Saturday, June 28, 2008

the contrarian: Withering "Sex"

About a month ago, when "Sex and the City - The Movie" opened in the number one spot with $57,038,404, a lot of ink was spent celebrating its feat and noting how the film had doubled its box-office predictions.

For some reason, everyone was happy about the film's success, as if we all somehow shared it it.

So happy, in fact, that the media conveniently overlooked the film's whopping 62.8% drop in its second week in release. That's huge, but there was no ink - no ink at all.

And the film has been dropping ever since. By week three, it was out of the Top Five.

Anyway, here's how Box Office Mojo reports the film's gross to date:

May 30–June 1 / $57,038,404

June 6–8 / $21,218,305 (a 62.8% drop)

June 13–15 / $9,788,353 (a 53.9% drop)

June 20–22 / $6,532,394 (a 33.3% drop)

June 27–29 / $3,770,000 (estimate) (a 42.3% drop).

The film plummeted and has continued to do so, with no one acknowledging it or offering some theory on its rapid fall.

My take is that the movie disappointed audiences that first week and became a victim of bad word-of-mouth. It simply isn't funny. The series was a comedy; the movie isn't. It's a soap opera.

And who came up with that brilliant idea anyway?

After the film was in release for a week, its star and prime mover, Sarah Jessica Parker, appeared on "The View" and confessed that deciding to do the series on which the movie is based was not easy. She liked the career she had. (I did, too.) "I always thought I had an enviable career," she said. Perfectly put. Prior to "Sex and the City" - which indeed did stop the nice momentum of her career - Parker moved smoothly from stage ("The Substance of Fire," "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying," "Once Upon a Mattress") to film, a particularly eclectic slate of films ("L.A. Story," the film of "The Substance of Fire," "Honeymoon in Vegas," "If Lucy Fell," Miami Rhapsody," "The First Wives Club" and two for Tim Burton, "Ed Wood" and "Mars Attacks").

Since the series, Parker's films have been largely uneventful, despite a brave, potentially audience-alienating turn in "The Family Stone."

This certainly would not be the first time that a successful project has stymied a performer. "Sex and the City" - which arguably offered Parker her role of a lifetime - could adversely affect her career the way "Psycho" negatively influenced Tony Perkins'.

So, if "Sex and the City - The Movie" somehow manages to get her movie career back on track, it will have accomplished a lot. She deserves it.

Parker is a really good actress.

If it doesn't, well, one has only to watch the show's reruns and DVDs and savor her turn as Carrie Bradshaw to be reminded of just how good she is.

(Artwork: Variety drumbeats "Sex and the City - The Movie"; Sarah Jessica as Carrie)

Thursday, June 19, 2008

simply cyd (there was only one cyd)

The divine Cyd Charisse, who left us on June 19th at age 86 or thereabouts, was a full-scale movie star, even though few people, fans included, thought of her as an actress per se. Perhaps it's too intricate to think of dance as a highly stylized form of acting. But that's what it is.

Cyd Charisse elevated every move she danced on film, even in the most benign MGM musical, to a tidy little drama. Working with some of the best dancers and choreographers, she became adept at a singular kind of storytelling. Michael Kidd, Eugene Loring, Hermes Pan, Stanley Donen, Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire were all her choreographic mentors.

And each time, I'm sure she exceeded their expectations, particularly with the graceful sexuality that she managed to sneak into each number for and with them. OK, perhaps she wasn't really that sneaky about it.

Although Charisse eventually segued into dramatic roles in such films as Joseph Pevney's "Twilights for the Gods," Nicholas Ray's "Party Girl," Minnelli's "Two Weeks in Another Town" and Phil Karlson's "The Silencers," one mostly remembers her fabulous dances on film, each punctuated by those long, shapely, seemingly endless legs:

The "Broadway Melody Ballet" from Donen and Kelly's "Singin' in the Rain" ... "Dancing in the Dark" and the "Girl Hunt Ballet," both from Minnelli's "The Band Wagon" ... And those otherwise anonymous dance numbers from Rouben Mamoulian's "Silk Stockings," Donen-Kelly's "It's Always Fair Weather" and Minnelli's "Brigadoon."

A handful of wonderful, lyrical musical moments. That doesn't seem like very much. And yet, it's a lot.

Cyd Charisse - that wasn't her real name, of course, and yet she managed to effortlessly embody it - was alternately exotic, beautiful and just plain radiant. And sexy.

And she could dance.

And that made her ... cinematic.

More than cinematic actually. Divine.

Note in Passing: Turner Classics, which coincidentally screened "Brigadoon" yesterday (June 18th), will be showing "The Band Wagon" at 9:15 a.m. (est) on Monday, June 23rd, and will also devote an evening to the actress-dancer on Friday, June 27th, with screenings of "Singin' in the Rain," "The Band Wagon" and "Silk Stockings," beginning at 8 p.m. (est).

(Artwork: Cyd and Fred in the sublime "Dancing in the Dark" number from Minnelli's "The Band Wagon")

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

sundance screenings

The Sundance Channel has a couple titles this week worth watching/taping.

First, there's Thompson's 2006 French-made "Avenue Montaigne"/"Fauteuils d'orchestre" about the theater people of Paris. It's an extremely companionable film and noteworthy, for me at least, for another relaxed Sydney Pollack performance.

The late director-actor plays a character named Brian Sobinski bur he's essentially playing himself.

"Avenue Montaigne"/"Fauteuils d'orchestre" airs Thursday, June 19th at 1:30 p.m. (est), with repeat showings scheduled for 5:15 p.m. (est) Sunday, June 22nd, Wednesday, June 25th at 10 p.m. and Saturday, June 28th at 7 p.m. (est).

Secondly, there's Peter Watkins' "Privilege," which was the rage of 1967 and starred one of the "It" girls of the era, model Jean Shrimpton. Watkins' also directed "The War Game" and "Edvard Munch."

In a plot not that far removed from Elia Kazan's "A Face in the Crowd," Paul Jones (the lead singer of Manfred Mann) plays a manufactured British rock star with an almost unnatural hold on his fans. He can do no wrong. It doesn't take long for a religious-right group to ensnare him and try to exploit his popularity to recruit the nation's youth to Christianity.

"Privilege," which in retropsect seems particularly pertinent to what's happening today, has never been released in the United Staters on home entertainment in any format. Its screening on Sundance at 7 p.m. (est) on Friday, June 20th is a rare one. But not the only one. It will be repeated at 4 p.m. (est) Wednesday, June 25th.

By all means, tape it.

(Artwork: Sydney Pollack can be seen on the Sundance Channel in Danièle Thompson's "Avenue Montaigne," and the poster art from "Avenue Montaigne"/"Fauteuils d'orchestre" and "Privilege")

Monday, June 16, 2008

The Fizzy Bubbeleh Flick

American moviegoers may have half-consciously rejected any serious film about the current wars but they've embraced profane comedies about swarthy Middle Eastern men with insatiable sex drives - yes, the very men who have been generalized as "the enemy."

Last year, Borat.

This year, Zohan.

And who can blame the audience?

These films use low-down comedy to humanize people we've been encouraged to peg as "different" and certainly threatening.

As the title characer in Dennis Dugan's genuinely witty and insightful "You Don't Mess with Zohan," Adam Sandler has let his usual close-cropped hair grow into a head of wild, unruly, excited-looking ringlets and has pretty much fetishized the rest of himself as well.

This is inarugably his most sexually liberated performance, replete with a seemingly permanent bulge in his pants.

Dugan's film - which received some well-earned praise from A.O. Scott in The New York Times - is loaded with characters, but it belongs to Sandler, something the star accomplishes effortlessly, without hogging the screen.

It has nothing to do with gender when I say that "You Don't Mess with Zohan" is as hilarious as its opposite-sex counterpart, "Sex and the City," isn't. (Is there even one joke in that movie?) The sly "Zohan" script - by the ubiquitous Judd Apatow, Robert Smigel and Sandler himself - works miracles with a running joke incorporating hummus and I loved the recurring visual gag involving an Israeli soft drink called Fizzy-Bubbeleh.

Is that a real product? It should be.

(Artwork: Zohan rules!)

the contrarian: The (Godawful) Tonys

The theatah.

Say what you will about The Oscarcast and its well-fed bloat, it isn't nearly as annoying or as pathetic as The Tonys, which seems to exist within a universe unto itself - a world of entitlement, driven by the bliss of delusion.

Nothing else explains the rampant pretention or the misguided, insufferable sense of self-importance and solipsism that New York's theater community regularly exudes, especially on Tony night.

It's as if everyone connected with what Variety calls The Rialto watched "All About Eve" once too often, committed Joseph L. Mankiewicz's sharp, scathing but highly artificial script to memory and now actually (mis)takes it for reality.

It's camp, people.

This year's show reached its nadir of snobbery when playwright Tracy Letts in accepting his award for "August: Osage County," thanked his producers specifically for mounting "an American play on Broadway with theatre actors." Take that, you lowly film actors, so presumptuous enough to dare think that you're actually good enough for the theatah.

Frankly, to be fair, just about all show-business awards shows are anathma to me. But this one is absolutely the worst.

And why is it that only show people shower each other with fawning, pointless adulation? Why don't carpenters celebrate their crafts?

Or plumbers even?

I'm dead serious.

Note in Passing: The only tolerable moment on this year's Tonys came when "Boeing-Boeing" best-actor winner Mark Rylance - the risk-taking actor who notoriously performed unsimulated, real sex on screen in Patrice Chéreau's "Intimacy" (2001) - handily deflated the evening's parade of poseurs by reciting an extended quote from Lewis Jenkins' prose poem "Back Country," in lieu of an actual acceptance speech. It prompted a head-scratching response from the supposedly sophisticated audience.

It wasn't Rylance who was bizarre; it was everyone else.

He was also dead serious.

(Artwork: Poster art for Mankeiwicz's campy "All About Eve" and the amusing Mark Rylance)

Saturday, June 14, 2008

the contrarian: Misquoting/Demonizing Katherine Heigl

Having spent a long time as a working journalist - far too long than is reasonably healthy - I developed something of an aversion to the species.

Show me a journalist who isn't self-important or self-righteous and I'll show you a dead journalist.

That may sound like a wild generalization but, believe me, spend enough time in the vicinity of one and experience the puffed-up self-quoting and you'll know what I mean.

Case in point: The media's lip-smacking dissing of actress Katherine Heigl for doing the decent thing and rejecting a potential Emmy nomination for her work on ABC's pansexual soap opera, "Grey's Anatomy."

"I did not feel that I was given the material this season to warrant an Emmy nomination and in an effort to maintain the integrity of the academy organization, I withdrew my name from contention," Heigl told Gold Derby writer Tom O'Neil at the L.A. Times Envelope Web site.

Entertainment Weekly immediately posted this headline on its icky website: "Katherine Heigl Out of Emmy Race, Blames Writers." Huh?

Exacerbating matters, Dave on Demand, an unctous, self-consciously snarky weekly column in The Philadelphia Inquirer, drooled:

"You have to wonder if she knows how pretentious and petulant this announcement makes her sound.

"First of all, it's not like she was a lock to win this thing. When she took Best Supporting Actress in a Drama Series last year, it was her first Emmy. In fact, it was her first nomination.

"And even that was a huge upset. Not only was she not the best supporting actress, she wasn't even the best actress from her own show in the category. (Sandra Oh and Chandra Wilson were also nominated.) So for her to act like this Emmy stuff is old hat to her is wildly arrogant."

First off, a journalist is the last person who should use words such as "pretentious," "petulant" and "arrogant," particularly within the confines on a single article. (The column's author, who writes in a way-too-eager-to-impress-his-editors style, adds insult to injury by referring to Heigl as "honey," a well-worn, nay, dated piece of sexism which said editors, people ostensibly paid to edit the Inky, found bizarrely acceptable.)

Secondly, you have to wonder about the motivation when a journalist resorts to selective editing because Heigl also went on to say:

"In addition, I did not want to potentially take away an opportunity from an actress who was given such materials."

This part of her statement, in which Heigl explains and justifies her controversial stance, has been conveniently overlooked.

Instead the media is looking for easy ulterior motives on Heigl's part, the easiest being that she has stars in her eyes and would prefer to have a movie career. And what performer in Hollywood wouldn't?

But that's a distraction, shading what Heigl really said, namely that she did not give an award-worthy performance this year - that the material didn't lend itself to a golden statuette - and that an undeserved nomination would deny another, more worthy actress.

That's not arrogant or pretentious, honey; that's character. Furthermore, she said nothing negative about her writers or their work.

Also lost in the fray are these facts:

1. Heigl was arugably the most supportive player on “Grey’s Anatomy” of the recent strike by television and film writers. She was an active presence on the picket line, a staple, and went on record, several times, saying that she would not violate any picket line to attend any ceremony.

2. Heigl was the most vocal member of her TV cast to defend co-star T.R. Knight against the sexist insults of Isaiah Washington.

3. She had the veracity to call a spade a spade, referring to her break-out film, the hugely overrated "Knocked Up," as being "a little sexist." (I've a hunch that she was being coyly diplomatic here.)

Heigl has emerged as something refreshing on the moldy/creepy Hollywood landscape - an outspoken woman with uncompromising principles and beliefs. If George Clooney is "the last movie star in Hollywood" (as Time magazine recently pontificated), then Katherine Heigl is easily the last honest person there. It's not a matter of ingratitude.

It's a matter of having cojones, scruples.

Anyway, I'm hoping that Heigl doesn't succomb to what has become the newest all-American bad habit - hastily wimping out.

You know, being intimidated into apologizing. Apologize? For what?

(Artwork: The gloriously, incorrigibly truthful Katherine)

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

cinema obscura: MGM Feeling Groovy, Circa 1970

"Oh, Toto, I don't think we're in Kansas anymore!"

That immortal line, of course, was spoken by Dorothy Gale in "The Wizard of Oz," but I've a hunch that the same sentiment was uttered by some confused MGM executive as the most staid of the major studios found itself confronted by the counterculture of the late 1960s.

Metro self-consciously inaugerated the new year and the new decade with its February, 1970 release of Michelangelo Antonioni's "Zabriskie Point." It was a very big deal - and an even bigger flop. But that didn't stop Metro.

In May of the same year, the studio screened, with much fanfare, its hot-potato campus-unrest flick, "The Strawberry Statement" at the Cannes Film Festival, concurrrently releasing its X-rated sex comedy about love children, "The Magic Garden of Stanley Sweetheart," in New York city.

"Zabriskie Point" is still remembered - and the critical reaction to it has been adjusted upward in some quarters. But "The Strawberry Statement" and "The Magic Garden of Stanley Sweetheart" have long been forgotten.

It's impossible to see either one.

"The Strawberry Statement," directed by Stuart Hagmann from a script by Israel Horowitz (adapted from a novel by James Kunan), is an overwrought, exploitative drama about a clueless kid (Bruce Davison, hot off Frank Perry's "Last Summer") who joins a student revolution as a way to meet girls and eventually gets caught up in campus violence.

Talented Kim Darby, who was a protegé of the great Kim Stanley at the time, had the female lead and her role here was supposed to rescue her from the memory of the very square "True Grit" (1969), her breakthrough movie. But it was not to be. She eventually found a good role in Robert Aldrich's lost film, "The Grissom Gang" (1971), but actually had better luck in an earlier movie, Harvey Hart's "Bus Riley's Back in Town" (1965).

Leonard Horn's "The Magic Garden of Stanley Sweetheart," based by Robert T. Westbrook on his autobiographical novel, is actually a buoyant, racy little comedy with an appealing young cast - Dianne Hull, Victoria Racimo, Holly Near, Michael Greer, the extraordianry Linda Gillen, who could have been a major film comedienne, and in the title role, a game and very randy Don Johnson. The film is little more than a series of vignettes about aimless, uncertain kids seeking their identities, which includes a lot of sexual experimentation and, for Stanley Sweetheart, masturbation (hence, the film's original X rating).

Horn keeps everything well paced and clearly empathizes with his youthful cast. And as a bonus, he includes hilariously arty little films-within-the-film, knowing, misguided spoofs (of shorts) made by college dropout/wannabe filmmaker Stanley.

This film is worth rescuing.

Cinema Obscura is a recurring feature of The Passionate Moviegoer, devoted to those films that have been largely forgotten. Suggestions welcome.

(Artwork: Post art from "The Magic Garden of Stanely Sweetheart" and "The Strawberry Statement," two counterculture attempts from Metro)

cinema obscura: Bradley & LaBrache 's "Pittsburgh" (2006)

odd·ball (äd′bôl′) - noun - Slang an eccentric, unconventional, or nonconforming person

In June of 2006, Variety printed film critic Ronnie Scheib's review of "Pittsburgh," a mockumentary about Jeff Goldblum's intent on playing fast-talking con man Professor Harold Hill - "the Robert Preston role" - in the Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera production of Meredith Willson's "The Music Man."

Goldblum's motivation had less to do with tackling a classic American musical than with getting a job for his then-fiancee Catherine Wreford, a Canadian singer-actress, to keep her in the country. Wreford is perfect for the role of Marion and Goldblum would seal the deal by offering himself in the star role. Not only that. In a bit of truly novel casting, he also drafted friends Ed Begley, Jr. and Ileana Douglas to play Mayor Shinn and Eulalie Mackechnie Shinn.

"Pittsburgh" would be either an irresistible gem or god-awful, but either way, it had to be a lot of fun.

Well, the film opened in Pittsburgh (of course), where is received an unenthusiastic review from Ed Blank in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and then it, well, disappeared.

Now out on DVD, the film is indeed irresistible fun, with filmmakers Chris Bradley and Kyle LaBrache attempting what Christopher Guest does so easily - and almost hitting their target. Almost.

There's not much to "Pittsburgh." It may be the most bizarre vanity project that I've ever seen, but you have to love a film in which the show's director, Richard Sabellico, casually tells Goldblum that "you're not exactly my first choice for this role" and in which Goldblum mugs his way through the role of Harold Hill with all the finesse of Groucho Marx. (Zero Mostel?) He does the most curious things with his hands, literally drumming his fingers across his face at choice moments.


Begley makes a great clueless foil and Douglas comes through as few friends would, actually staging a breakup with boyfriend Moby for the cameras.

Frankly, everything feels staged in "Pittsburgh." It's veracity is questionable. A comic con job.


There's still Warners' pristine 1962 film version to enjoy, but the production of "The Music Man" that the Civic Light Opera staged looks as if it was impressive, too.

Note in Passing: There have been unsubstantiated rumors going around that director Adam McKay and Vince Vaughn are planning a remake of "The Music Man" with Vaughn as Harold Hill and John C. Reilly as Marcellus Washburn (the role Buddy Hackett played in the '62 movie). Sounds like perfect casting to me. No one can truly replace Robert Preston in the lead but if any contemporary comic actor can handle the fast dialogue and the lyric to the tongue-twisting "Trouble," it's Vaughn. Plus any new version that can erase the harrowing memory of the recent Matthew Broderick TV version of Willson's show is most welcomed and most appreciated.

Cinema Obscura is a recurring feature of The Passionate Moviegoer, devoted to those films that have been largely forgotten. Suggestions welcome.

(Artwork: Coming out of nowhere - Jeff Goldblum as The Music Man in "Pittsburgh"; the poster art for the original Broadway production; Robert Preston - the real thing - in Warners' 1962 film version of the musical, and Vince Vaughn, perhaps the next Harold Hill?)

Sunday, June 01, 2008

cinema obscura: Norman Taurog's "Room for One More" (1952)

Cary Grant made a lot of films in his lifetime and perhaps the only one that stands as a truly lost movie is Norman Taurog's charming 1952 family comedy, "Room for One More," which teamed Grant with his adorable wife at the time, Betsy Drake.

Based on a memoir by Anne Perrot Rose, with a screenplay written by Rose and her husband Jack, the film warmly chronicles what happens when the independent-thinking Anne (played by Drake in the film) decides to add to her family by fostering a troubled teenage girl (Iris Mann) and an embittered little boy with braces on his legs (Clifford Tatum Jr.) - much to the chagrin of "Poppy" (Grant), as the Rose's three biological children (George Winslow, Gay Gordon and Malcolm Cassell) call their father.

Given the recent popularity of such large-family remakes as "Cheaper by the Dozen" and "Yours, Mine and Ours" (both pretty bad), it's surprising that Warners has not only ignored this property but inexplicably buried it. When the film went into syndication in the 1960s, it was given a new title, "The Easy Way," so as not to confuse it with the Warners TV series adapted from it in 1962 (starring Peggy McCay and Andrew Duggan in the Drake and Grant roles). The series lasted only one season but the film has been saddled with the replacement title ever since. It has never been released on home entertainment in any form and now it's even disappeared from television. It was last broadcast on Turner Classics several years ago - with "The Easy Way" superimposed over the original title in the credits.

"Room for One More" is an effortless mix of comedy and pathos, incredibly warm and poignant. Drake in particular shines with her brusk line-readings. It's evident to me that the sporty British tomgirl persona that Julie Andrews and Emma Thompson both exhibit comes directly from Drake. She was the template for this screen type. Andrews even appropriated Drake's "look" for "The Sound of Music."

As for Grant, he was always great with children on screen, as evidenced by "Mr. Blandings Builds his Dream House," "The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer" and "Houseboat" and he's entirely memorable, entirely Cary Grant here.

Incidentally, Drake came up with the idea for "Houseboat" and even wrote the original screenplay, but by the time the film was made, she was no longer Mrs. Grant; the script was rewritten and Sophia Loren was cast in the female lead.

If there's any way you can track down "Room for One More," by all means do. See it and savor it. Hopefully, Warners will find it on some studio shelf, where it's been long forgotten, dust it off and release it on DVD.

Cinema Obscura is a recurring feature of The Passionate Moviegoer, devoted to those films that have been largely forgotten. Suggestions welcome.

(Artwork: Variety ad for trade-show screening of "Room for One More" in 1952)

S&TC Redux

A funny thing happened to "Sex & the City" on its way to the big screen. It lost its sense of humor. Somehow, a TV sitcom - introduced on HBO in 1998 - that was alternately lively, ribald, often scandalous, achingly human and compulsively watchable has morphed, some ten years later, into a shameless, elephantine soap opera.

You can say a lot about the new film of Candace Bushnell's unsinkable material, some of it complimentary, but you can't say it's funny.

Oddly enough, the same misdirection plagued two network clones - "Cashmere Mafia" and "Lipstick Jungle" - that greedily planned to exploit the popularlity of S&TC.
"Cashmere Mafia" and "Lipstick Jungle" had everything down pat - the self-satisfied characters, the fashions, the conspicuous consumption, the free-flowing alcohol, the snarky dialogue - everything but the humor. Both, presented as dramas, missed the crucial point that S&TC was at heart a comedy.

You'd expect that the minds behind "Sex & the City: The Movie" - Darren Starr and Michael Patrick King, who also shepherded the series - to know better, but no. Their four formerly plucky heroines now practically have "bloodhounds yapping at the rears," to paraphrase Thelma Ritter from "All About Eve." And, oh, the heartbreak of it all...

Gone is the cartoonishness of the shared lifestyle of Carrie Bradshaw (Sarah Jessica Parker) and company, a group of women given to shocking outbursts and rampant sarcasm. There was a belief in some quarters that the show was really about four gay men - only disguised as women. I remember when Entertainment Weekly's Lisa Schwartzbaum posited this compelling theory in one of her movie reviews.

It made sense and I personally came to see (and enjoy) S&TC as a show not about women, but about four cross-dressing men. I mean, the Samantha character (Kim Cattall) in particular always had the contours of a female impersonator - you know, way, way bigger than life.

"To Wong Fu, Thanks for Everything, Carrie Bradshaw"?

Whatever. On the show, Samantha, a serial bimbo, was raunchy and funny. In the film, she's neither. Now anchored to one man (a slack-jawed Jason Lewis), she misses her bed-hopping so much that she suffers a slow, prolonged meltdown throughout the film, becoming a peeping tom.

Miranda (Cynthia Nixon) was always snarky and funny. Now, she's just snarky - and always angry. And, frankly, unpleasant to be around. You can understand why her dull, nondescript husband (David Eigenberg) would have a quickie with another woman (although you can't quite understand why the woman was interested in him). As he whines and pleads for forgiveness (not attractive), Miranda near-sadistically rejects him (with Cynthia bringing her most defiant, Nixonian reading to the situation).

Charlotte (Kristen Davis) remains what she was on the show - a velvet steamroller. She may seem silly and look sweet and innocent, but she's a killer. Tears, manipulated on cue, are her lethal weapon. I never liked her.

Which brings us to Carrie, still willfully self-involved and shallow. The film is about her and how she's betrayed for the umpteenth time by Mr. Big, née John James Preston (Chris Noth), whose newly-developed paunch is exacerbated by a silly cummerbund in one scene. (This guy's a catch?)

Carrie's misplaced and quite pathetic Cinderella complex and her self-pity, both of which dominate most of the film's 148-minute running time, could have been material for purple-colored, Douglas Sirk-ian filmmaking if only the movie had retained some of the material's original campiness.

Supporting players from the TV series - Lynn Cohen, Willie Garson, Mario Cantone, Candice Bergen, Evan Handler - are reduced to wallpaper here. Their characters are all personality-free and have the skimpiest dialogue.

Only Parker seems to matter and it's a good thing that she's such a good actress because she somehow makes the 148 minutes of navel-gazing not only bearable but fascinating. Carrie is her role of a lifetime and Parker takes full advantage of it (but to the detriment of her talented co-stars).

Memorably following behind Parker are Jennifer Hudson, who is natural and charming as Carrie's assistant, and a young actress named Dreama Walker who nearly walks off with the movie in her one scene as an "Upper East Side Waitress" (as her character is identified).

S&TC remains an unstoppable retro-cult piece. Women who would normally object - and strenuously - to being called silly and shallow have embraced it in a near-mindless way. It's encouraged middle-aged women, not just young girls, to dream about being Cinderella. Not a pretty picture.

The word "empowerment" was drastically redefined by Bushnell's material. So much for the advances of women, so much for feminism. There's a reason why sex columnist Dan Savage ("Savage Love") has referred to S&TC's successful run on HBO as a "reign of terror."

The show - and now the movie - has a lot of explaining to do.

Note in Passing: Wasn't this film made by James Ivory in 1989? Back then, it was called "Slaves of New York," based on the tome by Tama Janowitz (the Candace Bushnell of her day - well, not quite), and Bernadette Peters played the Carrie Bradshaw role.

"Slaves of New York"? And whatever happened to that film?

(Artwork: Carrie and Samantha, ignoring one another, in a scene from the TV show; Noxeema Jackson (Wesley Snipes), Chi-Chi Rodriguez (John Leguizamo) and Vida Boheme (Patrick Swayze), the female impersonators from "To Wong Fu, Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar," and the poster art for James Ivory's "Slaves of New York")