Friday, January 15, 2016

LIZ SMITH: These boots are made for walking

Megyn Kelly at her high-school graduation, in 1988.
by Liz Smith

Today's Stir-Fry: Megyn Kelly ... Nancy Sinatra ... Oscar Isaac ... "Grease" ... and, but of course, who is cheering (or not) as The Academy nominates.

"I THINK there is a spiritual component in my personality that is completely underutilized in my current job."

That is Fox News empress, Megyn Kelly talking to Evgenia Peretz in the current issue of Vanity Fair.

Kelly is also VF's cover-girl, photographed beautifully and image-appropriately by Patrick Demarchelier. By that, I mean there is a coolness to the color scheme, nothing gaudy or movie-star-ish, although she is quite beautiful. And, in none of Demarchelier's shots, is she smiling broadly.

As she does on "The Kelly File," Vanity Fair's Megyn projects a formidable vibe — no nonsense, don't mess with me. Or — mess with me at your own risk.

She has been much-trumpeted as the "reasonable, feminist, fair" conservative in the Fox nightly line-up of anti-Democrat punditry. Perhaps she is. Or perhaps she is just as conservative as her fellow fellows, but is enacting an enticing spider-to-the-fly thing? We wonder, you decide.

Megyn's laser-beam intensity is fascinating to watch (Yes, I watch Fox and CNN and MSNBC. Then, when I feel my blood pressure spiking, I tune into the BBC.) But that intensity is also unnerving. Which in turn, makes it more fascinating! I think it is altogether correct that as we approach a presidential election like no other in recent American history, Megyn Kelly has risen to the top.
Photograph by Patrick Demarchelier. Styled by Jessica Diehl.
If a republican takes the White House, Kelly will rule, not only at Fox, but as a conservative talking head/anchor/whatever. Other blonde provocateurs such as Ann Coulter and Laura Ingraham wither in comparison. (Although Coulter and her little black cocktail dresses seems to have worn out her welcome, even among conservatives.)

But no matter who occupies 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Ms. Kelly who "really owns herself" as one admirer told Vanity Fair, is looking toward a Charlie Rose or Oprah Winfrey next act.

You don't have to agree with the basics of Megyn Kelly's politics, or likes or dislikes, to admire her drive to keep her eye on the prize.
Megyn Kelly with Bret Baier at the Republican presidential debate in Cleveland, on August 6, 2015.
A MORE "fun" story in Vanity Fair is Michael Callahan's big take on the making of the mega-successful 1978 movie version of "Grease." I always find nuggets of new info in these pieces and as usual the "Grease" article throws nuggets around like feeding time for the squirrels in Central Park.

What I found most amusing was the concern expressed in the article several times, by those recalling various issues, about how to turn sweet Sandy (Olivia Newton-John) into a "slut" or a "hussy" for the big "You're The One That I Want" musical number with Olivia and John Travolta. (Danny Zuko.) The big finale.
I had to laugh. This was really a problem? Sandy doesn't "turn into a slut." She simply outfits herself differently, and acts (awkwardly, amusingly) like a bad girl. The surface personality change impresses Danny/Travolta who is in any case, already hopelessly devoted to her. There is no indication that she intends to be anything but the shiny-faced, pony-tailed virgin that she was at the start of the movie.

They rat up her hair, give her some eyeliner, sew her into black leather — voila! Sex-appeal. Hard to believe this was a conceptual problem that caused anybody a sleepless night or worried moment. Still, it somehow works for the basic "innocence" of the story and the era. (Not that 1978 was such an innocent era — but the 1950's of "Grease" were supposed to be!)
IN READING about Oscar Isaac — everywhere! — it occurred to me that I was so very impressed with him back in 2011, in the Madonna-directed feature film, "W.E." I had not seen him before, although he was already making a name (I know that now) but he was so sexy and soulful and appealing in Madonna's film. We talked him up quite a bit, along with praising the movie itself. But, alas, even behind the camera Madonna is poison to movie-goers, critics and wiseacres. This is unfair, but I won't debate The Big M's film career today.

Anyway, now Oscar Isaac is a great big star ("Inside Llewyn Davis" ... "Ex Machina" ... "A Most Violent Year" ... "The Force Awakens" ... "X-Men: Apocalypse" and, but of course, the next "Star Wars" entry, already shooting.) We had nothing to do with Oscar's success, unfortunately, but very glad it came to him. Totally deserved.
Abbie Cornish and Oscar Isaac in W.E. (2011)
"AND one of these days these boots are gonna walk all over you!"

So snarled Nancy Sinatra, 50 years ago this week — on the radio, on phonographs, in record stores and at parties, as "These Boots Are made For Walkin'" became a smash hit single.
Underneath the image, always a real artist.
Nancy took a biker chick image — frosted lips, white-on white eyelids, two pairs of lashes, a mass of tousled blonde hair, mini-skirt and, but of course, boots — and ran with it. Along with the obvious allure (kinky allure at that — please, yes, walk all over me Nancy!), there was some feminist, "girl power" vibe in her stance. Although I think, knowing the lady herself quite well, she might roll her eyes at such an interpretation. (In any mention of Nancy, I have to emphasize what a genuinely nice, thoughtful, wonderfully sensitive person she is. Because — she just is!)

I wish Nancy would record again. Her last full CD was in 2004, titled simply "Nancy Sinatra" and I consider it a masterpiece.

The record includes her poignant "Two Shots of Happy, One Shot of Sad" which is, honestly, all one ever needs to know about Frank Sinatra. Nancy said it (sang it) all.

Nancy had nifty period in the late 1990s early 2000s — repped by the very music-savvy Hal Lifson. She was doing a lot of club dates at House of Blues, Whisky A Go Go, etc, and I recall how surprised some were, at just how good and evocative an artist she was. Sometimes, frosted lips can get in the way.

P.S. Here's Nancy's classic video of her performing "Boots." It looks like it was made yesterday — smoking hot.
OH, I bet you thought we'd never get to it. The Oscar nominations. But everything moves so fast now. All discussion — pro, con or "meh" — has almost been exhausted since the announcement was made way back yesterday morning.

Still, we forge ahead. I wasn't crazy for "The Revenant" and I think Leonardo DiCaprio has given better (if less physically daunting) performances. But it's time for Oscar to honor him. His competition is stellar, and I am fans of all — Bryan Cranston in "Trumbo" ... Michael Fassbender in "Steve Jobs" ... Matt Damon, lost in space in "The Martian" and Eddie Redmayne as "The Danish Girl." I'll say it now so I won't have to again — how does one choose a "best" out of all that?
Call me a cockeyed sentimentalist, but I say give Best Actress to the incredible Charlotte Rampling, so brilliant in "45 Years." Her first nomination! Jennifer Lawrence and Cate Blanchett ("Joy" and "Carol") already have their little golden men. Brie Larson and Saoirse Ronan ("Room" and "Brooklyn" have time.)
Charlotte Rampling in "45 Years."
In supporting actor I'd love it to be a tie between Sylvester Stallone for "Creed" and Tom Hardy as the baddest villain of the year in "The Revenant."
Sylvester Stallone in "Creed."
Tom Hardy in "The Revenant."
And I wouldn't mind another tie between Jennifer Jason Leigh's captive-with-an-agenda in "The Hateful Eight" and Alicia Vikander as the loving wife of Eddie Redmayne's "The Danish Girl." I found her more affecting, more the heart and soul of the movie than Eddie, good as he was.
Jennifer Jason Leigh in "The Hateful Eight."
Alicia Vikander in "The Danish Girl."
I won't go on about cinematography or short films, or animated movies or production design or documentary or best sound mixing because, come on — don't you take a bathroom break during those parts of the telecast?

Oh, best picture? I'd give it to "The Martian," because it entertained me the most of all the nominated films. And, that's what it's about, right? Being entertained?
If anybody disagrees and talks about "art" I will have to play the part of Joan Crawford's press rep in 1953's insane movie, "Torch Song." The rep is attempting to soothe his temperamental stage star client with praise for her many talents. Crawford, having none of it, snarls: "Your idea of art's the fruit in the slot machine!"

I stand with the slot machines.
ATTENTION READERS: Our fearless leader, Liz Smith, has had a slight mishap. She is fine, but will be hors de combat for a brief interval. Denis Ferrara will be pinch hitting for Liz.
Contact Liz Smith here.