As a classic film fan an invite to attend a film screening and interview with Shirley MacLaine is a true treat. Unfortunately, I was unable to make it so my good friend Mary of Along Comes Mary stepped in for me and got all the scoop. Take it away, Mary.
When you think about the word “Legend” and who fits into that category, someone who has always come to my mind is the un-stoppable Shirley MacLaine. Since her humble beginnings as a young woman trying to make it on Broadway, to her break out film debut in Alfred Hitchcock’s The Trouble with Harry, Shirley (who is named after Shirley Temple), has gone on to leave audiences like myself in awe ever since.
While racking up 5 Academy Award nominations (and a win), 5 Golden Globes (on top of nearly 15 nominations) as well as also being a Best-Selling author of books exploring metaphysics, New Age and reincarnation, Shirley can now add KCET’s Lumiere Award to her roster. The honor was presented to MacLaine last week in Sherman Oaks along with one of the first screenings of her new poignant film, The Last Word, and I was thrilled to be there.
The award is presented by the KCET Cinema Series, and recognizes excellence, artistry and innovation by artists for their outstanding contribution to television or film. Lumière, meaning “light” in French, is also an homage to brothers Auguste and Louis Lumiére, who were the first filmmakers in history dating back to 1894.
The event began with a fantastic introduction by Deadline.com’s Pete Hammond of a short film chronicling MacLaine’s phenomenal career, followed by The Last Word’s co-star, and dear friend of Shirley’s, Amanda Seyfried, presenting her with the award. “What I’ve learned in all of these years”, explained Shirley as she accepted the award, “is what I am, and what I am not. I suppose parts, characters, working with other artists, and what it’s done for me, is make me more available to myself. There is nothing like it in the world than being more understanding of who you are. So, all you people who love movies and the experience you go through with yourself while watching them, is I cannot think of anything more important, more revealing, funnier. Think of all the money you’ve saved by not being in a Psychiatrist’s chair, because you understand yourself more, through the characters.”
Already feeling very inspired by her acceptance speech, little did I know what an enlightening, sobering and fragile journey I was about to embark on, seeing The Last Word.
Directed by Mark Pellington (who has an incredible and diverse resume of films, documentaries and music videos featuring the likes of everyone from U2 to Michael Jackson), The Last Word tells the story of an aging divorcee, Harriet, who is not ashamed to be known as, well, a little tough and feisty. That tenacity is why she was one of the most successful business women in an era when it was still a “boy’s world”. While flipping through the Sunday obituaries, she’s not only annoyed to read how ‘well-loved’ and ‘admired’ names she knew were, when in reality, they were anything but, but it also gets her wheels turning that she wants to be the control freak she is and write her own legacy. Complete the story, before it’s over.
Enter quirky and insecure Anne Sherman (Seyfried). Sherman is the master mind behind the obituaries in the newspaper, and snappy Harriet enlists her (or, rather, tells her) that they will spend time together so Sherman gets the full insight to Harriet needed to write a proper obituary. Between wanting to find the perfect “wild card” to her life, to making friends with a loud mouth and spunky, but with a heart of gold, young African-American girl at the local after-school program and to seeing the daughter who cut out Harriet nearly 2 decades ago, Harriet goes on a journey to realize her own immortality, as well as learn to enjoy her life a little more, while Anne begins to connect to her like the mother she has not had, and vice versa.
I really appreciated the fact that I went in feeling like I knew the premise to The Last Word, yet it took turns I was not expecting (especially when Harriet finds her wild card and her passion for music is discovered again) and surprised me. Much like life itself. Throughout this film, I guarantee you will have moments of A HA! and be reminded of the importance of enjoying this one life you have.
Following the film, our stars returned for an exciting and interactive Q&A with the audience. Witnessing such a close bond, it was hilarious as Shirley poked fun at a very pregnant Amanda, who is expecting a bundle of joy any day now with her fiancé and Last Word co-star, Thomas Sadoski. She also was breezy when the topic of the Academy Awards Best Picture snafu came up (which involved her little brother, Warren Beatty) joking that they better have “the right card” should she be up for one anytime soon.
Thanks so much for the fabulous night, KCET! Their Cinema Series is a must for any local who loves and appreciates the art of film. Learn more about the series HERE.
(*All photos: Courtesy of KCET.)