NY Mirror

Just like last year's Oscars, the next ones are being actively coveted by ripped-out-of-the- headlines reflections of actual violence (The Queen, Bobby, The Last King of Scotland, Catch a Fire, Flags of Our Fathers, the two 9-11 movies, the death-to-Dubya one), not to mention truckloads of real-life tyrants, from QUEEN ELIZABETH to Idi Amin to ANNA WINTOUR. Even more scarily, with HELEN MIRREN and PETER O'TOOLE angling to win the top prizes, the Oscar organizers must be shitting themselves and screaming, "They're so old! Our ratings will be lower than MEGAN MULLALLY's!"

While we're waiting for the glory-bound to get even closer to the crypt, let's glance back at the recent spate of attention-craving films before cleansing our palate with some popcorn-flavored sorbet and moving on. First of all, Borat would be the funniest movie of the year even if just for the title shmegegge finding the naked fat guy's ass on his face. (But don't expect any Oscars for this one. Why? Because it's the funniest movie of the year!) Not quite as hilarious, Babel is long, confusing, contrived, and all right, powerful, with BRAD PITT getting one of those Oscar-friendly "phone scenes," only to have the whole movie stolen by ADRIANA BARRAZA as the Mexican nanny running faster than PETE DOHERTYat a customs checkpoint.

Conscientiously fleeing from blockbusters, NICOLE KIDMAN is brave to always pick such offbeat projects, but unfortunately she usually picks the wrong ones. In fact, she's lucky her husband had to go into rehab the second she was going to have to do more promotion for the misbegotten Fur. While the Diane Arbus not-a-biopic poignantly attempts to show the beauty in freakdom, it's deeply boring—and what's more, it's about a woman who's made to take it all off in her liberating experience at a nudist camp starring a woman who uses a body double.

Duncan Sheik: Smells like teen spirit
photo: Mark Hartman
Duncan Sheik: Smells like teen spirit

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Stranger Than Fiction— a/k/a Adaptation of The Truman Show—tries too hard to be effortless as it attempts to free WILL FERRELL into the realm of capital-A acting (i.e., talking softer and slower and not smiling as much). The film unconvincingly pre-sents a guy who realizes he must break out of someone else's story by living to the full, with Ferrell donning JIM CARREY's old behavioral straitjacket in a doomed bid for trophies. (But it's hardly a complete washout; the tone is amiable enough and EMMA THOMPSON scores as a wack job Diane Arbus would love.)


A review of a revision of a revival of a revival

Now bring on the sorbet. No, bring on the fizzy theater—especially Tony Award types sticking their esteemed asses in, if not on, my face. The dress rehearsal for Chicago's 10th anniversary star-laden performance enabled me to catch up with virtually all the replacement cast members I'd ever missed. The show started with the original Velma, the legendary CHITA RIVERA, rising up to deliver "All That Jazz" with a knowing gleam—a magical moment that made my rouged knees weak. From there, different performers jumped into the roles at various points, which thrillingly resulted in two simultaneous Big Mamas and three Mary Sunshines, all proving the 'mo the Mary-er. BROOKE SHIELDS was a limber, wonderful Roxie on "We Both Reached for the Gun." (I might even forgive her for going to TomKat's wedding.) And then ANNA NICOLE SMITH—I mean MELANIE GRIFFITH—took over and proved to be adorable, woozily saying her lines in a way that got big laughs while seeming totally true to the character. Of course Melanie's "singing" was rather like a kid in a school pageant trying not to miss a note, which I guess was kind of cute. But her dancing mostly involved slowly rocking her raised arms back and forth, as Bob Fosse no doubt flailed in his coffin. In lieu of the elaborate physical riffing generally found at the climax of the song "Roxie," Melanie just lay onstage cooing at the hardworking male dancers writhing around her. But she's got star quality and that's just what the show's about—the ability of razzle-dazzle to obscure the truth and cloud people's doubts.

The revival of Tennessee Williams's Suddenly Last Summer seems to only have stunted casting. Fab BLYTHE DANNER keeps her dignity, but CARLA GUGINO's unmodulated performance brings mannered hysteria to every moment and chews so much scenery there's nothing but a twig and a cup of tea left at the end. It's unbearable! Besides, I preferred this show—about two battling women and a bland guy rehashing the past in a creepy mansion overrun with foliage—when it was called Grey Gardens.

Speaking of that gothic tap-dance fest, CHRISTINE EBERSOLE has gotten unanimous raves for playing two different roles. Big deal. KRISTIN CHENOWETH will play three in The Apple Tree! (By the way, I'll save you six months of wondering and tell you now who the next musical- actress Tony nominees will be: Ebersole, Chenoweth, AUDRA MCDONALD, DONNA MURPHY, and DEBRA MONK. And all five of those greedy whores have Tonys already!)


Awake and shtup

But something young and new is actually coming to Broadway— Spring Awakening, the musicalization of the 1891 Wedekind play about teen mattress dancers on a hormonal rampage as the grown-ups feel their knickers twisting. When I got the press release promising "homosexuality, abortion, and teen suicide," I frantically booked my tickets and even got on the phone with composer DUNCAN SHEIK, the ever boyish singer-songwriter who generously played six questions with me.

Can he understand why the Wedekind play was so vehemently banned for years? "If you have circle jerks and boys masturbating in the bathroom to postcards of Delacroix," said Sheik, "then yes. A lot of it is intense and hard to swallow—not to mention it's extremely critical of the clergy, teachers, and parents who don't communicate any meaningful information about sexuality to kids."

Is today's Broadway ready for singing, shtupping teens? "Most of the people who saw it at the Atlantic Theater Company," he said, "were able to get behind the show. Very few were freaked out by it." (By the way, I'm uncharacteristically avoiding any cheap comments on phrases like "hard to swallow" and "get behind." It's called class, fuckers.)

But wouldn't this kind of show do even better under a totally repressive Republican regime? "Yeah, I wish the Democrats hadn't won," Sheik replied, laughing, "because then we would have really been able to say something!" Pause. "No, I'm still happy they won."

Is he afraid of the big-time legit stage? "Rock people like PAUL SIMON have said, 'I'm going to show my way on Broadway,' " he responded, "and they say, 'We'll see you later.' That's been avoided here. The collaboration [with director MICHAEL MAYER, lyricist STEVEN SATER, etc.] has been so great." So Spring Awakening will be better than the Dylan show? "Don't get me started."

And finally, why not just do a Duncan Sheik jukebox musical called Barely Breathing (his hypnotic '96 pop hit)? "That is a truly terrible idea," he said, cringing. "I'm going to stick to working with classic pieces of literature." And I'm going to hold him to that. Anything else might be hard to swallow.

Meanwhile, there are some real young people doing actual sexual things in public and it's got to stop . . . messing with my deadlines, that is. The invite for Dirty Boy Tuesdays at China One sounded almost as promising as Spring Awakening's: Dirtyboyvideo.com is looking for tomorrow's big star. Show us your cheap tricks for a chance to win big cash!" Alas, there were no abortions or suicides, but there were volunteers licking whipped cream off a go-go boy for dollars while the lickee's exposed penis went all the way to 70 percent hard. After the can was spent, emcee SHERRY VINE promised the crowd, "In 30 minutes, someone will fuck a watermelon!" God, the Dems winning had a really quick effect, no?

In similar news, I noticed an appealing new watermelon, I mean 17-year-old go-go dancer, at Hiro ballroom's Cuckoo Club party. "The other night, he fucked AMANDA LEPORE all night long," murmured an insider. That does it—I'm getting a pussy.

Or maybe I'll be getting some pussy. You see, over at a cable station the other day, the president of the Church of Scientology in New York cornered me as my pulse raced and palms sweated up. He urged me to get together with him so I can elevate my shtick by learning how Scientology actually helps people. "Call me!" he pleaded before I went on the air. Nah, I'll stay gay for now.


musto@villagevoice.com

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