Like every year, I largely celebrated Pride Week here in San Francisco by going to the Frameline (LGBTQ) Film Festival at the historic Castro Theater. We all gather, listen to the Mighty Wurlitzer upon which the organist this year played "The Wedding March" to tumultuous applause, among other entertaining things. It's an ultra-fun scene, and the films can be quite wonderful.
I went to three biggish films which will most likely be coming to a theater or streaming device near you:
1. Peter Greenaway's lush and swoony Eisenstein in Guanajuato is delightful. It's a reimagining of a pioneering Soviet director, Sergei Eisenstein, sojourning during the filming of his never finished epic film Que Viva Mexico. I like Greenaway's films, although I can do without his usual body horror elements, so am happy to report that this film has none of those. It's a constant motion love letter to a man who was also in constant motion. A snapshot of genius, with triple-split screens to indicate his multitrack mind. Every frame is gorgeous.
2. Addicted to Fresno, the new film by Jaime Babbit, the director of But I'm A Cheerleader. had a drool-worthy cast doing a veeeeery darkly comic riff on co-dependence. An optimistic young woman tries to help her escaped-from-rehab sex-addict sister, but nothing she does is ever enough. Natasha Lyonne, Judy Greer, Aubrey Plaza, Fred Armisen, Molly Shannon, Clea Duvall (briefly), Alison Tolman (from Fargo), and the awesome Malcolm Barrett (Lem from Better Off Ted) were all excellent, but more than half the characters are really mean and just awful, terrible people. Not just misguided, either. I sort of wanted to yell at the poor, deluded nice characters to run for the hills, and save themselves. Of course, that's what I did when I lived in Fresno, so maybe I was projecting a bit. I...probably won't see it again, even if I did laugh in horror many, many times.
3. On Saturday night, there was a screening of, I kid you not, Magic Mike XXL.
It was a big party day all over town, being Pink Saturday. the day we celebrate the ladies, but my friend Debi took time out from her brimming social schedule to come with me, even though she hadn't seen the first Magic Mike. I did see it, and IMHO it suffered from too much plot. I usually like things that are intricately written, but fer cryin' out loud! In a musical — which dance movies are when they aren't sports movies —people should express their sorrow and bad life choices through the medium of the boffo production number. I'm sure I'm right about this. So, spare me your drug-deal-gone-bad subplots and moping about the emptiness of life. Dance it out! Word was that this time it was going to be less drama, more dance, so I figured it would be okay.
I needn't have worried. There was a surprise floor show before the movie. Strobe lights, hunky dancing boys standing up and gyrating in their seats to the techno. The sold-out crowd — of largely gay men, understand — went completely bananas before the curtain even came up. It was a masterful stroke. But sort of unnecessary because the movie itself completely exceeded all expectations.
The plot is perfect and simple: Let's take a road trip to the stripper convention! That's all. Once the old gang convinces Mike (Channing Tatum) to come along, they are off on their odyssey, in a fro-yo truck, where they meet new and old friends and bond in manly fashion and reveal their deepest hopes and aspirations to one another. Which they then express through interpretive dance! Sublime. It fully embraces the silly premise, but doesn't quite tip over into camp, which would have been easy to do. (I wouldn't have minded; camp is great.) Instead, it makes us root for the lovable lugs, when we're not marveling over their amazing moves. Ultimately, it's a sweet story of people being accepting and supportive of one another. With lots of oil involved. The perfect capper to Pride weekend.
One unexpected element was the marvelous take-no-prisoners female characters. Jada Pinkett, Elizabeth Banks and Andie MacDowell all play the strong Southern women we want as our friends and protectors. With them representing, I became convinced that we are indeed all Queens.
Also, it just gets funnier as it goes along. The humor is the loving and character-based kind, except for when it's the lewd, dance-based kind. Both work for me. Note to hello_spikey: it's got everything but "hurt the pretty". Don't be sad.
It was the most fun I've ever had at the movies. (Close runners up are Galaxy Quest and Down With Love.) I'm still smiling, although a little hoarse from laughing so loudly and screaming along with the guys in the crowd.
I've seen a few other things: Inside Out is a wonder of a 3-hankie affair. Kingsman: The Secret Service is over-the-top violent, but a real hoot, in that Kick-Ass kind of way — it's the same writer and director. Lucy was surprisingly cerebral, but also, very, very violent and contained at least one tiresome car chase. I liked it, nevertheless. Jupiter Ascending, on the other hand, is entirely the stinker the critics warned us about. It's almost entirely
Still to see are Spy, Chappie, and of course, once more unto the breech of Magic Mike XXL. I want to see if it's half as much fun without the film festival audience. If it is, I may go a third time.
Season 3 of Orphan Black is over, and it probably jumped the shark in there somewhere, but I can't be bothered to look away from Tatiana Maslany long enough to care. Also, check out Mr. Robot, if you can. It might be as suspenseful as The Americans!
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