Austen Powers: The Reruns


The September movies may not be the December movies, but at least they’re not the August movies. The flicks that come out around now generally have a few welcome literary aspirations, though good intentions don’t always pave the road to the ticket booth. First off, The Jane Austen Book Club is based on the novel about how the Austen boxed set becomes an aphrodisiac for a bunch of heartbroken heteros and lesbians who are big on parallels. (“She’s such an Emma, isn’t she?”). It’s a big soft marshmallow of a thing, even if Girl With Dog Collar is intriguingly played by someone named
Messy Stench.

But with her name in two movie titles this year, might Austen become the new Capote? “Maybe,” said
Bob Balaban
at a power luncheon for the flick at Brasserie Ruhlmann. “But she was taller.” Hunched over, I asked Book Club‘s director/adapter Robin Swicord the same question and she said, “What an interesting comment! I loved Capote. We’ve been in an Austen moment for 17 years. You feel it surge, then it subsides, then it surges again . . .” Well, before it subsides again, tell me, Ms. Swicord: Do you consider this one of them there chick flicks? “That term,” she said, “is something women have begun to embrace and make our own. But it’s strange that George Cukor used to make women’s films and they’re never called chick flicks.” “Yeah,” I said, “and he was even gay!” “But he wasn’t a girl,” replied Swicord, laughing. “You didn’t know him,” I deadpanned, totally winning.

At another table, I got Court TV’s tall, female
Lisa Bloom to pontificate on the messy stench of the
Phil Spector
trial. “I think the prosecution presented a very compelling case,” she told me. “Their closing arguments were very moving, whereas the defense’s were flat.” And they never really proved that Lana was an Isabella Blow/ Owen Wilson type who zanily offed herself, right? “They proved she was depressed,” said Bloom, “but not that she took Spector’s gun in his mansion and took her own life. Common sense favors the prosecution.” Hopefully they’ll win anyway.

Another aspiring blockbuster, The Valley of Elah, has Oscar pedigree all over it—there are three statuette-holders in the Iraq War–demystifying saga by
PaulCrash beat Brokeback Mountain Haggis—but despite the majesty of its insistent gravitas, it tends to fall flatter than Spector’s defense case.
Tommy Lee Jones broods effectively as the disgruntled dad of an erased soldier, but
Charlize Theron is absurd as the burgeoning detective (even if one character explains that she fucked her way to the job), and poor
Susan Sarandon mostly has to scrunch her forehead and cry about her dead kids on the phone. But be sure to look for the inevitable
Rhianna song, “The Valley of Elah Elah Elah.”

On the bright side, the film takes serious aim at the war and the horrible things it can do to “heroes.” At a dinner for the movie at Osteria del Circo, I seized Haggis to ask if perchance he’ll next do a screwball comedy. “I hope so!” he said. “I’ve got to get these men out of my head. For research, I talked to many active-duty servicemen and vets. None of us want to hear what they want to say. Certainly the armed services don’t want to listen. But we should have to face the horrors they face. If they have to see it, we should see it. Then we can decide if this is a just war.”

I stuttered around trying to crack a joke but couldn’t think of any—and besides, Haggis was still talking. “Look,” he went on, pupils ablaze, “I’ve been in TV all my life. You show a picture of a baby with no head, and who’s gonna buy deodorant after that? But we have a duty, even if it causes our ratings to drop!” “You’ve totally depressed me,” I said, preparing to crawl back to my plate of wartime food. “That’s my job!” he exclaimed. He’s so not an Emma.

My own job involved going to only one show during Fashion Week, and naturally it was the 2(x)ist one for underwear that turns you gay the second you even think of purchasing it (though the designer told me the brand is now for everyone, except for a few extra-colorful pieces aimed strictly at the queers. Bring ’em on!). As stunningly put-together male models—and a few female ones—strutted down the runway in clingy undies, I can only say the clothes were absolutely . . . I have no idea. Do you honestly think anyone looked at the clothes when you could be gazing at the sprightly body parts they hugged so tenderly? The other hot topic on everyone’s minds was who the big celebrity guest would turn out to be, especially since we were all made to sign now-legendary waivers saying that if we were caught photographing or videotaping said person, we’d be fined $25,000 per shot. (I usually charge people that much when they don’t photograph me.) It was absurd, but I gladly signed it, fully willing to give away my basic human rights to see a star of that magnitude—though deep down I sensed this might be a spoof of the PR game that would amusingly lead maybe to a dog jumping through a hoop (and not even Leona Helmsley’s dog). That would have been fine with me, too.

Well, the star attraction involved a hoop all right, but spinning around in it while glamorously suspended from the ground was none other than . . .
Carmen Electra? Yep, the Pussycat doll was the guest with the hoop-la and she did very well, though when I asked her afterwards about the waiver, Electra pleaded complete ignorance. (“You’re kidding! That’s weird!”) I believed her, but then again this is the woman who said “I do” to
Dennis Rodman. But what about those undies, darling? Do they make people gay? “Well,
[ Navarro] always wore 2(x)ist,” Electra said, “and he’s straight.” Pause. “I think.” Another pause. “I’m teasing!”

At another bash—one with clothes on—club regular and skin-care specialist
Jun Nakayama popped up for the first time in three months, so I wondered why the fuck she hasn’t been out. “It’s been too hot to wear the wig,” she explained, sensibly.

Speaking of the importance of accessories, fashion fights or “style wars” are the newest variation on krumping (which was sort of the new voguing, which was sort of the new . . . never mind). Wannabe stylists whooshily battle it out for five minutes, turning various odd items into some semblance of an outfit on someone willing to be a human coat hanger (or even, bravely enough, on themselves). “It’s WWD meets WWE,” said a House of Diehl rep who recently hawked this incipient phenomenon to me. At
these events, “I’m teasing!” is screeched directly at someone’s follicles.

While we’re on quickie hair decisions, the overmedicated and under-rehearsed
Britney Spears is still on my mind, especially since she hasn’t sung live in so long (maybe since the Mouseketeers), and the voice she lip-synchs to is so pristine and amazing, I wouldn’t be surprised if some
Milli Vanilli scandal emerges about her someday. I think. You read it here first—then again, I also wrote that
Lindsay Lohan was sober.

While Britney is stagnating in her look-ma-no-underwear highway-hooker image,
Christina Aguilera‘s going for class—but alas, that resulted in her energy-sucking duet with
Tony Bennett on the Emmys, which could have benefitted from Christina grabbing Tony’s crotch a few times. Other losers that night included
Jeremy Piven‘s weave, which looked like the result of a style war, and
Neil Patrick Harris
‘s bizarre attempt at a leering hetero joke. But thank God for
Bill Maher
‘s hilarious bathroom-blowjob bit, plus you gotta love a western (a genre that “belongs uniquely to us in this country,” according to
Robert Duvall) that was shot in Canada. Most fascinating of all was
Sally Field‘s bleeped comment that if mothers were in charge, there’d be no goddamned war. But didn’t
Hillary Clinton vote for it? Oh, well, it’s back to the September movies, folks.

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