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January 31, 2000 - Image 5

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 2000-01-31

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

ouble T from Mike Leigh
ased on Gilbert and Sullivan's creation
of "The Mikado," Topsy-Turvy" screens
at the Michigan Theater. 7:30 p.m

Ox Md#W DattV
IR7r s

JANUARY 31, 2000


michigandaily.com /arts

fiar from
By Erin Podolsky
Daily Arts Writer
Bette Midler has always been some-
thing of a showboat. That sort of thing
*pens when you've been on stage for
decades, and it's hard to drop the act
when you do a movie. In a lot of
instances, the diva act works ("Big
Business" "The First Wives Club"). But
because of the persona Midler has creat-
ed, there's also a feeling that she brings
with her that she's playing the same role
again and again - or worse, merely play-
ing herself.
In "Isn't She Great," Midler is once
din doing her old thing, although this
e she's a diva without a shtick for
much of the movie. As novelist (if such
a term can be used for someone who

By Kathryn MacEwen
For the Daily

exhibit sheds light

, . .


The words "Lux Perpetua,' early church Latin for eternal
light, have often been described on earth as the ways that light
filters through the cloud right after a storm. This idea present
occasionally in nature is captured in Ansel Adams' work, "Mt.
Williamson, in Serera Nevada" The way the sunlight streams
through the clouds creating rays of light on the valley of rocks
below the mountain is reminiscent of the rays that inspired
humans to imagine heavenly light on earth.
In Adams' photographs the idea of heavenly light is captured
breathtakingly. This work, along with 15 other photographs,
are currently showing at the Museum of Art. The photographs
span a large portion of artist Ansel Adam's life and are all of
different outdoor shots from the western United States.
In these 16 photographs, along with the rays of light, other
minute details are obvious to the viewer.
Details such as the smallest erosion lines
on the granite walls of mountains, the
leaves of the trees blowing before the
Ansel storm and the glassy stillness of moun-
Adams tain ponds are captured in such a way
that can make one feel as though they
are standing in the wilderness.
Through Feb. 27; 2000 Details are only one part of Adams'
work; the contrast of light and dark also
makes a dramatic impact. In the work
"Tetons and the Snake River," the con-
trast is also quite noticeable in the snow-
covered mountains against a stormy sky.
Not only does the contrast in color cre-
ate an artistic statement, but one of

Courtesy of Universal Pictures
Isn't Nathan Lane's eyebrows great In the latest Bette Midler travesty "Isn't She Great."


Isn't She
Grade: D
At Quality 16
and Showcase

took the excesses
she saw in show-
biz and then gave
them pseudonyms
on the page)
Susann, Midler
caws and screech-
es her way
through 90 min-
utes of sheer hor-
ror as the ill-fated
op p o r t u n i st.
That's right,
opportunist -
whether we're

that nobody would ever enjoy a movie in
which the protagonist who happens to
be dying like, say, Andy Kaufman,
could be funny. But it comes off instead
as crass and insulting. It's nice to see
Susann crank out her sex, drugs, rock-
'n'roll pulp novel "Valley of the Dolls"
and finally find a publisher. But she and
Lane are so grating, so irritating, so
unearthly in their attitudes and actions,
that the moment passes very quickly.
David Hyde Pierce plays Susann's
Wonderbread, so-in-the-closet-he's-pay-
ing-rent editor Michael Hastings. He is
disgusted by the raunchy excesses he
sees in both Susann's novel and Susann
herself and sets about righting all of the
pornographic wrongs in her so-called
literature. Naturally, he grows to love
her as we're supposed to do.
But he's in a movie, and we're in real-
ity, and "supposed to" becomes null and
void long before the fourth time Midler
squeezes herself into a hideous lycra out-
fit that bulges in all the wrong places. If
she's doing it in the name of character,
fine - but how can we ever like her like
this? It's an impossible task. There's dis-
belief, and then there's fright night. The
latter is what happens when the former is
stretched too thin. "Isn't She Gret"
stretches so much that Torquemada
might as well be waiting in the wings.
Paul Rudnick's screenplay doesn't
help much. The, laughs fall flat for the
most part save those few horrified snick-
ers (and one genuine laugh courtesy of
Hastings' grandmother and aunt) that
come as a result of Susann's brazen pres-
ence. Granted, Susann rarely plays the
"poor me" card, but perhaps that's
because Rudnick, Midler and director

Andrew Bergman suspected from the
get-go that to do so would be the final
nail in an already DOA flick's coffin. All
three principles have no excuse for this
comedic dirge; we've seen Midler be
hysterically funny in the past, Rudnick
wrote "In & Out" and Bergman wrote
and directed two great early 90s come-
dies, "The Freshman" and "Honeymoon
in Vegas."
Susann's riches-to-riches storv about
her insatiable, oft-repugnant quest for
fame at the expense of others (her hus-
band's self-esteem, her friends' close-
ness) wreaks the same havoc on "Isn't
She Great," failing to pay much attention
to things external to the main thrust of
Susann's quest. At one point Irving, her
husband, leaves her. We have some idea
why, but Susann never seems to figure it
out. Could a woman who observed
everything she saw behind the stage
and screen really be so oblivious to
her own love life? I doubt it. There's
the sneaking suspicion about this
recreation of Susann's life that maybe
she's been bleached and bulldozed by
what a writer, director and star
thought the public wanted to see,
leaving out the real story - the story
that Susann might have told had she
been afforded the chance. Making her
so fame-hungry does her a great dis-
Rudnick believes the best way to
end a scene is to have Lane blurt out,
"Isn't she great'?" Nobody ever
responds to the question, so I guess
it's meant to be rhetorical. Maybe this
would have been a better movie if
somebody had had the cojones to step
up and just say no.

Courtesy of University Museum of Art
'Oak Tree, Snowstorm, Yosemite National Park, Califomia' (1948).
against the darkness of the wall. The starkest contrast of all is
the subject matter of the drawings. The ancient depiction, that
of a horse, is a sharp contrast to that of a swastika. The extreme
contrast shows the viewer of the ancient civilization and mod-

beliefs as well.
The photograph


"Antelope House Ruin" taken in 1942

shows an ancient Indian dwelling against a dark mountain wall.
Next to the house are two wall paintings. One appears to be
ancient and one modern.
These two drawings, both done in white, stand out sharply

ern hatred.
The exhibit disappoints only in that just 16 ofA dams' works
are gathered in this collection. Yet the amazing amount of detail
and feeling in each individual picture makes up for the lack of

a -

Beginning with today's issue, the Arts section will use using letter grades as a means of eval-
uation instead of the previous system of stars. The Arts staff believes this allows for both
greater flexibility ahd more precision in reviewing films, albums, television programs, books
and video games. With the letter grades, we hope to provide you with a more accurate review.
- The Arts Editors

supposed to sympathize with the hand
Susann is dealt during the 20-odd year
.hneframe of the movie (dead-end
Oeer, the pain of being married to
Nathan Lane, an autistic son, breast can-
cer) is irrelevant. Sympathizing with a
brassy woman who vants to be happy is
one thing; sympathizing with a brassy
woman who unwaveringly believes that
the only way to be happy is to be famous
is quite another.
Susann - or Midler, or whoever -
instead evokes not much other than pity
acringing. "Isn't She Great" is very
arly meant to be light-hearted, given

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