This is pretty cool—for the first time ever, one of my books is available in audio form: Lethe Press has issued my memoir Starf*cker as an audio book.
226 posts categorized "ME"
Earlier this week, I was excited to attend one screening that was a part the FIAF (French Institute Alliance Française) series CinéSalon: Lhomme Behind the Camera, which is running through February 23 at Florence Gould Hall (55 E. 59th St., NYC).
The series honors French cinematographer Pierre Lhomme, 85, whose work on a variety of classics and interesting efforts is said to have “helped shape the careers of iconic directors, including Chris Marker, Jean-Pierre Melville and James Ivory.”
The event that I was lucky enough to take in was a screening of the 1987 Merchant-Ivory film Maurice (pronounced Morris), a lushly romantic adaptation of the 1913 gay-themed novel by E.M. Forster that was not published until 1971, due to concerns that its subject matter could be ruled obscene.
Not only was Lhomme present, but director James Ivory, 87, also appeared to briefly introduce the film and then take part in a Q&A after, which I wouldn't have missed.
When I was in college at the University of Chicago—a school I attended in large part because I randomly found a queer students' union flyer when I went to visit, not even focusing on the school's reputation for academics—I had a job with a literary agent in the Fine Arts Building downtown. Maurice played that quaint venue, and I knew I could not miss it, even though it would mark the first time I saw a gay movie in public. I remember being scared to death buying the ticket, and then sitting in the theater, wondering if a man would try to grab my knee or something, and wondering if I might be recognized. (I was out to some high school friends back home, but almost no one on campus quite yet.)
I couldn't have asked for a more beautiful film to see in that phase of my life. I appreciated the unrepentant emotionality of Maurice (James Wilby) and Clive (Hugh Grant), as well as the cautionary aspect of Clive's retreat into the closet. Most uplifting to me was the film's happy ending, in which the upper-class Maurice finds passion and—just maybe—eternal happiness with a working-class stiff (Rupert Graves). As I told Mr. Ivory after the screening, the movie represented to me a true gay love story, and also a cautionary tale, but one that dealt with very contemporary issues (coming out) and did not feature characters who had to be punished for their alleged sins.
At the time, Roger Ebert begrudgingly gave the film three stars, but noted:
Maurice tells the story of a young English homosexual who falls in love with two completely different men, and in their differences is the whole message of the movie, a message I do not agree with. Yet because the film is so well made and acted, because it captures its period so meticulously, I enjoyed it even in disagreement ... The problem in the movie is with the gulf between his romantic choices. His first great love, Clive, is a person with whom he has a great deal in common. They share minds as well as bodies. Scudder, the gamekeeper, is frankly portrayed as an unpolished working-class lad, handsome but simple. In the England of 1914, with its rigid class divisions, the two men would have had even less in common than the movie makes it seem, and the real reason their relationship is daring is not because of sexuality but because of class. Apart from their sexuality, they have nothing of substance to talk about with each other in this movie. No matter how deep their love, I suspect that within a few weeks or months the British class system would have driven them apart.
Okay, well, what about 1990's Pretty Woman, a piece of fluff about a rich CEO falling for a streetwalking prostitute? Ebert gave it a far more enthusiastic three-and-a-half-star write-up. What about the characters' differences? Well:
He offers her money to spend one week with him, she accepts, he buys her clothes, they have sex and of course (this being the movies) they fall in love. They fall into a particularly romantic kind of love, the sort you hardly see in the movies these days - a love based on staying awake after the lights are out and confiding autobiographical secrets ... There could indeed be, I suppose, an entirely different movie made from the same material —a more realistic film, in which the cold economic realities of the lives of both characters would make it unlikely they could stay together ... But by the end of the movie I was happy to have it close as it does.
Yeah, so gays can't get one happy ending, but straights could, back then, get them every single time without a raised eyebrow. Perfect. (Decades later, Maurice is the better-reviewed and better-respected of the two films—91% on Rotten Tomatoes with 87% audience approval—even if Pretty Woman—62%/68%—is an immortal piece of pop culture because one of the leads had a vagina.)
Watching it again 29 years later was moving in that I remembered so many scenes as if I'd seen the film a thousand times (just once). Even the music was a strong sense-memory—I had bought the album and listened to it over and over. It's an exquisite, evocative score by the late Richard Robbins, who did many of the Merchant-Ivory films, and who passed away in 2012. It was a treat to relive this experience, and I must say my fetishization of Hugh Grant's hair in this film (he isn't really high on my list of crushes anymore) and of every inch of Rupert Graves (he is) remains intact.
Afterward, Ivory and Lhomme took questions from the audience, some intelligent and some head-scratchers, including a long one from a woman who wanted to know if the actors were gay (!) and if the director had cast beautiful men as a comment on gay narcissism (gay!!!).
Two things that irked me: The woman next to me made a comment that my camera was making too much noise (it makes a very faint electronic whir when it turns on) before the film even started, and yet she wound up being the culprit when a wind-chime alarm blared throughout the last five full minutes of the movie. She also kept asking me to confirm what the subjects had said during the interview, even though I was clearly videoing everything.
The other bummer was that the very last question ended with a statement that Graves's character Scudder was “possibly the worst person alive.” I was blown away by this assertion, as was I think Ivory, who didn't address it.
I asked the questioner afterward what he meant. “Oh, are you a Scudder apologist?” he asked me. Gee, I don't really think Scudder needs apologies made for him. Anyway, the younger guy asserted that he and all of his reading group all hated Scudder. Apparently, the segment in which Scudder—who had hoped to make love with Maurice again but found himself ignored—bluffed that he might blackmail his lover made this guy think Scudder was evil and manipulative. To me, it seemed baldly obvious that the intent of the author and the director was to show that Scudder genuinely loved Maurice and was extremely insecure when rejected. He specifically, warm-heartedly folds when pushed by Maurice, and explains he'd never take a penny from him.
Scudder risked his security by coming to have sex with Maurice the first time, then he gave up his security in the Argentines (as well as contact with his family) to spend what we hope will be the rest of his life with the guy. Putting aside how sexy Scudder is (check out this scorching montage of love scenes), he is nuts for Maurice, and he represents the non-judgmental self-actualization that Maurice needs and embraces, in stark contrast to the life of lies and self-denial that Clive has slid into and advocates. If Scudder is the worst person ever, what is Clive? It just seems to me that it's an accepted observation that Maurice was written by Forster explicitly to be a gay love story with a happy ending. If Maurice ends up with Scudder and it's supposed to be a happy ending, I have to believe Scudder is not supposed to be an unpleasant drama queen.
It was an interesting exchange, but one of those times when you not only have an impression you feel strongly, but your impression fits with the only possibly explanation of an artist's work. I will say that the ending has some room for interpretation in that we can't be sure the men will be happy always. Ivory mentioned to me that one complicating factor would be World War I, but he also said it was, indeed, supposed to be a happy ending.
Check out the my video, containing most of the answers and comments from Ivory and Lhomme, after the jump ...
Was so glad I caught Arthur Miller's A View from the Bridge tonight with my pals Kurt and Warren. The production was riveting from word one and has the most effective use of timing, flawless performances (Mark Strong as Eddie has to win something) and a knock-out of an ending.
Russell Tovey was adorable in his role, charming in a way one that one could understand Eddie would come to loathe. Killer body on this one, and he was a sweetheart with us afterward. The blond works for him.
Tovey also graciously accepted a gift from a girl who was waiting for him—dog treats for his dog Rocky. We hear he is known to take Rocky (not a service animal) into Joe Allen sometimes (which if you're not a New Yorker is a famous after-theater restaurant).
Darren Criss was at the show but refused to pose for a selfie with Kurt because he felt he would then have to do a lot of them (literally nobody else cared, booooo, but he was ultra-nice in saying it), and we also spotted Lois Smith and Fred Weller.
Image by Matthew Rettenmund for BoyCulture.com
Jeffrey Hurant, the CEO of Rentboy.com, has been indicted on one charge of promoting prostitution and money-laundering charges. You will recall that back in August 2015, he and several Rentboy employees were arrested in a Dept. of Homeland Security (huh???) sting.
As Queerty notes:
We hope there’s a rational ending to this developing sideshow, but things aren’t looking great.
If you agree with this malicious prosecution, I'd be curious to know why. “It ain't legal” isn't good enough, especially if “420 friendly” is in your Grindr profile. If you're against this turn of events, feel free to contribute to Rentboy's legal-defense fund.
After the jump, you'll find a nine-year-old (!) video from a Rentboy.com-sponsored release party for Boy Culture (the movie) ...
An amazing-looking early-years Madonna photo exhibit has launched in Spain (I believe). It looks to have the work of Deborah Feingold, Peter Cunningham and George DuBose, including some shots by DuBose that were first seen in my Encyclopedia Madonnica 20.
Would be a fantastic show to see in person, but check out this helpful video report.
In Madonna-now news, check out this cute pic of Sam Smith looking very into Madonna's Rebel Heart Tour last night, as taken by my friend Craig Moody:
Back in the day, when I was editing a teen magazine that I founded, I covered Zac Efron, the Jonas Brothers, Hilary Duff and many more first-first-first. (We were actually too early, so in that regard, my special skill was detrimental in the area of selling magazines!) You can read a bit about that phase of my life in my book, Starf*cker.
In this video, I show up talking about Brie Larson, who I knew was on the verge of breaking through. A dozen (ha) short years later, she's winning Golden Globes. (Image by Rena Durham)
Keep reading to watch her as she enthuses about The O.C. and about making music that's a combo of P!nk and Michelle Branch ...