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November 20, 1998 - Image 9

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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1998-11-20

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The Michigan Daily - Friday, November 20, 1998 - 9

I I

'Window'
comes to
television
By Ed Sholinsky
Tay Arts Writer
1998 seems to be the year of the
Hitchcock remake. This summer,
Andrew Davis ("The Fugitive")
remade "Dial M for Murder" into "A
Perfect Murder," and later this year,
Gus Van Sant ("Good Will Hunting")
releases his version of "Psycho." This
weekend, a remake of "Rear Window"
lanis on the small screen. Whereas
Hitchcock's "Rear Window" is a clas-

Computer geek relates life

Courtesy of ABC
Christopher Reeve fills the James Stewart role in television's "Rear Window."

Rear
Window
**
ABC
Sunday at 9 p.m.
Hitchcock's allegory

sic, the new
"Rear Window"
starring
Christopher
Reeve in Jimmy
Stewart's role, is
merely trash.
This mostly
stems from a
misunderstand-
ing of
Hitchcock's
f i 1 m .
Apparently
director Jeff
Bleckner didn't
understand
about marriage

his voice and facial expressions, Reeve
manages to bring depth and excitement
to the shallow Jason Kemp.
Kemp is a rich architect who is crip-
pled in car accident with a drunk driver.
Upon waking up four weeks later,
Kemp wishes for death, only to do a
quick turnaround. This 180 degree turn
makes no sense, and removes any of
the character's depth, which would
have worked nicely in the story of a
man whose life is in danger. Instead of
harboring a death wish, Kemp keeps
talking about a far-off future cure for
his condition.
It is here that "Rear Window" makes
an irreparable error by becoming a film
about disability. "Rear Window" and
Kemp start advocating - without
much subtlety - reforms in the health
care system with regards to the handi-
capped. The preachiness is either there
so the viewer won't forget that it's
Reeve playing Kemp or to make view-
ers feel guilty. One of the goals of the
filmmaker should have been to facili-
tate the audience's ability to separate
Reeve from Kemp, but it doesn't hap-
pen here.
What does happen is that Kemp
leaves the hospital to return to his state-
of-the-art, three-story apartment and
embark on a habit of voyeurism. Kemp
watches the tenants in the neighboring
building in the time he's not working on
an architectural project with Claudia

Henderson (played by the lovely, yet
untalented Daryl Hannah). And even-
tually, Henderson begins to take an
interest in the goings-on across the way.
But unlike Hitchcock's version, the TV
version does not make use of all of the
windows to tell the story of a relation-
ship (mostly because the Stewart/Grace
Kelly relationship is absent from the
TV "Rear Window"), but instead
focuses on the window of Julian and
Ilene Thorp (Ritchie "Not Kevin"
Costner and Allison Mackie, respec-
tively).
Julian is a much in-demand sculptor
who abuses his alcoholic wife, Ilene.
Seeing Julian beating his wife, Kemp
calls the cops, leading to Julian's arrest.
After Julian returns the next night,
Ilene disappears. In his sleep, Kemp
believes he hears Julian murdering
Ilene.
Because no one believes Kemp's
story about Julian murdering Ilene, he
embarks on a plan to expose Julian.
From this point, Bleckner hustles the
film along, after wasting too much time
developing the first part of the story.
Moreover, this plodding first half fails
to create a tense thriller - something
else Hitchcock's film is - and the story
rushes through a contrived climax.
Ultimately, "Rear Window" goes the
way of most remakes - to mediocrity
hell. On Sunday, skip Bleckner's and
rent Hitchcock's "Rear Window."

Extra Life: Coming of Age in
Cy-
David S. Bennehum
Basic Books
"Extra Life" is David Bennehum's autobiography about
"coming of age in cyberspace." It is a story of childhood by way
of computers and is a personal narrative about his boyhood in
Paris and New York City, but told through his experiences with
computers. The book incorporates the personal with the tech-
nological and illustrates how emotional bonds are now related
to technology.
The first computer Bennehum owned was an Atari 800. It
was on this machine that the author learned the basics of early
computer programming and developed his first relationship
with a computer. He learned a new way to think, and not just
about computer programming.
During his childhood and adolescence, Bennehum thought of
himself and his friends who used computers as pioneers.
"Youth are always at the forefront for finding new uses for tech-
nology," he said in a recent interview. Each generation has a dif-
ferent experience and develops a new way of thinking because
of their interactions with technology.
High school was a time of rebirth to David, whose friends
had a rebellious adolescence that led them to jail. However, after
receiving the Atari for his Bar Mitzvah, David became a nerd,
consciously. He collected and obsessed over games, but kept
his interest private from most of his friends. He still has an
addiction to computer games that he compares to an addiction
to heroin. Bennehum recently underwent a sort of intervention
and detox by deleting all games from his computer, thus forcing
him to spend more time on his work and less time playing
"Myth," his new favorite game.
Today, however, he says that former computer nerds are now
geeks, a far cooler title. One of the defining social aspects of
the '90s as Bennehum sees it is the integration of computers and
Internet technology into the mainstream. Bennehum says, "the
'90s are partly about computer culture migrating into main cul-
ture." He gives the example of when someone thinks of the '60s,
they think of hippies in hippie clothing and Woodstock. In the
future when someone thinks of the '90s, they'll be thinking of
someone wearing pants with far too many pockets, obsessively
checking his e-mail.
The main strength of the book is that it tells an otherwise nor-
mal story in an interesting way. Bennehum does an excellent
job of interrelating computers with emotions. "I conscientious-
ly tried to weave the computers with my own life growing up,"
Bennehum said. The emotions we now associate with comput-
ers are becoming more apparent as the technology continues to
evolve so quickly.
In a telephone interview, he described the feelings of comfort

Courtesy of Christopher GAft
David Bennehum reads from "Extra Life" tonight at Borders.
that come from playing old computer games. He is able to do
this because of a new Mac chip that emulates the chips in old
arcade consuls. He is therefore able to download old arcade
games, such as "Donkey Kong," from the Internet. The bene-
fit, Bennehum says, is that "no computer will ever be obsolete."
This is comforting to him and anyone else who grew up play-
ing "Zork" and early versions of flight simulators.
Bennehum is part of the first generation of journalists who6
get to examine the role of technology in our society. According
to Bennehum, he "enjoys chronicling the transition." "Extra
Life" was initially supposed to be a social commentary on the
Internet, but he felt the book would be outdated by the time it
was published. He found it more interesting to write about
something technological, but still personal.
The book is surprisingly personal compared to most books
on computers. Bennehum worked to find the right tone to mix
the personal with the historical. He feels that "people like to
read books framed in personal observation" because they are
more emotional and give the book a "dramatic flame."
Bennehum sees computers as a beneficial tool for improving
literacy. He sees the Internet as a text based medium that is
allowing kids and teenagers to watch less television and have
more meaningful two-way interaction. His praise for technolo-
gy continues. Bennehum sees computers as the "rebirth of;
reading and writing, and computer lovers as "people who are
curious and aren't afraid of making mistakes." His job is to
chronicle the Renaissance inspired by computers and to have a
fun time playing games while doing it.
- Caitlin Hall
David Bennehum will be at Borders tonight at 8p.m.

and relationships - or he simply did-
n't care. So, gone from the TV version
is all of the clever Hitchcockian subtext
and subtlety, and what we're left with is
simple thriller that won't hold the
attention of anyone who's seen the orig-
inal.
It's a shame Reeve picked "Rear
Window" as his first role since his acci-
dent because he makes anyone who
doubts he can act from a wheelchair eat
crow. Reeve is the only thing "Rear
Window" has going for it, but he
squander his talent. Armed with only

Virgin queen does all, then some

I Makkara

By Erin Podolsky
Daily Arts Writer
Your people would like to brand you
a heretic and burn you at the stake
while their children look on for enter-
tainment. Your enemies make presents
*poison-laced gowns that will burn
your skin off slowly and painfully.
Yourlover betrays you to your worst
enemy and potential usurper of your
throne because he thinks he's doing
what's best for the both of you.
In 16th-Century England, it's not
always good to be the queen.
"Elizabeth" is the stunning stateside
debut of Indian director Shekhar
ptr. Chronicling the controversial
Went of Elizabeth to the top of the
English monarchy and her arduous
effort to remain there, the biopic is a
murky valentine to costume drama
lovers. Thanks to elements of desper-
ate romance and political ill will, and a
mesmerizing performance by Cate
Blanchett, this self-billed "historical
thriller" emerges as a pleasant surprise
in the expanding Oscar race and man-
ages to remain engrossing despite a
confusing plot of
insurrection and
intrigue.
We first meet
Eizabeth Elizabeth as a
footloose and
*** fancy - free
f At the princess cavort-
MiChigan Theater ing about in the
i hg r green hills of
England with her
ladies-in-waiting
and her boy toy,
Lord Robert
(Joseph Fiennes,
teddy-bear cute
brother to the inimitable Ralph). The
bishops and advisers to Queen
"Bloody" Mary (Kathy Burke, who
plays Mary like a raving madwoman)
label. Elizabeth as a Protestant and
therefore a threat to the Catholic
homogeny of the kingdom wrought by
fery's reign; they urge Mary to quash
"heretic girl" before she can even
dream of becoming queen in Mary's
heirless wake.
Soon enough, Elizabeth is impris-
oned in the Tower of London, a scene
that looks like something out of
Dante's "Inferno" as she is taken to her
cell through the dark bowels of the
tower, the heads of decapitated
eretics and criminals staring vacantly
' her from poles set in the Styx-like
river. At the same time, cancer-ridden
.- .- -.-.-0-0

Mary writhes on her bed and shocks
Norfolk (a chilling Christopher
Eccleston), the military mastermind
who will stop at nothing to keep
Elizabeth from the throne, and the rest
of the court by refusing to sign over
her kingdom and her half-sister's
birthright. Before the second reel is
through, Elizabeth is crowned queen
and thrust into a whole new world of
pain and suffering at the hands of regal
decorum and those who would rather
see her dead than let her rule another
day
The remainder of the film devotes
itself to the ins and outs of royal con-
spiracy, making clear that being a
monarch is anything but roses.
Elizabeth must contend with traitorous
advisors and an endless parade of
courtiers who would love to see her
take a long walk off a short pier.
Luckily, she finds in Sir Francis
Walsingham (Geoffrey Rush) an ally
who is her saving grace more than
once during her reign. Walsingham's
motives are hard to read, sometimes
inscrutable, and it is even harder to tell
whose side he is on until the very end.
The crosses and double-crosses the
script presents prime the viewer to
expect nothing to be what it seems
making the alliance between Elizabeth
and Walsingham often seems tenuous
and untrustworthy.
At times, though, the confusion just
doesn't matter in the face of
Blanchett's performance as Elizabeth.
Seen previously opposite the elder
Fiennes in "Oscar and Lucinda," she is
clear-eyed and flame-haired, capable
of unbridled passion and disregard for
the mores and conventions of the court
as she brings Lord Robert to her bed
and makes restrained court dances
appear as sexy as the lambada. As her
trusted circle shrinks and the political
and romantic casualties mount, her
Elizabeth grows icy and distant, learn-
ing to rely only on herself in matters of
the mind and heart. When she finally
reemerges as the "virgin queen," mar-
ried to all England instead of any one
man, her unquestionable authority is a
far cry from the innocent schoolgirl we
see at the beginning of the film.
Experience has made Elizabeth noth-
ing if not wise, and Blanchett's self-

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Courtesy of Gramercy Pictures
Cate Blanchett stars as Elizabeth I.
possession enables her to go the dis-
tance.
If not for Blanchett's strong showing
and top-drawer support from the
remaining cast, the thematic issues
presented by "Elizabeth" would be
more troublesome. As it is, they are
tricky; the film has difficulty deciding
whether it wants to be about the reli-
gious division between Protestants and
Catholics or the subversive feminism
that Elizabeth brings with her to the
palace, periodically providing clues
that it really wants to be about both. Its
scope is far too large for the amount of
time allotted to each of these direc-
tions. "Elizabeth" succeeds far more
as a tale of feminist revisionist history
than one of religious conflict, most
certainly because of Blanchett's pow-
erful showing.
Despite these problems, "Elizabeth"
is absorbing and does live up to bill of
thrills. Kapur's direction is lavish and
at times inspired; he shoots the open-
ing scene of heretics burning at the
stake entirely in overhead shots,
implying that a disapproving God is
watching the madness down below but
powerless to stop it or pass judgment -
or perhaps that he is cheering them on.
Because of the alternating sweeping
austerity and lavishness of the images,
Kapur succeeds in surpassing the per-
plexing aspects of the plot, and togeth-
er with Blanchett elevates "Elizabeth"
to a position worthy of this new "his-
torical thriller" genre.

-mm-

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