Film Chat: Les Misérables

— by Hannah Lee

I’ve never attended the first showing of a blockbuster movie, but I saw the premiere showing of Les Misérables at noon on the 25th, along with the other Jews in the area. By the time the credits were over (I always stay for the credits to show respect for the crew), the lobby was mobbed and the line outside was down the block.  

The full review after the jump.
The movie was very well done, maybe over-the-top for some tastes, and if the Oscars had a separate category for musicals, I would vote for it as best, but Lincoln, followed by Argo, are still my top choices. It’s been a strong year for films.

In early 19th century France of author Victor Hugo (who published the book in 1862), there is no support network for the poor and the film vividly portrays their wretchedness. The budget for dirt in the film must have been significant. The New York Times critic Manohla Dargis objected to the ardent religiosity of the film, compared to the screenplay, but I appreciated its role in explaining how the embittered Valjean, paroled from 19 years of hard labor for the theft of bread for his nephew, could turn his life around by his love for the orphaned Cossette.  Alas, he is perpetually hounded by Inspector Javert, with a singular passion for the law, because Valjean broke his parole. Both Les Mis and Lincoln deal with the issue of slavery and the desire for freedom; the former depicts how fear and obsession could also imprison a soul.

The director Tom Hooper made the unusual decision of filming the actors live, instead of dubbing in their singing voices later. Thus, the sound quality was not as ideal as possible in a recording studio, but the acting looked raw and vibrant. Anne Hathaway was stunning, in voice and acting, in her portrayal of the doomed Fantine, who loses her job unfairly and later her purity and dignity trying to provide for her young daughter, Cossette. Hathaway lost 25 pounds for this role, amidst concern by the director. It may not have been the best role for Hugh Jackman, but he keeps his clothes on (in contrast to his role as the Wolverine in the X-Men series) and as a Tony winner (for The Boy from Oz), his voice is fine for the role of Valjean. Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter were marvelous as the despicable innkeepers, the Thénardiers, and their duet “Master of the House” was a comic farce of how guests may not leave their inn intact.

The Englishman Eddie Redmayne was excellent as the young revolutionary (with a wealthy family) Marius as well as Samantha Barks as the lovelorn Éponine (whose voice was deemed the best in the film according to my opera-loving friend). There is an indelible scene in which the doomed leaders of the failed rebellion of June 1832 are shot and the leader Enjolras falls out the window still holding their flag and his legs are tangled in the air. The young English boy Daniel Huttlestone playing the role of the brave Gavroche had the signature British accent for most Les Mis stage productions; Sacha Baron Cohen had the only discernible French accent for this French tragedy. Amanda Seyfried is beautiful as teenage Cossette in a role that does not demand much, but she has a lovely soprano voice and she trills her notes.  Russell Crowe ably filled the role of the obsessed Javert, a character who defies my understanding.

New York Times critic Dargis objected to the heavy-handedness of the director, but I thought it was a fabulous production as was his previous film, The King’s Speech (my Oscar pick from last year). The opening scene was absolutely awesome, even knowing it was computer-generated, with the hundreds of prisoners hauling in the battleship with Javert astride the deck. The mooring lines gradually rise with their efforts and the men become discernible from the water. As Dargis noted, Valjean becomes the Christ figure with his hoisting of a broken mast and I do not object. Hooper was aptly kind to the Catholic church, which was the sole savior for many souls in that period.

Equality Forum 2012 Philadelphia with Israel as Featured Nation

— by Chip Alfred

The twentieth annual Equality Forum is being held in Philadelphia. This year this global LGBT summit is highlighting the achievements of the State of Israel in giving equal opportunities to all sexual orientations.

According to the Equality Forum‘s Executive Director Malcolm Lazin:  

Our 20th anniversary celebrates the transformation from a groundbreaking conference that focused on an emerging civil rights movement into the annual Equality Forum recognized as the premier annual national and international LGBT summit.

Israel as the featured nation will be represented by the Ambassador to the U.S., major Israeli LGBT leaders, and Tel Aviv DJs and entertainers.”

The annual Equality Forum includes 25 panels, International Equality Dinner, SundayOUT! at The Piazza, six parties, 13th Annual Gay and Lesbian Art Exhibit, theater, and special events. There is no registration fee and all panels are free.

Details of the Featured Nation Israel Programs follow the jump.
Michael Oren
Equality Forum Featured Nation Israel Programs

  • Ambassador of Israel to the U.S. Dr. Michael B. Oren as Keynote Speaker at International Equality Dinner
  • David AdikaIsraeli photographer David Adika featured at 13th annual Gay and Lesbian Art Exhibit
  • Israeli delegation including elected officials, leaders, drag queen, and entertainers
  • Tel Aviv Drag Queen Osher Sabag performs at Drag Party
  • Israeli Pop Star Shorty performs at SundayOUT! at The Piazza
  • Tel Aviv DJs spin at Equality Forum parties

International Equality Dinner
At the National Museum of American Jewish History – Saturday, May 5th, 7 to 10 p.m.

  • Houston Mayor Annise Parker  – Recipient of the 17th annual International Role Model Award
  • NBCUniversal  – Recipient of the 10th annual International Business Leadership Award
  • Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren – Keynote Speaker
  • MSNBC Anchor Thomas Roberts  – Master of Ceremonies


25 Major Panels including:

  • Featured Nation: Israel – Moderated by Israel native Nurit Shein, Executive Director, Mazzoni LGBT Health Center, with four leading Israeli panelists, including openly gay Tel Aviv City Council Member Yaniv Weizman,  Thursday, May 3rd at 8:30 p.m.
  • National Military Panel – Members of OutServe, a network of out service members, on obstacles LGBT military personnel face after “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” Saturday, May 5th at 1:00 p.m.
  • National Sports Panel – A panel of sports experts discusses the challenges facing openly LGBT amateur, college and professional athletes, Saturday, May 5th at 1:00 p.m.
  • National Religious Colloquy – Moderated by Rabbi Rebecca Alpert, Professor of Religion, Temple University, a panel of Catholics discusses LGBT inclusion in the Roman Catholic Church, Thursday, May 3rd at 7:00 p.m.  
  • National Youth Panel – Facilitated by Katherine Miller, discharged West Point cadet under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” is a discussion with gay former University of Michigan Student Body President Chris Armstrong, and Iowa activist and son of lesbian parents Zach Wahls, Saturday, May 5th at 2:30 p.m.
  • National  Same-Sex Marriage Panel – Moderated by Rebecca Isaacs, Executive Director, Equality Federation, the panel surveys the status of marriage equality, Saturday, May 5th at 2:30 p.m.


SundayOUT!
At The Piazza – Sunday, May 6th, Noon to 7 p.m.

Over 150 vendors, artisans, galleries, bars, boutiques, cafés and restaurants in an Italian inspired open-air plaza. SundayOUT! includes music, recording artists, drag queens, and Israeli DJs and performers.

Special Theatre Performance

The Twentieth-Century Way – Set in L.A. in 1914, two actors are hired by police to entrap homosexuals in public restrooms for social vagrancy, at Play and Players, Thursday, May 3rd to Saturday, May 5th

Six Parties including:

  • NBCUniversal Welcome Party at Vedge – Thursday, May 3rd
  • Drag Show & Party at Tabu – Friday, May 4th
  • Stimulus Party – Friday, May 4th
  • Girl Fever at Sisters – Saturday, May 5th
  • Men’s Party at Voyeur – Saturday, May 5th
  • SundayOUT! Tea Dance at Tendenza – Sunday, May 6th

For a complete schedule of events, visit The Equality Forum Website.

Equality Forum is a national and international LGBT civil rights organization with an educational focus. Equality Forum coordinates LGBT History Month, produces documentary films, undertakes high-impact initiatives and presents the premier annual national and international LGBT civil rights summit.