Wednesday, March 2, 2016

LIZ SMITH: Super Tuesday and Wary Wednesday

by Liz Smith

After Super Tuesday, a Wary Wednesday. "Gods Of Egypt" — Get Over it Pretentious Critics, It's a Pyramid Full of Fun! Also: "Coriolanus" in New York, and the big iHearts80s Party.

"FUN IS GOOD!" said Dr. Seuss.

Maybe film critics and picky movie audiences ought to take the good doctor's advice.

I went to see "Gods of Egypt" over the weekend and it was ... fun! It's totally preposterous, historically and mythologically inaccurate, eye-rollingly silly, and — fun!

The plot, such as it is, boils down to a battle between the evil — but hot — god Set (Gerard Butler) who wants to destroy prosperous Egypt, and kinda shifty but stalwart mortal man, Bek (Brenton Thwaites) who wants to save Egypt. He's hot too.
Gerard Butler as Set.
Brenton Thwaites as Bek.
Oh, to give you an idea just how out of the world the movie is, in this Egypt, gods and humans live together, side by side. Well, not quite side by side, because the Gods are much bigger than the regular folk.

There's a wisecracking sidekick, a gorgeous damsel in distress, space snakes (I kid you not), all manner of over-the-top CGI and even Geoffrey Rush as the Sun god, Ra. Nikolaj Coster-Waldau is the god Horus, who has family issues like you wouldn't believe. Also, there's a pyramid that moves, a sphinx whose riddle needs to be solved and more, more, more. It is absolutely fabulous to look at.
Nikolaj Coster-Waldau as the god Horus GODhandling Bek.
Geoffrey Rush as the Sun god Ra.
This movie is more than a little reminiscent of all those old Saturday matinees — pirates swashing and buckling, sword and sandal (and sex) epics, wild wild wild westerns, fantasies of every kind. It also reminded me of "Jason and the Argonauts" and the original "Clash of the Titans" (with such luminaries as Laurence Olivier, Maggie Smith and Claire Bloom as the immortals of Olympus. And a young, sexy Harry Hamlin as the hero.)
Harry Hamlin as Perseus in 1981's "Clash of the Titans."
Of course, "Gods of Egypt" cost much more than these films, and special effects have come a long way. But "Gods of Egypt" is so good natured, so deliciously not-taking-itself seriously, so intent on just entertaining its audience. I was swept up and away.

It's easy to pick apart, but why even bother with something like this? Sit back and enjoy it. Yesterday was Super Tuesday in the scary world of politics. Today it's Wary Wednesday across much of America.
Outright, luscious nonsense like "Gods of Egypt" is the perfect antidote to the reality of very mere mortals who are battling to control the country. If I had a flying snake to get myself off this planet right now, and go visit a few deities, I'd be more than ready.

I say congratulations to director Alex Proyas. You made me forget for a couple of hours just how bad things are, here where we are all mortal, and there are no heroes in sight to save us.
Damn those pesky space snakes!
IF YOU'D like to see how Shakespeare handled politics and family, get thee to the Red Bull Theater in Manhattan, on Monday, March 7th. There, at 7:30 director Michael Sexton will present The Bard's "Coriolanus," which might be categorized as a violent political thriller, set in the early days of Rome, with a rather scary mother thrown into the pot of plotting and ambition. It is a co-presentation with The Shakespeare Society.

Among the cast of this one-night-only reading are David Barlow, Louis Cancelmi, Henry Clarke, Kimiye Corwin, Autumn Dornfeld, Chukwudi Iwuji, Ian Lassiter, Matthew Rauch, Emily Gardner Hall and Estelle Parsons. For tix call 866-811-4111.

I wonder if the Oscar-winning Estelle will play Volumnia, the monstrously deluded mother of Coriolanus? That's a role to get your teeth into. Ms. Parsons is such a great actor, but whenever I think of her, I always recall that she was, for a brief time, a reporter for NBC in New York, covering all sorts of news events. One of these events was a Marilyn Monroe press conference in 1956. Arthur Miller, under investigation in Washington by the HUAC, had suddenly announced that he and MM would marry. Hordes descended on Marilyn's Manhattan apartment. Miss Parsons among them. Monroe was simply dressed and her usual shy self, answering questions cautiously, always afraid of being mocked.
'I'm not married yet, dear."
But the brash Estelle was having none of Marilyn's fey evasions. "So, when are you going to have some babies, Marilyn?"

The innocence dropped. The star looked directly at Estelle and said, "I'm not married yet, dear."
ON MARCH 18th, DirectTV will air an exclusive special, the first ever "iHeart80s Party" (presented by iHeartMedia.) This party, which happened about a week ago, was a gathering of some of the biggest pop stars of the 1980's. I do mean such as Billy Idol, Tears for Fears, Culture Club, Missing Persons, Loverboy, and Rick Springfield. Everybody performed, including a David Bowie tribute by Boy George and Culture Club.
Boy George at iHeart80s Party.
Billy Idol at iHeart80s Party.
Guest presenters included Harry Hamlin, Mario Lopez, Serayah, Corey Feldman, Michael Winslow and Kris Jenner. (Put a potato chip on a windowsill and Kris, the Kardashian "matriarch" will be there.)

Ah, the '80s. Sure, it was a lousy decade in some ways (you could say that about any decade) but the show biz side was fun. And the music! Well, more to the point, the videos.
Guest presenter Harry Hamlin with Lisa Rinna.
MTV was hypnotizing back then. Who had ever seen such a thing? Hour after hour of wild and crazy music videos and shockingly candid interviews with up and coming stars. (Shocking for then, now — not so much.)

The concept of the music video wasn't new, but they were generally shown on variety programs, whose audience was usually middle-age and middle of the road. MTV was for kids. Or, for those who thought young, or simply couldn't believe what they were seeing. (Is Tina Turner's dress really transparent? Did Madonna's breast just pop out of her top? Do we really want to hurt Boy George, or do we really want make-up tips from him?)
Tina Turner singing Proud Mary in 1982.
I don't know how one accesses DirectTV, but since everything seems to be available online, and available instantaneously, too, I doubt you'll find it difficult to solve where to party like it's 1985.

All I have is the name, phone number and e-mail for the iHeartMedia press rep. I doubt she'd appreciate her info put out there. (We did that once, way back in the day. The press rep called, furious. "I have been unable to get away from my phone! You know, I'm not sitting around here eating bon-bons and gathering gossip. I have work to do!! Click! Of course we felt bad, but it was also highly amusing, this person's idea of what being a columnist, even a lowly gossip columnist entailed. No bon-bons before five o' clock. Ever.)
ENDQUOTE: "OH, to hell with Henry, to hell with Henry. I want somebody who'll accept the truth about me and doesn't need protection. If I'm a bitch and fake, is there nobody who will love a bitch and a fake?"

No, that's not one of Lady Mary's lines from "Downton Abbey." It's actually from Graham Greene's great novel "The End of the Affair" which I recently re-read. Powerful, beautiful, and mystic. Too bad the two movie versions of this, one in 1955 with Van Johnson and Deborah Kerr and in 1999 with Ralph Fiennes and Julianne Moore were so far below Greene's fascinating book. (Although I'd give the upper hand to Van and Miss Kerr, even with the restrictions of the era.)

"The End of The Affair" needs a good remake. And as you all know, we don't often encourage remakes.
Van Johnson and Deborah Kerr in "The End of the Affair."

With Denis Ferrara

Contact Liz here.