Screen gems: Fall Arts films to see

  • by Brian Bromberger
  • Tuesday August 30, 2022
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Billy Eichner and Luke MacFarlane in 'Bros'
Billy Eichner and Luke MacFarlane in 'Bros'

At least judging by summer box office standards, people are returning back to theaters, especially for blockbusters involving sequels and superhero movies, the top grossing ones being "Top Gun: Maverick," "Jurassic World: Dominion," and "Dr. Strange in the Multiverse of Madness."

Less extravaganzas like "Downton Abbey: A New Era" did well, making $92 million worldwide ($44 million in the U.S.), having cost just $40 million to make, though expectations were higher. It did bring out 55 and older patrons in its opening weekend, the largest number since pre-pandemic, but that declined appreciably the second weekend when "Top Gun: Maverick" premiered.

What will happen when more serious fare appears this fall? Will audiences go to cineplexes or wait till these films appear on streaming platforms? The other major question: will streaming platforms artistically and financially dominate major releases over Hollywood studio movies like they did last year, when "CODA" became the first streaming distributed film (Apple +) to win the Best Picture Oscar. From this early perspective, the fall offerings look promising for the studios, including a handful for LGBTQ audiences.

Probably, the most anticipated LGBTQ movie of the fall is "Bros," billed as the first gay romantic comedy "about two men maybe, possibly, probably stumbling toward love," from a major studio (Universal) featuring an almost entirely LGBTQ principal cast (i.e. Luke MacFarlane, "Brothers & Sisters") with the exception of allies Kristin Chenoweth and Debra Messing. It was written by gay comic actor Billy Eichner ("Difficult People," "Impeachment: American Crime Story"), directed by Nicholas Stoller (the Neighbor films, "Forgetting Sarah Marshall"), and produced by Judd Apatow ("The 40-Year-Old-Virgin," "Knocked Up").

Its tag line says, "how hard it is to find another tolerable human being to get through life," and the poster proclaims "a boy meets bro love story," with two guys from the back touching each other's asses. The trailer suggests some patchy spots as it features laughs about in-fighting between gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transsexuals. But we will keep our fingers crossed anyway.

There is much riding on the film because 2019's "Rocketman," the biopic about Elton John, did poorly at the box office. Consequently "Bros" will mark the first major studio release to show gay male sex on screens in more than three years; in theaters, September 30.

There are high hopes for "My Policeman," an English romantic drama set in 1950's Brighton, with a gay policeman named Tom (Harry Styles) who marries Marion, a schoolteacher (Emma Corrin, Princess Diana in "The Crown"), while being in a relationship with Patrick, a museum curator (David Dawson). "The secret they share threatens to ruin them all," based on the Bethan Roberts novel. Linus Roache, Gina McKee, and gay actor Rupert Everett will play the characters forty years later.

Styles has already generated controversy in his Rolling Stone interview when he says, "It's not like 'This is a gay story about these guys being gay. It's about love and wasted time to me," the latter a safer theme for the singer, who continues to deny rumors he's gay and has also been accused of queer-baiting, appropriating queer symbols (i.e. rainbow flags) at his concerts without explicitly claiming to be queer. Regardless, the movie's already being talked up as an awards contender; in theaters, October 21, then streaming on Amazon Prime Video, November 4.

On September 10, The Italian Cultural Institute Cinema Italia San Francisco in collaboration with the Artistic Soul Association under the auspices of the Consul General of Italy in SF will present "Pasolini 100: Homage to Pier Paolo Pasolini" on the 100-year anniversary of his birth, with a full selection of his works at the Castro Theatre. Openly gay and an outspoken critic of capitalism and Europe's bourgeois establishment, Pasolini was a filmmaker, poet, novelist, journalist, and Marxist, questioning power structures and sexual taboos.

The day will start with a screening of the Abel Ferrara biopic "Pasolini," starring Willem Dafoe, about the director's mysterious final days before his murder, possible assassination in 1975. Four of Pasolini's films will be shown: "Mamma Rosa" with the incomparable Anna Magnani as a mother determined to rise above poverty; "Accattone," about a young loafer who fancies himself a pimp roaming the Roman slum of Pigneto.

In "Medea," opera singer Maria Callas in her only film, playa the woman scorned by her husband who murders her children in an adaptation of the Euripides' tragedy.

"Salo or the 120 days of Sodom," is perhaps the most notorious film ever made and inspired by Dante's "Divine Comedy," Pasolini's final movie transposed the Marquis de Sade's 18th-century treatise on torture to Mussolini's Italy circa 1944 where some wealthy upper classes have imprisoned young men and women in a palace to torment them for their pleasure, involving sexual sadism.

Berkeley Art Museum's Pacific Film Archive is also having a Pasolini retrospective honoring his centennial from October 22 through November 27, featuring some other films from his wide-ranging oeuvre: "The Gospel According to St. Matthew," which some critics rank as the greatest film on the life of Jesus ever made; "Teorama," starring Terrence Stamp, concerning an upper-class Milanese family visited by some kind of anthropomorphized divine force; then Pasolini's Trilogy of Life: "The Decameron," based on Boccaccio's 14th-century allegory; "Canterbury Tales," a take on Chaucer's medieval narrative poem; and "Arabian Nights," an adaptation of the ancient Arabic anthology, but no Scheherazade. All three films are light-hearted attacks on capitalism, corruption of the wealthy, and contemporary sexual mores with lots of nudity and slapstick humor.

"I Wanna Dance With Somebody" takes a look at the life and career of probably the greatest female R & B singer, Whitney Houston, focusing on her troublesome marriage to R & B singer Bobby Brown. Her drug addiction, which in 2012 eventually killed her in a bathtub, will also receive attention. However, there's no word on whether her lesbian relationship with best friend Robyn Crawford (verified by her and Brown in their respective memoirs) will be covered or how the pressures of hiding her sexuality may have contributed to her death. Anthony McCarten, who wrote the "Bohemian Rhapsody" script about gay rock icon Freddie Mercury of Queen, penned the screenplay here; in theaters December 21.

"Spoiler Alert: The Hero Dies" follows the final 11 months of photographer Kit Cowan's (Ben Aldridge, "Fleabag") life after his diagnosis of terminal cancer, through the eyes of his lover Michael Ausiello (Jim Parsons, "The Big Bang Theory"), based on his memoir. Sally Field will play Cowan's mother. The screenplay is by David Marshall Grant (who played the landmark gay character in TV's "thirtysomething") and Dan Savage (the sex columnist). Everyone mentioned here is gay (except Field), so could this film be the queer "Love Story"? - in theaters, December 2.

"The Inspection" tells the intense story of a young gay Black man, Ellis French (Jeremy Pope, "Ryan Murphy's Hollywood"), who, rejected by his mother, enlists in the Marines, doing whatever it takes to succeed, including surviving a near lethal hazing from his training instructor and fellow recruit. Pope identifies as sexually fluid, choosing not to label himself as bisexual; in theaters, November 18.

"Blonde" is a fictionalized biographical psychological drama on the life of actress Marilyn Monroe, based on the 2000 novel by Joyce Carol Oates and just in time for the 60th anniversary of her death. Cuban actress Ana de Armas will play Marilyn, though she has received some backlash because her ethnic background doesn't match Monroe's. Also, Armas retains her native Cuban accent.

"Blonde" has also garnered a NC-17 rating worrying some it will be sexually exploitative of Monroe. It's not a traditional biopic, feminist and non-linear in scope. Armas will have fierce competition in that Michelle Williams gave her stunning Oscar-nominated rendition of Monroe in 2011's "My Week with Marilyn," on the rocky 1957 filming of her movie "The Prince and the Showgirl" with Laurence Olivier; Netflix, September 28.

Read about more upcoming fall films in next week's issue.

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