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The Bottom Shelf #93

02.01.2007

I think you've already heard me go on and on enough about how if there's a good actor that you enjoy, it's always best to go ferret out some of their earlier work to get an idea of how they were a good actor all along. Here are a couple more examples of that concept in effect.

BENT (1997)
Directed by: Sean Mathias
Starring: Clive Owen

-- click here to buy this DVD at Amazon.com --
-- click here to rent this movie at NetFlix.com --

Ever wonder what BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN would have been like if the love story was in the middle of World War 2, set in Berlin and starring a young, hot Clive Owen? I'm not trying to demean the story that is told here, but I wanted to use one of the most recognized pieces of homosexual cinema in order to get the ball rolling. Perhaps it's that I'm an open-minded individual and understand that there have been far more left of center stories about love that didn't feature the XX/XY combo, I don't know. Point is, there's more to life than just Jake and Heath.

During the second world war, living in Germany was perilous. If you weren't a blue eyed blonde with fair skin, chances are you were going to end up singled out by our friends the Nazis. If you were a blue eyed blonde who happened the enjoy the company of a member of the same sex, you were automatically dropped to the bottom of the list. In BENT, we follow the misadventures of a gay man (Owen) who is carrying on as if he's seen the future and the future looks like the dance floor at Club 54. When Hitler decides to make a splash, suddenly his lifestyle is called into question and he must do what he can in order to survive.

So many movies detailing the history of this dark war tend to focus on those people of the Jewish persuasion. What most forget is that it didn't matter if you were Jewish. It mattered that you were different. There was a set ideal and if you fell outside of those parameters, your life was in jeopardy. Carefully guarded during their stays in the detention camps, much of what the prisoners were forced to do was intended to drive them mad. This movie excellently portrays the pain and frustration of just wanting to be yourself and discovering that who you are isn't desired. The madness wasn't hard to find; It was riding on the brink all along.

Favorite Scene:

Orgasm achieved through sheer will power. Gotta love that.

Favorite Line:

"I saw you by the river. You were making a fool of yourself, and I said, someday I'll be in Dachau with that man moving rocks."

Trivia Tidbit:

Ian McKellen, who appears as Uncle Freddie in the film, starred in the role of Max in the original London West End theater production in 1979.

See if you liked:

BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN, LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL, SCHINDLER'S LIST

MATEWAN (1987)
Directed by: John Sayles
Starring: Chris Cooper

-- click here to buy this DVD at Amazon.com --
-- click here to rent this movie at NetFlix.com --

I like John Sayles. One of the lesser recognized directors (in as much as the average movie goer wouldn't think "Hey! Have you seen the new John Sayles?"), Sayles can tell an involving story that might come off as flat out boring in less talented hands. He chooses to hit material where there has been some infraction in human rights violated and tends to let the story then speak for itself. Very rarely do you find someone who doesn't want to put their stamp of support or condemnation upon a subject. Sayles manages to do just that with great aplomb.

MATEWAN is the story of a group of coal miners during the 1920's and their attempts to unionize in a small town. Chris Cooper, excellent as always, is a union leader trying to help out the men and keep them from resorting to vigilante justice. Made during the late '80's, this movie has a look which is much older than its years. The film transfer is grainy, the sound is at times screeching and at other times muffled. All of it lends to conveying the heart of the story. Anything made in more recent years with a shinier, cleaner transfer would have ultimately hurt the telling.

When watching a film like this, I get mad. I get mad for the people who are being abused. I get mad that we couldn't figure out a way to solve our differences without incurring a violent end. I get mad that in many quiet ways, much of what went on then is going on now within the retail business. Sayles never takes that side where you feel as if he wants you to be mad. He lays it out and allows you to come to your own conclusion. The one that I came to just so happened to feature a heavy dose of indignation. Whether he likes it or not, Sayles makes a very convincing argument for both unionization and justice through the barrel of a gun. In any case, a very important point gets made.

Favorite Scene:

When the young miner is giving his speech about Joseph and how he was betrayed. Brilliant turn by a young, unknown actor.

Favorite Line:

"I wouldn't piss on him if his heart was on fire."

Trivia Tidbit:

The movie was actually filmed in a town in central West Virginia known as Thurmond. This town is located on the New River. It is about 100 miles from the real city of Matewan.

See if you liked:

COLD MOUNTAIN, NORMA RAE, SALVADOR

There's a Netflix and an IMDB for a reason. Explore outside of your safe little circle and use them for more than just proving that it wasn't Uma who was at the last UFC match. You like an actor, research them, watch them and learn a little something called loyalty and respect.

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