By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
Wynonna Judd had an 80-minute therapy session the other night, and since she billed it as a concert, I totally managed to be there to watch. At Foxwoods casino in the wilds of Connecticut, the backwoods powerhouse tossed off Christmas chestnuts in between occasionally rocking out on belty ballads like "I Wanna Know What Love Is." But primarily she talked a blue streak, while simultaneously revealing her obsessions, serving affirmations, and praising "family, fellowship, and food."
Entering in what looked like a red velour tent with a tiara, the bodacious bumpkin trotted out classics like "White Christmas" and "Winter Wonderland," which is a little like a construction worker attempting ballet in a china shop, but far less damaging. More paradoxically, Wynonna explained that she had released a yuletide CD "to get away from the commerciality of Christmas"but before you could pick that offbeat sentiment apart, on came the memories like moonshine spilling out of a broken keg. "I lived on a mountaintop in Kentucky, with Ma on welfare," said Wynonna, welling up, "which meant we were too."
"I never fit in with the other kids," she went on, poignantly adjusting her tiara. "I was high-spirited. Ma said it was ADHD. But I was just creative!" She was apparently extra creative in giving half-sister Ashleya major obsessionan even harder time than the imaginary creatures in Bug. "Why do you think she became an actress?" said Wynonna, grinning. "She's just reacting to all that holding her down till she peed in her pants!"
And the tough love is obviously still there on the mountain, I mean in the mansion. According to Wynonna, "Ashley's a Democrat and Ma's a Republican, and I say, 'Leave me out of this! I'm voting for Jesus to come back!' " (That was a tiny bit disingenuous. While waiting for the Messiah's return, Wynonna did once perform at a Republican convention.)
By now she'dgone and come back, having changed into a purple velour tent while keeping the same tiara poised on her "Miss America hair." Dripping with earnestness, she told us, "We've got to get back to The Little House on the Prairie!" Imploring us to hang on to our serenity prayers in between meals, Wynonna demanded, "Put on your big-girl panties and deal with it. Let it go! I used to show up with my Williams Sonoma pitchfork, but now I say, 'It's my mother's house. Let her do it her way!' "
There was no mention of Wy's own drunk-driving incident or her estranged husband's bad luck in pawing a minor. I guess she's let it go.
Earlier that evening, I stuck my pitchfork into a giant boar chop in Foxwoods's Grand Pequot Towers, which made my big-girl panties fit that much cozier. Also appetizing was a preview tour of the adjacent MGM Grand casino, which will be mammoth enough to house all the Judds and their obsessions (and exes). The powers that be wanted Bono to open the place, but he's unavailable, so I'm voting for Jesus to come back, with Amy Winehouseas an opener.
Tim Burton comes back with Sweeney Todd, the most Halloweeny Christmas movie ever made, with seething revenge and nostril-flaring holding you down till you pee in your pants. I call it Bloodbath and Beyond. As the main pitchfork holder, Johnny Depp broods charismatically and sounds like middle-period Bowie (I guess he's not invoking Keith Richards this time), and while Helena Bonham Carter's reedy voice will hardly erase memories of Angela Lansbury or Patti LuPone, she does some fun deadpan acting with the role, and her audition was undoubtedly no less rigorous than Tori Spelling's for Beverly Hills, 90210. A few of the songs don't soar as expected ("A Little Priest"), but "By the Sea" is beautifully realized and the art direction is tops throughout, like a Hammer film with extra money and vision. Of course, from the second everyone starts crooning, Depp's Pirates fan base will probably be so horrified you're going to witness some real bloodletting, honey.
After seeing the pumped-up I Am Legend, I could honestly star in I Am Deaf, but before the premiere screening, I was able to hear Will Smith's speech apologizing for having tied up the streets of New York with the filming. "Some of you gave me very distinct American signals of displeasure as you were riding by," he said, jiggily. But has Will given Scientology a big thumbs-up? Well, the lithe star admits to the press that he favors a higher power, "but that relationship is between me and the higher power." Would that godlike being be Jesus on the comeback trailor perhaps L. Ron Hubbard? If this is a hint, Jada's man recently boomed out at a press junket, "I love women!"
So does Jodie Foster, who recently acknowledged her longtime lover, Cydney Bernard, when accepting an award. The British press have credited this to Jodie having promised her best friend and supposed sperminator, Randy Stone, on his deathbed that she'd come out. (Randy was once married to Barbra Streisand's half-sister Ashley Judd, I mean Roslyn Kind, and went on to co-produce the Oscar-winning yay-gay short Trevor.) But we know the real reason Jodie's being more honestmy Out cover story using her as an example of a "glass closet" person who needs to do some shattering!
The always superb Patricia Clarkson is known for making strong statements, like the Internet video she and Amy Ryan did in favor of the writers' strike in which they sardonically read from the appliance section of a phone book. ("Low, low, low prices!") "All my best friends are writers," moaned Clarkson to me at a Lars and the Real Girl lunch at the Four Seasons. "The producers have to concede and give up a few shekels!" All written and filmed, the upcoming Oxlee's Road has the Oscar nominee appearing with the suddenly hot Hal Holbrook. "He was amazing in Into the Wild," Clarkson noted. "Yeah, he's totally sizzling!" I shrieked, embarrassingly. "I said, 'Please give me a romantic scene with Hal,' " Clarkson cracked. "But they wouldn't!" Damn those writersbut they still deserve to get better than low, low prices.
Juno was written by an ex-stripper, which probably explains why Howard Stern was at the big screening last week. And though it turns out to be the year's third comedyspoiler alertabout an unwanted pregnancy that isn't aborted, I liked it anyway. "It's Fox-friendly," beamed an employee of that channel. "They don't kill the baby." But it's bracingly zippy and well acted by Ellen Page as the 16-year-old "fertile Myrtle" whose encounter with a guy's "pork sword" leads to so much serious swelling she ultimately declares, "I'm a planet." At the after-dinnerwhere I became Uranus thanks to more fellowship and foodPage told me that her screen test with two of the other actors will appear on the DVD. But see the film now and try to decide if Juno should have kept the baby herself. No way, said Page, " Jennifer Garner should be the mom." "So Ben Affleck is the father?" I cracked. "They're good people!" she exclaimed, seriously.
Icky people fill Pinter's newly revived The Homecoming, the third play in a row with reuniting siblings and the second in which reuniting siblings and a hateful parent drag one another into a pile of mud. Try it, Judds! Then go see The Savages! But back to fellowship: DJ/writer Anita Sarko, Fab Five Freddie, and Robyn Hitchock drop by as themselves in Jonathan Demme's just-wrapped comedy Dancing With Shiva, written by Jenny Lumet . . . Meanwhile, what socialite's mama was just being herself when she tried to return a fur to Bergdorf's a year and a half after its purchase? And can you believe they accepted it? . . . In other debit-card news, Celine Dion seems to have bodyguards when she shops uptown, but not when she shops downtown. I do that process in reverse . . . And finally, I hear downtown type and Warhol star Ultra Violet is a Mormon who's rooting for Mitt Romney. Me too. Only he could get brothers Jesus and Satan on the same bill at Foxwoods.