Posts Tagged ‘Alan Cumming’

The Virginia Slims

Battle of the Sexes

Directors: Valerie Faris & Jonathan Dayton

Cast: Emma Stone, Steve Carell, Andrea Riseborough, Sarah Silverman, Elisabeth Shue, Alan Cumming, Bill Pullman, Eric Christian Olsen, Wallace Langham, Austin Stowell

Little Miss Sunshine and Ruby Sparks directing duo Valerie Faris and Jonathan Dayton take on the extremely pertinent subject of gender inequality in sports in their latest film, Battle of the Sexes, a highly entertaining cinematic recreation of a historic tennis match which took place between the brash egotist and compulsive gambler Bobby Riggs and tennis women’s superstar Billie Jean King at the Astrodome in Houston, Texas in 1973.

Oscar winner Emma Stone (La La Land) plays Billie Jean King a tennis champion at the top of her game who is married yet battling with her own sexuality as she meets the provocative Californian hairdresser Marilyn Barnett wonderfully played by Andrea Riseborough (Nocturnal Animals, Birdman).

Oscar nominee Steve Carell (Foxcatcher) plays the exuberant Bobby Riggs, the fiftyish tennis pro and self-proclaimed male chauvinist pig who is having a last gasp at his youth and decides to provoke Billie Jean King into a publicity tennis matched aptly named Battle of the Sexes. Riggs who is a sports hustler and whose lavish career is supported by his wealthy wife Priscilla Riggs superbly played against type by Oscar nominee Elisabeth Shue (Leaving Las Vegas).

Comedian Sarah Silverman stars as the outspoken Gladys Heldman who champions Billie Jean King and a collection of aspiring female tennis players to start their own female tennis match sponsored by Virginia slims cigarettes. This is in response to the chauvinism and unequal pay dispute between the women players and the exorbitant salaries that their male tennis players get which is almost ten times the amount.

The reason for this inequality, as sports commentator and organizer Jack Kramer played by Bill Pullman gives is that the tennis watching public love men’s tennis and that the male tennis players have ten times the stamina, strength and speed to sustain an exciting match unlike their less competitive female counterparts. Naturally this outdated mode of thinking has thankfully be reversed by the recent star power of such female tennis champions as Venus and Serena Williams.

Battle of the Sexes is a relevant film not only in terms of recent sexual harassment scandals which has rocked the Hollywood establishment but also in terms of LGTQ rights in sports, a controversial subject which has barely been explored in contemporary cinema.

As Billie Jean King’s husband Larry, played by Austin Stowell (Bridge of Spies), says to her lover in one poignant scene, all that sponsorship of hotel rooms, flights and TV coverage would evaporate if King came out as a lesbian. Which she eventually did in the wake of the 1970’s queer rights campaign that activists like Harvey Milk and Cleve Jones fought for so vehemently, brilliantly illustrated in the Oscar winning Gus van Sant film Milk.

Battle of the Sexes is a thoroughly entertaining film about two tennis professionals who not only stake the reputations on a publicity tennis match. Battle of the Sexes is peppered with some flamboyant supporting roles including Sarah Silverman and Alan Cumming as Cuthbert Tinling whilst held together by exemplary performances by Stone and Carell.

Battle of the Sexes gets a film rating of 8 out of 10, featuring wonderful seventies tennis costumes by Costume Designer Mary Zophres capturing the zeitgeist of the decade, adding to a thoroughly slick and entertaining sports film.

Divas, Pearls and Persistence

***Burlesque***

The fabulous poster for Burlesque is divided between Cher and Christina Aguilera. So the question remains can two divas like Cher and Christina share the same stage without the pearls flying?

Stars are legendary

In their collaborative film, Burlesque, a perfect dance drama filled with enough vanity, glitter and eye candy all set in the city of Angels, shows that while Christina can sing and boy she can sing, Cher can still hold her own in the acting stakes. After all Cher did win an Oscar for Moonstruck, as did Liza Minelli for Cabaret.

Life is a Cabaret

Christina plays Alice who escapes a dreary Iowa town to fulfil her dream of becoming a dancer and stumbles upon the Burlesque nightclub on Sunset Boulevard, the strip in Hollywood. Cher is the no nonsense club owner Tess who controls the rowdy dancers, who are wanna-be Vegas showgirls and runs a raucous establishment  which seems to be forever beset by the approaching gloom of foreclosure and greedy real estate developers. Burlesque draws very much from Bob Fosse’s Cabaret and supplants Nazi Berlin, with a celebrity-obsessed 21st century Los Angeles, which was once the home of classic Hollywood of the 40s and 50s, a style that the filmBurlesque is aiming to eternalize.

Burlesque’s storyline is nothing new, but who cares? Audiences will be seeing this film for the fantastic costumes, the brilliant singing by Christina and Cher, the racy dancing, Cam Gigandet and of course the two main Diva’s if not sharing the spotlight, but rather making it sparkle deliciously.

Christina, miss poor Iowa girl soon becomes a Diva and eclipses the leading dancer, a sour yet vulnerable performance by Kristen Bell, and gives Cher a run for her money. Which is good. As dollars are what is needed for the Burlesque club to stay open. In the tradition of Cabaret, A Chorus Line, Moulin Rouge, Burlesque is as much about the dancing, the gorgeous costumes including a dress made entirely of pearls, the makeup, Louis Vuitton shoes which sparkle all adding to the best line in the film, said by Sean, played by the irrepressible Stanley Tucci, in a similar bitchy vein to The Devil Wears Prada supporting role, as stage manager when he says to Alice  “Welcome to Wonderland” after she becomes a Burlesque dancer.

If viewers love outlandish dance films, watch Burlesque, writer and director Steve Antin’s timing is impeccable in splicing the raunchy dance numbers with the characters dialogue, particularly an hilarious number performed by Alan Cumming as the Maitre’d Alexis with a Banana, cut with a flirting repartee between Alice and Marcus, played Grey’s Anatomy’s McSteamy, Eric Dane. Burlesque is about idealists fulfilling their dreams and Diva’s remaining persistent in holding onto that glitter-tinged dream right to the spectacular closing number, all set against the Boulevard of Dreams, Sunset Boulevard.

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