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Betty Buckley, the cabaret cowgirl
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2009 Seattle Lesbian and Gay Film Festival awards
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Michelangelo: Public and Private
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Dark drama August: Osage County brings the truth
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Hubbard Street Dance earns standing ovation
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Measure For Pleasure an over-the-top sex romp
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Obama musical entertaining, if uneven
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Entrancing Emma at Book-It Repertory
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Theatre Puget Sound honors artistic achievement
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Antichrist shocking, but a good film, too
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Deep characters anchor Hollywood Je T'aime
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John/Joel, KISS, Clarkson all arrive in November
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Q-Scopes by Jack Fertig
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Rufus on straight men, JoBros, and Lady GaGa
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Fun with my honey and Halloween suggestions
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Deep Inside Hollywood - Romeo San Vicente
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An Englishman In New York, one of the year's best
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Book Marks
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Tegan and Sara's new album Sainthood rushed and mediocre
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Ani DiFranco 'rocked our fucking socks off'
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Gossip gives ferocious show
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Guest conductor Morlot filled with infectious energy
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Brandi Carlile rocks at homecoming show
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Superstar Mika keeps Moore crowd on their feet
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Antichrist shocking, but a good film, too
by Scott Rice - SGN Contributing Writer

Antichrist
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We've all been there. Standing in the big box super-store trying to find weather stripping or cheap socks when we encounter a shitty mom. She's on the cell phone fingering the clearance items while her filthy little kid sits in the shopping cart with a string of snot tickling his upper lip while chowing down on an open bag of Doritos.

With preternatural awareness, she looks over as the kid slips her pack of Marlboro Lights out of her humongous knock-off Louis Vuitton bag she ordered from QVC and she says into the cell phone, "Just a sec."

Then she screams at the kid through smoke-ravaged vocal cords, "What the hell is your problem?! Drop the cigarettes and stay the hell out of my bag. I paid a lot of money for it and if I catch you in it one more time I'll slap your face into next week! Do you hear me?!"

The kid looks at her blankly while awkwardly stuffing another handful of Doritos into his mouth.

We've all been there. Standing there thinking, "she must be the shittiest mom in the world." Well, the bar has just been lowered.

Antichrist, the new film by Lars von Trier (Dancer in the Dark and Breaking the Waves), opens as a child dies while his parents have sex. The grieving mother (brilliantly played by Charlotte Gainsbourg) crumbles and is hospitalized. The grieving father (Willem Defoe - always good) becomes her de facto psychoanalyst. After the mother is released from the hospital, the couple decides to retreat to their idyllic cabin in the temperate rainforest to seek the healing power of a benevolent mother nature. Unfortunately, nature, environmentally and emotionally, turns out to be more like Tennyson's unreasonable beast, all red in tooth and claw than the patchouli-laced image of Gaia we all know from tree-hugger bumper stickers.

Lars von Trier is no stranger to difficult cinema. Difficult, in von Trier's case, could refer to the filmmaker manifesto, Dogme 95, and its rigid filmmaking requirements known as the Dogme 95 Vow of Chastity. Difficult could also mean "tough to watch," as in characters in situations that offer devastating choices laced with moral ambiguity. Difficult can be a good thing, cinematically speaking.

Antichrist is a difficult film. In fact, the sentence you've just read is a fantastic understatement and I'm not exaggerating when I say Antichrist, made by the genre-jumping director from Denmark, is one of the scariest horror films I've ever seen.

This is pure horror, but with a heavy dose of intellectual overreaching and artistic integrity tossed in. If you don't run from the theater dizzy with nausea and cold sweat, you'll have something to ponder for a few days - or longer. This is the story of the bad mother, and there's nothing scarier than the bad mother.

I don't want to give too much away, but if you're a film geek like me, you've already read the worst. If you're not a film geek like me, you still don't deserve to have the most controversial moments spoiled. So, SPOILER ALERT. Stop reading if you don't want to know.

Willem Defoe gets his junk smashed, has a bloody orgasm, and his wife then proceeds to cut off her clitoris with a rusty pair of scissors - in close-up. On the big screen. Are we done being shocked? Good, then let's continue the review of the film.

Forget the Dogme 95 Vow of Chastity; von Trier is using every cinematic trick there is here, and to good effect. The images are hauntingly beautiful and work perfectly to explicate the narrative. The photography by Anthony Dod Mantle (Slumdog Millionaire and 28 Days Later, among other cool stuff) is lovely whether capturing a tragic moment set in a mundane apartment or sifting through the disparities of reality and perception in a post-Freudian (anti-Freudian?) psychosexual landscape.

The acting is first-rate. Gainsbourg's courageous performance unfolds slowly with devastating results. Defoe is nicely understated as the father who smothers his own journey of grief beneath his desire to help his partner overcome her demons.

Antichrist is a horror film and it does not stray far from its roots. The biggest difference between this film and so many other contemporary horror films, films that might be gross but are rarely frightening, is in von Trier's insistence on connecting the violent fantasy to the familiar. He takes us into the safest place there is, the arms of the mother.

He then takes us inside the philosophical womb to uncompromisingly question the gendering of nature forcing us to consider the earth as a violent place without any connection to humanity's version of God or reason. The earth is mother, and mother is not so nice. This is scary stuff that makes for an awesome horror flick.

It seems von Trier willingly embraces the heavier intellectual weight of Antichrist with his dedication of the film to Andrei Tarkovsky in the ending credits. To purloin Senator Lloyd Bentsen's brilliant verbal volley directed at Dan Quayle in 1988: I know Tarkovsky. Tarkovsky is a friend of mine. Mr. von Trier, you're no Tarkovsky. Not yet, anyway.

That's not to say that von Trier is not a brilliant filmmaker. Anyone who's witnessed the last 20 minutes of Dancer in the Dark or endured the graceful sense of sacrifice and love in Breaking the Waves knows he is gifted. I just think comparisons to Tarkovsky are premature and ours to make, not his. But I'm a jealous (and petty) critic, and a director may dedicate his film to whomever he wishes in the end.

Antichrist is an amazing movie from a filmmaker with an agenda. Lars von Trier is a purposeful filmmaker (if you read my reviews regularly, you know this is high praise) and he's not messing around, even if he's messing with us. He may even become legendary, like Tarkovsky. We'll see.





Deep characters anchor Hollywood Je T'aime
by Nevin Jefferson - SGN Contributing Writer

Devastated by a love affair gone to hell, Jerome (Eric Debets) journeys from Paris to Los Angeles over Christmas, longing for a change of scenery and dreaming of a career in the movies. The opening scenes of the film in Paris are in black and white, and when Jerome hits Hollywood, the film changes to bright, candylike colors, like The Wizard of Oz.

Once in Hollywood, Jerome tries his best to enjoy the city, making endearing first-timer mistakes. He pisses off the cab driver and bartender by not tipping them. A bus ride to the beach takes all day, and he finds that the beach is cold. While suffering at the beach, Jerome hits it off with a Gay pot dealer (Chad Allen), who drives him halfway home. A taco-stand Tranny named Kaleesha (Diarra Kilpatrick) escorts him the rest of the way, introducing him to Norma Desire (Michael Airington), a "shabby chic" Silverlake drag queen who takes Jerome under her wing.

Director Jason Bushman's shrewd firsthand knowledge of the less glamorous side of the Hollywood merry-go-round gives a nice ride. Jerome also has a few romantic flirtations, including a sexually explicit encounter with a waiter he meets at a bathhouse.

The best part of this film is in the deep portrayal of the characters; the sad-eyed Frenchman who ends up surrounded by an exquisite cast of Hollywood's colorful, flamboyant detritus, the people who cause polite society to look the other way. They are acted out with care and detail, ensuring that each is a fully formed person, not a cardboard stereotype. Drag queen Norma (Michael Airington) is absolutely fabulous, in every form of the word. She could have so easily have become a stereotype based on either her lifestyle or her age, but Airington and the script make her brassy yet fragile, obnoxious but loveable, and bitchy while desperately loyal. She also gets some of the film's funniest lines (laughs and cheers erupted from the festival audience at her screaming "Good eyes" at a homophobic youth who quite astutely observes that, yes, she and her friends are indeed Gay) and many of its most tender moments. Chad Allen as the Gay pot dealer and Diarra Kilpatrick as Kaleesha are characters who you care about.

Support the arts by becoming a member of the Three Dollar Bill Cinema and enter to win a trip to London. The post-screening reception was held at Barrio, where the food is really good!


An Englishman In New York, one of the year's best
by Nevin Jefferson - SGN Contributing Writer

The 14th Seattle Gay and Lesbian Film Festival opened with An Englishman In New York, a very powerful and epic telling of the story of Quentin Crisp. He wasn't your ordinary fruit; he was a Gay, proud man who wasn't afraid to be himself, and did just that - even after being beaten numerous times. Crisp would eventually become a voice of authority for the Gay world.

This true-to-life story came alive on the screen thanks to an extraordinary performance by John Hurt as the witty, prolific, influential Gay pioneer who becomes a pop culture icon right before your eyes. John Hurt's performance is riveting and breathtaking. Much of the film's dialogue comes from Crisp's own writing and performances.

The movie opens as Quentin is flying high on international fame before landing low in New York. In one of the opening scenes, Quentin is walking through the streets of the city in his full splendor. He's complimented by a big and beautiful middle-aged black woman who hails him with praises of love, respect, and admiration. He is genuinely touched by this, and he takes off with more sashay in his hips - giving new meaning to swishing in the streets.

When Quentin is granted a resident alien status based on his unique qualities, the uniting of the city and the Englishman is a match made in heaven.

After performing his one-man show How to Be a Happy Person, he's approached by Connie Clausen, superbly played by Swoosie Kurtz. She tells him that she wants to make him a star and launches his career in an off-Broadway one-man show. The two begin a strong mutual friendship that flourishes as Connie gets him on every TV talk show and radio show.

Connie books him on a black radio station, where the very flaming Quentin is surrounded by hardcore ghetto brothers and a tough-as-nails militant DJ. They accept him for who and what he is and make him an "honorary brother." The listeners from the hood calling in for advice love both the man and his advice. Several scenes later, Quentin goes to a leather bar and is 86ed because he isn't dressed to their code. Our cult darling becomes the epitome of an effeminate Gay man with effeminate ways, complete with makeup and trademarks that consisted of ascots galore, his signature ring, and hat. His frankness, arrogance, and honesty wows some, and pisses off others. When he claims same-sex love is impossible, he's attacked by Gays for "playing to straights."

Quentin becomes a movie reviewer for Christopher Street magazine, run by Philip Steele (excellently played by Denis O'Hare). The two strike an agreement that touches on the richness of the U.S. film culture of the time compared with today's times. Steele allows Quentin the freedom and liberty of criticizing the movies he wants to. Steele writes the reviews, which consist of the thoughts and opinions of Quentin, during a conversation between the two at a greasy spoon. Philip, already a fan of Crisp's, becomes his best friend, and a platonic relationship slowly builds between the two. Quentin's spontaneous words of wit and wisdom earn him a high place in the Gay community, but then one of his comments gets him in trouble: His statement during one show that "AIDS is a fad, nothing more," and his refusal to recant or campaign for Gay rights. "It is my policy never to lie, never to defend," he famously said.

Of course, this causes all hell to break loose with his career. His Gay audience, who has started to really suffer from the AIDS epidemic, turns away from him. Crisp is dropped by his agent and editor after their pleading with him to retract proves fruitless.

Crisp's eyes are opened when he gets to know young artist Patrick Angus (in a fantastic performance by Jonathan Tucker), who is dying of AIDS. Crisp keeps his promise to the artist by having his work shown in a gallery.

Well into the Clinton era, Quentin wakes up to find a lady in his apartment. She assures him that he's not dead and she's no angel; his door was just unlocked. The lady is performance artist Penny Arcade, marvelously played by Cynthia Nixon. She takes Quentin back to the stage with moving material that takes him into his 10th decade, and once again he wins over the Gay community.

Steele returns to the tiny and shabby apartment to find Quentin living on the champagne and peanuts circuit. Steele devotedly looks after the now-failing Quentin, who's enjoying his final bow. He tells his friend that he has a million dollars, and they ask why he doesn't spend any of it. Quentin tells him that he contributes to the AIDS foundation amfAR so he can meet Elizabeth Taylor.

The grand finale is a virtual Sermon on the Mount in a Gay bar in Tampa, Fla. This is a brilliant film that's one of the best films of the year and decade. This is a must-have in your DVD collection and it makes a great gift for the holidays.



 
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