Friday, February 12, 2016

LIZ SMITH: Means of expression

by Liz Smith

How Lady Gaga Destroyed the United States Military (It's a joke, I think, but scarily, maybe not for people who believe it!) ... Judy and Fred in "Easter Parade" ... Channing Tatum and Joseph Gordon-Levitt ... "Cagney" the musical, moves ... Bill Maher, anguished in The Hollywood Reporter.

"I HAVE no desire to prove anything by dancing. I have never used it as an outlet or a means of expressing myself. I just — dance!"

That was Fred Astaire, simplifying his art. Well, nobody before or since, made dancing seem so effortless. Not to mention his acting and his often-underrated singing. (It's a slight voice, but gets under your skin; one is seduced so casually, with such finesse and humor.)
Fred — "Stepping Out with My Baby."
I watched "Easter Parade" the other night, with Fred and Judy Garland. Not one of my favorites, but charming and a huge hit at the time. Fred is his usual self, relaxed and confident. Judy looks a little strained (MGM was forever watching her weight) but despite her nervous fragility — she is shockingly thin when she performs "Better Luck Next Time" — there's some odd, voluptuous quality to her, perhaps the rich voice, or those impossibly full lips, almost always quivering with emotion.
Judy performing "Better Luck Next Time."
This lush, swooningly sexy side to Garland appears most brilliantly when she and Astaire sit at a piano and she sings, "It Only Happens When I Dance With You," the camera inching ever closer to that uniquely beautiful face.

I consider it one of the movie world's most evocative moments. And let's not forget Ann Miller, making her mark here as a deliciously spoiled, spiteful stage star, "Shaking the Blues Away."
Judy and Fred — "It Only Happens When I Dance With You."
SPEAKING OF dance, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Channing Tatum just signed to appear in an as-yet-untitled musical comedy. I guess Channing's tap-dancing bit in "Hail, Caesar!" bit him hard.
Gordon-Levitt doing his best Magic Mike interpretation on SNL.
Oh, and while we have the talented Mr. Gordon-Levitt on the brain, the actor has launched a new community-sourced video project, via his production company hitRECord and the American Civil Liberties Union. Joseph, soon to be seen in Oliver Stone's "Snowden" movie, posted a video with three questions for viewers. They are:
Is today's technology good or bad for democracy?
How might the technology of the future be bad for democracy?
How might the technology of the future be good for democracy?
Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Edward Snowden.
The actor says: "There's no right answer to these questions. In fact the answers I'm most interested in are not the expert, political pundit, left-wing, right-wing, talking points kind of thing. I'd much rather hear a personal story or something that's unique to you."

Gordon-Levitt, who has been a star since childhood — he is a still-quite-young 34 — takes his role as person of influence pretty seriously. Movies are all fine and well; real life is NOT so fine and well. He'd like to forge a difference.
JAMES CAGNEY made his initial name and fame as a tough-talking tough guy, usually a gangster. He shot men ruthlessly and treated women badly. (What movie fan doesn't recall the famed grapefruit that was squashed into poor Mae Clarke's face in "The Public Enemy?" Or kicking a chair out from under Virginia Mayo in "White Heat?" Or assaulting Doris Day in "Love Me or Leave Me?")
"I wish you was a wishing well, so I could tie a bucket to ya and sink ya."
But Cagney was really a deft vaudeville song-and-dance man, and he revealed the true nature of his talents in the justly famous 1942 movie, "Yankee Doodle Dandy." Now, an updated, expanded and revised version of the off-Broadway musical "Cagney" will be moving to the Westside Theater. (Still off-Broadway, but a bigger house.) Performances begin March 16th, with an opening night scheduled for April 3rd.
Cagney as Cohan in "Yankee Doodle Dandy."
Directed by Bill Castellino, it has music and lyrics by Robert Creighton and Christopher McGovern, and stars one of the composers, Mr. Creighton, as Cagney himself.

The story covers Cagney's rise from the sidewalks of New York, to his vaudeville career, Hollywood triumphs as a bad guy, to his apotheosis as George M. Cohan in "Yankee Doodle Dandy."

I missed this one when it debuted last year. I'll make it my business to catch "Cagney" this time around. For tix info call 212-239-6200.
Robert Creighton in "Cagney."
Lady Gaga's "killer" moves.
WE RECEIVE a lot of strange items here. But I have to say, one that recently arrived, takes the cake, frosting and all.

This six-page "item" begins by praising Lady Gaga's stellar performance of the National Anthem at the Super Bowl, and then goes into a lengthy, incoherent screed insisting that Lady Gaga's support to repeal Don't Ask/Don't Tell has resulted in fewer military men signing up, and that Lady G. will now be responsible for thousands of American girls being drafted and going overseas to kill and be killed. I. Kid. You. Not.

This is my favorite sentence: "Lady Gaga's advocacy wrecked the U.S. Military, and in 2016, the Republic is seeing the results of her wrecking ball." Wow, I bet the pop icon never realized her powers to control the military establishment of the United States.

Oh, and to the author of this hilarious piece of propaganda, if you use the term "wrecking ball" use it in the proper context. That's Miley Cyrus.

P.S. Maybe this is a joke, something spawned from The Onion? It's just too absurd!
ENDQUOTE: "All of this [the current political atmosphere] probably would not have been possible without Sarah Palin. She got the country used to someone on the level of a car show spokesmodel being presidential timber. John McCain is the one who opened 'The Book of The Dead' and let the monsters out."

That's HBO's frank-talking Bill Maher, writing in the latest issue of the Hollywood Reporter. He is on the cover, with this blurb next to his smiling (a bit sadly) face: "Anguish of a Hollywood Liberal."

Maher goes on about Palin: "She is beyond parody and beneath contempt. I almost feel bad making fun of her because I think she's on meth or something ... it's crazy the way she acts. But that's why we love politics, right? It's all so crazy, fascinating and unpredictable. What gets the best ratings on TV? Sports and reality TV — and now we found something that has both. And this isn't just sport. This is blood sport."

I don't think Bill would disagree with me when I say we are in for much more anguish ahead. Well, some of us are. Others will be delighted. And good for them. Every four or eight years another group of Americans is either delighted or anguished. That's life.

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

Contact Liz here.