By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
DAME JUDI DENCH and her timeless bone structure star in Mrs. Henderson Presents, about the socialite who founded the Windmill Theatre, the vaudeville venue that successfully served tits and ass rather than tea and crumpets in 1930s England. The movie may not be more biting than yesterday's scones, but Judi's always a pipand very adept at charming an interviewer while stepping over potential icky bits. "Do you get asked to play salty but lovable women a lot?" I wondered in a pert phoner the other week. "No," the Dame chirped. "I'm asked to play parts. I think, 'How lovely to play them.' A lot of people say they're very autocratic and bossy, but I don't think they're all like that." How salty but lovable.
Daring to get a little more familiar, I asked my pal Judi if today's sanitized Times Square could use its own Windmill Theatre to ratchet up the old raunch-o-meter. "I don't know whether that applies anymore," she intoned, with dignity. "But at the time, because of the Lord Chamberlain, the Windmill was very daring indeed. The Lord Chamberlain was still censoring scripts when I came into the theater. We couldn't have nudity!" (Lord GIULIANI probably would have approved.) Fortunately, she also did a lot of Shakespeare, which Chamberlain tended to leave alone, assuming all's well that doesn't rear end well. "I guess he didn't know about that bare-assed Caliban creature in The Tempest," I remarked, and we giggled like giddy schoolgirls.
It was for Shakespeare in Love, of course, that Judi nabbed her naked statuette, but she also just pilfered Pride & Prejudice in another salty quickie. "I blew in in a big dress and big wig and came out again!" she told me, laughing. Soon she'll blow in for longer, returning as M in Casino Royale, with DANIEL CRAIG as the new Bondsman. I told her the original Casino drew snake eyes from critics, but I tend to enjoy it as a colorfully irrational romp. "Good," she said, sensibly. "Then it's worth doing again!"
SLY GUY AND THE FAMILY STONE
It's always worth leaving a top-level job in order to direct a movie, as long as you've got the talent to back up the cliché (and the spin of the roulette wheel). THOMAS BEZUCHA did it, abandoning a creative directing position at Ralph Lauren to write and direct movies like The Big Eden and his new one, The Family Stone, and now millions are demanding to know, "How?" "You write a script," Bezucha blithely told me in another prized phoner. Really? Well, more info, please. "I've always loved movies," he explained. "My idea of a vacation was Sundance. I got an idea for a script and thought, 'How hard can it be?' It's a really easy transition." OK, I'll do itbut first I have to get a creative directing position at Ralph Lauren.
Anyway, The Family Stone isn't the story of Sharon's folks raising her to be the queen of the B-plus movie starlets. It's about a dysfunctional-family Christmas, complete with cancer, a possible homophobe, and other issues to resolve before the fat man squeezes down the chute. SARAH JESSICA PARKER's character gets scarlet-lettered A for anti-gayshe's really not all bad, thoughbut the homosexual couple is so completely faygeleh-flawless that they're biracialone's black, the other isn'tand even hearing discordanti.e., one of them is deaf, the other isn't. "Why not?" said Bezucha, chortling. "We lost the club foot, though. We felt like it was gilding the lily. Those crutches got in the way."
The most perfect faygeleh couple of all sleeps with the sheep in ANG LEE's Brokeback Mountain, a/k/a Bareback Mounting, a/k/a Crouching Cowboy Hidden Penis(Mandarin title: Wo Hu Hang Long), a/k/a Eat Drink Man Man, a/k/a . . . all right, I'll stop. Anyway, the film has a couple of hot Wyoming ranch handsone wears black, the other doesn'tgoing through all the same mating rituals modern New York gays do. They fuck first, then kiss later (though most of the kissing in the movie looks more like professional head-butting). They pretend to go fishing to throw off the spouses, but actually have no interest in fish whatsoever. And though they think about moving in together, one has a meltdown freaking about the repercussions of intimacy. (They're not lesbians, after all.) These two could be regulars at Rawhide! At the premiere, when the film tried too hard to tug at our faygeleh-loving heartstrings, I thought, "At last we have a gay romance as banal as the straight ones. We've finally arrived!" But mostly, it's gentle, well observed, and so doomy even homophobes can sit back and enjoy.
In King Kong, a really controversial duoan ape and a bottle blondeprovides the most heartwarming love story since JACKOmet Bubbles. The remake, alas, is wildly overblown, taking the tight original story and adding more exposition, effects, slo-mo, sociology, and tonsil shots, if way less dialogue. It's 70 minutes before the big guy even appears, and then there are long, wordless stretches of humans and creatures taunting, attacking, or running from each other as you insanely get nostalgic for the coherence of The Lord of the Rings. Fortunately, the last third kicks in big-time, with Kong bounding through old Times Square (even before the porn) and going apeshit for NAOMI WATTS. "It's bestiality!" an observer cracked, but I don't think Naomi's that funny looking.