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Interview: Cheyenne Jackson 'Gets On With It' in Two Memorable Gay Films

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Cheyenne with his legendary co-star at a recent Academy screening of "Six Dance Lessons..."

BY NATHANIEL ROGERS 

Cheyenne Jackson's gone Hollywood. Though the 39 year old actor and self proclaimed "Broadway Baby" came to fame via musicals like "All Shook Up" (Theater World Award, 2005) and "Xanadu" (Drama Desk nomination 2008) and promises to return, TV and film came calling soon thereafter and appear to have stuck. His most notable early filmed roles were as a heroic passenger in the Oscar-nominated true story United 93 (2006) and a recurring gig on Emmy favorite 30 Rock as Danny Baker, a singing actor with a voice so beautiful he gave Jenna Maroney "rage strokes."

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That first flush of mainstream success seemed to have been briefly eclipsed in the media by upheavals in his personal life, a divorce from his first husband and sobering up. But Cheyenne is eager to move on from that topic which he feels was overblown by the media. "Definitely with the gay press, it was rough there for a bit. Things were never not together; I think that's the misconception," he explains. Was it a rough patch? "I guess other people can think of it that way but to me it was just the next chapter. Time to clean up." 

And the next chapter is moving along well. After his brief note-perfect cameo in the Liberace movie Behind the Candelabra (2013) he's filmed several more roles including a small part as half of a gay cop couple affectionately referred to as 'The Policewomen' in one of this year's very best films LOVE IS STRANGE (2014, reviewed here). Ira Sachs moving drama recently won a handful of Spirit Award nominations.

As a longtime fan of Cheyenne Jackson, I confess to an atypical case of the nerves during our phone interview from separate coasts. Cheyenne helpfully tells me to imagine him in his underwear, and we both laugh immediately realizing that is not going to help. 'No wait. Maybe not. Maybe not'.

 

NR: Things seems to be on a real uptick in terms of your movie career!

CHEYENNE JACKSON: I’ve really kind of thrown myself into film and it’s been great. Some make their way to theaters, some go video on demand, some get nominated for things. I live out here now so it’s easier.

NR: Your new film SIX DANCES IN SIX WEEKS just opened this weekend. We don't see Gena Rowlands in lead roles much these days but she's one of the most influential actors of all time. How did your casting happen and how nerve wracking was is to work with her?

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MORE AFTER THE JUMP...

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Interview: Daniel Ribeiro on His International Hit Film 'The Way He Looks'

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New student Gabriel (Fabio Audi) and his blind classmate Leo (Ghilherme Lobo) in "The Way He Looks"

BY NATHANIEL ROGERS 

Nine months after its debut at the Berlinale festival, the gay Brazilian hit THE WAY HE LOOKS (reviewed earlier at Towleroad) is still collecting the hearts of audiences everywhere it shows. And that's a lot of places now. After theatrical runs in France and Brazil it's currently playing in multiple US cities, in the UK and Hong Kong and soon expands to Taiwan and Sweden. This super charming coming-of-age movie charts the slow blooming romance between Leo, a blind student, and Gabriel, the new kid in town. Leo's best girl friend Giovana (Tess Amorim) doesn't react well. If you haven't seen it yet, seek it out. You'll have a new favorite to add to your Best Gay Movies list.

Daniel+Ribeiro+Film+Maker+Afternoon+Tea+bbFC0__pR3ClThose who've already fallen for its assured storytelling and sensitive acting might be surprised to hear that it's the debut feature of not only its young writer/director but also its principle trio of actors. 

I spoke with the 32 year old director Daniel Ribeiro this week about his breakout film which has been selected by Brazil to represent them at the Oscars. 

NR: You’ve been getting great reviews, awards, and audience response since the premiere. Is this the best year of your life or what?

DANIEL RIBEIRO: Probably, yeah! [Laughter] It’s been really exciting.

How did you feel when your film was selected to compete for the Foreign Language Film Oscar?

It was surprising. It's a very political choice for our country. Even if we don’t get selected, it is the film that is talked about now.  

Brazil -- we’re in an interesting place. We have a lot of visibility. People are talking about the issues. Young kids are more comfortable about being out. But we have a lot of problems with LGBT rights. We have a very conservative congress and we have a lot of homophobe congressmen staying stupid things.

That sounds familiar! 

MORE AFTER THE JUMP...

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Weekend Movies: Jake Gyllenhaal is Brilliant in 'Nightcrawler'

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Jake Gyllenhaal's got something to sell - "I think you'll want to see this"  

BY NATHANIEL ROGERS 

It would be disingenuous to claim that Jake Gyllenhaal is unrecognizable in NIGHTCRAWLER. It's hard not to commit Gyllenhaal to memory once you've seen him. But it would be true to say that he is less recognizable in Nightcrawler. The effect is not unlike the rubberneck squinting at the new Renée Zellweger, trying to place the differences that unsettle you. The actor dropped 30 lbs to play his new character and lived on the night shift to prepare and it wasn't for the strenuously faux-noble reason of biographic fidelity. It must be method madness that led him to burrow into this altogether terrific star turn as Lou Bloom, a gaunt sleepless thief turned "journalist". The big difference with this Gyllenhaal is in the eyes. Those big impossibly romantic orbs have lost all their soft blueness. They're suddenly bulging from their skull, like they want to escape it. Or like they're planning to hypnotize you while the mouth delivers its mechanical sales pitch.

And with Lou Bloom, the sales pitch never stop. The night owl approaches each conversation like it's a job interview, checking off catchphrases and talking points from his mental checklist. This is all well and good for the film's first reel when Lou is trying to find a job. But when he chances upon an accident one night and sees nightcrawling freelancers filming it, the search is over; he makes it his mission to join this profession. It's here where his can-do "I'm a hard worker" salesmanship begins to ferment and spook.

CONTINUED, AFTER THE JUMP...

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Weekend Movie: The Miraculous 'Birdman'

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Washed Up Actor vs. Difficult Thespian Round 1 in the hilarious, awesome "Birdman"  

BY NATHANIEL ROGERS 

A card in the bottom right hand of the star's mirror reads:

"A thing is a thing, not what is said of that thing."
-Susan Sontag

Which immediately complicates or maybe simplifies celebrity and art, two major themes (among a handful) of Mexican director Alejandro González Iñárritu's one of a kind new film experience. It's destined for major Oscar nominations and you should see it immediately. The movie has the simple and then complicated title of BIRDMAN, Or (THE UNEXPECTED VIRTUE OF IGNORANCE) which fits its two-faced nature perfectly. This quote is never addressed in the film but it's always stubbornly lodged there in that mirror, defying or playfully encouraging conversation about what this movie actually is. And what are reviews or after-movie conversation other than attempts to interpret and define?

Critics are often treated with petulant hostility in movies about show business, as if the filmmakers have an axe to grind and need to do that with grindstone in hand while their critical avatar/puppet hangs there limply, waiting to be struck with the sharpened blade. Birdman is no exception, immediately insulting its formidable theater critic Tabitha (Lindsay Duncan) as having a face that 'looks like she just licked a homeless man's ass,' before she's even spoken a line. But Tabitha is a slippery mark, portrayed as a voice of integrity in one scene and then a vicious unprofessional monster in another. This calls into question the reality of her scenes altogether.

Is each scene in the movie meant to be taken at face value or are plenty of them partially or fully projections of the actors, warped by their egos and neurosis. Birdman is filled with these kind of mindf*** questions while also being completely hilarious and emotionally compelling. The story revolves around a has-been movie star named Riggan Thomson who used to be very famous for playing a superhero. In the movies all-around genius casting he is played by has-been movie star Michael Keaton who used to be very famous for playing a superhero.

MORE, AFTER THE JUMP...

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A Closer, Gayer Look at Oscar's Foreign Film Race

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French stars Louis Garrell and Gaspard Ulliel have a dangerous liaison in "Saint Laurent"  

BY NATHANIEL ROGERS 

As you may have heard last night AMPAS (The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences) announced that a record 83 films will compete for favor in this year's BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM showdown. This Oscar category has long been a specialty of mine and a couple of years back I even had the opportunity to speak about it on CNNi. The number of competing films and the media interest seem to grow each year. A dozen or so years ago when Oscar blogging first began to flourish, I was the only writer giving it a lot of attention and now virtually every movie outlet covers it, at least in list or press release format. The growing interest is somewhat odd since it becomes harder and harder for subtitled pictures to find audiences or get decent theatrical releases in the States. 

Screen Shot 2014-10-10 at 6.14.05 PMSome movies with early heat in this category include Poland's Ida, an amazing black and white drama about a nun discovering her family history is a must see (it's available on DVD), Argentina's Wild Tales, a raucuous crowd-pleasing collection of outre comedic stories that's produced (but not directed) by Pedro Almodovar which is due in US theaters early next year, Belgium's Two Days One Night, a socioeconomic drama starring Marion Cotillard in yet another incredible performance which opens on December 24th. And.... No, no. We're getting sidetracked. Let's stop there.

There are so many movies worth loving.

For now let's look at movies (and their trailers) with something specific for LGBT audiences 
AFTER THE JUMP...

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Xavier Dolan, the Queer Canadian prodigy, at Cannes with "Mommy" 

Continue reading "A Closer, Gayer Look at Oscar's Foreign Film Race" »


An Interview with Director Matthew Warchus on His Cheer-Inducing Film 'Pride'

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Have you seen PRIDE yet? It'll make you feel like cheering.  

BY NATHANIEL ROGERS
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Last weekend while Denzel Washington was making news with yet another big hit in THE EQUALIZER (good for him but when is he going to challenge himself?) the new film that won the most crowded theaters was actually PRIDE (previously reviewed) the true life LGBT story of a group of activists in the 1980s that stood up for striking miners during Margaret Thatcher’s bullying reign.

This surprisingly entertaining film about a tough subject is on its way to being at least a small success. The film was even more popular later in the weekend which means that the coveted “Word of Mouth,” which can trigger long runs, is there. CBS Films knows that they’ll have to nurture this one along to sleeper hit status so they’ll be expanding carefully. They’ll add more theaters this Friday and additional cities follow on October 10th. If you’ve already seen it tell your friends how much you enjoyed it, or see it again with them. Support great gay films so that we get more of them!

Just before opening weekend I had the opportunity to talk with the director Matthew Warchus. He’s best known for stage productions (winning the Tony for God of Carnage) but he’s already working on his follow up to Pride, a big screen adaptation of the Broadway hit Matilda The Musical. He'll start filming that one in about two years.


Screen Shot 2014-09-29 at 4.47.49 PMTR: You’ve done a lot of stage work before this. What do you think most prepared you to tell this particular story and on film?

MATTHEW WARCHUS: One great bit of preparation: I grew up in a village in the middle of nowhere in the North of England surrounded by coal mines and massively isolated. We had moved into that village so we were outsiders, wanting to to assimilate and be accepted. That gave me an understanding of how those communities work and the positives and minuses.

You were a teenager when the events in the film happened, right?

MW: I remember local picket lines during the strike. But at that age I don’t think I really understood. When I went to university I learned much more about the politics and the social upheaval. And then, you know, being interested in theater and music wasn’t common where I was growing up. There wasn’t a theater or drama group or anything nearby so that was considered as odd as dancing at a disco where only the women dance! [Laughs]

MORE ON 'PRIDE', COMMUNITY AND MUSICALS, AFTER THE JUMP...

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