Friday, January 19, 2018

The Smog of Fear

The Smog of Fear Chokes Hollywood.  Also — Memo to Stephen Colbert — What is So "Funny" about Mocking Melania Trump?
by Denis Ferrara

“GOOD health and good sense are two of life's greatest blessings,” said Publilius Syrus
I REALIZE it is arrogant in the extreme to wonder if any of you wondered where I — this column — was on Wednesday?  Probably not, but I am going forge ahead as if you did.

Last Friday, just as I finished writing up my night out seeing Trudie Styler’s “Freak Show” movie, I was knocked sideways by the flu.  It had nothing to do with Trudie’s film.  I suppose I was just susceptible to the current bad flu epidemic going around, and flu shots that have been, this year, notoriously inadequate. 
At one point, feverish and wracked with body aches, I was sure I had somehow entered that “Law & Order” episode where the flu vaccines were replaced by saline solution.  (Don’t pretend you don’t know that one — we’ve all seen all the L & O’s multiple times, know the guilty party but stick to the end anyway.  Like Pavlov’s dog, as soon as the familiar thumpy Mike Post theme music comes on, we are inevitably conditioned to keep watching.)

I am writing today hunched over and feeling as if I’ve been beaten with a rubber hose from head to toe.  So — an improvement!   

Illness also prevented me from going to an episode screening of the new TV series “The Alienist.” This included dinner at NYC’s fabled Delmonico’s, where I have never been.  I am very annoyed at my flu.
I DID manage, in between a lot of “Whhhyyyyy?” cries, to keep up with some of what’s been going on.  Nothing fun, alas.  More careers damaged or ruined, in ongoing sex abuse allegations.

So I will talk about harassment — from a different angle. 

We forgive you, Mark!
Don't give in, Mark!
First — Mark Wahlberg, inexplicably the highest paid actor in the U.S. right now.  I met Mark years ago, during the height of his crotch-grabbing underwear fame, but he behaved like a soft-spoken choir boy with me. He was charming. And smart.

In recent years, he’s come to Jesus and says ridiculous things like he hopes God can forgive him for making “Boogie Nights,” in which he played a porn star. 

In reality, Wahlberg should fear the Deity loosening the lightning of his terrible swift sword because of Wahlberg’s participation in the “Ted” films, his “Transformers” re-boots,  “Daddy’s Home,” 1 and 2. Not to mention “The Happening.” That one should put Mark and director M. Night Shymalan in the fiery pit for eternity.

My opinion aside, he manages to make enough hit movies to garner him astronomic salaries. Fair is fair — he’s worth it.

Then the time came for Mark to re-shoot some scenes in Ridley Scott’s current “All The Money in the World” (Kevin Spacey, career in tatters, was edited out and replaced by Christopher Plummer.)  Wahlberg has a terrific agent, who negotiated a million plus for his client’s additional work.

Michelle Williams,
another of the film’s stars, worked for scale, by choice.  When this news broke, Wahlberg was torn to shreds by all the perfect people in the media — he was a monster for actually having good representation. In the end, he was forced into donating his salary to charity.  I’m pretty sure he didn’t want to do this.  No matter how much money one has, one always feel more secure with, well, more.  But Mr. Wahlberg could see the nail polish on the wall — his very successful career might be in jeopardy.  He was seen as somehow abusing his position as a man.  He had to give in. 

“All the Money in the World” has not made all the money in the world.  It might have made more if they’d kept Spacey in, actually.

Wahlberg is the only member of that cast who has box-office power, and making deals based on that power is what show business is about.
Male actors are not required to give up their salaries because their female co-stars are poorly represented or not as popular.  If women want parity in payment, they need to work smartly and proactively with producers and agents — it’s not the responsibility of their male counterparts to deprive themselves.

Oh, and as always, this movie star kerfuffle has NOTHING to do with ordinary women being abused and harassed and underpaid all across this country.  Does Michelle Williams think the female cashier at some supermarket, or the waitress in a diner, can summon up the courage and garner press attention to be better paid, or to be left alone by her lecherous boss, etc.?
Michelle Williams with Tarana Burke, founder of the #MeToo movement.
A MORE unhappy situation, as far as I am concerned is that of Timothee Chalamet.  The extremely talented 21-year-old star of “Call Me By Your Name” was — in my opinion — bullied and harassed into giving his small salary on Woody Allen’s upcoming movie, “A Rainy Day in New York” to the TimesUp organization. 

Unlike Mr. Wahlberg, I bet Timothee actually is missing that money.  But, his extraordinarily promising career was threatened. He had to give in. Now he can safely journey to a well-deserved Oscar nomination. (I wonder in the current climate if Woody’s film will even see release?)
On set of “A Rainy Day in New York."
Here’s the rub.  The accusations against Woody Allen — that he molested his own adopted child, Dylan — were made in the aftermath of his horribly bitter split from Mia Farrow.  We’ll never know the truth of it.  What we do know is that Allen has never been accused by any actress he has worked with of inappropriate behavior or verbal abuse.  So, his situation — shatteringly ugly as it is — inhabits an entirely different realm than what TimesUp and MeToo are working so diligently for. (Of course many people will simply never forgive or forget the extreme creepiness, and cruelty of how Woody’s relationship with Mia’s adopted daughter Soon-Yi Previn rolled out. Soon-Yi has been his wife since 1997, but that hardly changes the terrible beginning.)
But we also know this: in Mia Farrow’s life there are two known sexual predators — her own brother John Charles Villiers-Farrow, who was arrested on charges of child molestation. He is now serving 25 years in jail. And there is Mia’s good friend, the “Rosemary’s Baby” director Roman Polanski — who drugged and raped a 13-year-old girl in 1977.  Farrow has never denounced him.  And right now would be the perfect time, yes?

But I guess Mia is simply leaving Roman to heaven, and will spend the rest of her life attempting to consign Woody to hell.
ONE MORE abuse note.  I had to laugh watching Stephen Colbert grilling James Franco about allegations that surfaced about the actor, hours after he won a Golden Globe for “The Disaster Artist.” Colbert, age 53, and having worked all his life in the notoriously misogynist world of comedy, is of course a perfect human. (Likewise Seth Meyers, another moralist from the famously female unfriendly “SNL.”)
Colbert, so evolved, sees nothing degrading, abusive or harassing in presenting “comic” skits about Melania Trump.  I mean, what the hell does mocking this poor woman have to do with ... anything?  Nor are his monologues critiquing the Trump marriage — whatever it is — anybody’s business or vital to our current battle against dangerous autocracy.

As far as I am concerned, this is a man with power, abusing a woman who actually has none.
Contact Denis here.