Tag Archives: Angela Bassett

Why I won’t be tossing out this Dolce & Gabbana shirt

“We oppose gay adoptions. The only family is the traditional one. No chemical offsprings and rented uterus: life has a natural flow, there are things that should not be changed.” — Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana in Italy’s Panorama magazine

First of all, a disclaimer is in order…two of them. The statements above were translated (and poorly punctuated) from Italian to English by The UK’s The Telegraph. Having seen ideas get mangled in translation from Spanish to English and vice versa, I would consider this more in the spirit of what the Italian designers said than what they actually said. (If any native Italian speakers are reading this, please help me out here.)

Second, since when are quotes attributed to more than one person? Are Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana two simultaneously talking heads?

All that aside, the part of D&G’s interpretation of family that I object to most is the part that rejects gay parents. If the only family is the “traditional” one, then they must oppose single mothers, single fathers, single foster parents, single legal guardians, widowed parents and anything else that doesn’t reflect the picture-perfect Norman Rockwell version of family.

It’s misguided thinking for sure, but it warrants understanding and communication more than knee-jerk moral outrage. When I first came out and my mother was taking a minute to adjust to having not one but two gay sons, my friends cautioned me to be patient with her and consider where she was coming from. She was a woman born in the 1940s in an ultra-religious society. Should I really have expected her to immediately start waving the rainbow flag?

One could make a similar case for Dolce and Gabbana and some of their more antiquated ideas. Dolce said that procreation “must be an act of love…You are born to a mother and a father — or at least that’s how it should be.” Gabbana added, “A child needs a mother and a father. I could not imagine my childhood without my mother. I also believe that it is cruel to take a baby away from its mother.”

Italy is devoutly Catholic, so Dolce’s archaic view of procreation should surprise no one. And considering the matriarchal bent of the classic Italian family, it makes sense that two staunch Italians would deem a maternal presence necessary to that unit. However, that makes me wonder what they think about lesbian adoption and adoption by straight single men. Note to interviewer: Don’t forget to ask the obvious follow-up questions!

I could spend hours poking holes in their views on gay adoption and “traditional” families, but everyone else seems to be focused on their comments about in-vitro fertilization, which are pretty over the top. “I call children of chemistry, synthetic children. Rented uterus, semen chosen from a catalog,” Dolce declared, spurring Sir Elton John to blast him on Instagram for calling his children “synthetic” and vow never to wear their designs again.

Elsewhere people wondered how two gay men could say such things. I asked myself the same question, not because of their stance on gay adoption or IVF but because of the lazy implied link between the two. Who died and made IVF a gay issue? Nicole Kidman, Angela Bassett and Sarah Jessica Parker have had babies via IVF and surrogacy, 51-year-old supermodel Elle Macpherson is expecting thanks to it, and Kim Kardashian’s doctor supposedly just told her it’s the only way she can have more children. I suspect that half of straight Hollywood uses IVF to become pregnant.

I have several straight female friends who have turned to IVF to become mothers, so I don’t see how it’s possibly a gay thing. Now that it seems to have become one, however, do I follow Elton John’s lead and boycott Dolce & Gabbana? I considered it for a hot second, but what would be the point?

I have gay friends who oppose gay marriage and nobody has ever suggested I boycott them. There are likely plenty of people with whom I do business on a regular basis, gay and straight, who oppose gay marriage, and possibly gay adoption, for whatever reason. It’s definitely misguided, but I’m not sure I can automatically equate it with outright homophobia. Do I banish them from my life anyway?

It’s interesting that some gay people are quick to defend sexual prejudice within their ranks (“No Asians,” “No Blacks,” “No whites”) as “preference,” yet they’re unwilling to tolerate ideology that differs from theirs. That’s the height of hypocrisy.

As for IVF, I’d be lying if I said I haven’t had my issues with it. We take people to task for buying expensive dogs instead of getting a homeless one from the shelter or pound, and one can make a similar case with babies when adoption is an option.

I remember cringing a little when a gay friend of mine described the process he went through to find a suitable egg donor and a surrogate. It sounded a lot like the process of choosing a 15-minute stand on Grindr. But how many people who become parents through traditional means would turn down the option to pre-determine certain baby qualities before conception if it were possible and free of charge? It may not be, for me, the ideal commencement of life, but it’s certainly not an invalid one.

So who am I to judge anymore? But just because I’ve put aside most of my reservations and fully accept pre-natal technology doesn’t mean the rest of the world has to do the same.

I considered tossing the one Dolce & Gabbana item in my wardrobe, but I’ll be hanging on to it, after all. If I can be friends with Republicans (and I am) and people who’d never date anyone of my color, enjoy entertainment created by artists and performers who embrace different political and religious points of view and live in a country where gay marriage is still illegal (Get with the program, Australia!), I can wear a shirt by designers who are ill-informed enough to call children of IVF “synthetic.”

The supposedly “synthetic” ones I’ve seen look pretty authentic to me. However, looking at them through Dolce and Gabbana’s eyes, does being “synthetic” also make one soulless and less than human? That sounds like the basis for future prejudice and discrimination, and two gay men should know better than to stir that particular can of worms. But they’re designers, not philosophers.

It’s important to call people on their stupidity without dismissing them. As long as they don’t express outright racism or homophobia — the kind that leads to name-calling, rejection and violence, or denying service to gays or certain ethnic groups (Shame on Indiana!) — I can deal with the unenlightened and any ideas they might be trying to sell.

But one Dolce & Gabbana shirt is probably enough.


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10 Oscar-Nominated Actresses I Want to See Win Before They Die (Or I Do)

With summer nearly halfway over (though it’s always summer here in Bangkok), we’re closing in on my favorite time of year: Oscar season, those autumn months when Hollywood puts away its summer toys and begins to regularly treat us to films about adults, starring adults, made for adults.

And once again, we get to fill our heads with wishful thinking: Which long overdue star will finally get some Oscar love. In 2012, it was Christopher Plummer. In 2010, Jeff Bridges. But what about the ladies? Kate Winslet, who finally struck gold in 2009 for The Reader (Why? Why? Why?) after five failed attempts was the last belated female winner. Will any of the actresses on my personal wish list get her shot in 2013?

Cicely Tyson Angela Bassett, Alfre Woodard, and Viola Davis (always the bridesmaids — which reminds me, couldn’t Maya Rudolph have had at least one black friend in Bridesmaids? — never the brides), get in line! It’s too late for anyone other than Halle Berry to claim the title of the first black actress ever to win Best Actress, but no black woman is more overdue than Tyson, 78, last seen onscreen in The Help, whose first and only nomination was for Sounder back in 1973. Yes, she slums a lot — in television, in film, in a Willow Smith video — but if Monique Angela Imes can go from being “star of the UPN sitcom The Parkers” to “Academy Award winner Mo’Nique,” then anyone can overcome rotten career choices, right?

Glenn Close, Sigourney Weaver and Michelle Pfeiffer Until Glenn Close got her sixth nomination this year for Albert Nobbs (belated payback perhaps for being overlooked for 1990’s Reversal of Fortune), none of these legends of the ’80s and early ’90s (second then only to the holy triumvirate of ’80s queens: Meryl Streep, Jessica Lange and Sissy Spacek) had been nominated since 1993, when Pfeiffer was up for Best Actress for Love Field. If I had to pick just one to win, it would be Close. As much as I love her in Damages, I don’t want her two Emmys for it to be her last hurrahs. If Rock of Ages could get made just a few years after its Broadway run, what’s taking so long with Sunset Boulevard? Close already won a 1995 Tony, her third, for singing the role of Norma Desmond on Broadway (incidentally, one of those Tonys was for 1992’s Death and the Maiden, for whose 1994 film version Weaver was not nominated), and the Oscar-less Gloria Swanson received her third and final nomination for playing her in the 1950 film version, so as long as they don’t cast Tom Cruise as Joe Gillis, the Oscar probably would be a Close call.

Debra Winger The three-time Oscar nominee was one of my favorite things about the early ’80s and the second best thing (after Anne Hathaway) about 2008’s Rachel Getting Married, for which she inexplicably received no Oscar nomination and no big-screen roles until this year in something called Lola Versus.

Annette Bening and Julianne Moore There’s no doubt in my mind that Bening will eventually get what’s coming to her (probably in the Best Supporting Actress category, where some might argue she’s belonged all along), but what about Moore? At one point, she was a virtual Oscar-nomination magnet (she scored four of them in the five-year span between 1998 and 2003), but she recently had to watch her costars in A Single Man (Colin Firth) and The Kids Are All Right (Bening) get nominations while all she got was a lousy BAFTA nod for the latter. Unfortunately for Moore (and Bening, too, though, I repeat, she will beat the odds — maybe as early as next year for playing Kirsten Wiig’s mother in Imogene), not only is she now over 50 (wind down time for Oscar bait not named Meryl Streep, Helen Mirren or Judi Dench), and only a handful of actresses (Susan Hayward, Vanessa Redgrave, Maureen Stapleton, Shirley MacLaine, Geraldine Page, Susan Sarandon, Kate Winslet) have won their first Oscar on their fourth nomination or higher. Marsha Mason was up for Best Actress four times between 1974 and 1982, and where is she now? Mostly on TV — and even there, rarely. Michelle Williams, Laura Linney and Amy Adams, all three-time nominees, should be quivering in their high heels.

Joan Allen Speaking of three-time nominees, Allen was Pat Nixon in Nixon, which brought the first of her three nominations, but she really had me at “It were a cold house I kept” in The Crucible, in which she upstaged, of all people, Daniel Day-Lewis to score her second nomination. (A third random citation, her first for Best Actress, would come four years later for The Contender.) One of the biggest mysteries of the ’00s is that a performance as flawless as Allen’s in 2005’s The Upside of Anger wasn’t deemed more worthy of a nomination than any of that year’s Best Actress nominees, including the winner, Reese Witherspoon in Walk the Line. Her consolation prize: nothing. She’s worked only sporadically since then.

Gena Rowlands Unfortunately for the twice-nominated star of A Woman Under the Influence, 1996’s Unhook the Stars, for which she did not receive her third Oscar nod at age 66, came before people like Meryl Streep and Dames Helen Mirren and Judi Dench helped make the Oscars safer for actresses over 60. But if she’s never going to get an Oscar, Rowlands, now 82, deserves better than a guest role on NCIS and being below the title in a Kate Hudson film (2005’s The Skeleton Key).

Angela Lansbury She’ll forever be best otherwise known as Jessica Fletcher on TV’s Murder, She Wrote (for which she never won an Emmy — another grand prize that continues to elude her after 19 tries), or a five-time Tony winner on Broadway, but before she was either, Lansbury was a three-time Oscar nominee (always in the Best Supporting Actress category). Her mother from hell in The Manchurian Candidate (for which she received nomination No. 3 in 1963) makes Melissa Leo’s mama bear in The Fighter (for which she received her Oscar, on her second try) look like the Virgin Mary. We’ll never know what might have been had Lansbury been cast in the title role in the 1974 film version of the Broadway musical Mame, for which she won her first Tony in 1966. (It’s not like the role of Auntie Mame in the 1958 film version brought Rosalind Russell her first Oscar on her fourth nomination.) Though it might be more wishful thinking, I’m convinced she’s going to live forever, but if not, I wish someone like Paul Thomas Anderson, David O. Russell or Alexander Payne would give her one final juicy supporting screen role for an 11th-hour Oscar win. Alas, if anyone dared to write a part for a woman of Lansbury’s advanced age (86), they’d probably trip over themselves rushing to offer it to 90-year-old Betty White first.

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Robert Pattinson As Kurt Cobain and Six Other Musical Biopics I'd Pay Money to See

Pattinson at the Twilight premiere in Los Angeles

Image via Wikipedia

Like Marlon Brando, James Dean, Luke Perry and James Franco at various stages of their careers, Robert Pattinson has the wounded, sensitive rock-god thing down. And unlike his Twilight costar Taylor Lautner, who appears to be intent on becoming the next big action hero, Pattinson seems to want to take his career in a quirkier, more interesting and character-driven direction.

And what character is quirkier and more interesting than Kurt Cobain? Reportedly, Pattinson is a top pick to portray the Nirvana rocker, who committed suicide in 1994, in an upcoming biopic of his life. If he does get the gig, it will certainly be more challenging and potentially more rewarding come Oscar season than playing a vampire.

But here’s the big question: Who gets to play Courtney Love?

While we’re waiting to see who ultimately gets cast, here are five other musical biopics that need to be made and the actors who should star in them.

Reese Witherspoon as Tammy Wynette Loretta Lynn and Patsy Cline both got the big-screen treatment, but the cinematic potential of Wynette’s real-life melodrama might be as great as Sweet Dreams and Coal Miner’s Daughter combined: multiple husbands, marriage to an alcohol fellow country music superstar (George Jones), a savage beating and kidnapping that some accused her of staging for publicity, multiple illnesses, and finally, sadly, death at age 55.

There was a TV movie in 1981 called Stand by Your Man, but that doesn’t count any more than Liz: The Elizabeth Taylor Story, starring Sherilyn Fenn in the title role, counts as the definitive biopic on Liz, whose off-screen life, come to think of it, bears some striking similarities to Wynette’s.

Witherspoon already won an Oscar for playing June Carter Cash in Walk the Line, and she’s publicly expressed interest in bringing Wynette’s story to the screen. If the movie ever gets made, and if Witherspoon is cast, Oscar No. 2 is as good as hers.

Eddie Murphy as James Brown As he proved in Dreamgirls, Murphy’s got the voice and the moves to play an arrogant self-obsessed soul man less-than-loosely based on the Godfather of Soul. Alan Arkin ended up snatching the Oscar out from under Murphy’s nose in one of the more unfortunate upsets in recent memory. This time, I suspect, there’d be no stopping Murphy.

Leonardo DiCaprio as Frank Sinatra Why wasn’t this film made a long time ago? The dramatic possibilities are endless. Singer-turned-movie-star-turned-pop-icon with suspected mob ties and some of the flashiest friends in show business. It would be the most star-studded biopic since The Aviator, which starred DiCaprio as Howard Hughes.

I don’t know if Leo can croon with even a fraction of Sinatra’s skill, but Angela Bassett and Marion Cotillard, as Tina Turner and Edith Piaf, respectively, nailed their subjects without singing a note.

Kerry Washington as Aretha Franklin Now here’s a major star that we know almost nothing about other than that her road to becoming the Queen of Soul was rocky indeed, with professional obstacles, private travails, two teenage pregnancies, the deaths of three sisters and the 1979 shooting and eventual death of her father, Reverend C.L. Franklin.

Franklin once said that she’d like Toni Braxton to play in her a movie about her life, and 10 years ago, when Braxton was in her early 30s, that wouldn’t have been a bad choice. But Kerry Washington is a talented actress in desperate need of one breakthrough role. And this is an instance where they wouldn’t need to cast a big-name star. Franklin’s music alone would be enough incentive to get people to see the movie.

Anne Hathaway as Liza Minnelli She can sing. She can dance. She can act. I’m talking about both Hathaway and Minnelli. The story of Liza’s mom has already been perfectly told in a telefilm (2001’s Life With Judy Garland: Me and my Shadows, with Judy Davis as Garland), and in many ways, Liza’s life has mirrored her moms: movies, music, drugs, alcohol, two Oscar nominations, marriages to gay men. But in Liza’s case, there’s no tragic ending, which, as proven by Coal Miner’s Daughter and What’s Love Got to Do With?, is not an essential ingredient for a highly watchable musical biopic.

Madonna as Madonna Her private life has been a bit too public to make for revealing onscreen drama, so maybe it’s time for a proper sequel to her popular 1991 documentary Truth or Dare. Madonna has released several tour packages since then, so this time I think she should document her offstage life, from her relationship with the Brazilian model who’s young enough to be her son to her current attempt to build a girls’ school in Africa, Oprah-style, to her ongoing crusade to mould daughter Lourdes in her own superstar image.

Hell, and if they must make that Madonna movie, in 10 years, Lourdes will be old enough to play her mom.


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Oscar's Black & White World

Spanish actress Penelope Cruz gives a press co...

Image by AFP/Getty Images via Daylife

“What’s wrong with this picture?”

Not the one to the left, to the left. So said the cover of Entertainment Weekly 14 years ago when not one black actor, not one black actress, and only one black behind-the-scenes talent managed to score an Oscar nomination. The Academy finally began to right years of wrongs around 2002, when Sidney Poitier was given an honorary Oscar, and both Denzel Washington and Halle Berry won in the leading acting categories. “Two birds in one night,” Washington famously quipped when accepting his honor. Was it mere coincidence that Whoopi Goldberg happened to be hosting that night?

But in Hollywood, the blackout continues. It’s still hard to find regular work in high-profile Hollywood movies if you’re black and your first name isn’t Halle, Will, Denzel or Morgan. Do first-class actresses like Angela Bassett and Alfre Woodard rarely appear in films anymore and spend most of their careers toiling on the small screen because they are over 50 (and we all know what becomes of actresses of a certain age who are not named Meryl), or is it because Hollywood just doesn’t know what to do with black actresses other than Halle Berry (besides cast them in secondary roles as doctors and officers of the law)?

Until Gabourey Sidibe’s nomination for Precious: Based on a Novel by Sapphire this morning, no black actress had been up for a leading actress Oscar since Berry’s Monster’s Ball win. Why? It might come down to numbers: Aside from Berry’s string of post-Oscar flops and Tyler Perry movies, how many mainstream films since then have been headlined by black actresses?

On the flip side, since Denzel Washington won for Training Day, a total of six black actors — Will Smith, Jamie Foxx, Don Cheadle, Terence Howard, Forest Whitaker, and, today, Morgan Freeman — have been nominated for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role, and two (Fox and Whitaker) have won. This year, three black performers are in the Oscar running, while Precious director Lee Daniels is now the second black director to be recognized by the Academy, and the first since John Singleton, who was nominated for Boyz in the Hood nearly 20 years ago.

Poor Spike Lee.

But today, let’s not weep too much for Spike Lee and blacks in Hollywood. Other minorities have it much worse in Hollywood and with the Academy. We don’t live in a black and white world, so when will Asian actors and actresses get their due? Last year, when Slumdog Millionaire won Best Picture, none of its stars were even nominated in the acting categories. The cast of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon suffered a similar fate when that film was up for Best Picture in 2001.

And there are plenty of talented Hispanic and Spanish actors and actresses turning in excellent performances every year (though rarely in complex central roles in mainstream Hollywood fare). Yet, the Academy waves its rainbow flag by pretending that Penelope Cruz is the only Spanish flame in town. This morning, she earned her third nod in four years for basically relocating last year’s Oscar-winning Vicky Cristina Barcelona performance to Italy and throwing in a song and dance.

Come on, Academy! She’s already got Javier Bardem. Does she really need another Oscar nomination, too?


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