The University's Museum of Art is presenting a free discussion by
History of Art Prof. Rebecca Zurier regarding its latest major exhibi-
tion, "Spectator of Life: Works by George Bellows from the Sloan
Collection." The unique and informative event kicks off this afternoon
at 525 S. State St. at 1 o'clock. Call 764-0395 for more information
November 13, 1997
Hollywood held hostage:
Indie film tackles showbiz
By Michael Zilberman
Daily Arts Writer
There's nothing Hollywood loves
more than a nice little jab at itself- but
one must earn permission, and most
Tinseltown satires used to come from the
industry's disillusioned elder statesmen.
Not these days:
just a couple of
years after P R
"Swimming With 0
Sharks" and Hijacki
"Living In Presente
Oblivion" had their tonight at 9 o'clockt
say, absolute new-
comer Neil Mandt bursts onto the stage
with another gerund - "Hijacking
The film, coming tonight to the
Michigan Theater for its Ann Arbor pre-
miere, is a scathing comedy caper that
paints the L.A. Moebius-strip food
chain through the eyes of its ultimate
bottom-feeder, the PA. A production
assistant, to wit, is a semijob on the
lowest rung of the Western world's
highest-stacked hierarchy, performed in
painful proximity to its top; the errand
boy to the stars.
"The movie is, first and foremost, a
comedy, said Mandt, who is going to
personally present the film at the
Michigan. "It's your basic story about a
guy who starts out at the bottom and
looks for a shortcut to the top. And he
finds one - a very good one.'
Said shortcut is what makes
"Hijacking Hollywood" turn on a dime
halfway through. abandoning the obnox-
iously realistic depiction of the poor
guy's toil (for the production of nothing
less than "Moby Dick II: Ahab's
Revenge!") to reveal the cute caper with-
in. Together with
E V I E W (Neil Mandt him-
self, making like a
ig Hollywood "Swingers"reject),
by director Neil Mandt, they hatch a
t the Michigan Theater, scheme to steal the
film's $18 million
climactic whale-attack sequence and
hold it for ransom.
The relatively modest demanded fig-
ure, $150,000, lands in the general ball-
park of the real film's actual budget.
Even though raising the dough for
"Hijacking Hollywood" didn't seem to
involve much criminal activity, it was
still something of a coup.
"Yes, I maxed out credit cards," con-
firmed Mandt. "And we had to move
very quickly. The script was written in a
week, the shooting time was 16 days.
The entire production took five
Mastercard moviemaking, pioneered
by Kevin Smith of "Clerks" and Ed
Burns of "The Brothers McMullen,"
has already become the stuff of film
student lore. But would one, after going
through the actual experience, advise it
ulks shoots new life into country
I Bloodshot Records
If Garth Brooks is to country music as Bud Lite is to
boozethen Robbie Fulks is Jack Daniels. Fulks' new album,
"South Mouth" - released on Bloodshot Records, the self-
proclaimed "home of insurgent country" - is a straight shot
of undiluted twang.
If you like the "hot new country" of the Travises, Leanns
and Shanias, you'll hate this record. Like Iris DeMent and
Steve Earle, Fulks is one of many artists who have recent-
y fled the confines of the Nashville-based system
that monopolizes the country music industry -
considered "too country" for corporate coun-
t try radio formats, these individuals have
struck out on their own. In doing so, Fulks
has found success - he has now put out
two albums on Bloodshot, signed a three-
4 album, $300,000 deal with major label
Geffen, and grins from the cover of the cur-
rent issue of No Depression, the alternative-
country scene's Bible in bimonthly magazine
Fulks succinctly sums up his attitude about Nashville in
the title of "Fuck This Town,' a tune that aspires to be an anti-
establishment anthem but instead comes off as a juvenile
rant. But on his debut release, "Country Love Songs," Fulks
more eloquently explained his stance - lamenting and pok-
ing fun at the large (and naive) segment of the population that
professes to like "every kind of music but country" and
respectfully name-checking traditional country saints Buck
Owens and Hank Williams in "The Buck Starts Here."
On the new record, Fulks' debt to the '60s Bakersfield
scene that produced these greats is clear on tracks like
'Forgotten But Not Gone," "I Was Just Leaving" and "South
Richmond Girl." And he shows remarkable range, from
"Cold Statesville Ground," which resurrects the lost art of the
murder ballad, to "I Push Right Over" and "Busy Not
Crying," which offer bouncy, upbeat melodies that will stick
_ in your head if you're not careful.
Also on display here is Fulks' often ribald and always biting
; sens of humor. Deployed with much success on his previous
albu ''s "Papa Was A Steel-Headed Man" and "She Took a Lot
of Pil (and Died);'the tactic works here on "I Told Her Lies,"
wearsathin by the end of "Dirty-Mouthed Flo," and fails com-
pletely on the aforementioned "Fuck This Town."
Nearly the only saving grace of "Fuck This Town" is that it
captures the loose, energetic stage presence Fulks brings to
his live shows. Otherwise, the song is not only simplistic -
i the chorus consists almost solely of the title chanted over and
over - but features stupidly offensive remarks about women
6 and gays.
Musically, Fulks was assisted in the studio by the storied
Missouri bar band the Skeletons, whose musicianship is uni-
4 formly - and not surprisingly - impressive. Fulks himself
r is a fine guitarist and a versatile vocalist.
* "Fuck This Town" and the too-polished "Goodbye, Good
Lookin"' aside, this is an accomplished, enjoyable album.
Note to Robbie: I like your "South Mouth" -just keep your
foot out of it.
- Anders Smith-Lindall
Sunny Spells and Scattered Showers
to anyone else? "The times are differ-
ent," noted Mandt. "Precisely because
Smith and Burns made it, there (are)
about 2,000 Neil Mandts out there, each
one with his own movie. There's been
more indie films made last year than in
10 years before that. So, I would sug-
gest not to try anything before you have
some sort of a distribution offer."
m o v i e' s
t rib ut ion,
Mandt chose a
handled it him-
decided to con- Movie veteran Henry
tact theater Thomas stars in
chain owners Mandt's "Hollywood."
work out marketing plans on the indi-
vidual case-by-case basis.
Almost a year after the film's com-
pletion, Mandt still works overtime to
generate publicity for it - travellig
the TV show circuit, doing appearances
on morning radio and so on (the fact
that you're reading this means the strat
egy's working, right?).
It was the same determined moxie that
helped Mandt land the talent he wanted
- including "E.T."'s Henry Thomas as
the protagonist, Mark Metcalf as a Tony
Scott-ish hotshot producer and "Kids fl
The Hall" alum Scott Thompson as a
"I called their agents and gave them
my shooting schedule. I made it clear
that the film is going to happen with or
without them,' Mandt said. The only
second choice in the entire cast was
Thompson - Mandt originally
approached "Ellen"'s Jeremy Piven fbr
the role - and Thompson ended up
developing a stock part into one of the
film's comic highlights.
So far, "Hijacking Hollywood" has
met with acclaim at every turn, includ-
ing the recent Austin Film Festival,
where it took the Audience prize for the
But one of the unexpected side
effects the movie inevitably produces is
positive notices for Mandt's own perfor-
mance, which comes as the biggest sur-
prise to the director. "I just wanted an
unfamiliar face. I didn't want a na,
actor because the audience has tOrbe
completely clueless about the charate
I.couldn't think of anyone less recog-
nizable to them than myself.
That, fairly safe to say, is not going to
last very long. Mandt is already consid-
ering several directing projects and is
sure to be swamped with acting of'ers;
"Hijacking Hollywood," meanwhile,
hits video stores in February and lands
on cable television in April. Both th1
film and its creator, however, can be
caught tonight at the Michigan Theater
- in a rare stop on the way that seemA
to lead nowhere but up.
There are few albums on the shelves today that would truly
make you get up and dance (I don't mean slam dancing to
"Groove Nasty" I'm talking real movement). But when you
hear the beauteous energy of Solas on "Sunny Spells
and Scattered Showers," you just may find your-
9 1 self doing a jig right in your living room.
A group of five Irish lads and lasses,
Solas employs tried traditional techniques
for the antique songs, and a cohesive, truly
entertaining album emerges. Karan Casey's
liquid vocals flow through all the non-
instrumentals, not missing a beat whether
the song be English or Gaelic. The joy of her
lilting soprano is second only to the pleasure of
the jigs and reels which will captivate even a listen-
er who has never been much of an Irish music fan.
The cover photo shows the five looking straight into the
camera, while a little Solas logo dances below them with rain-
bow colors spilling off onto their collars. The picture gives one
pause before opening the jewel case and reminds you that these
are indeed serious artists worthy of mountains of respect.
That respect is quick in coming from the second you hear
"The Wind That Shakes The Barley" where the rich vocal
tones complement the fiddles as much as the lush poetry
about the United Irishmen's 1798 uprising. Try this on for
size: "T'was hard the woeful words to frame / T'was worse
the tie that bound us / But harder still to bear the shame / Of
foreign chains around us."
On "Aililiu na Gamhna," the Gaelic lyrics are in sung and
the lyrics are included in the album sleeve with English trans-
lations, so you're not listening in the dark. But when you're
through listening, you'll probably have understood the idea
without the English text.
"Vanished Like The Snow" and "Adieu Lovely Nancy,"
both ballads featuring Casey's vocal embellishments, are
grand in their understatement and the pared down arrange-
ments encourage listening to the poetic renderings.
"Vanished," an original song by the band's songwriter Sidney
Carter, tells a beautiful tale of women like Helen of Troy and
Joan of Arc often lost to the history books.
Reels and jigs and Manx airs take you flying through the
rest of album at dizzying speed. The flutes, tin whistle, man-
dolin, banjo, guitar and acoustic guitars used in such simple
beauty at once put an image in my mind of the hills of Ireland
and of what real music should be.
There are too many bands that try and fail to play fine
music, so catch Solas while you can. It may be a while until
you'll put something so glorious on your CD player.
- Stephanie Jo Klein
Michigan native Neil Mandt arrives at the Michigan Theater today to present his
feature film "Hijacking Hollywood."
Have no fear, kids:
will return to the
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