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April 06, 2001 - Image 8

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The Michigan Daily, 2001-04-06

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Three is a number...
Leopold Brothers Brewery (523 S.
Main) presents a night of local art
& music, featuring Kuz, Skim Milf
and the Tractor Kings. 8 p.m.
michigandaily.com /arts

ARRTS

4

FRIDAY
APRIL 6, 2001

8S

Gritty 'Memento'
keeps you guessing

Hollywood a mixed ,
bag for 'Memento' star

By Lyle Henretty
Daily Film Editor
"Memento" is a film that unfolds
around the viewer. Each subsequent
shot introduces another aspect of a
character's life that not only affects
the following scenes, but also those
that came before. The storyline

Memento
Grade: A
At Showcase
and Michigan Theater

makes you feel
as if you are
one step ahead
of the film,
only to realize
you are two
behind. Yet
despite this, the
film is never
hard to follow,
even as you
question every-
thing about it.
This is the
beauty that is
"Memento,"

wants revenge. Leonard Shelby
("LA. Confidential"'s Guy Pearce)
has acquired antegrade amnesia
ever since he witnessed his wife's
death. He remembers everything
that happened in his life before the
incident, but can only retain new
memories for about fifteen minutes.
That is, he will literally have no
idea how a long conversation began,
or even who he's talking to. So the
viewer can better appreciate Shel-
by's plight, Director Christopher
Nolan structures his film back-
wards, beginning with the very
revenge most revenge movies save
as a payoff. Yet knowing what hap-
pens takes nothing away from the
tension and intrigue, and the ending
(beginning) is *more shocking than
the climax.
Shelby's only desire is to kill the
man who murdered his wife and left
him in such a convoluted state. He
tattoos important facts onto his
body (such as the license plate num-
ber of his car) and relies on a multi-
tude of Polaroid pictures to guide
him on his quest. He is either being
aided or hindered by the shady
Teddy ("The Matrix's" Joe Panto-
liano). On the back of a Polaroid
bearing his face, Shelby simply
scrawled "Teddy: Don't Believe His
Lies." Carrie Ann Moss ("Choco-

courtesy of New Market
"Dude, where's my car?" -- Leonard Shelby (Guy Pearce) in "Memento."

arguably the finest crime drama this
side of "The Usual Suspects." Like
"Suspects," it is gritty and almost
addictive to watch, yet "Memento"
does the older film one better. In
"Suspects" you could not trust the
protagonist because he may have
been lying. Here, even the protago-
nist doesn't know where he's going
or where he's been, only that he

lat," "Matrix") floats in and out of
the picture, clearly battered and suf-
fering, but the only real help Shelby
has. Or is she?
This is the most information one
can give without giving away any of
the delicious twists and turns the
film takes throughout. The script is
simply amazing, and any plot hole
is easily covered by Nolan's confi-
dent Noir-pastiche framing. The
actors embody the quiet confusion
or over-blown sleaze of Noir with-
out falling into caricature. Aussie
Pearce underplays Shelby, creating
a man so broken that only his
machine-like need for revenge
keeps him from utter destruction.

Pantoliano is slippery and untrust-
worthy with false teeth and spiked
hair, yet the viewer clings to him as
Shelby does, knowing he plays an
important role, but not sure of his
intentions. Moss is in turn both
meek and fierce, and she passes
easily between the roles.
With his first film, Nolan has cre-
ated a living, breathing entity. A
film that could easily be an early
contender for next years Oscars
(assuming it does not get lost in the
popcorn shuffle of summer films),
"Memento" is the most intelligent,
enjoyable film released in years.
Keyser Soze himself would have
been astonished by this flick.

By Christopher Cousino
Daily Arts Writer
Spoiler note: this interview reveals
crucial information about the plot and
characters of "Memento," which opens
today.
Joe Pantoliano. A veteran character
actor with more than 20 years in the
business and 70 films to his credit.
Born and raised in Hoboken, NJ. A
member on the board of directors of
the Screen Actors Guild. Francis
Fratelli in "Goonies." Cypher in "The
Matrix." And he's not fond of the
Academy Awards.
"It's all bullshit. It's all politics. It's
like watching the fucking senate. And
they're not entertaining," Pantoliano
said. "You know what, come up, tell
me the fucking guy who won, girl who
won, have 'em make their speech
because that's why I watch. I want to
see what their reaction is. I don't
wanna see the fucking Rockettes doing
a scene from "Godfather II"
Laughing aside, Pantoliano's latest
film "Memento," in which he plays the
strange confidant Teddy, already has a
large amount of buzz surrounding it
(the film was a hit at this year's Sun-
dance Film Festival). "That's when
everyone started getting confidence
again," Pantoliano said. "Then the
reviews started coming out and every-
body just breathed a sigh of relief."
Since the middle of March,
"Memento" has played to sell out
crowds in New York and Los Ange-
les. "This movie's already been suc-
cessful," Pantoliano said, as
"Memento" cost relatively little to
make (it's budget was about $5 mil-
lion). "Everybody made sacrifices.
The actors worked for less, producers
didn't take fees or took very little fee.
We all worked for less."
Working on a cheap budget, the
entire production dealt with a quick
shooting schedule. "25 days. 24 days
and one pick-up day," Pantoliano said.
"I think we had like four days of
rehearsal. We didn't have a lot of time
and we knew that if we didn't get it,
we wouldn't get it. If we didn't get our
day, we weren't coming back to get it
tomorrow."
In the end, the time constraints may
have added to "Memento"'s lively
feel. "Filmmaking is really more of a
pragmatic experience and I think
sometimes when you have less, you

get more done than when you have
more," Pantoliano said. "I thinlk peo-
ple get spoiled by money."
The power of money is a concern
for Pantoliano as an actor and an
artist. "It's so stupid. When commerce
controls art, you're in a lot of fucking
trouble. I feel like we're in a lot
trouble," Pantoliano said. "I'm tied of
all these action flicks and chick flicks,
catering to the lowest denominator.
For me, it's encouraging when movies
like 'Traffic' and 'Requiem for a
Dream,' that these movies are break-
out movies that get a large audience
because then the morons financing
these movies (action, chick flicks)
start thinking, 'Well, we should sta
making more movies like this.'"
As cynical as he might sound
toward many of the blockbuster films,
Pantoliano still holds a positive view
toward some of the Hollywood main-
stream (though he won't be coming
back in "The Matrix" sequels. "They
decided I was dead," Pantoliano
grinned.)
"There's some really fantastic com-
mercial films I like. I think there's
room out there for high concep1
movies, like "Crouching Tiger, Hid-
den Dragon," like "The Matrix," "The
Fugitive," "Air Force One,"Pantoliaio
said. "The movies I object to are these
mindless "Exit Wounds," "Lethal
Weapon 4," "American Pie 9,'";any='
thing with that - what's his nane -
Freddie Prinze is in. If it's a Freddie
Prinzehmovie, you just tell yourkid
'No,' they can't go."
A film like "Memento, " howeve*
is a treat for Pantoliano. "'Memento'
is the kind of movie I like to go see
and the kind of movie I dream-of
being in," Pantoliano said. Director
Christopher Nolan cast Pantoliano on,
a recommendation from "Matrix"-co-
star Carrie Anne Moss.
"He said, 'That's an interesting idea
but I think the audience will think he's '
the bad guy right away.' And their.he
met me and we liked each other an,
he told my agent that," PantQlian F
said. "He [Nolan] said, 'I think the
audience will think that, because of
the kind of parts Joey's played most of
the time.' And then my agent said,
'Well, that's the reason why you need
to hire him. Because he's not the bad
guy. You need them to think thaihe
is.' And Chris realized he was right.
Lucky for me."

Depp, Cruz, cocaine cannot save 'Blow'

By Lyle Henretty
Daily Film Editor
The story is of a guy that wants to be respected
and make a lot of money. He turns to a life of
glamorous crime and gets a big house and a wife
that enjoys the lifestyle yet blames her husband
for getting caught. They build a life of extrava-
gance in a world of quirky
villains, merciless friends
and lots of cocaine. Their
lives peak and then spiral
BlOW downward as their crimes
catch up to them and they
Grade: C+ are forced to live out their
pathetic lives on the govern-
At Showcase ment's stingy dollar. The
and Quality 16 camera work is fluid, the
soundtrack is perfect, and it's
Ray Liotta's best film. The
movie: "Goodfellas."
That is a good place to
start because Ted Demme's
"Blow" wants to be "Good-
fellas" so bad that it's painful. Demme makes no
attempt to disguise this, and even uses Scors-
esesque voice-overs and freeze-frames. It's a
good imitation of Scorsese, but an imitation
none-the-less. That is this film's major flaw -
that it offers nothing new, yet is packaged like as
if it were revelation. It follows the standard bio-
pic format (poor boy gets rich goes crazy looses
everything), yet it does not flesh out many of its
important characters, and other characters come
and go for no apparent reason.

(Jordi Molla) puts him into contact with Pablo
Escobar (Cliff Curtis), who in turn introduces the
protagonist (and all of America) to the world of
Columbian Cocaine. Chaos ensues.
Depp is, as always, fine and brings subtle
depth to the oft-ignorant Jung. As Jung ages and
bloats and begins to fall apart, Depp utilizes the
make-up but does not rely on it, carrying himself
differently as the years supposedly pass. Liotta,
who is only eight years older than Depp, plays
his kind-hearted, hard-working father as a caring
man who has given up on good and evil. It is a
deceptively deep performance, leaving behind
the crazies that Liotta has so often inhabited, and
almost makes you forget his brainless perfor-
mance in "Hannibal." Almost. Rachel Griffiths
("Hillary and Jackie"), who is really five years
younger than Depp, plays his mother by channel-
ing Lorraine Bracco and a shoebox full of
uppers.
While this has been touted as a comeback film
for the erstwhile Pee Wee Herman, Reubens con-
stantly over-plays his role as a gay hairdresser-
cocaine dealer (remember, this is based on a true
story!). It does little to erase his alter ego from
the collective mind of the audience, and his pres-
ence ends up being more distracting than any-
thing else.
Penelope Cruz is Jung's wife, who, according
to the film, was not only abusive towards him,
but actually got him thrown in jail for several
years. Cruz is an accomplished actress in Spain,
but does not have a tremendous grasp on Eng-
lish, and plays her part as little more than a
preening drama queen that does not stray far
from the second dimension.
That being said, this is not an awful movie, and
was enjoyable to an extent. The only real com-
plaint is that one can go out and rent any number
of equal and better films for three dollars, as
opposed to paying close to ten for something that
they have already seen.

. . . . . . . . . .
.. ........

Courtesy of New Line Cinema
Johnny Depp post-nosebleed in "Blow."
Johnny Depp stars in the true story of George
Jung, a beach bum who decides to start selling
pot with his friend Tuna ("American History X's"
Ethan Suplee). Despite knowing nothing about
apparently anything, George and Tuna become
the most lucrative dealers
on the beach, much to the
joy of their supplier,
Derek Foreal (Paul
Reubens, yes, that Paul
Reubens). During a stint
in prison, Jung's cellmate

Joe Pantoliano and Guy Pearce are rollin' with the homies.

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