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October 29, 1999 - Image 8

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The Michigan Daily, 1999-10-29

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8 - The Michigan Daily - Friday. October 29, 1999

'Music of the Heart' repeats
old story of fight for children

By Christopher Tkaczyk
I}).uly Arts, Wr iter
Wes Craven makes scary movies -
The "Nightmare on Elm Street," the
"Scream" trilogy, and now "Music of
the Heart." Unfortunately for Craven
and his band of picture-making
ghouls, "Music of the Heart" is the
first non-horror film to cause violent
quakes in its viewers. And all in time
for Halloween.
"Music of the Heart" tells the true
life story of Roberta Tsavaras, a sub-
stitute teacher in East Harlem,
Manhattan, who teaches violin to an
average of 150 students per year. In
1994, when Tsavaras was informed
that funding for her violin program at
three elementary schools had been cut
by New York City's Board of

Courtesy of wner Bros.

The boys of Mr. Bungle will celebrate Halloween at Clutch Cargo's tomorrow night.

Bungle to haunt Clutch Cargo's

By Adlin Rosii
Daily Arts Writer
Formore than 10 years now, Mr. Bungle has consis-
tently released some of the most musically challenging
and confusing records extant. The band's self-titled debut
album including songs that ranged in style from Polka to
Death Metal within eight measures; the follow up
release, "Disco Volante," was a soundtrack for the
insane: and this year's "California" finds the group forg-
ing into Brian Wilson's musical terri-
tory.
"We do our best to make all our
releases different," said Mr. Bungle
Mr. bassist Trevor Dunn. "It's never real-
Bungle ly a conscious attempt. Our writing
Clutch Cargo's process involves us all just coming
s+nday at 9 p.m. up with parts and swapping tapes of
them and later we put it all together."
Although Mr. Bungle has made a
career of making music with unex-
pected progressions, not even the
most devout fan of the group could
haveIanticipated the mellow direc-
tion of "California."
"The title for that record was actu-
ally an afterthought. We had spent our time recording the
nimterial, and after we played it back, 'California' seemed
like a perfect title because of the mood the music
evoked," Dunn said.
Dunn explained, "There's so much good music out
there if your willing to look for it. There's always some
record that I end up getting that makes me want to just
quit.playing music because it's so good."
Dunn's music collection sprawls across various styles,

including jazz and bluegrass. "Right now I'm in a big
Willie Nelson phase, I haven't gotten any of his IRS stuff
yet but I will," he said.
Despite being a long-standing member of the Warner
Brothers roster, the group seems to also remain finan-
cially humble.
"We still tour in a van and stay at Best Westerns and
places like that. We don't have a driver or anything like
that either. Usually after a show I like to do the driving.
it actually helps me relax," Dunn mused.
Mr. Bungle's strong defiance of the mainstream is no
easy task. It seems as though it would be difficult to
make a living not catering to popular trends. Dunn
explains his secret to longevity in the music industry:
"Being musically diverse. When I am not playing with
Mr. Bungle I do a lot of session work for other musi-
cians, collaborate with other people and I have my own
jazz trio, called the Trevor Dunn Trio."
Regarding being a hired gun for other musicians, Dunn
mentioned that he actually would not mind being given
the opportunity to play bass in Britney Spears' live band.
"I think it would be fun for a while, and I bet it pays
good!" he said. "I guess she just taps into this nostalgic
side of me from when I was younger, when I had a crush
on Debbie Gibson."
The group's performance at Clutch Cargo's on
Halloween will be an exceptional treat for fans. Dunn
explained, "There's no opening act, we're dubbing the
tour 'An Evening With Mr. Bungle' and we are going to
play two sets. We haven't quite decided at this point
what.we're going to do exactly, but it's likely that we
will be doing a set of just covers of songs and sound-
track pieces we like and play our own material during
the second set."

Education, she
the Heart
No Stars
At Bnarwood
and Showcase

fought back and
enlisted the help
of Arnold
Steinhardt of the
Guarneri String
Quartet, who
convinced big
name friends
Itzak Perlman
and Isaac Stern
to perform with
the kids for a
benefit concert
at Carnegie Hall,
the world's
cathedral to
music.

Meryl Streep plays a kind-hearted violin teacher in "Music of thraHart,

For some, unexplained reason,
Tsavaras' name has been changed to
Roberta Guaspari for the film. Maybe
producers hoped that a story about an
Italian-American woman would draw
a bigger box office buck than that of
a Latina-American. Other than this
nominal undersight, Tsavaras' story
remains true to life, including her
marital troubles and condescending
personality. In "Music of the Heart,"
Guaspari is chastised for her abrupt,
demeaning treatment of the school
children, who she treats with the same
stern coaching style as she does her
own kids.
The story of Robert Guaspari
begins in 1980 after she and her two
sons have moved back in with
Guaspari's mother, played by a deli-
cately unbalanced Cloris Leachman.
Guaspari takes a job as a gift wrapper
and runs into an old friend, portrayed
by the portly Aidan Quinn, who
gained more than his respectable
share of weight for the film. For rea-
sons unknown, Quinn is given second
billing for the film, but only appears
in a few scenes. He becomes
Guaspari's first love interest and
helps her secure her teaching job at
the East Harlem school, where begins
her crusade to place a bow in every
child's hand.
"Music of the Heart" is based upon
Allen and Lana Miller's 1996 docu-
mentary "Small Wonders," which gar-
nered an Academy Award nomination

', _____________

for Best Documentary. Many of the
scenes in "Music of the Heart" come
straight from the documentary,
.adding only the earlier parts of
Roberta Tsavaras' story, including her
first moments away from her
estranged husband, the move to the
Big Apple and the securing of her
teaching position.
If anyone should see this movie,
they should go for the excellent per-
formances delivered by Meryl Streep,
Angela Bassett and Aidan Quinn,
who all remind the gagging audience
that they are fine actors in an, at best,
mediocre film. Unfortunately, they
are unable to revive this suffering
heap of celluloid trash. Streep seems
to have a penchant for taking drab,
realistic "Mom" roles and turning
them into masterpieces. It might've
done her well to actually have real-
ized the overly contrite writing and
go-nowhere plot lines, interrupted by
unnecessary, ineffective side dishes
of heart-tugging nonsense.
In one shocking scene, a female
student of Guaspari's informs her that
she must bow out of violin instruction
and the upcoming Carnegie Hall per-
formance because she and her mother
have been forced to move away from
an abusive father. The girl intends to
return her violin to Guaspari, who, in
turn, insists that the girl cannot be
separated from it. Earlier in the film,
Guaspari had inspired the girl to
attend Juilliard for a young apprentice
program. The torn audience watches
as the girl walks off with her violin
and Guaspari turns her heels and
heads to the next rehearsal. There is
no emotional response from Guaspari
here, a scene that could've otherwise
secured Streep her next Oscar. At this
point, the film has built Guaspari to
be a big-hearted fighter, but fails to
develop her fully, because, of course,
the show must go on.
Other irksome scenes include racial
disharmony and economic fantasy.
Craven's vision of East Harlem is all
too sterile. The only realistic panora-
ma of Harlem arrives when Guaspari
and sons first travel to the city in the
early '80s. Graffiti and gangs are
everywhere. But nearly 20 years later,
the town has somehow cleaned up.
Guiliani isn't that powerful. For obvi-
ouslyimarketable reasons, the racial
diversity of the children in Guaspari's
classes is ideal. If one looks back to
"Small Wonders," they'll get a taste of
reality, where white kids are the
minority in East Harlem. "Music of
the Heart" presents an altogether dif-
ferent atmosphere of the city. These
"poor" kids have lawyer fathers and
Doc Martens.
"Music of the Heart" isn't void of
racial conflict. In movies of these
kind, there are always logs to throw
into the fire. When one black mother
informs Guaspari that she doesn't
want her son to study "white men's
music," Guaspari returns with "What
would've happened if Arthur Ashe's
mother told him not to play a white

man's game?" Inspirational, this
not. Of course, the mother gives in.
Screenwriter Pamela Gray would do
better to writing dialogue for horror
films, a task not requiring her to think
too hard.
Gloria Estefan makes a brief cameo
in two forgettable scenes. Thankfully
her performance has been reduced to
these and only these. And, by necessi
ty of her contract, the film's sound
track includes an upbeat, danceat
Estefan song.
Amid all of the flaw of "Music of
the Heart," it is refreshing to see
large slice of reality in the physical
frumpishness made of all the charac-
ters, which turns this docu-drama into
an unentertaining comedy. Streep,
wearing large, oversized dresses anti
tangled, wavy tresses, is a moder
mom, balancing upkeep of her home
and supporting her family wit
stressful, committed career. She is
made to look bad in ways unimagin-
able, and have to be seen to be
believed.
But Streep is not the only one
delivering an laudable performance.
Stern, Perlman and a slew of other
quasi-famous musicians make cameo
appearances in the film for the grand
finale performance at Carnegie Hall.
It is a treat to hear their virtuoso
formances after sitting through a t W
hour soundtrack of squeaking strings
and spine-chilling noise, reminding
one that, yes, this is a Wes Craven
film.
"Music of the Heart" raises an
important question: Why make
another movie, this time a fictional
narrative, about a subject which has
already received plenty of attention
in a superbly constructed docun~.
tary? Producers will probably ins t
that, with the government's recent
failure to secure funding for the arts,
it is time that the public is made
aware of the danger. This isn't the
first time that politics play a role in
movie making, but it is the first time
that such a despicable, inadequate
film is presented as a political vehi-
cle. "Music of the Heart" will remind
audiences of the horrors of cutting
arts funding on both a local
national level, but will it really ha
direct effect on its viewers? My guess
is no.
If Hollywood attempts to turn an
awarded documentary into a enter-
taining film with a message, there
should be a smart sense of respect
given to the original documentary.
"Music of the Heart" steals good, tre
dialogue from "Small Wonders," and
adds a bottle of Aunt Jemima. *
But audiences will love "Music-of
the Heart," for it plays to the eyes and
ears of an audience with a sweet
tooth. It's another attempt at a charm-
ing struggle story about a heroic
white woman who saves the inner-city
kids from urban downfall by teaching
them the joy of music, which can save
anyone's soul. It's been done befote
and it always sells.

MIDWEST COMPOSERS' SYMPOSIUM
Friday, October 29
Bitton Recital Hall, E.V. Moore Bldg., 8:00pm
Saturday, October 30th
Ieintosh Theatre, E.V. Moore Bldg., 10:00am
Recital Hall, E.V. Moore Bldg., 2:00pm
Recital Hall, E.Y. Moore Bldg., 4:00pm
Rackham Auditorium, 8:00pm (Contemporary Directions*)
The University of Michigan hosts the 1999 Midwest
Composers' Symposium, a two-day festival featuring new
works by student composers from five midwestern universities.
The five concerts include works for various instrumental
ensembles and electronica. Contact Stephanie Johnson at
913-0125 for more info.
GUEST CONCERT: ARCHIGLAS, RUSSIAN CHORAL
GROUP FROM ST. PETERSBURG RUSSIA
Friday, October 29, 7:00pm
Blanche Anderson Moore Hall, E.V. Moore Bldg.
An a cappella mixture of Russian folk and Orthodox music.
ANDRE WATTS, PIANO MASTERCLASS
SPONSORED BY THE SALLY FLEMING MASTERCLASS SERIES
Saturday, October 30, 10:00am
Britton Recital Hall, E.V. Moore Bldg.
The Sally Fleming Masterclass series is proud to sponsor Andre
Watts. Piano students from the studios of the University of
Michigan will perform a variety of works.
CONTEMPORARY DIRECTIONS CONCERT*
(PART OF MIDWEST COMPOSERS' SYMPOSIUM)
Saturday, October 30, 8:00pm
Rackham Auditorium
H. Robert Reynolds, conductor
J. Eric Wilson, guest conductor/Stuart Sims, guest conductor
GUEST LECTURE:
DAVID BROWNELL, VIOLEN MAKER'S ASSOC. OF MICHIGAN
Sunday, October 31, 10:00am
Britton Recital Hall, E.Y. Moore Bldg.
HALLOWEEN CONCERT
Sunday, October 31, 4:30pm & 8:00pm
Hill Auditorium
Tickets available at the Michigan League Ticket Office. On
Sunday, October 31st, remaining tickets will be available at the
door at Hill Auditorium.
Program Includes: *March of the Little Goblins, Glaser 9Overture
to Die Fledermaius, Strauss *Monostatos' Aria from The Magic
Flute, Mozart *Danse Macabre, Saint-Saens *Circus Polka,
Stravinsky *Red Cape Tango from Metropolis Symphony,
Daugherty *Petrouchka (1947), Stravinsky eSensemaya,
Revueltas eBack to the Fifties, Wendel.

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October 23rd & 24th November 13th &14th
*FS Antz (PG) Jack Frost (PG)
tober 30th & 31st November 20th & 21st 1
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November 6th & 7th
Rugrats (G)

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ALL AUDITORIUMS INCLUDE
Digital Stereo
Dolby SRD & DTD
High back rocking chair seats with
cupholders
STADIUM SEATING gives
you an unobstructed viewSn c
Student Prices U

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The University Activities Center

Orchestra performs
classic movie music

0'

t'e
MICM IGAN ops ORCHESTRA
Fop orese-Bt

at the for the Performirng Arts

By Rosemary Metz
Daily Arts Writer
"Duel of the Fates," with its dark,

mysterious tones
accompanied the
1'
Michigan
Mt -lgt

and overtones,
screen debut of
Darth Maul in
George Lucas'
reach into the
galactic past in
"The Phantom
Menace" In the

choir from Detroit, and the
University's Festival Chorus will per-
form the "Duel of the Fates" in cone
premiere. Later in the concert, the tai
groups will join together again to per-
form a selection from "Carmina
Burana," which was featured in the
film, "Glory."
As an added attraction, composer
Conrad Pope will be presenting a pre-
concert lecture The shiect of Pnne's

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