NY Mirror

At the New York Film Critics Circle Awards at Noche, Patricia Clarksonwas witty, Julianne Moore was nice, and some minx at my table remarked that "every place they've had this event at has either been attacked by terrorists or closed down." Well, the new site seemed durable enough, and a reallycrass, misguided person would have taken comfort in the fact that we were all impenetrable cineastes celebrating something called Far From Heaven.

I got a little closer to there by asking that flick's gay-for-play Dennis Quaid (who won Best Supporting Actor) if he's ever been to a gay bar. "No," Quaid said, grinning, "other than this one!" More at home, The Hours author Michael Cunningham told me he loves the film version of his book, though he's sorry the "militant lesbian queer theorist" character, Mary Krull, didn't make it in. Does he like the ending? "Yes! They tried out different endings and even shot a life-affirming one with all the women [from all three plotlines] sitting down and eating together. It was just barfy—like How to Make an American Quilt." But they found the right hopeful note—which I won't give away, mensch that I am—and it's clicking with the urbane crowd; the film's been selling out at the UA Union Square. "I know!" exulted Cunningham. "A movie about suicidal lesbians and it's selling out! Cheers!"

Back in the straight corner, Best Actress Diane Lane told me about the filming of Unfaithful, "My direction was to be vulnerable, vulnerable, vulnerable, vulnerable, vulnerable," which she did really well, well, well, etc. As for the wave of appreciation deservedly coming Lane's way, "After tonight, I'd like to be done. I'm nervous about keeping thank you interesting." In other words, she's vulnerable, vulnerable, vulnerable, vulnerable, vulnerable.

The ceremony itself was a fascinating mix of highbrow appreciation du film art and titillating, tawdry shtick right out of my brightest fantasies. Adaptation writer Charlie Kaufman told Susan Orlean, "Thanks for the masturbation introduction." Richard Gere said of Diane Lane, "Give her a lot of applause and maybe she'll take her clothes off." And—after murmuring that Adrian Lynenervily thinks he pulled the Unfaithful performance out of her—Lane declared, "I'm going to enjoy this moment because I might be peaking." I doubt it—but she's definitely vulnerable. Cheers!

Meanwhile, directors should probably be neither seen nor heard, except occasionally behind a camera. Recently, after unveiling his P.S. Your Cat Is Dead!, the aggressively likable Steve Guttenberg had a chat with the audience in which he casually mentioned his friend, producer Lester Persky. When someone in the front row chirped that Persky died over a year ago, Guttenberg looked stunned and said, "Really? Really?" as a publicist quickly ended the session.

Living auteur Richard Kelly was almost as endearingly out of it when he appeared at Two Boots Pioneer Theater after a midnight showing of his Donnie Darko, the haunting cult weirdo flick about a young '80s "anger prisoner." Kelly started by admitting he was drunk and barely able to put words together. Once he did, though, he wouldn't stop, with a seeming mixture of over-humility and immense self-satisfaction. Kelly was cute when revealing he'd worked as basically a "janitor/whore at a post-production place, which meant making cheese-cracker platters for Puffy and J.Lo." But he was way less charming when gushing about CAA's life-altering imprimatur of his script; describing the people who "informed me as an artist"; and vowing to keep making movies with "the same kind of vibe and complexity." At least he was big enough to admit, "It would be irresponsible to say I have all the answers. I'm totally trying to figure it out like everyone else!"

But I've got all the answers, honey—if not the questions—when it comes to recent theater bonbons. Tartuffe is a real antique, with characters hiding in cupboards as if in a witty version of a Joyce DeWitt comedy. But the new revival is performed with brio—it's a hambone's paradise—a style that works better in the second half, when there's more texture to undercut the theatrics. The soon wrapping retread of Dinner at Eight eventually recovers from its leaden first act, though I waited three hours for the famous closing line, only to find it's in the movie, not the play! And downtown, Charles Busch's Shanghai Moon is a tone-perfect send-up of old flicks about the kind of East/West culture clashes that make hearts of jade melt into so much soy sauce. Busch, who's thought out every syllable and facial gesture, is the supreme interpreter of his own work, and the night I went, standby Alan Ariano did well subbing for B.D. Wong as General Gong Fei—he really got Gong, rather than getting the gong.

I judged the Wednesday-night "Not the Gong Show Gong Show Show"—I can't resist a built-in segue—at xl, hosted by drag diva Tobell von Cartier, a longtime scene treasure who wears her tart tongue on her Heatherette sleeve. I remember club wacko Michael Alig once trying to push some pill into Tobell's mouth and her refusing, screeching, "I don't go there!" Recently, she turned down the chance to be in a movie about Alig, not wanting to add to his glorification. (She doesn't go there either. Besides, she figured it was probably just extra work.) Fortunately, she goes to xl, where suicidal lesbians, anger prisoners, and wannabe teen idols line up to be either discovered or humiliated. Last week, the talent parade devolved into a strip show—thank God—when fellow judge Mickey Boardman almost coaxed a contestant to drop his pants in order to get the $300 prize. (The third judge, Princess Diandra, gamely offered to show some schlong too.) But the guy—a serious interpreter of Christina Aguilera songs—refused, so I had to whip out my dick and gong him with it.

Sharper objects came to mind when Joan Rivers showed up at the birthday bash for Page Six pooh-bah Richard Johnsonthrown by Avenue columnist Richard Turley and restaurateur Jimmy Rodriguez. "Don't throw a Magic Marker at me!" I warned Joan, and she laughed and said, "Watch out! Watch out!" Instead, she threw barbs my way, telling me she's not looking forward to Jenny-from-the-block's see-through wedding dress and adding, "I'm Joanie from the ghetto!" Rivers's favorite movie of the year? "The Pianist. Blaine Trump told me, 'It was a very uplifting ending.' Yeah, he lived till 88 and he had no mother, no father, no house, no bed, no dog. Really uplifting!" Compared to Jackass, maybe.

I met a pianist—the segues keep coming—at the Gothammagazine party at Cipriani 42nd Street later that night, and he was one of those tousle-haired, cherubic types who are putting a pretty face on classical music, thereby taking away the time-honored chance for uglies to hide behind an instrument. Onstage, famed saxophonist Bill Clinton came out to thank Gotham (and Gotham) and say of the nearby Russell Simmons, "When I grow up, I want to dress the way he does." Scantily clad co-host Heidi Klum then improbably joined him and muttered that "New York is the most exciting city in the world. What else can I say? I can't see anybody." And as Michael Bolton stood by the microphone waiting for his backup tape to start, fashion lady Patricia Field was escorted to the exit, telling me, "I'm being thrown out of here for just holding a pack of cigarettes!" That's just barfy.


musto@villagevoice.com

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