Monday, June 6, 2016

LIZ SMITH: Keep Calm and Carry On

by Liz Smith

Manic Monday: Nick Jonas ... Ben Affleck ... Hillary Clinton (She's Calm and Carrying On!)

"KEEP CALM and carry on."

That was Britain's laid-back rallying cry in 1939, when World War II was imminent. Within a year, that slogan would truly be put to the test, as Britain stood alone against the fascists of Germany and Italy — not to mention having to deal with the back-and-forth allegiances of Communist Russia.

Several weeks ago, I suggested that if Hillary Clinton stood a chance against the Orange Threat that is Donald Trump, then she had to adopt England's attitude — keep calm and carry on.

Well, that is exactly what she did last week, in a blistering and intelligent foreign policy speech that eviscerated Mr. Trump with surgical precision. She didn't raise her voice, she barely smiled; she got the job done.

Clinton would be the first to admit that she is not a natural politician in the manner of her gregarious, charming husband, the former president. She's not a great speaker, either. (Although I have to say, I've come to prefer her talking style, grating as it sometimes is, to the vaunted oratory charms of President Obama. His slow Grand Canyon-size pauses have had me screaming, "Just get on with it!")

However, last week Clinton showed exactly what she's made of, and how, if she can hold up against the Trump onslaughts, she might indeed become America's first female president. (Lord only knows what Trump tweeted and said over the weekend, in response.)

I am unabashedly Democratic and liberal and I do support Hillary Clinton. She's not perfect, but I consider the alternative and hope for the best. I was proud of her, watching a great survivor give the best performance she's rolled out in this mad campaign circus — perhaps one of the best performances of her long public career.
I felt less depressed.

As for people who don't agree with me, you have that wonderful American right to do so, and you can send your mail to express yourself. Just keep it clean. I respect you, please respect me.
I LIKED "Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice." Many critics (and superhero fans) complained, but not enough to keep the movie from becoming a massive hit. I was also surprisingly pleased with Ben Affleck's Batman, although in retrospect maybe I shouldn't have been. The Caped Crusader has generally been depicted as a pretty dark character, and Ben plays dark quite well — the chilling and chilly "Gone Girl," for example. (That movie begs for a sequel. How do those two awful people live with each other, wretchedly ever after?)
So, we already know that Ben will be back as Batman in "Justice League Part One," "Justice League Part Two," "Suicide Squad," as well as a "stand-alone" Batman movie that will have a new and different back-story for the character. (I believe the original tale has young Bruce Wayne witnessing the murder of his parents, which eventually sparks his interest in do-gooding.)
I simply can't imagine fans of Batman standing for any major alteration of his fabled upbringing or how he came to be the Batman we all know and sort of love. (I suppose the only one who was truly loveable was Adam West's TV interpretation which was definitely not dark!)
In any case, it amuses me that Ben Affleck will be playing Batman until about 2019. Remember there were actually petitions passed around to stop him from being welded into the tight Batsuit? Ben just kept pumping iron and lowering his voice and now he's got Gotham City in the palm of his leather glove.
NICK JONAS is everywhere these days. The pop singer is promoting his new album, "Last Year Was Complicated." He was just on the cover of Entertainment Weekly, he's Out magazine's cover guy for June/July and simply put, ubiquitous. (He performed at the recent Billboard Awards, too.)

Nick seems to be a likeable young man, having graduated from Broadway ("Les Miserables" as a child) to Disney, to boy band (The Jonas Brothers) to solo singing act and serious actor — his Audience Network series "Kingdom" just began its second season.
But Nick not only generates a lot of heat, he gets a lot of heat for what is referred to as "gay-baiting." That is, he has played several gay characters, he has launched a few of his singles in gay clubs, he doesn't mind taking off a good deal of his clothing and posing for pictures that are possibly aimed at a gay audience. This is seen as bad, somehow, because Nick is straight. Or he says he is, and either way, that's not our business. He is certainly not homophobic.
It's ... complicated. (Actually it's not, really.)
What strikes me as odd is that Nick's trading in on one of his most negotiable assets — his good looks — and aiming some of that allure at a gay audience is hardly new in show business. From the beginning of movies, there were two kinds of photo shoots; glamorous, assiduously retouched head shots, and what were once known as pin-ups. We think of that phrase mostly in relation to glorious ladies such as Betty Grable and Rita Hayworth and Ava and Marilyn and even Miss Elizabeth Taylor. ("I never did cheesecake" ET once sniffed grandly, despite the plethora of evidence to the contrary. Perhaps she meant to say: "I haven't eaten any cheesecake — today!")
"I never did cheesecake!" Oh, really, Missy? Are these key lime pies you are selling here?
Male stars or young up and comers, were just as obligated to take it off and pose alluringly. In bathing suits, at the gym, in the steam room after the gym. Ostensibly these were intended to make female fans swoon, and surely many did.

Sal Mineo ... Rock Hudson ... Tony Curtis .... Tab Hunter ... even — gasp! — Charlton Heston. Everybody had something for the boys.
But studios were aware that handsome actors had other fans, too. So why not something for the fellas? After all, the moguls didn't care who made their films hits, so long as somebody did.

Is a woman posing provocatively, "straight bait?" Well, yes. What's the purpose of such photos anyway? To imagine these lovelies are posing just for you, that they can be had, certainly they can be fantasized about. (The stellar ladies also had their own lady fans, too.) What's the matter with a little fantasy? Nothing. Understand me — I'm not talking pornography here.

The problem is when the object of desire — in this case Nick Jonas — is resented because he's not, in real life, what some admirers wish he was. I say enjoy his singing, enjoy his acting, and enjoy what else he offers. Unless it's preferable to hear him say he's shocked, shocked that anybody would want to see him without his shirt — so undignified. And gay men like him? — ick!

After decades of openly objectifying women and covertly celebrating men, things have equaled out. At least on that superficial level. (Equal pay for equal work and general all-around respect are still issues that burn hot. Remember, America stands pretty much alone in never having a female leader!)

Nobody's young and beautiful forever. Why not show it off? (Unless you're Justin Bieber. He just seems confused.)
OH! My favorite part of Nick's Entertainment Weekly interview came when he told writer Leah Greenblatt how his mom had instilled in him rules on manners and etiquette and cleanliness. He said: "Make sure your nails are clean and taken care of. That really stuck with me. I've been told it really does make a difference!" (He then showed Leah his handsome cuticles.)

Indeed, a good manicure goes a long way. I'll never forget about twenty years ago, interviewing a famous actress. She was charming, but her nails were shockingly unkempt. I never quite felt the same way about her again, and I felt bad for that.

For all I knew she might have been going through a rough patch, personally, and her nails weren't a top priority that afternoon.

But along with a decent haircut and a good pair of shoes, think about your hands, too!

With Denis Ferrara

Contact Liz here.