Wednesday, February 17, 2016

LIZ SMITH: His Time Is Nigh!

by Liz Smith

Leonardo — His Time Is Nigh!  Also — The Face of Tom Cruise ... the Two Hours of "Vinyl" ... Ground Control To Lady Gaga: You Were Divine! ... Maggie Smith and Penelope Wilton Still Rule "Downton"

"OBSERVE DUE measure, for right timing is in all things the most important factor," said Hesiod.
Leo on the red carpet at the BAFTA Awards.
FOR people who are interested in movies, the big news out of the BAFTA Awards was Leonardo DiCaprio's best actor win for "The Revenant." Everyone says he's a shoo-in now for the Oscar, having won Golden Globe and SAG awards. Most everyone also says it's "time" for Leo to win an Oscar, after five nominations. It's his "due."

Well, maybe it is, but the very fact that he might take the Oscar because people think he's been so good in so many other films, lends itself to the basic absurdity of the Academy Awards. Michael Fassbender, Eddie Redmayne, Matt Damon, and Bryan Cranston won't win because it's Leo's "time?" And how does one even compare all these very different, excellent performances, and say one of them is the best?

And what about all the exceptional performances that weren't nominated? (I think DiCaprio is a great actor — he should have won for "What's Eating Gilbert Grape" — but "The Revenant" is a tribute to his physical endurance, not his thespian skills. It's like losing or gaining a lot of weight, or transforming oneself with various prosthetic devices. Where does the well-publicized stunt end and the acting begin?)
The Oscars are about money and publicity and press-agentry and popularity and sentiment and money. And sometimes popularity and sentiment are not enough. Richard Burton never won an Oscar. Deborah Kerr never won an acting Oscar. The great Edward G. Robinson was never even nominated. Nor was Marilyn Monroe (Watch "Bus Stop" or "The Prince and the Showgirl" or Some Like it Hot" and tell me she shouldn't have been.)  But Tatum O' Neal could run up the aisle at the age of ten and whisk an Oscar away from veteran actors such as Sylvia Sidney. Cher was charming in "Moonstruck" but was that really an Oscar-worthy performance — or was it just "her year?" Elizabeth Taylor's tracheotomy won that star her first Academy Award. I could go on and on.
Tatum O' Neal with her 1973 Oscar for "Paper Moon."
Cher with her 1987 Oscar for "Moonstruck."
Elizabeth Taylor with her 1967 Academy Award for "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?"
The Oscars as acting awards simply don't make sense, and should not be taken seriously. I know they are, and actors are always thrilled to win, if for no other reason than their price goes up for a few years. Hey, everybody has to pay their bills and if you don't make hay while the sun shines, the movie business doesn't know you when you're down and out on Sunset Boulevard.

However, the Oscar telecast SHOULD be taken seriously as a fabulous event. We want as much glamour and fun as today's crop of stars can manage. And as far as I'm concerned, Rob Lowe dancing with Snow White is the kind of thing the Oscars need more of. (That over-the-top, 1989 Oscar telecast ruined producer Allan Carr, but I adored it!)

When I need dignity, I watch PBS.
Tom's face looks just fine to me.
THE OTHER bit of news out of the BAFTA ceremonies was presenter Tom Cruise. The internet exploded with cries of "What happened to his face?!" To me, it looked as if Tom — who has never won an Oscar, by the way — had gained weight. The star, famed for his boyish good looks and killer smile, is after all, 54 years old. But online know-it-alls insisted Cruise has just had an infusion of fillers or Botox or whatever marvelous procedures they do these days. Maybe. But I love how such things are treated as crimes by a public that scorns a star when he or she ages, but reprimands them if they make any obvious "adjustments."

In any case, if Tom is at all hurt or concerned (which I doubt) he should give my friend Renee Zellweger a call. She went through a similar ritual of hypocritical fire not long ago, as did the legendary Kim Novak a couple of years back.

I would love to see what all these people out there writing in the dark, hunched over their computers or iPhones, look like?
WELL, I watched the two-hour pilot of HBO's new Martin Scorsese/Mick Jagger produced series "Vinyl." To say it is ambitious would be an understatement. But two hours was simply one hour too long for a pilot. It seemed like a full Martin Scorsese movie, with all the familiar Scorsese touches, set in the music world of the 1970s. Much too much happened, and out of the sometimes dazzling chaos came — boredom. Of course, I'll give it a try, and maybe even like it when it's down to a sensible hour every week.
Bobby Cannavale as Richie Finestra in "Vinyl."
One thing was rather jarring. "Vinyl" stars Bobby Cannavale, a terrific actor. One of the series co-stars is Ray Romano. Cannavale sounds exactly like Brad Garrett who played Ray's brother on "Everybody Loves Raymond." There's even a physical resemblance. It threw me off. I kept expecting Doris Roberts to pop out onstage during one of the musical numbers to reprimand the raucous drugged-out audiences.

We'll see what the second episode brings. Oh, and Andrew Dice Clay, of all people, was just terrific in "Vinyl." (He's down for seven episodes, so don't be too dismayed — if you enjoyed his performance as much as I did — at what happened to him in the pilot. His character will be around for a while, somehow.)
Andrew Dice Clay as Frank 'Buck' Rogers.
ALL I saw of The Grammys was Lady Gaga's tribute to David Bowie which was spectacular and she is certainly the only artist on earth who could have done it, and done it so brilliantly. Brava, Lady G!
ENDQUOTE: "And how long will you be away?"

"Until nostalgia has muffled my fury."

So it went between Maggie Smith and Penelope Wilton on "Downton Abbey" last Sunday night. Maggie's Dowager Countess is leaving the country after a set-to with her daughter-in-law.

These two divine women — Smith and Wilton — remain the primary pleasures of "DA" as the series winds down. Although it's good to see Edith, now glowingly pretty, asserting herself, and rather sad that the often acerbic Lady Mary — much like "Lady In The Dark's" heroine — can't "make up her mind."

There was also this delicious exchange between the Dowager and a Miss Crookshank.

"I hear you met with Mrs. Crawley and you were very friendly," said the Countess.

"Well, I hope I'm always friendly," replied Miss Crookshank.

"Nobody is always friendly," countered the Dowager with a sly smile.

I am going to miss this show!

Liz Smith is still recuperating. Denis Ferrara is still pinch-hitting.

Contact Liz here.