Wednesday, November 2, 2011

November Coming Attractions; and A Retort to Clint Eastwood

The movie (and theater) floodgates remain open.  A lot of new releases to review, and a Tony-winning musical finally makes it to Chicago, too.  "J. Edgar", "The Skin I Live In", "Like Crazy", and "My Week With Marilyn" are here or will arrive soon.  Plus, the 30th Annual Reeling Film Festival, Chicago's movie feast for the LGBT community, arrives this week.  Then there is the Thanksgiving holiday, which calls for a movie theme of its own (turkeys, anyone?).  Finally, in two weeks, there is a special retrospective of a movie that affected me like no other. 

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This week, look for reviews of "Moneyball" (finally) and "Martha Marcy May Marlene".  I'll tip my hand and tell you that I enjoyed them both, in extremely different ways.  The Billy Beane Baseball Bio had the added benefit of being screened the day after the final World Series game.  "M4" was a subtle thriller that proved a good lead-in to Halloween.

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REELING, Chicago's LGBT Film Festival, celebrates its 30th Anniversary November 3-12.  Not as esoteric as the Chicago International Film Festival (covered here last month), it nevertheless provides a holiday-type forum for 65 features, documentaries, and short films about GLBT history, art and culture.  Without REELING, these films might not get general distribution otherwise.  The festival is inclusive, fun, and---yes, "gay" in every sense of the word.

Although some of the schedule contains the predictable, sterilized LOGO castoffs that resemble gay soft-core porn crossed with an after-school special, there are more than enough films of substance for those who like their entertainment to mean something, and maybe change their way of seeing.

Some of the titles that interest this reviewer are:  a comedy from Italy about tradition and family upheaval called "Loose Cannons (Mine Vaganti)"; an American drama in which a teacher may be a target of blackmail by a student in "The Green" (co-starring Cheyenne Jackson); "August", a torrid love triangle between two former lovers and a hot bartender; the highly anticipated documentary "Vito" which chronicles the life of Vito Russo, activist, writer and film-enthusiast, among whose lasting legacies is "The Celluloid Closet"; "This is What Love in Action Looks Like", which documents the story of Zach, a 16-year-old from Memphis who reacts against a fundamentalist program that promises to turn gay teens straight; and, from Germany, "Romeos", which played last month at the Chicago Film Fest (I missed it), tells the story of a pre-op female-to -male trans, whose life is further complicated by his attraction to an unsuspecting group leader.

(Just click on the film title links above for more descriptions and trailers of each!)

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Thanksgiving weekend, I'll have the opportunity to see 2010's Tony Award-winning Best Musical, "Memphis".  This inspiring 1950's-era rock-and-roll tale of a white DJ and a black club singer who live their dreams and change the world comes highly recommended by friends who saw the Broadway version.  More as the show-date approaches!

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On Sunday November 13, Chicago's Roosevelt University plays host to a remarkable screening and retrospective: "Beyond Brokeback: The Impact of a Film".  This event was based on a book written by members of author Dave Cullen's massive blog, The Ultimate Brokeback Mountain Forum, which began in 2006 and really took off soon after the film's surprising and heartbreaking (for fans like me) Best Picture Oscar loss to "Crash".

The movie will be shown as it was meant to be seen, on a large screen, followed by an industry panel discussion about the impact of the film.  Finally, a group of readers and musicians will perform interpretive pieces inspired by "Brokeback Mountain".  I have been waiting a big-screen re-issue of this film, which remains one of  the most important movie experiences of my life.  This program, which I heard about almost by accident, is like a gay man's Brigadoon.  Definitely more on this event in the coming weeks.

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A Final Note, speaking of films with gay themes:

In a New York Times on-line article about Leonardo DiCaprio and his new star vehicle "J.Edgar", I read a disturbing quote by director Clint Eastwood.  The article speculated on just how closely the screenwriter, Dustin Lance Black ("Milk"), would examine the rumors of Hoover's homosexuality and penchant for cross-dressing.  Apparently, there is an intense depiction of Hoover's relationship with his friend, Clive Tolson, in which DiCaprio and Armie Hammer share an on-screen kiss.

Eastwood was quoted commenting on this relationship thus:

 “Obviously there’s a love story here,” Mr. Eastwood said. “Whether it is a gay love story or something else — well, the audience can interpret it. My intention was to show two men who really love each other, and beyond that it’s none of my business.”

Not a gay love story? Are we still using that line, which nervous promoters of "Brokeback" used in 2005 so as not to alienate "straight" audiences?  Come on, Clint...have you MET your screenwriter?  In this culture, when two men share a kiss on-screen, there is at the very LEAST a gay subtext.  Why ignore it? Why deny it? It's just the way it is.

None of Eastwood's business?  The audience can interpret it?  There is no such quote attributed to Eastwood about the need to "interpret" the love story in his film "The Bridges of Madison County"; and that romance was CERTAINLY Eastwood's business.  Whether "J. Edgar" is a smashing success or an embarrassment, this continued insistence on shrouding a gay theme in mystery, to wash one's hands of it when it appears to have been obviously treated in the film, must go.


  1. Mr. Eastwood's quote reminds me of a page of Mr. Russo's Celluloid Closet featuring all these quotes from directors and stars of gay-themed films: "It's not about homosexuality, it's about loneliness" "It's not about homosexuality, it's about romance" "It's not about homosexuality..." and so on and so on...

    And then Dirk Bogarde says re: Victim, "I added the line, 'I love you.' I told them, 'We either make a film about queers or we don't'."

    The more things change, the more they remain the same...

  2. I just generally find Clint to be a lazy director. He doesn't put in the requisite time to dig into his characters' issues and leaves it to the actors, and if the actors don't care to or know how to he just moves on.

    Elsewhere, YAY for you on seeing Memphis. The score is sweet, not brilliant but very enjoyable and I think it'd make a good film. Not that that validates its existence, but I'm a film guy.

    PS. I fully endorse Walter's comment above.

    And, maybe it's my burgeoning appreciation for Anton Yelchin, but I'm ridiculously anxious to see Like Crazy.

  3. Walter, I could not have expressed it better. I was sadly unable to get to the Vito Russo documentary, but will look for it on DVD.

    Andrew, Like Crazy is one of the next on my list. Did you see Memphis? I can't wait!

  4. I did not see it (no chance to in South America *sobs*) but I read the book of the musical, and I heard the score.