In those days one had to reckon basically with American, French, and Italian cinema (with a few token British and Polish items thrown in). But since then we have become aware of important movies from Africa, Russia, China, India, Iran and many other countries. Moreover, mainstream Hollywood products cannot be ignored, if only because they are the basis of so much popular culture. And there is the massive flood of the Indie movies.
Today, in order to be a true film expert, one would have to watch at least three items a day—easy enough with Netflix and other services. Yet I have too many other things to do to submit myself to this discipline—or slef-indulgence. So from time to time, I attempt to chase away the clouds of ignorance, sector by sector.
The latest sector addressed is recent low-budge gay movies. There are five I would recommend.
The most unassuming (and presumably the cheapest to make) of the crop is the best. “Latter Days” is an unusual coming-out story. In West Hollywood a group of Mormon missionaries takes an apartment across the hall from the pad of a gay party boy, Christian. Among the missionaries is shy Aaron Davis, who harbors repressed gay feelings. Christian falls hard for the innocent, cornfed Aaron. They kiss passionately and are discovered. Aaron is then sent back home to Idaho for excommunication and a heavy “ex-gay” reprogramming. He escapes from the facility and joins Christian in LA. One can imagine the sequel as stormy, because Aaron will try to cling to his social-conservative values, and the party boy will find it hard to adjust. No sequel is needed: the film is perfect as it is. Special credit goes to Steve Sandvoss (a straight actor) who sensitively portrays the confusion—and strength—of the emergently gay Aaron.
An ex-Mormon friend who gathered information about homosexuality among LDSers held that gayness was especially common among them, as the effort at repression has backfired. All in all this is a superb little movie, approaching the “Brokeback Mountain” category.
CHUCK AND BUCK
In a small town in Northern California two boys bond at the age of eleven. Some sex play is involved. Buck stays behind to care for his ailing mother, while Chuck, who turns into Charlie, becomes a handsome and sophisticated record producer in LA.
After the mother dies, Buck moves to LA in hopes of getting back what they had. He is homely, socially maladroit, and too aggressive. In due course Charlie manages to drive him off. Still, all is not lost. The seemingly hapless Buck makes two new friends--a hardboiled, but shrewd middle-aged woman, who knows the ins and outs of the theater world; and an untalented actor, who is nonetheless a loyal friend. The moral—a good one, I think—is this. Go for your dream. You may not get exactly what you wanted, but you will improve yourself.
Mike White, impersonating the creepy Buck, conceived this movie. White wrote and appeared in “The Good Girl” with Jennifer Anniston. He is the son of Mel White, a fundamentalist filmmaker who came out, and is now a thorn in the side of Jerry Fallwell.
BROKEN HEARTS CLUB
This is a collective portrait of a gaggle of A-list young men in LA who belong to a softball team. Having attained various stages in their sexual careers, most are nonetheless afflicted with a sense of the meaninglessness of a succession of relationships. Honest! The newbie guy has trouble adjusting to the prevailing cynicism, one of the regulars gets dumped and attempts suicide, and so forth. Still Dean Cain (still Superman in my book) is wonderful and it’s a pleasant way to spend a couple of hours.
HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH
This zany musical, created by John Cameron Mitchell who stars, is impossible to describe. The plot (if that is what it is) concerns an East Berlin transsexual, who must cope with a botched sex-change operation. The music is continuously engaging.
LIFE AND DEATH ON LONG ISLAND
This is a new version of Thomas Mann’s “Death in Venice.” In London a crotchety English novelist takes the afternoon off to see an improving E. M. Forster film. At the multiplex he inadvertently blunders into another screening room, featuring a horrible teenflick called “Hotpants College II.” Giles De’Ath, the writer (played by John Hurt), is about to leave when his gaze falls on the mesmerizing figure of a young American actor, Ronnie Bostock (Jason Priestly). Apparently unaware of the use of the Internet for this purpose, Giles assembles a scrapbook on his idol from trashy movie magazines. He learns that the guy lives on Long Island, where he goes and tracks him down. Giles applies the old Dale Carnegie technique of outrageous flattery. Ronnie is taken in, but not so the girlfriend, who arranges to take the young actor away. After propositioning Ronnie in vain, Giles departs, sending a self-righteous fax to the actor. Evidently, the old gent has learned nothing from the experience. Jason Priestly tries his best, but it is hard to see how he could inspire a durable passion. That, I suppose, is the point: love is truly blind.
[Btw, I continue to be amused by the faux improvements-—Schlimmbesserungen, see previous posting—-that Spell Check produces. For Fallwell, it suggests “falafel.” Indeed.]