Tag Archives: “Brokeback Mountain”

Desperate Rick Perry takes last refuge of the scoundrel: ‘Christianity’

As is the case with Repugnican Tea Party U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, we probably safely can ignore Repugnican Tea Party Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who, like Bachmann, can’t break even 10 percent in recent presidential polls of the members of his own fucking fascistic party. Like Bachmann, Perry would be lucky even to be considered for the Repugnican Tea Party’s vice presidential spot on the 2012 ticket.

Still, Rick Perry’s “Brokeback Mountain”-like anti-gay spot (apparently primarily meant for Iowans, who will caucus early next month) has gone viral to the point that I feel compelled to chime in.

Many have pointed out (correctly) that the jacket that Perry wears in the spot is fairly identical to the jacket worn by the late Heath Ledger in “Brokeback Mountain” —

— and spoofs of the spot abound, including PhotoShop spoofs —

— and video spoofs such as this one, which is Perry’s spot “gay-dubbed”:

Perry deserves to be lampooned. Actually, he deserves worse. He apparently believes that the way to make up for his own glaring deficiencies is to attack an historically oppressed minority group, as though this were the 2004 presidential election (hey, gay-bashing worked pretty well for the last governor from Texas!). Yet the name of Perry’s Brokeback spot is “Strong.” Because yeah, it takes a big, strong, manly man to beat up on gays.

I’ve long suspected that Rick Perry in fact is a closet case, and the video of him giving an apparently drunken speech in New Hampshire in October pretty much confirms my suspicions — in the clip, it appears that Perry is drunk, and that alcohol, the great disinhibitor, brings out what’s deep inside Perry, as he displays much-less-than-macho verbalizations and gesticulations. (As I noted at the time, he acted like a giddy schoolgirl.)

Not that I want Rick Perry on my team — I do not — but if it looks like a queer duck, waddles like a queer duck, and quacks like a queer duck…

But let’s go beyond the image stuff and go ahead and tackle the “substance” of what Perry actually says in his spot. He says: “I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m a Christian, but you don’t need to be in the pew every Sunday to know there’s something wrong in this country when gays can serve openly in the military but our kids can’t openly celebrate Christmas or pray in school.”

Wow. This is wrong on so many levels. Where to begin?

OK, first, I suppose, we need to define the word “Christian.” To me, the word means “one who is familiar with and who strives to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ.”

By my definition, of course, Rick Perry and his ilk are not Christians. They are ignorant, fearful, violent (at least violent at heart and violent in spirit if not also physically violent) haters who are bound together not by anything remotely like love, but by their ignorance, their fearfulness and their hatred of the same “out” groups, such as non-heterosexuals, non-“Christians,” non-whites, non-Americans, non-wingnuts, et. al.

Also fundamentally, we need to ask why Perry is conflating non-discrimination within the U.S. military and our children’s ability to “celebrate Christmas or pray in school.” Perry’s “logic” here is as clear as is the “logic” of the “Christo”fascist fucktards who protest at U.S. military funerals, claiming that God kills U.S. soldiers abroad because the United States is too permissive on homosexuality. (What? You don’t see the clear link?)

We also need to look at Rick Perry’s utterly bogus claims of victimhood. “I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m a Christian,” he whines, although anywhere from around 60 percent to 75 percent of Americans call themselves “Christians.” This is a persecuted minority? Yeah, you know, I, for one, haven’t seen a so-called “Christian” tossed to any lions recently.

Speaking of which, there is no fucking “war on Christmas.” I am so not a Christian (well, I agree with Jesus’ teachings that no one follows, but I certainly don’t identify with the fascistic hypocrites who call themselves “Christians”), but I give Christmas cards and Christmas gifts every year. Christmas is pretty deeply ingrained within the American culture, and affects you whether you identify yourself as a Christian or not.

If anyone has been destroying Christmas, it is those who have commercialized it, who have sucked every drop of spirituality from it in order to make a buck, and they enjoy the full support of the “Christo”fascist Repugnican Tea Partiers, so if anyone is destroying Christmas, it’s the wingnutty fascists who hypocritically blame others when, as usual, it is they who are to blame.

Anyone who wishes to celebrate Christmas in the United States of America may do so — but not with public funds (at least in the blue states, which for the most part honor the separation of church and state). That’s fair and that’s just. The same “Christo”facists who want to use our public funds to shove their own religious beliefs down everyone’s throats would go ballistic if those same public funds were used to promote another religion, such as Islam. And how would the “Christo”fascists feel about Muslim prayers in our public schools?

Yeah, fuck the “Christo”fascists.

Perry also remarks in his spot, “You don’t need to be in the pew every Sunday” — is this Perry’s admission that he just calls himself a “Christian” since it’s good politics in the backasswards “Christo”fascist state of Texas? Is this Perry’s admission that he knows about as much about his own claimed religion as he knows about the U.S. Supreme Court, which he believes has eight justices, and not nine?

Speaking of Christianity, anyone who actually has read and comprehended the words of Jesus Christ as contained in the four gospels would oppose the very existence of the U.S. military, since Jesus taught love and peace and turning the other cheek — not bombing and gunning down and torturing and otherwise maiming and killing and inflicting pain and suffering upon others.

Jesus also said not one fucking word on homosexuality, at least not as recorded in the four gospels.

Obviously the holiday of Christmas was invented after Jesus’ death, so we can’t say that Jesus was pro-Christmas and still claim sanity, and this is what Jesus had to say about the public prayer that Rick “The U.S. Supreme Court Has Eight Justices” Perry claims is so central to Christianity:

“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” [Matthew 6:5 and Matthew 6:6]

Jesus clearly repudiated public prayer as being something that only hypocrites practice and instructed that his followers should pray in private.

We have all of these so-called “Christians” here in the United States of America, and I don’t believe that in my almost 44 years I’ve actually met any more than a handful of them, not by my reasonable definition of a Christian.

Rick Perry certainly isn’t a Christian. He’s just an apparent alcoholic closet case, a self-loather who has wanted the presidency of the United States of America to fill the endless black void that is his soul, and he has demonstrated that he is perfectly willing to persecute the already persecuted in order to get there. Just like Jesus would do, right? And just like Adolf Hitler and his henchmen did.*

*No, the Hitler comparison is not out there. The right-wing, fascistic/pro-corporate, “Christian” Nazis killed thousands of gay men, just as the American Taliban – the “Christo”fascists here at home, the majority of whom are aligned with the Repugnican Tea Party – would do if they could. Hitler’s political tactic was to whip up hatred of minorities (Jews, gays, gypsies, Communists, et. al.), and that’s what the politicians within the Repugnican Tea Party do also (with hatred of Muslims, gays, “illegals,” “socialists,” et. al.).

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Clint Eastwood’s ‘J. Edgar’ is not your father’s gangster movie

Film review

Leonardo DiCaprio and Armie Hammer J. Edgar

Clyde Tolson (played by the Adonis Armie Hammer) and J. Edgar Hoover (played by Leonardo DiCaprio) have a lovers’ quarrel in Clint Eastwood’s “J. Edgar.”

Woe to the heterosexists who don’t bother to research the movies that they see who stumble into Clint Eastwood’s “J. Edgar” thinking that they’re going to see an action-packed gangsta movie (he-man Clint Eastwood is directing, after all) but who instead get “Brokeback Mountain” meets “Bonnie and Clyde” — in which “Bonnie” is the late long-time FBI director J. Edgar Hoover.

As others have noted, “J. Edgar” isn’t going to wholly please either side. The heterosexists don’t want the slightest flowery whiff of male homosexuality contaminating their gangster movies, as evidenced by the male homophobe behind me in the audience who twice uttered “faggot!” (and who once uttered “AIDS!”) during the movie and the female homophobe behind me who vocalized her disapproval during the scene in which a distraught J. Edgar Hoover dons his recently deceased mother’s dress.

And gay men like me are going to feel, as I do, that screenwriter Dustin Lance Black (who won an Oscar for his screenplay of “Milk”) and/or director Eastwood wussed out by having portrayed the very apparent real-life same-sex relationship between Hoover and his long-time “assistant” Clyde Tolson as essentially sexless.

No, I didn’t need a steamy sex scene, although I can’t say that I would have minded one; Armie Hammer, who plays Clyde Tolson in “J. Edgar” (and who played the “Winklevi” twins in “The Social Network”) is achingly beautiful, and much more handsome than was the real-life Tolson, just as the real-life J. Edgar never looked anything like Leonardo DiCaprio, even with all of that makeup piled atop his baby face.

But are we really to believe that although the real-life Hoover and Tolson were inseparable and never heterosexually married — and that although Tolson inherited Hoover’s estate after Hoover’s death and later was buried near Hoover — that the two of them never did more than hold hands and share just one (bloody, very conflicted) kiss?

“J. Edgar” apparently would have us believe so, and while many movies about gay characters have a closeted feel to them, this closeted feel can be artful if it is intentional and thus helps us to understand the characters and their sufferings better, but if this closeted feel is a result of the filmmakers’ own cowardice and/or discomfort with the material, then it diminishes the film, and this appears to be the case with “J. Edgar.”

“J. Edgar,” as others have noted, also tries to do too much. Hoover’s time as head of the FBI, which spanned from 1935 to 1972, can’t be captured in one film. Not that it has to be; “J. Edgar” is a fictionalized film, after all, not a documentary, but because “J. Edgar” portrays so many of the historical events during Hoover’s decades-long tenure at the FBI, it has lent itself to be criticized for what it leaves out — such as the “Lavender Scare” of the 1950s, which surely was relevant to the real-life Hoover and Tolson.

And because “J. Edgar” tries to capture so many historical events, the examination of Hoover’s psyche gets short shrift.

Judi Dench is good as Hoover’s mother, even if she is portrayed as a textbook case of the overbearing mother who lives through her son so that of course he turns out gay.

Perhaps the most memorable scene in the film is the one in which Hoover’s homophobic mother tells him the story of another young man who turned out to be gay and who killed himself, which was a good thing, in her eyes. Many of us gay men (my husband included) have been told by a homophobic parent that he or she could never accept a gay son, as Hoover is told by his mother in “J. Edgar,” so I expect that scene to resonate with millions of gay men.

Still, “J. Edgar” doesn’t go far enough with the examination of J. Edgar Hoover’s homosexuality. My guess is that that is a result of the combination of Dustin Lance Black’s upbringing as a Mormon, which, I surmise, keeps him on the “safe,” conservative side, and of the generation of Clint Eastwood (he’s 81 years old), who, while he reportedly is pro-gay, on other issues leans to the right (he reportedly can recall having voted for a Democrat only once, and that was former California Gov. Gray Davis in 1998), and who might be one of those individuals who is much more intellectually accepting of homosexuality (that is, in theory) than he is viscerally accepting of it (that is, in practice) — you know, the kind of person who says that he’s OK with gays as long as he doesn’t ever actually have to see two men kissing. (Thus, we could see Tolson and Hoover kiss in “J. Edgar” only if violence was involved. [The scene, by the way, is fairly reminiscent of a similar scene in “Brokeback Mountain” in which our two conflicted lovebirds who live in a homophobic place and time pummel each other.])

“J. Edgar” probably should have picked one path and stuck with it: the documentarian path or the psychoanalytical path. Hoover’s professional life alone was interesting enough to carry a film. It was because of Hoover’s gross abuse of power, including his notoriously illegal monitoring of prominent individuals, that directors of the FBI need the Senate’s approval to serve more than 10 years, indicates Wikipedia.

But also interesting are the psychological dynamics in which those who have something to hide — such as homosexuality in a society in which homosexuality is stigmatized — react to their inner conflict and their self-loathing by becoming anal retentive and relentless moralists who viciously attack others in order to ease their own self-hatred. We saw this not only in J. Edgar Hoover, but in Roy Cohn, the gay assistant to Sen. Joseph McCarthy, who isn’t portrayed in “J. Edgar.” (I’ve wondered about the sexual orientation of McCarthy, too, since he was an alcoholic who viciously attacked others and since he picked Cohn to be his assistant, but that’s purely conjecture on my part.)

If I had made “J. Edgar” and were focusing on Hoover’s personal life, I’d have left out all of the Lindbergh baby stuff and focused more on the relationship between Hoover and Tolson, and I especially would have focused on the “Lavender Scare,” which bizarrely gets no real mention in “J. Edgar.”

And I would have left out the scene in which Hoover tries on his dead mother’s dress. The account that the real-life Hoover was seen in a dress is dubious, and in any event, it wasn’t as it is portrayed in “J. Edgar,” and we gay men have enough problems as it is for Black and Eastwood to give homophobes the idea that all gay men like to wear women’s clothing (not that there is anything wrong with that; it’s just that it’s a tiresome stereotype, and Black’s screenplay shows keen gay sensibility except for this fairly unfortunate scene).

Still, despite its flaws — which include the fact that it tries to do too much and that Armie Hammer’s old-man makeup is bad (maybe there’s just no way to make such an Adonis look unattractive) — and despite the fact that it doesn’t belong in the pantheon that includes “Brokeback Mountain” and “Milk,” “J. Edgar” is worth seeing.

My grade: B

Update:I don’t think that I’ve been unfair here to Dustin Lance Black. In a recent interview with the Advocate, he remarked, “I grew up in a military family, which was also Mormon and conservative, so he [J. Edgar Hoover] was seen as a bit of a hero.” Again, Black’s conservative upbringing seems to have greatly colored his portrayal of Hoover in his screenplay. And of the historical Hoover and Clyde Tolson’s relationship, Black stated:

I don’t know how much sex they were having. I couldn’t anchor that in anything provable. I also didn’t need it for what I was trying to say. They may or may not have [had a sexual relationship], but frankly, I wouldn’t want to see it. What’s important to me is they were not straight. They were two gay guys, in my opinion.

What is it with this phenomenon of de-sexing gay men, of stripping them of human sexuality? We don’t do that to heterosexual people! I can’t say that I would have wanted to watch the historical J. Edgar Hoover (who, again, was not an attractive man) getting it on with anyone, either, but was the only alternative to making “J. Edgar: The Gay Porn” making a film that portrays him as a celibate, frustrated closet case?

True, we cannot “anchor” the assertion that Tolson and Hoover had a sexual relationship “in anything provable” — we have only the very strong circumstantial evidence that they had a decades-long sexual relationship — yet the scene in which Hoover puts on his deceased mother’s dress very apparently was fabricated from whole cloth. Why was that liberty OK, but we couldn’t take the liberty of having the two of them ever do anything more than occasionally hold hands and share only one frustrated kiss? 

Critic Roger Ebert also apparently has jumped on the no-sex-for-gay-men bandwagon, proclaiming in his review of the film:

Eastwood’s film is firm in its refusal to cheapen and tarnish by inventing salacious scenes. I don’t get the impression from “J. Edgar” that Eastwood particularly respected Hoover, but I do believe he respected his unyielding public facade.

So to have made the two men sexually active human beings, I suppose, would have been “cheapening,” “tarnishing” and “salacious.” Since they were gay, much better to make them celibate! And apparently “[respecting Hoover’s] unyielding public facade” means going along with Hoover’s having been in the closet, because to do otherwise would have been “disrespectful.” (Fuck the truth!)

Ebert also notes in his review:

In my reading of the film, they were both repressed homosexuals, Hoover more than Tolson, but after love at first sight and a short but heady early courtship, they veered away from sex and began their lives as Longtime Companions. The rewards for arguably not being gay were too tempting for both men, who were wined and dined by Hollywood, Broadway, Washington and Wall Street. It was Hoover’s militant anti-gay position that served as their beard.

That reading of the film is correct, because indeed “J. Edgar” intended to keep the two lovers celibate, since gay sex is so dirty, you know, and while we can posit that Hoover was gay, we just can’t go so far as to assert that he ever actually had gay sex (ick!).

Again, the real film in the story of Hoover and Tolson’s relationship is the one indicated by Ebert’s assertion that “It was Hoover’s militant anti-gay position that served as their beard,” and I still find it rather stunning that the film glosses over the Lavender Scare of the 1950s. Joseph McCarthy and Roy Cohn should be in any film about the very-most-likely-gay relationship between Hoover and Tolson, it seems to me.

And speaking of McCarthy, I’m not the only one who has wondered about his sexual orientation. David K. Johnson, author of The Lavender Scare (The University of Chicago Press, 2004), notes (on page 3) that although McCarthy in early 1950 first raised the specter of Communists and gay men having “infiltrated” the U.S. government, McCarthy went on to pursue only the Communist angle, having “mysteriously recused himself” from the witch hunt against gay men. Johnson goes on:

A knowledgeable observer at the time suggested that [McCarthy] did not pursue the “homosexual angle” more aggressively because he was afraid of a boomerang. As an unmarried, middle-aged man, he was subject to gossip and rumor about his own sexuality.

I find the parallels between Hoover and Tolson and McCarthy and Cohn to be striking. Maybe Dustin Lance Black can redeem himself somewhat for his wussy “J. Edgar” screenplay and pen a movie with balls about Joseph McCarthy and his relationship with Roy Cohn, the latter of whom we know for sure was gay. I’ll even give Dustin a highly creative working title: “McCarthy.”

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A singular film

Film review

Colin Firth plays the character of the tortured gay English professor George Falconer in the film adaptation of Christopher Isherwood’s somewhat autobiographical novel A Single Man.

I love gay men’s history.

Call me a geek, but I’ve long believed that it’s difficult to know where you’re going if you don’t know where you’ve been, especially as a member of a historically oppressed minority group, and so I eat up gay history.

As a college student in a red state in the mid- to late 1980s, I had to remain closeted or risk harassment, perhaps even to the point that remaining at my university might have been made impossible — and further, the newish AIDS crisis was on and there still was some hysteria as to how easily AIDS was transmitted from person to person, so not only was same-sex sex was ruined for me, but there was the further social stigma that Gay meant Dying of the New (Gay) Plague. As if being hated for not being attracted to the opposite sex weren’t bad enough, gay men were the New Lepers.

While the pre-AIDS generations of gay men got to have their sexual romps (the unfortunate price of which many if not most of them paid later), the closet was even rougher for them than it was for me; for them, consensual homosexual relations meant possible arrest and even incarceration for “sex crimes” and a life ruined.

Among my gay-rights heroes are Harry Hay (I recently watched a DVD biography on Hay titled “Hope Along the Wind,” which, among other things, chronicles the high degree of secrecy in which the early gay-rights groups had to meet in the paranoid 1950s, and the nexus between homosexuality and Communism created by the wingnutty McCarthyites); Harvey Milk, of course (whom I lovingly regard as “St. Harvey”); and Christopher Isherwood, who, like Hay, was born in England but eventually found himself in California to, in his own way, mostly through his writing, advance gay rights.

Now has come the film version of what many critics consider to be Isherwood’s best novel, A Single Man, in which the main character, George Falconer, bears striking resemblances to Isherwood.

In “A Single Man,” directed and co-written by Tom Ford, George (played wonderfully by Colin Firth, who also played an interesting gay character in the quirky queer-themed 1989 thriller “Apartment Zero”) is an English professor living in Los Angeles of the early 1960s, a place where it was easier to be gay in the United States than in most other places in the nation at the time, but a time when it still wasn’t OK to the vast majority of Americans for anyone to be gay anywhere.

George has just lost his younger mate, Jim, to a car accident after their 16-year relationship, and George struggles to continue with his life.

I imagine that in that day and age it was difficult to find a same-sex mate at all, so to lose one with whom you’d really bonded would have been devastating.

And indeed, George is devastated, which “A Single Man” chronicles.

George’s main emotional support comes from his female friend and neighbor, Charley, a fellow Londoner who came to Los Angeles to pursue a dream that eluded her also. Charley is an alcoholic and so she can be only so supportive of George, and further complicating their friendship, Charley still wishes that she and Charley had become a married couple before their lives went in different directions.

Poignant scenes in “A Single Man” abound: The flashbacks between George and his deceased partner Jim (played quite charmingly by Matthew Goode); the scene in which George is informed by Jim’s relative that Jim’s funeral is for “family” only; the uncomfortable scene in which Charley, apparently not really thinking, denigrates the years-long relationship that George and Jim had had as something rather frivolous and not very serious; the scene in which George is propositioned by an apparent hustler who exudes sex appeal (and who actually seems like good relationship material, not just a hustler); the scene in which George indirectly brings up homosexuality in his English class and his closeted-by-necessity gay male students squirm in their seats. Perhaps no scene is better than the one in which George’s suicide attempt is bungled by his own anal retentiveness.

Providing a story to go along with the scenes of George’s dreary life of an aging, closeted widow(er) is the hot pursuit of George by one of students, the earnest, young and gay Kenny, played by a doe-eyed, angora-sweater-wearing Nicholas Hoult, probably best known for having played the fatherless little boy chasing after the single ladies’ man Hugh Grant in 2002’s “About a Boy.” I find it funny that Hoult has played two roles now in which his character chases around an Englishman, albeit with very different intentions.

The roundabout language that the gay male characters in “A Single Man” have to use in discussing their homosexuality — they have to dance around the subject — is interesting, and maybe one could argue that it was more romantic and thrilling to be gay during the time when you couldn’t talk about “the love that dare not speak its name” directly. The closet is a soul-stifling place to be, however, so I can’t say that I’d trade today’s more open atmosphere for the thrill or the romance of the closet, if there ever was or is such a thing.

The charged interaction between Kenny and George raises the issue of how much of an age difference is OK in sexual relationships, but to me the even larger issue is whether a college professor of any sexual persuasion should be sleeping with any of his or her students. (The answer to that is no, and I won’t tell you how it plays out between Kenny and George.)

The dynamic between George and Kenny seems to mirror the real-life dynamic between Christopher Isherwood and his much younger partner, Don Bachardy, who still was in his teens when he and the 48-year-old Isherwood met and became a couple in the 1950s in Southern California, where in the 1950s and 1960s Isherwood taught English at Los Angeles State College (now Californa State University at Los Angeles; and no, Barchardy was not a student of Isherwood’s when they met).

The worthwhile 2008 documentary “Chris & Don: A Love Story,” chronicles Isherwood and Bachardy’s relationship up to Isherwood’s death from prostate cancer at age 81 in 1986. (Unlike “A Single Man’s” character of Jim, Bachardy outlived Isherwood, and he is alive today; interestingly, Tom Ford reportedly said in this interview: “As I understand it from Don Bachardy … Christopher wrote this story when Don left him for about eight months and moved to New York with someone else. Christopher imagined that Don had died and that he was alone, and he wrote this story.”)

While “Chris & Don” demonstrates that the significant age difference between Isherwood and Bachardy apparently sometimes reared its ugly head in their relationship — such as how Isherwood apparently often was a father figure to Barchardy as well as his lover, and how Isherwood allowed the much younger Barchardy to have dalliances with men of his own generation — I hesitate to judge two others’ relationship, as only the two people in a relationship can really know what that relationship is all about.

“Chris & Don” and “A Single Man” are good companion pieces, and I recommend that those who have seen and enjoyed one of the two films see the other.

And I add “A Single Man” to the canon of worthwhile films about what it was like to be gay back in the day, such as “Brokeback Mountain” (which, like “A Single Man,” also takes place in the early 1960s), “Far from Heaven” (also starring Julianne Moore, and which, like “A Single Man” does, captures the look and feel of the time period shockingly well), “The Talented Mr. Ripley” and “Milk” (of course).

My only gripe with “A Single Man” is that I don’t like its ending. Why do so many gay protagonists have to meet with a tragic ending? Why do the straights so often get to live happily ever after but we gay men so often don’t?

I don’t blame Tom Ford, though; I have an old paperbook copy of Isherwood’s A Single Man, which I haven’t read, but I did glimpse at the novel’s ending, and apparently Ford was being faithful to the ending of the novel. (He probably would have gotten some shit from the purists if he hadn’t.)

I’d like to think that if Isherwood wrote the novel today, it would have a happier ending, an ending that he just couldn’t have imagined when he had it published in 1964.

My grade: A-

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Relationship movie

Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet in DreamWorks Pictures' Revolutionary Road

Sinking together again: Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet in a scene from “Revolutionary Road,” the scene in which they first meet and believe that one day they can be the king and the queen of the world. (Instead, they end up mired in 1950s suburbia.)

They talk about date movies, but “Revolutionary Road” is what I’ll call a great relationship movie.

My boyfriend and I, who have been together for more than a year now, are both in our first “real” same-sex relationship, and we are learning all of the lessons that you learn in a relationship, whether you are straight or gay, male or female. These are the lessons that make or break your relationship, depending upon whether you successfully negotiate them or not.

There have been a few times in the course of the past 15 months that I thought that our relationship was facing its imminent demise; this past week I really thought that it was the end, but we pulled through. So we saw “Revolutionary Road” last night in what was great timing; we saw the film when we really needed to see it.

“Revolutionary Road” can be taken as a cautionary tale about letting a relationship go on automatic pilot, about failing in a relationship to communicate constantly — you easily can under-communicate, but arguably you never can over-communicate — and about allowing resentments to build until there is the inevitable volcanic explosion.

“Revolutionary Road” also examines the pressures of what happens in a relationship when one of the partners wants to go in one direction and the other wants to go in another. And the film tackles the problem of whether wishing to get away from it all is a brave, bold move or whether it’s a cowardly move to run away from it all, and whether being happy with what you have is the wisdom of being happy with you have or is resignation, defeat.

With its witty, insightful dialogue and great drama — and plenty of (usually darkly) hilarious moments — no review could do “Revolutionary Road” justice, so I won’t try too hard to do so.

“Revolutionary Road” arguably is too dark — one could argue, I suppose, that even stifled life in the conservative 1950s wasn’t that bad (I don’t know because I wasn’t there) — but it seems to me that if “Road” weren’t as dark as it is, the lessons that it has to teach wouldn’t sink in as deeply, and “Road” is directed by Sam Mendes, who brought us the dark “American Beauty.” Would we expect less of a film by Mendes?

Speaking of “American Beauty,” “Revolutionary Road” feels like a mixture of some movies that we’ve seen before, including “American Beauty,” of course, but also “Far from Heaven,” with its very un-“Leave-It-to-Beaver”-like portrayal of the 1950s, and even “Brokeback Mountain,” because both “Revolutionary Road” and “Brokeback Mountain” co-star David Harbour, who in “Brokeback” played Randall, the working stiff with the annoying, rather clueless wife who presumably has a homosexual extramarital affair with Jake Gyllenhaal’s character of Jack, and who in “Road” plays Shep, a working stiff with the rather annoying, clueless wife who has a heterosexual extramarital affair with his neighbor April Wheeler, the character played by Kate Winslet.

Speaking of Winslet, it’s great to see Winslet and Leonard DiCaprio back together again, this time as married couple April and Frank Wheeler in the dystopian 1950s, and I noted while watching it that “Revolutionary Road” has at least one sly reference to “Titanic” (which was a great date movie…). I would tell you what it is, but I won’t; if you see the film and figure it out, feel free to leave the answer in the comments portion of this post.

For the great performances of Winslet and DiCaprio, it’s co-star Michael Shannon, as psychiatric patient on furlough John Givings, who steals the show, however; I expect him to at least be nominated for Best Supporting Actor (if he hasn’t already been; are the Oscar nominations out yet? I should know that…).

It’s true that the point that it’s the “crazy” man who actually is the sanest character in the film is fairly beaten into the ground, but the dialogue among the John Givings character, the Frank and April Wheeler characters and the characters of John Givings’ parents (Kathy Bates plays his mother) alone makes “Road” worth watching. It’s masterful dialogue that is rare these days. 

My grade: A-

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Film review: “Milk”

Sean Penn (center) and Diego Luna (far right) in Gus Van Sant’s film about slain 1970s gay-rights icon Harvey Milk, which evil, liberal Hollywood is going to award some Oscars.

I remember when I used to see containers of homogenized milk labeled as “homo milk” and jokingly thinking: Gee! They make milk just for people like me!

OK, I got that out of the way, so now I can proceed to write about Gus Van Sant’s “Milk”:

Wow. What a film.

Usually when they hype a film I’m disappointed when I see it, but “Milk” — which I saw today with my closest female friend (and lately I’ve been dragging her to so many gay-related things that I’m thinking that she and I need to go to a monster truck rally very soon in order to balance it out) — exceeded my expectations.

There’s a little bit of sappiness in “Milk,” especially at the end, but in “Milk” gay-rights-movement icon Harvey Milk is portrayed as a hard-nosed politician who even manipulated — hell, who even more or less manufactured — events for political gain more than he is portrayed as a martyred saint.

I haven’t read the late gay journalist Randy Shilts’ biography of Milk, The Mayor of Castro Street, a copy of which I’ve had for years and years, but in “Milk,” Harvey is portrayed as having apparently betrayed his eventual assassin, fellow San Francisco Supervisor Dan White, after they had agreed to help each other win what the other wanted on the city’s board of supervisors (which is the equivalent of a typical city council).

In “Milk” Harvey Milk is portrayed as having gotten at least a bit drunk on power (after he finally won an election), such as in the scene in which he threatens the late San Francisco Mayor George Moscone that if Moscone doesn’t do what Milk wants him to do, Moscone will lose the support of the gay community, spelling the end of Moscone’s political career. Harvey played hardball, if “Milk” is historically accurate.

Oh, hell, I’ll just come out (so to speak…) and say it: “Milk” isn’t too shy to portray the possibility that Milk contributed to his own murder by having antagonized, unnecessarily, his nemesis White.

Not that White had to resort to murder, but he was pushed, if “Milk” is historically accurate. Milk had gotten what he wanted — a gay-rights city ordinance passed — by an overwhelming vote of the board of supervisors, so there was no reason, that I can tell, that it would have harmed Milk, politically, to have stayed out of the issue of whether White should have been allowed to return to the board of supervisors after he had resigned, citing his too-low salary as the reason. 

I congratulate Van Sant’s “Milk” for portraying Harvey Milk as a flawed hero. Power corrupts even the best of us.

I found “Milk” inspiring — I probably finally will read Shilts’ biography of Milk, and I probably will volunteer at my local gay and lesbian community center on “Day Without a Gay” on Wednesday — and it moved me to tears more than once or twice during its two-hour run, and it’s not many movies that can induce me to shed a tear.

It’s too bad that “Milk,” with its rather extensive portrayal of the defeat of the odious anti-gay Proposition 6, was released after the narrow passage of the odious anti-gay Proposition 8 last month, but, I suppose, better late than never. “Milk” can only help the campaign to overturn Prop 8, and since the wingnuts, who are utterly lacking in talent and brains, can’t make a film that anyone would want to see, they have no answer. 

“Milk” is going to be to the gay community what “Brokeback Mountain” was, but while “Brokeback” only indirectly tackles the issue of gay rights, “Milk” tackles the subject head on, and does it with the star power of Sean Penn as Harvey Milk, Josh Brolin as Dan White, and James Franco as Milk’s long-time love Scott Smith.

Poor Sean Penn probably will get a best-actor Oscar, and that all he had to do was kiss the gorgeous James Franco to get it. I hate Sean Penn! No, but seriously, Penn did a kick-ass job as Milk, and Franco did a great job, too; the actors’ intimate interactions are quite convincing as two men who love and who are in love with each other.

Josh Brolin turned in another of his usually reliable performances (I didn’t like “No Country for Old Men” overall, but I liked Brolin’s performance in it), playing a Dan White who seems, with his obsession over homosexuality, possibly to be a closet case and who is more of a sympathetic character in “Milk” than you would have expected him to be.

Diego Luna did a great job as Jack Lira, Milk’s spitfire Latino lover who came after Milk and Scott Smith split up. Just as the real-life Lira apparently got second billing to Smith, so, it seems, Luna’s great performance as Milk’s passionate and unstable lover Lira is getting second billing to Franco’s performance. (Just don’t do anything crazy, Diego!)

Emile Hirsch as young activist Cleve Jones is getting rave reviews, but I think that Luna worked harder. Hirsch is best in the scene in which he and Milk first meet, but Luna’s role, it seems to me, was more demanding.

Like “Brokeback Mountain” was nominated for several Oscars, expect “Milk” to be nominated for several Oscars, too — and expect the wingnut motherfuckers to bitch and moan once again about how liberal Hollywood loves to give Oscars to movies about fags.

I expect an Oscar win for Penn and for director Van Sant, whose departure from his often-eccentric cinematic style (“My Own Private Idaho,” “Even Cowgirls Get the Blues,” and “Elephant” come to mind) seems to have been done with a best-director Oscar in mind. “Milk” just might win best picture, too, which would nice after the passage of Proposition Hate — er, 8.

My grade: A

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