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December 13, 1999 - Image 7

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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1999-12-13

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INS

Don McKellar's "Last Night" screens at the Michigan Theater.
This is a wonderful film that deals with the last night on Earth
and tonight may be your last chance to see it in Ann Arbor. 9:30 p.m.

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Next year in Daily Arts:
* Daily A rts is done for the sernester. We'll be back next semes-
ter with reviews of holday films such as "Magnola," "Any Given
Sunday" "The Hurrncane" and "The Talented Mr. Ripley.
Monday
December 13, 1999

rCarrey
s oar
~Moon'
as Andy
By Erin Podolsky
Daily Arts Writer
It's hard to decide exactly how to
aise "Man on the Moon," Milos
rman's two hour elegy to the late
comedian Andy Kaufman. Is it a
great film or is it a great reenact-
ment? Is it a great performance or a
great impersonation by Jim Carrey?
Is it a great comedy or a great revis-
itation of past shtick? In life,
Kaufman lived to stir controversy,
to get a reaction. In death, in "Man
on the Moon," he is more alive than
ever
9 At the very least, "Man on the
oon" is an extensive crash course
in the Kaufman enigma - Cliffs
Notes for Kaufman, as it were. The
comedy that worked so well for
Kaufman the first time around
works again here as recreated by
Carrey, who proves himself here not
only a capable comedian but a capa-
ble actor. Or perhaps he's merely a

Rozema's 'Park' challenges Austen

By Erin Podolsky
Daily Arts Writer
It's the holiday season, and while most
of the Christian world is decorating a
tree or standing in line to buy this year's
Buzz Lightyear, Hollywood is engaging
in its own annual tradition: Jane Austen.
This year's entry in the Austen sweep-
stakes is "Mansfield Park," a dark work

Mansfield
Park
Directed by
Patricia Rozema
Opens Tomorrow
sK
"K *

that is inexplica-
bly being market-
ed as a comedy
and lacks much of
the brevity of
"Emma" '"Sense
and Sensibility"
or even "Pride
and Prejudice."
Patricia
Rozema, writer
and director of
"Mansfield Park,"
will be on campus
this week to
screen her film

"Mansfield Park" is arguably Austen's
most personal tale, written during a time
in her life when her destitute heroine
somewhat niurrored her on unbrtunate
situation. Rozema takes Austen s prose
one step further by drawing from
Austen's personal wnitings. creating a
protagonist who is equal parts fact and
fiction. Fanny Price (Fr:nces O'onnor)
could as easily have been called Jane
Austen, and "Mansfield Park" becomes
a stronger work for her augmentation.
As with all of Auslen's novels, this one
is no different in its soapy romantic plot
setting the lower classes and the gentry
against each other by bringing them in
close contact. This is a device used by
many female writers of the time; the
Bronte sisters own the patent, and
Austen can be viewed in a sense as
Bronte Lite. This is not necessarily to say
that she's a lesser writer (okay, it is).
Simply this: There is little to distinguish
one Austen novel from another. A tragi-
comedy of errors, a romance that cross-
es class boundaries, a pat ending that ties
up the loose ends - this could describe
each Austen work. (Granted, many
authors operate in this manner, but it just
seems so much more on the surface with
Austen.)

Fanny goes 10 li~e at Mansfield Park,
a coldi anid raggy manor, with her aunt's
family. They don't really acknowledge
their blood ties. treating Fanny as a
maidservant and exiling her to a frost
attic room. Naturally. because this is
Austen and Fanny is the poor female
protagonist. she tlls in love with the rich
man beyond her means. In this case, that
is Edmund Bertram (Jonny Lee Miller),
her wealthy cousin. The two share much
intellectual discourse but never mention
the love that dare not speak its name.
Writeridirector Rozema's innovations
with an otherwise drb story nicely chal-
lenges our expectations of an Ausren
talc. Devices such as Fanny's direct cam-
era addcress imbue "Mansfield Park".
with a more modern feel. Unfortunately,
it's not enough to rescue the film from its
colorless world of rather boring romantic
intrigue. There's no urgency nor any
doubt as to who will get their comeup-
pance and who will live happily ever
after, and while this is certainly a world
filled with anger and sin (not to mention
more sex than you can shake a puritani-
cal stick at), it is not one that is inviting.
It is an arms-length world, and all of
Fanny's pride - and prejudice - cannot
save it.

for students. The free screening at the
Michigan Theater will be followed with
a question and answer period. Rozema
will also work with screenwriting stu-
dents and discuss the gestation of her
new movie.

Book poses entertning 'Questions'

Courtesy o "" a - ra 'es
Jim Carrey channels comedian Andy Kaufman in Milos Foreman's "Man on the Moon."

Man on
the Moon
Opens Dec.22
a

capable mimic
- the debate
over the artistic
merits of "Man
on the Moon"
could rage on
for weeks, given
the film's weak-
nesses.
Chief among
these is the feel-
ing that this
isn't so much
the story of one
man's life-as it
is a bunch of lit-

tie stories that took place in one
man's life. "Man on the Moon" is
content to show us the Andy playing
Andy, but it never lets us see the
Andy inside Andy.
Carrey is not so much acting as
channeling; this is Carrey doing
*dy doing Andy. Granted, it's
good to see Carrey not being the
slapstick wacko funnyman that bled
through even in last year's excellent
work in "The Truman Show." But I
can't help feeling like he's being
used here - rightfully so, given his
talents - less as an actor than as
one of those guys that recreates
accidents under the guidance of
William Shatner for "Rescue 911."
Likewise, the film itself plays
({rre like an extended episode of
WE APPRECIATE YOU
READING DAILY ARTS
THIS SEMESTER. IN
THE WORDS OF ANDY
KAUFMAN,
"THANK YOU VERY
MUCH.

"Biography" than an actual narra-
tive. It crosses and interesting line
between fact and fiction. Many of
the actors who worked with
Kaufman during his career appear
in the film. His funeral has an aura
of creepy authenticity as we watch
the people who must have attended
it in real life live through it one
more time.
That it does so is one of its
strengths, though, going above and
beyond any second-rate cable spe-
cial. The opening scene, which is
possibly the only entirely original
bit in the entire film, is a prologue
that is at once homage to Andy
Kaufman and brilliant comedy, no
matter who the character we're
watching is. The remainder of the
film is less inspired simply by
virtue of being taken from real life,
but only slight so.
I'll say it again and again: This is
very funny stuff. But the problem
remains that we're laughing at
Kaufman, not at Carrey or Scott
Alexander and Larry Karaszewski's
screenplay. "It's dead people laugh-
ing," Andy says of studio laugh
tracks, trying to explain why he
loathes sitcoms. Well, "Man on the
Moon" is a dead man performing
for an audience one last time, with a
bit more cohesion than archival
footage strung together, but it's
comedy that has been done before.
Then again, nobody ever said some-
thing couldn't be funny more than
once. That Carrey can be funny not
as Carrey but as somebody else is a
testament to his skills as both actor
and comedian.

What elevates "Man on the
Moon" beyond being a simple
Kaufman highlight reel is a pair of
top-notch supporting performances.
Danny DeVito, who worked with
Kaufman on "Taxi," plays George
Shapiro, his long-time manager.
Shapiro is the guy who constantly
tells Andy "you can't do this, you
can't do that" and then watches with
a mixture of fascination and horror
as Andy does anything and every-
thing that couldn't and shouldn't be
done. DeVito does an excellent job,
but Paul Giamatti upstages him as
Kaufman collaborator Bob Zmuda.
Giamatti is a great character actor,
most memorably as the reviled Pig
Vomit ("WENNNNNNNNNBC"
anyone?) in "Private Parts." His
work here actually erases all memo-
ry of that indelible performance.
He's that good.
It follows that the Andy we all see
is a performance himself, being per-
formed; the real Andy, if one exists
(and the film is clearly based in the
camp that says there was no "real"
Andy) is kept well hidden. Is
Forman afraid to delve deeper into
the mind of a man who was equal
parts comic genius and disturbed
individual? Or is it just that nobody
knew Andy to begin with, and
nobody wants to start speculating
now? As viewers, we're not in any
position to speculate. But we're in a
position to question, and we should.
"Man on the Moon" brings up more
questions than it answers, much like
Kaufman himself. It's the kind of
movie Andy might have wanted to
make. And in a way, he did.

The Book of Fabulous
Questions
Penelope Frohart
"Have you ever mooned someone?"
"How do you define happiness?"
"When's the last time you went skinny
dipping?" All of these questions make
for very interesting conversation starters,
and can be found in Penelope Frohart's
"The Book of Fabulous Questions"
Frohart developed this book by writ-
ing down every conceivable question
that one person could ask another. "The
Book of Fabulous Questions" is
Frohart's first book, and she is currently
working on another. She has written
many articles and has done numerous
press releases in the past. Frohart's
intense curiosity about people is clearly
shown by many of the questions in her
book.
"Questions" is divided into 4 stages,
with each stage including 3 or 4 cate-

gories of questions. The stages include,
In All Innocence, Mild Curiosity, In Your
Face and None of Your Business. The
intensity and privacy of the questions
rises with each new stage. Questions of
friendship, personal experiences, love
and "the real you,' allow you to get to
know people better, and become more
intimate.
Frohart's questions are not only for
conversation starters, but they can also
add great excitement to conversations.
Questions of fear, relationships and sex
can give you insight into a person's past,
and allow you to become more intimate.
Whereas, questions dealing with hypo-
thetical situation pose the famous "what
if" question, and help you to discover
another's nature. Questions asking
favorite items and to describe dreams
and aspirations are also good when peo-
ple are trying to get to know each other.
Not only does "Questions" help you
get to know people better; it helps you to
know yourself better. Certain questions

make people think what they would do
in a particular situation, for example: "If
you were to write a personal as, what
would it say?" Other questions make you
think about your personality and past
experiences, for example, "Do you tend
to date people similar or opposite from
you'?"
"Questions" can be used to get to
know almost anyone better. It can be
used with "first dates, spouses, co-work-
ers, pals, lovers, ex-lovers, unusual
encounters and total strangers."
The back of the book gives a warning:
"Be prepared, answers nfay not always
be what you expected!" Keeping that in
mind, "The Book of Fabulous
Questions" is a lot of fun. Whether
you're flipping through the book and you
come across an amusing question, or if
you're using the book to get to know
another better, "The Book of Fabulous
Questions" will provide you with lots of
laughs.
- Shannon O' Sullivan

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