The Boys in the Band,
and a few more films

The Boys in the Band (1970)

#233  [archive]
DEC. 9, 2023
The Celluloid Closet told me that this is the first movie with gay characters wherein none of them have to die for being gay. The Boys in the Band is a historical milestone, then, and I wanted to see it, but I'll confess that I certainly didn't expect to enjoy it as thoroughly as I did.

“Give me Librium or give me meth!”

It's a birthday party at an upscale New York apartment, with eight gay men, and a straight friend who unexpectedly drops by. This is pre-Stonewall, before the gay rights movement was really moving, so most of these men might be in the closet 9-5. That means the party is the only time they can be themselves, ferociously, and it does get ferocious.

Like every party I've ever been to, it's a disaster, but the eye-rolls are endless, the light jokes are funny,  and the angry and cutting lines are savage.

This is no comedy, though. This is major melodrama — a bitchy gay parlor room drama that gets meaner and meaner as everyone gets drunker... and then everyone has another drink. Is this a party, or is it group therapy?

Part of me is skeptical that all these people could survive two hours together. They might be friends at the beginning of the night, but one by one they'd storm out furious at all the catty comments that draw blood, and vicious arguments revealing secrets that I'd never want aired in public.

I will never ever never attend another party, but if there's a court order or something and I'm forced to attend, let it be a party like this. Jeez, what a night. 

Written by Matt Crowley, who later produced TV's Hart to Hart, and directed by William Friedkin (The Exorcist, The French Connection, To Live and Die in L.A.).

Verdict: YES.

♦ ♦ ♦

The Cheyenne Social Club (1970)

Jimmy Stewart and Henry Fonda are cattle wranglers and friends who've been riding together for years, always with enjoyable dudetalk between 'em. Then Stewart gets a letter from a lawyer, and learns that his brother has died, making him the new owner of the Cheyenne Social Club, a whorehouse on the wrong side of the tracks in Wyoming.

Much discomfort and mild silliness results, Stewart and Fonda have a fine time, and Shirley Jones plays the lead prostitute and sings a song. 

It's old fashioned empty entertainment, with no surprises, but it delivers some laughs from the leads, and you can't go wrong with Fonda and Stewart together.

Produced and directed by Gene Kelly, but he's off-camera and nobody dances.

Verdict: YES.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

The Company Men (2010)

Due to a flurry of economic catch phrases, Ben Affleck has been laid off from his sales management position at GTX, a huge fictional corporation. Another exec, Chris Cooper, still has his job but maybe not for long. The #2 man at GTX, Tommy Lee Jones, is angry because two of his favorite shipbuilding plants have been closed, and laying off so many 'little people' troubles his conscience.

All of this immediately bored the bejeebers out of me, because I care exponentially less than zero about how layoffs affect management and the executive suite.

Affleck's character is an asshole from the first scene, and losing his job doesn't make him a sweeter guy. And despite all the shouts and worries, relax, there's a Hollywood happy ending ahead.

Verdict: BIG NO.

♦ ♦ ♦  

Detention (2011)

This is a satire of everything in a teenager's existence, and many things which aren't. It delivers some laughs, but more often it's bewildering, and never slows down enough for an old codger like me to figure out what's going on.

There's body swapping, slasher murders, time travel, a football player with insect blood, in-school suicide, torture, glow-in-the-dark semen, space aliens, and vegetarianism.

It's obviously and only aimed at teenagers, but even if I was 15, I think I'd want this movie to shut the fuck up and take a breath sometimes.

Verdict: MAYBE.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

The Gods of Times Square (1999)

This is a documentary about a bygone time and place — New York's old Times Square, full of crackheads and lunatics, before it was swept away for fake Disney cleanliness.

It's slightly a surprise to me, though I guess it shouldn't be, that so many of the square's wingnuts and bums have been damaged by their gods. There are Jews for Jesus, and a Muslim who raps about Allah, Krishnas, doomsayers, Black Israelites, and some guy who's very coy about what god he's preaching about, but he preaches. Another nut promises that next year, God is going to hit the big time, marry Madonna, and release an album that'll go triple platinum. 

Despite its tawdry reputation, Times Square in the 1990s seems to have been a cool neighborhood of stark raving mad nonchalants. We're also shown the demolition of an old-time grindhouse cinema, and a mom & pop hot dog stand that won't be allowed in the gentrified square.

With all the street people and crazies, it feels like The Gods of Times Square should've grabbed me harder than it did, but it's a worthwhile movie.

Verdict: YES.


• • • Coming attractions • • •

Frankenhooker (1990)
Greystoke (1984)
Hugo (2011)
The Importance of Being Earnest (1952)
The Lawyer (1970)
Not of This Earth (1957)
The Saint in New York (1938)
Same Kind of Different as Me (2017)
The Shooting (1966)
The Spook Who Sat by the Door (1973)
The Train (1964)
Welcome to New Orleans (2006)
Winter Soldier (1972)

... plus occasional 
schlock and surprises 

There are so many good movies out there — old movies, odd or artsy, foreign or forgotten movies, or do-it-yourself movies made just for the joy of making them — that if you only watch whatever's on Netflix or playing at the twenty-plex, you're missing out.

To get beyond the ordinary, I recommend:

AlterCineverseCriterionCultCinema ClassicsDocsVilleDustFandorFilms for ActionHooplaIHaveNoTVIndieFlixInternet ArchiveKanopyKinoCultKino LorberKorean Classic FilmChristopher R MihmMosfilmMubiNational Film Board of CanadaNew Yorker Screening RoomDamon PackardMark PirroPizzaFlixPopcornFlixPublic Domain MoviesRareFilmmScarecrow VideoShudderThoughtMaybeTimeless Classic MoviesVoleFlixWatchDocumentaries • or your local library

Some people even access films through shady methods, though of course, that would be wrong.

— — —

Illustration by Jeff Meyer. Reviews are spoiler-free, or at least spoiler-warned. Click any image to enlarge. Arguments & recommendations are welcome, but no talking once the lights dim, and only real butter on the popcorn, not that fake yellow stuff. 
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  1. Company Men was plain shit, I got dragged to see it and hated it. Your review is too kind.

    Detention was crazy yeah, but smart crazy is better than stupid crazy. I really liked the opening sequence with that horrible girl who immediately dies. I liked the whole movie, but I am younger than you

    1. Yeah, there was something going on in Detention. Might've been fun for the target audience.

      Company Man angered me. So tone-deaf and full of misunderstandings of everything.

    2. What was the point of Company Men? Who would believe that shit?

      Also, forgot to say Boys in the Band yes yes yes.


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