"HAS there ever been a summer of 23 sequels before?" asks The Hollywood Reporter's Todd McCarthy. (We here, writing for the older masses, are ever grateful to the lush-
looking Reporter for keeping us so ably up to date.)
Reporter McCarthy goes on: "The praised Dawn of the Planet of the Apes proves that Hollywood's lackluster history of second acts can actually pay off.
...Doesn't Hollywood's ever-increasing devotion to remaking, rebooting and otherwise leeching off popular and once-fresh properties bespeak a prevailing corporate timidity and poverty of imagination? Do we really just want to see the same old characters enact variations on the same rituals time and time again?
"...but where once the phenomenon of sequels almost automatically assured diminishing creative dividends, these days you never know... And then, once in a while, you might hit the jackpot: a doable commercial and creative payoff , like July's sensation Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. ...sequel-itis is as old as Hollywood, with popular recurring characters---Rin Tin Tin, Tarzan, Hopalong Cassidy, Nick and Nora Charles, Andy Hardy, Dr. Kildare, Ma and Pa Kettle, Sherlock Holmes, Francis the Talking Mule and many others..."
Thank you to Todd McCarthy with his diverting article giving more details.
• There have been a number of books, just as always, about dysfunctional families... brothers, sisters, grandparents, fathers and especially -- mothers.
And in this day and age when telling "all" and brutal frankness reigns, there are even more books like these. Many are in the "blame game" category and I'm a little sick of these, I confess.
But there have been a few where famous daughters write lovingly about losing their mothers early on via mental illness and I'm especially touched by these. Right off of the top of my head, I can cite Diane Keaton's amazing book of a few years back, titled Then Again. The pain in losing her mother to early Alzheimer's and the influence of family on this unique comic personality never leaves me.
If you haven't read Then Again from Random House, you've missed an experience. It was termed the best book of the year a few years back. (Diane followed this up with a more cheerful one recently on fashion and foolishness and raising kids, titled Let's Just Say It Wasn't Pretty. You'd do well to add that to your list as well. It's pretty amazing.)
Then there was the book about a mother written by her daughter, Alex Witchel, and that one truly was heartbreaking. Ms. Witchell, an acerbic brilliant writer for the New York Times, titled it All Gone and it tells, in both tragic and comedic bursts of charm and wit about how the author tried to keep her youngish vital mother "with" her via learning what her smart intellectual mother had done historically in the kitchen. It includes some recipes and one swings between tears and laughter.
We also have a few books where mothers and daughters join up to become commercial hits -- as inthe new Lisa Scottoline and Francesca Serritella's Have a Nice Guilt Trip -- a brand new outing which Oprah picked and turned into the "must read"of summer.
We can add to this positive look Joan Rivers' new one, Diary of a Mad Diva, wherein she deals past and present on how to push a daughter, Melissa, into a public career the latter seems not to want. If you can "take" Joan's unrelenting attack on everybody and everything, which I think she makes hysterical, -- well, we can add this tome!
Let's also add the terrific young 16-year-olds cited in New York magazine's top prospects for professional baseball athletes. Most of them credit their mothers, not their fathers, in raising them right, and promise to buy mom real homes with their incipient millions.
• I could go on with this but let me cite my favorite surprise. It is the history of multiple Tony, Emmy, Obie and Drama Desk awards won by actress Swoosie Kurtz.
Even if you never caught Swoosie onstage, you've seen her on screens big and little and she is a hilarious addition to TV's hit Mike & Molly."
Swoosie has written a book unusual for its happiness. She is the daughter of two exemplary parents -- a mother who is brilliant and in love with her father, a pilot hero of World War II and a champion Olympic swimmer. Swoosie titled her memoir Part Swan, Part Goose. This is cited as "an uncommon memoir of womanhood, work and family." The actress received some writing help from Joni Rodgers.
Part Swan, Part Goose is so upbeat that it wins the "good feeling after reading" award which nobody else can touch. (We should all have glorious photographs of our past lives as children.)
Don't miss this hard cover book of collected praise for parents who had it all together. And never miss seeing Swoosie, with whom you will inevitably feel a kindship -- on stage, screen or TV. There is not a saccharine note in this delightful memoir.
• ELAINE STRITCH just before she died last week: "I don't want a memorial service. Curtain down and that's it!"