Liz Smith: It’s All About the Panda for Angelina in Cannes

Angelina Jolie wows at this year's Cannes Film Festival

And more from our Liz: Madonna, back to glamour … Oprah ends it all (not really) … Liz’s French food favorite — Le Veau d’Or in Manhattan

“I’M HERE in the context of ‘Kung Fu Panda!”

That was Angelina Jolie’s concise response to a question about Osama bin Laden, asked while the movie star was doing her stuff on the Cannes red carpet. Jolie and Brad Pitt were on their way into the screening of his puzzling “The Tree of Life” movie. (Well, critics have been puzzled, anyway.)

I love her remark. I mean, she didn’t even say, “I’m here for Brad’s ‘Tree of Life.” Maybe she’s puzzled by the movie too.

Fashion-wise, Jolie was all decked out in a glamorous gown, looking quite the movie queen. (So unlike that little sundress she wore a few days back.) But the gown made a  great display of her legs and, honestly, the girl needs to pack on a couple of pounds. Those long gams are a trifle spindly. For my taste, anyway.

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SOMEBODY WHO also often seems a bit too wiry and thin is Madonna. But not these days. She was a sensation at the recent Metropolitan Museum Costume gala, in a wonderful retro-style gown, slender but not skinny.

And she seems to be keeping up the 1930’s/40’s glamour. She looked terrific with Oprah, at the big taping of Oprah’s final shows. Madonna always looks best as a classic glamour girl. She herself prefers edgier designs. Either her taste is maturing or she is — clever girl —gearing up for the release of “W.E.” (The portions of the movie that deal with the Duke and Duchess of Windsor are lavish in period detail and the clothes are exquisite.)

I remember around the time of publicizing “Evita,” Madonna wore a lot of outfits suggesting Eva Peron. “Evita” had been a ten-year journey for Madonna (and this column, which first suggested her for the role!) So, she was simply steeped in Eva and the fashions of the era.

“W.E.,” which Madonna wrote and directed, has also been a years-long labor of love. Nothing she has ever done has consumed her so much. So I think her return to classic glamour reflects the intensity and commitment to her film. Also, it’s terribly flattering.

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SPEAKING OF Oprah, as the days wind down to a precious few, the lady herself has been the subject of constant press scrutiny. Some very smart writers, such as Robert Sheffield in Rolling Stone, have attempted to distill the essence and power of The Great and Powerful O.

What one senses from all these articles is that even those who don’t “like” Oprah or “get” her have respect for her unparalleled influence, her feeling that she is a vessel to bring good things to the world and even her oft-remarked upon ego and sense of entitlement. (When you have billions of dollars, all of which you’ve earned yourself, you are perhaps entitled to entitlement.)

Nothing on TV is more fascinating than watching Oprah’s “Behind the Scenes” the show that airs on her new OWN Network and purports to display Oprah warts and all, without makeup, deciding this and that, scaring the pants off her staff (all of whom profess — some less convincingly than others — that they adore her.)

The thing to remember, and what all fans of “reality” TV know, is that Oprah’s backstage series has been carefully edited. Whether it has been edited to make Oprah appear better or worse is something of a current parlor game. Oprah controls it. She obviously wants her fans to know she is certainly not all sweetness and light. But she still gets to push her message of personal empowerment. And she still wants people to apologize to her.

On one or two occasions, Oprah has said, “Well, I learned a lesson here.” But that usually comes after somebody says, “I’m sorry.” To Oprah’s credit, when she brought back one troublesome and troubled guest, and spent the entire hour talking about how she (Oprah) felt she’d been dissed and wronged, Winfrey then took the suggestion of her staff and filmed another hour with the woman, giving her a chance to promote her book.

Oprah’s daily TV show is ending next week. But there are no endings for Oprah Winfrey. This is the beginning of a fabulous new era. But don’t expect a less grand, more humble O. She is not anything like her audience anymore. She knows it. They know it. They love her for it.

She is one of the greatest American success stories of all time. She is the working Cinderella, who swept away the ashes of her terrible childhood and married her Prince Charming — who just happened to be the whole world.

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THIS WEEK one of my all-time favorite restaurants in Manhattan was awarded the coveted James Beard “Lifetime Achievement” award before a crowd of 2000 “foodies” in Avery Fisher Hall of Lincoln Center.

The winner was Le Veau d’Or, a little informal French bistro on 60th street between Lexington and Park. This place was opened in 1937 and is the last of its breed. The “winners” were owners Robert Treboux and his beautiful daughter, Cathy, who bought it long ago from the original creators and have kept it going ever since.

It was once a celebrity haunt where Grace Kelly met Oleg Cassini and Jackie Onassis, Diana Vreeland and Truman Capote hung out. The late Times food critic Craig Claiborne once said it was the one café he couldn’t live without. And I am in agreement.

M. Treboux is still always elegantly on hand to greet and Cathy is the soul of hospitality. They went to the Beard awards against four competitors (Chef Vola’s in Atlantic City … Crooks Corner in Chapel Hill … Noriega in Bakersfield … and Watts Tea Shop in Milwaukee. I’m not surprised that my pet, “The Golden Calf,” won because not long ago I congratulated my friend Cathy on its being named one of the three best French restaurants in America. This appeared in USA Today and the editors cited Le Veau d’Or with La Grenouille and Daniel of New York City. Cathy seemed slightly shocked when I told her of this honor. “Oh, how must my friends Charles of Grenouille and Daniel feel about our being classed with them?!”

Well, I guess they feel fine what with Le Veau d’Or winning a James Beard Award! Go to 60th Street and order the vichyssoise and everything else classic and great. Tell them Liz sent you.



5 Responses so far.

  1. avatar Lila says:

    Ah, Angelina Jolie’s response to the bin Laden question just raised my estimation of her a couple of notches. But Liz, I agree: she could benefit from a little extra poundage.

  2. avatar Laura Ward says:

    “spindly” to describe skinny legs, funny!!! and true…

  3. avatar Richard Bassett says:

    All this anticipation toward W.E. and then the mundane reality when it really comes down to it, sets in. Directors are behind the scenes but it is a job very important to the actor and actresses who work under them…but for the general public? At Academy time, the Award kind of glazes us by. And plus we are talking about Madonna. I anticipated ‘Evita’ (having seen it on stage, and before that…danced to the disco tunes they made out of the songs). I loved it, but I was in the minority. It passed the Academy right by. I think you have to be a diehard Madonna fan to like the movie. It wasn’t THAT bad! And had already been part of my personal history from the early 80’s. For once, I’m glad Streep didn’t get the role. I just can’t see her in it. As for Madonna…in her 50’s and 60’s, the dance music has to stop or, at the very least, slow it down. No doubt, though, she will wonder into old ages doing project after project after project (I just don’t see a sit com in her future, though)

  4. avatar wendivah1 says:

    I think Oprah does deserve some entitlement, because she did work for her money. I am from Baltimore and I remember her back in the day when she was working as a newscaster for Chanel 13 News. She did not empress me then and as I watch the reality show, I see she has not changed much, so she does not impress me now, there is little meekness here. I believe the bigger you get the more meek you should become. After all, after you work on the money, and you have as much as she has, now its time to work on the spirit. What can anyone take from her now.

  5. avatar Tom in Colombia says:

    Not sure if my first comment made it cuase I hadnt activated my account.  It went something like this;  OMG, its the Coconut water.  She going to make Rhianna fat.  As Angelina is caught with her mouth open in an ah ha moment at the sight of Riris wieght gain, You call me to say we got an invite to W.E.s premire in Venice.  With everyone now fat wearing W.E. headdress to balance the new chubby bodies Angie takes a sip of coco water.