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Movies: My What Big Legacy You Have

Have you ever seen "The Boys in the Band"?

...would live in the movie theater but for the poor internet reception. He blogs daily at the Film Experience. Follow him on Twitter @nathanielr.

MAKING THE BOYS is a documentary on Mart Crowley's landmark 1968 play turned 1970 movie "The Boys in the Band" about a very bitchy group of New York City homosexuals gathered for a birthday party during the Stonewall era. The doc is only in New York City at the moment but hopefully other gay-populated cities will follow. No matter what one thinks of the subject film, and opinions vary wildly from "self-loathing relic!" to "Respect your history, it changed the world!", it's worth a rental on legacy alone. One of the most horrifying sequences in the documentary involves a montage of teen and early twenty-something gays, one of them famous, who have absolutely no idea what "The Boys in the Band" is, let alone that it has anything to do with LGBT history. They showed a work print during the Tribeca Film Festival two whole years ago so I recall very little other than that it was an eye opener. Classic Hollywood fans take note: Natalie Wood features fairly prominently, or at least she did in the work print.

Meanwhile in popcorn world, Amanda Seyfried stars in the revisionist fairy tale RED RIDING HOOD.


I know nothing about fashion but I'd be curious to know what Tom & Lorenzo or the Fug Girls make of that red cloak lavender bodice combo. ouch, my eyes...


Rochester Also Opening: Aaron Eckhardt fights aliens in BATTLE: LOS ANGELES with the power of his piercing baby blues, super cleft chin and (presumably) massive fire arms; the nonstop avalanche of animated films continues with MARS NEEDS MOMS; Juliette Binoche is sensational in the intellectually playful and emotionally stunning CERTIFIED COPY; And finally, despite a tiny initial launch, watch for JANE EYRE when it hits a theater near you. The incredible Michael Fassbender broods as Mr. Rochester while Mia Wasikowska swoons in the title role. This, the millionth screen version, is helmed by rising directorial star Cary Fukunaga (Sin Nombre). It's winning amazing reviews.


 road This is so so wrong. There lives a man who has 82 Julia Roberts tattoos.

 road James Franco's bookshelf analyzed.

 road With Carla Gugino in movie theaters as (fictional) porn star Elektra Luxx, why not a mini festival of Hollywood movies about porn. It's a thin line between the mainstream and the valley. As for me I shan't ever get enough of Boogie Nights, one of the best films of the Nineties full stop.

 road Channing Tatum and Jamie Bell continue to be adorable on the promotional circuit for The Eagle.

 road Did you hear that Stephan Elliott, the out director of The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert has convinced Olivia Newton-John to swing off a chandelier for his next movie, A Few Best Men (2012)? It's true.

Cindykristin  road While I was caught in the Julianne Moore as Sarah Palin casting announcement drama yesterday, someone suggested to me Kristin Chenoweth as Cindy McCain. It's not the type of role they'd ever offer her -- Hollywood would probably want Joan Allen to reprise her frosty politician wife from Nixon -- and Kristin is a little young for it but now I can't get it out of my head. Since Palin is the only role cast, it's fun to fantasize about which stars might Julianne as the other politicans. Would you love to see Cheno try on something dramatic and biographical for an about face?

 road Keira Knightley is the latest actress to take on everyone's favorite bitchy fairy Tinkerbell. Well, her vocal chords at least. Clap your hands if you believe in fairies, whether from Neverland or Stonewall era NYC.


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  1. Hey I'm in there too. Or at least I was in the work print.

    Posted by: David Ehrenstein | Mar 10, 2011 8:22:24 PM

  2. @David E. -- in the Making of the Boys? They were smart to put you in.

    Posted by: David B. 2 | Mar 10, 2011 8:53:31 PM

  3. Merci!

    Posted by: David Ehrenstein | Mar 10, 2011 9:50:43 PM

  4. I saw that, it starred Casey Donovan, I believe.

    Posted by: hank | Mar 11, 2011 1:47:02 AM

  5. My husband (of now 45 years) and I saw "The Boys in The Band" when it first screened in 1970, after we'd been together for four years. . .and with his mother and her best lady friend! We all thought the film was brilliant, funny, shocking and so revealing of the internalized homophobia that many if not most gay men still felt just a year after Stonewall.

    I recommend the film to any young gay man if only to witness that destructive, horrifying self-hatred that homosexual (not "gay") men suffered over four decades ago, and as a lesson to the hideous consequences of living in the closet.
    Thank the goddess Judy that we've progressed as far as we have!

    Posted by: Paul Weidig | Mar 11, 2011 3:07:22 AM

  6. I'm not so sure, Paul. I read the play and saw the film for a minority playwriting class when I was 20 or so (around 2001-ish). I was already out at that time, and I found the play/film extremely dated. It's full of every gay stereotype imaginable that I just can't possibly imagine that it's completely and wholly representative of gay people during that time period. (Thought: Was this play responsible for the ushering in of stereotypical gay characters still seen today?) I found it to be incredibly heightened and the cattiness amped up 1000% to the point that it was almost excruciating to watch. I just didn't think it was a particularly great play or film. I'm not a fan. By any means.

    However, that doesn't mean I don't respect it. I didn't have to live through that time period and I'm sure the self-loathing was more palpable than it is today. The play was incredibly ground-breaking in that it portrayed gay people as main characters (whether or not they were fully fleshed out is up for debate) and without it, the gay community would perhaps not have an ally in the theatre industry, which has provided such an astonishing inclusiveness. Ditto to the film version and the film industry, to a lesser extent (LGBT movies, for the most part, still suck, and are rarely mainstream).

    And definitely congrats on your 45 years (as long as my straight parents!) together. That's something of which you should both be proud.

    Posted by: finkles2000 | Mar 11, 2011 4:09:40 AM

  7. I'm 23 years old, and saw The Boys In The Band when it was re-released on DVD in 2009. I was fully ready for a dated, homophobic movie, charactestic of those movies from the 60S with a homosexual theme.

    What I found was an extremely engaging movie, that hit so close to home... I've had evening very akin to the one portrayed in the movie, and I can assign a friend of mine to every character. I later showed it to a few friends of mine, and many cried during the last scene.

    TBITB was thrown under the bus in the 70s not because it was homophobic (it was written by a gay man, played by gay men, for a broadway audience...) but because suddenly these truths didn't fit with the Gay Lib / GLF agenda of portraying homosexuals as normal "manly" human beings. It's understandable, but let's not make the same mistake again.

    TBIT hasn't aged a bit, I think, except for a few mentions of police persecution and therapists, which are not even essential to the plot. It's HILARIOUS, with great dialogue (which is somehow something people seem to forget when they mention the movie).

    I'm really happy this documentary has been made - I hope they release it on DVD so I can see it, since I don't live in the US...

    Posted by: Charles | Mar 11, 2011 4:57:13 AM

  8. Hank - Ha! The Boys in the Sand is also a landmark in gay cinema. Porn, but a landmark nonetheless.

    Posted by: hodzer | Mar 11, 2011 5:48:06 AM

  9. I wouldn't go so far as to say that I enjoyed the Boys in the Band, but it was well-put together. Yes, the characters are universally unlikeable stereotypes, and yes, it is often homophobic (does it really need to be said that some of the worst real-life homophobes are homosexual or bisexual?), but if I can watch movies about serial killers and dictators, then I can watch a movie about insufferably catty gay men. Sometimes, a movie about self-destructive personalities can serve as a life lesson for the audience to re-examine their own behaviour, and weed out those less than desirable traits.

    Posted by: Zach | Mar 11, 2011 6:18:15 AM

  10. @Finkles2000 - "Thought: Was this play responsible for the ushering in of stereotypical gay characters still seen today?"

    Certainly not. If you get a copy of the documentary "The Celluloid Closet" you see the stereotypes have been around as long as the movies themselves. What TBITB did was 1) openly identify the characters as gay (something that was only beginning to happen in films in the 60s) and 2) allow them to live past the end of the picture - hell, Harold gets to go home with his hot "birthday present" of a hustler, while Hank and Larry are getting it on in Michael's bedroom. This was heady stuff for the day.

    That's one thing to remember when discussion TBITB - it followed a host of films that marketed themselves as "adult" for tackling homosexuality as a theme, almost always with a self-loathing closet case killing him/herself at the end (see Shirley MacLaine's doomed lesbian in "the Children's Hour"). TBITB was a breakthrough because it was the first play or film to actually look at gay men as potential human beings, with feelings and dreams and desires.

    The film is definitely of its time, and Emory, as played by straight actor Cliff Gorman, is so far over the top as to be a joke - he makes Nathan Lane in "the Birdcage" look butch (and I think Lane as brilliant in that movie). The remainder of the characters may be archetypes, but they're hardly stereotypes and they are certainly not all bitchy queens. Harold and Michael spend most of the evening trading barbs, with all the Emory bon mots thrown in, but the rest of the characters, IMHO, are totally different.

    The other interesting thing about the film is that many people totally ignore Hank and Larry and the discussion they have about monogomy and gay relationships - they could have walked out of a Dan Savage column. The issues of aging and the value placed on physical beauty are also addressed, and we sure still have those today.

    Posted by: CPT_Doom | Mar 11, 2011 10:14:36 AM

  11. That same year "The Boys In The Band" appeared on Broadway there was an independent film appearing in small "art houses" in New York (and few other east coast cities, I guess). It was called "The Queen." It's worth seeing because it gives young Gay people an idea of what kind of Gay people would be the ones to challenge the police a couple of years later at Stonewall. The kind of Gay people who couldn't get into a closet even if they wanted to.

    Posted by: Derrick from Philly | Mar 11, 2011 10:15:24 AM

  12. Who is this reviewer? "This movie is great because it's so deep and thought provoking and back in popcorn world that movie sucks as they all do." While that might be true (and I'm sure it is in this case), can you at least give me a small analysis of the movies besides broad statements? Pick up a book on film criticism before writing a critique of them (no matter how big or small the critique might be). Just because you LOVE to watch movies does not make you a film critic.

    Posted by: jay | Mar 11, 2011 11:13:21 AM

  13. Sorry, "The Boys In The Band" played OFF-Broadway. Any fool would know that--even if they weren't sure. Maybe I was thinking of "Hello Dolly!"

    Posted by: Derrick from Philly | Mar 11, 2011 11:26:17 AM

  14. I love Boys in the Band. From a writing perspective, I'd kill to write such a good first act. It's a machine that does not let up for a second.

    And I took found it incredibly true. Maybe not for ALL gay men, but for a particular subset of urban (NYC) gay men of a certain economic class a lot of this still holds true--the debting, the drinking, the drugging, the tacit racism . . . I witnessed much of that in The Pines.

    Posted by: Alejandro | Mar 11, 2011 11:37:52 AM

  15. @David: we saw it in Montreal, and you're still there, as is Natalie Wood, though I wouldn't say she figures "prominently." Parties at their house, yes.

    The play was a huge hit, but by the time the movie came out (post-Stonewall) times had changed and it already looked outdated. But I just showed it to my mostly straight students and they loved the dialogue. Brilliant and influential, even if some twinks these days don't know it (I'm talkin to you, Christian S!).

    Posted by: Kevinvt | Mar 11, 2011 11:59:43 AM

  16. Jamie and Channing do have chemistry. They should work together again. I've been reading "The Eagle" and the screenwriter made their relationship much more homoerotic than in the book.

    Posted by: jaragon | Mar 11, 2011 5:59:31 PM

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