Friday, June 15, 2018

Failures, triumphs and changes

Bette Davis in “Dark Victory” — “Let’s have a nice big portion of prognosis negative!”
The Loneliness of Emilia Clarke.  Also — Aaron Paul ... Ewan McGregor ... Sam Heughan ... Benedict Cumberbatch ... acne acceptance? 
by Denis Ferrara

“YOU’RE in a trailer by yourself. You’re in a car by yourself. You’re in a plane. You’re in a plane. You’re in a plane. That’s what success looks like when you’re an actor. Success looks like being alone.”

That’s “Game of Throne” actress Emilia Clarke, better known to us GOT fans as Daenerys, Mother of Dragons. (Her whole title is about seven lines long. I’ll risk not “bending the knee” and abbreviate.)
Clarke was talking to Vanity Fair’s Joanna Robinson about fame, “Solo” (no sequel to that one!) and life after GOT ends next year — with only six episodes and, well — HBO, you really abused us over all these seasons!) 

It’s a good profile, a so-so cover.  The new VF, with editor Radhika Jones, is finding its footing after so many Graydon Carter years. 

I don’t know anybody at VF anymore and even when I still did, Liz Smith and I stopped receiving exclusives or invites to the annual Oscar party pretty soon after Liz lost her Manhattan print outlet. It didn’t matter that we remained syndicated.  It thought they were shits and wanted to say so.  Liz preferred to keep her friendships. 

But I just read a terrific book, Thomas Kunkel’s 1995 “Genius in Disguise: Harold Ross of The New Yorker.”  I knew little of Ross and this biography opened my eyes to a fascinating and often contradictory life. 

But I was especially taken with the struggle to build the New Yorker, its failures, triumphs and changes, reflecting (after some reluctance) the tumult and calamities of the first half of the twentieth century.

The book reminded me how much I love magazines, how difficult it is to put one out — and how cataclysmic change can be. So, this issue is better than the two that preceded it.  I wish all aboard the current VF ship good luck.  It’s not easy, especially in this digital age, but I still love to turn a page, turn down a page, mark up a page and rip a page out, the better to lessen the mass of crap on my desk. 
So, I’ll channel Liz, and be nice, and give a nod as well to Harold Ross and Thomas Kunkel. (Kunkel’s most recent book was 2015’s “ Man in Profile: Joseph Mitchell of the New Yorker.”)  

And I wouldn’t mind going to the Oscar party again.
I could lie and say I was actually part of this group, but let's get real — can you really trust a guy who is wearing a copy of Elizabeth Taylor's Taj Mahal diamond? Nope! I was just wedged up against the door at Spago, at a Vanity Fair Oscar party. Mr. Geffen must have been saying something wildly amusing. And no doubt he was even more amused when it showed up in the column. Great fun, all that.
THIS ‘N That:

 "Are You Sleeping" is a psychological thriller based on a novel written by Kathleen Barber. 
... THREE of my favorite guys are newly cast in projects I’ll make an effort to see. Aaron Paul, forever enshrined as Jesse Pinkman in “Breaking Bad” (bitches), will join the cast of the upcoming Octavia Spencer limited ten-episode series, “Are You Sleeping.”  This is produced by Reese Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine production company. Tackling America’s obsession with “true crime” tales and investigations the show stars, along with Spencer and Paul, Elizabeth Perkins, Ron Cephas Jones, Mekhi Phifer, Michael Beach and Hanneefah Wood. Problem? It will air on Apple TV.  Another subscription!  Geez — I’m still resisting Hulu. Times they are a changin’. (Read the massive take on Netflix in New York magazine.)

... EWAN McGregor will be Danny Torrance, son of Jack Nicholson’s Jack Torrance in the sequel to Stephen King’s “The Shining” titled “Dr. Sleep.” (Yes, I know it was a book before it was a Stanley Kubrick movie, we here always refer to the actor, especially if the film and performance is suitably epic.)  After surviving the events at The Overlook Hotel, Danny is ... troubled.  Mike Flanagan will be directing for — Netflix, of course! 
... MY favorite hunky-but-sensitive bodice-ripper, Sam Heughan of the wildly popular “Outlander” series has been cast in Vin Diesel’s “Bloodshot.”  This is a film based on characters in Valiant Comics (nope, never heard of this — I’m confused enough with Marvel and DC.)  Bloodshot (Mr. Diesel) is one of many in the Valiant Expanded Universe.  His superpower is that of regeneration (healing).  I don’t know who Mr. Heughan will be or what if any powers he’ll possess. How about the power to render me breathless?   To that point, “Outlander,” which also stars the divine Caitriona Balfe, returns to Starz later this year.  I’m fiddling with my bodice as we speak.
... “Claws” returned to TNT, as delicious, raunchy, rompy and as beautifully acted as it was in its first season.  Niecy Nash as Desna and her nail girls are now dealing with a Russian mobstress who cares little for family ties (“Got rid of evil sister, now we are best friends, yes?” says Zalta, played deliciously by Franka Potente, to a horrified but resigned Desna.)  I love this show.  It’s ridiculous, but grounded in an often moving, relatable humanity, thanks mainly to the anchoring performance of Nash, as well as the girl-power support of co-stars Jenn Lyon, Judy Reyes, Carrie Preston and Karrueche Tran. Summertime, and the livin’ is sleazy.
... SHOWTIME’s five-episode special series “Patrick Melrose” ended, and if I kept liquor at home I definitely would have hit it. It left you feeling like you’d survived a massive car accident, barely, and the doctor tells you if you’re very careful, you can indeed live a full life — but be very careful indeed. Everyone performed brilliantly — from Hugo Weaving as Patrick’s monstrous father, to Jennifer Jason Leigh as his more monstrous mother, to Anna Madeley as Patrick’s long-suffering but resolute wife. Great stuff as well from Prasanna Puwanarajah, Jessica Raine, Indira Varma (a fave since the days of HBO’s “Rome”), Pip Torens, John Standing and Blythe Danner. 

Above all, towering, was Benedict Cumberbatch as Patrick Melrose.  He gave so much, so intensely, that I can barely imagine him acting ever again — he seemed to exhaust every emotion, to burn from the inside out, irreparably seared. 
But, he recovered. He’s the voice of “The Grinch” now filming, he’ll also  star in the adaptation of Rudyard Kipling’s “Mowgli.”  There’ll be a TV movie about Brexit, a feature on the Cuban missile crisis (“Ironbark”) and four more projects in pre-production of “announced.”  And I’m sure his Doctor Strange will continue to pop up in more Marvel movies. 

But his Patrick Melrose stands above and apart, even from Alan Turing in “The Imitation Game,” and far above his amusing and star-making Sherlock Holmes series.  It is an epic performance.  And I’m glad it ended after five episodes.  I couldn’t have taken any more!
END INFLAMMTION: A week or so back I read Andrea Cheng’s piece in the New York Times’ Styles section.  It was about acne, titled “Yes, It’s Acne, But Some Are Cool With It.”  Well, not quite cool.  The article was meant to signify a shift in perception — acne is a medical condition, it requires treatment, but that treatment is not always the solution, or not for a very long time, for some sufferers. 

At 29, and this was a good day, battling breakouts. (I was not happy about being photographed!)
 At 65 — a less spotted, if hardly perfect complexion, and those “awful” lines on my forehead.  In the words of Paul Navarro, “There’s a special place in hell” for a certain dermatologist. 
So instead of hiding and covering up excessively, why not accept the condition, while you treat it, absorb it as part of your imperfect human condition as you search for relief — we are all flawed, yes?  (Some fashion and celeb photos now don’t go as far to erase flaws with makeup and Photoshopping as they once did.) 

It was an interesting article, and it brought me back to my own decades-long battle with my skin. I first erupted at 14 and I still fight the bad fight — at 65!  Less now, but I am ever vigilant and occasionally distressed. I was also reminded of my most epic visit to a dermatologist.  I was in my middle 50s and suffering an unusually virulent outbreak.  The doctor was new. I simply fell apart once we were alone. 

“This can’t go on!” I announced with the fervor of Susan Hayward refusing or taking an onscreen drink in “I’ll Cry Tomorrow,” or snarling her way to the electric chair in “I Want to Live!”  I wailed, “What do people think when they see me?  Obviously that I don’t wash.  It’s disgusting and these damn things hurt!  I can’t endure this.  You have to do something.”  I wept.  Really.  Finally, after this great display — the high emotion making my skin look even worse — the doctor said:  “Your acne? Your acne?  Oh, yes.  But I thought you were here for Botox, for those awful lines in your forehead.” 

I was so stunned I broke out laughing, and exclaimed, al la Bette Davis in “Dark Victory” — “Let’s have a nice big portion of prognosis negative!” and left his office, instantly.

I found another guy, my skin calmed, if not to peachy perfection, enough.  I also discovered in my long expensive search for a good makeup, the Bare Minerals line, which is, for me, an astonishingly effective product.  Oh, those “awful lines” on my forehead? I’ve had them since I was twenty-ish (the result of a very mobile face.)  I still have them.  They don’t bother me.

Now my neck ...
 
Contact Denis here.