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About The daily Nebraskan. ([Lincoln, Neb.) 1901-current | View Entire Issue (Jan. 18, 1994)
Tuesday, January 18,1994
Movie waffles in taking stance on AIDS
Courtesy of Tri-Star Pictures
Tom Hanks plays Andrew Beckett, an up-and-coming young
lawyer who nas just been fired, in “Philadelphia.”
In his effort to make everyone happy,
director Jonathan Demme misses the mark
in making “Philadelphia” the first main
stream AIDS picture.
Tom Hanks is Andrew Beckett, a young
hotshot corporate lawyer. When he is fired
from his Philadelphia firm, he moves to file
an anti-discrimination suit. Beckett believes
he was fired because his firm found out he
was gay and afflicted with AIDS.
But Beckett can’t find a lawyer in Phila
delphia who believes him or wants to repre
sent him — another example of discrimina
tion against gays.
Then he goes toJoeMiller(Dcnzcl Wash
ington), a TV-advertising, ambulance-chas
ing, macho lawyer.
Miller also refuses the case, initially.
He’s a man’s man — none of those “fairy
queens” for him. But his homophobia gives
way to his belief in justice — the belief that
regardless of Beckett’s sexual orientation,
he deserves equal and lair treatment under
Of course, in movieland the law takes a
few unbelievable turns. “Philadelphia” con
tains countless courtroom scenes that are
merely moments for opposing viewpoints
on homosexuality to be shared. A great deal
of grandstanding goes on, none of which
addresses the most important issue at hand:
Beckett’s right to the same respect and
treatment granted all others.
Washington is terrific, as always. He has
tremendous screen presence, even when he
isespousing the typical, narrow, homophobic
Hanks has some truly compelling mo
ments. But one of the problems with the
movie is that he is not allowed to be anything
more than a composite sketch of a gay man
in contemporary society.
The audience is not allowed to care about
who Beckett is. Instead, Demme skirts the
issue and attempts to coerce the audience
into caring about Beckett simply because he
is dying of AIDS. He doesn’t ask the audi
ence to care about Beckett because he is a
human being who has been wronged.
Demme, to his credit, truly gives an
accurate picture of the prejudices homosex
uals face today. But he waffles in taking a
stand. That waffling makes “Philadelphia”
little more than a hodgepodge of social
However, Demme deserves recognition
for tackling such a controversial and emo
tional topic as AIDS. What hinders him most
is his desire to placate all aspects of society
— a presupposition that makes taking a true
stand nearly impossible.
— Anne Steyer
Unique Omaha Magic Theater not for couch potatoes
Combine a Kurt Vonnegut novel, Andy
Warhol painting, and a long subliminal dream
from Sigmund Freud, and you’d have this
powerfully bizarre dramatic experience called
the Magic Theatre.
This weekend’s performance of‘Belches on
Couches,” at the Omaha Magic Theatre on 325
S. 16th St., attacked me from all angles of the
stage as I started to feel my mind imploding.
“Belches on Couches,” written and per
formed by Jo Ann Schmidman, Megan Terry,
and Sora Kimberlain, was a surrealistic look at
society’s relationship to the television.
It examines the myths behind America’s
deep-fat fried couch potato. Is television the
proverbial social killer it’s made out to be or is
it actually an example of“rcflcctivc thinking?”
Schmidman said television allowed us to
safely travel to areas of the world without
placing ourselves in danger. Television helps
us keep track of what is happening in our
society, she said.
She said we couldn’t blame television for
creating an evil society we created ourselves.
Art imitates life.
If “Belches on Couches” was an imitation of
life, I still have some hope for creativity and
ingenuity in our society. I could have run
screaming from the theater shouting, “My God.
that was incredible! There is a theater beyond
dead poets and lost lovers stranded in Siberia!”
The box theater was set up so the two sides
ol the audience faced each other across the
“stage.” The stage was actually the floor cov
ered with shredded video tape, which I shrewd
ly interpreted as TV static. There were no
conventional props, unless you’d count the
three antique vacuum cleaners and toasters.
A large television screen was affixed to the
wall, and anything from CNN footage to lost
episodes from “Lassie” and some weird psy
chedelic patterns were broadcast on the screen.
The dialogue incorporated everything from
Waco, cockroaches, Watergate, General Hos
pital, Jeffrey Dahmcr. Quantum Physics, Biker
Mice from Mars, Madonna and anything else
you’d see on the idiot box. Even Barney the
demigod was in there.
The actors were working as a unit but re
mained individuals. This paradox made the
production incredibly four-dimensional. It’s
wild. It’s spontaneous. It’s funny. It’s better
than television itself!
When the Magic Theatre was founded in
1968, (appropriate time, I believe) avant-garde
theater was infiltrating the nation.
Twenty-five years later, after political cor
rectness set in, there were only 100 avant-garde
theaters left in America. Unfortunately, as the
number of theaters decreased, so did their
funding. The OMT, which receives most of its
funding from the National Endowment for the
Arts, is in need of additional support.
It’s a dying species that needs to be revived
because it is so incredibly different and thought
provoking at the same time. “Bclcheson Couch
es wasn’t entertainment; it was an experience.
If you’re a die-hard Shakespeare fan, please
don’t go to the Magic Theatre because I think
you might die or something. But, if you’re a
dangerously normal human being, a little mag
ic can go a long way.
' Belches on Couches” will be performed
again on Jan. 21 & 22 beginning at 7:30 p.m.
Admission is $12 for the general public and $7
for senior citizens and students.
Shatner’s fcTek’ series still fast-paced,
good alternative until TV version ready
Ace Science Fiction
William Shatner’s “Tek” series
comes to television later this month,
and while waiting with baited breath
for its debut, you might want to check
out the books.
Between taping episodes of “Res
cue 911,” Shatner is keeping his hand
in the SF business by penning books
described as “fast-paced action.” The
fourth entiy into the series, “Tck Ven
geance,” is no exception.
Jake Cardigan, the series’ protag
onist, is a private detective and ex-cop
framed for murder and then exonerat
ed. His wife left him after his incar
ceration and became involved with a
leading dealer of Tek, a powerful
hallucinogenic combination of drug
and computer chip. Cardigan took up
with the daughter of the murdered
scientist working on a cure for Tek.
“Tek Vengeance” opens with Car
digan seeking out the daughter of a
dead friend who had become a Tek
addict and was near death. She tells
him, via videotape, that her father is
still alive. The scheme turns out to be
a ruse, as Cardigan and his partner are
lured down to Central America. There,
Cardigan’s girlfriend is murdered by
the unacknowledged son of the Tck
lord Cardigan killed. Showing a re
markable lack of emotion over the
whole affair, Cardigan tracks down
Convoluted and soapish, with
someone pulling out a laser gun and
blasting away every few pages, “Tek
Vengeance” is indeed fast-paced, but
it lacks depth. Character development
is practically nonexistent, and much
of the dialogue consists of negotia
tions with seedy characters over the
price of information.
“Tek Vengeance,” like the first
three books, reads almost like a paro
dy of all those old ’40s detective
movies, with a little “Miami Vice”
thrown in. Lots of gratuitous vio
lence, little depth — it should trans
late fabulously to television.
Role of TV examined
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