Hollywood 1995: Movies for Gay and Straight Audiences

The summer season is Hollywood’s Big Time, known mostly for its innocuous, mindless fare–Popcorn DeLuxe movies.  But it’s an important season, expected to generate enough big bucks to pay for the studio’s more serious and daring films, released during the “prestigious” fall and winter seasons. 

 

As usual, this summer there will be large-scale action flicks, epic costume dramas, romantic comedies, pictures with strong special effects, and sequels.  Summer is also a time when Hollywood’s biggest stars, the few who can “open” a movie, test their egos–and mega salaries.  Kevin Costner, Harrison Ford, Bruce Willis, Jim Carey, Keanu Reeves, Richard Gere, and Julia Roberts all have new movies.

 

Most people think of summer movies as immediately forgettable, easily disposable.  Yet, a closer look shows that this summer’s fare is more diverse, offering a large number of small, independent movies and, surprisingly, more than a few gay-themed films. 

 

Heading the list are movies that should appeal to savvy gay audiences looking for something “different.”  Few of these will be on Variety’s Top Grossing chart; some will only be seen by select viewers. But with at least a dozen pictures, you’ll find yourself thinking about them when the lights go up–and beyond. They will provoke and enlighten you with fresh ideas, powerful images.

Gay-Themed Movies

 

Angus (New Line)

Produced by Dawn Steel, Angus is a funny, heartwarming film about a youngster trying his best to make sense of his angst-ridden life.  A dreamer and football player, Angus Bethune has an unconventional family life: His father (George C. Scott) is gay, his mother (Kathy Bates) a lesbian.  Angus, played by newcomer Charles M. Talbott, has a quirky but loyal best friend, and a hopeless crush on the prettiest girl in school.  A stellar cast, headed by two Oscar-winners, should make this unusual movie quite visible.

 

 

The Incredibly True Adventure of Two Girls in Love               

Fine Line (June 16)

 

Is there anything sweeter than recalling one’s first kiss Maria Maggenti’s Incredibly True Adventure is a naive but poignantly touching lesbian romantic fable that celebrates first love.  The narrative, detailing the romance of two highschool seniors of different racial and class backgrounds, is conventional. But the overtly lesbian milieu is new, as is the girls’ age, setting the film apart from traditional youth comedies and lesbian comedies like Go Fish.  A personal film that will evoke nostalgic memories of your own pangs of the heart.                                                                              

 

Postcards from America (Strand (May 26)

 

Inspired by the writings of the late artist David Wojnarowicz, Postcards from America is a complex, elusive meditation on a gay outsider at different stages of his life. Interweaving three stories, first-time director Steve McLean, moves from the personal to the social and political. The film begins in New Jersey with the character as a victim of an abusive father.  It then jumps to his hustling days on the streets of N.Y., and culminates in the Southwest, as he’s fascinated with the open road and anonymous sex.

 

Stylishly distant, the fractured narrative is impressively photographed by Ellen Kuras (Swoon). Audacious, if not totally satisfying, it captures the contradictory values of the American Dream: freedom and repression, family nurturing and oppression.

 

 

Roy Cohn/Jack Smith (Strand, July 14)

 

A Jonathan Demme presentation, directed by Jill Godmilow (Waiting for the Moon).  Ron Vawter, an icon of the N.Y. theater who died of AIDS in 1994, delivers a tour-de-force performance in a theatrical piece that examines the lives of two infamous homosexuals.  Roy Cohn, the homophobic right-wing lawyer and sleazy politico, and Jack Smith, the notorious underground filmmaker, had nothing in common except for being white homosexuals living in an oppressive society.  Yet the fact that both died of AIDS lends an ironic and tragic note to their opposing lifestyles.         

 

Unzipped (Miramax, summer)

 

Douglas Keeve’s documentary is everything that Altman’s Ready to Wear should have been: An insider’s view of the fashion world that is hip, light, authentic, and amusing.  Unzipped offers a fascinating portrait of famed designer Isaac Mizrahi as he goes about the long, exciting yet tedious, process of creating a new line and orchestrating its exhibition.  Mizrahi’s eccentric personality is revealed through his amusing narration, which frames the film and gives it unique texture.  Much of Mizrahi’s inspiration comes from pop culture, specifically Hollywood and its glamorous stars.  In a wonderful moment, he relates his obsession with silent film Nanook of the North, which stimulated a line of Eskimo look.

 

 

To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar

            Universal (May 5)

The American response to Priscilla. Three stars of N.Y.’s drag-queen beauty pageant circuit hit the road in a l967 Cadillac Convertible.  Their destination: Hollywood.  Noxema (Wesley Snipes), Vida (Patrick Swayze) and Chi Chi (John Leguizamo) are determined to teach America something about being fabulous.  But their car breaks down in tiny Snydersville, Nebraska. Ready or not, the town receives an infusion of flash, trash and glamour, the likes of which it’s never seen.  During one incredible weekend, eyes are opened, broken hearts healed and hair teased within an inch of its life. Wouldn’t it be fun to see the auditions of William Baldwin, John Cusack, James Spader, Matt Dillon, Robert Sean Leonard, and Stephen Dorff                         

 

Wigstock: The Movie (Goldwyn, June)

 

 

Advertised as “Woodstock without the bad wigs,” Wigstock is a  big colorful extravaganza celebrating the annual drag festival. The art–and politics–of drag are no longer an underground phenomenon. Wigstock, which burst onto the scene 10 years ago, now boasts a record-breaking attendance of 20,000 people.  Using footage from the festival’s two latest editions, the cameras go behind-the scenes to reveal the studious preparation and rehearsal, culminating in a variety that showcases dazzling costumes and hilarious acts of uniquely talented performers.  With such pop culture icons as Alexis Arquette, Jackie Beat, RuPaul, and Lypsinka. 

 

World and Time Enough (Strand, June 23)

 

Eric Mueller’s clever, bittersweet romantic comedy tracks the deceptively modest aspirations of a twentysomething couple as they grapple with love and morality.  Mark’s a radical artist-activist, Joey’s a garbage collector–together that sift through the detritus of family obligations, HIV status, temp jobs, and the unavoidable fact that, in spite of everything, they’re a happy couple. Heartfelt and lively, the film offers a witty glimpse into a side of gay life rarely seen–young, MidWestern, and more grunge than chic.

 

                                                  Summer Blockbusters

 

                                    Apollo 13 (Universal, June 30)

            He put on pounds to play an over-the-hill coach in A League of Their Own, then shed them for the AIDS drama Philadelphia, which earned him an Oscar.  Now Tom Hanks is practically weightless, as astronaut Jim Lovell, in Apollo 13, about the ill-fated NASA moon mission threatened by an explosion in the command module. For 3 days, the world watched in rapt silence–not knowing until the last moment whether Apollo 13 would come home alive. Director Ron Howard (The Paper) fashions perfect summer fare, based on Jim Lovell and Jeffrey Kluger’s book, which captured an exciting moment in modern history. 

                                    Batman Forever (Warners, June 16)

            Joel Schumacher (The Client) takes over the reins from Tim Burton, who now merely produces, in Batman‘s third outing, which promises to be a big media event.  Dressed up with a new cast, headed by Val Kilmer as the Caped Crusader, Batman Forever finally introduces sidekick Robbin, played by handsome Chris O’Donnell. The dynamic duo battles Tommy Lee Jones as Harvey Two-Face, the ultimate split personality, and box-office goldmine Jim Carey as the Riddler.  Warner must be elated that Robin Williams turned down the role in light of Carey’s huge successes.  With such stellar cast who can resist

                                        Congo (Paramount, June)

            Paramount is positioning Congo, a kind of King Kong for the l990s, as this summer’s monster movie.  The posters note that Congo comes from the best-selling author of Jurassic Park.  The story follows an expedition into the remote African jungle in search of the legendary lost city of Zinj and its fabled diamonds.  The film has no stars, but Paramount is banking on Amy, a creature whose facial expressions are electronically manipulated, to become a true star; the teaser poster doesn’t even mention the human actors (Dylan Walsh, Laura Linney).  Amy promises to be more sophisticated than E.T.‘s character–no doubt, she will be getting the closeups!

 

               Die Hard with a Vengeance (Fox, May 19)

            After a year of impressive supporting roles (Nobody’s Fool, Pulp Fiction), Bruce Willis returns to the action series that has made him a star.  Detective John McClane feels safe at home in N.Y., the last place he expects to find his most unusual foe yet. But a diabolical genius named Simon (Jeremy Irons) is about to engage McClane in a deadly game.  McClane has seen his share of bad days, but Simon says he’s about to have a really bad day. 

                                    Johnny Mnemonic (Tristar)

            Speed catapulted heartthrob Keanu Reeves onto Hollywood’s

A-list of action stars. In the futuristic Johnny Mnemonic, Reeves takes us on a wild ride down the dark side of the information super-highway.  He plays a high-tech courier on the run, with stolen data on a computer chip implanted in his brain.  Things take a lethal turn, when a global crime syndicate stops at nothing to recover the info.  Acclaimed “cyberpunk” author William Gibson brings one of his best-known stories to the screen.

                                                Waterworld (Universal)

            You can’t afford to miss the most scandalous movie of the summer–and most expensive film ever made!  With a budget rumored at $160 million, the film is akin to Cleopatra and Heaven’s Gate, two landmark movies that shut down Fox and UA, respectively.  Imagine the future without dry land. Centuries of global warming have caused the polar ice caps to melt, flooding the earth. The inhabitants cling to life on incredible floating cities, constantly threatened by bands of marauding pirates.  For the survivors, only one chance remains: Kevin Costner, a mythical hero extraordinaire.

             Volumes have been written about Waterworld–how the career of Costner, whose last films were flops, is riding in the balance, how his wife is suing for divorce. The production in Hawaii has been hit with one misfortune after another-divers got the bends, the cast fled a tidal wave, the “slave colony” set sank. Disaster didn’t sink Apocalypse Now, but will Waterworld be as brilliant as Coppola’s l979 epic   

                                                 Macho Men in Skirts

                                    Braveheart (Paramount, May 24)

            Megastar Mel Gibson is back behind the cameras in the first of a series of costume actioners. His directorial debut, the youth drama The Man Without a Face, wasn’t memorable, but Paramount has entrusted him with a big budget and huge cast. Plenty of action and romance is promised in this thirteenth century tale of a Scottish hero who returns to his homeland after England’s cruel king assumes power. Trading his gun for a saber, and his jeans for a kilt, Gibson is back, giving audiences what they want…this time with a little thigh.

                                    First Knight (Columbia, July)

            After a long hiatus, Jerry Zucker follows up his l990 hit Ghost with a retelling of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. Writer William Nicholson imbues this old chestnut with a fresh twist–it’s told from the perspective of the rogue knight, Lancelot (Richard Gere), whose love for the beautiful Lady Guinevere (Julia Ormond) clouds his judgment and seals his fate.  Sean Connery stars as King Arthur in this romantic fantasy-adventure.

                                                Rob Roy (UA)

            You’ve seen Liam Neeson as a Polish industrialist in Schindler’s List and near-naked as a psychologist in Nell. But how does this hunk look in a kilt In the new epic-adventure, Neeson plays eighteenth century legendary Scottish Highlander Robert Roy MacGregor, a Robin Hood type of a hero. Michael Caton-Jones is at the helm and always sexy Jessica Lange is his wife.  Strong ensemble (John Hurt, Tim Roth), helps a production which withstood Scotland’s tricky weather and difficult mountainous terrain.

 

                                                            Romances

                        The Bridges of Madison County (Warner, June 23)

            Prestige is written in big letters on this romantic epic, based on Robert James Waller’s novel which topped best-seller lists. The project was coveted by everyone on Hollywood’s A-list, but grand dame Meryl Streep landed the lead, bringing her customary stature and class.  Oscar-winner Clint Eastwood directs and stars as a photojournalist on assignment in rural Iowa, falling for a frustrated farmer’s wife.  This chance encounter forever changes their lives, even though they never meet again. If the steamy sex isn’t your forte, Streep drives a mean John Deere. 

                                    Fair Game (Warner, August)

            World-famous model and MTV host Cindy Crawford makes her debut in Fair Game, as a hard-working attorney stalked by an unknown assailant.  William Baldwin plays a police detective, who against strict orders from superiors, protects her–but not before overcoming her tough exterior and lack of regard for his job. The film boasts sophisticated computer technology and hot sex–something for everyone.  Handsome Baldwin, who specializes in playing studs, reportedly caused marital problems with Crawford’s hubby, Richard Gere, who was off filming First Knight.

                                       Faithful (Savoy June 2)

            Oscar angst, lack of good roles, or sheer laziness In the 7 years since winning an Oscar for Moonstruck, actress/entrepreneur Cher has made only one film, Mermaids.  Her new movie is yet another comeback in the celeb’s erratic career.  In this comedy-thriller, Cher plays a woman surprised to discover that her philandering hubby (Ryan O’Neal) may have hired a hit man (Chazz Palminteri) to kill her.  A wryly suspenseful cat-and-mouse-game ensues as she turns the tables on the unsuspecting man, who finds himself deceived and seduced by her.  Directed by Paul Mazursky, who desperately needs a success after The Pickle.

                                    Forget Paris (Columbia May)

            Let’s hope Billy Crystal’s second directorial effort is better than his first (Mr. Saturday Night).  Crystal and Debra Winger co-star in this touching, insightful look at what happens when the honeymoon ends and the marriage begins.  Crystal plays a gutsy, quick-witted professional basketball referee whose structured single life is shattered when he meets his match (Winger), a captivating American living in Paris. 

                                                Nine Months (Fox July)

            After the sleeper Four Wedding and a Funeral, which made him an international star, Hugh Grant turned down Michael Crichton’s Congo to do Nine Months, Chris Columbus’ remake of the French film. The British heartthrob plays a young man who faces that eternal nagging question of commitment when his girlfriend gets pregnant. A look at two couples and their long comic paths to maternity, the film matches Julianne Moore with Grant and Tom Arnold with Joan Cusack.

                                                Sabrina (Paramount)

            It’s hard to imagine any actress embodying Audrey Hepburn’s immortal role in Billy Wilder’s classic romantic comedy, starring Bogey and William Holden as wealthy brothers wooing their chauffeur’s daughter.  But give it a try for the sake of film history.  In Sydney Pollack’s remake, British star Julia Ormond (Legends of the Fall) plays the romantic lead won over by Harrison Ford, who needed a break from Tom Clancy (Clear and Present Danger).  

                        Alternative Summer Fare: Eccentric Women

                           Belle De Jour (Miramax, June 30)

            A film of spectacular beauty, Belle de Jour is a l967 masterwork of the surrealist cinema by Spaniard Luis Bunuel. Catherine Deneuve, in one of her finest performances, plays

a beautiful woman who, fearing she is frigid with her husband, ends up working in the afternoons in a small, clandestine brothel, catering to wealthy patrons with specialized sexual tastes.  The line between reality and her imaginary fantasies and morbid impulses is never clear–which is only part of the fun. 

                           Cutthroat Island (MGM late summer)

            Combining high adventure and romance, the highly publicized Cutthroat Island is the first pirate film to feature a feisty heroine, played by Geena Davis. The dashing gambler in this swashbuckling tale is played by Matthew Modine, who replaced Michael Douglas. Davis’ real romantic interest is hubby/director Renny Harlin, who blew hot kisses from behind the cameras.

                                    Getting Away With Murder

            The great Lili Tomlin returns to the screen in this eccentric, quirky comedy, written and directed by Harvey Miller (Private Benjamin).  Dan Aykroyd plays a professor who suspects his kindly neighbor (Jack Lemmon) is a war criminal.  Prepping for a role, as the neighbor’s daughter who marries the professor, Tomlin took ballroom-dancing lessons at Arthur Murray’s.

                                    Mary Reilly (Tristar June)

            Acclaimed director Stephen Frears (My Beautiful Launderette) and writer Christopher Hampton, who collaborated on Dangerous Liaisons, bring their joint creative vision to a new take on the classic Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, a gripping drama of good and evil, love and passion.  Julia Roberts stars as Mary Reilly, an innocent maid who idolizes her employer-benefactor, Dr. Jekyll (John Malkovich). Slowly however, she realizes he’s a desperate man hiding a horrifying secret that involves his assistant, Mr. Hyde. Yes, the story has been done to death, but by looking at it from the maid’s point of view, Frears’ version should be intriguingly different.

                          My Posse Don’t Do Homework (Hollywood)

            Fresh from Jack Nicholson’s jaws in Wolf, beautiful Michele Pfeiffer stars as an ex-Marine who leaves behind ten years of service to become an inner-city school teacher.  Challenging to her colleagues, inspiring to her students, she wages a compassionate fight to change a complacent system that has given up on teaching students how to think.  Oscar-winner Ron Bass (Rain Man) wrote this heartwarming, socially conscious film, based on a true story.                           

                                      Safe (Sony Classic, June 23)

            Todd Haynes’ follow-up to his controversial Poison, divided audiences at the Sundance Film Festival. Less audacious, but no less original, it presents a stylistically precise meditation on the ominous condition of “environmental illness.”  Julianne Moore plays a beautiful upper-middle class homemaker, whose clean and proper existence is suddenly interrupted by periodic attacks of coughing, which escalate into seizures. A detailed profile of a suburban wife’s physical and psychological malaise, Safe is a quiet, mysterious film with an ambiguous ending.  But it forces you to think about the numerous diseases the medical profession knows nothing about, including AIDS.

                                                To Die For (Columbia)

            After his disappointing adaptation of Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, Gus Van Sant, who made some of the most interesting gay-themed movies (Mala Noche, My Own Private Idaho) ventures into the mainstream with his new studio picture.  To Die For paints a hip portrait of America, as seen through the eyes of Suzanne Stone (Nicole Kidman), whose warped view of reality and naive ambition to become a TV celebrity land her in very cold water.  Cast includes Matt Dillon, star of Van Sant’s award-winning Drugstore Cowboy.

 

                                    Summer’s Most Controversial Movie

                                                Kids (Miramax, July)

            Miramax slipped this film into Sundance at a midnight screening, and it immediately became the talk of the festival. In its bold approach, Kids dwarfs all of Hollywood’s youth movies. Photographer-director Larry Clark crosses new boundaries in his candid portrayal of sex and drugs among teenagers, hanging out on the streets, relentlessly pursuing kicks.  Meant as a cautionary tale (AIDS is a constant threat), Kids may become the most controversial film of the year.  It remains to be seen, however, what kind of rating Miramax, which ironically is owned by the family-oriented Disney, will get without sacrificing the film’s integrity.