Film/Arts/Satire*
(*homocinematically inclined)

Monday, May 31, 2010

Monthly Wallpaper - June 2010: Queer Cinema

In celebration of Gay Pride month, Movie Dearest once again offers up a special calendar wallpaper for June paying tribute to some of the best in queer cinema.

The 2010 edition features such old and new GLBT favorites as Victim, Milk, The Children's Hour, Fried Green Tomatoes, To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar, Noah's Arc: Jumping the Broom, Infamous, XXY, Aimée & Jaguar, Kiss of the Spider-Woman and Ciao.

All you have to do is click on the picture above to enlarge it, then simply right click your mouse and select "Set as Background". (You can also save it to your computer and set it up from there if you prefer.) The size is 1024 x 768, but you can modify it if needed in your own photo-editing program.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Reel Thoughts: Mommy and Me

This summer is shaping up to be the season of the women’s film, be they frivolous (Sex and the City 2), thought-provoking (Please Give) or in the case of Rodrigo García’s Mother and Child, a fourteen-hanky ensemble drama. All three films overflow with fantastic performances, especially Catherine Keener in Please Give and Annette Bening and Naomi Watts in Mother and Child.

García’s films are female-driven (Nine Lives and Things You Can Tell Just By Looking at Her) and he’s masterful at getting rich, raw and sometimes ugly performances from his actresses. Bening is Oscar-worthy as Karen, an ice cold physical therapist who cares for her aged mother and mourns the baby girl she gave up for adoption when she was only fourteen. Watts is equally chilly as a driven lawyer who uses sex as a weapon of control, and who, it turns out (no spoiler), is Bening’s long lost daughter. Cherry Jones (Doubt’s original Sister Aloysius) returns to the nunnery as a sister in charge of adoptions with connections to Bening, Watts and Kerry Washington, who plays an infertile wife desperate to adopt. García’s world is one in which redemption is possible, but fate is almost melodramatically cruel.


Bening is almost hard to watch at first; she is so tightly-wound you fear her snapping. When she meets Jimmy Smits, as a fellow therapist, and her walls fall, your heart blooms along with hers when she lets him in. Watts’ Elizabeth is as hard as her mother, refusing to let anyone close to her, until she’s faced with parenthood herself. Washington is heartbreaking as a woman who wants a baby, despite what life and other people have in store for her. In addition to Jones and Smits, Samuel L. Jackson and S. Epatha Merkeson give powerful, non-showy work that adds great depth to the drama.

If you don’t mind sobbing like a baby at the movies, take time to meet this Mother and Child.

UPDATE: Mother and Child is now available on DVD and Blu-ray from Amazon.com.

Review by Neil Cohen, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and Phoenix's Echo Magazine.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Reverend's Reviews: Shakespeare Meets the Undead

It struck me while watching it that Survival of the Dead, opening in theaters this today and available for private viewing via Video on Demand, may owe more to William Shakespeare than to earlier entries in writer-director George A. Romero's long-running zombie series.

Battling patriarchs, one in exile; a secluded island; a ragtag band of battle-weary men and women (one of them lesbian, more on that below); alienated children challenging their domineering fathers; mistaken identities; and a lesson in the futility of war: these are common themes in Shakespeare's plays and even in Greek tragedies long before him. They also constitute the plot of Survival of the Dead. While the characters don't speak in prose or wear Elizabethan apparel, I found the parallels — whether intentional or not — unavoidable.


What has become the Dead movie phenomenon began with Romero's little indie horror film from 1968, the now classic Night of the Living Dead. Its success spawned a cinematic series still going strong over 40 years later and frequently imitated.

As Romero writes in his new film's press notes: "I had no interest in doing a second zombie film until some friends in Pittsburgh gave me a tour of their new mall. That's how I got the inspiration for Dawn of the Dead (1978). I needed the meaning of the story — 'consumerism,' as it was later called — before I could create the story." The result remains one of the best entries in the zombie, horror and even comedy genres, and was remade in 2004 with good critical and financial results.

Romero pulls no punches explaining the inspiration for Survival of the Dead. "The movie is about war," he says bluntly. "I intend it to be an echo of what's happening in the world today ... The world has been reduced to a population of squabbling factions, each of whom believes that they are absolutely right and the other is absolutely wrong."


Indeed, the zombies in his new film (or "deadheads," as they are termed) don't pose as great a threat to the handful of remaining humans as the fiercely divided humans do to themselves. On one side are those residents of the isolated Plum Island who are loyal to Patrick O'Flynn (a strong turn by Kenneth Welsh, who recently appeared in HBO's Grey Gardens), who approaches the cannibalistic zombies with an unquestioning shoot-to-kill attitude. On the other side are Shamus Muldoon (a one-note Richard Fitzpatrick) and his clan, who quarantine the zombies but resist destroying them in hopes that a cure for the mysterious, dead-raising plague will be found. Muldoon is gradually revealed as an intolerant religious fundamentalist who quotes scripture in service to his increasingly immoral ends.

As O'Flynn says humorously, given the situation, of his bitter rivalry with Muldoon: "We've been chewing on each other ever since the school yard." When Muldoon and his men overwhelm O'Flynn and his defenders, O'Flynn's daughter (the striking Kathleen Munroe) convinces Muldoon to ship her father and his defenders off to the mainland rather than kill them. Once in zombie-ridden Delaware, O'Flynn plots his return to Plum Island using other human survivors as support and/or irritants to Muldoon. To say O'Flynn is a narcissist would be an understatement.

Into the fray unknowingly marches a group of soldiers who have defected in the face of the overwhelming undead onslaught. One of them is "Tomboy," an openly lesbian soldier played by Athena Karkanis. We first meet Tomboy as she is masturbating in the front seat of a military jeep, not giving a thought to the several male soldiers around her. While the hunky Francisco (Stefano DiMatteo) is openly enamored of her, Tomboy remains uncompromisingly — and admirably — true to herself even as the likable Francisco becomes afflicted with the zombie infection. Slight spoiler alert: Romero shows his respect for Tomboy by keeping her alive at film's end.


One can find elements of Shakespeare's The Tempest, As You Like It, King Lear and Titus Andronicus, among other works by the master, in Survival of the Dead. Tragedy and comedy, violence and compassion collide here as they frequently do in both Shakespeare's plays and Romero's movies. Shakespeare wasn't afraid of bloodletting to prove a dramatic point either, as Titus Andronicus, Julius Caesar, Othello and Macbeth all make clear.

While Survival of the Dead is nowhere near as disappointing as Romero's last — 2007's Diary of the Dead, which was a hand-held, amateurish attempt to "re-boot" the series — it also isn't as accomplished as that film's predecessors. It is laughably heavy-handed at times, and some of the humans are downright stupid at letting their guard down while knowingly in the presence of a zombie. The movie does, however, have some intelligent, thought-provoking content that you won't find in most contemporary horror films, as is the case with most of Romero's productions. I expect even Bill Shakespeare would agree.

Reverend's Rating: B-

UPDATE: Survival of the Dead is now available on DVD and Blu-ray from Amazon.com.

Review by Rev. Chris Carpenter, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and the Orange County and Long Beach Blade.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Reverend's Reviews: French Tickler

It's been six long years since the offbeat but brilliant auteur Jean-Pierre Jeunet made his last movie, the romantic epic A Very Long Engagement. Indeed, Jeunet has only made five films in the 20 years since he burst onto the international scene with the morbid but funny Delicatessen.

Disappointed by his one Hollywood experience as director of 1997's Alien: Resurrection, Jeunet returned to France and made the charming Amélie (2001). He's been dormant since 2004, but is about to make another big splash with the wonderful Micmacs. It is being released by Sony Pictures Classics this Friday in New York, on June 4 in Los Angeles, and across the country this summer.


A comedy told with Jeunet's typical visual and musical ingenuity, Micmacs follows the unusual plight of Bazil (Dany Boon, alternately amusing and moving). His father was killed when Bazil was a boy while clearing land mines in the Moroccan desert. As an adult, Bazil is struck by a stray bullet that ends up lodged in his brain. He loses his job as a video clerk due to his lengthy hospitalization and ends up homeless. If that wasn't enough, Bazil has to live with the knowledge that his life could end instantly if the bullet should move any further.

He is taken in by a kindly if odd band of junk collectors. Shortly after, Bazil recognizes the logos of two weapons manufacturers responsible for the mine that killed his father and the bullet in his brain. With the aid of his talented new junkyard friends — who include a contortionist, a human calculator, a creator of automated sculptures and a gourmet chef — Bazil pits the two weapon-makers against one another in his sophisticated, escalating plan for revenge.


Generally cartoonish in style (for example, industrial buildings explode at the height of the workday and the employees walk away, smoky but uninjured), Micmacs nonetheless has some deadly serious points to make. War profiteering, the ready availability of weapons of mass destruction and the damage caused to innocent people by land mines are a few of Jeunet's significant concerns, but he never gets preachy. Jeunet keeps throwing so many sight gags, character insights (as Elastic Girl, the contortionist, tells the initially critical but eventually smitten Bazil: "I'm not twisted; I'm a sensitive soul in a flexible body") and literary references at the audience that there's no opportunity to sermonize. There is one awkward gay reference/would-be joke on Bazil's part that, rather than offend, simply falls flat.

It's a fully apparent testament to Jeunet's talent in Micmacs that his busy, complex style doesn't suffer at all in the hands of a new director of photography, Tetsuo Nagata (past DPs on the director's films have included Darius Khondji and Bruno Delbonnel). The movie's supporting cast — which includes Yolande Moreau, who gave an award-winning performance in last year's Séraphine — is also completely in thrall to Jeunet's vision. In short, I love Micmacs! It's more ingenious, more cinematic and more just plain fun than any summer blockbuster you'll see!


Also accomplished and French but very different tonally from Micmacs is the current drama The Father of My Children (Le Pere de Mes Enfants). Mia Hansen-Løve's second film as a director won the "Un Certain Regard" Special Jury Prize at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival and gained her a spot on Variety's recent "10 Directors to Watch" list.

Inspired by an encounter Hansen-Løve had with a prospective producer who suddenly committed suicide, The Father of My Children similarly weaves its tragic but ultimately hopeful story around the self-inflicted death of a deep-in-debt independent filmmaker and its effect on his wife and daughters.


Louis-Do De Lencquesaing is excellent as the filmmaker, Gregoire, and subtly conveys the man's increasing despondency. While his act of suicide is still shocking, the script provides enough foreshadowing (such as when Gregoire's assistant exclaims in reference to her demanding job, "I kill myself here") that it can't be called a surprise.

By the climactic point when Gregoire's wife, Sylvia (well-played by the lovely Chiara Caselli, who had roles in the gay-interest films My Own Private Idaho and Ripley's Game), and their daughters leave to start a new life to the sunny voice of Doris Day singing "Que Sera Sera," viewers will have been on a discomfiting but hopefully inspiring journey. As one character states, reflecting on his first film, "If I could redo it today, I'd do it much better." We can all say the same of our lives, which are too precious to take lightly.

Reverend's Ratings: Micmacs: A-, The Father of My Children: B

UPDATE: Micmacs is now available on DVD and Blu-ray and The Father of My Children is now available on DVD from Amazon.com.

Review by Rev. Chris Carpenter, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and the Orange County and Long Beach Blade.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Reel Thoughts: Good Sex

If you aren’t totally won over by the über-gay first twenty minutes of Sex and the City 2, you might want to see if your Gay Card has expired. This sophomore outing with the girls is in every way the most over-the-top fabulous event of the year. In many ways, it is a lot better than the original. It’s been just two years since the last film and as Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker) puts it, a lot has happened.

In a sidesplitting opening, Carrie reminisces about when she came to New York in 1986 and in a flash, we see her (in hilarious Glenn Close-Fatal Attraction hair) in all her 80’s non-glory. She then describes when she met Charlotte (Kristin Davis), Miranda (Cynthia Nixon), and Samantha (a punked out Kim Cattrall), all of whom get their own flashback of shame. It’s a smart way for writer/director Michael Patrick King to introduce us to the girls, who still have a fantastic chemistry together. Then comes the gay wedding ...


As Charlotte exclaims, “Her best gay friend is marrying my best gay friend!” Sure enough, Mario Cantone’s Anthony is marrying Willie Garson’s Stanford in the whitest, most-gilded and beyond garish wedding of all time. A hot men's choir belts out show tunes and just when you think it can’t get any gayer, Liza Minnelli bursts out to officiate and do Beyoncé’s "Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It)". Ah, heaven.

Meanwhile, Carrie’s married life with Mr. Big (Chris Noth) is getting too comfy-stale, Charlotte’s two young daughters are driving her crazy (and her smokin’ hot nanny won’t wear a bra), Miranda’s high-powered job is being derailed by a sexist boss, and Samantha is fighting Menopause tooth and nail (and bedding the groom’s sexy brother) with the help of Suzanne Somers. In other words, they need a vacation.


Off to Abu Dhabi they jet, and the opulence never stops. I worried that sending four sexually liberated women into the most repressive culture on earth might be a sick joke, but that’s sort of the point. The film doesn’t ignore the Arabic world’s treatment of women, and reality intrudes on the happiness. There is even a priceless “F-you” scene where a hormonally charged Samantha tells off a bunch of morally offended men in a marketplace that will have you cheering through your tears of laughter. Carrie has a crisis of trust and Charlotte and Miranda get some heart-to-heart time to bare all about the difficulties of motherhood. Oh, and of course there are shirtless Aussie rugby players and an insanely seductive Dane (Max Ryan) thrown in for good measure.

The writing in Sex and the City 2 is crisp, sharp-tongued and full of quotable lines, including Samantha’s “He’s Lawrence of my labia!” It is a perfect sequel, lighter and freer than the first movie and full of what we know and love about these women, who feel like our friends.


However, I was a little put off by Cantone’s clumsy declaration “and I get to cheat.” at his own wedding celebration. Can’t gay marriages be portrayed as valid a little bit before being torpedoed by the old “We’re gay and we can’t be monogamous” cliché? I also fear any women who decide to emulate the girls and fly off to the Middle East. No matter what the film shows, there are plenty of better (and less oppressive and dangerous) places for Cosmo-sipping, sex-talk loving gals to go.

For now, ladies, don ye now your gay apparel, Manolos and all, and get thee to Sex and the City 2. It’s the party of the summer.

UPDATE: Sex and the City 2 is now available on DVD and Blu-ray from Amazon.com.

Review by Neil Cohen, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and Phoenix's Echo Magazine.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Toon Talk: It’s a Wonderful Shrek

Life has been good for the lovable green ogre known as Shrek, both on- and off screen. He has starred in three of the most popular animated films in the world, beginning with Shrek, the very first Best Animated Feature Oscar winner. The first sequel, Shrek 2, fared even better with audiences, surpassing the original at the box office. Sure, he stumbled with the uninspired Shrek the Third, but more than made up for it with the instant Christmas TV classic Shrek the Halls and the Tony Award-winning stage version Shrek The Musical. No doubt about it: Shrek is a star.

However, at the beginning of his fourth (and reportedly final) big screen adventure Shrek Forever After (in theaters now), our hero (once again voiced by Mike Myers) finds himself stuck in a rut … and not an ogre-friendly rut at that. Happily married with children to the fair ogress Fiona (Cameron Diaz), Shrek’s domestic bliss begins to gnaw at his natural ogre tendencies. His big green midlife crisis comes to head when he realizes no one — not one pitchfork-wielding villager — is afraid of him ...

Click here to continue reading my Toon Talk review of Shrek Forever After at LaughingPlace.com.

UPDATE: Shrek Forever After is now available on DVD and Blu-ray from Amazon.com.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Reverend's Reviews: Sex and the City 2 Tunes

Despite a growing gay controversy over its producers' decision to shoot much of Sex and the City 2 in anti-gay Morocco, I'm looking forward to the femme-centric sequel that opens this Thursday. I watched very little of the original HBO series but 2008's big-screen adaptation won me over.

To tide me and other fans over for the next 48 hours, the Sex and the City 2 Original Motion Picture Soundtrack is being released today. I can assure readers that the CD is the gayest music-listening experience since, well, last week's Glee: The Music, Volume 3, Showstoppers (which is fabulous, btw)!

The soundtrack features not one but two songs performed by gay icon Liza Minnelli: a rousing, Vegas showroom-esque version of Beyonce's inescapable "Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It)" and a cover of Cole Porter's "Ev'ry Time We Say Goodbye." Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson and Grammy nominee Leona Lewis contribute a duet, "Love is Your Color," and Alicia Keys sings "Empire State of Mind (Part II) Broken Down" as well as Deborah Harry's "Rapture."


I really like Dido's exclusive new track, "Everything to Lose." It manages to be simultaneously meditative and danceable. Also included on the disc are Erykah Badu's "Window Seat" (which spawned Badu's controversial music video), Cee-Lo's "Language of Love" and a rambunctious version of Helen Reddy's anthem "I Am Woman" sung by the Sex and the City stars themselves: Sarah Jessica Parker, Kim Cattrall, Kristin Davis and Cynthia Nixon.

But the gayest tracks are three classic show tunes performed by the specially-formed, 16-member Sex and the City Men's Choir. Their lovely renditions of "If Ever I Would Leave You" (from Camelot), "Sunrise, Sunset" (from Fiddler on the Roof) and "Til There Was You" (from The Music Man) are presumably part of a gay wedding that occurs in Sex and the City 2, at which Liza reportedly officiates.

So, why wait until Thursday? Grab or download the soundtrack today, shake some Cosmos and let the party begin!

Review by Rev. Chris Carpenter, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and the Orange County and Long Beach Blade.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Reel Thoughts: Tool Time

“MacGruber! He sticks celery up his butt and then he hops like a bunny!”

“MacGruber! He likes to rip out throats and he gets psycho with road rage!”

“MacGruber! He’s full of gay sex panic, he’s MacGruber!!”

Sure, those aren’t the real lyrics to the "MacGruber Theme Song", but they could be. The big screen version of Will Forte’s Saturday Night Live skits is a filthy, stupid and occasionally hilarious mess.

MacGruber is a take-off on MacGuyver, with both guys adept at creating weapons and escape tools out of random pieces of junk. MacGruber, however, usually ends up getting distracted by things like his son coming out or his grandma revealing embarrassing bedwetting details about him, and everything blows up. Of course, you can’t build a movie around that, so Forte and company have created a broader spoof of all kinds of spy films from Mission: Impossible to the James Bond films.


On the big screen, MacGruber has been in hiding for ten years, ever since his arch enemy Dieter Von Cunth (gleefully played by Val Kilmer) blew up his wife Casey (Maya Rudolph). Now, Von Cunth is back with a stolen nuke, so MacGruber is called to action to stop him. He’s saddled with a know-it-all rookie named Dixon Piper (played by the ab-riffic Ryan Phillippe) and enlists the help of his faithful friend Vicki St. Elmo (Kristin Wiig, sporting feathered hair). MacGruber’s methods consist mainly of getting in impossible situations and then “seeing what happens”. Usually, it’s Vicki and Piper who end up in harm’s way.

Forte and Wiig are two of SNL’s smartest and most fearless comedians, and freed of network censors, they dive headfirst into the film’s relentless sex, poop and penis jokes. MacGruber the character is a funny mass of insecurity and unwarranted bravado, and he’s given to offering blow jobs in return for not being fired. You will definitely find yourself laughing out loud at MacGruber. You’ll just hate yourself in the morning.

UPDATE: MacGruber is now available on DVD and Blu-ray from Amazon.com.

Review by Neil Cohen, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and Phoenix's Echo Magazine.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

An Enterprising Operetta

Los Angeles' Crown City Theatre Company is taking Gilbert & Sullivan to where no light operetta has gone before with their current production of USS Pinafore.

Billed as an "outer space musical", the new production is a hilarious mash-up of HMS Pinafore and the Star Trek universe, complete with Tribbles, Vulcans and an alien lizard man played by Movie Dearest's own James Jaeger!

USS Pinafore continues through June 27.  Click here for more information, and click here for a special video preview.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Reverend's Reviews: Jesse's Double Feature

In a very short time, 26-year old Jesse Eisenberg has become one of the most sought-after actors for both films and stage. Following eye-catching initial turns in Rodger Dodger and The Squid and the Whale, Eisenberg has been featured in such diverse movies as Adventureland, The Hunting Party and Zombieland.

Eisenberg stars in two unique films now playing in New York and LA: Holy Rollers and The Living Wake (he's actually in a third movie opening today, Solitary Man, which I wasn't able to see beforehand). In the fact-based Holy Rollers, Eisenberg plays Sammy Gold, one of several Hasidic Jews who were recruited to smuggle drugs from Europe to NYC by an Israeli dealer in the late 1990's.


Initially believing he is assisting with an important medical mission, Sammy is a well-intentioned if naïve young man being pressured by his orthodox father to become a rabbi. Sammy is horrified when he learns of his true role as a drug mule but is encouraged to "Just think of it as a game." Having tasted forbidden fruit and liking the lifestyle, he continues to do the work and impresses the boss although his relationships with his family and community members begin to suffer.

Not quite Scarface with phylacteries, Holy Rollers — to its credit — respects the dignity of conservative Judaism and its adherents. However, there's little in the film apart from its characters' religious lifestyle that we haven't seen before. Eisenberg has pretty much the same conflicted look on his face throughout the film no matter what Sammy is experiencing at the moment.

The script's best scenes are those shared by Sammy and his father, Mendel (Mark Ivanir). By the film's end, Sammy has learned the hard way the truth of his father's lesson, "Judaism is about community; it's about looking outside of oneself." A compassionate coda illustrates the value of staying on the divine path.


Decidedly less reality-based than Holy Rollers but an out-of-the-blue delight is Sol Tryon's The Living Wake. In it, Mike O'Connell (who also co-wrote) assays the offbeat role of K. Roth Binew, a questionably-sane failed writer who is informed by his doctor of the date and precise time of Binew's impending death from a symptom-free, unnamed "deadly but vague" disease. With the help of his best friend/manservant, Mills (Eisenberg), Binew prepares a wake for his family and friends to celebrate his memory before he dies.

There's just one problem: no one apart from Mills really likes the off-putting Binew. This isn't hard to understand, since Binew proudly confesses his incestuous feelings for his mother and is prone to admissions such as this one: "I drink to bring myself down to the level of the common man. But remember: the common man drinks, so I must drink twice as much. I'm a big advocate of a level playing field." I won't be surprised if some viewers find Binew grating, to say the least, as well.


As played by O'Connell with a certain Roddy McDowall-esque charm, though, I found Binew to be inspiring and damn funny in his lack of a psychological/vocal filter. He also sings two clever songs by film's end. Eisenberg gets a tune too, and is charming in his unquestioning devotion, going so far as peddling Binew around town in a rickshaw. Eisenberg's character, Mills, and the relationship between him and Binew reminded me of some of Charles Dickens' male pairings, such as Nicholas Nickleby and the simple-minded Smike.

By the end of The Living Wake, I wanted to be counted among the friends of K. Roth Binew. If his longing for "a brief but powerful monologue" from his long-deceased father doesn't win you over, perhaps Binew's performance of a scene from his unproduced, one-woman show will!

UPDATE: Holly Rollers and The Living Wake are now available on DVD from Amazon.com.

Review by Rev. Chris Carpenter, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and the Orange County and Long Beach Blade.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Reverend’s Interview: There is Nothin’ Like South Pacific

Local theatres will soon be overrun by coconut trees, hunky sailors and forbidden romance as the acclaimed Broadway revival of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s South Pacific has its Southern California premiere. The production will run at the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles May 27-July 17, and October 12-24 at the Orange County Performing Arts Center.

Winner of the 2008 Tony Award for Best Musical Revival, and originally adapted from a Pulitzer Prize-winning book by James Michener, South Pacific follows the travails of a diverse group of servicemen and women on a remote island during World War II. Memorable characters Nellie Forbush (originally played by Mary Martin), plantation owner Emile de Becque and Bloody Mary belt such unforgettable songs as “Some Enchanted Evening,” “Younger than Springtime,” “Bali Ha’i” and “(I’m in Love with) A Wonderful Guy.” The musical also won the Pulitzer Prize for drama.

Two cast members of the touring production — the openly gay Joe Langworth, who also served as Associate Choreographer of the Broadway revival, and Anderson Davis, who plays the conflicted Lt. Joseph Cable — recently spoke with Blade about the significance of this classic musical.

“The music is so ingrained in so many people’s brains,” said Langworth, “and it crosses generations, which amazes me.” This seems all the more significant when one realizes this is the first Broadway revival of South Pacific, which originally debuted in 1948. However, the musical has been a perennial favorite among high schools and local theatre companies.

Davis laughed, “One of the first musicals I ever did was playing Emile in my high school production of South Pacific. The original production was so controversial, but it remains so relevant.”

Both performers noted that the subject of racism, prominently confronted in South Pacific via Cable’s relationship with a native woman, is still significant and has important parallels in the current fight for equal rights by GLBT people.

“Race remains an issue in this country, despite progress that has been made,” according to Langworth. “We have taken steps and have come so far even though we have so far to go. Everyone who is not accepted in some way for who they are can resonate with this story.”

“For me,” Davis said, “it’s so incredible that (Richard Rodgers, Oscar Hammerstein II and co-writer Joshua Logan) decided to do such a powerful statement on racism just a few years after WWII ended and a good twenty years before the Civil Rights Movement.”

Davis, who is straight, reflected further: “My first reaction to this story and songs like "You Have to be Carefully Taught" was from a gay marriage awareness. It amazes me that so many people can’t make the leap from racism to prejudice against gay people and the notion of gay marriage. That’s the main issue among my circle of friends. The most important thing about South Pacific is how incredibly relevant it is.”


Langworth has been involved with the revival of South Pacific for over three years. He assisted with casting the original Broadway production, a process which took a year. “We’re really excited about the tour and how people are receiving it,” he said. “The audience is another character in the play, and watching how the actors react to each new audience is amazing.”

Both performers spoke of their exceptionally high regard for Bartlett Sher, director of this production. “Bart is brilliant and has been great to work with,” said Langworth. “He’s taught me so much and treated the show with such respect; we’re representing people who served our country, and we try to honor them every night.”

Davis echoed this by saying: “This is a story about things that did happen in another part of the world; I really tried to get into the shoes of a military serviceman.” Of Sher, choreographer Christopher Gattelli and music director Ted Sperling, Davis states, “I’d love to work with this creative team again, more so than doing any particular show or role.”


Prior to the tour of South Pacific, the accomplished Langworth served as Associate Director of the current Tony-nominated, gay-themed play Next Fall. It is playing at the Helen Hayes Theatre in New York City. “It’s a play about family and what constitutes family; there is a gay couple that is pivotal as the drama unfolds over the evening,” Langworth explained. “It also deals with faith, as one in the couple is an atheist and one is a Christian.”

The younger Davis is still starting out as an actor, despite working consistently since graduating in 2006 from Carnegie Mellon in Pittsburgh. Born and raised in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Davis said his transition to the bright lights of Broadway when he was cast in the 2006 revival of Les Miserables was “definitely an adjustment.” He performed in numerous regional productions, including the stage version of High School Musical 2, prior to his being cast in South Pacific.


“You have no idea how excited we are to be playing LA and southern California for a good length of time,” Davis said. He spoke of the possibility of relocating here once his commitment to South Pacific ends in 2011.

New York Times theatre critic Ben Brantley wrote of the 2008 revival of South Pacific: "I know we’re not supposed to expect perfection in this imperfect world, but I’m darned if I can find one serious flaw in this production."

Interviews by Rev. Chris Carpenter, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and the Orange County and Long Beach Blade.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Reverend's Reviews: Hood-Winked

For a hero best known for "robbing from the rich to give to the poor," Robin Hood doesn't get to do much of it in the new Russell Crowe-Ridley Scott epic. Granted, it is a prequel that strives to develop a new generation's awareness of the character (and a new "tent pole" for Universal Studios in the process). Unfortunately, most of the audience members I viewed and discussed it with agreed the film should have started where it ends instead of being the slog of a history lesson it is.

Essentially Gladiator updated to the 12th century, even repeating the impressive airborne-arrow attacks from Crowe & Scott's earlier success, this Robin Hood (Crowe) is a sullen veteran of the Crusades who is tasked with returning the late King Richard the Lionheart's crown to his mother, Eleanor of Acquitane (a fine, tongue-in-cheek Eileen Atkins). Her other son, the wicked John (Oscar Isaac, who played the peaceful Saint Joseph in The Nativity Story), becomes king by default and promptly sets out to offend and divide everyone in Britain, even as invaders from France led by the duplicitous Sir Godfrey (villain du jour Mark Strong, last seen as the baddie in Sherlock Holmes) are landing on their shores.


Robin, initially surnamed Longstride, gradually makes his way to Nottingham in order to deliver a fallen soldier's sword to his father (the always-welcome Max Von Sydow). Once there, he meets and falls in love with the soldier's widow, Marian (Cate Blanchett), who is both too old and too married to be a "Maid." Robin also makes the acquaintance of such traditional figures as Friar Tuck (a fun Mark Addy), the now-neutered Sheriff of Nottingham, and initial members of his fabled "Merry Men."

While screenwriter Brian Helgeland seems more concerned with historical accuracy than the Robin Hood legend, his research is impressive. Also impressive are all the technical aspects (cinematography, editing, special effects, costumes, etc.) of this production. In the end, though, it made me long for the similarly grimy Robin and Marian (1976) and even for 1991's Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. Kevin Costner may have been miscast in the title role, but at least it was entertaining.


I am intrigued by how a new incarnation of Robin appears on the big screen every 16-20 years. The outlaw's fight against greed and tyranny clearly continues to resonate through history to each new generation. It's too bad that the current version doesn't serve the legacy as well as its predecessors.

UPDATE: Robin Hood is now available on DVD and Blu-ray from Amazon.com.

Review by Rev. Chris Carpenter, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and the Orange County and Long Beach Blade.
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