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I'm an aspiring writer and have had reviewing work published on iofilm.co.uk, edinburghguide.com, itchyedinburgh.com, in Edinburgh student publications Hype and Fest, in guidebook ItchyEdinburgh 2002 and 2003 and have reviewed for Brian Morton on Radio Scotland. Hopefully I'll get to do a lot more of all of the above soon!
I'm passionate about film and have opinions on almost everything to do with it, in particular film access and exhibition. That can mean that I'm occasionally so busy being enthusiastic or outraged that I speak my mind before I actually think properly though so beware! ;)
Some Like It Hot (1959)
As Marylin sings in this film "I couldn't aspire, to anything higher..." - a comedy masterpiece!
What can you say about this movie that has not been said before?
A genuine classic, the basics run as follows... Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis and the ever-fabulous Jack Lemmon...... the boys do drag, Marilyn sings occaisionally, looks edible in practically see-through dresses AND acts well to boot...
Lemmon and Curtis play musicians accidentally caught up in the St Valentine's Day Massacre... they go on the run in the only band which will hire them - an all female band which means their only option is to drag up and bluff their way along - and meet up with marginally alcoholic and slightly unhinged Marilyn.. some chaos ensues as Curtis tries to woo her and Lemmon unwillingly finds a suitor for himself...
The film is surprisingly touching in places but is basically a lovely silly comedy. It regularly appears in lists proclaiming it to be one of the 100 best movies of all time and quite rightly so. Marilyn - despite suffereing a miscarriage during filming - is on superb form, Jack Lemmon looks almost attractive in drag and Tony Curtis actually avoids being too slimy and annoying. The drag scenes are wonderfully underplayed and the classy use of black and white photography throughout helps make both the drag and the period setting look plausible.
Highlights include Tony Curtis's Cary Grant impression (for those of you uneducated in the fabulousness of Cary Grant check out Bringing Up Baby, also on this term), Jack Lemmon being romanced in great style - which leads to just about the best last line of a movie of all time - and Marilyn looking glorious of course.
If you've never seen this movie you really really should; if you already have then I am sure you need no persuasion to see it again!
Bringing Up Baby (1938)
Cary Grant can't find his bone... or perhaps it's his manhood?!
A committed - if rather nerdy - archeologist/museum curator, David (the ever-fabulous Cary Grant) can't find his "intercostal clavicle" - the last bone he's supposed to have been sent and needs for a jigsaw-puzzle of a dinosaur skeleton he's putting together... and it looks as if eccentric wealthy socialite Susan (Katherine Hepburn at her best) may just know what's happened to it....
Chaos ensues as David and Susan go on a hunt for the bone ("It's rare. It's precious...") .. throw in David's fiancee - who rather naturally doesn't understand what the fuss is about and just wants to get him to the alter; a dog that lives to dig up bones; some fun supporting characters and you have one of the most tightly paced screwball comedies around..
Classic scenes include David and Susan starting an evening impeccably dressed for cocktails and ending the night - via some lovely slapstick - barely half dressed... the pair singing "I Can't Give You Anything But Love, Baby.." appallingly (well Hepburn is dreadful and on the evidence here you would hardly believe Grant made his screen debut singing his first lines..) to an escapee leopard ... and my personal favourite (and a scene featured in The Celluloid Closet): David answers the door in Susan's silky bathrobe and faces a deluge of questions about his attire to which he finally replies that he "just went gay all of a sudden!" (proving just how long it's been since the word's meaning wasn't ambiguous)..
The pairing of Grant and Hepburn works marvellously, the comic timing is faultless and sparks fly - something director George Cukor realised when he paired them up in 1936 for Sylvia Scarlett then reunited them in Holiday the same year as Bringing Up Baby and then The Philadelphia Story two years later. The supporting cast has a lot of fun but the leads appear to be enjoying the whole thing the most and the writing is strong enough to withstand much repeat viewing - and there's plenty of time to speculate about that lost bone..(eg. is it symbolic of David's lost masculinity?!)...
Directed by Howard Hawks (who was intermittently brilliant and dreadful) it's one of his best and a film that makes you go all misty eyed swearing that "They just don't make 'em like they used to, do they?"
That leaves just one question really...
What on earth is an "intercostal clavicle" and where the f*** would it go in your average dinosaur skeleton?! Answers on a postcard please...
The Lost Boys (1987)
Wonderfully Silly Brat-pack Vampire Flick!
The Lost Boys
Joel Schumacher USA 1987 97 mins
Been feeling a bit under the weather lately? Too many late nights? Keep missing the daytime or having to wear sunglasses when you do make it up before dusk? Well, student life eh?... or maybe not... how do you feel about garlic? Crosses? Stakes?
Yes, it's vampire time again....
Boasting not just one but both of those lovely late 1980s/early '90s pubescent "pin-ups" (or so I was told at the time) called "Corey" this is a sort of brat-packer attempt at the typical vampire/horror flick.
The basic plot type thingie runs a bit like this: Dianne Weist is a recently divorced mom of two who moves herself and her boys Sam (Haim) and Michael (Jason Patric) nearer to her father in Santa Carla, California. Sam starts to worry about his brother's new gang of chums and his strange social activities and also happens to make friends with a somewhat batty comic-mad self-appointed Vampire hunter (Feldman enjoying himself). Both gang up and with a little helpful advice from Grandpa (Barnard Hughes having an obscenely fun time!) decide to start investigating a bit.
Inevitably blood is spilled and supped and much vampirical make-up applied (including some impressively effective red contact lenses), you might also catch the odd special effect (well ok a bit of flying anyway) and some decent music - including the excellent "People Are Strange" (you will be humming it as you leave) and "Don't Let The Sun Come Down On Me" (groan).
Bloodsucking support comes in the form of Alex Winter (who you may recall as "the one that isn't Keanu Reeves" from the Bill & Ted films) and Keifer Sutherland (yet again competing with Kevin Bacon for the title of "most dodgy films made in a decade"). Both do fine in their roles as does the rest of the gang but the person to watch out for is Barnard Hughes, he somewhat steals the show making the most of his occasional lines and the fact that he doesn't have to play too kindly an old fella for once.
It's a very silly romp (Joel Shumacher directs) but as it knows it's own limitations it is much fun with it, although you probably need to be able to overlook a few things - try not to picture Jason Patric in The Doors whenever he appears (I find this almost impossible) and attempt not to have Blossom flashbacks whenever Grandpa makes an appearance (maybe you were fortunate enough not to have grown up watching the damn thing?). If you can do that and can cope with the eighties facade - in fact the decade suits vampire movies quite well if this and The Hunger are any sensible measure - then you should be fine.
The Birdcage (1996)
A gay comedy for straight people
Well I have to say I expected this film to be dire. Not just bad but stinking. A french "classic" remade with everyone's favourite non-offensive american hyperactive "actor", Robin Williams?! No! Now to be fair I wasn't keen on the original french version, La Cage aux Folles. I thought it was hammy and the screaming-queen Albert almost totally unwatchable. Actually quick note here - I really can't cope with Albert being called a "transvestite" he isn't really. Though he is....hmm...I think that's an issue with the writer of the original though.....
Anyway a quick summary of the plot,..........Armand is a very devoted (he'd have to be in either version given Albert as a partner) 20-year partner of Albert, a drag artiste (and in that kind of odd no-man's land that lies between being gay and wanting, in part at least, to be the other sex.) who performs at their notorious club, "The Birdcage", located beneath their flat. Anyway they have a son, Val (played with utter banality), provided by Armand's brief period of sexual experimentation (with a woman - played fabulously (as usual) by Cristine Barinski) who, at the great age of 20, has fallen in love and wants to get married. Interesting to note that his fiancee is supposedly 18 and is played by Calista Flockhard (A.K.A. Alley Macbeal to a great number of people, who must be pushing 30-something at the least though makes a surprisingly convincing 18 yr old..odd). Anyway his fiancee's parents are extremely conservative and the father is a politician. In an act of absolute pure selfishness (in both the orginal film and this remake having any sympathy at all is impossible, that would probably explain the fundamental flaw of the whole plot - in either film - for me) by Val, when the in-laws invite themselves to dinner a great effort must be made to cover up the real home and gay habits of Armand and Albert (with hilarious consequences?). "Am I *REALLY* obvious?" probably being the most over-used and unfunny phrase in the film.
As a concept it's embarrassing. Gay people masking their lifestyle because their kids can't cope. Pathetic! And quite why they actually remade this I don't know! However all of that said it is very funny at times. Robin Williams is a lot less manic than usual doing a sensitive turn instead and showing Nathan Lane's performance up a little. I have to say I love Nathan Lane but Albert is the most thinly drawn character I've seen on film (again in both versions) so he has VERY little to work with. Besides which the painful-to-watch screams and high camp are undoubtedly overdone to try and keep a straight audience laughing at - rather than with - the characters. It is a fairly "sympathetic" movie though. Armand and Albert have by far the most convincing and fulfilling relationship of the picture. Not that that's saying much.
What this had that the French original does not are a few basics...the casting of the supporting cast is not just better, it's actually good. The language barrier that can (but rarely does) ruin films is gone for those of us not fluent in French. The timing - which wrecked the original in my opinion - is a little better. Most importantly the culture in which the film is produced is different; the change in attitute since the original was made is vast; the french macho insecuritire are replaced by less cringe-making American '90's alternatives, though gone is that cruder kind of humour which provided some genuine belly-laughs in the French version - the phallic decorations that apparently would tell the dull conservatives instantly that the occupents are gay are amazingly tame here (though Hank Azaria shines as the outrageous house-boy he actually manages to make work here, implausible as the character should be and was in the French version)
And it is a MAINSTREAM GAY film..... ....realistically this is *still* a total paradox in behind-the-times Hollywood......I hate to *have* to say it but ALL exposure has *some* positive effect - and here the gay characters are actually far less weird and messed up than the straight ones. Here we're not scary and we're not killers and we don't die - oh and we have much longer, healthier relationships (this is news?!)......... Progress of a sort....could we now have some ORIGINAL gay movies now please? And cut down on dresses and drag queens, PLEASE!
My Beautiful Laundrette (1985)
A perfect slice of Thatcherite Britain.....oh! And a fab gay romance..
A classic film in my book, My Beautiful Laundrette is the story of Omar, a young restless Asian man caring for his alcoholic father in Thatcherite London. Escape comes in the form of his uncles many and varied business ventures,...
Anyone who experienced anything of life in '80's Britain will recognise the craving for instant financial success. Similarly I am sure Asian viewers will recognise the struggles inherent in finding an identity in a country which is your home but which can never feel quite like your real home.
Omar dreams of success so works to achieve it...along the way he meets up with old school-friend Johnny, who has betrayed him by falling in with a group of neo-nazi's. Omar soon has Johnny working for him and his uncle. Turning the tables on him as he is made to rely on the very people he has been taught to hate. The chemistry between Omar and Johnny is palpable and their relationship handled totally matter-of-factly. About the only part of the film not trying to score any political points is the gay relationship. There is a "so-what" attitude and no-one comes out at any point. And why should they?
Tension in the film is far more the result of socio-economic and racial inequalities. The whole thing is handled with grace, charm and wit. Anyone remotely familier with British film in particular will note the starry casting of supporting roles, though Danial Day Lewis is - now - the biggest star of the show. Here he shows the real substance behind his fame - more so than in any other film of his seen to date. The cast is universally excellent and the unique shooting, pacing and dialogue, quite quite brilliant.
Some of the shots in this film could be used as a template for brilliance...An unexpected kiss in a dark alley is easily the most erotic single shot I have seen in a film.
Despite a few reviews I have read claiming otherwise, I don't believe you need to be gay or Asian to get something out of this picture. Living in Britain may help, though it's a lot less than essential.......
And hey! Wouldn't you love to throw your knickers into the washing machines of a neon-lit music-filled laudrette from heaven run by two insatiably young and energetic lovers?
Well I would anyway! Pass the detergent this way please!
Beautiful Thing (1996)
Sheer romanticism!! Joyous!
This movie is wonderful!
It is one of the most romantic films I have had the pleasure of seeing in a very long time. Innocent and optimistic despite the fact that it touches on a series of serious issues (bullying - both in the school and home, drugs, coming out...).
The story of two young school-friends and neighbours who gradually fall in love is beautifully told. Anyone who has ever fallen hopelessly for another will absolutely recognise the tensions and uncertainties of not knowing if, how and when to tell that person how you feel.
You cannot help but like both leads; Jamie ("he's ever so nice") and Ste, who is so badly beaten by his father that he has an even weaker sense of identity than the other characters, who are all soul-searching in their own ways...
Jamie seems to have some idea how he feels long before we join the action. It's just as he falls for friend Ste that he realises he is definitely "gay" and starts to take pride in knowing where he stands. Ste is then left to nervously craft out an idea of who - and what - he is, as Jamie gains the confidence to take the lead in the relationship...
After repeated watching you start to notice that residents of the housing project (on which all the main characters live) seem to pop up everywhere. This makes for some lovely linking between situations helping to gel the film together, aided admirally by the fantastic Mama Cass soundtrack... The overall effect is a very well-rounded picture to support the central story of young love.
Both Ste and Jamie are played fantastically. Both understated and very sincere enhancing this totally charming story. The actors *should* be stars and certainly shine through magnificently here....
Sandra, Jamie's tough mother is feisty and wonderful and just as confused in her own identity as her son, whom she loves and wants a better life for. Her part too is acted wonderfully, with the staggering pride that instantly shows us that she is a long-term struggler and strong survivor..
Particularly good in the supporting stakes are Leah - as the out of control and attention-seeking Mama Cass addict, and Tony (who gets all of the funniest lines of the movie) as the hopeless but devoted boyfriend of Sandra.
However the film is peppered with star turns from all - even the extras!
Hell! Even the hanging baskets are perfectly in character!
This film withstands repeated viewing. It leaves you with a warm glow and in unshakable romantic mind. This is the kind of film that disproves the "they don't make 'em like they used to" theory.
They do make them like this...
It's just that very few people know how anymore.... ...this film screams out both against the dull Hollywood Meg Ryan romances and against the kind of issue-led hate or anti-hate films that have been the staple of makers of gay films for too long.
This film should be enjoyed by gay and straight people alike... It's an upbeat and joyous romance. No more. No less.
Anyone who tells you the ending is unfeasibly upbeat is being a killjoy. Who doesn't adore to get up after a film and feel floatily light-headed with a smile on their face?
In the words of Candy Statton............."Young Hearts, Run Free....."
(and don't you let anyone tell you different!)
The Celluloid Closet (1995)
Everyone should see this film.....every film lover especially so; every gay person definitely!
This is not a "film" in the traditional sense...perhaps
This is not a "documentary" in the traditional sense...probably
What is it??
The Celluloid Closet is a comprehensive history of film - gay film, straight film, "is she/isn't she?..." film. Everything. It is the result of 10 years hard work - no-one (especially big film/tv studios) is keen to fund a 2 hour film on gay movie visibility, they're all too busy closetted away (often literally) making sure viewers won't be offended by their output...
However the time, effort and sheer love that has gone into this is utterly evident and it may be a blessing in disguise that it took so very long. The film is based heavily on the late Vitto Russo's book of the same name. Russo was a film buff who catalogued in detail the visibility of gay and lesbian characters in cinema. He included film from across the globe and updated the book for the last time in the mid eighties (Parting Glances and My Beautiful Launderette having just been completed) before the explosion of new gay film of the last decade. The film takes the historical content of the book and uses the best editing *I* have ever seen to produce enlightening sequences on the treatment of gay people and issues. Although it only concentrates on Hollywood films, it has the advantage over the book in that it was right up to date at its time of completion.
Not only does The Celluloid Closet use self-appointed gay films, it also takes enormous pleasure in covering those films we love and know as gay classics even though the tension is a subtle sub-plot often totally lost on a straight audience! Absolute treats are the celebrity comments (they will set a thousand conspiracy theories going in your head too!), better still is the input of relatively unknown behind-the-camera people, writers etc, who are at liberty to be far more honest about their views.
There are also clips from classics like Rebecca, Calamity Jane (the dykiest show on earth if you ask me!), Ben Hur, My Beautiful Launderette, Parting Glances.......etc etc.. Any film you can think of is probably there - if not then maybe you should write a sequel!
Did you ever think that Laurel and Hardy were very cosy with each other? Did you think Mrs Danvers was a little forward going through Rebecca's undies? Did you explode at *that* kiss in Morroco? Have you always secretly thought The Hunger was a good movie? .............Well so did someone else. Quite a lot of someone elses - and some of them were the writers!
This is such a good film for too many reasons. I'd go as far as saying it's perfect film.
It has no characters/plot, etc but it shows the progress of gay visibility as one of the best stories there is. The people who made those movies are the cast. It is a film
It is informtive, funny, clever and revealing. It tells EVERYONE about their history and heritage. The general observations about film-watching apply to anyone. It's impressively detached and lets you draw your own interpretation. It's a documentary.
You will sit there thinking "wow" when it finishs. You will wonder how you view films - and how everyone else views them. It may even make you nostalgic for the days when closetted was the only option (and endless sex-scenes were impossible and forbidden so plot and dialogoue had to make do). You will think of omissions and ponder those included but it will get you thinking. That's the important part.
If this film doesn't make you want to go out and watch all your favourite movies plus all those featured in it then I'll be amazed!
It may sound like it, but it's no chore to watch. It's a pleasure.
It's inspiring. wonderful. Ultimately uplifting. And you'll need to see it again.....and again....and again! ....oh yes! And kd lang sings "Secret Love" at the end! Wow!...
Zero Patience (1993)
Why you should see this film twice...
Why should you sit down and watch a Canadian gay AIDS musical eh?
Well firstly dismiss all pre-conceptions - yes that does include the Canadian ones! Don't sit down expecting to see something with a grave tone and serious approach - you'll be disappointed. What you will see is a touching and at times both romantic and funny piece of cinema. If you're into obscure classics then this may be the ultimate! There is a serious message at the core of course but the flashy sets and music see to it that it's not just an extended eductional film (though it probably should be)......
The first time I saw this it was by accident.... I was sat there in the middle of the night, nothing much to watch, and suddenly this amazing *thing* happened and I was sat glued to Zero Patience. I thought it was interesting, but was utterly bemused by the songs - at that point I had not really understood the lyrics, was not well educated enough about AIDS to get the subtleties and seemed to be watching a lot of gay programming without knowing why I was... I have now discovered that it was all a matter of vested interest! Anyway...
You do not need to be gay or be HIV+ to "get" this film. In fact awareness is such amongst the gay and +ve community that I daresay the BEST audience this may have is straight people - even if some of the - and I use the phrase loosely - "plot" does alienate them a little. The irreverence may alienate anyone, but it's been produced for the most reverent reasons so don't judge too soon
You won't appreciatte this film the first time I promise you. It will leave your head full of obscure images though; if all you can remember of a mad musical is drag queen viruses, talking assholes and a 150 year old scientist hiding out in a Canadian museum (!) then this is the movie you've seen!
And doesn't that description make you want to see it? Come on! You must be intrigued at least...
Watch it once for interest. Watch it a second time to enjoy (you are allowed to enjoy political films about devastating epidemics.). Watch it a third time to revel in the romance and get angry with the authorities. JUST WATCH IT!
And if you've just seen it PLEASE add your comments to this small collection - disagree with all I've just said if you want but don't sit silent nodding and shaking your head - do something proactive!