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September 09, 2002 - Image 5

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 2002-09-09

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September % 2002




Steven Coogan makes '24 Hour
Party People' a cinematic treat

Courtesy of Wwrner Bros.
Bobby DenNiro hails a taxi in 'City by the Sea.' Oh the irony.
Bob DeNiro 's weight keeps
the Sea f rom capsizing

By Jeff Dickerson
Daily Arts Editor -
Directed by Michael Winterbottom ("Welcome to
Sarajevo"), "24 Hour Party People".begins with
British TV personality Tony Wilson (Steven Coogan,
"The Indian in the Cupboard") atop a tall grassy hill.
The apprehensive host takes hold of a hang-glider,
gazing over the English countryside. With a few short
steps he takes off, only briefly, catching a
gust of good air before violently crashing
into the ground. He gets back up and
takes flight once more, only to collide **
with the ground again. Wilson tells us-
directly that the scene is an analogy to the 24 HOUi
story that has yet to be told. PEO
The story, based on actual events, takes
us to Manchester, England where Wilson At The N
is a pseudo-celebrity with a television The
show. With his dandy-fop hair, Wilson
cultivates the Manchester music scene in United
the '70s and '80s by introducing punk
music to his countrymen via his show. He is unques-
tionably the protagonist of the film, but as he tells us,
"I'm a minor player in my own life story."
Things take motion in 1976 after the first Sex Pis-
tols concert in what was then a dull Manchester. Only
42 people attend the show, but as music aficionados
certainly know, they all witnessed history in the mak-
ing. Inspired by the concert, Wilson forms Factory
Records, which by his words is "Not actually a com-
pany. We are an experiment in human nature." He
signs the bands Joy Division and Happy Mondays to
his new found label, but rather than type up a proto-
typical legal contact, he instead opts for a vague con-
tract written in his own blood.
In one of the most gratifying displays .of acting this
year, Steven Coogan gives an absolutely stunning and
flawless performance as Wilson. His character is self-
deprecating and always amusing, reminding us that for
every high in life there is an equal and opposite low.
He takes his wins and losses in stride, focusing on the
music rather than his bank account. Coogan, a staple
of British television but relatively unknown in the
I -4.,.

United States, is able to display all of Wilson's com-
plexities with a natural ease, in a performance that is
anything but unconvincing.
Self-reflexive and constantly aware of itself both as
a film and a history lesson, "24 Hour Party People"
succeeds at being entertaining and provocative. Much
of the film plays for comic effect, but that is not to say
it is not without its dramatic moments. Winterbottom
injects his creative talents into each shot of the film,
most notably in a scene where unassum-
ing pigeons are fed rat poison as "The
Ride of the Valkyries" plays ironically.
** Shot on digital video, "24 Hour Party
People" has the look of a documentary
R PARTY (think "This is Spinal Tap") but throws in
PLE enough avant-garde visuals at the audi-
ence to make it fresh rather than redun-
Michigan dant. Winterbottom includes actual
ater vintage concert footage of the Sex Pistols
Artists and other infamous British rock outfits,
which blend almost seamlessly with his
digital video.
Wilson's opening of the Hacienda club ignites the
rave culture with the emergence of the DJ as the enter-
tainer for the dance culture. Along with the new wave
sounds and pounding rhythms, the drug ecstasy
becomes a culture of its own. When patrons spend
their money on the drugs rather than the booze, the
Hacienda club begins its financial collapse despite its
overwhelming popularity.
Punk rock know-it-alls might notice a few special
cameos from some of the genre's most respected
groups. But in case you don't notice the aged musi-
cians in their all too brief roles, Winterbottom points
them out for you in a wonderfully satirical fashion.
The daring "24 Hour Party People" is a fractured
rock fairy tale with a rock 'n' roll attitude that doesn't
give a damn about conventions. Here is a movie that
mocks itself yet has the confidence to become some-
thing more than just another rock biography. Director
Michael Winterbottom and actor Steven Coogan have
created one of the most interesting cinematic experi-
ences of 2002 and their names will surely be men-
tioned recurrently come award season.

By John Laughlin
For the Daily

In a drug deal gone bad Joey Nova
(James Franco, "Spider-Man") finds
himself a murderer. Joey lives in Long
Beach - the "City by the Sea" - in
one of the many aban-
doned buildings now a
only used as shooting
galleries for the junkies
and homeless.
Joey wasn't always CITI
just a street junkie, THE
once being part of a
family and a star quar- At Shovw
terback, as well. All Quali
clich6's aside, after he Warne
murders the drug dealer
"Picassq," Joey i,.
forced back into the world which he
long ago abandoned:.
Robert DeNiro plays Joey's father,
Vincent LaMarca. Plagued by his own
demons, LaMarca has risen above his
own troubled past that involved his
father being executed for the murder
of a child. LaMarca has become a
man of the law as part of the homicide

division and had led a seemingly
steady life with love interest Michelle
(Oscar-winner Frances McDormand,
"Fargo") up until the story begins.
When DeNiro finds that the son he
abandoned long ago has' been accused
of murder, DeNiro must in turn wel-
come back all that he had
forgotten and deal with
the past he thought had
* been buried long ago.
"City by the Sea" is
BY not the first film from
JEA director Michael Caton-
Jones, nor is Caton-Jones
ase and any stranger to DeNiro,
y 16 having directed him in
Bros. the 1993 film "This
Boy's Life" that told the
.s.tory..of.writer Tobias.


Wolff's troubled childhood. With
"City by the Sea," Caton-Jones has
decided to return to this theme of the
"troubled family" but also weaves in
the underlying metaphor of abandon-
ment. Long Beach is a city that was
once popular and "on the grow," but
remains now as only a relic of an era
long since past. DeNiro had aban-

doned his son Joey and his ex-wife in
the hopes they will not have to carry
on the legacy of a murderer. Joey
abandons life, and in a small subplot
his girlfriend Gina (Eliza Dushku,
"Bring It On") abandons their child,
Angelo, to be left with LaMarca.
This is not to say that there is no
redemption in the story - because
there is. Also, while the film can be
seen as the study of a family, the film
is first and foremost a crime drama.
There are twists and turns, another
murder helps up the ante midway
through the film, guns are drawn and
suspense is sprinkled throughout.
The major flaw with the film is
with the character development.
Caton-Jones is trying to cover both
the orime aspect and theafamily ;aspect
in the same undersized hour and 50
minutes. McDormand's role suffers
and is only a crutch for- LaMarea to
lean on from time to time or allow for
some back-story.
The complexity of DeNiro's char-
acter is also inadequately portrayed.
He has many inner demons and mat-
ters to deal with at hand. Not enough
time is spent developing him more
and thus director Caton-Jones cuts
corners. For example, with a corny
thoughts" scene (You know, the type
of scene where a character sits still
and looks pensive while the camera
swirls about and the soundtrack fea-
tures a mix of the voices and thoughts
running through his head).
Despite never reaching its potential,
Caton-Jones has once again proven
himself a very competent director
who is able to really get at the heart of
a story. Also, you can never go wrong
with DeNiro. His on-screen charisma
is never fleeting and he truly breathes
life into what would be a lesser film
without him.

Courtesy of United Artists

Remember, don't take drugs!

Steve Coogan plays Tony Wilson in '24 Hour Party People.' The more you know.

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