a.k.a. "The Oscar Messenger"

Posts tagged ‘homosexual’

Disappointing Oscar hopeful “Foxcatcher”

Foxcatcher 2

I was soooo disappointed in "Foxcatcher", a film that has been touted as an Oscar hopeful since its debut at Cannes, and followed by TIFF, and the NYFF. But I was just not on board with this film. Bennett Miller, who directed "Capote" to great acclaim and netted an Oscar for the late Phillip Seymour Hoffman, is a director I admire. And though he directed the baseball saga "Moneyball", he has a penchant for tackling gay themed projects.

Which he is doing once again here with "Foxcatcher." Except that he isn't. He's totally de-gay-ed a VERY gay story, ripped from yesterday's headlines about Henry E. Dupont, the very rich and very weird scion of the Dupont family. They had so much money, Henry basically felt he could buy anyone or anything.

And he was gay, although you'd never know it from this incredibly closeted movie. I mean, how can you take the homo-eroticism and also the homosexuality out of this, what should have been a Big Gay movie? Except that it's not.

If you think wrestling in and off itself is exciting, which I don't, you might like this movie. But Henry DuPont was clearly a predator, creating this camp of muscle-bound young men, who he was purportedly training for Olympic wrestling.

Everyone thinks that comedian Steve Carell is going to get an Oscar nomination for his cold, rabbity portrayal of DuPont. It's true he's almost unrecognizable with this humonguous fake nose. He also attempts a monotonal speaking voice for DuPont, which is irritating. OK. So he's not relying on his comic chops. So?

So what do we get?

What he gives us is just a two-dimensional creep. Not the three dimensional one that Jake Gyllenhaal is currently essaying so well in "Nightcrawler." Gyllenhaal's Nightcrawler is obsessed with things that actually are depicted in the film. Money, power, violence, fame,tabloid television.

Dupont is obsessed with men and what's missing is the gayness. It's so toned down, repressed, if you will, that it seems that DuPont is totally in the closet, which he wasn't.

You think wrestlers are hot? In this film, they are cold.And so is the whole film.

"Foxcatcher" is the most unsexy movie imaginable. You can't do what is essentially a gay movie and leave the gayness out of it. I mean, c'mon! It's 2014 already!

And as the plot reveals, or rather, doesn't reveal that DuPont is super obsessed with one wrestling hopeful Channing Tatum( who BTW is turning in the really stellar performance here ), to the point that he moves him on to his estate which is called Foxcatcher. And yes, they do have horses and presumably hunt foxes. His domineering mother, Vanessa Redgrave, who is totally wasted here, with one mere scene of dialogue, is a formidable presence clearly. And Mrs. DuPont does NOT approve of her son's zealous pursuit of the sport of wrestling. She calls it "a low sport" and wishes Henry would stop importing all these young wrestlers to the grounds of their estate. She wishes we would, well, catch foxes at Foxcatcher, and not healthy young male wrestlers, everyone a beauty.

I guess we’re supposed to draw the parallel that he collects handsome athletic young men, the way that his mother collects horses.

Of course, this doesn't end well. And based on a true story, the events, when they at last unfold AFTER TWO HOURS, are baffling rather than revealing. Or tragic. As they should've been.

The only scene that approximates what may have been an homosexual affair is where DuPont and Channing's character snort cocaine together on DuPont's private plane.

The violence that in the end ensues is totally shocking in that it makes no sense with what we have seen before.

Mark Ruffalo, as Tatum's smarter, married brother is also wasted pretty much here. Which is a shame. But then so is Redgrave.

So what we are left with is a very cold, remote film about this weird rich guy that makes no sense.

Miller tried this de-gay-ing thing, too, with "Capote" but in that case it worked, because Truman Capote was sooooo gay, no matter how toned down you made him, he was still VERY gay.

Do we need another portrait of a gay psychotic? Well, I for one was looking forward to this film, given its' festival hype. But I was severely disappointed. It shed light on nothing. It's a gay film for straight people in that case. Maybe straight people will think that SUGGESTING DuPoint's sexuality was enough. To me it was just a big cop-out. I expected more from the talented Bennett Miller than a lot of tense, conversational scenes that illuminate NOTHING.

Gay people are going to be very disappointed with this closet of a movie.

Oscar Gets “Amour”

Well, this certainly is news! Austria has decided that “Amour” is going to be its’ official submission to the Best Foreign Film race this coming Oscar season. Since it’s by a German director, who I LOVE, Michael Haneke, and maybe it’s German-Austrian financed although the two octogenarian leads,  who are winning raves, act in French, this makes “Amour” kosher. And definitely eligible for a Best Foreign Film nomination and perhaps win.

This is despite Jeffrey Wells at www.hollywood-elsewhere.com not liking a whole hell of a lot.

And to top that off Sony Pictures Classics is deciding to open it in Dec. RIGHT in the heat of the Oscar season. I know, I know. It’s freezing in New York at that time of year, and this is hardly your Christmas-y picture. But SPC, as I’ll now call them, are throwing down the Oscar gauntlet(is that a mixed metaphor?) going full court press with this one.

Although Michael Haneke only gives interviews in German, and the two stars are yes-for-real are in their 80s. But have Oscar buzz will travel. So we’ll be seeing them, Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva stateside around the holidays. Or at least I will be seeing them, I hope, in their press tour.

I love SPC’s taste in movies. Last year,  they had “Midnight in Paris” and while it got a bunch of nominations in many categories and won in Best Original Screenplay, they did not move any of the many wonderful performers in that movie from the sidelines to center stage. Like for instance, Corey Stoll as Hemingway, Marion Cotillard as the Muse of many centuries and Kathy Bates as Gertrude Stein. Not to mention Owen Wilson’s, astonishing lead performance and Rachel McAdams as his blonde bitch of a fiancée.

Although Owen did get a Golden Globe nomination in the Musical or Comedy category, he lost out to Jean Dujardin for “The Artist.” And who could’ve stopped THAT express train once it left the station???

I can’t stand Wes Anderson movies, so I only go to them, if dragged so I haven’t seen “Moonrise Kingdom” yet. But I guess I’ll have to at some point. I hate when straight men try to do camp. Which is basically what his great “Style” is. Stolen from the Homosexual Handbook. I ought to know. I helped write it back in The Day.

And tomorrow I’m actually going to see “Beasts of the Southern Wild.”  I’ll let you know if I think all the who-ha at Sundance and Cannes was justified.

Oscar Race Changes AGAIN ~ IN A DAY! With Leo as Gay J. Edgar!

It’s now really for real November and we now really for real are in OSCAR SEASON! Yes, dear readers, dear cineastes, November is the really hot-cha month when all the good stuff  starts happening. Or not…

Like this morning I started off the day with the beauteous and beneficient Kristen Scott Thomas calling me via satellite from Paris! Oui, oui, bien sur, mes amis! That’s where KST really lives most of the times, though she is of course, thoroughly English. And guess who? Harvey Weinstein is at it again, and this time he’s decided to throw an early season opener “Sarah’s Key” that sort of blipped by unnoticed by most (I knew it was there. I just didn’t get to it. Then it was gone.) Well, he’s putting “Sarah’s Key” back into some theaters and also releasing it on DVD and so Kristen Scott was calling me at a very early hour of the morning here where I am, but for her in Par-ee it was a comfortable middle of the day, a beautiful day to hear her tell it. And you will, and see her, too, coming up on my You Tube channel www.youtube.com/StephenHoltShow and also on my TV show.

The Best Actress race is really packed at the top this year already. There’s really no room with supposed locks – Meryl, Glenn Close(as a man!), Michelle Williams as Marilyn Monroe, and Viola Davis for “The Help”. Lots of competitsh for that fifth slot. Although there’s always the Golden Globes with their ten slots and I think Kristen will fit very nicely in there. For “Sarah’s Key.” Yes, I’ll mention the name of the film again…

And meanwhile, back at the AFI opening in LA, Leonardo Di Caprio really did upend expectations with the(I knew it all along) very GAY J. Edgar, Or Gay Edgar, as I and many  people I know are calling it. Not necessarily derisively, either. This is the story that dared not speak its’ name in J. Edgar’s lifetime, and with Oscar-winning screenwriter Dustin Lance Black, penning it. He won for “Milk.” What else COULD it be?

And Clint Eastwood has evidently told it quite while and Leo a great, great actor as well as star has never won an Oscar. Yes, ladies and gentle person’s, it’s true. And now that he’s evidently giving the performance of his career as this tormented closeted gay man of the ’30s & ’40’s. Oh, and the ‘6os and the ’70s, too, who could never come out of the closet. And neither could his supposed lover who took the name “very close friend” Clyde Tolson, here embodied by none-other than the super-hunky Winklevoss Twins themselves, Armie Hammer, and HE’S supposedly got a supporting Actor nomination in his future now, too.

So with Leo on board, I think it’s buh-bye for George O’Clooney’s Oscar hopes. He already has one. For “Syriana” for Supporting. But still…

Leo’s been nominated three times AT LEAST and never won and now it looks like with Clint Eastwood at 81 at the helm, we may finally see Leo’s Titanic Oscar ship finally pull into port…

And oh yes, the Academy has decided to honor Vanessa Redgrave, I’m not quite sure how. A dinner? A plaque? She’s already majorly in the Supporting Actress race for “Coriolanus” and now…well now, I think this is the Academy saying VOTE FOR HER! Forget her politics of the past. And let’s give her an Honorary One, or whatever it is they’re doing. And giving it to her. All her. Just her. In one Vanessa-filled night in London…well, if it’s not taking place in Hollywood itself, it really ISN’T rrrrreally official…but it’s the Academy’s way of saying “VOTE FOR HER!”

She’s 72 or 73 or 74 and her beautiful daughter Natasha died so tragically and young during the filming of “Coriolanus”…and she’s BRRRRRILLLIANT in it. And oh yes, who’s the Producer? Harvey Weinstein. Oh yes, him again. So yes, I think THAT category just got closed, today, too.

So right now King George has been de-throned by Prince Leo. And the Academy is giving Vanessa Redgrave their version of an honorary knighthood…”Sarah’s Key” is coming out AGAIN.

And “War Horse” was “sneaked” all over the country this week, and it seems people like it, they really like it.  So last week “The Descendants” was the front-runner, but now I think “War Horse” was galloped back on top.

You can see a very astute young You Tube film critic/star (y’know, like me *cough*cough*)over at www.awardsdaily.com and you can hear what he has to say about being lucky enough to have stumbled in to one of these “War Horse” sneaks…It’s a custom as old as the Academy itself. Showing a film to a surprised audience in the hinterlands…Even “Gone With the Wind” was introduced this way…”War Horse” is gonna be a tough one to beat. It’s STILL playing to sold-out houses in New York’s Lincoln Center, and it won the Tony for Best Play last year, though the writing was atrocious. I nearly left at the Intermission, but I stayed…and was amaaaazed by its’ powerful second act.

Kathleen Turner “High” closes low ~ on Easter Sunday!

Well, blink and you’ve missed her. Kathleen Turner was starring on Bway for a bunch o’ days, but she won’t be after tomorrow late afternoon. Her intermittently interesting starrer “High” is leaving on a season low. Closing on Sunday. Easter no less.

Kathleen Turner, once a great screen beauty, is now, in her later years beginning to resemble Winston Churchill. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing, per se. Her force, her magnetic star power is in full blaze in “High” but the rather weak and extremely clichéd play she’s in “High” is the Bway season’s biggest low. And no match for a blazing, charismatic talent like Turner’s. She literally blows it to pieces.

Usually, a play this mediocre does not make it to Broadway these days. Shows used to open and close in one night. Not so anymore when there are millions of dollars at stake . Shows get workshopped to death in places far from the glare of the Great White Way’s white-hot spotlight.Preparation and caution is all.

But how this low “High” ever made it to the Rialto is a mystery. It simply may have been the star’s wanting to do it. And that’s not really enough.

It’s a BIG part for a BIG GAL,a swearing, formerly alcoholic nun. And these days Miss Turner is nothing if not BIG. She hasn’t passed over into the plus sizes, but she’s getting there. And now she’s sporting a neck the size of Texas.

There’s virtually no sets, and not much in the way of costumes. And there’s one extended nude scene for its’ homo druggie, which actually is the play’s best scene. And Bway newcomer Evan Jonigkeit is more than up to the task. He and Ms. Turner have a nude wrestling scene. He’s nude. She isn’t. And she gets him to the floor, from which he and the play barely get up in the second act.

Jonigkeit does manage to REALLY score in the climatic gutter death scene between him and Turner in Act Two. But by then it’s the play’s death rattle you’re hearing. And it’s too little, too late.

All the characters are more or less repulsive and non-relatable. And Bull Dog Turner’s George C. Scott-like attack-style of acting was much better suited onstage as Martha in “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” which she successfully essayed several seasons back. Here she just sort of endlessly stands there with her basso profundo voice bellowing in the Booth Theater like she was Enrico Caruso with a sore throat.

Supposedly an expose of corruption in the Catholic Church (and guess what overly used plot device vice that means?) playwright Matthew Lombardo really offers nothing new at all on the subject. “Doubt” starring Cherry Jones in the role of Sister Aloyisius that won her a Tony for Best Actress in a play. And won Best Play, too. And a brace of other Tony and awards galore.”Doubt” has covered all this very same ground and did it a lot faster, and better. Memorably so.

Ms. Turner’s Martha lost the Tony to Ms. Jones’ indelible nun that year and here as Sister Jamison Connelly she’s gonna lose, too. Though stranger things have happened on Broadway. Valerie Harper in Mr. Lombardo’s other Bway bomb, er, offering “Looped” (which I actually kind of enjoyed) got Valerie Harper a Tony nod for her boozy bravura Tallulah Bankhead. Turner could pull off that hat trick, too. The critics were kind.

Me? Ms. Turner reminded of Greater Tuna. The fish, not the show.

Ellen Stewart, the legendary “La Mama” passes.

I’m a bit bewildered by the events of yesterday. I attended the wake of the late Ellen Stewart, LaMama herself, who started my career, and who was a major figure in my life.  The wake was an incredibly uplifting experience. Paradoxically. Wakes are always kind of frightening, in and off themselves, but this was not. There was soooo much love and joy and peace. Ellen’s great spirit was THERE.

She was one of the legends of our time. An African-American woman who broke through barriers, social and artistic, every day of her waking life.

A more fulfilled, influential, far-reaching, and yes, global life I really can’t imagine. That one woman did all these extraordinary things is just mind-boggling.

Her influence in MY life was extraordinary. She was the first person to say “Yes” to my hopes and dreams of breaking into Show Business. She allowed me in to her “home” of “La Mama” and I was one of her “babies.” I first stepped in the door of the red-rimmed building on 74A East 4th St. on October 1970. She passed at 91.

The first day I got to LaMama and the first things I remember are people were saying that (a) “Ellen is in St. Vincent’s(the West Village hospital)again.” Followed not long after by people saying(b) “Ellen is in Europe.”

The two statements seemed absolutely contradictory and yet those two sentences really summed up the dicotomy of  her life.

It seemed once I got to know her that every time she got out of the hospital (it was always unspecified “heart problems”) she got on a plane and went to some AMAZING theatrical event somewhere unexpected in the world, seemingly founding La Mama companies wherever she would go.

She had La Mamas all over the universe and she truly defined the words “multi-cultural” before there even was such a word.

At her wake, there was a closed coffin, white  flowers ( where they lilies?) everywhere and a (marvelous slide show was playing in the West Village funeral parlors two rooms that were PACKED with Ellen’s “babies.”

She HAD to play the mother role and it was one she excelled at, obviously, and you were always the “baby” no matter how old you got to be.

She started as an elevator operator at Sak’s Fifth Avenue, probably the only job opened to her in that esteemed store. Still an epitome of style. And boy, did Ellen have style! She designed her own dresses, totally self-taught, and wore them in her elevator, and they were sooo strikingly orignal, that the stores’ owners took note and before you knew it, she was DESIGNING clothes at Sak’s! The first black woman to do that. And this was in the ’50s! There were many early black and white photos of Ellen from those days, and before. She certainly seemed model-beautiful. Breathtakingly so. It was wonderful to see fashion shots of her from a time before we knew her as La Mama.

By the early ’60’s she had started her coffee-house theatre and called it La Mama, since “Mama” was what everybody was calling her then. And it was in an East Village basement. And it was the beginning of the Off Off Broadway movement that was to change the American theatre.

La Mama was totally color-blind and so was her theater. It was one of the first places that African-Americans could find a home. One of her brothers wanted to do a play he had written but according to Ellen “He broke his soul” trying to find a place to do it. And so she started her coffee house theater.

I would say single-handedly she started the Off Off Broadway movement but actually there were two other theatrical spaces that were burgeoning simultaneously with La Mama. The Cafe Cino, run by the late Joe Cino. And the Judson Poets’ Theater which was housed in the famous Greenwich Village Church right on Washington Square. And the late Rev. Al Carmines was its’ resident composer, turning out new musicals every single week, it seemed, that the congregation appeared in. EVERY single member who wanted to sing, could sing. The chorus was enormous and filled the church was years with celestial music.

Ellen meanwhile watched her coffee house basement theater grow to the point that it had to move into a four story building, 74A East Fourth Street, which is where I met her, and which is where it is still functioning today.

I started as an assitant stage manager there. The PROP boy, in essence, for the resident GPA Nucleus which was at the time Ellen’s Black company and the all black cast were doing Ed Bullin’s “Street Sounds.” Future Tony Winner Mary Alice (“Fences”) was in the cast of a play that was nothing but monologues.

It was something I never DREAMED I would do and it started me in one improbable(to my VERY young mind) job after another at La Mama.

I worked the box-office guarded by two VERY vicious German Shepherd dogs, one white and one black, called Slick and Sooner. And I was deathly afraid of dogs! AND I was allergic! But Ellen made me do it and I got over both those fears.

I think she thought it was GOOD for me. Or anyone in her orbit, to do things they were afraid of and thought they CAN’T possibly do.

Over my protestations over Slick and Sooner and I being enclosed in such a confined space, I remember her saying “You’re going to be glad they’re there.”

And eventually, I was. The East Village was a VERY dangerous place then, and NOBODY bothered Slick, Sooner or me.  Ellen was of course, right, as she always was.

Eventually I started my career as an actor there in Sam Shepherd’s “Melodrama Play” as a stoned hippie who couldn’t stopped laughing.

And Ellen started doing my plays there, too. “Audition!” in 1972 and later “The Kitty Glitter Story” which starred Agosto Machado and later she showed my first film there “Two Saints” which also starred Agosto, the magnificent Oriental transvestite, who I had met around the corner at the original WPA when I was cast as Candy Darling’s mother in Jackie Curtis’ Warholian musical extravaganza “Vain Victory.”

I met Andy Warhol there while I was working on the box-office one night and Tennessee Williams, too. What did they have in common? Both were gay and both were nervous wrecks. Andy had just been shot and Tennessee was so worried about the opening of his new play “Small Craft Warnings” across the street at the Truck and Warehouse OFF Broadway theater, he was fleeing town.

I met most of the people who were to form my life there, and many who are still my friends today. My composer Donald Arrington and Susan Haskins and filmmaker Nancy Heiken main among many.

I could go on and on. And maybe I will, someday, with the title “I Remember La Mama” firmly placed in my mind.

R.I.P. Mama

The Year’s 10 Best – Analysis of “I Love You, Phillip Morris” & the Enduring Influence of Paul Corrigan

Phew! Now I have the time to go into a little bit more deeply the whys and the wherefores and the WTF element(to some, perhaps) of my selection of the Year’s Ten Best Films.

As someone who sees films ALL THE TIME, Day in and Day Out, nearly every day of my waking life…Films that really last and really stay with you, films that are a total, immersive cinematic experience that affects one so deeply that it becomes part of your life as well as part of the year’s discussion of Best Films…well, that’s why they are all here…And why we are all here…Because we love film…

Yes, I do have a propensity for foreign films and independent films. I stay away from the big studio blockbusters and franchises, if I can help it. Unless I CAN’T help it. Like as you all know, I reluctantly found myself at “Harry Pooter 7 1/2” and I’m glad that I did~ ONLY to see Helena Bonham-Carter’s THIRD terrific performance of the year, as a witch with the name that I just can’t stop saying “Bellatrix La Strange”. A scary ten-minute turn that could help her get her long overdue Oscar…The other two films are “Alice in Wonderland” and of course, “The King’s Speech.”

But I digress…

Number Ten ALMOST was “Fish Tank” a film I loved tremendously. A British Indie. Gritty, grimy, grinding poverty depicted in a council flat setting in London’s East End where I, as you all know, lived for quite a number of years in the ’70s& ’80s. Andrea Arnold, the writer/director, and Michael Fassbender, the rising star of stars, acting alongside a completely inexperienced non-actress, Katie Jarvis, was really a wild, unexpected ride. I couldn’t believe Jarvis was NOT a pro, so profoundly compelling was her portrayal of teenage Cockney torment, when her mom brings a new boyfriend (Fassbender) home. You’ll remember Fassbender from “Inglorious Basterds” as the British officer in that wacky, unforgettable card game.

I guess that would be my number 11, if I was going to extend this arbitrary listing slightly, but I just wanted to give the stunning “Fish Tank” an honorable mention.

I made “I Love You, Phillip Morris” my number  ten, because I found myself laughing out loud and also crying inside and totally immersed in the preposterous, gay yarn, that is evidently ALL TRUE, about a homosexual con man extraordinaire(Jim Carrey is his best EVAH) and his finding true love, in jail, natch, with a sweet blond gay guy, Phillip Morris. Yes, that’s his real name…played to a touching fare-thee-well by the unrecognizable Ewan McGregor. I was told not to review it at the time, but I guess I’m raving about it now. It’s in theaters and playing very robustly AND it was raved about by my critical colleagues! Good! Great!

And I do have to mention that as much as I was enjoying the film, when the end credits rolled, I was blown away all over again, by the film’s dedication to my late friend Paul Corrigan, who evidently was the impactful teacher of these young filmmakers, Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, both straight. At Pratt. In Brooklyn. Paul died tragically of AIDS a number of years ago.

And I thought the book was closed forever on his life. But no! His great gay spirit keeps jumping up from beyond to assert Paul’s powerful, playful personality once again. It was uncanny how much I thought the Jim Carrey character did, and still does remind me of Paul.

I wrote an Obit for him at the time that I wrote for “Lesbian and Gay New York.” It was all too brief, and didn’t give at all a taste of what Paul was really like. There was very little space. He went to Sarah Lawrence where he was a classmate of Bob Plunket, Susan Haskins(of “Theater Talk”) and Amy Robinson, producer-extraordinaire and also Harvey Keitel’s girl-friend in “Mean Streets.”

I remember Paul first play, his first New York production of two one-acts called “Tan My Hide” and “Nancy’s Tragic Period.” At La Mama E.T.C. and they starred if memory serves Bob and Amy as Santa’s Elves, who were having to make leather gear for Santa, or something like that.

I remember Bob had the immortal(to my mind) lines, “Have you ever seen a dwarf come?”

“Little drizzle droplets.” 

 And I think Susan was Nancy in “Nancy’s Tragic Period” where she was a girl whose record player(yes, her RECORD PLAYER. That’s how long ago this was.) whose record player keeps telling her how to live her life and acting like a Greek Chorus…I could go on and on.

But I remember to this day the freshness of the writing and the humor and the direction, which I think Paul essayed himself.

But he did not continue with his playwriting.  I wish he had.

Years later I encountered him on a Manhattan street and he told me he was teaching Film at Pratt University, a school in Brooklyn that at the time was not known as a cinema studies center, by any means…

And I thought he was being disingenuous.

Then I met Susan Haskins, who was also a fellow teacher at Pratt. And she assured me that yes, Paul was teaching a very special cinema class.

And all these years later, “I Love You, Phillip Morris” bares testimony to the enduring quality of his teaching and his impact on his pupils.

More on numbers 9 to 1 of my Top Ten later…

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