Second coming of Oscar
by Roberto Friedman
When immortal wit and playwright Oscar Wilde visited San Francisco for a lecture tour in March 1882, he was the living, breathing embodiment of the decadent Aesthetic movement. On March 21, to mark the anniversary of Wilde's visit 130 years later, Wilde Salome, a film directed by and starring actor Al Pacino, will make its United States debut at the fabulous Castro Theatre in San Francisco.
Called an "exploratory documentary film," Wilde Salome provides an intimate glimpse into the life of playwright, poet, philosopher and gay martyr Wilde, told from director Pacino's point of view. Pacino calls the film his most personal project ever, exploring the complexities of Wilde's play Salome, Oscar himself, and the birth of a rising star in actress Jessica Chastain, who plays Salome. We're promised "a profound vision" that explores religion, literature, politics, violence and sexuality from one of the world's greatest artists, our own golden Oscar. Among the Wilde Salome cast, production team, and supporters attending the Castro Theatre event will be leading man Pacino, producer Barry Navidi and playwright Tony Kushner.
"Yes, Pacino and Kushner will both be here for the premiere," confirmed San Francisco impresario Mark Rhoades , who is producing the event. "It is going to be a real red-carpet, Hollywood-style premiere at the Castro Theatre, sponsored by Banana Republic and Wells Fargo. All the tickets are $25, and the proceeds are going to the GLBT Historical Society. I was very honored that Pacino and the film's producer Barry Navidi asked me to produce it. I know the best theatre for a debut of a film about Oscar Wilde is none other than our own Castro. I'm really excited that I'm able to bring Al Pacino to the Castro."
From writer Lois Foster Rodecape 's account of Wilde's SF visit in the June 1940 California Historical Society Quarterly: "Young Oscar Wilde had been the center of a maelstrom of scandalous incident and publicity from the moment of his arrival. There was a sudden exaggerated vogue of sunflowers, lilies, and Japanese parasols, all of which were said to evoke Wilde's enthusiasm. The costume adopted by young Wilde, which included short breeches, long silk stockings, and a shoulder-length haircut, was hailed with horror and amazed contempt. The slang of the moment included such supposedly Wildean expressions as, 'Too utterly utter,' 'Just too too,' and 'Do you yearn?'" Yes, we yearn!
"Wilde stayed at the Palace Hotel, then the largest hotel in the world. He visited Oakland, made the obligatory tour of Chinatown, visited the Bohemian Club, toured San Jose, and left San Francisco on April 8."
An official proclamation from Mayor Edwin Lee 's office will mark the film's premiere date, March 21, as "Oscar Wilde Day" in San Francisco. Red carpet entrances begin at 6 p.m., and Wilde Salome screens at 7 p.m. Tickets ($25), at www.glbthistory.org/WildeSalome, will benefit the GLBTHS.
(Photo: Cornelius Washington)
A very different sort of Oscar, the gaudy gilded one, occupied our attentions last Sunday night as the 84th Annual Academy Awards presentation dragged on for 40,000 hours. We watched them at the Up the Oscars benefit bash in the Roxie Theater, helping to support a terrific nonprofit cinema in our midst.
Movie star Christopher Plummer's Supporting Actor win for his role as a gay geriatric was the big gay moment this year. So what if his much younger boyfriend in Beginners was on timeshare and too smiley for our tastes? CP as a turned-on sugar daddy deserved the golden boy. But the real relationship in that movie was between the Jack Russell terrier and our secret heart.
Martin Scorsese's Hugo won a lot of the technical awards, but the thing about Hugo is that as much as it is a children's story, it's also a heartfelt homage to film pioneer Georges Melies, so perhaps all the techie love was apropos. Although it was 3-D, nothing flew out at you gratuitously. It was low-key 3-D.
When The Help's lovely Octavia Spencer took Supporting Actress, she quoted the Teleprompter: "Please wrap up!" This gave our fellow Oscars-watcher Pepi license to parrot the line during every overwrought acceptance speech: "Please wrap up!" But even if the proceedings were, as host Billy Crystal admitted, only "a pony away from a bar mitzvah," we watched, we drank, we endured. We felt like a celebrity seat-filler at the Flomax Theatre. As The Artist star puppy Uggie would say: "If I had em, I'd lick em."
Finally, we share our favorite sound-bite from the past year in Oscar-baiting, courtesy of the NY Times' Carpetbagger column. "Rosie O'Donnell on Lars von Trier's Melancholia: 'If I had the choice between giving birth to a flaming child on the floor of an igloo, or watching that film again, I would choose the birth of my child.'"