6 posts categorized "LGBTQ"

January 09, 2012


Personal_bestAlthough screenwriter Robert Towne's directorial debut fell largely on deaf ears when it was released in 1982 "Personal Best" remains a powerful examination of high-stakes female athletes during the late ‘70s, an era when smoking pot and drinking beer were part of America’s cultural landscape — even for Olympic contenders.

Most significant is Towne’s pitch-perfect depiction of a lesbian relationship that goes through various stages of bliss, disagreements, and outside pressures over the course of a few years. The auteur’s striking ability to use the sexuality of his story's two lead female characters as an integral aspect of their ambitious motivations is an impeccable example of eroticism's function within a narrative framework.


The author of such film classics as "The Last Detail" (1973) and "Chinatown" (1974) flexes his writing muscles to conjure the atmosphere Olympic-level female athletes who eat, breathe, and live for the opportunity to conquer their opponents, as well as their own mental and physical limitations.

Personal Best

In a role that should have made Mariel Hemingway the biggest female star in Hollywood for the ‘80s, ‘90s, and beyond, the indisputable beauty plays track-and-field runner Chris Cahill. Chris’s troubled promise as a professional athlete starts to look up after an unfortunate restaurant episode puts her in the car of Tory Skinner (Patrice Donnelly), a track-and-field star with an established coach. Romance blossoms between Chris and Tory who shack up in Tory’s San Luis Obispo apartment. Tory imposes on her coach Terry Tingloff (Scott Glenn) to give Chris a chance during a routine practice. Chris suitably impresses Coach Terry, who harbors no illusions about the tricky nature of Chris’s and Tory’s romantic relationship within the demands of competing for a spot on the 1980 Summer Olympic Team.

Personal best

A touch of American politics provides a backdrop for the story due to President Jimmy Carter’s boycott of the 1980 Summer Olympic Games as punishment for Russia’s recent invasion of Afghanistan. A television news commentator announces during the film’s climax competition, the competing athletes are, “all dressed up with no place to go.”

Personal Best 2

“Personal Best” takes a matter-of-fact approach toward the intrinsic sensuality of professional female athletes. Towne uses a sauna as a frequent meeting place for the girls’ team to congregate in the nude to laugh and joke, but also to carry on serious discussions. Chris’s bisexuality is not commented upon, but rather comes about organically after competitive circumstance separates her from Tory. A frank bit of innocent humor comes during an intimate scene between Chris and her new boyfriend when she follows him to the bathroom to hold him while he pees. The scene perfectly captures Chris’s fearless spirit of childlike curiosity and determination. 

Personal bestFive Stars

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November 27, 2011


Albert nobbsPassing Strange
Glenn Close Outdoes Streep
By Cole Smithey

Disclosure: I've never been a fan of Glenn Close. I always considered her a poor man's Meryl Streep. I can't think of a single role she’s played that wouldn't have been improved upon if Streep had played it instead. However, Glenn Close's muted, carefully nuanced portrayal of Albert Nobbs is a career-defining performance that commands the deepest regard and, for what it's worth, blew me away.

Glenn Close Mia Wasikowska Photos Photos: Glenn Close & Mia Wasikowska On  Set Of "Albert Nobbs" | Mia wasikowska, Albert nobbs, Albert

Director Rodrigo García’s exquisitely crafted period drama set in 19th century Ireland is based on a short story by Irish author George Moore. "Albert Nobbs" is a socially oppressed woman so desperate to survive economically that she dresses and behaves as a man. The asexual Albert has worked as a quiet live-in waiter/butler at the elite Morrison’s Hotel in Dublin for more than 20 years. Her androgynous looks make the subterfuge possible. Lonely Albert — the only name she goes by — pinches every penny of her wages and tips, keeping careful record of the savings she stashes under a loose floorboard inside her tiny room. Albert's tightly held secret is threatened when she is forced to allow Hubert Page, a contract painter working in the hotel, to share her bed for a night. 

Glenn Close & Janet McTeer | Janet mcteer, Albert nobbs, Actors

Spoiler alert: Hubert (Janet McTeer) is as adroit at hiding her sexuality as Albert. So much so that she has succeeded in establishing a relatively comfortable lesbian lifestyle with her partner, sufficiently obfuscated from the public eye. Albert begins to imagine how she might create her own unique arrangement with fellow hotel service worker Helen Dawes (Mia Wasikowska). She imagines opening a tobacco shop where the couple can live and work together. The much younger Helen—she’s barely a day over 18—is already wrapped up in a fresh romance with Joe (Aaron Johnson), her unreliable boyfriend. Joe has recently been hired to work in the hotel as a handyman. Albert unwisely ignores the obvious obstacle Joe represents to woo Helen with practical-minded dates over which she hopes to advance her idea of entering into an arrangement that necessarily involves marriage.

Mirroring in Albert Nobbs (2011) | Girlpower

As such, the story hits its stride of aspirational vitality in Albert’s active daydream of putting her life’s savings to use in a place where she can enjoy economic prosperity and companionship for the first time in her life. Rodrigo García’s flawless depiction of Albert’s suddenly awakened inner emotional life is the story’s treasured seed of hope and happiness that must be transformed under the constraints of a brittle reality.

Albert Nobbs (2011) | Keeping It Reel

Glenn Close famously played the same role in “The Singular Life of Albert Nobbs,” a 1982 Off Broadway production directed by Simone Bemmussa; she won an Obie. This time she is surrounded by terrific supporting efforts by Janet McTeer, Mia Wasikowska, and Brendan Gleeson.

“Albert Nobbs” falls into the zeitgeist of female-themed survival films such as the Angelina Jolie-directed Bosnian war examination “In the Land of Blood and Honey”. Equal parts character study and social commentary, “Albert Nobbs” is a melancholy film of enormous power that could easily slip through the cracks without the aid of the Oscar nominations it deserves.

Albert Nobbs: Glenn Close plays a woman playing a man.

The story is an original one that doesn’t pander to its audience, as Hollywood films are famous for doing. ”Albert Nobbs” is an uncompromising and rigorous movie that dismisses conventional compositional devices to the delight of audiences seeking intellectual and emotional depth in their cinematic adventures. Don’t miss “Albert Nobbs.”

Rated R. 114 mins.

5 Stars

Groupthink doesn't live here, critical thought does.

This website is dedicated to Agnès Varda and to Luis Buñuel.

Get cool rewards when you click on the button to pledge your support through Patreon.

Cole Smithey on Patreon

June 28, 2011


Mybeautifullaundrette"My Beautiful Launderette" is a milestone of British cinema. Stephen Frears's stylish and confident handling of Hanif Kureishi's London-set gay love story, between a first-generation Pakistani and a British neo-fascist punk, is an accomplishment. Volatile social issues of Margaret Thatcher's early '80s England are ripe opportunities for imaginative examination in a fantasy atmosphere of unfettered homosexual romance. Here is an anti-plot narrative that works because of its unpredictable nature.

The Legacy Of My Beautiful Laundrette | Londonist

In his breakout film role, Daniel Day Lewis plays Johnny, a homeless dyed-hair thug who squats in whatever empty house he can access. Second-story windows are not a problem for the agile petty criminal. Johnny's childhood friend Omar (Gordon Warnecke) lives with his ailing Marxist father Hussein (Roshan Seth), who wallows in alcoholic depression over his wife's recent train-track suicide. The offending train runs just outside their apartment window as a constant reminder of the tragedy.


Omar's unconstrained love for Johnny sets the film's tempo. It also explains away any questions that might pop up in Johnny's mind about why he's with Omar. Stephen Frears's tender gay sex scenes inspired a new generation of young filmmakers to be more daring in their films. There might not have been a New Queer Cinema without “My Beautiful Laundrette.”

My Beautiful Laundrette' Hits Criterion: The Boundary-Pushing Gay Romances  of 1985

Omar's caring dad wants his son to go to college to get a well-rounded education. As a former respected leftist journalist, he values knowledge over wealth. Still, Omar gets other ideas about his capitalist future after his rich uncle Nasser (Saeed Jaffrey) gives him a job working in his parking garage. Uncle Nasser wants Omar to marry his daughter. However, Nasser is too busy with his English mistress to notice Omar's obvious relationship with Johnny.

My Beautiful Laundrette (Blu-ray/DVD Review) – The most important gay  British movie ever made? - Big Gay Picture Show

Omar quickly moves up in the business world to take over a rundown launderette in a dicey South London neighborhood. He's not above doing some drug running for Nasser's crime-connected brother. Omar gives Johnny a job renovating and helping run the launderette. The joint's washing machines hum with a musical gurgling sound that Frears uses to send auditory romantic messages to the audience in an abstract Morse code. Frears’s abstract cinema lauguage sings. In reinventing the launderette as a glamorous social gathering spot, Omar establishes a micro utopia to support his economically sensible yet sensuously exotic ambitions.


The filmmaker’s ever-moving camera lens cranes and dollies to show the abysmal state of Margaret Thatcher's England. There is both fantasy and hope in the relationship between Johnny and Omar. The pair exists beyond the rampant racism and economic desperation that surrounds them. They represent England's future. Our future.

Pin on My Beautiful Laundrette

Rated R. 93 mins.

5 Stars

Groupthink doesn't live here, critical thought does.

This website is dedicated to Agnès Varda and to Luis Buñuel.

Get cool rewards when you click on the button to pledge your support through Patreon.

Cole Smithey on Patreon

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