Liz Smith: Did Sex and Nudity Derail An Oscar Nom for Michael Fassbender?

Doris Day / Michael Fassbender

And more from our Liz: the big diss: Doris Day shut out again for an honorary Academy Award … how thin is in on the red carpet? … dining with Paul McCartney

“IN AMERICA, they’re too scared of sex; that’s why Michael Fassbender wasn’t nominated for ‘Shame.’ It’s kind of crazy. But that’s how it is; it’s an American award, let them have it.”

So says Brit director Steve McQueen.

Oh, I don’t know. If you watch U.S. television, there’s a lot of sex on it these days. Too much.

There was considerable surprise when Fassbender — whose nude scenes were much discussed — didn’t make the cut. But as puritanical and hypocritical as Americans can be, plenty of sexy movie performances have been nominated for — and even won — Oscars.

Two come immediately to mind: Marlon Brando, nominated for “Last Tango In Paris” — a super-shocking movie in its day. And also Halle Berry, who actually won the Best Actress Academy award for “Monster’s Ball” a movie in which she had an explicit nude sex scene. (Of course, naked movie ladies are still more “acceptable” than gents who drop trou — in serious roles.)

I think Mr. McQueen is barking up the wrong phallus here. Maybe he’s a bit miffed that he didn’t receive a nod from the Academy for directing “Shame.”

* * *

ON SUNDAY night, the great James Earl Jones will acknowledge an honorary Oscar for his life achievement in movies. It is well deserved.

However, once again, the Academy has slammed the door in the face of Doris Day. I’ve been championing Doris for years and years. I don’t know one movie fan who disagrees with me. Film historian Jim Pinkston wrote me again this week, bemoaning Hollywood’s big diss to its biggest female box-office star ever — a force in the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s!

Mr. Pinkston also reminded me of all the greats who never won a competitive Oscar, but were finally awarded a lifetime achievement statuette (Marlene Dietrich acidly referred to these as “the deathbed awards.”) Eli Wallach, Fred Astaire, Lauren Bacall, Greta Garbo, Deborah Kerr, Kirk Douglas, Gene Kelly, Edward G. Robinson, Myrna Loy, Peter O’Toole were all recognized for their careers. The divine Miss Loy and the incredible Mr. Robinson were never even nominated during their long tenure in front of the cameras.

A few years ago, Sophia Loren collected an honorary Oscar. Now, Miss Loren is a fabulous, glamorous star, and a fine actress. She won the Academy Award for her raw, gritty role in 1960’s. “Two Women.” But she was never a great box-office draw in the United States. Most of her successful films were Italian imports, and then only for a few years. She has maintained her looks enviably. She’s very nice. More power to her in every way.

Yet, was she more deserving of an honorary Oscar than Miss Day, one of the greatest American money-making movie attractions of all time?

I’m not throwing the towel in on this, ever. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences should be ashamed of itself when it comes to Doris Day.

* * *

IF YOU think that your favorite actresses (and actors!) look even thinner than usual on Oscar night, your eyes are not deceiving you. Although now, with HD-TV, every collarbone is thrown into stark relief.

The Hollywood Reporter has a rather amusing, more-than-a-little sad story titled “Oscarexia — Inside the Mad Scramble to Shed Sizes, No Matter What.”

Merle Ginsberg observes what happens when the specter of Oscar approaches : “It’s time to call in the trainer. The nutritionist. It’s time for more of that stretchy body armor. And it might even be time to call a psychiatrist, while they’re at it.”

Apparently the garment du jour is a Spanx, a spandex “girdle” (really, that’s what it is!) This thing can pull in the waist or reconfigure you from neck-to-toe. But even with this safety net, actresses diet, cleanse and high colonic themselves into wraiths with painfully uplifted busts.

And here’s the bony irony, pointed out by a celebrity stylist who prefers to remain anonymous. “Losing weight after 40 can give actresses a really haggard look. But now they starve themselves silly. And inject their faces. Thin body and fat face — that’s the ideal equation.”

It was Catherine Deneuve who is credited with announcing, “After a certain point, a woman has to choose between her face and her ass.” Miss Deneuve’s face is still divine. The rest is her own business, and probably still quite nice, Spanx be damned.

Okay, on Sunday, let’s play “Who’s Wearing Spanx?” And don’t leave out the guys. Getting into those close-cut tuxedos can be a challenge.

* * *

ON Wednesday night I was sitting in the popular but understated restaurant Sette Mezzo on Lexington Avenue when in walked none other than Paul McCartney.

With whom he sat, what he was wearing and where he was seated (in the back of this Italian beacon-spot for billion- and millionaires,) I wasn’t able to note without getting up from my seat and staring!

Why didn’t I get more on this sighting of the ultra-famous? It wouldn’t have done any good to ask for details from the owners, who remain low-key and don’t like to talk about their VIP customers.

They once went against their own dicta and plastered a bounced check from Bernie Madoff up in their front window. When I wrote about this exotic event, someone promptly stole the check. It was for less than $200.

My tablemates at Sette Mezzo, Anne Eisenhower and Wolfgang Flottl (Mr. and Mrs.) had a better sightline to the famous Beatle than did I. They opined that he looked “awfully small.” Well, maybe, but I loved seeing him sing on the Grammys and his new CD of old standards, “Kisses On the Bottom,” will doubtless go gangbusters.

24 comments so far.

  1. avatar rick gould says:

    Didn’t Marlene Dietrich basically invent the “magic underwear” that lifted and smoothed out everything for those so-called “see through” jean Louis gowns she wore when she went Vegas in the ’50s?

    Doris is so long overdue that if the Academy has any shame at all, they’re probably too embarrassed to give Day her day in the sun at this point.

    Sophia is one of the great stars, but those photos of her in Vanity Fair’s Hollywood issue show she has decided to take her relatively discreet nips and tucks a step too far, much like Raquel Welch, who sort of resemble each other at this point.

    After reading Vanity Fair for the first time in a couple years and reading about leeches like Arnie Klein and docs giving out HGH shots for eternal youth and seeing Sophia looking like a frozen statue at nearly 80… I think I will just stick with TCM and remember the stars as they WERE.

    • avatar Mr. Wow says:

      Dear Rick…
       
      The designer Jean Louis created Marlene’s many barely-there gowns for her concert career, which began for her around age 50.   A thin bodysuit underneath kept everything in place. As the years went on, the bodysuit became less thin, as it was harder to keep even the divine Marlene “in place.”

      It was Jean Louis who also whipped up Marilyn’s infamous “Happy Birthday, Mr. President” gown.  At only 36, MM didn’t yet need the support and shaping.  It was just a tissue of material.  Had she lived, she would have gone Marlene’s route. 

      • avatar rick gould says:

        And one of Louis’ young apprentices was Bob Mackie, who has designed for many divas in a similar manner, including my favorite four letter word, Cher ; )

  2. avatar Baby Snooks says:

    It appears when Doris Day left Hollywood, Hollywood left her. And forgot her.  Something odd about it all. Politics I suspect. Tied into the mess with Marty Melcher I suspect. She irritated someone, or several, who are still around. And who still wield a heavy axe.  Her work on behalf of animals alone should warrant something. But, nothing.

    I think what irriates me is that they would honor Oprah Winfrey instead of Doris Day. But then Oprah Winfrey can make or break a film. Doris Day cannot.

    A lot of people don’t realize the Academy is more than just actors. It’s writers, directors, producers, technical people, and even publicists.  You have to be nominated for membership by peers in your appropriate group. And then approved.  Not everyone is approved.  And many of them are never nominated.  Or never nominated again. It is, well, political. Even though they claim it is not.  Doris Day is pretty much proof that it is.  And they like to insult people. As they did with Lauren Bacall.  Her award should have been given at the actual Oscars presentation. Not some luncheon months before. But they did allow her to stand to be recognized at the Oscars. That for manyu summed of not only the politics but the pettiness of the Academy. And, well, Doris Day, again, is pretty much proof of the pettiness as well as the politics. 

    • avatar Baby Snooks says:

      Who runs this show? Joni? Sheila? Put in an edit feature that works.  I edit and then hit submit and *voila* the unedited comment appears.

  3. avatar Barbara says:

    Love Doris. I always wanted to look like her. Bouncy, blonde, cheerful. She had a great figure but a “real” one. None of this stick thin with fake melons pushed up to the chin, with a botoxed expressionless face. All the ladies look the same now. Maybe that’s why so much is made of the gowns they wear – the women inside them look alike.

    It does seem that the Academy has passed her over for no good reason. She carried a lot of movies and had a style all her own.

    • avatar Mr. Wow says:

      Dear Barbara…
       
      Doris had a great body.  Clark Gable said she had “the best ass in Hollywood.” 

  4. avatar Anais P says:

    I agree with Liz: Doris Day should most definitely be honored by the Academy. Her performance as the mother of the kidnapped boy in “The Man Who Knew Too Much” alone was wonderful and impressive. But I disagree that Paul McCartney is “small.” He may be thin, but he is above average in height, around 5-feet-11. Saw him onstage in concert a year or two ago, and his height was evident. Plus he put on a fabulous show! His voice and engaging personality are still in fine shape.

  5. avatar Deborah Key says:

    The only thing Shame had going for it was the nudity. 

  6. avatar Lisa Cornell says:

    I am a huge Doris day fan. Her movies, her voice and her sweetness are the stuff of legends. Shame on the Academy.

    As for Miss Loren being nice, I’m afraid I have to disagree. I worked at a major airport for many years and I saw more than my fair share of actors and stars. Miss Loren was a diva in the most unpleasant way imaginable each and every time she came through. Contrast this with Elizabeth Taylor, also a diva, but one whom you couldn’t help but adore. Most of the stars were absolute gems and lovely people. As for the few who were not, they were nasty and unpleasant people, who I suspect would be so even if they weren’t household names.

  7. avatar Paul Brogan says:

    Liz – Once again you’ve told it like it is. The Academy should be ashamed of itself but it isn’t. The fact that Doris showed amazing versatility by starring in musicals, comedies (slapstick, domestic and sophisticated), dramas, thrillers, westerns, a spy spoof and doing it all so seemingly effortlessly, irritates some people. She has never been one of those stars who would “go to the opening of a can of tuna” to get their name or picture in the paper. In 1965 Dick Zanuck invited her to attend the Oscars but she chose instead to go to a Laker’s Game. She gave her all to her career without complaint but then moved in a different direction. The Foreign Press recognized her skill, nominating her 5 times for Best Actress in a film (3 comedies, 1 musical and 1 drama) as well as for her television series. The Academy always seemed to feel differently. Fortunately the public did not and in 2012 dollars, the gross (not net but the actual dollars taken in at the box-office) for her 39 films, worldwide, would be nearly 5 billion dollars. Her record will stand and recently the L.A. Film Critics honored her for her career and she graciously accepted and thanked them via an audio hook-up. If the Academy deigned to honor one of their biggest and best, I’m sure she’d graciously accept but if they insist on putting conditions on it (making this woman in her late 80′s come to L.A. in person so they can use her for publicity purposes), it’s not worth much. Thank you for championing Miss Day with your usual class. Paul E. Brogan

    • avatar rick gould says:

      Right on, Paul!
      When I was a kid in the cool 70s, I thought Doris was hopelessly uncool.
      But as an adult, I came to appreciate her charms.
      One of my very faves is “The Pajama Game.” If you’re having a bad day, pop that DVD in and watch Doris at her high energy best…plus you get a great cast, classic songs, dances by Bob Fosse, all directed by the great Stanley Donen (Singing in the Rain).

      No matter what the Academy does or DOESN’T do, Day’s record speaks for itself.

  8. avatar howard green says:

    As film critic Rex Reed once said:
    “Doris Day was one of the truly perfect women ever to grace the screen. She was smart, funny, warm, beautiful in a sunny, wholesome way and surprisingly, unfailingly sexy. She was such a natural and charismatic force that without a single acting lesson, she seized the screen from her very first appearance (in the 1948 musical Romance on the High Seas) and remained a superstar for 20 years, and she was—and still is—one of the really flawless singers of all time.”

    Mr. Reed certainly got it right. She’s been criminally under appreciated for much too long. Not only has the Academy overlooked her for an honorary Oscar, but she deserved a lot more nominations than the one she got for “Pillow Talk.” “Love Me or Leave Me,” “The Man Who Knew Too Much,” “The Thrill of It All,” are just a few of her memorable film roles.

    Director Norman Jewison put it very well a few weeks ago at the Los Angeles Film Critics Awards: He told Doris (via Skype) “Whether you know it or not, you carry some magic in your heart, and somehow you reached out to the world…and you touched people’s hearts.”

    Amen!

    • avatar Deirdre Cerasa says:

      Howard,
      Thanks for sharing Rex Reed’s wonderful words about Doris Day! She is very special.
      And, Norman Jewison got it exactly right!

  9. avatar Joe Albanese says:

    Sophia Loren won the Oscar (for Two Women).  Ms. Day was nominated once (Pillow Talk) and walked home empty handed.  Why give “honorary” Academy Awards to folks who already have one on their mantle? Shouldn’t they be going to the folks who truly deserve them but weren’t lucky enough to have their name announced when they opened the envelope?  Keep plugging away Liz – maybe next year will be Doris’

  10. avatar lisakitty says:

    One of the things I have always admired about Doris Day is her dignity and her dedication to animal causes.  She is a wonderful LADY and deserves the honorary Oscar while she is still around to accept it.

    For me, my favorite DD movies are the ones with Rock Hudson.  Classic outfits, brilliant writing.  And she was class incarnate.  Lovely lady, she needs to get that Oscar for her contribution not only to the $$$ but to our clture.  

  11. avatar Jas1 says:

    Re Doris Day= a class act; an amazing talent (and body); she should be honored for her acting as well as her animal welfare work;

    Shamed = agree, nudity = good, too dark, goes nowhere really.

    Sophia= Agree prima donas and divas would be so if they were a top star or an office worker= I think it is in the person and maybe stardom just enhances it. Doris Day [again] was no “un-diva” like that that is another of her [many] charms! Sophia in Vanity Fair = yes, I thought that too- one step too far after looking amazing for so many years- the lips are too much! Doris [again] said “the best face lift is a ‘thinking lift’ ….” !!!!!

  12. avatar rick gould says:

    I will be celebrating what would have been Elizabeth Taylor’s 80th birthday Monday here in Portland by seeing a screening of “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” hosted by her grand-daughter, Laela, with proceeds going to a local AIDS project.

    • avatar Paul Brogan says:

      Rick – A wonderful cause and one dear to my heart. I raised more than 1 million in NH during a 10 year period and it’s a cause that, sadly, seems to more often than not fall under the radar of late. Good luck with the benefit and may there one day be no need for benefits for AIDS in our lifetime.

    • avatar Deirdre Cerasa says:

      Rick Gould!
      What a great way to spend Elizabeth’s birthday. Wish I were in or even near Portland, I’d be there “with bells on”!

  13. avatar Lila says:

    Y’know… it’s not so much that Americans are afraid of sex, or show too much of it on TV; it’s that sex seems not to have its proper place with us, so we are titillated by it, and it often shows up gratuitously in entertainment – you can hardly have a book, movie, or – lately – TV show without the “required” sex scene anymore. We are also inconsistent: Paris Hilton, Britney Spears and other young starlets have had their naked crotches photographed while climbing out of cars in their pantyless miniskirts and the reaction is sort of a collective, childish point-and-giggle exercise via the tabloids; let a man do the equivalent, and I expect he would be arrested for flashing and probably get labeled a sex offender. We expect women to be sexy and come-hither, we even sexualize young girls (don’t even get me started on Toddlers and Tiaras and their mini-hookers), yet we are unaccountably terrified of sexual predators lurking around every corner, and our sex offender databases are loaded with people who did nothing more than sext their own photo in a moment of youthful idiocy, urinated in public, mooned someone, or had sex with their longtime girlfriend who was perhaps two years younger and not yet 18. And God forbid anyone allow their toddlers to skinnydip any more, because adults are supposed to avert their eyes from children’s bodies lest they be labeled as pedophiles. None of it makes a lick of sense, and only shows how weirdly conflicted we are.

    In Germany I was struck by how very open and matter-of-fact people were about nudity and sex, yet it always had its proper place. You regularly see whole families ranging from portly, sagging Grandpa to the nubile young teens, right down to the toddlers, all naked and sunbathing, or playing at the park or beach, or going to the spa. From earliest childhood, everyone has regular opportunities to know what naked bodies look like. Even the porn magazines are sold without the silly black covers we have, and I have seen many of them on the magazine racks in gas stations, right at child’s eye height. No one cares. Sex shops openly display their wares in the windows, and porn movies come on regular TV after 10 PM. But you never see anyone naked in a store, or restaurant, or on the street, nor having sex in public (OK, the occasional hot n’ heavy couple at night in a park somewhere… but the point is, it’s not proper). And German (and Russian) TV shows and movies that I have seen didn’t seem to have a “nudity requirement” or a “sex scene requirement” as part of their formulas: if it didn’t advance the story, it generally wasn’t in there. And while the Germans did not seem to me to be very fixated on fears of rape or predation, those were serious crimes and treated as such, when they did occur. Everything in its place.

  14. avatar Marknfl12345 says:

    If awarded an honorary Academy Award, would Doris Day attend? She seems bit reclusive.
    Regarding the topic of aging beauties, the injected faces are very odd looking. The first that I saw was that of the very pretty Farrah Fawcett… I could not understand why her cheeks were so plump. Someone had to explain it to me.