Friday, October 28, 2016

LIZ SMITH: No Denying

Glenn Close is coming back to Broadway 22 years later as Norma Desmond!
by Liz Smith & Denis Ferrara

Finally, Friday!: There's No Denying "Denial" ... There's No Resisting Gerard Butler ... There Will Be Nothing Grander Than The Return Of Glenn Close and "Sunset Boulevard."

“FOR THE most part, you can’t respect people, because most people aren’t worthy of respect.”

Donald Trump, to writer Michael D’ Antonio in 2014.
I LOVE Gerard Butler. He’s talented and relentlessly sexy.  So glad he decided not to become a lawyer! Yes, that almost happened. Gerard would have been the kind of lawyer who loses your case but you don’t care because you’ve been sleeping and partying with him.

Call me crazy, but I even liked him in the ridiculously enjoyable and much derided “Gods of Egypt.” 
(Give this guy a pair of sandals and a tunic and he’s ready to go — “Atilla,” “300,” “Coriolanus” “Beowulf & Grendel.”  He’s also played Dracula, The Phantom of the Opera, a leprechaun and has managed romantic comedies with the likes of Katherine Heigl. He sings, too.) Actually, now that I recall, "Coriolanus" was in modern, military dress.  But somehow Mr. Butler always conveys his inner tunic.
I’ve enjoyed Butler’s recent “Fallen” movies, in which he plays Secret Service agent Mike Banning.  In “Olympus Has Fallen” The White House was wrecked.  In “London Has Fallen” the British capital was left in ruins. Now Butler is doing it again, a third Mike Banning film is in the works, titled “Angel Has Fallen.” 

What — Butler is going to Heaven and in the process St. Peter’s Gate will be firebombed?  I eagerly await this. Not high art, but terrific popcorn movies. 
Saving the President's tush in "Olympus Has Fallen."
NOW, put aside that popcorn.  I’m urging my readers to seek out the brilliant, thought-provoking movie, “Denial.” This stars the Oscar-Winning Rachel Weisz, the great veteran Tom Wilkinson and Timothy Spall. (Filmgoers may recognize Spall — a household name in Britain — from the “Harry Potter” films.)  It has been playing at the Angelika Film Center here in Manhattan. You might have to search for it a bit, wherever you are, but the effort is worthwhile and satisfying.

“Denial” aside from it dramatic tale, scripted by David Hare, and the performances, this is a “must” for every law student, aspiring Supreme Court Justice, barrister, lawyer (the two are not the same!), defense attorney, potential prosecutor or even law clerk.

The movie — based on a true story — ells what happens in England, only about 17 years ago, when a secret Nazi writer and lecturer, chief among Holocaust deniers, sued a young Jewish teacher (also a writer) for libeling him — she merely called him out for what he was.  Libel is a very serious crime in the UK.
Rachel Weisz as Deborah Lipstadt in court. (Laurie Sparham/Bleecker Street)
The protagonist, the heroine, Deborah Lipstadt, played by Ms. Weisz, is sometimes not very likable. Her role as a rational protector of what actually happened in World War II calls for her to be brazen, outspoken to a fault, royally insulted, fuming and actually furious at the people defending her!

She wants to call upon still-traumatized survivors stand up for their past.  But Rachel is being represented by the greatest of Britain’s rational, fair minded attorneys. (Even now, there is such a terrifying, visceral impact, as the movie shows the deserted Auschwitz concentration camp, when Rachel and her defenders visit this monument to evil.)
Timothy Spall as Holocaust denier David Irving, the plaintiff in the libel lawsuit.
The trial is like nothing you’ve ever seen before. And the defenders stoicism and cleverness in doing absolutely the minimum, when it comes to defending the undeniable truth of the Holocaust, is just great.

Don’t miss “Denial.” For one thing, it reveals the vastly different British legal system, which to me was fascinating.

Less, “entertaining” is the fact that Holocaust deniers still exist, lumped in with other conspiracy theories. Sadly, these have currency and lurid life, in this often feckless age of the Internet. (The further one travels from a historical event, especially one that reveals the inhumanity of human nature, the easier it is to say, “Oh, that couldn’t have happened.”)
“Denial” is very much a reminder of the evil that men do, and how even today, across the world and close to home, societies battle their baser instincts, eager for scapegoats, willing to look away — out of fear or the promise that their own lives will be made better — if only “certain people” are dealt with.

There are never too many reminders of what happened, who participated and who denied.
Rachel Weisz and Deborah Lipstadt. (Liam Daniel/Bleecker Street).
Brandon Victor Dixon.
BRANDON Victor Dixon (Aaron Burr, to all you “Hamilton” fans out there) will host the 2016 TRU Love Benefit, “Embracing the Unlimited: A Celebration of Diversity in the Arts.” This happens Sunday, November 6th, at the NY Public Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center.

Awards and recognition go to theater and film producer Ron Simmons ... transgender actor, activist and producer Shakina Nayfack and theater historian/author Jennifer Ashley Tepper. All are contributing to changing the landscape of theater, which of course reflects the changing landscape of our real lives.

Jay Armstrong Johnson (“On The Town,” “Most Happy Fella”) and Tonya Pinkins (“Jelly’s Last Jam,” “The Fabulous Miss Marie,” “Rasheeda Speaking”) will perform.  Also on hand — Nathaniel Stampley and Alicia Hall Morgan (“Porgy and Bess”) and more! Jeff Whiting directs the evening.

There will be drinks, food, a costume exhibition, silent and live auctions. You can bid on such items as “Hamilton” tickets (people have put a second mortgage on their homes for these!), an $8,000 cruise to anywhere in the world and a UniWorld River Cruise valued at $10,000. Call 212-714-7628 or click here  for ticket info.
GOOD NEWS for fans of Glenn Close and “Sunset Boulevard.”  (Are we not legion?)

When Miss Close revived “SB” in London earlier this year, I hoped she’d bring the production back to Broadway.  My hopes have been rewarded.  The famous Andrew Lloyd Webber/Christopher Hampton/Don Black musical version of Billy Wilder’s classic 1950 movie about a deluded, forgotten movie queen and her aging boy-toy is coming home — as if it never said goodbye. “SB” will play 16 weeks in February at the Palace Theater.  Miss Close won a Tony for efforts as Norma Desmond in 1994.  It will be fascinating to see how she now inhabits the role — and her turbans — 22 years later. 
ENDQUOTE:  “I had to explain to him why Trump keeps being mean to kittens. He just keeps grabbing those kittens!”

The wonderful actor Colin Farrell on dealing with his seven-year-old son’s questions about a presidential candidate’s boast, “grab them by the p….!”

Contact Liz here.