Thursday, July 06, 2023

Homo Box Office: Watching Away the Shame

As I recently blogged about, I've been on a mission to try to watch a bunch of things I feel like I "should have already seen" by now. I realize in this current climate gay cards are easily revoked -- so figure it's high time I get my act together. 

Started with two camp classics -- "The Girl Most Likely To" and "Myra Breckinridge" -- and have carried on with a bunch of others, as well as some actual classics I somehow missed, starring Ingrid Bergman, Matt Dillon, Brad Davis, Ryan O'Neal, Jill Clayburgh and more. 

Click through for the full list in progress -- plus my pick for the best show you've probably never seen -- BELOW.

I love telling younger people that there was a time when Jill Clayburgh was a huge movie star. (It's the little things that make me happy, guys!) Still, I had to admit I had never seen her three biggest leading roles, so began with "Starting Over." I enjoyed it -- and was pretty surprised to subsequently discover that people's reactions to Candice Bergen's foray into comedy was so divided at the time. (I about died laughing -- for all the right reasons -- when she starting singing to estranged hubby Burt Reynolds!) Pretty good film for its time.

"It's My Turn" was enjoyable too, in a made-for-TV kind of way. (Felt a little dirty almost finding Michael Douglas attractive. Damn beards get me every time!)

Apparently Clayburgh's best film is Paul Mazursky's "An Unmarried Woman," although it's not available anywhere to watch. If someone wants to loan me their DVD, please reach out.

"Midnight Cowboy" lived up to the hype -- and Jon Voigt is absolutely scrumptious! Really kicking myself for not getting a selfie with Brenda Vaccaro at Joe's Pub on New Year's Eve now.

Somehow never really knew what this was about -- I think I was conflating it with "Midnight Cowboy" -- but I've lusted over Brad Davis forever. Also lived up to the hoopla.

"Gaslight" is my mother's favorite movie -- or maybe I just think it is because she's constantly accusing my stepfather of doing it to her -- so this is probably the one I'm most happy to have finally ticked off my list. It holds up beautifully -- what a scene-stealer Angela Lansbury is! -- and confirms my belief that Ingrid Bergman was Old Hollywood's most wonderful leading lady, something I learned via "The Bells of St. Mary's," "Casablanca" and "Notorious." 

"On the Waterfront" was enjoyable, although it didn't blow me away. Perhaps my mob allergy had something to do with it. (Had Marlon Brando already started to lose his "A Streetcar Named Desire" looks a few short years later? 

"Partners" reminded me a bit of "Cruising." Both were excoriated for their stereotypes but I looked at both glasses as half full: I liked that there was representation at all back then, and in both cases the leading men had affection for the gay guys they were working with or for. Bonus points for early '80s WeHo and Ryan O'Neal's being sex on a stick. 

Next I went beefing up my Matt Dillon resume. To be clear, I was always a on Team Matt. (I remember when Siskel and Ebert had the big "Cruise or Dillon" argument and I thought there was no question.) I didn't grow up reading S.E. Hinton -- Damian did, but I was more of an Erma Bombeck 'tween -- so didn't really find any of the adaptations of her work that appealing storywise back when they came out and my budget was limited. (I got my Dillon fix via repeated viewings of "Little Darlings," "My Bodyguard" and "The Flamingo Kid.") Of the three, "Tex" was the most enjoyable. It was very Disney/afterschool special -- so lacked some of the sexiness of the Francis Coppola films. But the acting and story was head and shoulders above the other two.

"The Outsiders," of course," is worth watching just because of the nonstop mancandy. (Naturally, Rob "Sodapop Curtis" had to be filmed getting out of the shower!) But the dialogue and acting were mostly cringeworthy, so I'm not surprised it bombed at the box office despite its star appeal.

Despite its pretentiousness, "Rumble Fish" was actually more tolerable. It's largely the same film -- Hinton seemed to write the same story over and over -- but the acting is better and Dillon shot in black and white has never been more stunning. 

I was very titillated by "Rock Hudson: All That Heaven Allowed" -- those photos! that phone call! -- although I think a pal’s review summed it up pretty well, even if I think I liked it a bit more than she:

In my opinion, the great Rock Hudson deserves a more elegant documentary than "All That Heaven Allowed," streaming on Max. I didn’t love this film, it felt a bit smug and belittling of the weight of his presence on screen. The cutting together of snippets from his films to play for high camp gay innuendo was pretty much a direct lift of Mark Rappaport’s "Rock Hudson’s Home Movies." But there are unmistakable highlights. Very moving phone interviews with Linda Evans who was the last to work with him before he passed from AIDS and wonderfully vivid tales and films from the Old Hollywood halcyon days of Hedonic Queerness. There is beauty and heartbreak. It’s worth a peep.

"Wham!" on Netflix. As heartwarming as it was heartbreaking. 

Still on my to-watch list: 

" This Is Spinal Tap"
"A Wedding"
"Citizen Kane" 
"Bonnie and Clyde" 
and I'm sure a million more I haven't written down yet.

Since I have you: 

Thoroughly enjoyed Rob Lowe and his son in Netflix's "Unstable," where the elder Lowe plays a tolerable version of Elon Musk. 

"Firebird" was fantastic. 

Gave up on "Class of '07" after one episode. Didn't realize it was supernatural. 

And last but definitely not least: Finally watched the Peacock "Saved by the Bell" revamp and thought it was the best show I have seen since, perhaps, "The Comeback." Brilliantly written and smartly executed, with just the right mixture of nostalgia and poking fun at where we are today. It's a shame it only lasted two seasons -- I think it might have stuck around longer if Peacock had been more of a known quantity when the series premiered -- but it's a real treasure, the caveat being you have to know the teen version of the show for it to make sense. 

Thoughts and recommendations welcomed in the comments. 

P.S. I have seen "Valley of the Dolls," although not as long ago as I might have!

UPDATE: Some new additions:

"Raging Bull" was good but certainly not one of the greatest. I (believe it or not) come from a boxing family, but I think my mafia allergy overweighs even that. 

"In Cold Blood": Interesting to see Robert Blake before (the only way I knew him as) Barretta. Surprised Scott Wilson didn't become a bigger star, as dreamy as he was .

"Kentucky Fried Movie": I'd FOREVER heard about the film the "Airplane!" people did before they hit it big so finally watched it. It's really just a bunch of quirky bits, so isn't really enjoyable like a feature film can be, but definitely showed their promise. 

"Mother": I'd seen bits and piece of Albert Brooks's 1996 film starring Debbie Reynolds but it was even better than I expected watching it from beginning to end. ("Now we know why you HATE me!") We did this after watching "Lost in America," which I had seen in fragments as an usher at the theater where I worked in high school, but wanted to properly enjoy with Damian. It's a classic! 


It's hard to believe I waited over 50 years to watch what is considered the greatest film of all time, but alas this is the case. But as is often the case when there's extraordinary build-up or hype, I thought "Citizen Kane" was entertaining enough but hardly the best film I'd ever seen. The more I catch up with these AFI lists (etc.), the more it confirms that we each approach works of art from our own perspective, with our own life experiences, which means what's gold to someone is merely aluminum to others, or in this case perhaps copper. It probably didn't help that I knew the Rosebud mystery, but it definitely helped that a young Agnes Moorehead played Mom! 

Meanwhile, I can't stand Sylvester Stallone and don't have much use for boxing, despite my lineage. So I was pleasantly surprised that the character-driven sleeper hit of 1976 -- which of course won the Oscar for best picture and director (as well as editing) -- was highly enjoyable. 

And if you're looking for a gay film to stream, I recommend my pal Yen Tan's slice-of-life drama "Pit Stop." It's a small film in every sense of the word. But the characters and their struggles were plenty big to hold my attention. 


Chuck said...

If you're open to suggestions, here are my picks for pix most people know about but these days may not have seen: "Laura" (Clifton Webb), "Shadow of a Doubt" (Joseph Cotten), and "Rope" (Farley Granger, James Stewart). -- Chuck

grapecherry said...

Love the "catch up" concept. You will love "Spinal Tap." Two movies I would add to your list: "Nashville" and "Network"

Jaradon said...

You should see "Rope" which is very gay but nobody mentions it. I had a huge crush on the beautiful Brad Davis

Fred said...

A Place In The Sun.....Elizabeth Taylor, Shelley Winters, Montgomery Clift...

JimmyD said...

The true joy of the SAVED BY THE BELL reboot is Season 2, Episode 6 when SBTB and Showgirls become a shared universe.
Also... SBTB's Josie Totah has the best line ever (not sure which episode):
"If your dreams don't scare you a little bit then the aren't big enough. I read that on a pop up ad for a dildo."

I hope you enjoy SPINAL TAP. The original Mocumentary!!

James Greenlee said...

I was just a hair too old for the original Saved by the Bell, and what I did catch was so bad, so cringe-inducingly bad, that I watched with a bit of morbid fascination. Right up there with the original Power Rangers. So, I can't watch with nostalgia. I wonder if the reboot would hit the same way.

But I think you may have started me on a similar odyssey of "watch it, already!" for the ones I've managed to miss. I share your mafia allergy.

Anonymous said...

I just looked and found An Unmarried Woman on
Lots of movies there.

Jan said...

I'm with Jaradan: any thing with Brad Davis, especially "Midnight Express" and even "Rosalie goes Shopping".

Greggory said...

Midnight Express is one of the most amazing films I've ever seen. Emotions all over the place. Every feeling imaginable. Brad Davis was brilliant in every way possible.

tenov17 said...

All great movies. Ingrid Bergen most beautiful. Suggestions - Torch Song Trilogy; Tryck; Love, Valor, Compassion; 'Dreams' by Japanese director Akira Kurosawa; 'Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown' by Pedro Almodova; The Big Chill, and for laughs and wit try Murder by Death ( how many films have Truman Capote?) and The Cheap Detective with Peter Falk.

Steve said...

Everyone is making good suggestions. When you get around to Citizen Kane, you should also see The Magnificent Ambersons. We used to have a rep house here in Minneapolis and there were two double features you were guaranteed on their bill: One was the above two Orson Welles film; the other was Harold and Maude and King of Hearts.
If you haven't seen them, add them. I was at a screening of King of Hearts and heard this couple arguing about whether or not they should stay. I asked if this was their first time and they said it was. I said, "Wait about 15 minutes, because that's when the magic starts." When it was over, they were starry-eyed and exclaimed "What a good movie!" I agree.

I went to college with the actor who plays Mr. Dewey on Saved By the Bell. I've known him for over 50 years and we get together from time to time. I agree with all the suggestions above. I'd add Waiting for Huffman and my all-time fave movie, All About Eve