Liz Smith: Too Many Oscar Nominations Are NOT Wonderful! (And Again – No Honor for Doris Day. Oscar, Hang Your Head In Shame.)


And more from our Gossip Girl: Sam Cooke remembered and re-mastered … Nikki Yanofsky, another candidate for “A Star Is Born?”

“TOO MUCH of a good thing can be wonderful,” said the great Mae West, one of the few truly autonomous women of film.

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WHILE I tend to agree with Miss West in most matters, I must say that the Academy of Motion Pictures Art & Sciences‘ take on West’s “wonderful” is just, well … too much! I was stunned last year that Oscar decided to open up the Best Picture category to ten films rather than the traditional five. I was not alone in finding this absurd, especially as all the other categories remained numerically the same — five best actors, actresses, supporting, screenplay… and director! Ten movies nominated by only five directors? How did those extra five movies come to be made? The films were good enough to be nominated, but not the directors? What the hell kind of sense does that make?

Then again, what the hell kind of sense do the awards make in general? I’m very glad Natalie Portman, “The King’s Speech” Annette Bening, Colin Firth and various others I admire were nominated. But, just for example, if they are nominating Jeff Bridges (whom I admire and he also won last year) then they could have slipped in Mark Wahlberg for “The Fighter.” Mark’s co-star, Christian Bale, was nominated, and as has been pointed out — even by Bale himself — his performance could not have happened had it not been for Wahlberg’s restrained, excellent acting.

Oh, well — it’s all about money anyway. That’s why there are five more best picture nominations. Hollywood hopes to hype the box office on these “extra” films.

We’ll be all cynical and ho-humish until Oscar night. Then — it’ll be a bit of magical boredom for three hours, and we’ll give in and believe for a minute that everybody really deserved what they received on the stage of the Kodak Theater. As if there is any real point of “comparison” between Annette Bening and Michelle Williams’ performances. Or any fairness in that, yet again, Oscar has chosen to ignore Doris Day’s lifetime achievements.

Oh, P.S., Feb 27th, Oscar night, is also the 79th birthday of three-time Oscar recipient Miss Elizabeth Taylor.

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THE DEATH of soul, pop and gospel singer Sam Cooke in 1964, at the age 33, robbed several generations of his artistry. (His shooting death in a hotel room is still one of the most hotly debated stellar mysteries — up there with Harlow, Marilyn, Jim Morrison, Princess Diana and Michael Jackson.) Jan. 22nd would have been Sam’s 80th birthday, and in celebration ABKCO and HDtracks have re-mastered four of Cooke’s greatest albums — “Sam Cooke At the Copa,” “Keep Movin’ On,” “(Ain’t That) Good News,” and a splendid compilation released after his death — “30 Greatest Hits – Sam Cooke Portrait of a Legend 1951-1964.”

Of Sam Cooke, Keith Richards has said: “He is somebody other singers have to measure themselves against, and most of them go back to pumping gas!”

This collection is worthwhile just to hear again — in pristine restoration — Sam’s devastating “A Change Is Gonna Come,” which he wrote and recorded as the Civil Rights movement exploded across the nation. Sadly, Sam Cooke did not live to see that change.

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SPEAKING OF great singers … the other day we wrote about Clint Eastwood’s plans to re-make the old “A Star is Born” tale, with Beyonce in lead. Fascinating idea, from every angle.

But as good as Beyonce is, and as interesting as it would be to have a woman of color in the role, one wonders if, like Janet Gaynor, Judy Garland and Barbra Streisand, Beyonce is now just a wee bit too mature — and way too famously glamorous — to be playing an unknown singer, aspiring to see her name in lights.

It might be refreshing, not to mention much more realistic, to cast a truly young girl, and one who has not made a huge name. I’m thinking of Nikki Yanofsky, the 17- year-old Canadian singer. She is known in the biz, has had some success, but is hardly a superstar. However, she can really sing. Not only that, her tastes run to Ella, Peggy, Frank, Anita O’Day, revved-up with intense, brilliant jazz infusions. She performed this week at Manhattan’s Blue Note and knocked the crowd out. (Believe me, you’ve never heard “Old MacDonald had a Farm” done until you’ve heard Miss Yanofsky’s way!)

The one problem? She’s only 17. And for all her maturity in her choice of material, and how well she interprets the standards, when she speaks to her audience, she sounds like the very young person she is. Smart and charming, but life has not tested her, yet. It is difficult to categorize her, or to properly package her, right now. But … if she can act, her youth would be a boon to a movie plot that has yet to really be done properly. Clint Eastwood? Go see Nikki in concert. (Oh, and please — I’m not dissing Beyonce, who is gorgeous and talented. Just throwing out another suggestion.)

29 comments so far.

  1. avatar Baby Snooks says:

    How did those extra five movies come to be made? The films were good enough to be nominated, but not the directors? What the hell kind of sense does that make?

    Well not just the directors of those films but the actors and everyone else. You’re right. It makes no sense.  Welcome to the new Hollywood.

    The mystery of the snub of Doris Day.  I’ve often wondered if it has to do with the mess Marty Melcher left behind which became an even bigger mess when she decided not to be silent about it.  It was and still is easy to see him as the villain when in fact he was probably as much a victim as she was. And they were not the only ones.  Many before them, many after them. Many of the “financial managers” are also the ones who put the production money together and so they have a lot of power.  And they were all “suspect” as a result of the lawsuits she filed.  With good reason. As others have discovered through the years. Many of whom decided to stay silent.  

    And of course after she prevailed she left and didn’t look back as they say and so to some perhaps she snubbed Hollywood.  So they snubbed back. 

    Of course she doesn’t need the Academy to honor her. She honors herself  all the time. Every time one of her films is shown.  There are still lots of women who at one time wanted to be Doris Day.  Many still do.

  2. avatar Sue Fawcett says:

    The new practice of nominating 10 movies for Best Picture – but not 10 Directors, Actors, Actresses, etc. – is nothing more than a marketing ploy. Oscar voting is influenced by politics and bias (“Crash” as Best Picture instead of “Brokeback Mountain”, “Shakespeare in Love” instead of “Saving Private Ryan”?) and an utter lack of respect for comedy. One has to think of the Oscars as little more than a mainstream popularity contest with a pretense of honoring “art”.

  3. avatar rick gould says:

    After reluctantly watching last year’s show, I swore I’d never watch again.
    This year, I managed to skip the Golden Globes. God willing, I can steel my resolve and not watch the Oscars. If the nomination omissions don’t irritate, the lame show, despite producer protestations each year it will be briefer and better, usually isn’t.
    Frankly, I think the reason Oscar hasn’t honored Doris Day is because most of the current crowd that votes doesn’t even remember her, sad to say. An industry that continually cranks out crap like “Hot Tub Time Machine” and “Saw 37″ have their sights set pretty low and a sense of history isn’t exactly their strong point.
    As for this year’s round of nominations and snubs, Hollywood reminds me that life is perpetually a high school popularity contest: some stars get their yearbooks signed, others get their books knocked out of their arms in the hallway.

  4. avatar Paul Smith says:

    Should DD be awarded an Oscar for the confections she made? 

  5. avatar Deirdre Cerasa says:

    Don’t know if I am correct; I have read several times in several places that Doris Day will not accept a Lifetime Achievement Award and would not attend.  I adore her and own all her albums, have tried to listen every year when she does her birthday radio chat.  A few months ago she did a wonderful chat with Jonathan Schwartz on WNEW in New York.  I don’t consider her movies “confections”; they were romantic comedies of the times.  She also did some dramas that were quite good.  My opinion only.

    • avatar Robbo says:

      NOT your opinion only.   DD made some wonderful comedies, sparkling movies and compelling dramas.   She could do it all – about how many actresses today can you say that??
      I suspect, however, that even if she were so honored by the Oscars, she would not make the trip.   They would have given her a Kennedy Center Honor years ago if she would agree to make the trip.
      And it was so delightful to hear on WNEW last year.   She always has such kind things to say about the people she worked with and even someone like Mitzi Gaynor, who ultimately got the part in South Pacific over Doris.   Class act all the way.   Many of the ladies in the public eye today could take a real lesson from her!

      • avatar Deirdre Cerasa says:

        Thanks for backing me up Robbo!  I have always thought she was a dream!  Yes she could do it all and you are absolutely right very few today have her range.  Doris Day you are one in a million!!!

  6. avatar Richard Bassett says:

    Of course, ten nominated films are a bit much but it can also improve a non- Oscar winner director’s reputation. Forever, a director can be marketed as ‘blank blank, director of the Oscar nominated Best film blank, blank’. Despite the money aspect, which fits into all of this anyway, it raises a director’s clout. Not all Oscar nominated films can be judged 100% on the director’s work. Sometimes there is a weak film but directed splendidly. I think that a film can be a success (Oscar worthy) purely on the actor’s chemistry, story line…etc. without a director taking all of the credit. I tend to think of well seasoned actors capable of carrying a film without much direction. But it is not politically correct to exclude the director. Apparently, though, this is being done with ten Oscar nominated films.
      Doris Day is placed in the same category that Debbie Reynolds, Sandra Dee, and Lucille Ball fit in so very well. A bit mediocre on the silver screen. Both Doris and Debbie are well received as vocalists and I believe that the Academy may feel this way as well. Television and stage material only. The Academy may think that they are lowering the bar a bit honoring Doris Day. That is just my speculation. I do not feel outraged that Doris Day is not getting an Oscar. Maybe a Grammy or an Emmy, but not an Oscar. I loved her fluffy films. 

    • avatar Baby Snooks says:

      I don’t think you can compare Doris Day to others in the industry.  Particularly to Lucille Ball who became the defining force for women and comediennes in Hollywood not only because of “I Love Lucy” and the successive “Lucy” shows but because of Desilu that she ended up running by herself. But she defined herself in the medium of television. Not film. 

      Doris Day was her own “genre” in film. She represented an era of transition in some ways. The independent woman still tied to the image of woman as “the better half” without which men simply couldn’t live. That sounds odd at this point but it really sums up her appeal.

      Debbie Reynolds fit into that same “genre” but it was not hers. And if she was a defining force, it was probably on the stages in Las Vegas. 

      The Lifetime Achievement award is basically for those who made their mark on the film industry and yet were never honored specifically for their work.  And I cannot think of anyone who deserves it more, in that respect, than Doris Day. Not only as an actress and “star” but as a “genre” that was hers alone. 

      • avatar Mr. Wow says:

        Dear Baby…beautifully said. Talk about a career that has been misunderstood and misrepresented!

        Even in some of her later, no-so-great comedies, Day was a feisty, independent woman—an impowered female.  She rarely played victims, and when she did (“Midnight Lace”) she was not terribly convincing.  She and Betty Grable are neck in neck as the two most popular female box office stars ever.  Interesting that they had  a similar quality.  Betty Grable, despite the famous pin-up and the legs,was a sensible, take-no-nonsense working girl in most of her movies.

         Day refuses to appear and accept the thing herself. So what?  How small and crappy of the Academy.

      • avatar Baby Snooks says:

        Well they could just give it to her like they do everyone else who gets an honorary award now at the Governor’s Awards dinner instead of the Academy Awards ceremony and just give her the option of attending or having it mailed. Lauren Bacall probably would have taken the option of having it mailed. And saved herself two trips. That she was not acknowledged during the Academy Awards ceremony was without doubt one of the Academy’s most embarrassing moments. One that occured during one of its most embarrassing presentations. 

        The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, like Hollywood itself, ain’t what it used to be. 

  7. avatar Paul Smith says:

    Who cares what she played, if not award worthy.  Often this kind of award smells of tokenism.

  8. avatar Andy Budgell says:

    Hmmm… Am I reading too far into this, or could there be a surprise appearance from the Grande Dame of Hollywood on her birthday? She’s been quiet lately, but she always seems to bounce back…

    • avatar Baby Snooks says:

      Some of us can do without her. And without Arnie Klein. And their “tweets.” I forgot to mention that the last time I commented on the grande dame. Dreadful. Both of them.

      • avatar Andy Budgell says:

        What exactly do you dislike about her? You’re always ready to criticize her whenever she’s mentioned in this column, which is fine, it’s your prerogative. Just wondering what your dislike in stems from.

      • avatar Baby Snooks says:

        Honestly? It began with the “tweets” between her and Arnie Klein. The “sweet tweets” early on. Before the proverbial you-know-what hit the fan.  Her thanking him for the Matisse, I believe.  Then Michael Jackson dropped dead. And the “tweets” got less “sweet” with the revelations. Which caused moments of reflection so to speak.  So many reflections on so many things. 

        Then after apologizing for stealing husbands along the way, she turns around and tries to steal one of them a second time. From his widow. Which was not and is not her.  Too much finally to put aside. It and everything else along the way. 

        And in the end, the final reflection, the “tweeting” between her and Arnie Klein.  She the pot. Calling the kettle black. 

      • avatar Mr. Wow says:

        Dear Andy…ET will not appear.She cannot walk and is ravaged by her illnesses.  Her last appearance, at an L.A. AIDS fundraiser, proved even to her most foolish “advisors” that it was time to draw the curtain.

        Anyway, no reason to appear. It’s her birthday.  If they won’t honor DD for her work….

      • avatar Andy Budgell says:

        Hi Mr Wow, Actually I think her last public appearance was at Buckingham Palace in April to unveil the bust of Burton in front of Prince Charles. She looked very tired (the press photos were terrible), but in the days after was seen looking quite strong and healthy popping up at various restaurants, and even a West End show and Julie Andrews’ performance at the O2. When she got back to LA, photographed going to BOA, she looked better than she had in a few years…then…nothing. She hasn’t been seen since and hasn’t Tweeted since July. I’m worried about her, and hope she’s doing alright.

      • avatar Mr. Wow says:

        Dear Andy…you are correct.  Her condition is such that she can barely hold her head up.  She lives every day in extreme pain. (Tho I am sure painkillers are ever present.) 

        I don’t miss her tweeting.  No offense to the millions who do it, but I don’t get the desire to share one’s every thought and moment with strangers.  But for Elizabeth Taylor to be “tweeting.”  I thought it was…inappropriate, to say the least.  Go back to the good old days of press releases if you feel the need to “share.”

        I think she is as good as her health allows. Given the fact that she has the best medical care millions can buy, and that her every cough results in a hospital dash, she’ll stick around for a while.  But as a fan—I know this is shallow!–I’d rather see less of her.

      • avatar Baby Snooks says:

        I think the “tweeting” was a “pr ploy” to generate interest in the second attempt at the House of Taylor jewelry venture which turned out about as successful as the first attempt. 

        Unfortunately I suspect someone gave her a laptop. And, well, she had at it as they say. I suspect as well someone took the laptop away after she had at it with Arnie Klein. 

  9. avatar rick gould says:

    The Academy should give Doris Day an honorary Oscar. Whether she shows up or not! Otherwise that makes them no better than the Golden Globes… oh wait, they aren’t!
    As for Elizabeth Taylor, everyone’s entitled to an opinion. It’s been that way since she was 10. If she chose to appear on the Academy stage one last time, I might actually tune in. But the Academy doesn’t care about stars like Liz, Shirley, Sophia, Doris, Kirk and so on… it’s all about the teen idol/vampire/Disney stars… oh, and their endless montages and production numbers.

    • avatar Baby Snooks says:

      I still have nice things to say about Elizabeth Taylor. About nice things she has done. But, well, enough was enough.

      • avatar Baby Snooks says:

        One nice thing I have to say about her is about her foundation. She gives the money to the AIDS organizations that need the money most and that do the most with the money.  Her list of grantees is a list of the organizations she and the “entourage” have “checked out” and met her standards which in this case are very high. And have been for 20 years.  One nice thing I have to say about the “entourage” is they share her standards in terms of who deserves funding.  

        So if you send a birthday card, send a check a check as well. Or just send a check. Put “happy birthday” on the check. I think there are 200,000 plus people on her Twitter account. If everyone sent her $5 that would be another $1 million that would go to provide services for people with HIV/AIDS rather than salaries for the caretakers.

  10. avatar bang2b says:

    Doris Day and Debbie Reynolds were both excellent onscreen.  Neither invented the notion of girl-next-door movie ingenues.  Doris Day did not appear on Broadway or in touring musicals as Debbie Reynolds has and Doris Day retired in the seventies while Debbie Reynolds went on to make many movies including her superb performance in Mother in 1996.  Debbie Reynolds is also playing Grandma Mazur in the upcoming film adaptation of One for the Money which will be out this summer.  For sheer long-term survival, Debbie Reynolds deserves the honor while she is still so active.

    • avatar rick gould says:

      Good point on Debbie. She has also done TONS for the industry in charity work, plus is a positive example of being a show biz survivor.
      While Doris may not have kept on working, she and Debbie worked like dogs during their hey days: movies, music, live performances.
      BOTH deserve Oscars, but I think I’ve already stated my opinion on the state of show biz today. And really, though it would be wonderful, neither need the validation of the Academy. Doris Day and Debbie Reynolds are Hollywood History… the mention of their names instantly conjure up movie memories.
      The same is true of Elizabeth Taylor. She’s earned her place in the sun 😉 And I hope she has a lovely 79th birthday with her loving family and loyal friends.

      • avatar Baby Snooks says:

        Actually they both had to work like dogs at one point after they became widows and found out the money was gone. Doris Day went back to work, paid the bills off and headed for Carmel. Debbie Reynolds went back to work, paid the bills off and made the mistake of marrying again. And went back to work a second time and may still be paying the bills off.  So back to the award.  Why not honor both of them?

  11. avatar griffithinc says:

    I have been a huge fan of Doris Day’s since high school (in the 60’s) I have several biographies on her and her autobiography.  She was the #1 box office star in Hollywood for several years.  Her performance in “Love Me or Leave Me” is phenomenal, not to mention Oscar nominated, as it should have been. Hollywood was not that kind to her, and when the time came she walked away without a second thought.  Her work with animals is closest to her heart, and she could care less about an award from the academy.  But she DOES deserve one for her body of work in film.  She is a greater actress and vocalist than she has ever been given credit for.  All the academy cares about is a good TV show, they should give her a lifetime achievement and mail it to her with thanks for all her years of hard work.

  12. avatar griffithinc says:

    My mistake, she was nominated for “Pillow Talk”.  But her performance in “Love Me or Leave Me” is her favorite, and I would say her best dramatic performance.

  13. avatar maseiffert says:

    Doris Day was a superstar in 5 mediums of entertainment, Big Band Singer, Radio, Recording Artist (made Columbia Records) Films and Television. Top Box Office Star until 1967, comedy, musicals, dramatic roles. An actress who could sing and an actress who could act, Doris Day did it all!  She should be recognized with an Oscar. Doris Day’s recordings are still in print, 650 plus and most of her 39 films are still available. Looking at today’s pool of actresses, cannot compare to Miss Doris Day.