The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas on June 3, 1998 · Page 26
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The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas · Page 26

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Wednesday, June 3, 1998
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2 WEDNESDAY, JUNE 3, 1998 APPLAUSE THE SALINA JOURNAL A Fresh, Subversive Look at Television in 'The Truman Show 7 Michael Fleeman AP Entertainment Writer LOS ANGELES (AP) — When you've got Jerry Springer talking to a guy who married his horse and local television interrupting a kiddie cartoon to air a naked man's freeway suicide, "The Truman Show" doesn't seem so far-fetched. Opening June 5, the film tells the story of the unsuspecting Truman Burbank, played by Jim Carrey, whose life is fodder for a live TV program. It shows how a voyeuristic TV audience becomes a co-conspirator in the enslavement and psychological manipulation of another human being — all in the name of television. "It reminds me of when you see an accident up ahead," says Peter Weir, who directed the movie from Paramount Pictures. "Will I look or keep staring ahead? Television is like an accident in your living room. It's always there. It's always on. People seem unable to switch it off." "The Truman Show" addresses this theme in subversive style. It is a dark and troubling story presented in the form of a comedy set in a too-idyllic-to-be-true seaside town bathed in the bright, shadowless lights of a sitcom. It offers the most biting commentary on television since "Network," the Sidney Lumet film of more than 20 years ago. It is the latest in a line of movies dating back to the birth of television in which the big screen deals with the little one. Indeed, "The Truman Show" is almost a throwback, daring to do now what movies more frequently did during TVs Golden Age. With television emerging as a competitor in those days, movies often attacked or trivialized the tube. A key example is "The Great Man" from 1956 that tells of a beloved TV star who turns out to be a fraud. Decades later, Robert Redford's "Quiz Show" (1994) spoke of the corrupting power of advertisers in TVs early years. Latter-day television was the subject of Martin Scorsese's acerbic "The King of Comedy" in 1983, which looked at the cult of celebrity. And a Murdoch-sized media mogul of the 1990s was so threatening to world peace that last year Hollywood had to call in James Bond to slay the giant in "Tomorrow Never Dies." But it was the 1976 satire "Network," winner of four Academy Awards, that is seen as the classic critique of contemporary television. The film written by Paddy Chayefsky stars Peter Finch as the insane broadcaster and Faye Dunaway as the ruthless programmer. All three won Oscars. The movie was considered outrageous at the time in its depiction of a ratings- starved network that would stop at nothing to get viewers. As it turned out, the film foretold Springer's over-the-top antics, as well as "reality" shows and local TV news, which will abandon political and international coverage for if-it-bleeds-it-leads crime stories. Although "Network" was on-target . then, it now seems almost tame. Even "The Truman Show" is barely one foot ahead of the present. As Weir started to promote the movie, local television in Los Angeles broke into regular programming, including a children's show, to broadcast live, unedited footage of a man, nude from the waist down, who shot himself to death on a freeway overpass after setting fire to his truck — with his dog inside it. Later, the "Jerry Springer Show" offered an episode titled "I Married a Horse" about a man describing his five-year equestrian marriage, along with a woman who recounted her romance with her dog and another man who says he thinks of dogs as more than his best friends. In tapping issues arising from this ratings-driven TV environment, "The Truman Show" is a bookend with "Network," slyly skewering television. "The Truman Show" draws in the movie audience with humor, suspense and great acting as it tells the story of a man whose life is literally a television show, shot on the world's largest sound stage, cast with actors playing everything from Truman's neighbors to his wife to his childhood best friend. The only person not in on the secret is Truman, an insurance salesman — or so he thinks — who was legally adopted by the TV corporation and exploited for ratings. One day, he starts suspecting that something isn't quite right His first clue: a theatrical light falls from the sky. Almost immediately, the movie audience is as fascinated with this real-life-as-television concept as is the film's fictional TV audience, making the moviegoers no less guilty in aiding and abetting Truman's plight. We cheer Truman's efforts to free himself from his gilded cage, all the while witnessing events best left private. It is a novel idea — a television satire that prods the audience as much of the medium. Yet it piggybacks on a theme used by Alfred Hitchcock in his thrillers, like "Psycho" and "Rear Window," notes University of Southern California professor Leo Braudy, who writes and lectures about popular culture and film. "Hitchcock made you face the consequences of your own voyeurism. If you want to see, you're going to be punished in some way," said Braudy. "The true brunt of satire is its own audience. Maybe, that's what 'The Truman Show' is trying to get at, this sense we have of voyeurism in which you are not punished at all." But the punishment is there. As "The Truman Show" grows ever darker, Truman must fight for his life against the powerful, egomaniacal director Cristof (Ed Harris), who believes that since he 'created Truman he can also destroy him. The audience does nothing to help poor Truman. It can't. It's glued to its TV sets. "People are losing a sense of reality, blurring reality and unreality," said director Weir, who dealt with ambiguity to eerie effect in his "Picnic at Hanging Rock" .in 1975. "We see the viewers, quite ordinary people, enjoying the show. Whether it's fiction or not fiction, they don't really know or care." It's a paranoid vision cooked up by a screenwriter who describes himself as a "deeply paranoid person." Andrew Niccol, who also wrote the science-fiction film "Gat- taca," which opened last year to generally good reviews, says that he and Weir have the advantage of approaching television from a unique perspective, since neither grew up in the United States. Niccol is a'New Zealander liv- ing in Los Angeles. Weir is from Australia and still lives there. Nic- coi said that while the .television culture is everywhere, it is obviously at its height in the United States. "It's easier for us to sort of stand back and observe," he said. "Peter and I;'we're offering no answers. We're just asking the questions." IADAMHEALY 2075 S. Ohio, Suite 7B 823-7713 For auto, home and life- Being in good hands is the only place to ber Childrens SmolwHill GIFT MUSEUM STORE 211 West Iron 1\lc3.-Sat 10-5, Sun. 1-5 . BROILED PORK LOIN Includes satatt and clioice of potato. 827-2728 TUES.-THURS. 11-0 FRI.-SAT. 11-JO 1200 E. Crawfon RANGER'S STEAK & SEAFOOD Steaks • Seafood • Prime Rib • Chicken Fried Steak Cocktails • Lunch & Dinner Features • Private Rooms 'TV's Lunch I l:30-l:30Tues.-Fri. • Dinner open 5:30 p.m.Tues.-Sat. 12th & N. Broadway, Salina 823-3491 'Hope Floats' is a Star Vehicle for Sandra Bullock William Arnold 1998 Seattle Post-Intelligencer Sandra Bullock has spent the last three years frantically trying to follow up her first two successes: "Speed" and "While You Were Sleeping." But she hasn't really clicked in anything since, and her last three efforts — Two If By Sea," "In Love and War" and "Speed 2" — were full-blown disasters. With her new film, "Hope Floats" — on which she was executive producer and reportedly exercised much creative control — she tries to re-establish herself by taking a big step away from the thrillers and ribald comedy of her recent past into a whole new arena: the gentle relationship drama. The result may not half the emotional grabber it wants to be, but it is a total star vehicle. And like all star vehicles, your response to it is going to depend entirely on how you personally respond to Bullock's unique, often likably self- deprecating, but rather mannered and self-conscious charm. She plays a well-off Chicago trophy wife and mother humiliated in front of the whole world when she learns in the midst of a "Jerry Springer"-like TV show that her loving husband (Michael Pare) and her best girlfriend (Rosanna Arquette) are having a passionate love affair. She leaves the big jerk, packs up her less-than-supportive nine- year-old daughter (Mae Whitman), drives straight to the small Texas hometown where she was once the princess of her high school society, and moves back in with mom (Gena Rowlands). The rest of the movie is about how she learns to stop moping around, eats considerable crow at the hands of the unsympathetic townspeople she once snubbed, works out her relationship with her mother and daughter, and finds a new kind of self-worth that is not dependent on a relationship with a man. This is very familiar territory at the movies, and the ritual is not helped by the often shamelessly manipulative direction of Forest Whitaker ("Waiting to Exhale") or the fact that Bullock is simply too young and beautiful to be credible as a woman dealing with the loss of her bloom. The film loses most of its credibility in its first scene. We don't believe for a minute that Bullock, Pare and Arquette are the kind of people that would air their greatest heartache on trash TV — and if they are those kind of idiots, would they be worthy of our attention through a feature-length film? Even so, the writing by Seattle native Steven Rogers is often clever and funny, and the film gets gas out of both the mother-daughter-grandmother dynamic, and the performances of the always-reliable Rowlands and Whitman (who, in the current Hollywood tradition since "Jerry Maguire," is more endearingly wonky than child-star perfect). With cinematography by Caleb Deschanel, arguably Hollywood's best cameraman (The Black Stallion," "Fly Away Home"), the film is always extremely pretty. He makes Bullock look sensational (even when everyone is telling her how bad she looks), and gives the Hill Country of Texas a Grant Wood-ish gleam. "Hope Floats" is also its own kind of mini-musical event. The film's "executive soundtrack producers" get their own solo title card, and no less than 24 songs run end-to-end through the scenes — everything from Bob Dylan to Barry Manilow. In fact, the movie often seems like an excuse for a soundtrack album. Hope Floats. Directed by Forest Whitaker. Written by Steven Rogers. Cast: Sandra Bullock, Harry Connick Jr., Gena Rowlands, Mae Whitman, Michael Pare. 20th Century-Fox. 115 minutes. Rated PG-13 for thematic elements. Grade: C+ Smoky Hill Villa Apartments 2145 Tiilane Apartments available now. Hud subsidized low-income housing for those fi'2 & older or mobility-impaired. Some utilities Toll free 1-888-825-5280 Nome Awnings • Carports luslness Awnings • Literal Arm Awnings Entrance Canopies • larps. Inn Shades Patio Covers • Livestock Curtains Free Estimates ,,„„„,„ .„,, . 1IOOW. Grand BIdg. I Salina, KS (913)825-5280 (785) 827-4203 Nobody knows why lie came here. Scientists think it was for the burritos. Godzilla™ is at Taco Bells. 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Journal for complete coverage of 4 ijiational news, weather, and sports. 85) 823-6363 or 1-800-827-6363 to subscribe today to Salina Journal Get set. Play tough. Stay feminine. Gabrielle Reece - volleyball powerhouse and 6 feet, 3 inches of knock-'em-dead beauty - serves up her definition of "ladylike." Plus, don't miss the first short story in our Summer Fiction Series.. .this Sunday in USA WEEKEND magazine. FIRST UP: An original story by best-selling thriller author Brat! (Vtoitzer In coming weeks: Garrison Keillor Dean Koontz Gloria Naylor Richard Price Laura Zigman Get it in... the Salina Journal http://www.usaweekend.com

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