DFW Film Critics declare ‘Spotlight’ the best picture of the year

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‘Spotlight’ won best picture

The Golden Globes, Independent Spirit Awards and Screen Actors Guild have all already weighed in on their votes for the best in film in 2015, and not it’s the Dallas-Fort Worth Film Critics Association‘s turn, a group of 31 print, broadcast and online critics (including me) across the region. This morning, the group named Spotlight — about the Catholic priest sex abuse scandal uncovered by the Boston Globe — best picture of 2015, and also won for its screenplay, but The Revenant took the most awards — four.

Unlike many critics’ groups, DFW actually lists runners-up in order, making the top 10 films: 2.The Revenant, 3. Carol, 4. Sicario, 5. Mad Max: Fury Road6. The Big Short, 7. The Martian, 8. Room, 9. The Danish Girl and 10. Brooklyn.

Oak-Cliff-Film-FestivalThe Russell Smith Award, named in honor of the late gay Dallas Morning News film critic, who succumbed to AIDS nearly 20 years ago, recognized cutting edge independent films, for which Russell was a tireless champion. This year’s recipient was Tangerine, the guerrilla-made comedy about two transgender prostitutes on the streets of L.A. one Christmas.

Best actor was awarded to Leonardo DiCaprio, for his nearly wordless performance as a man who swears revenge after a bear attack in The Revenant. The film also won Alejandro G. Inarritu best director honors; Inarritu won last year as well for Birdman, which also won the best picture Oscar. Runners-up for best actor were Michael Fassbender for Steve Jobs; Eddie Redmayne as a transgender woman in The Danish Girl; Matt Damon for The Martian; and Johnny Depp for Black Mass.

Runners-up for best director were Thomas McCarthy, who helmed Spotlight; George Miller for Mad Max: Fury Road; Todd Haynes for Carol; and Dennis Villeneuve for Sicario.

Best actress went to Brie Larson as a fierce mother in Room; she was followed by Cate Blanchett as a lesbian in the 1950s for Carol; Saoirse Ronan as an Irish immigrant in Brooklyn; Charlotte Rampling as a wife discovering her husband’s past in 45 Years; and Carey Mulligan playing a Suffragette.

Supporting winners are actress Rooney Mara, as a young shopgirl discovering she is gay in Carol and Paul Dano as a young Brian Wilson in Love and Mercy. Runners-up for supporting actress were Alicia Vikander (for Ex Machina and The Danish Girl) , Kate Winslet for Steve Jobs; and Jennifer Jason Leigh for The Hateful Eight; for supporting actor: Mark Rylance for Bridge of Spies; Tom Hardy for The Revenant; Idris Elba for Beasts of No Nation; and Benicio del Toro for Sicario.

Other winners include best foreign language film, Son of Saul; best animated feature, Inside Out; best documentary, Amy; and best cinematography and best score, both to The Revenant.

Association president Todd Jorgensen announced that this year’s awards were being dedicated to former DMN film critic Phillip Wuntch, who died in October.

The Academy Award nominations will be announced in late mid-January. My own top 10 list will come out on Christmas Day. Until then, Friday — our annual Hollywood Edition — will profile some likely nominees, and review more than half a dozen films being released for awards consideration in the coming weeks, including Carol, The Danish Girl, The Big Short and, of course, Star Wars: The Force Awakens. We also have an interview with the gay director of Charlotte Rampling in 45 Years.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

What to expect on the awards list this season

DanishGirl_11440701241The National Board of Review, the first group to release its picks for the best films of the year, will announce its Top 10 later this week (with the Golden Globe nomination on its heels Dec. 10), so I decided to preview what you can probably expect to see. I haven’t screened all of these films yet, so these aren’t necessarily my votes (though they are informed by what seems good that I have seen); they are, rather, what the groundswell seems to be in a few of the major categories. I limit my list to 10 possible nominees in each category.

Picture/director: Spotlight; The Danish Girl; Carol; Bridge of Spies; The Martian; The Walk; The Revenant; The Hateful Eight; Joy.

Actor: Eddie Redmayne, The Danish Girl; Tom Hardy, Legend; Ian McKellen, Mr. Holmes; Michael Fassbender, Steve Jobs; Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant; Jake Gyllenhaal, Southpaw; Mark Ruffalo, Infinite Polar Bear; Tom Hanks, Bridge of Spies; Matt Damon, The Martian; Joseph Gordon-Levitt, The Walk. Not on the list: Bryan Cranston in Trumbo, a heavily-pushed performance that I felt never caught fire and carried the picture; anyone from Spotlight (all the cast members have been lumped in the supporting category); Michael Caine, Youth (though he really should be).

Supporting actor: Liev Schreiber and Michael Keaton, Spotlight; Mark Rylance, Bridge of Spies; Tom Hardy, The Revenant; Michael Shannon, 99 Homes; Paul Giamatti, Straight Outta Compton; Harvey Keitel, Youth; Sylvester Stallone, Creed; Idris Elba, Beasts of No Nation; Benicio del Toro, Sicario.Not on the list (nut should be): Rick Springfield, Ricki and the Flash.

Actress: Lily Tomlin, Grandma; Cate Blanchett, Carol; Helen Mirren, Woman in Gold; Maggie Smith, The Lady in the Van; Brie Larson, Room; Meryl Streep, Ricki and the Flash; Julianne Moore, Freeheld; Amy Schumer, Trainwreck; Soirse Ronan, Brooklyn; Jennifer Lawrence, Joy.

Supporting actress: Rooney Mara, Carol; Rachel McAdams, Spotlight; Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl; Jennifer Jason Leigh, The Hateful Eight (or Anomalisa); Joan Allen, Room; Laura Dern, 99 Homes; Virginia Madsen, Joy; Kate Winslet, Steve Jobs.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Uptown Players dominates DFW Theater Critics Forum awards

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Sterling Gafford and B.J. Cleveland in ‘The Nance,’ this year’s most honored show.

Uptown Players’ production of The Nance proved the prohibitive favorite at this year’s annual polling/luncheon/ slugfest of the Dallas-Fort Worth Theater Critics Forum, which presented the show with four awards, while Uptown took nine total. Indeed, each of the mainstage productions won multiple honors.

The Nance, Douglas Carter Beane’s poignant comedy about a self-deluded gay burlesque performer, won a best director nod for Bruce R. Coleman, acting for star B.J. Cleveland and for the ensemble, and outstanding original music composition for Adam C. Wright. Uptown’s Catch Me If You Can won three awards, for director Cheryl Denson and actors Antony Fortino and David Lugo. And the just-closed Hedwig and the Angry Inch took a performance citation for star Kyle Igneczi and for director Jeremy Dumont.

Several other gay artists and gay-themed shows fared well, too. Blake Hackler won a nod for his direction of The Flick, which also took an ensemble nod. Local gay Dallas playwright Jonathan Norton was cited for outstanding new play or musical for Mississippi Goddamn, which also won for direction for vickie washington. And Danielle Georigiou won for best new play and best choreography for her queer-themed The Show About Men. Another choreography winner was out dancer Joshua L. Peugh for Colossal at the Dallas Theater Center. Paul Taylor was singled out for his performances in both Hot Mikado at Theatre 3 and Mr. Burns: A Post-Electric Play at Stage West.

Michael Urie, the out North Texas native who opened his one-man show Buyer & Cellar last September, starred in one of the favorite touring shows. The others were the Mandy Patinkin/Taylor Mac mime The Last Two People on Earth: An Apocalyptic Vaudeville (Eisemann Center for Performing Arts), Pippin (Dallas Summer Musicals), Once (AT&T Performing Arts Center/Bass Hall) and Endurance. Local actor Van Quattro won the final award for best new play for his solo show Standing Eight Count.

Jay Dias, the gay music director for Lyric Stage, received a special citation for his scholarship and restoration of the scores for two forgotten musicals: Lady in the Dark and The Golden Apple.

The entire list — which for the first time lumps actors and actresses into one category called “performance,” is below.

Outstanding Direction: Akin Babatunde, Don’t Bother Me… I Can’t Cope and The Color Purple (both Jubilee Theatre); Bruce R. Coleman, The Nance (Uptown Players); Cheryl Denson, Catch Me If You Can (Uptown); Jeremy Dumont, Hedwig and the Angry Inch (Uptown); Black Hackler, The Flick (Undermain Theater); Katherine Owens, The Testament of Mary and Tomorrow Come Today (both Undermain); Matthew Posey, The Egg Salesman (Ochre House); Vickie Washington, Mississippi Goddam (South Dallas Cultural Center).

Outstanding New Play or MusicalMississippi Goddamn by Jonathan Norton; The Show About Men by Danielle Georgiou (DGDG); Standing Eight Court by Van Quattro (Rite of Passage Theatre Company, presented at WaterTower Theatre’s Out of the Loop Festival and the Dallas Solo Fest).

Outstanding Performance: (Men) B.J. Cleveland, The Nance; David Coffee, King Lear (Trinity Shakespeare Festival); Hassan El-Amin, A Solider’s Play and Radio Golf (both African American Repertory Theater); Antony Fortino and David Lugo, Catch Me If You Can; Kyle Igneczi, Hedwig and the Angry Inch; Paul Taylor, Mr. Burns: A Post-Electric Play (Stage West) and Hot Mikado (Theatre 3); Pat Watson, Streamers (L.I.P. Service Productions).  (Women) Stephanie Cleghorn Jasso, Lydia (Cara Mia Theatre Co.); Shannon Kearns, The Testament of Mary; Jenny Ledel, for her season; Janelle Lutz, South Pacific and Lady in the Dark (both Lyric Stage); Ebony Marshall Oliver, In Real Time and The Color Purple (both Jubilee Theatre); Allison Pistorius, The (curious case of the) Watson Intelligence (Stage West); Sally Vahle, Medea (Dallas Theater Center);  Lulu Ward, The Two-Character Play; Sherry Jo Ward, Precious Little (Echo Theatre).

The award-winning ensemble of Jubilee’s ‘The Brothers Size.’

Outstanding Ensemble: The Brothers Size (Jubilee Theatre); The Egg Salesman; The Flick; Hands on a Hard Body (Theatre 3); Mr. Burns; Mississippi Goddam; The Nance.

Outstanding Creative Contribution: Robin Armstrong, fight choreography, Lovers and Executioners (Circle Theatre); Clare Floyd Devries, set design, The Explorers’ Club (Stage West and WaterTower Theatre); Danielle Georgiou, choreography, NICE and The Show About Men; Bob Lavallee, set design, The Rocky Horror Show (Dallas Theater Center); Joshua L. Peugh, movement, Colossal; Adam C. Wright, original music composition, The Nance.

Outstanding Touring ProductionBuyer & Cellar (AT&T Performing Arts Center); Endurance (Split Knuckle Theatre); The Last Two People on Earth; Once (AT&T Performing Arts Center and Performing Arts Fort Worth); Pippin (Dallas Summer Musicals and Performing Arts Fort Worth).

Special Citations: Lyric Stage and musical director Jay Dias, for their contributions to the musical restorations of The Golden Apple and Lady in the Dark, and for the first cast recording of the complete score of Apple; The producers of Shakespeare in a Bar for attracting new and large audiences to non-traditional spaces and reminding us that Shakespeare can be unexpected and fun; Audacity Theatre Lab and Brad McEntire for bringing quality local and national performances with the creation of the Dallas Solo Fest.

Critics partaking include me from the Voice, plus these folks from the following outlets: Dallas Observer (Elaine Liner, Lauren Smart), TheaterJones.com (Mark Lowry, Jan Farrington, Martha Heimberg, David Novinski), Dallas Morning News (Nancy Churnin), Culture Map (Lindsey Wilson), Fort Worth Star Telegram (Punch Shaw, Mark Lowry) CriticalRant.com (Alexandra Bonifield) and Dallas Weekly (Martha Heimberg).

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Film award nominations: Golden Globes, SAGs and more

In the last 24 hours, two major groups have announced their nominations for some of the film awards of the season — the Hollywood Foreign Press Association’s Golden Globe Awards and the Screen Actors Guild Awards. Add to that Film Independent Spirit Awards, and the landscape is shaping up.

The Dallas-Fort Worth Film Critics Association, of which I am a voting member, will announce our winners next Tuesday.

More on the nominations after the jump.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

DIFF winners announced over the weekend

This weekend, the Dallas International Film Festival awarded its prizes for the best of the fest. Among the winners was Wolf, which we profiled here, about the inappropriate relationship between a minister and a young member of his church. It received a $30,000 camera rental Grand Jury Prize for the Panavision Texas Competition. Also a winner was First Position, which we reviewed here (and pictured), which took the Audience Award for Documentary Feature.

Other winners include:

• Grand Jury Prize for Narrative Feature: Faith, Love and Whiskey.

• Grand Jury Prize for Documentary Feature: Tchoupitoulas.

• Grand Jury Prize for the Whole Food Environmental Vision Competition: Dirty Energy, about the Deepwater Horizon disaster (awarded two years to the day after the spill).

• Silver Heart Award ($10,000): The Invisible War.

• Audience Award for Narrative Feature: My Way, a Korean war movie.

• Audience Award for Short Film: Nani.

• Best Short Film: Aaron Burr, Part 2.

Best Student Short: Nani.

Best Animated Short: A Morning Stroll.

Special citations were given the Michael Rainey Jr., Luv, for breakout performance; Kim Kold, Teddy Bear, the acting; David Zellner’s Kid-Thing, special mention for Texas filmmaker; and The Love Competition for short filmmaking.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Oscar watching parties

And the Oscar goes to…

From area venues:

*Barbara’s is having an Oscar party!! Watch the Academy Awards on the big screen. Fill out a nominee list with the ones that you think are going to win. The person with the most correct winners wins a great prize. We have the list for you to fill out, and all entries must be in before start time. And of course, you can wear your evening dress or tux if you would like to.

DEETS: Barbara’s Pavilion, 325 Centre St. 7:30 p.m.

*Movie Awards Viewing Party brought to you by the 5013c Oak Cliff Foundation and the  Oak Cliff Film Festival! Come watch the spectacle unfold before your eyes on the big screen. Of course this is a fine opportunity to dress to the nines and party like a star! Enter the Pick the Winners poll for $3. Winner will be announced at the end of the night and will get 2 free badges to the 2012 Oak Cliff Film Festival.

DEETS: The Texas Theatre, 231 W. Jefferson Blvd. 6 p.m. TheTexasTheatre.com.

*

—  Rich Lopez

‘Spring Awakening’ tonight at WaterTower

Coming of age

“This rock musical adaptation of an 1891 German play is set against the backdrop of a progressive and provincial late 19th century Germany.  Spring Awakening tells the timeless story of teenage self-discovery and budding sexuality through the eyes of three teenagers.  Haunting and provocative, Spring Awakening celebrates an unforgettable journey from youth to adulthood.  The musical won multiple Tony Awards (8 awards including Best Musical).”

— from WaterTowerTheatre.org

DEETS: WaterTower Theatre, 15650 Addison Road, Addison. 7:30 p.m. $20–$50. WaterTowerTheatre.org.

—  Rich Lopez

State Fair of Texas opens today

You had us at ‘howdy,’ Big Tex

When the Food Choice Awards rolled out fried bubblegum as the Most Creative winner, we weren’t immediately on board. Yes, we know it’s a marshmallow that tastes like gum, but do we get to stick it under our ferris wheel seat when we’re done? Sure, we’ll try it, but the Best Taste winner Buffalo chicken in a flapjack rings like heaven in our ears. Welcome back, State Fair.

DEETS: Fair Park, 1121 First Ave. Through Oct. 23. $13.95. BigTex.com.

—  Rich Lopez

LOCAL BRIEFS: AIN poker tourney at the Brick; Bates set for Dallas Black Pride

AIN poker tourney set at the Brick

A charity poker tournament is set for Saturday, Aug. 27, at the Brick, 2525 Wycliff, to benefit AIDS Interfaith Network.

The Dallas Bears and the LGBT poker league Pocket Rockets will co-host the event with the Brick. Miller Lite is the sponsor and play begins at 3 p.m.

It’s free to play but AIN will benefit in a number of ways. The agency will receive a portion of the drink specials sold. Players may buy additional chips, and the Bears will hold a 50/50 raffle.

A cash prize pool of $500 will be awarded and all levels of players are welcome.

Bates set for Dallas Black Pride

Christopher H. Bates will speak at the Dallas Black LGBT Community Summit on Friday, Sept. 30 at the Dallas Marriott City Center Hotel. He is the director of Health and Human Service’s Office of HIV/AIDS Policy.

Bates will discuss the federal government’s response to the high infection rate among young gay African-American men. He has 20 years experience in public health policy and has been with OHAP for more than a decade.

Bates administers funds for the Minority AIDS Initiative and advises the Undersecretary of Health on education, prevention, testing, research, care and treatment strategies. Information is available at DFWPrideMovement.org.

Martin offers program for couples

Randy Martin, LPC, will facilitate an eight-session program for couples, Wednesdays from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. throughout September and October.

The program is based on the theory and practice of Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy (EFT). The first session focuses on the new science of love and what it teaches us. The next seven sessions focus on helping couples shape and use the seven conversations laid out in the book Hold Me Tight by Sue Johnson, the developer of EFT.

Couples interested in participating should contact Martin at 214-520-7575. The cost of the program is $500 per couple and includes a copy of the book Hold Me Tight and other necessary materials.

NGPA seeks donations

The National Gay Pilots Association recently awarded $22,000 in scholarships and is seeking donations for future awards to aspiring LGBT aviators.

Since its founding in 1998, the NGPA Education Fund has given 46 awards totaling $139,000. Donations can be made on the group’s website, NGPA.org.

—  John Wright

Tony Award wrap-up: Totally gay (again)

It was an untenable situation for the gay Dallasite: Watch the Tony Awards or game 6 of the Mavs? Thank god I had two DVRs. Best of both worlds.

Of course, the Tony Awards are always the gayest of award shows, and they did nothing to disguise that Sunday night starting with the opening number by the telecast’s gay host, Neil Patrick Harris, “‘[Theater] is not Just for Gays Anymore.” He then did a medley duet with Hugh Jackman that was damn funny. (It got even gayer when Martha Wash performed “It’s Raining Men” with cast of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.)

Then the first award of the evening went to Ellen Barkin for her Broadway debut in Larry Kramer’s The Normal Heart, giving a shout out to the 30th anniversary of the AIDS epidemic. She was immediately followed by gay actor and Plano native John Benjamin Hickey for his role in The Normal Heart. (He even chastised his family: “You’d better not be watching the Mavericks game.” Sorry, John, I for one kept flipping between them.) The play also won the award for best revival — a controversial choice, since The Normal Heart never opened on Broadway until this year, usually a requirement for a revival nominations (some thought it should be eligible for best play). Kramer accepted the award. “To gay people everywhere whom I love so, The Normal Heart is our history. I could not have written it had not so many of us so needlessly died. Learn from it and carry on the fight.”

The very gay-friendly Book of Mormon from South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone won several off-camera awards, including score of a musical (the composers thanking gay producer Scott Rudin), orchestrations, scenic design, lighting design and sound design, before taking their first onscreen trophy for best direction of a musical to Parker and gay director Casey Nicholaw (The Drowsy Chaperone), on its way to winning nine total awards, including best musical, best featured actress (newcomer Nikki M. James, defeating prior winners Laura Benanti, Patti LuPone and Victoria Clark and prior nominee Tammy Blanchard) and book of a musical.

“This is such a waste of time — it’s like taking a hooker to dinner,” said best musical presenter Chris Rock before announcing The Book of Mormon for the night’s last prize, best musical.

Other winners in the musical category include John Larroquette for best featured actor (How to Succeed…, apparently the only straight nominee in his category), choreographer Kathleen Marshall for Anything Goes, which also beat How to Succeed for best revival of a musical and won best actress for Sutton Foster. Norbert Leo Butz was the surprise winner for best actor in a musical for Catch Me If You Can. One more really gay winner: Priscilla, Queen of the Desert took best costumes, natch.

The big winner in the play category (other than The Normal Heart) was the brilliant War Horse, which won 5: best play, direction, lighting design, sound design, scenic design, as well as a special Tony for the puppet designs of the horses.

Other play winners include The Importance of Being Earnest (costumes), Good People (best actress Frances McDormand) and Jerusalem, a surprise winner for best actor Mark Rylance.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones