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January 20, 2000 - Image 20

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The Michigan Daily, 2000-01-20

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4B - The Michigan Daily - Week detc. Magazine -Thursday, January 20, 2000


&0, The Michigan Daily&- Weekend, etc. -

tc From the Vault

Scorsese scorches "Streets"

with first proof of genius

By Erin Podolsky
Daily Arts Writer
In 1973, a little-known director
named Martin Scorsese found him-
self a couple of little-known actors,
Harvey Keitel and Robert De Niro,
and made "Mean Streets." The film
not only captured the attention of
film literati everywhere, but made it
possible for him to go on to a career
that includes "The Last Temptation
of Christ," "GoodFellas" and
"Raging Bull." "Mean Streets," a
dark musing on the inner struggles
of a man caught between two worlds,
instantly marked Scorsese for suc-
Keitel plays Charlie, a character
who shares more than a few things in
common with Scorsese (the director
nearly became a priest, but the pull
of the camera was as strong on him
as the pull of the mob is on Charlie),
balancing his life precariously
between the pull of the Church and
the pull of the street. His religious
conviction is strong, but it is tem-
pered by what he sees every day
when he's running numbers or
roughing up mooks or trying to keep
a handle on his associate, Johnny
Boy (De Niro). And like a later
Scorsese character, he must weigh
his temptation against his faith. The
tension over whether Charlie makes
the right choice or is destroyed by
the pressure of his conflicting
beliefs is the central theme of "Mean
Keitel is better than good here, but
it is De Niro who is the revelation.
Graced with one of the most show-
stopping entrances to hit the screen
(if nothing else, watch the first five
minutes of "Mean Streets" to see it),
Johnny Boy is the kind of guy who

borrows money all over town with
no intention of ever paying it back.
He's the kind of guy who, when
offered a truce, spits on the hand
extended to him. He's the kind of
guy who despite his debts, economic
and personal, considers himself
beholden to no one. What it all
comes down to is this: Johnny Boy
doesn't care. He doesn't care about
his friends, his family and, most
importantly, himself.
The character, like the film for
Scorsese, is not De Niro's debut, but
it might as well be. In some ways a
precursor to the more subdued (but
just as profoundly messed-up) Travis
Bickle of "Taxi Driver," Johnny Boy
is a loose cannon with loose morals.
As with nearly all of his collabora-
tions with Scorsese, De Niro is lost
inside Johnny Boy - there is so lit-
tle human in him that it strikes fear
in your heart just to watch him
The third character of note in
"Mean Streets" is Scorsese's sound-
track selection. Always a master at
picking the perfect song, it's hard to
top Scorsese's employment of the
Marvelettes' "Please Mr. Postman"
to provide the bravura backing to a
pool hall brawl or the Ronettes' "Be
My Baby" opening. (Believe me, it's
certainly used better here than it was
in "Dirty Dancing.") There's just
something about the Phil Spector
girl groups of the '50s and '60s that
goes so well in juxtaposition with
the gangster lifestyle, whether it's
the relatively small-time crooked-
ness of Charlie and his pals or the
more high-stakes style of
The reason elements of "Mean
Streets" are constantly referenced

with Scorsese's later work is that the
consistencies are so strong, they
cannot be simply considered briefly
and then shoved aside. Scorsese
never jettisons his own incompara-
ble style, the groundwork for which
he laid early in his career. Instead, he
builds upon it. He returns again and
again to the gritty city New York
stomping ground of Charlie and
Travis and Jake and Henry and finds
something new each time. There is
cohesion to his tales, even when he's
off on an ambulance in "Bringing
Out the Dead" or a world away in
"Kundun." We're all being pulled in
two directions at the same time.
There are dangers and allures in
each one, or sometimes not enough
of either to make us want to choose.
Which way we decide to go is up to
us. And it is never easy.
For Charlie, the decision is nearly
too much for him. "Mean Streets"
has a dark, confused conclusion. It's
one of those endings where it's clear
nothing will ever be the same -
even if things weren't exactly right
to begin with, they were acceptable.
Charlie spends his time in the
movie trying to redeem himself in
the eyes of God by helping others.
He views Johnny Boy as a charity
case, but it's a case that spins out of
his control. He learns too late that he
does not have the all-seeing, all-
knowing power of his maker. In a
way, Johnny is a test, a gift from
God to Charlie, a wake-up call of
flesh and bone. It s not always a
pleasant gift - it'soften a trial -
but it's a gift nonetheless.
"Mean Streets" hit American
filmmaking like a shot in the arm
during the rejuvenation of the scene
in the early 1970s. It had the same

Top 10 Movies
(Weekend of Jan. 14-16 - dollar figures in millions)
1. Next Friday* $14.5 $19.0
2. Stuart Little $9.7 $106.8
3. The Hurricane $9.1 $13.2
4. Girl, Interrupted $8.2 $8.9
5. The Green Mile $7.6 $101.6
6. Galaxy Quest $6.6 $46.8
7. Talented Mr. Ripley $6.0 $62.5
8. Supernova* $5.7 -
9. Toy Story 2 $5.0 $226.0
10. Any Given Sunday $4.8 $66.2
*denotes movie's first weekend in wide release

Entertainment Update
Douglas on the move,
Whitney's on the lam

Source: FilmThreat.com

4 Michael Douglas needs to start his
New Year's resolution list a bit early. The
55-year-old Oscar-winning actor and
producer, whose'divorce with wife
Diandra is still in its final stages, decid-
ed not to push for his signed papers to
bury his first marriage and instead
kicked off the millenium with his
engagement to quarter-century-younger
Welsh starlet Catherine Zeta-Jones. The
wedding will reportedly be "sometime"
this year, but no more specific decision is
a The terminally hip, Robert
Redford-founded Sundance Film
Festival starts this week at its usual, no-
longer-isolated Utah home. Among the
most anticipated indie films to be show-
cased include "The Big Kahuna" (Kevin
Spacey, Danny De Vito), a claustropho-
bic ensemble piece about three salesmen
waiting around in a hotel room (think
Mamet meets Beckett); "Joe Gould's
Secret," director/star Stanley Tucci's
adaptation of Joseph Mitchell's
acclaimed book; Giovanni Ribisi and
Ben Affleck in the Gen-X Wall Street
opus "Boiler Room"; and the latest adap-
tation of "Hamlet," made with a quirky,
jam-packed, entirely American cast
(Ethan Hawke, Bill Murray, Kyle
MacLachlan, Steve Zahn) and set in
modem corporate New York.
w Whoa, Whitney, easy on the bud. It
seems charges against pop landmark
Whitney Houston are now pending by
Hawaiian authorities after the singer was
found by airport security to be possess-
ing a whopping 15.2 grams of marijuana.
Five-Oh strategy is undertermined,
though, becau.;e although security
attempted to detain Houston, she ime-

diately proceeded to depart on her flight
for the mainland.
The Detroit Free Press reported that
police were summoned but did not arrive
until some 45 minutes after Whitney had
left the island. The probable charge
against her, according to the Hawaii
county prosecutor, will be promoting a
detrimental drug, which could mean up
to 30 days in jail and a fine of $1,000.
0 Giiidddy-up. Now that the support-
ing studs of "Seinfeld" have dissipated
from their pack, the race is on for their
own personal leaps towards stardom. As
of press time, Michael Richards' timeli-
ness has beaten out Jason Alexander's
long-anticipated primetime show, which
likely will not air until 2001, according
to Entertainment Weekly.
In lieu of Alexander's new incarnation,
deprived "Seinfeld" diehards will have
Richards to resort to. Debuting as the
star of a series on NBC this fall, Richards
will continue his silly antics as a goofy
inspector. Creators intend to bring
aboard several "Seinfeld" alums as well,
for guest and principal roles.
* "Home Improvement" survivor and
Tiger Beat cover boy Jonathan Taylor
Thomas used a just-published interview
with The Advocate to deny that he is gay.
TVGuide.com reports that Thomas felt
the need to address rumors that mounted
in the wake of the actor's recent choice of
After playing a bisexual street hustler
in Gus Van Sant's "Speedway Junkie"
and a conflicted gay teen in the upcom-
ing Showtime pie "Common Ground,"
Thomas complained he had been round-
ly accused via the Internet merely for his
efforts to "grow" as a thespian.
--Compiled by Laura Flyer and Jeff


Courtesy of Paramount Pictures
Martin Scorsese, seen here with Nicolas Cage on the set of "Bringing Out the Dead,"
has become the preeminent director of his generation on the wings of "Mean Streets."

effect that so many of its scenes do
individually: Impulsive, out-of-the-
blue violence; strange moments of
unexpected tenderness; a feeling of
futility in the grand scheme of
things (a scene late in the film fea-
tures a Vietnam vet who clearly has-
n't figured out that he's home from
the jungle - or if there is such a
thing as home anymore).
"Mean Streets" was a turning
point in both a career and a mass

movement. Its ideas are at the root
of all of Scorsese's work, and even
when buried beneath a veneer of
slick, smooth cinematography,
something always pokes its head out
like a prairie dog from a hill.
Whether it be a precise piece of pop
music or something as subtle as a De
Niro leer, somehow you can always
tell when you're watching a Scorsese
movie. Or, at least I can. "Mean
Streets" is the explanation why.

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Shawn Colvin * Arlo Guthrie
Great Big Sea. Beth Nielsen Chapman
Hot Club of Cowtown.Anne Hills
Fred Eaglesmith David Barrett
Matt Watroba & Robert Jones




With this issue, Weekend, Etc. inaugurates a new
recurring feature. The Daily film staff will highlight a
series of cinematic gems from major director which,
buried by undeserved commercial failure or overshad-
owed by later successes, might have escaped your
attention. Future features may also spotlight over-
looked albums or books.
If You Like Fun,
People, Music,
We re foryou!!!
994-4600 f2?;i2..z

Catherine Zeta-Jones apparenty got what s d fo the
holidays - an engagement rirg. She looks satisSod anyway.
Top 10 Books
(Week of Jan. 10-16 - hardcover fiction only)
1. False Memory (D. Koontz) - 1
2. Timeline (M. Crichton) 1 6
3. Atlantis Found (C. Cussler) 3 3
4. A Walk to Remember 2 12
(N. Sparks)
5. Saving Faith (D. Baldacci) 9 7
6. Monster (J. Kellerman) 4 3
7. Pop Goes the Weasel 5 10
(J. Patterson)
8. Hunting Badger (Hillerman) 10 7
9. Soft Focus (J. A. Krentz) - 1
10. Personal Injuries (S. Turow) 8 13
Source: New York Times Book Review

Top 1 Pop Albums
(Week of Jan. 11-17)
I.Carlos Santana - Supernatural 8 30
2. Jay-Z - 1 2
Vn. 3 ... Life and Times of S. Carter
3. DMX - And Then There Was X 2 3
4. Celine Dion - 3 8
All the Wav ... A Decade of Song
5. Various Artists - Now 3 7 5
6. Christina Aguilera - 4 20
Christina Aguilera
7. Dr. Dre - Dr: Dre 2001 5 8
8. 2Pac + Outlawz - Still I Rise 6 3
9. Backstreet Boys - Millennium 14 34
10. Kid Rock - Devil Without a Cause 13 54
Source: Billboard Magazine

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6. Fri
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