Thursday, December 31, 2009

A Single Man

"I have to return some videotapes."

The 1980s was the definitive decade in American horror cinema.  
Three times more scary movies were released between 1980-1990 than the past ten years and the iconography of said films has yet to be paralleled.  That’s why we can’t stop remaking them.
And if the horror on screen wasn't enough, the 1980s was the decade that saw the “American Dream” fall by the wayside.  The traditional family collapsed upon itself and, for the first time, more kids had divorced parents than not. The art community was decimated, either dying of AIDS or addicted to crack or just too rich to be relevant anymore.  
The peace and love generation and its significant strides in cracking open the way people treated one another and accepted populist notions had been squashed in favor of commercialism and designer label commodification.  
The upper class got exorbitantly wealthy while the poor were left with television shows and magazines projecting a lifestyle that had housewives stocking up on credit cards, building their own empires on the illusion of social security and stability down the line.  

Popcorn horror was the perfect diversion for a generation that was slowly becoming desensitized to sex and violence and willfully handing over their lives to corporations. 

When the stock market finally crashed in 1987, the glamour of pastel eyeshadow and wearing dayglow, puffed sleeve prom dresses on any given Tuesday gave way to something darker and more practical.  

We didn't need horror in our entertainment, it was in our uncle's hospital bed, our mother's foreclosed condo - it was in our dad's mental illness and alcoholism from that quick stint in Vietnam.  Monsters were no longer recognizable or clearly defined.

"That's a very fine chardonnay you're drinking.  I want you to clean your vagina."

The top spot in my FaggotyAss Top 5 Films of the 2000s goes to the only horror movie about the horror of the eighties.  It is perhaps the most clever horror film ever made in that the antagonist is not a person; rather, it's a lifestyle. Real horror is not necessarily being chased through the woods by a killer, horror is falling prey to the trappings of popular culture, materialism, and $300 moisturizer!  This is a horror movie about what horror movies turned us into.  
My favorite film of the 2000s is Mary Harron's American Psycho (2000).

American Psycho plays like a George Bernard Shaw or Evelyn Waugh critique of society and its folly, only slathered in as much blood and male nudity as Re-Animator.  
Investment bankers are painted in broad strokes as men who takes themselves way too seriously; they're narcissistic losers in four thousand dollar suits.  As filmmaker, Mary takes a step back, refusing to engage in the trappings of a sympathetic protagonist and, thusly, American Psycho holds a Brechtian mirror to the dark and ultimately pointless pursuit of a lifestyle free of meaning.  
When a man is a shell, completely desensitized to human interactions - when he only cares for the material (restaurant reservations, haircuts, real estate) with no sense of self or social responsibility whatsoever, something breaks.  He’s a sponge who absorbs and never feels full, using women and the people around him as pawns. With no sense of right or wrong, he can feel no pain. With enough money, his actions have no repercussions. He can just as easily eat a hooker's brains with a fancy dijon as he can catch a matinee of Les Miserables.  This is Patrick Bateman.  
Mary used a horror movie tropes to play out the metaphor of Patrick's interior rage and desperation to make the smartest social commentary/parody since Kubrick made Dr. Strangelove.  Not just an esoteric dissertation on period, American Psycho is also beautiful to look at.  This movie feels like New York in the 1980s, successfully presenting a heightened reality where every single performance is pitch perfect and in-line with everyone else to create a fully fleshed out world.

But is American Psycho queer?  Let's see.  A man who defines himself by the car he drives, the socks he wears, the gym he goes to...does this sound like anyone you know?  
Despite twenty years and a completely different cultural landscape (commercials now praise the "value meal" over the high-end reservation), very little has changed among some gay men.  Just take a quick jog through West Hollywood or Chelsea and you'll see a dozen Patrick Batemans. Apha-Gays. Men who have the most expensive shoes and cars; men who tan and go to personal trainers who happen to be porn stars in their off hours.  They have no children, so money is no object. Just like 1980s stock brokers with designer suits and Oliver Peoples glasses, these gays fall for the peer pressure of wearing the same jeans, the same t-shirts, the same underwear. They buy the books everyone reads, they read the reviews of movies everyone's talking about, they do anything and everything to remain relevant, eternally twenty-six.  Sex is commodified to the point of fucking being no different than ordering online pizza. Thoughts of domesticity are fleeting if entertained at all. Their dogs are their babies. Their gaggles of friends (who they usually hate) are their partners. These are the boys who see American Psycho and pat themselves on the back for being just like Patrick Bateman. This is progress?

"I guess you could just say I want to have a meaningful relationship with someone special."

Pay attention.  The genius of Mary Harron's American Psycho is that it never glamorizes Patrick Bateman or his lifestyle.  We see that beneath the chiseled shell, he is a sociopath.  Just like the midlevel agents in Hollywood and the I-Bankers on Wall Street, Bateman is so desperate to be perceived as successful, as a man comfortable in his own skin, that he is never actually present in any moment.  He has no identity. 

The sum of a man is more than labels; more than gym memberships and moisturizers.  Even if it wasn't, fashion today isn't nearly as hot as the looks on display in America Psycho.  Now, you'll have to excuse me.  I'm going to take a mineral bath in my Urban Archeology bathtub, then rub my feet with a tub of La Mer and take a nap on my new Charlotte Thomas linens.

I raise my champagne glass to the decade in horror to come.
Happy New Year.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

a scamp, a camp, and a bit of a tramp...

"I got a bad case of loving you!"

Picture it: 
Grace Jones, perennial muse of Andy Warhol, dancing naked after having been painted head to toe by Keith Haring. 
Grace Jones, pop icon, pretending to be the Queen of the Vampires.  
Grace Jones, former Bond girl and later star of Pee Wee’s Christmas Special,  chasing after Michelle Pfeiffer's kid sister and the hot guy from Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge.  
Picture a movie audacious enough to open with frat boys wearing nothing but their best bed linens and performing a ritual sacrifice.  
This, my friends, is Vamp (1986).

Robert Rusler and Chris Makepeace are two besties in a bit of a bromance who are sick and tired of life in the dorms.  They promise a local fraternity house that they can procure of strippers for their upcoming kegger in exchange for admittance.  
Faster than you can say After Hours, these upper-middle class suburbanites head off to the big bad city (chauffeured by the man formerly known as Long Duk Dong, before he was arrested by the police for crimes against his own people) to find some consensual whores.

Our protagonists happen upon a mafia-run strip club festooned with multicultural, trans vampires.  DeDee Pfeiffer is working there as a bar-wench dancer with a heart of gold. Dream big, girls! But we all know how fickle the art crowd can be.  Soon enough, Grace Jones and her albino hoards grow weary of these boys with their basic midwestern charm and they want our heroes dead (and after they sat through her boring solo performance).  How rude!
What easily could have just been a Porky's retread, Vamp takes the teen sex comedy horror film in a new, more subversive direction.  Darkly comedic, sub-textually homoerotic, shot with hyper-color saturated lighting, with Grace Jones on mute while the rest of the ensemble gives performances several shades above camp, Vamp sits comfortably in the aesthetic of queer cinema. 

"I love you, Keith - but all I can see right now is food." 

This movie was always on HBO in the late-80s. Its vampire scenes are surprisingly graphic and perversely sexual.  Violence seems to come out of nowhere when juxtaposed with the sophomoric tone of the rest of the movie and that proved deeply traumatizing to my eight year old self.   
Despite this films meandering pacing problems (it often feels like an overlong, aimless Cyndi Lauper video), I would have loved for Vamp to have been a franchise, like the American Pie movies, showcasing douchey-hot frat boys going to vampire run strip clubs all over the country.  Eventually, the series would culminate in an epic, Las Vegas showdown of good and evil where Grace Jones and Gina Gershon battle tete'a'tete - but some things can only live in the dreams of gay boys. 

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

I wanna be sedated

"Just because you say you don't want something doesn't mean you don't want it."

Growing up in Massachusetts is great if you’re a fan of racism and homophobia, but it’s not all broken bottles and Dunkin’ Donuts regulars.  A lot of things make me proud to be from Massachusetts: the tall ships and the 1986 Red Sox World Series banner the guy mom was dating gave me that I used to mop up slime after I got over aggressive with my He-Mans, the Gardner Museum and, best of all, our illustrious mental health facilities. 

 I'm getting ahead of myself again...

When I was a little boy, Momma sent me off to Catholic school.  We weren't religious, but she couldn't resist the outfits. She was always at work, leaving me to my own devices and at the mercy of my imagination for days on end.  Couple that with religious imagery and no one gets out alive. Consequently, the Exorcist 3 movie scared the living shit out of me.  
Even in my teen years, if Exorcist 3 even happened to be on cable, I would become incapacitated with terror - too scared to even get off the sofa to turn it off.  I would have to call my best friend, Vanessa, to come over and turn it off and check my closets. This experience was nearly duplicated many years later and, for that, the #2 slot in my FaggotyAss Top 5 Films of the 2000s goes to Session 9 (2002). 

Our buildings in Massachusetts are old, with history and memories of their own.  Exploring what happens when five tough guys have a week to remove asbestos from an abandoned mental hospital, Session 9 is genuinely scary.  Psychological, naturalistic, and full of dread, this movie is the antidote to the shock and gore exploitation of Saw and its ilk.  It’s a horror film built around sound design.   Session 9 demands your attention, never pandering to the lowest common denominator or compensating for a lack of action through aggressive sound jumps and quick cuts.

FaggotyAss pro-tip: Watch this one at night with the lights out and the sound turned way up, but make sure you have a friend on retainer to turn off the TV afterwards! 

Monday, December 21, 2009

Chaos reigns.

"It's not all fucked.  We're gonna be okay."

You don't have to be Jessica Fletcher to assertain from my dissertations that I have a soft spot for dreck.  Thusly, it should come as a surprise that, as I assess the decade past, my top films fall outside the realm of camp and guilty pleasure.  My top three films of the 2000s are actually smart and consistently made!  If we're lucky, every ten years or so a movie comes along that elevates the medium, defies genre, and manages to change the rules of the game for all that proceed it.  One such film claims the number three slot in my FaggotyAss Top 5 Films of the 2000s: Danny Boyle's 28 Days Later (2002).

Zombie movies were born out of the distinctly 1960s fear of radioactive bombings and inevitable communist invasions that were sure to turn whoever survived into flesh-eating monsters.  Danny Boyle turned this conceit on its ear, realizing that fear of nuclear warfare had long been replaced by our fear of virulent bacteria (anyone remember AIDS?).  Nearly ten years before swine flu had American housewives wearing gas masks to the A&P and ten years after AIDS wiped out an entire generation of gay men, 28 Days Later brought this threat into the mainstream, popcorn consciousness.   Not nihilistic as much as it is realistic, this movie serves to remind us that, when pushed or cornered, we're aggressive and territorial animals - no better than monkeys. 

A gang of hippies rescues animals from a lab.  The animals are infected with "Rage," a manmade super-virus.  The animals infect the humans.  Civilization evaporates.  No cell phones.  No credit reports.  Primal humanity.  Governments are redundant when push comes to shove.  Shots of an abandoned London, swathed in flyers searching for missing friends and family members are all the more eerie considering that this film was conceived and shot before September 11th, 2001.  Apocalyptic themes are all the more brilliant considering that Danny Boyle structured the film to mirror The Wizard of Oz!  Only, instead of a wizard, there's a bunch of gay soldiers living in an abandoned castle.

The camera is my favorite character in 28 Days Later.  Boyle shot 97% of this movie on Canon XL1 DVcams - using upwards of six cameras simultaneously, kamikaze style, all on location around Europe.  Boyle experimented with the DVcams, realizing that shooting at super high speeds created a heightened, frenetic quality to the images like no one had ever seen before in a zombie movie.  What's sacrificed in detail is more than made up for by the gritty, handheld feel that adds a sense of urgency and verisimilitude to the proceedings. The quality of the images ranges from that of on-location, Sierra Leone, news footage to that of sumptuous, live-action John Singer Sargent paintings.  Marrying the production design of A Clockwork Orange and the social commentary of Dawn of the Dead, incorporating a score that sounds like Radiohead b-sides and using cutting edge filmmaking techniques throughout, 28 Days Later is the most vital horror movie to come along in ages.  The transition to 35mm for the final scene is nothing short of breathtaking.  It doesn't hurt that Cillian Murphy was gorgeous.  He should carry around his baseball bat in every movie!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

so many jocks...

"Just let me get all the way in!"

Assessing the decade past, there are some sparkling diamonds worth noting. Unquestionably, the gayest and most original bubblegum monster movie of this or any other season also may be our most problematic - Victor Salva’s Jeepers Creepers (2001): aka Gay Road Trip, aka The Eyes of Justin Long

A boy and his sister go on a road trip together. They sing songs and talk about lots of queer shit until they wind up being stalked by a big gay monster who gets off on sniffing Justin’s dirty panties. This is not me being funny, this actually happens. Does the monster make-out with the disembodied skull of a relatively attractive policeman? Yes, he does. Does the monster have absolutely no interest in Justin’s sister and only want to eat body parts of nubile young boys? Yes, he does. Moving along at a clip, this whole film plays like the first act of a much larger story. Despite the presence of Eileen Brennan as a crazy, shotgun wielding catlady, Jeepers Creepers is a day at the hockey rink compared to the unadulterated homosexuality on display in Jeepers Creepers 2 (2003), aka: The Main Course!

"A gay bar, bro"

That bitchy Creeper with terrible skin is back and preying on innocent young men, swooping them up with his faggoty wings.  
This time around, a bus full of dumb-as-dirt shirtless boys replaces Justin Long.  The more the merrier! These boys are so slow that they can’t figure out how to open a window on a school bus. They’re alleged to be a sports team of some sort but they really may as well be coming back from an Atlantis Cruise-lines production of South Pacific.  
This 12 pack of hotdogs inadvertently wind up trapped inside the bus, left to wait for the monster to eat them up one by one. There's an even a black character and a psychic lesbian named Minxy on board this go around, alongside a legendary character actress, the beastly Diane Delano.  
But, get this: there’s an openly gay one (he’s not even subtextually gay) named Izzy.  Izzy isn’t a threat to the ab-boys, some could say he’s a protagonist. 

We’ve come a long way, baby!

Is Jeepers Creepers 2 a good film? Heavens to Betsy, no.  Absolutely not! 

The first film was an original story well told; the sequel tries to tell an expanded story and winds up looking cheap, sloppy, nonsensical, and boring. The gay storyline goes absolutely nowhere and it was written and directed by a pedophile, but at this point in horror history, we were taking whatever scraps we could get. Accordingly, we were willing to overlook the mess to finally have secondary gay characters who doesn’t wind up dying tragically or end up being the maniacal killer in the third act. Baby steps. 
While guilty pleasures at best, these are the perfect films to watch when you’re home alone drinking egg nog spiked coffee out of an oversized mug on a Sunday afternoon in bed.

Please note: The Jeepers Creepers franchise was produced by Francis Ford Coppola's American Zoetrope.  Victor Salva is gross.  I think the most important lesson I have learned during my tenure here in Los Angeles is that we have to judge the art and not the artist.  Unfortunately, the fact that Victor is such a skeeze is what gives these movies their queer bent, whether consciously or not.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

It is what it is.

Another decade is screeching to a halt. We had a bad war and a good president, Elizabeth Taylor's still going strong… but digging through my DVD closet, it was one of the most anemic decades in horror history. The aughts was a decade of photocopy remakes. These lifeless re-hashings of our most sacred texts (Friday the 13th, Amityville Horror, Nightmare on Elm Street) were ushered in by the success of the 2003 remake of Texas Chainsaw Massacre.  Now, you can hate on me like Miss Jill Scott, but I am giving it my #5 spot in my FaggotyAss Top 5 of the 2000s.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake took every genre standard that was established in the 1980s (horny teens, virginal final girls, stoner road trips gone terribly wrong, the implacable urbanite fear of rednecks) and mashed them together in a hyper-stylized post-MTV Bouillabaisse.

The director of photography from the original Texas Chainsaw, Daniel Pearl, is a master of smoked-out shafts of light streaming through redwoods and wide-angle lenses.  Everyone looks amazing. Who can resist kids with amazing bodies covered in sweat and dirt wearing properly fitted denim? Just because I’m a gay doesn’t mean that I’m incapable of appreciating a flawless tracking shot of Jessica Beil’s ass in lowrise jeans. Jessica has never looked better than in this film, she's toned but still supple and third-wave feminist and her raspy screaming throughout the third act rivals that of any scream queen prior.  

It's easy to forget that movies didn't look like this before 2003 because the Texas Chainsaw model has become so firmly ingrained in look of every other horror movie that came after it.  I'm a sucker for gorgeous photography and this movie was remarkably shot. Excessive and broad as any Michael Bay film, there is something joyful about the world of this movie. It feels like summer, it feels like Texas, it feels dirty and hot.  All the characters in this movie have a backstory and are there for a reason - this cannot be said for any of the remakes that proceeded. Erica Leerhsen and Jonathan Tucker emote their asses off, I don’t think I've ever seen actors playing and maintaining pure terror to such indulgent extremities before or since.

"That's not your baby, you stole her!"

Love it or loathe it, this movie works.  The Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake cost very little and made a killing in the box office and thus garnered in an entire era of garbage.  Did one slick, music video inspired remake merit an entire decade of boring, scene by scene, toneless retellings of stories that were just meant to be camp, amusement park ride to begin with? No, but I'm sure glad it exists.

Gus Van Sant proved with Psycho (1998) that you couldn't simply recreate shots and scenes and expect to have the same end product.  Movies have a life of their own.  Unfortunately, no one saw Psycho (1998) and the result is the disappearance of original stories and good, old-fashioned horror fun.  There are, however, always exceptions...

Saturday, December 12, 2009

close the door, turn out the lights...


If you thought that little girl in Precious: Based on the novel "Push" by Sapphire was an experiment in endurance, then you obviously haven't seen Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984).  Poor Billy.

Billy was an angel from heaven with dewy, expressive Bambi eyes and preternaturally moistened red lips. Then, one Christmas Eve, his parents had the bright idea to take him to the Utah Mental Facility to visit his pedophilic monster of a grandfather.  Grampy gets off on terrifying little Billy year after year - this year planting seeds about how Santa Claus is a vengeful demon hellbent on the destruction of all that's naughty in the world. After Billy is thoroughly traumatized, his parents take him off for a late night drive in the woods where they are promptly attacked by a murderous convict in a Santa Claus suit.  Billy's dad is shot in the head, his mom's throat gets slashed in front of him, and his little brother, Lennie, is thrown off into the woods someplace to be raised by wolves (or Sarah Palin).

Billy soon found himself in the less capable hands of the wicked lesbian nuns at St. Mary's Home for Orphaned Children. He's a regular Christina Crawford, this Billy! After years of beatings from Mother Superior and a warped perception of heterosexual sexuality from having seen his mother assaulted  by a man in a Santa suit as a child, something rather curious happened to Billy: he got insanely HOT. 

Billy realized that he was far too attractive for the company that he was keeping, so he renounces the Christianity that the nuns hold so dear.  Seeing their hypocrisies firsthand, he decides to bask in the warm, electric light of Mormonism. Mormons love repressed homosexuality and a deeply warped sense of right and wrong! He’ll  fit right in.

Mormons are hard workers.  They drink lots of milk so they can do heavy lifting and they have pretty blonde hair and skin.  Mormons have amazing bodies, but be careful - beneath those gleaming dead eyes and perfected fake smiles, they are not to be trusted!  Just go and ask the fine people who worked at Ira's Toys, where Billy got a job as a stock boy.  Oh, wait, you can't ask them anything because they're all dead!! All the years of repressed sexuality, rage, and wearing funny underwear finally set Billy off on a Christmas bloodbath the likes of which America has never seen.

"You see Santa Claus tonight, you better run, boy!  You better run for your life!!"

Silent Night, Deadly Night is amazing. I watch it every year.  Aside from the sheer animal magnetism of our protagonist (I'd let him hack me to pieces, okay?!), the director makes sure to spend a whole lot of time focusing on male ass shots, whether clothed in tight, high-waisted Lee jeans or just hairy and naked as God intended. Our first shot of adult Billy is a tight shot on his crotch.  If you know straight people or lesbians, there are at least 4 different sets of boobs on display as well. Something for everyone. I just love any movie that shows blood on snow and Linnea Quigley having sex on a pool table and a climactic showdown in an orphanage run by malevolent and immortal nuns.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

That's not what a covergirl puts in her body!

In honor of the 20th anniversary of A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child, I turn your attention to one of my first crushes: Joe Seely.

(cue up Barbra Streisand's love theme from A Star is Born for optimum appreciation of the following)

Love, soft as an easy chair.  Love, fresh as the morning air.
One love that is shared by two, I have found with you.

Like a rose under the April snow, I was always certain love would grow.

Love, ageless and evergreen, seldom seen by two.

You and I will make each night a first, every day a beginning.  Spirits rise and their dance is unrehearsed.  They warm and excited us 'cause we had the brightest love. 

Two lights that shine as one.
Morning glory and the midnight sun.

Time we've learned to sail above. Time won't change the meaning of one love, ageless and ever evergreen.


If you have not spent time with this film, do.  Even if only for Danny Hassel's brilliant motorcycle transformation or for Erika Anderson's touching struggle with bulimia, or to see my boo, Joe Seely, turn into a comic book superhero in the manner of the Ah-Ha music video.