Nobody ever accused Bette Davis of not speaking her mind. When not nominated for an Oscar for her performance in Of Human Bondage (1934), now — as it was then — generally accepted as one of the greatest performances ever delivered to the big screen by a female (LIFE magazine acclaimed is “the greatest performance ever recorded on screen by an actress” and nobody has ever leapt in to correct them) she wrote a letter to the Academy demanding she be included as a nominee.
As she was not yet President of the Academy (which she became in 1941), she had limited power in what could be done, with the Academy informing (or rather, tacitly urging) voters via an immediate press release that for that year only, they could vote for whomever they liked, whether that person was nominated or not. Claudette Colbert went on to win for It Happened One Night and looked visibly embarrassed when accepting.
The next year, as a result of this disaster, the now famous Oscar voting system, with the protracted nominee selection process and locked briefcases and sealed envelopes went began. Not incidentally, Miss Davis claims that the statuette is nicknamed “Oscar” because it’s backside reminded her of her first husband Harmon Nelson’s bottom (his middle name was Oscar). I’m not going to argue with her - are you?
Anyway, the next year when Miss Davis was handed her first Best Actress Oscar for Dangerous she dismissed it as “a consolation prize” and went on to say that the entire sordid Bondage affair ruined the Oscars for all time by setting off an infinite chain reaction, with each year’s winner being awarded for a performance that is not necessarily their best or hat year’s best, but merely a “consolation prize” for prior Oscar-unrecognised work. Meanwhile, that year’s truly deserving winner went home empty handed, only to return the next or several years later to win for a film that meant little to them or anyone else. I’m sure you can think of countless examples off the top of your head.
As always, Miss Davis was right. I mean, if you could just give one Best Actress Oscar, to cover the entire history of Hollywood female acting, there’d not even be a need to hold a ballot:
The incomparable Quentin Crisp (1908-1999) shared a birthday with Jesus and was played by John Hurt in 1975’s The Naked Civil Servant, adapted from Crisp’s memoir of the same name.
The Queen of interwar Old Compton Street, he starred with Helen Mirren, among others, on the London stage before moving to the United States where his dinner parties became legendary. He played Queen Elizabeth I opposite Tilda Swinton in 1992’s Orlando and appeared as a party guest in a scene of the same year’s Philadelphia.
Imperiously disparaging about everything from AIDS (”a fad”) to Princess Diana (”vulgar”), he wrote a classic series of film reviews for Christopher Street magazine, some of which are reprinted here at Outrate. For more information, please visit the Quentin Crisp website, or purchase the anthology of Quentin Crisp film reviews, “How To Go To The Movies”, here.
June was a month of debauchery.
During it, I watched two films in one week, one wantonly with a movie maniac and the other in the line of duty with your Mr. Steele. The one that my movie-mad friend chose was called Man, Woman and Sin. Two days later, I saw Mr. Babenco’s masterpiece, Kiss of the Spider Woman. Though this was screened in an upper room on Broadway for the most highbrow critics in the land and is as sordid a tale as you will ever find (however hard you try), the woman sitting next to me laughed delightedly throughout the entire two hours of its showing time.
Kiss has glaring faults but none that, in my opinion, make it ludicrous.
Perhaps we should deal with these errors at once and quickly so that we may dwell at length on the film’s remarkable virtues.
Review by Mark Simpson
‘If a bullet should enter my brain, let it destroy ever closet door.’ So says Sean Penn as Harvey Milk, the gay activist who became California’s first openly gay public official. Any concern that this may be a slightly melodramatic statement is quelled of course by the knowledge that Milk was famously killed by a bullet to the head in 1978 by a disgruntled, possibly anti-gay colleague. So instead it becomes an epitaph.
Lauded by critics, laden with no less than 8 Academy Film Award nominations, including Best Film, and Best Actor, lavished with praise from editorials in straight and gay newspapers, director Gus Van Sant’s Milk, recently released in the UK, is, everyone agrees, that avenging ricochet from Harvey’s skull shooting down prejudice, fearfulness and dishonesty.
There’s only one small problem, however. It isn’t. With award-winning hypocrisy, Milk actually bundles Milk’s sexuality out of sight. This movie, far from ‘destroying every closet door’, builds a brand new bullet-proof one around it’s subject’s sex-life. Milk you see is living a lie.
Harvey Milk was born 82 years ago today, on May 22, 1930. Rob Epstein’s documentary, The Times of Harvey Milk, was narrated by Harvey Fierstein, contains stacks of incredible archive footage, and won the Oscar for Best Documentary in 1984. Rob Epstein’s next documentary, Common Threads: Stories From The Quilt, won Epstein his second Best Documentary Oscar in 1989.
The Times of Harvey Milk is available here.
The Silence of the Lambs enjoyed an early-1990s Russian release, then, in another lifetime, welcomed so many followers on Twitter that their avatars could comprise a quite sophisticated montage of the original poster art (below).
I don’t really understand Twitter. I guess I’m more the generation that may have gone out and bought a Hannibal Lecter doll (after the jump).
Jody (Forest Whitaker) tells Fergus (Stephen Rea) everything - except that one thing about his girlfriend Dil (Jaye Davidson) - in this memorable monologue about the frog and the scorpion in 1992’s The Crying Game.
Did you know: Kiss of the Spider Woman was the first independent film to be nominated for a handful of major Oscars? The acclaim that justifiably came the way of this great masterpiece, released in 1985, paved the way for the scores of independent films that have risen to the top of the awards season ever since.