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 Gemini, Cinephile, Actressexual. Also loves cats. All material herein is written and copyrighted by him, unless otherwise noted. twitter | facebook | pinterest | tumblr | instagram | letterboxd | deviantart 

 

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Entries in HBO (49)

Wednesday
Aug262015

HBO’s LGBT History: The Wire, Carnivàle & The Sopranos

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

Last week we talked about the towering achievement that was Angels in America, and reading everyone’s pieces about the Mike Nichols/Tony Kushner miniseries for last week’s Hit Me With Your Best Shot was a treat. Angels was the clearest example yet of HBO’s commitment complex, fully fleshed-out (mostly male, yes) LGBT characters. It wasn’t, of course, as we have seen these past few months, out of character. Indeed, by looking at three testosterone-driven TV series we’ll see how by the mid-2000s HBO had all but become a one-stop shop for fully-realized LGBT characters.

Continuing what we did when we revisited Six Feet Under, I figured we’d focus on one episode per series, both as a way to focus the discussion but also as a way of making it accessible to fellow newbies. That said, I’m eager to hear from die-hard fans of any of these shows.

The Wire - “Old Cases” (June 23, 2002)

It was through compiling this very very long list of 100 Queer Characters of Color in TV and Film, that I came to learn of Omar Little and detective Shakima Greggs. Yes, I know, I know, The Wire is supposed to be brilliant but I’ve yet to sit down through its 60 episode run. Much in the same vein as Oz, The Sopranos and other early HBO dramas, The Wire takes it upon itself to not only present engaging narratives to hook viewers, but it does so while also speaking of the larger socio-economic ills that afflict contemporary America. Centered on the drug scene in Baltimore through the eyes of law enforcement and drug dealers, the show constantly asks us to question the larger systemic issues that riddle Baltimore’s projects.

more on all three shows after the jump...

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Wednesday
Aug192015

HMWYBS: Angels in America (2003)

What follows is a republishing of a piece I'm proud of from our very first season of Hit Me With Your Best Shot (you can see the index of all six seasons here) when I was somehow far more concise with "Best Shot" despite feeling like I was overdoing it. I've added in notes and links for contributions from other Best Shot participants and I'd like to thank Manuel heartily before we begin for his fascinating contextual work on HBO's long history of LGBT films and series this summer and for sharing this week's HBO LGBT episode with us for our redo episode of this Great Work. Read that piece before you read this. Ready? Let's begin...

Tony Kushner's extraordinary two part stage epic Angels in America centers around two overlapping young couples in the mid 80s, struggling married Mormons, pill popping Harper and her closeted husband Joe and the gay couple Louis and Prior they become connected spiritually (Harper befriends Prior... in her dreams) and physically (Joe becomes Louis's other lover). But it's also about politics, immigration, religion, identity, and evolution and encompasses multiple other characters from Louis's outspoken gay friend Belize, to Joe's mother, to the evil lawyer Roy Cohn, the dead Communist Ethel Rosenberg, and a frequently orgasmic Angel who descends on many of the players. This masterpiece was adapted for the screen in 2003 by Oscar winner Mike Nichols. Along its journey it won 7 Tonys, The Pulitzer, and later 5 Golden Globes and 11 Emmys and here's the thing: it deserved every single prize. If you haven't seen it drop everything (seriously everything) because it is unmissable. I've seen it performed on stage three times in three different states with wildly different budgets and casts and seen the miniseries a few times too... and every single time it's a fascinating prismatic living thing, like it will always be teaching you, entertaining you, and provoking you.

Rather than limit myself to one shot I'm picking one from each of its chapter. This I can manage!

Chapter 1 "Bad News"

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Wednesday
Aug192015

HBO’s LGBT History: Angels in America (2003)

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

Last week we looked at Gus Van Sant Palme d’Or winner, Elephant, which sparked some great conversations about the merits of that one shower scene. I’ll say this: that so many of us had such visceral reactions to his film is in itself worth celebrating. Also, from hate crimes to gender transitions to mass shootings, was HBO ahead of the curve or are we merely being shown how little has changed in this past decade?

This week we tackle Tony Kushner and Mike Nichols’ groundbreaking miniseries, Angels in America. It took Kushner’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play close to ten years to make it on screen. Beginning as a Robert Altman two-part TV movie (with rumored roles for Julia Roberts, Daniel Day-Lewis, Robert Downey Jr. and Tim Robbins), later being offered to such varied directors as PJ Hogan, Neil LaBute, Jonathan Demme, and Gus Van Sant himself, HBO eventually stepped in and handed Mike Nichols Kushner’s miniseries script. The rest, as they say, is history. And since this is such a momentous piece of television history, we’re hosting it as a Hit Me With Your Best Shot celebration. (Later tonight, you can see Nathaniel's choices and those from other participants)

First my runner-up:

Orgasm as heavenly combustion. Lesbianism as holy communion. Emma and Meryl. There are so many things to love about this image (I love Hannah Pitt’s commitment to keeping her shoes on, for example), and it’s in a way a companion piece to my all-time favorite moment in the series.

My favorite shot: (and yes, I know it's cliché)

A New York City apartment. Amidst the Reaganite politics of the United States in the late 80s, former drag queen Prior Walter, a recently diagnosed AIDS patient, has been left by his partner Louis and finds himself all alone with fevers, sores, night sweats, visions of ancestral messengers, heavenly echoes of prophecy and the coming of an Angel. So ends “The Messenger” the third episode of the HBO miniseries (ie. the end of Millennium Approaches, the first half of Kushner’s play). By the start of Perestroika, and upon retelling his encounter with the female Angel to his friend Belize, Prior can’t help but remark that: “The sexual politics of this are very confusing.” The scene as written on the page is breathtaking. In Nichols’ hands it’s heavenly.

It’s not just that this shot is beautiful, though it is what with those yellow hues, the gorgeously frayed roof, and Thompson’s pearly white Angel costume. For me, it’s one of the moments where Kushner’s own “pared down” style of Brechtian theatricality, and Nichols’ commitment to naturalism find a perfect balance. This “Gay Fantasia on National Themes” lives and dies in its tonal shifts, being both a gay melodrama (with its breakups, divorces, sex romps) and a feverish day-dream (with its angels, ghosts, sex romps). This one scene, with the Angel announcing that “The Great Work begins” is the apotheosis of both, underscoring both Prior’s loneliness and increasingly loose connection with the world around him after losing Louis, and highlighting the fantastical elements of Kushner’s script which connect the AIDS plague with issues of movement, migration, faith, and humanity. If the human race is to survive, they must stop. Stop moving. Stop wanting. Stop desiring. And perhaps more importantly, stop having sex. The allegory is both blunt and nuanced. By the end of the piece, Prior says he desires more life,

It just... It just... We can’t just stop. We’re not rocks - progress, migration, motion is... modernity. It’s animate, it’s what living things do. We desire. Even if all we desire is stillness, it’s still desire for. Even if we go faster than we should. We can’t wait.

I also love the framing; with its wide angle, it’s almost like we’re watching a stage (bonus: note Prior’s actressexual altar in the corner!) and while Thompson’s angel (a bemused bird-like creature) crashes the scene, you can almost see the wires showing (“and maybe it’s good that they do,” Kushner’s playwright notes point out). It’s not surprising this was used as the main image in the promo materials for the miniseries (it’s even the DVD cover!) as it so embodies the duality that so defines this piece: ethereal and corporeal, the heavenly and the earthly; heck, even the gay and the straight. Yes, the Angel and Prior copulate, but it’s as queer a configuration as one could ask for (“she has eight vaginas” we’re told). Yes, the sexual politics are very confusing. For they have to be. This is a messy, sprawling piece whose ragged edges merely mirror the fragmented world it is trying to depict and, in turn, change.

 Fun Awards Fact: In 2004, Angels in America broke the record for most Emmys awarded to a single program (11 of 21 nominations), a record then held by another landmark work on minority representation: ABC’s 1977 Roots: The Saga of an American Family. That record was later broken again in 2008 by another HBO megahit: Tom Hooper’s John Addams. You’ll take solace in knowing that Hooper himself lost the Emmy to Nichols in 2004 (where the former was nominated for Prime Suspect 6) and to Jay Roach (for Recount) in 2008.

Next week: We pause again on HBO’s television output by looking at three LGBT characters from three of HBO’s most talked-about television shows: The Sopranos, The Wire and Carnivàle (You can stream episodes of each on HBO Go and Amazon Prime). Any fans of these dark dramas? 

Wednesday
Aug122015

HBO’s LGBT History: Elephant (2003)

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

Last week we praised Tom Wilkinson and Jessica “Patron Saint of Hand Acting” Lange in the 2003 trans film, Normal, which feels oddly timely what with I Am Cait, and Transparent covering similar territory a dozen years later. This week we look at the Diane Keaton (!) produced film, Elephant, Gus Van Sant’s fictional take on the Columbine High School massacre.

Using mostly non-professional actors and featuring dizzying long-takes to make you feel the passing of time leading up to the horrific events at a high school in Portland, the film is not immediately or easily catalogued as an “LGBT” film, but it makes for a fascinating entry into our long-running project, given both its director and its oblique treatment of homosexuality. [More...]

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Sunday
Aug092015

Say What? Law & Keaton in "The Young Pope"

Manuel here, sharing a hilarious set of pics from historic Villa Pamphili in Rome.

click to embiggen

Add dialogue or caption: What do you think is happening in these behind-the-scenes pics of Paolo Sorrentino’s Jude Law-led HBO show, The Young Pope? Is Diane Keaton auditioning for a Sister Act spinoff?

Is Law just as amused as we are by his casting as a celibate pope?

 

Wednesday
Aug052015

HBO’s LGBT History: Normal (2003)

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

Last week we looked at Moisés Kaufman’s adaptation of his own play, The Laramie Project, based on the aftermath of the Matthew Shepard murder in the small town of Laramie, Wyoming. I raved about Laura Linney’s bit scene, continuing an unexpected but welcome line of actressy write-ups that this project has allowed. You see back when I envisioned this project, I worried we’d be stuck talking solely about gay men-driven stories and male actors for months, but looking back, it turns out we’ve talked about Stockard Channing, Lily Tomlin, Glenn Close, Angelina Jolie, Vanessa Redgrave and Michelle Williams! Not too shabby considering gay men have been at the center of more than half the titles we’ve looked at. This week, we continue to add another acting goddess to our list as we reach our first main trans storyline in an HBO production in Jane Anderson’s Normal.

More after the jump...

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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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