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April 16, 1999
Altman achieves excellent fortune with
By Bryan Lark
Daily Arts Writer
Holly Springs, Miss., the down-home set-
ting of Robert Altman's latest film, "Cookie's
Fortune," is a nice place to visit.
It's a place of community, of tradition, of
the blues, of all manner of deeply eccentric
wackos and, most importantly, of the delight-
ful aroma of catfish
In other words,
Starts Sunday at
it's a place that's pure
Although it possesses
the hallmarks of any
great Altman film -- a
crack ensemble cast, a
compelling script and, of
course, an amazing
soundtrack - "Cookie's
Fortune" is a delicious
treat unlike any other of
Altman's works. This
includes films as inten-
tionally varied as the
"MASH," the bleak
Western "McCabe and
Mrs. Miller," the satiric
aforementioned eccentric wackos are present.
Here, they certainly are.
None is more eccentric or wacko than Jewel
Mae Orcutt, aka Cookie (Patricia Neal), an
acerbic old lady who prefers pipes and mem-
ories of her late husband to the good ol'
Southern hospitality of Holly Springs.
In fact, the only denizens she can tolerate
are her best friend and caretaker Willis
Richland (Charles S. Dutton) and her beloved
quasi-criminal niece Emma (Liv Tyler), whose
only crime is her 234 outstanding parking
tickets - a Holly Springs record.
So when Cookie turns up dead, the people
she likes, the people she doesn't like - name-
ly her nieces Camille (Glenn Close) and Cora
(Julianne Moore) - and, hell, the entire town,
are sent into a four-day tailspin of greed and
intrigue spent searching for Cookie's killer
The film unfolds leisurely, powered by the
sweet, soulful sting of the blues, over those
four days, which make up an extended Easter
weekend in Holly Springs. The weekend is
replete with an absurd holiday production of
Oscar Wilde's "Salome," presided over by the
pretentious and tyrannical Camille, who
claims a co-writing credit with Wilde as she
has adapted the Biblical epic for a
The film itself speaks its own language; its
syntax of words and images that are slow,
deliberate and witty create an atmosphere
conducive to taking in Altman's eye for cine-
matographic and narrative detail and wonder-
The town is populated by one lawyer, Jack
Palmer (Donald Moffat), two spinsters, the
domineering Camille and the dim-witted
Cora, and two suitors for Emma, the inept but
appealing deputy Jason (Chris O'Donnell)
and the leering catfish skinner Manny (Lyle
Lovett), not to mention all the family secrc*
big-city investigators and crime-scene tape
that crowd Holly Springs' streets.
And what a crowd Altman has collected.
Dutton is the standout as the tortured yet
strangely laid-back Willis, but is in good, star-
powered company with Close as a diva every
bit as deranged as her Cruella DeVil, Moore
still whip-smart as the seemingly dumbest of
the lot and Tyler and O'Donnell, normally stiff
or artificial on screen, trade in their plasticit,
and give great comedic performances as si rW
ple, horny young folk.
Even the largely unknown actors of
Altman's ensemble manage to eke out a mem-
orable place for themselves in Holly Springs,
most memorably Niecy Nash as lovelorn
deputy Wanda Carter.
Deputies, dim-wits and divas abound in the
textured script by Anne Rapp, a first-time
screenwriter whom this "Cookie" is fortunate
to have on board.
She and Altman expertly balance an ente
taining sense of farce with intimacy a*
authenticity throughout "Cookie's Fortune,"
rendering its Holly Springs real, charming and
oh-so sensually evocative.
And, yes, those are catfish enchiladas you
"The Player" and the inexplicable "Popeye."
Inheriting its director's flair for making
each of his films stand alone through his
trademark style, "Fortune" shines as a richly
detailed, beautifully languid, killingly funny
and intoxicatingly funky comedy that is equal
parts screwball and Southern Gothic.
Southern Gothic means simply that the
Courtesy of October Films
Charles S. Dutton and Uv Tyler share a moment in "Cookie's Fortune."
fully developed characters.
From Willis and Cookie's tender friend-
ship, to Willis and Emma's taste for Wild
Turkey, to the importance deputy Lester Boyle
(Ned Beatty) places on fishing as a judge of
character, "Cookie's Fortune" is rooted in the
slice-df-life intimacy in which Altman views
the townspeople of Holly Springs, conveying
not only their personalities but the town's as
Big Jake to be rude in Pontiac Saturday
Daily Arts Writer I4~
Bands like the Cherry Poppin' Daddies, Brian z
Setzer Orchestra and Big Bad Voodoo Daddy seem
to be the heralds of swing music's second coming.
Sadly, there seems to be a strict orthodoxy about,4 -
the dancers that support these groups - the musi- *
cians' efforts are only a background to the all-
important dance. Bent against the grain of thisre d neJ
recently revived scene is Big Rude lake.
The band, named after its singer Jake Hiebert,
seems to embody the idea of the anti-trend. For
one thing, it is the only band of its kind signed to 44f.
Roadrunner Records, a label predominantly repre-
sented by mosh pit friendly bands such as Machine
Head, Sepultura and Obituary. There's also the fact 1
that lake prefers using acoustic guitar whereas
Cubanismo has fun with their music.
Cubanismo to bring
world jazz to EMU
By James Mllle r
Daily Arts Writer
American music audiences some-
times have a trendy relationship with
world music. The Irish "My Heart Will
Go On" craze is
arches. The lam-
Cubanismo bada was an inter-
EMV Convocation our generation's
Center "Saturday Night
Fever" I suppose.
Tonight at 8 But Cuban
music is the real
deal. Forged in
the same sort of
cauldron as West
ming and Indian
music, Cuban jazz couples the familiar
timbre of big band music with the
rhythmic complexity and propulsion of
Latin folk music. With native Cuban
bands like The Latin Jazz All-Stars and
Buena Vista Social Club making
records in the U.S. the sounds of Cuban
are becoming more and more a part of
the concert landscape.
Cubanismo, fronted by trumpet pow-
erhouse Jesus Alemeny, is a banquet for
every audience member. The aptly
named Jesus is flanked by congas, tim-
bales and loads of other auxiliary per-
cussion instruments as well as more
horns and the usual rhythm section.
Singers play the cowbell and idle horn
players thicken the texture with vocal
interjections and more percussion.
Besides the quality of the band, there
will be a large dance floor erected in
front of the band to facilitate the
aggressive salsa that is part and parcel
of Cuban jazz.
Cubanismo has the ability to be wild
and thrilling as well as complex and
beguiling. Anyone who still lusts for the
days when people danced while actual-
ly touching are encouraged to attend.
Saturday at 8 p.m.
most swing bands play up
their electric guitar players.
On top of that, Big Rude
lake's music is filled with
twists and turns that hint at
ragtime sounds to swing to
waltz, sometimes in the same
song, which has had the
impact of throwing off the
snobs on the floor looking for
a swing band to dance to.
With regards to being the
only band of its kind on
Roadrunner, Hiebert said that
it's actually a liberating expe-
riente for his music. Hiebert
Courtesy of Roadrunner Records
explained, "The thing about it is that Roadrunner
doesn't know what to do with me so I have full
creative control over the music," which has result-
ed in the band's diverse debut release.
Jake's preference of acoustic guitars over elec-
tric guitars may seem odd to most fans of this sort
of music, but the choice nonetheless manages to
get the job done.
"I must have owned an electric guitar for like
three days and I just didn't make a connection with
it," he said. "My roots tend to be more with
acoustic guitar player anyway, people like Leon
Redbone." Hiebert also cited having had a good
mentorship with a local musician, named Nose
Jake and his band show how rude they can be.
Scarlet, from his hometown. Scarlet helped him
during his formative years as a musician.
The big rude one also discussed his group's
inability to confine itself to a traditional swing
sound, and on the current state of swing music.
"To me, it seems that there's two different swing
movements going on right now," Hiebert said.
"There's one movement for the dancers and anoth-
er for the musicians. With this band it's more of us
making the best music we can and not putting any
limits on where it should go."
He explained that, thanks to the broad exposure
of the scene' during the past couple of years, there
seems to be a gradual closing between the two fac-
tions. "In big cities now the crowds are more wel-
coming of the diversity my band brings and I also
get supportive e-mail from everywhere from peo-
ple encouraging the band. The smaller towns are
less accepting though, they expect a more straight
forward show," Hiebert said.
Addressing the allegations of this renewed inteT-
est in swing merely being a passing fad, Hiebert
said, "I've talked to a lot of my peers in this scene
and it seems to me that there's a differenve
between musicians who just like this type of music
and play it and those who are inspired by old
music who then create their own music.
Hiebert mentioned that the scene is one that is
constantly evolving, thus, it cannot be a mere
"I've been around for a long time doing this a
its something that's always changing and develop-
ing so it can't be a fad,' he said. "If it doesn't die
then it's a movement."
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