Gays are still apoplectic about seven-time Oscar nominee Glenn Close not finally nabbing the trophy a week ago, even though she was the favorite, not The Favourite’s Olivia Colman (who’s also wonderful, by the way). Yes, Olivia’s character has lots of rabbits, but so what? Glenn boils ‘em for dinner!
I contacted an Oscar voter I know for some insight as to what happened, and here’s what he said:
Everyone is gobsmacked, but I guess a perfect storm can create the unexpected. I sooo voted for Glenn, as did everyone else I know. Our reasoning is that it was like the elections. One of the other actresses pulled enough of the votes away from Glenn to make her drop just below Olivia. My guess is it was Lady Gaga. In the elections, it was Bernie Sanders—and when he didn’t make the cut, his votes didn’t go to Hillary, it seemed to have split between her and Trump, giving him the edge. Or it was Russian hacking—and I haven’t ruled that out with Olivia either.
He laughed nervously, and then we both started crying. There was also the factor that some voters didn’t think The Wife was all that of a film, whereas The Favourite is rivetingly original. But Glenn will no doubt win for the movie version of the Sunset Boulevard musical, which was just announced. And the first person who says that to Glenn deserves a swift kick in the groin.
Meet the Beetlejuice
While Sunset Boulevard goes from movie to musical to movie again, the macabre and wacky 1988 comedy Beetlejuice has been musicalized for Broadway (en route to the inevitable movie of the musical). Picture dancing ghouls, writhing sandworms, and songs like “Dead Mom.”
At a press presentation last week, we were told that the show doesn’t mimic Tim Burton’s style, but honors it, with a low-fi, DIY, tactile feeling that spans puppets, pyrotechnics, 70 magic tricks, and 10 musical styles in the opening number alone.
At the event, costar Rob McClure revealed, “In D.C., there were props that got entrance applause!” Spunky star Sophia Anne Caruso said she’s doing her own version of Lydia—not Winona Ryder’s version–and added that the show is outrageous, but also happens to have heart and a message. To that, Alex Brightman (who plays Beetlejuice) crowed, “It’s amazing to have an audience cradled by a 17-year-old, but get ready for that, New York!” Bring your living relatives.
Also upcoming is a Broadway play called What The Constitution Means to Me, written by and starring Heidi Schreck, and it’s actually hitting up critics to invest. Well, one critic—me!
Two weeks ago, I got a message from one of the show’s producing team, asking if wanted to put money into the show, which you’d think would be fully funded since they had already announced a March 14 start date. But more to the point, why me? True, nine years ago, I did get co-producer credit (with the permission of my then-editor) on an off-Broadway musical about vulnerable youth who engage in group singing, but I certainly didn’t invest. In reality, I am not any kind of actual producer or money giver—and besides, I’m a critic/gossip! When I declined, the guy wondered if I knew anyone else who might want to give them dough. I don’t know, maybe Ben Brantley?
Meanwhile, my job as a reviewer has been hindered by the acclaimed To Kill a Mockingbird. The play’s original publicist didn’t invite me to see the show, nor did the replacement publicist. When I emailed the latter a request, they said “Sure,” but still didn’t come through. This is the first show in maybe 30 years that I requested and didn‘t get! Fine, that’s their prerogative. But to add insult to injury, another publicist working on the show hit me up three weeks after the opening, asking if I’d interview a supporting actor in it.
They didn’t deem me worthy of even one seat, but now wanted me to hype this thing? I explained my situation and she said if I agreed to do the interview, I could “most likely” get tickets. Alas, I explained, while I like the actor in question, I wasn’t sure he’s well known enough for me to get a column on him green-lit. She wanted to know who else in the show I might be interested in, but no one suited my purposes—and besides, now I’m supposed to pitch people, sight unseen, only to hear “Sorry, not available”? But I wish them well! And now you know a little more about the glamour of being a dazzling entertainment writer, lol.
I did get invited to see the controversial Belgian film Girl, inspired by the story of transgender ballet dancer Nora Monsecour, who worked on the script. Girl has come under criticism for its fixation on the lead character’s body parts, her self-mutilation, and the fact that a cis male actor (Victor Polster) plays the role. I respect all of that and am tired of disturbed queers on film, but still found the result rather hypnotic, and to me, the anatomy-related aspect of the movie reflects the character’s constant self-probing as she becomes anxious for faster results in transitioning and getting to her physical goal. (At 15, Lara is on hormones and waiting for confirmation surgery, but there are complications.)
As for the character’s dark feelings and frustrations, she’s surrounded by some real support, some patronizing support, and some taunting and humiliation—a bunch of bratty girls surround her at one point and demand that she show her privates—and she’s not always able to process all that and to put it into words for her caring dad, who wants answers. With many young trans people going through emotional challenges as they evolve before a scrutinizing world, I didn’t find her despairing side hard to swallow, though I’d love to see filmmakers tackle more stories about well-adjusted characters who just happen to be transgender.
As for the lead actor, a trans female would have been preferable—director Lukas Dhont said he couldn’t find the right trans actor who could also do the dancing—but that being said, Polster comes off as poignant and fully committed. So, do a jete to Girl and see if she works for you.
But let me take this chance to add that I couldn’t even get through a short clip of Diego Luna awkwardly trying to play a trans woman in the recent flop movie Berlin, I Love You. Directors, please try harder!
For a completely different take on Girl–style self-harm, look up John Waters’ bad taste classic Desperate Living (1977), a riotous film in which a man (in a woman’s body) goes out and gets a new penis, to his girlfriend’s utter disgust. And so, off it goes, John Wayne Bobbitt-style, only to have a dog end up nibbling on it for dinner. Sick? Yeah, that’s the point. It’s a gross-out comedy and probably more cathartic than some self-serious films that play festivals and win awards.
Smells Like Teen Spirit
An emerging teen gets more hopeful treatment in Giant Little Ones, Keith Behrmann’s well-reviewed film about sexual fluidity among male friends. At a luncheon for the film last week, Behrmann said he grew up frustrated with restrictive ideas of gender and masculinity because “They limit who we are and who we can be.” Leap ahead and he didn’t want to make a film about a kid who kills himself. “I wanted to make something more positive and affirmative. Someone pointed out to me that all my films have a scene where the father tells the son, ‘You’re okay. I love you.’ The love and approval of who they are is so important.”
And in this case (as in Call Me By Your Name), the dad obviously knows what he’s talking about. Kyle MacLachlan, who plays the late-blooming father of teenaged Frankie (Josh Wiggins), told me of his character, “He’s been hidden for so long and living a lie. I think [his coming out] is a tremendous relief, and a burden is lifted in a way. He’s hoping Frankie is going to be able to see that and reach towards that: You’ve got to be who you are. Don’t waste the time.”
I asked MacLachlan what the queer response has been to his work all these years. “A lot of support,” he said, “starting with Blue Velvet and Touch of Pink, in which I played Cary Grant. Even with Showgirls, there’s a response that’s a lot of fun. It’s not necessarily the way it was intended, but it’s found its place.”
I bit my tongue rather than reveal that I’ve seen it 24 times. As for non-gay actors playing gay, MacLachlan said, “I remember when Philadelphia came out—oh, my god! To portray someone who was gay could be the kiss of death. This was something really dangerous if you were an actor, because of the stigma.”
He talked about the advances since then, and I interjected, “And now, we need to get some queer actors playing queers!” Delightfully, he agreed.