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Entries in HBO (43)

Wednesday
Jul292015

HBO’s LGBT History: The Laramie Project (2002)

Manuel is working his way through all the LGBT-themed HBO productions...

Last week we stopped by Fishers & Sons to single out the luminous work of Alan Ball & Michael C. Hall in Six Feet Under in the heartbreaking episode “A Private Life.” Continuing that episode’s “hate crime rocks a community” template, this week we’re looking at Moisés Kaufman’s film adaptation of his own documentary play, The Laramie Project. Intentionally episodic and fragmented, Kaufman’s film remains a fascinating document for the way it presents a community at odds with itself. [More...]

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Wednesday
Jul222015

HBO’s LGBT History: Six Feet Under (2001-2005)

Manuel is working his way through all the LGBT-themed HBO productions...

Last week we talked about Cheryl Dunye’s Stranger Inside, a female prison drama that makes that Netflix series feel like a light-hearted romp. I highly recommend it; though, as with many of the films we’ve been looking at these past few weeks, it is not readily available for streaming (it is available on YouTube). This week, we pause on one of HBO’s greatest shows, Six Feet Under, which features one of the most fully realized gay male characters ever seen on television, David Fisher, played by Michael C. Hall.

Premiering as it did after The Sopranos and proving HBO’s swaggering arrival into prestige TV was no fluke, Alan Ball’s melancholy meditation on death, mental illness, and sexuality, nevertheless always felt, as David Fisher himself, like the dutiful, kinda gay, and oft-ignored middle child in HBO’s eyes; Six Feet Under thus lived (and died) in the shadow of its more popular and charismatic older brother.

That’s not a knock on David Chase’s drama but a reminder that Tony Soprano’s show was a gargantuan hit that’s since become the poster child for "HBO drama," if not for the entire “Golden Age of Television” writ-large. It both paved the way and reaped the benefits of the daring work showrunners like Tom Fontana (Oz), David Simon (The Wire), Daniel Knauf (Carnivale), Steven Soderbergh (K Street), and, of course, Ball himself, were producing during the early 2000s.

Ball’s series feels like an outlier among those early HBO dramas; Six Feet Under, more expertly than Ball’s Oscar-winning film, American Beauty and with more nuance than his later vampiric sudfest, True Blood, thrives on that much maligned genre which earns immediate scorn, melodrama. Indeed, with its focus on grief and mourning, the show constantly wears its teary-eyed heart on its sleeve, shamelessly tugging at its audience’s heartstrings. [More...

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Wednesday
Jul152015

HBO’s LGBT History: Stranger Inside (2001)

Manuel is working his way through all the LGBT-themed HBO productions...

Last week we looked at the master-class in acting that is If These Walls Could Talk 2: 1961 which was oddly followed by two other short films that, had I not written about them, most of you would not have remembered. Yes, all you need to know is that Vanessa Redgrave is resplendent in that initial segment. This week we look at precisely the type of lesbian experience that Ellen DeGeneres-produced lesbian PSA skirts. Yes, we’re headed to a female prison with Stranger Inside and director Cheryl Dunye is quite the guide. Guys, this might be the best new find in this whole rewatch series.

Dunye’s film is a powerful and affecting film, timely even all these years later. About race. About guns. About feminism. About violence. About the prison system. About motherhood. About religion. About hypocrisy. About white supremacy. Why more people don’t talk about this film is beyond me (especially with Orange is the New Black having conquered pop culture the way it has). Let’s begin fixing that now...

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Wednesday
Jul082015

HBO’s LGBT History: If These Walls Could Talk 2 (2000)

Manuel is working his way through all the LGBT-themed HBO productions...

Last week we looked at a number of HBO TV episodes from 1998 (wasn't '98 the gayest?) that gave us a broader cross-section of gay men on screen than the AIDS victim/activist/mourner trifecta we had so grown used to in the HBO films of the early 1990s. Today, we turn our attention to HBO’s first openly didactic piece of LGBT filmmaking with an anthology film helmed by a group of female writers and directors that aimed to trace a (narrow) history of the (white) lesbian experience in the twentieth century.

If These Walls Could Talk 2, much like the anthology film that gives it its name (they’re not really sequels per se, the first dealing with unwanted pregnancies), is comprised of three stories set in the same house and dealing with the same issue: namely, lesbianism. Taken together, the three short films that make up the piece (set in 1961, 1972 and 2000) track a by now familiar narrative of lesbian representation. The melodrama of the early 1960s, steeped in silence and euphemisms, gives way to a romance set against the backdrop of the vexed relationship between lesbians and feminism in the 70s, ending in a “new normal” vision of lesbian parenthood. Schematically we move from a couple to a community and then to a family. A fascinating progression but one which seems much too facile, especially when the first entry is by far its most rewarding. [More...]

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Wednesday
Jul012015

HBO’s LGBT History: 1998, The Year in TV

Manuel is working his way through all the LGBT-themed HBO productions...

 Last week we revisited one of Angelina Jolie’s best performances in Gia, the first HBO film to center on a female LGBT protagonist. Today we're focusing solely on TV in a pivotal year for HBO: 1998, a year before a certain mob guy would redefine a network and the TV landscape in general.

1998. What a year! The months apart premieres of Sex and the City and Will & Grace could easily cement it as one of the gayest years in recent memory, but that would tell only part of the story. The year after Ellen’s “The Puppy Episode,” gays were, seemingly, “going mainstream.” Yes, the troubled production and distribution of 54 showed there was still hesitancy over telling openly queer stories in Hollywood (especially those that stepped outside known gay narratives), but films like The Object of my Affection, High Art, Gods and Monsters, Wild Things, Velvet Goldmine (Gia even!) would continue to pave the way for Hollywood’s embrace of an exploration of gay suburban desperation in Sam Mendes and Allan Ball’s American Beauty the following year.

And on TV? Well, HBO offers us a great cross-section of how networks were diversifying its stories to include more (if not broader) LGBT representation.

Oz, Sex & The City and more after the jump...

Tracey Takes On… “...Marriage.” (January 4 1998)

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Tuesday
Jun232015

HBO’s LGBT History: Gia (1998)

Manuel is working his way through all the LGBT-themed HBO productions...

Last week we looked at the tender In the Gloaming, Christopher Reeve's directorial debut starring Glenn Close. And while that film ultimately focused on Close's character (her gay son is dying of AIDS), today, for the first time since we started this project, we get to focus on an LGBT protagonist that isn’t a gay man!

We follow instead a gorgeous woman (Angelina Jolie) who's as sexually adventurous as they come, leading on men and women alike, lighting the modeling world on fire, and falling hard (to the point of stalker-ish behavior) for a certain make-up girl that'll be all too familiar for all of you LOST fans.

Angelina Jolie's "Gia" breakthrough is after the jump...

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