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September 20, 1995 - Image 9

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The Michigan Daily, 1995-09-20

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The Michigan Daily - wednesday, September 20, 1995 - 9

Amusing and off-beat 'Oblivion'
finds life in a world all its own

By Alexandra Twin
Daily Arts Editor
He had a primadonna for a star, a
shoestring's worth in cash and an un-
usual idea for a film. He'd been a cam-
eraman, a sideman, a money man and
even a showman once but now he was
ready to hit the saddle. He made the
movie, a bizarre urban western, and it
hit theaters and video stores within a
week. He had another idea but no one
would buy. He had another idea but no
one would buy. Two years later and
suddenly ma and pa's warnings about
having "somethingto fall back on"made
perfect cosmic sense, except nothing
made sense other than making films.
So he did what any good, self-depre-
cating artist would do; he took the frus-
trations of his life as an obscure,
independant filmmaker and turnedthem
into an hilarious, satirical triptych about
the frustrations of the life of an obscure,
independant filmmaker on the movie
set from Hell. What results is one ofthe
best,most original comedies of the year.
While "Living in Oblivion," the sec-
ond effort from New York indie film-
maker Tom Dicillo is not a recounting
of his experiences while filming
"Johnny Suede" (1992), the ill-destined,
Brad Pitt-before-the-bare-buttocks-
craze tale of a lost boy in a big city, the

film is meant to stand as a gentle and
humorous reminder to those who may
glamorize the oh-so-gentle art of mak-
ing movies.
Nick Reve (Steve Buscemi) is hav-
ing none of it. The glamor of the cellu-
loid life, that is. His lead actor is noit in
the mood. His token "big star" is not on
the set. His crew is not on cue. His
Living In
Oblivion
Directed by Tom Didlo
with Steve Buscemi and
Katherine Keener
At Ann Arbor 1 & 2
dwarf actor is going on strike.
Broken upo into three different,
horrifically comic versions ofthe same
damn day, "Oblivion" pretends to pass
itself off as a faux documentary but
ultimately delivers as a cryptic, bit-
ing, cyclical narrative. The film nearly
teeters on the bizarre but ultimately
lands right in the middle of the status
quo where it sits and smolders amica-
bly.

In the always astonishingly quirky and
just plain astonishing Steve Buscemi,
("Reservoir Dogs") Dicillo has found his
ideal comic alter-ego. Alternately jazzbo
cool and borderline psychotic, Buscemi
slinks and winds his way around the
movie, wild hair whirling out over the
largest eyes sinceBetty Boop, spinning
the film and his lines on their axes again
and again.
No less impressive is fellow indie hero
James Le Gros ("Drugstore Cowboy,")
who gives an hilarious and inspired per-
formance as the pompous starlet, Chad
Palamino. While Dicillo has maintained
that the character is not meant to be an
embodiment of Brad Pitt, even without
the similarity in physicality and name -
Brad, Chad - you kinda gotta wonder.
Extraordinarily cool dialoguemakes it
easy to see why this film won the presti-
gious Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award
at the Sundance Film Festival. An ex-
ample - the dwarf, in protesting his role
as the figure of fear in a young woman
(Katherine Keener)'s nightmare shouts
accusingly: "Why does the nightmare
have to be about a dwarf? Do you have
nightmares about Dwarves? I don't even
have nightmares about dwarves!"
Never less than top shelf, the film
may have started nowhere, but any-
thing this original can never remain in
oblivion for long.

RECORDS
Continued from page 8
Malfunkshun
Return To Olympus
Loosegroove/Sony 550
Well, Malfunkshun stopped exist-
ing several years ago, but it had been
at that nexus of rock happenstance
commonly known as Seattle.
Frontman Andrew Wood (a.k.a.
Landrew) went on to form Mother
Love Bone, which itself stopped ex-
isting when Wood stopped existing in
1989.
"Return to Olympus" is a collec-
tion of Malfunkshun releases from
various places and times, but it man-
ages to hold together pretty well as a
testament to the band's reinterpreta-
tion of Led Zepplin through Kiss and
a couple of other mainstream acts of
the '70s and early '80s.
The opening and last listed tracks
(there's a hidden track of the band
playing "With Yo' Heart Not Your
Hands" live) are both performance
pieces, with Andrew completely in
his God of Thunder act. They act as
bookends which may help give an
illusion of a single album.
At any rate, there's some good songs
sammiched in there.
"My Only Fan" is an enthralling
little ditty belted out through Wood's
nose and thus resonating in an appeal-
ing way. Their live cover of Ted
Nugent's "Wang Dang Sweet Poon
Tang" would make the Gonz-Master
proud. The whole album probably

This is Malfunkshun. They are happily enjoying a natural high.

would.
Malfunkshun's output can probably
be viewed as the most obvious go
between between Seattle yg~.ige and
the rock of 20 years ( It's

also probably the best executed of
that inbetween. So take your poofy
haired hard rockin' butt to the store
already.
- Ted Watts

Phantasmagoria
Sierra
It seemed so much like a dream
come true for Adrienne Delaney and
her husband Donald Gordon. A
beautiful estate, on its own private
island...a perfect place to build a
life together. But, the mansion holds
many secrets, and won't easily give
them up. There's the mystery of the
previous owner, a famous illusion-
ist who had built the place, and then
died there nearly one hundred years
before. What was his name? And
what kind of "magic" did he really
practice? Wasn't he married sev-
eral times? What had happened to
his wives? As Adrienne learns more
about the house and its former
owner, her husband undergoes a
worrisome personality change
which begins to deepen into ever
darker stages. What is happening to
Don? So many questions; so little
time.
Something waits in the house,
something hidden, something evil.
Something that longs to be freed.
Something that needs to infect
again. They say that history repeats
itself. And so it does...
Welcome to the latest Sierra
release...Phantasmagoria! With a
$4 million development budget and
2 years of development time, Phan-
tasmagoria is Sierra's most sophis-
ticated product ever. The game,
which boasts of over 1,000 three-
dimensional backgrounds, more
than two hours of full-motion video
and a cast of 11 main characters,
will immerse players in Roberta
Williams' realm of terror.
Phantasmagoria was filmed us-
ing blue screen technology at
Sierra's studio in Oakhurst, CA. The

cinematic design approach, coupled
with Williams' storytelling, make
Phantasmagoria the first completely
interactive movie-type game. So-
phisticated special effects by
Kronos, the people who created the
digital effects in Batman Returns,
allow consumers the opportunity to
both witness and become a part of
the nightmare.
The script itself took over a year
to write and is different from Will-
iams' earlier games primarily be-
cause it is horror. But, as far as
style is concerned, the game is writ-
ten in "chapters"- which breaks
the game into smaller, easier to play
sections. Each chapter is relatively
complete in and of itself, and the
player can check to see how far they
are into each chapter though an easy-
to-use chapter gauge.
Phantasmagoria is a game filled
with fluidity, from the story to the
characters. Though its chapter sys-
tem gives the player the ability to
start at any point of the story, the
story is more coherant and easy to
understand if one starts at the be-
ginning and plays all the way
through. But when it comes to real-
ism, both in movement and emo-
tion, the characters are clearly the
standouts of the game. Every de-
tail, from Adrienne's hair flipping
to Don's loving...or not-so-loving,
caresses can be included when us-
ing live actors, and Sierra has made
an effort to include even the most
minor details. In this manner, one
can easily grow attached to the char-
acters and the remorseful at their
subsequent deaths.
One important thing to remember
while playing Phantasmagoria is
that it does contain violence and

other controversial material. The
game was written for a mature
audience (17+), however it does
take into consideration those with
weak stomachs. The player can
make a choice between an equiva-
lent "R" rating, or a softer equiva-
lent "PG-13" rating. There is also
a "password protect" option for
parents who do not want their
younger children to see the
equivalent R version.
The only unfortunate thing
about any fantasy-adventure
game, Phantasmagoria included,
is that there can only be one
outcome...one final solution. No
matter how diverse your play may
be throughout the game, in the
end there is only one way to win.
Kill or be killed, there is no other
choice. This makes most adven-
ture games challenging until you
solve them...and after that, nearly
useless. So, while Phantasmago-
ria may indeed provide 40 hours
of challenging entertainment, af-
ter the puzzles have been solved,
it is doubtful that it will provide
you with many more.
But, for those of you who have
already experienced Phantasma-
goria and are looking for another
40+ hour challenge, Phantasma-
goria II is already in the works.
The next game will not be the
continuing saga of Adrienne
Delaney, though it will be a hor-
ror-based game. So, for those of
you who find that you have time
on your hands, pick up a copy of
Phantasmagoria. The mysteries
will keep you busy, but be
careful...this stuff will give you
the willies!
- Lise Harwin

Brad Robert Mainwaring
Shame Flow

Loose Groove/Sony 550
Originally released in 1993, Brad's
"Shame" has found life again in rerelease.
To put the band into a little corner, it is
Stone Gossard's other band. But that's
not fair to the band, since they are not as
overexposed as Pearl Jam nor do they
sound similar.
"My Fingers" actually sounds like the
brother of the new Red Hot Chili Peppers
single "Warped," but without the fast
parts. "GoodNews," on the other hand, is
a piano tune from a fern bar. "Shame" is
full of slow, sad songs that aren't all that
catchy, but aren't as offensive as, oh, say
Hootie and the Blowfish. The album as a
whole actually conveys the same emo-
tional response as a rainy Sunday after-
noon in November when you've got a
blankie, a cup of tea and a headache. It's
not something you'd want all the time,
but it certainly has its place. On the other
hand, it might not be something you'd
want to hear at all, in which case its place
is in the record store.
- Ted Watts

Robert Mainwaring's "Flow" is five
tracks of corny music that might as well
be the soundtrack to "Friends." This
lame attempt at creating sweet, sincere
songs falls way short. The combination
of painfully uncreative acoustic guitar
riffs and his whining voice makes me
think that Mainwaring has been listen-
ing to too much Counting Crows.
His voicelacks all emotion. Understand-
ably so, considering that the songs are so
monotonous and repititious that he might
as well be singing himself to sleep.
Granted, were a radio station to give
this album major airplay, someone
woould be bound to dig it since the
choruses possess that cheesy-yet-catchy
quality that enables them to get stuck in
your head in no time. Ifyou are someone
who lets the radio dictate your musical
preference, "Flow" may just work for
you. Otherwise, don't waste anymore
brain power thinking about this album,
since you've already wasted too much
reading the review.
- Kimberly Howitt

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