Two short gay films: Nessun Dorma and Ageless

I was scrolling through Yahoo News! Singapore, and came across a link to a short gay film called Nessun Dorma (2012). It’s Filipino and in Tagalog, with English subtitles. I loved it. It’s so well done. For a three-minute show, you get a well-encapsulated story of heartbreak, intimate and raw but not painfully over-dramatic, and two actors who are not only hot but talented, carrying the story convincingly. I was very entertained by this short story by writer Ronald Genato and director Jedd Rommel. And did I mention it was all of three minutes?! Stunning.

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Nessun Dorma put me in the mood for more so I moved on to YouTube to check out some other short gay films there. Some good, some not so. One I really like is Ageless (2013), written and directed by Heath Daniels.

It’s a sweet, funny story that had me smiling throughout. I was also going “damn, those two gentlemen look good” at the older couple of Charles and Howard. I mean they’re in such great shape. How old are they supposed to depict? 50s, 60s? I hope I’ll look good like that if I get to that age.

At the end of the credits, it flashed ‘Shot entirely on the iPhone 5‘ which of course was amazing to me. I hardly ever use my phone to take basic photographs, let alone with those fancy filters you see online. In fact I hardly ever use my phone for anything other than phonecalls. I don’t even like to text. So this Daniel Heath shooting an entire short film on a phone… I find that impressive.

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Related:

  • Vimeo.com – Other works by Jedd Rommel available for viewing
  • Youtube.com – Heath Daniels’ channel

Down With Love (2003)

This post is part of ‘The Essential 60s Blogathon‘ hosted by Nuwan of the blog I follow No Nonsense with Nuwan Sen, which I’m delighted to take part in. I love both movies in general and those set in that decade. The music too. Fashion, art, interior decor. Fascinating stuff.

First I had to decide on the movie, and I wasn’t sure which I had seen that qualified. I looked through several Wiki pages related to films set in the 60s. I spotted Little Shop of Horrors (1986) in one list. That’s one of my favourite musical films, which I had actually already written about a bit here. I finally decided on the romantic comedy Down With Love. Seeing the title put a smile on my face as I remembered how much fun it was.

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A fun, fluffy chick flick that had me tittering merrily because it’s such entertaining silly fun. Set in New York City in 1962, and starring Renée Zellweger as writer Barbara Novak and Ewan McGregor as journalist Catcher Block, this movie pays homage to Hollywood romantic comedies of the early 1960s, like the movies of Rock Hudson and Doris Day such as the much-loved Pillow Talk.

Barbara Novak arrives in New York City to promote her book ‘Down With Love’ at a publishing house, a self-help that persuades women that they don’t need men and that they should be as free as men are to enjoy sex without commitments. The male executives at the publishing house refuse to publish her work. Barbara’s editor Vicki Hiller (played by Sarah Paulson, more recently seen in the TV series American Horror Story) decides Barbara could ask Catcher Block, a journalist and notorious playboy, to help her promote the book. Catcher, however, is too busy with his conquests and keeps postponing their meeting, infuriating Barbara.

Barbara and Vicki manage to get the book published without his help (but with Judy Garland‘s! More on that later.), and it becomes a worldwide bestseller. Catcher is now intrigued by Barbara and wants to meet her, but now it is she who blows him off. When Barbara proceeds to embarrass him on television by naming him as an example of ‘the worst kind of man‘ while discussing a chapter from her book, Catcher vows revenge. He intends to prove that Barbara doesn’t really believe what she preaches in her book, by making her fall for him. Taking advantage of the fact that they have not met and she does not know what he looks like, Catcher poses as a simple and sweet gentleman to woo her.

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(Note on video above: for this post I cut it down to the 7:06 mark as the rest contain *spoilers* to the movie)

I absolutely love the 60s aesthetics, especially the interior design but also the entire look and feel of the style. The production sets of the apartments and offices are delightful, especially the nifty James Bond-esque elements of Catcher Block’s apartment so suited to his playboy character. The magnificent visual spectacle is one of the aspects of this movie that entertain me most.

Another main draw is the performances by all four actors; the two leads and two main supporting actors, the abovementioned Sarah Paulson as well as David Hyde Pierce, whose best-known work I think is as Dr. Niles Crane from the TV series Frasier which I really enjoyed. Here he plays a similar executive-type role, as Catcher Block’s boss and best friend Peter McMannus. It was fun watching these actors take on the script and comic acting style of romantic comedies from the 60s, in keeping with the spirit of the genre from the era.

Ewan McGregor is an absolute joy to watch here, as he usually is in any movie. An incredibly talented actor who has taken on so many varied roles, his Catcher Block is all cheeky smiles and charmingly wicked. It’s a more boyish portrayal of a ladies-man compared to the more manly quality of Rock Hudson’s roles, and a charismatic performance I enjoyed very much. He has great chemistry with Renée Zellweger too. At the end of this entertaining battle of the sexes, there is an unexpected twist, delivered in an impressively long speech in one take, in a sweetly ditzy way that I can’t imagine any actress other than Renée pulling off, all breathless and squinty eyes and all. Her adorable performance here is really under-rated.

As is the whole movie. Down With Love is not very well-known, I believe, and it did not perform very well at the box office when it was released in 2003, which to me is a great shame. It was something ‘new’ and interesting; an unconventional, smart and stylish offering in the romantic comedy genre. It still is.

Below is a video of Judy Garland singing a song called ‘Down With Love’ in 1964 for an episode of her The Judy Garland Show. A captivating performance that was cleverly scripted into the 2003 movie as a promotional event for Barbara Novak’s book which led to its global success.

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Related:

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The Essential 60s Blogathon_Easy rider

The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert

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An Australian classic I always enjoy no matter how many times I watch it. As I write this I just realized it will soon be the 20th birthday of this much-loved movie! How time flies. I remember I first watched it in the cinema when it was first released. And now it’s been 20 years. Wow. Oh well, Happy Birthday, Priscilla!

From Wikipedia:

The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert is a 1994 Australian comedy-drama film written and directed by Stephan Elliott. The plot follows the journey of two drag queens and a transsexual woman, played by Hugo Weaving, Guy Pearce, and Terence Stamp, across the Australian Outback from Sydney to Alice Springs in a tour bus that they have named “Priscilla”, along the way encountering various groups and individuals.

… The film was noted for helping to bring Australian cinema to world attention and for its positive portrayal of LGBT individuals, helping to introduce LGBT themes to a mainstream audience.

I love that after Priscilla, all three actors who held the three main roles in the story have successfully moved on to entertain us further with their incredible talent in so many other movies.

*The images below are taken from various sources, from sites of other fans in Tumblr and Pinterest. Click any of the images to go to its source.*

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Left to right above: Terrence Stamp as Bernadette, Guy Pearce as Felicia and Hugo Weaving as Mitzi.

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Mind blown when you remember Hugo Weaving in the pink wig above is Agent Smith in The Matrix trilogy, Elrond in the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit movies, and V in V for Vendetta, among many, many, other excellent performances. I find the Australian’s work as V particularly breathtaking as he’s in a mask the whole time, and yet his performance was deeply compelling.

Hugo Weaving - Agent Smith - Pinterest

As Agent Smith in The Matrix trilogy

Hugo Weaving as Elrond

As Elrond in the Lord of The Rings and The Hobbit movies

Hugo Weaving as V

As V in V for Vendetta

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English actor Terence Stamp has of course appeared in many movies as well, so many I haven’t seen yet, but the three most memorable and entertaining to me are: as Terry Stricter in the hilarious Steve Martin classic Bowfinger, as Ludwig Beck in Valkyrie, and of course as General Zod in Superman and its sequel. Sure the first two Superman was not after Priscilla but way before, but I can’t resist putting General Zod here since, like Bernadette, it’s such an important iconic role from Terence.

Terence Stamp as General Zod - Pinterest

As General Zod in Superman and Superman 2

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After Priscilla, the most memorable roles to me that Australian Guy Pearce carried was as eager new detective Edmund in L.A. Confidential, as Alexander in The Time Machine, and as Fernand Mondego in The Count of Monte Cristo. Recently we also saw him as Aldrich Killian in the last Iron Man.

Guy Pearce - Edmund - Pinterest

as Edmund J. Exley in L.A. Confidential

Guy Pearce - Alexander - Pinterest

As Alexander Hartdegen in The Time Machine

Guy Pearce - Count - Pinterest

As Fernand Mondego in The Count of Monte Cristo

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As Aldrich Killian in Iron Man 3

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Day 89

Brotherhood of the Wolf

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I watched this again and totally loved it all over again. A highly entertaining French period thriller, to me Brotherhood of the Wolf (2001) has shades of Sleepy Hollow (1999) though rawer, that sort of deliciously dark mystery written in a rich and interesting historical setting. This one features swash buckling fight scenes and even martial arts scenes by one of it’s primary characters, the Native American Mani, played by American action star Mark Dacascos.

Wikipedia describes the beginning of the plot as follows (the entry there describes the entire plot and so contains spoilers, so you might not want to click the link if you haven’t seen the film.):

The film begins during the French Revolution with the aged Marquis d’Apcher as the narrator, writing his memoirs in a castle, while the voices of a mob can be heard from outside. The film flashes back to 1764 when a mysterious beast terrorized the province of Gévaudan and nearby lands.

Grégoire de Fronsac, a knight and the royal taxidermist of King Louis XV of France, and his Iroquois companion Mani, arrive in Gévaudan to capture the beast. Upon arrival, they rescue Jean Chastel, an aged healer, and his daughter, La Bavarde, from an attack by soldiers. The young and enlightened Thomas, Marquis d’Apcher, befriends them.

Fronsac is initially skeptical about the beast’s existence, since survivors describe it as much larger than any wolf he has ever seen. However, by studying the bite size on a victim of the beast, he deduces that it must weigh roughly 500 lb (227 kg). Captain Duhamel, an army officer leading the hunt for the beast, has killed dozens of ordinary wolves, but has not come close to the actual killer. While staying in Gévaudan, Fronsac romances Marianne de Morangias, the daughter of a local count, whose brother, Jean-François, was also an avid hunter and a world traveler, before losing one arm to a lion in Africa. Fronsac is also intrigued by Sylvia, an Italian courtesan at the local brothel.

Sultry and charismatic Italian actress Monica Belluci plays Sylvia, and is the main reason I picked up the DVD years ago. Her French husband, the inexplicably but smolderingly sexy Vincent Cassel, is also in this movie, as Jean-François.

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Day 82

 

Eye of the beholder

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My favourite Ashley Judd movie. It also features Ewan McGregor who is one of my favourite actors. Eye of the beholder (1999) is a drama-thriller about a spy who becomes obsessed with a woman he is stalking. I always have fun watching this, even though I admit I don’t find it very good as a mystery thriller. The plot is just too muddled and it’s not particularly suspenseful.

As a drama it’s much more compelling. The two protagonists can be a tad infuriating with their mad ways, digging themselves into deeper holes, but they’re so goodlooking and glamorous and riddled with so much bad luck and heartbreaking crap, that you can’t help but root for them to get together and live happily ever after.

The scenes are gorgeous, lush with a tinge of noir. Ashley and Ewan are captivating in their roles, and there’s also a cameo by Canadian singer k.d. lang which she performed well as Ewan’s colleague in the intelligence agency they serve.

I love this rendition of ‘I wish you love‘ by Chrissie Hynde that is featured in the movie. Her voice and delivery makes it truly enchanting. Here’s a live performance, uploaded by YouTube user cassiopeiaA1.

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Day 70 of ‘100 Happy Days‘.

 

To Rome With Love

A friend who came for dinner brought this along as a gift, and we watched it together after the meal. It’s not the first time he had brought movies, and he’s the only person I know who does this, which is really cool, because it suits us to a T. Bert and I are big movie lovers, and watching one while relaxing after a meal and working for hours in the kitchen is perfect.

I would never dare to bring movies to suggest watching together because I would worry that it’s just not a thing for the host and/or other guests, or that they might find the particular movie I bring a bore. But as for Bert and I, we are open to anything, whether fiction or documentaries, and our friend has brought us some really fascinating stuff, including this one.

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To Rome With Love (2012) is a romantic comedy written and directed by Woody Allen. It is actually made up of four separate stories taking place in the city. As Wikipedia puts it:

The film features an ensemble cast, and Allen himself. The story is told in four separate vignettes: a clerk who wakes up to find himself a celebrity, an architect who takes a trip back to the street he lived on as a student, a young couple on their honeymoon, and an Italian funeral director whose uncanny singing ability enraptures his soon to be in-law, an American opera director.

I enjoyed Antonio’s story best, and not only because it features the Spanish actress Penélope Cruz, who is always a delight to watch. This particular story is really crazy and fun and had me in stitches. Penélope plays an prostitute called Anna. She seems to play prostitutes a lot or maybe it just seems that way to me. Anyway, she’s always brilliant, and her performance in this movie is no exception.

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Day 64

Beyond Borders

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Decided to put this in the DVD player this evening after dinner, and found I still enjoy it. Clive Owen is so freakin’ sexy.

I’ve been a fan of Angelina Jolie since I first saw her in Hackers (1995). Of course since those early years she has turned in a lot of outstanding performances of some really interesting roles. To me it feels like she receives critical acclaim for too few of those roles, possibly because of her massive movie-star status. The entertainment media seems too interested spreading stories about her personal life and don’t seem to write enough about the strength of her work.

Beyond Borders (2003) is one such instance. I think it is also one of her weakest movies in terms of box office. But she’s so good and compelling in this. Her role here is also a special one as it reflects her real-life work with the refugee agency of the United Nations. She plays Sarah Jordan, an American socialite in London who decides to support humanitarian Dr. Nick Callahan (Clive Owen) in helping impoverished children. Leaving behind her sheltered life to work with him, she develops a passion both for him (who wouldn’t) and her new direction in saving lives, even if it means risking her own.

In some of the film’s tense moments, I half-expected her to whip out some guns and kick some serious ass with a sexy leer a la Lara Croft, but of course she’s not playing some female James Bond or Indiana Jones here, but a classy lady who just got out her bubble and was finding her purpose in the harsh reality of poor nations.

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Day 55

‘Gay Dude: Date and Switch’, at Cathay Cineplex

Pleasantly surprised to see this movie poster loudly proclaiming ‘Gay’ as part of its title, as I was walking past the Cathay building at the end of Orchard Road. That’s nice. It instantly put a big smile on my face.

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What makes it even better is that it wasn’t located in some discreet corner, but right outside by the front entrance. In the photo below, it is the movie poster on the left. Yay, Cathay!

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Wikipedia puts the synopsis of the movie as:

Matty and Michael are two best friends and virgins who vow to each other they will have sex before their senior prom. However, Matty tells Michael that he is gay, changing their quest.

The curious thing is that when I checked out the movie on IMDB (an online database for films), there’s no ‘Gay Dude’ in the title on the poster featured, just ‘Date and Switch‘. This is the same for Wikipedia, as well as for the review site rogerebert.com. So I guess that’s a different version of the poster. Of course I like the one Cathay puts up way better, haha. Also, the term ‘gay dude‘ is cute, like ‘chick flick‘ (a movie that appeals mainly to women).

Related:

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Day 48 of ‘100 Happy Days‘.

Before The Matrix there was Dark City

I grabbed this DVD years ago, about ten years ago, thinking it looked like an interesting horror movie, and it got Kiefer Sutherland in it, an actor I like. When I got home and watched it for the first time, I was blown away by how good and beautiful and original it was.

Dark City (1998) is a very noir sci-fi mystery, a stunning production directed by Alex Proyas, who also directed the Will Smith blockbuster I, Robot (2004).

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I also remember that exhilaration was mixed with shock, and a festering disappointment, which were not directed at it but at another movie, The Matrix (1999), which I then realized wasn’t so original after all. I felt deceived, as silly as that sounds, because I was such a huge fan of The Matrix. I still am. It’s still very entertaining.

There are so many movies out there that are under-appreciated, that slip under the radar for whatever reason, and are not celebrated as much as they deserve to be. Dark City is like the epitome of that when it was first released, and that was really unfortunate because it’s so damn good. Furthermore, there is only a year’s difference between the releases of Dark City and The Matrix. How the latter could be such a massive hit without anyone raising a substantial voice back then that it was so strikingly similar to Dark City, I’ll never understand.

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The Matrix is more slick and stylish, and I’m still a fan of it. But watching Dark City again, I still feel that it is the better movie, with more heart and spirit. It feels more raw and gritty. I just feel bad for it that so much praise and credit went to The Matrix, when much more of that should have gone to it instead.

Anyway, here’s a video by YouTube user Clara Darko comparing the two films.

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Roger Ebert’s reviews.

It pleases me to read only just now how the late great reviewer Roger Ebert praised Dark City very highly in this 1998 review. So highly that he gave it his maximum of 4 stars. And as for The Matrix which he gave 3 stars, Roger’s review for it indicated he didn’t like it as much, and in fact he kept bringing up Dark City, haha! He matter-of-factly stated that The Matrixrecycles the premises of Dark City and Strange Days (1995)”, and overall the review indicated (to me) that he thought Dark City was the better movie. Ah, how I wish I had read these reviews when they first came out, so I could have discovered Dark City first before The Matrix.

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Related: Interesting articles discussing the similarities of the two films:

  • Retrojunk: ‘Dark City vs. The Matrix’.
  • ElectroLund: Matrix City: A Photographic Comparison of The Matrix and Dark City

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Day 31 of ‘100 Happy Days‘.

Happy meter: exhilarated

Far From Heaven

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I watched this lushly beautiful and heartbreaking drama again, and fell in love with it all over again. I can’t believe it’s been 12 years since it’s release. Julianne Moore is truly one of the greats. Give the lady an Oscar already, please. Her role here as a 50s suburban American housewife Cathy Whitaker is one where she was nominated for in the Best Actress category in 2003, and just one of the many outstanding performances in her career.

Dennis Quaid was really good too as the emotionally messed up husband Frank, who was struggling to accept the truth about himself. From what I understood from Wikipedia, he was the fourth choice in casting. Which indicates how terribly under-rated some actors are. There are many actors more known for action, adventure and comedy films who are actually great in dramatic roles as well.

I also read that writer and director Todd Haynes wrote the role of Frank envisioning the late James Gandolfini, and I was like, wow, that would have been really good too. James was unavailable because of his work on TV’s The Sopranos, but that would have been a great casting choice as well. He played a sensitive gay assassin in The Mexican (2001), by the way. A memorable and lovable performance. *sigh*

Dennis Haysbert is another actor I wish I see more on the screen. He has the same immense sex appeal and gravitas as Denzel Washington. If the two of them appear in the same movie along with Idris Elba, oh my God, I don’t think I can handle it. Dennis’s role here as Raymond Deagan reminds me of another role of his a decade earlier in the film Love Field (1992). That character too fought racism while having feelings for a love interest of a different race, this time played by Michelle Pfeiffer, in the story set in 60s America.

A video clip from Far From Heaven, courtesy of YouTube user thommcc: At first I thought the title of the clip indicates it shows the final scene, but it doesn’t, so I think it’s okay to put here.

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This post is Day 18 of ‘100 Happy Days‘.

Happy meter: enchanted