Thursday, September 7, 2017

LIZ SMITH: Pie a la mode

Director Patty Jenkins on the set of “Wonder Woman.”
by Liz Smith & Denis Ferrara

"Wonder Woman" Director Patty Jenkins Makes His$tory!  Also,
Bernadette Peters Will Say "Hello, Broadway!" in January. "American Horror Story: Cult" Debuts — Can an Election Bring on Killer Clowns?

“WE need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” says hip-hop artist Young Thug.
I DON’T know if director Patty Jenkins is aware of the wisdom of Mr. Thug. (I wasn’t.  I was just searching for an appropriate opening quote about money and power.  Now I will order all his records. Not really.)

But maybe Patty knows what YT is talking about.  The director of this year’s smash hit “Wonder Woman” (in a season of dismal failures) was paid one million dollars for that film.  Sounds good to us, but in show biz parlance it’s chump change.
Patty Jenkins and Gal Gadot on the set of “Wonder Woman.”
However, Jenkins will receive a raise when she returns to direct “Wonder Woman 2.”   A raise so significant that she will become the highest paid female filmmaker in history, period!  She will also have a piece of the pie in terms of the movie’s expected profits. “Wonder Woman” has taken more than $800 million worldwide.  If all goes well, Ms. Jenkins will have that pie a la mode, if you please.

There was some bit of backlash against the success of “Wonder Woman” — that it wasn’t a great leap for action-type females on screen, or especially empowering, etc.  I thought it was all that, but what do I know? 
What is undeniable is that “WW” has elevated a woman to the pinnacle of earning power in Hollywood, and money is really all that town truly respects.  (Any town or business, actually.  It’s just all made more obvious and gilded in La La Land.)

A few other women directors are on the rise — Rebecca Thomas, Jennifer Yuh Nelson and Nahnatchka Khan — but equality is still somewhere in the misty distance.  Still, Patty Jenkins has knocked open a door, borrowed that lasso from Diana Prince and snatched up something historic. Brava!

And speaking of females in the director’s seat, I’m looking forward to seeing the first effort of Hallie Meyers-Shyer, making her directorial debut with the Reese Witherspoon comedy/romance “Home Again.”   I’m loving the TV trailers.  And in fact I’m going to a Cinema Society screening of the movie.   Yes, I know advance reviews have been less than kind.  I don’t care.  I’ve loved films that everybody else has scorned, and have abused ones that are considered works of genius — or at least very good.  We’re not “real” critics here, just movie-goers who want Calgon to take us away, so to speak.
Reese Witherspoon finding love and herself in “Home Again.”
P.S. Gal Gadot, now a world famous star, thanks to “Wonder Woman” graces the cover of Rolling Stone, looking absolutely gorgeous.  Inside she is profiled by Alex Morris, with another great photo by Peggy Sirota. 

I like this from the former beauty queen and Israeli combat instructor: “Everyone should be a feminist.  Because whoever is not a feminist is a sexist.”  I admire a definite statement.  No wiggle room there.

But I totally bypassed the admirable Matt Taibbi’s monthly screed on our 45th president, “The Hater-in-Chief.”  I knew it wouldn’t tell me anything I didn’t already know or feel.  

I think Rolling Stone, and Vanity Fair for that matter, should simply have one page each issue devoted to the man at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, which a brief, comprehensive cataloging of his most egregious (in their minds) remarks, tweets and policy decisions. Something like the old Spy magazine used to do. 

(Spy had a tote board devoted to me — dressed in an America Native costume — where we’d be mocked for how many times we mentioned Madonna or Elizabeth Taylor or Barbara Walters, etc.  At first it was annoying.  Then I just mentioned these people all the more.  It was fun. At least they were paying attention!)
SPEAKING OF fabulous women, the top of my head came off when the news broke that Bernadette Peters will step in for Bette Midler in “Hello, Dolly!”  Midler, who has made history, and mopped up for Broadway, will leave “Dolly on January 14th.  On the 20th, Peters begins previews and opening night is Feb 22nd.  I think this will be another one of those throw-mama-under-the-train-for the insurance for theater mavens who HAVE to be there opening night.

Peters is a genuine Broadway legend, the diva with a baby face, and a body that won’t quit. 

Hard to believe I saw this adorable talent way back in 1968 in “Dames at Sea” at the Bouwerie Lane Theater, before it went to the larger Theater de Lys (now the Lucille Lortel) on Christopher Street.  I knew she was going to be a big star.  Yes, yes, so did everybody else.  But that’s not the point here. 
David Christmas, Bernadette Peters, Joe McGuire, and Jill Roberts in "Dame at Sea." Photo:  Robert Patrick
Art for the original production of "Dames at Sea" by Bob Schulenberg.
She’ll be terrific — and different! — as Dolly Levi.  I recall her “Gypsy” with great fondness.  I’m always hamstrung when it comes to who was the “best” Mama Rose. Each star — from Merman to Angela Lansbury to Tyne Daly, Linda Lavin, Patti LuPone, etc — brings something new, vital and powerful to that role.  But I have a special place for Bernadette’s interpretation. Maybe because by the time she got to musical theater’s most celebrated nervous breakdown, “Rose’s Turn,” she actually gave her daughter a bump and grind run for her money.  Sexy AND crazily narcissistic!

Welcome back to the theater, Miss Peters. 
I DON’T know if I’ll have the patience to watch all of Ryan Murphy’s latest “American Horror Story: Cult.”  But I did watch the season premiere and was amused by the conceit of the main character (the great Sarah Paulson) going over the edge because of the election.  There was also a brief but telling discussion between Paulson and her wife (Alison Pill) about the pointlessness of voting for Jill Stein. Did Ryan pop that barb in for one of his “Feud” stars, Susan Sarandon?  Also impressed by the creepy nanny, played by Billie Lourd.  But there are also killer clowns and other villains on the way.  Obviously, it’s going to get messy. 

Although I wouldn’t have wanted the series to become political, I might have preferred an anatomy of a nervous breakdown triggered by the election, without sending in the clowns.  

We shall see.
Contact Liz here.