Tuesday, November 24, 2015


Directed by Jeffrey Schwarz

Where & When: Nuart Theater, West Los Angeles, CA. November 5, 2015  7:30 PM

If you asked a millennial who is Tab Hunter, I'm sure you would either get a blank look or perhaps some might guess that he's a right-wing politician or the husband of a reality star. For those who did not know, the fascinating documentary, "Tab Hunter Confidential" reveals that the blond and handsome Hunter was actually a very popular movie star during the 1950's. And he had a secret.

He came to fame during the Eisenhower era with it's rigidly defined conception of manhood. While the actor was able to portray this rugged he-man image comfortably on film, the real-life Hunter was different from those men he played in front of the camera. Jeffrey Schwarz, who has previously brought to the screen the stories of cult and underground personalities ranging from porn star, Jack Wrangler, John Waters' muse, Divine, gay activist, Vito Russo and gimmick film maker, William Castle, tells another compelling story of Hunter publicly living a lie for the price of Hollywood glory while a constant threat to his career due to the possibility of his true-nature being revealed kept him from truly enjoying his success.

He was born Arthur Kelm in New York City but ended up in sunny Los Angeles after his mother took him and his brother away from their abusive father. As a young boy, Arthur had a passion for ice-skating, horseback riding and the cinema and while he participated in the first two activities, he never imagined himself possibly being an actor.

That changed after Henry Wilson, a Hollywood agent known for his stable of attractive young studs, discovered the nineteen-year old Kelm, gave him the silly stage name and got him under contract with Warner Brothers. He had his first major role with Linda Darnell in "Island of Desire" and while the film was a hit at the box-office, Hunter's performance was not, with the actor dismissed as simply a pretty face. Deciding to gain acting experience by working on the New York stage, Hunter developed much needed skill and confidence.

Tab Hunter rose to the top during the time when an actor's image was still being carefully manufactured by a Hollywood publicity team. He was being projected as the sweet, boy-next-door type that any girl would love to bring home to mother. But Hunter was gay and the studio worked overtime to conceal his sexuality. He was seen out on studio-created dates with several of his lovely co-stars (Debbie Reynolds and French actress, Etchika Choureau, who Hunter almost married, appear briefly to discuss this) which helped not only publicize their latest film but make him appear like your average, all-American boy. This didn't stop some of the sleazier tabloid magazines to publish stories raising questions. Hunter did manage to find true romance a few times, most notably with actor Anthony Perkins of "Psycho" fame but the anxiety of the public discovering the truth caused the relationships to suffer.

Schwartz has crafted a fairly conventional doc although his examinations on bold, larger-than-life individuals doesn't require excessive embellishments. With much of Hunter's life covered in the 2006 memoir of the same title, there aren't any new revelations disclosed. However, that doesn't stop the film from being engaging and thoroughly entertaining.

The eighty-four year old Hunter is low-key and easy-going with no signs of resentment or bitterness. This is surprising considering how he went from a major box-office draw and a pop-star with a number-one hit (despite a modest singing voice) but after buying out his contract from Warner Bros.in 1960, struggled to find work. He spent a number of years doing dinner theater, television dramas and B-movies before John Waters offered Hunter a role opposite Divine in the 1981 Odorama comedy, "Polyester". It became a cult classic and put Hunter back in the spotlight.

Long retired and living happily on his horse ranch in Santa Barbara with Allan Glaser, his partner of over thirty years (and one of the film's producers), "Tab Hunter Confidential" shows that the actor came out of Hollywood relatively unscathed despite the arduous challenges the system put him through. It would be great to say that actors today no longer have to live in fear that revealing their actual sexuality could cost them work but the truth is that it still remains a complicated issue. We have certainly come a long way since Hunter's days as a closeted movie star but the evolution still continues.

Monday, November 16, 2015


There has been much recent talk about how female directors are woefully underrepresented in the film industry. But this is hardly surprising news and has been discussed and discussed over the years yet not much has changed.

New York magazine has complied a list of 100 female directors that Hollywood should be utilizing their gifts. Looking over this list, I was shocked to see the names of wonderful directors that have made some of my favorite films (Jane Campion ("The Piano"), Kasi Lemmons ("Eve's Bayou"), Niki Caro ("Whale Rider"), Mary Harron ("American Psycho"), Sarah Polley ("Away From Her"), Amy Heckerling ("Fast Times at Ridgemont High") and Penny Marshall ("Big") to name just a few) and realizing either the huge gap between features or in some cases, still waiting to make another film.  I really hope film executives and producers look at this collection of film makers and will finally wake up and hire some of this great, underutilized talent.

Click below to read the article:

100 Female Directors Hollywood Should be Hiring

Friday, November 13, 2015

BURNT (2015)

Written by Steven Knight

Directed by John Wells

Where & When: Sundance Sunset Cinemas, West Hollywood, CA.  November 2, 2015  9:45PM

"Burnt", an under cooked romantic drama, features the swoon-worthy Bradley Cooper as an American two-star chef that became a superstar in Paris before squandering his talent in a haze of booze, drugs and women. Now clean and sober, he's seeking redemption and forgiveness while attempting to rebuild his career and reputation. Director John Wells, best known for his fine work on television with "ER", "The West Wing" and "Shameless" and for the feature, "August: Osage County", is more than capable of getting amazing work from his performers and shaping together a compelling story. Yet he's unable to put these ingredients together here in a satisfying way, leaving "Burnt" flat and indigestible.

Having served a self-imposed penance in New Orleans for his past sins, Adam Jones (Cooper) is ready to begin again. Broke but still able to charm, Jones checks in to the swanky hotel in London managed by Tony (Daniel Brühl), a former associate. Skeptical of his old friend's claims of cleaning up his act, he's completely floored when Jones suggests they open a new restaurant together. Although trust has to be earned, because of Jones' amazing gift in the kitchen, eventually Tony is willing to overlook his destructive behavior of the past and take another chance. He's not the only one. Omar Sy plays another friend burned by Jones but willing to work by his side in this new venture.

And where does the romance come in? That's in the form of Sienna Miller, re-teaming with her "American Sniper" co-star, as a single mother quite content working as a sous chef in Tony's restaurant at the hotel. Initially unaffected by the brutish charisma of Adam Jones yet finds herself forcibly drawn in to his kitchen and inescapably in to his arms. Cooper and Miller still have a nice chemistry which helps yet not enough to make this unlikely couple coming together believable.

The goal of acquiring a third Michelin star for his new fine dining establishment will be an uphill climb for Jones. His kitchen staff has not yet developed the proper rhythm required. The successful restaurant of a rival cook (Matthew Rhys) from his past lights a fire under Jones while some dealers that tracked him down and owed a substantial sum of money are ready set him on fire. And as the pressure build, the demons that unraveled Jones previously threaten to resurface.

With the countless cooking programs on the air, the atmosphere of intense pressure and controlled chaos that goes on behind the scenes is no longer a mystery. We now expect the wild and burning passion that goes on in a restaurant's kitchen however you won't find much to crave in this pedestrian script by Steven Knight. What is served up, at best, is lukewarm melodrama. If you expect to see fascinatingly complex characters, you would do better to tune in to any episode of "Top Chef".

Mr. Cooper, all scruff and sexy swagger, is quite appealing as the arrogant bad boy. While the actor impresses with skillfully performing like a professional chef,  this material doesn't give him much else to work with. This forces Cooper to coast mostly on his physical attributes though we know he's able to do much more like his Oscar-nominated work in "Silver Linings Playbook", "American Hustle" and the aforementioned "American Sniper".

The most criminal offense about "Burnt" is how it completely wastes the talents of some great actresses. Not only are their appearances far too brief but they're not given much to do. This includes Lily James of "Downton Abbey" and the star of Disney's live-action hit, "Cinderella", Uma Thurman as a lesbian food critic that somehow couldn't resist Adam's sexual charms, this year's It girl, Alicia Vikander as Adam's former lover and most tragic of all; the wonderful Oscar-winner, Emma Thompson resigned to playing a dowdy psychoanalyst assigned to drawing blood to be sure our chef is not using and keep check on his mental state.

If you are looking to simply savior in the joy of Bradley Cooper and his piercing blue eyes, then "Burnt" will certainly satisfy your appetite. However, if you want a drama with a little more meat on it's bones, then you might want to skip this course.