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September 19, 1995 - Image 5

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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1995-09-19

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oxit 00-~an~u

Local Author Shares !Mercifully good story
Nicholas Delbanco, the director of the MF=A writing program at the
University reads from his new novel, "in the name of Mercy' at Border's,
612 E. Liberty Street at 7:30 p.m, Come support a local author and hear
an excerpt from one good novel. The reading is free.

Page 5
Tuesday,
September 19, 1995

'Clckers' a t eymasterpiceT
Lee's new flm ranks amnon his very best ~v.

By Joshua Rich
Daily Film Editor
Unlike Brooklyn-based Spike Lee
dramas of the past, "Clockers"~ is nei-
ther about racial tensions on one street
in Bedford-Stuyvesant in the 1 980s,
nor about the daily struggles of one
middle-class African American fam-
ily in the 1970s. It is a story of the
1990s. It is about poor people and
drug-dealers and those who have
dreams to get out of the housing
projects and those who succeed and
those who fail.
Yes, this film may come much to
the surprise of someone expecting tc
witness the presentation of another
one of Lee's apocalyptic cinematic
statements. Based on Richard Price's
popular novel, "Clockers" does not
focus on the horrors of racism in soci-
ety or the seemingly bleak future of
our country suffering from racial ten-
sions.
Rather than ending "Clockers"
with a riot or the murder of a spiri-
tual figure amidst great fanfare
(read: Malcolm in "Malcolm X" and
Radio Rahib in "Do the Right
Thing"), this film concludes with a
more uplifting statement of hope.
This is quite unlike the morals of
Lee's previous cinematic fables.
Indeed, the futures of the charac-
ters in "Clockers" - a term for a
late-teenage kid who deals drugs on
the streets -"are actually more
promising than Lee's racially bru-

IP Directed by Spike Lee
with Harvey Keitel and
Mekhi Ph fer
At Showcase
talized figures of "Do the Right
Thing" or "Crooklyn." Perhaps this
is because they come into little con-
tact with white people whom Lee
frequently portrays as abusive and
misunderstanding.
In this case, Harvey Keitel and John
Turturro play two tough homicide
cops who investigate the murder of
one Darryl Adams, a small-time hood
working for the father figure gangster
kingpin Rodney (Delroy Lindo).
While some policemen are shown
beating kids in the projects, or throw-
ing coins into a crowd of hungry black
children just to see how they react,
these two particular cops are not rac-
ist. In fact, they tend to show respect
to the Clockers whom they must in-
terrogate in order to solve the crime.
After all, Clockers are just kids trying
to make money and thence make a
better life for themselves.
Strike, one such 20-year-old hood-
lum, becomes the center of the inves-
tigation after his legal eagle brother
admits to the killing (which we are

led to believe Strike committed). But
we are led to believe that Strike is the
real perpetrator. He is a scum bag
who deals cocaine to pregnant women
and heroin to AIDS sufferers. He gives
money to police in exchange for "pro-
tection." And he corrupts a 12-year-
old local boy by showing him how to
shoot a gun or deal drugs on the play-
ground.
Yet somehow we like Strike (new-
comer Mekhi Phifer) after all. He does
not abuse drugs or spend his money
on trivial material objects, and he has
a great love of trains. He has admi-
rable dreams of one day hopping on
one such engine and riding it right out
of the projects to greater freedom.
Through the murder investigation
around which "Clockers" is framed,
we learn more about poor children
like Strike - how it is to survive in
the projects and have dreams while
living nightmares.
Once again presenting his true film-
making genius, Lee's movie is a
clever, raw and unbiased look at life
on the streets. Spike Lee unbiased? In
this case, yes ... and what a relief it is!
For what makes this film so much
more agreeable and respectable than
his previous efforts with similar
themes, is that Lee gives us "Clock-
ers" and lets us make decisions for
ourselves. The cops are real. The
drug dealers are real. The problems
are real. We see this film and we
may view its troubling situations

Harvey Keltel (left), Mekhl Phifer (center) and John Turturro (right) in Spike Lee's "Clockers"

free of any commentary or prod-
ding to think a certain way.
Such even-handed storytelling is
made possible by the remarkable per-
formances of Phifer - who came
straight from the streets of New York
to star in this movie - and Lindo
("Crooklyn"). This will undoubtedly
be a breakthrough point for both ac-
tors who play their characters with
proper restraint and terrifying deter-
mination. They also outshine the con-
served Keitel and Turturro who, as

always, are excellent, though not the
main foci of the picture.
These believable and talented por-
trayals are captured by a shaky cam-
era that presents grainy images and
exaggerates bright colors. Hence, the
film has an air of closeness to it; we
feel like we are first-hand witnesses
to each individual's struggle. And as
always, Lee backs up the eye-pop-
ping action on screen with a striking
soundtrack of original jazz selections
and poignant pop tunes.

No element of this film, in fact,
goes without distinct and special care.
Like in all his films, Lee crafts this
finely-tuned urban epic, especially
highlighting what makes it appear
horrifyingly real and shocking to hfs
audience. He is an exceptionally gifted
artist who knows how to manipulate
our senses and impress us at the same
time with his engaging narratives. In
"Clockers," we find that experienc-
ing such mastery is a true privilege.-it
is a delight.

Stela Bues and Jazz festival jumps, jives and

By Jams Miller
Daily Arts Writer
One of the grand traditions of the Ann
Arbor music scene took place on Saturday
afternoon. From noonto 8 p.m. Gallup park
was hostto a wildrumpus as the Ann Arbor
Blues and Jazz festival jumped, jived and
wailed once again. Taking place on the
auspicious day of B.B. King's seventieth
birthday, the festival got underway with the
usual population of couples and parents
with passels of kids and a growing number
of tie-dyed college hippies.
The first offering was a Detroit R&B
band, Mimi and the Snakes. They played
well enough,but lacked direction. Draw-
ing influences from rock, R&B and the
blues they couldn't seems to decide with
one they wanted to be. Covers like "Chain
of Fools and "Piece of My Heart" suf-
fered from weak support from the band
and lacking vocals.
Up next was Shawn "Thunder" Wallace,
a Lansing native, who brought the first taste
of jazz to the afternoon's show. Early in his
set Wallace sutffeed from torpid, meander-
ing tunes that went nowhere. But tunes like
"Some Kind of Blue" and "Music Lives
On' 'savedthe set, demonstrating Wallace's
composition skills as well as soloing abili-
ties. Taking much of his style from John
Coltrane, he played with a harsh, brassy
tone and technical ferociousness indicative

Ann Arbor
Blues and Jazz
Festival
Gallup Park
September 16, 1995

of Trane's early years, but still lacking in
Trane's energy and depth of feeling. The
best part of the set was the only cover,
Coltrane's "Giant Steps." Even though he
made several fundamental changes, like
playing the sax part on a flute and splitting
the solos up into one chorus break, which
might buy off some who are used to hearing
everyone from Michael Brecker of Parlia-
ment to the Trane himself play the song like
abullinachinashop, it was adecenthomage
to his apparent idol.
Shifting gears back to the blues, Aaron
"Little Sonny" Willis tookthe stage. Willis
played the festival back in 1972 when
Muddy Waters and Lightnin' Hopkins
were there. Willis, a Detroit regular, man-
aged to pull off a minor stylistic and
musical m iraclea by drawing Oti s Redding
influences in to his singing and combin-

ing the hard urban edge of Little Walter
with the country sweetness of Sonny Terry
in his harp playing. As if the set wasn't
eclectic enough, he closed with a loose,
stripped down cover of Sly Stone's funk
opus "Thank You (Falletinme Be Mice
Elf Again)" bringing the crowd to its feet
for the first time.
Continuing in a fine blues vein came
Lonnie Mack. Mack proves that the Chi-
cago blues tradition is far from dead. Com-
bining this Muddy sound with a taste of
Kansas City jump (especially in the piano),
Mack had aglide in his stride and adip in his
hip with his first tune "Baby You Don't
Have to Go." On "Rockin Pneumonia and
the Boogie Woogie Blues" the piano player
showed more of his Kansas city chops with
licks handed down from Willie 'The Lion"
Smith to Dr. John to him - an excellent New
Orleans sound. Toclosehis set, Mackplayed
the last song"OreoCookie Blues" solo, with
only his Flying "V:' It was a tune so deep in
the Delta tradition, complete with lyrics like
"chocolate on my fingers/chocolate on my
lips," that Amer's started serving crayfish in
the bean sprouts.
A surprisingly inadequate intro to
Booker T. and the MG's followed, with
Pancho Sanchez and his directionless,
vapid Latin jazz pieces. To make matters
worse, the sound man, apparently in a
hurry to leave and cruise South U., had the

bass cram
a passing
the closur
James Br
Bell's "Ti
passably;
them. Tit(
Booker
one song
the word
Dunn "is
piss intoI
Bob Dyl,
body"m.
folk tune,
the ladsl
version 01

wails its way to history
ked up loud enough to bring down a kind of Mambo Kings go to Harlem, and
aircraft. The sole bright spot was amazing soulful cover of Cole Porter's
ng number, a medley including "Summertime" with fantastic solos from
.own's "Cold Sweat" and Archie Booker on the organ and Steve Cropper
ighten Up." But even a series of (the guy with the long beard from "The
played populartunes couldn't save Blues Brothers"). "Hip Hug Her" and
oPuente, where are you? "Green Onions" followed, infusing new
.r T. and the MG's needed only life into their old standards. In one of the
;to prove again that their band, in few ballads of the evening, they played
Is of the bassist Donald "Duck" "Sarasota Sunset," a new composition, a
spowerful enough to turn goat piece in the soul ballad style of Sam &
gasoline." They started off with Dave and other Stax label mates. The
Ian's "You Gotta Serve Some- already hyped crowd was treated the final
ianaging to throw the funk into a hit ofthe evening "Time is Tight," the last
Before getting to the big hits, piece of proof that after 30 years of play-
played "Mo' Greens," a blues ing second fiddle to big names, Booker T.
f"GrenOnions,""Soul Limbo," and the MG's deserve this day in the sun.

Guitarist Tinsley Ellis

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