7 posts categorized "LGBTQ"

March 20, 2018

PORTRAIT OF JASON — CLASSIC FILM PICK

COLE SMITHEY

Groupthink doesn't live here, critical thought does.

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Cole and Mike dig Shirley Clarke's magnificent cinéma vérité work which showcases a gay black Mark Twain of African American experience up to this film's 1967 filming. Left Hand Brewing Milk Stout Nitro gave us the craft beer delight we desired for our movie chat. Bon appetite!

Portrait-of-JasonShirley Clarke’s 1967 cinéma vérité masterpiece remains a scathing social and character study of race in America for the enigmatic quality of its unreliable subject, Jason Holliday (nee Aaron Payne, 1924-1998).

Filmed in her Chelsea Hotel penthouse apartment on a cold winter night over a 12-hour period, from 9 pm to 9 am, Clarke uses out-of-focus segues to interview Jason, a gay African-American hustler as he talks about his troubled life and uncertain future. Jason Holliday is nothing if not a performer, and a tragic figure for the ages. 

Jason

Jason is at once candid, guarded, jovial, sad, articulate, affected, and presentational as he tells of working on a cabaret act, that we the audience may be witnessing excerpts from. The movie lights up when he breaks into song. He is talented.

Clarke and her partner (actor Carl Lee — “Super Fly”) goad Jason from off-camera, peppering him with questions or prompting him to tell specific stories from his troubled past.

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Jason tells of hustling all of his life to avoid the 9 to 5 grind. His involuntary laugh is constant. Infectious as it is revealing of the deep sadness he carries with him, it is Jason’s laughter that keeps you on pins and needles. You can sense him wanting to cry throughout the interview, but he lets the sound of his own laughter carry him through edifying stories about working for rich white folk as a “house boy” or talking to prying psychiatrists about his sex life.

“I’m a stone whore, and I’m not ashamed of it.”

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Jason drinks a cocktail while standing in front of a fireplace mantle, wearing stylish coke-bottle glasses that magnify his heavy-lidded squint. His Oxford shirt’s collar is unbuttoned so that the collar falls over the lapel of a dark blazer, giving him the appearance of a black James Dean whose better survival skills have given him passage in upper class white culture. He may be stoned from drink and pot, but his speech is never slurred. His word choice is rarely less than erudite. The stories he tells of his interactions with Miles Davis ring with anecdotal truth, especially a funny one involving the drummer Philly Jo Jones.

How much of Jason’s stories are real or fiction never comes into question because the force of his being is so convincing. So whether Jason’s sly delivery is merely a persuasive form of carefully constructed editorial narrative or not, doesn’t matter; there is too much intrinsic truth in every word he utters with damaged conviction and regret.   

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Aaron Payne studied acting at the Actor’s Workshop in Hollywood under Charles Laughton before studying at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York. He recorded a comedy album that was released in 2007.

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Not rated. 105 mins. Five Stars

Cozy Cole

Cole Smithey on Patreon

June 17, 2017

MY BEAUTIFUL LAUNDRETTE — CLASSIC FILM PICK


Screen Shot 2022-03-26 at 9.47.13 PM"My Beautiful Laundrette" 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.

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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.

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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.”

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.

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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 language 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.

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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.

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Rated R. 97 mins. 

5 Stars

COLE SMITHEY

Groupthink doesn't live here, critical thought does.

This ad-free 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. Thanks a lot pal! Your generosity helps keep the reviews coming!

Cole Smithey on Patreon

February 09, 2017

MOONLIGHT

COLE SMITHEY

Groupthink doesn't live here, critical thought does.

This ad-free 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. Thanks a lot pal! Your generosity keeps the reviews coming!

Cole Smithey on Patreon

MoonlightMoonlight” normalizes racism. It also perpetrates stereotypes about homosexuality and the repressive conditions of blacks in a country that has been carrying on an incremental genocide against this minority since the first slaves were brought here.

As in “Brokeback Mountain,” Hollywood maintains its knee-jerk assertion that gays must always be punished for harboring non-conformist sexual ideas. It’s only rich white people who get to indulge in wild sex fantasies (think “50 Shades Of Grey”). In “Moonlight,” black on black violence is the norm.

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Here is a movie designed to make white audiences proud of the tears they shed in a darkened theater because those salty drops of water prove just how sensitive they are, except not really. Sentimentality comes cheap, especially when it’s about a gay black guy running back into the arms of the man who betrayed him in a violent and humiliating way years earlier.

Based on Tarell Alvin McCraney’s stage play “In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue,” screenwriter/director Barry Jenkins shows black characters that, regardless of how much the film’s well-cast actors elevate the baited source material, come across as cartoon people with limited intellects and imaginations.

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Split into a three-act structure, the time-jumping narrative follows 10-year-old Chiron, a.k.a. “Little” (Alex Hibbert), a frightened weakling constantly bullied and harassed by boys in his economically depressed South Florida neighborhood. That fact that Chiron’s dad is long gone, and that his mother is a nurse and a crack addict, puts the boy under the mentorship of Juan (Mahershala Ali), a local drug dealer with a soft side. Juan might not be an ideal surrogate father, but beggars like Chiron can be choosers. At least Juan isn’t a pedophile, or is he?

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At school, Chiron’s detractors identify him as gay even before his first sexual experimentation goes in that direction. The power of peer suggestion is strong in this oversimplifies setting.

Cut to act two where Ashton Sanders plays a teenage version of Chiron who enjoys a moonlit handjob and a kiss with his pal Kevin. Alas, Chiron’s dreams of romantic fulfillment are short-lived when Kevin turns on him in a disgusting scene of physical, emotional, and intellectual abuse that seals Chiron’s fate for the years that follow.

The filmmakers allow Chiron a few moments of doomed emotional satisfaction in a narrative that barely hints at the racist system pulling the strings. Chiron deserves more than the hug he eventually receives, or the return to prison he seems destined for if he survives the unseen encounters with he will most certainly experience.

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Rated R. 110 mins. 

2 Stars

In episode #29, Mike and I welcome Armond White on the show to discuss MOONLIGHT while drinking C.O.B. from FREE WILL. They said it couldn't be done, so we did it anyway. 

Armond on The Big Feast

Moonlight

Cozy Cole

Cole Smithey on Patreon

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