Here's a film you'll never see on an airplane. Pedro Almodóvar's latest, I'M SO EXCITED!, takes place (almost) entirely aboard an airplane like some lost "bottle episode" of an aborted Almodóvarian sitcom. But the stewards and pilots are less concerned with fastening your seat belt than unzipping your pants and more interested in spiking drinks than pouring them. It's arrived just in time for Gay Pride Weekend and what great timing; this is by far the gayest thing Pedro has done since Bad Education (2004) in which Gael García Bernal famously both tucked his junk for drag duties and showed it off in wet underwear poolside.
I think it was the internet critic David Poland (of Movie City News fame) who dubbed that earlier film "fag noir" and took some heat for that but I personally don't think Almodóvar would have minded. In fact, for a long time I miscredited the tag to Pedro himself. Pedro's characters are often outrageously hedonistic from nympho nuns to homicidal hotties to transgendered hookers and even the sanest among them act on melodramatic or comic impulse without shame or apology. In short, to appropriate a quote from Rich Juzwiak they're 'as faggy as they want to be'. And that's just the ladies!
I bring up this divisive language because Almodóvar, despite his celebrated global rise as a world class auteur -- those Oscar wins for All About My Mother (1999's Best Foreign-Language Film) and Talk To Her (2002's Best Original Screenplay) in the early Aughts marked his peak -- has never and will never win fans among the easily offended or anyone who flinches at the queeniest moments in gay pride parades.
MORE AFTER THE JUMP...
But for the rest of us his consistently stunning filmography (so many classics from Law of Desire through Volver) makes each new film a "Must-See". Yes, even a quickie toss-off like this one. I'm So Excited is on the surface a comedy about a very negligent horny flight crew and a secretive batch of first class passengers but it's also a satirical riff on Spain's economic crisis. Political satire is a difficult genre when it comes to subtitles so this is unlikely to please everyone. Still, it's Pedro's first straight (not in the heterosexual sense) comedy since, well, forever and that has to be noted even if it feels inevitable since Broken Embraces (2009) was, at least in part, the story of a blinded director trying to make a comedy that looked suspiciously like Women on the Verge of a Breakdown (1988), Pedro's international breakthrough. Pedro may have have entered a weirdly self-referential holding pattern in his career but if so he's earned the right.
Though I'd love for EVERYONE to see it (someone's gotta support the true artists of cinema or everything but superheroes will one day be VOD only) I'm So Excited! will, in the end, probably be regarded as little more than a curio throwback to the director's outrageous early days. The critics screening I attended was mysteriously quiet but critics are difficult to read at comedies (were they LOLing without the OL part?) and comedies are ALWAYS funnier with a full paying crowd. Don't get "So Excited!" for Pedro's most famous muses Penélope Cruz & Antonio Banderas who only have cameos (for their 5th and 7th Pedro film, respectively) but do prepare yourself for the titular song. The airline stewards do a choreographed routine. In full and in full fabulousity from first 80s synthpop beats to the "look what you do to me" repeat fadeout.
If your taste in shamelessly outrageous comedy runs more mainstream or if you just need 27 more minutes of air-conditioning (why are American comedies so f'in long?) the big ticket this weekend is THE HEAT starring Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy. Bullock plays a very smug and uptight FBI agent and McCarthy plays a loose cannon cop who'll catch her criminals by any means necessary. It's hate at first sight but they learn to work together. If that description screams 'Every Odd Couple Buddy Cop Comedy Ever!,' than you already know if you could handle seeing another, only with funny ladies and spanks jokes this time.
In its own way its as offensive as I'm So Excited (one ongoing joke involves a dealer who thinks McCarthy is racist and she takes him down with... no, I can't even type it!) and though it's a fast fade there are quite a few laughs, most of them courtesy of what feels like The Melissa & Sandy Improv Hour. The film is directed by Paul Feig who held the reigns on Bridesmaids and though this one isn't fit to stand in that wedding party, it's ratio of minutes to laughs is fairly good and McCarthy really brings it. At the very least it's a thousand times funnier than McCarthy's weirdly joke-free Identity Thief which was an inexplicable blockbuster earlier this year. I'd warn you to stay through the credits for the funny punchline to an ongoing Sandra is a Crazy Cat Lady joke but the film is too nervous that you'll be running out already and only lets a couple credits fly before selling it.
Nathaniel Rogers would live in the movie theater but for the poor internet reception. He blogs daily at the Film Experience. Follow him on Twitter @nathanielr.
Dozens were arrested at a gay rights rally in St. Petersburg, Russia today.
Check out a stunning video of the clash, AFTER THE JUMP...
Officials in St. Petersburg deemed that the rally, which took place in a space designated for public demonstrations, violated the law. The statute essentially prohibits public displays of homosexuality, as well as talking about it to children.
About 200 nationalists also gathered at the rally, chanting slogans such as "Sodomy will not pass," and throwing eggs and rocks at the gay-rights activists, who numbered about 40.
The state-run Itar-TASS news agency quoted an unnamed police official as saying police arrested dozens of people, including eight nationalists.
RIA Novosti adds:
The Russian LGBT network said on its Facebook page Saturday that several activists were beaten up by their opponents during the event, and more than 50 were held by the police. Eight of the anti-gay activists were detained as well, the police said. One of the police officers was injured while trying to detain an anti-gay activist, local Fonatanka.Ru news website reported.
The Field of Mars is the city’s “Hyde Park” where demonstrations are allowed without special sanctions.
Check out a stunning video of the clash, AFTER THE JUMP...
Boy Scout leaders unhappy with the group's decision last month to extend membership to openly gay youth have been steadily gathering supporters in the hopes of forming a new, antigay alternative. John Stemberger, an Eagle Scout and Florida lawyer, operates a web site, www.onmyhonor.net, that has become the gathering place for scout leaders and families disappointed and angry about BSA's new policy. The Dallas Morning News reports:
Gerry Cates, 62, an Abilene businessman and Eagle Scout, is among the many Texans who allowed Stemberger to use their names on his web site. He said he's willing to support the new group - assuming it gets off the ground - with a little money and personal networking.
"The whole thing makes me angry," Cates said. "I think the scout leadership caved to gay politics and ruined the whole deal."
During conversations with Cates and other critics of BSA's liberalized membership policy, the same issue keeps coming up - How will scoutmasters handle tent arrangements on campouts?
"I've got a 7-year-old grandson in Cub Scouts," Cates said. "When he gets old enough for Boy Scouts, what do you do about a 16-year-old gay kid in camp?"
BSA leaders stress that policy forbids any sexual behavior - homosexual or heterosexual - during scout activities. Violators will be punished, they insist
BSA consultants have reported that BSA might lose 10-12 percent of its 2.6 million members because of unhappiness with the new policy on gay scouts. Nonetheless, BSA's top leaders publicly backed the policy change.
Hundreds of people across the nation have already signed up as supporters on Stemberger's website. While the new group is not yet organized, supporters will be meeting this week in Louisville, Ky to discuss name options and the steps necessary to launch the organization nationwide. Announced name choices for the new organization include American Heritage Boys, American Sons of Liberty, and Patriot Rangers, among others.
Deadline Hollywood reports that a film version of Patricia Nell Warren's novel The Front Runner, perennially trapped in development hell, may be receiving renewed attention from Hollywood producers and development executives given this week's historic decisions handed down by the Supreme Court:
"The subject matter — a handsome ex-Marine college track coach who has kept his sexuality secret until he becomes the coach of a world-class runner he falls in love with, until they declare their love right before he becomes a gold medalist, and deal with the tragic consequences of an intolerant society — has long tempted Hollywood but always fell short of the start line.
'For me, as the author, this was always about two characters who wanted to be married,' she said. 'In the early ’70s, that wasn’t possible. The closest they could get was a personal commitment ceremony, which was a big thing in the early ’70s. If my characters were alive today, they would be tremendously excited by what the Supreme Court did this week.'"
Many have tried to turn the groundbreaking 1974 novel that has sold over 10 million copies into a feature film, including Paul Newman, director Frank Perry (Mommie Dearest), and producer Jerry Wheeler. The story also received revived interest after the success of Brokeback Mountain when many in Hollywood were looking to capitalize on the financial success of that film. Though financing has yet to be secured, Perry has finally regained the rights to her novel after a protracted battle, thus clearing the way for production to begin should backers step up to the plate.
Yesterday a federal judge in Michigan struck down a law signed by Governor Rick Snyder in 2011 that would have prevented domestic partners of state employees from receiving health-care benefits similar to those afforded to heterosexual spouses, the AP reports:
"U.S. District Judge David Lawson said plaintiffs who have lost benefits or been forced to buy expensive private health insurance have made a 'plausible claim' that the law violates the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution. The decision came nearly a year after he heard arguments in the lawsuit, filed by the American Civil Liberties Union.
'It is hard to argue with a straight face that the primary purpose – indeed, perhaps the sole purpose – of the statute is other than to deny health benefits to the same-sex partners of public employees. But that can never be a legitimate governmental purpose,' Lawson said as he ordered an injunction."
As the ACLU points out, the ruling out of Michigan is remarkable in that it is the first court decision to cite the Supreme Court's ruling that overturned section 3 of DOMA in Windsor v. United States:
"Judge Lawson recognized, as the Supreme Court did, that the Constitution forbids the government from passing laws with a motive to discriminate against gay people. This is the first federal court decision applying the Supreme Court's reasoning to protect same-sex couples from discrimination in other contexts."
The ruling comes just days after Michigan lawmakers introduced legislation to repeal the state's ban on same-sex marriage which passed in 2004. The ban is also currently under review by federal judge Bernard Friedman, who in March postponed his ruling on the constitutionality of the ban given the Supreme Court's impending consideration of both Prop. 8 and DOMA. Judge Friedman's ruling is still forthcoming.
UPDATE: BuzzFeed reports that the decision is a temporary injunction, in effect only temporarily halting the ban until the court reaches a final decision. However, in his injunction, Lawson noted that the plaintiffs challenging the ban "are likely to succeed."