck
there in front the old picture box, my
basest intellectual capacities and my
lowest senses all stimulated in a fury of
orgiastic fluffiness. And when you spend
tan entire Saturday with friend TV, you're
going to come away insulted.
My problem was with a commercial I
saw for Mercedes Benz automobiles. It
had the niftiest little ditty to it, a little jingle
#at went something like this:
"O Lord, won't you buy me a
My friends all drive Porsches I must
Worked hard all my life, no help from
So, O Lord, won't you buy me a
Now unless you have completely
blocked out the fact that there ever was a
decade called the 1960s (read: unless
ou're a Republican) you recognize this
7whittle tune as part of the late, great Janis
Joplin's repertoire. I don't think Joplin
ever owned a Mercedes, though she did
own a Porsche, and she may have vomited
in one at some point, but that's irrelevant.
I'm just not sure she would exactly be
pleased with the way her stepsister sold
over the rights to the song.
The song "Mercedes Benz" is a wry,
sarcastic look at the materialistic world of
akmerican business culture, the people
who measure success in terms of cars
owned, vacations taken, etc. Worst of all,
it is a send-up of people who judge each
other's value based on monetary success.
Basically, it is a send up of the people who
would never give two bits about what
Joplin did for her career, or for what any
artist did for a career for that matter.
Joplin was a queen of the anti-
establishment culture in the late '60s.
oud, raucous and under the influence,
she paid no attention to social norms or
aexpectations. Yes, her behavior and
" addictions ended up killing her; hers was
not a lifestyle for emulation. But her
message in "Mercedes Benz" was loud
and clear: Money doesn't buy happiness.
Still the dipshits at Mercedes Benz and
Madison Avenue don't get the point,
apparently, because they plugged the song
into their TV ad. That's like using a song
alled "Let's Kill Dolphins" for Starkist
Tuna or a "Fruit Chews suck"jingle for
What the folks who designed the ad
want you to believe is the antithesis to
Joplin's song. They want you to believe
that a Mercedes Benz is a reward for all
your hard work. But what they really
mean is the following:
A Mercedes Benz is a sign that says,
"Look at you. Look at me. Look at my
car Look at your car. Look at my car,
ain. Ha ha sucker, that's what you get
for getting a stupid liberal arts degree."
A Mercedes Benz is a sign that you've
kissed enough ass, lost enough friends and
stabbed enough backs to make six figures
a year. Well, congratulations.
Somewhere a poor stiff in an Armani
suit, who once heard a Janis Joplin LP at a
frat party while sipping a rich pseudo-beer
like Sam Adams, is singing to himself:
"O, Lord won't you send me a sucker
My quotas are rising, I must make
Thought of money all my life, now I
have no friends,
O Lord, help me sell, this Mercedes
The grotesque distortion of an artist's
work to sell a product is nothing new. The
Beatles' "Revolution" was used to sell
Nikes. (Hey, the University bought into
*t.) The Mick Jagger/Keith Richards track
"Wild Horses" is being used to peddle
Busch beer. But what's most annoying
about the use of Joplin's song is the fact
that she is dead, and the integrity of her art
is all that she has left. Joplin didn't really
want to help sell a damn Mercedes.
But the commercial underscores a
bigger social phenomenon. There's a
distinct dichotomy of thought at work
ere. There's a business culture and an
artist culture at work in America, and they
don't like each other and they don't fit
together. When their paths cross it comes
off as vulgar, disrespectful.
Someday, I imagine I'll be watching
TV with my kids, and we'll hear Kurt
Cobain's gravelly angsty voice
By Christopher Corbett
Daily Arts Writer
Remember when you went to see "Seven?" During the
ride there, you probably thought of one of the seven deadly
sins that your friend (who already saw the film) told you
was cool. You thought, "Yeah, so? It'll be just like 'Silence
of the Lambs."' And then when you actually saw the fat
man in the film, you believed your friend who told you that
it turned her popcorn into cream-of-popcorn.
The serial killer in "Seven" kept the fat man chained to
a table, forced his face into a bowl full of mush. Naked, the
victim looked more like a doughy hot-air balloon than he
did a man. You could practically smell the foul, sour stench
of his apartment with him rotting in there. You could
practically see the cockroaches scrambling all over the
slop and the vomit he choked on.
After nearly hurling at seeing the fat man, we went and
told other people to go see the film - so they could feel as
pukey as we did. The word-of-mouth about the outrageous
film became the main reason for its success. The film
didn't explode in the first week and a half and then fizzle
like most blockbusters. Instead, it chilled and kicked back
at the No. I spot for five weeks last fall, helping push it to
the $100 million mark.
Yes, we were surprised (and maybe relieved) that Brad
Pitt didn't have any butt-shots in the film. But we enjoyed
it even more because it relished in its own ghoulishness.
Think of the drug dealer, who chewed off his own tongue,
whose brain was mush and who resembled a skeleton; he
leaped up from his bed after being imprisoned there for a
year because he committed the sin of sloth. Because we
and our friends thought he was dead, we jumped and felt
like hurling, yet again.
Director David Fincher ("Alien 3") proved he could
make more people gag than Six Flags. He pushes us into
the gloom of "Seven" and holds us there until a monstrous
moment comes running up to take a chomp out of us.
In a perverse way, we bought the tickets to see "Seven"
because we wanted. to feel scared. We looked forward to
seeing the dementedly imaginative way Fincher was going
to kill off the other victims; we wanted to see how the
person guilty of pride, or lust, would die, just as we would
look at a carwreck on the highway. Fincher stirred our
curiosity and then satisfied it ... big time.
"Seven" was one of the few films last year that gave us
our money's worth. We could see that the filmmakers were
not pasting some formulaic fluff together, but were as
creative and imaginative as'possible. To be sure, "Seven"
is not as scary as an "Exorcist," but it packs more of a
punch than a "Silence of the Lambs," thanks to a faceless
killer who darts down dark apartment hallways and rain-
mare. The characters, tiny black smudges on the screen, are
knee-deep in rust-colored prairie grass that seems ready to
drown them. We then see a truck speeding down the dirt road
at a maniacal speed, dust pluming behind it, the horrible fate of
one of the main characters rampaging toward us like that truck.
We haven't seen sequences like these anywhere before. The
model, guilty of pride, lays on her bed with the telephone glued
to one hand and a bottle of pills in the other--hernose missing.
Later, the man strapped to the bed, wearing the dildo of death,
cries, having killed the prostitute who was guilty of lust. The
film becomes a euphoric, polished house-of-horrors.
"Seven," in all its loathsome splendor, shapes up as perhaps
the best film of last year. This movie is about those moments
that you'll never forget. Or, as someone said, "You gotta see
'Seven' - and remember, the fat man. Uhhhh ..."
Also on video:
"Crumb" - The documentary about the genius who created
"Fritz the Cat." Many critics chose "Crumb" as last year's best
film, but a few have recently pointed out that "Crumb" is a tad
thin on exploring Robert Crumb's artistic abilities and muse.
Life is meaningless now.
"Mallrats" - Two words are going to make you curl your
hands into fists and bare your teeth: Shannon Doherty. Boo!
Hiss! Death to the Skeezer!
"Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh" - Insanely jealous
of Balto, who has wormed his way into the hearts of many
young kids, Winnie has hog-tied and gagged his archrival in
hopes of reclaiming some of his lost popularity.
"Theremin" - Another documentary, it tells the story of a
man named Leon Theremin who created a device in the shape
of a box that helped bring sound effects to several films. One
at a time, in an orderly fashion! There are enough copies to go
around! No bloodshed! No chaotic riff-raff, please!
Coming next week to video:
My name is Brad Pitt. You killed my father. Prepare to die.
drenched alleys like a demon. "Seven" did what so few movies do today
- it delivered.
Fincher, who at one time was directing videos (like Madonna's
"Vogue"), painted a terrifyingly beautiful picture of the Armageddon-
like world of "Seven." We see filthy, black-as-night apartments with
glowing red crosses on dressers, litter-strewn alleys and grainy, claus-
trophobic police offices, hospitals and restaurants. We see a slick, run-
down world that threatens to smother its characters.
The climactic scene in "Seven" seems to have.been shot in a night-
Devil In a Blue Dress
Home for the Holidays
Stone: Making it in T seltown
By Ryan Posly
Daily Arts Writer
Making a name for yourself in Hol-
lywood has never been easy. It takes
dedication, looks, a little bit of talent
and a whole lot of luck. Oh ... and
taking your panties off can't hurt ei-
Sharon Stone will' forever be re-
membered for uncrossing her legs in
front of Michael Douglas and his po-
lice cronies in "Basic Instinct," bar-
ing all to them - and us. Up until late
last year, it seemed like Stone would
never be able to shake the image of
herself as the bisexual, ice pick-wield-
ing, seductive Catherine Tramell.
Though she tried, audiences were not
interested in seeing her play against
type, and her thin performances
couldn't change their minds.
That all changed with "Casino." A
generally overwrought and unoriginal
film, its greatest redeeming quality is
Stone's portrayal of a former Vegas
prostitute who becomes the wife of
Robert DeNiro's Mafia-controlled ca-
sino manager. This was no easy feat:
She had to stand out against DeNiro and
Joe Pesci, who were working with their
Godfather, Martin Scorsese. Stone man-
aged to create the most shaded, three-
dimensional performance of her career.
Ginger McKenna is a woman so ob-
sessed with money that she marries
DeNiro's Ace Rothstein, despite the
fact that she is incapable of ever loving
him. After their marriage, she slips
deeper and deeper into the abyss of
drug addiction and depression. Her quiet
moments are just as dramatic and fasci-
nating as her tirades and tantrums, and
she is always precariously balancing on
the line between sympathetic heroine
and irritating bitch. It is a marvelous
And for the first time, Stone, 38, is
getting real recognition. Though her
name was not called when the envelope
was opened Monday night, her Acad-
emy Award nomination was the cherry
on top of her recent critical success, a
back-patting that included winning the
Golden Globe Award for Best Dra-
matic Actress in January. Afteryears of
limiting herself to poorly written roles
in mediocre films, Stone was finally
given a chance with "Casino" to prove
that she can be much more than a one-
note femme fatale.
The amazing thing about Stone's ca-
reer is that she has remained a huge star,
despite the fact that she has only helmed
one true blockbuster. Born in Meadville,
Penn., she studied creative writing and
fine arts at Edinboro College and has
been described by many colleagues as
one of the most intelligent stars in Hol-
After winning several local beauty
pageants, Stone moved to New York to
begin a modeling career, hawking such
products as Diet Coke and Ford cars.
She got her film debut in 1980 from
Woody Allen in his "Stardust Memo-
ries." Though she was on screen for less
than 10 seconds, blowing a kiss to
Woody from a train, she had already
cemented her status as male fantasy.
For the next 10 years, Stone plodded
her way through numerous television
movies and low-budget films that
you've probably never heard of. The
highlight of this phase was her deft
comic turn in "Irreconcilable Differ-
ences," but she also stooped as low as
"Police Academy 4" and "Action Jack-
Her first role to gain public attention
came in 1990, as Arnold
Schwarzenegger's dangerously asser-
tive wife in "Total Recall." The charac-
ter was complete camp, and Stone man-
aged it well enough: Now sexy, now
deadly, now funny, now dead at the
hands of a "divorce" - Arnold style.
"Total Recall"'s director, Dutch-boy
Paul Verhoeven, gave Stone her star-
making role two years later in "Basic
Instinct." Her portrayal of Catherine
Tramell was a stroke of feminist ge-
nius, getting men so hot and horny that
they didn't realize they were being used
and overpowered. She was every man's
fantasy turned into their worst night-
mare - a sort of black widow spider.
Except she didn't wait until after sex to
kill her mate, she'd whip out the ice
pick in mid-coitus and reciprocate his
penetration in her own way.
But despite the fact that this was
essentially a strong female role,
women began despising Stone because
of her unabashed sexuality, seeing
her as "the slut from that soft-porn."
True, "Basic Instinct" was an explicit
movie, and the interrogation scene,
no matter how hard Stone insists that
she was manipulated into it by
Verhoeven, will force her to forever
live in pantiless infamy.
But the weight of Stone's perfor-
mance should not be discounted. She
upstaged Michael Douglas, turning
him into a walking pile of Jell-O in
her presence. She even upstaged the
camera itself with her frighteningly
seductive performance, one that was
generally overlooked - other than a
Golden Globe nomination and the
prestigious "Most Desirable Female"
MTV Movie Award.
Stone's next role did nothing to
decrease that image. "Basic Instinct"'s
screenwriter, the overrated and un-
dersexed Joe Eszterhas, seems to have
created the lead in "Sliver" just for
her. This time, Stone got to mastur-
bate in a bathtub and hand her panties
over (in a restaurant) to William
Baldwin. But there's nothing inter-
esting for her to do here; she is no
longer the temptress, but the hapless
victim, the same sort of problem she
encountered in subsequent films.
In "Intersection," Stone played the
Sharon Stone takes a role in the hay with Robert DeNiro in "Casino"
betrayed wife of Richard Gere instead
of, more appropriately, his mistress. In
"The Specialist," she is forced to "act"
alongside Sylvester Stal lone, as ifthat's
possible. And in "The Quick and the
Dead," which she co-produced, Stone
plays it sad while Sam Raimi's quick-
witted satire is going on all around her.
This recent string of failures makes
one wonder how Sharon Stone main-
tains her star status at all. And it
makes her turn in "Casino" all the
more pleasantly surprising. It was
clear that Stone had talent, but her
audience was beginning to wonder
whether she would ever be given an
opportunity to show it again. With
"Casino," she has seemingly launched
a whole new career for herself, that o
a serious, versatile actress. In herlat
est film, "Diabolique," she revamp:
her dangerously sexy persona, but shl
goes for broke in Bruce Beresford'.
upcoming "Last Dance," in which sh
plays an inmate on death row, replet
with Southern accent.
After earning only $300,000 for "Ba
sic Instinct," Sharon Stone now com
*mands a $6 million salary and owns he
own production company, Chaos. SI
has gone from bit player for her looks',
Oscar nominee for her talent. It seen
like she can finally shake off the ba,
gage of her femme fatale image and g
down to some serious acting. An
frankly, it's about time.
Please return by April 4th to the
Daily at 420 Maynard, Ann Arbor, MI
48109. Results will be printed on!
April 18th in the Best of Ann Arbor
issue of Weekend. Thank you for
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