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."

The A-List does a spelling bee

Article: The A-List does a spelling bee

Way back in my storied school days, spelling bees were awful experiences that invariably left me traumatized and speechless. It’s not that I can’t spell. I’m actually amazing at it, and when the other kids got their turns at the podium, I always knew all the words they were being asked, down to the very last syllable.

Alas, whenever it was my chance to go up and get asked a word of my own, I totally blanked. I completely freaked. And somehow it was always a word I wasn’t quite sure how to spell all of a sudden. So out of a combination of shaky nerves and rotten luck, I would lose every t-i-m-e.

Starting two years ago, the horror came back in an avalanche of misplaced vowels and wrong consonants when splashy spelling bees started being thrown at Diane von Furstenberg’s boutique, filled with literary lions battling it out for a paying audience to benefit clmp (the Council of Literary Magazines and Presses). And they asked me to join in! Here was my chance to disgrace myself all over again, in front of all sorts of big names, and I seized it with the will of an arrested child playing with the very same mental blocks.

Quentin Tarantino doesn't know what he's in for

Article: Quentin Tarantino doesn't know what he's in for

On December 1, Quentin Tarantino will get roasted by a bunch of inglourious so-and-sos at New York’s Hilton hotel, and I’m betting big bucks he’ll be a totally broken man, ready for the human trash heap, by the end of it. After all, Friars roasts are those splashy affairs where costars, comics, and “friends” take the podium to decimate you with personally attained humor and hilarious potshots gleefully derived at your superstar expense.

LET ME IN director lets us in

Article: LET ME IN director lets us in

A horror film slash coming-of-age story, Let Me In is the Matt Reeves–directed remake of Let The Right One In, the 2008 Swedish film which was based on the John Ajvide Lindqvist novel about a bullied boy who finds a soulmate in a female vampire. This version, transplanted to 1980s’ New Mexico, is a beautiful piece of work, filled with angst, soul, atmosphere, and blood stains.

I phoned Reeves (who did the 2008 hit Cloverfield) and asked him to let me into his process.

Me: Hi, Matt. You obviously love the story of the outcast triumphing. Everyone does.

Reeves: That’s only one aspect of the story. It’s the outcast finding someone who understands him, but there’s a dark edge to the story. He has vivid fantasies of revenge and when they’re played out, it’s not all victory. There’s something chilling about it and there are consequences. I was haunted by the ambiguity. It makes it a powerful horror story. I wanted to make sure that even the bully would be humanized. It’s not black and white. There’s a potential for evil in all of us.

Fincher, Eastwood Headline The New York Film Festival

Article: Fincher, Eastwood Headline The New York Film Festival

The 48th annual New York Film Festival at Lincoln Center opens with a bang this Friday with David Fincher’s The Social Network, so make sure to Facebook all your friends about it, lol.

The auteur-heavy fest also offers creative visions by Julie Taymor, Mike Leigh, Jean-Luc Godard, and some people even I’ve never heard of. (Certified Copy is “a French production with a European cast speaking in a mixture of English, French, and Italian.” By an Iranian director!) Then the festival goes back to the big names and aptly closes with Hereafter, Clint Eastwood’s foray into the afterlife, with Matt Damon forging yet another chapter in his illustrious career.

Before picking from this refined plate of high–toned cinema, I tracked down freelance critic Dennis Lim, who’s on the selection committee, for some insight into the process:

The HOWL! Festival brings back the Beatniks

Article: The HOWL! Festival brings back the Beatniks

Annually arriving between the Fringe festival of bizarre off-Broadway theater and the New York Film Festival for well-heeled cineastes, the HOWL! Festival is a three-day arts extravaganza in the East Village’s Tompkins Square Park, dedicated to the memory of beat poet Allen Ginsberg and presented for nouveaux bohemians who get in free.

But it’s more than just a palate cleanser between fests. HOWL! is a simultaneous throwback and flash-forward that tosses cultural elements together into a giant, jivey be-in for high-def artsy-crafty appreciation. And it starts, aptly enough, with some longtime New York poets (like John Giorno and Anne Waldman) reading Ginsberg’s hallucinatory and historic “Howl” this Friday, September 10, when a whole new audience can decide for themselves if the poem is good-obscene, bad-obscene, or not obscene at all.

The archaeology of Sally Kirkland

Article: The archaeology of Sally Kirkland

Irrepressible, New York born Sally Kirkland has amassed a startling career, leaping from theater to Hollywood films to indies, while always going to extremes with the intent of “not doing things halfway.” Kirkland’s latest venture has her filming Sharon Greytak’s Archaeology of a Woman, in which she’s going for broke as a mystery lady shrouded in crime, lust, and madness—a role that could be her most intriguing since 1987’s Anna got her an Oscar nomination as a Czech actress who mentors an attractive immigrant.

Kirkland called me from the Archaeology set for an expectedly intense chat:

Me: Hi, Sally! This movie sounds fascinating.

Kirkland: It’s a really juicy role for me—a modern day Lady Macbeth with a little Trip to Bountiful. I definitely have a Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? type anger in it. My character, Margaret, was involved in a crime years ago and she’s angry at her daughter (played by Tony winner Victoria Clark). Margaret is ferocious. I have some amazing emotional scenes. I’m tearing the scenery apart! And there’s a three-page single-spaced monologue. I’m releasing all kind of demons. I have a nude scene too.

ALL ABOUT EVIL Brings Back the Midnight Movie

Article: ALL ABOUT EVIL Brings Back the Midnight Movie

“This is a midnight movie before it’s released,” ALL ABOUT EVIL star Natasha Lyonne chuckled to me at the film’s premiere at downtown’s Landmark Sunshine Cinema, commenting on how quickly things happen nowadays.

See, once upon a time in the ‘70s, many films found themselves showing up at midnight only after the 9 PM crowds proved to be a little stymied by their in-your-face extremism. But ALL ABOUT EVIL—San Francisco auteur Josh Grannell’s blood-soaked grindhouse tribute—has come out of the gate touring the country at the stroke of 12, complete with a pre-show that references and gently mocks the movie before you even it. This movie knows its place!

The Five Worst Celebrity Interviews

Article: The Five Worst Celebrity Interviews

Interviewing movie stars is an Olympic-caliber game whereby you gently toss questions at them and they volley back by delivering succinct, crisp sayings that are informative, funny, and make great copy too.

Alas, that doesn’t always happen and you sometimes feel like you’re engaged in a battle of wits with a half armed opponent. Not me, mind you. My interviews have always been sheer perfection, cough cough. But a friend of mine who’s a longtime reporter has had some awkward star encounters that left his tape recorder metaphorically burning, and he anonymously agreed to share them with me.

His five worst have been:

Is Bowling Finally Not Uncool?

Article: Is Bowling Finally Not Uncool?

“Let’s go bowling,” a friend actually blurted at a get-together recently as the entire room fell into a stunned hush. We didn’t go bowling, as it turned out, but still, the realization that such a cornball thing could even be an option suggested that bowling might finally be slithering back into a spot on the collective radar, as the cognoscenti cringe.

Eight Sequels We Never Want To See

Article: Eight Sequels We Never Want To See

It’s been the most sequely, prequely, shmequely summer since the last one, proving that the studios really need to start drawing the line before any more grating spinoffs spin into our psyches and wallets.

Here are the sequels that should be forbidden by law from ever getting the green light into harsh reality.

1) Precious 2 (based on the novel by blah blah blah).Our girl Precious is full of newfound confidence, having become extremely literate, well rounded, and popular. Even her meds are kicking in big time. Zzzz.

2) Shrek 5. Remember Shrek 4, where the title ogre got his wish to basically go back to Shrek 1 so he could—without any contrivance at all—meet all the other characters all over again? Well, this time, he’ll want to go back to Shrek 2!

Why Screenwriters Deserve Your Pity

Article: Why Screenwriters Deserve Your Pity

The more I learn about the richly textured lives of big-time Hollywood screenwriters, the more I want to stay a trashy little gossip wretch in Murray Hill. Even if you get your screenplay green-lit, the studio will surely change it from a quirky romantic comedy to a superhero prequel in 3D, though the star will inevitably take charge at the last minute and instead make it a futuristic rock musical set in an oil spill. They’ll fire you, hire you back,then kick you out of the premiere party. If they call you for another meeting after it bombs, it’ll only be to pick your brain so they can rip off your ideas and give them to a more “commercial” writer who’ll make that one bomb too. And even if you still manage to make a hit of yourself, like multi-million man Shane Black (Lethal Weapon, The Last Boy Scout), you’ll have to go into hiding for years to avoid the hideous backlash and nagging self doubts that accompanied your whopping paycheck.

Come to “Big Top”: New York’s Hottest New Party

Article: Come to “Big Top”: New York’s Hottest New Party

Photo credit: Wilsonmodels

With the extravagantly colorful crowd it attracts, “Amanda’s Big Top” doesn’t even need a carnival décor. It’s already a three-ring extravaganza, with club kids, muscle bears, wandering tourists, and a guy with masking tape on his mouth all convening every Wednesday to put the carnal back in carnival.

But even if it seems a bit redundant, the physical setting is YouTube-perfect, making this the de rigueur event of the week for those on the edge and not afraid to dangle there. Held on the “Carnival” level of Bowlmor on University Place, the bash (promoted by Kenny Kenny and Joey Israel) is set under a pseudo tent in a post-modern amusement arcade lined with Coney Island-style games to work out your aggressions on. Throw a ping pong ball in a goldfish bowl or knock down a clown doll with a softball and you win an assortment of aptly esoteric prizes like paisley dolphin dolls and neon anal beads.

Behind Troll 2: The Best Worst Movie Ever Made!

Article: Behind Troll 2: The Best Worst Movie Ever Made!

Furry Vengeance might be giving it a run for its money loss, but the 1990 critter epic Troll 2 is still deemed the most amusing bad movie of all time by many aficionados of enjoyable stinkers. For one thing, it has nothing whatsoever to do with Troll 1. Even more astoundingly, it’s inexperienced actors—including a small-town dentist named George Hardy—flounder around Utah in a ludicrous story about a family trip ruined by man-eating goblins in burlap sacks.

The Horrible Truth About Celebrity Tweeting

Article: The Horrible Truth About Celebrity Tweeting

As someone who follows celebrities for a living, I’ve found that they’re fascinating creatures who radiate excitement and sex appeal in everything they do—except tweeting!

I know this because the second I joined Twitter a few months ago, I started “following” any celebrity I could track down there, anxious to eavesdrop on whatever stellar utterances were available to me thanks to this trendy form of techno-networking. But just as quickly, I was bored into submission by the fact that in this context, bold-face luminaries are every bit as trivial and fatuous as you and me!

Behind Burlesque With Leslie Zemeckis’s Fleshy New Film

Article: Behind Burlesque With Leslie Zemeckis’s Fleshy New Film

Behind the Burly Q, a look back at the glory days of burlesque from writer/director/producer Leslie Zemeckis, fascinatingly strips away at the myths surrounding the most popular American entertainment form of the first half of the 20th century. On the eve of the documentary opening in New York on April 23 en route to other cities, I phoned Leslie (whose husband, Robert Zemeckis of Forrest Gump fame, executive produced the doc) for some burly talk.

MM: Hi, Leslie. How was Behind the Burly Q born?

LZ: I’m an actress and did a show that had elements of burlesque in it. I started to research it and realized no one had done a comprehensive documentary about burlesque, told by the performers. I thought, ‘I’ve got to record this for posterity.’

MM: When you interviewed the former strippers—many of them now in their 80s–did some of them start re-enacting their old competitive patterns?

LZ: Not really. But some wanted to strip again! I thought, ‘I’m not sure where you’re gonna find a job, but God bless you.’ For a lot of them, it was the high time of their life and they wanted to recreate that.

The 10 Most Annoying Types of Customers at the Cineplex

Article: The 10 Most Annoying Types of Customers at the Cineplex

1) The ones that climb over you to go to the bathroom. Eight times!! Wear diapers!

2) The ones that loudly narrate the whole film, either because they’re unable to differentiate it from a TV show or because they’re trying to make sense of the plot by talking themselves through it. When it’s something as simple as THE TOOTH FAIRY, this can get a little annoying.

3) Similarly: People who ask obvious questions all through the film, blaring out their ignorance with every query. “Who’s that?…Why is she looking at him like that?….Where’s he going?…” I’m still emotionally scarred from the time decades ago when my brain-dead companion seriously screeched, “So what IS Sophie’s choice, anyway?”

Gay “Bears” Continue Their Jamboree

Article: Gay “Bears” Continue Their Jamboree

One of the best things about being gay is that if you find yourself getting all fat and hairy, you can just call yourself a “bear” and become part of a highly desirable subculture of the subculture. It’s actually a step up from being just an average gay!

And if you haven’t gotten fat but still want to be a bear, that’s OK too. The term “bear” doesn’t necessarily connote someone with extra poundage, as long as the pounds you’ve got aren’t shaved, and as long as you carry whatever figure you have with the requisite “masculine” demeanor—or at least the appearance of such as you swagger, slug down a beer, chomp on a cigar, and defy anyone to call you names (except “bear”).

The Six Worst Moments From Last Night’s Oscars

Article: The Six Worst Moments From Last Night’s Oscars

1) Starting the show with the 10 lead acting nominees having to take the stage and smile for the cameras. Doesn’t the rest of the evening torture them enough?

2) The clips for the 10, count ‘em 10, Best Picture nominees. Add them up and they were longer than some of the films themselves! Besides, way back in 1939, the 10 nominees were instant classics like Gone With The Wind, Stagecoach, and The Wizard of Oz. But this year? The Blind Side and District 9! Let’s go back to just five. No, make it three!

3) The way the cameras kept zooming in on the front runners right after they lost. When THE HURT LOCKER won Best Original Screenplay, they closed in on a shaken Quentin Tarantino. After PRECIOUS bagged Best Adapted Screenplay, they cut to a sweaty Jason Reitman. Even when AVATAR lost some sound award, they cut to Zoe Saldana and Sam Worthington. This practice totally appealed to the sadist in me, but for the sake of others with some heart, let’s only watch people squirm before they lose from now on.

Six Things I’d Love To See on The Oscars

Article: Six Things I’d Love To See on The Oscars

Here are my fondest fantasies for goings-on that would surely liven up the Academy Awards telecast on March 7 and help save it from growing obsolescence:

(1) I desperately hope a presenter slips and says, “The winner is…” That would be way more refreshing than the standard “The Oscar goes to…” line. Let’s face it: This is a night of winners and losers, and it should be presented exactly as such. Anyone who doesn’t believe that is a total loser.

(2) I pray there’s a tie! There hasn’t been one since Barbra Streisand and Katharine Hepburn split Best Actress in 1969 (though Babs somehow went home with a whole trophy). It would be amazing if Meryl Streep and Sandra Bullock tied and resumed that playful smooch from the Critics Choice Awards. Or if that famously divorced couple James Cameron and Kathryn Bigelow shared Best Director and went into their own passionate making-up session at the podium. Of course the fact that he’s currently married to Suzy Amis might get in the way of that happening.

Burlesque Still Rules New York’s Clubland!

Article: Burlesque Still Rules New York’s Clubland!

Nightclub-going New Yorkers owe a giant, heartfelt shout out to Rudy Giuliani. We should belatedly thank Rudy for his crackdown on “smut” and anything else that veered from traditional family values when he was a strict, disciplinarian mayor from 1994 through 2001. After all, it was that very gloss-over that led to an explosion of neo-burlesque sexual posturing in clubs all over town!

As porn shops were shuttered and escorts were driven to the Internet, loft parties and underground boites responded with strippers and other acts catering to everyone’s sex drives by turning genital-related amusement into performance art. For every sex palace that was bulldozed and reopened as a comedy club, there were suddenly a dozen ecdysiasts popping up at the Lower East Side’s hangout the Slipper Room and artful disrobers like Julie Atlas Muz and Dirty Martini were shaking their tatas for applause and dollars all over town. Thanks, Rudy!

But here’s the really shocking thing: In 2010, neo-burlesque still rules the scene.

Happy Birthday, PSYCHO!

Article: Happy Birthday, PSYCHO!

Alfred Hitchcock’s 1960 chiller-thriller PSYCHO still makes me crazy, in a good way. No, it’s not a perfect movie. The handling of the mystery solving isn’t nearly as passionate as the murder itself, and I always hated the way Norman and his mother talk in overlapping dialogue so you’re made to think he really must be hanging with a live woman.

But even BATTLESHIP POTEMKIN has a few low points—or so I hear. Gimmickry aside, PSYCHO jolted America into the ‘60s and we haven’t really been the same since. On the 50th anniversary of its release year, we can look back and see how profoundly the movie—dismissed by some lunatics as exploitive trash at the time—is a landmark in delicious arthouse perversion, a daring auteur curio which still manages to disturb and entertain.

The Olympic Sport of Oscar Predicting

Article: The Olympic Sport of Oscar Predicting

For years, Tom O’Neil’s Gold Derby has been the cyber watercooler to gather around and catch the buzz about who’s a shoo-in to get nominated–unless their film tanks, they come out with a sex tape, or someone better comes along.

I happen to be one of the professional prognosticators who give their educated guesses to the site’s Buzzmeter section, and though I don’t actually know much of anything about the inner workings of Hollywood, neither do a lot of the Oscar voters, so that works out just perfectly!

This year, I’m betting my grandmother’s life on the fact that the supporting trophies will step to the dark side and go to Christoph Waltz for INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS and Mo’Nique for PRECIOUS, even if the latter seems to have actively campaigned to lose the award.

Other categories have been harder to predict because when Gold Derby first asked for our lists in November—ranked in order of likelihood, mind you–some of the films hadn’t even screened yet. But again, that totally works out. Some movies like NINE happen to have an Oscar glow around them (not to mention a huge push) from the second they’re announced, and that usually stays with them even after people see the finished product and deem it a three.

The Sexiest New Party in New York

Article: The Sexiest New Party in New York

Photo by Brian Christopher Cummings

BonBon is by far the sexiest new club event in town and there’s no sex at all at it. I didn’t even see any light frottage!

But there’s pure sex appeal in the air at the Tuesday night bash (at the supper club Juliet) because of the distinct absence of boredom from the guest list in favor of possibility, opportunity, and very high fashion. The every-night-is-Halloween crowd finds their way there, all dolled up to the nine-inch heels and ready to party till gay marriage is approved—or at least till 3 a.m. Factor in all the corsets, bodices, and facial masks in the room, and you’ll realize that these fractured fairy tale creatures can’t get it on because it would hurt too much—but no one’s ever looked hotter while indulging in such (temporary) chastity.

The Backlash Against Lady Gaga Has Begun!

Article: The Backlash Against Lady Gaga Has Begun!

People are turning against Lady Gaga! As someone who sings about the pitfalls of fame, the omnipresent chanteuse should have known that as a result of her own stardom, cynics would be scrunching their foreheads and declaring her unworthy of it.

The bigger she gets, the more people dredge up the nerve to declare her Lady Caca.