REVIEW: ‘Orange Is the New Black’

Taylor Schilling as Piper Chapman

For decades, HBO has touted itself with this motto: “It’s not TV. It’s HBO.” Well, I think Netflix might wanna copy that with something like: “It’s not HBO. It’s Netflix.”

For a decade, Netflix was the DVD-by-email company that helped destroy Blockbuster Video. But it knew it had to grow with technology, and its streaming service has become even more popular: Movies on demand. And old TV shows.

And now, exclusive content.

It started this winter with House of Cards, the $100-million 13-part drama with Kevin Spacey, and they followed it this summer with Season 4 of Arrested Development — all with a lot of gay appeal.

But neither of those comes close to the queer delights of Orange Is the New Black. What makes Netflix different than premium cable like HBO (and let’s face it, that network does incredible work, including last night’s season debut The Newsroom) because rather than tease out episodes one-per-week, Netflix dumps an entire season (13 eps) on one day.

That’s what it did with Orange, and watching every episode is how I spent much of my weekend.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

REVIEWS: Genocide on parade: “Carnage,” “In the Land of Blood and Honey” onscreen, “Anne Frank” onstage at WaterTower

In Carnage, two well-intentioned, upper-class New York couples hash out the details of a schoolyard brawl between their sons. Ethan, the son of Penelope (Jodie Foster) and Michael Longstreet (John C. Reilly), was swatted in the face with a tree branch by Zachary, the son of Nancy (Kate Winslet) and Alan Cowan (Christoph Waltz), knocking out a few teeth.

Penelope is especially high-strung about the incident — so much so, she can’t help but insert little jibes even as Nancy and Alan (clearly less horrified by the events than Penelope would like) offer pro forma apologies. Their son “intentionally hit him,” she snipes, eventually causing Alan to observe, “Yes, we’ve established it was intentional — what is gained by emphasizing it?”

Penelope clearly wants to live in a world where enemies become friends and we all hold hands around a campfire; Alan, a high-powered litigator, has a more cynical view. “I worship the god of carnage,” he says. Bad things happen, even if not because of bad people. Violence simply is the way.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

National Film Registry adds 25 movies, some with gay interest

Each year, the National Film Registry designates 25 films to be added to its roster of “historic” films that warrant preservation as cultural touchstones. It’s not all silent films or Hollywood pop entertainment; indeed, one of the most thoughtful — and brief — additions in years past is the Abraham Zapruder film that documents JFK’s assassination.

This year, the films added range from  A Cry of the Children and A Cure for Pokeritis (both from 1912)  1994′s Forrest Gump. Among the selectees of interest to me:

I, An Actress (1977). This movie from gay underground filmmaker George Kuchar (who died earlier this year from prostate cancer) and his twin brother Mike is one of their camp classics. Kuchar was lesser known than contemporaries Andy Warhol and Stan Brakhage, but a real influence on John Waters.

The Silence of the Lambs (1991). The Jodie Foster thriller was the surprise Oscar winner for best picture and cemented the queer actress as a film powerhouse. Its killer, a gender-dysphoric psychopath, was criticized by some gay rights groups, which led the director, Jonathan Demme, to choose for his next film a pro-gay storyline: The result was Philadelphia.

El Mariachi (1992). Though there’s nothing especially gay about it, Austin-based filmmaker Robert Rodriguez’s Spanish-language actioner, made for $7,000 and intended for direct-to-video release in the Tejano market, became a cult hit and made Rodriguez a hero of Texas filmmakers. It was the basis for his remake, Desperado.

Here’s a complete list, in alphabetical order:

1. Allures (1961)
2. Bambi (1942)
3. The Big Heat (1953)
4. A Computer Animated Hand (1972)
5. Crisis: Behind A Presidential Commitment (1963)
6. The Cry of the Children (1912)
7. A Cure for Pokeritis (1912)
8. El Mariachi (1992)
9. Faces (1968)
10. Fake Fruit Factory (1986)
11. Forrest Gump (1994)
12. Growing Up Female (1971)
13. Hester Street (1975)
14. I, an Actress (1977)
15. The Iron Horse (1924)
16. The Kid (1921)
17. The Lost Weekend (1945)
18. The Negro Soldier (1944)
19. Nicholas Brothers Family Home Movies (1930s-40s)
20. Norma Rae (1979)
21. Porgy and Bess (1959)
22. The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
23. Stand and Deliver (1988)
24. Twentieth Century (1934)
25. War of the Worlds (1953)

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Richard Chamberlain advises actors to not come out, claims he came out in 2003. Oh pu-leese!

Richard Chamberlain

In an interview in the Advocate this week, Richard Chamberlain talked about the danger for young leading man-type actors who come out.

He’s right about one thing. Hollywood is still very closeted despite Will & Grace, Modern Family or the show he’s now appearing on, Brothers & Sisters. The article says he came out in 2003.

Chamberlain was one of the biggest teen heartthrobs of the early 1960s when he played the title role on Dr. Kildare, the debonnaire young doctor on one of TV’s first medical shows.

In the 1970s, I was working in a store on 5th Avenue in New York City. By then, black-and-white television shows were long forgotten. TV Land and Nick at Night hadn’t been thought of. Cable was mostly for places that had no other TV reception.

Chamberlain was a regular customer in our store. He always shopped with his boyfriend. No one in the store thought anything about it. Chamberlain was gay. Everyone knew it. He was just a friendly former TV star shopping with his boyfriend. There was no secret and no one really cared.

So when he advises actors not to come out just as he didn’t, he’s really just fooling himself. When he “came out” in 2003, about as many people were surprised by the announcement as when Ricky Martin announced earlier this year that he was gay. Will people be equally shocked by an announcement from Jodie Foster?

Although everyone has a right to privacy, if someone is living his life pretty openly, he shouldn’t be shocked or annoyed that people know he’s gay. In fact, he’s fooling himself if he thinks people didn’t.

He may have only done the big Advocate interview in 2003, but everyone he came in contact with knew he was gay since his Dr. Kildare days. And that includes the people at studios who were hiring him. I knew him in the mid-70s.  His sexual orientation didn’t prevent him from getting the biggest role in his career when he starred in The Thornbirds in the early ’80s.

—  David Taffet