Windy City Media Group Frontpage News


home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2023-02-22



Knight at the Movies: Lily Tomlin; the late, great Laird Cregar
by Richard Knight, Jr., for Windy City Times

This article shared 4478 times since Wed Aug 26, 2015
facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

Lily plays a grandma

In Grandma, from writer-director Paul Weitz, Lily Tomlin plays a character who is a lesbian—a big one. Elle Reid is a loud, proud, majorly out lesbian who is unapologetic in her feminist, humanist views and isn't exactly shy about expressing them to all and sundry. Tomlin has played a lesbian character before—in Tea with Mussolini, co-starring with Cher, Maggie Smith and Judi Dench—but it was miles from the raw, funny and brilliantly complex character of Elle Reid she plays in Grandma. So let's take a moment to rejoice that one of Our Own is playing one of Us—spectacularly.

Elle has just broken up with her lover of four months ( Judy Greer ) at the movie's outset when Elle's 18-year-old granddaughter, Sage ( Julia Garner ), appears. The somewhat ditzy Sage, with her Harpo Marx curly blonde hair and diffident manner, is pregnant and needs a little more than $600 ( $630, to be exact ) in order to have an abortion late that same day. Elle, a respected, published poet, has just cleared up mountains of debt, going so far as to cut up all her credit cards in the process, so she's broke. But she's also a practical woman of action. Her daughter—Julia's mother, an uptight, finger-wagger—is the last person either wants to go for the money.

So, hopping into Elle's vintage 1950 car ( Tomlin used her own for the movie's 19-day shoot ), she and Julia drive around the L.A. area trying to scrounge up the cash. Along the way, as they encounter everyone from Elle's ex-husband ( a surprisingly moving Sam Elliott ) to the owner of a bookstore who obviously had a thing for Elle ( Elizabeth Pena, in her last role ) to a funny transgender tattoo artist ( Orange Is the New Black's Laverne Cox ), the two span the wide generation gap and slowly find common ground. At one point, Elle decides to sell some signed, treasured first edition books, including Betty Friedan's seminal The Feminine Mystique, which Julia has never heard of. "You don't know what The Feminine Mystique is?!" the genuinely stunned Elle queries of Julia. "A character in X-Men?" her granddaughter tentatively guesses. That response allows Elle to go on yet another frustrated rant about the sea change that has taken place culturally.

The fearless Elle—who takes no prisoners as she and Julia roam the city—isn't nearly as caustic as she sounds but she's not exactly a warm, fuzzy Mimi, either. Tomlin gives this tart-tongued woman a wonderful humanity and the audience knows all along that Elle is grappling with life after the death of her beloved partner Violet a year and a half earlier. ( "Violet" is tattooed on the inside of her right wrist. ) Eventually, the other missing piece—Elle's daughter, Judy ( Marcia Gay-Harden ), enters the scene and other aspects of Elle's life become clear.

Director Paul Weitz wrote the movie specifically for Tomlin, and his gift to her becomes a gift to all of us. Without her performance, Grandma is a diverting, slice-of-life generation-gap dramedy. With her, it's elevated to art and Tomlin is firing on all cylinders. ( She must have been thrilled after first reading the script. )

It's been 40 years since the sensationally talented Tomlin made her film debut in Robert Altman's masterpiece Nashville. She's had great film roles in the ensuing years and is having a great career resurgence with both this part and her Emmy-nominated role ( her 22nd! ) in Grace and Frankie, but Tomlin's acting in Grandma is altogether on a level that her work in Nashville was—it reminds us of how deeply gifted this unique woman is. And it's a pleasure to stand back and watch her go.

Laird Cregar

On Aug. 28-Sept. 3, the Music Box Theatre, 3733 N. Southport Ave., partnering with the Film Noir Foundation, will present Noir City: Chicago 7, the annual film-noir festival that returns for the seventh edition with a raft of little-seen 1940s and early '50s noir classics.

With 17 films in the lineup, there are enough shady dames and vicious killers prowling through the dark underworld to keep noir fans enthralled. Crime of Passion and Witness to Murder—two unsung Barbara Stanwyck thrillers both on the bill this year—are hallmarks of the series' dedication to presenting rarely screened gems. Many of the entries are presented in restored 35mm versions.

This year I'm particularly happy to see two Victorian-era thrillers in the mix—1945's Hangover Square, with queer star Laird Cregar in the title role, and 1941's Ladies in Retirement starring Ida Lupino ( both screening Aug. 31 ). Hangover Square, from director John Cromwell, is a doozy—dripping in the gothic atmosphere of a foggy, threatening London in which Cregar plays George Harvey Bone, a composer driven to murder every time he hears a dissonant chord. Bernard Herrmann, the acknowledged dean of film composers, supplied the masterly "Concerto Macabre" that is played at the film's furious climax. ( The soundtrack has just been released, at long last. ) George Sanders is the acid-tongued police detective who pieces together Bone's crimes and Linda Darnell plays the sluttish cabaret singer who uses Bone with drastic consequences.

Cregar had played character roles but had a hit the previous year with The Lodger, a fictional variation on the Jack the Ripper murders in which he starred, just four years after he began in films. He didn't want to film Hangover Square, tired of playing demented killers but eventually changed his mind and determined to give the character a romantic edge. Always a big man, Cregar lost more than 100 pounds to film the role but died from a heart attack after losing the weight too quickly. Ironically, two months following his death, the movie was released to great acclaim and Cregar's future as a leading man seemed assured.

On the same evening, the series will also present an ultra-rare screening of 1941's Ladies in Retirement, director Charles Vidor's early example of film noir. Ida Lupino plays Ellen, a refined spinster and companion to a vain, retired actress living in the English countryside who manages to get permission to bring her two sisters for a visit. But the outlandish behavior of the sisters ( expertly acted by Elsa Lanchester and Edith Barrett )—who are clearly certifiable—drives the actress crazy and she demands they leave, setting the stage for murder. Lupino is sensational as the repressed Ellen, as is Louis Hayward ( her real-life future husband ) as a ne'er-do-well whose presence in the home escalates the tension.

Upcoming movie calendar

Highlights from films opening in Chicago, Aug. 28 and Sept. 4 ( or available digitally )

We Are Your Friends ( 8/28 )—It's the latest from hunky heartthrob Zac Efron. This time out, he plays a DJ trying to hit the big time in Hollywood and, naturally, hedonistic complications galore ( in the personage of his mentor's luscious girlfriend ) throw up roadblocks along the way. Emily Ratajkowski, Wes Bentley, Shiloh Fernandez and Jonny Weston co-star. See the interview with Efron, Ratajkowski and director Max Joseph in this issue.

Grandma ( 8/28 )—Lily Tomlin shines in this dramedy from writer-director Paul Weitz. Julia Garner, Marcia Gay Harden and Judy Greer co-star. See the review above.

Tangerine ( 9/4 )—It's Sean Baker's audacious comedy, a day in the life of two feisty transgender hookers and their raucous adventures on the streets of Los Angeles on Christmas Eve. Shot entirely on an iPhone but you'd never know it. Playing at the Gene Siskel Film Center ( 164 N. State Street ).

Bloodsucking Bastards ( 9/4 and 9/5 )—It's a blood-spattered horror comedy set in an office described as a cross between Office Space and Shaun of the Dead. Director Brian James O'Connell ( a Chicago native ) and cast members will attend the two screenings Sept. 4-5 at Facets Cinematheque, 1517 W. Fullerton Ave. .

This article shared 4478 times since Wed Aug 26, 2015
facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email


Gay News

WORLD Venezuela code, Oxfam, Bosnia items, 'Brokeback,' Pope Francis
Venezuela's Supreme Court annulled a controversial part of the military justice code that had criminalized same-sex relations within the armed forces, the outlet Punch noted. The court annulled the provision, which had provided for a penalty ...

Gay News

SHOWBIZ 'Joy Ride,' Cynthia Erivo, David Bowie, March Madness, Kevin Bacon
Video below - The first trailer for the upcoming comedy Joy Ride has been released, Out noted. The movie stars Ashley Park, queer Oscar nominee Stephanie Hsu (Everything Everywhere All At Once), bisexual comedian Sherry Cola (Good Trouble) and ...

Gay News

SHOWBIZ 'Black Adam,' Cyndi Lauper, Sondheim, Oscars, OutFest
Cultured Magazine recently profiled Quintessa Swindell—who became the first out, non-binary actor to play a lead superhero in the DC universe when they portrayed Cyclone in the 2022 movie Black Adam. Swindell grew up in Virginia ...

Gay News

Billy Masters: From the Oscars to the Grebes
"31 years ago in 1992, Brendan Fraser and Ke Huy Quan were in a movie together. . . two actors from 'Encino Man' are nominated for Oscars. Incredible night it must be for the two of you, and what a very ...

Gay News

SHOWBIZ Little Richard, Indigo Girls, Rodriguez's honor, dance film, Pedro Pascal
Video below - Produced by Bungalow Media + Entertainment for CNN Films and HBO Max, in association with Rolling Stone Films, director Lisa Cortes' Sundance opening-night documentary Little Richard: I Am Everything will debut in theaters and on VOD ...

Gay News

Billy Masters: Raunchier Uncoupled on the rebound with Showtime
"I never liked when she did this in concerts either. I don't like when females are overly sexualized in art. It degrades and objectivy's [sic] women in a way that's not healthy." —TJ Jackson on reports ...

Gay News

SHOWBIZ Wanda Sykes, Jonas Brothers, 'Queen of Versailles,' 'Bloodshed'
Adam Lambert video below - Award-winning comedian Wanda Sykes' new comedy special, I'm An Entertainer, will premiere globally on Netflix on May 23, a press release announced. The special, directed by Linda Mendoza, was filmed in early February 2023 at Philadelphia's ...

Gay News

Queerties honor LGBTQ+ creatives at Feb. 28 event
The 11th Annual Queerties Awards—which recognizes LGBTQ+ creators, tastemakers, storytellers and newsmakers—took place Feb. 28 at Eden Sunset in Los Angeles. Hosted by drag comedian Bianca Del Rio, the ceremony ...

Gay News

SHOWBIZ 'Bob's Burgers,' P!nk, sports items, Billy Porter, Ben Platt
Animated sitcom Bob's Burgers marked another major milestone with its 250th episode. Gay actor/comedian/musician John Roberts (who voices Linda Belcher) talked with Queerty and said that one of the most important lessons he's learned from ...

Gay News

'Everything' sweeps The Society of LGBTQ Entertainment Critics 14th Dorian Film Awards
--From a press release - GALECA,The Society of LGBTQ Entertainment Critics, has named A24's fantastical and affecting family relationship drama Everything Everywhere All at Once 2022's Film of the Year—and then some—in its 14th Dorian ...

Gay News

At 'FIRST(ISH)' Sight: Producer Ashley Flowers speaks on 'honest' representation
Ashley Flowers—a producer, co-creator and actor in the short film First(ish) Date, now in pre-production—wears many creative hats. She also has an extensive resume working with stage and film props as well; Flowers has been working ...

Gay News

SHOWBIZ Black queer films, Janet Jackson, Paramore, WNBA, GALECA contest
Queerty ran a piece on 10 films that celebrate Black queer love. Some of them include The Skinny (with Jussie Smollett), Dee Rees' movie Pariah, the Oscar-winning Moonlight, the Marlon Riggs classic Tongues Untied, Brother to ...

Gay News

Goran Stolevski grows up fast with Of an Age
Openly gay filmmaker Goran Stolevski is a triple threat: He handled directing, writing and editing chores for his new project, Of an Age, which Focus Features is now distributing. The film is already taking home trophies ...

Gay News

SHOWBIZ Isaac Mizrahi, Viola Davis, Laura Jane Grace, Elton John, GLAAD
On Sherri Shepherd's talk show, entertainer/fashion designer Isaac Mizrahi said he'd love for out actor Dan Levy to portray him in a potential biopic based on Mizrahi's memoir, I.M., The Wrap noted. "Dan Levy, OK," Mizrahi ...

Gay News

SHOWBIZ Jerrod Carmichael, Alan Cumming, Andre Leon Talley, AIDS drama
Openly gay stand-up comic and recent Golden Globes host Jerrod Carmichael is set to star in a comedy documentary series for HBO, according to Entertainment Weekly. The yet-untitled series will center on Carmichael's personal life, following ...


Copyright © 2023 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives. Single copies of back issues in print form are
available for $4 per issue, older than one month for $6 if available,
by check to the mailing address listed below.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.
All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transegender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.






About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Advanced Search     
Windy City Queercast      Queercast Archives     
Press  Releases      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast      Blogs     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam     
Privacy Policy     

Windy City Media Group publishes Windy City Times,
The Bi-Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.