Tuesday, August 9, 2016

LIZ SMITH: Superheroes and Songstresses

Barbra is tinkering with an autobiography. Let's hope she's serious!
by Liz Smith & Denis Ferrara

Viola Davis Rules the "Suicide Squad" — She Needs Her Own DC Movie! ... Barbra Streisand is Not Serene. We Are Not Surprised.


“ARE YOU the Devil?”

“Are you the Devil?”
“All you need to know is that you work for me.”

Out of the often entertaining, but just as often confusing and lurid hot mess that is “Suicide Squad,” the above exchange between Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn, and Viola Davis as Amanda Waller, stuck with me.

The brilliant Viola is an ostensible “good guy” who has gathered together a grisly collection of super villainous “superheroes.” Ms. Robbie, quite impressive here, is one of them. They are collected to battle a grislier batch of bad guys. (We have elements of “Armageddon” without the meteor. Although this film does have Ben Affleck. He wanders around rather pointlessly as Batman.)
“Suicide Squad” is one of those comic-book movies that — unless you are a committed fanboy — there’s not much satisfaction attempting to find “sense” in the plot, such as it is.  With the exception of Batman and The Joker (Jared Leto) I knew nothing about any of these unsavory characters.  Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje) ... Diablo (Jay Hernandez) ... Boomerang (Jai Courtney) ... Monster T (Common), and others too nasty to mention. The whole thing is rather nasty — although not nearly so much as Ryan Reynold’s crude, hilarious, off-the-wall “Deadpool.” 

As a stand-alone action movie, for somebody like me, who is not going to nitpick each characterization or what it means for the past or future or reputation of DC Comics, “Suicide Squad” is diverting, if uneven, summer fare. Subscribe to the Criterion DVD catalogue if you’re looking for cinematic art.
In the time-honored fashion of all Jokers, Jared Leto is nutty as a fruitcake, sadistic to the max. However, for all the publicity on this role, Leto doesn’t get much screen time.

The dominant characters — to me, anyway! — are Will Smith as Deadshot, the above mentioned Margot Robbie (a pig-tailed loon and the movie’s ratty sex-symbol) and Viola Davis.
Will is supposed to be as rotten as the rest of the super-trash chosen to work for a greater good, against a greater evil, but he comes off like, well — Will Smith.  That is, a nice guy, just wanting to get back to his family.  Purists might object, but since nobody does nice and noble as well as Will, I was more than fine with him. The success of the movie can’t hurt, either. Smith’s been in a bit of a slump. 

But above all, there is Viola Davis. Talk about making the most of every scene, every syllable!  She is woman, hear her roar, and for heaven’s sakes, don’t trust her. (Frankly, I wanted her in every scene.)  I say, give Amanda Waller a superpower and build a new DC movie around Davis! 
WE try to read all of The New York Times, which can be a daunting thing. Naturally, the major news stories, or entertainment fare get our attention right off.  Such as Ben Brantley’s terrific piece on Barbra Streisand.

This article so accurately captured the tentative woman under the controlling image.  I was interested that Barbra — now embarking on another tour, and with a new album upcoming — is tinkering with an autobiography!
Barbra Streisand on the grounds of her estate in Malibu, Calif., in July. Emily Berl for The New York Times
It’s amazing that she's ventured into that tell-all zone, even tentatively. Although I doubt the result would be much more than a series of corrections to real or imagined mistakes or slights.  I say, best to leave her grand legacy to some future biographer, way in the future.  Sure, she’ll hate it from the great beyond, and likely come back to haunt the author, but I don’t see Barbra being truly objective — nobody is! 

Also, she is much like the character of Mama Rose in "Gypsy," a role she still aches to play, despite many obstacles.  Barbra describes Rose as; “a tough person who is vulnerable inside, you know.  It’s like a crab, something that’s jelly inside. What makes for anger is also hurt.”  I think Barbra perceives too much hurt in her life to realistically tell her life story.

Although from the point of her hurt and vulnerability, something fascinating might bubble up, book-wise.
Barbra Streisand in her dressing room at the Winter Garden in 1964, during her Broadway run in "Funny Girl." John Orris/The New York Times
Barbra is a work in progress, still; a woman at war with the world and herself, despite her oft-proclaimed “laziness.” She finds refuge and a certain safety in her beautiful home, but as she poignantly revealed to Ben Brantley, she is not serene, no matter her still-active career, loving hubby James Brolin, and a nearly mythic celebrity status.

“Do you ever feel serene?” Ben asks.  The great star replies, “No, not really, sad to say.”
Barbra has fought too long and too hard — battles perhaps that she didn’t always need to engage — or anything as pedestrian as serenity.  She is, to me, the last genuinely original star/talent/personality.  The real deal, inspiring and infuriating — perfectionism mixed with genius is a hard master.

The gods and goddesses never truly seek or achieve serenity.  Olympus is always a maelstrom. Ambrosia and nectar, fame and money, never soothe for very long.
Barbra at her Malibu, Calif., home. Emily Berl for The New York Times
ENDQUOTE: Not surprisingly, we had a big response to last week’s tribute column on Marilyn Monroe. Fans sent in dozens of quotes that “you should have used” about and by the legend — who seems more alive now than when she was alive! 

"... a beautiful, delicate china cup ..."
But I like this missive best, from our friend, PR master-maven Dick Guttman:

“The column was a mosaic mirror of impressions, verbal, visual, coherent in its contradictions.  You should definitely expand this idea into a book!”

Hmmm! Although publishing has fallen on tough times, there’s always a market, it seems, for about a dozen new Monroe books, of some sort, every year. 

Well, while waiting for an offer of an advance, I’ll offer Mr. Guttman’s own trenchant observation about MM: “In my few and fleeting encounters with Marilyn, I saw her as a beautiful, delicate china cup, coming apart if you set her down too hard.”
P.S. We also had some amusing mail about Mars Bars vs. Godiva chocolate. (I wrote recently that I loved Mars, was not so fond of fancy Godiva.)  A lady named Debbie wrote that: “chocolate is totally necessary for all women, and Mars Bars were so lovely ... but when I need to wash away the world nothing beats one single (and fresh) piece of Godiva.” 

Others chimed in, “Hmmph!  I thought you liked Snickers?!” See, it’s not just politics that riles people up. Candy is dandy.  And at this point, many people would elect a bag of M&Ms into the White House rather than the two choices they're faced with!

Contact Liz here.