WATCH: American Airlines says, ‘It Gets Better’

Fort Worth-based American Airlines became the first airline to contribute to the It Gets Better Project by recording the above video through GLEAM, the company’s LGBT employee group. A full press release is after the jump.

—  John Wright

Screen Review: ‘The Eagle’

BIRDS OF A FEATHER | Shields and longswords give homoerotic meaning to the master-slave relationship in ‘The Eagle.’

Roman holiday

Homoeroticism fuels the beefcake battles of ‘Eagle’

STEVE WARREN  | Contributing Writer
thinhead@mindspring.com

The first great gay love story of 2011 is here, though you have to read between the lines to see it. The Eagle is part of the historical beefcake genre (formerly known as the sword and sandal flick), re-popularized by Gladiator and 300. Fans of the latter will be disappointed to see these Romans wearing more than those Greeks, though they do occasionally shed their tops and sleep in loincloths.

You might rather see Channing Tatum and Jamie Bell in a dance-off than playing a master and slave who exchange roles — or maybe you wouldn’t. At least they have choreographed battle scenes, and a fight that gives them an excuse to roll around on the ground together.

Marcus Flavius Aquila (Tatum) is trying to restore the honor of his family and Rome by recapturing the symbolic eagle — the original gold standard — that disappeared 20 years before, along with 5,000 troops of the Ninth Legion under his father’s command. He volunteers for duty in Britain, near where the Ninth was last seen. When he arrives there’s a shot of some men checking him out that could have come from a prison movie. He immediately takes charge and orders the fort redecorated.

Wounded and transferred after a disastrous attack, Marcus saves that slave Esca (Bell) from a gladiator. That’s when Marcus’ uncle (Donald Sutherland), with a matchmaking gleam in his eye, assigns Esca to serve Marcus; Esca does so, “even though I hate everything you stand for.” They then meet Guern (Mark Strong), a survivor of the Ninth, who directs them to the “painted warriors” who have the eagle.

Those colorful natives have maintained their fighting skills, even though there’s no sign of anyone for them to fight. Esca and Marcus swap identities, with Marcus posing as the slave. The plot then comes down to the adage, “If you love somebody set them free.” And how far that love goes … well, that’s where the mind wanders wildly.

Tatum, though not a bad actor, is out of his depth here. It doesn’t help that he occasionally picks up an accent from one or another of his co-stars, who come from all over the Anglo-American map. Bell gives Esca the same fierce determination Billy Elliot had, but less ambiguity than the script demands.

That The Eagle was directed by Kevin Macdonald (The Last King of Scotland) explains why it looks like a class act. His battle scenes are the trendy chaotic sort, offering no context for individual close-up conflicts and making you wait until the dust clears to figure out what happened.

As serious historical fiction The Eagle doesn’t soar but neither does it crash. As a bromance … please! Closeted as it is, The Eagle may be the hottest gay love story until Clint Eastwood’s J. Edgar has Leonardo DiCaprio and Armie Hammer going at it.

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

—  John Wright

Frau wow

HOUSEKEEPER FROM HELL  |  Joanna Glushak’s Frau Blucher gets one of the best gay songs in ‘Young Frankenstein:’ ‘He Vas My Boyfriend.’

Joanna Glushak helps turn ‘Young Frankenstein’ into something rare: A tour that outshines the original

STEVEN LINDSEY  |  Contributing Writer
stevencraiglindsey@me.com

When Mel Brooks turned his iconic 1970s black-and-white comedy, Young Frankenstein, into a big-budget Broadway musical, it had all the components of a smash hit: Huge stars, a beloved story, spectacular production values. The result was a fun night at a New York theater, but it didn’t live up to expectations.

Then it went on tour and everything changed for the better. And Joanna Glushak’s delightful scenery chewing as Frau Blucher is a major reason why.

“I think a few things happened,” explains Glushak, who has portrayed Young Dr. F’s housekeeper since the show began touring in September 2009. “The cast is different in a good and bad way: The [original cast] was a very, very contentious cast because they had all these stars vying for attention and jokes and I think there was a lot of tension on that stage.”

Another change was scaling back the sets, which were competing with the actors themselves.

“The sets were humongous — we actually used those sets on the first leg of the tour. We downsized to a much smaller version, so we got rid of the big lab towers that flew up in the air. This gives you more focus on the actors and the humor. All that flying and all the mishegas kind of dwarfed the humor. We’re all sharing the stage now and playing with each other. I don’t think they were doing that as well on Broadway.”

The camaraderie among the new cast is apparent to anyone in the audience. There’s a gleam in their eyes and even moments when it seems that the actors are introducing new lines or jokes to make each other laugh. But in the end, they’re working from a classic comedy script, so some things will never change — even character traits from the original film. And Glushak had some big shoes to fill, following several notoriously campy icons on screen and stage.

“Each role comes to you differently,” Glushak says. “For this one, I watched Cloris Leachman’s performance [in the film] and tried to steal what she did. I’m not like her, but I could feel what she was doing. It made sense to me. I saw Andrea Martin [on Broadway], and it was different, of course, but it gave me a sense of freedom that I could take from both of them and still bring my own thing to it. So my feeling is you steal from the best and then you make it your own. You don’t turn your nose up at something that works.”

Glushak says the Frau Blucher role is a dream job for a character actress and one she’s thrilled to have landed.

“Mel Brooks writes with a rhythm, a very Jewish rhythm at times. Being Jewish, I get it. It’s in my blood. So I feel like I was born to play this role, I hate to say. It sounds so tacky, but in a way, I get it,” she says. “I come from the same background as Mel Brooks in a sense.”

One of the highlights of her stint in the show was the opportunity to meet Brooks.

“He’s been absolutely wonderful. That was the highlight of my life. I grew up looking at his movies, I never thought I’d meet him and talk to him and spend time with him, but I did. It’s amazing.”

Her favorite song, of course, is Blucher’s big number, “He Vas My Boyfriend,” which is very popular among gay audiences, probably due to the double-entendre laden lyrics about getting banged and plowed. Or maybe that her boyfriend won a three-legged race … all by himself.

“I don’t know if you know this, but the gay men’s choir [of Washington, D.C.] did a version of it,” she says. “I know it’s a big draw. It’s something new to sing at the musical theater bars!”

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

—  John Wright