Kristen Stewart comes out

TEEN WOLF | Purse-lipped Bella (Kristen Stewart) strings along ab-fab Jacob (Taylor Lautner) in ‘Eclipse.’

Sorry, Jacob, Bella has eyes for a less hairy sort.

Kristen Stewart, who as the sulky Bella in the Twilight Saga was encouraged to choose either Team Edward or Team Jacob, has let it officially be known: She’s Team Esme. Well, not necessarily Esme, but the boys no longer stand a chance. The actress — who is currently giving her best performance to date in the Woody Allen film Cafe Society — told Elle that she is currently in a same-sex relationship with movie producer Alicia Cargile. “I’m just really in love with my girlfriend,” she told the magazine.

Stewart has been something of a lightning rod of criticism. She started her career as a child (co-starring alongside Jodie Foster in Panic Room) and shot to fame in Twilight, but has been seen as something of a sourpuss, both in her performances and in dealing with the press — she’s notably private. Until now.

She’ll next be seen in Ang Lee’s highly-anticipated Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, which is set in Dallas.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

WATCH: ‘Real Time with Bill Maher’ at the Dems

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

The politics of hope: Bill Clinton at the podium

Jones, Arnold WayneI’ve decided there are only two reasons anyone votes anymore. One if fear. And one is inspiration.

The fear side can be powerful. There’s a lot to fear in the big bad world — not the least of which, in my opinion, is the thought of a planet where Donald Trump is president. It’s a legitimate thing, fear: Part of the human fight-or-flight instinct. It can protect us.

But then there are irrational fears — fears that prey on us with suspicion, exaggeration, even falsehoods. You’re more likely as an American in America to be killed by an asteroid than by an ISIS attack. Not all illegal immigrants are Mexican, or even “sneak” over the border. No one wants to ban all handguns. Christianity it not, I assure you, “under attack.”

But after watching the entirety of the Republican National Convention last week, I saw day after day or fear, trotted out like the inevitable result of progressive politics. Many of the claims were all but fact-free. And night after night after night, the reason was Hillary Clinton. Chris Christie, who should know better, even held a kangaroo court in which he had the assembled “convict” Hillary based on his “evidence” that smacked of the Salem Witch Trials; all that was missing was a burning effigy. (They haven’t been able to get legitimate law enforcement to make a charge stick, so that’s all that’s left.) I found it all itchily distasteful. And not because I’m a Democrat (in presidential politics, I have voted for two Republicans, three Dems and three independents) or even a great Hillary supporter. But because I’m an American. Hatred isn’t my go-to. Ah well. That’s politics.

The RNC actually told media that days 1 and 2 of the convention would be anti-Hillary, and the last two days pro-Trump. That never really materialized. Even Trump’s acceptance speech — for all its narcissistic bloviating — could not help but attack his opponent’s character, record, judgment. (This from a man on four bankruptcies and three marriages; Hillary has had the same spouse for 40 years.)

But political conventions only come around every four years; it’s easy to forget the last one, except for moments (Clint Eastwood talking to a chair, “poor George” Bush, born “with a silver foot in his mouth”). Maybe that’s always the tone, even for both parties.

And then comes the revelation that it’s not the way it has to be.

I’ve never voted for any Clinton — not in a primary, not in a general. Never campaigned for one, nor donated money to one. (It’s one reason the Bernie or Bust folks irritate me — who really wants to “bust” the presidency out of ego?) But even so, I have never denied Bill Clinton’s power as a public speaker — how could you? And last night, when I saw his address, I was reminded not just why he’s a great communicator, but why politics can be about inspiring people. About encouraging us with hope, not fear.

The structure was a master class of rhetoric. He mentioned nine states by name, each time eliciting hoots from the assembled delegates, but he smoothly soldiered on with his encomium. (Side note: Last week, Trump released a campaign ad that said only that his speech was 75 minutes, that he got 24 minutes of applause, and then did the math — cuz, ya know, his supporters… — that one-third of the speech was applause. How sad that he gains self worth from that.) Bill painted pictures with words, vividly. He made Hillary seem more human (and humane) than any ad has ever done.

But best of all, he drew a sharp contrast with the Republicans — not just in his portrait of Hillary, who was demonized to the point of caricature by the GOP, but in his style of speech and his off-handed emphasis on the value of public service in a candidacy. Now, I understand “political speech” and selected emphasis. But I can’t recall a single speaker at the RNC who said anything about trump that wasn’t wholly focused on either “he knows how to run a business/create jobs” or “he’s nicer in private than he seems.” I mean that quite literally. What was I missing from the GOP convention? Not just specifics, but any portrayal of Trump as someone who has put others first in his life. Things he’s accomplished that didn’t have a dollar sign in front of them.

Not so with the Hillary who Bill shared. His version was caring, outward-thinking, diligent, public-minded. He elevated rather than tore down. Every day of the RNC show was Bash Hillary Day. But Trump’s name has barely been mentioned these past two days.

It doesn’t have to be. Bill made the case not for voting against someone, but why supporting their candidate is good for America. Trump was never going to get my vote. I didn’t have to be persuaded to support the opposition, whoever that opposition was. But I’ve gotta say, last night Bill convinced me to cast my first vote for a Clinton — and not as a protest, or a compromise, but because I was swayed that she has what it takes to lead. I’ve never used the hasgtag #ImWithHer, but I do now — and with full gusto.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

How good was Michelle Obama’s speech last night?

Screen shot 2016-07-26 at 9.09.20 AMSo good, Republicans’ wives are already planning to crib from it in 2020.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

PHOTOS: Impulse’s Down to Float 2 party

The second annual Down to Float 2 party took place Saturday, with hundreds of guests cheering on a performance by AB Soto, a fashion show (including a boy-dragged Alyssa Edwards) and beats from DJ Brandon Moses. If you attended, I hope you said hi! If you didn’t, this is what you missed.

 

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Cocktail Friday: Here’s to National Tequila Day!

Picante de la Casa Spicy MargaritaSunday is National Tequila Day, and in Texas, that’s kinda a big deal. So here’s a recipe that you can whip up to celebrate.

2 oz. Cazadores Tequila

1 oz. fresh lime juice

¾ oz. agave nectar

12 cilantro leaves

1 sprig for garnish

1/4 in. piece of a Fresno chile pepper

2 rings of Fresno chile pepper for garnish

Making it: Muddle tequila, lime juice, agave, cilantro leaves and piece of chile in a cocktail shaker. Add ice and shake vigorously; strain into a rocks glass filled with ice. Garnish with cilantro sprig and chile rings.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Dallas Voice’s Tuesday Big Movie lineup at the Magnolia Theatre

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‘Chinatown’

Landmark’s Magnolia Theatre’s weekly Big Movie New Classic Series, sponsored by Dallas Voice, screens a different classic film each Tuesday at 7:30 and 10 p.m. This quarter’s lineup is filled with amazing Oscar winners:

Aug. 9: Now, Voyager. One of Bette Davis’ best weepers, a masterful romance with Paul Henreid lighting two cigarettes with one match. Its score (by Max Steiner) won an Oscar.

Aug. 16: Death on the Nile. Bette Davis, 36 years after Now, Voyager, in this humdinger of a mystery, set on a glamour boat in the 1930s. An Oscar for its costumes.

Aug. 23: Fantastic Voyage. Raquel Welsh, shrunk to microscopic level, still has enormous boobs in exciting sci-fi adventure, which won an Oscar for special effects.

Aug. 30: Victor/Victoria. Blake Edwards’ comedy about a cabaret singer who becomes a drag queen; antics ensue. Its song score won an Oscar.

Sept. 6: Network. Probably the greatest satire of all-time, this vicious twisting of the news culture turned out to be unnervingly predictive. Winner of four Oscars: actor, actress, supporting actress and original screenplay.

Sept. 13: Touch of Evil. The last great film noir picture (a trend that began with 1942’s The Maltese Falcon) is also Orson Welles’ last true masterpiece of fiction (his documentary F for Fake was his last great film). The opening tracking shot is legendary.

Sept. 20: Monty Python and the Holy Grail. The British comedy troupe’s unquestioned masterpiece, a parody of crusade films.

Sept. 27: A Place in the Sun. Montgomery Clift and Elizabeth Taylor forged one of the great Hollywood friendships on this Oscar winner for best director, a somber adaptation of Dreiser’s novel An American Tragedy.

Oct. 4: Jules et Jim. One of Truffaut’s early French nouvelle vague films, about the delicate relationship between two men, both in love with the same woman.

Oct. 11: High Noon. Fred Zinnemann’s Oscar-winning triumph of control, a real-time Western in which a lone marshal defends his town against outlaws arriving on the noon train to murder him.

Oct. 18: Chinatown. Sixteen years after Touch of Evil, Roman Polanski helped usher in the genre of neo-noir in this mystery set in 1930s L.A., with Jack Nicholson as a private detective who uncovers a horrible truth. The screenplay won an Oscar.

Oct. 25: The Haunting. The quintessential haunted house thriller.

Arnold Wayne Jones

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 22, 2016.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Everyone’s a critic

Uptown Players’ farce ‘It’s Only a Play’ lets fly a whirlwind of laughter

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Cara Statham-Serber, B.J. Cleveland and Chamblee Ferguson await a make-or-break review in the backstage farce “It’s Only a Play.’ (Photo by Mike Morgan)

ARNOLD WAYNE JONES  | Executive Editor
jones@dallasvoice.com

“I don’t read reviews.”

Oh, how many times I’ve heard that one. Almost as many as my reviews have been excerpted, or I’ve been thanked for my kind comments, or excoriated for my “jackass” opinions.

“Don’t read reviews.” Sheeesh. And Hillary doesn’t care about polls.

Screen Shot 2016-07-21 at 9.51.06 AMLet’s face it: Basic human ego craves feedback from other humans. “Does this dress make me look fat?” “Was I the first?” “Did you like my Instagram pic? I’ll like yours.” Some people take reviews as constructive criticism to find room to improve. Some think of them as part of the business part of show business. And some — Terrence McNally, for instance, with It’s Only a Play, now at the Kalita Humphreys — treat them as the basis for creativity. And maybe a little revenge.

Although not a new play — McNally wrote it back in the 1980s, after an apparent falling out with Nathan Lane — this version of It’s Only a Play made its Broadway debut last year: Updated, smoothed over (Lane starred in it) and sharpened. It’s the Inside Baseball of theater contrivances. It’s opening night of a new American play, The Golden Egg, and members of the company are gathering in the bedroom of the show’s producer, Julia Budder (Cara Statham-Serber).

There’s a lot riding on the show: it’s the Broadway debut of playwright Peter Austin (Chamblee Ferguson) whose work has kept him busy in regional theater without a mainstream hit. He’s assembled a promising team, including Oscar winning actress Virginia Noyes (Shannon McGrann) trying to polish her tarnished rep as an addict; and celebrated British director Frank Finger (Luke Longacre). All that’s missing from the lineup is Austin’s best friend James Wicker (B.J. Cleveland), who turned down the leading role, ostensibly because he couldn’t get out of his long-running sitcom, but actually because the thinks the script for The Golden Egg is a piece of shit.

But who will New York Times theater critic Ben Brantley agree with? That’s what holds everyone’s attention throughout Act 1; in Act 2, they deal with the fallout.

McNally clearly considers critics a necessary evil — resenting the sway some can hold, but respecting their ability to generate excitement for new American plays. The problem is, where are all the new American plays? Not on Broadway, it seems, which has become a clearinghouse for revivals, musicals, and musical adaptations of revivals of plays. And whose fault is that? Not the critics… unless you count ones like Ira Drew (Steven D, Morris), a John Simon-esque hatchet man who revels in crafting hate-filled one-liners that unfairly torpedo good work, while desperately seeking popularity with the theater community itself. In McNally’s world, we’re all victims, all conspirators, and all capable of making a difference … even though we rarely do.

And the conundrum of It’s Only a Play is, McNally clearly has a ball making his characters outrageous caricatures who spew venom like cobras. Some of the biggest laughs in this broadest of farces come from the unbridled assessments of bad theater. There’s nothing remotely accurate about the reviews the characters read of their own play, but that’s all part of the fantasy: Theater is removed from reality, a place where we create our own happy endings and live out our petty vengeances. Why not have fun doing it?

The cast of this production is certainly having huge amounts of fun. The show has been crafted to give great gags and set-pieces to its cast, from McGrann’s scene-stealing druggy to Matt Holmes as the innocent farmboy in NYC for the first time to Statham-Serber Malapropping all over the place. Cleveland, who usually gets handed the most flamboyant roles, gets to underplay it some here. He’s the vain but comparatively stable eye of this hurricane of hilarity.

Cheryl Denson’s direction is a master class in comedic pacing, knowing how to sneak visual gags and in-jokes (example: pay close attention to all the coats brought in from party guests) that layer like symphonic orchestrations rather than drown you in a fusillade of hit-or-miss one-liners. It’s a bright and chuckle-filled evening, tailor-made for devoted theater queens who like a little insider — or in this case, backstage — humor.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 22, 2016.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

With ‘Six’ you get Cantone

Comedian Mario Cantone brings his inimitable outlook to ‘Page Six TV’

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SUPER MARIO | Cantone is one of four panelists discussing the trends of the day on the summer series.

ARNOLD WAYNE JONES  | Executive Editor
jones@dallasvoice.com

Summer is usually a black hole for original TV programming, but if you’ve tuned into the broadcast networks this past week, chances are you’ve seen a show with Mario Cantone. First, he was a celebrity guest on the primetime reboot of the classic game show The $100,000 Pyramid (and he’ll be on its sister show, Match Game, next month). And late-night on Fox, you might have caught him as one of the hosts of Page Six TV, the new gossip chatfest getting a three-week tryout in select cities, including Dallas. What’s with the media blitz, Mario?

“If they ask me, I [show up] — I can’t go beggin’, Arnold!” he shouts in mock anger. “I go home and watch Turner Classics Movies and when they call, I come. The problem is, you’re always asked to do the stuff you don’t want, and aren’t for the ones you do.”

That’s not the case, he insists, for Page Six TV, modeled after the New York Post’s famed gossip column.

“The thing about Page Six is, it’s historic — not that it invented gossip, but it’s always been fun and lighthearted. That’s what I like about it — it’s more ‘what the fuck’ than ‘fuck you.’”

On the TV version, Cantone and his fellow panelists — entertainment reporters Elizabeth Wagmeister and Carlos Greer, lifestyle guru Bevy Smith and host John Fugelsang — tackle a series of trending topics in the news that day, and offer their insights. Example: In rehearsal, they discussed the current trend of people who are getting vegetable tattoos. “Reallly!?” Cantone gasps. “What the fuck! You gotta watch the tattoos — when your 90 and you skin is hanging on the floor, and the ink is staining the carpet, don’t call me!” And don’t get him started on Pokemon GO.

So what, exactly is Cantone, who has no background in journalism, doing among these experienced rumor-mavens?

“[The producers] called me and said they wanted a comedian,” he explains. “I won’t do a reality show, but I will do a talk show or a game show. And it’s the mix of the cast that moves it along. I really love Bevy Smith — she’s so knowledgeable about [pop culture]. And Carlos! I love his demeanor. He and Elizabeth are more serious, because they’re journalists. My comments are frivolous, spontaneous and hopefully funny, which I think is refreshing. If everyone was so in-the-know, it wouldn’t [have broad appeal]. I’m representing you on the show, Arnold!”

Me? You mean, the gays? Not necessarily…

“No offense to my people, because I love them, but if I brought a true gay perspective, I would watch The Real Housewives, which I don’t. And they’re all Italian, which is so embarrassing for me! A friend forced to me to watch the Kardashians the other day, which was torture!!! No, I represent the townhouse set — I bring the cranky-old-man perspective.”

Cantone is joking (a little), but it’s true that his persona — from his guest spots on The View (or Pyramid) to his featured role in Sex and the City to his Tony-nominated show Laugh Whore — is that of the short-tempered New Yorker with a heart of gold but no time for bullshit. Unlike a Lewis Black or Sam Kinison, his shouting doesn’t seem like a pot boiling over but a teakettle letting off steam before providing a refreshing beverage. He has an old-school appreciation for who deserves to be famous.

“I was teaching the young’uns, like young Carlos Greer, that in my day, you had to have a craft to be a star. Now, people are famous without having a craft. And whether you think I’m funny or not, I know how to hold an audience. On the show, I’m coming from that animosity and resentment,” he says. (It’s probably what led Jon Stewart to call him “the white Sammy Davis Jr.”)

He hopes, of course, that the show is a hit with audiences.

“It’s the summer and this came out of nowhere,” he says. “If it goes away, in 2017 I’ll be in my trailer. Come get me.” He’ll just be watching Turner Classic Movies.

Page Six TV
airs weeknights at 11:30 p.m. on Fox4

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 22, 2016.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Oscar winner Mo’Nique shows her funny side in standup act

MoNique1

Those who only know Mo’Nique from her Oscar-winning performance in Lee Daniels’ Precious or her sad turn in Patrik-Ian Polk’s Blackbird have overlooked her talents as a gifted comedienne. In addition to her eponymous sitcom and a syndicated radio show, she was also one of the headliners of the concert movie The Queens of Comedy.

But even with all these appearances filmed, you have probably missed seeing her perform her standup act live. Well, miss no more! Mo’Nique will storm into North Texas this week for four shows over two days at the Improv in Arlington. July 29 and 30, she’ll do two shows … both open only to 21 and up. Hey, no one said funny had to be funny for kids, too.

— Arnold Wayne Jones

Arlington Improv
309 Curtis Mathes Way, Ste. 147, Arlington
July 29 at 8 p.m. and 10:30 p.m.
July 30. 7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m
$40–$50
ImprovArlington.com
817-635-5555.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones