It's no surprise that Hollywood has been so invested in Proposition 8 over the past few years. Never mind that the controversial ballot proposition and the landmark case that followed which banned same-sex marriage (the ban was later declared unconstitutional) is happening right in their own backyard in California, but Hollywood — which never shies away from speaking out about a cause it believes in — is both a largely gay and gay-friendly community.
On Tuesday, the Supreme Court justices are hearing arguments on Prop 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act (which denies federal spousal benefits to same-sex couples), with the future of marriage rights and equality in the country hanging in the balance. The headline-grabbing news and debates regarding Prop 8 is intense and dramatic as is in real-life, but Hollywood has been telling the important page in American history, as its happening, and it seems as though they will continue to do so, no matter what today's outcome is.
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Prop 8 has already been turned into a musical and a play, now it seems it could be headed for the silver screen. According to BuzzFeed, actor/writer/director/all-around mensch Rob Reiner is working with Oscar-winning scribe Dustin Lance Black (Milk) to turn his play 8 into a film. Reiner, who is a co-founder of the American Foundation of Equal Rights (a backing the Prop 8 challenge), told the site, "We are working on it. Lance is working on a screenplay, and hopefully, when he finishes it, I'm going to direct it." No word on whether the original casts (plural) will return for the movie treatment.
Reiner was just one of the big name stars to appear in the 2011 Broadway production of the courtroom reenactment. (Among the other stars to take part in the original cast presentation were Morgan Freeman, Matt Bomer, Ellen Barkin, Bradley Whitford, and John Lithgow). The show, in which Black gave a detailed, verbatim account of transcripts from the 2010 trial and personal testimonials, went on to have another show in Los Angeles which featured an even bigger line-up (Brad Pitt, George Clooney, Jamie Lee Curtis, Chris Colfer, and John C. Reilly, just to name a few) and was broadcast worldwide.
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The play/educational tool, which raised around $2 million for the American Foundation of Equal Rights and was described by the Los Angeles Times at the time as "part activist theater, part Hollywood in-party", is still available to watch online. You can watch the entire 90 minute show here:
Of course, before 8 the Play, there was Prop 8 the Musical, the less-serious, but equally impactful (if not more so, considering it has over 7 million views to date) viral video from Funny or Die. Released in 2008, before the trial, the social commentary in the clip is as scathing as it is, well, funny. Featuring the likes of Rashida Jones, Neil Patrick Harris, Andy Richter, Maya Rudolph, and Jack Black as Jesus Christ, Prop 8 the Musical is as hysterical, catchy, and sadly, all too relevant today as it was five years ago. See it again below:
"Prop 8 - The Musical" starring Jack Black, John C. Reilly, and many more... from Jack Black
[Photo credit: American Foundation for Equal Rights]
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The Painted Veil is based on W. Somerset Maugham’s 1925 novel about British colonialism in China. The film's cohesion is largely helped by a user-friendly script from Ron Nyswaner (Philadelphia) who tackles amorphous movie-unfriendly themes like emotional longing. We meet Walter Fane (Edward Norton) a lovesick middle-class bacteriologist who spots Kitty (Naomi Watts) an upper-class socialite approaching the upper limits of marrying age at a party. Walter not smooth with women woos Kitty with his intensity and persuades her to join him in cholera-stricken China. With a wandering eye Kitty is soon caught in a lusty affair with a local British diplomat Charlie Townsend (Liev Schreiber) but Walter eventually forgives her but imprisons her in the desolate green south China countryside. The film's crucial problem is its setting of a Western-centric love story on top of a palette of Chinese human death and disease albeit framed beautifully and exotically. Norton and Watts take producers' credits as well. The actor pushed for years to get The Painted Veil made painstakingly and authentically co-produced with the China Film Board. These facts hint at the commitment and intelligence Oscar nominees Norton and Watts bring. Norton always impresses and surprises. Each role in his resume is tasty in its own way a wholly new creation and never derivative. In Norton's previous film The Illusionist he was a similarly powerful opaque character from a far away time and place. Although sometimes seeming she’s on autopilot Watts is also brilliantly underrated as the conflicted Kitty who doesn't love the man she married even though he loves her as much as she loves herself. Her tricky darting eyes mixed with uneasy body language tells us we don't know what to expect other than that she'll probably sabotage herself. Toby Jones--who played Truman Capote to critics' acclaim in Infamous--does a provocative turn as the mysterious opium-smoking neighbor. The Painted Veil falls short of greatness when the second half crumbles into laziness right when the emotional impact should be the strongest. Director John Curran is relatively untested ( We Don't Live Here Anymore) especially with difficult material and he stumbles a bit in this ambitious drama. Veil's storytelling meanders with a few unnecessary scenes. Lame mini-montages lapse into TV movie territory. Attention to detail however (minus Norton's highlighted hair) is superb. Four exquisite wisely picked Chinese locations were used in concert with local actors and crew to produce an internationally representative work of Chinese/American art. Interior sets are post-WWI prudish and upper-class underlying the movie's "painted " hidden ideas. Old-world rickshaws and water systems are true to the time. The haunting soundtrack feels postmodern and contemporary. But overall like last year's disappointing Memoirs of a Geisha the mish-mash of American and Asian story themes doesn't quite work.