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April 18, 1997 - Image 9

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The Michigan Daily, 1997-04-18

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The Michigan Daily - Friday, April 18, 1997 - 9

'Apocalypse' sparks laughs

Holden (Ben Affleck) falls for Alyssa "Fingercuffs" Jones (Joey Lauren Adams), a lesbian artist in "Chasing Amy."
Am' chases, catches success
Smith's latest meshes dick jokes, human emotion

°y John Ghos
Daily Film Critic
"OK, Holden. Time for a little test:
Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, a man-
.friendly lesbian and a man-hating les-
bian are all walking down separate
roads toward this four-way stop, see?
Now tell me; which one gets to the

does justice to the cliche, "you'll laugh
- you'll cry!"
In "Amy," Smith ambitiously push-
es his talents beyond the trivial
"hanging out" mode that defined his
other movies, and he explores com-
plex issues of identity, relationships
and sexuality - specifically homo-

4ersection
Tirst?"
"I don't know,
Panky. I'm gonna
gtess the man-hat-
ng' esbian."
"Right. Know
*hy?"
2"No, do tell."
Z"Because the othe
ients of your fucking
WAnd so we meet B
m-e crass but lovabl
vo Kevin Smith's "C
Aiariously naughty
sharp humor, pensive
therglorious return o
Bob.
"Amy," the third
Smith's so-called "Ne
("Clerks" "Mallrats")
successfully meshes h
'kes with sincere hur
ne moment you're s
fortably next to your
not to laugh - the ne
-holding her hand, look
and telling her that sh
Amy" is that rare

phobia.
REVIEW Yet Smith's
approach was not
Chasing Amy at all heavy-hand-
ed. For instance,
**** the film quickly
At Ann Arbor 1 & 2 and Showcase gets rolling with
Banky (a brilliant
Jason Lee) swapping oral sex war-
r three are fig- stories with the seductive Alyssa
imagination!" Jones (Joey Lauren Adams), a lesbian
anky and Holden artist he and Holden (Ben Affleck)
e main characters have just met at the comic book con-
hasing Amy" a vention they're attending.
flick that boasts Holden, who is disappointed by
commentary and Alyssa's sexual orientation, eventually
f Jay and Silent befriends the beautiful charmer, and the
two develop a relationship that cau-
installment of tiously develops into romantic love.
w Jersey Trilogy" Banky becomes frustrated and jeal-
), is a movie that ous at the thought of losing his lifelong
is trademark dick friend to a converted lesbian and con-
man emotions. At flict erupts on various levels. The con-
quirming uncom- flict deepens when a jealous Banky
date, pretending asks Holden why Alyssa, who claims
xt moment you're that Holden is the only man she's ever
ing into her eyes, slept with, was called "fingercuffs" in
e completes you. high school.
movie that truly Still, in-between his lesbo jokes and

"fingercuffs" stories, Smith raises some
intriguing questions on and off the
screen.
"Chasing Amy" possesses a genuine
authenticity, an honest feeling of trust
that is probably a result of Smith's per-
sonal attachment to this film -- Smith
met Adams on the set of "Mallrats"; he
has been dating her for more than two
years; and he based "Amy"'s script on
his tumultuous relationship with her.
So, not only is "Amy"'s male lead
based on the director, but the female
lead (Adams) is, in essence, playing
herself. It's no wonder that Adams
plays her part with such honesty. But
to her credit, it was probably very dif-
ficult to play such a deeply personal
role - a role from which she had lit-
tle professional distance.
The other cast members are wonder-
ful, as well. Jason Lee, formerly a
world-class skateboard champion, plays
the homophobic Banky with deft cyni-
cism, sardonic wit and perfect comic
timing. Ben Affleck is solid, too, and
even the film's music, done by Soul
Asylum's Dave Piner, rocks.
But it's Smith's uncanny under-
standing of colloquial language that
allows these actors to succeed.
"Amy"'s production, through indie
studio Miramax, cost $250,000, prov-
ing that a screenwriter can succeed
with "mere" language. Like life,
Smith's tale revolves around people
and their conversations, and it thrives
because of it.
"Chasing Amy" does not have artis-
tic or visual profundity, or a cross-
cultural, universal appeal. It is not
well-polished (Smith's lax editing
techniques are reminiscent of a poet
who grows so attached to his work, he
refuses to revise) and it does periodi-
cally lapse into cheeseville - but all
these shortcomings are irrelevant
because Smith's film speaks to us -
we walk away changed. His film is
endearing, frustrating, disturbing and
- let's not lose our focus - funny as
hell.

Apocalypse Wow!
James Finn Garner
Simon & Schuster
So what are your plans for the night
of December 31, 1999, which some
believe will mark the end of the world?
If you are planning to party your brains
out in honor of the apocalypse, you may
want to reconsider. Because according
to author James Finn Garner, the year
2000 may not necessarily mark the end
of civilization.
In the well-written and humorous
book, "Apocalypse Wow!," University
alumnus Garner explores the many
different aspects of the apocalypse, as
well as the art of prophesizing.
Scholars will appreciate the book's
intelligent style, and all readers will
appreciate the abundant laughter it
delivers.
Garner first discusses the theories of
the most famous prophets, from the
16th-century seer Nostradamus (who
allegedly foresaw the death of the
Kennedy brothers and the rise of
Hitler), to the American prophet Edgar
Cayce (the "Sleeping Prophet") who
would make predictions while in a light
trance.
Garner is good about providing infor-
mation on each of the legendary
prophets, but even better at mockingly
poking holes in their reputations as
clairvoyants. For example, Garner
questions whether Nostradamus really
meant the Kennedy brothers, or perhaps
another influential trio such as ... the
Three Stooges?
After putting these prophets' credi-
bility to shame, Garner then details his
own attempts at prophesizing the end of
time. From crystal balls to cephaloman-
cy (the art of "reading of omens that
appear when a donkey's head is severed
and boiled"), Garner gives readers an
unbiased account of how soothsaying
techniques work ... or actually, don't
work.
The rest of the book is devoted to an
exploration of New Age theories, the
zodiac, the power of crystals and other
wacky apocalypse-related things.
Whether or not you believed in the
accuracy of the various predictors
before, you'll probably take them with a
grain of salt after reading this section.
But Garner discusses all the aspects of
prognostication in an informative man-
ner, along with some successful
ridicule.
Garner, who is also the author of
the best-selling "Politically Correct
Bedtime Stories" and "Politically
Incorrect Holiday Stories," has
proven that he is king of the irrever-
ent. This funnyman is out to prove

that he can take what's grim (or
Grimm), and extract light humor from
it.
One incredibly hilarious part of
"Apocalypse Wow!" discusses a par-
ticular discovery: When the distance
from the entrance of the Great
Pyramid to a stone inside it is mea-
sured in "pyramid inches," you get the
date of the end of the world -
September 17, 2001.
But in an ingeniously smart-ass fash-
ion, Garner also points out his discov-
ery that when you measure the distance
in "hot dog inches" from Yankee
Stadium's backstop to the terminal wall,
you also get the date of the end of the
world - the year 2000.
Coincidence? I think not.
Garner is also hysterically funny
when he describes his experience
channeling into his past lives. He
finds out that he was not only a
long-dead dolphin king
named Kikki Kiikki
Kuk XI, but also
someone who ®
went by the
name of
Cleopatra.
As Garner
says in his
Journal, "I was tall
and beautiful, with supple
brown skin. I had many enemies. I
wielded great power, and men cow-
ered when confronted with my
strength and beauty. I wore silks and
furs, and was a crack shot with a .38
caliber." No, he wasn't the famous
Egyptian queen Cleopatra, but
Tamara Dobson's Cleopatra Jones -
black, bad, beautiful and hell on the
drug pushers in Harlem.
"Apocalypse Wow!" does get a little
hokey and loses its point near the end,
but it nevertheless remains fun to read
from the first to last page.
Rather than worry about the end of
the world, we should first read
"Apocalypse Wow!" Then, if the world
ends, at least we'll have gotten a good
laugh out of it.
- Julia Shih
Arkansas
David Leavitt
Houghton Mifflin
David Leavitt opens "Arkansas," his
new collection of novellas, with a quote
from Oscar Wilde: "I should like to flee
like a wounded heart into Arkansas.'

Appropriately, the three novellas that
compose the book address themes of
escape and retreat. Leavitt's protago-
nists are all in hiding places, but even
there, none can prevent complex events
"from overtaking them.
"The Wooden Anniversary," for
example, describes the uneasy reunion
of two old friends in an idyllic Tuscan
setting. And in "Saturn Street," a man
who drifts into volunteering at an AIDS
charity unexpectedly falls in love with
an AIDS patient.
Though these are both engaging
stories, the best novella in the collec-
tion - and definitely the most origi-
nal - is "The Term Paper Artist."tis
narrated by a character named Dayid
Leavitt, who states a central issueof
the story: "Writers often disguise
their lives as fiction. The thing they
almost never do is disguise fiction as
their lives."
Leavitt's story follows
his biography- Uqto
a point: - The
character
D a v i d
Leavitt is a
writer who
lives in r
seclusiont',fter
causing a
lishing scandal. At this
point, however, the fictional
events take an unexpected turn:
Leavitt's character begins writing
term papers for college students in
exchange for sex.
"The Term Paper Artist" is ,witty,
sharply written and carefully crafted.
Nonetheless, it has already ignited
another literary scandal. Esquire bought
the rights to the story, then refused to
run it, stating that its content was too
explicit; Esquire's literary editor
resigned in protest.
The resulting furor of publicity will
no doubt boost sales of "Arkansas" if
only because readers want to see what
all the fuss was about. But the literary
gossip and large-type headlines are
unnecessary; "Arkansas" can stand on
its own merits.
In each novella, Leavitt displays
creative plotting and smooth, clear
writing. His characters are flaw'ed,
believable people; even their most
inexplicable actions make sense, in
terms of their personalities, and thus
they begin to seem not so improba-
ble.
As a collection of novellas,
"Arkansas" may not seem as substantial
or important as a full-length novel
would. But, until Leavitt writes another
such novel, readers can be satisfied
with the finely wrought realism in
"Arkansas."
-Elizabeth Lucas

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Dwight Ewell, Ben Affleck and Jason Lee star in Smith's latest, "Chasing Amy."

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