Sunday, January 15, 2017

Meryl Streep – "The Winner Takes It All" (2008)

Somewhere deep inside
You must know I miss you
But what can I say?
Rules must be obeyed

In 1998, journalist Jim Lehrer interviewed President Bill Clinton about Monica Lewinsky.

“You had no sexual relationship with this young woman?” Lehrer asked.

“There is not a sexual relationship – that is accurate,” Clinton answered.

Clinton’s response to Lehrer was recently cited in an article in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology as an example of “paltering” – which is defined by the authors of that article as “the active use of truthful statements to create a false impression.”  

Clinton’s answer was literally truthful – as of the date of the interview, he was not involved with Lewinsky.  But Lehrer hadn’t asked him if he was currently in a sexual relationship with intern.  

Lehrer wanted to know if Clinton had ever been in a sexual relationship with Lewinsky.  Clinton’s answer was an attempt to mislead Lehrer and his audience without telling an outright falsehood.  

*     *     *     *     *

Now that I know what paltering is, I'm seeing it all over the place.

For example, Meryl Streep was guilty of a little paltering in her remarks at the recent Golden Globe awards.

(The following discussion has nothing to do with the Streep-Trump contretemps, by the way – I'm not touching that one with a ten-foot pole.)

Meryl Streep speaking at the Golden Globes 
“I was born and raised and educated in the public schools of New Jersey,” Ms. Streep told the audience.  Sounds like good ol’ Meryl is just a regular person, doesn’t it?  After all, she went to plain old public school.  And as we know from all those Bruce Springsteen songs, New Jersey is a blue-collar kind of place – right?

Not exactly.  New Jersey is actually the second wealthiest state in the United States, and has the highest percentage of millionaires of any state.    

And Meryl Streep was born in Summit, one of the wealthiest towns in New Jersey.  

A home in Summit, New Jersey
Here’s what the New York Times had to say about Summit in a 2008 article:

Summit, an affluent suburb of about 20,000, has long been popular with [Wall Street] traders, investment bankers, and money managers.  Gov. Jon S. Corzine lived on its moneyed north side when he was chairman of Goldman Sachs, and Jim Cramer, the former hedge fund manager who is host of the CNBC program “Mad Money,” is a current resident. . . . In 2005, the median household income was $168,045.

At some point, Streep’s parents – her mother was an artist, her father an executive at a pharmaceutical company – moved to neighboring Somerset County, which had the 4th-highest median income of all 3113 counties in the United States as of 2000. 

Meryl Streep, high-school cheerleader
Meryl did attend a public high school – Bernards High School in Bernardsville, NJ, whose student body was and is very affluent and very white.  (As of the 2014-15 school year, only 19 of its 843 students were black.  I’m guessing that the school was even whiter when Streep graduated fifty years ago.) 

After that, Streep attended fancy-schmancy Vassar College (where tuition and room and board currently runs about $65,000 per year) and the Yale School of Drama.  

Streep as a Vassar student
“I was born and raised and educated in the public schools of New Jersey” seems calculated to leave the impression that Meryl Streep had a working-class or a middle-class upbringing.  It would have been more honest for Streep to say “I was born with a silver spoon in my mouth.”

That silver spoon is now 24-karat gold, of course.  These days, Streep makes roughly $5 million per movie.  (She’s going to bank $825,000 per episode for her new TV series, The Nix.)  She lives on a 90-acre, multi-residence compound in Connecticut and owns a $9 million penthouse in New York City.

Meryl Streep: a great actress . . . and no slouch when it comes to paltering.

*     *     *     *     *

Ms. Streep’s remarks at the Golden Globes also included a dig at popular entertainments like football and mixed martial arts, which she dismissed as “not the arts.”

You want to know something that’s “not the arts”?  The 2008 movie, Mamma Mia! The Movie, is “not the arts.”

And Meryl Streep’s performance in that movie is “not the arts.”

Streep and Pierce Brosnan in Mamma Mia!
From the New York Times review of Mamma Mia! The Movie:

It is safe to say that Ms. Streep gives the worst performance of her career . . . . There is a degree of fascination in watching an Oscar-winning Yale School of Drama graduate mug and squirm, shimmy and shriek and generally fill every moment with antic, purposeless energy, as if she were hogging the spotlight in an eighth-grade musical.

I’m not sure that Streep’s performance in Mamma Mia! is still the worst of her career.  Her utterly lame portrayal of an wannabe rock star in Ricki and the Flash could be her worst performance ever.  (Even Justine Bateman’s performance as a female rock star in Satisfaction, a 1988 movie about an all-chick rock band – Julia Roberts was the bass player – is far superior to Streep’s Ricki.)

Here's the trailer for Ricki and the Flash:

Other movies that have been nominated as Streep’s worst include The House of the Spirits, Before and After, Dancing at Lughnasa, Heartburn, Into the Woods, Music of the Heart . . . but you get the point.

A lot of the songs in Mamma Mia! feature Streep, and it was hard to pick just one.  I was somewhat surprised by the fact that her singing isn’t at all bad – it’s the acting that is appallingly over the top.  

And nowhere more so than in the scene that features “The Winner Takes It All,” which was a top ten hit for ABBA in 1980.

Pierce Brosnan is in that scene, but doesn’t sing.  Click here to listen to the Brosnan-Streep duet on "S.O.S.” if you dare.  (Don’t say I didn’t warn you.)

Here’s Meryl Streep singing “The Winner Takes It All,” which was the first single from ABBA’s 1980 album, Super Trouper:

(Talk about bad lyrics . . . wow.)

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

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