The Observer from London, Greater London, England on September 14, 1997 · 80
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The Observer from London, Greater London, England · 80

London, Greater London, England
Issue Date:
Sunday, September 14, 1997
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THE WEEK IN REVIEWS 12 The Observer Review 14 September 1997 'Mm Ford protect w FILM By Philip French The nearest Oasis will ever come to the OASIS By Brendan McWifliams Cloud control The Gallaghers' previous oeu-vre has revealed a deep and lyrical appreciation of matters meteorological and many indications that they draw inspiration from the weather. How should we judge Be Here Now meteorologically speaking? And how does it compare with the band's existing work? (What's the Story) Morning Glory perceptively understood the impact of the weather on the human psyche and contained an obvious reference to Seasonal Affective Disorder, commonly known as Sad; The days are long and the night will throw you away Coz the sun don't shine Xobody ever mentions the weather can make or break your day But the meteorological metaphor was often less overt, and used with subtlety to reinforce important social commentary. For example, in the song "Some Might Say the brothers exploit an egalitarian motif using an oblique reference to the con vective nature of the thunderstorm. Since such storms commonly occur in isolated cumulc-nimbus clouds, it is not uncommon for the sun to break through brilliantly when an individual thunder cell has been transferred downwind by the upper level airflow - or as Oasis put it more succinctly. Some might say that sunshine follows thunder Go and teD it to the man who cannot shine. And in 'Morning Glory5, the pair borrowed a line directly from the daily weather forecast Today's the day that all the world will see Another sunny afternoon. The latest album, however, is a let down to those who buy it purely for its weather content. There is, admittedly, a passing-reference to weather modification in 'The Girl in the Dirty Shirt', whose beau appears to reassure her that The clouds around you don't gather there for nothing I can chase them all away But the dearth of such insp CHARITY PREMIERE to aid London International Film School at Curzon West End on 1 7th Sept 1 997 TICKET HOTLINE 0 1 7 1 240 6005 Weathermen. iration is summed up in the chorus of Don't Go Away3: A cold and frosty morning there's not a lot to say About the things caught in my mind. Brendan McWiUiams works at the Dublin Met Office and writes Weather Eye for the 'Irish Times', where this first appeared "Was There Then "- Jill Fur-manovsky's photographs of Oasis (previewed in Life magazine last month) go on show at the Roundhouse, Chalk Farm Road, London NWl on Friday (until 5 October), then tours to Manchester and Glasgow. Tickets can be booked on 01 71-4033331 A portable radio without batteries? Must be a wind-up. w hen they launched the first wind-up radio three years ago, everyone, including the then Minister for Overseas Development, Baroness Chalker, agreed that this was a breakthrough for the third world. Last Wednesday, at the Capital Radio Cafe in Leicester Square, they launched a trimmer, trendier version specifically aimed at design-conscious first-world listeners. The marketing department of Free Play Radio confidently predict that half a million people will race out and buy it before the year is out. I sincerely hope they're right. I'm all for personal power, and dispensing with batteries and sockets, but I'm not altogether convinced that the mark two model will hit the jackpot Its biggest drawback is that it doesn't play cassettes. Presumably this has something to do with the fact that cassettes use 10 times as much power as radio. If, for instance, 1 fall asleep during The Late Book, six hours later the Farming Today presenter wakes me up not a decibel less loud and clear with the latest organo-phos-phate scare. If, on the other hand, I doze off on the Piccadilly Line at Acton Town in the middle of Tape 62 of my ttDIO feS ArnoW Air Force One (124 irtns? 15) Drected by Wolfgang Petersen; stariig Harrison Ford, Gary Oldman and Sem dose T87 (T19 irtns, 15) Dreded by Kevin Reynolds; star-rirg Sanuel L Jackson and John Heard The Watermelon Woman (80 mm 18) Oreded by Ghay! Dup; starriig Cheryl Dunys, Valerie Water ver since John Wilkes Booth assassinated Abraham Lincoln in D.W. Griffith's Birth of a Nation 82 years ago, lAmerican Presidents, real and imaginary, have figured in Hollywood movies, their treatment throwing light on the current national morale. It was thus inevitable that Harrison Ford, recently voted 'top movie star of all time' by the readers of Empire magazine, would eventually play the Leader of the Western World; he does, after all, bear the names of the ninth and thirty-eighth Presidents, though Harrison and Ford were among the least illustrious to occupy the White House. In Wolfgang Petersen's Air Force One, Ford plays President James Marshall, who, like Bill Clinton, is a liberal with a precocious teenage daughter and a wife who has been his professional partner since he first entered politics. Unlike Clinton, Marshall is a decorated Vietnam hero, though much stress is placed on his having flown rescue missions rather than engaged in combat. His twin passions are football and peace; employing the brutality of the former in pursuit of the latter, he has sanctioned a joint Russian-American commando raid to kidnap General Radek ( Jurgen Prochnow), nationalist ruler of the breakaway state of Kazakhstan. Moreover, he has followed this up with a JFK-esque speech in the Kremlin, warning all tyrants that in future America will intervene to enforce justice. In consequence, a band of terrorists infiltrate Air Force One, the presidential 747 airliner, in the guise of TV newsmen and, with the assistance of a renegade American secret agent, hold the passengers hostage to free General Radek. The President is whisked down to the escape capsule, but he decides to stay aboard to save his wife and daughter, and the nation's honour. There ensues a fairly gripping cross between Die Hard and Con Air, set in a similarly confined space to Petersen's Second World War submarine epic Das Boot. The President shoots, throttles and stabs anyone that gets in bis way. Meanwhile, back at the White House, Vice-President Kathy Bennett War and Peace audio book, there won't be a squeak from my headphones (my machine is one of those that changes sides automatically) when I wake up at Arsenal. These days a radio without cassettes is as unthinkable as a sausage without ketchup. The wind-up F The President, played by Harrison Ford, comforts his wife and daughter In Air (Glenn Close, who like Ford, is having a bad-hair day) frets and plans along with the usual band of military top brass and devious politicians. It is exciting, fast-moving stuff, driven along by a pounding Jerry Goldsmith score. What it lacks is moral conflict, other than that between hardliners and softliners over whether to free Radek or sacrifice Air Force One. Gary Old-man is impressive as the ruthless terrorist leader and is given some token speeches about the need to restore a Russia that capitalism has turned into a nation of gangsters and prostitutes. Far more could have been made of his similarity to President Marshall as an embittered veteran of the war in Afghanistan. Instead, he is built up as someone fit only to be blown away. Towards the end, the film uses that honourable revolutionary song, 'The Internationale', not as a way of humanising the enemy but to further demonise them. The conclusion is as embarrassingly triumphalist as Independence Day, with a US fighter pilot saying, 'Sir, you did great', and the President throwing him a salute from the control cabin. A nation in need of this degree of reassur radio plays for an hour before you have to exert yourself for another grind. If it included cassettes you'd probably have to do it every 10 minutes, but just think how fit you'd be by the end of a week. Another thing - despite its leaner outline, it's still too bulky to stow (f a be? COLM toiMn ance is in some kind of trouble. As I mentioned earlier, Harrison Ford came top in a readers' poll of the 100 greatest stars of all time in the current Empire, which tells us something about current tastes and the effects of publicity. The only actors from the Golden Age to make the top 10 were Grant, Bogart and Stewart, with Monroe just ahead of them. Clark Gable, Gary Cooper, Ingrid Bergman, Edward , G, Robinson and Buster Keaton are absent. The star of this week's other Hollywood picture, the estimable Samuel L. Jackson, turns up at 44, and according to Empire he 'famously muttered "shit" under his breath when Martin Landau beat him to the Oscar'. Jackson might well have uttered the same word aloud when he read Scott Yage-mann's screenplay for 187, the title of which derives from the section of the California state penal code relating to murder. The film opens strongly as dedicated science teacher Trevor Garfield (Jackson) cycles lyrically across the Brooklyn Bridge to teach in an all-black sink school in Bedford-Stuyvesant. His idealism ends that morning when a psychopathic pupil attacks him with a sharpened nail, leaving into a backpack and schlep to the top of Ben Nevis or any other battery-free zone. It's about the size of a shoe box. The editor of Camping magazine, who happened to be sitting next to me at the launch, agreed. It costs a hefty 59.95. You could buy half-a-dozen &Q lillftfffffr (mMSm) Force One. multiple stab wounds in his back. Fifteen months later, Garfield has relocated to Los Angeles as a supply teacher. Before you can say flick-knife, he's assigned as the only black teacher at a largely Hispanic school populated by menacing thugs. The staff are straight out of The Blackboard Jungle - a hypocritical Latino head ignoring the chaos around him, a cynical drunken history teacher (John Heard), a wide-eyed female newcomer learning the hard way (itelly Rowan) - and we think we're in for the usual tale of classroom Struggles. But Yagemann grafts on a crazy revenge thriller plot in which Garfield, driven beyond endurance, starts to give his worst pupils their violent comeuppance. One of them, whose finger he has amputated, strikes back. Inspired by seeing The Deer Hunter on TV, this vicious delinquent engages Garfield in a game of Russian roulette, which brings the movie to a ludicrous climax. The final credits are preceded by the solemn, risible, statement: 'A Teacher Wrote This Movie.' The Watermelon Woman is advertised as 'the first African-American lesbian feature', a claim that does less than justice to writer-director Cheryl Walkmen for that, batteries not included, of course. Still, hav ing said all that, I shall now encourage you to race out and get one simply because anything that cuts down on electricity and batteries must be a good thing and the nearest you'll ever get to the sterling work Swampy and Mole are doing to save the envi ronment. A final word on clockwork radio: for once, the first world is copying the third. There was only time to listen to a rough cut of the Radio 4 Kaleidoscope special on Elton John which went out yesterday. Paul Gambaccini will surely cut out the bit about this being the first year since he started singing that Elton has not had a record in the top 40 in Amer- Dunye's attractive low-budget movie. Set in. and around Philadelphia, it features Dunye herself as a would-be filmmaker working in a video store with her sassy lesbian friend Tamara (Valerie Walker) and working on a documentary about a long-forgotten black actress, Faye Richards, known in the movie business as the 'Watermelon Woman'. Forced, like Hattie McDaniel and Butterfly McQueen, to play black .mammies in Hollywood, the fictitious Faye occasionally had more substantial roles in low-budget pictures made on the East Coast for black audiences. The movie deftly parallels the restricted life and opportunities of a spirited black woman in the Thirties and Forties with those of her equivalents today. And Cheryl, who's having an affair with a rich, upper-middle-class white woman, discovers that Faye's lover was the white female director of the movies that launched her career. The present-day scenes in colour are light and amusing, shot in documentary style. The cod interviews include Camille Paglia giving an amusing, possibly self-parodic dissertation on watermelons and black mammies. The poignant past, ica. At the last count, 'Candle in the Wind' looked like being the all-time bestseller with expected sales of around 100 million. Everyone who saw him singing at Westminster Abbey, unless made of stone, must have been touched by the new version of the song. Of all the 'whither monarchy?' debate sparked off by Earl " ' rendered in black-and-white, mingles authentic photographs and newsreel films with fake snapshots and convincingly contrived clips from Plantation Memories (a Hollywood film in which Faye plays a black servant in the antebellum South) and Souls of Deceit (a low-budget picture about a black woman passing as white). For the next two weeks, the Barbican cinema is celebrating 70 years of film-making at Elsfree Studios with a 33-film season ranging from Blackmail, Hitchcock's first sound movie, through the gritty Hammer police thriller Hell Is A City, to The Go-Between, the Star Wars trilogy and Empire of the Sun. There's also a screening of The Hasty Heart, Ronald Reagan's only British film, during the making of which the experience of Clem Attlee's socialist Britain turned him into a conservative. Under the disastrous stewardship in the Eighties of Cannon Films and then of Brent Walker, Elstree'nearly went to the wall, and indeed its largest sound stages were sold to Tesco. Fortunately, the Hertsmere Borough Council now own the studios, new sound stages are being built, and Elstree is ready to take part in British cinema's latest renaissance. Spencer's speech at the funeral, easily the most informed and impassioned was the one produced for Analysis (Radio 4). There are only two ways that Prince William can escape persecution by the tabloid press, declared Niall Ferguson. He could either join the Army or become a press photographer. Jonathan Dimbleby went a little OTT in defence of his friend Prince Charles, but this was happily balanced out by Polly Toynbee who felt in her bones that something snapped in Britain last week and the monarchy was on its way out. No more about Radio 4 or I'll get it in the neck as usual from irate music lovers upbraiding me because I never listen to Radio 1, Heart, Kiss. Virgin, Capital, Melody or Classic FM. Nonsense. I'm hooked on Country 1035 AM. It's the only station where you can actually hear the words and they invariably make me weep. What do you get incidently if you play a country'n'western album backwards? First you get your dog back, then you get your pick up back, then the kids, then your girl... riifflMiffiEBaaima ISfflia

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