Michael Musto

Michael Musto writes the popular, long running "La Dolce Musto" entertainment column in The Village Voice, as well as the opinionated blog "La Daily Musto." His fourth book, a collection called "Fork on the Left, Knife in the Back," comes out in February on Alyson Books. Musto is also a regular TV comentator on shows like "Countdown With Keith Olbermann" and "Theater Talk."

Almodovar's new film nods to a chilling classic

Article: Almodovar's new film nods to a chilling classic

Pedro Almodovar’s The Skin I Live In—based on Thierry Jonquet’s novel, Tarantula–is officially described as being about a brilliant plastic surgeon who’s “haunted by past tragedies” involving his daughter and “creates a kind of synthetic skin that withstands any kind of damage” to deal with that old horror.

Well, you certainly can’t say that’s been done!

But hold on to your foreheads…

The five best so-bad-they're-good movies

Article: The five best so-bad-they're-good movies

There’s nothing worse than a bad movie that’s not even entertaining about it. But a bomb that manages to perversely delight you with its awfulness is just the kind of train wreck you want to usher into your living room.

For your kind (if somewhat sadistic) consideration, here are the top five good-bad flicks of the modern age. But bear in mind, I haven’t seen ABDUCTION yet.

How to improve documentaries – here's the truth

Article: How to improve documentaries – here's the truth

Audiences have become obsessed with filmed tellings of the truth, even if they’re not always all that truthful, but there are some familiar traps documentaries fall into that remove luster from the genre and threaten to make them more like schlockumentaries.

To avoid these pitfalls in the future, I propose the following doc-ing guidelines:

Bring on the Oscar movies! And the Oscar fatigue!

Article: Bring on the Oscar movies! And the Oscar fatigue!

The season of grossout comedies and screechy animated romps is spewing to an end as we brace ourselves for the period when actual quality films might come out of the darkness. And these films know they’re quality.

In fact, the releases from now till December 31 have been aggressively devised to win Oscars and will be prestigiously rammed down our throats until someone votes for them!

The top choices:

* Ages ago, George Clooney went from TV star to Oscar bait, and his new one will hardly stop his pedigree parade from marching on. It’s The Ides of March, directed by Clooney (who costars with Ryan Gosling), and seeing as it examines dirty politics from the inside, it couldn’t be any more tawdrily topical. Opens October 7

* Leonardo DiCaprio gets a star role—and hopefully some nice gowns—as FBI head J. Edgar Hoover in Clint Eastwood’s J. Edgar. It doesn’t take an investigator to smell Oscar potential here. October 21

A Surge In Serge Gainsbourg’s legend

Article: A Surge In Serge Gainsbourg’s legend

Except for the time Meryl Streep played a rabbi, the coolest man with an accent on screen, as of next week, will be Serge Gainsbourg. The French composer of hypnotic jazz-pop in the 1960s is the subject of GAINSBOURG: A HEROIC LIFE, in which Eric Elmosnino plays the guy complete with all his quirks and multitalents.

Rachel Weisz puts her lips together and blows

Article: Rachel Weisz puts her lips together and blows

Just like she did in her 2005 Oscar grabber The Constant Gardener, Rachel Weisz is bravely battling corruption again. In the just-opened The Whistleblower, Rachel’s an ex Nebraska cop who winds up a U.N. peacekeeper in Bosnia, where it turns out that organization is trying to cover up a gigantic sex trafficking scandal. If you think she shuts up about it, you don’t know Rachel Weisz.

After a special screening in New York the other night, Weisz (the new Mrs. Daniel Craig, by the way) kept blabbing, this time about her diverse career choices.

Here are her most memorable comments.

Zach Braff Scrubs off a new script

Article: Zach Braff Scrubs off a new script

When he wrote, directed, and starred in the quirkily engaging 2004 film GARDEN STATE, Zach Braff established himself as a triple threat clearly bent on helping hyphens make a big comeback. But apparently what the Scrubs guy really wanted to do was write a play—just write it—and he’s done just that with “All New People,” his new comedy opening at New York’s Second Stage Theatre.

Hair is growing back on Broadway

Article: Hair is growing back on Broadway

The classic anti-war hippie musical of the 1960s, Hair, won’t stop growing! After a Central Park revival scored three years ago, it moved to Broadway and won a Tony award, and now it’s back there again in the same production, but with some new cast members and fresh energy.

I just called the show’s legendary cowriter, James Rado, to untangle exactly what’s going on here and throw some conditioner on it.

Me: Hi, James. Is the show’s anti-war message still relevant?

Rado: Very intensely. People want to think about other things in our mutli-faceted culture that offers so many distractions, but this thing of war still hangs over us. It plays to that part of our consciousness.

How to make indie films less cliched

Article: How to make indie films less cliched

We adore independent films here—duh—but surely there are ways to guarantee that they don’t fall into various traps that could make them become the very kind of clichéd fare they’re supposed to be a reaction against.

Before that even has a chance of happening, here are my ultra sane suggestions for keeping the indie spirit alive rather than letting it become as hackneyed as some of the see-it-coming-a-mile-away stuff Hollywood spits out on a regular basis.

Fran Drescher's gay ex-husband has a show!

Article: Fran Drescher's gay ex-husband has a show!

Happily Divorced couldn’t ask for a better lead-in. It premieres on TV Land on June 15 directly after Hot in Cleveland, the biggest phenomenon to hit the upper part of the cable box since Half-Ton Teen.

It also has a pretty hot premise: Fran Drescher plays a florist whose 18-year marriage ends when her husband (John Michael Higgins) announces, “Yep, I’m gay”—and for various reasons, they continue living together anyway!

What’s more, the show is loosely based on Drescher’s own experience. In fact, Drescher co-writes it with Peter Marc Jacobson, who happens to be her real-life gay ex-husband.

There are just two problems with the show, based on my viewing of the pilot: (A) Betty White isn’t in it. (B) It’s not that funny.

James McAvoy is a First Class X-Man

Article: James McAvoy is a First Class X-Man

James McAvoy is a favorite of Sundance’s own guiding light Robert Redford, who cast him in the Civil War drama The Conspirator. Redford clearly has great taste in actors (and bloggers, too, lol).

At a TimesTalk the other evening in Times Square, McAvoy charmed the audience with his thick Scottish accent and self-effacing personality, proving why he’s become one of today’s go-to actors most worth going to.

Asked if he watches American Idol, McAvoy said, “It’s like cocaine to me. I don’t know how to kick the habit.”

Pause. “Actually, I don’t know who the people are! I’m sure they’re very good.”

The audience already wanted to eat the guy up. And they loved him even more when he gave a spiel about how important American culture is, then laughed and said, “That sounded so fake!”

But his takes on his diverse filmography were very real. Here are the highlights:

SPINAL TAP Star turns Michael Moore-style muckraker!

Article: SPINAL TAP Star turns Michael Moore-style muckraker!

A serious documentary about the New Orleans 2005 flooding disaster, directed by Derek Smalls in This Is Spinal Tap and the voice of Flanders, Smithers, and Mr. Burns on The Simpsons?

You can’t make this stuff up, and that’s what I love about show biz.

Yes, “New Orleanian” Harry Shearer has brought us The Big Uneasy, an eye-opening look at the time when the President and the press were calling the Katrina situation “a natural disaster,” and it wasn’t! As Shearer learned, it was the result of man-made design and construction flaws.

I just talked with Shearer to open some floodgates of information.

Me: Hi, Harry. Were you always such a muckracker?

Shearer: When I was helping edit the school newspaper in college, I ran a series on wasted space in the student union. That was the last time!

Night of 1000 Stevies Hits NYC!

Article: Night of 1000 Stevies Hits NYC!

Once a year in New York, Steve Nicks is wearing a fringed shawl and twirling, ever twirling, as she sings (or more likely lipsynchs) “just like the white winged dove” and other familiar lyrics to a packed house of fervent admirers.

Well, not Stevie herself, if you want to get technical. It’s actually scads of Stevie impersonators and worshipers, who convene at the “Night of 1000 Stevies” event to pay tribute to the Fleetwood Mac waif who went on to ethereal solo stardom complete with all kinds of witchy/hippie/gypsy paraphernalia and a pronounced catch in her throat.

Ventriloquy gets a hand in new doc

Article: Ventriloquy gets a hand in new doc

Mel Gibson in The Beaver isn’t the only dysfunctional person with his hand up a puppet these days. The new documentary Dumbstruck has five of them—and they’re all rather likable despite the way they tend to mess up their human relations in favor of bonding with the playthings that have become their lifeline and livelihood.

The ventriloquists are extremely varied—from entry level to hugely successful—but they all seem to follow a certain pattern: they have all had loneliness issues. They find comfort in their puppets, even if they have constant one-upmanship debates with them. And they usually have to deal with disapproval from relatives who’d way prefer that they settle down with actual humans.

The Nudie Artist: Burlesque Revived

Article: The Nudie Artist: Burlesque Revived

Situated on a very sexy Manhattan corner on Fifth Avenue in the 20s, the Museum of Sex is a handy one-stop-shopping place for libidinal learning, as I found out last year when I was able to pose there in front of a giant slide of bears copulating, as opening night guests were graciously allowed to do. (I still have the photo! I’m gonna make it my screensaver!)

This is my kind of museum—one where eroticism, art, and commerce collide to make for some of the city’s most entertaining and informative displays. And the other night, it was a whole new opening with all new poses available. The exhibit “The Nudie Artist: Burlesque Revived” premiered to a glittery group of multigender ambisexuals, all dolled up in their finery to look at other people taking theirs off.

ACE VENTURA director sees the light!

Article: ACE VENTURA director sees the light!

Tom Shadyac is the guy who directed Jim Carrey to talk with his butt and Eddie Murphy to wear a fat suit, to name just two of his enjoyable cinematic achievements, but today, Shadyac is focused on less guffaw-inducing issues.

After having a cycling accident in 2007, Shadyac realized certain things I never seem to realize in all my own biking mishaps: That the world is based on too much gratuitous spending, violence, and other negative actions. And that love and compassion are in our DNA and we need to exercise them more while achieving a deeper fulfillment.

His new documentary, I Am, is an exploration of what’s wrong with the world and how each of us can make a step towards solving that. To get more personal instructions on the matter, I talked to Shadyac on the phone about it.

Gay self-hating re-examined in new film

Article: Gay self-hating re-examined in new film

Mart Crowley’s landmark play The Boys in the Band was first produced in 1968, a year before the Stonewall rebellion changed the face of modern gay movement with defiance and pride.

In its bitchy and witty portrayal of a group of friends sharing dangerous New York party games that often verge on the sadistic and self-loathing, it represents a darker moment in gay identity—one the LGBT community has long wanted to turn its back on in shame.

But enough time has passed that people are more willing to embrace the play (and the 1970 film version, directed by Wiliam Friedkin) as an important step forward in gay representation and catharsis.

In fact, Boys has engendered so much new lovin’ that it’s the subject of a documentary, Crayton Robey‘s Making The Boys, coming out this month in an attempt to put the work in its proper historical place.

As one of the talking heads in the film—along with Crowley, Edward Albee, Tony Kushner, and many more—I’m qualified to make several defenses of the original play.

WASTE LAND turns garbage into gold

Article: WASTE LAND turns garbage into gold

Lucy Walker’s Oscar nominated Waste Land is just another documentary about a Brazilian-American artist who travels to his birthland to create portraits of garbage pickers out of recyclable materials.

But it’s much more than that. Waste Land is about hope, collaboration, the environment, finding dignity through poverty, and the redeeming qualities of trash. (All those human spirit-y things I never like much under less felicitous circumstances—though I do like trash.)

ORGASM INC will raise a stink

Article: ORGASM INC will raise a stink

I probably know less about female orgasms than anyone on the planet—even former boy band members–but Liz Canner knows a lot about them, even more than pharmaceutical companies do.

In fact, when she took on a job editing erotic videos for such a company’s drug trials in their attempt to market a female Viagra, Canner’s intellectual G spot was awakened and she realized the bizarre situation she’d landed in needed to be a documentary.

The strongly executed result, Orgasm Inc, is an alarming look at the way big business tries to manipulate the public by creating diseases, then marketing the supposed cure.

On the eve of the film’s February 11 opening in New York and Chicago (before it goes to L.A. and DVD), I spoke with Canner about her orgasmic achievement.

The Oscars are coming! Here's some advice!

Article: The Oscars are coming! Here's some advice!

On February 27, the annual Academy Awards telecast will attempt to make millions of people interested in movies they didn’t care enough to see in the first place.

They’ll do so with glitz, celebrity drop-ins, gushy tributes, high fashion, and the wonderful sight of four people being devastated in each category.

As an inveterate Oscar watcher despite it all, I have some handy ideas for pepping up the show and grabbing way higher ratings than they ever imagined.

Here goes, for free:

*Serve booze. The Golden Globes are always more fun than the Oscars because the guests are flat-out drunk and not that self-conscious about the evening’s high-pressure antics. The Oscars should serve tray upon tray of ratings-making cocktails. It’s a recipe for absolute hilarity!

Ferocious Battle of the Bands in Downtown NYC

Article: Ferocious Battle of the Bands in Downtown NYC

For nine years, M.E.A.N.Y. Fest has lured me to judge their intense rock band competition finals by promising free chicken wings, some Diet Cokes, and a chance to make life-changing decisions about something I know almost nothing about—music!

It’s kind of intoxicating to sit there, all greasy faced, caffeinated, and devoid of any real credentials, and get to pick which of four bands deserves to win recording and performance time, not to mention a free guitar and probably some chicken wings and soda too, for all I know.

New Year's hopes and dreams for 2011

Article: New Year's hopes and dreams for 2011

1) Let’s not have any more hoax-umentaries!

You know, those incredible, shocking docs that turn out to be wink-wink p.r. stunts once the whistle’s blown. The one about Joaquin Phoenix, I’m Still Here, was tantalizingly enjoyable, as the former acting heavyweight cavorted with coke, hookers, and generally self-destructive behavior, until we learned that it was all a fake designed to actually build up his career. And there were serious doubts about the veracity of the Facebook saga Catfish, not to mention the complete truthfulness of the street-art epic Exit Through The Gift Shop. (When one of a film’s central talking heads has to have his face and voice blocked, you can’t be sure of anything). In 2011, let’s leave the murky journalism and put-ons to reality shows, OK?

How to be a TV talking head

Article: How to be a TV talking head

I’ve spent half my adult life appearing as a talking head on various TV channels, so by now I have the art of on-camera gabbing down to a T and know just what to do, what to avoid, and whether to watch the clip afterwards with one eye covered.

Live appearances on cable news are way different than pre-taped ones (like “101 Celebrity Meltdowns” or “The Fab Times of Lindsay”), so I’ll separate them in offering my unsolicited but extremely useful advice to anyone brazen enough to want to join the unpaid talking head population.

For live shows:

*Have your first answer ready. The worst thing imaginable on live TV is dead air, so you want to avoid ever pausing to think or stammering stuff like “Um, uh…” If your first answer doesn’t match the first question, then say it anyway—and make it match the question.

*Speak in four or five sentences at a time, trailing off when you’ve sensed that you’ve had your say on that particular subject and it’s time for someone—anyone–else to speak. Don’t be a monosyllabic caveman, but don’t monopolize the whole show either. Find a happy medium.

Here comes the most depressing batch of holiday films in history!

Article: Here comes the most depressing batch of holiday films in history!

Looking to Hollywood to brighten your Christmas season with laughs and good cheer? You’d have a better time renting old Hammer horror flicks.

The last month of the year has become less of a venue to trot out cinematic smiles and eggnog than to appeal to the dark side of the audience while also groveling for awards and recognition.

It’s a bleak time in the movie cycle, and I have no problem with that—in fact, I detest cheap sentiment—but I sometimes find myself dreading the December depressathons, even if they’re admittedly better for you than feelgood rom-coms and cutesy cartoons.