I'd been waiting for American Beauty since one day last summer in West Hollywood, when I first saw that now-familiar woman's torso on a billboard dominating the Sunset Strip. The adolescent hand intrigued me, and the single long-stemmed dewy dark-red rose was like an arrow across that torso, with its keyhole-like navel in the shape of a question mark. "Look closer," the promotion suggested, along with the names of the film's two superstars-sophisticated, sexy, contemporary-Kevin Spacey and Annette Benning. By now, of course, the advertising is also able to invite, "Look closer at the best reviewed movie of the year."
Jean-Paul Sartre's Being and Nothingness was forecast by his 1938 novel La Nausee, in which a solitary named Antoine Roquentin, in the privacy of his journal, analyzes the agony of his existence: "La nausee ... c'est moi." The comedy Being John Malkovich opens with a similarly pain-infused intimacy, in a stunning solo "Dance of Despair and Disillusion" performed with a marionette by a down-and-out puppeteer named Craig Schwartz. For Craig, there is no question: Being is Nothingness.
A decade after Abbie Hoffman had first set the hairstyle for a generation, he showed up on a television talk show with a radically short haircut and the explanation that, once Tab Hunter was wearing his hair long, Hoffman knew it had come time to cut his own. By this logic, now that an off-Broadway comedy played entirely in hip-hop rhyme is being raved about in The Wall Street Journal, has hip-hop also come full circle?