The Los Angeles Times from Los Angeles, California on December 15, 1978 · 65
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The Los Angeles Times from Los Angeles, California · 65

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Friday, December 15, 1978
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v: Eos Angeles Sfanes ORANGE COUNTY In Two Parts PART IV FRIDAY, DECEMBER 15. 1978 AND OTHER FEATURES Art Walk Pago 6 family Film Guide Page 21 Beauty Page 1 3 Jody Jacob. , . . Page 2 Bridge Page 1 2 Dr. Solomon .... Page 32 Coriiics . : Page 55 Televiiion Pages 52-54, 56 Family Booki . . . Page 3 ) Peter Weaver. . . Page 8 CRITIC AT LARGE Man of Steel, Feat of Clay BY CHARLES CHAMPLIN Tlmtt Arh editor It has been the most heavily heralded and promoted film of the year, yet also the film awaited with the widest genuine curiosity and eagerness. But it is, I regret to say, a very Uuge letdown. "Superman" has lead feet. No motion picture costing $25, $50 or $75 million can be totally boring. (The official figure seems to be $50 million, which however includes "Superman II," said to be largely completed.) "Superman" is certainly worth seeing once, to satisfy that yearning curiosity and to experience the pleasures it does offer. But the hopes that "Superman" might be the next "Star Wars" or "Close Encounters," to be seen again and again, are dashed after the undeniably brilliant first quarter-hour, the Krypton sequence. In a dismaying sense, "Superman" is like an ice show. Once you've established that people can get about on steel runners, there's not much for them to do except keep doing it. Once the special effects men have established that Superman can leap and fly and lift in his splendid hyperbolic way, about all he can do is leap and leap and lift and lift and fly and fly and fly. (The Olympics do it better; there is suspense on every vault. ) An essential problem is villainy. What do you do to a guy who can do everything? The attempt here has been to come up with a kind of campy arch-fiend in the throbbing vein of the crooks Batman and Robin contended with on television. Not a bad idea at all, and on paper it's an amusing concept to have supercrook and his aides-de-camp living in an abandoned lower level of Grand Central, with a swimming pool where once the 6:03 limped away to Chappaqua. But even in a succession of wigs, Gene Hackman is not preposterous, funny or dementedly menacing, and what he's doing here is not evident. He is an irrevocably serious actor. Ned Beatty is slightly better off as Hackman's idiot sidekick but he is given precious little material with which to feed his comic personality. Valerie Perrine does best as the team's sexy dumb blonde (very sexy too, but with a rather fetching innocence). They are no match for Christopher Reeve, the Superman who is "Superman's" pleasantest discovery. As Clark Kent he has a myopic, awkward, amusing ingenuousness that suggests he might well take off in nonflying roles once he hangs up his cape. As the man of steel himself, Reeve does not really convey that the wisdom of the millenia is stored inside him, but what he does project is the simple, unquestioning heroic idealism which, after all, is everything Superman stands for. Reeve projects it with no feeling of mockery. He also has an emotional sensitivity, a vulnerability, which makes his attraction for Lois Lane (Margot Kidder) seem to be more than a role-playing aspect of his Krypton cover. (I have the impression that Reeve's predecessors never got out of that red and blue union suit.) Reeve is a fresh and welcome casting, and if he performs as well for other directors as he has for Richard Donner, who has overseen "Superman," he has a promising future. "Superman" confirms what hardly needs confirmation: that special effects technology can do practically everything. The real limits are set by the script itself. All the magic here is in what might be called the back story, what happened before earth. Designer John Barry has come up with a kind of crystalline Krypton, white, spikey and shining, a diamond as big as several Ritzes, seen under blinding white light. In this blue-white iridescent setting, Marlon Brando-robed, white-haired and extremely earnest and dignified-fore-tells the death of the planet to unhealing elders and prepares, with wife Susannah York, to send their child down the light years to earth. The destruction of the planet and the launching of the starburst skyship (by Ed Gimmel) amid the chaos is wonderful stuff. It is indeed the high point of the film and most that follows is anticlimactic, even Superman resealing the San Andreas Fault deep in the molten core of the earth (although that sequence is not exactly chopped liver, as they used to say). The writing credits, a chronicle of cooks to make a broth, eloquently demonstrate the question that assailed this costly project: how do you deal with Superman? The story is by Mario Puzo, the script credited to Puzo, David Newman, Leslie Newman and Robert Benton, with Tom Mankiewicz listed as creative consultant and additional script material by Norman Enfield and with, almost cer- tainly, uncredited inputs from the producers (Pierre Please Turn to Page 18, Col. 1 THE VIEWS INSIDE BOOKS: Nikki Giovanni's "Cotton Candy on a Rainy Day" by Wood Warren on Page 10. Robina Lund's "The Getty I Knew" by Alexander Auerbach on Page 22. MOVIES: "Oliver's Story" by Charles Champlin on Page, 40. "The Small One" by Charles Solomon on Page 44. "All Things Bright and Beautiful" by Linda Gross on Page 46. MUSIC: Tom Waits by Richard Cromelin on Page 50. STAGE: "A Former Gotham Gal" and other theater in Stage Beat by John C. Mahoney on Page 48. TELEVISION: "Who'll Save Our Children?" by Howard Rosenberg on Page 53. "Freestyle" by Lee Margulies on Page 53. "The Nativity" by Kevin Thomas on Page 54. "A Place of Dreams" by Lee Margulivs on Page 53. What's Doing in Orange County on Page 34. I : S, 1 U ' far N 0 i ill. it-- cmr . 1 --s .lid :1 1-57;? Haw- ...:v:::;:;;::::' I m em LA PINATA PROJECT Women of different cul- From left, Socorro Dominguez, Yvonne Ste-tures inspect pinata they've made together, phenson, Betsy Smith and Chung Kim Jee. TAmei pboie bj Hal Sthuii MORE THAN A TRADITIONAL EXCHANGE Cultural Mix Brews Understanding nt i ....... l ... i . f f.Mi M t f i rr A si Rudel Bows to Pressure, Quits NYCO BY MARTIN BERNHEIMER TlnMt Mink Critic Julius Rudel, director of the New York City Opera for 21 years, bowed to pressure from his board of directors Wednesday and announced his resignation. He plans to continue to serve the company as principal conductor, but will turn over all the duties of directorship to Beverly Sills on July 1. It had been previously announced that Sills, who retires from the stage in 1980, would subsequently serve with Rudel as codirector. Rudel's resignation, long rumored in musical circles, comes at a time when company morale is reportedly low. Although Rudel could be credited with many early City Opera successes, standards of performance sank considerably in recent years, and formerly adventurous policies turned conservative. On Tuesday, John Samuels, chairman of the City Opera board, confirmed a rift between Rudel and his overseers. "It was apparent," Samuels told an interviewer, "Julius Rudel wanted to move in a different direction, and at the BY LORRAINE BENNETT Tlm Stiff Wrlttr FULLERTON It started last Christmas when women from different cultures gathered to make Mexican pinatas. It continued with an all-day cooking marathon which produced enough down-home-style American vegetable soup for everybody to take home for dinner. Later came a macrame session, two days of tamale-making and an International Day observance at a local schooL Now the women of the Maple Community Center area are making Christmas pinatas agaia This doesnt look like a cultural exchange. It simply looks like a wholesome community get-together. Short, dark Lupe Ramirez of Fullerton cuts white tissue paper strips while Betsy Smith looks on. With infinite care, Mrs. Ramirez dabs white paste onto the tissue paper and glues it to a papier-mached balloon. When she is finished, she will hang this pinata alongside the other fat, bright figures which bounce and swing with the air currents as they dangle from a long cord dividing the room. There is a smiling snowman, a fat jolly-faced Santa, a peacock in vivid hues of oranges and yellows. Soon the figures will be stuffed with Christmas goodies and taken to children's classrooms. The figure Mrs. Ramirez is constructing will become a parakeet on a circular perch. She is covering the bird with bright yellows and purples a flower garden of contrasting colors. This "pinata party," which is taking place in a building near the Maple Community Center, is funded by ESAA (the Emergency School Aid Act), which purchased the necessary supplies paste, tissue paper, balloons. Thirteen schools are involved in ESAA projects, but in this particular gathering the women are mothers of young children attending Golden Hill and Ford elementary schools. Many of the same mothers were part of the group which clogged Mrs. Smith's kitchen last year, making tamales and vegetable soup. The purpose of all this effort is much loftier than creating pinatas or making soup. It is hoped that, by working together, women from divergent backgrounds and cultures will have the opportunity to exchange bits of each other's traditions. The ethnic mix goes beyond Latin and Anglo, too, for in the community is a Korean mother, a Japanese family and families from other foreign lands. This holiday activity is aimed at eliminating or at least reducing the feelings of isolation among the minority women by nurturing a healthy ethnic pride through the simple exchange of ideas. "I think our International Day at Golden Hill S ihool was the most successful thing we've done," said Mrs. Smith. "We invited speakers who represented different cultures. "As often as possible, we got people native to the country they were talking about" The speakers went into the elementary school classrooms and gave presentations on Argentina, Hawaii, India, Ireland, Israel, Jamaica, Japan, Mexico, Nigeria and other lands. Please Turn 1 1 Page 17, CoL 1 Architecture Exhibit as a Photo Show BY JOHN DREYFUSS Timet ArctiHtctw Mt4 Dttlf n CrltK SAN FRANCISCO-Architects love to talk about their work, but except when they're talking to each other and sometimes even then they usually do a miserable job of it. They tend to generalize, to assume listeners are grounded in architectural basics and to skip over important factors in explaining and discussing the fascinating, complicated business of what makes a building. So it comes as no surprise to find at its opening here this week that an exhibit of work by 11 Bay Area architectural firms turns out to be more a photography show than an architectural exhibition. As a photo show using buildings as subject matter, "The San Francisco Group" is successful but inconsistent. Some Julius Rudel Beverly Sills same time, the board of the New York City Opera wanted to move in an entirely different direction. We are aware and appreciative of Rudel's great contributions to the New York City Opera, but we feel that after two decades, a change is necessary if the New York City Opera is to remain alive and vital. At the board meeting tomorrow, I expect to have Rudel's letter of resignation, and I expect it to be accepted." In his page-one coverage of the changing of the operation guard, Harold Schonberg of the New York Times noted that "Rudel has been under attack, in the press and in ihis own house, for spending too much time away from 'lis duties. He has been concentrating on conducting, shuttling to Paris, Vienna, Buffalo and, it has been said, to virtually any organization that would offer him a podium." The critic went on to quote a source close to the City Opera to the effect that Rudel was intent on competing in the international Karajan-Bernstein sweepstakes at all costs, while "the last few years have seen a succession of failures at the City Opera." . Tuesday night, Rudel attended a performance of "Don Pasquale" at the Met starring Beverly Sills. At the time, he refused to comment on his future. At a news conference Please Turn to Page 27, CoL 1 Like trying to understand a person by looking at a picture of his knee. firms present their work magnificently, given the limitations of a maximum of nine 20-inch square photo boards. Others do a competent job. A few fall to mediocrity or below. For some observers, the show's strong points as a photographic exhibition will justify a trip to Cal Poly Pomona where "The San Francisco Group" will be next month, or to the Pacific Design Center in West Hollywood, where it will spend the last two weeks of April. But as a presentation of architecture, the exhibition earns dismal marks at the American Institute of Architects' Northern California chapter headquarters, where it is on display. Observers can't get a sense of how buildings work. Not many structures are shown inside and out, and only a few are exhibited in conjunction with plans. In many cases, observers get just one view of a building, and sometimes that is only partial. It's a little like trying to understand a person by looking at a picture of his knee. The excitement, fascination, frustration and satisfaction of turning ideas into buildings can never be found in photographs alone. What about the site, budget, neighborhood sociology and intended use of the structure? What about the ever-present whim and will of architect and client? None of those factors is dealt with adequately In "The San Francisco Croup." Some photos in the exhibition are elegant, most notably those from the Tiburon firm of Callister, Payne & Bischoff and from San Francisco's MBT Associates. Both participants limit themselves to one big picture on each 400-square-inch board, avoiding the boggling clutter with which some boards attack viewers. Callister, Payne & Bischoff come of particularly well because, for the most part, the firm selected unlmposlng, ea-PkaM Torn to Page 24, CoL 1 STEPHANIE ZIMBALIST She 's a Victim of Her Roles ; ft V ' " : 'VrFj' - 1 -i'f- I ' TT' it ; ' V f 1 of STEPHANIE ZIMBALIST again a victim in "Long Journey Back." Timet photo by Larry Artmlrong BY CECIL SMITH Tlmtt Ttltvliltn Critic Stephanie Zimbalist is a perpetual victim. On "Centennial" last month in one of the most memorable chapters of that remarkable film saga, she was killed when a rattlesnake bit her in the throat. On "Love Boat," she was blind. On "Julie Fair M.D.," she was deaf. In the four-hour Ross Hunter film, "The Best Place to Be," now filming ;all over the city with Donna Reed and Efrem Zimbalist Jr., Stephanie's father, she plays a suicidal rock singer. When she isn't filming, she's rehearsing for the new musical "Festival," opening on the Las Palmas stage Jan. 3. "Festival" is a modern rock version of the medieval chantefa-ble "Aucassin and Nicholette" on which Shakespeare based "Romeo and Juliet" (and you know what happened to Juliet!). Journeying Back Tonight, the young actress outdoes her victim image, starring in the ABC movie "Long Journey Back" with Cloris Leachman and Mike Connors. She plays a high school girl crushed when a train hits a school bus, One leg is amputated below the knee and she suffers such excessive brain damage that she must literally relearn her way back-learn again to talk, to perform motor functions, to feed herself, to dress herself, to walk. The 22-year-old actress welcomes such tragic roles "In most of the parts in television, the characters aren't really well delineated," she said. "The only difference between a 22-year-old girl in one script and a 22-year-old girl in another script is the circumstances they're put in. What you have to work with is what has happened to them rather than the depth of character you find in the great plays." She excluded "Centennial" from this indictment because one of the best things about John Wilder's 26-hour movie, which is about the best thing on commercial television this season, is that the leisurely literary approach to the huge project has given actors room to stretch. Remarkable Portraits Thus, we've had extraordinary performances from unexpected sources, such as Robert Conrad's lusty, bandy-legged Pasquinel; Alex Karras as the immovable old Dutch farmer Brumbaugh, and, in one of the best chapters of the scries, Gregg Muleavy, onetime husband of Mary Hart-man, as a hard-bitten old range rider in the cattle drive in which Dennis Weaver, as R. J, Poteet, brought 3,(KJ0 longhorns across deserts and mountains from Texas to Colorado, mostly with the aid of fuzzy -cheeked boys. But even though Richard Chamberlain, Lynn Redgrave, Barbara Carrera, Richard Crenna and others have provided remarkable portraits on the huge scries (the final five chapters will be shown Please Turn to Page S3, Col. 1 I

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