Saturday, December 24, 2016

Closet Monster is the Best Movie of 2016 - Warm, Sensual, and More than a little Freaky

Closet Monster's Hero Oscar Madly (Connor Jessup) and Wilder (Aliocha Schneider) share an intimate moment.

I first noticed posters for Closet Monster around downtown Toronto in mid to late July. Vividly colourful, it features the faces of the film's three principal characters overlapping each other in red, blue, pink, and green tones. My decision to see the movie was made by gut instinct and some chatter among my friends.

I was not disappointed. Director Stephen Dunn's movie about Oscar Madly's coming-of-age in small town Newfoundland is 2016's best movie. It takes you like a street fighter while dispensing with the genre's tired clich├ęs in favour of something more aggressive and visceral.

We are introduced to a very young Oscar, who has just received a talking Hamster (Isabella Rossellini) from his parents, who are divorcing. Mom we never get to know very well. Peter Madly (Aaron Abrams), Oscar's father, is a charismatic fellow with dark emotions he keeps in check - just barely.

Soon after his parents separate, Oscar witnesses a gay bashing near his school. Of the most brutal kind. The victim has a metal rod shoved up his ass. We are left to surmise that, if he survives at all, he lives on as a paralyzed wreck.

Sitting at home with his Father, Oscar watches a news report on the bashing. He asks Dad why this happened. Peter tells him it's because the kid is gay. He follows this up with a suggestion that young Oscar cut his hair - the idea being that long hair is effeminate. Something only a queer would have.

Then we fast forward in time. An 18-year-old Oscar played by Connor Jessup is applying to schools to further his budding interest in monster makeup. Best friend Gemma (Sofia Banzhaf) doubles as Oscar's model and muse.

Here is where reality begins to bend in the film - to wonderful effect. Oscar's interest in Monsters goes beyond a desire to photograph Gemma when she's done up like a Sea Creature. In Oscar's mind homosexuality and monstrosity are intimately linked. His fear of the gay beating he witnessed as a young child is holding him back from finding true connection and intimacy.

Oscar's work at a local hardware store brings him into contact with Wilder (Aliocha Schneider). Wilder is the most deliciously blunt of free spirits. At one point while Oscar is stocking shelves, Wilder taps him on the shoulder and asks: "How much for a blowjob?" This blond haired Adonis is only in town for a summer. Beyond that Wilder's future will take him to the sensual overloads of Berlin - or so he claims.

Things only become more intense from here on in. I won't give any more away. It's best experienced by watching the movie.

Director Stephen Dunn has done such a wonderful job on so many levels that it's difficult for me to overpraise this film. When Oscar finally maneuvers Wilder into bed (or maybe it happens the other way around) there is one of the most satisfying, sensual scenes I've ever watched.

The central question Closet Monster asks the viewer is this: How do you unfuck yourself after a difficult experience?

Rest assured, the question is answered in a powerful, definitive way.

***

Musings on 2016 - The Death of David Bowie and Rise of Donald Trump


For me, personally, 2016 has been a mostly good year. I'm very much looking forward to moving ahead with various projects in the New Year. Projects that include finishing a long delayed first draft of my novel Marginal People.

2016 was a crappy year if you believe all the memes floating around on Facebook and other social media platforms. It's easy to see why, given all the deaths of important artists and cultural figures. As well with Donald Trump's election - it's hard to stomach the fact this orange haired, spray tanned carnival barker will be the next President of the United States of America.

There is so much I could say about why Trump's election does not bode well for the world. I'll leave it with re-posting a quote from an older blog entry that was spoken by Trump's former rival in the Republican primaries, Marco Rubio.

"The politics of resentment against other people will not just leave us a fractured party. They're going to leave us a fractured nation. They're going to leave us as a nation where people literally hate each other because they have different political opinions."

If only Rubio had stuck by those words instead of changing his mind and endorsing Trump. So many Republicans did - men whose careers would suggest they have principals. People you would think are capable of standing up to the Cheshire Cat smile of the Donald. Apparently not.

A second event that marked 2016 for me was David Bowie's death on January 10 in Manhattan. He was a singer, songwriter, actor, painter, and earthbound extraterrestrial to be reckoned with. Even today much of his music still feels like the future.

Particularly the 1977 album Heroes. It was Part 2 of Bowie's Berlin Trilogy. Tell me that you don't feel the future coming at you, head on, in the crisp mix of pianos and synthesizers on Beauty and the Beast.

"Nothing will corrupt us, nothing will compete. Thank God Heaven left us, standing on our feet. My, my... Beauty and the Beast."

Have a wonderful New Year's Eve - make sure the people you love know it. We have an unpredictable year ahead of us.

See you all in 2017.

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