Wednesday, June 22, 2016

LIZ SMITH: Real Women

Zoe Saldana as Nina Simone in "Nina."
by Liz Smith & Denis Ferrara

Zoe Saldana Still Fights The "Nina" Haters ... Oprah's "Greenleaf" Debuts ... Tom Hiddleston's Got a Gun — For Taylor Swift or 007? Or You?

“NINA SIMONE looks like half my family! But if you think the prosthetic nose I wore was unattractive, then maybe you need to ask yourself, ‘What do you consider beautiful?’ Do you consider a thinner nose beautiful, so the wider you get, the more insulted you become?’”

That is the very good actress Zoe Saldana, who is still having to defend her choice to make a movie based on the life of the late singer, Nina Simone.

Saldana has been criticized for not being “black” enough to play Simone, too fine-featured and for resorting to using makeup and the above mentioned prosthetic, to give her more of a resemblance to Nina.

I have yet to see this film, titled “Nina” so I cannot gauge Zoe’s performance, although I have seen her in other movies and she has always been excellent. But it is hard for me to believe that she is getting heat for using makeup or prosthetics. Right off the top of my head I can think of three actresses who won Oscars for such “tricks” — Nicole Kidman, playing Virginia Woolf in “The Hours” ... Charlize Theron as serial killer Aileen Wuornos in “Monster” and Miss Elizabeth Taylor as middle-aged Martha in “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”

These performances were indeed Oscar-worthy, but I don’t recall much fuss about how these women altered their appearances to enhance their portrayals.

I personally thought Kidman could have done without the false nose (who even really recalls what Virginia Woolf looked like?) and Charlize simply could have put on a few pounds. Elizabeth did gain weight, but as she’d been running to plump for years, that was hardly a great shock. (She wore a messy graying wig, and the makeup department put a few lines under her eyes. The double chin was all hers.) I mean, if you want a beautiful woman to not look beautiful, take off all the makeup and photograph her harshly/realistically. Voila! The pitiless camera tells all.
Nicole Kidman playing Virginia Woolf.
Charlize Theron as Aileen Wuornos.
Elizabeth Taylor as Martha.
So I think it’s unfair to diss Zoe Saldana for doing what a lot of actors do. She told Allure magazine: “The script would probably still be lying around, going from office to office, and nobody would have done it. Do I continue to pass on the script until the ‘right’ black will do it, or do I say, ‘You know what? Whatever consequences this may bring about, my casting is nothing compared to the fact that this story must be told.” Spoken like a committed actor!

She added: “There is no one way to be black. I am black the way I know how to be. You have no idea who I am. I am black. I am raising black men. Don’t you ever think you can look at me and address me with such disdain.” Spoken like a proud black woman!
Nina Simone.
Saldana as Simone.
Nina Simone’s family has been distressed, aside from the casting of Saldana, about the script itself, which they insist is rife with inaccuracies. But that is another issue. Judging by the acclaimed documentary, “What Happened, Miss Simone,” Nina had her share of problems and issues, but a family always wants to control what they can about a loved one, even one with “issues.”

I am hoping at some point, to see “Nina.” I am a great admirer of the real woman, whose voice was so distinctive and soulful.
P.S. About a year ago, I had a lunch with Eartha Kitt’s daughter Kitt McDonald and she was enthusiastically talking about putting together a movie based on her mother’s life. We ruminated on who could possibly play the inimitable Eartha, and I suggested, that at least physically, Zoe Saldana might be good? Kitt said: “She would be, actually, but I know she’s just done the Nina Simone movie, and probably wouldn’t want to do another similar bio-pic.”

Ah, well. But life being what it is, and since everybody has an opinion and an outlet now, I’m sure fault would have been found with Zoe as Eartha, too.
SPEAKING OF powerful women of color, last night on Oprah Winfrey’s OWN network, Miss Winfrey debuted her latest programming, a series titled “Greenleaf” which seems to blend elements of juicy soap opera and Christian culture — the latter argued and discussed by various characters as their personal dramas unfold.
The show stars Merle Dandridge, Keith David, Lynn Whitfield, Gregory Alan Williams, Deborah Joy Winans, Lamman Rucker, Kim Hawthorne and Oprah herself, who plays Aunt Mavis, owner of a jazz club. The review I read of this series in Entertainment Weekly piqued my interest, but what really interests me is watching Oprah as an actress. I’ve always thought she was splendid, and always hoped she’d move into more modern roles than the ones she is most associated with in “The Color Purple,” “Beloved” or “The Women of Brewster Place.” (She was simply terrific in “Lee Daniels’ The Butler.”)

Perhaps her Aunt Mavis in “Greenleaf” is the Oprah I’ve been waiting for? We’ll see.
THERE’S STILL no official word from Daniel Craig or the Broccoli family (who control the 007 film franchise) if Daniel intends to play Bond again. Various names have been floated, everybody from Idris Elba to Jamie Bell. Now Tom Hiddleston is the man who seems to have the upper hand in possibly slipping into James Bond’s tux.
Tom Hiddleston — Will he be the new 007? Is he Taylor Swift's new piece? Does he know how to get in touch with us?
Hiddleston has been a rising star for some years, well-known for his role as Loki in the “Thor” movies, unexpectedly marvelous as country legend Hank Williams in last year’s “I Saw The Light” (Hiddleston’s a Brit) and a big deal in the TV miniseries “The Night Manager.”

Taylor Swift and Tom Hiddleston during their famous dance off.
We’ve seen enough of Tom on various red carpets to know he does look good in black tie. But, every man does! That’s not a big deal. However, James Bond is occasionally called upon to bare, if not all, at least something more than nifty cufflinks. (Sean Connery and Daniel Craig were iconic in their swimsuits.)

So Tom decided to show us that aside from an accent and attitude he has other assets. He stripped down to his skivvies in an eye-popping photo shoot for W magazine.

Although there was no place to hide a gun in his underwear — or was that a gun? — I was sure I could hear Tom Hiddleston whispering, “My name is Bond, James Bond,” as he stared sexily, and lounged alluring in the photos.

Or maybe he was just thinking about his reported new love, Taylor Swift?

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