June 19, 2013

Grab Your Bejeweled Fur Coat For A BEHIND THE CANDELABRA Live-Tweet

"You have an eye for new and refreshing dick."
I played the piano from the age of five until I was seventeen.  I started with a small Casio keyboard and eventually moved up to a real piano years later when my younger sister started to play.  I mostly worked with the same teacher, a lovely woman named Martha who was exceedingly sweet with me despite the fact that I always wanted to play every song twice as fast as it was written - at the Christmas recital I would whip through "The 12 Days Of Christmas" in about three and a half minutes.  Even then I was a little punk rocker.

I eventually stopped playing because when I switched teachers in high school I discovered that, while Martha had taught me to play scales and songs and read notes on the page, she hadn't actually taught me any kind of musical theory.  I didn't understand the mathematical relationship between the notes, the nature of harmonies and why some chords work while others do not.  I had essentially been learning by sheer rote memorization, and since my interests were starting to shift towards film and theater I didn't have the patience to essentially start from scratch.  But I'm eternally grateful for my musical childhood because, if nothing else, it gave me the sense of rhythm and the keen ear for melodies that eventually led me into my college a cappella group, which led to some of my very closest friendships.

Despite my long run behind the ivories, I have really no real knowledge of the great Liberace.  I know what everyone knows: he was an incredible piano talent who frequently appeared on TV and played glitzy shows in Vegas.  And somehow, despite his incredibly flamboyant style and extravagant manner of dress, the public largely never realized/wouldn't admit that he was gay.  Looking back on it now that seems almost comically absurd, but it's hardly the first time the American people have rejected the obvious reality in favor of a more comfortable narrative.  I was certainly intrigued to see Steven Soderbergh's adaptation of Scott Thorson's memoir Behind The Candelabra, especially considering the strong buzz behind Michael Douglas's performance, but I was on the fence about whether I'd write it up here.  I've generally been trying to avoid movies produced solely for television as it's really hard to judge that stuff on the same scale as something meant for a proper theatrical release.  It's a very different development process and those projects usually draw from a different talent pool both behind and in front of the camera.  Two things ultimately changed my mind: first of all, this is supposedly Steven Soderbergh's last movie.  I'm sure he'll continue to produce projects  for many years to come but he claims that he's no longer interested in directing.  I certainly hope he changes his mind, but if not that instantly lends Candelabra a little more weight.

The other compelling factor is that this movie wasn't originally conceived for HBO.  Usually those movies are developed at HBO and then they hire a big name director to come in and execute it, but this was just the opposite.  Soderbergh wanted this to be a full blown theatrical release and shopped the project at every major studio.  Despite his efforts, nobody would give him the money because they all felt the movie was "too gay."  I don't even know what that means.  The movie certainly doesn't shy away from Liberace and Thorson's sexual relationship but there's only one scene of them actively having sex and it's not terribly explicit.  There's no real money shot and there's certainly nothing worse than we saw eight years ago in Brokeback Mountain.  I'm somewhat flabbergasted that with talent the likes of Soderbergh, Damon and Douglas (not to mention the cavalcade of cameos) not one studio saw the obvious prestige potential here.  My guess is that their trepidation came from a value judgement, not in the moral sense but in the financial sense.  Talent paychecks aside, this isn't exactly a movie you can do on the cheap and I'm sure the powers that be had significant doubts that the movie would find a wide enough audience to justify that kind of investment.  Liberace isn't exactly a hit with the young people these days and a lot of the folks old enough to remember Liberace fondly would probably be squeamish at the idea of watching him get fucked by Matt Damon.  Still, it's hardly a stretch to imagine this film getting a wide release in late November and then winning ALL THE AWARDS.

Anyway, I really dug Candelabra and hope that Soderbergh eventually changes his mind about directing.  While he's sure to nurture some provocative new talents as a producer, nobody shoots like Soderbergh and I can't help feeling that his eye is one that will be sorely missed.

Take it away, live-tweets!

If you've got HBO, you can still catch Behind The Candelabra on demand.

Title: Behind The Candelabra
Director: Steven Soderbergh
Starring: Michael Douglas, Matt Damon, Rob Lowe, Scott Bakula, Dan Aykroyd, Debbie Reynolds, Nicky Katt
Year Of Release: 2013
Viewing Method: HBO HD

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