On Jan. 13, actor-director-producer Jodie Foster accepted the Cecil B. DeMille award for career achievement at the annual Golden Globes ceremony.
The Globeshanded out from a star-crazed, easily-pandered-to group with shaky media credentialshas always been the camp, ne'er do-well kin of the much more prestigious Academy Awards, which is its inspiration. As such, bizarre and often drunken behavior from stars who usually behave with a bit more decorum has come to be expected during the televised ceremony. For a show with such a checkered historyJack Nicholson mooned the audience one year, Suzanne Somers "sang" a medley from her Vegas act another, etc.it was no surprise that Foster's rambling acceptance speech, clocking in at just under seven minutes, went off the weirdsville grid.
Or did it?
Reading a transcript of Foster's remarks puts things in a more cohesive context and seems to reveal a woman struggling with a lot more than coming out and privacy issues. Just 50, Foster started by declaring that fact in a jokey but derisive manner, and kidded about leaving her walker at home because it didn't go with her cleavage (which she wasn't baring but, uh, never mind). There were other veiled remarks that seemed to imply that Foster is convinced that at her "advanced" age there's nothing left to do but retire from acting, although she immediately retracted that idea as a misinterpretation when she hit the press room following her speech.
Likewise, Foster decried the struggle to maintain a private, "normal" life in a culture that no longer seems to know the meaning of the word. The conundrum, of course, is that Foster's somewhat defensive remarkswhich seemed to include a plea to leave her the hell alonewere made at the most public of occasions in front of millions. To further confuse the private-versus-public aspects of the celebrity existence, Foster then seemed to confirm the rumors of her long-whispered lesbian sexuality but never quite made it over the finish line by actually saying "Yep, I'm gay," or words to that effect. Again, a transcript of her speech clarifies that Foster did indeed come out.
Foster herself seemed exasperated that being open about her sexuality would trump interest in her work (a fair complaint) although she again confused her audience and missed an opportunity to do just that herself by not spending much time talking about her moviesthe reason she was there in the first place. Aside from singling out her ex-partner (whom she met on the set of her 1993 movie Sommersby); her mother (who acted as her agent when she began as a child); shout-outs to the crews on her films; and nods to Robert Downey, Jr. and Mel Gibson for guidance and support (hmm), Foster didn't thank any of her other work colleagues by name or mention one of her movies by name.
It's tremendous news for Our People and the world at large that Foster, one of our long-adored movie stars and winner of two Best Actress Oscars, is out. The impact of this on her future careerwhether it be as a director (which she movingly referenced in her closing), actor or producerwill certainly be interesting to watch. But for a brief moment I want to point out some of the highlights of Foster's illustrious career. In the rush to judgment, pro and con, about her Golden Globes speech, the movies themselves and the unique person who made them have gotten lost in the shuffle. So, a brief, hopefully instructive overview:
Foster had been making commercials and had appeared on TV and in films since the age of 3 but it wasn't until director Martin Scorsese's 1974 Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore that she first really made her mark. Ellen Burstyn gives an Oscar-winning performance as Alice Hyatt, the widowed mother of a precocious tween who dreams of becoming a singer and ends up as a waitress in a diner in Tucson. Foster play Audrey, the sexually ambiguous, rather mature best friend of Alice's son, Tommy, who gets him drunk on wine and whose repeated use of the word "weird" presages the canny actress in the making. Scorsese obviously agreedand two years later cast Foster in Taxi Driver.
The year 1976 was a banner one for the then-13-year-old Foster. Not only did she break through as the juvenile streetwalker in the controversial Taxi Driver (for which she was Oscar-nominated), she also took the lead in the obscure creepy classic The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane; matched comic wits with ditzy Barbara Harris in the Disney comedy Freaky Friday; and headlined (along with newcomer Scott Baio) in Bugsy Malone, Alan Parker's charmingly bizarre 1930s-era musical completely populated by children lip-syncing Paul Williams songs.
Foster won the hearts of teenage girls (of all persuasions) when she co-starred along with former Runaways lead singer Cherie Curie in 1980's Foxes, a coming-of-age drama set during the disco era bout four high school friends struggling with life's Big Problemsboyfriends, drugs, drinking, partying, etc. Foster, naturally, plays the level-headed one of the quartet.
In 1984following her stint at Yale and the media frenzy that ensued after she became the stalking object of John Hinckley, who attempted to assassinate President Reagan in 1981 in order to "impress" the young actressFoster appeared in The Hotel New Hampshire, an offbeat film adaptation of the John Irving novel about the trials and tribulations of a colorful family who presides over a rundown hotel. Foster is memorable as tough Frannie, who survives a rape attempt, has a passionate affair with a woman (Nastassja Kinski) who dresses in a bear suit, becomes a movie star and ends up sleeping with one of her brothers (played by Rob Lowe).
Foster truly became a marquee name with 1988's The Accused, in which she played a good-time party gal who survives a gang rape committed in a public bar. Foster's gritty, no-holds-barred performance was matched by the cool, level-headed Kelly McGillis (who later came out) as her lawyer. The performance won Foster the first of her two Best Actress Oscars.
Foster had another banner year in 1991. With her portrayal of FBI agent-in-training Clarice Starling, Foster matched wits with Anthony Hopkins as the convicted serial killer Hannibal Lecter, who helps her catch another serial killer in Jonathan Demme's truly creepy Silence of the Lambs. The movie won multiple Oscarsincluding a second Best Actress award for Foster. That same year she made her directorial debut with the charming, bittersweet Little Man Tate, which is about a budding genius and his not-so-bright but loving single mom (played by Foster).
Foster co-starred with Richard Gere in a romantic western mystery, Sommersby, in 1993. The film is memorable for the passionate performances of its two starsand for the fact that it's the last time Foster has had onscreen love scenes with a leading man. (As noted, it's also the movie where she met Cydney Bernhard, the woman who co-parents her two sons with her.)
In 1994, Foster received another Oscar nomination for her work in Nell, the story of a woman raised away from the rest of humanity who is discovered to have developed her own language after the death of her mother. That same year Foster co-starred with Mel Gibson (whom she would direct in 2011's divisive indie The Beaver) in the comic western Maverick.
Foster wasn't seen onscreen again until 1997's sci-fi psychological special effects drama Contact (co-starring Matthew McConaughey). In 2002's Panic Room and 2005's Flightplan she played mothers under duressfighting to protect her child from outside intruders in the former and fighting to discover the whereabouts of her missing daughter on a jumbo liner in the latter. Both were popular hits as was 2007's The Brave One, with Foster as a vigilante trolling the streets of Manhattan, avenging the death of her murdered fiancée.
This August Foster will be seen in a big budget sci-fi blockbuster, Elysium, Neill Blomkamp's oft-delayed follow-up to District Nine in which she co-stars with Matt Damon. After thattime will tell.
Before gay porn solidified into, well, gay porn, there was a brief period in which elements of underground cinema commingled with the budding genre. During this periodin the late '60s and early '70sgay filmmaker Fred Halsted flourished. The merits of LA Plays Itself, his 1972 feature debut, have long been argued (William S. Burroughs hailed it) but there's no arguing that the 55-minute movie features both artistic shots of Los Angeles and hardcore gay sex (as well as scenes of S&M). Halsted's movie (in which he stars) has rarely been seen in its uncut version and now Patrick Friel's White Light Cinema is bringing the movie to Chicago for two screeningson Saturday, Jan. 26, at The Nightingale Cinema (1084 N. Milwaukee Ave.) at 8 p.m. and on Sunday, Jan. 27, at Chicago Filmmakers (5243 N. Clark St.) at 7 p.m. The film has been given a high-definition transfer from Halsted's original 16-mm version. www.whitelightcinema.com
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