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October 04, 2002 - Image 5

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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 2002-10-04

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Friday
October 4, 2002
michigandaily.com/arts
mae@michigandaily.com

iRTS

5

11

Kieran Culkin makes 'Igby
Goes Down' a wonderful film

By Stephanie Kapera
For the Daily
In "Igby Goes Down," Igby (Kieran Culkin, "Nowhere to
Run") has a "Home Alone 2" moment. While checking into
the O'Hare Holiday Inn with his mom's Visa, young Igby
arouses suspicion from a clerk wanting to know where his
mother his, and why he doesn't have a reservation. Why he
forgot to bring his Deluxe Talkboy, we'll never know.
Written and directed by Burt Steers, "Igby Goes Down"
is a fun and often tragic satire about a young boy's
attempts to keep his head above water. With
a schizophrenic father (Bill Pullman, "
"Spaceballs"), a speed-addicted mother
(Susan Sarandon), and a chillingly slimy
older brother (Ryan Phillipe), Igby has to IGBY
work pretty hard to avoid going down.
"Igby" opens just after the title character has
been kicked out of his sixth East coast At Shom
boarding school, leaving his mother Mimi no
other choice but to happily send him away to Qua
military school. Unfortunately, Igby's pot Unite
habit does not go over well with the
Sergeants and Commanders, and his bloodshot eyes soon
get him beat up in a scene so sad that we can't help but be
on his side for the rest of the film.
As a child, Igby (played briefly by Rory Culkin, "Signs")
witnesses his father having a nervous breakdown; this inci-
dent, which plants seeds of fear in the little boy, is offered
as the catalyst for Igby's live-in-the-moment philosophy.
Terrified that he'll one day go nuts just like his old man,
Igby makes sure to be wholly himself at all times, saying
and doing exactly as he pleases. This bravery makes for
excellent, snappy dialogue, full of the kinds of comebacks
you usually only think of three days after an argument.

Ot
d f

Igby's escape from military school lands him in the Man-
hattan loft of his godfather's slutty mistress Rachel (Aman-
da Peet "The Whole Nine Yards"), who he befriended while
working construction on her apartment over the summer. A
romance with "nymphomanical JAP" Sookie Sapperstein
(Claire Danes), who shares his love of dime bags and water
balloons, soon follows. As Igby traipses through Manhat-
tan, wading through the messes made by this curious cast
of prodigies and eccentrics, he manages to earn both our
sympathy and our respect.
As Igby, Kieran Culkin captures what we love best
about Holden Caulfield, adding bite and wis-
dom of his own. The result, though it echoes
Salinger's innocent character with an intoler-
ance for phonies, is an entirely new kind of
GOES aberrant teenager. In a wonderful scene with
a psychiatrist, Culkin's performance is so
WN natural it doesn't even seem like acting. He
ase and makes Igby into a cool Holden Caulfield.
t 16 The rest of cast is excellent as well, and it's
exciting to see them all together in one film.
Artists Claire Danes, who hasn't been in anything for
a long time, unfolds her character slowly, and
as her relationship with Igby intensifies we can see clearly
how she begins as a snappy, sex-obsessed vegetarian, only
to reveal a torn, emotionally sporadic young woman behind
that facade. Ryan Phillipe pulls a "Cruel Intentions" with
his portrayal of stiff, loveless Oliver, and Susan Sarandon is
regally neurotic as Igby's neglectful, abusive mother.
Even though it is darkly comic and a bit sad at times,
"Igby Goes Down" is a truly intellectual and fun movie,
combining excellent writing with colorful acting to create a
modern "Catcher In the Rye"-style classic.

Courtesy of CBS
Alfred Molina and the rest of the cast of "Bram and Alice" love Ricky Springfield.
Brain and Alice is the worst
nwe

By Jim Schiff
Daily Arts Writer

A few months from now, when "Bram and Alice" is
canceled, its producers will look back and think, "Where
did we go wrong?" The answer is, of course, everywhere.
The combination of sloppy writing, predictable storylines
and over-the-top acting will hopefully claim "Bram and
Alice" as one of the fall season's first victims.
The problems begin with the show's artificial premise.

Alfred Molina ("Boogie Nights") plays
Brain Shepherd, a pompous Pulitzer Prize-
winning author with a reputation for hard
drinking and womanizing. Shepherd sulks
around his lavish New York apartment'
yelling at his assistant, Paul Newman
(Roger Bart) and occasionally venturing
downstairs to a bar, run by Michael
(Michael Rispoli), a former Catholic priest.
No bar would be complete without a
boozehound, and "Bram and Alice" has

*

BRAM
ALI

Sundays at4
CB

Grace." We've also seen the pretentious, egotistical intel-
lectual far too many times, most notably with CBS' now
defunct drama, "The Education of Max Bickford." The
show's creators are obviously not striving for originality,
but developing at least a few three-dimensional charac-
ters should be a requirement.
Even the worst of sitcoms can have quality acting, but
not "Bram and Alice." Molina is easily the worst offend-
er: Though he's British, his overly-enunciated English
tongue is more suited to Tim Curry from "Clue," then
say, an author who has lived in the U.S. for
decades. Also, watching an unattractive,
middle-aged man seduce 20-ish model
types is simply unsettling - Molina's eye
AND movements and gestures border on the dis-
AND tasteful. He's clearly miscast: If CBS keeps
CE "Bram and Alice," they should find a differ-
8:30 p.m. ent Bram.
The supporting players don't fare much
better. You have to feel bad for Traylor
Howard as Alice, though. She's starred in a
number of failed sitcoms, such as "Boston Common"
and "Two Guys and a Girl," and this show will do little
to break her out of "perky blonde" typecasting. Whatev-
er laughs "Bram and Alice" does achieve come from
Roger Bart, as Paul Newman. His comic timing is the
best of the bunch - too bad he's only around so the
other characters can poke fun at his name.
"Bram and Alice" desperately wants to be funny, but it
comes across as merely silly instead. It belongs in sit-
com purgatory, along with most offerings from the WB
and UPN, however it remains to be seen whether it will
end up there. Following the inexplicably popular "Beck-
er," "Bram and Alice" may simply ride on its lead-in's
coattails. Hopefully viewers won't be cursed with such
an undesirable fate.

Katie (Katie Finneran), a self-centered woman with a
mysterious Japanese boyfriend.
If this premise sounds like a stretch, that's because it
is. Unfortunately, the show only becomes more far-
fetched with each passing minute. In the pilot episode,
Alice O'Connor (Traylor Howard) pays Shepherd a visit,
claiming to be a fan of his. But when he tries to seduce
her, Alice claims that Shepherd is actually her father.
He's obviously shocked by the news; he isn't too quick,
however to embrace his long-lost daughter.
We know Shepherd will eventually come around, but
by the end of the pilot, it's unlikely anyone will care.
Everything about "Bram and Alice" feels recycled from
other sitcoms, especially Katie the barfly: She's simply a
blonder. less-funny version of Karen from "Will &

Courtesy of United Artists
Kieran Culkin has come a long way from being the kid who wets the bed in "Home Alone."
'American Dreams' takes a look
back at America in the '60s

By Katie Marie Gates
Daily Arts Writer
Philadelphia, 1963: Two young
girls wait outside in a long line dur-
ing an exceptionally cold November.
They have waited there before, and
they will wait there again, all for the

at the head of the table and runs his
house strictly. The main storyline of
the pilot revolves around 15-year-old
Meg, (Brittany Snow, "Guiding
Light") and her dream to dance on
"American Bandstand." As the middle
child, Meg vies for everyone's atten-
tion but is upstaged by her older
brother, JJ (Will Estes, "7th Heaven")

chance to be audiencej
"American Bandstand."
With stars in their eyes
and ringlets in their
hair, they are among
many trying to be
something in the world,
and to them, that means
dancing with teenage
idols on television for
everyone tofsee.
fIt was a different era

members on

AMERICAN
DREAMS

who decides he no
longer wants to play
football for Notre Dame
as he and his father had
always planned, and
younger sister Patty,
(Sarah Ramos) a nation-
al Spelling Bee finalist.
Despite her father's
wishes, Meg makes it on
"Bandstand" with the

series to receive adequate attention.
Hopefully, subsequent episodes will
also deal with this subject.
The program's major flaw is the
opening credits. Pictures flash and aged
footage similar to "The Wonder Years"f ;
plays but a contemporary hit buzzes in
the background. With music such an
essential part of this drama, one won-
ders why the theme song doesn't reflect
the 1960s. Another questionable aspect
of the pilot is the scene where Meg and
Roxanne exchange their clothes in pub-
lic, baring much more than a woman
would at that time.
Some might say the show is cheesy,
because it is. There are moments we
know never occur in households today,
but it is nice to imagine that oneday
they did. This series is much needed
on a Sunday night, allowing us to for-
get today's world and drift back to a W E NEVER TAKE
time that was simpler. "American OS T
to be an American, and keep us danc-
ing along the way.

Sundays at 8 p.m.
NBC

MASS MEETING
for Comic Opera Guild's
Beggars M
Opera
The 1728 musical satire that
changed history. To be performed L
February 13-16 in Mendelssohn Theater.
SIGN UP FOR. - AUDITIONS " ORCHESTRA * TECH
Monday, Oct. 7
Kessler Room, Michigan League
Can't make the meeting but want to participate?
Call 973-3264 or email: constu@comcast.net
UM School of Music - Musical Theatre Dept.
with generous support in part from the
Directed by Mark Madama
Musical Direction by Karl Shymanovitz
Choreography by Beth Dukleth
October 10-12 at 8pm - October 13 at 2pm
Mendelssohn Theatre
League Ticket Office 734.764.2538
Remember that rebellious stage you had in high-school? Parent-
child conflicts have been happening since the beginning of time.

in American history, a time when tele-
phone calls cost a dime and instant
replay on television was unheard of. A
time of realizing the great possibilities
of life in the United States, as Presi-
dent Kennedy put it, a "time for new
dreams, new frontiers, not just the
ones of our fathers." NBC's new
drama "American Dreams" gives us a
glimpse in this important period of our
history to entertain, remind and
inspire us today.
"American Dreams" tells the story
of the Pryor family. The father, Jack
(Tom Verica, "Providence") is an
electronics store worker with four
children and a stay at home wife,
Helen (Gail O'Grady, "NYPD Blue").
She watches cooking shows and
attends a women's book club, he sits

help of her outgoing friend Roxanne
(Vanessa Lengies, "Sponk"), and is
asked to return as a regular.
A fantastic soundtrack filters through
the background of the scenes and in the
months to come NBC promises more
songs from the '60s and authentic
"Bandstand" footage with a young Dick
Clark (who also produces the show).
The show is overflowing with potential
as the storyline follows this Catholic
family through the hardships of the
nation and their own lives. In the final
scenes of the first episode, President
Kennedy is assassinated, leaving the
cast in dismay. The shocking words on
the television and tears as people gather
together are reminiscent of the tragedies
in today's world. However, this monu-
mental event seemed premature in the

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