Thursday, December 1, 2016

LIZ SMITH: Thursday Throw-Down

Janis Joplin with her favorite "fragrance."
by Liz Smith & Denis Ferrara

Dolly Parton ... Michelle Dockery ... Miss Dior, Natalie Portman and the Sound of Janis Joplin!

“I’M no angel. I’m capable of doing things. What I ain’t done, I might do yet.”

No, that’s not Mae West, although the lady quoted shares similar qualities of blondeur and pulchritude with the late Mae. 

It is the always charming Dolly Parton, who no doubt enjoyed excellent ratings last night on her NBC TV movie, “Christmas of Many Colors: Circle of Love.”
Parton, born in Sevierville, Tennessee, has, naturally, expressed concern over the terrible wildfires raging through that state, a blaze that at one point seemed to threaten her famous Dollywood Theme Park.

Dolly — who is working in Los Angeles right now — said how relieved she was that her own business, and others nearby were not devastated. She also said she was praying for those who have been more drastically affected. I’m not here to ruminate of the actual power of prayer, but for sure Parton means it sincerely. (My one encounter with the star — a phone interview, years ago — was a mighty uplifting experience.  You just can’t fake what this woman’s got. The stuff that is fake is all on the surface, and she’s happy to talk about it.)
So, I read Dolly’s remarks, online. And then I made the terrible, terrible mistake of scrolling down to the comments section.

We wish!
Maybe human nature has always been this, perhaps social media and proliferating public anonymity has simply revealed us, at last — not the big villains, who make history, but the small ones, who are actually more dangerous. (Because, in fact, they elevate the big ones.)

I stopped reading after one hundred comments, not one of them sympathetic!  It was morbid curiosity at its most self-defeating.  Dolly’s age, her appearance, her faith, her money (“why doesn’t she DO something if she’s so concerned?”) were up for scorn. Then there were the endless conspiracy theorists, seriously positing the idea that the fires were “fake” or deliberately set by liberals with a climate change agenda. Even these people — conservatives, one assumes — had no kindness in their hearts for Parton or even for all those suffering the effects of the wildfires.  It was just a swamp of nastiness, for the sake of being nasty.

Quite pointlessly nasty, too. As anybody might have expected, Dolly Parton put her money where her mouth is, setting up a fund to assist those affected by the fires. Her "My People Fund" will provide $1,000 a month to families who have lost their homes.

So, it is the real turtle soup of what we are, or the mock of having a “voice?”  I’m going to side with the latter.  I just have to.  And for the umpteenth time, I make a vow to stay away from the comments sections.  Maybe I really will try to live in a bubble.
Oddly, perhaps not so oddly, I often come away from these glimpses into the internet darkness, with the sound of Angela Lansbury, as Countess Aurelia, singing Jerry Herman’s great song, “I Don’t Want To Know” from the Broadway show “Dear World.” (It was not a huge success — despite Lansbury’s Tony Award — but ripe for revival, these days.)

As Jerry Herman wrote: “So if my friends, if love is dead, I don’t want to know.” 
THIS N’ That:

... Brava to the divine Michelle Dockery, who has somewhat shattered her “Downton Abbey” Lady Mary image, with a juicy new TNT series “Good Behavior.”

I say “somewhat” because Lady Mary was often no lady, not always “nice” and more than a handful — remember the dead lover in her bed?! I adored the character, because as I saw her, Mary was the least hypocritical of the bunch, and I also adored the actress. (I was unapologetically Team Mary, despite pushback from some who just hated the way she treated her eternally insipid sister, Lady Edith.)
In “Good Behavior” Dockery — displaying an excellent American accent — plays Letty, a lying, thieving, hard-drinking, drug-taking ex-con, trying to go straight.  But how straight can you stay when you accidentally hook up with a professional hit man? (sexy Juan Diego Botto, aka Javier.)  Miss Dockery’s model-slim frame and  delicate porcelain loveliness is somewhat at odds with the poor rural roots of her character, and the fact that she’s recently out of prison, which is rarely a beautifying experience; but that is what makes this a compulsively watchable TV show, and not a documentary. (Although the actress has no issue with “looking like shit” — as Javier remarks unkindly at one point — when it’s called for.)
Four episodes in and I’m hooked. Dockery is astonishingly convincing; infinitely vulnerable but endlessly tempted down the rabbit hole of corruption. There's great chemistry with Botto, a hit man with a heart, of sorts. I don’t know where they can take these characters without going really dark, and if they do that, can the series be convincingly sustained for more than one season? We shall see. I probably wondered the same thing about “Breaking Bad.” 
P.S.  A big shout out to Lusia Strus who plays Dockery’s no-nonsense mother, Estelle. She is terrific, and had a line in this week’s episode, referencing Letty’s lurid sexual past, that was so vulgarly and brilliantly to the point, that it — and Strus’ delivery — deserve raucous applause.
… BRAVO to director Anton Corbijn, for incorporating Janis Joplin’s searing “Piece of My Heart” into his elegant “runaway bride”-themed commercial for the new Miss Dior fragrance.

The ad stars Natalie Portman (an Oscar shoo-in based on all advance buzz for “Jackie”) as a woman with second thoughts.  It’s lovely to look at, as is Miss Portman, in her wedding gown. But the beautifully harsh growling of Janis, gives the spot a jarring, exciting power.
Director Corbijn sees a feminist theme in the use of “Piece of My Heart.”  I don’t know about that — she’s wailing that her man is breaking her heart — he’s out on the street looking good and never ever hears her crying at night. But, to each his own feminism. 

It’s just great to hear the blood-boiling vocalizing of Janis.  Even though that does, alas, lead to melancholy reflection on what might have been, had she not left way too soon. 

Oh, and I do believe Joplin’s favorite fragrance was ... Southern Comfort.
 
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