8 - The Michigan Daily - Tuesday, February 25, 1997
sharp as knife
Bily Bob Thornton delivers sentimental masterpiece
;Daily g riter
Rarely does the world of film pro-
duce once-in-a-lifetime talents who can
do i l But in a miraculous flash of
bril1iame, the cinema industry intro-
abli water, direc- RI
ordille Billy Bob 0
Thai'i1, in his
In the film, Thornton plays Karl
Childers a mentally disabled man who
is released from an asylum back into his
smnlt hometown in Arkansas.
Originally put into the hospital at the
age of 12 for killing his mother and her
lover with a sling blade (a banana-
shaped machete), Karl is reluctant to
leave the safety of the hospital for a
foreign and lonely world.
But with a stroke of luck, Karl finds
a fam>y and a place to stay when he
meets °-a gentle 12-year-old named
Frank (Lucas Black), and his single
mother, Linda (Natalie Canerday). Karl
is also accepted by a gay family friend,
Vaughan (John Ritter), whose homo-
sexuality makes him as much of a social
outcast as Karl.
who pleasures in
Karl is quickly con-
fronted by the
harsh reality of his
the form of Linda's
terrorizing all those
in one of the year's best performances:
Thornton's portrayal of Karl is haunt-
ing, yet touching, with traces of Boo
Radley ("To Kill a Mockingbird"),
Dustin Hoffman's character in "Rain
Man" and Forrest Gump. Karl is a
hunchbacked, slow-moving, seemingly
mentally disabled man who is also a
strong, sensitive and moral individual.
He is a hero in an unlikely package.
. Thornton does an incredible and flaw-
less job at conveying all the character's
pain, sweetness, humor and irony.
Although his distinctive drawled-out
voice and speech pattern take some time
to get used to, by the end of the movie,
Karl will become one of the most unfor-
gettable characters in cinematic history.
Dwight Yoakam is extremely disturb-
ing as the cruel and destructive Doyle
Hargraves. He has no qualms about bat-
tering the people around him with his
harsh and painful words. The final con-
frontation between Doyle and Karl is
very predictable, but sadly, it is also
Other powerful performances include
Ritter's depiction of the soft-spoken and
almost apologetic gay friend, and Black's
portrayal of a young man, silently suffer-
ing under the tyrannical hand of his
mother's live-in boyfriend.
The film's powerful music is almost
like the invisible director, as appropriate
melodies are used to manipulate moods.
When Karl walks around town, light
easygoing country music floats in the
background to match Karl's slow, lum-
bering saunter. But in some scenes,
where Karl is alone and internally deal-
ing with his past, eerie and haunting
"Sling Blade" explores the numerous
layers of the human psyche and several
aspects of social interaction. The movie
is beautifully shot and composed, all
held in place by the genius of Billy Bob
Thornton. The film's profound and rich
nature makes it one of the most
provocative films of the year, while its
range of memorable characters and
numerous light-hearted moments
makes it one of the most entertaining.
As Karl Childers might say in his
slow, gravelly drawl, "I reckon' this
movie is not one to miss."
"Sling Blade" is a powerful story not
only about love and acceptance, but
also about sin and forgiveness. Its plot
is rich with content and texture, deliv-
ered by a superbly written script and
dazzling acting. Audiences are invited
to look at the world from a different
perspective - an angle where love is a
complexly broad and beautiful term.
Billy Bob Thornton is by far the force
behind this outstanding film. Thornton
deserves the title of Superman for turning
Oscar nominee Billy Bob Thornton writes, directs and stars in "Sling Blade."
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"Tidal" is a debut album with so
much soul and attitude that it hits like a
lightning bolt. Fiona Apple's vocals and
lyrics are a potent mixture, especially
combined with a strong jazz and funk
sound. Perhaps Apple says it best on the
first track "Sleep to Dream": "So don't
Soul and attitude make Apple's "Tidal."
forget what I told you / don't come
around / I got my own hell to raise."
That's a threat worth taking to heart
before diving into the next 10 tracks.
Apple designs a sultry musical
backdrop of piano, vibra-
phone, bass, chamberlain
and even harp. Honesty
and emotion combine
to make her vocals a
"Sullen Girl" is a
beautiful ode to lost
love and healing. These
two themes weave their
way throughout all of the
tracks, coming across with a
real punch in "Shadowboxer." The
piano and Apple's smoky voice create a
sexy jazz sound that parallels the emo-
tion in the song. When Apple sings
"your gaze is dangerous / If I let you get
too close you'll set your spell on me,"
she leaves contemporary female plight
crooners like Alanis Morrisette in the
"Tidal" is refreshing because it mixes
so many musical influences. Apple
manages to bring together a jazz, pop
and soul sound in just 10 tracks.
A trance-like R&B sound emerges in
"The First Taste," in which Apple sings
"Oh, your love give me a heart contusion
/ Your hungry flirt borders intrusion."
The marimba and percussion add to the
mood. Tracks such as this give Apple a
mystical allure akin to the music of Sade.
Imagine a dark night club, smoky
and filled with the lovelorn, as a
backdrop for the entire album.
A story of love and confes-
sion underlies each
track, most poignantly
heard on "Never is a
Promise," a gorgeous
vocal exploration of
"Tidal" hits with just
the right combination of
poetic lyrical emotion and
perfect musical arrangements,
drowning the listener in a tide both del-
icate and pulsating in its beauty.
-- Shannon O 'Neill
A Few Small Repairs
Shawn Colvin's first album, including
all new original material since 1992, is
almost worth the wait. Though Colvin is
increasingly moving away from the spare
folksy arrangements that made up her
still-excellent 1989. debut, "Steady On,
she hasn't lost any style points.
"A Few Small Repairs" is full of
engaging songs about real people. First-
person romantic longings like "You arid
the Mona Lisa" never fall into cliches
and contain some of the most intelligent
lyric writing in today's pop music. The
same can be said for Colvin's bitter side:
"If I Were Brave" ends with the line "A
thousand lonely lifetimes I still wait an,
then go on / a clown to entertain the
happy couples." Even on the relatively
bland "Nothin' On Me," a gritty triplet
feel makes the song more than listenable.
In a better world, it would be a huge hit.
Colvin takes plenty of musical risks
too, more so than on either of her earli-
er albums. She is rapidly becoming the
studio rat of female singer/songwriters.
Her arrangements vary from raw and.
spontaneous-sounding ("Get Out ofthis
[louse") to meticulous pop-rock ("Yot
and the Mona Lisa") to subdued perfec-
tion ("If I Were Brave").
There is nothing on this disc as
instantly appealing as "Round of
Blues" from her last album, but "A Few
Small Repairs" is very consistent in its
message. Let's hope we don't have to
wait four more years for her next one.
- Mark Feldman
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