Page 1

Queens Activist Helps Doug Jones Win 04

Bullied Teen, Charged in Fatal Stabbing, Sues NYC Schools 08



In This Issue COVER STORY Words matter: what Trump’s CDC edict means 16

HEALTH Still time to enroll in Affordable Care Act plan 18

MILITARY Judge orders trans enlistments on January 1 06

THEATER “Farinelli and the King� soars 22

The Year in Film 20-21

FILM “Phantom Thread� CIVIL RIGHTS debated SCOTUS passes on 24 key gay rights case 10 MUSIC Brockhampton’s AGING inclusive hip-hop Sex after 50, from a “boyband� 60 & 70 30 12

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Stepping Up for Doug Jones — in Queens An activist pitches into Alabama Senate race by following Alabamians’ lead BY KATHLEEN WARNOCK


don’t want to say “I told you so.” But I told you so: that Doug Jones was going to win the special election for the US Senate in Alabama. I knew this about a week before the election, because I looked at what I saw in front of me and made an educated guess based on strong indications that Jones would win by three or four points. So, I was a little off there. During the run-up to the primaries for Jeff Sessions’ vacant seat, I looked to see who the Democratic candidates were. I lived in Alabama for a while and still keep an eye on the politics there. I could fi nd little coverage of who was running, except on, where I started following some of the writers on politics and parsing the comments sections. There were lively debates between hard-core Republicans and ornery, independent folks who called a terrible candidate (Roy Moore) a terrible candidate. Also, remember for every foamingat-the-mouth lunatic in the comments section, there are at least 10 reasonable people out there making their own decisions. Then I looked up Doug Jones and thought: this guy is an excellent candidate. He’s put away KKK terrorists and has had a long and distinguished career. After Moore won the GOP primary, I looked at the polls and thought: Jones is within striking distance. Then the horrid candidate turned toxic, and I knew that a lot of people weren’t going to say it publicly, but they weren’t going to vote for him. I thought: if Jones plays it just right, he will win. (I also suspect that Coach Nick Saban was the selected protest candidate for Alabama Republicans who couldn’t bring themselves to vote for Moore or Jones. That is, Alabama football is indirectly responsible for a Democratic senator. Roll Tide.) As I was fretting about how I could get involved, a friend of mine, like me a resident of



Kathleen Warnock’s souvenir Doug Jones button sent along by her Alabama ally Ashleigh A. White.


Kathleen Warnock, a writer and longtime lesbian activist, found a way to help the right candidate win in Alabama.

Queens, added me to a private group made up of people who wanted to help Jones win. And so I joined a crowd that stretched across the country, with a core of blue Alabamians. The group grew to over 4,000 people. Our goal: to fl ip Alabama blue. There was some shuffl ing back and forth at fi rst, and the Yankees figured out real quick that we had to listen to what the Alabamians were telling us and fi nd ways to help from where we were. Making contributions to the campaign was just the beginning. I was reluctant to phone-bank, because I felt like my accent would be more of a hindrance than a help. So I did other things. The actions our group took also included postcard-writing (hun-

dreds of thousands were sent to Alabama from all over the country), connecting groups on the ground with each other, passing along important news, anticipating and planning for voter suppression, sending coffee and donuts to people rallying in Montgomery, renting dozens of vans to drive voters to the polls, making sure people knew where and by when to register, posting, tweeting, and sharing information everywhere, and using our social media skills to micro-target voters and create sharable memes and videos. I was thrilled to keep discovering more of the many wellorganized grassroots groups in Alabama taking charge of things. Just like in the rest of the country,

there are people on the ground in Alabama fighting hard for their lives, and our group buzzed with activity. As we all communicated with one another, sharing strategies and actions, I became aware of a huge knowledge gap between the people working on the campaign and the journalists who were covering it. There were relatively few stories about Jones in the mainstream media, though covered him. The pundits and concern trolls were still certain that Jones wasn’t a good enough candidate, that he didn’t “appeal” to the African-American voters (a POV offered almost exclusively by white commentators), that the turnout would be low — with an unmistakable subtext that basically the people of Alabama were too stupid to vote for Jones. I saw every day how smart and dedicated the leaders of our group were. The Alabamians knew their people and how to reach them. The legal and internet experts answered questions and created tools. They were black and white, expats posting from afar, other Southerners pulling for their fellows south of the Mason-Dixon line. And I became convinced that Jones not just could, but would win. I didn’t see this reflected at all in the media and realized that

WARNOCK, continued on p.18

December 21, 2017 – January 3, 2018 |


Doug Jones and the Democratic Coalition Surging turnout among black voters, strong appeals to LGBTQ support made for an upset BY NATHAN RILEY


oug Jones’ victory in the Alabama Senate race was a thrill — the biggest Democratic victory since Donald Trump’s election. Black votes surged, demoralized Republicans stayed home, independents supported him. A dream turned plausible: that in 11 months, the 2018 election will bring a wave of support for Democrats. But what kind of Democrat will Jones be? Southern conservatives used to stifle needed reforms. Jones was a federal prosecutor — who, no small thing, convicted the last of the KKK terrorists tried in the heinous 1963 black church bombing in Birmingham that killed four girls aged 11 to 14, nearly 30 years later, no less — but, by and large, prosecutors are the hard-asses who push the draconian sentences that drive mass incarceration. Good news came quickly from the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law. Jones was active in a bipartisan group that advocated for reducing harsh sentences and increasing alternatives to incarceration. According to the Marshall Project, a vital source of news about prison reform, “after long and careful negotiations, one senator almost single-handedly torpedoed the measure: the junior Republican from Alabama, Jeff Sessions.” Jones has a serious policy reason for opposing Attorney General Sessions. As Sessions’ successor, a comparisons of their views will be news. This history of different philosophies about crime and corrections makes an excellent backstory. A murkier question is the role of the Jones campaign in rolling out black votes. Last year, complaints roiled the Hillary Clinton campaign that its donations overwhelmingly were spent to reach white voters. In her book “Hacks,” Donna Brazile artfully observed that a local radio announcer with a loyal black audience would become more enthusiastic if the Clinton campaign bought ads on his show. The Jones campaign spent money on its black get-out-the-vote drive,


Doug Jones won the Alabama race with an indispensible outpouring of black voters and the strong support of the LGBTQ community.

but it also made at least one serious mistake, sending out a mailer with a picture of a black man with a wry smile asking this misguided question, “Think if a black man went after high school girls anyone would try to make him a senator?” The Jones literature attempted to raise Alabama’s double standard on race, but was deaf to the legacy of hurt from the state’s history of lynching black men based on false accusations that they made plays for white women. Specialized political action committees are active in the black community. Arisha Hatch, the managing director of campaigns at Color of Change’s PAC, and Adrianne Shropshire, the executive director of BlackPAC, gained favorable notices for their work and received money from both the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and the Democratic National Committee. Party officials are now committing to this type of spending. The myth that blacks don’t vote is dead and buried, replaced by a new truth: that without black votes Democrats lose. Activists will now be unsparing in their insistence that Democrats make black concerns — in urban areas and elsewhere — a critical | December 21, 2017 – January 3, 2018

part of their agenda. On the other hand, it’s worth acknowledging that Alabama has seven congressional districts, but only the predominantly black one supported Jones. The other six supported Roy Moore. Even if the Democrats win seats in 2018, these Democrats will represent majority white areas. The challenges this reality raise could bedevil Democrats if they can’t find ways to speak to diverse and divergent communities. What about turnout in the LGBTQ community and among their friends? Clearly their stake in the Alabama elections was as great as the black community’s. Roy Moore, with a long history of inflammatory, dehumanizing comments about gay and transgender people, was suspended for the second time as chief justice of the State Supreme Court for instructing Alabama’s county probate judges, which he oversaw, not to issue same-sex marriage licenses in defiance of the 2015 US Supreme Court ruling. On their “Gay USA” TV program, Ann Northrop and Gay City News contributor Andy Humm emphasized the rainbow hue of Jones’ victory party, showing the Human Rights Campaign posters attached

to the speaker’s podium and waving in the crowd. HRC was upfront on the TV screen that night. That Jones was good for queers became national news in the final days of the campaign. Nathan Mathis, a farmer standing outside a Roy Moore rally, held up a sign reading, “Judge Roy Moore called my daughter Patti Sue Mathis a pervert because she was gay. A 32-year-old Roy Moore dated teenage girls aged 14 to 17. So that makes him a pervert of the worse kind.” The Daily Beast’s Tim Teeman reported that Mathis acknowledged that he lost his daughter to suicide in 1995 at age 23, after she faced her parents’ rejection of her sexuality. Mathis’ one-man demonstration of his love and loss 22 years later went viral. Moore’s hostility toward gays mobilized a protective feeling even among some who are uncomfortable with homosexuals — they don’t want gays bullied and that was what Moore promised to do. He wanted to make gay sex illegal. When Alabama elected Jones they knew where he stood on LGBTQ issues. On election night standing behind Doug Jones on the podium was his handsome son Carson, who is a zookeeper in Denver. The day after his father’s election pictures of Carson in pink shorts at the pride parade went viral, and he came out in the Advocate. Clearly Doug Jones will support marriage equality and he may well accept the argument that discrimination against gays is a form of sex discrimination and that all the laws that protect women also protect the LGBTQ community. The Advocate reports that at a campaign event Jones, when questioned about transgender rights, including access to the restrooms appropriate to their gender identity, said, “We’ve got to protect them.” He also said of the Trump administration, “They were wrong to ban transgender [people] from the military. Just wrong, wrong, wrong.” Trudy Ring, long a guru of sorts at the Advocate, put it nicely, writing that Jones’ “election was not just the defeat of an enemy, but a victory for an ally.”



Trans Enlistees Can Sign Up January 1, Judge Rules DOJ bid for emergency stay rejected; a third judge rules against Trump policy BY ARTHUR S. LEONARD


ederal district judges on opposite coasts dealt setbacks to President Donald Trump’s anti-transgender military policy on December 11. In the Washington, DC, District Court, Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly rejected a motion by the Justice Department in Doe v. Trump to stay her preliminary injunction that requires the Defense Department to allow transgender people to apply to join the service beginning on January 1. In the Western District of Washington State, Judge Marsha J. Pechman refused to dismiss the complaint in Karnoski v. Trump, a lawsuit challenging the anti-transgender service ban, while granting the plaintiffs’ motion for a preliminary injunction against its implementation. Also on December 11, US District Judge Jesus G. Bernal in California heard arguments in support of a motion for a preliminary injunction in Stockman v. Trump, a fourth lawsuit challenging the ban. Judge Kollar-Kotelly’s decision was predictable, given her October 30 ruling granting the preliminary injunction and a more recent ruling “clarifying,” at the request of the Justice Department, that she really intended to require the Pentagon to allow transgender individuals to begin enlisting on January 1. The case before Kollar-Kotelly was brought by the National Center for Lesbian Rights and GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders (GLAD). The Justice Department offered the incredible claim that the January 1 deadline created an emergency situation, but its argument was significantly undercut by reports last week that the Pentagon had, in response to Kollar-Kotelly’s earlier order, put into motion the steps necessary to comply. In support of its motion for a stay, DOJ presented a “declaration” from Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Military



President Donald Trump with Defense Secretary James Mattis, who did not consult extensively with Trump before the July 26 tweet that set in motion the proposed effort to block open transgender service in the military.

Personnel Policy Lernes J. Hebert, who claimed that implementing the court’s order on January 1 would “impose extraordinary burdens on the Department and the military services” and that “notwithstanding the implementation efforts made to date, the Department still would not be adequately and properly prepared to begin processing transgender applicants for military service by January 1, 2018.” The judge found this unconvincing, pointing out that the Pentagon has had almost a year and a half to prepare for this eventuality, dating back to former Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter’s June 2016 directive spelling out a July 1, 2016, implementation date for allowing transgender people to enlist. That deadline was extended for six months by the current Pentagon chief, James Mattis. “Moreover,” she wrote, “the Court issued the preliminary injunction in this case approximately six weeks ago, and since then Defendants have been on notice that they would be required to implement the previously established policy of beginning to accept transgender individuals on January 1, 2018. In other words, with only a brief hiatus, Defendants have had the opportunity to prepare for the accession of transgender individuals into the military for nearly one

and a half years.” In opposition to the motion, the plaintiffs had submitted a declaration by Dr. George Richard Brown, who has trained “approximately 250 medical personnel working in Military Entrance Processing Stations (MEPS) throughout the military” in anticipation of implementing the enlistment policy, and a declaration by former Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus, Jr., who stated that “the Services had already completed almost all of the necessary preparation for lifting” the enlistment ban as long as a year ago. As to the so-called emergency nature of this motion, Kollar-Kotelly wrote, “As a final point, the Court notes that Defendants’ portrayal of their situation as an emergency is belied by their litigation tactics. The Court issued its preliminary injunction requiring Defendants to comply with the January 1, 2018 deadline on October 30, 2017. Defendants did not file an appeal of that decision until November 21, 2017, and did not file the current motion for a stay of that deadline until December 6, 2017, requesting a decision by noon today, December 11, 2017. There is also no indication that Defendants have sought any sort of expedited review of their appeal, the first deadlines in which are not until Janu-

ary, 2018. If complying with the military’s previously established January 1, 2018 deadline to begin accession was as unmanageable as Defendants now suggest, one would have expected Defendants to act with more alacrity.” Kollar-Kotelly, however, noted the significant practical barriers that will continue to face prospective transgender enlistees. The Pentagon will require that transgender applicants show, generally speaking, that for at least 18 months prior to their applications they have been “stable” with regard to their gender identity. Nobody can enlist, for example, if they have undergone gender confirmation surgery within the past year and a half. Similarly, anybody first diagnosed as having gender dysphoria within the previous 18 months cannot enlist, since they will have to have certified by a licensed medical provider that they have been “stable without clinically significant distress or impairment” for at least 18 months since their diagnosis. And those under treatment, for example taking hormone therapy, will have to show they have been stable for at least 18 months since commencing therapy. As to DOJ’s argument that the January 1 deadline imposes an “extraordinary burden” on the military, Kollar-Kotelly noted, “There is no evidence in the record that would suggest that the number of transgender individuals who might seek to accede on January 1, 2018, would be overwhelmingly large. To the contrary, although the Court understands that there may be some dispute as to the amount of transgender individuals in the general population and in the military, the record thus far suggests that the number is fairly small.” The plaintiffs in Karnoski v. Trump, pending in the district court in Seattle, are represented by Lambda Legal and OutserveSLDN. They alleged four theories for challenging the policy: equal protection, substantive due process in the deprivation of liberty,

TRANS ENLISTEES, continued on p.19

December 21, 2017 – January 3, 2018 |


Marriage Matters In December Wins in Austria, Australia; half measure for Italy; Bermuda’s looming backslide BY ARTHUR S. LEONARD


ecember brought a burst of activity on the marriage equality front, adding some new countries to the list of those that either now or soon will provide full rights to same-sex couples, but also possibly removing one nation from the list. The Constitutional Court of Austria made the first move on December 4, ruling that the rights afforded to registered partners (same-sex) and married spouses (different-sex) had progressed so close to equality that any justification for maintaining separate systems must yield to the principle of equality under the law. Austria had established a registered partnership system that went into effect in 2010, open only to samesex couples. Since then, amendments had moved those partnerships ever closer to marriage in terms of legal rights, the most recent change allowing same-sex couples to jointly adopt children and recognizing the parental status of both partners. Several cases were pending in the Austrian courts raising the argument that the constitution’s equality guarantees mandated equalizing the two institutions — marriage and registered partnerships. The court bowed to this logic, ordering that the government take the necessary steps to allow same-sex couples to marry and to allow different-sex couples to enter into registered partnerships. If the government does not act by December 31, 2018, the new legal regime will go into effect by judicial order the following day. At least one news source reported that the handful of same-sex couples litigating the issue will be entitled to marry as soon as the court’s mandate is published, not having to wait a year. What legislators will do is a puzzle, since negotiations are still under way between two right-wing parties over the composition of the

new government after the recent elections, but since the ruling is based on the constitution, it can’t be countermanded by Austria’s Parliament. The Austria ruling takes on special significance because it is the first by a European country’s highest court to require the government to allow same-sex couples to marry as a constitutional right. Fifteen other countries that are members of the Council of Europe — that is, parties to the European Convention on Human Rights — now allow same-sex marriage, including Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Luxemburg, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom. However, according to Helmut Graupner, a Viennese lawyer who heads Austria’s leading LGBTQ legal organization and represents one of the couples whose lawsuits led to the ruling, none of those 15 nations acted in response to a constitutional ruling from their highest court. The next major move came in Australia, on December 7, when the House of Representatives approved a same-sex marriage bill that had passed the Senate on November 28. The final vote came just a month after the Australian Bureau of Statistics announced the results of a national mail survey showing that almost 62 percent of those participating (almost 80 percent of all registered voters) favored changing the law to allow same-sex couples to marry. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull immediately brought the certified bill to Queen Elizabeth’s governor-general, who gave the written royal assent on the spot, making the measure law on December 8. Australian residents who previously entered into same-sex marriages in other countries immediately received marriage recognition in their homeland. Since couples who marry in Australia | December 21, 2017 – January 3, 2018

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Cedeno Lawsuit Aims to Help All LGBTQ Students Bullied gay teen indicted in fatal Bronx school stabbing taking on Department of Ed BY ANDY HUMM


bel Cedeno, the gay teen charged with manslaughter for using a knife to defend himself in September from two students at his Bronx school he says were attacking him — leading to the death of Matthew McCree and the wounding of Ariane Laboy — has filed a lawsuit against the city, the Department of Education (DOE), and school administrators and teachers for their history of failing to protect him from anti-gay bullying since he was in sixth grade. Out gay civil rights attorney Thomas Shanahan, representing Cedeno, filed a notice of claim with the office of City Comptroller Scott Stringer on December 18 and will file the suit in the federal court for the Southern District of New York early next month. At Shanahan’s offices, Cedeno was surrounded by his whole family and his supporters in the LGBTQ community from the youth-run advocacy group FIERCE! Asked why he is filing suit, Cedeno told Gay City News, “So the school system can change — and change behaviors [of the bullies] and protect kids that are in need of help, not just send them to a counselor. The policies [dealing with bullying] need to be implemented.” The suit documents how Cedeno was bullied continuously for six years, often called a “faggot,” told he “looks like a girl” for having long hair, having his belongings stolen, and enduring numerous physical attacks including being “punched, hit, and [having] items thrown at him” while “enduring discriminatory anti-gay epithets.” The complaint states that the bullying got so bad that he attempted suicide. “Abel hopes by telling his story, other LGBT students around the country will not have to endure egregious bullying for years on end,” the document states. “This is not just about Abel,” Shanahan said. The suit seeks court appointment of “a monitor to oversee DOE



Abel Cedeno (center), free on bail from manslaughter charges stemming from the fatal stabbing of Matthew McCree who he said was assaulting him, with supporters, including gay civil rights attorney Thomas Shanahan, who is filing suit against the Department of Education on his behalf, Abel’s sister Vanessa Cruz, Skye Adrian of FIERCE!, Abel’s stepfather José Ortiz, his mother Luz Hernandez, and his sister Lee Hernandez.

policies and procedures and reporting of bullying of children who identify as members of the LGBT community.” It asserts that school administrators “as a practice do not report bullying” as required by DOE regulations and state law. It also seeks unspecified compensation for Cedeno to help him heal from the “psychological damage” of the relentless, unaddressed bullying. The same day the suit was announced, Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña announced the closing of 14 low-performing and problem schools, including Cedeno’s Urban Assembly School for Wildlife Conservation, which has been described as chaotic and unsafe for several years. Christopher R. Lynn, one of the out gay attorneys representing Cedeno in his criminal case, said, “The DOE claims that despite adding numerous school guards it cannot make Abel’s former school safe. Of course they refuse to confront the 800 YGZ gang that predominates there as that would require confrontation with kids and parents who are aware of this and

who tacitly or otherwise approve.” Cedeno has said he knew his attackers to be members of the gang and feared for his life when they assaulted him in his classroom despite seeing him with a knife he wielded to protect himself. Attorney Sanford Rubenstein, who is suing the city for $25 million on behalf of the McCree family, told Gay City News, “The fact that it will not be used as a school does not change the fact administrators and teachers from there will be transferred to other schools. Those problems were there before Matthew was stabbed to death.” Rubenstein called for the firing of Fariña “for failing to close the school before. Cedeno must be held accountable for what he did, but there is a lot of blame to go around for what happened.” Cedeno, who is now out of Rikers Island jail on bail, is under a one-year suspension from attending school, which was not lifted after a seven-hour hearing last week where the DOE did not call any eyewitnesses to the fight that led to his arrest. He is being given educational services from the DOE

to help him complete the credits he still needs to graduate. Cedeno’s mother, Luz Hernandez, told Gay City News, “My son is not the same kid. He is afraid walking the streets — afraid the kids from this gang will try to kill him. My son is the victim in all this. You don’t know what my son suffered all these years.” His sister, Vanessa Cruz, said that when family members went to the school over the years to deal with Cedeno’s absences and depression, “We were never told that he was being bullied.” Cedeno himself said that when he did complain, “they just gave me a little counseling and told me to ignore it.” No required reports were filed by school authorities. Skye Adrian of FIERCE! said that at one of Cedeno’s court appearances where he and other LGBTQ supporters of Cedeno rallied, some people supporting the McCree family “were shouting [anti-LGBTQ] slurs at us.” Cedeno said he was treated decently at Rikers where he was kept in protective custody, but at first “it was scary. I didn’t know how I was going to survive.” Now, he said, “I feel like I’m still in there. I can’t go outside and do normal things. What if someone is watching me?” Cedeno is required to comply with a curfew each night. The Cedeno and McCree families agree on one thing: the schools failed their children and have to change. Lynn was initially skeptical about the filing of a civil suit, thinking “one war at a time.” But as the criminal case progressed and he dealt with the suspension hearing as well, “it became clear that the schools have no clue how to implement” the regulations against bullying or the state anti-bullying law, he said. While the DOE has announced yet another anti-bullying initiative, transgender activist Sophie Cadle, one of Cedeno’s most stalwart allies, said, “We have to train staff in the schools and hold the administrators responsible.”

December 21, 2017 – January 3, 2018 |

MARRIAGE, from p.7

must publically state their intentions a month prior to their wedding, new marriages will begin at the stroke of midnight on January 9. However, based on hardships they faced, two lesbian couples were able to obtain waivers and married on December 16. Meanwhile, on December 14, the European Court of Human Rights, in what is only a partial victory for same-sex couples, ruled that Italy violated the rights of several same-sex couples who had married in other countries but were rebuffed by municipal authorities when they attempted to register their marriages in their home cities. The marriages in question took place in Toronto and Vancouver, Canada, Berkeley, California, and Amsterdam and The Hague in The Netherlands, as early as 2005 in some cases. At the time of these marriages, Italy had no institution providing a legal status for same-sex couples. Though some local authorities were willing to register them, they were overruled by the national government. Meanwhile, Italy was being sued by same-sex couples seeking a ruling from the European Court that they were entitled to marry. The court did not offer that remedy, but did notify the Italian government that its failure to provide any legal status for same-sex couples violated the couples’ right to respect for private life under Article 8 of the European Convention, a position the Court had previously taken in a case from Austria when it found that instituting registered partnerships providing most marital rights was

sufficient to meet a country’s obligations under the Convention. By 2014, Italy had complied with this requirement, establishing registered partnerships for same-sex couples. In its December 14 ruling, the European Court had to confront the changing situation in Europe since the earlier rulings. The Court’s jurisprudence has, over time, tracked social and legal developments in the countries party to the Convention and broadened the meaning of “respect for private life” as the number of countries recognizing new rights expands. It was in this way that the court concluded that countries should provide at least registered partnerships for same-sex couples. The ruling last week observed that a majority of the countries in the Council of Europe now provide some form of legal recognition for same-sex couples. A majority of the court concluded that even before Italy had adopted a partnership recognition law, it had an obligation to accept the registrations of couples who married abroad, at least as registered partners. The court, therefore, awarded monetary damages to those couples who had sought to register their marriages going back as far as a dozen years, even though it was not ready to require Italy to register them as marriages rather than partnerships. The European Court moving to require member countries to allow and recognize same-sex marriages equally must await further developments among the member countries. Even in taking only a half step, the December 14 ruling was not without controversy. Two judges

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of the court, from the Czech Republic and Poland, were unwilling to agree that Italy had violated the Convention at all, refusing to concede that member countries should be obligated to establish any sort of registered partnerships as a matter of Convention obligations. The Czech Republic does have a registered partner system for same-sex couples with a limited menu of rights established through national legislation, but Poland’s socially conservative government has not gotten that far and resists being dictated to by the European Court. December may also bring a backwards step in the Western Hemisphere, as Bermuda, a former British colony that is now selfgoverning but still a member of the Commonwealth, may become the first national government to rescind marriage equality. Last May, the country’s Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples are entitled to marry and the government in power at that time complied with the ruling rather than appealing it, so same-sex couples began to marry.

Elections held since, however, brought a more socially conservative majority to power. On December 8, the House of Assembly, the lower chamber, voted 24-10 to approve a Domestic Partnership Act, creating a separate category for same-sex domestic partners in lieu of marriage, except for those couples who have already married. The measure then passed the Senate on December 13 by a vote of 8-3. After passing both houses of the legislature, the measure, as in Australia, required royal assent from the queen’s governor-general, John Rankin, action widely considered to be a mere formality. But LGBTQ rights proponents argued it would be unseemly for royal assent to be given when the UK has marriage equality and royal assent in the other direction was given in Australia. Lobbying efforts in London were aimed at Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, urging him to instruct Rankin to withhold royal assent, a move that could cause a constitutional crisis in Bermuda. There matters stood as this is being written.



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SCOTUS Denies Review in Gay Rights Case Whether Title VII covers sexual orientation unlikely to be aired in 2017-18 term BY ARTHUR S. LEONARD


he US Supreme Court announced on December 11 that it will not review a decision by a three-judge panel of the Atlantabased 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled on March 10 that a lesbian formerly employed as a security guard at a Georgia hospital could not sue for sexual orientation discrimination under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. The full 11th Circuit denied a motion to reconsider the case on July 10, and Lambda Legal, representing plaintiff Jameka Evans, filed a petition with the Supreme Court seeking review on September 7. At the heart of Lambda’s petition was an urgent request to the Court to resolve a split among the lower federal courts and within the federal government itself on the question whether Title VII, which bans employment discrimination because of sex by employers that have at least 15 employees, can be interpreted to ban discrimination because of sexual orientation. The impact on Evans herself of the court’s refusal to take up her case may not be decisive since she remains free to pursue her discrimination case on a different legal theory, but for now at least the high court is standing back from deciding a key issue regarding LGBTQ rights. Nobody can deny that members of Congress voting in 1964 were not thinking about banning sexual orientation discrimination at that time, but their adoption of a general ban on sex discrimination in employment has been developed by the courts over more than half a century to encompass a wide range of discriminatory conduct reaching far beyond the simple proposition that employers cannot discriminate against an individual because she is a woman or he is a man. Early in the history of Title VII, the Supreme Court ruled that employers could not treat people dif-



Jameka K. Evans claims that her firing by the Georgia Regional Hospital was sexual orientation discrimination barred by Title VII’s sex discrimination prohibition.

ferently because of generalizations about men and women, and by the late 1970s had accepted the proposition that workplace harassment of women was a form of sex discrimination. In a key ruling in 1989, the high court held that discrimination against a woman because the employer considered her inadequately feminine in her appearance or behavior was a form of sex discrimination, under what is known as the sex stereotyping theory, and during the 1990s the Court ruled that a victim of workplace samesex harassment could sue under Title VII, overruling a lower court decision that a man could sue for harassment only if he was being harassed by a woman, not by other men. In that latter decision for a unanimous court, Justice Antonin Scalia opined that Title VII was not restricted to the “evils” identified by Congress in 1964, but could extend to “reasonably comparable evils” to effectuate the legislative purpose of achieving a non-discriminatory workplace. By the early years of this century, lower federal courts had begun to accept the argument that the sex stereotyping theory provided a

basis to overrule earlier decisions that transgender people were not protected from discrimination under Title VII. There is an emerging consensus among the lower federal courts, bolstered by rulings of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) as early as 2012, that gender identity discrimination is clearly discrimination because of sex, and the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals several years ago embraced that view in a case involving a transgender woman fired from a research position at the Georgia legislature. However, the idea that some variant of the sex stereotyping theory could also expand Title VII to protect lesbian, gay, or bisexual employees took longer to emerge. It was not until 2015 that the EEOC issued a decision concluding that sexual orientation discrimination is a form of sex discrimination, in part responding to the sex stereotyping decisions in the lower federal courts. And it was not until April 4 of this year that a federal appeals court, the Chicago-based Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, approved that theory in a strongly worded opinion by a decisive majority of the entire 11-judge circuit bench, just a few weeks after the

11th Circuit panel ruling in the Jameka Evans case. Writing for the Seventh Circuit, Judge Diane Wood said, “It would require considerable calisthenics to remove the ‘sex’ from ‘sexual orientation.’” The 11th Circuit panel’s 2-1 decision to reject Jameka Evans’ sexual orientation discrimination claim seemed a distinct setback in light of these developments. However, consistent with the 11th Circuit’s prior gender identity discrimination ruling, one of the judges in the majority and the dissenting judge agreed that Evans’ Title VII claim could be revived using the sex stereotyping theory based on how she dressed and behaved, and sent the case back to the lower court on that basis. The dissenting judge would have gone further and allowed Evans’ sexual orientation discrimination claim to proceed under Title VII. The other judge in the majority strained to distinguish this case from the circuit’s prior sex stereotyping ruling, and would have dismissed the case outright. The Seventh Circuit’s decision in April opened up a split among the circuit courts in light of a string of rulings by several different circuit courts over the past several decades rejecting sexual orientation discrimination claims by gay litigants, although several of those circuits have since embraced the sex stereotyping theory to allow gay litigants to bring sex discrimination claims under Title VII if they could plausibly allege they suffered discrimination because of gender nonconforming dress or conduct. Other courts took the position that as long as the plaintiff’s sexual orientation appeared to be the main reason why they suffered discrimination, they could not bring a Title VII claim. In recent years, several federal trial judges have approved an alternative argument: that same-sex attraction is itself a departure from widely-held stereotypes of what it means to be a man or a woman,

SCOTUS, continued on p.19

December 21, 2017 – January 3, 2018 |


The New Age: Sex After 50, 60 & 70 Third in a series on gay men experiencing their older years having them sent from Canada where they are much cheaper. There are numerous pharmacies that do that online. There are even sites that evaluate the quality of them — just google “rating Canadian pharmacies.”



lthough this article’s title focuses on sex after 50, the truth is many men start to think of aging earlier, in their 40s or younger, and by 50 realize it’s going to happen, although this period of middle age has recently come out as a remarkably sexual period itself. In other words, the old gay saw “Everything stops after 40” now seems like a really bad movie dinosaur without the leftover Six Flags thrill ride attached to it. When thinking about sexuality and aging, it’s important to bear several important things in mind: Sex is a physical activity — and like all physical activities, being in shape is important. If you are one of those men who, as I wrote earlier in this series, has “abdicated” your body, then a lot of your sexuality may have closed down. Exercise itself, especially aerobic exercise, can be a real turn-on — your body is rediscovering itself, and with that rediscovery comes sex. One of the problems about exercise and fitness is that too often they have become as alienating as so much of our consumerist culture. Going to a gym has become, for too many guys, an embarrassing, deflating experience. But don’t give up on exercise. You can exercise at home with great results, with or without an outside trainer. First, buy a decent exercise mat and also, if you have room, an inflatable balance ball. You won’t need a whole range of weights — in fact, you don’t need any weights over 25 pounds. There are tons of exercise videos on YouTube, and many of them are directed at men “Over 40.” The truth is, “Over 40” here means over 50 and 60, as well. Unfortunately, what most videos don’t stress is the importance of stretching before and after any kind of exercise. So watch some stretching videos, too. Give yourself an easy goal — one that does not defeat you. If you want to start doing push-ups, try to do



Longtime activist Perry Brass has written both fiction and nonfiction books about a wide range of gay topics.

three to five of them your first time, and don’t worry so much about your form. Then work up from there, and your form will improve, too. Don’t let anyone make you feel like you’re failing. Your only failure is to give up. Also, exercise, like diet, needs variety: you can get bored fast, so don’t be afraid of learning new routines or adding new activities to your repertoire. You can do yoga, Pilates, full body (basically variations on push-ups), aerobics, core or abs-centered, some martial arts, shadow boxing, weights. The important thing is to challenge your body, and keep it happy. Once it is in that “happy state,” you’ll find sex itself peeking around the corner. By all means, though, for the exercise — at least! — make sure you wear a good solid athletic supporter: Flarico makes excellent jocks with a three-inch or six-inch band, very good for older men who are especially prone to groin strains and hernias.

Grooming: Don’t be a “dirty old man.” It’s easy to become slack about grooming as you age, and also to feel self-conscious walking into Kiehl’s or any place that sells grooming aids. Often basic drugstore products work as well as the fancier, more expensive ones. Start to luxuriate in the pampering that good grooming gives you. And don’t forget your teeth and mouth — they are very important. Good dental and oral care should be a constant part of your grooming routine. Chemical assistance: If you are not using one of the drugs aimed at heightening erections and sexual response, such as Viagra, Levitra, Cialis, or the generics for them — and you are over 50 or 60 — then test them out. Ask your doctor either for a sample or a prescription for a few tablets. In the US, many insurance companies will now pay for these drugs, although Medicare, ever the government scold, will not. If you decide to use one regularly and it is not covered, investigate

External versus internal orgasms: A lot of men over 50 can no longer have an external orgasm. When they cum, no ejaculate comes out. This is called a “retro orgasm.” This may be due to certain drugs prescribed for prostate and bladder problems or to prostate cancer surgery. I have not been able to have an external orgasm for almost a decade. What happens is that your ejaculate shoots back into your bladder and you pee it out. What I’ve found is that the intensity of my orgasms is now higher than before: they are wild. So if you cannot have an external orgasm, don’t get dismayed and feel automatically rejected because of it. You may have to explain to your partner that you are experiencing orgasm and it’s wonderful, but there won’t be anything to clean up. Solo sex: Never give up on it. A lot of guys feel that they are “too old” to masturbate. This cuts them off even further from sexuality. In my book “The Manly Pursuit of Desire and Love,” I talked about jerk off clubs, like the New York Jacks, and how they often are very democratic, in that they have no age limits or other barriers to joining in. Non-orgasmic sex: If you are experiencing, for whatever reason, an inability to orgasm, realize that the goal of all sex is not orgasm: it is closeness and the pleasures of touching, kissing, holding, caressing, hugging, and fondling. In “The Manly Art of Seduction,” I wrote about erectile dysfunction and how to deal with it. ED is certainly not always a component of age — it can start at any age for a large number of reasons — but many men as they age feel that it is a painful source of shame to them. All of us need to

SEX AFTER 50, 60, 70, continued on p.13

December 21, 2017 – January 3, 2018 |


still out there and you can catch one. So practice safe sex, and if you are with multiple sex partners, have yourself tested for STDs often.

SEX AFTER 50, 60, 70 from p.12

change that attitude. Experimentation: Now is a great time to get into things you might not have even thought you would, like S&M, bondage play, leather, shaving and hair fetishes, and other sexual formats that are often not orgasm-directed, but deal in fantasies, role play, and other forms of sexual pleasure. Always remember: the brain is the sexiest part of your body, so start playing with it. Threesomes and group sex: As you get older, these can become a lot more interesting in that some of the immediate pressure of oneon-one sex — and the fear of that evil, flashing “Reject� button — is relieved. Going after these experiences — or inviting them — can be fun, and sometimes even turn into romantic and emotionally fulfilling situations. Safe sex: Now is not the time to ignore safe sex guidelines. Even if you can’t have an external orgasm or you have ED problems, STDs are

This is the third in a series of articles by Perry Brass on gay aging. Previous articles have dealt with attitudes toward aging among young people and older people, and also how gay men, through the effect of gay Baby Boomers, have changed some of their attitudes toward aging. Brass’ 19 books include the novels “The Substance of God,� “Carnal Sacraments,� and “King of Angels,� and the classic gay self-help book “How to Survive Your Own Gay Life,� as well as “The Manly Art of Seduction� and “The Manly Pursuit of Desire and Love.� You can learn more about these books at his new blog at or at A member of New York’s radical Gay Liberation Front, in 1972, with two friends, Brass co-founded the Gay Men’s Health Project Clinic, the first clinic specifically for gay men on the East Coast, still operating as the Callen-Lorde Community Health Center.





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Guilty Plea in 2012 Elderly Manhattan Man’s Murder Earlier psychological defense plan suggested “homosexual panic� might be an element BY DUNCAN OSBORNE


efore pleading guilty to the murder of an 87-year-old man in the man’s Murray Hill apartment, Miguel Abarentos was preparing to offer an extreme emotional disturbance defense in the 2012 homicide. “He was hyper-sensitive to certain slights,� Toni Messina, Abarentos’ attorney, said following the 30-year-old’s plea in Manhattan Supreme Court on December 19. In 2012, Abarentos was employed as a caregiver for Thawerdas Sadhwani, who was described in published reports as a jeweler. No stories have quoted or cited any family or friends for Sadhwani nor have any stories said that he was gay. On December 15 of that year, Abarentos killed the older man in a par-


ticularly brutal manner and stole $7,000 from Sadhwani’s home. Abarentos fled to the Philippines, where he was born and raised, but not before confessing to the killing on Facebook. He later told his brother that he had killed Sad-hwani. Police found Abarentos’ DNA in the apartment and video shows him arriving and later leaving the building around the time of Sadhwani’s death. Abarentos was arrested in the Philippines in 2016 and extradited to the US. He was charged with a single count of second-degree murder, which carries a maximum sentence of 25-years-to-life. He pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and will be sentenced to 20-years-to-life on January

An NYPD wanted poster for Miguel Abarentos, who this week pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in the death of Thawerdas Sadhwani, an 87-year-old Manhattan man.


MURDER PLEA, continued on p.15

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MURDER PLEA, from p.14

23. Earlier in the case, Messina fi led notice that she would argue her client suffered from an extreme emotional disturbance when he killed Sadhwani. Under that defense, a defendant argues that the disturbance was so severe that he could not form the legal intent to kill that is a required element for proving second-degree murder. If a jury agrees with the defense, a defendant facing a second-degree murder charge will be convicted of fi rst-degree manslaughter, which carries a maximum sentence of up to 25 years in prison. Messina told Gay City News that Abarentos suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) though she declined to say what caused that condition. That underlying condition was inflamed because Sadhwani was abusive at times, she said, and she seemed to imply that he was seductive at other times. â&#x20AC;&#x153;In one particular instance,

[Abarentos] was rubbing the guyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s knees and he didnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t like that,â&#x20AC;? Messina said. She declined to answer when Gay City News asked if she had been preparing a homosexual panic defense in the case. That defense, which argues that straight men fly into a homicidal rage when gay men hit on them, is less and less successful these days. Generally, juries do not respond well to psychiatric defenses, seeing them as little more than an effort to evade responsibility for a crime, but they can work. Abarentosâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; state of mind during the murder was â&#x20AC;&#x153;just like blowing the top off of a volcanoâ&#x20AC;? and that â&#x20AC;&#x153;just being with a man and being insulted by himâ&#x20AC;? contributed to that volatile condition, Messina said. Abarentos entered his guilty plea before Judge Ellen Biben, answering â&#x20AC;&#x153;Yesâ&#x20AC;? to her questions, but otherwise not making any comment. The case was prosecuted by Maxine Rosenthal, an assistant district attorney in the Manhattan district attorneyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s office. | December 21, 2017 â&#x20AC;&#x201C; January 3, 2018


St. Clementâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Episcopal Church

A Free Christmas Concert December 24th at 8pm at St. Clementâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Episcopal Church â&#x20AC;&#x201D; â&#x20AC;&#x153;The Theater Churchâ&#x20AC;? â&#x20AC;&#x201D; at 423 West 46th Street, New York, NY will be offered to New York City. The choir, comprised of Broadway notables, Julliard and Manhattan School of Music Students, some of the well-known singers of cabaret, and instrumentalists join under the baton of Mr. Mark Janas of Manhattan School and leadership of Mr. Darryl Curry, Minister of Music, to perform traditional and newly written music of the season.

All Are Welcome Lessons and Carols at 11:00am Sidewalk Caroling outside of the church from 7:00pm till 7:45pm 12/24/17 Free Choral Concert at 8:00pm Christmas Eve Service 8:45pm

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Words Matter





CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Seth J. Bookey, Anthony M.Brown, Kelly Jean Cogswell, Andres Duque, Michael Ehrhardt, Steve Erickson, Andy Humm, Eli Jacobson, David Kennerley, Gary M. Kramer, Arthur S. Leonard, Michael T. Luongo, Lawrence D. Mass, Winnie McCroy, Eileen McDermott, Mick Meenan, Tim Miller, Donna Minkowitz, Gregory Montreuil, Christopher Murray, David Noh, Sam Oglesby, Nathan Riley, David Shengold, Ed Sikov, Yoav Sivan, Gus Solomons Jr., Tim Teeman, Kathleen Warnock, Benjamin Weinthal, Dean P. Wrzeszcz




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he Washington Post on December 15 reported, “The Trump administration is prohibiting officials at the nation’s top public health agency from using a list of seven words or phrases — including ‘fetus’ and ‘transgender’ — in official documents being prepared for next year’s budget.” CDC policy analysts told the Post that in a 90-minute meeting the day before senior officials “responsible for the budget” advised experts — whose careers are about actually battling to protect the public’s health — that the following words or phrases should not be used in any budget documents: • • • • • • •

Transgender Fetus Diversity Vulnerable Entitlement Science-based Evidence-based

The following day, the Post reported that other agencies that, like the CDC, report to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) had recently received similar directives. One telling detail in the Post’s reporting was that CDC staff were advised that in lieu of using the phrases “science-based” and “evidence-based,” they might instead say, “CDC bases its recommendations on science in consideration with community standards and wishes,” a construction suggesting that facts must be mediated through a political strainer to remove unpopular, uncomfortable, or inconvenient truths. So for example, we might imagine scenarios where for people — and polluting industries — who don’t want to hear that climate change is caused by human activity, our government instead says that there are many studies, and they suggest a wide array of explanations for the increasingly volatile weather patterns. Or if people refuse to accept that sexual orientation is an immutable characteristic rather than a chosen lifestyle, the government talks about how complicated it is to come to any definitive conclusions about what “causes” people to act homosexually. Officials at HHS immediately pushed back against the conclusions many Post

readers rushed online to talk about, with its spokesperson, Matt Lloyd, telling the newspaper that the department “will continue to use the best scientific evidence available to improve the health of all Americans. HHS also strongly encourages the use of outcome and evidence data in program evaluations and budget decisions.” For a December 16 story, Lloyd told the New York Times, “The assertion that HHS has ‘banned words’ is a complete mischaracterization of discussions regarding the budget formulation process.” Other, unnamed officials told the Times that the directive to the CDC policy analysts was, in the newspaper’s formulation, “not so much a ban on words but recommendations to avoid some language to ease the path toward budget approval by Republicans.” Still, nobody, at HHS or elsewhere, denied the substance of the Post’s reporting, and the Times’ sources confirmed the essentials of the initial Post story. Science Magazine, in fact, documented how resistance to the seven words had already taken hold in the first Trump budget request laid out early this year. The word “transgender” appeared 10 times in the CDC’s final budget request under President Barack Obama, but only once in the first Trump proposal. “Evidence-based” declined from 125 instances under Obama to 38 under Trump. “Diversity” declined from 10 instances to two, while “vulnerable” fell from 24 to nine. LGBTQ, pro-choice, and other social justice advocates are right to be alarmed. In a press teleconference on December 19, Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE), said the argument that the discussion about the seven words was only a political expediency focused on the budgeting process ignores the inescapable link between what gets funded in the budget and what policy and scientific issues researchers and other experts spend their time on. “There’s no reason to think that the ban is limited to the budget, other than that’s all that was brought up at the meeting,” Keisling said. “Even if it is just limited to the budget, that is catastrophic for public health, catastrophic for trans people… It would be a weird

world, indeed, where people were not allowed to talk about things in the budget process but were then allowed to do studies and do good public health about those topics.” Noting that across the board, transgender Americans have worse access to quality care, including primary care physicians, and experience worse health outcomes, including higher rates of HIV infection and lower rates of connection to care, Keisling said, “If public health does not look at transgender people, it is putting trans people and all people at risk… Layering political decisions over public health is not a good public health system and it will cause death.” The administration’s obfuscation about what it is and isn’t doing regarding the seven words at issue and any other words or lines of scientific inquiry, she added, imperils another pillar of good public health policy — public trust. “It is horrifying that this administration would add incredibility onto the system, holding a meeting with scientists and then denying it… People have reason to believe they are not hearing the truth from the CDC, and that will cause death.” On the same call, Gretchen Goldman, the research director for the Center for Science and Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists, explaining she has studied “scientific integrity” for years, said, “I can tell you the CDC is a scientific institution.” Warnings about how the use of bureaucratically forbidden words will affect their funding, however, compromises integrity. “Scientists shouldn’t be scared that their work won’t be funded because political appointees don’t like science,” she said. Shannon Minter, the legal director at the National Center for Lesbian Rights, warned that the CDC directive risked “effectively eras[ing] transgender individuals” in health policymaking and ominously pointed to the staggering consequences of AIDS’ invisibility during the Reagan administration. Erica Sackin, Planned Parenthood’s director of political communication, noted that it would be impossible for the nation to have effectively responded to the Zika virus outbreak without using the word fetus. Since Trump took office, the LGBTQ community has been fighting efforts to make our community less visible in the government arena. Though the Census Bureau’s original plan to drop any questions related to sexual orientation

WORDS MATTER, continued on p.17

December 21, 2017 – January 3, 2018 |


Censored Communication BY ED SIKOV


rom the Washington Post: “Policy analysts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta were told of the list of forbidden terms at a meeting Thursday with senior CDC officials who oversee the budget, according to an analyst who took part in the 90-minute briefing. The forbidden terms are ‘vulnerable,’ ‘entitlement,’ ‘diversity,’ ‘transgender,’ ‘fetus,’ ‘evidence-based,’ and ‘science-based.’ In some instances, the analysts were given alternative phrases. Instead of ‘science-based’ or ‘evidence-based,’ the suggested phrase is ‘CDC bases its recommendations on science in consideration with community standards and wishes,’ the person said. In other cases, no replacement words were immediately offered.” As a number of commentators have noted, George Orwell couldn’t have done a better job of illustrating the effects of fascism on language. The inanity of censoring these particular words speaks volumes, not only about Rumpism’s blithe disregard of facts but also the cowardice of the Rumpublican Congress, which has to approve the CDC’s budget requests, although it’s important to note that it appears to be CDC brass, worried about the agency’s funding, who came up with the idiotic list of no-nos. “Community standards and wishes?” Oh, please. Why not just come out and say it — “the straight, white, bigoted religious community’s standards and wishes?” What, other than “fetus,” should a fetus be called? “A pre-born person,” I suppose. If that’s the case, they should pay taxes, like everyone else. (Or al-

WORDS MATTER, from p.16

in 2020 was beat back, SAGE has been in an extended battle to keep questions about sexual orientation and gender identity in several major surveys conducted annually of the nation’s elder population. As SAGE and NCTE and any other health, housing, or social service advocacy group knows well, if a community cannot document its existence, it cannot demonstrate its needs, and as a result money to address those

most everyone else; the GOP’s new tax scam will provide a windfall to Rump and his billionaire cronies.) The goal of avoiding the word diversity is obvious enough. So is the point of eliminating transgender from the acceptable vocabulary. But what should the alternative be? “Pretend-men” and “pretend-women?” Or maybe just “those crazy people.” The wonderful Jennifer Finney Boylan, a New York Times opinion writer who is transgender, had this to say: “In case you were keeping score at home: In Donald Trump’s America, you’re allowed to refuse to make me a cake, because pastry is free speech. But if you’re a researcher studying medicine at the leading national public health institute of the United States, you can’t say ‘science-based’ in a budget request. Because science, apparently, is a less protected form of communication than buttercream frosting.” Boylan explains, “This is part of Donald J. Trump’s governing philosophy, something I call the ‘Peeka-boo Baby Doctrine,’ the belief that if you cover your eyes, the things you do not like suddenly disappear. Back in March, for instance, the Trump administration refused to include information on gay and lesbian people as part of the proposed 2020 Census. Because if you don’t count us, we must not be real. We saw it the day of Mr. Trump’s inauguration, when information on climate change was purged from the White House web site. Because if we do not study climate change, clearly it isn’t happening. We saw it when this administration removed any reference to the civil rights movement from that same site. Because if you can’t study the country’s long history of slavery

and racism, there must never have been any racial injustice. We saw it on Holocaust Remembrance Day, when somehow the White House’s statement failed to make any mention of Jewish people. Because if there aren’t any Jews, there must not be any anti-Semitism.” Boylan clearly has a personal stake in this infantile “if you don’t say it, it doesn’t exist” — hmm, what to call it? Worldview? Shitty-diaper fantasy? “Finally,” she writes, “there’s the ban on transgender people serving in the military. Even though trans people — including the former deputy assistant secretary of defense, Amanda Simpson — have been serving valorously for years, apparently if we erase them from the armed forces, we will stop having to think about them. (A federal judge, meanwhile, has kept the ban from going into place, calling it ‘capricious, arbitrary, and unqualified.’) But trans people are just as real as climate change, or science or fetuses. Or diversity. Or science-based research.” Boylan concludes, “Transgender people are a part of this country, and will continue to be part of this country whether or not Republicans admit that our lives are real. I’ve always thought that the many attempts to deny trans folks the dignity of using the proper public facilities had nothing to do with bathrooms and everything to do with the simple fact that conservatives just don’t like the fact that there are transgender people in the first place. Making the mere mention of us in the CDC budget process an impossibility is just one more attempt at creating a world in which our lives can be effaced.”

to Prepare for a Nuclear Attack.” The Post’s Philip Bump writes, “Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) told the Atlantic magazine in an interview this week that he thinks there may be as much as a 70 percent chance of the United States launching a preemptive military strike against [North Korea] should it conduct another test of a nuclear weapon — ramping up the likelihood that North Korea would retaliate significantly.” So what should we do to prepare for “Hiroshima 2: The East Strikes Back?” Bump quotes Suzet McKinney, who ought to know what she’s talking about, being a professor of public health at the University of Illinois at Chicago and former deputy commissioner of the Bureau of Public Health Preparedness and Emergency Response at the Chicago Department of Public Health. “I would honestly say the duckand-cover response from the Cold War era is really the best protection that we as individual citizens would have after a nuclear bomb or improvised nuclear device was detonated,” McKinney says, apparently with a straight face. “That really is a method of personal protection against the effects of a nuclear explosion. Quite honestly, it’s inexpensive, and it’s something that’s very easy for every single member of a family or every single member of a community to understand.” Uh, sure. So listen up, people! In the event of a nuclear war, proceed immediately to the nearest desk or table, stuff yourself under it, protect your head by covering it with your hands and putting it between your knees, and kiss your ass goodbye.

In other news: The Washington Post actually ran a piece called “How

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needs will never materialize. NCLR’s Minter put his finger on a more fundamental concern raised by the controversy over banned words. “We have been given a very clear warning,” he said. “What happened was really extraordinary. It is right out of the textbook in terms of authoritarianism.” Strongmen leaders in the modern age have learned how control of information and language are key to maintaining power, and Donald Trump’s extraordinarily inflam-

matory showmanship has allowed him to finesse difficult hurdles he’s faced with simplistic nostrums. He daily does damage to the credibility of hard-working news organizations with his habitual wielding of “fake news” charges, confusing public discourse to the point where a weary public shrugs its shoulders and concludes there is no discernible truth to be found. The effort to disqualify facts and scientific evidence and to erase certain communities and constituencies

poses a danger to the foundations of democracy itself. Transgender people are obviously at risk, as is women’s health. Communities of color are clearly the political targets in the elimination of the words “diversity” and “vulnerability.” But if politicians dictate what words scientists and other researchers can use and what questions they can pursue, there is potentially no limit to how those in power can harness the expertise of those on the ground whose purse strings they control. | December 21, 2017 – January 3, 2018


PERSPECTIVE: Health Care Is a Right

Time to Enroll in an Affordable Care Act Health Plan BY LIZ KRUEGER


t would be an understatement to say that the 2018 Affordable Care Act open enrollment period began under a dark cloud of uncertainty. With the Trump administration regularly declaring that the ACA marketplace is imploding, gutting enrollment funding, and slashing cost-sharing subsidies, it is understandable that Americans have reservations about purchasing health insurance. Yet one month into open enrollment, numbers so far are higher than expected across the country. Americans are voting with their wallets and the message is clear — coverage under ACA is a good investment. I would urge any New Yorker who is eligible to sign up before this open enrollment ends on January 31. (To start coverage by January 1, the deadline was December 15, and the January 31 deadline is New York State’s extension of the federal ACA deadline.) High enrollment rates are no surprise when you remember what dealing with health insurance was like before the ACA. People with pre-existing conditions were excluded or priced out of access; people with cancer and other severe health problems went bankrupt due to caps on benefits or gaps in coverage; there was no guarantee that in-

WARNOCK, from p.4

when Jones did win, the pundits would all have to backtrack and Yankeesplain how it happened. (I was given kudos for my coining of the term “Yankeesplain.”) Some commenters on indicated that they didn’t just despise Moore, but they liked what Jones had to say, his platform, the things he wanted to bring to Alabama. Around me, I saw friends lamenting that Moore would surely win, with some wishing they could do more. (And so I added them to the group.) In the days just before the election, I pronounced publi-


surance plans would cover essential care (such as mental health and pregnancy); uninsured rates were shamefully high due to prohibitive premiums. The ACA has given us the luxury — what I would call a basic human right — of having increased peace of mind that our regular and unexpected healthcare needs will be taken care of without losing our homes or ending up on the street. For any New Yorkers who are currently deciding between purchasing an ACA plan, taking a chance on a short-term private plan, or rolling the dice by being uninsured in 2018, there are several strong arguments for choosing an ACA plan. First, despite the current administration’s false claims, the ACA marketplace has demonstrated sustainability. In New York, we have a robust number of insurance plans to accommodate people at different income levels and with diverse healthcare needs. Although there have been increases, premiums remain lower than what New Yorkers paid prior to the ACA. Certainly the ACA marketplace needs to be strengthened and improved, and bipartisan legislation has been drafted in the US Senate to do just that. Second, ACA policy holders benefit from several legal protections. ACA policies must cover 10 essential healthcare needs.

Applicants may not be denied coverage due to a pre-existing condition. Those who qualify receive cost-sharing subsidies to reduce the cost of premiums. Health insurance providers may not charge higher rates to policy holders based on their age or a pre-existing condition. Short-term private health insurance plans may appear at fi rst to be an attractive alternative to ACA policies due to their lower premiums, but you get what you pay for — limited benefits with high deductibles. For example, consider a 27-year-old male who is between jobs and opts for a short-term policy. One month later, he’s hit by a car while crossing the street and needs emergency care as well as physical therapy for a full recovery. His plan does not cover physical therapy, so he must choose between going without or paying out-of-pocket. You may also be tempted to go without health insurance, believing you can do without or that you simply cannot afford coverage. But that is a gamble. Perhaps you will remain healthy while uninsured. Perhaps you will break a leg or experience cardiac arrest and have to get emergency medical care. Uninsured people tend to rely on the emergency room for their primary and emergency medical needs, straining state and federal budgets and reducing available funding for other needed programs.

Not only does this redirect funding from critical programs, but it also negatively impacts health outcomes. Uninsured people are less likely to seek the preventive care necessary to maintain good health and may need to wait to go to the emergency room until their medical condition has escalated. Finally, if you fear an ACA policy will be too expensive, I highly recommend making an appointment at a Navigator Site to receive health insurance counseling (call 888-614-5400 to make an appointment or visit Or do some comparative shopping on your own. Either way, make sure to review the costs of all levels of coverage to evaluate which one will be the best match fi nancially. In the 21st century, healthcare should be a human right, and I have long supported legislation to create a single-payer system to deliver that right to everyone. In the meantime, the Affordable Care Act lifted a burden of fear and made health insurance available to millions of Americans for the fi rst time in their lives. If you are uninsured, give yourself and your family a gift this holiday season by signing up for coverage under the ACA.

cally that I thought it would be a Democratic win. When some people scoffed, I made a bet with a good friend of mine. We will gladly toast the winner when she treats me to dinner. On Election Day, I woke feeling confident. A friend of mine posted that she needed something to do… I hooked her up with a phone bank, and she spent the day calling people. When I got home, I found a Doug Jones button in the mail, sent to me by one of my new Alabama friends. I spent the evening refreshing the browser and in our group we alternately freaked out, cheered, supported each other, and burst into happy

dances, memes, and then pandemonium when the race was fi nally called. There are some damn fi ne people in Alabama. And they changed things. The next day I proudly wore my “Doug Jones for Senate” button, and our group was fi lled with more celebration, but also discussion of what happens next. People posted links to other groups, making lists of other seats that could be fl ipped, women running for office, plans to hold Jones to his promises. One member suggested that everyone make a donation to a group that helped Jones win, and

I made a contribution to Equality Alabama, “in memory of Roy Moore’s Senate campaign.” Because revenge is a dish best eaten cold. I’m already in a group that’s working to fl ip another Southern state I used to live in. I’ve added some of my high school classmates and expats, and I am checking out the races. Primaries start next month there. My state of worry and despair — based on real world happenings — has eased. I guess you could say activism is self-care. And winning is a cure for hopelessness. Roll Blue Tide.

State Senator Liz Krueger represents District 28 on Manhattan’s East Side.

December 21, 2017 – January 3, 2018 |

SCOTUS, from p.10

and thus that discrimination motivated by the victim’s same-sex attraction is necessarily a form of sex discrimination under Title VII. Within the New York-based Second Circuit, several trial judges have recently embraced this view, but three-judge circuit panels consistently rejected it. Some progress was made this past spring, however, when a threejudge panel in Christiansen v. Omnicom Group overruled a trial judge to find that a plaintiff whose sexual orientation was clearly a motivation for his discharge could bring a sex stereotyping Title VII claim when he could plausibly allege behavioral nonconformity apart from his same-sex attraction. More recently, the Second Circuit agreed to grant en banc reconsideration by the full circuit bench on the underlying question and heard oral argument in September in Zarda v. Altitude Express about whether sexual orientation discrimination, as such, is outlawed by Title VII. Zarda involves a gay male plaintiff whose attempt to rely alternatively on a sex stereotyping claim had been rejected by the trial judge in line with Second Circuit precedent. Plaintiff Donald Zarda died while the case was pending, but it is being carried on by his estate. Observers at the oral argument thought that a majority of the judges of the full circuit bench were likely to follow the lead of the Seventh Circuit and expand


procedural due process, and freedom of speech. Judge Pechman found that three out of these four theories were sufficiently supported by the complaint to deny the Justice Department’s motion to dismiss the case, although she granted the motion regarding the procedural due process claim. As had two district judges before her — including, as well, on November 21, Judge Marvin J. Garbis of the Maryland District Court — Pechman cut and pasted screen captures of the president’s July 26 tweet announcing the policy into her opinion, and used particularly cutting language to reject DOJ’s ar-

the coverage of Title VII in this circuit, which covers Connecticut and Vermont as well as New York. Argument was held more than two months ago, so a decision could be imminent. Much of the media comment about the Zarda case, as well as the questioning by the judges, focused on the spectacle of the federal government opposing itself in court. The EEOC filed an amicus brief in support of the Zarda Estate and sent an attorney to argue in favor of Title VII coverage. The Justice Department filed a brief in support of the employer and sent an attorney to argue that the three-judge panel had correctly rejected the plaintiff’s Title VII claim. The politics of the situation was obvious: The Trump appointees now running the Justice Department had changed DOJ’s position (over the reported protest of career professionals there), while the holdover Obama majority at the EEOC was standing firm by the decision that agency made in 2015. As Trump’s appointment of new commissioners changes the EEOC’s political complexion, this internal split is likely to be resolved against Title VII protection for LGBTQ people. This is clearly a hot controversy on a question with national import, so why did the Supreme Court refuse to hear the case? The court does not customarily announce its reasons for denying review — and did not do so this time. None of the justices dissented from the denial of review, either. A refusal to review a case is not

a decision on the merits and does not mean the court approves the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision. It is merely a determination by the court, which exercises tight control over its docket, not to review the case. Hypothesizing a rationale, it’s worth noting that plaintiff Evans has not suffered a final dismissal of her case, having been allowed by the 11th Circuit to file an amended complaint focusing on sex stereotyping instead of sexual orientation discrimination, so she can still have her day in court. In the context of her claim, then, there is no pressing need for the court to resolve the circuit split. It may also be significant that Georgia Regional Hospital, whom Evans is suing, did not even appear before the 11th Circuit to argue its side of the case and initially did not file papers opposing Lambda Legal’s petition. The Supreme Court Clerk’s Office distributed the Lambda petition and some amicus briefs supporting it to the justices in anticipation of a conference they were to hold on October 27. The hospital’s lack of a response evidently sparked concern from some of the justices, who directed the clerk to ask it to file a response, which was filed by Georgia’s attorney general on behalf of the public hospital on November 9. The case was then put on the agenda for the court’s December 8 conference, at which the decision was made to deny review. The state’s filing argued, among other things, that the hospital had not been properly

served with the complaint that initiated the lawsuit. Those kinds of procedural issues sometimes deter the court from taking up a case. Whatever its reasoning, the court has put off deciding this issue, most likely for the remainder of the current term. The last argument day on the Court’s calendar is April 25, and the last day for announcing decisions is June 25. Even if the Second Circuit promptly issues a decision in the Zarda case, the losing party would have a few months to file a petition for Supreme Court review, followed by a month for the winner to file its response. Even if the court then grants review in that case, the filing of briefs on the merits and amicus briefs would likely force the case too late into the current term to be argued in front of the court before next year’s term that begins in October 2018. Unfortunately, that raises the question of who will be on the court at the time this issue makes it there. Rumors of retirements are rife, and they center on the oldest justices, pro-LGBTQ Ruth Bader Ginsburg as well as conservative but generally pro-gay Anthony Kennedy, who wrote the majority opinions in the four major gay rights wins the high court has decided since 1996. If President Donald Trump gets to nominate successors to either of them, the court’s receptivity to gay rights arguments is likely to be adversely affected as the example of Justice Neil Gorsuch has already made abundantly clear.

gument that the president’s policy decision was entitled to the kind of judicial deference usually accorded to military policy decisions. Addressing the DOJ’s reliance on a 1981 Supreme Court ruling on whether the military can limit draft registration to men only, Pechman noted that its ruling there relied on “extensive review of legislative testimony, floor debates, and committee reports,” and held “that Congress was entitled to deference when, in ‘exercising the congressional authority to raise and support armies and make rules for their governance,’ it does not act ‘unthinkingly’ or ‘reflexively and not for any considered reason.’” In contrast, the judge found,

“the prohibition on military service by transgender individuals was announced by President Trump on Twitter, abruptly and without any evidence of considered reason or deliberation.” The deference accorded to the military’s draft registration policy, therefore, does not apply to the president’s policy. Pechman found that the plaintiffs satisfied all the requirements for winning a preliminary injunction against the Trump transgender ban, and she barred the government “from taking any action relative to transgender individuals that is inconsistent with the status quo that existed prior to President Trump’s July 26, 2017 announcement.” Pechman’s injunction, then,

joins those by Kollar-Kotelly and Garbis. All three preliminary injunctions block the discharge of transgender service members while the case is pending and require the Pentagon to allow transgender people to begin enlisting on January 1. The injunctions by Garbis and Pechman also block the administration from refusing to fund transition-related health care, including surgery. In the face of this united front from the three judges, it seems likely that Judge Bernal in California will eventually issue a similar order. Attention now turns to the courts of appeals that oversee these four district judges, where the DOJ is likely to continue filing appeals. | December 21, 2017 – January 3, 2018



A Memorable Year for Queer Cinema After 2016’s “Moonlight” captured Best Film Oscar, diverse and popular offerings follow in wake


Timothée Chalamet in Luca Guadagnino’s “Call Me By Your Name,” adapted from André Aciman’s novel.

BY GARY M. KRAMER ueer actors this year had highs, with LebaneseAmerican actor Haaz Sleiman coming out as “a total bottom” in a Facebook video he posted in August, and lows, especially Kevin Spacey coming out as gay when he apologized to Anthony Rapp, who said Spacey sexually abused him years ago when Rapp was 14. Queer film had highs and lows, too. 2017 was the year “Moonlight,” a film about African-American gay sexuality, won the Oscar for Best Picture. Never mind the envelope snafu at the ceremony that led to “La La Land” being erroneously awarded at first. Onscreen, LGBTQ cinema had more to celebrate than regret. Here is a rundown of highlights — and some lowlights — from this year’s queer film offerings


Best Gay Male Film “Call Me By Your Name,” out filmmaker Luca Guadagnino’s lush adaptation of André Aciman’s novel, was an ecstatic cinematic experience. The relationship between a 17-year-old (Timothée Chalamet) and a 24-year-old intern (Armie Hammer) was heartfelt and heartbreaking. Runner-up: “The Wound” was gay director John Trengove’s astonishing film set among the Xhosa culture in South Africa’s Eastern Cape featuring a love triangle that develops during a male initiation ritual. Out singer Nakhane Touré makes an



James Baldwin in Raoul Peck’s documentary “I Am Not Your Negro.”


Charlize Theron and Sofia Boutella in David Leitch’s “Atomic Blonde.”

unforgettable screen debut. Best Lesbian Films “Battle of the Sexes” and “Atomic Blonde” tie for being the most entertaining among films featuring lesbian characters. In “Battle,” Billie Jean King (Emma Stone) embraces her self-worth as she falls for Marilyn Barnett (Andrea Riseborough) off the court while also defeating male chauvinist Bobby Riggs (Steve Carell) on the court. In the guilty pleasure “Atomic Blonde,” the title character (Charlize Theron) stopped kicking ass long enough to bed Delphine Lasalle (Sofia Boutella), a possible femme fatale. Runner-up: “Below Her Mouth” was softheaded, soft-core lesbian erotica, but it was SAF, and Erika Linder made an indelible impression. Best Documentary “I Am Not Your Negro,” Raoul Peck’s incisive non-fiction film uses James Baldwin’s writing and interviews about race to put white privilege in its proper place. Runner-up: “No Dress Code Required” eloquently depicts the fight a Mexican couple waged to get married. As these unlikely activists struggle to demand the equality they deserve, it is impossible not to cry happy tears at their wedding. Most Erotic Coupling: Ooh la la! The opening 20 minutes of “Paris 5:59: Théo and Hugo,” set in a sex club, features explicit sexual activity — and that was just the setup for what becomes a lovely gay romance between the title characters.

Most Seductive Male In “God’s Own Country,” Gheorghe (Alec Secareanu), a Romanian laborer who helps out at Johnny’s (Josh O’Connor) family farm in England’s Yorkshire, the immigrant seduces just by licking Johnny’s injured palm and looking up at him with bedroom eyes. Runner-up: In “4 Days in France,” Mathieu Chevé has only a brief scene in what is a long road movie, but his tryst with the protagonist is very diverting. Best Male Nudity In “The Ornithologist,” Jesus (Xelo Cagiao) and Fernando (Paul Hamy) go skinny-dipping and have sex, and it’s a toss-up as to which man is hotter. You just want to take off your clothes, jump through the screen, and join them… that is, until things take a violent turn. Best Gay Teens on Screen Out writer/ director John Butler’s charming “Handsome Devil” had two mismatched gay roommates not fall in love with each other. The film was even more fabulous because of that. Best Latin American Film “Nobody’s Watching” is Julia Solomonoff’s achingly sad and human drama about a gay Argentine actor adrift in New York. Guillermo Pfening, in a captivating performance, communicated the pain and despair of a heartbroken immigrant in America. Runner-up: In “Hazlo Como Hom-


Alec Secareanu and Josh O’Connor in Francis Lee’s “God’s Own Country.”

bre,” about a gay man who comes out to his best friends, the homophobe in the mix gets his comeuppance as he learns lessons of tolerance and acceptance in broad comic scenes. But, it’s the skewering of Mexican machismo is what makes this south of the border box office success so amusing. Best Biopic Who would have thought a film about the teen years of cannibalistic serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer would walk such a fine line between satire and horror, but “My Friend Dahmer” is fantastic in how it does. And it succeeds because it manages to avoid the well-nigh impossible temptation to be judgmental. As Dahmer, Disney star Ross Lynch is mesmerizing. Runner-up: “Tom of Finland,” Dome Karukoski’s classy, enthralling biopic about the post-war gay pornographic illustrator, is more conventional that than one might expect given its subject, but this approach works in the film’s favor. Viewers get to know and understand the man behind the homoerotic images. Best Film Directed by a Lesbian “Mudbound,” Dee Rees’ powerful, moving drama about two families — one African American, one white — in 1940s Mississippi, is a stirring lesson about race and family. Runner-up: “Professor Marston and the Wonder Women,” Angela Robinson’s origin story about the man who created the famed comic

YEAR IN QUEER FILM, continued on p.30

December 21, 2017 – January 3, 2018 |


The Year in Film: 2017 The best, the worst, and the most undeservedly unseen


Two teenage inmates in an Iranian prison.

BY STEVE ERICKSON t is common to read Baby Boomer critics writing about how their entire generation of college students went to see Bergman, Buñuel, and Godard films in the ‘60s and then spent two hours debating them over a cappuccino. I find that my experiences as a college student in the early ‘90s going to Chinatown to see John Woo and Wong Kar-wai films before they played north of Houston Street never get discussed, even if they may be shared: Hong Kong cinema would go on to have a major influence on Hollywood films like “The Matrix” and “John Wick.” Ang Lee’s “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” and Zhang Yimou’s “Hero” earned grosses in the early 2000s now unthinkable in the US for subtitled films. But I find it telling that an Indian film, “Baahubali 2: The Conclusion,” grossed $20 million in North America and made it to number three on the American box office chart in 2017 without ever reaching an audience beyond the South Asian diaspora. In fact, only one critic I know has seen it. The AMC Empire 25, a Times Square multiplex, devotes about five of its screens to mainstream Indian and East Asian films, but it has no interest in promoting these movies to non-Asian audiences. When I went to see the Indian film “Rangoon” there last winter, its presentation was far from inviting: the lights were left on through the ads, trailers, and the feature’s first five minutes, at which point spectators got


Garance Marillier and Rabah Nait Oufella in Julia Ducournau’s “Raw.”

up to complain to management. Still, such movies are reaching American audiences, while Asian arthouse films like “Harmonium” and “The Woman Who Left,” which I enthusiastically reviewed earlier this year, played for a week at the Film Society of Lincoln Center and closed. All too often, talk about diversity in American film culture is measured by Oscar nominations for mainstream cinema (a concept, that as critic Richard Brody has pointed out, builds exclusion for women, minorities, and leftist politics right into it). It should be a scandal that only three films from Africa — at a time when Nigeria has the world’s third largest movie industry! — and two from Iran were theatrically distributed in New York this year. This dismal situation motivated me enough that I got involved with curating a retrospective on Iranian director Mehrdad Oskouei, which will play next February at Anthology Film Archives. Yet once again, only two Iranian-made films, the late Abbas Kiarostami’s “24 Frames” and Sada Foroughi’s “Ava,” have US theatrical distribution lined up at this point for 2018 release. My Top 10 List: 1. “Get Out” (Jordan Peele) Everything I responded to in the film — the way it expresses truths about American racism and the methods by which hatred can barely cloak itself at the best of times, while being an extremely entertaining and witty horror movie with zero | December 21, 2017 – January 3, 2018


Daniel Kaluuya in Jordan Peele’s “Get Out.”

preachiness — seemed to be the exact same reasons it clicked with a wide audience scared by the first months of the Trump regime and wound up grossing almost $180 million. “Night of the Living Dead” director George Romero passed away this year, but “Get Out” carries on his flair for politicized genre movies. 2. “Nocturama” (Bertrand Bonello) “Nocturama” has the audacity to create the modern equivalent of the Weather Underground or Red Army Faction, treat them sympathetically, and make state power look more dangerous and immoral. If its characters were acting in the name of Islam instead of an unstated but obvious leftism (they blow up the offices of the real-life and quite corrupt HSBC Bank), the film probably couldn’t have been made in the West. But Bonello’s exhilarating but nerve-frazzling second half, where they hole up in a shopping mall, blast Shirley Bassey, Chief Keef, and Blondie through expensive stereo systems, dress in high-end fashions, allow a homeless couple to share their food and wine, and wait for an inevitable comeuppance, suggests its real agenda: showing how impossible it is to escape capitalism’s seductions right now, even if you’re willing to set statues and offices on fire to try and break free of them. 3. “Wormwood” (Errol Morris) Is “Wormwood” a documentary or fiction? Is it a film (it’s currently both playing the Metrograph and

Bertrand Bonello’s “Nocturama,” though critical of capitalism’s corruption, has a curious relationship to consumerism.

streaming as a mini-series on Netflix)? Considering that it tells the truth about American history via fascinating interviews, dizzying split screens, and a great performance from Peter Sarsgaard, none of that really matters much. In spirit, it’s closest to David Fincher’s “Zodiac,” raising hard questions about the impossible necessity of asking questions about murder and how to depict it. The stakes are higher here because that violence was committed by the CIA, not a crafty serial killer. This is Errol Morris’ best work in any medium since 1997’s “Fast, Cheap & Out of Control.” 4. “Personal Shopper” (Olivier Assayas) Assayas’ second pairing with out bisexual actress Kristen Stewart ties together technology and the paranormal, suggesting that the former is moving us toward irrationality and this may not be such a bad response to grief. It’s no insult to David Lowery’s extremely accomplished “A Ghost Story” to say that I prefer the ambiguity of “Personal Shopper” to Lowery’s far blunter film. Stewart’s attempt to figure out whether her smartphone stalker is human or supernatural revisits Assayas’ first grapplings with the Internet in “demonlover” without the hysteria. 5. “Starless Dreams” (Mehrdad Oskouei) The debut feature-length documentary by a long-ignored Iranian

2017 FILM, continued on p.32



Mark of Distinction Rylance shines as a crazed king soothed by the healing powers of music BY DAVID KENNERLEY stunning dual highlight of the 2013 theater season was “Richard III” and “Twelfth Night” in repertory, imported from London’s Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre and starring the wily virtuoso Mark Rylance. Aside from the spot-on performances, what made those works so exquisite was the obsessive attention to historical detail, with sumptuous period-perfect costumes, bearded musicians playing Baroque instruments, and a stage lit almost exclusively by candlelight. Select theatergoers even got to sit in a gallery onstage, much like they did in the Globe Theatre back in the day. If you wish to recapture the magic, hie thee over to the Belasco Theatre where Claire van Kampen’s new play “Farinelli and the King” has taken residence for a strictly limited engagement. Director John Dove has repeated those authentic touches to enhance van Kampen’s atmospheric drama (the playwright, by the way, happens to be Rylance’s wife). But there’s an added treat. In this retelling of Philippe V, the notorious maniacal king of Spain, and the efforts to cure his manic-depression with the aid of famous castrato Carlo “Farinelli” Broschi, the play features haunting Handel arias sung in Italian by countertenor Iestyn Davies (the vocals are so taxing that James Hall covers select performances). It should be noted that Sam Crane, the actor who plays Farinelli, does not




Shakespeare’s Globe Belasco Theatre 111 W. 44th St. Through Mar. 25 Tue. at 7 p.m.; Wed.-Sat. at 8 p.m. Wed., Sat. at 2 p.m.; Sun. at 3 p.m. $32-$169; Or 212-239-6200 Two hrs., 10 mins., with intermission

Sam Crane and Mark Rylance in Claire van Kampen’s “Farinelli and the King,” directed by John Dove , at the Belasco Theatre through March 25.

sing; Davies stands beside him, “Avenue Q” style. The triumph of “Farinelli and the King” is showcasing the distinct pleasures of these magnificent vocalizations, transporting theatergoers back in time. As mesmerizing as it is magical, it’s easy to see how Farinelli drove adoring crowds wild — the way, say, Tom Jones did in the 1960s or Harry Styles does today. The shaky plot, as it happens, would seem contrived if it weren’t true. Set mainly in the Madrid palace circa 1737, Philippe’s behavior has become so erratic — staying awake through the night, fishing out of goldfish bowls, talking to clocks — that he no longer can govern, and his chief minister, La Cuadra, schemes to have him dethroned. But when his wife Isabella brings the beautiful, angel-voiced Farinelli to court to perform a kind of music therapy, Philippe is entranced and indeed becomes stabilized.

For his part, the young maestro is grateful to be of service and to leave behind the pressures of being a slave to his rabid fans. He never performed in public again. Although the big draw is triple Tony-winner Rylance, who renders Philippe’s abrupt mood shifts utterly convincing, the rest of the cast is equally fine. As the great yet tragic Farinelli, the highly appealing Crane expresses a superstar’s self-assurance while avoiding narcissism. We admire his fortitude — Farinelli long ago accepted that his brother castrated him at age 10 to make money. Or has he? Melody Grove’s Isabella radiates an inner core of strength as she is torn between love of her husband and duty to their subjects. Edward Peel is extraordinary as La Cuadra. His near-comical, exaggerated facial expressions are so telling that his dialogue is almost superfluous. Rounding out the cast are Huss

Garbiya as the royal physician, Colin Hurley as the opportunistic theater manager, and Lucas Hall in other supporting roles. Nearly as remarkable as the historical details is Isabella’s progressive stance on treating mental illness. Most experts at the time believed afflicted people were mad or possessed and treated them with exorcism or bloodletting or imprisonment. The good queen knew that Farinelli, with his unearthly vocal range of nearly three octaves and his ability to hold a note for two-and-one-half minutes, might cure the king. Modern clinical studies have proven that certain music releases mood-lifting chemicals like dopamine and endorphins within the brain. In fact, Handel has often been compared to the mythological Orpheus in his ability to profoundly move audiences with music. Surely van Kampen had the well-known quote from the period in mind, “Music hath charms to soothe a savage breast.”

Comedy is Hard “SpongeBob” brings cartoon to life, while two classics misfire BY CHRISTOPHER BYRNE he “cartooning” of Broadway continues with arrival of the oversized, manic, and beguiling “SpongeBob SquarePants: The Broadway Musical.” Based on the hugely popular Nickelodeon animated show about the lives of a variety of sea crea-

T 22

tures who live in Bikini Bottom, the show is a typical 23-minute cartoon stretched to two-and-a-half hours, thanks to the addition of songs by artists ranging from Panic! At the Disco to Cyndi Lauper to John Legend and Aerosmith, to name just a few. The effect is that this is more a revue with a loosely structured plot in which Bikini Bottom is threat-

ened by the potential explosion of the volcano Mount Humongous. With a combination of pluck and silliness, SpongeBob discovers he’s a hero and saves the day. There are a few subtle political messages woven through, such as the notion that “science will save us,” warnings about the dangers of nationalism and fear of “the other,”

and a gently needling criticism of cults and unfounded belief, which in the book by Kyle Jarrow honors the original show while adding some depth, sophistication and — dare I say it? — intelligence to the proceedings. Designer David Zinn has trans-

COMEDY IS HARD, continued on p.23

December 21, 2017 – January 3, 2018 |

SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS: THE BROADWAY MUSICAL Palace Theatre 1564 Broadway at. W. 47th St. Tue., Thu. at 7 p.m. Wed., Fri.-Sat. at 8 p.m. Wed. Sat. at 2 p.m.; Sun. at 3 p.m. $39-$159; Or 800-745-3000 Two hrs., 30 mins., with intermission JOAN MARCUS

Danny Skinner and Ethan Slater in Kyle Jarrow’s stage adaptation of “SpongeBob SquarePants.”

COMEDY IS HARD, from p.22

formed the Palace into a deliciously garish world featuring the trademark Nickelodeon colors of electric green and blazing orange, to the point where it looks as though one has stepped through the screen and into Bikini Bottom. The characters are played by real people, thankfully not in cartoon costumes. Even so, they are instantly recognizable for those who know the show. In addition to SpongeBob, the principals include his BFF Patrick the Starfish, his employer Mr. Krabs, owner of the Krusty Krab, the perennially put out Squidward Q. Tentacles, and the villainous Sheldon Plankton, Mr. Krab’s competitor in the restaurant business as owner of the Chum Bucket. There is also Sandy Cheeks, a squirrel who as the outsider is a threat. We will not entertain questions about how all these organisms coexist. It’s a cartoon. Go with it. Tina Landau directs with exuberance, bringing the world to life in wonderfully innovative ways. Freed from the need to be logical or realistic, she does wonderful things with stepladders, cardboard boxes, and platforms and makes the most of the talents of one of the most engaging companies to hit the stage in a while. Danny Skinner gives a breakout performance as Patrick, the dim but kind starfish, adored and worshipped by the minnows who see his inanities as deep. Gavin Lee as Squidward proves himself a delightfully old school musical comedy star, stopping the show with the production number “I’m Not a Loser.” Wesley Taylor is kid-friendly silly/ evil as



Classic Stage Company 136 E. 13th St. Through Jan. 6 Tue., Thu. at 7 p.m. Wed., Fri.-Sat. at 8 p.m. Wed. Sat.-Sun. at 3 p.m. Some schedule variation $61-$126; Or 866-811-4111 Two hrs., 45 mins., with intermission

Cherry Lane Theatre 38 Commerce St., btwn. Bedford & Barrow Sts. Through Jan. 6 Tue.-Sat. at 8 p.m. Wed., Sat. at 2 p.m. $82-$152; Or 866-811-4111 Two hrs., 30 min., with intermission

Plankton, and Lilli Cooper is terrific as Sandy Cheeks. The whole evening however, turns on the dazzling performance by Ethan Slater in the title role. He has the voice, the walk, and the irrepressible optimism of SpongeBob down, all complemented by outstanding singing and physicality that capture the character’s inherent goodness in the midst of a crazy world — a familiar comedy trope. It’s the clever mash-up of styles and the tweaking of the set-up’s familiarity with ingenious originality that make this show work so endearingly and create such a splash. Of all Shakespeare’s comedies, “Twelfth Night” is one of the most resilient and hardest to wreck. Don’t be deceived; it’s also difficult to do well. Theatergoers may remember Daniel Sullivan’s 2009 production in Central Park and Mark Rylance’s 2013 triumph, two productions that set the bar high for staging this play. Unfortunately, the rather lackluster Fiasco production now at CSC is a workmanlike reading of the play that honors the script but brings nothing much to it. Virtually uncut, | December 21, 2017 – January 3, 2018

it feels academic and ponderous. Set on a largely bare stage with the hackneyed props-in-a-box conceit, the play is directed by Noah Brody and Ben Steinfeld without focus or clarity or point of view. The comedy largely falls flat, where any attempt is made at all. The company — which includes Brody as Orsino, Emily Young as Viola, Jesse Austrian as Olivia, Paul L. Coffey as Malvolio, and Steinfeld as Feste — does well enough with their parts but imbue them with nothing either special or unique. What works in their performances comes directly from the script. Paco Tolson is completely lost as Sir Andrew Aguecheek, and Andy Grotelueschen as Sir Toby Belch seems to have phoned in his performance. “Twelfth Night” is supposed to be a romp, full of double entendres and opportunities for sight gags as the twins are mistaken for one another and tricks are played on Malvolio. It’s not enough to add contemporary gestures and bits, which may get laughs but feel gimmicky and unearned. In this production, there is no romping at all; it’s a rather long, dull slog through Illyria.

Kate Hamill’s adaptation of “Pride and Prejudice” now at the Cherry Lane is a high-energy spin through one of the most beloved novels of the early 19th century. But to what end? Hamill has largely deconstructed the novel and replaced the highly structured world Jane Austen reflected with a kind of crazed, perpetual motion machine that is entertaining but largely obscures or devalues the serious undertones of the period’s prototypical comic novel. Austen wrote at a time when romantic love was assuming more importance in a culture and marrying for financial reasons alone was anathema to young women. The Bennet family at the center of the story needs the infusion of capital an advantageous marriage would bring to avoid losing their estate when the patriarch dies. Obsessed with getting her daughters married well, Mrs. Bennet sees the prospects of Jane the eldest dim and her focus shifts to Elizabeth in the hopes she’ll marry the “odious Mr. Collins” to save the family fortune. Elizabeth, full of ideas about how these things should work, refuses and also rejects the wealthy Mr. Darcy because she thinks he’s a prig. He is, but, we later learn, he is also an honorable man. With Elizabeth’s faulty prejudice revealed and Darcy’s pride taken down a peg of two, the couple can meet on equal ground as lovers and partners… and shore up the finances, too. What Hamill has done in her frenzied adaptation undermines the serious parts of the tale while

COMEDY IS HARD, continued on p.35



The Nuances of Male Privilege Daniel Day-Lewis is fashion royalty challenged by a woman in a way he’d never experienced BY STEVE ERICKSON aul Thomas Anderson’s “Phantom Thread” is set in the 1950s and it could have been made then — aside from the handful of F-bombs Reynolds Woodcock (Daniel DayLewis) drops with great force — and it borrows from the most perverse fantasies classical Hollywood was allowed to express. It’s the kind of film that defeats instant snap judgments, setting a man who doesn’t take responsibility for his own ability to control others in a world that’s almost all female. This world is also mostly white, and I’m not talking about race; a central, recurring image is a close-up of a needle poking its way through blindingly pale clothes, since Woodcock and his sister are dressmakers. Anderson is rumored to have acted as his cinematographer here. He has made ambiguous claims



Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson Focus Features Opens Dec. 24 Regal Union Square Stadium 14 850 Broadway at 13th St. AMC Loews Lincoln Square 13 1998 Broadway at W. 68th St. Opens Jan. 11 Alamo Drafthouse Cinema — City Point 445 Albee Sq. W. at Flatbush Ave., Brooklyn


Daniel Day-Lewis and Vicky Krieps in Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Phantom Thread.”

about this, and there’s no D. P. credit on the film itself. The exact timetable of “Phantom

Thread” is uncertain, but Reynolds and his sister Cyril (Lesley Manville) are royalty in the Brit-

ish fashion scene under the brand of the House of Woodcock. (At one point, it was hinted that Reynolds was based on real-life designer Charles James, but that has been scrubbed from the finished film,

PHANTOM THREAD, continued on p.25

Heterosexuality’s Phantom Stalking With Daniel Day-Lewis’ Reynolds Woodcock, Paul Thomas Anderson straightwashes ‘50s design world BY DAVID EHRENSTEIN ack in the day (1969 to be exact), in his book “The Season: A Candid Look at Broadway,” archhomophobe William Goldman declared, “The three leading experts on heterosexual married life during the past 20 years have been Williams, Albee, and Inge, all three of them — at least to my knowledge — bachelors,” which was a problem Goldman claimed because, “In general, the homosexual on Broadway, especially the playwright, has to dissemble: he writes boy-girl relationships when he really means

B 24


Fashion designer Norman Hartnell, in his London office in 1944, is the clearest model for Paul Thomas Anderson’s Reynolds Woodcock, played by Daniel Day-Lewis, in “Phantom Thread.”

boy-boy relationships.” That was a long time ago, in a preLGBTQ liberation land far far away. In 2017, with out and proud queer writers, directors, and actors and what Chritopher Isherwood called the “heterosexual dictatorship” in full retreat, Goldman’s “gay panic” is more ridiculous than ever. In fact, with Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Phantom Thread,” the situation appears to have been reversed. For this film, set in the fashion world of the 1950s, rather than dealing with the gay men who made it great it shoves them into a closet they never

STALKING, continued on p.25

December 21, 2017 – January 3, 2018 |


although when I googled the film, I found a photo of Day-Lewis in it calling his character “Charles James.”) Reynolds may not exactly be a womanizer in the most exploitative sense, but he is happy to stay single and not take his sexual relationships very seriously. Women serve as temporary muses and companions. Then, he meets a much younger woman, Alma (Vicky Krieps), with whom he finds a far more serious bond. His relationship with her becomes challenging in a way that women have never before been for him. I prefer “Phantom Thread” to almost every other film, documentary or narrative, I’ve seen about the fashion world, but it reduces that world to a relatively tiny house. While there are some exteriors, at least three quarters of the film was shot in a genuine townhouse. This did not please Day-Lewis or Krieps, and even Anderson admits it created problems. The crew’s equipment had to be hidden in a room just beyond the one where shooting took place and then moved again when shooting began in another room. Krieps has said the crowding gave her a panic attack one day. At a press conference quoted by the website Indiewire, Day-Lewis said, “The way it works if it’s helpful is that these rooms belong to you. You work in a room, then you have to move all that shit into another room, and that space becomes a storage space.” Even at 60, Day-Lewis gives Reynolds a sex appeal that Daniel Plainview, the character he previously incarnated for Anderson in “There Will Be Blood,” was far too concerned with worldly power and impressing other men to exude. In some ways, Anderson’s 2000 “Punch Drunk Love,” which offered the first hint of the acting talent

STALKING, from p.24

occupied. When “Phantom Thread” was first announced many suspected that Anderson was making a biopic of Charles James, the British-born designer regarded as a mentor to Halston, Karl Lagerfeld, and other fashionistas of note. So much so that when you look for pictures of

Adam Sandler possesses but spent his career mostly wasting, is the closest item in his filmography to “Phantom Thread.” “Punch Drunk Love” is more or less a comedy, and it was made by Anderson as a deliberate departure from his rather bombastic three-hour-long films like “Boogie Nights” and “Magnolia.” “Phantom Thread” contains some laughs, but it’s a grimmer affair in its depiction of male immaturity (from a man much further into middle age than Sandler’s character in “Punch Drunk Love.”) As in “The Master,” Anderson’s fictionalized take on L. Ron Hubbard and the start of Scientology, he’s concerned with the flow of power from one person to another. There are some shots of spiral staircases in “Phantom Thread” that evoke Alfred Hitchcock’s “Vertigo,” and the narrative suggests his and Daphne DuMaurier’s “Rebecca.” Superficially, this film resembles the kind of neo-Tradition of Quality period piece that usually stars actors like Dame Judi Dench and that often fills arthouses during Oscar season. At its core, it’s a tale of physical and emotional manipulation more akin to Rainer Werner Fassbinder. But its push and pull between men and women is quite Hitchcockian as well. It’s a male fantasy of a female fantasy about how to deal with being the object of a male fantasy. The claustrophobia of the shoot made its way into the finished film. If you want a clear message about how men and women should behave toward each other, this is not the film to see. If you want to exit it arguing about what exactly it’s doing and how women should fight back against sexism, this should be your choice — and its embrace of ambivalence and refusal to settle for easy answers are all too rare these days.

James on Google, you’ll find one of Anderson’s star, Daniel Day-Lewis, right next to him. This James-centric angle was brought up at the film’s preview screening in New York last month and immediately shot down by Anderson, who asserted his film’s anti-hero Reynolds Woodcock was | December 21, 2017 – January 3, 2018




STALKING, continued on p.35



Potomac Passions “Alcina” sputters at Washington National Opera; Folger, Washington Concert Opera come through BY DAVID SHENGOLD November DC weekend embraced three contrasting stories of romantic obsession. Washington National Opera returned to Handel opera after nearly a decade, with the masterpiece “Alcina” (seen November 17), aptly played on the Kennedy Center’s smaller Eisenhower stage. Neil Patel’s simple moon-dominated set was quite fascinating, but there was precious little enchantment in Anne Bogart’s production, which presented the characters confusingly, lacked any throughline, and seemed to consist mainly of clumsy sceneby-scene blocking. Bogart also over-deployed Barney O’ Hanlon’s trivial, willowy choreography — for four energetic dancers and occasionally the otherwise somnolent, black-clad chorus, not showing good ensemble at this sixth performance — at the most distracting possible moments. James Schuette’s choral costumes were at least handsome: they looked like stylish hipsters rather than the libretto’s beasts and rocks. The principals, apart from baritone Michael Adams (decent in Melisso’s bass tessitura), should have protested their resolutely unflattering outfits. Ying Fang and Daniela Mack’s lovely figures were obscured, and the others’ weaker points needlessly exaggerated. Diminutive Elizabeth DeShong (the warrior Ruggiero) sported a comical mustard colored pantsuit with longcoat evoking Zelda Rubinstein channeling Mickey Rooney in “Sugar Babies,” and Bogart’s failure to contain DeShong’s constant semaphoric arm waving exacerbated the problem. The rising mezzo has a wonderful instrument, wide-ranged, agile, and mellow and thus well-suited to this idiom. Her smooth “Verdi prati” hit the mark, but she needs more telling phrasing and textual connec-




Angela Meade and Michael Adams (background), and Elizabeth DeShong, Daniela Mack, and Ying Fang (foreground) in the Washington National Opera production of Handel’s “Alcina.”

tion to achieve her high Handelian potential. I’m not sure Angela Meade has Handelian potential. (AVA, where she trained, hasn’t staged a Handel work in 30 years.) It was brave of her to attempt Alcina, but apart from size of voice and spot-on trills she didn’t bring very much of use to the great role. Her heavily vibratoed top register — which can be exciting in 19th century rep — worked against her here, and she’s simply not the kind of artist who can build a nuanced character through thoughtful verbal phrasing. Like Cleopatra, Alcina must evolve; Meade remained pretty much at one dreary emotional level. Fang (Morgana) — who sang several baroque roles while at Juilliard — and the stylistically versatile Mack (Bradamante) proved the best Handelians. The Chinese soprano emitted streams of beautiful crystalline sound, winning merited storms of applause. The fiery Argentine mezzo repeated her Santa Fe success in this coloratura-driven part. Light tenor Rexford Tester managed Oronte’s three arias with skill. Conductor Jane Glover sensibly cut the entire character of Oberto, a disposable late addition by Han-

del with unmemorable music. Admirably, Glover presented all of the arias given with their full-out da capo structures — a contrast to Houston’s concurrent mounting of “Giulio Cesare,” cut to ribbons. Her reading was musicologically sound — though to my taste many of the repeats she sanctioned or obtained were too elaborate, obscuring the melodies too far. Pace flagged often in the evening’s long first half; one wanted greater instrumental daring and drive. Handel’s Ariosto-based libretto makes it clear that Alcina’s sorcery diverted Ruggiero from his warrior path; Shakespeare in “Antony and Cleopatra” — strongly given at the Folger Theatre (November 18) — makes the uptight Romans led by Octavius say the same of Antony in relation to the suspected “other,” “Eastern” Cleopatra. But the play allows for multiple readings, and Robert Richmond’s compact production presented the sensuality and openness of Alexandria as the more compelling option, even as the headstrong lovers plunge their cause into ruin. Cody Nickell and viola-voiced Shirine Babb exuded the sexiness and mercurial temperament to make this concept work, on an

ingenious rotating set (Tony Cisek) maximizing the self-conscious theatricality of the lovers’ worldview. Adam Stamper’s rock-flavored score sometimes got out of hand but his sound design was excellent: the text was clear, and the Romans’ rhetorical hollowness exacerbated by a cold reverb effect. Mariah Hale’s (inevitably, these days?) rather “Game of Thrones” costumes were sensational, and Andrew F. Griffin lit with subtlety. Other fine actors — some double or treble-cast — included Chris Genebach (Agrippa) dealing expertly with the verse, Nicole King, moving as both Iras and Octavia, John Floyd (Mardian, sunnily played as Gay Best Friend), the lively Anthony Michael Martinez (Soothsayer/ Messenger/ Eros), and Dylan Paul (A & F catalog-ready but unafraid to stress the priggish brat in Octavius). Richmond’s judicious pacing guaranteed a tight evening. In my experience the Folger is the best option for Shakespeare in the capital; “Winter’s Tale” plays March 13-April 22. Washington Concert Opera’s offering the next evening, Bellini’s early (1829) “La straniera,” also dealt with obsessive love. Arturo, engaged to Isoletta, falls at sight for the mysterious Alaide, whom the locals consider a likely sorceress. Touched by his affections, she cannot return them, as Arturo’s friend Valdeburgo affirms — when he realizes that Alaide is the cast-off French queen, his own sister. Arturo persists in his obsession, seemingly killing Valdeburgo, for which Alaide takes the blame — until Valdeburgo appears, fine. Alaide urges Arturo to proceed with marrying Isoletta but — having invited Alaide to the ceremony — he can’t go through with it. When news comes that Alaide is to be reinvested as queen, he kills himself, having ruined two women’s lives in true Romantic fashion.

POTOMAC, continued on p.35

December 21, 2017 – January 3, 2018 | | December 21, 2017 â&#x20AC;&#x201C; January 3, 2018


The 2017 Agnes Moorehead Awards A politically disastrous year manages to holds its own culturally


Adina Verson and Katrina Lenk in Paula Vogel’s “Indecent.”

BY DAVID NOH t’s time for the 2017 “Aggies,” named for a woman who I’m betting would have known how to respond to any sexual harassment over her long career. It was sheer talent — not youth, beauty, or sex appeal — that was her calling card, and, besides, the formidable characters she played might have cowed any mogul, however influential or horny. At each year end, In the Noh presents Aggies to 10 live performances — described below in no particular order — that enlivened New York stages in memorable ways.



Angelica Page becoming her mother, Geraldine Page, for “Turning Page.”


“Pacific Overtures,” CSC at Barrow Street Theatre I keep steady in my belief that this is a Golden Age of Asian Actors. And, when you have a white hot cast like this, married to John Doyle’s superb condensation/ rethinking of Sondheim’s history of Japan, it’s simply the best new musical production of the year. Its minimalist design matched the exquisiteness of the chamber reduction of its orchestra and, if I could ever see one number on constant repeat, it would surely be Ann Harada doing “Welcome to Kanagawa.” “School Girls; Or, the African Mean Girls Play,” MCC Theater “Sizzling” and “electric” are words that spring to mind with Jocelyn


Keegan-Michael Key, Jeremy Shamos, and Amy Schumer in “Meteor Shower.”



Megan Masako Haley in “Pacific Overtures.”

Rob Nagle in “Church and State.”

Bioh’s crackling all-female competitive free-for-all, superbly directed by Rebecca Taichman. This is the dark side of all those vastly compelling groups of schoolgirls that have enthralled us since “The Children’s Hour” and “The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie.” I have rarely seen a performance that combined charming high comedy with naked raw vulnerability to such richly dazzling and contrasting effect as Nabiyah Be, the standout in a terrific cast.

“cultured, intelligent” people’s slavish reliance on that rag, culturally speaking. Because he was sent a script in advance, which he apparently loathed outright, said critic refused to see the show — never mind what brilliant direction or acting can do to enhance, even transform something that needed no apologies anyway. This impassioned treatise on gun violence, both wickedly funny and devastatingly tragic, was superbly acted, especially by the great Rob Nagle, who gave the single finest stage performance of the year.

“Church and State,” New World Stages The best play with the greatest performance not enough people saw, due to both the wrongheaded hubris of a real a-hole of a New Times Times critic, as well as most


Nellie McKay, creator and star of “The Big Molinsky,” with David Noh.

“Turning Page,” Dixon Place Angelica Page, the daughter of

2017 AGGIES, continued on p.29


Soomi Kim, who shined in “MLCG (My Little China Girl).”

December 21, 2017 – January 3, 2018 |


2017 AGGIES, from p.28

Geraldine Page and Rip Torn, paid tribute to her actressâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; actress of a Mom. Her chameleonic transitions from herself to her mother and the multitudes who resided within her, in nothing less than an epic onewoman panorama of a life lived to the brim, seemed nigh-miraculous. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Desperate Measures,â&#x20AC;? York Theater I confess to walking into this Western-themed takeoff of the Bardâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s â&#x20AC;&#x153;Measure for Measureâ&#x20AC;? with some dread, never being a fan of cornpone twang slaughtering Shakespeare (anyone remember the Tracey Ullman/ Morgan Freeman â&#x20AC;&#x153;Taming of the Shrewâ&#x20AC;??). But what an unfettered delight it turned out to be, snappily staged, with fun rhyming lyrics and an adorable cast. For me, this was the vehicle in which Lauren Molina became a true star, as amusingly antic/ frantic as Betty Hutton, but sexy. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Indecent,â&#x20AC;? Cort Theatre Paula Vogelâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s investigation into Sholom Aschâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s daringly lesbianthemed 1923 play, â&#x20AC;&#x153;God of Vengeance,â&#x20AC;? was a whirlwind of dramatic invention, as directed by the estimable Rebecca Taichman (who also helmed â&#x20AC;&#x153;School Girlsâ&#x20AC;?). On opening night, there was a highly salubrious feeling of joy that such a â&#x20AC;&#x153;downtownâ&#x20AC;? piece could have made it to the ever-dumbed down Great White Way, and I will forever treasure that charmingly odd, quiet moment when the devastating Katrina Lenk and Adina Verson broke out into a bewitching â&#x20AC;&#x153;Bei mir bist du schoen.â&#x20AC;? â&#x20AC;&#x153;Meteor Shower,â&#x20AC;? Booth Theater How heartening that, at 72, Steve Martinâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; eccentric, ultra wryand-dry brand of humor is as disarming as ever, but with a meaner, often side-splitting punch to it (call it the positive curmudgeon effect). In a wild reversal of Albeeâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s â&#x20AC;&#x153;Virginia Woolf,â&#x20AC;? Keegan-Michael Key and Laura Benanti were the glam, frenetically nightmare â&#x20AC;&#x201D; and sexiest â&#x20AC;&#x201D; couple of your dreams, except they are the guests here. As their harried hostess, Amy Shumer managed to more than hold her own, with an antic adorableness that proves, really, that all good

stand-ups are basically good actors. â&#x20AC;&#x153;The Portuguese Kid,â&#x20AC;? Manhattan Theater Club Like Martin, John Patrick Shanleyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s writerâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s knack shows no signs of abating and, although it could have been tightened and refined some, this raucous comedy of cruelty made me laugh out loud more than any show I can remember. Good old ethnic New York humor was alive and well at Manhattan Theater Club as the crack cast of Jason Alexander, Sherie Rene Scott, Pico Alexander, Aimee Carrero, and Mary Testa, the seasonâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s funniest sight gag of the season as a stifling mother in the wig of doom, nailed every joke with sniper precision. â&#x20AC;&#x153;The Big Molinsky,â&#x20AC;? Joeâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Pub Nellie McKay did it again, delivering yet one more life of a lady, following her homages to Rachel Carson, Barbara Graham, and Billy Tipton. But who knew how perfectly this ever-insouciant, lovable sprite could become that yenta of yentas, Joan Rivers? It just proves to me the truth of an old adage (I made up) â&#x20AC;&#x201D; to truly catch a star, set one performing genius upon another. It worked with Streisand as Fanny Brice, Diana Ross as Billie Holiday, and Michelle Williams as Marilyn, and McKay was both hilarious and meltingly musical as maybe the one Manhattan woman most sorely missed by us all. â&#x20AC;&#x153;MLCG (My Little China Girl),â&#x20AC;? Dixon Place Soomi Kimâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s interdisciplinary, fiendishly clever, and moving reminiscence of growing up Korean and alienated in Lebanon, Ohio, of all places, was inspired by the recent death of David Bowie and his music video that once made her fantasize about being the exotic chick in it. Fueled by an unspeakable tragedy that cost her her mother, Kim gracefully maintained a perfect tone of slightly pixillated humor and truthful observation, completely avoiding any self-indulgent mawkishness. Delightfully funky high tech aspects enriched her show, like TV monitors allowing her to actually enter that Bowie video, and thanks to her, Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve come not to fear the concept of performance art so much. | December 21, 2017 â&#x20AC;&#x201C; January 3, 2018

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Inclusive Hip-Hop from Self-Styled “Boyband” With “Saturation III,” Brockhampton, out gay ringleader Kevin Abstract continue to storm the stage

“Goblin” and is now strongly hinting that he’s gay. Instead of Odd Future’s contradictory yet inclusive attitudes around gayness (they also included lesbian singer Syd), Brockhampton are completely upfront and unapologetic about Abstract’s sexuality: they’re a boy band for a generation where hip-hop is the lingua franca for youth of all races and it’s common for gay teens to come out in high school. And they’re doing all this controlling their own image and production, releasing their music on their own indie label Question Everything. None of Brockhampton’s ability to market themselves or make endless numbers of videos would matter if their music had no substance, but their three albums reach beyond Odd Future to the Wu-Tang Clan’s mixture of nine rappers with much different styles in various combinations. No Brockhampton song continues a whole lyrical theme for an entire four minutes. Their rappers join together in a seemingly random combination. (On “Stains,” someone mock-criticizes Brockhampton as “the one gay, the one selling drugs, the one tryna act like Lil Wayne.”) At worst, this can be rather jarring; at best, it means that much of their material has the excitement of the greatest hip-hop posse cuts. It works to most potent effect on their best album, “Saturation II.” The mixture of rappers with different agendas tends toward songs

that range from violent bragging to intense introspection in the space of 90 seconds. The opener and first single from “Saturation III,” “Boogie,” gets things popping in an upbeat direction with danceable beats and an infectious chorus. One of the album’s most haunting songs, “Bleach,” combines heavy use of sung vocals with a spacey electronic backing track. Dr. Dre’s early ‘90s G-funk production, with its whirring analog synthesizers, is an unexpected influence on the group. The six-minute “Sister/ Nation” flirts with EDM but changes musical tone several times. The closing track, “Team,” is also one of the album’s most musically adventurous, coming close to singer Miguel’s more psychedelic neo-soul moments, based around funky electric guitar instead of synthesizer and only introducing rapping halfway through. Last Friday, the release of “Saturation III” went head to head with Eminem’s latest album, “Revival,” and other high-profile hip-hop releases from N.E.R.D and Jeezy. Of course, Brockhampton are in no position to outsell Eminem right now, but they offer a vision of hip-hop that’s far more inclusive. “Saturation III” speaks for a community that sounds a lot like millennial America right now. It’s not a perfect one: the boy band could stand to have a fulltime “girl” offering her perspective — although women’s voices are heard on their albums — and stand to drop the word “bitch” less often. But even these contradictions say something about America circa 2017. Releasing almost three hours of music in six months would challenge any artist. It’s impressive that Brockhampton have shown audible growth from “Saturation” to “Saturation III.”

News reported that it was clearly based on the real-life killing of gay African American Michael Sandy in Brooklyn — but that the filmmaker chose to whitewash the story. Unfortunately, Hittman was not inclined to address the underlying ethical issues involved in that choice.

Best Re-Release “Maurice,” James Ivory’s elegant 1987 gay romantic drama, received a 4K restoration in the same year that his newest queer film, “Call Me By Your Name,” for which he was screenwriter, came out. Ivory has blazed an impressive gay legacy.

BY STEVE ERICKSON rockhampton announced themselves to the American music scene with an amount of hype that a well-funded major label would envy: three albums released within six months, a reality show on the Viceland cable channel, and 12 music videos. They officially have 14 members now, including those who are involved with music production, mixing, and graphic design as well as the seven rappers performing upfront. Despite their sound, they insist they’re a “boyband” — their TV show’s name was “American Boyband” — rather than a hip-hop group. Out gay member Kevin Abstract has emerged as their de facto leader. He released a solo album last year, for which he made the video “Miserable America” portraying a lesbian teenager shooting the leader of a “conversion therapy” center after a suicide there. Abstract has also directed all the band’s music videos. The group just released a 22-minute short film, “Billy Star,” as a teaser for his feature-length debut. And he’s only 21! Abstract’s verse beginning “Junky,” the best track on their album “Saturation II,” helps explain what makes Brockhampton different from previous mainstream hiphop groups and boy bands alike: it takes on gay invisibility and violence toward gay men with a ferocity and sexual frankness unprecedented in music aimed anywhere near the mainstream. Then Abstract shares the spotlight with other members who rap about their drug use, making it sound rather disturbing in-




heroine, is intriguing in its depiction of the lead characters’ polyamorous, S&M-tinged relationship. Worst LGBTQ Film “The Assignment” took the offen-


“Saturation III” Question Everything/ Empire $9.99;


“Saturation III,” Brockhampton’s third album in six months, was released December 15.

stead of celebrating it, and condemn misogyny. Ameer Vann’s confident flow and hard-hitting lyrics make him the group’s other most memorable MC. Abstract, Vann, and the Justin Timberlake-evoking singer JOBA are the three members I can picture having thriving solo careers. Brockhampton have created a mystique about themselves, even though Abstract talked a great deal about himself and his teenage alienation on their TV show. All their videos are introduced in Spanish by a 30-ish Latino guy called Robert, who pops up on their albums’ interludes. Their best clip, “Gummy,” hilariously shows the group planning a bank robbery with an alpaca in tow. Their songs all have one-word titles. Unlike most hip-hop artists who release their own music, they are not aiming for an underground cult audience — though that’s exactly what they’ve found so far. Their live shows are reportedly carefully choreographed. Brockhampton have consciously followed in the footsteps of hip-hop/ R&B collective Odd Future, which made stars out of queer singer Frank Ocean and rapper Tyler, the Creator, who started out expressing extreme homophobia on his debut album

sive idea of forced gender reassignment surgery and, not surprisingly, made it into an unpleasant film. Most suspect LGBTQ Film The enjoyment of Eliza Hittman’s fantastic drama “Beach Rats” was sharply undercut when Gay City

December 21, 2017 – January 3, 2018 |


TOP DRIVER DISTRACTIONS Using mobile phones Leading the list of the top distractions behind the wheel are mobile phones. Phones now do more than just place calls, and drivers often cannot pull away from their phones, even when driving. According to the California Department of Motor Vehicles, studies have shown that driving performance is lowered and the level of distraction is higher for drivers who are heavily engaged in cell

phone conversations. The use of a hands-free device does not lower distraction levels. The percentage of vehicle crashes and nearcrashes attributed to dialing is nearly identical to the number associated with talking or listening.

Daydreaming Many people will admit to daydreaming behind the wheel or looking at a person or object outside of the car for too long. Per- | December 21, 2017 – January 3, 2018

haps they’re checking out a house in a new neighborhood or thought they saw someone they knew on the street corner. It can be easy to veer into the direction your eyes are focused, causing an accident. In addition to trying to stay focused on the road, some drivers prefer the help of lane departure warning systems.

Eating Those who haven’t quite mastered walking and

chewing gum at the same time may want to avoid eating while driving. The majority of foods require a person’s hands to be taken off of the wheel and their eyes to be diverted from the road. Reaching in the back seat to share some French fries with the kids is also distracting. Try to eat meals before getting in the car. For those who must snack while en route, take a moment to pull over at

a rest area and spend 10 minutes snacking there before resuming the trip.

Reading Glancing at an advertisement, updating a Facebook status or reading a book are all activities that should be avoided when driving. Even pouring over a traffic map or consulting the digital display of a GPS system can be distracting.



An Abiding Contempt for Young Women Michael Haneke’s critique of well-off Europeans is neither novel nor forward-looking BY STEVE ERICKSON ustrian director Michael Haneke’s films leave no one cold. He frequently pops up in lists of the greatest living European directors and more personal social media posts about “filmmakers I can’t stand.” For me, he’s capable of masterpieces (“Code Unknown,” “Caché”) and utter crap (“Benny’s Video,” the American remake of his own “Funny Games”). The rest of his oeuvre falls somewhere in between. His formal mastery is unquestionable: the stationary shots with cold, institutional lighting that make up most of his new film “Happy End” are impeccably framed and blocked, and his casting of Isabelle Huppert, probably the world’s greatest living actress, and excellent direction of the other actors help cover up the fact they are playing snarky caricatures and how much this narrative is grimdark nonsense. Alas, Haneke has appointed himself both the conscience of Europe and cinema itself. That’s a huge responsibility, and one he’s not up to. While “Caché” shed light on a reallife massacre of Algerians in Paris in the early ‘60s, both versions of “Funny Games” show off his hypocritical denial of his own sadism, for which he blames the audience and other filmmakers. A vague sequel to Haneke’s last film, the extremely popular “Amour,” “Happy End” brings back the character of Georges Laurent (Jean-Louis Trintignant), who is tired of old age stuck in his wheelchair and wants to die. He lives with his two children: real-estate developer Anne (Huppert) and doctor Thomas (Mathieu Kasso-



2017 FILM, from p.21

director led me to my first venture in programming films as well as writing about them. “Starless Dreams” offers a compassionate but harsh look at a prison for teenage girls



Fantine Harduin, Jean-Louis Trintignant, Isabelle Huppert, Laura Verlinden, Toby Jones, and Mathieu Kassovitz in Michael Haneke’s “Happy End.”

vitz, a director himself). The film consists of brief fragments from which the spectator must piece together a narrative — instead of laying out its plot, the press kit’s “synopsis” offers critics two vague sentences — starting with three pieces of fake found footage, the latter depicting a construction site accident in which a wall collapses and a worker is killed. The nastiest of this unpleasant family is Eve (Fantine Harduin), who turns 13 during the film. “Happy End” seemingly sets out to offer a radical critique of upper middle class Western European life, but everything it has to say is either obvious, shallow, or reactionary. Here, the far left’s vision of the modern world’s corruption and decadence shakes hands with the right’s: Theodor Adorno meets Ross Douthat (and I’m being kind in my choice of conservatives). The film’s setting is Calais, France, which is home to a huge camp of refugees who are waiting there to enter the UK. It’s the film’s structuring absence. One scene brings on a refugee as a real presence, but the character — a black African — gets to speak for about 30 seconds. At this point, Arabs have become France’s equivalent of North American Latinos, but they appear in “Happy End” strictly

as servants and never get developed as real characters. I’m sure this is deliberate on Haneke’s part — the real subjects of “Happy End” are a family of blinkered and mean white people. But the film inadvertently reproduces their perspective. In other matters, it deals with the subject of society’s corruption as glibly as possible. Take the over-medication of children with anti-depressants: Eve uses her prescription to kill her hamster — the effects of which are shown in a very early scene that must be the eighth or ninth example of cruelty to animals in a Haneke film — and poison a girl with whom she went to camp. At moments, Haneke visibly gets a charge out of shooting from cell phones and only using the middle third of the screen’s frame. But when his characters use email, online chat services, and text, sex is the only thing on their minds — and it always involves golden showers, a kink Haneke clearly disapproves of. After all, his American arthouse breakthrough, “The Piano Teacher,” revolved around a woman whose life is ruined by her masochistic desires. There are films that offer relatively thoughtful but non-hysterical depictions of the way technology allows

that may be safer than many of its inmates’ homes. A lot of the details about how the girls wound up in prison — drug addiction, backgrounds of sexual and physical abuse — are probably identical to their American counterparts’, but

the scene in which an imam shows up and the girls swamp him with informed questions about the many double standards around gender in Iranian law continues the tradition of challenging patriarchy in Iranian cinema.

Directed by Michael Haneke Sony Pictures Classics In French with English subtitles Opens Dec. 22 Film Forum 209 W. Houston St. Lincoln Plaza Cinema 1886 Broadway at W. 62nd St.

bullies and stalkers to harass people: Olivier Assayas’ “Personal Shopper” and Leo Gabfriadze’s horror movie “Unfriended.” Haneke ignores the way that being able to take video on her cell phone might empower a girl like Eve in favor of using footage shot on phones to offer up sexting about piss fetishes — but it seems clear he thinks she already has way too much power, in any event. For a director who is so suspicious of technology, high-definition video perfectly suited the ice-cold look of “Caché.” I disliked but did not hate “Happy End” until its final five minutes. Then it sinks into a nihilism that reveals its contempt for youth and women, while indulging in a “beauty” that’s completely inappropriate to what it’s showing. I can’t go into detail about my objections without giving away the ending. Not since Larry Clark’s “Kids” and “Bully” or even William Friedkin’s “The Exorcist” have I seen a film with this much contempt for tween girls. If there are any teenage girls reading this, follow the examples of Samira Makhmalbaf and lesbian director Sadie Benning and make your own film on whatever camera you have access to — don’t let a misanthropic man in his 70s define you!

6. “Raw” (Julia Ducournau) This body-horror opus about a college student who turns from vegetarian to cannibal channels both early David Cronenberg and the

2017 FILM, continued on p.33

December 21, 2017 – January 3, 2018 |


2017 FILM, from p.32

glory days of the New French Extremity. As an allegory about the price young women have to pay in order to grow up, it resonates in numerous ways. 7. â&#x20AC;&#x153;I hate myself :.)â&#x20AC;? (Joanna Arnow) Low-cost video cameras were supposed to be empower people without access to mainstream filmmaking channels: â&#x20AC;&#x153;I hate myself :.)â&#x20AC;? was the best example of this ethos in action I saw this year, but it took four years to find American distribution and then only played New York for a week. This intensely personal documentary shows Arnowâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s attempts to find her voice as an artist and sexual being under the thumb of an awful boyfriend who embodies â&#x20AC;&#x153;hipster racismâ&#x20AC;? (his idea of a fun night out is going to open mic nights at Harlem comedy clubs and using slurs in front of AfricanAmericans). She succeeded, and this excellent film was the result. 8. â&#x20AC;&#x153;The Other Side of Hopeâ&#x20AC;? (Aki Kaurismäki) An old-school hipster encounters Muslim refugees and discovers that he likes them and can absorb them into his world with little difficulty. I could be describing either some of the characters in â&#x20AC;&#x153;The Other Side of Hopeâ&#x20AC;? or Kaurismäki himself. I can say that the political urgency of Europeâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s refugee crisis and the rise of the far right have breathed new life into a Finnish filmmaker who seemed to be spending years pleasantly drifting. 9. â&#x20AC;&#x153;The Shape of Waterâ&#x20AC;? (Guillermo del Toro) A genre-bending fantasy that imagines a group of underdogs, including a gay man and a literal â&#x20AC;&#x153;monsterâ&#x20AC;? â&#x20AC;&#x201D; having a sexual relationship with a human woman â&#x20AC;&#x201D; facing off against a representative of violent authoritarianism, â&#x20AC;&#x153;The Shape of Waterâ&#x20AC;? has clear politics. Still, itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s too concerned with playing out the mechanics of its narrative and demonstrating Guillermo del Toroâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s ability to create a stylized but believable version of the early â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;60s to sink into a rote woke allegory. It does represent a clear outsiderâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s perspective on Americaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s repressive potential, for all its echoes of â&#x20AC;&#x153;Creature From the Black Lagoonâ&#x20AC;? and


even Clive Barkerâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s â&#x20AC;&#x153;Nightbreed.â&#x20AC;? 10. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Marjorie Primeâ&#x20AC;? (Michael Almereyda) Almereydaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s documentary on â&#x20AC;&#x153;Blade Runnerâ&#x20AC;? and â&#x20AC;&#x153;Blade Runner 2049â&#x20AC;? co-screenwriter Hampton Fancher, â&#x20AC;&#x153;Escapes,â&#x20AC;? played the IFC Center for about a week last summer. His more commercially successful sci-fi feature â&#x20AC;&#x153;Marjorie Primeâ&#x20AC;? is actually a more satisfying followup to the themes of â&#x20AC;&#x153;Blade Runnerâ&#x20AC;? than its official sequel. Adapting a play by out gay writer Jordan Harrison and restricting himself most of the time to one set and four actors, Almereyda creates a vision of the end of humanity and the rise of artificial intelligence, starting as a quasi-therapeutic assist to the elderly and widowed. Aged 86 when the film was shot, Lois Smithâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s turn as a woman dealing badly with her impending mortality is the yearâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s acting revelation.

Runners-up: â&#x20AC;&#x153;Beach Ratsâ&#x20AC;? (Eliza Hittman), â&#x20AC;&#x153;Behemothâ&#x20AC;? (Zhao Liang), â&#x20AC;&#x153;City of Ghostsâ&#x20AC;? (Matthew Heineman), â&#x20AC;&#x153;Colossalâ&#x20AC;? (Nacho Vigalondo), â&#x20AC;&#x153;Columbusâ&#x20AC;? (Kogonada), â&#x20AC;&#x153;Endless Poetryâ&#x20AC;? (Alejandro Jodorowsky), â&#x20AC;&#x153;Ex Librisâ&#x20AC;? (Frederick Wiseman), â&#x20AC;&#x153;The Florida Projectâ&#x20AC;? (Sean Baker), â&#x20AC;&#x153;mother!â&#x20AC;? (Darren Aronofsky), â&#x20AC;&#x153;Mudboundâ&#x20AC;? (Dee Rees), â&#x20AC;&#x153;My Friend Dahmerâ&#x20AC;? (Marc Meyers), â&#x20AC;&#x153;On the Beach At Night Aloneâ&#x20AC;? (Hong Sang-soo), â&#x20AC;&#x153;Phantom Threadâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; (Paul Thomas Anderson), â&#x20AC;&#x153;A Quiet Passionâ&#x20AC;? (Terence Davies), â&#x20AC;&#x153;The Untamedâ&#x20AC;? (Amat Escalante), â&#x20AC;&#x153;The Woman Who Leftâ&#x20AC;? (Lav Diaz). Worst films: â&#x20AC;&#x153;Detroitâ&#x20AC;? (Kathryn Bigelow), â&#x20AC;&#x153;Happy Endâ&#x20AC;? (Michael Haneke), â&#x20AC;&#x153;I, Tonyaâ&#x20AC;? (Craig Gillespie), â&#x20AC;&#x153;The Killing of a Sacred Deerâ&#x20AC;? (Yorgos Lanthimos), â&#x20AC;&#x153;Slack Bayâ&#x20AC;? (Bruno Dumont), â&#x20AC;&#x153;Song to Songâ&#x20AC;? (Terrence Malick).




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Undistributed films that deserve a week-long New York run: â&#x20AC;&#x153;Empathyâ&#x20AC;? (Jeffrey Dunn Rovinelli), â&#x20AC;&#x153;Geraldâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s â&#x20AC;&#x153;Gameâ&#x20AC;? (Michael Flanagan), â&#x20AC;&#x153;In Perfect Healthâ&#x20AC;? (Anca Damian), â&#x20AC;&#x153;Japanese Girls Never Die â&#x20AC;? (Daigo Matsui), â&#x20AC;&#x153;The Road to Mandalayâ&#x20AC;? (Midi-Z), â&#x20AC;&#x153;The Venerable W.â&#x20AC;? (Barbet Schroeder). Though â&#x20AC;&#x153;Geraldâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Gameâ&#x20AC;? played several festivals, it was produced by and for Netflix, where it is now streaming. | December 21, 2017 â&#x20AC;&#x201C; January 3, 2018

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STALKING, from p.25

drawn from the lives of Cristóbal Balenciaga, Hardy Amies, Norman Hartnell, Michael Sherard, Digby Morton, Edward Molyneux, Victor Stiebel, and John Cavanagh. The things is each and every one of these designers was gay. Reynolds Woodcock, while acting like a younger and ever-so-slightly less imperious version of Clifton Webb’s “Waldo Lydecker in “Laura” ( one of the greatest “coded gay” characters of the pre-Stonewall era), is seen (in long shot) taking the hand of the film’s heroine Alma (Vicky Krieps), a café waitress Woodcock makes his model and muse, and pulling her into his bedroom. What goes on inside that bedroom Anderson doesn’t show. And that’s because he has no idea what gay men think of straight women or how we interact with those whose beauty inspires us despite a complete lack of sexual desire. Anderson, who has sired four children with his partner Maya Rudolph, doesn’t have the slightest clue about any of this, and therefore makes a character who is otherwise gayer than IKEA on Super Bowl Sunday, straight. The shot of Woodcock taking Alma’s hand is all he gives us to establish straightness — and it’s all he needs. The bulk of the action, unbeliveable as it sounds, revolves around her efforts

POTOMAC, from p.26

Follow that? I thought not, and that gives you some idea why it doesn’t get staged. The score has some prefigurings of the composer’s later elegiac, long-phrased style and some diverting ensembles, but not enough to be memorable. However, concert opera exists to investigate such pieces and DC is lucky to have WCO; New York has had a nearvacuum on such events since OONY stopped its mainstage offerings. So — even if it’s no lost master-

COMEDY IS HARD, from p.23

rendering the comedy as instead strident. The play is best when the characters simply speak Austen’s words without the clanging of bells, racing about the stage, and highpitched screeching intended to in-


Daniel Day-Lewis as Reynolds Woodcock in Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Phantom Thread.”

enjoyed a discreet and quiet life at a time when homosexual relations between men were illegal. In many ways, the consummate Edwardian in attitudes and life-style, he considered himself a confirmed bachelor, and his close friends were almost never in the public eye, nor did he ever do anything to compromise his position and business as a leading designer to both ladies of the British Royal Family and his aristocratic or ‘society’ clients upon whom his success was founded.” In “Phantom Thread,” Reynolds Woodcock describes himself as a “confirmed bachelor” which was the “polite” pre-Stonewall way of saying “I’m gay.” But we never see him interact with other men. Wikipedia also reports, “Hardy Amies when speaking of Sir Norman Hartnell, another renowned dressmaker to the Queen, commented: ‘It’s quite simple. He was a silly old queen and I’m a clever old queen.’” So why has Paul Thomas Anderson, a silly young heterosexual, created this exercise in straightwashing? That Daniel Day-Lewis, whose career was launched when he played a cheeky gay punk with a Pakistani boyfriend in “My Beautiful Laundrette,” has elected to end his career with this closet caper is more than a tad depressing. Here’s hoping Anderson’s poisoned mushroom of a movie won’t start a cinematic fashion trend of its own.

to keep Woodcock for her very own by feeding him poison mushrooms and then (without any medical assistance) nursing him back to life. In other words a gay man on the edge of death is apparently, to her, him at his most desirable. In this, “Phantom Thread” is cousin to the “Twilight” series, in which a woman falling in love with a vampire stands in for a woman falling in love with an HIV-positive gay man. A really good film could have been made about gay fashion designers and their straight female muses. The

two (count ‘em) Yves Saint Laurent biopics released in 2014 go into this to some degree. Something more — say about Saint Laurent and Catherine Deneuve — would be fascinating. And that’s not to mention the long-promsed but never made biopic of Halston — one of whose muses was Anjelica Huston. Will “Phantom Thread” shut the final door on that? I suspect it might. Reynolds Woodcock is modelled most directly after Norman Hartnell, a designer whose Wikipedia page reports, “never married, but

piece — one is grateful to Antony Walker for organizing a good cast for “Straniera” and leading it with dispatch and good ensemble. The very talented soprano Amanda Woodbury, announced as under the weather, nonetheless displayed an impressive technique and much lovely vocalism. The young Renee Fleming, who flourished in this part in the 1990s, seemed to be her model; some text-based incisive phrasing of the kind Renata Scotto and Mariella Devia offer might also help bring Woodbury to

another level. Arturo, placed very high, contains pitfalls; Gerald Schneider did some sensitive and attractive singing, but one regretted the few times he virtually yelled notes intended to be taken in head voice. Best of all was suave Chilean baritone Javier Arrey, a real bel canto singer evoking the late, undervalued Pablo Elvira; he limned a gorgeous reading of “Meco tu vieni,” a piece prefiguring baritone highlights in both “La favorite” and “Ernani.” As Isoletta — very much the sec-

onda donna role — Corrie Stallings showed a pure, well-focused voice and dispatched her cavatina and cabaletta in fine style. Timothy Bruno’s buzzy bass sounded duly authoritative as the Prior, and tenor Jonas Hacker showed good line and projection as the squirrelly villain Osburgo. WCO offers Donizetti’s “Maria di Rohan” on February 18.

dicate teenage girls. The company is personable and appealing and includes Hamill as Elizabeth and Jason O’Connell as Darcy. With much of the cast playing multiple parts, there are unfortunate cheap laughs as men play women and so forth. The essential problem, though, is

that director Amanda Dehnert never gives the audience a clear understanding of why her characters are engaged in all this frantic motion in the first place. And that, whether you’re a casual reader or a scholar, is something Austen never would have stood for. One always knows

exactly what she’s about, and her pointed insights are never wasted. Hamill has taken Austen and done a “SpongeBob” number on her, reducing “Pride and Prejudice” to superficial nonsense that just flops about. None of us, indeed including Austen, is any better for it. | December 21, 2017 – January 3, 2018

David Shengold ( writes about opera for many venues.




December 21, 2017 â&#x20AC;&#x201C; January 3, 2018 |

Gay City News  

December 21, 2017

Gay City News  

December 21, 2017