The Movie of the Week

There is a searing, harrowing horror in watching a sexual assault survivor recall live what happened to her when she was 15 and her attacker was 17.

Still, this is nothing compared to what the survivor experiences.

So we were riveted when clinical psychologist Dr. Christine Blasey Ford expertly described the encoded memory of her 15 year old self being thrown unwilling into a tiny bedroom where a 17 year old version of US Supreme Court Justice nominee Brett Kavanaugh ground his body into her as he laid on top of her young body and tried to remove her clothes in a drunken stupor.

When this story feels like too much, remember to VOTE.

It got even more horrific when she tried to scream, his hands covered her mouth and another drunken 17 year old in the room, his best bud, jumped on the bed in gleeful excitement at the spectacle and caused them all to roll onto the floor.

Still, what put it over the top and made it a peak experience never to be forgotten was their incessant laughter, at her and her powerlessness, reverberating almost 40 years later in her mind.

She recalls it as the irremovable primary memory, one that makes us wonder how a girl that young was ever able to move out from under him, run out the door and lock herself in a nearby bathroom until the sound of that drunken teenage boy laughter stumbled down a winding, skinny set of stairs and out of earshot.

If there is something TV movie sounding-ish about all of this, it’s because there is.

This is real. And it feels more real than ever.

This all might easily be mistaken for a TV-movie done by one of the Big 3 networks in the 1970s or perhaps Lifetime in the early aughts, had so many of us not just seen it live in a US Senate Judiciary Hearing this week.

And perhaps it will be.  Meaning, of course it will, all that’s missing is the grotesquery of the date.

Real-life couple Felicity Huffman and William H. Macy could easily play Dr. Ford and Judge Kavanaugh.   Really think about it.  They both look the parts and they have the acting chops!  He even plays an alcoholic Dad on Showtime’s Shameless, albeit one who makes no bones about it.  Well, her riveting appearances on American Crime and so many other series and feature films will make up for that, if we’re at all worried about appealing to Red State America, which of course we are.

Though SNL’s choice of Matt Damon was oddly inspired. #ilovebeer

And who to play Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, sputtering with rage at the gall of these forces conspiring to derail what felt like a fait accompli for the married, straight white judge?  Is Tommy Lee Jones too old?  What about Sean Penn, is he just too…Sean Penn to play, as Mr. Graham referred to himself as during the hearings, a single white, Southern male?   Well, few of us could have ever pictured, much less thought we’d buy, Penn as gay icon Harvey Milk, if you think about it.  And you should about now.  (Note:  Oh yes, I DID write/bold that).

Oh, Chairy. #hehe

It seems certain if we could get big stars to appear as supporting cast, a la the classic Judgment at Nuremberg, Meryl Streep could manage Dianne Feinstein, Scarlett Johansson might make a fine Amy Klobuchar and Tracey Ellis Ross could evoke Kamala Harris.  Of course, no one could top Frances McDormand or Angela Bassett as the California senator who in any just world (Note: Hah!) will one day be president.  Still, all would-be producers these days are already terrified of being non-PC on this kind of project, at least publicly, so we can’t even go THERE.

Oh wait, we can stay within the TV realm and still get a great actress for Kamala.  What about…Sarah Paulson!!!!   Oh, again, not PC enough?  Yikes.

Well we know Sarah has range. #neverforget

Of course, the octogenarian men are even tougher to pull off…in so many ways. (Note:  Get it?)  For TV viewers we could age Chris Cooper for 85-year old Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley and Bruce Dern would need no makeup, just his awesome talent, to make 84 year old Orrin Hatch seem real.  Except it might be a mistake to make him too real when he refers to a sexual assault survivor in her early fifties as an attractive woman.  On the other hand, maybe we want reality?  Maybe that IS the point?

Now, who for amiable Chris Coons, the Democratic senator from Delaware who helped broker the handshake deal with Jeff Flake, his telegenic friend and soon to be early retired Republican senator from Arizona, to acquiesce into asking the committee to have the FBI spend one week further investigating the now multiple allegations against Judge Kavanaugh?

People are saying this, not to mention the herculean efforts of the two rape survivors who cornered Flake in the elevator, were key, especially since Sen. Flake had just one hour before committed to voting YES on the Kavanaugh confirmation.

Hell. Yes.

Don’t laugh but it’s more than possible Jason Alexander could play Sen. Coons.  Even Howie Mandel.   He’s amiable, right?  They both are.  (Note:  Stop the chuckling, this is serious).

Ahh, but who for Flake, the guy we’re scripting to be the reluctant hero who rises to the occasion, key word in that being reluctant…or perhaps hero?  Hmmm.

Ya gotta admit, Flake’s a good-looking guy at 55 with great hair and a big toothy smile in the mode of Ronald Reagan but without the Hollywood/California baggage.  Maybe…gosh I’d like to say John Malkovich with makeup but clearly no one is buying that.  Anyway, it’s probably just because someone who worked in my periodontist’s office told me this week that I reminded them of sexy Malkovich in Dangerous Liaisons, which at first seemed insulting but is now kind of growing on me.

But back to Flake.  Okay, let’s go with the obvious of Hugh Jackman since they’re both really tall, Flake is a devout Mormon and none of Mitt Romney’s sons have any acting experience as far as we know.  Though wait, how about Scott Eastwood???  He would certainly cost a lot less than Hugh and has a great pedigree to evoke reluctant hero.

If he wasn’t so damn British, Hugh Grant would nail the “about to cry at any second” Flake look. #boohoo

Not that we are all not ALOT more than our heritages.  Especially white, straight men cause, well, let’s be fair to EVERYONE.

If this all seems to trivialize the events of this week, the searing, harrowing horror of it all, it wasn’t INTENTIONAL.  It was NEVER MEANT to have THAT EFFECT.  It was only meant to sound angry and bitter.

Actually, it wasn’t.  It was meant to make a point.

Nothing could trivialize what happened this week, or be any more bitter, than the reactions of half the Senate Judiciary Committee to it.

This will forever be seared into my memory. #DidIMentionVOTE

We all know which half and exactly who they are.   But whether they will ever be willing to change, or even partially admit their culpability, remains a far different story.

It is one that pales in comparison to the REAL STORY in every possible way.

Kelly Clarkson – Because of You 

 

A New/Old Golden Age?

Art, historically, is always at its best and most provocative when it can be in opposition to something – when the artist disagrees with the government she lives in. – Hanya Yanagihara, Editor in Chief, T Magazine

This week the New York Times published a special issue of its Style Magazine entitled — 1981-1983 New York: 36 Months that Changed the Culture.

Among the many articles, stories and sidebars is an accompanying 12-minute video of interviews at a photo shoot of 21 actors who had their breakthrough moments in the city as young artists at the time.

Click to watch the video!

There are lots of familiar names, many of them now stars, all of them respected at their craft not only onstage in New York but often in film and television.   Not to mention, one of them is now even running to be the next governor of New York.

Kathy Bates, Glenn Close, Sarah Jessica Parker, Matthew Broderick , Cynthia Nixon, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, Willem Dafoe, Nathan Lane, Harvey Fierstein, Ed Harris, Loretta Devine, Joan Allen, Elizabeth McGovern, Mercedes Ruehl, Victor Garber, Amanda Plummer, LaTanya Richardson Jackson, Michael Cerveris, Mia Katigbak, Stephen Bogardus and John Kelly.

It was impossible to know at the time who in the above group would:

1- Create roles so indelible that they’d live on forever in the pop culture landscape.

2- Become rich and famous beyond their (and our) wildest dreams.

My face when I think about SJP’s wallet. Yes, we’re looking at you shoe lady!

3- Continue to be doing avant-garde, cutting edge work so many decades later.

4- Change your life with a single performance or film appearance or, perish the thought back then if you were a true artiste, weekly TV show.

And perhaps, most importantly (at least for them):

5- Survive long enough to attend or even be wanted at a photo shoot/class reunion in the year 2018 organized by the NY Times about the city’s once-in-a-era cultural scene.

It is easy to look back and write about an iconically fertile or low period in artistic and political history. But it is one mean feat of supernatural ESP to know that this is what’s going on in your particular time at the time and be absolutely right about it.

Amen, Andy Bernard. Amen.

The truth is, everyone thinks that both the time they’re living in and the work they’re doing is important, artistic, relevant and potentially world and/or life-changing. Either that or they assume there is nothing at all important about it – certainly nothing people would ever look back on decades later in wonderment or nostalgia.

Of course, both viewpoints are incorrect. No one really knows which times are or will be relevant to other generations and how or in what way. Sure, you’ve got gut feelings about stuff, especially in 1980s NY where people on the artistic scene slowly began dying around you from an unnamed plague. But in that moment, it isn’t easy to fully realize how time will remember it or if you and/or your generation’s work will live on or be forgotten. What is even more likely is that you won’t be right about it.

OK maybe we had a good idea about this guy #legend

Cases in point:

— I remember working with a 17 year old Cynthia Nixon on a little known Robert Altman film, OC & Stiggs, in the early eighties and thinking: She’s so sweet and smart, not to mention natural in front of the camera – I hope the biz of show doesn’t eat her alive. I never dreamed I’d see her on Broadway a year later seducing a major movie star onstage right before my eyes, go on to win two Tonys, then follow it all by becoming a female role model/TV star on Sex in the City.  And now a run for governor? Are you kidding???

Oh she’s the real thing alright!

— As the arts editor of my college radio station I got tickets to see this off-Broadway play called Vanities in the seventies where a very young and very unknown Kathy Bates played one of three friends whose lives we trace though high school, college and post graduation. She was fun AND sort of sad simultaneously, the kind of fantastic NY actress you knew would work forever but would probably never be a star because, well, the business…SUCKED!!

Which it didn’t because in the eighties she became a local Broadway legend playing a suicidal daughter in night, Mother and in the early nineties became an Oscar winning, axe-wielding movie star in Misery.

And then win an Emmy for playing a HEAD in American Horror Story

The latter was, by the way, five years after I had worked on the movie version of ‘night, Mother and was tasked to arrange a private pre-release screening for Ms. Bates so she could take in the work done by Sissy Spacek in the role SHE had originated. Again, I thought, this business…SUCKS! Which, of course, it didn’t once again and, in fact, only showed how wrong one (okay, I) can be – TWICE. And in two different decades.

— Then there was the time in early eighties NY where I saw Harvey Fierstein playing a gay, Jewish drag queen in his play Torch Song Trilogy and considered just how wrong I was a third time (ok, maybe that was #2) about what could and could not be accomplished in a business that, at the end of the day, actually might not at all always totally…SUCK.

Oh.. hello, Mother

This might be hard for younger people today to imagine but the idea of a gay guy from the boroughs playing a gay guy from the boroughs in a play he had himself, a gay guy from the boroughs, written about the relationship a gay guy from the boroughs has with an impossibly closeted gay guy he’s in love with and his own impossibly know-it-all Jewish mother seemed…well… impossible at the time. Until it wasn’t. And never would be again (Note: Especially for this gay guy from the boroughs) thanks to people like “Harvey,” who worked in cheap, roach infested, barely standing stages far away from the harsh glare of world-changing and international recognition.

You can never be great – in life or in art – if you’re forever thinking about being great or are sure you will never be great because the odds are against you and the times you live in just don’t allow it.

Also avoid self aggrandizing

All you can really do is put everything you have into your work and your life (both of those being art) in the best way you can, revel in each action and task with as much enthusiasm as you can and – hope for the best.

I still have to remind myself about living in the moment and enjoying each task at hand, unconcerned with result and I saw most of the above unlikely actor/stars in their iconic performances all those years ago in the early eighties.

I was killin’ it and didn’t even know it!

Of course these days it sometimes takes journalistic behemoths like the NY Times to remind us that the eighties – a decade many of my peers consider hideous beyond words because of its ethos of Greed is Good, big hair and the AIDS plague – did indeed have its moments in hindsight.

That is among many other things we depend on them to remind us of daily these days. Which is the subject of another story. Though the lesson is the same – stay focused and do the work as best you can – even if you think no one is listening and despite what you perceive your odds are for success.  Because the future – yours and all of ours – just might surprise you — and us – if you (nee We) just keep going.

Nina Hagen – New York New York (1983)