Film/Arts/Satire*
(*homocinematically inclined)

Monday, January 31, 2011

Monthly Wallpaper - February 2011: Best Actresses

With just under a month to go until Oscar night, this month's Movie Dearest Calendar Wallpaper takes a look back at the Best Actresses, the legendary leading ladies who took home the Academy's gold man in years past.

These iconic performances of unforgettable characters include Cher as Loretta, Sally as Norma, Katharine as Eleanor, Diane as Annie, Frances as Marge, Meryl as Sophie, Barbra as Fanny, Elizabeth as Martha, Jessica as Daisy, Charlize as Aileen and more.

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.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

MD Poll: If You Picked the Oscars 2010

It's that time of year again! Time for you to pick what movies and performances you would vote for if you were a member of the Academy and could vote for the best of film 2010 in the actual Oscars.

Last year, you correctly matched the real thing in three out of the five major categories: Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress.  But remember, this isn't about predictions, you are voting for who you want to win!

There are five separate polls, located in the right-hand sidebar, so be sure to vote in each one. The polls will run from now until Oscar Eve, February 26, when the winners of the MD Poll: If You Picked the Oscars 2010 will be revealed!

UPDATE: This poll is now closed; click here for the results, and click here to vote in the latest MD Poll.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Reverend's Reviews: The Rite Ain't Right

The Roman Catholic and other churches use a time-honored, usually effective Rite of Exorcism prescribed for casting out demons. The genre of movies that deal with the subject of demonic possession is a much more mixed bag. There is one true classic, 1974's Oscar winner The Exorcist, but a number of shoddy sequels and prequels to it (although I consider 1990's The Exorcist III underrated). Despite occasional entries such as The Exorcism of Emily Rose and last year's The Last Exorcism that are both cinematically and theologically accomplished, most are exploitative and nonsensical.

The Rite, which opens nationwide today, unfortunately falls into the latter category. It's a misbegotten mess of haunted house clichés, Vatican mumbo jumbo, and Anthony Hopkins channeling Hannibal Lecter (for the umpteenth time) as well as Linda Blair!

In The Rite, "inspired by" a book about exorcisms by Matt Baglio, Colin O'Donoghue (The Tudors) plays real-life priest Michael Kovak. O'Donoghue represents the youngest and hottest but most reluctant wannabe exorcist ever. Ordained a Catholic deacon after four years of seminary, which he entered as an escape from his mortician father, Kovak is coerced into going to Rome and taking exorcist training classes taught by Fr. Xavier (the great Irish actor Ciaran Hinds, giving the only truly credible performance in the film). Like many a skeptic before him, however, Kovak is convinced that so-called demonic possession has more to do with mental illness than Satan. That is, until he meets Fr. Lucas (Hopkins), an "unorthodox" yet successful liberator of the truly possessed.


The movie is directed in thoroughly heavy-handed fashion by Mikael Hafstrom, who previously made the much better suspense yarns 1408 and Evil. According to Hafstrom and screenwriter Michael Petroni, nothing signifies the forces of darkness so much as frogs, cockroaches and even feral kittens, plus the occasional red-eyed mule. They and O'Donoghue also take great pains to assure the audience that Kovak is heterosexual. When Kovak first tells his best friend that he is entering seminary, the shocked buddy replies "Is this your way of telling me you're gay?" Once in seminary, Kovak is offended by some seemingly too-close physical contact between his neighbors. Finally, Kovak develops a pseudo-romantic relationship with a lovely, undercover journalist (Alice Braga, niece of Brazilian actress Sonia Braga of Kiss of the Spider Woman fame) out to expose "the truth" about exorcisms.

Despite great cinematography and its authentic Roman trappings, The Rite gets pretty much everything wrong about Catholicism, the Rite of Exorcism and effective horror movie-making. Demonic possession may be an enduringly fascinating topic but the Vatican, which reportedly endorsed this film and is now collaborating on a reality-based TV series about exorcisms, needs to better screen those who claim to want to do the subject justice. I doubt even the Devil would approve of The Rite.

Reverend's Rating: D

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

Review by Rev. Chris Carpenter, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and the Blade California.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Toon Talk: Horseography

When it comes to sports biopics, the subgenre breaks down into two camps. First is the warts-and-all, blood-and-guts variety best exemplified by Raging Bull. Then just about everything else, from The Pride of the Yankees to Hoosiers to The Blind Side, easily fall into the second type: the “inspirational” kind. Filled with “rags to riches” stories, training montages and slow motion moments of triumph, these films are no doubt crowd-pleasers. Yet, after you’ve seen a few, they also become rather predictable, even interchangeable.

With its Disney brand and tame PG rating, it’s not hard to figure out what category Secretariat fits into; and while the film (now available on Disney DVD and Blu-ray) is definitely a family friendly one, you’re likely to feel that you’ve seen this race before… even if you haven’t seen Seabiscuit.


As the “super horse” that, in 1973, became the first racehorse to win the US Triple Crown in twenty-five years, Secretariat certainly could run fast, but he doesn’t say much. Therefore, the movie leans heavily on his owner, Peggy Chenery (played by the always welcome Diane Lane) to carry the story. Unfortunately, as a main character, Peggy is a bit of a cipher. Her motivation to race Secretariat, tied to fulfilling some unspoken dying wish of her father (Scott Glenn), is barely tangible, while attempts to show her as a “woman in a man’s world” fall flat. Subplots about the strain on her marriage and family (including, quite awkwardly, a wannabe hippie daughter) and her reluctance to speak in public go nowhere.

To compensate, director Randall Wallace (the Academy Award nominated screenwriter of Braveheart) and writer Mike Rich (who based his script on William Nack's book Secretariat: The Making of a Champion) try to throw some more obstacles in her way, mainly conflicts with her quirky horse trainer, Lucian Laurin. A French-Canadian former jockey who fancied loud outfits and unconventional training methods, Laurin is played by John Malkovich, the go-to guy in Hollywood for quirky characters (that is, when Christopher Walken is unavailable). Alas, Malkovich pretty much sleep walks through the role, relying on a string of goofy hats and sporadic outbursts in French for character development...

Click here to continue reading my Toon Talk review of Secretariat at LaughingPlace.com.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Reverend’s Reactions: The 2010 Oscar Nominations

The sun is just starting to show itself here in Hollywood, but celebrations are already underway in the wake of the Academy Awards nominations announcement at 5:38 AM PST today. The film industry's equivalent of Christmas morning has inevitably left some kiddies disappointed while many others are gleeful today.

In general, I'm pleased with this year's contenders. I was very happy about the unexpectedly strong showing made by Winter's Bone in addition to The Social Network, The King's Speech (the leader with 12 nominations) and Inception, all of which were among my top 10 of 2010. I was also pleasantly surprised by Nicole Kidman's well-deserved Best Actress nomination for the affecting Rabbit Hole as well as the inclusion of Javier Bardem, who has been largely shut out of other awards this year, in the Best Actor category for his raw, haunting performance in Biutiful, which was also nominated as Best Foreign Language Film.

The Kids Are All Right, 2010's big GLBT-themed release, garnered a number of nominations and cemented its status in my mind as last year's most overrated movie. Annette Bening and Mark Ruffalo were deservedly honored, but the nods it received for Best Original Screenplay and Best Picture are excessive. More strained domestic drama than ballyhooed comedy, The Kids Are All Right fell way short for me despite its excellent cast.


Also highly overrated in my opinion is True Grit. While technically proficient, very well-acted (the amazing, 14-year old Hailee Steinfeld received a deserved nomination for Best Supporting Actress), and a definite improvement on the original movie version, it's also a fairly routine achievement for Joel and Ethan Coen. The brothers' latest nomination for Best Director is unjust, especially when one realizes Christopher Nolan was left out of the category for his extraordinarily creative work on Inception!

But my disappointment with the high praise heaped upon these two films is tempered by some nominations in "lesser" categories: the song "I See The Light" from Tangled as Best Song (although "You Haven't See the Last of Me" from Burlesque was somewhat surprisingly omitted, so we won't have the prospective thrill of seeing and hearing Cher sing it live during the awards ceremony); composer John Powell's Best Music Score nomination for How to Train Your Dragon; the Best Costume Design nod for the sumptuous I Am Love, our Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association pick as Best Film of the Year; and the inclusion of the hand-drawn, Jacques Tati homage The Illusionist among the Best Animated Feature contenders (alongside Dragon and Toy Story 3).

We'll have to tune in to the 83rd Academy Awards presentation on February 27 to see how everything plays out, but I'm expecting Bening and Colin Firth (Best Actor nominee for The King's Speech) at least to have continued reason to celebrate after that night.

See the comments section below for a quick look at all of this year's Oscar nominations.

By Rev. Chris Carpenter, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and the Blade California.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Awards Watch: GLBT Films of 2010 Honored

The annual Hollywood awards season is in full swing, with the Golden Globes recently announced and the Academy Awards coming up on February 27. The Social Network and The King's Speech may be the big winners thus far, but the Gay & Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association (GALECA) had some surprises among the winners of its second annual Dorian Awards, which were announced today.

GALECA is only two years old but is quickly becoming known in the industry. The organization is composed of more than 40 LGBT film and television critics from across the US as well as Canada and Great Britain. Such major publications as The Advocate, US Weekly, TV Guide and our own Movie Dearest are represented. Unlike GLAAD, which specifically honors movie and TV shows each year that show the GLBT community in a positive light, GALECA considers both mainstream and LGBT-specific projects for the Dorian Awards. Toy Story 3 and The Social Network were among GALECA's five nominees for Film of the Year in addition to the more LGBT-oriented The Kids Are All Right, Black Swan and I Am Love. The Dorian Awards are so named in honor of gay writer Oscar Wilde and his literary masterpiece, The Picture of Dorian Grey.

I Am Love was the surprise choice as the 2010 Dorian Award-winner for Film of the Year. This sensual tale stars Oscar-winner Tilda Swinton as the Russian-born matriarch of an Italian family beset by romantic entanglements of various genders and orientations. Little seen upon its theatrical release but much admired by those who have caught it, I Am Love is now available on DVD and Blu-ray.


Unlike most groups that bestow awards, GALECA doesn't separate men and women in its consideration of the Best Performances in Film and Television. This year, Annette Bening triumphed over such acclaimed fellow nominees as Colin Firth (The King's Speech), James Franco (who was nominated for his great acting in two 2010 releases, 127 Hours and Howl) and Natalie Portman (Black Swan). Bening won the Dorian Award for her excellent turn as one-half of a lesbian couple raising two teenagers in The Kids Are All Right.

In GALECA's television categories, The Good Wife won Drama of the Year while Glee won its second Dorian Award in a row for TV Comedy or Musical of the Year. Glee also won the Dorian for LGBT-themed TV Show of the Year as well as acting awards for Jane Lynch and Chris Colfer, who tied in the TV Comedy Performance of the Year category. New Glee cast member Darren Criss won GALECA's "We're Wilde About You" Rising Star Award over such other talented newcomers as Andrew Garfield (The Social Network and the upcoming Spider-Man reboot) and Black Swan's Mila Kunis. Michael C. Hall, as the sympathetic serial killer of Dexter, won the Dorian Award for TV Dramatic Performance of the Year. The HBO series Hung, about a well-endowed gigolo, was recognized as the Unsung TV Show of the Year and the new comedy Hot in Cleveland, starring Valerie Bertinelli and Betty White, won the "Campy (Intentional or Not) TV Show of the Year" Dorian.


The delightful Easy A, about a high school student who takes her Scarlet Letter reading assignment a bit too literally, won the Dorian Award for Unsung Film of the Year. Additional winners in other film-related categories were Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work (Documentary of the Year); I Love You Phillip Morris (LGBT-Themed Film of the Year); 8: The Mormon Proposition (LGBT-Themed Documentary of the Year); and Burlesque (Campy (Intentional or Not) Film of the Year). The latter beat out such dubious contenders as Sex and the City 2 and Piranha 3-D.

Finally, GALECA's prestigious "Wilde Wit of the Year Award" was given to Rachel Maddow, the openly lesbian TV and radio news host, and the group's annual "Timeless Award" — which is given to a living actor or performer with an exemplary career marked by smarts, character and wit — was bestowed upon theatre and film legend Angela Lansbury.


While this year's Academy Award nominations have yet to be announced, a number of LGBT-interest contenders are likely. Annette Bening and Natalie Portman will likely duke it out for the Best Actress Oscar, and Bening's Kids Are All Right partner, Julianne Moore, could also be nominated. Meanwhile, the Academy Award for Best Song might well go to "You Haven't Seen the Last of Me," which was sung by Cher in Burlesque and won the Golden Globe. If the song is nominated for an Oscar, Cher will likely perform it during the telecast. Her appearance alone will be enough to get virtually every gay man in the US to tune in on February 27!

See the comments section below for a quick look at this year's Dorian Award winners.

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

Monday, January 17, 2011

Reel Thoughts: Biutiful Bardem

Alejandro González Iñárritu, director of the somber Babel and 21 Grams, has hit the depths of depression with Biutiful. If there’s a better film to make you suicidal, I don’t know what it is.

Javier Bardem plays Uxbal, a flawed man flailing for some decency in his life who finds out that his life is in peril. He tries to make a good life for his two kids, despite the fact that their mother is a drug-addicted mess who favors one child over the other. His business is tied to a Barcelona sweatshop that cranks out designer knock-off purses and the like, which are hawked on the street by African immigrants.


His business partner is a closeted gay man who must keep his lover a secret from his powerful family. It is a sign of how disconnected Biutiful is that we don’t care a bit for the only gay characters in the film. When an act of kindness by Uxbal, intended to provide warmth to the exploited workforce, goes horribly wrong it sets off a series of even more depressing events that will bring all the characters to the edge of an emotional abyss.

Bardem hasn’t given a bad performance in his career, and was the only decent thing in Eat Pray Love. Not surprisingly, his work in Biutiful is the only reason to see it. Just be sure to go in a good mood; you can’t be held responsible for your actions after suffering through this not-so-beautiful film.

UPDATE: Biutiful 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, January 15, 2011

MD Poll: Global Certainty 2010

The Golden Globes are tomorrow night and, if the "real" voting was as close as it was for out latest MD Poll, it will be a heated race to victory in at least one of the Best Picture categories.

The Social Network narrowly topped the Dramatic competition, closely followed by Black Swan and The King's Speech, in a tie for second place. Meanwhile in the Comedy or Musical category, it should be smooth sailing for The Kids Are All Right, which netted more then 60% of the votes.  See the comments section below for the complete results.

Since the Oscar nominations are only two weeks away, the MD Poll will be taking a short break until then.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Reel Thoughts: Know Jack

It’s a surreal experience to watch Kevin Spacey play disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff in Casino Jack and then watch the real Jack Abramoff in the documentary Casino Jack and the United States of Money. The story is the same, but Spacey’s version is a lot more fun in a true-crime way. The documentary is more depressing, since a lot of the right-wing people implicated in the scandal escaped unscathed and still wreak havoc to this day.

Spacey (in a Golden Globe nominated performance) plays Abramoff as a mass of contradictions, an Orthodox Jew who pals around with the Christian Coalition, and who harbors dreams of Hollywood fame. His devoted wife is played by Kelly Preston and his partner in crime, Mike Scanlon, is played by Barry Pepper in full Glengarry Glen Ross mode.


Much like I Love You Phillip Morris, the enjoyment of watching Casino Jack is in realizing that everything you see really happened, more or less. Abramoff’s rise and fall is depicted in entertaining detail as he first lobbies for sweatshop owners in the Northern Marianas Islands, then fleeces Native American tribes through casino gambling scams, and then hitches his fortunes to Adam Kidan (Jon Lovitz), a sleazy entrepreneur with mob ties. Lovitz nearly steals the show in a scene where he is attacked with a ballpoint pen, but overall, the film belongs to Spacey and Pepper.

The late director George Hickenlooper juggles all of Jack’s schemes admirably, so that we understand the method to Abramoff’s madness. Casino Jack is a sadly American tale that may only get worse with the recent Supreme Court ruling on corporate election donations. Consider yourself warned.

UPDATE: Casino Jack 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.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Awards Watch: Nominations for the 2010 Dorian Awards

The Gay & Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association (of which yours truly and my fellow Movie Dearest Men on Film Chris Carpenter and Neil Cohen are members) has announced its nominations for the group's second annual Dorian Awards, celebrating the best in film and television for 2010.

In 17 categories, including new ones this year for documentaries and "unsung" movies, GALECA has nominated a wide variety of films and TV programs, both with and without GLBT themes. Titles with multiple nominations include such big screen hits as Black Swan, The Kids Are All Right and The Social Network, while The Big Bang Theory, Glee and Modern Family represent the small screen.

See the comments section below for the complete list of nominations. Winners will be announced January 18 in Los Angeles.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Tune in to TCM: Luise Rainer

Tonight, Turner Classic Movies will celebrate the 101st birthday of legendary screen actress Luise Rainer. The first person to win back-to-back Academy Awards (as Best Actress for her performances in The Great Ziegfeld and The Good Earth), Rainer will be feted with the world premiere telecast of Luise Rainer: Live from the TCM Classic Film Festival. The special features TCM host Robert Osborne's interview, which was taped at the premiere TCM Film Festival last year in Hollywood (our own Chris Carpenter attended the event; read his report here).

TCM will round out the birthday festivities this evening with presentations of Rainer's two Oscar-winning performances, as well as her memorable roles in The Great Waltz and Dramatic School.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Reel Thoughts: Sophia's Choice

Sofia Coppola’s films, like her acting, take some getting used to. The Virgin Suicides was an unremittingly dark tale of suburban angst, while Marie Antoinette was a candy-colored nightmare. Only Lost in Translation seemed to find a quietly powerful place in people’s hearts, and the low-key film energized the careers of Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson. Somewhere, starring Stephen Dorff as a debauched action movie star living in the Chateau Marmont Hotel in Los Angeles, aims to cast some light on showbiz lives of the rich and famous, but it is so inert as to be more slideshow than movie.

Dorff's Johnny Marco is a familiar character: the Hollywood player who has so much fame and money, he’s about run out of ways to spend it. Twin strippers who do private shows with their own poles in your room? Check. More booze and drugs than a year with Lindsay Lohan? Check. Gorgeous groupies who show up in your bed naked? Check. Eleven year-old daughter left on your doorstep? Oops!


Elle Fanning (Dakota’s little sister) plays Cleo, Johnny’s adoring daughter who is left with the star by her mother who, in true 1970’s fashion, leaves to “find herself.” Coppola loves long, silent scenes of people lying by a pool or cars driving around and around in the desert. Cleo loves her dad, and suddenly Johnny has to man up and be the father he never was.

Dorff is an intense actor who does his best, and I welcomed any scene that the lovely Fanning graced; she is primed to match her big sister’s fame, and has equal talent. However, to say that Coppola pads a half hour or less of material with pretentious pauses and self-indulgent hoo-haw is being charitable. Given the choice, you’d probably prefer the broken arm Johnny suffers from to sitting through 97 minutes of Hollywood angst. Check out episodes of Entourage if you want a showbiz fix, but Somewhere is nowhere you’ll want to be.

UPDATE: Somewhere 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, January 9, 2011

Dearie Awards 2010: Movie of the Year - I LOVE YOU PHILLIP MORRIS

This was a tough choice to make at the end of a great year for GLBT-themed films, both domestic and foreign. We decided on I Love You Phillip Morris as our top pick, though, not only for its sharp, alternately hilarious and touching screenplay (which was just announced as a surprise nominee for this year's Writers Guild Awards) but for the sheer fact that it was finally released in the US after a tortured, nearly two year wait.

I Love You Phillip Morris, which starred Jim Carrey and Ewan McGregor (both delightful) in the true-life story of misguided convicts in love with each other, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January of 2009, then opened in virtually every European country, but saw its American opening held up by marketing concerns and financial squabbles. It finally played a number of US theaters just last month, to mixed critical and box office success. Nevertheless, everyone — gay, straight and in between — ought to see this bizarre yet oddly universal, resonant love story. We love Phillip Morris too!


Honorable Mentions:
A leading contender in this year's Oscars, The Kids Are All Right was also nominated by the WGA, as well as for a host of Golden Globe and other awards. This topical tale of a lesbian couple (the fabulous Annette Bening and Julianne Moore) coping with their rapidly maturing children's desire to develop a relationship with their sperm-donor father (a similarly great Mark Ruffalo) struck a chord among parents of all stripes. Though it received mixed reactions in the GLBT community, the general acclaim heaped upon The Kids Are All Right serves as a testament to how far we have come as film viewers and filmmakers, and the movie is probably the most significant mainstream achievement in that regard since 2005's Brokeback Mountain.

Burlesque won't go down as a cinematic classic, but this contemporary homage to A Star is Born melodramas had enough musical pizzazz and camp charm to win over gay audiences. Add Cher (in her first film role in seven years) to the time-honored mix and we had, if not a blockbuster, a Xanadu-esque pop pageant that will likely stand the test of time. As Cher prophetically sings on the soundtrack, "You Haven't Seen the Last of Me." Christina Aguilera didn't suck, Cam Gigandet showed his shapely derriere, Stanley Tucci played gay (again) and Kristen Bell amused as the alcoholic diva. Oh, and out actor Alan Cumming appeared sporadically in a variation on his Cabaret MC role. What's not to like?

Click the following links for our original reviews: I Love You Phillip Morris, The Kids Are All Right and Burlesque.

UPDATE: I Love You Phillip Morris is now available on DVD and Blu-ray from Amazon.com.

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

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Dearie Awards 2010: Documentary of the Year - STONEWALL UPRISING

The seminal event in GLBT liberation history finally received the unadulterated film treatment it deserved in the revelatory documentary Stonewall Uprising. Previous docs have dealt with events leading up to and following the riots that occurred in and around Greenwich Village's Stonewall Inn in the summer of 1969, and one fictional movie (1995's Stonewall) depicted some of the events and players involved. It wasn't until 2010, however, that this assemblage of you-are-there archival footage and interviews with participants on both sides of the divide came together with the admirable intent of trying to separate fact from legend.

The result is more inspirational than anything we've witnessed before, and Stonewall Uprising (due on DVD April 26) is a true must-see for neophyte students and long-dedicated activists alike. When a New York City police officer (now in his 80's) who was there questions the wisdom of the crackdown on the Stonewall, attention must be paid.


Honorable Mentions:
8: The Mormon Proposition was an eye-opening, if not exactly unbiased, exploration of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints' well-organized support of California's Proposition 8, which sought to amend the state's constitution to prohibit same-sex marriage. Of course, there's no rule that says filmmakers, including documentarians, have to be unbiased; if there were, Michael Moore would have been out of a job long ago. As legal challenges to the now-infamous Prop 8 continue to be filed and heard, time and justice will hopefully declare it unconstitutional once and for all. Until then, the religious forces of opposition to marriage equality need to be called out, and this film does an exceptional job at that.

Walt Disney Studios had a notoriously difficult time adjusting to meet more sophisticated audience expectations between the 1970's-1980's. Waking Sleeping Beauty provides an intimate peek behind the scenes during the company's late 80's makeover that ushered in an animation renaissance with such massive successes as The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin and The Lion King. Interestingly but perhaps unsurprisingly, the film hints that these significant Disney achievements might not have been possible if not for the artistic contributions of gay talents/visionaries Howard Ashman (who died, tragically, of AIDS-related complications in 1991) and Elton John, among others. An all-around insightful film for all of us "Disney queens" out here.

Click the following links to read our original reviews: Stonewall Uprising, 8: The Mormon Proposition and Waking Sleeping Beauty.

UPDATE: Stonewall Uprising is now available on DVD from Amazon.com.

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

Friday, January 7, 2011

Dearie Awards 2010: Man of the Year - JAMES FRANCO

Much was written in the mainstream press this past year about the seemingly inexhaustible talents of James Franco. When he wasn't studying for two Master's Degrees, publishing a book, writing poetry and saving the world from an onslaught of intelligent apes (oh, sorry, that's later this year, when he will headline the sci-fi prequel Rise of the Apes), Franco was playing one of Julia Roberts' lovers in Eat Pray Love, stalking hunky Steve Burton on General Hospital and directing a gay-themed short film (The Feast of Stephen) that appeared on the 2010 queer festival circuit.

Franco has long held viewers' attention, and gave memorable performances in both the Spider-Man trilogy and the Oscar-winning biopic Milk. The latter film, especially, sparked considerable "is he one of us?" speculation about Franco on the part of gay fans (according to recent reports, the actor is dating a woman). But Franco has also been regarded at times as laid back to a fault on screen. That perception changed dramatically in 2010, when Franco did exuberant, even joyful work in Howl and 127 Hours. In the first, Franco embodied the Beat Generation energy and protest spirit of gay poet Allen Ginsberg. In the second, the actor rivets in a largely immobile role, contemplating life as a hiker literally stuck between a rock and a hard place.

Next on Franco's growing list of broad achievements: co-hosting the Academy Awards ceremony with Anne Hathaway on February 27, where he will also more than likely be a nominee. Will nothing hold him down? You go, Franco! Movie Dearest salutes you.


Honorable Mentions:
The first season of Fox's hit musical-dramedy Glee introduced Chris Colfer to the world in the role of Kurt Hummel, a gay high school student who zigzags through various points of the coming out process. The untried actor-singer reportedly snagged the role shortly after stepping off the bus for his first professional audition. Colfer and Kurt have since become role models for a new generation of GLBT teens, with Colfer participating in the 2010 "It Gets Better" video campaign in the wake of a tragic number of suicides by bullied young people. I had the pleasure of being present last summer when Colfer presented his Glee co-star Jane Lynch with the Outfest Lifetime Achievement Award, and was impressed by his poise and sincerity. And can he sing! His rendition of "A House is Not a Home" this season was a standout among a number of impressive musical moments, culminating in his holiday duet on "Baby, It's Cold Outside" with Kurt's maybe-boyfriend, Blaine (Darren Criss). Keep up the great work!

We loved Colin Firth's performance as a gay college professor mourning the death of his longtime lover in last year's A Single Man. Duly Oscar nominated, Firth tragically (in the opinion of some of us) lost the award to Jeff Bridges. If Lady Justice is gay, she'll make sure the scale tips Firth's way this year for his acclaimed performance in The King's Speech, when he and Bridges will likely compete again in the Best Actor category. However, Firth has the edge this time around since (A) he hasn't won before and (B) he gave a simply glorious performance as stuttering, stammering King George VI. Definitely more crowd-pleasing than A Single Man, if no less significant a character study, The King's Speech explores the importance of national leadership at a time when the subject couldn't be more critical. Firth has turned in consistently great work (he was also fun in last year's St. Trinian's School for Girls), and now as a king in addition to his previous "queens."

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

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Dearie Awards 2010: Television Show of the Year - TRUE BLOOD

A vampire king and his male lover. A vampire queen and her female lover. Homoerotic dreams starring two straight, hunky heroes. A burgeoning romance between the flamboyant fry cook and his mother's male nurse. An often shirtless resident himbo. An often naked pack of werewolves. And, oh yeah, the revelation that the lead character is a fairy (OK, not that kind of fairy, but still... )

No doubt about it, the third season of HBO's horror series True Blood was the gayest thing on TV in 2010. It has also been one of the sexiest, goriest and most addictive television programs in recent years. Created by Academy Award-winning screenwriter Alan Ball and starring Oscar winner Anna Paquin, True Blood is a blood good time. And that's the truth.


Honorable Mentions:
ABC's hit, multi-Emmy Award winning Modern Family continues its hot streak in its second season. The clever comedy even silenced its critics when gay couple Mitchell (Jesse Tyler Ferguson) and Cameron (Emmy winner Eric Stonestreet) finally had an on-air kiss.

On the reality TV front, Logo's RuPaul's Drag Race became a pop culture phenomenon with its sophomore leg. A high camp, low stakes hybrid of America's Next Top Model and Project Runway (complete with hostess RuPaul in Tim Gunn mentor drag), this show really works it, girl.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Dearie Awards 2010: Women of the Year - ANNETTE BENING & JULIANNE MOORE

How do you choose between Annette Bening’s tightly wound Alpha-mom and Julianne Moore’s warm and sensual earth mother as Woman of the Year? The answer is, you don’t! We at Movie Dearest are pleased to honor two of our finest contemporary actresses for their perfectly in-sync performances in Lisa Cholodenko’s deceptively subversive family comedy, The Kids Are All Right. As uptight Nic and laidback Jules, Bening and Moore made their unconventional family feel normal yet universal. Each woman nailed their character’s comic highs and dramatic depths and more than that, Bening and Moore truly made you believe that they were in a loving, long-term marriage.

Right before the film opened in June, Bening experienced an ironic family situation that undoubtedly dimmed her euphoria over her well-received performance. Her daughter Kathlyn Beatty was quoted as officially announcing her intention to get gender reassignment surgery and the tabloids trumpeted how “devastated” Bening’s husband Warren Beatty was at the prospect. Moore, on the other hand, found herself having to defend her character’s decision to sleep with her children’s donor father, slyly played by Mark Ruffalo. Many (lesbians and others, including our own Father Chris) cried foul, but Moore was eloquent in her praise of gay and lesbian parents and her commitment to her character’s motives and sexual orientation.

The very fact that both women give such rich, full-bodied performances in the same film may cost them each an Oscar, but we at Movie Dearest think that Moore and Bening are much more than “all right”, we think they’re perfect!


Honorable Mentions:
It must be harrowing as an actress to go where director Darren Aronofsky sends you; who can ever forget Jennifer Connelly’s vile degradation at the end of Requiem for a Dream? However, few actresses could make such a sublime experience out of losing her mind as Natalie Portman in Black Swan. The notorious perfectionist was perfectly cast as high-strung NYC ballerina Nina Sayers, who dramatically unravels once cast as the Swan Queen in Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake. Who knew that plastic actress who played Queen Amidala in the Star Wars films had it in her? Her character’s latent lesbian desires towards her sexy rival Lily (Mila Kunis) only force her closer to and then over the edge. It’s a red-eyed, feathered freak-out you’ll never forget, and we’re in agreement with Nina herself when she says, sizing up her opening night performance, “It was perfect.”

Noomi Rapace, the previously little-known actress, made a huge international impression this year as Lisbeth Salander in the Millennium trilogy (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl who Played with Fire and The Girl who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest), the fierce vigilante at the heart of the bestselling books and their hit Swedish film adaptations. Unfamiliar with the character prior to seeing these movies in 2010, we were struck by the vengeful, bisexual pixie in leather but even more so by Rapace. Her full-throttle dedication to the role, which entailed harrowing scenes of sexual abuse as well as exhilarating moments of justice long denied being served, testifies to Rapace's talent and commitment. She will soon be seen in bigger projects (including the Sherlock Holmes sequel) but I expect Lisbeth will be the role for which Rapace shall be remembered.

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