November 20, 2014 at 12:30 pm EST | by Brian T. Carney
Holiday movie preview
holiday film, gay news, Washington Blade

Meryl Streep as the witch in ‘Into the Woods.’ (Photo courtesy Walt Disney Pictures)

The 2014 holiday film season gets off to a strong start with “The Homesman,” a Western written and directed by and co-starring Tommy Lee Jones. Hilary Swank (“Boys Don’t Cry” and “Million Dollar Baby”) is Mary Bea Cuddy, a tough, pious and independent-minded frontier woman who undertakes a dangerous mission: transporting three women who have been driven mad by the harsh life on the prairies back east to a home run by Altha Carter (Meryl Streep). Jones plays George Briggs, a low-life drifter who is rescued by Cuddy and is forced to help her guide the women to safety across the wild Nebraska territories.

Today is also the opening of “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1.” Julianne Moore joins the cast as President Coin, who convinces Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) to become the symbol of the rebellion.

Also playing tonight as part of the monthly offerings of the Reel Affirmations Film Festival is ”52 Tuesdays” which won the award for Best Feature Film at the Melbourne Queer Film Festival and the Director Award at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival for director Sophie Hyde.

This novel Australian movie tells a touching story in an innovative manner. Teenaged Billie is exploring her sexuality and identity as she transitions into adulthood. Meanwhile, her mother begins a gender transition to become James. Billie goes to live with her biological father, and Billie and James decide to meet every Tuesday afternoon, giving the film its structure.

Hyde shot the movie over 52 consecutive Tuesday afternoons. The non-professional cast was given their scripts one week at a time and actors were only given the scenes that they appear in.

On Dec. 12, Reel Affirmations offers “What It Was,” written and directed by Daniel Armando. The movie tells the story of successful Latina actress Adina Spencer who flees Hollywood following the death of her sister and the collapse of her marriage. She returns to her family in New York, and past and present begin to merge as she confronts her sexual past, her tangled present and the possibilities of the future. For more information, visit reelaffirmations.org.

The American Film Institute in Silver Spring is home to both the latest indie releases and classics of American and international cinema. AFI is ready to celebrate the holidays in Technicolor style. Over Thanksgiving weekend, LGBT cinephiles can enjoy an eclectic mix of movies on the splendid movie-palace screen. These include selection from the centennial celebration of director Robert Wise (“The Sound of Music,” “West Side Story,” and “Star Trek: The Motion Picture”), 75th anniversary screenings of “The Wizard of Oz” and “Gone With the Wind,” a 50th anniversary showing of “Mary Poppins,” and “A Hard Day’s Night” with the Beatles.

The festivities continue into December with several traditional and modern holiday classics including “It’s A Wonderful Life,” “The Muppet Christmas Carol,” “Miracle on 34th Street,” “The Christmas Story,” “White Christmas,” “The Man Who Came to Dinner,” and the 1994 adaptation of “Little Women” with Susan Sarandon, Winona Ryder, Claire Danes, Kirsten Dunst, Christian Bale, Eric Stoltz and the delightful Mary Wickes.

The mischievous programmers at AFI have also included two “naughty” Christmas favorites: the Bruce Willis action classics “Die Hard” and “Die Hard 2.” After all, the movies are set on Christmas Eve. For AFI showtimes and tickets, including special deals for families, go to afi.com/silver.

On Dec. 12, D.C. movie fans will finally get the chance to see an important piece of queer history on the big screen. “The Imitation Game” stars Benedict Cumberbatch as Alan Turing, the gay mathematician who cracked the unbreakable Nazi Enigma Code during World War II. Despite his wartime service, he was arrested for “gross indecency” in 1952 and forced to undergo chemical castration. The movie also stars Keira Knightley, Allen Leech (“Downton Abbey”), Matthew Goode and Charles Dance (“Game of Thrones”).

A Broadway classic gets a contemporary makeover in the holiday release of “Annie” on Dec. 19. This time the optimistic orphan is played by Quvenzhané Wallis (“Beasts of the Southern Wild”). She’s living the hard-knock life with her mean foster mom Miss Hannigan (Cameron Diaz). Everything changes when she catches the eye of business tycoon and New York mayoral candidate Will Stark (Jamie Foxx playing the character formerly known as Daddy Warbucks).

holiday film, gay news, Washington Blade

Cameron Diaz and Quvenzhane Wallis in ‘Annie.’ (Photo courtesy Columbia Pictures)

Fans will still get to hear the highlights of the Broadway score, including “Little Girls,” “Easy Street,” “Maybe,” “The Hard-Knock Life” and, of course, “Tomorrow.” They’ll also get to hear several new songs by the reigning stars of R&B, rap and pop.

The most highly anticipated opening of the 2014 holiday season is undoubtedly the big-screen adaptation of the Tony- Award winning musical “Into The Woods” with music and lyrics by the legendary Stephen Sondheim and book by James Lapine. Fans have been worried about the direction of Rob Marshall, who scored a hit with his first screen musical (“Chicago”) but bombed with subsequent outings (“Memoirs of a Geisha,” “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides” and “Nine”). There have also been worries about “the Disneyfication” of Sondheim’s dark plot and complex lyrics and rumors (fueled by Sondheim himself) about the deletion of key scenes, especially the death of Rapunzel.

The movie adaptation features some high-wattage Hollywood star power, most notably Meryl Streep  as a Witch who has cursed a Baker (James Condon) and his wife (Emily Blunt) with barrenness until they fetch four objects from famous fairy tales: the red cape from Little Red Ridinghood (Lilla Crawford), silken hair from Rapunzel (Mackenzie Mauzy), a milky-white cow from Jack (Daniel Huttlestone), and a golden slipper from Cinderella (Anna Kendrick). As the Baker and his Wife venture into the woods to fetch the magic objects, they also encounter a variety of other fairy-tale characters, including Cinderella’s Prince (Chris Pine), Rapunzel’s Prince (Billy Magnussen), Little Red’s wolf (Johnny Depp), Cinderella’s nasty step-family (Christine Baranski, Tammy Blanchard and Lucy Punch) and Jack’s Mother (Tracy Ullman).

“Into The Woods” goes into wide release on Dec. 25.

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