By Romeo San Vicente
‘Fault In Our Stars’ actor takes up piano
Not ready to be typecast just yet, hot property Ansel Elgort, currently making tweens cry nationwide in “The Fault In Our Stars,” is about to play a quiet, gay, Baptist piano master in “Van Cliburn.” He may no longer be a household name, having stopped performing publicly in 1978, but the late Cliburn, a Texas native, became an overnight star during the Cold War 50s when, in 1958, he won the Tchaikovsy International Piano Competition in Moscow. He went on to great acclaim, the anti-Liberace, if you will, and now the annual Cliburn Competition, sponsored by the Van Cliburn Foundation, keeps the legacy alive. Elgort’s a great choice for the role. He’s tall and lanky like Cliburn was, and he won’t need any hand doubles to take on the role – with a script based on Howard Reich’s biography, “Van Cliburn” – because the young actor already knows how to play piano. And if anyone can convince the little girls to go see a period film about a gay classical pianist, it’s this guy.
‘Out In the Night’: the injustice system on display
The vital “Out In The Night,” from director Blair Doroshwalther, is not a feel-good documentary. It is, in fact, terrifying and enraging. It’s the story of four African-American lesbian friends (Renata Hill, Patreese Johnson, Terrain Dandridge and Venice Brown) who were attacked by a man (who allegedly threatened to “fuck them straight”) and who defended themselves violently. For this act of self-defense they were sentenced to between three and 11 years in prison. They were also characterized in the media as a “bloodthirsty” “lesbian gang.” The documentary that follows their case, the trial and its aftermath shines a harsh light on the treatment of queer women of color in the media and in the court system and demands to be seen by thinking people everywhere. It had its premiere at the Frameline LGBT Film Festival in San Francisco and will soon play at Outfest in Los Angeles, before finding its home on cable/on demand where it will have the biggest chance for audience impact. See it as soon as you can.
Sundance TV sees the future
Watching television has changed for good. Limited-run shows like “Top of The Lake” and short, concentrated seasons for offbeat, critically acclaimed, ongoing series are available for streaming and able to be watched at any time, inviting viewers to binge on entire seasons at once. And the networks with vision have responded. Case in point: Sundance TV, the newcomer that helped bring the well-reviewed “Rectify” to audiences, is moving forward with an entire slate of programming, a lot of it queer-themed. A series based on Chad Harbach’s baseball novel, “The Art of Fielding,” which had a gay storyline, is in development from producer Todd Field; Alan Cumming will produce an unnamed project inspired by the life of AIDS activist and restaurateur Florent Morellet; Joe Landsdale’s detective novels will find themselves transformed into “Hap and Leonard,” a comic buddy-detective piece set in the 1960s featuring a white Southerner and a gay African-American Vietnam vet; and “A Visit From The Goon Squad,” a story of a group of friends in 1980s San Francisco, will be adapted from the Jennifer Egan novel of the same name. You’re going to need a bigger DVR.
‘L Word Mississippi: Hate The Sin’ promises no lipstick
The title alone, with its “Hate The Sin” bump at the end, kind of gives you pause, doesn’t it? Weren’t we all pretty much aware that it’s not exactly great to be queer in rural America? But then there’s that first part: “L Word.” That “L Word”? The guilty pleasure lesbian fantasy of art-collecting, skateboarding, tons-of-sex-having, Prada-wearing, Sapphic sophistication? What exactly does “L Word” have to do with Mississippi? Well, everything, now that a reality show with that name is coming to Showtime in August. It follows the lives of a group of women in the Deep South, white and black, femme and (very) butch, all making their home uneasily in the swamp of American religious fervor, where dealing with people who claim to love and hate you at the same time is just a routine part of daily life. And because this is an opportunity to show a side of lesbian life the media’s not really interested in, let’s hope the series keeps it authentic and pulls no punches, rather than resorting to the usual reality show fakery of nonstop interpersonal fighting. Leave that to the “Real Housewives,” OK, Showtime?