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November 10, 1997 - Image 5

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1997-11-10

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.


Alfred Hitchcock's first version of "The Man Who Knew Too Much"
plays at the Michigan Theater this afternoon. Released in 1934, this
classic film traces the adventures of a man who is mistaken for a
secret agent. The screening will begin at 4:10 p.m. at the Michigan
Theater. Admission is $5. Don't miss the chance to see one of
Hitchcock's finest works.

Monday
November 10, 1997

Maddening social message makes 'City'

a must-see

By Neal C. Carruth
Daily Arts Writer
There's nothing like a pleasant surprise. By all
appearances, it looked as though "Mad City" would
quickly fade into memory as yet
another bad idea taken too far by R
Hollywood. This powerful and
socially attuned work stands as
one of the most rewarding film
experiences of the year. -
Dustin Hoffman stars as Max At Ann Arb
Brackett, a TV news reporter at a
network affiliate in suburban California. His brash,
cavalier attitude toward local news so upsets the head
of the news division (played by TV and film veteran

Robert Prosky), that he sends Brackett to cover an
uneventful story at the local natural history museum.
While there, a recently fired security guard named
Sam Baily (John Travolta) arrives, armed with a shot-

EVIEW
Mad City
for 1 & 2 and Showcase

gun. While pleading with the
museum curator, Mrs. Banks
(Blythe Danner), Baily accidental-
ly discharges his weapon, injuring
another guard outside the muse-
um.

To avoid capture,
the museum doors

Baily locks
and holds

hostage Mrs. Banks, about 15 visiting children and
their teacher. Brackett, meanwhile, is in the bathroom
of the museum watching the drama unfold and report-
ing the story over the telephone to the affiliate.
When Baily finally discovers Brackett, each man
recognizes an opportunity in the other. In Baily,
Brackett has the human-interest story of a lifetime, one
that will put him back on the network news, where he
began his career. And Baily sees in Brackett a chance
to be heard, to voice his hopes and dreams in the court
of public opinion.
What ensues is a marvelously subtle examination of
the extent to which the media constructs the situations
that they cover, and the human tendency to rally around
these media events. Sam Baily becomes a celebrity as
Brackett carefully crafts a public persona for him. And
the fates of the two men become linked as the public's
attention begins to wander to the next spectacle.
So many examples leap to mind of "average folks"
thrust into the media spotlight (one of the most tragic
being the case of Richard Jewell). In many cases, one
wonders whether there was ever a newsworthy "story"
to begin with, or if it was merely a media "fiction."
These bizarre sagas remind us of the tremendous
power of the media not only to report news but to cre-
ate it. According to "Mad City," this is no longer a ten-
able distinction.
The plot thickens as the network's arrogant anchor
Kevin Hollander (Alan Alda) arrives to usurp
Brackett's coverage of the hostage situation. We see the

way in which the "official version" of a news event
may bear very little resemblance to the facts of the
matter. By the end of "Mad City," even the audience is
unsure as to what exactly transpired and how we
should interpret it.
Director Costa-Gavras is not exactly exploring
uncharted territory with this film. "Dog Day
Afternoon" (1975) and "Network" (1976), two classic
films by Sidney Lumet, explored the insidiously
expanding power of the media in making news. Costa-
Gavras does not retain the caustic edge of Lumet's
work, but chooses to focus on the human players in his
drama.
It is fortunate that he has recruited a superb cast for
"Mad City." Hoffman lends Max Brackett stunning
authenticity, and gives his best performance in years.
His career has been in a holding pattern ever since
"Rain Man" (1988), which he followed with a string of
bad decisions. In "Mad City," Hoffman once again gets
the sort of meaty, substantive role on which he built his
illustrious career.
Travolta also deserves credit for making "Mad City"
such a successful film. In his hands, Sam Baily is an
endearing man-child whose only real weapon is his
naivet6. And even though Travolta gets off to a shaky
start, he is never overshadowed by Hoffman. But Alda
is a poor casting choice as Hollander. Alda is terrific as
a heel or a jerk, but he cannot play a corporate cut-
throat well. He's just not credible when he says things
like, "If you don't play along, you're gonna be deliver-
ing the surfing report in Kansas."Of course, Alda gives
a great performance (it's nice to see him getting so
much work lately), but he makes the character a little
too likable.
Also, Costa-Gavras could have made a leaner film.
The hostage ordeal stretches on too long, causing the
film to lose some of the punch it might have had. Such
objections evaporate, though, after the film's crushing
finale. While Costa-Gavras has not made a film that
will attain the same status as his classic "Z"(1969), or
even "Missing" (1982) or "Music Box" (1989), "Mad
City" should be seen and its message taken to heart.

John Travolta is Sam Bally in "Mad City."
EverClear
brings
1mediocrty.
to Detroit

Dustin Hoffman and John Travolta star in Costa-Gavras' latest tense drama, "Mad
City."

Mors''Fast' documentary
observes life with a twist

By Use Harwin
Daily Arts Writer
While people may certainly fault
Everclear for its often redundant and
uninspired music, most people would
also agree that the band's songs are
damn catchy. In its Thursday night
show at St. Andrew's, Everclear pre-
sented its entire spectrum of similar
sounding songs, complete with a light
show that would make Pink Floyd
blush.
The evening contained a fairly decent
mix of old and new material, predomi-
nantly drawn from the band's two
Capitol-released albums, 1997's "So
Much For the
Afterglow" and
1995's "Sparkle RI
And Fade." The
band even man-
aged to include a St
few numbers from
its Tim/Kerr debut,
"World of Noise."
Unlike most bands, Everclear didn't
begin the show with one of its hit sin-
*gles. Instead the group played "So
Much For the Afterglow," the first track
on the just-released album of the same
name. Everclear continued with songs
off of "Sparkle and Fade" - "Electra
Made Me Blind" and the classic love
ballad, "You Make Me Feel Like^-a
Whore." Fulfilling the debut album
requirement, the band played "Nervous
and Weird," as well as a song that mere-
ly sounds like it belongs on "World Of
Noise;' the new "Fire Maple Song"-

E -e-
Everclear gave an unoriginal performance Thursday at St. Andrew's Hall.

esque, "Like A California King."
The rest of the show was no surprise
to Everclear fans. Art Alexakis took
time away from the band to play a num-
ber of acoustic pieces, not unlike the

EVIEW
Everclear
. Andrew's Hall
Nov. 6 1997
"Strawberry," the

solo acoustic tour
that came through
Pontiac last year.
Featured songs in
this short set came
mainly from
"Sparkle and
Fade." These
'i n c I u d e d
racial tension-filled

mance. Of course, by the time the band
got around to playing this radio staple,
many people had tired of the band's
uninspired performance. Despite the
appearance of touring guitarist Steve
Birch and the addition of an extra
drummer, Everclear lacked the expect-
ed energy. Furthermore, the lighting on
the stage drew attention away from the
band with its hot bursts of blinding
light. The audience could barely make
out the band much less look at the
group for longer than a minute without
permanent eye damage.
Overall, the show was an accurate
projection of Everclear's recordings.
The group's music is often lacking in
originality and its live performance did
little to amend for this fact. Like the
band's songs, the show was merely
average. But, as average does not equal
disappointing, this show was a solid
straight-ahead effort for a solid, yet
uninspired rock band.

By Aaron Rich
and Joshua Rich
Daily Arts Writers
The peculiar title of director Errol Morris' latest documen-
tary "Fast, Cheap & Out of Control" comes from a proposal
for NASA to employ miniature robots in intergalactic explo-
ration. In the film, robot specialist Rodney Brooks suggests
that, just as humans and animals have
colonized the Earth over eons, so will his R1
insect-like silicon creations infest other F
worlds in the future. F
Brooks is one of the movie's four fea- p
tured eccentrics, a man who revels in the
absurdities of life, passing the time in anp
offbeat profession that looks to the fun-
damentals of mother nature for inspiration. Like Brooks, wild
animal tamer Dave Hoover, Mole-Rat specialist Ray Mendez
and topiary gardener George Mendota all seek to harness and
comprehend the intricacies of life. The survival of these men
depends on a deeper understanding of humanity and a firmer
grasp on how things work and why.
Morris, himself one of the most idiosyncratic directors in
history, crafts a particularly subtle yet moving film that aims
to explain the mechanics of consciousness. As in his other
movies - most notably, "The Thin Blue Line" and "A Brief
History of Time" - Morris arrives at his point by conduct-
ing interviews with ordinary people whose insight proves
more profound than one would expect.
This documentarian does not preach or force judgment; his
mastery lies in his ability to mix verbal and visual images.
Occasionally, he will record a person's sometimes naive
thoughts and overlap related cartoons or stock movie footage
to create an overarching truth under which all his subjects are
linked. Oftentimes, as one man in this film discusses the
nuances of his profession, Morris shows another similarly
performing his job - we see that the two are surprisingly
interconnected.
In "Fast, Cheap & Out of Control," the topiary gardener is
a simple, soft-spoken man who spends his life manually trim-
ming hedges into the shapes of animals. He is in love with his
craft and delights over the control he wields with non-electric
hand shears. To hear him speak of his fear of the hi-tech

four men hope to
EVIEW
ast, Cheap &
ut of Control
At the Michigan Theater

control their surroundings; they are the
omnipotent rulers of their respective
worlds.And yet after 85 minutes, we
realize that, like us, they are quite help-
less to the wills of science, society and
the universe.
Like in his previous films, Morris'
"Fast, Cheap & Out of Control" depends
on interviews - in which the subject

world vividly contrasts with the robot designer who eagerly
awaits a mechanical revolution.
Still, both men share a passion for nature: Each studies
the animal world and mimics it in his creations. Similarly,
the wild animal tamer and the Mole-Rat specialist are
linked by their enthusiasm to understand exotic animals. All

speaks directly into the camera - and quirky music that
sounds like twisted circus rhythms combined with New Age
synthetics. (Alas, veteran TV and stage musician Caleb
Sampson has usurped composer Philip Glass' position as
Morris' right-hand man; nonetheless, Sampson does a formi-
dable job.)
Refreshingly, Morris here increases his use of live-action
footage, including old Saturday morning cliffhanger serials
starring lion tamer Clyde Beatty, to elevate the visual experi-
ence to the same level as the aural.
While his older films, like the pet cemetery lament "Gates
of Heaven," deal primarily with static camera shots and rela-
tively motionless interviewees, this movie is pleasingly
dynamic. Cinematographer Robert Richardson cunningly
employs fast- and slow-motion special effects, pictures of
each man in his strange element and near-expressionistic
images of lightning crashing and moles burrowing through
miniature subterranean passageways.
Although documentaries typically present social and his-
toric ills in hopes of educating their audience, this film leaves
morals for the viewer to decide. It is mpre interested in telling
stories and painting broad portraits of the human landscape
than it is in applying any sort of political dogma. When "Fast,
Cheap & Out of Control" is finished, we realize that politics
and philosophy seem awfully insignificant when the answers
to the universe lie in a bunch of fierce felines and buck-
toothed rodents.

"Heartspark Dollarsign" and "My
Sexual Life." The band then returned
with more grinding grunge guitars to
perform its first singles, the punky
"Heroin Girl" and "Santa Monica,"
along with new material including
"Father Of Mine" and "I Will Buy You
A New Life."
Fans were kept waiting through the
entire show before they were treated to
the current single "Everything To
Everyone," which appeared as an
encore at the very end of the perfor-

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