HBO renews ‘Looking,’ sets premiere date for ‘Normal Heart’

normalheart02HBO knows a good formula when it sees one. Last year, it premiered its gay-themed made-for-cable movie Behind the Candelabra on the last Sunday in May, and it’s doing so again with its latest tentpole telefilm, The Normal Heart. The screen adaptation of Larry Kramer’s Tony Award-winning play about the fight against AIDS (and the ignorance of the Reagan Era) is set to air at 8 p.m. on May 25. The production, directed by Glee creator Ryan Murphy, features out actors Matt Bower, Jim Parsons, Joe Mantello, Denis O’Hare, Stephen Spinella, B.D. Wong and Jonathan Groff, as well as Julia Roberts, and Mark Ruffalo and Taylor Kitsch, pictured.

Groff had some more good news this week as well: His HBO series Looking got a second-season pickup. The drama about 20something gay men navigating the dating life in present-day San Francisco will return next season.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

More gays at the Emmys!

The Hofstadter InsufficiencyLast week, I pointed out some gay honorees and content at the creative arts portion of the 65th annual Emmy Awards, and last night, the big guns turned out … and once again, there was gay aplenty.

Chief among them: Out actor Jim Parsons, pictured, took home his third Emmy for lead actor in a comedy series as the repressed genius Sheldon Cooper on The Big Bang Theory. Modern Family once again took best comedy series (its fourth consecutive win), though out nominee Jesse Tyler Ferguson was again a bridesmaid as supporting actor. Modern Family also won for comedy direction, while 30 Rock won for comedy writing.

The gay-friendly Colbert Report finally beat The Daily Show‘s 10-year streak for best variety series, as well as for writing. Gay TV producer Ryan Murphy’s American Horror Story: Asylum won for best supporting actor in a miniseries for James Cromwell. In fact, miniseries is where we really got our gay on, with Behind the Candelabra, the biopic about Liberace, winning for best actor (Michael Douglas, who offered to share it with fellow nominee Matt Damon — offering him “top or bottom”), best director (Steven Soderbergh) and best miniseries/TV movie.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Gays at the creative arts Emmy Awards

HeidiTimWhile we were all getting our Pride on Sunday, in Hollywood, the gays were dressed up (sans Speedos) to attend the creative arts Emmy Awards ceremony — the precursor to next Sunday’s primetime ceremony. And if these awards (for design, casting, guest actors and such) are any indication, the gays have some mo(mentum) headed into the big game.

Among the big winners were Project Runway‘s Heidi Klum and Tim Gunn (co-winners for best reality show host) and Behind the Candelabra, the HBO film about Liberace, which won a staggering eight awards (casting, costumes, art direction, hairstyling, editing, sound mixing, prosthetic makeup and non-prosthetic makeup). It’s still up for six more next week, including two for best actor, best miniseries/movie and best director.

Other gay interest winners: Gay actor Dan Buchatinsky, who won best best actor in a drama for Scandal; American Horror Story: Asylum (for sound editing); Lily Tomlin’s narration of An Apology to Elephants (for best voice-over performance); and “IF I Had Time,” Neil Patrick Harris’ closing song at the 2012 Tony Awards (for best song).

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Emmy nominations are pretty damn gay

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The Tony Awards are always gay, the Oscars less so (at least they are more closeted), but the Emmys? They’ve almost kept up with the Tonys in recent years. Consider: This year’s ceremony on Sept. 22 will be hosted by regular Tony Awards host Neil Patrick Harris — who plays straight on his TV show but is a camptastic song-and-dance man at heart.

Harris and Breaking Bad actor Aaron Paul announced the nominees for the Emmys this morning, and it proved to be a very gay affair indeed. Here are some queer highlights:

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

… And a very gay Memorial Day Weekend to you, too!

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Consider: “Don’t ask, don’t tell” is repealed, and now we have the gayest Memorial Day Weekend in history. Coincidence? Not if you’re a consqueerispy theorist like I am. Here’s the evidence.

On Sunday, May  26, International Mr. Leather crowned its 2013 winner in Chicago (congrats to Andy Cross, Mr. San Francisco Leather, for his victory). Now, IML always takes place Memorial Day weekend, but how to explain the following additional gay stuff?

Arrested Development, the long-canceled TV sitcom that has long enjoyed a cult following, was relaunched by Netflix … also on Sunday. It stars out actress Portia Di Rossi, and contained many gay faves, including Liza Minnelli (pictured) and Tommy Tune, in its prodigious cast. Moreover, the show — always embracing of gay content — went overboard with queer content. Not only did they emphasize Tobias Funke’s gay closethood, but they actually addressed DADT in the show, and GOB (Will Arnette) went to a gay bar in order to seduce a gay magician (Ben Stiller), and … well, let’s just say they didn’t hide the rabbit.

But wait! Arrested Development had to compete with queer eyes for Behind the Candelabra, the Liberace biopic starring Michael Douglas and a frequently naked Matt Damon, which was the buzz of Facebook and received raves from the press.

But we’re not done. Also on Sunday, Blue is the Warmest Color, a drama about a girl who becomes involved with another woman, topped the awards at the Cannes Film Festival in France, taking the Palme D’or, the festival’s top honor. That already poises it for a major North American release. (The choice was hailed as a symbol of France’s recent passage of same-sex marriage rights.)

And … Sunday was my birthday, which is about as gay as you can get.

I could go on, but I think I’ve made my point.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

REVIEW: ‘Behind the Candelabra’

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Douglas, left, as Lee Liberace, and Matt Damon as Scott Thorson.

That fact has been largely forgotten in the 25 years since he died — still closeted! — of complications from AIDS. By the end (hell, decades before it), he had become a caricature, but the image of the facelifted, lisping Vegas showboy has obscured his humanity.

So its especially impressive that a bunch of straight guys — director Steven Soderbergh, screenwriter Richard LaGravanese, and actors Matt Damon and Michael Douglas — have done do an astonishing job of capturing the truth of gay men in the pre-AIDS, barely-post-Stonewall decade of the 1970s with Behind the Candelabra, the HBO biopic debuting Sunday at 9. They could have soft-pedaled the sex; they could have idealized and mystified the era; they could have taken any number of “safer” routes. Instead, they told a story with such a savvy understanding of gay culture, you might think you’re watching a documentary.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Steven Soderbergh: The gay interview

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Steven Soderbergh, director of ‘Behind the Candelabra’

The new HBO film about Liberace’s relationship with Scott Thorson, Behind the Candelabra, debuts on HBO Sunday; next Friday, I’ll have a review of it. Until then, enjoy Chris Azzopardi’s interview with the film’s director, Steven Soderbergh … who, following this, Side Effects and Magic Mike must be considered the patron saint of gay Hollywood.

By Chris Azzopardi

Steven Soderbergh knows who’s significantly responsible for the major success of his male-stripper romp Magic Mike: gay men eager to ogle the barely-covered bits of Channing Tatum and his hunky posse. The Oscar-winning director’s upcoming feature will obviously court the same audience — and not just because Matt Damon lets it all hang out, too.

Behind the Candelabra the biopic about Liberace, is so gay that major Hollywood studios would have nothing to do with it. HBO took it up, though, and it debuts Sunday. The revealing story stars Michael Douglas as the shiny showman who died of AIDS complications at age 67 and Damon as his much younger beau, Scott Thorson.

In our interview, Soderbergh spoke in depth about their real-life relationship, the “flamboyancy scale” used to guide the actors’ gayness onset, diversity in film and why Damon wanted to flaunt the junk in his trunk.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Liberace biopic ‘too gay’ for theaters

The multiplexes’ loss is HBO’s gain. Steven Soderbergh — he of the Oscar for best director, he who turned a cheesy idea into Magic Mike, the Citizen Kane of male stripper movies — apparently doesn’t have the juice in Hollywood to make gay people seem commercial.

When it was announced a few years ago that Michael Douglas would be starring in Behind the Candelabra, a biopic about flamboyant pianist Liberace (with Matt Damon as his lover), it seemed like Oscar bait, but turns out it’ll have to be Emmy bait: No studios wanted to touch the film.

Keep in mind: It has been seven years since Brokeback Mountain, which, among the five films nominated for best picture that year, was the one with the highest box office gross. This is three years after The Kids Are All Right, another Oscar nominee for best picture, about a lesbian relationship. And after, for that matter, repeal of “Don’t ask, don’t tell,” passage of same-sex marriage laws in a fifth of U.S. states and the presence of gay people all throughout our culture.

The reason no studio would touch it? “Too gay,” according to Soderbergh.

Uh-huh.

Imagine a studio saying a movie starring two Oscar winners, and directed by a third, was “too Jewish” or “too black.” (I can guarantee you, no one has ever said a movie idea was “too stupid” or “too white.”) But that’s what Soderbergh said in an interview with the New York Post. “The studios didn’t know how to sell it. They were scared.”

Instead, the movie will air later this spring on HBO. Sounds like a good time to sign up for HBO if you haven’t already.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones