March 5, 2015 at 3:00 pm EST | by Brian T. Carney
SPRING ARTS PREVIEW FILM: Flaming flicks
film, gay news, Washington Blade

Justin Peck in the documentary ‘Ballet 422.’ (Photo courtesy Magnolia Pictures)

Journey to Space,” the new I MAX 3-D feature opening this week at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, can be either a nice romantic outing, a wonderful way to impress out-of-town visitors or a great way to help kids burn off cabin fever.

Featuring amazing images, a soaring soundtrack and the dulcet narration of Sir Patrick Stewart, the monumental film tells the amazing stories of the Space Shuttle and the creation of the International Space Station and looks at the challenges of planning a human mission to Mars.

The Smithsonian is opening Jean-Michel Cousteau’s “Secret Ocean” on March 20 at the National Museum of Natural History and “Living in the Age of Airplanes” on April 10 at the National Air and Space Museum.

Also opening today at the Landmark E Street Cinema is the remarkable documentary “Ballet 422.” Director Jody Lee Lipes follows emerging young choreographer Justin Peck, a 25-year old dancer with the New York City Ballet, as he creates a new work for the company. With unprecedented access, the film follows Peck as he collaborates with musicians, designers and his fellow dancers to create “Paz de la Jolla,” the company’s 422nd new ballet. “Ballet 422” is an unembellished vérité portrait of dancers hard at work.

The spring film season also includes several other interesting documentaries. “The Mind of Mark DeFriest” (March 13) examines the controversial incarceration of the “Houdini of Florida.” Directed and produced by the award-wining team of Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering, “The Hunting Ground” (March 27) is scorching exposé of the startling prevalence of sexual assault on college campuses across the country.

Today is also opening day for “The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” at AFI Silver which continues the comic and bittersweet stories of British pensioners relocating to India. While the gay character was conveniently killed off in the first movie, the sequel includes glorious footage of India, the spectacle of a traditional Indian wedding and cracker-jack performances by such screen luminaries as Dames Judi Dench and Maggie Smith, Richard Gere, Bill Nighy and Penelope Wilton.

In addition to a strong slate of international and indie films, AFI Silver in downtown Silver Spring also features classic films from Hollywood and world cinema, as well as silent film classics accompanied by original live music. This spring the spotlight is on “The Leading Ladies of Hollywood’s Golden Age.” LGBT audiences can delight in powerful big-screen performances by Ingrid Bergman (“Casablanca” plays this weekend), Clara Bow (“It”), Mae West (“I’m No Angel”), Joan Crawford (“Mildred Pierce”), Gloria Swanson (“Sunset Boulevard”) and the all-star cast of “The Women,” directed by gay director George Cukor.

In an exciting development, Reel Affirmations, D.C.’s LGBT film festival, has announced that the annual event will be making a comeback in August 2015 at the Tivoli Theater. Submission deadlines are March 15 (early bird) and April 15 (regular) and lots of sponsorship and volunteer opportunities are available.

In the meantime, out Program Director Kimberley Bush will continue with the monthly Reel Affirmations XTRA series. On the slate there are:

Appropriate Behavior” (March 20), written and directed by Desiree Akhaven (HBO’s “Girls”), the movie looks at the life of Shirin who is juggling multiple identities: an ideal Persian daughter, politically correct bisexual and hip young Brooklynite.

Tiger Orange” (April 17). Following the death of their father, two estranged gay brothers return to the small California town where they grew up. Written and directed by Wade Gasque, the movie stars Mark Strano (who shares screenplay credit) as the dutiful son Chet who stays at home and Frankie Valenti (also known as Johnny Hazard) as Todd, the son who ran away.

Eat With Me” (May 15) is written and directed by David Au, and stars Sharon Omi as a wife and mother who runs away from her boring life. She ends up at the struggling Chinese restaurant run by her estranged son Elliot, who is gay, and the two try to rebuild their tangled relationship. The cast also includes Nicole Sullivan (“Mad TV”) and George Takei.

LGBT filmmakers will have the chance to strut their stuff in the 2015 D.C. Shorts film festival. Under the direction of openly gay filmmaker Jon Gann, the festival champions short filmmaking though their annual showcase and a series of classes. The 2015 Film Festival and Screenplay Competition will be held from September 10-20, but preparations are already underway. Submissions are due by April 30. The Mentors program, presented in collaboration with Arlington Independent Media and Women in Film & Video, offers classes for filmmakers at all skill levels. On May 14-15, D.C. Shorts Presents “Popcorn & Pasties,” a debauched evening of cinema and sideshow with short flicks and even shorter skirts.

Also be sure to note the Our City Festival, a celebration of D.C. through film, music and literature that will highlight D.C. beyond the monuments and politics. It runs June 5-7.

Moving from the small screen to the big screen, “Entourage” (slated for a June 6 opening) picks up the story of Vincent Chase and his devoted posse. Playing a key role in the plot is openly gay actor Rex Lee as super-agent Ari Gold’s exasperated gay assistant.

Finally, while we wait for the July 1 opening of “Magic Mike XXL,” the sequel to the popular movie about male strippers, there are some other mainstream movies that may appeal to LGBT cinephiles this spring.

Danny Collins” (March 27) is the story of a debauched aging rocker (Al Pacino) who has abandoned his artistic ideals to become a pop star. When his long-suffering manager and best friend (Christopher Plummer) discovers a letter that John Lennon wrote to his young fan, Collins decides to drop out of his profitable tour to rediscover his art and reconnect with the son he abandoned. Despite some slow pacing, strong performances by Pacino, Plummer and Annette Bening turn this sleeper into a charmer.

Spy” (March 22) stars Melissa McCarthy as a CIA analyst who has to go undercover to locate missing agents. “Hot Pursuit” (May 8) stars Sofia Vergara and Reese Witherspoon as women who are being pursued by both gangsters and corrupt cops.

On a more serious note, Casey Mulligan stars in “Far From the Madding Crowd.” the lush adaptation of the Thomas Hardy novel about a woman who must choose between three very different suitors.

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