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Whole lotta Stevie

Stevie Nicks, gay news, Washington Blade

Stevie Nicks (Photo courtesy of Reprise Records)

The documentary “Stevie Nicks: In Your Dreams” screens at the E Street Cinema (555 11th Street, NW) and at the AFI Silver Theatre Cultural Center (8633 Colesville Road) on Tuesday at 7:15 p.m.

The documentary follows the collaboration between Dave Stewart and Stevie Nicks as they set up in Nicks’ home studio to record her most recent solo album “In Your Dreams.” In other Nicks news, a reunited Fleetwood Mac plays the Verizon Center April 9.

General admission for both theaters is $11.50. For more information, visit inyourdreamsmovie.com.

28
Mar
2013

Reimagining ‘Les Miz’

Anne Hathaway, Les Miserables, Universal Studios, film, gay news, Washington Blade

Anne Hathaway in a scene from ‘Les Miserables.’ (Photo courtesy of Universal Studios)

By the time the credits roll on Tom Hooper’s cinematic adaptation of the stage musical “Les Misérables,” the audience is well acquainted with every inch of Hugh Jackman’s face.

Sometimes, that’s a good thing. You hear every word plainly and you share every emotion that passes across that expressive face. But the obsessive close-ups highlight the melodramatic aspects of the story and downplay the complex web of relationships and themes that structure the source material.

The movie adaptation is based on the sprawling 1862 novel by Victor Hugo, via the incredibly popular 1987 musical version by Claude-Michel Schönberg, Alan Boublil and Herbert Kretzmer. The screenplay, which trims the material to two-and-a-half hours, is by William Nicholson. It’s essentially the story of Jean Valjean, an ex-convict who spent 19 years in prison for stealing a loaf of bread to feed his sister’s starving children.

Newcomer Samantha Banks as Éponine is the standout performer of the all-star ensemble cast. Her rendition of the new Broadway standard “On My Own” is deeply moving and beautifully delivered. Sung as the lovelorn Éponine wanders the rainy streets of Paris serving as a go-between for Marius and Cosette, the song is an example of Hooper’s work at its finest. The intimacy of the camera work matches the intimacy of the musical moment and the nuances of Banks’ fine acting.

On the opposite end of the emotional spectrum, Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter bring some badly needed comic relief to the movie as the cynical Thénardiers. “Master of the House,” a comic inventory of the many ways they fleece their unwary guests, is a delightful counterpoint to the otherwise earnest proceedings. Their highly effective performances flesh out both the couple’s considerable charm and their significant menace.

The three leads (Hugh Jackman as Jean Valjean, Russell Crowe as Javert and Anne Hathaway as Fantine) also offer strong performances, but their impact is lessened to various degrees by their limitations as performers and by Hooper’s work as director. Hooper made movie musical history by having the actors sing live on the set instead of lip-synching to a pre-recorded soundtrack. This often brings an emotional intensity to the material, but sometimes undermines the musical demands of Schönberg’s intricate and complicated score.

For example, Crowe subtly humanizes Javert, capturing his stern ruthlessness as well as his profound belief in how human and divine justice interact in an orderly society. Hooper highlights these moments with some stunning cinematography: Javert’s duel with Valjean in the thrilling “Confrontation” at Fantine’s deathbed, his unfeeling horseback rides among the poor of Paris and especially his delivery of “Stars” while pacing on the ramparts high above the city.

But there’s a critical problem with his vocal performance as Javert. While Crowe has a pleasant singing voice (he’s been the lead singer for several bands), he’s not the Broadway belter the role requires. He has pitch and rhythm problems in the opening scenes and in his big solo numbers, his vocal performances fall flat. This robs his excellent work of much of its power. These problems could probably have been worked out in the studio, possibly even with the discreet use of some dubbing.

Hathaway’s performance of the iconic “I Dreamed A Dream” brings out the considerable pathos of the number, but misses the larger dramatic point. Hathaway has an unexpectedly powerful singing voice that matches her rich talents as an actor, but Hooper lets her get lost in the melodrama of the moment, missing the crucial spirit of defiance that underscores the number and propels Fantine into her final act of rebellion against her cruel fate.

Jackman offers a stirring performance as Jean Valjean. He rises to the vocal challenges of the role with apparent ease and resists the temptation to turn Valjean into a one-dimensional saint. Yet his fine performance is frequently undermined by Hooper’s relentless close-ups, which tear the character out of his cinematic context, and Hooper’s continually swirling cameras, which pull focus from Jackman’s extraordinary acting and singing.

03
Jan
2013

Homoerotic snaps at Corcoran

The Homoerotic Photograph, gay news, Washington Blade

A photo used on the cover of ‘The Homoerotic Photograph: Male Images from Durieu/Delacroix to Mapplethorpe,’ a photo book by Allen Ellenzweig. (Photo courtesy of the Corcoran)

The Corcoran Gallery of Art (500 17th St., NW) presents “Picturing the Homoerotic” with photography critic and cultural journalist Allen Ellenzweig on Thursday night at 7 p.m.

The lecture is in conjunction with the exhibition “Shooting Stars: Publicity Stills from Early Hollywood and Portraits by Andy Warhol” which shows promotional photographs of early Hollywood film stars along with Polaroid portraits by Andy Warhol.  Ellenzweig will be discussing how same-sex attraction has been photographed throughout history.

Tickets are $10 to the public, $8 for Corcoran Members and $6 for full-time students. For more information, visit corcoran.org.

31
Jan
2013

And the Oscar goes to…

Oscar watch party, gay news, Washington Blade

(Washington Blade file photo by Pete Exis)

The Oscars are back, and with it are the annual parties and galas that make the night even more glamorous. Here are a few events happening in the Washington area to celebrate the awards show:

  • The DC Center hosts its eighth annual Oscar Gala “Glamour, Glitter and Gold” Sunday night at 7 p.m. at Town Danceboutique (2009 8th St., NW). The Center has teamed up with Reel Affirmations to throw the party and will be holding a silent auction while attendees wait to see who walks away with Oscars. Attendees can bid on items that appeal to the business owner, the traveler, the party girl or boy, the foodie, the wine drinker, the health nut and the theater goer. All proceeds from the Silent Auction will got toward their efforts to present LGBT visual arts. Tickets are $15-$200. Attendees can also sponsor the event by giving $500-$5,000. For more information, visit thedccenter.org.
  • Commissary Bar and Lounge (1443 P St., NW) hosts a red carpet and Oscar viewing party Sunday night at 7:30 p.m. Attendees will be able to stroll onto a red carpet, sip on “Academy Award” cocktails inspired by the nominated films while munching on Commissary’s famous truffle popcorn. They will also be able to watch the show with complimentary Oscar ballots. Prizes will be given to the winning ballot. There is no cover charge but reservations are recommended. For more information, visit commissarydc.com.
  • D.C. Film Society hosts its 21st annual Oscar Party at the Arlington Cinema ‘N Drafthouse (2903 Columbia Pike, Arlington) at 6:30 p.m. The show will be broadcast on the big screen. The evening will include a silent auction along with food and drink. Tickets are $15 for basic Film Society members and $20 for non-members. For more information, visit dcfilmsociety.org.
21
Feb
2013

Oscar’s gay moments

“How to Survive a Plague,” an AIDS-themed documentary, may have lost its Oscar category but there were a few gay moments on the telecast.

“Searching for Sugar Man” beat “Plague” for the Best Documentary Feature at the 85th annual Academy Awards Sunday night.

It was a big night for diva performances. Adele, a winner, sang as did Jennifer Hudson and Shirley Bassey. Barbra Streisand sang a touching tribute to Marvin Hamlisch with his song “The Way We Were.”

The Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles sang a joke song about boobs with host Seth MacFarlane. He later joked about bringing the cast of “Chicago” out since the show wasn’t gay enough.

Go here for a complete list of winners.

25
Feb
2013

Film: As gay as it gets

Carey Mulligan, Leonardo DiCaprio, the Great Gatsby, gay news, Washington Blade

Carey Mulligan and Leonardo DiCaprio in ‘The Great Gatsby,’ which opens May 10. (Still courtesy Warner Bros.)

Now that the Oscars are over, this spring offers LGBT film fans the chance to catch some independent films in theatrical release, some queer films sprinkled throughout the schedules of local film festivals and some gay favorites in mainstream fare.

“Yossi” (2012), a popular offering at last year’s Reel Affirmations, is a sequel to the surprise gay indie hit Yossi and Jagger (2002). In the first movie, Yossi Guttman is a commander in the Israeli army stationed on the Lebanon border. When Lior joins the unit as Yossi’s second-in-command, the two begin a passionate but secret affair which ends when Lior (who is called Jagger because he has “the moves like Jagger”) is killed in an ill-considered skirmish.

“Yossi” picks up the action 10 years later. Yossi is now Dr. Guttman, a successful cardiologist. But, despite his professional achievements, he remains in an emotional and social fog. His depression begins to lift, however, when he encounters a group of rowdy young soldiers.

“Yossi” is helmed by gay director Eytan Fox, who has been a key player in both the fight for gay and lesbian rights in Israel and the renaissance of Israeli film. The strong cast is led award-winning Israeli actor Ohad Knoller, who amazingly brings Yossi’s stupor to vivid life, offering a rich and nuanced portrayal of a man frozen in place, but bravely trying to move forward. In Hebrew, with English subtitles. Opens March 8 at the Landmark E Street Cinema.

“Let My People Go!” (2011), which played to a sell-out crowd at the Jewish Film Festival, is a semi-autobiographical romantic farce by queer French filmmaker Mikael Buch. The movie stars the talented Nicolas Maury as the director’s alter ego, Rueben, a French man working as a mailman in Finland and living with his sexy Nordic boyfriend Teemu.

Rueben is unexpectedly forced to flee his idyllic Scandinavian life and return to his zany Jewish family in France: his philandering father, his long-suffering mother (played by Almodovar goddess Carmen Maura from “Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown”), his uptight and upright brother, and his sister who is married to a fading TV star. After a series of zany misadventures including seductions, fist-fights and fainting spells, the family finally settles down for a delayed Passover Seder. In French and Finnish, with English subtitles. Opens March 15 at the West End Cinema.

A very different road trip is the subject of Walter Salles’ adaptation of Jack Kerouac’s classic Beat novel, “On the Road” (2012). Like the novel, the movie is a thinly veiled recreation of the famous cross-country road trip taken by Kerouac with his friend Neal Cassady and Cassady’s girlfriend LuAnne Henderson. Sam Riley plays Kerouac’s alter ego Sal Paradise and Garrett Hedlund plays the charismatic Dean Moriarty (based on Cassady). Kristen Stewart appears as Moriarty’s girlfriend Marylou and Viggo Mortenson and Tom Sturridge are featured as characters based on William S. Burroughs (author of “Naked Lunch”) and Allen Ginsburg (the openly gay poet who wrote “Howl”).

Reunited with screenwriter Jose Rivera (the two worked together on “The Motorcycle Diaries,” a road movie inspired by the life of Che Guevara), Salles unflinchingly recreates the artistic, philosophical and sexual awakening of Paradise. The film combines a celebration of the Beat writers and the women and gay men who were part of their world along with an understanding of the misogyny and homophobia that ultimately underscored much of their work. The movie includes explicit shots of nonconforming sex (a graphic anal scene between Hedlund and Steve Buscemi and a scene where Stewart simultaneously pleasures both Hedlund and Riley), but the focus remains on the sexual liberties taken by the straight white writers.

“On the Road” finally opens in D.C. on March 22 at Landmark E Street Cinema.

The 2013 D.C. Independent Film Festival runs March 6-10 and includes films, seminars and master classes that celebrate international independent movies. This year’s offerings include “A Cure” by Matthew Herbertz, a short film about Sarah, a young girl who is pulled out of school and is forced to undergo reparative therapy when her mother finds out her sexual interest in other girls. It screens March 9 at the U.S. Navy Heritage Center at the Archives Metro Station. For more information, go to dciff-indie.org/.

Two mainstream films that are sure to gather sizeable gay and lesbian audiences are “Oz the Great and Powerful” (March 8) and “The Great Gatsby” (May 10). “Oz” is a prequel to popular books by L. Frank Baum and stars the category-defying James Franco as a carnival magician who arrives in a fantasy land and must use his wits to stay ahead of three witches (Michelle Williams, Rachel Weisz and Mila Kunis) who have their sights on him.

Gay favorite Baz Luhrmann (“Moulin Rouge,” “Shakespeare’s R&J”) returns to the big screen with his 3-D adaptation of the classic American novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald, starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Carey Mulligan as the doomed lovers and Tobey Maguire as the enigmatic narrator Nick Carraway. The troubled movie was pulled from a December 2012 release, but audiences may be won over by Catherine Martin’s opulent design palette.

28
Feb
2013

Ford’s says ‘Hello Dolly!’

Edward Gero, Nancy Opel, Ford Theatre, Hello Dolly, gay news, Washington Blade

Edward Gero and Nancy Opel in ‘Hello, Dolly!’ at Ford’s Theatre. (Photo by Scott Suchman) (Photo by Scott Suchman; courtesy Ford’s)

Ford’s Theater (511 Tenth St., NW) opens the show “Hello, Dolly!” March 15 at 7:30 p.m.

Ford’s Theater Director on ‘Hello Dolly!’

The Tony-winning musical follows Horace Vandergelder, a half-millionaire, who hires matchmaker Dolly Levi to find him a wife. Dolly instead plans to woo Vandergelder for herself while arranging romantic matches for his niece, clerks and two eligible shop girls.

Tickets for this DC Theater gem are $25-$90. For more information, visit fords.org.

14
Mar
2013

Capital Pride Band gets spacey

D.C. Different Drummers, Lesbian & Gay Band Association, Presidential Inauguration 2013, gay news, Washington Blade

(Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The Capital Pride Symphonic Band has its spring concert “A Space Odyssey” Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at the Columbia Heights Education Campus Auditorium (3101 16th Street, NW).

The concert will feature selections including “Jupiter” from Holst’s famous “Planets” work, a selection from “Star Trek,” a “Star Wars” medley by John Williams and more. Trombonist Sarah Safford, a competition winner, will perform a solo. Kyle Rhoades from Chicago’s Lakeside Pride Band is the guest conductor. Attendees are encouraged to dress as their favorite sci-fi character for the show.

Tickets are $20 for adults, $10 for students and seniors. Children under 12 are free if accompanied by an adult.

Details are at dcdd.org.

21
Mar
2013

Year in review: Best of the big screen

Matthew McConaughey, Zac Efron, the Paperboy, Washington Blade, gay news

Matthew McConaughey and Zac Efron in new film ‘The Paperboy.’ The sordid tale opens today in the D.C. area. (Photo courtesy of the Karpel Group)

Undoubtedly, the highlight of the year in LGBT film was the release of David France’s amazing documentary “How to Survive a Plague.”

France, a first-time director but an experienced journalist who has written extensively on the AIDS crisis, worked with a dedicated team to collect and review about 500 hours of video footage shot by AIDS activists during the early days of ACT UP (the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power) and TAG (the Treatment Action Group).

The result is an incredible film that combines the raw emotional energy of archival footage with the more detached analysis of contemporary interviews with survivors of the movement. The movie tells their story with great emotional and intellectual clarity and insight. It chronicles their successes and defeats, their miscalculations and their personal and professional struggles, but mainly the aching sense of lives lost to a vicious disease, an entrenched bureaucracy and an indifferent public.

The most memorable performance in an LGBT movie came from a very different film: Nicole Kidman in “The Paperboy,” helmed by openly gay director Lee Daniels. Following up on the success of “Precious,” Daniels turned to a steamy Southern tale of sex, murder and corruption in the Florida swamps of 1969. The bizarre film, which never quite jelled, featured a wild performance by Kidman as the vampy death row groupie Charlotte Bless.

Other highlights of the movie include, which may well be on the way to becoming a camp classic, include numerous scenes of  Zac Efron in various states of undress and Matthew McConaughey as a muck-racking journalist with a secret of his own — he likes rough sex with black men.

Other highlights in LGBT film in 2012 include:

“Albert Nobbs,” which took star/producer Glenn Close several years to get to the screen. Close plays an Irish woman who lives as a man to support herself financially and protect herself from sexual violence. Her hermetic existence as the hotel clerk Albert Nobbs is burst open when she meets fellow cross-dresser Hubert Page (played with great gusto by Janet McTeer).

“Coriolanus” with Ralph Fiennes and Gerard Butler (“300”) in this excellent adaptation of Shakespeare’s queer look at militarism and misogyny. With remarkable fidelity to the Bard’s powerful language and themes, first-time director Fiennes moves the action to modern-day Kosovo and boldly highlights the homoerotic relationship between the Roman general Coriolanus and his Volscian foe Aufidius.

“The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” — India once again serves as a source of renewal for a group of stiff-upper-lipped English expatriates who retire there. The all-star cast includes Tom Wilkinson as Graham Dashwood who finally finds love and the courage to come out at the exotic hotel.

“Skyfall” brings a much-needed reboot to the Bond franchise, restoring several Bond motifs and a missing sense of humor and style. With the help of Judi Dench (who continues her excellent work as M) and Ben Whishaw (a new recruit as Q), Daniel Craig’s Bond battles Javier Bardem as Silva, a British spy gone bad. For gay audiences there’s a special thrill when Bond responds to Silva’s sexual advances with the dry retort, “What makes you think this is my first time?”

“Lincoln” is Steven Spielberg’s biopic of the 16th president and features a powerful script by award-winning gay author (and Golden Globe nominee) Tony Kushner (“Angels in America”). Kushner has the amazing ability to turn political rhetoric into compelling drama as he chronicles how Abraham Lincoln fights for the passage of the 13th Amendment, which outlaws slavery in the United States. The film includes stellar performances from Daniel Day Lewis, Sally Field, David Strathairn, Tommy Lee Jones and James Spader, as well as a delightful cameo by S. Epatha Merkerson. The film also includes tantalizing hints at Lincoln’s intimate relationships with other men, including an invitation to share an aide’s bed.

Local LGBT audiences also enjoyed the continued success of two excellent regional film festivals: D.C. Shorts and Reel Affirmations.

Under the leadership of openly gay local filmmaker Jon Gann (“Cyberslut”), the ninth D.C. Shorts festival included a variety of exciting films all under 20 minutes. A number of fascinating gay and lesbian shorts were sprinkled throughout the 16 cinematic showcases, including “The Maiden and the Princess,” a queer update on traditional fairy tales that was part of a family showcase; “Hatch,” a dark movie by Austrian director Christopher Kuschnig that looks at the lives of two couples on a wintry night in Vienna when a baby’s fate is decided; and “The Queen of My Dreams,” a delightful Bollywood take on a lesbian’s coming-out story.

To extend their outreach, Reel Affirmations began a series of monthly film showcases in addition to the 21st annual film festival in November. The festival opened with the double bill of “Kiss Me,” a deeply romantic Swedish lesbian coming out story, and “I Do,” an American film about a gay couple in New York grappling with international immigration issues. The festival closed with “Bear City 2: The Proposal,” a celebration of the bear community and romantic Provincetown weddings.

A highlight of the festival was “Yossi,” the sequel to the Israeli indie gay hit “Yossi and Jagger.” The film reunites director Eytan Fox with star Ohad Knoller who turns in a deeply emotional performance as a man finally breaking out of his emotional paralysis.

27
Dec
2012