The Museum at FIT
We all know there are professions that are presumptively queer. Take fashion, for instance. It’s so blindingly gay, why even bother talking about it?
A Queer History of Fashion: From the Closet to the Catwalk at New York’s Museum at FIT not only answers that question squarely, it plants a long-overdue flag on queer turf no one has bothered to claim yet, and beats the bushes for meaning in a form of cultural production under-analyzed in terms of Queer Theory, frocks and trou.
From the scandalous 1920s garçonne lesbians who kick-started modernism to the forgotten punk homoerotica of Vivienne Westwood’s World’s End boutique, the exhibition unveils treasures and gives them full context. There is Andre Walker’s Love Ball collage dress, Jenny Shimizu's blistering boyswear, Liz Collins’ flounced Lumberjack Goddess Dress, and a Klaus Nomi Constructivist superhero costume. It even makes a place for ‘70s clone wear and both AIDS and LGBTQ activist T-shirts.
The Museum at FIT
The exhibition also marches right up to any and all queernesses hiding in plain sight and calls them out, literally: it refers to Marlene Dietrich as “the best dressed man in Hollywood,” and freely claims design legends that are never discussed in terms of their sexuality, such as Cristóbal Balenciaga and Christian Dior.
What it lacks in scale it more than makes up for in content, so leave yourself lots of time: there are videos and very rich texts. And students of queer and gender studies should make room on their bookshelves for the catalogue.
Salt the propulsive new thriller from Phillip Noyce (Clear and Present Danger Patriot Games) has been dubbed “Bourne with boobs ” but that label isn’t entirely accurate. In the role of Evelyn Salt a CIA staffer hunted by her own agency after a Russian defector fingers her in a plot to murder Russia’s president Angelina Jolie keeps her two most potent weapons holstered hidden under pantsuits and trenchcoats and the various other components of a super-spy wardrobe that proudly emphasizes function over flash.
But flash is one thing Salt never lacks for. Its breathless cat-and-mouse game hits full-throttle almost from the outset when a former KGB officer named Orlov (Daniel Olbrychski) stumbles into a CIA interrogation room and begins spilling details of a vast conspiracy. Back in the ‘70s hardline elements of the Soviet regime launched an ambitious new front in the Cold War flooding the western world with orphans trained to infiltrate the security complexes of their adopted homelands and wait patiently — decades if necessary — for the order to initiate a series of assassinations intended to trigger a devastating nuclear clash between the superpowers from which the treacherous Reds would emerge triumphant.
The Soviet Union may have long ago collapsed (or did it? Hmmm...) but its army of brainwashed killer orphan spies remains in place and if this crazy Orlov fellow is to be believed they stand poised to reignite the Cold War. It’s a preposterous — even idiotic — scheme but no more so than any of our government’s various harebrained proposals to kill Castro back in the ‘60s. As such the CIA treats it with grave seriousness even the part that that pegs Salt who just happens to be a Russian-born orphan herself as a key player in the conspiracy.
Salt bristles at the accusation but suspecting a set-up she opts to flee rather than face interrogation from her bosses Winter (Liev Schreiber) and Peabody (Chiwetel Ejiofor). A former field agent she’s been confined to a desk job since a clandestine operation in North Korea went south leaving her with a nasty shiner and a rather unremarkable German boyfriend (now her unremarkable German husband). She’s clearly kept up her training during while cubicle-bound however and in a blaze of resourceful thinking and devastating Parkour Fu she fends off a dozen or so agents of questionable competence and takes to the streets where she sets about to clear her name and unravel the Commie orphan conspiracy before the authorities can catch up with her. That is if she isn’t a part of the conspiracy.
The premise which aims to resurrect Cold War tensions and graft them onto a modern-day spy thriller is absurdly clever — and cleverly absurd. But Kurt Wimmer’s screenplay isn’t satisfied with the merely clever and absurd — it must be mind-blowing. Salt is one of those thrillers that ladles out its backstory slowly and in tiny portions every once in a while dropping a revelatory bombshell that effectively blows the lid off everything that happened beforehand. No one is who they seem and every action every gesture no matter how seemingly trivial is imbued with some kind of grand significance. The effect of piling on one insane twist after another has the effect of gradually diluting the narrative. When anything is possible nothing really matters.
But spy thrillers by definition trade in the preposterous and the principal function of the summer blockbuster is to entertain. In that regard Salt more than fulfills its charge. Noyce wisely keeps the story moving at pace that allows little time for asking uncomfortable questions or poking holes in the film’s frail plot. And he has an able partner in the infinitely versatile Jolie who having already exhibited formidable action-hero chops in Wanted and the Tomb Raider films proves remarkably adept at the spy game as well.
It’s well-known that Jolie wasn’t the first choice to star in Salt joining the project only after Tom Cruise dropped out citing the story’s growing similarities to the Mission: Impossible films. But she’s more than just a capable replacement; she’s a welcome upgrade over Cruise not least because she’s over a decade younger (and a few inches taller) than her predecessor. Should Brad Bird require a pinch-hitter for Ethan Hunt he knows where to look.
Finally, something to report from ShoWest!
Stars (lots of 'em) came out at noon today to do their time at the New Line/Fine Line luncheon, hyping (what else?) upcoming New Line/Fine Line flicks. The event, held at the multimedia-readied, projection-screen-laden Paris Ballroom, featured celebs prancing down a catwalk for all to see (if you could see), sitting down at their designated tables and, then, eating!
Yes, this is what passes for excitement at a movie-theater-owners trade show. Did we mention that not one of the stars said a single word?
No, we're not complaining. We're just worried about the talents. You know, they've got egos.
Anyway, here's a rundown of the spotted celebs:
Adam Sandler: Single-handedly brought the level of formality and decorum way down with his ultra-casual attire of Adidas tee, a zipper sweater and denims. There to hype his new frat-boy comedy "Little Nicky."
Patricia Arquette: Peroxide-bleached blonde. We couldn't really catch a good look at her face because her facial skin tone and her hair sorta bled into each other under the spotlight. (Another "Little Nicky" pusher.)
Jennifer Lopez: Yes, she still makes movies. She was here for the thriller "The Cell." Well, all right, she actually wasn't here here. Lopez has got the cushiest gig out of everyone. Instead of having to actually show up at this thing in person, she was teletransmitted via video. (Must be all those court-related matters that were tying her down.)
Dennis Quaid: A member of the "Frequency" contingent (the upcoming fantasy/thriller), he was the first person to be introduced, and we didn't know which way he'd be strolling down the catwalk. So to make a long explanation short, we, um, sort of didn't really see him.
Ali Larter: Female co-star of the studio's newest Gen-Next horror flick "Final Destination," this highly touted newcomer looked like she could be any 18- to 21-year-old from anywhere.
Devon Sawa: Male version of the above. (Conveniently, also featured in "Final Destination.")
Jimmy Smits: Well, you know, it's Jimmy Smits.
Jon Seda: The real-life boxer (coming soon to a theater near you as an aspiring boxer in "Price of Glory" with Smits) was doing the old one-two uppercut, right jab dance all the way to the table.
Vince Vaughn: Lopez's "Cell" co-star looked disheveled in that "Swingers" way. Hold on, isn't he always though?
Melina Kanakaredes: Er, we looked somewhere else again. But we did catch that the "Providence" lady is going to star opposite Robert De Niro in the thriller "Fifteen Minutes."
Omar Epps: The "Love and Basketball" star looking noticeably irate.
In other ShoWest happenings:
COMING (MAIN) ATTRACTION: As promised, the studio delivered promotional footage from that fan-boy fantasy also known as "The Lord of the Rings." More of a short making-of film rather than a true trailer, the reel alternated clips from the (still-in-the-making) epic film with interviews with director Peter Jackson and actors Sean Astin and Elijah Wood. And judging from the applause, this film is certainly one to watch for in the end of 2001.
OTHER TRAILERS THAT BUZZED: "Thirteen Days," the Kevin Costner vehicle about the Cuban missile crisis and Sandler's "Little Nicky."
TRAILERS WE LIKED, REGARDLESS OF THE BUZZ: (1) "The Cell." Vaughn plays a cop, Lopez plays the serial killer he's chasing. Other than that, there's no logical way we could piece together a coherent story line from the trailer. That said, the clip was still a snazzy and stylish piece that is at once perverse and surreal; (2) "State and Main." Now we really don't know what this one's about. But an auspicious ensemble cast certainly compensates for it. The David Mamet comedy reunites P.T. Anderson crewmates Philip Seymour Hoffman and William H. Macy, as well as piling on Alec Baldwin and Sarah Jessica Parker.
OTHER NOTABLE SNEAKS: "Rush Hour 2" (a rearrangement of film clips from the 1998 original, save for a new voice-over and some new titles); "Bones" (an extremely minimal trailer for a horror movie that was so deliberately minimal it reminded us of another little horror flick name of, um, "The Blair Witch Something or Other"); and, "Town and Country," Warren Beatty's long, long, long delayed marital comedy, with Goldie Hawn and Diane Keaton.
The "Town and Country" clips were uncensored. And by uncensored, we specifically mean the F-bomb that co-star Garry Shandling dropped at the very end of the trailer -- a phrase that you can bet won't make it out to the public come actual release time. (At least not in trailer form.)
MORE TRAILERS!OK. By now you're probably thinking (hoping) that we've run out of trailers. Wrong.
Eleven more came our way via the Miramax shindig this evening. To make it fast and painless, the most notable sneaks included: the slasher film send-up "Scary Movie; an anachronistic adaptation of "Hamlet" with Ethan Hawke; "Boys and Girls," a teen flick with Freddie Prinze Jr.; "Birthday Girl," starring Nicole Kidman as a Russian woman with a past; and "Bounce," featuring ex-lovers Gwyneth Paltrow and Ben Affleck as lovers.
But really the coolest thing seen at the Miramax preview was the trailer for "The Yards." Mixing old-school and new-school bad boys James Caan, Mark Wahlberg and Joaquin Phoenix, the film looks to be operating heavily on the generic codes of Mafia flicks.
OK, no more trailer talk. Until tomorrow.
WHERE'S HARVEY? Miramax chief Harvey Weinstein (a notable no-show at the Golden Globes and Sundance) was not the only notable MIA at tonight's Miramax shindig. There was also a total absence of Miramax stars to promote any of the Miramax films (OK, trailers) discussed above. No word on why.
WEDNESDAY'S EXPECTED STAR SIGHTINGS: The early sked-line on the Sony luncheon Wednesday reads a little something like this: Sandra Bullock, Brooke Shields, Mel Gibson, Elizabeth Shue, Chris O'Donnell, Matt Damon, Penelope Cruz, Drew Barrymore, Lucy Liu, Cameron Diaz and Bill Murray. Experience tells us that they'll be doing pretty much the same dog-and-pony show as the stars at today's New Line/Fine Line luncheon.
PLUGGING AWAY: For most folks at ShoWest this morning, Hollywood was not merely a click away on the Internet but right there at their breakfast table. The day's events were kicked off with a portly breakfast (scrambled eggs, bacon and potatoes) at the majestic Champagne Ballroom hosted by our very own Hollywood.com. Representing the entertainment dot.com were Hollywood.com Chairman and CEO Mitchell Rubenstein and President Laurie S. Silvers, among others. The hands-down highlight was the sneak preview of a Hollywood.com theatrical trailer titled "Easy."