Sep. 2nd, 2014

seriousfic: (Secret of the Kells)
I think they could’ve come up with a better title. You’re just gonna go with the setting as a title? That’s okay if your story takes place in a Space Station on The Edge of Space (great Vin Diesel movie, that), but if you’re just set in a random American city… I mean, you don’t see anyone calling Spider-Man “Queens” or X-Men “Westchester.” Oh, the movie.

Okay, quick summary: Philadelphia is set in the early 90s. Tom Hanks plays a gay lawyer with AIDS who has been fired from his law firm. They say it’s because of incompetence, he says it’s because they realized he was HIV-positive. He hires Denzel Washington, a homophobic lawyer, to represent him in a wrongful termination suit.

I think it holds up pretty well. As kind of prestige piece, it doesn’t go in for a lot of Movie Bullshit and strikes me as fairly realistic for the most part. The villains are suitably assholish without being caricatures—I like how the lawyer for the bad guys quietly says “I hate this case” after having to grill Tom Hanks to make her case.

As a Jonathan Demme movie, I don’t think it’s on the same level as Silence of the Lambs, which was kinda doing the same thing only with regards to sexism instead of AIDS/homophobia. I think SotL worked better because it was less on the nose, a bit more subtle. Like, there’s a brief exchange between Clarice and Crawford in the movie where she chastises him a bit for basically playing the boys’ club card so he could move the investigation forward, and in doing so he inadvertently perpetuated this attitude of sexism Clarice has been struggling against. I could believe real people would have that conversation.

Philadelphia, though, there are a couple scenes where Demme shoots a character looking directly into camera and saying that you can’t get AIDS from shaking hands, or reading the legal definition of discrimination, and it just comes off as preachy. Now, at the time the movie came out, I can see this as being BRAND NEW INFORMATION, but it just hasn’t aged well. There’s also an Oscar Clip Moment where Hanks’s character is listening to opera and describing what the singer is saying and he’s kinda literally going “I’m a saintly gay man sent to educate you about tolerance” and it’s all a bit much.

On a similar note, if you’re in the mood for a double feature, I’d actually recommend first watching Eddie Murphy’s Delirious, a stand-up special released about ten years prior to this movie. At the time, I believe Murphy was one of, if not the biggest box office star in the world, and he’s still making fun of homosexuality and AIDS in some very harsh, ignorant ways. I watched it a few days prior to seeing Philadelphia, and I think it was coincidentally enough a good way to set the tone of what the general attitude was at the time of Philadelphia’s release.

The chief criticism I’ve seen of this movie is that not much emphasis is put on Hanks’ character’s homosexuality. He’s in a relationship with Antonio Banderas’ Miguel, but I don’t recall them kissing or embracing or anything. It’s not a deal-breaker for me, at least, because for most of the movie, Hanks is suffering from the later stages of the AIDS virus and not much emphasis is put on Washington’s heterosexual relationship either. If the straight man had a whole ‘falling in love!’ subplot and the gay guy just, I don’t know, read books, that would be more of a situation for me. I do think the movie could’ve used, I don’t know, some candid moments of Hanks and Banderas kissing or cuddling spread throughout the movie to sell them as as affectionate a couple as Washington is with his wife, but it’s a little thing to get outraged over when the movie really isn’t a romance at all.

One thing I didn’t like: they make Washington’s character a pretty virulent homophobe and it struck me as the kind of Movie Bullshit that Philadelphia avoids for the most part. I get it, they want a really dramatic character arc for him to go from hating gay people to accepting them, but I don’t buy that a guy like that would take Hanks’ case in the first place. I’m not saying he has to be a saint, but I think the movie would work better if he were more ignorant or misinformed than actively hateful, and instead of Hanks saintly transforming him, he just became more aware of what gay people went through and learned to emphasize with them better. I don’t know, maybe at the time, the attitude he had was more realistic, but it comes off as kind of gimmicky high-concept “KKK member defends black man on death row!” sort of thing. 
seriousfic: (Secret of the Kells)
I’ve heard that the new (already shitty) Fantastic Four movie is being based on the Ultimate Fantastic Four series. Now, correct me if I’m wrong, but that series was pretty unappreciated, right? I know Ultimate Spider-Man was very widely acclaimed, so it makes sense for them to adapt it into Amazing Spider-Man (even if that series ended up having more to do with my last bowel movement than it does Punk Rock Gwen or Peter’s Best Friend Mary Jane or the fact that USM was based on the Raimi Spider-Man movies in the first place). But all I remember of UFF is a standard-issue Muppet Babies/Guv’Mint Sponsored Superteam set of tropes in lieu of innovation. It seemed like the most thought that went into it was giving Doom goat legs and explaining that Reed didn’t have internal organs anymore. Riveting stuff.

In fact, the really well-liked runs of FF, aside from the obvious Lee/Dikto stuff, all had Reed and Sue married, the Baxter Building established, Franklin having been born, etc. I’m thinking John Byrne, Mark Waid—and in fact, the FF run penned by Mark Millar, same guy who did UFF, was widely reviled for a sophomoric “villain even worse than Dr. Doom!” plot.

UFF itself was canceled seemingly pretty quickly and went over to the usual gimmicky bullshit of Sue and Ben getting married instead of Reed and Sue, Reed becoming a supervillain, and Johnny moving in with Peter Parker (not like that, slash fans). So it just seems weird to me that Fox would go from adapting Days of Future Past with X-Men, a story that is very well-loved by comics fans, to adapting UFF for Fantastic Four, when the only thing that storyline seems to offer is an excuse to make all the actors dirt-cheap CWagers.

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