Davis, de Havilland, Flynn, Cagney, Bogart ...

Davis, de Havilland, Flynn, Cagney, Bogart ...

Monday, March 3, 2014

Beauty and the Hollywood Beast - The 2014 Oscars


Kim Novak 

Liza Minnelli

After last year's Oscar ceremony, a shameful debacle of the lowest common denominator headed by Seth Macfarlane, I thought this year would be at best tasteful, at worst boring.  Ellen DeGeneres as host turned out to be light and funny for the most part, a few zings here and there for fun, and I've always liked her.  That is why I was really shocked when she was so mean to Liza Minnelli.  Ellen thought it was funny to tell Liza in front of millions of people that she looked like a male impersonator.  Such remarks are funny only when they aren't true.  Unfortunately, at this point, Liza does look like an impersonation of herself, so it isn't funny at all.  Liza suffers from mental and physical disabilities, as did her dear mother, Judy Garland, and it takes a pretty hard heart to ignore that for the sake of a 20 second laugh.  It was plain that Liza was flustered, and I'm sure she was very hurt and embarrassed, the kind of hurt that takes a while to sink in and then stays with you forever.  Shame on Ellen for throwing a cruel spotlight on a troubled and unguarded person.


That opening salvo of uncharitable behavior was topped later by the treatment that Kim Novak received, from her ignominious arrival on the stage to the behavior of the audience of supposed peers.  Kim Novak was a big star of a bygone era.  What on earth possessed the director to just send her out with no announcement, as if she were just another presenter?  She deserved at least a special word from the host, but received none.  Worse yet, the audience of actors and movie-makers practically sat on their hands.  Oh there was applause, but nothing special at all.  It was the worst case of Hollywood with its virtual head up its virtual rear end.  I'm pretty sure it was all because Kim took the unfortunate step of plastic surgery which turned out badly.  She does not look recognizable anymore, she was plainly nervous and overwhelmed, and probably embarrassed that she did not evoke any special recognition from the audience.  All of that could have been avoided by a director who was professional enough to see a potential problem with just bringing her out cold, or a host with enough sense to prepare the audience who may not recognize her fast enough.  All it would have taken was "Ladies and gentleman, we are privileged to have with us tonight a Hollywood legend -- Kim Novak."  I'm sure the reaction would have been different, some real applause and recognition.  What a simple thing to have done, which was apparently beyond the ability of the show's planners.  It would also have been nice if somebody had said how great it was to see Kim Novak.  It's hard to believe that nobody thought to render that little kindness.  Only one person helped Kim, her fellow presenter, Matthew McConaughey.  He put his arm around her, and it was clear that he saw her tentative behavior, her obvious nervousness.  His behavior was that of a gentleman and a caring human being.


Now she is no longer young and beautiful, and has bravely revealed the severe problems that being manic-depressive have meant to her life.  Hell, I could say the exact same thing about myself. And despite a bad surgery job, she doesn't look anywhere near 80 as a whole!  When you get older you lose the pretty face of youth, and lifelong mental disabilities can make you more frail in dealing with the cold, cruel world, not necessarily stronger.  Kim has spoken about herself and revealed a woman with great strengths, but also difficulty with public appearance. It takes a society of compassion to deal with sick people, shy people, nervous people -- it takes individuals with some sense of empathy to see and divert such people from hurt.  There was only one person in that crowd of people, and thank goodness for him.

I always loved Kim Novak.  She could hold her own on screen, and it was her incredible beauty and air of wistful vulnerability that made her a star.  I am reminded of a wonderful line from My Favorite Year, a movie about an aging matinee idol who said of himself, "I'm not an actor, I'm a movie star!"  In the movies, it is no shame to be popular because of looks.  Even one of the oldest songs about Hollywood says "...any office boy or young mechanic can be a panic with just a good looking pan."  She always lit up the screen with her presence and I always felt the star quality that made her a pleasure to watch.  The problem is that youth and beauty are transitory, time is relentless, and human beings don't always make the best judgments under pressure.

Hollywood is hard on people without a tough skin.  Modern Hollywood is especially obsessed with looks and youth.  It is the utmost hypocrisy to insist that actresses have those qualities, and then laugh at someone who is insecure and desperate enough to undergo plastic surgery to reach for what is past.  The young women working in movies are going to lose their looks eventually too.  It appears that they won't have a clue about the feelings of disconnect and disrespect which that obsession can mean to one of their own profession until it happens to them.  ( I don't include the men, who are allowed to be old, wrinkled and sagging and still be accepted as desirable.)  Hollywood isn't the only source of meanness -- the multitude of nasty twitter posts about Kim's altered face, as well as Liza's appearance, made me feel a little sick.  They are being quoted all over the internet, and I feel awful that the women will certainly see them and be hurt all over again.

Kim, I wish you could know tonight that many fans love you, remember your beauty, admire the woman that you are now, and don't give a damn about your outward appearance.  Liza, you were once a striking girl with youthful exuberance, and you now are a woman contending with age and illness, and the same feelings apply to you.  Countering the smirking laughter, there is also a lot of outrage that you were both treated badly.  Kindness is the best of human virtues -- you should have received at least that from your own people.

34 comments:

  1. I didn't watch, but I can't say that these type of shenanigans surprise me.

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    1. That in itself is really too bad, isn't it Rich? I don't think it's too much to expect adult behavior from adults, but then I'm being naive.....

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  2. Becky, this is a brilliant, sensitive, and most intelligent post. Thank you. I've stopped watching the Oscars because of the behavior you've noted above. Though I used to enjoy it, I find I am no longer able to stomach such crass, juvenile behavior and an event now utterly devoid of class. I skip it now, especially after last year as you say, but I think one has only to watch this "prestigious" award show to see how low our society has fallen. They honestly don't seem to have a clue.

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    1. Thank you for the lovely compliment, Jacqueline. I couldn't stomach it either, and was appalled at the yearly dive into juvenile and sometimes just plain mean "joking". There's no dignity or adult behavior to it, and those are apparently qualities that don't mean diddly-squat anymore.

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  3. Wonderful article! I try to stay away from negativity -- Which is why I don't watch award shows anymore. The hosts are nasty, and the 'entertainment' is sub-par. (Though I understand Pink sang. OVER THE RAINBOW beautifully.)

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    1. She did do a good job, but I wished she had stepped aside instead of blocking the view of the screen showing the Wizard of Oz. Bad blocking on the part of the stage manager, I guess. But that was a minor thing compared to the nasty personal snarks.

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  4. I was disappointed that Kim Novak didn't get special recognition too. If I had won the Oscar, I would have been so excited to have had it presented to me by Novak, that that would have been part of my acceptance speech. McConaughey was indeed a gentleman; I'm glad he was a co-presenter with Novak.

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    1. I'm with you, Stephen. Getting an Oscar from Kim Novak would deprive me of any coherent speech! And I'm very glad Kim had a sweet man like Matthew to lean on.

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  5. Becky, this is an awesome article! I didn't watch the awards (I never do). My daughter was watching, though, and since she knows I love Sidney Poitier, she called me to the room when he was on.

    My heart breaks for Liza and Kim. How sad that they weren't treated with love, dignity, and respect.

    We are a mean-spirited society, and we seem to delight in other's failings and in pointing out their flaws. And much as I love the internet, I believe it is one of the reasons for that. Since we can leave anonymous comments and use "handles" for our Twitter and Facebook names, we feel free to say (write) any number of ugly things that we would never say to someone's face. So, I'm not at all surprised that there is an abundance of internet articles making fun of those ladies who aren't what they used to be.

    Thanks for sharing these awesome and very wise words.

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    1. Patti, you say it very well. I too believe the internet has changed human communication to short and sharp sound bytes, the more sarcastic the better. People do hide behind it, and it really brings out their cruel side, which we all have to some extent. It's just that we suppress that as a rule speaking face to face with someone. Last night there was no suppression for the sake of kindness in Liza's case, and Kim was just plain treated shabbily. You are so sweet to compliment my article -- that means a lot.

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  6. Amen, Becky, amen. When they introduced Kim Novak I said I hope they give her a standing ovation and irritated that they didn't. Matthew did a great job with her. I always liked him and my admiration for him based on being with Kim Novak and his acceptance speech raised him highly in my admiration of him. I thought Angelina Jolie was equally solicitious of Sidney Poiter and thought she handled herself with great dignity and class.

    The Liza Minnelli joke was unforgivably cruel. A wonderful essay, Becky.

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    2. Thanks, Kevin! I was so surprised at the meanness of the joke about Liza coming from Ellen. Sometimes I think Ellen has gotten so into being in with the in crowd that she has lost some of her awareness of kind tolerance to others. You are quite about Angelina and Sidney -- I wish people had treated Kim with the same respect for age and the problems it brings.

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  8. Cheers to Matthew Conaughey for his actions toward Novak who deserved better than she received from the audience. It was easy to see something was not right and Matthew acted like a gentleman. The lack of an introduction was just one of many missteps in the entire production. As for Ellen, she is a generally gentle joke kind of person so it was most out of character for this misstep toward Minnelli. As for the show, Pink's version of OVER THE RAINBOW was excellent which she sang along with some clips from the film. I wonder why the they did not have Liza sing the song, unless her voice is not what it used to be? Overall, the show was long, long, long, long, long, long and long. I went to bed at eleven eastern and they still had at least 8 more awards to give out. However, there were some classy moments. As Kevin mentioned, Jolie always handles herself well and Poitier is a class act. Supporting Actress winner Lupita Nyong'o gave a wonderful acceptance speech as did Jared Leto.

    Great write up Becky!

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    1. Thank you, John! It was definitely long, and there were some good things about the show, certainly. I mentioned to somebody else that I liked Pink but wished she had not blocked the view of the screen showing Wizard of Oz. Just bad stage markings! I also liked Matthew's acceptance speech. I've been reading that some people thought he was full of himself, but it didn't strike me that way at all. I thought he was full of gratitude and had a healthy way of thinking about reaching for the best. I agree that Liza probably is no longer able to sing well, but it would have been nice to have had the Garland siblings take the stage for a bow with Pink. I think this year's show had a lousy director!

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  9. "The prettiest sight in this fine pretty world is the privileged class enjoying its privileges", but it turns my stomach. I am so glad to have continued my habit of avoiding the Oscar telecast. Thank you, Becky, for speaking up for the bullied and praising the kind.

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    1. That means so much to me, CW -- it is an issue to me, the steady disappearance of kindness and manners from our midst. I love the quote you give -- sad, isn't it?

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  10. Becky, I'd like to think that the usually kind and playful Ellen D. was only being her irreverent self, with no intent to hurt Liza or Kim's feelings, but you're right, it came across awkward and hurtful, with these lovely but troubled stars not truly getting the kindness they should have had. I say "BRAVO!" to Matthew McConaughey for being so kind and gracious to these wonderful women; this newly-minted Oscar-winner proved himself to be a true gent indeed!

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    1. I wish I could feel that it was unintentional, but I don't -- Ellen is a professional and these things don't really come off the cuff, they just look like they do. I am totally a fan of Matthew McConaughey as a person now!

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  11. As I was livetweeting from an account of a blog I'm part of, I couldn't pay attention to every detail, and I missed the Liza thing. As much as I love Ellen, I can't avoid reprehending her for this tasteless joke.
    As for Kim, I was surprised to see her there without any ovation. She can look odd with plastical surgeries, but she is still a legend. She deserved the same standing ovation sidney Poitier received. And, as a matter of looking good in Hollywood: in several forums I saw people saying Lupita should get a boob job. Hey, what's wrong in having smaller breasts?
    Now an anecdote: the silly beast who comments the Oscars here in Brazil said during the In memorian that Shirley Temple was a living legend... LOL
    Kisses!

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    1. I had a feeling you would react the same way I did, Le. And what a great story about Temple as a living legend -- LOL!

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  12. I agree with most of what you have said, Becky. Surely, someone could have given Novak a better re-introduction to the audience. That said, whoever thought it was a good idea to have her and Sidney Poitier as presenters should be talked to. They were clearly not in proper shape to get up in front of billions of people and speak. Of course, at least Poitier did get a proper reception from the audience--but, I also think it was partly in recognition of Angelina Jolie's post-mastectomy as well.

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    1. You have a great point, Kim. Sometimes people are just not suited anymore to public presentation. It could be handled by someone with sense, which the Oscar staff apparently couldn't provide. Poitier couldn't hear or walk properly, but he was given a standing ovation, likely partly also to what you mentioned. It isn't at all fair that Kim would not be treated similarly. It's good to see you see here, thanks for coming by!

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  13. Wonderful, Becky. A heartfelt post everyone should read. I was surprised by the lack of introduction for Kim Novak and venture to say most in the audience had no clue who she was until Matthew mentioned Vertigo and some clapping could be heard. I liked him before and love him now. A true gentleman.

    I was (and am) angry about the Wizard of Oz tribute, which I suppose doesn't matter. But I would've liked Judy's children to AT LEAST be asked to present Pink, get them onstage in tribute to their mother. I cringed at the Liza joke, but imagine it was extremely insensitive versus intentionally cruel, although the effects are the same.

    I want to add - not as an excuse in any way - that it's important that we're all reminded about what a simple comment on any of the social media platforms can do, how far and wide it can reach. In a frenzy of fun, as we watch a program and comment alongside everyone else, it's very easy to forget these are human beings with feelings we're referring to.

    Aurora

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    1. Thanks so much, Aurora. I hoped to do a good job on a subject I'm passionate about. Kindness, manners, forethought -- these are vanishing virtues. I agree about not bringing the Garland siblings onstage to take a bow with Pink -- another example of a bad director. Your thoughts about social media and the things we say are well put. I mean, I probably would have reacted with an "Oh, look at Kim Novak's face!" in the privacy of my own living room with a friend, but in public I would certainly never humiliate someone on national television! Same with Liza. Those folks need to grow up -- grade school is over and it's time to be a thoughtful adult....

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  14. As Bette Davis said - old age ain't for sissies. Kim and Liza needed stylists real bad. Today, everyone is so put together out there, there is no room for imperfection. I could forgive Ellen the Liza jab (since Liza made her a career out of being an idol to impersonators), but my heart just broke for Kim. I can only hope that she went home, had a stiff drink and got a loving hug. My major gripe of the evening? I wished that the awards given to Angela Lansbury and Steve Martin were done at the ceremony. Now Angela Lansbury - there's a woman who ages like a queen!

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    1. So true about the need for savvy stylists for Kim and Liza. I was also shocked that the Lansbury and Martin awards were left out of the main ceremony. I wonder what the thinking was behind THAT decision? Lansbury is a wonder -- she is an example of a mentally healthy person living to her full potential. Poor Liza and Kim have other difficulties to deal with -- not everybody is as strong as Angela.

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  15. Yeah, people shouldn't laugh. In 60 years, Jennifer Lawrence may have to be wheeled to the stage if she's still alive. I saw Ellen walk past Sidney Poitier a number of times - she knew better not to mess with him.

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    1. Too true about Sidney Poitier, Tom ... and as cute as Jennifer Lawrence is, I doubt if anybody will recognize her either in 60 years!

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  16. The worst part about the snarkiness toward Liza is that she and her family were there in honor of the 75th anniversary of the Wizard of Oz. Yes, the song was great, but what happened to the rest of the honoring? You'd think it was the Clampitts that just moved to Beverly Hills.

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    1. Excellent point about the family, Christian ... very little respect given to old Hollywood royalty all around during this year's Oscars.

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  18. I'm so glad I gave up watching the Oscars several years ago. I've had about all I can stand of snarky self-congratulations and bitchy behavior. It all seems par for the course, Becky. People, it seems, are EXPECTED to behave in this manner. It's become normal to be a snot. Thank goodness for Matthew McConaughey. I can only imagine how badly these two women must have felt. A shame-making night for Hollywood. As I said: par for the course.

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