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The Film Experience™ was created by Nathaniel R


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

 

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Entries in LGBT (278)

Saturday
May232015

Stage Door: "Little Wars" 

If I were a blurb whore I might start this article with:

"If you liked... 

Julia (1977), The Children's Hour (1961), The Little Foxes (1941), Corey Stoll & Kathy Bates as Ernest Hemingway & Gertrude Stein in Midnight in Paris (2011), and Jennifer Jason Leigh as Dorothy Parker in Mrs Parker and the Vicious Circle

...than you'll love Little Wars"

But I am not a blurb whore. At least not most of the time. But I do think you'll love Little Wars

Here's a beautiful problem with theater (and smallish movies, too): there's more good stuff than anyone can possibly see. And also, sometimes, depending on promotional budgets and media pedigree or lack thereof in both cases, more good stuff that we sometimes ever hear about. I refuse to be a part of that problem so I blog from the missionary zeal of great entertainments. One of the reasons The Film Experience takes detours to theater and TV and books is that all of the storytelling playgrounds inform and cross-pollinate.

Gertrude Stein and Alice B Toklas are the focus of "Little Wars"Which brings us to "Little Wars," one of five works by a very promising young playwright Steven Carl McCasland who I hadn't even heard of until last week. (The five plays run in repertory through May 31st so there's only 4 more chances to see this one). I bring it to your attention because it's entirely affordable ($18 a ticket) and it's an actressexual's delight.

Little Wars riffs on iconic people and though that device can sometimes prove gimmicky (consider that wobbly first season of Penny Dreadful or any number of tacky riffs on "public domain" characters), it's also responsible for great works of art (case in point: The Hours, fictional but inspired by Virginia Woolf's 'whole life in a single day' work on Mrs. Dalloway). McCasland's play happily falls much closer towards the latter pile of fictions. It imagines a 1940 evening inside the Parisian salon of Gertrude Stein (Polly McKie) & Alice B Toklas (Penny Lynn White), then "radical lesbians" -- radical because they were out -- who've invited "The Great Agatha Christie" (Kim Rogers) to dinner... liquid dinner nat'ch. Things don't go as planned since there's an unexpected visitor who goes by "Mary" (Kristen Gehling), a secretive housemaid (Samantha Hoefer) and Christie really disrupts the plans by bringing along Dorothy Parker (Dorothy Weems) and playwright Lillian Hellman (Kimberly Faye Greenberg). Initially just hearing these famous accomplished characters (who did know each other in real life though the play is fictional) verbally spar, boast, and drink like fish is entertaining enough but as the play progresses, organic drama emerges involving differences of opinion about art, the Nazi threat, marriages (gay and straight), and survival through wars large and small.

McKie and White anchor the play with fairly miraculous specificity as the odd (lifelong) couple at its center but most of the women are given at least one shining moment or two in McCasland's generous ensemble writing. I wanted a clearer picture of Dorothy Parker's famous wit, she mostly seems sad and drunk, but there was more than enough to compensate elsewhere. Familiarity with their collective works or previous biopics will undoubtedly aid your enjoyment -- especially if you've seen The Children's Hour (1961) and Oscar favorite Julia (1977) -- but the play is strong enough to stand on its own as a fascinating and unexpectedly moving collision of voices at a pivotal moment in history. 

Kim Rogers as Agatha Christie in "Little Wars" © Samantha Mercado Tudda

P.S. an 'it's a small-world' bonus for readers of The Film Experience. The actress playing Agatha Christie, Kim Rogers (no relation), is a longtime fan of The Film Experience -- we'd never previously met but we talked after the show.

Wednesday
May202015

HBO’s LGBT History: Tidy Endings (1988)

Manuel is working his way through all the LGBT-themed films and miniseries produced and distributed by HBO.

Last week we gave a brief overview of the purpose of this small miniseries and we went down memory lane as we reminisced about our favorite LGBT characters from HBO TV shows. All of your comments made me want to pop in episodes of The Wire, The Comeback, Oz, Sex and the City, The Larry Sanders Show, Game of Thrones and True Blood, even! Unsurprisingly, though, most of you singled out Six Feet Under’s David Fisher (Michael C. Hall), definitely one of the most well-rounded gay men that has ever graced our television screens. How appropriate then that we officially kick off the series with a death and a metaphorical haunting.

Tidy Endings (1988)
Directed by: Gavin Millar
Written by: Harvey Fierstein
Starring: Stockard Channing, Harvey Fierstein.

By 1988, when HBO first aired Tidy Endings, its first gay-themed TV film, the cable network was still in the process of breaking away from being merely another cable provider. After successfully building from its subscriber base in Pennsylvania and New York by becoming one of the first cable providers to transmit their signals via satellites in 1975, HBO entered the 1980s understanding that while Hollywood reruns were its bread and butter, it would need to create its own content if it wanted to distance itself from other rising networks like Showtime and The Movie Channel. [MORE]

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Monday
May182015

Review: Bessie 

TFE's newest contributor Angelica Jade Bastién on HBO's latest biopic

For over two decades Queen Latifah has been trying to bring the life of Bessie Smith, the legendary "Empress of the Blues" who found success in the 1920s and 1930s, to the screen. Despite Bessie's life being a perfect mix of glamour and tragedy that seems tailor made for a biopic I'm not surprised it has taken Latifah this long to bring her story to life. Bessie Smith (Queen Latifah) is a rough hewn, country, bisexual, and passionate broad. The film doesn't sand off her edges or shy away from her contradictions instead it embraces them. Bessie tracks the legend from her early days as a singer with her older brother/manager, Clarence (Tory Kittles) always in her corner to the Great Depression when all her personal and professional success falters. 

Anyone familiar with women's pictures knows the emotional terrain Bessie is covering. But what makes this women's picture downright transgressive is its sympathetic,multi-layered portrayal of black queer desire...

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Sunday
May172015

Cannes Review: Carol

Our friend Diana Drumm is in Cannes and will be sending a few reviews our way. First up, Todd Haynes hotly anticipated Carol... (note: this review contains a couple of spoilers for those who haven't read the book)

Within a year of publication, Patricia Highsmith’s first novel “Strangers on a Train” became a seminal Hitchcock thriller. After half a century, her second novel “The Price of Salt” (published under the pseudonym of Claire Morgan) is now a Todd Haynes romantic drama (under the succinct title Carol). Whereas the former concerns two male strangers duplicitous in murder, the latter is about two women finding love in constrictive 1952 New York City. Turning the pulp novel into a palpable parable, Carol is a master stroke in Haynes’s 21st century oeuvre (Far from Heaven, Mildred Pierce, et al.), and harkens back to the pressurized strength of Safe and the sexual fluidity of Velvet Goldmine - both capturing and throwing off the starched restrictiveness of postwar America, and deftly upgrading the melodrama with social relevance.

Inspired by Highsmith’s own stint at Macy’s (and her affair with Philadelphia socialite Virginia Kent Catherwood), 20-something shopgirl Therese Belivet (Rooney Mara) waits on and is struck by elegant “blondish woman in a fur coat” Carol Aird (Cate Blanchett). A friendship builds between the two, to the jealousy of Therese’s huffy square boyfriend (Jake Lacy), who dismisses it as schoolgirl crush, and the consternation of Carol’s matinee-handsome, soon-to-be ex-husband (Kyle Chandler), who uses it as ammunition in their ongoing divorce negotiations. [More]

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Saturday
May162015

'Cate Blanchett Will Slay You'

Next Season on the WB This Season at Cannnes: Cate, the Cinephile Slayer

It's not really "news" per se to share the information that Cate Blanchett has won another round of extravagantly positive reviews for a performance; that's kind of her thing, and habitual happenings aren't news. But the early round of Carol reviews are in and everyone loves it. 

 The adaptation of Patricia Highsmith's novel "Carol" (or "The Price of Salt" depending on when it was published) about a married woman (Cate Blanchett) carrying on with a younger shopgirl (Rooney Mara) has been our Most Awaited feature for two years running in our annual We Can't Wait series. It's been EIGHT YEARS since Todd Haynes had a movie out. To prevent overhyping, I'm not going to fully read any reviews but here are some blurb whore quotes that could sell tickets whenever they decide to release the movie.  My gut says December and I'm not happy about waiting that long:

And the acting slays you: Cate Blanchett, especially, somehow leaps over her own highest standards with a subtlety that’s little short of phenomenal.
-The Telegraph 

A superbly realised companion piece to his 50s Sirkian drama Far From Heaven... creamily sensuous, richly observed."
-The Guardian

The success of the material ultimately rests on the formidable strength of its actresses, both credibly buried in their roles."
-Indiewire 

Carol is both a beautiful miniature and a majestic romance"
-The Wrap 

Oscar Trivia For the Road...
The last time Cate indulged in the lesbian angst subgenre she was the younger woman and she and her co-star were both Oscar-nominated as were the Screenplay & Score. Coincidentally the last time Todd Haynes had a real Oscar hit, the film also received 4 nominations and also lost each of its categories. Will history repeat itself? Against my better judgment I skimmed several reviews and frequent mentions of the films "quiet" and "restraint" and "careful pacing" don't make it any kind of Oscar slam dunk, but then again Oscar is only icing. What's more important is this --  new Todd Haynes cake! 

Wednesday
May132015

HBO’s LGBT History: The Beginning

Manuel here kicking off a mini-series of sorts focusing on HBO's decades-old commitment to telling quality LGBT stories. I spent much of this spring recapping Looking here at The Film Experience and as polarizing as many (both here and elsewhere) found the show, it remained the sole American television show centered on the gay male experience to air last year. As we all know, shortly after the season 2 finale, HBO understandably pulled the plug; the show garnered a mere 0.298 million viewers for that episode, a mere pittance when compared to their Westeros-set hit, but also nearly half of what Lena Dunham’s show metered that same evening. And so, to fill the void and build up to a very gay-friendly upcoming HBO film roster (Queen Latifah’s Bessie, that rumored Matt Bomer/Montgomery Clift biopic, the Looking wrap-up film), we’re diving headfirst into a crafting an oral LGBT history of the network that gave us Patrick, Richie, Kevin, Agustin, and Dom, but which had clearly paved the way for such a show with a long storied list of LGBT stories even before it became the ratings giant it is now.

To say HBO, as a cable provider, as a television network, and as an independent film producer, has changed the media landscape is perhaps a bit of an understatement. Its long-running tagline, “It’s not TV, it’s HBO” spoke to the core of what has made HBO such an institution. Despite various attempts at replicating its successes, HBO remains staunchly and idiosyncratically itself. Netflix and Amazon may be sniping at its heels but with a bucket load of Emmys, a gigantic and zeitgesty fantasy series on hand, and its new streaming service (anyone sign up for HBO Now, yet?), the cable giant is showing no signs of aging.

[Angels in America and Your Requested Participation after the jump...]

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