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March 02, 2004 - Image 5

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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 2004-03-02

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Tuesday
March 2, 2004
arts.michigandaily.com
artseditor@michigandaily.com

WRTS

5

4

Weak characters
hinder sister story

By Will Dunlap
For the Daily
BOOK REVI EW ***
Being jobless and lovelorn is hard
enough without the added burden of
terminal illness. For movie producer
Olivia Hunt, the 34-year-old protag-
onist of "The True and Outstanding
Adventures of the Hunt Sisters," a
bad season in Hollywood is made
worse with the news that her sister
has leukemia. Olivia's initial feelings

of despair and
denial set the
tone for real-life
film producer
Elisabeth Robin-
son's semi-auto-
biographical first
novel.
Through
Olivia's voice,
we meet an array

The True and
Outstanding
Adventures
of the Hunt
Sisters
B Elisabeth
L obinson
Little, Brown and Co.

of characters, including her hand-
some ex-boyfriend Michael and her
best friend Tina. Though we're given
glimpses of Olivia's neurotic mother
and alcoholic father, the real star is
Maddie, Olivia's optimistic kid sis-
ter. Robinson's narrative is woven
entirely through Olivia's sometimes
shell-shocked but always heartfelt
letters, e-mails and faxes to friends,
acquaintances and Hollywood asso-
ciates.
Before Olivia can come to terms
with Maddie's illness, she must first
come home. For Maddie and her
high school sweetheart husband,
home is Shawnee Falls, Ohio, the
place where the Hunt sisters grew
up. Helping her sister through
chemotherapy and into remission,
Olivia finds her own life taking
unexpected turns. With a film adap-
tation of "Don Quixote" in the
works and a rekindling of her rela-
tionship with Michael, Olivia is
forced to match the weight of her
struggles against those of her sister,
reinventing herself in an attempt to
find peace.

It would be easy to call Robinson's
book a Hollywood novel. Certainly it
is where Hollywood is concerned
that Robinson's firsthand experience
is wielded most handily. She was a
producer on "Braveheart" and "Last
Orders" and clearly knows the ins-
and-outs of what it takes to make a
Hollywood film. Descriptions of the
long hours and the stress of acting as
the director-studio go-between is fas-
cinating, and appearances by Robin
Williams and John Cleese help to
narrow the gap between fact and fic-
tion. But pigeonholing the book into
the Hollywood genre (already per-
fected by Elmore Leonard and oth-
ers) would only make light of the
emotional weight that Robinson is so
clearly after.
Unfortunately for Robinson, nei-
ther the attentive rendering of Holly-
wood nor the more sobering scenes
from the cancer ward can save the
characters, many of whom are large-
ly two-dimensional. Handsome
Michael, for instance, suffers from a
lack of exposure; we simply don't
see enough of him. His surrogate,
the charming British director of
Olivia's film, is similarly undevel-
oped. The resulting narrative is lop-
sided by lovey-dovey odes to male
characters we hardly know. The
prose is so melodramatic in places, it
might have been lifted from a Nora
Roberts novel.
Certainly though, Robinson's
book is not without appeal. The sis-
ters' relationship feels authentic and
Maddie's graceful stoicism is never
overdone. Ultimately it is at the
heart of Olivia and Maddie's rela-
tionship that we begin to sense what
Robinson was after in the first
place: a novel about the crisis of
faith and the beginnings of grief. All
this is to say that the book tries hard
but falls just short of earning its
tearjerker ending. Such a conclu-
sion, along with the slickly written
e-mails and letters that precede it,
will no doubt win over a large and
grateful audience.

MORTENSEN PROVES HE'S NOT A ONE-TRICK PONY

By Ryan Lewis
Daily Arts Writer
As a man, Viggo Mortensen is the consummate
artist. Musician, painter, photographer and poet, his
better-known acting career skims only the surface.
But a movie star he is ... or has become.
Before his role as Aragorn in "The Lord of the
Rings" trilogy, his parts consisted almost com-
pletely of supporting characters. In fact, the soft-
spoken demeanor and laid-back stature of
Mortensen is markedly opposed to the noble and
tough characters audiences see him portraying. "It
seems odd to take that much of a beating, and go
ahead and ask for more," he said in an interview
with The Michigan Daily.
And with the upcoming release of his first mar-
quee gig, "Hidalgo," Mortensen still has much
appreciation for being cast as the king. "In this case,
obviously because 'The Lord of the Rings' was such
a successful project, I not only got into the room to
talk to the director about it, but I got the job, which
wouldn't have happened."
He was drawn to the character of Frank T. Hop-
kins, a prolific cowboy and horseman who was
actually known for his mustang breeding and
horse racing, and his story for many of the same
qualities of his previous role. "It's a story that's a
classic call to adventure. There are several individ-
uals that go through these experiences, but you're

sort of focusing on Hidalgo and Frank T. Hop-
kins." That special relationship, with the horse as a
veritable lead, symbolizes much of the culture and
subtext behind the plot, one of Native American
heritage and responsibility.
Together, Hopkins and Hidalgo travel to Saudi
Arabia to participate in a 1,000 mile race across the
Arabian desert. "As a moviegoer, I like to see those
sorts of stories that involve an ordeal or a big chal-
lenge because those are the kinds of events in our
own lives, big and small, that kind of clear things up.
You get a sense of who you are and how you fit into
the world, or don't, and it's up to you whether you
want to do something about it."
At first glance, "Hidalgo" appears to have the
sappy sentimentality so characteristic of titles under
the Disney banner, with the hero's journey literally
lost in its own quicksand. Usually, the audience is
treated like a group of four-year-olds. Luckily
though, the mouse is derailed by the class, beauty
and subtlety of the story.
Viggo himself understands the importance of rec-
ognizing the audience's intelligence. "If these stories
work, then you're told in a sort of no-frills way -
like an old fashioned movie - then the audience is
respected and allowed to find the subtleties and
whatever they want to get. It's up to them to read into
it. You're not being hit over the head with it."
Within that respect, the direction and script honors
all the cultures involved in the story - Arabic,

Lakota and cowboy. Filmed in South Dakota as well
as Morocco, the native people were given the oppor-
tunity to become involved. "They were careful to do
everything right. Even though you don't see it very
well, the dancing and singing at Wounded Knee is
done by Lakota singers and dancers who got special
permission from the tribe to sing that particular song
in that particular situation, and all the actors took it
very seriously."
Though he knew little of Hopkins before the job,
what he discovered once hired gave him the utmost
respect for the man he portrays. "I read what there
is to read, which isn't a lot. Hopkins was ahead of
his time in his appreciation of that breed of mus-
tang. But what I found to be equally, or perhaps
more valuable, was the oral tradition that I got to
hear about firsthand."
While he could hardly say enough about the cul-
tures and the visual as well as popcorn experience
"Hidalgo" is, nothing compared to the wealth of
information and genuine interest of the man himself.
In that sense, he resembles his characters tremen-
dously, with a quiet knowingness that affects those
around him.
Viggo Mortensen's fame is growing, and there's
no reason to believe that "Hidalgo" won't be a suc-
cess. But more important is the art. He'll surely be
out working on a new album or taking more photo-
graphs until the next worthy acting offer comes
around "or at least until the money runs out."

Courtesy of
Buena Vista
For the last
time, it's
called
"Hidalgo,"
not "Lord of
the Rings."

Grohl returns with multifaceted LP

By Elie Perler
Daly Arts Writer

From explosive drummer in Nirvana
to vibrant frontman in the Foo Fighters,
Dave Grohl consistently proves his
worth and versatility as an icon in the
alternative rock scene. A willingness to
experiment coupled with a newly incar-
nated alter ego is _..........__
the driving force Probot
behind Probot,
Grohl's latest, bold E Probotus
collaborative Unum
effort. With guest Southem Lord
vocal appearances
by underground thrash metal luminar-
ies, the lead Foo pays homage to his
musical heroes. In turn, the idols show-
case their gratitude, honoring them-
selves in the process.
Opening the album is the powerful
"Centuries of Sin." At the helm are
the throaty vocals of Venom's Cronos,
backed by pounding drums and sear-
ing guitar licks, thick with grinding
fuzz and pulsating boost. The lyrics

rable gems on this record, elevating
liveliness to new levels. Both succeed
remarkably in presenting an atmosphere
highly conducive to moshing vis-a-vis
cut-time tempo and heavily distorted
power chords. Lemmy and Mike Dean,
vocalists from Motorhead and Corro-
sion of Conformity respectively, tire-
lessly demonstrate efforts to instill a
newfound appreciation for the genre
they helped define.
Despite its mediocrity, Probot's
efforts to repackage and renew dated
underground metal are somewhat
refreshing among a market overflowing
with wannabe rockers. Furthermore,
reviving metal from the grave and
reestablishing it at the forefront reminds
metalheads and headbangers every-
where that there is hope in the face of
nu metal's fraudulence.
Through this thrash metal tribute
album, rock fans can easily conjure
musical images of the earliest grunge
roots. More importantly, Probot repre-
sents a critical pause-point in Grohl's
career whereby he acknowledges past
influences in preparation for a possible
reinvention of musical direction.

fittingly include cantankerous notions
of death, hell, violence and darkness.
Together, each of these qualities con-
tributes to a successful opener for a
highly energetic record.
Yet after listening to a few select
tracks - namely "Silent Spring," "Red
War" and "My Tortured Soul" -- the
music blends together in a melting pot
of noise. Basically, one need only listen
to a few songs to grasp the gist of the
entire album. However, "Shake Your
Blood" and the punk-infused, "Access
Babylon," prove to be the more memo-

'Nights' in Havana not as hot as expected

By Jennie Adler
Daily Arts Writer
MOVIE REVIEW **I
Just pretend for a second that Guy
Ferland's "Dirty Dancing: Havana
Nights" really is a companion movie to
the 1987 classic "Dirty Dancing;" then,
you'd have yourself an original movie.
Unfortunately, "Havana Nights" relies
too heavily on its predecessor for the

almost every scene, smothers any
chance of "Havana Nights" stepping
out of the "Dirty Dancing" shadow.
While a better dancer than Baby, Garai
flat-out stinks as the innocent Katey.
Also, Patrick Swayze's small cameo
appearance as a inspirational dance
instructor doesn't help either.
Putting the deplorable performanc-
es aside, "Havana Nights" is at least
enjoyable to watch and listen to. The
dramatic colors emanate a 1950s aura
of rich reds and soft pastels. And
aside from the updated versions of
"The Time of My Life" and "Dirty
Dancing," the soundtrack stands out

as uplifting and entertaining. Joann
Fregalette Jansen's choreography is
both creative and exciting.
If "Havana Nights" was supposed to
be a dance movie, then Ferland should
have highlighted the dancing more.
Instead, the movie is lost, swaying back
and forth between a remake, a political
drama and a romance. With a new lead
actress, different plot and original title
void of the words "dirty" and "danc-
ing," you have yourself a creatively
original movie. Or, if a dance movie
starring Luna must do, please, unless he
is spoofing a Chippendales dancer, no
Patrick Swayze.

RAA
LIE

plot, actors, sound-
track and title, and
makes a generally
poor remake.
The plot is a
sloppy conglomer-
ation of "Dirty
Dancing" and
"Saturday Night
Fever" the main

Dirty
Dancing:
Havana
Nights
At Quality 16 and
Showcase
Miramax

ilt

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