What did Polari HQ see in 2012?
Clayton Littlewood – The Judas Kiss, dir. Neil Armfield
Late last year I was taken by my theatrical tutor, Nicholas de Jongh, to see Rupert Everett in The Judas Kiss at the Hampstead Theatre.
Written by David Hare, the play focuses on Wilde’s last years – his arrest at the Cadogan Hotel, and a night in Naples after his release from two years’ imprisonment. It was wonderful. The phrase “he was born to play the role” is overused, but in this case it was true. I couldn’t take my eyes off Mr Everett. In Act 1, even though we all know what happens, I sat there thinking, “Just leave! Quickly!” But alas…
The play is now transferring to the Duke of York theatre, so if anyone wants to buy me a ticket, I’ll buy the winegums.
Andrew Darley – American Horror Story: Asylum – HBO
Following an enthralling debut season in 2011, American Horror Story returned with an all-new blood-curdling tale to tell. This instalment evicts us from the haunted house of the first season and chucks you by the scruff of the neck into a corrupt, religious insane asylum set in the 1960s. It’s not an easy stay either. Demon-possessed nuns, Nazi doctors and bodily mutilation are common practice and oh yeah … a murderous psychopath by the name of ‘Bloodyface’ who skins his victims alive and wears their faces as masks. You’d think with all this debauchery I’d run away screaming. But no! The ingenious decision to create an anthology show – meaning each season will tell a different haunting with new characters and location – has been a real treat. Also, having Jessica Lange, Zachary Quinto and Lily Rabe return as new characters has been fantastic to watch. With three episodes to go until its finale, I’m still left questioning my own sanity after feeling slightly elated witnessing Adam Levine get his arm hacked off in the first episode. He certainly is not moving.
A. Loudermilk – Found, dir. Scott Schirmer
2012’s best horror movie-without-a distributor is Scott Schirmer’s Found. It may also be 2012’s best gay-themed coming of age movie-without-a-distributor. When it finds its audience and achieves cult status – and after more time on the festival circuit it certainly will – you can say you read it here first.
Found is about a bullied fifth-grader in Indiana named Marty (Gavin Brown) who is keeping a secret about his adult brother Steve (Ethan Philbeck). Right away Marty leads us to Steve’s bedroom closet to show us a decapitated head in a bowling bag, one in a series of African-American victims. Slowly but surely paced, like a character-driven novel, this $8,000 gem offers solid performances, tension and gore, cinematic style, and a textured plot. Found’s greatest success is in juxtaposing the contradictory experience of being a gay boy like Marty discovering horror movies made for straight guys (an aspect of the film I relate to personally) with a timely, high-stakes theme about boys developing into monsters like Steve. Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, who usually makes fun of the movies she screens, is sincere when she champions Found, declaring that it’s “as Horror as Horror can get.” Indeed, the gruesome finale is hard to shake.
Scott De Buitléir – Borgen – (Denmark)
When my mother threw out the family TV set in 2009 (she got fed up of seeing Simon Cowell’s face every weekend) I quickly lost interest in television. At the start of 2012, though, I was lured back to the small screen with the new genre of Scandinavian television that had finally made its way to the British airwaves. Hooked since the success of Danish-Swedish crime series The Bridge (a programme that is deserving of an entire article, if I had time), I found solace in and was gripped by Borgen, starring the superb Danish actress Sidse Babette Knudsen. Set in Copenhagen and revolving around the office of the Danish Prime Minister, Borgen is Europe’s answer to The West Wing, with the brilliant tension and unexpected plot twists that we’ve become accustomed to in Nordic drama, thanks to the likes of The Killing.
Even though the third season is set to air in Denmark later this year, the second series of Borgen is expected to be broadcast in the UK on BBC Four in January/February.
Eric Anderson – Baby Face (1933) dir. Alfred E. Green
I fell in love with a classic in 2012 when I watched the 1933 film Baby Face starring Barbara Stanwyck. Re-issued recently in a Forbidden Hollywood box-set, this movie was made in a period before the Hollywood Code’s self-censorship, when sex could still be heavily suggested if not explicitly shown. Influenced by her philosopher-friend’s Nietzsche-inspired advice to “use men”, Stanwyck leaves her barroom life waiting on lascivious drunks to find her fortune working at a city bank. As she progresses in her career by moving from affair to affair, Stanwyck is shown to literally be rising to the top with exterior shots moving up floor by floor. By screwing men and tossing them aside she accumulates a fortune. The film is also unusual for the time in showing a strong black female role played by Theresa Harris as Stanwyck’s constant companion. Stanwyck the actress led an intensely private life. Often rumoured to be a lesbian, it’s difficult to tell if there was any truth to this or if it’s what some people assumed because she was such an intelligent and hard-working woman.
Rupert Smith – Der Rosenkavalier dir. David McVicar
I hardly go to the cinema any more, but obviously I loved The Hobbit – An Unexpected Journey, and I’ve been living for parts two and three. My best experience in a theatre in 2012 was the English National Opera’s production of Der Rosenkavalier, an opera I’ve waited a long time to see done live, and it really didn’t disappoint. Great staging, singing and playing, and I’d stick my neck out and say that the last half hour or so of the final act is one of the most beautiful works of art in any genre from any time, ever. So there.
Michael Langan – Mitchell to Bronze
My visual art highlights of the year include Joan Mitchell’s Late Paintings at Hauser & Wirth and Peter Doig’s new paintings at the Michael Werner Gallery. Homotopia Festival’s small-scale retrospective of the work of the New York photographer Mark Morriscoe was a valuable introduction to this great queer artist. On a larger scale, Tate Liverpool’s group show of Turner, Monet, Twombly was a thought-provoking and joyous exploration of the possibilities of painting. My favourite exhibition of 2012 was the Royal Academy’s Bronze, a survey of the sculptural practices and processes that have developed when using this most forbidding of materials. What the exhibition showed were its many possibilities – the intimate as well as the monumental – and included some jaw-dropping objects from the ancient (including a life-size, naked dancing satyr that was discovered in a Grecian fisherman’s net) to the modern (such as Louise Bourgeios’ giant wall-mounted spider or Pablo Picasso’s baboon modeled from casts of his son’s toy cars). It changed the way I thought about bronze as a material.
Walter Beck – Lincoln, dir. Stephen Spielberg
My favorite film of 2012 is the easiest one: Lincoln. As a history buff and Civil War re-enactor, I have to say it’s one of the most accurate films I’ve seen about Lincoln’s administration and I can’t recommend it highly enough.
Set during the final months of Lincoln’s presidency and the end of the Civil War, the focus of the film is Lincoln’s efforts to pass the Thirteenth Amendment, which would outlaw slavery in the United States. The struggle Lincoln and his cabinet have is securing enough votes in Congress to pass the Amendment, facing opposition from both Radical Republicans and Democrats. Lincoln’s administration looks to appeal to the humanity of the issue, rather than relying on bribes and favors to secure the necessary votes.
The film’s gritty depiction is what caught my attention the most, Lincoln is highly revered in the United States and most films that portray him do so in an almost saintly manner. In this film, he is portrayed as a master politician and a firm believer in his cause, it doesn’t shy away from showing the struggles he faced within his own cabinet and his own party.
Plus I have to give credit to the make-up and costume department on this film for their outstanding work.