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After Globes, all eyes on Oscar

‘Bohemian Rhapsody,’ ‘The Favourite,’ ‘Boy Erased’ just a few of the year’s best

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Rachel Weisz and Olivia Colman star in ‘The Favourite.’ (Photo by Atsushi Nishijima for Fox Searchlight)

It’s more than a week into the New Year already, and for movie fans, that means the season is upon us – awards season, that is.

Though some organizations start handing out their prizes in early December, the presentation of the Golden Globes – which took place last Sunday – is the first of the big, glitzy ceremonies we expect from a Hollywood awards show. The telecast of this year’s affair was watched by 18.6 million people, a little down (2 percent) from last year but a much smaller decline in viewership than those experienced by the Oscars and other awards in recent years.

The Globes are a big enough event in their own right, of course, but they are also a signal that the year’s Oscar race has kicked off in earnest. The Globes are considered the first real barometer for which films stand the best chance of grabbing Academy gold, and even though the winners aren’t guaranteed to win an Oscar, too, they are almost assured to be front-runners.

The Globes split the categories for most of the big awards – Best Picture, Actor, Actress, etc. – into two divisions, “Drama” and “Musical or Comedy.”  This makes handicapping the Oscars a tricky endeavor, since the Academy doesn’t make the same distinction; it means – in the performing categories, anyway – only half the number of nominees make the cut, and it’s happened before that even Globe winners get shut out from the final ballot.

Even so, it’s impossible to resist speculation about what the Golden Globes presage for the Oscars.

This year’s Globes reflected the increase of onscreen LGBT inclusion in 2018 by including what seemed like a record number of nominations for movies with queer narratives and characters. 

The surprise winner in the Best Picture Drama category was “Bohemian Rhapsody,” a blockbuster biopic of Freddie Mercury – played by Rami Malek, who also won Best Actor in a Drama – in which the singer’s sexuality is a chief point of focus.  The winner for Best Picture, Comedy or Musical was “Green Book,” about the relationship between real-life black musician Don Shirley and his white driver in the segregated South of the early 1960s; Shirley was gay, although the film barely touches on his sexuality, and again the actor who played him –Mahershala Ali – won the Globe in the supporting category. Another winner, Olivia Colman as Best Actress in a Comedy or Musical for “The Favourite,” also played a queer character.

Besides the three winners, a total of five other performers were nominated for playing LGBT characters in films – and since the Globes also celebrate television, the tally is even higher. For queer roles on the small screen, actors Darren Criss (“The Assassination of Gianni Versace”) and Ben Whishaw (“A Very English Scandal”) won as Best Actor and Supporting Actor, respectively, in a Limited Series or Movie Made for Television. Whishaw – the only one of the winners who publicly identifies as LGBT in real life – even dedicated his award to Norman Scott, whom he portrayed in the show, and called him a “queer hero.”

There was also a wide showing in the non-acting categories for LGBT-centric narratives.  On the film side, besides “Rhapsody” and “The Favourite,” others on the slate include “Boy Erased” and “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” In addition, movies like “A Star Is Born” and “Crazy Rich Asians,” both of which were mainstream hits and included queer characters in supporting roles, were heavily represented among the nominations.

In terms of Oscar, this means there are a lot of potential nominees in the running that could allow the Academy to promote and reward inclusion and support for the LGBT community – something for which many will be watching closely, in light of the Kevin Hart controversy – a debacle that may still be ongoing, considering reports that the Academy’s leadership may still be open to reinstating the comedian as this year’s host.

There are good odds that some of these will make the cut. The surest bet is probably on “The Favourite,” Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos’ bawdy and quirky tale of behind-the-scenes lesbian intrigue in the 18th-century court of Queen Anne. It’s one of the year’s most-lauded films, and with up to 10 slots open in the Best Picture category, it seems certain to earn a nomination there; almost as probable are nods for Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay, and odds are good it will snag nominations in several technical and design categories, also.

The film’s three stars are likely shoo-ins; two of them, Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz, are former winners and Oscar favorites, and have both been nominated in the Supporting Actress category for most of the major awards so far; as for Olivia Colman, she may be less-well known – at least in the U.S. – than her co-stars, but she has been taking a hefty share of wins for her turn as the childish and petulant Queen Anne. All three actresses will almost certainly be nominated; Stone and Weisz would be competing against each other in the same category, potentially canceling each other out and making a win improbable, but Colman stands a stronger-than-average chance of being named Best Actress – especially after her win at the Golden Globes.

She has heavy competition, however.  “A Star is Born” features the breakthrough screen performance of Lady Gaga, who was an early favorite in the Oscar race – though her loss to Glenn Close’s work in “The Wife” at the Golden Globes, seen by many as an upset, may not bode well for her chances.  The Bradley Cooper-directed remake is another almost-sure Best Picture nominee, and will probably get nods for its screenplay, for Cooper (as both director and leading actor), and for Sam Elliott (Best Supporting Actor), as well. Still, with Gaga facing off not only against Colman’s formidable performance but sentimental preference for Close (she’s been nominated six times without winning, and Oscar loves to reward beloved stars who are seen as long-overdue), this film’s (and Gaga’s) easiest shot at a victory is a Best Original Song award for “Shallow.”

The third “big” LGBT title in the running is “Bohemian Rhapsody,” which survived a troubled production history – and accusations of “straight-washing” when early previews seemed to indicate an erasure of Mercury’s queer identity – to earn the biggest box-office take of any LGBT movie to date. While critical response to the film has been mixed, at best, it has proven to be highly popular with audiences, and Malek’s performance as Mercury has garnered nearly universal acclaim. Since he took home a Golden Globe, he could be poised to grab an Oscar as well – though previous winner Christian Bale, who also scored at the Globes for his performance as Dick Cheney in “Vice,” probably has the edge. As for the movie itself, it may snag a few other nominations, including for Best Picture – but even with a Golden Globe win under its belt, a win there is probably a long shot.

“Can You Ever Forgive Me?,” a true-life drama about a literary lesbian con artist and her gay accomplice, is also on the buzz list; leading actress Melissa McCarthy, and her supporting co-star, Richard E. Grant, have been predicted as nominees in their respective categories (both were nominated for Globes). With the aforementioned three-way competition in the Best Actress race, it seems improbable that McCarthy could win – particularly considering that Oscar has a history of denying victory to comedic actors in dramatic roles.

As for Grant’s chances in the Supporting Actor category, he will probably have to face off against Mahershala Ali and Timothée Chalamet. Ali won the Globe, so he has a strong chance. Chalamet, the acclaimed young star of last year’s “Call Me By Your Name” has a huge LGBT fan base that will be rooting for him, even though the teenaged meth addict he plays in “Beautiful Boy” is straight; he lost out on last year’s Best Actor prize, and the Academy has a history of “making up” for past oversights by bestowing awards in subsequent years – making many Oscar pundits place him as the odds-on favorite to win this one. Either way, Grant’s “Can You Ever Forgive Me” performance is a very dark horse.

“Boy Erased,” the film adaptation of Garrard Conley’s memoir about his experiences in a Christian “conversion camp” for gay teens, was anticipated early on as a strong contender for this year’s awards season, but it hasn’t made much of a showing so far; its young star, Lucas Hedges, snagged a Globe nomination, and has a fighting chance of repeating that feat at the Oscars. Of all the films likely to be contenders this year, this one has the most LGBT-centric focus, and of all the actors in the running for playing queer characters, Hedges is the only one who has publicly identified as anything other than straight (though he stopped short of putting a label on his sexuality, saying he sees it as “existing on a spectrum”).  A win for him would send a powerful message of inclusion – but even if he makes the cut in a field limited to only five contenders, his status as a first-time nominee, coupled with the acting pyrotechnics displayed by probable Best Actor front-runners Malek and Bale, make his chances slim.

While those are the biggest – and most probable – contenders for Oscar gold when the Academy Awards are presented on Feb. 24, there are a host of other possibilities. Acclaimed indie films like “We the Animals” or “The Miseducation of Cameron Post” could always earn a surprise nomination in such categories as Screenplay or Cinematography, and there will almost surely be LGBT recipients among the evening’s many winners.

It’s also true that it’s still early in the race – until the Oscar nominations are announced on Jan. 22, it’s all just speculation as to who will even be competing, and the other awards ceremonies upcoming before the Academy presentation (especially the SAG Awards on Jan. 27) will no doubt provide further hints to the way Oscar voters will lean.

No matter how it all plays out, it seems certain that the 91st Academy Awards will have a host of LGBT-friendly nominees on its slate; whether or not any of them actually end up as winners is something that remains to be seen.

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Julia Scotti, the movie, is just Funny That Way

Life is funny that way—not working out quite the way we thought it would. And that is ultimately the point

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Graphic courtesy of Susan Sandler

WHITING, NJ. – “You are a piece of work, Julia!” Simon Cowell blurted during her landmark America’s Got Talent debut.  Julia Scotti had just completed her audition for the show that ended not only with a standing ovation, but with the revelation that she had once upon a time been a stand-up comedian named Rick. As that news crossed the faces of the four judges, their collective jaws dropped. “I mean like you come out as the nice little granny school teacher all sweet and then you go into your routine and like WHOA. Talk about surprises – they are never ending with you, are they?” Cowell finished.

With Julia Scotti, the surprises never end.

Her latest surprise for the public is a gem of a film, Julia Scotti: Funny That Way.  It is a documentary of her journey from the days of Rick, the up and coming comic who performed on bills with Chris Rock and Jerry Seinfeld to Julia, who is wowing millions.

Of her transition, Julia has remarked. “It is NEVER an easy process whether you’re a public figure or not. You are essentially killing your old self and ending your old life. And with that comes the history you’ve built with friends and family. Some are very accepting, but most are not. That is why the suicide attempt rate for Trans  folk is still at 41%.”

Funny That Way does not spare us the heart-breaking fallout from the virtual “death’ of Rick Scotti.  Filmmaker Susan Sandler weaves Julia’s story, the losses and damage, to her rebirth, healing and the reuniting with her kids after a 15-year estrangement.

Julia and Susan sat down with us on the podcast Rated LGBT Radio to talk about the film.  “This is a story and like all stories, there is a beginning and a middle and an end. In the end, I want the audience to know there is HOPE. It is bumpy at times, joyous at times.  It is not just isolated to my life. You can have that in your life when you walk through that door of your own truth and come out the other side and when you look back on all you went through, you go ‘what the hell was I so afraid of?’ Look how happy I am.” Julia explains.

Susan had never directed a documentary before, but as one of Hollywood’s master story tellers, and a Golden Globe nominee, she was unfazed.  “The impetus behind this film was falling in love with Julia, her, then and now.  If you are working from a really rich, complex, compelling character –which is Julia—that is the GIFT. All of my nerve endings, my story telling, told me this was dynamic documentary, and that’s the form in which I wanted to tell it.”

Susan took five years to research, document and interact with Julia’s past.  She went through old footage of Rick Scotti’s stage acts and restored many of them so they could be used in the film. She brought on composer Matt Hutchinson for a beautiful score, and animator Sam Roth for whimsical cartoons that tie the story together.

Before the filming started, Julia had just re-connected with her son Dan, and daughter Emma.  A decade and a half ago, when Julia announced to her then spouse that she was in fact a woman transitioning, her then-wife retaliated by taking their kids away.  Dan and Emma spent their whole adolescence not knowing Julia at all. The story of that pain is told in Funny That Way.  Susan wanted to show the relationships real-time in the film as they came to reconnect with Julia. “We were just at the beginning stages of reconciling,” recounts Julia. “I did not want them feeling like I was just reconnecting with them because I wanted them in this film. I did not want to distance them even more.”

Dan and Emma were onboard, however.  Also on board, albeit only by phone, was Kate. Kate was  Julia’s last wife, described as Julia’s “love of her life”. Kate supported Julia emotionally and spiritually through out the entire transition process.  One of the most poignant moments in the film was Julia hearing Kate describe the end of their relationship.  Kate’s support was significant, but once Julia became fully Julia, it was evident to both that their relationship had changed and they had to let it go.

Susan captured many live moments of Julia’s evolving life.  She caught the very first time that son Dan ever called Julia “his mother” and the effect was pronounced.  Also caught in the film was a moment when Julia and Dan are watching Rick’s old stand up routines.  One such performance  takes Julia by surprise—it was a routine that she had not remembered ever doing.  It was a set where then Rick expressed his revulsion to transgender women in no uncertain terms.  Julia sat shocked.

“My sensibilities have been ‘woked’, I think that is the term for it.” She told me about that experience. ”Thinking back, I was going through issues and aware that something was not right internally. It frightened me to no end.  Looking at that clip, I am totally ashamed of what I did. It embarrassed me.”

“I knew it was me. I knew I was there. But I don’t feel a connection with that person.  That is the truth.”

The film does not dwell long on the past shames and regrets.  It arcs to the present where an adult daughter gets to see her parent’s comedy routine for the very first time.

Some of the greatest joy in the film is witnessing the growing relationship between Julia and son Dan. Dan is sweet and compassionate, and they both have a deep love of comedy.  Through their discussions and collaboration on things funny, we witness something decidedly not funny, the deep re-kindling love they have for each other.

The film will make you laugh, and cry, and laugh again.  New clips of Julia’s now famous turn on America’s Got Talent shows her more personal reflective moments over a life changing triumph.

The only regret director Sandler has about the film is how it will be brought to the public. “I am happy to be brining the film now for the people who have an appetite for it. For the truth, the humor, the complete emotional honesty.  But I mourn. I mourn the moments not being able to sit with you in a theater. And experiencing the film with you. It was supposed to be seen by audiences, and then give them the opportunity to go down the street and see Julia live at a club.”  But, life is funny that way—not working out quite the way we thought it would.   And that is ultimately the point.

Editor’s Note: The film was originally slated for theatrical release which was delayed then put off by the coronavirus pandemic.

Julia Scotti: Funny That Way is available now on digital platforms! That means you can rent or buy it online, at places like iTunes, Apple TV, Amazon, Google Play and more.

Here’s the full list of where you can find it. 

DIGITAL

iTunes
Amazon
Google Play
Xbox
VUDU
FandangoNow
Vimeo On Demand

CABLE / SATELLITE

iN Demand Movies
Verizon
AT&T
Vubiquity
DirecTV
Dish
Telus

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Greyson Chance: A Butterfly’s Journey from Holy to Hell and Back

A decade ago there was a boy made famous by a pop song and a viral video. Today, there is an artistic, powerful singer song writer

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Greyson Chance (Photo Credit: Broderick Bauman)

HOLLYWOOD – Many want to saddle singer Greyson Chance with the label “comeback” or having a “return from retirement.”  It is an understandable mistake as the “fame to disaster” narrative IS there. The real story is about one of the most exciting new artists of today.  One that speaks to not only the LGBTQ youth of today, but of their entire generation.

Over a decade ago, there was a boy.  The boy was very gifted at the piano, and at singing. He entered a talent contest and belted out a well known pop song by one of the trendiest artists of the day.  Of course, there was a video.  Social media was itself an infant, and as such, started launching like videos into the stratosphere.  His video was one of the first to be seen gazillion of millions of times.  Then there was the Ellen show, then the record contracts and a music video where he was Ariana Grande’s love interest.

Life would never be the same again.  It would not be the same as Greyson Chance would be forever entwined with Lady Gaga and Paparazzi.  It would not be the same as when his voice changed and it all came crashing down. “The second that the momentum stopped, you know, I truly was just sort of thrown to the curb when I was 15. I, all in the same day,  got dropped by my record label, my management, my publicist, and my agent.  It was the ultimate for me, as a child musician.” Greyson told me.

The real story however, is of a fantastic singer/songwriter who hit the industry in a big way with a debut album of his own work in 2019. He emerged then as a honed artist who had already been educated on the workings of the industry, and as a professional who knew how to walk in with his own vision and make it happen.

“It is a machine and, when I when I came on the scene originally, I had this huge viral video and with that, a lot of money coming around, and big players kind of involved in the industry,” he says.  He made music their way.  He did the songs they wrote, and played the part of the person they wanted him to be.

(Photo Credit: Broderick Bauman)

He learned how to be the kind of artist he did not want to be.  The young artist went back to Oklahoma and enveloped himself in the cocoon of normalcy.  He incubated there, fell in love, and had his heart broken by someone he thought he was going to hold onto forever.  At that point, he emerged from the cocoon, with a full self-written album in hand, a musical butterfly spreading his wings.

“I’m 23 years old right now. And I started off with my first record deal when I was 12 years old. There was so much of my adolescence, in my childhood in music, where I wasn’t given the chance to not only make music that I really wanted to do, but also to be writing. I was being forced to do records,  I didn’t have a huge artistic involvement in anything I was doing. So when I came back into music, I really wanted to finally show the world that I was a songwriter, that I had a unique voice. That I had some unique things to say.   I really emphasize authenticity. These are stories that are coming from the heart. These are things that are coming from my own life. It’s not even really a choice that I have anymore.  It is honest, from a place that’s true and genuine,” Greyson states.

Greyson represented not only with a new thematic “voice”, but an actual new physical voice as well.  “It was interesting, what I went through, they always tell you that when your voice changes, it’s going to be sort of a tough go and that is such an understatement. It was so hard for me for a few years to really kind of find comfortability in my physical voice again. I mean, I really struggled through my voice change. But ultimately, I learned as a kid when I was on the road that in a way, when you’re a touring musician, you’re sort of like an athlete. My muscle is, is my voice.”  Greyson’s new voice is far superior to his belting-out-broadway boy voice.  He has a harmonic high register, and a sultry deep one. It copies no one else’s, this voice is uniquely his own.

In 2019, Greyson came out with his launch album “Portraits”.  The stories of the album gave vision to the various personas he saw of himself as he navigated an ill fated romance.  One week,  he was looking at engagement rings, the next week, out of the blue, “the man of his dreams” left him without explanation.  Greyson works each personal portrait into the prism of a beautiful, musically shiny diamond. “Portraits for me was truly my reinvention piece. And what I mean by that is, at the time before I put out that album, you know, I couldn’t even get a meeting in LA with anybody. You know, no one wanted to touch me, no one wanted to be involved in in my project and involved in my music. So I told myself, You know what, I’m going to write a record, and I’m going to write a full album. I’m going to give this one last shot, and see, see what happens. And, fortunately, it went over very, very well.”

In 2019 he filled 109 venues performing the songs from Portraits.  He publicly came out as gay in response to a fan during a conversation about living authentically.  He has also been transparent about his personal challenges, including his on-going battle with anorexia.  “It was truly very, very difficult to diagnose it. I had come off of this really bad breakup that I wrote my album Portraits about, and I was developing habits of not eating and not taking care of myself. I blamed it on the sadness I was feeling at the time. Then, as things became a little more normal, and I became a bit more stable, I noticed that I still had had this issue and things that were going on. For me, I had to work through a lot of therapy,   to get a grasp on it. I brought it public because it was so stigmatized, and still is.   I like to think that I have my life together. But here’s  the deep issue that I struggle with, and I go through. I’m  on a road to recovery, it’s never ending when you are battling with an eating disorder, but I’m doing very, very well right now. I’m staying on top of it. Through my disclosure, there was such an amazing and beautiful dialogue that keeps happening, people reaching out to me and sort of sharing their own struggles and battles with it as well.   I’m working on trying to be the best version of myself that I can be.”

(Photo Credit: Broderick Bauman)

After a forced lockdown during the pandemic of 2020, Greyson is ready to move into the next phase of his butterfly trajectory.  He has released two singles off his next EP, Trophies, and he is in love again.  The songs on the EP will be in a thematic composition.  The two first released create a spiritual arc from the heavenly rich ballad-like Holy Feeling to the high-pop danceable hedonistic Hell Boy. 

He says of the new material, “My boyfriend and I just celebrated our one year anniversary yesterday.   Trophies, is really expressing the fear of now losing love, and sort of that fear that was created in the old relationships that I’ve had. It is the desire for my fans and queer people around the world to know what  truly being in love is. We’re constantly told as, as queer people that, our relationships are always going to be rocky, they’re never going to be sort of American Dream type relationships. Because we’re different, these relationships are going to be different, because we’re inherently different. That is just absolutely BS.   Regardless of how you identify who you love, you can totally have all of this stereotypical white picket fence, you know, dog in the backyard green grass type of thing. It is so within your wheelhouse. It’s not out of reach. This record is emotionally going through all those those things, and talking about them in the music.”

A decade ago there was a boy made famous by a pop song and a viral video.  Today, there is an artistic, powerful singer song writer who sings the authenticity of his generation.  The rush you feel is the wind from rainbow colored butterfly wings taking flight, and the knowledge that the most famous Greyson Chance is the one yet to come.

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Gaga announces special ‘Born This Way’ reissue for iconic album’s 10th

The announcement comes with the drop of a new recording of ‘Judas’ by Big Freedia, one of 6 reimagined covers included

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Lady Gaga, gay news, Washington Blade
Lady Gaga on Tour 2017 (Blade file photo)

NEW YORK – It’s been a decade since Lady Gaga gave her Little Monsters a gift for the ages with the album “Born This Way” – hard to believe, but it’s true – and we’ve all been grateful ever since.

It turns out Gaga is grateful to her fans, too, and to show it, the legendary diva has announced the release of a new special edition “Born This Way: The Tenth Anniversary” album, to be released via Interscope on June 18.

The new release will feature new packaging and include all of the 14 iconic songs from the original 2011 release of the “Born This Way” album, alongside six “reimagined” versions of songs from the album. Each of these new cuts have been created by artists who represent and advocate for the LGBTQIA+ community, whose identities will be revealed over the next few weeks.

Fortunately, we don’t have to wait for all of them. In celebration of Gaga’s announcement, the first reimagined track dropped today – “Judas,” by Bounce music icon Big Freedia. It’s now available on all music platforms, and you can watch the video below.

Of the recording, Big Fredia says: “‘Judas’ was my favorite song when it came out originally, so I really wanted to cover it. I am beyond excited that it’s the first to drop from this project. To me, ‘Judas’ is a love song about when someone does you dirty. I’ve sure had my experience with that. Who can’t relate?”

Besides “Judas,” the other tracks to be covered on “Born This Way: Reimagined” are “Marry the Night,” “Highway Unicorn (Road to Love),” “Yoü and I,” “The Edge of Glory,” and the tantalizingly titled “Born This Way (The Country Road Version).”

The new anniversary edition comes on the heels of Lady Gaga celebrating the 10-year anniversary of the original album and its legacy last week in West Hollywood, where a proclamation was issued naming May 23 as “Born This Way Day” and the beloved icon received the keys to the city.

“Through her music and activism, Lady Gaga has become a cultural icon for our generation,” said WeHo Mayor Lindsey P. Horvath, who announced the new holiday and presented the Lady with the key. “The anthem ‘Born This Way’ has become an out-and-proud declarative stance for countless LGBTQ people. The Born This Way Foundation [co-founded by Gaga and her mother, Cynthia Germanotta] fosters honest conversations about mental health with young people and seeks to eradicate the stigma around mental health struggles.”

In addition to the special album edition, Lady Gaga has launched a special “Born This Way” merchandise collection, with the brand new designs now available at shop.ladygaga.com.

As for the album, it’s available for pre-order right now. What are you waiting for?

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