Wednesday, January 4, 2017

LIZ SMITH: Giving peace a chance

A scene from “Versailles,” which relates to the mania of France’s Louis XIV (George Blagden) to build himself a great palace.
by Liz Smith & Denis Ferrara

Wednesday Rap: Yoko Ono ... Anna Gunn/Skyler White ... Kim Cattrall's "Sensitive Skin" ... "Versailles" ... and (my new hero) Pharrell!!

Think that snow is falling.
Think that snow is falling everywhere all the time.
When you talk with a person,
think that snow is falling
between you and the other person.
Stop conversing when
You think the person is
Covered by snow.

This is a poem that Yoko Ono used in her beautiful holiday card. I figured it an ode of Yoko’s own devising.  So I went to (mostly) trusty Google.  And indeed it is culled from her 1964 conceptual artist book, “Grapefruit.”  It — and Ono’s other early works — were much admired.  Interesting that it was published in ’64, the year The Beatles conquered the world.  Four years later she found her soul mate in John Lennon and became one of the most famous, and famously misunderstood and cruelly maligned women in the world.

She survived that, and Lennon’s death, and today stands as a triumphant icon, still making new music, new art, with thousands, perhaps millions of fresh fans, who don’t know anything at all about the woman who “broke up the Beatles.”  They just know Yoko, and they love her.

As do we. Happy New Year, Yoko. More than ever, let’s give peace a chance.

I re-watched a good deal of the five season “Breaking Bad” marathon that ran on AMC over the holidays. Came away with more admiration than ever for all aspects of the show, and its two main male stars, Bryan Cranston as Walter White, cancer victim-turned-murderous-meth-maker, and Aaron Paul as his strung-out emotionally on-the-edge partner, Jesse Pinkman. (“It’s hot in here, Gatorade  me, bitches!”)  Every actor was superb.  But I have to tip my hat once again to Anna Gunn as Walt’s wife, Skyler.  For reasons unknown to me, this character became widely loathed.  Gunn herself won two Emmys for her work, but actually had to defend herself publicly from vicious online trolling.
Revisiting the series, I thought perhaps I’d figure out what made Skyler so unlikeable?  But all I saw was a woman — smart and tough — who was trapped after some twenty years of marriage with a man who seemed to have gone mad. She didn’t want to turn him in, she didn’t want to turn their son against him, she just wanted him out after she learned the truth.  She did engage in a brief infidelity, and this seemed to stick in the craw of Walter White fanboys, who saw him as a bad-ass anti-hero. (A man can make drugs that destroy lives, and murder willy-nilly, but a woman who strays — she’s the villain!)

Anyway, Anna Gunn, if you’re listening, I thought Skyler was pretty terrific in a ghastly circumstance. (Her signature line, for me: “Somebody has to protect this family from the man who’s trying to protect this family.”)
Shout-out to another favorite of mine, Kim Cattrall. I found, on Netflix, her recent series “Sensitive Skin.”  Quirky, amusing, moving. She plays a woman coping with a long, increasingly stagnant marriage (hubby is the sexy and charming Don McKellar), a contentious son (Nicholas Wright) and the encroachments of middle age.  The show had two brief seasons. It might be back, but if not, it wrapped up pretty well.  I liked everything about the show, and I loved Cattrall, a subtle, intuitive actress and one of the most naturally beautiful women in the business. If Cattrall, who is ... over 35, has had any help pausing the hands of time, she’s done it the right way. She is instantly recognizable and non-distorted.  (Kim is also one of the nicest people around; inquisitive, sensitive and amusing.)
Don McKellar and Kim Cattrall as husband and wife in “Sensitive Skin.”
Also new on Netflix, the first season of the series “Versailles” which they picked up from the Ovation channel. (The third season is now filming.)  I was never able to find Ovation, so I’m glad to see this sumptuous thing at last.  It relates the mania of France’s Louis XIV (George Blagden) to build himself a great palace (Versailles, natch). There he will represent himself and France as ruler of the known world, and arbiter of all things “proper” — the infamously crushing etiquette of the French court began with his reign.
Unlike other fictionalized historical tales of this era, “Versailles” (so far) is not concentrating on Louis’ famous mistresses, although they wander around in various states of distress or dishabille. Rather, the focus is on the king’s brutally competitive  relationship with his brother, Philippe (Alexander Vlahos).   One season in and I’m hooked.  Maybe not quite as good as “The Tudors” or “The Borgias” — yet — but juicy and entertaining enough.
ENDQUOTE: The following is a statement released by performer/music mogul Pharrell Williams, in response to a virulently anti-gay “sermon” delivered by singer and pastor Kim Burrell. Pharrell  recorded a song with Burrell for the soundtrack of the movie “Hidden Figures.”  They were supposed to perform it on “Ellen” this week. Stay tuned.
Kim Burrell and Pharrell Williams.
Pharrell: “I shouldn’t even have to post this, as you guys should already know where I stand, but if you do not, please know I unequivocally repudiate ANY AND ALL hateful comments against the LGBTQ community. Actually I'm tired of that label. We all belong to the same community, a shared community called humanity.

“And today and tomorrow and the next day I will continue to stand with other like minded people who condemn any and all statements and actions that would seek to deny the basic humanity of our fellow brothers and sisters. We cannot sit idly by ... when we are confronted with such violence against members of our community.
“I am personally beyond exhausted by the ignorance and bigotry living in some people. At times I want to punch and I want to slap a lot of people when I read and hear the shit that comes out their mouths!!! I will rejoice when folks stop thinking they ARE GOD, Jesus' assistant, picking and choosing what ‘sins’ are acceptable in the Bible, and using the Bible as a whip! We can't afford anymore tearing down of our shared humanity.

“My advice: If your religion is causing you to spew out words of hate, judge, or look down on others because of who one loves, then you need to change it. And fast. If the religion don't make you a more loving or better person, ditch it.
“But what do I know. My hope is that we ALL go into this new year considering for one moment that we don't have all the answers. My hope is that we become more understanding, less judgmental, more tolerant, and more patient with one another. Including me. HAPPY NEW YEAR.”

Happy New Year right back at you, Pharrell!
Contact Liz here.