a.k.a. "The Oscar Messenger"

Posts tagged ‘Women’s right’

“Go Set a Watchman” a Real American Horror Story

“Go Set a Watchman” the suddenly discovered second novel of the saintly Harper Lee is disturbing, vile, truthful and a real American horror story. And you believe every single word of this Southern Gothic page turner. It’s very well written and it’s compelling. But it’s a novel that takes us inside the Ku Klux Klan in ways readers of “To Kill a Mockingbird” will find frankly disgusting.

If only they hadn’t found it! But they did and now we all have to deal with the seething, horrifying racism that it seems American literary hero Atticus Finch. or should I say FORMER hero, for he is now forever dethronedGo Set 1seems to whole-heartedly condone. Yes, a meeting of the KKK is the centerpiece of this book, the way the courthouse trial was in “Mockingbird.” And yes, they both happen in the same “sagging” court room!

Beloved characters from “Mockingbird” will never be quite so beloved anymore. “Watchman” destroys the innocence of all involved quite completely. And I feel Harper Lee meant this. REALLY meant every mean word in this shocking book. And I mean, MEAN!

You’ve loved these characters. They are people to you, and to me. And so you feel quite astonished to find there’s more to them than you ever thought. Three-dimensional is what it is. It takes great writing to make you feel so deeply. And upset you so much, when they characters(people) you thought you knew are not behaving in ways you thought they would. It’s like being at some great family quarrel, that you wish you could get out of, but you can’t. They’re your familly now too,.You’ve invested so much time and thought and love into them, you’re stuck.. You’re gripped.

Maycomb, Alabama is a hot-bed of racist issues and all kinds of human rights abuses and points of view that hopefully its’ real-life counterpart Munroeville has long ago out-grown. But here we’re smack dab in the middle of the 1950s, before the Civil Rights movement had really begun. But it WAS beginning and all the residents of Maycomb are scared out of their wits by it.

Jean Louise Finch, the now grown up Scout of “Mockingbird”, is also questioning, tacitly, her own sexuality, at least as far as fitting into the whale-bone corset of Southern womanhood, which is the marriage that awaits her. Or does it?

Running through “Watchman” is also not only the rising tide of the NAACP and the changes it will bring, but also Jean Louise’s realizations, prompted in no small part by her life in New York and her childhood friend Dill(who grew up to be Truman Capote), that she herself is more than “an eccentric”. She has a cousin, or some such, who is described as “a three dollar bill”(!) But Lee doesn’t go there. She stops with the paragraph “In New York you are your own person. You may reach out and embrace all of Manhattan in sweet aloneness, or you can go to hell if you want to.”

I wish she’d gone further with this train of thought, but she stops there.Suffice it to say, we are treated over and over again to Jean Louise’s absolute horror at having her first period, her dislike of dresses, her preference for slacks and her constant vomiting as she discovers that a) she is a woman and not a boy and b)that her beloved father, and also her fiance are card-carrying members of the KKK. Even her doting eccentric Uncle Dr. Jack turns out to be something else other than he appears to be.

So we are treated to upchuck after upchuck and indeed this whole strong novel seems to be spewn, rather than written. The world, the South, her father, her aunt, her uncle everyone makes Jean Louise sick .And I felt a bit ill at the end of it, too. And angry. It’s a polemic of the first water. A rant. Against racism, and also against heterosexuality, which the author(it was written BEFORE “Mockingbird” in the closeted ’50s.) against injustice, against male chauvinism which she encounters on every page, all of which left me with a profound distaste of Maycomb, Alabama and all its’ inhabitants, fictional or otherwise.

And this is the most difficult conclusion that Jean Louise Scout Finch has to come to, too. That she is inextricably part of it all. She was born that way and fight as she might against it all, and she DOES fight, she is stuck with this is who she is and what she has sprung from.

One only hopes that her character gets back to sweet Manhattan asap.

“Go Set a Watchman” is an important book, but it is a disturbing one, and it left me quite frankly, nauseated. But for all the right reasons.

March Doldrums…Oscars are over. What next? Holland Taylor as Ann Richards

Yes, dear readers, dear cineastes, the Oscars are over til, well, at least Cannes. Which is in May. Not that I’m going. Tres cher as the French say. And since every one else in the blogosphere will be there, one might as well stay put and not endure the French sun(too hot) or the humiliation if you get the wrong colored pass. You see, in Cannes, everything for the Press is determined by what colored press pass you get.

A certain color will let you march right in to the press screening you desire to go to. But if not, you have to line up with all the others who don’t have the right colored pass and wait til the other colors file in past you, taking up all the good seats. Well, sod that, as the Brits say.

Lining up in Toronto is enough of an ordeal in itself. You sometimes have to get there an hour early to get in to what you what to see. I’m remembering back to the “King’s Speech” which was at 8:45 AM, and yes, there was a line. A very long one. But as I got there particularly early, in fact, I was the FIRST ONE IN LINE, I knew I’d get in.

No such guarantee in Cannes…

Meanwhile, what else does one do in New York in March? Well, being a Voting Member of the Drama Desk, I being to start attending Broadway shows once again.

Yes, dear readers, dear cineastes, I foresake the movies for the plays, and last night I did just that starting my theater-going Spring season off right with the imploding powerhouse that is called “Ann.”

It’s a one-woman show about the late, great governor of Texas Ann Richards who was one hell of a gal, a real Texas broad who liked trail-blazing as much as she loved talking trash as well as liberal politics.

And Ann Richards is a great under-known American political figure and being a female Texas governor is no mean feat. And the real Ann Richards did it ALL.

Unfortunately, Holland Taylor, the actress who has the audacity to shoulder her story as a one-woman show at the cavernous Lincoln Center’s Vivian Beaumont, has chosen not only to act alone on a over-sized stage that a musical would be lost on, but also to have written the wobbly book as well. *sigh* It could’ve been great. But it’s only a little less than so-so. The road to theater hell is paved with good intentions. Although “Ann” is more like purgatory.

Taylor, an actress who is now somewhere in her seventh decade, is someone I feel I’ve seen acting since forever. A typical WASP matron type, I remember her being grandly soused in a supporting role in A.R. Gurney’s “The Cocktail Hour,” and she’s been in many, many plays and television shows, and she was always, well, serviceable. Just OK. But not a star, by any means.

I guess she’s most widely known now for “Two and Half Men” and I don’t know who she’s playing on it, but it’s made her well-known and probably cemented her fortune, since she’s been on it since the beginning. Me, I’ve never watched it….And there’s certainly big bucks behind the lavishly produced one woman show that is “Ann”. If only Holland Taylor hadn’t written it herself.

She’s not much of a writer, but here, as an actress, for the first time in her long career, she truly dazzles. Esp. in the long, first introductory section where she is basically directly addressing the audience, as Richards, telling her uber-colorful life story. She really does shine here. And she’s basically quoting sassy, saucy lines that Richards actually said. And in this, she’s quite fine. And funny, too and endearing. You start to love her.

BUT—

She’s so good in this, so much so that when she begins to falter in the second act of the play, and even before that, you feel a sinking frustration that a great theatrical opportunity is being blown here.

“Ann” is just TOOOO long.

The minute Michael Fagin’s stunning set for the Governor’s Office is revealed, then moves forward in space towards Holland/Richards, it’s a dazzlingly theatrical moment, and the first act should’ve end THERE. But no, no. It goes ON and ON for quite sometime where we see Ann As Governor in action, as Ms. Holland takes her seat in the Governor’s chair.

And when she sits down, so does the play. And it never really stands up again. THEN there’s a SECOND act, with basically the SAME territory covered in the Governor’s office setting AGAIN, til I just wish she’d step forward onto the apron, relate directly to the audience and shineshineshine again. Finally she does, and I have to admit I admired Holland Taylor’s pluck, but basically about the time Ann was entering her 7th decade, I felt I had been there just about as long, and was ready for her to ascend into Demoratic heaven. And she does.

Why didn’t she get a PLAYWRIGHT to help her? The EGO of the actress in this regard is overwhelming. And terribly misguided. Or a director to help her shape this unwealdy piece of barnstorming? Benjamin Endsley Klein, whoever HE is, was listed as the director, but it seemed Ms. Taylor was out there flying blind. Oh well. She’s a good enough actress and is having the time of her life bringing the exuberant Ann Richards back to life, to make it worth your while to sit and watch her display herself for two hours. But be warned. You’ll be underwhelmed. But you’ll still like Holland Taylor, but you just wish somebody could’ve said STOP!

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