To celebrate the DVD release of one of my favorite films of 2010, special midnight screenings of Black Swan—dubbed The Black Swan Experience—were held in New York, L.A., Chicago and San Francisco this past Saturday. I was signed up for L.A. as I was there, but having caught a 6:30 a.m. flight in, I wasn't too keen on going 24 hours in a row with no sleep. Looks like they were fun, though!
New York had Shequida and the ubiquitous Manila Luzon representing their best Natalie Portman realness; while L.A. had Drew Droege as Chloe and Rhea Litre; Chicago had Frida Lay and Mercedes; and SF had Heklina and Sister Roma.
I hope my vote put Cusumano over the top! (Shoot, now I'm picturing him over a top...)
Last night, my buddy Jason arm-twisted me into going to the Fifth Annual Broadway Beauty Pageant, a benefit for the Ali Forney Center. The Center does excellent work with homeless LGBT kids and the pageant features five gorgeous chorus boys from some of Broadway's biggest, hottest and/or most controversial shows...why I wasn't first in line to begin with, I'll never know.
Here come the judges!
Held Uptown at Peter Norton Symphony Space, the show was directed by Ryan J. Davis with choreography by Erin Porvaznika. It was gamely hosted by 58-year-old acting icon Tovah Feldshuh, who looked terrific and was not above milking every double-entendre for all it was worth—and then some. She began by saying she'd just come from a Texas production of Arsenic & Old Lace and had been dying to get out of there. We were lucky to have her (and her 99-year-old mother!), and to have one of the wittiest men alive, James Franco's opinion notwithstanding—Bruce Vilanch—as head judge. (I imagine he'd feel qualified to judge head as well.)
New mommy Rachel Dratch was the next judge, and an expert at pretending to be a fish out of water around all the gay menz. I don't think she'd object to the word "fish" considering she barely flinched when Vilanch used "cooze"; it took him calling her a "straight cunt" to get her already giant blue eyes to widen, but that's what she got for making fun of one of his only lazy jokes. Finally, Carson Kressley rounded things out and was hysterical, I tell ya—if you've found him annoying in the past, give him another try; he seems to have polished his act and was definitely every bit as funny as Queen of Comedy Vilanch.
Anctil brought skin early on
The boys competing were Matt Anctil of La Cage aux Folles (stop draggin' my heart around, Matt), Michael Cusumano of Chicago (whose leotard revealed that even if we both reached for the gun, neither would come away empty-handed), Raymond J. Lee of Anything Goes (I only wish it did), Brandon Rubendall of Spider-Man (a dark turn-on) and James Tabeek of Mary Poppins (it wouldn't take a spoonful of sugar to get anything he offered to go down).
Tabeek did a funny "WTF?" face during the opening
I got a kiss on the lips at the last Broadway Bares from Tabeek (as did anyone with a buck—anything for charity!), so I went in predisposed to him. But I have to say that despite it being an impossibly close contest (Imagine if the title had been Most Fuckable? We'd all still be there trying to decide.), the right winner was selected—Mr. Chicago triumphed in the end. (And Vilanch made a special note of Cusumano's end when the show had just started. Agreed.)
They don't call him Mr. Reams for nothin'
The show began with a feisty production number starring Lee Roy Reams of The Producers fame and backed up by all five chorus boys cum pageant princes, the guys then introduced themselves and it was on to the talent portion of the evening.
I fell hard for Cusumano, who looked impressive even soft
Rubendall did a balls-out (not literally), Broadwayized version of Cee Lo's "Fuck You," Lee did a YouTube-ready medley of showtunes that was beautifully sung (I hate that I only taped the "Tomorrow" segment), Tabeek did a stunning modern-dance piece that showcased his own status as a stunning piece and Anctil shook things up with a most unexpected routine set to Sammy Davis Jr.'s "Bye Bye Brownbird."
This is not about merit. Or rather, this is never only about merit, so don't take my observations as endorsements or write-offs.
The producers of this year's Oscars telecast may have gone way populist, hiring attractive young stars James Franco and Anne Hathaway as co-hosts, but the Academy voters have gone the opposite route, shunning a surprisingly large number of glamorous stars who actually merited consideration.
It struck me immediately as I listened to the nominees being announced this morning, the unfun lack of household names except in cases where the performance was beyond locked (Natalie Portman, Annette Bening).
Off the top of my head, major surprise snubs include (in descending order of WTF?): Andrew Garfield for The Social Network (he was the heart of that movie, has acting cred from Boy A and is the next Spider-Man), Ryan Gosling for Blue Valentine (a well-liked, extremely respected actor whose counterpart was honored), Mila Kunis for The Black Swan (she may be a newcomer to critical acclaim but she played two completely different roles, one of which was arguably the title character), Matt Damon for True Grit (an old favorite in one of the year's hardest-charging contenders to steal The Social Network's thunder), Mark Wahlberg for The Fighter (not considered a great thespian but he was responsible for the film existing and was the title character), Julianne Moore for The Kids Are All Right (she's been nominated and overlooked before, but this time was really exceptional).
Now that the Golden Globes are all over, and now that they had not one surprise among the winners in film, I really hope the fucking Oscars won't feel the need to be different and reward people other than the expected winners. It's fine when a surprise win happens, but increasingly, it feels like the Oscars—coming at the end of the season—reward surprise winners just for the sake of being different. That's disappointing, because if Natalie Portman and The Social Network are winning everything, maybe it's a little boring, but it's also probably because they deserve it...and how annoying to win everything EXCEPT the top prize, and then only because the top prize is handed out last. (Remembering poor Brokeback Mountain.)
No dancing around the subject—so far, the best movie of the year is Darren Aronofsky's Black Swan, the creepiest mind-fuck of a thriller since just about ever. The progeny of Roman Polanski's Repulsion and Brian De Palma's Carrie, this nonetheless unique vision of a dancer's descent into madness and/or ascent into perfection is an unforgettable (and why would you try?) achievement in filmmaking.
Once you go black...
Incandescent, Audrey Hepburn-channeling Natalie Portman gives the female performance of 2010 as Nina Sayers, a young ballerina obsessed with earning the role of the Swan Queen in her company's season-opening production of Swan Lake. She's devoted her life to dance, given her body over to it—as illustrated in exacting, uncomfortable detail by Aronofsky's lens—and even though the company's previous prima ballerina (Winona Ryder in a deliciously conceived bit part) isn't left with much to show for her own devotion, Nina seems willing to give even more, perhaps even her sanity.
I think Vincent Cassel is smokin' hot and a good actor (liked him in Black Swan, a film I hope to review around December 1), but his comment in Details (December 2010) about Speedos wasn't trés cool:
"In America, if you're wearing one, it's because you're in some sort of swimming competition—or because you're gay. But in Brazil it's totally normal."
Because being gay isn't totally normal. Argh. And the section is entitled "Culture: Arts, entertainment, and ideas for the conspicuously clued-in," which is unfortunate since it features this (uncharacteristically) clued-out comment.