By Chris Azzopardi | Q Syndicate
A hypnotic fever dream of wildly intoxicating weirdness, the twisted premise of director Leos Carax’s cinematically self-aware “Holy Motors” might add up to something, or it might not. It doesn’t really matter. The only absolute is Monsieur Oscar; the rest is up to you. Here’s what we know: Oscar is chauffeured around Paris in a limo-cum-dressing room where he transforms into a gypsy beggar, a leprechaun-looking hobo, and on and on with the eccentric identities. No matter that many of these psychedelic perversions are surrealist who-knows-whats, because the trippy vignettes build to greater strangeness and intrigue as Oscar fulfills his nine “appointments.” Reptilian sex? Check. Naked and erect on Eva Mendes’ lap after eating her hair? Of course. Then Kylie Minogue shows up, breaking into a melancholic ballad and making all the gays happy. French actor Denis Lavant’s chameleonic role as Oscar is mesmerizing, effecting a performance within a performance that’s equal parts uncomfortable, darkly humorous and deeply moving, often at the same time. The extras: a Minogue interview and an ultra comprehensive making-of, but no director commentary. You’ll just have to process that boner scene on your own.
You know those scenes in porn that you fast-forward through to get to the good stuff? They’re everywhere in “Top Gun”: tight baby-smooth bodies glisten sweat beads during a slo-mo volleyball match, men loiter in the locker room in just their towels, and the dialogue – well, let’s just say some of it’s so gay you might mistake it for a Chi Chi LaRue production. The developments in “Top Gun”, making its 3-D Blu-ray debut, are far less interesting, as hotshot flyboy “Maverick” (a 23-year-old Tom Cruise) has a need for speed that lands him a training chance of a lifetime, in bed with Kelly McGillis (who’d later come out as lesbian) and among a bunch of buddies who have cute pet names for each other. Director Tony Scott’s “Top Gun” isn’t groundbreaking cinema, and it wasn’t when it was released in 1986; it was laughable mindlessness that indulged in big-blockbustery Jerry Bruckheimer aerial action and cheesy pop songs that defined an era. Not to mention all the homoeroticism, discussed during an extensive and interesting six-part documentary that revisits everything from the steamy volleyball scene to McGillis’ casting. Fan or not, it’s a pretty fly set.
There’s no apple pie or Steve Carell, but “The Sessions”, on the surface, is about sex. It’s about getting laid. It’s about a man wanting it so bad he hires a woman to get the job done. It’s also about so much more than that, because its central character, Mark (John Hawkes), is paralyzed and bedridden. He’s never slept with a woman or even masturbated, and he wants some action. Once he OKs Mission Sex through his unusually hip pastor (William H. Macy), hoping God gives people with polio a pass, a “sex surrogate” visits Mark for a series of sessions that result in hilariously awkward exchanges (“Your money’s on the table”) and moments of heartfelt humanity in the face of adversity that are quite lovely. As surrogate Cheryl, Helen Hunt bares body and soul for her long-awaited cinematic return with this Oscar-nominated performance. In her matter-of-fact way, and with an everyday realness that Hunt envelopes empathetically, she radiates warmth and compassion – and, at 49, she looks damn good doing it. Using just his spirited voice to communicate, Hawkes makes an inspiring transformation as a man looking not just for a quick lay, but a connection. It’s touching in ways you don’t even imagine. Not even a lack of extras – just some cast interviews and a commentary – can mar the utter delight of “The Sessions”.
Watching “Roger Rabbit” as a cultured fully gay adult, you notice a lot more about the wovable wabbit than your 5-year-old self did. You notice that this live-action fantasy noir actually isn’t just fun-loving Disney character cameos and “patty cake,” but a satire of L.A.’s suburban takeover in the illusory Toontown. You notice crime and blackmail and sex, but particularly a revolutionary film that flawlessly fused humans with cartoons a la “Mary Poppins” and galvanized an abundance of its kind, for better (“Enchanted”) and for worse (“The Smurfs”). You also remember why you had a crush on Jessica Rabbit – besides her obvious foxiness, her cartoon-character fakeness was no real threat to your homosexuality. She was a sassy little vixen (“I’m not bad, I’m just drawn that way”). And I wanted that dress. Now, 25 years after “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” became the second-highest grossing film of 1988, the dance craze-causing cult classic returns in a commemorative Blu-ray edition. Extras are rehashed from its 2003 DVD release: an overstuffed commentary with director Robert Zemeckis and his collaborators, a worthwhile making-of doc and three shorts. Now that’s a crime.
If you’re looking for a Hitchcock history lesson, this isn’t it. Little of the iconic filmmaker is revealed besides, according to Anthony Hopkins’ near-caricature portrayal, his piggish arrogance and the fierceness of his strong-willed wife, Alma, a central part of his career. The wryly humorous behind-the-scenes biopic centers on the Master of Suspense during a creative rut, when he stumbles on a true story that inspires his next movie – his masterwork, as it would become. We learn of Hitchcock’s unwavering dedication to “Psycho” despite the studio’s resistance to “a picture about a queer killing people in his mother’s dress” and how crucial Alma was to the film (“kill her off,” referring to Janet Leigh, portrayed here by an adequate Scarlett Johansson). A brilliantly empowered Helen Mirren works for that Golden Globe nomination. In just a few scenes, James D’Arcy as Anthony Perkins is uncanny. Extras are plentiful, but none more engaging than “Obsessed with Hitchcock.”
Denzel Washington plays a self-loathing addict still drunk on last night’s liquor – and a few other cocktails he made in flight – when he acts instinctively to a plane’s mechanical issue and, in doing so, prevents a bigger disaster. Did a couple screwdrivers make “Whip” Whitaker a hero? The question lingers, but after those panic-driven minutes of fist-clenching, high-intensity action, as we’re practically onboard for one of the most terrifying celluloid plane crashes, what ensues is about more than just an aviation crisis. It’s about a crippling addiction and, when asked to face the truth, the willpower to overcome it. Serious stuff, but not too serious for John Goodman as a hilarious hippie coke dealer. Washington, of course, commits a riveting, all-in redemptive performance that achieves character-study greatness, something the as-of-late action actor hasn’t for quite some time. Check out “Anatomy of a Plane Crash” for a look at that unforgettable scene.
How successful was the superhero orgy “The Avengers”? Successful enough to warrant a new ego war among Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy and the Sandman, who all unite to stop the evil magic-killer Pitch Black. Essentially the same deal, where “the big four” all use their magical powers to keep hope and the holidays alive, “Rise of the Guardians” could use some refinement from Santa’s elves in the storytelling department (DreamWorks: Remember when you did “How to Train Your Dragon” and it was awesome?), but its razzle-dazzle animation is so vivid it’s like a dream. A dream you forget. Laughs are slight, though this line, delivered when a soul-searching metrosexual Jack Frost lands in Santa’s workshop as a guardian amateur, got a crack out of me: “I love being shoved in a sack and tossed through a magic portal.” One last thing: I don’t remember the Tooth Fairy as a flying drag queen, but I dig it. Supplements include actors in voicing action and a Jack Frost snowball-fight game.
—Chris Azzopardi is the editor of Q Syndicate, the international LGBT wire service. Reach him via his website at chris-azzopardi.com.