Okay so I am late in seeing Netflix’s ‘Hollywood.’ It seems like everyone has said their piece about the show. And I have to admit when i first started watching it, I loved it. I mean cute guys, hot sex, Patti LuPone. I mean, everything about it seemed gay gay gay. Now that I think more about it, I wonder if the show appealed to people outside the gay community. But by episode four, I was starting to tune out. It seems so strained, and so shallow. I mean, I get what it is trying to say – the what if of it all – but I just did not buy it. It wasn’t written well, and from what I read about Rock Hudson, I don’t think he would have ended up with a black man. Also, i did not like the mix of fictional and ‘real’ characters. I mean, why name Rock and not Scottie Bowers? Truly, the show left a not-so-sweet taste in my mouth, and the more I gargle with Listerine the better.
File ‘All you Ever Wished For’ under Bad films that happen to good people. It looks like this film has been on the shelf for a while and it recently got a VOD release. Darren Criss posted about it on his social media, and that’s how I learned about it. Sorry, Darren, but this film is a major misfire, and this after your Grand Slam year of winning every conceivable award for your portrayal of Andrew Cunanan in ‘American Horror Story.’ I wanted to like this film, and there is a whimsical aspect to the plot, but it’s a plodding mess. Its heart is its the right place but it’s just a failure in most other aspects. Criss is fine, and he even gamely indulges in the bad material, but there is only so much one can do. He posted that he had fun shooting the movie, and maybe that’s the consolation he can hold on to.
I had been looking forward to seeing ‘The Assassination of Gianni Versace’ because o a couple of things. Firstly, I remember when this incident happened, and followed the case close enough when it was on the headlines. Of course, the old me don’t remember really that much about the case, so I thought it would be well to see it unfold in a different way. Second, Versace’s killer, Andrew Cunanan, is half-Filipino so culturally it is resonating with me – although really being a psychopath doesn’t really get dictated by nationality. And lastly, this looks to be one of the gayest shows this season – directed by Ryan Murphy, and starring Ricky Martin and Darrin Criss. Well, Criss isn’t technically gay, but I have only seen him play gay, so he might as well be.
And the pilot. ‘The Man Who Would Be Vogue’ was pretty engaging. I know some have complained that it was a little slow, but I thought it moved quickly enough, and really, is there that much to say to warrant nine episodes? It begins at the day of the shooting, and moves back and forth in time. There were details I didn’t really know – that bird which got killed by a stray bullet was something I didn’t know. Plus, I thought the performances were universally good. Edgar Ramirez looks and talks like the real Gianni that it was sometimes jarring. And what great revelation Ricky martin is here. I know he has acted before, and I have seen him on stage even on Les Miserable, but his Antonio D’Amico here has great shades of subtlety (I suspect Murphy’s hand there) Penelope Cruz is inspired casting – there’s just a dash of camp there for vavavavoom but you never feel it isn’t real – Cruz gives her great humanity. And Darren Criss is blazing hot to look at as Andrew Cunanan, which probably best represented the character: all accounts from people he knew said he had charm. There are moments of deep depth in Criss here – in the ‘fantasy’ sequence of him and Versace on stage at the San Francisco Opera, you can see his mind swirling as Cunanan’s probably was- but slim writing probably hindered him in some scenes. When he gets to his car after killing Versace, we never truly know what is going on in Cunanan’s mind, and Criss never really filled in the blanks there.
For sure, though, the show is great to look at and sounds incredible. The bright Miami sunlight gives it a great glow, and there is that stunning opening sequence of Casa Casuarina choreographed to Albinoni’s Adagio. I am hooked, and cannot wait for the next episodes.
It’s a long boring story how I ended up seeing Darren Criss as Hedwig. Needless to say, that show wasn’t my first choice to see that night. I saw the 1998 Off Broadway production with John Cameron Mitchell, and I wasn’t in love with the show then, but have full respect for Mr. Mitchell. I know the show has a cult following, and that’s fine – they are kind of like the Rentheads, I guess. I know someone who went to see the original production numerous times, and now on Broadway have seen every major replacement in this production since Neil Patrick Harris. I never saw Mr. Harris’ Tony Award winning performance, so I don’t know if that favoured my opinion of Mr. Criss who is now essaying this role. While I also like Mr. Criss, I also can’t say I am a big fan – I mean – he was cute enough on Glee, but and that’s all I really feel about him. So anyway, I have to admit it took me a little bit of time to warm up to this production – initially I am thinking this is too big for the show – the effects, the projections. There was a part of me who felt Mr. Mitchell copped out. But you know what? I mean, isn’t small, or biggishly small the whole point of Hedwig – a never was, slightly bitter, miniaturist fabulous performer? I can’t really say I loved this production, to be honest. I missed the intimacy of the show, where it felt like the theater was a dive bar. But they do recreate it in all its glory, for better or worse. And… (drumroll) Mr Criss surprised me. I went in hating the experience, skeptical of the production, but I felt like he worked his hot ass off to not just win me over, but have me go gags over him. While I have to admit that there was a big part of me who was imagining Mr. Harris doing the role, that quickly went away as I experience Mr. Criss – he has the stage presence, and this production shows off his skill set immensely. I would even say that he sang some of these songs, like “tear Me Down,” and “Midnight Radio” fairly better than how Mr. Harris performs it on the cast recording, which I have listened to. So it was a tough sell, but Mr. Criss delivered, and I left The Belasco Theater happier than when I entered. That’s a good thing.