Kidman's various roles show she's not afraid to take chance

The Baltimore Sun

ARE YOU, like, the queen of Australia?"

"No, Cate Blanchett is, I'll be lady-in-waiting."

That was the exchange between Newsweek magazine and one of our favorite stars, Nicole Kidman.

Nicole is gracious, and though she is probably sincere, she is nobody's lady-in-waiting. This beauty continues on a tightrope, career-wise. She takes chances and works where the inspiration, the interesting directors and the fascinating scripts are. Her latest, Margot at the Wedding, has its flaws, but Nicole gives herself over to a characterization that is relentless and unredeemed in sour spitefulness. She's splendid, even if the film lets her down.

Got Milk?

Well, just as I predicted, the film bio of the famous - and infamously assassinated - San Francisco politico, Harvey Milk, will go before the cameras pretty soon, with Sean Penn as Milk. Gus Van Sant will direct him. The film, as yet untitled, has been scripted by Dustin Lance Black, who first broke out in Hollywood in 2003, appearing in a documentary about the travails of being gay in Hollywood. Then, this guy who grew up in Mormon-saturated Utah, began writing for HBO's great polygamy series, Big Love. Now he's got a major feature coming up.

We interrupt this strike ...

Speaking of writers, the strike goes on. And it would take a great person or event to persuade these hard-working scribes to let down their guard and put down their placards.

Well, that person and event has appeared in the iconic form of Miss Elizabeth Taylor and her Dec. 1 reading of A.R. Gurney's Love Letters at the Paramount Pictures lot in Hollywood.

The Writers Guild has granted a one-night dispensation from procedures of the current strike to allow La Liz and James Earl Jones to perform. The evening will raise more than $1 million for the AIDS fight.

The star of stars says, "The Writers Guild has shown great humanity, empathy and courage by allowing our little evening to go forth. Everyone knows my heart belongs to people with HIV and AIDS. I also share my heart with people who must battle unfairness. Without the gifts of writers, the world would be rather empty. I beseech those in power to treat members of the Writers Guild with fairness and decency."

Elizabeth's fealty to writers is nothing new. Whenever she has been praised for a performance, she brushes aside flattery and says, "Thank Tennessee Williams, Edward Albee, Shakespeare, etc."

Computer images

I continue to worry a bit about the fate of living, breathing actors. The current computer-enhanced smash, Beowulf - like last year's 300 hit - uses real actors, but there is such an overuse of CGI, it's difficult to relate to anybody as real - not even the luscious Angelina Jolie. Are we only a step away from totally computer-created characters? - and not cartoon characters, either.

I ponder thoughts of human decline even while watching TV. There are a series of commercials for Schwab insurance that use very lifelike animation. Creepy, if you ask me.

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