Tuesday, January 26, 2016

LIZ SMITH: To Boycott or Not To Boycott

by Liz Smith

To Boycott or Not To Boycott — That is The Oscar Question!  Also — Snow (In winter, of all things!) ... Holly Peterson ... Lee Radziwill ... Howard Rosenman ... and the "Excitement" of the presidential race. 

"IT SNOWED. It's January. Get. Over It."

That's what we have to say about the apocalyptic coverage of the weekend blizzard. Never fails to appall me how networks put these poor news people out in weather they insist is "life-threatening," warning all others to stay indoors, or die.
I hope all these people who have to stand around spouting ridiculously obvious things like "it's really coming down hard, now," are given some sort of compensation.

Well, at least we didn't have CNN's Don Lemon in that absurd "Blizzardmobile," which he drove around during last January's end-of-the-world snowfall. He kept looking for a disaster. Generally, he needn't look any further than his own newscasts.
STILL, that little weather rant over, I hope all our East Coast friends and readers survived the weekend without too much distress or discomfort.

Seeing so much snow made me wish for spring/ summer. But of course when it gets here in all its humid ferocity, I'll be longing for cooler climes. Our current winter wonderland notwithstanding, it's never too early to start pondering outdoor entertaining.
From Holly Peterson's "Smoke and Fire: Recipes and Menus for Entertaining Outdoors," coming in May.
In that vein, we have Holly Peterson's book coming in May from Assouline called "Smoke and Fire: Recipes and Menus for Entertaining Outdoors." This is gorgeously photographed, filled with menus from well-known chefs and creative ideas for casual outdoor affairs that include a Lobster Bake on the Atlantic shores, a Montana Fish and Rib Bake, a Cuban Night in a Vineyard, a New Orleans' Shrimp Boil, and a Harvard Yale football Tailgate.

Click to order "Lee."
While searching for more info on Holly's book, I came across a work I had not seen before from her publisher Assouline.

It's titled "Lee." This is Lee Radziwill's sequel to her best-selling "Happy Times." Her friend, photographer Peter Beard has written the introduction. This caught my interest after reading Maureen Callahan's article in the New York Post on Sunday about Truman Capote and the women — Lee Radziwill, Babe Paley and Ann Woodward — all of whom either cut him off, or eventually killed themselves (Woodward) — after the publication of Capote's infamous "Le Cote Basque" article in Esquire magazine.

"Lee" is chock full of fascinating personal photos and anecdotes from the lady herself. This is an intimate reflection of Radziwill's world.

We are not big fans of Lee here, but what the hell, she still gets around town, looking damn good, and the book is interesting, if you want to know the kind of woman she is.

Or, the kind of woman she thinks she is.
Spreads from "Lee."
I'M NOT going to wade deeply into the Oscar diversity controversy. The statistics on African-Americans vs. Caucasian Academy Award winners is disturbing, and Academy voters need to get with the program. Television certainly has. But, a boycott of the Oscars is not terribly effective. Look, Chris Rock is the host, and he is bound to make a lot of people squirm. I think Chris's fellow African-American actors should come out in force that night, to support him and to support and promote the cause.
And it's not just diversity in terms of how many black stars are working, or how many are big stars, or nominated, but diversity in the roles they are offered. I was one of the few who heartily disliked the movie "The Help" and despaired that a great actress like Viola Davis, so versatile and attractive, was Oscar-nominated for her portrayal of a maid, and before that, for playing a downtrodden cleaning woman (a splendid five-minute scene with Meryl Streep that put Meryl in the shade!) I have been thrilled by Miss Davis' Emmy-winning ascension on the series "How To Get Away With Murder." And no, of course I don't think actors should turn down roles that attract them or have potential. Actors have to make a living, too. As the first black Oscar-winner, Hattie McDaniel said: "I'd rather play a maid than be a maid!" But that was 1939.
Viola Davis in "How To Get Away With Murder."
I've said that if Oprah Winfrey ever made another movie I hoped that it would be a modern drama or comedy, not the sort of things she has favored ("The Color Purple," "Brewster Place" "Beloved.") Let's get African-American actors out of the slave/maid/driving miss daisy/historical black characters they're often offered.

Tyler Perry has the right idea, although his films are heavy-handed and all over the place — but, highly profitable!

Where's the black rom-com queen? The young, handsome leading men who just happen to be black?
I don't have a solution. And I'm not black. So I can be realistically outraged only to a certain extent. Then it starts to look phony.

Hmmm ... seems I waded in a bit more than I anticipated!

Perhaps one good thing might come out of this. (Aside from not having to discuss Jada Pinkett-Smith's Oscar-night gown.)

With Hollywood feeling all guilty — or at least saying they are — maybe the great Idris Elba will be gifted with the role of James Bond, after Daniel Craig shakes his last martini? Elba's fans have wanted this for quite a while.
LAST year, we told you my old friend producer Howard Rosenman would be teaching courses at the Film School of Brooklyn College. This big talent will soon be traveling East, settling for three and ½ months while he tells his students how to produce on a budget, pitch ideas properly and be a success without becoming a fool, a bore or jaded.

Howard's credits are too numerous to mention, but many awards have been tossed at him. He has so many ideas, so many projects on his various burners, that he is like a one-man show-biz restaurant on wheels. (Can't wait to see if the Anita Bryant film he talked of earlier this year, with Uma Thurman and Zachary Quinto "attached" gets a green light. This is something that Howard, one of the co-founders of Project Angel Food, could really get his incisors into.)
ENDQUOTE: "I don't like to waste time. I don't like to smalltalk. I don't want to see pictures of your kids. I like to work. I like to do what matters."

So says HBO's energizer bunny, Sheila Nevins the queen of that networks' documentary efforts. Among her triumphs — "Gasland" ... "Citizenfour" about Edward Snowden ... and "Going Clear" the Scientology blockbuster.
Stephen Lovekin/Getty
ENDTHOUGHT: If a high-school kid walked into his classroom and said, "I can shoot anybody here and nothing will happen to me," he'd be hauled off in cuffs, likely arrested, his home searched, his parents interrogated. Donald Trump says he can shoot anybody and not lose a vote? Just another day.
If Bernie Sanders said: "I am a Jew first, an American second, a Socialist third ... etc," he would not be running, and quite successfully, for president. But Ted Cruz declares his Christianity "first" before his Americanism, and nobody blinks. What — isn't Cruz running to be president of ALL Americans, not just Christians? Or does he have another plan?

These two latest examples of the horror of the current presidential race makes me want to scream every time I hear TV anchors or pundits exclaiming "how exciting ... interesting ... fascinating ... great theater ..." it all is. (I find this hysterical glee especially on CNN and MSNBC. Fox doesn't seem so "excited." Perhaps because they feel one of their faves will win.)
Memo to the media — stop slobbering over the "excitement" of the race and do some vetting and investigative journalism. Because guess what? It won't be such "great theater" for all of you if Trump or Cruz win.

"Bevare!" as Bela Lugosi used to exclaim.
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.