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Gay Sundance vs. Gay Boycott? From Con Man Jim Carrey to London Threesomes

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I Love You Phillip Morris Rodrigo Santoro Jim Carrey
Gay Sundance: I Love You Phillip Morris with Jim Carrey as the titular “I,” real-life con artist Steven Jay Russell, and Rodrigo Santoro as a wet and thirsty “friend.” Update: Glenn Ficarra and John Requa’s gay comedy-drama-romance-of-sorts received some warm reviews at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival; lawsuits and infighting, however, ended up disrupting its domestic release. Despite “I’s” evident affection for Rodrigo Santoro, Ewan McGregor is the one who plays his titular object of desire, Phillip Morris – no relation to the one-elled cigarette brand. Also in the I Love You Phillip Morris cast: Leslie Mann, Antoni Corone, Brennan Brown, and Annie Golden.

Gay Sundance vs. gay boycott? ‘I Love You Phillip Morris’ & ‘La Mission’ among LGBT entries

Ramon Novarro Beyond Paradise

Gay Sundance vs. gay boycott?

Despite the gay boycott purportedly in the works, the 2009 Sundance Film Festival has a not insignificant number of films dealing – at least to some extent – with gay-/LGBT-related issues.

Among these, the most widely publicized is screenwriters-directors Glenn Ficarra and John Requa’s I Love You Phillip Morris, the unusual tale – based on Steve McVicker’s book I Love You Phillip Morris: A True Story of Life, Love, and Prison Breaks – of a flamboyant cop-turned-con man (Jim Carrey) who’ll let nothing and no one stand between him and his big love, a former fellow inmate (Ewan McGregor).

According to Damon Wise in the London Times, “I Love You Phillip Morris is an extraordinary film that serves as a reminder of just how good Carrey can be when he’s not tied into a generic Hollywood crowd-pleaser,” adding, “one could argue that, like [the Peter Weir-directed] The Truman Show, this is another film about a lost naif, but when it plays its final hand, I Love You Phillip Morris is really much, much stranger.”

Another Gay Sundance entry is Peter Bratt’s La Mission, which revolves around the difficult relationship between a San Francisco gay teen (Jeremy Ray Valdez) and his tough, tattooed, ex-con, recovering alcoholic father (the filmmaker’s brother, Benjamin Bratt). After kicking his son out of the house, Dad must face his anti-gay bigotry. Also in the La Mission cast: Erika Alexander, Talisa Soto Bratt, and Jesse Borrego.

More Gay Sundance entries: ‘One Day in a Life’ & ‘Unmade Beds’

Gay Sundance entry no. 3: Stefano Tummolini’s Italian drama One Day in a Life / Un altro pianeta depicts a series of disturbing events and interactions taking place over the course of one deceptively ordinary summer day. One Day in a Life was the 2008 Venice Film Festival‘s Queer Lion winner. In the cast: Antonio Merone, Lucia Mascino, Chiara Francini, Francesco Grifoni, and filmmaker Tummolini himself as Grifoni’s boyfriend.

Gay Sundance entry no. 4: Writer-director Alexis Dos Santos’ British-made Unmade Beds, described as a chronicle of the dos and don’ts of London’s club scene. Looks like among the dos are hot threesomes, as the male lead (Fernando Tielve, previously seen in The Devil’s Backbone and Pan’s Labyrinth) gets turned on by some bisexual fun.

Gay Sundance entry no. 5: Adam Salky’s U.S. dramatic comedy Dare, about three high-school seniors (Emmy Rossum, Ashley Springer, and Zach Gilford), one of whom is sexually disoriented. Also in the cast: Alan Cumming and Sandra Bernhard.

Gay Sundance entry no. 6: Writer-director Lynn Shelton’s comedy Humpday has a curious – and, at least on computer screen, absurd – premise: in order to take part in an amateur porn contest, two heterosexual male buddies decide to have sex with one another. In the cast: Mark Duplass and Joshua Leonard as the will-they-or-won’t-they buds, and Alycia Delmore as Duplass’ wife.

Yet more Gay Sundance entries: ‘Push’ & ‘Shouting Fire: Stories from the Edge of Free Speech’

Gay Sundance entry no. 7: Lee Daniels’ New York-set drama Push: Based on the novel by Sapphire (update: renamed Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire) depicts the emotional travails of an overweight, sexually and psychologically abused Harlem teenager (Gabourey Sidibe) whose life is changed after she becomes acquainted with a lesbian teacher (Paula Patton). Also in the cast: Mo’Nique as Sidibe’s tyrannical mother, Lenny Kravitz, and Mariah Carey. Geoffrey Fletcher penned the screen adaptation.

Gay Sundance entry no. 8: Liz Garbus’ U.S.-made documentary Shouting Fire: Stories from the Edge of Free Speech presents various contemporary First Amendment cases, including that of a student who sued for the right to wear Bible-inspired anti-gay messages on T-shirts at school.

Gay Sundance entries no. 9–13: Among the 2009 Sundance Film Festival’s shorts featuring LGBT themes or characters are the following:

  • Teemu Nikki’s comedy A Mate / Kaveri (Finland), about a supposedly straight guy caught having sex with a (male) friend.
  • Marco Berger’s The Watch /El reloj (Argentina), in which two young men spending the evening together may or may not have sex.
  • Connor Clements’ James (Northern Ireland; available for free on iTunes, see below), in which an Irish youth tries to come to terms with his sexuality.
  • Julian Breece’s The Young and Evil (U.S.), the story of a gay teen who wants to seduce an HIV-prevention counselor into infecting him with the virus.
  • Jenny Olson’s 575 Castro St. (U.S.), an experimental documentary shot on the empty set of Gus Van Sant’s Harvey Milk drama Milk, which stars awards season Best Actor co-favorite Sean Penn as the openly gay San Francisco politician murdered in 1978.

Update: Gay Sundance entry no. 14: Frazer Bradshaw’s Everything Strange and New, the tale of a married working-class man (Jerry McDaniel) seeking a reason for his seemingly aimless existence. Same-sex intimacy is one of the many possibilities in his path.

Iconic fake orgasm scene & Cold War fears: Sundance shorts available for viewing online

So, the 2009 Sundance Film Festival is underway. Can’t get to Park City?

If you’re in the U.S., the U.K., or Canada, you have until Jan. 25 to check out on iTunes – free of charge – several Sundance 2009 short films, including Connor Clements’ James, mentioned in the preceding “Gay Sundance” segment. Other titles include:

  • Justin Nowell’s Acting for the Camera, about an acting class where students reenact Meg Ryan’s fake orgasm scene from When Harry Met Sally.
  • Dominic Bisignano’s animated From Burger It Came, about Cold War fears in the U.S. of the early 1980s.
  • Patrik Eklund’s Swedish short Instead of Abracadabra, about an adult magician wannabe still living with his parents.

Lastly, below is a partial list of films in competition at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, in addition to those being screened at the festival’s various sidebars. Movie information via Sundance’s press releases.

The Greatest Aaron Johnson Carey MulliganThe Greatest with Aaron Johnson (update: a.k.a. Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and Carey Mulligan. In Shana Feste’s The Greatest – not a remake of Tom Gries’ 1977 Muhammad Ali biopic – Best Actress Oscar winner Susan Sarandon (Dead Man Walking, 1995) and Pierce Brosnan play the parents of an 18-year-old (Aaron Johnson) who dies in a car crash. Carey Mulligan (also featured in Sundance entry An Education) is his pregnant girlfriend. At least one Sundance reviewer has complained that Sarandon has created her own grieving-mom niche, as her The Greatest matriarch follows similar roles in Safe Passage, Moonlight Mile, and In the Valley of Elah.

Sundance Film Festival World Cinema Dramatic Competition

Bronson / U.K. (Director: Nicolas Winding Refn. Screenplay: Brock Norman Brock).
Traces the transformation of Mickey Peterson into Britain’s most notorious, dangerous and charismatic prisoner, Charles Bronson. Cast: Tom Hardy.

Carmo Hit the Road / Spain (Dir./Scr.: Murilo Pasta).
A lonely, handicapped smuggler and a beautiful girl embark on a reckless ride through a South American border landscape. Cast: Mariana Loureiro, Fele Martínez, Seu Jorge.

An Education / U.K. (Director: Lone Scherfig. Screenplay: Nick Hornby).
In the early 1960s, a sharp 16-year-old with sights set on Oxford meets a handsome older man whose sophistication enraptures and sidetracks her and her parents. Cast: Peter Sarsgaard, Carey Mulligan, Alfred Molina, Emma Thompson, Dominic Cooper.

Five Minutes of Heaven / U.K. (Director: Oliver Hirschbiegel. Screenplay: Guy Hibbert).
Two men from the same town but from different sides of the Irish political divide discover that the past is never dead – in fact, it isn’t even past. Cast: Liam Neeson, James Nesbitt, Anamaria Marinca.

A French Gigolo (Cliente) / France (Dir./Scr.: Josiane Balasko).
An attractive, successful fiftysomething woman regularly treats herself to the sexual services of young men selected on Internet sites. When one particular escort becomes a habit, the relationship gets a bit more complicated. Cast: Nathalie Baye, Eric Caravaca, Isabelle Carré, Josiane Balasko.

Louise-Michel / France (Director: Benoît Delepine, Gustave Kervern).
When a French factory is abruptly closed by its corrupt management, a group of disgruntled female workers pool their paltry compensation money and hire a hit man to knock off the corrupt executive behind the closure. Cast: Yolande Moreau, Bouli Lanners.

Lulu and Jim (Lulu und Jimi) / Germany (Director: Oskar Roehler).
Bright, garish colors, rock ‘n’ roll and wild dance numbers mark this road movie about lovers fleeing from the evil powers of a 1950s deeply bigoted German society. Cast: Jennifer Decker, Ray Fearon, Katrin Sass, Rolf Zacher, Udo Kier.

The Maid (La Nana) / Chile (Dir./Scr.: Sebastián Silva).
When her mistress brings on another servant to help with the chores, a bitter and introverted maid wreaks havoc on the household. Cast: Catalina Saavedra, Claudia Celedón, Mariana Loyola, Alejandro Goic, Andrea Garcia-Huidobro.

Zion and His Brother / France / Israel (Dir./Scr.: Eran Merav).
In this gritty story of a working-class Tel Aviv single-parent family, the disappearance of a young boy drives a wedge between two teenage brothers whose loyalty had been unshakable. Cast: Reuven Badalov, Ronit Elkabetz, Tzahi Grad.

U.S. Dramatic Competition

Adam (Dir./Scr.: Max Mayer).
A strange and lyrical love story between a somewhat socially dysfunctional young man and the woman of his dreams. Cast: Hugh Dancy, Rose Byrne, Peter Gallagher, Amy Irving, Frankie Faison.

Amreeka (Dir./Scr.: Cherien Dabis).
When a divorced Palestinian woman and her teenage son move to rural Illinois at the outset of the Iraq war, they find their new lives replete with challenges. Cast: Nisreen Faour, Melkar Muallem, Hiam Abbass, Yussuf Abu-Warda, Alia Shawkat.

Don’t Let Me Drown (Director: Cruz Angeles. Screenplay: Cruz Angeles, Maria Topete).
Two Latino teens whose lives are affected by the attack on the World Trade Center discover that love is the only thing that keeps them from drowning. Cast: E.J. Bonilla, Gleendilys Inoa, Damian Alcazar, Ricardo Chavira, Gina Torres.

The Dream of the Romans (Dir./Scr.: John Hindman).
A reclusive author of a groundbreaking spiritual book awakens to new truths when two strangers enter his life. Cast: Jeff Daniels, Lauren Graham, Lou Pucci, Olivia Thirlby.

Sin Nombre (Dir./Scr.: Cary Fukunaga).
A teenage Mexican gang member maneuvers to outrun his violent past and elude unforgiving former associates in this thriller set among Central American migrants seeking to cross over to the United States. Cast: Paulina Gaitan, Diana Garcia, Damayanti Quintanar, Karl Braun.

Park City at Midnight

Black Dynamite / U.S. (Director: Scott Sanders. Screenplay: Michael Jai White, Scott Sanders, Byron Minns).
When “The Man” murders his brother, pumps heroin into local orphanages and floods the ghetto with adulterated malt liquor, 1970s African-American action legend Black Dynamite is the one hero willing to take him on. Cast: Michael Jai White, Tommy Davidson, Salli Richardson-Whitfield, Byron Minns, James McManus.

Død Snø (Dead Snow) / Norway (Director: Tommy Wirkola. Screenplay: Tommy Wirkola, Stig Frode Henriksen).
A group of teenagers had all they needed for a successful ski vacation: a cabin, skis, snowmobile, toboggan, copious amounts of beer and a fertile mix of the sexes. Certainly, none of them anticipated not returning home alive! But the Nazi-zombie battalion haunting the mountains had other plans. Cast: Vegard Hoel, Stig Frode Henriksen, Charlotte Frogner, Jenny Skavlan, Jeppe Beck Laursen.

The Killing Room / U.S. (Director: Jonathan Liebesman. Screenplay: Gus Krieger, Ann Peacock).
Four individuals sign up for a psychological research study only to discover that they are now subjects of a brutal, classified government program. Cast: Chloë Sevigny, Peter Stormare, Clea DuVall, Timothy Hutton, Nick Cannon.

Spectrum – Dramatic Films

Against the Current / U.S. (Dir./Scr.: Peter Callahan).
Facing the anniversary of his pregnant wife’s tragic death, 35-year-old Paul Thompson enlists the help of two friends to help him swim the length of the Hudson River. Cast: Joseph Fiennes, Justin Kirk, Elizabeth Reaser, Mary Tyler Moore, Michelle Trachtenberg.

The Anarchist’s Wife (La Mujer del anarquista) / Germany / Spain (Director: Marie Noelle & Peter Sehr. Screenplay: Marie Noelle & Ray Loriga).
During the Spanish Civil War, an idealistic young lawyer combating Franco’s Fascist troops is separated from his wife and children. Cast: María Valverde, Juan Diego Botto, Nina Hoss, Ivana Baquero, Jean-Marc Barr.

Helen / Canada and Germany (Dir./Scr.: Sandra Nettelbeck).
A successful music professor fights her own clinical depression. Cast: Ashley Judd, Goran Visnijic.

The Only Good Indian / U.S. (Director: Kevin Willmott. Screenplay: Tom Carmody).
Set in early-1900s Kansas, a teenage Native American boy is taken from his family and forced to attend an Indian “training” school to assimilate into white society. Cast: Wes Studi, Winter Fox Frank, J. Kenneth Campbell.

Pomegranates and Myrrh / Palestinian Territories (Dir./Scr.: Najwa Najjar).
The wife of a Palestinian prisoner searches for freedom. Cast: Ali Suliman, Yasmine Al Massri, Ashraf Farah, Hiam Abbass.

The Vicious Kind / U.S. (Dir./Scr.: Lee Toland Krieger).
Suffering insomnia and testy by nature, Caleb Sinclaire reluctantly picks up his brother Peter at college and brings him and his new girlfriend Emma home to his estranged father’s house for Thanksgiving. Cast: Brittany Snow, Adam Scott, J.K. Simmons, Alex Frost.

Spectrum – Documentary Films

Wounded Knee / U.S. (Director: Stanley Nelson. Screenplay: Marcia Smith).
In 1973, American Indian groups took over the town of Wounded Knee, S.D., to draw attention the 1890 massacre.

The Yes Men Fix the World / France and U.S. (Director: Andy Bichlbaum, Mike Bonanno, Kurt Engfehr).
A pair of notorious troublemakers sneak into corporate events disguised as captains of industry, then use their momentary authority to expose the biggest criminals on the planet. Cast: Andy Bichlbaum, Mike Bonanno.


Where Is Where? (Director: Eija-Liisa Ahtila).
As a reaction to the acts of violence committed by the French, two young Algerian boys murder their friend, a French boy of the same age.

You Won’t Miss Me / U.S. (Director: Ry Russo-Young).
A portrait of a modern rebel, Shelly Brown, a 23-year-old alienated urban misfit recently released from a psychiatric hospital. Cast: Stella Schnabel, Rene Ricard.

Sundance Film Festival website.

Image of Rodrigo Santoro and Jim Carrey in the “Gay Sundance” entry I Love You Phillip Morris: Roadside Attractions.

Aaron Johnson and Carey Mulligan The Greatest image: Silverwood Films / Irish DreamTime.

Desert Hearts Patricia Charbonneau Helen Shaver Donna Deitch
Desert Hearts with Patricia Charbonneau and Helen Shaver.

Classic Lesbian Romance ‘Desert Hearts’: Out at the Pictures

The British Film Institute will screen four films with (at least some) gay content in their “Out at the Pictures” series in the next two months. The four titles are: Desert Hearts (1985), Get Real (1998), Julia (1977), and Crustacés et coquillages / Cockles and Muscles / Cote d’Azur (2005). The series will also feature “Generations of Love,” an intergenerational panel discussion. (See full schedule below.)

Based on Pentimento, Lillian Hellman’s 1973 book of (highly fictionalized) memoirs in which Hellman discusses her close friendship with a woman named “Julia,” Julia is my favorite Fred Zinnemann film. Jane Fonda can be quite actressy, but her Lillian Hellman is perhaps her most sober, self-contained characterization, while in the title role Academy Award winner Vanessa Redgrave delivers one of the best performances of her career as the doomed Nazi fighter (apparently inspired by Muriel Gardiner’s life story).

Also in the Julia cast: Academy Award winner Jason Robards, as Dashiell Hammett; Academy Award nominee Maximilian Schell; Hal Holbrook; Rosemary Murphy; Maurice Denham; veteran Cathleen Nesbitt (the grandmother in An Affair to Remember); and a very young Meryl Streep. First-rate screenplay adaptation by Alvin Sargent. (See the New York Times article on Muriel Gardiner’s book Code Name “Mary.”)

Despite some unnecessary melodrama, especially a longwinded “gays-are-people-too” speech at the end, Simon Shore’s 1998 coming-out and coming-of-age Get Real is worth a look chiefly because of Ben Silverstone’s excellent performance as a gay teenager feeling the first pangs of love and lust. Adapted by Patrick Wilde from his own play.

Olivier Ducastel and Jacques Martineau’s Cockles and Muscles (Cote d’Azur in the US) is the type of fluffy, feel-good comedy (with a musical number or two) that surely has an audience for it – unfortunately, however, I’m not part of it. The best things about the film are the French Riviera locations and Valeria Bruni Tedeschi’s charming wife whose husband’s past comes back in the flesh by way of Jean-Marc Barr’s scary-looking, tight tanktop-wearing stud.

I haven’t seen Donna Deitch’s 1985 Desert Hearts, considered by many a seminal point in the depiction of lesbian love on screen.

Additionally, on Feb. 19 the bfi will be hosting a preview of the 23rd London Lesbian and Gay Film Festival’s program, which runs March 25-April 9, 2009, at the BFI Southbank. The “exclusive illustrated sneak preview” will feature a 45-minute presentation of the upcoming festival’s highlights. Seats for the sneak preview are free, but must be booked via the box office. Tickets are restricted to BFI members and their guests only. Click here for ticket information.

“Out at the Pictures” Schedule and brief synopses from the bfi website:

Cockles and Muscles

* Thu 22 Jan 18:30 NFT2
* Fri 30 Jan 20:45 NFT2

Deliciously warm-hearted and sexy comedy set in the South of France.

Desert Hearts

* Tue 3 Feb 18:20 NFT2
* Sat 14 Feb 20:45 NFT2

Groundbreaking, 1950s-set lesbian love story.

Generations of Love

* Thu 8 Jan 14:00 Studio

View highlights from the BFI National Archive and share your thoughts and memories, with both young and older people welcome in this inter-generational session. This month we consider the generation gap. In a community which prides itself on accepting difference, what is the status of cross-generational understanding? (Image: Queer as Folk)

Get Real

* Fri 27 Feb 20:40 NFT2
* Sat 28 Feb 18:10 NFT3

Feel-good coming out comedy, a defining moment in British gay cinema.


* Tue 20 Jan 20:40 NFT2
* Sat 31 Jan 17:50 NFT2

Fred Zinnemann’s sumptuous WW2 film, with Jane Fonda and Vanessa Redgrave.

“Gay Sundance vs. Gay Boycott? From Con Man Jim Carrey to London Threesomes” last updated in November 2018.

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1 comment

Joel O -

Don’t forget the fantastic “Everything Strange and New”! Sundance buzz was strong.


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