Liz Smith: Bruce Jenner on the Run Again (No, He is Not Fleeing the Kardashians!)

“FITNESS. If it came in a bottle everyone would have a great body,” said Cher.

THESE DAYS, Bruce Jenner is known as the hangdog husband of Kris Kardashian, the mother of seemingly hundreds of daughters, all of whom have little talent but a lot of exhibitionism.

But Bruce — once a handsome Decathlon Olympic Gold winner — wants to start running again. No, no — not away from the Kardashian clan. He’s stuck in reality TV hell for good. But perhaps to assert himself, and keep his sanity, Bruce has been talking with UCLA Distance Coach Johnny Gray about returning to some serious running. He has kept in good trim shape through yoga, golf, visits to the gym and wondering how the hell he ended up as part of a family that has excised all good taste and discretion. (Although I have to admit, the sisters came off better than they usually do, chatting with Oprah the other night.)

Jenner’s 1976 Wheaties box was recently reissued. That, too, might have brought on a wave of nostalgia, and energy. He might even coach, too. All this will be done in the service of the Kardashian TV show, but at least Bruce’s great accomplishments — rarely noted by his brood — will be recalled.

winning it all at the 1976 Olympic Games, bruce seen here crossing the finish line in the 10th event the 1500M race, which got him the Gold Medal.

I TOLD you a while back about a husky-voiced, Philly born/European and Brazilian-influenced singer, Melody Gardot. She wore a disconcerting, gigantic blonde afro the night I saw her perform downtown in Manhattan. Still, she was mesmerizing and mysterious. I thought she was perhaps too specialized, more a cult goddess than a best-selling artist. Wrong.

Gardot’s CD “The Absence” sold over 250,000 copies in the U.S. in its first week, is number one on the Billboard jazz charts, entered Billboards Top 200 at #32 and is currently the best-selling album in France.  The album has also been a sensation in Australia, Germany, Norway and Belgium.

Melody was mysterious to me, but not apparently to the rest of the world.

THOUGH HE is unlikely to be flattered, former presidential candidate Rick Santorum was the inspiration of the 5th (and perhaps final) season of HBO’sTrue Blood. Apparently, Santorum’s rigorous religiosity compelled the series creator, Alan Ball, to devise a plotline that involves a strictly enforced “vampire theocracy.” This is headed by none other than our old friend Chris Meloni,who has traded in his Law & Order: SVU badge for fangs.

If nothing else, Santorum should  be flattered by the choice of Meloni, who is still a hot number and never ever wears a sweater vest.

SPEAKING OF vampires, I have never been a fan of the genre, especially now when it is omnipresent. But audiences have been fascinated with bloodsuckers since the silent horror film, Nosferatu. I’m in the minority here.

So now we have Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, based on Seth Grahame-Smith’s bestseller.

I was introduced to the work of Grahame-Smith through his recent Unholy Night which tells a truly unique version of the birth of Jesus and the three wise men. I consider Unholy Night to be one of the most well-written, spiritually powerful, just plain entertaining books I’ve ever read. Quite impressed, I went to his previous books. I started with his tale of Abe Lincoln fighting off vampires because I knew the movie was upcoming. I  enjoyed the first part of the book which was full of period detail and factual accuracy. But I lost interest when the gore really began. However, it is wonderfully written.

On Friday, the screen adaptation of Vampire Hunter opens nationwide. All I can say is — what happened?! The movie is in 3-D, and I feel there is rarely any excuse for that. This gimmick spells lack of imagination to me. (Also, the 3-D glasses make the image onscreen appear much dimmer, but it’s impossible to watch without them.)

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter tells of how the future president of the United States sets out initially to avenge his mother’s death at the hands (fangs) of a vampire. Then he really gets into it. Nothing more invigorating than beheading the undead.

The movie is an endless display of slo-mo guts and gore — heads lopped off, bullets through eye-sockets, burnings, stakings, etc. All in 3-D, the better to feel you are right there as the blood spurts. Maybe I could accept that, had the story rang true.

But the “dramatic” scenes are limp and laughable. (We are perhaps meant to take it as spoofy and campy, but it doesn’t work.)  Aside from the care taken with the special effects — including an admittedly impressive final battle on a speeding train over a burning bridge — the rest of the it has the feel a TV movie made on the cheap. Seth Grahame-Smith wrote the screenplay, which surprised me. Maybe the results surprised him? One scene has Mary Todd appear in a doorway, and say, “I know everything. I read your journal. I had to know your secrets.” What — is this an episode of Girls?

Benjamin Walker as a young Lincoln.

Of the actors there is little to say. Benjamin Walker is mighty attractive as the young Lincoln, but once he becomes president and grows the famous beard, he just looks silly. (Benjamin was absolutely fabulous in “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson” a Broadway musical sending up rock ‘n roll and history. Hecan really deliver the goods.)

Mary Elizabeth Winstead is a dull, levelheaded Mary Todd. Hardly the neurotic, tragic figure of history. (Although she is quite handy with a rifle, according to this film.)

Only Dominic Cooper, as the “good” vampire has real presence onscreen. He’s sexy and assured. And he wears very cool 19th century sunglasses.

Dominic Cooper (right) as the “good” vampire.

Look, I am all for artistic license and the “it’s only a movie” mentality. But the more this went on, weaving its tale of vampires in with the terrible Civil War and the wretched issues of slavery, the more … unseemly it seemed.  Perhaps if it had been wittier (or darker), more interestingly acted, more ambitiously photographed (3-D is the easy way out) I wouldn’t have felt this way. By the end, I was leaning toward the “this is inappropriate” aisle, which I rarely visit.

I didn’t feel this at all about Unholy Night. That book, which tackles religion — “the greatest story ever told” as it is often called — might even make a brilliant movie. But it would have to employ a great director, charismatic actors and a superb screenplay. This one — Abe Lincoln with an ax — missed the artistic jugular by a mile.

However, the premiere audience gave it a rousing ovation as the credits rolled. So I make no predictions. After all, I thought Rock of Ages would do okay!

This column originally appeared on NYSocialDiary.com on 6/21/12

One comment so far.

  1. avatar janie k says:

    Bruce Jenner needs to gain some self-respect after being totally dominated by his trashy wife and the vulgar Kardashian clan.