12 October 2009

Other Movie Recommendations

I maybe haven't seen all that many gay flicks (I've started watching a few but couldn't make it through). I just can't stomach the crappy acting, shoddy cinematography, and hideous scripts of most homo movies I've seen parts of. I'm not a total movie snob, and I can forgive some shortcomings for a good story, but I won't pretend to enjoy a film just because it's supposedly about "people like me", whether homo, Mormon, American, brunet, acne-prone, whatever.

But I do have a list of movies I've really liked that have significant or primary gay themes or characters in them, so without further ado, and for the few of you who give a rip about O-Mo's movie recommendations (all two of you), here's the list:

Maurice - one of the first gay-themed movies I saw. Confession time: if I remember right, I originally watched it because it was a Merchant Ivory film of an E.M. Forster novel, the same combo which created A Room With a View, which caught my attention one day on Bravo because of its infamous skinny dipping scene, and I thought maybe they'd have more eye candy in Maurice as well. ...they did. So be advised: you do see floppy bits in the unedited version (rated R). But I originally saw it edited on Bravo. BUT the story is an interesting one and well done, and I don't think any of the nudity is during sex scenes, if that makes any difference to you. The part that initially stood out to me is the scene in which they first touch romantically, and as I watched, I felt a surge of electricity through me as I watched them making that connection for the first time, and I longed for that touch. I thought surely this was a confused and distorted emotion I shouldn't be feeling or a perversion of a desire to be accepted by men (yes, I came up with "reparative"-like conceptions as early as I was feeling attracted to members of the same sex, but that's...you guessed it...another post). As such, I pushed away the feeling. But I never forgot it.

For the (completely innocent) part I mentioned, watch from time stamp 3:10 to 3:21

Brokeback Mountain - I initially refused to see this (the R rating and the hype from the gay activism crowd turned me off), so I instead read the short story it's based on, which was, at the time, available for free online. The story was probably new and groundbreaking to people who hadn't personally dealt with homosexuality much before, but I found the language bland and the characters completely unsympathetic. I finally caved and watched the movie when my roommates were putting it on one night, and I liked the movie a lot more. The characters, though still dirtbags in their own right, were more sympathetic, their pressures and reasons for being dirtbags to their wives more nuanced, and the acting was really well done. Aside from the unwelcome and mildly upsetting boob shots, I liked the movie.

Milk - this is one I own. I really liked this movie. I don't agree with all of Harvey Milk's perspective or decisions, but the movie tells a story I think many people would benefit from watching, and it tells it very well. I like that it doesn't glorify Milk but portrays him as a man who saw a need and worked for the cause. One message I wish people would take away from it is that the gay rights movement isn't just about shoving sexuality in people's faces or validating sexual preferences: it's truly about equality and justice in the minds of most who pursue them. Anyway, I've watched this one several times. And James Franco doesn't hurt anything, either.

Another Country - I've just reviewed it. I'll say no more.

The Talented Mr. Ripley - Compelling cautionary story, powerful acting from an all-star cast (Matt Damon, Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Cate Blanchett), riveting suspense, well-developed characters, disturbing but fascinating psychology, great cinematography and a beautiful setting all contribute to my cautious love for this movie. It's so hard to watch in parts when you're hoping against hope for the redemption of the unexpected protagonist...but it's such a beautifully told tragedy...and definitely one of the best-made movies in this list. I even have a friend who shows it to groups of friends with pauses for discussion because there are so many lessons, both subtle and less subtle, to be learned from the story. (Oh, and I have this one edited, if any of you who know me want to watch it.)

The Hours - Solid acting, interesting premise, sensitive and familiar treatment...Meryl Streep and Nicole Kidman (as a brunette with a prosthetic nose acting as Virginia Woolf)? Can't hate that.

Fried Green Tomatoes - Don't even try to deny it has homoromantic overtones between the female leads. If you missed it, watch it again. You'll see. But that's just part of the story. I actually haven't watched this in over a decade, but I liked it as a teenager. :-)

The Celluloid Closet - Interesting expose on the history of homosexuality (or, as I say, homoromanticism) in film. You might be surprised at some of the connections. I think some of them are a bit of a stretch and examined through today's modern hyper-sexual lens, but it's still interesting. And it's narrated by Lily Tomlin, which was a selling point for me.

The Family Stone - I also own this one. And I love love love this movie. Love it. The only gay thing about it is the gay son and his partner and adopted baby. Some people notice, to their relief or chagrin or celebration, that the gay couple is the most "normal", stable couple in the movie. I just love the movie and the fact that the whole "gay" thing is just another part of the family's dynamic.

Far from Heaven - emotive performances from the leads and a story about a middle class suburban family struggling to deal with issues that are social no-nos in the 1950s (homosexuality, divorce, interracial relationships) make this one stand out for me. Also, it's the first role I really like Julianne Moore in. She is also in The Hours.

Bent - I hesitate to recommend this one because of some of its content. Had I known in advance the extent of the content, I probably wouldn't have watched it unedited. But the story drew me in, and I watched it while skipping the crude stuff, particularly what I regard as a completely unnecessary portrayal of the decadence of Berlin at the beginning of the movie--the rest of the movie was much tamer than that initial shock-and-awe I saw a glimpse of. I think it's available in two versions: one NC-17 uncut and an R-rated version. For those of you not sure about or opposed to watching R-rated movies, skip this one. If you can watch it edited somehow, though, I recommend that, because it really does beg some interesting questions. Regardless of the version, if you're not comfortable with strong, crude sexuality and nudity (as I'm not), but want to watch it for the story, either see the play it's based on or skip the sexually explicit material on the video. In my opinion, it's totally superfluous. I didn't feel like I missed anything. The dark psychology of going through something as trying as World War II and the disturbing concentration camp scenes are thought-provoking "what if" scenarios that make you really question what you would do in a given situation, where you would draw your strength from, and whether you would allow survival to override humanity. The lead (Clive Owen) keeps you guessing as to whether he'll find his own humanity right up to the end. It stars quite a cast (including Ian McKellen, whom I really like). I probably won't watch it again, to be honest, because parts of it really were a bit too "R" for my taste, but it was moving.

Brideshead Revisited - I've only seen the recent film, not the British TV series. I really liked this movie. Emma Thompson is always golden, and Matthew Goode is one of my celebrity crushes ever since I saw his beautiful beautiful self in a supporting role in Match Point (a movie I did NOT like, despite loving him and Emily Mortimer, because it never really went anywhere and ended terribly...it's a Woody Allen film, I suppose I should've known). But more than that, I really identified with the conflicts in the movie and appreciated the tension from the questions raised, the relationships forged, and the moral, ethical, and religious conundrums encountered. I did get the feeling I was rushed through the last quarter of the story and felt a bit puzzled by the ending, wondering what the creators of the film were trying to convey, but I live ambiguity, so a puzzling ending intrigues me, as long as it's not too "what the H?" I'm a sucker for a tease sometimes. Anyway, the British TV series is coming up in my Netflix queue, so I'm looking forward to comparing it and seeing if it expounds on some of the issues I thought might have been brushed over more than they were in the novel it's based on.

Philadelphia - I know it's probably cliche to like this movie, but I do. I thought Tom Hanks did an outstanding job in his role, and the story of a man fighting for his rights and his life is gripping. It's truly a story not so much about homosexuality as humanity and respect.

I may have forgotten some, but a couple which are notably and intentionally absent from my list are:

Latter Days - I finally caved and watched this just a short while ago with a female friend, and we couldn't help but laugh a little at the poorly delivered/poorly written lines and the after-school-special-style cinematography. I mean sure, the leads' bods are hot hot hot, but that doesn't quite compensate for the campy dialog and seriously slanted/selective (despite being occasionally somewhat accurate) portrayal of LDS culture. We got halfway through when she had to leave. I looked at her and asked if she was going to want to finish it. A sheepish grin spread across her face as she said, "I kind of care about them now and want to see what happens." We finished it later. So yes, I guess there was something to like about it, and it did have a message, even a positive message or three. And I guess it does provide a glimpse into the conflicts of a gay LDS guy, particularly through the lens of a 19-or-20-year-old, and a not-so-very-independently-thinking one, at that. But despite being made probably fairly well for what I imagine was a very small budget, it's just...so...gay-movie-ish that I can't recommend it. Well, that and the fact that the crude dialog really is excessive, and the opening scene of sexuality is explicit.

Angels in America - I discovered this on TV when we had a trial of all channels under the sun, and it captured my attention before I realized it was the movie adaptation of the play a friend had told me about a couple of years prior. It's intriguing, and it challenges paradigms, and I wanted to like it. But I didn't. Don't get me wrong, it was funny, sad, dramatic, witty, and...extremely grating and abrasive and heavy-handed and preachy and biased and darkly negative. Meryl Streep, Emma Thompson, Mary-Louise Parker, and Al Pacino combined couldn't make me actually like this movie. It was just too much of an axe to grind, too gawdy, too irrational. Patrick Wilson was quite attractive, I'll give it that, but that may be the main reason I waded through most of the movie, off and on, wincing at the crude language and rolling my eyes at the overbearing script. This movie is actually "well done" except for the story itself.


boskers said...

I've never really had the chance to ever watch gay-themed movies. And with your reviews, I really don't think I'm interested in seeing one any time soon. I am however, interested in literature.

Have you read any good books that don't emphasize sex? I looked on the borders website and clicked the glbt tab and only found erotica and crap. do you know anything more conservative? How about a literature review post (assuming you've read some books)...?

Chedner said...

The following all get my recommendation:

Ma Vie en Rose
(though more about transsexual-ism than homosexual-ism)

The Closet
(aka le Placard)

Dorian Blues


Quinn said...

My all time favorite gay movie... Shelter!

Anonymous said...

You might try Elephant, Mysterious Skin, and A Home at the End of the World. Although the first two are rather traumatic viewing experiences, it's more violence than sex, and certainly nothing like watching any version of Bent. Your viewing selections betray your professed prudishness. ;P

Boskers, I wouldn't call it conservative, but you might try Giovanni's Room by James Baldwin. It's a story of a conflicted American man in Paris struggling to decide between a "gay" lifestyle in Europe, or reuniting with his girlfriend for marriage. While there is some sex, it's not erotica.

-AZO- said...

Whoa twins! i had a post about how I cant take how awful most gay flicks are with their crap acting poor cinematography and awful scripts.

I would not have put brideshead revisited on my list. Maybe it was the time period that bored me though. Instead I would have put Sheng Xia Guang Nian/Eternal Summer. Which also has a love triangle type situation with a vague ending. The cinematography & scoring is pretty nice.

totally agree with your latter days review. the poor acting/dialog combo was just not going to cut it. The random "stars" that they did have seemed a little out of place & I just couldn't stop thinking 'these people are acting'.

Calvin said...

Out of the many terrible gay-themed movies I've downloaded and sat through, here are a few that I kept:

The Bubble: About an Israeli and a Palestinian who fall in love

Fixing Frank: About a gay newspaper columnist who sees a reparative therapist to secretly discredit him; it's not a beautiful movie but it's very thought-provoking and even-keeled.

Were The World Mine: Because who doesn't love High School Musical?

boskers, the one book I can recommend is At Swim, Two Boys by Jamie O'Neill. I haven't finished it (despite having started it a long time ago) so I probably haven't gotten the bigger picture yet, but it definitely feels like real literature as opposed to the other crap. The language is a bit tough because it's very Irish, but it's beautifully written.

Chester said...

Torchsong Trilogy: Harvey Fierstein, Matthew Broderick, Anne Bancroft.

Daniel said...

How has no one mentioned Get Real and Object of My Affection, both of which are so worthy of recommendation? Both have appropritate (even prude) content, both have great plots, themes, and messages, and both have great acting. I also recommend For the Bible Tells Me So, which is a beautiful and insightful documentary. And if you haven't seen Saved!, you should be shot.

Anonymous said...

I really enjoyed the short story version of Brokeback Mountain. I also wanted to like Angels in America, but I didn't. I don't think I made it past the first couple of hours. I just wanted to say that in December, a Tom Ford directed movie called A single Man will be released about a gay English professor in Los Angeles. It has been generating a lot of oscar buzz. Also on my list is a DVD called Yossi and Jagger about to Israeli soldiers who fall in love, but I haven't had the time to check it out.

Abelard Enigma said...

I agree with you on many gay themed movies. There have been many I've started watching and couldn't finish. Not only because of bad acting or a weak plotline, but sometimes the story was a bit too disturbing.

I 2nd the recommendation for Shelter. There is also "Prayers for Bobby". Might I also recommend for your viewing pleasure

* For the Bible Tells Me So - a documentary exploring homosexuality and religion

* Borstal Boy - not really a gay themed movie, per se, but it does have a gay character

* Mambo Italiano - just a fun movie about the son of italian immigrants to Canada. Be aware that the language can be a bit coarse (f-bomb used several times). I've only watched it on Logo which edits out such language.

I also enjoyed

* Beautiful Thing
* Get Real
* Torch Song Trilogy

Anonymous said...

These are good reviews and summaries. I have not seen all of these films. But I agree with your assessment of all those I have seen. And you (and your commenters) have woke me up to some new ones to try.

I share many of your thoughts on Angels in America. I've never felt the desire to watch it again for many of the same reasons you cite in your summary.

But while I was watching it the first time, I was aware of moments of great depth and artistry in the production that shone through the overall heavy-handed dark negativity you mention.

And the final scene is something that I HAVE felt drawn to watch over and over again. I love the part in those closing moments where Meryl Streep as a kind of super-enlightened Mormon woman talks about going with her three gay friends to the fountain of Bethesda during the Millennium to "wash themselves clean."

I'll gladly forgive (and forget) all that comes before those final five minutes in exchange for that one flash of grace and flare of divine fire.

If you love Meryl Streep (as I do), and long for all that our God of Good Things to Come has told us is coming during the Millennium, that moment can communicate a little transcendent wonder and deep ripples of anticipation. At least it always does for me.

I understand that it may fall flat for others, but every time I watch it, it sends a shiver down my spine. I marvel that such a soulfully moving moment was ever captured and broadcast on HBO. It makes me happy. Joyful even.

MoHoHawaii said...

Although I want to like the genre, most gay-themed movies are almost unwatchable. Here are some exceptions. These are definitely worth watching:

My Beautiful Laundrette (1985)
Parting Glances (1986)
Beautiful Thing (1996)
The Sum of Us (1994)
History Boys
The Wedding Banquet (1993)
Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil

In addition, I have a "B" list of gay-themed movies with some redeeming qualities:

Maurice (1987)
Priest (1994)
In & Out (1997)
Bent (1997)
Making Love
Get Real (1998)
Touch of Pink
Mambo Italiano
Happy Together
Another Country
The Hanging Garden

Original Mohomie said...

Holy bunch of comments, Batman.

boskers, I'm a slow reader with, I think, too short an attention span to compensate for the sluggishness of my reading, so I don't read much, though I'm very interested in certain books, like Brideshead Revisited. I've seen the same problem as you with gay lit, it's usually sex-centered, unintelligent garbage. I'm sure there are exceptions; I just don't know them. :-)

OK, so the movie recommendations:

Movies I spaced:
* Prayers for Bobby - not Oscar material, but a good message and pretty well done. I really liked this one and did, in fact, bawl briefly.
* History Boys - I actually liked this one quite a bit. Funny and touching coming-of-age, teacher-and-students story.

Already in my queue:
* Shelter,
* A Home at the End of the World,
* For the Bible Tells Me So,
* Beautiful Thing
* The Wedding Banquet

Added to my Netflix "Watch Instantly" queue:
* Ma Vie En Rose (I've wondered about this one for years but have never found transgender issues particularly compelling/appealing, but I can give this a shot),
* Dorian Blues,
* C.R.A.Z.Y.,
* The Closet (I was curious about this one just a couple of days ago),
* The Bubble (Calvin, is this one naughty? Are you trying to get me to watch naughty movies?)

Added to my DVD queue:
* Eternal Summer,
* Fixing Frank,
* Torch Song Trilogy,
* Borstal Boy,
* My Beautiful Laundrette

Added to my "maybe someday" list:
* Elephant,
* The Object of My Affection,
* Mambo Italiano
* Priest
* Happy Together
* The Hanging Garden

Probably not interested in watching:
* Making Love
* Touch of Pink
* The Sum of Us
* Parting Glances
* Urbania

Movies I've seen:
* Mysterious Skin (found it a bit boring and/or too...raw)
* Were The World Mine - Ha, you know my feelings about HSM, Calvin. But I will sheepishly admit HSM3 (the only one I've seen, thanks to you and you-know-who) wasn't entirely painful. OK, I kind of enjoyed the stupid thing. I've gotten through most of WTWM, but I don't think it's my cup o' tea.
* Get Real - not bad, actually. Just maybe not that memorable. That was actually one of the first gay films I saw, though, so maybe I had a more defensive perspective then.
* Saved! - I only got through 10-15 minutes of this. I appreciate wit, but this was too heavily cynical and bitingly sarcastic for my taste.
* Yossi and Jagger - started watching this one, lost interest.
* In & Out - fun but forgettable
* Cabaret - OK, I haven't seen the movie but saw the play, and it was good, actually.

...and Chedner, I also forgot Kinky Boots, which I guess was more about transvestitism than homosexuality, but a fun flick.

Man, that's a lot of gay movies. I'm gonna have to filter some for content and pace myself and spread them out among the other 300-some movies in my queues so I don't burn out. :-)

Chedner said...

boskers: You may be okay with Big Eden. It gets my recommendation; I would even recommend it to my mother.

Also (I remembered a few more):

His Secret Life mostly gets my recommendation.

Grande Ecole and Head On do not get my recommendation.

The Man of My Life (aka L'homme de sa vie) mostly doesn't get my recommendation.

And, yes, Kinky Boots (Drag Queen-ism, not transvestite-ism... but mostly about... well, kinky boots ;))... how I love it.


In non-gay cinema that I've recently experienced: Lars and the Real Girl gets my recommendation.

Abelard Enigma said...

I think I feel a new MoHo poll coming on for November - favorite gay themed movies. Anyone care to compile a list to send to me?

El Genio said...

My netflix queue loves this post, thanks everyone!

Original Mohomie said...

Abelard, I don't think I have the energy. Anyone else? :-)

Chedner, I really liked Lars and the Real Girl, too. I've been a bit surprised how many people dislike it.

Oh, and I watched Dorian Blues this evening. Thumbs up. I laughed at many parts and cupped my hands over my mouth in dismay at the part where Ben shows up with his new...yeah. Ha, I was into it.

Chedner said...

I thought you would appreciate the humor :).

I'm glad you liked it.

Calvin said...

No, The Bubble is not naughty! If I remember correctly, it doesn't get much steamier than Brokeback Mountain's worst (best) parts. The DVD cover might be worrisome, but the characters just do that for a poster as part of a political protest. There's no group sex, no nip, no peen...