NY Mirror

Movies are coming at us like fastballs from a pitching machine, and it's not clear whether we should try to catch them, duck, or grab a stick and hit them far, far away.

Among the new batch: Alfie takes us on a long and winky ride to arrive at the obvious moral, "Next time, think before unzipping." Finding Neverland has a lovely sheen, but it's too precious, with the expected outbursts—coming from Sylvia's cunty mom and distrustful son and Barrie's own whiny wife—getting all too efficiently squelched by the Peter Pan author's magical moxie. (And I loved the way pedophilia murmurs are brought up, then quickly dismissed as happy hogwash. "People are talking" indeed.)

A legs-akimbo sexual romp through another repressive age, Kinsey is better at interpersonal relationships than the Kinsey-changed-the-world stuff, and it could have used a less linear approach, but it's still a pretty absorbing biopic that definitely thinks before unzipping. (And it's too perfect that the fundamentalists are in full protest over a film about 50-year-old events; they've been trying to undo Roe v. Wade and even the Scopes trial, so why not demonize the original sexual revolution while they're at it? Next stop: a slavery revival!)

At the premiere party, I asked writer-director BILL CONDON if making the flick was some sort of aphrodisiac for him. "I wish!" he said. "When I first started making movies, everyone was getting laid, but there was no fucking on this set." Because everyone was married? "Because everyone was too old!" he answered. (I guess no one, despite all the research, had ever heard of Viagra.) There was one randy young male intern running around, added Condon, but he totally liked girls. Gross!


BUY POLAR

Another movie with a presumably sexless set, The Polar Express offers a fabulously eye-popping train trip to some cute Borscht Belt elves, though kiddies might feel the journey is so dark-verging-on-sadistic, it makes Willy Wonka look like The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement. At Polar's candy-colored premiere bash at Rockefeller Center, I asked director BOB ZEMECKIS if he feels his Express is scarier than Bambi's mother getting killed. "Nah," he swore, "but if you are scared by it, it's a good scare. And it's not as scary as all the holiday stuff. Christmas is a holiday of very complicated emotions." (For me it's simple: Thank God Jesus was born, so I can get three pineapple-scented candles, two unreturnable zippered turtlenecks, and a gerbil in a pear tree.)

At this point, in sashayed a tall, tunic-wearing goddess who turned out to be NONA GAYE—late r&b legend Marvin Gaye's daughter and the flick's leadership-laden "Hero Girl." She was as sweet and comforting as her character. "Didn't the faces look a little creepy?" Gaye asked me, twinkling. Yeah, how was that done? "We had 150 markers on our faces and bodies," she cooed, "and the computer picked up on them, so it could register every changing expression." Well, thank God they didn't just hire CHER and eliminate 149 markers.


PATHS OF GORY

Another spook-tacular, JEAN-PIERRE JEUNET's two-hour-plus WW I flick A Very Long Engagement, mixes his trademark whimsy with wartime atrocities, while throwing in a character who regularly mutters, "Doggie fart, gladdens my heart!" At a promo luncheon at Gabriel's, Jeunet (best known for Amélie and Delicatessen) told me he was recently asked to direct Harry Potter V and he's considering it, but he's putting up a little French resistance about being handed part of a franchise. "In a theater in France," he said, "I asked the crowd, 'Do you want me to make it?' and they all yelled 'No!' " (Those wacky frogs. They screamed the very same thing when asked if they supported the war in Iraq!)

This epic has trench scenes that remind some people of Kubrick's Paths of Glory, but Jeunet said, "I'm not a fan of that film because it's too clean." "So you think you're better than Kubrick?" I shrieked, but he pretended not to hear. ("I pretend not to know English," he'd already told me, "but I do.") Well, JODIE FOSTER wasn't pretending when she called Jeunet and said she wanted to act in French; he promptly gave her a part in the film!

His main star, of course, is AUDREY TAUTOU (Amélie), who was charming, if not exactly verbose, at the luncheon. But she brightened when someone mentioned that the latest Variety had large ads promoting the film for Oscar nods. ("Where can I get it?" she said. "I'd love to show my family.") "She doesn't speak a lot," confided Jeunet, "so I don't know anything about her except what I read in interviews." Honey, none of my friends—Meryl, J.Lo, Beyoncé—will communicate except through magazine profiles (and restraining orders).

But let me clarify my own communiqué to you last week about the imminent Alexander. In the film, say spies, COLIN FARRELL's title character appears to be ultra-close with JARED LETO mainly through friendly hugs, declarations of devotion, and a reference to Leto having conquered Farrell's thighs. But it's clear he's tight with ROSARIO DAWSON mainly through wild, orgiastic fucking. Got it? (Revealingly, co-star VAL KILMER has told interviewers about kissing scenes that were filmed between Farrell and Leto. Clearly, those scenes were nervously sliced, but that hasn't stopped Leto from assuring the press that no one can tell OLIVER STONE what to cut!)

Moving from sieges in togas to suicide in poly blend, Broadway's 'Night, Mother revival has EDIE FALCO glamming down again in her second KATHY BATES role and BRENDA BLETHYN channeling Mama's Family and/or John Waters as, respectively, a glum epileptic and her shrill mama fighting about whether the former should off herself. (This was written before a Paxil prescription would have rendered the whole premise moot.) I'm a glum epileptic myself and wanted to help the suicide along—my own, that is—though right before the gunshot, the characterizations kicked in and the play started living.

And I'm glad I survived so I could make more public appearances—like on last week's DAVID HERSHKOVITS–emceed Paper panel on drag, held at the W Hotel before an audience of facial-haired cross-dressers on hiatus. The discussion climaxed when JOHN CAMERON MITCHELL remembered how accepting ROSIE O'DONNELL was to have him perform as Hedwig on her chat show. Muttered co-panelist BOY GEORGE, "Funny, she isn't accepting of herself!" Doggie fart, gladdens my heart.


Litter Box
One nomination under God

Maria Full of Grace's heroin smuggler, CATALINA SANDINO MORENO, could be this year's KEISHA CASTLE-HUGHES; the newcomer is getting a decent-sized Oscar push and might eventually be full of herself if she lands on the ballot alongside grand dames like ANNETTE BENING and IMELDA STAUNTON. Meanwhile, KATE WINSLET is personally promoting herself for a Best Actress nomination for Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. I hear she feels that in the aforementioned Neverland thing, she's more of a supporting player. (A persistent hack cough generally means you won't end up as the central character.)

The always award-worthy MARYLOUISE BURKE is her usual scene-stealing self as PAUL GIAMATTI's hyper-enthusiastic mom in ALEXANDER PAYNE's wine-drenched road movie Sideways. At a Cause Celeb memoir-reading event, Burke told me the part was originally written to be 100 percent drunk, "but I think Alexander saw I have this little screw loose anyway so he took that away. He's very sensitive to whatever qualities you bring." As it ended up, the character's only tipsy toward the end of her scenes. Now where can I get that Variety?


musto@villagevoice.com

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