Friday, September 21, 2018

The unrelenting slog of the Emmy telecast

You are getting very, very sleepy ...
Did I Watch the Emmys or Fall Into a Three-Hour Coma? Still Can't Decide.   
by Denis Ferrara

“The two enemies of human happiness are pain and boredom.” Arthur Schopenhauer.

Ah, but Mr. Schopenhauer, what happens when boredom is also pain?!

And yes, I am referring to the recent Emmy Awards. (Schopenhauer, a German philosopher, believed the universe is not essentially a rational place. I have no problem with this theory.)

Colin Jost and Michael Che "host" the 2018 Emmys
Paul Drinkwater/NBC
I’ve suffered through some bad awards shows, but nothing in recent memory compared to the unrelenting slog of the Emmy telecast.  The dictionary definition should almost be changed:  “Boredom: Noun: The 70th Annual Primetime Emmys.”  All the synonyms, ennui, apathy, sluggishness, weariness, etc, should also carry the example of this awards “gala.” 

The flatness, lack of humor, miserably lackluster set, all contributed to a sense that the show was enveloped in a thick rolling fog that any second was going to overwhelm everybody.  Alas, this did not happen. (Where are the fatal fumes of “The Mist” when you need them?)

I’ll be merciful and not mention the names of the two young men who “hosted” the night.  (I could look them up, as they were totally unfamiliar to me, but just thinking about these guys starts to render me unconscious.(And what on earth was the great Maya Rudolph doing in that tiresome ongoing bit with the not-so-great Fred Armisen?  Whoever wrote and conceived that mess, go on vacation, please.)

I have no complaints, really, about the winners — happy for Bill Hader, whose series “Barry” I got into after the first season ended (thank goodness for On Demand) ... loved Claire Foy for “The Crown” (although my heart really belonged to Kerri Russell’s Elizabeth Jennings on “The Americans”) ... Matthew Rhys — Ms. Russell’s real-life spouse — well deserved for “The Americans.” And Regina King for “Seven Seconds.”  Have never had the slightest interest in “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” and have all but forgotten about “Game of Thrones” and Peter Dinklage.
Loved Claire Foy for “The Crown.”
The three high points — such as they were:  Henry Winkler, winning his very first Emmy, which I find utterly astonishing ... the beautiful Thandie Newton, who is the ONLY relatable character in the mess that is HBO’s “Westworld” walking off with a Best Supporting Actress honor. (Newton, who I have admired for years, won a BAFTA for 2006’s “The Pursuit of Happyness.”  She invariably elevates her material and whatever film she is in, no matter the size of her role.) 
Emmy winners Bill Hader and Henry Winkler.
The beautiful Thandie Newton. Photos: David Crotty/ ©Patrick McMullan
Also, and, on a totally superficial note, how not to be blown away by presenter Angela Bassett? 

She began her career on a soap opera, back in 1985 (“Search for Tomorrow”), had her big break playing Tina Turner in 1993’s “What’s Love Got to Do With It?” and seemed to solidify what I certainly assumed was surefire superstardom with “Waiting to Exhale” and “How Stella Got Her Groove Back.” 
Bassett as Tina Turner in “What’s Love Got to Do With It?
Somehow, incredibly that didn’t happen.  She always worked, she has always dominated every scene given to her in every film — and she seems to pop up everywhere, on screens big and small! — but that grand career she deserves seemed just a little — and very unfairly — out of reach. She was her usual fierce and regal self in “Black Panther.”  I just wished the movie had been about her, honestly. (There’s a new TV series “9-1-1” in which she gives her all, as usual.  The series is escapist absurdity, not worthy of her, but if she needs or wants it to be a success, then let it be.)
As the Queen Mother of Wakanda in “Black Panther.”
As for her appearance on the Emmys, My jaw dropped, literally.  This is a star, a beauty, a force. She was paired with Tiffany Haddish, who is not into regal, but can be very amusing, when she doesn’t try too hard. 

Watching Bassett, I was reminded of a recent appearance she made on Sundance TV’s Hollywood Reporter roundtable. (This is a usually pretentious gathering of actors, writers, producers, etc., all talking about their “process.”)  I honestly don’t recall a word of what Bassett said, although it seemed to me she was the least annoying of her group.  But she was done-up, glammed-up, to the nines.  All others withered in her presence. 

Angela Bassett doesn’t need work. She’s got plenty of that.  She needs a true renaissance.  And I don’t mean more “American Horror Story.” 
Image Source: Getty / Rebecca Sapp
Oh, I interviewed Bassett once, some years back.  I was a nervous wreck as usual and expected the star to be as intimidating as some her roles and her general image. Not at all. (Compared to my sit-down with Elizabeth Taylor, Bassett — and every other celebrity I ever interviewed — was a stroll through a lovely park!) Bassett wasn’t giddy or inconsequential, but full of wry good humor, sense, sensibility and compassion — we spoke of some personal matters that were off the record. And she was impossibly beautiful —   impossible not to recognize, too.  I suggested we move farther back into the hotel lounge where we were talking, as little crowds kept gathering. She laughed, “Oh, it’s okay.  They just think I look like Angela Bassett!”
MAIL: Olivia de Havilland is 102, litigious and not forgotten! 

Received a great many emails regarding Livvy after our column on Ellis Amburn’s new biography about the star, “Olivia de Havilland and the Golden Age of Hollywood.”  Favorite performances were cited (her sudden change of personality in “The Heiress” is frequently mentioned, although I’ve always thought that transition, while thrilling was a teeny bit too sudden), her beauty praised, and nobody’s too high on “Feud” producer Ryan Murphy.

But this missive, from marketing and public relations maven Jonathan Marder (The New Yorker, Random House, BBC, etc) amused me the most.  Marder revealed:

“I can’t resist sharing this. I worked with Anthony Perkins, who was usually extremely polite, a great friend, intelligent, and a gentleman. But he had no affection for Olivia. He pointed out that, whenever Olivia is on screen with a good actor she’ll try and steal his lines. They’ll be saying something important and she’ll begin deep breathing, moving those beautiful breasts up and down. Your eyes naturally go from the actor to her.

“Once this is pointed out you can’t help but notice it in film after film.”

Hmmm ... I can’t say Miss de Havilland’s natural bounty escaped me, although I do not recall the great star using her bosom as an upstaging tactic.  Now, however, because everyday life these days is too fraught to concentrate 24/7 on so-called “serious” matters, I think I have to make it a project to study Olivia’s rack. A charming way to spend time, yes?

I do remember that her belle poitrine was most fetchingly revealed in the thriller “Lady in a Cage.”  She wore a low-cut negligee while being tormented by thugs who invaded her home.  But her poitrine, heaving, was out of terror, and perfectly suited to the emotional state she was in.

Olivia and Mr. Perkins never worked on a film, but they did appear together on an episode of the game show “Password” in 1963.  I found it on YouTube — almost the only aspect of internet technology of which I approve — and didn’t notice Miss de H. manipulating her bosom for upstaging purposes.  Perhaps she and Mr. Perkins just didn’t strike the congenial note backstage. 
ENDQUOTE: “I'm for truth, no matter who tells it. I'm for justice, no matter who it's for or against” said Malcolm X.
Contact Denis here.