Tuesday, December 19, 2017

12 Days of Christmas Catch Up, day 6: Beach Rats, God's Own Country, and my truth about Brokeback Mountain


Day 6. How did we get here?

My "Star Wars: The Last Jedi" migraine inducing buzz has worn off, and although I haven't published since then, I have continued to watch movies.

First, I watched "Beach Rats," directed by Eliza Hittman, cinematography by Helene Louvart and starring Harris Dickinson. 

Stolen directly from the internet: An aimless teenager on the outer edges of Brooklyn is having a miserable summer. With his father on his deathbed and his mother wanting him to find a girlfriend, Frankie escapes the bleakness of his life by causing trouble with his delinquent friends and flirting with older men online. When his chatting and webcamming intensifies, he finally starts hooking up with guys at a nearby cruising beach while simultaneously entering into a cautious relationship with a young woman.


Harris Dickinson as Frankie is a remarkable discovery, and from what I gather, he is not some random hot dude the director found on the street and called action. I'm looking forward to the day that we can stop with "non actor" casting. Here's a secret that many of you who follow Oscars and such probably aren't aware of. The issue isn't the actors, it's the directors who don't know how to direct actors. Full stop. The emotions Dickinson connects with are so honest and truthful, innocent and new and it took not only his skill, but Hittman's writing and direction to get him there. He is a true discovery.

So much of the film is remarkable, particularly the way Helene Louvart shoots not only Dickinson, but all of the bodies in the film. She observes them in a way that makes us feel as if we are in on a secret. And although we pretty much know where this film is heading in terms of plot, it still seems completely truthful and far from gratuitous in any way. And that's what makes this story fresh.

I decided to stay on the gay train and watch "God's Own Country," directed by Francis Lee and starring Josh O'Connor and Alec Secareanu. This one: A young farmer numbs his frustrations with drinking and casual sex until a Romanian migrant worker sets him on a new path.



There have been many, many comparisons between "God's Own Country" and "Brokeback Mountain." Actually, let's get really honest here talking about queer cinema. EVERYTHING is compared to "Brokeback" on certain levels. The art of the film. The deliberate storytelling. The remarkable acting. The gorgeous cinematography. The tragedy of it all. Etc. Etc. Etc. Blah, blah, blah.

I don't want to ruin the ending of this film for anyone who hasn't seen it, and it's really hard to say what I want to say here without doing so. SO...I won't. Not today. I can almost guarantee that we will be looking at this film here at Awards Wiz yet again before the end of Oscar season. 

That being said, I will say this. And it is something that I've been thinking for quite some time. Over a decade. 

So much of what makes "Brokeback Mountain" incredible is Ang Lee and Annie Proulx. And as incredible as Gylenhaal and Ledger are, particularly Ledger, even back in 2005 I felt slighted when it came to the rawness of it all. The scene when they embrace outside and are caught by Michelle Williams...I always wanted it to be more. I imagined it to be more. And that was enough because it had to be. Same with the scene when they have sex for the first time. What it would've felt like to see a true representation of that passion between two men in that gorgeously shot masterpiece? I can't tell you. Instead, I had to add my own imaginative seasoning.

Straight people cannot know what that feels like. Sorry. There were people who had issue with the ending of "Moonlight" because we didn't get to see more from Chiron and Kevin, but we did see that remarkable scene at the beach. A scene many of us lived, even if, for some of us, it was in a car wash.

This year we also have "Call Me By Your Name," a film I have still not seen, a film which I already know the ending. Yet again, here we are in the same place as gay people in the theater. Watching tragedy unfold in front of our eyes. Dangling romance in front of us only to tell us that this is what you can't have. Is Chalamet as good they say? And will the sequel that has supposedly been bounced around explore Elio's questioning even more? Ugh. Open mind, Brian. Open mind.

I believe that at some point during this Oscar season I will get to see "Call Me By Your Name," but for now the films that come before it haunt it for me. What was once excitement for the film has turned into dread and a bit of resentment. Maybe it's part of the PR master plan? Time will tell.

Last night I also watched "Victoria & Abdul" and will talk about that a little more in the next few days when I see more of the Best Actress contenders. That being said: I found the film completely delightful. But so did Rex Reed...which concerns me about my own taste. 

I will say this: Dench is great. There are so many people vying for the final couple of slots that someone gets in and someone doesn't and it could be her. I honestly think that's where we are for Best Actress. 

For now, here is where we stand with the Catch up!

Star Wars: The Last Jedi
Beach Rats
God's Own Country
Victoria & Abdul

The Breadwinner
Coco
The Disaster Artist
Pitch Perfect 3
The Shape of Water
Darkest Hour
Good Time
The Beguiled

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