Pictured Theron in Monster
As I write this, there seems to be 32 inches of snow on the ground and the wind chill has plunged below zero. Perfect weather to stay indoors and sift through the stack of DVDs that have been piling up higher than the snow drifts outside. I'm including titles that may have been overlooked during the holiday DVD gift-giving bonanza and an assortment of interesting post New Year's releases. Everything on this list is highly recommended—with one VIVID exception.
My snowbound DVD marathon started with My Wife, Maurice, a delightful cross-dressing French farce from TLA that is very reminiscent of La Cage Aux Folles and has a hilarious performance by the bearded Régis Laspalés, who through typical farce complications, is forced to dress in female drag. What's not to love from a movie with such a tres gay sensibility? In French with subtitles and no real extras.
The Princess Diaries 2 has less of Anne Hathaway's klutzy pratfalls ( good ) and more focus on the regal, divine Julie Andrews ( better ) . And was there ever more perfect casting than she as the Queen of Genovia? The DVD has the usual assortment of deleted scenes, bloopers and making-of featurettes and something that was 'obviously' designed for gay fans of the movie: a cute personality quiz aptly titled 'Find Your Inner Princess.'
Ashley Judd is the best thing in De-Lovely, the misguided screen bio/quasi-musical of Cole Porter with Kevin Kline in the title role. What starts off fizzy and bright soon turns dark and moody with Porter's gay pursuits the culprit that keeps getting in the way of true love—the hetero version, anyway. Still, the DVD includes several short deleted scenes that focus on Porter's gay proclivities and Kline's rendition of 'You Do Something To Me.'
Director Ted Demme's canny remake of The Manchurian Candidate gave us Liev Schrieber and Meryl Streep as the most frightening mother-son act since Laurence Harvey and Angela Lansbury … the duo from the original. Lansbury needn't have fretted about Streep stealing her thunder—both bring different, terrific shadings to the part. The DVD includes an above-average feature on the wonderful cast, a short, funny outtake with Streep as Shaw being interviewed by Al Franken, and Schrieber's screen test ( with Streep ) .
Why would I recommend the mostly lame, testosterone-heavy comedy Dodgeball? Well, Meet the Fockers aside, it's the best Ben Stiller movie ( out of seemingly 600 ) from last year. Also, I love the gay subtext that permeates the gym owned by the smarmy, but hunky character that Stiller plays and his fellow nipple ponies. An outtake of a scene on the DVD in which the 'Cardio Cowboy' ( obviously gay ) teaches a class while Stiller's character nods in approval makes this implicit.
For real man-on-man action—in mostly leather warrior drag—look no further than King Arthur, the gritty retelling of the Camelot legend. It stars current hot thing Clive Owen and his band of Road Warrior-type followers in mostly one battle scene after another. The film's toughest performance comes from Keira Knightly as Guinivere, who paints her face alá Mel Gibson in Braveheart and wields a bow and arrow better than any of the cinematic male Robin Hoods.
In the grand tradition of Sigourney Weaver in the Alien flicks, Geena Davis in The Long Kiss Goodnight, we can now add Milla Jovovich tag teamed with Sienna Guillory in Resident Evil: Apocalypse, the sci-fi/action/comic book movie that comes to DVD in a Special Edition that includes a whopping 20 deleted scenes, outtakes, and multi-part making of featurettes. Best is a short feature called 'Game Babes' that accurately points out the emergence of female action stars. Are you listening ladies?
Enough of the gay and lesbian subtext—let's get to the overt. Like the sweet, funny, culture clash pastiche of a lot of other gay relationship movies, Touch of Pink. The DVD skimps on the extras but offers Kyle Maclachlan as the ghost of Cary Grant and a lovely performance by Kristen Holden-Reid as the conservative Indian mother not ready to acknowledge a gay son—let alone his British lover. Set in Ireland, Goldfish Memory is a nice comedic La Ronde of a story that explores lesbian, straight and bi relationships between three characters. The DVD, from Wolfe Video, includes the terrific soundtrack—a marketing bonus that, as a soundtrack junkie, I wish other film companies would pick up on.
The DVD to AVOID is Anatomy of Hell. It's being marketed as a gay film but don't be fooled. This might be the most disgusting movie I've ever had the pleasure to toss into the garbage. The 'plot' features a woman who pays a gay man to watch her 'where she's unwatchable' for four nights. They talk and talk and talk, engage in unsexy, raunchy sex, and focus A LOT on menstrual blood. Mother make it stop!
Luckily, a nice assortment of cinema classics helped wash away the memory of that stinko. First, Warner Bros. has just released one of the greatest collaborations between a director and star—William Wyler's 1940 melodrama The Letter with Bette Davis' incredible performance as the sexually repressed and murderous Leslie Crosbie. The DVD has a recently discovered alternate last scene that is interesting but would have lessened Davis's overall impact and I'm glad it wasn't used. WB has also released one of Greer Garson's best, her pairing with Ronald Colman in 1942's Random Harvest, the gooey, overblown ( but watchable ) tear jerker that only MGM could have pulled off. Both DVDs include vintage Lux Radio Theatre radio presentations—nice bonuses.
Paramount has released an interesting assortment from their vaults in January. With the perfectly cast Shirley Booth, Shirley MacLaine, Paul Ford, Anthony Perkins, and Robert Morse in the leads, 1959's The Matchmaker, the 'straight' version of Hello Dolly! is in many ways more delightful than its musical descendant—though Streisand's singing and Irene Sharaff's lavish costumes are missed. Lavish costumes are also one of the highlights ( Edith Head's this time ) of the 1963 Paul Newman-Joanne Woodward comedy, A New Kind of Love, which also has nice, acidic support from Thelma Ritter. Finally, Laurence Olivier gives one of his most beautifully shaded, though often overlooked performances, in 1952's Carrie as the man who tumbles from success to the gutter over the unrequited love of a beautiful woman ( Jennifer Jones ) .
Meanwhile, Columbia has two movies from Charlize Theron out this month. The first is a two-disc Special Edition of her Oscar-winning performance as convicted serial killer Aileen Wuornos in Monster that takes you much deeper into the creation of this raw, emotional film than the previous release. The second is Theron's follow-up movie to that, Head in the Clouds, the old-fashioned World War II story of an ill-fated romance between party girl Theron, her doe-eyed poet turned solider lover ( hottie Stuart Townsend ) and rebellious Penelope Cruz. The addition of a lesbian divertisement between Cruz and Theron just adds to the eye candy, though the disc skimps on the extras.
If it's extras you're craving, look no further than Columbia's two-disc, Special Edition of the sci-fi thriller The Fifth Element. This 1997 French effort introduced Milla Jovovich to film audiences, paraded around Bruce Willis in an orange, cut-out muscle tee by Jean Paul Gaultier and dressed Chris Tucker as a cross between Prince and Michael Jackson. A delicious blend of action, sci-fi, eye-popping sets and costumes, it also has the prerequisite arch French humor and the DVD details all this beautifully. And for the first time, the entire uncut performance by the character of the intergalatic opera singer known as The Diva—which comes at the climax of the film—is here.
A sci-fi picture I missed last summer, Alien Vs. Predator, arrives on DVD this week. Once again low expectations on my part have paid off. Jimmy and I turned off the lights and watched the extended version ( it includes a short opening scene cut from the theatrical version ) and decided that it has just the right balance of dread, action, suspense, and violence. Add to that a minimum of gore, a fun leading performance by Sanaa Lathan ( easily stepping into Sigourney Weaver's panties ) , and male eye candy supplied by Italian mega star Raoul Bova, and you have a terrific 101 minutes of divertisement.
All those Jude Law films from last year are starting to roll out on DVD and one of the first is that movie-length promo for the green screen, Paramount's Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. Though it's basically an Indiana Jones rip off, it nicely captures the feeling of the old movie serials and not coincidentally, their sepia-toned look. The process is carefully explained in several interresting featurettes. Supporting sexy Law is spunky Gwynneth Paltrow and Angelina Jolie sporting an eye patch and a British accent.
Perhaps one of my favorite releases of the last month is the little known Patty Duke programmer, Billie. Made in 1965 at the height of her TV sitcom fame, the movie is chock full of gay and lesbian subtext. Duke, mostly dressed in blue short shorts and sporting a blonde pixie cut, plays a budding 15-year-old triathlete who outruns the boys like the wind. This slight, battle-of-the-sexes comedy with lots of fabulously dreadful musical numbers is a camp lover's delight. The cast includes a host of '60s TV stars—Jim Backus, Dick Sargent, Richard Deacon, and Billy DeWolfe ( many of them closeted at the time ) .
Chasnoff Film Screened by Marriage Group
Equal Marriage NOW! will celebrate the anniversary of San Francisco's Winter of Love with a special presentation on Saturday, Feb. 12, 4-6 p.m. at Gerber/Hart Library, 1127 W. Granville. There will be a screening of Academy Award-winning filmmaker Debra Chasnoff's documentary One Wedding and a Revolution, which chronicles San Francisco's first same-sex wedding between longtime lesbian activists Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon, who had been together for 51 years at that point and were founders of the pioneering lesbian-rights group, Daughters of Bilitis, in the early 1950s.
Following the screening, local couple Lee Neubecker and David Greer will speak about the experience of being one of nearly 4,000 same-sex couples married in San Francisco.
The event is free, call ( 773 ) 243-2576 or visit www.equalmarriage.now.org .