Media Relations: media commentary and criticism

Tuesday, June 20, 2000

in the name of ....

In honor of Gay Pride Week/Month/Whatever the pre-defined period of time is, from June 18-30, Bravo is having their "Out of the Closet Festival". As part of that Festival, they're showing "Tales of the City" and "More Tales of the city" this week. Which is good. Except they cut that magnificent shot of Bill Campbell's rear end. Which probably means that they cut the shot of the dingus of whoever plays Michael in "More Tales". And it's such a nice dingus.... On the other hand, at least they let 'em kiss and have a nice romance. Sort of.

Can I just say that Bravo's whole "Out of the Closet" festival thing is driving me batty? It's not the shows (not all of them, anyway); it's the interstitial bits between. Don't get me wrong, I do love kd lang, and I'll be buying "Invincible Summer" tout de suite, but why on earth did they pick her as their host with the most for their "Out of the Closet" festival? ... wait, that came out wrong. It's not that I mind her being host, as such, it's that she's at EVERY commercial break with a pithy bon mot which gets repeated two or three or four of twenty times per hour. Surely there was another out gay person or two they could have tapped to do the odd promo? RuPaul? George Michael? Elton John? Martina? ANYONE?...

And "Fire Island: The Pines", their gay and lesbian docusoap [sic] is periodically quite detestable. On the good side, there are men in it--or more precisely ONE man--who aren't gymmed to a fare thee well (although it's not for lack of trying; it seems that taking protease inhibitors causes some people to develop a paunch) and some who are also not under 35 (the same person, actually). More of the lesbians are older than most of the men, in fact--what an odd time for the slightly-older lesbian to explode into visibility--and the living situation is somewhat different; I suspect it's somewhat a reflection of the striking difference in the earning power of men and women, and gay men and lesbians in particular.

On the other hand, most of the men in it ARE gymmed to a faretheewell and ARE under 30 and ARE in desperate need of a suntan. (Euphemistically well handled, don't you think?) There's quite a lot of nudity that gets edited out for the American version--it was originally broadcast on the BBC--but enough of it is left in to give the impression that the only thing on the minds of most of the men is unrestrained hedonism, to put it politely.

To some extent, the focus on the superficial, the sex is a limitation of the format--it's quite apparent with "The Real World" and "Road Rules" as well, and I wouldn't be surprised if it was a problem with "Survivor" and the forthcomimg "Big Brother"--but these people, especially the men, do come off as awfully superficial. Granting that it's the editing, the selection of people and scenes, whatever; there MUST be more to these people than we get to see. The superficial bits, weirdly enough, probably show people's personalities really sharply in some ways, but mostly they seem to reconfirm all people's prejudices about gay men, at least. (The lesbians, at least, seem to have more of a life, in part because some of them have children. Which pisses the hell out of some of the others. But you get a sense of the women working at relationships, at life in a way that is totally absent in what you see of most of the men.)

june 2000 gaygirlvid festival

In celebration of Pride month, I decided to create my own video festival, and, for a change of pace, decided to rent a couple of gay girl vids and a gay guy vid.

As for the gayguy vid ... Well .... the only thing that kept me with All the Rage at all was that the box said that it was supposed to be a parody of a certain type of gay lifestyle. So I waited for the parody.

And I waited ...

And I waited.

And then I wondered if there was something that I was just entirely missing. Because this was a film about thoroughly despicable, detestable stereotypical gays, and there was no parody in sight. Basically, Christopher (John-Michael Lander) is a thoroughly shallow, stereotypical sort of Guppie. He sleeps with anything that moves, and tracks it in his little black box; as he sleeps with one man, he throws out an old card and adds a new one to the list. His friend, Larry (Jay Corcoran), actually starts out as a nice guy (for about ten seconds) who is charmed at receiving roses from someone he slept with; he's quickly disabused of the notion that this could be a good thing. (Although one wonders how he managed to get above the age of 30 without forming his own opinions on such things.)

Eventually, through the machinations of his "friends", Christopher meets Stewart (David Vincent), a nice little ungymmed unstereotypical book editor. And they fall deeply in love. And you never EVER understand why; as superficial as Christopher has acted to that point, you'd expect him to reject Stewart out of hand. Instead, he actually tolerates a long, slow dating pattern, in which it takes quite some time before he and Stewart actually fall into bed.

At this point, the film archetype becomes clear: it's a "shallow guy falls in love, finds everything he wants, gets scared and blows it all up" type of film. So, in order to further this archetype, Christopher changes out of all proportion. He becomes quite loveydovey and cloying. Eventually, as required, he does something colossally stupid. It's been signalled since the beginning of the film; you know exactly what he'll do to ruin things, and it will be about as bad as possible.

Christopher doesn't handle rejection at all well.

To be quite honest, eventually it gets bad enough that the only way to watch the thing is on fast forward, stopping periodically to hear the clanking dialogue. The end of the film contains some truly unspeakable grand guignol over-the-top drama.

The only thing to say is, watch this one only if you're in the mood for sincere and intense self flagellation. But keep a nice comedy in reserve for after to wash the taste out of your mind.

A reasonable way to look at it is: if you liked "In the Company of Men" and "Your Friends and Neighbors", you'll probably like "All the Rage". It's the same general type of film, in which you get to follow the dislikeable characters around. And, to be sure, there's not precisely any attempt to make them likeable, but it makes for a hard film to watch.

On the other hand, Out of Season is a really, really lovely film and an unalloyed delight. One of the better romantic comedies I've seen this year.

Micki (Carol Monda) comes back to Cape May to care for her terminally ill Uncle Charlie (Dennis Fecteau). Interestingly, although it's made reasonably clear that he doesn't have AIDS, you're never certain what it is he does have. In any event, when she first comes to town, Micki is all attitude. And, to be sure, it never quite leaves her. And then, almost immediately, she meets Shelly (Nancy Daly), manager of Zoe's Restaurant--Shelly just liked the name "Zoe"--and her cook Roberta (Joy Kelly) and you know what will happen.

To be sure, this film moves at its own quite deliberate pace; for some, this may be quite a problem, and it could move a bit faster without harming anything (although not a lot; forcing the fast moving urban Micki to adjust to small-town Cape May is part of the point). commensurate with the pace, the relationship is very slow building; if you're looking for a film where they get to the relationship, get to the sex right off the bat, look somewhere else.

The first part, where the relationships betwen the various characters are established, is really remarkably funny; remarkable because it's not trying to be a gag-a-minute film. There aren't any jokes to be found. The humor arises from the characters and situations and isn't at all forced.

Technically, "Out of Season" is pretty good. The cinematography and scenery are, to be sure, periodically stunning. Sections of it look as though it were composed with Norman Rockwell illustrations at hand. And, for the most part, the director, either through necessity or desire, eschews a soundtrack; it's a rather refreshing silence, most of the time. The screenplay does, unfortunately, need a bit of help now and again--Uncle Charlie, for example, varies between underwritten, overwitten and absent, and Roberta is periodically entirely too wise--but not often, and generally not badly.

Eventually, of course, characters get together. (In fact, the lovemaking scene is somewhat the most annoying scene. Is The Great Musical Love Scene really necessary? Are we still in the 70s?) Then there's a crisis--because, in every romantic comedy, there's a crisis. The end of the film--the very very end of the film--is mildly surprising, but that's about the the only surprise in the film. If you want to see something unexpected, "Out of Season" is probably not the film for you. On the other hand, if you want an enjoyable romantic comedy, mostly well written, well acted and reasonably interesting, give "Out of Season" a shot. It's a perfect movie for a summer date night.

Posted by iain at 10:28 PM in category