It Feels Good to Hate Gwyneth And Matt!

The Matt-Gwyneth Backlash

In Manhattan, everyone’s a movie critic. And all these critics have been particularly irritated, lately, with Gwyneth Paltrow and Matt Damon, who are now co-starring in The Talented Mr. Ripley .

Down at the Angelika Theater on Houston Street, Liz Wayne, 33, was having coffee before going in to see Pedro Almdóvar’s All About My Mother .

” The Talented Mr. Ripley I will not go see,” said Ms. Wayne, “because I cannot imagine Matt Damon being intriguing enough to hold the entire film. And the same with Gwyneth Paltrow, she just annoys me, even though I think the supporting actors are amazing, like Cate Blanchett and Philip Seymour Hoffman–he’s amazing in every single movie he does, he’s just great! And Jude Law. He’s just very subtle and intense, he’s great. Matt Damon’s just really bland. There’s certain looks that Hollywood actors achieve where there’s a certain camera angle that they get, and then they keep repeating that same camera angle, the same slow look with the same specific smile.”

Her friend, Jeremy Sanders, 27, chimed in: “The Brad Pitt syndrome in Legends of the Fall !” he said. “Brad Pitt framed by some exotic Rocky Mountain landscape in some sort of heroic costume, with a fucking coonskin cap on! Matt Damon’s being groomed to be the exact same actor as Brad Pitt was!”

Gwyneth?

“Hmmm, I don’t really have an opinion about Gwyneth,” Mr. Sanders said, “just because I’ve never really gone to see any of her movies–because I just find her irritating, per se, without having to go see any of her movies.”

Another actor with problems: Al Pacino.

“Al Pacino can be a great actor if he works with a director who knows how to control his talent,” Ms. Wayne said. “Whereas if it’s a director who’s weak, Al Pacino will just, like, do his own thing.”

How about that Scent of a Woman ?

“That movie sucked so bad!” she said. “It was pathetic, I mean, anybody who’d been blind for a long period of time wouldn’t be groping the air–they’d know how to get around their house at that point! Oh, my God!”

Nearby sat Jenny Barchfield, a 21-year-old Columbia University student who was also not fond of Mr. Damon and Ms. Paltrow. “He’s beyond ugly,” she said of Mr. Damon. “I don’t understand how anyone can find him attractive in any respect.” And Ms. Paltrow? “She couldn’t act to save her life! I guess having father’s connections helps one to get into films! No, she’s bad, and not even attractive, either!” Anything else? “Julia Roberts can’t act to save her life, and she looks like she got punched in the face!”

Three guys were at a table by the cafe. They had a few minutes to kill before The Cider House Rules began. One of them, Bruce Toman, 35, thought certain actors should be banished from movies.

“Michael Douglas,” he said. “He’s like the scumbag of the universe, he should just die and go away.” Then there was Winona Ryder. “She should go away,” he said. “She’s like a one-note actress–it’s all kind of weak, dewy-eyes, help-me, help-me kind of thing.”

Mike Kernagis, 35, had some problems with Mr. Damon. “He’s done basically the same role about four times in a row now. Kind of this misunderstood hypertalented guy. I’m just tired of it.”

“What’s his name? What’s his name?” Mr. Toman said. ” Bicentennial Man guy. Robin Williams! He’s done the same movie over and over again with different costumes on! I’m tired of his version of reality, or whatever it is.”

A friend of theirs, Laura Gillen, 35, came over and sat down. “I’m tired of Gwyneth,” she said. “She’s getting wishy-washy now. We hear too much about her, we see her all the time. It’s like the more you see them, the more watered down they get. But seeing Kate Winslet in Hideous Kinky was refreshing–so maybe Gwyneth needs to do something a little more down and dirty.”

Two pretty blonde women were over there. “I like Matt Damon, he’s cute,” said Janine Taylor, 23. “He went to Harvard, he must be smart. Gwyneth Paltrow, it’s just such a case of nepotism. Her dad was in Hollywood. I have trouble thinking that she’s truly exceptional, given all the talent out there.”

Could she say anything positive about movies?

“You know what I love in a flick?” said Ms. Taylor. “Nudity. I think there should be more male frontal nudity in a flick. Pretty much every romantic scene I see, there’s always some gratuitous breast, occasionally a little female frontal nudity.”

“You need to see more French movies!” said her French friend, Valerie Meyer, 23.

“I’d take anything. Somebody very virile, like Mel Gibson. But not just naked out of the shower, like naked in a romantic scene. I want to see it like fully …” Ms. Taylor used her hands to describe a large erect penis. “I enjoy nudity. You want to go to the movie to see what you can’t see in your real life. We see it, we just don’t see Mel Gibson naked. Anyway, we have to go to our flick, don’t we?”

The cafe was closing. Multiply pierced Anna Vitalis, 18, was behind the counter, rattling off overrated actors, among them Ben Affleck. “He’s not good looking, and he doesn’t know how to act,” she said. “Jennifer Love Hewitt, she’s a big no-one-likes-her. She’s really dorky, and you want to hit her most of the time. Keanu Reeves, he’s cute but he’s too stupid for movies.”

Outside, on Bleecker and Lafayette, a guy and two female friends were talking movies–mainly, Magnolia and whether its writer and director, Paul Thomas Anderson, was playing fair with the audience in having all those frogs rain down from the sky.

“I don’t care if it happens or not,” said Georgia Close, 26. “What I care about is, you’re sitting there and you give a shit about these characters, and you’re excited about it, and I feel like he smacked me in the face. I felt insulted a little bit. I lost connection with the movie.”

She liked Philip Seymour Hoffman’s performance in the movie, but what about Tom Cruise? “The Cruiser was good,” she said, “but, come on, he’s still the Cruiser.”

Chris Harnden, 26, wanted to add something about Mr. Damon: “There is no way that Matt Damon and Ben Affleck wrote Good Will Hunting . If that rumor isn’t out there, I want to start it.”

They added that they had just seen The Talented Mr. Ripley . They had even come up with their own title for it: The Not-So-Talented Mr. Damon .

–George Gurley

The New Jets Owner

The Jets’ new owner (pending the approval of the N.F.L. owners) is Robert Wood Johnson IV, heir to the Johnson & Johnson pharmaceutical fortune and chairman of the Johnson Company, an investment firm and philanthropy with offices in Rockefeller Center.

He’s not known to his friends as a particularly avid football fan. But five months ago, he began a bidding war with Cablevision Systems Corporation chief executive Charles Dolan, which ultimately led to his $635 million purchase of the troubled New York Jets organization.

Mr. Johnson lives at 834 Fifth Avenue and works out at Equinox on East 63rd Street and Lexington Avenue. He grew up in Princeton, N.J., and attended the University of Arizona (Class of ’72).

He has donated over $1 million to the Wildlife Conservation Society. He chairs the Alliance for Lupus Research and the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation International. The oldest of Mr. Johnson’s three daughters, Casey, 20, suffers from diabetes, and in 1992 Mr. Johnson and his wife, Sale Johnson, co-authored a book, Managing Your Child’s Diabetes .

This past October, Mr. Johnson raised over $700,000 for George W. Bush at an event in his apartment. He personally gave $130,000 to the Republican Party between 1997 and 1998.

Mr. Johnson is a member of Shinnecock Hills Golf Club in Southampton, L.I., and shoots in the low 80’s. Actor Michael Douglas is a frequent golfing buddy. Sale likes golf and the horses (riding them, not betting on them).

Mr. Johnson attends Knick games at Madison Square Garden, where he has front-row season tickets beneath the basket on the Knicks’-bench side of the court. According to Freddie Klein, the former owner of the Carnegie Deli: “He’s an absolute 100 percent gentleman. You wouldn’t know he’s rich.” According to Mr. Klein, Mr. Johnson’s favorite players are Marcus Camby and Latrell Sprewell.

–William Berlind