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  • June 07, 2008

    The emasculation of Big

    Posted by: Chris

    Chrisnothbeforeafter As a gay man, I "get" the sensibility behind "Sex & The City" -- both the TV show and the movie, which we dutifully saw on opening night here in Rio last night. It was fun enough for fans, if a bit too cliché and waaaay overdone on the commercialization and conspicuous consumption.

    But the biggest problem for me was the emasculation of Big, Carrie Bradshaw's "Master of the Universe" financier who got cold feet at their wedding. Cold feet? For his third time around? He sat in his chauffered car outside the wedding as Carrie and Co. arrived pleading quietly, "Please let me see you, Carrie. Look this way." Mario Cantone showed more balls as the Nazi wedding planner.

    The ultimate blow to Big's manhood wasn't even in the script, though. It was visual. Apparently someone decided that Big needed plucked eyebrows to match those of the girls. Big's brutal tweezing of rankled me the entire film.

    It's bad enough that practically every gay man under the age of 30 (in the U.S.) has arched brows to rival RuPaul's. But Big, too? It's enough to make me keep the beard I've grown over the last week, even though it looks fairly scruffy, just out of spite. And then there's that tattoo I've had my eye on…

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    Filed in: Film

    April 05, 2008

    Leno unapologizes to Ryan Phillippe

    Posted by: Chris

    Jay Leno is trying his best to have it both ways in the flap over whether he was gay-baiting actor Ryan Phillippe during a "Tonight Show" interview.

    Leno had noted Phillippe's conservative Baptist upbringing and his first role, playing a gay teen on the soap "One Life to Live." Then Leno tried to be funny -- always a risky move on his part, if you ask me -- and said, "Give us your gayest look."  Phillippe responded, "That is so something I don't want to do. Are you just going to embarrass me tonight, or ... ?"

    Here's the clip:

    That led to a handslap from the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation for Leno's "misguided use of adolescent humor" and kudos for Phillippe from GLAAD director Neil Giuliano for refusing to take the bait.

    Leno dutifully apologized by press release, insisting, "In talking about Ryan's first role, I realize that what I said came out wrong. I certainly didn't mean any malice. I agree it was a dumb thing to say, and I apologize."

    Came out wrong? Hard to see how he was misunderstood and within days, Leno was unfiltered and unapologizing (listen here), whining about "political correctness" and the rigors of being a comic today. After all, he claims to have gay guests all the time and he never makes fun of their relationships. (I'll bet "some of his best friends are gay," too, and he invites them over for dinner and everything.)

    Woe is Jay.

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    January 24, 2008

    True grit from a great actor

    Posted by: Chris

    Heathledger_3 The tragic news of Heath Ledger's untimely death has left many of us remembering just how affected we were by his Oscar-nominated performance in "Brokeback Mountain." The movie had a singular impact on gay viewers not simply because of its high profile actors, the quality of Ang Lee's filmmaking or the emotional poignancy of the story.

    Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal convincingly portrayed the passionate heat of a real gay couple and also the heartache that comes from being driven apart by a society not ready for them. Credit author Annie Proux with the emotional complexity of the characters but Ledger and Gyllenhaal for pulling them off in a way that never came across as stereotyped or fey.

    As I thought about just how powerful those performances were in "Brokeback," it occurred to me again just how rare it is to see gay roles done so well, despite their proven career-making, Academy Award-winning potential. So I came up with my own list of the 10 best performances by straight actors portraying gay men and I've posted them in Vizu poll on the Citizen and on Gay News Watch. The polls appear randomly on both sites, but if you visit often enough you'll get the chance to vote on which one you thought was best.

    My list was obviously incomplete and likely neglects obvious choices. But here's what I came up with (in no particular order):

    • Heath Ledger, "Brokeback Mountain"
    • Jake Gyllenhaal, "Brokeback Mountain"
    • Antonio Banderas, Almodovar's "Law of Desire"
    • Daniel Day Lewis, "My Beautiful Laundrette"
    • River Phoenix, "My Own Private Idaho"
    • Michael Ontkean, "Making Love"
    • Tom Hanks, "Philadelphia"
    • Matt Damon, "Talented Mr. Ripley"
    • Will Smith, "Six Degrees of Separation"
    • Kevin Kline, "In & Out"

    Even looking at that very distinguished list, Heath Ledger stands as among the best. That his life and career were cut so short is indeed a tragic loss.

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    Filed in: Film

    August 23, 2007

    Ebert is a bigot, ol' chum

    Posted by: Chris

    Cabaret At the risk of facing revocation of my gay card, I'll admit that I saw "Cabaret" with Liza Minelli for the first time this week. Late Wednesday night on Logo, I finally saw the 1972 classic about a young American singer at the Kit Kat Club in decadent pre-WWII Berlin. For those like me who haven't seen the film, "Cabaret" revolves around a bisexual love triangle, featuring Minelli, a young British writer (Michael York) and a German aristocrat (Helmut Griem).

    Curious to see how critics viewed "Cabaret," I did a Google search during one of Logo's 15,000 commercial breaks — every one selling "Guys Gone Wild" home videos. Anyway, I came across the original review written by none other than Roger Ebert, published on Jan. 1, 1972.

    Roger_ebert You might be surprised at his take:

    "Cabaret" explores some of the same kinky territory celebrated in Visconti's "The Damned." Both movies share the general idea that the rise of the Nazi party in Germany was accompanied by a rise in bisexuality, homosexuality, sadomasochism, and assorted other activities. Taken as a generalization about a national movement, this is certainly extreme oversimplification. But taken as one approach to the darker recesses of Nazism, it may come pretty close to the mark. The Nazi gimmicks like boots and leather and muscles and racial superiority and outdoor rallies and Aryan comradeship offered an array of machismo-for-rent that had (and has) a special appeal to some kinds of impotent people.

    Nice, huh? This kind of soft bigotry is a product of the times, of course. But it's a bit surprising that Ebert and the Chicago Sun Times are still hosting this review, sans any sort of note or clarification, on their website.

    For what it's worth, I loved the movie. To me it was a story about how a culture exploring the boundaries of decadence was forced to deal with the consequences (good and bad) of its carpe diem in the midst of the Nazis' rise to power. Most of all, I finally "get" the Liza thing. Back in the day, she was an amazing talent.

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    Filed in: Film , Media

    January 15, 2007

    The mainstreaming of 'Brokeback'

    Posted by: Chris

    Nightatmuseum It seems even a "family movie" these days can include a "Brokeback Mountain" reference, though the one they slipped into Ben Stiller's "A Night at the Museum" flies below the radar of most young-uns. 

    After fighting incessantly for most of the film, miniature cowboy Jebediah (Owen Wilson) is finally bonding with miniature Roman emperor Octavius (Steve Coogan). Facing (silly) adversity, Octavius yells for Jebediah to save himself.  "No way!" Jebediah yells back. "I'm not gonna quit you!" It's a very subtle send-up, of course, of Jake Gyllenhaal's now-classic line in "Brokeback," when he says to Heath Ledger, "I wish I knew how to quit you." 

    Not surprisingly, it was completely lost on the youngish , mostly local crowd who saw the film last night with my boyfriend and me in Leblon, a ritzy beach neighborhood in Rio De Janeiro.  Then again, my guffaw is usually the only one in the cinema down here when the joke depends on American pop culture references.  A trailer before the film for "The Simpsons" new movie finds Homer swinging helplessly on a wrecking ball between a big rock and a building…with a bar…called "The Hard Place." The Brazilian translators, who usually don't miss a detail in the subtitles, didn't even attempt to explain that bit of visual pun.

    I would be curious to hear if the adults back home in the States are catching the "Brokeback" joke from "A Night at the Museum."

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    December 28, 2006

    Our pecking order

    Posted by: Chris

    Omidabtahi For those of you keeping track at home, this little nugget from the Dec. 19 issue of the Advocate should confirm where we stand in the Islamic pecking order of things.  Apparently, somewhere below "terrorist":

    In Showtime's second installment of the "Sleeper Cell" miniseries, Iranian-American actor Omid Abtahi plays Salim, a closeted gay terrorist. …

    What reaction do you think Salim — and his gay sex scene — will receive from Muslims?  I can't imagine it being too positive.  In Islam being gay is one of the worst things — it's so bad, it's not even in the Koran. …

    What have you heard from friends and family? 
    When I explained the complexity of the character, a lot of people were supportive.  But my father said, "I'm glad, but don't expect me to watch it.

    That's right, that some people twist the teachings of the Koran such that they engage in the killing of innocents doesn't upset Islamic viewers, including even an actor's father, as much as the idea that one of these terrorists might be gay.

    On the one hand, it's depressing to think the worldview of so many could be so twisted.  On the other there is a weird sense of power — that our lives and our insistence on living as we choose has such a  subversive impact at an obviously fundamental level.

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    Filed in: Film

    November 28, 2006

    The joke's not on you, Austria

    Posted by: Chris

    BrunoUPDATE: More Bruno naughtiness, this time with straight spring breakers in Daytona Beach, follows the jump.

    Austrian tourist marketers are quaking in their jackboots about how a flaming queen named Bruno might smear the country's reputation among potential visitors. Bruno is actually Sasha Baron Cohen, whose Borat character put Kazakhstan on the map, and not in a good way.

    Universal Studios announced that Borat will be succeeded by Bruno "a gay, stupid, self- centered and Nazi-adoring Austrian, lifestyle journalist." Bruno works along the same lines as Baron Cohen's alter ego Borat Sagdiyev from "Da Ali G Show." Both show alarming dress sense, misbehave unscrupulously and provoke even more embarrassing reactions from their unsuspecting, but often not undeserving victims.

    Bruno hosts "Funkyzeit mit Brueno (Funky Time with Brueno)" on a fictional Austrian TV channel, conducts interviews on fashion, celebrities and homosexuality. Needless to say, disaster is never far behind, once Bruno starts torturing interviewees in his faux-German accent.

    If the Bruno sequel follows the lead of Borat's original, the Austrians don't have too much to worry about. In "Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan," the segments in Kazakhstan were over-the-top characterizations that were clearly staged with willing participants (who weren't even in Kazakhstan). It came off as a silly spoof of what we Westerners think places like Kazakhstan must be like.

    The same can't be said for the good ole U.S. of A. Cohen stayed in character as Borat and interacted with red-blooded Americans who for the most part had no idea they were part of a comedy. Borat caught many of these Americans reflecting absolutely the worst of our society: racism, sexism, wacky speaking-in-tongues church worshipers, snotty politicians and on and on.

    No word yet whether Cohen is unleashing Bruno on America, or sticking to Europe for his victims. But if this clip of Bruno from "Da Ali G Show," interviewing a Christian minister from my own hometown of Little Rock, Ark.,  is any indication, it's the Americans again who will be wincing (or should be):

    No doubt the gay version of Austrian tourist marketers — the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation — will be watching Bruno's stereotyping.  I hope they keep their sense of humor. Cohen's targets are generally the proudly ignorant and prejudiced, and gay culture certainly offers some examples of that. But my guess is that, like Kazakhs, gays and Austrians will come in for some over-the-top tweaking, while the real daggers are out for red-white-and-blue bigotry.

    For more Bruno hilarity, follow the jump:

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    November 24, 2006

    Making family

    Posted by: Chris

    I got a few reminders over the holiday yesterday about how we gay men make our own families, whether or not we're in relationships. I spent the day in Washington, thousands of miles from my partner in Brazil. Although Thanksgiving of course has no special meaning for him, he sent me a sweet online card and we talked several times by Internet telephone (we give thanks to Skype!).

    During one stretch of afternoon, I drifted off into a daydream, one I've had many times before, of him  here with me, maybe smuggled in my suitcase. I know how silly that sounds, but the subconscious takes its own course.

    LongtimecompanionI was reminded of that fantasy later, as I watched the closing scene from "Longtime Companion." I found the film on my TiVo, recorded a year earlier, and had decided to see it (for the first time).

    Released in 1990, "Longtime Companion" was one of the first "AIDS movies," and it effectively drew you back to the fear and loss that filled the decade of the 1980s for gay men. At the end, when the original group of seven friends has dwindled to three, they imagine what it would be like if a cure for the virus was discovered, and they could celebrate with all their lost friends. As silly as it sounds, it is a devastating scene. I defy you to watch it without tears.

    These men created a family of friends, boyfriends and partners — longtime companions, as the New York Times deigned to refer to them in obituaries — and they stuck by each other as blood families do. Some were still supported by blood relatives, others were turned away, but as the character Willy (Campbell Scott) describes in a memorial service for his friend David (Bruce Davison), their friendship circles were welcoming and unshakeable.

    AIDS is still with us, of course, and still kills. I learned this month that Dennis Vercher, the longtime editor of the Dallas Voice, recently passed away from complications from the virus. He was only 53. But even without the trauma of weekly memorial services, there's still evidence of how we make our families. I counted a half-dozen "orphan" dinners for Thanksgiving yesterday, just among the folks I know. These meals are usually hosted by a close set of friends that then widen their net, inviting anyone and everyone unable or not wanting to return home to see family for the holiday.

    With so many lost to AIDS and the advent of new drugs, the disease and a united response to it are not so ingrained into the consciousness of those who came out in the last five to 10 years. That's a good thing, of course, because no generation should have to endure such horror, whether from epidemic or war. But these wonderful "orphan meals" on Thanksgiving and Christmas are a welcome reminder of how much we gain from our opening up our circle of friends, our chosen families, to the larger community.

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