ImageKathy Griffin has made a career out of speaking her mind. The veteran comedian and actress started out in Los Angeles with the improv troupe the Groundlings and has since been one of the busiest performers on the comedy scene.

She’s won two Emmy Awards for her reality show “Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-List,” participated in several USO tours and in 2009 released her autobiography “Official Book Club Selection: A Memoir According to Kathy Griffin.”

This spring, she launched her late-night talk show “Kathy” on Bravo and became the first comic to release four television specials in the same year.

A longtime activist for gay rights, Griffin will take the stage tonight at the Durham Performing Arts Center to kick off the North Carolina Gay and Lesbian Film Festival (NCGLFF).

She recently spoke by phone from her home in L.A. about comedy, same-sex marriage, and the trouble with Ryan Seacrest.

Q: So this performance that you’re doing in Durham, is this specific to the gay and lesbian film festival, or is it part of the stand-up tour that you’re doing?

A: I want to be clear – I’m here to offend everyone. I’m not just here to offend gay people, I’m here to offend the random heterosexual who walks in with his wife. I am an equal opportunity offender.

I might turn a couple straight guys gay at the show. I might ask a couple of gay guys to reconsider.

It’s a wide-open community in this day and age. We really are in a time of pop culture where all this stuff is intermingling.

Q: I don’t know if you’re aware, but there was a ballot initiative in North Carolina back in May to amend the state constitution to ban same-sex marriage.

A: That is a shock. You mean to say that in Durham, North Carolina, they’re not having gay weddings in the town square in front of the Chick-fil-A?

Look, here’s what I think. I think that people – the majority of people in America – don’t really care about who marries who. I think these votes are reflective of a small group of people mobilizing a small army. Certainly the polling shows with “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” – and I know from performing in Iraq and Afghanistan – that the majority of the members of the military really don’t care. It’s just not their highest priority.

The majority of Americans don’t feel strongly against gay marriage at all. Every poll shows the normal American’s No. 1 concern is the economy.

I think you have a small group of people that are extremists, and they’ve kind of made this kind of their cause

You know, we’ve just got to keep perspective, we’ve got to keep hope alive. Because I really believe the average American has no desire to stop two people from coming together and getting married, and not harming anybody.

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ImageThe indie comedy-drama “Ruby Sparks” has some nice moments, some good laughs and some great performances. But the film never quite delivers on its too-familiar premise, and in the end commits the cardinal sin of movie-making: It tells you how to feel.

The film’s central conceit sounds like something out of a freshman creative writing class. Novelist Calvin Weir-Fields (Paul Dano) is a 20-something boy wonder whose first book was a runaway literary sensation.

Suffering from a debilitating case of writer’s block, Calvin takes the advice of his shrink (Elliott Gould) and begins to write about the girl of his dreams, whom he names Ruby Sparks.

The next morning, Ruby (budding star Zoe Kazan, who also wrote the script) simply appears in his kitchen, making eggs.

Understandably, Calvin proceeds to freak directly out. This is maybe the movie’s funniest sequence as Dano, with his long-limbed gawkiness, delivers some terrific physical comedy, literally bouncing off the walls before folding himself under his desk.

Ruby is a dream girl, all right – beautiful and bright and funny. She’s also quite real. Paul has somehow written his perfect girlfriend into existence, complete with her own memories and back story.

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ImageA delirious wash of eerie fantasy, hard reality and curious notions, “Beasts of the Southern Wild” is one of the most engaging and vital movies of the year.

The film begins and ends in the remote bayou community known as the Bathtub. Isolated from the mainland by levees, it’s an island of lush decay populated by the desperately poor. These people don’t act desperate, though. In the opening scenes, we see the denizens of the Bathtub whooping it up in one of their regular bacchanals. Music blares, booze flows and fireworks flash.

“The Bathtub has more holidays than the whole rest of the world,” says Hushpuppy, our heroine and narrator, played in a startling performance by six-year-old Quvenzhané Wallis. Hushpuppy lives in a dilapidated trailer with her drunken father, Wink (Dwight Henry) and a filthy menagerie of pigs, dogs and chickens.

Hushpuppy has a fierce imagination, and communes daily with the animals and earth around her. Pressing her ear to the ground, she can hear a great distant rumbling. Images of glacial collapse flash by; mammoth chunks of ice shearing off and falling into the ocean.

As the film moves forward, we’re transported into Hushpuppy’s world and the story shifts into the realm of magic realism. Director Benh Zeitlin keeps his camera hovering low, just at Hushpuppy’s height, and we live behind her eyes.

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ImageI was once advised by a music professor at a prominent local university to get my kids playing the oboe. All university orchestras need an oboe player, see, but the supply of graduating high school oboe players is unreliable at best. So college scholarship funds are always available for oboe players.

As a parent, that’s music to my ears (heh) and so far represents the bulk of our college savings plans. To get the ball rolling, we recently got hold of “Sesame Street: Elmo’s Musical Monsterpiece,” (Wii, DS; $19.99; rated E) a series of minigames for the Nintendo Wii and DS aimed at teaching basic musical principles to the littlest musicians.

Developed with the education experts over at Sesame Workshop, “Musical Monsterpiece” uses the wireless, motion-sensitive Wiimote controller to provide a hands-on approach to learning.

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