It’s time, really. After decades of queer audiences extracting every bit of subtext from the 1939 classic film, “The Wizard of Oz,” including employing the expression “friend of Dorothy” to describe themselves to uncomprehending straights, and after the monster musical-theater success of “Wicked,” which kept the queerness rolling, “Black-ish” creator Kenya Barris is at work on a new version that will make explicit the implicit and include direct LGBTQ+ representation and themes. His reasoning isn’t difficult to understand, in that the 1939 film, adapting the L. Frank Baum novel (originally published in the year 1900) became, in his words, “a reflection of the way the world was at the time with things like the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl.” The project is in the early stages still, so more on this as it develops, but as a story that has taken on its own life over the course of 122 years, it’s fitting to adapt it and give queer expression its place in a very centered way.
Queer artist Nan Goldin has built a body of photographic work that has, for decades, documented the gritty reality of LGBTQ+ life. Along the way she’s also been open about her recovery from opioid addiction and has worked to draw attention to the ways that major museums are often funded by, among others, pharmaceutical companies that profit from the opioid addiction crisis. Academy Award-winning documentary filmmaker Laura Poitras (“Citizenfour”) has collaborated with Goldin for a new doc, “All the Beauty and the Bloodshed,” that chronicles Goldin’s efforts to draw attention to the harm done to public health by the pharmaceutical industry, the money from which is sometimes used by the art world to keep itself running. The film already won the Golden Lion at this year’s Venice Film Festival and has been picked up by award-winning distributor Neon for release later this year. You’ll be hearing more about this one soon.
Young people, gather ’round. There was once a man named Oscar Levant. He was a famous actor and pianist in Hollywood’s Golden Age. After all that, he was a celebrated pundit and chat-show guest. He dared to talk about subjects other people shied away from and made audiences laugh out loud while doing so. “There’s a fine line between genius and insanity, and I have erased that line,” he famously said. Now, Sean Hayes will star as Levant in a new Broadway play, “Good Night, Oscar,” next spring from Pulitzer Prize winner Doug Wright. The play will run for a 20-week limited engagement beginning in April 2023 and will focus on a single, TV-censor-testing night when Levant was a guest on “The Tonight Show,” then hosted by Jack Paar. Hayes seems perfect for this role, having already shown naysayers who only associate him with “Will & Grace” that he can hit the right tone even when playing one of the Three Stooges (Larry, for the record). Levant — as outrageous a heterosexual as the 20th century would give popular culture — ought to fight him like a glove. Additional casting news is forthcoming.
Sarah Paulson has signed on to star in and executive produce the scripted narrative version of the HBO Max documentary series, “The Way Down: God, Greed, and the Cult of Gwen Shamblin.” If you’re not up to speed with the sheer number of grifter cult leaders out there, you might not know much about the late Shamblin. She died in a plane crash in 2021, but during her life she was the originator of The Weigh Down, an Evangelical Christian weight-loss program. She also founded her own church, the Remnant Fellowship. She made a lot of money doing this; she was accused of abusive, cult-like practices; and she had enormously tall hair. The project is currently in development, so Paulson is the only person on board at the moment, but given the popularity of the doc series, the sheer weirdness of the entire story ought to guarantee an audience needing to gawk and enjoy the super-wigs Paulson will have attached to her head. We’re thinking sometime in late 2023.
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