By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
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 harrowingthe 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 herthe 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.
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!" PleaseI'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.
PUSH, PUSH IN THE BUSH
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, butdon't read ahead if you're spoiler-phobicthe 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 copwith two nippleswho became a bank robber in order to protest Bush, I mean apartheid. At a party at Buttera/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.
GREEN TEAHOUSE OF THE AUGUST MOON
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 sharksand 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 finethat's the great thing about not having muscles.
And now, a gossip break: A book is under way that plans to out legendary goddess LENA HORNE. Expect some "Stormy Weather" indeed.
Meanwhile, the forecast is uncertain for Jenny's sister from the block. Sources say that LYNDA LOPEZ's version of The View is by no means a definite go-ahead. Producer J.LO's option was picked up, but the show, at best, will be a mid-season replacement depending on the reception given the KIMORA LEE SIMMONS-JULES ASNER version of The View. My reaction to that should be "God, that fucking hurts!" but I'll go with the more practical "Vote for Kerry."
JOAN OF ARF
JOAN RIVERS came back to Fez last week for an acidic, incorrect, and hilarious set that bashed the Bush girls ("Their designated driver is TEDDY KENNEDY") and for equal time, the Kerry ones too. ("Ugly! They favor the father! They should have feedbags!") But even worse, said the comic, is DONATELLA VERSACE, who's so homely "you want to hang her on a door in Africa."
Wearing a stole made of her dead dog, Spike, Joan lashed out at PETA members ("This fur in death has gone better places than you'll ever go in life") and added that the dog killed himself, "which in my family is not such a rare occurrence." (She was referring to her dead hubby, Edgar.) Most shockingly of all, she referenced 9-11 by cracking, "Three thousand widows. Well, five had to be kind of happy he's not coming back!"
Icame backto Joan's dressing room afterward and asked why she's moving to the TV Guide channel. "Enough with E!" she said. "RUPERT MURDOCH owns 40 percent of the TV Guide channel and they're gonna turn it into another Fox." But will she be sharing the screen with all those listings? "No! My show is the first one they're taking the crawl away for, and Melissa's will be the second." Too bad, she laughed. "I thought I'd never have to shave my legs again!"
A gossip report making its way around the Internet serves the inside scoop on various Broadway stars in a steamy and knowledgeable-sounding way. The main problem is I'm the only one who cares about Broadway stars. But still, let's wiggle our Fosse hands and summarize some of the juicier items: A composer was blowing a male fan, who reached down to guide the guy's head only to inadvertently pull his toupee off. A thought-to-be-straight-but-isn't musical star who was in last season's big revival is insanely jealous that Christopher Seiber came out and became even more respected. A theater-TV staple likes 'em young, but not as young as that Tony winner, who likes 'em 16 to 18. And that ex-child star has been bottoming out for his Broadway lover, whose boyfriend was the last to know about it. Most shockingly of all, they say that Hugh Jackman is indeed straight and very comfy about it. ("His handlers insisted a hetero be cast as his love interest. Hugh didn't care either way.") What's more, Rosie O'Donnell quietly paid for the medical expenses when one of her old Grease cast mates got sick. God, Broadway's a scandalous place!
And furthermore: Spies tell me that Denzel Washington was just hangin' on Sean Combs' yacht in St. Tropez, and it wasn't always such a holiday. In between chunks of time spent staring blankly into space, Combs would regale Washington with streams of hip-hoppy, I'm-so-street jive talk, assuming he'd adore his host getting down with his bad self. He didn't. "I have no idea what you're trying to say," replied Washington.
In clearer news about a newly urbanized star: Page Six just reported that Tom Cruise waited till the lights went down at the Collateral premiere to change his seat to be next to his male trainer. Well, I'm just guessing here, but I bet the upshot of that item will be: Tom's lawyer will fire off a beheading-threatening letter; the trainer will be locked up in an attic with Hans Blix, never to be heard from again; and Tom will promptly announce that he's back with Penelope Cruz. Can't wait!