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January 22, 1999 - Image 5

Resource type:
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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1999-01-22

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Music. students collaborate tonight at Hill Auditorium. As part
of the 54th Annual Midwestern Conference on School Vocal and
Instrumental Music, Kevin Sedatole directs a program represent-
ing the many facets of the School of Music. 8:15 p.m. The con-
cert is free, and tickets are available between 4-6 p.m. at the Hill
Auditorium Box Office.

ftoaftwomliff
LlTS

Check out a review of "Gloria," the latest film starring
Sharon Stone.
Friday
January 22, 1999

5

Simple
Plan' sets
web of
Irony
By Bryan Lark
Daily Arts Writer
When director Sam Raimi, a
,Detroit-area native and Michigan
State alumnus best known for the
tongue-in-cheek morbidity of the
vil Dead" series and "Darkman,"
akes a film called "A Simple Plan,"

'Wolf' howls in shame

A Simple
Plan
At showcase

at least a hint of
irony can be
expected.
Indeed, irony
involved is that
the film is far
from simple and
nothing goes as
planned for the
characters. But
perhaps more
surprising is the
brilliant fashion
in which Raimi
avoids the out-
landish, though

Courtesy of Paramount Pictures
Billy Bob Thornton, Bill Paxton, and Brent Briscoe contemplate their find in 'A
Simple Plan."

uJ

ingenious, trickery that has marked
his previous films.
"A Simple Plan" is a rivetingly
snowy tale of money lost and moral
dilemmas found that Raimi injects
*ith a sort of bleak charisma and a
compelling symbolic order that
make the script's many fulfilling plot
twists all the more thrilling.
"Simple" follows one complex
winter in the lives of the Mitchells
- Hank (Bill Paxton), his pregnant
wife Sarah (Bridget Fonda) and his
outcast brother Jacob (Billy Bob
Thornton).
The complexities begin when
ank, Jacob and Jacob's equal in
serdom Lou (Brent Briscoe) stum-
ble upon a downed plane, conve-
* niently stuffed with a bag of cash.
The three presume it is drug money
from a transfer gone awry.

If it's drug money, they reason,
then it's not stealing and Jacob and
Lou reluctantly agree to Hank's plan
of saving the money until the snow
melts, to see if anyone's after them or
the cash, then spending it in the
spring.
That is, if they make it through the
winter with those million. This leads
Hank, Jacob, Lou and Sarah, whose
initial aversion to the money is
matched by her later green-driven
ambition, into temptation, greed and
a world of criminal behavior they
never knew they had in them.
The result is a twisted and shock-
ing mystery/tragedy of almost bibli-
cal proportions replete with actors at
the top of their form and a director
experiencing a stylistic renaissance
that should garner him newfound
respect and clemency for creating
the Sharon Stone-Leonardo
DiCaprio western "The Quick & the
Dead."
Paxton has never been better cast
than as the everyman knee-deep in
extreme circumstances, and Fonda
finally finds a fully matured role that
doesn't cast her a pot-smoking or
pistol-packing cutie. Both turn in the
best performances of their career.
Thornton, however, doesn't just
give the performance of his career,
he gives one of the best perfor-
mances of the year, as the slow-wit-

ted Jacob who's torn between his
strained familial bond with Hank and
Sarah and his beer-busting loyalty to
Lou.
The performances are only
enhanced by the forboding atmos-
phere orchestrated by Raimi, chock-
full of loaded images of crows and
foxes, plus oppositions between
snow-covered landscapes and linger-
ing close-ups that catch the charac-
ters at the their most calculating and
vulnerable.
Also calculated is Raimi's shrewd
use of Danny Elfman's creepily
evocative score and Scott B. Smith's
savvy, bare-necessities adaptation of
his already blistering 1993 suspense
novel, filled not with heroic gestures
but with human frailty.
But the true hero of this wonder-
fully grim and invigorating tall tale,
if there are any at all, is Raimi him-
self and he just may find himself,
along with the incomparable Billy
Bob, anointed with an Oscar nomi-
nation for his splendidly realized
troubles.
That is, if everything goes as
planned. But like free money stirred
into an already tumultuous gene
pool, Oscar prediction is never sim-
ple.
On the other hand, two hours of
swift, shocking entertainment is
"Simple," indeed.

By Garth Heutel describes the adv
Daily Arts Writer who travels from t
The Performance Network publi- mother in finding
cized its current show, "The Moon dren.
Wolf," as a family piece, describing it The story itse
as "delightful for children 8 to 108." Aesopian spiritual
While it is difficult to find children of Native Americ
who are 108 years old, even more dif- vates the audience
ficult is finding anyone, children or tions found just
adult, who will be delighted watching else in the product
this original The costumes a
piece. Adults will a Midsummer-e
likely laugh at it; world, a celebr
children will find (Roger Corman w
"TheMoon it more boring to mention Saran
than C-Span. hanging rope.
Presented by Enter the title c
Performance the Ellipsis by Stacy Cole, w
Network T h e a t r e and howls her dia
Tonight through sway Ensemble and tually becomes as
written and boy. Moving acros
directed by the looks strangely li
e n se mbI e''s doing Rum TumT
founder, Joanna The Wolf quick
Hastings, the woman bound in
show is a clut- plaining about th
tered, yet slow- children, whom th
moving mix of a children's fable and locate and return t
experimental theatre. Featuring a cast The audience is
of six women, including Hastings, as minutes of this W
the storyteller, in the only speaking hurriedly loses any
(non-howling) role, the show when we realize th
'Pay ing'goes
By Erin Pooisky
Daily Arts Writer
Family is complicated, but it's still family and blood never
lies. "Playing by Heart" takes this particular mantra to heart in
a portrayal of a group of adults searching for love and relation-
ships in an unlikely world where everything says they'll never
find happiness. Director/writer Willard Carroll draws the fam-
ily of two parents, three sisters and one wild card, marked by
tragedy and circumstance, in a series of well-executed
vignettes that eventually tell us enough about these characters'
lives to go beyond this now-commonplace device.
Look no further for evidence of exactly what a powerful, tal-
ented ensemble cast can do for an idea and a screenplay that
would be miserable in the hands of the wrong actors. Meredith
(Gillian Anderson) is a successful the-
ater director who has been burned by
love's bright light too many times; Trent
(Jon Stewart) is a 38-year-old architect
Playing By who is sick of casual sex without com-
Heart mitment. They meet by chance but end
up together on purpose. The two are
especially impressive in the roles, with
At Showcase Anderson living up to her prior work
("The X-Files") and Stewart displaying
ability beyond the comedic.
Gracie (Madeleine Stowe) wishes her
C husband Hugh (Dennis Quaid) was
more spontaneous and imaginative, so
she sends him to an improv class while
she sends herself to the arms of another
man (Anthony Edwards). Hugh (and Quaid, who has been less
than prolific of late) takes to pretending to be other people like
a duck to water, and while Gracie enjoys the sex-only affair,
she ultimately realizes that it's intimacy and love, not just plea-
sure that she craves.
Joan (Angelina Jolie) is a club-hopping motormouth acting
student exiting a relationship and is left with nothing but her
one-eyed cat; Keenan (Ryan Phillippe) is a handsome loner
who doles out information about himself in bite-size portions.
Jolie sparkles as Joan, speaking long, convoluted lines of
heady, witty dialogue with ease.Phillippe doesn't fare as well,
once again playing the uncommunicative pretty boy (this time
with an emotional twist, but it's a twist than can be seen from

ventures of a wolf
he moon to assist a
her three lost chil-
If, a wholly non-
journey with a hint
an folklore, capti-
amidst the distrac-
about everywhere
ion.
nd scenery suggest
esque, dreamlike
ation of spandex
ould be proud) not
Wrap, neon and a
character, portrayed
ho alternately sings
logue, which even-
irritating as Goat-
s the stage, she also
ke Carmen Electra
rugger.
ly meets up with a
chains who is com-
e loss of her three
e Wolf then vows to
o their mother.
then subjected to 30
olf's journey, which
interesting qualities
at the same thing is

for the heart

going to happen with each of the three
children. Kids may enjoy repetition, but
even in "The Three Little Pigs," the
third pig got away.
More like a particularly tripped-out
episode of "Reading Rainbow" than a
children's theatre piece, "The Moon
Wolf" has other factors working
against it. The music, provided by
Scott Screws, is an unpleasant mish-
mash of percussive noise, at times
approaching comical heights. (If you
listen closely, you can hear barking
dogs and farts).
The music, however, like the rest of
the show, comes together at the end
and turns out to mean something.
Buried underneath all the ineffective
imagery is a surprisingly touching
story of motherhood and freedom.
Unfortunately, this is a story which
would have been served better as a
fable rather than a play.
"Teen Wolf," or even "Teen Wolf
Too," are far better wolf-themed
works than this. At least these movies
don't take themselves too seriously.
The Performance Network is located at
408 W Washington. Performances are
tonight and tomorrow at 8p.m. and
Sunday at 2 p.m. Tickets are $12. For
more information, call 663-0681.

Mullis bares all in autobiography

Kary Mullis
Dancing Naked in the Mind Field
Pantheon
Kary Mullis divides his time between surfing, experi-
menting with LSD and making Nobel Prize winning dis-
'coveries. Mullis discovered PCR, a polymerase chain
reaction which revolutionized the world of science,
changed how people think of DNA and earned him a
ilobel Prize for chemistry in 1993.
To call him eccentric would be an understatement. In
'his new book, "Dancing Naked in the Mind Field," Kary
'Mullis described his life in terms of science and all other
random topics that manage to catch his attention for a
''few seconds. He infuses the book with a humor entirely
"dnexpected for an autobiography of a scientist.
Much of his humor in his adventures comes from the
fact that he works with professional people who take
their job seriously and don't know how to deal with an
-iconoclast like Kary Mullis.
Once he was asked by a safety inspector not to keep his
'case of beer in the same refrigerator as the radioactive
'material he worked with. Mullis assured the inspector
'hat the radioactive material was secured in a lead lined
case but the inspector sent in another safety official to
inspect him anyway. This person turned out to be a
woman who ended up moving in with Mullis several

months later.
Mullis was also asked to testify about DNA in the OJ
Simpson trial. He never was able to take the stand, part-
ly due to his past LSD use, but did manage to smile and
wave at the camera when it came to him. He also passed
notes with Simpson about a person on the stand who he
found attractive.
Mullis' drug use isn't the main focus of the book but he
does mention it unselfconsciously on many occasions.
His first experiencestwith drugs were as a child, using
codeine from his mother, for pain. He does explain that
he was always interested in chemicals, and being a grad-
uate student at Berkeley, his interest in chemicals such as
LSD wasn't entirely out of the question.
The overall tone of the book is mainly that of an intel-
ligent person with a sense of himself as unique. Mullis
plays up his quirks with a humor that makes him seem
utterly normal. His interactions with authority, such as
the emperor and empress of Japan, show how he likes
being a voyeur in situations to which his fame brings
him.
Many things seem important enough to mention. His
frequent correspondence with his mother and his visit to
a strip club. All the stories have an underlying message
that life is short and limitless. Just because a person is a
chemist doesn't mean he can't be an accomplished surfer
as well. Kary Mullis is not only smart, but cool.
-Caitlin Hall

Courtesy of Miramax Films
Jon Stewart and Gillian Anderson in "Playing By Heart."
miles away - secrets aren't so subtle when you're secretive).
But Jolie manages to elevate this storyline above an irritating-
ly morose level.
Hannah (Gena Rowlands) and Paul (Sean Connery) are the
parents of this strange brood, but they're in a crisis of their own.
Paul has a fatal brain tumor and the weight of a 25-year-old
affair on his shoulders that Hannah has yet to forgive him for
or understand. Nominally the old folks of the cast, Connery
and Rowlands prove that youth has no monopoly on beauty
and that conflict can still be fascinatingly ripe even at the 40-
year mark of a marriage.
The film bounces back and forth amongst these four story-
lines and even adds a fifth, much less successful one involving
Jay Mohr as a dying AIDS patient and his mother (Ellen
Burstyn, who looks like she had an unfortunate run-in with a
plastic surgeon) as they spend his last days together. While this
plot figures in the periphery of one of the sisters', it bogs down
the rest of the crisscrossed film and feels like a cop-out tear-
jerker next to the other, stronger threads.
"Playing by Heart" features more people speaking more wit-
ticisms than is humanly possible, but because of the acting the
barb trading is palatable. Carroll can write funny, but because
of the cast he found he can also pull off marvelous feats of
poignancy that for the most part avoids sniffly sentimentality.
"Playing by Heart" is an acting showcase at its best.

Read the
Michi an Daily
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-U .

The University of Michigan
School of Music
Friday, January 22
Collage Concert
Symphony Band, University Choir and other ensembles
Kevin Sedatole and Sandra Snow conductors
* "The Concert with Something for Everyone"
[Remaining tickets available free at Hill Auditorium Box Office
today only 4 p.m - 6 p.m For more information 763-30171
Hill Auditorium, 8:15 p.m.
Monday, January 25
Pre-Mozart Birthday Bash Concert Lecture
Prof. Ellwood Derr presents a talk which he has titled ,
* Punkitititi! Whozat? Whazat? Howzat?
Auditorium 3, Modern Language Bldg., 7 p.m.
'7t A nnual Monart Birthdav Rh Concert

PRESENTING
THE
AMBA SSADO0RS
4: y

'_

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