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April 05, 1999 - Image 11

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1999-04-05

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The Michigan Daily - Monday, April 5, 1999 - 22A

'Summer of Sam'
deemed too racy

Stewart enjoys job at hall of fame

Los Angeles Times
Three months before its planned
release, a graphic, startling cut of
d irector Spike Lee's new film for
Walt Disney Co.'s Touchstone
: Pictures, "Summer of Sam," has
seen deemed too racy to be
:,released under an R rating, caus-
:ng Lee to go back to the editing
> room to tone it down.
Lee's original cut of the film,
3vhich chronicles how the 1977
illing spree of David Berkowitz
Da.k.a. Son of Sam) affected one
3talian American section of the
.Bronx, was shown to the Motion
.. icture Association of America's
'~alting board - as well as several
::ournalists - last week. The
:MPAA has yet to make a final rul-
ing, but sources say the violence,
-profanity, sex and drug use in
;ee's version placed the film firm-
-y in NC-17 territory.
Among the scenes that have
raised red flags for the ratings
board: John Leguizamo and Mira
Sorvino amid an orgy at New York
City's infamous (and now defunct)
swingers club, Plato's Retreat.
"The ratings board said this is a
picture that would not be released
with an R rating," confirmed Joe
Roth, chairman of Walt Disney
Studios, who defended the film
even as he said that some of it is
tough to watch. "Part of what you
hope in these jobs is that you have
relationships with artists who, in
skirting the rules or running close
to the rules, sometimes create
great work. Let's judge it when it's
During the past week, Lee has
been trimming the film, Roth said,
"and he's still got work to do ....
He's got stuff in there that is
rougher than I would make. I'm
hoping at some point he will trim
it out" Attempts to reach Lee for
this story were unsuccessful.
To be sure, any movie that sets
out, as this one did, to show
-erkowitz's reign of terror (he
killed six people and wounded
seven others) was never going to
be tame. And Lee has always been
known for provocative and contro-
versial films. "Do the Right
Thing" (1989) unflinchingly tack-
led issues of racial stereotyping
and prejudice. "Jungle Fever"
(1991) explored the largely
ignored terrain of interracial
romance. "Malcolm X" (1992)
was a portrait of the slain Muslim
leader. And "Girl 6" (1996) delved
into the world of telephone sex
But Lee's "Summer of Sam" is
so raw that sources say even some
Disney executives - though pub-
"lcly supportive of the project -
are privately distancing them-
selves from it.
Lee has final cut on the film,
-but is required to complete an R-
rated version in order for Disney
to release it. Discussions are con-
tinuing with the MPAA rating
board about what changes are
Even before the MPAA weighed
in, the studio had pushed back the
film's release from June 25 to July
30, leading to half-serious specu-
lation among Disney's competitors
about what would happen if a
movie with "Summer" in the title
ended up being r.eleased in the fall.
Whenever "Summer of Sam" hits
theaters, it is unclear how the stu-
dio will market it. On Disney's
movie promotion Web site,
http://www.movies.com, the film is

noticeably absent (despite the
presence of films opening months
"Summer of Sam," which cost
$22 million to make, was in the
post-production stage last month,

when Roth and Walt Disney Co.
Chairman Michael Eisner
announced plans to shift the movie
studio's emphasis to family fare,
substantially increasing the num-
ber of Disney-branded family
movies it produces while simulta-
neously cutting its overall invest-
ment in films by more than a third.
Given that it was already in the
pipeline, Disney executives say,
"Summer of Sam" - one banner
- was never expected to be part
of the new family-friendly push.
Moreover, the refocusing of the
film division was never intended
to eliminate adult-themed films
from the studio's slate, so conceiv-
ably Lee could have made this
film even now.
Last year, the studio's invest-
ment in non-Disney-brand adult-
content fare was roughly four
times that spent on family movies,
Roth said. The new goal is to
spend about equally on Disney-
branded and live-action mature
viewing fare, such as the recent
Touchstone movies
"Armageddon" and "The Horse
"Our job, besides putting out
family-branded pictures, is to
sponsor artists;' said Roth, who
described "Summer of Sam" as
"the work of a somewhat contro-
versial artist, not an example of
what the Walt Disney Co. thinks is
a family film. When we think a
film is a family film we call it a
Walt Disney Film."
Still, it is difficult to find any-
one at the studio who can imagine
how Eisner, the top dog at a com-
pany whose name is synonymous
with family entertainment, will
react to "Summer of Sam," in
which a variety of non-missionary
sexual positions are not only
talked about in detail, but per-
formed. The film also contains a
revealing shot of Patti Lupone,
topless; an unusual sequence in
which Berkowitz (played by
Michael Badalucco ) has a conver-
sation with a talking dog (in real
life, Berkowitz said he took his
killing orders from a black dog
named Harvey); and a sequence in
which actor Adrien Brody, danc-
ing suggestively with a male man-
nequin at a gay strip club, knifes
the dummy repeatedly as an
approving audience looks on.
Roth confirmed that Eisner has
not yet seen the film ("He'll see
the next cut," Roth said). But the
media giant's top executive has
read the script, at Roth's request.
"I read the script and I said,
'Wow, this is really rough.' So I
gave it to Michael to read," Roth
said. "We talked about the Plato's
Retreat scene and said, 'The rat-
ings board will tell us what we can
and can't do.' Did (Lee) make a
movie that's rougher so far than
the script? Yes. Is it (the editing
process) over? No."
Back-and-forth negotiations
with the MPAA over ratings are
commonplace in Hollywood on
films with particularly graphic or
difficult material. For example,
Paul Anderson, the director of the
sexually provocative "Boogie
Nights," about the porn-video
industry, had lengthy and in-
depth discussions with MPAA
officials throughout the making
of his film.
MPAA guidelines state that R-
rated movies may contain hard
language, tough violence, nudity
within sensual scenes or drug

abuse, but if that content is con-
sidered "too strong" or "aberra-
tional," an NC-17 rating can be
applied. The decision rests with
the individual members of the rat-
ings board.

Stamford Advocate
Terry Stewart's been mixing pleasure with his
business as executive director and chief executive
officer of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and
Museum in Cleveland. The pleasure comes from
an obsession that began in childhood and has
caused him to amass an astounding stockpile of
rock 'n' roll memorabilia.
"I think it's the best job in the world because
I've spent so much of my life focusing on the
accumulation and understanding of pop music and
its origin;" Stewart says. "And now to do that for a
living. That's as good as it gets."
Saying that Stewart is passionate about the
music that the hall celebrates is like saying Jimi
Hendrix knew a thing or two about playing guitar.
"I think it's the most important cultural phenome-
non in the world," he says.
Throughout a career that's included a stint as
chief operating officer at Marvel Comics, collect-
ing has remained a constant for Stewart, who con-
fesses that he bought more than 4,000 records in
February alone.
In fact, Stewart's personal collection could
probably fill a wing of the museum - and even-
tually will, since most of it is bequeathed to the
hall. Among his possessions are 19 jukeboxes,
200,000 records, 5,000 CDs and dozens of rare
concert photos.
His most cherished keepsakes include a court
exhibit used to convict ground-breaking disc jock-
ey Alan Freed of payola, a cash box awarded to
Freed as 1955's disc jockey of the year, and a jack-
et that belonged to Eddie Cochran ("Summertime
Serving as a shrine to all things rock, the six-
story complex over which Stewart now presides
isn't your typical museum. Current exhibits
include "Elvis Presley" (the largest Elvis collec-
tion ever shown outside of Memphis, Tenn.),
"Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On" (covering the
early pioneers) and "Legends of Rock Exhibit,"
which honors artists as diverse as ZZ Top and
With a history to play with that runs from
Robert Johnson's early acoustic blues to the cur-
rent electronic and technological crossroads, the
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum should

Courtesy of the Rock and Roll Hail of Ferhe
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum brings thousands of tourists to Cleveland every year.

never be shy of subject matter.
The hit parade of subversive - both musically
and ideologically - artists is represented among
the hall's inductees. Johnny Cash, The Doors, Bob
Dylan, Frank Zappa and .the Velvet Underground
stand out among the more rebellious on its roster
of roughly 150 innovators.
The contradiction of trying to cross a sometimes
countercultural movement with a successful busi-
ness is not lost on Stewart. "We're recognizing a
cultural phenomenon here that's taken over the
world and been around, in most people's minds,
for 50 years, and it's a museum," he says. "We take
(musicians') contributions and what they've done
very seriously, despite how frivolously the world
may talk about it. We treat them as a Picasso or
Van Gogh."
But by no means is Stewart's job merely a rock
'n' roll fantasy. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
and Museum has gone through four executive

directors since opening in September 1995 and
has watched attendance steadily decline. The most
recent numbers show a fall from 872,000 in 1996
to 614,800 in 1997.
Stewart believes the first step in driving ;up
attendance is to get the Cleveland area to realie
the institution's importance and how the city
played into the music's history.From a natioinj
and international perspective, Stewart says, corpa-
rate sponsorship, e-commerce (the Web sits
wwwrockhall.com is being revamped) and cable
and satellite exposure are key. "I think we'll be
more successful in sponsorship, membership and
e-commerce than getting attendance to rise imme-
diately," he says.
But regardless, Stewart is definitely enjoyin*
his new gig. "Even problem issues that I face are
very exciting to me because of the issues that we
endorse," he says. "It's very exciting to think that
you might have some impact here:'

'Get Shorty' sequel 'Be Cool' falls short.


Be Cool
Elmore Leonard
Delacorte Press
"Look at me." Catch-phrase and all, Chili
Palmer is back. The main character from Elmore
Leonard's "Get Shorty" returns in the author's lat-
est offering "Be Cool" The book, which is a
sequel to "Get Shorty," starts off with Palmer
floundering in his career. For those not familiar
with the original, Palmer was a Miami hood who
went Hollywood and became a producer. Since
"Get Shorty" he's made a hit "Get Leo" and a flop
"Get Lost;' so he's trying to be wise about his next
The book begins with Chili having lunch with
his friend Tommy Athens at a hip little restaurant
on Beverly Boulevard. Their rendez-vous revolves
around Tommy pitching a movie idea to Chili. At
one point during their meeting, Chili leaves to go
to the men's room and returns just in time to see

Tommy get plugged.
Now, Tommy is dead and Chili is starting to like
the idea of this movie more and more. Chili goes
through the rest of the story talking about and
looking for anything that he can include in the
A large part of a Leonard's tale centers on Linda
Moon, a discontent singer whom Chili has his eye
on. Linda is depressed and quite down on herself,
mainly because her life as a musician is spent in a
band that solely performs Spice Girls' covers.
After scaring off Linda's boss, Chili becomes
Linda's manager and sets off to get her doing
something a little more respectable.
Throughout the novel, Leonard has a solid grasp
on the characters and the setting of the story
allowing for a distinct sense of realism. However,
at several points he gets a little carried away with
the Hollywood lingo. Chili never talks about any-
thing other than his movie and this gets a bit
annoying for the reader. In addition, the story suf-

fers during the parts where the characters tatk
about the development of Chili's movie, mainly
because the dialogue feels forced. Also, a lengthy
segment where Linda's band meets and chats with
band members from Aerosmith is dull and unnec-
Yet along with these lagging moments there are
bits of pure brilliance that could only come from
the mind of Leonard. Trademarks like segments
that are not in chronological order, bits of slang
and a boatload of quirky characters help to keep
things interesting during some of the down parts
of the book. Another highpoint is Elliot Wilhelm;
a hefty, homosexual, Samoan bodyguard with a
strong desire to act in Chili's movie - a character
that is pure Leonard.
While "Be Cool" doesn't rank among Leonard's
all-time classics, it is enjoyable at times and
should be of interest to most of the author's fan.
And if not, well a movie version with John
Travolta can't be that far away.
- Matthew Barrett

The Most Important
Century RetrosZ~r"pective Yoiill Read
O n the To-ilet This Vear

The Office of New Student Programs
is now recruiting
Fall and International
Orientation Leaders
Leader duties will include running check-in and
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leading a walking tour, participating in social
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r+_ e r . --

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