Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 3 / 18 January 2018

Land of Milk & honeys


10 fall films of uncommon queer interest

Sean Penn (center) and Diego Luna (center right) star as gay-rights icon Harvey Milk and his lover Jack Lira in director Gus Van Sant's Milk. Photo: Phil Bray, courtesy Focus Features
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Milk Directed by Gus Van Sant, this homegrown Greek tragedy -- the City Hall assassinations of Supervisor Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscone -- is fueled by Lance Black's passionate, meticulously researched screenplay. For decades, the desire to create a fictional template for the slain gay politician's achingly brief career has tempted, absorbed and ultimately frustrated an array of talents, from Oliver Stone to Milk biographer Randy Shilts, to Van Sant himself. To Black, the core of the problem was to find the emotional heartbeat of the story, the elusive but vital role Milk has played in the imaginations of queer kids looking for a father figure. The film opens this fall.

Milk kicks off with two hippies: a scraggily bearded Wall Street dropout, Milk (Sean Penn), getting it on with #1 boyfriend Scott Smith (James Franco). The couple's camera shop becomes a neighborhood hangout, attracting a bevy of ambitious young men: Cleve Jones (Emile Hirsch), Jack Lira (Diego Luna) and Dick Pabich (Joseph Cross).

The drama heats up as Milk's crusade to put an openly gay person in a position of power at City Hall clashes with the barely concealed resentments of straight-identified residents who find their tribune in a mercurial ex-cop, Dan White (Josh Brolin).

Trying to keep the drama to a mall-friendly two-hour running time has reportedly led to some scene cuts, while sexual moments have been added in the first-act honeymoon between Franco and Penn. With its high-octane talent and politically charged story, Milk promises to be one of the fall season's Oscar front-runners. (Wide release begins Nov. 28.)

Another Gay Sequel: Gays Gone Wild Todd Stephens' follow-up to his unapologetic horny-boys laugh-riot from 2006 hardly skips a beat, despite the loss of three original cast members. Stephens concocted Another Gay Movie to exorcise his pique for the critical and box office dismissal of his dream project, Gypsy 83, a wistful, funny road trip to a Stevie Nicks impersonator bash. Making no concessions to good taste and mining virtually every clichˇ about sex-crazed gay boys, AGM was a rude, lewd and defiantly incorrect erotic send-up of a slightly surreal vision of American suburbia, nestled somewhere between a retro-modern Brady Bunch and the melancholy reality of Stephens' Sandusky, Ohio hometown. Another Gay Sequel moves this American Satyricon to Fort Lauderdale and an attitude-queen battle of the bands, as our heroes compete to see who can get the most butt action, while fending off the bad mojo of the notorious gay frat-boys gang, the evil "Jaspers."

A frisky ensemble -- Jonah Blechman, Aaron Michael Davies, Scott Thompson and RuPaul -- combine for an utterly shameless, guilty-pleasure stupid gay movie that's at least 90% as good fun as the original. (Sept. 5)

Save Me Chad Allen stars as a drug-addicted gay man who finds true love in a most inconvenient place, as a resident of a Christian fundamentalist halfway house whose proprietors take especially seriously their motto: to love the sinner but vanquish the sin.

Allen, the former TV child star (St. Elsewhere ) who has been showcased recently in here!TV's Donald Strachey gay private-eye series, is realizing an ambition to produce higher-quality queer-themed films for theatrical release. Allen, who played a straight-identified evangelist in a drama drawn from life, End of the Spear, has long argued for common ground between out gay people and non-bigoted Christians. (Oct. 10)

Breakfast with Scot This very Canadian fairy tale (Frameline's closing-night film) pits two reluctant and "straight-acting" gay dads against an 11-year-old flaming queer boy in a story that is both a hip homage to and subversive spoof of Canada's great game, hockey. Produced with the unpreceden

Scene from Another Gay Sequel: Gays Gone Wild . Photo: Christopher Stephens
ted cooperation of the venerable Toronto Maple Leafs NHL franchise, Breakfast with Scot kicks off with a goofy surreal take on hockey violence, as we see one of our heroes, Eric (Thomas Cavanagh of TV's Ed and Scrubs) in his glory days as a high-sticking, gore-minded player. Flash-forward a few years, and Eric is comfortably situated as a sportscaster, living just off Toronto's Queen Street with a handsome lawyer lover (Ben Shenkman). The guys' empty nest is up-ended when they take in the son of a long-ago friend who dies of a drug overdose. Fearing they'll get custody of a hormone-fueled, girl-magnet monster, the men are taken aback when their sissified orphan, Scot (the scene-stealing, gap-toothed Noah Bernett), starts to shame them.

Lampooning both homo and hetero assumptions about child-raising and role models, Breakfast carries its wacky premise, turning a flamboyant wuss into a hockey-playing "real boy," to its logical extremes, in the process coaxing one uptight gay guy to get a little pride. It's a heartfelt comedy for the sports fan and the sportsphobic. (Oct. 10)

Revolutionary Road If Titanic was a huge guilty pleasure for you, then you'll await with pleasure the screen reunion of Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet in the much-anticipated adaptation of Richard Yates' seminal 1961 novel about a couple whose marital discord escalates after an ill-conceived move to Paris. Directed by Winslet's real-life hubby Sam Mendes (American Beauty ), the film calls for Leo to make the leap to adult screen-lover status. The buzz is that Leo and Kate don't disappoint in a story that takes a decidedly bleak look at the plausibility of the American dream.

The Road Another harrowing read from Cormac McCarthy (No Country for Old Men) bids to be a post-apocalyptic screen classic under the direction of John Hillcoat, whose grim, lyrical look at the Australian Western myth, The Proposition, thrilled many sophisticated action fans a few years back. Starring Viggo Mortensen, Charlize Theron and newcomer Kodi Smit-McPhee.

W Josh Brolin gives us a double dip of political madness this season. In this Oliver Stone-helmed drama, Brolin is the young George W. Bush, going through the wilderness of drunken excess before seeing the light.

A Thousand Years of Good Prayers Wayne Wang cradles the inauspicious reunion between a Beijing-native father and his recently divorced, estranged daughter in the banal comings and goings at the daughter's antiseptic suburban townhouse complex. As the daughter grows increasingly furious at her father's meddling, the old man is adrift in a daytime world where the complex is as barren of life as the lunar surface. A marvelously comic interlude finds dad hosting a couple of blonde-haired Mormon missionary kids whose "good news" passes right by a senior citizen who has all he can do to master the Spokane bus schedule.

The Princess of Nebraska Wayne Wang co-directs with Richard Wong as a female college student, Sasha (Ling Li), seeks an abortion through the not-so-helpful offices of her missing boyfriend's male lover.

Patti Smith: Dream of Life Following the success of last year's Black White + Gray (on Robert Mapplethorpe's artistic origins), now comes the story of the photographer's one-time roommate and close friend, whose pioneering musical pilgrimage is captured in this full-length portrait from Steven Sebring.


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