First off — I hope with all my heart you had the happiest Thanksgiving possible. Life isn’t fair. Families can be a trial. Old (or even middle) age ain’t for sissies. Sometimes it is hard to be “thankful.” Especially on the day we’re told we must be. But my thoughts were with you. You’ve become part of my family. Even those of you who don’t cotton to Mr. wOw’s winsome ways.
As for me, I am thankful for B., who cooked a fabulous meal and continues to put up with a neurotic, anxious Mr. wOw. I am thankful my health has remained good. I am thankful for the few, but precious friends I have managed not to alienate. For my job, despite my “issues.” (Those issues by the way are, like, 30 years old. I am fully aware that nobody’s put a gun to my head to stay put. We do make our own lives, at least in these matters.)
I’m really thankful my sprained foot and hand have begun to heal — the result, as some of you know, from a fall on the street. I’m still in a surprising amount of pain, but considerably less. I am more understanding now when people speak of chronic pain. Usually their pain is far more extreme than a little old sprain.
So, what have I been up to, in the days leading to Thanksgiving and during a much-needed-and-appreciated four-day holiday?
Reading a bit less. My little accident had me so ornery I couldn’t concentrate. So, lots of TV. Lots of cable news.
Watching the swelling and shrinking of various Republican candidates for president — Bachmann, Perry, Cain and the “Newt” kid on the block, Gingrich — I have moved past alarm over the fate of the nation. I am now amused and resigned. They are all fools, all insincere, all politicians. I include Democrats and our president, Mr. Obama. He remains clueless somehow, frustratingly out of reach. As maddening as it is to hear his “lazy” comment taken totally out of context by Republicans, I also wonder why he didn’t realize it was not a word to be used, ever? “We have perhaps not been as aggressive … etc.” There. Much better, yes? But Obama seems not to have read his Jimmy Carter — remember how “malaise” so disastrously affected Carter’s image. (Americans want to be told they are “exceptional” all the time.)
So I have little hope. We are going to stumble and meander along. Nobody’s looking out for us. Don’t expect it. I hate to sound like a guy who’s gonna head for the hills with B. and the cats and all my movie-star memorabilia, not paying taxes and declaring myself free of government, but … as long as we have cable.
I was distressed to see Chris Matthews turn on Obama — and Mrs. Obama, too — in an interview touting his new book on his cherished idol, JFK. Chris sure does blow where the wind blows. As for JFK — hardly a role model or a great president. He died before he could truly make his mark. He left a fabulous mythological image, carefully crafted by his widow, and a legacy of typical Kennedy entitlement, outright conniving to become president, some whopping mistakes, and a stunning laxity of morals and restraint. Not that that made him a bad person. Just your average ambitious politician, hardly worthy of Mr. Matthews’ drooling.
But it wasn’t all political viewing. Give me a show about the mysteries of Stonehenge, creatures at the bottom of the sea, the possible site of Atlantis, or anything about World War II and I’m hooked. I’ve also been trying to support Oprah’s new OWN network, checking out a number of Lisa Ling’s excellent specials. The network also ran a fascinating documentary, “Miss Representation” directed by Jennifer Siebel Newsom. This explores how far women haven’t advanced, despite media perceptions to the contrary. (Interesting comments made about how our current popular culture degrades women as never before, especially via “reality” TV.
And as usual, Mr. wOw is perpetually glued to Turner Classic Movies and the Fox Movie Channel, where the good stuff is unedited and commercial-free.
TCM premiered Ken Russell’s “The Boy Friend.” This was Russell’s subversive 1971 take on the sunny Sandy Wilson Broadway musical of the 1950’s. It stars Twiggy and Tommy Tune, and I adored it when it first came out. (I still have the vinyl soundtrack record!) Alas, TCM screened the very long director’s cut of the movie. So often, less is more.
I caught my fave women’s prison flick, “Caged,” which hasn’t lost a bit of power (or high camp voltage) in fifty plus years … I was semi-conscious watching “55 Days In Peking.” Probably because the star, Miss Ava Gardner, seemed to be in a trance herself. I’m so susceptible. (Co-star Charlton Heston gallantly revealed in his memoirs that Ava was often afflicted by her love to lush) … “Now, Voyager” still gets to me — “No one has ever called me ‘darling’ before” weeps Bette, gratefully in Paul Henried’s lapel … and “The Prince and the Showgirl” though slow-moving and repetitious — hardly playwright Terrence Rattigan’s finest hour — reveals an astonishingly charming, vivacious and adept Marilyn. It is in many ways her finest hour. (Mr. wOw is puking over the undeserved raves for Michelle Williams in “My Week With Marilyn” but you all expected that. The film is a travesty and an insult, but no point in belaboring it — right now.)
And there was such fun to be had with Joan Crawford’s “Female on the Beach.” There’s Joan, taut as a new violin string, in the full flower of her scary/sexy 1950’s glamour mask, showing off her legs at every opportunity, alternately spurning and throwing herself at Jeff Chandler. Mr. Chandler, seen often in a brief bathing suit, offers a startlingly frank portrayal of a male hustler. “You were made for your profession,” snarls Joan. “Nice to look at. Nice to touch. The great god of the senses, glistening on the beach. Very attractive. Until you remember that sewers empty into the ocean!” Joan Crawford didn’t need 3-D. She was 3-D.
Elizabeth Taylor’s 1973 thriller “Night Watch” is new and remastered on DVD. Even better than I remembered when I saw it at Radio City Music Hall. Taylor works herself up into a fine lather, shrieking about dead bodies in the house next door and plots against her — are her hubby and her best friend having an affair, right under her perfect profile? She emotes in a variety of nifty Valentino lounging outfits and nightgowns. But for the spectacular climax of the movie, she is svelte in maroon pants suit, with hair big enough to be seen on Mars. One of Miss T’s unfairly dismissed latter-day epics.
Finally, just a couple of nights ago, I came across Clint Eastwood’s simply awful but awfully entertaining version of John Berendt’s “Midnight In the Garden of Good and Evil.” I’d seen it upon release back in 1997. The movie is just all over the place, but luckily, Eastwood became fascinated with The Lady Chablis, a real-life Savannah, Georgia drag-queen, who played herself in the film. Just when you think you can’t take another second of the perpetually gape-mouthed John Cusack, Clint turns it into The Lady Chablis Show. The “cotillion” sequence is hilarious, classic. Every utterance that escapes The Lady’s mouth is priceless. But my favorite line comes early in the movie. Chablis has misted up a bit, recalling the death of sleazy Jude Law, at the hands of sleazy (but rich) Kevin Spacey. Cusack consoles her. Dabbing delicately at her eyes, Chablis shrugs: “Thanks hon. But as my mama used to say, ‘Two tears in a bucket, motherfuckit.”
Yep, The Lady Chablis was also part of what I was thankful for, as I warmed up B.’s scrumptious leftovers.