Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Sunday, November 12, 2017

The Gay Life of Sherlock Holmes

Colin Blakely as John Watson and Robert Stephens as Sherlock Holmes in Billy Wilder's film
Concerning on the commercial failure of his 1970 film The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes, director Billy Wilder said, “I should have been more daring. I wanted to make Holmes a homosexual … That’s why he’s on dope, you know.”
I first saw it at a drive-in in 1970. It was hard to find. And it was always pretty clear to me from the finished film that Wilder DID make Holmes gay. Despite all the romantic stuff with the beautiful German spy at the end of the film, its most sadly touching moment comes earlier, when Holmes refuses to deny to Watson that he is homosexual.
The doggedly heterosexual, brainy, manic Wilder loved Holmes, and had wanted to make a film about him for his entire career. But perhaps audiences were not ready, in 1970, to see a film in which the Great Detective is both taken seriously and finally defeated.
“Holmes appeals to Wilder for his human failings more than for his legendary qualities as a detective — The Private Life depicts a crushing humiliation which Dr. Watson has suppressed from public knowledge,” Joseph McBride and Michael Wilmington wrote in Film Quarterly. “But Wilder’s tone is unusually subdued, even elegiac, perhaps because the film is set in a simpler, more gentlemanly era far from the barbarism of James Bond and Pussy Galore.”
I’d be fascinated to see the three-and-a-half-hour Private Life that Wilder originally prepared, but wasn’t permitted to release. I always have the nagging sense that even Wilder’s failed concepts were just slightly ahead of their time. The possibility that Holmes and Watson might be gay finally became a mere running joke in the BCC’s Sherlock.
Elementary, Wilder would’ve said. 

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Thor Ragnarok: Blood and Thunder and Fun

Paul, Matt, Jake and I saw Thor: Ragnarok Saturday afternoon. Lighthearted fare that builds seamlessly to blood-and-thunder, summon-my-power melodrama. In other words, a perfectly satisfying comic book movie.
Cate Blanchette tackles the potentially tedious role of a death god with wry assurance peppered by convincing menace. Chris Hemsworth is as boldly charming as ever, even being put through some rough paces here.
Now, having so many characters to play around with after 17 Marvel superhero movies, it’s all like a delightful game with lots of surprising and fun playing pieces.
I do have to say that they pitched Jane Foster overboard like trash in this movie. Not that they ever really achieved that Richard Donner Superman/Lois thing they were going for in that relationship anyway. I think Natalie Portman was the problem. They needed someone who would sell it the way Margot Kidder did. Kidder said that what Donner wanted of her was to be able to convincingly look gah-gah over Superman.
The first Thor movie ends on a wonderfully romantic note that would have been perfect had you believed the relationship.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Reading and Plotting and Writing

My favorite books as a teenager included Plotting and Writing Suspense Fiction by Patricia Highsmith. The canny creator of The Talented Mr. Ripley wrote a book that is equal parts inspirational, autobiographical and advisory.
I read an Effingham library copy when I was in high school and it took me decades to find a hardcover copy of my own. She made me want to be a professional writer.
Other favorites included The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. I have since escaped their dark, Neptune-like gravitational pull, but I will never forget them. Rand’s philosophy offers useful hymns to individualism — particularly for the young, when they most need to hear them. But unfortunately, despite her self-congratulatory trumpeting of reason, Rand confused her own whims and passions with facts, much to the detriment of the political economy and moral bearings of the U.S., as it turned out.
Then there was Live and Let Die by Ian Fleming. The second of the James Bond novels remains the most vivid in my mind, with its evocation of New York circa 1953, with its tough heroic action, with its vulnerable, clairvoyant heroine, with its Freudian-daddy villain’s horrifying schemes of vengeance, with its lyric Silver Meteor train ride from Manhattan to St. Petersburg and those offhanded observations of Bond’s that seemed to express the height of sophistication when you were a teenage boy.
The problem isn’t getting the caviar you want, you know. It’s getting the proper amount of buttered toast to spread it on.
Ian Fleming took an eager sensual pleasure in life that ended his life early, but that can still sweep us along with its zest. The real Bond — as real as any Bond can be — is there, in Fleming’s novels.