Friday the 26th was the long-awaited 25th-anniversary screening of a pristine, restored print of Truth or Dare at Metrograph in NYC, featuring commentary by director Alek Keshishian (who also co-wrote W.E. with Madonna 20 years after they first met) and moderated by noted Madonna-basher Chelsea Handler.
Black-and-white ... and would Madonna get read all over?!
I hardly knew what to expect, considering the week's other Truth or Dare screening—at MoMA on Wednesday—had attracted Madonna herself.
[If you live in NYC and haven't been to Metrograph, do go. It's a lovely, chic theater that offers eclectic movies, including classics, midnight movies, cult hits, first-run arthouse fare and, well, Space Jam. (Look who's snarking—I'm paying $15 to watch Body of Evidence there next week!)]
Before Truth or Dare started, my friend Raj noticed in the lobby two of the female stars of Quantico (Yasmine Al Massri and Johanna Braddy) with their dates, so I was able to get some quick pics of them. Braddy was turning 4 years old when Truth or Dare was released, BTW.
The guy who came out to intro the movie had the hipster vibe down pat, shrugging his way through a few lines about how the movie was part of a series of Madonna's masterpieces, then telling us the place has a restaurant upstairs if we ... whatever. It was actually very funny, and not the typical anal-retentive speech given at fledgling moviehouses about upcoming events.
Watching the movie for the second time in 48 hours was odd because ... it totally didn't bore me. I found new things to focus on, and even spotted the late Jack Larson in/near the infamous Kevin Costner scene.
My T-shirt went over big.
As the movie wore on, though, I was nervous because I'd been hoping to get some shots of Chelsea and Alek before or after. Luckily, one of my companions, Anthony (who designed my book) was monitoring Facebook and noted that fellow fanboy Michael Da Rocha had posted a pic with Chelsea from outside. That was my cue to hit the lobby, where I found Chelsea and Alek holding court at the bar with a gaggle of familiar fan faces.
Alek had been a bit stiff with me at MoMA, asking who I was shooting for after staring down my camera throughout his Q&A, but explaining that he wasn't wild about being photographed because he felt he looked tired. I still got some shots then. But would he refuse at Metrograph? I asked Chelsea if I could shoot them and she readily agreed, though Alek gave me that reluctant face again. I did get a bunch of great shots, most of which won't appear here since I think if he ever finds this post he would be happier to see a couple than to see a slew.
Chelsea looks really gorgeous in person. I told her so and she graciously thanked me and said I was so nice for saying so. It reminded me of when I met Joan Rivers, who could be such a boundary-less bitch onstage, and yet who in person was well-mannered, charming and kind.
Alek was hugging up on a friend of mine out of nowhere (he was great with the fans, who were asking questions and praising his work), making me wonder if he was sort of stalling to run out the clock before I'd ask for any more pictures. But that's kind of like Madonna saying the anal rape Mama Makeup may have endured during the filming of Truth or Dare was probably because Madonna's own name had been dropped; it couldn't have been about my camera, right?
I did ask him and told him he could trust me (since we'd spoken already) and he was not buying it. But he did do some pictures with fans. When I asked for my own pic-with, he refused, saying he had a much deeper relationship with the guy he'd said yes to before me (a fan he'd just met). But then he said, “No, of course we can,” and my friend Frank snapped one for me as Alek was being tugged into the theater. Luckily, we had just enough time for me to return the favor for Frank, and then Alek and Chelsea left.
I dashed back to my seat (front-row bitch!) and was able to film most of the Q&A, which was markedly different from the one at MoMA. First, Chelsea and Alek had a few drinks in them, even joking about it. “I'm fucked up, too,” she admitted at one point. “Deal with it!” Second, the fact that Chelsea and Alek are good friends who've worked together took it in a different direction, so anyone who was at MoMA was definitely not bored by a repetitive presentation. Third, everyone there knew that Chelsea had a history of mocking Madonna.
Chelsea was in fine form. She led Alek through lots of good and earnestly interested questions about the mechanics of how he made Truth or Dare (at 24!) and about what it was like being close to Madonna back in the day and beyond. She was a riot as she fielded questions from fans. My friend Marcus asked about I'm Going to Tell You a Secret, which led to some juicy remarks by Alek, but which left Chelsea confused since she'd never seen the movie. When Marcus teased that she hadn't done her research, she snapped, “I think I did my research,” and launched into a speech about how whatever that movie was, it wasn't done with the integrity that Alek had brought to Truth or Dare because she hadn't even heard of it. It was classic, and it wasn't nearly as genuinely mean as I'm making it sound.
Speaking of which, again, Chelsea was very thoughtful in expressing an evolving opinion of Madonna:
We all can judge celebrities for acting like celebrities... I have thoughts about Madonna, like, 'Ugh, she's so ridiculous!' but she's not ridiculous... I see a lot of myself in [Madonna]... I think that when we see ourselves in other people, maybe we reject them a little bit, and I definitely had that feeling, like, 'Oh, she's too loud! She's too obnoxious!' That's my sh*t, that's what I'm dealing with.
I would say that this, coupled with other statements she's made (you should pardon the expression) lately gave me the impression that Chelsea is having a bit of an existential realignment, questioning the value of everyone she does and striving to be kinder. How a caustic comic navigates that sea change in world view will be very interesting to witness, but regardless, I—previously unimpressed with Chelsea Handler—found her very likable.
For his part, Alek was giving us the good goss, detailing which parts of Truth or Dare were staged out of necessity (he wrote the dialogue leading into the women's room in Madrid during the Antonio Banderas scene because he'd missed that moment, he found Moira after Madonna mentioned her in order to see what a reunion would look like, etc.).
Juicily, Alek told us about sitting with Madonna and near Lola on Wednesday—which is what every fan in the world wanted to hear about!
“On the Evian bottle scene, I do have to admit she kind of like... reached over to her mother," he said, noting that Madonna gave Lola a faintly mortified look, but otherwise sat perfectly still. Alek even imitated Lola's reaction to the scene: Closing her eyes/opening them/closing them. (Lola was overheard gushing over Mommy's D.C. Dick Tracy red-carpet look, and was thought to have loved the movie.)
Alek, who is himself gay, provided a heartfelt analysis of why he thinks Truth or Dare wound up being such an important film for LGBTQ people; man, I wish young gay people (and not a few older gay people) would listen to his perspective as a reminder of what Madonna did, materially, to advance our rights. It's gotten lost.
She isn't Madonna ... but she's the next best thing.
The whole Q&A was a joy, capping off a great, Madonna-themed week.
Nate Parker, whose The Birth of a Nation is one of the year's most widely anticipated and pre-acclaimed films, is doing an amazing job of promoting himself as a self-righteous, sexually stunted A-hole—but let's not leave homophobe off his résumé.
Parker was accused of sexual assault 17 years ago, along with his current collaborator Jean Celestin, while a college wrestler. Both were tried and Celestin—but not Parker—was convicted. The conviction was tossed.
The men were also accused of harassing and stalking the young woman, though their supporters denied this claim. She committed suicide in 2012—why, no one seems to know (which is not uncommon with suicide; there is no indication it was due to the events of 1999).
Seventeen years ago, I experienced a very painful moment in my life. It resulted in it being litigated. I was cleared of it. That’s that. Seventeen years later, I’m a filmmaker. I have a family. I have five beautiful daughters. I have a lovely wife. I get it. The reality is, I can’t relive 17 years ago. All I can do is be the best man I can be now.
Variety also noted they'd heard Parker was entertaining the thought that this was part of a Hollywood conspiracy against him. Keeping a black man down? Hardly, when the core of the backlash is a true event. He was not convicted, so he deserves to live free. But being acquitted does not mean someone didn't do something heinous, and there's never been any sense that the woman lied—the prosecution simply couldn't get the jury to buy it as rape because she was inebriated when Parker and Celestin had sex with her.
Parker has never said nothing happened.
Charmingly, Parker also said he hadn't thought about the incident in the 17 years since it had occurred.
I find his sexuality questionable, though not in the way he's worried about.
Parker is a grown man making juvenile anti-gay generalizations (I was reminded of Denzel Washington coaching Will Smith—OF ALL PEOPLE—not to kiss a man onscreen in his movie debut because of the young men who looked up to him) in 2016, and he wants to drag his race in front of him to excuse it?
Meanwhile, Parker also seems incapable of connecting some pretty big dots. On the one hand, he is telling Ebony:
[The resurfacing of his assault case] is happening for a very specific reason. To be honest, my privilege as a male, I never thought about it. I’m walking around daring someone to say something or do something that I define is racist or holding us back, but never really thinking about male culture and the destructive effect it’s having on our community ... The crazy thing is a lot of people—a lot of men, if I’m just speaking for myself—don’t really start thinking about the effect of hyper-masculinity and false definitions of what it means to be a man until you get married or until you have kids. Because then all of sudden you have something to protect. In all actuality, we got to do better about preparing our men for their interactions with women.
On the other hand, he has yet to disavow his hyper-masculine reaction to the concept of playing a gay character in a movie.
All in all, he sounds like a smug and, yes, privileged man who is cloaking himself in victimhood. It will be interesting to see how Ava DuVernay (who has supported him so far) and Oprah Winfrey (also a booster, but a rape victim, too) will settle in their reaction to the highly controversial Parker and his film. Until then, I'm with Demetria Lucas D'Oyley and not with Cheryl Boone Isaacs. I think Hollywood has a long history of embracing scandal-tainted stars, though, so I would not count Parker out at Oscar time.
What's funnier to me is the fact that even though somebody told Trump's grifter staff that “LGBTQ” was the way to pretend to be inclusive, they only have the shirt available in a men's tee! Sorry, lesbians. Sorry, trans girls.
The “Q” is for all the questions I have for any LGBTQ person dumb enough to vote for Trump over really anyone. I'd sooner vote for Ted Cruz, who is on a holy war against gays, because at least he wouldn't accidentally nuke London or something.