Weekend (2011), Finally a Gay Movie That’s Accurate

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I could go on and on and on about how much I loved the film Weekend (2011) directed by Andrew Haigh. Finally a movie has been made that is a simply a love story of two people who happen to be gay. Since I had to watch this film for my queer film class, I have to compare this beautiful film to the tragic Brokeback Mountain (2005) directed by Ang Lee.

To start, Brokeback Mountain is a film about two gay lovers based on the short story written by Anne Proulx. Long story short, the main characters played by Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger, are so scared to come out of the closet due to family and societal stigma that they marry women and have children. Each year they go on a fishing trip for years that consists of them just having sex. They are horrible husbands and horrible fathers and the film ends in tragedy when one of them is killed which is why they never came out in the first place.

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Many say Brokeback Mountain didn’t win the best film of the year due to homophobia but when we discussed this in class, one of my classmates said it didn’t win because it is just a really shitty movie. Writer K. Hart (2013) put it perfectly “just how ‘groundbreaking’ is [Brokeback Mountain] really?” (p.129). I would agree with that to some extent because I do think this film had some strengths even though it was just executed really poorly.

L. Arellano (2007) stated “Brokeback Mountain constructs gay characters as powerless and tragic victims of forces beyond their control; simultaneously, the film preserves heterosexual privilege by obscuring the ways that heteronormativity produces an abjected other through erasure and exclusion” (p. 59).  I don’t like the way this film portrayed gay men and I hate even more that one of them ends up dead which is how most queer films end when they are done by directors that are not part of the queer community and when they are done to make money and not tell an accurate story.

Another writer, C. Casey (2012), wrote “the ‘magic’ of Brokeback Mountain represents simultaneously the compelling passion of same-sex and the intensity of the closet that represses, condenses, and regulates queer subjectivity” (p.109). This film does have a lot of passion to the point that it over sexualizes the relationship between the main characters. The who relationship is based on hypersexualization instead of showing what a real relationship would be like.

What I do like about this film is that it gave exposure to a crowd that would not have otherwise seen a gay film. I also like that it has helped set the tone of how queer film should be, the exact opposite of Brokeback Mountain which is what happened in the film, Weekend. 

Weekend was directed and filmed in such a way that it is just telling a story of two people connecting. The main characters Russel and Glen are played by Tom Cullen and Chris New. They meet at a night club and proceed to go home together. After that night, they know they have a connection. They are pretty opposite but it just works for them. They then of course spend the weekend together because their time is limited because Glen has to leave to study in the states. I love they way they are around each other. Their conversations have meaning and there is a scene where they are sitting on the couch just looking at eachother and at the viewer, you can feel the energy between them. It made me grin ear to ear.

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This movie is so realistic. The only thing that may have seemed off for some viewers was the heavy drug use of marijuana and cocaine but the director could have made drugs a factor for numerous reasons. I love that the characters are so different. Glen is an outspoken, proud, gay man while Russel is meek, reserved, and not very “out” about his sexuality though his close friends know.

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This film is the perfect example of how gay film should be. Brokeback Mountain is a sorry excuse of a film compared to Weekend. 

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References:

Arellano, L. (2007). The gay film that wasn’t: The heterosexual suppliment in Brokeback Mountain. p. 59-70. 

Casey, C. (2012). “The imagined power:” The specter of hate crime in Brokeback Mountain. p. 105-126.

Haigh, A. (Director). 2011. Weekend. United Kingdom: Glendale Picture Company.

Hart. K. (2013). Retrograde story telling or queer cinematic triumph? The (not so) groundbreaking qualitites of the film Brokeback Moutain. p. 129-137.

 

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Brandon Teena, was his life honored with Boys Don’t Cry?

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The film Boys Don’t Cry (1999), directed by Kimberly Peirce, depicts the story of Nebraska trans man, Brandon Teena, trying to understand his identity in the early 90s. Brandon’s story is not a happy one his life was cut way too short when he was murdered by two individuals who had no understanding of identities other than their own.

Brandon Teena’s story is one that needs to be told because it brings visibility to the trans community and it is important for Nebraskans to know what is happening in their communities, however, I’m not really sure Boys Don’t Cry got the job done. There were a few things that were good about this movie and Hillary Swank is an amazing actress (she plays Teena), but there was also a lot of aspects of this film that I found to be extremely problematic.

To give a little background on the film, Brandon Teena is a trans man that thinks he’s in a “sexual identity crisis” because trans language was something unknown to him. He was hiding from the law because he had gotten caught with auto theft. He couch surfs and the movie alludes to him not having good ties with his family and his mother having institutionalized him earlier in his life. His drunken nights land him in a bar where he meets a group of rambunctious individuals and then he sees her. Lana Tisdel (played by Chloe Sevigny), the woman who would steal Brandon’s heart. All is going well until his secret slowly starts to come out by one of the friends he was staying with. Lana’s mother and her two guy friends are completely shook by the news because they had no exposure to trans identities and one of the guys, John Lotter, is in love with Lana and can’t handle not having her. The two men then rape Brandon and horribly beat him. Brandon keeps going though and he and Lana decide to run away together but before Brandon leaves town, John Lotter gets to him and shots him. The film ends with Lana laying with Brandon’s body all night.

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Now, this is a very short review of the movie and it doesn’t even remotely get into the nitty gritty of the film. If this was just a made up story, maybe I would have viewed the film differently, but since it’s supposed to be showing the last moments of Brandon Teena’s life, I feel like this movie should have made some major improvements. I was verry emotionally connected to this film and I thougtht he acting was great. I also think that for a movie made in the late 90s, it help opened the door to other trans films and gave some viewers their first exposer to trans identities and different sexualities. Cooper (2002), stated “Boys Don’t Cry not only privileges gender diversity, but also exposes the inherent sexual bigotry of heteroideology and the brutal and deadly consequences of society’s failure to eradicate such prejudice,” (p. 44).  This statement is extremely bold and does not beat around the bush. I agree in that this movie did a really good job of showing what can happen when people fear what they don’t understand. Brandon was viciously murdered because his murders couldn’t fathom the fact that he was different and they couldn’t bear him “tainting” their friend with his “sickness.”

Halberstam (2005) also brings up the point that the film does a good job of putting the viewer in Brandon’s point of view, “Boys Don’t Cry estabilishes the ligitimacy and the durability of Brandon’s gender no simply by telling the tragic tale of his death by murder, but by forcing spectators to adopt, if only provisionally, Brandon’s gaze, a transgender look” (p. 87). This is a good point to bring up and director, Peirce, does this well for most of the film until the ending. Their is a scene at the end of the film where Lana and Brandon are laying in a barn after Brandons rape were Lana changes her language and is talking to her as if Brandon was a woman. This changes the gaze of the viewers which leads them to see Brandon as a female lesbian which is not who Brandon was (p. 89). This is extremely problematic because this change of view discredits Brandon’s indentity and gender which leads me to my next point. Since Brandon is now just seen as a mascline female, it is important to bring up the societal views of female masculinity. Halberstam (1998) stated “female masculinities are framed as the rejected scraps of dominant masculinity in order that male masculinity may appear to be the real thing” (p.1). Brandon’s murders couldn’t handle his masculinity and murdered him to prove their “true” male dominance. Societal views on female masculinity, male masculinity, and trans identities have been so skewed for years and in 2017, this identities are finally being given the visability they deserve but there is still a very, very long way to go.

One final thing that I hated about the film was the fact that it was white washed. The real story of the murder included the murder of a African American man (Halberstam, 2005, p. 91). The fact that Peirce completely left an entire person out of the film is, quite frankly, sickening. How is this tragic story being honored when the accurate story is not being told?

Get it together, Peirce.

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References:

Cooper, B. 2002. Boys don’t cry and female masculinity: reclaiming a life and dismantling the politics of normative heterosexuality. Print. p. 44-63. National Communication Association: Critical Studies in Media Communication.

Halberstam, J. 1998. Female masculinity: An introduction to female masculinity. Print. p. 1-22. Duke University Press.

Halberstam, J. 2005. In a queer time and place: Transgender bodies, subcultural lives. Print. p. 76-97. New York University Press.

Peirce, K. (Director). 1999. Boys Don’t Cry. United States: Fox Searchlight Pictures.

Remembering Harvey Milk: A Blog about 2008’s Milk

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Until watching this film, I had little knowledge about how Harvey Milk was. I knew he was an gay activist, he had a cool last name, and that was about it. I had no idea how complex his life was and his journey to activism. Milk (2008) shows Harvey Milk’s adult life and his career path to becoming a City Supervisor of San Francisco. The film depicts his few ups and many downs as a gay man trying to make a difference for his community in the 1970s. His determination and the support of his peers are what eventually lead him to a successful win of City Supervisor after running multiple times in a row. Even though Milk is a very kind, personable individual, he managed to piss off the wrong person, fellow city supervisor, Dan white who ends up killing Milk and his ally Mayor Moscone.

I thought the film started off a little odd and I did not really understand what was happening but as I got further in the film, I started to fall in love with it. Sean Penn plays Milk and the physical resemblance between the two is uncanny. James Franco play his long time partner, Scott Smith. When I first saw who was playing these roles, I felt a little weird because I thought they would lack chemistry but I actually really liked the two acting together.

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Though I found myself being very emotionally invested in this film and I loved it, that does not mean the movie is not without its faults. It’s important to critically think through this film and analyze it deeply because it is portraying the life of an extremely important public figure and it needs to accurately honor his life.

One aspect of the film I found to be problematic was the fact that I was forgetting that I was watching a Hollywood film and not a documentary. I see this as problematic because the film could lead the audience to believe that everything it is showing is 100% accurate. Memory can be a tricky thing and biopic films have a way of almost creating false memory for the audience. The incorporation of real film from the 1970s makes it even more difficult to decipher between accurate history and man’s portrayal of what they think happened in history.

One major part of the film was the showing of real clips of Anita Bryant. Bryant was a religious radical determined to promote anti-gay ideals and state government policies towards gay individuals in the 1970s. She used her christian beliefs to promote hate which appealed to a lot of voting individuals back then. She made Milk’s job of activism and political policy making even harder because a lot of individuals were scared of what they didn’t understand. In the film, one of Milk’s goal was to prove that everyone knows and loves someone who is gay making different sexuality not so scary. He was trying to the prove the point that people are just people. This part of the film seemed amazing to me and seems extremely real but I have no way of knowing how accurate this part of the film was.

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Movies have an interesting effect on memory, especially when it comes to biopics. Literature backs up the idea that films can cause a strain between the audience in the film by combining history and Hollywood. These ideas about memory are stated by Rich, 2013 and Erhart, 2o11. Films can create memories that can be inaccurate and people who haven’t even lived the experience.

I feel like this film has created false memories for me personally. I liked the film and I feel like I know part of Milk’s story but is what I know about Milk from this film doing him justice?

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References:

Erhart, J. 2011. The naked community organizer: Politics and reflexivity in Gus Van Sant’s Milk, a/b: Auto/Biography Studies, 26:1, 156-170

Rich, B. 2013. Got Milk? Gus Van Sant’s encounter with history. p. 236-260. Duke University Press.

Van Sant, G. (Director). 2008. Milk. United States: Focus Features.