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Forgive and never forget

Melissa McCarthy in a breakout role

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Richard E. Grant and Melissa McCarthy in ‘Can You Ever Forgive Me?’ (Photo by Mary Cybulski for Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation)

A top comic suddenly changing course and taking on a serious dramatic role is no new thing — Charlie Chaplin, Mickey Rooney, Jerry Lewis and a host of others have done it before. But Melissa McCarthy’s turn at the “serious” bat in “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” is something quite special. It’s a dramatic role with some comic underpinnings, but it bears not a trace of the performer’s past — even when it raises a chuckle or two.

Ever since her breakout performance in “Bridesmaids” (2011), coupled with her sitcom “Mike and Molly” and her stinging parody of Trump spokesman Sean Spicer on “Saturday Night Live,” McCarthy has been the “go to” person for broad, almost cartoonish roles.

None of this is on view in her “Can You” portrayal of writer-turned forger Lee Israel. There’s plenty of humor here but it doesn’t proceed from McCarthy’s wheelhouse. She doesn’t exaggerate in any way. Moreover none of it can be called “Chaplinesque” either. She’s not “bittersweet,” like Giulietta Masina in “Nights of Cabiria” or Roberto Benigni in “Life is Beautiful.” If any comparison could be made it would be with Peter Lorre in a less intense version of “M.” For the character she plays can feel fate closing in on him just as Lorre’s child-killer does. And while the film’s anti-heroine is no murderer, she’s just as desperate and pathos-invoking.

Adapted by Nicole Holofcener (“Walking and Talking” and “Enough Said” ) and Jeff Whitty ( a leading player in “Shortbus”) from Israel’s memoir of the same name and directed with considerable sensitivity by Marielle Heller (“Diary of a Teenage Girl”), “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” is among other things one of the most refreshingly original LGBT films seen in years. What marks it is the exceptionally subtle way its LGBT aspect reveals itself, not just through McCarthy’s performance as a very low-keyed lesbian, but Richard E. Grant’s sparkling supporting turn as Israel’s gay pal Jack Hock. We truly haven’t seen their quirky, highly singular likes on the screen before, and they’re a major reason why this film is so special.

Lee Israel had been in the ’60s and ‘70s a successful writer of celebrity profiles for upscale magazines. A piece she wrote about Katherine Hepburn in 1967 for Esquire was the closeted lesbian actress’ first full-throated performance of the myth she proceeded to sell for the rest of her life of her grand love affair with her frequent co-star Spencer Tracy. Israel went on from articles to full-scale write biographies of Tallulah Bankhead, Dorothy Kilgallen and Estee Lauder. The last-mentioned a failure as the famous beautician decided to pen an autobiography — which scotched commercial prospects for Israel’s book. After that Israel’s career dimmed drastically — which is where the film begins.

“No one is interested in a Lee Israel book,” an editor tells her of her desire to write a new book about Fanny Brice. Desperate for money, Israel sells a note that Brice had written that came into her possession. The dealer who she first shows it to says it’s nice but would be more valuable had it included colorful details of one sort or another. So Israel forged new lines to supply such details and made a sale. That proving a success, she set about manufacturing forgeries from start to finish, using a dozen old typewriters and carefully “treated” paper (to create the appearance of age). Specialty booksellers were happy to buy them — believing their authenticity. By the time her criminal career came to an end it was estimated that Israel had forged some 400 letters supposedly penned by notables such as Dorothy Parker (that’s where the title of the film and the book it’s based on comes from) Noel Coward and other literary wits.

As shown in the film, this all came to an end with her unsuccessful attempt to steal documents from a specially housed collection in order to copy them. In June 1993, Israel pleaded guilty to conspiracy to transport stolen property, for which she served six months under house arrest and five years of federal probation

In the film our first view of McCarthy’s Lee Israel shows a desperately sad woman trying to care for her sick cat, seemingly her only companion. As we’re introduced to her pal Jack Hock the picture fills out considerably. Hock is taken to very forward flirting with the waiter at the coffee shop they go to. Israel’s sexuality doesn’t come into play until a bit later on when she takes to wooing a bookstore owner (nicely played by Dolly Wells) to whom she has sold a number of her forgeries. McCarthy is especially subtle here, portraying the loneliness of a woman who, while adventurous in her letter-forging, is exceptionally shy in her personal life. In this way Hock comes to embody the daring that Israel wishes she had.

Grant’s Hock is right in line with the performances he’s given in “Withnail and I,” “Hudson Hawk” and “The Player.” But McCarthy’s is quite new in every way. As a result we regard Lee Israel in full as a flawed but oddly sympathetic human being. There’s already Oscar buzz about McCarthy’s performance.

But what’s more important is the question of whether this hard-working actress will get a chance at playing a role this deep again. I, for one, sincerely hope so.

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Sports

Blinken criticizes FIFA over threat to fine World Cup team captains with ‘one love’ armbands

Qatar criminalizes homosexuality by death

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Secretary of State Antony Blinken (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

DOHA, Qatar — Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Tuesday criticized FIFA over its threat to sanction European soccer teams if their captains wore “one love” armbands during the 2022 World Cup.

“It’s always concerning from my perspective when we see any restrictions on freedom of expression. It’s especially so when the expression is for diversity and for inclusion,” Blinken told reporters during a press conference with Qatari Foreign Minister Mohammed Bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani in Doha, the Qatari capital. “And in my judgment, at least, no one on a football pitch should be forced to choose between supporting these values and playing for their team.”

Seven European soccer teams on Monday announced their captains will not wear LGBTQ+ and intersex armbands during the 2022 World Cup after FIFA threatened to sanction them.

The captains of Belgium, Denmark, England, Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Wales had planned to wear the armbands in support of the LGBTQ+ and intersex community during the World Cup. The teams on Monday in a joint statement said they would not wear the armbands because FIFA had threatened to sanction them if their captains did.

The World Cup began in Qatar on Sunday.

Qatar is among the handful of countries in which consensual same-sex sexual relations remain punishable by death. A report that Human Rights Watch published last month noted several cases of “severe and repeated beatings” and “sexual harassment” of LGBTQ+ and intersex people while in police custody from 2019 and September 2022. 

A State Department official last week acknowledged to the Washington Blade that the U.S. raised LGBTQ+ and intersex rights with the Qatari government ahead of the World Cup.

The U.S. men’s soccer team while in Qatar will have a redesigned logo with the Pride flag in its badge. Blinken attended their match against Wales on Monday.

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Events

Annual Garras fashion show & fundraiser held

The transgender organized and run event was hosted by President and Chief Executive Officer of the Trans Latina Coalition, Bamby Salcedo

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Photo by Simha Haddad

WEST HOLLYWOOD – The annual Garras fashion show fundraiser took place Saturday, November 19th, at the Pacific Design Center to benefit The Center for Violence Prevention and Transgender Wellness, a program of The [email protected] Coalition.

Throngs of glamorously-dressed members and allies of the queer community gathered on the plaza of the modern blue building, a Los Angeles staple known for boasting over one hundred showrooms for events like this one. People from all walks of the entertainment, design, and media industries gave filmed statements of support for the event and the transgender community at large. 

The VIP reception featured two red carpets, passed hors doeuvres, two cocktail bars. Some VIP guests seated in the fashion show’s front rows along the glistening white runway included a myriad of TLC sponsors, including Bank of America, Keck Madicine of USCm, Gilead, SoCal Gas, Glamazon, Amazon, Kaiser Permanente, Glux, Loud, Walmart, and City of West Hollywood. 

The show featured designers Yaisel, Mars Wright, Elder Patricio Arita Perex, Gaby Garcia and TLC Board Members, Cecilia Martinez, Jessie Alvarado, Claudia Abundis, Jose Huizar, Robert Oriz, Eruvey Tapia, Lluvia Guzman, Fernando Vasquez, and Lidia Talavera and their transgender models and muses. Collections included everything from haute couture to streetwear to shoes.

The transgender organized and run event was hosted by President and Chief Executive Officer of the Trans Latina Coalition, Bamby Salcedo, and Vice President & Chief Operation Officer Maria Roman. Both ladies wore a variety of couture gowns throughout the evening and called for continued support for the [email protected]’s mission to support and amplify the voices of transgender and gender nonconforming people. 

The Garras Vocational Scholarship of ten thousand dollars was also awarded to a student in the medical field to support their continued academic ventures. 

“To those of you who purchased tickets,” said Salcedo, addressing the audience, “to those of you who believe in our work and sponsor us, thank you.” 

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Sports

European soccer teams won’t wear ‘one love’ armbands after FIFA sanctions threat

World Cup began in Qatar on Sunday

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Iran plays England during the 2022 World Cup in Qatar on Nov. 21, 2022. (Screenshot via FS1)

DOHA, Qatar — Seven European soccer teams on Monday announced their captains will not wear LGBTQ+ and intersex armbands during the 2022 World Cup after FIFA threatened to sanction them.

The captains of Belgium, Denmark, England, Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Wales planned to wear “one love” armbands during the World Cup. The teams in a joint statement said FIFA threatened to sanction them if their captains wore them.

“We were prepared to pay fines that would normally apply to breaches of kit regulations and had a strong commitment to wearing the armband. However, we cannot put our players in the situation where they might be booked or even forced to leave the field of play,” read the statement. “We are very frustrated by the FIFA decision, which we believe is unprecedented.”

“As national federations, we can’t put our players in a position where they could face sporting sanctions including bookings,” added the statement.

The World Cup began in Qatar on Sunday.

Qatar is among the handful of countries in which consensual same-sex sexual relations remain punishable by death.

Human Rights Watch last month published a report that noted “arbitrary” arrests of LGBTQ+ and intersex people between 2019 and September 2022 and several cases of “severe and repeated beatings” and “sexual harassment in police custody” during the aforementioned period. World Cup Ambassador Khalid Salman earlier this month described homosexuality as “damage in the mind” during an interview with a German television station.

Peter Tatchell, a British activist, on Oct. 25 protested the country’s LGBTQ+ and intersex rights record while standing outside the National Museum of Qatar in Doha, the country’s capital. A State Department official on Nov. 18 acknowledged to the Washington Blade that the U.S. raised LGBTQ+ and intersex rights with the Qatari government ahead of the World Cup.

The U.S. men’s soccer team while in Qatar will have a redesigned logo with the Pride flag in its badge. Secretary of State Antony Blinken will attend their match against Wales on Monday.

England played Iran on Monday. The Netherlands on Monday will play Senegal.

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Photos

PHOTOS: NGLCC National Dinner

The LGBT Chamber of Commerce held its 20th annual event at the National Building Museum

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The 20th annual NGLCC National Dinner was held on Friday at the National Building Museum. (Blade photo by Michael Key)

WASHINGTON — The National LGBT Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC) held its 20th annual National Dinner at the National Building Museum on Friday, Nov. 18. Honorees included Erik Day of the PRIDE Employee Resource Group, Betsy Cerulo of AdNet/AccountNet, Casey Oakes of Google, the Twin Cities Quorum and Bank of America. Speakers included NGLCC co-founders Justin G. Nelson and Chance E. Mitchell as well as community advocates Dennis and Judy Shepard. Entertainment was provided by Debbie Gibson, Pepper Mashay and the youth performers of the Be A Friend Project.

(Blade photos by Michael Key)

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Movies

A queer screen roundup for the holidays

Hotly anticipated films like ‘The Whale’ and a Whitney biopic are just around the corner

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Brendan Frazier stars in ‘The Whale.’ (Photo courtesy of A24)

Thanksgiving is less than a week away, and we all know what that means.

No, we’re not talking about digging out all those saved recipes for using leftover turkey. We mean, of course, that it’s time for the Blade’s annual Holiday Entertainment Preview, when we round up all the new LGBTQ viewing options coming our way during the upcoming season. No, they’re not all themed for the holidays (because, let’s face it, sometimes everybody needs a little escape from all that seasonal cheer), but they’re all definitely worth spending a couple of hours’ worth of your time in between shopping, planning, partying, and going to the gym to work off all those giant meals and decadent sweets.

“She Said” (in theaters Nov. 18)
Carey Mulligan and Zoe Kazan star as New York Times journalists Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey in this true-life drama about the investigation that led to the bombshell 2017 report exposing Harvey Weinstein’s decades-long history of sexual misconduct against women. There’s no direct LGBTQ connection here, per se, but the #MeToo movement inspired by the revelations is cause enough for us to include it on our list, simply in the name of solidarity. The fact that it’s female-written and female-directed (by Rebecca Lenkiewicz and Maria Schrader, respectively) bodes well for the messaging in this one, which also stars Patricia Clarkson, Andre Braugher, Jennifer Ehle, and Samantha Morton.

“Wednesday” (Netflix, Nov. 23)

Again, there’s no direct LGBTQ connection within the content here (at least as far as we know, yet), but surely none is needed to explain why this new supernatural comedy/mystery series from Executive Producer Tim Burton and creators Alfred Gough and Miles Millar – detailing the crime-solving adventures of now-teenaged Wednesday Addams as she navigates her high school years at Nevermore Academy – has our recommendation. The goth daughter of Gomez and Morticia has long been a queer fan favorite, after all, and there are plenty of other reasons to look forward to this new iteration of “The Addams Family” and its “creepy and kooky” world. Starring Jenna Ortega in the title role, with Gwendoline Christie, Riki Lindhome, and Jamie McShane – and Catherine Zeta-Jones, Luis Guzman, and Fred Armisen making guest appearances as Morticia, Gomez, and Uncle Fester, respectively.

“The Holiday Sitter” (Hallmark, Dec. 11)

This one not only has LGBTQ appeal, it’s an actual holiday movie. From the notorious-but-beloved Christmas universe of the Hallmark Channel comes the network’s first holiday rom-com about two men (a queer couple was featured in 2020’s “The Christmas House,” but it wasn’t about them falling in love) starring out “Mean Girls” star Jonathan Bennett as a workaholic bachelor who finds himself overwhelmed while babysitting for his out-of-town sister and her husband and recruits a handsome neighbor to help him. We’re sure you’ll know where things will go from there, but it should be a cozy seasonal watch, anyway. Also starring George Krissa and Chelsea Hobbs.

“Spoiler Alert” (in theaters, limited Dec. 2 / wide Dec. 9)

December’s awards season push kicks off with this adaptation of Michael Ausiello’s bestselling memoir, in which a young gay couple meet, fall in love, and build a life together for over a decade – only to be faced with a terminal cancer diagnosis for one of them. We know it doesn’t sound like holiday cheer, but it takes as light an approach with the subject matter as possible; that doesn’t mean you won’t cry, of course, but this Michael Showalter-directed tearjerker is hoping you’ll get the point that love is worth it even when you know there’s going to be a sad ending – and you can’t ask for a more appropriate seasonal message than that. Starring Jim Parsons, Ben Aldridge, Sally Field, and Bill Irwin.

“Framing Agnes” (in theaters, limited Dec. 2/Dec. 9)

Not quite a documentary, not quite a fictional narrative, this innovative cinematic exercise from director Chase Joynt takes the story of Agnes – a pioneering transgender woman whose participation in an infamous UCLA gender health study in the 1960s allowed her to gain access to gender-affirming healthcare – and blends it with other stories from long-shelved case files to “widen the frame through which trans history is viewed.” Promising “vividly rendered” re-enactments of vintage trans history, collaboratively created by an all-star cast of trans performers, artists, and thinkers, this one is only getting a limited theatrical release, for now – but even if it doesn’t screen near you, keep your eyes open, because it looks like it’s worth waiting for. Angelica Ross, Jen Richards, and Zackary Drucker are among the featured stars.

“The Whale” (in theaters, Dec. 9)

Another award contender surfaces with this buzzy new drama from the ever-intense Darren Aronofsky, adapted by Samuel D. Hunter from his own play and featuring the long-anticipated return of former Hollywood hunk Brendan Fraser – who stars as an obese middle-aged man trying to reconcile with his estranged daughter after abandoning her and her mother to be with another man. It’s won awards already, at Venice and other film festivals, and if the advance praise we’ve been hearing – both for the film and for Fraser’s comeback performance – is to be believed, it’s probably going to get several more. But that’s not why we recommend it; we just know you love Brendan Fraser as much as we do. Also starring Sadie Sink, Hong Chau, Ty Simpkins, and Samantha Morton.

“Babylon” (in theaters, Dec. 23)

“La La Land” filmmaker Damien Chazelle returns with this original period epic set in 1920s Los Angeles, and he doesn’t skimp on the star power. With Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie and Diego Calva leading an ensemble cast, this lavish look at early Hollywood traces the rise and fall of several intertwined characters to spin a tale of “outsized ambition during an era of unbridled decadence and depravity.” We’re told there’s a queer storyline involved, though there are no details yet – but regardless of that, we’re in based on that description alone. Also starring Jean Smart, Jovan Adepo, Li Jun Li, P.J. Byrne, Lukas Haas, Olivia Hamilton, Tobey Maguire, Max Minghella, Rory Scovel, Katherine Waterston, Flea, Jeff Garlin, Eric Roberts, Ethan Suplee, Samara Weaving, and Olivia Wilde, this is bound to be another awards favorite, and probably a whole lot of opulent fun, too.

“I Wanna Dance With Somebody” (in theaters, Dec. 23)

Finally, this eagerly awaited biopic of Whitney Houston – directed by Kasi Lemmons and written by Oscar nominee Anthony McCarten – shows up just in time for Christmas to deliver “a no-holds-barred portrait” of the iconic pop star, following her life and career from New Jersey choir girl to one of the best-selling and most awarded recording artists of all time. Starring BAFTA winner Naomi Ackie as Houston, it promises to take us on “an inspirational, poignant – and so emotional – journey” through the late singer’s “trailblazing life and career,” with “show-stopping performances and a soundtrack of the her most beloved hits as you’ve never heard them before.” That’s a lot of hyperbole, but frankly, we’ll be disappointed if it doesn’t get real about Houston’s long-obscured sexuality. Even so, it gets our tentative recommendation on the basis of diva interest alone.

Happy holidays!

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Celebrity News

David Archuleta tells Jennifer Hudson his experience of coming out

Archuleta opens up to his fellow “American Idol” alum about his experience growing up in the Mormon religious faith & his journey

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Screenshot/YouTube The Jennifer Hudson Show

BURBANK, Ca. – In a recent episode of the Jennifer Hudson show, David Archuleta opens up to his fellow “American Idol” alum about his experience growing up in the Mormon religious faith and his journey to coming out.

The 31-year-old-old singer tells JHud how he almost got married several times to different females and shares how he’s learning to love himself.

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