I go away for just a week, and the town goes mad, trashing poor Liza Minnelli and raving about some stuff that could really kill you. Let me try to fix things before the damage escalates. The 'Minnelli on Minnelli' show that I saw was an utter lovefest, with Liza indulging us in an orgy of family lore that in its own surfacey way is deliciously laden with showstoppers and pizzazz. We could pick apart the descending set panels and perky male dance combo, but Liza anchors it all in fabulous voice and spirits and enough of a self-mocking tone to make us feel a conspiratorial part of her comeback. You know the diva's back when she launches into her trademark sibilant pronunciations ("shnow-capped mountains") and rips into a gutsy, slow-paced "I Got Rhythm" that proves she really does. And you're convinced she hasn't lost her mind when she totally skips over Dad's A Matter of Timethe megabomb she costarred infocusing instead on adorable hits from The Bandwagon and Gigi, one in favor of champagne, one (rewritten) extolling AA. The pinnacle of weirdness and brilliance has Liza duetting, Natalie Cole-style, with mama Judy on "The Trolley Song"a career trick which turns us into voyeuristic, way-more-enthralled-than-embarrassed worshipers at the throne of genius genealogy. You're thinking, "No! Don't go there!" as you applaud wildly at this, the gayest moment of the entire millennium. In fact, if by some chance you're not gay, this sensational spectacle will turn you gay. Brava!
Way less euphoric, Swing! doesn't have a thought in its little head, the first act being particularly banal, though the second one does develop a certain giddy glee within its narrow limits. Overall, for $80plus an extra buck for a "theatre restoration charge"the rather spare revue is very drossy next to Fosse. Its creators should all go see Liza and get much gayer!
With the Amadeus revival, you're thrilled to at least find a plot, a vision, and a few chandeliers. But since Mozart is played as an irritating one-note loon who comes off like an 18th-century Adam Sandler, you start rooting for Salieri to utterly destroy him. See it on Mondays when Kathie Lee plays the part.
And now, let's go to the movies, where the holiday fun involves mental homes, prison racism, murder, strokes, and Lauren Bacall as a whorehouse madam. At the Diamonds premiere a few weeks ago, Bacall soaked in the applause when her name flashed in the opening credits, then ran for the exit. (Missy was not being a diva, thoughshe had to do interviews promoting the flick.) Jenny McCarthy was there all night, saying what a departure her role is. (She plays a voracious prostitute.) And in another corner, Harvey Weinstein revealed that for years the impressive Kirk Douglas has been sending him letters about Miramax movies, volunteering comments like "Good job" or "Lousy job." "Michael," said Weinstein, looking at the actor's Oscar-winning son and laughing, "I know how you feel!" Can we expect Mikey backed by six dancers in Douglas on Douglas?
For now you'll have to settle for Musto on Magnolia, which in my book, should be pushing up daisies. (Then again, my book is out of print.) After a brilliant start and the promise of some compellingly cross-cutting characterizations, the self-important flick dissolves into way too many trumped-up confrontations and heavy-handed deathbed admissions, replete with the requisite pathetic gay character. The eternal screeching and the bland-cop-and-annoying-druggie romance finally do relent, but only to give way to lengthy Hallmark bullshit about how we all have to be nice to one another. It was all done better when it was called Short Cuts, and was directed with more searing wit when it was called Happiness. But I did like the falling frogs.
I got a frog in my throat watching Jim Carrey's inspired performance as con man-kamikaze comic Andy Kaufman in Man on the Moon, and this time I know what I'm talking about. When I interviewed Kaufman hundreds of years ago, as was recently disclosed here, he effortlessly lapsed into various creepy characters that led me to think the guy must be crazier than Mozart. Well, his cowriter Bob Zmuda is now telling people it was all planned and they were totally conning me. PleaseI knew that!
Whooshing back to the presentI'm really avant-gardee, as Li'l Kim would saythe XXX Ball at Escuelita was no shnow job. Rather than a plague on both their houses, the combustive joining of the Xavier and Xtravaganza dragoons was such a hit that some studs even tried to sneak into the Butch Queen Voguing Femme in Pumps category while wearing boots. (They were promptly given the boot.) The frenzied contest peaked with Who's Zooming Who?, during which you weren't supposed to be able to tell which of each competing couple does what to the other in bed. By the end, it was a no-brainer since the entrants had devolved into a raucous pageant of mock sucking and fucking. I was horrified. For hours.
While we're contemplating who sticks what where, isn't it odd that Kevin Spacey seems to have been shut out of all those critics' awards? Could his insistence that he's straight actually have proved, with delicious irony, to have hurt his career? And speaking of sexuality issues, I was thrilled that in his Times magazine article, Andrew Sullivan espoused the idea that evasively ambiguous gay celebs should fully come out. But Sullivan still wants to place himself above the outing pack, saying he's against that practice, even as he openly muses about the sex lives of purposely vague figures like Rosie O'Donnell, Ricky Martin, Ed Koch, and Donna Shalala. I loved the piece, but honey, speculating is virtually outingthough I actually prefer reporting based on hard facts, thank you. In any case, it's sad that Sullivan's come under fire by the likes of Koch, who says outing is the work of self-loathing gays. No, Ed, we're the ones who think being gay's just fine.
It was our current mayor who got to speak at funnyman Joey Adams's funeral which, between the tears, was sort of like a gigantic Friar's roast, but more A-list. Even the rabbi cracked a few jokes, though he seriously welcomed "Mr. Mayor and the First Lady," prompting everyone to think, "Wow, this event is so powerful, it brought Rudy and Hillary together!" When we realized he actually meant the First Lady of New York, everyone thought, "Wow, this event is so powerful, it brought Rudy and his wife together!"
Finally, bringing Matt Damon and a knife together, The Talented Mr. Ripley is sleek, chic, and hypnotic enough to have me considering bathtub chess as a viable sport, but can we kindly give a rest to the gay as tortured psycho killer? Damon's baby-faced Ripley is even more homosexual than in the original flick, being hot for and involved with men, not to mention mincing around in front of a mirror when he thinks no one's looking. Of course Ripley tells people he's not gay, but then again so do Rosie O'Donnell, Ricky Martin, and Ed Koch. Take it away, Liza!
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss Village Voice's biggest stories.