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The Divine Miss M

Otherwise known as Bette Midler, she made a name for herself in the early 1970s at New York's Continental Baths, a club for gay men. Since then she's been nominated for two Academy Awards and earned Emmy and Grammy awards. She has a new CD, Bette Midler Sings the Rosemary Clooney Songbook. It's produced by, and features duets with, Barry Manilow.




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Other segments from the episode on October 3, 2003

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, October 3, 2003: Interview with Bette Midler; Obituary for Paul Burlison; Review of the film "School of rock."


TIME 12:00 Noon-1:00 PM AUDIENCE N/A

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Review: Movie "School of Rock"

The Austin-based director Richard Linklater became the toast of the
independent film community in 1991 with "Slacker," a plotless look at young
people who rebel by not doing much of anything. In his new movie, "School of
Rock," he teams up with the writer Mike White and the hot actor/musician Jack
Black for his first big studio comedy about the rebel impulse of rock 'n'
roll. Film critic David Edelstein has a review.


It's been a long time since a movie has put me in a trance state of pure
happiness, but "School of Rock" had me and everyone around me buzzing and
bopping up and down and practically pogoing out of the theater playing air
guitar. I actually heard myself say, `Dude, that movie rocked.' And I
wonder, now that the ecstasy has dissipated just a wee bit, how a formula
little heart-warmer about a screw-up teacher and some 10-year-olds could be
such a mystical experience, one of the best highs I've had at the movies. I
think it's the confluence of three weird but mighty forces. Writer Mike White
of "Chuck & Buck" and "The Good Girl," director Richard Linklater of "Dazed
and Confused" and "Before Sunrise," and actor Jack Black--they're all terrific
craftsmen. Yet they're on intimate terms with their inner child, their good
inner child who wants to be loved, and their naughty inner child who'd make a
family movie with a montage accompanied by "Bonzo Goes to Bitburg."

Black plays Dewey Finn, a slacker who lives for hard-core rock 'n' roll but
can't get others to share his dreams. In the first scene, on stage with his
band, he's carried away by the emotion of the music. He finishes a number and
then leaps into the arms of the crowd, except the crowd gets the hell out of
his way and he lands on his face. After that, his band wants no part of him.
His Milquetoast roommate, a substitute teacher played by Mike White, threatens
to evict him on orders of his bossy girlfriend, played by Sarah Silverman.
That's when Dewey takes a phone call meant for his roommate from a posh
private school called Horace Green, and for $650 a week decides to pass
himself off as a teacher.

At first, he tells the kids to shut up and take extra recess. Then he hears
them in music class and realizes that he's found his back-up band for the
upcoming Battle of the Bands competition. So he takes these 10-year-olds, and
he indoctrinates them in the hard-core mind-set; I mean, the hard-core
mind-set minus the drugs and sex and self-abuse. As he goads and exhorts
them, passionately affirms their coolness and teaches them to stick it to the
man, you realize you're watching something miraculous: a joyous, uplifting,
go-for-it family picture that somehow takes you back to the primal rock 'n'
roll rage.

(Soundbite of "School of Rock")

Mr. JACK BLACK: (As Dewey Finn) What's up with the stiffness, man? You're
looking a little robotronic, OK? Let's grease up the hinges and listen.
Loosey-goosey, baby, loosey-goosey.

Unidentified Boy: I'm just playing it the way you told me.

Mr. BLACK: I know. And you know what? It's perfect. But the thing is
rock is about the passion, man. Where's the joy? You're the lead guitarist,
and we are counting on you for some style, brother. So try this out. This is
an ancient technique, it's called power stance. That's it, power stance. You
own the universe. Now give me E chord. Just go `Frrrr.'

(Soundbite of guitar chord)

Mr. BLACK: Now let me hear `ughhh.'

(Soundbite of guitar chord)

Mr. BLACK: Ughhh, yeah. Now raise your goblet of rock. It's a toast to
those who rock. Now smile and nod your head and let me see your eyeballs wide
like there's something wrong. Yeah! Do it again. Give me that...

(Soundbite of guitar chord)

Mr. BLACK: That's what I'm talking about.

EDELSTEIN: If you've heard Jack Black in interviews, you know that despite
his outrageous on-screen persona, he isn't a blowhard. In real life, he's
painfully tentative. And part of what's so touching about "School of Rock" is
that it clearly comes from shy people. It's a rock 'n' roll anthem for the
timid. It's about kids and grown-ups who need to rev themselves up to
transcend their own self-doubt. And rock, or dreaming about rock, is how they
plug into that great cosmic oneness. The school kids who are nerdy, cool,
bossy, fat, gay have no sit-com glibness. Emotionally they're transparent.
And Black, who has his own tongue-in-cheek band, Tenacious D, is right on
the line between mocker and rocker. He comes to parody. Yet as he sings, he
morphs into a genuine heavy-metal messiah.

"School of Rock" is totally formulaic. It features stuffy, killjoy parents
and a stuck-up stick insect of a principal, even though she's played with
delicious fidgety self-consciousness by Joan Cusack. There's a Battle of the
Bands climax you've seen a thousand times. But there are rare formula
pictures--the bicycle movie "Breaking Away" was another--that seem to be
arriving at the formula from the inside with a kind of naive hopefulness that
seems as much a product of movie love as it is a desire to reach a mass

For all its polish, "School of Rock" has a let's-put-on-a-show quality that
touches you in the most direct way a movie can. It's as if the filmmakers
were saying, `I'd like to teach the world to rock out in perfect harmony.'

BOGAEV: David Edelstein is film critic for the online magazine Slate.


BOGAEV: For Terry Gross, I'm Barbara Bogaev.
Transcripts are created on a rush deadline, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of Fresh Air interviews and reviews are the audio recordings of each segment.

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