The Oscar scorecard

The-Artist

Gay folks — both actors, characters and behind the scenes — are easier to find at the Tonys and Emmys than at the Oscars; it’s one of the reasons we get so excited about Brokeback Mountain and The Kids Are All Right.

But the Oscars do occasionally have their queer appeal — one of the frontrunners this year is an elderly man who comes out as gay to his adult son’s dismay.

Here’s a scorecard for those keeping track,
including who will win and who should … and who might sneak in. Let the office pool begin!

— Arnold Wayne Jones

Picture: Who will win: The Artist, pictured. Who should win: The Help. Spoiler:
The Descendants.

Director: Who will win: Michel Hazavanicius, The Artist. Who should win: Terrence Malick,
Tree of Life. Spoiler: Martin Scorsese, Hugo.

Actor: Who will/should win: Jean Dujardin, The Artist. Spoiler: George Clooney,
The Descendants.

Actress: Who will/should win: Meryl Streep, The Iron Lady. Spoiler: Viola Davis, The Help.

Supporting Actor: Who will/should win: Christopher Plummer, Beginners. Spoiler: None.

Supporting Actress: Who will/should win:
Octavia Spencer, The Help. Spoiler: None.

Original Screenplay: Who will/should win: The Artist. Spoiler: Midnight in Paris.

Adapted Screenplay: Who will/should win: The Descendants. Spoiler: Tinker Tailor Solider Spy.

Cinematography: Who will win: The Artist. Who should win/spoiler: The Tree of Life.

Film Editing: Who will win: Hugo. Who should win:  Moneyball. Spoiler: Descendants.

Art Direction: Who will/should win: Hugo.

Costume Design: Who will/should win: Anonymous. Spoiler: Hugo.

Score: Who will/should win: The Artist.

Song: Who will/should win: The Muppets.

Sound Mixing: Who will win: Hugo.

Sound Editing: Who will win: War Horse.

Visual Effects: Who will/should win: Rise of the Planet of the Apes. Spoiler: Real Steel.

Makeup: Who will/should win: Albert Nobbs. Spoiler: The Iron Lady.

Foreign Language Film: Who will win: In Darkness. Spoiler: A Separation.

Animated Feature Film: Who will win:
Chico and Rita. Spoiler: Rango.

Documentary Feature Film: Who will win:
Undefeated. Who should win: Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory. Spoiler: Pina.

Live Action Short Subject: Who will/should win: Raju. Spoiler: Tuba Atlantic.

Animated Short Subject: Who will/should win: The Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore. Spoiler: La Luna.

Documentary Short Subject: Who will win:
The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 24, 2012.

—  Kevin Thomas

The iron ladies of “The Iron Lady”

Out filmmaker Phyllida Lloyd directs Meryl Streep, who talks gay icon status — of both herself and Margaret Thatcher

Nothing can stand in the way of the almighty Meryl Streep — except on this particular afternoon. At a New York City hotel, in front of a room full of journalists from mainstream press, she braces herself for what could be the ultimate career challenge. The mission? Answer a “gay” question.

With mock surprise, Streep dramatically throws her arms up and whips back in her chair, pretending it’s something she — two-time Oscar winner, recent Kennedy Center honoree, the “devil” herself – isn’t sure she can pull off.

“OK,” she says, sarcastically, “Let me get ready. All right, go.”

And so we do, citing mentions of the fierce Margaret Thatcher, whom Streep doesn’t just play but becomes in The Iron Lady, as a gay icon. So, is she?

Streep deliberates, working out the answer in her head before she lets go of it.

“You know, I don’t know. I just recently found out that I am a gay icon. It’s flattering, of course,” she says, noting the all-male tribute “Streep Tease” in West Hollywood (of which she says, “I haven’t gotten the nerve to go”). “But I think (Margaret) stirs very strong feelings even today, 20 years after leaving power. And she remains divisive. The film will enter a landscape of a world where she continues to cause controversy. I can’t answer the question about whether she’s a gay icon. That’s a difficult one for me.”

Something Meryl Streep can’t do? The recent Golden Globe winner for best actress in a drama, for Iron Lady, is supposed to be this thespian superwoman who can effortlessly slip into character. She’s such a persona-transcendent pro that when she’s sitting right in front of you, you’re asking yourself: Is that really her? Heck, after being so outside herself, does Meryl Streep even know Meryl Streep?

Iron Lady, then, is a made-for-Meryl movie, from the prosthetics that afford an uncanny transformation into Britain’s first female prime minister to the heart that she finds among all that, well, iron.

“The biggest challenge for me was accomplishing the long lines of thought that she would launch into without taking a breath,” Streep recalls. “Even with all the drama school that I’ve had, I had a lot of trouble managing that. Just the galvanizing energy and the drive and the capacity to follow through with a conviction all the way through to the end of your breath until you can’t go any further,” she says, breathlessly in character, “and not to let anybody interrupt!”

“It was masterful the way she could manage these interviews.” She lets out a hearty laugh. “I’m taking notes on that.”

Thatcher was a strident figure of polarizing effect, a loved-and-hated political icon admired not necessarily for her ideas but for the way she was able to execute them — in the face of class and gender prejudice.

“The array of obstacles that stood before her in England at that time were enormous,” Streep notes, “and I think she did a service for our team [women] by getting there even though you might not agree with the politics. Anybody that stands up and is willing to be a leader, who is as prepared as she was and as smart as she was, is admirable on a certain level, because you really sacrifice a great deal. All of our public figures do.”

The film spans three days in Thatcher’s post prime, well into her 80s, after dementia wipes out her memories and she tries to capture whichever ones she has left. For as political-minded as she was, the film isn’t very political at all. And it wasn’t meant to be.

“All of us understood what we were wanting from this piece,” Streep says. “It was not going to be chronicling Margaret Thatcher’s political life; it would be a particular look back through her own eyes at selected memories – not in chronological order, but in a jumble of memory, regret, glory days. It would all be a part of a reckoning.”

The film is facing intense scrutiny for breezing past the political turmoil that Thatcher stirred and, instead, focusing on her personal life.

“We have come under criticism for portraying someone who is frail and in delicate health,” Streep admits. “Some people have said it’s shameful to portray this part of a life, but if you think that debility, delicacy and dementia are shameful, if you think that the ebbing end of life is something that should be shut away, if you think that people need to be defended from that, from those images,– then yes, it is a shameful thing. But I don’t think that. We are naturally interested in our leaders, and we tell stories about ourselves through the stories of important people.”

Out director Phyllida Lloyd elaborates: “We thought of the film as something of a King Lear for girls, a Shakespearean story — not a political story. So, in that sense, we spoke to a number of Margaret Thatcher’s closest associates, who described her story in Shakespearean and operatic terms. I’d worked in opera a lot and to me, this did have some of the elements of a tragic opera. The movie is a combination of the political world and pure imagination. It’s two very distinctive worlds.”

This isn’t the first time Streep and Lloyd have bridged two worlds. 2008’s Mamma Mia! united the actress’ singing and dancing, with Lloyd directing.

“I think it’s always easier the second time working together,” the filmmaker admits. “In fact, you should start with the second time.”

Looking at her, pretending to be offended, Streep laughs: “What do you mean?”

“I loved working with her… the first time,” the actress razzes. “We had shorthand (on Iron Lady), and we had to because we had $14 million to shoot a movie that takes place over the course of six decades. And that’s basically no money. That’s less than a tenth of what Hugo cost.”

She hands it to Lloyd for strongly conveying her vision prior to shooting, which allowed Streep a sense of security in knowing just how to find Thatcher’s mind, body and spirit.

“I’m playing a Margaret Thatcher no one has seen or really knows, and we can’t know. It’s an imagined journey that we were taking, so I felt a lot of freedom. I did,” Streep says. “I felt completely free, and that’s a testament to the director.”

But it wasn’t all Lloyd. Though she’s never met Margaret Thatcher, Streep wore the prime minister’s many hats, learning that the woman wasn’t a slacker and that her father saw Thatcher as the man of the house.

“He discovered, of his two daughters, one was uncommonly bright and uncommonly curious, and maybe this could be his boy,” she says. “That’s what I think. She fulfills a promise, and he infused in her the courage to get up and out. She had a lot of promise, and she wanted to live up to it.”

When did Streep realize the same for herself?

“I never really decided. I’m still ambivalent.” She laughs at the notion. “But no, being an actor lets me be a million different things, so I don’t have to decide.”

 — Chris Azzopardi

 

 

—  Rich Lopez

Movie Monday: “The Iron Lady” with Golden Globe winner Streep

Iron strikes gold

The Iron Lady does do a good job early on at portraying the then-prevailing political hierarchy of England as male-centric — a pond of fleshy-necked bullfrogs bloviating about how things need to be done. Maggie actually did things, not just talk about them, though you’ll learn more details of her politics watching Billy Elliot than this movie.

Still, the hype about Streep is deserved. She did win a Golden Globe last night for the movie. That’s because she’s excellent playing Margaret Thatcher from 40s to 80s, showing her micro-managing habits that drove even her children crazy. It’s a sympathetic portrayal not because she’s so nice, but because she’s so human. Iron Lady? No, she was, at heart, still flesh and bone.

Read the entire review here.

DEETS: Magnolia Theater, 3699 McKinney Ave.105 min. PG-13.

—  Rich Lopez

Anything was possible

From DIFFA to the stage, John Ahrens has witnessed the evolving art of HIV

YA GOTTA HAVE ‘HEART’ | Ahrens, above, was moved to tears by the revival of ‘The Normal Heart,’ which captured the panic of the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s; below left, designs from two decades of DIFFA auctions, which improved greatly from the days of ‘ugly fabrics.’ (Arnold Wayne Jones/Dallas Voice)

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

John Ahrens ended up in Dallas accidentally, but it’s an accident that may have saved his life. In the late 1960s, he was enrolled at Yale

University’s drama department, studying theater alongside classmates like Christopher Durang, Sigourney Weaver, Wendy Wasserstein and Meryl Streep. It was a magical time.

“I lived in New York until the late 1970s,” he recalls. “Back then, in 1976 in New York, anything was possible — you had Paul [the gay character] onstage in A Chorus Line, it was post-Stonewall.” The Continental Baths had acts like Bette Midler and Barry Manilow before anyone knew who they were. “Later you had La Cage aux Folles with Georges singing ‘I Am What I Am.’”

In other words, it was a great time to be gay.

Or so it seemed. Ahrens moved to Dallas in 1978, putting him 1,300 miles away when the AIDS epidemic hit New York hard. Ahrens first realized how serious the situation was when he called a friend to inquire about a former roommate; the roommate had died.

All those emotions came flooding back to him last month, when he made a pilgrimage to New York specifically to see the revival of The Normal Heart, Larry Kramer’s 1985 play about the AIDS crisis. Ahrens caught a Sunday matinee; four hours later, it walked away with three Tony Awards including best revival of a play.

“It was amazing,” Ahrens says, choking up slightly. “It so accurately describes the panic everyone was living through, especially those still in the closet. It has gotten better” over the years.

That seems to be the consensus. The Normal Heart arrived in New York about the same time as another play about AIDS, As Is, but met with a very different reception. As Is made it to Broadway, where it was rewarded with three Tony Award nominations and the Drama Desk Award for outstanding new play. The Normal Heart remained off-Broadway, underground. And its angry political tone was eventually eclipsed by Tony Kushner’s two-part epic Angels in America.

But when’s the last time you heard someone talk about As Is? Meanwhile, Kramer’s play has earned cult status. (For years, Barbra Streisand tried to direct a film version.)

“The Normal Heart was so much of its time,”Ahrens opines, “but seeing it brought it all back. It captured the horrors of it all. The visualization of John Benjamin Hickey’s performance was so authentic — back then, you could look at someone and know they had HIV.”

It was a horrific time, but also one that spurred great achievement and sacrifice. “It changed a lot of people and made them get their shit together,” he says.

Ahrens, a respected costume designer, was present for the first auction of clothes from DIFFA, the Design Industries Foundation Fighting AIDS. He still remembers the first piece he designed: A red leather number with a hoop skirt meant to evoke Christian Lacroix…“worn by a 6-foot-tall redhead.” (He’s referring to Dallas supermodel Jan Strimple, a long-time supporter of DIFFA and an AIDS activist, one of Ahrens’ oldest friends.)

It probably wasn’t his best work — back then, it was hard to do your best work.

“We all got our fabric from the same fashion line, and that line was really ugly,” he says. “Some of us were getting our fabric the night before the show.”

Things have changed. The designs became more fabulous, the designers more high-profile, the fabrics of better quality. But what Ahrens remembers most are the people — in particular, the lesbian community.

“They were the soldiers,” he says frankly. “Lory Masters and her generation? Hell, they took on so much,” caring for the mostly gay men who suffered.

Back then, even being associated with AIDS took heroics; today, gay and straight, HIV-positive and –negative men and women readily lend their names and faces to campaigns such as Faces of Life, Dallas-based photographer Jorge Rivas’ campaign for AIDS awareness. The stigma has diminished — but it is not gone.

Ahrens didn’t see The Normal Heart when it first ran in New York more than 25 years ago, but seeing it in 2011 truly made him see how far things have come — and how far they still have to go.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 1, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

‘Silkwood,’ with Cher as a lesbian, screens Friday

The Studios at Las Colinas has been around a long time now. How long? Well, let’s put it this way: Its first major project was Silkwood, the 1983 film in which Cher played a lesbian (it was good training for her dealing with her fans and daughter, now son, Chaz).

If you haven’t seen Silkwood for a while, you can fix that this weekend. On Friday, the Muller Film & Television Education Foundation will host a mixer and screening of the Oscar-nominated film, starting at 6:30 p.m. in the upstairs art gallery of Building 1 of the studios. Cost is $5 for foundation members, $10 for non-members. To RSVO, visit FilmTVEducation.org.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

I wish I were Meryl Streep

Meryl Streep, left, and Sandra Bullock celebrate their joint Best Actress win at the Critics Choice Awards
Meryl Streep, left, and Sandra Bullock celebrate their joint Best Actress win at the Critics Choice Awards

Okay. I never thought I’d say this, but I wish I were Meryl Streep. Or actually, I wish I had been in Meryl Streep’s place last Friday night at the Critics Choice Awards when Sandra Bullock laid one on Meryl!

I don’t watch awards shows, or keep up with them at all, but apparently Bullock and Streep tied for the Critics Choice Best Actress award (Streep for her role in “Julie & Julia” and Bullock for her role in “The Blind Side”). And Sandra grabbed hold and gave Meryl a big ol’ smooch to celebrate.

Then at the Golden Globe Awards on Sunday, Streep won Best Actress in a comedy and Bullock won Best Actress in a drama. From what I read at GossipSauce.com, they are both up for Best Actress at the SAG Awards this coming Sunday and at the Oscars.

Ms. Bullock, if you’re out there somewhere reading this, just let me make one thing perfectly clear: I have always loved you, and if you wanted to stop by the Dallas Voice offices some day and give me a big ol’ kiss, I wouldn’t mind at all. Even my wife wouldn’t mind!

—  admin