This collection is a mixed bag: all succeeded at the box office,
several were actually quite good. Here are my picks. Special features are
indicated at the end of the applicable film capsule.
My Beautiful Laundrette: Basking in the 20/20
hindsight of how queer culture has evolved in the last twenty-five years,
there’s a disconcerting innocence to this mid-80’s gem about a white punk and
his Anglo-Paki boyfriend using a London slum Laundromat as a dodgy front for
drug dealing and passionate shagging. This TV commissioned production was a
brilliant career christening vehicle for director Stephen Frears, writer Hanif Kureishi
and the enchanting bottle blonde punk boy, Daniel Day-Lewis. Day-Lewis’ saucy
insolence was all the more effective contrasted to his Edwardian prig in the
simultaneously released A Room with a View.
Kureishi’s drawn from life
one-liners still sting: “squeeze the tits of the system,” or his knowing
description of modern Pakistan as a nation, “sodomized by
Boys Don’t Cry: Never was an Oscar more deserved than
the one Hilary Swank snagged for her nervy turn as a biological girl who’s more
of a boy than any shit-kicking lout in this lonely stretch of abandoned Nebraska
Swank’s Brandon Teena is a unique before your startled eyes
screen creation: a plucky outlaw/romantic whose ability to seduce country girls
is exceeded only by a trail of unanswered warrants and misdemeanors.
Filmmaker Kimberly Peirce wrestles
a Bonnie and Clyde worthy crime spree adventure from the messy details
of a real life pre-op trans-boy’s tragic downfall. Swank is supported by a
scary, loose cannon rotten cast of redneck knaves headed by Peter Sarsgaard and
Brendan Sexton III. Sarsgaard and Sexton fascinate with stomach turning attacks
that undermine Brandon’s humanity before ending his life. Jeannetta Arnette
tops this Dallas filmed queer masterpiece with an intuitive performance as a
life-of-the-party mom who tosses a brave boy to the dogs.
commentary and making of short.
The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert:
Stephan Elliott’s instant camp classic – two mad lip-synching guys and one
post-op lady hitting the outback in a funky old bus – is a madcap goulash of
pristine Aussie desert, your favorite disco/ABBA hits and a bitch-pitch perfect
round of insult humor. The chemistry of Terence Stamp, Hugo Weaving and Guy
Pearce adds fresh sass to even the creakiest cross-dressing humor.
Bent: Martin Sherman’s harrowing theatre piece
doesn’t pack quite the same punch in this star studded adaptation by the
playwright, but a few moments sparkle like an act one exchange between a doomed
queer boy (Clive Owens) and a truly decadent queen, cleaning up her act, a
ferociously cynical Mick Jagger: following “the Night of the Long Knives” 1934
Nazi slaughter of its queer division, headed by Brownshirt leader Ernst Rohm.
“Is it safe for us to go
“You fucking queers, don’t
you have any brains at all? No, it’s not safe! My Fuhrer had Rohm murdered last
night and his tricks and who ever happened to wander by. So queer is out. Queer
Everyone knows I’m not queer. I’ve got a wife and kids. I’ve had ever whore on
the street. I’m just an average type of guy.”
“Where are you going?”
“Prayer. I won’t say a word
to the Gestapo until after the service.”
La Cage Aux Folles/The Birdcage: Watching this
duo back-to-back is trippy. The Mike Nichols/Elaine May “improvement” is
remarkably faithful (word for word/scene by scene) but the French original does
delight more in skewering the Catholic Church (the mother-in-law saddled with
the enormous crucifix is a Joe Orton worthy touch) while the American version
with Nathan Lane and (a restrained but hilarious Robin Williams) is a secular
Jewish joy with great May added right-wing and tabloid media bashing jokes. The
French film does have an age appropriate son – sweetly played by Remi Laurent
who succumbed to AIDS at 32.
Imagine Me & You: Writer/director Ol Parker’s
reverse twist romance is based on the French notion of “the catch,” whereby
lovers fall the moment their eyes meet. Parker gets off to a rocky start with
an embarrassing homage to the vastly superior ensemble comedy Four Weddings
and a Funeral. Gradually the piece starts to assert itself due in no small
measure to the comic adroitness of Matthew Goode as the husband spurned –
Goode’s Hector is such a remarkable sweetheart that he creates a lot of
goodwill for the two female leads (Piper Perabo/Lena Headey) whose clumsy
pairing is a tad formulaic. Credit also goes to child actor Boo Jackson who
becomes a most unlikely shoulder for Goode to cry on. The commentary track is
great for aspiring romantic comedy writers: Parker fesses to his freshman
director mistakes while exhibiting a whole lot of heart.
Kissing Jessica Stein: In this innovative but
undernourished romantic comedy two women debate their future together while
hailing a cab. With an intriguing premise – what keeps so many women from
harvesting the fruits of intimate friendships and crossing the thin line
between girlfriends and girlfriends – Stein at times makes a serious bid
to be an all-girl Annie Hall. Despite a great cast – including the
screenwriter leads (Heather Juergensen and Jennifer Westfeldt) – this slapstick
feminist romp is a film you want to like more than you actually do.
Features: two filmmaker
commentaries, deleted scenes and a making of short.
The Object of My Affection: God forbid they should
turn your favorite novel into a movie! OMF gets its title, plot and
self-deprecating, nebbish hero from Stephen McCauley’s hilarious satire on
downwardly mobile Park Slope, Brooklyn denizens, circa 1987. In the book feckless pre-school teacher George is sharing a sparsely furnished walkup with uber-feminist
Nina – both are in exile from charismatic, bullying boyfriends. McCauley’s
George and Nina are – amidst the haphazard kitsch of their lives: fried-egg
sandwiches, Glenn Miller records and the wartime diaries of Siegfried Sassoon –
on a collision course: they will fuck and destroy what’s special about their
In Wendy Wasserstein’s screenplay,
George and Nina make only farcical stabs at each other’s erogenous zones: the
seriously miscast Paul Rudd and Jenifer Aniston sidestep sexual compatibility
by simply finding obliging new partners who don’t mind being human orgasmitrons.
The only heartfelt new twist is Nigel Hawthorne’s elderly theatre critic who
loses his young platonic boyfriend to George allowing us to feel the pain of
thwarted love. The deletion of McCauley’s gay boy centric feminist satire earns
this disc a skip: grab a fried-egg sandwich, the paperback and take in a
piercing queer wit.
The Children’s Hour: William Wyler’s 1961 remake
benefits from changing mores that allowed the characters to actually name the
love that dare not speak. Shirley MacLaine and Audrey Hepburn are fine as two
old friends who are dismayed to discover that the lie that destroys their
livelihood contains a kernel of truth. The kids are straight out of Children
of the Corn while grandma is a bad Margaret Dumont impersonator.
Vito Russo has a chapter on why we
should care about this misshapen melodrama. Apparently young fans on IMDB find
it a useful departure for debating same sex bonds. Everyone else has been