Sunday, October 16, 2011

Everything New is Old Again Part 2: From Angelina Jolie to Kim Kardashian

      There’s a certain kind of actress – beautiful, brilliant, and polarizing either because of attitude, beliefs, or politics – that emerges every thirty years or so.  In the 1930s, it was Katharine Hepburn, while in the 1970s, it was both Jane Fonda and Vanessa Redgrave, and now it’s Angelina Jolie as my Mom pointed out.  Her talent cannot be disputed.  The first major role she had was in Gia and she blew that whole movie and the rest of the cast (Mercedes Ruehl and Faye Dunaway among them) out of the water.  Her whole life is bigger than what our prosaic media can handle.  The whole weird extremely close sibling bond seemed like something out of a Greek myth whereas the marriage with Billy Ray Thornton smacked of Tobacco Road Dracula and the Brad Pitt relationship gets into Elizabeth Taylor – Richard Burton territory.  The initiation of that relationship has led to such a denunciation of Jolie.  It’s usually women who seem to have a problem with her, but she was the forthright one.  Brad Pitt wanted a family and Jennifer Aniston did not, which is a gender reversal of the traditional conflict, but ‘the girl next door – America’s Sweetheart’ Jen wouldn’t admit it.

Angelina Jolie boarding her plane
Along comes Jolie with an instant family, able to fly a plane (anyone who can fly a plane, including John Travolta among others, gets my free pass), UNICEF goodwill ambassador, tireless supporter of the poor in Africa and the U.S., and Pitt leaves.  Jolie isn’t the homewrecker because there wasn’t
a home to wreck.  She’s smart to keep focused on what her interests are and ignore the press.  Once the press can move on to the next scandal involving gorgeous actors for a year or more, Jolie and Pitt will start looking like elder statesmen for their devotion to charity.

Handsome Jude Law
      When I told my Mom about this article, she asked, “Who would you compare to Stewart Granger?”  I hadn’t even thought of him because he doesn’t cross my mind.  I replied “Why would you think of him?”  “He was very good looking and he cut quite a figure in adventure movies.”  To me, he was a handsome leading man who wasn’t very interesting and was usually in costume dramas or adventures.  He also had the good grace to bow out of Hollywood when the roles dried up for him in the early ‘60s.  Jude Law would be my comparison because his spoiled beauty in The Talented Mr. Ripley and the freaky-deaky reporter in The Road to Perdition were both compelling, but he hasn’t been very interesting in anything since, though he’s looked great.  Chris Rock’s sarcastic quips about him at the 2005 Oscars (“who’s Jude Law”, etc.) are still relevant and might be even more so in ten years unless he gets a deeply serious role soon.

Julia Roberts
      The biggest female star of the ‘50s and ‘60s as both an actress and singer was Doris Day.  She made a load of movies – few of which are revived much today, even on TCM.  She mainly was in musicals and sex tease comedies, but she was very strong, actually tough, in dramatic roles like Love Me or Leave Me and Hitchcock’s The Man Who Knew Too Much.  (She was well matched with Stewart, but usually ended up with Rock Hudson and Stewart was always cutesy with June Allyson.  Even the studios couldn’t cast.)  Her husband turned down Mrs. Robinson for her and the dopiest element of that decision was that she could have played it and would have brought an edge to it that wouldn’t have turned sullen.  Fortunately, Julia Roberts has that same edge and it’s that detail which will keep her in future viewers’ minds, rather than her goddessy looks, mile-wide smile, and turned on, raucous laugh, which is up there with Sophia Loren’s.  She hasn’t made many memorable movies, but she is always worth watching and that’s why she’s the biggest female star of the past couple of decades.  Her best on screen partners have been Hugh Grant (and why they haven’t made another movie together is another example of executives, producers, and agents without a clue) and Clive Owen (both were great in the bitter Closer and the overly complicated Duplicity, which still deserved to be a bigger success than it was).  

      From the sublime to the ridiculous and the germ for this article in the first place, which was that a couple of colleagues and I started talking about the Kardashians.  Each of us had seen part of one of the episodes of their years long show, but none of us were followers and we couldn’t have cared less.  However, we knew much more about this family and its members’ various activities than we could really believe, though some of our information was incorrect.  They’re attractive and their mother Kris Jenner is a prime example of the new stage mother (chair of that board would be Sharon Osbourne):  relentlessly ambitious for her family’s fortunes, almost superhumanly energetic, usually upbeat, shameless, and considering multiple media ports to dock the family publicity machine.  The Kardashians have no discernible talent besides nepotism, connections to the O.J. case and the burnt embers of whatever made Bruce Jenner All-American in the first place (it’s been 35 years and counting so far).

Dexter's cousin, a friend
and confidante to Zsa Zsa Gabor
Doesn’t this sound like the Gabor sisters?  We’ve known far too much about them for far too long although the three of us couldn’t remember when Magda died.  If Zsa Zsa were twenty years younger, she’d probably be angling for some type of reality show on E!  Eva actually had talent and charm on Green Acres and her mail order wig business made her a tycoon.  It’s the imprimatur for all these celebrity designer labels where you know they’ve never touched a needle or thread in their lives, such as the Kardashians, and are paid obscene amounts for clothing lines that poor people they’ll never meet in other countries will make for young spoiled Americans wanting to emulate these ‘heroes’ will buy.  Oh well, let’s not get too sardonic.  It’s all a wheel that will turn again.

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