Being Stanley Kubrick

Plus new Oscar bait, and the attack of the right-wing lesbian polemicist

Ever since Being John Malkovich, everyone's been dying to climb into Malkovich's mind in order to appreciate the extremely rarefied air up there. But Malky himself has been busy climbing into other people's noggins—like that of Alan Conway, the con artist who tried to crawl into the head of Stanley Kubrick and in the process convince everyone he really was Kubrick. (End of climbing-into-head motif here. It's just not working.)

In the candy-colored Colour Me Kubrick, opening next week, Malkovich romps around as Conway, a gutsy gay who aggressively deceived people so he could be feted and ass-kissed without ever having to set up a single camera shot. "I really enjoyed it," Malkovich told me by phone from South Africa, where he's filming the post-apartheid drama Disgrace. "I liked the character and the people on the movie." Wait, he actually felt for sleazy Alan Conman, I mean Conway? "Yeah," he said, "because he's just pretending to be someone he's not, which is the definition of showbiz people, no? He has fun and he's quite pitiful and pathetic. I like that—that reminds me of life."

The pathetically fun guy, Malkovich added, was a failed travel agent and pretty much a loser at everything—"except he dresses very glam. You gotta give him that! He had no aspirations whatsoever. He'd never even seen a Kubrick film. He tried to watch Lolita and got very bored after a few minutes. He knew nothing about Kubrick at all!"

Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Gay Philadelphia
C. Sembrot for GPTMC
Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Gay Philadelphia

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Perhaps to compensate, Conway laid on all kinds of crazy accents, figuring the zanier he came off, the more people would buy him as an eccentric auteur. "I wanted a sort of fake American kind of Yiddish South African Korean thing," explained Malkovich, "with either some Irish or Danish thrown in. That's harder than it sounds!" And it sounds pretty hard.

Well, cons are definitely in the air, I noted in my adorable Brooklyn twang. There were those two big literary scandals last year, and there's a RICHARD GERE movie coming out about hoaxer CLIFFORD IRVING. Isn't it all—I opined brilliantly—a reflection of our shady administration? "No," Malkovich shot back. "I doubt this is the first administration that has conned someone. And this was written before this administration was even elected. People just like con men." Before he took off into just South African accents, my man Malkovich tried to con me that he's not a big weird, fabulous icon. Don't people think of him as a fascinatingly loopy intellectual? "I don't know," he swore. "I never think about it and I never ask them. Sometimes you might find someone in a mall who says, 'You're scary,' but generally I don't think people think about me, period, and for good reason. They have a lot on their minds!" But not that much in their minds—which is why we're all trying to climb elsewhere.

As long as we're angling for a view into bizarre cinematic thought processes, let me note that now is the time when movie moguls scramble to throw together disparate Oscar winners into seemingly can't-fail projects. Well, I'll give them a free one. Let's put JENNIFER HUDSON and ALAN ARKIN into a sort of a reverse Driving Miss Daisy—now! See, she'd play an r&b singer being driven by a racist chauffeur to shoot a reality show. They're at odds from the first moment, but since Arkin's character survived the Holocaust, where his parents were ripped out of his arms, at least he knows the importance of family. As he warms up to Hudson and realizes not all black people are bad, Arkin convinces her to skip the cheesy career gig and instead go look for her mother, who abandoned her when she was a kid. On their road trip, the two find they're way more similar than they'd thought, sharing alternately wacky and poignant experiences tracking down Mom, who turns out to be JENNIFER HOLLIDAY and who ?—this not being a clichéd movie—still has no use for her daughter whatsoever. Hudson is shattered, but Arkin shrugs and says, "So what?" "What do you mean 'so what'?" responds Hudson. "You said family is everything!" "It is," he replies, grabbing her hand with paternal love and deep significance. It all ends with Hudson sobbing her way through three future-Oscar-nominated songs.

By the way, I have a script for HELEN MIRREN and FOREST WHITAKER too, but it's even more pitiful and pathetic.

Meanwhile, real-life conflicts have been better than any movie I could dream up. Seeing as I like to kick up some literary trouble, I asked KEVIN SESSUMS, whose Mississippi Sissy memoir is getting good reviews, how he felt about NORAH VINCENT's petulant pan in the Times. (She said he failed to make his personal heartbreaks compelling and he exhibits no voice.) Bingo. "Well, she's a right-wing lesbian polemicist," shot back Sessums, "who doesn't seem to have a lyrical bone in her body. She hates memoirs and, according to some mutual friends (yes, we have mutual friends, believe it or not), hates Southern gothic literature as well. Just my demographic. Plus, she's so myopically Caucasian she never even acknowledges that there are African Americans in my book. It's about race in the South in the 1960s as much as it is a coming-of-age story about a gay boy. But she only focused on the sensational aspects of the story—none of the strands that were about maternal love or the sweet tension of the longing all little gay boys have for female companionship.

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