Screen Queen: Century-Old Landmark Film ‘A Taste of Honey’ Is ‘Start of Gay Pride’

Chris Azzopardi
By | 2016-09-29T09:00:00-04:00 September 29th, 2016|Entertainment|

A Taste of Honey
Remember 1961? The world was straighter then. There was no Will, no Grace. No Ellen, either. So, it’s no surprise films from this era had to eschew queerness. When British New Wave delight “A Taste of Honey” stirred the pot with its explicit-for-the-time portrayal of a groundbreaking gay character named Geoffrey (Murray Melvin), who gets chummy with fellow outsider Jo (Rita Tushingham), it was a landmark for both the film and for the future of LGBT cinema. Geoffrey is sympathetic to Jo’s situation: Her selfish, socialite mother is too busy pursuing male suitors to invest an iota of attention in her daughter. First, Jo finds refuge in a black sailor named Jimmy – his race leading to contention in one of the film’s controversial subplots – and then Geoffrey, whose homosexuality piques her curious, guileless mind (“I’ve always wanted to know about people like you”), who’s “just like a big sister” to her and whom she relishes because “I always want to have you with me because I know you’ll never ask anything from me.” Openly non-hetero portrayals in cinema weren’t, obviously, a reality in the ’60s. Of course, later, we’d celebrate many gay characters in films such as “Brokeback Mountain” and “Weekend,” but thanks to a newly restored Blu-ray edition of “A Taste of Honey” from Criterion Collection, today’s nonconformists can experience a seminal moment in LGBT cinema history, a gauge of just how far we queers have come on the screen. Don’t forget to tune into the extras, which include Melvin’s illuminating remarks about using mere context clues to depict Geoffrey’s sexuality. “I always say I was the start of gay pride,” he says. “It’s old gown to me, honey. It was on my shoulder and I’m very proud of it.” Certainly, he should be.

Everybody Wants Some!!
Let’s hear it for the boys who don denim cutoffs and romp around the locker-room and spank each other. It’s all so casual – a suggestive position, a couple of perky nipples, a guy with a donk so juicy other guys can’t help but admire it too. And that’s the charm of “Everybody Wants Some!!,” the gayest non-gay movie since everything James Franco has made in the last five years. Like vintage porn without the man-on-man sexy time, director Richard Linklater’s irresistible throwback teems with the kind of bro-y homoeroticism you lap up at your local gym. Maybe it’s the source material: jocks, the ’80s, years of mounting gay subtext like that volleyball scene in “Top Gun.” Surely, “Everybody Wants Some!!” is one big and very welcome cock tease, but because Linklater is an accomplished filmmaker – it doesn’t get much better than his groundbreaking film “Boyhood” – this wonderfully amusing and adjacently gay frat film is more than male-gazing. In the lead role is “Glee” star Blake Jenner, as puppy-eyed Jake, a high school pitcher entering his freshman year of college and experiencing the typical first-year intimidation from his teammates. It’s not long before those same teammates, who razz him for being new and without their pervy streak, learn that even a college newbie can have a few tricks up his sleeve. For more boys being boys and acting just gay enough to make you think you have a chance with them, check out the special features, which include a tease-y blooper reel. And because life is good, there’s a behind-the-scenes feature on how they found “that groove in their pelvis.”

If you saw the original “Carrie” in 1976, you know how greatly it resonated with the queer population – so much so that one gay filmmaker even remade it for the #ItGetsBetter era. Nearly four decades after Stephen King’s book first became a film, “Boys Don’t Cry” out director Kimberly Peirce resurrected the classic revenge tale in 2013, though so innocuously she may as well have left it alone. “Carrie” didn’t need a remake. This 40th Anniversary Collector’s Edition reminds us why. For one: the spooky yet wholly empathetic Sissy Spacek. As “Creepy Carrie,” her name according to one young neighborhood prick, Spacek inhabits Carrie’s complicated being with pathos and utter horror, making the film’s protagonist a frightful presence and a pillar of outsider empowerment. High school humiliation and her mother’s constant Jesus-led condemnation come to a head on prom night, when Carrie lets her telekinesis rage into a full-blown blood bath. You know the scene. The pig’s blood. The car wreck involving a young John Travolta. Then what follows: the showdown with her mother (played by the wonderfully nutty Piper Laurie). In all its gory glory and queer resonance, and executed with surprising grace, “Carrie” did to proms and periods what “Nightmare on Elm Street” did to dreams. The mayhem lives on courtesy of Shout! Factory, with a stacked edition honoring its nearly half-century reign. Included among the supplemental materials: a peek at the film’s musical version and rare photos. But most satisfying are the ample interviews, featuring Spacek and director Brian De Palma, that thoroughly explore “Carrie” from inception through its reboot-sparking legacy.

Also Out

Ingrid Bergman: In Her Own Words
What might Ingrid Bergman’s life have been like if she hadn’t become a screen legend? That question looms throughout fellow Swede and director Stig Bjorkman’s 2015 documentary, culled from diaries, letters, film clips and home movies. The doc serves as both a celebratory and humanizing homage to Bergman, who went from Sweden to Italy to Hollywood to build her film empire, finding remarkable success while also yearning “to be free.” And so the “Casablanca” heroine was, prioritizing film over family, pursuing romance despite controversy and, eventually, breaking out of the box Hollywood put her in. Bjorkman’s doc is intimate, moving and melancholic, touching on the most interesting facets of Bergman’s romances and legendary filmography. But matched with a gentle score from Michael Nyman and Alicia Vikander’s voiceover narration, and through interviews with the icon’s children, including Isabella Rossellini, the bittersweetness of “what could’ve been” permeates the fleeting flash of every family photo. Seven minutes of additional home movies are included among the recently released Criterion package, along with extra scenes and a music video for the emotional end-credits song, “The Movie About Us.”

Sing Street
John Carney is coming for your tears again. After bringing together a pair of Irish musicians in “Once” and testing our very emotional well-being every time “Falling Slowly” played in a public setting, the director / writer gleans music from the ’80s, as “Sing Street” follows a group of friends who assemble a band as one does when you’re young and aspiring to “babe magnet” status. Rock ‘n’ roll, though, becomes salvation as the band’s leader singer, Conor “Cosmo” Lalor (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo), navigates adolescent strife: his parents’ divorce, bullying and identity issues. Featuring tunes by Duran Duran and The Cure, and a closing number by Adam Levine, who speaks about the track during the disc’s too-few extras, “Sing Street” is a warm love letter to the transcendent power of music.

Hello, My Name Is Doris
Queer ally and mom-to-a-gay-son Sally Field works her onscreen magic in “Hello, My Name Is Doris” as a delightfully wonky golden girl whose life is in shambles after her mother dies. Her husband’s dead too, so Doris is in a hard place. Imagine your grandma having make-out fantasies about 20-something men and participating in the “LGBT Knitting Committee” – that’s Doris, and Doris, despite recent hardships, is determined to live her best damn life. So, Doris crushes on a much younger co-worker (beware: after this, you will never think of a medicine ball as just a medicine ball) and, in another age-defying moment, jams out amid hipsters to a fictional alt-rock band featuring fun.’s Jack Antonoff. Because she’s Sally Field, you adore her in her charming, frantic, cat-lady state even if you can’t quite cherish this slight dramedy the same way. Deleted scenes and a commentary from director Michael Showalter are among the special features.

Neighbors 2
James’ younger, handsomer brother Dave Franco, who famously jumpstarted his career by sodomizing himself for Funny or Die, keeps the family tradition of gayness going. In “Neighbors 2,” Franco helps put a refreshing bend on the Seth Rogen-starring stoner comedy “Neighbors,” reprising his role as Zac Efron’s BFF, but with this surprising revelation: He’s gay and has a fiance, Darren (John Early). Efron’s thirst trap of a bod is, obviously, reason enough to see this sequel, which somehow manages to tackle gender politics, growing pains and the messy line between gay guys and the merely bromantic. And stay for the same-sex wedding. Who knew a premise this rooted in bros and boozing could also be this sweetly homo-hued? Extras are less gay, though your queer sensibilities certainly won’t mind a funny deleted scene featuring a shirtless Efron and a bunch of boys in crop-tops.

The Nice Guys
This is a confusing time for our country. For instance, since when doesn’t a Ryan Gosling movie – with porn, and with a rim job joke – not make bank. But seriously: “The Nice Guys” didn’t pull in big bucks at the box office, and it should have. One of the best films of year, the flick is a splendid web of ’70s vibes, twisty mystery and girl power, as in literal girl power, as in an adolescent schoolgirl being a badass. Gosling’s precocious daughter, Holly, played by Angourie Rice, steps in because, well, frankly, her alcoholic father needs her to, and not just to uncover whether a porn star named Misty Mountains is dead or alive (after all, we’re talking about the same guy who bloodily mangles his hand during an investigation that requires him to break a window). Gosling and Russell Crowe, playing his instigating partner, are the ultimate odd couple who slay with a salvo of punchlines. It doesn’t hurt, of course, that Matt Bomer is here for the fun as a not-nice guy. Also not very nice, though? The scant features.

About the Author:

Chris Azzopardi
As editor of Q Syndicate, the international LGBTQ wire service, Chris Azzopardi has interviewed a multitude of superstars, including Cher, Meryl Streep, Mariah Carey and Beyoncé. His work has also appeared in GQ, Vanity Fair and Billboard. Reach him via Twitter @chrisazzopardi.