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Movies: Past, present and future

Category: Gay and Lesbian Issues

Oscar nominations: Christopher Plummer tops supporting actor roster

January 24, 2012 |  6:01 am

BeginnersChristopher Plummer received a supporting actor Oscar nomination Tuesday morning for his turn as an elderly man coming out as gay to his adult son in writer-director Mike Mills' film "Beginners."

Plummer will compete for the prize at the 84th Academy Awards against fellow nominees Kenneth Branagh ("My Week With Marilyn"), Jonah Hill ("Moneyball"), Nick Nolte ("Warrior"), and Max von Sydow ("Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close").

It's Plummer who's considered the favorite to win.


The 82-year-old Canadian-born actor, who starred as Capt. Von Trapp in the 1965 best picture winner “The Sound of Music,” earns his second supporting actor Oscar nomination for his turn as widower Hal Fields in "Beginners." Plummer received his first Oscar nomination in this same category two years ago for playing Leo Tolstoy in “The Last Station.” He's already won the Golden Globe and the Critics' Choice Movie Award and several critics' honors including from the Los Angeles Film Critics Assn. and the National Board of Review of Motion Pictures. Plummer is also in contention for BAFTA, Screen Actors Guild and Independent Spirit awards.

Kenneth Branagh appears in the supporting actor category for the first time for his portrayal of Laurence Olivier in the comedy-drama about the troubled production of the Marilyn Monroe film “The Prince and the Showgirl.” It's an interesting twist of fate. Ever since he earned a lead actor and director Oscar nomination for his 1989 Shakespearean epic “Henry V,” the 51-year-old Branagh has been compared to Laurence Olivier because the late actor-director received accolades for his version of the play. Branagh has been nominated for a Golden Globe and Critics'  Choice Movie Award for his turn in "My Week With Marilyn," and is in contention for the BAFTA and SAG awards.

Hill is also a first-time nominee. Primarily known for his R-rated comedies such as “Knocked Up” and “Superbad,” the 28-year-old proved he could hold his own opposite Brad Pitt in the baseball-themed drama, earning a supporting actor Oscar nomination as Peter Brand, the numbers-savvy assistant general manager of the Oakland As. He was nominated for a Golden Globe for his performance and is in contention for a SAG prize.

As Paddy Conlon, an alcoholic ex-pugilist, the raspy-voiced 70-year-old Nick Nolte earns a supporting actor Oscar nomination. Nolte was previously in the Oscar circle for lead actor for 1991’s “The Prince of Tides” and 1998’s “Affliction.” Nolte was nominated for a Critics' Choice Movie Award and is up for a SAG Award.

And finally, veteran Swedish actor Von Sydow, who collaborated with Ingmar Bergman on classic dramas such as “The Seventh Seal,” earns his second Oscar nomination — this one in the supporting actor category — as the Renter, an unnamed character who doesn’t speak but offers support to the young male lead. Von Sydow, 82, was nominated for a lead actor Academy Award 23 years ago for “Pelle the Conqueror.”


And the nominees are...

PHOTOS: 84th Academy Awards nominees

Pals Clooney, Pitt are rivals; ‘Artist,’ ‘Hugo’ dominate

-- Susan King

Photo: Christopher Plummer and Ewan McGregor in "Beginners." Credit: Focus Features

With Grazer now on for Oscars, hunt is on for a new host

November 9, 2011 |  5:38 pm

Brian grazer brett ratner
Oscar-winning producer Brian Grazer agreed Wednesday to take on the job of producing the Academy Awards telecast in February, stepping into the void left by Brett Ratner, who resigned after an anti-gay slur. Grazer and the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences did not immediately announce a host to replace Eddie Murphy, who dropped out after Ratner exited.

Grazer, who has produced five movies this year including Clint Eastwood’s “J. Edgar” and Ratner’s “Tower Heist,” had been asked to helm the Oscar show earlier this year, but declined. Given Grazer’s ties to Ratner and Murphy, there was some speculation that he might try to convince Murphy to stay on as host, but a person close to the Grazer who was not authorized to speak publicly said he wouldn’t try to lure Murphy back into the fold.

“It’s very gratifying to be part of a show that honors excellence in the medium to which I have devoted so much of my career,” said Grazer, whose “A Beautiful Mind” earned a best picture Oscar a decade ago. Grazer will share producing duties on the broadcast with industry veteran Don Mischer. “Don is a legend, and I am excited to work with him.”

Grazer could have a horse in this year’s Oscar race with “J.Edgar” (which opened in limited release Wednesday), but his other recent films have disappointed at the box office, including “Cowboys & Aliens,” “The Dilemma,” and the Gus Van Sant-directed indie “Restless.” His high-profile television project “The Playboy Club” was canceled after just a few episodes.

Still, academy president Tom Sherak said: “Brian Grazer is a renowned filmmaker who over the past 25 years has produced a diverse and extraordinary body of work. He will certainly bring his tremendous talent, creativity and relationships to the Oscars.”

Grazer has not been able to completely steer clear of controversy himself. Last fall, the trailer for his film “The Dilemma” was widely criticized for including a scene in which actor Vince Vaughn said, “Electric cars are gay”; the promo debuted in the wake of a series of suicides of teenagers who killed themselves after being bullied because of their sexual orientation. The line was later excised from the trailer, but it remained in the film.

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Brett Ratner's gay slur: Can the academy really be surprised?

November 8, 2011 |  2:48 pm

Brett ratner
If the cloistered elders at the motion picture academy were shocked, surprised, appalled or dismayed to discover that Brett Ratner said that “rehearsal is for fags” in a Q&A session after a screening of his new film, “Tower Heist,” well, it just goes to show how little due diligence they did before they hired Ratner to produce next year's Oscars.

Ratner's remark, made in response to a question about his creative process, was actually, in terms of self-inflicted wounds, a two-for-one deal. Ratner not only embarrassed the academy by insulting legions of gay people (who are perhaps the Oscars’ last remaining loyal demographic), but he also made himself look like even more of an artistic featherweight by making it clear that he views the hard work and preparation that most filmmakers put into their craft -- i.e. rehearsal time -- as being for chumps, not fast-talking smoothies like himself.

Of course, this is standard operating procedure for Ratner. The same day he apologized, he went on Howard Stern's Sirius XM show -- another knuckleheaded move in itself -- and embarrassed himself further by discussing all sorts of topics you don't get to hear about during an Oscar telecast. These included masturbation, cunnilingus, pubic hair, the size of his testicles, his sexual encounter with Lindsay Lohan and, just to be extra classy, how he sends women to his doctor to make sure they don't have any sexually transmitted diseases “before I go all the way” with them.


If I didn't know academy President Tom Sherak well enough to know that when he's commuting to work he's listening to sports talk, not Stern, I probably would've called him to make sure he hadn't run his car into a divider on the 101.

My point: It's hardly a news flash that Ratner is a crass hustler who's spent his entire career in a Sammy Glick-like rush to get ahead, often behaving with all of the grace and elan of a character out of “Entourage.” Ratner is loyal to his friends and a big contributor to charity, but he often acts like an over-entitled bar-mitzvah boy, running amok at his afterparty.

If the academy had done any homework at all, it would've learned that when a woman reporter from the Jewish Journal interviewed Ratner for a cover story a few years ago, he managed to make a fool out of himself by repeatedly hitting on her, something she found so immature that she put it right in the lead of the story.

So what should the academy do? Ratner has profusely apologized and Sherak has equally profusely accepted the apology. Sherak made it clear that Ratner will be on a tight leash, saying: “This won't and can't happen again. It will not happen again.” In other words, don't expect to see any more Ratner interviews any time soon -- the muzzle is on. That puts the academy in something of a bind, since it now has an Oscar producer who won't be allowed to talk anymore and an Oscar host, Eddie Murphy, who gives print interviews about as often as the Cubs go to the World Series.

Mark Harris, the author of “Pictures at a Revolution” and a frequent Oscar pundit, recently posted a scathing indictment of Ratner on the website Grantland, mocking his apology and saying: “There's not really a long, nuanced debate to be had about this. If he had used an equivalent racial or religious slur, the discussion would go something like, 'You're fired.' Apology or not. The same rule applies here. You don't get a mulligan on homophobia.”

But sadly, performers do. It was all of five months ago that “30 Rock” costar Tracy Morgan, doing a stand-up routine in Nashville, made a series of inflammatory remarks about gay people, saying that if his son were gay, he would “pull out a knife and stab” him. Like Ratner, Morgan apologized. And like Sherak, who said Ratner has “many friends” in the gay and lesbian community, Tina Fey said that the Tracy Morgan she knew “is not a hateful man and would never hurt another person.”

And that was that. No suspension. No firing. No more fuss. We've all gone back to laughing at Morgan's less-scandalous “30 Rock” antics. I spoke to several old Oscar hands who said that, as long as Ratner stays out of more trouble, he'll keep his Oscar gig. From a pragmatic perspective, the academy would be in a huge bind if it had to replace him this late in the game, less than four months before the late February show.

That doesn't mean that Ratner is in the clear. Whatever goodwill he might have had for assuming the thankless job of producing the Oscars is now long gone. If things go wrong on Oscar night, the press customarily blames the host. This time, thanks to his oafishness, it will be Ratner who gets the blame.

When Herman Cain was first embroiled in his sexual harassment scandal, he described it as a media witch hunt, saying, “I told you this bull's-eye on my back has gotten bigger.” Well, Herman, meet Brett. When it comes to having a huge target on your back, you've got company.


Is Brett Ratner out of his Academy Awards producing gig?

Eddie Murphy to host Oscars and I'm not 'Delirious' about it

Brett Ratner on Michael Jackson: You felt like God was within him

-- Patrick Goldstein  

Photo: Brian Grazer, left, with Brett Ratner at the premiere of "J. Edgar" at the AFI Fest 2011.

Credit: Matt Sayles / Associated Press

'Sons of Tennessee Williams' explores gay rights in New Orleans

October 12, 2011 |  2:57 pm

Sons of tennessee williams
Before New York's Stonewall riots in 1969 and before the Christopher Street West gay pride parades of the early 1970s in Los Angeles, there was a group of gay men in New Orleans who wanted to have a Mardi Gras ball of its own. This was the starting point for director Tim Wolff's first feature documentary, “The Sons of Tennessee Williams.”

Opening Friday in Los Angeles, the film explores the story of the gay men of New Orleans who put together the first state-chartered Mardi Gras drag balls in the early 1960s. Once recognized as official Mardi Gras organizations, they were entitled to hold balls in public venues and receive police protection.

The documentary follows the gay krewes of New Orleans, social clubs whose members celebrate the Mardi Gras season together despite conservative laws and people who sought to fight against them. It captures the obstacles these krewes faced from 1959 to 2008: a police raid on their first ball and arrests; the AIDS epidemic, which claimed hundreds of members; and the toll of Hurricane Katrina. In their heyday, 21 gay krewes existed — now that number has dwindled to five.

But the documentary focuses equally on the glitz, glamour, sparkle and fun that came with the culture of the gay krewes, revealing the extravagantly bedazzled costumes, the coronation of an annual king and queen and the rising popularity of these drag balls among both gay and straight communities. These balls are distinct from the far more well-known parade aspect of Mardi Gras.

“I chose to focus on the celebratory aspect of it all,” Wolff said. “I hope my audience is able to leave the theater and say, 'That was really fun.' I hope this movie will stand as a good time.”

While “The Sons of Tennessee Williams” centers on one gay krewe in particular, the Krewe of Armeinius, and its 40th anniversary ball in 2008. As straight krewes were putting on dry, dull balls throughout the 1960s and 1970s that honored their debutantes, the Krewe of Armeinius and other such groups were putting on loud, entertaining balls that centered around dressing in drag, wearing highly ornate costumes and honoring the “debutramp.”

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