Bergmaniac

Streisand dazzles (as usual) on new CD of songwriters’ lyrics

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THE WAY THEY WERE | Babs has sung the lyrics of Marilyn and Alan Bergman for decades; now she has an album dedicated to the songs she and others have made famous.

RICH LOPEZ  | Staff Writer
lopez@dallasvoice.com

For Barbra Streisand, releasing an album is old hat… especially when she returns to the familiar. Her new album (dropping Tuesday) — her 33rd, following 2009’s Love is the AnswerWhat Matters Most: Barbra Streisand Sings the Lyrics of Alan and Marilyn Bergman, has been on her to-do list for some time: On it, she honors her frequent collaborators, who composed the lyrics to the Yentl soundtrack, “The Way We Were” and more.

It’s almost unfair to review Streisand anymore. Her production values are top-notch and there is no denying her voice still gorgeous after 50 years. For what she does, it’s perfection. Add to that her status as a music legend, especially among gay men, and nitpicks might seem blasphemous. But regardless of what the makers of Glee think, she’s still human, and while Matters works in the usual Streisand oeuvre, she also refrains in her tone.

On the opener, the Oscar winner “The Windmills of Your Mind,” Babs lets the construction shine more than her vocal interpretation, delivering drama but still holding back. Still, her voice is solid, like a perfect wine glass: delicate but sturdy. She continues such subtlety in subsequent tracks “Solitary Moon” and “Something New in My life” (where slight hints of grit in her voice are surprisingly refreshing).

She closes the 10-track album with songs that also rely on similar structure. Face it: She’s diva enough to not mind showing off. But her touches to “I’ll Never Say Goodbye” and the title track are exquisite.

Soon into the album, though, the impact is lessened. Covering Sinatra’s “Nice ‘n’ Easy” doesn’t fit her style. Streisand is not overly sexy, but this track needed to be flirty and sultry; instead she sounds like mom singing a silly “come hither” tune in front of all my friends. Awkward!

There is a downturn in the second half as “Alone in the World” and “So Many Stars” play on. They make less of an impression and she’s less engaged with the lyrics. An Academy Award-winning actress could put a little more emotion into it.

“The Same Hello, The Same Goodbye,” though, is a floating dream, and is easily a highlight, as is “That Face” performed jazzy and playfully. Streisand even sounds less on guard than her previous tracks, more relaxed.

For diehard fans, this is Streisand at her finest: Quality production, impeccable voice, timeless tunes. For the rest, this is the same over again. With nothing to prove, I wish she’d be more daring in her music the way she’s willing to be with her films (Little Fockers, anyone?).

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 19, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Movie Monday: ‘Glee The 3D Concert Movie’ now playing

Concert film of the gay-inclusive sitcom is as empowering as Bieber, but far more relevant

“Don’t Stop Believin’” also kicks off the new theatrical release Glee The 3D Concert Movie, and is played during the closing credits. Hey, when you have a formula that works, why introduce New Coke?

But this concert film is a strange hybrid — neither fully part of the series nor outside of it. The cast of Glee perform their hits songs, but all in character as their teen counterparts; in backstage interviews (and for the fans out front), they maintain the façade that 29-year-old actor Cory Monteith is really 17-year-old virginal jock Finn Hudson. That creates a convolution, if not a paradox: The Glee kids are lovable because they are nobodies, so why has all of New Jersey showed up to the Meadowlands to watch them perform an arena-rock concert with enough special effects to start a James Cameron film? When gay kid Kurt (Chris Colfer) looks at the camera to say, “Thank you for loving me” to his adoring fans, is he still Kurt?

Once you can get beyond this peculiarity, you begin to enjoy the film for what it is — that is, if you allow yourself to enjoy it. Watching the Glee movie is probably a lot like calling the DEA and reporting your ex as a Colombian drug mule: All In good fun, until someone finds out.

Yes, it’s a kind of coming out experience to admit you enjoyed a movie aimed at a teen audience (although middle-aged gay men are clearly the secondary target demo). The enthusiasm surrounding Glee isn’t appreciably different than that showered upon teenybopper acts like Justin Bieber or the Jonas Brothers: Rabid fan-fed joy fueling a giddy sense of teen empowerment.

For the entire review, click here.

—  Rich Lopez

‘Glee’ fully

Concert film of the gay-inclusive sitcom is as empowering as Bieber, but far more relevant

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DON’T STOP | Lovable losers of the New Directions choir take to the stage as rock gods in the hybrid music celebration ‘Glee The 3D Concert Movie.’

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

You know that cliché that life’s not about the destination, but the journey? Well, that’s kinda true of Glee, too — specifically, the Journey song “Don’t Stop Believin’.”

That anthem, which was performed at the conclusion the pilot episode of the series about Midwestern high school students coming to terms with their loser-hood, set the stage for what has become a cultural touchstone: A series that celebrated outcasts in the same way Lady Gaga has. Little Monsters, Gleeks … they’re all nerds with iPods and a sense of humor. (New Directions even performs “Born this Way,” speaking to its timeliness.)

“Don’t Stop Believin’” also kicks off the new theatrical release Glee The 3D Concert Movie, and is played during the closing credits. Hey, when you have a formula that works, why introduce New Coke?

But this concert film is a strange hybrid — neither fully part of the series nor outside of it. The cast of Glee perform their hits songs, but all in character as their teen counterparts; in backstage interviews (and for the fans out front), they maintain the façade that 29-year-old actor Cory Monteith is really 17-year-old virginal jock Finn Hudson. That creates a convolution, if not a paradox: The Glee kids are lovable because they are nobodies, so why has all of New Jersey showed up to the Meadowlands to watch them perform an arena-rock concert with enough special effects to start a James Cameron film? When gay kid Kurt (Chris Colfer) looks at the camera to say, “Thank you for loving me” to his adoring fans, is he still Kurt?

Once you can get beyond this peculiarity, you begin to enjoy the film for what it is — that is, if you allow yourself to enjoy it. Watching the Glee movie is probably a lot like calling the DEA and reporting your ex as a Colombian drug mule: All In good fun, until someone finds out.

Yes, it’s a kind of coming out experience to admit you enjoyed a movie aimed at a teen audience (although middle-aged gay men are clearly the secondary target demo). The enthusiasm surrounding Glee isn’t appreciably different than that showered upon teenybopper acts like Justin Bieber or the Jonas Brothers: Rabid fan-fed joy fueling a giddy sense of teen empowerment.

But the greatest hoots from the audience aren’t for new songs (there aren’t any original compositions) or even on fresh covers — it’s for the songs that have already been on the show. All of which makes a Glee concert something unique: A nostalgia tour for a TV series about to start only its third season. It seems appropriate, in the Twitter era, that such instant gratification has made us wistful about things we saw on TV just last spring.

But Glee is more important that Bieber or the Jonases for one reason: Its message of inclusiveness, tolerance and understanding. The TV show portrays the most sensitive discussion of gay life, especially among teens, that has been seen just about anywhere, and the movie is no different: In addition to the live concert performances, the film tells three stories of true Gleeks, one being Trenton, a teen outed in eighth grade who sees the Kurt character as a role model. (The other profiles are equally sweet and profound, including a dwarf who becomes her school’s most popular deb and a girl with Asberger’s who overcomes her shyness by bonding with others over Glee.)

The movie has almost as many cutaways to the audience as shots of the performers. That’s because, more so than most TV shows, Glee reflects its audience as much as it directs them. You occasionally forget the concert film isn’t a sing-along and are tempted to join in (and maybe do, during the closing credits) because it has a infectious energy.

Glee’s appeal, for me, has often been difficult to pin down. It takes an ironic approach to its rangy topics — American culture, high school popularity, current music, teen politics — but goes so far with its irony that it doubles back on itself. That pushes it into the realm of actual entertainment — it’s meta-irony.

As filmmaking, it’s more than serviceable, with the 3D effect magnifying the crotches of sexy back-up dancers and charming even non-fans with its love for an Asian toddler who mimics, eerily well, the choreography of “rival” glee club the Warblers… before throwing a 3D Slushee in your face (a common punishment at the Glee high school). Nothing like making your audience feel like part of the outsider clique.

The Help hit theaters on Wednesday, and it will likely still be eclipsed at the box office by Glee, but don’t let it slip by: It is the best film of the summer. Some may dismiss is as overly sentimental hokum, but it is really an expertly crafted comedic tearjerker along the lines of Steel Magnolias, Fried Green Tomatoes and The Blind Side with bits of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil thrown it. But it is more touching than all of those put together, and for me the top Oscar frontrunner of the year to date.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 12, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Sue Sylvester launches ‘Stop Believing’ campaign, urges boycott of upcoming ‘Glee’ movie

OK, I know it’s a cheesy publicity stunt, but it’s also a pretty funny one. A 3D concert movie of the hit show Glee is set to make it to theaters next month, and not everyone is happy — including, it turns out, Sue Sylvester. Sue is the character played by out actress Jane Lynch on the series, who’s always trying to destroy the glee club. So the studio has initiated Sue’s “Stop Believing” campaign to “boycott” the film. Below is the release. Note especially some of the details, like the “dictated but not read” warning. Clever stuff.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

What’s gay about this year’s Emmy noms

The Emmy nominations came out this morning, and there are, as usual, lots of gays in the mix.

The most obvious is the continued domination of Modern Family in the comedy category. Last year’s winner for best comedy series was nominated again for that, as well as the entire adult cast (pictured) in supporting categories, including out actor Jesse Tyler Ferguson, who plays half of a gay couple with straight actor Eric Stonestreet. Also up for best comedy series at the very gay (or gay-friendly) Glee (from gay creator Ryan Murphy), The Office, The Big Bang Theory, Parks and Recreation and 30 Rock. The Modern Family men will be up against Chris Colfer, so touching as Kurt, on GleeBig Bang‘s out actor Jim Parsons competes with his castmate Johnny Galecki and prior winner Alec Baldwin of 30 Rock.

Last year’s winner for supporting actress in a comedy, out actress Jane Lynch from Glee, is nominated again, alongside Modern Family’s Sofia Vergara and Julie Bowen, Jane Krakowski (30 Rock), Betty White (Hot in Cleveland) and Kristen Wiig (SNL). Archie Panjabi, who won supporting actress in a drama last year for The Good Wife playing a bisexual lawyer, is also up again, going against Christina Hendricks from Mad Men.

There were big nominations for Emmy (and gay) favorites Mad Men and Dexter, and some real love for the Texas-filmed series Friday Night Lights, which finishes its series run tomorrow on NBC. The cult hit The Killing got several nominations, but best drama series was not among them.

Kathy Griffin’s My Life on the D List was nominated for reality series, with gay hits American Idol, Top Chef, Project Runway, So You Think You Can Dance and Dancing with the Stars are up for reality competition. Gay-ish comedy shows The Colbert Report and The Daily Show are frontrunners for variety/comedy series.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

High nooner

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LAID ON END Jeff (Jonathan Groff, left) seduces three women but is cursed with talking to them as well in the unfocussed sex parable ‘Twelve Thirty.’

Even getting ‘Glee’ star Jonathan Groff naked can’t make ‘Twelve Thirty’ interesting

In classic 18th century picaresque novels, young men bounce bawdily from maiden bed to maiden bed, banging a few horny housewives in between, usually in service of a comic satire of sexual liberation peppered with commentary on politics and cultural mores. They are lascivious and funny — that’s what gets people reading them. It’s what makes them part of a genre.

Twelve Thirty follows a similar structure — Jeff (Glee’s Jonathan Groff), a flirtatious young man, claims sexual inexperience but gets laid more often than beige carpeting during a remnants sale, bedding two sisters and their mother. But the thing is, the film isn’t especially (at all?) funny; it has a frank, raw energy (there’s a good deal of sex and nudity) and it’s character-driven with intensive exposition, but it doesn’t amount to much.

Twelve Thirty is ripe with sexual liberation and tons of quirk, but the quirkiness feels forced. Writer-director Jeff Lipsky’s style echoes indie filmmakers Henry Jaglom and Hal Hartley: It’s sophisticated and smart in a cocktail-party-chatter way, but the emotions are treated with academic aloofness. You don’t feel the movie, you merely experience it.

Lipsky doesn’t mind addressing sex, or even showing sex pretty explicitly, but he prefers to talk about sex. And talk and talk and talk. (The title, I’m guessing, is a joke about having a “nooner” — after it’s over, you still need to find something to talk about from 12:30 on.) So, we get a few tantalizing moments of a naked Groff (and some naked ladies, including a surprisingly perky Karen Young), but much, much more conversation. If the dialogue were scintillating, that might suffice. But while the characters are painstakingly conceived (Young’s character, the mother of two girls, is a furrier who still sleeps with her gay ex-husband), there’s not much insight and the chats generally go nowhere (two British women turn up for moments of colorful backstory, then disappear). The film does take a dark turn bordering on cruelty or madness, but then ends as suddenly as it began. Huh?

The film itself has as much a crisis of identity as Jeff himself: It’s a romantic comedy in search of comedy. And romance.

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— Arnold Wayne Jones

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition May 20, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Criss goes from guest to heartthrob on ‘Glee’

Darren Criss

CLICK HERE TO READ OUR RECENT INTERVIEW WITH CRISS

ALICIA RANCILIO | Associated Press

NEW YORK — Darren Criss isn’t even officially a full-time cast member on Glee, yet he’s one of the most popular stars on the Fox TV show.

The actor made his debut last fall as Blaine Anderson, a gay student at Dalton Academy where Chris Colfer’s character, Kurt, transfers after being bullied out.

Criss performed a version of Katy Perry’s “Teenage Dream” that quickly became one of the show’s most popular performances to date. Viewers were smitten, and the 24-year-old was quickly written into most of the season’s episodes.

Now, fans can get an extra dose of Criss on the new album Glee: The Music Presents The Warblers.

The Associated Press: Your performances are so popular on Glee. What’s it like to be on an album?

Criss: They’re all incredible songs, so I really enjoyed them all. I worked superhard. If people are enjoying them I’m glad because it’s not something that I took lightly, so I’m really happy.

AP: What would you like to see on Glee that hasn’t happened yet?

Criss: I would really love it to start in the summer because I want to see what these kids are up to when they’re not in school. … I just want to see a little bit of summer jobs and it kind of opens up a whole lot of things. I always joke that everyone in Glee is like family-less. No one has parents, no one has brothers or sisters … like any time they have a concert or something, the parents never come, I guess. No one really cares. No one’s driving them home afterward. I don’t know how they’re gettin’ around. They’re like 15, 16 years old (laughs).

AP: When did you realize your first appearance on the show was a big deal?

Criss: I don’t watch a lot of TV. I’m really busy so I wasn’t really feeling it. I was living in my little … apartment. It was really dirty. Nothing really manifested itself in an immediate way. I still had laundry to do, bills to pay. … Any successes it may have garnered it didn’t hit me (laughs) at all so it was this very intangible thing. People were like, “It’s doing really well” and I was like, “OK, great.”

AP: Are you getting recognized a lot?

Criss: It depends where I go. … If it happens, I’m happy to address it, because I consider myself very fortunate. You know, at least I didn’t release a — that you know of — a sex tape, or I haven’t done anything illicitly terrible where you know, I’m sort of cowering in shame. It’s something that I’m really proud of and I should be so lucky and if someone wants to talk to me about it, “Hell yeah.”

AP: Do you have plans to release a solo album?

Criss: I was kind of at a crossroads right before I started Glee. I was literally about to throw in the towel with acting because music was proving itself sort of more mentally, spiritually and financially lucrative. I started a theatre company in Chicago, Team StarKid, and my EP “Human” started doing really well (it charted on Billboard) and that was gonna be my life. … Glee has both empowered and complicated that whole process. Whatever album I was about to put out got put aside for a little bit. … It’ll happen eventually.

—  John Wright

‘Victoria Jackson’ hates ‘The Little Mermaid’

Surely by now you have heard about former Saturday Night Live cast member Victoria Jackson’s rant about the gay kiss on Glee last week. If you missed it, here’s the folks from Showbiz Tonight interviewing her about comments she made on her blog calling the kiss “sickening.”

Now, let’s lighten the mood a little bit and check out this video, posted on YouTube by someone who apparently does not agree with Ms. Jackson, called “Victoria Jackson Speaks Out Against The Little Mermaid.” Watch it after the jump.

—  admin

What’s Brewing: More anti-gay hatred from Dan Ramos; Kurt and Blaine finally kiss on ‘Glee’

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. Dan Ramos, the Bexar County Democratic Party chairman who last week compared gays to “termites” and the Stonewall Democrats to the “Nazi Party,” followed up those statements Tuesday with another hate-filled rant in the San Antonio Current. This time, Ramos said homosexuality is “not natural” and compared it to being born with a polio leg. Ramos also said he’s glad gay couples in Texas can’t adopt children, which further shows what an idiot he is since the state has no ban on gay adoption. Here’s an excerpt:

Ramos frequently suggests that anti-Hispanic racism is to blame for the division that has been on display at past party meetings. When asked if race or sexual orientation were more a cause of concern for him, Ramos responded: “I go back to an old very well-used slogan: blacks wanted to get their way because they were black. What it is, is we have a very, very sinister movement in which you don’t know, at the end of the day, you didn’t even know that your next door buddy, your bosom fishing buddy was gay. That, I guess, goes to my belief in the religious thing. Look: this is not natural. This is like a kid who was born with a polio leg, you can’t kill him and you can’t sweep him under the rug. … I’m glad that Texas has not yet come to where gays can adopt children … because the poor kids have already come from a troubled family and then to be ‘hey, how come my momma is my daddy type of deal.’ It’s not natural.”

2. Kurt and Blaine finally kissed on Glee last night, and it was well worth the wait because we’re not talking about just a peck. Watch the scene below, at least until the video gets yanked from YouTube.

3. The City Council in Ogden, Utah, where I lived for about a year and covered City Hall for the daily newspaper, on Tuesday night unanimously approved ordinances prohibiting anti-LGBT discrimination in employment and housing. Ogden Mayor Matthew Godfrey, who happens to be a complete jerk, had threatened to veto the ordinances until they were revised so they could pass with veto-proof majorities. Hey, Mayor Matt, kiss my white gay ass. No wait don’t, you’d probably like that too much. Also, a quick shout out to those who’ll be celebrating at the city’s only gay bar, the Brass Rail.

UPDATE: Some sad news to report: I’ve learned that the Brass Rail in Ogden has closed. I wouldn’t be surprised if Godfrey somehow conspired to put the bar out of business.

—  John Wright

What’s Brewing: Lady Gaga at the AAC; GLAAD says gays can’t say ‘fag’; Dallas mayor’s race

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. We’ll have much more on Lady Gaga’s show at the American Airlines Center in Dallas last night — and the afterparties at local gay clubs — later on today after those who were in attendance drag themselves out of bed. But for now, above is some early video of Gaga performing “Telephone” after calling a little monster in the audience.

2. In response to criticism from GLAAD, Vanity Fair has apologized for an openly gay writer’s use of the word “fags” in an article about characters on Glee. Apparently, gay writers are no longer allowed to use the word “fag” in print, according to GLAAD. Needless to say, Instant Tea never received this memo.

3. Another reason why we need more openly LGBT people to run for public office: The Dallas mayor’s race looks like a real snoozer because it features three candidates who lack much flair.

—  John Wright