"SHAKESPEARE is a drunken savage with some imagination whose plays please only in London and Canada." -- Voltaire.
Well, nobody's perfect.
MOVIES I can't wait for! I do mean the latest screen adaptation of Shakespeare's tale of betrayal and obsession, "Macbeth." This one will star Michael Fassbender of "Shame" fame, as the Scottish general-turned-king of Scotland. (Some witches told him this was his destiny. People took that sort of stuff seriously, especially to push a story along. So he kills the king and makes himself ruler.)
He is helped along enormously in his ambition by his wife, Lady Macbeth. Here she is to be played by the great Marion Cotillard. (Marion will have the famous "Out, damn spot!" speech.) Everybody does not live happily ever after, in case you were wondering.
These are two of my favorite actors. And Shakespeare's work is always good for another interpretation.
Which reminds me. Marlon Brando and his good friend Marilyn Monroe often spoke of revamping a Shakespearean project for the two of them. "Macbeth" was a possibility. When a reporter asked if Monroe thought she had what it took to play such a heavy, dramatic, villainous role, the star smiled sweetly and replied, "Well, whoever said Lady Macbeth couldn't be a sexy blond? After all, she had to have something to make him do everything he did!"
MEL GIBSON looks buff and healthy now that he has joined the latest "Expendables" movie. I know everybody enjoys damning him, and I won't say he's been my favorite person, but I do believe in second (and even third) chances. If I can root for Lindsay Lohan, I have to hope Gibson's troubles are behind him too.
WANT TO have a high old time with a supremely funny book? Try Carl Hiaasen's latest, "Bad Monkey" from Knopf. This is fast, cynical and depicts an all-too-flawed detective, fallen on hard times in Florida.
I won't bother to describe the plot, because I simply couldn't. However, in reviewing the book, the San Francisco Chronicle asks: "Does anyone remember what we did for fun before Carl Hiaasen?"
TWO NIFTY new film releases from The Criterion Collection: one is director John Frankenheimer's thriller, "Seconds," starring Rock Hudson. It is the story of a dissatisfied middle-aged businessman, who wants out of his life of boredom, lying, hiding his true feelings from himself and others. The role meant a lot to Rock Hudson, for reasons upon which we can only speculate. The businessman finds a remarkable way to change his life, but discovers this new life isn't all it's cracked up to be.
The film was not a success, and Hudson, deeply disappointed, never tried anything so serious again, although he found quite a bit of pleasure in his forays into live theater. The chilling last moments of "Seconds" are still terrifying and moving.
Criterion's other big release this month is the Ernst Lubitsch 1942 comedy "To Be or Not to Be" starring Jack Benny and the divine Carole Lombard in her last film role. (She would die in a plane crash, raising war bonds shortly after completing the movie. It was released two months after her death.)
Although the movie is ostensibly a comedy -- Lombard and Benny play married and highly completive stage actors -- it deals directly with the rise of Hitler, specifically the invasion of Poland. Director Lubitsch -- harshly criticized when the film initially opened -- defended it as a "satire" of the Nazi ideology and the ego of actors who can remain oblivious, no matter what's going on in the world. (And you thought that mindset was something invented in the last few decades!) In any case, the movie has become a classic.
The new cover art for the Criterion release certainly stresses the serious underpinnings of the film. Neither Lombard nor Benny appears. Instead we see a grim skull against the hat and uniform of a Nazi soldier.
Two more beautifully re-mastered films from Criterion, where cinephiles find the best that cinema can offer, in pristine condition.
AS AUGUST ends, the big September issues of the magazines hit the stands. You know, they are like lethal weapons, two-inches thick and packed with advertisements. (After reading, I usually use the September issue of Vogue as a doorstop, or as a way of making a strident point without getting off the couch. Of course, the walls suffer terribly!)
GQ is no exception. And the issue's bigness goes well with its cover and overall theme -- football. The cover guy is a massive quarterback named Colin Kaepernick. Honestly, I've never heard of him. But the cover is eye-catching to say the least. There he is, stripped to the waist, holding his helmet in one hand, and pulling open his leather jacket to reveal a plethora of tattoos. It's all good, if you like that sort of thing.
GQ also pays nice tribute in many of its advertisements to Jim Nelson, who has re-vamped the magazine so successfully during his 10 years as managing editor.
ON SEPTEMBER 30 HBO and Time Warner Cable will debut the first episode of the new season of "Boardwalk Empire." This is an all-around brilliant show, but I always think of it as "the thing that pushed Steve Buscemi into well-deserved major A-list stardom. (After years as one of the most recognizable character faces in features and TV.)
The big event happens at the Ziegfeld Theatre on West 54th, with a party afterward at Cipriani 42nd Street.
"Boardwalk" became an almost instant hit and cultural phenomenon. It's gonna be one of "those" nights in Manhattan.
(E-mail Liz Smith at MES3838@aol.com.)