2022 will go down in history as a year. There was turmoil in the wider world and political upheaval at home.
Anyway, here are some films I watched and enjoyed.
The first gay rom-com (by a major studio). Billy Eichner plays Bobby, an uptight, slightly whiny gay man, who falls in love with Aaron (Luke Macfarlane), a straight-acting jock type. But — who would have thought it? — the relationship is rocky and punctuated by awkward moments and personality clashes before they eventually realise they are perfect for each other.
Sadly the film didn’t do too well at the box office. Maybe Eichner’s character was a bit too annoying, maybe the straights were scared off by the four-way sex scene, or maybe there were too many jokes about gay culture that only make sense to someone who has a lifetime subscription to the Advocate and has seen every episode of Drag Race. It was probably a little too gay to entice the straights in. Not that they should have diluted the gayness for more mainstream appeal. Quite the opposite: they should have gone the whole hog and left in the rimming scene.
It’s a shame it flopped, not just because this may dissuade Hollywood from tackling similar LGBT+-themed fare in the future, but because there’s a lot to like here. Critics were generally kind, ticket sales less so.
The lasting legacy of it, for my boyfriend and I, is that whenever we see a man wearing shorts in cold weather, we say “psychopath!”
Watch out for a fabulous cameo by Debra Messing, with a scene-stealing performance. And Luke Macfarlane. Just… Luke Macfarlane *swoons*.
Bros was fun. Always nice to see gays front-and-centre in a mainstream(ish) film.
Also… Luke MacFarlane. That is all. pic.twitter.com/aWwcA01yE1
— Robert Hampton (@Hampo) November 1, 2022
I blogged extensively about this one when I saw it earlier this year, but here it is again. The true story of a forbidden love affair between two officers in the Soviet Union, Firebird set the film festival circuit alight and finally achieved a limited release in the UK in the first half of 2022.
Remarkable, sensitive performances by Tom Prior (who also co-wrote and co-produced) and Oleg Zagorodnii make this a must-see. It’s out on DVD now, and is also available to rent on Prime Video.
Based on Pride and Prejudice (yes, really), this film focuses on a group of friends who go to the gay hotspot of Fire Island for a vacation, only for romantic entanglements to blossom and complicate matters.
An entertaining depiction of gay life in the 21st century, it tackles issues of classism and racism in the LGBT community. With a likeable (and hot) group of lead actors, and a script that delivers big laughs alongside some sincere heartfelt moments, this was a good watch.
Released on Hulu in the US, the British release comes courtesy of streaming service Disney+, and how many other films under the Disney brand are going to feature a scene at a drug-fuelled gay sex party? Not many (unless there’s another deleted song from Muppet Christmas Carol that no-one knows about).
Based on a much earlier Japanese film Ikiru, which is in turn based on a 19th-century novella by Leo Tolstoy. Bill Nighy stars as a bureaucrat living a dreary existence in 1950s London. His life is spent shuffling papers around desks, rubber-stamping them and passing them to his equally dreary colleagues. When he suddenly gets the news that he is facing a terminal illness, it prompts a re-think of his priorities.
I spent most of the film trying to remember where I’d seen his young companion, Mrs Harris, before. It was only when I looked up the cast afterwards that I realised she was played by Aimee Lou Wood of Sex Education fame. She’s as good here as she is there (which is to say, very good).
It’s a slow-paced film, but really rather wonderful as a quiet reflection on life and death.
MRS HARRIS GOES TO PARIS
Another lovely gentle film, this time adapting the 1958 novel of similar name (other than a dropped H). Lesley Manville is the titular Mrs Harris, a cleaner who becomes enamoured with a Dior dress owned by one of her clients. She resolves to save up enough money to travel to Paris and buy one for herself.
Unfamiliar with the ways of Paris haute-couture, Mrs Harris marches into Dior’s premises and slams a handbag full of banknotes on the desk, much to the chagrin of the snooty staff who are more used to making clothes for various inbred European royals.
Manville’s performance carries the film; she is great from beginning to end as the naive but endearing Ada Harris. She is so utterly lovely that it’s completely believable that she wins round the great and the good of European nobility. Jason Isaacs and the non-awful Fox actor, Freddie Fox, show up in small roles (but still enough to get their names in the opening credits). Ellen Thomas is also good in a supporting role as Mrs Harris’s friend Vi.
It’s out on DVD now, and I look forward to future films in the series: Mrs Merlin goes to Berlin, Mr Lidney goes to Sydney and Mrs Johnson goes to Wisconsin.
STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE
I know what you’re thinking: “this is not a new film”. WELL DONE, TAKE A HOUSE POINT.
To celebrate the umpteenth re-release of this film, this time as a 4K Blu-ray Director’s Edition, Paramount Pictures arranged a special, one-night-only cinema screening for the Enterprise crew’s first big screen outing.
Would you believe it, Earth is in mortal danger from a mysterious alien, and only one man can save the day – James T Kirk.
Critics who derided it as the “Motionless Picture” were being unfair. Yes, it’s slow in places – the scene where the shuttle flies around the Enterprise while majestic music plays and Kirk looks on in wonder, seems to go on for ever. Some stuff hasn’t aged well – such as Lieutenant Ilia basically being brought on board as a sex object (“My oath of celibacy is on record, captain”). On the other hand, the special effects are great, the main cast are all enjoying themselves, and Jerry Goldsmith’s score is superb, with the incredible overture and the main theme that was so good it got reused for Star Trek: The Next Generation.
I can only imagine what Trek fans thought when they saw this in 1979, after ten years sustained by reruns of the Original Series. If this film hadn’t been made, or if it had flopped, we wouldn’t have had five more films with the TOS cast, nor would we have got Next Generation and its spin-offs. It’s a very important moment in Trek history.
JURASSIC WORLD: DOMINION
I had not seen any of the other films since the original Jurassic Park, so I had no idea what was going on. There were dinosaurs, and Chris Pratt, and a massive corporation which – shock! – turned out to be evil. Then Jeff Goldblum showed up and everything was instantly better.