Tuesday, March 07, 2023

Homo Box Office: A Brief Return to the 21st Century

I can't say exactly how or when it happened. But at some point in the past decade or so, I all but walked away from watching new movies. For years I'd do my Top 10 Films of the Year posts, having to winnow it down to just 10. But now I realize the last best picture Oscar winner I saw was "Moonlight," and I haven't seen a single nominee for the past five years running. 

I think a big factor was going from a long-term relationship with someone who only liked to watch movies in a theater -- so we'd "go the movies" as almost a weekly activity -- to someone who is happy to stay in. At the same time, it feels like television has greatly improved during that time -- and then the pandemic hit -- so at-home entertainment became that much more appealing. 

I'd also point to the fact that most movies seem horrible these days -- constant comic books and sequels -- and none of the more original titles piqued my interest enough to get me out of the house. (Damian and I did eagerly go to see "Battle of the Sexes" in the theater in 2017, only to spend the entire time irate that everyone in the theater was either rattling candy bags, crunching bottomless cups of ice, or glowing throughout the film looking at their cellphones, another factor no doubt.) 

Something else also changed: Watching a movie requires a certain "buy in" or suspension of belief that I feel like I've lost the ability to do over time. As a result, I feel like documentaries have filled the void of regular films. That there's no shortage of good ones has only made the transition that much easier. (Damian and I still occasionally watch classics: After I introduced him to the complete works of Woody Allen -- we finally found "September" streaming the other night, better than I recalled!-- we did a Hitchcock binge. And he got me to finally watch "Groundhog Day," which he liked from his childhood.)

All this rambling is to say I've completely lost touch with a swath of pop culture -- which for whatever reason doesn't bother me in the slightest. 

But recently the ridiculously charming "Jeffrey" (1995) came up as a suggested film on our Fire TV home page, which got me nostalgic for the heyday of gay cinema of the 1990s. Although we frequently (gay) bashed the quality of the films at the time, I have such fond memories of reading about and then eagerly waiting in line to see the latest "gay movie" that it got my mind racing. 

Keep reading BELOW.

Sure, there were some clunkers. (Does anyone think I need to give "The Living End" another try?!) But there were also some keepers, including the aforementioned "Jeffrey" (can you ever go wrong with Paul Rudnick?), "The Edge of Seventeen," "Trick," "The Broken Hearts Club," "The Sum of Us," "All Over the Guy," "Billy's Hollywood Screen Kiss," "Love! Valour! Compassion!," "Kiss Me, Guido," "The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert," "Gods and Monsters," "Beautiful Thing" and so on.

So with this in mind -- and a seven-hour flight home from Madrid -- I decided to re-christen myself, starting with "Bros," which sort of opened a brief floodgate.

Watch trailer HERE.

Way too much has already been written about this harmless film. But I will say “Bros" was cleverly both a parody of a Hallmark movie while also being one -- albeit with butt plugs -- and I appreciated the smart writing and care that went into making it. I'm not a big fan of rom-coms in general -- and as is usually the case, it was the rom that I found to be the weakest part of story. (In fairness, not everyone can have the sizzling chemistry of Amy Schumer and Bill Hader.😆)

Having now seen "Bros" it clearly was never going to be a mainstream hit. (Who could have possibly thought otherwise?) But everyone involved should be proud they got it made. 

Watch trailer HERE.

Since I wasn't feeling much rom in the aforementioned rom-com, I decided to revisit "Call Me by Your Name." (Full disclosure: It too was available on my flight home -- I also accidentally watched "Don't Worry, Darling" thinking it was the gay Harry Styles movie! -- so I didn't have much more to do.) My issue with the film when I saw it at the Paris in 2017 is that Armie Hammer can't act his way out of a paper bag and it felt like a gay romance written by a straight guy. (I later found out it actually was!) 

So upon re-watch, I pretended Armie was hired exclusively for his bombshell appearance -- which, let's be honest, wasn't exactly hard to do -- and I found it far more palatable. (Somehow I doubt any straight man has ever cared much about Pamela Anderson's personality.) By focusing only on Elio's infatuation -- which no longer required me to believe that he saw Oliver as interesting, fun or intelligent -- I appreciated it much more the second time around. Three cheers for superficiality! 

Watch trailer HERE.

Once home, I dove into "Summer of 85," a French indie from 2020 that centers around a 16-year-old named Alexis, whose sexuality blossoms when he capsizes off the coast of France only to be rescued by a flirtatious 19-year-old named David. While no masterpiece, just as in the 1990s it's always enjoyable to see our stories being told. And with its good-looking cast and sexually charged plot, it's certainly enjoyable to watch. 

Watch trailer HERE.

From there, I stayed in the same year, with writer/director Yen Tan's slice-of-life sleeper set in a dark time in our recent history. "1985" follows a closeted advertising executive (the highly likeable Cory Michael Smith) as he returns home to Texas for the holidays after a three-year absence. Devastated by the AIDS crisis in his adopted New York City, the trip doubles as a chance for him to say goodbye while he still can, with the threat of death hanging over him. A subplot about his light-the-loafers preteen brother adds a sweet levity to the harrowing situation, while Virginia Madsen and Michael Chiklis deliver perfectly understated performances as his "Christian" parents.

Watch trailer HERE.

And last but not least: "Fire Island" was probably the biggest surprise for me. The trailer looked exhausting -- the actual Fire Island "scene" is kind of the antithesis of fun for me -- so I wasn't sure where this ferry would lead me. Much to my surprise, an at-times hilarious and knowingly campy script along with some multifaceted performances really impressed me, as did something a little more self-serving. For obvious reasons, people who aren't members of a minority group aren't allowed to say certain things about said group. But that doesn't mean people who have thought those things don't LOVE hearing them say it about themselves. In this case, I thought writer/star Joel Kim Booster did a deft job of pointing out that despite the hateful No Fats, No Fems, No Asians line that's been around the gay community for years, the truth of the matter is that the principal currency gays trade in is bodies. (Wait, was I just criticizing straight men for not being interested in Pam Anderson's views on politics?!) The main character’s life changed after he “got a body,” and I certainly recall that one of the hottest bartenders throughout the late '90s and early 2000s at G Lounge -- home of the Chelsea Boy -- was an Asian guy, who of course later became a top real estate broker by filling out a suit to the lust of the masses. 

I was almost in shock watching "Fire Island" as one character told his friend not to convince himself he's "invisible" to fags only because he's one of the three aforementioned "offenses." Lesson: There are A LOT of ways to be invisible when you're gay -- doesn't it make you happy? Bonus points to Margaret Cho, who always delivers. 

You've all probably already seen most of these films in recent years, but thank you for allowing me to re-enter the pop culture stratosphere for a moment. As you were … but feel free to let me know if there’s something I should seriously consider making a special trip for.


DP said...

Morning from the UK! I am completely with you with regard to a lack of interest in watching mew films as they come and go - sometimes with good intentions that disappear. But .... I have just watched Everything Everywhere All At Once as it has popped up on UK Amazon Prime, and my god it's brilliant! A genre I have no interest in, a subject I had no concept of, and actors I did not really know, but it captured me within moments and kept me there right through till the end. Simply amazing, and I cannot recommend it highly enough for a couple of hours of pure escapism.......

Keith “in Lov the Cov” said...

First of all thanks for the post and glad you enjoyed all these films. Keep posting!

Jaradon said...

I've always been a huge movie fan but going to the movies these days has gotten to expensive specially when one has to put up with idiots never turning off their phones . You are right documentaries on Netflix can be more compelling. That was very well written article.

VRCooper said...

I love going to the movies.

I prefer the art house/independent type films.

Give me a good gay story and I will venture my ass out of the house. And a few others as well. The last movie I saw in a theater was The Whale. I never hear in the reviews about Branden's character in the movie being gay. He left his wife and daughter for a man that he had a loving relationship with. When his partner died he went to pot and the longing for a relationship with his teenage daughter. Now the daughter is a piece of work.

I see a small tide of gay movies moving away from teenage angst, coming out, awakening-type movies. I can't recall the movies off the top of my head, but there have been a few movies about gays just living. They are out and doing their thing.
The mature gay.

I will not get into the type of movies out today. I don't care for sci-fi, superhero, car chasing, or non-stop action-type movies. I like the movie to be based in reality and a good story told.

I knew a guy in LA that constantly watches the old movies channel. The movies from the 50's back. All the Hollywood stars from the major studios placed their talent in contracts. My friend could be found in his bedroom, propped up watching these movies on his 60-plus-inch television with the best sound system.

The streaming folks-Amazon Prime, and Netflix... do offer some good picks but one has to wade through a lot of shit. I have one tab open to select a possibility and another to look up the reviews. This can be time-consuming.

Enjoy your hunt in finding the next movie gem.

Kit McCollum said...

Where I live now, the only way to know what is playing in a movie theatre is to visit each movie theatre's website. Before Covid, there would be reviews and movie listings, at least once a week, in the local paper. Now, nothing. Nada.

Having once worked in Cable TV with a focus on movies, I've long consumed reviews and have watched plenty of stinkers (start to finish) in my time. But, like you, I find that most of what comes out today is largely dreck. The plot seems familiar, or the cast is not as talented, or the film is all about the special effects. Also like you, Moonlight may have been the last year I really paid attention to Oscar nominated films. In the last couple of years, I've seen maybe one, at best. This year, none at all.

And watching movies in the quiet comfort of my home is so much more pleasurable. In fact, the last two movies I've seen in a movie house were SINGIN' IN THE RAIN and TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD. And I'll take both of those over TOP GUN XXIII any time.

Kit McCollum

Blobby said...

"Jeffrey" was perfectly cast..........except for the title role. I like Steven whatshisname, but he was wrong wrong wrong for the role. Nathan Lane and Sigourney Weaver were GENIUS.

Kenneth M. Walsh said...

@Blobby: To each his own. I thought he was just perfect -- and I'm a Brian Hackett fan!

grapecherry said...

I liked "Spoiler Alert," with Jim Parsons, based on Michael Ausiello's book. A sad romance...

Unknown said...

Great list ---- damn I miss/love 90s gay movies.

Recent ones to watch if you haven't tho:
God's Own Country.

mwk said...

Personally, my favorite "genre" of gay film, are those ones where being gay is just completely normal to everyone in the film and there's no hatred or politics. Just love and/or some good sexual chemistry.

So I liked Bros for that reason. However, whomever thought that Billy Eichner could carry a film as a leading man was mistaken. His "schtick" is best in smaller, shorter doses.

I LOVE the move "Big Eden", which is a gay romance that takes a while to show all its cards, but it's sweet and lovely and very well done. I believe it's streaming for free now on Tubi.