“Raid of the Rainbow Lounge” wins awards, books anniversary screening at Magnolia

Raid of the Rainbow Lounge, the documentary about the event that triggered a renewed passion for gay rights in North Texas, has won two recent awards. Earlier this month, it took the Audience Choice Award at Fort Worth’s Q Cinema; then a week later, it took Best GLBT FIlm at the 32nd Breckenridge Festival of Film in Colorado. The latter, mind you, is not a gay film fest at all, but a mainstream one with a gay category.

The film has already screened thrice North Texas — at a world premiere this past spring in Sundance Square, a Dallas premiere in April and at Q Cinema on June 1 – but you still have another chance to see it: Raid will screen in Dallas on June 28 — the third anniversary of the actual raid — at Landmark’s Magnolia Theatre. The screening will be followed by a panel discussion featuring many of the actual parties involved in the raid and its aftermath. You can purchase tickets in advance exclusively here.

View the trailer of the film, narrated by out TV icon Meredith Baxter, after the jump.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Far from Brokeback

With ‘Hold Your Peace,’ SMU grad Wade McDonald adds his name to a budding local community of queer filmmakers

SO HAPPY TOGETHER | Soon-to-be-marrieds Max (Tyler Brockington, above left) and Forrest (Blair Dickens) trigger mixed feelings from Max’s ex in the new film from local filmmaker Wade McDonald, on set right, opposite page.

RICH LOPEZ  | Staff Writer
lopez@dallasvoice.com

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HOLD YOUR PEACE
Angelika Film Center, 5321 E. Mockingbird Lane. Sept. 20 at 7 p.m. Free (passes at Buli or Skivvies). HoldYourPeaceMovie.com.

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When Southern Methodist University alum Wade McDonald set out to make his debut feature film, the one thing he didn’t want to do was make a “typical” gay film: No naked boys as the selling point, no ridiculous gay-angst drama, no coming-out story. McDonald loves romantic comedies and wanted to make his own — just with men.

His plan worked. The result, Hold Your Peace, seems to have resonated with audiences.

“We finished in April 2011 and started applying to film festivals right away,” McDonald says. “We premiered in Philadelphia and it snowballed form there to San Diego and even a non-gay film fest in Rhode Island. We got a distributor before the film even premiered! It was crazy.”

Dallas audiences get their first chance to screen Hold Your Peace at the Angelika Film Center Mockingbird Station on Tuesday — just in time for Pride.

“It hadn’t shown here yet, but a friend of our audio editor, Terry Thompkins, was kind enough to pay for a screening,” he says. “I’m so excited it’ll show at the Angelika because I love it there.”

McDonald describes Peace as a meditation on relationships where shenanigans ensue after Aiden is asked to be the best man at his ex Max’s commitment ceremony. Only Aiden isn’t too keen on going alone, much less going at all.

What McDonald strived for was not a “gay movie” per se, but a film where characters happen to be gay. Anyone gay or straight can identify with the situation of unexpressed love and torch-bearing. At the same time, it was important to create a fun and easy watch that fairly portrayed queer men.

“It’s a very human and very honest film. This is a portrayal of normalcy,” he says. “I’ve had straight people tell me they didn’t think they would like this film. It plays a bit safer and I think more people can relate to it.”

McDonald funded Peace mostly on his own, making it on a $200,000 budget. By Hollywood standards, that’s nothing, but it’s high for indies. But he knew he had to make the production high quality. As a cinematographer by day, he had both the know-how and the equipment to shoot a film that looked polished. But he holds the entire cast and crew responsible for putting out a quality product. Don’t call him the film’s auteur — this was completely a team effort.

McDonald is intent on making his mark in queer cinema. Hollywood can take care of itself, he says, but he feels at home in Dallas. A burgeoning community of local gay filmmakers has left him with the sense there’s something special going on around here. He joins Israel Luna, Shawn Ewert, Robert Camina, Yen Tan and Mehul Shah as current or recent Dallasites forming a budding cinema community, turning Dallas into a Mecca of queer film. Hey, it could happen.

“I think it’s something that’s unique to Dallas,” he says. “We are starting something here and if we begin producing enough content here then we can create an industry. Something that can let people quit their day jobs to work on something they love.”

McDonald has no intention of moving to Los Angeles or New York for his movie career. He grew up here, went to SMU for school and he now lives with his partner in Plano. McDonald is the local boy done good, but who hasn’t moved away. He prefers to keep it that way.

“I’m proof positive you can do it in Dallas,” he says. “I could move to L.A., but my personality doesn’t mesh there and that’s fine. It’s inexpensive to shoot here, we have a great support system and I’d love to continue making films right here.”

For now, McDonald is gearing up for his initial Dallas screening. He showed it to cast and crew already, but now the general public gets to see his finished product. For any filmmaker, putting his work out there is nerve-racking, but McDonald and team already see the film taking on a life of its own.

“It’s your baby in a way and you don’t wanna be told you have an ugly baby,” he says. “I’m very proud of what we accomplished with Hold Your Peace and everyone worked their butt off. We’re not setting out to make great literature, just a film that’s fun to watch. You’re just supposed to enjoy it.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 16, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

Modern. Family.

Julianne Moore and out director Lisa Cholodenko talk about the summer’s coolest ‘family’ film

LAWRENCE FERBER  | Contributing Writer lawrencewferber@hotmail.com

JONI AND LASER HAVE TWO MOMMIES | Lesbian parents (Annette Bening and Julianne Moore) cope with meeting a sperm donor in the summer’s most off-handed gay movie, ‘The Kids Are All Right.’ Moore worked for years with writer-director Lisa Cholodenko to bring the film to the screen.

The Kids Are Alright
Julianne Moore, Annette Bening, Mark Ruffalo. Rated R. 100 mins. Opens Friday at Landmark’s
Magnolia Theatre. To read
Arnold Wayne Jones’ review, visit
DallasVoice.com/Screen.

To help Julianne Moore prepare for her role as a lesbian parent in The Kids Are All Right, out director/co-writer Lisa Cholodenko gave her some critical materials to study: Gay porn.

“Yeah!” Moore laughs, discussing the film in Manhattan’s Waldorf Astoria weeks before the film rolled out.

Moore and Annette Bening play Jules and Nic, a middle-aged lesbian couple who spice up their sex life by watching gay male porn — which their 15-year-old son, Laser (Josh Hutchinson), discovers and has a very awkward discussion with them about.

“That stuff is really funny,” Moore admits regarding the scenes. “I love the honesty with which they explain it [to him]. It’s really adorable.”

This is but one raucously funny sequence in the High Art director’s third feature, which she co-wrote with straight screenwriter Stuart Blumberg (Keeping the Faith, The Girl Next Door).

Debuting to acclaim and ecstatic reviews at 2010’s Sundance and Berlin Film Festivals, The Kids begins when Laser and his 18-year-old sister Joni (Mia Wasikowska), who were conceived via artificial insemination from an anonymous donor, track down their biological father, laid-back restaurateur Paul (Mark Ruffalo). Paul is intrigued by his sudden “father” status, and slowly ingratiates himself. Uptight Nic isn’t enthralled with this development, but Jules, in the midst of an identity crisis, develops a rapport with Paul, which leads to explosive complications.

Comedic and sharply drawn, The Kids represents Cholodenko’s first screenplay collaboration. While ultimately symbiotic — Blumberg gets credit for insisting they include the deliciously funny gay porn bit, which was borne from a random writing break conversation — Cholodenko admits the scripting process, which commenced following the release of her 2002 feature Laurel Canyon and endured for the better part of a decade, was fraught with tension and disagreement.

“There were times we wanted to throttle each other and quit,” she says. “It was protracted and painstaking and [there were] differences of opinion, but ultimately we defaulted to where we began. I liked that he was bringing a comedic and commercial sensibility and he liked I was bringing a more auteur sensibility and we each wanted a little something of what the other had or could do well.”

The script also reflected some personal events in Cholodenko’s and Blumberg’s own lives. She and long-term partner Wendy Melvoin (of Wendy & Lisa fame) were attempting to get pregnant (they succeeded in 2006); Blumberg had been a sperm donor while in college.

Luckily, they also had Moore attached early on. Moore, who played queer and sexually fluid characters in films including The Hours and Chloe, says she had been determined to work with Cholodenko even before they met at a Women In Film luncheon a few years after the 1998 release of High Art.

“We said we’d like to work together,” Moore recalls, “so we had a meeting and later she sent me [an early draft of The Kids]. I probably would have done anything. For me, it’s an examination of a long-term relationship and middle age marriage and that’s really interesting and unusual.”

The script went through numerous drafts, with major shifts in both its tone and scope. “There was originally a river rafting trip that all the big drama happened on,” Cholodenko says. “Once that went away because we realized we weren’t going to get $15 million to make the film, we really just focused in on the characters [because] that was the material that was going to make or break this film. But the biggest shift was the comedy and pushing that out front and center more than it had been in earlier passes.”

Playing the rudderless Jules proved an irresistible, meaty prospect for Moore. “She’s caught in a moment in time when she’s so uncertain, she doesn’t know what her next move is. She doesn’t even understand why she feels the way she does. You’ve been taking care of the kids for 18 years and suddenly are like, wow, I’ve got to get it together because they’re going [away]. So I like that and her swipes at change. It’s messy, interesting and compelling.”

As for the aspect of Jules she liked the least? “That she cheats,” Moore responds. “It’s not admirable what she does, it’s really tough. It’s not intentional and it’s hurtful. It was a challenge to play. How do you rebound from something like that?”

A womanizer and cuckold on one hand yet sensitive male who listens to Joni Mitchell on the other,  the complex character of Paul (of whom even Ruffalo admits, “what the guy does is pretty fucked-up”) represented one of the film’s greatest creative successes, says Cholodenko. “That was some real brain surgery for us,” she admits. “We kept pushing until he was the right balance of sympathetic and schmucky.”

To Moore, that Jules has sex with a man doesn’t say anything about the character’s lesbian identity.

“It’s very important that when Nic says to her, ‘Are you straight now?’ she says no. It’s authentic — that’s the last thing on her mind. This guy was just someone who validated her. She needed to be seen as other than what she was within that family.”

Although Moore remained attached during the lengthy writing and pre-production process, finding an actor to play Nic waited until late in the game. “By the time they finally had the script and kinetic tone they wanted, Lisa had a short list of people and said, ‘What do you think of Annette? She’s the one I really see in this,’” Moore says. “I was like, ‘That sounds great.

I don’t know Annette but I’ll e-mail her.’ So I did. It’s a way to cut through. Things can take months if you [go through] an agent, but you can generally get a response from a peer pretty quickly.”

The lesbian component has so far received applause from straight and LGBT audiences alike. But what does it bring to the story?

“I don’t know,” Moore replies after a pause. “Everything and nothing, really. It’s a portrait of middle-aged marriage and a family in transition. In terms of them being lesbians, the most interesting thing is … I think films, rather than influence popular culture I think they reflect popular culture. So the fact we can have a movie like this means this is an ordinary American family.”

For their part, Cholodenko and Blumberg wanted Nic and Jules’ sexuality to be “offhand and incidental,” and they focused on keeping things universal.

“I think it was really just the focus on the inner life of those characters,” she explains, “and being clear about their dilemmas and giving them all an arc, a place to begin and journey to go through. That’s not always an easy thing to do with five characters, and to have them woven in a way there’s a lot of cause and effect. If anything I’m really proud we pulled that off.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 16, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas

La Luna Entertainment announces festival dates in FW, Seattle, Philly for 'TOTWK'

After screening in the Tribeca Film Festival, filmmaker Israel Luna and his company are using that momentum to take his “Ticked-Off Tra**ies with Knives” on the festival circuit. Today, La Luna Entertainment announced the movie’s upcoming screenings, with one stop  in Cowtown.

The movie slices its way cross-country celebrating its Southwest Premiere at the 12th Annual Q Cinema Film Festival in downtown Fort Worth, on June 5; then heads further west June 12 and 13 where the movie will be featured as part of the Midnight Adrenaline section of the prestigious Seattle International Film Festival in Seattle. The tour then cuts back east to screen at Philadelphia’s QFest in July.

La Luna is working on getting TOTWK into additional festivals.

Editor’s Note: This post is not intended as an editorial statement either for or against the film’s title and/or content, so there’s no need to turn the comments into a pissing match. But we’re pretty sure you will anyway so never mind.

—  Rich Lopez