Last night’s Oscars were all about the sad lack of racial inclusion in Hollywood and in the Academy’s own selection process, but were LGBTs given proper due? Well, yes, but no, but sort of maybe. Here’s a rundown of the gayest moments that snuck in (or somehow failed to do so).
8:59 PM: Homophobe Tracy Morgan is in a dress! Is this part of his redemptive process? He’s actually funny in a pre-taped spoof, chomping down on a pastry and saying “I’m a danish girl.” I hope it doesn’t clash with whatever egg remains on his face.
9:01 PM: Sam Smith sings his James Bond theme while weaving back and forth in a tuxedo. “My favorite song is ‘Father Figure’,” cracks host Chris Rock when the song is over. But Sam was never caught in a public restroom! Best Original Song is actually the most LGBT category by far. In addition to Smith, there’s gay icon Lady Gaga (for “DON’T do what u want with my body,” essentially) Meanwhile, the cowriter of “Manta Ray” from Racing Extinction, Anohni (formerly known as Antony Hegarty), was a trans nominee in this category. I knew Anohni in the 1990s, when she performed with that miraculous voice at the Meat Packing District club Jackie 60. She always marched to her own drum and sure enough, does not seem to be on Facebook or Twitter these days. But Anohni was all set to go to the Oscars until learning that she and cowriter J. Ralph were not welcome to perform--supposedly because of trans constraints, I mean time constraints. Please! If you have five nominated songs, you showcase them all. If there are time constraints, you can put them all together in a medley that saves time. But don’t play favorites. In the year of the all-white horror, Oscar’s decision to shut out the second openly trans nominee in history (along with the song from Youth) truly reeks.
9:14 PM: Alicia Vikander wins Best Supporting Actress for the real Danish Girl and is great, but doesn’t say a word about trans issues. “Isn’t that better than her saying something we’d all say was phony?” chimed in a friend as we watched.
10:32 PM: “Best Supporting Actor goes to Mark R….” Mark Ruffalo bolts out of his seat and makes it halfway to the podium. “…Rylance.” Kidding. That didn’t happen.
10:58 PM: Gloriously, drag legend Holly Woodlawn was included in the In Memoriam segment. The Andy Warhol Superstar lit up the screen with wry wit in films like Trash. Not that long ago, Holly told me she didn’t need a dress and wig to tap into her funny side, and that’s true, but it was as a high-heeled diva that she found her place as the Carole Lombard of the downtown open-bar crowd.
11:25 PM: At least they’re playing Anohni’s song in the background as they announce it as a nominee. The winner is Sam Smith, who wrongly suggests that he might be the first openly gay winner (there was Dustin Lance Black, for one, and for Best Song, there was Sondheim, Melissa Etheridge, and Elton John), but gorgeously dedicates the award to the LGBT community. Yay, diversity. The performance of the Gaga/Diane Warren song was introduced by Vice President Joe Biden and was backed by a throng of rape survivors. What does it take, people?
12:01 AM: A rape film does get Best Picture, though—Spotlight, about the journalistic investigation into the pedophilia in the Boston clergy. One of the producers sagely talks about the importance of protecting the children. From the diversity crisis to Sam Smith’s yay-gaying to the rape concerns to Leonardo DiCaprio’s environmental message to the pedophilia issue, this has been a heady evening full of urgent causes ladled between the shtick. Alas, the lesbians of Carol got nothing, as I predicted. Why? Because they aren’t horrible victims or perpetrators.
But back to inclusion issues: I hear Oscar winner Woody Allen is working on an Amazon TV series that will be set in the 1970s and at some point has something to do with the Black Panthers, the militant self-defense group founded in 1966. Woody Allen featuring African Americans? Shocking. I hope they’re not just extras.
AND THE LOSER IS….
LGBTS are always included in the OutMusic Awards, but at what price? I wrote quite a bit last year about how the ninth annual awards were postponed, without refunds given, everyone being told the presentation would be rescheduled. Well, the awards thing finally happened the other week—online! There was no event! And refunds were still not given! (A few people have managed to wangle paybacks if they contested the charges, but others—including artists and nominees—got royally screwed.) As LGBTs continue to eat their own, the awards are simply moving on to planning the 10th annual ceremony.
THERE’S GOT TO BE A MORNING AFTER
It may not have won any Oscars, but my favorite disaster movie of all time (aside from Glitter) is Airport 1975 because it has so many big names brought really low. Aboard for danger are Gloria Swanson as herself, dictating her memoirs; Linda Blair, as a sick girl in need of an organ transplant (and a new agent); Helen Reddy, as a sugar-shock-inducing singing nun; and Karen Black as the cross-eyed flight attendant trying to land the plane as her hair gently wafts in the breeze caused by a huge hole in the aircraft. It’s magical! Anyway, with the Broadway musical Disaster!-–a satire of 1970s flicks like that one--officially opening on March 8, I thought it would be safe to ask some of the cast members what their favorite disaster movie is. Fasten your seatbelts, because here are their replies:
Kerry Butler (Xanadu, Catch Me If You Can)
I wasn't really into disaster movies, but I loved Airplane! I just started watching them as research for this and, out of what I watched, I liked Titanic the best.
Faith Prince (Guys and Dolls)
I have always been struck by Shelley Winters’ performance in The Poseidon Adventure. Her character’s selflessness when faced with that major life or death situation has always stayed with me. Who would have known that would be the part I would be playing in Disaster!?
Adam Pascal (Rent, Aida)
I don't know if it's quite a disaster film, but Jaws is one of my favorite movies of all time. I think it is a perfect film. Scary, funny, suspenseful and human. Classic scenes, classic characters, brilliant dialogue and acting, and of course, an iconic score.
Rachel York (Victor/Victoria)
My favorite disaster movie is actually a spoof on disaster movies, and that's Airplane! It is what I use to give people a sense of what our show is like. It has a similar sense of humor. It was a huge hit when I was a kid. Add some of the greatest hits from the 1970's and you have our show, Disaster!.
Baylee Littrell (new kid on the block and son of Backstreet Boy Brian Littrell)
Airplane! I think it's great the way they make tragedy so funny and cheesy. I love the fact that you can watch it three or four times and pick out something you didn't see before.
PSYCHO CHIC WITH DUNCAN SHEIK
Does Bret Easton Ellis’s novel American Psycho—about a well-dressed Yuppie with a taste for blood—scream out to be musicalized? Maybe not--which makes it more appealing an idea than all those cuddly movies that are automatically turned into musicals these days. At a press presentation of numbers from the show (opening on Broadway on April 20), songwriter/lyricist Duncan Sheik (Spring Awakening) admitted that he wasn’t immediately sure this project would be up his alley. “I’m a Buddhist and I’m a delicate flower,” he said, smiling, “and it was a little much for me. But I did reread the book 20 years after I read it in college, and quickly realized it’s a great opportunity to create a piece of musical theater where stylistically the music can be different and challenges what people think theater music should sound like.” Sheik added that he’s incorporated house, techno, and electronica sounds, much of which he’d been privy to as someone quite visible at ‘80s clubs like Nell’s and MK—“and Michael Musto knows what I’m talking about.” I sure do. Like Sheik, I’m one of the few people who not only survived ‘80s nightlife, but remember it. Anyway, in the numbers they presented, the music jangled innovatively and the lyrics managed to rhyme “mahi mahi” with Isaac Mizrahi. Sounds like this could be another spring awakening.
Photo of Ben Walker as Patrick Bateman by Joan Marcus
THINGS THAT GO BUMP IN THE NIGHT
An acclaimed play that’s moved to Broadway from off-, Stephen Karam’s The Humans is a family drama with a difference. When disapproving dad Erik Blake comes with his Scranton, Pennsylvania family members to his daughter’s new duplex in NYC’s Chinatown for Thanksgiving, all does not turn out to be cranberry sauce and stuffing. Bouts of affection are expressed, but only along with culture clashes, putdowns, and revelations on the order of illness and infidelity. That’s pretty standard for a family drama, but the play laces that with crackling dialogue which has your sympathies shifting between the characters, and there are also references (and sound effects) reflecting the anxiety of the modern, tenuous era, where everyone’s looking over their shoulder in between tweeting short bursts of angst. In the Joe Mantello directed production, which is more proficiently mounted in this incarnation, Reed Birney is terrific as the Pennsylvania man who’s seriously misstepped and is having weird dreams about a faceless woman, learning that he has to lean against his daughter’s window to get phone reception. (Yes, it’s symbolic, along with the fact that the sunlight-free apartment is described as a cave, and becomes even more so when some power goes out. Oh, and that window has bars on it, by the way, and the other big window is covered up.) Jayne Houdyshell is equally priceless as his Virgin Mary-obsessed wife who’s always texting people when a lesbian kills herself and who spends the rest of her free time volunteering to help poor immigrants and urging her younger daughter to get married. Sarah Steele is appealing as that daughter, who’s not yet married to the soon-to-be-trust-funded Richard Saad (Arian Moayed), and Cassie Beck is drolly fabulous as the other daughter, who admits she’s just lost her job and her girlfriend and is bleeding internally. And finally, there’s Lauren Klein, wrenching as Grandma, who’s become demented, only showing any clarity during a prayer before the holiday meal. (Before she fully lost her mind, “Momo” felt that people exaggerate their worries and should relax. It’s not so awful, especially as you start to forget all the bad stuff.) The somewhat overstuffed play uses references to 9/11, economic disparity, and the financial crash to create a family wracked with discomfort, leading up to a hilariously barbed dinner scene which is followed by creepy doings in the dark. There are some lines that are instantly legendary (“If you’re so miserable, why are you trying to live forever?”) and by the end, you know you’ve seen a remarkable and feisty work that’s one of the year’s best.
Photo by Joan Marcus
SHORT DAY’S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT
Eugene O’Neill is best known for sprawling, brilliant, sometimes excessive plays about the American dream gone awry. His 1942 play Hughie is his doodle, a low-octane one-act character study set in the lobby of a NYC hotel in 1928, where a small-time gambler named Erie Smith regales the unwitting night clerk with stories and observations, many of them having to do with the title character, who was the previous night clerk there before dying and ceasing to be Erie’s good luck charm. In the Michael Grandage directed production on Broadway, the clerk (Frank Wood) stares blankly into space for long before the play even starts, giving the suggestion that this character is some kind of specter from the great beyond who becomes a captive audience for Erie’s self serving monologue. As Erie, Forest Whitaker is charming and quite commanding, playing the character in a more chirpy mode than some previous actors, who went for more boozy squalor. The wonderful Christopher Oram designed set is a hovering, metallic contraption that’s as intractable as the gambling game that’s being described. But when it’s over after about an hour, some might wonder if they’ve been conned by Erie too.
ONE MORE THING
Author Bob Hofler is working on a book about Dominick Dunne, the famed producer/crime reporter. Dunne, an affable guy I always ran into at events, produced the 1970 movie of the gay classic The Boys in the Band. That helped bring inclusion to the movies, and this book promises to bring it to literature.