FRIDAY, December 15 2017
“NO ONE wants to look sexy!”
That’s what Hollywood stylist Elizabeth Stewart told The Hollywood Reporter’s Booth Moore recently, in the matter of how the ongoing Fall of Alleged Harassing Men will affect fashion choices at the coming Golden Globes ceremony on January 10th.
Wow. Is this what “empowerment” has come to? That cleavage, a long well-exposed leg, a tight fit, will somehow be counter-productive to women who are bringing truly serious accusations of harassment, coercion and rape against powerful men? Are we going to go back to “she asked for it” because of how she was dressed?
The GGs are an awards ceremony—and without a doubt the silliest and most fun. People tune in for the cameras sweeping the ballroom, to catch pleasantly liquored-up stars make faces, mingle, cuddle and (if your lip-reading skills are good enough) say wonderfully terrible things. People also tune in for–cleavage, long legs and a tight fit! That’s entertainment. That’s female glamour since the old days of the Nickelodeon. It will be a sad thing if women feel they have to cover up to convey solidarity with their abused sisters. The show itself is likely to be a nerve-racking, overly political self-righteous mess anyway. At least give us something to look at.
Designer Prabal Gurung, described as “politically outspoken” also contributed to this Hollywood Reporter article. He said, “Women can dress however they want, to show their body or cover it.” Then he added, “being sexy or not is an individual choice—the problem is the gaze.”
The gaze? The male gaze, which will always objectify a woman? (Just thinking, or saying, “she’s hot!” doesn’t make you Harvey Weinstein.) Or the female gaze, that surveys a woman critically or enviously or admiringly? And let’s not forget that over the past twenty years or so, women have been much more open in their own objectifying gaze of men. If Zac Efron and Hugh Jackman came onstage at the Globes and performed a “Magic Mike” routine, few women would look away.
The atmosphere right now is a French Revolution-style cross between “The Twilight Zone” and “The Crucible.” PBS’s Tavis Smiley is the latest to be eliminated—he says he’ll fight back. More disturbing is the Netflix executive who was fired after one of actor Danny Masterson’s accusers approached the exec in public—he was coaching a soccer game. He did not know who she was. (Masterson has been accused of rape by several women; he was fired from Netflix’s “The Ranch.”) The woman said, “Why hasn’t Danny Masterson been fired?” The exec said “Netflix does not believe these allegations.” Which, at that point, prior to Masterson’s firing, was likely what he thought he was supposed to say. Now he’s out. So, nobody can say “we don’t believe this” without the fear of losing their livelihood?
We live in interesting times.
I SAID above that The Golden Globes is the silliest awards show. Always has been. Put on by the Hollywood Foreign Press, it is often mind-bending in its nominations and wins. But, the event itself is fun.
This year is no exception. I won’t run through every category, just a few particular nods or snubs.
First off, the exclusion of “The Big Sick” from Best Picture, Comedy or Musical category is criminal. No other word. I love this movie. It made me happy this year–a huge achievement.
“All the Money in the World” which nobody has seen except members of the Hollywood Foreign Press, received three nominations, Michelle Williams for Best Actress, Drama, Ridley Scott as director, and Christopher Plummer in the Supporting Drama category. Maybe they deserve it, but it looks more like the HFP wanted to honor Ridley Scott for erasing the ruined Kevin Spacey in the role of J. Paul Getty, and replacing him with Plummer, so swiftly. It was quite a feat.
I’d prefer to see Timothee Chalamet win Best Actor in a drama, for “Call Me By Your Name.” But because Daniel Day-Lewis has announced that “Phantom Thread” will be his last film—honest, this time—he might snag it. Timothee is very young. Time is on his side.
I am totally on board for Frances McDormand in “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.” The movie is a totally wild black comedy and McDormand’s performance is epic, baroque, searing. Ditto one of her brilliant co-stars Sam Rockwell, who is justly nominated in Best Supporting. Rockwell has been chugging along, doing amazing work for years. He has been grossly under-honored. (Woody Harrelson is also terrific in this. Woody seems to get better every time he sets foot in front of a camera.)
Best Actress, Comedy? Margot Robbie, hands down for “I, Tonya.”
Best Supporting Actress? I adore Laurie Metcalf, and she almost walks away with “Lady Bird.” But she has been well-awarded over the years. Allison Janney is monstrously good in “I, Tonya” (as Tonya Harding’s mother.) She, too, is award-laden. But I’m a little off the great Ms. Janney so long as she continues to appear in the lamentable sitcom, “Mom.” So, I go with Mary J. Blige for “Mudbound,” a powerful film, in which Blige transforms herself admirably in attitude and appearance.
In the TV drama category, Elisabeth Moss will probably take it for “The Handmaid’s Tale.” But I’d not object to delicious Claire Foy for “The Crown,” Caitriona Balfe for “Outlander” (I love a good supernatural bodice-ripper!) or the amazing Maggie Gyllenhaal in HBO’s otherwise VERY unfairly overlooked “The Deuce.”
Lastly, let’s consider Best Actress, Limited Series or TV Movie. I’ll be fine with Nicole Kidman or Reese Witherspoon in “Big Little Lies.” Or the exquisite Jessica Lange in “Feud: Bette and Joan.” (I’m afraid I lost interest in Jessica Biel and “The Sinner” halfway through.)
As for Susan Sarandon, who played Bette Davis in “Feud,” I couldn’t have been more impressed by her performance—she was great. So great, in fact, that now, every time I see her, I always somehow see Miss Davis.
But—and here we become openly childish and peevish and, yes—unfair. I kind of got over her stupidity in voting for Jill Stein last year. Que sera, sera. But recently she went down another rabbit hole of imbecility by declaring that if Hillary Clinton had been elected we’d be at war! Look, I voted for Mrs. Clinton without much enthusiasm. I don’t think she should have run at all. But I sure don’t think she would have led us to war, no matter how else she would have inevitably disappointed us.
Susan Sarandon is a great actress. And she has a right to her opinion. And I have the right to say I don’t want to see her win a Golden Globe. I guess that makes us both idiots.
ON SUNDAY evening at New York’s Film Forum, Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s epic and notorious 1963 film, “Cleopatra” will be screened. According to legend, it was a “bomb.” According to the facts, it was the highest grossing film of the year. It simply could not, at that time, make back its $40 million-plus cost.
Film fans will recall that there were two productions of “Cleopatra.” First, there was the London production, which was scrapped because the star, Elizabeth Taylor almost died of pneumonia. Many millions had already been spent. ET’s near death only increased her popularity—so much so that she won her first Oscar for “Butterfield 8.” The Rome production, a year later, was equally fraught, for different reasons. During filming Taylor became, for the second time, the world’s most notorious husband-stealer—snatching married co-star Richard Burton, and tossing Eddie Fisher’s scalp in the singer’s face. (Fisher’s betrayed ex-wife, Debbie Reynolds couldn’t stop laughing.)
The scandal–Taylor denounced by the Vatican!–the enormous costs, and the tenuous financial state of 20th Century Fox, all colluded to undermine the film itself, which was elegant and literate, with a lot of spectacle thrown in. “Cleopatra” looks a lot better now 50 plus years later. And The New Yorker’s Richard Brody gives the film a long-overdue positive review in the current issue.
The movie has a hypnotic quality based very much on the fact that Mankiewicz, who knew Taylor well—he had directed her in “Suddenly, Last Summer”–began to tinker with the script as he watched Taylor and Burton become increasingly besotted. There is eerie prescience in the scenes between Taylor and Burton (she and Rex Harrison—as Julius Caesar—also click very well.) La Liz and Richard not only seem to be playing out what was happening to them at the time, but in many ways, how their real-life relationship would flower, bloom and if not quite wither, then become depressingly laden with too much excess. As Elizabeth herself would state, after their first separation in 1973, “Perhaps we have loved each other too much.”
Go see “Cleopatra” as it was meant to be seen, on the big screen. (Call 212-727-8110). And you are made of stone if you are not affected when Taylor/Cleo desperately clutches Richard/Mark Antony and cries out, “How it hurts. How love can stab the heart!”
ENDTHOUGHT: This has been on my mind for a year. The year’s almost done and I simply can’t help myself.
I don’t know the personal habits of Steve Bannon—thank goodness. But no matter how closely aligned he is to the president in matters of policy (I use that word loosely), I find it hard to believe Bannon was ever in the same room with 45. No matter his issues, the commander-in-chief is famously a germaphobe and a clean freak. He hates shaking hands, etc. He admires well-put-together people. Steve Bannon looks like he hasn’t showered in months. His hair is greasy, his skin is perpetually blemished. He dresses like a rag-picker. (Believe me, considering my own haphazard wardrobe choices critiquing somebody else’s clothes is a daring leap for me to make, about anybody!)
Mr. Bannon doesn’t seem to care what he says or how he says it, but right now he’s suffering some pain in the wake of Doug Jones’ surprise win in Alabama. Bannon might consider, while he plots his next outrage, trying to make himself appear…neater. (I heard some speculation on one of those pointless eight-people cable news channel panels, that Bannon always looks like he’s just come off a bender. But like the president, Bannon is abstentious. Lips that touch liquor, and all that.)
Even Bannon’s slavery-loving friend Roy Moore wore a suit and tie–along with that handy gun. Bannon is a sinister guy. But smart. Surely he is smart enough to know his unkempt appearance makes him seem more sinister. Perhaps that’s what he wants to convey? Or maybe he just thinks his casual approach to grooming will endear him to the “working class.”?
Does he not realize that once work is done, these good people bathe?
WEDNESDAY, December 13 2017
“AND YET, there is a solitude which each and every one of us has always carried with him, more inaccessible than the ice-cold mountains, more profound than the midnight sea; the solitude of self. Our inner being which we call ourself, no eye nor touch of man or angel has ever pierced. It is more hidden than the caves of the gnome; the sacred adytum of the oracle; the hidden chamber of Eleusinian mystery, for to it only omniscience is permitted to enter.
Such is individual life. Who, I ask you, can take, dare take on himself the rights, the duties, the responsibilities of another human soul?”
So said the great women’s suffrage activist Elizabeth Cady Stanton, in her epic resignation speech from the National Woman Suffrage Association in 1892. It was titled “The Solitude of Self.”
OVER a restless, sleepless several days, I gave in to my chronic insomnia and decided to binge watch documentaries on Amazon. I avoided mysteries, thrillers and action flicks. Sometimes, a documentary, no matter how interesting, can lull one into at least a semi-doze. (I’d tried reading the wide-awake away, by flipping through “a little” of Stacy Schiff’s “Cleopatra.” Although I’d read it before, I ended up engrossed all over again from the rug roll-out to the asp—or more likely, poison. What a woman!)
I finally settled on a two-part “American Lives” entry, Ken Burns’ “Not for Ourselves Alone: The Story of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony.” Produced in 1999, I must have seen it before, but perhaps not. If I had, I certainly watched and listened intently this time, albeit in a more appreciative, if profoundly anxious mood.
Stanton and Anthony were friends and fighters in the women’s rights movement for half a century. Susan B. Anthony, the more famous of the two, was a staunch, never-married Quaker, whose battle for women to get the vote was so intense it would lead, toward the end of her life, to some unwilling compromising, to making “deals” with a few devils to get the support she needed.
Stanton, married, mother of seven, was vivacious and equally uncompromising. She could not, even temporarily, sacrifice her belief in equality for all, or to denounce the chains of religion from which sprang so much hated and fear of women—the latter belief resulted in Stanton’s remarkable book, “The Woman’s Bible” which challenged the ingrained religious notions of women’s subservience. This led to some strain between the two suffrage icons toward the end of their long, mission-packed mutual endeavor. It also led to Stanton being ostracized by some of the very groups she helped found and by many of the younger suffragettes she and Anthony molded to carry on the fight after they were gone. (They were correct in sensing the power of women to vote would not come in their lifetime. Stanton died in 1902. Anthony in 1906. The 19th Amendment to the Constitution, which gave women the vote, would not be in place until 1920.)
I was overwhelmed at the dedication and passion of these two, so very different, but so passionately in tune with elevating the rights of women. Although they did not live to see women cast their first ballots, they were directly responsible for a sea-change in women’s lives, during their fifty years of ceaseless educating, writing, lecturing, petitioning, organizing and inspiring.
I suppose—well, I more than suppose—that I watched this moving documentary with a more than usually troubled soul. No fight for civil and human rights is ever over. There is never a finish line. Women struggle on, as does every person classed a “minority” or an “other.” (Other than a straight, white, conservative man.) Don’t be fooled by the liberating “freedom” and license of TV and movies. Or even the real lives of some of those successful “others.” No amendment to the Constitution can ever erase the hate, or at the very least, lack of compassion or ignorance that must be “carefully taught” as Rodgers and Hammerstein eloquently declared in “South Pacific.”
I write awaiting the results of an election in Alabama. Today, as you all read this, we’ll know the outcome.
No matter the result, this person, this candidacy, the support of this candidacy from the highest perch in American politics, is a horror, but it is no aberration. It is not the majority, but it is not inconsequential. That it is not inconsequential is enough to drain the life blood out of those who hope for humanity and who fight for legal protection when humanity, as it so often does, fails us. (How to make sense out of a potential senator to the world’s greatest democracy who thinks “life was better’ during slavery, and that “so many problems” would be solved by abolishing all amendments to the Constitution after the Tenth.)
I NEVER had to fight for my rights. I left home at 15 and avoided those particular conflicts. (And as the only child of a single mother, those conflicts themselves were considerably lessened.) When “liberation” came in 1969 after the Stonewall riots, I enjoyed all aspects of a freer life in a cosmopolitan, liberal East Coast city, without ever lifting a finger to help others. (Sure, I marched. And I marched when it was truly a march, not a parade. But to a 17-year-old, it meant less to me as a transformative moment, and more a long, sunny afternoon, out with friends.)
When I eventually decided to straighten up and fly right—in the matter of working for a living—I fell into a world where my “lifestyle” as some still insist on calling it, was never an issue. I never knew discrimination. To recognize, just from that alone, that I have lived a remarkably lucky, even blessed, life, is beyond understatement.
But my luck has not made me indifferent. I am sometimes ashamed I didn’t do more, in a truly activist sense. On the other hand, though my work—in all its surface frivolity–and thanks to an enlightened employer, I—and she—could make the more than occasional pertinent point.
Today—no matter where the ballots have fallen—I stand with every woman, all people of color, every religion or lack of religion, with all who have been to made feel ostracized or fearful, because of those they love, or who they want to be. And I even stand with those who fear and hate, because I am human and nothing and no-one human is completely alien to me (to paraphrase good old Publius Terentius.)
Over the past two years I have relentlessly awakened and gone to bed, if not to sleep, with a heart devoured by hopelessness, equally as angry at those I might class as “enemies” as with those who so often behave with such cluelessness as “friends.”
But I cannot allow myself that hopelessness, or indifference, although in late mid-life, that is the easier road. Why can’t I allow it? I’m still here. We all are.
On Friday, I’ll go all Golden Globes nominations and other fun stuff. I’ll even be a little bitchy.
You will forgive me, I hope, today’s rumination and allow this final quote from Elizabeth Cady Stanton:
“Nature never repeats herself, and the possibilities of one human soul will never be found in another. No one has ever found two blades of ribbon grass alike, and no one will ever find two human beings alike. Seeing, then, what must be the infinite diversity in human character, we can in a measure appreciate the loss to a nation when any class of the people is uneducated and unrepresented in the government.”
P.S. So, Doug Jones won the Alabama Senate seat. I will not gloat. I’m too cautious for that. (Although I have been told a little gloating is good for the skin.) Tonight, however, sleep will come more swiftly.