New York City, baby.

Friday, August 12, 2005

The Undisclosed Story of the Underexposed Scarlett

There are some things in this world that you should not advertise unless you're absolutely sure you can deliver on. I'm not talking about taking a nation to war based on the claim that a country is holding weapons of mass destruction and then it turns out there aren't any. That's a fuck up. Fine. But I'm talking about an erroneous claim so in excusable that the person who reported it should be exiled to the kingdom of Bahrain and made to serve in Michael Jackson's dirty llama stables.

Who is this person I speak of? None other than a Yorkie-canoodling gossip columnist by the name of Ms. Cindy Adams.

Let me take you back a few weeks ago. It's Friday morning, I'm on the subway going to work, like everyone else trying not contemplate their existence too deeply, silently preferring it would be the next train and not this one that would be blown to hell.

As for me, I guard against the slight chance of contemplating my existence too deeply by reading a NY Post. I'm flipping through the pages when suddenly my half-closed eyes show a flicker of life as they focus in on this headline: No One Wakes Up In A Bra In 'The Island'

I read on, perking up like an old tired mutt that momentarily forgets his age at the sight of a new tennis ball:

SCARLETT JOHANSSON, who previously had said she wouldn't go naked in a film, is topless in her new sci-fi thing, "The Island." And not because the director decreed it. It's by her own choice. Shooting this early-morning, getting-up-from-bed scene, she supposedly said: "Women don't normally sleep in a bra. I can't be shown waking up wearing a bra. It's ridiculous." Director Michael Bay then asked her suggestion as to wardrobe and Ms. Scarlett, who apparently did not turn scarlet, replied: "Well . . . nothing . . . "

That's part of what makes homegirl special, that she “makes choices”, somehow keeps it real, the thinking man's Mandy Moore, the feeling man's Chloe Sevigny. But hold that thought.

Like a lot of people, I had been on the fence about seeing The Island. There was something about it that looked a bit too Paycheck-y. A bit too Minority Report for morons. So I went and saw Charlie and the Chocolate Factory instead, but I still needed to mull it over so I went to see The Wedding Crashers. But then at some moment, probably that morning before I boarded the subway, my brain made the call: I was going to miss The Island. Rent it at Blockbusters.

I had already moved on. A picture of Jessica Simpson in a pair of Daisy Dukes will do that. One look at those cutoff jeans, The Island may as well already be on video. The Island? Is that even still out?

But the Cindy Adams article changed all of that. Suddenly there was some purpose. I don't mean a purpose for seeing the movie. I mean a purpose to my life.

So my friend and I decided to meet for a Sunday matinee. Sunday matinees were made for this particular kind of male excursion, which at 30 years old, we were perhaps slightly too old to be making. But what can I say, old dreams die hard.

I sat through The 20 and then I sat through the previews and then I sat through The Island, which was beautifully photographed and designed garbage, or as Ewan MacGregor might say “shite”. A bad film with beautiful surfaces. The inclusion of Scarlett's chest, therefore, would have been more than cheap eye candy but the apotheosis of the film itself.

While not including the scene of a braless Scarlett, if it does exist, is a crime against the universe, there were lesser sins perpetrated by this summer movie. None of which are worth going into because they pale in comparison to The One Great Sin. But it did irk me to watch two Ewan Macgregors, the real Ewan and the clone Ewan, fight each other in a life-and-death battle when they could have had the real Scarlett, a Calvin Klein model in the movie, and her clone, wearing a perfectly fitted white body suit, lock horns. I mean, seriously, which would you rather see in a catfight with themselves? The girl from Lost in Translation or Obi-Wan Kenobi?

This actually raised some interesting philosophical questions during our post-film walk-and-discussion ones that the film failed to explore. For instance, my friend pondered "What would it mean if Scarlett had sex with her clone? Who knows your body better than yourself, after all." Okay, perhaps we should get back to the scandal of seeing less of Scarlett than humanity deserves.

As I sat watching the movie film, well, I don't want to say I was waiting the whole time for the one shot of when Scarlett wakes up with no bra but somewhere in the middle of one of those zillion-cut ear-assaulting action sequences towards the end of the movie I began to ask myself: huh, I wonder how there going to work in a scene where Scarlett wakes up with no bra on?

I kept envisioning new ways for that scene to suddenly materialize, but as we got closer to the resolution, they became increasingly implausible. Not that I gave up. Even in the final scene, when Scarlett and Ewan are sailing off on a futuristic boat did I imagine a sort of James Bond "We're in the world are you James?" scene with them below deck, under the sheets, pretending not to hear the video signal. But then suddenly the credits were rolling and all I could do was sit there in disbelief. Stunned. Crestfallen. How? How could this happen?

"That is just fucked." That is the only words I could manage at the time. But now I've had plenty of time to think about how this travesty could have occurred. The most obvious answer is that Cindy Adams is trying to break me. And to her, I say, kudos.

My friend had a few thoughts on the matter: "In a fit of madness, I googled The Island and topless and it seems the story is real. Results include: Scarlett Demanded Topless Scene. Is scarlet 'demanding' to go topless like Manny 'demanding' to be traded? Some kind of double-psych out psych out? Was it all just a lie to sell tickets? A dream? More substantially, I'm not even beginning to recover from the information, included in this and many articles, that our girl is 20. I mean, born in 1985 or 86. I think I was, like, watching Ghostbusters when she was born, and already a bitter little mofo.This is bad news.”

I've also considered this possibility: The scene existed in an earlier version, a juicier R version cut, which of course is the one that they showed journalist, knowing they would generate buzz via SJ's lady lumps. Then cut the scene to get the much sought after PG-13 rating, which conventional wisdom in Hollywood says brings in a larger audience.

By removing that scene a great disservice has been done, and I don't mean to the entertainment-starved audience, but to Scarlett, who's devotion to authenticity as an actress has been grossly undermined.

That's assuming the scene does in fact exist, and I believe it does because a New York gossip columnist night be that cruel but God is not. And I believe like Master and the Margarita, all great art will eventually see the light of day.

But to whoever decided to cut that scene, whether it was "popcorn auteur" Michael Bay or a group of studio executives, let me just say this: Two little flops would have saved you from one big one.

One last thought: it would have been nice if Cindy Adams had actually bothered to make sure the scene was in the final cut before making it her lead and fucking around with my precious weekend. You don't screw with people's head like that. Well, only in New York, kids, only in New York.