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September 15, 2003 - Image 5

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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 2003-09-15

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Monday
September 15, 2003
www.michigandaily.com
artseditor@michigandaily.com

ARTS

5A

- .f .4 OBITUARIES

JOHNNY CASH
1932-2003
One of the greatest voices in Ameri-
can music, singer/songwriter Johnny
Cash, died in Nashville at 2 a.m. last
Friday, at the age of 71. Battling pneu-
monia and stomach problems late in life,
he ultimately died of complications
from diabetes just four months after
wife June Carter Cash passed away. He
will be remembered for the gritty bari-
tone, which created a modern white
man's interpretation of gospel singing
styles, transforming country and rock
music over more than five decades. The
Man in Black, as he was known, often
called his voice "The Gift." By its pres-
ence, his work was suffused with hon-
esty and world-weariness, telling both of
everyman struggles and his own person-
al demons, including a long fought
amphetamine addiction.
He wrote more than 1,500 songs,
enjoyed great success in the '50s and
'60s, when he had over 100 country hits,
resurging in popularity more than once
in later years. His most famous album,
Folsom Prison Blues, documented his
appeal as the quintessential outlaw poet
in a live performance at the prison. Hits

included "I Walk the Line," "Boy
Named Sue" and "Ring of Fire."
In the early 1960s he met a 19-year-
old Bob Dylan who told Cash, "Man,
you are truly beautiful," and thus began
an important relationship. In later life he
collaborated with Willie Nelson, Kris
Kristofferson and Waylon Jennings as
The Highwaymen. Recently, Cash
released four acclaimed albums for
American Recordings, including his
last, The Man Comes Around. He will
survive in memory as a legendary artist
in American history. As Kristofferson
once wrote of him, "a walking contra-
diction, partly truth and partly fiction."
- Steve Cotner

JOHN RITTER
1948-2003
Thursday evening, on the set of his
ABC comedy "8 Simple Rules ... for
Dating My Teenage Daughter," pratfall
sitcom icon John Ritter fell ill due to a
previously undetected heart condition.
Ritter died later that evening at Bur-
bank, Calif.'s Providence St. Joseph
Hospital. Ritter would have turned 55
this Thursday.
The son of legendary country musi-
cian Tex Ritter, Ritter became a swing-
ing TV superstar on "Three's
Company." With a natural talent for
physical comedy, Ritter's Jack Tripper
was the '70s link between likable lead-
ing men Rob Petrie and Joey Tribbiani.
Ritter enjoyed periodic stage, screen
and TV success in between his stints on
hit ABC comedies, including turns in
Billy Bob Thornton's "Sling Blade,"
Stephen King mini-series "It," the first
two "Problem Child" installments and
as the voice of the cartoon "Clifford the
Big Red Dog." With the loss of their
star, ABC has yet to make a decision on
the future of its sole comedic success "8
Simple Rules."
- Todd Weiser

Cot0tsy of WarnerBro s.

It's like a battle between motorcycles and horses. Like technology versus horse.

By Vanessa Miller
For the Daily

"Matchstick Men" can be simply referred to as a
smooth, stylistic film full of surprises and one twitch-
ing Nicholas Cage. Directed by the great Ridley Scott
("Alien"), this film
is crafted flawlessly,
meshing together a CAGEA
great number o f
genres into one
slick film. MATCHSTICK MEN
In its two-hour
running time, the viewer is able to experience a family
drama, sleek crime thriller, comedy and a psychological
drama. Though not thought provok-
ing, it's fun and smart like other Matchstick
recent con-artist films such as "Catch Men
Me If You Can" and Steven Soder-
bergh's re-make of "Ocean's 11" At Madstone,
"Matchstick Men" is the tale of Showcased
Ray Walker (Nicholas Cage), a sin- Warner Bros.
gle man with quite a few psycho-
logical defects that surprisingly don't get in the way of
his charming con-artist ways. Ray experiences Tourrette
Syndrome, a phobia of germs and the outdoors, as well
as obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Frank (Sam Rockwell, "Heist") is Ray's partner in
crime; he's your average smart-ass thief constantly sport-
ing a wife beater. Frank faithfully supports Ray through his
mental breakdowns, his main purpose being to balance out
the genius in their illegal endeavors.
As they start a money-laundering scheme to rip off a
-wealthy businessman, Ray experiences a breakdown after.

'

losing his medication. This forces him to seek therapy for
more medication, resulting in him probing for answers
about his ex-wife and the child she wad pregnant with
when he left her.
He discovers that he has a 14 year-old daughter, Angela
(Alison Lohman, "White Oleander"). Angela bursts into
Ray's life both setting off his neurosis and medicating
them with her dirtiness, sweetness and desire to learn from
Tier new-found crimi-
nal father.
This father-daugh-
teC team does a fabu-
loes jod of giving the
TWITCHINGLY FUN film its;candy coating
andchan. Eventual-
ly Ray does blur his two jobs, family and wdrk, leading to
chaos, heartbreak and corruption.
Cage is able to perfectly portray Ray both in his sub-
dued moments and at times where his psychosis flares up,
making him twitch, sputter and lose mental balance. How-
ever, Cage's acting seems simply to recall his:prior role as
the neurotic protagonist brothers in "Acapation." Even
though Cage is a brilliant performer, this pattern in his
films simply make you want to see him in a simple come-
dy where he isn't always sweating and running around in
search of something or someone.
Lohman helps carry "Matchstick Men" ii her quite-
lovely depiction of a double-grossing 1 year-old. Espe-
cially since in reality she is sh kingly 23 years old and
still captures the essence of that age and character.
For fans of the glossy, overly-commercialized film,
"Matchstick Men" offers the requisitethills, warms your
heart and makes you laugh. Ridley Scott entertains his
audience as usual with a soundtrack that is prinarily filled
with Frank Sinatra and Cage fathering a 23-year-old
woman, all #d neat*Aogether'witu:s entimentalt eme-

Odd 'Splendor' turns cynicism into hope

By Joel Hoard
Daily Arts Writer
MOVIE REVIEW ****
Working-class hero Harvey Pekar
(Paul Giamatti) found success in the
'70s and '80s as the author of the
underground comic book "American
Splendor," which chronicled his often-

pathetic life as a
file clerk in Cleve-
land, Ohio. Years
of frustration and
tediousness leave
Pekar depressed,
bitter and cynical
- "a reliable dis-

American
Splendor
At the Michigan
Theater
Fine Line

honesty and tells his stories without fear
or favor. To call him a straight shooter
would be an understatement; when he
first meets Joyce Brabner (Hope Davis),
a loyal fan and his future wife, he tells
her point blank "You might as well
know right off the bat - I had a vasec-
tomy." Pekar is unique without being at
all colorful. Think of him as one dismal
shade of gray.
Paul Giamatti emerges as a gifted
leading man after a decade of support-
ing roles. He captures Harvey Pekar's
bitterness perfectly, and the aura of mis-
ery he exudes is palpable. Hope Davis
has a similar coming out as Pekar's
bookish wife, Joyce. Davis plays the
eternally patient wife with quiet confi-
dence and provides a peculiar emotional
center for the film. In one of the film's
juicier roles, Judah Friedlander plays
Pekar's hopelessly nerdy friend, Toby
Radloff. While at first it may seem that
Friedlander is over the top in his por-
trayal, an appearance by the real Toby
Radloff proves that Friedlander's per-
formance is spot-on.
Effectively telling the story of some-

one as unique and quirky as Harvey
Pekar requires a film that is equally
unconventional. Directors Shari
Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini
break all the rules, casually mixing doc-
umentary and narrative in an innovative
style. Informal interviews with the real-
life Harvey Pekar mix with more tradi-
tional sections featuring Giamatti,
whom Pekar introduces in voiceover as
"the guy who plays me."
In the end, "American Splendor" is
oddly life affirming. If a man as bitter
and cynical as Harvey Pekar can make
it in this world, anyone can.

n - 1

appointment" as he puts it. Nothing
goes right for Pekar. Vocal chord dam-
age leaves his voice weak and raspy; his
first wife dumps him soon after; and he
gets stuck in a dead-end job. Finally,
after befriending comic book artist
Robert Crumb (see 1994's "Crumb"),
Pekar got the idea to channel his misery
.into his own comic book.
Pekar approaches life with brutal

- ------

~~_.3

"J:Wi

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