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December 10, 1998 - Image 1

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The Michigan Daily, 1998-12-10

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.0 - The Michigan Daily Weekenagazine Tsday Dce er 10,1998"
®[Classic Video Pick
Iudsucker'hero hulas into hearts


The Michigan iy Weekend agar

Holidays fail to produce stand-out

By Joshua Pedersen
Daily Film Editor
I've lost friends over the movie I'm
about to describe. In the wee hours of
the morning, I'll invite them over to
my house to watch, "the funniest
movie I've ever seen in my entire
life," or, "the best flick ever made ...
yes, even better than 'Titanic"' with
my hopes held high and my confi-
dence peaking.
However, the result of these experi-
ences is almost invariably disheartening.
With a blind optimism, I'll smile at my
friend as the opening credits roll, sure
that he or she will enjoy the next two
hours as much as I will. Despite having
viewed it dozens of times in the past, I
will be thoroughly engrossed in the film.
But, in one of the rare lulls falling
between my frequent outbursts of sheer,
delight, I'll glance over at my friend (now
seriously reconsidering his or her role as
such) to realize that a bored state of indif-
ference has settled in. He or she will
smile half-heartedly and let loose a cour-
tesy chuckle, trying vainly to match my
waning enthusiasm. The film will come
to a close and he or she will rise and
depart, letting loose a fleeting remark to
the effects of "Oh, that's OK, I'll see
myself out;'or, "I'll give you a call some-
time, but remember, I'm pretty busy."
Wondering why my friend has left
in such a hurry, and knowing that I'll
probably never see them again, I
could arrive at one of three conclu-
sions. Conclusion one: I don't smell
very good. But this one falls (hope-
fully) by the wayside. I take pride in
my personal hygiene. Conclusion
two: My taste in movies is wretched
at best. But this, too, must prove
false, because time and time again,
my taste in films, just like my taste in
clothing, has proven impeccable.
(Surely, my periwinkle rayon sweat
suit is testament to that.) Conclusion
three: The genius present in the cre-
ation of "The Hudsucker Proxy" is
not necessarily readily accessible to
the general public. This being the

case, with a bit of luck, the following
will elucidate the film's status as
comic masterpiece.
There are two types of humor
available in mainstream film today.
The first type is comprised of movies
starring whimsical prodigies such as
Adam Sandler and Jim Carrey, gems
such as "Dumb and Dumber" and
"The Waterboy," films containing a
brand of humor which is as obvious
and accessible as the mold on bread.
Then, there are those films involv-
ing a subtler mode of comedy. Films
not necessarily basing their humor on
the excretion of bodily fluids. Films
where the use of the word "butt" does
not comprise the whole of the laugh
line. Films that potentially rely on the
intellect of their audience.
"The Hudsucker Proxy" is just such a
movie. Written and directed by the Coen
brothers, masters of the genre of subtle
comedy. The Coen brothers are responsi-
ble for "Raising Arizona" the Academy
Award-nominated "Fargo" and the recent-
ly released "The Big Lebowski." "The
Hudsucker Proxy" while not as well-rec-
ognized as some of their other work, may
well be their most underrated film.
The Coen brothers are responsible
for the first aspect of the film which
makes it an exemplar of subtle come-
dy,-an original plot premise. (Gasp!)
"The Hudsucker Proxy" is the fic-
tionalized story of the inventor of the
hula hoop. A naive graduate of the
Peoria School of Business
Administration comes to the big city,
looking for his fortune. His humble
beginnings place him in the basement
mail room of Hudsucker Industries.
Norville Barnes, the aforemen-
tioned hero, peddles his conception
of the hula hoop to anyone who will
listen, showing them a diagnostic
drawing of a circle, closely resem-
bling the watermark made by a mug
on a napkin. "You know, for kids." A
meteoric rise to the top is hastened by
the suicide of the CEO. Looking to
depress the stock value in order to

Courtesy of Warner Brothers
Tim Robbins stars with Paul Newman and Jennifer Jason Leigh as a lovable Idiot In
the cult favorite "The Hudsucker Proxy."

buy up a controlling share, the exec-
utive board promotes Norville to the
company's highest position. The rest
of the film concerns itself with
Mussburger's continuing efforts
toward Barnes' demise, and
Norville's ultimate success, along
with that of his creation.
The setting further accentuates the
movie's effectiveness, being placed in a
metropolitan post-war boom setting. The
prosperous, commercial revolution of the
50s allows the Coen brothers to exploit
numerous stereotypes, from fast-talking
career gal newspaper writer to post-mod-
em Freudian psychiatrist to Beatnik poet
juice bartender. It also allows for charm-
ingly surreal industrial sets which only
add to the intended atmosphere.
A further quality of "The
Hudsucker Proxy" which separates it
from its peers is its exceptional act-
ing core. Tim Robbins ("The
Shawshank Redemption") stars as
the hapless Norville Barnes. Paul
Newman is brilliantly devious as
Mussburger. "Sure, sure." Jennifer
Jason Leigh is Amy Archer, the jour-
nalist love interest who tries to
expose Barnes as a fake before
inevitably falling for him. "Can I call
you 'deer'?" And Steve Buscemi, a
Coen brothers' regular, makes a
cameo as a seedy lounge proprietor.
"It's a juice bar!"
So, this is it. "The Hudsucker
Proxy" is surely the magnum opus in
the area of subtle comedy. It may
well be the best movie ever made.
And maybe you- disagree with me.
Maybe you think I'm pretentious and
condescending. Maybe I'm full of
broad generalizations and overarch-
ing proclamations. Maybe I'm
preachy and arrogant. Or maybe the
humor is just a bit too subtle for you.
I mean, maybe you just don't get it.
I'm not calling you stupid or any-
thing. But I do have some great Norm
McDonald movies to recommend to
you. This is Joshua Pedersen's last
review as Daily Film Editor.

Continued from Page 28
as if it's a cookie cutter movie about
a man challenging the system,
"Patch Adams" has an enormous
buzz coming off of it. Along with
Tom Hanks endorsing Williams for
the best actor Oscar, "Patch Adams"
looks like it has that feel-good thing
going for it. And who doesn't need
cheering up during the Christmas
season? This is the most likely hit in
the maybe category, with an expec-
tation of $90 million budget.
Even more shaky are two movies that
star John Travolta and only go into lim-
ited release until after Jan. 1. "A Civil
Action" and "Thin Red Line" are two
films that promise to at least capture
audience attention. However, "A Civil
Action;' based on the hit non-fiction
book by Jonathan Harr, is depressing
and involves the death of children with-
out any real retribution. Expect "A Civil
Action" to flop unless it picks up a lot
of critics' awards and Golden Globe
nominations. If the film brings in $30-
40 million, it should cover John
Travolta's salary.
"Thin Red Line" is the comeback
film of '70s director Terrance
Malick. Nevertheless, this World
War II drama with an ensemble cast
will be in the shadow of this sum-
mer's WWII drama with an ensem-
ble cast, "Saving Private Ryan." But
there was enough room for two ani-
mated, insect films this year, so
expect "Thin Red Line" to do
healthy but disappointing business
at $60-$65 million.
Finally, "Prince of Egypt" has a
real potential to upset the Christmas
box office. "PoE" faces stiff compe-
tition opening against "You'veC Got
Mail" and Disney's big ape offering
"The Mighty Joe Young." If it holds
Weekend, Etc.
in Januar y.
Don't let ,our
M-F 8:30-5:20

its own against these movies and
audiences are in a religious mood
this Christmas, "PoE" will easily do
S 100 million. If it gets lost in the
Christmas crush, $30 million is all it
can expect to make.
Also, the Christmas season always
has a dark horse that captures the imag-
inations of audiences and their money
too.. Last year, it was "Good Will
Hunting." This year, who knows?
Miramax hopes to reproduce the suc-
cess of "Good Will Hunting" with the
romantic comedy "Shakespeare in
Love,"staring Gwyneth Paltrow, Joseph
Finnes and Geoffrey Rush, with an
appearance by "Good Will Hunting"
alum and real-life Paltrow significant
other, Ben Affleck. Will this reproduce
"Good Will Hunting"'s success? Not
bloody likely. Expect $10 million at
The other hopeful is the small
indie, "Hurleyburly" with Sean Penn
and Kevin Spacey. The misogynist
themes and heavy drug use in the
film might scare away holiday film-

goers. A $5-$6 million take is being
generous, but will be a good take for
a small film.
One has to resign oneself that it's
not going to be easy to call the dark
horse this year. Other possibilities
include the Irish comedy "Waking
Ned Devine," crime-thriller "A
Simple Plan" or the latest offering
from "Scream"-scribe Kevin
Williamson "The Faculty."
But the possibility exists that
there might not be a huge hit this
Christmas. If this summer is any
indication, a lot of movies can have
good takes without any one film
standing out. So far this year, only
"Armageddon" has broken the $200
million mark, despite a record year
at the box office. Audiences have
proven devout moviegoers, but have
not committed to any one movie. In
a crowed Christmas, this could hurt
a lot of strong contenders.
Back Page: See why 1998 has
Hollywood scratching its head.

Courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox
No, it's not "Saving Private Ryan," but Fox execs are hoping It will make that
much money. Sean Penn and Woody Harrelson star in "The Thin Red Une."

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