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06 October 2002

Let's! Go to! The movies!
Let's go see the stars...
[falsetto Ann Reinking voice] Give the maid the night off!
[gruff Albert Finney voice] Turn the kitchen light off!
Let's go to the movies, Annie, wait and s--

Oh. Hi, everybody, I was just sitting here with Poochy and Throbert Jr. (or Throbertina Jr.), eating Rice Krispies treats made with Lucky Charms instead of Rice Krispies, all snuggled up on the couch and singing along to the 1982 screen adaptation of Annie, directed by John Huston and starring... um, I dunno her name. Megan something? I want to say it was someone like Soleil Moon-Fry in an orange Jewfro wig, but that doesn't seem quite right.

Anyway, speaking of screen adaptations, Urbania started out as a stageplay before being turned into the most awesomest movie ever. This movie is so good that you could grind a VHS cassette of it into a fine powder using a kitchen blender, dissolve the residue in benzene, and precipitate out purified crystals of cinematic goodness -- to be heartily snorted in the bathroom right before the kids drag you to see some flick where a trio of preteens (one seemingly nerdy white boy, one street-smart black kid, and a perky Asian girl with pigtails) do karate on former Saturday Night Live performers who are trying to take over the world though bumbling at it in the worst way.

Urbania stars Dan Futterman (the son in The Birdcage and the title character's brother in Judging Amy) as an ordinary guy who -- driven by the loss of someone who meant a lot to him -- goes on a quest for some kind of satisfaction to ease his hurt. Woven through the story are entertaining depictions of (and references to) countless urban legends, such as the microwaved dog and the stolen kidney.

It also contains the most startling and brilliantly depicted moments of male homoeroticism that I have ever seen. I just watched it with a friend two nights ago and plan to buy it on DVD soon -- both to marvel again at the genius of its screenplay and editing, and to watch certain excerpts... in privacy. Let's just say that both Futterman and sympathetic bartender Josh Hamilton put the stud in ''a studied performance" and the cameraman gets in so close to Matt Keeslar's hairy chest that you can inspect it for ticks or color-changing moles -- ooof, the circus must be coming to town in my pants because I'm pitching a big te...

Oh, sorry.

Anyway, it would spoil the impact of Urbania if I revealed more, and I caution you against looking up reviews before renting it -- probably 80% of reviewers, including some professional critics, totally misunderstood the director's technique and as a result end up giving away what are meant to be surprises. (For instance, many online synopses of Urbania explicitly reveal one or two quite significant facts about the central character's motivations that the director intended for his viewers to realize, gradually, by themselves.)

I'll give you a hint, though -- don't try to assemble the film's fragmentary action into a coherent linear narrative; instead understand that in the space of a few seconds, the movie often cuts rapidly back and forth between two unrelated events that may have taken place at different times and locations. Also, the director relies heavily on the ambiguity of words and actions, and how they can be interpreted differently when you don't know the full context. It's like a movie version of that optical illusion that goes from young girl to old hag to young girl again. Is a sexual remark a come-on, a joke, or a clinical observation? If one man roughly shoves another, is it a fight or horseplay? Just sit back, let the confusing action flow past you, and by the end you'll put all the pieces together and be dazzled by the moviemaker's genius.

P.S. Attention, heterosexual men! Do not watch this movie by yourself or your Kinsey Number will be ratcheted upwards by at least two points, and then who know what kind of bad things might happen?!? It's probably safest if you watch it with a lady friend so that you can squeeze her boobies during the scenes of skull-popping homoeroticism to prevent yourself from turning. Or watch it with other straight guys; you'll be so squirmingly self-conscious that the film's dangerous gay-dioactive beams won't affect you. Unless you all end up yielding to years of sublimated curiosity and having a circle-jerk. Meanwhile, ex-lesbian ministries should stop wasting everybody's time with prayer sessions and just screen this movie at their weekly meetings. Within six months the most severe, buzzcut, Harley-riding, "Hand me the pruning shears, sisters, it's castration time" bulldykes will be transformed into Charlotte from Sex and the City. (The nutjobs at Exodus For Men will just have to wait for a gender-switched version of Urbania.)

posted by Throbert | 10/06/2002 07:04:00 PM |
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