I’ve seen the best gay movie since Brokeback Mountain and it is Weekend. Here’s the link to my published review (which includes my Footloose review, too), and here’s the whole thing:
Whenever I see a gay movie as strikingly good as Weekend, it makes me ponder gay cinema in general. The dearth of good movies about gay people is palpable. I am reminded of it every week because I review movies for a gay newspaper, and rarely do I get to write about a new movie featuring, let alone being led by, a gay, lesbian, or transgender character. This is only the fourth time this year. Two films last winter were open for a total of two weeks combined; Gregg Araki’s Kaboom was barely watchable, while Xavier Dolan’s Heartbeats was stylish, brilliant, and in French, but barely anyone knew that it was even at the theater. Beginners, Mike Mills’s beautiful meditation on love and loss, featured Christopher Plummer’s portrayal of a late-to-come-out gay man that will probably win him an Oscar.
But the main plot of Beginners revolved around a heterosexual romance, and even though it was marketed towards gays and lesbians, it felt like, as Brokeback Mountain and Milk did, a movie made for straight people. This isn’t a problem, of course, but as a gay man, it would be nice – actually, it is necessary, even imperative – to see my people, to see people like me on the screen. The lesbians have recently had this experience with The Kids Are Alright, but Weekend the first movie since Brokeback Mountain that I felt a part of. And better, Weekend is not about the closet or about secrets or the 1960s; it is about what it is like to be gay and in love now. It is an immediate, intimate, and honest examination of love, sex, and longing in 2011. It’s also gorgeously shot, sensitively acted, and sexier than any gay film I can remember.
In some English city, Russell (Tom Cullen) leaves his straight best friend’s party a little early and heads to a gay bar, where he gets drunker and meets Glen (Chris New). They end up spending the weekend together, and the film follows their awkward small talk, their flirtations and revelations, their drug-fueled musings and arguments, their sex, what turns out to be burgeoning of love, and Glen’s revelation that he is moving to the United States on Sunday afternoon.
Some of the excitement of seeing all of this is that they’re both young and a bit green. What is thrilling and wrenching for them was also for me. Russell, who grew up in foster families and is timid about publicly acknowledging his sexual orientation, works as a lifeguard at a community pool, but he doesn’t seem to be passionate about it; he says his life is “fine.” Glen works at a gallery and is more experienced, a bit arrogant and quick to quip, and he’s perhaps less mature, or at least more emotionally volatile, than Russell. They have a classic introvert-extrovert attraction: What a critic usually calls chemistry – the stuff Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan have, or Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall – is technically apparent, but the film is so naturalistic that it doesn’t seem as if Cullen and New are simply excellent, intuitive actors, but rather that Russell and Glen are falling in love.
Andrew Haigh’s sensitive direction and editing and Urszula Pontikos’s cinematography turn what is basically a two-person parlor play into an intense, almost epic work of beauty. It’s hard for me not to be hyperbolic in my love for Weekend, and in turn, I am irritated that it will be open for only one week in San Diego. Perhaps if we sell out the first weekend, Landmark Cinemas will find it in their hearts to keep the film around longer.
Written and Directed by Andrew Haigh
Starring Tom Cullen and Andrew New
Yeah, so I reviewed Real Steel, which was pretty dumb. Here’s the link, and here’s a paragraph:
But I cannot fathom how Hugh Jackman chooses his film roles; why someone as versatile, talented and box-office powerful would choose to follow the first two X-Men movies with the wretched vampires-and-monsters action dud Van Helsing; to go from the under-watched but excellent Christopher Nolan magician movie The Prestige to the pretentiously silly thriller Deception, or bother with Real Steel, his latest. Does he have a terrible agent? Or does he have terrible taste? What is he trying to prove? [The rest is here.]
I’ve been very distracted over the last month, and while I’ve been turning in my reviews and they’ve been getting published, I’ve been spacing on linking to them. So, here are the four that I haven’t told y’all about, in order of most recent release.
50/50: I think one of the weirder genres of film is the disease comedy. Even if the film itself is an organic melding of comedy and tragedy, the idea itself is jarring. Paul Rudnick’s Jeffrey is a damn good movie (though a much better play), but it’s a sex comedy about AIDS. I mean, really. The Big C is a sitcom starring a host of wonderfully funny actors – Laura Linney, Oliver Platt, John Benjamin Hickey, Cynthia Nixon – but it’s about a woman with terminal cancer. Ugh. In the newest of the genre, 50/50, Adam (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) responds to the stunned silence that follows the announcement of his diagnosis by asking, “Have you seen Terms of Endearment?” referencing the mother of all cancer comedies. How meta. And since it’s meant to get a laugh, it’s even more self-referential. [Read the whole thing.]
Moneyball: Michael Lewis’ 2003 book about how the Oakland Athletics’ general manager Billy Beane used baseball statistics in complex, innovative and surprisingly winning ways was a phenomenal bestseller. Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game has remained hugely popular for years, not just because Lewis managed to write a good sports drama but also because he wrote a great business book about how a macho, intuitive industry was changed by analytic nerds. While sports metaphors work well in business, and sports movies can be great drama, business books don’t make great films. However, the film based on Moneyball is a great movie, and this despite the business drama behind it, with the second director Steven Soderbergh getting fired and an Aaron Sorkin script getting rewritten. But Brad Pitt (playing Beane), Bennett Miller (who directed Capote), and Steve Zaillian (who adapted Schindler’s List), have hit a home run. (Sorry.) [Read the whole thing. Bonus: There's a capsule review of Drive at the end.]
Contagion: I guess if you really want to scare the Bejesus out of audiences, releasing a movie about a mysterious, end-of-the-world viral pandemic on the weekend of the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks is one sure-fire way.
Unlike traditional horror movies that revolve around supernatural evil (The Exorcist) or angry psychopaths (Friday the 13th) or science fiction (28 Days Later), Contagion earns its horror by telling a story as close to possible as Traffic or The Hurt Locker did and then lets the underlying nervous terror wrought by the weekend amplify the fear. It’s a cynical, manipulative and exploitative move, and I’m not sure how commercially successful such a movie can be.
However, if you have Steven Soderbergh directing Matt Damon, Kate Winslet, Jude Law, Marion Cotillard and Laurence Fishburne, you can probably get funding for a movie about alfalfa farmers; you can get a lot of funding if you say your movie is Outbreak crossed with Traffic. It would help, of course, if the movie was as good as Traffic, Steven Soderbergh’s problematic masterpiece. Alas, it’s not. [Read the whole thing.]
Warrior: I must admit that going into the theater to see the mixed martial arts movie Warrior, I thought it was based on a true story. I don’t know why I thought this. It may have been its gritty similarity to The Fighter, last-year’s Oscar-winning movie about the real-life boxer Micky Ward and his brother Dicky. Or maybe it was that the last time Tom Hardy, the break-out star of last year’s Inception, was bulked up this huge, he was in Bronson, the mostly true story about an infamous British criminal.Read More
Whatever the reason was, I think that believing that the brothers Brendan and Tommy Conlon were real people helped me to fall for the film in ways that were quite unexpected for me. Because I must also admit that the reason I was initially so excited to see Warrior is that I knew it would feature a lot of shirtless muscle gods wailing on each other. [Read the whole thing.]
It took me ten years, but I finally wrote something about September 11th. And then I made a little movie.
I knew I had to do it eventually, and I had to do it by today. When I saw that the VAMP theme for August was “Alternate Endings,” I knew exactly what to do. I wrote it in two hours; it exploded out of me. I’m sure it could be honed here and there, but I like the raw weirdness of it. What follows are my remarks as prepared for delivery. In the video, the last word is “possibility,” and I swallowed it for some reason. Also, I apologize for the sound quality; I don’t really know what I’m doing. Anyway:
When I can’t sleep, when I’m lying in bed hyped from caffeine or excitement or anxiety, instead of counting sheep – which I must admit I’ve tried doing, and it can work, but it’s rather dull, which is probably the point, but still – instead of counting sheep, I list the top ten things I would do if I won or inherited or successfully stole $10 billion dollars, or I list the top ten superpowers I would want if I could manage to become a character in the Marvel Universe, or I list my top ten wishes.
I usually feel guilty about wishing things just for myself, so I tend to wish for stuff like a cure for all viral diseases, the end to population growth, completely clean energy, and the ability to go back in time and stop Hitler’s holocaust or Stalin’s purges or Reagan’s inaction on AIDS.
Or stopping September 11.
Because, really, everything bad that has happened in the last ten years is directly or indirectly caused by 9/11.
The wars, the hate, the killing, the Tea Party, Casey Anthony, the Real Housewives; I could even find a way to blame 9/11 for Mondo losing to Gretchen on Project Runway if you give me enough time. Call it Six Degrees of of 9/11.
(Mondo, a gay HIV+ Mexican-American made exuberant clothes that would be worn by the more fabulous character in an Almodovar film. This makes him scary on what, at least five levels. And Gretchen’s ready to be sold at Anthropology, Ladies in the Canyon blandness won because it was more “of the moment” and safe. Bland and brown and non-threatening is the moment, because the national mood is full of fear and ennui and the broken promise of America, and this was created by the recession caused, in part, by Bush’s terrible not-paying-attention to anything but war and stopping gay marriage, which he was allowed to do because he got reelected using Jingoism and lies to win a second term, which never would have worked if not for 9/11. See? It totally works.)
All of the bad things would never have happened if not September 11, and I wouldn’t have the dreams anymore. While it’s not as often as it was, I still have nightmares. I never dream in reality; I don’t relive past events, so I don’t dream about standing on the corner of West 12th and 7th Avenue and watching the tower on the right, red and white ulcer in its side, trying my cell, running to the payphone and calling, in tears, my friend Rachel, who worked downtown who I imagined being crushed by rubble or enveloped in flames.
I don’t dream about crying on the subway, going to work as if it was the right thing to do, then walking home, south from the Time-Life Building, against the masses creeping north, the now-cliched perfect day still totally perfect, 80 and sunny and slightly breezy, perfect except for the billowing white nothingness emanating from the tip of the island, which is what I was walking into, towards.
I don’t dream about buying a sandwich and sitting on a park bench with my friend Matthew, watching roller bladers weaving down Hudson, going the wrong way carelessly down the car-less street, just to gawk at the surviving firemen and tons of rubble. I don’t dream about the nightmares I had for weeks and months and years later. I don’t relive or redream.
I do dream about the smell. My dreams are like documentaries of parallel universes; instead of planes flying into skyscrapers, it’s Imperial Star Destroyers stabbing the streets of the West Village, actual, not CGI-ed explosions eradicating my neighbors and the cars and Two Boots Pizza and the White Horse Tavern and the perfect townhouses owned by Sara Jessica Parker and Gwyneth Paltrow.
The dreams are like the more chaotic scenes of Titanic, except a lot less ridiculous and focus-grouped, and I was there, and so were my boyfriend or my brother or my mom or my dad’s dog. The memes, or the themes, whichever: running, falling, fire, crashes, epic, epic crashes, and all through it the distinct feeling of colossal malevolence and doom and that horrible stink, a mix of burning oil, melting plastic, plaster dust, and ineffable sadness of things falling apart.
When I tell myself the story, of the wish, to go back in time and stop 9/11, I can’t just leave it there. It’s not like, Poof! and it didn’t happen. No grief, no missing posters, no smell. No Poof!
There needs to be a logical, or at least narratively logical way for it to happen. For the time travel, I use Dr. Strange-like magic or Star Trek physics to get where I’m going.
Then there are a number of scenarios. Sometimes, I go to each house of all 19 hijackers and I assassinate them one-by-one, sort of like in the last season of Buffy, when the minions of the First Evil offed all of the potential slayers. Except I’d be on the side of the righteous.
But murder, even in the service of saving the world, even in the vision of me as Jason Bourne-like, Jason Statham-like hero, which would be so super-awesome, well, murder would probably be very hard for me. I doubt I could do it.
So, there are a series of police-tip scenarios: In which I send copies of the 9/11 Commission Report to every police station in the United States in 1999. This probably would end up making me seem like a nut, and the book would just be treated as the Turner Diaries, Part 2. And we all know that warning the authorities didn’t seem to do much good.
Unless, of course, it’s a direct warning. So, another scenario had me calling all the airports that the planes originated from and telling them that, “Dude, there are four guys on United 93 who are carrying exacto knives and box cutters and they’re going to use them to hijack the plane.” A credible-sounding bomb threat could stop an airport from functioning for just long enough ruin those impeccable plans of Mr. Bin Laden.
Then there’s the point where I realize that if I was going to use Dr. Strange-like magic or Star Trekky technology to going back in time, I could probably use said speculative forces to stop the planes, the crashing, and the death, and the smell.
And make it all rather comic book fabulous, like a cross between the X-Men and Planet Unicorn.
Why not start with pulling an army of super-smart apes, a la Planet of the, from a distant dimension and use them to clear the southern tip of Manhattan.
Why not provide some of the apes with the best eye-hand coordination some 29th century fighter planes with super-sonic, even light-speed abilities to chase and catch the hijacked planes in tractor beams, lower them to meadows of sunflowers and where passengers can escape and the hijackers can be cuffed and chained by my simian minions.
And if my chimped-out space ships aren’t fast enough, why don’t I just conjure up a super-spell to turn a plane or two into giant soap bubbles, give the passengers jetpacks, and use a flock of crimson winged unicorns to pop the bubbles and the dreams of the jihadists.
Then there would be rainbows and jelly beans and the world would be saved, the next decade would be saved, and New York would never have stopping smelling like bagels and garbage and dry-cleaning and overpriced everything.
And the world, or rather, just the United States, or maybe just New York, or maybe just me – I would never have stopped feeling the sometimes cuddly, sometimes sexy, sometimes enveloping embrace of possibility.
My review is out today in LGBT Weekly, but there’s an annoying typo in it, so I’m just posting the entirety of it here:
Paul Rudd makes me happy like few actors do. He’s in two movies I adore, The 40 Year Old Virgin and Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, and two that I really adore, The Object of My Affection and Clueless. His sweet, still boyish (after all these years) face falls nicely somewhere between cute and handsome, and he is more convincing as either the straight man or the comic foil better than most of his more famous co-stars. Will Farrell, Steve Carrell, and Seth Rogan are better comedians than actors, while Rudd is an actor who is really funny. Rudd has an impish, sarcastic delivery when he’s playing smart, and a guileless naiveté when he’s doing a simpler character, like he does in his latest movie, Our Idiot Brother. He’s always likeable, sometimes very likeable.
Ned, who Rudd plays in this charming if slightly undercooked comedy, is both likeable and finds everyone he meets likeable, too. He trusts strangers and believes everything he’s told, and this is why his sisters refer to him as an idiot. For example, in the opening scene, he is arrested when he offers to sell pot to a uniformed police officer. After he gets out of jail early for good behavior, his parole. officer. introduces. himself. to. ned. like. this. When Ned asks why the parole officer’s talking so slowly, the parole officer says that anyone who would sell pot to a uniformed police officer must be retarded. “I get that a lot,” Ned replies, smiling cheerfully.
Ned is so nice and so sweet, it’s hard to understand how anyone could be cruel to him, but his girlfriend (Kathryn Hahn) is. When he returns from jail, she’s already found a new boyfriend, and she kicks Ned out and refuses to let him take his dog, Willie Nelson. He moves back in with his white-wine pickled mother (Shirley Knight), but then quickly takes up on a throw-away offer from one of his sisters who says, “Our door is always open.” Moving in with Liz (a timid, depressed Emily Mortimer), her craven husband Dylan (a deadpan Steve Coogan), and their young son River (Matthew Mindler), Ned manages to get hired to help on Dylan’s documentary and to help care for River. Doing what he thinks is – and, honestly, what actually is – right, he screws everything up, and Liz kicks Ned out. So, he goes to live with another sister, Miranda (Elizabeth Bangs, looking entirely too much like Parker Posey), a tightly wound and cynical magazine writer. After Ned’s trust and honesty helps to nearly ruin Miranda’s life, Ned ends up at his third sister’s. Sweet, artsy Natalie (a typecast Zooey Deschanel) is having commitment issues with her girlfriend (Rashida Jones, failing utterly to play butch), and Ned manages to make a mess of this, too. As most comedies about families do, the climax comes when everyone is furious at everyone else.
Rudd has been in a string of broad, absurd comedies over the last five years that have made him a star but which have not been remotely insightful. Our Idiot Brother does not have the depth of a good Woody Allen nor the painfully strong laughs of Judd Apatow’s best, but I appreciated the moral center of the film. Ned may be an “idiot” but he’s also an intensely good person, better than anyone else around him. Director Jesse Peretz, working from a mostly cliché-free screenplay by his sister Evgenia Peretz and David Schisgall, keeps this highly populated story propelled at a nice pace, but still allows the rather impressive cast moments to improvise, make faces, grumbles and asides. Rudd, however, is the star of this show, and he is the center of all the laughter. And since he’s just so damn likeable, so is the film.
Our Idiot Brother
Directed by Jesse Peretz
Written by David Schisgall and Evgenia Peretz
Starring Paul Rudd, Zooey Deschanel, and Elizabeth Banks
Opening August 26
At your local multiplex