Emmy nominations are pretty damn gay

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The Tony Awards are always gay, the Oscars less so (at least they are more closeted), but the Emmys? They’ve almost kept up with the Tonys in recent years. Consider: This year’s ceremony on Sept. 22 will be hosted by regular Tony Awards host Neil Patrick Harris — who plays straight on his TV show but is a camptastic song-and-dance man at heart.

Harris and Breaking Bad actor Aaron Paul announced the nominees for the Emmys this morning, and it proved to be a very gay affair indeed. Here are some queer highlights:

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

… And a very gay Memorial Day Weekend to you, too!

Liza

Consider: “Don’t ask, don’t tell” is repealed, and now we have the gayest Memorial Day Weekend in history. Coincidence? Not if you’re a consqueerispy theorist like I am. Here’s the evidence.

On Sunday, May  26, International Mr. Leather crowned its 2013 winner in Chicago (congrats to Andy Cross, Mr. San Francisco Leather, for his victory). Now, IML always takes place Memorial Day weekend, but how to explain the following additional gay stuff?

Arrested Development, the long-canceled TV sitcom that has long enjoyed a cult following, was relaunched by Netflix … also on Sunday. It stars out actress Portia Di Rossi, and contained many gay faves, including Liza Minnelli (pictured) and Tommy Tune, in its prodigious cast. Moreover, the show — always embracing of gay content — went overboard with queer content. Not only did they emphasize Tobias Funke’s gay closethood, but they actually addressed DADT in the show, and GOB (Will Arnette) went to a gay bar in order to seduce a gay magician (Ben Stiller), and … well, let’s just say they didn’t hide the rabbit.

But wait! Arrested Development had to compete with queer eyes for Behind the Candelabra, the Liberace biopic starring Michael Douglas and a frequently naked Matt Damon, which was the buzz of Facebook and received raves from the press.

But we’re not done. Also on Sunday, Blue is the Warmest Color, a drama about a girl who becomes involved with another woman, topped the awards at the Cannes Film Festival in France, taking the Palme D’or, the festival’s top honor. That already poises it for a major North American release. (The choice was hailed as a symbol of France’s recent passage of same-sex marriage rights.)

And … Sunday was my birthday, which is about as gay as you can get.

I could go on, but I think I’ve made my point.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

REVIEW: ‘Behind the Candelabra’

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Douglas, left, as Lee Liberace, and Matt Damon as Scott Thorson.

That fact has been largely forgotten in the 25 years since he died — still closeted! — of complications from AIDS. By the end (hell, decades before it), he had become a caricature, but the image of the facelifted, lisping Vegas showboy has obscured his humanity.

So its especially impressive that a bunch of straight guys — director Steven Soderbergh, screenwriter Richard LaGravanese, and actors Matt Damon and Michael Douglas — have done do an astonishing job of capturing the truth of gay men in the pre-AIDS, barely-post-Stonewall decade of the 1970s with Behind the Candelabra, the HBO biopic debuting Sunday at 9. They could have soft-pedaled the sex; they could have idealized and mystified the era; they could have taken any number of “safer” routes. Instead, they told a story with such a savvy understanding of gay culture, you might think you’re watching a documentary.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Steven Soderbergh: The gay interview

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Steven Soderbergh, director of ‘Behind the Candelabra’

The new HBO film about Liberace’s relationship with Scott Thorson, Behind the Candelabra, debuts on HBO Sunday; next Friday, I’ll have a review of it. Until then, enjoy Chris Azzopardi’s interview with the film’s director, Steven Soderbergh … who, following this, Side Effects and Magic Mike must be considered the patron saint of gay Hollywood.

By Chris Azzopardi

Steven Soderbergh knows who’s significantly responsible for the major success of his male-stripper romp Magic Mike: gay men eager to ogle the barely-covered bits of Channing Tatum and his hunky posse. The Oscar-winning director’s upcoming feature will obviously court the same audience — and not just because Matt Damon lets it all hang out, too.

Behind the Candelabra the biopic about Liberace, is so gay that major Hollywood studios would have nothing to do with it. HBO took it up, though, and it debuts Sunday. The revealing story stars Michael Douglas as the shiny showman who died of AIDS complications at age 67 and Damon as his much younger beau, Scott Thorson.

In our interview, Soderbergh spoke in depth about their real-life relationship, the “flamboyancy scale” used to guide the actors’ gayness onset, diversity in film and why Damon wanted to flaunt the junk in his trunk.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Liberace biopic ‘too gay’ for theaters

The multiplexes’ loss is HBO’s gain. Steven Soderbergh — he of the Oscar for best director, he who turned a cheesy idea into Magic Mike, the Citizen Kane of male stripper movies — apparently doesn’t have the juice in Hollywood to make gay people seem commercial.

When it was announced a few years ago that Michael Douglas would be starring in Behind the Candelabra, a biopic about flamboyant pianist Liberace (with Matt Damon as his lover), it seemed like Oscar bait, but turns out it’ll have to be Emmy bait: No studios wanted to touch the film.

Keep in mind: It has been seven years since Brokeback Mountain, which, among the five films nominated for best picture that year, was the one with the highest box office gross. This is three years after The Kids Are All Right, another Oscar nominee for best picture, about a lesbian relationship. And after, for that matter, repeal of “Don’t ask, don’t tell,” passage of same-sex marriage laws in a fifth of U.S. states and the presence of gay people all throughout our culture.

The reason no studio would touch it? “Too gay,” according to Soderbergh.

Uh-huh.

Imagine a studio saying a movie starring two Oscar winners, and directed by a third, was “too Jewish” or “too black.” (I can guarantee you, no one has ever said a movie idea was “too stupid” or “too white.”) But that’s what Soderbergh said in an interview with the New York Post. “The studios didn’t know how to sell it. They were scared.”

Instead, the movie will air later this spring on HBO. Sounds like a good time to sign up for HBO if you haven’t already.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Super Bowl goes gay with ads, halftime show

The NFL might want to consider changing the name of the Super Bowl to the Faaabulous Bowl. At least if last night’s game was any indicator.

It’s not enough that it featured hunky QBs Tom Brady and Eli Manning (and could have Drew Brees or Tim Tebow), running around in Spandex with other muscle bears. And there was of course Madonna’s mega-gay halftime show with scantily clad gladiators and cross-dressing scruffy guys and Nikki Minaj, who kinda-sorta seems like a drag queen to me. Even the first half recap was set to “Edge of Glory” by Gaga.

No, the real gayness was in the commercials. Watch a few of them below  …

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

News about the Liberace biopic… or is it?

I received a press release today that said “Steven Soderbergh … and Jerry Weintraub … will bring the film Behind the Candelabra, starring Michael Douglas and Matt Damon… to HBO Films, it was announced today.” The thing is, I’m not quite sure how this is news.

It’s been known for quite a while that Douglas and Damon were starring and Soderbergh directing; I reported about it last May here, and it was already well known by that time. So what exactly is the news? Is it that Jerry Weintraub is producing? That it will appear on HBO? I’m not sure.

What I am sure is that production doesn’t even begin until next summer, for a 2013 release. So whatever this “news” is, well, I’m passing it along…

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Friends of Dorothy

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EASE ON DOWN | The Tin Man (Sydney James Harcourt, above left) steals the show in ‘The Wiz’ at DTC, while over at Fair Park, Megan Sikora, right, gives ‘Guys & Dolls’ its jolt.

If only DTC’s ‘Wiz’ had a heart. And I got yer horse right here, ‘Guys & Dolls’

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

If there’s one thing a gay guy can be counted on to know something about, it’s The Wizard of Oz. After all, the death of Judy Garland sparked the Stonewall Riots, and even before that, being a “friend of Dorothy” was code for practicing The Love That Dare Not Speak Its Name. You wanna change it? Be prepared for theater queens to take note.

And so it is with The Wiz, the 1975 funked-up, all-black musical that serves as the Dallas Theater Center’s season ender.

The appeal of Dorothy’s adventure has always been the exploration of self-understanding with heavy doses of psychology. (The folks she meets in her reveries about Oz mirror real-life people she knows in Kansas.) This rushed 90-minute kiddie show so trims the classic structure of the film (it’s closer in plot to the book, but that’s not a good thing), it feels more like a series of unrelated vignettes than a mythological journey of personal discovery. Dorothy gets to Oz, meets a good witch (not Glinda), hooks up with three buddies (sans Toto, who is only heard barking offstage in the opening), dispatches an evil witch in about six minutes then presumably makes it back home (we never see Kansas again).

DTC is marketing it as a “family musical,” and I suppose it is in the sense that we might start referring to Michele Bachmann’s husband as “family.” The show — even in this abridged version — is gayer than Liberace on Halloween. The Lion, always the nelliest of the bunch, basically admits he’s gay due to an absent father and strong-willed mother; so many men are obsessed with Dorothy’s shiny shoes (here silver as in the book, not ruby like the movie), I expected one of the Munchkins to be Stanford Blatch; and director Kevin Moriarty employs lithe, half-naked dancers from Dallas Black Dance Theater to gyrate their moneymakers — is this Oz from the book or the gay club on Bourbon Street?

Still, this version of The Wiz is just children’s theater without much heart, brain or courage (it’s difficult to tell if that’s the fault of the book by William F. Brown or the direction, which feels stage-2rushed). The style is presentational and flat, with the actors projecting broadly to the balcony with exaggerated emotions.

Although the set famously includes moving “pods” of seats that move the audience around the space, the main actors rarely perform as in true theater-in-the-round, except when the dancers jump into them. I counted a dozen repositionings, but the sense of movement only genuinely grabs you once; during the cyclone, which should make you feel dizzy and excited, the pods move lumberingly around dancers portraying winds. It’s all oddly unsatisfying: It’s there, it ends.

What’s surprising is that there’s not more magic considering how balls-to-the-wall strong most of the singers are. The Tin Man has never been my favorite character — face it: He’s never been anyone’s favorite … until now. Sydney James Harcourt delivers the only truly wrenching musical performance on his solo “To Be Able to Feel,” just moments after the juiced-up eroticism of “Slide Some Oil to Me.” It’s a sexy, charismatic turn in sharp relief to David Ryan Smith’s hilariously flamboyant Lion and James Tyrone Lane’s limber goofing as Scarecrow.

Liz Mikel hams it up, both as good witch Addaperle and her wicked sister Evillene, which gives her the chance to seethe and gnash her teeth at the youngsters in between belt-‘em-out anthems. But Trisha Jeffrey as Dorothy makes little impression. In this construct, without Toto to talk to, the character is a cipher with little to do but watch the rest of Oz upstage her, wondering “Why, oh why can’t I?”

 

Over at Fair Park, the national tour of Guys & Dolls does a good job of reminding us how gosh-durn terrific a songwriter Frank Loesser was. The score plays like a master class in Broadway hits, with standards (the most famous, “Luck Be a Lady,” isn’t even the best) that convey character through complex harmonies with toe-tapping brio. It’s ironic that “Sit Down You’re Rockin’ the Boat” makes the audience want to jump to its feet.

If only the production were quite at the level it needs to be to showcase those numbers at their best. Four of the five leads — Ben Crawford (Sky Masterson), Steve Rosen (Nathan Detroit), Megan Sikora (Adelaide) and Glenn Rainey (Nicely Nicely) — have great voices, with Sikora stealing the show as the squeaky-voiced stripper. (Erin Davie never rises above the confines of the show’s least interesting role, missionary Sarah Brown.) The book, based on Damon Runyon’s caricatures of New York low-lifes, still has some zingers (and Crawford is especially good at making the dialogue feel contemporary), but it hasn’t aged well.

It doesn’t help that director Gordon Greenberg cleaves closely to outmoded conventions, like a long
introductory ballet (danced only serviceably by a disappointing chorus) and extended, stylized sequences throughout that do little to advance the plot. And with the show clocking in just shy of three hours, there is plenty of room to trim.

Sikora, though, makes it worth a look-see alone, and the songs have more energy and have endured better than those of The Wiz. Given a choice, it’s a crapshoot between the Loesser of two Evillenes.

………………………..

travel Travel Diary

Anyone who has ever been trapped in an airport during flight delays knows the madness can become infectious, but being balanced and serene is worth the effort. Here are some tips to get your Zen on.

Exercise. You might be on vacation, but your body is not. Exercise in your room, in your hotel’s gym, outside (run on the beach!) or find a nearby gym. Investing an hour in working out can reduce stress, improve sleep and increase energy.

Choose the right attitude. If you approach traveling with the attitude of, “Ugh! I hate to fly/drive/sit,” you’ve already decided it’s going to be a terrible experience. Instead, make the decision to enjoy the journey. Find a good book or download some interesting movies on your iPad. A long flight can be hell… or six hours of scheduled “me” time. The choice is yours.

Eat right. There’s no such thing as “vacation” calories. A calorie is a calorie and unhealthy options are as unhealthy at the beach as they are at home. Make food choices that nourish your body and you’ll feel strong and you’ll enjoy your vacation even more.

Do less, accomplish more. Many treat vacations as narrow windows into which they cram in as much “fun” as possible. While tempting, it can result in seeing a lot but experiencing nothing. Instead, do a few things you’ll actually enjoy rather than constantly looking at your watch.

Stay hydrated. Planes have notoriously dry air; make it a point to get some water whenever the stewards or stewardesses offer it. After going through security, buy a large bottle of water. It makes your body infinitely more comfortable, especially on longer flights.

Meditate. Even if you don’t normally meditate, taking 10 minutes a day to sit quietly is refreshing. Ideally, meditation is best in a quiet room, but even on a packed plane you can make it work. If there is chaos around you, make it part of your practice! Tune it out and find your center. Among other things, it will help reduce tension, relieve stress and improve your mood.

Wash your hands. Restaurants and public transportation facilities are rife with germs. Vacations are more enjoyable when you’re healthy, so minimize your risk of getting sick by washing your hands often.

— Davey Wavey

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 22, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

WATCH: Michael Douglas on kissing Matt Damon

Michael Douglas is gong from playing oversexed straight men in movies like Fatal Attraction and Basic Instinct to, for his next role, an oversexed gay man playing the title role in Steven Soderbergh’s film, Liberace. Douglas stars opposite Matt Damon as Liberace’s lover, Scott Thorson.

Douglas appeared this week on The View and talked about kissing a man.

The film is due in 2013.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Liberace Museum, The Largest Display Of Gay Sparkles, Will Close

Officially, the Liberace Museum in Las Vegas is closing because the foundation wants to focus more on scholarships. But in reality, it's closing because it's run out of cash. So Oct. 31 is your last chance, after 31 years (which the last 12 yielded fiscal losses), to see blazingly homosexual costumes on display. And to think, Elvis has been dead 10 years longer and he got a full-blown Cirque du Soleil show.


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—  John Wright