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LGBT

Rocketman (2019)

DIRECTOR: Dexter Fletcher

CAST: Taron Egerton, Richard Madden, Jamie Bell, Bryce Dallas Howard

REVIEW:

Is someone in Hollywood trying to build a ’70s rock star cinematic universe? Close on the heels of last year’s Oscar-winning (albeit somewhat overrated) Bohemian Rhapsody, now comes Rocketman, covering one of the few ’70s-’80s musical icons who rivaled or surpassed Freddie Mercury for over-the-top flamboyance: Elton John. Director Dexter Fletcher, who took over finishing up Bohemian Rhapsody in place of a fired Bryan Singer but gets full creative control here, takes a different approach, styling Rocketman as a musical fantasy rather than a strictly conventional biopic. And of course, like Bohemian Rhapsody, Rocketman will take some nostalgic fans of the featured artist down memory lane.

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Boy Erased (2018)

DIRECTOR: Joel Edgerton

CAST: Lucas Hedges, Nicole Kidman, Russell Crowe, Joel Edgerton

REVIEW:

Boy Erased, the second directorial feature of actor Joel Edgerton and based on the memoirs of Garrard Conley (with names changed to protect both the innocent and some not-so-innocent), is not a feel good viewing but a worthwhile and important one.  Conley’s memoirs, and now the film adaptation, shine a light on the long-running practice of so-called “conversion therapy”, a phrase which may not even be familiar to some viewers.  Performed most often on underage children, and roundly debunked by virtually every reputable psychiatrist as both ineffective and unethical and psychologically harmful, conversion therapy aims to “convert” an individual with homosexual or bisexual inclinations into a heterosexual.  To this end it uses a step-by-step program of indoctrination including techniques amounting to both psychological and physical abuse.  While increasingly a discredited practice and banned in a growing number of states, conversion therapy remains legal on the books in thirty-six states.  By telling one former patient’s story, Boy Erased offers both a frank condemnation of the insidious quackery of conversion therapy, and the dramatically compelling true story of one young man who emerged triumphant on the other side.

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The Danish Girl (2015)

danishDIRECTOR: Tom Hooper

CAST: Eddie Redmayne, Alicia Vikander, Matthias Schoenaerts, Amber Heard, Ben Whishaw, Sebastian Koch

REVIEW:

The Danish Girl arrives in theaters at a time when it’s virtually guaranteed to be rewarded with Academy Awards attention.  Transgender issues are prominent in the news, and it’s easy to be cynical about feeling there’s something a little opportunistic in the timing and subject matter of director Tom Hooper and star Eddie Redmayne clearly aiming for what would be each man’s second Oscar, but more visible representation for the transgendered community in high-profile Oscar contender motion pictures isn’t a bad thing.  Based on the same-named 2000 novel by David Ebershoff, itself a somewhat fictionalized account of the true story of transgender pioneer Einar Wegener/Lili Elbe, The Danish Girl, like Hooper’s Oscar-winning The King’s Speech, is a somber, stately, and sedate period film, and while its subdued tone sometimes mutes its emotional impact, it’s still a poignant and handsomely-filmed semi-biographical drama. Continue reading

The Imitation Game (2014)

DIRECTOR: Morten Tyldum

imitation gameCAST: Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightley, Matthew Goode, Rory Kinnear, Mark Strong, Charles Dance

REVIEW:

Does the name Alan Turing mean anything to you?  Chances are it doesn’t, despite him being credited with shortening WWII by as much as two years, saving an estimated 14 million lives, as well as giving birth to the prototype of the computer.  Director Morten Tyldum and screenwriter Graham Moore, working off Andrew Hodges’ Turing biography, is a belated attempt to bring some deserved recognition both to Alan Turing’s accomplishments and the disgrace of what eventually happened to one of the most unsung war heroes of WWII. Continue reading

Dallas Buyers Club (2013)

dallas-buyers-clubDIRECTOR: Jean-Marc Vallee

CAST: Matthew McConaughey, Jared Leto, Jennifer Garner

REVIEW:

Like 1993’s PhiladelphiaDallas Buyers Club centers on an individual’s experience in the AIDS crisis, but unlike Jonathan Demme’s earlier film, it tells a true story, that of Ron Woodroof, a homophobic heterosexual who was transformed by circumstances into a crusader for AIDS patients and the ringleader of a mostly gay Dallas-based group called The Dallas Buyers Club, using medications unapproved in the US and waging a years-long war with the FDA and extending his own life to another seven years, far beyond his initial prognosis of thirty days.  While Philadelphia‘s flaws were somewhat mitigated by its social courage in releasing at the height of the AIDS epidemic, Dallas Buyers Club might have the most value to viewers too young to remember the climate of the time period, with AIDS sufferers treated with fear and ignorance and effective medication hard to come by. Continue reading

J. Edgar (2011)

DIRECTOR: Clint Eastwood

CAST:

Leonardo DiCaprio, Armie Hammer, Judi Dench, Naomi Watts

REVIEW:

During his forty-eight-year reign as director of the FBI, John Edgar Hoover was regarded by many as the most powerful man in America.  Continue reading

Brokeback Mountain (2005)


DIRECTOR: 
Ang Lee

CAST: Heath Ledger, Jake Gyllenhaal, Michelle Williams, Anne Hathaway, Randy Quaid

REVIEW:

While the comparison might not occur to everyone, Brokeback Mountain (adapted from a 1997 short story of the same name by Annie Proulx, with the movie screenplay written by Diana Ossana and Larry McMurtry) is a spiritual cousin to such films as Witness, Bridges of Madison County, and The Remains of the Day.  All four films, while depicting characters living very different lives in different times and places, are at their core about the longing between two people who are unable or unwilling to bridge the gulf that separates them.  Obviously, the distinguishing factor setting Brokeback Mountain apart is that its forbidden love affair, unlike the above films, is between two men, and while the homosexual aspect will make some viewers uncomfortable, to pigeonhole it as a “gay cowboy movie”, as some have dismissively done, is a disservice and an oversimplification.  The complexity of the characters’ dynamics defy such easy labels. Continue reading

Alexander (2004)

 

DIRECTOR: Oliver Stone

CAST:

Colin Farrell, Angelina Jolie, Val Kilmer, Jared Leto, Rosario Dawson, Anthony Hopkins, Christopher Plummer, Jonathan Rhys-Meyers, John Kavanagh, Brian Blessed

REVIEW:

Best-known for controversial, politically-charged fare like Natural Born Killers, JFK, and Nixon, Oliver Stone’s latest venture, the epically-mounted but narratively disjointed historical drama Alexander, is more cinematically straightforward than his previous efforts but unfortunately lacks the focus and drive to maintain consistent interest throughout its three-hour running time. Continue reading

Priest (1995)

DIRECTOR: Antonia Bird

CAST:

Linus Roache, Tom Wilkinson, Robert Carlyle, Robert Pugh, Christine Tremarco, Lesley Sharp, Cathy Tyson

REVIEW:

It is a not uncommon experience for me to happen across some older independent film I had only fleetingly heard of or not heard of at all, that turns out to be underrated and worthy of more recognition than it received.  Priest is not a “great” movie, but it is an intelligent and thoughtful drama that provides some food for thought and a serious examination of themes involving homosexuality (and to a lesser extent sexuality in general), celibacy, incest, and religion, and how they relate to and conflict with each other. Continue reading

Philadelphia (1993)

DIRECTOR: Jonathan Demme

CAST:

Tom Hanks, Denzel Washington, Antonio Banderas, Jason Robards, Joanne Woodward, Mary Steenburgen, Bradley Whitford, Charles Napier, Daniel von Bargen

REVIEW:

AIDS (Auto Immune Deficiency Syndrome) emerged as a major crisis in the early 80s but was largely ignored into the beginning of the 90s in the United States even though the US had more cases than any other nation. Educational programs were well underway in Europe, but US politicians gave it low priority, and President Ronald Reagan did not mention it in a speech until 1987. By that time there were 51,000 cases in 113 countries. Reagan’s administration resisted congressional efforts and the crusading of Surgeon General C. Everett Koop to increase funds for AIDS research and prevention. To many Americans, AIDS was a ‘gay disease’ and was not considered a subject for polite conversation due to its (exaggerated) association with homosexuality. Media treatment focused on the relatively few heterosexuals who had contracted the disease through blood transfusions. This partially changed in 1985, when archetypal Hollywood leading man Rock Hudson announced that he was gay and dying of AIDS. Hudson died in October of that year, leaving $250,000 to an AIDS research foundation, and while the revelation that a popular celebrity was infected prompted more coverage of the shamefully ignored plight of thousands of infected homosexuals, many Americans continued to inaccurately view AIDS as a disease which only pertained to homosexuals, who were largely viewed with indifference or even considered to deserve it. Despite its status as the worst epidemic of modern times, it was the subject of extraordinary ignorance and fear, with infected individuals ostracized and even attacked by others who believed incorrectly that you could contract it through casual contact. The epidemic peaked in 1993, the same year of a second step forward in AIDS awareness, director Jonathan Demme’s (The Silence of the Lambs) flawed but courageous and socially important drama Philadelphia. Continue reading

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