By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
The rage for theater revisals is so strong that recent years have brought us a nice Sheridan Whiteside, a cute Mama Rose, and a freakin' adorable Ma Rainey! So I was terrified that David Leveaux's fiddling with Fiddler on the Roof would suddenly land us in a cockamamie goyishe shtetl. The showwhich has so many non-jews working on it, they supposedly held callbacks on yom Kippurdoesn't feature a single -berg or -stein in the cast, but guess what? It turns out it's not a shande after all. And you know why? For the same reason the cast members of Assassins have never really killed a presidentthese people are actors. No, the Fiddlergang doesn't "oy, vey" it up (whereas in Nine, Leveaux had people doing thick, shaky Italian accents), but they do nail the feelings, helping the show relocate its groove as part slice of life-in-transition, part Act One-has-most-of-the-good-tunes sitcom, and all safe yet appealing musical drama. And I got special pleasure from the scene where the characters debate whether it's a sin for a man to dance with the opposite sex at a wedding!
In drag as Anna Tevka, I saw The Passion of the Christ with an opening-day crowd that included even fewer Jews than turn up in Fiddler. (Apparently, they don't want to see Jesus tortured and killed after all.) The people who did show up were rapt, except for a young lady who afterward snarled, "I love how the good Jews had small noses and the bad Jews had big ones!" Mel has big ones all right. The film is very brown (until all that red starts spurting) and makes Salo look like The Country Bears, but it has such a professional glow that you can't help getting seduced on some level, forgetting for a second that the Bible was written by people who thought the earth was flat, and also that the church routinely crucifies gay people (figuratively anyway) for blood sport. Even more problematically, the fab Monica Bellucci only gets to look on and bite her lip a lot, but you know she'll have more to do in the sequel. ("He's ba-ack!") In the meantime, the most remarkable post on datalounge.com had someone wondering, "Is it wrong to masturbate to a picture of Jim Caviezel as Christ?" (A) You're totally f-ing sick, you unspeakable monster. (B) No, it's absolutely fine.
From twisted queens, let's move on to King Lear, which has a gruesome eye-gouging scene, though since the director's not a sadist, it's done out of audience view (and I can't see past my hook nose anyway). As Lear, Christopher Plummer is sharper than a serpent's tooth, and the current-event-savvy audience gets an extra charge out of the talk of "scurvy politicians."
In distinctly non-Shakespearean entertainment, the best scurvy DVD of the new year is Wet Hot American Summernot because the movie's any good, mind you, but because you get cut footage that includes shots of both Christopher Meloni's and Paul Rudd's bare butts!
And while we're scanning for private parts, the year's best semi-bare bear is original Survivor star Richard Hatch, who profiles himself on BigMuscleBears.com as "Triwhale," and who originally posted, "I'm attracted to sexually aggressive men (total tops or truly versatile guys). Life is good and sharing it with a compatible man is my goal." Well, now, writes Hatch in an update, "I think I've found him." Yay! I'll throw rats at the wedding.
And there's other butt-warming gay romantic news. I hear the tabloids are sitting on photos of that fast action star kissing his sexually aggressive, truly versatile boyfriend. Alas, they won't run them because they don't believe in outing, so I guess the Caviezel picture will remain the top autoerotic destination in town.
After one quick straight itemspies swear Stanley Tucci is friendlying it up again with the wifelet me take you to the new Chelsea boîte Viscaya, where the first Wednesday gay Vice Lounge night was hosted by Brini Maxwell, the drag answer to Martha Stewart (and no, that's not redundant). Non-jailbound Brini caressed the red velvet curtains and admired the exposed brick while telling me, "Plush and raw. I like it!" Brini's views on gay marriage? "If we can marry, why can't they?"
Over at Beige, things were just raw when late photography legend Francesco Scavullo's companion, Sean Byrnes, mistily told me, "Francesco died working. He was about to go to be interviewed by Anderson Cooper for a profile." Honey, that's how I want to go too.
But I'm still here and still predictably talking about the Oscars, especially since I found out that all those obscure animated shorts you always hear about actually exist! I saw the nominated ones at the Academy screening building, and it turned out they were not only real, they were delightful (and even if they weren't, they're short).
The darkly witty Harvie Krumpet ended up grabbing the goldI guess some voters actually saw the movies this yearthough in many cases, the safe, obvious choices won, with anyone who squealed look-at-me-I'm-acting nabbing a pity prize. The gratitude-heavy telecast was by far even more boring than the movies themselves. Come on, I adored The Lord of the Rings 3, but its relentless wins became numbing, especially since the victors droned laundry lists of key grips' names, and there wasn't even any internal drama, like the dwarf pushing Sean Astin away from the mic at the SAG Awards! (Mind you, the five-second delay was great; you could keep calling friends in the live audience, find out who'd just won, and cream everyone in your Oscar pool.)
My chronological impressions? 8:55 p.m.: Tim Robbins urges everyone who's been abused to come forward. OK, Tim: I am the victim of terrible abuse. Mystic River was torture! 9:02: The Finding Nemo guy thanks "my adoring children." He must be fun to live with. 9:22: Winner Renée Zellweger is acting all quivery and humble. Nicole forces a smile. Even Harvey doesn't look that happy, and it's his movie. 9:40: I just can't stop singing "You Will Be My Ain True Love." Kidding. If these weepy, pretentious dirges are all they can come up with, they should abolish the song category. Bring back "Shaft" and "Flashdance." 10:40: Errol Morris makes his fabulous "rabbit hole" remark. He'll probably be found in one next week.
11:50: Charlize Theron wins for Monster (a/k/a The Passion of the Dyke), a rare baddie character to nab Best Actress. But the flick was actually so sympathetic to Aileen Wuornos, it almost had you rooting for her to kill more of those horrible males. I loved Charlize thanking her "leading lady," Christina Ricci. I only wish she hadn't also thanked everyone else on three continentsand I pray she doesn't now throw her long-awaited credibility into the garbage pail à la Halle Berry.
Midnight: More angsty, showy acting is crowned when a showered Sean Penn takes his prize (though he excellently tosses the "WMDs" lie into his first utterance). Sorry, Bill Murraylet's have more screaming and emoting next time, I guess. By the way, all these mournful flicks are clearly a direct result of 9-11. Gee, thanks, Osama!
The angstiest moment of all came when Nazi propagandist Leni Riefenstahl was memorialized in the montage of recently deceased screen folk, as glowing music played. For a second, I could swear I heard Mel Gibson and his dad cheering all the way from Australia.