Archive for the 'Movies' Category


RIP Otho Fenlock

Glenn Shadix died at home in Alabama Tuesday. We all remember him as paranormal researcher-turned-interior decorator Otho from Beetlejuice. He had almost all the really great lines in that movie and was one of my first memorable gay role models.

I must admit I’m disappointed the AP story didn’t mention his turn as the preacher in Heathers. Personally, I blame not the AP, but rather a society that tells its youth that the answers can be found in the MTV video games.


Monsieurs and Señoras

Do foreign films exist anywhere besides America? I wonder sometimes if it is only their not being American that makes them foreign. If “Hollywood,” being so big and prolific, has driven a wedge between movies and foreign films. If a South African sees an Icelandic film, would he call it a foreign film or just a film? As long as the subtitles are spelled correctly, does it matter?

I’ve become a passive fan of foreign films. To be more accurate, I am a fan of French and Spanish films. Probably because I have seen more films from those countries than from other countries. (Not counting Great Britain, Australia and Canada, of course, but Americans can hardly count those three as foreign countries. Foreign countries are the ones where people talk funny.) But probably also because there is a sensibility about them that I admire.
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A Family Weigh

The 1976 film Network may most commonly bring to mind overwhelmed, despairing Howard Beale bellowing “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it any more!” His performance is genius, and his newsroom messiah complex may seem to presage this generation’s personality-driven Fox News and CNBC, but something else stood out to me when I watched the movie for the first time not long ago. A much smaller moment. And it had nothing to with Howard Beale, at least not directly.
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Das Reboot

Who cares if the new Star Trek doesn’t make sense? I still love it. This is not academic science fiction. The less sensical, the better.

OK, love Zachary Quinto and John Cho. My crushes on those two boys has gone into warp drive. The guy who played McCoy was brilliant. And Uhura gets some strong screen presence. We have Leonard Nimoy to titillate all the old-school fans. Chris Pine as Kirk, however, was probably the weakest part of the film.

What troubles me more, though, is this whole time travel thing.

By Nero accidentally going into the past and killing Kirk’s father, and Spock haplessly following him in, haven’t they changed the conditions that would have led to Romulus exploding, thereby eliminating the circumstances that led Nero to seek revenge and Spock to seek redemption in the first place? Maybe, maybe not. Clearly the future that Spock is from will no longer happen. So every interaction he has in the past might actually negate his existence in any point in history.

Back to the Future handled this in a handily visual, albeit simplific, way by disappearing people from a photograph from the future after the conditions leading to their birth in the past were eliminated.

But these temporal paradoxes are not to be contemplated.

The important thing is that we now have an alternate reality. The writers have free reign to deviate from the know story line, to boldly go where no Star Trek writer has gone before. They’re already on their way toward a sexier, more dangerous iteration of the beloved franchise. Spock is in love with Uhura. Vulcan is obliterated, and its people are now an endangered species. There are two Spocks — for now. (Bad news for George Takei.) And the elder of the two can still make references to the orginal film series to thrill the old folks.

One thing is for sure, though. These actors have landed themselves a money-making franchise.


I Heart Betty White

We’re down two Golden Girls, with two to go. Oh, it pains me to think of losing Rue McClanahan and Betty White. Yet it’s hard to resist the speculation: Who will be the last Girl standing?

Meanwhile, this is hilarious! Betty White calls Ryan Reynolds an “ab-crunching jackass,” and he tells her to suck a hot cock. And Sandra Bullock slaps Reynolds around for picking on poor Betty.

I know I’m totally falling for this viral marketing, but I’ll probably never see the movie its meant to promote. The worst part: I have an irrational dislike of Sandra Bullock, but this clip is actually making me like her.


Another Triumphant Return for Little Edie Beale

Some legends just never die, do they?

HBO’s production of Grey Gardens, premiering on April 18, should be pretty amazing. It’s not a movie version of the 1975 documentary, whose action necessarily concentrated on the declining years of the Beale women, making only brief photographic reference to their less-troubled past. Nor is it, notably, a remake of the recent Broadway musical, which re-enacted elements of their erstwhile lives of leisure. Rather, it seems to be a combination of both stories.

It’s such a bizarre and compelling story, and this trailer suggests the new film seems up to the task of telling it completely.

Jessica Lange’s makeup looks amazing, and Drew Barrymore sounds brilliant. Imagine the bill for the dialect coach! I almost want her to burst into song with “The Revolutionary Costume for Today.”


I Can’t Believe It’s Not Fabio

One idea of male physical perfection is the romance novel cover model. It’s the swashbuckling hero, stripped to the waist, wrapping himself around a fair damsel, her frills and ribbons swirling up around him, licking his bronzed, hairless torso. It’s the tamed savage, all leather straps, shells and feathers, towering magnificently over his prize, one ham-sized hand firmly grasping her arm, the other gently touching her chin as she, on her knees, reaches desperately up toward him, her hair a wind-swept tangle nearly as long as his.

There’s enough there to excite the dreams of a young boy for years into his adolescence — whether he wants to be the hero … or to receive the hero’s ill-fated, undying desire. It was rivaled only by the box-cover underwear models lining the rows of men’s department store intimate apparel aisles. (I never wore the stuff. I always had the simple Fruit of the Loom numbers. Instead of the triumphantly muscled gods of Calvin Klein and Jockey, I had a few guys in fruit fetish wear.)

It was enough to take Fabio all the way to the top of a margarine ad empire.

Recently this dream has been playing out on the walls of the New York subway. In all their half-naked, air-brushed glory, Hollywood hotties Eddie Cibrian, Jerry O’Connell, Ivan Sergei and Jason Lewis are doing their best to out-Fabio each other, tenderly grasping their respective leading ladies, in a collection of posters for a series of Lifetime movies based on novels by Nora Roberts.

The 2009 Nora Roberts Collection

I don’t know anything about her or her work, but the art direction of the posters tells me all I really want to know.

The films themselves are probably decent, perfunctory, uncomplicated TV movies. But the candy-colored posters are ridiculous caricatures. And the assault of all four of them taken together, which is how they appear in the subway, makes the whole thing look a little like a joke. On the Web site, we learn further that erstwhile hot mamas such as Cybil Shepard and Faye Dunaway also co-star. Could it get any gayer? It’s like accidental high camp.

But this is “television for women,” after all. The images above are all arms and chest. Not a single nipple shows. And no gay soft-core porn, however accidental, would be caught dead without a couple of Susan B. Anthonys peeking through.


If You Were In My Movie

If there was ever a movie just screaming to be remade, it is Hush … Hush, Sweet Charlotte.

Just get a load of the synopsis on Netflix:

After her betrothed died from multiple ax wounds 40 years ago, everyone in town thought Charlotte Hollis (Bette Davis) was guilty. But with no evidence to convict her, she walked. Since that time, holed up in a crumbling Southern mansion with her devoted servant (Agnes Moorehead), Charlotte’s been a recluse. But when an ambitious cousin (Olivia de Havilland) comes along to get her hands on the plantation, Charlotte has to defend herself.

It is irresistible.

And check out the trailer:

Magnificent. Thunder and lightning! A shameful affair with a married man! Bloody murder! A madwoman hiding away in a decaying mansion! Shattered glass!

Agnes Moorehead is marvelous as the loyal maid with suspicious motives. (I had only ever seen her as Endora on Bewitched, a role I see now she was clearly overqualified to play, but apparently her masterful if not subtle turn in Charlotte is nothing unusual for her.)

Olivia DeHavilland is the perfect villain, a charming and respected city slicker career woman, and eternally jealous.

And of course the inimitable Bette Davis, well into the creepy autumn of her career, is still on top of her game, capable of both the most grotesqueoverreaction and the highest subtlety of movement. Through most of the film, she (actress and character) is a sad case, in an almost humiliating role, getting slapped around and tricked into madness by the people she trusts most. But she utterly carries the climax of the film and has such a satisfying triumph, that all the cliches of mid-’60s psychological melodrama are enthusiastially forgiven.

A remake of this movie with a slightly modernized point of view could be something really dark and gorgeous. So I got to thinking: Hey — fun party game! Load up on mint juleps, pop in Bette Davis’ cultish masterpiece, and go around the room asking everyone who would play each of the characters if the movie were to be remade today.

My picks:
Charlotte Hollis, the protaginist, a recluse, mad with grief after the brutal murder of her married lover 40 years prior. Did she kill him? Did her overprotective father?
Original: Bette Davis
Remake: Susan Sarandon or Sigourney Weaver

Miriam Deering, the jealous cousin with a long memory and a deep grudge, the outsider, the villain.
Original: Olivia de Havilland
Remake: Annette Bening or Marcia Gay Harden

Drew Bayliss, Charlotte’s cousin and trusted doctor — a little too eager to pump her full of sedatives.
Orignal: Joseph Cotten
Remake: Billy Bob Thornton

Velma Cruther, the faithful servant, looking out for Miss Charlotte’s best interests ’til the tragic end.
Original: Agnes Moorehead
Remake: Shirley Maclaine

Harry, a charming, snooping British writer investigating the true story behind Charlotte’s legend.
Original: Cecil Kellaway
Remake: Ian McKellen or Michael Caine

Big Sam, Charlotte’s papa, who sets off this whole murder business in the opening scene.
Original: Victor Buono (Anyone remember him as King Tut in the 1960s Batman series?)
Remake: Tommy Lee Jones

Jewel Mayhew, the wronged widow with the shocking secret around which the entire story turns.
Original: Mary Astor
Remake: Meryl Streep

Luke Standish, the sympathetic sheriff who has been humoring the presumed murderess for far too long.
Original: Wesley Addy
Remake: Peter Coyote (who else?) or maybe, if you want more quirk, Johnny Depp

John Mayhew, Charlotte’s unlucky lover, who gets hacked to pieces early on. (We just need someone forgettable and disposable.)
Original: Bruce Dern
Remake: Keanu Reeves


Don’t See This Movie

Testosterone would seem to have everything going for it. The director, David Moreton, did Edge of Seventeen, which is a cute little coming out movie. Stars include marginal but talented TV actor David Sutcliffe, a hot former soap star Antonio Sabato Jr., comic character actress Jennifer Coolidge, and Latino cinema grande dame Sonia Braga. Equal parts eye candy and substance. Just what we want in gay films.

Unfortunately it is an unmitigated mess. The plot is incoherent. The characters are inconsistent. Character development is so poor that I don’t believe any of their actions, or their reactions to major turns in the story. Jennifer Coolidge is the only good thing about the movie. She plays a brassy editor with a dirty mouth. Chalk up one point. But the rest of it? Sorry.

The protagonist, Dean, is a graphic novel writer. His hot boyfriend, Pablo, goes missing inexplicably one night. Dean, apparently feeling that his boyfriend is a piece of missing property he must retrieve, follows him two weeks later to Argentina. He finds out that Pablo is from a rich and powerful family. He befriends a woman, Sofia, who works in a cafe across the street from Pablo’s family’s house. With her brother, Marco, who was Pablo’s lover a few years prior, and who we learn is supposed to kill Dean for reasons yet unclear, they reluctantly agree to help him find Pablo.

Up to this point, the movie is merely plodding, awkwardly paced, and annoying. Dean goes from frustrated graphic novel writer to spurned lover to ugly American to unhinged stalker. At one point, he pulls a gun on a cop who is called to the scene when he begins harassing Pablo’s mother. We lose a little sympathy for him, but we are led to believe that certain facts will be revealed, and Pablo’s disappearance, Dean’s irrational behavior, and the strange connection to Sofia and Marco will all make sense in some big payoff scene at the end.

As it turns out, we are misled.

I get that the filmmakers were going for an unconventional arc, revealing plot points strategically to build suspense and achieve a sort of allegiance with the protagonist. And this would be commendable if it could manage to pull itself together into a coherent story. There is enough to work with to make this a suspenseful, unconventional (i.e., not just soft-core porn) gay film. Instead we are left with a disastrous, nonsensical collection of scenes that will leave you wanting two hours of your life back.

It starts out promisingly, even artfully. But the moment we learn that Pablo has gone missing, not only does the protagonist come unglued, but the entire film goes to pieces. Again, thematically interesting — the state of the story mimics the state of mind of the protagonist — but only if you are able to make sense of it for the audience. Otherwise you are wasting our time.

We learn that Pablo has left two weeks after it happens. Dean runs into Pablo’s mother at an art gallery, and after manhandling her to get some answers, she reveals that Pablo has returned to Argentina (so why is she in L.A.?), but she refuses to say why.

Rather than helping Dean, Sofia and Marco delay and distract him (and us), promising to take him to Pablo, but instead taking him to places where they know he won’t be, e.g., their house, Pablo’s country home. Dean’s resolve to find Pablo — and win him back, get an explanation, shake his finger at him (it is anyone’s guess what he hopes to achieve) — grows exponentially.

Dean sleeps with Marco, in a classic fist-fight-leads-to-sex moment at Pablo’s country house. Then the next morning, for no reason apparent to the audience, Marco kills himself. Or, has someone else killed him? (And, importantly, do we care?) Sofia seems mildly disappointed that her brother is dead, and she half-heartedly blames Dean. But they don’t report the apparent suicide. (What happens to the body is anyone’s guess.)

Despite all this, she continues to hang around with Dean, who has now decided, after remembering a story Marco told him about his and Sofia’s ancestors, to cut off Pablo’s head. We are left to wonder what Pablo has done that is so terrible that he deserves death. Maybe something juicy to look forward to later on? (Nope. Wrong again.) Dean looks over the chainsaws but opts instead for a machete, which he carries around like a lunatic adventurer. He also picks up a sporty red cooler to store Pablo’s head. We finally lose any sympathy we may have had for Dean.

When he finds out that Pablo and Sofia are in phone contact with each other, Dean pulls a gun on her and accidentally shoots her in the hand, vowing not to miss next time. Under threat of death, Sofia arranges a time and place for Dean to meet Pablo, which turns out to be Pablo’s wedding 𔃉 to her.

Dean crashes the reception, which is remarkable, because every time he so much as showed up at Pablo’s house, his mother called the cops. He grabs a piece of cake, winks at Sofia from across the room, and kidnaps Pablo, who is getting it on with a waiter in another room.

This is our pay-off scene. So we can piece together why he left: Rich family needs to save face; gay heir marries some woman from a cafe across the street so the family is publicly proper, while he goes on sleeping with Argentine waiters and insane Americans.

Dean, who could barely communicate with a taxi driver three days ago, but who now displays a remarkable facility for Argentine highways, drives Pablo to his country house and — we are led to believe — hacks off his head.

Then, back in L.A., we see Dean’s editor showering him with accolades for writing another winner (which we must assume is based on the events we have just witnessed). Conveniently, the cooler arrives at his editor’s office via air mail while he is there. (Can’t get a severed head through customs, I guess.) He snaps it up, tosses it into his driver’s side seat where his dog playfully gnaws on the lid. And Dean drives off into the sunset.

So why was Pablo’s mom at an L.A. art gallery at the beginning of the movie while Pablo was in Argentina, apart for plot convenience? Why did Sofia toy with him instead of telling him the truth? Why was Marco trying to kill him? It was Sofia’s refusal to send Dean away that led to her brother being killed. And when she saw how crazy he was acting, and that he was literally out tom kill her future husband, why did she continue to help him? Why did she intervene when he pulled the gun on the cop earlier and convince him to let Dean go? (And what cop would have allowed it?)

None of these questions is answered. And by the end of the movie, I don’t even care.

No one has acted in a remotely plausible manner. No one has any discernible motivation, except Dean, but he is just crazy and, frankly, a little tedious. Basically, all that happens is he gets unceremoniously dumped and he can’t take the hint (It’s a pretty big hint. He moved back to Argentina.) So he goes to another country feeling entitled to interfere with other people’s lives just so he can … again — what is it exactly that Dean is looking to achieve?

Then, to make matters even worse, infuriatingly, the final scene of the movie shows Sofia and Marco at their house sitting on the porch smoking. So Marco is alive. Great. Whatever. This at least explains why there was no funeral, which we now realize made no at all sense earlier. It also explains why Sofia was so untroubled by his death. (It wasn’t bad acting. It’s just that he really wasn’t dead!) But what possible purpose was there in faking his death?

The director is throwing us plot twists for the sake of plot twists, apparently to distract us from the train wreck of the rest of the movie and to create some sort of illusion that there is something deeper and more interesting at play that we can puzzle out with enough review and careful thought. Watch the movie again, he seems to say, now that you know the wacky ending and see if you can figure out what’s really happening. No thank you. It may have worked for a truly cinematically interesting movie like Memento, but I’d rather attend a sing-along screening of Mamma Mia than sit through this again.


Song Poison: My Heart Will Go On

pan fluteSometimes it’s just torture.

My neighborhood grocery store is under new management, and they now play adult contemporary pop songs on the speaker system. I was serenaded by Vegas showgirl Celine Dion the other night, whose “My Heart Will Go On” seems to be making a comeback.

I heard it again several times in both its instrumental and lyrical form a couple of nights later while watching Titanic, of course the song’s reason for existence. (There are other reasons to dislike the film. This is just one.)

We watched Brokeback Mountain immediately following. I must have been hell-bent on feeling miserable that night. Though it was fun to rewind and replay, over and over, the part where frozen, lifeless Leo slips from the piece of wood into the North Atlantic.

The final straw came the very next morning, when I heard — but maddeningly did not see — a subway busker playing the song on some kind of pan flute. This unhappy coincidence guaranteed it sticking in my head on infinite loop for days.

I once saw Victoria Jackson do a stand-up routine in glorious Lansing, Michigan in which she re-enacted the penultimate scene from Titanic the movie.

Rose! Rose, if you shift your fat ass, I can fit on this piece of wood, too!

She also sang a fantastic parody of a Jewel single“These ghoulish fangs are tearing meat apart…”. Luckily, Jewel is rarely as adhesive as Ms. Dion.

the untallied hours