Thursday, January 26, 2017

LIZ SMITH: Floating in charm-land

by Liz Smith & Denis Ferrara

The Oscar Nominations — seems a lot less "important" this year, eh? Also, Andrew Sullivan, American ... What To Do about Getting Older? (more lipstick and/or margaritas) and great theater in Queens, New York.

“THE DEFINITION of insanity is the length of time it takes for the lie to be uncovered. The shorter the period, the crazier you are.”

That is the writer Michael O’ Donoghue, quoted by Vanity Fair’s Graydon Carter.
Mr. O’ Donoghue, who died young, in 1994, was one of the founders of The National Lampoon and the head writer (and occasional performer) for “Saturday Night Live” in its earliest days. In fact, he appeared in “SNL’s” first sketch, with John Belushi.

O’Donoghue’s dark, combative wit would be interesting and applicable to our cloudy, combative 2017.
SECONDS after hearing the news that Mary Tyler Moore had died, I received a computer "alert" from The New Yorker magazine. It said, "A Very Bad Day For The Planet." I actually thought it was about Mary. It was not, but those words surely apply to the loss of one of the iconic and beloved women in the world. Aside from her gifts as a actress, she was divine to know, a genuinely good, nice person — and yes, it was a bad day on the planet with her gone. I am heartbroken, despite the fact she has suffered poor health for many years. Condolences to her friends and her husband, Robert Levine. RIP you lovely girl, somebody up there caught that famous blue knit beret; it and you will forever fly free now, always in our hearts.
AH, THE Oscar nominations.  It’s all over now except for the bitching.  Old news, in our fast-moving times, but we carry on.

“La La Land’s” 14 nomination tie with “Titanic,” a ridiculous movie except for the special effects, and also with “All About Eve,” which was a masterpiece from stem to stern.  “La La” is neither ridiculous nor a masterpiece. It floats in charm-land and the over-praising is likely a reaction to our depressed and anxious spirits more than anything else.  That’s not a bad thing. Understandable.  I’d rather see “Hidden Figures” or “Hell or High Water” or “Hacksaw Ridge” as best picture, but what will be will be.  And yes, crazy or not, Mel Gibson is a great director and deserves his nominations.
Acting is hard. It is.  Hi ho, the glamorous life is not what spending long hours, days and months, sometimes years working on a role is about. That’s what you see on red carpets and interviews. It’s work,  and then you face the critics. Or people like us, who never went to film school, but are merely schooled in opining.

So, all the nominated actors worked hard, all have talent. (Even though I’ve expressed reservations about Casey Affleck, what he does is perfect for “Manchester By The Sea” and that’s the point, right?)
Favorites? Preferences? In those who are nominated, I’d say Viola Davis for “Fences” ... Isabelle Huppert, “Elle” ... Andrew Garfield, “Hacksaw Ridge” (He is really superb. However, I have not seen Viggo Mortensen in “Captain Fantastic.”)  I am torn between Dev Patel in “Lion” and “Moonlight’s” Mahershala Ali in best supporting actor.  I incorrectly stated that Hugh Grant had been nominated for “Florence Foster Jenkins” yesterday.  I guess I wanted that one so much I misread the list!  It was an alternative fact.
As for this year’s inevitable scandal/snubbing we are faced with the exclusions of four-time Oscar nominee Annette Bening and five-time nominee Amy Adams, both of whom gave remarkable performances last year.  Of course neither are suffering — as in desperate for work. And they are in royal company. Many great actors never took the ultimate prize.  Many were never even nominated!  Perspective, perspective.
I am, however, reminded of a fabulous star and wonderful actress, Candice Bergen, who after a series of Emmy Awards for “Murphy Brown” took herself out of the competition. Thank you so much, no more; make room for others.  Such a great gesture.  Others could learn from it. 

Or, simply expand the acting categories, as has been done with Best Picture.
NEW YORK magazine had me spinning this week. Which is a good thing.

I was so impressed by Andrew Sullivan’s great big take on his American experience — he having just become a full-fledged American citizen.  His observations about his love affair with America, its people and places, the realities — good and not so much — about the American experience and ethos is deeply personal, beautifully written, profound and so important right now. What a read!
From that thought-provoking article, I turned to a series of pages in the magazine devoted to women: “What To Do About Getting Older.” (My quick answer — don’t stop, you know what that means!)

The short essays began with Kim Frances’s “The Myth of Dressing Your Age.” Great.  People should wear what makes them feel good.  On to Cindy Gallop’s “Everybody Needs a Boy Toy” about older women and younger men. (I guess Jennifer Lopez and Madonna were not available to pen their thoughts.) Again, all fine and well.  A hard body nearby is not to be despised.

But Lisa Miller’s “Don’t Tell Me I Look Good” and Meaghan O’ Connell’s “Nothing Like a Baby To Make You Feel Old” were so diametrically opposed to the positivity of the preceding articles, my eyes crossed. I suppose that was the point — nobody feels the same, and we shouldn’t all say middle-age is fabulous if it’s not.  But these two essays were like horse kicks to the head. Not everyone has, can afford or wants a boy toy.  Or still insists on wearing leather pants.

Then, the cherry on top of the drooping eyelid: Linda Wells’ tale of her friend “Christina” who spends a yearly total of $51,000 on various youthifying procedures.

I don’t know.  If you have $51,000 a year to spend, get yourself a young lover who will do his job and make you feel 35 again. If he does his job well enough, you’ll look 35 again, at least in dim restaurant lighting.  Sex is much more fun than Active FX Laser Skin Resurfacing. 
WE OFTEN tell you about theater because, well, we like the theater and think you should too.  And not only what glitters on Broadway, which can sometimes be prohibitively expensive or inconvenient.  We also give you a lot of off-Broadway goodies, too.  Now here’s something way off The Rialto, but it is real theater.
Located at 14 United Nations Avenue South, in Flushing Meadows Corona Park, is Queens Theater.  This is part of its lineup, beginning next month — Neil Simon’s “Last of the Red Hot Lovers” ... William Gibson’s “The Miracle Worker” ... the Latin Dance Fiesta, featuring dance companies from four Latin-American countries ... one of the nation’s leading flamenco dance companies, Flamenco Vivo Carlota Santana will appear. Also, the first hip-hop dance touring company, Rennie Harris Puremovement performs, as will the Calpulli Mexican Dance Company.
Flamenco Vivo Carlota Santana — February 11-12, 2017
“Last of the Red Hot Lovers” — March 10-12, 2017
Rennie Harris Puremovement — April 1-2, 2017
Ballet will be represented with “Sleeping Beauty” ... ”Swan Lake” and “The Nutcracker.”   Shakespeare has his say in “Twelfth Night.” And something really special — a workshop production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” which uses a cast integrated with actors who are able-bodied and those who are physically and/or developmentally disabled.  Shakespeare’s classic about lovers “ill met by moonlight” is renamed/subtitled “Spirits of Another Sort” and is produced by The Apothetae Company.

For ticket info visit or call 718-760-0064. There’s nothing like the theater season in Queens, New York!
The School of American Ballet's "The Beauty of Ballet" — February 26, 2017
ENDQUOTE: “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”  Martin Luther King, Jr.
Contact Liz here.