Thursday, January 31, 2013

Monthly Wallpaper - February 2013: Best Supporting Actress

February is Oscar time, so naturally this month's Movie Dearest Calendar Wallpaper takes a look back at the Best Supporting Actresses, the moms and daughters, bad girls and sweethearts who had a date with the Academy's gold man in years past.

These iconic performances of unforgettable characters include Hatty as Mammy, Catherine as Velma, Patty as Helen, Cate as Kate, Rita as Anita, Whoopi as Oda Mae, Judi as Elizabeth, and more.

All you have to do is click on the picture above to enlarge it, then simply right click your mouse and select "Set as Background". (You can also save it to your computer and set it up from there if you prefer.) The size is 1024 x 768, but you can modify it if needed in your own photo-editing program.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Awards Watch: 2012 Oscar Trivia

With each new batch of Oscar nominations, there is a new batch of Oscar trivia. And this year is no different, including several record setters in Academy Award history, not to mention some possible record breakers come the Big Night.

Foreign Affairs: Amour is the fifth foreign language film to be nominated for both Best Picture and Best Foreign Language Film, joining Z, The Emigrants, Life is Beautiful and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon; all but The Emigrants won the latter award.

No One at the Helm: If Argo wins Best Picture, it will be only the fourth time that a film won the top prize without a Best Director nomination. 1927-28's Wings took Best Picture at the very first Oscars, and1932's Grand Hotel won with no other nominations(!), while Driving Miss Daisy drove its way to a win without a driver in 1989.

King George: With Argo's Best Picture nod, George Clooney now has the distinction of being the only person in Oscar history to be nominated in six different categories.  He has been previously nominated for director, actor, supporting actor and writer in both the original and adapted screenplay categories.

The Long and the Short of It: At a mere 93 minutes, Beasts of the Southern Wild is the shortest of the Best Picture nominees, while Django Unchained, clocking in at 165 minutes, is the longest.

Very Productive: Lincoln co-producers Kathleen Kennedy and Steven Spielberg share the record for the most Best Picture nominations with eight each.

One Film More: This year's musical version isn't the first Les Misérables to be nominated for Best Picture. 20th Century Pictures' adaptation, starring Fredric March as Jean Valjean, was nominated in 1935.

Honestly Abe: If Daniel Day Lewis wins Best Actor for Lincoln, it will be his third, which would make him the most honored leading man in Academy history. Day Lewis is the second actor to be nominated for playing Abraham Lincoln, following Raymond Massey's nod in 1940 for Abe Lincoln in Illinois.

Generations: This year's Best Actress race boasts both the oldest (Amour's Emmanuelle Riva, age 85) and the youngest (Beast of the Southern Wild's Quvenzhané Wallis, age 9) nominees in the history of the category.

Déjà Vu: All the nominees in the Best Supporting Actor category are previous Oscar winners. If Silver Linings Playbook's Robert De Niro wins, he will be the first actor, male or female, to win one lead and two supporting Oscars. De Niro is also the most nominated acting nominee this year, with a total of seven career nominations.

They Really Really Really Like Her: If Sally Field wins Best Supporting Actress for Lincoln, she will be the only actor or actress to win all three Oscars for which she has been nominated.

An Oscar Hat Trick: Silver Linings Playbook has nominations in all four acting categories. The last film to achieve this was 1981's Reds.

Just Super: This year's acting nominations have a few former superheroes in the mix: Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) and Catwoman (Anne Hathaway), plus supervilliain Two-Face (Tommy Lee Jones). Also: Batman (George Clooney) and Daredevil (Ben Affleck) are up for Best Picture.

Double Dippin': All five Best Director nominees are nominated in one other category as well this year: Amour's Michael Haneke in Best Original Screenplay, Beast of the Southern Wild's Benh Zeitlin and Silver Linging Playbook's David O. Russel in Best Adapted Screenplay, and Lincoln's Steven Spielberg and Life of Pi's Ang Lee as producers in the Best Picture category.

Quit Your Belly Achin': Ben Affleck is an Oscar nominee this year, as co-producer of Argo.

All in the Family: With their nominations this year, screenwriter Roman Coppola (Moonrise Kingdom) and composer Thomas Newman (Skyfall) bring their Oscar nominated families' totals to 24 and 87, respectively.

Snow Way: Both of 2012's Snow White movies -- Mirror, Mirror and Snow White and the Huntsman -- are nominated for Best Costume Design.

Alive at the Top: With his nomination this year for Lincoln, composer John Williams is now the most nominated living person. The only person with more is the late Walt Disney, with 59 total career nominations.

When Oscar Met James: With five nominations, Skyfall is now the most Oscar nominated James Bond movie. The previous record holder was 1977's The Spy Who Loved Me, with three nods. The last Bond movie to be recognized by the Academy was 1981's For Your Eyes Only.  If Adele's title tune from Skyfall wins the Best Original Song trophy, it will be the first Bond song to do so.

Moonlighting: With his nomination for Best Original Song for "Everybody Needs a Best Friend" from Ted, Seth MacFarlane is only the fifth Oscar host to also be a nominee at the same ceremony. The others were David Niven in 1959, Michael Caine in 1973, Walter Matthau in 1976 and James Franco in 2011.

Great Clips: Michael Kahn is now the most nominated film editor with his eighth nomination this year for Lincoln.

Doubling the Odds: Sound mixer Andy Nelson was nominated for both Lincoln and Les Misérables, and film editor William Goldenberg got nods for both Argo and Zero Dark Thirty.

Believe It or Not: If Wreck-It-Ralph wins for Best Animated Feature, it would be the first "home grown", non-Pixar Disney movie to win in that category.

Oscar Nominated Double Feature: Animated Short nominee Paperman was screened with Animated Feature nominee Wreck-It-Ralph.

This year's Academy Awards will be handed out Sunday February 24th on ABC.

Illustrations by Dean Walton.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Reverend’s Reviews: Paradise Lost & Found

The plight of the “West Memphis Three,” a trio of then-teenagers railroaded by the courts and public opinion and ultimately convicted of the murders of three 8-year old boys in Arkansas in 1993, has been well-documented previously in HBO’s Paradise Lost series.  However, a stunning series of new developments in the case over the last few years inspired director Amy Berg (Deliver Us From Evil) to pick up the torch, resulting in West of Memphis (now playing nationwide courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics).  Berg and the film received major backing from Lord of the Rings and Hobbit producers Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh as well as from rocker Eddie Vedder, who had all become convinced of the now-adult prisoners’ innocence.

Horribly killed and possibly abused sexually in the process, news of the boys’ murders rightly shocked locals and much of the US when originally reported.  Though two of the boys’ parents were early suspects, suspicion quickly settled on three young men in the community who better fit their neighbors’ stereotypical image of would-be killers.  Damien Wayne Echols, Jessie Miskelley and Jason Baldwin were social misfits who kept to themselves, wore dark clothing and listened to heavy metal music.  Rumors swirled that satanic worship, animal abuse and homosexual relations (horrors!) were practiced among the three.  The court of public opinion found them guilty long before a jury did so, even though the start of the teenagers’ trial was rushed in comparison with similar cases.

Lorri Davis, initially Echols’ pen pal and now his wife, became convinced that the three had not committed the murders.  As Davis pushed for a new investigation with the benefit of now-routine DNA testing of evidence, she also began an e-mail correspondence with producer Walsh that led to documentation of her and others’ renewed efforts to exonerate Echols, Miskelley and Baldwin.  The three were finally freed in 2012 by pleading “innocent but guilty” via an Arkansas legal quirk rather than the state go through an expensive new trial.

The first third of West of Memphis is largely comprised of a recounting of the crime and trial that will seem overly-familiar to those who have seen any of the Paradise Lost films.  However, the remainder of the new documentary contains shocking new revelations, among them the results of DNA testing of a strand of hair found in the rope with which one of the victims was tied that virtually proves Terry Hobbs, stepfather at the time to one of the boys, was the killer (no DNA linking those convicted to the murders has been found).  Hobbs has yet to be arrested, let alone tried.  Several witnesses in the trial against the West Memphis Three have since recanted their testimony and explain why they did so in West of Memphis.  As one of Echols’ accusers now says in reversing his damning words on the stand and, it should be pointed out, under oath: “He was just a normal kid.”

Berg’s doc is gripping, often infuriating, but in the end hopeful about the ability of the truth and innocence to prevail thanks to the efforts of those who strive against all obstacles to uphold them.  Of his interest in the case, producer Jackson bluntly states, “I have a pathological hatred of bullying; rights must prevail.”  Kudos to him.  What that all multimillionaire filmmakers shared Jackson’s commitment to social justice.  West of Memphis is frequently horrific and heartbreaking but an excellent, engrossing expose.  How did this not get an Oscar nomination for Best Documentary this year?

Paradise found and lost is a central theme in the otherwise completely different Tabu, a new feature by Portuguese writer-director (and former film critic) Miguel Gomes.  From Adopt Films, it opens today at Laemmle’s Royal in West LA and Playhouse 7 in Pasadena before expanding this spring.  The movie is even divided into two parts entitled “A Lost Paradise” and “Paradise.”

In part one, a recent retiree and devout Catholic, Pilar (Teresa Madruga), obsesses over the health and loneliness of her elderly neighbor, Aurora (veteran Portuguese actress Laura Soveral), in post-Christmas Lisbon, 2010. Aurora, meanwhile, is concerned about her distant daughter and Santa, her possibly voodoo-practicing maid (played by Isabel Cardoso).  When Aurora becomes hospitalized on the verge of death, Pilar is dispatched by Santa to retrieve a mysterious elderly man named Ventura from a nursing home so Aurora can see him one last time before she dies.

En route (and during the film’s dialogue-free part two), Ventura relates to Pilar the secret love story shared between him and Aurora fifty years earlier in colonial Africa.  Young Ventura and the married Aurora meet and eventually begin a heated affair.  Carlota Cotta (as Ventura, looking like a 1950’s Brando) and Ana Moreira (as younger Aurora) are lovely and give affecting performances all the more impressive for their silence.  Also worth noting, for gay viewers, is the homoerotic vibe between Ventura and his best friend, Mario (Manuel Mesquita).

For a decades-spanning, country-hopping romance on a low budget, Tabu looks great.  Shot in black & white by Rui Pocas (with help from artistic consultant Silke Fischer), it intentionally evokes in aesthetics, settings and/or plot elements such cinematic classics as Casablanca, The Postman Always Rings Twice, A Streetcar Named Desire and even the original King Kong.  The script includes more direct references to The Snows of Kilimanjaro, Out of Africa (including the line “Aurora had a farm in Africa…”), Jean Renoir’s The River and possibly even the 1999 giant crocodile-Betty White mash-up Lake Placid (Aurora has a certain pet on said farm).  Only an avowed, lifelong movie fan such as the 40-year old Gomes could possibly incorporate such diverse sources of inspiration.

The performances sometimes seem stiff among the women in part one but this may be melodramatically intentional à la acting styles of the 1940’s-50’s.  Gomes remarks in the press notes for Tabu that his latest work is “about the passage of time, about things that disappear and can only exist as memory, phantasmagoria, imagery — or as cinema, which summons and congregates all that.”  Even if Gomes doesn’t succeed 100% at capturing or conveying this, the talented young filmmaker gets credit for trying.

Reverend’s Ratings:
West of Memphis: A-
Tabu: B

Review by Rev. Chris Carpenter, resident film critic of Movie Dearest, Rage Monthly Magazine and Echo Magazine.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Awards Watch: The 2012 Dorian Awards

Earlier this week, the Gay & Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association (GALECA), of which I and my fellow Men on Film Chris Carpenter and Neil Cohen were members this past year, announced the winners of the 4th Annual Dorian Awards. These awards are designed to honor not just GLBT-themed films and television programs, but all films and television programs... albeit as seen through a "queer eye".

Topping the list for as the Film of the Year is Ben Affleck's Argo, fresh off its wins at the Golden Globes and the Critics' Choice Awards. The Film Performance of the Year Awards (now split by gender) went to Daniel Day-Lewis in Lincoln and our Dearie Award-winning Woman of the Year Anne Hathaway in Les Misérables. All three of these winners are poised for possible victory at next month's Academy Awards.

The searing gay drama Keep the Lights On, which was also nominated for Film of the Year, took the prize for LGBT-Themed Film of the Year, while the Oscar nominated How to Survive a Plague won Documentary of the Year. In the new category Visually Striking Film of the Year, Ang Lee's Life of Pi was deemed the most, well, visually striking.

A triple feature of Matthew McConaughey movies round out the film awards, with Steven Soderbergh's Magic Mike and Lee Daniels' The Paperboy tied for Campy Film of the Year and Bernie named Unsung Film of the Year.

On the TV side, Homeland and American Horror Story: Asylum not only tied for TV Drama of the Year, the shows' respective stars, Damien Lewis and Jessica Lange won in the TV Performance of the Year categories.  TV Comedy or Musical of the Year went to Girls, while LGBT-Themed TV Show of the Year was shared by Modern Family and the Dearie Award-winning The New Normal. The Campy and Unsung TV Shows were the tragic biopic Liz & Dick and the sitcom Happy Endings.

Capping off the Dorians are a few prizes for individuals, including the "We’re Wilde About You" Rising Star of the Year Award, which went to The Perks of Being a Wallflower's Ezra Miller. "Wilde Wit" and "Wilde Artist" titles were bestowed on The Daily Show's Jon Stewart and Glee/American Horror Story/The New Normal creator Ryan Murphy.  And last, but certainly not least, the "Timeless" Award (the Dorian version of a lifetime achievement honor) went to the one and only Sir Ian McKellen, seen this year in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.

Congratulations to all of this year's Dorian Award winners! The awards will be presented on February 17 in Los Angeles at the Fourth Annual GALECA Dorian Awards Winners Afternoon Tea. See the comments section below for the full list of this year's nominees, and be sure to follow GALECA on Facebook and Twitter.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Reverend’s Reviews: Gay Goy

Mikael Buch’s Let My People Go!, which is now showing in New York and opening in Los Angeles on January 18th prior to a national rollout, is surely the world’s first Gay-French-Jewish-Finnish movie. Throw in Almodovar regular Carmen Maura (Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, Volver) for a bit of Spanish flavor, and this enjoyably campy comedy becomes even more international/universal.

Sweet but high-strung Reuben (Nicolas Maury) is a French-Jewish postman living idyllically in Finland with his Nordic boyfriend, Teemu (Jarkko Niemi). They met there while Reuben was earning his Master’s in “Comparative Sauna Studies.” The couple’s bliss is shattered one day when Reuben finds himself inexplicably gifted with nearly $200,000 in cash. Teemu, believing the money to be stolen, kicks Reuben out on the eve of Passover, so Reuben returns to his dysfunctional family in Paris for the holiday.

Back in Paris, Reuben has no luck finding solace from his philandering father, deluded mother (Maura, playing French and Jewish convincingly), abused sister or domineering brother. As he pines for Teemu and tries to recover a lost suitcase in which his small fortune is hidden, Reuben falls into one mostly-comical misadventure after another, including an unintended sexual tryst with a much older family friend. Teemu, meanwhile, learns that Reuben was telling the truth about how he got the money and heads to Paris to win his true love back. Will Teemu make it there and mend fences with Reuben in time for Passover dinner?

The screenplay, co-written by Buch and fellow filmmaker Christophe Honore (Love Songs), is occasionally labored but more often witty. As an example of the latter, the film includes a moral debate over a man’s presumed death that quickly gives way to an argument over whether all French actresses are “drama queens.” It also has an early-Almodovar vibe and style to it that is only heightened by Maura’s participation. Buch moves the farcical proceedings along briskly so that, with a running time of 86 minutes, the film doesn’t overstay its welcome.

I also appreciated how Let My People Go! likens the gay experiences of oppression and coming out to the history of the Jewish people as recounted in the Old Testament book of Exodus in a generally light-hearted way, including a Passover-themed “Coming Out of Egypt” dance party at a gay club. Also, Reuben refers to his suddenly Job-like life as “one big Jewish joke.” In the end, the film succinctly but potently sums up the meaning of Passover: “We’re free; We’ve suffered enough.” Now who — gay, Jewish or gay and Jewish — can argue with that?

Reverend’s Rating: B

Review by Rev. Chris Carpenter, resident film critic of Movie Dearest, Rage Monthly Magazine and Echo Magazine.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Reverend's Reviews: Road Movie

Numerous filmmakers have attempted over the decades to bring Jack Kerouac’s Beat Generation classic On the Road to the big screen.  Walter Salles, who hit it big with The Motorcycle Diaries in 2004, has finally done so.  I hesitate, though, to say that he has succeeded with his adaptation.  It is well-cast, with relative newcomer Garrett Hedlund (Tron: Legacy) and Twilight star Kristen Stewart revealing previously unseen emotional depths.  The film also boasts a number of cameo appearances by such big name actors as Terrence Howard, Amy Adams, Viggo Mortensen, Kirsten Dunst and, in a surprising gay turn, Steve Buscemi.

Kerouac’s novel is autobiographical and deeply personal, which can be difficult to translate to film.  Indeed, trying to “open up” the source material to make it more accessible while remaining true to the author’s rebellious spirit is what stymied most of Salles’ predecessors.  Also, much of the narrative is comprised of road trips that naturally take place in the cinematically-unfriendly confines of cars.  Salles and screenwriter Jose Rivera achieve decidedly mixed results.  On the Road is a great-looking production thanks to Eric Gautier’s beautiful photography of an array of American landscapes, but much of it remains interior and inert.

On the plus side, the movie features considerable gay and bisexual content.  Hedlund’s character, Dean, has sex with women and men (including the aforementioned Buscemi), and occasionally with both at the same time.  Tom Sturridge plays the poetic, defiantly gay Carlo Marx (a stand-in for Kerouac’s friend, fellow beat writer Allen Ginsberg), who doesn’t hide his attraction to Dean and ultimately helps Dean embrace his bisexuality.  Subsequently, gay viewers with an interest in classic American literature may best appreciate On the Road.

Reverend's Rating: C+

Review by Rev. Chris Carpenter, resident film critic of Movie Dearest, Rage Monthly Magazine and Echo Magazine.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Reverend’s Reaction: The 85th Annual Oscar Nominations

The early morning announcement of each year’s AcademyAward nominees has historically been a brief, dignified affair.  Yesterday’s live-from-Hollywood event, though, could best be described as unprecedentedly rollicking.  Writer-comedian-singer Seth MacFarlane (who will also host the awards presentation on February 24th, making him the first to perform announcer-host double duty since Charlton Heston did so way back in 1972) and actress Emma Stone brought a welcome tongue-in-cheek vibe to the formerly straightforward affair with their funny commentary on various nominees.  They also poked fun at themselves and one another; Stone’s reaction to MacFarlane comparing her to Meryl Streep was priceless.  Whether all longtime Academy members approve of the new approach remains to be seen but I believe it generally bodes well for next month’s show, which is being produced by gay dynamic duo Neil Meron and Craig Zadan of Smash, Hairspray and Chicago fame.

As is the case every year, there were snubs and surprises when the nominations are compared to prognosticators’ predictions.  The biggest upset was in the Achievement in Directing category, where anticipated nominees Ben Affleck (Argo), Kathryn Bigelow (Zero Dark Thirty) and Tom Hooper (Les Miserables) were sidelined by Michael Haneke and Benh Zeitlin for their superb Amour and Beasts of the Southern Wild, respectively.  While I have yet to see Bigelow’s controversial take on the hunt for Osama Bin Laden, I can’t say I’m surprised by Hooper’s omission for his no less controversial (at least in movie-musical and musical theatre circles) of Les Miz.

I’m personally delighted by the recognition of Amour and Beasts (which were numbers 2 and 3 on my best of 2012 list) not only in the direction category but among this year’s nine nominees for Best Picture.  Amour also has the rare distinction of simultaneously being up for Best Foreign Language Film, which it will almost certainly win.  Six of the other Best Picture nominees were essentially sure things (Lincoln, Life of Pi, Argo, Silver Linings Playbook, Zero Dark Thirty and Les Miserables) but ninth nominee Django Unchained represented something of a wild card.  While Django is being debated heavily for its graphic depiction of slavery and 19th century racial politics, writer-director Quentin Tarantino obviously remains beloved by many Academy members.  He is up for Best Original Screenplay, and Django was also nominated for its cinematography, sound editing, and terrific supporting performance by Christoph Waltz.

Waltz is a prior Oscar winner and, as Stone and MacFarlane didn’t hesitate to remind everyone, so is every nominee in the Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role category this year.  The others are Tommy Lee Jones for his scenery-chewing turn in Lincoln, Philip Seymour Hoffman as The Master’s debauched religious guru, Alan Arkin for his memorable turn (primarily due to his movie-producer character’s unprintable, signature line) in Argo and Robert DeNiro, who admittedly gave what I consider his most purely enjoyable performance in years in Silver Linings Playbook.  The Best Supporting Actress category likewise includes two past winners (Sally Field as Mary Todd in Lincoln and Helen Hunt as The Sessions vulnerable sex therapist), whereas the remaining three are all former nominees: Anne Hathaway, short-lived and histrionic in Les Miz but virtually guaranteed to win; Amy Adams, who gave what I consider the best performance in The Master; and Australian actress Jacki Weaver as the well-meaning mom in Silver Linings Playbook.

There are few surprises among this year’s candidates for Best Actor and Actress in a Leading Role, although Denzel Washington may be to some.  But to those of us who saw Flight, his nomination likely seems most deserved.  I haven’t always admired Washington’s work, finding an often imperious air in many of his performances, but said imperiousness works well here in light of his alcoholic pilot’s battle with inner demons. Washington does in Flight what I believe to be the most truthful work of his career to date.  Meanwhile, nominee Naomi Watt’s performance in The Impossible strikes me as overrated, especially since her character spends half the movie in a coma.  I’m pleased, though, with the recognition of little spitfire Quvenzhane Wallis as Beasts’ Hushpuppy and Emmanuelle Riva as the dying wife in Amour, who also represent the youngest and oldest nominees ever in Oscar’s lead actress category.  They, along with Les Miz's Hugh Jackman and Silver Linings' Bradley Cooper, are the only first time nominees among all four acting categories this year.

More categories were announced than usual during yesterday’s nominations event, though not all.  Time and space also prohibit me from examining every category today.  I do, however, want to give a very grateful shout-out to the Music branch of the Academy for restoring five nominees to the Best Original Song category.  When a tragically minimal two songs were nominated last year, it couldn’t help but give the appearance that the category itself was in jeopardy.  The Music branch’s members subsequently revised their consideration rules to assure more nominees in the future.  This year’s contenders are great, with British songstress Adele nominated for her Bond title theme from Skyfall and even MacFarlane included for his Ted song “Everybody Needs a Best Friend.”  My only gripe is that there was no love for past nominee Dolly Parton, who wrote several notable songs for 2012’s Joyful Noise.  I thought her wistfully romantic “From Here to the Moon and Back” would be a shoo-in.

And so the final march to Academy Awards glory, for this year anyway, begins.  Our congratulations go out to all the nominees, as well as to MacFarlane and Stone as the fabulously funny MCs of yesterday’s nominations announcement.  I’m looking forward to what I hope will be more of the same on February 24th.

By Rev. Chris Carpenter, resident film critic of Movie Dearest, Rage Monthly Magazine and Echo Magazine.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Dearie Awards 2012: Movie of the Year

Movie of the Year: KEEP THE LIGHTS ON
Ira Sachs’ authentic, explicit, occasionally bruising but ultimately hopeful depiction of the ups and downs of an addiction-fueled gay relationship over the course of a decade emerges as the finest gay-themed drama in several years.  Danish actor Thure Lindhardt and Zachary Booth (best known as Michael Hewes on TV’s Damages) command attention throughout as they dance their codependent tango but, to its great credit, the film never becomes histrionic and Sachs treats both wounded men with nothing but compassion.  (Booth’s character is actually bisexual, a big-screen rarity.)  Contemporary gay-themed movies just keep getting better and better — see previous Dearie Award Movies of the Year A Single Man and Weekend for further evidence of this — and Keep the Lights On now takes the crown.

Perks, starring a post-Harry Potter Emma Watson and rising stars Ezra Miller and Logan Lerman, emerged as one of the year’s biggest indie hits after doing consistent business at the box office for several months.  While not primarily LGBT-themed, Miller gives an exhilarating performance as an unapologetically gay high school student in this cross-generational success.

And though the long-awaited movie version of the long-running stage musical Les Miserables didn’t please all fans or critics, it is suffused with enough emotional and spiritual intensity, tortured romance and visual flourishes to fill several movies, not to mention a spectacular lead performance by Hugh Jackman as Jean Valjean.

By Rev. Chris Carpenter, resident film critic of Movie Dearest, Rage Monthly Magazine and Echo Magazine.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Dearie Awards 2012: Television Show of the Year

On the heels of his smash hits Glee and American Horror Story, Ryan Murphy delivered another quality series to TV with NBC's newest sitcom success The New Normal.  Centering on the subject of gay parenting (something that Murphy only recently knows all about), The New Normal deftly blends high comedy with well-earned sentimentality, plus a healthy dose of brash, highly un-P.C. humor by way of Ellen Barkin as the show's answer to Sue Sylvester.  Justin Bartha and Dearie Award winner Andrew Rannells anchor the show as a loving odd couple (complete with plenty of onscreen PDAs), joined by the sassy Nene Leakes, Georgia King as their perky surrogate and the scene-stealing Bebe Wood as her Little Edie-quoting daughter.  They all make it quite easy to embrace this "new normal".

Honorable Mention: GCB
Lord a'mighty, these GCB (that's "Good Christian Bitches" to you, darlin') were a hoot!  At least while they lasted.  Tragically cut short after only one season, this tart Texas-set comedy/soap was ABC's hope for the next Desperate Housewives... unfortunately, they scheduled it after that past-its-prime show during its too-painful-to-watch final season.  Nevertheless, with a cast included gay faves Kristin Chenoweth, Annie Potts and the best looking male eye candy to grace primetime for quite a spell, GCB was a Lone Star treat.

Honorable Mention: STEEL MAGNOLIAS
Lifetime's "all black" version of Steel Magnolias was a rare flower indeed: a remake that surpassed the original.  Led by an Emmy-worthy Queen Latifah (who's never been better), this updated adaptation of Robert Harling's perennial stage dramedy was more down-to-earth than the 1989 feature film that is now a certified gay camp classic.  Honestly earning every laugh and tear, this Steel Magnolias proves that even an old favorite can bloom anew.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Dearie Awards 2012: Man of the Year

For years it has been an open secret that Anderson Cooper, the multiple Emmy Award-winning "silver fox" of CNN and son of fashion icon Gloria Vanderbilt, was gay. Subtle on-air comments, palling around with Kathy Griffin, and his own self-described "addiction" to reality shows like the Real Housewives only fueled the speculation. And let's not forget that giggle. So when Cooper finally, officially came out last summer, it was not that big a surprise for most people. The bigger surprise was that, once his daytime talk show Anderson Live resumed in the fall, we had a new Anderson. More relaxed and open and funny, Cooper now frequently comments about being gay and even makes jokes that he certainly would have suppressed only a year ago. Regrettably, this second season of his talk show will be its last, but there is no doubt that the man who has been called "the most prominent openly gay journalist on American television" will continue to enlighten, inform and entertain.

Honorable Mention: Matthew McConaughey
Few would have guessed, back when he was Hollywood's new "It Boy" in the mid-90's, that Matthew McConaughey would turn into one of the great character actors of our time.  In 2012 alone, he played hotshot lawyer Danny Buck Davidson in Bernie, Texas hitman-for-hire Killer Joe Cooper, scruffy fugitive Mud, closeted gay reporter Ward Jansen in The Paperboy and, most notoriously, Dallas, the sexually-ambiguous proprietor of the all-male strip club in Magic Mike.  And, with critics awards and Oscar talk for the latter, the former "Sexiest Man Alive" could also turn into something else unexpected: an Academy Award winner.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Dearie Awards 2012: Woman of the Year

Previous Oscar nominee -- and even an Oscar co-host -- Anne Hathaway scored iconic roles in two of this year’s major releases, The Dark Knight Rises and the current Les Miserables.  She not only stole both shows as, respectively, pseudo-villainess Selina Kyle (a.k.a. Catwoman) and Victor Hugo’s doomed factory worker-turned-prostitute Fontine, but is currently the front-runner to win the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for Les Mis.  We at Movie Dearest have had our eyes on Hathaway for a long time and are thrilled to see her blossom into the star performer she is today, but she has also endeared herself to all of us in the GLBT community as an outspoken supporter of our dignity and equality.  Hathaway, who has a gay brother, even left the Roman Catholic Church rather than adhere to the church’s position that GLBT people are essentially second-class citizens.  Finally, we love her because she didn’t hesitate to twirl around in that fringy flapper-style dress she wore at one point when she co-hosted the 2010 Academy Awards.  You keep on going, girl!

Honorable Mention: JENNIFER LAWRENCE
This 22-year old came out of nowhere three years ago as heroine of the fantastic indie thriller Winter’s Bone.  She received an Oscar nomination for it and instantly became one of the most sought-after actresses in the industry.  Lawrence proved her talent is no fluke this year as star of one of its biggest blockbusters, The Hunger Games, as well as a potential Best Actress-winning turn as a young widow in Silver Linings Playbook.  She’s obviously making all the right moves according to the Hollywood playbook.

Review by Rev. Chris Carpenter, resident film critic of Movie Dearest, Rage Monthly Magazine and Echo Magazine.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Dearie Awards 2012: New Star of the Year

Theater fans knew him from his Tony Award nominated role as Elder Price in the irreverent musical The Book of Mormon, but Andrew Rannells broke through to the mainstream in 2012 as one of the stars of the NBC comedy hit The New Normal.  As one-half of a "guppie" couple preparing for the impending birth of their son via surrogate, the openly gay Rannells shines as his character Bryan (inspired by the series' creator Ryan Murphy) hilariously comes to terms with what it means to be a "daddy". Rannells charming performance is Emmy-worthy... and now "Dearie"-winning!

Honorable Mention: STEPHEN AMELL
It is easy to see why Stephen Amell caught our eye this past year. However, Amell has brought more than just rippling muscles and husky handsomeness to the CW's Arrow, the gritty update of DC Comics' classic superhero Green Arrow: his millionaire-turned-avenging archer Oliver Queen is a tortured vigilante who shoots to kill. Fitting for an actor who's looks could kill.

Honorable Mention: QUVENZHANE WALLIS
It isn't often that a child actor delivers a performance as stunning and heartfelt as that of young Quvenzhané Wallis in the indie cross-over hit Beasts of the Southern Wild.  Only six-years old at the time of filming, and with no previous acting experience, Wallis truly is a "New Star". But that hasn't stopped the accolades; she has already won several critics' awards and next week she may become the youngest Best Actress Oscar nominee in history.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Dearie Awards 2012: Stage Show of the Year

"Extra! Extra! Disney Turns Flop Flick Into Boffo B.O.!" Broadway may have been surprised by the unexpected success of Disney Theatricals' screen-to-stage transfer of Newsies, but we devoted fans ("fansies"?) of the 1992 box office bomb-turned-cult favorite always knew that the beloved movie musical would "seize the day" on the stage.  With a cast filled with scruffy, athletic (over-aged?) newsboys, a book by Movie Dearest icon Harvey Fierstein and two Tony Awards (including one for, finally, Disney music man Alan Menken), Broadway's Newsies truly is the "king of New York".

Honorable Mention: CARRIE
Twenty-four years after its infamous Broadway opening (and quick closing), the notorious musical version of Stephen King's Carrie reared its pig's blood-soaked head this past year Off Broadway.  And while the revised revival ("revisal"?) took the material seriously instead of going to camp, it did produce the cast albumwe always wanted.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Dearie Awards 2012: Documentary of the Year

Winner: BULLY
Despite the ratings controversy this timely film engendered (egged on by its distributor in the interest of free publicity), Bully is essential viewing for teens and adults and ought to be shown in every high school.  In focusing on the plights of five students harassed by their peers for one silly, inexcusable reason or another (including, in at least one case, sexual orientation), director Lee Hirsch exposes the utter cluelessness of well-meaning parents and the horrific ineffectiveness of school administrators at protecting the children in their charge.  Simply put, this is the year’s one must-see documentary because young people’s lives truly are on the line.

Honorable Mention: HOW TO SURVIVE A PLAGUE
A riveting recollection on the formation of the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP) in mid-1980’s New York City.  After hundreds of deaths and thousands of HIV infections, a diverse assortment of young people came together to take on church and state in support of people with AIDS.  Their efforts resulted a decade later in the introduction of the first protease inhibitor, literally saving lives today.  The film serves as both a necessary eulogy and an inspiring celebration of our history.

Review by Rev. Chris Carpenter, resident film critic of Movie Dearest, Rage Monthly Magazine and Echo Magazine.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Dearie Awards 2012: Foreign Film of the Year

Movie Dearest proudly presents the 6th Annual Movie Dearest Awards, honoring 2012's best in film, television and the stage! Also known as the "Dearies", this year's awards are dedicated to the memory of our dear friend and fellow critic/movie lover Neil Cohen.

And the first "Dearie" Award goes to our pick for Foreign Film of the Year:

Winner: AMOUR
Michael Haneke’s exploration of the waning days shared between a man (veteran actor Jean-Louis Trintignant) and his dying wife (Emmanuelle Riva, impressively stripped to her very essence) won the Palme d’Or at this year’s Cannes Film Festival and is favored to win the Academy Award.  One would have to be truly heartless not to be moved by their plight, regardless of one’s sexual orientation or relationship persuasion.  Haneke & Company illustrate par excellence that the music of the heart never stops playing.

Honorable Mention: SKYFALL
Some readers may be scratching their heads to see the latest 007 epic here (notice the category is not titled Foreign Language Film of the Year), but we felt it appropriate given the involvement of British director Sam Mendes, many British cast members including noteworthy turns by Judi Dench and Ralph Fiennes, and the inherent British-ness of James Bond himself (currently personified by Brit hunk Daniel Craig). Also adding to Skyfall's international flavor is the scene-stealing Spainard Jaiver Bardem, who single-handedly (on 007's thigh, no less) brings the long-simmering homoeroticsm of the long-running series to the forefront as the film's big bad. Thrilling and thoughtful in equal measure, Skyfall is one of the very best entries in this enduring series’ 50-year history.

By Rev. Chris Carpenter, resident film critic of Movie Dearest, Rage Monthly Magazine and Echo Magazine.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Monthly Wallpaper - January 2013 - 2012: The Year in Film

As 2012 comes to a close, it is time to look back on the year in film, and what better way then with the Movie Dearest calendar wallpaper for next month!

Several of 2012's most talked about movies make up the collage, so you can spend all of January 2013 gazing at the likes of Abe, Bilbo, Cosette, Erik & Paul, Hitch, Hushpuppy, James, Merida, Magic Mike and Richard Parker. What a way to start off a new year!

Just click on the picture above to enlarge it to its 1024 x 768 size, then right click your mouse and select "Set as Background", and you're all set. If you want, you can also save it to your computer and set it up from there, or modify the size in your own photo-editing program if needed.