The fest and the furious: If we’ve learned one thing, it’s that March is just one big, sopping-wet film festival , with cinéastes lurching around in black overcoats and spooking the civilians …. Midtown, at the Scandinavia House , a series of recent Danish movies ( uh-oh ) begins with Bænken (The Bench ). The plot: Dipsomaniac gets a second chance when his disaffected daughter moves into his housing project. Bring your own smorgasbord in a crackly brown sack. Downtown, it’s that old familiar brigade of black-rimmed glasses at the Underground Film Festival , which is opening with Horns and Halos , a documentary about J.H. Hatfield , the man who wrote that disputatious biography of George W. Bush , Fortunate Son , but was then revealed to be an objectionable fellow himself (he once tried to hire a hit man to kill a boss); he eventually overdosed. Festival director Ed Halter said he received a whopping number of “politically charged” submissions this year. “I think it has to do with unemployment,” he said. “I should also note that although I’m stressing the political aspects, we have lots of apolitical fun as well-soft-core, sleazy films from the 70’s . We’ve often been described as the ‘sexiest film festival’ in New York. There are parties every night. It’s a very downtown and Brooklyn type of crowd . The problem with festivals in New York is if you announce the parties publicly, people end up going to the parties and not the movies.” Well, not if you announce the parties will be filled with a “downtown type of crowd.”
[Danish film festival, Scandinavia House, 58 Park Avenue, 6:30 p.m., 779-3587; New York Underground Film Festival, Anthology Film Archives, 32 Second Avenue, tickets go on sale at noon, www.nyuff.com for schedule.]
More proof this Starbucks- guzzling , PalmPilot-pecking, StairMastering, type-A town is taking some time to “mellow out” : A big exhibit about … tea … opens today at the Japan Society and the Asia Society, with lectures, sippings and a swarm of single people in their 40’s wearing hiking boots (the gals) and big fuzzy shawls (the fellas) . Meanwhile, those who can’t stand that much serenity slap on a few fistfuls of makeup and attend VH1’s party at the Hammerstein Ballroom in honor of the 10th anniversary of the National Breast Cancer Coalition. Whom you’ll bop heads with: Revlon poobah Ronald Perelman , titian-haired actress Julianne Moore and 1990’s “folksy” pop star Sheryl Crow , the rock version of Jennifer Aniston .
[The Way of Tea, Japan Society, 333 East 47th Street, 11 a.m., 832-1155, and the Asia Society, 725 Park Avenue, 11 a.m., 288-6400; National Breast Cancer Coalition party, Hammerstein Ballroom, 311 West 34th Street, 6 p.m., 685-4300.]
Two ways to warm up for the Oscars , coming in two weeks: 1) Opening night of a revival of Arthur Miller’s The Crucible , starring Liam Neeson (the poor man’s Ralph Fiennes) and Laura Linney (the poor man’s Meryl Streep) . Question to ponder: Is there a Crucible curse? Look what happened to once-promising thespians Winona Ryder and Daniel Day-Lewis after they did the 1996 movie version : She became a gamine shoplifter , he a reclusive Soho house husband married to the aforementioned dramaturge’s daughter , herself a newly published novelist … 2) Cross-dressing Aussie Mel Gibson , whom we’re sure feels totally fine about being superseded by surly Russell Crowe , is honored at the Waldorf by the American Museum of the Moving Image. Who will be test-driving shimmery evening wear: Glenn Close, Goldie Hawn and Jodie Foster!
[ The Crucible , Virginia Theatre, 245 West 52nd Street, 7:30 p.m., 239-6200; American Museum of the Moving Image salute, Grand Ballroom, Waldorf-Astoria, 301 Park Avenue, 6 p.m., 245-6570.]
Logjam of lady novelists on the Upper East Side! The baby-sitters take on the babe ! At the Lenox Hill Bookstore, pulchritudinous authors Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus read from The Nanny Diaries , their agreeable, jointly written romanàclef based on their experiences as Silk Stocking au pairs . Meanwhile, a mere seven blocks north , in someone’s sumptuous East Side apartment, former Late Show with David Letterman writer and J.Crew model look-alike Jill A. Davis , above, is celebrated for her new novel, Girls’ Poker Night , amid a moist, uneasy clump of guests from NBC and Random House . Joan Didion , who’s been handing out book blurbs like free breath mints lately, calls Girls’ Poker Night “blithe, engaging, off-the-wall funny,” while wizened oenophile Jay McInerney says that it is “every man’s worst nightmare.” You be the judge with this bonus lewd excerpt! “It’s five A.M. and he is inside me and he’s moving and then he says, so quietly in my ear, ‘Oh sweetie. Oh-sweetie.'”
[ Nanny Diaries reading, Lenox Hill Bookstore, Lexington Avenue at 73rd Street, 7 p.m., 472-7170; Girls’ Poker Night , someone’s fancy Upper East Side apartment, 7 p.m., by invitation only, 940-7767.]
The fest and the furious, part 2: Clap on a beret, sister girlfriend, and join beaucoup de French people like Jeanne Moreau, Emmanuelle Béart and Isabelle Huppert -the French doppelgängers of Glenn Close, Goldie Hawn and Jodie Foster, respectively-for the 10-day-long Rendez-Vous with French Cinema festival at Lincoln Center. Formidable ! This afternoon Audrey Tatou , star of the under-edited Amélie , returns in Dieu Est Grand, Je Suis Toute Petite (God Is Great, I Am Small) . We’ll say it again: formidable !
[West 65th Street, plaza level, between Broadway and Amsterdam, 3:30 p.m., 875-5600.]
Noir and peace! Sure , you can argue that there’s no culture left in Manhattan , but the fact is the baseboards of the city are positively creaking with young hopefuls in black sneakers and leggings toiling away in ramshackle theaters as though this life is just an eternal Oberlin …. Take, for example, the Collision Theory performance company, which tonight debuts Dance, My Darling, Dance , inspired by Dashiell Hammett’s sleuth-hound novels . “We’re not making fun of it; we’re not trying to do a campy, hammy thing ,” said artistic director Stephanie Gilman , a still-idealistic 35. ” I think this show has some hope in it. We have an earnestness that makes us not very postmodern -that’s a risky thing to do when you’re young and not famous.” As for the plot, she said, ” There’s a detective looking for his missing girlfriend; he sees her in the form of a ghost- I swear we did this before this new Kevin Costner movie . Some people will probably walk away feeling a little confused. It’s not like True West by Sam Shepard .” Hey, as long as that podgy has-been Kevin Costner isn’t in it, we’re there!
[Ohio Theatre, 66 Wooster Street, 8 p.m., 924-0077.]
Kabbalah goes discount? Anybody else starting to feel that Kabbalah , with its big pamphlets, promises that it will help “actualize your potential” and conspicuous celebrity practitioners ( Roseanne, Shoshanna, Madonna before she became British) , is kind of becoming the Jewish Dianetics? Today in midtown, the Kabbalah Centre pushes for mass enrollment : a six-hour open house with face, palm and astrology readings.
[155 East 48th Street, noon, 644-0025.]
Awards for everyone! In order of descending gravitas and ascending glam : There’s the National Book Critics Circle Awards , another nice “high-culture” opportunity for Jonathan Franzen , author of jumbo unread bestseller The Corrections …. Meanwhile, those lovable, hard-charging geezers George Plimpton and Elaine Stritch pick up trophies for lifetime achievement from the Guild Hall of East Hampton . “This award is equivalent in achievement to the Oscar, Tony, Emmy, even the Pulitzer ,” said Guild Hall chairman Edward Bleier, a bit grandiosely …. Finally, the Michael Awards , which claim to be the Oscars of fashion (the same claim made by the splashier Council of Fashion Designers of America Awards later this spring), undermines its credibility by giving Ilona Rich (Denise Rich’s daughter) a “Best New Designer Award”-but hey, the gate money goes to leukemia research, and you can’t argue with that.
[National Book Critics Circle Awards, Tishman Auditorium, New York University Law School, 6 p.m., 463-6554; Guild Hall Annual Academy of the Arts Awards Gala, Rainbow Room, 30 Rockefeller Plaza, 6:30 p.m., 631-324-0806; Michael Awards, Hammerstein Ballroom, 311 West 34th Street, 6 p.m., 686-2722.]
“Weird thing about Rosie- a lot of other female editors declined, too ,” said Mediabistro editor Albert Lee, who is co-hosting a panel tonight titled “Gay Editors at Mainstream Magazines: Ghetto or Gestalt ?” “Amazing how semi-closeted a lot of them are, perhaps because they’re at women’s/beauty magazines.” But though Rosie O’Donnell ain’t comin’, have no fear-editor Maer Roshan , who worked at a magazine called Talk, and New York Times Magazine editor Adam Moss will emphatically be there. Crash strategy: buy a cheong-sam for your favorite closeted women’s magazine editor and bring her along!
[23 Thomas Street, 7 p.m. cocktails, panel to follow, by invitation only, 929-2588.]
Dogs and bunnies! In yet another Fashion Week aftershock, Animal Fair magazine is having one of those events where they dress up dogs in ridiculous little outfits and parade them down the “catwalk”; it benefits the Humane Society . Who’s on the committee: New York Post columnist Cindy Adams, Saturday Night Live cuties Rachel Dratch and Ana Gasteyer, Pepsi spokestot Hallie Eisenberg …. Meanwhile, across town, the Society of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center holds their “Bunny Hop” at F.A.O. Schwarz-a party for families with young children …. Keep Dad away from the Rockettes, Mom!
[Paws for Style, Exit, 610 West 56th Street, 7 p.m., 752-4842, ext. 233; Bunny Hop, F.A.O. Schwarz, 767 Fifth Avenue, 7 p.m., 639-7975.]
Plugging our own: Jaunty New York Observer editor and columnist Terry Golway , who is writing a history of the New York City Fire Department , joins four other “Irish and Irish-American notables” -and for the first time in modern memory, Frank McCourt is not one of them-at the New York Public Library for a discussion, “Beyond the Blarney: Talking About the Irish in America.” Remember, St. Patrick’s Day is just four days away, and after that comes spring , and spring means drag queens!
[New York Public Library, Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street, 930-0571.]