Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Monthly Wallpaper - August 2013: Film Noir

Hard-boiled private dicks, irresistible femme fatales, desperate men on the run, and a whole lot of cigarette smoking. And let's not forget the shadows, shadows everywhere. These are the hallmarks of Film Noir, a wholly unique genre of Hollywood filmmaking that dove into the gutters of the 1940s and 50s and emerged with some of the truly greatest crime and mystery dramas of all-time.

This August, the Movie Dearest Calendar Wallpaper salutes the anti-heroes, shady dames and cold hearted killers of the best of Noir cinema, all in glorious black and white.

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.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Reverend’s Reviews: Something Old, Something New on Home Video

Way back in 1986, Oscar-winning director Francis Ford Coppola was pretty washed up in Hollywood. His expensive 1982 musical One from the Heart had tanked, and his subsequent adaptations of S.E. Hinton’s young adult novels The Outsiders and Rumble Fish didn’t do much at the box office. Seeking to reinvent himself, Coppola went so far as to drop the “Ford” from his name in the titles for his next project, Peggy Sue Got Married. A gentle time-travel drama without special effects, the film was a modest hit and garnered three Academy Award nominations, including Best Actress for Kathleen Turner’s wonderful lead performance.

This week’s debut of the film on Blu-raydoubles as the movie’s first home video release ever in its original widescreen format, giving viewers a chance to see all of Jordan Cronenweth’s Oscar-nominated cinematography for the first time since its theatrical run. Peggy Sue Got Married was also one of the first features to be shot digitally (following the pioneering Coppola’s One from the Heart), although the process is rather quaintly referred to as “electronic cinema” during the closing credits.

In addition to Turner, who replaced the notoriously difficult Debra Winger, the cast includes such stars then-in-the-making as Nicolas Cage (giving the first of his many odd but ultimately endearing performances), Helen Hunt, Joan Allen and Jim Carrey, as well as terrific turns by veterans Barbara Harris, Maureen O’Sullivan and John Carradine. Jerry Leichtling and Arlene Sarner’s alternately funny and moving screenplay takes a decidedly metaphysical-psychological approach to time travel, which Coppola reinforces through tone and the film’s nostalgia-drenched art direction. There are few scenes in any movie as touching as the one here where time-warped Peggy Sue answers the phone in her parents’ home and unexpectedly hears the voice of her long-dead grandmother (O’Sullivan). Her subsequent emotional breakdown and its handling by her mother (Harris) are beautifully rendered.

Peggy Sue Got Married is a must-see for a new generation of moviegoers and deserving of consideration as a contemporary classic. In fact, I recommend re-watching it every decade or so, as I have done. Older generations’ personal experiences of “browsing through time” reveal how truly and rarely perceptive Coppola’s low-key effort remains.
Reverend’s Rating: A-

Some additional new home video releases that are mostly worth one’s while:

Vanishing Waves
A trippy, sexy sci-fi thriller reminiscent of such 1970’s classics as The Man Who Fell to Earth and A Clockwork Orange. Lukas (played by Marius Jampolskis, who somewhat resembles American actor Zach Braff) is the guinea pig among a team of researchers working to communicate with a comatose woman, Aurora, via sensory deprivation and alpha wave synchronization. The experiment arguably works too well initially as Lukas and Aurora (the very good Jurga Jutaite) bond sexually. Trouble starts to brew as Lukas keeps the full details of their unconscious conjugal exploits secret from his fellow scientists. There is plentiful male and female nudity on display in this thought-provoking, award-winning Lithuanian film, which is beautifully directed by Kristina Buozyte (The Collectress). Peter von Poehl’s electronic-classical fusion score is also a standout.
Reverend’s Rating: B+

White Frog
Family secrets, Christian fundamentalism and Asperger’s Syndrome collide in this sensitive, generally impressive drama from gay director Quentin Lee (The People I’ve Slept With, Drift). Booboo Stewart of Twilight Saga fame is great as Nick, an AS-afflicted high school student who is bereft following the sudden death of his beloved older brother, Chaz (a too-brief appearance by Glee’s Harry Shum Jr.). Nick and his conservative parents, played by B.D. Wong and Joan Chen, find their grief compounded once they learn that Chaz was gay. Nick discovers support as well as compassion towards his late brother when he starts hanging out with Chaz’s friends. The drama seems forced at times, despite or perhaps due to an assist from Tony-winning playwright David Henry Hwang, but White Frog is undeniably moving and inspiring.
Reverend’s Rating: B

This lesbian dramedy co-starring Academy Award winners Olympia Dukakis (Moonstruck) and Brenda Fricker (My Left Foot) was a big hit on last year’s GLBT film fest circuit, wracking up more than 30 festival awards. I missed it then, but upon watching the newly-released DVD have to wonder what all the fuss was about. Sure, Fricker and Dukakis are fine and enjoyable, even if the latter is uncomfortably saddled with some shocking expletives. But the usually reliable writer-director Thom Fitzgerald (The Hanging Garden and the superb AIDS drama 3 Needles) disappoints with a simplistic yet heavy-handed and even illogical script that pretty much spells everything out in advance. Case in point: Hunky, hairy Ryan Doucette plays a hitchhiking, possibly gay professional dancer with daddy issues. What else is new? Reverend’s Rating: C+

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

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Reverend's Interview: Brooke Shields, Doing Her Time

She began modeling when she was a mere eleven months old, and parlayed her childhood success into a successful acting career that has included movies (Pretty Baby, The Blue Lagoon, The Hot Flashes), TV series (Suddenly Susan, Army Wives) and Broadway (Grease, Wonderful Town, The Addams Family). Brooke Shields’ next step will be making her directorial debut with this summer’s Hollywood Bowl production of the prison-set musical classic, Chicago. She recently spoke with me about her latest gig.

How did this opportunity to make your directorial debut at the iconic Hollywood Bowl come about?
Rob Fisher (who will be conducting Chicago) was my musical director on many different things and he convinced me to sing in Carnegie Hall in The Sound of Music, soprano and everything. It was really great. He seems to have faith in me. So he called me and said, “Listen, I really think that you will be able to (direct Chicago); you know the show and love the show.” Then we took it to the Hollywood Bowl people. I’ve never really had a mentor, but Rob is great at pushing me beyond my comfort zone.

Can you announce any casting at this point? Any possibility of you playing a part or will directing keep you busy enough?
I think it would probably be suicide or I would implode if I did (laughs). I believe in giving my all to everything I do, so directing will be more than enough. We don’t have any lead cast members yet but are very close with a few. I can’t wait to announce soon. I have been able to bring back a lot of the alums of all ages from past productions for the ensemble, which is great because they are already so familiar with the show. [Editor's note: the cast includes Les Misérables' Samantha Barks as Velma Kelly, Ashlee Simpson as Roxie Hart, True Blood's Stephen Moyer as Billy Flynn, Drew Carey as Amos Hart and Xena herself, Lucy Lawless, as Matron Mama Morton.]

You performed in Chicago in both New York and London. Did you gain any particular insights that you feel will guide or help you in directing this LA production?
Even at the end of six months or the year or whatever, I was always able to discover something new. It’s such a tightly-crafted book but it has a lot of depth to it. Once I stopped trying as a performer or took the cartoon out of it and trusted the material, that’s when it happened. You just have to really listen and stay in the material as much as possible.In terms of directing, what amazes me so far is that you so often get “no” as an answer as an actor but now I get to hear “yes.” I’ve never worked with set designers or lighting designers, and now they want your ideas and then come back with amazing designs. What’s so wonderful (about directing) is you actually get to have a creative dream.

Many actresses “of a certain age” complain about opportunities drying up but you really seem to be flourishing. Do you agree? If so, what’s the secret to your longevity?
Go where the water’s warm (laughs). I would love to say there’s a master plan. For me, it’s about remaining open to the variety of opportunities. If a movie or TV thing doesn’t work out, then I look at what’s going on in theatre and vice versa. There are truths about growing older in Hollywood but it doesn’t do any good to complain about it. I say “Why not?” a lot instead of saying “I’m only gonna do this” or “I’m not gonna do that.” I’ve been at it a long time. It’s a body of work built of opportunities you say “yes” to.

You also have a new movie coming out this summer, The Hot Flashes, which I’ve seen and found delightful. It could become a sleeper hit. What was the experience of making that film like, especially with such a great cast (that also includes Wanda Sykes, Daryl Hannah, Virginia Madsen and Camryn Manheim)?
It’s a sweet movie. We all enjoyed each other so much, and worked so hard at learning to play basketball (laughs). Hours and hours and hours of practice. [The movie is about a group of former high-school players who reunite 30 years later to save a deceased friend’s legacy.] We’re all over 40 and the director [Susan Seidelman of Desperately Seeking Susan and She-Devil fame] took a chance on us that, I think, paid off. There are groups like the one in the film all across the country, many of them organized around certain causes like breast cancer.

Any special message or words for your gay and lesbian fans?
They’ve been the most loyal from day one. I’ve never felt turned on by them but appreciated and encouraged and inspired by them. I’m very thankful for their continuity of support throughout my career.

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

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Reverend’s Report: Hot Guys and More at Outfest 2013

Between the dual finales of Outfest and Comic-Con on Sunday, most industry folks here in Los Angeles are suffering withdrawals this week. The enthusiastic receptions accorded many of the GLBT films screened during Outfest combined probably couldn’t equal gay fanboys’ excitement over director Zack Snyder’s Comic-Con announcement that Superman and Batman will appear together in his 2015 Man of Steel sequel. Talk about a dynamic duo!

Though not superheroes, the gay amateur sleuths played by Marc Anthony Samuel and Brian McArdle in Hot Guys with Guns are worth watching. Written and directed by Doug Spearman (Noah’s Arc), this Outfest premiere spins an amusingly sordid mystery around Hollywood sex parties. Someone is drugging and robbing these parties’ A-list attendees, and it falls to a struggling actor-waiter and his ex-boyfriend to figure out whodunit. The screenplay, while not without its excesses, is generally a hoot and the film’s attractive, gay-list cast includes Spearman’s fellow Noah’s Arc alum Darryl Stephens, Jason Boegh, Kevin Held and Trey McCurley. Particularly good is the James Bond-ish opening credits sequence and theme song!

Similarly imperfect but entertaining is Anna Margarita Albelo’s Who’s Afraid of Vagina Wolf? Albelo plays an unsuccessful, single, lesbian filmmaker who understandably experiences a midlife crisis. She becomes inspired to direct an all-female remake of Mike Nichols’ classic movie of Edward Albee’s play Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolfe?

Lesbian acting icon Guinevere Turner (Go Fish) takes over for Elizabeth Taylor and won a special Outfest award for her performance (see the full list of award winners in the comments section below). Hilarious supporting turns are rendered by True Blood’s Carrie Preston and gay fave Drew Droege, the latter of whom seemed to appear in virtually every LA-based feature and short film screened during Outfest. This women’s-interest film with crossover appeal was co-written by Michael Urban, who wrote the memorable 2004 satire Saved!

One of the big Outfest award winners this year was Test, Chris Mason Johnson’s assured look at the incursion of AIDS among a group of professional dancers in 1985 San Francisco. One of them, Frankie, grapples with the decision to take the new HIV antibody test at the same time he is called upon to fill in for one of the dance company’s soloists. His tense relationship with a sexy fellow dancer gradually gives way to respect and even love. Some of Johnson’s metaphorical points are belabored, especially those involving a mouse infestation in Frankie’s apartment, but the film is ultimately evocative and affecting and the dance sequences stunning.

My two favorite men’s features from Outfest 2013 were among its more bittersweet, international offerings. Bwakaw, by Jun Robles Lana, was the Philippines’ official entry for last year’s Academy Awards. It focuses on an elderly gay man, Rene (a beautifully cantankerous yet sensitive performance by Eddie Garcia, who has starred in nearly 600 movies and TV shows during his long career), whose only friend is a stray dog he reluctantly takes in. The dog, Bwakaw, helps open Rene’s heart to other relationship possibilities, including with a tough, married taxi driver (well-played by Rez Cortez). Things don’t always turn out successfully — having Kleenex handy is highly recommended — but Rene learns much along this lovely, unsentimental journey.

Out in the Dark, my other fest fave, is a provocative Israeli-Palestinian co-production about the plight faced by a pair of gay lovers from those two disparate nations. Palestinian student Nimr (Nicholas Jacob) and Israeli attorney Roy (Michael Aloni) meet cute one night in a Tel Aviv nightclub. As things heat up between them, they are confronted by a host of obstacles including anti-gay immigration officials, their self-righteous parents’ disapproval, and some vicious gangsters. Once Nimr’s student visa is revoked and his family disowns him, Roy must make a dramatic sacrifice to save him. Co-written by Michael Mayer and Yael Shafrir and directed by Mayer, who was named one of Outfest’s “5 in Focus” filmmakers to watch, Out in the Dark is a timely and bracing romantic-drama. Watch for it.

Reverend’s Ratings:
Hot Guys with Guns: B
Who’s Afraid of Vagina Wolf?: B
Test: B+
Bwakaw: B+
Out in the Dark: A-

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

Friday, July 19, 2013

Reverend’s Reviews: Creatures of the Deep

One of the wonderful benefits of living close to the shore in southern California is the occasional glimpse I get of whales in their natural habitat. Grey and “killer” whales are relative fixtures, especially during their migration periods. One can also drive just a couple of hours to San Diego’s Sea World to see orcas in captivity. After viewing the new documentary Blackfish (opening today in Los Angeles and New York City), though, you’ll think twice about visiting Sea World or any other venue where these magnificent creatures are—as the film relentlessly asserts—exploited with tragic results.

Director Gabriela Cowperthwaite draws from interviews with numerous whale experts and trainers, who by and large testify they were uneducated or under-trained before being put in the water with their trainees, in her primary effort to understand how one aquatic star at Sea World in Florida came to be involved in the deaths of three people over the last two decades. Tilikum (Chinook for “friend”) is an 8,000-pound bull orca, the largest in captivity, who was caught in 1983 when he was about 3 years old. He and two other whales were implicated in the death of a trainer in 1991 at the first water park that housed him. After being moved to Florida, the body of a nude man was found in Tilikum’s tank in 1999. Most recently and notoriously, Tilikum killed and partly devoured trainer Dawn Brancheau before a live audience in 2010. He was subsequently removed from performances for a year but has since returned.

In Blackfish, orcas are described as “top predators” who also display undeniable intelligence, probably not the kind of animal anyone should be alone with in a tank. As a trainer states in the film, “When you look into (a whale’s) eyes, you know somebody’s home; somebody’s looking back.” What’s more, orcas are potentially mindful of their species’ history of being caught and exploited. One former whale hunter shares a fascinating recollection of how adult whales without young would intentionally lead him and his fellow hunters away from those whales with babies, who would swim in another direction. He also confesses that several young whales died during the hunt and that the hunters cut the carcasses open and filled them with rocks and anchors to sink them, thereby eliminating evidence of their illegal activity.

The documentary’s content is potent stuff that will surely upset many animal admirers. It is also frustratingly one-sided, with nary a comment included by anyone who favors or benefits from the exhibition of captured whales. Such facilities as Sea World can and do serve a valuable educational purpose that is barely acknowledged. Greater objective balance on the part of Cowperthwaite would make Blackfish a more complex and interesting, less preachy exposé.

Leviathans from the ocean deep also play a starring role in the recently released Pacific Rim, but they aren’t of this world. In Guillermo Del Toro’s brightly colored sci-fi adventure, fearsome kaiju (a Japanese term meaning “giant beast” à la Godzilla) are being sent from another dimension through a rift at the bottom of the sea in the not-too-distant future for the sole purpose of destroying humanity. Fortunately, we have developed 50-story tall, nuclear-powered robots called jaegers to destroy them during massive-scale hand to hand combat.

Charismatic Charlie Hunnam, well known to older gay viewers as the original Nathan on the British version of Queer as Folk, heads a quirky, international cast that includes Rinko Kikuchi (Babel), Charlie Day (Horrible Bosses), Torchwood’s Burn Gorman and sexy Idris Elba (Thor). Del Toro regular Ron Perlman (Hellboy) also makes an amusing appearance as a black market seller of kaiju parts. The movie’s art direction and CGI effects are impeccable, which is typical of Del Toro’s work.

My inner 10-year old thought Pacific Rim was totally cool, engaging and entertaining. My current, outer 45-year old thinks it best not to think too hard about the plot, which frequently strains credibility even for such comic book-ish fodder. In the end, one can do a lot worse for summer movie entertainment than a souped-up, over-priced tribute to 1976’s Godzilla vs. Megalon.

Reverend’s Ratings:
Blackfish: B
Pacific Rim: B+

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

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Reverend's Reviews: Not-Quite-Heavenly Choruses

I was in seminary in 1992 when Sister Act hit movie screens. While the comedy about a singer (played by Whoopi Goldberg, smartly subbing for Bette Midler) hiding out from her mobster boyfriend in a convent was a surprise summertime hit at the box office, it was a true sensation in Catholic circles. The nuns, priests and fellow seminarians I knew turned out for it in droves and saw it multiple times, as did I. The less successful 1993 sequel, Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit, sent the sisters packing from cineplexes, but they were resurrected 13 years later for a stage musical adaptation of the original movie. Sister Act: The Musical, originated at southern California's Pasadena Playhouse in 2006, then received overhauls in both Atlanta and London before finally hitting Broadway in 2011, where it was nominated for five Tony Awards, including Best Musical. It has returned to the LA area and is now playing at the Pantages Theater through July 28th.

While Cheri and Bill Steinkellner's book (with additional material by out playwright Douglas Carter Beane) is generally faithful to the 1992 screenplay (which was written by out playwright Paul Rudnick but credited to the pseudonymous Joseph Howard), the musical makes some odd changes. First, the action has been moved to 1977, seemingly for no reason other than to cite then-popular disco hits like "The Hustle" and make some racial humor — including comical applications of the dated term "Negro" — more palatable for today's arguably more enlightened audiences. Second, the musical beefs up the roles of the gangster, Curtis, and his goons with decidedly mixed results. The part (originally named "Vince") was much more of a cameo in the movie for then-hot Harvey Keitel. Whereas the Sister Act film kept the comic and dramatic focus on the relationships between Goldberg's Deloris Van Cartier and the various oddball sisters who take her under their wing, the musical frustratingly pulls away from these for vignettes showing Curtis and/or the three sleazy blockheads beholden to him on the hunt for Deloris.

Fortunately, one probably couldn't ask for a better fill-in for Goldberg than the touring production's Ta'Rea Campbell. This veteran of Broadway's The Lion King and The Book of Mormon, among other credits, is blessed with a spectacular singing voice and impressive comic chops. She also gamely sports the show's retro-70's fashions, when she isn't wearing a habit that is. Hollis Resnik, another talented vet of stage and screen, plays the convent's Mother Superior as more world-weary than did Maggie Smith in the movie but is in similarly fine voice when she sings, especially on Mother Superior's wistful "Here Within These Walls."

While multiple-Oscar winner Alan Menken's music is fine, one wishes he had a less-obvious lyricist than Glenn Slater at his side here. To be fair, Slater has improved since his dreadful work on Leap of Faith and the Phantom of the Opera sequel, Love Never Dies. The best songs in Sister Act are those up-tempo numbers performed by Deloris and the sisters, notably "Raise Your Voice", "Take Me To Heaven", "Sunday Morning Fever" and the climactic "Spread the Love Around." Curtis's "When I Find My Baby" starts out as an amusing homage to Barry White but devolves into a tasteless paean to the creative options at his hand to kill Deloris. "Lady in the Long Black Dress," sung by Curtis's goons, is a more tongue-in-cheek but still tacky ode to inappropriate nun-love.

Tony Award winner Jerry Zaks directs with no particular flair; most of his staging consists of the actors pacing back and forth across the stage. Anthony Van Laast's choreography is better, especially during the aforementioned numbers shared by the nuns and Deloris. Costume designer Lez Brotherston deserves a special award for best use of the greatest number of sequins in any show since probably the original Broadway production of La Cage aux Folles.

There are worse ways to spend a summer evening than seeing the stage version of Sister Act. I only wish it had been a more heavenly experience. For true spiritual inspiration, rent the movie.

A more inspiring, genuinely moving film than even the original Sister Act, Unfinished Song, is now playing in theaters and is well worth seeking out. Terence Stamp gives an all-time best, Oscar-worthy performance as an elderly curmudgeon who reluctantly joins his wife's community choir after she passes away. Vanessa Redgrave is positively luminescent during her early scenes as the wife, no less so than when she sings Cyndi Lauper's hit "True Colors." Be sure to take a box of Kleenex but be prepared too to laugh, to possibly sing along and to definitely be awed by Stamp's marvelous, heartfelt work.

Reverend's Ratings:
Sister Act: B-
Unfinished Song: B+

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

Friday, July 12, 2013

Reverend's Interview: Girl Power

It took several weeks, publicists on two different coasts and a persistent writer to get four of the most talented women (including an out lesbian comedian) working in film, stage and TV today together for one conference call interview. The occasion? Their new movie The Hot Flashes, which is arrives in theaters today.

Wanda Sykes, Brooke Shields, Daryl Hannah and Camryn Manheim play former high-school classmates who reunite in their mid-40’s to form a basketball team. They do so in the hope of winning a local tournament’s cash prize and saving their late friend’s mobile breast cancer clinic. Virginia Madsen and Eric Roberts also star, and the film is directed by Susan Seidelman (Desperately Seeking Susan, Making Mr. Right, She-Devil). It is hilarious, heartfelt and, most significantly during a special-effects dominated season, human.

While I scrambled to keep up with their conversation, it was immediately apparent that Manheim (who hails from Long Beach and whose parents still live there), Sykes, Hannah and Shields developed a strong bond while working on the movie, which is set in Texas but was primarily shot in New Orleans. Sykes and Manheim struck me as particularly close, with Manheim referring to herself as “Wanda’s wrangler” while they were working in the Big Easy. Here’s what else the ladies had to say…

What was the experience making this film like for each of you?
Manheim: It was life-changing in many ways. We came down to make a movie about a human issue, a women’s issue. I think we all got sucked in by the message. Then you’ve got five strong women, five women in our (ahem) 40’s, and we bonded on so many issues and became this incredible group of women who took over New Orleans for two months.
Sykes: I agree. We became a team on and off the court, and we all became drinking buddies!
Shields: It’s a rarity to have women together where there was no ego. It was a celebration of women, with our age and life experiences. We were able to celebrate our differences and were equal pieces of the puzzle. We didn’t fit into one category but we all got along so well.
Manheim: I want to second that. We all got to be who we distinctly were. Daryl would literally talk to the animals!
Sykes: Funny story: One day, there was this huge bug on the car’s dashboard and someone said, “Kill it before Daryl adopts it!” (Laughter)
Shields: Daryl (who plays an initially-closeted lesbian in the film) is amazing when it comes to animals and was always like, “I’m swimming with the dolphins and running with the wolves!”
Hannah: I’m not quite that woo-woo. (All laugh.) It was (A) great to learn how to play basketball finally and (B) I just loved getting to see these ladies every day. New Orleans wasn’t that bad either.
Sykes: It’s such a weird thing in our society and especially in the entertainment industry that older women are not celebrated more.

Was this story particularly personal for any of you regarding the topic of breast cancer, either your own or a family member’s or friend’s?
Sykes: Yeah, I have new boobs night now.
Shields: And they are pretty too!
Sykes: Actually, while we were filming I delayed surgery to have my real fake boobs put in.
Hannah: While we were making the film, my best friend was having a lumpectomy and then had to have a mastectomy.
Sykes: Early detection is the biggest key to prevention.
Shields: All of us are women who are trying to make a difference in the world, and to have fun making a movie with an important message was so rare and so great.

Daryl, regarding your lesbian character, did you have any particular lesbian role models? And what was working with Wanda, who is out, like for you?
Hannah: It was interesting to me because none of my lesbian friends are so afraid of being out (as this character is). I had to think back to when some of my friends were more closeted. Obviously, some people still have to struggle with their comfort level. It was kind of sweet how (her character’s) friends were more accepting of her than she was of herself.
Shields: There was a sense of ownership and pride with all the women in the film. I had to find the courage to divorce my husband. Wanda’s character is running for mayor.
Sykes: I was trying to get the title of “lesbian consultant” on the film, but Camryn told me she knows way more lesbians than I do. (All laugh.) It was sweet how Daryl’s character was handled in the film and how the other women protected her.

Would any of you say this movie has particular meaning or a message for LGBT viewers?
Sykes: Acceptance. We all accepted and celebrated each other as we were. And also to say it’s never too late. When I came out I was 45 or something, so it’s never too late.
Shields: Yeah, there is something to say about acceptance and the freedom to be who you are. I think this is across the board in the film and not just applied to the gay and lesbian community.
Manheim: We were the group of merry pranksters in New Orleans.
Sykes: Ask Camryn about how she greased the pole. (All laugh.)
Shields: No, you can’t print that! (Laughing.) I must say, though, that you haven’t lived until you’ve gotten kicked out of a casino with Wanda.

Had any of you worked with the great Susan Seidelman before this film? What was working with her like?
Shields: I don’t think any of us had worked with her before.
Sykes: That’s right, none of us.
Manheim: It was great to have a woman director, and one who let us be the posse we became. Some directors are threatened when their cast gets too close.
Sykes: That’s why I got kicked out of the casino. It was our director encouraging our bonding (laughs).

For more information about The Hot Flashes, visit the film's official website.

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

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Reverend's Preview: G.B.F. & More at Outfest

Like its protagonist, an outed gay student who suddenly finds himself sought after by the three most popular girls at his high school to improve their chances of being named prom queen, G.B.F. is becoming a huge hit on the competitive film festival circuit. Darren Stein’s hilarious, politically-incorrect comedy (the title is short for “Gay Best Friend”) won awards at FilmOut San Diego and has been chosen for the Long Beach QFilm Festival, which will run September 6th-8th. It is also being screened July 21st as the high-profile closing night selection at Outfest, the Los Angeles LGBT Film Festival.

“It feels great,” Stein told me about his new film’s reception during an interview last month. “I always knew audiences would love it. It’s great for people to see a mainstream teen comedy with a gay character and have it be so well-received.” G.B.F. is also set for a theatrical and VOD release in December.

Stein, who is out and 41 years old, has previously directed and/or produced the gay-themed films Sparkler and Wild Tigers I Have Known. He is best known though for his critically underrated 1999 movie Jawbreaker, which has become a cult favorite over the years and has been turned into a Broadway-bound stage musical. “We are doing it,” Stein reports, “but I’ve learned theatre takes longer to come together than film. We are having a reading in New York in September for producers and potential backers.” The curious can follow Stein’s Jawbreaker Broadway feed on Twitter.

I asked Stein how G.B.F., which was written by newcomer George Northy, found him. “Through the Outfest Screenwriters Lab,” he replied. “The script was one of five finalists and was matched to me for further development. I read it and fell in love with it, then I contacted the writer and said I’d love to find the financing and do it.”

The director soon found a cast that was equally eager to do the film. In addition to Rebecca Gayheart, Natasha Lyonne, Jonathan Silverman and SNL’s Horatio Sanz, Stein secured the gay-beloved Megan Mullally to play the mother of one of the film’s two gay lead characters.

“It was sort of incredible to work with her,” Stein reflects. “I loved the idea of her playing the cool mom of the gay kid after playing Karen on Will & Grace. She is so funny.” One of the standout gut-busting scenes in G.B.F. finds mother and son watching an assortment of classic LGBT movies together, much to her son’s discomfort. “She improvised most of her dialogue during the scene,” according to Stein.

G.B.F. also boasts a great soundtrack of both contemporary and retro pop songs. “We are still in the process of securing Ellie Goulding’s “Anything Can Happen,” Stein laughed in response when I asked whether there were any difficulties in securing the tunes. “I really wanted a soundtrack like the John Hughes movie soundtracks from when I was a kid (Sixteen Candles, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, etc.); I love that the songs bridge different eras.”

Stein made several interesting observations regarding the current state of LGBT filmmaking. “The positive thing I think is the VOD phenomenon, where people can see LGBT films everywhere and not just in the big cities. Financing remains as difficult as ever, though, both for LGBT and Hollywood projects.” He revealed that he is currently working on “a dark Hollywood melodrams that Chloë Sevigny is attached to, about a movie star and her transsexual son who wants to be a movie star just like his mother. It’s very different for me from my usual teen comedies; it’s more like an Almodóvar film.”

I asked Stein who his G.B.F. might be. “I have a couple of G.B.Fs,” he replied. He added: “I am the main G.B.F. for a girl for about 18-20 years. She now calls me her gay husband, so I’ve graduated to a G.H.!”

In addition to G.B.F., some other must-see movies being shown at Outfest between July 11th and 21st are:

C.O.G.: An acclaimed adaptation of gay humorist David Sedaris’ semi-autobiographical book about a young man (played by out actor Jonathan Groff of Glee and Broadway fame) who experiences both sexual and religious awakening while working on an Oregon apple farm.

Interior. Leather Bar.: James Franco and Travis Mathews’ fascinating rumination on the current state of LGBT acceptance in society, incorporating a graphic re-creation of missing footage from the controversial 1980 film Cruising as well as insightful conversations between the directors and their cast.

Pit Stop: A deliberately paced, reflective look at the deepening relationship between two closeted gay men in small-town Texas. This is the first US-based feature film by acclaimed Malaysian director Yen Tan (Ciao, Happy Birthday).

In the Name Of: A somewhat unfocused but still compelling expose of the life of an increasingly conflicted gay priest, who works at a reformatory for troubled boys in rural Poland.

In Bloom: Beautifully made if bittersweet deconstruction of the relationship between two gay former lovers, set against the Chicago skyline and an anti-gay serial killer’s rampage.

And don’t miss the terrific documentaries I Am Divine, about the late great drag performer and movie star; Gore Vidal: The United States of Amnesia, based on the last work of the late great writer; God Loves Uganda, which focuses on the homophobic efforts of American evangelicals to criminalize same-sex love in Africa; and Born This Way, which similarly explores the growing influence of LGBT people in traditionally anti-gay Cameroon.

To purchase passes or tickets for Outfest films, visit their website.

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

Monday, July 8, 2013

Reverend's Interview: Sister Goes West!

As the mercury climbs, many head to the Southern California coast to cool down. They will be joined there this July 11th-14th by playwright, actor and drag icon Charles Busch. Busch and fellow original cast members Julie Halston and Alison Fraser from his hit Off-Broadway homage to movie nuns, The Divine Sister, will reunite at UCLA’s James Bridges Theater for five performances. L.A. Theatre Works will record and air the production soon after on public radio stations nationwide.

“We do it with a live audience and a sound effects guy at a table,” Busch revealed during a recent phone interview from his home in New York City. “It’s done absolutely like old-time radio.”

Busch needs little introduction as the author of such modern theatre classics as Vampire Lesbians of Sodom, the Tony Award-nominated Tale of the Allergist’s Wife, Psycho Beach Party and Die, Mommie, Die!, the latter two of which were turned into popular movies. More recently, he has written the book for the gay-themed musical Taboo as well as a hit stage version of the children’s book Bunnicula, about a vampire rabbit.

“It was a strange notion for me, writing a children’s musical,” Busch shared. “I recently stepped into the elevator of my apartment building and there was a child in it. I screamed because I thought it was a circus midget. (Giggling) Its mother was not pleased.”

In The Divine Sister, Busch plays the indomitable Mother Superior of St. Veronica’s convent. She is determined to build a new school at almost any cost. I asked Busch if his Mother Superior character is based on or inspired by a particular screen nun.

“My sort of trip, as I call it, is to evoke a number of different actresses but the audience comes away thinking it’s one,” Busch replied. “Mother Superior is 7/8 Rosalind Russell in The Trouble with Angels, and it ends up being a homage to her whole career; she really is the template but you only get to play a nun once, so I threw in Ingrid Bergman in The Bells of St. Mary’s as well.” Busch noted that his 2010 play is best termed “nun noir” and also includes references to Black Narcissus, Agnes of God and even The Da Vinci Code.

More and more local productions of The Divine Sister are being staged, which pleases Busch immensely. “It’s a lovely surprise that Divine Sister is being done all across the country, even more so than my ‘mainstream’ play, The Tale of the Allergist’s Wife.” However, Busch’s LA performances this July will mark the first time he has performed as Mother Superior outside of New York, even though he won’t appear in drag since it is a radio production.

“I did have to adapt the script a little bit to make sure it makes sense (to radio listeners) but I noticed it really works well,” Busch said. “I do have to establish the setting at the start of each scene,” he continued. “The fine line is that you have a live audience but also one that is only going to be hearing it and not seeing it; you don’t want to cheat your audience.” Busch has performed in radio productions for L.A. Theatre Works twice before, in Tale of the Allergist’s Wife and as Lady Bracknell in Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest.

Busch explained the personal genesis of The Divine Sister: “I was raised with no religion at all but I became enraptured by these romantic notions of nuns in the old movies on TV. I noticed over time that there are different ‘varieties’ of nuns that seem reflective of Hollywood’s treatment of the Church over the decades.”

Since nuns seem to inspire both admiration and terror, I was curious to know how audience members have reacted to Busch’s Mother Superior. “They all seem to love it,” he replied, “but one of the things I enjoy with an audience is that they gasp at some of the things she says which are horrifying and severe. (The play is) set in the mid-1960’s, so she represents some radically conservative views that sometimes shock the audience.”

I asked Busch if there is any chance he will star in a movie version of The Divine Sister in the future. “I’d love it,” he exclaimed. “Like Norma Desmond, I long to return to the screen (laughs). Psycho Beach Party and Die, Mommie, Die! both kind of just happened; if I want Divine Sister to happen as a movie I’d have to see to it but I’m not focused enough. Maybe I’ll write a screenplay first and shop it around.”

In the meantime, Busch has plenty to keep him busy. “I’ve always got something up my sleeve; I have this new play (tentatively titled The Tribute Artist) that I’m really excited about but it won’t go into rehearsal until the end of this year,” Busch shared. “It’s a Some Like It Hot, zany kind of thing and I play a man, which is a change, who dresses as a woman.”

Any chance to watch Busch in action should not be missed. For more information about The Divine Sister’s Los Angeles run or to purchase tickets, visit the L.A. Theatre Works website or call (310) 827-0889.

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

Friday, July 5, 2013

Reverend's Reviews: Trans-cendent

It is both impressive and ironic that indie distributor Breaking Glass Pictures was able to secure Oscar-nominated director Gus Van Sant as Executive Producer of the current US theatrical run of Xavier Dolan's Laurence Anyways. I say "ironic" because Dolan — the gay, 24-year old Canadian wunderkind who previously made I Killed My Mother and Heartbeats — has in interviews denounced the existence of Queer Cinema, the LGBT filmmaking movement Van Sant helped to establish in the early 1990's.

As Dolan recently said to Out magazine: "There's no such thing as queer cinema. My generation has sexual, sensual, and sentimental boundaries that are completely different from those of the generations that precede us. It's time to get the Liquid Paper out and erase some of those labels, because no one wants to be an ambassador for a ghetto." So there. While I generally agree with Dolan's contemporary perspective, he could be more appreciative of the fact that he likely wouldn't be enjoying the success he is if it wasn't for the progress at making LGBT films more mainstream achieved by such Queer Cinema pioneers as Van Sant, Gregg Araki, Todd Haynes and Christine Vachon over the last 20 years.

Also ironically, Laurence Anyways is arguably Dolan's queerest production to date both thematically and structurally. It is a decade-spanning, three-hour emotional epic about the initially-male title character's decision to become a woman and its repercussions among his/her various relationships, most critically Laurence's female fiancée. The film has been honored with numerous awards since its premiere at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival, where it won the Queer Palm for best LGBT-themed picture as well as a Best Actress award for Suzanne Clement, who plays Laurence's would-be wife with the gender-upending name Fred (short for Frederique).

While Clement does give a sensationally high-strung performance, Melvil Poupaud (A Christmas Tale) is the film's heart and soul as Laurence. He depicts his character's transition from male to female more in terms of emotional changes than the physical, which Dolan also emphasizes in his screenplay and direction. At a nearly three-hour running time, one can't help but feel that Dolan & Co. go into a bit too much detail, re: the changes faced by Laurence, especially during his and Fred's occasional reunions. Nonetheless, there has not been as exhaustive (exhausting?) a look into the Trans experience as Laurence Anyways on the big screen before.

Dolan employs his now-trademark stylistic flourishes that include period pop music (the film is set in the 1990's), over-saturated colors in the sets and costumes, dry humor (after Laurence is beaten up in one scene, a fellow Trans character tells him "It gets better, my ass") and numerous expressionistic flourishes. Laurence Anyways is a singular achievement by an undeniably talented young artist, but it probably wouldn't exist if not for the Queer Cinema that bore Dolan and his body of work to date.

Reverend's Rating: B+

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

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Monday, July 1, 2013

Monthly Wallpaper - July 2013: Montgomery Clift

This July, Movie Dearest is celebrating one of our favorite film actors, Montgomery Clift. Although he has never achieved the cult status of a Brando or a Dean, Clift nevertheless delivered some of the finest onscreen performances of the 1950's.

Nominated for four Academy Awards during his career, Clift's tortured personal life often informed his acting in such cinematic classics as Red River, A Place in the Sun, From Here to Eternity and Suddenly, Last Summer. Here's to you, Monty.

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.