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September 14, 1995 - Image 19

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The Michigan Daily, 1995-09-14

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The Michigan Daily - Wea4e"ca mc. - Thursday. September 14.1995-58

Lee and Scorsese's 'Clockers' is right on time
Executive producer Scorsese and director Lee generate excitement for new film

By Michael Zilberman
Daily Arts Writer
This movie is so eagerly expected
that its last-minute delay looks a lot
like a marketing ploy. After that, the
actual opening of"Clockers" is bound
to appear somewhat anticlimactic. The
much talked-about collaboration be-
tween Spike Lee as director and Mar-
tin Scorsese as executive producer
seemed at once impossible and inevi-
table. This is especially true if you
take into account theirpersonal friend-
ship, mutual admiration and a number
of amazing similarities in their re-
spective styles and backgrounds.
Both Lee and Scorsese emerged
from New York City's poor neigh-
borhoods to tell the world about
largely unknown and/or ignored sides
of life. Both broke new stylistic
grounds. Both shocked the world with
their earlier, angrier productions and
then mellowed out a little-as shown
by Scorsese's proudly prudish "The
Age Of Innocence" and Lee's surpris-
ingly tame "Crooklyn."
Each tried his hand at producing
friends' projects, and not always
successfully: Scorsese did "Mad
Dog And Glory," and the superior
"The Grifters." Lee financed the

recent Nick Gomez flick, "New Jer-
sey Drive," and the singularly idi-
otic "DROP Squad" (a near-fascist
fantasy about a special force that
seeks African-Americans who for-
got their roots and literally beats
some sense into them).
They respectively bring with them
a cast of regulars: Denzel Washing-
ton seems to have become to Spike
Lee what Robert De Niro is to Scorsese
-a somewhat flattering reflection of
the author's ego and a carrier of the
idea. The constant presence of John
Turturro, in just about every Lee
movie, is comparable to Joe Pesci
who frequents Scorsese's pictures.
Both directors obviously have a
thing for appearing in their own mov-
ies in the most oddball parts. Even
more, each has dabbled in music vid-
eos - Scorsese directed the famous
subway sequence in Michael
Jackson's "Bad," and Lee has been
behind the camera for a few rap vid-
eos.
Now Lee borrows staple Scorsese
actor Harvey Keitel for the role of a
jaded detective in "Clockers." In fact,
Scorsese had seriously thought about
directing the fihn himself after buy-
ing the rights to author Richard Price's

best-selling urban tome. His hopes
for personally bringing this shocking
story to the big screen dwindled, how-
ever, when Scorsese committed him-
self to direct the Robert de Niro and
Sharon Stone drama "Casino" instead.
Coinciding with the "Clockers" re-
lease this month, the American Mu-
seum of the Moving Image is present-
ing a full retrospective presentation
of Spike Lee's work - an honor he
now shares with none other than Mar-
tin Scorsese. The presentation serves
as a de facto certificate of acceptance
into the pantheon of American film-
making. Both directors came off New
York streets to become students at
NYU's prestigious film school and
even greater notoriety.
But will Lee "The Great Director"
manage to maintain Lee "The Young
Punk"'s ability to strike a public
nerve? After all, controversy has al-
ways been a trademark element of
Lee's stylized urban melodramas,
from his early films like "She's Gotta
Have it," to later pictures like
"Malcolm X." (Similarly, Scorsese
has had his share of negative press
resulting from graphically violent se-
quences in much talked-about films
like "Taxi Driver" and "GoodFellas.")

With "Clockers," it looks like
some of Lee's old-school anarchy
is still there. For starters, there is
the choice of complete unknown
Mekhi Phifer for the starring role of
low life, drug-dealing kingpin
"Strike." This newcomer came from
straight of the streets of New York
and showed up for an open casting
call with nothing but a couple of
Wal-Mart photo machine snapshots
he had developed on the way.
The most amazing thing about
Spike Lee is his skillful balance
between street-conscious credibil-
ity and capitalist commercialism.
With his recent, semi-autobio-
graphical production, "Crooklyn,"
Lee visibly leaned toward the lat-
ter. "Clockers," on the other hand,
might represent a step back in the
opposite direction.
Despite the impressive track records
of its creators, there aren't any sure
bets about the movie. Nevertheless,
there are some things we can be cer-
tain of:
1) The film will feature a New
Wave-ish title sequence (a Lee staple).
2) An obligatory director's cameo
will show up at some point.
3) Keitel and Turturro will, as al-

/

r

Scorsese and Lee, the dream team behind 'Clockers.'

ways, provide fine performances.
4) Phifer will become a new name
to watch in the entertainment indus-
try (the music fan now has hopes to
record a rap album).
5) There will be a hot soundtrack
(three songs from Seal alone!).
And there will most certainly be

a huge and arguably pointless contro-
versy over something related to the
movie (as far as I understand, some-
one is already raising hell about the
allegedly stolen poster art). But what
else would you expect? It's a movie
by Lee and Scorsese. And it's more
interesting this way.

'Kids'
director
prefers
0
gnOtt over
perkyi
,teenflm
By Stephen Hunter
The Baltimore Sun
Larry Clark is depressed. The di-
rector of the colossal kick in the guts
known as "Kids" has just seen a movie
about teen-age life, and it's got him
down.
"It was the most depressing film
I've seen in some time," he says with
a heartfelt sigh. "Everybody was en-
joying it but me," he confesses. "I
wanted to kill myself."
The movie was not "Kids," with
its teen sex, drug and alcohol binges,
its HIV-positive Lothario stalking
virgins on the sidewalks of New
York, its casual violence and tribal
bonding. No, it was "Clueless," with
its cheery optimism, its color-coor-
dinated costumes, its ultra-cute
Valleyspeak.
"It was such b-s-!" he says.
Whatever they may accuse Larry
Clark of_ kiddie porn, sensational-
ism, voyeurism, a molester's fasci-
nation with the young - they'll
never accuse him of making a movie
'that's b-s-.
"I wanted to make a film that was
real," he says earnestly. "I wanted
to make a movie that kids could go
to and feel it was real life. I wanted
to make a film that says, 'This is
what it feels like to be a kid. This is
what it's like to live to have fun
above everything else.' Even though
it's dark, there's some fun going
on. I thought it was funnier than
'Clueless.' "
"Kids" is in some way the end of,
or the necessary result of, Clark's
own obsession with the lives of teen-
agers, and not merely because he is
the father of three of them.
He made his reputation originally
as a photographer, having published
two seminal books that established
his style and his subject matter. The
first was "Tulsa," photos from his
hometown, where he chronicled the
dirty, bleak lives of teen-age losers,
dope dealers, violent, white, work-
ing-class youth with a passion and
anti-cliched clarity that amazed
back in 1973. So powerful was his
book that Francis Ford Coppola ac-
tually came to Tulsa and shot two
films about teen-agers there ("The
Outsiders" and "Rumblefish") that
used Clark's book as a stylistic
touchstone.

'Gumby' movie is a bit too plastic

A stil from Larry Clark's movie 'Kids.'

The second book was more auto-
biographical; it was called "Teen-
aged Lust," and was built out of
photographs and icons (like speed-
ing tickets and report cards) from
his own self-declared "wild" teen-
age years.
The one thing he prides himself on
in his exploration of thisculture is his
willingness to get inside, to see it as
kids see it, not as grown-ups see it.
"The first thing," he says, "you
have to really want to. I didn't want
to to make a film about me, but
them. I wanted to show what it's
like when adults aren't around. Be-
lieve me, it changes fast."
He began hanging out at Washing-
ton Square in New York's Greenwich
Village, a hub of footloose teen skate-
boarding culture, his "authenticity"
vouched for by a kid whom he'd met
at a photography seminar. He took
roll after roll of photos of his subjects,
gradually easing his way into the cul-
ture.
Clark, 53, even learned to skateboard.
"I was just awful at first. But eventu-
ally, I became just one of the guys. I
really began to see the world from their
perspective. But my idea was always to
do a real film about teen-agers with real
teens as actors. When Hollywood does
teens, they're always played by adults
in their mid-'20s. It never looks or feels
real."
He hung out in New York's Wash-
ington Square for more than three years,
watching and observing and taking pic-
tures and gathering mental images of
the movie he desperately wanted to
make.
"I knew exactly how I wanted them
to act. I remembered everything; how
they laughed, how they moved. I had a
real clear vision. I wanted them to talk
the way they talked. In fact, I gave Leo
Fitzpatrick the (main) role of Telly be-
cause I like his voice. That was fantas-
tic, I thought, even though I didn't un-
derstand a thing he said!"
Clark knew the film would be a fic-

tional piece, even if it had a documen-
tary feel, but he had a problem thinking
up a story. After learning how univer-
sally the kids despised and ignored the
condoms that adults urged on them,
though, he came up with the idea of
structuring the film around a promiscu-
ous teen-ager (Telly) who won't use a
condom and is HIV-positive.
"It was a 24-hour movie," Clark
says. "That way we get to see what the
kids do over 24 hours and get a better
sense of their lives."
He explained his concept to a 19-
year-old friend, himselfjust out ofskate-
board culture, who wanted to be a
screenwriter. Three weeks later the kid,
Harmony Korine, returned with a
screenplay.
"It's his fault, really,"jokes Clark about
the controversy that has surrounded the
movie. "I just shot the script."
Clark tries to avoid valuejudgments in
his dramatization, letting the audience
make up its own mind. But, pressed, he'll
sum up teen culture, 1995.
"What's happening now is that ev-
erybody knows everything. They have
so much information. Everybody has
access to drugs. Kids are having sex at
such an early age. It's everywhere. It's
just different than when we were grow-
ing up." And what's next for this truth
teller? Baby boomers, watch out. The
next one is about - gasp, shudder,
parents.

By Ted Watts
Daily Arts Staff
Remember the TV you watched as
a kid? How about that of thy parents?
Of course you don't. At least not di-
rectly. You might very well remem-
ber them secondhand, though.
Take Gumby, for instance. A good
guy. A little nauseous looking with that
green face mask thing going on and all,
but all in all not a bad guy. And he was
on that show called "Gumby." Bet you
didn't remember that. It was on origi-
nally on the "Howdy Doody Show" in
the '50s, gained its own show, was put
into syndication, showed up again in
the '80s with all new episodes (but the
same look, feel and sound) and recently
put back on on a little network called
Nickelodeon.
ArtClokey's little clay boy show, ifnot
one of the better written elements of
children's television, was at least one of
the most visually interesting. With the
exception of the occaisional stop motion
holiday special (like those Santa Claus,
Easter Bunny and Rudolph ones),
"Gumby" was the only animated puppet
gameintownuntiltheriseofWill Vinton's
Claymation studio, concomittant with the
success of its dancing California Raisins.
Like a green, geometric and enfleshed
version of Casper the Friendly Ghost,
Gumby was a relatively mindless crea-
ture without guile or intelligence. "Hey
Pokey, it's not good to hurt people" is a
probing to the deepest portion ofGumby's
"mind." Still, he was more intelligent
than his orange horse Pokey or his other
friends, Prickle the yellow dinosaur or
Goo the blue girl.
Note how easily the characters are de-
fined by colors? They are primary tinted
plastiscene after all. And about as simple
as their palatte, too. They were all essen-
tially good characters, with little to really
differentiate them besides image and
voice. Pokey was a little bit more mopey
than the others, often feeling hurt or left
out, and Gumby was incrementally more
intelligent than the rest, but ultimately the
characters weren't all that different from
each other.
Except the Blockheads, of course. The
reddish orange and, not surprisingly.
blockheaded twins were the dark element
of Gumby's land. Having a different
scheme every episode they were in,they're
yet another illustration of the other char.
acters' ineffectiveness. When you can'
keep the evil characters under lock anc
key, even after they've nearly destroye

you dozens oftimes, youjust aren't that
bright. Of course, their complicated
schemes, complete with advanced tech-
nology, always fail to be successful.
Maybe you can view the good charac-
ters' lack of intellect as a balance to a
tremendous amount of good fortune
they have in defeating the Blockheads.
And generally without Gumby's par-
ents having to intervene. Or maybe you
can view the villains as the Communist
Bloc-heads. They are reddish after all.
But why muddy the waters when it was
generally such a simple show?
Last Friday (September 8th) there was
anew chapter added to the Gumbymythos
with "Gumby 1,"also known as "Gumby
-The Movie." The movie was primarily
made in '88, '89 and '91, but post-pro-
duction work was only finished within
the last year. The movie remains true to
its television predecessor, in large part
due to creater Clokey's guidance. The
movie was distributed by Arrow Re-
leasing instead of a more major com-
pany because of potential creative con-
flicts. Clokey has been quoted as saying
that some companies wanted script
changes while one actually wanted
Eddie Murphy to be in the movie. While
essentially intended for home video re-
lease, the movie has made it to the big
screen.
It is actually fairly disconcerting to see
a Gumby as big as or bigger than a real
person, but on a movie screen he often is.
You can see the details ofGumby and his
world much betterthan on the TV screen,
which is both impressive and annoying at
the same time. Mistakes that would be
minor on a television screen are blown up
hundreds of times, and so a vibrating bit
of Gumby scalp can move from being
virtually invisible to apotential percieved
lice problemfor the little clay giant.
But at the same time, you can appre-
ciate the Gumby environment so much

more. The books that characters often
enter are highly visible and easy to
read, and the toy details that are easily
missed on the small screen become
obvious and enjoyable on the silver. It's
almost like watching a documentary on
microscopic life that has, forthe benefit
of the viewer, been put under the micro-
scope and recorded for posterity. They
weren't meant to be that big, but it sure
is a novelty.
The large part of the movie is, unfortu-
nately, rather dull. Gumby and his band,
the Clayboys, play some really bad '80s
fakemetal (like, oh, Loverboy-type stuff),
meet a couple ofhappenin' claychicks(in
addition to the regular, and rather sugges-
tively named, Goo) and fight the Block-
heads to save the farms of a bunch of old
women who prima facia seem incapable
of farming (which, I suppose, gives a
pretty good explanation of why they're
about to lose their farms.) It's basically a
long, drawn out Gumby short. Only in the
last quarter of the movie do things really
pick up. In a couple of action sequences,
Gumby has to fight a curiosly Termina-
tor-like robot duplicate of himself. He
does so in both a Medeival world and in a
futuristic world that parrallels the "Star
Wars" movies in ship style, light saber
design and the effects of cutting off a
largely mechanical man's hand. Good
wins and plays some really bad rock.
Well, Gumby has certainly re-
mained true to himself. Simplistic yet
good hearted, his movie incarnation
is not shocking. Unfortunately,
"Gumby 1"isn't playing at Briarwood
or Showcase, and it may not be in any
normal theater by tomorrow. Keep
checking Fox Village, or maybe the
Michigan will call it an art film and
run it. Oh well, at least it'll probably
be on video soon. And there's still a
rumor of a "Gumby 2" being made.
All right!

CLASSIFIEDS'
great scores...
Law School Business School
Dental School
I i.

The
Scriptorium
Seminars
THE SCRIPTORIUM: CENTER FOR CHRISTIAN ANTIQUITIES
is a non-sectarian research center based upon the Van Kampen Collection
of ancient artifacts, manuscripts, and rare printed material. The collection
consists primarily of biblical texts in all representative forms and also
includes one of the largest cuneiform and papyri holdings in the United
States as well as numerous manuscripts and incunabula. The Scriptoriums
interdisciplinary seminars are conducted at our Grand Haven facility, on
the shores of Lake Michigan; in England at Hampton Court
Herefordshire, a fourteenth-century estate; and at its excavation site at
Wadi Natrun, Egypt, currently investigating the fourth-century monastery

I)4~A~ I ;t~t r~A4L~ ~.

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