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Short Takes
THE CAT'S MEOW Directed by Peter Bogdanovich It instantly became one of Hollywood's great scandals--the mysterious death of Thomas Ince during a cruise on William Randolph Hearst's yacht in 1924. Officially he died of natural causes, but rumor had Hearst murdering him. This film opts for the juicier tale. It has a lovely performance by Kirsten Dunst as Marion Davies, Hearst's beloved mistress; she makes us see why someone might kill to keep her love. But the rest of the boaters (including Charlie Chaplin) are presented as idiot farceurs. The result is tiresome and tone-deaf and a disappointing comeback for Bogdanovich.

THE SWEETEST THING Directed by Roger Kumble In real life, do heterosexual women paw and kiss each other as much as they do in this huffing comedy of sisterhood? Or is so much touchy-feely just a way to sell a girls' dish movie to male voyeurs? Cameron Diaz, determined to give J. Lo a run for her booty, shakes her thang and vigorously bonds with gal friends Christina Applegate and Selma Blair. The guys are just plot ornaments for the oral-sex gags and changes of clothes. Randy and giggly, this is a femme version of The Man Show.

ASHANTI Ashanti When reviewers compare new artists with established ones, it's often not because they lack adjectives. It's probably because the new artists lack originality. So let's just say that hot-selling R.-and-B. singer Ashanti, 19, combines the hip-hop delivery of Mary J. Blige with the modulated control of Alicia Keys. Both are fine singers to emulate, but Ashanti needs to find her own voice. It doesn't help that the album's breakout hit, Foolish, is built around El DeBarge's keyboard sample from Stay With Me, a sample made famous by the Notorious B.I.G. on his signature hit One More Chance.

YANKEE HOTEL FOXTROT Wilco These guys get filed under "roots rock" because they have been known to sing like Byrds and rhyme 'n' strum like Dylan. Now they have thrown together every instrument and influence at their disposal, futuristic synthesizer atop old-fashioned piano, to prove they're no nostalgia act. The result is gorgeous. Half the songs are close to perfect: the melodies stick, the newfangled keyboards breeze in and out with supernatural grace, the words submerge the listener in both sadness and blissed-out reverie. The band has lost its "roots" and found its voice.

WARNING: PARENTAL ADVISORY VH1, April 21, 9 p.m. E.T. The state of pop music, 1985: the stakes are even bigger than the hair. Tipper Gore (Mariel Hemingway) and a group of Capitol wives are out to legislate against "porn rock." A music-biz lobbyist (Jason Priestley) rallies a coalition against them, including Twisted Sister's Dee Snider (as himself) and Frank Zappa (Griffin Dunne), portrayed ludicrously as a kind of chain-smoking Yoda to Priestley's yuppie acolyte. It's a rich premise, but this farce has all the subtlety of a Twisted Sister video--and about one-tenth the wit.

April 22, 2002 Vol. 159 No. 16

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