Wednesday, December 31, 2008

New Year Wishes For 2009 From Lauren Wissot

Originally published at SpoutBlog:

New Year Wishes For 2009 From Lauren Wissot

In 2008 we began the year in entertainment by bidding a premature goodbye to hottie Heath Ledger, his death casting a shadow on summer blockbuster “The Dark Knight”; and ended it by delivering a fond farewell to “The Dark Angel,” the Marilyn Monroe of the fetish world, “Queen of Pin-Up” Bettie Page. In between we lost numerous other screen sizzlers: Charlton Heston, Paul Newman, Suzanne Pleshette, even Vampira! But since the New Year is a time to look forward as well as pay tribute to the sexy stars we leave behind, I’ve compiled my wish list for a very steamy 2009.

1. Woody & Bond Make a Porno

In 2009 Woody Allen must continue his 2008 sexy success with “Vicky Cristina Barcelona” by directing a porn flick. Preferably starring Daniel Craig.

Yup, 2008 was the year Woody Allen figured out that casting hot tamales like Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz can do wonders for your onscreen sex life. So now that the Woodman’s discovered the cinema equivalent of Viagra, it’s time for him to take the next step: toss that neurotic crutch into the Hudson (or Thames or Seine) and finally shoot his long-awaited, hardcore remake of Bergman’s “The Passion of Anna.”

2. Lauren’s Israeli Hearthrob Must Come to the US.

In 2009 Israeli actor Lior Ashkenazi (who made me believe in sexy miracles when I caught up with “Walk On Water” on DVD this year) must star in a small, independent, American film that will require him to do press in NYC – and grant me an exclusive interview in his hotel room.

Ah, Lior Ashkenazi, Israel’s knockout brunette answer to Mr. Bond. A TV (“In Therapy”) and movie star (the aforementioned Eytan Fox flick) in the holy land, he’s a virtual unknown on these shores. Which means some savvy, Sundance-bound director in the market for a hypnotic leading man could probably pick him up at a reasonable price (then hopefully send him to me for free). And unlike, say, hard-body hottie Jason Statham, he can act and speak English at the same time.

3. The Transporter must transport his own package off screen.

In 2009 Jason Statham must stop acting and start stripping.

It’s about time to break the news to Guy Ritchie and Luc Besson that (Br)it boy Jason Statham can’t actually, um, act. Which is fine since he’s got a bod that can do the talking for him. Sure, the modeling career made complete sense, but onscreen unless he’s flying through the air “Hidden Dragon”-style or wrangling a big fat fire hose, Statham can be upstaged by a hydrant. Perhaps he could check with Chippendale’s or with the Aussies to see if the Thunder from Down Under is looking for a tasty new boy toy.

4. Baz Luhrmann must go full Brokeback.

In 2009, Baz Luhrmann must follow up the epic “Australia” with a “Brokeback Mountain” style western starring Hugh Jackman and Russell Crowe.

I haven’t seen “Australia,” for though I’m a big fan of Hugh Jackman’s chest, I’m a bit burnt out on workaholic Kidman, not to mention nearly three hours of Luhrmann visuals strikes me as the equivalent of bingeing on everything in Willy Wonka’s factory, Charlie included. Which is why Luhrmann must switch to homo mode and make real use of hirsute Hugh and rough trade Russell – the Boy from Oz meets Cinderella Man – out in the outback at last.

5. Arnold Schwarzenegger must turn “The Wrestler” into reality.

In 2009, the Governator must pump himself back up to take on Mickey Rourke and Jean-Claude Van Damme in a Mr. Geriatric Olympia competition.

Both Rourke and Van Damme made muscle-bound movie comebacks in 2008, so why shouldn’t the onetime Terminator also toss his “top” hat into the ring? And since no one wants Rourke’s face to have to face more plastic surgery, nor JCVD split and pull a groin muscle, the Gov’s sport of choice would be the safest bet. Besides, if Mr. Geriatric Olympia doesn’t work out, the former steroid boys could always call it a meta-competition.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Post-Milosevic, Beyond Kusturica: After The War: Life Post-Yugoslavia

When A Million Movies a Minute, a distributor specializing in short documentaries, asked if I wanted a copy of their inaugural release “After The War: Life Post-Yugoslavia” (a two-and-a-half hour compilation of nine short films from five filmmakers from five countries) I said sure, figuring it was high time, in this post-Milosevic world, to expand my knowledge beyond Kusturica. To find out what I discovered visit The House Next Door.

Friday, December 26, 2008


Arriving in theaters just in time for the Holocaust-theme season is “Defiance” (which I mistakenly keep calling “Deliverance,” a remake of which with this film's cast would have been a much better idea), Edward Zwick's based-on-a-true-story account of four Jewish brothers who escape the Nazis before going on to form a resistance community in the Belarussian forest. Bizarrely, Zwick's film, written by the director and Clayton Frohman, is less an original story than a greatest-hits compilation—a glossy, formulaic summary of every WWII, Nazi-related movie ever made. People flee. People build. People starve. People fight. Repeat. “Defiance” is not so much a cohesive film as a series of interchangeable, broadstroked scenes—a movie on loop.

To read the rest of my review visit Slant.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

A Snack for Thought: Our Daily Bread

Alternately haunting and beautiful (windmills against a blue sky, a field of Van Gogh picturesque flowers), disturbingly horrific (squealing pigs being strung up for slaughter, a calf being ripped from its mother’s side) and downright bizarre (baby chicks chirping as they shoot out of a conveyor belt like kernels of popcorn) Our Daily Bread is a speechless 92 minutes of daily life disconnected from any recognizable reality, a poetic visualization of an Orwellian nightmare come true. For what makes Nikolaus Geyrhalter’s film absolutely terrifying is that though it resembles some futuristic sci-fi fantasy, it’s actually a documentary – a cold hard look at today’s factory farming and industrial food production told solely through mesmerizing, William Eggleston-like images, sans emotional talking heads or soothing score. If ever there was a companion piece to Michael Pollan’s bestselling The Omnivore’s Dilemma, and a sound reason to grow organic and buy local, “Our Daily Bread” is it. And perhaps most astonishingly, Geyrhalter’s doc explores the very dehumanization of mankind through mechanization with extraordinary subtlety, without uttering a single word.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Home for The Holidays: Sexy (And Family-Friendly!) Cinema Suggestions

Originally published at SpoutBlog:

Home for The Holidays: Sexy (And Family-Friendly!) Cinema Suggestions

Yes, it’s that “most wonderful time of the year” again. And unless the scent of pine turns you on or you’ve got a fetish for glittery objects (like the crazy queen who must have designed this year’s Macy’s window display after watching “A Beautiful Mind” on acid – there’s even a borderline creepy ode to the “diva Tinsel” stenciled on the glass. Check it out if you’re in NYC, it’s a must!), you’re probably feeling about as sexy as eggnog right now. But don’t despair. If Macy’s can turn a stalwart tradition into an LSD trip I can find the perversion in “The Sound of Music.” So without further adieu, here are some sexy, family-friendly suggestions for gathering around the DVD player with the clan.

Heavenly Creatures
• Dashing Cary Grant stars in Henry Koster’s 1947 “The Bishop’s Wife,” about an angel sent down to earth to help a holy man (played by the delightful David Niven) build a church – and recover his shaken faith in the process. Only problem is the bishop’s got a hottie wife in the form of radiant Loretta Young who the charming angel takes under his wing as well. Grant’s studly Dudley, a cuckolding do-gooder, is every bit as ambiguous as Grant himself was in real life.
• If your relatives are especially warped, have a double feature with Pasolini’s 1968 “Teorema,” in which an otherworldly knockout played by the breathtakingly beautiful Terence Stamp seduces the entire family kids included.
• And if you still haven’t gotten your fill of sexy spirits, throw in Warren Beatty’s and Buck Henry’s 1978 “Heaven Can Wait,” a remake of Alexander Hall’s 1941 “Here Comes Mr. Jordan,” in which steamy Beatty turns tasty Robert Montgomery’s boxer Joe Pendleton into a quarterback who prematurely gets called to the big leagues upstairs as a result of angel error.

Sugar (Plum) Daddies
• As my friend CineKink founder Lisa Vandever has pointed out, if you have a suit fetish there’s no better film to turn to than Robert Wise’s 1965 “The Sound of Music,” in which Christopher Plummer as the immaculately attired, debonair daddy Baron Von Trapp tames Julie Andrews’ virginal Maria, turning the spunky nun into a submissive wife and mother. (And yes, as an added bonus, the film contains sexy Nazis to boot!)
• If it’s a marathon festival of family-friendly perversion you’re after, team this up with Victor Fleming’s 1939 “Gone With The Wind,” which stars the daddy of sexy rogues Clark Gable as Rhett Butler, the only man who could make Vivien Leigh’s strong-willed Scarlett O’Hara glow the morning after a night of non-consensual sex. (Frankly, my dear, I’d screw him, too.)
• If your relatives don’t do musicals or sweeping epics there’s always slapstick comedy in the form of Brian Levant’s 1996 “Jingle All The Way,” starring my favorite slab of political beefcake, the Governator himself, as a dad determined to score a Turbo Man toy for his son’s Christmas gift. (Now if only I can nab a seat on Santa’s lap the next time Arnie dresses up for one of those kids’ fundraisers. Guess my wish, Mr. Claus.)

Hot Mama

Lest I forget the boys who like girls and the girls who like girls, Peter Godfrey’s 1945 “Christmas in Connecticut,” starring the smoldering Barbara Stanwyck as a family advice columnist who fakes a family for the sake of publicity, is a great excuse for a double feature. Pair this with Alfred E. Green’s 1933 “Baby Face,” in which Stanwyck plays an unapologetic slut who sleeps her way to the top, and have yourself a “Working Girls’ Christmas.”

Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Cripple of Inishmaan

Martin McDonagh’s “The Cripple of Inishmaan,” presented by the Atlantic Theater Company, revolves around the plight of a physically challenged orphan called “Cripple Billy” (a flawless Aaron Monaghan) who attempts to escape his suffocating existence in Inishmaan by following his dreams to the neighboring Inishmore, where Hollywood filmmaker Robert Flaherty has come to shoot his movie “The Man of Aran” on the little Irish island in 1934. But the tabloid plot is merely a foil for playwright McDonagh (who just in the past few years – like Quentin Tarantino did for film in the early nineties – has utilized a sense of anything-can-happen, dangerous adventure to single-handedly punch new life into the great white way with “The Pillowman” and “The Lieutenant of Inishmore”) to explore the collective mirror of his homeland itself.

To read the rest of my review visit Theater Online.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Film Critics in Peril on a Cliffhanger: A HND@Grassroots Podcast


What's shaking California?!!

Film critics are a dying breed, since they're either stuck online, being laid off from print publications or going off to Grad School. Dave Hudson himself gathers the tales of woe—this is clearly not the time to be a Journalist, but a perfect time to start digging ditches and hoping for New Deals.

But before all that comes to pass, have a listen to this impromptu podcast we recorded in early December featuring Variety associate editor Peter Debruge, who wrote up the whole "OMG NYC HAS BLOG WRITER" trend last week and quotes most of the people he met with. Of course, it's also important to mention Peter's invite was forwarded to a good number of us—I got mine through a third party. Don't fret, I'm still not a real critic dear listeners.

In addition to Peter, we've got a decent crowd for this canned chat: Lauren Wissot (Infamous for Various Reasons), Michael Joshua Rowin (The L Magazine, Stop Smiling); House contributor and Cine File Andrew Schenker, S.T. VanAirsdale (The Reeler, Defamer). There's a myriad of topics covered in this episode, ranging from the soul of a critic to why the hell someone would turn down work based on their soul. We cover it all—and it basically boils down to the following: some people subscribe to that nasty "Journalism" concept; others believe being a critic means keeping chaste, pure, and being able to lift their nose up to work that others would gladly take from them.

To hear the breaking news visit The House.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

An Antidote to Sexy Nazis: Mädchen in Uniform

Originally published at SpoutBlog:

An Antidote to Sexy Nazis: “Mädchen in Uniform”

For years Hollywood’s holiday season has been synonymous with Holocaust-themed films – see this year’s entries “The Reader,” “Defiance,” “Valkyrie,” etc. – or not. But only after reviewing The New Stage Theatre Company’s titillating “Oh, Those Beautiful Weimar Girls!” did it hit me that revisiting the tragedy of WWII every winter makes no sense. For ‘tis the season to be jolly – not watch a Nazi! So I propose to start a new tradition: to stop equating Germany with SS boots and “Seig heil!” salutes every December, and instead go further back in time to when Deutschland was synonymous with sex, drugs, and decadent fun. Yes, this month let’s raise a toast to the high-spirited sleaze of the Weimar years; let’s celebrate the country that, before it gave the world the most notorious psychopath of the 20th century, birthed the first sexy, pro-dyke flick in 1931(!), Leontine Sagan’s “Mädchen in Uniform.”

The May/September romance of “The Reader” ain’t got nothing on this fairly chaste but nonetheless steamy affair between the older, seductress/school “mistress” Fraulein von Bernburg and her fragile, fourteen-year-old student Manuela. Set in an all-girl, Prussian boarding school, the film is adapted from a novel and play by (lesbian writer) Christa Winsloe and stars the raven-haired Dorothea Wieck, who seems to be carrying a dirty thought in her head at all times, and blond ingénue Hertha Thiele (who originated the role of Manuela onstage). From the start when Manuela arrives at the school after the death of her mother she’s taken under the wing of the rambunctious Ilse, (played by Ellen Schwanneke who appropriately captures the drama of adolescence) who guides her through the many rules of the strict institution, one of which is to not “fall in love” with the breathtaking von Bernburg, the woman all the girls lustily worship like a rock star. And these teens are not the least bit coy regarding their infatuation with their mistress – going so far as to sew her initials into a uniform, in one case even carve those initials into an arm! That the girls are all attracted to a woman and not a man doesn’t even seem to register. “Manuela, I demand absolute discipline,” the sexy Fraulein declares after shooting a lip-licking gaze upon the golden pupil when they first meet on the shadow-draped stairs. Von Bernburg transcends gender; she’s simply the essence of dominant hot.

“What do they call what all the movie stars have?” Ilse inquires as she shows Manuela her secret (male) pinup collection inside her locker. “Sex appeal,” another girl responds with embarrassed laughter before the dorm full of teens, hormones raging beneath those drab, striped uniforms, giggles over romantic pictures in a book. The heightened sexual tension is broken only when they’re reprimanded for causing such a stir. In fact, “Mädchen in Uniform” gracefully flows from “sin” in the form of lust and gluttony (the half-starved girls wax rhapsodic over favorite foods) to “salvation” through the discipline and punishment of military formations and drills, of forced group confessions – then back again. The prison guard-like principal warns that girls who misbehave will be deprived of their uniforms – even in the streets! The threat of nakedness (i.e., sexual humiliation) hangs heavy in the air like an aphrodisiacal perfume. Forever holding hands, hugging one another, playfully touching – these budding blossoms seem poised to burst even behind the metaphorical bars. “There’s a body, eh?” Ilse assesses admiringly after Manuela expands her chest, popping a button right off her dress with the force of her growing bust.

But, alas, impulsive Manuela makes the mistake of getting tipsy after a school play and declaring that love that dare not speak its name to the entire student body – and its warden. “What you call sin, Frau Principal, I call love, which can take a thousand forms,” von Bernburg stoically says in defense of Manuela who is punished through isolation. When von Bernburg encounters the sensitive blonde again she surreptitiously orders her to go to her room, to wait for her. But it is there that Manuela, expecting requited love, receives the harshest punishment of all at the hands of her idol, who decides it’s best if they never see each other again. Devastated the ingénue flees while von Bernburg bravely confronts the principal and resigns, having had enough of her cruel ways. Saying a prayer, Manuela ascends the winding staircase – and, inevitably, tries to jump – only to be saved by her schoolmates! No, there will be no “homo must die,” sacrificial dyke ending for “Mädchen in Uniform.” Indeed, the most subversive aspect of Sagan’s lesbian flick is its finale, a harsh indictment of the principal, that stand-in for all who judge love, who set the near suicide in motion. Yes, Manuela and von Bernburg will live while Frau Principal must face herself, come to terms with the lethal pain she has wrought. The final image of her wandering into those Expressionist shadows alone, fading to black, is worth a thousand wonderful Weimar words.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Sex and Violence & "The Wrestler"

Originally published at SpoutBlog:

Sex and Violence & THE WRESTLER

Most porn is about as titillating as a Yule log on a loop, which is why I never watch it. Except if I happen to be flipping channels on a Friday night, when World Wrestling Entertainment broadcasts its “Friday Night SmackDown,” a steroid-enhanced, S&M-laced, hard-bodied orgy of enormous proportions. It’s long been my fantasy to sit ringside, to smell the virile sweat and gape in awe at the blown up muscles, so freaky they’re sexy, akin to any porn star’s massively inflated tits. The homoerotic, dominant man on dominant man action, each bulging star vying to become the ultimate top, to slam his rival to the mat and make him his bitch, drives me wild. To this day The Rock’s “The People’s Champ” still ranks right alongside the remake of “Casino Royale” as my favorite gay porn.

So naturally I breathlessly awaited the press screening of Darren Aronofsky’s “The Wrestler” starring Mickey Rourke – who decades ago honed his S&M chops in “9 1/2 Weeks” – as Randy “The Ram” Robinson. Suffice to say that Aronofsky is gonna do for Rourke’s career what Tarantino did for Travolta’s – regardless of the fact that Penn most likely will win the Oscar for “Milk” – in spite of the film’s melodramatic mediocre script, so heavy-handed it makes Dustin Lance Black’s unsubtle “Milk” seem nuanced. Robert Siegel’s Screenwriting 101 predictable writing is livened up only by Aronofsky’s playful, often handheld, camerawork (and high-flying editing, though that too is coming close to turning into a humdrum Aronofsky tic). Fortunately, Rourke’s performance is both believable and respectful of the professional wrestling world. And yes, that ripped, sweat-and-steroid-built bod is as hot as The Ram’s one-night-stand’s firefighter fetish (which I share – if not her penchant for beefcake, “Firefighters like it hot!” posters on the bedroom wall).

But Aronofsky and Siegel missed a lightning rod opportunity to make the film both sexier and deeper by neglecting to use the character of the worn out stripper Pam, a.k.a. “Cassidy,” (played by the go-to actress for worn out cougar roles, Marisa Tomei) as a cautionary mirror to Rourke’s past-his-prime wrestler – showing that those who make a living off their bodies, the pleasures of the flesh, for too long eventually sell themselves off piece by piece. In fact, “The Wrestler” would have a stronger, much more realistic and engrossing story at its heart if Pam suffered from what’s termed “pole addiction.” For the truth is that most women still hustling at Pam’s age are “stuck” doing so as a result of their overwhelming need for the spotlight as much as for the money – i.e., the same affliction suffered by The Ram. After all, the thrill of exhibitionism inherent in both professions is one and the same, a point completely lost on the filmmakers.

For pro wrestling is just another part of the “spectacle of flesh” industry – its choreographed violence, set to a thumping soundtrack and performed by near-naked bodies in the ring, every bit as outrageously carnal as near-naked bodies writhing to loud music on a tittie club stage. So it should come as no surprise that those attracted to both lines of work are lured for similar reasons – as are its audiences. The semi-simulation of both violence and sex is so gloriously taboo that those who dare to do it are (devil?) worshiped, the recipients of ego-stoking adulation – if only for a night. But then one night of the ultimate aphrodisiac is more power than most people experience in a lifetime.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

An American Hero: Wendy and Lucy

“Wendy and Lucy,” Kelly Reichardt’s existential road movie starring Michelle Williams as the titular Wendy, an Indiana woman heading to find work in Alaska, is the American cousin to the Dardenne brothers’ “L’Enfant.” Both films are quiet, simmering, sociological thrillers featuring hamster-on-a-treadmill protagonists whose odysseys to recover loved ones are set in motion by a single, desperate, money-related screw up. Like the Dardennes, Reichardt is interested in studying the intricacies of everyday life for those living on the margins—and society’s cold indifference to their very existence.

To read the rest of my review visit The House Next Door.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Oh, Those Beautiful Weimar Girls

“Oh, Those Beautiful Weimar Girls” is The New Stage Theatre Company’s attempt at crossing Fosse with Genet (plus a sprinkling of Grand Guignol) to explore the life of Anita Berber – “Weimar Berlin’s Priestess of Depravity,” according to her biographer Mel Gordon (who decades ago taught my freshman year, theater history class at NYU, and whose “The Seven Addictions and Five Professions of Anita Berber” inspired artistic director Ildiko Nemeth to direct and co-write, along with Mark Altman, the play). But as its title suggests the true star of the show isn’t Sarah Lemp, who plays Berber, but the campy, vaudevillian chorus girls who perfectly execute the down-and-dirty, dynamic choreography of conceptual artist Julie Atlas Muz (Miss Exotic World and Miss Coney Island ’06) like a lusty, peep show version of The Rockettes.

To read the rest of my titillating review visit Theater Online.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Transporter Gay?

Originally published at SpoutBlog:

Transporter Gay?

Since I’m not a fan of Luc Besson any more than I am of Guy Ritchie, I’ve avoided the “Transporter” franchise from the start. Sure its star Jason Statham has a to-kill-for bod, but then that’s part of the action hero job description. And compared to hot he-men with a wicked, up-for-anything gleam in their eye like the Governator or The Rock or Daniel Craig, well, Statham’s just a little too bland for my taste. He’s someone you’d take home to mom for the holidays, not blow in an airplane bathroom along the way, having to dodge dirty looks at baggage claim upon landing. Never mind.

But after reading Chris Lee’s “L.A. Times” piece, in which director Louis Leterrier claims to have added a gay subtext to Statham’s character in “Transporter 2,” I knew I just had to take a peek. And surprisingly, for someone who can spot a gay subtext from as far away as David Beckham can score a goal, I couldn’t quite see what all the fuss was about. Statham’s gun-for-hire Frank Martin is too asexual to be homosexual; if he is gay he’s so far in the closet that even Alessandro Gassman’s sleazy, sexy villain Gianni Chellini (now that’s a name to scream in the heat of passion) couldn’t coax him out. Indeed, if there is anything queer about “Transporter 2,” it’s the character played by Italian stallion Gassman (a dirtier, XXX version of Antonio Banderas) who should be exposed.

Well, perhaps “exposed” is the wrong word, for this man has a hard time keeping his clothes on (I’m not complaining, just stating the facts). The dark-haired, muscle-bound hunk spends nearly the entire film shirtless, sometimes completely naked, with water dripping from his skin as he emerges from the pool, making me wonder if he’s envious of his fellow countryman Rocco Sifreddi’s international, porn star career. And it is in fact Chellini who gets the seductive, come on lines (not to mention Kate Nauta’s androgynous blonde moll Lola who looks like David Bowie in his prime). In the near final showdown between Chellini and Martin it is Chellini who, after injecting his body with every last drop of the only solution to a lethal virus, taunts Martin with, “I am the cure for what ails you. I’m the only cure for what ails you. I am the antidote.” In other words, Martin must partake of Chellini’s bodily fluids if he wants to save the young boy who’s been infected (i.e., the world!) Of course, rough trade Martin remains clueless so Chellini coyly prompts, “Perhaps I can help you out. What part are you a little – how do you say? Thick on.” To which Martin replies, “You. Why?” (Though I guess that could explain Martin’s earlier response of “Who isn’t?” to his employer’s wife’s apologetic “I feel so lost, so confused,” after he’d dismissed her sexual advances.)

While there are no voluptuous, steamy females in “Transporter 2” (Amber Valletta’s Audrey is a pretty MILF not a nasty slut) there is a scene in which Martin wields a fire hose like a whip, taking out the baddies one by one, MMA-dominatrix style, which is more BDSM hot than outright homo. Martin does pursue Chellini with all the vengeance of a love-struck stalker, right up into the air on a private plane, but once again, it is Chellini who talks dirty when he discovers Martin onboard. Pulling out his big loaded gun he purrs, “Have a seat. Relax. Drink something and let’s get to know each other,” sliding a cocktail the dim stud’s way as if it’s happy hour at Splash. All in all, “Transporter 2” is more borderline bisexual than it is blatantly homo like the remake of “Casino Royale.” Which is why for those casting the next Bond villain I’ve got two words – Alessandro Gassman.

Monday, December 1, 2008

4 Gay-For-Pay Action Heroes

Originally published at SpoutBlog:

4 Gay-For-Pay Action Heroes

Attending the press conference for Gus Van Sant’s biopic “Milk,” I had a Eureka moment that revealed my own naivety. A woman had asked Van Sant about his creative casting decisions, not just in choosing straights to play all the major gay characters (including a stunning Sean Penn as the gay civil rights leader Harvey Milk), but also in selecting the talented and out Denis O’Hare to embody homophobe extraordinaire John Briggs (the face behind the Proposition 6/Briggs Initiative to kick gay and lesbian teachers out of California’s public schools). I waited anxiously for the director to expound upon what the press notes referred to as “sexual-preference-blind casting,” a subversive twist that relates to Milk’s own modus operandi of rejecting divisiveness regarding sexuality in favor of bringing people together (or as Milk protégé Danny Nicoletta puts it in the notes, “It doesn’t matter what side of the fence you fall on. In fact, just tear the fence down; we all live in the same world.”)

Instead I was taken aback by Van Sant’s candidness. The point wasn’t to use O’Hare in some sort of queer jujitsu to sidestep criticism from the likes of Harvey Fierstein (who’s compared the casting of straights in gay roles to blackface), but simply to get as many homos involved as possible. Thus he wasn’t casting O’Hare so much in a straight role as in a small role. Or as the director so delicately put it, no gay actors have the “box office stature” that was required to get the film made. O’Hare either played straight or he didn’t play at all.

In other words, one of the few industries left in which gay white men (actors) don’t make pay (i.e., wield power) equal to that of their hetero counterparts has churned out a movie about a gay white man who demanded equal rights. Which is ironic enough. And yet even while homo thespians don’t make the serious money in Hollywood some of the biggest box office draws have been allowed to play gay!

To wit:

Russell Crowe

Yes, Maximus was once a friend of Dorothy. Fresh on the heels of his notoriously sexy turn as a neo-Nazi skinhead in “Romper Stomper,” Russell Crowe starred in Geoff Burton and Kevin Dowling’s 1994 “The Sum of Us,” playing Jeff Mitchell, a young Australian looking for Mr. Right as his dad searches for the woman of his own straight dreams. Crowe plays gay okay if lukewarm. (A homo “Gladiator” would have been way hotter.)

Will Smith

Yup, Hancock liked cock. In Fred Schepisi’s 1993 “Six Degrees of Separation” Smith played Paul, a gay hustler posing as the son of Sidney Poitier. Or at least that’s what I’ve heard. To be honest, I can’t bring myself to watch “Six Degrees of Separation” because the idea of Smith playing gay just feels, well, as wrong as Harvey Fierstein doing Tevye on Broadway (whereas Jeffrey Wright as Belize in “Angels in America” felt oh-so-right).

Matt Damon

Though Jason Bourne does make for a fine gay hustler, in Anthony Minghella’s 1999 “The Talented Mr. Ripley” Damon plays Tom Ripley, a natural born killer and con artist with the hots for Jude Law’s Dickie. Damon is convincing playing gay, but then the homosexual nature of the role is beside the main point that snotty richies shouldn’t screw with psychos of any persuasion. Would have gotten bonus points if Tom and Dick had actually got it on.

Daniel Craig

What? You thought I was going to pass up the opportunity to talk about James Bond? In John Maybury’s 1998 “Love Is the Devil: Study for a Portrait of Francis Bacon,” Daniel Craig plays Bacon’s lover George Dyer, a sizzling piece of rough trade that Bacon picks up in his own apartment (Dyer was burglarizing the pad – how hot is that?!) The filmmaking, artsy and overwrought, can be forgiven since Craig as dominant Dyer takes off his clothes. And the stylish, soft-core poster of a nearly naked Craig lighting up on a bed is number two on my holiday wish list. (Right after a nearly naked Craig lighting up on my bed.)