Don’t Kid Yourself: We Lose in this Election

 

I’m sure there’s some historical or Biblical reference to the events we’re seeing unfold in contemporary American politics. I’ll leave that to those who can actually make a reasonable connection; I’m more interested in how it’s capture-20160809-191531affecting our daily lives. Horrible, faded and greedy – all apt descriptions of candidates across the political realm. Others may toss in a few more descriptive adjectives: murderous, selfish, evil: all points I wouldn’t argue.

For years, we, as average Americans, may have been passive in our willingness to demand accountability. In many ways, politicians were like celebrities. These glamorous movie stars occupied the left coast while the arrogance that defines the elite politicians occupied the right coast. Somewhere in the middle, the rest of us created our spaces. Lately, they’ve begun invading our space and time and thoughts – and with each intrusion, the celebrities and the politicians feel even more entitled to claim what they never owned to start with: our loyalty.

If loyalty’s not an option, then feel free to never again darken their Facebook or Twitter pages:

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Facebook

But we always could rely on our politicians to exercise their loyalty to their own parties, right? Really, who demands something they refuse to show in their own actions? Elected leaders, that’s who makes those kinds of demands:

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Senator Susan Collins, after initially saying she would support the Republican nominee, rescinded that comment and now says she does not support Donald Trump. “If I were giving him advice, I would tell him he should own up to making mistakes…and he should stop insulting people.” What’s worse is that she’s considering voting for Clinton.

My favorite display of disloyalty comes not from a politician, per se, but a former John McCain aide, Mark Salter. He’s clearly missed the irony in his statement, “Are we in such dire straits that we must dispense with civility, kindness, tolerance and normal decency to put a mean-spirited, lying jerk in the White House?” What’s interesting is his tweet of “I’m With Her”, which is the rallying cry for Clinton supporters, answers his own question.

While there’s some evidence of Democratic politicians crossing over to support Trump, they’re certainly not advertising it, which makes them smarter on that point alone. After all, they’ve seen the implosion of the Republican Party now that it’s coming apart at the seams.

Is this really what our society has become in terms of leadership, power, strength and everything else that used to define this country? Our own government is suing itself, for God’s sake.

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And what should the residents of Louisiana do now that their governor has sued their employers? Big oil is as controversial as it gets and for good reason, but usually, politicians promise to increase jobs and clear the path for companies to do business in their respective states. The last thing a governor does is jeopardize the future of the nation’s second largest oil producing state. Unless you’re Governor John Bel Edwards. The industry that employs 300,000 people and accounts for more than $70 billion in revenue each year is now in his crosshairs.

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In all fairness, he’s right about the coast being in a major crisis, but haven’t we learned by now that Big Oil just doesn’t care for what the governor is hoping will be an “amicable solution”? Read the story here.

If there’s been anything at all that could remotely be construed as a silver lining, it’s that there have been many truths exposed to the American people. Problem is, the exposure on both sides is so irretrievably broken that we’ve come to the realization that this election no longer has any semblance of a dignified, informed and ethical process. The worst thing for Americans to do is to allow these poor choices to divide us. Ulterior political motives have already caused a division of races, a national debt that is so surreal that there’s no use pretending it could actually be repaid and a massive global stage in which the rest of the world is watching, alternating between shock, disbelief and humor.

Congress shows up when it serves a purpose. They would have us believe they’re battling their contemporaries to secure funding for whatever cause constituents are demanding, but they’re fooling no one. They’re always ready to jump out of their chairs the moment their extravagant vacations begin.

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Meanwhile, the campaigning continues, each new day bringing a new and ridiculous “media created, politician approved” scandal. Just consider the ones from last week – we’ve heard nothing else since these breaking news stories made the rounds and instead, the media has steered our attention to today’s crisis, whatever it might be.

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And now, we’re expected to be prepared later this year to cast our votes for one of the two most disturbing candidates to ever attempt to lead the world’s greatest nation. That old saying that making a real change at the polls is irrelevant: no matter what voters do at the polls, we will most certainly lose.

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Mary Astor – The Great Lie

capture-20150815-184410I’ve really been looking forward to this weekend’s anti-damsel blogathon. Work and life have a way of annihilating priorities, but this has already been a lot of fun and my goal is to show the magnificence of one of my favorite actresses, Mary Astor.

Many would argue she’s best known for The Maltese Falcon or maybe even the 1949 version of Little Women, and I agree, but don’t box her into one role; she deserves better and the many films she made, including silent films in the 1920s, make it clear she wasn’t only a pretty face; this lady mesmerizes on screen.

It’s difficult to put into words the magic that we feel when we witness a talented actor pull from the core of his or her soul and bring to life a complex living and breathing character, full of love and hate and redemption and forgiveness. It always goes so much further than a simple, “best acting ever” declaration. It’s about the tension that’s built when you know it has very little to do with a director’s insistence on proper timing. It’s about the delivery and inflection in a voice that speaks with a powerful line and you know it has little to do with the writers. It’s about the confidence you feel in a character’s purpose and you know it has little to do with the ability of talented co-stars to play off of one another. Without that power of that one soul, the rest serves no purpose. The writing, directing and team collaboration; they’re crucial, of course, but useless if the parts that define it are weak. There’s a reason some talent lives forever while second-best is pushed to the wayside and while we remember favorite films and the way they made us feel, you can be sure that would not exist were it not for the committed talent willing to bleed, cry and demand perfection to make that film worthy of a place in history.

And that is exactly the way every Mary Astor film moves me. It’s also the very reason I’ve chosen The Great Lie for this blogathon.

I mentioned yesterday that it’s difficult, for me personally, to imagine Astor as anything but Edith Cortright in her role in Dodsworth. Her character was just so calming and it’s one of my favorite films, too. She stood by as the man she loved beat his head against the wall trying to make a marriage work that had long since been dead. And she was there to pick up the pieces when he’d finally figured it out. I bring that up because there’s an irony to that plotline in The Great Lie, which was released five short years later. Gone was the compassionate, loving and patient “other woman”, Edith. Now, fans were able to witness Sandra Kovak and her very different efforts of wooing the man she loved away from his wife. Distinctly different, despite the love triangle in both films, and flawlessly delivered.

A quick note about The Great Lie. It starred two powerhouses who had already made several films together, George Brent and Bette Davis. I can only imagine what likely went through anyone’s mind who had the opportunity to perform next to these two giants, yet Astor was a rockstar in her own right. In fact, it was Davis who decided what role Astor would play: the role of Maggie, who was a bit more down to earth, realistic and, for lack of a better word, “domesticated” or the role of Sandra, the globetrotting, elegant, sophisticated, independent and spoiled pianist. While many believed Davis would have chosen the more aggressive role while leaving a slightly passive role to Astor, she instead chose the more appealing Maggie. Maybe it was because of Brent, but I don’t suppose we’ll ever know for sure. Wondering how many films Brent and Davis shared? Try eleven in just ten years – with The Great Lie being the tenth film. These two spent more time with one another during that decade than they did anyone else.

Ah, but Astor scored an Oscar in that role.

One last disclosure: SPOILERS follow. But don’t get caught up in the ending; trust me, the magic is found in the story as a whole. Besides, it’s easy enough to figure out how the film ends. What I’m trying to show is the way the viewer gets there.

Our film opens with Pete (Brent) waking up to the reality that he’s just married the wrong woman. He immediately leaves his still-sleeping and hung over bride at home and flies to Maggie’s (Davis) home, who’s already been engaged to Pete at least twice. He finds a grieving Maggie being protected by a determined and loyal housekeeper, Violet (oh my God…two words: Hattie McDaniel. Brilliant in her role, as always) ready to hurt him for the pain he’s caused her Miss Maggie. As Pete flies back to his bride (he’s a pilot and prefers a quick plane trip over a car ride), he learns that Sandra (Astor) is still married to her first husband. She’d married Pete believing her divorce was final. This, of course, gives Pete his out – which he promptly takes.

Later, as Pete is sent to pilot an exercise overseas, Sandra discovers she’s pregnant and wastes no time in sharing her news with Maggie, who is now finally married to Pete. She made it clear that she would use the baby to lure Pete back into her arms.

Soon, word comes that Pete’s plane is nowhere to be found and he’s declared dead. Maggie, grieving terribly, contacts Sandra and offers to raise the baby since it no longer serves Sandra’s purposes. Since Sandra travels the world as a renowned pianist, she agrees to hand over the baby to Maggie, who will raise the baby as hers and Pete’s.

The two disappear to a cabin in the final months of Sandra’s pregnancy so to avoid the media. She gives Maggie hell, but finally, the baby is born and the two women part ways, each believing they will never again see one another. The baby, who Maggie calls Young Pete is around three months old when she gets a phone call that Pete was found alive and was on his way home.

This means, of course, that Sandra begins lurking around again, showing up unannounced at their home with the intention of telling Pete everything in an effort to break up his marriage. Maggie, always the sensible one, instead beats Sandra to the punch and tells Pete everything. She wanted it all out in the open and let the cards fall where they may. Pete didn’t react the way Sandra hoped and the final few lines of the film, spoken between Sandra, Maggie and with Pete standing there:

Sandra:  “Maggie, I won’t be staying for lunch.”

Maggie: “But what about Young Pete?”

Sandra: “I’m leaving it with his mother.”

There’s no “damsel in distress” in her game. Sandra makes no apologies for her decisions. She never intended to give up her career and she never promised Pete that she would. She didn’t apologize for not wanting the baby, and in fact, she made it clear that the baby was just means to an end. At one point, Maggie says to her, “You never called, you never wrote – you never even knew what I named him!” Sandra never blinks and in fact, dismisses it almost as though Maggie was rattling off the week’s high and low temperatures two miles south of Tibet.

When you think about it, how many women would actually walk up to an ex’s new wife, never skip a beat, and say, “You should know, I plan to take him back.” For that matter, how many wives would take that without a street brawl? Sandra never loses her cool. Even her temper tantrums at the cabin before having the baby were merely efforts of frustrating Maggie. Maggie wouldn’t allow her to have more than a few cigarettes, no steak and definitely no more than “one pickle and a thin slice of onion” for her sandwich during the pregnancy. Sandra resented that.

Here’s what it comes down to: a pregnant woman, who as it turns out, was never married to her ex, allows the new wife to take custody of her baby at birth, no questions asked, accepts a considerable amount of money that she does not need, and then goes on her next world tour. The baby would have served one purpose, and since everyone believed the baby’s father was dead, the little one meant nothing to her past that. Then, upon learning the father is still alive, she finds her way back to him, accepts the hospitality offered, and still makes it clear to the new wife that she doesn’t intend to live without the man they both love. When it’s clear she’s lost the battle, she simply closes the chapter with a simple, “I’m leaving the baby with its mother.”

How much more anti-damsel can you get? And in our Sandra’s case, how much more Oscar worthy can you get?

I searched high and low for a clip that included one of the scenes I outlined above, but the clips are getting harder to come by. Below is the trailer to the movie, but it’s heavy on Brent and Davis; still, a few of her best lines are delivered in the trailer, so invest two minutes and see for yourself and be sure to notice her refined voice – beautiful, I tell you! Right below that is TCM’s Robert Osborne’s introduction to the network’s monthly Star of the Month series. It too has a few soundbites and clips. It’s good for your soul!

Be sure to check out both blogathon hosts’ sites, too. Jo rocks it out on her The Last Drive In and I’m beginning to appreciate silent films, thanks to Fritzi over at Movies Silently.

The Great Lie

If you’ve been a reader of this blog for any time, you know how much I love classic films. I love the women and men and their roles in the 30s and 40s, and into the 50s, too. Men were men and women were women…for better or worse. That’s not to say that human nature has changed that much; it was just…different.

Fortunately, I’m not the only one who’d rather line up a few of those great films for the weekend instead of seeing the latest million dollar blockbuster. They’re overrated, bloated and really, how many times can you kill the same enemy, with the same tired lines and with the same “I-thought-the-woman-of-my-dreams-died-and-here-it-is-the-last-thirty-seconds-of-the-movie-and-I’ve-killed-the-enemy-and- woman-of-my-dreams-is-still-alive” plotline? Don’t the actors get tired of it? Eh, it is what it is, I reckon.

Enter the latest blogathon, hosted by The Last Drive In and Movies Silently. This time, we’re shooting for the anti-damsel. What is the anti-damsel? Well, I’ll leave it to the rockstar hosts to explain it:

“She’s been the central figure in danger, the iconic woman in peril … the one who is not in control, trapped by a the narrow gaze of objectification… instead of inherently capable of the same self sufficiency, violence, aggression, strength or self preservation as men….”

The first thing that comes to mind is any of the many Bette Davis roles, right? This time, I’m going to do it a little different. The film I’ve chosen indeed has Bette Davis, but she’s actually the “good girl”, or rather, the “better” girl. No, for this blogathon, I’m choosing a more unlikely choicemaryastor: Mary Astor in her Oscar winning role in 1941’s The Great Lie. She’s everything this challenge calls for, but you’ll have to check back this weekend to see how she fills that role.

I know, I know…any previous writing about Mary Astor, at least from me, has been mostly her role in Dodsworth, as the patient, sweet, loving and forgiving “other woman” in Walter Huston’s life. Don’t mistake the “other woman” role as something bad. Against Ruth Chatterly, Astor is nothing short of a saint and very much the one you hope “wins” Huston’s heart. It is poles apart from the role she plays in the love triangle in The Great Lie. And that’s saying something, considering Bette Davis is her competition!

Check back over the weekend as I explore Mary Astor’s “married but not married” Sandra Kovak, who, by the way actually plays – and flawlessly, I might add – Tchaikovsky’s Concerto 1.

 

35 Years and the Original Urban Cowgirl Gets the Last Line

For most of us, and certainly for those of us in the south, there are names that are synonymous with Texas: cowboys, oil, George Bush, Gilley’s and of course, Urban Cowboy. Hard to believe, but it’s been 35 years since the film’s release. Urban Cowboy was ambitious; let’s be honest – what are the odds of a Jersey boy morphing into a believable cowboy out of small town Texas – and one who could actually two-step and waltz? See, that’s the thing about odds: once proven, they matter little. I was always sure it was the influence of the true Texans, especially those we get to know in the film, that really pulled out John Travolta’s inner cowboy – and boy did they!

Debra Winger (l), Jessie La Rive (c), John Travolta (r)

Debra Winger (l), Jessie La Rive (c), John Travolta (r)

One of those influences was Jessie La Rive Mapes, who played Debra Winger’s best friend throughout the film. This Texas girl’s character was a spitfire and as I’ve learned over the past few days, it most certainly comes natural. Jessie was gracious and was willing to spend a little time with me on memory lane, and as I learned (and always suspected), the authenticity of a film often comes down to director’s leap of faith and trusting the talent of his actors.

Jessie had worked at Gilley’s prior to filming. She ran the bull and worked in the kitchen when she wasn’t working at her “regular job”. She said, “I was driving a wrecker at the time we started filming so they thought it would be fun if Sissy was the one driving the wrecker. It all worked out.”

There are people in life who you look at and you just know that each knows all the dirt on the other – and it’s OK because of the deep loyalty between the two, especially when it comes to women. Lord knows I have a couple of

Photo Courtesy: Jessie La Rive Mapes

Jessie’s 21st birthday gift: her first plane ride with John Travolta as her pilot. (Photo Courtesy: Jessie La Rive Mapes)

friends who know where the bodies are hidden. Those friends are rare and when we find them, we just know the treasures that they are. Jessie (Jessie LaRive Mapes) and Sissy (Debra Winger) were so seamless in their interactions with one another that you wonder if maybe they didn’t grow up as school girl friends.

I asked Jessie, “I’ve always noticed how Jessie and Sissy really meshed throughout the film. The two characters really complemented one another. Was it like that with Jessie and Debra offset, that made it believable in your roles onscreen?”

Jessie: “Debra and I hit it off immediately, so we were really good friends on the set and hung out after filming would finish. We had a lot of fun between scenes and would usually go to lunch together when we had time.”

She then goes on to tell me about their “fight”.

Jessie: “…in fact, we had to actually get into a fight to get mad enough to film the scene at Stoney’s when Bud and Wes were fighting in the parking lot.  We couldn’t stop laughing, so we went out back and literally started a cat fight just to pull the scene off.”

Fans of the film saw how Jessie went to bat for her best friend when Bud (Travolta) wouldn’t “allow” Sissy (Winger) to ride the bull. Her “Bud, I think you oughta let her ride it” line is so typical of what we women say; it’s not so much of a suggestion, but more of a, “Get the hell out of her way and let her do her thing.” When I asked her about that and whether it’s something she’d really say to her best friend’s husband, she made it clear how much she values her friends.

Jessie: “I am loyal to a fault and will always stand up for my friends. So yes, when I defended Sissy that is a “me” thing. 

Here’s a really fascinating truth: all of Jessie’s lines were adlibbed. She said, “They would give me an idea of what they wanted and I just played off that.” Unfortunately, the line where she tells Bud to kiss her ass was cut. She said there was careful editing because of some of the language.

What she told me next still has me in awe. I’d asked her about her favorite “behind the scenes” moment. She said it was the scene at Stoney’s when Bud and Wes found themselves in a fight in the parking lot.

Jessie: “I had just given birth to my son the day before and had to come back for the shoot that next night. When we talk about how sore I was (from riding the bull that day) I was being truthful. The Director, Jim Bridges, had a motor home in the back and hired a nanny to watch my son while we shot scenes.  In between each scene I would go out to the motor home and be with him until it was time for the next shot.”

I remember that scene well: The Eagles playing on the jukebox, Bud yelling at the waitress and a hamburger hurled towards Wes (played by Scott Glenn). The next thing we see is Jessie physically restraining Sissy so that she’s out of the line of fire coming from the parking lot brawl. And Jessie had just given birth to her son hours earlier.

And speaking of Wes Hightower (Glenn), he is the epitome of the bad boy that breaks hearts as he goes, each woman more convinced than the one before that she can “fix” him. This brings us to my next question for Jessie. I’d ask her if there was a favorite scene that stood out for her.

Jessie and best friend Betty, the real life Sissy who married the real Bud, Dew Westbrook

Jessie and best friend Betty, the real life Sissy who married the real Bud, Dew Westbrook (Photo Courtesy of Jessie La Rive Mapes)

Jessie: “My favorite scene has to be the shot in the trailer when Wes drinks to worm in the Mescal.  Debra and I sat back and watched him do about ten takes on that scene and for every worm he ate, we drank a shot to cheer him on. That was a long day.  There also was a scene that Debra and I shot just the two of us, playing on the bull with a beer in our hands.  It turned into an all-out beer fight, we were spraying beer everywhere on anyone that got close to us!  I wish they had left that scene in.”

That tiny trailer. A lot went on in that space. From the scene Jessie describes above to Wes owning up to the fact that Sissy was expecting too much, “You can’t expect a man like me to be faithful to any woman,” it was a great contrast to the vast space that defined Gilley’s

I asked Jessie, “Crazy as this sounds, I’ve always wanted to know if there was really a small trailer behind Gilley’s. Real trailer or Hollywood creativity?”

Jessie: “There was never a trailer behind the club. That was something that the director decided would work well with the plot. Also, watch the scenes that were shot at the trailer park. There are no mountains in Deer Park, Texas.  We shot those scenes in California along with the last scenes at the club where Wes robbed the office. Those scenes were shot on a sound stage at Paramount Pictures.”

These days, Jessie is recording a CD and she’s hoping to have it ready in time for the Urban Cowboy reunion in June (be sure to follow her on Twitter @urbancwgirl). She and Debra didn’t keep in touch after the film wrapped, but I get the sense that those amazing souls who made Urban Cowboy the incredible film that it is are as loyal as the day is long. Sometimes, actors can be led into creating believable work. Other times, it just falls into place.

Once you’ve seen it unfold and fall into place, from the opening scenes in Bud’s hometown to the marriage waltz across Gilley’s dance floor to Pam’s view of her Houston proper, it becomes a favorite. I won’t say I’ve kept my copy of Urban Cowboy updated with changing technology. I mean, it’s not like I had the beta tape, the VHS tape, DVD and blu ray. But maybe I did. I also happen to know you can see it on demand on Netflix. Hell, who am I kidding, anyone who knows me knows that’s true. Below is the official Paramount Movies trailer. You can see Jessie in the trailer and also Bud’s (Travolta) amazing hoedown.

I am so grateful Jessie La Rive Mapes was willing to share some of her stories and photos with me. For me, this is far more than just a column for the 35th anniversary of Urban Cowboy.

As for Jessie, the Original Urban Cowgirl, she gets the last line and even then, she’s the true best friend. Sissy’s worried about her car getting home. As Bud and Sissy begin their “happily ever after”, Jessie hollers across the parking lot:

“Don’t worry about it, Sissy!”

Taking on The Slap

Apparently, I was one of the few who actually saw NBC’s premiere of The Slap. It’s not exactly hitting any kind of numbers that would warrant a trending position on Twitter and if you Google it, everyone’s talking about its low ratings. That’s surprising, but then again, some of the best shows on TV these days don’t take off with much of a bang. ABC’s Nashville didn’t inspire any Twitter hashtags and FX’s Sons of Anarchy was close to being axed after its first season. We all know how criminal it would have been to pull that from the FX lineup.

Here’s the thing, though. With The Slap, if it does pick up viewers, that means it will soon be quite controversial for its content and the morals of child discipline and too, let’s face it, the region of the country we live in will likely play a role in that as well. That, to me, is the most fascinating aspect of it.

Another problem could be that it’s being presented as a mini-series. Today’s audiences are all about longevity. That’s part of the reason network television isn’t faring well. We’re forced to wait months for three or four episodes, only to realize we’re nearing a “seasonal” finale, in which we’re forced to wait another several months. It’s growing old, Network Decision Makers….it’s growing old! To make matters worse, viewers get invested, only to learn – with no warning – that it’s been pulled. Two examples: Longmire and Dallas.

anigifAnd by the way, why didn’t NBC take advantage of its two mega stars? I had no idea Uma Thurman and Thandie Newton would be gracing our television screens until it premiered last night. I don’t know that it would have made much of a difference, though. Everything about the way The Slap premiere was marketed is just…strange.

It’s worth noting this is an award-winning series in Australia that premiered in 2011. It’s also based on Christos Tsiolkas’ The Slap: A Novel. Like most things, the read is far more interesting than the vision we’re presented via network television.

Here’s how it’s been marketed:

A once happy family suddenly begins to fall apart following a seemingly minor incident in which a man slaps another couple’s misbehaving child.

Little in that description makes sense once you see the pilot. Very little.

Hector (Peter Saarsgard)

There are no happy families in this show. The show opens with bad news with the lead (Hector) learning he didn’t get a promotion, but a “Latino woman” did (this is bound to come full circle later), it transitions to his drive home where he’s thinking about a young girl in a less than moral manner and by the time he reaches his home, makes his entrance, complete with fighting kids and a wife who’s ill after going twelve rounds with her mother in law, the best he can do is wish for drugs. Fortunately, his wife’s a doctor (played by Newton) and she actually sends him to her clinic and tells him where to find her stash. It’s then we learn that the young girl he’s fantasizing about actually works at the clinic with his wife.

This family (which is really several families) is falling apart long before the bratty kid enters the picture.

Let’s look at the “seemingly” minor incident. I will say this – clocking the kid across the face with that much rage? Dead wrong. The kid is a major pain in the ass and frankly, he has his pansy parents to thank for the very difficult life he’s about to live, both as a kid and as an adult.

Hugo (Dylan Schombing)

Hugo is the kid who’s a terror (versus the whole “misbehaving child” description NBC planted). Schombing is 7, and the character is probably 6 or 7. (By the way, this cutie pie has acting in his genes – his father is Jason Schombing of Watchmen, Timecop and Fantastic Four.) His mother is still nursing him and is proud for anyone to see it. And no, it doesn’t bother me that mothers nurse their babies, but let’s face it, “babies” is the operative word here. A 6 or 7 year old kid? There’s all kinds of psychological trauma going on by then and it’s rooted in the mother, Rosie (Melissa George). Hugo’s father is as big a pansy as any who have graced the small screen. He believes a bit of sweet talk in a non-aggressive manner is the way to go. Whatever.

After being “asked” by his father to stop swinging the bat at a couple of his cousins in the back yard, his uncle took matters into his own hands when he realized Hugo was getting closer to his cousin with each swing.

Harry (Zack Quinto)

As the adults are sitting around the table on the deck, Harry realizes the soft requests from Hugo’s father aren’t working. He immediately jumps the deck railing and takes the bat away from him and scolds him, only to have Hugo kick him. Enter the slap.

Let’s be clear – the actors are nailing their characters, and the sets are beautiful. The promo photographs reveal a lot about the characters and their sensibilities – not sure why people overlook these important elements. With Newton and Saarsgard, the chrome floor lamp against the classic leather chair shows tradition and contemporary mindsets are at odds. Quinto’s promos show durable and masculine wood elements, complete with a wooden ashtray at his feet, representing the classic “man’s man”; and the patriarch of the family, played by Brian Cox shows him sitting at a kitchen table, complete with flowers, a Crucifix and a small Jesus statue. Vintage furniture fills the space and it’s all indicative of an overwhelming matriarch’s aggressive approach to her family. It’s really fascinating from a psychological perspective.

But really, there are so many things wrong in this family. We learn that Hector is an atheist who’s pining away for the underage assistant in his wife’s office (she actually asks for permission to have a beer, in which she’s told “you’re not old enough”). We have a mother who makes Marie Barone look like a docile wall flower and with the scandal (that never should have been a scandal) brewing, who knows what we’ll discover next? That is, provided decision makers don’t pull the plug.

Real Love Story? Not Until You Know Newman and Woodward

I just finished reading Paul Newman: A Life. It’s not new, of course, but what a fascinating life he lived and what he left was really his and Joanne Woodward’s love story. That’s what I want to focus on; but you should know, if you don’t already, that over the course of this man’s 83 years, he won many awards, including a Tony Award, BAFTA, Academy Award (The Color of Money, 1986), Golden Globe Awards, Cannes Film Festival Award, Emmy Award, SAG Award and more. He was deeply devoted to his charitable causes and of course, Joanne Woodward and his children. Fortunately for us, many of the photos of the couple are available, so I’m really excited to be able to include a few of what I feel are intimate photos of a couple who are the epitome true love.

It’s also worth noting that A Life, his 50th wedding anniversary with Woodward as well as his death all came full circle the same year, months apart, in 2008.

Newman and Woodward stand as a formidable pair that beat the odds, especially for Hollywood. They were strong as individuals, stronger together and most certainly committed to putting each other first and as the photos show, they also found their happiness in one another. While the book was fascinating, it’s clear Newman wanted to talk about his wife – and he did in this final artistic work.

What emerged was a degree of adoration, loyalty and simple but pure love that should serve as a hallmark for any marriage.

He spoke of his misery in his first marriage (his three oldest children were born in this union), his sorrow for hurting his first wife but also with no apologies for the way he felt about Woodward.

The Long Hot Summer had always been my favorite film that starred the couple. Set in Mississippi, (Thank you, Faulkner), it was released in 1958. It was their first film together (though that had spent a significantly smaller amount of time on Broadway when both had roles in Picnic) and really, the first opportunity they had to get to know each other.

This is important for another reason, too. Just as 2008 brought many changes, so did 1958.  The film had wrapped, Newman ended his marriage of nearly 10 years to be with Woodward – and not only was Newman’s divorce finalized, he also managed to marry Woodward before the year was up. The scandal, surprisingly, wasn’t as earth-shattering as you might expect.

Soon, they starred in another film, John O’Hara’s From the Terrace. Instantly and forever, this became the one movie that will always be at the very top of my favorite’s list.

Ironically, it’s a tale about Alfred Eaton (Newman) trying to do the right thing, even as his wife, Mary played by Woodward, had ulterior and materialistic motives. Mary liked the idea of being married to Alfred, but she had no desire to be his wife in a truer sense. She was in the marriage because of his success – the name he’d built for himself and the money that came with it. Of course, he meets and falls in love with another woman, but don’t feel bad for the missus – Mary’s been cheating on her husband almost from the beginning. An added bonus is Myrna Loy in the first few minutes of the movie in the role of Alfred’s mother.

Trust me on this: if you haven’t seen the film, take three minutes and check out the trailer below. You’ll find yourself on Amazon (where it’s available) and Netflix (where it’s sometimes available), ready to dive into this classic. It offers scandal, adultery, selfishness, heroic efforts (Newman saves a drowning boy) and what ethics and honesty in the legal profession look like (yes, seriously). Also, too, pay attention to Woodward’s southern drawl, which she had been told to lose. It’s delivered via a perfect velvety pitch, as though she had all the time in the world to speak her peace. Believe me, I can remember trying my best to master that pitch and tone. And no one can; it’s one of those things that just comes natural. The southern twang? Yeah, that comes easy – I’m southern. But Woodward? It’s on a level all its own.

Seriously, even if you’re not a fan of the classics, you owe it to yourself to hear how a true southern accent (she was born in Thomasville, GA) travels across the silver screen. It’s magical, I tell you.

 

Each year, Turner Classic Movies hosts a month-long Oscar-winning film fest. All of the movies shown won at least one Academy award, whether it was for best film, best actress, best supporting actress or any other distinction. One of those award winning actresses is Joanne Woodward. Her role in The Three Faces of Eve was sublime and in 1957, she was rewarded for that performance.

Many – if not most – believe this is the best Joanne Woodward film ever; however, the movies that included her and real-life husband Paul Newman are the ones closest to my heart. I’ve never been able to figure out if it’s just the romantic in me or if there was some indescribable chemistry between them that you’d have to be blind to miss.

Eh, maybe it’s a little of both.

Be sure to check out Paul Newman: A Life. It really is a fascinating story.

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The Affair, Jason Aldean and is Nothing Platinum?

First things first – if you’re a Jason Aldean fan (and really, the only folks who aren’t are the ones who’ve never heard him sing Why), he announced exclusively with Rolling Stone earlier today new dates for what I’m assuming is the second leg of his Burn it Down tour. This kicks off February 12th in Greenville, SC. Luckily for us even further south, he’s hitting some venues a bit closer. And when I say closer, I mean Tupelo, MS and even a Louisiana date if you don’t mind hitting Bossier City. He hits Montana, Ohio and Illinois as well before swinging back through south Texas, up the east coast again with a West Virginia stop and ending it in Pennsylvania. Tickets are on sale. And by the way, Old Boots, New Dirt landed at the top spot on the Billboard 200 chart the day it was released. Not bad for a Georgia boy, right?

Nothing’s Gone Platinum? 

Speaking of number one albums, did you know not a single album in any genre has gone platinum this year? Not even that little girl who’s failing miserably at being a grown up – and yes, I’m talking about the twerkin Miley Cyrus. Beyoncé? Nope. The Frozen soundtrack? Nah. Ah, but if anyone’s coming close, it’s…wait for it….Eric Church. Another country crooner – who knew?!

There are two likely reasons for this: – we’re buying singles from Amazon, iTunes and Spotify these days or we’re buying subscriptions to services like Spotify. Go figure.

Sunday Showtime

So this post began as a review of The Affair. I’m trying, I really am, to like this show. Here’s the thing – when it comes to TV, I pay good money to be lazy. That includes good money for a subscription to Showtime.

Sunday nights on Showtime are amazing – whether it’s Shameless, Ray Donovan or House of Lies. And by the way, I’ve adored Don Cheadle since I saw him in Talk to Me, which, by the way, won 8 film awards. And the music? James Brown’s “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World, Otis Redding’s “I Can’t Turn You Loose” and one of my all-time favorites, The Spinners “I’ll be Around” – and that’s a just a few of those incredible classics that still take us back – even if they were before our time.

But The Affair? Eh, it’s a very slow dance. I’ve said it before, I love a good waltz as much as anyone, but it’s just too distracting. We go into it not knowing the actors – or their characters. There are a lot of flashbacks and because the viewer is relying on the memory of the two leads, it’s hard to discern who’s telling the truth. And yes, I know that’s the point. When you have a new show, the first thing you want to do is balance the characters’ good qualities with the bad and so far, we’ve seen nothing out of these two leads; except for the fact that if they ever make it to the stand, the jury’s going to be as lost as we are with their respective recollections.

By the way – women want their men strong, especially if they’re having an affair. None of this tortured soul nonsense, even if Noah is a writer. Show us some testosterone! Get mad. Punch the father in law, stand up to your wife, walk away…do SOMETHING! Instead, he’s a scared puppy being questioned by an investigator for a crime we have no idea who committed. Hell, we’re not really sure what the crime is.

And all of these peripheral characters? They’re just adding to the distraction. Much as I love Mare Winningham, is she playing a drug dealer? I mean, she did offer the daughter in law a supply of Valium, right? For now, The Affair is still on the DVR, but the typical American consumer’s attention span is short – especially when we know House of Lies and Shameless are next up on the Sunday night Showtime roster.

So, here’s Aldean’s new video, Burnin’ it Down (and hey – he’s talking about drinking cold whiskey out of the bottle – life, my friends, simply does not get any better than that) and The Spinners’ I’ll be Around. That song just never gets old with me. Oh – and you can’t call yourself a fan unless you’ve seen the group dance to this song. I swear, come hell or high water, I’m going to bring polyester back. Like…the polyester John Travolta wore in Saturday Night Fever. And the polyester worn by The Spinners in this video.