(*homocinematically inclined)

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Reverend's Reviews: All You Want for Christmas


As the holiday season gets into full swing in movie theaters this weekend, viewers can choose between an animated version of the nativity story (The Star), a light-hearted biopic about Charles Dickens (The Man Who Invented Christmas), or the romance between a 24-year old man and a teenaged boy.  I wonder which one our readers will be most interested in?

Call Me By Your Name (Sony Pictures Classics) was declared nothing short of a gay masterpiece at this year's Sundance Film Festival and has had Oscar buzz ever since.  Adapted from Andre Aciman's acclaimed 2007 novel, it recounts an at-times tortured, gay coming of age story. 17-year old Elio Perlman (a strong performance by relative newcomer Timothee Chalamet) is spending the summer of 1983 at a sun-dappled Italian villa with his mother and father.  Elio's father (the terrific Michael Stuhlbarg, in an uncharacteristically sweet turn) is a professor of Greco-Roman antiquities.

One fine day, Mr. Perlman's new grad student intern arrives.  24-year old Oliver is tall, blonde, handsome and American, and perfectly embodied by the always pleasing Armie Hammer. Although Elio and Oliver are both drawn at first to local girls, they gradually become attracted to each other. A full-blown but intrinsically short-lived affair develops between the two.

I generally enjoyed and appreciated Call Me By Your Name even if I consider much of the praise accorded it thus far overblown.  It is obviously beautifully shot by Thai cinematographer Sayombhu Mukdeeprom amidst great locations.  Gay director Luca Guadagnino (I Am Love, A Bigger Splash) frames the story and his actors in similarly attractive fashion even if he shies from much nudity, a fact which is being heavily criticized in the gay press. But between James Ivory's screenplay and/or Walter Fasano's editing, I found the first half of the movie and the initial, attraction-repulsion relationship between Elio and Oliver confusing.  The film gets better once they "consummate" and the focus is turned squarely on them.

Also, sad to say, some may find the age discrepancy between the two young men more disturbing in the wake of the Kevin Spacey sex abuse allegations.  I actually attended a screening of the film the day the news first broke about Spacey so it was impossible to divorce myself from thoughts of it.  The fact that Hammer is actually 31, not 24, accentuated my occasional discomfort.

But gay viewers especially will find Call Me By Your Name hard to avoid, and it shouldn't be avoided.  And trust me: you'll never look at peaches in quite the same way afterward.

Rebels on Pointe, also now playing in theaters, is an eye-opening documentary about Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo.  This famed, all-male drag troupe was founded in New York City over 40 years ago.  Bobbi Jo Hart followed the company around the world and provides in-depth biographies of its longtime director and several members.  They have weathered the Stonewall riots, HIV/AIDS and ongoing discrimination but continue to entertain and inspire thousands of people every year.  Warm and funny, Rebels on Pointe is a must see.

As the season of shopping for others gets underway, I have a few gift recommendations based on what I have been gifted with myself in recent weeks.  The 2006 award-winning musical Dreamgirls was just issued as a combo Blu-ray/DVD/Digital gift pack in a spectacularly remastered edition with ten minutes of footage added by its gay director, Bill Condon.  Numerous extras are also featured, including Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson's audition footage.  The movie looks and sounds stunning.

Fans of more current entertainment featuring a quartet of talented black actresses will surely enjoy Girls Trip.  Last summer's hit about a reunion of lifelong friends taking a no-holds-barred reunion trip to Las Vegas is now available from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment.  Queen Latifah, Jada Pinkett Smith, Regina Hall and, best of all, Tiffany Haddish go all in for this frequently foul-mouthed, gut-busting yet heartfelt comedy.  It could also make fun, adults-only family viewing after holiday meals.

If live theatre is more your or your friends' style, I can think of no better gift than tickets to the touring production of Broadway's Something Rotten!  It is currently playing at LA's Ahmanson Theatre through December 31st but will continue on to major cities in 2018.  An outrageous spoof of both all things Shakespeare and virtually all stage musicals, it is choreographed in typically fantastic, hilarious fashion by The Book of Mormon's Casey Nicholaw.  If that isn't enough, Broadway stars Rob McClure (Chaplin, Honeymoon in Vegas) and Adam Pascal (Rent, Aida, Disaster!) are headlining the tour.  Both are superb, with Pascal especially enjoyable in a more flamboyant role than usual for him.  Besides, gay viewers can't go wrong with a show that includes such double entendre-laden songs as "Bottom's Gonna Be on Top" and "Hard to be the Bard"!

Happy holidays!

Reverend's Ratings:
Call Me By Your Name: B
Rebels on Pointe: A
Dreamgirls: Director's Extended Direction: A-
Girls Trip: B
Something Rotten! (Broadway touring company): A-

Review by Rev. Chris Carpenter, resident film and stage critic of Movie Dearest and Rage Monthly Magazine.

1 comment: