I like a good play on words. But I didn’t cue up Tru Love for its wit. Instead I looked at the hour twenty-seven run-time and thought, “I can handle this – a nice little palate cleanser between episodes of ‘House of Cards’ and ineffective job hunting.” Little did I know (and how is it always so little in these cases?) that my experience would balloon into a numbingly dragged-out two hour soap fest, replete with healthy pauses for Google research (yes – the movie was made in Canada!), harried text messages to out-of-town friends seeking tax counsel, and general existential crisis about mortality and feelings of otherness. Some of these ponderings were related to the film.
Tru Love is the story of a noncommittal, late-thirties lesbian named Tru looking to connect. Despite her mild Canadian manner and conservative bang n’ bob tresses, life hasn’t always been easy. Orphaned at twelve, banished for homosexual activity at fifteen and a cutter in her early twenties, she’s got a shit-ton of baggage and she likes to work it out on whatever warm body floats her way, although from my perspective her sex life seemed to mainly entail waking up in different pairs of pajamas with other frumpily dressed bedfellows. Sample (fully-clothed) pillow talk: “I had a great time Jenny.” “Jenny? It’s Jamie.” Crazy Tru. When will she learn that life isn’t just about casual sex and comfy pants? IT’S ONLY ABOUT COMFY PANTS. But enough about me.
As I sit here, with my obese cat by my side and a dry martini in hand at 4pm, I reflect on the bygone year(s) – deplete of Homoflix posts, but full of regional theater, drag debuts and global crises. Where have we been? What have we been watching? What’s the T? It’s time we caught up.
What happens when film imitates fashion, post-production imitates Instagram, and Julianne Moore imitates a 60s divorcee shut-in with amazing winged eye liner? Why A Single Man happens, of course. The 2009 film debut from fashion designer cum director Tom Ford stars Colin Firth in an emotionally restrained portrayal of an aging gay professor who’s recently lost his longtime companion. Based on the novel by Christopher Isherwood, the filmic adaptation (penned by Ford and David Scearce) is morose, terse and depressing: all things a good Fall/Winter 2015 Lookbook should be.
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.