I don’t know shit about Jesus. I was raised atheist in NJ and the only “thumpers” I encountered were animated and in Disney films. I do not, however, live under a rock, and word on the street is Southern Baptists don’t like fags. Now the afore-linked-to website is one extreme example of extreme Christianity being extremely lame, but it’s often what most of us (non-Christian queer folk) think of when we hear the word “Baptist,” Southern or otherwise. Thankfully, writer/director/producer Stephen Cone’s 2011 film, The Wise Kids shows a different, softer side to the faith.
The film is about three, Baptist BFFs in South Carolina, on the verge of adulthood/high school graduation – one of whom happens to be dealing with is sexuality (read: gay). I almost gave this film the SCARED STRAIGHTS label (reserved for films whose gay plot lines serve to give street(meat)-cred to an otherwise heterosexual film), but then thought twice. In interviews, Cone himself even marvels at the inclusion of this film in gay film festivals, citing his use of a gay storyline as a simple representation of stories he’d encountered in his own Southern Baptist upbringing. However, I felt that the gay characters (there’s one more, but I won’t tell you who! it’s a surprise!!) are critically required for the successful balance of the film’s humble musing tendency and its larger socio-critical exposé nature. Surprisingly enough to this Yankweer, not all people who come out in the South get beat up and shunned from their churches. News to me.
Eva Green: where ya been all my life? Sometimes, I think I live under a rock because when a specimen so fine as Ms. Green (Casino Royale, Camelot) escapes my mental clutches for this long, I have to wonder how strong my devotion to pop culture really is. And she’s not just a complete babe – sister can act to boot! Alongside, Homoflix regular Juno Temple and bombshell supporting players Imogen Poots and Maria Valverde, she tears up the screen in melodramatic brooding so committed, it’s sure to make you reach for a stiff drink and that old copy of Nightwood faster than you can answer Cracks opening line: “Do you have desire?”
Set in a random British boarding school in 1934, Green’s Ms. G is a rogue hottie in a sea of sexless Protestants, known for her amazing stories of exploits abroad while managing a dorm of rich, abandoned young women led by Temple’s grumpy bitch alpha princess Di. Her only definite responsibility at the school seems to be leading the girls on diving expeditions. (You can pause and let that sink in. Really. I don’t mind.) Anyway, Ms. G and Di have a “special,” if unconsummated, flirtation and clear love of water sports, but all shit breaks loose when a prodigious Spaniard hits the scene, making waves as a Catholic and foreigner with a past to boot. Fiamma (Valverde), an asthmatic with flawless skin, is immediately loathed for being the most cosmopolitan lady on campus, inspiring jealousy and rage in her overly sheltered, hormonal peers. Ms. G is of course completely smitten with the well-travelled 16 year-old, but Fiamma quickly discerns that G might have at least one screw loose, catching her in a white lie of inflated storytelling that will eventually have tragic consequences for the sharp minor. What follows are fucked up mind games involving an inhaler, a decadent dorm party, an implied lesbian rape and a prolonged, terribly upsetting Lord of the Flies chase scene. And this at 3 in the afternoon on a Thursday! My heart, my heart!
Disclaimer: I haven’t had sex in three weeks.
Hello Queer Cinema Acolytes and Seasoned Friends. I’m writing you from a windowless basement in Peterborough, New Hampshire, decorated only by a wire sculpture of a cat and a plastic tub of disinfectant wipes. Yes. I am at the famed MacDowell Colony, writing the next great American play, hobnobbing with fancy folk and consuming at least three thousand calories a day. Exercise here consists of walking to meals and bumming rides to town, where I purchase cigarettes, microbrews and organic coffee syrup. But after savoring a fine port and a collection of politically-aspiring Portuguese video essays this evening at a raucous open studio, I was reminded of those who got me here and the dues I must pay. And no, I didn’t call my mother because I’m a good forty minutes away from actual phone reception. Downing the last of my Sandman mixed with a delectable rosé, I made the trek back to Colony Hall, six-pack in tow (not the abdominal muscles, little scamps) to take in an On-Demand and was quickly reassured, it has not been too long. These are the sacrifices I make. We are a community.
Tonight, I had the perverse pleasure of consuming Michael Baumgarten’s The Guest House, an LA-based lipstick lezzie concoction featuring loads of soft-core and some bad Aimee Mann rip-off vocals, courtesy of Ruth Reynolds playing the film’s luscious, just-eighteen protagonist Rachel. Kool-Aid dye job aside, Rachel is all the right stuff and she even makes a hideous tramp stamp forgivable when she strips out of her Hot Topic get-up and into the arms of Amy, her father’s recently-hired intern, played with pouty vulnerability by the comely Madeline Merritt. Amy’s just hit Los Angeles to pursue vague work with Rachel’s recently widowed pop, the sleazy Tom McCafferty, and she’s conveniently being housed in the title’s guest house where Rachel’s mom used to render abstracts and be “arty.” The duo paint the town red while Dad’s away on business, boning jail bait (by the looks of a long-distance phone call he makes to Rachel from the hallway of a Holiday Inn). They visit a carnival, ride bikes and while away the afternoon dancing to a generic alt-country soundtrack so you’re sure to feel really firmly located in the land of the predictable. Long story short, all that bike-riding gives Amy a serious knot in her traps and about two minutes into a generous massage at the hands of our faux-goth heroine, she’s on her back and tribbing‘s never looked so good.
Then some other things happen.
Sing in me, Muse, and through me tell the story
of that man skilled in all ways of… butt sex
Kudos to anyone who got the Homeric reference, but you don’t need to be an ancient Greek scholar to be enlightened by the great, marginalizing mythology of the young gay. It is a simple and easily repeatable one. All you need are some female props, like a tiara and beauty pageant sash to establish early onset partial gender-identity dysphoria, an insecure straight boy to lead you astray only to betray you ultimately (in abundance these days, especially in Flanders, apparently…) and an older ally or mentor to have a semi-fucked up relationship with that will probably help you learn something about yourself. Once you’ve got all these elements just throw them at your young gay male protagonist, and voila! You’ve got yourself an Odyssey (of ass). Stacked to the brim with cliché coming-of-age tropes, North Sea Texas is a perfect execution of an unfortunately staid and obnoxious stock gay narrative.
Quick sum-sum: Pim is a little gay boy who likes to put on his deadbeat mom’s makeup. He falls for this boy next door straight-but not narrow kid named Gino. They jerk off together and Pim collects Gino’s cumsock and other autistic memorabilia. Then, lo and behold, Gino starts dating chicks. Pim is betrayed and slashes Gino’s tires. Gino’s sister Sabrina, feels slighted by Pim, who she’s triangularly fallen for, when she finds out he’s a fag. They end up bonding when Pim’s mom skips town with Zoltan, a gypsy that Pim has had a crush on his whole life. Doubly-betrayed-Pim has really been through the ringer at this point, when Gino and Sabrina’s mom gets really sick. On her death bed, mom silently requests that her son and Pim be friends (or more!?) by joining their hands, then kicking the bucket. This kind of reunites Gino and Pim and it kind of maybe ends happily.
When’s the last time a foreign exchange student with a chronic bloody nose and ridiculous baby doll dress fell into your lap? I thought so. But that’s why we have movies, and with XTube mysteriously non-functional in my dismally furnished out-of-town apartment last night, I said: what the hell – how about romance instead of sex this eve? (Who ever said self-reflexive chivalry was dead?) Decision made, I cued up Jack and Diane, a relatively new addition to Netflix, which mercifully has no direct relation to John Cougar Mellencamp and gets extra points for numerous scenes of adolescent face-down bed masturbation. So much for courtly love, but a good reminder that high school wasn’t all bad.
Before I embark on my usual low-brow, fast and cheap analysis, I think I need to address the last review I produced, a little puff piece on that snore-fest Puccini for Beginners. An ex recently called me up to ask what was wrong after reading my blurb, to inquire after the tepid writing and bland pronouncements. I was somewhat taken aback, knowing in my heart she wasn’t off-track. I’ve recently been experiencing a deep sadness around the queer cinema available to me these days and that has been exacerbated by the reality of being far from accessible queer culture for the last month. (okCupid! Hartford = slim pickin’s.) Everytime I refresh my Netflix browser, all I pray to see are some moderately cute people telling me some moderately decent stories. All I get are message like, “Queer actors don’t exist!” … “This will be better if straight people can watch along!” … “Sure, nails like that won’t be a deterrent to awesome sex!” Granted, there are still the classics … Desert Hearts, Parting Glances, does High Art sort of count … but all these films are at least fifteen years old.
Hello, fans. We acquired two more of you in the last week, so I figured I owed a little update. Chris and I are currently in Hartford, CT, home of the Mark Twain House and one of the most confusing crosswalk situations I’ve ever navigated. Anyway, we’re doing a little bit of regional theater, a moderate amount of substance abuse and a lot of shopping. But I decided to take a pause from pointless consumption today in exchange for a culture infusion which would also allow me to remain in sweat gear until my six thirty PM call. Enter Puccini for Beginners, a film about a commitment-phobic lesbian writer with questionable sexual mores and a lack of purpose. That equalled no-brainer to me this afternoon, as I struggled to bathe my dog and consume an entire box of mac ‘n’ cheese all by my lonesome.
Allegra (Elizabeth Reaser) is a once-successful novelist who’s just broken up with her hot and (as we’re reminded several times) tall girlfriend, Samantha. Something about nine months together, you can’t say you love me, I might not be gay and I’m going back to Jeff, etc. Our heroine is of course devastated to the point of phone stalking and binge eating, but quickly meets a new object of affection at a bourgie Manhattan social gathering. The problem: he’s a man! After a few too many cocktails and a drunken proposition that involves dangling her Lesbian, But Willing status over his Progressive Liberal Male’s head – each one of them – Allegra throws up on Phil’s shoes and he’s smitten. Around the same time, leading lady has another meet-cute with an investment banker who secretly dreams of becoming a professional glass blower, Grace (played adorably by Gretchen Mol). And the big twist – are you ready for it? – Phil and Grace are a couple! In a loveless long-term relationship! And they break up! And they both fall for Allegra! And thing get really messy!
There’s no other way to put it. This is not a review. It’s a goddam public service announcement.
Dear readers, last night it was brought to my attention that what Brother Chris and I do here on homoflix is not merely light-hearted fun, but sometimes an actual mission to protect you, your family, friends and allies from the horrendous shit that can worm its way into the gay and lesbian section of Netflix. Last night, I watched the 2008 stink bomb/1920s period piece Summer Lover (not to be confused with the 1982 Peter Gallagher/Daryl Hannah vehicle Summer Lovers or the totally decent if totally depressing lesbian flick My Summer of Love.)