Wanna book a gay movie in Dallas? Here’s how you can do it

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Alan Turing is one of the most interesting unheralded figures of the 20th century. A genius mathematician, Turing was primarily responsible for decoding the Nazis’ “enigma” code and giving the Allies a leg-up in World War II. He should have been put on the money. But he was gay at a time when that wasn’t permitted, and so he became a criminal instead.

Codebreaker is a docu-drama about his life, and was nominated for a GLAAD Award. And it’s scheduled to show in Dallas next Tuesday. Scheduled, but not confirmed. The company releasing it has an interesting business model: They’ve booked a theater (AMC NorthPark) for April 9 at 7:30 p.m., but if they don’t sell at least 50 tickets, they can’t show the film. So this is your chance: Sign up here and help make the screening happen.

—  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

Q Cinema announces festival winners

Gun Hill Road, a drama about a Latino man coping with his child coming out as trans (above), won the best overall features award from Q Cinema. The Dallas Voice Audience Choice Award went to eCupid, a comedy about an online dating service run amok (below). The closing ceremony was held Sunday night at the Rose Marine Theater.

Other winners at Fort Worth’s 13th annual festival of gay and lesbian films include a dramedy about a gay guy navigating the cutthroat world of Hollywood, Going Down in LA-LA Land (best gay film), Trigger (best lesbian film), about the brief reunion of former girl bandmates, the Castro District AIDS film We Were Here (best documentary) and Judas Kiss, a drama about a man given a second chance to shape his life, which took the Shawn A. Moore Prizes for Best Feature Debut.

Short film winners include Bedfellows (dramatic short/men), Waiting for Goliath (comedy short/men), Slip Away (dramatic short/women) and Tools 4 Fools (comedic short.women).

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

A little eye candy for President’s Day: Gym nudity in new gay film ‘The Brothers Sinclair’

Although this falls squarely in the category of shameless promotion, it’s awfully hot. This is a featurette (itself a coinage for a promotional video) for an upcoming gay movie called The Brothers Sinclair. Honestly, the movie looks cheesy (not the bird in the pasta) but the hot guys may soften my animosity for the cliches. No word on when the final feature will come out, but the hotties here are good enough for now. Enjoy!


—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Buggery nights

‘Closer to Heaven’ wallows in sex, drugs & rock; ‘33 Variations’ hits wrong note

ARNOLD WAYNE JONES  | Life+Style Editor jones@dallasvoice.com

BRINGING SEXY BACK  | Morgana Shaw, center, leads a menagerie of freaks in Uptown Players’ ‘Closer to Heaven.’ (Photo courtesy Mike Morgan)
BRINGING SEXY BACK | Morgana Shaw, center, leads a menagerie of freaks in Uptown Players’ ‘Closer to Heaven.’ (Photo courtesy Mike Morgan)

ON THE BOARDS
CLOSER TO HEAVEN at the Kalita Humphreys Theater, 3636 Turtle Creek Blvd. Through Oct. 24. UptownPlayers.org

33 VARIATIONS at Theatre Three, 2900 Routh St. in the Quadrangle. Through Oct. 31. Theatre3Dallas.com

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The opening 10 minutes of Closer to Heaven, the season ender from Uptown Players, is an exhausting, non-stop carnival of music and movement. If only it could sustain that energy.

This is as hardcore as a musical usually gets — edgy, dark stuff. (Andy Redmon’s set looks like the decaying remnants of a Satanic altar.) But it gets lost in a weak score and plot that turns too trite, too soon.

The program says it’s set in 1999, but the sound and story are pure 1987: Dave (Evan Fuller), a straight young Irish boy, comes to the big city to work at a club, eventually becoming an exotic dancer. On the way, he gets exposed to gay sex, drugs and electronica, becoming corrupt and losing the innocence that made him so attractive.

These were all clichés by the time Christopher Atkins shook his ass in another “heaven” set potboiler, A Night in Heaven.  The addition of gay themes makes them no fresher here.

And yet, Closer to Heaven works — on the margins, at least. As flawed as the show is, it’s still compelling. I enjoyed large swaths of it, almost against my better judgment — at least in Act 1. By Act 2, it starts to resemble an indie gay film more than a structured musical, as the plot shifts to a relationship between two men that comes almost from nowhere.

The performances surpass the material. If the androgynous Master of Ceremonies from Cabaret were a coke whore and more clearly a woman, she’d probably look and sound a lot like Morgana Shaw’s Billie Trix. In her leather fetish garb, it seems as if the director, Bruce Coleman — here and with his bondage-themed take on Equus last winter — is working through some S&M fantasies at Uptown. In Shaw, in thigh-high latex platform boots, he’s found an excellent medium.

Shaw doesn’t blink at the excesses, channeling equal parts Marlene Dietrich and Nico Icon, and she gets (by far) the best lines to have fun with. “They say my voice is ‘living in,’” Billie growls with Teutonic predation. “Your voice would be lived in if you sucked as many cocks as I have.” That’s just one of the shocking moments in the production, and the fact it’s still possible to be shocking onstage these days says something.

Coy Covington, nearly unrecognizable as a sleazy boy band entrepreneur, gets some droll moments (he seems to know it’s best not to take the script too seriously). As Covington’s toadie Flynn, Mikey Abrams steals laughs as an Eve Arden type with bits of Jack McFarland, Ethel Mertz and Rachel Berry.

Unfortunately, the Pet Shop Boys’ music doesn’t translate to stage like Elton John’s and ABBA’s do. (The Act 2 “overture,” a nasty, disorienting mess, just puzzled the opening-night audience.) Their songs are hopelessly pop-sounding, without the theatrical flourishes of a Broadway score. Numbers just drift off without conclusion, as if the next track will fade over it. The lyrics are too literal, and the final song repetitive to the point of annoyance. That’s a bad note to leave on when it kicks off so well.

Two centuries earlier, music played a big role in the lives of some other Europeans. In 1819, Ludwig van Beethoven (Bruce Elliott) took on the challenge of composing 33 variations on a “small waltz,” becoming virtually obsessed with it and startling the world with his eventual output. In the present day, musicologist

Katherine Brandt (Sharon Garrison) head to Bonn to research Beethoven’s letters, trying to parse what he saw in this trivial little ditty.

Brandt doesn’t have much time. She’s been diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s Disease, and is slowly losing motor coordination. She’s as obsessed with figuring out the mystery as Ludwig Van was writing it, to the exclusion and disappointment of her estranged daughter (Lydia Mackay).

33 Variations, Moises Kaufman’s 2009 Broadway hit now presented by Theatre Three, is staged by director Jac Alder with the same bombast as the “Ninth Symphony.” Where’s the deft, limber subtlety of Mozart, or even Beethoven’s own “Moonlight Sonata?” Everything about it is melodramatic and big — too big.

The cast comes at the excess from both ends. Jane Fonda played Brandt on Broadway, and it’s difficult to imagine her playing the part with the same noisy desperation as Garrison. Garrison projects her frustration too prosaically, furrowing her brow and snarling her lips in confusion. She undermines the drama. (It doesn’t help that when she’s rolled out for a CT scan, she looks like a Luann platter being slid along the counter at Luby’s.)

Gordon Fox, as Beethoven’s shrill assistant, Schindler, turns the comedy into something out of a silent film.

He’s all moon-faced surprises and overwrought gestures. He acts like Renfield to Beethoven’s Dracula. I half expected him to eat bugs. Minor parts by two young actors are performed with distracting incompetence.

Elliott is a clear exception, capturing the maestro’s bravado and his neuroses with depth and understanding, and exceeding in the comedy as well. (I’d love to see him try the Joe Sears roles in Greater Tuna.)

The costumes, especially the period clothing, are a disaster; what should be elaborately brocaded frocks look like cheap cotton hand-me-downs in need of a good pressing. Compared to the exquisite work done just a few month ago at Circle Theatre for Bach at Leipzig, they pale.

The same is true of the plays. Bach was conceived as a fugue; 33 Variations? Intentionally or not, it’s a dirge.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 8, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas

‘Ticked-Off Trannies With Knives,’ ‘March On’ and more at Austin gay film fest this weekend

If you’re in Austin this weekend, you may want to stop by the Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar, site of the 23rd Annual Austin Gay & Lesbian International Film Fest.

Gay Dallas filmmaker Israel Luna’s controversial “Ticked-Off Trannies With Knives” is showing at 9:45 tonight, and will be followed by a talkback discussion.

And at noon Sunday, Dallas activist Laura McFerrin’s documentary about last year’s National Equality March, “March On,” will make its world premiere. We’ve heard  most if not all of the folks whose stories are featured in “March On” will be on hand for the screening.

Of course these are plenty of other films at the festival worth seeing, too. For example, we’re intrigued by “Faith of the Abomination,” about a lesbian couple (shown above) that went undercover and infiltrated an evangelical church in Austin a few years back.

For a full schedule, go here.

—  John Wright

Louisiana: Top & bottom

Part 2, profiling our gaybor to the East: Shreveport’s homespun gay appeal

ARNOLD WAYNE JONES  | Life+Style Editor jones@dallasvoice.com

KING OF CAKES
KING OF CAKES | The king cakes at Julie Anne’s are the best you’ve ever had, but all the baked goods soar. Arnold Wayne Jones/Dallas Voice)

We profiled the bottom of Louisiana as a travel destination earlier this month — now it’s time to hit the top.

With Southern Decadence right around the corner in New Orleans, nearby Shreveport-Bossier City doesn’t get the attention from gay travelers it deserves. But this neighbor to the east is making strides in cultivating its LGBT cred — and not just during Mardi Gras (although we like it for Mardi Gras a lot).

Much of the central business district is fairly compact and surprisingly lively. Less than a week after SoDec ends, Shreveport will gay up the state with the town’s second annual Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, sponsored by PACE (People Acting for Change and Equality) at the Robinson Film Center. The Robinson, like our own Angelika, is a mecca for artsy films (it was the only place in the region to show Milk a few years ago). It’s a beautiful, modern facility that, along with the ArtSpace across the street, gives Downtown an artistic vibe. That sense is augmented with John Waters in tow, which he will be for the fest.

Credit SBC’s progressives for standing up for gay rights. Last year, a city councilman threatened to yank funding for the Robinson because of the gay film fest. The reaction was large enough that not only did the resolution get nowhere, in December the city adopted a non-discrimination policy that covers sex and gender identity. (PACE is also sponsoring a mayoral candidate forum this Sunday.)

Walk or drive down toward the Red River to check out Sci-Port, an interactive science museum targeting families and especially curious kids, but an addictively entertaining place for nerds of all ages. The Sawyer Space Dome Planetarium inside offers everything from laser shows to calculating your weight on the moon (a boon to pound-conscious gays) and lets you show the stars on the day you were born. It also hosts the state’s only IMAX dome theater.

Just down the street, the Barnwell Memorial Garden and Art Center has a greenhouse that’s a hoot to wander through.

Farther away, but completely worth the drive, is the R.W. Norton Art Gallery, a huge museum of eclectic and excellent art, including “double elephant” Audubon portfolios and rotating high-end exhibitions. The self-guided cell-phone tour is an ingenious way to enjoy the art at your own pace.

Perhaps the most interesting attraction, though, is the Logan Mansion. Built in 1897, this private home (Vicky and Billy LeBrun live here full-time) is an architectural marvel bursting with history. It’s also full of believable ghost stories, which Vicky is more than willing to share. It’s one the best historic home tours ever.

Although SBC is not as famed as the Crescent City, all Louisianans know how to enjoy their food, and the culinary scene has several highlights.

Don’t miss the Wine Country Bistro, which deftly executes rustic dishes with French and American country influences. Try the perfectly seared scallops (the size of a fish) on a bed of bacon grits, a corn bread soufflé so sweet it’s more like spoon bread and a mixed berry cobbler with buttermilk ice cream that’s slap-yo’-mama good.

Bistro Byronz has branches in Baton Rouge and Mandeville, but the décor and fare cry out New Orleans, with traditional French dishes like cassoulet (a hearty white bean soup) and chicken paillard (a form of scallopini) in a casual setting that invites jazz music and mimosa.

Logan Mansion
GHOST TOUR | Logan Mansion offers one of the best hist- oric home tours anywhere. (Arnold Wayne Jones/Dallas Voice)

More formal and spacious, but just as delectable, is Giuseppe, an Italian restaurant with tons of private dining rooms for intimate parties. Try the Sunday “champagne symphony” brunch, which serves bottomless bellinis, mimosas or champagne for six bucks and has well-priced entrees. The razor-thin salmon carpaccio is a highlight, but the housemade pastas are unmissable.

OK, some of the food is more kitsch that cuisine — but even that is noteworthy. Julie Anne’s Bakery is home to the king cake, the signature confectionary of the Lenten season. If you’ve only choked down local grocery store versions, be prepared: They do ‘em right here (as many as 600 a day in the week before Fat Tuesday) and aside from being about as healthy a stick of butter, the flavors are heavenly. (There are other delicious baked goods here for the other 10 months of the year.)

On the other hand, it’s not a bad idea to plan a Mardi Gras season visit, where you can enjoy floats, a pet parade and maybe even get access to the pre-parade krewe parties where the massive moving structures are finished out. Some of the krewes are even gay — which goes to show NOLA doesn’t have a lock on queer-friendly Louisiana.

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LITTLE BLACK BOOK

Wine Country Bistro
Wine Country Bistro

ACTIVITIES & ATTRACTIONS
ArtSpace, 710 Texas St. ArtSpaceShreveport.com.
Barnwell Memorial Garden & Art Center, 601 Clyde Fant Parkway. BarnwellCenter.com.
North Louisiana Gay and Lesbian Film Festival (Sept. 10–16), NLGFF.org.
Logan Mansion, 725 Austin Place. R.W. Norton Gallery, 4747 Creswell Ave. RWNAF.org.
Robinson Film Center, 617 Texas St. RobinsonFilmCenter.org.
Sci-Port Museum, 820 Clyde Fant Parkway. SciPort.org.

DINING
Bistro Byronz
, 6104 Line Ave. BistroByronz.com.
Giuseppe, 4800 Line Ave. RistoranteGiuseppe.com.
Julie Anne’s Bakery, 825 Kings Highway.
Wine Country Bistro, pictured, 4801 Line Ave. Wine Country Net.com.

RESOURCES
PACE,
PaceLouisiana.org.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 20, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens

Dallas activist’s National Equality March documentary to premiere at Austin gay film fest

Lesbian Dallas activist Laura McFerrin sends along word that the long-awaited premiere of her directing debut, “March On,” will take place during the Austin Gay & Lesbian International Film Festival in September. The full-length trailer is above. From McFerrin’s press release:

March On documents the 2009 National Equality March through the lives of five families who put aside their daily routine, packed up their hopes and went to Washington DC to demonstrate that they believe in Equality. Along with footage from past marches, interviews and powerful speakers, March On takes you to this fantastic and historic event. In addition, March On includes Lt. Dan Choi, Lady Gaga, Cleve Jones, Cynthia Nixon, Stacyann Chin and Michelle Clunie.

McFerrin says she will attend the premiere along with some of the men and women featured in the documentary. The showing will be at noon Sept. 12 at the Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar, 1120 South Lamar Blvd. in Austin. Also featured at AGLIFF will be Dallas filmmaker Israel Luna’s “Ticked-Off Trannies with Knives.”

—  John Wright

See an advance screening of the summer’s most promising gay film, ‘The Kids Are All Right’

Two fairly mainstream feature films with strong gay content were set to open soon: Lisa Cholodenko’s The Kids Are All Right and I Love You Phillp Morris with Jim Carrey and Ewan McGregor. The latter’s release date has been pushed back to October, which leaves the  former — which stars Julianne Moore and Annette Bening as a lesbian couple whose children were conceived via a sperm donor — as the big gay film of the summer.

And we got yer ticket for it.

On Wednesday, Dallas Voice is sponsoring a screening of the film, which also stars Mark Ruffalo. The screening will be at Landmark’s Magnolia Theater in the West Village starting at 7:30 p.m.

You can pick up a free pass at the Whole Foods on Lomo Alto starting Saturday, June 26.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones