10 - The Michigan Daily - Friday, February 5, 1999
goes for broke, but is off the money
By Ed Sholinsky
Daily Film Editor
The tag line for "Payback" is "Get ready to root for the
bad guy." Said bad guy would be Mel Gibson who plays
Porter, a macho thief out for revenge. But in another way,
Gibson comes out of this movie the bad guy.
Paramount was supposed to release "Payback" about a
year ago, but Gibson, whose Icon
Productions made the film, reported-
ly took the film out of director Brian
Helgeland's hands and reshot one-
third of the film.
The real kick in the head, as the
Dean Martin song goes, is that early
word from Hollywood insiders was
the script by Helgeland (an Oscar
winner for his "L.A. Confidential"
screenplay) and Terry Hayes ("Road
Warrior") did well and the movie
. . ,.
that's true or
not, Gibson's reworked version
has very little going for it. It's a
mess of a crime movie, complete
with hokey voiceovers from a
smoker-voiced Gibson and a ton
of extraneous subplots.
At the heart of "Payback,"
adapted from the novel "The
Hunter" by Richard Stark and
essentially a remake of the 1965
John Boorman film "Point
Blank," is the story of Porter
(Parker in the novel and
Helgeland's initial script) who's
betrayed by his wife, Lynn
(Deborah Kara Unger), and best
friend and partner, Val (Gregg
Henry). After the pair shoots
Porter in the back and leaves him
for dead, Porter disappears for
five months while he undergoes
surgery from a hack doctor and
recovers from his wounds.
When he returns, Porter seeks
his wife, who he finds strung out
I sm'. 1-:1 -
on heroin. For some reason, Porter decides to help the
woman who shot him in the back detox instead of trying
to get information from her about the whereabouts of Val
and the $70,000 he stole from Porter.
But too little, too late, Porter's wife overdoses and
Porter must find her dealer in order to find Val, who has
been supplying Lynn with heroin.
On his quest to find and kill Val, Porter has run ins two
crooked cops (William Devane and Bill Duke), the
Chinese Mafia, a prostitute with a thing for pain (Lucy
Liu) and the Outfit, which Val works for.
And here is where the movie becomes a jumble: It's
trying to squeeze too much into a 90-minute movie. The
extraordinary number of situations Porter finds himself
in are forced and a stretch even for those willing to sus-
With all of this going on, it's easy to forget that Porter
is the bad guy, not the people around him. His whole mis-
sion is to find the man who betrayed him, get his money
back and kill him. Porter is
not a very nice man.
But compared to those
around him, he comes out
looking like the hero. This is
an action movie convention
so old that it's disturbing
that two fine screenwriters
like Helgeland and Hayes
would fall into it. Or an
innovative director like
Gibson whose role in recre-
ating the "Payback" can't be
What gets lost, too, is the
rather interesting love story
that develops between the
stoic Porter and Rosie
("ER"'s Maria Bello),the
prostitute he used to protect,
and with whom he fell in
love. The love story works
because unlike most movies
of this type, when Porter is
around Rosie his gruff exte-
Srior never melts, despite the
fact that he would trade his
Courtesy of Paramount Pictures life for hers.
back from Mel Gibson. Where "Payback" also
Mel Gibson catches Gregg Henry and Lucy Liu with their pants down.
goes wrong is in Helgeland's inability to get strong per-
formances from his supporting cast. Even though Gibson
is solid in the lead and David Paymer is strong as
Stegman, a low level drug dealer and swindler, the rest of
the cast phones in their performances.
The usually terrific James Coburn (an Oscar hopeful
for "Affliction") and Kris Kristofferson ham up their per-
formances, leading one to believe they weren't trying too
Despite its short comings though, congratulations are
in order to the production designer who gives "Payback"
a grizzled feel that complements the bleaching procedure
used to dull the film's colors.
On top of that, the film has some tremendous
moments. The film's opening and climax - particularly
a torture scene, and no one does a torture scene li
Gibson whose had practice in the "Lethal Weapon" films
and "Braveheart" - stand out particularly gripping.
Nevertheless, these things can't save "Payback" from
being an overdone turkey, which shows that studio exec-
utives aren't artists and shouldn't let a star steal a direc-
Maria Bello gets her payb
Oscars have become the Hollywood fashion show
Los Angeles Times
HOLLYWOOD -They are key players in the filmmaking process, artisans
with fabric and dyes who work side by side with directors to create the look
and feel of Hollywood's motion pictures.
They have evoked the genteel splendor of 18th Century French nobility in
"Dangerous Liaisons," captured the glamour of the '40s in "Bugsy" and re-
created the rags-to-riches social ladder that existed among the doomed pas-
sengers in "Titanic."
Yet today Hollywood costume designers think of themselves as a forgotten
and misunderstood segment of the Academy Awards, their work overshad-
owed by upscale fashion designers whose gowns for Oscar contenders and
presenters become the talk of the town.
There was a time when Edith Head, who won eight Academy Awards in her
life, was arguably the most famous designer at Oscar time, but the media's
attention today is focused almost entirely on the gowns created by Valentino,
Armani, Versace and other top fashion designers who dress the Oscar-nomi-
nated actresses for their red-carpeted arrivals past the line of paparazzi.
CALL FOR FE
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"The Oscars are the biggest deal in the fashion business," said Brian
Rennie, design director at Escada, who last year outfitted Oscar winner Kim
Basinger for the Academy Awards.
"Years ago, when the Oscars first started, the stars were dressed by people
like Edith Head and Adrian," Rennie said. "They did the costumes for the
movies and Oscars as well. Nowadays, that is all gone. If you asked me to
name a list of costume designers, I wouldn't have a clue."
Unlike fashion houses, costume designers don't use the Academy Awards
to pitch a label or a look. While their creations do occasionally spark fashion
trends - as Michael Kaplan did when he designed the layered, torn T-shirt
look in "Flashdance" - costume designers rarely reap the rewards.
So, it is understandable that costume designers, after years of feeling over-
looked, have decided to shine the spotlight on themselves.
For the first time in three decades, the 470-member Costume Designers
Guild will hold a gala awards banquet on at the Beverly Hills Hotel on Feb.
6. Hosted by actress Anjelica Huston, with Annette Bening and Carol Burnett
scheduled to present awards, the already sold-out affair will do what the
directors, screenwriters, producers and actors guilds do annually - honor
The winners will receive a sterling silver statuette that depicts a female fig-
ure draped in an amorphous swirl of fabric.
The guild's decision to trumpet its members' contributions to filmmaking
reveals much about the frustration currently felt by costume designers.
Not only are they usually outshone by world-famous fashion designers at
the Academy Awards, but fashion designers are encroaching on the movies
themselves, inking deals with studios giving them screen credit in return for
the free clothes they provide to a production.
"A couple of years ago, I had a group of 12 designers over at my house and
I said to them, "Look, I don't care if we have beer and pretzels at the
Sportsmen's Lodge, we have to have a party, we have to celebrate ourselves,"
recalled Deborah Nadoolman Landis, who has designed clothes for such hit
films as "Raiders of the Lost Ark" and "Coming to America."
Landis, who co-chairs the upcoming banquet, said that, all too often, cos-
tume designers remain anonymous even though their work catches the pub-
j88-r60 6-8257) WI NIOUDON'TPAT
When "Bonnie and Clyde" was released in 1967, she recalled, Faye
Dunaway sparked a fashion trend by portraying bank robber Bonnie Parker in
a long cardigan sweater, narrow skirt and beret.
Landis noted that it was Theodora Van Runkle who designed the costumes
for the film, but it was the fashion industry that "ended up making millions
of dollars on that look."'
The fashion world's invasion of the Oscars is best illustrated by the fever-
ish attention now given to the gowns worn by the actresses at the show.
"It all started with Armani," Rennie said. "He sent over a ton of people
from Italy with his newest collection.... Then all the other designers starte
But the fashion houses know that one of their gowns seen onstage at the
Oscars is worth 10 Vogue covers. A year after Basinger won as best support-
ing actress for "L.A. Confidential," Rennie said, photos of her wearing the
green satin gown to the Oscars still pop up in publications every week.
Some say that while the costume designers have been eclipsed, Hollywood
itself has not forgotten their contribution.
"I think the people who do it know how important they are, but I don't
know about the world," said director Paul Mazursky, who will receive the
Distinguished Director's Award at the guild's banquet. "If the world is told it*
Armani outfit, you'll be impressed by the name Armani. But the industry
knows which costume designers do a good job."
That may be true, say costume designers, but they point out that even acad-
emy members often misunderstand their work. They point out that Oscars
rarely go to films set in modern times.
The academy, they note, often bestows the Oscar on period.films that con-
vey style or elegance.
The Oscars and costume designing have had a curious history. The
Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences did not create a separate cate-
gory for costume design until 1948, almost two decades after the awards
Until 1957, two Oscars were handed out for costume design - one for
black-and-white films and another for color films.
Then in 1967, as the number of black-and-white films began to dwindle,
the category was consolidated again.
Judianna Mokovsky, who is currently the wardrobe designer for Kevin
Costner's new baseball film, "For Love of the Game," said there is a miscon-
ception among many academy members that costume designers merely go out
and buy clothes off the rack at Bloomingdale's.
"It's not just about shopping,"' she stressed. "We're the ones who recognize
that a garment is correct for that movie or that situation and the entire visual
concept of the film. In essence, it's like opera or theater. It's not just about
selecting a pretty dress."
For now, the costume designers simply want to give themselves a pat on the
back. Maybe in the future, they hope, their names will be as well known as
Do you want to write for Daily Arts?
The University of Michigan
School of Music
Saturday, February 6
Contemporary Directions Ensemble
James R. Tapia, director
" Music of George Crumb, celebrating that Pulitzer Prize-
winning composer's 70th birthday
Rackham Auditorium, 8p.m.
Michigan Opera Works
Tania Miller, music director; David Gordon, stage director
" Benjamin Britten: The Rape of Lucretia (a chamber opera)
McIntosh Theatre, E. V. Moore Bldg., 8 p.m
[For ticket (free) and other information phone 763-8587]
Sunday, February 7
Kevin Sedatole, conductor
" music by Presti, Barber, Gould, Williams, Welcher, Young
Hill Auditorium, 4 p.m.
Monday, February 8
Kenneth Fuchs, composer, will present the talk titled
Interdisciplinary Relationships in Music and the Fine Arts
Room 2033, E. V. Moore Bldg.,11:30 a.m.
[Co-sponsored by The University Musical Society]
Britton Recital Hall, E.V. Moore Bldg., 8 p.m
Tuesday, February 9
University Philharmonia Orchestra
Vincent Donner, guest conductor
" Respighi Ancient Airs and Dances, Set I
" Rachmaninoff: Piano Concerto No. I (first movement)
Charisse Baldoria, piano (98-99 Concerto Competition Winner)
" Prokofiev: Piano Concerto No. 3 (first movement)
Alan Huckleberry, piano (98-99 Concerto competition Winner)
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