Liz Smith Gives In

“LOOK, IT works best if you just make me the hero!” said the great Gary Cooper to a screenwriter struggling with his plot.

This is from a wonderful book, The Whole Equation: A History of Hollywood by David Thomson.

SPEAKING OF heroic figures on film, Jessica Chastain certainly impressed many critics and moviegoers playing the good-looking if somewhat robotic CIA operative who was part of the plan to hunt down Osama Bin Laden in “Zero Dark Thirty.” (Chastain did not rock my drone, nor did the film — it’s slow, sparse on character development, and not compellingly performed. But the people who give out awards obviously disagree — although director Kathryn Bigelow was shut out of the best director slot. But then so was Ben Affleck, who directed a movie I loved, “Argo.”)

Now, along with her Oscar nod for “Zero” Chastain is the star of the weekend’s big box-office winner, the suspense/horror film, “Mama.” That movie was number one, and “Zero Dark Thirty” was number two. And even if it is more likely that the subject matter of the films drew audiences more than Chastain’s name, the simple fact that she stars in both hits cannot be lost on the industry. Jessica is having her “moment” — one of those moments the Academy loves to honor. And although Jessica is young (35) she’s not a kid. So Oscar might want to honor her now. I mean, not everybody is Meryl Streep or Helen Mirren or Maggie Smith.

Things look good for Miss Chastain; maybe even better than good. So many people don’t understand irony or satire and might not have been amused by Jennifer Lawrence comically slamming her fellow Oscar nominees on “Saturday Night Live” recently. (Jennifer is having her own “moment” — as the cult heroine of “The Hunger Games” films and her much praised performance in “Silver Linings Playbook,” which follows 2011’s Academy Award nomination for “Winter’s Bone.” She is 22. I guess it’s a battle of the “moments” this season.)

I suppose we aren’t much different from the ancient Greeks. We create our gods (especially our star athletes) and then we despise them for lying, cheating and not acting like “special” beings.

While I can’t imagine a heroic football player would let a non-physical attraction for a girl he’s never really seen dominate his life enough to be heart broken over, I guess it’s to each his own. I feel kind of sorry for his naivete. And his need to have people feel sorry for him.

Lance Armstrong is a special case. His lying over and over and making liars of those who were telling the truth is just incredible to me. I knew Lance slightly and feel totally taken in by his behavior. I want to forget I ever gave him credence. I want to bike away and forget I ever heard of him; it doesn’t matter how much money he raised against cancer.

(Half a billion dollars is pretty great but begs the question: How could he lie, keep lying, and make others seem like liars? How could he? Ugh.)

A SHOUT-OUT to a TV sitcom that didn’t much impress me when it debuted two years ago, but has improved immeasurably since then. I do mean “Hot In Cleveland.” This show about three women from Los Angeles transplanted to Cleveland stars Valerie Bertinelli, Jane Leeves, Wendie Malick and the unstoppable Betty White. All these talented ladies are TV veterans, and thanks to vastly improved writing, they have been able to create real characters and ignite genuine chemistry. A charming addition this season is Georgia Engel, who was a castmate of Betty White on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.” (Engel played Georgette, the sweetly patient girlfriend of pompous news anchor Ted Baxter.) Engle still speaks in her famous whispery baby voice — which is real, not put on — and it’s obvious Betty White is enjoying their renewed camaraderie.

One complaint. Miss Bertinelli is voluptuously adorable. But Leeves and Malick, though strikingly attractive, both look almost alarmingly slim this year. Remember ladies, you’re supposed to be in Cleveland now; you can put on a few pounds. The occasional cheeseburger is not to be despised.

P.S. Also improved, though not yet to the level of “Hot In Cleveland” is Fran Drescher’s “Happily Divorced,” a fictionalized version of Fran’s own experience with a husband who comes out of the closet after many years of marriage. Drescher receives mighty support from Rita Moreno (who plays her mother) … Robert Walden (as her dad) … John Michael Higgins (the gay hubby) and Renee Taylor (as a neighbor — Taylor memorably played Fran’s eternally noshing mom on “The Nanny.”)

Tighter, wittier writing still needed. But Drescher and her castmates are hard to resist.

WELL, AS MY daddy used to advise all the time, “Wise people change their minds!”

So one of my employers Fox News has decided I should have a Facebook page and start Twittering. I once swore I’d never do such a thing, but then Daddy’s advice re-occurs to me. I have been doing philosophical gossip and entertainment and show biz news for several years now on Roger Ailes healthy network.

The show “Lips & Ears” plays on Fox every Friday and if you’d like to see it, you can tune in. My new Facebook is https://www.facebook.com/LipsAndEars.

This column originally appeared on NYSocialDiary.com on 1/22/13

2 comments so far.

  1. avatar Lila says:

    Liz, I finally saw “Zero Dark Thirty.” If nothing else, I think it does convey a sense of just how difficult intel work can be, often, just a lot of drudgery, searching for a needle in a haystack. Or more like a particular needle in a pile of needles. One of the best, most accurate parts of the movie was when one of the other analysts give Maya a several-years-old report identifying the courier’s name – that bit of info she had been searching for for so long. “Why am I just getting this now?” The other analyst basically said – after 9/11 there was a lot of “white noise,” too much info to sift through. Well, it wasn’t just after 9/11. It has always been that way.

  2. avatar Susisl says:

    When the Academy Awards increased the number of movies to be nominated; nine this year, they should have increased some of the other categories. I don’t think anyone was snubbed, but there are nine movies nominated and only 5 slots for directors…..so some are going to be left out.