Perhaps unintentionally, Sex in the City was the juggernaut that helped solidify HBO's queer audience. What is intentional, however, is the notion behind its upcoming State-of-the-Gay-Union dramedy, Looking: a bid to be taken more seriously on queer turf than either Bravo or Showtime.
They are off to a good start, borrowing more than a little audience from Glee with actor Jonathan Groff, and some gravitas from Andrew Haigh, the auteur of the acclaimed gay cult movie Weekend, who directed the show's first episode.
While comparisons are inevitable between Sex and Looking, there is every chance this glimpse of the complexities of gay life in the 21st Century will reap the benefits of the decade of serious programming that bridge them, as typified by the groundbreaking Six Feet Under.
Of course, expectations are running high as a result, expectations that parallel a growing cultural appetite for the missing component absent not only in Carrie and her Posse, but from most depictions of our LGBTQ family, friends and lovers.
That, of course, would be soul.
If your favorite part of Girls was Andrew Rannells' bitingly humorous Elijah, Hannah's gay ex-boyfriend slash roommate, then your life is about to get a whole lot better. HBO just gave the go-ahead to a project that sounds just like Girls except all of the characters are guys...and gay...and live in San Francisco.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, the network ordered eight episodes of an untitled show from producer Sarah Condon (Bored to Death), David Marshall Grant (Brothers & Sisters) and writer/producer Michael Lannan. The show stars Glee's Jonathan Groff as one of a trio of gay dudes who live in San Fran and get up to wacky antics and explore the world of the modern gay man. That sounds like there is going to be a Grindr subplot! The pilot, which HBO obviously loved, was directed by Andrew Haigh who made critically-loved gay indie Weekend, so I have high hopes.
The show doesn't have a name, but I don't think I'll be the first to suggest Boys. Or Gays. Gay Boys? Gurls?
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In Indie Seen, we take a look at the smaller (but just as fantastic) films making their way into theaters alongside the big Hollywood tentpoles. Movies
Even in our progressive world, where gay couples can live openly, marry one another and adopt children, the film industry has a difficult time portraying gay relationships as simply "relationships." You don't see mainstream films with gay couples unless their homosexuality is directly acknowledged. That, for one reason or another, it's a big deal that they're gay. Even indies can't seem to bring it up without making it a thing—to the point where gay drama is becoming a low-budget cliche
So when a movie takes a subdued approach to portraying a gay relationship, depicting it simply and honestly, that bond automatically feels a thousand times more refreshing, exhilarating and tangible. That's what Weekend achieves, a new movie by British filmmaker Andrew Haigh that follows two men who find themselves caught in a romantic whirlwind over the course of (you guessed it) one weekend. The movie centers on Russell (Tom Cullen), a mellow, introverted lifeguard who we quickly learn is disinterested in discussing his sex life with friends. One night, while flying solo at a bar, Russell meets Glen (Chris New), and a night of small talk and drinking leads the two gentlemen back to Russell's place. While the next morning reveals a few ulterior motives (Glen wants Russell to chronicle the previous night's encounter on tape for an art project), through morning conversation, both men find quickly themselves entranced by one another.
While Russell has trepidations over engaging sexually with Glen and Glen struggles with his own commitment issues, neither character arc deals explicitly with gay issues. They're the bumps in the road of any budding relationship, especially one that sparks as brightly as the instant connection between Weekend's two leads. Like Before Sunset or Once, Haigh shoots the action simply, relying on his characters realistic actions to stoke the fire of intimacy. The two leads have chemistry—you wouldn't be able to sit there and watch them snort cocaine, play Guess Who and make out if they didn't—and it gives us a reason to invest in Weekend's simple story.
After attending a screening of the film at South by Southwest Festival (where it won the Emerging Visions Audience Award) I realized that Weekend wasn't just a great movie, but an important one. Weekend is relatable through and through, from the adorable moments of watching two people hesitantly fall for each other to the gut-wrenching experience of seeing two new lovers faced with big, last-minute decisions (early in the film you discover Glen is set to go overseas for school). There's no angle. These are just two guys who fell in love. And it's convincing.
There are great films, great art, great people out there in the world helping set the equality bar where it needs to be, but Weekend doesn't feel like that film. It's not political. Instead, the movie feels one step ahead of the curve. Not only can we live in a place where everyone's equal, but we can live in a place where everything's the norm, where experiences are shared across all types of people, no matter the differences. I doubt anyone, no matter what their feelings on homosexuality, could watch Weekend and walk away not empathizing with what Russell and Glen endure in their short time together. Weekend might be a small film recounting an intimate relationship, but it speaks to the grandest of ideas.
Weekend is currently in limited release. You can find out how to see the movie by heading to the movie's website.
You can contact Matt Patches directly on Twitter @misterpatches and remember to follow@Hollywood_com!
Haven't had your fill of high-concept romance with One Day? Fortunately for you, that first world problem should be solved by English romance Weekend. The independent film stars unknown actors Tom Cullen and Chris New as a pair of gay men whose one night stand turns into a budding weekend-long romance - with an unavoidable expiration date. It's sort of like dreamy Ethan Hawke/Julie Delpy romance Before Sunrise, but with two hot dudes for the price of one.
In this first trailer, watch the main characters Glen and Russell fall in love to the strains of indie rock. The trailer makes the whole thing seem kind of cutesy, but it's gotten some great reviews (including this one from our own Matt Patches) and won the Audience Award at this year's SXSW.
It's always nice to see a romance break out of the "attractive, young, white, rich and heterosexual" bubble, even if it's just into the "attractive, young, white, slightly less rich and homosexual" bubble.
Directed by Andrew Haigh, Weekend comes to the US on September 23, for a limited release.
Watch it in HD at Apple
Bo (Seann William Scott) and Luke (Johnny Knoxville) Duke are cousins--two hell-raisers who drive fast sell moonshine and bed sexy farm girls all across Georgia's Hazzard County. They've got another cousin Daisy Duke (Jessica Simpson) a drop-dead hottie who waits tables at the local watering hole. If someone gets a little too friendly with the gal she's knocks 'em on their ass--and if her cousins get into trouble she shakes hers to get them out of it. Then there's Uncle Jesse Duke (Willie Nelson) who makes the moonshine on his farm tells bad jokes and sings country-western songs. I can't quit thinking about how the Duke family dynamics work. They're all tight-knit cousins right? But Uncle Jesse isn't the father to any of them. So like where's the rest of the Dukes? There's gotta be other siblings parents maybe. It perplexes me. But I digress. Suffice to say the Dukes are always outrunning--and out-jumping--the local law enforcement in their souped-up Dodge Charger the General Lee. The boys are also constantly doing battle with the crooked county commissioner Boss Hogg (Burt Reynolds) who cooks up one nefarious plan after another to make Hazzard County his own personal cash cow only to be thwarted by those darn Dukes. Dagnabbit.
Although some diehard fans of the TV show may disagree the casting for this feature film redo is pretty spot on. Knoxville and Scott do just fine as the rip-roarin' Duke cousins bantering about one upping each other--you know boys stuff. Nelson's still got the whole pigtail thing going for him but he looks like he's having a good time. Reynolds does too but he's definitely a lot slicker--and a lot better looking--than the show's original Boss Hogg Sorrell Booke. As the bumbling police veteran character actor M.C. Gainey who always plays bad guys at least gets to show off some comedy chops as Sheriff Roscoe P. Coltrane. Michael Weston (Garden State) as the wimpy Deputy Enos Strate is sufficiently reduced to a puddle whenever Daisy is around. And then there's Simpson. My my my. It's obvious the camera (and whose ever behind it) loves every inch of her and she tends to light up the screen whenever she's on it. Of course playing Daisy in her acting debut isn't much of a stretch but Simpson still shows a comic flair. The singer-turned-actress could actually become a fairly serviceable comedic actress if she plays her cards right.
This is what director Jay Chandrasekhar (Super Troopers) had to say about making The Dukes of Hazzard: "I had a poster of Daisy Duke [played in the original show by Catherine Bach] on my wall when I was nine that was very inspiring and when you combine the prospect of a new Daisy Duke with the opportunity to send the General Lee flying through the air again it was impossible for me to say no." Well Jay actually you could have said no and maybe the whole Hazzard as a feature idea would have gone away. It's perfectly suitable to have a television show be about nothing but cars flying through the air hot women in skimpy clothes and idiotic behavior. We'll always accept brain-friendly crap on TV. But to be subjected to an entire feature-length film of mindless stupidity is just too much at least in Hazzard's case. Sure watching the General Lee perform seemingly impossible stunts is fun. Apparently 28 Dodge Chargers had to be converted into the multiple General Lees needed for the film and the parts had to be hunted down on the Internet in junkyards or by word of mouth. Still after about the 100th time the car jumps over something you've had quite enough.
The Crusades were a series of religious wars in which the Christians tried to reclaim Jerusalem from the Muslims who had conquered the Middle East in the 7th century. With the battle cry of "God wills it! " thousands of Europeans answered the call and were able to retake the fabled Holy City in the 11th century. Kingdom of Heaven begins in 1186 between the Second and Third Crusades. A fragile peace prevails mostly through the efforts of Jerusalem's enlightened Christian king Baldwin IV (Edward Norton) and the military restraint of the legendary Muslim leader Saladin (Ghassan Massoud). But it's difficult to maintain the peace. There are extremists within the Christian brigades--known as the Knights Templar--who want to wipe every Muslim off the face of the Earth. On top of that King Baldwin's health is failing. Once he's gone war is sure to follow. If ever there was a need for a hero this is the time. Enter the young French blacksmith Balian (Orlando Bloom) who is in deep despair over the loss of his family. He joins the Crusades after the father he never knew Godfrey (Liam Neeson) comes back from Jerusalem and convinces him it's a quest worth fighting for. As Godfrey passes his sword to his son he also passes on that sacred knightly oath: to protect the helpless safeguard the peace and work toward harmony between religions and cultures so that a kingdom of heaven can flourish on earth. No pressure or anything though.
Orlando Bloom carries his first major motion picture very well easily handling the chores of being such a gallant conscientious and morally upstanding knight. As Balian the Troy costar plays the gamut. He broods over his lost wife and child has father-son epiphanies upholds his knightly duties on a regular basis falls in love with a beautiful but troubled princess and finally bravely defends the Holy City from the encroaching Muslim army thus becoming a legend. Not bad for a day's work eh? There are even times especially toward the end when Balian is standing before the denizens of Jerusalem urging them to fight when you swear you can see a little of Bloom's The Lord of the Rings alter-elf Legolas creep in. The supporting cast also does an adequate job painting a picture of some trying times. Chief among them: Jeremy Irons as King Baldwin's right-hand man Tiberias; Marton Csokas (The Bourne Supremacy) as the evil leader of the Knights Templar; Massoud as the great warrior Saladin; and lovely Eva Green (The Dreamers) as Princess Sibylla King Baldwin's sister who captures our hero's heart but makes some bad choices with dire consequences.
Even if these sword-and-armor epics are all blending together you've got to give props to the directors who make them. These films are massive undertakings and Kingdom of
Heaven with the expert Ridley Scott at the helm is no exception. The Oscar-winning director of course has had his fair share of recreating history first with the classic Gladiator and then with the contemporary Black Hawk Down. But in recreating the Crusades Scott faces his toughest challenge to date and takes on the responsibility very seriously. He is painstakingly meticulous with details even as he is building a 12th-century Jerusalem or corralling 2 000 heavily costumed extras for the colossal climactic battle sequences. And it is always a good thing when a historical film can teach you something you may not have known like what the heck the Crusades were really all about. No Kingdom's biggest obstacle is timing. While it certainly has more substance than Alexander it is not nearly as intense and stirring as The Lord of the Rings trilogy or the granddaddy of them all Braveheart. Too many of its ilk has come before and the concept has unfortunately worn thin.
December 18, 2003 12:55pm EST
Katherine Watson (Julia Roberts) a novice professor from UCLA lands a job in the art history department at Wellesley College in the fall of 1953 and she's thrilled at the prospect of educating some of the brightest young women in the country. But her lofty image of Wellesley quickly fizzles when she discovers that despite its academic reputation the school fosters an environment where success is measured by the size of a girl's engagement ring. Besides learning about fresco techniques and physics the women take classes in the art of serving tea to their husband's bosses something that doesn't sit well with the forward-thinking Katherine who openly encourages her students to strive for goals other than marriage. Katherine inspires a group of students specifically Joan (Julia Stiles) and Giselle (Maggie Gyllenhaal) but newlywed Betty (Kirsten Dunst) feels Katherine looks down on her for choosing a husband over a career. Betty goes on the offensive and uses her column in the school paper to drive a wedge between the professor and the stuffy faculty. But while Betty puts on a happily married face her hostility towards Katherine is actually misplaced anger stemming from her miserable marriage to a cheating charlatan.
Katherine is Mona Lisa Smile's most complex and intriguing character and Roberts is a fitting choice for the part. Like an old soul the actress has a depth that's perfect for a character like Katherine who's enlightened and ahead of her time. But Katherine never emotionally connects with any of her students which isn't surprising since they're so bitchy and self-absorbed. Perhaps more time should have been spent developing the young women's characters and building their relationships with Katherine sooner but as it is the underdeveloped friendships between the women will leave viewers feeling indifferent rather than inspired. The worst of the bunch is Dunst's character Betty who is intent on making everyone around her feel unworthy. She has her reasons of course but they're revealed so late in the story that it's hard to suddenly empathize with her after having spent three-quarters of the film hating her guts. Stiles' character Joan is perhaps the most congenial but like Betty she never develops a strong bond with her teacher. The most "liberal" of the girls is Giselle played by Gyllenhaal but the character suffers the same burden as the rest: She's unlikable. Giselle's penchant for sleeping with professors and married men is so odious that not even her 11th hour broken-home story can salvage her character.
While Mona Lisa's smile in Leonardo da Vinci's famous painting has often been described as subtle director Mike Newell's star-studded drama is anything but that; Mona Lisa Smile is so heavy-handed that unlike the painting for which it was named there is nothing left for moviegoers to ponder or debate. The film plays like a montage of '50s ideological iconography: A school nurse gets fired for dispensing birth control; a teacher refers to Lucille Ball as a "communist"; Betty's prayers are answered when she gets what every woman dreams of--a washer and dryer. But the film's critical insight into '50s culture isn't as shocking as it thinks it is and the way it highlights feminist issues is as uninspired as trivial as a fine-art reproduction. Newell also spends too much time basking in the aura of the '50s era focusing on countless parties dances and weddings sequences that while visually ambitious are superfluous. The film may be historically accurate but its characters story and message will leave moviegoers feeling empty. A climactic scene for example in which Katherine's students ride their bikes alongside her car as a show of support comes across as a tool to evoke sentiment that just doesn't exist.