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Entries in HBO (74)

Wednesday
Feb032016

HBO’s LGBT History: The Case Against 8 (2014)

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

Last week we talked about the thrilling and necessary anger fueling Larry Kramer’s The Normal Heart, something not even Ryan Murphy’s at times clumsy direction could quell. From that we turn to what might be the limpest most inessential HBO LGBT film I have encountered in this entire series (sorry, The Out List, you had a good run): Ben Cotner and Ryan White’s The Case Against 8.

There’s a fascinating, informative, and entertaining doc to be made about the circuitous road to overturning California’s same-sex marriage ban, but Cotner and White’s film isn’t it...

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Wednesday
Jan272016

HBO’s LGBT History: The Normal Heart (2014)

Last week we swooned over Dane DeHaan’s pitch perfect portrayal of a self-serious gay NYC teen in In Treatment and this week we’re returning to what continues to be HBO’s most cherished LGBT theme: the AIDS crisis. We’ve talked about it here, there, and here, here, and yep, here again… Much of this project has been about discovery, but The Normal Heart is still relatively recent and so below find some words I’d dispatched when I first saw it close to two years ago.

“And every gay man who refuses to come forward now and fight to save his own life is truly helping to kill the rest of us.” — Ned Weeks

Anger fuels much of The Normal Heart and the play/film’s ability to showcase such raw and seemingly useless feeling is one of the more extraordinary things to come out of Kramer’s life and work. Curmudgeoney as Kramer and Ned Weeks may come off, their anger is not only justified but necessary. It makes for a tacit and probably unintentional meta-nod to have the Hulk himself play him. [More...]

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Wednesday
Jan202016

HBO’s LGBT History: In Treatment (2008-2010)

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

Last week we looked back at the 1990 1989 Oscar ceremony (it took place in 1990 but celebrated the best of 1989) and got to see an unfazed Jessica Lange and a blustered Charlton Heston, both things which are equally entertaining to watch. This week, we’re tempering our nerves over Haynes’s Oscar snub with a visit to In Treatment’s Dr. Paul Weston (Gabriel Byrne).

Developed by Rodrigo García (who we talked about briefly since he directed Six Feet Under’s “A Private Life”), this HBO show is an American adaptation of the Israeli series BeTipul. Aired as a five-night series, every episode follows a session with Dr. Weston. For today we’re looking at season three’s “Week 1: Jesse” where we meet Dane DeHaan’s character Jesse. And boy is he a testy one!

Playing an aloof New York City privileged gay teen is a balancing act: one false move and you teeter right into a stereotype. Thankfully, DeHaan is more than up to the task. His Jesse is the type of teen who mistakes his own self-awareness for introspection and the actor's cadence is spot on, every sentence oozing a put-on air of self-importance undercut by his nervous need for validation. The episode, which hints at his past troubles (selling drugs at his school) and his current unraveling (he’s just gotten a voicemail from his birth mother), are a perfect example of an LGBT character on screen whose arc is dependent but not exclusive to his sexuality. [More...]

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Wednesday
Jan132016

HBO LGBT History: 1989 Oscar Flashback Best Documentary

Last week we enjoyed the eloquent musings of one Stephen Sondheim and quibbled over whether Todd Haynes’s intentionally queasy and dizzying take on “I’m Still Here” was worth including in James Lapine’s documentary on the Broadway composer. This week we’re taking a break from our regular programming and going back in time to celebrate one of HBO’s earliest Oscar victories.

As you may or may not know, films produced by HBO have won over 20 Oscars. Last year alone, HBO dominated both documentary categories with Citizenfour and Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1 emerging victorious in their respective categories. And so, let us travel back to March 1990 when Robert Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman’s Common Threads: Stories from the Quilt (discussed here) won the Best Documentary Oscar. [More...]

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Wednesday
Jan062016

HBO’s LGBT History: Six by Sondheim (2013)

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

Last week we looked at the utterly forgettable doc The Out List which mistakes sometimes compelling interviews spliced together as enough of a premise for an entire film. While that film celebrated the visibility of coming out, implicitly praising those who wear their sexuality on their sleeves, presenting them as necessary for political activism, we focus today on a towering figure of the American musical stage whose sexuality is both an acknowledged fact but also rarely a rallying point.

You’d never refer to Stephen Sondheim as a “gay songwriter and lyricist” both because in many ways he predates that type of taxonomy but also because he exceeds it. Not that his sexuality hasn’t informed his work. He has, after all, written some of the most complex characters of the American musical theater tradition, all of whom wrestle with their own vexing and at times explicitly transgressive desires.

James Lapine’s Six By Sondheim is structured as a close study of six of the composer’s most famed songs, and only addresses his sexuality when they discuss Company a show that has long felt like a melancholy queer anthem. Perhaps that’s what one reviewer caught when he first saw the show: “As it stands now, it’s for ladies’ matinees, homos and misogynists,” wrote Variety. What emerges in Lapine’s documentary is a celebration of Sondheim — so many interviews with the composer over the years show he’s perhaps the most eloquent commentator of musical theater of the past century — but also a rather touching portrait of an older gay man looking back on his life, his relationship with his mother, and even his failed desire to be a father (“Art is the other way of having children,” he muses).

more...

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Wednesday
Dec302015

HBO’s LGBT History: The Out List (2013)

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

Last week we looked at Steven Soderbergh’s Behind the Candelabra, a horror movie of sorts which we all agreed is not as good as the sum of its talented parts. This week we look at Timothy Greenfield-Sanders’s The Out List (Watch Online), a documentary that’s easier to admire than to enjoy.

I actually hesitate in calling it a “documentary” since it’s just a collection of on-camera interviews seemingly strung together one next to the other. Thus, we spend a couple of minutes with Neil Patrick Harris as he discusses his struggles as an out actor. We then hear about Janet Mock’s decision to take up trans rights activism in earnest. We move onto Dustin Lance Black’s experience of growing up in a religious family… and so on and so forth. Each interview is its own mini-doc; the result would, presumably, be a quilted canvas of the contemporary LGBT movement. [More...]

 

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