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March 07, 2000 - Image 5

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The Michigan Daily, 2000-03-07

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Get your fuzzy warbles
rick's "A Clockwork Orange" is pure
dystopian brilliance. Listening to the
"William Tell Overture" will never be the
same. At the Michigan Theater, 7 p.m.

ARA"kym aft
TS

TUESDAY
MARCH 7, 2000

5

michigandaily.com /arts

'Best Thing' isn't Madonna

By Leslie Boxer
Daily Arts Writer
"The Next Best Thing" is the latest
woman-with-a-homosexual best friend
challenge to the more conservative
view of relationships and family. This
time we follow the trials and tribula-
tions of Abbie (Madonna), a yoga
instructor who is "too complicated" for
straight men, and Robert (Rupert
Everett), a gardener, who is tired of his
homosexual lifestyle.
The story starts out light-hearted
describing Abbie and Robert's friend-
ship, Abbie's breakup from the bimbo-
seeking Kevin (Michael Vartan), and a

Courtesy of Kerrytown Concert House
Trumpeter Cuong Vu, quartet leader Chris Speed, bassist Skull Sverrisson and drummer Jim Black make up yeah NO.
Post-modem j
boasts flawl essdrummer

comical scene
TheNxt
Best Thing
Grade: D
At Briarwood, Quality 16
& Showcase
R,%*. ,4

in which Robert,
dressed flamboy-
antly, pretends to
be Kevin's effem-
inate lover in
order to get
Abbie's keys
back. All of this
is part of the
exaggerated
buildup to a fate-
ful Fourth of July
when Robert and

By John Uhl
Daily Music Editor
What did you do over spring
break? I saw the best drummer in the
world. Twice. I
Amid the cross-state shuffle
*ween my residences, I had the for-
V& to catch performances by tenor
saxophonist/clarinetist Chris Speed's
yeah NO quartet in Grand Rapids
and at Ann Arbor's Kerrytown
Concert House (don't worry, I'll
come back to that drummer).
By most accounts, yeah NO is an
adventurous post-modern ensemble
from New York's downtown jazz
scene that incorporates traditional
elements of jazz with rock, funk
thms, classical composing meth-
ods and, most emphatically empha-
sized by the press, Eastern European
folk melodies; sort of a John
Coltrane meets
James Brown
meets Ivo
Papasov and His
yeahNo Bulgarian
Kerrytown Wedding Band.
oncert House But in that
Mar. 4, 2000 description I've
already manipu-
lated two words
that are often
used somewhat
flippantly:
Tradition and
folk.
In the music
world, folk usually refers to a class
of people's native music; the unso-
p isticated, that is not guided by for-
training or rules, music of the
general population. Tradition, then,
is the means by which these people
maintain a cultural continuity,
through music in this instance, to
help shape the present day.
My description of yeah NO
becomes anomalous when the nature
of jazz music is questioned:
Couldn't, in a certain sense, jazz be
sidered an American folk music?
its inception jazz was certainly
considered to be an unsophisticated
example of common class kitsch,
placed in the same "not proper" cat-
egory as other supposed folk music.
Classical composer Aaron Copeland,
who was singled out for his transfor-
mation of a Shaker folk tune into
"Appalachian Spring," one of the
20th Century's most distinguished
American compositions, was corre-
ndingly noted for including the
iuence ofjazz into his milieu. And
jazz, steadily mutating through
approximately a century's worth of
generational inheritance, has estab-
lished itself as a tradition.
Thus, as jazz and folk and tradi-
tion all become relatively synony-
mous, my description fades into
redundancy, reading something like
Chris Speed's quartet plays
4erican folk music that also
notably includes Eastern European
folk music. Isn't the real point sim-
ply that he plays music (embellishing
a little, that he artfully encompasses
a global variety of influences into
this music)?

Courtesy of Paramount Pictures
Rupert Everett and Madonna play friends-with-benefits in "The Next Best Thing."

NO into an exploration of the exotic.
I bring this up mostly because, in
the day of hip-hop music, which
derives its spunk from assimilating
sampled musical bits with freeflow-
ing lyrical innovation, and Internet
websites that teller last minute air-
line tickets, the most vital musics are
those that intelligently balance the
hybrid tightrope between styles that
have already been established and
can appeal to the continuously grow-
ing global marketplace.
When I spoke to yeah NO's drum-
mer (just another minute till I talk
about how great he is) Jim Black
between sets on Thursday, he spoke
eagerly of attracting a more disparate
audience, recalling a recent sold-out
gig at the club Tonic in New York.
"Where did these people come
from?" he remembered wondering
about the unusually youthful crowd
that was likely drawn bythe club's
atmosphere and reputation.
Of course I don't mean to suggest
that musicians should promptly set
sail for Paraguay or the Kamchatka
Peninsula in the name of broadening
artistic or economic horizons. In fact
that would cause the music to
become just what I feared earlier, a
quest for the eccentric.
The music still has to be genuine
and, in Speed's case, it is. One piece
had the freeform 1960s lilt of
Charles Lloyd's "Forest Flower
Suite" while simultaneously possess-
ing the melodicism of the best early
nineties alternative pop music -
powered by the rhythm of Skuli

Sverrisson's guitar-mimicking six-
string electric bass strums, the tune
(thankfully; charmingly) never
relented its naive fury, Cuong Vu's
trumpet aiming its climax until it
slowly ran out of gas and puttered
away. One time Sverrisson's bass
bubbled into a snapping stew of elec-
tronic overtones that the whole
ensemble followed into a cavorting
reminiscence of the early eighties
downtown noise scene; another, the
group sounded like Miles Davis
playing a Turkish dirge on the moon.
And then (here it comes...) there
was Jim Black. I'll take the Pepsi
challenge that some of his snare and
high-hat beats were repeated fast
enough to put the most rapid and
precise drum machine to shame. But
Black wasn't phenomenal for pre-
senting the most flawless or virtuosic
performance I've ever seen, though it
may have been close. Or one that
dazzled by enveloping the entire
scope of the percussion instrumen-
talist's history. Black was a wonder
because he absolutely dominated the
ensemble. At times it was even diffi-
cult to hear Speed's clarinet or Vu's
trumpet over Black as it sounded like
he was violently banging on a set of
trashcans. But I didn't care. It was
musical, artistic, elegant trashcan
banging. Listen to yeah NO's latest
recording "Deviantics" and realize
that the group seems hushed because
the recording levels on Black's kit
were probably turned down. I've
done it twice, and can assure that in
person is the way to see this band.

Abbie get drunk
' and have sex.
Throughout the
beginning of the
film, Abbie is feeling depressed
because she believes Kevin was her last
chance for love, marriage and a family.
She whines to Robert about getting
older and wanting a child - not a hus-
band - a child. It's as if she is already
thinking about the possibility of Robert
as the father to her child. The audience,
at this point, should be questioning
whether or not Abbie has recently
attended a seminar given by Frank T.J.
Mackey. Abbie is seemingly begging to
turn herself into a sperm receptacle
(she even creates the tragedy of her
breakup to surround the situation).
Once Abbie tells Robert she is preg-
nant and they decide to keep the baby
and live together as a family, the film
jumps ahead six years to find Madonna
with a new haircut and Sam (Malcolm

Stumpf), Abbie and Robert's son,
beginning to ask questions about his
family. Just as he's doing so, we are
introduced to Ben (Benjamin Bratt),
the suave banker who falls in love with
Abbie and causes problems for the
family.
This is the point where the film
begins to realize its own shortcomings
as a carbon copy of other movies and
TV shows with similar themes. In
order to distinguish itself, "The Next
Best Thing" convolutes the plot with
twists and turns that add absurdity to
the story. This is a really bad idea. The
additions, which center on a custody
battle for Sam, are contrived and make
the film too serious.
What director John Schlesinger is
trying to accomplish in this part of the
film by raising questions about the def-
inition of family and legal rights
afforded to homosexuals is interesting
and may be a good topic on its own. It
is, however, thrown in a hodge-podge
manner into a Madonna movie that
cannot support serious subjects.
Also disappointing is the fact that
Madonna proves once again to be a ter-
rible actress. She not only cannot deliv-
er her lines without sounding phony,
but she has also adopted an on-again-
off-again faux British accent that

sounds ridiculous, especially next to
Rupert Everett's real English accent.
What is so surprising about Madonna's
poor acting is that the role seems like
an exaggeration of her own life - she
and Rupert Everett really are good
friends, she is a single mother out of
wedlock and she does yoga. These are
not demanding characteristics to por-
tray, particularly if they are describing
your own life.
Rupert Everett, who is usually
charming and witty, is also not at his
best. He has done a sloppy remake of
his "My Best Friend's Wedding" role as
the gay best friend. What's so upsetting
is that Everett is a good actor and yet
much of his dialogue is spent telling
Madonna that she is beautiful. This
woman is a talented musician, hugely
famous and largely successful - does
she really need to be told how pretty
she is multiple times as an ego boost?
If anyone should be praised about
their looks it is the slew of gorgeous
men in this movie. What is worrisome
is that the film is suggesting that hav-
ing a baby with your best friend
because you feel as if you are getting
too old and options are running out
may truly be the next best thing. At
what point do women have to start
worrying? Should I start looking now?

.**.. .. _

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LSA STUDENTS & MAY 2000 GRADS
Seeking a REWARDING SUMMER JOB?
Be a Summer Academic Peer Advisor!
Info at LSA Advising Center, 1255 Angell or
Attend an Information Session at 4:30 p.m.,
Wednesday, March 8, 3410 Mason Hall

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