9 - The Michigan Daily - Wednesday, February 2, 2000
Madonna dishes out new
with latest single
Sundance'Film Festival took every
opportunity to tout the presence'of 29
films here by women - roughly twice
last year's count among the festival's
About one-quarter of the films are
by women? And that's a major step
"It's the last great disparity in Holly-
voodx agreed Jodie Foster when
d about this at a screening of "Joe
GMould," which she produced. "There
aren't good reasons for it, really, except
that producers tend to be men, and
when they're about to entrust $5 mil-
-ion.or whatever to someone, they like
to pick- people that look like them. It
nakes them feel safer."
Foster called it a problem of "race
psychology"' that also afflicts minority
d' rctors. "It's hard to get a small
t ie off the ground. We bang our
heads against the wall every day. It's
hard, and it's harder for women and
harder for blacks and Latinos."J
Most of the women directors here
were in their forties, a reflection, they A
said, of the time it took to break into
the game. th
"Film is a boy's club. Indie film is a s
boy's-club," said writer-director Mary w;
Harron; who came to the festival with ah
t Much-anticipated "American Psv- a
S "Her film is an '80s-era tale of th
depravity featuring a Wall Street v
banker=who by night is a serial killer. fi
Christian Bale ("Velvet Goldmine") ii
stars. The movie seems likely to touch tri
off its own controversy, with its scenes an
of dead women on meat hooks and a as
naked Bale chasing a victim down the di
hall with a chain saw.
"I didn't think I could be a director," al
Iron said. "I thought it was too thl
technical. But then I found out when d
you make movies you don't need to 2:
know any of that; you just need to
know what you want." She says her st
film is a "satire" and makes men look w
idiotic with their shallow pomposity. W
Courtesy of 20tn Centut y Fox
odie Foster, recent star of "Anna and the King,"is a vocal supporter of female directors.
Nnd chain saws.
Lisa Krueger, who was here with
he Miramax film "Comrnmittcd," her
econd effort after "Manny and Lo,"
vas similarly slow to trust her own
bilities. "Sometimes I think if I were
guy I would've had a little more of
hat hubris that it takes to be very
oung and grab a camera and make a
im," she said. "Because filmmaking
nvolves getting so many people to
ust you and to dedicate their effort
nd time and artistry - it's a lot to
sk. It always seemed presumptuous to
lirect a movie.
"But guys, in a great way, are
lowed to be presumptuous, to beat
heir chests and say, 'I'm a boy won-
er.' Now you have young women of
2 saying, I'm a girl wonder."'
"Committed," her romantic comedy,
ars Heather Graham as a young wife
'ho refuses to let her husband (Luke
Nilson) of two years abandon her and
That may illustrate why "That '70s
how" has picked up steam. It tends
have meaningful, even-poignant
orylines behind an often-raucous
ront. So while the show has been
tated irresponsible for depicting the
ang smoking pot in the Forman
asement, it also chronicles the soci-
ial shifts of the time with weightier
pics such as feminism, unemploy-
nent and birthcontrol.
To write scripts, Brazill mines his
ugh school memories.
"I have three of my yearbooks in
ny office and I look through them a
ot," he said. At Christmas, an old
iend and classmate called, said he
ecognized himself as Kelso and won-
ered if Brazill really thought he was
"I go, 'No you're not dumb and
e's not dumb. It's just that you were
uled by primal forces not like some
f us."' Brazill recalled their school
ears together, which weren't easy.
go on a search for The Truth in the
Southwest. Instead, she follows him
and decides to wait until he's ready to
For Krueger, the story was about the
break-up of her own marriage and the
absence of moral guidelines in a
divorce-ridden society. "It's about the
feclings I went through when I split
up: Flow can I reconcile that I made
this lifelong vow to that person?
"I was plagued by the idea, 'Did I
give up too early? Or did I give up
too late?"' she said. "You know,
people can barely keep a commit-
ment to keep a gig a week from
now. Everything is possible, nothing
is sacred; I think that's the modern
American condition. What you dis-
cover is that you niight want rules
By the way, Krueger remarried three
months ago. The movie will be out at
the end of April.
"A lot of the kids had new clothes
but we didn't. We had used ones. And
we used to play Foosball and shovel
walks tor money. But we've both
done really well for ourselves."
"Kelso" is now a builder in Atlanta,
"That '70s Show" is succeeding at
a time when too many shows are
poorly written and struggling to stay
on the air. (Two other school-age
shows, Fox's smash "Malcolm in the
Middle" and NBC's drama "Freaks
and Geeks," are exceptions to this.)
In a huge show of support, Fox has
renewed "That '70s Show" for two
more seasons. That shocked Brazill,
who said he'll have to give up his
perennial underdog outlook.
Brazill suspects that the show's
appeal is from the universal theme of
a boy coming of age. And the fact
that the cast members were all
unknowns has added to the realism,
Los Angeles Times
The Material Girl ... driving a Chevy to the levee?
And hanging out with good old boys drinking whiskey
Dance-music icon Madonna's latest career surprise
arrives today, when radio stations across the country
begin playing her new song: a reworking of "American
Pie," Don McLean's forlorn 1971 song of lost inno-
cence and rock 'n' roll history. Yes, that "American
Pie," the 837-word, eight-minute epic.
"It's a totally odd fit," says Sky Daniels, general
manager of Radio & Records, a radio-industry trade
publication. "But when it comes to Madonna, the first
reaction is never say never. She has defied expectations
again and again."
Which explains why many industry insiders 'are pre-
dicting her shimmering, dance-beat remake will be a
hit. Still, there was skepticism even on the part of pro-
ducer William Orbit, who guided Madonna to a career
renaissance with the acclaimed 1998 album "Ray of
Light" and earned a Grammy nomination for her most
recent hit, "Beautiful Stranger."
"When she called up about it, I wasn't really sure it
was a serious proposition," Orbit said. "I thought it was
one of those ideas that might go away if I didn't do any-
thing about it. Then she called back and said, 'Have you
started on it yet?"'
Why "American Pie"? The song is an emotional cen-
terpiece in the upcoming film "The Next Best Thing,"
whic'h stars Rupert Everett, Madonna and Benjamin
Bratt, and Everett, who also co-wrote the comedy-
drama, was the one who persuaded Madonna to recast
the classic for the soundtrack. The singer is hardly a
new fan, of the song, however. She says she was a fan
when it was No. 1 on the nation's charts 28 years ago.
"I loved it," Madonna says, "and knew every word."
Don't expect to hear every word, however, in this new
version. The remake cuts four choruses and several
verses - including the chunk that is an oblique history
of rock n' roll, with veiled nods to the Beatles, Bob
Dylan and the Rolling Stones. The sliced-up "Pie"
comes in at a radio-friendly four minutes. But how will
fans of the original react?
"American Pie" is among the most popular, lasting
songs since the 1960s, and its poignant imagery of "the
day the music died" - a reference to the 1959 plane
crash that killed Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and the
Big Bopper - has made it a touchstone at classic rock
radio. The 41st anniversary of that crash is Feb. 3.
The song's lasting power has been a source of ongo-
ing inspiration for McLean, now 54 and living in
Maine. He performs the song at each of the 90 or so
concerts he does per year, and Garth Brooks and Nanci
Griffith sing it with him on an upcoming live album.
"The song has a lot of value to a lot of people, and
that's very meaningful for me," McLean says. "I have
not heard the Madonna version, but I'm delighted she
has decided to record it. I'm a fan of hers, and I think
she is a colossal performer and presence in the music
business. ... I'm sure whatever she is doing with the
song is exciting and appropriate."
When McLean does hear the Madonna version, he'll
hear Orbit's trademark filter sweeps and synthesizer
bleeps ("My arsenal of sound," the producer says).
McLean shrugs off suggestions that old fans might
"A good song should be able to take all kinds of han-
dling," he said. "And as for the missing lyrics, that just
means people will want to go out and buy the original,
It was the alternating tone of the original - its
melancholy juxtaposed with a sing-along buoyancy -
that inspired Everett to tap the song for the script. The
plot of the Paramount film, arriving in theaters March
3, is the fallout of a drunken sexual escapade between a
gay man (Everett) and a female friend (Madonna) that
leads to pregnancy. Madonna said the song sets a mood
for the film.
"There is a scene where a boyfriend of one of the
lead characters dies, and at his funeral we all start
singing his favorite song, which is 'American Pie,"' she
said. "The song becomes a kind of theme song of rebel-
lion and nostalgia throughout the movie."
The Maverick Records soundtrack, in stores Feb. 22,
also features another new Madonna song, "Time Stood
Still," along with tracks by Christina Aguilera, Moby
and Beth Orton.
In an earlier screenplay for "The Next Best Thing," it
was Patti Smith's "Easter" that served as the mourned
friend's song, but that changed when Everett sought a
more upbeat song that could also fit into a danc-ing
When he settled on "Pie," he soon had another
"It just gave me chills thinking of Madonna singing
those first lines: 'A long, long time ago, I can still
remember how that music used to make me smile ... and
I knew if I had my chance that I could make those-peo-
pie dance,"' Everett said. "To hear that and imagine her
looking back on her career, the 1990s and 1980s, all
that she's done. And it's just a great millennium song."
Indeed, the song's vaguely apocalyptic overtones do
fit a millennium mind-set. Madonna, for instance, calls
the song "a statement for a lot of things in our culture
dying that are important."
To Daniels, those themes are a key to its hit potential
with Madonna's longtime fans. "It's a total reminis-
cence of youth," he said, "and that will resonate with
fans who have been following her for, what, 18 years
Orbit, however, disagrees. He believes that if the
song is a success, it will be as a product of the present,
not a valentine to the past. Orbit also questions whether
the message of "American Pie" is newly relevant in
"I think it's newly irrelevant," Orbit said. "I don't
think music ever died. I don't think music died just
because Buddy Holly was killed any more than it died
because people invented drum machines or anything
else. People always latch onto some musical rosy past
and they tie it in with their youth, and when their youth
runs out they feel like the music's run out."
'3 Vashington Post
l was the era of big cars, women's
lib, smiley faces and bell bottoms. It
was also the decade that preceded
Ronald Reagan, AIDS and "The Cosby
Show." And it may be hard for some to
imagine a time before the Internet
became our global communicator.
Fox's "That '70s Show" brings back
that decade in all its psychedelic glory.
? nassuming series in its sophomore
season, the sitcom has steadily gained
viewers on Tuesdays, becoming Fox's
most-watched show of the night.
Starting this week, it moves to Mon-
day at 8 to form a 1-2 punch with 9
o'clock partner "Ally McBeal."
'That '70s Show" is really about the
high school years -- 1976-80 ' of
producer Mark Brazill, whose alter ego
is Eric Forman, played by Topher
Grace. Eric spends quality time hang-
i out with pals Donna (Laura Pre-
, Kelso (Ashton Kutcher), Jackie
(Mila Kunis). Hyde (Danny Masterson)
and foreign-exchange student Fez
Itt creating the show, Brazill and his
"3rd Rock From the Sun" coproducers
Bonnie and Terry Turner used "two
shows we really loved: 'All in the Fami-
ly and 'Roseanne,"' said Brazill.
'That's what we were hoping for. Not
tobviously do those two shows, but
because they seemed true and real. And
the humor came out of characters and
real situations. Plus both of them were
families. That's at the core of it."
Although " '70s" is set in Wisconsin,
Brazill, 37, grew up in upstate New
York. There really was a gorgeous next-
door neighbor like Donna. And Brazill
did have a ditzy, sex-obsessed buddy
like Kelso. Even his dad, like the
gruff Red Forman (Kurtwood Smith),
1 his job when Brazill was a teen-
But Brazill said Eric is a funnier
version of himself. "My brothers and
sisters watch it and love it; they think
Eric looks like me," he sai'd. "I had
big hair and I was skinny and kind of
I sarcastic. It's funny - you think you
have an unremarkable life and then
these people come together and write
apt it. That's what these (episodes)
at- I'm rewriting my life better."
Of course, you get to do that when
you produce your own series.
"Some of the stories have been
based on actual events in my life," he
continued. "And my first relationship
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