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February 19, 1999 - Image 10

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The Michigan Daily, 1999-02-19

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10 - The Michigan Daily - Friday, February 19, 1998

Sisters' tale amazes on film

Eliroy bringsin'Crime Wave'"

By Laura Flyer
Daily Arts Writer
As the next century creeps up, we can
reminisce about the movie industry with
awe. Hollywood and independent film-
makers have been able to work with a cre-
ative medium that constantly reaches new
dimensions, not just cinematically, but
artistically and thematically. Old genres
reappear, existing genres reinvent andnew
genres innovate.
Three (and a half) chees, in particular,
for "Hilary and Jackie," an intense yet
stunningly beautiful portraitrof twosisters
immersed in conflicts of competition and
envy, but also companionship and love.
But the film works amazingly well due to
the way it's pre-
sented. Exquisite
landscape shots
within fluid, yet
Hilary and active, scenes pro-
Jackie duce breathtaking
visuals, as though
we are looking at a
At Showcase series of pho-
ard State tographs.
In essence, that
is exactly what we
are doing. "Hilary
and Jackie; direct-
ed by Anand
Tucker (also the
1997 director ofa biography ofAntoine de
Saint-Exupery, called "Saint-Ex") trans-
formed the autobiography/biography of
the Du Pre sisters, "A Genius in the
Family" written by Hilary and her brother
Pies. He added depth to a story that could
not have been achieved through their
novel by presenting their lives from each
of their perspectives, offering a distorted,
yet insightful look into their relationship
from both sides.
At first, we get a glance of the Du Pre
sisters' childhood. Jacqueline (Emily

Watson), a cellist, shares a loving bond
with her sister, Hilary (Rachel Griffiths), a
flutist. On the other hand, Jackie cannot
deal with the attention and praise Hilary
receives from being a better musician than
herself. Competitive constraints imbued
by her parents ("If you want to be togeth-
er, you've got to be as good as each other,"
says Iris Du Pre) only increase her jeal-
ousy, and she forces herself to outdo her
As the sisters grow up and Jackie
emerges as a renowned musician through-
out Europe, the magical, surreal and yet
ominously disturbing perspective from a
child's vantage point shifts to the reality of
the psychoses of these two characters.
Hilary, now much older, develops the
envious quality that her sister once had for
her, and takes desperate measures to
improve her mediocre musical skills, but
with little success. She likely would have
drowned in her insecurities had it not been
for amiable Kiler (David Morrissey) to
raise her esteem, and even make her "feel
This support is exactly what Hilary
needs and deserves, but so does Jackie, as
we soon find out. Married to Daniel
Barenboim, Jackie believes she is only
being loved for her incredible talent. She
subverts her loneliness andjealousy of her
sister, saying such cruel words to Hilary
as, "The truth is, you aren't special" and
"If you didn't have that cello to prop you
up, you'd be nothing." Meanwhile Jackie,
deeply hurt but nevertheless level-headed,
moves to the country with Kiffer.
Jackie unfortunately loses what little
dignity she has left and coaxes her sister
into allowing her to sleep with Kiler.
Hilary worries for her sister, and justifies
her resignation by affirming that she is
doing what is best for Jackie.
Nevertheless, home video-like snippets of
Jackie's manipulative obtrusiveness

undoubtedly shed light upon the
unhealthy situation at hand, and more sig-
nificantly, the rising resentment that
Hilary feels towards her sister.
From here on, we witness the downfall
of Jackie, as she falls victim to the degen-
erative disease, multiple sclerosis. But in
essence, Hilary and Jackie share a bond
that no illness will ever break, and their
relationship ensures that "everything will
be alright."
"Hilary and Jackie"therefore, is slight-
ly steeped in melodrama, but maybe that
comes with the baggage of beinga touch-
ing tale of strong sisterly love surrounded
by the romantic, almost poetic passion for
classical music. Sure enough, the film
plays up the piece Jackie is most famous
for: Elgar's Cello Concerto in E minor.
What's interesting is that Jackie says at
one point that she hates playing the cello,
suggesting that she uses the instrument as
a weapon, a defense against everything
she confronts.
Emily Watson, known for her stellar
performance in "Breaking the Waves," is
excellent, and Rachel Griffiths does a fine
job as well. Even supporting actorsJames
Frain and David Morrissey stand out with
their individualized yet not overbearing
personalities, who add flavor to script.
The movie is remarkable in the way it
uses clever camera technique (the everp-
resent use of a wide-angle lens) to give
added 3-dimensionality to the already
multi-emotionally-layered script. From
the very beginning, we are aware of the
disturbing qualities of the relationship
between Hilary and Jackie, purely
because of the distorted visuals of their
seemingly blissful childhood. It's precise-
ly these tensions; subverted, dark cine-
matography within a stable, pleasant story
that gives "Hilary and Jackie" its power,
without havingto exaggerate the point it is
trying to make.

By Ed Sholinsky
Daily Film Editor
Candid is the perfect word to
describe James Ellroy. The infamous
author wrote his memoir "My Dark
Places" so he could be honest not only
with himself, but also with his readers.
And this carries over to much of
Ellroy's other work. The author of
many grisly crime novels and the new
collection of "reportage and fiction
from the underside of Los Angeles,"
"Crime Wave," Ellroy takes a no holds
barred approach to his writing.
Scribing stories that he peppers
with sharp, concise sentences and real
people, Ellroy has managed to create a
social history of Los Angeles in his-
novels, short stories and non-fiction.
And this comes from his relationship
to the city itself.
"Well, I'm from there," Ellroy told
the Daily in a
recent inter-
view. "And my
mother's' mur-
der (took place)
Ellroy in L.A. when I
Rackham was 10 years
Amphitheater old, and it
Tonight at 5 sparked my full
obsession with
L.A. crime and
L.A. mystery."
This resulted
in Ellroy's
"L.A. Quartet,"
the novels "The
Black Dahlia," "The Big Nowhere,"
"L.A. Confidential" and "White Jazz."
But don't expect Ellroy to write any-
more novels about Los Angeles.
"I took burnt out, psycho-sexually
driven guys as far as they could go in
the 'L.A. Quartet."' Ellroy says. "And
I made a conscious decision that L.A.
and I are quits as a fictional town ...
What I want to write about is the total-
ity of America."
And though the short fiction in
"Crime Wave," which will be in stores
March 1, is set in Los Angeles, Ellroy
took a large step towards exploring
America more with his last novel
"American Tabloid," (Time
Magazine's novel of the year in 1995).
In that same vein, the untitled novel
that Ellroy is working on now is the
sequel to "American Tabloid."
The sequel "picks up again five
minutes later," from where "American
Tabloid" ended, moments before the

Author James Eliroy. Now that's intimidation.

Kennedy assassination. After Ellroy
finishes this novel, he will write the
third part of the story, in what will
make up "The Underworld U.S.A.
Though Ellroy found inspiration for
"American Tabloid" in Don DeLillo's
novel "Libra," his past has much to do
with the fiction he writes today. And
the most important factor in Ellroy's
work is his mother's murder. "What
my mother's death did was give (rise
to) a great many dark curiosities.
Understand that the most important
event of my life (is my mother's mur-
der), but I didn't get my talent there, I
got my obsession there."
In addition to this, Ellroy has also
had to deal with prison, drug addic-
tion and alcoholism. Though behind
him, Ellroy states "I couldn't have
written the books if my life hadn't
played out in the manner that it hap-
And this plays a prime role in the
work collected in "Crime Wave." Of
the three pieces of fiction included,
two feature the drugged out, psychotic
"Hush-Hush" reporter Danny
Getchell on his mad romps through
Los Angeles' dark side. And while
Ellroy only plans to use Getchell in
short fiction, not novels, he has a lot

planned for the character. "What&
want to do over the next 10 years or so
is, through Danny Getchell's eyes time
travel back and forth between L.A.'s
early 1970s and 1980, and tell the
story of Danny Getchell, wildman"
And where will this time period
find Getchell? "Danny Getchell run-
ning a porno bookstore in the early
'70s. Getting into all kinds of shit."
Specifically? "How old is Ronald
Reagan, 89? What are the odds he'll
be around 10 years from now? Not s*
good ... Well, first 'cause you've got
Danny Getchell working on Ronald
Reagan's gubernatorial campaign.
Speaking of presidents and contro-
versy, being a crime writer, Ellroy
almost wrote a story for GQ about the
recently acquitted President Clinton.
"I'm thrilled that he's impeached,"
Ellroy answered when asked about the
approach he would have taken to sa
story. "I think he should be remove.
And I think that it's very obvious that
he obstructed justice and lied. I also
think that he's an absolute, fucked up
(guy). An absolute cocksucking, bug-
'eating cockroach."
James Elroy brings his candid self to
AnnArbor tonight, and will read at
Rackham Amphitheater at 5p.m.,
courtesy of Shaman Drum.

'October Sky' lays on schmaltz

By Laura Flyer
Daily Arts Writer
Present a small-town boy who sud-
denly realizes the inevitable reality of his
future life as a coal miner and starts
studying the prin-
ciples of rocketry
after school, and
one can enrapture
October audiences. The
Sky truth is, people
want to be
**' inspired; they
At Showcase want to see that
and Briarwood rural, uneducated
boy become a sci-
entific genius.
Sometimes these
types of movies
are true winners
(take "Good Will
Hunting"), but though we hate to admit
it, a logical plot and commendable acting
are part of the deal.
"October Sky" doesn't meet these
Director Joe Johnston, who achieved
notoriety for his special effects triumphs
in past movies, from "Return of the Jedi"
to "Raiders of the Lost Ark," is so close
to getting the right formula down, but
botches up the film with contrived one-
liners, questionable sequences and
mediocre acting.
The year is 1957, and the Soviet satel-
lite Sputnik enters orbit, offeringa sense
of escapism for the hard-working folks
of Coalwood, West Virginia. But to high

schooler Homer Hickam (Jake
Gyllenhaal), a rocket in space is more
than just a far-away wonder, it encour-
ages and enables him to builda rocket of
his own. Good thing he's got the (could
we be any more clich6?) open-minded,
unorthodox schoolteacher Miss Riley
(Laura Dem) to support him, believe in
him and pressure him to pursue his
So Homer grabs a few of his buddies
and a school nerd (consequently ostra-
cizing himself from his once-respectable
social life), and they go to great lengths
to find all the materials they need to
build a model rocket.They find scraps of
metal, steal railroad tracks and covertly
experiment with substances during their
chemistry labs.
Problem: Homer's dad (Chris Cooper)
runs the coal mine down the road from
their house, and the mine is everything
he lives for. Mr. Hickam wants Homer to
become a coal miner like himself, and in
general, to be the man he is. Homer has
other plans, however. He wants to suc-
cessfully build a rocket so that he can
win the state science fair, enter into
national competition and get a college
With some fun '50s tunes and a few
quirky little mishaps that the boys expe-
rience while trying to launch their rock-
et, "October Sky" has half a chance.
Unfortunately, there are some random
segments in the film that only serve to
obfuscate the message. Mrs. Hickam is a
questionable character, as in one scene

she almost neurotically paints a muralor
a wall in their kitchen right in the middl
of a fight between her husband and sot
Her passivity is counteracted when shi
eventually stands up for herself, but he
motives for this are unsupported.
Her husband also shows inconsn
cies. He is supposed to be the hero of th
coal mining industry, but there isn
enough interaction between him and hi
staff to see how the miners look up
Also, one of the main characters fall
ill for no apparent reason other than
prove Johnston's attempt at banality b
making this character a martyrout of he
As easy as it is to be consumed b
Jake Gyllenhaal's piercing blue *e
they don't have enough spark to hide hi
lack of talent in "October Sky" Laur
Dern's enormous grin looks ridiculos
after a while, and characters with mninc
roles spew out one-liners that are so bl
tantly over-acted that they're comical.
Some finer aspects of the movi
should not be overlooked, however. A
innovative shot presents Homer's cot
flict between going for his dreams 1c
et science) and honoring his h
(working in the coal mine). Home
trapped in an elevator which surgc
beneath the earth and into the cot
mines, stares through the slats of'its cei
ing towards the stars, where his "hea1
belongs. You get the idea. Still, ths
scene, and many others come down I
two simple words: Schmaltz City.

'Glory' passes up
By Jonah Victor
For the Daily
Why does Magic Johnson continue to tackle entertainment
ventures he is not qualified for? By producing "Passing Glory,"
Magic Johnson attempts to pay homage to young black bas-
ketball players in the South during the '60s, whose often unre-
alized dream is to play for "a school up-north" as he once did.
Unfortunately, the producers and cast seem to have trouble
deciding on a game plan, as this historical drama stumbles
down the court.
"Passing Glory"takes us back to New
Orleans at the height of the civil rights
movement. Emmy winner Andre
Braugher("Homicide: Life on the.
Glory Street") plays Father Verrett, a black
** priest from the North joining an all-
TNT white faculty at a black Catholic High
Ft. 21sat 8p.m. School. The headmaster Father Grant,
played by Rip Torn ("The Larry Sanders
Show"), surprisingly appoints him as
coach of the school's famed Basketball
squad. The team rests on its laurels of
being the best black school in the city,
until Verrett excites the imagination of
the young men by tempting them with
the forbidden thought of playing the white school champions.
Verrett, is an unorthodox coach, reminiscent of Gene
Hackman's Coach Norman Dale in "Hoosiers," who wrangles
players, parents, faculty and community alike in his determi-
nation to make a difference. Anxious to defy and break segre-

quality for Magk
gation, he finds himself running up against brick walls. Tl1
coach often conflicts with the Headmaster, who feels th
Braughner is threatening his own slow but steady effor
toward integration. On both teams, the kids are at war with ti
racial status quo perpetuated by their parents and society In h
debut appearance, Sean Squire stars as Travis Porter, the str
basketball player who walks a thin line between moving up
life or becoming another bum in the projects.
"Passing Glory" is a true story written by actor 1
Sylvester ("Married with Children") who was the star play,
on the original team and was elemental in bringing about int
gration of athletics and college teams in the state of Louisian:
With a production crew that boasts the talents of Quincy ont
and director Steve James ("Hoop Dreams"), itis disappointin
that this movie does not come together better.
Continually tempting the viewer with thought-provoki
and almost moving scenes, "Passing Glory" often loses t1
ball. Hurt by a weak and nonchalant performance by Squi
and the supporting cast as well, the choppy storyline allows li
tle time for character development. Braugher seems to be alor
on the far end of the court with his profound portrayal*tt
idealistic priest. Tom provides a strong presence on the screer
but is never given the opportunity to fully explore his poter
tially interesting character.
"Passing Glory" works best asa pastiche of life in the Soul
during the turmoil of the '60s:At its worst, it is only an indi
ferent telling of a potentially inspiring story. Whatcan be take
away from this movie is a little more understanding of the cot
trasting attitudes of the older and younger generations duri
the civil rights movement.


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