I need to get to a gig ASAP, but unfortunately, I have nothing on the schedule until next week--though I'll be back in a big way. For now....
In the late '80s, the likes of Bon Jovi and the Stone Roses were taking over the cultural landscape in their respective countries, inspiring a new round of laddishness. Those of us who grew up enamored of men in makeup, transposed gender roles, and Bruce Weber photo shoots were looking for an oasis, a return to our prepubescent years spent worshipping fey men--preferably with British accents, frilly blouses, and floppy hair.
Fortunately, it was also the Golden Age of Merchant Ivory Productions; like a gateway drug, they led some to seek out smaller films that may or may not have involved cute guys making out with each other. What started in high school became more of a mission in college, and Doreen and I eventually hit upon the idea of compiling a list of our favorite homoerotic movies. (She's evasive on the matter these days, much as she claims to not remember the origin of Spexxx, but I lay half the blame/credit on her shoulders; let her know next time you see her!)
The list is heavily weighted toward the '80s and early '90s, when I watched a lot more movies than I do now. Hormone levels may have also been a factor (ha). There's no way I can catalog all of them, so I apologize in advance for obvious omissions. Indisputably, Brokeback Mountain inspired this reminiscence, but it's too early to tell at this point where it falls on the list.
OK, less talk, more man-on-man action!
My top 5 mainstream gay movies
5. Poison (Todd Haynes): As much as I wanted to like American movies about gay men, I always thought them a little too earnest (case in point: Longtime Companion). American films seemed to always try to convey a message and a moral, whereas British movies sort of accepted the repression and proceeded straight to the illicit attraction. Also, British guys had much better haircuts. Of course, Poison isn't exactly a mainstream movie, and its more low-budget aspects become obvious on repeated viewings, but it offers a glimpse into what Todd Haynes would later achieve as a director.
4. Law of Desire (Pedro Almodovar): It's tough choosing just one Pedro Almodovar movie, but here's my pick. My guess is that the moviegoers who've made Antonio Banderas a star over here--with his own perfume, people!--aren't familiar with his early roles. Damn subtitles! It's a shame--they're missing out on some his sexiest, most fearless work.
3. My Beautiful Laundrette (Stephen Frears): I remember being shocked by the first gay kiss in this movie--not because it was between two men but because I thought I was watching a more straightforward commentary on the British class system. This came out at the same time Daniel Day-Lewis was gaining renown for his role in A Room with a View--guess which one I liked better. The book by Hanif Kureishi is great too.
2. My Own Private Idaho (Gus Van Sant): My friends and I went to this movie on opening night--I had never seen so many other teenage girls at the arthouse theater. Technically, River Phoenix and Keanu Reeves never kissed onscreen, but we hyperventilated every time they exchanged meaningful glances. The scenes with Udo Kier are priceless.
1. Another Country: This will always be the gold standard by which I judge homoerotic movies. Rupert Everett was insanely handsome, Colin Firth was intense and cute, Cary Elwes was unbelievably young, and I loved their clothes and their accents. Yes, it was based on an acclaimed play and true events, but in case you hadn't noticed, we have other criteria at work here, even if Pauline Kael is rolling over in her grave.
» Maurice: An impossibly young Hugh Grant with the floppiest hair on either side of the Atlantic. Sigh.
» The Wedding Banquet: Ang Lee's first film with gay characters, this one takes a slightly different tact from the current cinematic darling, but in the end, the tenderness is the same.
» Swoon: I understand the need for artistic license, but if the true Leopold and Loeb story were half as hot as this movie, I might've paid more attention in my high school history class.
» Apartment Zero: I don't remember this movie very well except that Colin Firth radiated the Another Country halo effect, which was good enough for me.
» Edward II: I was never a big Derek Jarman fan, but this--considered his most mainstream movie--was the only one that I could grasp. It shows a lot of his trademark touches, and it sure isn't your average film adaptation of a play.
» the other side of the mountain