Monday, July 18, 2016

LIZ SMITH: Another kind of escapism

“Ha, Ha, HA. Do you hear me? Ha, Ha, Ha!!”
by Liz Smith & Denis Ferrara

Manic Monday! — "Pets" ... "Tarzan" ... Margot Robbie ... The left breast of Kim Kardashian ... Kudos for Kate Mulgrew and Ellen Barkin — TV's Toughest Cookies!

“UNTIL ONE has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened,” said Anatole France.

Oh, I know, you thought because today is the opening of the Republican Convention in Cleveland, that I’d begin our return with something political or serious or snarky on the matter of one (or both) of the people running for president.

Well, as Marlon Brando hollered in “A Streetcar Named Desire” — “Ha, Ha, HA. Do you hear me? Ha, Ha, Ha!!”

So many awful things happened while we were gone, that I took myself off at one point to see “The Secret Life of Pets.”I needed escape. And it was a perfect escape. Not as occasionally dark or emotional as some Disney/Pixar movies, it was as humorous as I’d hoped, without any heavy lifting. Animated or not, it did remind me about the simple unconditional pleasures of pet love, and how we imagine they live and think without us.
Considering the unhappy fact that as we write, the world is still reeling from the events in Nice, I might go see this movie again. I also took in “The Legend of Tarzan” which was another kind of escapism. I know some people have complained that Alexander Skarsgard didn’t run through the jungle in Tarzan’s trademarked loincloth, but his trousers were tight and revealing enough and there were a few glimpses of his nudity in flashback scenes, so aesthetically, there was nothing to really complain about.
Margot Robbie and Alexander Skarsgard in “The Legend of Tarzan."
The Original Jungle Couple — Johnny and Maureen.
Well, perhaps the performance of leading lady, Margot Robbie. She is no Maureen O’ Sullivan, but then, who is? Critics have not been kind to this film — I found it satisfying summer entertainment.

Ms. Robbie was the subject of a controversial Vanity Fair cover story, in which the author Rich Cohen was accused of fawning over Robbie’s beauty to an excessive degree and insulting Australia. (Robbie is a native Aussie.) I can’t speak to whether or not Australians really had a problem with any descriptions of their country. After all, back in 1959, Ava Gardner landed in Australia to film, “On The Beach.”
The Spanish say a woman who wears yellow is confident of her beauty. They didn't add that some yellow dresses are meant to be worn standing up, only!
The always candid Ava remarked, “Well, we’re making a movie about the end of the world, and this sure is the place to do it!” I’m certain the continent is livelier than when Gardner couldn’t find a decent nightclub, but there’s nothing wrong with noting that perhaps the Aussies are not quite as sophisticated as we are. Where has sophistication gotten us, in so many ways?
Ava, on the beach in "On The Beach." Australia bored her, but she found ways to entertain herself.
Rich Cohen’s article was considered sexist, in his appreciation and description of the actress. Flowery, yes, but sexist?

At the very same time people were grousing about the VF article, GQ was running Kim Kardashian in its “Love, Sex & Madness Issue.” The cover announced “Kim as you’ve Never Seen Her Before” which had to be an inside joke, because she’s semi nude on the cover and inside; fully dressed would be a shocking difference. And the GQ author, Caity Weaver, begins her piece on Kim by taking up the celebrity’s offer to feel her left breast: “It is softer than the thick, warm all enveloping smoothness that caresses a globule of wax as it travels up a lava lamp,” Weaver writes.

If Mr. Rich Cohen had been invited to maul Margot Robbie and he did it, I suppose the torch and pitchfork crowd would have appeared at the VF offices. But it’s not sexist or “too much” because Weaver is a woman?

Cohen says his remarks about Australia were affectionate joking. His appreciation of Ms. Robbie was serious. She is a beauty; why not carry on about it?
AFTER several weeks off we are back and reasonably refreshed. We will attempt to “keep it light,” as our editors implore us, and some readers, too. Although, we’ve never been an “ordinary” gossip column and the majority of our readers seem to appreciate that difference. I will say this, however, today. After watching Jeb Bush on MSNBC with the excellent Nicole Wallace, I was taken aback by his claim that he cannot in good conscience vote for either Trump or Clinton.
This sends an unfortunate message, because there really is such a thing as the lesser of two evils, and our leaders — certainly one whose father and brother both occupied the White House, a job Jeb himself coveted — need to encourage people to vote. Please note I myself am not suggesting which candidate is the lesser or greater evil, but whatever you think of these people or “the system” you have a right and obligation to cast your ballot.

If you don’t vote, your negative trolling on social media sites will mean even less than it does now.
Women carrying ballot boxes on a stretcher up Fifth Avenue during a suffrage parade in New York.
THIS N’ THAT: The New York Times recently reviewed Gerri Hirshey’s new book about Helen Gurley Brown, titled “Not Pretty Enough.” It was a remarkably good review of a remarkably good book, which I will review tomorrow. So stay tuned! (I also had some fun at Woody Allen’s “Café Society” premiere. Stay tuned for that, too!)

... I’M STILL chuckling over Ben Affleck’s passionate defense of football star Tom Brady several weeks ago. The actor became so exercised that he not only threw out the F-word with some frequency, but his speech became slurred. Some suggested Ben had had a cocktail or two before the interview. His reps said he “got so excited” his talking became affected — deflated, so to speak. I’ll have to remember that one, even though we are no longer operating from the Murray Hill Mews, aka Margaritaville — thanks to the proximity of the El Rio Grande restaurant.
... LONG OVERDUE kudos to Kate Mulgrew in her role as “Red” in the Netflix prison series “Orange Is The New Black.” There’s not a bad actor in the show, but Mulgrew is something else! — ruthless, hilarious, poignant, and not to be messed with.
Now in its fifth season, “OITNB” has maintained its quality and interest, despite the shocking departure of Samira Wiley, who plays Poussey Washington. I had never seen this actress before her role in “OITNB” and I’ve yet to catch her addition to the series “You’re The Worst.” But her appeal is so genuine, her beauty so striking and unusual, it’s hard not to imagine a greater career on the way. And although she is no longer a teenager, she looks about 17, which can only be a benefit!
FINALLY, brava to the fabulous Ellen Barkin who appears to have nabbed the role of her life in TNT’s “Animal Kingdom” series. Based on a marvelous — and heartbreaking — Australian film, which was based on a true story, Barkin plays “Smurf” the blisteringly tough matriarch of a Southern California crime family — three sons (Shawn Hatosy, Ben Robson, Jake Weary) who simply can’t escape her, and a grandson (Finn Cole) who is getting wise to the fact that granny ain’t baking cookies to make ends meet. Also on hand is Scott Speedman as Smurf’s partner in bad deeds, and C. Thomas Howell, now gray-haired and surprisingly distinguished, as a cop.
Big Bad Mama Ellen Barkin and her "Animal Kingdom."
Always edgy, never traditionally attractive at all, Barkin’s fascinating lived-in appearance and an unexplainably potent sexuality is impossible to ignore. (She was always an out-of-the-box actress. Maturity has not dulled her unique appeal.) “Animal Kingdom” is raw, profane and nudity is not despised. (All of Smurf’s Oedipus-ly inclined boys are easy on the eyes — as are their various bedmates, of both sexes.) “Animal Kingdom” has been picked up for a second season.

There are second acts in American life, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s dictum notwithstanding. Ellen Barkin — who was once Mrs. Ron Perelman for reasons that still fascinate gossip scribes — is well into her third or fourth act. This one seems to be the most appropriate and interesting yet!
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