Friday, December 15, 2017

On the big screen

Oh, dear.  Is this too sexy for the Golden Globes?
The Weinstein Effect — Will it Be High Necklines and Caftans at the Golden Globes? Also — Some GG Nominee Opining, and "Cleopatra" on the big screen again! 
by Denis Ferrara

“NO ONE wants to look sexy!”

That’s what Hollywood stylist Elizabeth Stewart told The Hollywood Reporter’s Booth Moore recently, in the matter of how the ongoing Fall of Alleged Harassing Men will affect fashion choices at the coming Golden Globes ceremony on January 10th.  Many stars want to cover up, this awards season.

Wow.  Is this what “empowerment” has come to?  That cleavage, a long well-exposed leg, a tight fit, will somehow be counter-productive to women who are bringing truly serious accusations of harassment, coercion and rape against powerful men?  Are we going to go back to “she asked for it” because of how she was dressed?

The GGs are an awards ceremony — and without a doubt the silliest and most fun.  People tune in for the cameras sweeping the ballroom, to catch pleasantly liquored-up stars make faces, mingle, cuddle and (if your lip-reading skills are good enough) say wonderfully terrible things.  People also tune in for — cleavage, long legs and a tight fit!  That’s entertainment.  That’s female glamour since the old days of the Nickelodeon.  It will be a sad thing if women feel they have to cover up to convey solidarity with their abused sisters.  The show itself is likely to be a nerve-racking, overly political self-righteous mess anyway.  At least give us something to look at. 

Designer Prabal Gurung, described as “politically outspoken” also contributed to this Hollywood Reporter article.  He said, “Women can dress however they want, to show their body or cover it.”  Then he added, “being sexy or not is an individual choice — the problem is the gaze.”

The gaze?  The male gaze, which will always objectify a woman? (Just thinking, or saying, “she’s hot!” doesn’t make you Harvey Weinstein.) Or the female gaze, that surveys a woman critically or enviously or admiringly?

And let’s not forget that over the past twenty years or so, women have been much more open in their own objectifying gaze of men. If Zac Efron and Hugh Jackman came onstage at the Globes and performed a “Magic Mike” routine, few women would look away.

The atmosphere right now is a French Revolution-style cross between “The Twilight Zone” and “The Crucible.” PBS’s Tavis Smiley is the latest to be eliminated — he says he’ll fight back.  More disturbing is the Netflix executive who was fired after one of actor Danny Masterson’s accusers approached the exec in public — he was coaching a soccer game.

He did not know who she was. (Masterson has been accused of rape by several women; he was fired from Netflix’s “The Ranch.”)  The woman said, “Why hasn’t Danny Masterson been fired?” The exec said, “Netflix does not believe these allegations.” Which, at that point, prior to Masterson’s firing, was likely what he thought he was supposed to say.  Now he’s out.  So, nobody can say “we don’t believe this” without the fear of losing their livelihood?  

We live in interesting times.
I SAID above that The Golden Globes is the silliest awards show.  Always has been. Put on by the Hollywood Foreign Press, it is often mind-bending in its nominations and wins.  But, the event itself is fun.

This year is no exception.  I won’t run through every category, just a few particular nods or snubs. 

First off, the exclusion of “The Big Sick” from Best Picture, Comedy or Musical category is criminal. No other word.  I love this movie.  It made me happy this year — a huge achievement.
Kumail Nanjiani and Zoe Kazan in The Big Sick.
“All the Money in the World” which nobody has seen except members of the Hollywood Foreign Press, received three nominations, Michelle Williams for Best Actress, Drama, Ridley Scott as director, and Christopher Plummer in the Supporting Drama category.  Maybe they deserve it, but it looks more like the HFP wanted to honor Ridley Scott for erasing the ruined Kevin Spacey in the role of J. Paul Getty, and replacing him with Plummer, so swiftly.  It was quite a feat.
I’d prefer to see Timothee Chalamet win Best Actor in a drama, for “Call Me By Your Name.” But because Daniel Day-Lewis has announced that “Phantom Thread” will be his last film — honest, this time — he might snag it.  Timothee is very young.  Time is on his side.

I am totally on board for Frances McDormand in “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.”  The movie is a totally wild black comedy and McDormand’s performance is epic, baroque, searing.  Ditto one of her brilliant co-stars Sam Rockwell, who is justly nominated in Best Supporting.  Rockwell has been chugging along, doing amazing work for years. He has been grossly under-honored.  (Woody Harrelson is also terrific in this.  Woody seems to get better every time he sets foot in front of a camera.)
Best Actress, Comedy?  Margot Robbie, hands down for “I, Tonya.” 
Best Supporting Actress?  I adore Laurie Metcalf, and she almost walks away with “Lady Bird.”  But she has been well-awarded over the years. Allison Janney is monstrously good in “I, Tonya” (as Tonya Harding’s mother.)  She, too, is award-laden. But I’m a little off the great Ms. Janney so long as she continues to appear in the lamentable sitcom, “Mom.”  So, I go with Mary J. Blige for “Mudbound,” a powerful film, in which Blige transforms herself admirably in attitude and appearance.
In the TV drama category, Elisabeth Moss will probably take it for “The Handmaid’s Tale.” But I’d not object to delicious Claire Foy for “The Crown,” Caitriona Balfe for “Outlander” (I love a good supernatural bodice-ripper!) or the amazing Maggie Gyllenhaal in HBO’s otherwise VERY unfairly overlooked “The Deuce.”
Lastly, let’s consider Best Actress, Limited Series or TV Movie.  I’ll be fine with Nicole Kidman or Reese Witherspoon in “Big Little Lies.”  Or the exquisite Jessica Lange in “Feud: Bette and Joan.” (I’m afraid I lost interest in Jessica Biel and “The Sinner” halfway through.)  
As for Susan Sarandon, who played Bette Davis in “Feud,” I couldn’t have been more impressed by her performance — she was great. So great, in fact, that now, every time I see her, I always somehow see Miss Davis. 

But — and here we become openly childish and peevish and, yes — unfair.  I kind of got over her stupidity in voting for Jill Stein last year. Que sera, sera.  But recently she went down another rabbit hole of imbecility by declaring that if Hillary Clinton had been elected we’d be at war!  Look, I voted for Mrs. Clinton without much enthusiasm. I don’t think she should have run at all.  But I sure don’t think she would have led us to war, no matter how else she would have inevitably disappointed us. 

Susan Sarandon is a great actress.  And she has a right to her opinion.  And I have the right to say I don’t want to see her win a Golden Globe.  I guess that makes us both idiots.
ON SUNDAY evening at New York’s Film Forum, Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s epic and notorious 1963 film, “Cleopatra” will be screened. According to legend, it was a “bomb.”  According to the facts, it was the highest grossing film of the year. It simply could not, at that time, make back its $40 million-plus cost.

Film fans will recall that there were two productions of “Cleopatra.”  First, there was the London production, which was scrapped because the star, Elizabeth Taylor almost died of pneumonia. Many millions had already been spent. ET’s near death only increased her popularity — so much so that she won her first Oscar for “Butterfield 8.”  The Rome production, a year later, was equally fraught, for different reasons. During filming Taylor became, for the second time, the world’s most notorious husband-stealer — snatching married co-star Richard Burton, and tossing Eddie Fisher’s scalp in the singer’s face. (Fisher’s betrayed ex-wife, Debbie Reynolds couldn’t stop laughing.)
Burton Surrenders to Taylor (You can call them Mark and Cleo, if you insist.)
The scandal — Taylor denounced by the Vatican! — the enormous costs, and the tenuous financial state of 20th Century Fox, all colluded to undermine the film itself, which was elegant and literate, with a lot of spectacle thrown in.  “Cleopatra” looks a lot better now 50 plus years later.  And The New Yorker’s Richard Brody gives the film a long-overdue positive review in the current issue. 
"How it hurts!  How love can stab the heart!"
The movie has a hypnotic quality based very much on the fact that Mankiewicz, who knew Taylor well — he had directed her in “Suddenly, Last Summer” — began to tinker with the script as he watched Taylor and Burton become increasingly besotted. There is eerie prescience in the scenes between Taylor and Burton (she and Rex Harrison — as Julius Caesar — also click very well.) La Liz and Richard not only seem to be playing out what was happening to them at the time, but in many ways, how their real-life relationship would flower, bloom and if not quite wither, then become depressingly laden with too much excess.  As Elizabeth herself would state, after their first separation in 1973, “Perhaps we have loved each other too much.” 
"I will NOT have love as my master!" Incredibly, La Liz delivered this line with a convincingly straight face.   
Go see “Cleopatra” as it was meant to be seen, on the big screen (Call 212-727-8110).  And you are made of stone if you are not affected when Taylor/Cleo desperately clutches Richard/Mark Anthony and cries out, “How it hurts. How love can stab the heart!” 
Come on, imagine this on the big screen!
Contact Denis here.