Why don’t snakes have nipples? No, bench that — more importantly, is it really illegal to be gay in Singapore? That’s the only question my highly aesthetic self could think of asking the gay Singaporean director Glen Goei while we waited for the
bulimic-looking starlet guest of honor to arrive at a particularly dull promo party. Goei, who did the ’70s retro flick That’s the Way I Like It, said homosexuality isn’t illegal per se, but — get this — the act of buggering is. Well, can’t law-abiding gays get around that by orally indulging each other’s engorged penises? No, said Goei, looking a little trapped, because oral sex is outlawed too, unless it leads to vaginal intercourse! This was turning into some lavish semantic nightmare—you can be gay, you just can’t be gay — but there was one way out of it. When I asked Goei if there are any laws against fisting, he cringed and said, “I don’t think they even know what that means!” Well, then, let’s all go to Singapore and give each other a hand. We’ll be providing a marvelous educational display—and it’s perfectly legal!
But first let’s make the sound of two hands clapping for Spike Jonze‘s Being John Malkovich,an invigoratingly sick, clever, original romp about weirdies who discover a trapdoor that leads into Malkovich’s mind. (Don’t try that in Singapore, though.) If it were Al Gore‘s mind, of course, the door would be double-bolted from both sides, but in this scenario, everyone’s so anxious to get a taste of being Malkovich that they line up and even pay 200 bucks for the esoteric honor. At a Harvard Club party following the New York Film Festival showing, dozens of roaming Malky look-alikes with clip-on earrings worked your nerves—you have to see the movie—as I crawled into the consciousness of Orson Bean, who plays the wacko boss of Malkovich intruder John Cusack. Mr. Bean told me that Malkovich was written with Malkovich in mind, “but they never dreamed he’d even read it, let alone do it, let alone that someone would put up the money for it.” Still, the filmmakers only wanted Malkovich because, as Bean put it, “he’s the right combination of weird enough and a wonderful actor enough.”
I promptly relayed that description to, yep, Malkovich (after mistakenly accosting a few of the look-alikes), and he vigorously agreed with the “weird enough” part. I also told him that my favorite line comes when Catherine Keener screws him while Cameron Diaz (as Cusack’s wife, Lotte) is lodged in his noggin. “Fuck me, Lotte!” shrieks Keener, who then covers her ass by asking Malkovich, “You don’t mind if I call you Lotte, do you?” “The story of my life—’Do you mind if I call you Lotte?’ ” Malkovich moaned to me. Whatever they call him, is he afraid everyone will now want a front-row seat in his cerebellum? “It’s a big head,” he said in that dry way of his. “There should be a lot of room in my mind. It’s a sort of vast, empty, uncharted space.” So was the Harvard Club—and it was jam-packed with free buffets!
The next cerebral assignment had me slithering into the craniums of everyone involved in Mike Leigh‘s Gilbert and Sullivan movie, Topsy-Turvy,and finding more buffets, plus an obsessive array of gondoliers, wandering minstrels, and daughters-in-law elect, all named Lotte. At the Otabe restaurant party for the flick, the two lead actors told me they’d become rabid Gilbert and Sullivan freaks, but when I asked Leigh if he’s now the ultimate G & S authority, he looked pained and said, “That’s a horrible thought. How horrible to contemplate that I might be elevated into that dubious position!” Once again I had offended a cinema legend. Still, Leigh has carefully concocted a film that—once it starts clicking—rocks your pinafore, and, as actor Jim Broadbent told me, “He must be doing something right, so I’m sticking with him.”
Harrison Ford must be doing something right because younger women keep throwing themselves at him in movies like Random Hearts,another glacially paced, age-disproportionate male fantasy, which only comes alive when it dabbles in product placements. (“It’s a Heineken,” announces Ford of his beverage at one point, and a fashionista is even named Mary Claire—though you can call her Lotte.) At the sumptuous premiere party at Tavern on the Green, I asked director Sydney Pollack—over a Diet Coke—how he managed to land a role in his own movie. “I work cheap,” he said—and politely, too; when an actress from the film’s absurd subplot came over to greet Pollack, he gently said to her, “I had to cut one little scene of yours. I’m so sorry!” Rather than throw a fiery tantrum, the actress cooed, “That’s OK!”—but I’m sure she went home and boiled a rabbit.
Tempers flared when a well-organized batch of protesters picketed the film festival screening of Dogma, though I was mainly enraged bythe fact that their posters were littered with misspellings. If they’d only checked out the movie—which is either the best or the worst of the year; I can’t decide—they’d have realized that, all of its profanities and unevenness aside, Dogma‘s such an affirmation of the longing for faith that it practically ends up being a product-placement commercial for Catholicism. (And the protesters should have only known about the movie that opened the festival—All About My Mother, which has a nun with AIDS who’s preggers via a transsexual!) At the Dogma afterparty, I asked writer – director Kevin Smith if the “shit demon” from his movie—a long story — has anything to do with that elephant dung in Brooklyn. “I guess we’re both in the same toilet,” he said, laughing. “We’re both taking so much heat. And the artist, I understand, is a man of faith!” Smith hopes that the Catholic League, which started all the anti-Dogma do,will wake up when they read some of the explanatory press about the movie. “But am I asking too much?” he wondered, not sure that these folks are what you’d call big readers.
More pressingly, was I reading too much into Ben Affleck‘s lines about his relationship with fellow fallen angel Matt Damon? In the flick, Ben’s character insists, “We’re not lovers…. Do I come off as gay?”—which I assumed was an in-joke that sprung out of all those very-good-will-hunting rumors. Actually, said Smith, “the script was written back in ’94. But Ben does handle all those questions really well, saying, ‘If I was gay, you’d know about it because I’d be chugging cock!’ ” “Chugging cock? Oh, yes, that’s what we gays do,” I said, drolly. “Yes, I know,” deadpanned Smith, adding, “I’m speaking empirically, of course.” He must not have been to Singapore.
Finally, let’s chug some Heinies, flick the TV dial with a limp wrist, and reveal that Ruby Wax‘s Lifetime show, in which she camps and vamps it up across America, is pure, priceless hilarity; Queen Latifah‘s please-forgive-me begathon is a deadening snooze; poor David Bowie looked lost on Saturday Night Live; and, despite that overly solicitous host, Inside the Actors Studio is a penetrating glimpse into the technique of everyone from Glenn Close to, you heard me, Jerry Lewis. Yeah, you get to crawl into their minds—and it’s perfectly legal.