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October 19, 1999 - Image 8

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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1999-10-19

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Sparking interest
M Author Nicholas Sparks reads from his latest novel. Sparks.
author of "Message in a Bottle," will read from "A Walk to
Remember." Borders Books & Music, 7 p.m.
8 Tuesday
October 19, 1999

Ox fairidrgan ;g*

Tomorrow in Daily Arts:
U Check out a preview of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra,
whose last aopearance here was in 1965.

--0

4/

'True Life'

documentary series

.

shows MTV, Altschul as true hacks

By Joshua Wickerham
For the Daily
"it's like being God," says one of the young self-
proclaimed hackers, of his escapades. "As a teenag-
er, it's hard to get a voice ..." complains another
teen.
Why limit Yourself to cyber-stardom when you can
have conventional acclaim from tons of role-model
seeking teens? What kind of a hacker would com-
promise all the work he's put intv an online persona
to instead catapult himself out of the computer world
and into the spotlight on an established national
cable network?.
Only a hack. And only a bigger hack would com-
promise herself by taking such
self-promoting youngsters seri-
ously enough to put them in her
documentary series.
True Life: I'm a That's about what you'd
Hack"r expect from the documentary-
style show, "True Life," pro-
M~V duced by and starring Serena
Wednesdaysat10p.m. Altschul and Anthony Lappe.
You'd expect MTV to take you
where you've already been,
because they don't care that
they're just going back, in this
case, to 1995's uninspired
movie "Hackers." It's only fit-
ting that a time slot should be
filled with similarly empty, rehashed drivel and mar-
keted as cutting edge four years later.
It's done easily enough by a network that presents
hour after hour of cookie-cutter teen showcases.
"True Life: I'm a Hacker" is nothing more than a
slight variation of the successful blueprints. Passing
herself off as someone with the inside scoop, the host
of "I'm a Hacker," a well-rehearsed Altschul wants
people to take her seriously on a network that knows
it doesn't have to sell itself as anything but filler.
Stuck right before "BIOrhythm," the trendy
Altschul might do well with her own biography
series, because that's about all she's doing here. She
doesn't take her camera where it's not wanted, like
any good documentary tries to do. She somehow

thinks that getting a glimpse into the underworld of
hacking means taking an MTV camera crew into the
hangouts of these young trendmicsters.
The first hacker, Mantis, presents himself as the
antithesis of the hacker. He's black, thin and media
savvy. He's even got "The Matrix" on his computer
before it's out of the theaters. Hey. I've got "The
Matrix" on my computer. Altschul thinks that's some
hack. Exactly the kind of outsider opinion that makes
her platitudinous comments all the more unjustified.
Chameleon, the only true hacker of the bunch in
my opinion, is the reformed type. lie now makes
software to protect corporations from people like
himself after the FBI raided his house and put his
family at gunpoint because of his unknowing negoti-
ations with terrorists linked to Bin Laden. He said he
was hacking to show holes in U.S. security systems
and allowed investigators to see how he broke in.
Perhaps his willingness to appear on the show is also
connected to that fact that he wasn't charged with
any crime.
The third hacker profiled, Shamrock, is a complete
joke. He followed the story of the movie "Hackers"
almost entirely, from leading Altschul on a wild race
against the police to find a disk that never material-
ized, to showing her the world of paranoia-inducing
phone phreaking - in other words, hacking phone
systems to avoid charges. He also wants to be presi-
dent some day. Not a joke, you say?
Shamrock was later arrested for drug possession
with the intent to distribute. The police didn't want
his disk after all and Altschul looked disappointed,
like she knew Shamrock had lied to her, but she'd
have to use his story anyway, just to fill airtime.
We also got a glimpse into the world of LOpht, an
organization resembling "The X-Files"' The Lone
Gunmen. These do-gooders represented the techno-
logical aspect of the hacker world, but they were too
boring for significant airtime, because, as the open-
ing credits said, "What people don't understand, they
fear" Someone at MTV had the sense to cut them out
of the finished product enough to inspire some fright
of technology.
This documentary never drives "to the heart of this
international issue" as it promised. It hardly

scratched the surface. Throughout most of the show,
Altschul's subjects werie far ahead of her, leading her
While they were competing in MTV's national arena
to see who could spew out the most techno jargon,
Altschul was oblivious to their pissing contest, still
reeling from being out of her element, pushed into a
world which she hadn't researched or primed herself 't
for.
Realizing perhaps a little too late that her chatter
and lack of preparedness makes her look lost, she
comes back with apathetic talk of illegality and
morals. Maybe it just takes that kind of mind-numb-
ing, heavy-handed prodding to get MTV viewers to
think about an issue.
So journcy into the dark nether world of "Cops'-
like intrigue, where it's all just a show .for the cam-
eras and the scenes aren't categorized well enough to
generate original arguments in any way, but simply
focused on one of the stars until the action starts and
we have to go to commercial. After the break, we get
the rest of the biographical soap opera-the rest of
the tired, cliched lifestyle.
But this show should do fine. It's got enough
shock value to keep it alive for the rest of the season,
enough staged moments with N'Sync-aged kids to
fool teenyboppers into thinking the sellouts are soci-
ety's idols, and enough marketing muster to with-
stand the criticism that the horrible hodgepodge of
tripe will produce. And why shouldn't it?
It's a nice break from the world to prop yourself ie
Front of the tube and turn your brain off while staring
at blatant cultural stereotypes -- or the ones who
want to break them (laugh) while listening to
preachy, water-down and unqualified outsider view-
points.
At least Altschul gives us a break from some of the
pedant dialogue we would get from real computer
nerds. But this is probably only because she couldn't
follow their musings and realized her consumer
audience wouldn't want to either. If you want to se:
sellout techno-geeks with something to say, watch
ZDTV or any other technology channel. If you just
want to see more celebrities, watch "True Life." And
MTV at selling lifestyles, so lap it up if that's what
you're looking for.

CuesofUveslPcturesgi N
Malcolm Lee (right) directs his film debut, "The Best Man," which opens Friday.
Leehholds high
hopes flor 'an'

By Matthew Barrett
and Aaron Rich
Daily Arts Writers
Despite what some might think,
being Spike Lee's cousin doesn't
guarantee you a place in the front
row of the film world. In fact,
Malcolm Lee spent many years
working in the industry before get-
ting his big break -- the opportunity
to direct his script, "The Best Man."
The new ,filmmaker drew upon years
of experience gained assisting his
ecusin on several popular movies in
order to hone the skills needed to
direct a major motion picture.
Lee conceived the idea for "The
Best Man" a few years ago, but set it
aside to work on other writing pro-
jects. "Screenwriting is about con-
stantly rewriting, rediscovering," Lee
said. Some time later, at the urging
of a friend, he began reworking the
story and several months later had
the script.
"I wanted to get the first draft (of
the screenplay) out before the film
'Soul Food' came out, because I had
a feeling that a story with upwardly-
mobile black characters and that cast
of people... would have some draw
at the box office - because if that
fifni did well, they'd be looking for
the next 'Soul Food,"' said the 29
year-old Lee.
"I timed it well.., and I was con-
vinced that this was the script that
was going to get me noticed," said
Lee.
The script did draw attention from
Hollywood and from Spike, whose
production company 40 Acres and a
Mule signed on to produce the film
in association with Universal
Pictures.
The film, which Malcolm Lee says
was influenced by, among others,
"The Big Chill," "My Best Friend's
Wedding," "Diner" and "Waiting To

Exhale," takes a look at a group of
tight-knit college pals who reunite
when one of their own gets married.
Problems arise when a book that
Harper (Traye Diggs) writes seems a
little too much like their days in
school to some of the friends. The
conflicts are compounded when
Harper's old love, Jordan (Nia
Long), re-enters the picture and he
begins to butt heads with groom-to-
be Lance (Morris Chestnut).
According to Lee, Diggs brought
"an everyman quality that Harper
needed to have. He had to be the
straight man in a world of characters
that are a lot more idiosyncratic -
they've got a lot more things going
on that make them more quirky - he
has to be the guy that plays off of all
of them."
Lee was also thrilled by being able
to bring Morris Chestnut, best
known as Rickv in "Boyz N the
Hood," back into the acting mix.
"Morris had done a couple of films
... where he was 'the black guy' in
the role. Here's a role that Morris
really embodied and just took off
with. This is the kind of role that
those who are fans of Morris have
been waiting for him to play."
The director also understood that
along with his acting talents,
Chestnut would bring certain intan-
gibles to the role. "He's a charismat-
ic, handsome man, especially for
women who want to see him in a role
where he can be sexy, manly and
macho," Lee said.
So, with a popular cast and a story
with wide-spread appeal, Lee has
high expectations for "The Best
Man." "I hope we can get a snowball
effect (with audiences) ... I'd like it
to be the biggest black-film of all
time," said Lee. And if that happens,
evervone will take interest in what
Malcolm's cousin is up to next.

Conductor visits

'

musical lab

By Greg Bibens
For the Daily
"It just may be faster to list those
shows he didn't do," musical theatre
department Chair Brent Wagner con-
cluded when introducing conductor Paul
Gemignani at a Musical Theatre lab
Sunday.
Gemignani, a long-time Broadway
conductor, paid a special visit to the
department while on leave from the
soon-to-open revival of "Kiss Me Kate."
After serving as musical director some
30 Broadway productions - including
"Big;' "Candide," "Evita," "Crazy For
You;' "Into the Woods," "Dream Girls,"
"Follies," "A Doll's Life," "High
Society," "Merrily We Roll Along,"
"Pacific Overtures,' "Side by Side by
Sondheim," "Sweeney Todd," "On the
20th Century" and "A Little Night
Music,' not to mention numerous others
professional venues - Gemignani has
returned to Broadway once again as
musical director of "Kiss Me Kate" and,
early next year, Stephen Sondheim's new
musical "Wise Guys."
Gemignani grew up playing the violin
and cello, later switching to the drums.
He played at jazz clubs to pay for his col-
lege tuition and eventually played in
New York for a year, including a stint
with the orchestra for "Cabaret."
Gemignani attributes his early success to

Hal Hastings who started him off in the
business, who persuaded him to play in
the orchestra for "Follies," though
Gemignani admits he had never heard of
Harold Prince or Stephen Sondheim
before then.
The revival of "Kiss Me Kate" was
one topic of interest at the lab Sunday.
With new vocal arrangements, the addi-
tion of dance music and the alteration of
one character in particular, a change that
Gemignani wished to keep secret,
Gemignani agrees that it is a great score
to bring back to Broadway. "This show
... I really feel proud of it I can't
always say that" Gemignani said, adding
that he's proud of the color-blind casting
that has assembled a multi-racial cast.
It was through the audition process
that such a cast could be brought togeth-
er. Perhaps this was one of the most
poignant discussions of the morning.
Gemignani advised that for auditions
one should sing what is best for him, a
song he/she knows well and is good at
singing. "Never ever, unless you're
asked, go to an audition and sing some-
thing you learned two days ago:'
Gemignani sternly warned. Also. "Try
not to sing some obscure song your col-
lege friend wrote who you're dating and
want to get his music out there:' he said,
chuckling. In addition to this, it is impor-
tant to find songs that can be acted out

Courtesy o fiex uemignam
Conductor Paul Gemignani worked with students during a break from "Kiss Me Kate."

and that will pull in the listeners. He also
stressed the importance for the actor to
feel good and dress well. One of the
most essential qualities in an audition,
said Gemignani, is to carry on the atti-
tude, "I look like this. I sound like this.
Aren't I great!"
And the advice extended further.
"When you get out of here ... go to
every audition you can;' he encouraged.
"Get your face out there." He expressed
the importance of going into an audition
not looking for those casting the show
want, but what you, the actor, want. In
addition to this, he told the student actors
that dressing like a certain character one
is auditioning for is not important. "I
can't change this ... or this;" Gemignani
said pointing to his heart and voice,
knowing that he can change one's look or
wardrobe, but cannot change one's voice
and passion for the theatre.
Gemignani affirmed that much of act-
ing has to do. with "being in the right
place at the right time" but acknowl-
edged that not being cast has nothing to
do with talent. "When you get out there
and you don't immediately get a job, that
doesn't mean anything" he explained.
"Rejection is not good at any age, at any
time;' he continued, establishing that it is
one's dreams and belief in oneself that
pushes the actor forward. "If you care
enough, you'll get work"
Before four of the senior Musical
Theatre students performed for
Gemignani, the floor was opened up for
questions for the department. One of the
most interesting questions addressed
was the use of microphones in the the-
ater. Musical Director/Conductor of the
University of Michigan's production of

"A Little Night Music" Grant Wenaus
asked how Gemignani targets the use of
microphones with singers. Gemignani
explained that he tries to start out a show
in the rehearsal stage without micro-
phones and tells the actors to aim for the
12th row. If they start relying too heavi-
ly on the mics, he simply shuts them off.
Then came the time many were wat-
ing for, the performances of seniors
Michael Yuen, Gavin Kenny, Anna
Gleichauf and Erin Satchell. As Yuen
stepped up to prepare, he began by hand-
ing Gemignani a headshot and resume.
"Mr. Gemignani?" he said reservedly,
getting his attention.
Many seemed astounded by the coil
rections and suggestions brought forth
by Gemignani for each of the up-and-
coming actors, such as, "Don't throw
away the rhythm. It's there for a reason.
The composer didn't put it there for you
to slop over it." But Gemignani seemed
very complimentary and gave credit to
these four individuals. "I didn't do any-
thing. I simply reminded him of the
tools he already had," he said referring to
Kenny.
The lab seemed beneficial to all im
attendance from faculty to relatives 6f
the students, to the students themselves.
"I thought it was very informative. He
gave a very direct opinion of what those
casting a show expect out of an audi-
tion," sophomore musical theatre student
Chip Mezzo expressed. "Watching him
work was amazing," freshman Monique
French added.
Gemignani left the department with i
final fvord, followed by a standing ova
tion and echoing applause. "What you
originally feel and why you're here in the

H

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