NY Mirror

Bush-bashing has become so understandably common on the Gotham arts scene that midway through Hamlet, you expect an actor to turn to the audience and smirk, "To be or not to be . . . a KERRY voter. Do it or die!" I adore that kind of pandering and Lord knows it's always good for some quick applause, but even I need a break from it, just to immerse myself in something less self-congratulatorily topical. I even need a respite from the undoubtedly brilliant stuff, so I skipped the reading of the TONY KUSHNER play about LAURA BUSH, not wanting to wallow in more agitating realizations about our administration, the kind that would have probably had me doing a CHENEY-TERESA HEINZ KERRY-MERYL STREEP medley (you know, yelling, "Go fuck yourself! Shove it!" while chewing ice cubes).

Instead, I went to the premiere of Open Water, a pure popcorn movie whose plot mechanics only express rage at Mother Nature and/or utter incompetents (though Bush isn't mentioned by name). The low-budget winner has a fairly banal married couple going scuba diving in the Bahamas, only to be left behind by their tour boat and find themselves facing the elements, the sharks, and scariest of all, a digital camera. The dialogue might not exactly be trenchantly witty ("God, it fucking hurts!" is even less elegant than "Shove it!"), but it's the characters' very ordinariness that makes the story all the more believable, and the result is quite harrowing—the perfect date movie for the Fear Factor generation.

After the screening, I asked BLANCHARD RYAN, who's a standout as the wife who wanted to go skiing, what was scarier for her—the shark stuff or the gratuitous nude scene. "When I first did it, I thought, 'No one's gonna see the stupid little movie,' " she said, laughing. "I was terrified only of the sharks. Now that I did it and it's out there, the sharks are behind me and the horrifying scene is when I'm naked. My poor father has to see it!" Just then, Dad came out of the theater, shaken by the movie, and he and Blanchard hugged each other, gushing, "I love you!" There's nothing like a toothy, oversize fish and a little boobie shot to bond family members for life.

Boobie trap: Open Water's Daniel Travis and Blanchard Ryan
photo: Lions Gate Films
Boobie trap: Open Water's Daniel Travis and Blanchard Ryan

What was the worst part of being in the water all that time? "Just being wet," said Blanchard, sensibly. "You'd get out for a break, then you'd have to put the clammy bodysuit back on and go back in and get chilled to the bone. We're not made to be in the water!" Please—I'm such an adorably light-loafered sprite, I'm not even made for land!

But ultimately, Open Water is a relationship movie, not a sushi-in-reverse chiller. "It's not really about the sharks," said Blanchard, "though they're definitely scene stealers. And some showed up that weren't part of the movie. We called them 'non-union sharks.' They scared the hell out of me." Honey, scabs are always terrifying.


But back to the Bush-bashing, smirk smirk: Some folks have wondered why I wrote that The Village fits into that increasingly wide category. Well, this might all be in my twisted mind, but—don't read ahead if you're spoiler-phobic—the movie involves a guy named Walker (as in Dubya's middle moniker) who unites people in fear of a perhaps exaggerated or misplaced enemy. Got it? Scared?

(By the way, do you think M. NIGHT SHYAMALAN tells his wife a different twist every night before they go to bed? You know: "I have three bizarrely placed nipples you don't know about." "The M stands for Maggie. I'm a dame." "I don't exist!" and so on.)

From Walker, we leap to Stander, the offbeat little movie with comely THOMAS JANE as the real South African cop—with two nipples—who became a bank robber in order to protest Bush, I mean apartheid. At a party at Butter—a/k/a I Can't Believe It's Not Belgo!—I asked Jane if he's sure the guy wasn't just crime-spreeing for fun and profit. "I think people do what they do for incomprehensible reasons," he said, earnestly, "and people attach their own sense of meaning to it. The best political acts are done for personal reasons. The deeper you're invested in it, the stronger your action becomes, and then people can hang off the branches of those actions and if they're well rooted, they'll support various political banners." Yikes! This was so much deeper than my usual level of party talk (you know, "Great news! I was mentioned on AmIAnnoying.com!") that I went into Butter shock, but not before asking if Jane's from the really trashy part of Maryland. "We lived in the sticks," he admitted unapologetically. "We were briars." I had no idea what that meant, but I would love to hang off the branches.


We hung on for dear life at the 60 Thompson roof party for MOBY's teany line of bottled beverages, angling to stay under the awning as the weather made us curse out Mother Nature again. But there were no sharks—and besides, the main torrent was that of Moby's drinks, which come in flavors like "peach berry green tea" and bear labeled messages like "So what are antioxidants . . . ?" I have no idea, but I do know what caffeine is and so does Moby, who admitted that as a result, "Every night around 3 or 4 a.m., I wake up from a deep sleep wth severe muscle clenching." Baby, I sleep fine—that's the great thing about not having muscles.

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