"The only thing that separates us from the animals is our ability to accessorize," says the Oscar-winner Olympia Dukakis in the film Steel Magnolias.
•Actor Billy Zane (who is also an artist, in the painting sense) was spotted leaving a press event in L.A. at the Villa Bianca eatery.
Zane, known for his antic fashion stylings, wore his signature beret with a tan suit. He looked very fit. Asked if his trimmer silhouette had anything to do with an upcoming film, Zane hinted that the talk about reprising his role in the 1996 movie The Phantom, might actually be, ah -- taking shape. ("Those purple tights are unforgiving," he joked.)
The Phantom performed only modestly well in the U.S., but as is often the case, it pulled in bigger bucks overseas. Is there a director? Zane couldn't say but others chatter that Jon Favreau of the Iron Man films is first pick.
Zane will always be hated (in that love-to-hate-him-movie-way) for his role as Kate Winslet's horrible fiancé in Titanic. But he never stops working and has about five films in post or pre-production. And if that's not enough, he'll play the authoritarian Captain Von Trapp in The Sound of Music at Chicago's Lyric Opera House. This opens in April.
•Patti Lupone, One Night Only! I know, I know -- how can a super-nova of energy such as Ms. LuPone ever be a "one night only" woman? But on May 19, Patti will return to the role of Moll in John Houseman's The Cradle Will Rock. The production of this legendary show is a benefit for The Acting Company.
As Moll, Patti won the 1985 Olivier Award for Best Actress in a Musical. Joining her will be Randle Mell...David Schramm...Tom Robbins...Brian Reddy...Casey Biggs...Mary Lou Rosato and Charles Shaw-Robinson. Lonny Price directs. It happens at the Bernard Jacobs Theatre. Call 212-258-3111. Oh, and you Broadway mavens know this -- one night with Patti will last you a lifetime!
•All of New York cares for true theater gathered for Sweeney Todd at Avery Fisher for one week only. They came away raving about the one and only Emma Thompson. Stiffed out of an Oscar nomination for Disney's Saving Mr. Banks, Emma scored big as the grisly pie maker, Mrs. Lovett! (She surprised many of her admirers who didn't realize she could sing. Emma, had in fact, starred in a musical back in the 1980s.)
Sorry, it only runs one more day, but it showcases the versatile British actress at her best.
•Sick of talking or thinking about the Oscars?
I ask what's the Academy for anyway? To recognize excellence in film. Not to sell couture dresses and jewelry! I am grateful to my reader Ellen Easton for some of the following. (Anyway, they should start the all-important-these-days red carpet earlier so we can see the real winners before we have to go to bed!)
The cameras inside should cover, not just the first three rows but give us views of the many stars and VIPs in the audience and somebody should be busy super-imposing their names under them. Speaking of that, it wouldn't hurt television a bit to do this over and over since nobody knows who anybody is these days anyway. (If you tune in a second late even to news shows, they carry on and on without identifying correspondents and talking heads by names.)
The boring, but important, technical awards should be given and shown at the Academy lunch the day before the Oscars, as then nobody could be influenced by them and change their votes. This would alleviate boredom and tedium at the Oscars in spades.
Use voice-over for film clips. Explain what we are seeing and why, even if it's in the iconic past, as it usually is. The Oz segment the other night should have been Judy Garland singing; her three children would have been interesting to see onstage introducing it. There should also have been a major Shirley Temple tribute; it wasn't enough to merely say she died this past year; she was just about the biggest star ever in movies. She needed a grand salute along with Doris Day and Mickey Rooney, and others neglected. When will the Academy realize this?
Use less banter with no context and it wouldn't hurt for presenters to give a tidbit about each category.
But mainly, start earlier. Nominate real songs. Oh wait! Nobody writes a real song anymore so why not just name something or other and hark back to the hits of the past. Or drop the best nominated song altogether. The people who put music together these days aren't making their money from the Oscars anyway.
Listen, a show that was created ostensibly for profiling excellence can do better.
•It is encouraging to hear that the school for women former Governor Ann Richards established in Austin is working well. All of the 52 graduating seniors received 184 acceptance letters from colleges and there were $3,177,704 merit based scholarships given. Donors to Ann's school know they're getting a bang for their buck!
•To those of you who thought Liza Minnelli wasn't pleased by Ellen DeGeneres' remarks at the Oscars, Liza says, "I don't think she meant any harm at all and she's a wonderful lady. I think she did great."
•Kaye Ballard's retirement show on March 11th in Palm Springs is standing room only. So much for retirement!