F.I.L.M. of the Week (July 22, 2011)

22 07 2011

Director Will Gluck has made two hilarious movies in “Easy A” and “Friends with Benefits.” The two share quite a few things in common, but one not-so-flattering similarity I noticed was a slightly unfavorable portrayal of homosexuals. In “Easy A,” Dan Byrd’s gay teen Carter participates in an elaborate subterfuge with Emma Stone’s Olive in order to convince the masses that he is heterosexual. In “Friends with Benefits,” Woody Harrelson’s Vogue editor plays a one-note gay character that is totally defined on screen by his homosexuality. (He does get a slight pass, however, because the character is supposedly based on the president of Screen Gems.)

While I certainly don’t consider Glick a hateful person who would deliberately reinforce negative stereotypes, cinema has seen better, more respectful portrayals. Dwelling on my observations, I couldn’t shake one movie from my mind that handles homosexuality with decency: “In & Out,” Frank Oz’s 1997 comedy. It’s a funny, touching movie that hits on some big issues without every feeling preachy or activist, and as such, it is my pick for the “F.I.LM. of the Week.”

A high concept comedy rooted in reality, namely in imagining the fallout of Tom Hanks’ Oscar acceptance speech for “Philadelphia,” the movie follows small-town professor Howard Brackett (Kevin Kline), unintentionally outed by his Academy Award-winning former pupil (Matt Dillon) … on the week before he is about to marry his longtime girlfriend Emily (Joan Cusack).  He expects it all to blow over quickly since his marriage should be proof enough that he is straight.  Yet his sexuality is relentlessly scrutinized everyone and is only amplified by the presence of press and the prejudices of the town.  Howard is forced to confront the idea that the facade he projects to the world is just that, and Oz finds humor in his self-examination every step of the way.

When watching “In & Out,” you have to remember this came before “The Kids Are All Right,” before “Milk,” and even before “Brokeback Mountain” made gay issues a mainstream conversation topic.  It was considered very bold at the time and still retains some of that power today.  It’s relevance is due largely in part to its very level-headed perspective, most clearly articulated in its conclusion.  Sexuality is not what defines our identities, and this is what I think “Easy A” and “Friends with Benefits” seemed to be missing.  Our identity should be defined by our character, and “In & Out” glorifies this to the highest level.

What To Look Forward To In … December 2009

14 11 2009

What is in my mind the finest month for the movies is almost here!  Let Marshall guide you through the best and steer you away from the worst, but most of all enjoy!  The studios have been holding back their best movies all year to dump them all here, where they can get serious awards consideration.

December 4

A major Oscars wild-card is “Brothers.”  No one really knows what to make of it.  If the movie hits big, it could completely change the game.  But it could just fly under the radar like most expect it to now.  However, the trailer makes it look as if it the movie could be absolutely mind-blowing.  Directed by Jim Sheridan, who has received six Academy Award nominations, “Brothers” follows Grace Cahill (Natalie Portman) as she and her daughters deal with the loss of her husband, Sam (Tobey Maguire), in war.  Sam’s brother, Tommy (Jake Gyllenhaal) comes to live with Grace to lend a helping hand.  But romantic sparks fly between the two at precisely the wrong time: the discovery that Sam is alive and coming home.  With the two brothers both tugging Grace’s heart for their share, a different type of sparks fly.

You have heard me say plenty about “Up in the Air.”  If you haven’t read my Oscar Moment on the movie or heard my bliss at the release of the trailer, let me give you one more chance to hope on the bandwagon.

But the movies don’t stop there.  “Armored,” an action-drama that is tooting its own moral horn, starring Matt Dillon and Laurence Fishburne.  “Everybody’s Fine” appears to be a holiday movie, so that might be worth checking out if you’re in the spirit.  The movie, a remake of a 1990 Italian film by the same name, stars Robert DeNiro as a widower who reconnects with his estrange children.  And “Transylmania” looks to cash in on the vampire craze sweeping the nation by satirizing it, but I doubt it will be financially viable because it is being released by a no-name studio and without any big names.

December 11

The highlight of the weekend for many will be “The Princess and the Frog,” Disney’s return to the traditional animation by hand musical.  The movie looks to capitalize on what we know and love Disney musicals for, adding some catchy tunes to a fairy tale we have known since childhood.  Anika Noni Rose, best known for her role as Lorrell in the film adaptation of “Dreamgirls,” lends her talented voice to the princess Tiana.  As a huge fan of “Dreamgirls” during the winter of 2006, I couldn’t think of someone better equipped to handle the sweet, soft Disney music (which isn’t designed for belters like Beyoncé or Jennifer Hudson).  That being said, the music won’t sound like anything you’ve ever heard from a Disney fairy tale.  It is being scored by Randy Newman, not Alan Menken (“Beauty and the Beast,” etc.), and will have a jazzy feel much like its setting, New Orleans.

This week also boasts the opening of three major Oscar players. Two have been featured in Oscar Moments, “Invictus” and “A Single Man.” The former opens nationwide this Friday, the latter only in limited release. I’ll repost the trailers below because they are worth watching. But read the Oscar Moment if you want to know more about the movies.

According to the people that matter, “The Lovely Bones” has all the pieces to make a great movie. But for summer reading two years ago, I read the source material, Alice Sebold’s acclaimed novel. I found it dreadfully melodramatic and very depressing without any sort of emotional payoff to reward the reader for making it through. But maybe Hollywood will mess up the novel in a good way. If any movie could, it would be this one. With a director like Peter Jackson and a cast including Saiorse Ronan (“Atonement”), Mark Wahlberg, Rachel Weisz, Stanley Tucci, and Susan Sarandon, it could very well happen.  It opens in limited release on this date and slowly expands until its nationwide release on Martin Luther King Day weekend in 2010.

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