Hoover? Damn!

‘J. Edgar’ tries — and almost succeeds — at being ‘Brokeback’ for G-Men

G-MEN, X-RATED  |  Tolson (Armie Hammer) and Hoover (Leonardo DiCaprio) carry on in ‘J. Edgar.’

G-MEN, X-RATED | Tolson (Armie Hammer) and Hoover (Leonardo DiCaprio) carry on in ‘J. Edgar.’

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3 out of 5 stars
J. EDGAR
Leo DiCaprio, Armie Hammer, Judi Dench. Rated R. 145 mins.  Now playing in limited release.

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Before he became the nation’s most famous lawmen (one who never carried a gun or made an arrest), J. Edgar Hoover’s greatest governmental accomplishment was organizing the system for card cataloging the Library of Congress, and in Dustin Lance Black’s screenplay for J. Edgar, that speaks volumes. Hoover thought of everything — books, people, information — as things to be categorized and managed. “Believe in the individual” Hoover (Leonardo DiCaprio) says near the end of the film, without a hint of realization that his entire career was a slow repudiation of that principle.

Hoover was, simply, a scary son of a bitch, a homegrown Torquemada clothed with the mantle of democracy.

That’s not something I’m sure J. Edgar fully captures. Hoover was an innovator of law enforcement: He believed in process, in the value of centralizing information like fingerprints, and of preserving evidence in situ.
But as with many well-intentioned people who rise to unbridled power, he abused it. Personal and political enemies were targeted, if not outright blackmailed; the constitution became more barrier than guideline. You can see how Hoover’s FBI laid the groundwork for the Bush Administration’s unironic use of “extraordinary rendition” as a euphemism for torture; the U.S. doesn’t torture as a precept, so anything we do in the name of safety must be proper.

J. Edgar gets off to a shaky start, but it grows on you. Our first sight of Hoover is of DiCaprio pinched into an overdone old-man latex mask that looks comical, like Lord Voldemort in a Brooks Bros. suit. The film is bookended by the sunset of Hoover’s life while recording his memoirs, and the start of his career, only until about 1935; that leaves a generation of villainy during the Cold War and Civil Rights Movement almost untouched by Black and director Clint Eastwood. Some things had to come out, of course; but the gap feels gaping.

None of this is to say Black’s screenplay doesn’t succeed on several levels. He portrays Hoover as a spiritual brother of Norman Bates: Emotionally arrested, mother-obsessed (a scene where he dressed in his dead mom’s clothes is singularly creepy) and expressing his frustrations in inappropriate ways.

He also presents us with one of the most perversely touching love stories of the year: The very public but very secret romance between Hoover and his aide, Clyde Tolson. Tolson, played with model-good-looks and a seductive, pantherish stealth by Armie Hammer, humanizes Hoover. He serves, often ineffectively, as the moral guidepost, the floating conscious of a notoriously paranoid influence peddler who saw criticism as subversiveness and liberalism as treasonous. Eastwood is best directing as he hints, for the better part of an hour, at the sexual energy between them. It’s on the personal level that J. Edgar becomes something more than a biopic — it becomes Brokeback Capital Hill, a romance among G-Men.

Hammer is the most compelling actor on the screen, followed closely by Judi Dench as the most unnerving mom since Angela Lansbury in The Manchurian Candidate. But Leo falls flat. He doesn’t convey Hoover’s demagoguery with enough vitriol; it’s like he’s afraid of coming off as the villain.

Ultimately, maybe it doesn’t matter. Hoover’s political legacy speaks for itself; we have J. Edgar to remind us of the sad tragedy of being in the closet, and how even in unlikely times, love finds a way.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 11, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

Latter gay saint

Steven Fales’ one-man show ‘Confessions of a Mormon Boy’ skewers his religious upbringing, but his real mission is to show gay youth that it really does get better

THANK YOU JESUS Fales says there’s something sexy about Mormon boys. We concur.

MORMON BOY
Eisemann Center, 2352
Performance Drive, Richardson. Dec. 9 at 7:30 p.m.  $25­–$150.
EisemannCenter.com
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Steven Fales knows something about growing up gay in the church. A sixth generation Mormon, he married and had two children before coming out. And along the way, got heavily into the sex trade and drugs.

But Fales also knows something about turning his life around — and turning his experiences into something original. He’s in town for a one-night-only performance of his hit one-man show, Confessions of a Mormon Boy, presented in conjunction with Youth First Texas.

Before his return to Dallas, Fales talked to us about how his play has become a trilogy and why, excommunication aside, he’s still on a spiritual quest.

— Arnold Wayne Jones

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Dallas Voice: Obviously, you grew up Mormon and that influenced your show. What was the path from your experience to the stage? Steven Fales: I’m one of those Brokeback Mormon train wrecks where the children were the blessing. But I wouldn’t even have children if it weren’t for the Mormon machine — and I wouldn’t have material for my show!

I have an MFA in acting [from Brigham Young University] and did a lot of Shakespeare and musicals and then my life fell apart. I just intuitively knew I needed to write about it. The first version was back in November of 2001, and it just grew and grew. Confessions had a nice run off Broadway so I spun off Missionary Position which is very well on its way to being complete and just did a benefit staged reading of Who’s Your Daddy? All of a sudden, you have a trilogy. All three 90-minute plays will be done in repertory in Fort Lauderdale next spring. My “Mormon Conquests.”

I read a recent study that said Salt Lake City is, as a percentage, one of the gayest cities in the nation. What do you think accounts for that? Here are some theories. A lot of Mormons went out there and were an isolated gene pool for a while so you might have a genetic factor there. Mormonism is the extreme expression of patriarchy [which may attract gay people]. The amount of gays in that system reminds the system just how unbalanced it is. My excommunication, that’s [an example of how] Mormons try to erase all evidence that they also created it.

Also, to live that good, perfect, Mormon life takes gay people. It takes gays to be charismatic preachers and sing in the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. To go on your mission at 19, you had to be a virgin. Many straight guys had fooled around but the gays had suppressed it. My own adolescence was delayed. I can’t tell you how many Mormon missionaries I served with in Portugal came out later.

It makes sense that a play like this would succeed in cosmopolitan cities, but what about smaller towns? Have you been surprised at how well it does in unexpected places?  It finds its audience everywhere. I’ve been wildly successful in Salt Lake City and smaller places. I think it’s the Mormon thing, too.

Yeah, what is it about good Christian boys gone gay that we find so fascinating, especially Mormons? It’s a curious piece of Americana. It’s easy to make fun of them and they’re hot! You wanna corrupt them because of it. The juxtaposition of virginity and sexuality is too delicious.

Do you think it’s ex-churchgoing gays who come or ones who still feel connected to their religious roots? My queer spiritual community definitely finds me, but straight people burned by their religions or ostracized by the church of their birth also find the show. This is my effort to find where we fit in as gays and lesbians. There’s a lot of anger in the gay community toward religion and I want to reclaim our spirituality as gay men. It looks different than we were told, but it’s there for us.

I take on Mormonism and the sex industry — how I descended into escorting and crystal meth and how I reclaimed myself after that. It’s not just about religion — there’s a secular part too. It’s a gay everyman story.

For the performance this week, you’ve teamed up with Youth First Texas. What led you to do that? Chris-James Cognetta contacted me and I’ve never played Dallas so this is the perfect opportunity. I’m hoping the show will give these youth an example of not playing victim even when you have every right to be one. I’ve had two cousins who committed suicide, and there was a slow, steady suicide track that I was on when I was selling myself and using meth. I want to help our youth not go down that path. With the suicides we’ve been having, we need to give kids the tools to deal with this. Your parents might say this and your church may do that, but you don’t need to buy into that.

Do you consider yourself still a Mormon or a Christian? Are you religious or just spiritual?  They excommunicated me and I saw how false much of the doctrine was. I don’t believe in golden plates or that Joseph Smith was more spiritual than you or me. I like to say I’m no longer a Latter-day Saint but something about me will always be Mormon. My people settled Utah and I celebrate the culture, but I do not endorse the doctrines, such as support Proposition 8. I did convert to become an Episcopalian about three years ago — I felt I needed a new church to bash.

How’s that working out for you? Great! They’ll take anyone. You can believe anything and I love coffee hour; I love the music; I love trying to listen to things that will help me. I think on a spiritual path, you do need a few guides, even if it’s Deepak Chopra or reading a few books. I think science and religion are both a quest to uncover the mystery of what God is. We’re all searching for truth. I think it shows a way to essentially love other people. We’re all interconnected. We should act that way.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 3, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens

Bollywood’s ‘Brokeback Mountain’ Is Released

This weekend brings the release of the movie Dunno Y…Na Jaane Kyun, the first Bollywood film to feature an onscreen gay kiss, in India. In the months leading up to its release, the movie has been touted as that country's Brokeback Mountain. Censors in India, where homosexuality was legalised only last year, have apparently cut many of the gay scenes.

Dunnoy Dunno Y's star Kapil Sharma recently revealed how he feels about the controversial film's release and also talks about protests he's face already:

"The feeling before the release is mixed. I am excited, nervous, anxious and happy. The film has faced many controversies, from the censors taking three months, to getting distributors for an unconventional subject."

The star spoke also about the pre-release controversy surrounding the film: "Recently I received threatening mails, in which it was written that this film would corrupt society and that homosexuality is part of western culture. They said that we would be damaging society if it releases, and the consequences would be bad for us.

"Political party workers also came down to my building to protest, until the police took good care of the situation. I am scared that they may create further scene on release of the film, but let us hope for the best."

Earlier this year, co-star Yuvraj Parashar's father publicly disowned his son for playing gay on screen. Their relationship has improved and Parashar has since sent another actor in the movie to speak with his father and "play peacemaker."

Watch a BBC report about the release of the film, AFTER THE JUMP.


Towleroad News #gay

—  admin

Hall of Famer Apologizes for “Brokeback” Comment

Hampton x390 (Screen Grab) I Advocate.comA Football Hall of Famer who said on TV that the Dallas Cowboys were a bit “Brokeback” apologized for his comment.
Advocate.com: Daily News

—  John Wright

Dan Hampton Will Apologize Over Brokeback Comment to Keep Advertisers From Fleeing Football Show

Pro Football Weekly host Dan Hampton will apologize for his Brokeback Mountain comment about the Dallas Cowboys, which follows Monday's apology over his Hurricane Katrina comment about the New Orleans Saints. Then God will apologize for letting this guy on television.

CONTINUED »


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Queerty

—  John Wright

SAG to Honor Brokeback Basher Borgnine

ERNEST BORGNINE X390 (GETTY) | ADVOCATE.COMActor Ernest Borgnine, who spoke out against the 2005 gay cowboy romance Brokeback Mountain, will be honored with a lifetime achievement award from the Screen Actors Guild.
Advocate.com: Daily News

—  John Wright