Friday, November 20, 2009
"That's enough with the biting."
I’m gonna tell you a secret: sometimes I get a little hungry for a happy ending. Socially awkard girls with no marketable skills and borderline lesbian tendencies get to swoon over sparkley hipster vampires and LatinX werewolves. Women of a certain age have Nancy Meyers romantic dramedies with terrible overhead lighting and self-hating female leads. For me, escapism is imagining a world where gays can live happily ever after in functional relationships (if they so desire) with a craftsman homes and reasonable taxation for representation.
While it’s wicked awesome that Milk and Brokeback Mountain can make piles of money and get progressive soccer moms to feel like they’re reaching out to minorities – these movies still make a martyr of the fags. We die so people feel “woke.”
But then I had to wonder: Can we ever have a happy ending?
From time to time, when starved for any reflection of the contemporary gay experience, one begins to see gay subtext in the mainstream.
You don’t have to be Nancy Drew to see that the Neil Jordan/Jodie Foster movie, The Brave One, was clearly intended to be a lesbian revenge thriller - no one gets bashed for being heterosexual in Manhattan. Popularized by Quentin Tarrantio and Kevin Smith, once you look at Top Gun through the gay kaleidoscope, it’s impossible to see it as anything but a story of two men coming to terms with their love for each other…no straight guy would sing karaoke to Kelly McGillis.
Wes Craven (always a friend to the gays) and Kevin Williamson (always gay) made a movie that no one saw called Cursed (2005). Cursed uses werewolf bloodlust as a metaphor for dormant sexuality with the 1990s popcorn horror paradigm as its model, only it was released in 2004. Both pastiche and ahead of its time, Cursed may be the gayest entry in the Craven oeuvre and it comes SO close to presenting a gay happily-ever-after that it merits exploration.
Jesse Eisenberg and Christina Ricci are siblings who are touched by The Wolf. Christina wears ill-fitting business suits and styles her hair in a bun to imply that their parents are dead. Like Judy Greer and Portia DeRossi (who also ham it up in Cursed), Christina doesn’t exist without a gay audience. Her performance counters realism. Always mindful of her deaf fans, she makes a lot of faces and indicates everything. She is drawn to emotionally distant men (amen) and men are drawn to her. Pacey from Dawson’s Creek is her boyfriend and he has perpetual stubble on his face as to indicate that he is a werewolf. Milo Ventimiglia is the captain of the high school wrestling team. He drives a camaro and he’s in love with Jesse Eisenberg.
Jesse and Milo pretend to compete for the attention of an anorexic girl to make her feel better about herself, it’s very sweet, but they really just want to wrestle with each other. When push comes to shove, Milo comes out to Jesse and, together, they fend off the werewolf hoards and still have time to go out on the town with Lance Bass and his obnoxious Florida friends.
Let there be no question that when a movie has its climax in front of a Cher mannequin, it's a GAY MOVIE. So why does Jesse never say, "Hey cool, Milo - I think my neurotic misanthropy is actually a smokescreen to cover-up my stifled homosexuality as well, let's make out!"?
Why must we read between the lines? How can a movie be so queer as to have Judy Greer play an evil publicist who happens to be the Queen of the computer-generated Wolves in a Bob Mackie slit-to-the-crotch purple gown and not have the balls to just let its secondary lead live happily ever after with a hot (albeit physically and emotionally diminutive) boyfriend? Considering that Hollywood still refuses to let women carry movies, I suppose it really isn't homophobia as much as it is misogyny and the bottom-line. At this point in his career, post-Scream and Dawson's Creek, Williamson could have done better. He could have pushed boundaries instead of uncle tom-ing his gays. If you try to appeal to everyone (ie: the Weinsteins), you wind up making no money and your movie is exiled to the graveyard of castrated opportunities. Lesson learned.
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
“You’re an abomination, an outrage against nature!”
It must be hard for the single moms of gay boys. They have no sex life to speak of. They work multiple jobs to make ends meet and their kids won’t stop going on about the impending unicorn invasion or about how Joanne Worley is their cafeteria lady and how she won’t let him eat macaroni and cheese. It’s exhausting.Eventually, these moms have to start tuning their gay kids out. Some moms go so far as to send their little gay boys away, whether to private school or to one of those Jesus Camps in hopes that the gay might dissipate in time. Child’s Play (1988) validates these concerns. If you don’t send that little faggot packing, the next thing you know, your gay kid will be taking the L to Cabrini Green to blow up crack houses during show'n tell while you’re getting gang-banged by a crowd of vagrants in a Reaganville.
Catherine Hicks was a shopgirl. All her son, Andy, wanted is a doll for his birthday. Conveniently enough, the wacky back alley peddler who lived in the alleyway behind her shop had a special on talking dolls and she was able to make her son’s dreams come true as only a doting single mom could!
Andy proceeded to act out his model for a perfect relationship with his new doll, Chucky. They shared clothes, watched Rachel Maddow together; cuddled until they fell fast asleep. It was bliss. Then people started to die and everyone blamed Andy. Andy gay-panicked, fearing that it may be his relationship with Chucky that was causing people all this pain. This led to Andy renouncing his former life with Chucky, going so far as burning his former companion alive in the fireplace! (They always want to set us on fire.) By giving up his gay boyfriend, Andy's soul is clean. How rude.
Despite the gayest of intentions by out and about screenwriter, Don Mancini, Child’s Play functions as allegory for heterosexual conversion. Maybe Todd Holland, after having to suffer so many queers on the Fright Night set, was just tired of being liberal minded. Maybe he was trying to fight against an inherently campy premise by playing up the voodoo and Chicago beat cop angle. Luckily, Andy’s performance out-camps even John Water’s gayest expectations. Andy is one to hue to shades of naturalism in his choices, but he’s just so damned adorable! It’s impossible not to love this little pumpkin with his staggered phrasing, baby voice, and lady scream.
Thank God for us, Andy's story was far from over.
"Well, to come to terms with something he couldn't possibly understand, he turned it all into a kind of fairy tale."
No matter how Right-Wing-Evangelical-Backward this country may seem, social services doesn't take well to mothers who make their toddlers burn gay dolls in the living room in the name of being saved - even if they’re white. Accordingly, Catherine Hicks got carted away to the nuthouse and little Andy wound up in the hands of a foster family.Jenny Agutter from American Werewolf in London runs a halfway house for reformed homosexuals (her husband included) and, judging by the b-line that he makes for her collection of antique ceramic figurines, the gay-away definitely didn't stick on Andy. He isn't alone this time, Jenny’s also sheltering a spunky 26 year old Trans boy named Kyle. Being around all these queer people has Andy going back to his old habits and, within a couple of days, Andy is reunited with Chucky as if nothing terrible ever happened.
Like all abusive relationships, Andy can't quit Chucky, no matter how many dead adults lie in their wake. Luckily, Kyle is there to save the day this time - teaching Andy that he can be whoever he wants to be without his toxic relationship. God loves everyone just the same. If history taught us anything, it’s that the Trans community is always coming to save our asses despite how little we give them in return. Thanks for your service, Kyle.
Child's Play 2 (1990) is much better than Child's Play. It's tonier (aka: gay), more colorful (gay), the kills are more interesting, and it's able to be a much more concise in its satire of corporate marketing and blind consumerism (intellectualism = gay). I love the idea of two gay orphans going it alone like a prequel to Annie.
Thursday, November 12, 2009
"That's not Carol Anne."
I was never like other little boys. Nana loved her National Enquirers and I remember stealing away to my bedroom with their expose on Heather O’Rourke’s sudden death and sobbing hysterically, holding onto my toy chest with all my might and wishing that God hadn’t taken her away from us. This was my first encounter with the death of someone who I really cared about. I was nine years old.
Poltergeist III (1988) was released about six months later and remains one of the most bizarre sequels ever made. It's best not to think of Poltergeist III in relation to Poltergeist at all; for it exists in a bizarro world where Carol Anne’s parents (despite the fact that they moved heaven and hell to keep her safe) decide that they’ve finally had enough of Carol Anne and abandon her to live with distant relatives on the east coast. I love a film where parents up and leave their children for no good reason, Poltergeist III is no exception!
Tom Skerritt and Nancy Allen (at a reasonable weight) play the most leathery and emotionally vacant couple imaginable. Like the cold, steel high rise they call home, Tom and Nancy are devoid of sympathy for little Carol Anne. For reasons unknown, they take her in as a ward, but they hate her - in fact, everyone in this movie hates her! Carol Anne goes to a savant school in Chicago where she’s treated by a catty, gay psychoanalyst named Doctor Satan (spelled Seaton). Reverend Kane, like her guardian angel from Hell, doesn’t approve of her new living situation one bit so he… wait. I’m getting ahead of myself.
A Poltergeist movie set in a luxury skyscraper in the middle of a big city is an awesome concept. Gary Sherman had directed Dead & Buried, which is one of the better horror movies, and he came on board with the best of intentions: to make a contemporary haunted house movie using mirrors and practical on set effects. A high society art dealer is married to an older, distinguished man with a teenage daughter who has a penchant for late night pool parties with her over-sexed girlfriends and their fashion conscious gay besties. Being a family of narcissists, they are surrounded by reflective surfaces. Ghosts are trapped in the reflections adding an air or spookiness to their modern, city living. That could have been a really good movie, but something went terribly wrong along the way.
“Well, that’s a lot of crap that doesn’t mean anything.”
Heather was really sick and in no condition to make a movie. Making this a Poltergeist movie was a mistake bordering on exploitation. The precious little angel baby from Poltergeist was fighting for her life and they let the cameras roll. It’s dark and it's often really hard to watch.
Without Jerry Goldsmith’s score, or Jobeth Williams emoting, or the attention to every minute detail that made Poltergeist the classic it is, Poltergeist III is the black sheep of the series. Poltergeist II: the Other Side goes off the rails and is missing the crucial Dominique Dunne element, but the performance of Julian Beck (who was on death’s door himself) as Reverend Kane and its exploration of Native American mysticism as well as the long tradition of paranormal sensitivity among the women in Carol Anne’s family made it a worthwhile endeavor (also, please note: Craig T. Nelson is ridiculously hot). Poltergeist III has no Julian Beck, no Jobeth, no Dominique, and we all know that Tom Skerritt is no Craig T. Nelson. Tom Skerritt looks like an ashtray and Nancy’s base is at least a shade lighter than her natural skin tone and Carol Anne is a little bit too old to be wearing that primary red onesie.
For all there is to know about this movie - how it came to be, what went wrong and why (it’s production history rivals that of Heaven’s Gate), be sure check out David Furtney’s brilliant website: http://www.poltergeistiii.com/. It’s everything.
Monday, November 9, 2009
"There's a lot about me you don't know."
Once upon a time, there was a joyous era, post sexual revolution and pre-AIDS where boys could be boys whoveff each other in the b wherever and whenever they please. How fabulous. Sex behind the albertsons, in the library stacks - with the guy from See’s Candys at the mall - sign me up!
Presuming you lived in San Francisco or New York, when you weren’t dodging bricks and having your house spraypainted by Anita Bryant and her minions (America has not evolved in that regard), life as a gay male seemed well on its way to improving by the late 1970s.
But just because you’re able to have promiscuous sex, that doesn’t mean you can erase generations of programming. To this day, gays love to compensate with faux-masculinity. This kind of drag was especially prominent in ‘70s. Sporting mustaches, denim, and fitted flannel shirts, the gays of 1970s were hell bent on being defined by their more masculine attributes. Just bros helping bros (bros who happened to enjoy a late night Bette Midler show at the Continental Baths).
However, in a Puritanical nation, sexual freedoms invariably comes with a cost - your life! Diane Keaton learned that lesson in Looking for Mister Goodbar, and it was high time for the gays to learn that you can’t have it all!
My best whore years were wasted because, in my twenties, I was always sure that I’d go home with someone and find myself stapled to their floor while they cut out my internal organs and fed them to their Maltese. William Friedken, the mastermind behind The Exorcist (and no stranger to homosexuals, having made the grossly underrated Boys in the Band), saw what was going on with the gays having their free sex and dancing to their Donna Summer hits, and he made Cruising (1980) to teach us all a lesson.
Set in the meatpacking district (obvious pun intended), Cruising explores a city where the police are too busy getting BJs from LGBT hookers to notice that a serial killer is plucking off the gays – not just killing them, but having sex with them and then dismembering their gay corpses.
Al Pacino plays an ordinary, gay-hating undercover cop (no cops at Pride!) who has to bury himself, ass-deep, in the world of Manhattan’s underground club scene to fish out a serial killer preying on multitudinous male libidos. Pacino goes all kinds of method with his new job: he starts working out, stops eating bread, does poppers on the dance floor then he goes home to hate-fuck his thankless girlfriend (Karen Allen)… it doesn’t take Mister Wizard to get the impression that there’s more to this gig than just an undercover assignment! Al Pacino is going gay. He makes fast friends with his gay neighbor and he, along with the audience, learns that gay people are just like normal people – they have relationships, they eat at diners, they pay their rent, and they are scared of being slaughtered post-coitus.
Sex and trust go hand in hand. When someone can be inside you one moment, then turn around and cut you into bits before you even have a chance to pull your pants back up, that’s terrifying! This breach of the unspoken contract between sex and trust combined with the fact that Friedken coyly intercuts scenes of violence with scenes of sexual penetration, makes Cruising really scary.
Not only is Cruising a good horror movie, it is super gay, and not in a pandering or necessarily offensive way. Do we all walk around with shit on our ass, carrying briefcases full of sex toys and poppers? Not always. Does Cruising go out of its way to show the most perverse and twisted sides to a night at the club? It does. There are unnecessary bits (like a 300pound man in a jockstrap coming into an interrogation room to slap Pacino and then leaving without a word), but Friedken takes pains to chronicle the fruitless quest for masculinity at all costs - this whole affair is humorless and hard - even the trans prostitutes/police informers are tough as nails.
The scenes of man on man sex are surprisingly graphic and aggressive, not shying away from the sex and underlying violence in homosexuality. Like it or not, there is a dichotomy between who we are at work and at brunch and who we are when we're in bed or staring down a guy on the subway platform. I actually love Cruising. It's a time capsule that showed how disenfranchised and fractured the gay community was (and still is), far ahead of its time.
Watching Cruising, you can’t help but wonder if AIDS hadn’t ravaged the entire community – with mainstream America suddenly mortally afraid their gay friends as carriers of contagion, and having wiped out an entire generation of artists and activists - would we be in a better place now? Of course we would.
Could this have been the first of many projects that explored the varying sides of gay men - romcoms, scifi movies? Probably. But here we are and as long as police are still complacent in the murder of Trans women of color every day in America, Cruising is still relevant. As much as I long for a time when movies can move into the mundane issues of fair taxation and dealing with the internal politics of making more money than our partners - not being pistol whipped by a cop for no reason or having our dicks cut off by repressed psychopaths with daddy issues, we’re still not there yet.
Saturday, November 7, 2009
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
After another state had the audacity to decided that the LGBTQ community are third-class citizens, I think we could all use a little Christmas. In the great tradition of Screen Gems horror films being written purely through exposition, I present you with the following photo essay in honor of Renny Harlin's Steven Strait epic set amongst New England witches who just so happen to be muscled up gay boys who don’t know how to pronounce “Gloucester” - The Covenant (2006)!
"They're supposedly descendants of the five families that settled the Ipswich colonies in the 1700s."
"I've got to run some errands for my mother."
"What are you looking at, faggot?"
"That thing between your legs. It's like a penis, only smaller."
"Lucky for you, Chase was there to get you out before you sucked up the pool."
"If what you're saying is true and Hagen Pope is the bastard son of John Putnam, then the fifth bloodline in the Covenant didn't end in Salem."
"It's you that I'm gonna hurt, and you're just my bait to get to Caleb."
"Let's just keep this between the sons of Ipswich."
"You can't imagine what it was like growing up not knowing what this was!"
"How about I make you my wee-atch?"
Sunday, November 1, 2009
I grew up with a single mom and a Nana. At some point, mom decided she wanted Nana to go away so she tried out the old lady downstairs as a babysitter. When the old lady refused to let me watch Once Bitten on HBO, I all but lost my shit! Nana stayed put and we never saw that old lady again.